Tag Archives: england

Ely Cathedral 8-19-12

This past weekend Jason took me about a half hour away to the largest cathedral in the area–Ely Cathedral–so named after the island it used to stand on (before it was dredged and drained) being surrounded by eel infested water. (Anyone else reminded of the Princess Bride? Shrieking eels? Eh, eh?) The eel fishing industry was a large part of the commerce in the area back in the day. Now it’s surrounded instead by much more pleasant (and hopefully much less slimy) buildings, houses, and farmland.

The cathedral itself was massive and we decided to take a guided tour to the very tallest tower. Of course, it wasn’t until after we’d paid the fee and begun the tour that our guide kindly informed us about how no foundation was built underneath the floors and the cathedral itself has sunk quite a bit. This causes “problems” for them because the east wing of the cathedral had collapsed several hundred years ago, and major reconstructive work had to be done relatively recently because the tower was sinking, leaning, and crumbling. Great.

We proceeded to climb 218 crumbly, slick, narrow, steep, claustrophobic stairs to the top. Seriously, the Stair Master’s got nothing on this… Not to mention you’re crammed in there like sardines with 15 strangers just praying nobody has to fart. It was not even funny. Plus, all the while, the guide is reiterating about how things have fallen apart over time blah blah blah. When we were stopped at a point, Jason grabbed a stone to wiggle it to be funny–AND IT ACTUALLY SHIFTED. Like, not a loose brick or anything, it was part of the wall. Gahhh. I punched him and told him to quit it. Leave it to us to collapse a thousand year old church…

But finally we made it to the top in one piece and we could see for literally 20 miles around. It was gorgeous and totally worth it.

Yep… That’s the tower.

This one was creepily realistic…

The stained glass made pretty patterns on the floor 🙂

This was a memorial stone for a (very fertile) couple’s deceased children. You can read one section that says “Also 22 of their children died from 8 to 12 months old.” 22! Sheesh! It’s a wonder the mother survived that!

The ceiling that took 20 years to paint.

The view from the tower was spectacular!

Heights are worse for us tall people…

 It’s a gargoyle 🙂

It was that awkward gray-brightness outside and super windy at the top. We were scurrying around like rats trying not to get blown off the side!

 


Our Trip to London :) 8-11-12

London was an amazing city. Amazingly busy that is. With the tail-end of the Olympics going on while we were there, literally hundreds of thousands of people bustled around us all day. It was a bit overwhelming. We were lucky enough to get to see SO MUCH in one day, thanks to the extremely convenient tube system London has. For next to no money you can rocket around the city all day, seeing things miles apart with ease. And sparing your poor feet–although tube or not, it didn’t much matter after 12 hours there. Wear you walking shoes, my friends!

King’s Cross Station was our first stop! As you saw in a previous post, I was dead-set on finding Platform 9 3/4 🙂

Inside King’s Cross I made a beeline for this little pastry shop called “Patisserie Valerie.” Jason and I both have hunger-induced rage problems, and after nit-picking each other like little bitches on the entire train ride from Epping, I realized it was time for some much needed breakfast.

This fruit tart will forever go down in history as “The Fruit Tart that Saved Jason from Terrible Physical Injury at the Claws of his Girlfriend Chelsea.”

On the tube!

Finally coming above land in the middle of the city. Cue David Bowie singing “Down in the Underground…” (The Labyrinth, duh!)

I found Sasquatch at Picadilly Circus! Hahah

Buckingham Palace! They were NOT letting anyone in, and you can’t see it but there were thousands and thousands of people outside the gates watching the “sprint-running” Olympic event.

If you look closely there at the bottom, you can see one of the guards 🙂

The gates were extremely ornate

Sprint walking is the silliest-looking sport I’ve ever seen. It looks like they have pooped their pants and are shuffling QUICKLY to find an emergency bathroom!

Big Ben!

The London Eye. We decided to skip riding it, because it would’ve cost us $60 American! Blegh

Westminster Abbey, so cool!

The South Bank Lion

Be prepared to hear this like, 827 times if you’re riding the tube…

Frozen yogurt cafe I really wanted to try but didn’t get a chance to. I ❤ Pinkberry at home.

We ate at a cute little Mexican grill in the city.

There were sex shops EVERYWHERE and we accidently wandered into the gay district. Hahah. Of course we had to explore! 😉

See how crowded it was?!

Went to the HUGE Nike store! How did they know?

