Sunday, June 5, 2016

On the road again!!

We're leaving this afternoon on a really fun adventure in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Stay tuned here for updates, photos, etc. Because of factors, I will probably NOT update by posting the link to this blog on Facebook after this time. So, please, sign up, follow along, and join us for the fun!

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Here we are, almost a year later, and I realize I never finished up our trip!

After Lincoln, which we really didn't want to leave, we headed for London, and the last 2 days of our European adventure.

London is not my favorite city. While I have enjoyed some good experiences there, and made some good memories, it's just too crowded and confusing to me to put it at the top of my list. I suppose it's not fair to say so, given that I've spent a total of 4 nights there in my entire life, but those times were spent in very expensive hotels that were filthy and depressing. The people in the city are generally friendly, although there are some (cough-hotelstaff-cough) who invariably say, "What do you expect? This is London." The cabbies, though, are sweet and funny. And the police are polite, helpful and comfortable. Our first contact with the London "Bobbie" was on our first night there, when we could not find our hotel. We drove around for almost an hour and a half, looking and looking, and irritating the local drivers, and about half of that time was in a 6-block radius of our hotel! We just could not find it. Finally, I'd had enough, and crossed two lanes of traffic to talk to two police officers I saw on the side of the street. Contrary to the usual image of London police, they were armed. My kids would have to identify the weapons, but they were big and automatic. After explaining our plight, one said, "Let me pull out my Magic Map," and proceeded to whip iPhone. We laughed and laughed together, got our directions, and, in 5 minutes, were stopped in front of that night's fleabag. I kid you not, we stayed in some lovely places on this trip, and some nasty ones. The nastiest were in London.

Anywho. We were settled. The next morning, we made yet another mistake. As we had only one full day in London (and two partials) we decided to take advantage of the HOHO. Big. Mistake. Although we used this to great advantage in Washington, DC, DC does not have the traffic issues of London. It seemed like a good idea; ride from stop to stop on an arranged tour, hopping on and off to see things as we wished, then riding to the next sight. In reality, our HOHO failed on two levels. In the first, traffic was just so thick that we spent lots of time sitting in the bus, watching the other cars around us, and saying, "Look off over there. Can you see Nelson's Monument?" In the second, the company we rode with considered many factors in planning their route, and the one that won out was shopping. The tour stops were very close to such famous London shops as Harrod's and Hamley's, but farther from things like The Globe and The Tower. We walked further than we would have had we just taken a taxi; next time, we'll use taxis and The Tube.

We did, however, get to see The Globe and the Tower, both of which were on the top of everyone's list. We missed Westminster, Parliament, any royal palaces and a boat ride on the Thames. But John and I plan a week in London in about 5 years, so we'll take care of those then.

More about London in another post...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Family!! And Archery!!

Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny. We really wanted to attend the local church, but, sadly, the church isn't doing well in England. I don't think we saw a small, local church that had enough parishioners to pay a full-time pastor/vicar/cleric. The one in South Scarle "rarely has services," according to our innkeepers. An earlier innkeeper told us, "The Church used to be used to control people. Now that that isn't necessary, I guess people see no need for the Church." Sad.

We headed out to meet some family, cousins who live near Sherwood Forest. Yes, that Sherwood Forest.

Many moons ago, (some 1300+ of them) my ancestors left England for the US. The story I've been told is actually pretty funny. Seems my great-grandmother decided she didn't like Jolly Old, and that my great-grandfather also had weak lungs. His doctor told him to emigrate somewhere dryer; they chose Australia.

Along the way, the ship docked in New York. Great-Grandma, an Anglican, still found her way to a fortune-teller. The lady told her that Great-Grandpa would never survive a sea voyage. Great-Grandma announced her plan to stay in the US. Great-Grandpa, like many husbands, seemed to have no choice, even though the Northeastern United States doesn't have the dry climate of Australia.

Two years later, my grandfather had been born. Great-Grandma decided that she didn't like the US, and, despite the dire prediction of her husband's chances at sea, the family boarded a ship for England. Apparently, midway, she decided to return to the US, but the ship was committed. And, when they got to Britain, WWI had begun, so they were stuck there for 2 more years. Finally, however, the family returned to the US, living in Massachusetts for a few years before migrating to Chicago. Grandma and Grandpa met there in the 1930s, and, the rest, as they say, is history.

But Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa left family behind in the Preston Lancashire area. Their children and grandchildren moved around, and one cousin now lives near Sherwood Forest. We spent a lovely afternoon visiting with her, her husband, her two daughters, and two grandchildren. Stories were swapped, pictures were taken, and Mary even got to shoot a longbow! What a memory!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

South Scarle

We left the north of England and headed south. It was a long, long drive, and, again, we got in too late. Those two drives, more than anything, confirmed my notion of staying in one place when we return. Sitting tight and exploring an area, then moving on after a week or so, is a much better plan than this command raid we did on Britain!

But, again, our innkeepers were terrific and forgave us for interrupting their sleep. They cooked us a wonderful full English breakfast the next two days, pointed out a great pub for dinner, made sure we didn't miss Lincoln Castle (and we might have) and were, in general, wonderful. Their inn was in a small town which reminded us of the small town we left for the month. Both mornings we were awakened by horses clip-clopping down the street, taking their riders for a morning constitutional. It was very relaxing.

The first morning, a Saturday, we stayed in a bit, did a little laundry, and tried a walk. It rained, so we headed out for some adventures. Our first led us to the town church, built by the Normans just before 1100. Some of the original stonework and art is still there, in bits and pieces. Between persecutions of Catholics and the English Civil War, however, the 15th through 17th centuries weren't very kind to English churches, though, and it can show. This particular church was lovely, and the congregation runs a small farm store in an outbuilding on the grounds. Local cheeses, jams, baked goods, meats, produce, etc, are sold there. Armed with bread, cheese and popcorn, (it made sense at the time) we headed into the town of Lincoln.

