Wednesday, September 30, 2015

England Day 10 - Stonehenge, and a Service

 Lots and Lots of Probablys


if you have ever been there, you will have heard them too. The 'probably' explanations about how Stonehenge got there. These are just a few:
  • Merlin had something to do with it
  • the Stones were magical and partially weightless
  • the Druids moved the stones all by themselves from west Wales although they weighed thousands of pounds
  • aliens from outer space schlepped the stones into place by the art of levitation (this was stated mostly tongue-in-cheek)
  • slaves did it all 
  • everybody just pitched in and worked together in an early effort at team building. This would have taken a cast of thousands simply years to accomplish
We heard all of this and more today, and at the end of every explanation was the word 'probably'. I had heard it all 25 years ago, and nothing had changed.

The hideous Stonehenge visitor centre
I turned my hand-held lecture guide off, and then had a great time walking. 1.5 miles from the hideous visitor centre out to the stones; the pathway around several 'barrows' not far from the site; the circular pathway around the stones themselves. It didn't even matter that there were scads of other tourists there - I loved it anyway. Blue skies, a brisk breeze, cows and sheep galore standing around watching all the people go by with strange looking devices stuck to their ears.

The Salisbury Plain itself is just gorgeous. You really should go there. It will give you a bit of comfort to see that the earth is not dangerously overcrowded. At least not yet. Looks like we still have some space left!

Salisbury Cathedral

The Stonehenge Tour was a good one, but nothing as exciting as what happened after it. The bus dropped me off downtown near the imposing cathedral, and I entered there. For three and a half hours I wandered it through and through, had a delightful free tour, then staying on for the Evensong service at 5:30. It was all very meaningful, like different pieces of a puzzle that you can put together successfully and without frustration. 

At one point during the tour, a lovely vicar stepped up to the podium (you should just see that podium!) and welcomed all visitors to join in a prayer together. He shared that Christ is the reason for the cathedral, and that it was right and proper to thank Him. And then, he did. We all soon joined him together in the Lord's Prayer, and then continued our touring. It was the sweetest thing.

There was a hush as a small crowd approached for Evensong. The bells began, and rang on and on calling the faithful to come. We were invited to sit near to the choir, so I had a lovely view of the singers. None were adult, and all were girls. They were directed by a splendid elder chorister, reminding me of the famous Barchester Towers (remember Mr. Harding?). It was lovely. 

The Bishop's Seat!

Within Salisbury Cathedral the mission of Christ is clear and unforgotten. In fact, within all of the cathedrals I have visited the message comes through steadfastly. The epistle lesson tonight said it rather well, I thought:

"Whatever you do, in word or deed do everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Put on compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you. And above all these, put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts - and be thankful."
-Colossians 3:12 - 15

What else can a person possibly need?

See you along the Way!
the SconeLady

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

England Day 9 - Salisbury Cathedral

It may be the most stunning, and is certainly the most massive that I have yet seen. This stunningness literally towers over every other building in the town, and is never without its crowd. I spotted it as the train drew nearer to Salisbury today, and my fellow passengers suddenly leaped toward the windows to catch a glimpse (the most demonstrative were the Americans. Of course!).

"Mummy. What is THAT?" said one British tyke, whose mother was gazing at a fashion magazine.

"Oh, that is called a Cathedral, darling. It's like a huge, enormous church, only they call it a cathedral because...well I think it's because a Bishop lives there.."

The tyke watched it go by with her nose pressed against the glass. "May we go inside of it?" she queried. But her mother had gone back to her magazine, and the massive building drifted out of our view.

A cathedral is always a magnet. It has certainly drawn me here from thousands of miles distant, and from the look of the crowds I am not alone.

 The Cathedral has the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom

But just at the moment I am sitting in the lounge room of a small hotel nearby, where I had hoped for some peace. Instead I am at the mercy of the television channel someone else has chosen. There is an almost deafening report about the horrific things that are happening in the Middle East, and what the reporters think everybody should be doing about it. It isn't very easy to think of cathedrals with that blasting away at my head. But this is where the Wifi is!

In the meantime, may I interest you in some beautiful fan-arching?!

