Back in the USA

We’re back!  We’re not home yet, but we’re in the States.  And our luggage made it, even though our flight had been canceled. 

We’ve been up 24+ hours.  Weary and thankful.




What a trip.  Good to the last drop.

There are so many things to share.  I hope I don’t bore you.

Do you have any questions? 

Thanks to everyone for your comments and interest.  I loved reading them.


We’ll talk soon.


The Prettiest Village in England

A Major Change of Plans
Today we had planned to take the train up to London.  I was unsettled about it, convinced that London is worth a trip in itself, three or four days at least to see the sights.  I imagined one hour at the British Museum would be more frustrating than satisfying.  In order to see what we wanted to see, I envisioned an exhausting day ahead. 

A few nights ago I was reading in the book I brought with me, How the Heather Looks, A Joyous Journey to the Sources of British Books by Joan Bodger.  I came across this quote from the Horn Book magazine May 1941.

Shere is sometimes described as the prettiest village in England, which it certainly isn’t now…but in the 80’s and 90’s many Americans went down to Surrey to see it.

Bodger continues with her commentary

Having no earlier standards by which to judge, we found Shere Village delightful.

I asked Tracy about Shere and Albury, its close neighbor.  I was quickly convinced to spend this day in the prettiest village in England instead of the metropolitan London.  It was a lovely ambling sort of day, between two more scheduled “trip” sort of days. 


Curt and I picked up a sandwich at the Eagle and Child, fondly referred to by C.S. Lewis as The Bird and the Baby.  They have some nice displays about Lewis and Tolkien on the wall.  And they make a mean chicken club sandwich! 

Oxford is difficult to write about because seeing it involves more images than experiences.  It is a bustling academic town with many buildings not open to the public.  One evidence of its academic atmosphere is the plethora of bikes seen everywhere.

Another of the many gifts received on this trip:  a “wow” exhibit on John Milton at the Bodlien Library.  It had first editions of Paradise Lost, books owned  by Milton with his handwritten notations in the margins; the exhibit was chock full of Milton stuff.  Very interesting.

The gift shop at the Bodlien Library is the best gift shop in the world.  For those of you who join me in being described as bookish, it has the best bookish gifts in the world.  Thanks to my sister in-law Kathie who turned me on to the gift shop by sending me its products.

For those of you that are married: Don’t you love people who love your spouse?  The kids of the family we are staying with love my husband.  The boys pepper him with questions about hunting, and the younger ones continually ask him to play games with them.  I loved this picture of some of the younger ones with Curt.


Architectural glories abound.

Bridge of Sighs

Sunshine in Surrey

We’re staying in Surrey with a lovely homeschooling family of 11 cheerful kids, mostly boys.  We needed to go about and let them do school.  We had about hit our saturation point for castles so we scratched Windsor Castle, not to mention the 11 pound admission (per person, not to put too fine a point on it, which translates to $45) is not covered with our Great British Heritage Pass.

We looked at the Pass booklet and found RHS Wisley Gardens. Cool.  We imagined a lovely little garden, a ten minute walk perhaps. The sun was shining and we wanted to be outside. It was the first day of sunshine since Iona. So we took off.

When we arrived at the car park and saw hundreds and hundreds of cars we were astounded.  This was no wee little garden!  We didn’t know that RHS meant the Royal Horticultural Society.  The place was astounding.  Gardening of every type.  We kept moaning that our daughter-in-law, Jessie, wasn’t with us.  Oh, she would have loved this place even more than we did.

Gardeners, official horticulturalists, were working away and available to ask questions, sort of garden docents.

A section on container gardening had this boot.  I couldn’t resist it.

Too early for the rose garden.

The model vegetable garden made me drool.

Curt looked this guy up when we got home : he’s a robin!  They look different here.

You can tell I am having a hard time limiting pictures. 
It was splendiforous!
Jess, we’re going on a Great Britian garden tour someday!

York Minster, Part Two

We walked in the rain-cleansed air on our way to the service Sunday morning.  The bells rang in the peculiar change-ringing fashion, called campanology, which we read about last year in Dorothy Sayer’s The Nine Tailors.
We joined the regular worshipers at the service in the nave. 

Funny-sad story.  I saw three men walk in together, obviously a son, father and grandfather.  I was touched by thought of generational unity and the fact of three men attending church together, and pointed them out to Curt. Look, how nice.  Sadly, when we came back from taking communion, the father and son were in the pew laughing and the son had ear buds and ipod going.  Sigh.

Again, the music was powerful.  I liked kneeling for prayer on the small pads that were provided to protect our knees from the stone floor.  Waiting in silence before worship was another good thing.  The sermon was folksy and anecdotal, not much to hang onto.  The service in the Book of Common Prayer was wonderful.  Reciting the Apostle’s Creed in one service and the Nicene Creed in the other was spine-tingling.

Full English Breakfast before the Minster.

Looking up at the central tower.

Morning service filled the front section of seats.

York Minster

It feels like we have been metaphorically hopping the Alps – going from one high point to another.

Nothing prepared me for the York Minster.  It was so beyond.  Beyond imagination. Beyond comprehension. Staggering.  First the dimensions.  The central tower goes up 197 feet.  The building is so massively tall.  Nothing fits in the camera’s view.  One of the stained glass windows is the size of a tennis court!

We arrived in time for the Evensong service Saturday evening.  The service itself was in the “choir” (a part of the cathedral) those wooden stalls which face each other. The Minster choir was on tour in Italy, so the visiting choir was the 16 part Liverpool Choral Scholars.  (That is a brilliant name as compared to a Boys Choir.  If you were an adolescent boy, you’d rather be part of the choral scholars than the boys’ choir, wouldn’t you?)  They sang through Psalms 65, 66, and 67, sang several responses.  Putting the words to music gave them a potency that bruised our hearts.

All in all, it was glorious.

Afterwards people filed out, but we stayed put listening to the organ until it stopped.  I love that about my husband.  He is willing to experience things up to the very end.  (We usually sit through the credits at the movies and soak in the darkness and quietness before we re-emerge into the bright light.)  The couple next to us also sat and listened.  Later they told us that the wife’s choir would be the visiting choir in August and they were scoping things out.

Still later, we stood across the street, admiring the view of the cathedral, reluctant to leave.  The boys from Liverpool came by in their street clothes.  We thanked them for their music and asked to take a picture of one group of four.

Younger members of the Liverpool Choral Scholars