An Apartment (?!) in Firenze!!!!

Our friend, Charlene Harb, had provided the contact with Francesca Carrera, where she rents an apartment for a month in Firenze. We rented a ‘two bedroom with bath and kitchen for the two weeks we were to be to Firenze.

When we stepped into the ‘apartment’, we were overwhelmed. We had been given the piana nobile, an entire floor of this 18th century piazza. Here is what we found:

20161013_151953It is a u-shaped apartment with grand halls with black and white marble floors. Each of the walls are frescos with fleur-de-lys meticulously painted on the walls.

20161013_152149 We have a grand living room with fireplace, lots of seating and a very large dining table where we are spending most of our time.

20161013_15220220161013_151920Each of the ceilings have magnificent frescos, hand painted by a relative of Francesca’s.

20161013_151813The back side of the apartment  overlooks a walled garden, 20161013_152357complete with a greenhouse and path and large trees. An inner courtyard has lots of lush plants.

Then we got to the bedrooms! Instead of one bathroom, each bedroom has its own bathroom.

Here is the master suite:

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20161013_152013Karen immediately chose this bathroom, after seeing the tub. Bear in mind, she can’t even get it in without sitting on the side and swinging herself around.

Henrietta and Carol will be joining us20161013_151807 tomorrow and will be living in this bedroom with a personal seating area

And then we saw the kitchen, in true Spartan European manner, the stove and oven are inside the armoire. But check out the sink – you have to stand on a stool just to be able to reach the water faucets, which are dragon heads.

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So, for what we thought would be a small apartment, where we might all fall all over each other, this is where we are ‘suffering’ for two weeks.

Life is good!

 

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Posted in Italy 2016 | 7 Comments

All The World’s A Stage . . .

Because we booked an additional night at Lygon Arms, we were able to relax in the morning and just bumble around the city. At 4 pm, we had proper English tea. We are getting quite taken with this, and have decided that maybe we ought to make a partial change from coffee to tea.

When we were on the Queen Mary 2, we attended a lecture about women playwrights in the early part of the 1600s. At the time, women were not allowed to perform on stage (young men played the parts of women). King Charles II became enamored with Nell Gwynn, a rather endowed actress, and changed to whole theatre world by mandated that women would be played by women (what a radical idea at the time!) This allowed Gwynn to appear on stage; one of her best known roles as in a comedy similar to Victor, Victoria.

One significant woman of that time was Mary Pix, an early novelist and playwright. In 1696 she began writing books and plays. Her plays incorporated comedy, drama and love scenes. It is interesting that all known pictures of Nell Gwynn and Mary Pix are scantly clothed and certainly coming out of their clothes.

Stratford-Upon-Avon is just a few miles from Broadway, and is a town dedicated to William Shakespeare. There are three theatres in the Stratford-Upon-Avon, each a copy of The Globe Theatre in London. We were lucky to get two of the last seats available on the second tier right next to the stage. They were great seats!

To quote Karen from her ‘Peeler’s Tuppence’:

It is no wonder that British-trained actors still stop the charts for excellence, because the theatre we have seen – one a contemporary play (The Moderate Soprano) and the other a restoration comedy (Mrs. Rich – were two of the most interesting things I’ve seen in a long time. The skill and energy of the actors and the characters they created were superb. Although I only understood maybe half of the fast-moving dialogue in the Stratford comedy, it didn’t matter, because the style, the visual images, the gestures, the music were all so stunning. The ‘band’ for the Stratford play was four women saxophonists, a percussionist, and an acoustic harpsichord, playing Mozart. It was perfect. The play, a bawdy comedy by a seventeenth century female playwright, Mary Pix, was an interesting combination of vaudeville, cabaret, Shakespearean manners, comedy, and Monty Python. You had to be there! and I am sure glad I was!

Before the play, we had a little repast in the café. Karen had a shortbread in the shape of Shakespeare, but ate it before I could take a picture. When I came back to the table from ordering, she had the funniest look on her face.

This is why: check out Shakespeare’s head


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those who complain that I am never in any of the pictures, here I am in all my glory!

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“Dancing with the Daffodils”


Would anyone believe that we (as in both of us) were before 5 am and went for a walk around part of Lake Windermere? Well, we did! We are on Lake Windermere which is surrounded by parks and lots of green. This is what we saw this morning.

It was interesting to watch the mist rise from the lake.

