Bonnie & Diana’s Great Britain Journey – Part 1

Bonnie and I at the Roman Baths in Bath, Somerset, England. May 4, 2008

Take two friends who have never traveled abroad together and put them in a foreign country, in a car with the steering wheel at the opposite side of the vehicle and driving on the opposite side of streets, motorways and now roundabouts all while trying to navigate around unfamiliar geography, signs and customs…and for a minute feel the adrenaline, excitement, fear and exhilaration Bonnie and I felt during our 28-day jaunt through England, Scotland and Wales. The experience pushed both our boundaries and yet it was an adventure of a lifetime.

Bonnie put together the lengthy and incredible May 2-30, 2008 itinerary. For England our itinerary included Glastonbury, Bruton, Old Sarum, Stonehenge, Bath, Avebury, Glastonbury, Polperro, Tintagel, the Cotswolds, York, Bakewell and London. Wales included BetwsYCoed, Portmeirion, Caernarfon Castle and Snowdon National Park. In Scotland, we drove through the Scottish Highlands to the Isle of Skye, spent a night on Iona and took in the history of Edinburgh.

There are so many things that caught my attention on this trip, like Bonnie’s green sweater; the crisp Scotland air; washing clothes in London; meeting the gatekeeper in York; speeding, yielding and laughing on the single lane Scottish Isle roadways to Iona; Julie’s humor and Peter’s breakfasts at the Avalon in Tintagel; sucked by Harrod’s over the top and outrageously expensive opulence; driving in the left lane for the first time; meeting the kindly Spratts at Fairy Glen in North Wales; cream tea, scones with clotted cream and strawberry; everything Jane Austen especially Chatsworth and her home in Chawton and sharing the experience with a like-minded explorer.

The journey may have begun the second we took off at DFW Airport and landed at Heathrow Airport in London, but the drive to Glastonbury is truly how this adventure began. Sarah Oliver, our charming B&B hostess at the Melrose House, wondered what had happened to us. It’s just a two hour drive from the airport, but it took us five hours to get there. And, even though we were tired, we were also hungry so we walked to High Street for dinner and yes those are the same clothes we boarded the plane with in Dallas, slept in on the plane, landed in at Heathrow and went to dinner in at Glastonbury. May 3, 2008
Glastonbury, England, home to our first pub experience at the Rifleman’s Arms is also the place where we called home from May 3-7 at the Melrose House B&B. This is a spectacular view of the Tor, a conical hill topped by the 14th century roofless St. Michael’s church tower. Glastonbury is a magical English town and even though we were exhausted after our arrival and dinner the first night, Bonnie had to walk up to the Tor. I’m honestly not sure how we managed to walk up the hill and then up the pathway and steps to the Tor. What I do know is that it took about 45 minutes. It was windy, dark and magical. But, Glastonbury is definitely a New Age, hippie-esque community of truly lovely people and I enjoyed  the chance to be here.
The ancient stone circle of Stonehenge in England. The monument evolved between 3000 BC and 1600 BC and is aligned with the rising and setting of the sun at the solstices but its exact purpose remains a mystery. May 4, 2008
Bonnie and I arrived early in the morning. We were up early Sunday for Stonehenge and I drove. I don’t have a problem driving on the other side of the road, until I’m turning on a curve and I see a car come whizzing past me. And, add to that the steering wheel on the other side and the natural instinct is to pull the car left and you just have an idea of what it feels like to drive in England. Initially when Bonnie and I talked about driving, it was really all in the abstract. It’s not until I got behind the wheel of the car and got on the road is when I realized how much I take driving for granted at home. I just jump in my car and head out without really having to think. Driving is second nature. But, here, I have to be present, every second of the way. When Bonnie drove from the airport, being a passenger was also a learning experience because here I am sitting on the drivers side (the side I’m use to sitting in when I get in my car to drive) only this time I have no steering wheel, no brakes and no gas pedal. And, the truth is I did it, we arrived at Stonehenge, thanks in part to Bonnie’s wonderful navigating skills and I was able to enjoy the experience of the ancient stones rain and all.  May 4, 2008
