Monday, February 2, 2009

Our First Full Weekend in England

About the middle of last week Sharon and I decided to spend our first weekend on our own, touring in our favourite manner, by picking a direction, getting in a car and heading in a direction with sites and stops to be determined. For those of you who cannot stand the suspense or don't want to scroll down for the pictures, I'm pleased to tell you that it worked out well. I did not drive the Ford Fiesta into a hedge or into a lorry, I only slammed my right hand into the right hand door 14 times while attempting to change gears and for a good 95% of the time drove on the left hand side of the road which is the right thing to do. Confused?

Let's journey on. From here there is, in reality only one destination, at least half a dozen of us ended up, at various times in the town of Cheddar. The drive there, through the Cheddar gorge was grand.
We came away with a couple of kilos of the famous cheese, and the town was (forgive me) cheesy--think of Disneyland for rodents, or something. Lots of gingerbready shops and fake "natural history" museums. Sorry, but I forgot to photograph them.

Apart from the cheese, and despite a cheesy audiotour interpreting it, Gough's cave, discovered and explored by a late 19th century adventurer, Robert Gough, was pretty spectacular.
Here the entry One of the smaller stalactite/stalagmite caverns
The caves were a real challenge to photograph, and I might have done better had I used the camera's manual faculties more, but here are a couple of images. If anyone wants more, let me know.

From Cheddar we headed northeast to the coast, in this case the Bristol Channel. On the drive I fell prey to a number of ancient churches, this one in the town of Mark
by this time it was getting late, and the little town of Watchet came up before us. There we had a near miss, enquiring into the West Somerset Hotel. Locals called it a "near miss" Instead, we found The Greens, a bed and breakfast operated out of a mid-18th century cottage by Marion and John(?) Crocker. The Crockers not only loaned us Tiddles, one of their two elderly cats, shown here with Sharon
but directed us to the Fish Plate, operated by Geoffrey Beetlestone and his partner Carol Snowley, who was a most lovely and gracious host. We started with an appetiser of mussels, and I have to say that for those of us used to Pacific ocean mussels, these were a real eye opener. Wow1 Sharon's entree was the fish cakes, and I simply could not resist Bambi. Yes, I had venison. Venison is nororiously difficult to cook properly, but Geoffrey did so without even resorting to braising. This was roasted to a rare tenderness, not at all dry, and superbly sauced. Sharon's fish cakes were exquisite. We could not resist dessert, or at least I could not, OMG is chocolate to the extreme. The meal alone justified the trip. In fact, lodgings and dinner made for a magical evening.

The next morning, the Crockers pointed us toward what would be our main activity for the next day, Saturday, the castle and village of Dunster. You can learn more about Dunster castle, which antedates the Norman conquest, here http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-dunstercastle.htm. From the Saxon Aelfric, before 1066 to the Luttrells, who gave it to the people in 1976, the castle went through only three sets of hands. One disadvantage of touring when we are, is that sites such as Dunster castle, at least the interior, are still closed. We were a week too early, but the exteriors of this Jacobean castle remodeled into a Victorian country house were enough to occupy us for more than an hour as we crawled all over the place.

Welcome to my castle (in my dreams):
This the 13th century gateway.
Or maybe this is.

Without a guidebook we were clueless, but had fun.
I'm betting this is part of the 13th century castle.
A nice view through this ornamented medieval window
This, part of the village below as seen from the castle keep.


Above, another medieval bit.
The newly restored rooves of Dunster


From the castle, we drove down to the vilage and after lunch explored there. For some reason I did not photograph the front of the vilage church, but went nuts inside using both flash and available light at high speed. Initially I was shy about shooting inside churches, but the big ones, at least, encourage not just photography, but allow readily the use of flash.

I'm not sure I don't prefer the bottom image, using natural light
Behind the church was a priory and its dovecote
Another thatched house, by the end of the weekend we grew blase

And a view of the village, relatively unspoiled
This one's for Gilly

These lambs were happy to see us, their moms were not
Everpresent, Rosa assured the sheep that we were lambs

My name is Rick, and I am powerless over old English churchesPart of it was the clear blue sky, Sunday dawned clear. Then the temperatures sank
and today we got this, the view from our apartment
uhhhh, flat

Along with the snow, this lovely LeBoeuf 6 set arrived today, sadly without a sac, so I shall not be able to use it for a few weeks at the least, depending on who shows up at the Northern Show doing repairs.

Apologies for a looooong post. As we settle in, I expect that the posts will become fewer and shorter.

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