Wednesday, July 31, 2019

On Our Way to Norway

If you've read my last two posts about the trip we took in June,  you know we were going to the Norwegian Fjords.  We've read books about them and seen lovely photos about the magical kingdom of Norway.  Norway is on the western and northernmost  part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, located up to the Arctic Circle.  The word Norway refers to the narrow shipping lane that passes by the village of Avaldsnes, called Way of the North, or North Way.  So come along with us as we travel aboard the Queen Victoria to the land of Vikings and slip into Norway by way of the North Sea.  

We boarded the Queen Victoria after being dropped off by coach from London.  Our excitement couldn't be contained as the two of us checked into our stateroom and began to experience being on board this lovely vessel.  

We were more than happy with our accommodations as we settled into the task of making ourselves at home.  We used packing cubes this trip and it made it so easy to just stick one of the cubes into a drawer and then hang our dress clothes in the closet.  If you're not familiar with them they make keeping track of your clothing so easy, such as socks, scarves and underclothes.  Our daughter recommended them so we decided to give them a go on this trip.

After attending the safety drill we made our way topside to enjoy the sail away from Southampton.  The lovely weather only called for a lightweight jacket as the ship dropped its lines and we headed out into the English Channel.  We're on our way!

Back in our stateroom we set our watches forward one hour so we would be ready for our day at sea.

At noon the Captain reminded us that we sailed to the north easterly and transited the Dover Strait,  passing Dover and Calais shortly after midnight.  We are now in the North Sea.  Since this is a relatively shallow area we see many offshore platforms due to hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation.

We were ready to relax and explore the Queen Victoria on this sea day.  There are many activities to indulge in if you so desire.  Grayden and I were both ready for a relaxing time after taking our morning walk on the Promenade. 

I never tire seeing the ship's wake during our morning walks.

When the Captain announced that the Queen Mary 2 would be passing us on its way to Southampton,  Grayden grabbed the camera and went topside to get a better view of her sailing back from Hamburg.   We do love seeing her in full view!

Every morning we visited the library and picked up the Brain Tease (very difficult) and the Sudoku puzzle for Grayden.  All Cunard ships have wonderful volumes to check out during your voyage.

The Queen Victoria is a smaller ship than the flagship Queen Mary 2.  It's quite elegant and well appointed, but not too stuffy.

The dining room is grand and we enjoyed every meal that we had.  They were so accommodating to my low carb diet.  I was never made to feel like I was imposing.  The wonderful stewards learned my likes very quickly and made us both feel so much at home.

It was so enjoyable dressing for dinner and enjoying time with my sweetheart.

Lovely strings playing in the background added to the romantic evenings for us.

After dinner we walked around the ship's promenade and noticed the sun was still quite high in the sky.  Yes, we are close to the summer solstice and we are experiencing the midnight sun.  How strange this feels, but so exciting!

I'll be sharing our first stop in Norway as time permits.  Thank you for sharing our joyous trip with us. ♥


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Happy 153rd Anniversary of Beatrix Potter's Birth

Today is the 153rd anniversary of the most special birth of Beatrix Potter.  She means so much to me and to the world.  I thought I would post my thoughts about my very first visit to Hilltop Farm.

Today is a day I have dreamed about.  If I admit it, if I were only able to visit one place in England, it would be Hilltop. Visiting Hilltop, one of the homes of Beatrix Potter, has been dream of mine for a long time.  I've loved her charming books forever.  Her beautiful artwork is truly a gift from God.  Sometimes when a dream is about to be realized one can be afraid that the real thing will be disappointing.  Believe me--I was not disappointed!

Our apartment is only 27 miles from Hilltop!  This is the main reason we chose to stay in this location.... But it took us 1 1/2 hours to get there.  The M5 and A roads were just fine, but then we took a B road that was curvy, narrow and quite scary.

See the stone wall on the left--that's where I was sitting in our car, trying not to say too much to Grayden as he carefully drove us along curves and hills and more stone walls.  

