Monday, May 28, 2012

ENGLAND 2012: Clent Hills, Blists Hill and Ironbridge

Remember when I gave you an England-trip teaser a couple weeks ago, showing you images of our Shutterchance bloggers' meet-up?  It so happens that was the next day after our Glastonbury-Cheddar Gorge day (last post). 

So, here we go again, bright and early Monday morning, with host Chris driving us first to pick up Lisl and then Chad (and car) and then Bill.  As you'll soon see, these are all important people!

It so happens that Bill, Chad and Chris are the Three Stooges of Shutterchance since 4 years ago (long story).  Astrid had visited them alone then (another long story) and had eaten bacon butties in the Clent Hills where Bill worked.  The Legend of the Bacon Butties has gotten bigger and bigger each consecutive year, to the point that it was promised I would finally get to try one this year.

 And I did!  All 6 of us did.
As bacon butties go, these are purported to be some of England's best.
You wouldn't want to eat one every day, mind you, but GOOD is an understatement!
(Bill is the one in the red shirt with black vest.)

From the bacon-buttie café, we hiked to the top of Clent Hill,
the most popular of the Clent Hills.
We needed that.

Talk about a view!
Close to a million vistors a year come to see these hills,
"making them Worcestershire's most popular non-paying attraction."

There are Four Stones at the top of Clent Hill from the 1750s related to Lord Lyttelton.
But it's the Three Stooges that matter to us:  Chad, Bill and Chris (bottom center).
You may remember that Chad and Chris have been friends since childhood in Bath
(from my post on Bath last year).

We could have gone home right then and there.
But no, we were just getting started....

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

From Clent Hills, we were off to Ironbridge to meet up with fellow Shutterchancers at the Blists Hill Victoria Town.  

 Remember the Baker's Dozen?  That's Lisl in the top-left corner.

And the video of what fun we had?!

But THIS was the setting of this open-air museum, recreating the "sights, sounds and smells
of a Victorian Shropshire town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries."

All complete with period dress!  I love these reenactments.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And because we were in Ironbridge, after all, our original group of 6, like when we started out the day at Clent Hills, ended the day visiting the bridge for which the city is named.

 This iron bridge happens to be the first arch bridge made of cast iron ever built in the whole wide world.
Construction began in 1775 and is now open only to pedestrian traffic.  

 Standing on the iron bridge, you have a great vantage point from which to see the Ironbridge village
and the Ironbridge gorge.  Population around 2500.
And that's where we ate one of England's specialties:  steak pies!

From bacon butties to steak pies...with lots of blogger camaraderie in between.  How can you beat that!

Monday, May 21, 2012

ENGLAND 2012: Glastonbury and Cheddar Gorge

It's gonna take time to make it through all my England images, as you'd guess, but by hook or by crook, I plan to get them to you by way of the day trips we took while visiting Chris and Jackie on the farm in Bath (like last September!)

Because it's my turn at Vision and Verb today and my post there is a jump-off from something at Glastonbury, I'll start there.

Sex is dirty!
And if that gets your attention, check out my post here.

The closest similarity to Glastonbury I can think of is Sedona, Arizona.
If you've been there, you know it's a hefty mix of everything New Age and/or Ancient Art.

It's the people, the art, the way of life and thinking....

...the architecture, the nuance, the dichotomies...

...the fun, the window shopping...

...and the stuff considered "dirty" by so many of Western mind!

Chris knew exactly what we'd want to see and where, like this lovely Magdelene Chapel from 1444.

Located in England's southwest corner is the legendary village of Glastonbury. 
Rich in both myth and history, Glastonbury is one of the most spellbinding places in the world. Recognized as a spiritual center since the megalithic era, it is the site of the first Christian church in the British Isles and claimed to be the Avalon of King Arthur. 

You begin to understand why this city became a spiritual mecca
all the way back to the Druids from 2500 BC, and complete with it's vortex sites (like Sedona).
The ruins of the Glastonbury Abbey from the 7th century...

...and the dark water caverns of the goddess temple (where photos were not allowed).

All of this was on our walk from the city center to the Glastonbury Tor (hill), featuring St. Michael's Tower,
associated with Avalon and identified with King Arthur.

Can you imagine what it felt like to be around this kind of history!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Actually, Glastonbury was the second half of that day trip, after a couple hours in Cheddar Gorge where we stopped and took a walk into the little town of Cheddar.  And yes, THIS is where the REAL cheddar cheese originated.  Were we surprised or what!  A town named Cheddar for cheddar (England) and a city named Gouda for gouda (Holland)!

 All of a sudden, before you could say Jack Sprat, there we were.
After the rolling hills of Bath, we didn't expect this surprise from Chris, our host.
I didn't even know there was a place like this in England's terrain!

 After parking the car, we walked part of the gorge into town,
viewing the sights along the way.

Think of any town you know that caters to tourists and you'll have nailed this beauty.

In fact, we stopped at the first ice-cream shop and treated ourselves.
We were delighted to have Jackie join us this one day of our trip.

And then we continued our walk...

...ending up with all these teddy bears, before getting back in the car to Glastonbury.

One day in the life of our recent England trip.  In fact, now that I'm getting my bearings, it was our first full day there, a Sunday.  So, how's that for knowing exactly where to start!

To be continued....

Monday, May 14, 2012

Open Harbor Day in Gorinchem, 2012

So quickly on the heels of Queen's Day exactly 2 weeks ago (last post), we had another festivity here in our Dutch city this past Saturday, celebrating the 25th anniversary of our renovated harbor.  And this after having just returned from England on Thursday!

Sharing England will just have to wait!

