Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Scotland · Travel

Day 1 & 2- Flight Day & First Day at Sea

Lin and I left Albuquerque on Friday, July 19 and flew to Denver. On Saturday, July 20 we flew to Toronto, Canada and started our flight to London. We arrived at Heathrow on Sunday, July 21 at 11:50 AM! Whew! If you didn’t read my blog last week, you need to catch up and read that harrowing experience.

When we got off the plane (in travel lingo, is that deplaned?) and gathered our luggage, we had trouble finding the Norwegian Cruise Line representative to catch the shuttle to Southampton. As you actually enter the Heathrow airport, multitudes of travel companies, tours, etc. stand with signs designating their company on each side of a walk-way that passengers must pass through. We experienced this two years ago trying to find our transport to our hotel.

So, I stopped with our four cumbersome bags, and Lin wandered around one area and had no luck, then he went the other direction—again no luck. I asked someone standing near me, and they pointed out where NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines) reps usually stand, so we crossed over to the other side of the walk-way and still no NCL rep.

Again, I asked someone standing near the walk-way, and the woman said, “He’ll be right back!” So, we found him. Overwhelmed the NCL rep rushed in like a whirlwind and let us know he was short-handed and many flights had been delayed, so he was doing the best he could. Lin and I were just relieved to find him. The responsibility of transport was on Norwegian now, so we could relax.

I found some snacks for us. We hadn’t come prepared on this trip with foreign currency, and it just now dawned on both of us! We came with American dollars and would be in places in countries that didn’t accept our money! They did accept it at Heathrow though, so I returned to Lin, and we waited patiently.

Finally, the NCL rep herded our group out the door to the bus. At this time, it had grown to a sizable crowd. We found our bus, boarded and headed towards Southampton. I was so exhausted from our flight but so excited to be back in London again!

Yahooooooo! We made it!

The one hour and a half trip went smoothly, and we arrived at the Norwegian Star at 4:30 PM. Usually when we board the ship, the terminal overflows with people and activity—only one or two Norwegian people worked behind the desk. That was it! No picture of us boarding the ship!

One thing they did that was strange: they took our passports and said they would stamp them and return them to us later. Really?

Lin and I boarded the ship, found our room–#5078–and relaxed a moment but heard an announcement that we had to attend the “Emergency Training” in the Stardust theater on Deck 7! We took a breath and ran up to the training. The review of what to do in an emergency reminded me of the danger of sailing on a ship, and interestingly enough, we learned on this trip that the Titanic sailed out of Southampton on its fateful voyage, just like us! We found our designated spot to go to in case of an emergency and went upstairs to the buffet, Raffles, for our first meal of the day.

When we got back to our room, we unpacked and relaxed until the entertainment show at 7:30 PM, fully aware we hadn’t left port yet. We were supposed to leave at 5:00 PM, so we thought the cruise director would explain our delay at the show—she didn’t.

The show was an overview of the talent we would see on this cruise and they all were exceptional! Lin and I especially like the magician.

After the show, we slipped back to our room quickly and went to bed—exhausted from this marathon day.

On July 22, I slept until 8:00 AM. When I’m onboard a ship, I always look out the window first thing to see what I can see—we were sailing. We found out later Norwegian crew worked in scuba gear for hours, and the cruise was almost canceled, but we finally left port about 4:30 AM. Lin and I were so exhausted we never heard the ship pull away from the port. Lin was gone when I woke up—out walking the deck and enjoying the sea. I never heard him leave!

When he returned, we had a leisurely breakfast in Raffles, the buffet on the deck 12, one of the complimentary restaurants on the Star. In wandering around deck 12 and getting oriented again, we found the Game Room, so we played a couple Cribbage games, and Lin won. We continued our tour of the ship and had a delightful lunch in Windows, one of the complimentary restaurants onboard ship.

Lin’s $20 Chocolate

Anyone who knows Lin knows he loves chocolate. We went by the Tourist Shop onboard, and Lin bought a HUGE bar of Lindt chocolate. Shocked after he bought it, it cost $20. He rationed it out the whole trip, and we finished it in the airport in London waiting for our flight home.

At about 2:00 PM, we participate in one of our favorite onboard ship activities: Deal or No Deal. Neither one of us was chosen to play, but everyone who participates has a chance to be a winner, and Lin won a free 8 X 10 photo.

Afterwards, we went to the Excursion desk to put our names on a waiting list for Conwy Castle at Holyhead, Wales. It was sold out when we booked our excursion, so we signed up for Penrhyn Castle & Gardens as a second choice. The agent told us they would create another tour if enough people asked—we both really wanted to go to Conwy Castle because of the pictures we saw, and it all worked out!

After all this activity, Lin and I retired to our room, and he napped. I experimented with getting on the Internet and had some problems. I also worked on my current book project: the authorized biography of Marshall Flippo. Yes, I took Flippo with me on this cruise.

