Friday, October 28, 2016

End of the Journey: Back to Bristol, and Home

And so our adventure in England and Wales came to an end. Somehow arriving at our last bnb seemed anticlimactic, like a recording spinning on the turntable after all of the songs were played. But like many recordings, there was a hidden song here.

Because this bnb in Long Ashton, was a complete surprise and total pleasure. After our early adventures in Bristol I was afraid of where this place might be. Would we be in the hubbub and nightmarish traffic of the city? Would it be so noisy we would not be able to sleep? How difficult was it going to be to get to the airport?

 Once again the SatNav took us unerringly straight to the address, and I could not believe my eyes. This last stop was at the end of a dead-end lane, directly across from a beautiful old church named, of all things, All Saints--the same name as the church I'd grown up in. And the house! It was half of a duplex, old stone with flowers in front. A perfect, perfect place to end our travels.

Our hostess greeted us at the door. As we went to our room she told us that the pub at the corner did not serve dinners on Sunday. Uh-oh. We were counting on that, and we were hungry after a full day of travel. We decided that we'd go on up anyway to have a drink, and then see if we needed food.

To get to the pub, we had to pass the farm. Yes, right in the middle of this suburban village was the farm, which I think may once have belonged to the church? Not sure about that.

This inn was aptly named: The Angel Inn.

It was a lovely place to stop, comfortable and friendly like all the locals we'd been in.

On the wall was a photo of the Beatles--yes, they'd visited the Angel Inn too!

They did not offer Larry's favorite (Guinness) but the beer was welcome to him after driving all day.

After I finished my wine I decided to walk back down the lane to look around the old church. It was a beautiful place, as so many churches in England are. I savored the quiet in this tucked-away corner, just minutes from downtown Bristol.

As I wandered the graveyard, piano music drifted from the church, I went quietly inside and saw a young black man at the piano, playing intently and unaware of my presence. So lovely.

When I came back outside I met up with my hubby, who said he was going to walk down to a local convenience store for some food. He'd been told it wasn't far. I went back to the house and told our hostess where he was going and she said, "Oh no. I will go get him and take him to the store!" And off she went. They were soon back, Larry bearing wine and bread and cheese and fruit. We sat in the kitchen and talked and laughed for a good while with our hostess before turning in for the night.

Traffic going into  Bristol, and we squeezed past them on the left!
In the morning we were off after a sound night's sleep and an early breakfast. The amazing SatNav once again saved the day, taking us down narrow, twisting lanes away from Bristol and its traffic and in about 15 minutes we were at the airport and turning in our little car.

I was so sad to leave England. It was a memorable trip, my mind filled with images and faces and voices. For weeks after we came home, I dreamed I was still there, and sometimes when I woke at night, I would think I was still there, sleeping in some small stone house somewhere on Bodmin Moor. Even now I have moments that I feel the place all around me.

One day I will go back. One day I will stay longer, go out to the cliffs at night to listen to the pounding sea, wander the moors at dawn to watch the fog rise from the valleys, and listen to the wind whistle around the ancient stones. One day. It is a promise I am making to myself.

So it's only goodbye for now, sweet England.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Glastonbury: Legend, Lore and a Tree

 I didn't think we'd have time to go to Glastonbury. I should have known I'd figure it out, and that Larry, though tired with driving almost 1500 miles during our trip, would be willing to make one last side trip before we headed to our last AirBnB. But I wanted to see the home of the fabled Glastonbury Thorn.

What is it? Just an old, broken tree on the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey. But it's much more than what it appears. According to legend, Joseph of Arimathea visited Britain with 12 followers. When he laid down to rest, his staff, made from a thorn, too root and grew into a tree that bloomed at Easter and Christmas. Legends and stories about Joseph are many, and include several from Cornwall where he is said to have visited with his nephew, the child Jesus, and showed the Cornish people how to smelt tin.

Scholars argue and some refute the legend of the Glastonbury Thorn, but it persists and later generations of the original tree (local variety of hawthorn) are carefully nurtured so there is always a Glastonbury Thorn tree at the Abbey. The tree was cut down by vandals in 2010, an act I am completely unable to understand, but another tree was planted (nearer to a place where an eye can be kept on it) to continue the rich history of this iconic symbol.

