Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cemeteries, Part 2 of 3

Eastham Village, England

"Here lies an honest lawyer, and that is Strange."
Sir John Strange, Politician & Barrister, Rolls Chapel, Kings College, London, UK. Died 1754

Eastham Village, England

Eastham Village, England

"Sacred to the memory of my husband John Barnes who died January 3, 1803. His comely young widow, aged 23, has many qualifications of a good wife and yearns to be comforted."
John Barnes, somewhere in Vermont. Died 1803
(She should have included her address)

Dublin, Ireland

Holyhead Island, Ireland

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cemeteries, Part 1 of 3

Eastham Village, England

Halloween is just around the corner, so we thought it would be fun to give you a few blogs featuring some of the cemeteries we've seen this year. They may or may not be creepy or scary, but they're always interesting. And wonderfully peaceful.

"Here too lies" a few tongue-in-cheek epitaphs (not from our travels) likely to make you smile.

Glasgow, Scotland

"Here lies Lester Moore. Four slugs from a 44, no Les, no more."
Lester Moore, Boot Hill Cemetery, Tombstone, Arizona. Died 1880

Glasgow, Scotland

Eastham Village, England

"There goes the neighborhood."
Rodney Dangerfield, Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, California. Died 2004

Eastham Village, England

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Sunday Drive in the Cotswolds

Our Driving Route Tour of the Cotswolds

For postcard-perfect touring and hundreds of pictures of quintessentially English thatched-roof houses, fields of sheep partitioned by low stone walls, tiny country roads canopied by Ash and Beech and Chestnut trees (the "ABC's" of English trees), all dotted here and there with beautiful and quaint farming villages, the Cotswolds (an hour and a half west of London) are the place to go. With some careful planning we came up with an awesome driving route we wanted to share with you. We did it in a "leisure" Sunday, meaning we slept in, had a casual breakfast, and started with our first town at 11:00am; if you want to squeeze a little more Cotswolds into your soul, you could get an earlier start and we provide some options that we didn't take.

We'll take you on a north-to-south "Sunday Drive", though you can, naturally, tailor it based on where you're coming from. If you follow our route, however, we promise you'll end the tour in grand fashion. We did our Sunday Drive in the Cotswolds with a rental car we picked up in Gloucester, using navigation nearly flawlessly delivered by Google Maps' turn-by-turn directions over 3G on an iPhone. If you don't have cellular internet, be sure to use a real GPS. Just set your nav to the first town and set out, then set it for the next town and so on.

Broadway, England

Stop 1 - Broadway

By the time you get there, from wherever you started, you'll probably already have gotten a great taste of the Cotswolds. Broadway is a good starting point, with a single, main thoroughfare called High Street. Find a spot to park on either end of the street, walk down one side, and walk back up the other. Along the way you'll find beautiful old houses, quaint shops, warm-looking inns, low stone walls, and ivy-covered walls. Stop in at a tea or coffee house if you skipped it at breakfast to get an early start.

From Broadway, set your nav to Chipping Campden. If it gives you route options, take the route by the A44 and cut across country via Buckle Street, The Narrows, Cotswold Way, and Dyer's Lane. Just remember to drive in the left lane, that is where there is more than 1 lane.

Chipping Campden, England

Stop 2 - Chipping Campden

Chipping Campden is the metropolis of the Cotswolds, likely your home base if you actually want to stay in the Cotswolds. You'll likely spend most of your time on the main drag here, also called High Street. If you're a Riknik (Rick Steves fan), whip out your guidebook and follow his hour-to-ninety-minute tour that will take you from Lower High Street up toward Saint James church (if not, just work your way south to north along High Street). Don't miss heading down Sheep Street to see the best thatched-roof house in the world, and don't miss the market hall and Saint James Church. You'll also have lots of shopping, tea, and lunch opportunities.

From Chipping Campden, if you have time and want to get in a bit more of the Cotswolds, you can hit the town of Blockley, which we skipped entirely. Either way, then set your nav to Bourton-on-the-Hill. We only stopped a few minutes to snap some pictures in this tiny little village perched near the top of a hill. Next, set your nav for Moreton-in-the-Marsh, which was also just a quick picture-stop for us. While they were just drive-throughs for us, if you have some wonderful experiences in these villages to share, please feel free to comment on our blog!

Now set your nav to Stow-on-the-Wold. It should take you straight down the A429.

Stow-on-the-Wold, England

Stop 3 - Stow-on-the-Wold

Stow-on-the-Wold is a great market town with a fine square from which you can navigate the city on foot easily. Market Square marks the village center, and it's dominated by a library building that doubles as a sort-of town hall and community center. Park somewhere around the edge of the square. Check to see if there are any events going on at the town hall: the day we were there they had a rummage sale on and Chuck picked up some nice English cufflinks (thinking ahead to Queen Mary 2 formal nights) for £3. From there, head to the streets to the south and wander. If you haven't had lunch yet, you'll find plenty of options amongst the shops. Be sure to visit the Parish Church of Saint Edward, and as you enter the church turn around and look at the impressive painting to your left and behind you.

