My Day Spent at Althorp Estate, England

As the anniversary of the death of Princess Diana is a month away
it reminds me of my visit to her ancestral home, Althorp Estate, where I would spend a day touring her home and burial site.

It was at the end of a Baltic Sea Cruise that we would spend four days
in London, and decided that would be the perfect time to hire a driver
and spend the day at Althorp. So on an early Thursday morning our
driver picked us up from our hotel and we were off for the one and
a half hour drive to the Estate.

20140727-213108-77468583.jpg
Althorp is a stately home and Estate in Northamptonshire, England of
about 13,000 acres. It is about six miles northwest of the city town of
Northampton and about 75 miles northwest of central London. It has
been the home of the aristocratic Spencer family for over 500 years and
has been owned by Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, since 1992.
It was also the home of his sister Diana, before her marriage to Charles,
Prince of Wales.

After a very pleasant ride to Althorp, our driver James gave us some
details and bid us farewell for as long as we wanted to take to tour
the estate. The first thing I was surprised at was the size of the home.
I knew Diana came from a very influential family and lived as such, but
I don’t think I was prepared to be this impressed.
The estate encompasses cottages, farms, and woodlands which combined,
gives a rich mix of landscapes, habitats and activities.

20140727-221409-80049968.jpg
The first thing you notice as you enter the house is the huge grand
staircase with wonderful art work surrounding it on both the upper
and lower floors. At the top of the stairs is a portrait of Princess
Diana that used to hang in Kensington Palace and also a portrait
of her brother, Charles Spencer, hanging right next to her. The house
has some fabulous paintings by several well- known artists, Rubens,
Van Dycks, and many more. There is even a Portrait Room filled with
the Spencer family dating back over 500 years.

20140727-225043-82243500.jpg
The Library with its vibrant colors. A striking beautiful room along with
the Dining Room.

20140727-230227-82947051.jpg
Touring the house was such a thrilling experience. We were lucky
and there were absolutely no crowds, so we were able to linger in each
room. The South Drawing Room was lovely as was the Picture Gallery.
I must say, this was an absolute delight to be able to walk through
the home that Princess Diana grew up in and became a young adult
preparing for her unknown destiny.

20140727-232920-84560577.jpg
After Diana’s death, her brother Charles and the Diana organization
put together an exhibit of Diana’s dresses, her wedding gown, her
personal possessions from childhood and many other artifacts from
her short- lived life. He converted the stables into seven rooms that
would display this exhibit in a loving and caring tribute. I have seen
this exhibit as it traveled around the United States at least three other
times, but seeing it here, her home, made it all so much more special.

20140728-144722-53242922.jpg
The white Catherine Walker gown was dubbed the “Elvis Dress” by
some of the British press, and was worn on a Hong Kong tour in 1989.
It is my personal favorite. I own a Franklin Mint Princess Diana doll
with this exact dress and tiara, it is beautiful.

“Few people have had an impact on fashion in the same
way as Princess Diana. As a public figure, the Princess’s
dress style was closely scrutinized by the press and the
public. As a young Princess, her clothes were romantic
and demure but as her confidence grew, her style developed
into that of an international celebrity, glamorous, elegant,
and completely her own”. Diana, Fashion and Style

20140728-151055-54655294.jpg
After going through six wonderful rooms of dresses, pictures, home
movies, and childhood possessions, you dramatically enter this room
where you cannot help but gasp at the beautiful gown that is encased
before you. With its 25 ft train, done in an ivory silk taffeta and antique lace, it would truly capture ones attention for its beauty and regalness,
fitting for a Princess.

20140728-153326-56006020.jpg
The wedding dress was designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel and
was described as a dress that “had to be something that was going to
go down in history, but something that Diana loved”, and one which
would be “suitably dramatic in order to make an impression”. Diana
personally selected the designers to make her wedding dress, as she
had been fond of a chiffon blouse which they had designed for her for
a formal photo session. The dress had hand embroidery, sequins
and 10,000 pearls with antique hand-made Carrickmacross lace.

“Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty,
of style, and of beauty”. Charles Spencer

20140728-155748-57468623.jpg

“I don’t want expensive gifts, I don’t want to be bought.
I have everything I want. I just want someone to be
there for me, to make me feel safe and secure.
Princess Diana

20140728-161126-58286939.jpg
Walking out of the exhibit and estate approaching the burial site for
me was so serene. For me it was like a Royal pilgrimage. I was a
follower of Diana and this for me was pretty sacred.

Diana, Princess of Wales, was buried on a small island in the middle of
the ornamental Round Oval Lake, created by Teulon in 1868. The island
was decided the best place for her to rest because the water would,
according to Spencer, “act as a buffer against the interventions of the
insane and ghoulish, the thick mud presenting a further line of defense.
We all agreed that, with its beauty and tranquility, this was the place
for Diana to be”. Her burial place is marked with a white memorial
plinth and urn.

A Doric-style temple with Diana’s name inscribed on top is situated
across from the lake, as a place where visitors can lay down their
floral tributes to the Princess. It contains a black silhouette of her
in the middle, set in white marble. One tablet displays a quote from
Diana about her charitable work and the other holds Charles Spencer’s
concluding tribute at her funeral at Westminster Abbey.

