Marvelous Minack

Our first full day in Cornwall we woke up to the brightest sunshine and loudest seagulls. It was a perfect day for attending the Minack Theatre’s production of Goodnight Mr. Tom.

First: the theatre! Have you heard of this wonderful place? It is literally carved out of the side of a cliff on the stunning Cornish coast (check out the Cornish language on the sign – a revival of this Celtic language is happening in schools!)

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Rowena Cade built this theatre.

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She sounds like the most amazing woman – she literally created the theatre herself with the help of a few workmen. She continued to work on improvements to the theatre for her whole life. Love this photo of her!

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More info on her life here: https://www.cornwalls.co.uk/history/people/rowena_cade.htm

The theatre is located on a headland above the gorgeous Porthcurno beach. Rowena hauled sand up from this beach (!!) to mix with concrete and then carve into the beautiful walkways and seats and columns of the theatre.

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The first performance in the theatre was in 1932. But additions and improvements are happening all the time!

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Can you believe?

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You can sit on the seats close to the stage or higher up. We got to sit up close and wound our way down, down the stairs to our grassy seat.

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There are so many helpful ushers and workers in yellow shirts to help you get settled!

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People come early and bring picnics. We brought our first Cornish pasty!

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Steak and onion and delicious pastry! We bought it at Jessie’s Dairy by our house – Jessie uses her grandmother’s recipe for her pasties.

And look at our beverage of choice! Elderflower is very popular all over Cornwall.

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And of course British crisps – they have the most unusual flavors!

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It was fun to see everyone getting their first sun tans of the season as they watched the play.

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But we had to put our coats on at Intermission – along with a lot of others. The breeze had sharp edge coming off the sea.

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This is a true working theatre with such a variety of performances. You could come every week and see something new: https://www.minack.com/2017season/

Our play was very special: Goodnight, Mister Tom, based on the book by Michelle Magorian.

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I loved this story when I first discovered it – I think I first saw a PBS production and then got the book.

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The Minack Theatre production used some really fine child actors from Cornwall who played the evacuees and the children of the village.

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We loved the man playing Mister Tom! And Sammy the dog was a puppet with two women bringing him to life. He was so life-like!

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The little girl sitting next to us got a small dog puppet in the shop at Intermission that looked just like the Sammy on the stage. All the kids watching seemed to love the play, too. There was not a peep from any of them. The acoustics/sound system were wonderful.

A few days later we were talking to man who lived nearby who said, “At the Minack, it doesn’t even matter if the performance isn’t that good – you can just look out at the sea and think you are in the most marvelous spot in the world.”

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So true! But this play was a good one. It was even featured in this month’s Cornwall Today magazine!

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Rowena Cade was actually a billeting officer for evacuees during the war – she worked hard to find places for everyone to live and was apparently very persuasive.

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Another war connection: when you look over to the cliffs leading to Logan Rock there is a white pyramid – do you see it?

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This marks an important spot in World War II – the site of the Porthcurno telegraph lines that sent messages from Britain to its allies. If London had fallen, this would have been the sole communication point for the country.

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Kim talked to one of the older Mousehole villagers the morning after we went to the Minack. He had heard we were Americans from Melanie. He said to Kim, “Been to the Minack? Good, good! Yah don’t have anything like that in the States, do yah?”

I don’t think we do!

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Our Village

Dylan Thomas called Mousehole “one of the loveliest villages in England.” Here is a portrait of Dylan T that we saw in the National Portrait Gallery. He certainly looks like a handsome boy who knows what he is talking about!

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We agree with Dylan T. I could not stop taking photos of “our” darling village!

First you might wonder where in the world it got its name. Apparently the villagers got tired of their landing harbor getting lashed by winds and pounding waves, so they built this sheltered harbor.

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To get in the harbor, you have to pass through the little mousehole.

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The tide still manages to rise and fall through the mousehole (and you can see the amazing St. Michael’s Mount from here! More about that later . . . )

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It was fun to see if the tide was in . . .

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Or the tide was out . . .

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Whole families gather to sit on the sand in the sheltered harbor and have picnics while the kids run around having fun in the sand.

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The Brits call going to the seaside for vacation “a bucket and spade holiday” and you can see these for sale everywhere!

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This is a heavenly place for kids.

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You can just sit and look at the boats and the birds and the sea all day long!