We are staying at The Waterhead Hotel, which sits right on Lake Windermere in the Lake Country of northern England. We have the weirdest shower head either of us have ever seen.

The reason we came to the Lake District was to visit Dove Cottage. Dove Cottage is best known as the home of the poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy Wordsworth from December 1799 to May 1808, where they spent over eight years of “plain living, but high thinking”. During this period, William wrote much of the poetry for which he is remembered today, including his “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”, “Ode to Duty”, “My Heart Leaps Up” and “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, together with parts of his autobiographical epic, The Prelude.

This is a very, very small house of only seven rooms (very small – walk-in closets are bigger!), which at one point of another was occupied by Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy, his wife, their three children, Samuel Coleridge and his two sons, and often a series of guests! It is said that the women did all the work to allow him to write his poetry . . . and he was often seen walking through the streets, in wind or rain or snow, talking to himself – he never wrote down his poetry – he recited it and then the women transcribed it.

A frequent overnight guest was ‘Mouthy’ Robert Southey, another poet of note. However, he is not known for his poetry, but for writing Goldilocks and the Three bears.

One of the other visitors was Thomas de Quincey who was a serious opium addict which really concerned Wordsworth. At that time, the only pain killer was laudanum, a highly addictive extract from poppies. Eventually their friendship waned and Quincey is best known as the author of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.

Because they were poor (he had an inheritance of 60 pounds a year), Dorothy help not only vegetable garden with a massive flower garden. Throughout the garden are slates with her sayings from her journals. These journals gave insight into their life at Dove Cottage.
There was also a Wordsworth Museum with not much except some portraits of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Percy, Lord Byron. I imagine a little place like Grasmere can’t afford a very extensive museum. After all the press about ‘you have to visit Dove Cottage’, it was really anti-climatic. Although the stay in Ambleside was certainly worth the extended stay.

One of the interesting things in the museum was a feature on Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein. She and the daughter of Lord Byron were challenged by him to write a ghost story. At 16, she wrote Frankenstein. What I didn’t know is that Byron’s daughter wrote Vampire!

In the afternoon we took a boat ride on Lake Windermere over to Bowness. The lake that is 10 miles long and 1 mile wide and provides all the fresh water for Manchester, 85 miles away. It was a very pleasant ride, and no one got sunburnt! There were a lot of swans and ducks and birds on the beach because everyone was feeding them. Along the shore there are some significant houses.

We came back from the boat ride and some of us took a nap before we went to dinner at the Wild Boar, where they specialized in wild boar and smoked steaks. I had wild boar haunch and Karen had a smoked steak served on a wooden plank. They were both delicious.
 
 
 
The garden at Dove Cottage was impressive:

I have never seen a fungi growing on tree this big:
 
 
 
This delightful creature met us when we got back to our room

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Peeler’s “Tuppence”

Deni has been writing a detailed and interesting travelogue of our trip thus far. With her help I will add some observations and comments – my ‘two pennies’ worth.

Cathedrals
One of my interests over here was to visit as many cathedrals as possible, When we visit York Minster Cathedral, that will be number 6. When possible we have attended a service, usually with singing. Most of our great sacred choral music was written for spaces like these, with resonant and lengthy acoustical reverberation. The sound of men’s and boys’ voices in these spaces is truly heavenly; the organs are gigantic and the combined sound usually brought me to tears. Its total effect is hypnotic, and often put me in a state of near trance. I can only imagine the otherworldliness felt by medieval peasants as they left their squalid and difficult lives for a time to enter the heavenly world of the cathedral. History is at every corner, under every footstep.

When I looked down at Westminster Abbey to realize I was walking over Purcell’s grave stone, my breath stopped and tears flowed. I had been to the Abbey before, but to visit this shrine to English history, art, literature, science, and culture is to be overcome with the greatness of the human condition. We sat a while in Poets’ Corner, where I was pleased to notice new stones commemorating Laurence Olivier and Peggy Ashcroft. Westminster defies description!

If I lived in London, I would want to be an active member of Saint Martin-in-the-Field, not only because of its robust and far-reaching music and concert program, but also because of its vigorous ministry to London’s poor and homeless. It is a church alive, trying to meet the needs of the people of the world today.

Coventry Cathedral is a marvel of modern sacred architecture and a living protest against war and violence. It is surprising to me that church attendance and interest is reportedly so meager in Great Britain, since they have so many beautiful spaces doing so many good things that represent the best in humanity.

