Friday, July 30, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation - Part 4

If you're here looking for a Fabulous Friday Food post, come back next week. I'm sure I'll have started cooking again by then. . . . Maybe.

Well now. It seems the sistahs were none too happy about the pictures I posted of them yesterday. Haven't they yet learned that this blog is not about being perfect in any way? I mean, seriously, whose backside got posted here a few weeks back? Hmmmmm?

Anyway, my sisters are beautiful women, and just to prove it, I thought I'd post another picture of them. This is one of my favorites of the entire trip (although it would have been better if my mom was in it too).



Happy, girls?

*ahem*

Back to the day trip. Remember the Cotswolds? And remember how I told you there was a surprise at the end of the day?

Surprise! Welcome to Oxford!

Now, Oxford is one of my favorite places because I spent a summer--waaaaay back in 1984--studying in Oxford when I was in college. (Before you get too impressed, you have to know that I stayed at some rinky-dink college on the outskirts of town and was taught by professors from my college . . . who were wonderful . . . just not Oxford dons. Just to be clear.)

I have some really, really fond memories of Oxford, starting with the bicycles.



Oxford is a city for bikers. No, not biker chicks, although if my husband had his way I would become one of those too, but just plain old bikers. The kind with the wicker basket on the front. It's the best way to get around this town, and as a college student I rented a bike for a month and used it every day to explore the little streets and alleyways of this gorgeous place.

My only regret is that I wasn't more adventurous. I wish I would have had the courage to explore a little more outside of town. Oh well. Next time I'm a college student studying for 6 weeks in Oxford I'll remember to do that.

We started our tour in the middle of town, next to this statue dedicated to three martyrs whose names I don't remember. Details, details.



We walked all over the place, looking at beautiful buildings like the Bodleian Library . . .



The University Church tower . . .



Some really old windows in the divinity school . . .



Some really scary faces . . .



And, of course, pubs . . .



Richard explained that sometimes the old decorative pieces on the facades of the buildings just decay and fall off, which then need to be replaced. Here's one that was recently made to resemble Aslan from the C.S. Lewis books. Lewis lived, wrote, and taught in Oxford.



Toward the end of our tour we got to go inside Trinity College. Who knew that inside the walls of each individual college lies this much beauty?



Dorm rooms with flower boxes--can you just imagine?!





We did a lot of walking on the day of our excursion outside of London, but it was so worth it. On the way back to the train station we saw this sign, and I couldn't resist taking a picture of it. Kind of sums things up nicely, I think.



No, we didn't stop, but it was tempting.

I may have more to say about our trip next week, but I'm off this weekend. Kate is leaving for college on Monday, and she has a friend coming to spend the weekend, so we'll be enjoying the girls this weekend.

Enjoy your weekend . . . Darling!

Shelly

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation - Part 3

Hold on to your hats . . . this one is going to blow you away. Plus, you said you wanted pictures, and I aim to please my readers, so pictures you shall have.

Before we left, I asked everyone what one or two things they would most like to do or see on this trip, and my dad said he wanted to see the countryside. He was a farmer, after all, and if he couldn't get onto a real British farm (believe me, we tried), he at least wanted to see what their farmland looked like.

I found a tour that seemed to fit the bill for all of us, and so we headed out to the Cotswolds. But there was a bonus at the end of the tour, too. You'll see . . .

First, we took a train about an hour outside of London where we immediately hopped on a coach ("bus" in Brit-speak).




(Exciting bunch, aren't they? Guess the theatre was too much for them the night before.)

About 30 minutes later we arrived in the lovely little village of Minster Lovell, a tiny little Costwold hamlet that anyone in their right mind would sell everything they have just to live here. It's that lovely.

Breathtakingly lovely.



Heartbreakingly lovely.



*sigh*

Sorry. What was I thinking? Oh, yes, you would indeed have to sell everything you have to live here--it's that expensive. Our tour guide, Richard (who, by the way, was outstanding and made our day even more special), explained that the "cottages" you see lining the streets actually sell like mansions in the near-1 million pound range.



One can dream, can't she?

Anyway, back to Richard. He took us walking through the street of this village (I really think there was only one street), telling us about the thatched roofs of the cottages and explaining how the muckity mucks of London come there on the weekends (think the Hamptons) when we reached a farmer's field.

Dad was a happy man!



We walked through a gate (at this point, Richard told us how the name "kissing gate" got its name, but it's too long to go into here. Google it.) and into the field. Yes, in England there are thousands of miles of public walkways, so you can just wander into farmer's fields whenever you want.

Farmer's horses greeted us.



We walked a little further, trying unsuccessfully to avoid the cowpies, until we saw a church in the distance.



Richard explained that in Medieval times, these villages were centered around the church (a.k.a. the "Minster") and the Manor House. All of the little cottages were built for the servants of the Manor.

Give me a bucket and a broom, I'm movin' in!

We walked a little further, through another gate, where we came upon this pond.



Words cannot describe it. *Ahhhhhh*

We walked around the pond when suddenly, right before us, stood this sight. . . .



I swear, it looked like something from the set of a movie, just plopped right there, on the edge of a tiny river, for our enjoyment. Apparently it's also there for the enjoyment of the residents of Minster Lovell, too, because families with children were hanging out near the ruins, eating picnics and playing near the water. Too cute, I'm telling you. Too . . . English!

Anyway, we wandered around the ruins for a while, Richard telling us interesting stories about the family who lived there. This was the Manor House, the place that employed people like me who lived in the little cottages in the village.





