We’re here! A lovely sail up into the river brought us that much closer to our new home port.
Leaving early Thursday, September 18, we motor-sailed to the mouth of Orwell River. Carefully heading towards the waypoints Max had plotted to avoid the numerous sandbars and wind farms,
we arrived at Felixstowe.
A huge shipping port, we sailed slowly past lumbering cranes lading containers onto patient ships. We thought of our shipping friends Rod Jones and Steve Palmer who could probably tell us all the logistics required for loading these ships.
Other sailboats were enjoying the gentle breeze on a warm September afternoon before heading to their evening anchorage.
Having planned to get to Ipswich at the head of the river, we were so taken with the idyllic scenes along the water we decided to stop for the night.
Able to easily find a spare mooring, we spent late afternoon and night absorbing the tranquility and beauty of the English countryside.
The next morning we slipped off the mooring heading for our last stretch of boating in 2014.
Both of us smiling knowing we had almost completed our goal of reaching our home berth after leaving Orr’s Island June 6.
We passed ships, or, rather, they passed us,
and, we waved to those docked along the shore.
After crossing under the bridge,
we called to alert the Ipswich Lock Keeper we were headed his way. A welcoming voice responded telling us to tie up starboard to when the lock opened.
We later found out the friendly voice belonged to Clive. We also discovered from some new friends Clive use to play music appropriate to the situation… Unfortuantley, someone complained about the music, so his bosses told him to stop or be let go. Now, he welcomes and releases boaters with a gentle ‘off you go’, which we can hear from our berth.
And, now, we’re home!
The folk are wonderful, starting with the marina management, Linda, Chris, and Natashia, as well as the boatbuilders we see when walking to/from town.
Fellow live-aboards, cruisers, and local boaters are welcoming and informative. No sooner had we berthed that at least three different people came up to welcome us.
Julie and Rick, Leslie (from Virginia Beach originally!) and Adrian, Anne and Peter, Janet and Richard as well as those we haven’t formally met but with whom we’ve smiled and good-morning’ed, well, we feel as if the community has given us a huge hug.
And, how can one not appreciate waking up and finding these lovelies beside your boat?
After our fairytale ride in France we left early the next morning, Tuesday, September 16th, heading from Dover to Ramsgate. With little or no wind and barely any current in the marina (most likely due to the water control using gates), it was a cinch getting off, unlike other marina pontoons around here.
We were escorted by two tugs. Actually, we just lined up between them as directed by the harbor control master.
As is typical, the harbor was busy with ferries coming and going.
Exiting the east end of the harbor we saw two of those heading towards France.
Off to our port were the blazing white cliffs of Dover
along with a lone fisherman tending his crab pots. It was turning into a beautiful day on the water.
Our next destination, Ramsgate, was only 15 miles away so an easy day. With little wind but favorable current we made it within 3 hours. Tieing up at the visitors’ pontoon, we headed for the marina office. And, boy, were they a wonderful bunch: John, Ned, Collin and Sean. They were our personal welcoming committee, eager to get us settled and ensure we knew where to run errands, making us feel right at home. They obviously enjoyed their lives and one another.
Ramsgate is the only Royal Harbor in England, designated as such by King George IV. Remember him? The big playboy of Brighton? The reason for this appellation: he was as taken with the hospitality in 1821 as we were in 2014. His niece Queen Vicky also liked it for she summered here on holidays.
Heading for the street running along the harbor, we stopped for a pick-me-up, Max ordering his now favorite coffee libation: mochacchino.
From there we continued east, touring the waterfront. As with seashore towns, boats of all sizes participated in the retrieval of British and French soldiers during Dunkirk; and, Ramsgate is home to one of these.
Reviewing the map of the area we saw there was a Charles Dickens House just up the coast in Broadstairs. With the weather hitting high 70’s and a lovely coastal beach and boardwalk ahead of us, we decided to continue our stroll.
Walking along the beach it’s hard not to be awed by the crumbling cliffs,
and, we found ourselves stopping every now and then to check out how well the bits of chalk write.
The flint We even tried striking the flint to no avail, but we did bring some back to the boat just in case…
Reaching Broadstairs we spotted Dickens House and paid a minimal fee to enter.
What a delight it was, especially the man who could have been Dickens himself he knew so much about the author and those surrounding this famous writer. Again, it was someone I could have listened to all day. Max, too, was enamored with this older gentleman’s knowledge and gentle humor.
The more we stumble upon historical figures, the more I realize how many biographies I want to read, from Eisenhower’s to Diane of Poitiers. So, be prepared to fast forward if you’re not quite as interested in these ghosts from the past!
Charles Dickens (1812-70) became famous at a young age (20’s) writing under the pen name BOZ. He actually began writing by doing freelance reporting, eventually submitting articles to two major London newspapers.
His fictional stories began as a series in publications that were later bound into one book, the first one being SKETCHES BY BOZ IN 1836.
In addition to reporting and writing sketches, he became publisher of BENTLEY’S MISCELLANY, a publication in which he began OLIVER TWIST. He also edited other publications and included segments of OLIVER TWIST in those as well. This guy definitely knew the art of promotion.
Dickens was a busy man not only writing, editing and publishing but also lecturing. Several tours included the US (1842 and 1867-68), the latter earning him what would be roughly $1.5 million today. Not too shabby for someone whose father was thrown into prison for debt and who was pulled out of school twice, once at age 12 (went to work in a boot-blacking factory) then again at 15. The latter landed him in an office, which is where he began honing his writing skills.
Two interesting tidbits concerning Dickens US tours. During both of his trips to the states, he lobbied the American Congress to recognize the copyright of British authors whose work was pirated by American Publishers. Sound like another country anyone knows?
Following a Dickens reading in Portland, Maine, on the 30th of March, 1868 12-year-old Kate Wiggin, having missed the Portland reading, encountered Charles Dickens on a train bound for Boston. Dickens was quite taken with this precocious child and spent considerable time talking with her during the journey. He was amused when she told him that she had read all of his books, skipping over some of the “lengthy dull parts.” Kate grew up to be a novelist herself, publishing Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm in 1903. In 1912 she published her account of the meeting with Dickens as A Child’s Journey with Dickens.
Briefly, he married Catherine Hogarth (1815-79) who wrote for the MORNING CHRONICLE where Dickens also worked.
They married in 1836, had ten children (too many according to Dickens but whose fault is that?…), and later separated in 1858. The latter was partly due to his affair with Ellen (Nelly) Terman (1839-1914), an English actress, lasting for 13 years until he died in 1870.
I didn’t realize this but Dickens based all of his characters on real life figures. Even Scrooge was someone real, but, as our friend told us, the real Scrooge started out good and ended up bad.
Broadstairs was where Dickens spent holidays many a summer beginning when we was 25 years old. While there he met and visited Mary Pearson Strong. She lived at 2 Victoria Parade and became the model for Betsey Trotwood, the great-aunt in DAVID COPPERFIELD.
The front parlor was decorated exactly as Dickens described, and other rooms held some of his personal letters, his writing desk, and drawings and photos. For any Dickens fan it’s a treasure chest. I told our host I’d like his email so I could ask him any questions that might arise from reading one of Dickens’ books.
With heads stuffed with Dickens-isms we retraced our steps only taking the high road (above the cliffs) from Broadstairs back to Ramsgate and JUANONA.
The next day dawned hazy and windy, so we decided to wait another 24 hours for the wind to die. We decided to take the bus to Canterbury and scout out the area for a visit I was going to share with two college friends beginning of October.
It was another beautiful September day, and everyone else felt that, too, for Canterbury was packed. We found out there was a graduation ceremony, which also contributed to the crowds. Finding our way around this circuitous city was difficult. Signs would state “Tourist Information” but wouldn’t actually point you in the direction of the building. After asking at least three different people in the space of fifteen minutes we found it.
