Ever since I was a girl reading books like National Velvet, I wanted to visit England someday. Later on, when I started devouring historical novels set in England, Scotland and Ireland, that dream continued, though I never expected to see it come true. But it finally did!
We just returned from twenty-three days in Ireland and England a couple days ago…and already it seems like a dream. I imagine all of the other drivers in both countries are glad I’m off those roads, though I’m happy to say that we returned both rental cars in one piece and I didn’t hit a single sheep in Ireland. Who knew that one could find them running loose in the more rural areas, complacently napping at the edge of the asphalt, or having a friendly chat with each other in the middle of the road over the next hill?
The Dublin statue above is of Molly Malone, remembered in a song in which she sold “cockles and mussels, alive, alive-oh.”
I loved every minute. The gorgeous country. The tremendous sense of history. The friendly people and charming villages and incredible museums. The little surprises in the differences between our cultures and foods, like the Dublin McDonalds, with a coffee shop area complete with a lovely glass case filled with delectable pastries and desserts. Or….ahem…the “Black Pudding” served with every “full Irish Breakfast” which is nothing like any dessert you’ll ever see. Believe me. Do not imagine it with whipped cream on top. 🙂
My dh was so patient with me on this trip–as evidenced by the 4,664 digital photos I took as we drove around Ireland–Waterford, to Killarney, to Abbeyglen Castle in Clifden, to Donegal, Belfast, and back to Dublin. Then in England, we stayed in Oxford, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Bath, spent a day at Highclere Castle (of Downton Abbey fame) and wrapped up with four nights in London,. As much as I loved the scenery, I was also entranced by the signs we saw (as in: “Polite request, no parking please” or “We serve PROPER hamburgers”) and the statues everywhere. This statue in Dublin, with the dog and the angel, was one of four statues surrounding a monument, and we were told it was meant to depict faith and devotion.
And the whimsical horse head, apparently grazing forever in this park, really caught my eye. I wish I had space to share a few hundred photos here! I’ll be coming back to blog again in a week or so and will add more, but will also be posting a lot on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/roxanne.rustand over the next few days.
Besides the scenery and the wonderful old buildings, I loved the old, old churches, and the amazing art they held, both in stained glass and marble.
These were down in the crypts of Christ Church in Dublin…along with a handy little coffee shop if one needed a little pick-me-up. I was enthralled by these memorials:
And this one…so beautifully sculpted, showing such grief…over a handsome and remarkably buff sixty-year-old. Was Nathaniel this gorgeous at the end of his life…or as a young man? It was so interesting to study…and contemplate. Did the mourners commission these works solely as a personal tribute, or did they imagine that people would visit the crypts for generations to come, and that their loved ones would thus be remembered forever? Click on the photos and you can see them in a larger size.
We hit some writerly places..Dublin Writer’s Museum, Shakespeare’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s farm, Mary Alden’s farm, Jane Austen’s Bath, and Oxford University, where Alice in Wonderland was written, and where many of the sites mentioned in the book still exist…like the massive tree where she would sit, the garden gate in a stone wall where she peeped through a keyhole, and the tall andirons in the Great Hall, which were the inspiration for the scene where her neck grew longer and longer. JK Rowling visited the Great Hall of Christ Church, in fact, for inspiration for scenes in her Harry Potter series.
I wish I could go on forever here, but I will leave you with Shakespeare’s grave site, inside his church in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The rector there said that his grave marker holds one of the few curses that one will find on the many graves placed in English churches.
Shakespeare feared that his bones would be dug up and dumped in a boneyard in the years after his death, so he gave a lot of money to the church, and was buried in the floor of a church. He left a warning to anyone who disturbed them!
This was my dream trip. I would love to hear about the places you have always wanted to visit…or, about your experiences when you did!
All the best,