Our 2004 England Trip

text by Mary Jane Hyde


Monday, June 21  Leave for England.

   On a warm summer morning, we're off on our "holiday" in England!  We (Mary Jane, her twin sister Janet Tucker, Dan, and Scotty) fly from Harrisburg, PA to Dulles (Washington, D.C.) to Heathrow, London.  Scotty's stuffed animals (Teddy, Fetch, Zip, Patches, and Hi-Tops) travel with us in Scotty's carry-on suitcase.  (Little do they know that they will be joined by many more stuffed animals purchased in England!)

   We decided that we should visit our friends in England again.  It's great to have our "long-distance" English friends!

   Our flight, United Airlines Flight 918, scheduled to leave Dulles at 6:20 p.m., doesn't leave until about 7 p.m.  The pilot says "warning lights" came on, and they "have to fill out a report."  (Whatever that means!)


Tuesday, June 22  London.

   The trip to England seems short--maybe because we sleep part of the time.  (At least Jan, Scotty, and I sleep.)  Dan wakes us for breakfast--it's about 6 a.m. "local time" in England!  From the plane, as we sleepily try to eat breakfast before landing, we see the "hedgerows" of England--plus some housing that Scotty says looks like where the Dursleys live in the Harry Potter movies.  We land about 7 a.m., local time.

   "Go down to Kew in lilac time...It isn't far from London." (John Masefield.)  We do go down to Kew!  After the long waits for passport control, customs, and car rental, it's refreshing to walk to quiet little Kew Village, near Kew Gardens, from our B&B (Pro Kew B&B, Kew) for lunch at the Pagoda Restaurant.  We take an hour's rest at our B&B, then ride the Tube from Kew Gardens Station into King's Cross Station, London.  At King's Cross Station we see where the "Platform 9 3/4" scenes in Harry Potter were filmed.  Then we walk a short distance to the British Library to visit the Exhibition Galleries and look at such famous documents as the Magna Carta, the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of Gutenberg's original Bibles, and some of Shakespeare's plays and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  We conclude our day with a 7 p.m. performance of the stage musical version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Palladium Theatre near Oxford Circus. The Palladium is much smaller than I imagined it to be. I think the seating area is smaller than that in the Weis Center at Bucknell.  Superb performance!  The acting, singing, dancing, sets, and special effects are flawless!

   Tonight and tomorrow night, we stay at Pro Kew B & B, in Kew.  Our Saab rental car remains parked outside our B & B, with a "parking sticker" (purchased from our B & B) in the window so we won't get a ticket.


Wednesday, June 23  London.

   We ride the Tube in the rain to Westminster station.  From there, we cross the Thames to the "Millennium Eye," the huge revolving wheel.  We made reservations (while back in the USA) for a 10 a.m. ride on The Eye.  The rainy weather seems to have kept many people away.  There are no lines waiting to board The Eye, and we share our "pod" on The Eye with only 4 other people.

   We eat lunch in and tour part of the British Museum.  In the few hours from after lunch to closing time, it's impossible to see everything in this Museum.  We do see the Rosetta Stone (used to solve the riddle of translating Egyptian hieroglyphics); Egyptian, Assyrian, and Anglo-Saxon artifacts; costumes from the current movie Troy; and the Lewis chess set, which was used as the model for the chess set in Harry Potter.

   A short Tube ride puts us in Piccadilly Circus.  At "Lilywhite's," a sporting goods shop, Scotty buys a red "England" soccer jersey with "#7 Beckham" on it.  Dan buys a large St. George's flag (red cross on white field) and two smaller St. George's flags (the kind you hang on your car windows). "Jess" and her friend "Jules" shop at Lilywhite's in the movie Bend It Like Beckham.

   We conclude our day with a leisurely and delicious dinner at Strada Restaurant.


Thursday, June 24  London.  Drive to Bristol.

   A clear and sunny day.  This is a big day in England--the England National Football (soccer) team plays Portugal at Portugal in the "Euro 2004" games.  More about this later.

