Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Goodbye Britannia ~

We left Banbury in the rain. A dreary start to a dreary traveling day. Waiting in cold, damp train stations for rides through bleak terrain was not an auspicious start to our last day in England. We soldiered on and made it to our hotel just a mile outside of Heathrow. We settled in, had a pint, and then went back to the room to relax until dinner time.

Supper was delicious fish and chips, served by a cheeky Romanian, who reminded me of a character in one of my favorite novels. We split a bottle of Australian Shiraz, and I splurged on some sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

My stomach is now proclaiming, in no uncertain terms, that I made bad choices for my last day here. So I write this as I sip some stomach-soothing herbal tea, preparatory to getting a shower and shampoo.

Tomorrow will be a new adventure with the shuttle bus to the airport. For those of you planning to fly to London via Delta Airlines be aware that you will be going in and out of Terminal 4. Terminal 4 is the red-headed stepchild of Heathrow. Nothing goes directly to, or from, Terminal 4. Just thought you should know.

I find myself strangely conflicted about leaving. Part of my heart is still back in Cornwall - a place I will definitely revisit one day. Part of me longs for my family, my home, and my bed! I can't wait to give lots of squishy-cheek kisses to my sweet Elizabeth, and hugs to Janine and Jason. Mostly, it will be nice to be back to a familiar routine, and the comforting rhythm of my life.

Tomorrow is the final leg of this adventure.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rain, Rain, and Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn

The day began in an ambivalent fashion. We awoke to sunny skies, only to have them turn gray and gloomy after breakfast. We wanted to spend our last day exploring the charming Cotswold village of Charlbury.  It rained as we boarded the train to Oxford, but as we traveled from Oxford to Charlbury, I looked out the window and spotted a rainbow.

Normally, I look at rainbows as harbingers of good things to come. I was a bit skeptical, however, due to the gloomy forecast, and the weather we had yesterday at Blenheim. We arrived at Charlbury railway station in a steady rain, walked with umbrellas unfurled into the village, and spotted the Rose and Crown. The idea of a dry room and a hot cup of tea beckoned us, so we popped in and shed our wet jackets and brollies and settled in for a bit.

Our host's name was Tommy, a lover of music, and frequent traveler to Austin, Texas' music scene.
He fixed us some tea, and we had a lovely time chatting with him, as we warmed up and dried out. Tommy helped us out with directions to a lovely walk about the village. Following his directions, we did enjoy a nice walk, a respite from the rain, and ended up back at the Rose and Crown for a pint. Anne and I both agreed, that we would rather have stayed in Charlbury than in Banbury, as the village is absolutely lovely, and Cotswold to the core.

By the time we made it back to Banbury, it had started raining again, but nothing very heavy. Within 5 minutes of leaving the railway station, we found ourselves caught in a deluge. We slogged on for another 10 minutes until we found Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn, which was built in 1570. Anne actually discovered its existence while perusing a Good Beer Guide in the Rose and Crown.  It sounded so good, we decided to give it a try, and it did not disappoint.

We arrived absolutely soaking wet from hip to toes, water sloshing about inside our shoes, and water cascading off our umbrellas and jackets.  It was so good to be out of the rain and somewhere cozy, warm, and dry. Our lovely bartender fixed us up with two cold pints of Guinness, and we repaired to a lovely little nook to peruse our menus.  A wonderful dinner followed, and we were able to walk back to the B&B without getting rained on again.

Now, clean and dry, we settle down for the evening, hoping that the wet things will be dry by morning. Tomorrow we travel to London, and then Thursday it's time to fly home.

Stay tuned...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Blenheim in the Rain

The long walk up the drive to Blenheim was a wet one. Rain had ushered in the day, and persisted through most of it. After the now familiar trek to train station and bus stop, we alighted at the Hensington Gate and started up the drive in a light rain. We purchased our tickets, after receiving a 30% discount for using public transport to get there. (America, take notes!)

We found the cafe onsite, and settled down to a cup of tea and called Anne's good friend Pauline. She lives nearby and met us as we were having a look around the Great Court. The house and grounds are truly massive, as befits the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough. They were no less impressive for being shrouded in gray and mist.

