I have finally managed to sort through all of my pictures from my holiday, and I promise not to show you all 658 of them. But if you have a some time, and have not yet grown weary of my travel tales, grab some popcorn and a sody-pop. Here's my slideshow.
We started off with London, and I've already bored you with my family in front of Big Ben, and all my theatre ramblings. Being able to explore the city without a child in tow was really wonderful. We took several walking tours: London Walks had a great selection. The tours really help you learn a lot more about the area, and see things you never would have noticed before. I highly recommend walking tours anywhere you go.
Our Royal Westminster tour guide got us to a fabulous spot to see not only the approach of the old guard (above) but then ran us around to see the approach of the new guard for the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. The actual "changing" part takes place behind a wall, and you can't see anything, so getting really close to the palace is not advantageous. The highlight of the tour was Westminster Abbey (I was not allowed to take pictures inside, but that's the family in front of it at the top of this post) The amount of royalty (including Saint Edward) and other famous dead buried in the church is astounding. It made me think of how we Americans get so creeped out by graveyards and such, and yet nearly every church in England is full of crypts, and you can't walk inside without walking over someone's remains. And it's not a lack of respect to stand over the grave. You could see the tourists nearly leaping off the places they realized were graves, until they realized just about every place you could walk was a grave.
Another highlight in London was the Tower of London. We enjoyed the tour given (at no extra charge) by a Yeoman Warder (commonly known as a "Beefeater" - they are not entirely sure where this nickname came from, perhaps from the rations of beef this special part of the Royal army received). We saw the crown jewels, which were, you know, sparkly and all. The history here is truly fascinating. My husband is a history geek (and a church geek, which we also saw lots of), so this trip was a dream for him. Usually on a vacation he likes to sit around with a good (history) book, but on this vacation he was Mr. Tour Guide himself (which worked perfectly for me, because I like to GO and DO on vacation). We had watched the (not so good) Showtime series "The Tudors," and so have been talking a lot about the various Kings and Queens who used the Tower grounds.
The White Tower was the Royal residence for many years, although had been long ago turned into an armory (which is what is mostly on display in there now). Several years ago I played Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare's Richard III, and this would have been where the historical people actually lived. We went into the "bloody tower" where the 2 young princes were likely killed on Richard's orders in his maneuvering for the throne (although apparently that is up for debate. Richard was likely not nearly as bad as Shakespeare paints him to be, but then again, Shakespeare was writing the play during the time of Elizabeth I, the granddaughter of Richard's overthrower. More on Richard later) I should have included this photo in my previous Theatre Geek post, as just walking through the castle and grounds was a real feast for my theatrial imagination.
I've already written about our afternoon in Cambridge and meeting Ewe. We then spent 5 days staying at a resort in Sherwood Forest with the entirety of my Dad's side of the family. It was a really great time, helped by my complete domination over my siblings and cousins at the poker table 3 nights straight (Texas Hold 'Em, and too bad we weren't playing for real money because I would have stopped wincing every time I did the math for the exchange rate in my head. The dollar is WEAK, my friends). We stayed in a villa with my uncle's neice and family - Brits. Their 7 year old daughter was fantastic with The May Queen, and we really enjoyed getting to know them and hanging out. The resort had a great pool and waterslide area, canoeing on the lake, my husband took some classes in falconry (which he LOVED! No pictures of that, though.) We enjoyed feeding the ducks, and one day MQ exclaimed "England is so fun! I hope we come back LOTS!" Feeding the ducks. No sense of history, that kid. ;)
We had really sold MQ on the whole Robin Hood concept pre-vacation, so couldn't be in Sherwood Forest without playing Robin Hood.We also went one day to the Robin Hood festival, which, other than a cute interactive play, was very disappointing. It was like a poorly organized, too spread out version of our Renassaince Festivals. We were disappointed, and had hoped for more, but my husband later realized that here in the states that's what all the people who really love that sort of thing do - the festivals. In England those people can get a job at any of the myriad of Castles and such all over the country, and spend their lives making bows and arrows, leading tours, singing songs, etc.We took an afternoon trip to Lincoln to see the Cathedral and Castle there. We managed to hook up with a tour of the Cathedral, which was very interesting (I tell you, take the tours!!) My favorite tidbit from that tour was learning about the stone masonry: how the masons would be put to work, being told things like "make flowers over these doorways" and you could see where the more skilled masons worked, and where they would try to show off, and such. Also, all the art in the cathedral was designed to make the people who saw it (but couldn't read) think about their faith, including the famous "Lincoln Imp" - a stone devil to remind us that evil is everywhere, even in the church, but that ultimately it will be overthrown (the imp is below an angel).
