England 40 Years Ago — April 25, 1982

Salzburg was interesting for the girls because we tried to find the real scenes and the filmed scenes from The Sound of Music. $ loved the funicular ride up to the medieval fortress where we had excellent views of the city and the surrounding mountains.

Abbey where Maria lived (Sound of Music)
Cathedral from fortress

That evening we found a large Gosthaus outside Salzburg; as we looked out our windows, we saw many families leaving the church in large groups. After dinner we walked in that direction and found a most interesting churchyard. We wondered if the gathering had had anything to do with many candles burning on the graves. Some candle holders were portable, but others were built into the head stones. We found as we looked closer that most head stones had pictures of the deceased permanently bonded onto the marble.

In Vienna the girls stayed in Maria’s house, while John, $, and I went to a small neighborhood hotel. [Maria was an exchange student in college with us. We were visiting her, her husband Franz and three sons.] Their house is marvelously designed with a grate to help remove snow at the entrance, double-doored foyer, spiral marble steps to the bedrooms, fireplace to divide living room and sturdy, huge breakfast table, separate utility room, etc. I took no photos!!!

In Vienna we found the cathedral, the Plague Column, a house where Mozart lived, saw the most beautiful library in the world, visited the crypt where all the Kaisers are elaborately coffined, and saw the outside of the opera. The opera house was closed to tours because they were recording. Just across the street from the opera was the Sacher Hotel, famous for Sacher Torte. Not pictured below are the crypt and the Sacher Hotel.

The imperial state apartments were as lavish as any in France and England. I loved the stoves! At first I didn’t know what these elaborate white and gold porcelain-looking things were until we saw the smoke pipe on several. They were filled and tended from behind by the army of servants. That’s class!

We spent all one morning watching the training of the horses of the Spanish Riding School. What precision! The men worked these horses individually, making them skitter carefully sideways and do fancy steps.

We enjoyed the little quiet parks, archways, and large palaces scattered everywhere. One long building had a sign that it was where Beethoven died.

Several afternoons we had coffee and delicious pastries at cafes. We voted Vienna tops in the coffee world. Beans are usually ground seconds before they make the brew; it is strong, but not bitter like in England or overpowering as in Italy. Maria served us a farmer’s dinner of roast pork, ham, wieners, kraut and big dumplings she made while we watched.

We went to a restaurant for a Viennese meal, having the famous Wiener Schnitzel. Superb! That restaurant was on top of a tiny mountain – the tail end of the Alps – with the Danube and Vienna laid at its feet.

The Danube from the restaurant
John, Maria, and Franz
Our children in restaurant

We toured Shonnberg Palace, almost a rival for Versailles. I thought the original elaborate inlaid floors were superb, as well as much of the paneling, hand-painted wall paper, and art done by the royal families. We saw the room where Kruschev met Kennedy and the room where Mozart first performed for the Emperor when he was six years old.

Shonnberg Palace
Inside palace

Ceiling

Part of the grounds of this palace included the oldest zoo in Europe – a place adjacent to the palace where the royals had their private zoo – and a carriage museum that we all enjoyed.

Maria served us cold cuts for supper – some we’ve missed for two years and some we’ve never had before. One had cheese in it, another, mushrooms.

We spent all Sunday with Maria’s family traveling in two cars, swapping children at every stop. At Eisenstadt we went into the church that Haydn had worked in and were just in time for the service that included a mass by Haydn. He is buried in a side chapel. The organ is the very one played by Haydn, Schubert, and Beethoven. Marvelous!

Down the street was the palace of the Esterhazy family who had employed Haydn. The building is still owned by the family living in Switzerland, though the state administers the building.

Palace of Esterhazy family
Our two families

We ate near the quarry where they get stones for repairing the cathedral in Vienna. Since this was near the Hungarian border, we ate goulash soup and paprika-spicy sausages with white grape juice to drink. At the big craft store next door, Maria bought Lisa and Kate each a necklace of serpentine gem stone mined nearby; and we bought a pottery covered bowl made from local clay.

We continued on to one of the largest lakes in Europe that is also very shallow – not more than three to four feet deep. Rushes are the big harvest crop used in matting for plaster work. Rust, the nearby town, is noted for stork nests on rooftops; we saw numerous nests and storks on two of them.

lake near Rust
stork nests in Rust

Franz said Hungarians do escape over the lake, part of which is on the border. Since Hungary is fairly prosperous now, not many are coming over.

