Category Archives: England

Northward bound: More inland cruising

Durham

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

One of the towns close by was Durham, the site of another famous cathedral. Discovering it offered evensong everyday except Monday, I wanted to hear it. The first and last time was in Canterbury with my friends Carol and Katie, and it left all three of us in awe. I’m not religious but I do love music; and, now, here was another opportunity to share a similar experience with Max. We discovered we could easily get there via the local bus. So, on a rainy Tuesday we made our way to the bus stop and joined a few other folk taking the local route.

Once there the sun began to peek out as we climbed the winding cobble-stone lane to the top of a hill where both a castle (now a university) and the cathedral perched. The rocky peninsula is surrounded on three sides by the River Wear and overlooks the medieval town. The cathedral sits boldly beside the castle, the latter we couldn’t really enter due to school still being in session (some lucky kids actually get to sleep in a dorm in this castle begun in 1072 under William the Conqueror); but, we were able to enter the cathedral.

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Unlike most of the cathedrals we’ve toured, Durham is free. No photos were allowed so we wandered around following a small pamphlet’s instructions on what’s what.

What I found truly amazing is why I hadn’t heard of this place before considering the folk buried here:  Bede (at least some of his bones) and St. Cuthbert, the guy who figured prominently during St. Hilda’s time. Bede (672-735 c.e.) was enshrined here in 1370; and, St. Cuthbert (634-687 c.e.), the famous monk, bishop, and hermit who helped spread Christianity, ended up here in 995 after his body was moved twice (the first time in 875) to escape Danish plundering. The second time his remains (supposedly) telegraphed that Durham should be his final resting place. I’m sure no politics influenced THAT decision.

Anyhow, St Cuthbert’s tomb became a shrine to which oh so many pilgrimages poured their thanks into the open palms of Durham’s oh so reverent leaders. Nothing like a saint to earn some dough. First a church (998) and, later, a cathedral was built (1081-96) to house this shrine with many additions occurring into the subsequent centuries.

Staring up at the imposing stone walls and stained glass while wandering down the center aisle we ran into John Adams, a volunteer who happily and helpfully provided us with information about his church. I say his church because there have been services held here daily for over 900 years, which even for someone like unchurchy me is impressive.

After an hour or so, we left but not before snapping a pic of the Sanctuary Knocker.

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In the Middle Ages fugitives from justice could seek sanctuary by knocking on the north door (where this knocker, a replica, was, although, it must have been lower or the fugitive brought a ladder because it was pretty high up). The fugitive had 37 days to decide whether to stand trial or put himself/herself into exile. If the latter, they had three days to reach the closest port (Hartlepool) and wait for a ship, any ship. As long as they were in the water (waiting for that ship) they were still considered outside the long arm of the law.

When we asked John why such odd day counts, he smiled and said everything was based on the bible’s 40 days. That rang a slight bell in my head, enough for me to say “Ahh”.

We finished our tour and exited to walk around until 5:15, when evensong was occurring.

The town was small, filled with students as well as some other tourists, and we just strolled around enjoying the ambiance and the not-too cold temps.

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At 5:00p we were back at the cathedral and sat with twenty or so other listeners as the service began. The voices were angelic with a range of ages participating, from little girls to older men. The sound was lovely. To be able to witness such an event knowing something akin to it had occurred over 900 years earlier was a bit like time traveling; and, both Max and I soaked it up as the notes literally soared to the sky. All in all a nice way to spend a Tuesday.

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Northward bound: Exploring inland

YORK   

Saturday, May 16, 2015

After two days along the coast we headed inland to the historic city of York. Only an hour away by train, this Yorkshire town built in 71 C.E. was originally called Eboracum and served as Rome’s capital of the northern province. It maintained its prominence after the Romans left, renamed Eoforwic under the Saxons. Danish names for streets show the influence of the Vikings who settled here beginning 867 C.E. and the city continued to thrive as one of Europe’s trading centers. York became even more prominent, becoming England’s second city between 1100 and 1500. When we mentioned York as a place we were considering visiting, locals enthusiastically agreed.

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We can’t say enough about the friendliness of these folk! Everyone we’ve met goes out of their way to make us feel welcome, beginning with the marina folk here at Hartlepool. And, it’s not just in Hartlepool. On the streets in York a man stopped to ask if we needed help (we were trying to locate something on a map). He then went out of his way to ensure we were headed in the right direction.

So, on this Saturday morning we joined the throng of merry travelers including those continuing onto London two hours past our stop in York. It was packed, which meant making space on the floor since most seats were reserved. Armed with crosswords and sudoku, we easily passed time and within an hour were gliding into York.

Leaving the station we walked towards the river, following the ancient wall. And, found a mother goose and her ducklings alongside the river bank.

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Our initial stop was the largest landmark in this ancient city, York Minster, towering over the narrow streets clustered around it, like a big hen and its brood. ‘Minster’ means a missionary teaching church, and York Minster is the largest medieval Gothic cathedral north of the Alps. Similar to other large cathedral sites we’ve visited, this cathedral is located where once a smaller, wooden church stood. Matter-of-fact, King Edwin of Northumbria was baptized here in 627 C.E., which means so was his grand-niece Hilda, that abbess mentioned earlier. 

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We entered the cathedral just in time to catch the beginning of an hour tour. The guide was informative without being overly so and we proceeded to learn about this awe-inspiring building begun in 1220 and completed 250 years later (lots of add-ons and renovations, not the least being a major fund-raiser to clean and restore some of the 128 stained glass windows).

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As we walked down one side and up the other, our guide pointed out old family shields hanging on the walls. These indicated who paid for those particular windows. Some windows also featured the donor with one set actually including a whole panel of the entire family. Nothing like cash to get you into heaven. Or, the good graces of powerful church figures.

The shields also helped identify the archbishops, such as this one on a tomb.

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Our guide mentioned that the shields identifying who was who and the stained glass windows depicting biblical scenes were easy ways to inform a mainly illiterate public.

One of the unusual features was the Chapter House located behind the alter.

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This room had excellent acoustics with each stone seat along the walls placed in its own alcove. Stone carvings ran above the seats, and, with so many faces needed to decorate such a room, most of the designs were left to the discretion of the carvers themselves, resulting in some quite startling expressions.

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On one side of the choir stood a 15th-century stone screen. Statues of the kings of England were featured, beginning with William the Conqueror and ending with Henry VI. The latter was the pious king of the mid-1400s who built the King’s Chapel in Cambridge,  which we visited with Hugo back in April.

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The last point of interest was a board listing all of the archbishops, including Thomas Wosley from Ipswich and who helped Henry VIII split from Catholicism.

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Outside we were once again reminded of this city’s antiquity when we saw a Roman column

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the statue of Constantine whose coronation was held here in 306 C.E.

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This town is loaded with kingly presence. Richard III, the last Plantagenet King, spent most of his youth at Middleham Castle north of York. He only ruled for two years, being defeated by Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth. He had a soft spot for York, and the city milked it for what it was worth. No different from savvy politicians and their donors of today’s world.

You may remember hearing about this infamous (he’s the one who’s accused of murdering his two nephews in order to grab the crown for himself) king in the news this past March. His bones were recently re-interred after being found in a Leicester car park. Some say he wanted to be buried in York, but, Leicester was chosen because (a) he left no actual written will stipulating York as his desired burial place, (b) bodies are generally reburied where they were originally found, and (c) the Battle of Bosworth occurred close to Leicester. Also, as a gentleman told us who helped us with directions, a local leader has ties to Leicester, which easily could have influenced her vote on where to put Richard’s old bones.

There was a museum dedicated to Richard III housed in one of the original, medieval city gates, Monk Bar. We didn’t go to the museum but did climb to see the murder holes (where they dropped nasty stuff on anyone stupid enough to try to enter blindly) and the portcullis that still works (but wasn’t demonstrated).

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We peeked into a tranquil sanctuary, the Church of Holy Trinity. The guide who happened to be from Seattle (her father’s English, which is how she ended up here) walked us down to the original part of the church, which is roughly two feet below the current site) and pointed out some original Norman walls (marked by these chevrons).

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While wandering along these old streets we took in the end of a busker’s show (with quite an original name) eating are lunch brought from JUANONA.

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The crooked streets were filled with crooked houses, some more so than others.

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We walked to another medieval site, Clifford Tower. Located on a mound where William the Conqueror built his wooden castle (although he didn’t use it much), the tower was built by Henry III 100 years later.

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Max pointed out how far we’d sailed to-date on an English Heritage promo poster (we joined thanks to some cruisers who told us about this organization),

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then we climbed to the top and tried to get a good pic of the tower model only to have an (American) kid constantly insert himself, which the mother only thought was adorable.

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A good view from the top where I, with my fear of heights, kept a tight hold on the inner fencing.

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Saw the medieval red devil notes on Stonegate Street, built over a Roman road,

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and continued to check out the Yorkshire Museum located in another green oasis, St. Mary’s Abbey, founded in 1086. Thanks to York’s wool trade along with royal and papal privileges this Benedictine abbey was one of the richest in Britain. We just perused the museum shop (we find that’s a good way to suss out whether we’re up for another cultural bit) with Max finding the perfect card for JUANONA (and him!).

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By then it was time to catch the train home as we enjoyed the afternoon sun, crossing the old city walls and back to the bridge we first crossed heading to York Minster.

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On the ride home looking out the window we passed the 19th-century white horse carved into the sides of Sutton Bank in the North York Moors. Reading later I discovered William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy also visited these North York Moors in 1802. If the horse had been there then, we may be reading a poem today, only, I’m sure it’d be galloping through a host of golden daffodils.

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Northward bound: Exploring northward

TYNEMOUTH  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

We headed north this time, towards Newcastle where our nephew and his wife would be flying into for a visit. This city known for its shipping of coal has a reputation for night life and all that goes with it: clubs, music, events, and restaurants. It also features several marinas, one of which we were checking out along with other ports of call further north.

It was blustery and chilly but we enjoyed walking the streets of Tynemouth after visiting Tynemouth’s headland with yet another priory and castle. This one had the typical convoluted history (to me) as other old and crumbling ruins:  began as a smaller building in 600s; later sacked by the Danes in 800s (St. Hilda’s nuns who went there to be safe found themselves massacred at one of these attacks); rebuilt during Norman times (1000-1300s), and, later the monastic buildings were dismantled during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Catholic Church’s holdings 1536-40.

