Thursday, July 7, 2016

Where'd The Ship Go?: UK 2016 Post 7.5

We got up early to head out to Whitby and a drive through the moors before making our way to Durham. Whitby was one of my favorite places on my previous visit so I excited to see it again. I also had make a pact with myself that if I returned to Whitby I would purchase a piece of black jet jewelry. I couldn't afford it on my first visit and I always regretted not bringing home a piece of that iconic gemstone (which is actually petrified wood from the monkey puzzle tree!). Jet is found all over the world but the finest jet comes from England and in particular the north-east coast of Yorkshire. Whitby jet is unique; it's blackness is intense and can be polished to such a high extent that it can be used as a mirror. It became a popular tourist souvenir in the Victorian era, and was worn by Queen Victoria during her mourning period, only allowing Whitby jet to be worn at court during this period. I wanted a piece of antique jet as the modern settings aren't to my taste- usually sterling silver and very reminiscent of the chunky jewelry I wore in the 90's. So I was on the hunt that cold, wet day in Whitby. I wanted my jet and I didn't want to break the bank.

Driving into Whitby

Mist and fog covering the Abbey in the distance and the Church of St. Mary

Whitby is a goth teenagers dream. Daniel took me there the first time all of those years ago because he knew that I would be intrigued by the black jet jewelry but also the fact that Bram Stoker sat on a bench next to a ruined Abbey and wrote Dracula. My first trip there we spent all of our time at the crumbling Abbey and the church next door, Church of St. Mary with it's eroding cemetery. I'm glad we got to fully explore it my first time because it was not open yet this time. (A public service announcement to anyone planning on traveling to England- almost all of the sites and places we came to see didn't open until after Easter. We missed out on so much.)

This history buff in me had also wanted to go to Whitby all of those years ago because in 664 A.D. the Synod of Whitby was held at Whitby Abbey. This meeting of the early English church was the turning point that changed the history of the church in England until the Reformation of the Tudor period. At the synod King Oswiu (Oswy) of Northumbria presided over a council that decided the date of Easter but more importantly it was at this meeting of ecclesiatics that Britain decided to officially adopt the Roman customs of the church and drop the Celtic customs that had been practiced along side it. This was the beginning of the Romanisation of the church in England. I have a fascination with 7th century Christianity of the British Isles so  Whitby was a must. In fact the next few days of our trip were centered around sites that were important to that time period and Whitby kicked that off for us.

Me at Whitby Abbey 12 years ago on a lovely May afternoon. 

Whitby is also home to a replica of the EMS Endeavour, called the Bark Endeavour. The original ship was built in Whitby and launched from it's port in June 1764. The ship was captained by James Cook on his first voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand from 1769-1771. Sold into private hands in 1775 the ship was hired as a British troop transport during the Revoutionary War and was scuttled in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island in 1778 (the wreckage has possibly been found as of this year!). The Bark Endeavour was built to 40% scale of the original and sails the harbour at Whitby and along the coast to Sandsend. So here's the big question of the day: where was the ship? As we pulled into Whitby I expected to see it's tall sails and masts but it was nowhere to be seen. There is no way you can miss a large ship like that. The sign appeared to be gone as well, so it didn't seem to be out for a pleasure cruise. I've been researching for hours and can't find anything to indicate where the Bark Endeavour has gone to. My husband swears that it wrecked in a storm a few years ago and that he knew it wouldn't be in Whitby when we arrived, but I can find absolutely no evidence of this. The website however, is still fully functioning, although the Facebook page says it's permanently closed.  So, either it did wreck or it was being housed elsewhere, but it was strange to be expecting to see it and the dock was empty. So much for recreating my photo from 12 years ago. 

Me in front of the Bark Endeavour in Whitby Harbour 12 years ago. 

Endeavour, where are you? This is where it should have been docked.

We crossed the swing bridge in search of open bookstores and jet jewelry. Everywhere you turned stores had an abundance of jet jewelry. I can't say they were all authentic, but they were all pricey. I decided I wasn't going to buy a piece of jewelry just for the sake of buying a piece of Whitby jet so I was being pretty picky. I tried on ring after ring but none of them spoke to me. I fondled pendants and ogled earrings. Absolutely nothing was worth the price if I didn't absolutely love it. I did find a small Victorian antique pendant for 80 pounds ($105) that I really liked but I had to be honest with myself. I would never wear it and $105 was a lot to spend on something that would sit in a jewelry box. Once again I walked away from Whitby without my piece of jet, but sometimes practicality just has to win the day. Maybe someday I'll have the budget that allows me to purchase the piece of jewelry that I really wanted (found here from the original shop WHamond, anyone got a spare $3,500?). I made Daniel promise me that next time we go to Whitby (and there will be a next time) we'll walk the beach in search of raw jet, which erodes from the cliffs and washes ashore. 