The beautiful city of Bath, England, showcasing its beautiful and ancient Roman Baths. May 5, 2008
Bonnie and I left Glastonbury early in the morning for our drive to Bath, Somerset, England. And, we literally got there in the morning before the crowds and left in the evening as the city was closing. May 5, 2008
The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is more commonly known as Bath Abbey. Founded in the 7th Century, it is an Anglican parish church and a former Benedictine monastery in Bath, Somerset, England. May 5, 2008
Me at the Circus. It is an example of Georgian architecture in the city of Bath, Somerset, England, begun in 1754 and completed in 1768. The name comes from the Latin ‘circus’, which means a ring, oval or circle. This picture of the stately Georgian (Neoclassical building) are from Bath’s late-18th-century days. These are the homes I see featured in a number of Jane Austen’s movies. I love them in the movies, but I loved them even more in person. This area is commonly called the Crescent and Circus. Bathe has its own European look and feel to it and I can understand its appeal because I loved the charm, history and look of the city. Jane was never fond of Bathe even though she lived briefly in Bath and wrote about it so I’m not sure how she would have felt about the Jane Austen Museum. I popped into the museum and found it disappointing. I did not feel Jane’s presence in her very commercial museum.  I’m not sure what I was hoping for, maybe Mr. Darcy. May 5, 2008
Although I did visit the Jane Austen Center and found it disappointing, Jane has mentioned the Pump Room (the building to the right), I thought this would represent her so much better. Earlier this year, before the trip, I scheduled my Sunday evenings around the PBS aired Masterpiece adaptations of the Jane Austen novels, along with a new biopic of her life in “The Complete Jane Austen” series. A part of this series also included the re-broadcast of my favorite Austen 1995 adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice,” with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, although the 2005 movie with Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen is beautiful to look it, the 1995 version a fuller telling of her story. Then for my birthday in March, Bonnie gave me this wonderful little book by Maggie Lane, “A Charming Place: Bath in the Life and Novels of Jane Austen.” The book is about how the city of Bath impacted Jane’s life and writings. And, the historic Pump Room (the building to the right) in Bath was prominently mentioned in Northanger Abbey during Catherine Morland’s visits there with her benefactors, the Allens. Although Jane Austen’s work caught my attention, the woman behind the words and stories was drawing me in. A woman who never married but wrote so convincingly about love and who, in a time when women could not work for a living, wanted to do more than marry into money, she wanted to earn her own. May 5, 2008
The Pulteney Bridge crosses the River Avon in Bath, England. It was completed by 1774, and connected the city with the newly built Georgian town of Bathwick. Bath is the epitome, to me, of British high style. The city is best known for its creamy warm-tone limestone called “Bath stone,” that creates this distinct Georgian style architecture. It blends the ancient Roman touches and history with a wonderful British nuance and flair. It is the home of the mineral hot springs, the architecture of local John Wood, Italian Andrea Palldio, the aristocrasy of Beau Nash and the romance of Jane Austen who used Bath as the backdrop in several of her novels. I was lured to Bath by Jane Austen. I didn’t really find Jane, but I did find a city with a great deal of history and charm. May 5, 2008
The Chalice Well holds a special place for me. The water is clear and quite refreshing. I truly felt connected to it. The Chalice Well gift shop clerk said she lives in the town of Street, about five minutes outside Glastonbury, because the energy in Glastonbury can be overwhelming. “You don’t know if you’re feeling because it’s coming from you, or if its coming from somewhere else, the ancients,” she said. May 6, 2008.
