Thursday, October 5, 2017

Great Britain (March and April 1999)

Judy kept a journal of the trip. Her entries are in italics. My contribution is in regular type.
March 28, 1999 (Sunday):               (Ontario, Atlanta)

We flew from Ontario Airport on an 8:50 a.m. flight for Atlanta (on Delta), arriving in Atlanta about 4:00 p.m. I read the Grisham book, The Testament, on the flight. Our next leg, to Gatwick, was scheduled to leave at 6:00 p.m. The flight was overbooked, so we voluntarily accepted $800 in flight vouchers and a $20 meal voucher, in exchange for leaving on a 10:30 p.m. flight. The food selection in the airport was not great, we settled for China Express, then set out on MARTA, the Atlanta subway, for downtown Atlanta. MARTA was pretty slick, comfortable and fast. We stopped at the Peachtree Center and then walked 3 or 4 blocks to Olympic Centennial Park. Downtown Atlanta was very modern, many high rise buildings, and very hilly. At Olympic Park, I asked a worker where the bomb had exploded during the Olympics. He indicated it was in the vicinity where we were.

Accepted Delta’s offer of a later flight out of Atlanta in exchange for $800 in travel vouchers. Felt like we’d won the lottery! We took the “MARTA” into downtown Atlanta, a quite beautiful city of many skyscrapers connected in many places, many stories above ground by catwalks, often 3 or 4 between the same two buildings. We walked 3 to 4 blocks downhill to the Olympic Centennial Park, site of the 1996 Summer Olympic games. It was beautiful – clean, creatively planned and well groomed – but smaller than I thought it would be. Black faces everywhere. Took  10:20 p.m. flight out of Atlanta.

March 29, 1999 (Monday):              (Gatwick, South Kensington)

We arrived at Gatwick about 11:30, but because of daylight savings time, it was actually 12:30 (which we discovered later, we did not realize it at the time). Judy was feeling miserable. At customs I explained our problem, and they let us through more quickly. We discovered Judy’s American Tourister suitcase had exploded, and after waiting around, and some hassle, we got a cheaper replacement suitcase.

Touched down at about 11:30 London time. I felt gross. My suitcase zipper had been broken in flight. They (Delta) replaced the suitcase, but with one somewhat larger and not as nice.

We took the Gatwick Express train to Victoria Station in London, about a 30 minute ride. It brought back memories of my mission, listening to the clatter of train wheels on train tracks and the very distinctive, yet difficult to describe sound the train makes as it speeds along. The dull gray sky and council houses were further reminders of the past.

We finally got out of the airport and onto the train, which took us to Victoria Station. The scenery – we knew we weren’t in Kansas” anymore. Multistoried buildings smashed up against each other, rather run-down looking and with tall smokestack like chimneys. It looked just like Mary Poppins. Its also so green.

We took a cab to 3 Harrington Gardens, Flat 9, South Kensington (off Gloucester Road, south of Hyde Park) to Jean’s flat, which she graciously allowed us to use (Jean is a good friend of my partner Mark. It was not too far from Victoria Station. We were extremely tired, feeling muggy and damp in clothes we had worn for too long. We took a shower and Judy napped. She is not feeling well at all. The flat is high up in an apartment building. Early in the evening, we set out for a walk of the area. We walked along Gloucester Road and stared in shops. I was shocked by the number of American fast food chains. When I was in England, there were only a few McDonalds in all of England (I can only think of the one in London). Now there are Burger Kings, McDonalds, and Pizza Huts all over. We looked in a little shop and it was fun for me to look at the biscuits and see the ones that were familiar and the ones that were different. The milk has also changed. We used to get it warm, in glass bottles with foil caps. It now is refrigerated and in cartons. They also had sandwiches that looked very good, in fact, better than most of the sandwiches you can generally buy in stores in the U.S. Eating here as a missionary now would be much better and with more variety. We bought some biscuits and milk for dinner. Then, further down the road, we happened across an Italian restaurant, Bella Pasta, which looked good (and was expensive – 22.15 pounds, or about $35.88 for our meal). We marveled at the crowded parking everywhere, cars parked bumper to bumper, with very little room to maneuver in and out. It would be a nightmare to live and drive here on a regular basis. It is a posh area, many very nice cars, Mercedes and BMWs.

We took a classic British cab from the station to the flat in South Kensington that belongs to Jean and where we’re staying tonight. The cab driver was not the mad driver of Mexico City or Paris, but the change to the left side of the road for driving was a little disconcerting. The flat is at the top of about five flights of stairs – a long way to haul luggage – and is really nice. South Kensington in general is upscale, yet very British. Old brick churches every other corner, beautiful British architecture everywhere, everything smashed together to utilize every nook and cranny, surprising patches of green parks, tons of nice restaurants, 2 KFCs (during our walk) and a Burger King, everything busy, busy, busy.
We ate dinner in a little Italian restaurant. Bob had a pasta dish with a duck-laced sauce and I had a fettucini genovese dish that hit the spot.

March 30, 1999 (Tuesday):              (Kensington Gardens, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Covent Garden)

We walked to a Laundromat we spotted the night before and washed some clothes. We had bread and salad sandwiches for breakfast, then took our luggage by taxi to the Columbia Hotel located at 95-99 Lancaster Gate, in Bayswater, London, where we would spend the next night. The hotel seemed very old, somewhat elegant, but quite rundown. The carpet was like outdoor carpet, without plush, and an unappealing brown. Our room was very narrow and the ceiling was high. It was also quite hot. We were happy to drop off our bags and leave.

After a good night’s sleep, we headed out to a Laundroma. We picked up some breakfast at a little grocery store – a small loaf of bread, cheese and chocolate milk for me and a sandwich and chocolate milk for Bob. After packing, we took a cab to our Hotel – the Columbia, on the north end of Kensington Gardens. Our driver went through Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens on the way – how gorgeous! Hyde Park has a riding ring around its perimeter for equestrian use.

There was a Lancaster Gate entrance on the tube right near the hotel. We bought a day pass and traveled to Victoria Station where we got off and walked to Buckingham Palace. The streets were very busy with business people. Buckingham Palace had some activity going on: several limousines pulled up and through the gate and people got out to go inside. We gawked, trying to get a good look at the visitors. The guards, true to reputation, stood erect, with their tall black hats, red coats, near little places that look like telephone kiosks, without expression and ignored the clamor going on around them. When they did walk, they did so very crisply, in military fashion. Just outside the gate, across a large street, is a large statue and beyond it is a huge park that stretches as far as you can see. After ogling at the gate, we discovered a palace gift shop and purchased some chocolate and other trinkets. Along the way back to the tube, I spotted a shop with nice looking sandwiches in the window, tomato, lettuce and cheese. We bought a couple for lunch. Near Victoria Station again, we stopped at the British Travel Centre London and bought a Great British Heritage Pass for each of us.

After settling in  to our tall, narrow, hot room, we headed out to the Underground, or “Tube,” as it is known. We purchased day passes, enabling us to go anywhere all day. Our first stop was Buckingham Palace, where I unfortunately ruined a roll of film. I was surprised at how plain it was. There was a wide driveway abutting the building, leaving no room for greenery or landscaping of any kind. Outside the fence, however, were beautiful gardens/parks and statuary. We watched the guard march back and forth in front of their little cubicles – rather a comic sight, but gloriously pompous. We ogled the traffic going in the front gate. It had the air of Britain’s rich and famous.

