Saturday, May 24th - Saturday, May 31st
Saturday after Dawn left we moved to a quiet campground in the woods to relax and get reorganized for the rest of our trip. We met some new friends and joined in their afternoon tea (scones with clotted cream and jam and cakes and biscuits), BBQ potluck and evening festivities and had a great time. They pronounced my name Tayra, which sounded quite of posh.
Monday we stopped to see the Iron Bridge at Telford on the Severn River. It was the first cast-iron bridge in the world built in 1779 while England was at war with her American colonies. Artists and engineers came from all over the world to marvel at it. It was intended as an advertisement for the skills of the Coalbrookdale iron masters. Pedestrians paid a half penny to cross. In the toll house exhibit there is a subtle slam against royalty. England was not immune to the revolutionary sentiment brewing in the colonies.
There are ten museums scattered over three miles in the Iron Bridge Gorge area. We went to the Blists Hill Victorian Town. The Industrial Revolution started here in the Severn River Valley with abundant deposits of iron ore and coal and a river for transport. They gave the world its first iron wheels and steam-powered locomotive.
Near the town of Madeley, it's a 50-acre, open-air folk museum of Victorian industry, factories and a re-created community from the 1890's. They have a blacksmith, bakery, butcher shop, wood worker, leather worker, dentist, surveyor's office, print shop, shops making soaps, candy, candles and lots more.
You could ride on these rather unique swings or in the horse drawn wagon. They had a Punch and Judy puppet show and a one-man play of "Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street", which has been playing in London theaters for over 100 years as plays, musicals, and even operas and ballets. We walked by Fleet Street when we were in London, but contrary to common belief at the time, the story is not based on any real events.
Ruins of iron foundry/blast furnace.
How would you like to do this for a living for donations tossed in a bucket? I don't see how he could stay in that position. I did see him straighten up to stretch a bit after we walked by, but still. Monday night we camped at Romsley near Bromsgrove (Romstock).
Tuesday. Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare's hometown, to see or not to see, that is the question. It could be much ado about nothing, but we decided to risk it. Some of these buildings date back to the early 1400's with little changed in 600 years. They were renovated in the 1980's. The panels between the timber frames were made of wattle and daub. Wattle is a woven framework made of hazel and willow twigs. Daub is a mixture of mud, clay, straw, horsehair, cow manure and animal fat pressed into the framework. Seems like that would attract varmints of all kinds. I guess they just daub it on. It is then plastered inside, and waterproofed outside.
We bought the five-home combo ticket to visit all Shakespeare-related homes. We started with Shakespeare's birth place. You walk through a nice, modern museum exhibit about his life first that leads out to this court yard, where you enter his childhood home for a tour.
Nash House (c.1530), the home of Shakespeare's granddaughter and her husband. It is next door to the gardens that were once the site of New Place, a swanky mansion that Shakespeare bought back in his hometown when he hit the big time in London. It was the second largest home in town and the only one made of brick. There was a very interesting gentleman in the museum there telling Shakespeare related tales.
This is some of the gardens where New Place and Shakespeare's orchards were located. People were already visiting Shakespeare sights in the 1700's and capitalizing on them, but New Place was torn down by a very upset Rev. Gastrell who was fed up with the gawking tourists and his taxes. He was run out of town and they passed a law that no one by the name of Gastrell could ever take up residence in Stratford again.
A memorial to Shakespeare in the gardens. We had lunch at a nearby pub. I had duck hoison flatbread, tomato soup and salad. John had his favorite, BBQ ribs, chips, onion rings, coleslaw and a pint, of course.
Hall's Croft just a couple blocks away was the home of Shakespeare's eldest daughter and her husband who was a doctor.
Notice the huge spits for roasting meat in the fireplace.
Just a couple blocks down from there on the river is the Holy Trinity Church where he is entombed in the floor right in front of the altar. He and his family were baptized and buried here. He was a rector of the church when he died at the age of 52 in 1616 and had bought some land from the church. It is the one outlined with the plaque by it. There is also a memorial to him on the wall above.
Entrance to the gardens at Anne Hathaway's Cottage.
Kind of an interesting rocking seat.
Shakespeare was 18 and Anne was 26 when they were married. There was usually a reading of the marriage bans on three Sundays preceding the wedding, but their's was only read once and their daughter was born six months after the wedding. Seven years later Shakespeare was living in London as a budding poet, playwright and actor and soon hit the big time, writing and performing for royalty.
Mary Arden's Farm, girlhood home of William's mother, is an open-air museum depicting farm life in the late 1500's to early 1600's. There were two historic farm homes here, barns, stables, animals and gardens. They did falconry demonstrations and you could try your hand at archery.
The original farmhouse looks fairly modern because the outside has been bricked over, but these are views inside a couple bedrooms upstairs and all the rooms look about the same. Notice the very short doorway.
This year was the 500th anniversary of Mary Arden's 1514 farm house, built by her father, Shakespeare's grandfather.