We ate dinner at Shogun’s, another complimentary restaurant for certain dishes, then went to the early show and saw Danielle Williams—energetic pop music singer!

Lin had heard they had coconut ice cream up at Raffles, so we ventured up to see. They didn’t have it, but they had a piña colada that was delicious. We went by the lounge for a short time and listened to the band, Hot Wire.

When we got back to the room, we tried the Internet again. Lin had a lot of trouble, and it was slow for me, so we gave up and went to bed.

The next day we had our first experience in Scotland—Edinburgh and the castle! We were both excited about the four ports in Scotland! Also, the next day started our marathon of ports and excursions—ten ports, ten excursions and no at-sea days in-between to catch up and rest! None of our previous cruises had this intense schedule!

So, next week I will share our Edinburgh adventures! Stay tuned!


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Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

Be the 200th to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography! You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like? Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42s

Dancing · Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance

Marshall Flippo’s Success–Luck or Not?

A Young Marshall Flippo

In one of our last interviews for Marshall Flippo’s biography, I asked him, “I have a question: if I was to ask you to describe yourself, how would you describe yourself?”

His short response, “Don’t ask me!” His humorous response made me laugh again, like so many times during these interviews. His sharp sense of humor caught me off guard regularly.

After a moment, he answered with a chuckle, “A little short squirt with lots of luck! That’s about it!”

         This topic tickled him and he added, “A little short squirt—after all, a lot of people didn’t know me when I had hair, but, anyway, a little short squirt with lots of luck!” I complimented him on his concise description but wondered about it. I have mused over it for months now.

         Flippo often referenced this thought about how lucky he was in relationship to all his life, not just his calling life and added, “I was at the right spot at the right time!”

         When Flip shared about his Navy assignments, he felt he was lucky to a “Baker and Cook” in the first couple years, and then to play baseball his last two years. When Flippo described his hitchhiking experiences between San Diego and Abilene after Basic Training, he felt it was luck that got him considerate people who picked him and his friend, Thurman Curry, up and helped them out so much.

         He often referred to himself as “the luckiest man in the world” to marry Neeca and praised her frugal nature and scheduling genius to make his calling career so successful.

         Standing back and looking at Flippo’s successful calling career, the threads of cause and effect weave their way through, but was it all luck?

         Neeca and Flip started square dancing in 1951, and he began calling in 1952 in a chicken coup, at a time there wasn’t much recorded calling. So, he agreed to be one of several dancers to memorize a song and call it. From this agreement, his career sprung and he started calling regularly.

         Calling careers, though, aren’t made overnight, so Flippo persisted. In 1957, two callers from Houston stopped by his dance in Abilene and heard him do “The Auctioneer,” a popular song at the time recorded by Leroy VanDyke. They suggested he connect with Norman Merrbach in Houston who owned Blue Star Records to record this song.

         So, he called Norman. When Norman heard the title of the song, he told Flip that callers wouldn’t like it because it had too many words to say. Flip let it go, and a few months later received another phone call from Norman saying, “Let’s record it!” They did and were able to do it on the first take, and his career took off from that one lucky phone call and visit from two strangers.

Kirkwood Lodge in Osage Beach, Missouri

         His luck continued that year. A bus driver who happened to drive graduating seniors to a resort in the Lake of the Ozark’s area, Kirkwood Lodge for their senior trips, stopped by one night in Abilene. Flip and Neeca were told: “Throughout the season, they square danced as the majority activity at this resort,” and the bus driver suggested Neeca and Flippo go.

         This was a turning point in Flip’s square dance career: they were getting burned out on square dancing and considered quitting, but this vacation became one of the luckiest trips they ever made. They went and had a great time, and returned for several years. In 1961 Flippo became the resident staff caller at Kirkwood Lodge for six months out the year. He did this for 42 years—a solid career choice and quite lucky, wouldn’t you say?

         His 42-year tour schedule became the next lucky piece of the puzzle. Visiting dancers coming to Kirkwood would ask Flippo to come to their hometown and call a dance or festival. Neeca managed this growing list and sizeable schedule and put together synchronized tours after Kirkwood’s six-month season that began in October. He went north, east, south and home for Christmas. After time home in Abilene, Texas, Flippo started the new year going through the Midwest, then back home, west, and back to Kirkwood to start the new season there in April.

         The backbone of these tours and his success lay in repeated weekend and week-long festivals that continued for thirty and forty years! At one time in his career, it took a club nine years to have Flippo call for them!

         Also from Kirkwood, Flippo became an international success, gaining fans across the seas. He toured Japan, Germany, Spain and England because of foreign dancers’ time at Kirkwood with Flip. Again, they wanted dancers back home to experience square dance Flippo-style!

