Thursday, April 30, 2015


     It's been a busy two days since I last sat down to journal.  Yesterday, Wednesday, was spent getting the French cell phones working, stocking the groceries for cooking in the apartment, going over twice to my twin sister's apartment to try to talk to the manager about their arrival time on Thursday.  No luck in finding the manger so we headed towards the Metro to check out our route for dinner with friends and the connection to the RER B train for our trip to the airport on Thursday.

   With that all accomplished we continued on the Metro to the stop at Cite which let us off on the island where we walked to the Information Booth in the Square at Notre Dame.  Picked up maps and gathered information for our ten days in Paris.   Then we walked over to St. Michel and enjoyed a crepe jambon and fromage lunch as we continued walking around the area of the Cluny Museum.  As we approached the street we saw a middle aged woman on a bicycle hit by a bus.  She was passing on the right as he was turning right.  Knocked her down but she didn't seem to be injured.  We left as she began negotiating with the bus driver who'd pulled over to the curb.

   We stopped to enjoy the beautiful windows at St. Severin; a very old and beautiful church very near the hotel where we spent a week with our family to celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary in 2010; hard to believe that it's been five years ago.  So many memories.   We ended up walking all the way back to the apartment stopping to admire the Conciergerie and it's stunning clock tower that have recently been completely cleaned as we crossed the bridge over the Seine River. 

      We relaxed and enjoyed the afternoon and soon it was time to get dressed up a bit for our date with our young friends who live in Paris.  Nicolas had made reservations at Baroche for dinner at eight o'clock.  We rode the Metro to the Franklin Roosevelt Station and then walked up the Champs Elysees to Rue La Boetie.  We took our umbrellas but it still had not begun to rain.   We so enjoyed our evening with Nicolas and Maeliss.  Turns out it was also their wedding anniversary.   Nicolas leaves Friday for a business trip to San Diego and San Francisco.  The world gets smaller every year.  I met them years ago when they were first married and we were all on a tour in the outback in Australia.  Now they have three children!  
Maeliss called the manager at my sister's apartment and got all of the information for us for tomorrow.  So nice to have a friend who speaks both languages.  We walked back to the Metro in the rain and tucked in just before midnight!

      Our alarm clock this morning went off at six o'clock, waking us up from a sound sleep.  We ate a small breakfast and were out the door to the RER B train to Charles de Gaulle Airport by seven o'clock.   Raining lightly but hard enough for umbrellas.   On the train we were surrounded by a group of Mormon Missionaries who had just completed their two year mission and were headed home to the USA.  Spirits were high and it was so nice to see so many young men in suits and ties looking forward to going home to their families.    We arrived at the airport by eight thirty and everything was going great until the crowds came to a dead stop.

We thought it was just people checking in but soon discovered that there had been unattended luggage discovered and everything was shut down.  We were in Terminal 2C and needed to go to 2A!  The doors to the outside were locked and there were no vehicles moving in front of the building.  We could see the cleared area with many soldiers and police.   Fortunately, within about fifteen minutes they solved the issues and we were allowed to continue.  My sister Mary and her husband Phil arrived right on time but it took an hour for them to complete everything and come through the doors.  While we were waiting I watched the limo drivers waiting for their passengers; many now have the names on the IPads instead of on paper, modern technology. 

      When they arrived we all piled into a taxi for the hour long ride into Paris on a rainy morning.  The rain continued all day; sometimes softly but always coming down.  We're expecting one hundred percent chance of rain tomorrow so we're going to do a sleep-in morning.  We got them settled in their apartment that is less than a five minute walk from us.   Then let them enjoy their time until four o'clock when we went over and cooked dinner in their apartment as Phil is unable to climb the stairs to our apartment.  They have an elevator.  After dinner we went out and walked their block in the light rain to give them a taste of their neighborhood.  It's a great street with many different types of shops.  Then back inside for a game of Hand and Foot cards:  twins vs boys.   Winner still undecided as we still have one more hand to play tomorrow afternoon. 

     Hope you've enjoyed my recap of our two days; it's so nice to be back in Paris again. 
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Well it's Wednesday morning and we are starting our first full day in Paris today.  Yesterday was busy with travel and moving into a new apartment in the Marais on the right bank of the Seine River.

     We were up early, ate our English breakfast at the hotel and walked the two blocks to the Underground at Hounslow Central pulling our luggage.  NO RAIN!  Thanks for your prayers!   We'd made sure that we had enough money on our Oyster Cards for the trip the day before so no problem with tickets.  But...those stairs...a young lady grabbed mine before I started up and I immediately took the small roller bag from Jim who had to take his large suitcase up the first half; at the landing a young gentlemen grabbed his big case and suddenly we were on the platform with energy to spare!

