Friday, May 31, 2013 (We flew out of London, destination...Chicago)
Thursday, May 30, 2013 (Tower of London & British Museum)
Our travelers just outside the entrance to the Tower of London.
Gary & Joni Greenfield with Tower Bridge in background (taken from inside Tower of London).
A view of the Tower Bridge, often mistakenly referred to as The London Bridge. The Tower Bridge has towers one can climb up into to have a fantastic view of London. The London Bridge is about 1/2 miles to the south.
One of many Tower Guards within the Tower of London assigned to protect the site and Crown Jewels.
In the past there was a zoo within the Towers which is portrayed with these baboons. There are lions in another section of the Towers..
No pictures could be taken of the jewels which are secured inside the vault in the Tower of London. The tower, that the jewels are displayed in, is actually a vault that can be closed much like a bank vault. The original Crown Jewels were melted down when the Tower was conquered and restored centuries later. The royal crown itself weighs about 2.5 kg. and was last used to crown Queen Elizabeth on June 2, 1953.
In 1070, William the Conqueror began to build a massive stone tower at the center of his London fortress. The ruthless William intended his mighty "White Tower" not only to dominate the skyline, but also the hearts and minds of the subjugated Londoners. Notice the steps on the left side. The entrance doors were built high so invaders could not enter at ground level. The steps could and would be burned, if necessary, to protect the tower's occupants. The White Tower is now a World Heritage Site.
The Ravens are one of the most famous sights of the Tower of London. Legend has it that if they ever leave, the kingdom and the Tower will fall! The birds all have names and very different characters.
The Bloody Tower, so named after twin boys in line for the throne mysteriously disappeared. While the London Towers was never designed as a prison, it has had many famous "prisoners" including Sir Walter Raleigh (where he was eventually beheaded).
The site where the beheading of prisoners of the Tower of London was accomplished. Ten people were beheaded on this peaceful greensward that stretches to the west of the White Tower. Three were English queens, Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, Catherine Howard Henry's 5th wife and Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for only 9 days.
Valerie Graczyk, our guide, Alan Nordstrom and Gary Greenfield just outside an inner wall.
The British Museum
The British Museum (below) is so large that if a person spent but 3 minutes in front of each item occupying space in the museum, they would spend a lifetime viewing it all. It also hosts the famous Rosetta Stone, which was discovered by Napoleon's army at Rosetta in the Nile Delta. The same text on this slab of stone is written in two Egyptian scripts and in Greek thus enabling the meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphs finally to be deciphered.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013 (London - St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abby & Buckingham Palace Changing of the guard and Practice Parade for Queen's Birthday parade)
Part of our group standing with Buckingham Palace in background. It was a crowded area with the scheduled "Changing of the Guard". There were thousands of people waiting to see this daily event. Did you know? As Monarch of England, the Queen's only role in government is three-fold: She can Warn, Advise and Consult but the British Parliament has all the power. They must hear the Queen but need not "pay her any heed".
The Guards entering Buckingham Palace. Due to the large crowds, this was a long range picture taken from about 300-400 yards. However, thanks to our experienced guide, we enjoyed something many people didn't know was about to occur. He informed us that the Royal Guard would be passing by as they practiced for the Queen's Birthday which was to occur on June 8. He guided us to a well positioned place to capture this special event. It was very impressive and we were right on the curb as they passed by.
The Queen's Birthday (or King's Birthday) isn't actually celebrated on their actual birthday. It was King Henry VIII who decreed that the celebration occur during a time the weather was warmer, since his birthday actually fell in the winter. Since then the Queen's/King's Birthday has been celebrated in late May or early June. (They still celebrated their actual birthday but not with such pomp and circumstance).
When in London you just have to capture the moment.
Laura Thomas Fox & Mary Wagner
Jean & Alan Nordstrom
Gary & Joni Greenfield
A British Bobby (British Police Officer) giving directions
What would London be without a meal in an English Pub?
Amy, Mary, Laura & Ann ready to order. Tea & Fish and Chips?
Joni, Jeanne, Alan & Gary
Monday-Tuesday, May 27-28, 2013 (Warwick Castle, Stratford Upon Avon, Oxford, Blenheim Palace, Magna Carta Monument, Hampton Court)
The ladies of our group with the Warwick Castle in background.
