Monday, September 17, 2007

Trip to England

There is so much history. Thousands of years of history. Gee whillakers! Do you have any idea how many millions, billions, of tons of stone the Brits crated up and carted home from all over the empire? It's mind boggling.

The Egyptian wing of the British Museum in London.

We started in Bath, toured through the countryside of the Cotswolds, visited Blenheim Palace where Churchill was born, went to Stratford-upon-Avon where Shapespeare was born, wandered through Oxford, and spent two jam-packed days in London.

Arlyngton Row. I haven't figured out how they're related to Arlington Cemetery yet, but apparently this row of houses, or the owner, are another connection to our history books.

St. Paul's Cathedral is absolutely stunning. It was one of my favorite memories. I nearly missed Holman Hunt's painting "The Light of the World." The painting has been a key image in my own journey into knowing God I would have been devastated to have discovered later that I missed it. Standing in front of it was incredible. No reproduction even comes close to the original.

I nearly missed it because my husband called me across the room to see a memorial to some ship captain who fought bravely in some battle until he was "shot through the heart." End of memorial.

My other most amazing moment was in the Bodelian Library in Oxford. It's a bit like the Library of Congress here, has copies of all the books printed in the UK. Tunnels full of books underneath the streets. There was an exhibit of Italian writers. First edition, hand lettered and illustrated, copies of Dantes’ Divine Comedy, Plutarch’s Lives, and Boccaccio’s Decameron. It's odd the things that move the emotions sometimes. I was standing in front of a 1400s copy of the Decameron and tears came to my eyes. I've never even read the Decameron and I'm standing in front of it crying. I knew what it was and that he was Dante's teacher. Such emotion rose up in me. It was something to see for sure.

There was flooding in the countryside for weeks before we arrived. One little village we stayed in had many businesses closed because of so much damage. A school at the end of the street also had lots of damage. The dumpster on the curb was full of waterlogged debris. On top of the pile were a bunch of books. It was near dusk, so Cliff and I lifted the lid and plundered through the school books. I came home with an 1896 copy of Twelfth Night that I pulled out of the rubbish bin. In good shape.

My American friend who lives in London laughed and said, "You know they say 100 miles is a long way in England and 100 years is a long time in the States." I guess she's right, but it's still pretty amazing to me.

I've wanted to go to England since I missed out on the college choir tour back in the 70s. It was worth the wait.