After spending time at the burial site, we had lunch on the grounds
and decided to go through the gift shop, where to our surprise was
Charles Spencer, greeting guests and autographing his book. Well
of course I had to buy the book, and yes had a conversation with
him as he was signing my book. He was nice looking in his powder
blue dress shirt, with a kind and gentle demeanor. I was able to tell
him how much I admired Diana and how much the world would miss
her.

20140728-165728-61048522.jpg
“Carry out a random act of kindness with no expectation
of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone
might do the same for you”
Princess Diana

I want to say that I was ever so fortunate to see this exhibit as many
times as I have, but especially to see it in England, at Diana’s home,
Althorp. Today because of Diana’s will stating that all her possessions
go to her children when her last child, Harry, turns 30, the exhibit has
closed at Althorp. The many many thousands of us that were lucky
to see the exhibit only know to well how much it will be missed.

Advertisements

Travel Is….

Travel is a mystical experience that spirals you into new dimensions
of awe and wonder.

20140724-194811-71291385.jpg
Cinque Terre, Italy

Travel is a celebration of life’s exuberance and of the mind’s wildest
dreams, to leap beyond the normal and into a world full of surprises
and amazement.

20140724-195731-71851612.jpg
Travel is connecting with the world beyond our community, Travel is
interacting with others and learning their lifestyles, values, and surroundings. Our mind broadens with greater awareness and we
learn to absorb our surroundings. I am awed and humbled by other
lifestyles.

20140724-202153-73313830.jpg
Travel is walking the quaint streets of Italy and seeing how unique
and simple one can live and knowing they appreciate all that they have.

20140724-203542-74142845.jpg
Travel is the beauty of Greece sitting on the blue Aegean surrounding
the white stone buildings floating so serenely before us.

20140724-203959-74399328.jpg
Travel is what takes us farther from our private corner of the world
and opens up our lives and senses. It fills our heart and sight with
all that is beautiful.

20140724-205006-75006839.jpg
Travel is seeing the Santorini caldera from Oia, and having it take your
breath away.

20140724-210854-76134519.jpg
Travel is the offering of more choices and open doors to history,
culture, and understanding. Reading about Greece is not the same
as standing on its streets or sitting surrounded by the beauty of a
Temple, Synagogue, or Mosque, regardless of your religious beliefs.

20140724-211947-76787835.jpg
Travel is overcoming our preconceived ideas about other people
and other cultures. It helps us to understand how varied we can all
be and the infinite ways in which people use their imagination and
resources to create a life that sustains them.

20140724-214242-78162475.jpg
Travel is tastes, sounds, smells, and textures, it is a time and place
unlike home. Travel is experiencing the images that make up our
world; the peppers, spices and curries of the world.

20140724-215555-78955511.jpg
Travel is getting to a new place and experiencing it with all your senses.
Why go there unless you yearn to touch it, hear it, taste it, and smell
it and see it in its infinite dimensions?

20140724-223937-81577901.jpg
Travel is an experience in perseverance, stretching you in ways you
could not have envisioned before you started out. Travel compels
you to pause in life’s sameness, to venture out beyond life’s familiar
boundaries and begin a journey of discovery.

20140724-224959-82199757.jpg
Travel is standing in absolute arm pinching awe at a famous European
Cathedral, the hills of Tuscany, or on the grounds that the ancient
Acropolis standing before us and chanting, “Am I really here?”.

20140724-225744-82664727.jpg
Travel is the “I Love Lucy” scene in a small italian inn, translating the
menu from English to German to Italian so everyone could eat.

20140724-231221-83541873.jpg
Travel is a late September afternoon in the south of France, sitting
at an outdoor cafés, sipping wine and basking in the sunshine and
beauty around you.

20140724-232003-84003847.jpg
Travel is the beauty of landscapes, from the winding road of the Amalfi
coast, the silent curves leading along the mountainous roads with the
Sea below you, and arriving at the most beautiful town that will take
your breath away, Positano.

20140724-233034-84634312.jpg
Travel is an Italian shopkeeper cheerfully welcoming us in his business
and offering you a glass of Limoncello on a warm afternoon.

20140724-235000-85800017.jpg
Travel is going there only to discover with amazement that what you
see there is often so startlingly different from what your mind imagined.
Travel changes you and helps you discover that you can do things
you never thought you could do.

20140725-000551-351015.jpg
Some people live their entire lives in one place, not only physically
but emotionally. Their block becomes their world. Travel offers
choices and opens doors to history, culture and understanding.
Abroad, you will come into contact with national pasts much deeper
than our own. We need to make an effort to bond and exchange
information with fellow travelers and locals. We often fail to capture
the foreign moment because we are to busy with dials on a camera,
worrying about tipping, being shy of a foreign tongue, or perhaps
being intimidated by a waiter.

Travel can be anything you want it to be as it broadens our life’s
horizon. It keeps our world from narrowing, as we grow older.
Travel is returning home with a changed and renewed vision of
the world and it’s people.

This is what Travel Is to me.

