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.