Monday, September 26, 2011

ENGLAND: Lacock, Avebury & Castle Combe

In-between those two scrumptious meals on Chris' 63rd birthday (last post), we drove to 3 of England's most charming the beaten track and possibly places unknown to most of the world. I had never heard of any of them.

1. LACOCK, Wiltshire, England.

You may have never heard of this village but surely you've heard of Pride and Prejudice (BBC), Harry Potter (briefly in the Philosopher's Stone and the Half-Blood Prince), and Cranford (BBC), all of which had sets filmed here.

It was like stepping back in time.

As part of England's National Trust, the village capitalizes on preserving its past.

"This is so English!" A phrase that often rose to my lips.

We even got to see the Great War exhibition.
Do you know which World War was called Great? I wasn't sure till I checked.

Now. Look at this! Totally unbenownst to Chris, the day we were there, his birthday, happened to be the day for this car road show:

As you see, most of the cars are 3-wheelers.
I had to keep picking my chin up off the ground. Seriously!

This was one of my favorites. My kind of color .

I'm sure it's a society they're all part of, so they really looked out after each other.
I think some were getting directions to their next village because...yup...we found them later!

2. AVEBURY, Wiltshire, England.

Surely you've heard of Stonehenge. But what about Avebury?! It contains Europe's largest stone circle, a Neolithic henge monument from around 2600 BCE. It, too, is owned by England's National Trust.

Back in March of 2007, Donica and I visited Stonehenge, as seen here.
It's more famous than Avebury but there you are no longer allowed to walk amongst the stones except only on special occasions. So you can imagine how different it felt to walk in and around the stones (and sheep!) in this place only 24 miles from Stonehenge.

We took our time amongst the stones before climbing up to the rim of the outer circle.

You know me...not always far behind!

I really enjoyed watching Chris and Jackie take in everything, side by side.

It wasn't just the stones either.
So English!

Remember how I said those cars from Lacock followed us? When we went back to the parking lot to drive on, there they all were!

Chris is standing by his Fiat 500 white car.
Lined up next to him is a row of Fiats from earlier years. Four in a row!

3. CASTLE COMBE, Wiltshire, England.

Last but not least, we ended the day at what is often referred to as the "Prettiest Village in England." We all agreed that we thought Lacock deserved that title more, but still, one wouldn't want to quibble over it.

Upon entering the village, you immediately come to the 14th c. market cross.
It makes a great gathering point.

Again, so English!

A stone's throw away is the village bridge over a brook.
Another fine gathering place!

So many things to see, not enough time!
As Astrid would say, we were "short of eyes!"

All in a day's drive on a birthday...between a full English breakfast and a Thanksgiving-like dinner!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Farmstead in England

As we all know, it's not just the destination that's important but the journey that gets you there...and, might I add, where you stay along the way!

When Astrid and I were in England recently, our Shutterchance friend Chris was our host, who had us stay at the family farmhouse of his longtime partner, Jackie.

Lucky, lucky us. It was like living in a B&B for 6 days and 5 nights!

It's a long story but Jackie still uses the family farm for grooming horses
and teaching children how to ride them.
It's full-time work for her, so she's at the farm every day,
going back home to their nearby house each evening/night.

About half of every week a family friend is also at the farm with her dog Cally,
helping to keep watch on everything, including the horses.

If you swore you'd never love poodles, you'd have to backtrack on your words.
How could you not be in heaven in that kind of playground,
and how could you not steal the show!

Talk about the Queen of Sheba!

As farmsteads go, this would rank up there with the best of them.
So many nooks and crannies and out-buildings, half of which I didn't snap the chicken coop. Did I mention fresh eggs every day?!

Chris would come over every morning and boil them up...and toast the bread.
And that's whether we had just eaten muesli or not!

Speaking of Chris... he is.
While we were there, he celebrated his 63rd birthday.
Astrid had just celebrated her 57th, so it made sense that Chris called her his Little Sister.
They both have the same kind of humor and fit with each other like hand and glove.
It's very gratifying for me to watch them together, truth be known.

Chris had something scheduled for us every day along the back roads of southern England, branching out in different directions from Bath. We guesstimated close to 500 miles of driving. I'll get to those places later, but while we were at the farm, Chris cooked up a storm...and on his birthday in particular!

