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February 26, 2009

Rochester: Part II

After the wonderful tour of the castle (and a quick stop in the gift shop for treats for my children!), we headed back down the hill toward the Cathedral. Through a side door, you enter the ruins of the old abbey, seen in the photo at left. There is a beautiful garden through the lower archway, complete with splendid English roses. Somehow we didn’t manage photos of those, but we were in a hurry for tea and a little rest, so we continued across the broad, green lawn into the cozy little tea room.

The tea room is an unpretentious, easygoing place built into a house that has served the church for over 200 years. They offer the usual scones and clotted cream with preserves and had a variety of teas available. We sat down to enjoy our little repast and chat about what we wanted to do next.

Yes, they do serve tea on plastic trays in England… ;-)

We knew we wanted to see the two big used bookshops in Rochester before heading back to London, but we weren’t sure where to start. The main street isn’t very long, so we wandered back down it until we stumbled across the first place, a little hole in the wall absolutely crammed to the ceiling with books. The proprietor let us browse, and we found many bargains (100-year-old Dickens’ editions for a pound!). Purchases in hand, we moved on down the street to an OxFam shop–akin to an American Goodwill. There were a few books, but nothing really tempted us there. We were beginning to wonder if we’d find the big store our hostess had told us about when we bumped into it at the end of the street. We entered two stories of antique book bliss! I found several volumes of 19th-century adventure stories for my son and regretfully walked away from expensive, leather-bound editions of favorite classics. It was dreamy just to browse!

But time marched on, and we knew we had to catch the bus back to our train to make it to London before it was too late. We bade a fond farewell to lovely Rochester and enjoyed a drowsy journey back to London, looking over our literary treasures and storing up memories.

Next morning we attended church with my friends in Dulwich, then joined them for lunch in their home and a restful afternoon of visiting and (of course!) tea:

Sitting with our wonderful hostess, Sarah J.

Lindsay and Sarah sip and rest.

Enjoying a marvelous afternoon.

Here are Sarah and Lindsay with our friends Carol and Dawn. The lovely young lady between Sarah and Lindsay was staying with our host family as a helper after the birth of their baby. A native of Australia, she was a delight to get to know!

All in all, we had a wonderful time. We headed back to Southwark for a late afternoon meal with Suzi, then began packing up for the trip home next day. Before turning in that night, though, we had a wild hair to go see Piccadilly Circus at night. I admit the idea was mostly fueled by fun images from yesteryear when the circus was akin to Times Square with all its lights and shops. So Carol, Dawn, Sarah, Lindsay, and I hopped a night bus and took off. Piccadilly didn’t quite live up to that vintage mental image, but we still had fun, doing some last-minute shopping for family and friends at the tourist traps all around us.

Next morning the girls and I said our good-byes and headed to Heathrow, and I posed for a last-minute picture with Dawn, Carol and Suzi:

The only other funny incident I must record is that Lindsay decided to wear flip-flops to the airport and ended up losing one between the tube and the station platform — it does say, “Mind the Gap” everywhere you look, and Lindsay’s flip-flop went straight down, never to be seen again. She spent the rest of the ride going through her suitcase for another pair of shoes! It really does pay to wear a good, comfy, sturdy pair of shoes for all journeys through London’s transport system. ;-)

At any rate, we did make it to our gate at Heathrow (after one wrong tube choice and long check-in lines) and flew back safe and sound to the US. And all of us look forward to future adventures in Great Britain!

September 20, 2007

Two days in England!


Well, we made it. Our flight over was delayed two hours, which put us at Heathrow past the time to catch our train up to the Cotswolds. We managed to breeze through Customs (no line) and haul everything to the train station to catch the Express to Paddington. Once there, we found that the next train up to Moreton-in-Marsh would leave in 45 minutes. We decided to call Barry (the Keens’ cousin) to see if he was still planning to meet us at the station in the Cotswolds. No answer. What to do? Well, we did what any intrepid American tourists would do: We hopped the next train, not knowing what we’d find at the other end but determined not to give up our trip to the Cotswolds! After 1 1/2 hours, we stepped onto the platform and were thrilled to see Barry’s smiling face. He had already met three trains to see if we were there, bless him. He promptly packed us into his car and drove us the 8 miles to Chipping-Campden for our whirlwind tour!