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Or you can wander the streets and gaze at the cottages and gardens.

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Flowers are bursting out all over Cornwall.

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Lots of people put decorations in their windows.

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Some are even live!

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And it is so neat to see how the Cornish beach pebbles are being used for decoration.

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My favorite welcome mat!

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As I was wandering down this street, a nice grandfatherly man told me all about how this building was his grandfather’s pilchard shop. They salted and pressed the pilchards, put them in barrels, and then stenciled the destination on top of the barrel. This fisherman’s barrels went to Naples quite a bit, his grandson reported.

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There is quite a bit of history in Mousehole. It was one of the big capitals of Cornish commerce until Penzance gained precedence. Then (according to Rick Steves), Mousehole residents became quite wily. They put up lights on the cliffs to lure ships toward the harbor, where the ships would run aground on rocks like that little Saint Clements island just outside the hard. Then the residents would take the booty from the ships.

Contemporary residents are much friendlier to foreigners, and we like the commerce that is present in Mousehole today! There are some lovely shops and galleries to explore. Pretty glassware and colorful wood sculptures . . .

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Pretty pottery . . .

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Lots of paintings (not a good shot, but loved this one!).

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This whole Penwith peninsula was a haven for artists in the early 1900s and has continued to be a place for creative folks to come and produce their artwork.

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I love this shop, Seawitch, right on our street.

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I went here the first time I came to Mousehole and loved visiting with the owner, Danielle. She (and Hannah) and I share a love of Mr. Darcy! Danielle wasn’t in her shop on this visit, but we found out she is now making her own candles! They have wonderful Cornish scents, and a Cornish shell on each one.

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And look at this little gathering of shops!

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I knew Mousehole was for me when I saw this!

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And here’s one of our favorites (with the stone welcome mat).

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It has the most wonderful books all about Cornwall!

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And . . . the most wonderful cat, Matilda.

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She likes hanging out by the Cornish chocolate bars.

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And she liked following us around outside.

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She lives in all the different shops and she has a bed with cat door inside the little parking hut on the harbor, one of the shopkeepers told us. That shopkeeper has a pillow on the table by the cash register for Matilda. Matilda is quite the well-fed wanderer!

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Jagger is another famous Mousehole cat.

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He likes to hang out by this store, which is named for Tom Bawcock’s cat, Mowzer, the most famous Mousehole cat of all.

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There is even a book about her.

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When the Mousehole villagers were starving, Tom Bawcock and Mowzer went out in a dreadful storm to bring back fish for the village. To this day, on December 23rd every year, the village commemorates Tom and Mowzer by baking a big Stargazy Pie.

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Yes – it’s the pie with the pilchards poking out, gazing at the stars! You can come to our village and enjoy it!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stargazy_pie

So many stories about this little village!

I love the layers upon layers of history in Mousehole. Apparently, the Spanish Armada blasted the village with cannonballs (and burned many of the houses) back in 1595, and you can still see cannonballs in some of the homes and gardens today. I didn’t see any – more to investigate the next time we come back to Mousehole. I hope it is soon . . .

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Our Cottage

The trip from Stonehenge to our cottage in the village of Mousehole (pronounced Mowzel) took about five hours – lots of traffic for the Easter holidays!

Apparently most students in the UK get a two-week break at Easter. We were told that in Cornwall the kids are off for the two weeks before Easter, but around London kids are off a week before and a week after Easter. So lots of people were getting out to the countryside from London on this Friday as the London Easter vacation started.

For me, it was a scenic trip!

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For my chauffeur Kim, it was challenging . . . we were mostly on the A303 road, which is sometimes two lanes on each side of a divided highway (called a dual carriageway) but then sometimes narrows down to just two lanes. You definitely try to pass slower-moving vehicles when it is a dual carriageway and then tuck yourself back in the left lane before the road moves back down to two lanes. I think Kim thought this was fun, eventually. I just gasped a lot!

After about four hours, we arrived on the Penwith peninsula – this is the most western bit of the lobster claw that forms the southern end of Cornwall.

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We got to Penzance, the most western stop of the British rail system (no pirates to be seen!) . . .

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and then took the narrow little lanes to Mousehole, just 3 miles outside of Penzance.

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I don’t think Kim expected it to be so tiny! And since I rode the bus here when I visited, I hadn’t realized how narrow the lanes are! Approaching the center of Mousehole . . . yes, we fit down this lane . . .

