Claremonters In England: York

Winter Images

York Train Station

Taking the slow train from King’s Cross Station in London to York requires about 2 hours, and if you buy your tickets way ahead of time, it’s only 12.5 pounds.  Although I’ve been to Rome twice, I think I’ve learned more Roman history by visiting just about every other country in Europe. Those Romans, they were everywhere! Including York, another city founded by those guys in 71 AD.

The Vikings were there, too, taking over for almost 100 years from the mid 6th C, and we would have toured the museum, but it is under renovation as it was severely damaged by floods last Boxing Day.

It seems that every place you go, the cathedral is a must-see. We try to limit our indoor visits to these places to avoid glazed-over eyes, so the York Minster was the one cathedral we chose. To visit this largest Gothic church in Northern Europe for free, one can attend the 5:00 Evensong service, which is what we did. (No photos allowed.)

We recommend the free walking tour offered 2-3 times per day (truly free, given by docents). Our guide told us about the 12th C. Church of the Holy Trinity which is tucked away, accessible through a hidden alleyway between Poundland (think 99-Cent store) and a swanky shop. He said it was worth a 10-minute stop. (Don’t tell anyone we took in a second church, but this one wasn’t a cathedral.)

A walk around the old Roman city walls equals a chance to photograph old stones.

When Henry VIII replaced the Catholic Church with the Church of England, he had monasteries and abbeys dismantled, including St. Mary’s Abbey. Through its ruins, one can see what a magnificent structure it was.

The Shambles is a medieval street which Rick Steves describes as an “atmospheric old butchers’ quarter, with colorful, tipsy medieval buildings.”

All this walking around gave us quite the appetite for a high tea which we consumed at Bettys Tea Shop (there is no apostrophe, so don’t tell me I missed one). Even though the line was long, it only took a half hour before we were seated, and it was definitely worth the wait.



Claremonters in England: Day Tripping

England is about the size of Louisiana, so distances are short, and we took several day trips from London. High on my list of sights was Stonehenge (I really like old rocks, which will become more apparent, if it isn’t already). I knew that unless one makes special arrangements ahead of time for off-hours visiting, one cannot go right up to the stones these days, but I was happily surprised to see that at least part of the rope was fairly close to the ancient site, and it was easy to get some good photos. The sky was blue with puffy clouds, and I have chosen just three of my photos for this post.

As long as we were going to sit on a bus for 2 hours one way, we might as well buy the tour that included Bath, as well and make a day out of it. We did not opt for a tour that included more stops, though, as this day was plenty long, though not rushed.

Throughout our travels we have seen various remains of Roman baths, most just bare hints of their former glory. The museum in Bath showcases the most complete ruin anywhere, and it has done a great job of presenting the site to modern visitors.

The city, with its ubiquitous sandstone Georgian architecture and large cathedral made for pleasant strolling with a stop for lunch at a Nepalese restaurant called Yak Yeti Yak.

For our other day trip, we chose Cambridge over Oxford, for no particular reason. We’d heard that either one makes a good outing.

We watched as people punted on the Cam.

We peeked into colleges, but chose not to pay $10 for each one to wander around. I can understand why they do that as students and faculty would not get anything done with plagues of tourists tromping about. We did find the free way into the Wren Library at Trinity College where we saw an original copy of Winnie-The-Pooh and other fine literature.

The tree on the left is a descendent of the Apple Tree of Newton fame.


Claremonters in England: London

Since our sabbatical year in Switzerland, we have been bitten hard by the Europe bug. As soon as we arrived home a year ago, we started dreaming about a European vacation. Since last summer was so hot on the continent, I wanted to go someplace where jackets might be needed, and England bubbled to the top of the list. And yes, jackets were used (but not woolies).

London seems the logical place to start an English holiday, so we booked a small hotel room for 7 nights and joined the 8.6 million locals and uncountable tourists in our search to see as many free sights, walk as many steps as possible, and to try some fish ‘n chips.

Here are a few shots of some of the famous sites: The London Eye (no, we did not ride it), Big Ben and Parliament, and Westminster Abbey.

The British Museum is all that it’s cracked up to be. I especially liked the Elgin Marbles (from the Greek Parthenon) All sites we visited allowed photography which is good and bad. Good, of course, for our personal mementos. Bad because it’s hard to navigate through all the other people who want to take photos (and endless selfies…).

These two shots of St. Paul’s Cathedral were taken from the Tate Modern. The one on the left is from the Millennium Bridge across the Thames, and the other is from the newly opened observation tower in the museum’s new wing. Another museum that did not disappoint.

London Walks offers almost 100 different walking tours, and we only had time for one, but it was well worth our 10 pounds and 2 hours. We chose a Dickens tour. I would happily take a number of other tours from this company.

St. Martin-in-the-Fields offers free afternoon concerts several days each week. We heard a young pianist perform Beethoven and Chopin, and then headed down into the crypt for some scones and coffee. If you know me, then you know that I was a pretty happy camper because I like eating in cellars and/or burial grounds, and not only did this cafeteria offer both, but they had high chairs from which I could swing my legs.

In college, on my way to Austria to study German, I spent three days in London. Here are my nearly identical shots of Piccadilly Circus from now and then.

Because I only took one  photo in St. James’ Park in 1980, I thought I would take a similar picture to accompany it. Geese then, heron now.

We also saw a number of other things, including the British Library, the Sir John Soanes’ Museum, Regents Park, the Royal Academy of Music sheet music shop, various pubs, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, etc. We left a number of things unseen to warrent a future visit.



Rancho Palos Verdes


It is always a good thing to go say hello to the ocean. Especially in the summer. The sea breezes, the blue, the calm.

Rancho Palos Verdes, the big bump jutting into the Pacific at the southern end of LA, has set aside acres for preservation which remind me of Claremont’s wilderness park. Both have trails for hiking up and down hills, both have parking issues, but the Palos Verdes Nature Reserve has ocean views and cooler temps.

Along the cliffs is some beach access, including the Abalone Cove Shoreline Park. It takes 15-20 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the tide pools, and many of the tide pools must be reached by walking into the ocean. We looked at the ones on the beach.


Above Abalone Cove, the Wayfarer’s Chapel seems to do a brisk wedding business on summer weekends. It was designed by Lloyd Wright, FLW’s son.



Cinderella Drive

IMG_3169Cinderella Drive juts off of Indian Hill Blvd. just south of Arrow Highway, a neighborhood of modest ranch houses with gingerbread-icing details. The homes were built in the late 1950s and sold from $14,000-$17,000. Today the street has matured and houses have taken on more individual personalities, but the peeked rooflines poking up from long roof overhangs still dominate the area.



Ophelia’s Jump

On my Summer list of Things To Do in Claremont, I suggested taking in a play produced by Ophelia’s Jump. Taking my own advice, we chose to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream and were highly entertained by the production.

The pre-show featured a saxophone soloist,



and a chance to adopt a cat or dog, among other things.


Live, original music accompanied the performance.


We will most likely attend another show next summer.