I learned that there is a difference between castles and palaces. Castles are fortresses with the main function of being places of retreat and protection. They are not as roomy as palaces, yet Windsor Castle seems to be doing quite well. The state rooms are full of exquisite things, none of which we are allowed to photograph. Neither are we allowed to take photos inside the chapel that has, along with others buried there, Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth’s Parents, George VI and Elizabeth the Queen mother. The Queen often visits Windsor Castle on the week-ends. It has seen extensive renovations since the fire that consumed parts of it years ago. The restoration work is wonderful. It is a real treat to be able to see such a place. The china display there was particularly of interest as was the hall with the crests of all the knights of the kingdom. If one is painted white it means they have fallen out of favor with the Queen. While there I saw the rent banner from Blenheim palace. The Castle boasts numerous building styles including Medieval, Gothic and Victorian depending on when it was added to.
Oxford is a great town with the most brilliant minds churning away there. We had a tour wherein we learned about history of the university and how many of the buildings came to be. This first picture is the oldest gothic structure in town.
Guess what famous author used to come here to eat.
Ok Harry Potter fans. Scenes from the movie were shot here in Christ Church.
R.R. Tolkien taught here.
This is one of many libraries in Oxford.This building is very special in that the king James version of the bible was translated and put together here.
Round Theatre. I don’t remember the name of it at present.
It is difficult to capture the scope of Blenheim palace. It is panoramic and particularly awe inspiring. This is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and the only non-royal palace in Briton. The land was gifted to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, long before Winston’s time, by Queen Anne, for winning the battle of Blenheim and the War of the Spanish Succession. Consequently the name. The family must still pay rent to the Queen or else the home can be repossessed. The fee? A new family banner is to be made every year and given to the Queen where it hangs in Windsor Castle. The Blenheim palace and grounds are a feast for the eyes. I especially loved walking around the grounds. Harry Potter fans will recognize the tree:)
We went to Bath! We saw the hot springs and the amazing technologies used by the Romans to feed the water into the pools that you see below. Then it was out for the famous Sally Lunn Buns and also while there we saw two shows. Blue Door was my favorite. It is about a man struggling with his black heritage and his own identity. It was incredibly well done. I was inspired and moved. I realize that I need to become far more brave as a writer.
Glastonbury town is home to Glastonbury Abbey and The Tor. I love the people there! They are so delightful, friendly, and, as you will see by the signs around town-FUN:). You will also notice that the English use different terminology here for some things. Check out the road signs. The gentleman in costume is Edmund, our abbey tour guide. All the guides dress up. The other gentleman is our coach driver, Mark, who was a hit with our whole group. I got to chat with him and learned that he drove coach of the Tabernacle Choir when they toured here. Cool! I also chatted with another costumed guide, an older woman, whose husband working with her wore a helmet. (He was a very animated guide:)) This sweet lady, with her twinkle in her eye, asked if I’d walked around the Tor. Apparently legend has it that any woman who does walk around the Tor will become pregnant. Eeeps! How far around? I had to quickly think. Nope. I stuck to the path. Phew!
This woman, and the townsfolk, had such a love of life and cheeky humor. These personalities show through in their window signs. I love them. Check it out! BTW- go shopping here! Oh! and I had my first fish and chips here. So good!
Welcome to Glastonbury Abbey. My visit here was one that affected me deeply. The remains of this once magnificent structure still speak of its grandeur long ago. Look closely and try to imagine the dimensions of this edifice. Look at how long it runs and how high it is. It was, by my estimation, longer than two football fields and it’s tower the height of a sky scraper. It was once full of finery, beautiful stained glass windows with pictures of Jesus and the saints, set in gold and jewels, painted in the brightest colors, especially a very bright blue that had to be imported and was of greater value than gold. The structure replaced the former church that was once there, after it was destroyed by fire, remaining dormant for some time. King Henry II, initially provided the funds for the new building, motivated by his desire to atone for the murder of Archbishop, Thomas Beckett, who the kings men killed at the alter at Canterbury. This was a building at the centre of what would become an extremely powerful area of Briton. Later though when funds ran out, legends, and the need for money, lead to an excavation outside the abbey in the courtyard where the old building once stood. Monks excavated and found, what they claimed, were the remains of King Arthur and Guinevere. They were re interred by the high alter in Glastonbury. The finding prompted a great migration of pilgrims to the area, making Glastonbury a very wealthy place. This remained till the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 when King Henry VIII tore down the 800 monasteries in the country, stripping them of their riches, putting priests and monks out of their congregations, removing them from their office. The once mighty Glastonbury Abbey, was basically raped and pillaged, as her windows were smashed out and crushed into pieces, her stones cut out as the church became more like a quarry, the fine things gathered up and hauled off to the King’s Treasury. The roof was removed and striped of its paintings and precious things. The Tower is no more. I felt like weeping as I thought of the hearts that broke who had sacrificed to build this church, and who worshiped there, and worked there. It was desecration on a colossal scale. Below on the lowest level was a simple stone with the savior on the cross etched in it. A humble reminder of who this place was for and also a King (Arthur) whose life was a reflection of the Savior.
Below are pictures of the ruins of the abbey and the nearby walkway to the visitors centre and a little chapel. Charlotte poses by the Glastonbury sign.
Overlooking Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire, The Tor (Celtic for “Hill”), has been a place of pilgrimage for thousands of years. The tower on the summit is St. Michael’s Tower, part of a 14th century church that had replaced the previous one that toppled during an earthquake in 1275. When that one was built I do not know. The tower is what remains after Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. This is a naturally made hill that would be a refuge during times of flooding and a safe place to grow crops and graze livestock. Today sheep keep the grass in check. We were so fortunate to have such a sunny day!
Welcome to the breathtaking beauty of Stourhead. This is English landscape gardening at its best, and is the culmination of generations of vision, work, and Arcadian design. The land was privately owned and passed on till it has become a heritage site today.
I sat for some time in this chapel. It was a sweet experience.
Remember this? Hint: Kira Knightly, Pride and Prejudice.
Another view of Mr. Darcy’s proposal location.
Stonehenge is a sacred site built on land where no huge rocks can be found. They were brought in without use of wheels from great distances. It is amazing to see the evidence of the intelligence and knowledge of its builders. It is built according to the rising and setting of the sun and was a spiritual center. The landscape around it is very much like the landscape between Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta, Canada.