My husband walking across the swing bridge

The beautiful, narrow streets of Whitby

Cold, wet and happy in Whitby.

Off through the misty North York Moors we went. I didn't get any photos of this because we were just enjoying the view and the ride. Our next stop was Durham and I couldn't contain my excitement! I was ready to explore Northumbria!

Harry Potter, Are You There?: UK 2016 Post 8.5

Our ultimate stop for the day was Berwick-upon-Tweed, the last English town before the Scottish border on the eastern coast, but before we rolled into Berwick-upon-Tweed we had plans to further explore 7th century English Christianity and Harry Potter.

Alnwick Castle (pronounced An-nick) has been the family seat of the Percy family for the last 700 years. The de Percy family  purchased Alnwick Castle in 1309 and were created Earls of Northumberland in 1377, it is currently inhabited by the 12th Duke of Northumberland (the Earldom turned into a Dukedom in the 18th century). It is the 6th Earl of Northumberland that I am most interested in though and one of the reasons I wanted to visit Alnwick Castle. Probably only my family knows this but I've been obsessed with Queen Anne Boleyn, 2nd wife of Henry VIII since I was about 13 years old and my mom handed me The Lady in the Tower by Jean Plaidy. Henry Percy, who would eventually become the 6th Earl of Northumberland was Anne Bolyen's first love. Their ill fated love story captured my tween imagination. The annotated version of the story is this: Anne and Henry met at court while Henry was in the household of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, they fell in love and became betrothed, despite the fact that they were both intended for others.  There is some debate as to whether Henry VIII himself already had designs on the young Anne at this point and wanted to interfer with this romance. Regardless, their relationship was forbidden and they were both banished to their ancestral homes to nurse broken hearts and resentments. Henry went on to marry Mary Talbot, daughter of the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury against his will and Anne went on to eventually become Queen, losing her head a mere 3 years after being crowned. 

I've always had a soft spot for Henry Percy. We can't say for certain that he kept a torch for Anne after they parted ways, it is unlikely, but he was present at her trial sitting in judgement, and became overwhelmed after the verdict was read and had to be carried out. He had become ill sometime before Anne's trial so more than likely he was just ill, but the romantic in me likes to think that a part of him still loved her and was grieved at her sentence of death. Although he did not die at Alnwick Castle I was eager to see the ghost of his childhood and family memorabilia relating to him. 

One of my absolute favorite photos that I took. Alnwick in the distance- so nice of the sheep to graze right there for me.  

The other reason I was jazzed to go to Alnwick Castle is Harry Potter. Alnwick Castle was used as a filming location for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as well as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. The castle has broomstick training, outdoor screenings of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and character impersonators, (you're encouraged to dress in costume to meet them). We pulled into the car park and I readied myself for the real possibility that I'd get up the courage to embarrass myself at broomstick training. Daniel had already told me that I was on my own for that one! 

You know those moments when you are so caught up in your own thoughts that you fail to notice the obvious? Well this was one of those moments. We suddenly realized that we were the only car in a fairly large car park. We didn't have the benefit of the Internet in that moment but I did recall seeing a sign in the town of Alnwick that said something relating to the castle about the date of March 24th. We reasoned that that sign was telling us that Alnwick doesn't open until March 24th. It was March 15th and here we were, all the way from California feeling pretty foolish for not check ahead of time. I forget that outside of California things aren't open year round. Had I simply gone online the night before I would have known that there would be no broom rides for me. No Harry Percy and no Harry Potter, I was not a happy camper in that moment. 

I have the most patient husband. I yelled "Stop!", he backed the car up and I ran across the road to get these pictures. Lovely Alnwick and it's grounds.

It was probably for the best that we didn't linger at Alnwick Castle that afternoon as that would have meant that we would have had to miss out on the village of Bamburgh and it's impressive castle on the hill. The drive to Bamburgh was beautiful. Winding roads and gentle hills- it reminded me of the Lincolnshire Wolds that I had fallen in love with. The great thing about letting someone else navigate are the surprises along the way. I knew that we were going to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne- I had specifically requested we go there on our way to Scotland, but what I didn't know about was stopping in Bamburgh along the way. It was a complete surprise when Bamburgh Castle appeared out of nowhere on the horizon. It truly looks like this sprawling castle is on it's own out in the middle of nowhere.  It's only as you get closer that you see there is actually a small village (population 400) below the castle. I knew that there must be a story behind this remote structure. It didn't make sense to have such a large, impressive castle so isolated if it didn't serve an important purpose in it's history. 