The Vesica Pool’s Avalon red spring at the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England. According to the book About Glastonbury by Polly Lloyd, “The Chalice Well has played an important role for centuries in the legends of Glastonbury. On a practical level, it was Glastonbury’s main supply of fresh water until the 19th century, and as late as 1921-22 saved the town from drought. The spring has never failed: 25,000 gallons of water flow from it everyday. It’s source is unknown. Possibly it originates in the Mendips, or even in South Wales. The water is crystal clear, but it does contain iron and this has turned the stone over which it flows a deep red, adding strength to the legends that surround it. Indeed, it is also known as the Blood Spring.” May 6, 2008
While in Glastonbury, we visited what was said to be Joseph of Arimathae’s staff that sprouted into this tree on Wearyall Hill. May 6, 2008
The ruins of the 7th century’s Abbey in Glastonbury, England, was a rich and powerful monastery. It became associated with the legends of the Holy Grail and King Arthur in the 10th century. There is a site on the Abbey grounds that is said to be King Arthur’s ‘former’ tomb. May 6, 2008
Bonnie standing in the shaw of the Abbey ruins in Glastonbury, England. May 6, 2008
Passing through the City of Wells, with is street market, on our way to Tintagel, England. May 7, 2008
On our way to Tintagel, we stopped at the City of Wells for a visit. The Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew, commonly known as Wells Cathedral, is an Anglican cathedral in Wells, Somerset, England. The cathedral, dedicated to St Andrew the Apostle, is the seat of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. It was built between 1175 and 1490, replacing an earlier church built on the same site in 705. The medieval cathedral’s architecture presents a Gothic and mostly Early English style of the late 12th and early 13th centuries. May 7, 2016
Another step into King Arthur’s court was our stay in Tintagel, England, from May 7-10 at Peter and Julie’s Avalon hotel. Here’s our King Arthur and Knights-themed room at the Avalon. Tintagel is a village situated on the Atlantic Ocean coast of Cornwall and is steeply associated with the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Cornwall is the place where Bonnie found her people and I felt the power of the Arthurian legend. It is where we drank cream tea, Bonnie at a Cornish pastry and it is where a night’s drive through the Bodmin Moor fog gave new meaning to scary. May 7, 2008
The ruins of Tintagel Castle in Tintagel, England. History and legend are inseparable at Tintagel. During the so-called Dark Ages (about the 5th to the 7th centuries AD) it was an important stronghold, and was possibly a residence of Cornwall rulers. It was possible account of the Cornish kings that inspired the 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth to name it in his “History of the Kings of Britain” as the place where King Arthur was conceived, with the help of Merlin, the Wizard. At the same time, Cornish and Breton writers linked the love story of Tristan and Iseult with Tintagel. May 7, 2008
Merlin’s cave by the remains of the Tintagel Castle in Tintagel, England. May 7, 2008
Walked the man-made causeway of granite setts which is passable between mid-tide and low water to reach St. Michael’s Mount. The rocky island is located five miles south of Penzance in Cornwall, England and surmounted by a fortress-like abbey dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel. This atmospheric sacred site has much in common with its namesake across the channel, Mont-St-Michel in France. Took this photo when we got back to shore because it was raining when we walked to the castle. May 8, 2008
Mousehole is a village and fishing port in Cornwall, England. May 8, 2008
Me at Dozmary Pool, a small lake on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, England. A legend claims the lake as the home of the “Lady of the Lake.” According to the legend, King Arthur rowed out to the Lady of the Lake and received the sword Excalibur. The pool is also the place where Bedivere returned Excalibur as Arthur lay dying after the Battle of Camlann. May 9, 2008
Bonnie making her rounds touching the ancient stones at the Hurlers, a group of three stone circles in the civil parish of St Cleer, Cornwall, England. The site is half-a-mile west of the village of Minions on the eastern flank of Bodmin Moor. May 9, 2008
The Cheesewring is a granite tor in Cornwall, England, situated on the eastern flank of Bodmin Moor. It is a natural geological formation, a rock outcrop of granite slabs formed by weathering. The name derives from the resemblance of the piled slabs to a “cheesewring”, a press-like device that was once used to make cheese. Local legend says that the Cheesewring is the result of a contest between a man, Saint Tue and a giant, Uther, regarding the introduction of Christianity to the British Islands. A rock throwing contest led to the saint winning. May 9, 2008
The quaint Cornish fishing village of Polperro with its sloped cottages in Cornwall, England. May 9, 2008
Bonnie in the doorway of “Joan The Wad and Piskey Shop” in fishing village of Polperro, Cornwall, England. Joan is a Cornish piskey queen. May 9, 2008
Bonnie and I stopped here for dinner. It’s Jamaica Inn, considered Cornwall’s most famous smuggler’s base. Made famous by Daphne du Maurier’s 1936 novel, this greystone hotel and pub dates from 1750, when its remote Bodmin Moor location attracted smugglers. May 9, 2008