There, we picked up some brochures and decided to head to St. Martin’s Church, the oldest church founded in the English civilization. I’m going to add directly from Wikipedia because it says it better than I could any day:
“St Martin’s was the private chapel of Queen Bertha of Kent in the 6th century before Augustine arrived from Rome. Queen Bertha was a Christian Frankish princess who arrived in England with her Chaplain, Bishop Liudhard. King Æthelberht of Kent, her pagan husband, allowed her to continue to practise her religion by renovating (ca. AD 580) an existing church which the Venerable Bede says had been in use in the late Roman period but had fallen into disuse. As Bede specifically names it, this church was dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, a city located near where Bertha grew up.
Upon Augustine’s arrival he used St Martin’s as his mission headquarters, immediately enlarging it (AD 597), and King Æthelberht was soon baptised here. With the quickly subsequent establishments of Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine’s Abbey, St Martin’s lost prestige but retains its priority and historical importance.”
Unfortunately, even though the Tourist Information Office said it was open, it wasn’t. But, we looked around and then headed back to continue our hunt for ceramic heaters, which Max had been searching for since Portsmouth.
No luck around Canterbury (shopkeepers said it was still a bit early for stocking them). So, we caught a return bus to Ramsgate and prepared for the next day’s departure: crossing the Thames!
Saturday, September 13, we drove to Chinon, the fortress where Joan d’Arc first met the Dauphin in 1429. On the way we stopped at one of the most famous chateaus in the Loire Valley, Chenonceau. And, what a whopper of a home this was.
While stopping at the tourist office, this time in Chenonceau, we saw Susan from Denver and Hattie from Atlanta who had stayed in the same hotel we had in Amboise. We also seemed to be following the same tours as we had seen them the day before at both Chateau Royal and Chateau du Clos Luce. They were traveling with two other folk, and we offered to squeeze everyone into our car for the short ride to the chateau.
Spilling out of the tiny backseat (4 women),
we all stretched
and independently headed for this vision of grandeur.
It’s known as the Ladies’ Chateau, beginning with the woman, Katherine Briconnet, who together with her husband created the vision of this house on the River Cher.
She and Thomas Bohier, the General Tax Collector, purchased the property in 1513 and over the next ten years demolished the existing fortress and mill built by the Marques family while keeping the ‘keep’, the Marques Tower. They proceeded to construct a major showpiece. Unfortunately, their son ran up huge debts enabling the Crown to take possession in 1535.
Gorgeous views looking up and down the river, as well as across to the gardens.
Meanwhile the mistress of King Henri II (not to be confused with the 11th century King Henry II of England), Diane of Poitiers (1499-1566), lusted after this little place on the river.
When the king confiscated it for debt repayment, Diane managed to get her boyfriend to kindly bestow it on her. She had first met the cute little princeling when he was eight and she, twenty-eight. Love flourished, perhaps more on his side than hers…, and she remained the love of his life for 25 years.
The illustrious history of the chateau continued to grow under Diane’s power and influence. Known for her beauty, intelligence and sense of business, she became one of the most influential women in France.
Not to be bounced aside that easily, Henri II’s wife, whom he married in 1533 was none other than Catherine de Medici (1519-1589).
Ironically, their initials of “H” and “C” seen throughout the chateau,
create very nicely a “D” when intertwined, something, I’m sure, pleased the ousted Diane.
After Henri’s death in 1559 Catherine, now a Regent for her young son, Francis II (who, by the way, was the husband of Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots) pushed Diane out of the chateau, taking it for her own royal residence. To entertain more properly, Catherine added two long galleries above the bridge and Italian Renaissance decor.
More deaths, more marriages, and we get to the next lady, Louise of Lorraine (1553-1601).
When her husband, King Henri III, the fourth son of Henry II and Catherine, was assassinated in 1589,
she stayed in the Chateau, painting her bedroom black and devoting herself to religion. Compared to the previous women of the house, she wasn’t much of a party gal, and, believe me, this home is made for parties.
The next illustrious lady was Louise Dupin (1706-1799).
She brought the Age of Enlightenment to the Chateau, starting an outstanding salon attracting the elite among artistic, scientific and political figures, such as Rousseau, Montesquieu and Voltaire. With Rousseau she researched and wrote one of the earliest pieces of feminist philosophy, OUVRAGE SUR LES FEMMES. This brilliant lady also saved the Chateau during the revolution due to her popularity among the locals and using the chapel for wood storage, thus disguising its true purpose. Additionally, she happened to be the great-grandmother of another famous female, George Sand.
In mid-19th century Marguerite Pelouze (1836-no known date of death), descended from the industrial bourgeoisie, took possession of Chenonceau, which her husband had purchased from Dupin’s heirs. Not lacking for funds, she spent a fortune to restore the estate to when Diane de Poitiers ‘reigned’. Unfortunately, due to a political scandal, she was forced to sell (seems to be a theme among these chateaus…).
Skip forward to WWI, and the current owners (the Meniers of the Menier Chocolate Factory, my kind of tribe) at that time paid to convert the chateau to a hospital. Simone Menier (1881-1972) served as matron and cared for over 2,000 wounded soldiers.
During WWII, the chateau was a demarcation line between Nazi-occupied France and France under Vichy control. The door at the southern end of the gallery was used to smuggle jews and those escaping the German zone and as an access by the French Resistance. Simone (above) also participated in the resistance during this second world war.
All in all, this Chateau represents not only a bodacious abode but also important times throughout France’s history.
Again, too much detail to bore you with, so I’ll just mention a few highlights, beginning with:
In the chapel, Mary Stewart’s Scottish guards left some graffiti dated 1543 and 1546:
They don’t do anything half measure… look at the flower arrangements that graced many of the rooms and halls. Talk about picking a few blooms for the house:
Beautiful tapestries literally covered the walls, and the cost of just one of these functional decorations (great against cold stone walls) were typically only seen in the homes of the very rich:
Just as I found the fact Leonardo da Vinci had lived and died in France, the fact that Catherine de Medici ruled France from this desk with views of River Cher, was remarkable to me. Unfortunately, she, too, created so much debt she had to beg money from her Italian connections… :
We’re looking at the same view she would have five hundred years ago:
Here’s her mark (on a ceiling):
Here’s where she entered from her bedroom into the ground-floor gallery:
The party rooms (galleries on two floors used for entertainment):
To provide a sense of the lavishness with which these royals partied, here’s an excerpt form Cowichan Valley Citizen website:
“It was there at Chenonceau in the late 1500s that Catherine de’ Medici hosted a party for the Duke of Aragon that hasn’t been equalled since. Her guests enjoyed mock naval battles and a grand regatta staged on the nearby river Cher, plus a bunch of satyrs chasing lightly clad nymphs in a colourful tableau.
But at the banquet, Catherine outdid herself. She had recruited the most beautiful noblewomen in all of France to serve at the long tables as waitresses…. and you’ve guessed it…they were all topless.
The extravagances she staged are the stuff of legend. In fact one for her son lasted four days and four nights.”