   We ride into London to visit the new Globe Theatre.  The late American actor Sam Wanamaker spearheaded research efforts to locate the site in London of Shakespeare's original Globe Theatre. Wanamaker then led a fund drive to build a new Globe Theatre on a site as near the location of Shakespeare's original Globe as possible.  (The original site is partly occupied by existing buildings.)  Our tour of the new Globe Theatre includes watching a "line" rehearsal (actors practicing their lines in the dialects of Shakespeare's time).  Scotty buys a "Plague Rat" puppet in the gift shop.  Jan buys me a couple magnets.  We have lunch in the restaurant at the Globe.

   Hat overboard!  To reach the Globe Theatre, we have to cross the Thames on the new "Millennium" Bridge.  Today it's quite windy on this bridge.  We stop to photograph the Globe from the Millennium Bridge on our return.  As we do so, the wind takes Dan's "2002 Winter Olympics" baseball hat from his jacket pocket and drops it into the Thames.

  We conclude our visit to London with a quick stop at Harrod's, a London destination that Scotty chose.  Scotty and Dan visit the "Toy floor."  One of Scotty's objectives at Harrod's is to find and buy a "Hermione" action figure for me.  Alas, no Hermione action figures are to be found there, but Scotty certainly had a good idea.

   We drive to Bristol. We stay tonight (and June 25, 26, and 27) at the Bradford Hotel, Avonmouth, Bristol, where we stayed two years ago when we visited the Bristol area.  When we reach the Bradford Hotel, the couple who run it, plus four or so guests, are in the "pub" part of the Hotel watching the England vs. Portugal soccer game (Euro 2004).  We join them all, and add our cheers for England.  After the two halves and two overtimes, both teams are still scoreless. England loses on penalty kicks.  Too bad.


Friday, June 25  Bristol.

   Today we see our Bristol friends.  We visit Liz and Mon at Liz's Flower Shop, Shirehampton, and enjoy dinner with them at Lamplighter's Pub.  We had hoped to visit with Malcolm and Margaret, but Margaret is too sick at the moment for company.  We visit Brian and Eileen after lunch.  We walk on, and photograph, the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

   After our dinner with Liz and Mon, we hold a parley to decide on our itinerary for June 26 and June 27.

   According to our May 22, 2004, itinerary, on June 26 we will drive to Stonehenge (40 mi.) and Bath (30 mi.); and on June 27 we will drive to Wales to see Chepstow Castle and Tintern Abbey (20 mi.).

   We decide that we can't adequately visit Stonehenge and Bath on the same day, since (1) we also want to visit the town of Salisbury on the day we visit Stonehenge and (2) both Stonehenge and Bath are not in a direct line from each other, so we would spend a lot of time driving from Stonehenge to Bath or vice versa.  Jan suggests that, since Wales (location of Chepstow Castle and Tintern Abbey) are relatively close to Bath, we should visit Bath for lunch on, say, June 26, then go to Chepstow Castle and Tintern Abbey in the afternoon.  Then we should visit Stonehenge and Salisbury on the next day, or vice versa.  Jan and I really want to have lunch at Sally Lunn's in Bath!  We won't visit the Roman Baths Museum again, since the four of us visited it in 2002.


Saturday, June 26  Bath; Chepstow Castle and Tintern Abbey in Wales.

   We visit Bath.  At Sally Lunn's, a must-visit restaurant, we have lunch, which includes the famous Sally Lunn buns.  We shop at "Paddington and Friends" (I buy a mini-Paddington Bear dressed as a "Beefeater" Tower of London guard) and Marks & Spencer, sightsee, and photograph the "Circus" and the Royal Crescent.  It's later than we had intended by the time we leave Bath.  This is one of those cities we can return to again and again, and still find new places to see and old places that to re-visit.

   We cross the Severn Bridge into Wales and tour Chepstow Castle, where William Marshall lived in the early 1200s.