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Here is the center of Mousehole – super cute, no? You have to crawl along behind the pedestrians until they move to the side for your car!

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When you reach the clock and telephone booth, you are at the dead center of town!

Then we just turn to the right up Fore Street (that’s the street you see right next to the clock tower) . . .

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and our little cottage is coming up on the left, about 100 steps from Mousehole Harbor.

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Isn’t it quaint??

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Almost all the homes are made of this beautiful stone.

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I wonder if some of the Veales (Dad and Aunt Diane’s birth dad’s family) quarried stone to form blocks for houses like this? There is a quarry in Mousehole . . .

Our hostess Melanie popped right out to meet us. She was full of talk and said she and her husband were waiting for us, as they were going to go to their cottage in Dartmoor that evening and be there for the whole of our stay. She said she really wanted to meet us and see what we were like. Ha! I hope we didn’t disappoint! I think we might be the first Americans to stay in Cobbler’s Cottage.

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The story of Cobbler’s Cottage is so neat. Melanie is probably about our age, and she has lived in Mousehole her whole life. She grew up in this house! Actually, she grew up in Cobbler’s Cottage and the next-door cottage called Churley’s Cottage where she and her husband live. It was one big house when she was growing up, but her husband divided the house in two to create Cobbler’s and Churley’s after their kids were out of the house.

The house was first a fisherman’s house, and then the town cobbler’s house. It is over 300 years old. In the “olden days” all the business was done in the bottom of the house and the family lived on the second floor. So pilchards (the fish that was the basis of the Cornish fishing industry for many centuries) were once dried and packed into barrels on the bottom floor – whew! I bet that was fragrant! Then the cobbler took over with his business, I’m not sure when.

The floors of the house are original!

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And look at the thickness of the walls!

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Here is the what it at the top of the steps – the living room! It is very comfy, and you can just open the half door at the top to let in the breeze (like Mr. Ed!).

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The dining area is such a nice place to eat – we picked up some eggs and sausages and fresh bread for our first meal in Cobbler’s Cottage, and Melanie left us a bottle of wine in the fridge.

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One of my favorite things is this painting of Mousehole Harbor with the bright daffodils.

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From the living room you can see into the kitchen (more daffodils!)

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Here is the kitchen, very spacious with all the cooking equipment you could need.

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The upstairs bedroom with pink walls is just off the living room. I stayed up here in splendor.

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Downstairs these stairs is the bathroom (very nice!) and an extra toilet room and shower room.

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And another bedroom! Kim had the this bedroom where she could spread out. Grandmother would be proud as we made our beds every day 🙂 !

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And this little door from her bedroom leads out to a “sun trap” eating area.

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Here is the sun trap, looking down from my bedroom window.

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The sun trap has a little view straight to the water.

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And you can walk 10 steps to Jessie’s Dairy with the most delicious pasties, ice cream, sandwiches and Cornish fudge!

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The first morning we woke up in the cottage was so bright and sunny. Here is something to know about the seagulls in Mousehole: they love a sunny day. The sun rises about an hour earlier right now than it does in Texas, so at 5:45 AM the seagulls were calling out their joy about the sun. Hitchcock’s The Birds were all I could think of!

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Mousehole Seagulls are very regal. And very loud!

But that first morning was the very loudest; they settled down or I got more used to it. And our first morning in the cottage is when we enjoyed our first of Melanie’s scones. With The Pioneer Woman. YES she is here in Britain too!

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It was very funny to be sitting in such an faraway place in a 300 year old house watching her!

We love our cottage. Even Kim allowed me to take her photo in the doorway!

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Circles, circles, circles!

Lots of circles in Great Britain. On our train ride to Winchester, Kim studies this type of circle:

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Roundabouts! They are scary if you aren’t used to your driver seat on the right side of the car. Your hands get a little tense in that 10 to 2 configuration!

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But once you get used to driving on the left hand side of the road (FYI: “slow lane” is the left lane – passing lane is the right lane) . . .

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it becomes easier and easier to remember to travel clockwise when you get to the roundabout. There are just so many roundabouts! As you get closer to a town it can be roundabout-after-roundabout!

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But roundabouts mean there are very few red lights. That is cool – it is only when you are not sure which exit to take that you might have roundabout issues. Luckily they are well-marked!