Somerset
Inspired by the Mists of Avalon and Crossing to Avalon, I wanted to get a feeling for Stonehenge and the area of early England influenced by the Celts and Druids, by goddesses and knights. That is all southwest of London in the region of Somerset. Deni has written artfully about the myths and legends as other sacred influences of this area. Although we cannot prove the ‘truth’ of any of these myths and legends, there is simply too much ‘smoke’ in this region for there not to have some ‘fire’ in this region hundreds and thousands of years ago. In the evenings there is a low mist that covers everything, and it is believable that this was a swamp area reached by boat 2000 years ago. Many of the stones that made up Stonehenge have been proven to come from hundreds of miles away in Ireland, so it is possible that there was Druid and Celtic influence here that tinged everything with a bit of magic. The fact that the destroyed Abbey at Glastonbury (the former Avalon) was once the largest and most powerful force in England supports the idea that this was a powerful, sacred area. The people who live there now are a bit like misplaced hippies, and the whole area has a feel of a continual Woodstock. I am glad we went.

The Cotswolds and The Lakes
These two very different areas of England have made me smile! The Cotswolds (an assemblage of small villages formerly known for raising sheep and wool) are just plain precious to the max. Gabled buildings, thatched roofs, stone cottages, all small bordering tiny lanes, make you feel like you are in an English Disneyland, or a movie set for Robin Hood.

The Lake District, on the other hand, is beautiful and relaxing and reminds me a bit of Chautauqua in New York. A major reason for coming to the Lake District was to visit Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s home and museum. In preparation I began re-reading Wordsworth’s poems. My final analysis is: his poetry depicts a man that bears no resemblance to the realities of his life. Wordsworth and his buddy Coleridge were living about the same time as Beethoven and Schubert in Vienna. All of them lived lives of struggle, poverty, disease, and mental illness – and yet all, were touched by the Muse. It is hard to reconcile the greatness of their creative output with the mediocrity and depravity of their lives. Clearly, nineteenth century England was no picnic unless you were very wealthy.

Theatre
We have seen two plays since being here; one in the west end of London and one at Stratford-Upon-Avon. It is no wonder that British-trained actors still stop the charts for excellence, because the theatre we have seen – one a contemporary play (The Moderate Soprano) and the other a restoration comedy (Mrs. Rich – were two of the most interesting things I’ve seen in a long time. The skill and energy of the actors and the characters they created were superb. Although I only understood maybe half of the fast-moving dialogue in the Stratford comedy, it didn’t matter, because the style, the visual images, the gestures, the music were all so stunning. The ‘band’ for the Stratford play was four women saxophonists, a percussionist, and an acoustic harpsichord, playing Mozart. It was perfect. The play, a bawdy comedy by a seventeenth century female playwright, Mary Pix, was an interesting combination of vaudeville, cabaret, Shakespearean manners, comedy, and Monty Python. You had to be there! and I am sure glad I was!

Gin
Now many of you know I like my gin and tonics, but I have discovered the fine art of gin on this trip. It seems to be like the ‘holy grail’ in England. Indeed, clearly the Brits fondness for imbibing is alive and well. This morning at breakfast, there was a bottle of scotch to add to your porridge if you so desired! Many bars open at 9:30 in the morning. The exuberance of pub life cannot be exaggerated! I wish I could bring some of this gin home!

Onward to York!

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A Little (Or A Lot) Pampering For ‘Two Little Old Ladies’

Off from Glastonbury to Broadway, with a side trip to Bridgwater to get a new tire. That added an additional 2 hours to our journey. But, at last, I can now drive the speed limit, which will make the journeys a little more enjoyable. We will be staying in an area called The Cotswolds.

Some interesting thoughts about driving on the left side of the road: we Americans are used to driving on the right and by years of doing that, our bodies tend to hug the right side by nature. I found that I needed to drive with my left hand, which was not conditioned to the right side to maintain hugging the left side. Took a while to figure that one out.

There are some interesting aspects of Britain’s road systems. They do not patrol for speeders because they have closed circuit TV cameras along the road that record your license plate, and if you are speeding, you get a ticket in the mail. And whenever you get close to either the right of left side of the lane, a warning sounds so you can adjust. I can’t figure out how they do it because it is not only on the major roads, but also the little what we would call county roads. Amazing!