         Another piece of the puzzle for Flippo’s success stemmed from the network of friends he made in the calling and dancing worlds. He treated people fairly which made him a Godsend to dance organizers. He connected deeply with many callers—so many that when we started this project of his biography, he wanted to tell stories on all his caller friends, and he dictated a list to me—he named 67 callers he wanted to tell a story about for the book. I’m sorry to say that we can’t include all of them because of size restraints.

Flippo’s calling career spanned sixty-four years. He recorded 100’s of records for several recording labels and he traveled extensively!

         Luck? Being at the right place at the right time? I don’t know about you, but I disagree with Flip. Yes, luck did have a hand in it. He flourished at a time when square dancing was in its heyday—he recalled easily that an event had 40 or 50 squares! But I’ve danced to him for years, and I enjoyed his choreography, his Burma Shave jingles he interwove in the patter and his friendly nature.

         All of our lives are about choices we make and how this choice today affects what happens tomorrow and the next day, unfolding into a life time. Flippo succeeded because he made some choices which like a domino effect, tumbled to the next success which tumbled to the next one! Yet, at the core of his success: he was in high demand because he was who he was–Marshall Flippo!

family · My Thoughts

DNA Testing—Why Do It?

I had toyed with doing the DNA testing on ancestry.com for years, but I didn’t know anyone who had done it, and I couldn’t see a reason to spend the money.

Lin and I with the driver of our bus on the Ring of Kerry Tour in Ireland, July, 2017

My husband, Lin, and I went to England and Ireland in July 2017 for my second cousin’s wedding in England. It was Lin’s dream to go to Ireland because of his Irish heritage, so we added the side trip to Ireland to this trip. I had no connections to Ireland, so I let Lin know before we left that the Irish side trip was for him; however, I enjoyed our trip through Ireland and loved the people.

When we returned home, we had a conversation with Lin’s brother-in-law and sister-in-law about genealogy. They oozed with enthusiasm over having just gotten their results from their DNA testing. As they described their experience, I grabbed my iPad, went to ancestry.com and ordered two DNA kits.

When they arrived, Lin and I did the tests at the same time—we each had to come up with enough spit to fill our individual container. As we continued, the vial seemed to grow bigger and my mouth dried up, but we finally finished it.

We had to wait for about six weeks, but finally, ancestry.com alerted us when the results were ready. I nonchalantly opened the file and deciphered the results. Lin did his at the same time—and mine shocked both of us!

I knew I had a strong English ancestry—my mom had done our genealogy for both sides of the family, and she had records for the Horner’s, my dad’s side, all the way back to our immigration from England.

I thought I had a strong German heritage. My Mom’s maternal grandparents were stow-aways from Germany, so I thought this would be the largest statistic.

No! My largest ethnicity group was England, Wales & Northwestern Europe with 36%, so that surprised me, but the big shock was the second largest group – Ireland & Scotland with 32%.

I shared my findings with Lin wondering what his were. Irish would be his biggest group for sure. His silence screamed his disbelief. I asked again. He hung his head and whispered, “I can’t believe this! You’re 32% Irish; I’m 25!”

My mouth fell open, then a belly laugh hit me hard! I was more Irish than Lin!

We have had lots of laughter about this new find, but I love the information I’ve received. We got our first results in August and then received an update in September—no the testing didn’t change. Ancestry.com came up with new data and refined our information.

There’s lots of new data. Ancestry recently announced that they have more than 10 million people in their DNA database. That large population allowed them to use 16,000 reference samples to develop their new ethnicity estimates (up from 3,000 reference samples from the previous estimates). This has allowed for refinements of the existing estimates, as well as the addition of new regions.”


https://www.legacytree.com/blog/6-things-you-need-to-know-about-ancestrydna-update

My DNA results changed from 36% to 70% England, Wales & Northwestern Europe, and but my Irish went down from 32% to 21%. My initial results cited Europe West (Germanic Europe, France) as 16%. The update lowered it to 9%.

Lin’s update erased any Irish heritage identified in the initial results. His original results listed twelve regions of ethnicity. Then his update did the same as mine. It shortened his list to four areas.; I had three.

I like the warning ancestry.com has, “Your results are up to date! Your DNA doesn’t change, but the science we use to analyze it does. Your results may change over time as the science improves.”

So, our laughter continued as we shared our new results. I playfully shared my newfound Irish heritage with family and friends any time I could.

Ancestry.com also chronicles the immigration of my families to the United States to two areas:

Central North Carolina, Southeast Missouri & Southern Illinois, more specifically the Carolina Piedmont Settlers, and Tennessee & Southern States, more specifically West Tennessee, Western Kentucky & Virginia-North Carolina Piedmont Settlers in 1700’s. Then our families migrated farther west over the years.

