17 May 2016

Going "Home" before Going Home

We were in what I consider to be my second home today. I'm incredibly tired after the long drive from Cornwall this morning and an afternoon spent walking around London. So I'm going to leave everyone with a series of photos, and then I'm going to rest before our flight home tomorrow.

After dropping off the car and riding the Tube from Heathrow, we arrived at our magnificent hotel. Recognize it? Think Harry Potter.

Is that Ron's car flying past?

The hotel is next door to one of my favorite places, so we  dropped in to peruse the beautiful books on display in the manuscript room. What struck me most this time was how precious books once were. And now we have Nooks and Kindles and all sorts of non-books. 

Hello, friend

Then we stopped at our favorite fish and chips place.

I'll have a plate of yummy grease, please!

Fully recharged from the tasty lunch, we headed for my favorite landmarks in London.

The Queen opens Parliament tomorrow. They're ready for her.

We got to see angles of the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey that I don't recall seeing before.

A new side to the Palace at Westminster

And Wesminster Abbey

George V outside of Westminster Abbey

Richard the Lionheart outside of Parliament

Above the great north door at Westminster Abbey

Then we had to go get some cheese.

My mouth was watering at this point

And we took it back to the hotel for a light dinner.


And now we're off to bed before heading home.

Goodnight, London

16 May 2016

Last Day in Cornwall

We head to London tomorrow to turn in the car, visit a few of our favorite spots, and prepare for our flight home. I cannot wait to hand over the keys to the car. I have grown so tired of driving on roads that are as wide as my driveway at home. If we had been able to drive on regular (real) roads, I'm certain that I would not feel so weary as I do. I've never looked so forward to being on a motorway (that's the word for interstate here), and we'll be on the motorway for nearly four hours tomorrow.

Of course, for our last day in Cornwall, we ended up spending more time than usual on these driveways that stand in for roads on our way to and from Cotehele, an estate that was an ancestral home from 1353 until the Edgecumbe family gave it to the National Trust in 1947. It's especially known for its tapestries, but I found the outside of the property the most interesting.

The longer I'm here, the more I love stone

The side approach to the estate and its tiered garden are
especially impressive

The feature that is probably most well-known in the gardens is the dovecote as the garden paths lead toward the Tamar river. 

There's the Dovecote hiding among the trees

The terraced garden provides lovely views of the surrounding landscape.

The view from the side door

Looking across the Tamar valley

On the inside of the house, I enjoyed the little nooks the most. One of them made me a little jealous, in fact. Upstairs in one of the bedrooms is a nook with a little hole that provides a view into the great hall below. The owners could peep through the hole and decide whether the guests entering were worth the trip downstairs. I like that idea.

I don't think I'll leave my room for those folks

And another sweet nook had a lovely bouquet perched on the windowsill.

A bright, cheerful spot in the dark house

We took a walk along the Tamar to the mill nearby and looked through the historic buildings before sitting down for a cream tea. We'll miss that daily ritual.

A lovely stone bridge crossing a tributary

But tomorrow we head for London, and that has wonderful rituals of its own.

15 May 2016

Walking through a Choir of Angels

We began the day by attending the Eucharistic service at Truro Cathedral. It is the only cathedral in the whole of Cornwall. Apparently, there was once a Diocese in Cornwall up to the end of the 10th century, but then it shifted to Devon. By the 19th century, the call for restoring a Diocese in Cornwall reached a fever pitch, and after 30 years of advocating, the people of Cornwall were rewarded with Truro Cathedral. It was consecrated in 1877.

The Cathedral is a beautiful building, towering over the city. Though it is rather young in English historical terms, its architecture fits perfectly alongside the most beautiful churches I've seen here. The only thing that makes it seem newer is the fact that the stone is so beautifully clean.

The Cathedral is tucked amongst the city
center buildings

Participating in the service this morning was inspiring. Once the church bells stopped calling people to the service, the organ began to reverberate throughout the building. And as the processional of the church officials and the choir began in a haze of incense, I was in awe. 

The choir was incredible. Every time they sang, I had to close my eyes. The sound was so moving. When it came time for communion, we were lead through the quire (where the choir is) up to the high altar. I cannot describe what it felt to walk through that tunnel of glorious sound, but it was transformational.