From Stow-in-the-Wold, if you have time and a real GPS, set your nav to Upper Slaughter. There are two "Slaughter towns", Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter, that we had planned to drive through but had to skip owing to lack of 3G signal and a shortage of time (though we saw some wonderful countryside in the attempt). Once through Upper Slaughter, it should be easy to head south to Lower Slaughter, then continue on to your final stop on our tour, Bourton-on-the-Water.

Sites On Your Way to Bourton-on-the-Water


Stop 4 - Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton-on-the-Water gets our vote for prettiest village in all of England. It's dubbed the "Venice of the Cotswolds" because of the lazy little bricked-in river that winds through it. It might be a bit touristy, but that's for good reason: it's a lovely little town. We arrived late in the day and parked in the (pay) parking lot of the Model Village (which was just closing, unfortunately, but looked like a nifty place to return to). From there we walked along the river to the other end of town, taking a hundred+ pictures as we went. We had a fine afternoon coffee (high tea for us) at the Green and Pleasant Tea Room and we had dinner at The Croft. It was a fantastic way to end our Sunday Drive in the Cotswolds.

We hope you find our Sunday Drive in the Cotswolds useful!

Monday, October 27, 2014

In the Birthplace of the Bard

From Wikipedia

My Mom would have been most interested in this single day of our 6-month journey. She was an English teacher her entire working life, and for many of those years she taught Shakespeare. She had an infectious passion for the works of the Bard of Avon. It's unfortunate that she wasn't teaching it anymore by the time I reached high school: I think I would have enjoyed taking her class. Still, we had no shortage of Shakespeare teaching aids around the house, from which I picked up quite a bit. William Shakespeare was such a part of her life that even at the end, when dementia had quieted her mind, she would flip through a fan of Shakespeare flash cards with fascination. Eventually she'd put them down with a sigh and say, "I used to know all that." I still have that fan of flash cards somewhere.

We had two full days to spend in the Cotswolds region of England. We decided to spend the first day in Stratford-upon-Avon. While it's certain that Shakespeare was born in this little village on the River Avon, the exact house is unknown. Yet there is a house billed as his birthplace, no doubt so-dubbed ages ago by the forerunner to the Stratford-upon-Avon Tourism Council. Today it's swamped with photo-snapping tourists, many of whom don't speak the language Shakespeare wrote in as their first language.

The House Shakespeare Might Have Been Born In

Shakespeare wrote in the dozen or so years before 1600 and the dozen or so years after. He was not only prolific (38 plays, 154 sonnets, plus more--some of which he collaborated on and some of which might be incorrectly attributed to him) but also inventive. No other writer contributed more to changes and the evolution of English than Shakespeare; here are just a few of the noteworthy phrases he coined:
  • All that glitters is not gold
  • Alls well that ends well
  • Be-all and end-all
  • Brave new world
  • Break the ice
  • Brevity is the soul of wit (my favorite and one I obviously seem to have trouble with)
  • (Refuse to) Budge an inch
  • Dead as a doornail
  • Dogs will have his day
  • Eaten me out of house and home
  • Elbow room
  • Fancy-free
  • Forever and a day
  • Foregone conclusion
  • Full circle
  • Good riddance
  • It's high time
  • In a pickle
  • In my mind's eye
  • Into thin air
  • Killing with kindness
  • Laughing stock
  • Love is blind
  • Naked truth
  • Neither rhyme nor reason
  • One fell swoop
  • Star-crossed lovers
  • Pomp and circumstance
  • Seen better days
  • Send packing
  • Short shrift
  • Snail-paced
  • A sorry sight
  • The short and long of it
  • The world is my oyster

If that weren't impressive enough, if a phrase was too unwieldy, he'd just make up a word, like: addiction, advertising, assassination, blanket, bet, champion, compromise, countless, epileptic, eyeball, fashionable, gossip, jaded, lonely, majestic, mimic, mountaineer, negotiate, rant, secure, submerge. Think about that. Before Shakespeare dreamed these words up, more than 1700 in total, they didn't exist and had never been spoken or written. Click here to learn more about the words Shakespeare invented.

I would be happy to invent just a single word that sticks in the English lexicon, so here you go: "Brainuriance". It's a noun that means: the possession of an excess of semi-useful to outright useless knowledge. It would be used this way: "Chuck has considerable brainuriance." Please use it freely and without royalties to (unless, of course, you are so moved).