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Boy oh boy we have heard about traffic back-ups in Britain and we experienced some on our way to Cornwall. Notice the “Queues” sign!

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What is very funny is that the biggest back up was because of this . . .

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You can see Stonehenge beautifully from the road! And everyone slows down to take a gander.

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Please know that I am trying to take photos of KF on this trip but she is not accommodating! Here you can see her lovely hair (she keeps getting compliments) and her loosened fingers on the wheel as she looks at the amazing Stonehenge.

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We went get a closer look at Stonehenge, starting at the very well done visitor center (with excellent shortbread, we might add).

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You can see how Stonehenge developed over time into a holy site for early Britons.

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They have found bones here so it was a burial site. But the hypothesis is that stone circles like this were places of worship. The smaller blue stones have come from as far away as Wales – how in the world did folks transport them over 4000 years ago?

And the stones still perfectly align with the spring and summer solstices, with the sun appearing perfectly in alignment with the stones even today. How in the world did folks figure that out over 4000 years ago?

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/history/building/#

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Mysteries, mysteries, mysteries!

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You ride a bus out to the site and experience the stone circle yourself.

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Lots of people, lots of languages, lots of selfies at Stonehenge.

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And check out the road we were just on, gazing up at Stonehenge!

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You can only walk among the stones on a special tour which happens for a small group of people at 6:30 AM. That must be amazing!

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But fast forward a few days later for the Pate sisters on the Penwith Peninsula in Cornwall – where there are so many Neolithic and Bronze age sites! Just a few miles from our cottage in Mousehole is the stone circle of The Merry Maidens.

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You just pop over a stile (KF hair sighting!) and you are among the stones!

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The circle is beautiful . . . and so is the countryside around it.

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The Cornish story about these stone is that they are a circle of lovely girls who were frozen in place for dancing on the Sabbath.

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But they are certainly of the same time period as Stonehenge, another ceremonial site for folks 4000 years ago. Circles, circles, circles . . .

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On the Road

We woke up bright and early to take the train to get our car to drive to Cornwall. And we had some wonderful adventures on our way.

It started with the most beautiful cab ride to Waterloo Station to catch the train. Our cab driver was so sweet – piled our bags into the cab for us. Love his sign (hard to read!): Keep Calm I’ve Got the Knowledge.

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London cab drivers have to take a very difficult and extensive test over “The Knowledge” of London to get their license. More about it here: https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/taxis-and-private-hire/licensing/learn-the-knowledge-of-london. They really are the most amazing professional drivers and can tell you anything you want to know!

Our sweet cab driver took us by some of our favorite London sites. We went past Buckingham Palace with the Victoria Monument.

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We got to see the tulips out in front in the semi-circle formed by famous ship masts.

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Then St James park . . .

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Back to our friend Churchill surveying his realm.

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And all the bikers going to work past Parliament.

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Cabs and cab drivers in London are the absolute best!

And the ease of riding the train cannot be beat. You arrive at your bustling station and then wait for your platform to be announced.

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Here is ours!

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Then just step into a car, and get ready to go. Tea on the train is always delicious.

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Just an hour later we arrive at Winchester station, and it is the tiniest walk out the station entrance to Enterprise car rental. So easy!

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We pop our things in our car (it is a Vauxhall Mokka for those who want to know!) and then we walk down the hill into the medieval streets of Winchester.

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This part of the adventure is for you, Hannah Faye Paley.

Winchester is where Jane Austen spent the last few months of her life. She came here from her home in Chawton, about 16 miles away, to be near her doctor. She was just 41 years old, suffering perhaps from Addison’s Disease or (the latest theory is) tuberculosis. She stayed with her sister Cassandra in a little house on College Street near the cathedral. Unfortunately, her illness could not be treated successfully, and she died here in Winchester.

Because she loved the cathedral so much, she asked to be buried here.

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We can see why Jane wanted to be buried here. It is such an amazing place! It has the longest nave of any Gothic church in Europe.

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It is so light-filled! The ceiling is amazing!

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And the windows . . .

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Our favorite is the big west window over the entrance. It is gorgeous just looking at it:

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But then as you look closer you see it looks like a modern collage!

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The window was destroyed during Cromwell’s reign in the 1640s – but the shards were kept and the windows were put back together using the pieces in a random pattern. So cool to spot the different faces among the colors and patterns.