On Sundays, the news shops are closed, so newspapers are hung in plastic bags on sign posts and light poles. The bag and little money box are held in place with a metal band and small padlock. Not many papers fit in the bags, therefore, there are many bags, making papers more accessible on Sundays than weekdays.

We visited an old mountain castle which had never been sacked by the Turks, also still owned by the Esterhazy family. It was full of portraits, saddles, guns, sabers, spears, helmets, breastplates, a Turkish tent, flags, and books. It was really a contrast to the Rococo palaces we’d seen recently.

On the way back to Vienna, Franz had a word with several army guards and escorted us into the church of the military academy where he had gone to school and had stood guard duty himself. He explained that Emperor Maximillian I erected a super fancy tomb for himself in Innsbrook, so that most people think he is there. He isn’t. He is buried under the steps to the altar in this church, having expressed a wish to lie where a priest would stand over his heart when saying Mass.

We returned to Vienna, and Maria prepared soup with semolina dumplings, a platter of cold meats, and son Franz cooked crepes. Then they presented us with gifts – the necklaces for the girls, a record of Austrian music for John, a Viennese cookbook in English for me, a tin of chocolates for $, and from the boys one of their super trucks and a metal car from their own collection!

We stopped in Nuremberg just long enough to buy supplies for the LGB trains.

After a LONG drive to Calais and the dash home, we pulled in at 10 p.m. We had enough time to make a mess of the house by dumping laundry all over and to get it cleaned up by the time our New York pastor and his wife arrived 17 hours later. The nice thing about that timing is that we didn’t have any let-down as often happens when returning from a nice vacation.

Logan Stays the Night

Neighbors Shawn and Bob were given marvelous tickets to a sold-out concert, and we were the lucky ones who kept Logan (11). What a delight! We picked him up at the tennis court, arriving in time to watch him practice. On the way home, he talked about the coach who is also his teacher for most academic subjects. She is the kind who inspires students wherever she goes.

Logan in red shirt on left

I was impressed with Logan’s taking care of his two dogs. As soon as we got home, he let the dogs out, fed them exactly what they needed, and let them out again – all part of their routine. I glanced at the floors to make sure the dogs hadn’t pooped inside. Seeing a dark spot in the hall, I asked Logan to check it. My depth perception isn’t what it used to be. He knew it wasn’t three-dimensional and put his foot right on it. Whew! Logan tended the dogs again at night and in the morning

The short afternoon was gone far too quickly. John and I had found a toy airplane that we thought might be fun. I asked John if he wanted to go out with Logan, and Logan quickly said, “I can play by myself. I’m used to playing alone.”

He is always accommodating. I wanted a video of the action, so I was outside with him. The plane was a total dud, not having a single noteworthy flight, not a single one!! Oldsters tend to think things in the past were glorious, but we remember airplanes that glided through the air and gently landed in the grass.

An airplane that refused to fly

Logan plays Wordle now, and he knew where to find unlimited games on the computer. We worked two together. Having talked with friend Susan, I knew people often have a favorite word to start. You choose one with most-used consonants and vowels. Logan’s is adieu, and mine is ideal. What amused me was the difference in our strategy. His mind is very quick, so he guessed words using letters he knew were correct. I didn’t repeat those on the second line, choosing to try out a different array to find more letters in the word. As in the game of Set, we both get the right answer, only he does it ten times quicker than I can. I stand in awe of his brain.

There was no time for play in the morning. After breakfast, Logan took care of the dogs, and we drove to school. I knew everyone would want to see his face and had to make do with a photo inside the car.

Logan always puts on his seat belt without being reminded.

Logan’s manners are impeccable. He holds good conversations with everyone, knows proper table manners, helps clear the table, says thank you for everything done for him, and his sense of humor is delightful. If every neighborhood had a Logan, what a marvelous world this would be! [Kudos to Shawn and Bob, once again, parents of the year.]

England 40 Years Ago — April 18, 1982

I expected Venice to smell, but I didn’t think it would almost knock me over. The problem was this. We’d walked and walked on empty stomachs, and the tangy spiciness of pizza and the aroma of freshly ground coffee was terribly tantalizing. Venice smelled heavenly!!

$ wanted to run, so John ran with him through the crowded streets. $ stopped to get his breath, put up his arms to be picked up, nestled into his dad’s arms and said, “Run!!”

