Wednesday, July 30, 2008


We leave tomorrow and we will not be back until August 19. I shall not be online while we are away.

During our absence, one of our dearest friends will depart on his own glorious vacation.

J.R. Donasco, one of God’s kindliest and most precious creatures, will be traveling in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina in the latter half of August, visiting Mexico City, Rio De Janeiro, Sao Paolo and Buenos Aires.

J.R. writes about art, literature, music, drama, opera, poetry, ballet, European football, Marcel Proust and the world of high fashion in what is indisputably the classiest site on the worldwide web. I fear that the world may come to a standstill—if not an outright collapse—while he is away, unable to sustain and refresh itself with a daily dose of high culture, beauty and inspiration.

All I can say, J.R., is that I am relieved that your vacation will overlap, at least in part, with our own! Hurry back! You will be missed greatly.

We wish you the happiest and most splendid of journeys!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Two Causes For Celebration: A Birthday, And A Guest

Yesterday was a beautiful day. It was my father’s birthday.

Truly, I believe that my father would rather have celebrated his birthday weekend up at the lake rather than in town. However, Joshua and I had a party to attend on Saturday night, a farewell gathering in our honor organized by our friends, and we would not have been able to join my parents at the lake. My brother, too, was invited to Saturday night’s party, which meant that my parents would have had to go to the lake by themselves on my father’s birthday weekend. This they did not want to do. They wanted to celebrate my father’s birthday with my brother, Josh and me, so they stayed in town.

On Sunday morning, I made my father Eggs Benedict and apple pancakes and apple sausage for his birthday breakfast, and my mother made for him her special zucchini bread, which is to die for. My father likes Eggs Benedict, and he likes to eat apple pancakes and apple sausage for breakfast on special occasions (and so does everyone else, including the dog), and he likes to eat my mother’s zucchini bread at any time. Everyone enjoyed the treat.

Sunday Morning Service was sad, in many ways, because it was the final Sunday in Minneapolis for Josh and me, and we had to offer farewells—not permanent ones, happily—to everyone at church.

We spent the afternoon and evening at home. We had planned to take my father downtown to attend the Sunday matinee performance of Agatha Christie’s “A Murder Is Announced” at Theater In The Round, but the weather was so beautiful that my father said he preferred to spend the day at home.

None of us minded. We were all entirely happy to skip “A Murder Is Announced” because all of us had already seen two different television adaptations of the Christie material and we all knew precisely how the mystery developed and resolved.

I made my father a seafood soufflé for Sunday lunch. It is the single dish I can prepare as well as my mother, and for some reason it always turns out. I wish I knew the reason for this mystery. My mother says it is because I beat the mixture so vigorously that the soufflé ingredients are afraid NOT to rise as expected!

We spent Sunday afternoon playing with the dog, indoors and out, and joking around, and helping my mother prepare my father’s special birthday dinner.

She prepared a very special pork roast cooked in an apricot compote, accompanied by a special potato dish made with onions and three different cheeses. She also served fresh parsnips, fresh green beans, a tomato-cucumber salad and a special raspberry-nut salad. My brother and Josh and I provided assistance, on and off, all afternoon.

We also pitted cherries for my mother, because my mother made my father a cherry cake for his birthday, one of her finest cakes. It has a subtlety and piquancy of flavoring that has to be experienced to be believed, in large part because the cherry taste is highlighted by ground walnuts inserted into the batter, ground almonds inserted into the frosting, and minute amounts of fragmented orange and lemon rind inserted into both the batter and the frosting. It is a divine creation, capturing a trace of citrus that blends well with the primary cherry flavor, supplemented by the two different types of nut.

After dinner but before the cake-cutting, my father talked on the telephone to my brother and his family in New York so that they could offer him their birthday greetings. After we cut the cake, we presented my father with his birthday gifts.

Because the last year has not been a particularly distinguished year for book publishing or music publishing in the U.S. or in Britain, it was especially hard for me to locate books and compact discs for birthday gifts for my father this year. For the last month, I had searched and searched and searched, online and in shops, for interesting books and discs to supplement his collections. I could locate nothing inspiring.

A week ago, in panic, I had telephoned my brother and my sister-in-law in New York and had alerted them that my gift search had come up empty (I am keeper of my father’s book and music libraries, and I know what he has and what he does not have, and I generally make recommendations to my brother and sister-in-law so that they may order gifts online and have them shipped directly to Minneapolis).

My sister-in-law told me not to worry, and that she would come up with something.

And she did.

An hour after she and I had talked, she called me at my office and—without so much as a brief hello—very simply, very quietly but very decisively uttered two words: “Inigo Jones”.

Hers was a brilliant suggestion. My father has no books about the great Palladian architect and his work, and it had never occurred to me to search for books about Inigo Jones, a most suitable subject because Jones was the architect of Banqueting House, Queen’s House, The Queen’s Chapel and Saint Paul’s Church, all of which we had visited last September or will visit next month.

Within another hour, between the two of us, we had located three books about Inigo Jones that would serve as perfect birthday gifts from my brother and his family, and my sister-in-law ordered them online and had them shipped to Minneapolis.

My middle brother was the lifesaver when it came to the other gifts for my father. Since he has enjoyed lots of free time the last two weeks, he has been scouting out antique shops and visiting private antique dealers, looking for something intriguing. On a couple of these trips, my mother has gone with him, and on one of their excursions they found exactly what they were looking for.