FYI: one source said that big gala for her son really drew down the coffers…
South door used to escape to the ‘free zone’:
One of the two kitchens:
With groceries being delivered via boat under the bridge and a rotisserie spit with a counterweight to turn it hanging outside (Hattie not quite sure of this contraption):
Another shivery moment of history: a 16th century, Italian cabinet with mother-of-pearl and fountain-pen engraved ivory incrustations, a wedding gift to Francois II and Mary Stewart (!):
Louis XIV portrait by Rigaud given by Louis to his uncle, Duke of Vendome, in honor of a previous visit. Now THIS is a frame (size is roughly 5 feet x 7 feet):
(Can you imagine what you would do if one of your relatives gave you a portrait this size for you to hang on your wall?… of course, it helps if your home is a huge chateau, and the relative a king…)
One of the marble medallions brought back by Catherine and placed above doors on the second floor (what they call the first floor). It’s an emperor, but please let me know which one if you decide to research it, which I haven’t):
Of course, you HAVE to have a wine cellar, which we visited but didn’t taste in spite of the way it looks…:
The maze was the last bit of the estate we toured. Created by Catherine’s orders with 2,000 yews, it wasn’t that difficult to figure out, but you could imagine what went on behind these hedges back in the day:
Hstorical pinpoints, such as Catherine de Medici’s room from which she ruled, bring life to figures found on the paper pages of history. This is one reason why I love history and am enthralled by the quirks and haphazardness of people moving in and out of each others’ lives. It was a small world, too, thanks to the practice of inbreeding among all the royal families of Europe.
Leaving the splendor of Chenonceau we picked up our trail of Joan d’Arc as we headed towards Chinon. Chinon is a beautiful little village on the Vienne River bordering the ancient counties Anjou and Poitou. Henri II, Count of Anjou and crowned King of England in 1154 (again, not to be confused with Henry II over in Dover land) developed this fortress on a site whose history dates back to the Iron Age.
The Hundred Years War brought the Royal Fortress of Chinon into prominence with Charles VII using it as a refuge in 1418. It was here Joan met the Dauphin for the first time in 1429. She traveled 11 days through enemy territory with a small ensemble, an amazing feat during those times.
After the 17th century, the fortress was neglected, which began its slow decline to basically a ruin. After seven years and over 17,000,000 euros later, this site opened in 2014 with audio-video displays as part of the tour. Unfortunately, neither of us felt the money had been well-spent but you didn’t need really anything other than knowing this young Maid slept and drilled her soldiers here prior to routing the English from their siege of Orleans, roughly 100 miles away.
Historians can’t say for sure which room the famous meeting took place, but they did say there are two possibilities, both of which we saw.
I don’t know if you know the story but to test her (as if the poor girl didn’t have enough to prove) Charles disguised himself as a regular guy while one of his minions dressed as a royal prince. She did pick him out correctly in spite of this trick. From there, he sent her to be vetted by the Church. They approved of her (obviously retracted this later), the Dauphin gives her an army, and she rides into history.
Similar to visiting Normandy’s beaches, following in the footsteps of this charismatic young woman, you can’t help but breathe in the grief. Knowing how she died blankets every site with sadness.
The fortress also figured prominently in the history of the Templar Knights, an organization involved with the Crusades and one envied by both the Pope and kings due to their influence and accumulated wealth. This order began two hundred years earlier by nine Frankish knights wanting to protect the pilgrims making their way to and from Jerusalem.
In spite of their vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, they managed to accumulate a lot of wealth and proceeded to serve as a bank for many, including the ever, over-spending royals; and, it was this wealth that King Philip IV aimed to grab to fill his beleaguered coffers. This guy Jack (1243-1314) was the last Grand Master of the Knights Templars and he wanted to return the Templars to their original goal of soldier-monks. In short, Philip with the help of Clement V, the pope in his pocket, managed to have the Templars convicted of despicable acts (confessed under torture). Those who confessed to unbelievable lies were not burned; those who refused were burned. Amongst the latter were two: Jack and Geoffrey de Charney of Normandy.
Frankly, the Templar exhibit in the Fortress’ visitor center was one of the better displays.
After seeing the fortress, we visited the Tourist Agency who located a wonderful inn for us: Hotel Diderot. We had one of the last rooms, which happened to be in a little garden cottage across from the main house in this little village.
Breakfast the next morning featured many homemade jams and preserves as well as a traditional breakfast treat of cracked walnuts, local honey, and fresh goat cheese mixed together and eaten on toast or rolls. That, with cut fruit and aromatic coffee made us sorry we weren’t staying a second night. Plus, Calhoun, we discovered one of our hostesses had gone to UNH! Talk about a small world :)
With lingering glances at the jams and croissants, we left to head to Chartres. First stop, though, was the church of Saint Catherine of Fierbois.
where Joan retrieved or had retrieved the sword of Charles Martell, Charlemagne’s grandson. Joan had dreamt the sword was buried inside this church, and there’s a plaque indicating where she found it.
In her own words during her 1431 trial:
“When I was at Tours or at Chinon I sent to seek a sword which was in the church of Saint Catherine of Fierbois, behind the alter, and it was found at once all covered with rust.
Inquisitors: How did you know that this sword was there?
“This sword was in the earth, all rusty, and there were upon it five crosses, and I knew it by my voices…. I wrote to the prelates of the place that if they please I should have the sword and they sent it to me. It was not very deep under ground behind the alter, as it seems to me, but I do not know exactly whether it was before or behind the altar. After this sword was found, the prelates of the place had it rubbed, and at once the rust fell from it without difficulty. There was an arms merchant of Tours who went to seek it, and the prelates of that place gave me a sheath, and those of Tours also, with them, had two sheathes made for me: one of red velvet and the other of cloth-of-gold, and I myself had another made of right strong leather. But when I was captured, it was not that sword which I had. I always wore that sword until I had withdrawn from Saint-Denis after the assault against Paris.” Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 61-62
She also stayed next door in the priest’s home while on her way to Chinon.
Next was Orleans where Joan d’Arc fought her famous battle, forcing the English to give up their seige.
Along the way we had to investigate the dried-up sunflowers. Having seen fields and fields of them, we wanted to find out if the seeds were still in them (yes).
We also some nuclear generators and silos, just one site of several we’d spotted during our drives.
Unfortunately, the house in Orleans where Joan stayed had been destroyed by Allied bombs during WWII,
but it was rebuilt and now houses the most extensive research library on the second floor (available by appointment) and a brief film of her life on the ground floor (not the best).
We felt we really didn’t need to stop here. The city wasn’t the prettiest and the Joan d’Arc information could have readily been found in books, but we did have an excellent gyro at a tiny, street side restaurant and bought a book on the Maid.
Back in the car to continue to our final and last night stop in France: Chartres. I had last been here in 1971 via an American Youth Hostel bike trip with my friend Annie Bommer. I told Max what I remembered from that trip was (1) the French had carefully removed all the stained glass so it wouldn’t be harmed by WWII fighting and (2) it was the first time I had ever seen a skinned rabbit (it was hanging in a butcher’s window).
Reaching Chartres, we located a hotel right in the center of town. It was a Best Western, but nothing like any I’d been in before. It was like a dream with some of the friendliest hosts and hostesses we had met during our trip.
And, not only was the price right BUT, I got my TUBBY!! Talk about feeling like a princess…
After unloading our one knapsack, we headed out to the cathedral. It’s the oldest medieval cathedral that has only been slightly modified (unlike others) since the early 1200’s.
While there, a service was occurring with a soloist contributing to the other-wordly feeling we got walking in this huge cathedral. It was breathtakingly lovely as we gazed literally in true awe of its size and history. Talk about if walls could talk.
It’s also a pilgrimage site since the 12th century due to the Sancta Camisa, a faded tunic said to be what Virgin Mary worn at the birth of Christ. Riiiiggghhtt. Uh-huh.
Walking out of the Cathedral I saw the Michelin Man
and just had to take a photo for Colleen who, I’ll never forget, for the longest time had a keychain with his image. From the sublime (Cathedral) to the not so sublime :)
Furthermore, Chartres offers a light show starting at 10 p.m. running until 1 a.m.
Get a relaxing libation (tea or wine), lower the lights, sit down in front of a big screen if possible, and watch this, then tell me it hasn’t captured your soul.