Summertime at Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Mi

What could be a better way for me to spend a beautiful summer
day in July, but to spend the day at the Henry Ford Greenfield Village
in Dearborn, Michigan. I have been coming here since I was a child, as my
Dad worked in the Rouge Plant, and would bring us here for many
family outings. I have always loved coming here and as an adult still
try to come as often as possible.

Henry Ford Museum and Village is a large indoor outdoor history
museum complex. It is located in Dearborn, Michigan, which is the
Mecca of Henry Ford’s home and business complexes scattered close
by.

20140722-204533-74733867.jpg
The Village consists of nearly 100 historical buildings that were moved
here from their original locations across the United States, to be set up
in a village like setting. The village includes buildings from the 17th
century to the present. Many are staffed with costume interpreters
who conduct period like tasks like farming, sewing and cooking.

20140722-205249-75169126.jpg
Just as it was in the 1880s, the Firestone farm is a family farm where
people do seasonal chores and daily activities.
Benjamin and Catherine Firestone raised their three children on this farm,
including tire maker Harvey Firestone. The family made most of their
money in those days from the wool of wrinkly Merino Sheep.

20140722-210702-76022349.jpg
The recreation of these hard-working farm hands doing their daily
tasks.

20140722-211657-76617113.jpg
A couple of rooms from the Firestone Farm all decorated in the
Victorian style that was so popular in those times.

20140722-213541-77741557.jpg
J.R. Jones was a General Store located in Waterford, Mi., on Anderson Rd
and Dixie Highway in 1886. It was moved from that location to the Village
in 1929. A lot of the items in the store was factory made, as that luxury
was just coming on the scene. Customers could also order items from
a catalog.

20140722-214218-78138782.jpg

20140722-214637-78397622.jpg

20140722-214734-78454038.jpg
The Wright Brother’s bicycle shop and home which was bought and
moved by Henry Ford in 1937 from Dayton, Ohio. Orville and Wilbur
performing in a skit on their front porch with their sister reminiscing
about their first glider flight.

20140722-220418-79458532.jpg
At the Village Town Hall we watched a performance of the Village Players
performing “Simply Gershwin”, singing his most famous songs, and also
a Cole Porter melody of songs performed in a 30 minute play.

20140722-221353-80033144.jpg
The Cotswold Cottage is a Limestone Farm dwelling brought from Chedworth, Gloucestershire in the Cotswold Hills of Southwestern
England built approximately in 1620. Henry Ford purchased the
Cotswold Cottage in 1929. The house, barn and fences were taken
apart stone by stone and sent by ship to the United States. The house
is surrounded by Victorian flowers and is one of the most beautiful
picturesque buildings in the entire village. This has always been my
favorite building here and the flowers at this time of year were stunning.

20140722-222746-80866328.jpg

20140722-223151-81111378.jpg

20140722-223434-81274936.jpg
What a fun job they have. This couple rode these bicycles all day on the streets of the village.

20140722-225328-82408693.jpg
The Mary Martha Chapel was built at the head and highest spot in
Greenfield Village by Henry Ford in 1929. The chapel has an elegant
pipe organ, towering ceiling, candle-lit chandelier and a doorway that
opens onto the Village Green.

20140722-230319-82999464.jpg

20140722-232111-84071588.jpg
Built in 1879, in Bryan County near Savannah, Georgia by Andrew Mattox
and his wife Charlotte, both former slaves, was home to three generations
of the Mattox family. Here they raised their son Amos and his four
brothers and sisters.
Amos and Grace Mattox raised their two children in this farmhouse
during the early years of the depression of the 1930’s. Amos provided
for his family by doing many jobs and his wife provided food for the
needy. The family would line the walls of the house with newspapers
for insulation and cardboard on the ceiling to keep the room warmer.
Henry Ford would go to the family to purchase the family home for
the village and bought them another house to live in.

20140723-001150-710401.jpg
Greenfield Village is more than buildings and rides, it is home to more
than a dozen gardens, each owning its own particular touch to the
buildings around it.

20140723-001819-1099024.jpg

20140723-003051-1851246.jpg
Henry Ford purchased Mrs D. Cohen Millinery shop in 1935. The shop
was located at 444 Baker Street In Detroit. It was here Mrs Cohen made
her living decorating women’s hats from 1892 and 1903.

20140723-003805-2285799.jpg
This just touches on a small portion of what the Village offers. There
was so much more and then some.
Henry Ford had a vision and created this wonderful historical,
informative, fun, and exciting place where we can all learn a bit of
history while basking in its beauty and riches that Greenfield Village
has to offer.

“I am collecting the history of our people as written
into their hands made and used. . . When we are through, we
shall have produced America’s life as lived, and that, I think, is
the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and
tradition”. Henry Ford

Edinburgh, Scotland

I would be spending five days in Edinburgh, Scotland after a recent
trip to London. I had never been to Scotland and wanted to try
to see as much as I could in the next five days. I had always heard
on lovely it was, and so after a few travel meetings and some extra
add ons, we added Edinburgh to our London trip.

20140715-200648-72408451.jpg
After a wonderful exciting seven days in London, we left London’s
King Cross Station on the 8:00 train. It was a great relaxing ride
with lovely views of the East Coast in many areas of the journey.
After a quick four to five-hour train ride we arrived in Edinburgh in
the early afternoon.