Here is where the choir of angels sang

After the service, we had a lovely chat with the woman who sat in front of us. It seems that our American accents were pretty apparent when we sang and wished everyone peace, and she just wanted to know what had brought us to Cornwall. Perhaps there aren't so many people from the States visiting this place. After our time here, I cannot imagine why.

One of the three magnificent rose windows
in the Cathedral

After church, we hopped on a train to Falmouth. I loved peeking into people's back gardens and just sitting back and letting someone else get me around (I'm so sick of driving).

Catching a glimpse of water along the train route

Boats at the Prince of Wales Harbour in Falmouth

Once we arrived back in Truro, we hopped into the car for a drive to a small but inspirational garden. I took a lot of photos, but they are mostly to remind me of what I might do in my own garden at home.

The private home of Poppy Cottage and the entrance to its
very public garden...we had to run across a busy road!

One of the many enchanting structures in
the garden

Fortified with a pot of tea and some cake there, we headed home, where I was able to play with our proprietors' dog, Dudley. We're great chums now. All it took was me scratching his tummy and throwing a ball for him. 

My new chum, Dudley the dog

14 May 2016

Found Garden

I have been looking forward to visiting The Lost Gardens of Heligan for years now. Nearly 10 years ago, I read the book by Tim Smit about his discovery--along with a friend--of this estate hidden under plants neglected for nearly a century. I watched a BBC program about Heligan's commitment to sustainable practices. That's when the plan for visiting Cornwall took shape.

Ultimately, I was mostly captivated by the sad history of this place. My interest in it begins with my deep affection for Wilfred Owen's poetry, with my long-held belief that, at least in the US, World War I is a forgotten war. So few people seem to have any awareness of how the war impacted every part of life in the UK. Heligan's history illustrates that so well. Before the war began, 23 individuals worked on the grounds of the estate. So many proud young men signed up to fight for their country, and three years later, only eight of them were left.

The gardens are lovely. The memorials scattered throughout the gardens, however, serve as a powerful reminder of what exactly was lost.

I'll just leave you with photos from the garden and let them speak for the place.

At the entrance of the garden

The first of many memorials we saw today

The glasshouses in the flower garden house peach trees

I love the memorial plaque on the bench in this peaceful garden

One of many beautiful fanned fruit trees

This marks an honor bestowed by the
Imperial War Museum

Tools and pots left behind in the beautiful
potting shed, waiting for the gardeners

The spot seemed so peaceful

That's Diggory the Scarecrow in the
kitchen garden

Just one section of the long archway of apple trees

Another memorial in one of the glasshouses

Bluebells in the woodland

This gives me an idea...

We're off to church at Truro Cathedral tomorrow and to visit a few other spots nearby. Stay tuned.

13 May 2016

The Edge of the World

I've been to heaven, and it is in Cornwall, England. We visited Tintagel today, which is believed to be the site of King Arthur's castle. The castle ruins are beautiful, as are the foundations of houses from the Dark Ages. But all of the elements that make up this place--the craggy rocks, the wide-ranging blues of the water, the stone outcroppings in the ocean, the thick tufts of grass and the little flowers that grow in the most inhospitable of places--make this a place that had me tearing up several times throughout our visit.

One of these holes is said to have been Merlin's cave

The climb to the top of the site was incredible. 

The bridge is just the midway point

There's an interesting mix of artifacts along the climb. The first is this 19th century door at the top of the steep set of steps that leads to some of the castle ruins.

A doorway to heaven?

And this is what we found as we walked through the door.

The jagged slate adds to the beauty

And as we climbed higher, everywhere we turned yielded breathtaking views.

More of the stunning views

I love the moss inside the cave

This bird didn't fly away, no matter how close I got to him

And finally we reached this impressive statue of King Arthur at the tip of The Island.

King Arthur stands guard

We descended the first major set of steps to reach the bridge again. Across the bridge and up another set of steep steps, we found more castle ruins.

The Fitbit registered 54 flights today

One more set of steps yielded these views. 

This is the Mainland Courtyard

Looking through one of the courtyard windows

I do not know how anything could top today, but we're pretty sure that the next phase of our tour--the garden visits--will provide us some inspiring sights, too.