   Because we were leaving about half past eight we paid a bit more for the fare but we wanted to get to the station before any possible rain and we were not all that comfortable with the new station.   This was our first trip across the English Channel using the Eurostar in the chunnel.  So, God bless Jim for putting up with my planning, we arrived at the station of King's Cross/St. Pancras International Station by nine thirty for our train that left at twelve twenty-five!  Just a tad early but we made good use of the time.  There was free wifi so I was able to post a video of the gentleman playing the piano in the concourse; and a wonderful photo of Jim reading his newspaper, ignoring the passing crowds.  He was totally unaware that I'd returned from my visit to the Ladies Room.   Notice also the very long Champagne Bar that stretches above the concourse....but too early for that!

     At noon they let us move into the train platforms and right on time we were moving away from London.  There was only one stop at Ebbsfleet International to pick up more passengers at the Southern Station before going for the big swim!    We'd been told to chew food or gum to relieve the pressure on the ears.    You really can tell that
you're going down and that you are deep under.  Only a short portion of the trip is under the Channel.  We'd picked up lunch at the station before boarding so enjoyed our sandwiches on the train.  We lost an hour because Paris is an hour ahead of London; so it was only a two and half hour trip.  The train is very fast which makes it difficult to take photos but I managed to get a few of the country side and then some of Sacre Couer off in the distance as we entered Paris.  A fun way to cross the channel.

  We walked out of the station and a gentleman asked if we needed a taxi and before I could grab Jim's arm we were walking with a driver taking us to his cab.  Jim asked how much to our address and he said sixty euro!   No way...yes...we turned around and entered the Taxi Que like good little tourists and when our turn came we ended up paying fifteen euros!  We have been in touch every day recently with the owner of our studio apartment that we've rented in the Marais, a very busy area of the city on the right bank of the Seine River.   We walk up two long flights of stairs to the elevators...but once inside it is very nice.  He's just moved into this one and was finishing it as we arrived.  We'd not seen any photos, only of the previous one on the fifth floor in the same building; so we called this our mystery apartment.  It is larger than the first one as the bed is on a loft and we climb up a ladder to bed!   We will be nice and limber by the time we leave.

     We walked the area, stopping to see the outside of my sister's apartment which is less than five minutes to walk.  Then we went across the street to the bar and had a delicious dinner, Jim enjoyed his canard (duck), before returning to the apartment which was now ready for us.  We'd purchased tickets
for an organ concert at Notre Dame that started at half past eight in the evening.  We walked the short distance to the cathedral, arriving about an hour early so we had time to wander around.  We always find changes even though we were just here in December/January of 2013.  The Cathedral and Square is now dedicated to Saint Pope John Paul II.  There is a beautiful statue of him that was erected in October of 2014 under the rose window overlooking the Seine River.  .

     The concert was more modern than we'd ever expected so only stayed for half of it.  Then we walked back to the apartment past the Marie for the City of Paris.  The wifi is extremely good here in the apartment; a great television except for the language....we did enjoy the English in England!   Soon we were climbing up the ladder to our bed in the, one can not stand up in the loft; perfect for children but a bit hard on these old bones.  Another serendipity experience.  Dinner tonight with our Paris friends and off to CDG Airport at seven o'clock tomorrow morning to greet my sister Mary and her husband Phil.  au revior

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Monday, April 27, 2015


   This morning we enjoyed a wonderful full English breakfast at the Hilltop Barn B&B where we stayed last night.  The host was very charming and as we were the only ones at the table we enjoyed a long conversation with him; the French couple had eaten earlier and left shortly after we arrived at the table.  We'd scheduled a late breakfast thinking we'd sleep in on this lazy morning.

     The story of their building this home over the last twenty years was wonderful.  The wife is a fashion designer and her touches can be found everywhere.   He was in the financial world prior to retirement.  They purchased an old barn and turned it into a beautiful family home and after the children married they opened a B&B with five guest rooms.  They still have a horse and several sheep on the property.

    By ten o'clock we were out the door and on the road to London.  After the first half mile we were on wonderful roads all the way into the city.  We had arranged for a small hotel near the airport and drove straight there first.  One nice thing is that the Garmin will take the postal code of a property and using only that go directly to the building.  We checked in about noon; unloaded the luggage and then drove to the Enterprise Car Rental agency, again using the Postal Code.

     Checking the car back in was very easy.  I looked in the back seat and found Jim's jacket, but failed to notice that I was leaving some important paperwork in the door panel pocket.  We took the shuttle to Terminal one at Heathrow Airport and caught the Piccadilly Line to Hounslow Central; only a few stops from the Airport.  Walked about a block to the hotel and then relaxed for a bit before walking the area to look for a place for dinner.  Then back to the hotel where I started packing the extra bags into the two large suitcases....they are stuffed to the gills!