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But, the castle and Prior’s house were saved. The castle ended up being the birthplace of the 9th Earl of Northumbria, Henry Percy in 1854, and there’s a beautiful chapel still on the grounds.  This 9th Earl Percy was the grandson of the 6th who was originally betrothed to Anne Boleyn prior to her becoming Henry VIII’s second wife. If only she had known where her future was headed….

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This priory was also on a headland similar to Whitby. The reason for the prominent placement of these priories is they weren’t serving as retreats from the world but as missions to spread the word of Christianity. Therefore, it made perfect sense to site these grand behemoths in actively trading ports found where river mouths ran into the sea.

This particular site remained in use as a garrison for British troops but then, like most of these magnificent ruins, evolved eventually into an English Heritage site for people like us to troop around while trying to imagine what it was like way back when.

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Walking down the streets running parallel to the river Max spotted some people-watchers

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who were sitting above a spot where a famous musician ate some fish and chips.

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Getting back in the car we headed for one of Newcastle marina’s when we saw some boats sailing in this brisk wind.

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We hopped out and met up with the sailors with one captain letting Max try his hand.

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This sailing club has been in existence for more than 100 years, and these guys are part of a group who meet Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:00 a.m. to race. A nice way to enjoy the simple pleasures of sailing.

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The rest of the day entailed driving to and checking out marinas in Newcastle (a bit out of town if using the one close to the river mouth), Blythe (small and very industrial), and Amble (extremely friendly with access 2hrs-45 mins to 3hrs-45 mins either side of high tide depending on whether spring or neap tide). By the end of the day we were ready to head home happy to be returning to Hartlepool.

Northward bound: Lowestoft to Hartlepool

Sunday, May 10, to Monday, May 11, 2015

The winds were forecast to be out of the WSW, building to 15 to 20 knots from today though Monday, so we made the decision to leave around 5 a.m. on Sunday for our overnight passage to Hartlepool. We left the harbor and Guliver, the wind turbine, which had been a failiar site every since we landed a week earlier.

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The morning sail was really a morning motor while we waited for the wind to pick up. Eventually it did and we were able to turn off the engine (always a pleasure with the exception we lost the ability to keep the cabin toasty from our engine heater) around 10 a.m.

We passed several wind farms

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as well as what Max assumes was ‘Jumping Jack’, the pile driver mentioned at our visit to the Sroby Sands Wind Farm center.

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We were making excellent time thanks to the wind on the beam (perpendicular to our heading and a good point of sail) and England’s infamous current being with us.

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You know you’re in different waters when your waypoint (the latitude and longitude towards which we head) indicates you’re sailing close to the Greenwich longitude of 00º.

Taking turns keeping watch, we saw the shoreline for most of the passage until we headed past the Wash (big open bay) .

I find it a lot easier to keep watch out in the middle of the ocean than when hugging the shore. The need to avoid fishing pots, the unindentified lights when sailing at night, and the amount of boat traffic kept us on our toes. What is extremely helpful is our Automatic Identification System (AIS). We first used this crossing the Atlantic last summer, and ever since then, it’s one of the best navigational instruments aboard. It really does take the fright out of seeing a 100-meter tanker steaming 12 knots towards you.

For some reason we were suddenly inundated with flies. Where they came from, we don’t know, but came they did. The photo doesn’t begin to show how much they covered the boat but you get the idea. Luckily they weren’t biting and were fairly slow moving, which meant we were soon carrying smashed fly bodies on our shoes all over the boat.

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Max went below for a well-deserved sleep, and after awhile I find myself looking for anything to keep me entertained. I can only read, do crosswords, look at the sky for just so long as I checked the sailing instruments and adjusted for any wind change.

I did my usual ‘capture-the-captain-asleep’ photo. You can tell there wasn’t any heat aboard.

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I tried to see how fast we could go while steering around any odd-looking fishing buoys.

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And then just watched the sky as a faint rainbow appeared.

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The wind became fickle, slowing way down then going behind us, then switching to the SSE. Oh joy. Now what? So, after trying to eke out speed by changing the sail configurations, I gave up and turned on the engine when it was light enough to avoid those damn pots.

Thirty minutes later the wind switched back to WSW and grew strong enough so I could kill the motor. It was bliss :)

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Max came up for his watch and we sailed into Hartlepool where Colin, one of the marina guys, helped us at the lock and getting us to our berth.

The wind at that point was creating white caps in the small harbor, and we were thankful to reach another port of safety as opposed to being out in the North Sea. And, the added benefit were the marina guys couldn’t have been more helpful as we got instructions on entering the lock (as well as someone catching our lines, which I always appreciate).

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It felt great having our first passage completed, and our sea legs back. We are definitely ready for our summer cruising!

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Northward bound: Orwell River to Lowestoft and then some

Sunday, May 3, 2015

One thing that is a constant in cruising is you’ll never know when you’ll really be able to leave somewhere to go somewhere. Such was the case as we sat out the winds and current over our first weekend after leaving Ipswich Haven Marina. Fortunately, forecasts are available but there’s still no guarantee that what was predicted for two days out will be occurring even one day later. On the eastern coast of the UK this posit seems to be even truer.

Moored on the Orwell the weather was still unfavorable for heading out, but not so for the hard Brits. When down below to avoid the rain we noticed some masts going by JUANONA . Hopping up we peeked through the portholes and spotted some boats prepping for racing.

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Man, it looked cold and ugly out there but the sailors on those boats didn’t seem to mind.

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Snapping some photos we caught two racers duking it out. Their hi-tech sails only added to their speed as they whooshed down wind.

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Later we watched more boats plying the river as the sun began to come out providing a spectacular viewing from the confines of our cockpit.

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We also espied one poor soul whose spinnaker almost capsized him.

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Seeing these boats go up and down the river was akin to sitting on one’s front porch watching traffic go by.

Even though it appeared to be clearing up some, all we had to do was look to the west and still be thankful we weren’t heading out to the sea just yet. But, the dramatic clouds sure did make a beautiful sight.

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Fighting one knot of current and not too much wind, we ended up motoring for an hour just to get around a point. From then on, the tide changed, wind picked up, and we were able to enjoy a sail up to Lowestoft.

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In addition to being our first sail of the season, the excitement for the day was being approached by the English Border Force. I had noticed the mother ship passing us, then stopping, and looking at us a tad menacingly. I said a loud ‘uh-oh’ to Max below pointing out that an official-looking ship just stopped fairly close by. Sure enough, a rubber tender was off loaded with a bunch of comando-dressed guys.

They headed our way as we continued to sail at 6-7 knots with the wind and current. Coming alongside they announced who they were and asked permission to come aboard. Not a good time to say ‘no, I don’t think so’ and three climbed aboard while one kept their tender fairly close.

Asking for JUANONA’s registration papers and our passports, two stayed in the cockpit while one ducked below where Max was.

They were very polite (what do you expect from Brits?) and professional. We asked why they chose us and they responded they boarded most foreign vessels. Then, one of the guys mentioned they had just finished a joint exercise up in Aberdeen with the Socttish Navy. The biggest drug bust (£800 million worth of coke) had just occurred up there thanks to a odd-looking tug being watched as it headed north.

They also said they had boarded a boat at midnight the night before. That would have scared the bejesus out of me, seeing some bright lights and a rubber dinghy full of dudes outfitted in black rubber suits clambering aboard.

After fifteen or so minutes, they graciously thanked us and left. Prior to their hopping off we asked if it’d be okay to take a pic. The leader said once they had gotten off and headed away it’d be fine. So, off they went to the mother ship and we started snapping.

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Tuesday, May 5 &  Wednesday, May 6, 2015

After an easy day sail from the Orwell River we landed in Lowestoft at the working marina just inside the jetty’s entrance. Surrounded by fishing boats and wind farm vessels we hunkered down for the forecast strong winds. And, they didn’t disappoint us. At times we felt we were heeling/tilting due to being blustered about even as we sat moored to our pontoon.

This town was a fishing port and resort village attracting many beach-goers when the train service began in the 1840s. Fishing is still an industry although what’s really driving the economy here is the boom in wind farms. There’s a singular wind turbine fondly called Guliver next to Orbis, the company servicing many of Guliver’s kin sitting out in the ocean, which we dodged heading north.

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With winds still high on Wednesday (30 gusting higher) we decided to stay put with the exception of checking out England’s furtherest point East. The winds had whipped the ocean into a frothy lather, and, spray shot out from the jetty rocks.

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A compass design was embedded in the walkway, and after standing in the center we walked around finding  compass headings for celestial events.

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Then we walked into town to run an errand, passing by a 16th century home.

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Back on JUANONA Max finished off another boat project, this one being a protective box around a vulnerable knob of our diesel heater. We’d hate having THAT not work when sailing further north.

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Thursday, May 6, 2015

Based on some other cruisers’ excellent notes from last year, we hopped on a bus for Southwold. Less than an hour south of us this seaside village kept its quaintness thanks to the railroad stopping service in 1929. Thus, this English Georgian beach resort is like stepping back in time.

The last stop was right at a pier where Max noted how some fences running perpindicular to the beach were keeping sand from eroding to one end of the beach. Knowing how Joanne, our geologist friend, takes her students to Georgetown to observe a similar phenomena, we snapped some photos.

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Colorful cabanas stretched off from the pier.

Seeing these wee wooden cabins reminded me so much of the Overman’s one at Virginia Beach.  Painted a variety of hues and colorfully named, these wooden houses could have evolved from the Victorian times when they were rolled out into the sea for the bathers inside to step out and dunk themselves. Although still portable (most, if not all, are moved back off the beach in the winter), the cabanas stay put during the summer months while hosting those catching the early spring sunshine.

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Some were more decorated than others…

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while many would have benefited from our artist friends’ talents.

All had some sort of name, and I kept taking photos as Max asked if I was really going to snap pics of each one? I’ll spare you the result but share some of the fun ones…

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ending with two of my favorites:

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We stopped to talk with a guy who was sprucing up a cabana, only on the inside.

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It belongs to his boss who wanted to redo the interior. The cabin doesn’t have electricity or water, yet it’s still a wonderful little front porch to escape from the sun while watching beach strollers and a wet-suited swimmer.