Warwick Castle is known as "Britain's Ultimate Castle". The first castle was of wood and constructed in 1068 by William the Conqueror. Under the successive Earls of Warwick it was gradually rebuilt in stone. The castle was home to the Earls of Warwick until 1978 and after substantial restoration, it was opened to the public.
The wax figures in the castle, depicting people of previous times, were astounding and realistic. No, the person above is actually Valerie but those below are wax....or are they?
This catapult actually works. In fact, when a castle could not be overcome often times the attackers would use this catapult to send in bodies of animals or humans with an infectious disease. Ugh!
A picture of Warwick Castle doesn't do it justice but this one captures some of its beauty.
Some of our group about to enter Anne Hathaway's cottage. Anne was Shakespeare's wife and this is where she lived. She had a beautiful garden and one can only imagine what a beautiful place it was when in full bloom.
Inside the cottage. Gary, Joni, Mary, Laura and Valerie.
Clairese Huennekens in front of the cooking fireplace inside Anne Hathaway's cottage. Look above her head and see 7 strips of wood. On the left side of the fireplace there is a space for keeping a shoulder of ham hot or warm. The space above Clairese's head was for cold shoulders of ham. If one entered the home and there was ham in the racks it meant no meal was to be served to them, or "Giving the person a cold shoulder". If it was in the space in fireplace it means welcome.
Shakespeare's story begins in the heart of England, in Stratford-upon-Avon and the local Warwickshire villages of the Arden to the open fields south of the River Avon. While his birthdate is unknown he was baptized on April 26, 1564. Since traditionally a baby was baptized 3 days after birth, his birthday is celebrated on April 23.
Shakespeare's father was a maker of gloves, pockets and knife holders.
Shakespeare's bed was in the medieval colors of green and red, green meaning "long life". William was the eldest of 5 children. The Bubonic plague struck Stratford shortly after William's birth killing 15% of the town's population. It is thought that his mother took William to life with her family in the town of Wilmcote, 4 miles away to offer him protection from the plague.
We were treated to a couple Shakespearean actors in the home's square.
Gary Greenfield, sitting on left, was fair game for this part of the play.
To show he was a good sport, she agreed to a picture with Gary.
Our hotel in Stratford was the Legacy Falcon.
There are 38 universities in Oxford, all falling under the umbrella of Oxford University. This is the Theology Building. An infirmary from one of the Harry Potter Films was shot inside this building.
Oxford was a city we wished we had more time to explore, and less rain to do it in!
Blenheim, pronounced Blen-im, was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. It had the Churchill Exhibition which is set around the room where he was born and revealed a personal side of who is known as "Our Greatest Briton".
The Blenheim Palace Gardens
THE MAGNA CARTA in Runnymede
A little less rain please! But Jeanne & Joni braved the elements not only to see the Magna Carta Memorial but also the JFK Memorial constructed on same hillside. Runnymede is the site on which Magna Carta was agreed in 1215, a charter which marked the foundation of civil liberty and has informed the constitutions of many countries, including the United States.
Camille Meyers & Clairese Huennekens on the Magna Carta Memorial.
HAMPTON COURT PALACE & GARDENS
Our guide sharing the history of Hampton Court Palace while sitting in the Great Hall. The tapestries hanging around the perimeter of the hall combined are worth second only the Crown Jewels in value.
The Great Hall with view of tapestries.
This clock was a technological achievement. It told the time, Zodiac periods and much more. It was truly a technology marvel having been invented so long prior to our own age of technology.
We all agreed that the gardens surpassed any we had seen so far. These trimmed trees were magnificent.
Sunday, May 26, 2013 -Cotswold Region Tour
They say a picture speaks a thousand words. Well, let us share our "Tour of the Cotwolds Region" and we will do it in less than a thousand words but will use pictures to tell our story.
"Cots" means Homestead and "Wolds" means Rolling Hills. So we are visiting rolling hills with many, many villages, or Homesteads. Without a doubt this region is one of the most beautiful in the whole of England. In fact, it is affectionately referred as the "Heart of England" by most English people and we certainly experienced why. So we'll use pictures & words to share our story in our exploration of this area, an area suggested to Someday Travel by the late Ian Furness and his wife, Sue. Special prayers to both.
