After Long Silence. . .on January 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm
It’s been a while since I last blogged. I plead travel and the aftermath of travel (jet-lag, etc.) I also p[lead the holildays. Things do get to be hectic then.
I have spent a wonderful time in England! I went as part of a school tour and saw Stonehenge (fr;om a distance, because our bus got there after closing. Yes, there IS a closing time for Stonehenge.) and the sights of Bristol and London.
We were in London for New Year’s but did not attend the big fireworks display in person because I felt we could have just as good a view via the televised version, without having to herd into huge crowds, wait around for hours (They close access to the viewing areas when these fill up, so you really do have to get there hours ahead of midnight), deal with the cold, and likewise deal with the crowds getting onto the Tube (subway) to get back to the hotel afterwards.
I was right: The televised fireworks were awesome enough for us. However I would liek to note my thjanks to the London Powers That Be–the mayor, etc.–for the kindness of letting people ride the Tube home for FREE within a very generous time-window on Dec. 31-Jan.1.
I have been to England many times, but this trip taught me that there is always more to learn. For instance, I never had visited Bristol, so I learfned a lot about that city and saw many impressive sights. Chief among these was the suspension bridge crossing a huge gorge. This was the work of a man whose name is not just famous but fun to say: Isembard Kingdom Brunel. Call me silly, but I love that name! The bridge went up in the early 19th century and if you have the chance, seek out online images of it (and the gorge it spans) to be really impressed by this feat of engineering.
In Bristol we were happy to be able to spend some time–though in dreadful weather–with a dear friend of ours, Liz from Glastonbury. She brought us to The Hatchet, which is one of the oldest pubs in continuing use and was once the haunt of Blackbeard the pirate! Bristol built much of its prosperity on shipping, so pirates were rather a fact of life. I doubt Blackbeard ordered the hot chocolate sponge with custard, though. (It was delicious!)
From Bristol we were taken on a side-tour to Bath where we toured the ancient Roman baths, saw Bath Abbey (gorgeous), and visited the Pump Room where the society folk of Jane Austen’s day “took the waters”, i.e. drank the waters of the natural hot springs that have been recognized as a healing source since the days of the Celts. I had already “taken the waters” on a previous visit, and they tasted. . .um. . .okay? Not as awful as I feared, but not worth a second sampling. If you ever get the chance, do visit the Roman baths. You will be awestruck by the building and engineering feats that the occupying Roman settlers possessed. But the Romans were indeed one of the chief–if not the paramount–engineering peoples of the ancient world.
Yes, I do hope to write some books set during the days of the Roman empire one day!
Bristol cathedral is lovely and was the site of a fabulous choir concert we attended (as we were traveling with one of the choirs performing, the foregoing is kind of a given). So is Southwark Cathedral in London, site of the second choir concerft, about which more later.
In London, we had ample time to explore. Westminster Abbey is well worth a visit. It will steal your breath, both for its beauties and for the sheer weight of history contained within those walls. It is the burial place of Queen Elizabeth I (her tomb topped with a stone effigy whose face is supposed to have been copied from her death mask, so is thus an accurate portrait of this formidable woman). She shares burial space with her sister, Queen Mary, aka “Bloody” Mary. They were often at loggerheads in life, but in death they are at peace. I think Mary, Queen of Scots, is also buried there, but I don’t recall if this is correct. And Poet’s Corner marks the burial places and/or the memorials of many of England’s greatest writers.
Lewis Carroll’s plaque is set into the floro and is round because it’s made to look like a rabbit hole. I like that!
There are also some famed musicians memorialized there as well.
Covent Garden is great fun for shopping and, because it lies very near the theaters and the Royal Opera, is often the site of free performances by operatic singers. The holiday decorations were up and the cry “Meet me by the giant topiary Rudolph the Red-nosed-Reindeer” was loud in the land. (Really, you could not miss it, so it made a perfect meet-up spot.)
We went to Harrod’s. This is the Big Name Department Store in London and was jam-packed with people trying to get in on the after-Christmas sales. To think we dodged the New Year’s Eve crowds but willingly went into that madhouse! I keep telling myself it was worth it, just to pose for photos with some of the giant teddy bears and to pick up a few bargains. Yes, I keep telling myself that. . .
Our last night was the concert at Southwark Cathedral. I paid a visit to the monument to Shakespeare within the cathedral. The guide brochure reminds us that he was a member of that parish while in London, working at the Globe theatre (also on the south bank of the Thames, away from the “respectable” people) and suggests this is a good place to pray for those in the literary arts. I felt rather welcome.
And so, I am back. Actually, I have been back for some time, but after a big trip came a few small ones, plus the whole post-travel get-reorganized thing.
I hope to blog a bit more regularly, and also to have some good news to share soon.
Meanwhile, here’s to a healthy, happy 2012 for us all!