Salisbury Cathedral peeking out from behind a tree in the Cloister

Salisbury Cathedral has the largest Cloister in Britain

Awe-inspiring design crafted beginning in 1220 AD

The best surviving of the four original copies of the Magna Carta is housed at Salisbury Cathedral. 
(It's in that little tent, above)

And even with all of this enchantment, I have not yet gone inside of it! That will happen tomorrow, after a visit to Stonehenge. So tomorrow is a big day. A true embarrassment of riches!

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Monday, September 28, 2015

England Day 8 - the First Cream Tea (Bath)

There was a Cream Tea yesterday, as you may recall. I found the Patisserie Valerie after having wandered around the town, seeking a suitable tea shop. This search was not a chore, as the late afternoon sun was warm and Bath itself was dreamy. I saw that the Royal Crescent Restaurant was open for business! but was not dressed very properly to enter its doors. I don't think I would have been refused, really, but I was shy to try - I'd read that they do enjoy their patrons nicely dressed.

And so, it was the Patisserie. In general, patisseries are attractive and tasty and do good things in a French way. I think this one did it well. I was greeted immediately upon entering, and shown to a wee table next to a cut glass window. This was charming, and within moments of placing my order, out came a loaded tray. Two scones and a pot of tea for one. 

The stage was set.

The scones were split in two, and toasted, with currants in. Toasted is different from most scones I am served in the UK, but they actually had a nice taste. The tea itself was delicious (English Breakfast), and I drained the pot dry. My waitress was the sweetest and kindest lady who served me almost instantly, busy but hovering nearby just in case I might need something. 

Having thought it over, I am going to give this Cream Tea a 7, my dear Readers. There was something about the toasted scones that just slightly disappointed the SconeLady. I didn't mind the currents so much, but would have liked to have the choice of plain. But tomorrow is another day, and perhaps there will be a chance to dine in the Royal Crescent! We shall see. We shall definitely soon see.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Sunday, September 27, 2015

England Day 7 - The Arrival In BATH (er, Bahth..)

When in Bath, do as the Romans did!
(please: pronounce it 'Bahth'..)

It was rather a long haul, but the SconeLady finally made it. The sun shone warmly upon our heads as we hugged our goodbyes.  Climbing aboard, my host kindly lifted my case and shared that if I were to sit on a certain side I could bask in the sun. The train began to move as I settled my gear and waved one final wave Rosie-ward, and then was away.

It was a little surprising how many passengers crammed themselves aboard as we continued toward London. Stop after stop the crowds stood waiting, and then literally leapt in. Oh the bodies - oh the bags - oh the travel paraphernalia! Everywhere, I tell you. Soon we could barely budge. In London there was some kind of snafu about the tubes to Paddington Station, so the other travelers and I dashed from place to place trying to find where we could grab the right one. Agents stood at intervals and quickly barked the correct directions as the crowds ran toward them. It would have been funny if it hadn't been so confusing!

The clot of travelers surrounding me finally discovered the only tube that would connect us, and off we sped to Paddington - arriving 2 minutes before departure time! Hahahaha! (I think).

But I don't mean to drag this out because once I arrived in Bath, everything came up absolute Roses. All travel quirks were forgotten as the creamy, buttery buildings of this city surrounded us and mesmerized us. They were splendid. But as splendid as they all might have been, there was one I had my eye out for just then: Bath Abbey, my favorite of all Cathedrals or Abbeys in this land of plenty.

As I approached it, there was almost a hush in its near vicinity for a young man was sitting in the midst of the square, playing the most beautiful hymns on his guitar. People lined the square, watching and listening. It was as if we were already in church. In fact, I believe we actually were. I did not enter, for that will happen tomorrow when there is time to participate in the tour, and hopefully a service.

The afternoon contained several other wonders:

  • a double decker tour bus of the city of Bath. I sat on top!
  • a double decker tour bus of the surrounding countryside (same)
  • a long walk around the city in order to find the Royal Crescent (utterly awe-some!)
  • a late afternoon Cream Tea (explained below)
  • a long walk back up the hill to the top of the town

I have come to the realization that there really isn't an ugly building in Bath. At least, none that I have seen. Don't you just love the Royal Crescent? (below) We caught a glimpse of it on the tour bus, and later on I followed Siri's directions back to find it. The sun was slanting toward it in such a way that it really practically glowed out at me:

For an iPhone photograph, that looks pretty good don't you think?

