Thursday, July 19, 2018

I have been away on a holiday and now I am home

Ugh, how many weeks is it since I wrote you a Hug? Too many.  First I was researching and plotting and planning, then I was packing, then I was trying to clean out the fridge so I wouldn't come home to something truly awful in there (mission only partially accomplished) and then I was away on a huge vacation we've waited years to pull off...

Sunset lighting up the gold statue in front of a certain Palace

... followed by some hard-hitting jet lag which is finally lifting.  Whew!!

I have a pair of Emma Bridgewater fold-away shopper bags on my desk, alongside a bag of Marks and Spencer cookie boxes, and my teacup is resting on a coaster that says 'm' in the official London Transit font in use since 1916.

Guess where I was for 16 days!

Okay, we weren't in London the whole time.  We also got up to York...

medieval city gate

gorgeous blue doors
  to stay inside the medieval walls at a charming old rectory converted to a hotel,

maximum cosyness at the end of the day

 and took a minicoach tour of the North Yorkshire moors because it was just easier than renting a car and making Pete drive hither and yon. 

(Edited to add: the name of the cute village below is Helmsley - thank you Kathy!)

I wish I could remember the name of this beautiful village inside the Yorkshire Moors National Park
but at least I can copy the gorgeous white planters right??

Ruin visible from same village

Also in North Yorkshire, no idea where but I had to share these trees

Same village as before.  SO CUTE.

We had perfect weather, apart from the heat.  I could not take a bad photograph with those gorgeous skies as the backdrop.

From York we nipped south to France, getting off the Eurostar at Lille to take a regional train to Arras

I love the monochromatic architecture here, it makes every detail jump out!

so we could meet our amazing guide (Living Memory Tours, highly recommended) for a full day at Vimy Ridge and other WWI memorials.

I was standing almost at the middle of the big circle of metal wall here...
it extended all the way around from a small entrance.

This is the metal wall up close, an accordian effect with names printed on both sides. 
Names of all the dead soldiers from battles in the area, listed alphabetically as equals. 
And I thought the Viet Nam memorial in Washington D.C. was moving.
We also saw several WWI cemeteries, of which this is one.

All the cemeteries are different depending on whether they are French, German, or Commonwealth.  This was a Commonwealth cemetery with roses planted between every few headstones, and huge lavender bushes at the ends.  I spotted bees and butterflies in the lavender; it was very strange to think of summer life carrying on over the bodies of all those lost boys and men.

The battle at Vimy Ridge just had its centennial and every Canadian knows about it, but when we mentioned it to English and American people who asked about our trip plans, quite often they didn't have a clue what we were talking about.  So in case you don't know either, it was both a tough and important battle for Canadian soldiers, and also: a victory.  France dedicated the site to Canada, and our government financed an incredibly beautiful memorial there which Pete wanted very much to visit.

The chosen stone is absolutely ethereal.

For me, having read about it and seen many photographs of the memorial and the preserved trenches, what was astonishing was the landscape, still hilly and pockmarked from shells and mines.  And the very small distance between the two sets of trenches where the soldiers on both sides were fighting so hard.  This is not something you can appreciate easily from another continent.

We went straight back to London from France and had almost a week to explore museums, eat, and find cool places to spend the hottest hours of the heatwave there (mostly that was mostly our hotel, which thankfully had a/c... I didn't think to check before I booked it so we were lucky!)

I have two Canadian cousins living just outside of central London and thanks to excellent train and tube service we got to see them both, which was wonderful. We had ice cream and coffee-walnut cake and a proper Sunday Roast with Yorkshire pudding.  I finally got to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, which I didn't get to the whole year I lived in London, and have always wanted to see, though for some reason I didn't take even one picture of the dress exhibit which was the reason I wanted to go.  (however, it was excellent.)  I did however take this photograph.

The Victoria and Albert museum is not air conditioned.

I also discovered that the only proper cup of tea is made with a bag of, I am not kidding, 'Yorkshire Tea.'  For years I've been drinking fancy Taylor's teas and I could not believe it when I realized Taylor's is also responsible for this very strong, delicious, sturdy, reviving tea.  I brought home two big boxes but thankfully our regular grocery stores all import it.  Had I but known, I could have been living on it all these years!  Oh well, I still have time to thoroughly enjoy it.

Even without being able to travel to the classic estate gardens out in the countryside, we saw SO many lovely garden spaces.  This one was at Hampton Court Palace:

This one was once a private garden and sits right in the old part of York :

I so wish we could build tall brick walls here, they are just dripping with character.  Here is another walled garden from a National Trust property in Hampstead, a village in north London:

The cute North Yorkshire village had a communal garden with a wilder look:

And then there's St. James' Park in London, for the wildest of the wild.  I wonder if you can enjoy this view from the windows of Buckingham Palace?

Even walking along the street in London (okay, Hampstead, which is basically the most beautiful urban space on earth) you see gardening inspiration.  Emphasis on GREEN.

I particularly liked the planter boxes outside our hotel.

We saw lots of ivy-as-garland in fact.  I absolutely want to copy this sort of thing for our back yard, which is almost ready to become something more than a post-construction dirt heap.

Well, that was a lot of pictures.  I wonder if I have any more?

Oh yes!  The Royal Air Force Flyover (of Buckingham Palace) which marked the RAF Centenary.  We were in London for so many great events and this was the last, complete with this colourful finale. 

Anyway: I was away, and now I am home, and I have no further distractions (apart from the Tom Bihn luggage addiction I developed while trying to figure out how to pack properly for this trip) to keep me from unpacking from our move home last August, and writing regular Hugs, and getting back to work on novels now that I am not project managing in my spare time.

But first I think I really need a very long nap and a day or two on the sofa watching movies.

Hope all is well, and has been well, with you!


Kathy said...

Hi Mary - that is a journey of nostalgia for me. A revisit to younger days' haunts. The village with the ruin is Helmsley by the way. Helmsley Castle.
A very enjoyable post and I'm glad you had such a good time.
Lovely photos and you were so busy that no wonder you are/were tired!
I agree that the war monuments and cemeteries are moving. My father's name is on The Monument in London and chokes me up when I see it.

Kathy said...

I forget to say that I loved the formation flypast saying 100. I love these official Services events - they are so impressive and immaculate.

Laurinda said...

Glad to have you back! What a cool vacation <3

Mary Keenan said...

HELMSLEY - thank you Kathy! We were so tired and fitting in so many things every day, we completely forgot whole patches of where we'd been while we were still away. We've been patching things together from our photos. I can well imagine how emotional it would be to see your dad's name on a memorial like that... it is just overwhelming to see the sheer numbers and know that each one was a man who had a full life behind and ahead of him.

Mary Keenan said...

I'm glad to be back too Laurinda - I missed our nice new house and also, sitting down sometimes ;^) But also my two cousins. We had such a good time with them both and I'm sad they live so far away. For some reason they aren't eager to move back home ever, something about Canadian winters?