Another advantage to doing the DNA testing is I have had several new contacts with family members I didn’t know before.

On the original report, after the top three groups, I had 7% Scandinavia, 4% Iberian Peninsula, 2% Europe South, <1% Melanesia, <1% Europe East, and <1% Middle East, but these minor groups were eliminated with the update. Ancestry.com explains it this way: “More data and new methods of DNA analysis have given us a better picture of which DNA sequences are—or aren’t—associated with specific world regions. This means that some regions may not appear in your new estimate because:

  • a region has been replaced by a smaller region or multiple regions;
  • new data indicates that a region does not belong in your results.”

The updated report isolated my heritage to the three areas identified: England, Wales & Northwestern Europe, Ireland and Scotland and Germanic Europe.

All in all, I enjoyed the DNA testing and results. I look forward to how it might be updated and fine-tuned even more. I also anticipate finding new unknown relatives.

Have you done a DNA testing? If so, what happened?

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Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 23 Twenty-six Hour Trip Home

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Lin’s sad face as we wait for our flight at Heathrow

Travel lovers! This is the last blog about our Ireland/England trip. I hope you have enjoyed it.

We were up twenty-six hours coming home–why I did that I’ll never know. It was the only way to travel without a lay over in New York City or Chicago and then losing two days of our trip. As long as it was, it didn’t match our first day on this trip at all.

We ran into another storm in Chicago that delayed us out of La Guardia and Midway. We got home about midnight, so we were delayed about one hour.

Our connection at Heathrow went smoothly. We got up at 5:00 am, showered and dressed. We ate our last big traditional English breakfast in the hotel. We went back to our room, gathered our suitcases and waited for the taxi.

Lin was convinced my suitcase was over fifty pounds–it was only 46! So I could have bought more souvenirs. We weighed it at the Concierge’s booth at the hotel so I could repack in a second bag if need be.

The taxi came early at 7:00 am, so we left & that We gave us ample time to get through security. We boarded one hour early–Lin went to the bathroom right then, so we were some of the last to board, but we had assigned seats, so it didn’t matter.

I had someone sitting next to me that drank alcohol the whole way. I watched two movies: Hacksaw Ridge and Collateral Beauty–two movies I wanted to see. I couldn’t sleep, so I read, journaled about the trip and played games on my iPad.

Somehow at Midway airport in Chicago, we got confused and ended up running to our gate which ended up being the farthest away. We came sailing to our gate and passengers there stopped us–there was a delay.

We boarded but sat for nearly an hour on the runway because of a storm. I did sleep on this flight.

We were beyond exhausted when we got home, and driving on the right side of the road seemed strange now.

I wore a St. Christopher medal the whole trip and I’m sure we received his care along the way.

My husband, Lin, is a blast to travel with anywhere we go. This trip will go down as one of the best.

I didn’t write or read once on our three week trip–usually I do three pages each morning of “Morning Pages” suggested by Julia Cameron in The Artist Way, but I did write this summary of the travel events of that long day home from my Morning Pages.

We’re now planning our next trip back to England and Ireland–our hearts were captured by the people, the scenery and the history.

Have you ever had a travel day like this? What happened?

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Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 21 Lavenham

Back to the last three days of our magical trip to Ireland and England.

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At Meghan and Mike’s wedding, we were asking locals about sights to see around Bury St. Edmunds, and someone suggested Lavenham, “noted for its 15th-century church, half-timbered medieval cottages and circular walk. In the medieval period it was among the 20 wealthiest settlements in England.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavenham

They also said it’s only about twenty minutes away, so we took a winding road from Bury St. Edmunds to Lavenham–what a delightful time we had.

The looming architectural presence on arrival was St. Peter and Paul’s Church.

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St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church – Lavenham

The grounds are covered with crosses and graves. A sign greets you at the door: “Welcome to this Holy Place where people have worshipped and prayed for over 600 years.” The inside was massive and beautiful. I loved the stained glass windows and handcrafted cushions on the pews. The grandeur of the place was overwhelming and took my breath away.

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In the corner by the front door, Lin and I were surprised to see an American flag. This plaque explains its presence there:

IMG_4708.JPGAfter parking the car, we walked through this amazing town with medieval buildings and modern cars side-by-side.

IMG_4721.JPGOur next stop was the Guildhall of Corpus Christi – “By the late 15th century, Lavenham was at the centre of the East Anglian wool trade and had become one of the richest towns in England. To reflect this prosperity, four guilds were established in the town by the local merchant families. The most important of these was the wool guild, which founded the Guildhall of Corpus Christi in 1529.[2] Given the dominance of the cloth and wool trade, the guildhall soon came to function as Lavenham’s principal meeting place and centre of business, situated on the town’s thriving market place.

