Friday, June 11, 2010

St. Paul's Bell Ringing, Kew Gardens, Hampton Court, Stonehenge and Bath translated into Kathryn-ese mean "Ridiculously Beautiful".

A few unfortunate things about traveling around the English countryside:

1. It's really hard to not take 30 bazillion pictures of everything I see.
2. The views from the roads through the countryside are overwhelmingly gorgeous. That's not unfortunate at all. However, thick rows of trees line the roads, giving only tiny peeks of the gorgeous views, making it close to impossible to get a good picture from a moving tour bus.

Now that those are out of the way, it's been an incredible week:

  • It started with attending the ringing of the bells at St. Paul's Cathedral. Incredible in so many ways, most of which those who went are not allowed to share. Just know that I was thinking about Quasimoto the bell-ringer a lot and I want to see The Hunchback of Notre Dame again.
  • Kew Gardens - First, imagine you're carrying a gun and repeat "kew" a few times in a high-pitched voice. This will make you have an experience similar to the battle scene we had on our way from the train station to the garden entrance. Second, "kew" must have "lots of trees" somewhere in its etymology. There are many, many trees there. Also, there is a large pagoda whose presence we never quite figured out. Formally the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew has 300 acres of beauty, including some royal cottages and ponds.
To justify the lots of trees comment, here's a view from the Treetop Walkway. They go on forever!

This is Queen Charlotte's cottage. She came here with her family during the summer. I think this is the royal family's version of having a cabin up the mountain, except that having a cottage in the middle of 300 acres of ponds, flowers and trees from around the world might perhaps beat the cabin. My favorite part about this cottage is that the pathway leading up to it and the grounds surrounding it are covered with bushes of gorgeous purple flowers. My camera didn't do any of them justice.

One of the waterfalls.
You'll see this pose a lot in my pictures. The combination of our close height and my awesome self-portrait skills makes this position work quite well sometimes. Sometimes we spice it up with a little bit of 5-feet-tall Lynsey, and we get some funny results. You'll see some of those later, I'm sure.

I believe this is the Palm House. I took a lot of pictures of flowers here, but I'm sure not everybody loves flowers as much as I do, so I refrained from posting any of those.

  • Hampton Court: I'm learning a lot about myself on this trip. I learned here that I could live in a palace, at least for a visit, and spend all day walking around with a book and be content for the next 100 years. This is where many of the English monarchs spent their time, including Henry VIII, Mary I, James I, Charles I, Charles II, William III and Mary II, and George II. The palace is marvelous - everything you'd imagine a palace to be. The kitchens are huge - they had to feed around 1000 people sometimes. The grounds were my favorite.
What's missing in this picture is my giddy excitement about this garden and this view. You really can't tell, but this is every bit of the word majestic and amazing. This is the Privy Garden with a side view of the palace.

This is the Main Entrance to the Palace:

As it does often in England, it rained for a bit while we were there. The resulting effect on the roses in the gardens excited me quite a bit, and I can say that this is definitely not the only picture I took of a rose with water droplets.

This is Fountain Court inside the palace. Wouldn't it be incredible to have this be your home and to walk this way to breakfast every morning?

We took a boat there, and the ride itself is an experience. The Thames River is lined with beautiful trees and houses that are the dictionary definition of quaint. Here, Linsey and I are excited to be on the boat.

  • While Stonehenge is basically what you see in pictures, it is definitely cool to stand right by it. However, it's most decidedly a one-time thing. The audio guide was a bit long. To summarize it: Stonehenge is really old, the stones are really heavy, and there are a lot of cool predictions of how they got there. To see my pictures, google Stonehenge.
  • Bath is quite under-rated. Jane Austen didn't like it here, but I sure did. The Baths themselves are pretty great and it's fun to imagine ancient Romans wandering around and enjoying themselves. Apparently, bathing here was quite a religious activity. I tasted the famous Bath water - it was hot, gross water. Bleh. I could only drink two gulps.
Here is the floor of one of the baths. From my half-interested listening to the audio guide, I think the floor sat on these little stone pillars to keep the bathers from getting burned by the steam flowing through the ground...

This is a famous street in Bath. I can't remember the name, but I know it's been in Jane Austen movies. I think it's called something Circus.

This is a view looking up to the organ in Bath Abbey. The Abbey is called "The Lantern of the West" because 80% of the walls are windows. Many of these are windows are stained glass.

A view of the Abbey from the floor by the main pool in the Roman Baths.

A view of the Abbey from the outside front:

Other highlights of this week include:
  • A fantastic production of Romeo and Juliet in the smallest theatre I'm sure I will ever attend.
  • The British Library! This really deserves a separate post. Let's just say Handel's Messiah manuscript, Jane Austen's writing desk, an original Shakepeare folio, original Magna Cartas, Beatles' handwriting, and Beowulf. Enough said.
  • Hard Rock Cafe - brownie, ice cream, hot fudge, sprinkles and whipped cream - this heavenly combination happened that night, and will happen at least once more before I leave London.

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