     During this process I realized that my large map, driving directions, hotel reservation sheets and our tickets for the EuroStar tomorrow were missing.  I looked and looked and finally determined they were either still in the car, at the ticket window for the Underground or on a street somewhere.  I figured out what numbers to use for the telephone at the car return and after three attempt contacted a live body.  She checked and called me back; yes, they had my paperwork all in the zip lock bag that I had it stored inside of during the trip.  I hadn't taken it out at the hotel because I thought I just might need the map during the six mile trip to the car rental office.    Duh....

     Off to the Underground where we caught the tube back to the airport.  There we caught the shuttle bus to the rental station.  That took an hour because of some waiting between transports.  Picked up the paperwork and it only took us half an hour to get back to the hotel by four thirty!    We got out the cards and began a game of Hand and Foot until nearly six o'clock.   We then walked across the street to the TraveLodge Hotel and enjoyed a wonderful and inexpensive meal.   It was my choice to go there because it's cold out this evening...rain predicted for tomorrow...and it was close.  But, Jim admitted the meal was one of the best that he's eaten recently.

  Back to the room where I finally won a game; Jim win's regularly.   Now we're enjoying wonderful classical music on the television while we use our computers.   Tomorrow we will have breakfast here in the hotel and then walk the block to the Underground....(need those prayers for no rain again)...where we'll take the Piccadilly Line to King's Cross/St. Pancras Station.   I thought you might like to see the steps we'll have to carry our luggage up tomorrow morning at the Underground. 

      We have tickets for the 12:25 Euro Star to Paris that goes under the English Channel in the Chunnel.  First time we'd done this!  We lose an hour so will not arrive until 4 pm.  Taxi to the new apartment in the Marias and then off to an organ concert at Norte Dame that starts at eight thirty.  Never a dull moment!  See you in revoir

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Sunday, April 26, 2015


  Up early after going to sleep to the sounds of music from the band in the Pub downstairs; didn't keep me awake and Jim uses earplugs.  We were out the door by eight o'clock as planned for our journey across the bottom of England into the District of Dorset.  We had really good roads for ninety percent of the trip today.  We started out navigating our way through a bicycle race that was just beginning.  There is also a Marathon in London today.  So God was good and we had only light sprinkles on and off through the day that didn't even require the windshield wipers!

     It was fun to see the Wellington Monument again off in the distance.  I'd seen it on the way down to Cornwall and now again heading inland.  It is a huge triangle tower standing at 175 feet on the highest point in the Black Down Hills.  It was built to commemorate the Duke of Wellington's victory at the Battle of Waterloo.  We were driving too fast to get a good photo!

  I've put some of the signs that have unusual language...."lay by"... "concealed entrance" ... "dual carriageway".... and more.  Keeps me occupied taking photos during the drive when we're not on the tiny winding roads.

    Along the road we saw fields full of sheep, cattle, acres of rapeseed (used to make oil) that is so yellow when the sun is out it almost blinds you.  Very reminiscent of sunflowers in the summer.   Years ago when I first saw it we thought it was mustard.    There were many of the huge modern wind machines, acres of solar panels, thatch covered houses and so much more.

  We arrived at Kingston Lacy at 12:30 pm and when we got out of the car; my friend Jane walked up and gave us a big hug.  Jane lives in Ringwood, less than thirty miles from the Estate that we were visiting.   We met Jane two years ago when we traveled with a mutual friend Bonnie in France and Italy.   It was the trip after Jim and I completed our trip to Russia; Jim went home from Paris and I met my twin sister Mary, Bonnie and Jane for another six weeks of travel. 

   We have been in contact several times since we arrived in England and kept in touch today by text so that she knew when we would be arriving.  Jim said there is no way you're going to be able to find her and by golly....there she was when we arrived!  What fun we had touring the beautiful Estate that is now owned by the National Trust.  The family acquired the property in 1665 and it was the family seat of the Banks family until near the end of the twentieth century.   It was Ralph Banks who originally built the first house; but it was William John Banks who spent his time and money exploring the world during which he acquired a vast collection of art and artifacts that were shipped to Kingston Lacy.
His most important pieces were acquired during his trips to Egypt and this house has one of the oldest and most important personal collections.    They were acquired much earlier than most of the museum pieces in Europe.   In the 1980's the property was acquired by the National Trust and opened to visitors in 1986.  It took another ten years to complete the restoration.   The family chose to work with the National Trust to make sure that everything stayed within the property and would be protected for future generations. 