Venice has a perpetual carnival atmosphere, because everyone walks (no cars allowed), stalls and shops glitter with cheap glass souvenirs, tourists in high spirits surge through narrow passages, and restaurants lure people in for gastronomic treats.

We liked the large trolleys that porters use. Large wheels are toward the middle and small ones on the end so they can be levered and rolled over the steps spanning the canals.

We saw a demonstration of glass blowing on the island of Murano. At first the glass was a red-hot blob, then vase-shaped, reheated and put in a mold, blown again, heated, shaped, then flattened into a plate! The children loved taking the water taxi there.

Kate looked back

Tourists were so thick once in San Marco plaza that we could hardly move. St. Mark’s was also thronged with tourists. The mosaic floors were so uneven that we thought we’d get sea sick if we walked on them long enough. The marble pillars, balustrades, and mosaics were second only to the gold mosaics in all the domes. Still, the basilica has an intimate style, and you could see how the antiphonal choirs used by Monteverdi would be purely delightful.

Though we’d not drunk any water in Italy, $ got diarrhea in San Marco. I had supplies with me, John found a secluded alley, and we changed the mess on someone’s doorstep, carefully removing our debris afterwards. Lisa spotted a sign that said, “Do not abandon any litter.” We didn’t.

The Ducal Palace beside St. Mark’s was full of precious paintings and Baroque golden ceilings. Those rooms were as sumptuous as any at Windsor Castle or Hampton Court. The tour ended with a long walk doubling back on itself through seemingly endless dungeons.

Bus service is by big boat, either regular or express. John grasped the idea of the system and could get us from one place to another easily.

Rialto Bridge with bus going under it

I liked the road signs in Venice – international symbols posted for boats on the canals. It was odd to see “no entrance” signs on bridges, “no turn” signs at corners, and traffic lights over the water at blind junctions! I had wondered why motorboats sometimes passed on the left and other times on the right. It’s because gondolas are paddled on only one side and must be given room to maneuver. Two powered boats pass port to port; a gondola passes a motorboat starboard to starboard.

Easter Sunday at St. Mark’s in Venice!! John agreed with my statement that for him it was a pilgrimage. We saw the bishop in his golden finery, pointy hat, and huge gold shepherd’s crook. To hear Monteverdi’s music in his home church was an uplifting experience. We laughed that John took $ duty for the service, and people insisted he have a seat with the toddler. In another part of the church, the girls and I had to stand up for the entire service, and men pinched Lise’s bottom! The hotel had also spruced up its restaurant for Easter with a huge decorated egg and lots of real ones. They were featuring lamb and fish. The children were given pieces of chocolate to eat and an egg with a face, hat and stand to take away.

We spent a long time in the railroad station satisfying certain menfolk. Lisa and I sat watching people stream by and discovered a man with a neat way of supplying the loos. He was cleaning cars and carrying a broom with toilet paper rolls stacked on the handle.

Almost as soon as we left Venice, we were in mountains. We’ve seen beautiful scenery in every country, but this was something else again. At every bend there was a new vista that you’d like to photograph and hang on the wall.

$ loved our special train ride. Because of the heights, the road ends at one town where we drove on a train of flat cars covered with wire cage-like things to travel ten minutes in a tunnel under the mountain. We drove off at the other end. It was in total darkness, darkness you could almost feel as in one of the plagues of Egypt!

On the other side of the mountains we saw a ski lift carrying people higher than we could see and many people clonking around in ski boots toting skis. Then we noticed fresh snow on the evergreen trees further up.

The Italian mountains were dry; as soon as we hit Austria, clear mountain streams were gushing down.

What contrasts in weather we had! We slept with open windows in Venice and drove through snow storms in the Alps.

England 40 Years Ago — April 12, 1982

From a high highway we saw Monte Carlo and Monaco lapped by the blue-green Mediterranean Sea. The mountains were much steeper than I would have thought. As we passed from France to Italy in a tunnel, Kate took a look on the other side and said, “Italy isn’t all flat!!” Indeed it wasn’t! Before we’d traveled very far, we saw that the people seemed to be much poorer. Buildings were shabby and garbage strewn around. Genoa was just plain dirty.

John says there is just no excuse for waxed paper instead of toilet paper. Even the Romans used soft sponges. They’ve been going downhill ever since.

One thing we did admire about Italy – the roads. In the mountains, we were in and out of tunnels and straight onto great bridges spanning the valleys. We shudder to think how long it would have taken to travel on local roads.

