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.

Sunday 3 June 2012

York - Travel England

Last week we took advantage of a glorious sunny weekend and made our first trip to York. York has England's largest and best preserved medieval walled city. The walled city is a pedestrian area with wonderful little streets full of unique shops, cafes and restaurants. It also has the usual quota of Starbucks, Neros and Costas, which means cheap sandwiches, coffee drinks and bottled juices.

Entry to the walled city (in York a gate is called a "bar", and a street is called a "gate". Hopefully that was clear.)

York is best known for a street named The Shambles. It often is awarded the title of the "prettiest street in England." We are not sure it is fully deserving of such a noble title, but it is very nice, albeit only a couple of blocks long. Even so, it is home to some fine examples of medieval architecture, and more importantly, it is the centre piece of the walled city which has many square blocks of splendid historic buildings, tastefully modernised for today's shoppers and tourists.

Did I say York was best known for The Shambles? Ouch! Excuse me. Let me quickly retract my latest heresy. York is of course best known for York Minster - the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. A structure so profound, with such a dominating command of the York skyline, that you almost come to think of it as part of the heavens and not the city itself. Nonetheless, it is very much an integreal part of the city and well worth a visit.

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Saturday 12 May 2012

Travel England - Thatched Roofs

Thatched roofs are one of the most charming and distinctive features of English villages and countryside. They have an enchanting old world quality that transports you back to the days when hobbits ruled the shire.

Thatching is one of the oldest ways of roofing structures and has been a part of English buildings for centuries. There are over 100,000 such roofs in England whose advocates state provide weather insulation keeping them cool in summer and warm in winter as well as a historic rustic look that is desirable.

In England, thatch is usually made from wheat reeds, long straw or water reeds. When a thatch is laid in the traditional manner it lasts 40 to 50 years and requires little maintenance. Since the 1800s thatched roofs were a sign of poverty but within the last 30 years they have become a symbol of wealth, since they cost about sixty thousand pounds for an average size home.

Saturday 5 May 2012

Travel England - Cambridge

My first trip to Cambridge was in 1971. I had taken the train up from London and arrived at dusk. I walked up to the campus and as darkness grew I found myself in a candle lit medieval night festival. I was stunned by the beauty and ambiance. Young students were wisking about on bicycles through the darkness, deftly avoiding pedestrians. I gazed into windows at mysterious scenes as the candles flickered. How incredibly charming I thought. Did they do this every night or was this a special event? For an hour or so I did not want to know the answer, I just walked around absorbing the glorious experience, a genuine walk back into a medieval time machine.

Eventually I got hungry and a bit cold and went into a cafe for a sandwich and hot coco. I held off as long as I could but finally asked the waiter about the candles and how often they celebrated this wonderful "festival of medieval light." My question cracked up the young man who quickly shared my question with the other patrons. They all started laughing as well, one offered, "Well friend we do it every night because it keeps the electricity bills down." After having their fun with me, they admitted that they were experiencing a "brown out" or what we in the States would call a black out.

I felt terribly lucky. Their inconvenience had become my magically synchronous first impression of Cambridge that I shall never forget.

Candle lit or not, Cambridge is always an uplifting experiencing. One simaltaneously feels the wealth of history and infectuous exhuberance of youth combining for a truly unique travel experience. Cambridge recently celebrated its 800th anniversary, yet it still today remains at the frontier of science and math. From Newton to Hawkins, Cambridge is a guiding light - rooted in tradition, shaping the future, yet comfortably enjoying the present.

Saturday 28 April 2012

About England Travel Top 10 Blog

St. Johns College, Cambridge University - Travel England

About the England Travel Top 10 Blog

The England Travel Top 10 Blog is a photo travel guide as well as a tribute to one of the most fascinating and charming destinations to which a traveler may ever wander. Steeped in tradition and history, England is a shining example of the finest achievements of mankind. From its grandest castle to its most modest cottage, England defines elegance and good taste.

England is also at peace with nature. Its green rolling countryside has been lovingly manicured, neatly divided by hedgerows ensuring that for century after century not a single sheep would stray from his appointed pasture.

England's rugged coastline is a constant reminder that this is a people wedded to the sea. They are the masters of sailing, be it from their great wooden boats of old or their modern cruise liners. It is from the sea, they have conquered and been conquered.

England's museums are absolutely the finest in the world. Indeed, much of the world's antiquities can be seen at the British Museum. But you will also want to visit the Victoria and Albert (also known as the V&A), the National Museum, the several Tate Galleries of Art, and the Science Museum - all of which have free admission.

No matter where you travel on the island, you will always find the friendly English pub with its variety of ales, Sunday roasts (called carvery) and often European and American cuisine as well.

And the English are as urbane as any society that ever was. Their scientists have unlocked the mysteries of the universe. Their authors, poets and musicians have mesmerised the world with their wit and visions. They have entertained us with voyages into magical realms and fortified our courage with stories of men and women who waged tireless battles of good over evil, teaching us right from wrong, whist raising God onto his throne and casting the Devil unto his dungeon.

All too perfect to be true? Well, of course. England is also a place that suffers from the same modern social problems that you will find anywhere else. Mixed in with the world's most beautiful architecture, you will also find kitsch and decay.

But worry not - that is what the England Travel Blog is here for. Our goal is to guide you to the best of the best, with sharp detours around that which fails the highest standards of this proud and noble land - The Kingdom of kingdoms, the fairy land of your dreams, the world's favourite destination.

Welcome to the England Travel Top 10 Blog and be sure to visit our accompanying website

Waddeston Mansion -Travel England