     After touring the house we visited the tea room in the stables and enjoyed another hour of visiting with Jane while having tea and cake.  It was hard to say goodbye but I'm sure we'll meet again one of these years!  Off with Daisy taking us the short route down the tiny roads in this area but she got us to our home for the night.  Hilltop Barn B&B is just what the name implies; it was a large barn that was converted into a large family home.  Now that the children are gone they've converted it into a B&B.  Very homely and lovely.  We went out to a local place
for dinner and tomorrow morning we'll have a full English Breakfast here in the house before heading back into London to return the car.  One night there and then to Paris on Tuesday.   Good night Jane....thanks for the memories....

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Saturday, April 25, 2015


     Slept well in our new bed last night but Jim had a bit of a problem...the electric heater in the bathroom runs 24/7 and heats not only the bathroom but our room!   I love it as I tend to run cold, but Mr. Jim is a furnace unto himself and is always too warm.  It was either leave it alone or they would have to turn off a fuse which meant no heat and I won the decision!   Wow...a warm bathroom for my shower last night!

  We woke up this morning and had to get the cleaning girl to open the doors for us at eight o'clock so that we could add money to the car park (which the hotel is reimbursing us for) on time.  Actually we got in the car and drove around the city looking for first a Laundromat and secondly the Catholic Church.  Finding neither we headed out of town towards Padstow; a village about ten miles away that has a Catholic service being held at half past five o'clock on Saturday evening in the Anglican  Church. guessed it....another set of those roads that causes Jim to use some words that he normally doesn't use. 

     We found the church but never saw any parking for it and turned around and made our way back to Wadebridge where we parked the car and have not moved it for the rest of the day.  We walked the village after returning; never found the church but we did find the Laundromat.    Finally stopped and asked a shop girl who was sweeping the store in preparation to open.  She remembered, gave us the directions and off we went.  Yes, we'd driven right past it this morning but it wasn't where the Internet said we'd find one. 

Back to the hotel by nine o'clock; just in time for breakfast.  They serve from nine to eleven o'clock.   We each had a wonderful English Breakfast that kept our tummies full all day.  After getting change from the barman, we gathered our laundry and walked the two short blocks to the Laundromat and for ten pounds have all clean clothes for our trip to Paris on Tuesday.  Back at the hotel I sorted the suitcases and packed the things we'll need for the next couple of nights in our backpacks. 

     It was noon and we still didn't have the rain storm with thunder that had been predicted; but the clouds were definitely saying something to us.  Not much sun shone through even in the early morning.  I spent the afternoon doing the bookkeeping of our expenses both here and at home.  Jim was on his computer all afternoon researching the Kingston Lacy Estate that we'll be visiting tomorrow.  He is very excited about everything he'll be able to see there, especially the wonderful Egyptian Collection.   We're also looking forward to meeting our English friend Jane for the afternoon at the museum.   She is the longtime friend of our friend Bonnie in Florida.  She and Bonnie joined my twin sister and myself last year for our trip in France and Italy after Jim and I finished the Eastern Countries.  It will be good to see her again.  She lives close to the Museum that we're visiting. 

    About five o'clock we took our umbrella's and ran through the beginning drops across the street to the little restaurant that we ate at last night.  Tonight Jim had more fish, but prepared differently; and I enjoyed a veggie pizza.   By the time we finished it was truly raining outside and we got soaked crossing the street.  We're off to play cards downstairs in a little bit and then off to bed for an early start tomorrow.  Probably a day of driving in the rain.   When I watched the slideshow last night I saw that I put way to many driving photos in ... my apologizes.  Tonight is just a few photos for you.

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Friday, April 24, 2015


     It's after nine o'clock in the evening on Friday and we've just returned to our rooms on the third floor; no elevator in this very old building.  Yes, we're in the Swan Hotel over the Pub and have  been sitting in the Pub having a beer and playing a game of Hand & Foot.  We had several people stop to ask about what game we were playing.  None of them recognized our game!   Yes...Jim squeaked out another victory again this evening.

  This was a fun day full of surprises and crazy narrow roads.  We had the M5 all the way south from Bristol until Exeter and then a fairly decent road to Launceston; after that the roads were very narrow, twisting, steep and crazy!   But we made it to the coast of Cornwall in about three hours and found the ancient ruins of Tintagel Castle, rumored to be used by King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table based on myth and legend.  Much of the story comes from the tales of Lord Alfred Tennyson. 

It was a long walk down a steep incline to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean for a view of the ruins high on the top of the hill.  It is another long walk from the entrance of the Visitor's Center up to the top of the hill where the ruins are located.  We decided to fore go that portion of the walk and took our photos from below near the edge of the water.   There is one close up that I took of a postcard up in the village for you.   Then we turned around for the long walk back to the car in the lot at the top of the cliff.  The whole project is undergoing extensive work right now to make it an easier site with more amenities for the visitors.

      Once we arrived at the car we programed Daisy for what we hoped was an easier trip to Port Isaac since they are both on the coast.  We headed further south and found that we were being taken back on the tiny roads because of the lay of the land and the inlets of the ocean.   We only had nine miles to drive between them but it took us half an hour to negotiate the roads.