Italy is short of many things – coins (you have to buy discs to activate a Coke machine), electricity (power is off several hours twice a week); we conclude they are also short on good government. Things are so backward they can’t get the color of their oranges right! We ordered orange juice, and the waiter brought red juice, insisting it was orange juice. It was! Delicious, too! They were so amused at our ignorance of blood oranges that they brought us an orange cut in half. It was orange outside and bloody looking inside.

We rode a funicular railway up a mountain to see Genoa and the harbor laid at our feet. We also walked to old city gates and the areas where Christopher Columbus lived. [I didn’t find any photos taken in Genoa.]

Most post cards don’t really show the leaning tower of Pisa as dramatically as it appears in person – you need to see the upright buildings around it to make the contrast.

We went to Rome and saw the Pope – almost as easy as that! As we walked into St. Peter’s square, we noticed many people sitting in chairs before a grey draped stage. Soon there was a white robed figure clearly visible, blessing the crowds. We were allowed to walk much closer than many people sitting down. The pope sat to read a long address in Italian, and after we left, he spoke in several different languages.

We saw the Borgia apartments, many works by Raphael, and the Sistine Chapel. The chapel was bigger and the ceiling higher than we’d imagined. At first the Basilica didn’t seem as large as some English churches until we’d wandered a bit. The enormous barrel vaulted ceilings were gorgeous and all the domes of the side chapels higher than many churches have. We sat down to look at the big dome – Michelangelo’s – and at the altar by Bernini. The walls and floors were covered in many colours and patterns of marble. The Pieta appeared bigger and much more impressive than when we saw it at the World’s Fair 18 years ago. When we came out to head back to the hotel, visitors were being turned away. What excellent timing we had all day, thanks to John!

Italy was certainly THE place to take a little blond fellow. People smiled at him, waved, stroked him, pretended to poke him with rolled up posters, talked to him and about him, and a guard offered to swap him for his 21-year-old son! They looked at us as if we were the luckiest people alive to have him. Wow! How different from England!

We poked around the Roman Forum, identifying various public buildings, the temple and home of the Vestal Virgins, and other temples. In England I was impressed by mosaics laid during the life-time of St. Paul. In Rome I saw columns and arches he must have laid his eyes on! Wow! There is still excavation going on.

We have several photos taken in the Forum, but this was the only one with our family tucked in like an afterthought. How magnificent it must have been when it was new!

Just a stone’s throw away was the magnificent Colosseum. The size of it was mind-boggling. We climbed up as high as we were allowed and down to the floor of the arena, imagining lions chasing Christians. Can you believe they had awnings to go over the spectators? The stones that held posts supporting the shades are still there.

As high as we could go
The floor supports

This is the most unusual photo we took inside the Colosseum. They were filming an ad while tourists were wandering about.

Quite a distance outside Rome was Hadrian’s villa – town is more like it! There were 2,000 servants and a thousand other residents living there all the time. The area covered over four square miles including one private bath, two public ones, one Greek theater, one Roman theater, and miles of underground passages for the servants who were not seen mingling with the guests and residents.

After searching for tiny signs in the fading light, we found the Appian Way and drove on it. The girls hopped out of the car once just to be able to say they’d walked on the Queen of Roads – pride of Rome.

Italian drivers are something else again. In rush hour on a ring road we heard of a head-on collision, went the other way and saw a five-car pile-up, a two-car fender-bender, and a serious crash where a tiny car had tackled a van from the rear. John wondered if there was any driver near Rome who has never been involved in an accident in some way.

Letter in an old File

Cleaning out old computer files seemed like a good idea to do while John and grandson David were away for three days. I had erased old lists, plans, and notes to people who are now dead. I hadn’t planned on giggling.

I wrote that I heard Lise laughing in her room and asked what was so funny. She replied, “I’m reading your family letters that I got in college before scanning them. Look at this one.”

I shouldn’t have laughed, but I couldn’t help it. A child told me a nightmare he’d had. Of course, one can’t share the horror of a dream in broad daylight. I could understand he’d waked with heart pounding and sweat pouring off him, but there was nothing in the telling that could make me quake. The punch line was so exquisite that I can’t resist writing it. You won’t let him know, will you? I wouldn’t want his feelings hurt, and he won’t be ready to hear this one on himself until he’s 25 years old.