First, he wanted us to experience a real English breakfast.
Wouldn't that be fun maybe once a week...on the weekend!

After that breakfast, we headed out for the day, just the 4 of us, and stopped first at a friend's farm to pick the beans for supper....

Later Jackie showed us how she julienned them.
I had never seen such a French-cut gadget in my life. Magic!

Magic is the operative word for the entire meal, actually.
It was like a Thanksgiving feast with such a huge chicken, including stuffing.
It FELT like Thanksgiving, especially since they don't celebrate it here in Holland.
I needed that and didn't realize how much.

When we weren't out-n-about, the farm was our rest and inspiration. Can you tell?

Jackie set the example by knowing when to rest.
I loved watching her because she calmed me down.

Speaking of which, Chris said he slept better those nights after our full days
than any other time he could remember.
See that window? That was our bedroom and we, too, slept well.

A room with a view. A farm with a view.

Chris is already planning what we will do when we return next year...God willing and the creek don't rise. Imagine that. But then, what Big Brother wouldn't want his Little Sister to come back to see him on the farm at least once a year. And bring her lucky wife with her. HA!

Monday, September 12, 2011


It's my turn at Vision and Verb again today and because of a series of incredible adventures in England recently, I've decided to start off with Meet-Ups!

Forget the fact that YOU don't have a clue who they are!
They're all fellow Shutterchancers and 4 of them are new from when we were in England a year ago.
The man in the center with Astrd and me is Chris, our host for the six days there.

Chris was the one who finagled with everyone to meet up at Dudley's Black Country Living Museum a week ago Sunday, 4 September. Many have become like family to both Astrid and me. We have The Three Stooges. We have The Three Muskateers, of which we are two, plus Tracy, top level, third from the left.

The extra-special treat was having CherryPie show up, from Vision and Verb.
She visits me at SC and makes the second V&V blogger I've now met.
This is what I mean by Collaboration!

So, on Sunday a week ago we went to Dudley...

...but stopped first at Bill's to meet his family and swap cars and drivers.
Bill and Chris are two of The Three Stooges. See how fun it is to collaborate?
And how lucky for us to meet Ange (Bill's wife) and two daughters, plus cat.

The meet-up at the Black Country Living Museum (BCLM) reminded me of Oslo's outdoor Folk Museum last April, remember? Except that this one is all about what the Black means: think industrial SOOT. Anything that made a city black back in its day is what this living museum is all about.

Not that everything was black, mind you...

...but there were certain dead give-aways if you paid attention.

Like the blacksmith's shop, for instance. Hot and "black." Poor guy.

The glass-etcher's corner of the world was brighter and cheerier.

They even had a delightful little chapel right in the center of things.
In an age of Black, that seemed appropriate.

There came a point at which we all had to eat and everyone knew exactly where....

Chris had been telling us this place offered the most authentic Fish-n-Chips he's ever eaten.
It's the beef drippings, you see. Enough cholesteral for the rest of the year, right?!

While waiting in line, we watched fellow SCer, Richard, start a conversation with these two gentlemen, who became excited about becoming famous. So many photographers wanting to take their picture!
We're still not sure about the story behind them....

Once we all found a place to sit and eat, Penny whipped out a cake she baked that morning for Chis,
whose 63rd birthday was the day before.
One ingredient at a time, she soon had the toppings ready for our dessert.
The birthday boy was delighted to no end...and couldn't stop talking about it.

By then it was definitely time for another walk!
I'm used to canal boats here in the Netherlands...but these are so narrow.

I especially loved watching Astrid and Bill getting the lay of the land.
What a great venue for seeing industrial Britain's past!

By then, almost everyone went on their way for the day.
A few of us remained behind to view some last-minute displays....

...and then said Good-Bye to a fabulous outing together.

I guess you had to be there but this is what Collaboration is all about when it comes to the WWW. It still amazes me that we can actually meet each other...if we're lucky!

That's how I feel about CherryPie, too, over at my Vision and Verb today....

ADDENDUM (Wed. 9/14): I just made my first YouTube! HA!
It's all people shots from the day for posterity (and to see if I could do it!).