   We visit Tintern Abbey--because of the poem "Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey" by William Wordsworth.  It's late afternoon (after 5 p.m.) by the time we reach Tintern Abbey, and it's beginning to get dark because of the overcast sky and storm. In the gift shop, we buy a few things (including a copy of Wordsworth's "Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey."  The Abbey is closed at this hour, but we walk around outside, and take pictures.  A plaque on the low stone wall surrounding the Abbey notes that, at that spot in 1568, copper and tin were first mixed to make brass.  (Historically, I think copper and tin were mixed to make brass earlier than 1568, but this may be the first time it was made in this area; or maybe the plaque really said "568.")  All of the monastery grounds are fenced in by a low stone wall.  Our dinner is at the Abbey Hotel, across the street from Tintern Abbey, in what might have been the location of more monastery buildings.


Sunday, June 27  Stonehenge, Salisbury.

   Today we make our biennial pilgrimage to Stonehenge.  For me, visiting Stonehenge is a peaceful, serene, and mystical experience.  As I sit near the stones, there is truly a spiritual feeling, something indefinably wonderful.  The audio guide, at spot # 7, states, "Even without the stones and the barrows, this would still be a special place of serenity."  At one point near the end of the audio tour, the speaker says, "Slowly turn around and see everything around you."  This enables us to calmly view the total environment of the stones.  I don't discount the spiritual force of such a place as Stonehenge.

   We take many photos of the Standing Stones.  The "audio guides" are vastly improved over the ones in use when we were here in 2002.  We have lunch at the Stonehenge snack bar.  In the gift shop, I buy Scotty a plush Stonehenge sheep.

   Earlier, as we drove toward Stonehenge, we discovered that the A-303 (main highway to Stonehenge and Salisbury) is closed for construction, and there are detours.  After a circuitous detour, we are finally about a half mile from Stonehenge.  In the front passenger seat, camera at the ready, I photograph the stones of Stonehenge as we approach the Salisbury Plain.

   After lunch, we drive to Salisbury. This is Sunday, so many of the shops in Salisbury are closed.  As Jan, Scotty, and I enter Salisbury Cathedral, we notice a black cat sitting on a counter.  Of course, Scotty the cat lover is drawn to the cat.  He and I take pictures of this cat.  We intended to ask someone if the cat is an official "church cat," but we forgot. We do have a delightful "tea" at the coffee shop in Salisbury Cathedral.


Monday, June 28  Drive to Dawlish.  Visit with Chris and Reg.

   We shop at Wal-Mart for supplies and stop in Shirehampton to say our good-byes to Liz and Mon.  Liz and Mon promise to try to send us a video copy of the "Panto" I was in (Humpty Dumpty) when we lived in Shirehampton.

   Our drive to Dawlish (100 mi.) in Devon is broken up by a lunch stop at a "services."  (British "services" are similar to the "service areas" on the New York Thruway and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.)

   While Dan rests, Jan, Scotty, and I walk down Smuggler's Lane to look at the sea.

   Reg and Chris stop by and invite us to have fish-and-chips at their home.  Over fish-and-chips, we have a delightful visit with them! 

   We stay tonight at The Manor Farm, in Dawlish.


Tuesday, June 29  Dartmoor and Widecombe; drive to Gloucester.

   After a tasty breakfast at the Manor Farm (bacon, eggs, grilled tomatoes, sausage, homefries, toast, and perked coffee), we drive toward Dartmoor.

   En route, we stop for a couple hours at Bovey Tracey.  Chris and Reg recommended that we visit the House of Marbles in Bovey Tracey.  The House of Marbles is a treasure trove of marbles, some for sale, some in the little museum.  It's hard to resist buying some of all the different kinds and colors of the glass marbles.  Some are flat-sided, some are round, some are shaped like jello cubes, some are shaped like little stars and moons and butterflies.  Sanity prevails, though, and we buy only a few!