We took the tube to the Westminster stop, and immediately were greeted by Big Ben, connected to the House of Commons, as we emerged. We waited in line for a while, to get into the House of Commons, but decided to quit after waiting awhile. Westminster Abbey was across the street, so we hoofed it over. Westminster Abbey is fantastic. Every nook and corner has something of interest. It was established by St. Edward the Confessor, in 1065, and is the tallest Gothic building in the British Isles. As you walk in, to the left, is the shrine to the kings. Most of the monarchs have been crowned in Westminster Abbey and many of them are buried there, including King Edward the First (1239 to 1307), King Henry the Third (1207 to 1272) and King Henry the Fifth (1387 to 1422). The Coronation Chair sits in that area. Mary, Queen of Scots, is buried in the Lady Chapel in the far, rounded, end. There are also graves and memorials to non-royalty, including Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens, and the prime ministers, including Sir Robert Peel and Gladstone. Some young men were practicing singing, and their voices echoed beautifully through the hollowness of the building. Again, there is a distinctive sound to the worship music in a cathedral that is difficult to describe, but very noticeable. Outside, on our way back to the tube, I was thrilled to see a statue of Abraham Lincoln and also one for Sir Winston Churchill.

From there we took the Tube to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben then crossed the street to Westminster Abbey. Wow. It took my breath away and brought me to tears. The place is a huge crypt- honoring the famous and not-so-famous dead. We saw the throne upon which every king/queen has been crowned since, I think, William the Conqueror in 1066. I believe almost all the kings/queens since Edward are buried there. I loved the poets corner – honoring everyone from Tennyson to Shakespeare (not buried there) to Wilfred Owen to Bronte. I’d have liked to have found a book on the corner, but none was to be found. I also loved the ceiling, with its complex patterns of arches.

We traveled quite a ways to the Tower Hill exit on the tube, then had to walk the equivalent of three or four blocks to the Tower of London. A large mote surrounds it, but it is free of water, now just a sunken field of grass. Rather than being one tower, the Tower of London is actually a castle, with walls surrounding a whole complex of buildings within. The name probably originates from the original building, known as the White Tower, begun by William the Conqueror, who ruled from 1066 to 1087. It is located in the center of the castle complex and the focal point. The entrance to the castle is through two turrets, or towers, over a bridge over the moat, through another set of turrets on the south corner, near the River Thames. Inside we spotted a number of Beefeaters (more formally known as Yeoman Warders), dressed in their distinctive uniforms consisting of black trousers and shoes, a squared black jacket with a hemline down almost to the knees, bordered in red, with red cuffs and a red preachers collar, and a rounded black hat, with a red hat band. Inside the southeast wall, which runs parallel to the Thames, is an area where a number of ravens are kept. Charles II warned that if ravens left the Tower, the monarchy would fall. He ordered a small population of ravens to be kept on hand. It is interesting how a common bird, with an interesting story, can garner such attention and create such memories. The ravens are as memorable to me, or more so, than any of the other Tower attractions. Inside the Waterloo Block, on the northwest wall of the castle, the crown jewels are kept. They are heavily guarded and the line walking past them is kept constantly moving. Near the Tower Green, southwest of the Waterloo Block, is a scaffold site where two of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, were beheaded.  The Tower, which appears to be a term used to describe the whole complex, used to be a horrible place, where many political prisoners lived and died. As late as the American Revolution, at least one American political prisoner was kept in the Tower for many years, later released in very poor shape (as related in a book on tape I am listening to about John Adams).

From there we went to the Tower of London – a huge medieval complex on the Thames. It was not at all what I expected – it was more like a fort than a tower. It felt very old. We made our way up and down spiral staircases and through long corridors until we came to the crown jewels. I particularly loved Queen Victoria’s tiny diamond crown, which I’ve often seen in pictures, the world’s biggest diamond is embedded in a scepter, and the Koh-i-noos diamond, often linked with the Smithsonian’s Hope diamond, is on the front of the Queen Mother’s Crown. We saw the ravens kept at the Tower in cages because Edward (?) prophesied that if the ravens ever left the Tower, London would fall.

We left the castle and walked briefly to the Thames, where we gawked at Tower Bridge, which crosses the Thames near the eastern corner of the castle. It has two towers, of massive height and proportion, jutting up out of the river, and supporting the bridge, in part by cables that create very much the illusion of a castle drawbridge.

Just off the Tower Complex is the Tower Bridge, a massive, beautiful structure spanning the Thames.

We took the tube to the St. Paul’s exit and got to St. Paul’s Cathedral too late to get inside. We did walk around it and gawk at its massive size.

From the Tower, we took a very crowded rush hour Tube ride to St. Paul’s, which was, unfortunately, closed. But was it ever massive. I have seen photos of it surrounded by bombing in WW2, and I believe it managed to remain intact. Again –it reminded me of Mary Poppins. I think “Feed the Birds” is set in its front courtyard.

We got back on the tube to Covent Garden. From there we walked by Drury Lane and the theatre district. This is another very upscale area of London. We walked up and down relatively steep streets, looking in different shops. We stopped in a fun bookstore, Books, Etc., where Judy purchased a book for Andrew, apparently not yet available in the U.S. We stopped for dinner at the Market Café, another Italian restaurant, where we had an antipasto plate with artichoke hearts, peppers, olives and tomatoes, onion soup and salmon (lox) and bread.

By this time we were very hungry. We took  the Tube to Covent Gardens, where many of the posh theatres are located (we saw the theatres for Miss Saigon and Cats). We walked past Drury Lane to what looked like a WWI Memorial (Oh – there’d also been a WWI and WWII Maritime Memorial outside the Tower that looked a lot like the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC). We walked through part of Covent Gardens – an upscale, mall-like shopping zone. We found an Italian restaurant and shared a bowl of onion soup, smoked salmon, and an antipasto plate. Yum.

Judy discovered Cadbury chocolate, in particular, the fruit and nut bar. It is now one of her favorite pieces of chocolate (even better than Hershey’s with almonds), and Judy loves chocolate. She has found that the U.S. version is not anywhere near as good. We have purchased it since in the U.S. in specialty stores and Dave and Kathy Haimson brought some back to her from their later trip to England. I, on the other hand, discovered the Aero bar, particularly the Aero with mint chocolate inside. The inside is filled with melt in your mouth chocolate with tiny air pockets. We brought home a liberal supply of both kinds of chocolate to share with the kids and to indulge in ourselves.

We returned to our hotel and crashed.

March 31, 1999 (Wednesday):         (Kensington Park, Prince Albert Memorial,
Edinburgh Zoo, Royal Mile)

We had the best breakfast of the trip, in the Columbia Hotel. I had poached eggs on toast and kippers. It reminded me of the breakfast of kippers I had with Elder Felton, in Peel, Isle of Man, after my mission, and watching the fishing boats coming into Peel Harbor followed by flocks of seagulls.

After a very solid sleep, in spite of a very warm room, we went downstairs for a complimentary breakfast, then out for a walk. Our hotel was next to a structure called “Spire House,” an interesting and not too pleasing blend of a magnificent very tall and thin rock church spire and a modern apartment building. It looked as if part of the original church had been demolished (bombed?), then replaced with an ugly cement square structure.

We walked across the street from our hotel to Kensington Park and walked all the way across the park, a long way, to the Prince Albert Memorial. The memorial is circular and huge, featuring a statue of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, in gold, surrounded by four corners or areas: one representing Asia had an elephant, one representing America had a buffalo, one representing Africa had a camel, and one representing Europe had a cow.  Across the street was the Royal Albert Hall, which we just viewed from a distance.

