Monday, June 18, 2007

Rains, reins, and reigns

So England is a rainy place; everyone knows that. Apparently they're having a particularly rainy summer here, though. Lucky us. At least our tent has so far maintained its waterproofness.

Since I last posted, we explored Grasmere and Ambleside in the Lake District. It was neat to see Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth lived and wrote his best poetry, but it was even better to walk along the paths and see the same views that inspired the poems. It is a beautiful part of the country, even in a downpour. We left the Lake District and took a train to a tiny town in the West Midlands that was the closest we could get via public transportation to a National Trust site I wanted to see. We had a grueling three-mile walk each way with our fully laden backpacks, but Little Moreton Hall was totally worth it. It is a beautiful half-timbered Tudor house (the black and white stripy looking kind). The builders were a bit over ambitious and built parts of it too tall and too heavy, so the house has settled over time, leaving walls that bow, windows that lean crookedly, and floors that roll like an angry sea. The only part of the estate that is still straight is the knot garden, which has lovely sculpted hedges in intricate knot patterns. We also had a nice afternoon tea at the house. All the National Trust properties have cafes or restaurants that serve local foods. In fact, lots of restaurants around here boast fairtrade, organic, local, and free-range foods. It's very exciting for us.

After leaving Little Moreton Hall, we made our way to Stratford-upon-Avon, which we weren't planning to visit, but I'm glad we did. We didn't go to any of the Shakespeare museums because they were really expensive and kind of cheesy looking, but it was fun to stroll down the same streets he had known. We stayed at one of our more unusual campsites, at a racecourse. Most of the sites have been traditional campsites, but we've also stayed on farms, at a church retreat, and at an old mill. Stratford is on the Avon River, which, we noticed upon our arrival, was very high. During our visit, they got a lot more rain, and the whole river flooded. We have photos of signs and benches that should be in the middle of fields that are under feet of water. The rain messed up our sightseeing plans, as did the bus system and the opening times of certain properties, but we still had a nice time. We spent one whole day just wandering around Bath searching for a second hand suit for Andrew (he has an interview in London). Then we spent our last day there at Charlecote Park, an Elizabethan estate with a stunning house and deer park. We had a traditional English Sunday lunch there with roast pork and veg and pudding...yummy.

Now we are in Bath, and this morning we toured the Roman Baths. We were amazed at the Roman engineering and artwork. I can't wait to see the ruins at Pompeii. This afternoon we went to the Assembly Rooms and I got to see where lots of Jane Austen scenes were meant to have taken place. Now we're wandering around town. Tomorrow we're going to Amberley, we hope. We're praying for good weather but not letting the rain dampen our spirits!


David Ricke said...

We are reading your posts from Mt. McKinley. Alaska is beautiful. The Cruise was very relaxing and the glaciers are wonderful. We've seen whales, bears, seals, moose, sheep, dolphins, swans, eagles, beavers... We have not had a drop of rain which the locals say is un-heard of. We must be using all England's sunshine. It sounds like you are having the exciting trip you had hoped for. We'll try to read more of your posts from Fairbanks. I love you.

Robert said...

i think that's actually 'waterproofity'

bawth rules, eh? so much bathstone, so little time ...