Vicki's Britain Again

Lake District, England October 3, 2009

Raining, fancy that. I now fully understand why the British Isles are known for their rainy weather. Mark and I feel like we are growing moss. We have been able to enjoy the area though. I can see why the English love it. It is truly one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and we are getting to be fair judges of world scenary. It is in no way spectacular like the Alps, New Zealand or Norway—just bucolic, peaceful and absolutely lovely. Huge oak, fir and other trees set out in outrageously green fields divided by dark gray slate fences. Add the craiggy mountains and the lakes and occasional villages and farms—it looks exactly like you want it to look.

Rebecca and I were here about 7 years ago but only brushed the edge of the area and it was high season and the crowds were not appealing. I think late May and early June would be the best time—before the crowds but warmer then now, with Wordworth's daffadils blooming with the rhododendron. We wish we had better weather to do more walking. Somehow I just can't get into the English attitude that there is no bad weather only inappropriate clothing. I did buy a lined pair of walking pants today though, since we can't run the heater non stop in the camper. But at least there is no interior rain. I must admit I have never seen a wider selection of waterproof clothing than in the outdoor stores here. And every other store is an outdoor store!

Haworth, England October 7, 2009

Today I finally did something that I have wanted to do for over twenty years ever since my first trip to the Bronte Parsonage in 1989. Today I walked the 7.5 miles to the ruins of Top Withens farm—the setting of Wuthering Heights. It was a beautiful day with much sun and temperatures in the 50s. I had prepared myself by reading both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in the last two weeks and spending yesterday on my third tour of the parsonage, museum and church. As one of the men said when we passed him on the way “It's a fine day for a literary pilgrimage.”

It was a beautiful path through the bracken and heather hardly changed since Charlotte, Emily and Anne walked it. Though now it is marked the Bronte Way with stops at the Bronte Waterfall, Bronte Bridge and even a rest in the stone chair that Charlotte would sit in for inspiration. A mile past the waterfall is the farmhouse that inspired Wuthering Heights—abandoned since the 30s and now roofless with some of the walls falling in. I came away with a stone and some heather and many photographs.

On the way back I could not help remembering how I first felt when reading those books in my early teens. How awestruck I was that love could be so passionate and strong between two souls that nothing in heaven, hell or earth could separate them. How awestruck I am today in reading them again for the upteenth time that these women living in a what we would consider the most bleak and lonely circumstances could build worlds even more real than reality itself. It was a literary pilgrimage and I have been well rewarded for my efforts.

October 13, 2009 Caernarfon, Wales

We have camped the last two nights in a defunct area of an industrial estate as they call them here. Tonight we are actually in a free city lot, which is unusual in two ways. There is not a “no overnight parking” sign and it is free. It is right on the water—the straight that separates mainland Wales from Anglesy Island, the isle of the Druids. The bridge linking the two was built in 1826 by Robert Stephenson, undoubtably a cousin many times removed.

Rebecca and I visited Wales and the castle here in 2001 but this is Mark's first trip. It is also our third castle of Edward I in three days and we have probably now had enough. We have both an English Heritage pass and a National Trust pass. The two together allow us free entry to hundreds of sites. One caveat is that the Heritage pass gives only ½ price for Scotland and Wales unless you are a two year member. We have seen a great many things that we wouldn't have, had we not had the passes. We have also skipped a great many that we probably also would have enjoyed, but to do everything would take 5 months instead of the 3 we have. Mark orginally thought 3 months too long but has since changed his mind. Perfect planning would have put us here from late April to late October, Next life.

Oxford, England October 21, 2009

We had a wonderful day in Oxford today with temps in the 50s and some sun. The place was very busy even when not tourist season because, of course, all the students are there. We went on the tour of the Bodelian Library, which was very exciting for me since this is my fourth trip to Oxford and the library has always been closed before for special events. Our guide was an elderly, very British chap who bored everyone to death but me. The introductory lecture before the tour lasted about 25 minutes, followed by a 35 minute tour! The gift shop had some wonderful new things (it had been open in the past and I had availed myself of it.) Unfortunately, what I decided I wanted was the "Silence Please" jug but they sold their last one yesterday! Oh well.

Then we went to 4 used book stores and bought about 10 books--which we should not have as our camper is already overweight. Mark and I are not very good at resisting books, even with the ebook. We have been completely spoiled by UK--being able to buy books, read directions on food packages, read the labels in the museums, ask directions (lost 3 times today in Oxford, etc. If it wasn"t getting so cold, we would definately stay longer. As it is we are changing the next couple of weeks around. We had planned to go from Oxford over to the southwest, then back through the middle south, a week or so in London, and then finish in the southeast. However, the National Trust closes almost all its properties on Nov. for the winter. There are 3-4, including Churchil's home, that we don't want to miss, so tomorrow we are driving straight around London to the south and southeast. Then we will double back to the southwest and finish in London in November.

Swindon, England November 7, 2009

I wanted to tell the story of a woman I met last week in the campground in Plymouth. She was sitting in the bathroom reading when I went to take a shower. Since that is pretty unusual she explained that she was tent camping and it was much warmer to sit in the bathroom plus there was better light. I asked her where she was from and she said Albany, New York. Now I know that most of our friends and relatives think we are terribly adventurous (which we are not really) compared to many others that we meet. This lady was nearing sixty, about 30 lbs heavier than I, single and has been traveling the world for almost ten years. She told me that she had been a medical transcriptionist but upon reaching her fifties found that no one would hire her, so she decided she could live as cheaply traveling as staying put. Early on she carried a backpack and stayed in hostels, but her shoulders won't manage a heavy pack anymore and the hostels have become too expensive. So now she travels mostly by bus with a wheely duffel and stays in campgrounds. She spends her days going on walks that she can reach through public busses.. She had just finished 4 months in England doing most of the footpaths in the two national parks, Dartmoor and Exmoor, in southwestern England and was taking the ferry to Portugal the next day. She spends 3 months a year in Albany taking care of her elderly mother while her sister travels.

Anyway I was just floored. I guess where there is a will, there is a way. But I can't imagine being that adventurous.