The view of Bambugh Castle looming in the distance. You could see it for miles. 

The sign for the village of Bamburgh as we got closer. The sign says: Welcome to BAMBURGH Ancient Capital of Northumberland

The castle overlooking the village below.

The castle and our dirty windshield 

The castle as we see it today was built by the Normans but there has been a fortification on the site since at least 547 AD  when it was first written about and used as the seat for the Kings of Northumbria. The Vikings destroyed the original fortification in 993 AD. The new castle withstood a siege in 1095 by William II, but was surrendered to him in that year by the wife of Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland when he was captured and the king threatened to blind him if she didn't turn the castle over to him. Bamburgh then became property of the King and the Crown. The castle remained in possession of the Crown for some 400 years before granting ownership to Sir John Forster (1520-1602). In 1700 the Forster family lost ownership of the castle when their debts were settled and the castle was sold to the Bishop of Durham. There were various owners after the Bishop of Durham purchased the castle and many let it fall into disrepair and it became derelict, until restoration in the 19th century.  Eventually it was purchased by William Armstrong, a Victorian Industrialist- his descendants still own the castle today. It is open to the public everyday from the months of February to October and weekends only from October to Febuary.  

Getting sprinkled on. 

We pulled up at 3:55 and you guessed it- the castle closes at 4! We talked to the nice gentleman manning the car park who let us park and told us we could wander around as much as we wanted although we couldn't actually go up to the castle. 

I think the motto of this trip should be, "a day late, a dollar short." I can't tell you how many "almosts" we had over our two weeks in the UK. Gates were shut as we walked up, doors locked, placards turned and tides rolled in- this is the downside to spontaneous itineraries and very limited access to an Internet connection. With a sense of urgency we hadn't felt earlier in the day, we left Bamburgh to try to reach the Holy Island before the tide came in and cut us off from the mainland.

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a tidal island which means that it is connected to the mainland by a causeway when the tide is out but becomes an island cut off from the coast when the tide comes in. If you read my previous post on Durham then you will have read about St. Cuthbert, who became Abbot of the monastery located on the island and also later became Bishop of Lindisfarne. He was buried on the Holy Island upon his death in 687 until his remains were removed by the monks during a Viking invasion in 995 and reburied in Durham.

You are warned several times to check the tide tables before heading out across the causeway. I had checked the night before and the morning of to see what the absolute latest we could get across and back would be. We had plenty of time to get from Bamburgh to Lindisfarne or so we thought. We hadn't considered the speed limit on the roads to get to the Holy Island. What should have taken 15 minutes in our minds took closer to 25 minutes, which doesn't seem like a lot of extra time but trust me when you're staring at the tide inching it's way closer to you that extra 10 minutes matters.  We slowly, slowly made our way out to the village of Lindisfarne. Large puddles were forming across the road so we started to get anxious. According to the tide charts we still had an hour before the tide came in but it certainly looked like it was deciding to be early that day. I had visions of walking the Pilgrim's Crossing to the Holy Island meditating on the centuries of pilgrims who have walked it before but this was just not to be. We left it too late in the day, we spread ourselves too thin and tried to accomplish too much in one day. Instead we traveled by car, passing the little raised huts for those who have judged the tide incorrectly and need to escape the water coming in. When you have a reminder like that and signs repeatedly posted along the way with pictures of cars submerged in water you get a little panicky. 


The Holy Island off in the misty distance
The white hut is for stranded motorist who don't heed the tidal charts. See that water rolling in on either side of the road, yeah we saw it too!

We arrived at the car park on the island and I got out of the car to take photos and wander the village a little bit. I really lamented not seeing the ruined Priory or walking out to the castle but I was more afraid of being stranded so we didn't linger. We'd come all that way and I was disappointed but I also realized that our safety was more important and I was grateful just to have come this close. We have already decided that we'll go back to Lindisfarne- we plan to stay in the village of Bamburgh and drive to Lindisfarne- next time giving ourselves plenty of time to linger and give  the Holy Island it's due. 