It was time to leave Tintagel and Cornwall to make our way to The Cotswolds but before leaving, we stopped at St. Nectan’s Glen. It is an area of woodland in Trethevy near Tintagel, north Cornwall stretching for around one mile along both banks of the Trevillet River. May 10, 2008
Me at St. Nectan’s Glen’s, a woodland in Trethevy near Tintagel, north Cornwall stretching for around one mile along both banks of the Trevillet River. The glen’s most prominent feature is St Nectan’s Kieve, a spectacular sixty foot waterfall through a hole in the rocks. The site attracts tourists who believe it to be “one of the UK’s most spiritual sites,” and tie or place ribbons, crystals, photographs, small piles of flat stones and other materials near the waterfall. May 10, 2008
The Cotswolds has quaint towns and villages down to an art form. The honey-coloured stone buildings provide a quintessential English charm found no-where else in the world. These are the quaint cottages in the beautiful village of Snowshill. May 11, 2008
In the Cotswold’s Burton on the Water I’m enjoying cream tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. May 11, 2008
The river Windrush and the saddles toned walk-way in Burton on the Water in the Cotswolds. May 11, 2008
Here I am in the Slaughters, another Cotswold village, laying claim to a residence I would enjoy occupying. May 11, 2008
Bonnie photographing the sign to the Broadway Tower entrance in the Cotswolds village of Broadway. May 11, 2008
The thatched.the Cotswolds are a delightful tangle of gloriously golden villages, thatch-roofed cottages, evocative churches, rickety almshouses and ancient mansions of honey-coloured stone. May 11, 2008
Winchester Cathedral is a Church of England cathedral in Winchester, Hampshire, England. It is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, with the longest nave and greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe. It is also the burial place of Jane Austen. May 12
Inside one of many parts of the magnificent Winchester Cathedral in England. May 12, 2008
Sound II statue by Antony Gormley in the flood prone crypt inside the Winchester Cathedral, England. May 12, 2008
Jane Austen’s tomb inside of the magnificent Winchester Cathedral in England. Jane was 41 years old when she died in Winchester, England. She had been living there for only two months to be close to her physician even though she had a home in Chawton, England. Jane was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and provide social commentary on the British gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen’s plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. May 12, 2008
I’m standing outside of the door to the home at 8 College Street in Winchester, England where Jane Austen lived during the final two months of her life. Her home was actually in Chawton, England, but she came to Winchester because she was ill and stayed here so she could be closer to her physician. It is called the “Jane Austen House,” with an oval plaque above the front door that reads: “In this house Jane Austen lived her last days and died 18 July 1817.” It was designed by Esmond Burton and placed there in 1956. May 12, 2008
It turned out to be a Jane Austen day. Here I am standing outside of Jane Austen’s 18th Century home in Chawton, England, where she spent the last eight years of her life. Jane lived in the house with her mother and sister, Cassandra, and a long time family friend Martha Lloyd, from July 7, 1809 until May 1817, when because of illness she moved to Winchester to be near her physician. She died in Winchester on July 18, 1817, though her mother and sister continued to live in the house until their deaths in 1827 and 1845 respectively. When she arrived at Chawton she had written three novels in draft form, these were Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. It is possible that she revised these novels at the house, before getting them published. In addition it was here that she wrote Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion. Today the house is a small, private museum dedicated to Jane’s life. May 12, 2008
Jane Austen’s writing desk at her home in Chawton, England. Although I’m seeing the 2008 version of Jane’s home, I can understand how she was able to be a productive writer. It was a very calming presence. And, although commercialism, in the form of a souvenir store exists in the house now, I can see and feel how it would have been a fitting place for Jane to write. Jane, who was said to write almost daily, but privately, was also said to have been relieved of some household responsibilities to give her more opportunity to write. The kind woman working behind the counter explained to me that when Jane was buried at the Cathedral, very few people, including her mother attended the service. For her mother, it was a long distance to travel and for others, a woman’s burial wasn’t something attended by many. May 12, 2008
Inside of Jane Austen’s home in Chasten, England, which has been made into the Jane Austen House Museum. May 12, 2008
Inside of Jane Austen’s home in Chawton, England. This is the bedroom Jane shared with sister Cassandra and the quilt top was pieced by Jane, her mother and her sister while living at Chawton. As a quilter, I could not pass showing off this pieced quilt on the bed behind a pane of glass. May 12, 2008