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Modern before modern times!

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We listened in on a tour of the cathedral when the guide was here by Jane Austen’s grave.

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She told the folks on the tour that Jane wanted to be buried here but this was before she was well-known. Because her father was a clergyman and her brothers could afford to purchase a spot in the cathedral, she was allowed to be buried here.

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I am sorry I didn’t get a good photo of the gravestone so it’s easier to see what it says. What was interesting was what the guide asked her tour group: “Nowhere on this grave marker is there a mention that Jane Austen was an author. Do you know why?”

People gave various guesses – then the guide said, “It was because she was a woman. It was not considered particularly seemly to be a woman author.” She explained that it wasn’t until Austen achieved fame after her death that the cathedral itself erected this golden plaque on the wall – that says why Jane Austen is so famous.

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She also told the group that normally there are flowers around Jane’s grave. Like the flowers on the pamphlet we picked up:

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During Lent, no flowers are allowed in the cathedral, so all the tributes to Jane are picked up.

This year is a special year as it marks the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death. Look at some of the events to mark the anniversary!

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Such a beautiful place to pay tribute to one of our favorite authors! Hannah . . . we might need to come back in July!

There are many moving things to see in the cathedral. They have rolls of those in the parish who died in all the conflicts that Britain has been in. Here is just a page from the World War I book. I was struck by the numbers who died in Flanders.

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And the statuary is gorgeous. Here is my favorite bishop asleep on his tomb. He reminds me of Granddaddy Montgomery asleep with his Louis L’amour on his chest!

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It might be a bit sacrireligious, but I found myself humming one tune over and over in Winchester Cathedral . . . do you remember this one? Kim does not remember it! I guess it beats humming Willie Nelson’s On the Road Again . . .

Tea for Two

The more I think about it, the more I realize how much we saw and did in our first full day in London! Before we visited Kensington Palace we went to the first place we ever had afternoon tea in London: The Orangery. The walk to the Orangery through hornbeam hedges is very grand!

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This beautiful place right behind Kensington Palace was built in 1704 by Queen Anne. She wanted protect her citrus trees in the winter and entertain her guests in a novel way. http://www.orangerykensingtonpalace.co.uk/history/

Now it is the most charming place for tea!

Luckily we prebooked here too, as it was fully reserved on this sunny day. Everyone wanted to sit outside and be spoiled. We saw lots of ladies who lunch and parents with darling children.

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We like sitting inside – this is right as The Orangery has opened and you can see the wonderful architecture.

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Flowers to greet you!

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And lovely china . . .

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And looking out the huge open windows to watch others enjoying their tea.

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And then we got ours!

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Cheers, cheers, cheers to tea! And to the little photobomber sitting next to us!

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So many different sandwiches – here’s the menu with all the sandwiches and a little history of tea. Please notice that even here in the fanciest-of-fancy places our clotted cream is from CORNWALL!

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Classic cucumber sandwiches.

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And then scones that we slather with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

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By the time we got to top tier of our platter we were so full. Luckily the cakes and creamy treats were small and we managed to take a few nibbles. What a sacrifice!

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Fast forward to our next tea for two seated by these amazing daffodils in our Cobblers Cottage in Mousehole (Cornwall is famous for its daffodils . . . grows most of those sold throughout the UK)

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Our hostess Melanie left us a tea tray for our arrival.

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With CORNISH cream of course. It is the best!

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And look at Melanie’s blue willow plates just like mine. I could almost be at home except I have never made scones as delicious as these.

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These are the best scones I have ever had. Do you think she’ll give me the recipe so I can make them for you?

Even the tea Melanie gave us is grown right here in Cornwall.

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I think we’ve arrived in tea heaven.

 

Royalty and Remembrance

Our second day in London continued filled with royalty and commemoration. After we visited Kensington Palace, we headed to Westminster Abbey for evensong at 5 PM.

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The Abbey is the site of so many important events – coronations, weddings, funerals, special services. I love the quote to the left of the door.

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Just the day before, there were services of remembrance for the people who died in the Westminster attacks two weeks ago. Prince William and Kate and Prince Harry were the royal representatives and William laid a wreath at the memorial just in front of this quote.

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The memorial is to innocent victims of oppression and violence.