We caught some, but not all, of the 29 sites. It was mesmerizing, and this is another city we’d love to revisit. It’d be worth it if only for the light show.
The next morning, Monday, September 15th, it was time to head back to Dover as winds looked favorable, along with the tide, for an early morning departure for Ramsgate. It would be our last stop on the south coast before crossing the Thames and heading up to our winter berth.
We encountered some rude ferry toll takers, which prompted us to snap an interesting sign that explained why they had this demeanor.
Of course, taking a photo right in front of them (they sat behind the glass wall on which this message was posted) wasn’t the smartest idea, especially since we were asking her if we could get on the earlier ferry (fortunately, there were no-shows and we got on).
To say our trip was magical doesn’t do it justice. Just know that croissants never tasted so magnificent :)
After touring Dover Castle Monday,September 8, we checked weather, winds and tides again. Our goal since we left Orr’s Island June 6th was to reach our winter berth before the end of September. So, every day was a potential passage day towards our chosen winter home, Ipswich on the east coast of England.
On Tuesday, September 9, winds were still on the nose for our NE sail up to the mouth and across the Thames to Orwell River. Worse, the tides were only running in a favorable direction during the night. And, the forecast was the same up to and through the weekend.
So, why not go to France? We’re in Dover. There are lots of ferries running to and fro Calais. And, I’d always wanted to see Normandy after Max’s and my Betsy’s descriptions of their visits. Plus, Max wanted to visit some landmarks of another soldier’s sacrifice, that of Joan d’Arc.
Ferry and car booked, knapsack packed, and off we went the next day, Wednesday, September 10th.
We arrived 90 minutes later in Calais, picked up a rental car and exited the ferry terminal only to see immigrants trying to slip across the channel. Seeing these people wanting a better life but unable to reach it legally was a reminder of how fortunate many of us are just due to being where we were born.
(Notice more immigrants in the side mirror)
Our itinerary was flexible with the Normandy D-Day beaches as our designation; and, since we would be driving through places associated with Joan d’Arc, we added those to our sight-seeing list. Rouen being the first.
It was in this city where she was brought for her trial, staying in this tower.
This building is what remains from a castle constructed by King Philip II Augustus after his conquest of Normandy in 1204.
Rouen was where, after six months of questioning with a final verdict of heresy, she was burned. This young girl age 19 led a French army to victory over the English only to be used as a pawn in the political wars fought between France and England. She had been captured on May 23, 1430, by Jean of Luxembourg who was in cahoots with the Duke of Burgundy who was in bed with the English.
In late November, she was handed over to the English who desperately wanted to squelch any inspiration this young maiden engendered in fellow French citizens. To do so meant proving she wasn’t God’s messenger but the devil’s. By condemning her as a heretic, the English were also smearing any legitimacy King Charles VII of France had earned thanks to Joan’s valor and belief in his right to be King of France.
In spite of standing up to a learned panel this illiterate young Maid held her own; however, she couldn’t fight the twisting of words and meanings, and on May 23rd she was deemed guilty of crimes: her pride; her disobedience of the church; her indecency (dressing in men’s clothing); the audacity of believing God chose her; and, her stubborn persistence in believing her visions were true, something the Church didn’t validate.
On May 24th, she recanted when they began to read out her definitive sentence in front of the stake. She was given life in prison and agreed to wear women’s clothing. However, May 28th she renewed her faith in believing God did choose her. Joan was now seen as a relapsed heretic and, therefore, had to be put to death by burning.
On May 30, 1431, this young girl was led to the stake. The place is marked by a garden in one of Rouen’s Squares. Talk about sobering. Her history was a powerful lead-up to another place where young people sacrificed themselves, each devastating.
From there we drove to Caen, still unsure of where we would be stopping for the night. We have found, however, at every Tourist Information Office in France, they couldn’t have been more helpful. In fact, it was because of the guy at the Caen office we decided to stay in Bayeux, just a little bit further towards D-Day memorials and beaches.
Not having reservations, we found a lot of hotels, inns, B&Bs were chock block full (September coupled with sun and warmth drew a lot of tourists to this part of the world, us being two of them). Fortunately, one hotelier called several places for us and, voila!, we had a room.
And, what a place THAT was.
When we managed to drive through the gates we were greeted with ‘how did you find us?!’ for there wasn’t even a sign out front. The reason being, the Domaine de Bayeux had only been open since this summer, and it was still unfinished in certain rooms. But, who cared? It was simply gorgeous.
We had a room in the old carriage building and decided to stay two nights.
We shared some drinks with fellow travelers in the garden,
which led to a small orchard at the end of the property (and where I picked some apples for car food).
The breakfast was to die for… the room as well as the fare.
It was at breakfast that I decided a worthwhile investment would be in someone who could sew B&C (baguette and croissant) pants. It seemed no matter how hard I tried to keep crumbs from showering me, it never worked.
So, why not a design that camouflages them? That, and an elastic waistband, and I’d be good to go :)
The next day, Thursday, September 11, we headed to the D-Day beaches.
The Battle of Normandy began with planning back in 1943, code named Overlord. General Eisenhower was appointed Commander-in-Chief with General Montgomery in charge of the land-based troops and Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Naval Forces (Operation Neptune). You may remember that Ramsay was also the one in charge of Operation Dynamo, which rescued troops at Dunkirk.
June 5th was the selected date only to be moved to the 6th due to weather. On that day the sacrifice began with the landing of allied troops on beaches and behind enemy lines by parachutes.
There is so much literature about this 100-day engagement (from June 6 to August 21st, 1944) and written far better than I can even pretend to do so here, so I’ll just note the places we toured. Many more exist along the stretch of this coastline and inland, but we decided to hit some of the main ones, knowing we will return.
First stop: Arromanches where one can see the remains of the artificial port or Mulberry Harbor. This port was used to supply troops as they fought the Germans during Operation Overlord.
Second stop: Longues-sur-Mer, the only coastal defense battery (German) retaining its original guns.
Max doing his usual inquisitive touring…
Looking at the gun…
Looking out through the bunker…
and, my looking in.
Third stop: Normandy American Cemetery, with its row upon row of white crosses and an excellent visitor center, if you only could see one site, this is it. Forgive the repetition of the crosses. It is just too hard to stop paying homage to those who will never leave these grounds.
The memorial featured an inspiring bronze statue, “The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves.”
The memorial had detailed graphic displays on the walls surrounding the statue explaining the strategy and tactics.
From there, you walk into an expanse of startling white crosses, and the sadness takes over.
Looking down to the beach.
Looking up from the beach.
Just thinking and realizing what occurred here.
Fourth stop: La Pointe du Hoc, where the 2nd Battalion of Rangers lost 135 out 225 men, neutralizing the Germans’ ability to cover both the Omaha (to the west) and Utah (to the east) beaches.
What had to be scaled:
Once scaled, there were huge craters from allied bombing, which made fighting extremely difficult.
Fifth stop: Sainte-Mere-Eglise where the iconic photo of the American paratrooper John Steeple caught on a church tower.
The effigy is a little cheesy but tells one of the amazing stories from this Battle. He lived, hanging there for two hours only to be captured and then later escaping. He died in North Carolina 1969.
We wished we had stopped at the German Cemetery. At breakfast some people told us there were statements by the local French who were alive during the German occupation. One person stated he/she would never, ever step into that cemetery but they did not blame the current generation. It would have been interesting to hear others’ thoughts concerning the German army.