I honestly cannot imagine how much it would cost to keep that place in operation today. Probably why they had to let it go to ruin (get it?!).

Next to the Manor House was the church, which is still being used today, thankfully.



Isn't it lovely?

So after that breathtaking little stroll, we wandered back down the street (remember, there seems to be only one) to our coach.

I snapped this one as I was walking past someone's kitchen window.



Our coach then took us just a few minutes away to another village called Burford where we had exactly one hour to either walk around and see the place or sit down and eat lunch. Some in our group just needed to sit, but you can probably guess what B and I did. We walked.

Richard had mentioned that Burford had a beautiful church, a fine example of Medieval church architecture, so B and I decided to head down there for a little look-see.



The church was beautiful, but once you've seen one medieval church, you've pretty much seen them all.



We had fun looking around, but the best part, for us, was when we checked out their bookshelves. There we saw books by authors we actually recognized and some we even knew!

Here is "The Big Picture Story Bible" by our friend, David Helm . . . right there! . . . on a bookshelf! . . . in Burford, England!



And here's "Disciplines of a Godly Man" by our former pastor, Kent Hughes. Just sittin' there, waiting to be read . . . in England!



I don't know why, but I got such a kick out of seeing those books by people we actually KNOW sitting on a shelf in England. There is just something too cool about that. (The only thing cooler would be seeing one of MY books sitting on a shelf in England. Ha!)

We left the church and quickly toured Burford's High Street, grabbing some pastries to take back on the bus with us for lunch.

All-in-all, we LOVED the Costwolds. Even though this was my sixth time in England, this was a region I had never before seen. Not that I hadn't wanted to go there before, it's just that there are so many wonderful places to see and things to do in England that you just can't see or do it all.

Here's one thing I know, though . . . I will be back. This is an area that deserves much more of my attention.

Once again I've gotten long-winded, and I'm probably boring you to death, so I'll stop my rambling now. You'll have to come back tomorrow to find out the surprise at the end of our day trip. It's worth a blog post of its own anyway.

Now, I'd love to know . . . of all the places I've posted about so far, which would you most like to see in person? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Shelly

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation - Part 2



It was with deep sadness that we left our little B&B in Scotland and travelled across the Firth of Forth (don't you just love that? The Firth of Forth. Just slips over the tongue, doesn't it?) to catch a train to London.

But first, a trip to the loo in the train station where we encountered our first pay toilet, heretofore to be known as "the 30p pee."



You should have seen us scrambling for change.

Anyway, after a perfectly hellacious 5 hour train ride (now that's a post for another day) we arrived in London and made our way to our hotel in the Victoria neighborhood.

Now, Victoria is not a neighborhood I would normally stay in in London. I prefer Kensington with its gorgeous homes and quiet streets, but God really had other things in store last February when I put in my pie-in-the-sky Priceline bid and actually won it. In Victoria.

And you know what? God was right! For this trip, Victoria was exactly where we needed to be--just a couple of Tube stops from everything, close to restaurants, and just down the street from the theatre.

Here's a picture of our room, just in case you're into that sort of thing, which I'm not, but I'll post it for you curious ones.


If it seems like a large room to you, especially by London standards, it is. (And no, that's not a bottle of vodka sitting on the desk over there--it's water. Fancy water.) Enough about that--let's get to the good stuff.

Hampton Court. (One of King Henry VIII's palaces.)

I had not been here since college which was, well, a while ago, and I didn't remember much about the place except for the Great Hall. I'm so glad we spent part of a day here because the place is beautiful . . . and historic . . . and massive. And it has a hedge maze which we didn't get to see on this trip, but that's why there will always be a next time.








Oh, Henry!



The Victoria and Albert Museum. This is one of those places that I've always intended to visit, but for one reason or another it just didn't happen. But this time it did, and I am so glad. What a beautiful museum!

Even before we stepped inside the doors we got a sense of how important this place is. I mean, it didn't even fall down during the blitz! They kept the bomb marks on the outside of the building to prove it.



Famous sculptures everywhere. I know I've seen this one in a textbook somewhere, but even if I haven't I think he's awfully cute.



We mainly went to the V&A to see their wonderful collection of historic textiles, specifically historic samplers which my sister, Jenn, is really into. It's kind of her hobby.

You can go into this big room that looks like a library and pull out these frames that hold all sorts of old ("antique" just doesn't seem to begin to cover it. Is it an antique if it's over 600 years old?) fabric samples.



The biggest thrill, though, was finding the many cross-stitched samplers that they had because, like I said, my sisters' into that kind of thing. Here she is examining the work of some 7-year-old girl. Amateur.



And here's a close-up of another sampler that I thought was lovely. You can see by the advanced stitches here that this girl was probably something like nine when she stitched this one.



The biggest thrill for me that day was seeing the handwork of Mary Queen of Scots. This was exciting to me because last spring I read "The Other Queen" by Philippa Gregory which was about Mary Queen of Scots, and in the book it talks a lot about how she loved to stitch. And then I stumble upon some of her handiwork. Her actual fingers stitched these pieces!



. . . in the 1500s!!!



I don't know, something about history and historical fiction coming together in one place just made me have to sit down for a while and ponder.

And since this post is getting veeeeery long, I'm sure you'll need to sit and ponder a while, so I'm going to end our history lesson/travel post for today. Be sure to come back tomorrow, though, when I'll tell you about one of my very favorite days of our trip.

I can't wait!!


Shelly