Just across from the Crescent was a long, green grassy space where friends and lovers lolled about on this absolutely perfect Sunday afternoon. One had the impression that the Brits grab what moments they can of this good weather. We all did!

Completely by accident we drove over the river and I saw something I did not expect to see. Do you recognize it? Think: Les Miserables:

In the film, Inspector Javert stood there on the bridge above this water feature, and... (well I don't want to say what he did, but it wasn't happy). It was meant to be the River Seine, but the Pulteney Bridge was chosen for the film location. It was fascinating to see this in person.

Now about that Cream Tea - the Patisserie Valerie provided this, and although I have run out of time to describe its deliciousness, I will be sure and do that for you tomorrow!

As this day comes to a close, I think many thankful thoughts. For the wonderful hospitality at friend Rosie's; for the unexpectedly grand weather so far; for the safety and generosity of this new trek; and for the upcoming visit to Bath Abbey, for which I am most thankful in advance.

Oh - and I think there is a Roman Bath somewhere that I will find, and visit! What utter riches!

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Saturday, September 26, 2015

England Day 6 - Seeing More

Overnight the internet stopped being so pesky, and suddenly delivered my photos. I do love this view of Castle Rising. There is something a bit mysterious about it, as if giving you a small taste and then beckoning you on to see more:

It is surrounded by a startling Moat which kept it safe from intruders over the centuries. It is empty of water now, but still makes up a perfectly huge earthworks that surround the Rising on all sides. I walked all around that moat, along the tip of the earth works. This was a little unsettling because one misstep and I could have rolled almost straight down and into the moat, the way we used to roll down the hill at school (don't worry, no humans were harmed in this episode). 

The forward view of Castle Rising

Blondie, friend Rosie, and Dora

Every day after the fun, after the cathedrals and the castles, I get to go with friend Rosie to take care of her animals. At this juncture, there is the donkey, the two horses, 10 sheep and one rather enigmatic cat. Maximus. All of friend Rosie's animals love her and can't wait to see her coming their way. Her coming means much patting, and kindness, and food. Just the exact sort of food each and every one of them dream of having. She is constant and sympathetic, as well as being courteous with them. The kind of farm-lady any 'kept' animal could come to adore. And they all have.

I have to leave them all, soon, and that is always a tough one. Because being in the realm of Rosie has much the same effect upon me as it does upon the animals. Her presence means kindness, and sympathy, and listening, and - yes, most dazzlingly - food! 

And we all love her for it.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Sunshine in the late afternoon. (Bliss)

Friday, September 25, 2015

England Day 5 - Castle Rising

Compared with where I typically do my long walks (think: Asphalt Jungle), that which you see below is simply Heavenly.

The farmlands of Norfolk

It is true that the lady walking this lane is dressed in warm layers and scarves, signifying a rather chilled feel. But do I care? Walking in a chill is absolutely divine.

Friend Rosie has driven me to many fun walking places in order that I might not miss an opportunity. Each one seems lovelier than the last and I am adoring it. After having visited a cathedral yesterday, today I was delivered to within yards of a Castle! Do you love castles? I think they are mysterious, and significant, and even rather magical. This spot is called Castle Rising, one of the most famous of England's 12th century castles. It has been a royal residence, a hunting lodge, and (significant for some reason) even hosted a mental patient. You can learn all about it here. (I have lots of photos, but as none of them will export into this space at the moment, perhaps I will be able to show them to you tomorrow).

The castle is a ruin, of course, as the roof and the floor both have gone missing. But it has a Moat! and a Bridge! and lots of green green grass and history galore, preserved there for anyone who wishes to see it. It turns out that not very many did wish to see it today, but that made it all the nicer for me to have a wander on my own. 