The actual battlefield is only one tragic reminder of what war costs, specifically WWII. On April 28, 1944, American sailors and soldiers were practicing landing on Slapton Sands, England, a beach serving as a rehearsal for the Omaha Beach landing in June. While Exercise Tiger was occurring, nine German torpedo boats attacked alerted by heavy radio traffic in Lyme Bay. A total of 749 American troops were lost (killed or declared missing). This information was released 43 years after the event; however, the dead and missing were honored by some veterans of this tragic exercise, erecting a monument soon after the war on Omaha Beach.
Many other stories await anyone who wishes to step back in time to witness the horrors and valor often associated with war. We will return.
Leaving the next morning, prior to driving to the Loire Valley, we made sure to see the Bayeux Tapestry. This amazing piece of embroidery is over 130 feet long by 20 inches high and was commissioned in the 1070’s by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, half-brother of William the Conqueror (aka “The Bastard”, Duke of Normandy, then King of England), as propaganda for William’s claim to the English throne.
The original stretches behind glass in a half-lit room and relates the story of how William and Harold II met and fought for the right to rule England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
I could try to relate the set-up for this battle but I’d only confuse you along with myself. The names alone, such as AEthelred the Unready (Edward’s father), Cnut the Great, and Sweyn Forkbeard, perfectly convey the stormy, convoluted history of this region in the 10th and 11th centuries. (For instance, Harold had just finished two weeks prior fending off Hardrada King of Norway’s attempt to claim the English throne. When you think about it, what was it about this island that engendered so much envy? Beer? Tea? Scones?? or just because ‘it’s there’?)
Just to give you the reasons why each would think they should be England’s king: Edward the Confessor’s mother was a sister of William’s grandfather; Harold was Edward’s brother-in-law; and, Hardrada’s nephew had had a pact with the Danish King of England, Harthacut.
Edward promised the throne to William in 1064, but on his deathbed January 5, 1066, left it to Harold. Harold claimed the throne and was supported by the Witan, a council of English lords. Unfortunately, for Harold, William didn’t agree.
This tapestry represents Odo’s idea of ensuring his and his bro’s view of the Battle was the correct retelling of the Battle. The figures in the 32 scenes are detailed enough to see displeasure, fear, and happiness. The descriptions and sequence slant the story to William and Odo’s liking, no surprise considering who ordered it.
Not only is this piece of art a beautiful piece of history, but also an example of effective medieval PR.
If we had stayed in Caen our first night versus continuing on to Bayeux, we would have visited William’s ducal home, his abbey (Abbaye-aux-Homees and Abbaye-aux-Dames) serving as his and his wife’s, Matilda of Flanders, burial sites respectively. There’s an entertaining site about William worth reading just for the fun of it: http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-william-the-conqueror. But, for more clarity and detail on the who, what, when, where story of William, just surf the net. And, let me know how you get on with those early English, tongue-twisting names.
Following our view of the tapestry and a quick stroll through the requisite cathedral, another mine’s-bigger-than-yours building,
we drove to Amboise in the Loire Valley nourished by our orchard-fresh apples from Domaine de Bayeux.
Again, without any reservations, most places were booked but the convenient tourism office located a small hotel just around the corner. We grabbed it, definitely nothing like our first two nights, but clean, quiet, and welcoming.
In this beautiful town on the Loire, we toured two more sites. The first was Chateau Royal d’Amboise. Built on a fortified stronghold by Fulk, Count of Anjou, in the 11th century, this chateau was confiscated by Louis XI in 1431 in lieu of executing the traitorous owner, Louis d’Amboise. Nice exchange, for it became a favorite of the royal family with kings constantly remodeling both buildings and grounds, from Charles VIII (1470-1498) to Louis XII (1462-1515) to Francis I (1494-1547).
The latter king’s time of residence encompasses one of the most interesting periods due to his friendship and patronage of Leo, as in Leonardo da Vinci. Francis I invited him to come and live in Amboise, and in 1515, this Renaissance inventor, artist, and scientist did just that. The story goes he rolled up three of his favorite canvases, Mona Lisa being one, stuffed them into the saddlebags, and headed for France with several of his disciples, including Francesco Melzi and Battista de Villanis, his faithful Milanese servant and vegetarian cook.
The king gave him Chateau du Clos Luce built in 1471;
and, over the next three years, Leo enjoyed the remaining years of his life, painting in the garden,
dreaming up more inventions, doing some urban planning, sitting by the fire waiting for Battista to serve him up some medieval veggie fare,
and conversing with his king friend. A tunnel connected the two residences, allowing Frank and Leo to visit at will without the nuisance of guards and peepers.
He died in May 2, 1519 at the age of 67.
The brochure on Chateau du Clos Luce says “tourists are told” he’s buried at the Chateau Royal’s St. Hubert Chapel, and we did see his tomb.
(I had to snap a pic of the flowers by Leo’s grave. These were some of mom’s favorites, and she would have loved the aroma.)
Whether he’s really there or not, who knows, but it makes sense. After all, who wants to tote a body around in central France during the summer without A/C?
I must say both Max and I were astonished to learn of this relationship and to know we were walking in the rooms where one of the greatest renaissance thinkers lived. This nugget of history was definitely one of the most surprising during our recent travels.
Stopping for a libation on our walk back to our hotel we met a couple from California. We started sharing our adventures on the road, specifically France’s highway toll system.
Max told them how we had entered a payment lane that required a special token card unbeknownst to us. How we discovered this riveting bit of information was twice putting our credit card in only to have it rejected. But, we’re not talking simply sliding back out. We’re talking having the card on the second attempt spat out and sliding under the car. It’s like having a robot stick its tongue out at you, and not nicely.
Fortunately, the card was retrievable but only after getting out of the car and crawling underneath.
Now we were stuck. We couldn’t go backward because of cars lining up behind us and we couldn’t go forward because we couldn’t pay. We couldn’t pay because we didn’t have that special card.
Pressing the button for help, a woman responds saying something about a green arrow. We looked around. No green arrow, only a bright, alarming red indicating the stupid tourists hadn’t paid yet. Asking her to raise the gate so we could drive over to pay at the side building, she refused and kept saying something about a green arrow.
By this time, Max, who’s much more patient than I, lost his temper and started saying very precisely and very loudly to the little box, WE CAN’T BACK UP AND WE CAN’T PAY HERE SO OPEN THE GATE.
Needless to say, she didn’t. So, finally, when enough cars behind us realized we weren’t going anywhere and, hence, they weren’t either, reversed and got in other lanes, we then were able to inch backwards and try another lane. By doing so we saw the infamous green arrow, which was flashing above the last lane to the right and which evidently took cash.
Well, the best part was this couple exclaimed ‘that happened to us! we, too, had our credit card spat out and had to crawl under the car!!’.
I must say it was nice to know someone else had experienced the exact same treatment, including the vomited card. All we could think was it created a constant source of entertainment for the tollbooth takers who probably manually controlled how and for whom the card spit-it-upeth and were roaring with laughter. With any luck they had it on tape until the next unsuspecting smuck rolled into that lane. Live and learn. Let’s just say all four of us are now much more cautious when approaching a French toll gate…
And, just so you know, my feet pay testimony to seeing four impressive sites in eight hours…
On Sunday, September 7, we were up and out of the Marina to catch the favorable tide to Dover. No wind
but, if we ran out of favorable current, at least we wouldn’t be bucking wind AND tide. I’m a big fan of turning on our engine as well as appreciating it more when it’s turned off.
One noteworthy event was the crossing of the Greenwich Prime Meridian, the North-South line serving as the zero reference for Longitude.
It’s really blurry and we were just an itty-bitty bit passed it (heading east) but you can make it out (all the 0’s at the bottom).
As the haze lifted we spotted Beachy Head and its striped lighthouse against the brilliant white cliffs.
Ten hours from when we left Brighton we entered Dover Harbor, which is so busy they have traffic lights to let you know when it’s okay to enter. (This is a view looking out to the western entrance.)