   Again we had to park at the top of the hill and walk into the village on the narrow roads that lead down to the mouth of the bay that has become so famous because of the television program called "Doc Martin" on the BBC Network.  The village is called Port Wenn on the show; but we found all of the important homes that are used in the program before we again walked back up to the top of the cliff and our car.  It was just after two o'clock by this time.

We decided to ignore Daisy and follow the signs directing us to Wadebridge and our hotel as long as they were on roads that had at least the width of two cars; no matter how long it took us to get there.  We'd had enough of the shortcuts that Daisy found for our journey.  By half past two we were registering at our hotel that we'd booked through Expedia months ago on the Internet.  It's a wonderful old Pub/Hotel that has been here for hundreds of years.  Half timbered on the outside and rooms that have been modernized for the convenience of the guests.   No elevator but the staff happily carried both of our large suitcases up to the third floor for us.  We're taking tomorrow off to do some laundry and other housekeeping items to prepare for our trip to Paris on Tuesday.  And, the weatherman says that even though you all said your prayers; we're going to see rain tomorrow and maybe on Sunday when we head east for our last two nights on the road.   Thanks for joining us on our journey today.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015


We woke to another day filled with sunshine; the weather has been extraordinary during our time here in England.  The rumor is that we'll see some liquid sunshine over the weekend!  Keep us in your fair weather day prayers as we'd love to have a rain free holiday in England!   In the slideshow you'll see a sign that was posted in the window of our hotel room last night stating that this was a non-smoking room including not smoking in the window!  We thought it was very clever! 

   We had the continental breakfast at the hotel and then headed out the door by half past nine o'clock to those lovely little roads that Jim so enjoyed driving yesterday!   We were on the cow paths with the big trucks for about an hour before we reached the roads through the towns as compared to the villages.  Then eventually we found the lovely big motorway; starting on the M59 that took us to the M6 and eventually to the M5 by noon.   Many more trucks but multiple lanes and no rock fence alleys.

     We arrived at our new hotel for the night, Days Inn; that is located in a Service Area # J19 right off of the M5 about two o'clock.  Checked-in and then headed back out to find our adventure for the day.  This National Trust Property was recommended to us by Roy and June, our hosts during our stay at Churchdown last weekend.  We talked to the lady at the desk in the hotel and she assured us that it was a very short drive from the hotel; but lots of country lanes.

  After about four miles and jangled nerves; we located the country lane that led us down to the massive private home located out in the middle of nowhere!   Again, acres and acres along with a huge home.    Tyntesfield is a Victorian country house and estate lived in by four generations of the Gibbs family spanning two hundred years.  The family made their fortune in South America and used that money to transform an ordinary Georgian house into an extraordinary Gothic masterpiece.  They were the wealthiest "commoners" in England at the time they purchased the property.

  The land is on the side of a valley and was owned since the 1500's by the Tyntes Family and used as a hunting lodge until it was sold at the beginning of the 1800's and a Georgian Mansion was built on the property in 1830.  In 1860 the Gibbs family purchased the property and the transformation of the property over four generations is what we see today.  It has always been considered and decorated as a "family home" primarily and has a definite "lived in" feeling.  There was even a very large private chapel added to the property.  

     We walked the country road from the Visitor's Center to the house where we enjoyed strolling through at our own pace finding guides in each room to answer questions and add stories about the house and family.  The property was purchased by the National Trust in 2002. 

     Back along the narrow roads to the hotel and then an early dinner at KFC in the Service Center next door.  Then we commandeered a table in the lobby and played a game of Hand & Foot.   Tomorrow we head to Port Isaac on the western coast about three hours south of Bristol.  It's better know to television fans of the BBC as Port Wen, the home of Doc Martin.  Hope you enjoyed our story today. 

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015


  Today was very special to Jim as he'd read about these ruins for years and always wanted to see them.  But, Fountains Abbey is located out in the middle of nowhere!  Our first hour from Malton, back past York towards the M1 was on great roads and then we started inland towards the Abbey.   It was an hour on winding narrow roads most of the way.  A real knuckle biter.  But the sun was shinning and other than knots in the stomach we were in great shape when we arrived.

  One of the reasons this ancient abbey is so well preserved is that it was so far from everywhere that they didn't remove all of the stones for other structures over the years.   All that is left of the Cluny Abbey in France is the foundation as the stones were used to create other buildings.  When they dismantled this Abbey, the glass was removed and the lead roof and the bells were melted because lead was very valuable.    Otherwise the ruins were left to fall apart as the weather dictated. 