The rain was hit and miss throughout the day, and we were still able to enjoy our walk to the Column of Victory, the Queen Pool, a short walk along the Main Lake, viewing the Cascades and the South Lawns. We heard plenty of birdsong, saw pheasants meandering across the fields, and some sheep grazing on the side of a hill.

Visiting as we did, on a rainy weekday, off-season, offered a chance to enjoy the grounds without encountering a great deal of people. It is a peaceful place, inviting one to walk slowly in quiet meditation. The highlight for me were the trees. So many ancient trees, with gnarled roots, and craggy bark - measuring time in centuries, not years. Oh the stories they could tell.

After a lovely tea break (Thank-you Pauline!) we took a bit of a walk through the secret garden. It was absolutely lovely, and every turn in the path was a delight. We elected to stop our tour there, as we had to be mindful of catching the bus back to Oxford train station. I would love to make a trip back to Blenheim one day, when it's sunny, and I have time to tour the house as well as the grounds. 

Now, home, fed, and showered, we can relax. Hopefully, we'll make it to a lovely Cotswold village tomorrow.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Oxford Abridged

Oxford is a melting pot. The city is known worldwide as the home of the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Britain, and one of the most ethnically diverse.

We alighted from the bus on Magdalene (pronounced maudlin) Street and waded into a sea of humanity. It was difficult to take in the sights since you didn't dare stop walking for fear of being run over. A very kind gentleman on the bus, corrected our pronunciation of the street we were on and directed us over a couple of blocks to what he referred to as the prettiest street in Oxford.  He wasn't wrong.

Catte Street turns off the High Street and takes you to the quintessential Oxford. Walking along, we passed All Souls College, the Codrington Library, the Radcliffe Camera (not something you take photos with), the Bodleian Library, Hertford College, the Sheldonian Theatre, and the Museum of the History of Science.

After walking for a bit we went to Debenham's for a cup of tea, and to check out the view from the 3rd floor. Back out on Magdalene Street we headed to the Ashmolean Museum.  The Ashmolean Museum (in full the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology) is the world's first university museum. Its first building was erected in 1678–1683 to house the cabinet of curiosities that Elias Ashmole gave to the University of Oxford in 1677. There is no charge to visit the museum, which I think is excellent!

After wandering through ancient, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and English artifacts, we decided to head over to the Lamb and Flag to try some Old Peculier which has been brewed by Theakston Brewery since 1890. We got their too late to order food, so we darted across the street and stopped in at the Eagle and Child pub.

The Eagle and Child, also referred to as the Bird and Baby, was a hangout for a writer's group called the Inklings, of which CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein were members. They were out of Guinness (why?) and so we settled for a half pint of Hobgoblin, which was not bad. We also ordered the roast sirloin with all the trimmings. It was nowhere near as good as what we had at Heligan, but it was hot and edible. After our meal break we had time to kill before catching the bus back to Banbury, so we wandered in and out of some shops, and then waited at the bus stop.

Now it's time to read, relax, and then try to sleep. (The beds are very firm.) Tomorrow we travel to Blenheim Palace to visit the Park and Gardens.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 3, 2015

On the Road Again...

The day started off as another beautiful day in Cornwall. With renewed sadness, we carried luggage downstairs, and bade our excellent host, Ian Seagrove goodbye. When next I travel to Cornwall, I will stay at Petra again. While waiting for the bus to Penzance we met up with a couple from Norfolk, whom we had met when traveling to Mousehole. We had a lovely conversation about farming and fresh food. They had retired from there respective careers in the city, and got a place in the country where they could raise chickens, pigs, and vegetables.  My kind of people!

On the crowded bus ride over to Penzance, Anne and I could not sit together, but I was fortunate to sit next to an older gentleman who was born and raised in Cornwall. We had a lovely conversation about weather, farming, mining, tourism, accents (British and American) as well as Florida and Canada. What a charming man!

We arrived at the bus station and he got up, extended his hand, and told me he was pleased to meet me and that he enjoyed speaking with me. After wrestling our luggage off the bus, we proceeded to the train station, found our platform, and boarded the train. They were actually filming and episode of the ITV series Stranger on a Train on platform 1! So cool! Within minutes, my wonderful day turned sour.