20140715-201602-72962978.jpg
We would be staying at the lovely Channings Hotel for the next five
days. It is a four star informal and relaxed hotel with a friendly approach
to all its guest. It is set in a lovely Scottish Country House, full of
charming Victorian paintings, prints, books, furniture and memorabilia.
It is outside the city centre, about a 20 minute walk, shorter by bus,
in a residential area. It is a charming street with rows of homes that
look exactly like the house we are staying at, including lovely gardens.

20140715-202854-73734762.jpg
Our room was a nice size, beautifully decorated, with a sitting area over
looking a wonderful view of the Fettes University. The hotel has a lovely
upscale restaurant which had great food. Breakfast is served in a
Conservatory like setting with lovely gardens in the back with tables
and chairs.

20140715-204056-74456388.jpg
We settled in our room and immediately walked into town, over a
Bridge, making our way to the city center of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland. It is the second most populous
city in Scotland and the seventh most populous city in the United Kingdom.
Edinburgh’s old town and new town are jointly listed as a UNESCO World
Heritage Site. The historic centre of Edinburgh is divided in two by the
Princess Street Gardens. To the south the view is dominated by the
Edinburgh Castle, built high on the Castle Rock, and the long sweep of
Old Town descending towards Holyrood Palace. To the north lies
Princess Street and the new town.

20140715-211137-76297003.jpg
Princess Street Gardens is a public park in the centre of Edinburgh, in
the shadow of the Edinburgh Castle. The park has various concerts
and other events held at the Ross Bandstand including the Festival
Fireworks Concert held for the celebration of Hogmanay, the Scots
word for the last day of the year. Walking around these gardens,
it is like having a green oasis in the middle of the city, with its beautiful
landscaping and views of the castle.

20140715-213158-77518559.jpg
The Scott Monument is a Victorian Gothic monument to Scottish author
Sir Walter Scott. It stands in the Princess Street Gardens, opposite
Jenner’s Department Store on Princess Street and near to Edinburgh
Waverley Railway Station, which is named for one of Scott’s novels.
The tower is 200 feet 6 inches high, and has several viewing platforms
reached by a series of spiral staircases giving panoramic views of
central Edinburgh and it’s surroundings. Bill Bryson has described
it as looking like. “gothic rocket ship”.

20140715-225108-82268411.jpg
After strolling through the gardens we walked up the steep hill to
the Castle. I think we underestimated how steep that walk would
be, but we did it.

The Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress which dominates the skyline
of the City of Edinburgh from its position on the Castle Rock. It has
been the Royal Castle since the 12th century and by the 17th century, it
was principally used as a military barracks. Edinburgh Castle was
involved in many historical conflicts, and has been besieged both
successfully and unsuccessfully on several occasions.
Mary Queen of Scots began her reign in the castle in 1560, married
and had her child while living in the castle. Today the castle is
Edinburgh’s number 1 tourist attraction in Scotland. It is used today
for historical ceremonies and concerts.
We spent the next several hours touring the castle, going in and out of
all the buildings. It was very interesting and the view of the city was lovely.

20140715-231218-83538234.jpg
The Old Town is the name given to the oldest part of the capital city
of Edinburgh. The area has preserved much of its medieval street
plan and buildings.
The Royal Mile is a name given in the 20th century for the main artery
of the Old Town which runs on a downwards slope from Edinburgh
Castle to Holyrood Palace. It is the busiest street in Old Town, with
pubs, restaurants, hotels, shops, tea salons, souvenir shops and
much more. There was so much action on this street. We saw men
playing the bagpipes, people dressed in costume, local people standing on
the streets, just mingling and chatting with each other. It was a good
people watching area.

20140715-233613-84973571.jpg
On day two we decided to take the city tour around the city on the Hop
On Hop Off open air bus. It takes maybe a little over an hour to drive
around the city and point out the places of interest. It just gives you
an idea of what the city has to offer. Actually, we decided to stay on
the bus for two full circuits, just to make sure we wouldn’t miss anything.

20140716-185910-68350106.jpg
The Palace of Holyrood is the official residence of the British monarch
in Scotland for the Kings and Queens, since the 16th century.
Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood at the
beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official
engagements and ceremonies.

After walking down the delightful and colorful Royal Mile, we arrived
at the Palace to begin our tour. The Palace is definitely worth a visit
for comprehending a part of the Royal history of Scotland. It’s a
wonderful look into the life of the Stuarts and Tudors. The 16th
century comes alive as you tour the many rooms open to the public.

20140716-191339-69219835.jpg
The rooms are still very stately with beautiful paintings and furniture
and it is quite interesting to be in the same room that the Queen
greets her guests to this day.
It is a bit sobering and poignant experience to be in the private chamber
of Mary Queen of Scots, where she was a witness to the brutal murder
of her secretary, David Rizzio. One can almost feel the horror and utter
terror of witnessing such an event. I had read the book by Antonia Fraser
on Mary Queen of Scots and also just recently seen the movie and
remembered this scene so vividly, it was quite chilling.
After spending some time inside the Palace, we walked the lovely gardens
and property, admiring the landscaping and setting of this truly amazing
place.

