Thursday, April 25, 2002

2002 London trip---April 16-24, with Carolyn

This was a last minute trip for me. My sister was suppose to be going here with my brother-in-law to visit his Aunt and Uncle, but he died a couple months before they were suppose to go. Instead of cancelling the trip, she asked me if I would like to go with her. After thinking about it for a minute, I said YES! So she left from Portland, Oregon, and I left from St. Louis, and we met up at the Gatwick airport. There to meet us was her Uncle-in-law, Don Arnold.

One of the things that I found interesting right from the start were the variable speed limit signs on the highway. In England, they actually work! Here in St. Louis, they are ignored and traffic backs up like normal.

It was really nice having a home base in the house of relatives---maybe they weren't my relatives, but they treated me like I was. We spent much of the week "visiting"and getting to see how the Brits live. They even had the USA flag flying when we pulled up in their driveway in honor of their visitors.

One of our host's, Barbara's, hobbies is floral arrangements. She was even in a floral club. The day we arrived was one of her meetings. Having been a florist for a couple years, I was excited to go with her to the meeting. She really excelled in her arrangements.

Our hosts, Don and Barbara, are old enough to be our parents, and they were very active and fun to be around. While Barbara prepared most of our dinners, Don took us out of her hair and off to see the sites in the area. They didn't actually live in London, but in a northern suburb.

ONe of the first places he took us to was Runnymede. It is where the Magna Carta was signed, and is also the site of a lot of memorials.

One of the memorials is even for our USA president, John F. Kennedy.

Our rides also took us by Anne Hathaway's cottage, the former childhood home of Anne Hathaway (the wife of William Shakespeare). Located in Shottery, Warwickshire, it is about a mile from Stratford-upon-Avon. This large farm house is a great example of Tudor style architecture. Another of it's memorable features is it's thick thatched roof. We weren't able to tour it, but even seeing it from the outside was pretty impressive.

Don also took us to Warwick Castle. This medieval castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1068 as a fort. In the 17th century it was converted to a country house.

In 1978, Warwick Castle was sold to Tussauds, a large visitor attraction operator. Tussauds performed extensive restorations to the castle and grounds in addition to opening its gates to the public. The State Rooms are enhanced with waxworks from Tussaud's and beautifully illustrate the spirit of a bygone age. The furniture is ornate and intricately detailed. In 2001, Warwick Castle was named one of Britain's "Top 10 historic houses and monuments" by the British Tourist Authority. Seasonal attractions include "Flight of the Eagles'" (a bird show, featuring bald eagles, vultures, and sea eagles), archery displays, Jousting,"The Trebuchet Show" and "The Sword In The Stone Show". This fellow doing the archery display was outstanding!

On another day we went to Hampton Court with one of Don and Barbara's daughters and granddaughter. It was every bit as impressive this time as it was when I went there in 1997 with Tim and Angie. Here I am in front of the castle with my sister.

Unfortunately photos aren't allowed inside the castle. But with their extensive gardens on every side of the castle, I was still able to take lots of pictures. This is looking out to the "back yard" from the 2nd level of the castle where King Henry VIII and the queen's bedrooms are.

The castle even has a little restaurant within it. Hear we are devouring a tasty lunch.

Back outside the castle, we wandered around the many gardens. This one was along one side of the castle.

Looking out at the side garden from the side of the castle.

On another day Carolyn and I took the train into London for a little shopping at Harrods and then on to Bath. This time we made sure we got into the bath houses.
The city was first established as a spa resort by the Romans in 43 AD. They built baths and a temple on the surrounding hills of Bath in the valley of the River Avon around hot springs, which are the only ones naturally occurring in the United Kingdom. The City of Bath was designated a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Shown in the back of this picture is the gothic Bath Abbey. It is still used for religious services, civic ceremonies, concerts and lectures.

The temple was constructed in 60–70 AD and the bathing complex was gradually built up over the next 300 years. After the Roman withdrawal in the first decade of the 5th century, the baths fell into disrepair and were eventually lost due to silting up. The Roman Baths themselves are below the modern street level. There are four main features: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and the Museum holding finds from Roman Bath.
All significant stages of the history of England are represented within the city. Several companies offer open-top bus tours around the city. We took one of those tours and were treated to many views like this.

Back north of London, while Barbara cooked another of her wonderful dinners, Don took us out for some more sight seeing. Here we walked around St Martin's Church in Bladon near Woodstock, Oxfordshire. It is best known for the grave of Sir Winston Churchill.

Another night they treated us to real english fish and chips. I forget the name of the place they got them from, but they were great. Here we were enjoying our fish and chips in their kitchen. We even got Don and Barbara to serenade us during dinner.

One of our last days there, Barbara cooked a huge Sunday afternoon meal and invited their 2 daughters and grandchildren over. It was a very traditional english meal with bangers and mash, bubble and squeak, toad in the hole, yorkshire pudding, and I forget what all else. It was by far the best meal I've had in England!  She even went all out setting the table.

After dining, we retreated to the back yard where we visited for quite awhile.
Here's 2 of the grand daughters setting up the lawn tennis. (They do take their tennis seriously there! I even attempted playing against Don and Barbara's daughter, Karen, one day and Barbara came to watch. I hadn't played in quite awhile, but did quite well for as long as it's been. I think I gave Karen a run for her money. She did beat me, but not without a fight. I was surprised how mad she got when I did actually win a few games.) Back here at their house is the first place I've ever played lawn tennis. It was a fun way to close out our visit.
I would love to see them all again. We use to exchange emails, but I haven't heard from any of them in years now. Hope they're all doing well.  I'll always have very fond memories of my time with them.