First was an antique mechanical bank, in perfect working order, which my brother picked up as a joint gift to my father from him, Josh and me. The bank was cast in 1876. It is a commemorative bank, produced in conjunction with our nation’s Centennial. My father has always liked antique mechanical banks.

Second was a Three Weight Vienna Regulator Clock, also in perfect working order, made in Austria in 1885. This was my mother’s gift to my father. It is a wall-mounted clock, very beautiful and very distinctive and very elegant, of the very finest craftsmanship. My parents have yet to decide where to mount it, but I suspect that they will determine that it is ideal for the landing on the stairwell in the foyer.

My father was very pleased with his gifts. It was a wonderful birthday celebration for him—and for everyone else, too.

My father had to go to the office for a few hours today, and he must go to the office for a few hours tomorrow, too, but he has more or less already moved into full vacation mode. He is happy, mellow and content, greatly looking forward to eighteen days of relaxing but stimulating travel with his family.

My parents’ birthdays are six days apart. My mother’s birthday will be on Saturday, when we will be in London. She will have a wonderful birthday in London—a visit to The British Museum in the morning, a performance at The National Theatre in the afternoon, dinner in the Covent Garden area in the evening, a performance at Donmar Warehouse at night—and we shall all make a great fuss over her, but we will not officially celebrate her birthday until two days after we return to Minneapolis. Her special birthday dinner will be on Thursday evening, August 21, when we will give my mother her gifts. That will be the night before Josh and I leave for Boston.

We shall all have our eyes open wide for birthday gifts for my mother during our trip!

Early this afternoon, Josh and I picked up Josh’s sister at MSP and brought her home. Home for all of us, between now and Thursday night, will be my parents’ house.

Josh’s sister has visited Minneapolis once before. Last summer, Josh’s family had undertaken a two-week “baseball road trip” which involved a swing through Kansas City, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago and Saint Louis, all for the purpose of visiting baseball stadiums and attending baseball games. Last year’s trip brought Josh’s family to Minneapolis for four days. Josh’s sister had been an involuntary participant in that trip—it was not her idea of a perfect summer vacation, I believe—but at least she DID get an overview of the Twin Cities last year.

Josh and I plan to keep her entertained as much as possible between now and Thursday night, but we do not intend to run her ragged. We will save that for Britain.

Tonight Josh and I and my brother took her to a Twins game. None of us is much of a baseball fan, if truth be told, but my brother very much wanted to attend at least one Twins game this summer, and he very much wanted Josh and me to accompany him. Given everyone’s calendar, tonight was one of the final opportunities for the three of us to catch a game together. We took Josh’s sister with us because we thought it would make a nice evening out for all of us on her first night in Minneapolis. We arrived at the game early, we left the game early, and we arrived home early. Baseball may be America’s pastime, but it’s not ours. It was a nice night out, but it more than satisfied our appetite for baseball for the year.

Tomorrow Josh and I will take Josh’s sister to the Weisman Art Museum in the morning and to the Walker Art Center in the afternoon. Last summer, Josh and I took his family to see the key paintings and key antiquities at the Minneapolis Institute Of Arts, but we had visited no other art museums. We will make amends tomorrow, visiting two of the finest museums for modern art in America. We do not know whether my mother or my brother will choose to join us for our jaunt tomorrow to the Weisman and the Walker.

On Wednesday, all six of us will go downtown to attend the matinee performance of Nikolai Gogol’s “The Government Inspector” at The Guthrie Theater. Josh’s sister has never visited The Guthrie Theater, and she very much wants to attend a performance at the famed venue during her stay with us.

Other than these plans, between now and Thursday night, we will not do much other than prepare our traveling clothes for the trip, attempt to get as much rest as we can, and give the dog as much attention and affection as possible.

He will miss us during our absence, and we will certainly miss him, but the kindly friend of my mother who always keeps the dog when my parents are out of town will lavish attention upon him and treat him like a king—plus her neighbor’s boys will take the dog to the park twice a day and romp with him. He will be in the best of care (and probably be fed as lavishly as my mother feeds him).

For the first time since we planned this trip, I am starting to get excited. I have always looked forward to this trip, but I had not previously reached the excitement stage. The excitement phase has finally kicked in over the last couple of days. I believe that the pressure of completing my assignments at work may have prevented me from getting excited about the trip until now.

Josh’s sister IS in the excitement phase, and very much so. This will be her first trip out of the country, and she is completely thrilled about our impending journey.

Because of her excitement, we have decided not to spoil her great anticipation.

Consequently, we will wait until we land at Heathrow before we break the news to her that the British eat nothing but lamb’s liver every night at dinner.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

English Music

For the last two weeks or so, Joshua and I have been listening to four discs of English music whenever we have had the chance, a preparation of sorts for our upcoming trip.

English string music by Bridge, Butterworth and Parry, performed by the English String Orchestra under William Boughton, on the Nimbus label

Elgar’s Violin Concerto, performed by Pinchas Zukerman and the Saint Louis Symphony under Leonard Slatkin, on the RCA label

British band music by Holst and Vaughan Williams, performed by the Eastman Wind Ensemble under Frederick Fennell, on the Mercury Living Presence label

Anglican Church Music by Herbert Howells, performed by The Choir Of King’s College, Cambridge, under Stephen Cleobury, on the Argo label

The Nimbus disc consists of Frank Bridge’s Suite For String Orchestra, three compositions by George Butterworth—The Banks Of Green Willow, Two English Idylls and A Shropshire Lad—and Hubert Parry’s Lady Radnor’s Suite.