20140716-193256-70376710.jpg
Ok, close your eyes and think of the perfect Scottish Tea Room, open
them and you are sitting in Clarinda’s. Walking back from
the Palace on the Royal Mile is Clarinda’s Tea Room. It is like being
in an old Hollywood movie, set in Scotland, with the coziness and
homey feel of an enchanting place. Sitting in this lovely tea room
looking at the decor and furniture, plates on the walls, the cute
Victorian lamps and the tiny little kitchen where the food is prepared, not
to mention the array of the different types of homemade desserts, was
a feast for the eyes.
We had a sandwich and the best piece of Apple pie, I think I have ever
had. It was the perfect way to end our day touring Edinburgh.

20140716-201945-73185640.jpg
Day three would be an all day tour to St Andrews, Fife, and a portion
of the Highlands. St. Andrews is known the world over and has played
an important part of Scottish history. The medieval Cathedral was
one of the most important sites of pilgrimage in all of Europe and the
prestigious University is the oldest in Scotland, most recently famous for
the meeting place of Prince William and Kate Middleton. We had plenty
of time to walk the streets of St Andrews, admiring the beauty surrounding
this town.

20140716-203510-74110980.jpg
The St. Andrews Royal Golf Club first met here in the spiritual home of
golf in 1754, though it was first played here as early as the 15th century.
I must say, as a somewhat former golfer, this place was truly a golfers
paradise. I even had goosebumps standing here, not only admiring
the beauty, but the history of the course. In a golfer’s world, this is
truly holy ground.
I really enjoyed our time here. Seeing the narrow alleys and cobbled
streets with shops, restaurants, cafés, the elegant Ivey clad University
and gardens, the castles and churches of this historical coastal town,
made this a major highlight for me.

20140716-211821-76701800.jpg
The rest of the day we would be touring a portion of the beautiful
Highlands, seeing the spectacular Forth Rail Bridge, until recently the
longest cantilever bridge in the world. Over a bridge we entered the
Kingdom of Fife, an isolated peninsula surrounded by waters of the
Firth of Forth, the Firth of Tay and the North Sea. The highlight is
the area known as East Neuk, with small fishing villages hugging the
coastline known as a paradise for smugglers.
The Royal Britannia was the Royal Yacht to her Majesty, The Queen
and the Royal Family for over 40 years. Now berthed in Edinburgh,
it is a number 1 attraction for the curious traveler.

20140717-192858-70138716.jpg
Our last day in Edinburgh was spent doing some last minute
sightseeing. There were a couple of churches we wanted to see,
Giles Cathedral is amazing. We visited two or three different ones and
then spent the rest of the day shopping. I loved the colorful storefronts
and the quaintness of the stores. What a great city this is. I left
Edinburgh the next day thinking, I Will Be Back.

A Day Touring Castle Howard, Whitby, and the Moors, England

We had one full day and night left before we took our train back
to London to return to the States. We had hired a private driver
to take us to the countryside around Northern Yorkshire. So on
a very early morning our driver picked us up and we were off to
spend the day touring a castle, a town, and the famous Moors.

20140709-210746-76066375.jpg
Castle Howard is a stately home in North Yorkshire, 15 miles north
of York. It is a private residence, home of the Howard family for more
than 300 years.

You might recognize this stately home from television and film as the
fictional home in “Brideshead” in 1981, and in 2008, a remake of a two
hour movie, “Brideshead Revisited”. Today it is part of the Treasure
Houses of England, a group of Heritage Houses.

We arrived thirty minutes before the house was opened, but we were
able to walk the amazing grounds. I had seen the movie “Brideshead
Revisited” and knew it would be beautiful, but this goes beyond.
The grounds were stunning. I remembered the scene in the movie
around the Atlas Fountain, by John Thomas (sculptor), it was absolutely
stunning. It’s huge presence dominates the south side of the estate
and is visible from much of the entire house and grounds.

The Temple of the Four Winds lies at the eastern end of Temple
Terrace, with stunning views across the hills. The Temple was started
in 1726 and completed in 1738. It was used as a place of refreshment
and reading.

20140709-224132-81692227.jpg
With 1000 acres to explore, Castle Howard, is a setting of peace and
tranquility. With its extensive temples, lakes, fountains and gardens,
it is a breathtaking view from wherever you are.

20140710-143940-52780860.jpg
The Howard Family is an English aristocratic family founded by John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, in 1483. After the English Reformation, many
Howards remained steadfast in the catholic faith. Catherine Howard,
granddaughter of Thomas Howard, became Henry VIII’s fifth wife, as
Anne Boleyn, became his second wife. If you are a fan of the history
of King Henry VIII, as I am, this would be an interesting point.

The building of Castle Howard began in 1699 and took over a hundred
years to complete, spanning the lifetimes of three Earls and numerous
architects and craftsmen. Castle Howard is considered a home or
manor, not a castle, even though it’s 145 rooms are absolutely spectacular
and gives you the feel of a castle like setting.
Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini decorated much of its interior, accented
with the paintings of Rubens, Van Dyke, Canaletto, Reynolds and
Tintoretto. The house has a vast collection of rare porcelain and many
sculptures.