With the decline of the wool trade and Lavenham’s prosperity, the guildhall’s role changed. By 1689, and until 1787, the guildhall was in use as the Bridewell (a prison for petty offenders such as a reform school), and was then used as the workhouse.

It was restored by Sir William Quilter around 1911 and in 1946 given to the people of Lavenham. In 1951 it became the property of the National Trust for England and is today open to the public.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavenham_Guildhall

Here we saw our first preserved cat–the British have a belief about cats.

Afterwards, we went to the plaza and found a hidden tea room, the Lavenham Blue Vintage Tea Rooms, for a full British Tea and scones. We relaxed on the patio and enjoyed the respite.

Our next stop was the Little Hall – “One of the oldest buildings in the best preserved of the Suffolk wool towns, this 14th century house was built for the Causton family of clothiers and its subsequent development has mirrored the changing fortunes of Lavenham.

Little Hall was restored by the Gayer-Anderson brothers who filled the house with art and artefacts collected during their extensive travels.”

http://suffolkmuseums.org/museums/Museums/little-hall-museum/

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Lavenham Little Hall was an Evacuation Centre for children being moved during World War II, and the children slept in the dormitory. Here are two portraits of children saved there.

The end the day we did a walking tour of Lavenham, seeing many examples of medieval architecture–the most notable to me was the Crooked house.

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Crooked House – Lavenham

We so enjoyed this step back in history.

Have you ever visited a medieval village? Do you like history? Let me know your thoughts.

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Ireland & England · Travel

Day 20 Train Trip to Cambridge

Our family met at the train station in Bury St. Edmund’s and rode the train to Cambridge–about a 45 minute trip. I loved looking at the lush green countryside as we whizzed by.

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Train Station in Bury St. Edmund’s

On the train ride, we passed by Newmarket, famous for “Newmarket has over fifty horse training stables, two large racetracks, the Rowley Mile and the July Course and one of the most extensive and prestigious horse training grounds in the world.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newmarket,_Suffolk

This was exciting for me to see–a country girl at heart!

After we arrived in Cambridge, a group of us walked to the main part of Cambridge and others rode the bus. Seeing all the beautiful buildings as we walked was awesome. Again as in Oxford, there were bikes everywhere.

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Bikes–The Preferred Means of Transportation

Look at how narrow the streets are!

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Narrow Streets

Cambridge is made up of several colleges, like Oxford.

Here’s Trinity College:

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We continued our walk and saw other colleges along the way. Then part of our group decided go “punting.”

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Our Group Punting

“A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water. Punting refers to boating in a punt. The punter generally propels the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole. A punt should not be confused with a gondola, a shallow draft vessel that is structurally different, and which is propelled by an oar rather than a pole.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punt_(boat)

“The River Cam runs through the heart of Cambridge enabling you to enjoy fantastic views of the world famous Cambridge College ‘Backs’ from the comfort of a traditional Cambridge Punt.”

https://www.visitcambridge.org/things-to-do/punting-bus-and-bike-tours/punting-tours

While the group was punting, Lin, my cousin Meghan and I roamed around Cambridge and had a delicious lunch.

When the group got back together, part of us did a walking tour of Cambridge and saw more of the colleges: King’s College, Corpus Christi College, and Christ’s Church College. We were across the river from Christ’s Church College–what a spectacular view!

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Christ’s Church College

The tour guide told us that Steve Hawkings was often seen around Cambridge, and I would have loved to see him, but we didn’t. We did see Claire College and Trinity College a second time.  We also saw St. John’s College. We ended the tour with the historic Church of the Holy Sepulchre, known as the Round Church, and was built in 1130.

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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

After a stop at a pub along the way for refreshment and relaxation, we walked back to the train station and made it back to Bury St. Edmund’s safely. What a memorable day in Cambridge!

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Have you ever been to Cambridge? If so, what was your experience? I would love to hear about your experience there!

Blogging · Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 16 – Stonehenge & Bath

Wow! It’s been over a month since I blogged–please forgive me! Life got in the way.

I had been anticipating Stonehenge for the whole trip because it was one of my favorite destinations on our list. So, it was up early again, a walk down the crowded escalator to get to the Tube, on to Victoria Station and breakfast at the Starbuck’s.

Realizing our tour bus was a double-decker, we watched as the first people out the door pushed, shoved and rushed upstairs to the top level. When we approached the bus, Lin and I ducked inside the lower level and landed the front seat on the left side with lots of leg room, a spacious window to see out at eye-level, and our own shelf to put our bags and drinks. We lucked out!

The tour guide, John, noted famous sights as we drove through and out of London. He had a great sense of humor and was knowledgeable. The two hour drive took us out into the English lush countryside again.

