Tag Archives: UK

Our Trip to the UK~Part 12

19 Feb

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill Lites

Bill Lites

 

We rode the train as much as we could, when going into London, to avoid the traffic and the parking problems.  We did all the tourist things like visiting the Tower of London, examining the Crown Jewels, and touring Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, where DiVoran did a comedy number with Charlie Chapman, sang a song with Pavarotti, and met Queen Victoria.

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 The original Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, after the Norman Conquest of England and was a constant symbol of the oppression inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite.  The Tower went through several phases of expansion, during the 12th and 13th centuries, mainly under Kings Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and Edward I.  When we visited the Tower, we were impressed with the guards and their special uniforms.

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I wanted to take a ride on the Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) to France, just for the ride, but we didn’t have enough time to cram that into our busy schedule of things to do.  Coming back from our London adventures one evening, we couldn’t get a seat in the “No Smoking” car of the last train going to Crawley, and had to spend the hour-long trip breathing the second-hand smoke from what seemed like every person in that closed train car.   The smoke was so thick, you could almost cut it with a knife.  Did you remember, it was also freezing cold outside, and we couldn’t open the train car windows?  Well, we both almost died from smoke inhalation before the train arrived at our destination in Crawley.

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Remember the couple we met at Dove Cottage (Part 7) who invited us to their home for tea?  Well, we rode the train to Canterbury and had a delightful time with them over tea and crumpets.  Professor Wainright had taught at the University of Kent at Canterbury, and was now retired (having been made redundant).  He and Mrs. Wainright were now enjoying traveling and meeting tourists from many countries like us.  He expressed the attitude of many of those we had met in Britain on our trip when he said, “We want you to know how much we appreciate all you “Yanks” did by coming over and helping us fight the Germans during WWII.

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The next day it was time to turn in the rental car, and join the hundreds of people at Gatwick airport trying to find our way to the Delta ticket counter, the Duty Free store, and finally to our departure gate.   Outside the terminal, we saw a couple British WWII Veterans, dressed in all their finery and ribbons, passing out poppies to passersby.  What a heart-rending sight that was!  DiVoran and I, along with most everyone walking by, wanted to give them a donation to help whatever cause they were supporting.

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The flight back to the U.S. seemed to take a lot longer than it did coming over; I guess because of the Jet Stream headwinds we encountered.  Delta treated us to wonderful meals, a movie and everything we needed for that trip, except a bed.  I always find it hard to sleep on those long flights, even when they turn off all the lights and I fall asleep during the movie.  We changed planes again in Atlanta, did the Customs routine, and then we were finally landing in Orlando, Florida, where our daughter Charlene and her husband Ron picked us up.  Another 45-minute trip to Titusville, and we couldn’t wait to see our “Home Sweet Home” with our wonderful beds.

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So ends the adventures of “Our Trip to the UK”or at least as much as I can remember.  I would have to take the 5th if you asked me if this was all there was, or if that was exactly how it happened, but these were some of the most memorable parts of the trip, and  DiVoran and I loved every minute of it. 

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—–The End—–

 

 

 

 

Our Trip to the UK~Part 6

7 Jan

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill

 The B & B guidebook neglected to mention the fact that our next overnight stop was at a pig farm, and we found the smell was overwhelming.  But, we figured that since we would be gone most of the day, we could stand the smell long enough to get to sleep at night.  The rehearsal lasted a little longer than we had expected, and then we got lost in the fog on the way back to the B & B.  When we finally got there, we found our suitcases on the front stoop.  Our hostess informed us she had reserved her only room to a family (who weren’t sure when they would be there) before we got there, and now they had showed up and she felt obligated to give them the room.  She said she had made a reservation for us at a friend’s B & B down the road and she was expecting us.  We were just a little miffed, as you might expect, but the family was already asleep in our bed, so we loaded up our bags and went down the road.  When we got there, we couldn’t believe our eyes!  It was the nicest, cleanest accommodations we could have ever asked for.  We thought, “Isn’t God good to us, moving us to this beautiful B & B, and at the same price as that smelly pig farm.” 

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The next day we headed northeast, through some of the most beautiful and exquisite Welch towns and landscapes you can imagine, and then finally, crossed back into England.  This time we headed for the county town of Warwick, to visit one of the most famous English fortresses, Warwick castle.  Warwick Castle was a med-evil fortress, developed from an original fortress, built by William the Conqueror in 1068, and is situated at a bend in the River Avon in Warwickshire.   During the centuries that followed, the use and miss-use of the fortress and its lands traditionally belonged to the ruling Earl of Warwick, and served as a symbol of his power.  Then, during the 15th and 16th centuries, as ownership of the castle and the lands associated with the earldom were passed back and forth from various earls, and The Crown, portions of the fortress were slowly converted for use as a castle.  But, during much of this time no one in particular wanting to foot the cost of keeping up repairs or restoring the structures, so by 1600 the castle, ended up in a state of disrepair.

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In 1604, Warwick castle and its lands were given to the Sir Fulke Greville (1st Lord Brooke) by James I.  Over the years, Greville spent  £20,000 (£3 million today) making many improvements to the castle, one being to  convert a portion of the castle into his residence, which was typical of many of the castle conversions taking place during that time period.

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Individuals have been visiting the castle since the end of the 17th century, and this practice grew in importance through the 19th century.  Then, during the 20th century, successive earls expanded its tourism potential until, in 1978, after 374 years in the Greville family, it was sold to the Tussauds Group, a media and entertainment company,who opened it as a tourist attraction.

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The castle tour was wonderful, with representations dating from mid-evil times to the early 20th century.  There were collections of mid-evil suits of armor and war weapons inside, and staged jousting matches on the courtyard grounds during the summer months, weather permitting.

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The interior rooms are decorated for various periods, with wax figures dressed in period attire, and even a recording of a famous opera singer in the grand ballroom.  The furnishings are beautiful and help one to get an idea of how the inhabitants lived and worked during the various times depicted.  As an example, in 1898, Frances Countess of Warwick, who was more affectionately known as Daisy, hosted a lavish weekend party for many of society’s elite, at the castle, in which the principal guest was the Prince of Wales, who would later become Edward VII.  Much of the Grand Ballroom authentic furniture and furnishings depict the grandeur that those guests would have experienced at such a party

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DiVoran loved the various costumes, including the scene of a maid getting one of the children ready for his bath in one of the upstairs rooms.  As part of our tour, we climbed the 200 steps, to the top of one of the towers, and DiVoran thought she would never get her breath back.  Of course, it didn’t bither me a bit.

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—–To Be Continued—–

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