We crossed the street and entered the Lancaster Gate into Kensington Gardens. We passed a few monuments, but none as spectacular as the one on the far south side honoring Prince Albert. It was huge and ornate, with Prince Albert himself cast in what looked like gold. Across the street was the Royal Albert Exhibition Hall.

We waited outside our hotel for a bus that would take us to Heathrow for our flight to Scotland. While we were waiting, a taxi stopped and offered to take us to Heathrow for a price of 18 pounds. We decided to do it. In the airport, I wanted to have my camera and film searched manually and not run through the x-ray machine (something I have done on a number of other flights). They were all business and absolutely refused to cooperate, insisting the x-rays would not hurt the film. I had to back down quickly, realizing I was going to get myself in for more than I bargained for if I continued along the path I was going (a prelude to the heightened airline security we now find post September 11, 2001). I purchased two ties from a tie shop in the airport. One, a silver color with a funky picture of Big Ben, is my favorite tie of all-time. I have gotten more positive feedback on it, than all of my other ties put together. Ironically, a was wearing it some time later at a Probate Section meeting in San Bernardino and one of the other attorneys there was wearing the same tie, purchased from the same place. Our flight was on British Midland, leaving at 12:40 and arriving in Edinburgh at 1:55. We were delayed by 30 minutes.

We packed up and caught a taxi to Heathrow. The driver was very talkative and had been to the States 6-7 times. He’s the first chatty Brit we’ve encountered. Our plane was delayed over 30 minutes, but we had an uneventful flight.

From massive Heathrow, we arrived at a very tiny Edinburgh airport, much smaller than I would have guessed for a city of this size and reputation. It was not even as big as the old Ontario airport, almost a small strip mall feel of one level of airline and rental car counters. We called Sixt Car Rental, our rental car company, and someone picked us up and drove us to the Stakis Hotel, where the office was located. We got a small, light blue Fiat, with the steering wheel on the right side and the stick shift set for use by the left hand. I obtained a British Driver’s License while a missionary, that gave me the right to drive until about 2025 (it was a much more difficult test than those then required in the States, many missionaries failed them), and drove a car for about nine months of my mission. However, I was very nervous as I got behind the wheel again, after 21 years absence. It took me a little while to get comfortable driving on the left hand side of the road. I was reminded of dreams I used to have, and several times the actual experience, of driving and then forgetting which side of the road I was supposed to be on. This tends to create a sense of some panic. We got on the main road into Edinburgh and had an eye out for a bread and breakfast we could stay in. On the outskirts of Edinburgh, driving down a crowded, narrow street, we spotted the Westbury Hotel that looked promising. For a very reasonable 30 pounds (compared to the 76 pounds we paid for the Columbia Hotel in London) we got a very nice room, much nicer than our accommodations the night before. However the parking was very tight, down a small one way alley with some sharp turns: it felt like squeezing my size 38 body into a pair of size 34 Levis.

Picked up a rental car (a little scary), and drove into town. We found a hotel for 30 pounds that was  very nice, then went exploring.

We got in the car and headed for downtown Edinburgh. Not too far from our hotel, we spotted a sign for the Edinburgh Zoo and made a detour for it. It was set on a hill and far different from most American zoos. It had a small reptile house, with dirt floors. Most of the exhibits included cut pine trees, including the cages of snakes from tropical locales. The pine tree trimmings seemed incongruous. They did have a wonderful penguin exhibit, with king penguins, gentoo penquins, and another species of penquin I don’t recall the name of. The penguins were actively swimming and otherwise cavorting around their exhibit, and were fun to watch for awhile. The zoo was closing and we had to cut our visit short.

We spent about 1 ½ hours at the Edinburgh Zoo, known for having the largest breeding population of penguins in all of Europe. The zoo was interesting – little attempt made at creating individual animal’s natural environment, and rarely more than one or two of a species (except the 100s of penguins). There was a huge castle-like building in the middle. We never figured out what it was for. The zoo was build on a hillside, so we grew tired trudging uphill; never-the-less, it was fun to go.

The heart of Edinburgh is Castle Rock. At the top is Edinburgh Castle, towering over everything else in the area. The Royal Mile leads from the castle, downhill, to Holyroodhouse, a residence of the royal family. We drove to the castle and found it closed, so we parked and walked a small way down the Royal Mile, looking in shop windows. We discovered an old looking tavern that was open, the Ewing Ewart Pub, with a wonderful looking menu, so we stopped to eat. With some reluctance, and after some questioning of our server, I ordered the traditional Scottish dish of haggis (consisting of lamb innards and barley) and clapshot (mashed potatos, turnip and carrot). You mention haggis and most Americans turn up their noses in disgust. However, despite the reputation, it was very good. In fact I later bought a can of it to take home for the family. The clapshot was also good, although there was nothing about the ingredients that would lead you to think otherwise.

Then we drove to the Castle situated on a hill overlooking the city – a spectacular site. It was closed, as were most of the shops round about, but we had a fine dinner in a local pub. I had the Ploughman’s Platter, which was a salad, coleslaw, sliced beets, bread and cheese, Branston pickle relish. Bob had Haggis – ground lamb guts – and Clapshot – mashed potatoes, turnip and carrot. It was all traditional Scottish food and very good.

We stopped at a fish shop we noticed by the side of the road, and purchased some smoked salmon (lox) and smoked pepper mackerel. The mackerel was delicious, much better than the salmon. We also bought some chocolate Scottish ice cream we took back to our hotel room and enjoyed.                 

After driving back to the Hotel, we walked around and bought a yummy container of “To Die For Chocolate Ice Cream.”

April 1, 1999 (Thursday):    (Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse, Crianlarich)

I slept until 9:00 a.m., something I never do, but I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight. For breakfast we purchased some bananas and an orange from a store across the street and I went back to the fish shop and purchased some more smoked pepper mackerel and some kippers. We laid the fish on bread and ate it. I would love to have access to that fish shop forever. Their stuff    is heavenly.

Slept in very late – Bob not up until 9:00. Grabbed some rolls, fruit and fish for breakfast, then headed into Edinburgh.

We drove into downtown Edinburgh and looked for a place to park. It was quite crowded. We eventually found a spot on the street near the Waverly Shopping Centre. At the shopping center we got on a double decker bus for the Edinburgh Bus Tour (a get on, get off tour, with headsets providing a narration of the sites).

We caught the sightseeing bus next to the Sir Walter Scott Monument, a huge spire encasing a statue of Scott. It has 273 steps to the top of the spire for a view of the city. Unfortunately, it was being renovated, and we couldn’t go up. The double decker bus provided us with headsets, and we enjoyed good narration as we drove around the city. The traffic in Edinburgh is awful, and the traffic engineering is even worse. There are tons of monuments, almost all oxidized copper, which we rarely saw in London.

We got off the bus at Edinburgh Castle. At the entrance, the guards were very distinctive, much more fun than the Buckingham Palace version. The Scottish guards were dressed in forest green jackets and kilts, with white buttons, belt, tassels, gloves and some trim. They wore a distinctive forest green beret, with a red and white checkered band around it and a green tassel hanging down. They wore knee length red and white Scottish plaid stockings, and their black boots were mostly covered by white gaiters that stretched up over the lower calf of the leg. I’ll take the Scottish guard over the English version any day. The castle is built on and literally hugs (almost completely covers) an old volcano and dominates the area. The views from the castle of the outlying areas are wonderful. Aside from the impressive looking castle and its dominating views, nothing about the castle experience really stands out to me. We saw the Scottish crown jewels, much less impressive than England’s, the Scone (the rock which the British royalty are coronated with under the chair we saw in Westminster Abbey), beautiful old halls with examples of armaments, and a cemetery for pet dogs in a small area of grass high up in the castle near the outer wall.

