A Travellerspoint blog

England

A Wet Day in Whitby

sunny 16 °C

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It is the 8th of October and it is National Poetry Day in the U.K. The British poetic lexicon abounds with stormy visions of the sea and needs no supplementation from us amateurs. However, as we stare out over the tempestuous North Sea from Whitby harbour today we feel compelled to add a few words to our pictures:
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White horses galloping madly along the shore
Leap over the sturdy sea wall
Sending the lifeboat to the rescue.
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So – what to do on a wet, windy day in Whitby,
When the weather cock shelters in the hen house
And weathered fishermen put their feet to the fire?

We eat fish and chips of course.
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The fleet may be tied up in port, but the numerous fish restaurants are stocked to the gills with the freshest lobster, cod and haddock – and we indulge.

The North Yorkshire seaport of Whitby was a setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula and as we wander its narrow backstreets, darkened by fog and rain, we feel the chill that must have inspired him to write his scary story of vampires and ghouls. But then we come to quaint shops with original Victorian facades and it brightens our day.
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Another bright spot in Whitby is this harbourside house (built in 1688)…
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This is where Captain James Cook lived from 1746 -1749, when he was an apprentice seaman before he set out to survey the whole world.

And then the sun comes out; the murk clears and the lofty ruins of Whitby Abbey soar into the clear blue sky on the headland overlooking the stormy sea and the ancient port...
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This Benedictine Abbey began with modest buildings in 657 AD. It was here that Caedmon wrote poetry in the 8th. Century, (His poems have survived 1,400 years while ours will probably be forgotten tomorrow). The abbey was regularly sacked by the Vikings in the 9th century but successive abbots and abbesses rebuilt until the place had gone completely over the top by the mid 1400s...

These majestic arches withstood the worst that the North Sea could throw at them until 1540 when Henry V111 dissolved the monasteries and took a battering ram to them.
Despite nearly 5oo years of assault by notoriously vicious easterly gales, and the malignant efforts of a couple of German battleships during the First World War, the ruins of Whitby Abbey are still an inspiring sight. It is easy to see why Stoker felt them to be a suitable backdrop for his gruesome tale.

Posted by Hawkson 12:54 Archived in England Comments (4)

Suffolk Real Estate

semi-overcast 17 °C

Situated in the east of England to the north of London, the pastoral county of Suffolk offers a peaceful alternative to those wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. Life is slow, almost backward, in this rural corner of England, but real estate development has kept up with modern times. For instance: this church in the village of Lavenham was built as recently as 1260 to replace the old Saxon church …
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The 15th century Swan Hotel in Lavenham offers luxuriously stuffed straw palliasses and
goblets of fine ales…
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The nearby Angel Hotel is a more modest hostelry. It was fully refurbished in 1420 when it was first licensed and offers all manner of delights to the weary traveller.There is no shortage of desirable residences will all mod cons in Lavenham and the surrounding villages...
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These places in Kersey may look a little on the antique side, but none of them are more than 700 years old and some of them were brand new when Henry V111 was chopping off his wives’ heads in the early 1500s…
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Those seeking something somewhat more mature might consider Kentwell Hall in nearby Long Melford…
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Although the original house took shape about 1000 A.D., it was due for a facelift after it got a mention in the Domesday book in 1086. (Crikey – it’s nearly a thousand years since King Harold fell off his steed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and lost his crown to William the Conqueror!). Not to worry…Sir William Clopton brought the whole joint up to date in 1405 before he was killed at the battle of Agincourt in 1415 – so he hardly had a chance to enjoy the place. With 20 bedrooms, and a banqueting hall big enough to host the next Olympic basketball tournament, this little gem could be yours for a modest sum.
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Another Des. Res with all Mod Cons in Long Melford is Melford Hall. A modest pile of just 12 bedrooms,with well-wooded formal gardens and a moat capable of repelling Viking marauders intent on a little pillage. This single Fam. Det. home, with sweeping driveway and deer park, was the home of Beatrix Potter’s cousin and offers a wealth of character. With its large estate it would be a fabulous opportunity for lovers of rats, toads and other creatures of the riverbank.

Harvest Festival, the Brit equivalent of Canadian Thanksgiving, is this coming weekend...
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This traditional harvest loaf was made in this 600 year old bakery in Lavenham and will be given to the poor…
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Unlike Canadians the Brits don’t eat turkeys at this time but, today, October 6th, is National Badger Day. (So -if you forgot - why not dash out and get a spit-roasted one from your local butcher?).

Posted by Hawkson 14:07 Archived in England Comments (4)