This really neat clothing store, Top Shop, had little three little shoppettes inside. One for cupcakes, one for candy, and one for frozen yogurt. Genius, I say! Of course women want that!

The City of London is the smallest city in England. It’s actually within London and is only one square mile. It’s like a secret society!

How come every time you come around, my London London Bridge wanna go down? (Sorry, I had to…)

The London Bridge itself is actually rather a letdown, especially compared to this:

The Tower Bridge, made oh-so-famous by the Games this year.

Please ignore how absolutely hideous I look here. It was a long day, and at about this point we were both done…

And this is where I almost pissed my pants and was considering awkwardly peeing in an alleyway. The only thing that stopped me was the heavy foot traffic. There were no bathrooms to be found anywhere!

Phew! The end of a long but amazing day. Back at Epping Station (after mixing up trains and going MILES out of our way) and ready to head home.


You Have To Look Closely to See the Little Things…

The other day while Jason was at work, I decided to go explore some of the nature trails around the area. Once I got past the duck gathering place  AND the child gathering place… I saw some pretty cool things. The dirt trail was packed down hard from many years of use, and I had to stoop down or crouch to spot objects of interest. I learned that not only is England a haven for all manner of interesting plant species, but also insect species as well. Who would’ve known?

I also learned (the hard way) that aforementioned insects like to hide amongst the stinging nettles, assumedly to protect themselves from predators and curiously bumbling blondes…

Thistle Flower

Duck Eggshell

I was almost always alone, and was startled by nesting birds taking flight more than once…

Getting deeper in

This view of the weeping willow reminded me a lot of Lord of the Rings.

This little guy’s neon color is what stopped me in my tracks. I wonder what he’ll turn into?

“Ladybird, ladybird fly away home. Your house is on fire and your children are gone.”

Snails! So incredibly cute! They were my all time favorites of the day, but that’s not going to stop me from ordering escargot while I’m in Paris! (This is the part where I got stung…)

Snail Eggs

Good Luck 🙂

Unknown Bug

I picked up an interestingly shaped rock, and this was underneath. (Don’t worry, I replaced it!)

This little guy was crawling right across the path. I had to save him from a man walking his dog.

Dead vole. I wonder what left it there…

Coming home, I ran into Jason. We noticed this little guy sitting on the brick wall surrounding our flat. He’s a fly mimicking as a bee for defense. After a bit of research, turns out he’s a Volucella inanis–a species of hoverfly native to Europe that also aids in pollination.

Don’t forget to look closely, my dears! Please let me know what you see 🙂


“Are You Eating Alone?”

That same Tuesday that I went cavorting around St. Mary’s with camera in hand, I got hungry. Wow, totally enlightening about my personality right?! A girl’s got to eat and not only is my boyfriend is used to living in permanent bachelor mode (that is, until I came in and stocked his filing-cabinet-sized fridge with goodies) but he’d also recommended that I take a stroll into the village to a little sandwich shop called Webb’s. So, after I was finished with the church I headed in that direction, only taking a single wrong turn (hmmph!)

As I entered the cramped, low-ceiling shop–through the wrong door, I found out later–I found a table and sat down alone. On my way in I’d seen a well-dressed, white-haired old man laboriously climbing off his motor scooter, leaning heavily on his cane–and entering through the right door. I didn’t think much of it, and tried to ignore the looks my bright blonde hair seems to attract in this country while I waited for the waitress. The old man I’d seen outside sat down at a table across from me, also alone.

Suddenly, an idea crossed my mind. An idea that made me sweat a little bit and something I knew my girlfriends would think I was crazy or stupid for doing.

I was going to go sit with the old man.

Truthfully, I almost didn’t do it. But then I thought, WWJD? No, not “What would Jesus do?” but “What would Jonas do?” Jonas is my high school English teacher who I almost solely credit for my love of writing, and also one of the few people I’ve met in my life that seems to have lived to the fullest. I consulted him before embarking to Europe, and he told me that I needed to really experience things while I was here. So I listened. I almost chickened out, but I listened.

I got up from my little wooden table and stepped over to his. “Are you eating alone?”

“What?” (He was a little hard of hearing)

“Are you eating alone? Do you mind if I sit with you?”

“Oh yes, of course. You can sit here.” He had a proper British accent and up close, he reminded me a bit of an old wizard–with his wiry grey eyebrows and white beard. His face was kind and etched with wrinkles.

“I’m Chelsea,” I said, stretching out my hand.

“What?”

“Chelsea!”

