Saturday, 13 October 2012

Fall in Cambridge

A sunny Sunday in Cambridge is truly a delight. On this day  fall could be seen in the leaves but sunshine was still warm on the back. So students, residents, and visitors alike  strolled through the streets surrounding the University. Glimpses were caught of what lies behind doorways and gates as they were opened up for the day. The punting boats were  busy on the River Cam ferrying folks around to see the sights from the river. The restaurants were filled inside and out, with dinners leisurely enjoying their Sunday meals. The greens were covered with picnicers who prefered to dine alfresco amongst  the gardens. All in all a most pleasant way to spend Sunday afternoon.


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle, built in 1119, served as a Norman stronghold in the county of Kent. It stands on three islands in a man-made lake. This is the barbican, or gatehouse, leading into Leeds Castle Island.

In 1278 King Edward I came into possession of the Castle. As his favourite residence, he put considerable resources into restoration. It is thought that he was responsible for the creation of the lake and moat from the nearby River Len in the 13th century.

The Tudor castle that stands today is the result of major rebuilding completed in 1823.

Leeds Castle has been a fortress as well as the private property of six medieval queens and kings, including Henry VIII. Above is the fireplace in the Henry VIII banqueting hall in which had bay windows installed to take advantage of the pastoral views.

Over centuries Leeds Castle passed from royal hands into ownership by various wealthy families.

Lady Baillie, the last private owner, undertook major improvements in the interiors. She entertained lavishly in the castle and its 500 acre parkland. Upon her death in 1974, a private charitable trust was established to preserve the castle and grounds for the benefit of the public.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


Canterbury has been a city in the County of Kent since pre-historic times. The Romans used it as a major settlement. By 597 it was the seat of the first Archbishop of England, St. Augustine, who had been sent by the Pope as a Roman missionary. The actual cathedral was rebuilt starting in 1077.
Today there are 45,000 people living in the area which relies upon tourism. Over one million visitors a year come to visit the cathedral.
Christchurch Gate
There is also a large foreign student population attending nearby colleges.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the leader of the Church of England. For Anglicans, including US Episcopalians, this cathedral is their Mother Church. Services are held daily with visitors made welcome daily.
The oldest part of the cathedral dates from the 11th century with the last major renovations completed in 1834. There is currently work being done to restore some of the priceless stained glass windows and on the masonry.
Anglicans have made pilgrimages to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket, the most famous Archbishop of Canterbury, since medieval times. The candle burns on the spot of his original tomb which was located where he was killed in 1170. He chose to support the church over the will of King Henry II for which he paid the ultimate price.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Shakespeare's Stratford Upon-Avon

Stratford Upon-Avon is a very old market town located in the charming Cotswold countryside.  No matter which road one takes to reach the town there are attractive villages around every bend. It is a major tourist destination as the birth place of one of the greatest English writers William Shakespeare.  Within the last several years, the city built the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on the banks of the River Avon with a public square and river walkway enhancing the experience of visitors. The square outside the theatre is filled with performers, musicians, and travelers from all parts of the globe.

Globe Theatre still siShakespeare was born in a house on Henley Street in 1564. He returned to Stratford after many years in London to live and eventually die there in 1616. During his lifetime he wrote 37 plays, 154 sonnets as well as poetry. His plays are considered to be some of the most brilliant work ever done. As a young man Shakespeare moved to London where he worked as an actor, producer, and author. He was one of the owners of the Globe Theatre where his plays were produced and  still performed today on its stages.

There has been a scholarly dialogue for the last 200 years whether or not this person from a small provincial town and modest family background could have been the author of such great works. Fourteen of his early plays are set in Italy where he never traveled. However there is no definitive evidence that anyone but Shakespeare was in fact the playwright. So his place in history and art remains unparalleled and people continue to make the journey to see where it all began.

Stratford Upon-Avon offers everything visitors would expect to find. There is plenty to do for all ages, not to mention outstanding productions in the city’s theatres. If all the world is indeed a stage this is certainly an interesting act to see.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

London Dining

Several million visitors will arrive in London for the 2012 Olympics within the next few weeks. Attending the summer games will be just one of the activities enjoyed during their stay. It’s hard to imagine a city better prepared to host than London with historic sites, attractions, and over 5,500 restaurants to choose from when looking for places to wine and dine.

It may surprise some people that the most popular cuisine served in England is Indian curries. Over 1,000 restaurants in London proper specialize in Indian food with Chinese and Italian eateries not too far behind in popularity. With recent immigration and the passing of the British Empire, London has become a place of outstanding international dining choices. Fast food has also found a home here with fish and chip shops and takeaways easily found in most neighborhoods.

Meanwhile the traditional English meal has undergone a transformation pleasing to modern palates of all kinds. Based on ancient origins the classic meals were based on bread, cheese, roast meats augmented with local produce and seafood. Look for great meal deals on Sunday when most restaurants and pubs offer a Sunday Carvery featuring roast meats, lots of fresh "veg", potatoes, etc. If you desire something sweet read the menus closely as most establishments label their desserts as "puddings". In fact the famous Yorkshire pudding is a feather light popover.

While the United Kingdom is known for afternoon tea shops it is high end coffee shops that are growing in numbers almost daily. One can still enjoy the ritual of high tea but will also be able to find a great cup of coffee with delectable pastries in all parts of the city. These days many of the well known coffee chains are found on almost every block.

And last, but by no means least, there are over 7,000 pubs in London. This is not counting the many outstanding bars and clubs: just the friendly neighborhood establishments where one can get a pint. Beer has been brewed in the British Isles since prehistoric times and all the years of refinements shows in the UK's great lagers and ales.