   We visit the village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, where we have lunch at the Cafe-on-the-Green.  During lunch, some chaffinches visit us and get photographed!  In one of the gift shops, I buy Scotty a plush Moor pony.  We hike up a Tor.  We see the wild Dartmoor ponies, plus sheep and cows that roam the unfenced moors.  We drive to the Cotswolds (120 mi.) and stay at Brookthorpe Lodge in Gloucester.


Wednesday, June 30  Gloucester, Belas Knap; drive to York.

   We visit Gloucester.  We enjoy looking at and photographing some of the boats (including the maroon "Sea Otter") in historic Gloucester Harbor.

   At Gloucester Cathedral, we hope to see and photograph many of the venues used in the first two Harry Potter movies.  To our delight, in the cathedral there is a large bulletin board with "Harry Potter" information, plus a pamphlet for sale listing the film locations in the Cathedral Cloisters. We photograph lots of "Harry Potter"-related places!

   We are intrigued by and photograph the effigy of Robert Cuthose, Duke of Normandy and eldest son of William the Conqueror.  The effigy is positioned with the right knee bent and right foot crossed over the left foot.  We're not sure of the significance of the pose.  (On August 7, Cousin Jim Jackson, at the Jackson Brigade Reunion we attend in Parkersburg, West Virginia, tells me that the pose of Robert Cuthose is typical of a "warrior," to show he is ready to do battle.)

   In the gift shop, I buy Scotty a mini-bear dressed as a friar.

   We enjoy lunch in the Cathedral restaurant--Jan's treat!

   We make a slight change in our plans.  Because of the time (it is after 1:00 p.m. by the time we finish lunch), we eliminate Chedworth Roman Villa from our itinerary and set out instead for Belas Knap.  After a long drive into the Cotswolds, searching for Belas Knap and retracing our steps, we finally find it!  We hike the mostly-uphill 0.75 miles up to Belas Knap, the best-preserved Long Barrow in Europe.  It is worth the hike!

   We drive to York (180 mi.).  Tonight and tomorrow night, we stay at Avondale Guest House in York. 


Thursday, July 1  York.

   It's hard to believe all that we see and do today in York!  After a tasty English breakfast, we walk to the "medieval city" part of town.  We tour the Castle Museum (located in the old debtors' prison), Clifford's Tower, York Minster, and the Jorvik Viking Center.  At the Castle Museum gift shop, Scotty buys a little plush bear dressed like a bandit--no doubt supposed to be Dick Turpin, notorious criminal hanged at York Prison.

   In York Minster, we admire the beautiful rose window, then tour, in the Undercroft, the Foundation Museum, which shows the historical levels of the Roman Fort Eboracum and the Norman Cathedral at this spot.

   We have a delightful lunch at Betty's Cafe.  It's fascinating watching the people outside the Cafe, especially when it starts raining.

   We walk along Shambles and Stonegate Streets.  We photograph a mime, costumed to appear being blown by the wind.

   At the Jorvik Viking Center, we ride a "time car" back to the era of the Viking settlement of York.  Even the early smells, some pleasant, some not so pleasant, are duplicated as we ride through early Jorvik.  Costumed craftspersons tell us more about Viking-era York activities.  Scotty buys some "Viking" Playmobil action figures.

   While Jan and I revive with a Starbucks coffee, Dan and Scott climb the 245 steps to the top of York Minster for the view.  They find the climb arduous, but the view is worth it!

   After dinner at a pub, we walk the Medieval City Walls to Micklegate Bar, the original main gate to York.

   On our room TV in our B & B, we watch Greece defeat Czechoslovakia 1 to 0 in Euro 2004.


Friday, July 2  Drive to Durham, see Venerable Bede's Tomb; Hadrian's Wall.

   Today we drive north to Durham.  Jan and I want to see the tomb of St. Bede--called "St. Bede the Venerable"--in Durham Cathedral.  Bede is the author of The Ecclesiastical History of the English People--the first written English history.  We see and photograph his tomb.  At the Cathedral gift shop, Jan and I buy beautiful mauve-and-gold silk rectangular scarves.