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After reaching the end we walked up the hill to the meandering village streets,

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passing a beach-clean up sign that reminded us of our friends off on s/v DOLPHINS who recently began a similar effort, Operation Beach Clean (check out his FaceBook page for more info and to see some friends with whom we spent the winter at Ipswich https://www.facebook.com/groups/1573683352914866/ )

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Glancing at the brick homes as we strolled down one of the main streets we passed one with an inviting chair whose owner could look out at those looking in

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and another whose kitchen window sported a wise reminder of just how we should be living.

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stopping for a coffee at a popular bakery, which had a pretty clever menu, and to pen a local artist’s card to Max’s mom.

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From there we scouted out the 15th-century church dedicated to Edmund, the last East Anglican King and Christian martyr. St. Edmund reputedly was executed by the Danes in 869/870 C.E. because he refused to denounce Christianity. He was beaten, shot full of arrows, and beheaded, which must have hurt like hell.

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Unfortunately, the structure was undergoing a huge renovation, so we saw very little of the magnificent stone and woodwork.

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We were able to see part of the interior where services were still being held along with some of the magnificent stained glass

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and medieval graffitti.

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then walked around outside where Max couldn’t resist checking to see if there was another way in,

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in spite of a sign saying otherwise.

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We ate our packed lunch in the tranquil green next to the church.

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Wandering around this little park I saw camellias, which reminded me of the ones Mom grew at home when we were little. They’d bloom during January, always a welcome surprise in the midst of winter.

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There’s a brewery, Adnams, established in 1872, whose brand name is all over the town, from its labeled beer to its shop to a cafe to the actual brewery to that beach clean-up sign shown earlier. You couldn’t help but find the brewery due to the intense yeasty smell wafting over that block of the town.

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We opted not to go for a tour but did spot Adnam’s symbol:  Southwold Jack o’the clock perched on the side of its building. Dressed in the uniform of a soldier from the War of the Roses, this rare mechanical figure use to strike the bell on the hour. The original is at the renovated St. Edmund’s Church.

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Ready for home we made it to the bus stop and caught the next one back to Lowestoft as the rain started to pelt the windows.

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Friday, May 7, 2015

Today we were off to Great Yarmouth, north of Lowestoft, again by bus. We are really enjoying the public transportation England offers. They make it so easy to explore their country.

Great Yarmouth was our destination due to reading about Horatio Nelson’s ties to this town. Later, we found out Charles Dickens wrote DAVID COPPERFIELD while staying here and the another 19th-century author, Anna Sewell of BLACK BEAUTY fame, was born here.

Getting off the bus at Market Gates we walked towards the beach in search of the Tourist Information office. Ironically, it’s not the easiest place to find but we did locate it after stopping in at the Scroby Sands Wind Farm visitor’s center. The center was built by E.ON, one of the UK’s leading electricity and gas companies investing in alternative energy. After sailing by all the wind turbines (one route being when we crossed the Thames last summer)

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it was fascinating to get a glimpse of the inner workings of these windmill giants.

E.ON installed 30 of these turbines, using a ‘Jumping Jack’ barge to drive the pile 30 meters into the sea bed. Driving each pile required 15 people working two hours (Max found this remarkably fast). Two separate columns were then fitted into place onto the pile. Atop the columns the nacelle hub (the brain of the turbine) was placed. The hub, called ‘bunny ears’ with its two blades, then had the third blade attached by matching up 90 holes. One assembly took 12 hours with two turbines assembled every three days. Cable was laid buried three meters under the seabed, testing was done, and voila, alternative energy started flowing.

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Every six months regular maintenance of each turbine is performed. Due to the North Sea’s weather pattern it can get pretty dicey heading out to these farms even when so close to shore. I can just imagine the tossing and tumbling riding in one of those service vessels let alone hauling yourself up to one of the boat landing platforms. Once inside many, but not all of the turbines, have lifts. Otherwise it’s a pretty long climb to the top. Claustophobia and fear of heights would do me in before I even began any climbing.

With a better understanding and plenty of respect for the wind farms and their operators, we set off for the Tourist Information office passing plenty of honky-tonk offerings along the boardwalk. So far, Great Yarmouth wasn’t living up to our expectations of a historical port.

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However, this town quickly redeemed itself once we actually were along the old quay. Here we entered the Elizabethan House built by a wealthy merchant (those with money built or purchased homes facing out towards the riverfront; those with less money lived in the Row Houses, which faced inward and, thus, had less light and ventilation).

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Each room was filled with careful descriptions of how the owners lived and used the space.

 The kitchen showed the progress from the Tudor to Victorian, including butter paddles, which I remembered my mom having, to a hand-operated vacuum cleaner.

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Climbing to the second floor we stepped into a room with curtains drawn to protect the beautiful wood panels and white plaster ceiling.

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In this parlor King Charles I’s death warrant was signed in November 1648 during England’s civil war by disgruntled officers of the army. Cromwell himself supposedly visited here several times being a friend of the owner John Carter (one of Carter’s sons, Nathaniel, actually married Oliver Cromwell’s granddaughter).

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It was a bit unnerving standing in this darkened room where a group of men had plotted the removal of King Charles’ head.

The mood lightened when we migrated from that room to one showing a 19th-century nursery with squirrels sitting around a formal dining table.

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Heading back outside to more modern times we walked the plank to Lydia Eva, the last surviving steam drifter, built in 1930.

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Powered by a steam engine this boat was a hybrid constructed to be both a drifter and a trawler to catch herring, the important fish crop of the area. Again, the information provided as we wandered below the deck was extraordinary. The dioramas explained everything you’d want to know about herring fishing, beginning with the description of the fish itself:  dark steely blue backs to camouflage themselves from seabirds hunting from the sky; silvery-white bellies to appear as part of the sky to predator mackerel and haddock looking up from the sea bottom.

A crew of ten would leave in the afternoon to catch the herring as they rose to the surface to feed off of plankton, catching the mature fish in the nets while the younger ones would swim through. The boat would return the next day having been gone roughly 18 hours.

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Since herring don’t keep well, it was a mad rush back to port to offer the freshest fish on the market.

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The boat’s owner would get 57% of the revenue, the skipper 8%, and each subsequent crew member getting various smaller percentages based on his position.

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Photos accompanied the explanations, one showing the fish being pushed into the hold and then into barrels for lifting onto shore. I can just imagine the slime and the smell coming off these fishing boats. Fortunately, it’d been awhile since this boat had gone fishing, and I really appreciated getting a glimpse of life aboard on of these boats. I also appreciated the ability to be on deck in the fresh air.

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We stopped for a bite at the East Coast Cafe then headed back to the water front.

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We found the Nelson Museum and peered at the exhibits this small building housed. The first floor was dedicated to Nelson’s naval battles

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while the second floor covered his personal life.

Some of his furniture was on display, such as a table used for planning one of his famous battles,

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even some embroidered bed curtains.

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Having read a bit about this man’s victories and tragedies from our time in Portsmouth last summer it was still amazing to realize how Nelson (1758-1805) became immortalized. From his contemporaries’ descriptions Horatio Nelson was an unlikely naval hero.

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The museum also asked visitors to decide if Nelson was ‘a vain, conceited attention-seeker, or a humble man overwhelmed by his fame’. Frankly, he was human; and, I think he summed it up himself in a letter to his wife after the Battle of Cadiz in 1797: “I have had flattery enough to make me vain and success enough to make me confident.”

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His personal life was a true mess, eventually leaving his wife, Fanny, and daughter to live with Lady Emma Hamilton (April 26,1765-January 15, 1815) and their daughter Horatia (January 29, 1801-March 6, 1881).

Upon his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and despite Nelson’s personal plea to the British government, Hamilton and Horatia were refused a pension. However, Nelson had bequeathed her their home, Merton Place, and an annuity. This inheritance along with one from her first husband, Lord Hamilton, should have been enough. But she lived way beyond her means, eventually being arrested for debts in 1813. She fled to France in 1814 with Horatia and died January 15th, 1815.

What is really bizarre is Lady Hamilton’s refusal to acknowledge she was Horatia’s mother. Evidently she gave birth to twin daughters. Horatia was given to a foster mother, Mrs. Gibson, while Horatia’s sister, called Emma, was given to a nurse. The nurse was instructed to send Emma to the Foundling Hospital at Holborn after two months. The pretense by both Nelson (he alluded to Horatia as his god-daughter, adopted daughter, and sometimes his child) and Hamilton (Horatia’s guardian) was pretty stupid and didn’t fool anyone, but knowing society’s condemnation of children born out of wedlock, this blatant deceit allowed everyone to pretend not to see.

You couldn’t make this stuff up. And, I felt this small museum gave me a much better picture of Nelson and his family than the much larger one in Portsmouth we visited last summer.

Back outside we hurried to one of the Row Houses on exhibit.

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Unlike the sites we’d seen earlier in the day this one was pretty disappointing. It was set up as a WWII home but not much was there.

One interesting display was the rations allocated per family of four.

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However, we did see where the Herring Girls, Scottish lassies who followed the herring trade in the late 18th-century, might have rented a room from the earlier owners of these row homes.

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Unfortunately, we were only able to tour one of these 17th-century properties since both closed at 4 pm and it was 3:30 by the time we reached the first one; but, we still thought we might be able to get in.

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Our last visit was a ship, Kamper Kogge, that had pulled in while we were below Lydia Eva. We had stopped off to ask about it

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and were invited back after the captain and crew had a debriefing of their passage over from the Netherlands (approximately 100 miles from Great Yarmouth).

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The Kamper was a reproduction of an old trading vessel, the kogge. Ships such as this one plied the waters between Northern Europe carrying herring, cereals, timber, beer, wax, tar, pitch, copper, furs, and amber. These goods would be traded with Western and Southern Europe for salt, wool, wine, cloth, oil and coal. An international league of merchant associations called the Hanseatic League became one of the most powerful trading forces during the 1200 to 1500s.

A wreck discovered in 1980 provided the model for this kogge’s construction. Beginning in 1991 with a foundation this reproduction was built over five years, from 1994-99.  It had a high, fenced-in platform over the stern, which we were told served as a look-out and defense from pirates who roamed the waters (we saw this design on other ancient ships).