Lincoln Cathedral was established just after the Norman Conquest of England. The Romanesque building was damaged by an earthquake in 1185, and the Gothic portions of the building were constructed. the bishop of Lincoln must have been cooperative with Henry VIII, as the Cathedral and Monastery were not ruined during the Dissolution of the Monasteries during Henry's reign. The buildings are more complete than similar structures in the rest of Britain, and are very interesting. The Cathedral houses a copy of Magna Carta. In fact, when King John and his barons hammered out the thing, it was copied by monks at Lincoln. They sat in a room, 85? 43? of them (oh, heck, I can't remember everything) and it was dictated to them. Copies were then sent to all parts of England. Only 4 survived.

We ended our day with a pub supper at the Lord Nelson.
We ate in front of the fireplace. Yes, we'll be back someday!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hadrian's Wall

When I was in junior high, one of the highlights of my week was riding my bike to the library. The old Schaumburg Library is now a Baptist mega-church, and the new one is a huge edifice next to a grocery store. Such is Schaumburg. But, somewhere in the stacks, I discovered Rosemary Sutcliff, who wrote wonderful historical fiction about Bronze Age and Roman Britain. One of my favorites was Eagle of the Ninth, which was set along Hadrian's Wall and was actually made into a film this past year.

I wish that watching such films would send today's junior high kids to the library to learn more, but I have my doubts.


Carlisle has been called Luguwaljon and Luguvalium and Caer-luel and Cumberland before Carlisle, was visited by the emperor Hadrian around 122AD, and had a lovely stone fort by 130 AD, which was the largest and strongest fort along Hadrian's wall. It's a pretty city with a nice Victorian covered market and friendly people. Our innkeeper there was a sweetheart who put up with us arriving way too late, made us a lovely breakfast, and showed us the best way to Hadrian's Wall.

Hadrian's Wall was ordered by said emperor to keep the northern border of Roman Britain safer from those nasty Scots and Picts. It was an imposing thing, about 5 feet tall, with a deep ditch to the north and a double ditch-and-bank device called a vallum to the south. There were milecastles, small "fortlets" built roughly a mile apart along the Wall, and turrets evenly positioned between those. The Wall itself was about 2m thick, although that varies.

Along the length of the Wall were also several Roman forts, among them Brisoswald, Housesteads and Vindolanda. At Vindolanda archaeologists have discovered Roman writings, including a birthday party invitation from one officer's wife to another.

I love how land is used in Britain. In the US, we're afraid to subject tourists to poo poo. In Britain, they graze critters everywhere, and the tourists have to sometimes watch where they step. But the critters are friendly, as Mary learned.

We picked a really lovely day to visit the Wall. Little did we know that cold, blustery weather would set in by day's end, with rain finally sending us south.

We missed out on an ale at Newcastle, which would have been wise, but we had points south to visit and knew we'd be, again, arriving too late for our innkeepers to be very polite. But at least we warned them via e-mail, and they were ready for our motley crew.

So another item checked off my life list. Mary and I have decided that we want to walk Hadrian's Wall sometime before I get much more old and creaky. Sadly, though, she wants to walk it with two girlfriends and I want to walk it with her. We'll iron that out someday!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wales was a wonderful place, although it rained. The people were friendly, the food was good, and the scenery was beautiful. I drove along, listening to BBC Cymru, (Welsh radio) while the rest of the people in the car wondered what the HECK the guy on the radio was saying. For the record, I didn't know, either. But Welsh is a pretty language.

Funny story. One program involved a translator repeating BBC news in Welsh. At one point, his cell phone went off. He said, "My cell phone. S&!*." The first phrase was Welsh. The second, pure English!

We spent a day driving, and spent that night in a pub in Shrewsbury called the Buck's Head. Another funny story. We stopped at the city limits of Shrewsbury to ask directions, and were told that the Buck's Head was just a few doors down from the city bus station. We got lost finding the bus station, so we stopped at the police station. A policewoman was just leaving work, and led us to the bus station, saying, "The Buck's Head? Just down from the bus station? Hmm..." Should asked. We walked two doors from the bus station...and found the BULL'S Head. Fortunately, a patron knew of the other pub, and we were soon checked into our rooms and enjoying a Bombardier in the pub.


Next morning, we headed toward Preston, from which our great-grandparents left for the US at the beginning of the 20th century. I hope they wouldn't recognize it now. We saw a town that had seen better days, full of not-very-nice people. Even the vicar of the family church was less than enthusiastic about the city, calling it "dismal."

We looked for, but did not find, family graves. We did take some pictures of the local parish churches.

The day ended on a disappointing note, and we headed for Carlisle, just 10 miles from Scotland.

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Which our Author meets a Friend

We left Wells and headed for Wales. (Like my alliteration?) Some of us (-cough-John-cough) were surprised to see roadsigns, etc, in Welsh. It really is another country! Our destination was Caerphilly Castle, a truly beautiful castle. More important, though, than seeing the architecture and military strategy of medieval Wales was meeting my friend Marta.

Marta and I met through a webring for Lutheran homeschoolers. We are radical and revolutionary; we have no problem meeting up with our internet friends. Marta and I did not have to resort to wearing a geranium in our hats. She is, as you can see in the picture, about to meet her fourth child, so finding her was no problem! In fact, because we saw an ambulance leaving the castle as we came in, and Marta was late, we figured we knew why we couldn't find her!

But, no, she was just late. Along with her came her husband and father-in-law. We had a great visit!

After a nice supper of Welsh cawl, we headed out for Shrewsbury.

Funny picture of me and Marta!