We disembarked at the stairs to Edinburgh Castle. We climbed one of the tower steps to a “living history” exhibit featuring a man in traditional clan garb explaining clothing, weapons, lifestyles, etc. He was very good. From there we walked around the upper levels and the complex. I particularly enjoyed the World War I memorial, which I found very moving. They had dozens of binders listing the Scottish dead by regiment, with statues and memorial plaques all over. It also contained what must be the Scottish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We’ve been impressed by the number of war memorials, particularly for World War I. There is no question that Britain was devastated by that war. They show great honor to their dead soldiers. We also saw the Scottish crown jewels – not nearly as elaborate as England’s, and the large stone “stolen” from Scotland in the 13th century that is used in the crowning of monarchy (placed under the throne). There were also quarters of Mary, Queen of Scots.

We left the castle and decided to walk the Royal Mile down to Holyroodhouse, rather than take the tourist bus. The top end of the road was particularly fun. After our good experience at Ewing Ewart’s Pub the night before, we stopped again for lunch. I got a Scotch Pie, a meat pie with ground up lamb, and a side of chips (French fries). Judy got a Cottage Pie, a meat pie with beef, like hamburger, and potatoes. Hers was very good. We had some Colman mustard, very spicy and hot, which I spread on my chips, and liked when I was in England on my mission. In a shop, we found a can of Haggis which we purchased to bring home and share with the kids. The main ingredient is lamb by product and the third ingredient is oatmeal (I even liked the canned version which we ate later with the kids when we got home – they weren’t impressed). Gladstone Land, which we got into with our Great British Heritage Pass, was a restored multi-story flat or apartment, down from the castle. In the British style, it was narrow and had common walls with the neighboring flats. I believe the great British Prime Minister, Gladstone, had rented it at one time, and it was a period restoration of what a 19th century merchant’s home would like. Further down the street, we went to a Writer’s Museum which Judy particularly enjoyed. One of her ancestors had connections with Robert Louis Stevenson, who was featured, as was Robert (Bobbie) Burns and Sir Walter Scott, three famous Scottish writers. They had samples on display of their handwriting, manuscripts and other memorabilia.  At a shop along the way, we spent 7 pounds, 50 pence ($12.98) on some very expensive fudge that we nibbled on as we walked. Outside St. Giles’ Cathedral, a bagpiper dressed in a forest green plaid kilt, scout green shirt and knee socks and a forest green beret, played away, with a collection plate in front of him. We listened to him for a while and tossed in some coins. I love the bagpipe. St. Giles’ was the church of John Knox, during the Reformation.

After leaving the castle, we walked down the Royal Mile, doing some shopping and stopping for Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie at the pub where we’d eaten the day before. We took a tour through a restored home (Gladstone House), and stopped at a Writer’s Museum, which featured Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Walter Scott.

At the bottom of the Royal Mile we visited Holyroodhouse, the summer residence of British royalty. It is beautifully landscaped on the outside, and inside are many fascinating rooms with wonderful floor coverings, paintings and varied furniture. My favorite spot was Mary Queen of Scots (or Bloody Mary’s) bedroom. She lived there between 1561 and 1567, and was married in the adjoining abbey, which is now just an outer shell. 

At the bottom of the Royal Mile stood Holyroodhouse, majestic home of Mary Queen of Scots and one of the two current residences of the British Royalty. Since it is actually occupied several times a year, it had less of a museum feel. Carpets were rolled back so we could walk through the rooms, but the sense was that it could be quickly made ready for royal visitors. Perhaps my favorite part was the ruined abbey out back. It must have once been magnificent, as it still was in ruins. Part of the incredible ceiling was still intact, and I remarked to Bob that I’d like to do a photo collection of Britain’s ceilings.

We walked around downtown Edinburgh for awhile, trying to locate a bank to get some cash. It was very crowded. As we got our car and headed out of town, it took us a long time as the streets were very congested. Maneuvering was made more difficult by the fact that there are many one way streets, and our main route out of town was only one lane in each direction.  We got a parking ticket in Edinburgh. Apparently we should have purchased a parking ticket and placed it behind the car windshield, although we certainly saw nothing where we parked that would indicate that fact. I lost the ticket information and was unable to take care of it in England. It ultimately showed up as a charge on our Visa card several months later through our rental car company, including a late fee.

We caught the bus back to our car, spent some time trying to get some cash and a map, then headed out of town. It took forever to get out. Traffic was horrendous. Once we were out of town, Bob relaxed and we sped along. Over an hour into our drive, we noticed a parking ticket stuck to our windshield. Apparently we hadn’t bought a parking pass and we were fined 20 pounds (1 pound = $1.70).

We got onto the M9 heading northwest, ultimately through Stirling, then on the A84 through Callander, up the A85 to the A827, then west to Crianlarich where we stopped for the night at a bed and breakfast in a private home. I have little specific memory of the drive. The proprietor of the bed and breakfast, Stuart Miller, suggested a place for us to eat, a short ways out of town, an old pub, named Dover’s Inn. It was a small, musty old place, full of stuffed animals and hard drinking locals with lots of local history written all over it. The food, however, was nothing spectacular. Stuart was a talkative chap and regaled us with war stories, and our room was small, but nice: white wallpaper and a white bedspread with floral design and a shared bathroom with other bed and breakfast guests.

The scenery of the Scottish rural areas was beautiful. We drove for a while and finally stopped at a B&B in Crianlarich run by a talkative proprietor by the name of Stuart. We had dinner at a 300 year old pub he recommended. It was filled with mounted animal heads and the bartender wore a kilt. I had “broth” (vegetable soup) and toast, and Bob had a lamb chop plate.

We stayed up late to call the kids, who are surviving just fine, and got to bed at about midnight.

April 2, 1999 (Friday):                     (Fort William, Stocker Castle, Dunstaffnage Castle, Oban, Lancaster)

We had a typical English breakfast, which we quite enjoyed. There was one other couple who spent the night. We continued north, northwest on the A82 and enjoyed some spectacular views of what I assume are typical Scottish highlands: an uninhabited, almost treeless tundra, with a spectacular backdrop of mountains, many of them with swatches of snow.

We got off up for an 8:00 breakfast cooked by Stuart – cold cereal, orange juice, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and toast. We got off by 9:00 and drove to Fort William. We took a few short detours en route for scenery – one up a very narrow road to what seemed to be a ski resort, although we could see snow only on far away peaks. Never-the-less, people were pulling snowboards out of cars.

I had originally planned to climb Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Scotland and the British Isles at 4,406 feet in elevation. I purchased a book on it and contacted a local guide who was unable to accompany me at the time we would be there. Despite the low elevation, it is a pretty serious climb, oftentimes requiring crampons and an ice axe. It would also have taken too much time, so I had abandoned the idea by the time we arrived. However, as we drove into Fort William, I identified the spots I’d read about, including the area where the climb begins. It was a beautiful clear day and I yearned to be out and about doing the climb. We settled on walking the main street of Fort William and looking in the shops. This was the place in Scotland I was most looking forward to visiting and I was a little disappointed there was not more to the place. It was located near the water, off Loch Linnhe, but it didn’t have the charm I’d expected. Judy did purchase a wool tartan rug in a shop specializing in wool products. Stuart Miller, our bed and breakfast proprietor, had discouraged our travel further north to the Isle of Skye or Loch Ness. He suggested we travel south of Fort William to Oban and take the ferry to the Isle of Mull.