The disc is a disappointment. None of the compositions is strong, and only a master musician can bring these wilted pieces to life. William Boughton is not such a musician.

Boughton was the virtual house conductor for the Nimbus label during its short-lived existence. Boughton recorded for Nimbus a wide array of English music with Birmingham-based pickup ensembles before the label halted its recording activity and Boughton sank into oblivion. I have several of Boughton’s Nimbus discs, and they are, on the whole, a pretty unimpressive lot. It is understandable that, outside the Nimbus recording studio, his career went nowhere (he currently is conductor of the nonprofessional New Haven Symphony).

A little over a year ago, Josh and I listened to another of Boughton’s discs, orchestral music of Benjamin Britten, and that particular disc was one of the least impressive Britten discs I have ever heard. I wrote about that disc on April 1, 2007.

The Nimbus disc of English string music parallels last year’s Nimbus disc of Britten's music in that the performances lack polish, drive, energy and character.

Frank Bridge is remembered today, if he is remembered at all, as the teacher of Benjamin Britten. His Suite For String Orchestra is skillfully written but has nothing else to recommend it. Hubert Parry’s Lady Radnor’s Suite is a little more interesting, if for no other reason than it was inspired by Baroque dances, but it is a pretty faceless and unimaginative composition all the same.

Many Englishmen believe that George Butterworth might have turned into an important composer had he not been killed in his youth (he died in the trenches of France during World War I). The Banks Of Green Willow and A Shropshire Lad are undeniably charming compositions, and they capture the beauty and poignancy of the English countryside, but they are hardly major pieces and they do not display an individual voice in the process of emerging. Butterworth’s pieces are pastoral compositions, offering the musical equivalent of paintings of the English countryside. Such works have never been able to export themselves beyond the British Isles and have never acquired non-British advocates (although Carlos Kleiber, for some reason, liked to conduct Butterworth’s English Idyll No. 1).

If these pieces are to work, they must receive magical treatment. There is no magic in the Nimbus performances.

The RCA recording of the Edward Elgar Violin Concerto, from 1993, was Pinchas Zukerman’s second recording of the work. It is the only recording ever made of the Elgar Violin Concerto involving an American violinist, an American orchestra and an American conductor.

The performance is dull beyond belief. Zukerman does not appear even to be remotely interested in the proceedings—he plays the notes, as written, but he displays all the vitality, emotion and commitment of a telephone operator. His work here is mere noodling, pure and simple. Someone should have poked Zukerman with a cattle prod while this recording was being made. I am surprised the release of this disc was even approved.

Zukerman made a fine recording of the Elgar Violin Concerto for Sony in London in 1976 under Daniel Barenboim, and anyone who wants to hear Zukerman in Elgar is far better served with his earlier effort. This remake is a total dud.

Leonard Slatkin does not help matters. The performance lacks “Englishness”—there is no “Englishness” in the orchestral sound and there is no “Englishness” in the music-making—and Slatkin and the orchestra, like Zukerman, simply go through the motions. Of Elgarian melancholy and nobility there is none.

There is a brief and irrelevant coupling, Elgar’s Salut D’Amour in its orchestral guise. In Zukerman’s hands, it does not surmount its inherent salon-music nature.

The Elgar Violin Concerto is a very great work, but it is a supremely difficult work to bring off. I have never heard an adequate account of the score, and the finest recorded versions of the work—Kyung-Wha Chung on Decca and Zukerman I on Sony—are far from perfect (I have not heard the recent Hilary Hahn).

Josh and I chose to listen to Zukerman II on RCA because we had heard an immensely disappointing performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto back in April, and Josh wanted to hear the work again, but in capable hands (I wrote about that particular concert on April 25, 2008). We deliberately chose a modern recording with good sound—and the sound on the RCA disc is excellent indeed—but I had forgotten how listless was the Zukerman remake. I doubt I shall forget in future.

The disc of British band music includes Gustav Holst’s Military Suites Nos. 1 and 2 and Ralph Vaughan Williams’s English Folk Song Suite and Toccata Marziale. (The disc also includes compositions by American composers Peter Menin, Vincent Persichetti and Owen Reed, but we did not listen to the American works on the disc.)

The Holst pieces, written early in the 20th Century, virtually define the band repertory in the English-speaking world. There was no serious repertory for wind ensemble before Holst wrote these amazing pieces, but there has been a proliferation of excellent pieces ever since.

For whatever reason, the wind ensemble is taken seriously only in the U.S. and the U.K. and, consequently, it is primarily American and British composers who have written fine pieces for winds. French, German and Russian composers have more or less ignored the medium (although Paul Hindemith wrote a fine symphony for concert band during his U.S. years), and yet the wind ensemble continues to thrive in the U.S. and Britain.

At least one composer, Alfred Reed, got rich writing for wind ensemble. His 1944 “Russian Christmas Music” may be the single most profitable piece of concert music written in the 20th Century. His royalties for that single piece, from Japan alone, are mind-boggling.