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Below it was pretty sparse but was outfitted with some minor modern conveniences; yet, you could imagine how cold and damp it could be. When building this ship they kept to what they think was the original construction, meaning no insulation and some rather large gaps where water could seep in below. Like the LYDIA EVA I knew I would not have particularly enjoyed roughing it on either of these two boats in spite of some modern comforts.

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Thanking our crew guide, we headed for our bus stop. Seeing one as it was leaving, we ran but missed it. However, while we were looking around for the bus stand, a young boy came up to me saying that bus you were running for just stopped over there. With that I whistled for Max and we ran to hop on. Thanks to that young man we didn’t have any wait at all for our trip back to Lowestoft and JUANONA.

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A wavy morning

Friday, May 1st

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We’re off!

After checking winds, tide, and weather we decided to leave this morning for the start of our summer cruise. Although, calling this summer is a bit of a misnomer considering it’s technically spring and yesterday we were wearing down vests and hats.

As Max unplugged our shore power I quickly hied it to town to grab some bananas along with some other provisioning top-offs (more lettuce, etc.) while we were waiting for the free-flow at the lock (two hours before high tide the lock is kept open; this means we don’t have to deal with the lock doors opening, boats entering & tying up to pontoon, doors closing, flooding of lock, doors opening, boats untying and exiting).

We announced wanting to leave, and the kind lock-keeper came back with a hearty good morning and said to wait for two yachts coming in (red light on the lock) and then leave on the green.

As we were going past s/v BELIEVE (Rick & Julie were making their own preparations for departure. Unfortunately, they’re taking a right turn out the Orwell to head towards Dover while we’re turning left.

We got waved by Julie…

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and then Peter.

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No surprise to see Peter. He’s always ready to give you a hand, and, sure enough, he was helping BELIEVE off the dock. He and Anne made Ipswich much more of a home for us. Consequently, we’ll miss them and our get-togethers, both impromptu and scheduled.

Looking aft we said good-bye to Ipswich Haven Marina

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as we headed towards the lock.

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We breezed through it and waved good-bye to the keeper whose voice we got to know well after hearing him announce entering and exiting boats over the past eight months. Then waved to two orange-suited workers, and whoosh, we were on our way down the Orwell.

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Taking turns at the helm as Max checked the engine for any oil or transmission fluid leaks, we quietly motored past the alternating green and red channel markers dotting the river’s surface. (I had to remind myself before we left that in Europe the red and green buoys have opposite meanings from in the U.S.:  it’s not ‘red right return’ meaning red buoys should be on your right as you enter a port, on your left as you exit. Why, I don’t know except probably the same reasoning for why they drive on the left, we on the right. I think it’s something to do with Romans and horses’ butts…)

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The day was bright with puffy clouds and a stringent breeze. We both gasped when we spotted the intense limey-yellow of blooming rape seed fields as we followed the green-red buoys down the river. The scenery was a perfect harkening of spring and a reminder of our trip to Harwich last Sunday with Anne and Peter.

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About six miles down and close to the mouth of the Stour (where we were last Sunday) we picked up a mooring and are now settling in to wait for good winds to leave the Orwell (Sunday? Monday?) and turn left for our hop-scotching along the UK coast.

BELIEVE anchored just north of us and are prepping for their 3 a.m. departure tomorrow to catch the best currents to Dover.

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We’ll be toasting them later that morning in our v-berth as we sip brewed java from our pals at CoffeeLink, Glenn and Juan (Pictured below).

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A bit later we exchanged waves with Jo and Terry, some boating neighbors on our recent pontoon, who passed on their way to a sailing destination.

As we scanned the banks we recognized landmarks from last September, such as the stand of trees on the north river bank.

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I remember snapping pics of them when we first moored on Orwell heading to our winter port September 18th last year.

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Being free from dependence of land feels heavenly as we’re gently rocked by the wind and current with bold sunshine highlighting the shores and water. Now, brewing some green ginger tea, diesel heater is lit, and I’m getting ready to join Max in reading.

Life is brilliant!

Springing forth from Ipswich

SATURDAY, APRIL 18th

Sutton WHO? Which is how the conversation began a recent Saturday morning as Max leapt out of bed (actually, crawled out of our V-berth) and landed in the main cabin. From there we almost began an Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First” conversation.

“Let’s go to Sutton Hoo.”

“Sutton WHO?”

“Yeah, Sutton Hoo. It’s that old settlement an hour or so away by bus.”

“Now I remember, but how soon is the bus?”

With that he looked at the clock (that has been temperamental lately) that had decided to continue to tick-tock through the night correctly and said “in twenty minutes.”

So, with quick gulps of yogurt with coffee and clothes donned, off we jogged to the bus stop fifteen minutes away.

Max had first heard about this from other cruisers, notably Helen and Gus Wilson, and then recently again by Sandra and Barrie Letts. He filled me in as we trotted in the beautiful daylight through Ipswich lanes to our first destination, the bus.

In a few words Sutton Hoo, located on the Deben River just outside Woodbridge in Suffolk, is the 6th-7th-century burial ground of Anglo-Saxons. The site was discovered in 1939.

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Mrs. Edith Pretty on whose estate 17 suspicious mounds were laying had invited a local archaeologist, Basil Brown of Suffolk, to excavate. Knowing war was soon to arrive on their doorstep, Brown with the help of volunteers began to dig. An archaeologist Charles Phillips of Cambridge University soon got involved, and history was made.

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They discovered the richest Anglo-Saxon burial in Britain ever found, including the most silver (most of it tableware for feasting). These extraordinary treasures now reside in the British Museum.

The 500 pieces of a helmet, which has become an emblem of the site itself, has been painstakingly pieced back together… twice. As one of the Sutton Hoo guides told us, it took two times to have an accurate restoration of this helmet. In 1947 the British Museum got it wrong when they assembled the hundreds of tiny pieces because they used preconceived ideas. In 1968 it was dismantled and reconstructed based on the fragments’ evidence. Now you can see the actual helmet as well as the detailed shiny replica. Both are impressive.

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Other priceless findings are a shield, belt buckle, sliver platters, jewelry, and musical instruments.

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One of the artifacts is a hanging bowl, which indicates wealth because it was used as either a wine holder (my preference) or for cleaning fingers after feasting (probably the only body parts cleaned way back then).

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All of these artifacts were found inside the iron rivet remains of a 90-foot long ship along with the outline of a body presumed to be Raedwald (560-620/17/25? C.E.), the ruler of the East AnglesThe archaeologists were fortunate there were still items and outlines to be found. Many of the artifacts and all of the body were destroyed by rain leaching the acidic soil into the site since the early 600s. 

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What’s fascinating about this king (also spelled Redwald) is his connection to the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, BEOWULF, set in southern Sweden. In that poem the grand ceremonial burial site was that of a man and a ship, the same type of boat and associated wealth found at Sutton Hoo.

Raewald also helped spread Christianity. He was baptized in Kent, most likely at Canterbury were Augustine had set up shop in the late 500s (see Blog on Canterbury October 2014 for more of that dude). Yet, this ruler may not have been convinced Christianity was the way to go. The Venerable Bede (English monk, 672-735 C.E., known as the Father of English History) recorded that Raewald could have lapsed since he had a temple with altars to both Christian and pagan gods. Smart guy.

Further digging and mapping (1965-71, 1983-92) brought new discoveries such as the graves of an Anglo-Saxon warrior with his horse and execution burials estimated to be from the 8th-11th centuries. Of the 17 mounds one had been pillaged by grave robbers but another escaped that fate because the robbers didn’t dig down far enough. Many had been plowed down over the centuries but now the site is preserved. When we asked one guide why more mounds hadn’t been excavated he told us nowadays archaeology involved high-tech equipment enabling exploring sites without disturbing them.

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The site is only open on weekends, and we were among quite of few visitors checking out the exhibit rooms and grounds on this bright spring day.

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After touring the informative visitor’s center we walked out to the mounds. Sheep grazed amidst the mounds

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and a temporary tower stood at one end. Temporary because a permanent one would depend on tourists’ feedback over the next two weekends. We were fortunate to have timed our visit with a chance to climb for a an overview of the site. When asked on the the visitor survey if the tower added to our understanding of the site, we said not really but it did enhance our overall visit, especially the guide’s knowledge who answered our questions. 

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We headed back to the bus stop, passing by a free-range chicken farm and onto the main street.

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Max hiding some chips (our lunch) behind his back. He’s onto my snapping a pic when he’s eating, and Chris (his son) and I know how he eats his potato chips (‘crisps’ here), which means it’s worth a photo.

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Instead of continuing back to the bus stop we decided to walk along the river to Woodbridge. We passed sailboats moored in a creek or on the mud (with much of the river draining out each tide, boats are made to rest gently on the ground),

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other Saturday strollers usually with pups, barges/house boats advertised for sale,

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and even spotted Sutton Hoo across the water.

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Spring had definitely sprung, and thanks to Max we were out in it.

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And, thanks to Sutton Hoo, I’ve since discovered ‘hoo’ can mean a strip of land or a spur or ridge. So much for an Abbott and Costello routine, which I use to practice with my colleague Wayne much to the rolled eyes of our fellow coworkers at the Bath Y :)

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22nd

Almost a year to the date when we launched JUANONA it was time to see just how much gunk of sea encrustations had adhered to her bottom. Max arranged to have her hauled out during a lunch hour so the bottom could be cleaned, prop scraped, and zincs exchanged (the latter are sacrificial lambs because they corrode before other metal parts of the boat; hence, the need to keep these fresh).

With Peter’s help (always nice to have extra hands when handling lines) we took JUANONA around to the haul-out pontoon and then watched as the yard crew oh-so-carefully put slings under her hull and lifted her out and into the parking area.

And, she looked great with a pretty clean bottom, so to speak :)

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So, Max and I were able to just hose her down (my hosing, Max brushing) without having to use a pressure-washer allowing us to save on the ablative paint (paint that sloughs off with growth leaving a less encrusted hull). Within one hour, she was cleaned, prop scraped, zincs replaced and ready for being swung back into the water.

One more task checked off the to-do list!

 

THURSDAY, APRIL 23rd

Where do we PUT this STUFF?! Wednesday night, thanks again to Anne and Peter, we were able to do one huge provisioning at a big supermarket a bit out of town.

