Friday, November 12, 2010

Last day on Tour


Ray on Westminster Bridge
Our last couple of days in London and indeed the UK were spent mainly in the wonderful galleries and museums of this great City. By now we were getting quite proficient with using the Underground and making  the links from point to point in the city. Using our Oyster Cards we found this a terrific way to move quickly around.

However the day began with a walk from our Hotel across Westminster Bridge to the Abbey. As Armastice day is fast approaching we watched the lawns around the abbey being adorned with crosses and poppies representing those who died in the service of the Empire/Commonwealth. We found the Australian section.

We then went on to visit to our new friend Sister Judith SSC (one of the Chaplains at the Abbey). She lives in the Abbey precinct and we had morning tea with her and then walked in the rain to the famous Church suppliers in the street behind the Abbey. Ray did some ecclesiastical retail therapy.

Australian Remembrance crosses in Westminster Abbey grounds

Tate Britain
 We continued our walk in the wind and the rain whilst in this corner of London to the Tate Britain Gallery. This is yet another wonderful Gallery and like all those in London free admission!
But of course donations are invited.

Here we found among the many treasures some paintings by one of Ray's favourite English artists of the 20th Century, Stanley Spencer. Glenys found some of her favourite works by Turner and Constable.

We caught the London Bus to Trafalgar Square for a St Martin in the Fields lunchtime concert. On this day there was classical pianist. Gamil Khamis played Haydn, Kenneth Leighton pieces and Chopin. He was outstanding however the second piece was modern and hard work to listen to.

After lunch at the St Martins crypt we walked back through Leicester Square and through Soho our to Oxford Street (still raining) to find the Church of All Saints Margaret Street. This is a very well known Anglo Catholic London parish. On our way we walked through Carnaby Street which has been beautifully festooned in readiness for Christmas.

Carnaby Street
We returned for  a second visit to the National Gallery.  This time to explore the Sainsbury Wing and much to our delight we found this is all religious art and Icons spanning several centuries from all over the world. We enjoyed Cream Tea at the Gallery restaurant and stayed enjoying the art until closing time.

Our evening meal continued the upmarket theme at a pub called the "Coal Hole" which is adjacent to the Savoy Hotel on the Strand, but not in the Savoy. It is in fact built in the coal cellars of the Savoy. 

The evening's entertainment was at the Adelphi Theatre for Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest creation "Love Never Dies". Which is a sequel to "Phantom of the Opera". We were not disappointed - the music, the staging the technology and the performances were superb.
John Soane's House Museum

Our last day on holiday and we began with a visit to Holborn to the John Soane Museum. This is a private house that belonged to the architect, John Soane, and is preserved as it was at his death in 1835. John Soane was a renowned collector of antiquities and art. The house is an Aladdin's cave and we were so glad that Jenny and Stuart alerted us to this treasure trove.

Our last cultural expedition was to Victoria & Albert Museum at South Kensington. The great thing about the V & A for us,  is that we got a good feel for English history up close. We focused on the English history section 1400-1800. There were lots of school groups also enjoying their expedition and the Gallery provides well for childen with lots of hands on exhibits.

We returned to Waterloo near our hotel where we visited Lower Marsh a beaut little retail strip and then on to walk around Lambeth Palace which is the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Archdeacon outside Lambeth Palace

Our holiday which has now taken us through six countries and over five weeks has finally come to an end. We have been very privileged indeed to be accompanied by a great group to the Holy Land and then to have enjoyed together such a wonderful time in Egypt and then the UK.

We thank all those who have made this pilgrimage possible and those who have looked after parish and home and dogs back in Melbourne.

We also thank those of you who have followed this Blog and given us such delightful feedback and encouragement. It has been good discipline for us to have written a daily blog which now preserves the memory and we can only rejoice and give thanks to God that we have been able to travel and to return safely.

                               Every blessing Ray & Glenys

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Melton Mowbray to London

Trafalgar Square by night

After two terrific days and nights with Jenny and Stuart and the eucharist at St Mary's Melton Mowbray on Sunday morning for London.

Unfortunately after taking a lot of photographs at Melton and on our arrival in London, with clear skies, Ray managed to wipe them all off the camera in his bid to improve the quality of the shots. So the pictures in this blog pick up on our second day in London and by now the weather has turned rather wet.

So we are not able to tell in pictures of our first venture which was from our hotel in Westminster across the Bridge over the Thames beside Big Ben (where we thought of our nephew Ben having a birthday that day). The Houses of Parliament and of course Westminster Abbey all beautifully lit up.  We arrived at the Abbey in time for a Organ Recital by Alistair Reid from Coventry Cathedral. This was an outstanding performance. Then followed Evensong with a visiting Welsh Choir! The Dean conducted a fairly personable 'tourist friendly' Service - it was a great joy to be there. We conveyed greetings from the Diocese of Melbourne after the service. At a lovely Vietnamese restaurant afterwards our photographs disappeared into cyberspace.