In a confidential monotone voice he said, “I had a bad nightmare. A buffalo came at me and then elephants. This was in the mountains, and an elephant picked me up and carried me off up the mountain. It was awful. I was hunting for the abba, — the abda, — the ABDOMINAL snowman when I got picked up.”

That kinda hits you in the stomach, doesn’t it?.

England 40 Years Ago — April 4, 1982

[The date is approximate. I evidently wrote a whole month at once from travel notes. Google told me the date for Easter in 1982.]

Riems Cathedral

Riems or Rhiems is pronounced something like “Reh”. It boasts the cathedral where Joan of Arc stood beside the King at his coronation. Her statue and a ratty old banner are near the altars. Another Marc Chagal window is in the East widow, visible from the rear over the altar. (The last window we saw of his was in Chichester Cathedral.)

Inside Riems Cathedral

We had been driving on fairly flat land when suddenly the road turned to limp spaghetti, and we were twisting and turning through the Alps. What gorgeous views! It was still winter up that high, with snow everywhere. $ was extremely tired and began to cry, because no train appeared on the narrow gauge tracks running beside the road. He had a keen disappointment.

We stayed overnight in Nyon, Switzerland, over-looking the lake. After the children were bedded down, we walked up the steep footpath toward the town. Beside the twisting steps were several springs delighting our ears, pouring water into troughs, basins, and pools. Looking up, we could see a castle-type building lit up against the dark sky. We certainly knew we were in Europe.

In the middle of a very long day in the car, $ began to cry when it was time to get in the car again. By the time we got to Sylvie’s house, he was full of energy and mischief. He adored that house where doors were always open to the warm spring breezes. Sylvie was the French exchange student one year while we were in college, and John had kept in contact with her.

The architecture was so different from northern France. In the north, roofs are dark, long slim windows “French windows” have dark shutters, and the houses have a clean, square appearance. In the south, things are more rounded – patios, walls, doorways, and porches.

In particular we loved Sylvie’s and Freddy’s home. They designed it themselves to suit the mountainous area. Three doors that wouldn’t look mean on a carriage house, had large expanses of glass and shutters opening onto the patio from the living-dining room. The guest room had a window and shutters on the second floor over the living room and a private bath. Lise and Kate had one of the boy’s rooms in the attic, complete with three beds and an alcove with sink and the most unusual bath we’ve ever seen. It was about half the normal length, three feet deep under the taps and a seat molded in the other end.

We noticed many open round reservoirs of concrete, shaped like above-ground swimming pools. Freddy explained it was for watering the grounds; most are at the top of the property so that you can water by gravity. Water from the mountains is plentiful.

Sylvie took us on walking tours of an old French town, the town she lives near, and Nice. Cars were forbidden in many places, and the streets were tiny. We each touched the water so that we could say we’d been to the Mediterranean Sea.

I liked the public fountains in all the little towns – water continually pouring out of one to four spouts and two rods under each spout for resting a container while filling it.

All you’ve heard about French cooking is true. Sylvie fed us course after course of superb dishes beautifully prepared and presented. Breakfast was the simplest meal – toast with coffee drunk from a cereal bowl. Lunches and dinners were hot meals! Sylvie said NO French woman would serve her family sandwiches for a meal. She served drinks before we sat down, sppetizer, meat, followed by vegetables separately, then cheeses, bakery cakes, and after clearing the table, coffee. Lots of fresh, crisp French bread was passed with every course, particularly the appetizers and cheeses. Sylvie served most of the things herself rather than passing the dishes. $ ate and ate!

I’m going to list the foods so that I don’t forget them.

  1. Radishes, chicken and mushrooms, boiled potatoes, strawberry flan.
  2. Boiled egg with mayonnaise and tuna, lettuce, tomato, ripe olives, roast beef, scalloped potatoes, ice cream
  3. Chicken in patty shells, green beans, cake
  4. Radishes and a different kind of celery cut like shoestring potatoes with mayonnaise, chicken in cream, potatoes and beans mixed, tart St. Tropez.
Sylvie and Kate

Kate showed lots of improvement in the dog department. She shrieked the first day, but by the time we left, she just stood stock still whenever the dog walked by.

Spring Ice

Before going out to walk, I looked at two thermometers. The one on the deck showed it was just above freezing, while the one on the back porch proclaimed it was just below freezing. Maybe I should check what the birds were dealing with. From the top, the birdbath didn’t look bad.

Here is a selfie of the ice and my hand.