First we figured out what dinners to make as staples (Gail, your Indian stew is definitely one of them) followed by the ingredients per dinner; add in all the other staples needed (tea, coffee, condiments, baking needs, dishwashing liquid, tp, sun screen, etc.); tally up quantities required for 12 weeks (knowing we’ll be using and replacing as we head up the coast/Scottish Isles); then plan to spend at least two hours going through aisles and checking off items. Hence the need for spreadsheets.

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The result? A pile of dry goods and non-perishable items needing a home not just on, but in, JUANONA.

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The reason for such a large stash was our plan to not buy anything in Norway other than some fresh fruits and veggies. For the past year or so we’d heard from everyone, cruisers and land travelers alike, how expensive this Scandinavian country is. So, now JUANONA was loaded to her gills with cans and packages all needing a home.

We began on Thursday morning and fine-tuned the stashing through Friday afternoon until everything was labeled, organized by shapes and usage, and placed in lockers leaving JUANONA shipshape.

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Another task completed… although, remembering exactly where everything landed will take another spreadsheet…

SATURDAY, APRIL 25th

With boating season already begun (these Brits are hardy sailors) we wanted to meet more marina folk so we held another BYOBW on one of the last Saturdays we’d be in Ipswich.

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Primed with Max’s now famous deviled eggs (our Orr’s Island friends will recognize these in spite of his not being able to locate his caviar sprinkles), we awaited any attendees.

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Within a few minutes our friends Anne & Peter arrived, soon followed by marina folk, some we knew such as Rick & Julie (below) and some we hadn’t met yet. And, the party began.

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Because of the short notice on posting the signs and with a lot of boats out for the weekend and cruising season, there were fewer of us than last time; however, it made it easier to speak with more folk. Once again we discovered how many great boaters there are hanging out at the marina both full- and part-time. Another reason to return next Fall.

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The last gasp photo of Anne, Max, Peter, and VJ as we turn off the lights and lock the door until the BYOBW Round III.

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SUNDAY, APRIL 26th

Max had heard from Julie and Rick about their recent visit to the Mayflower Project just down the way a piece in Harwich, the birthplace of this historic ship, on the Stour River (we’re on Orwell, NE of Stour).

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Anne and Peter kindly said they’d like an outing to Harwich having never really explored this historic town. So, off we trundled, driving down to locate the building of the s/v MAYFLOWER.

Actually, it’s the third building of a MAYFLOWER, the first occurring in the early 1600’s, a replica in the 1950s as a thank-you from the Brits to the U.S. (now residing in Mystic Seaport, CT), and now this one just beginning to take shape.

We arrived in Harwich parking along the harbor and oriented ourselves via the displayed map (across the way is Felixstowe, which we last saw when entering the Orwell River to head up to Ipswich September 2014).

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We found the center was open only during the week, but we headed off anyhow thinking we may be able to espy some sort of building going on.

It was easy to spot thanks to the colorful murals surrounding the center.

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We peered through the locked gate,

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then discovered an unlocked one around the corner where we met Roy who was manning the small visitor center.

The project is headed up by an enthusiastic and extremely likable and knowledgeable local named Sean Day. We met Sean, head of the Harwich Mayflower Trust, when Roy in the visitor’s office called him at home to say there were four people here interested in a tour. Sean immediately said he’d be there in five minutes, and so he was explaining that he had been in the midst of fixing a plumbing issue at home. Technically, no tours were available unless pre-arranged for the center really operated as a training center Monday-Friday targeting young people in the art of ship building, successfully, I might add.

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Sean proceded to explain how the project began (the interest in and the success of the recent replica of HM Endeavour, James Cook’s vessel)… what their goal is (construct a full-scale, seaworthy replica while helping to rejuvenate Old Harwich via the training center and increased tourism)… the current status (keel’s being laid and frames will go in soon, as well as raising funds for a half million British pounds for bronze bolts)… and how many Mayflower descendants on both sides of the pond are now showing interest (Max is a descendent, specifically one of his ancestors fell off the ship and luckily caught a line to haul himself back in. Fortunate for me :) let alone him!).

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It was difficult not getting caught up in Sean’s excitement and passion about this project. At many times it must be a thankless task, but you’d never know that being in his company. He’s managed to catch Sir Richard Branson’s interest, which raised the project’s credibility and visibility considerably.

Sean mentioned he was considering getting rose buses donated with the idea of planting one for each original crew and passenger from 1620. Deciding to be the first to do so, we offered to start and a gentleman’s agreement was made.

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After the tour Sean said he’d walk us through Old Harwich where the Master (captain and part-owner) of the ship, Christopher Jones, lived.

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While strolling through the lanes Sean would stop every now and then to point out some architectural interest, such as a 15th century building where graffiti from Tudor times still decorates the wall.

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We reached the harbor and he pointed out Mi Amigo, one of the Pirate Radio ships. These ships served as the Davids against the Goliaths (well-established networks, such as the BBC and Radio Luxembourg). The BBC only had one program a week playing the rock and roll music that was hitting the airwaves, and Radio Luxembourg, in addition to having a weak signal, would only promote those artists with big record labels, the ones who could afford to pay a fee to the station. Consequently, many up and coming artists wouldn’t be heard. So, a way around this was to take a ship, outfit her with a studio, radio transmitters, and an antenna, plunk her three miles offshore in International waters.

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Sean had more than just a connection to the history of Pirate Radio ships besides Mi Amigo being moored in Harwich. His brother Roger helped build one of the antennas as well as ferried contraband supplies to one of these ships. For an entertaining history of these ships, check out the 2009 movie “The Boat that Rocked” with Bill Nighy and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

We said good-bye to Sean, stopped in for a pub lunch, then headed to the Redoubt (‘Redoubt’ means a defensive fortification providing a 360-degree coverage). Built in 1808 this fort was one of the original 103 Martello Towers. These circular forts were constructed along the Essex and Sussex coastline as a defense from Napoleonic invasions.

Being so close to Europe and having an excellent port, Harwich had to prepare in the event of any sea invasion. Fortunately, none occurred although over 100 German U-boats surrendered there in 1918. And, in WWII an anti-aircraft gun was stationed at the fort to try to fend off the bombing raids that struck a large part of the town.

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We toured the fort where Anne pretended to be a gunner,

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and then pretended to be a shot gunner.

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We saw where troops would sally forth to meet the enemy,

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and, a Nazi missile that just missed Harwich.

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Then headed home through country roads lined by blossoming rape seed. A lovely Sunday drive :)

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SPRING Boardings

We can’t say good-bye to Ipswich without saying how great it was to have new-found friends aboard JUANONA. These are only two of the occasions but at least you’ll get an idea of what we mean about enjoying company with others.

Here’s one dinner with (l to r) Jo, Paul, Lily, Jayne. Jo, a young woman from Tasmania, crewed with Jayne, Lily and Paul on their boat, s/v DELPHINIUS, last summer in the Baltic then was first mate on a boat taking charters to South Georgia in the Southern Ocean. You’d never know she did this because she’s so gentle and self-effacing. We had to pull the stories out of her for she isn’t one to talk about herself. She’s now finishing up a trek along one of the historical pilgrimage walks to Santiago de Compostella, Spain. Her dream is to skipper her own boat for global exploring. We have no doubt she’ll achieve that.

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Another small party included Sandra and Barrie from s/v PASSAT II.

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Julie and Rick off of s/v BELIEVE are some other cruisers who wintered their boat in Ipswich while they returned home to Florida then left for Rwanda and Kenya on a medical mission. They attended the BYOBW (photo with me) mentioned above. They’ll be heading south to the coast of England and then France about the same time we’ll be going north.

VJ, who also was caught in a shot (last gasp photo) at the recent BYOBW, will be heading off to the southern coast of England. He once single-handed his 21-foot boat across the Pacific Ocean. He’s on a little bit bigger boat now and planning on heading south soon.

We’ve also met Andrew on s/v CHILD OF THE WIND who played the viola for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and who’s deciding where to head later this spring.

Becky, a Kiwi, and Trevor, a Scot, off of s/v DIGNITY have provided great info for cruising the coast of England and Scotland. Trevor also tells a wonderful story about his mother’s parrots. Made me almost want a parrot aboard JUANONA.

And, we don’t know what we would have done without Anne and Peter off of s/v SACRE BLEU. As you can see from this blob blog and previous ones, we’ll be looking forward to seeing them as well as Becky and Trevor at the end of the summer when we hope to be back in Ipswich.

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So, here’s to Ipswich and all the wonderful people we’ve met. We couldn’t have asked for a better winter home.

“There’s simply not a more congenial spot…”

Barton Mills and environs Wednesday, April 8, to Friday, April 10 If anyone knows the lyrics to “Camelot”, you’ll understand why I use this excerpt to introduce our time with our friends Maya (below with fellow visitor Noodles) and Hugo (in the Spring sunshine) Morriss. IMG_7353IMG_7383 On Wednesday, April 8th, we took the train to Kennett to be met by Hugo and whisked away to The Dhoon, their country home in Barton Mills. IMG_7341 (In asking how the house name came about, they briefly mentioned that previous owner Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, had named this Suffolk country retreat and used to come here from 1921 until his death in 1955.) IMG_7343IMG_7354 Immediately we immersed ourselves into the lovely indulgence of a springtime stay with friends who welcomed us with sumptuous meals, a lovely room, IMG_7213IMG_7214

a head with a tub (!), daily tours, two adorable pups, IMG_7378 IMG_7379 an introduction to their good friend Wendy, IMG_7348 some race-horse knowledge, and wonderful conversations. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.

I had first met them in northern Scotland, January 2001, at a birthday party held by Marci and Joanna, the latter a first cousin of Hugo. Later we caught up with them again in London, November 2002, at another event staged by Joanna. Besides these connections there is another link due to Maya being a fellow Mainiac whose family lived around Mount Desert for years. Yet, even if one had just met this couple, you would be embraced by their genuine hospitality. And, we were the lucky ones to find ourselves in their home.

