Peter M Howard ::

England, A Holiday in Two Parts

04Apr2005 [france]

I haven't really said much about my cpl trips to England, so thought I'd get some things down here... I've got photos from the first trip in my albums on here, so u can get a complete multi-media experience, with high-technology words and images (only u've gotta follow the links back and forth urself, still working on the beaming things straight to your head)

England, Holiday the First (12th-19thFeb)

We got a sudden week off only 1.5 wks into classes, so bought a last minute ticket to England (love being able to walk in and say 'I want to go to England tomorrow morning'!) Managed to give Jenni a cpl days notice, and when she replied that she had a room ready with them in Salisbury I figured I was committed... Was great to see the cousins, as I hadn't seen them in at least 3 or 4 years, and had hardly seen them in the previous 10 years anyway. Plus was my first trip to England with lots of things to see

Had planned to take Sunday off, but the family was heading north, and dropped me off at Oxford (photos) on the way through. Brilliant opportunity, as I'd really wanted to see it but had been realistic and had it set as a low priority. Got hooked in the University Museum and the attached Pitts River; all natural history and anthropology. From there I took it slow, exploring the old winding and hidden streets, stumbling across amazing buildings... Then walked further out around a bunch of meadows and parks, getting more and more lost and magically ending up in exactly the right place.

Monday was quieter (ie, not travelling as far, but still plenty walking); Jenni dropped me off at Old Sarum (photos) (which is only a few minutes drive from their place). Ancient hill fort that's got layers of history on it - various people have built their own forts, towns &c - until the people decided to move the Cathedral down into the valley, founding New Sarum... The ruins are pretty nondescript now, but the ancient earthworks have survived; walking round the hill really gave an impression of why it would have been used as a defensive position... Afterwards, walked down to New Sarum, checked out the Cathedral, more amazing history (read, old dead folks...).

Tuesday to Bath (photos); the Roman Baths are compulsory, plus checked the church -slash- what was left of the old Norman abbey (not much), and, cos it didn't cost much extra, the Costume Museum. The Baths were fascinating but dreadfully commercialised - they had an audio tour that would give you info about each location/view/ruin, but it too often strayed into useless speculation (of the 'attract people with sex and violence' kind that many documentaries deal in nowadays). My interest in Roman Britain and their strange mythology got me through unscathed... The Costume Museum was disappointingly small - a bunch of old (Georgian and Victorian from memory) dresses and suit-things, which were pretty fascinating, but they say they have thousands more in storage, and well, after going to the LOTR exhibition back in January, amazing costumes just aren't so amazing.

Wednesday local again: Stonehenge (photos). I spent a cpl hours there, then another cpl walking around the area - did a walk through various farms, checking out scattered Barrows and Woodhenge as well. The thing that really struck me was that, to a peoples who went everywhere on foot, Stonehenge would have been visible for miles, and would always be present in their peripheral vision, and thus in their consciousness. It's difficult for modern architecture to have that kind of affect!

Thursday to London (photos)... Had planned out a list of basics I wanted to see; I'd start at either the Tower or the Houses of Parliament and work my way along the Thames to the other... Went to the Tower first as I'd been warned it could take time - it did, and I hardly made it halfway across London in the day. The Tower was pretty fascinating as it features heavily in the latest Neal Stephenson trilogy I'd been reading; on top of that there were a cpl execution sites, and the cell St Philip Howard (also my Confirmation Saint) was held in; got a photo of his 'Arundell' signature carved into the wall. Moved on, reached the Monument - where the Fire of London in 1666 was started, got a photo but didn't think I had time to climb it. Then walked along the Thames, eventually turned a corner and noticed St Paul's looming out of the fog (if anyone recently can come close to what Stonehenge and some of the medieval Cathedrals did, it was Christopher Wren). Didn't go in though as I wasn't up for spending any more money, and the place freaked me out a little anyway... (that's a complicated story I'll have to save for another time). Next to Temple - the old Templar's compound; walked around Inner Temple, went into the old Chapel, discovered (I should have guessed!) that it played a role in the Da Vinci Code, and so many of the tourists there came in, looked at one particular spot, and walked out again!

England, Holiday the Second (23rd-29thMar)

Well, no photos of this holiday, and the description's not quite so long (sure you're all heaving sighs of relief, if indeed you've read this far). This was a simple family break, funded by Grandma, Grandpa and Maryann, who were out from Australia. Brilliant way to spend Easter... We went to the Saturday vigil mass for Easter (followed by feasting cos Lent is over!). Hadn't done that mass before, so a little difficult, but the fact that it was a bit of a novelty and that it was a relatively short one (all over in 1.5hrs, even the priest was surprised) got me through without a problem. Comes complete with 7 readings, although I think we only got 5 - interesting purely in mythological terms (all the readings go through the prophecies and tales foretelling Christ's sacrifice), and amazing spiritual affect.

Easter Sunday lunch we crammed 14 people around the table; more English food; had brought along a local (Remois) champagne, so we opened it up; ate deserts and chocolate for hours...

England, Holiday the Third (coming late June...?)