In spite of the London Chunnel taking a chunk of Dover’s business to France, there are still zooming ferries heading to/from Calais (less than 20 miles away), multi-decker cruise ships lining the western quay, and local fishing boats claiming their home berths in addition to little guys like us.
But, we hailed the Harbor Control who gave us permission to head to the Inner Harbor where we waited at the visitor’s pontoon for the gates to open to Dover Marina.
While waiting we met a family behind us who had just been out for a day sail. The 12-year old boy had gotten a GoPro camera for his birthday and was generously sharing some videos of him and his uncle swimming earlier in the day. Must admit it was fun being around someone so young (to me ) and so enthusiastic. What is it about little kids and their British accents? They just seem automatically proper and polite. And, this guy definitely was both as well as engaging.
After three hours, the gate opened and off we motored to our berth.
Views of the marina; nice backdrop but pretty industrial feeling.
The marina is filled with locals’ boats versus transients, such as us. The location is on the western end of town with the eastern docks comprised of ferry traffic. The town and marina appear to have fallen on hard times due to the 2008 recession compounded by the decline of ferry traffic. Yet, this town has some amazing history, on both ends of the time spectrum.
A Bronze Age Boat (timbers dating from 1550 B.C.E.) was discovered here in the early 1990s and stated to be the earliest surviving cross-channel vessel. So much for swimming across.
In the mid 50’s A.D.C. Julius Caesar got an itch to conquer Britain and tried twice. The second time worked, and to this day one of the two lighthouses remain along with remnants of their fort where Dover Castle now stands.
It’s opposite a church first built in 1000 and still holds services (Audrey, maybe an ancestor? :)
Jump ahead to 1066 A.D.E. and you have William the Conqueror sailing across with his Norman buddies and winning the Battle of Hastings and a crown for his head.
Move forward another century and you’ve got Henry II who, as one guide told us, built the castle for show. Evidently, according to the same guide, in 1179 the French King Louis VII headed over to Dover to pay what they say is the first state visit. Henry, realizing he had had no magnificent building with which to impress the French king, started piling money into this fortress located in Dover. He was going to make darn sure his place was going to be something people would talk about, in a good sense.
Another reason for creating a showplace was the canonization of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This priest was murdered mistakenly when hot-headed Henry II supposedly uttered ‘will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?!’ and off went four knights to do just that. Anyhow, Thomas Becket in death had quite a following along with the impressive cathedral in Canterbury. Wanting to counteract Becket’s growing popularity coupled with a desire to impress the French, Henry poured over a quarter of his average annual income into this castle.
The walls are 21 feet thick at ground level rising to 17 feet at the top.
Thanks to the organization English Heritage, the castle is decorated with exact replicas of what would have been in a medieval castle. (Anyone thinking of traveling in England for any length of time and/or visiting a lot of their sites, purchase an annual membership from English Heritage. Not only will one visit to one site practically pay for your membership, you’re also supporting a good cause. Thanks to cruiser friends, Dick and Moira Bentzel who told us about this.)
Adjoining this room was the scriptorium and what must have been the largest messenger bag ever.
Another small room off the king’s chambers was the wardrobe where Max was interested in trying on the mail.
The guide pointed out that, yes, it’s heavy but the weight mainly rested on the shoulders and on the hips, thanks to a belt. They also starting training at a very young age so were quite strong by the time they may have worn armor (if they could afford it or were given it by their lord). Plus, they were fit back then: whereas today’s guy would have a healthy caloric load of up to 3,000, back then they’d consumer 8-9,000. Sounds like my kind of diet.
The people working on the site were really well-versed in the history of each part of the site. For instance, the guide with whom we were speaking inside the castle said some of the clues it was for show vs. strictly for defense were:
Kitchen door on the first floor was way too big (easy to force an entry).
Doorways and stairs throughout were also too wide (a lot of soldiers could storm up and into rooms)
(You can’t really tell size of these steps but they gave me chills just thinking of the historical figures who walked upon them.)
And, the construction was painstakingly decorated with alternating bands of black and white stone (more interested in how it looked than how it’d hold up).
I could have listened to this guy all day
but Max was getting a bit antsy, so we exited what they think could have been Edward I’s chambers (since he added the fireplace to make it more comfortable) and headed for the chapel.
The chapel is what Henry II would recognize as it hasn’t changed since he was here.
The kitchen was a wee bit different from George IV’s.
The well was 400 feet deep and located on the second floor next to the king’s chambers. Talk about a lot of digging.
Blast forward 600 years and you have the Napoleonic wars causing even more refurbishing and expansion of this fortress sitting atop the famous white cliffs of Dover.
Add another 200 or so years to 1940 and you have the oft-told tale of the evacuation of Dunkirk known as Operation Dynamo and led by Admiral Ramsey. In tunnels facing the English Channel,
(looking from the west towards the east)
(and, east towards west)
Ramsey and his team coordinated an amazing feat of saving hundreds of thousands of British and French troops when ambushed by the Germans May 1940. You quickly realize how daunting this task must have been, especially in light of having only one telephone line to Ramsey’s headquarters. All the other communications had to rely on telegraphs and signal flags from ships.
Below is a quote capturing the spirit of the men and women who worked tirelessly to save those who were fighting against the ugly tyranny of an evil, psychotic despot.
During our walking up and down and then up again, we took a lunch break almost sharing it with a mom and her baby, the latter annoying the heck out of the former.
And, we took advantage of the view by snapping a photo of the harbor and our marina, way off in the distance, nestled behind the larger bodies of water.
Then zeroed in,
until we could spot JUANONA, under the blue tarp-wrapped boat, second one from the right.
Again, a visit that we thought would take an hour or so turned into an amazing passage through history. With tired feet we started our trek down the hill and towards home only to catch a glimpse of a ferry heading towards France.
Soon, we’ll say good-bye to Dover but we’ll always remain in awe of the history found atop its brilliant white cliffs.
We made landing in Brighton’s Premier Marina (name of the organization that runs it) Tuesday, September 2. The marina is okay; but, Brighton proper, on the other hand, is a bit of a wonderful trip, beginning with George IV’s extravagant Royal Pavilion.
First, the marina. And, please keep in mind, ALL of this is what a friend of ours calls a First World Problem, i.e., no biggie on the loving life scale.
Premier can’t help it if the only way to offer berths and safe resting places is this completely fabricated facility a mile from town. Plus, they’re so busy they have hired young people who haven’t really been trained in the art of welcoming paying visitors. Lastly there are so many locked gates, turnstiles, and bars, I feel like I’m going through a prison’s security check to exit and enter.
We’re on pontoon 11, so first you push a button (if you’re heading out; if in, use your magnetic key.)
Walk down to the shower area and laundry block which are locked, too,
female shower & toilet area…
the arm-and-a-leg laundry…
finally, freedom on the other side after you press a button to go through, one at a time…
So, to come in and use the toilet, check laundry and get back to JUANONA it’s four locked gates. Makes you wonder about crime around here.
But, as I said above, this is so very minor compared to once you’re in town because…
Brighton proper is pretty wonderful.
Starting our walk by leaving the marina’s gates where Max showed me something he said he wanted to buy for me,
I politely told him ‘no thanks’.
We followed the boardwalk along the beach, which is composed of small beige and orange rocks, at least by the walkway. Unfortunately, there are many homeless people, no doubt attracted to the relatively warm winters here. We saw many tents set up under bridges and under arches as we continued heading towards town.
Weedy greenery decorate part of the path, and I finally got my bunny photo (been trying to nab a live shot of those since we saw them hippity-hoppity around the Azores. Remember Pedro?… Alas, Tricia, no dwarf donkey… :).