Now about Stonehenge:

“Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, 2 miles (3 km) west of Amesbury. It consists of a ring of standing stones, with each standing stone around 13 feet (4.0 m) high, 7 feet (2.1 m) wide and weighing around 25 tons. The stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.[1]

Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC,[2] although they may have been at the site as early as 3000 BC.[3][4][5]”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge

Driving into to the Stonehenge Visitors Center, we passed fields and cattle grazing–not what I’d thought I’d see near Stonehenge. John encouraged us to use the self-guided tour provided. We had limited time, so we used the bathroom, got on the shuttle and dashed to the site.

My first sighting of Stonehenge sent a shiver down my spine–I was standing near one of the wonders of the world. The layout of the self-guided tour and the walkway around Stonehenge was circular, starting at a distance from the back of the stones.

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I took tons of pictures with my camera and my iPhone. Here’s one of my favorites:

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Me Touching Stonehenge

We enjoyed watching young adults set themselves up so that their photos looked like they were touching Stonehenge so we tried it.

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Front Side Close

We listened to the audio, took more pictures and moved in closer on the front side. The information shared on the audio was informative.

Because we had spent as much time as possible at the stones, we rushed to get back to the tour bus and didn’t have any time to shop for souvenirs–OH, NO! It broke my heart not to have a t-shirt or hat with the Stonehenge logo on it, but the pictures I took became my souvenirs.

From there we drove to Bath, seeing thatched roofs and a patchwork quilt of green  and gold fields.

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Crystal Palace in Bath

We ate lunch at the Crystal Palace.

People congregated in the square in front of the Bath Abbey.

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We did a walking tour at 2:30 pm with John. I had dressed in my rain coat but Lin didn’t, so he left us when the rain started. There was a downpour but we kept touring. My rain coat kept my camera and wool sweater dry, but my capris, socks and shoes were soaked.

Lin and I met back up–me totally soaked and him dry and looking sheepish.

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At 3:30 pm we did a self-guided tour of the Roman Baths. Again we had to rush because of time restraints. On our walk back to the bus, Lin found ice cream and we saw Ann-Marie, our tour guide for Stratford. I gave her a quick hug.

We had a two hour drive back to London–a relaxing drive. I love our drive through the English countryside.

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There were several stops a long the way to let passengers off, and we were the last off the coach at Victoria Station. We rode the Tube back towards our hotel and received a refund from Oyster Card for four pounds. After a leisure walk towards our hotel, we ate dinner at The Swan, a local restaurant and shared Fish and Chips.

I spent that evening repacking my suitcase and surprised Lin that everything fit. This day ended our week in London. The next day we would pick up our rental car and drive to Bury St. Edmunds for my cousin’s wedding.

Have you seen Stonehenge? Bath? the Roman Baths? What was your experience? I would love to hear about your experience.

See more of my writing at my web site:

https://www.laradasbooks.com

Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 15 – Free Day in London – Museum & the West Side

That title sounds like a laid-back day in London, but we packed as much as possible into our free days in London.

On this second free day in London, I woke up jazzed up–Les Miserable on the West End of London. I never thought I would have that privilege!

We savored our big English breakfast and made our way back to the Charles Dickens’ museum via the Tube and a enjoyable walk–another adventure on the Tube enjoying the people and the sights. We had learned the route on Monday when the museum was closed, so this was much easier.

So our first stop of the day was 48 Doughty Street in Holborn, London, Borough of Camden–the Charles Dickens’ museum which is a Victorian house where he lived from 25 March 1837 to December 1839.

To any Charles Dickens’ fan, the museum is a must and full of ah-ha moments on three stories. Memorabilia abounded so I took lots of pictures.

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48 Doughty Street – Charles Dickens’ Museum

The china laid out on the dining room table was so unique. Each plate had a picture and a name you might know: Charles Dickens, Daniel Maclise, William M. Thackeray, Catherine Dickens, and John Forster.

Because I’m a writer too, I loved his desk and chair–the place where he created those memorable characters and places.

Charles Dickens’ Desk and Chair

Each room was filled with personal items of Dickens–the nursery upstairs was the saddest. It housed the grille from the Marshalsea prison where Dickens’ father spent time. Many of Dickens’ books echoed the effect of his father’s imprisonment and the resulting poverty faced as a child.

In the last room on the third floor we saw many of Dickens’ famous quotes artistically displayed.

Up and down the stairs we went. When we finished seeing every display, we relaxed in a quaint cafe in the museum with tea and sweets.

We hated to say good-bye but we had ticketed to “Les Miserables” and needed to move on. We walked back to the Tube, enjoying the sights and sounds of London. We took the Piccadilly line to the West End.

Lots of theaters and lots of people. I had fun taking my picture with 2 Bobbies.

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Two Friendly Bobbies Stop to Take a Picture With Larada!