We entered the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed (Berwick is pronounced Bear-ick) with enough daylight left to find our country hotel. Daniel found Marshall Meadows Country House Hotel the night before while searching for places to stay. We stayed 2 nights in Berwick-upon-Tweed instead of one night there and a night in Edinburgh.  Edinburgh was grim to be far more expensive and there was the issue of parking the car which we didn't fancy dealing with. What a lovely hotel the Marshall Meadows was and a bargain at 70 pounds ($93) a night. It was a shame that we didn't end up spending more time at the hotel itself- it had a lovey sitting room with a roaring fire and the staff was really friendly. 


As nice as the hotel was it was challenging to find- that would be my only complaint. It was a combination of the GPS not being very accurate and the fact that the sign for the hotel is off the road a bit and isn't seen until you are basically passing the entrance. Had we arrived after dark we never would have found it. We ended up turning into the Marshall Meadows Farm across the A1 highway from the entrance to the hotel because it was the only driveway we saw. This must happen all of the time as there were signs that said it was for the farm only. We were so confused! It was only as we were trying to rejoin the A1 that Daniel spied the sign for the hotel directly across from us, slightly hidden from view. 

We had room 3 which is the top two windows on the upper right of this photo. Our room overlooked the mostly empty car park but also the woods beyond. The hotel is on 15 acres of land, it's lovely and sprawling. We were less than half a mile from the Scottish Border at this point and you could feel it. The weather was different, the accents heavier- it was thrilling to think that we were so close to crossing the border. I'd wanted to go to Scotland since I found out about the Scottish ancestry on both my mom and dad's side of the family as a child so this had been a long time coming. I knew that we weren't going to have time to visit the Highlands, home of my mom's ancestors this trip but we were going to be able to visit the Bruce side of my dad's and that was exciting! 

Side of the hotel. Our window was the top left window at the front of the building.
Our room. 

We checked out the market town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, picked up some groceries and did a little recon at the train station. Instead of driving the 56 miles north to Edinburgh we decided to leave our car at the train station and take the train into Edinburgh and spend the entire day there, catching the train back at night. We wanted to get the layout of the station and check out the parking situation to make sure there was 24 hour parking. Satisfied that we could get there quickly in the morning we took our food back to the hotel and had a relaxing evening in, musing over everything we'd seen that day.

In the morning I had a date with some ancestors and a castle.

Previous Post: Two Saints and a Sea God: UK 2016 Post 8

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Two Saints and a Sea God: UK 2016 Post: 8

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I have an active imagination and I'm definitely a dreamer. I'll get a thought in my mind and run with with- fully developing it, getting completely wrapped up in it. Prior to this trip, when in the research phase of planning I got a bee in my bonnet about Durham. Keep in mind I've never been to Durham, I had never been farther north than Whitby, but I developed a little obsession with it. I watched amateur tourist videos on YouTube, suffered through Rick Steve's annoyingly nasal tone, and poured over real estate. This is a pattern with me so Daniel basically ignores me when I announce that we are moving so that I can tend a small flock of sheep and own 10 dogs. Durham is surprisingly inexpensive for a university town. It has the beautiful River Wear flowing through it's city centre, an 11th century castle adjacent to the most glorious Norman cathedral which is reached by either charming narrow streets or a steep, beautiful river path.

We approached Durham by car and I'm not going to lie- I was disappointed at first. I think I expected to be able to see the cathedral, but all I saw was road works and traffic.  We found a car park and gratefully left our rental car to explore the medieval city. This my friends is when my Durham bubble burst. It was SO cold!! There was rock salt strewn across the ground and slushy ice. I had visions of breaking bones as I carefully traversed the stairs of the Walkergate complex.

Approaching Durham city centre

A rather funny sidenote, it was lunch time and we were very much ready to eat something. As we climbed to the top of the stairs we saw a Mexican restaurant. I was curious to try the English version of Mexican food so we checked the menu. Not only was it a bit more than we wanted to pay, it was ridiculously NOT Mexican food. Someone needs to tell them that an "authentic Mexican" menu does not include burgers on brioche buns, peri-peri chicken (a dish originating in Mozambique), or Southern fried chicken! Although to be fair they did have an enchilada dish, a burrito and a few Tex-Mex chili options. We pulled our scarves tighter and set off to find the cathedral, chuckling as we walked away.