England’s Green and Pleasant Land

sunny 13 °C

To cap off our London visit we went to the Royal Albert Hall and joined the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the regimental band of the Royal Scots Guards, together with 80 voices of the Royal Choral Society and three tenors, in a regal programme packed with some of the world’s best known and loved classical pieces. And finally, to raise the roof, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with canons, muskets, fireworks, bells and organ – absolutely unforgettable...
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However, perhaps the most emotional spectacle was when us, and several thousand Brits, stood to wave Union Jacks while singing Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem a la Last Night of the Proms. It’s enough to make you believe that Britain still rules the world…
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After a few days soaking up the many wonderful sights in the heart of London we slipped off to the gently rolling Cotswold hills in the western part of England….
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This part of the country is known for its centuries old limestone cottages and legions of elegant manor houses and stately homes. This is quintessential England: chocolate box cottages; bucolic pastures; spreading oaks; and a myriad of babbling brooks misting the air in the frosty autumn sunshine...
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Many of the picturesque towns have changed little since the 15th century. This is the much photographed riverside village of Bourton-on-the-water…
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…and these almshouses were built for Burford’s poor parishioners in 1457…
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While many of the buildings in this part of the country are at least 500 years old there are numerous that have been around far longer. The City of Bath is world renowned for its Roman architecture and two thousand year old baths, and there are many Saxon churches dating from the 8th century. The spire of this church in Burford was erected by the Normans in 1175…
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Burford church was nearly 500 years old when the English beheaded Charles 1st and England briefly became a republic under Oliver Cromwell and his Roundheads. Not everyone was happy with the way that Ollie was running things and in May of 1649 a thousand of his troops mutinied in Burford. The insurrection was started by men called Levellers who believed that once the king had lost his head everyone would have a share of the crown jewels – Yeh. Right! (as we Canadians say). ..
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The ringleaders were quickly rounded up by the Roundheads and executed in the churchyard – and that was nearly 400 years ago when our hotel, the Slaughters Inn in nearby Lower Slaughter, was newly built...
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Winter is upon us and we are now heading home for Christmas. A huge thank you to all the people who helped us as we made our way around the world in the past 72 days. Now we are taking a short break but will be blogging again early next year when we cross the line to explore the rich cultures of South America. In the meantime we wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
P.S. Copies of our inspirational travel guide, Slow Train to China, are still available and might make an ideal Christmas gift for someone looking for a little adventure. Just contact us and we will pop a copy in the mail.

Posted by Hawkson 10:17 Archived in England Comments (2)

Our Christmas World

semi-overcast 8 °C

We are now in London and suffering culture and climate shock.
Every year since 1947 the people of Norway have gifted the British their finest tree as a thank-you for liberating them from the Nazis and we joined the throng in Trafalgar Square to witness the lighting ceremony. It was a moving, if slightly chilly, event.
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Since leaving Ghana the temperature has dropped nearly 30 Celsius and we have been catapaulted 300 years into the future. Gone are the mud huts and the shoeless children. Gone too are the filthy streets, the smashed and abandoned vehicles and the frighteningly overloaded taxis…
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But it has been a memorable journey. In years to come we will be still be saying, “Remember when the restaurant fell into the sea,” and “Remember the barrow boys of Sunyani waiting to pick up a fare.” Here they are known as ‘Yorkshire taxis’…
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And remember when a scary warthog crept up behind you and I told you it was probably just a friendly Ghanaian guinea pig…
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And what about the leaning Yam Barn of Larbanga donated by some well-meaning aid agency…
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Or the very latest Ghanaian helicopter that we wanted to buy for the Canadian military because our government can’t afford to replace the sixty year old Sea Kings…
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And then, in Morocco, there was this man who couldn’t see his donkey for the wood…
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And the man who couldn’t see his goats for the tree…
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Yes - It has certainly been a memorable journey for us and we hope, dear blog reader, that you have enjoyed the ride. Christmas is coming and it will soon be time for us to head home, but first a big thank you to everyone who made our journey possible and enjoyable.
Our thoughts are particularly with the Ghanaians. The country has changed little since Sheila first visited 40 years ago. There is electricity in larger conurbations, though many people can't afford more than a few lights, and when a development worker we met asked one of the rural chiefs what his people most needed he said they wanted electricity so they could watch English football on television..
Offshore oil is flowing in Ghana, and some people are getting rich. However, increased wealth leads to increased consumption which in turn leads to increased garbage. An international health advisor summed up life in Ghana to us as, “A documentary warning what the rest of the world will look like if we don’t drastically change our ways”.
So we left Ghana with a certain sadness because we have so many questions and absolutely no answers. Nevertheless, we wish them and you a very Merry Christmas from us and from Santa in Accra…
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P.S. Don’t worry about the restaurant that fell into the sea – by the time we left the resort crews were already at work rebuilding it.

Posted by Hawkson 03:04 Archived in England Comments (7)

Rubbing Shoulders with Royalty

semi-overcast 12 °C

No matter how many times we've been to London, the city always manages to delight and surprise us.
We only had one free day this time so hadn't made any plans, but there is always plenty to do - and most of it is free.
All the major museums and galleries are free and the city's ancient streets and iconic buildings are in themselves a wonderful outdoor museum dating from 79AD onward. It's all there - two thousand years of architecture: Roman, Saxon, Norman, Tudor, Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian, as well as fantastic modern buildings like the Shard. So, after a little window shopping in our favourite store, Harrods, we joined the tourists at Covent Garden Market...
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Begun in 1654, Covent Garden was the main fruit and vegetable market of London until the 1970s. But now the rowdy costermongers have been replaced by a more genteel bunch of vendors flogging all manner of bric-a-brac to the tourists. It is a bustling place, though nothing like the crazy markets of S.E.Asia, and the streets entertainers are a riot. This guy caused a stir just by hanging around in mid-air...
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After lunch we signed up for a free guided tour of Somerset House - the home of the Admiralty when Lord Nelson planned his defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. This enormous 18th century rock pile on the banks of the Thames replaced a Tudor palace...
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Remembrance day is fast approaching, the poppies are coming out, and we were lucky to get the last couple of seats at a concert given by the Royal British Legion's Central Band. Even luckier - we took our seats and found ourselves sitting next to the Duke of Gloucester,(the Queen's first cousin), and his wife. The Duke and his missus (Dickie and Birgitte to us) had a rollicking good time. The music was splendid and you can get a taste on youtube. Go to http://youtu.be/6oNbTc5hVuA or Google the Central Band of the Royal British Legion.

That's it for our day. The rain is coming so we're off to sunny Spain.
Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends back home.

Posted by Hawkson 04:10 Archived in England Comments (3)

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