Our drive south of Fort William, toward Oban, was the nicest part of Scotland. Perhaps the greatest sight of our whole trip occurred as we came over a hill and looked out in the distance down at a beautiful old building built on an isolated little island in the bay. We found out later it is privately owned Stocker Castle, near Appen. In the foreground were beautiful green wild pastures full of unusual Scottish sheep, or as Judy fondly referred to them, “sheepies.” The sheepies were heavy with white wool, but had black faces and many of them had horns that protruded off their heads and down, somewhat like the horns of a musk ox. We could not restrain ourselves from climbing over a fence and into the field of sheep, to get pictures: of the sheep, and more importantly, of the castle with the sheep in the foreground. Further down the road, we stopped the car so I could photograph some Scottish cattle, my favorites. The cattle have long, course red hair, kind of like an orangutan’s, and have a goofy look about them like an orangutan has. What does not look goofy, however, are the size XL horns that protrude outward from their heads, much like a Texas longhorn steer. Unlike the sheep, I was unwilling to cross a fence for a better picture of the cattle. I was not sure what the natural disposition of the cattle was and those horns demanded respect. Five miles north of Oban, along the coast, we stopped at Dunstuffnage Castle, now pretty much a ruin with standing walls. The scone, the stone used in coronations of Scottish kings, and later English monarchs (now housed in Edinburgh Castle), was originally brought here from Ireland. Oban was a disaster. It turned out to be Easter weekend, which in Great Britain is a big holiday. The ferries to the Isle of Mull were full until the next day and the town was jammed with traffic. Oban had lots of character, much more fun than Fort William, and much larger. Old buildings, jammed together on hills near the ocean, but our plans had to change. We decided to go to North Wales instead and view castles. This necessitated our getting back on the road for a long haul back down into England. We did not have time to walk the streets.

Fort William is located on the water and is a pretty little resort town. We spent some time shopping there, then headed back south. Before Oban, we came upon a stunning view of a very tall castle built on a tiny island in the water. We discovered it was Stocker Castle, but was privately owned and not open to visitors. We climbed into a sheep pasture and got some good pictures.

Later down the road we stopped at Dunstaffnage Castle – a clan stronghold now fallen to ruin – no roof and broken down walls, but enough left to climb up on the ramparts and look around. It too was located seaside, and there were beautiful views of water and forest. I especially loved the extensive stone wall, perhaps dating back to more recent times, since I saw other similar walls in other places. The stone walls remind me of R. Frost’s poem “Mending Walls.”

We finally made it to Oban, a jumping off spot for ferries to the Hebrides. Stuart had made the suggestion of going to the Island of Mull, but those plans were dashed because all spots were taken. We decided to get as far south as we could.

As we were driving southeast along the A85, inland, I noticed signs for the Inverawe Smokehouse, near Taynuilt, Scotland. Of course I couldn’t resist, so we followed the signs for some ways down, around and through small rolling, tree covered hills to a small building selling smoked fish. We purchased some smoked salmon but were not particularly impressed, it was dry. I recently looked it up on the internet and find that Inverawe does quite a mail order business and has Her Majesties seal of approval, and is included on tours of the area.

We next stopped at a “smoker” for fish and cheese several miles off the main road. Bob, who’s on a smoked fish kick, bought some smoked salmon, smoked venison, salmon trout pate, and crackers. That ended up being our lunch and dinner (with the addition of a few candy bars and drinks).

Contrary to what Judy indicates below, we did not totally bypass Glasgow to avoid traffic. At the junction of the A85 and A819, rather than go back through Crianlarich (the way we had come), we went down the A819 through Inveraray, with the ultimate goal of getting to Tarbet. The roads did a diamond shape and either direction would have been close to the same distance. The oceans and lochs forced us inland. We drove past Ben Lomond  and Dumbarton into the Glasgow metropolitan area. We did take some side routes to avoid the center of Glasgow, but there were no Motorways that went continuously through Glasgow and it was approaching rush hour on a holiday weekend. We did see Glasgow from the outskirts. We ultimately got on the M74 at Kirkmuirhill, south of Glasgow, and headed south, ultimately into England, through Carlisle and down to Lancaster. It was getting late, I was very tired from our long drive during the day, and I was concerned about finding accommodations. We drove through Lancaster trying to find something. We ultimately stopped at the Lancaster House Hotel, a place that looked too ritzy for our budget. Because it was late, about 10:00 p.m., I think they gave us a price break and gave us a room for 72 pounds (about $125.00), well below the indicated rates. They threw in breakfast for no extra charge, which I believe was also contrary to the norm. At the end of the day I decided we had done way too much driving, not by design, but by default.

Our one error in driving the rest of the way was choosing to bypass Glasgow to avoid city traffic, even though the main motorway runs through there. Consequently, we traveled a highway through a bunch of small towns and a bazillion round-a-bouts, and we got lost a few times looking for road markers. The result was a much lengthened drive.

Drove through Lockerbie, site of the terrible Pan Am bombing several years back that killed hundreds.

Finally arrived in Lancaster about 10:00. There were no hotels to be seen. Finally found a 4-star very posh Best Western called the Lancaster house Hotel for 72 pounds.

One last impression of Scotland – yellow daffodils everywhere in full bloom. Medians filled with them, yards full of them, even wild hillsides covered with them. It was spectacular. They are in England as well, but not as many.

Also, while I loved the hairy sheep with their black faces and hooves and spray painted ID blotch, Bob fell for the long-horned Scottish cattle, and sought them out for photo opportunities.

April 3, 1999 (Saturday):                 (Conwy Castle, Caernarfon Castle, Beaumaris Castle,
Anglesey, Holyhead, Bangor)

Our breakfast was the poshest of our trip. The hotel had an obviously affluent clientele and the buffet offered a wide variety of foods. We got on the M6 again, heading south. We drove a little east of Preston, where the church was first introduced to England, then between Liverpool (to the west) and Manchester (to the east), to the M56, going west, traveling just north of Chester, then on to the A5117 for a short distance, turning southwest on the A550 for a short distance, then west and northwest on the A548, along the ocean. Just past Bagilt, we went west through Holywell and on to the A55, traveling west, northwest, through North Wales, past Abergele and Colwyn Bay to Conwy, where we visited Conwy Castle.

Continental breakfast of meat and cheese, breads, fruit, juice and Muesli. Didn’t eat again until 6:00, as we were on a mad dash around Wales.

My first impression of Wales was that it was a wealthier area of Britain. Maybe it seems that way because it is so much less crowded. But the homes themselves seem larger and better cared for. No where else so far have I seen the British sense of order and control so effectively applied. The beautiful pasturelands are divided up with stone walls and shrubbery and spotted with white wooly sheep that are much less shaggy and more domestic looking than their Scottish counterparts. It is lambing season here (though not yet in Scotland where we didn’t see a single baby), and many of the ewes had twins.

Conwy Castle brought back a flood of memories. I had visited there on my mission with Elder Maughan, and Bill and Jane Law (we baptized Jane). It looked the same. Tall round turrets, with tooth edges, piercing the air at odd intervals. A spectacular wall surrounding the whole complex, covering a huge area, from the sea and back up a hillside. Views of exposed rooms beneath, walls standing, where the roofs have rotted out or have otherwise been destroyed. Just outside, a beautiful bay filled with boats of all kinds and descriptions. In the gift shop, I purchased some books (which we later left in a hotel room and never recovered), and a pottery chalice (which now adorns my desk at work).

