Inspired by wherethewindblows, I’m going back to old journals to transcribe earlier trips. Here’s the first, England with Mom and Dad, Uncle Buzz and Weezer 1995. Note that all photos are from the web.
We finally got here! After a mix-up at Hertz about the B&B vouchers which ended happily, we took the M25 and stopped on the way at a place that sold T-shirts proclaiming “I survived the M25!” I need one. The car [Toyota van] is easy to drive and doesn’t feel too big, but lots of traffic.
The hotel is right next to Christchurch Gate and we have views of the spire from our windows. The way to the room is peculiar but wonderful, including a short stretch on the rooftops, decorated with daffodils in window boxes and a view of the cathedral. [Here is a view of that walk without the daffodils]
Sandwiches and a nap and a walk around. The car is staying in the car park on Duck Lane and is happy there. The streets are narrow, half-timbered buildings and alleys, perfect for walking.
We had a very nice dinner at a Spanish tapas place and shared delicious bites after a pungent curried parsnip soup. We’ll all have breakfast at our own pace and meet tomorrow at 9:30 (after Uncle Buzz goes to 8:00 communion) for a cathedral tour.
We made it!
Wednesday, April 19
Toured the Cathedral this morning, an impressive building – Norman, so very massive, but with many side chapels and a large undercroft and cloisters. Then we followed a walking tour around the cloisters and other buildings. Thomas a Becket was murdered here most horribly and there is a powerful memorial to him where he was killed.
After a so-so lunch in the Queen Elizabeth restaurant (nicely decorated plaster ceiling of her era), we parted way for naps, etc. I went back to the Cathedral for the audio tour and enjoyed it. Then we all went to the Canterbury Tales, somewhat hokey but fun [and now closed after 35 years], and to Evensong. Beautifully sung by a mixed choir, and we prayed for law enforcement officers (a policeman was killed last night in East London). Then supper at a pub that advertised Old English Fayre and featured nachos and “Tennessee toffee pie.” Called AO and determined that all is well.
Canterbury is filled with school groups, many of them French, so it seems crowded, but outside of the main streets it’s busy but charming.
Thursday, April 20
A long day. Booked our rooms for Salisbury this a.m. which took a long time. Then off to Dover (only 16 miles away) to see the Castle. Impressive but brutal, perched on a steep hill overlooking the Channel. Must have been frigidly cold and damp. A chapel to Becket – Henry was very penitent once the deed was done.
First we went to Hellfire Corner, the caves under the cliffs first used in Napoleonic times, then during WWII to plan the Dunkirk evacuation and then up to the 60s. It must have been cold and stuffy!
Then set out for Salisbury, which took forever. It was 4:00 by the time we left and it took four hours. Parts of the drive were beautiful – flat through Romney Marsh, then over the downs and finally to Salisbury. The Byways Guest House on Fowlers Road [still there in 2020 tho it seems to be apartments instead of rooms], soup for dinner in a non-smoking pub, served by a funny and quick man, then thankfully bed. I have a single with shared bath but it’s right next door. All worked well.
Friday, April 21
A nice breakfast and then to Salisbury. Parked at the Cathedral and had a tour from a wonderful guide who had us five alone. Salisbury is more open and brighter than Canterbury and set in a lovely expanse of green lawn. Inside it’s simple and elegant and has no choir screen so it all seems more beautiful.
The Chapter House has a stone frieze all around it telling the stories of the Old Testament – beautifully done – I wish there had been a book or postcards of it. [Adam and Eve]
Also, of course, the Magna Carta [on display above]. The guide told us that for years the librarian – who lived in the Close as one of the perks of her job – took it home with her every night for safekeeping – up until 1975! Unbelievable.
We had lunch at the Haunch of Venison, recommended in Fodor’s and The Good Pub Guide. Delicious sandwiches in an upstairs room overlooking a church. I booked our rooms in Wells at the TIC – they’re all en suite – and then we drove to Avebury, stopping briefly along the way at Stonehenge, just long enough to see it from the road.
In Avebury Museum, a wonderful National Trust man told us about ancient stone circles and how Avebury had sites older than Stonehenge. Then we walked around the stones. They’re all higgledy-piddledy in among people’s houses, quite incredible. An exhilarating walk along a ridge above the stones.