We left the Walkergate complex and found ourselves in the lovely Market Place with an impressive statue of the 3rd Marquis of Londonderry, who's comical full name is Charles William Vane Tempest Stewart, astride a horse. The Marquis owned many of the coal mines in County Durham. Although he apparently wasn't a popular employer his widow privately commissioned the statue in 1854, the year of her husband's death. The copper statue was completed and unveiled December 2, 1861 where it has stood prominently for 155 years, with the exception of a 9 month period in 1951 when it was removed for repaired in London. It's quite striking in person.  Also in the Market Place is a statue of the Roman god Neptune. What does the sea God have to do with a city 15 miles from the coastline? In 1720 a plan was developed to turn Durham into an inland sea port by altering the course of the River Wear. This would have required considerable adjustments to the course of the river, which was impractical and costly. The plan was officially abandoned in 1759, but the statue remains as a reminder of what could have been.  

Lord Londonderry astride his horse in the Durham Market Place

Statue of a Durham Light Infantry bugler. The pose of the figure is slightly bent forward so when you stand in front of it you can look the man in the eye.

The statue of Neptune with St. Nicholas' Church in the background.

We wound our way down Silver Street passed Krispy Kreme, which was a bit surreal on a narrow medieval street. We walked parallel to the River Wear and ascended the path to the 11th century cathedral. The cathedral is located on a rocky promontory across from Durham Castle. It's such a beautiful and imposing structure. 

Silver Street

The river path that goes up quite steeply to the cathedral

If you're not familiar with English history or more specifically the early Christian church in England you probably don't know who St. Cuthbert is. He features in two separate places on our travels this day- Daniel and I both have a fascination with 7th century Christianity when there was a heavy Celtic tradition and influence- so we chose these sites because of their connection to St. Cuthbert and the 7th century. Around 655 Cuthbert became prior to Lindisfarne and eventually in 684 he was made bishop of Lindisfarne *(more on Lindisfarne later in the next post). He resigned 2 years later to live out the remainder of his life as a hermit, dying in 687. He was buried at his request at the monastery at Lindisfarne. In 995 his body was moved to Durham where his followers, the "community of Cuthbert" settled after fleeing Lindisfarne during a Danish invasion. Durham Cathedral was built to house the shrine to the Saint buried there.  

The sanctuary knocker on the door of Durham Cathedral. This is a replica of the original.

While on the subject of English history and the early Christian church, the Venerable Bede- contemporary of St. Cuthbert- is also buried at Durham Cathedral. Considered the most learned man of his time, and called, "the Father of English History", he wrote biblical and historical books. His best known work is the Historian ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum or "An Ecclesiastical History of the English People", a history of England beginning with Caesar's invasion in 55 B.C.

The 17th century font located in the nave of the cathedral.

Above and below: The memorial to J.B. Light foot, Bishop of Durham (1879-1889)

I have no photos of the tomb of Venerable Bede or the Shrine and tomb of St. Cuthbert. Durham Cathedral does not allow photos. I took a few (as I'm sure you're noticed) before I was chased down by a portly man in a purple robe who informed me that there was no photography allowed, even without flash. Cue disappointed trumpet sound, as I noticeably deflated. I had been so excited to get photos of both St. Cuthbert's shrine and Bede's tomb- I had an internal tantrum but I stuck to the rules. You'll have to trust me that it was beautiful in person. This website, Durham World Heritage Site  has good photos and descriptions of the shrine and tomb. The tester, a kind of suspended canopy above the tomb, was brilliant and vibrant. The tester is actually modern, placed above the simple 16th century black marble slab inscribed CVTHBERTVS in 1949, Sir Ninian Comper depicted Christ in glory surrounded by the four evangelists. We lit candles at the shrine, had a moment of quiet contemplation and decided to move on. There was a large group of school children with drawing pads in hand, sketching and learning about the stained glass windows in the Chapel of the Nine Altars right behind us. It was lovely to see learning in progress but also a huge distraction, we were having a hard time blocking out their little whispers and our own growling stomachs. 

The Rose Window and various stained glass windows in the Chapel of the Nine Altars

We made our way out of the cathedral through the Cloister to the restaurant on site. It was packed to the gills but we were able to snag a table just as another couple got up to leave. We had tea for two and the best cheese scone I've ever had. I spent entirely too much on little trinkets and tea towels in the gift shop. I wasn't quite ready to leave Durham yet but we had to make it to Berwick-Upon-Tweed 80 miles north with a stops at Alnwick Caslte, Bamburgh, and the Holy Island of Lindisfarne all before nightfall. 

I loved the city of Durham with it's pedestrian friendly streets, shops, and river walks but I crossed it off my list of potential locations for my imaginary idyllic English life because it was just too darn cold and this Californian just couldn't hack it even for a few hours. 

Onward ho, to a little piece of the world of Harry Potter, a tidal island, and the last English coastal town before the Scottish Border.