On the Mercury Living Presence disc, the finest composition is the Holst Military Suite No. 1. The Suite has three movements, all using the same melodic cell, and yet Holst created one of his greatest masterpieces from the material. The work has a unity, a variety of expression and an economy of means that remain startling after a century of exposure. I think it is the finest composition ever written for military band, yet to be equaled.

In comparison, the Military Suite No. 2, in four movements, is much more conventional (and much easier for nonprofessional musicians to play). The second Suite is based upon English folk song. It is pleasant, tuneful and zippy, but not the work of imagination, originality and power its predecessor and companion was.

Vaughan Williams’s English Folk Song Suite, likewise, is based upon folk song. It is a nice piece, full of good tunes, but it lacks the harmonic invention, rhythmic interest and wizardry of orchestration of Holst’s pieces.

Vaughan Williams’s brief Toccata Marziale, a makeweight, is an empty piece, too opaquely orchestrated to boot. It seems never to come off, and it does not come off here.

This particular Mercury Living Presence disc was one of the most famous recordings of the early LP era. Issued in 1955, it was the first disc recorded by the Eastman Wind Ensemble and Frederick Fennell. The disc was an immediate best seller and has acquired legendary status over the years. Some commentators insist that these performances have never been bettered.

In fact, the Fennell/Eastman performances HAVE been bettered. The performances of the London Wind Orchestra under Dennis Wick on the ASV label, recorded in 1978, are markedly superior to the Fennell/Eastman efforts. The London ensemble is tighter, with purer intonation and a vastly superior sound quality, and plays with much greater characterization and much more rhythmic flexibility than these old Fennell/Eastman performances. The Wick/London performances are brilliant; the Fennell/Eastman performances, in comparison, are sturdy.

The difference is most apparent in the most difficult of the works, Holst’s Military Suite No. 1. The London performance has a firmer grasp of the counterpoint that underlies the score, there is a wider, more sophisticated range of timbre and volume, and the players know how to spring the rhythms of the second and third movements exquisitely. The Wick/London performance is thrilling; the Fennell/Eastman performance is serviceable.

The Argo disc of Herbert Howells church music is titled “A Celebration Of Herbert Howells”. Many of the compositions on the disc were written for The Choir Of King’s College, Cambridge, the choir used on this recording.

The disc includes psalms and anthems, and music for Matins, Evensong and Communion Service, as well as works for solo organ (the organ works are divided between Stephen Cleobury and Peter Barlow). All of these works may be inserted into Anglican Service, and most of the compositions are only a few minutes’ duration.

Josh and I selected this disc because we will be visiting several British churches and cathedrals, and attending Anglican Service, and we thought it would be appropriate to hear Anglican church music from one of the 20th Century’s most esteemed practitioners in the field.

In an Anglican Service setting, these short, tidy works no doubt serve their purpose honorably, leavening the readings and providing worshippers with an opportunity to pray or contemplate or gaze upon some interesting feature of the church structure while the choir sings its portions of the Service.

As a home listening experience, however, these works are some of the blandest music ever written, bereft of all musical interest, lacking a single satisfactory—let alone memorable—compositional idea. I doubt that I have ever heard more generic, banal works. The music is one part Gerald Finzi and four parts water, dull and deadening stuff indeed, music of the most astonishing triteness. It is easy to understand why this music has never been successfully exported beyond the British Isles.

It is almost painful to listen to this bloodless music for more than a few minutes at a time because it is so startlingly unimaginative. It single-handedly supports (and perhaps even proves) the notion, held among many, that the British are not a musical people.

The Howells disc made Josh’s teeth grate.

It simply made me numb.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cookout II

Our cookout Saturday night was a success.

The food was good, the lawn was beautiful, turnout was exceptional, the weather cooperated, and everyone had a wonderful time.

My parents have a large and beautiful back yard, filled with trees and shrubs, and we had the caterer set up three groups of serving tables around the back yard. It was a lovely setting for an informal Saturday night affair, and the tables with their white linens arrayed amongst the greenery of the grass and trees and bushes created a very attractive sight.

We did the grilling up on the deck, which is elevated one story above the lawn, so that any smoke would not waft among the guests.

Despite the expense, I am glad we hired a caterer for much of the work. This saved us a great deal of trouble. We would have had to take three days off from work had we done everything ourselves, and it was simpler to farm out most of the project. We did not even have to worry about cleanup after all the guests had departed—within one hour after everyone had gone home, the catering crew had removed all evidence of a major gathering from the back yard. The catering firm was exceedingly professional and exceedingly efficient.

Today we did not do much. After church, we did not even have lunch because no one was hungry. Instead, all afternoon my brother and Josh and I delivered fresh salmon and fresh steak—excess from last night’s cookout—to friends of my mother, many of whom are from our church. There was no point in allowing such good food to go to waste, and my mother’s friends were pleased to see us and pleased to be presented with some fresh Alaska salmon and some fresh Omaha prime steak.

Tonight we did not do much, either. We had more salmon for dinner—except for the dog, who had chicken—and we discussed how to celebrate my father’s birthday, which is a week from today. My brother and Josh and I also tried to figure out whether we will be able to make it to a Twins game before the month is out. Given everything on our schedule, and given the Twins’ home schedule, it may not be possible.