     This is one of the most remarkable sites in Europe, sheltered in a secluded valley.  It is a spectacular ruins of a 12th century Cistercian abbey.   The abbey was begun in 1135 and became the wealthiest abbey in the country; probably part of it's downfall when Henry VIII started closing the religious abbeys after changing the official religion of the United Kingdom.   After four hundred years it was finally sold and became private property.

  There are photos of a model that shows how large the property was at it's prime.  Today the site has one of the finest surviving monastic watermills in Britian, an Elizabethan mansion, and one of the best surviving examples of a Georgian green water garden.  This was built by an owner of the property by the name of John Aislabie long after it ceased to be an abbey.

   We spent nearly three hours viewing the property today and walked a bit over five miles in the process.  Once we walked to the abbey ruins and viewed that and the mill, we started our walk around the water garden which was several miles, but the views of the abbey were fantastic from the hills above the valley.   There are two lakes connected by a water canal and several "follies" scattered about the surrounding hills.  I hope you'll enjoy the many photos that I've put into the slideshow.

     It was after three o'clock when we headed back towards that funky road that became even smaller as the miles of rock fences hemmed us in on the twisting road.  Think "hill and dale" and add some big trucks in there for good measure.  The scenery was very pastoral with many herds of sheep.  It must be near shearing season as their coats are thick and wooly.   But we did survive the drive and cheered when we pulled into our Premier Hotel for the night.  Very nice; a chain hotel much like Days Inn.   An early bird dinner, a game of cards and internet made for a nice evening.

     Tomorrow we've got a bit more of our wonderful road but soon we'll be out on the highway speeding by many cities as we head south to Bristol where we'll spend the night.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015


It's Tuesday evening and our day started about nine o'clock after we finished a wonderful English Breakfast with your choice of foods and all included in the the charge for the room.  Jim enjoyed the full English Breakfast but that was just too much for me; I enjoyed cereal, fruit and coffee!   The photo of the cathedral you see was taken from the window of our bedroom last night after dark.  I did sleep with earplugs but discovered this morning that the bells do not ring between 11 pm and 7 am.

     We elected to go the longer route again and had beautiful roads all the way north to York.  We did pass two Nuclear Power working and one not working; plus many of the giant wind machines that are replacing the dangerous old nuclear plants.  I've also seen several large fields of solar panels also.   We bypassed all of the large cities so what you see is countryside.  One fun area that we passed was Sherwood Forest and we had a sign about the "Home of Robin Hood" and also Robin Hood Airport. 

    Shortly after eleven o'clock we arrived at the estate known as "Castle Howard".  Not actually a castle but a home that took one hundred years to build some three hundred years ago.  It was originally built by the Howard Family and is now owned and lived in by the fifteenth Earl of Carlisle, a branch of the Howard family.   The huge home is out in the countryside and still has one thousand of the original thirteen thousand acres.   The Earl and his family live in one wing of the property and the wing that visitors tour is used to entertain guests during the holidays.   This magnificent house contains world renowned collections and sits in a sweeping parkland dotted with statues, temples, lakes and fountains. 

    We drove several miles through various gates before entering the area of the house.    We passed through the Visitor's Center and purchased our tickets that allowed us to enter the house anytime during the day and to visit all of the grounds and the boathouse.   There is a trolly car that runs between the house, the boathouse and the Visitor Center.  We decided to walk to the house as the flowers are beautiful and it was a wonderful way to approach the house.  We also stopped and spent some time in the Rose Garden along the way. 

There are guides in every room to answer questions and to share stories about the house and family with visitors as you stroll through at your own pace.  There was a devastating fire in 1940 that is a story all by itself.    The house was also used to film the "Brideshead" movie and television shows.   I've read that it costs nearly two million English pounds per year just to maintain the house; add to that the cost of maintaining a thousand acres and major repairs and restoration.  One can soon imagine why the old families are opening up their homes to visitors from around the world.   It's that or start selling the land and the priceless heirlooms that were collected over the centuries.

   Leaving the house we slowly walked through the woods down to the large lake where we purchased some hot soup that we enjoyed while we sat on the dock and watch the beautiful swans on the lake.  From there we caught the trolly back to the Visitor's Center.   Back out on the road, we set Daisy with the address of our hotel for the night.  We're staying in Malton, a very small village not far from Castle Howard.  We are in a Pub and directly over the bar!  It you look at the photos our window opens right above the front door where there are tables for the smokers!   But, since dark it's been rather quiet except for the church bells across the street. 

   We enjoyed a Fish n Chip Dinner down in the bar after a short walk down the street to see a bit of the town before calling it a night.  There is even a red telephone box on one corner.  The building next to the pub has a beautiful thatched roof.  We actually played a game of Hand & Foot this evening...sitting on our beds with a stool between us.

     Tomorrow we head further north and then on Thursday start south again.   Thanks for sharing our journey.  