Even the cities of Wales seem cleaner than other areas we’ve been to. We started in the beautiful seaside town of Conwy. According to Bob, “It’s the neatest castle in Wales.” It was Edward I’s main headquarters in Wales, and is very well preserved. It’s massive, and its walls envelope a large portion of the modern city. We climbed a very tall tower on a narrow circular staircase to get a good view of the city. These castle stairs would never go over in the US – they would invite too many lawsuits form injuries. Besides, we’d have to make everything handicap-accessible.

In order to cover all we wanted to cover in our one day in Wales, we hurried back to the car and drove to Caernarfon to visit Caernarfon Castle. It is located on the edge of the ocean across from the southwest end of the Isle of Anglesey. I have always wanted to visit Caernarfon Castle, as the pictures of its huge, massive walls and turrets, standing on the ocean have always impressed me. Unlike Conwy, with an intricate network of inner rooms and chambers, and opportunities for exploration, the inside of Caernarfon is completely open, flat, and covered with grass. Where the walls and turrets of Conwy are more curved and graceful, the turrets of Caernarfon are octagonal and have more of a squared look. Once inside, you can take in most of the inner workings, other than the rooms and passageways located in its massive walls and turrets. This helps to emphasize the size and strength of the outer walls. A large, flat, slightly raised, circular platform in the center marks the spot where the Prince of Wales is crowned (or whatever the appropriate term for it is). The view from the castle walls, although impressive, is not as nice as from Conwy, as the town of Caernarfon is flatter and the ocean front on which it is located is not as pretty. We stopped in a shop across the street from the castle where Judy purchased a wool blanket.

From there we drove to Caernarfon Castle, the place where the Prince of Wales had also been invested, beginning with the first, Edward I’s son. It had a similar feel to Conwy – massive walls and central courtyard. An enclosed dark and narrow hallway near the top. We decided it would be a great place for hide and seek or a sleepover and scary stores on a dark night.

We backtracked on the A487, northeast to the A5, and crossed over on to the Isle of Anglesey via the large Menai Suspension Bridge, which carried us high over the ocean of the Menai Strait below. Just over the bridge we headed northeast on the A4080 up the coast to Beaumaris, located on the northeast end of the island. Beaumaris castle is located on the coast and is surrounded by wide open flat land. The distinguishing characteristic of Beaumaris Castle is the prototypical moat, filled with water (unlike the moat around the Tower of London) which surrounds its landed side. The turrets are rounded, and quite uniform and the inside, much like Caernarfon, is open and covered with grass. We heard it is the largest castle, but it certainly does not feel like it. From the walls above, the views are of wide open grassland, filled with grazing sheep, not a jam packed town with streets full of cars and a bay full of boats.

The tour of these three castles in a day is a boy’s dream. Each of these three was a castle in every sense of the word and image. At the end of the day we felt castled out, in a good exhausted kind of way, much like we later felt arted out after visiting the art museums of Florence. We’d seen the best of the best and it was good.

Then we rushed to Beaumaris Castle on Anglesey to make it by closing time. It is distinguished by its cool moat, and is the biggest of Edward’s castles, although never finished. It didn’t seem as big as Conwy to me, and I had a hard time seeing it as the biggest, but it was still neat.

Backtracking to the A5, we stopped at a fish and chips shop for some of that traditional English fare. It was a shock and a disappointment to me to see that one of my favorite aspects of England has been modernized. The old chippies from my mission days featured a limited menu of several kinds of fish, chips and chicken, fried in oil, slathered in salt and vinegar and bundled in newspaper. As we walked into this shop, we were assaulted by a huge, varied menu which offered a plethora of choices and a nice modern looking area to sit down and eat. Judy bought into this heresy and actually purchased a steak and kidney pie. I was horrified when my fish and chips came packaged in a little plastic tray filled with vanilla white paper. After the eye opening shock of corporate fast  food America beginning to fill the streets of London, this was my next big jolt. In some ways, this was worse, because the fish and chips, in oil and vinegar soaked newspaper, is one of my fondest memories of England. 

We ate dinner at a fish and chips place, and I had steak and kidney pie as well as fish and chips.

With the onset of dusk, we drove out the A5 to the eastern end of Angelsey to Holyhead, a smaller island off the bigger island of Anglesey. This is a terminus for a ferry to Dublin, Ireland. Unlike the rest of Anglesey, which is full of green foliage and grassland, Holyhead was stark and cold rock. On our way back, in the dark, we spotted an LDS chapel off the main road. We pulled over for a look. The church was actually undergoing restoration and not currently in use. However, we enjoyed seeing the name of the church on a sign in Welsh (EGLWYS IESU GRISI SAINTy DYDDIAII DIWEDDAF – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

Fortunately, on our way to Caernarfon earlier in the day, we noticed a bed and breakfast off a large round-a-bout in Bangor, the Swn-Y-Nant Hotel, and stepped and reserved a room for the night. When we checked in that evening, we saw multiple people being turned away for lodging as it was full. With Easter holiday, most if not all of the accommodations in the area were full. Although a sign termed it a bed and breakfast, we were not actually inside the proprietors home. We stayed in one unit in a separate building and it really was more like a small motel, true to its name.

One other thing bears mentioning. While daffodils (I believe they call them narcissi here)
covered  Scotland, here they are past their prime, and not nearly as numerous to begin with. But in Wales the spiky bush they call “gorse” is in full glorious yellow bloom everywhere. Whole hillsides are a mass of yellow. It had just begun to bloom in Scotland.
April 4, 1999 (Sunday):                    (Derby, Tamworth, Warwick)

Thirty-nine years old today. Wow.

We had a standard English breakfast of Mueslix, then orange juice, egg on toast, sausage, broiled tomatoes, and toast, cooked by our B&B hosts, a nice older Englishman and his Filipino wife. (She also did a load of laundry for us for 4 pounds).

We left Bangor, south, southeast, on the A5. We drove through beautiful rural North Wales, where green grass, beautiful yellow flowers, white sheep and slate homes were everywhere. While Scotland is beautiful in a barren, mountainous way, the populous very spread out; Wales is beautiful in a forested, mountainous way, with a little greater concentration of inhabitants and a much greater concentration of tourists. We went through Betws-y-coed, a wooded, shade filled, little mountain town I recall from my mission days (traveling through), Llangollen, and then west, on a lesser road, the A539, through Ruabon, then a sparsely inhabited area of England: Overton, Hanmer, Eglwys Cross, to the A495 west of Whitchurch, then the A525 east. Southwest of Newcastle-under-Lyme we caught the M6 Motorway, southeast for a short distance, then went east, southeast on the A50, south of Stoke-on-Trent, through Uttoxeter, to the A5111, then north into Derby into the Chaddesden area.

We headed out through central Wales. There were campers and hikers everywhere, the area being filled with good trails and accessible mountains. It looked fun, were it not for the steady drizzle.

I was able to find my way to Nottingham Road, and to the Snell’s home, where I lived the first four months of my mission. Judy stayed in the car while I knocked on the door and introduced myself to Sister Snell and to her daughter and son-in-law. Sister Snell did not remember me, but she remembered my companion, Elder Adams, who lived with her about seven months and I would guess was one of her favorite Elders ever. Brother Snell had just been moved to a nursing home and Sister Snell was virtually blind (she had coke bottle glasses even when I was there almost 23 years earlier). It was a little disappointing not to be remembered, but understandable. As a greenie missionary, you eat and drink memorization of the discussions and you are over-shadowed by your senior companion. And the Snell’s had missionaries for years.

As we drove into town, it was very disconcerting to me that I was unable to recognize very little. I walked and cycled these streets for four months. Diane Cartwright, who I baptized, lived in the same house she lived when we baptized her, not all that far from the Snell’s, yet I didn’t have a clue how to get there. I ultimately, with some frustration, had to go to the red kiosk on Nottingham Road, not far from the Snell’s home (a place where we regularly called to report into our Zone Leaders) and call Diane Cartwright to get directions to her home.