There is too much going on, and I am simply overwhelmed.

Between wrapping things up at work, attending farewell functions, preparing for our trip and preparing for Boston, there will not be a single minute for rest and reflection over coming weeks.

We are all sort of in an uproar, and the dog can sense it, which puts him in an uproar, too.

He knows something’s afoot.

Friday, July 18, 2008

To London, To London

My older brother and his family will travel to London in August in order to visit with my sister-in-law’s parents.

They will depart on Friday evening, August 1, one night after the rest of us embark for London, and they will return to the States on Sunday, August 17, two days before the rest of us head for home.

We will all actually be in London on Saturday, August 2—my mother’s birthday—but we will not attempt to get together that day. We will allow my nephew’s British grandparents to have their grandson and his parents to themselves that day, with no interference from us.

It is fortunate that our travel plans for August 2 will involve precisely the kind of day my mother will love: a visit to The British Museum, followed by a matinee performance at The National Theatre, followed by dinner in the Covent Garden area, followed by an evening theater performance. It will be a splendid way for us to celebrate her birthday, and the planning for that day was purely fortuitous, a most beautiful thing, I think.

This will be my nephew’s first visit to London. My brother and sister-in-law have not been out of the country since my nephew was born, and my sister-in-law, especially, is looking forward to a visit home. The past three summers, her parents have been forced to fly to New York for visits, since my sister-in-law could not fly in the late summer of 2005 and since she and my brother did not want to undertake long flights to London in 2006 and 2007 with an infant in tow. Further, if my brother and his family are to go to London, they more or less must go now, before it becomes unsafe for my sister-in-law to hazard a long flight.

I know they will have a wonderful visit.


This will be a big weekend for us—Joshua and I will host a summer cookout tomorrow night.

We have to hold the cookout at my parents’ house, but my parents do not mind.

Josh and I hosted a cookout last summer, too, but this year’s cookout will be bigger because we will be hosting my brother’s friends as well, making this year’s cookout a “Welcome Home” party on his behalf.

We are keeping things as simple as possible: we hired a caterer to prepare all the foods except for the grilled meat and seafood, which we will do ourselves. Accordingly, the caterer will supply a variety of hot and cold appetizers, two kinds of garden salad, two kinds of pasta salad, two kinds of cole slaw, two kinds of potato salad, two kinds of fruit salad, twelve varieties of breads and rolls, five flavors of sherbet and six varieties of petit fours. The food will all be homemade, of the finest and freshest ingredients.

The caterer will also handle the serving tables and linens, and the dinnerware and the glassware, and the seating, and will be responsible for setup, takedown and disposal. There will be six catering staff members on hand throughout the cookout to attend the food and beverage tables, freeing us to attend to our guests.

We are taking care of the meat and seafood ourselves. We had fresh salmon flown in from Alaska (it arrived this morning, and my brother has already picked it up), and we ordered chicken parts and steaks from a butcher (for pickup tomorrow).

Because we hired out so much of the work, tomorrow all we will need to do is to prepare the lawn, await the 3:30 p.m. arrival of the catering crew, and direct them where to set up.

We have saved ourselves days and days of exhaustive preparation, well worth the expense, I believe.

It should be a great cookout.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Joshua and I did not do much this weekend.

We stayed home on Saturday, catching up on things. My father and my brother played golf on Saturday, but Josh and I do not golf and we did not join them.

Today, after church, Josh and I went over to my parents’ house. We are still working on our Oxford itinerary, believe it or not, trying to fashion a beautiful day in Oxford on the last full day of our trip. It is not easy, given the constricted hours Oxford colleges are open to the public. We all spent the entire afternoon reading about Oxford, and we still have not decided how to spend our time there.

The rest of the month will be very busy. Both Josh and I are working long hours, completing assignments at work before our last day on the job (July 25). Next Saturday evening, Josh and I will host a cookout with our friends at my parents’ house. The following Thursday night is my farewell dinner at work. The next day is Josh’s farewell lunch at his firm. The next night, Josh and I have a party in our honor to attend.

Somehow, over the next two weeks, Josh and I will get all our work done, prepare for the trip, take care of some other things, and try to spend time with my brother while we still can.

It is nice to have my brother home. He has been helping our mother and father with things around the house and yard, and driving my mother around town on her errands, and taking care of the dog (who, in a fit of pique, has announced that he will NOT be accompanying us on our trip because we will not be visiting The Shepherd Islands).

To help us get into the proper frame of mind for a trip to Britain, Josh and I have been listening to four discs of English music whenever we have the chance: string music by Frank Bridge, George Butterworth and Hubert Parry; Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto; music for wind ensemble by Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams; and Anglican church music by Herbert Howells. We did not select well, all things told, but we will keep the discs in our player for eight to ten listens, since it often takes time to appreciate fully a composition or a performance.

For this evening’s dinner, my mother made us what she calls a “Farmer’s Lunch”, concocted from fresh ingredients grown on a typical Midwest farm in the summer.

She started with a garden salad made with leaf lettuce, sliced radish, sliced green onion and shredded tomato. She followed that with fried chicken, pan-fried in cast-iron skillets, mashed potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, green beans, a special sweet-and-sour cabbage-and-carrot salad and homemade applesauce. For dessert, she had prepared one of her greatest masterpieces, her strawberry pie, made from her secret recipe that took her more than twenty years to perfect. It should be patented—it is to die for.