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Monday, April 20, 2015


  Monday morning we woke to bright sunshine again; but it is cool weather outside.  By nine o'clock we'd finished our breakfast at the B&B in Churchdown, a small village outside of Gloucester, and found our way to the M5 heading northeast towards the very ancient town of Lincoln. 

     We had a three hour drive ahead of us but we were taking the long route that kept us on the motorways ninety percent of the time.  That translates to freeway like driving on dual carriageways.  With "Daisy"leading the way I actually took time to take some photos of the wonderful scenery that we were passing through.  You'll find some photos of Daisy in the slideshow also.  She's truly a brilliant machine except that when we tried to put in the Bishop's Palace Hotel when we arrived...she didn't understand!   We'd initially directed her to take us to the Lincoln Castle which she had no problems with. 

  Entering the very small and old village with very tiny, one way streets we became as confused as Daisy and finally parked the car on the street next to the Cathedral as we knew that was close.  We got out and walk around the corner and found the hotel rather easily but there was no "hotel" in the name!    It is called the Bishop's Palace in the Minster Yard.   They checked us in even though we were early and gave us a very detailed map to follow to take the car to the secure parking lot behind the building.  Easier said than done; it took us half an hour to do what we could have walked in fifteen minutes if we'd known the layout of the streets better.  But, the landmarks they'd indicated soon began to appear and thanks to about three different people...we found the car park.

      We are in the main building in a very old section of the hotel that has been remodeled in recent years.  We have wifi and all the conveniences.    Our view from the window is of the Cathedral and I think that I'll wear some earplugs tonight.  Beautiful bells that chime regularly.  We sorted things out and headed out to visit the Castle which is just past the Cathedral through the village. 

    We walked through the village and into the Castle that was built on Roman Ruins by William The Conqueror after he defeated the English in 1066 at Hastings.   It has been the scene of two major battles through the centuries.   One of the prime treasurers of the City of Lincoln is possession of one of only four original Magna Carta that was signed in 1215 and was the cornerstone of English Law and our United States Constitution.  It is kept in a vault inside of the Lincoln Castle.  Absolutely no photos were allowed.   They are celebrating the eight hundred anniversary of the signing in June and much preparation is being made for the celebration.  Princess Anne of the Royal Family will be attending the festivities. 

    In 1939 the document made it's first visit trip abroad to the New York World's Fair.  Then the war began and the decision was made to keep her in the United States for safety and she spent the war years with the original U.S. Constitution in Fort Knox.  

     We enjoyed a walking tour of the Castle with a very knowledgable docent by the name of Mike; a fountain of knowledge and very personable with wonderful stories to spice up the history.  We then did a walking tour of our own before heading over to the Cathedral to make sure that we had time to visit there before it closed at five o'clock. 

     The Lincoln Cathedral was built in 1092.  Beautiful and stately, a joy to walk through.  Very reminiscent of Westminster Abbey in London and the lovely Cathedral at Canterbury in the south.
Tempting to return for evening service but it's been a long day for both of us.  After the Cathedral we returned to the Castle to visit the Magna Carta which we'd originally skipped....there is a facsimile of the original on display in the Cathedral (the document actually belongs to the church) that I was allowed to take a photo of and you'll see in the slideshow.    Mike, our docent guide, was in the village as we came out of the church and he encouraged us to take the time to go back and see the original in the Castle.  After seeing the document and visiting the old prison that the vault is inside of we climbed up the steps and walked the rim of the Castle on top of a beautifully restored wall.  Within the walls of the castle keep (the last defense position) there were graves; when people died in battle they were always buried within the keep.

     There is also a fully functioning Royal Court inside of the Castle and they were having a jury trial today.  It's one of the few in England that still is actively used.  Back to the village we walked the streets to find the old Roman Gate that is still standing, one of many Roman Ruins within the town.  Then we decided to stop at The Lion & Snake Pub (since 1834) for an early bird dinner.  Delicious and more than we could eat for only nine pounds!   We also walked back around the Cathedral to view the finished flower display that was being construction on the lawn this afternoon when we arrive. 

     We're in our room waiting for it to get dark so that we can go back outside and take some night photos for you.  I will add them tonight to the slideshow.   If there are not there now; be sure to come back later as I'm hoping for some great photos!   Tomorrow we go further north to see Castle Howard.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015


  Where did the time go; it's been several days since I've put my words on paper for my Armchair Travelers.   The following includes our day of travel plus yesterday that was spent visiting the two referenced Estates in the title to this Blog.   It's Sunday here in England and we've just returned from the Mass at the local Catholic Church, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, that is less than a mile for our lodgings.   We're taking a day off....this driving on the wrong side of the road is stressful for us old folks; and Jim wants to watch the Formula One Race in the middle of the afternoon.  I just plain and simple need a day with my feet up.  I may only be the navigator but it's a really tough job.   I've never had an ulcer but I may by the time I get to Paris!   But back to our journey....