Today we have also:

  • fed The Donk (Polly), and her two horsey friends Dora and Blondie
  • cleaned up the 'residuals' of Polly, and Dora, and Blondie
  • taken juicy apples from friend Rosie's tree and fed them to 10 sheep
  • learned that a dashing young family of 3 would be arriving for the weekend (yay and hooray!)
  • made (Rosie did) a delicious chicken peso dinner complete with baked potatoes (from the garden), courgettes (also the same), broccoli (same), and champagne.
  • sat before the lovely and warm fire in the fireplace (I wish I could show you, but - testy internet!)

One day more and the trek south and west will commence, for the shores of Cornwall await. Stay with me as I make my slow and steady way to those cobbled streets and Cornish Pasties. I can almost taste them now..

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

darling Polly - The Donk
(whenever she sees us coming, she trots herself on over with a friendly greeting)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

England Day 4 - Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral as one approaches while hyperventilating

The sun is just setting outside my window as I sit here and write. We have this moment come in from feeding the two horses and 'The Donk', during which time the sunset was at its most magnificent. I got to feed them each a red apple, for which they were all three extremely grateful. You make a real friend with a beast when you feed it kindly. The horses are called Blondie and Dori, and the Donk is called Polly. I love them, and they are as sweet as they can possibly be. 

But oh, an even lovelier prospect! Today was the day we visited Ely Cathedral, in all her splendor. And Ely Cathedral is (as they all seem to be) all grandeur, an absolute towering majesty. 

Someone played this enormous organ as I walked mesmerized through the Nave

Construction-brother will appreciate the fan-arches of the ceiling

Inside the cathedral one is presented with several options for viewing. You may wish to go upstairs to visit the Stained Glass Museum (which we did), or you can begin by visiting the cathedral itself, or you can dash straight through to the shop, which contains many items for your perusal and expenditure. We somehow never did reach the shop, but made our way through and away from the Museum to the awaiting cathedral. 

You can take a look at the Museum here, if you wish. I thought it was beautiful but never managed to succeed in listening to the free audio tour device (user error I'm sure) - therefore some of the significance of it was lost on me. What was not lost on me was Ely Cathedral itself. Their stated goal is "Joyfully proclaiming the love of God in worship, outreach, welcome and care." The staff members who welcomed us were very sweet, kind, and clearly shared this goal. We were not there during the time of a church service, but the small preview we heard of the organist practicing was just a taste of what that would be like. He or she was going right at it with gusto!

Upon leaving the cathedral, we wandered the town a bit and visited something I will tell you all about soon. There is neither time nor space right now to do it justice, but I promise it will appear soon for your enjoyment.

For we have determined together that we will NOT stay up past midnight again tonight, and that we WILL sleep through and awake refreshed, ready for a walk through the sweet grasses of Norfolk once again. That is, after a nice cup of tea in the warm kitchen heated so wonderfully by friend Rosie's AGA. 

There are few things in this world - very few - that can beat having a cup of tea at a scrubbed pine table while looking out of doors at Norfolk sunlight, while being warmed and toasted by a lovely green AGA.


See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

England, Day 3 - Endlessly Kind

Coming away from Norwich Cathedral my only regret was that I didn't know more. What I did see was fabulous but the free tour had already gone, and for the moment I could only walk alone and gaze. After I had posted about it, my talented and awesome construction brother wrote me in great excitement: 

"I've studied Norwich Cathedral and compared its structure and ceiling to that in Windsor. The fan-arched nave is so amazing, and they did it without AutoCAD!!!"

I didn't know what 'AutoCAD' was, and so looked it up ...

... and it is 'Computer-aided Design', a design and drafting software. Cool! You can check it out here.

It just amazes me how much people were able to accomplish centuries ago, without computer software! I will now watch for and compare other fan-archings as Cathedrals come and go on my journeys.

Among other wonders, I have been staying in the most amazingly beautiful, comforting spot, within which hospitality is being heaped upon my head. The SconeLady has definitely landed on her feet! No matter how many times I may come, and am fed and cared for, I will never tire of it. Here are some scenes on this gorgeously sunny day:

Just outside the french doors, an expanse of splendid flowers and lawns (and do you just love the skylights?)

