The weather is glorious, South Kensington is lovely, and we’re all determined to stay up and beat jet lag! I’ll post pictures later when I’ve found all my cords to download the camera. It’s been a fun morning, and the afternoon promises to be a delight as well. Tomorrow we go to Shakespeare’s Globe! I look forward to sharing all the fun details as we leap into our itinerary.
Well, we fly out of New York tomorrow night, so we’re in the last mad dash of packing and preparing here in Alabama. I look forward to sharing this trip with everyone who is following from Facebook and Twitter and my site’s newsletter. Thanks for your kind comments and for tagging along virtually!
My husband stopped in London on his way back from Sudan in late March and visited Brompton with WD-40 in hand. After thoroughly spraying the lock, the key turned as nicely as you please, and he got in!
He managed to shoot a short video of the crypt’s interior. If I can get it formatted properly, I’ll share it here. The good news was that he discovered the missing glass panel from the bottom of the door back behind one of the columns next to the altar table. It had not broken after all, accounting for the lack of shattered glass on the floor of the tomb. Apparently, it just came loose and fell off. Someone years ago must have stowed it safely in the back so it wouldn’t be broken. Matt doesn’t think it will be too hard to fix, so that might be a future project on another trip.
At any rate, it was great to have a happy ending to the crypt key story, and I thought you’d enjoy the update.
For years I’ve had requests from my pattern customers to lead a historical costuming tour to England. As a busy homeschooling mom, I just didn’t see that on the near horizon. But last year, my husband brought it up and said there’d probably never be a better time to go — one silver lining in the black cloud of a failing economy is the falling of travel costs and a better exchange rate for the American dollar. We also now have lots of older children who help run the household and need little help with their schooling, so my husband urged me to consider going in the fall of 2009.
I started researching the options and was surprised to find what an amazing, cost-effective travel package I could work out. My husband enthusiastically cheered me on, urging me to post on my message forum to see if there was enough interest to get together a good-sized group. Lo and behold, three days after posting, I had a completely full tour list and a waiting list to boot!
So this fall, I’ll be leading a group of 24 enthusiastic participants for a week in London. Half the participants will be staying on for a three-day extension to Bath for the opening of the Jane Austen Festival. My oldest son will be accompanying me as my assistant (and a very excited first-time visitor to Great Britain!).
To help cement all the items on the itinerary and make sure everything runs smoothly, I’m popping across the pond on March 5th with my baby, Benjamin, and our sweet 15-year-old neighbor, who will serve as my helper. We’ll be in London four days to meet with curators, hotel managers, and such. On the Saturday, we’ll take the train over to Bath to meet with folks there. It will be a whirlwind journey there and back, but I’ll be posting pictures here as often as I have WiFi access so my fall tour participants can see what’s coming in five months’ time!
Stay tuned for lots of fun images!
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.
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:
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!
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!
I’ve managed to let months slip by without posting the final days of our 2007 trip. I promise to bug Lindsay for the Saturday pictures so I can finish up! It is fun to look back and remember the trip highlights. My dear husband will be stopping through London on his way back from Africa later this month, and he plans to hit some of the same sights we enjoyed, including the British Museum! Fun!
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!
Finally! I’ve got the last of the pictures in the gallery. Hope you enjoy seeing our last day in wonderful England! Click below to access the album:
And I can’t resist sharing a photo to demonstrate how our trip to England has already influenced some changes here at home. They are simple but have really made a fun difference in our house! First, I painted our front door a deep, rich blue. Then, I had my dear husband hang two baskets that I filled with flowers. Finally, I planted some shrub roses (which you can’t see here). I took this picture shortly after this was completed; I’ll have to take a more recent one so you can see the flowers in the height of their glory! Little bits of England cling to us still….
P.S. – Whoops! I got a note from someone who said the Chatsworth photos would not enlarge. I figured out why and fixed the problem. Now you can click to get enlarged photos in that gallery. Thanks for letting me know, Lisa!