  Friday, April 17th, we were awake early and ready to leave our studio apartment by eight o'clock but we'd told the owner nine o'clock so we watched our big screen television and waited.  Checked out and deposit returned; we walked a block in bright sunshine to the bus stop.  The bus was very late so we stood there for about half an hour before we were settled in with all of our luggage and on the way to the Tube Station at Tooting Broadway.  There we used our Oyster Pass again, just enough money left on the card, and stayed on until the stop at Elephant & Castle where we had to deal with two sets of stairs to change lines from the Northern to the Bakerloo Line that took us all the way to Paddington Station.   We had a few more stairs here but both managed well.  Finally in the train station where we purchased tickets on the "milk run" train to Heathrow Airport, half the price of the faster "Express Train".   We arrived before noon instead of the planned eleven o'clock but the Enterprise people were waiting for us.  We used this company because of the age restrictions on most of the other companies.  They are wonderful; gave them our name and she had all of our information at her fingertips.  We had to change to my credit card and therefore I became the primary driver because of Jim's stolen wallet in Rome; Jim
became the second driver because they accepted his AAA International Driver's License that he'd gotten before we left home.  That and his Passport were the only identification items not in his wallet.   WOW...I'm off the hook...he can drive.  We debated on two items:  automatic gears and the GPS.    We got both of them...thank goodness.  They have been lifesavers.  The Garmin is new and has all the bells and whistles.   It took us several round-d-rounds  to finally get to the Motorway but we figured it out and were on our way.    I hold the Garmin and am the navigator....what a marvelous improvement over the paper maps.

Our first stop was to see if Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) and or grounds were open; we knew they probably were not but wanted to see the area.  Sure enough, they were not open to the public but took a few photos and then went back on our route through the Cotswolds to our home for the next three nights in Churchdown.   We are staying in a private home; upstairs bedroom with a private bathroom off the hallway.  She lays out a beautiful breakfast for us each morning.  Our room has a lovely twenty-one inch flat screen television that Jim is going to enjoy this afternoon.  Yes...all in English!

     Saturday, April 18th:   Yesterday!   After breakfast we were out the door, set "Daisy" (our name for the Garmin) to take use over the hill and through the dale to Blenheim Palace, located just north of Oxford.  FYI...Oxford is a big city and we've decided to drive around traffic congested headaches since we've seen the cities and town and villages before on previous trips to England.  It took us about an hour and a half and we were there.  This is my second visit and Jim's first to the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.  It is one of the largest and finest Estates in England and is home to the Duke of Marlborough and majestically set in a two thousand acre park.  We arrived at half past ten and enjoyed our visit until half past one.   There were guided and self-guided tours of the Palace on both the first and second floors.  We chose to go our own way and wandered upstairs and down after an unusual small group tour that told the history of the house as we went from room to room with live people from the back looking into mirrors/computer screens that showed the face of the character who was telling the story.  All very modern in an old fashion sort of way; but well done.

   We spent a brief time in the gardens but still had another adventure so we left the Estate as I mentioned at half past one; you could easily spend an entire day and I'm sure many people do.  Locals are members of the National Trust, including our landlord, and go regularly to visit various Estates throughout England for one annual fee.

     By two thirty we'd arrived at Waddesdon Manor.  A little further north and east of Blenheim Palace. 
It is set in the Village of Waddesdon, from whence it received it's name.  Built in 1875 in the style of a 16th century French chateau for Baron Ferninard de Rothschild to entertain his guests and to display his vast art collection.  The building is very reminiscent of Chambord Chateau in the Lorrie Valley in France.   Set in another huge park, so large that we were transported by bus from the parking lot to the Manor House.  This is one of the busiest Estates in England and has a parking lot that will hold one thousand vehicles.  Known worldwide for the unusual and beautiful Victorian gardens; the
variety and designs were hard to leave even when it was time for our timed entry into the Manor House.  There were docents in every room to answer questions and offer tidbits of information but you were allowed to wander through all three floors at your own pace.  This one would be a good one to purchase tickets before going in the busy summer seasons.  We almost didn't get in for a tour!

     We were back in the car for the long drive back to Churchdown before four o'clock.  Arrived about five thirty and headed into Cheltenham for dinner at our new favorite restaurant called The Redgrove, a Harvester Restaurant.   Tried to get gasoline after dinner but waited until this morning when the machines gave us problems with our credit cards.  Called the card company after arriving home; no problems they said.  We waited until this morning after Mass and had a live body who walked us through the process.  I do hope you've enjoyed our day yesterday, we certainly did.

     We're going to be moving every night for the next several days so don't be surprised if I do one of these every few days.  We're heading north and some wonderful Castles around York.