After a delicious dinner we headed to bed only to be awoken by the lovely fragrance of sizzling bacon. Downstairs we found Hugo at a huge, old-fashioned oil stove frying up breakfast. Maya’s homemade marmalade (and Hugo’s bobbing ducky tea infuser) along with poached eggs, toast and good java ensured we wouldn’t be touring on empty stomachs. IMG_7372 Hugo then shepherded Max and me to his car where we set off for Cambridge where we’d spend the day exploring some of this city’s historic sites. Our initial destination was the Scott Research Institute’s Polar Museum. IMG_7219 A boating friend on our pontoon had mentioned her exploration of this gem, and it was one Hugo had visited some years ago. The three us entered this small museum only to be captivated by the large amount of information available via displays and accompanying audio guide. Both North and South Pole explorers were examined, and I won’t go into all of their exploits here. Max gravitated towards one of his inspirations, Ernest Shackleton. IMG_7227 Here he saw the sextant and journals from the navigator of that 1915 expedition, Frank Worsley.

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For those of you who haven’t had the chance to read the story of Shackleton’s ENDURANCE expedition, do so. You couldn’t make that stuff up.

We also saw artifacts from Robert Scott’s doomed TERRA NOVA expedition (1910-13), including the black flag marking the Norwegian Roald Amundsen’s December 4, 1911, arrival at the South Pole (imagine how you’d feel seeing that in the distance realizing you weren’t first in this historic race)…IMG_7228 and, the abandoned sleeping bag of Lawence Oates, who with Scott, Henry Bowers and Edmund Wilson, died on their return from the North Pole. They were only 35 days behind Amundsen.

Not wanting to be a burden, the ailing Oates left his tent to walk into a blizzard in spite of pleas by his fellow explorers. (His sleeping bag is slit open so he could keep his frostbitten leg out of the warmth; it would hurt too much to have it thaw.) IMG_7258 Recently discovered photographs from Scott’s expeditions were on display. IMG_7245 Looking at the stark and magnificent beauty of this perilous continent, I could understand the magnetic pull. Yet, the sacrifices made were more haunting. IMG_7240 IMG_7238 Sketches of the terrain by Wilson illustrates the scientific aspect of Scott’s TERRA NOVA expedition. Here, Scott took a photo of Wilson as he took pencil to paper. IMG_7243 IMG_7242 IMG_7244 On one of the audios there was a reading of Wilson’s letter to Oates mother testifying to Oates’ bravery. Also on display was the poignant farewell letter Wilson wrote to his own parents after it was clear he, too, would not survive the Polar journey.

A year earlier, Wilson had figured prominently in another mind-boggling event when he, Henry Bowers and Apsely Cherry-Garrard made a 120-mile round trip in the dead of the Antarctic winter (in complete darkness and temperatures I can’t even begin to imagine) recovering some Emperor penguin eggs. This feat is immortalized in Cherry-Gerrard’s book The Worst Journey in the World (1922). Wilson thought this flightless bird’s egg would prove the evolutionary chain between birds and man. IMG_7251 The northern hemisphere explorations covered the many attempts to reach that Pole as well as traverse the Northwest passage, one currently becoming more and more feasible thanks to global climate change. Those from Maine who know Eagle Island may be familiar with Robert Peary’s claim  of reaching it on April 6, 1909, as well as the tragic Franklin expedition. One of the many interesting items was a rescue fox collar, IMG_7231 and the message cylinders used by explorers to protect their information from the elements. IMG_7233 After an hour or so looking at the display of the ‘Heroic Age’ of polar exploration, I couldn’t agree more hardily with Cherry-Gerrard’s description: “Polar Exploration is at once the cleanest and the most isolated way of having a bad time that has ever been devised.” Fortunately we weren’t on either pole, which meant we found ourselves at a wonderful restaurant Hugo had booked. IMG_7271 Fortified by some Scottish seafood and libations we walked across the street to another Cambridge landmark, the Fitzwilliam Museum. The IV Viscount of Fitzwilliam of Merrion bequeathed his collection and library in 1816 to University of Cambridge. He thoughtfully also included funds to house them hence this museum, which opened in 1848.

In addition to artwork by El Greco and Picasso, we also saw some special exhibits. One was of the two bronzes recently attributed to Michelangelo and, the “Treasured Possessions from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment” featuring 300 items representing the purchases by European shoppers during that time, from exquisite pocket watches to  gold snuff boxes to high-heeled shoes. imagesimages

We left this museum knowing it was another place we’d like to return and headed off to the King’s College campus, one of two royal and religious foundations (the other is Eton College) begun by the young King Henry VI (1421-71) in 1441. These two schools would each enroll a maximum of 70 students from poor backgrounds, with those from Eton guaranteed acceptance to King’s. Nice scholarships way back when. Once there we strolled into another Cambridge showpiece, the King’s Chapel. imagesIMG_7281 The chapel was begun by that same king in 1446 and later renovated by his descendants, one being Henry VII. We saw the banded iron chest from which had carried 5,000 GBP (worth roughly $4 million in today’s currency) compliments of Henry VII for completion of the chapel. IMG_7324 It’s a stunning example of Gothic (perpendicular) architecture and features the largest fan vault in the world. Your eyes can’t help but float upwards to gaze at the soaring height banded by huge stained glass windows. IMG_7292 This chapel’s poster explanations of ‘who was who’ and ‘what happened way back when’ cleared up some of my confusion regarding England’s medieval royal family and the Wars of the Roses 1455-85 [Red rose stood for the Lancasters, white for the Yorks, with both of these families being descendants of Edward III (1312-77)]. A diagram (god bless pictographs) showed that Henry VI descended from the Lancasters whereas Richard III was a York. FYI:  Richard III is the guy who reputedly murdered his two nephews, one who was briefly King Edward V. Richard III, also, was the king whose bones found under a car park were recently reburied in Leicester Chapel in March of this year (he died in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth).  IMG_7328 Henry VI was a pious king and not the best. However, it was in the Tudor’s best interests to build the VI up as a saint while maligning Richard III (politicking never changes). Some people say even Shakespeare got into slinging mud on Richard III.

This King’s Chapel at King’s College is beautiful with its light-filled, stained glass windows. Not being a huge structure, you can absorb the architecture by simply walking down the long nave, through the wooden screen donated by Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn between 1433 and 1436 to the choir stalls (we found his initials but not hers)… IMG_7329IMG_7298 and into the choir area on the other side. We ducked into several small chapels along the sides with more examples of stained glass including the Tudor red rose and fleur de lis representing their French rule… IMG_7309 IMG_7321 IMG_7320 IMG_7316 IMG_7310

and a memorial to King’s College alumna killed in WW I, one being the poet Rupert Brooke. IMG_7307 Exiting we walked down towards the river Cam to which King’s College and other colleges back up. We saw many punters out, both guides as well as families who were trying their hand at this ancient boating technique of poling up or down a river. IMG_7267 Throughout Cambridge we saw evidence of a busy college community… IMG_7283

a pub named the same as the good friends (Colleen, Billy, Mary Lee to name a few) frequent Friday nights in Portland…

markers note famous events, and we saw two while keeping a look out for others. Yet another reminder of the historic events this city hosted. IMG_7280IMG_7338

That night Maya had invited a good friend of theirs, Wendy, who arrived with her little pup, Noodles. More fun was was in store along with another excellent dinner a la chef Maya. IMG_7350IMG_7351

The next morning greeted us with an even warmer day with Maya and Hugo’s garden smelling of fragrant spring. Do you know how wonderful it is to be amidst all this flora when one’s view has been of an industrial marina? It was heaven scent. IMG_7205IMG_7365 IMG_7367 IMG_7366IMG_7361IMG_7371 Good bye fall :)

Hugo, Max and I set off again only this time to Ely Cathedral. Once surrounded by marshes and later drained by Charles II (1630-85) to form extremely fertile farmland, this cathedral is often called ‘Ship of the Fen’. images This cathedral was sited on an ancient Christian community site founded by Queen and Saint Etheldreda in 673 C.E. IMG_7409 After two marriages, neither of which she deigned to consummate, she retired to Isle of Ely (so called due to the water being filled with eels) and built a Christian community. St. Audrey (shortened from ‘St. Etheldreda’ because her name was a mouthful) died in 679 from a neck tumor reputedly from her vanity of wearing necklaces in her youth. The fairs held in the town sold cheap necklaces in her honor, thus, the descriptor ‘tawdry’ was coined. Not the best way to be remembered. Supposedly, when her body was brought into the church in 695 the tumor (actually from the bubonic plague) was healed and the linens clean.

Her community thrived over the next 200 years, becoming one of the richest abbeys in England until destroyed by Danes. In 970 it was resurrected as a Benedictine monastery. Then, in 1081 work began to convert the original building into a cathedral. In 1322 one of the stone towers fell, and work began in the same year to replace it, this time out of wood, resulting in the Ely Octagon completed in 1342.

Keep in mind it was a guessing game as to how the structure would stay in place. As the guide told us, this was before the time of measuring the exact forces on structures. Luckily, it worked.

IMG_7430 When gazing at the next group of photographs just imagine looking up and seeing this painted ceiling with the light splashing through. The guide was talking while I kept snapping due to the stained glass effect. IMG_7400IMG_7404IMG_7403 The exact dates are known of these constructions because they were carefully chronicled throughout the years; and, unusually so, the actual names of those working on the wooden tower were known in addition to the master carpenter (in today’s world he/she would be considered an engineer who concentrated on wood construction), William Hurley, provided by the then King of England, Edward III. Due to the growing popularity of the cult of Virgin Mary the Lady Chapel was erected in the same time period and completed in 1349. This side building was also considered unique due to it being separated from the main cathedral building and was exceptionally wide. IMG_7416 Similar to how the King’s Chapel educated me on the Wars of the Roses, this cathedral gave me the clearest example of Norman vs. Gothic architecture. A later renovation added the pointed arched windows of Gothic structures to the earlier rounded windows of the Norman period (remember William the Conqueror who came over from Normandy? This is from his time.)

The main building was renovated several times, the first due to that disastrous falling of the East tower, the next during Victorian times when two volunteers painted the wooden ceilings. Upon entering I was amazed at the length of it considering its overall size; and, I discovered it’s the longest nave in Europe measuring 565 feet from the west porch exterior to the eastern buttresses’ exterior. IMG_7387

One guide began our tour due to the original one being delayed due to a traffic jam. Both were informative but the latter, you felt, could go on for quite awhile. Our clue was his question ‘what time did you think you’d be leaving?’  Normally this could cause some nervousness on my part along with my feet turning sideways to inch out a door, but his knowledge of and excitement only meant we truly were taken back in time.