I could sit here and gaze, all day long

The spot I sit and blog away, late into the night

 And speaking of late into the night, it really IS late into the night now, and more than time for bed. Rosie has made me a hot water bottle which awaits in my bedroom upstairs. I think I feel it calling me! But there will be more tomorrow, never fear. My adventures may be sedate, but my heart is full and even overflowing.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

England Day 2 - Norwich Cathedral!

It would be an hour's drive along county roads, and the SconeLady was uncertain. Life is filled with these uncertainties, and one of them would be the question of car-sickness. I can never really be sure just what might happen.

So to hedge our bets, I dug around in my case for medical assistance, a.k.a: car-sick pills. It was late at night and I held out little hope of finding any. But there they were, tucked inside a tiny pocket of my case where I had placed them for the last trip! All would be well next day as we drove the winding country roads in a convertible Mercedes. I was going to see Norwich Cathedral.

Ted's Mercedes practically drives itself around the bucolic countryside villages of Norfolk. The day was lovely (actual sunshine!) and the company even better. He had scheduled a meeting and would drop me off to take care of an errand, and then I would wend my solitary way toward the Cathedral. 

The errand had been to sort out the phone troubles which had so plagued me last night. I found the right store where a very nice young man awaited me behind his cubicle. I explained my dilemma and he said, "Well Madam I have just the solution for you!" Whereupon he did some sort of magic and restored my abilities to access whatever it was I could not access last night. Voila!

This done, I tracked the way to Norwich Cathedral, and here is what I found:

What do you think of THAT?

Besides being perfectly huge and utterly beautiful, Norwich Cathedral stood out to me with its magnificent steeple. There is almost no place in the town where you cannot see that steeple, and I loved wandering round the streets, keeping an eye out for wherever it might pop up at me. 

 Norwich Cathedral's steeple looms above the town and river

Inside, I wandered through for as long as I could. Then just at the end I heard the beginnings of a short service! The vicar stood and read The Lord's Prayer, and we all stopped to join in. In that moment, none of us were strangers. All of us knew the words of that wonderful passage and shared together the closeness that may be found through Christ. It was all simply splendid.

It was then time to go, so I took a car-sick pill, buckled up my seatbelt, and was carried in style back to the house. The greatest thing about this ride was the top being down and the sweet air swirling around us as we drove. Oh - and the next greatest thing was listening to Caruso over the sound system. There is just nothing like visiting a cathedral, eating a tomato/cheese sandwich, drinking a pot of tea, wandering around a darling English town, then jumping into a Mercedes with the top down and an Italian tenor singing his heart out at you.

It was, indeed, the sweetest thing.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

view from 'my' room - blue sky!

England, Day 1

It was certainly a long one, but I made it!

The SconeLady is a traveler, no question about that. But even she apparently runs into complications from time to time. There seemed to be some sort of trouble with my UK SIM card so that I could not successfully use one iPhone. Which made me nervous to use the other one because it may break the bank. Then there seemed to be a complication with retrieving my train tickets at Paddington Station. AND, I missed my train (due to a lot of circling and stacking in the air for a considerable time) and even the Heathrow Express couldn't get me there on time.

But finally, most of these quirks untangled themselves and at long last I saw the two dearest faces in England. Hooray!

fish cakes!

darling AGA

I was fed royally - fish cakes (home made by friend Rosie, made with fresh salmon!), beet root salad, green salad from the garden topped with avacado, and a red wine to boot. This delicious input had me fairly floating upstairs to my sweet room, where I unpacked, organized myself, and fell into bed. It was the most wonderfully comforting arrival.

And perhaps most miraculous of all was the blessing of sleeping all night long. I am not even joking. I slumbered on from midnight (UK time) to 9 am, which sets a good precident for the SconeLady's travels, don't you think? And then I found that we are going to visit a Cathedral today! 

Life's sweetest blessings. I'd better get my skates on, though. Time's a'wasting.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

view from my bedroom

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Another Airport

I can scarcely believe it - after all the work I did to whittle down the size of my bag, the items within it, and the liquids it contained, in the end, THEY WOULD NOT LET ME CARRY IT ON. I had to (and my Rick Steves readers will gasp here) CHECK IT INTO BAGGAGE. Oh argh.