One of the buildings on the grounds was a dovecote or pigeon house, evidence of the family's status, as they were usually restricted to the lord of the manor or clergy. It had over 650 nesting holes. A revolving ladder attached to a central post would have been used to collect the eggs and birds, a welcome meat addition to the winter diet. It would have been regularly cleaned to collect the valuable manure, the best of all others for plants and seeds.
I stopped to have a look at the sheep and they turned out to be pigs, Mangaleza pigs, a cross breed of Lincoln curly pigs (now extinct) which would have been the kind of pigs they would have had at the time. They try to have all the ancient rare breeds Shakespeare would have known on his grandmother's farm in the 1570s, including Cotswold sheep with a mane of wool that hangs down covering their faces.
They take their tents seriously here. I never saw a small tent, like a two-man tent that we see quite often in the U.S. Wednesday night we camped at Enfield, just north of London, so we could do up all our laundry, get packed up, and be ready to return the RV Thursday morning.
We went for a nice walk in the evening. This horse must have been used to getting treats from passers by, because he kept coming over to the fence as we walked along the path next to him.
Thursday morning we returned the RV and only got lost once along the way, so that wasn't too bad. Then we took two different trains to get to Waltham Stow Station and walked about a mile with our luggage to King William IV Pub where we had a room reserved for our last two weeks in London. Our room was on the 4th floor, but the nice young bartender helped us with our bags and gave us a free pint to enjoy while we waited for our room to get cleaned.
We walked around the neighborhood a bit to see the sights and this gentleman posed so nicely for me.
This coffin was in one of the shop windows we walked by. The ad said Promethian. Semi-precious metal, incorporating 14 oz. of bronze, naturally resistant to rust and corrosion, 14 karat gold plated hardware, hand-polished mirror finish, choice of interior and adjustable bed and mattress. 19,995 pounds ( about $34,000) Huh? If anyone wastes that kind of money to put me in the ground I will come back to haunt them. Just blow my ashes away in the wind and have a party in my memory.
Dominoes with their little delivery scooters was right across the street from our pub. Kitty corner was a little middle eastern kebab place where we stopped to eat lunch. There are many little eating places on every block, but most of them are middle eastern ethnic places. We saw all sorts of middle eastern attire as we walked, burkas (some with the tiny eye slits), those white pajama looking outfits on the men with little skull type hats, Indian saris, etc. We decided to take a short nap before supper and we could hear an accordion on the street below serenading us. Kind of romantic. Later we just went downstairs to our pub for supper and enjoyed the first Thursday of the month jazz night before we turned in. It was a trio (supposed to be a quartet, but one guy didn't show up) of old duffers in their 80s, piano, drums and saxophone. They were quite good and I overheard one of them talking about a conversation he once had with Sammy Davis, Jr.
Friday we had to stop and buy a new camera, as my new camera just decided to quit with the lens stuck in the out position. Then we had lunch at Garfunkels. John had pizza and I had baked mushrooms with cheese and garlic toast. Mmm, Mmm. Then we decided to take the London City Bus/Boat Tour. This is the Shipwright's Arms Pub.
This is the front of the Horse Guard's building where Dawn and I had watched the changing of the guards at the parade grounds in the rear.
Parliament. Weird how Big Ben looks like it's tipping over, but it's just the angle.
This narrow building appeared to be squeezed right in there. Kind of reminded me of laying on the bed to get my skin tight jeans zipped up when I was in high school. Looks like they forced it in there with a big sledge hammer.
Corner of Regents Street and Oxford Street, the busiest shopping street in the world.
Anybody want a paper? On the corner of the block, there was an even bigger stack of newspapers.
Cleopatra's Needle near the Victoria Embankment Gardens was a gift from Egypt in 1819. It waited almost 60 years until the U.K. could afford to move it. It cost 10,000 pounds and was paid for by a philanthropist. The obelisk is 3,000 years old, red granite, 68' tall and weighs 180 tons. While they were moving it, it capsized in a storm in the Bay of Biscay killing six crew members. It was rescued and taken to Spain for repairs. It finally arrived in 1878 and the replica sphinxes were set facing the wrong way, as they are supposed to be facing outward to protect it. One sphinx has some damage from a German bomb that fell near it during a WWI air raid. There is also one in Paris and in New York's Central Park.
The London Eye and the Aquarium.
The pedal bus. People are seated at bar stools, enjoying a drink, while they pedal their own bus.
Oops. Gonna' need some steps or a ladder to get up to that door.
Even the city light poles are ornate.
Lord Moon of the Mall Pub. Gardening is just an obsession here.
Our tour guide said that taxes were once assessed by the number and size of windows in a building. So children's and servant's rooms were put on the higher floors with smaller or no windows and sometimes windows were actually boarded over.