As we walked through this beautiful cathedral we also spotted some tombs of famous bishops. Both would have been folk I would have liked to have met: St. Hugh of Lincoln (Bishop of Lincoln 1186-1200) known for his kindness, good sense of humor, and the swan who followed him about. He was also able to tame temperamental kings, such as Henry II who sent Thomas Becket to his grave for misspeaking. Another favorite was Bishop Richard Redman (Bishop of Ely 1501-06) who, when traveling, would ask to have a bell rung so he could invite the poor to join him in a meal. His was the only tomb not relocated due to renovations or damaged. IMG_7407 One of the most splendid examples of why this is a glorious place to visit is the Lady’s Chapel mentioned earlier. Here, there was a choir practicing for a concert later that day. Our guide said this chapel was often used by visiting choirs to record due to its beautiful acoustics, including an echo. I loved hearing the singing and music rolling out of the doors as we peeked in at the rehearsal. It also was one of the brightest church buildings from that time that I’d seen. (Not that I’ve seen a ton.) Unfortunately, all but a small portion of the stained glass had been smashed by Henry VII’is thugs during the reformation. IMG_7414 They also managed to scrape off the beautifully painted murals and smash all the tiny heads off the statues recessed along the walls. Reminded me of the intolerance and destruction by other fanatics (ISIS for one) of other historical monuments. Some things never change. Oliver Cromwell also caused suffering during England’s Civil war 1642-51; but, since he’d moved to Ely in 1636, he and his soldiers didn’t do as much destruction as they easily could have. Hugo had mentioned one of the unique aspects of Ely Cathedral is the way it is still surrounded by large open spaces, and this greeted us as we exited. Ely also boasts the largest number of medieval buildings still in use.

Another wonderful lunch reserved by Hugo meant we walked outside the cathedral, through the green, and into an old fire engine house. IMG_7426 IMG_7424 We once again ate a delicious meal begun by some beer and wine, then left for our last exploration of the day, a neolithic flint-mining site. Grimes Graves is one of ten flint mines in England. Over 400 pits are found in this cleared area named Grim’s Graves by the Anglo-Saons. And, to this day we could see the pock-marked landscape where miners over 5,000 years ago picked flint out of the white chalk. IMG_7448 Their tools were antlers and animal (I hope) shoulder-blades for picks and shovels. Used for axes, a highly prized tool, this jet-black flint was a valuable commodity traded up and down the British Isles. We were able to visit one pit and descended the 30 feet with our yellow miner hats. Not one of tunnels or height, I was thankful to climb down, peek about, then quickly return to the surface. IMG_7439 IMG_7441 IMG_7443 IMG_7447 With time for a tea prior to catching the train back to Ipswich, we stopped back at The Dhoon were we found Maya comfortably resting under the furry warmth of Treasure and Barry. IMG_7449 As we said our good-byes we realized how much we were going to miss Maya and Hugo, and, yes Treasure and Barry. They had opened their home to two cruisers from Ipswich who definitely felt this spring week end could not have been spent in a more congenial spot. IMG_7370IMG_7340

GET OFF YOUR BOAT!

Which is exactly what we did on Saturday, January 24.

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It was a party we had organized in the guise of a wine and beer tasting.

The marina kindly let us use what use to be a volunteer yacht club on their premises, which was perfect.

Phil, the yard manager at the marina (and who’s quite wonderful),

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met us at 4pm and helped set up and kept us company while we waited with fingers crossed for some others to show up. We knew at least five other people – our friends

Anne & Peter and Jayne & Paul…

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& Lily who found a good friend in Phil’s son, Allen–

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would be arriving as they helped spread the word.

We had put together something similar when living aboard in Rota, winter of 2002-03. A friend and I, Rita, went around inviting any and everyone we saw on the pontoons. Unfortunately, the marina wasn’t as hospitable and refused to let us use their extra room reserved for meetings. So, we had to do it at the shower and laundry block, i.e., head. In spite of foul weather, spirits–both bottled and body–weren’t dampened.

Now, we weren’t sure if there’d be eight of us or more. Either way, we knew we’d enjoy being with our friends. Hey, it was a Saturday night, weather was good, hors d’ouerve plentiful, wine and beer available, and conversation even better no matter the number.

Yet, within fifteen minutes past 5pm people started arriving until by 6:30p it was packed with over 50 marina folk.

Max with his deviled eggs, a big hit in the UK, and Tanya and Paul…

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VJ, who’s single-handed his boat across the Pacific…

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Our next door boater, Gary (on the right) with his girlfriend, Wendy, and Rob …

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Kate and Mike, the latter is a London Bobby who’s retiring this Friday (we told him next time he needed to wear his uniform).

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marina crew and Phil’s wife, some of whom were heading off to celebrate Chris’ (checked shirt guy) new job as building manager for a care home….

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We toasted Max’s family name conveniently located on a  good English beer can….

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while later Rob, Angela, and Sharon helping us with their second run to the Bottle Bin…

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And, plenty of other wonderful folk who, unfortunately, never made it in front of the camera lens.

The little tasting became a full-fledged fiesta with people introducing and re-introducing themselves to some boaters they’d never seen before and to those they’d nodded to on the way to and from the shower blocks and around the marina premises. Next time, though, name tags  would be a good idea.

By 10:30 the last crowd had a group photo,

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and by 11p we cleaned up (took ten minutes at the most thanks to all the help), locked the door, and realized, yeah, we’re not the only ones who wanted to get off their boats.

 

Going back in time to Canterbury Tales

Max was off to Maine for a visit with his mom as I prepared to meet up with two college friends, Carol M. W. and Katie R. P., the latter being the wife of our crew member, Steve, from this summer.

We had finalized plans just three weeks before after coordinating schedules and settling on a location, which you can probably guess was Canterbury.

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Our tales weren’t necessarily bawdy… well, one night was, but no more of that :)

I had actually Blobbed Blogged our reunion before Max and I left for Germany but had a few edits to make so kept it as a draft. Mistake. When my laptop was stolen, poof! Photos, words, notes… gone. But, I wanted to write something about this trip for it was wonderful, as it always is, being with good friends. Fortunately, I had a few photos left on a camera card and Carol sent hers. Unfortunately, Carol isn’t featured in a lot of the photos, which only means the three of us need a repeat adventure.

Hopefully, the few photos we have and some words will give you a sense of our visit… so here beginneth our tale.

DAY 1:  Friday, October 3

I met Katie at Heathrow while Carol arrived via Gatwick. Katie and I arrived at our place easily. Carol, on the other hand, began her journey with a five-hour delay starting with an early check-in to catch an 11pm flight from JFK that didn’t leave until 3am. Not a great night spending it in an airport with little open and nothing to do but sit and wait.

Katie and I were unpacking when the owners happened to come around and gave us a quick tour and a fast lesson on how to use the fancy expresso machine. Katie and I then freshened up

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and went across the street to the Safron Cafe, which became our go-to spot for a spot of tea, coffee, and sometimes lunch. Our first time there the waitress sat us outside under a grape vine. When we commented on the luscious purple grapes, she picked and washed some for us to eat while we were waiting for our coffee. Heaven.

As the hours ticked by we knew Carol would be looking for some refreshments when she finally arrived. Not to disappoint, we greeted her with some nutritional cheese & crackers and a glass of wine (doesn’t that always make things better? if sipped with friends? :)

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Just a warning:  our get-togethers take the three us back, okay, waaaay back, to our Foss-Woodman dorm at Colby freshman year. Consequently, we’re not the most sedate adults. But, no one can say we’re not entertaining. Well, we make ourselves laugh.

DAY 2:  Saturday, October 4

The first day we found an easy pace with Carol and I generally heading out for an early morning excursion while Katie caught up on some rest (she’s more of a night owl than Carol and I).

Carol and I thought we’d just get our bearings. Our condo was from one of those rent-your-own sites that Carol had located. It was perfectly situated:  off a quiet street and close enough to wander easily in town (if you enlarge the town map, we’re on Castle Street, just down from Beer Cart, roughly 8 o’clock from the black star).

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Canterbury is filled with college students, tourists (like us), and locals, strolling the cobblestone streets.

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There was a lovely park down the main road where Carol and I found a path along the river accompanied by some quackery

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and decorated by a really funky tree.

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We returned to find Katie up and ready. The weather was relatively mild and the three of us decided to take a short punting trip on the river. In spite of the huge looming thundercloud we were taken in by the spiel of the young folk selling this trip.

We hopped in and were immediately entertained by well-practiced factoids and plenty of puns by a theatrical student. Remember that cloud? No sooner were we pushed off from the rickety dock than the skies dumped rain, and, I mean dumped. All we could do was laugh as our punter quickly pushed us under a bridge to wait out the worst of it.

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Not the best day for a river boat ride but definitely memorable.

After heading back to change various articles of soaked clothing we ended up at a whole food cafe sitting atop a co-op. The hot coffees, teas, and soups made it a great stop for a late lunch.

We walked around a bit more then headed to the store for breakfasts, hors d’ouerve, and dinners. Since none of us felt like cooking, our meals involved a lot of yogurt and fruit, cheese and crackers, soups and bread. Oh, and wine.

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At one point we had trouble fitting into a self-timer shot, but, as you can see, it really didn’t matter.

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DAY 3:  Sunday, October 5

It was a beautiful morning. Mild, and a totally blue sky. There was a historical site just down the road from our condo. Carol and I decided to explore this Norman castle begun by William the Conqueror around 1070.

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Although it was beginning to earn its reputation as a ruin by the 17th century it had been one of the three royal castles during Henry I’s time (1068-1135). Two hundred years later it became a prison. It made for a lovely walk if not the most informative castle tour.

From there we walked through another park to the site of Saint Augustine’s monastery, marking the rebirth of christianity in England, now simply stone foundations poking up through grass.

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Just to provide a quick background on the religious element of Canterbury:

As a lot of you know Canterbury is known for its cathedral as well as the guy telling the bawdy tales (Chaucer). The history is amazing. Prior to the invasion of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, the Celts had converted to Christianity after the Romans introduced it. However, the 5th century invaders noted above changed the religious make-up to the worshiping of Odin, the head of the Norse gods.

Seeing an opportunity Pope Gregory the Great sent a monk, Augustine, to England for missionary work in 596. Augustine set off with a group of fellow monks; but, he was so nervous of running into bandits and other road travel menaces he ended up turning around in southern Gaul. Not to be deterred in his desire to christinize England, the pope sent him back, and Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet off the SE coast of England in spring of 597.