   In Durham we get the first of two parking tickets which we have ever received in England.  (More about parking tickets in July 5, 2004, entry.).  (Parking fine is 30 pounds--pretty steep.  We pay it July 3 in East Ollerton.)

   We drive still farther north to Hadrian's Wall.  Along Hadrian's Wall, we stop at Chesters Roman Fort and Housesteads Roman Fort, and visit the museums there, too.

   The Hadrian's Wall area is quite "civilized" since we saw it in 1985 or 1986 when Dan was on sabbatical at the University of Bristol.  It's raining, so we dodge raindrops as we have Jan take a possible "Christmas picture" of the three of us on Hadrian's wall.

   Or so we think at first.  We realize that the "Hadrian's Wall" open to the public is really the ruins of part of Houseteads Roman Fort that once occupied this area.  All the people are photographing each other on the ruins of Housesteads, which they mistakenly think is Hadrian's Wall.

   Dan and I remember walking on part of the REAL Hadrian's Wall in this area on a path that was in between some trees.  That section is still there, but it is beyond the fenced-in "Housesteads" area in a sheep pasture that is not accessible--actually off limits--from the Housesteads compound.  We walk around the fenced-in area and reach the REAL Hadrian's Wall.  Jan obligingly takes a photo of us on the section of the REAL Hadrian's Wall, then all four of us walk a short distance on it.

   Our supper is sandwiches (eaten on the way, in our car), purchased at the snack bar at Hadrian's Wall gift shop.

   We drive southward to the Nottingham area (160 mi).  We stay at Brecks Cottage, MoorHouse, near Nottingham -- a 350-year-old cottage with doorways only 5 and a half feet high.  (The doorways pose a major challenge for Dan, who is 6 feet, 2 inches tall!)


Saturday, July 3  Nottingham, Edwinstowe, Sherwood Forest.


   We (Jan and I) get up about 6:10 a.m.  We have a yummy breakfast, most of the while also chatting with our landlady.

   We pack up, and first drive to East Ollerton to pay our parking fine.  We buy a business envelope and stamp.  We get a money order, put it and the parking ticket in the envelope, and send everything registered mail to the parking authority.

   Also at East Ollerton, I call the landlord at the Westham Guest House in Warwick to tell him that it will be after 7 p.m. when we get to Warwick.  (I get to use one of those cool red phone booths!)  He tells me he will leave the key out for us.  He directs me to lift up the milk bottle tray.  The key will be there.  Our room is number 4 on the second floor.

   At our Brecks Cottage B & B, I read up on Robin Hood in the book our landlady has, Guide to Rural England.

   Here are some notes I took from that book:

   "Undeterred by the vague foundations upon which the legend [of Robin Hood] is built, visitors still flock to see the great hollow tree which the outlaws purportedly used as a meeting place and as a cache for their supplies.  The Major Oak is located about ten minutes walk along the main track in the heart of the forest and presents a rather forlorn appearance.  Its thirty-foot girth and branches 260 feet in circumference are now supported by massive wooden crutches and iron corsets.  There is no denying that the tree is at least 500 years old, and some sources claim its age to be nearer to 1,000 years.  Despite its decayed appearance the tree is still alive thanks to careful preservation.

   Robin Hood Country near Nottingham.  We drive to Edwinstowe. A little way up the road leading northward out of Edwinstowe is Sherwood Forest Visitor Center.  We visit Sherwood Forest Country Park and hike to the Major Oak.  As mentioned above, Robin Hood and his band of thieves supposedly used this tree as a meeting place and a place to store things.  Sherwood forest is not very extensive, at least not the present-day Sherwood Forest.

   We eat lunch at the restaurant in Sherwood Forest.  Dan and I split a Cottage Pie.  We substitute a salad for chips (fries).  I have delicious lemon meringue pie and coffee.  Jan and Scotty split a pasty, a salad, and a piece of lemon meringue pie and a chocolate cupcake.