We walked the village, meeting up with Monica (a cousin-in-law), who had stayed behind in case we might show up. Barry and Monica are such a delight to be with. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we explored nooks and crannies, and we had a special treat when we visited St. James’s Church–a group of “bell ring changers” had showed up to ring the eight bells. If I remember correctly, they were ringing a Treble Bob Major, which involves mathematical changes of the eight notes to produce a very celebratory set of rings (if you’ve read Dorothy Sayers’ mystery, The Nine Tailors, then you know all about these famous ringers!). They rang the bells for three hours without slackening. It sounded like a wedding was taking place! I got the bells on video, and I’ll try to post that later when I figure out how to format it! At right is a picture of Lindsay and Sarah with their English relations!

And below is a photo of Lindsay and Sarah inside the town sheep market. Barry is looking up at the roof!


St. James’s Church is where several Keen ancestors were baptized and buried. Many other persons of note are buried there beneath elaborate effigies. We enjoyed viewing some altar hangings that had been embroidered in the 1300-1400s. They had faded considerably (no photography allowed), but the handwork was still beautiful to behold. We chatted with the rector on duty and his wife, both of whom knew much about the church and those buried there. After leaving the church, we visited the antiques shop that is in the site of the old “Live and Let Live Pub” (famous in Keen ancestry!). We purchased some gifts and thoroughly enjoyed poking about in all the corners. Finally, Barry treated us to a delicious dinner at the Eight Bells pub. The girls and I had bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes in rich onion gravy–oh, it was so good!).

Finally, Barry drove us back to Moreton-in-Marsh to catch an evening train into London. After waiting for a few minutes at the station, we heard the bell change ringers start up in the nearby chapel! They had followed us. Delightful! Finally, our train for Paddington showed up (late). We had to change trains at Oxford, then pulled into Paddington around 10:30pm. I’d already called Suzi (our hostess) to let her know we were running late, and she was able to tell us which bus to catch to reach her house. After missing our stop, we jumped out at the next one to find my friends Carol and Dawn waiting to escort us to Suzi’s. Hurrah! We crashed into bed around midnight (at least I did–the girls were up a bit longer!).

Later I’ll tell you what we did in London today! We’ve walked and walked and seen so many things. Here’s one teaser:

This is the “Golden Dome” of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The girls and I climbed 420 steps up to the very top for a 360-degree view of London! Oh, my, are we worn out! And it was 420 steps back down, you’ll remember! Whew!! But well worth it…even if just to say you’ve done it! More later!

August 30, 2007

To England again!


My amazing husband has had to travel quite a bit this year, both internationally and around the States. I’ve not minded and have always been delighted to see his photographs and hear stories from places as diverse as Sudan and Scotland! But Matt felt that he needed to repay me by sending me back over to England to see my friends there and take a few days enjoying the sights. At first, I protested. I could not imagine going overseas alone! But Matt urged me to take the trip and said I could ask Melissa’s younger sister, Lindsay–also a dear friend–to go along! Well, I put that thought on a back burner, but I still didn’t see this trip happening. It was a lovely thought, but I still had apprehensions.

Yet when ticket prices dropped to an unheard of low, I decided to pounce. Travelzoo is wonderful! Prices were so low, in fact, that Lindsay’s younger sister, Sarah, could also come along! We’re going to be able to stay with a fellow costumier in London and see my friend Sarah (who brought the lovely picnic to St. James’s Park last fall!). Then we got an unexpected bonus. Two of my long-time pattern customers and costume aficionados will be in London at the same time! We will be able to spend several evenings together, gabbing about sewing and patterns and sipping English tea. So exciting!

I don’t think I’ll do any “live blogging” this trip, but I’ll certainly post pictures when we return. We’ll be there for just five days, since I still have a hard time imagining going away from home without all my little folks! Lindsay, Sarah, and I are breaking in our walking shoes, since we plan to see the sights in London mainly on foot (we’re praying for dry weather!). We’ll also be able to take the train into the Cotswolds to see their ancestral home and zip through Kent to Dover another day. We’re looking forward to this special trip!