The dome is 70 ft in height, and looking up at it you realize the sense
of spaciousness and light it brings to the Great Hall below. The four
large painted figures that support the Dome represents the four elements;
Earth, Fire, Air and Water. The lavishly painted Dome tells the tale of
Phaeton, son of Apollo, who falls to earth from his father’s chariot.

20140710-152009-55209942.jpg
There are two bedrooms open to the public, one is a feminine and the
other a more muscular feel. It is said that Queen Victoria slept in
one of the rooms in 1850. There is also a scene from Brideshead
Revisited in one of the bedrooms.
The Crimson Dining Room leads into the Turquoise Drawing Room,
filled with portraits by famous artists such as Gainsborough and Joshua
Reynolds. The settee and chairs are by John Lindell, who also made
much of the furniture in the Castle Howard Bedroom.
The house also has a Chapel that is quite lovely, with richly colored
stained glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones. This also was portrayed
in the movie.

I must say, this was one of many highlights of this trip, to be able
to walk these beautiful grounds and tour this amazing house was a
thrill, especially that I loved the movie.

20140710-164807-60487020.jpg
After leaving Castle Howard, our driver took drove us through the North
York Moors heading to the town of Whitby. The moors is one of the
largest expanses of Heather Moorland in the United Kingdom. The area
was actually quite interesting, a little different than I had imagined, but
still lovely. For the outdoor enthusiast, this is a great area for cycling,
hiking, mountain bikers, and other outdoor activities to be enjoyed in
this vast landscape. Driving through the area, stopping the car occasionally
for the perfect photo opt, or just admiring the scenery, reminded me of
the classic books by the Bronte sisters. I could almost see Catherine,
in Wuthering Heights, running through the moors with Hindley in their
young years or perhaps Jane Eyre walking through the moors trying to
determine what her future held. Letting my imagination portray these
stories in my mind, made this truly, a pinch me moment.

20140710-171210-61930930.jpg
Arriving in Whitby was a pure delight. A friend had suggested we go
there and I immediately knew we had made the right choice. I loved
this seaside town in North Yorkshire, on the east coast, facing the North
Sea. The town has a 75 ft swing bridge that links the upper and lower
harbors. The houses are built of stone or brick, often with red pantile
roofs, in narrow steep streets, on both sides of the River.

The town is surrounded on its landward sides by the moorlands of the
North York Moors National Park, and the North Sea, on its seaward side.
Whitby has a literary past with the setting of the town in many novels,
and part of the novel,” Dracula”, was also set in Whitby. Charles Dickens
visited frequently, as did James Russell Lowell, the American writer.
On His last visit in 1889, he wrote:
“This is my ninth year of coming to Whitby, it’s
a place I never tire of”.

By the time we arrived in Whitby, we were famished, so we headed to
Hadley’s Fish Restaurant, which someone recommended. The best
fish and chips in England. The meal was outstanding.
We walked the town, including the crooked little back streets, going
in and out of the shops. This town is a delight.

20140710-175246-64366799.jpg
The Whitby Abbey overlooks the town. After a long, but pleasant
climb up the hill, we toured the Abbey. A monastery founded in
AD 657, became a nunnery of the kingdom. The Vikings destroyed
the monastery in 867 through 870 through a series of raids. Being
rebuilt and utilized as an Abbey till Henry the VIII, in 1539, dissolved
the monasteries.

Our day was nearly over and sitting in the back seat of the car, I was
able to reflect what a great day it turned out to be. Renting a driver
for the day is not cheap but it is certainly worth the money. We were
in total control of where we wanted to go and for how long.
Seeing Castle Howard and Whitby was the cherry on top of the cake,
making this almost two week trip, London and York, one of the nicest
trips we have taken. But I guess I say that about all my trips.

York, England

Sadly my week in London was over. I said goodbye to that sweet
flat on Sloane Square and was standing in the Kings Cross Train
Station waiting to board a train that would whisk us away to the
City of York, England.
In planning this trip we knew a week in England would not be enough,
so we decided to extend the trip and visit the walled city of York for
an additional four nights. So after a quick, but scenic train ride, we
were standing outside of the train station in York and queuing up
for our taxi ride to our hotel for the next part of our adventure.

20140705-223244-81164938.jpg
The Guy Fawkes Inn in York is a 4 star AA rated Inn located within
York’s city centre directly opposite the York Minister. Built on the very
spot where the notorious plotter was born, it’s perfect for anyone who
loves an Inn filled with historical character. It has a bar serving beer,
a 1 AA restaurant and thirteen beautiful, individually furnished rooms
with flat screen Tv’s. The check in process is very informal. You
just walk up to the bar, give your name and you are checked in.
The ambience of the inn is so unique with its dark wood, gas wall
lights, candles and miss matched furniture. Our room was a nice
size, with 2 double beds overlooking a courtyard.

Guy Fawkes was born in this house in 1570. He is known for the
Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a failed attempt against King James I
of England and VI of Scotland by a group of English Catholics. The
plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the state opening
of England’s Parliament. The plot was revealed by an anonymous
letter and during a search of the House of Lords at midnight on
November 4th, Fawkes was discovered guarding the 36 barrels of
gunpowder. Eight of the conspirators, including Fawkes were
convicted and sentenced to hang, drawn and quartered.
After the conspirators were caught, people went to the streets to
celebrate by having Bonfires in honor of the King and Parliament
being saved. That tradition is still celebrated in England every
November 5th, but instead of bonfires there are fireworks and a
Halloween like celebration.