When we left Sherwood Forest we went to Coventry (on the way there MQ got car sick - damn roundabouts!). We walked around the old cathedral, destroyed by a bomb during WWII, and also the new one they have built. This statue, "Reconciliation," is found within the old cathedral. We found it powerful that they left the ruins and built a new cathedral right next to it. My husband wondered about whether we need to do more of that, as a reminder of what is lost, particularly in our area as we rebuild after Katrina. Would it be powerful to leave some things in ruin as a memorial and as a reminder not only of the things that were lost, but also of the serious consequences of a lack of human responsibility.
We stayed a few days with my aunt and uncle in a small English town, Market Bosworth. Nearby is Bosworth Battlefield, where Richard III was killed by Henry VII, the last major battle in the War of the Roses. This is MQ and her daddy walking through a wheat field to Richard's standard, flying where they think his army was camped (I promised you more on Richard, did I not?). When I first visited England at 10 years of age they were remembering the 500th anniversary of the battle, which was pretty cool. And my aunt happened to visit me when I was performing in Richard III, and brought all sorts of stuff to us from the battlefield.
Before leaving Market Bosworth my whole family (minus my cousin's wife, who was down with the stomach bug that I got whacked with upon our return) worshiped in the local church, parts of which date back to the 1200's. It was really great to have the whole family together, and to be in a place where Christians have gathered for 800 years. Pretty astonishing, and gives a whole new outlook on "the communion of saints."We then headed off to Wales, for the sole purpose of taking this picture. See, our last name is Welsh, and is derived from the name of this river. It is now called the Wye River, but long, long ago before the British invaded and renamed everything it was called something else, and that's our namesake. So I figured that if we were already flying half way around the world, we needed to have this picture taken, because what better thing to include in our yearly Christmas card? We had a beautiful day to explore some sights in the Wye River Valley, and I could fill posts upon posts with the pictures I took there, but will whittle it down a bit for you, dear reader, in case you are running out of popcorn. What is this? you may ask, scratching your head. Tintern Abbey - ransacked when Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Chuich (he needed a divorce, you know, and the Pope wouldn't give him one!) and had all the monastaries closed. What do you do here? Well, apparently you follow Henry's example and...Attack!!!! MQ groused and groused about coming here, and ended up loving her exploration of the ruins. She particularly liked walking along the ruined walls, and kept asking to stay when we wanted to leave!
Isn't it gorgeous? The sky was so blue, and it was so inspiring and refreshing to be under the great expanse of blue and exploring these ruins.Tintern Abbey, by the way, is where I took that fabulous picture at the end of the first day of kindergarten post.
Next stop was Chepstowe Castle, where this precious princess played her first ever practical joke on me. She said to me "Mommy, I have to go to the potty. I found it, I know where it is, come with me." I followed her into a small stone room where she showed me this:
Yes, that is an ancient potty. People would sit here, and their waste would fall into the river below (yes, the same river that I am named after. Lovely, eh?) I was proud of MQ, and laughed heartily.
The next day we went to Glastonbury Abbey, said to be the first place to have a church in all of England. In fact, the Somerset Tradition has it that Joseph of Arimethea was Mary's uncle, and took Jesus there as a young man, and they built a church. I'm not sure I buy it, but it's a nice idea. Glastonbury is the site where King Arthur was supposedly buried (his tomb was destroyed when the church was destroyed by, you guessed it, Henry VIII. The stones from this Abbey were "quarried" to make new buildings) This sign was in the display about the Abbey, describing how it was built. It made me laugh out loud, so I share it with you.
This tree is said to have grown from the original thorn tree that sprouted where Joseph placed his staff in the ground after returning to England with the Holy Grail. We also visited the Chalice Well, where Joseph is said to have poured out the Holy Grail, filled with the blood and water that poured out from Jesus, into the ground (how did he get it all the way from Jerusalem without it spilling without any Saran Wrap is what I would like to know). Hubby visited it over 21 years ago, when it was just a grate over a spring of water, and it has since been turned into quite the tourist attraction. The water is supposed to have healing qualities, and the Joseph story has taken a backseat to the mystical. Among all the healing pools (which MQ and I waded in) and the gardens the spring ran into a little river that flows down to the "toilet" sign (that would be the green oval on your right), and once again, we had to laugh.
And here we are at Stonehenge. We did not pay to get in (but lest you think we are cheap, later that same day we paid over $56 dollars for the privelege of entering Windsor Castle), so the picture is taken from the other side of the fence, along the road. MQ was quite unimpressed with the pile of rocks, but VERY impressed by the sheep in the neighboring field. She wanted desperately to feed them through the fence, but they were uninterested in her handful of grass.
The next day we flew home, and thus began the Sorting of the Pictures, so that I could bore you with this slideshow. And if you haven't dozed off or clicked to another blog already, thanks for watching.