Our lovely city Gorinchem has 2 harbors:  an inner and an outer.  The inner harbor, Lingehaven, was what was renovated 25 years ago and from which there is now every year an open havendag = Open Harbor Day.  Think big flea market (a real "professional" one, not like the street set-ups on Queen's Day) with a party.

First of all, this martket runs along the main canal of our city center
just 2 blocks from where we live near our Nooit Volmaakt windmill (hiding).
Sails are unfurled for the celebration and big boats come from all over.

Everything under the sun can be purchased at this market!
We went early enough to get first-grab on used DVDs, buying 13 altogether!
We watched "Moonstruck" that night, one of my favorite movies of all time.

Did you notice how close Astrid is to the edge of the wall-without-railing?
The drop-off to the wharf below is about 6 ft, something that still shocks me
(and scares the bejesus out of me every year!).

AND we found 2 (TWO!!) old Jan van Haasteren jigsaw puzzles for €2 each:
Ice Hockey (1500 pcs.) from 2001, and The Wedding (1000 pcs. from 1998).
In perfect condition with all pieces, or so she said.

 It so happens that for 3 years running now, we have bumped into Coby.
And we all remember each other every time!
Three years ago we bought a lovely picnic basket from her that we still use.
This time she asked me for my photos, which I gladly e-mailed to her.

Actually, Coby's table was at the harbor where all the main attractions took place,
like these water balls.  One of these years I may just have a try at one, with my camera inside.
Now THAT would be a different POV (point of view)!

This is also where the salmon fishing boats dock and you see the fishermen demonstrating
how they fry up the fish (which they sell) and mend/make their nets.

Activities took place all day long related to this harbor art.
For instance, there were 2500 rubber duckies released into the harbor
by the Lion's Club as a fund raiser to eradicate polio!
Even though I had polio as a child and would have loved to be there, 
we decided we couldn't do everything.  Besides, it would have been too crowded by then.

 But we DID see this Eght Herrie (= real loud) band that is well-known in the city.
We followed them right to the center of the festivities...

...where Dries, the newspaper photographer from here where we live (remember?),
and the town mayor were ready to kick off the celebration.
We had met the mayor 2 years earlier at the newcomer's welcome.

We were clearly in the right place at the right time:  11 a.m.
In honor of the 25th harbor-renovation anniversary, these bubbles were uncorked!

Can you imagine being these children of one of the band players (a trumpeter),
 in on all this action, so up close and personal!
(The little boy, top-right image, did finally figure out how to hold his trumpet upright!)

What great fun for all us kids!  Here's to next year!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Now, just a wee appetizer of our trip last week in England, which a couple of you may have already seen:

 We had our 3rd annual Shutterchance meet-up, this time at Blists Hill Victorian Town in Ironbridge.
There were 13 of us...a nice baker's dozen.  We had a Blists Blast!

It would NOT have been the same without Bill's Mr. Pig!

To be continued....

Friday, May 04, 2012

Queen's Day in the Netherlands = ORANGE

Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) in the Netherlands is celebrated every April 30th, rain or shine.  The present queen is Queen Beatrix, whose real birthday is 31 January, but her mother Juliana's birthday was 30 AprilSo the official Queen's Day is, yes, 30 April...unless it's a Sunday, when it's the 29th.  Got it?

Tomorrow Astrid and I fly to England for 6 days, which means I won't be doing a post here next week, so because April 30 was still this week, here's 2 posts in one week since forever and my first post ever on Queen's Day.  Let's just say I finally did something about it.

That's Queen Beatrix in the top-right corner above.  She's 74.
Lang leve de koningin = Long live the Queen.
The Netherlands has been an independent monarchy since 16 March 1815.
The monarchy is governed by the House of Orange-Nassau.
Thus the color orange on Queen's Day!  It's everywhere.
Orange takes precedence over the red, white, and blue of the national flag.
(click to enlarge to see the orange "banner" attached to the flag)

Young and old alike celebrate the day.  It's a national holiday.
It's also the one day of the year when you can sell all your junk, like one huge city-wide flea market.
First come, first served.  Just spread out your blanket and sell away.
Astrid and I bought 7 DVDs for €4 total, and a new Beatrix Potter book in Dutch for €,50.
How can you say NO to that!

(I threw in that too-cute dog on skates for fun.)

Besides the flea market, there are all kinds of activities going on.
This lady was advertising her sculpture classes.

You're never too young to earn a buck or two, right?
Astrid made sure we got the e-mail address for these 2 buskers.  
After all, she and I both played the clarinet in our day!
(And yes, we both wore our orange shirts on a gorgeous, sunshiny day!)

What was it Winnie-the-Pooh said:
"Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon!"

A little bit of something for everyone,
especially if you're not of Dutch heritage.

As you'd guess, this little family stole the show for me.
How can you not get into the swing of things on such a grand day!

By the way, this particular Queen's Day was maybe more festive for the Dutch than most.  More festive because of its sombre nature, if that's possible?  This past February Beatrix's 2nd son, Friso, was buried in a snow avalanche while skiing in Austria and has been in a coma ever since.  Few believe he will make it.  He's 43 and is married, with 2 daughters.  The Dutch came out en masse on Monday to show their love for the Queen and what she's going through.

Lang leve de koningin = Long live the Queen.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Update on our neighborhood renovation (remember the bats?): 

A week ago we were minding our own business when we heard a commotion outside.
All the glass windows/doors on ground level are now boarded up because...
yup, you guessed it.  They've run out of money and need to wait.
They're hoping the boards will keep out strays of whatever sort!
But now I wonder if the bats will come back to roost?

To be continued.....