20140706-095624-35784619.jpg
Literally just steps from our Inn sits the huge York Minister, the largest
Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe. Built in the shape of a cross
and faces east towards Jerusalem. The word “Minster” is Latin which
means “Place of Learning”.

20140706-115902-43142505.jpg
As you enter the church through the South Transept you will be facing
the North. The North and South Transepts are separated by a Lantern
Tower where you look up and see the incredible workmanship of the
ceiling of the Central Tower. The North Transept is elaborately decorated.
The huge Five Sisters Stained Glass Window is facing you. A memorial
to women, this is the largest lancet window in the world.

Because the Minster was right outside our Inn, we were here once or
twice a day, including three nights of attending the Evensong performed
by the Minister’s choir, made up of children and adults. The music
was beautiful and different every evening. It just made for a lovely
enchanting highlight to this beautiful historic city.

20140706-120956-43796147.jpg
York is a historic walled city in North Yorkshire, England. The city
has a rich heritage and is a popular destination for millions.
As there are so many incredible sites, we decided to take a City
Sightseeing Bus tour, to get to know the city more. We were glad we
did, as it was very beneficial going around the perimeter of the city,
seeing sites we would have missed. One incredible site was that of
the Lendal Bridge overlooking the River Ouse running through the town.
We walked the wall around the city and it was so quiet and beautiful.
We were able to see the roof tops of many homes with their lovely
English gardens in full bloom. We went to a couple of great museums,
walked through some lovely gardens, saw Clifford Tower part of
York Castle. This city is a must see.

20140706-124443-45883271.jpg
The Lendal Bridge over the River Ouse that runs through the town. The streets of York are a delight to walk passing the historic buildings, the
beautiful gardens, the overall landscape of the city is truly exceptional.

20140706-135403-50043283.jpg
The Shambles is an old street in York, England, with overhanging
timber-framed buildings, some dating back as far as the fourteenth
century. The butchers use to hang their meat on the hooks hanging
outside their stores. There was once twenty-five butcher shops on
this street, and although the butchers have vanished, you can still
see the hooks outside the shops which are now a mixture of stores,
restaurants, a bakery, a bookstore and souvenir shops.

20140706-141959-51599861.jpg
There was one place I had to go when I was in York and that was
Betty’s Tea Room. It is a family owned business that is based in
Yorkshire, England. Betty’s products are handmade and uses the
highest of quality ingredients. There are six Betty’s Tea Rooms in the
Yorkshire area. The family has often refused to expand to other
areas of England, due to the fact, they want to keep a watchful eye
on every detail.

This is a very popular place with not only tourist but also locals.
Lines are usually very long and finally the second time of trying to
get in, the line was manageable. We probably waited thirty minutes
to get seated, but it was well worth it. We had afternoon tea and it
the highest of quality. The restaurant is lovely, bright and colorful,
and the staff very attentive. It was one of the best teas I have ever
had and was so glad I had the opportunity to visit this tea room I had
always heard so much about. As you enter the restaurant there is
a bakery that sells a wide variety of Betty’s desserts and tea cakes.

20140706-144926-53366447.jpg
We found Michael’s Brasserie that is below a quaint little hotel, so
we thought we would give it a try. It was excellent. The food was
exceptionally good and reasonably priced. Home cooked typical
English dinners, Yorkshire pudding with beef, mushrooms in an ale
gravy with potatoes and vegetables. They had fish, steaks, chicken,
and the desserts were wonderful. We actually ate here two nights
while we were in the city.

20140706-150506-54306122.jpg
Our visit was coming to a close soon and we pretty much saw what
we wanted to see and much more. We were able to get in a little
shopping and just make these few days a relaxing vacation.
I really loved my visit to York, especially our time spent at the Minister, and
our walk along the walls of the city. It really gives you an insight as to how magnificent it must have looked at one time. Seeing the site of the Minister towering above the other buildings and trees, was beautiful.
This is truly a remarkable lovely city.

Springtime in London continues

Piccadilly Circus is a road junction and public space of London’s
West End in the city of Westminster, built in 1819 to connect
Regent Street with the major shopping street of Piccadilly Circus.
Circus in Latin is circle, a round open space at a street junction.
Piccadilly links directly to the theaters on Shaftesbury Avenue, as
well as Haymarket, Coventry Street and Leicester Square.

20140630-211403-76443678.jpg
The circus is close to major shopping and entertainment areas in the
West End. It’s a major traffic junction and a busy meeting place and
tourist attraction with its video displays and neon signs. It is chocked
full of restaurants, bars, shopping and theaters. It is a great place to
come at night and people watch.

20140630-213012-77412796.jpg
In all the times I have been to London, I never made it to Westminster
Abbey. No idea why, just never could fit it in. But I was determined
this trip that I would, and was so happy that I did. It is truly beautiful.
When you see it on television it looks much bigger. Now don’t get
me wrong, it is huge, but not near what I thought it would be. So
much history in this abbey that is over 1000 years old.