The Courtyard of our Gloucester Inn: Shakespeare Performed Here Once

If this stuff on Shakespeare fascinates you in the least, I highly recommend you read Bill Byrson's "Shakespeare: The World As Stage". Like all of Bryson's books, it's an easy and enjoyable read, and (as a bonus!) not written in the English of Shakespeare's day. If you like that book, you'll probably also like Bryson's "The Mother Tongue: English And How It Got That Way".

Sidebar: the day we visited the birthplace of the bard, they had a market in the square. One of the booths was a nonprofit birds-of-prey rescue. They had on display four of the most impressive owls we've seen up close. They are truly "majestic" birds (you remember the origin of the word "majestic", don't you?). We're hoping to see a falconry display while we're in England.

Lori Petting an Owl

Sunday, October 26, 2014

We're Back in the UK!

Friday, 17 October, 2014. We flew on Turkish Air. We paid an extra $10 per ticket to fly with them because they brag about being selected "Best Airline in Europe" the last few years. We landed at London Gatwick 30 minutes late. Otherwise, it was a good flight, but our vote for Best Airline in Europe still goes to TAP Portugal Airlines. I mean, TAP serves free wine, c'mon.

Our travel plan has us staying put in England until the day we board the Queen Mary 2 for our crossing (note it's a "crossing", not a "cruise"). Returning to London from Istanbul, we would proceed straight to Gloucester, convenient to our real destination, The Cotswolds. We'd stay for just a long 3-day weekend, then we'd be off to a little village a few minutes north of Nottingham where we'll stay for a little over three weeks. Then it's a week in London for a show and Christmas shopping, followed up by three weeks in the English Lake Country (where we hope to see our first snow of the season) before we head to Southampton where the 7th largest cruise ship in the world will be waiting to take us home.

We proceeded through immigration and moseyed around Gatwick for a bit too long. Despite our (self-proclaimed) status of expert travelers, we should have paid a little more attention to the train schedules. It was early afternoon and we found an airport pub to park ourselves in. Lori's burger and my nachos had just arrived when I realized we needed to get to London's Paddington station to catch the 3:30 train to Gloucester, else the fares the rest of the afternoon would double. I checked my watch: it was a few minutes before 2:00. An hour and a half plus a few minutes wasn't a wealth of time, but it seemed it should be enough, nonetheless we picked up our pace eating lunch.

We had to wait in a surprisingly long line to buy our express train tickets from Gatwick into London's Victoria Station. We only had to wait a few minutes for the next train, but the 30 minute express stretched on to 45 minutes. It was a quarter to three when we arrived at Victoria Station. We only needed to get on the tube and get to Paddington in 45 minutes. Still close, but doable.

Except that Victoria Station was swamped. Packed. Swarming. Sea of humanity, and all that. We forgot that it was Friday afternoon, and it looked as though ALL of London were trying to get out of the city via Victoria Station. And then we had to stand in line to buy tube tickets. The possibility that we wouldn't make it was greater, and I was wondering if we hung around Paddington until early evening whether the fares dropped back down. That would put us into Gloucester very late.

Tickets in hand, we hurried to the tube and jumped on a shoulder-to-shoulder packed train. It was 3:00 and I told Lori I didn't think we were going to make it. I suggested we could hang around Paddington until late, when the fares might drop. Lori shrugged, so I knew she didn't like that option any better than I. We might just have to suck it up and pay the premium rush-hour fares. Counting our stops, we realized we had miscounted the number of tube stops between Victoria and Paddington.

I had pretty much given up by the time we stepped off the tube. With only ten minutes left before our scheduled train departure and Paddington as equally swamped as Victoria, our only hope seemed to be that our train might actually be running a few minutes late. We still had to buy tickets, after all, and finding and waiting in the ticket line had already proven as delaying as getting from train to tube and vice versa. Paddington being compact compared to Victoria, we found the board easily. In one of those rare moments, we were actually disappointed that our train was still reported as on time.

I checked my watch: we had 8 minutes. I surveyed the platforms, and there being only 10, I made the very snap decision that we could make it if we could quickly buy our tickets. We asked a suited Londoner on his way out of the city where the ticket machines were, and he directed us to the far left wall. We hightailed over there. There were two machines: one occupied by an older lady in no particular hurry, the older by a 20-something who seemed to be playing video poker rather than buying a ticket. The older lady finished first. A minute later our tickets were purchased and we were wishing the machine's printer worked faster.

Tickets in hand, we had 3 minutes, maybe less (you know you're cutting it close when you start thinking in seconds). We jogged back to the board, and--Murphy's Law--our platform was the furthest one. Our jogging pace increased. We stepped onto our train just as the conductor put the whistle to his mouth and waved the white paddle. Two hours later--right on time--we were in Gloucester for our long weekend.

It's good to be back in the UK.