   We watch a video about Robin Hood.  We visit the museum and gift shop and buy several things, including a little plush bear dressed as Robin Hood.

   In Edwinstowe, we visit the twelfth-century Church of St. Mary where Robin Hood and Maid Marion were married.  We visit "Robin's Den," a gift shop.  I buy Scotty a "fox" plush toy like the one Jan bought for herself at the Museum gift shop at Sherwood Forest.  There is a beautiful bronze sculpture of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, which we all photograph.

   We drive to Warwick (60 mi).  We stay at Westham Guest House in Warwick.  All four of us share the same room here.

   En route to Warwick, we stop at a "Moto" Services (restaurant and gas station).  Jan, Scotty, and I split a pizza and have some "Ben & Jerry's" ice cream.  Dan has a burger from Burger King.


   Comment:  During this visit to England especially, we've noticed a depressing uniformity in food at the B & B's we've stayed at.  Of course, part of this may be our choice of B & B's.  In 2002, at the B & B in Cheddar ("Cheddar Rose") for example, the hostess served delicious homemade breads and muffins, lots of fresh strawberries, and the food was cooked on her special stove.  We learn that most of the B & B proprietors now get their food and other supplies from a central supply house.


Sunday, July 4  Warwick Castle and Oxford.

  We have a pleasant breakfast at Westham Guest House.  Jan and I go down to breakfast first, and are about finished when Dan and Scotty come down to eat.

   We tour Warwick Castle.  This is one place Scotty especially wished to visit again.  Our plan is to spend half a day here, then go to Oxford.  Highlights of today's visit include the Ghost Tower and the Jester.  At the Ghost Tower, we watch, participate in, react to, and scream to (Jan and I do the screaming!) Warwick Ghosts Alive, a dramatized presentation of the story of Sir Guy's murder.  Later, we enjoy the show put on by the Jester (wearing a yellow-and-green jester's costume), who jumps over two kids and a man.  We have a pleasant lunch in "The Undercroft Restaurant," the Castle cafeteria.  Jan, Scotty, and I have lemon meringue pie for dessert.  After lunch, we split up (Dan and Scotty, Jan and I) to tour parts of the Castle.  We meet about 2:45 on the Castle grounds

   We leave about 3:00 p.m. and drive to Oxford (50 mi).  We walk around Oxford and see some venues where scenes in the first two Harry Potter were filmed: Bodleian Library (Hogwarts Infirmary); Christ's Church (Hogwarts Great Hall); Magdalen College (I think the Broom Lesson scene).  We also see other places:  Radcliffe Camera, Sheldonian Theatre, and several Colleges that were established in 1200s.  There is minimal rain during our walk around Oxford.

   We have pizza at the Pizza Express in Oxford.  Jan, Scotty, and I have chocolate cake for dessert.

   We stay at Nanford Guest House in Oxford.  (Both the rooms are on the first floor.)  On the TV in Dan and Scotty's room, we watch Greece defeat Portugal 1-0 to win Euro 2004.



Monday, July 5 Return to USA.

   Jan and I are up about 6 a.m.  We eat breakfast about 7 a.m., as Dan and Scotty arrive at the dining room, then return to our room to finish packing.

   We get our bags out in the hall while Dan gets our car and parks in front of our B & B.  Alas, the Parking Police give us a ticket before we finish loading up our things in the car.  We've reached the conclusion that there are "parking spotters" in buildings near no-parking zones, and that the "spotters" get a commission for every ticket they give.  (We pay the ticket from the USA.)

   Our drive back to London Airport (40 mi.) takes longer than we anticipated because of rush hour and lanes tied up with truck breakdowns. We reach Alamo about 10:30 a.m.  We leave our rented Saab and take the shuttle to Heathrow.  Our plane starts boarding at 11:35 a.m, so we go through security with no time to browse through the gift shops.

   Our return flight leaves London for Dulles about 12:20 p.m.  We arrive in Harrisburg about 6:18 p.m. after a super vacation.