Lavenham is a lovely civil parish in Suffolk England about 1 hour’s drive North of London. It’s a popular destination for visitors because of its 15th century church and its impressive collection of mid evil half-timbered houses and shops. At one time it was one of the wealthiest villages in England, due to its very successful wool trade and cloth making. The half-timber structures in Lavenham are unusually crooked. They say it is because they were originally constructed with green timbers, and as the timbers dried out they continued to grow and bend and warp, twisting them into odd, miss-aligned shapes. It’s as if the level and square had not been invented yet. Fortunately they have very nicely preserved these crooked buildings because they are incredibly unique and picturesque. It’s a delightful place to wander and photograph. There is a Guild hall that overlooks the market square where they have live demonstrations of how wool was turned into cloth, the produce that made the town prosper in its day. It also houses a museum with lots of interesting relics from years gone by. And one other dray, some of Holly’s ancestors called Lavenham home.
I have often said that my favorite place in London to visit is Kew Gardens, the largest botanical garden in the world. My favorite place in Kew Gardens is the Water Lilly house. My second favorite place is the greenhouse that maintains 7 different climate zones, from desert to rain forest. They have one room dedicated to orchids. There are more orchid varieties in there than I knew existed. Every spring the have an Orchid festival where they display millions of orchids of 100’s of varieties, in several different extremely impressive displays. It is by far the most impressive display of flowers I’ve ever seen. This post contains images of some of my favorite orchids found at Kew.
St Albans is a very historic town which dates back to the iron age.
During the Roman age (AD 43) it was know as Verulamium and was one of the largest towns in Roman Britian. It has several old Roman ruins, walls, and even a Roman Amphitheater.
The town got it current name when Christianity came to the town and is named after a famous Christian martyr, St Alban. The Abbey was built in his honor. His story is quite interesting. I quote from a flyer passed out at the abbey:
St. Alban lived at some time during the 3rd Century in the Roman city of Verulamium. Although he was then a worshiper of Roman Gods including the Emperor, he gave shelter to a Christian Priest fleeing from persecution. Influenced by the priests prayer and teaching, he became a Christian. When the authorities discovered the priest’s hiding place Alban exchanged clothes with him. The priest escaped and Alban was bound and taken before the judge. The judge was furious at the deception and ordered that Alban should receive the punishment due to the priest. if he had indeed become a Christian. Alban declared his Christian faith, saying words still used here as a prayer ‘I worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things‘. Despite flogging he refused to sacrifice to the Roman Gods and was sentenced to death. He was brought out of the town, across the river and up a hill to the site of execution where his head was cut off. Legend tells us that on the hill-top a spring of water miraculously appeared to give the martyr a drink; also that moved by his witness the original executioner refused to carry out the deed, and that after his replacement had killed Alban, the executioners eyes dropped out. This account is based on that of the Venerable Bede, who tells us that: ‘When the peace of Christian times was restored a beautiful church worthy of his martyrdom was built, where sick folk are healed and frequent miracles take place to this day.‘ [About 760] In later years the church also contained the shrine of Amphibalus, the priest whose life Alban saved. Ever since those early times people have journeyed to this place to remember Alban and all that he stands for. They have come to pray for peace and healing and to seek God. They came in such numbers in the middle ages that St. Albans became the premier Abbey in all England. They come here still.
The town has a lovely park and what they claim to be the oldest pub in England, “Ye Old Fighting Cocks.”
One preparation day, we took a trip to the town of Colchester. It is a very old and interesting town. it claims to be the oldest documented town in England because of stone that was found there dating to the pre-Roman days with the town name on it. There are lots of Roman ruins as it was the Roman capital of Britain at one time.
As we walk around London, we often notice things that are unusual, or that are quite characteristic of England, or that are quite uncharacteristic of the US. London is so diverse, it’s hard to know what is British, or what has been adopted from other countries around the world. We have noticed a wide variety of lights & lamps eliminating a variety of places.