Then drove to Wells, again longer then I thought – 1 1/2 hours not 45 minutes – so Mom and I left without dinner to meet Silla and Bruno at the plane in Bristol.
We drove like mad through Cheddar and north – the chef at the Red Lion who gave us directions said we’d know when we got there because there are signs along the highway that tell you to stop your car when lights are flashing to let the planes go by!
S & B were among the last to get off the plane because their luggage was left in Brussels but they seemed unconcerned. Silla looks great, and Bruno is very affectionate with a nice sense of humor. We drove back to Wells and had a supper of yougurt and pasta salad before bed.
Saturday, April 22
A grim start because it’s pouring down rain, the hot water kettle doesn’t work and I left the hair dryer in the car – oh, and the shower never got too hot. But one must soldier on.
A nice breakfast of muesli and toast and then we all but Weezer went to the Cathedral (she is feeling tired and cranky and stayed behind to read). Again, we had a wonderful guide, and Wells is beautiful. The decorated ceiling, scissors arches and Lady Chapel are particularly wonderful.
The guide pointed out a number of wonderful carvings, as well as the clock and the stream of steps up to the Chapter House with its beautiful ceiling.
We had a soup lunch at the Crown Hotel, where William Penn was fined for preaching without a license.
Then did a mild driving tour, stopping at Chewton Cheddar Dairy for cheese and then to Chew Magna, ancestral home of Thomas Minor. A nice church and a small town set among beautiful green hills with trees silhouetted along their ridgetops.
Chatted with a woman in the supermarket who told us most people now commuted to Bristol or even to London (2 hours by train). Then back through Cheddar Gorge – very dramatic, especially in contrast to the soft Mendip Hills, and on to Wells.
Dinner tonight at the White Hart – garlic and mushrooms and lamb and red wine – with a funny waitress, small and dark and sharp. Walked back by the Cathedral – not lit as dramatically as Canterbury – and so to bed.
Sunday, April 23
A bright day, so we drove south to Glastonbury andc climbed the Tor – very dramatic, rising out of the landscape, with the tower on top and sheep grazing all around. Windy and bright and wonderful views. Then we drove south to Street, said to be a beautiful village though it escaped us. But we went to the Shoe Museum and found enormous 17th century jackboots and the huge boots worn by peat workers. [Closed last year but incorporated into another Trust to do with shoes!] Lunch at The Mullions, a very nice pub down the road, then back to Wells.
Silla and Bruno and I decided to go for a walk. The very nice people at the Tourist Information Center recommended Ebbor Gorge, and it was great. Bluebells and anemones and primroses along the path, a steep climb up the gorge, then at the top we followed the footpath across the sheep fields towards the TV transmitter on Pin Hill.
Silla and Bruno are wonderful together. He told a funny story about trading Africa stories with Papi and telling how he contracted a disease in Africa that resulted in a discharge from his penis! Papi was interested from a medical viewpoint while Mami kept asking if anyone wanted more potatoes. Fabia said later it must have been the first time that word was ever spoken on Ottoplatz!
It was a great walk, very invigorating even though the sky was overcast and a light wind was blowing. Great views over the Mendip Hills.
Dinner tonight at the Fountain, a restaurant near the Cathedral. We celebrated M&D’s 47th anniversary, Dad’s 74th birthday, Weezer’s 42nd and the reunion of all of us. A very nice dinner and then walked back through the Cathedral Green.
Monday, April 24
A gloomy day. We drove to Mells, said to be one of the most beautiful villages in Somerset. A wonderful church with a seven-foot-tall embroidery
designed by in the style of Burne-Jones. Then on to Castle Combe, most beautiful village in England. Very nice. Had lunch at the White Hart where they, unbelievably, could not make tea because the kettle wasn’t working!
Then a mad rush to the airport at Lulsgate-Bristol, where signs on the road warn to stop when lights are flashing so the planes can go by! Goodbye to Silla, who wept when she left us…
We drove on through Cheddar to Priddy, where school was just letting out. The church has a 12th century font and was filled with huge bouquets of daffodils.