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Prince William’s card says “In memory innocent lives; lost to us all on 22nd March 2017.”

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It was so neat to come here for evensong services. They are such a beautiful way to start an evening.

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I love the way the priest offers prayers for protection during the night. And the choir singing! Kim just turned to me with the biggest eyes when the choir started singing – today from Sidney Sussex College at Cambridge.

You can’t take photos inside the Abbey, but one of the clergywomen told me that there are photos to download on the Abbey site. So here you can see what it looked like as we entered. The tomb of the unknown soldier is surrounded by poppies.

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You can’t tour Westminster Abbey during or after evensong, but there is much to see as you walk along towards the altar to your seats. We were directed down the left side of the aisle, where we could see the tributes/graves of famous scientists. Newton’s grave is set in the choir screen on the left. He is lounging on his side holding his apple.

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And Darwin is on the floor  in the aisle to the left.

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We were seated in the nave at the choir in the Quire. Wow! When we left, we walked out through the Quire and saw all of this.

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I love when the priest starts all the prayers. And the Queen and her family always included!

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I must confess I sort of ruined the final prayers as I was seized with a coughing fit I tried to suppress, which made it worse and worse. And the acoustics that made the choir sound so amazing made my coughing fit so loud and terrible! There was no place to go where you couldn’t hear me.

Apologies, Westminster Abbey! I am so sorry!

But evensong really was unforgettable.

We left the Abbey and then took another iconic walk with St. James park to the left and Churchill’s World War II bunker offices to the right.

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The War Rooms are right by Whitehall and Horse Guards Parade. No Queenie on her horse right now, but so beautiful. The Trooping of the Colours for her birthday happens here in June.

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We had to be content with all the books we looked at in Kensington Palace.

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And one of my favorite photos of her at 90. 90!

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Just pass Whitehall and the Horse Guards Parade, there is a memorial to policemen and women.

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So many flowers were laid here in honor of the police officer who died two weeks ago in the Westminster attacks.

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Then we walked up through Admiralty Arch at the top of the Mall. I just looked it up: it was constructed at the order of King Edward VII as a memorial to his mother, Queen Victoria. I never noticed the Latin inscription before!

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Then through the arch to Trafalgar Square again.

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No one can resist those lions at the base of Admiral Nelson’s memorial column.

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Kim and I went to dinner and then just one more hit of history and royalty: the National Portrait Gallery is open until 9 PM on Thursdays!

I love to look at those faces of history. Poor Queen Mary, half-sister of Elizabeth I. She never looks happy!

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But wow is that Queen Elizabeth something! From her youth . . .

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To a knowing look in middle age . . .

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To a Faerie Queen as she entered her final years . . .

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In the contemporary galleries, Kim and I loved this portrait of the Queen with her mum and dad and Margaret – it makes us think of that wonderful movie “A Royal Night Out” about the two princesses enjoying VE day outside the palace among the crowds. What a neat picture of their home life.

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And apologies for my photography skills – this was such a wonderful portrait of the Queen painted more recently.

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And finally a little controversy with the woman-who-will-be-queen, Kate. Some people have protested that this portrait is too photographic and not flattering. But reports also say Kate really likes the portrait. And she is the Royal Patron of the National Portrait Gallery, so she should have the last word!

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And here’s the image of Diana featured at the Portrait Gallery right now.

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So much to reflect upon and remember around every corner in London!

The Palace of Princesses

As promised, here’s a report on our visit to Kensington Palace, the palace of princesses, princes, dukes, duchesses, kings and queens. The current Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry live in the apartments to the left of the grand façade.

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And of course it is famous for being the home of Princess Diana. Who could forget the tributes left at the gates after her death?

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We wanted to come to see this!

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And so did so many others. Tickets for April and May are already sold out. We couldn’t believe the lines to get into the palace – even though we had prebooked tickets over a month ago, we first stood in line to get into the Palace.

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The palace guides were all so nice and even apologetic. “Maybe because it is so nice out? We are having even more people!” one guide told us. Another guide asked us where we were from, and then thanked us for bringing the weather. “You must have brought it from Texas! We never have weather like this so early!”

As you go towards the special Princess Diana exhibit, you get to pass through some of the amazing rooms in Ken Pal. This was the palace where the future Queen Victoria was born (no one ever thought she’d be queen!) but before that, it was the palace of William and Mary and Queen Anne. Gorgeous, no?