Along the way carpets of bluebells made the drive beautiful and more enjoyable.  It was a drizzly, rainy, moody day.  Anticipation of what was to come made it all very mystical and magical.

After driving at very slow speeds we finally made it to Near Sawrey--the town where Beatrix Potter bought her beloved Hilltop!

Beatrix Potter bought  Hilltop in 1905 as a retreat away from London.  She purchased Hilltop with money from her first book-- The Tale of Peter Rabbit.  She loved the area around Hilltop and it's not hard to see why!  It served as inspiration for her books that followed. 

Upon arriving at the car park for Hilltop, rain was falling.  We were early (on purpose) to be able to get our tickets.  Hilltop is very popular and has a timed ticket schedule.  We were early enough to pick up our tickets for the first opening at 10:00am.  A few cars began to fill the car park.  Everyone wants to come to Hilltop!

It was time to make our way up to Hilltop.  We followed a hill up a narrow pathway made of large rocks that was lined with flowers.

We're almost there!  I can't believe it! 

There she is!!

The nice National Trust docent invited us in!  Oh my, yes I'll park my brolly at the door and yes you can wipe the rain off my jacket.  We don't want to harm anything in Beatrix Potter's home.

We made our way inside to a sitting room on the left.  It was cozy with a roaring fire to warm us.  There were low beams and the ceiling was covered in wallpaper.  I'm quite emotional at this point as I can't believe I'm standing where Beatrix Potter once stood.  Everywhere there is charm.  To the right is another room that is filled with lovely china that Beatrix collected.  She was from a wealthy family and attended many antique shows with her mother.  It was pointed out that she and her mother didn't have much in common but they both loved to go to antique sales together.

Toward the back of the sitting room was the scullery where Beatrix prepared meals.  To the left of the scullery were stairs we climbed to see four rooms.  One was a room of her collections with a lovely dollhouse.  Another sitting room with a piano and beautiful photos of her and her family. Her bedroom with her lovely tester bed and bed coverings and memorabilia all about.  She added an addition so she could have proper light for her art studio.  She never wanted electricity in her home.  This room was filled with her brother's artwork.  Bertram was an accomplished artist as well as their father.  There were very large paintings that lined the walls.  Sadly no photos are allowed inside, but you can go here to see her bedroom.

I can't begin to describe how I felt in her home!  Her love of nature was everywhere.  Beatrix Potter, I felt your spirit in your beloved Hilltop.  I'll never forget it!! 

As we left her home I turned around and gazed upon this special place. We wandered about the property.

Upon leaving the gate we spotted Castle Cottage, the home that Beatrix and William Heelis shared after their marriage. It's the white house on the right. 

When we planned this day before leaving home, I told Grayden I wanted to stay all day in Near Sawrey.  I did not want to short cut this visit.  So next to Hilltop was The Sawrey House Tearoom that we had to go visit.  We read on their menu that Beatrix Potter would often come and have afternoon tea here.

The vistas from this property were lovely!  These photos were taken from the inside the Sawrey House Tearoom.

After having a lovely soup for lunch it was time to take another look around Near Sawrey.  It's so charming and quaint in this area.  What a wonderful place to live!  I hope it never changes.  Beatrix Potter was a big proponent of the National Trust and gave over 4.000 acres of land, 16 farms and cottages, cattle and Herdwick sheep for future generations to enjoy.  Her gifts were the largest the National Trust had received and enabled them to create the Lake District National Park.  Thank you, Beatrix Potter!

Beatrix Potter, you have left a imprint on my heart that will always be with me.  Thank you for saving this beautiful place and more to be enjoyed by generations and generations to follow. 

from left to right--Beatrix Potter, Beatrix Potter with bunny, Beatrix and brother Bertram, Beatrix and William Heelis, Norman Warne(Beatrix Potter's editor and fiance')

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Taste of London, Part Two

After a great night's rest we awakened to start our full day in London.  We noticed last evening a couple nice places near our hotel that open for breakfast.  