Monday in London was full of highlights. We began the day as sardines on the Tube System and found our way to St Paul's Cathedral. The quality of the audio visual and tourist presentations and the state of the Cathedral  blew us away. Superb. After some time enjoying the spaces of the Cathedral we braved the cold and headed for the galleries.

First we visited the National Portrait Gallery and then on to St Martin in the Fields (across the road) for a lunchtime concert. St Martins is famous for encouraging virtuoso performers and yesterday was no exception with world class performances on grand piano and violin.

St Martins in the Field - Trafalgar Square
We spent the afternoon at the National Gallery - the building overlooks Trafalgar Square. The collection here is so large one cannot hope to take it all in or do justice to it in a few hours. We have selected the areas we would like to visit and we plan to return today to finish our selection.

Our plan for the evening came together when we were able to procure discount tickets for "Yes Prime Minister" which has not long been running at the West End, Gielgud Theatre. A beautiful venue for performance and we were in the second row from the stage! We had a great night and laughed until it hurt.

A quick trip from Piccadilly Circus on the Tube using our Oyster Card (marvellous) and we were back at our hotel.

Gielgud Theatre - London West End

Piccadilly Circus by night

Very London!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Back on the Big Island


The lovely central area of Chester

We arrived back on the bigger Island to more drizzle and but with time to casually drive along the north coast of Wales. We had lunch at Bangor after a tour of the Cathedral where we discovered Alyd Jones was once a choirboy and a rather enthusiastic local Church Warden/Guide accompanied us from time to time around the Cathedral sharing the history of this ancient building.

Then it was off to England and Chester where  we decided we would find lodgings for the night. The Tourist Information centre however alerted us to the fact that unless we visited the Cathedral straight away (i.e. around 4.30 pm) we would not be able to see it the next day because all the University Graduations were scheduled to take place there. What a gem of a Cathedral this is.   We were, however, even more delighted to be in the Cathedral when the Choir boys and Musical Director arrived robed and ready to practise - they sang beautifully.

Lichfield Cathedral

After a quick look at the City Centre we resolved to return in the morning to look at a couple of private galleries we had discovered.

We found a nice little B&B and for 6 quid had a terrific meal in a local pub.

Next morning we headed back to the city centre and explored the galleries as planned adding a viewing of a cartoon gallery which brought a lot of joy to our morning.

On our way to Melton Mowbray to stay with Jenny and Stuart we detoured to revisit Lichfield Cathedral, and hoping to have a chance to paint a little watercolour each. We remembered being by the river there with our kids 20 years ago trying to avoid the European wasp!  However the persistent rain put paid to this idea and we moved on to arrive at Melton Mowbray to a warm welcome.

Saturday we were surprised when Lew & Norma Birch turned up to collect us from the Allens as a surprise and they transported us to the Crown Inn for lunch. Also at lunch much to our delight were about 16 other members of the parish.

Great to catch up of course with our every constant correspondent from the Midlands - Mavis (pictured) and our neighbours Geoff & Lesley, the Jones family, Colin & Ann Head and Isabel.

After a great reunion we walked through the village noting familiar and not so familiar landmarks to the Church where we met the Vicar, the Revd. Sue, and we found much to our amazement that a framed photograph of Ray is on the wall with a notation, naming all members of our family about our time in Asfordby in 1990.

The Asfordby folk at lunch

The photograph and notation on the wall of the Church

Ray in the Church at Asfordby

Thursday, November 4, 2010


 Dublin Part II
The Sanctuary of Christ Church Cathedral
The High Altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral

 PJ had told us he is "RC..we all are", he told us. However, the two great buildings of Dublin are without doubt the Anglican Cathedrals, grabbed by Henry VIII and his successors.
 The Church of Ireland therfore, does have a profile and a wonderful heritage, the National Cathedral is probably more "low" church and Christ Church tends to the other end of the Anglican spectrum. At dinner at the College we sat with a priest who is called Fr. Andrew, his parish is Anglo-Catholic with vestments, incense every week, etc. He tells us there are some others on the island.
We continued to enjoy lots of friendly conversations with the cabbies, the locals and even a lady from Donegal who we helped negotiate her fare on the Luas light rail, talk about the blind leading the blind!

Luckily the golf  that was a remote possibility whilst in Ireland was never locked in, with the drizzling constant rain it would not have been an enjoyable experience. However, we did see some lovely courses on our journey and in good weather it would be great fun to play them.

The hop on bus takes the tourist through Dublin's Phoenix Park, it is a massive estate (the biggest walled park in Europe) many hundreds of acres and still home to 500 fallow deer. It is the front garden for the residence of the President of the Republic. We were aware that on the edge of the Park is the home and the pub belonging to our good old/new friend PJ.

