Our second week in England (and Wales) began with a train ride from Paddington Station, London to Oxford, where we checked into our rooms at the Turf Tavern, a wonderful and very old pub tucked away on a back street. I don’t think they rent rooms anymore, but it was great then. In Oxford we visited as many of the famous colleges as we had time for in one day.
Christchurch was probably the one that impressed me the most. Their “chapel” is a small cathedral with lovely fan-vaulted ceilings.
And the Cloisters there were idyllic. One could well imagine “Lewis Carroll” (Reverend Charles Dodgson) and other famous instructors relaxing there. We should have planned more time in Oxford, but I’ve been back twice since to see the rest.
Monday morning we were on a train again, and then a series of buses that brought us eventually through narrow country lanes to Glastonbury in southwest England, a place I had long wanted to visit because of its association with legends of King Arthur.
It was late afternoon by the time we got to the preserved ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, an important place in English mythology. The ruins are still quite impressive even though it was closed by Henry the Eighth and began falling to ruin thereafter.
There’s a marker where graves were uncovered that supposedly held the remains of King Arthur and Guinevere, though there’s no solid proof of it.
The ruins were quiet and mysterious.
Linda R under the “Holy Thorn,” a tree that legend says grew from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, of Christ’s time. It blooms at Christmas. Legends also say Joseph brought the Holy Grail with him from Jerusalem, and a book I love, “The Hidden Treasure of Glaston” by Eleanore M. Jewett, makes great use of those legends.
We had dinner at the “George and Pilgrim” pub, where the locals looked on us with suspicion. Glastonbury had already become a mecca for hippies and mystics, and we probably looked like more of them.
After dinner the long day allowed us to hike up Glastonbury Tor, the conical hill that towers over the town, for wonderful, mystical views of the setting sun over rolling hills.
Some have thought the Tor is a huge burial mound, but nothing has been found in it. There’s a tower at the top, and some kind of monument where Linda R watched the sunset. A group of young people were already there. It was a magic hour that I will remember always. Something about the place is mystical beyond description.
Tuesday was another long travel day that took us north and west into central Wales to the seaside town of Aberystwyth, where we stayed two nights. Linda R was particularly looking forward to this, as she’s of Welsh background. Hills on either side of town made great vantage points.
I loved sitting up there overlooking the ocean and listening to Skylarks.
There was a ruined castle in town that we enjoyed seeing.
Two Lindas on a castle arch.
We visited Aberystwyth University, wonderful architecture. We also took a ride on a narrow gauge steam railway up into the mountains that was fun. And walking the seaside promenade was good, too. We tried out a few words in Welsh, of which I no longer remember any. If anything, the people were more open and friendly there than in other parts of the country we visited.
Thursday we were traveling again, back out of Wales to Shrewsbury, where we stayed one night. Shrewsbury is known for its old half-timbered houses, the kind that used to be common in big cities like London, but are now nearly gone.
From Shrewsbury we headed north to York, an ancient walled town where we enjoyed walking and shopping on the narrow streets, and also circumnavigating the entire town on the city wall, which is open to pedestrians.
The most impressive building in York is the Minster, a huge cathedral, where we again climbed to the roof for great views. I was told recently that some of this beautiful place was destroyed by fire a few years later. It’s been rebuilt, but I’m glad we were able to see it as it was.
Spectacular twin towers. In York I think we attended a production of the play “Volpone,” and had a great time. But Saturday Linda R took off on her own for an extended vacation in northern Wales visiting her family there.
Here’s a photo Linda R gave me from that part of her trip, at a family homestead. Meanwhile, Linda C and I headed south back to London for one more night, and then home the following day.
That nightmare flight I mentioned was not the best way to end our trip. Turned out the airline only had one plane. When it broke down, everyone on all their trips was delayed. We sat in a London airport for hours, then finally got on the plane and found out we weren’t going back to New Jersey, but instead to Paris to pick up other stranded vacationers there. We barely made it out of the Paris airport before it closed for the night (yes, they did that then), and then flew back to England to pick up MORE people, and finally home. We were on that plane for 24 hours. Never again with the charter flights for me.
But in all, it was a wonderful trip. I’ve been back to England several times, but the first trip will always be the most memorable, and will live in my thoughts always. Oh, and here’s a link to a video slide show I put together with many of my favorite pictures from the trip. You’ve seen some of them, but not all of them here. I think the music and presentation are worth another look, if you have the time. Thanks for reading if you’ve gotten this far. Back to more usual topics next time.