Taking the ice out of its mold, I set it on the railing. Can you see the round hole in the top where I poured in very hot tap water?

On a hunch that the underside would be interesting, I turned the mold over. There seem to be strands of ice from the rocks to the surface, working to tie them in firmly. When I showed grandson David the photos, it occurred to me that the rocks were poking above the water. I have little scientific knowledge, but I wonder if the rocks were colder than the water. That could explain why there was extra ice attached to them.

Ice couldn’t argue with Spring sunshine. When I thought to check on the rocks three hours later, they were dry, though sitting on damp wood.

Changeable Weather

I know it’s Spring when I look at the thermometer, throw on appropriate layers, walk outside for a while, and shed clothing as needed. That’s why I had a long-standing agreement with Connie and Marla for hanging a jacket on their mailbox near the stop sign. After they moved, I asked for the same permissions from Harmony and Lise across the street. This week I pulled off the hat and jacket before reaching the end of our driveway. No special permission needed!

Later that day, Connie came for our every-other-month lunch. While Albert is being groomed, she spends the time with us. I love this schedule that insures we keep in touch. We had hoped Shawn could join us, but communications were awry. John took a photo of us. After it was too late, I realized the lovely decoration on Connie’s sleeve did not show to advantage. I am wearing one of the new tops the neighbors picked out for me from the thrift shop. “They” say the best thing to wear is a smile, and we both kept those on.

England 40 Years Ago — March 28, 1982

I love Kate’s phrases. As John was teasing her, she said, “Mommy! Can you behave him?”

It just doesn’t DO for me to stay up too late! We had a marvelous time at the home group, but got home at midnight. The following day, dinner was a disaster. The pastry slid willy-nilly off the meat, jello unmolded from the new bunny mold into a wiggly heap, and $ poured a pint (that’s 20 ounces here!) of milk onto the floor. It was almost enough to make one swear off church meetings! Thank heavens we didn’t have guests for that meal!

Canterbury, on a lovely warm spring day, has a magical busy-ness. I got the feeling of pilgrims bustling about, even though St. Thomas a Becket’s shrine was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1538. At right is an entrance to the cathedral area through the archway on the right.

We saw the place where the tomb had been and the deeply worn stone steps leading there. The Black Prince is buried there, as well as Henry IV, the only king interred in Canterbury.

John had as much trouble as I did finding a place to park in Brighton, with one difference – he found one! I finally got to see the elaborate inside of that exotic Indian/Oriental fantasy, the Royal Pavilion, built by the Prince Regent (later George IV). We even had a delicious lunch in one of the upstairs rooms. Most of the furniture was designed specifically for each room, so they matched in style and upholstery. The columns, wall decorations and gigantic chandeliers, called gasoliers by a guide, were fantastic. I was fascinated with letters on display of the Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert, the widow he secretly married.

Brighton Pavilion
Pavilion from another angle

The Bible is right again – the more you ask for, the more you get. We were in the middle of an argument with a child when I sent a quick one up: “Lord, please solve this one and the ones to come when John won’t be here.” Immediately, with split-second timing, the phone rang! My brother Bob was on the other end saying he and his girls are coming to visit in June. That solved June for me, and when I turned around, the present problem flitted out the window in the excitement.

We had a gorgeous early summer day to drive near Bath to Longleat – the stately home of the Marquis of Bath. The house is 400 years old, a huge place, but the sizes of the rooms were livable. Even years ago people wanted souvenirs to take home, and the Thynnes were no exception. Displayed in the house was the shirt, complete with blood stains, that Charles I wore for his execution. I was very surprised when the guide pointed to two door facings from the Taj Mahal.

Longleat from our car

There were three dining rooms – one last used in 1923 where we saw the silver wired to alarms, another where the guide showed a dining room that the family uses when there are no guests. The present Marquis has celebrated two silver wedding anniversaries – 25 years with each of two wives. He still lives in the house, as do two sons and their families.

Longleat dome
Drawing room
Drawing room

The grounds were beautiful, originally landscaped by Capability Brown. We were fascinated by one large old tree with a plaque saying it was planted by George III when he came for a visit!

So many ancestral homes are in jeopardy because of the steep inheritance taxes, and Longleat is no exception. Behind the house is an amusement park with a railroad we had to ride, a garden center, maze, and shops. Across the valley is the safari park, Europe’s first. We were amused at the cartoons displayed in the great hall, all poking fun at a peer of the realm keeping animals.