The Abbey istelf is a ruins dating back to 712 AD, and was destroyed by fire in the 12th century.

Sign reads: Site of the ancient burial ground where in 1191 monks dug to find the tombs of Arthur and Guinevere.

It was rebuilt, however, and continued to be an important Christian site until the Dissolution of monestaries under Oliver Cromwell in the 1500's. The monestary was stripped of its riches, and even stones were carried away from its buildings to be used in other structures.

Abbot's kitchen is the round building in the center of this photo.
Some idea of the grandeur of the Abbey can be sensed in the Abbot's Kitchen which is still standing and was recently restored.

Four huge fireplaces dominate this circular space.

It began to rain when we ducked inside, a perfect place to wait out the shower. I couldn't resist--the acoustics in the place were so astounding that I had to sing, just a bit of the old carol Down in Yon Forest. The haunting melody bounced from the domed ceiling, just amazing.

A lady who came in to get out of the rain approached me when I stopped singing and she shared a bit of two more ballads with me. She was a local druid, on the way to meet with her group, and we had a fascinating conversation. Such interesting people we met on this journey.

Other legends abound about this place. One of the most famous is that it is supposedly the site of King Arthur's burial and also that here the Holy Grail was brought by Joseph. The mix of lore, legend, myth and history in such an idyllic place makes it a natural for pilgrimages by people of many beliefs, and the area around Glastobury abounds with witches, wiccans, pagans, and Christian religions of all kinds. While we were there a parade of Hare Krishnas passed by, yet another layer of the colorful mix of Glastonbury.

We did not have time to see nearly all of this sacred site, yet another place on our list of places we need to return to.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Land's End and Across the Moor

Many, many times our GPS looked like this: 

unnamed roads, many curves, and yep, our speed was 6 miles per hour sometimes! All of these roads led to some fascinating places and unfailingly got us where we wanted to go.

After leaving Carn Euny, we continued south to Land's End, seeking tea and coffee. The day continued gloomy and rainy, so a nice inn was what we wanted, someplace cozy and out of the weather.

We found it here: The First and Last Inn in England.

Cozy? Times ten!

And historic too--a regular smugglers den in its day, and a gruesome end for the lady innkeeper.

It was difficult to photograph this, but this is a stairwell that led under the inn to the tunnels in the cliffs where the smugglers and wreckers operated.

The inn as it looked in 1826:

We left the comfort of the inn after being thoroughly warmed, and continued to seek the end of England. But when we got there...

5 pounds? Really? Nope, not worth it to us. The attendant was really nice and let us turn around and head back out.

We took the scenic route again, driving along the coast as much as possible as we headed back towards our hotel in New Quay. The day continued dark and stormy, and perhaps that was the perfect way to see this lonely, eerie countryside. (but please pardon the raindrops on the photos).

Ruins of 19th century mining operations were everywhere in the ladscape. Here, what appears to be a row of miners' cottages stand stark by the side of the road.

An ancient cairn, perhaps a signpost of some sort?

The moors fell off steeply to the sea, whose steely color this afternoon blended in with the gray of the sky.

Under the raindrops, the remains of what was probably another engine house for the mines. These were everywhere in this part of Cornwall, reminders of the tin, coal, gold, silver and copper mines in the rich stone of lower Cornwall.

The road went through several farms like this one, narrowing to squeeze between the buildings. This farm looked deserted.

A standing stone in a field is used as a scratching post for cattle and sheep. We saw this fairly often during our trip, the ancient works serving a simple present day need.

A inn welcomes travelers and walkers with its cheery yellow paint on a blustery day that had turnd quite chilly. My bet is on this being yet another smugglers hangout in its day.

Beautifyl, lonely moors...

This huge home sits high on the cliff overlooking the sea, and once again I was reminded of Jamaica Inn.

And finally, the day darkened to evening, and it was time to get back to the hotel and to bed.

Next post: I'll be away storytelling for a few days so my next post might be a while coming, but it will be about Glastonbury Abbey, our last stop of this trip.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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