We walked about a 1/4 mile to the most authentic village in the Cotswold Region, Slaughter Village. The way the inhabitants address the name is "laughter" with an S in front of it. The weather was beautiful with sunshine and warm yet cool breezes.
On our way we were fortunate to see the preparations for a horse jumping event, from ponies to what even looked like Clydales .
We also saw Cotswold sheep in a nearby pasture, their wool being a large product produced in the Region. It was interesting to learn that the first sheep in the Cotswold Region looked more like Shetland Ponies with tremendously shaggy wool on its head and body not unlike a lion. However, the wool was very rough. When sheep were eventually imported from Spain their wool was soft in comparison, so much so that it marked the end of the use of the larger Shetland Pony size sheep.
Laura Thomas-Fox and Clairese Huennekens share a wave and smile as they proceeded to Slaughter.
The original roofs in the Cotswold Region were made of tile shingles. All materials for homes and other uses was always generic to the immediate area, be it wood, limestone, rock, straw, etc.
Alan Nordstrom having fun while posing with a "friend" at the museum. That's James Bucher, a friend of Valerie & Wayne's visiting us from France, in the background. He joined us for a couple of days with his wife Lucy..
The Old Mill which is still functioning.
We then drove to the village of Stow, another distinctive Cotswold destination point. We spent time meandering, using the restroom (if you purchased something) which was easy since we were all hungry. Below is a picture of the Town Hall, the youngest building in the village, "only" about 500 years old.
Valerie in the original stocks still located in the Village Square. Was she naughty? No-o-o, not Valerie!
These old buildings and roof tops brought back memories of the movie "Mary Poppins" with Julie Andrew and Dick Van Dike.
Then we were off to the explore the Village of Bourton on the river Windrush, which cut through the heart of the village and divided it with many bridges to cross over. We were told they held foosball games in the river and we were intrigued. When we saw the "river", we then understood how this could be done. This village was a far more contemporary village with thousands of visitors, especially on this holiday weekend, mostly from London. Since we thought it might be similar to our Memorial Day weekend, we asked. No, just what they call a Bank Holiday..
The river, as you can see, is more like a creek. We could now understand a foosball game in the river. I could not stop from picturing a Monet artist capturing this on canvas.
Valerie stands at the entrance of what was once a "sheep run" which ran though the village to the village market square (for past marketing and animal sales).
Did anyone say red telephone booth in England? They still have them, all operable, here and in London.
There is an exact replica of the village itself taking years to build which was done in the late 1800's and is still maintained to this day. Notice the people in relationship of the building sizes.
We left Bourton Village and visited an actual Saxon Church in another area of the Cotswolds, Stanton, Gloucestershire. It was once a Catholic Church (before the Reformation) and is now once again is a Catholic Church. It is called The Church of St. Michael and all Angels.
We returned to our hotel to prepare for our departure on Monday for Warwick Castle and Stratford Upon Avon. But after dinner, a "Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum". We ate dinner, and let me tell you that no one can enjoy a dinner more than the Someday Travelers with us. We had 6 people who have traveled with us before, making this their 3rd trip with us...Alan & Jeanne Nordstrom, Gary and Joni Greenfield, Clairese Huennekens and Camille Thibaudeau-Meyers have all returned and we do appreciate their loyalty to the type of travel opportunities we offer. This particular dinner was followed by a sing-a-long, led by Jeanne, who willingly offered to play the piano for us.
|What a fun time we had, including Mary Wagner who decked herself out with her special hat for the occasion.|
Our Sing-a-long took place in the lobby of our of our Queens hotel with 10 of our Someday Travel travelers joining in. What great voices! Of course that could be debated by those passing by, but also who quickly departed the hotel lobby avoiding our invitations to join us. But no matter, we certainly had fun! Jeanne, of course, was our pianist. Those pictured below are Alan Nordstrom, Wayne, Joni Greenfield, Clairese Huennekens, Gary Greenfield, Camille Meyers and Jeanne Nordstrom. We sang such songs as "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean', "Amazing Grace" (very uplifting), plus many more. Clairese and Camille purchased the music book for this occasion and it certainly was a fun time.
|Valerie and Camille suggesting their choices for a song...:Pictured are Clairese, Jeanne, Mary, Laura, Camille and Valerie|
Laura Thomas-Fox, Wayne, Mary Wagner, Clairese Huennekens and Jeanne Nordstrom. This particular song was fun and we actually recognized it which certainly added to the quality of our voices.