Diane lives at 8 Houston Close. It looked the same, although I hardly recognized the surrounding area. Diane looked very much the same, a little older, but not that much. She hardly recognized me. I have put on weight and my hair is thinning. I have some regret and embarrassment for how poorly I have communicated (or rather not communicated) over the years. She recounts her poor treatment and experience in the Church, ultimately as a Relief Society President… Her health is very poor.. She is my favorite of all the approximate 30 or so people I baptized. Perhaps because she was the first, but I think I also got to know her better than the others. After a nice, but somewhat awkward visit, we left to continue on to Tamworth.            

We made our way to Derby, Bob’s first mission area and site of his first baptism, Diane Cartwright. It was disconcerting to him that not much looked familiar. He found his old digs at the Snells’, then after a phone call he found his way to Diane Cartwright’s – the same place she was living 22 years ago. She looked great and we spent over an hour there…However, she’s kept up on some church friendships and is aware of the missionaries in town. She seemed thrilled to hear from Bob, and anxious to keep in touch. A nice lady with a sweet, gentle way about her.

At this point, given my disappointment for lack of memory, I had high hopes to recognize more in Tamworth. I spent seven months in Tamworth, knocked on almost every door in the town and it was my most successful area. If there was any area I would know, this would be it. We took the A5111 south out of Derby, turned east on the A50, then south on the A42, and a short distance on the M42. When I was in Tamworth, on my mission, there was not a motorway nearby. The zenith of my culture shock awaited me there. Tamworth had transformed into a bigger, more modern town. The downtown, where I had lived and worked was now ringed by major roads and was now a pedestrian area only. A huge new mall or two had wiped out big sections of downtown and all of the familiar roads in and out of town were transformed into something else, or interrupted by motorways or other large roads. The only thing that really let me know I’d ever really been there was the castle, and in walking around downtown, we ran into the statue of Sir Robert Peele (although the setting of his statue location was now completely foreign to me). The Chestnuts, the place I lived for a time above a taxi company, was now gone, or at least unrecognizable and I had no clue how to get in or out of town to drive through once familiar haunts. The location of my favorite chippie was impossible to decipher. It was ultimate and complete befuddlement. The cherry on top was the McDonalds perched on the outskirts of the pedestrian only zone. All of the small-townness of Tamworth was gone, the lack of class as exhibited by the predominance of counsel houses was not apparent. There was much more wealth, or apparent wealth and it was a nicer place to be. It just wasn’t what it used to be, what I wanted it still to be. I had a very hollow, shaken feeling as we left. It was a humbling example of the ravages of time on memory and the impact of progress.

We next drove to Tamworth, where Bob served 7months of his mission. We parked and walked around for about ½ an hour, but Bob again was shocked to realize he didn’t recognize much. So we gave up and drove south to Warwick where we got a hotel.

We got back on the M42 going south, skirting the eastern edge of Birmingham, through Solihull (the past and probably present location of church headquarters in England), to the M40, southeast to the A46, then north to Warwick. We stopped at a Holiday Inn, not far from Warwick Castle. We celebrated Judy’s birthday at the Porridge Pot, a restaurant on the premises of, or at least next to, the hotel.

We had a good dinner at the hotel. I had very tender beef in a delicious creamy mustard sauce, and Bob had rack of lamb, which was four small lamb cutlets. Bob had ordered a piece of chocolate birthday cake for me, which the waiter brought out with a lit candle (but he wouldn’t sing). It was yummy.

April 5, 1999 (Monday):                   (Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bibury, Bath)

After an o.k., but rather sterile breakfast, we drove to Warwick Castle, another place I had visited as a missionary. It is good we went early, when few people were there, as when we left, the place was mobbed. A small tent city was set up outside the walls and people in period costume were going about their business doing various tasks. A rat catcher was near where we purchased tickets, holding a long red pole with a little round cage at the top, several fake dead rats hanging down from the cage.  Some people were cooking fine looking breakfasts of sausage, eggs and other delicious looking food (particularly given our fare that morning). Some practiced the art of pole fighting and various armaments littered the camp. The best, by far, was a falconer with a number of interesting birds, including a Harris Hawk, native to the United States, and a Peregrine Falcon. I talked with the falconer for a while and learned that he actually made money plying his trade. For example, he is hired by airports to come in and control birds, such as pigeons, that cause a hazard to flying airplanes. The castle is right on the Avon River and rolling green countryside still surrounds it on one side. We waited in a long line, to view the dungeon, and toured part of the castle inside. Of more interest were the musicians, in colorful period clothes, performing in the inner courtyard, and a night bedecked in full armor, astride a horse. The horse was covered by red and yellow material, including a red mask with cutouts for the eyes.

After a continental breakfast at the hotel, we went to Warwick Castle. They’ve taken the concept of living history to the max. Around the outside of the castle walls, a complete tent camp was set up, as if an entire village actually lived there. The people were in full period dress, and (unlike the Renaissance Faire) did not seek interaction with the visitors. They went about their morning tasks – building fires, cooking eggs or a pancake equivalent, having jousting lessons, dipping candles, etc. Bob was especially interested in the falconer, who had 7-8 tethered hawk/falcons and one owl hawk. It was marvelous. Once inside the castle walls, we met a pair of LDS missionaries and a missionary couple, one of whom knows Marilyn Larson. There were performers within the castle walls as well. Especially nice was a trio of musicians plopped down on a patch of grass. We stood in line for the dungeon, then walked around the rest.

We drove south on the A46, then to the A439 into Stratford-upon-Avon. This turned out to be a nightmare. Unfortunately, this is a place Judy had been looking forward to the whole trip, given her interest in Shakespeare, but this day all we found was one huge quagmire of humanity jammed together, all looking for the same parking space. We did stop at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, and after waiting in line forever, taking backseat to a tour bus load of people and realizing our turn inside was never going to come, we took a quick walk about the grounds and left. We found where the Royale Shakespeare company performs, surrounded by a snarl of traffic that made parking anywhere near the place a pipe dream. We eventually cried “uncle” and headed out of town, actually in the wrong direction, but happy to be moving in any direction.

It was becoming increasingly crowded, so we decided to head out to Stratford-upon-Avon. Today was “Easter Monday” – a bank holiday in Britain. Everyone had the day off and they were all in Stratford. We found Anne Hathaway’s cottage. As we were standing in line, a huge tour bus group arrived and walked in ahead of us. After 15 minutes or so we realize d would be a long wait, so we took some exterior pictures and high-tailed it out. But Stratford was a mess. Traffic was so incredibly bad. Lines to turn were literally ½ mile long. After trying to get around, we finally gave up completely and left town. Only it wasn’t so easy. First we couldn’t find our way out, then we were really hampered by traffic. Needless to say I think Stratford was our least favorite stop.

We drove south on the A3400, hooked into the A429 going, south, southwest, through open countryside with no significant towns of any size, into the heart of the Cotswolds. North of Cirencester, we turned onto some very small roads, lined with hedges and with very poor visibility, southeast to visit the tiny town of Bibury, reportedly the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds. Fortunately, it was much less crowded than Stratford. Of particular note, was a stretch of very old houses, all lined up along one street, known as “Arlington Row.” The houses are very old, I believe dating from the 10th century, and are all made of the same material (tan stone from the Cotswolds) with common walls. These homes existed about as long before Columbus discovered America as has elapsed since Columbus discovered America. We visited an old church and circulated among the graves in the graveyard, marveling at the dates on some of the graves. At a small shop, near Arlington Row, Judy bought Rachael a bracelet. We also found a little shop in town and purchased a smoked trout sandwich and some trout pate.