Christmas lights are always unusual and beautiful. There are some pictures of them below. One night on Oxford street we noticed the Christmas lights looked an awful lot like the natural light of the moon. Can you tell the difference ? It would be wonderful to purchase some of these unusual lights and bring them home, but that’s a bit impractical. Pictures will have to do.
We really enjoy the Christmas decorations London has to offer. This year we went to Kew Gardens to see how their Christmas light display.
Along part of the path the trees were singing to us. Each tree was a different voice in the choir and would light up only when it was singing.
There was a beautiful light show across the lake in front of the Palm house with Christmas music in the background.
Walk amongst the Dead
There are many old cemeteries in London. We visited on quite close to us, the Brompton cemetery, early one morning after a couple days of rain.
It was soggy and foggy which added to the eerie ambiance.
We are always impressed by the variety of headstones and enjoy the inscriptions on them. Some are quite elaborate.
In the moist air, the spider webs were in fine form.
I Dew declare
While Holly was browsing shops one afternoon I wondered into Regent’s park, one of my favorites. It had just stopped raining and the roses and gardens were in fine form.
The ground floor contains a world class armory. Most weapons are from the 18th & 19th centuries and most look like they have seen very little action on the battle field, but rather were created to impress the public. I for one was certainly impressed.
Strawberry Hill house
One day Holly and I visited the Strawberry Hill house, in Twickenham.
This house was created by Horace Walpole in the 18th century and is famous as Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture.
It also inspired the first Gothic novel “The Castle of Otranto.”
On exhibition was a collection of sculptures by Laura Ford portraying quote “animals and people as fantastic and nightmarish figures, using humor and acute observation to engage with social issues and appeal to the audience’s childhood memories”….in other words, rather weird sculptures, and yet very interesting. Enjoy some examples:
Nobody likes me corner:
Spring Flowers are wonderful in London, but the roses require special mention. There are many rose gardens in London. To visit all of them requires much more time that we have. But, we did visit two gardens, perhaps not London’s best, but certainly the best I have ever seen. The first was our own Hyde Park, which we visit several times a week anyway as an exercise destination. It always has an impressive display of flowers and the roses this spring were just delightful.
We also visited Hampton Court in Richmond.
They have a large dedicated rose garden with more varieties, colors and fragrances than I knew existed. And the surroundings, the brick walls and castle structures of course added to the ambiance and provided a beautiful backdrop for the exquisitely manicured rose bushes.
It almost made me consider turning my collecting focus from Cacti to roses…..but probably not. The maintenance requirement for roses is probably above my threshold of commitment. Roses however, are sure fun to admire, to smell and to capture on film…..I mean memory card.
Flowers of England
If you like plants and flowers, England is the place to be in the springtime. We love the flower arrangements, the flower boxes in the windows and the beautifully manicured gardens.
Next to the visitor’s center, I’d have to say Kew Gardens is my next favorite spot to visit and explore. There’s always something new blooming there.
Kew Palace is located at the gardens and used to be a royal residence.
There is a greenhouse at Kew that maintains 7 different climate zones, from dry desert to wet tropics. Of course I love the cactus section, but I also love the orchids.
There is a section in this greenhouse dedicated to carnivorous plants, plants that kill or eat insects. My favorite is the pitcher plant. Inside the upright pitcher is a very sweet, slippery nectar. The insects climb in to feast on the nectar, slip to the bottom, can’t climb out and are digested by the plant.
They maintain their own umbrella so as not to fill up with water when it rains.
But my favorite greenhouse is the lily house. It is full of various varieties of water lilies.
Notice the lily pads arms protruding from a central root. Some of these pads are 4′ in diameter.
Rose gardens are a big thing here as well. But that will have to wait for another post.
Leeds castle, dubbed the “Loveliest Castle in the World”
is one of the oldest castles in England, being almost 1000 years old. It has had several prestigious owners, including an American heiress, before being turned over to a local charity who opened it up to the public and maintains it now. It is surrounded by very impressive grasslands, gardens and lakes, 500 acres of them.
They employ some very impressive gardeners, and the grounds are famous for their black swans.
The inside is nice a well, but I enjoyed the grounds much more. They also have lots of great activity areas for children including a large living hedge maze with a cave & secret tunnel at the center, if you find your way there.