My father loves my mother’s “Farmer’s Lunch” because it was the kind of lunch he enjoyed while growing up on the farm. The rest of us love it, too.

The dog was given de-boned fried chicken and mashed potatoes, with a little applesauce, too.

He loved his dinner.

Of course, he is still furious about that Shepherd Islands thing . . .

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Itinerary For Our Southern England Trip

At the end of the month, Joshua and I, as well as my parents, my middle brother and Josh’s sister, will visit Great Britain. We will leave on Thursday night, July 31, and return on Tuesday, August 19. This will give us eighteen full days in which to explore much of Southern England.

We planned an itinerary that we thought would be pleasing to everyone. There is a varied mix of cities and towns, cathedrals, abbeys and churches, art museums and history museums, castles and country homes, ancient military fortifications and old engineering marvels, and historic attractions of all varieties on our itinerary. We will see a large swathe of the English countryside, all the way from the English Channel to Bristol Bay. During most of our trip, we will be able to stay two nights in one place (and three nights in Bath), but we will have three one-night stops (Salisbury, Lynmouth and Oxford). We will also be able to attend theater performances in London, Chichester, Plymouth, Bath and Stratford-Upon-Avon.

I think our itinerary is a splendid one, not only packed with interesting things to see and do but also perfectly paced. We will have plenty of time to visit everything we want to see without being rushed. Our days will be full of activity but not hectic. Each day will be devoted to something completely different from the previous day. I think it may be one of the best trips we have ever planned.

This will be the first trip outside the U.S. for Josh’s sister, and we especially hope that she will enjoy our travels. She is very excited—she practically has our entire itinerary memorized—and she is most looking forward to visiting Oxford.

Josh is very excited, too, because the only part of Britain he has previously visited is London. On this trip, he will be able to visit many of Britain’s most important attractions in the South, and he is most looking forward to visiting Canterbury Cathedral.

My brother is very excited, because he loves Great Britain above all other European countries. He is most looking forward to a return visit to Lynmouth.

My mother is most looking forward to visiting Saint Ives, which my parents have never visited, and returning to Rye. My father is most looking forward to a return visit to Rye, which he and my mother visited many years ago—on their honeymoon.

I most look forward to a return visit to Salisbury Cathedral, which I could visit daily, I often believe.

Our day-by-day itinerary appears below.

Day One: London

Friday, August 1, 2008

Victoria Embankment Gardens
The Millenium Wheel
Boat Ride On The Thames
The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
The Chapel Of Saint Peter And Saint Paul, Greenwich
The Painted Hall, Greenwich
Queen’s House, Greenwich
The Royal Observatory, Greenwich
Saint Alfege’s Church, Greenwich
Boat Ride On The Thames
Evensong Service At Westminster Abbey
Trafalgar Square
The Church Of Saint Martin-In-The-Fields

We are scheduled to arrive at Heathrow very, very early in the morning. Once we retrieve our luggage and clear customs, we will take the subway directly to our hotel in the center of the city.

Last year, we stayed at a hotel in Kensington. This year, given that we will be in London only for two days, we will stay at a hotel near Charing Cross Station, right in the center of London.

We should arrive at our hotel no later than 9:00 a.m. We plan to drop our luggage at the hotel and immediately set out for our first day of exploration.

We will walk from the hotel toward nearby Hungerford Bridge, stopping at a café along the way to pick up a breakfast of English bacon on English rolls. My brother and I discovered this café in 2005, and we thought that it had the best English bacon we had ever tasted. We all had breakfast at this cafe one day last year, too, and Josh and my parents liked it as much as my brother and I had liked it in the past.

We will take our breakfast across the street and eat on benches in the Victoria Embankment Gardens. After eating, we will stroll the lovely gardens, looking at the flowers and showing Josh’s sister the main statues and monuments as well as the Egyptian obelisk known as Cleopatra’s Needle.

After we have had our fill of the Victoria Embankment Gardens, we will cross The Thames via Hungerford Bridge and proceed to The Millenium Wheel, also known as The London Eye.

None of us has ever taken a ride on The Millenium Wheel, and we thought that a ride on The Millenium Wheel would be the ideal first thing for Josh’s sister to do in London.

If the weather is clear, we will be able to see up to 25 miles in all directions, and the view will give Josh’s sister a wonderful overview of London.

One revolution of The Millenium Wheel takes thirty minutes. Once our Millenium Wheel ride is complete, we plan to re-cross Hungerford Bridge and proceed to the Charing Cross boat landing and take a boat ride down The Thames to Greenwich.

The boat ride will take an hour, and we will be able to see everything along the way on both banks of The Thames. It will be yet another method for Josh’s sister to see as much of London as possible in a short time.

Landing in Greenwich, we will walk around the magnificent complex of Neo-Classical and Baroque buildings bordering the south side of The Thames, and walk around the magnificent park in which these buildings are situated.

We will start with the group of buildings that comprises The Old Royal Naval College, planned and designed by Christopher Wren, with Nicholas Hawksmoor serving as Wren’s chief assistant. We will walk around the entire College, exploring the exteriors, and we will visit the interiors of the only two portions of the buildings open to the public: The Chapel Of Saint Peter And Saint Paul, one of the most breathtakingly beautiful church interiors anywhere, whose space and proportion are hallmarks of English Baroque but whose decoration is strictly Neo-Classical; and The Painted Hall, a grand room intended to be a dining hall but, once finished, too beautiful and too much of a tourist attraction to be used for its intended purpose.