Back to Wells. I walked to the Bishop’s Palace and then followed the footpath to Dulcote, 1 1/2 miles away on a paved path. A church was for sale, obviously not used as a church for some time. Rain off and on – back around the moat to Vicars Close, quiet and peaceful, and back to the hotel.
Dinner at the Star. We started out at the bar, which quickly filled with a huge after-work crowd, and then ate starters only in the restaurant, and so to bed.
Tuesday, April 25
Drove through Cheddar and then through the Quantock Hills to Dunster. A hazy but bright afternoon. Dunster is a fairy tale castle from the road: high on a hill, with turrets and surrounded by gardens of tree peonies, rhododendrons and palm trees. The house was less full of stuff than most English great houses, and from every room was the most beautiful view of the surrounding hills and pastures. We had a picnic lunch under a huge oak: cheddar from the Chewton Cheese Dairy and cheddar with Guinness from the supermarket in Wells.
Then on to Tintagel. The NT guides were leery of such a long trip at 3:00 in the afternoon, except fror one young woman who agreed that she drives the way I do and that I could make it in three hours.
Exmoor (before Dunster) was beautiful and even more so after Porlock Hill, so steep I couldn’t bear it and instead we took the scenic route which was perfectly steep enough. At last we’re in wild country and Dad is happy. We stopped at the Information Center for Exmoor at the County Gate car park. Stark views down the moor to the East Lyn River, hillsides covered with sheep and yellow gorse. Then along the coast, in and out, to Boscastle, occasionally very steep hills, especially up to Boscastle, but not so bad as Porlock.
The B&B is Trerosewill Farmhouse, very modern. Three of us in the bungalow at the bottom of the hill and I’m in the main house, a room under the eaves with the shower and sink right here in the room so I can watch TV in the shower. A pub dinner – chicken curry – at the Napoleon Inn.
Wednesday, April 26
A slow start to the day. Cloudy skies and a good breakfast, carried Mom up the hill at 7:30. Then Dad and I walked down the steep hill to Boscastle in search of information. A slow walk up the hill following the village guide that points out interesting buildings. Then off to Tintagel around 11:00.
Uncle Buzz and I walked and the others took the Land Rover down to the mouth of the harbor. Who knows if King Arthur ever set foot here, it’s a glorious setting. Steep steps up to the top of the headland, where low walls are the only remains of the 12th century castle. Truly exhilarating and filled with primroses, violets, thrift and something white – cow parsley?
We all had pasties in the little cafe and then drove on to Bodmin Moor. We stopped in Camelford (camel on the
church tower city hall weather vane) for directions and went through Tor or Monter as they call it. Dramatic and empty but we stopped for just a quick look (it was starting to sprinkle).
Then on to Bolventor and Jamaica Inn via Altarnun, a small village with a church known as the Cathedral of the Moors – 16th century carvings on the “bench ends.” [thanks to giftsofthejourney.com for the image]
Then we drove on to Dozmary Pool – not too much there – and then to Minions to see the hurlers, a stone circle inhabited by cows who were scratching themselves on the stone, and the Cheesering, a natural stone outcropping some distance away. The wind was blowing and we really felt we were on the moors – a bleak place in February!
Then home, and all but Dad (who was full of clotted cream) went to the Wellington Hotel in the bottom of the village for dinner. Vegetable curry and lemon sole and the pub cat, tabby, who came to visit us because of the fish. Also Murphy, the pub dog.
Thursday, April 27
Sunshine! We got a fairly early start and went to Port Isaac [which I now know as Portwenn in the Doc Martin series]. Parked at the top of the village, and Dad and I walked along the coast path looking at gulls nesting in the cliffs. We could see the other side of Tintagel from there. Daddy started talking with a couple – the man had been in Norfolk during the war. They both love St. Ives and told us we should go there.
Port Isaac had colorful but steep alleys between stone or whitewashed houses. A real maze and hard to find your way back except by going up.
Then we drove straight through to St. Ives. We missed the turn-off to get the trolley into town and ended up driving through incredibly cramped streets into a car park with barely enough room for the van. Very stressful but then we went to the Sloop Inn and had a nice lunch.