Saturday, May 25, 2013 - STONEHENGE
You might recognize these oddly shaped rocks, but where are they located and what is it called?
Did you know there is an energy force right down the center of our "secret place", which is yet to be named? Here Ann Marquart, Clairese Huennekens and Jeanne Norstrong had it proven, by themselves no less!
No matter what major world wonder we visit, we never cease to be overcome with the thought, "I'm actually here", and this is also what our travelers think. The fun part in the traveling process, such as Stonehenge, our secret place, is when you see it on TV, or in a movie. Eventually this will occur and you won't be able to stop yourself from actually jumping up and shouting to whomever will listen, "I was there!" It's a feeling and a memory that will never leave you, ever! It's a Someday Travel memory that came true for our travelers, It's a grand feeling and a fantastic memory! Keep it! Savor it! As Nike says in their commercials: "Just DO IT". Travel has a way of changing you and how you see the world.
While TV makes this site so mysterious with visitors from another time and place erecting it, the reading material simply tell the story of how these large rocks were rolled on cut trees and was built as a temple, a place of burial and of celebration. One interesting fact to make note of. Each of the pillars are set 8 feet below the surface! Not very romantic but it doesn't take away from the magic and majesty of actually visiting it and capturing it on your own camera.
So let's now enjoy the visual images of Stonehenge via pictures.
James & Lucy Bucher & Camille Meyers
Alan & Jeanne Nordstrom
Amy Carpenter & Joni Greenfield (Amy's first time overseas)
Gary & Joni Greenfield
Being there just sends shivers down your spine!!!! It really does. So the next time you have the urge to travel, just DO IT'!
Friday, May 24, 2013
We arrived safely in London at 7:35 a.m. local time, 1:35 a.m. Wisconsin time. What a day, fantastic I mean. For those worrying about us, we were not the aircraft that landed in the early morning hours with an engine on fire....although it happened within 30 minutes after we landed at 7:33 a.m.!!! But, it didn't impact us so we were on our way to Cheltenham and our hotel.
What a beautiful and historic hotel we found. Filled with various changes that over the years has enhanced its beauty. With the changes and alterations over the years, we had hallways to meander through and steps to climb to reach our rooms. They were delightful and added to the charm and beauty of the place we'll be calling home for the next 4 nights.
What a delight to be greeted with a member of the hotel staff all decked out in his "doorman" outfit, including his "top hat". He got our luggage into our rooms without a mishap and it freed us up to explore the hotel and its neighborhood.
What a joy to be in England and have Ann and Amy step in and show off one of England's icons....the Red Telephone Booth. Ann was a little reluctant at first but Amy was all for showing everyone what a great time they were having.
And what else should we do in our free time but to enjoy great food in a local restaurant and all it had to offer...of course with Wayne's attraction to a specific type of meal of which his trips is renounded...we had lots of laughs, bonding and of course...good FOOD.
Now it's off to a trip to Stonehenge and Bath...but not until we have a large and delicious hot England breakfast to start the day. Stay tuned...More is to come to enlighten, entice and to strengthen your desire to let us "Help Your Someday Travel Dreams come true"!
Jeanne Nordstrom sharing her skills with a couple of chords on the hotel piano.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Thursday is the day we leave for England! It always amazes me how excited I get when we are actually packing to leave. YES! After at least 15 plus trips over seas and my little kid inside jumps for JOY! Travel truly is my passion and I love it!
Unique to this group of travelers is 6 who have travelled with us before...actually this will be the third trip for them with Someday Travel. What a compliment to have people return because they enjoyed themselves before and trust they are in good hands.
Well I truly hope the Queen will be ready to greet us with a bit of tea I must say.....
Here I am making a call from London on our last visit. Actually it was a staged picture but everyone recognizes the red telephone booths London is famous for so what a great photo opt.
April 27, 2013
Valerie and I met our travelers for England this past week and we are all excited for our upcoming trip! We look forward to seeing not only the highlights of London, but also the beauty of the Cotswalds region. We hope that you will follow us on our blog as we begin our journey on May 23rd.
Valerie & Wayne Graczyk
"Making Your Someday Travel Dreams Come True"