West of London, about 10 miles upstream on the Thames river is a royal palace called Hampton court, made famous by King Henry VIII. King Henery lived there for quit some time with his wives. It’s a huge palace and situated on 60 acres of gardens.
At some point in England’s history they made owning a gun illegal, unless you are in the military or have a special license to hunt on your own land. So where are all the guns? Well at Hampton court and Windsor castle we have seen some very impressive wall decorations made from old weapons of war.
I always enjoy the architecture, the brick work and the impressive chimneys. Hampton court be a really nice place to live, assuming you have an army of servants.
One day we decided to rent a car and drive to some small towns. It took us almost 2 hrs to get out of town….because traffic is very congested, and because I took several wrong turns. Once on the motor-way it was really quite nice. We drove to several small towns where some of Holly’s ancestors lived. We went to Stoke-by-Nayland.
Holly’s ancestors lived here in the 1600’s. The main building in the small town is the church and we walked in as a flutist was practicing with the organ.
We visited the Orford castle, on the edge of the sea and then the Leiston abbey ruins.
Windsor Castle has been and still is one of the Royal Family’s primary residences. Part of the facility is open to the public however, including St. Georges chapel the royal doll house and the state rooms. The doll house and the state rooms are most impressive.
The doll house had four sides & 3 stories with all the rooms of a normal royal family completely decorated with furniture and accessories. There was an exterior shell that was pulled up for display, but can be lowered to make it look like a real mansion on the outside.
The state rooms had wonderful decorations of statues, paintings, service sets etc. On the walls hung thousands of military implements displayed in impressive patterns. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures inside, but we enjoyed the grounds and even the ever present groups of children out on their school field trips.
London has several very interesting markets. Camden Town market grew out of the shipping and trading industry, before the days of trains or trucks. All movement of goods back then was via the canals and horse drawn wagons.
Camden town began as a large port, built on a canal, next to a lock, to facilitate the exchange or transfer of goods between floating and and horse drawn means of transport. Literally 100’s of stables were built for probably 1000’s of horses.
Tower of London
Recently we were able to visit the Tower of London. There we learned a lot more about the history of London and of this central and significant complex where kings and queens and other famous people have lived, ruled, been defended, imprisoned, tortured and even executed. The main attraction was the crown jewels, which consisted of crowns, scepters, orbs, staffs, and many other ornate symbols of English royalty. They were made of the finest metals and precious stones, including the largest manufactured & finished diamond in the world. In the white tower building you can see the armaments that kings and queens have worn and been protected with through the ages. They call it the “line of Kings” and this display claims to be the oldest continuously running museum attraction in the world.
Since we’ve been here I have enjoyed photographing the English architecture: I’ve enjoyed the diversity of the entryways: This album has several pictures of such entryways:
Christmas in London
The upscale stores, like Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges etc. really deck the halls with bows of festivity.
Things are quite expensive at these places, but they still seem to do a thriving business. People seem to come form all over the world to shop and experience the holidays here.
We had a surprise visit form our daughter Lindsay the day before Thanksgiving. She had been on business in Spain and dropped by on the way back to New York.We had a great time exploring some of London with her.
We went jogging in the park, took in a show, visited Westminster Abbey, Winter Wonderland, and explored a couple museums.
We even made a trip to the temple and ate lunch with an English couple we’ve become friends with. It was wonderful to have her with us.
St Pancras Train Station
London has some very nice train stations. One such station is St Pancras. It is a train station, Hotel and contains several very nice shops. I included some pictures below.
I must say I’ve seen more really nice cars in the last several months that I have seen the whole rest of my life. It’s partly because the Visitors Center is in a real nice part of town, and close by there are even more upscale neighborhoods. I’ll share a few pictures of really sweet rides we’ve seen.
During the summer months, just across the street from the cul de sac where we live we would always see three nice cars parked on the street at night. The yellow one is a Bugatti, the white one a Pagani Huarya, and the other 6-wheel truck thing I couldn’t even identify. How would you like to be the owner of the lame mini-van parked at the end? I think the owners just sit in the upper room of a pub and watch people walk by and take pictures of their cars.