From here, we headed over to the Queen’s Theater to see “Les Miserables.” I saw the sign a block or so away and the anticipation mounted. I couldn’t believe I was really here in London’s West End to see an amazing play!

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The line was long to get into the theater, but some friendly Londoners let us in up front with them and visited with us. Inside the theater, a young couple seated next to us offered to our pictures.

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Lin and Larada in the Queen’s Theater

The play truly outdid the version I saw here in the States. After a double encore, an Evacuation Alarm went off which was so scary with the terrorist activity that had gone in London a few months before. People moved quickly to get out–no one knew the danger level but all acted as if there was a real threat. A crying little girl next to me got separated from our mother and grandmother and I helped her move up in the line. Doing that, I, myself, got separated from Lin a little, and it was frightening.

When we got outside, someone kiddingly said, “That’s a great way to clear out a theater for the next performance.” I asked several people around if that was usual and they all assured and said no. We never heard an explanation of the alarm.

We headed back to our hotel and walked to street near us that had several eateries. We ate at the Ristorante Italiano because the hocker outside was so entertaining. Inside we enjoyed a personable waitress during our delicious dinner and dessert.

We hadn’t made it to Hyde Park yet but had passed by it every time we went to the Tube, so we dashed over there. It was too dark to stay long and see much of the park, but the grounds were breathtaking with colorful flowers and fountains.

It was a long FREE day in London and we made the most of it for sure, but I fell on the bed when we got back to our room. We needed a good night’s sleep because tomorrow was another fun-filled day out of London to see my most anticipated site–Stonehenge and then on the Bath to see the Roman Baths.

Are you a Charles Dickens’ fan? If so, which is your favorite? Do you like Broadway plays? If so, which is your favorite? I’d love to hear back from you.

Larada’s website:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 14 – Tour Day: Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick Castle & Oxford

When we first started our plans for this trip, I knew in my heart of hearts that I must go to William Shakespeare’s birthplace and home–Stratford-upon-Avon. I was an English major in college and took upper level Shakespeare classes from a world renowned professor at Colorado State University. Some semesters I lived, eat and breathed Shakespeare, so this was a dream come true.

Immediately, I knew our day was off to a right start. After our regular big English breakfast and trip on the Tube to Victoria Station to meet up with our tour bus, we had a fantastic tour guide, Ann- Marie Walker. This was our first tour day out of London and she quickly shared pertinent information about sights and streets in London as we passed–she didn’t waste a moment. We passed Harrod’s and red double-decker tour buses. Her knowledge was amazing.

Soon after leaving London and the city life, we traveled by lush green pastures fenced off with rock walls with cattle grazing and golden wheat fields.

When we arrived in Stratford-upon-Avon, we went straight to the Guild Hall where William attended classes. Emotions overcame me, and I cried–I was standing where William Shakespeare had gone to class. Ann-Marie said she wished more people enjoyed this as much as I did.

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The Guild Hall and Shakespeare’s Classroom in Stratford-upon-Avon

At the Guild Hall, we sat in on a classroom with a teacher dressed in full period garb who treated us as Shakespeare would have been treated. The grade levels were mixed and the older students helped the younger students.

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The Teacher in Shakespeare’s Classroom

We walked by where Shakespeare’s last home was, but it had been leveled.

I loved the main street, lined with hanging colorful flowers. Mimes entertained the people as the passed.

From there we went to Shakespeare’s home where he was born.

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Larada in Shakespeare’s Home

We continued our walk through downtown and what a festive atmosphere. I enjoyed one specific mime. We passed him once and then came back by–how amazing they are to stand perfectly still yet communicate with you. He and I had fun playing with each other.

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This Mime Flirted With Me!

We took a break and I had a rhubarb pastry and latte at a Cornish bakery–absolutely delicious! Lin shopped for sweets and our time ended there–my most favorite part of our trip so far!

From there we bussed to Warwick Castle, “a medieval castle developed from an original built by William the Conqueror in 1068.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warwick_Castle)

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Warwick Castle

Lin and I toured the State Rooms together, then Lin went exploring on his own. We had a limited time there and I didn’t want to rush. He towered the tower, the gaol and the dungeon. I leisurely shopped and took pictures of the courtyard and enjoyed the day.

The courtyard was brimming with people dressed in period costumes–Lin found one fair maiden.

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What a fair maiden!

Here I am outside the castle in stocks!

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In stocks for sure!

From Warwick Castle we drove through the Cotswolds to Oxford. The Cotswolds is “an area in south central England containing the Cotswold Hills, a range of rolling hills which rise from the meadows of the upper Thames to an escarpment, known as the Cotswold Edge, above the Severn Valley and Evesham Vale. The area is defined by the bedrock of Jurassic limestone that creates a type of grassland habitat rare in the UK and that is quarried for the golden coloured Cotswold stone.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotswolds)

We passed by fields of verdant pastures with sheep grazing and wheat fields. We saw thatched roof houses in small villages. Ann-Marie told us that the villages were expensive to live in and that thatched roofs were coming back. It was delightful afternoon’s drive where I reveled in the scenery.

