We are finishing up our month-long adventure in the British Isles: Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England. There are several terms that are used for this culturally, geographically, and politically diverse chunk of the world. Marsha came across the graphic above that brings some understanding to several geographical terms.
A somewhat interesting note on money. In the Republic of Ireland, we used €. In Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England we used £ but each one had its own paper currency that was not accepted in the others. I had to spend or exchange my paper money before getting to our new locations. No wonder they are always ticked off at each other.
We stayed in three cities while in England.
Durham was a new experience for us. We stayed just one night in the very old Bridge Hotel. The Durham Cathedral is over 1,000 years old. For all you Harry Potter fans, the Closter was used in one of the Hogwarts shots. We sat in the choir for Evensong service that evening.
A pint was had in the Shakespeare Tavern with some of the locals. We finished up our evening with a walk along the river with fantastic views of the cathedral.
To get to our next stop, York, we took the 9:56 train. Our coach was packed: full of high heels, Prosecco, and NOISE. Our party coach was a full-blown Hen House (phrase used with Marsha’s permission and endorsement.) There were only three of us guys on this coach. I was going to spend the time reading but retreated to my trusty ear buds and a podcast.
This was our second visit to York. The York Minster is very impressive. Over ½ of England’s Medieval stained glass is here in their 128 windows. We were blessed by their Choral Matins while we sat in the old, wooden, Gothic choir. The twelve adults and twenty children filled the church with beautiful sounds of praise. After experiencing several services like this I am appreciating, more and more, High Church. It connects me with something much bigger than is typical of the modern American Protestant church. It is more than just about me and just about now.
The image below shows the two establishments we visited on two separate days. The one on the right is theTrembling Madness Pub. It started life in 1180 as the first Norman House to be built in York. The same walls still hold up the 800-year-old ship beams in the ceiling. This cramped, upstairs, Medieval Tavern is very popular with the locals. In contrast, the next day we entered Betty’s Café Tea Room shown on the left for a somewhat different experience of afternoon tea. This is also very popular with the citizens of York … just a different crowd.
Maybe the highlight of our stay was the free, two-hour walk of York with John Shaw, the chairman of the York Historical, Architecture, and Archeology Society. We felt like we won the tour guide jackpot. John’s family dates back to the 1600s in York. He loves his city and culture and has a few strong opinions on various issues. It was wonderfully educational and engaging.
Our apartment in York was the best so far. It was two stories, beautifully appointed, great living room, big kitchen, clothes washer, reliable & fast Wi-Fi, and a comfortable bed. We almost didn’t want to leave and sorry we only booked for two days.
This was also our second time in London. As soon as we got off the train in Kings Cross station we purchased 7-Day Travel cards that gave us unlimited access to all public transportation. Plus, there were 2-for-1 deals we took advantage of, which more than paid for one of the cards. Last time we were in London we did the big attractions. This time we went another layer deeper.
The Churchill War Rooms were remarkable. Some of the rooms were left exactly as they were when vacated in 1945. Churchill was quite the character and it is extraordinary that he was one of the leaders at such a terrible time in our history. Marsha and I talked about how Churchill was not just an historical figure to us; we remember him.
London is an expensive place to be; however, all their museums are free. We took advantage of this and returned to three familiar ones. As you walk into the British Museum, the first artifact you see is the Rosetta Stone. This hunk of stone was discovered in 1799. It is inscribed with three versions of a decree issued at Memphis, Egypt in 196 BC. Pretty darn impressive and reminds me we need to get back to our French lessons on our Rosetta Stone language program. The museum also had some very cool dead dudes, known as mummies. One from 4500 years ago. He doesn’t look all that bad … still has some hair.
The British Library houses some of the most important documents of mankind: Magna Carta; 1st copy of the King James Bible from 1611; the earliest known example of the Gospels in English from 700 AD; and some cool Beatles’ handwritten lyrics. One of Julian’s birthday cards has the lyrics to A Hard Days Night written on it by his father, John. Other handwritten lyrics include: She Said She Said, Ticket To Ride, and Michelle. As I said, some of the most important documents of mankind are housed here.
We did a quick tour of the National Gallery and made sure to see the Impressionists. There was also a limited, special showing of some Rubens and Rembrandt works. Those guys knew how to throw paint on a canvas.
Earlier that day, we arrived in time to be only about three deep at the Buckingham Palace gate to watch the Changing of the Guards. As time approached for this classic London event, a young lady announced that there would be NO Changing of the Guards today. It felt like a Seinfeld episode, “No soup for you!” We did see some of the Changing of the Horse Guards … smaller in scope and somewhat smellier.
We were Groundlings (5£ standing) for Much to Do About Nothing at the Old Globe Theater. This rendition of the Shakespeare play was set in 1930s Mexico with a rail car as the back drop and was great fun. Interesting theater note: from Shakespeare’s time these Groundings were the poor, unwashed and referred to as Penny Stinkers.
Since we are fans of the PBS series, Mr. Selfridge, we went to his store. It is impressive now but must have been a Victorian mindblower back then.
An honest evaluation: The York apartment was our favorite; the London apartment was our least favorite. There were many problems, but most trying was the faulty and limited Wi-Fi. We do all our communications, planning, and booking online. It is an essential part of our process. We hated to leave the York apartment after two days but couldn’t wait to leave the one in London after six days. In fact, we left one day early to stay overnight in Cambridge. This is not complaining, we just want you to know some of the realities to Living Creatively. It’s not always York … or Paris … or Chamonix … or Amboise …
So … Goodbye England … Hello Baltic Cruise. Hang on to your life preservers!
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Preston & Marsha
Don’t Retire: Reload – Groovin’ on the Flip Side