The nostalgia part of Lygon Arms is that this is where Karen’s mother and a group of ladies from Jonesboro stayed maybe 40 years ago. Karen had remembered how much her mother liked it, so we decided, since we were in the neighborhood, we would stay there. So off we go!

One little glitch, Karen thought it was in Chippin Campden, which is very close to Broadway (where it actually was). When we got to Chippin Campden, they were having a festival and the street to the lodging was blocked off; we had to part about a half a mile and walk down. When we got to the Chippin Campden Lygon Arms, it was a pub and a lot of people having a very good time. The barmaid looked aghast when we said we had reservations!

They got us on the right track and we went to Broadway to one of the most elegant country inns we have ever stayed at. We both could understand why Karen’s mother spoke so highly of it.

The Lygon Arms has its roots in the 1300’s as a predominately Tudor coaching inn in Broadway. First mention of it was in 1377 as the White Hare, and served as a touch-stone on both sides of the English Civil War in 1649. Both the Parliamentary army  and the resistance of King Charles I stayed here, and there are rooms names for Oliver Cromwell and King Charles I. Personalities like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and Prince Philip have frequented the hotel.
After some thought about all the driving it would take to do the Wales part of our trip, we decided to cancel that and were able to extend our stay here for an additional day.

The building is like a rabbit warren with lots of different levels, and is a full-service resort in itself, without being in the sweetest little town. When we were getting the new tire, a couple had told us we definitely should visit Broadway because of its charm. They were right!

Our room was very roomy and decorated in English country décor:

There are multiple areas where you can eat, and we repasted in the Russell Room, which had comfy highback chairs and a fireplace. We sat next to a couple (engaged) and her mother. We were conversing about our total vacation and Karen used the word ‘dandy’ to describe how we liked England. The older woman loved the word and get a chuckle out of saying it.

I had to add this picture; not all of us have a vacuum cleaner with a name – or a face!

These two ‘little ole ladies’ have had to admit that we can only handle one major event a day. . . we are just getting too old to run from morning to night!

These are the cutest door stops – wish we needed one!
 
 
 
 
 

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Land of Arthur & Guinevere & Mystics & A Whole Lot of Really ‘Strange’ People

After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to explore the city of Glastonbury, a site of meeting ley lines and center of most of the mystical and magical arts. Our bed & breakfast prepared a common English breakfast of sausages, grilled tomatoes, eggs however you wanted them, bacon, field mushrooms, toast, blood pudding, juices, tea AND Heinz pork & beans (don’t quite get that one!). It is enough to keep you going for the rest of the day!

There are so many myths associated with Glastonbury but the most significant revolve around the romantic figures of Joseph of Arimathea and King Arthur. For a synopsis of each see Joseph of Arimathea see: The Myths of Glastonbury

We took the guided tour, given by Goodwife Mollie, who by far, had the loudest voice we have ever heard! The told the following history/legend about Glastonbury.

Legend holds that the earliest church here was founded by St. Joseph of Arimathea in about AD 60 and that when he planted his staff in the earth a thorn tree burst forth. In the grounds of the ruined Benedictine monastery, there is a thorn tree of a variety common to the Middle East which is given to bloom around Christmas time. Could there be some truth to the legend?

The first building to be rebuilt was the Lady Chapel, erected on the site of the Old Church in 1184. The ornate design was highly decorated with pointed rib-vaults and crocketed capitals. It set the style for shrines built in other medieval monasteries across England.

There was a detached monk’s kitchen, but the most distinctive feature was the abbot’s kitchen, and dates to 1334-1342. The extensive abbot’s quarters contained a special suite of apartments for important guests. Henry VII is known to have stayed here when he visited Glastonbury.

The devastation of the late 12th-century fire might help explain why the monks of Glastonbury put so much effort into making their abbey a destination for pilgrims. They moved relics of two Saxon-era abbots, Patrick and Indracht, from the ancient cemetery into the Lady Chapel in 1186. They conveniently ‘discovered’ the bones of Saint Dunstan and housed them in a specially-built portable shrine.

Then in 1191, the bones of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere were ‘unearthed’ near the south side of the Lady Chapel. In 1278 these relics were reburied by the high altar in the presence of King Edward I. The royal couple lay beneath a black marble tomb.

By 1539, when the abbot would not surrender the abbey to the crown, Thomas Cromwell, had Whiting imprisoned in the Tower of London, found him guilty of treason and sentenced him to death. Cromwell took him and two of his monks to the top of Glastonbury Tor, where all three men were hanged, drawn, and quartered. Whiting’s head was put on display over the gate of his abbey, while his severed limbs were displayed to the public at Ilchester, Bridgwater, Bath, and Wells.