After lunch we separated and I took a walk around St. Ives with a brochure from the Tourist Office. Up to a high point overlooking the harbor and a brisk wind, the sea splashing on rocks below.
Then across to St. Michael’s Mount, very close though the other side of the peninsula. We took a ferry across, that is, a 12-passenger boat bucking up and down in the waves. Mom was very brave and we all helped her in and out.
St. Mary’s Mount is very romantic, rising out of the sea. Uncle Buzz and I went up – straight up! – to the castle and took the tour, including a model of the castle made out of champagne corks by a former butler. As Dad says, they parody themselves!
A dramatic view over the terrace almost straight down to the sea crashing below, and semi-tropical gardens terraced along the sides. I sat next to the Lord on the ferry across – Mom noticed his beautifully made shoes – and we met him again on the tour.
We all met for tea and found that the National Trust director was meeting with the Lord and the staff of St. MM for tea.
By now it was 5:00 so we headed back to Boscastle. Bread and cheese and wine in the family room for dinner. And so to bed.
Friday, April 28
It’s grey again but not raining. After breakfast we drove across to Forrabury Church and Dad and I walked across the Common to the tops of the cliff where we saw crashing waves and caves below. Then across the moor to Launceston and then to Tavistock and so on to Dartmoor.
What a wild and wonderful landscape! We got out of the car on top of the moor and felt the strong, wild wind blowing and could see for miles. Wild country!
We drove on to Princetown,[home of Dartmoor Prison, scheduled to close in 2023], where the Dartmoor National Park Visitor Center is, and looked at their very good exhibits. I got a list of recommended pubs along our route from the very nice ranger.
We took the tour from the notebook starting at Twin Bridges going east. We stopped a few times for views and moorland ponies and then came to the Rock Inn at Haytor Vale, where we had a most wonderful lunch – white vegetable soup and shared smoked salmon and prawns with Royal Oak ale in front of a huge fireplace. Quiet and elegant.
Then got directions to a nature walk nearby. The others napped while I walked the three-mile woodland trail. The booket focused mostly on the management of the forest. I heard birds and saw ferns, primroses, bluebells and the granite tracks of a railway used to haul granite down the Teign River. Some good steep hills and a few great views.
Then on to Exeter. Getting into cities is never fun but we made it to the Clock Tower Hotel, only to find that the owner had decided, rather than have three there and one in another place, he would send all of us down the toad to his son’s place, Highbury.
Not a great place. The owner was sweet and shy and his wife was friendly and not bright. The house was freshly painted but the rooms lacked niceties such as hand towels and soap.
We had a picnic dinner in my room after Daddy, Uncle Buzz and I made an expedition to Sainsbury’s.
Saturday, April 29
It’s raining! After a plonky breakfast – the first time we’ve had baked beans for breakfast – we drove to the TIC and decided to go to the Cathedral. Walked through the High Street pedestrian area, relic of the Blitz, a newly built area with not much character.
After Wells, no cathedral can seem quite so wonderful. Exeter is known for its length and its colorful bosses (including one of Becket’s murder, we can’t escape him!),as well as surviving the Blitz. The close is small and pretty. We walked back to the car and then had lunch at a not great pub recommended by Frommer’s, down by the quay. Saw some huge swans chasing each other, they really almost walk on water as they try to take off. Then looked at the movies but nothing suited so dropped everyone back at the hotel and I went into town to shop.
Looked at Dillon’s for J. Herriott’s Yorkshite – o.p. here too but the clerk was sure it wou ld be re-issued now that he’s died. Peeked in a jewelry store, too, but nothing was right. Saw a wonderful exhibit of photos of Dartmoor from the last 10-15 years, looked as if they could be from 100 years ago, people killing hogs, plucking chickens, herding cows.
Drinks in my roon and then we went to the Taj Mahal Tandoor – very nice! but too much food. Kebab and samosa and lamb and chicken, etc. And so to bed.
Sunday, April 30
[The diary stops here, so I can only imagine that we somehow turned in the van and made our way to Heathrow and home. I do have pictures but since they’re only analog, I have filled in with pics from the web. ]