Caffe' Concerto makes a lovely omelette that gave us the energy to enjoy the morning activities.  Last evening we bought the tickets for the Hop On Hop Off Bus to take a tour around London.  This seemed like a great way to see more of the sights up close and personal.  This is a great way to stop when you want and get back on later if you have time.

There are flowers everywhere we walk in London.  I applaud this lovely city for adding so much more beauty to an already amazing place.  Let's get on the double decker bus.  Maybe we'll try the top level or maybe you want to sit downstairs where it's less breezy.

Right off the bat we pass by the Horse Guards Building with a mounted trooper of the Household Cavalry in full regalia.  How exciting!  There is an air of royalty in London.

We were thrilled to see the lovely architecture that surrounds the Houses of Parliament that borders the River Thames.  It's so fun to view these iconic spots in person. 

Traveling through the West End Theater district we notice the lovely flower boxes brimming with lovely color.  It would have been nice to have time to take in a show.

The lovely Sicilian Avenue shopping area looks so charming in Bloomsbury, London. 

The Royal Stock Exchange sits proudly among the skyscrapers of London.

Our bus took us back across the Thames on the London Bridge.  The Tower Bridge is in our view.

The Tower of London is officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London.   Not only is it a castle, but a fortress and an infamous prison. 

Riding along the streets of London we pass many iconic places.

The Marble Arch used to be in front of Buckingham Palace during Queen Victoria's reign until she had it moved.  The arch has been moved many times and now is in the Park Lane area.

As you can see Trafalgar Square is quite the gathering spot.  We continued on the bus tour.

We pass by the Monument to the Women of WWII.  The lettering on the monument is the same lettering used on ration books used during the war.  There are 17 different uniforms symbolizing the hundreds of jobs that women did during the war.

Down this block is Number 10 Downing Street, the headquarters of the Government of the United Kingdom and the home of the Prime Minister.

The beautiful towers of Westminster Abbey rise skyward.  This area was so congested with construction it appeared to be impossible to visit.

We decided with the time we had left we would visit St. Paul's Cathedral.  So we left the bus and walked up to the cathedral to buy our entrance tickets.

Queen Anne was the reigning monarch when the new St. Paul's Cathedral was completed in 1710.  Her statue stands in front as we enter.  St. Paul's Cathedral is an Anglican church and is the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London.  It is dedicated to the Apostle Paul.  The present church is at least the forth cathedral to stand on this site.  Its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London.  The present cathedral was designed by the great Sir Christopher Wren.  Including its dome it used to be the tallest building in London until 1967.  The dome stands at 365 feet tall.  

Stepping inside of St. Paul's I'm in awe of the quiet beauty and reverence of this very large building.  You may remember that St. Paul's was chosen for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

We really enjoyed the multimedia headphones that provided a wealth of information on the cathedral.  It was an especially nice way to enjoy the serenity of this special place and still stop and reflect when we wished.  The cruciform sculpture is one of two that commemorate the 100 year anniversary of World War I.  They each depict the war graves of Northern France.

The beautiful gilded ceilings caused us to have a seat and ponder the meaning of each one. 

The altar with the organ in the background.  

Even though we didn't hear the organ playing the media headphones gave us a small sampling of its beauty.  I must admit even hearing it through a headphone touched my soul.

The stone effigy of John Donne has its place in the cathedral.  Nicolas Stone designed the statue of Donne the preacher and poet and Dean of St. Paul's.  This piece survived the Great Fire of London of 1666 that destroyed the Norman cathedral of St. Paul. 

I'm so glad we were able to visit this beautiful house of worship in London.  Though our time was quite limited in this lovely city, we enjoyed it very much.  

We headed back to our hotel to pack our bags and get ready to leave and head back to Southampton in the morning to board the Queen Victoria.  We are so excited to be going to Norway!  Please join us as we travel the North Sea to a most beautiful kingdom.