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Throughout these rooms were amazing outfits of the William/Mary/Anne period made of PAPER.

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Everyone loved talking about them. Some people even “tried” them on. Oh if only my waist were truly this size!

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Here is one of the actual mantuas worn at court. Can you believe?! According to the museum label, “Mantuas were a symbol of wealth and prestige. Only the most wealthy could afford to buy so much of the costly textiles.” This one is all silver embroidery. A darling older lady looking at this one said to me, “Imagine ironing that!”

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The most gorgeous gold-filled rooms are in Ken Pal.

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And check out the ghostly shadows! They moved!

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They danced!

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It was so atmospheric! And have you ever wondered what it might be like to sit on a throne in an Audience Chamber?

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It is good to be Queen!

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Then the Diana line started. First it was inside. Everyone had fun looking around these rooms and out the windows (or on their phones!) as we waited.

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Love the way the Royals collected and displayed their costly china from Japan and China. Wow!

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And then we moved to the line outside. At the start of this line, the nice guides told us very apologetically we had 45 minutes to go until we got to the actual exhibit.

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But standing in line (and sometimes sitting on the benches) was fun. I loved checking out what people were wearing.

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We met a nice couple from Connecticut and learned a lot about them. And – as Kim said – the nice thing was that once we got into the exhibit we weren’t crammed in. They were carefully timing it so visitors really could move around and look at the dresses with no problem.

Oh, Diana!

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First we saw some of her dresses from her early days of being in the spotlight.

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I remember this from seeing a few of her dresses when they came to Austin – they are lovely like this hanging up –

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but they are nothing compared to when she was wearing them!

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She did have so much grace and charm. And the clothes definitely did not wear her. She wore the clothes.

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We loved seeing her honeymoon outfit. Remember this?

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They made it in two sizes for her. She chose the larger one because she wanted to be comfortable tromping around Balmoral.

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She really collaborated with designers. We saw some of their design sketches with fabric samples, and many sketches had comments from Diana written on them.

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Next stage of her life: princess. Kim’s absolute favorite gown is her Elvis gown. They featured it as we were waiting in the line to get into the palace. Stunning! It was created by one of her favorite designers, Catherine Walker. They had such a neat collaboration.

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And here it is in person.

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And who could forget this?

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The John Travolta dress she wore in the White House!

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There was also a display of what she called her “working suits.” She wanted bright colors, especially when visiting children. And she wanted to be able to hold them with no fuss.

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This is a beautifully tailored, non-fussy Catherine Walker ensemble – a perfect working suit!

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And then there were the dresses from her last few years (she was just 36 when she died!). This was the most gorgeous display with beautiful photos of her all around.

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So simple and elegant!

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The detail!

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Two months before she died, there was an auction of her dresses.

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This is the stunning dress she wore for that event.

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What an amazing presence.

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And Kensington Palace is so beautifully designed to show the lives of all the people who have lived here, from Victoria (Victoria rooms closed for refurbishment: must return!) to Princess Margaret, Diana, and now William and Kate.

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The wallpaper by the loos is perhaps a bit over the top – designed by an artist in 2011 from iconic photos of Diana . . .

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But look at what they’ve made outside to commemorate the 20th (20!) anniversary of Diana’s death.

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It seems very fitting.

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Another living monument to her.

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One of the Prettiest Walks in London

A 30-minute walk in London on a Spring day cannot be beat! I wanted Kim to see this neighborhood I discovered last time I got to stay in Kensington and walked up to Kensington Gardens from Cromwell Road. Right off busy Cromwell Road you have quiet streets with amazing blocks of houses.

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How do they keep them so white?

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And you can see the mews cottages behind the blocks of houses – these were originally the horse stables of the grand houses in front! This is Cornwall Mews: how appropriate for us!

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And here is one of my all-time favorite streets, Launceston Place. Or as I think it should be named: Cherry Tree Lane.

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A shout of Cherry Trees in front of so many of the houses!

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And then quiet little square gardens behind.

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I like the minimalist doors and plants, too. Elegant!

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But oh – the colors on Cherry Tree Lane!

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There is a little restaurant at the top of Launceston Place that I want to try one day. Today the windows were spotless mirrors!

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As you head up to Kensington Gardens, you climb up into these even quieter passages between the main streets.