Westminster Abbey is a gothic church in the city of Westminster.
It is one of the most notable religious buildings in the United
Kingdom and has been the traditional place for Coronations and
burial sites for the English, and later, British Monarchs.
The Abbey has witnessed 38 coronations since 1066, the most recent
was that of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953.
What I remember, of course, was after Princess Diana was killed
in a car accident on August 31, 1997, her body laid in state at St. James
Palace until the funeral in Westminister Abbey on September 6,1997.

20140701-190503-68703902.jpg
What I love about staying in the Sloane Square area is that we will
usually do the 30 minute walk up Sloane Street to Brompton, the
street that Harrods is located on, at least once a day. The walk is
lovely as we pass a couple of churches, a lovely small park with a
garden area, several townhouses, and always the unique and upscale
shops that we can only afford to window shop, but what fun that is.
The windows of these stores are lovely, colorful and certainly tempting.

20140701-192948-70188940.jpg<
Sloane street runs right into Knightbridge, a major street with hundreds
of stores and restaurants. If you turn right, Harvey Nichols Department
Store, a very upscale establishment, is right there taking up a few
blocks, and further down is the lovely Hyde Park. If you turn left,
you will pass several stores, restaurants, and finally the famous
Harrods Department Store.

20140701-194915-71355473.jpg
Harrods is an upscale department store located on Brompton Rd.
in Knightsbridge. I never miss an opportunity to go into this store.
It is like something you have to see to believe. It’s not only beautiful
but is mammoth in size. It has over 330 departments which offer
a wide range of products and services. It has 32 restaurants, serving
everything from high tea to tapas to pub food to haute cuisine.
It offers a personal shopping assistance program known as “By
Appointment”, a watch repair, a pharmacy, beauty spa, Harrods
Financial Services, food delivery, a wine steward, private events
planner, and many many more. It even sells gold bars from Harrods
Bank. Harrods Food Hall is actually exactly that, a huge hall full
of food. Displays after displays of meats, fruit, salads, sushi, candy,
teas, fish, and so much more. It is truly unbelievable what this store
offers. They say it is visited, by sometimes on a peak day, over
330,000 people. There is even a dress code in place for the visitor.
I personally have never been stopped, (I would hope not) but I have
never gone in there with short cutoff jeans, dirty clothes, smelly,
swimwear, cycling shorts or flip flops. They say security staff has
the right to not let those examples in the store.

20140701-203025-73825235.jpg
Usually if I go to a place more then once or twice, I try to see at least
a couple of different places that I had not visited on previous visits.
One of those would be our day trip to Kew Gardens about a thirty
minute tube ride from Sloane Square.

Stepping out of the station, in the Village of Kew, was certainly a delight.
It is a typical small English town, quaint and lovely, I knew at once
this would be a good day. After doing a little exploring around town,
we proceeded to take the six minute walk to Kew Gardens, passing
several beautiful English homes with lovely attached gardens.

20140702-214323-78203405.jpg
The Royal Botanical Gardens, otherwise know as Kew Gardens, has the
largest collection of living plants, over 30,000 different kinds. The
grounds have beautiful landscapes, glasshouses full of rare and
beautiful plants, Historical buildings, botanical art galleries and a
soaring treetop walkway. Also on the grounds is a beautiful Temple
built for the Japan British Expedition in 1910 and moved to Kew in
1911. The Imperial Envoys Gateway, a four-fifths scale replica of the
Mishima houngan-ji Temple in Kyoto. Also, in the southeast corner of
Kew, stand the Great Pagoda erected in 1762. You can take a tram
around the entire grounds with a guide who explains the areas, the
history, and also points out several details that we would otherwise
have not known.

20140702-222440-80680604.jpg
The grounds are simply stunning. Also on the grounds is Kew Palace,
a British Royal Palace, which actually is the size of a Manor. Amongst
the British royalty attached to the palace, was King George III who lived
here with his wife Queen Charlotte in the 1700’s. On April 21, 2006,
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, hosted an 80th birthday celebration
for his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

20140702-223603-81363417.jpg
After spending the day at the gardens, we walked back to town and had
dinner at Ma Crusine, a french bistro with retro gingham tablecloths
and an exposed barn like ceiling. It was a great place to have a good
meal and reflect all we had experienced today.

20140702-225339-82419418.jpg
What would a visit to London, England be without a spot of tea. We
will usually do tea once or twice while we are here and today it was at
Fortnum and Mason, an upscale department store in central London.
Fortnum has been selling tea for over 300 years. The quality is superb
and the blends make for a perfect cup of tea at any time of the day.
The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon was lovely and the service impeccable.
This is a British tradition that has continued through hundreds of years,
and still going strong.

Our week was coming to an end and sadly it would be time to have to
leave our wonderful flat on Sloane Square. There is definitely something
to be said about renting a flat or apartment while on vacation. It gives
you the feeling you are at home with all the conveniences needed to
live while traveling. You can have a leisurely breakfast without the
worries that the breakfast room will stop serving before you get there.
It saves money on food, you can do a little or lot of cooking in your
rental or not. There are so many advantages to staying in an apartment
while on vacation, and how lucky am I, that I have had the luxury of
staying in this flat, in London, several times.

“By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as
the world can show”. Samuel Johnson