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The Cotswolds

Our final stop for the day was Oxford–the city of bicycles! Ann-Marie warned us to be cautious about the bicyclists, not the drivers.

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Bikes, bikes and more bikes!

Oxford is “known worldwide as the home of the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world.[9] Buildings in Oxford demonstrate notable examples of every English architectural period since the late Saxon period. Oxford is known as the “city of dreaming spires”, a term coined by poet Matthew Arnold.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford). There are 38 colleges as a part of the University of Oxford.

We toured around Christ Church, “a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Christ Church is a joint foundation of the college and the Cathedral of the Oxford diocese (Christ Church Cathedral and its Cathedral School), which serves as the college chapel and whose dean is ex officio the college head.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_Church,_Oxford)

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Christ Church

After our outside tour of Christ Church, we shopped and enjoyed the downtown area. Our first tour day outside of London was a smashing success. Exhausted and full of travel stories, we traveled back on the Tube to our hotel and relaxed in our room. We thoroughly enjoyed Ann-Marie and sights of the day.

Have you ever been to a place that brought you to tears? Share a comment below.

Check out my web site at:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

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Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 12 A Tour of London

We woke up early for our first day in London and had breakfast down stairs in our hotel–a full English breakfast.

We had to catch The Tube and then walk to Victoria Station to find our tour bus. Lin’s experience on the subway in New York City really helped. The nearest station to us was about a 7 – 10 minute walk. The pre-paid Oyster card provided by our tour guide helped ease us into the routine. The walk down into where we caught The Tube consisted of an elevator and an escalator-down, down, down. When we found our platform, we didn’t wait long. I enjoyed our uneventful trip on The Tube and our pleasant walk to Victoria Station–I worried a little if we were going the right direction but we were–thanks to Lin’s great navigation skills.

When we arrived at Victoria Station, we had time to grab a Starbucks and relax some. I needed the bathroom and I had “to pay to pee.”

The crowded queue area for all the tour buses felt overwhelming, and there were lots of buses lined up ready to take willing tourists all over London and England. We found our line and bus and waited.

The jam-packed tour filled our whole day: we saw Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, 10 Downing Street, and drove down White Hall. We saw the famous Big Ben and Parliament.

Our tour guide timed our visit to Buckingham Palace perfectly so we could see the changing of the guard. The soldiers going off duty were the Irish Guard. Those coming on duty wore the Scottish gear with the big hairy helmets. The huge crowd waited patiently. Our tour guide used a unique flag to find her–a skull and crossbones. She waved it high and was easy to find, but we still lost two women. The sculptured flower gardens took our breath away–bright colors, manicured lawns and decorative pillars and statutes.

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From there we bussed to Tower of London for a lunch of Fish and Chips. We toured the Tower and saw the Crown Jewels–OMG!! Again the crowds were massive.

The next part of the tour was a cruise on the River Thames–what a relaxing jaunt! Seeing London from the river gave us a great vantage spot. Our tour ended with a ride on the London Eye, an over-sized ferris wheel on the edge of the River Thames.

I’m not normally afraid of heights, but that ride was a little daunting. We could easily see the Parliament building and Big Ben from the ride. The individual compartments could hold about 10 – 15 people, so I could walk from side to side and take pictures. We had a clear 360 degree view of London. The river laced in both directions–it was awesome. The scariest part for me hit at the top of the ride and then when we started down the other side–I felt protected when we traveled up, but when we were going down, I felt vulnerable and exposed. It truly is the Daddy of them all for a ferris wheel ride.

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The London Eye behind us & across the River Thames

When we finished the ride, we walked across the bridge near Big Ben for The Tube Westminster station to get back to our hotel–it was more involved than the straight shot to Victoria Station, but Lin handled it masterfully. Again we had to go down into the bowels of London to access The Tube–musicians played at a variety of spots. We made the connection back to Victoria Station and then back to the stop near our hotel.

Before going to our room, we talked to Charlotte, the hotel clerk, about seeing a play in the West End on our next free day on Wednesday. She helped us book tickets for “Les Miserables” at the Queen’s Theater in the West End–I was so excited.

A friend from home suggested we see a play in the famous West End of London before we left–I hadn’t thought of it with all we were going to see, but I knew we had to do it.

We had a leisure dinner in the neighborhood and a restful evening in our room after a busy, busy day. We knew we needed to rest up for tomorrow, our free day in London. Lin studied the map of The Tube and laid out our route to get to our destination for the next day–the Charles Dickens museum and the British Museum.

Have you ever been to London? What was your favorite sight?

Check out my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com