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Even along the passage, a home built into the side of the wall has its classic London entrance: a shiny door with knocker and door knob right in the middle. Symmetrical tubs with bay trees and colorful flowers at the base. London!

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And look at the Georgian stucco here. The colors are so cool and pale. I want one of these!

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See this hotel on Prince of Wales Terrace – wow!

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And now just cross the street . . .

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And you are in Kensington Gardens where Peter Pan used to hang out. All the kids are out!

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KF calls this group “The Yummy Mummys take the kids to the park.” We think they have thermoses of Mimosas on that blanket!

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We loved this boy chasing the bubbles blown by his nanny.

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And here is our destination!

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Can you tell what it is from the famous gates?

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Kensington Palace! More to come about “Ken Pal” soon.

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Wish you could have walked this slice of elegant London with us!

 

 

Lovely London

Our plane ride is very nice! That direct flight from Austin to London can’t be beat . . . especially the range of movies and tv shows. Imagine my joy at discovering that the episodes of the 2016 Great British Baking Off was available! I don’t even know when the 2016 series will come onto American TV!

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Mary Berry is the baking guru of the UK and it is very fun to watch her and the contestants in action. I just hope the same shows are available on the way home as I don’t have time to watch them all!

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After our entertaining plane ride, it is easy as pie to take the Tube to Earl’s Court stop and walk up to our hotel. We take a nice nap and then plunge out into the sunshine. Everyone is out enjoying the sun on Cromwell Road.

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We take the bus and get the front seat on the top . . . everyone loves the front seat!

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The Natural History Museum is right down from our hotel.IMG_4484 And right in the center of the street across from the Victoria and Albert Museum is something I’ve always heard about: a tea shop for taxi drivers!

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And then we approach Harrod’s in all its glory!

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So many gorgeous gables in Knightsbridge!

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We edge along Hyde Park where everyone is walking and sunning. I love these trees best just like this!

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We pass by Marble Arch and then start down shopper’s heaven: Oxford Street!

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We get off at Baker Street (hello, Sherlock Holmes) and then walk over to one of our favorite shopping streets, Marylebone High Street. What is very nice is Paddington Park right before you get to Marylebone High Street.

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And what can’t be beat in the park is this little building . . .

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It is – tah dah –

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Even the walls in the loo are gorgeous tile murals of the park itself!

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Shades of Keukenhof Gardens –

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And everyone out enjoying the weather.

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Didn’t I say shops? Here’s one of our favorites on Marylebone High:

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You have to check out the ceramics (all hand-painted!) at the start of your trip because you have to start planning for what you want as a souvenir of your visit!

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It’s such a pretty shop and the salespeople are always the nicest. This time our salesperson’s ceramic nametag says “Mum2Be” – Matilda is going to be born on May 15th!

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Just a few doors down is one of the best bookshops –

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It is so fun to see the latest and greatest books Londoners are reading:

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And see authors who were at the Texas Book Festival!

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The inside of the shop is historic! Here they are setting up for a reading – wine is not always available, unfortunately.

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Everyone is out enjoying the weather outside the pubs. Lots of ladies sitting at tables:

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But the cools gents are ranged on the side sharing pints and stories!

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Back down through the skinny St Christopher’s Place passage onto Oxford Street!

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We are back on the top of a double-decker bus looking down at the congestion at the beginning of Regent’s Street. People, people everywhere!

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And then into Picadilly Circus to say hello to the Mercury fountain (sorry for the dirty windows!).

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And look at Trafalgar Square!

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Who wouldn’t enjoy a chat hanging around the lions?

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Then we swing around Whitehall to our first view of Big Ben.

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We get off at Westminster to see Churchill in front of the Abbey.

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Britain will never, never, never give up!

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It is sobering to see him so close to where the terrorist attack happened just two weeks ago.

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So many people were out and heading over Westminster bridge, it was heart-warming to see.

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We headed over to one of the first hotels we ever stayed at in London – the County Hall right next to the Eye,

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When we stayed here there was a quiet Library where you could grab a book and look out at Big Ben. Now the library is a bar!

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But it still has a great view of Big Ben.

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Walking out of the bar is gorgeous.

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And the sunset: amazing!

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Everyone was trying to capture it. Beautiful atmosphere . . .

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Beautiful bridge where we can walk and remember. 

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