On the way to the park for exercise, we walk through another nice neighborhood with a few other fancy cars like this Morgan and a couple others with nice reflective surfaces.
Fairly close to us is the Mayfair district. This is probably the fanciest part of town we’ve walked through. They have every high-end car dealership known to man. Here’s a couple cars from show room windows:
There are also some very nice hotels in this area. The Dorchester was pretty impressive as the small front parking lot had 2 Lamborghinis, 2 Ferraris, 2 Rolls Royce and a Bugatti parked. I don’t think I could even afford to walk into that hotel.
Finally, on the walk to the Visitors Center one morning we saw the police on their horses passing this nice Lamborghini. A couple extremes I guess you could say.
Holly had some relatives in town, so we took a trip with them on our preparation day to Cambridge. Cambridge University is the second-oldest university in the English speaking world, next
to Oxford. It is also the world’s third oldest surviving university. Pretty much the whole down town of Cambridge is somehow connected to or part of the university. There are 30 colleges in the University of Cambridge. The 1st college was founded in the 1209 so the buildings & churches are very old school (no pun intended) and very ornate. The last college was founded in 1977, called the “Robinson College.” We took a walking tour of the city lead by a former student and a punting tour on the river Cam. A young pushed us up and down the river in a boat with a long pole. Both were very interesting and informative. I’ve included some pictures. The first thing we did was climb the bell tower in St. Mary’s church to get an aerial view of the city.
There are some neat bridges over the river Cam. The Mathematical bridge is a curved bridge, built from straight lumber. They say originally it was built without bolts or nails, then some Cambridge science students tried to take it apart to figure out why it was so stable, couldn’t put it back together and now it has bolts to keep it stable.
Now that we’ve been here a while we’ve collected a few pictures of Big Ben and the Parliament buildings. It’s interesting to see them at different times of the day. Big Ben is actually the name of the bell inside the Big Ben clock tower. It still chimes 3 times an hour 24/7. It’s the second largest bell in London. The biggest is in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
One of the holidays in the UK is “Bank Day”. Most stores and banks close down and there is a huge carnival that occurs in NW central London. We happened on this shopping center, the Leadenhall Market, which is usually very crowded, but on Bank day was deserted.
Neasdon & Wembley
On a p-day we took a short train ride to Neasden and visited a Hindu temple, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. It was made entirely of Limestone from Bulgaria and Marble from Italy. 5000 tons of stone were quarried, then shipped to India where the stones were carved and separated into pieces, then shipped to London where it was assembled like a huge 3-D puzzle. No steal was used in the construction. The carving was exquisite and it covered the inside and outside of the temple. Since it was finished in the early 1990’s, it must have cost a fortune, but they said most of the work was done by Hindu volunteers. We attended a short Hindu worship service in the center of the temple and were able to walk around and admire the beautiful stone and wood carvings. We also went to an exhibition explaining all about the Hindu religion and some of their background and traditions. Here are their main values: Faithfulness in love and marriage, Duty to parents and humanity, Sacrifice – thinking less of ourselves and more of others. Their vows: non-lust, non-greed, non-attachment (remaining free form others and one’s self), non-taste (not craving foods), non-ego. We were not allowed to take pictures of the temple, so the pictures here are from the internet.
We visited several homes designed by Ernest Trobridge, in the 1920’s who helped architect homes that were inexpensive to help rebuild after WWI. Most of them had thatched roofs and half-timbered walls.
Down town London is very interesting, very diverse, and very crowded. We spent a little time walking around, exploring some of the sights there. The tower of London is certainly a draw. It’s been 100 years since WWI. In commemoration the city is putting 888,246 ceramic poppies around the mote of the tower, one for every British soldier lost in WW1.