There are numerous memorials around Dublin honouring the leaders of the rebellion from 1916 to 1923. This lead to Independence from Britain. The currency in the Republic is the Euro and it takes the tourist a bit of juggling to get used to the change both in money and being in another country. Thankfully the locals are friendly and ready to help with both da money and da politics.So after an early buzz on the trusty i-phone alarm we are off to visit Stena line again and make the crossing back to the "old country". We have paid for the "lounge upgrade" an excellent move and we are able to blog and send and receive emails as we make the smooth passage (on fairly rough seas). We will arrive at Holyhead in Wales just before lunch and begin the last leg of our tour of the UK.

Ray blogging on the ferry

Glenys a little green around the
 gills on the ferry
So we leave Ireland  and have been delighted with our experience of the emerald isle although, as predicted it was mostly a very grey and drizzly experience. However that was just the weather the people we met from one end of the country to the other in B&Bs, in taxis, in pubs, on rail system, in the College, driving buses at tourist attractions.. and we could go on.. were a delight. Also the colours of autumn were pretty special. 

                                                      The Irish Sea!!


Main Entrance for the Theological Institute, Rathgar, Dublin
Part I 

The warm Dublin welcome that  came with PJ continued throughout our time in the city. Sadly, as we often said you wouldn't come here for the weather! It drizzled with rain almost the whole time and so limited the amount of walking we could do. This was a good enough excuse to stay put on the Hop-on,hop-off bus. We managed the front seats up top for a couple of long rides each day and this way had a good look at the city. There are 23 stops en route and we had plans to look at lots of the highlights, we probably did five of them.

The beautiful grounds of Christ Church Cathedral

Dublin has two Anglican Cathedrals, one for the local area of Dublin and Glendalough (Christ Church) and the other St. Patrick's for the whole of Ireland, they are only a few hundred metres apart. We met the Archbishop of Dublin last night after a lovely service in the College Chapel, he instituted about a dozen students as Lay Readers. We were invited to join in the College Dinner, it was a great atmosphere and fun to be back in College, even if only for a while. Everyone we met seems to know Bobbie Moore or have worked on a committee with her!!

The two Cathedrals are beautiful, grand, medieval and although full of tourists they seem to be places of quiet and prayer. The one time Dean of St. Pat's was Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels, his life story has added a lot of vitality to the history of Dublin. So too Mr. Guinness, this stopover for the hop on bus usually produced several jokes from the drivers. We were tempted to do the tour but ran out of time..where are our priorities!!

Dublin Castle and  the Chester Perry Library

 The other great character we discovered was Chester Beatty, a collector of manuscripts and antiquities. He was originally a New Yorker and he settled in Dublin (bit of a long story) and left his fortune and his fabulous collection to the city. He built a library to house the treasures and this is adjacent to the Castle. We spent a lot of time looking at the ancient texts of the different world religions, there were common threads..most especially human beings dependence on a greater power. Enough philosophy!!

One of the great treasures of the world is located in Dublin,that is The Book of Kells. The exhibition is a permanent and beautiful display in one of the buildings inside Trinity College. Naturally only a page or two of the book is open but the displays and descriptions leading up to the actual book are really helpful.
You feel as if you are a little wiser on celtic art and calligraphy for the experience. After the display the exit is via the Long Room, the historic library with its towering ceiling and two stories of books. It also has displays telling the story of Irelands several rebellions eventually leading to independence.

Part II next Blog

Monday, November 1, 2010

Still travelling in Ireland

October in Galway note the Christmas decorations

The rain has been absolutely relentless since our arrival in the western seaside city of Galway, We enjoyed a very traditional Irish meal and managed to avoid the thousands of witches and halloween characters who were revelling in the streets until late. The retail hub was being quickly swept and cleaned when we took this photo in the morning. We could not find the ideal shoes for Ray and the weather was pretty bad so we decided to push on for Athlone.

Bridge over the River Shannon, Athlone

Athlone is in the heart of Ireland and on a fine day you would spend hours wandering around the city with its colourful old shops and the River Shannon which runs through the middle of the town. There are little boats at the ready to take tourists on a cruise up the river to see the remains of a 6th century monastery. However, the weather continued to be foul and we abandoned ideas of walking, cruising or even painting a picture. We imagined that getting to Dublin in this weather is the best use of our time. However, we have Athlone to thank for a wonderful pair of shoes that actually remain dry on the inside.

Getting into Dublin late afternoon in the dark and rain was not as easy as we imagined. We seemed to travel around in circles in city traffic for some time with not a B&B in sight.

Eventually we decided to stop outside a pub called "Hole in the Wall" where old friendly Ray decided to seek directions. After some time he emerged with the news that we were organised for a meal at the pub and that accommodation was in hand. (Glenys seemed a bit dazed and not so sure.)

As it turned out the owner of "The Hole in the Wall"  whose name is PJ McCaffery sat down and had a great old chat with us and his son booked us in at the Castleknock Hotel and Country Club for the night. (Bed and breakfast in an executive suite for 60 Euros!! Not only that after we finished yet another delicious meal which included a pint of Guiness for Ray, PJ (our new friend) led us in his car out to the Country Club and saw us properly checked in.... what a man....  will all Dubliners be like this? Tomorrow and the next night we are off to stay at the Theological Institute as planned.