It does look a bit big, here in this picture. But I promise you I have carried it on to other flights. Other international flights even. But this time, this agent said 'you'll never get that thing onto the airplane ma'am. Please place it on the belt.'

And so of course, I did. Reluctantly. I placed it obediently right where he indicated, and really - what choice did I have? So I won't be the first passenger out of the airport after all. I was really looking forward to that!

But off I will go, in any case, over eastward to the land of the Brits who await me. And lovely people were here to see me off, too! The Rather Stunning Son and his Darling Girl, along with the SconeLady's husband. Too sweet! With a parting Panera Bread sandwich, and a Panera Bread soup-bread-bowl, with macaroni and cheese and a few additionals, we ate and drank and said our goodbye's. 

And oh - you should just see the gigantic Boeing 747 that just happens to be parking right outside the window where I am sitting. It is only yards away and drawing nearer. I think it is mine. I think it is beautiful. I think - the adventure begins, again.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Friday, September 18, 2015

Cheering from the Sidelines

Someone is always busy, in this home-learning center. There are books all over the place. Text books. Work books. Reading-for-pleasure books. Science-centered books. Books that feed a young boy's mind. Books that humor those who delve. It seems almost as though the books contain a magnet of some kind, for the children are never without one. And each child is all the better for it.

The school area itself is a powerful magnet that draws three children in and rewards their efforts. This is no easy task, as any parent might guess, but it is one the lovely daughter has worked hard at. A woman who has graduated college with a Communications degree is a shoe-in as an educator, especially of her own children (whom she knows so very, very well). She cares about it all, and misses nothing. 

"Grandma, come and see my desk!"

Those of us on the sidelines stand and cheer (albeit quietly) this marathon. It is lovely. And I will miss it as I fly vaguely eastward, off towards the shores of Cornwall. I'd better get out my post cards, British stamps, and pen. It is a tradition now, the daily British postcard. And what fun it is! Every day, a chance to think about and communicate with the little loved ones who care about it all, and who miss nothing.

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

Countdown: Get Me To The Airport On Time!

I absolutely love it when an airline with whom I am booked starts emailing to remind me that I'm going. As if I am a perfect idiot and won't remember. Haha. I suppose there are some who would not remember, but the SconeLady is already on pins and needles and  fully understands the obvious. I'm GOING!
Let's see, what did they remind me of? Well, it was a 'pre-flight services' email, so I suppose it would pertain to my pre-flight organizational skills. They recommend several possibilities. I may wish to:

  • Pay to take extra checked bags. Since I will probably not take any checked bags, I probably will not pay to take any extras of such
  • Note the generous baggage allowance (very important in this money-hungry day and age)
  • Pay to choose my seat in advance. I noticed this for the first time last spring when preparing to fly off London-ward. I did not fancy it. For 80 pounds round trip, I could choose to pick my seats, whereas before I had never had to pay to do it. Hmm. I believe I will resist this gouge and hope for the best 24 hours before the flight, at which time I may choose my seats free of charge.
  • Request a special meal. Well, the meals I have previously eaten on board my airline have suited me nicely, so I don't think I will need any special ones at this juncture. But people with conditions or restrictions may wish to procure a vegetarian, vegan, low fat/no fat, diabetic, gluten intolerant, Kosher, Hindu, Muslim, Asian, low salt, low lactose, or Lacto Ovo meal. And I am happy for them.
  • Add advance passenger information. This one item is essential, and does not cost any pounds or dollars. So I shall go in and take care of it right now just to be on the safe side. 
I am not the least bit afraid of forgetting to do it, as it is likely that every day from today I will hear something 'nudgey' from my airline of choice. It's the Nanny State at its best, hedging us behind and before, from above and below, to be sure we forget nothing and make it to the airport on time. It's actually kind of nice to be paid attention to like this, rather like a baby chick with Mother Hen clucking around behind (before, above, and below) me. I could get used to this. 

There is one thing I am curious about, though. What on earth is a Lacto Ovo meal?

See you along the way!
the SconeLady

photo credit: <a href="">IMG_2215</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

photo credit: <a href="">in-flight meal</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>