In its heyday, taken from monk’s records and schematics, the cathedral and monastery were extrapolated to look like this:
 
There is a smaller chapel on the grounds that is very unusual – and kind of creepy.

Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea brought the Holy Grail with him when he came, and dropped it down a well outside of Glastonbury. Today, there are two sources of water; on is brackish and is said to taste like blood, and the other is pure clear water.

Legends abound!!!

And the city of Glastonbury itself is a haven for anything mystical. We saw some of the strangest people walking around, and if you wanted anything from the myriad of mystic cults, you could certainly find it there!
 
In the center of town on this column appears this:

We are off to the Lygon Arms.

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Back Into History 2,500 Years


Although we could only drive at 50 MPH, the GPS (although when I entered ‘Stonehenge Visitor Centre’ they could not find it), driving to Stonehenge from Glastonbury was a snap, except for having to keep the speed below 50 mph.

Let’s settle this first: nobody knows who built Stonehenge or why it was built. It consists of a ring of standing stones, with each standing stone around 13 feet high, 7 feet wide and weighing around 25 tons. The stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds. Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC, although they may have been at the site as early as 3000 BC. It is believed that the column outlined was the original entrance to the ring. It had a matching column and was topped by a lentil. On the other side of the circle are the two columns and lentil where the sun would appear at the soltices.

I took pictures around the ring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a village which reflects the habitat of those people who lived in the area 2000 years ago.

In addition is a cement copy of a stone to give you an idea of just how big they are.

After Stonehenge we ‘booked it’ (as much as you can at 50 MPH) to Wells to attend the evensongat Wells Cathedral. Unfortunately, traffic was against us and we got their in time for the Eucharist.

Wells touts itself as the smallest town in England . . . but has an enormous cathedral. This is the first church to use the scissor approach to shoring up ceilings weighed down by the stone structures underneath them Wells also is famous for their clock, which chimes on the fifteen minutes, except when services are going on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped at the Olde City Jail in downtown Wells to have a little dinner (everything closes at 6 pm around here). This was a real authentic pub – we were the only tourists there and they were having a grand old time.

Our bed & breakfast was resplendent with all manner of flora – including the biggest clematis I have ever seen, along with all manner of flowers and shrubs.

Tomorrow we pack up, visit the city of Glastonbury and then head to Bridgwater (not on our way) to get the new tire.

The saga continues!

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On the Way to Woo-Woo Land (Or What Else Can Go Wrong?)

After much thought about it, I decided to purchase a carryon suitcase so we could more evenly distribute our clothes that we would be needing for the rest of the trip. We got up early and packed into three suitcases, two we would take with us and one which would stay in the car.

The transfer transport van picked us up at 7:30 to take us to the Hertz rental, where we got a car. Just about two miles from the rental agency, we had a little mishap with a construction truck, so had to get another car. The streets in London were designed for horse & carriage and are almost not wide enough for a standard car. We had to wait over an hour for the recovery service to get to us, and then he had to winch the car on the back of the van and then take us back to the Hertz agency.

When we got our second car, it has a GPS which should have helped us get out of London. But there is so much construction (it is far worse than Columbus!), it is hard to get anywhere. I made the mistake of saying ‘alternate routing’ when I received an alert about congestion – and what I didn’t know is that would divert us all the way to Glastonbury! I am sure we saw parts of London that the normal visitor never gets near. So after almost two hours, we finally got out of London and on the road.

After taking many ‘diverted traffic’ paths, we finally made it to Salisbury where we were going to go to evensong. But, just as we entered the city, we had a blow-out! That meant we had to wait almost an hour for someone to come and change the tire to the donut. And I could not drive more than 50 MPH – which irritated a lot of drivers on the major highways.

We had planned to attend evensong at Salisbury Cathedral, but all we saw of it was from the road as we passed by.

Finally, after way too many turns and curves and asking directions, we made it to Glastonbury about 9 pm! We have a room in a B&B run with a woman who is a Reiki Master and big into the local mystical culture. We each had a cup of tea and crashed!!!

We just lost one day of our already packed planned trip. . . alterations will need to be made, because at some point, I will have to find a tire store and have a real tire installed. Gag!!!

“Onward and Upward with Smoothie Wipe”!

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