My trip to England this year, May 12-26, 2005, was so special. Friends there spent their precious time with me. Also, I visited many new places in London, Kent, the Midlands, the North of England, and a bit of Wales. I sit with my journal, my pictures, maps, brochures, etc. as I write.
The flight into Gatwick was a late arrival, late leaving Philly and stacked over London. My plans for the afternoon were squashed when I didn't make it to my hotel room until after three in the afternoon.
9:30 a.m. Gatwick arrival, one hour late
10:30 a.m. Gatwick immigration, one hour, wall to wall people standing in line, sort of
12:10 p.m. Wait time for train to Victoria, 30 minute ride
1:10 p.m. Van left for hotel, I was the last one dropped off.
3:00 p.m. Got into hotel room, the computers were down.
My room was furthest from the lift. What went right on this day? The plane landed safely, the train trip from Gatwick to Victoria Station was very nice, dinner at the hotel was fine and the bed was comfortable.
On the first full day in London, I joined a city tour included in my tour package. I've done this before, but it had been a while and I needed a refresher. On a Saturday morning the traffic was relatively light in the city - we drove on many familiar streets and some not so. We had a photo stop at the Westminster Cathedral (Catholic), not to be confused with the Westminster Abbey (Church of England). The Royal College of Organists is a beautiful building, now a private residence owned by a millionaire. We drove by Trafalgar Square, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, with morning tea at the Methodist Central Hall. A walk down the Birdcage Walk to get photos of Buckingham Palace, the Queen Victoria monument and gardens, then back up the street to watch the guards, headed up by pipers on this day, marching to the palace for the changing of the guard.
In the afternoon I went to the Tate Britain to visit the special exhibition, Turner, Whistler, Monet. It was sold out. A crush of people were getting tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show. On the TV the next morning they said the show closed that evening at 12:30 a.m. I chose to skip it, a disappointment, but good not to be on my own, down on the Millbank at that time of night. Plan B for the afternoon, I took the tube to Notting Hill Gate and walked through the area, including Holland Park. I found nice pubs for cheap, good meals over all of London this trip.
Next morning, a Sunday, I went to Trafalgar Square and the National Portrait Gallery to see the new painting of Dame Judi Dench, a quite stunning, large painting, very nice. The church bells were playing from St. Martins in the Fields. In the afternoon, I met a friend from London for lunch and a wander through Portobello Market. We had a nice catch-up on our activities and travels.
Time for a day trip out of London. I had booked a jaunt to Leeds Castle, Dover and Canterbury Cathedral. We stopped at Leeds Castle first for a cream tea - ooh that clotted cream. The castle is a gem. Beautiful grounds. Women were inside arranging flowers into gorgeous, mammoth displays for an upcoming flower show. Off to Dover, with a stop for pictures of the white cliffs. And then back to Canterbury Cathedral. In awe of the age of the building and its stained glass windows, which were removed during WWII. We had lunch in Canterbury and on the bus driving back to London - great timing - very hard rain. According to the tour guide, the word, wharf, is derived from Ware House At River Front.
Wow! Wow! Wow! Did my errands this morning. To Leicester Square to redeem a coupon for the play, Blood Brothers. Then, I made my way to Westminster Pier for a round trip ticket to Greenwich on the Thames. It was a very busy area, since the Queen was opening Parliament that day. Once on the boat, we heard the gun salute to Parliament from the Tower of London. Very impressive. Many familiar landmarks while moving down the river, London Eye, City Hall, Tower of London, and its bridge. Upon arrival in Greenwich, the Cutty Sark is seen first. After a nice lunch, I made my way to the park and up a very steep hill to the Royal Observatory for views of London and to stand with one foot in the Eastern Hemisphere and one foot in the Western Hemisphere at 0° 0'0” longitude. Down to the Queen's House for a lovely art gallery, including one room devoted to photographs of the flood at Boscastle (near and dear to my heart) back on August 16, 2004. On to the National Maritime Museum, where there were many unruly children, so I didn't stay there too long. The grounds and buildings of the Old Naval College and the park at Greenwich are truly lovely. My friends in Melbourne, Australia, have six black and white prints of London sights, which I admired (coveted!) and getting off the boat at Westminster, I found the street seller on the steps, selling the very same prints. I could hardly believe it, since my friends bought their prints back in the year 2000! I paid a pound more for my set, not bad for five years. Back to the hotel for a quick bite and to change for the theatre. Saw Stephanie Cole, one of my favorite actors, in Blithe Spirit at the Savoy. Such fun. I went to the stage door for her to sign my program. We had a very nice, short visit. She was lovely to me and very funny telling me how to hail a cab! She is terrific
On my last day in London, I went to Sir John Soane's Museum in Holburn. Chock full of artifacts, art and books. There was no place to hang another picture or set another object down. There were boats in the house and a crypt. Across the street was Lincoln's Inn Fields, a lovely park. I met my London friend again in Covent Garden, a market square, paved rather than a park with flowers, as the name implies. I ate a pasty and he and I said our good-byes, after a short visit. In the evening, I took the tube to Tottenham Court Road for a fish and chip supper, then to the Phoenix Theatre on Charing Cross Road to see Blood Brothers, a brilliant musical, very funny, very sad. I had a time finding a cab after the performance and ended up taking a rickshaw (tri-cycle) to Picadilly where there were several empty cabs. I got back to the hotel at 11 p.m. and packed for my departure the following day.