“Oh hallo, Hugh,” he said, taking my hand.

I noticed a pin in the shape of a small airplane on his lapel and I asked him about it. Turns out, he worked for the British Royal Air Force when he was younger–in Communications, the same job that Jason has–except Hugh dealt in Morse code rather than radios. Morse code! I asked him if he still remembered it, and he said that “funnily enough” he did.

We ended up eating our meal and drinking tea together and talking for more than two hours.

(The shopkeeper kept coming by and joking that “Father Christmas” had a date and waggling his eyebrows at Hugh, who of course, was properly indignant. And, as it turned out, who was actually Father Christmas during the holidays for the little kids).

He told me all about his life and what he did in his youth. He’d not only served in the BRAF, but also had worked for Rolls Royce and gone to art school. He still paints and told me about the art classes offered down the lane at Jubilee Hall. He was orphaned as a child and he told me about his years as an altar boy for the Catholic Church, after he’d left his foster home at an early age because of a domineering step-mother. He told me about the free “football” matches he used to go to because he friend worked for the Chelsea soccer team–which helped him remember my name.

He told me about the night that he went to a boxing match in London and the entire sky was alight with red fire across the horizon, because that was the night of the Blitzkrieg in Britain. He simply called it the “blitz.” (“Blitzkrieg” is German for “lightning war” and was a period between 1939-1940 that the Germans were bombing Europe by air).

It made me think about how one day I’d be explaining to my grandchildren that I’d been alive (if not present) when the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place–just like when my great-grandpa told me he remembered reading the newspapers alerting the public that the Titanic had sunk. Amazing what living relics of history that the elderly are, and how we unfortunately forget that.

He told me about his wife, who’d died of cancer a decade before. (He was still wearing his ring). And his fashion-designer daughter who’d died a few years later. Both of “the Big C” he called it.

I asked him to tell me the story of how he and his wife had met, and he said it’d been through a church outing he’d agreed upon going on because he “hadn’t anything else to do that weekend.” He remembers uncharacteristically singing along to road trip songs with his friends on the train to the countryside and a “pretty girl” (he raised his tufty eyebrows) sitting next to him. They talked all the way there and played games together once they’d arrived.

On their way home, after getting off the train, she linked her arm through his and he thought, Oh, well this is quite nice… and that was it. He said they took a long time to get married, because things were hard during the Depression, and even after marriage they were forced to live with her parents for six months. That is, until they were unceremoniously kicked out by his crotchety mother-in-law.

And so they began their life together.

“Oh, that’s so nice! I’m such a sucker for a good love story,” I said.

He laughed and said, “Oh, aren’t we all?”


St. Mary’s Church

St. Mary’s Church is only a short stroll away from our flat and I believe it was the first real “Ooh, what’s that?!” moment I had upon arrival in Mildenhall. Something about the structure just drew me in immediately and begged to be explored. Look at that architecture! Things just aren’t built like that anymore.

It was my first day out wandering around on my own, trying not to get horrifically lost–which I’m famous for–and St. Mary’s called to me. It’s strange how even walking around on the grounds makes you feel different, because as soon as I stepped on the the verdant lawn, it’s as if there were a hush in the air.  You could still easily hear cars and people on cell phones going by, but all of that is somehow dwarfed by the immensity of this church.  

I spent quite a while treading lightly through the graveyard. I wanted to be respectful of the medieval human remains there, but I was also very curious to read all the tombstones. Most were so old they were hardly legible, and the “new ones” still dated back to the mid-1800’s. My favorite was dedicated to John Sterling who died in 1857  at the age of 57. (To put this into American perspective, he was born in 1800 and died around the Civil War period). His tombstone added that five of his children lay nearby, having died in their infancy and also offered:

“Weep not for me, my wife and children dear,

I am not dead, but sleeping here.

My debt is paid, my grave you see,

Prepare yourselves to follow me.”

Huh. Hopefully not anytime soon, Mr. Sterling…

The grounds were alive with wildflowers and bees. Daisies, poppies, dandelions, and beautiful purple flowers that I have no name for. (For those of you that aren’t aware, I’ve been a beekeeper since January and *sniff* had to leave my queen and her daughters in the care of my friends until I return. So, seeing a bee this far from home automatically warms me to the area.)

I will confess that I was a bit nervous about entering the church because I didn’t know what I would find in there. Not to mention, I was wearing shorts and Converse and I’ve been raised Catholic enough to know that it isn’t appropriate church attire–especially in a church that was built in part from the 1100’s to the 1800’s.  Sheesh. No need for gnarly medieval plagues or curses to befall my unwary American head!