We will explore the exterior of Queen’s House, the famous Neo-Classical structure designed by Inigo Jones, which now serves as one of the homes of The National Maritime Museum.

From Queen’s House, we will walk uphill and explore the exteriors of the group of buildings that used to serve as The Royal Observatory, and we will locate the brass strips set into the courtyard of The Royal Observatory that mark The Prime Meridian.

After we have completed our explorations of the historic buildings and the park, we will walk over to the town of Greenwich and find a place to have a late lunch.

After lunch, we will visit nearby Saint Alfege’s Church, a large and magnificent Neo-Classical structure designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, noted for both its front and side porticos. It is an extremely beautiful church, inside and out, the final resting place of composer Thomas Tallis, to whom several monuments in the church are dedicated.

After we complete our visit to Saint Alfege’s Church, we will take a boat ride back to London, disembarking at Parliament. We will head straight for Westminster Abbey and attend the 5:00 p.m. Evensong Service. We want Josh’s sister to see the interior of Westminster Abbey, and we thought that the best way for her to enjoy a brief visit to the Abbey was to attend Evensong Service.

After Evensong, we will show her the full exterior of the giant Abbey, and Saint Margaret’s Church, and Central Hall, and walk around Parliament Square, and Jewel Tower, and The Houses Of Parliament.

From Parliament Square, we will walk up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, and pass the Home Office, and the Foreign Office, and the Cenotaph, and Downing Street, and Inigo Jones’s Banqueting House, and Horse Guards, examining the exteriors of these fine structures as we go.

Once we reach Trafalgar Square, we will spend some time examining the square and its monuments and the surrounding structures, including Africa House, Canada House and The National Gallery. We especially want to show Josh’s sister the magnificent view from the top of Trafalgar Square down Whitehall, with the spires of Westminster Abbey and The Houses Of Parliament visible over the buildings of Whitehall. This is one of the most beautiful views in the world.

After we have completed exploring Trafalgar Square, we will cross the street and explore both the exterior and interior of The Church Of Saint-Martin-In-The-Fields, one of London’s most famous churches. Once we have fully explored the church’s exterior and interior, we will explore the large crypt, and have dinner in the crypt café, greatly enlarged since last year, according to the church’s website.

After dinner, we will walk to our nearby hotel, check in, and go straight to bed. We hope to be in bed, asleep, no later than 9:00 p.m.

It will be a very long day, given the fact that we will have had no sleep the previous night, but we want to schedule a full day of sightseeing for our first day in London so that Josh’s sister may see as much of London as possible in the allotted time.

Day Two: London

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pall Mall
The Mall
The British Museum
“Afterlife” At The National Theater
Covent Garden
Saint Paul’s Church
“The Chalk Garden” At Donmar Warehouse

My parents will sleep in on our second day in London, but the rest of us plan to rise early and re-examine Pall Mall and The Mall, the two great ceremonial streets we spent several hours exploring last year, too. These streets and their attractions are among the most important in London, and it is vital that Josh’s sister have an opportunity to visit them.

We plan to leave the hotel at 7:00 a.m. and walk the length of Pall Mall from Trafalgar Square to Lancaster House. We will examine the exteriors of the historic gentlemen’s clubs that line Pall Mall, and examine the Pall Mall facades of Marlborough House, The Queen’s Chapel (another Inigo Jones Neo-Classical structure), Saint James’s Palace, York House and Lancaster House. We will also examine the small squares and side streets and statues and various monuments that line this historic street.

We will have a quick breakfast at a café near Saint James’s Palace, and retrace our steps back to Trafalgar Square, from which we will walk the length of The Mall.

Along The Mall, we will examine Admiralty Arch, The Duke Of York Steps and The Duke Of York Memorial, Carleton House Terrace and Carleton House Terrace Gardens, and The Mall facades of Marlborough House, Clarence House, Saint James’s Palace and Lancaster House. At the end of The Mall, we will examine The Queen Victoria Memorial and the exterior of Buckingham Palace.

This walk will require three hours, and at the conclusion of our walk we will take a taxicab to Bloomsbury, where we will meet up with my parents at The British Museum at 10:30 a.m.

We will devote only two hours to our visit to The British Museum. Accordingly, we will focus on the very, very finest and most important artifacts at the museum, and we will do so in order that Josh and Josh’s sister may see them.

We will start in Room 4, the giant hall containing giant statuary from Ancient Egypt. This is the room in which is situated The Rosetta Stone, among many other ancient treasures.

From Room 4, we will proceed straight to the Ancient Greece rooms on the main floor and go through Rooms 11 through 23, the very heart of the collection. These rooms contain, among other ancient wonders, The Elgin Marbles and The Mausoleum Of Halikarnassos.

Once our two hours at The British Museum have passed, we will have lunch at a nearby restaurant.

After lunch, we will take taxicabs to The National Theatre, where we will attend the 2:15 p.m. matinee performance at the Lyttelton of “Afterlife”, the new Michael Frayn play about Austrian theater impresario and stage director Max Reinhardt. The director of “Afterlife” is Michael Blakemore.