The second half of my trip to England was spent with a woman whom I met while in Australia. We corresponded through e-mail, where our friendship developed. She invited me to her home in Lancashire, our home base, for a week's marathon of traveling in the North West, Yorkshire, West Midlands and a bit of Wales. It was a wonderful time and now I'll share it with you.
I had booked a train from Euston station in London to the Manchester Piccadilly station. It was a fast train, so the trip took only two hours, ten minutes, with short stops in Stoke-on-Trent and Stockport. My friend was there to meet me. We walked to the next platform, boarded that train and departed almost immediately. Arriving at Guide Bridge Depot, she found her car and we went to her home. She lives on a one lane road, where you toot the horn for the curves, in case something unseen is coming. Following a lovely lunch, we drove to Holmfirth, where the British show, Last of the Summer Wine, is filmed. What fun to see Nora Batty's steps, Sid's Café, an English village with wonderful views driving, both ways, taking different routes. We were in Yorkshire and Derbyshire today. After dinner, we had parkin for dessert, a rich kind of cake only known in Lancashire, made of molasses, sugar, oatmeal and syrup. Yum! Darkness arrives at about 10 p.m. here, at this time of year.
After setting off my friend's house alarm, this day started rather abruptly. We went to Tatton Park in Cheshire for the gardens and mansion. Rhododendrons and azaleas were in colorful bloom. The mansion was lovely. We visited with one of the volunteers who has a nephew from Canterbury coming to Cazenovia ( half an hour from my house) to guest lecture. In the evening we went to Lees for the brass band competition. Several communities and bands participate. The bands travel by bus from town to town, march to the competition site, play and are judged, then the one band moves on and the next band steps in for their turn to play. Many people were there to watch and listen. Great fun. The film, Brassed Off, is recommended in connection with this event. One of the bands was from Slaithwaite which is pronounced slough (rhymes with plow) ate! And, have you ever heard the phrase, “His face looked like a slapped ass.” ? Neither had I!
We had a “travel” day, heading to Hereford, where we've booked a motel as a base for our wanderings in the area. We traveled through Cheshire and Shropshire to Herefordshire. Hay-on-Wye, pronounced Y, was our first stop. Home of the booksellers, the shops were of mostly used books. The brochure lists thirty-eight book shops in and near Hay-0n-Wye. My friend found a beautifully illustrated (photographs) book, entitled Summer Wine, by Roy Clarke, writer of the TV show. I brought the book home, of course.
The next day found us in Ross-on-Wye, such an interesting town. A canoe race was in progress on the Wye. We found a spot for pictures in the church graveyard with panoramic views of the valley and the river. We spent the morning walking through Ross-on-Wye. The Heritage Center was on the second floor of the Market Hall. Symonds Yat (pronounced simons and yat rhymes with cat) was our next stop. We took a river cruise there and after, had a lovely lunch at the Rose Café, grilled ham, cheese, tomato with rhubarb crumble for dessert. We visited with a couple from Hampstead (London) about British comedies during lunch. Then we drove back to Hereford, walked to the city center and took pictures of the Hereford Cathedral. That evening we watched some of the Chelsea Flower Show on the telly.
Our visit to Hereford at an end, we departed and headed for Chatsworth, stately home of the Duchess of Devonshire. We drove through the counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, and Lancashire on this day. Chatsworth is glorious. The mansion allows photography, so I have some pictures. I also have the official guide to the house, a gift from my hostess. One of the doors in the house has a painting of a violin on it, which looks as if a violin were hanging on the door. Very interesting illusion. The park, gardens, lawns, fountains all add to the beauty of the place. We walked to a new “sculpture” entitled Revelations and the pictures of it are in Part 3 of the England 2005 pictures on my web site. It is quite different and rather awesome. On the way home we stopped in Ashford-in-the-Water to see the Well Dressings in the village. Several towns do this May through September. The pictures on the wells are made of natural materials, e.g. flower petals, pressed into clay boards, according to a brochure.
A day of rest - it started out that way, then we went shopping. At Sainsbury's, I bought HP Sauce, Colman's mustard, tea, crumpets, and ooh, clotted cream. All of it traveled well. We went for a look at some barges and house boats on a canal. We drove to the Hartshead Pike, so after a climb up a hill, I was able to get a close-up photo of this landmark of Lancashire. We went out for dinner that evening, my treat for a lovely hostess.
On our final day, we went to Haworth, home of the Brontë family. The Reverend Brontë outlived his wife and all his children. Charlotte's husband, from Ireland, stayed with him through his death. At that point, all the Brontë possessions were sold at auction. Since then, the Brontë Society has been able to recover many of these possessions and the Brontë Parsonage Museum is furnished with their furniture and mementos. We found our way to an Edinburgh Woolen Mill store in Haworth and later to a Damart in Bingley. Also, in Bingley, we went to see the Five-Rise Locks. Along the way we drove on a very steep, very curvy, very long, very fun, cobbled road, similar to Lombard Street in San Francisco, only longer, steeper, and curvier. We were in Thwaites Brow. You may pronounce that the way it's spelled! We ended the day watching Liverpool win in a shootout against Milan in Istanbul! (football=UK, soccer=US)
At the airport in Manchester (flying home from there) the computers were down. Didn't this trip start out this way? All was well, I got a seat and my friend and I said good-bye, until next time. One of my bags came to my house the day after I arrived home. My pug and I were happy to see each other. I love England and at the same time I am always happy to come home.
The pictures of the England 2005, trip are on my website:
England Part One
England Part Two
England Part Three
Joyce N. Church
Written July 2005
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