We spotted some familiar icons once we reached downtown.
The temperature was getting really summery causing Max, who’s in love with these pants he first saw on Martin in Sao Miguel, to disrobe. No problem here. He’s got some legs on him even if I do say so myself :)
Getting into the town center we stopped for a quick brunch-breakfast. You can tell we needed some nutrients.
Ordered a bottle of water and thought of our niece and nephew, Sarah and Iain, whose boat’s name is Blue.
Plus, I’m fascinated by organizations supporting sustainable water, and this company does so with a clever, subtle dare to other bottlers.
Locating the local library for Internet usage (and loo), I immediately thought of my Curtis Friends pals, Marcy and Carol. You guys, this library is amazing: enter through a little gift shop with this monitor to your right:
Walking into the main part, we were greeted with this airy and bright, large expanse of library books, multi-media items, and signs for other areas to explore.
Facing the entry is a screen asking for your thoughts on the Jubilee Library.
Everyone was helpful (we were greeted as we walked in), and we received a three-day, temporary library card allowing us use of the library, including book and DVD borrowing.
I spotted folk eating and sipping java and realized they had a little cafe tucked around the corner.
All I can say is THIS is a wonderful place to be. (I returned the next day to upload the blob blog while sampling a few of their cafe’s wares.)
After running some errands we wandered to George IV’s Royal Pavilion. Ellen, YOU would absolutely LOVE this place. And, you’d be explaining what all of the decor was.
Once again, I was very much surprised to enter such a fascinating world. Like the MARY ROSE exhibit, I thought we’d tour three or so large rooms, do a been-there-done-that tour, and leave for other Brighton parts unknown.
Wrong. With the free, I might add, audio guides we ever so slowly strolled through room after room, gasping at some of the extreme decor this indolent Duke of Wales-then Prince Regent-then, finally, unfortunately, king used British funds for. He piled up so much inexcusable debt, George IV incurred the contempt of the people and Parliament. With his lavish lifestyle he created this opulent ‘home’ to entertain without a thought to the cost or message he was sending to those paying for all of it. Hmmm… I could go political here, but I won’t.
This is how I’m sure he’d love to be remembered:
In reality, not so much.
But, it would have been fascinating to observe one of his parties. He employed French chefs throughout his life here; and, subsequently, this guy got so fat he had a tunnel built from his residence to his stables so people wouldn’t ridicule him; one meal featured over 100 courses.
To go in, you enter through a very calming, green room, which spills you into a long hall where the oriental motif really starts taking shape. We saw Chinese, bobble-head figures, roughly two-feet tall (he had over 30) and, then, voila! His dining room.
George IV evidently appreciated more than French food. He also liked the French dining etiquette of having guests serve themselves from the multiple dishes set on the table itself. Another French manner was mixing men and women versus men on one side, women, the other. Of course, the audio guide said this also facilitated easier intimacy. He sat in the middle to ensure he was in the thick of the conversations (probably easier to reach the food, too).
The chandelier dropped out of painted and wooden plantain leaves,
followed by a breathing dragon 12 feet long.
This guy also relished surprising people, so a lot of his decor was comprised of magical effects. For instance, the stairs leading upstairs had a railing painted to appear like bamboo but, was in effect, iron.
His music room wasn’t too shabby either…
The kitchen had all of the modern conveniences at that time, which George liked to show off. He even held one of his dinner parties amidst the pots and pans.
His bedroom was moved to the first floor when he couldn’t manage the steps anymore due to his weight.
His private quarters included a lovely library as well as another sitting area (he was a great fan of art and literature, which is one reason why he was so attached to his music room.)
Unfortunately, his niece Queen V, felt too exposed walking around Brighton; plus, the pavilion really wasn’t set up for a large family; so, she sold it in 1850 and, with Prince Albert, build a retreat across the way on the Isle of Wight. She stripped the Pavilion of all the possessions, almost all of which have been returned, to prevent thievery. Yet, I believe the audio guide said she kept a bobble head or two.
Fortunately, the town bought it, kept it from being demolished, and now possess the only royal palace not owned by the royals or the government. Pretty nifty.
A few days later one of our NZ mates, Jane Smallfield, joined us in Brighton. We were fortunate in that her work brought her to Winchester, a two-hour train ride from Brighton.
It was a wonderful meet-up as the last time was in the US when she was also traveling for work and ended up in Boston. We picked her up in Connecticut where she was watching a game starring one of her daughters, Caitlin. Caitlin is attending school at the University of Hartford and plays for its team, The Hawks (and, is doing really well with their opening season… have to throw that in for Max and I feel like a proud aunt and uncle). So, to meet up in England was amazing and wonderful.
Like with all good friends, the agenda didn’t matter, just the ability to be together and talk. And, so we did.
After lattes and some pastries (coffee goes down better with those) we wandered down to Brighton Pier so she could get a glimpse and feel of the city.
The pier is definitely honky-tonk with its vending machines,
cut-out photo ops,
and tossing games that taunt one to win some stuffed creature.
Deciding to head to the marina, we saw some BRIGHTON-HOVE MOTOR CAR time trials occurring just on the east side of the pier. The road along the beach was filled with colorful observers and vehicles.
People peered over the wall from the street watching as cars zoomed by. Must admit, it was pretty difficult not to.
Security was fairly tight, which could have come from Britain’s raising the terrorist threat last week.
Reaching the marina, we had lunch aboard
then headed back towards the train station for Jane’s 5:19p to Winchester.
It was an absolutely splendid way to spend our last day in Brighton, this proud city which is a bit worn about the edges but carries on with head held high and a welcoming smile.
Say the above in a loud British accent and you will have heard echoes of that tirade from parents as they herded their exhausted kids away from London’s Natural History Museum stuffed to the gills with giant mammoths, ferocious and benign dinosaurs and lilting butterfly exhibits. This is what accompanied us as we stepped off the London Underground (“The Tube”) as a frustrated and tired Dad wrestled a baby carriage from the train and onto the platform.
The particular individual to whom I was referring earlier was followed by a passel of children all under the age of five along with some other kid-worn and cranky adults. When he followed his baby screech and yelled “Where’s SMELLY PANTS?”, we knew it had been an oh, so very loooong and terrible day.
All I can say is, I hope whoever earned the name Smelly Pants was wrecking sweet
revenge on that dad for, if owner of said pants was too young to answer back, at least his odifurous breeches were doing it for him.
The whole purpose of this side trip (via land) was to check out marinas likable for winter berths. With rainy weather and unfavorable winds forecasted for the next few days, we decided to leave JUANONA safely berthed at the Weymouth marina and head northeast by train.
Our first stop was a river city/town on the southern, east coast, where we booked two nights at Old Times Guest House (where we were wonderfully welcomed by the owner, Kelly). After visiting (and liking) Ipswich with its proximity to a small downtown, including great lap pool, lots of scheduled events, and the requisite cafes (for those lattes and now scones), we headed for one night in London to see Limehouse (pretty industrial feeling but also HQs for a great organization, Cruising Association) and St. Katherine’s (pretty elegant feeling with very polite city folk).
We were able to also do some sight-seeing, which is how we came to be around the prickly dad and tykes. Although we had planned to visit the Natural History Museum after the Victoria & Albert, the long, zig-zag line of zombie parents and excitable kids dissuaded us quite rapidly. We were just as happy to start our stroll to Princess Diane’s Memorial in Hyde Park.
[Princess Diana’s Memorial is a bisected oval in the bottom right, just below The Serpentine.]
I had been mesmerized and enchanted by this memorial when I first saw it with my sister Betsy in 2010:
The second time only added to the wonder as kids frolicked in the water going round and round.