We made our way south to the Cotswolds, heading for the tiny town of Bibury, which one of our books labeled “the most beautiful city in England.” It was pretty – a very postcard setting with very old buildings. We walked around for a while and got some ice cream and smoked trout. We walked up to an old church with a neat old graveyard.

We drove small hedgerow roads out of Bibury, arguing all the while how to pronounce the town name (I called it buy-bery and Judy called it bibb-ery), southwest into Cirencester. We stopped to walk some shops along the main street and I purchased a book on the History of Great Britain from the Moreton Bookshop. We continued on the A433 which turned into the A436, southwest and south into Bath. We drove through town, a little intimidated by its size and where to look for a hotel. We meandered up a hill and saw a big old home labeled the Tasburgh Hotel and stopped for the evening. It was a very elegant multi-story home, perched on a grass covered and sheep strewn hill above a canal that led into and through downtown Bath, a short distance away. Our room was incredible. It included a four post bed with luxuriant, heavy, dark blue and green fabric draping the posts and windows, and a luxuriant bedspread and pillow coverings. We felt like royalty. It was a pleasure just to be in the room. We decided to walk down to the canal and then follow it into downtown. Walking along the canal was an interesting experience. It gave evidence of a different, lower class of people, that made the canal their life, to some extent like the gypsy canal people in the movie, Chocolate. The canal boats were generally enclosed and obviously used as living quarters. Many of them had smoke puffing out, evidence of cooking fires warming the insides. After a walk of a pretty good distance, we reached downtown and walked among the big old buildings of downtown Bath. Judy was uncomfortable about our safety. It seemed to have a rougher element to it than other places we’d been. Rather than walk back to the hotel, we caught a taxi back. I loved Bath. It had a different, kind of elegant feel to it. This impression was helped considerably, I’m sure, by our very nice accommodations.

We drove all the way to Bath, where Bob got us an incredibly beautiful room in an old mansion known as “The Tasburgh Hotel.” From our window we had a wonderful view of the valley, Stratford Canal, and grazing lands. We left about 7:50 on a walk into town. We walked for quite a while along the dark canal with its moored barges, some of which appeared to have people inside. It made me very nervous. When we reached the downtown area around the abbey and Roman baths, my uneasiness increased. It seemed a much rougher area than most places we’d been. At about 9:15, we finally caught a cab back to the hotel.

April 6, 1999 (Tuesday):                  (Roman Baths, Glastonbury Abbey, Stonehenge,

Unfortunately, Judy’s journal entries, which provide our best detail of the trip, quit following breakfast this morning (my entries, for the most part, are coming 3 ½ years later and time has erased much of the detail from my immediate memory). We drove into downtown Bath and parked in a pay lot. Our first priority was to visit the Roman Baths (which is, I presume, how Bath got its name). They were spectacular. The sense of history is amazing. In a country with a sense of old history, regularly dating from the 11th and 12th centuries, the Roman Baths are that much again older, dating from the time of Christ. It is with a sense of awe that I consider the advanced civilization of the Romans, much more so than the later civilization of the English, 1,000 years later. Their engineering, including the baths and aqueducts, are startling. The fact that the influence of the Romans spread so far west, as well as east into the Holy Land, is amazing, given the limitations on travel and communication in that day. The contrast of the more primitive later civilization provides some insight into the real transformation of the Renaissance and just how much was lost when the Roman civilization (and Greek before it) was destroyed. The baths are tapped into an underground source of hot water, that even now, comes steaming through the underground labyrinths built by the Romans and into the beautiful blue/green water that is surrounded by a columned building. The statues, coins, columns and architecture are fascinating and it still has a locker room, YMCA, feel and quality about it. We purchased a plaster reproduction of the head of Medusa or Gorgon from the Temple of Sulis Minerva and put it in our own bathroom in Redlands (it seemed appropriate, although our modern bathroom pales in comparison to its 2,000 year old counterpart – fortunately our modern version is, as I write, being updated into a much nicer version). Outside the baths, and before leaving, we ate some nice pastries from a shop and Judy purchased a Venetian glass pendant from the Bath Stamp and Coin Shop (which she loved so much we purchased several more several years later in Venice). We also purchased a couple of football (soccer) shirts for the boys. We both loved Bath and considered it one of the nicer stops and the surprise gem of our trip.

We enjoyed a very good English breakfast in the hotel, made better than most by the addition of sautee’d mushrooms. Our first stop was the Roman baths.

We drove south from Bath, on the A367, through Radstock to the A37, then southwest on the A361 to Glastonbury, home of King Arthur and the legendary knights of the roundtable. Glastonbury Abbey is now a shell, missing its roof, but the purported gravesite of King Arthur exists and something sits on a hill overlooking the Abbey, perhaps a cross, that I do not recall the specifics of. The Abbey is surrounded by a large expanse of green grass and walkways. The town of Glastonbury has a cult feel to it, an old Celtic feel, or almost a 60’s hippy flavor. Small, interesting shops line the town streets with many types of art and clothing on display.

We took the small B3151 south of Glastonbury to hook into the larger A303, traveling northeast, through green countryside to Stonehenge. As we got to Stonehenge, sitting conspicuously  in flatland, in a large green field,  the day was overcast and cold, with some drops of rain. The massive boulders placed on top of each other, in a circle, surrounded by a circular walkway, are actually pretty amazing. Stonehenge was not on my “A” list of places to visit, but I must admit it was worthwhile visiting.

We continued northeast, on the A303, through Andover, to the M3 Motorway. We continued northeast, through Basingstoke, to near Staines, on the outskirts of London, where we took the M25 southeast to the M23 heading south toward Gatwick Airport. As we looked at our time, and the area surrounding Gatwick, which was pretty uninteresting, we decided to try and stay somewhere a little more exciting. The port city of Brighton was directly south, not too far distant, and Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” gave the city name a familiar ring, so we decided to drive there. We continued south, past Crawley, then south on the A23 to Brighton. We drove around downtown area until we found the road paralleling the ocean. It was very cold and overcast  and nothing looked particularly inviting. We drove along the coast a ways, then turned back to Brighton and investigated some hotels. They were quite expensive, so we  drove through Brighton to the inland side of the city and stopped at the Jarvis Preston Park Hotel, which was still expensive, about $100.00 U.S., but cheaper than what we were finding near the ocean. It was dark and getting late and we just needed to stop for the night. We drove into town looking for a place to eat, but we were finding everything closed. We ultimately settled on some very disappointing fish and chips.

April 7, 1999 (Wednesday):             (Gatwick, Atlanta, Ontario)

Our flight out of Gatwick was not until 1:35 p.m., but we needed to return the car and find our way around the airport, so we got off to an early start. We drove north to Gatwick, returned the car to the off-site Sixt Car Rental on the Longbridge Roundabout, in Gatwick Horley, and were delivered to the airport by a shuttle. We had plenty of time to peruse the airport shops and purchased some chocolate to take home (Cadbury Fruit & Nut and Aero), and a soccer shirt for Sam. We arrived in Atlanta about 5:30 p.m., caught our flight for Ontario about 7:50 p.m. and arrived in Ontario about 9:35 p.m., quite tired. 

1 comment:

  1. This was my first trip that required a passport. It's pretty amazing to think of where we have traveled in the 18 years since this trip. Two things that will always symbolize the trip for me are the wonderful "sheepies" and the beautiful daffodils.