Tower of London is not complete without Tower bridge:
The Shard is a fairly new building on the London landscape, currently the tallest building in Europe, a city within itself, with apartments, shopping centers, restaurants, medical facilities, an observation tower etc. all in one building:
The North side of the Thames river has some unusual buildings. Three of them have nicknames, the walkie talkie, the cheese grater, and the Gherkin (pickle). You can place the names with the buildings:
There is a real nice drinking fountain next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, pictured here:
And then of course Big Ben and the Eye;
And finally a couple museums, which are actually a 5 min walk from our flat and are free. We have only been in them a couple times as the crowds right now are horrendous. We’ll wait for the winter months to enjoy them.
On p-day we took a bus ride to Canterbury. Canterbury is where Christianity first came to England when Pope Gregory sent St. Augustine as a missionary. St. Augustine became the first Arch Bishop of Canterbury. The main draw in Canterbury is the Cathedral,
which was built back in the 600’s, has been repaired, refurbished and added to over the years and is now one of the largest and most impressive cathedrals in England. There are many famous people buried there.
One of note was Thomas Becket, the first Christian martyr. He was made arch bishop by his good friend King Henry II, but Thomas became converted to God as arch bishop and began to have serious disagreements with the King and his many evil ways. The king once said “who will rid me of the turbulent priest.” His knights took that literally and killed Thomas, in the cathedral. He was buried there and it became a place of pilgrimage because the people loved Thomas. A later king had his tomb demolished and moved from the church. Now a candle burns in the cathedral where Thomas was once buried.
At the Cathedral we heard a wonderful choir perform from Tacoma Washington and attended the evensong service where we heard the cathedral choir and organ echoing through the huge hall.
While in Canterbury we visited several other historic sites and took a “punt ride” on the Stour river that runs through town (pic).
July 8, 2014: Our Experience at Kew
One man that Holly visited with at the VC was an older gentleman who came looking to do family history. We sent him to the UK National Archive in Kew where our church has a history library that takes a good portion of the 1st floor. Holly had a nice discussion with him about the church as well and we agreed to meet him at Kew on our Prep-day. Unfortunately he got caught in traffic and was not able to make it, but Holly and I started doing a little research of our own at the family history center in Kew. But we spent most of the day in the Kew Gardens, the largest botanical garden in the world. In one day we only saw about ½ of it, but there were some amazing plants there. One greenhouse was dedicated to the tropics.
Another one was dedicated to water lilies. Another green house had 9 climate zones from desert to rain forest. Yes, they even had a great cactus garden, but it was quite small. They also had an orchid garden and a carnivorous plant garden and a hanging plant garden, and a wild flower garden and several others that were just spectacular. The best way to describe it is with pictures. I’ve included a few…..flowers that I wish would “join my garden.” Walking around outside was amazing too because they have trees from all over the world and since the garden itself is about 1 mile long and ½ mile wide they can space these tress out so they grow perfectly shaped and get huge.
The carnivorous plants are worth particular mention. They had fly-catcher plants that close and catch insects when they come to eat nectar. They also had all sizes and shapes of pitcher plants. Pitcher plants are kind of shaped like a tapered vase with an open lid over the top to keep the rain out (see pic).
They have very sweet nectar that attracts flies and other insects, even small frogs. The critters are lured into the plant to eat the nectar which becomes thicker and more slippery the farther they enter, until the bug slips in all the way, can’t get out, drowns, and is digested by the plant. There’s clearly an object lesson here applicable to real life.
July 3, 2014:
Just down the street from us is one of the largest, and most expensive department stores in England, called Harrods. Here’s how it looks at night, when it’s closed….
Last P-day we went down town to Piccadilly Circus & Trafalgar Square. Visited the National Gallery and St Martin in the Field church, where we ate in the crypt (a restaurant in the basement built over many headstones).
There were some pretty cool street vendors at Trafalgar square, some levitation experts. The second Holly and Yoda using the force to stand in the air, both dressed in mom green.
Hyde park is a huge park in a system of parks that extend from Buckingham palace to the NW. We go there to jog/walk several times a week as it’s minutes from our flat. Here are some shots we’ve taken on our walks.
Classic London Architecture:
From June 22, 2014: Here are a few pictures of London taken on some of our resent walk-abouts. So far I have been most impressed with the architecture, which seems to have been influenced by countries around the world.