Built of stone from Wales and fueled by water that’s pumped out in the evening, circulated, and pumped back in refreshed every day, this circular sculpture offers children and adults the pleasure of strolling through a babbling, bubbling brook. About every 30 feet or so there’s yet another type of cut in the stone, forcing the water to gurgle a different way.
A gentle enforcer stood off to one side, calmly telling kids not to run. When they got too boisterous, he just asked them to take five minutes to relax and reset, then go back in. I don’t think you could have asked for a better ‘policeman’ to supervise these kids (I knew HE would never would belittle a kid by calling them Smelly Pants.)
We enjoyed the water
along with other adults
and, of course, the kids who couldn’t get enough of this playful stream.
Too bad the tyrannical dad couldn’t have ended his day with his children here. He might been just a little bit sweeter… as, possibly, would have the pants.
Saturday, August 30,2014
You mean we’re REALLY going to use that thing hanging off the bow?
Considering this would only be the third time we’ve anchored in 2014, it was with trepidation that I approached the bow to prep our 55-lb anchor.
The first time, Dick/Ricardo was aboard and it was Faja Grande in Flores (June 20).
The second time we anchored just outside Velas’ marina on Sunday, July 6, to enter our berth the next day. It also happened we could go ashore to watch the bull run on the dock (a glimpse of JUANONA is in the background).
And, now, drum roll, please, we left Weymouth harbor,
under the careful scrutiny of the captain,
ate our breakfast of butter-and-jam laden scones along with a pretense of healthy sustenance, yogurt and fruit,
while we day-sailed to our anchorage in Studland Bay (no comment on the name) anchoring just off a festive beach
and stunning cliffs.
As we were preparing to anchor we kept hearing sonic booms. Finally, we realized why when we looked towards Bournemouth.
We got another display of the Red Arrows’ avionic prowess. Again, our jaws jung open and we just stared.
Rising and shining, okay, just rising, we left the next morning at 7 a.m. for Portsmouth to ensure we’d ride easily on the tides.
Snapping some of those beautiful cliffs in early morning sunlight
we consumed our ‘healthy’ English breakfast,
then proceeded to enjoy a blissful sail with wind at our backs accompanied by rollies, but ones you could predict so not queasy-making material, to The Solent.
For those familiar with this part of the English Channel, you’ll also know this area is notorious for amazing tidal currents. Actually, we sailed past Cowes on the Isle of Wight where the English held the first America’s Cup hoping to use local knowledge against the Americans. (Didn’t work.)
We took pics of the boiling current, never able to do justice with a quick snap but you get the idea.
Just know it was flat calm once out of this patch of water.
And, also know I was terribly glad not to have to anchor anywhere near here as we finished up in Portsmouth Harbor. It was a lovely day on the water :)
MEN AND BOATS
Monday, September 1, 2014
What IS it about men and their fascination with Boats? I swear if I see another old ship or catch a whiff of another tarry rope I’m going to go drown myself in lattes or, just to be part of a naval tradition, RUM, better yet, G&Ts.
For, that’s what we did most of our one day here in naval land. No, not drown ourselves in alcohol but went goo-goo eyed from peering at old things found on ships as well as walking on old ships perched on land.
Portsmouth not only is a naval shipyard of new but also of old, including hosting the HMS VICTORY, Lord Horatio Nelson’s ship on which he died during the Battle of Trafalgar off the coast of southern Spain, as well as the MARY ROSE, Henry VIII’s pride and joy (although this one he couldn’t cut the head off).
To get across we rode the ten-minute pedestrian ferry from Gosport (where our marina was located) to Portsmouth, catching sight of some window-cleaning
which, when seen from afar, would not be my idea of an ideal job.
But, back on topic to why we were crossing from Gosport to Portsmouth and its Historic Dockyards in the first place…
I must say the MARY ROSE was an amazing exhibit. At first I thought it’d be an old carcass of a ship, actually only part of a ship. Yet, what we discovered was a captivating story-telling of a medieval ship’s demise and life aboard.
Briefly, it sank July 19th, 1545, during a stand-off in The Battle of The Solent, a three-day engagement where the French were hoping to draw the British fleet out of Portsmouth Harbor and the British refusing. MARY ROSE sank when it turned to shoot at the enemy ships only to be caught by a gust of wind in full sails. With netting covering the ship (used to prevent boarding by the enemy when alongside), less than 40 crew out of 500 survived in the 30-40′ deep waters.
The French did leave, which historians believe was due to not having enough fresh water aboard or the ability to obtain more due to the heavily defended, English coast. So, it could be termed a Brit victory of sorts. Yet, as one guide said, the reason you don’t hear much, if at all, about this battle is because Henry VIII who was there also didn’t want to hear much about the sinking of his prized possession. Nor, evidently, did his second daughter as Shakespeare kept mum on the subject, too.
MARY ROSE fortunately is being talked about now, and it makes for a fascinating display of life aboard a 16th century ship (In case you’re wondering, it didn’t seem all that appealing). Re-discovered in mid 1800s and raised over 100 years later with better technology, this huge artifact is still in the process of being preserved. To view the hull one peers through glass windows into a dry tank with an array of modern scaffolding.
Just as an aside, we were told the MARY ROSE was gently excavated in 1982 from its muddy resting place only to be gently lowered back down because Prince Charles was suppose to be there. According to someone we met while waiting for the train in Weymouth who happened to be good friends with the guy who oversaw this archaeological event, the second raising caused it to break apart; but, then, like with Henry VIII and Queenie Elizabeth I, you don’t hear anything much, if at all, about the second coming of MARY ROSE…)
Rather than bore you with my oohs-and-ahhs, I’ll just highlight some of the moments we enjoyed. Originally, I was thinking thirty minutes max to run through this museum only to exit dazed 2-1/2 hours later.
Old portrait of the MARY ROSE
Why Henry VIII didn’t bring this up at his banquets
How the crew were stuck on the ship
This canon dating from HENRY VIII’s time was how they knew the MARY ROSE was what was sunk in the mud.
for keeping hair neat as well as nit-free (gross… and there were A LOT of these combs found)
Dog paw print from way-back-when in one of the tiles used in the galley
How much of the ship was left by the time they got to pulling it out of the mud
Because I thought it was funny when the little kid exclaimed in a very loud voice ‘look, there’s a butt!’ when spotting the displayed hip bones sitting atop leg bones (kid knew his anatomy).
The only surviving crow’s nest (it was a spare but had been used) from that time
Piece of the sail
And, Max testing his ability to handle a medieval bow…
then getting some professional instruction…
then REALLY testing his power when the guide mentioned he only had it half pulled back.
A Fletcher listening to how arrows were fletched
and, lastly, trying to convey the actual size of this ship
But, our day wasn’t over because we had HMS VICTORY right next door. Oh joy.
So, we trekked off to that, entering by ducking our heads
and continually reminding ourselves to do that as we wandered the maze of middle deck, upper deck, below decks, lower deck and out.
To me, the best part was Nelson’s own quarters, including where he discussed the Trafalgar battle plan with his fleet’s captains. They continue to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar with annual dinners held in this location (actual table, though, is now in the museum next door).
Nelson hung a portrait of his love, Lady Emma Hamilton, in his chambers (he had an interesting love life).
Where Nelson was shot was also noted.
Finally, thirty minutes later we were out, or, at least, I was.
One does wonder what his career would have been like if he had lived. He was only 47 when he died and a brilliant naval strategist. He was also a great leader, taking interest in his men’s lives and ensuring they received credit for their accomplishments. After touring the ship and an accompanying museum it’s easy to understand why his country idolized this man.
All-in-all, the Portsmouth Dockyards offer a historical view of ‘back then’; and, I must admit, it was a day well spent.
However, I do know you would not have found me on a ship way back then…