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Trip to England - 2012

Jenny and Charlie visited England
January 22-30, 2012

Jenny loves to travel - so constantly searches for inexpensive trips. One day she found an American Airlines airfare from Austin to London for $69. Had to be a mistake so she checked the next day, and it was still there. Quickly making hotel and car reservations, we were going! For $15 more (now up to $84) we could choose other days of the week. Of course it cost a lot more than $84 to come back (maybe they didn't want us to come back). And taxes and fees were extra, but it was still a great deal.


Getting There - January 22

The trip started Sunday afternoon with only minimal excitement. Boarded Austin to Dallas for the first leg, but then we sat on the ground about an hour before departing - heavy winds in Dallas limited the capacity of the airport. Our connection was long enough that we made it without problem, and left on the DFW to London flight about on time. The first hour was very rough - so rough that when we were finally served dinner, the flight attendants had to rebuild the trays - the rolls, salads, butter, "silver", etc., had been shaken from the upper trays to the lower. Nine hours later we were in London.

London Monday January 23

As we arrived at our hotel on Trafalgar Square, opposite the National Gallery and St. Martin's in the Field (church/concert hall) we found a 25 foot diameter orange globe suspended over the square. Turned out to be a piece of art, lit inside "like the sun," to promote that Tropicana orange juice "can brighten your day." Okay, but we enjoyed the many little bottles of OJ they were giving out. Their picture (from the web) at sunrise was more impressive than mine at mid-day!

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We walked around Trafalgar, Leicester Square, Covent Gardens, and the theater district. We looked into getting half-price show tickets, but with jet lag, feared it would be an expensive nap. After a "Mediterranean" dinner, we used one of the Rick Steves audio walking tours from Westminster bridge, by Parliment, Big Ben, the London Eye, and back along Parliment Street/Whitehall, and Downing Street. Downing Street is now closed with guards, fences, and retractable posts (years ago we walked right up to the door of the Prime Minister's home at number 10). As we were walking along, the police stopped sidewalk and street traffic as the gates opened. 20 seconds later three cars sped down the street and through the gates, which closed behind them. Thus we probably saw the prime minister. Not a personal introduction, but as close as I had been to Queen Elizabeth 35 years ago when she visited Virginia (10 feet away and 30 miles per hour).

London Tuesday January 24

Both of us had been to the Victoria and Albert Museum, but only briefly. This was the day for a "full" visit (if that is possible). Cold and rainy, for the block or so to the underground (tube, subway), then indoors (underground) all the way into the museum - they even have an entrance off the subway!

The glass sculpture over the information desk provided a dramatic entrance to the museum. Unlike Italy, most of the museums here are free with a recommended donation of £3 each (we did).

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One of the first items we encountered was this rood screen. It was considered too ugly to keep, and liturgically non-functional (okay, is it because the peons can see through it?), so it was stored for years. Eventually it was recovered, restored, and displayed here - dramatically bigger than I could get in a single picture.

The furniture exhibits were great - of course we are biased. If you are interested in seeing too many furniture pictures, click for an V&A furniture tour, or just continue and I will never know that you weren't interested!

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The view from above into some of the classical sculpture was perhaps even better than seeing it at floor level

Not far past the rood screen was this sculpture, apparently teaching a bible story.

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We were able to look into the area where artists were working on the famous copies, and preparing an update of the exhibit. In this room was a cast of Michaelangelo's David, large and impressive, but having seen the real one a few months ago...

If you looked closely you could see the work being done, either restoring or painting the castings. Not far away, a photographer was recording every step in another restoration project.

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The V&A has one of the first Cafes in a museum, and they certainly made the environment consistent with the grand scale and design of the rest of the museum.

This is another of the three dining rooms

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On to the Southeast

We took the train to Heathrow to pick up the rental car and headed out to the Southeast - Canterbury as in Archbishop of the Anglican Church. The Canterbury cathedral is magnificent.

The nave is huge and magnificent, and the features and chapels were remarkably accessible.

The very high dome, at the top of the tower over the high altar, was amazing as were the models of how it was built.

There were extensive cloisters and facilities on the grounds - we spent hours exploring.

When we left Canterbury, we drove south to Dover, a seaport with the traditional "white cliffs of Dover." Too many ships and signs to get a really good picture - how inconvenient for them to have a seaport there.

We headed West to stay with Andrea Clegg Pool (Jenny's friend since the 1960s). The next day she took us to Wells Cathedral. The modern scissor arches stabilize the extra wide, extra tall tower. The need for the special supports were calculated a while back, without the use of computers - in fact when the cathedral was built starting in 1239. I still think they look modern.

I have a strong suspicion that the cathedral is free of mice. This cat moved around from station to station, guarding the church.

I admit. I am a sucker for pretty organs. With all the care in this facility, I bet it sounds as good as it looks.

One of the original doors is still in use. 800 years later.

Andrea and Jenny explored one of the old meeting rooms, up a flight of stairs. Note the wear on the stone steps.

The stone carvers had a sense of humor

A most impressive cathedral.

Stonehenge

Everybody knows of Stonehenge. We have been there numerous times dating back to when you could walk up to them, and sit on them for a picnic. Now you have to park in the visitor lot, a long way away, and cannot get close. Or you can snap a picture from the expressway as you fly by.

Avesbury Circle

I didn't realize that there were over 1000 ancient circles of stones in England. The Avesbury circle is perhaps more significant than Stonehenge. The best guess is that construction started about 3000 BC (5000 years ago)

The individual stones are not as large as those at Stonehenge, but the number is far larger (even after many were broken up to use as construction material a century ago).

Avebury is unique in that the village of Avebury lies partly within the henge, or outer circle of stones, and a road splits the circle. The main Avebury stone circle is roughly a quarter mile across, enclosing an area of about 28 acres, and it contains two smaller circles within it

There is a very steep ditch and bank surrounding the stone circle.

Excavation shows that the ditch was originally about 30 feet deep, with the bank an equal height - that makes for a 60 foot tall barrier!

But the best thing of all about visiting England is good friends, whom you have known for 50 years.


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