It seems like at least half of the cars we see are taxis. As we were driving by one area, our tour guide warned the guys to watch out for those good looking, overly friendly ladies, especially those with an overly large Adam's apple, if you know what I mean. He also said that the theater district is all lit up in the evenings, as are a lot of the people.
How do they do this?
Westminster Abbey. Statue of Winston Churchill near the traffic light. He won the 1953 Nobel Prize for his many books on English and world history. The traffic light at this corner was the first one in the world in 1898.
A close-up of a small part of Parliament.
This memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens commemorates the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act in all British colonies and the 1807 Act abolishing the trans-Atlantic slave trade and those who fought to accomplish it. I wonder why it took us so much longer and we had to have a civil war over it and kill a half million people.
Gardens at St. Mary's Church next to Lambeth Palace where we sat by the river and had lunch next to Lambeth Bridge..
In honor of all S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive) agents for service beyond the call of duty. Secretly formed for the purpose of recruiting agents, men and women, who would volunteer to continue the fight for freedom, by performing acts of sabotage in countries occupied by the enemy during WWII. 470 were sent to occupied France to fight with the French Resistance. Some were sent to Norway to sabotage attempts to develop an atomic bomb.
This is a comedy theater down along the river walk.
Saturday must be market day next to the river here. People were selling all kinds of paintings and drawings and BOOKS! There were a dozen banquet-size tables in each row, and must have been at least a dozen rows of tables. I don't know who sets up all those tables and takes them down. I sure hope they have a place to store them nearby, if they use them every weekend.
This was a guy in one of the tunnels of the tube playing a variety of buckets and sounding pretty good, too.
The Golden Hinde II, a replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship, the Golden Hinde. He was a 16th century explorer, privateer and national hero. On his 1577 expedition he was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe and brought back vast treasures that paid off the national debt and made him one of the richest men in England. He was knighted by Elizabeth I in 1581 and defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. It's an overnight living history destination. You can stay overnight and have a medieval feast and learn lots of activities from the time period. Sounds like a great family educational event. Near hear is the Clink Prison Museum, the origin of jails being referred to as the "clink". It is next to a wall of ruins that has only recently been uncovered, all that remains of the powerful Bishops of Westminster's Palace. James I and Joan Beaufort had their wedding feast here in 1424. It was turned into tenements and warehouses in the 1600's, and rediscovered in the 1800's and revealed again by a fire in the 1980's.
Southwark Cathedral, the oldest Gothic church building in London. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens and many other famous people attended this church.
Great view of the HMS Belfast, largest cruiser in the Royal Navy, permanently moored here as a museum with the Tower of London to the left and the Tower Bridge to the right. We finished our boat part of the tour and came back on Saturday to finish up the hop-on, hop-off bus part, as the ticket was good for 24 hours.
There were several of these groups of rowers going beneath us as we walked across the Tower Bridge. The bridge was built between 1886 and 1894 and opens to admit tall vessels to the Pool of London.
This marks the location of Aldgate where Chaucer lived as Controller of Customs from 1374 to 1386. It was inspired by two dream poems he wrote here at Paleyson Pilers (palace on pillars). It also marks the start of the High Street 2012 route to the Olympics at Stratford. In Oct. 1660 Samuel Pepys wrote, "I saw the limbs of some of our new traitors set upon Aldersgate... A bloody week this and the last has been, there being ten hanged, drawn and quartered."
Gardening crazy! They can make stuff grow anywhere.
I love these little food trucks along the river walk.
They are just so cute! And so is the van.
A couple views of the infamous, bloody Tower of London. Lower left-hand corner is Tower Hill where, over 400 years, 112 people were executed, watched by crowds of eager spectators. The last execution here was in 1747.
The Tower was built by William the Conqueror in 1075 to control Londoners and deter invaders. It was completed by his son in 1100.
Traitor's Gate where rebels were brought in by boat and locked away in the tower or executed, including a couple Queens. Anne Boleyn came through here for her coronation and her beheading a few years later.
Section of the original city wall 35 feet high with a 3' wide sentry walk on top. Originally built by the Romans in AD 200 and later made taller during medieval times, it was starting to be demolished in the 1700s and mostly gone by the 1800s. Only recently some sections have again become visible during building and excavation projects.
Back at our temporary home over the pub on Friday night, we discovered the place gets pretty rowdy on weekends. They had a live band and we could hear the music and partiers out front on the sidewalk until almost 2:00 AM. Or I should say, I could here them. John had been sleeping soundly for several hours. So he was probably ready to get up by the time we started hearing some guy in the street below loudly proclaiming God's love for the world and how Jesus came to save us all and so on about 4:00 AM, but I certainly wasn't! Saturday night they had Karaoke. I was reading and listening and not really minding it, but thought it was sort of ironic when John was snoring away while someone below was bellowing out, "Go Johnny, go, go, go! Johnny be Good."
I saw the perfect retiree's sign, "I love work. I could watch it all day."
More in a few days.