$ was impressed with the giraffes, whose knobby knees we looked up at from our car. He’s still imitating the monkey that sat on our car. Just at feeding time we saw the lions, tigers, and wolves pounce on their pieces of meat.

Before going into Salisbury, we saw Old Sarum. It had the deepest moat we’ve ever seen, 11th century ruins of a cathedral, and a fort.

Old Sarum moat
Ruins of the cathedral
Old well at Sarum

We didn’t find out the extent of damage to the cathedral of Salisbury until after the evensong service. At 2 a.m. vandals had entered through a small window and set fire to the altar and a side chapel, though all we saw at first was the charred altar. In an effort to clear the vestiges of smoke, the huge doors were thrown wide open. The church had been closed all day and was reopened just before the service.

The church is renowned for three things – the tallest spire in Europe (404 ft.), one of the oldest clocks of its kind in England, and in the library one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta. We liked its setting in wide green lawns. Some cathedrals have other buildings so close that it’s hard to see the church, but not this one.

Salisbury close

[Forty years after we were at Salisbury, I have one other note to add for those of you who have sent or received on-line cards by Jacquie Lawson. She uses the singers from the choir of this cathedral on the sound tracks, and most big church drawings are based on the cathedral.]

We spent the night at the Red Lion Hotel – a medieval coaching inn with tiny passages that turn sharp corners and go up and down many levels. The rooms were cozy with many lovely touches. Sewing kits were little stuffed pillows fixed to the vanity, holding needles, thread, pins and safety pins. Attached to the walls were built-in electric kettles with a cabinet holding cups and the makings of tea and coffee.

Unfortunately, John became ill just before dinner and chose to go to bed rather than eat. The girls and I were leery of coping with $, but everything went smoothly in the hotel restaurant. Lisa took him to her room while Kate and I finished eating; the entertainment was brushing his teeth with Lisa’s toothbrush!

Sunday morning John’s innards felt better, but I can’t answer for the way he faced the world. I’ll leave it to your conjecture as to what happened to his razor blade.

Wells is a small jewel of a town with spring water gushing out of a fountain just outside the walls of the cathedral. We read that there are seven wells, though only this one is prominent.

Wells spring

The west entrance of the church can’t be seen because of scaffolding for restoration work, but the inside is exquisite. An unusual feature is the inverted arch work which holds up the central tower. We sat in the front row of the quire next to the boys – 18 of them and only one wearing glasses.

Vicar’s Close

Beside the church is the oldest complete street in Europe – Vicar’s Close – where all the houses were built in the 14th century. On the other side of the church was a moated enclosure for the bishop’s palace, still in use as a residence.

Bishop’s palace

We feasted on a traditional Sunday lunch of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at the Swan Hotel nearby. Then we drove to Glastonbury to see the ruins of the Abbey where King Arthur is supposed to be buried.

Glastonbury Abbey
Another view of Glastonbury Abbey
Supposed site of King Arthur’s tomb

Legend has it that the Holy Grail is also there, brought by Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph had leaned on his staff, the staff sprouted into a thorn bush, and he knew he had to establish a church there. During the Civil War (England’s, not ours) the tree was cut down, but a new one was started from a cutting.

Family with new thorn bush

On the way home we drove through Cheddar, now as famous for a commercialized natural wonder (a gorge) as for cheese. With a speed limit of 70 miles per hour on motorways, we scooted home in three hours.

We’re leaving on our last continental holiday April 1 and won’t return until the 20th. Then we’re having guests almost till the date John is to return to New York to start work.

Superlative Podcasts

I lost contact with Nick when he switched from blogging to pod-casting. I’m thrilled that he contacted me, and I am now back in the loop. If you have ANY interest at all in classical music, please listen to one. Nick talks briefly about a selection and plays it. Instant pleasure! There are usually several in each podcast. There are now almost 40 to choose from, with a new one every week. I love the title, Perfect Pitch.

This is the blurb that appears on the web site: “Perfect Pitch brings you a whole new approach to classical music. For experts and beginners alike, Perfect Pitch is an accessible, relaxed, and informative dive into the best classical works over the centuries and some of the fascinating stories behind the music and their composers.”

It is very easy to access with the link here. Listen with your computer, tablet, or cell phone. If you like what you hear, please share with your relatives and friends. Nick loves to share his passion for music with everyone. He told me this is a mission, not a commercial enterprise. I’d say, “Mission accomplished!”