To get in, I had to push open a door that had to be 15ft high and looked as though it hadn’t been replaced…ever. It was so cool. I felt like I was entering a dungeon in a video game. This is the first view through that door. 

Absolutely enormous.

Like, huge.

But the BEST part was that the whole thing smelled like one giant old book. You know, that musky-yet-sweet smell you can only find whilst burying your nose in the crease of a long-forgotten novel. Yum. This place was like where books go to perfume themselves after a long life.

The stained glass was by far the biggest and most ornate that I’ve ever seen. There were a handful of them scattered throughout.  They were glorious, especially with the afternoon light filtering through. It felt almost divine. Especially when the three other people who were in there left via colossal door, and I was all alone in this standing piece of history, religion, and art. I’m not, nor ever have been, a very religious person, but this place made me instinctively breathe quietly or step lightly. I can’t claim to have felt some sort of presence there, but I’d say it was more like the church itself was the presence. 

The ceiling was my other favorite. It was covered in angels. I can’t begin to estimate how tall it was, but it was tall enough to crane your neck to the very limits of its hinge. The angels were so amazing, with gargantuan wingspans that would probably be life-sized were they on the floor. What totally boggled my mind was that this church is so incredibly old, yet so incredibly well-crafted–not just for functionality–but also for aesthetic purposes.

And it was all done by hand.

 

I was actually inspired to sit for a few moments and thank God, Jesus, the Powers That Be, whichever–for the charmed life I have led thus far. I’ve been SO lucky with the direction my life has gone and is still going… Perpetual forward motion. The strength and courage of conviction that I never knew I had. To change my life in an instant and not look back. That’s what I’m thankful for.

When people pray, it seems as though it’s always asking for something and not thanking the Divinity for what has been already offered to them. I didn’t ask for anything for my own behalf, only the happiness and health of my family and friends. I did get a little misty-eyed, I will admit. 

I can’t describe the feeling I had inside St. Mary’s other than to note that it is one of those rare places were time stands still. It’s hard to believe that just outside these ancient walls cars speed by, digital cameras click, and text messages ping through the air. To stop and think about how much life and death, love and grief, happiness and anguish that has passed through this place is unfathomable. What has been before us, will be there long after us.

On my way out of the church and off the grounds, I was stepping through the graves and directly in front of me, a pure white feather was spiralling to the ground. For once, there wasn’t a bird in sight.

So I kept it.

 


Snapshots from Mildenhall 7-23-12

Only been in the UK a few days and have done a little exploring around our home base. So far so beautiful.

 

Finally figured out what this all meant!

10 Pound Note front and back–so colourful compared to American money! (Yes, this British computer spellchecks and forces me to add U’s to words like “colourful.”)

Hilarious sign! Wish they would’ve had this in my home town. That building to the right under the sign is where our flat is 🙂

Our flat 🙂 It’s amazing. The wooden beams supporting our ceiling  have runes carved into them and embedded nails so old Jesus would cringe.

*sigh* I took care of my roommate’s cat for quite a long time. He was an 18lb black and white noisy bastard. Now I’ve come 4,000 miles and have this face staring at me every time I walk downstairs… Guess I will be buying cat food on my next stroll…

Who says the sun never shines in England? This is the little muddy “river” downstairs.

Everyone has gorgeous roses in their postage stamp-sized yards. There is a lot more COLOUR (smh) than I anticipated.

Look at all that ivy–another common theme here.

St. Mary’s Church across the street. It looks incredible from the outside. I can’t wait to explore it! It has a really cool graveyard around back that’s so old the tombstones aren’t legible anymore. It was built in the 15th century–MEDIEVAL TIMES, PEOPLE! The age of everything here is absolutely mind-boggling. To put it in perspective, this church was built towards the end of the Black Plague… If you walk down the main street of shops, you can almost imagine the streets being cobblestone again, horses and carriages, and merchants selling their wares. The façades may have changed, but the history is still there.

Off to do some more in depth wandering 🙂


Hello from England, my loves! <3

I just landed early this morning in London, and now I’m residing in my boyfriend’s oh-so-posh flat in Mildenhall. This building is almost 1100 years old! Isn’t that incredible?? The weather is beautiful today, and not a cloud in the sky. I can actually see a tea garden here from my window.

Just wanted you to know that I made it here safely and give you a small glimpse into my new world 🙂