Those who know me are aware that I suffer from chemical sensitivity.  It makes going out in public a very risky business. Throughout my stay in England, I had been lucky to only have run into fragrance issues once or twice, and not seriously.  But the young lady sitting across the aisle from us, changed all that. 

Now I don't know why people feel like they have to finish their person toilette in a train carriage. This young lady hadn't been seated 5 minutes when she hauled out her lotion and started slathering it all over herself. My head started reeling, ice picks stabbed me in the brain, I couldn't breathe, and I was almost overcome with nausea.  Even Anne found it offensive, but she gallantly offered to go through 6 railway carriages to buy me some water so I could take my migraine medicine. It took almost 2 1/2 hours for the scent to dissipate enough for my head and stomach to calm down.  It was not the way I envisioned my travel day would unfold.

Nevertheless, the remainder of the train ride went better. We enjoyed the beautiful countryside through Devon, then Somerset. Unfortunately, the train was running about 10 minutes behind schedule, and we were worried that we would miss our connection in Reading. Fortunately, we only had to go over two platforms, and we were able to board our train to Banbury with a few minutes to spare.

Banbury is definitely a city. Their is a different vibe here and it makes me miss Cornwall even more. But the Banbury Cross B&B is a lovely place, and our room is very nice. We had dinner at The Exchange and have now settled in for the evening. 

Tomorrow, the plan is to go to Blenheim Palace, if we can manage the buses without too much difficulty.  Stay tuned...

Friday, October 2, 2015

Saying Goodbye...

Today was a restful day, in spite of packing everything up after two weeks. I will miss Marazion, the Mount, and the slow pace.  Like the tides, there is an ebb and flow to life here. People move from place to place, in and out of the village with a rhythm that is steady, and soothing. I am certain that things are probably a bit more hectic at the height of the summer season, but I imagine they are still not as frantic as in many resort areas around the world.

We enjoyed cooking, and eating, our last meals here and spent a lazy afternoon just chatting about many things. Tomorrow is for traveling and getting situated in a new place for a couple of days.

Our last day was another celebration of the remarkable weather we have enjoyed since coming to Marazion two weeks ago. I look out the window and see a soft pink sunset, leaving a blush on the castle that tops the Mount.

Time to do some last minute scheduling checks, and then bedtime.  Tomorrow we head to Banbury.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mousehole Bound

Our outing today was to Mousehole (pronounced MOWzl) - a picturesque fishing village between Penzance and Land’s End. It was sacked by the Spaniards in July 1595 when the entire village, apart from one house, was burnt to the ground.

The harbor is small, and sheltered, surrounded by cottages, shops, and restaurants.

As in many of the villages in the UK, there was a World War Memorial.

This one stood proudly at the edge of the harbor.

I am always moved when I see these, since they can be found in even the smallest villages. A reminder of how their way of  life was never the same after the wars.

Anne and I took a short hike down a public footpath, and were amazed by the flowers growing along the path. Nasturtiums in yellow, orange, and peach colors sprawled along an ancient wall.

Fuschias, tall as small trees, grew in abundance along the sloping side of the path.

We wandered the hilly streets, perused the shops, and even spotted an old sea pool carved into the rocks along the shore just outside of the harbor.

Sea pools were very popular in the UK in the 1930's, and can still be found in Bude, Polperro, Priest's Cove, Perranporth, Porthtowan, and Portreath.

Thirsty from the walking and the bright sunshine, we found our way to the Ship Inn, at the harbor, for a cold Guinness, and a bite of lunch.

Fish and chips filled our tummies, and revived, we made our way to the bus stop for the ride back to Penzance and then Marazion.

We walked over to the Mount when we got back from Mousehole, so Anne could buy some booze. What a lush! Ha ha, just kidding!  It was another excuse for a walk in this wonderful Cornish weather! Once home, I attended to some bill paying, we washed clothes, relaxed with our books, and had a light supper.  Now it's time for a shower and bed.

Tomorrow we start packing up, and saying goodbye to this very special place.  I am going to miss it!

Stay tuned...