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King Ethelbert who was married to a christian, french princess, Bertha (too bad she didn’t have a middle name to use), welcomed this retinue and gave them some land to build a monastery and allowed them to use St. Martin’s Church, the queen’s place of worship (and the oldest church in England still in use after 1,400 years) to begin with.

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Augustine soon built a monastery and a church while becoming England’s first Archbishop. Thus, Canterbury’s prominence in English religion was cemented. This humble monk (and, he was known for being self-effacing as well as warm) became a saint, which only added to Canterbury’s growing prestige among England’s christians. Due to Augustine’s initial settlement and sainthood a magnificent cathedral (THE cathedral) was constructed on part of the former monastery’s site.

Having gotten our fill of formal religion, we decided it was time for nature to work its magic. Because it was so perfect of a day, it seemed the best use of the pristine weather would be to travel to the coast.

The three of us set off on the local bus towards Herne Bay, and the day was, as the English say, absolutely brilliant.

For those who’ve been around Katie, if there’s a beach around, you’ll most likely be walking on it with her. Which is how we landed at Herne Bay’s shoreline :)

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The boardwalk, which was filled with others enjoying the October sun day, hugged the shore curving around to a local artists’ market with colorful booths and a few fruit vendors.

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Opposite the market were some local fishing boats and an example of the dramatic change in tide. We spotted some artists painting outside bringing to mind friends’ (Ellen and Bobbi) trips to Maine.

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Tiny, shoulder-to-shoulder beach cottages lined the path. Looking at these (some dilapidated and some cutesy-decorated) I could just imagine my sister and Ellen envisioning the best way to fix one of these up; and, if they had, I know I would have wanted to rent it.

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With the sun going down we decided to find a tea shop, which we did (hard not to in England). Warmed up we caught our bus home enjoying the twighlty sky.

Another magical day was put to bed.

DAY 4:  Monday, October 6

I must admit the most frustrating event of our trip was trying to figure out the fancy expresso machine. To give you an idea of just how complicated it was, the damn thing came with an instructional DVD. I watched it twice and still it baffled us on how to operate the stupid thing. The worse part was that all of us would hungrily stare at it each morning, knowing that a morning cup out of it would be like heaven. Oh, well, there’s that obnoxious first-world problem again.

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Wanting to visit the cathedral, the three of us made our pilgrimage through the impressive gates and into this building built just after the Norman Conquest (1066) and constantly added to and renovated into the 1500s.

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Well-worn, slippery stone steps were throughout this cavernous stone edifice as we toured it clockwise.

There are too many stories to discover here, so I’ll just relate two, one well-known, the other, not so much.

First, there’s “The Martyrdom” where Thomas Becket (1118/1120-1170), the famous Archbirshop and friend of King Henry II (1154-1189), was murdered.

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Becket had been a really close pal of the king after becoming Henry’s Lord Chancellor. In this post he collected all the revenue from landowners, including churches, and enjoyed the finer things in life (food, drink, clothes, and, I imagine, women).

Then, he got religion but not in the usual sense. He was appointed Archbishop because Henry was hoping to lessen the control of the church by placing a good friend as head of this powerful institution. Becket was initially reluctant about this change, and the priests weren’t so happy about it either. After all, here was a playboy who’d never even been a priest taking the highest position in England’s Catholic hierarchy.

However, Becket embraced the role wholeheartedly and changed from a carouser to someone evoking monastic piety. Even to the point of wearing a hair shirt (gross) and being scourged (whipped) daily by his fellow monks (even grosser).

Henry II was known as having a wicked temper, which didn’t bode well for anyone refusing to comply with the king’s wishes. He and Becket had already had one rift, causing the latter to flee to France after refusing to support Henry’s desire to try lay clerks in the royal vs. church courts. The two reconciled but came to blows again when Becket excommunicated bishops who had supported the king during Becket’s self-imposed exile.

When the king heard about this latest action he yelled (supposedly) ‘will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?!’.  That was enough to send four knights at their own behest to hunt down and stab Becket on December 29th, 1170. The site is marked in a little room off the main part of the cathedral.

Well, Henry was devastated and also realized what a huge faux pas he had done… not only had he lost someone he had admired but also created a saint. After convincing Pope Alexander III he never meant or ordered the murder of Becket, Henry was forgiven. The king had to provide 200 men for the Holy Land crusade (talk about murderers) and be whipped by 80 monks. Furthermore, he agreed to drop his plans of trying criminal clerics in the royal courts.

Canterbury itself obtained a monstrous amount of revenue by becoming a pilgrimage site, the most important one in England.

Another tale was related to us by one of the staff keeping guard (I would heartily recommend taking a guided tour, better yet, hire one of these on the side if you can). She began by explaining many stained glass windows were used to tell the story of christianity to those who couldn’t read. Some of the windows in Canterbury do just that. One series shows a woman dragged there by her caretakers. She was accused of being crazy. Well, she got well by feeling the tomb. (The tomb had holes so people could get as close as possible to St. Augustine’s bones. Nice touch.) What is really wonderful is that these stories were documented by scribes as they were occurring, so they know the window is depicting an actual event.

It was an impressive building but also cold and drafty, so we were thankful to have done our walk-around. If you find yourself in Canterbury and want to see the cathedral, visit this site;  http://www.paradoxplace.com/Photo%20Pages/UK/Britain_South_and_West/Canterbury_Cathedral/Canterbury_Internal/Canterbury_Inside.htm for a good primer.

What was really a highlight of our week was returning for the 5:30 pm Evensong composed of the famous Boys Choir and some older singers. It was hauntingly beautiful. The boys were given free room and board on the grounds (the Cathedral had quite a lovely complex), bused to an excellent school, and offered scholarships for universities upon graduation. But, they definitely earned it with all the singing they had to do.

With heavenly tunes drifting in our heads, we  slowly walked home.

DAY 5:  Tuesday, October 7

We decided to revisit the park, so the three of us meandered through the formal part and found ourselves faced with a bit wilder area occupied by some rather shaggy beasts.

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Definitely a bit different from our black and white variety.

Today was our day for a tour of the city guided by one of the people holding up placards outside the cathedral. We paid our fee at the local visitor’s office and found our guide, a retired gent who was full of wit and historical information about his town.

He pointed out hostels (hotels) where pilgrims stayed, both the poor (shared beds and everything else that goes with that) and rich (fireplaces, toilets, and even someone to do your penance for you), the crooked house of which Dickens wrote,

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one of the oldest homes exhibiting the emblems for fire insurance, and more information about the cathedral and its grounds.

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It was well-worth the ever-growing-colder day to trek around town with him. Not a bad job for being retired and, as he put it, kicked out of the house by his wife.

DAY 6:  Wednesday, October 8

Our last full day was again gray and chilly, but Carol and I decided to take the train to Walmer Castle, known for its gardens and being the place where General Wellington of Waterloo fame died.

It was raining off and on, mostly on, as we walked several miles to the castle from the station. Walmer was one of the five, coastal fortifications built by Henry VIII, with others being some Max and I had visited on the southern coast earlier in the summer. The castle later evolved into the residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (in charge of arresting criminals and collecting taxes), a post Wellington held for 23 years and which is now ceremonial.

We whisked ourselves through the house, noting Wellington’s room, the chair in which he died, and the boots he designed and took on his name.

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Outside in the gardens we found the vegetable and flower ones and then realized we needed to run back (the several miles) to catch a train in time to be home by noon.

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Well, our dash was interspersed with heavy panting, only to start off again, not quite sure where the station was. We finally made it (to the station) having just missed our first train, which put off schedule for the second one. Oh well, we tried, and we had to laugh thinking how the two of us must have looked running like screaming meemies through the quaint village streets to the train.

Back in Canterbury we caught up with Katie,

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and the three of us decided to visit The Beaney, named for the philinthropic gentlemen, Dr. James George Beaney (1828-1891). Beaney had traveled to Australia and made his fortune practicing medicine at the Melbourne Hospital and becoming a pioneer in child health, family planning and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. This generous man left a bequest to create an ‘Institute for Working Men’ to serve as a refuge for those who grew up poor like him.

Got to love someone with a name like Beaney, who loved showy jewelry so much he was nicknamed Diamond Jim, and who cared so much about others less fortunate.

A wonderful photographic exhibit, the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait 2013 contest winners, were featured. Taylor Wessing is an international law firm, not an individual as I originally thought. For seven years this firm has sponsored a photographic portrait contest, and it was spectacular. The aim is to encourage and support new talent. Anyone interested in seeing some provocative shots of a diverse group of people, check it out.

The Beaney, which also houses one of Canterbury’s tourist offices, has some other rooms dedicated to showing off stuffed animals as well as some historical items of the town.

After being on our feet for most of the day, we were glad to finally find a place to sit, which just happened to be under a poster featuring one of the portraits (that of a female jockey).

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Our last night was our pub dinner, one we had been promising ourselves since we had arrived in Canterbury. And, man, what a great meal that was! Situated behind the cathedral, The Parrot is touted as the oldest pub in Canterbury, and, once inside, we didn’t want to leave. All of us said ’THIS is IT.’ If everyone inside had been wearing clothes from the 1500s, we wouldn’t have been surprised. We would have just wanted to sit in the low-ceiling, beamy room sipping pints and chowing down on the wholesome, delicious food.

The young manager said he was sorry but they were booked. When we mentioned we’d wait for an opening, he responded a whole roomful from an event was coming downstairs to eat. With that information Katie and I began to head out the door when all of a sudden Carol called our names. We turned around and saw a huge grin on her face. She got us in!  She told the manager it was our very last night in Canterbury, and he graciously gave in and offered to seat us. Not only was the food delicious but the manager and the waitress couldn’t have been more hospitable. A wonderful way to finish off the week!

DAY 7:  Thursday, October 9

Time to say good-bye as Katie and I headed back to Heathrow (I’d just miss Max returning from the states) and Carol, to Gatwick. Nothing’s good about good-byes except when you know you’ll be seeing someone soon.

And, we did! We stopped in for a night at Katie and Steve Palmer’s on our way back north during Thanksgiving holidays.

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As you can see, we were able to entice Max and Steve to behave like the three of us.

The end.