Sunday, July 10, 2011

England Travels cont.

Reader, beware ... the following single post has a quite lengthy summary of the rest of our trip to England.

May 30
Darren and I started our second day in London by going to St. Paul's Cathedral.  What a beautiful cathedral with such an amazing history.  A cathedral to St. Paul has been on the same site since 604 A.D.  The cathedral that existed just prior to the one we know today was burned in the Great Fire of London in 1666.  Sir Christopher Wren built the current cathedral from 1675 to 1710.  Within St. Paul's  many notable people are buried including painter Joshua Reynolds, the Duke of Wellington, and Admiral Horatio Nelson.  The latter two men, in particular, have elaborate tombs dedicated to them in the cathedral's crypt.  Sir Christopher Wren, who is also buried in the crypt, has a comparatively simple tomb and plaque above his grave.  It was touching, however, to note these words written in Latin on the plaque: "If you want to see my monument, look around you."  I love the idea of our work, whether it is something physical that we create or something less tangible like the service we give, being a monument that represents who we were and what we cared about in this life after we die.

Darren and I then climbed to the top of St. Paul's where we captured some great views of the surrounding area:

The London Eye and Parliament are visible in the distance across the Thames.

Tower Bridge and the Tower of London

Shakespeare's Globe Theater from across the Thames
From St. Paul's Darren and I went to the British Museum.  We could have spent all week in this one museum.  The fact that we only spent two hours there is close to a tragedy, but it gives us just one more reason to return someday, right?  Some of my favorite things that we saw in the museum were the Rosetta Stone, sculptures from the Acropolis in Greece, and ancient Egyptian mummies.  What amazing treasures are located in this one place in London!

We then traveled back to the area near St. Paul's and walked across the Millennium Bridge to get a close-up of Shakespeare's Globe Theater.  We had really wonderful weather during our entire trip to England, but on our walk across the bridge we experienced the one rainstorm that happened all week.  Unprepared without an umbrella we got VERY wet, but we enjoyed the true English adventure of getting caught in the rain.  Here is Darren, a little more wet than he had been moments before, outside of the Globe Theater and across the Thames from St. Paul's:

We had dinner again that night at Piccadilly Circus and used the free Internet at the Apple store to finalize details for our trip the next day.

May 31-June 2
Early the next morning we started our three-day visit to England's beautiful Lake District.  We boarded a train at the London Euston train station and rode to Preston and then on to Penrith.  While we waited for our bus to arrive to take us the last few minutes to Keswick, we ran across the street to the ruins of the Penrith Castle.  The castle was finished in 1470 and was meant to be a defense against the Scottish (Penrith and Keswick are located close to the Scottish border).  The castle is now in ruins but is still beautiful!

Penrith Castle
When we arrived in Keswick, we followed the directions we had for the short walk to the Brundholme Bed and Breakfast where we would be staying.  The directions called for a walk through a National Trust area called Hope Park.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  Sheep are allowed to roam free in Hope Park, which made our walk all the more picturesque.

Entering into Hope Park

Our first view of our B&B from Hope Park

Darren outside of the Brundholme B&B.  We were the first guests to arrive for the day so the sweet couple that owned the bed and breakfast gave us the best room overlooking Hope Park and Lake Derwentwater.

After checking in we went back through the park to explore Keswick's  city center.

Keswick's city center is a charming pedestrian-only area lined with cafes and shops.  We were lucky enough to catch a free pre-opening night street performance of the history of Keswick.  We had left our camera in the hotel room by accident (dang!) but the street performance was wonderful.  Local Keswickians dressed up as different historical figures from the city's history and led us on a walk around the city.  It was a great way to be introduced to this wonderful place.

Keswick's City Center
The next day Darren and I wanted to make sure we saw some of Keswick's claims to fame.  Keswick is home to the world's first pencil (as mentioned in my first blog post) so we had to stop by the Pencil Factory and Museum where we bought some souvenir pencils and a pencil box.  We then tried to go to the James Bond Museum (random, right?) but it was closed.  We spent the rest of the day having hot chocolate and scones and looking at shops in the city.

Old Pencil Factory in Keswick

A little alley way between shops

On our last day in Keswick we spent time walking around the Lake and trying to soak up as much of the Lake District beauty as we could before returning to London.

Lake Derwentwater

Sitting area beside the lake

Darren's hiding in a tree above the lake

June 3
On our last day in London there was so much I wanted to do.  I decided we had to start by going to one of my favorite tourist attractions, the Tower of London.  I don't know why I love this tourist site so much.  Perhaps it's because it is a place where history really seems alive to me.  I feel a kind of reverence for the place where many people spent their last minutes, days, or, in some cases, years.  Stepping onto the cobble-stone roads, I feel closer to history there than anywhere else in London.  It is exciting and humbling for me at the same time.

Me and Darren outside of the Tower of London with the Tower Bridge in the background.
We then went to Harrods.  This place can be completely overwhelming, but is a fun experience I thought Darren should have before leaving.  Prior to our coming to London, Darren and I agreed that it would be fun to collect the same type of item from every country we visit together.  We decided we wanted it to be something we could use often to remind us of our trip.  Darren came up with the great idea of collecting plates made in our travel destinations.  The idea is that sometime in the distant future we could be gathered around the table with our family where each place setting had a unique plate from a different country with its own story.  I loved that idea and I thought Harrods would be the perfect place to try and find such a plate.  And we did!  We have yet to eat off of it, but I am very excited to have our first international plate to add to our cupboard.

After dinner, Darren and I ran to the Queen's Theater where we had tickets to see Les Miserables.  Darren had yet to see this play and, as it is a family favorite, my parents wanted to help surprise Darren with some great seats on our last night in London.  The performance was FABULOUS.  I was so touched again not only by the story, but by the talent of so many people that went into making that production possible--from the original author and script writers to the actors and stage crew whose work we saw that night.  I am so grateful for the talent of others and their willingness to share those talents to enrich the lives of the rest of us.

Though we got out of the play late and had an early flight home the next morning, we wanted to stop for one last look at Big Ben and Parliament at night.  I'm so glad we did.  It was beautiful and reminded me of a quote from Samuel Johnson I had read on a previous trip to London, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."  I am so excited for the adventures in life ahead, which will hopefully include many more trips to England.


  1. oh my gosh, sooooo jealous. i want to go back there real bad. i think i am going to start planning it, even if it won't happen for another 10 years!

  2. So fun! There is a professor in my husband's department here at Michigan who has a home in Ann Arbor and one in London. He's said that we could stay at his place there if we ever went...seeing your pictures and reading your great descriptions seems to lessen the hassle of finding a babysitter (aka grandma!) for our kids. That sounds doable now, so we may just need to go!!

  3. Kate! You have a beautiful blog. I love reading about your adventures. One day we will be world travelers as well!


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