I try to attend performances at The National Theatre whenever the opportunity arises. The National Theatre is the finest theater in the English-speaking world, and its productions are generally at the very highest level.

My brother loves to attend performances at The National Theatre, too. Despite the fact that he never goes to the theater by himself, he always welcomes the prospect of attending plays at The National. He has enjoyed plays there that I never expected him to enjoy.

We took a guided tour of the entire National Theatre complex last year, but my parents have not attended a production at The National in many, many years—the current building was still new the last time my parents attended a National Theatre performance—and they look forward to a return visit to this legendary venue. Josh has never attended a performance at The National, because our visit to London last year occurred during the few interim weeks in which the theater was in the process of winding down one season and gearing up for the next.

Josh’s sister looks forward to the prospect of experiencing British theater, so I earnestly hope that the play will be a good one and that she enjoys her first visit to The National.

After the play, we will walk over to Covent Garden and show Josh’s sister the exterior of The Royal Opera House as well as the buildings and piazzas of this old market area. We will also explore the exterior and gardens of Saint Paul’s Church, also known as The Actor’s Church, yet another Inigo Jones Neo-Classical edifice. We will not be able to visit the church’s interior, however, because the church building is closed on Saturdays.

We will eat dinner at a restaurant in the Covent Garden area, and after dinner we will attend the 7:30 p.m. performance of Enid Bagnold’s “The Chalk Garden” at the nearby Donmar Warehouse. This evening’s performance will be the closing performance of the run, the first major London revival in thirty years of Bagnold’s only enduring play. The director is Michael Grandage, and two of Britain’s most distinguished actresses, Margaret Tyzack and Penelope Wilton, are in the cast.

How many persons know that both Daniel Massey and Ian Holm were formerly married to Penelope Wilton?

We will walk back to our hotel after “The Chalk Garden” and turn in early for the night. This day will be the last of our two days in London, and we hope that Josh’s sister will have enjoyed seeing a few of London’s most important attractions.

Day Three: Canterbury

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Saint Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury
Canterbury Cathedral

Early Sunday morning, a car will be delivered to our London hotel—we have been promised 7:00 a.m. delivery of a brand-new Peugeot station wagon, a good-sized vehicle, happily, since we will require a car that accommodates, comfortably, six persons for the next sixteen days—and we will set out for Canterbury.

The station wagon features 2-3-2 seating. We have already decided how we will occupy the car: my brother will drive and Josh’s sister will sit in the front passenger seat so that she has a prime view of everything we pass; my parents will occupy the middle seat, where they will be most comfortable; and Josh and I will sit in the rear compartment, facing backward. This will be the best arrangement for everyone, I believe.

We should arrive in Canterbury around 9:00 a.m. and, first thing, we will park the car for the day and locate a café to have a traditional English breakfast. This will be our first traditional English breakfast of the trip. I wonder whether Josh’s sister will enjoy eating baked beans and fried tomatoes for breakfast, along with her eggs, bacon, sausages, potatoes and toast. I hope she does, because we will have no opportunity for lunch this day, and we may need the traditional English breakfast to get us through the next few hours.

After breakfast, we will walk to the ruins of Saint Augustine’s Abbey, situated a quarter mile from Canterbury Cathedral. We hope to arrive by 10:15 a.m. so that we may devote a couple of hours to exploring the Abbey ruins and the small museum on site.

Saint Augustine’s Abbey was established in 597 A.D., when Pope Gregory The Great sent an Abbott from Rome to England to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. The Abbey was established in Canterbury because Canterbury was at that time the locus of the court of the Anglo-Saxon kings.

Numerous Abbey buildings were erected over the following centuries but, shortly after the 1066 Norman Conquest, the Abbey greatly expanded and rebuilt virtually all of its old Anglo-Saxon buildings in a Romanesque style known as Norman architecture. Construction continued for three hundred years, and Saint Augustine’s Abbey was to rival the greatness, beauty and importance of nearby Canterbury Cathedral for decades. This period ended with Henry VIII’s Dissolution Of The Monasteries, when Saint Augustine’s Abbey was forcibly abandoned. The Abbey fell into disuse and ruin. Stone from the Abbey was borrowed for other construction projects over the next several decades, including a no-longer-extant palace built for Anne Of Cleves.

Today, the foundations of the Abbey remain, a few as much as several stories high. The ruins are a remarkable place to visit.

Foundations, walls, arches, crypts—all in various states of decay—remain visible today. There are numerous ruins to visit: The Church Of Saint Peter And Saint Paul; The Church Of Saint Pancras; the chapel known as The Porticus Of Saint Gregory; The Chapel Of Saint Anne; cloisters; crypts; a multi-story octagonal rotunda; the great gate; the great kitchen; the lavatorium; and numerous courtyards and lodgings.

It will be a real pleasure to spend a couple of hours strolling through the remains of what once was the center of Christianity in Britain.

Early afternoon will be devoted to Canterbury Cathedral.

My brother and I have visited Canterbury Cathedral twice. My parents have visited Canterbury Cathedral on one occasion, many, many years ago. Josh and Josh’s sister have never visited Canterbury Cathedral.

Canterbury Cathedral is only open to the public from 12:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Sundays. Further, on Sunday, August 3, the Cathedral will close two hours early, at 2:30 p.m.

Consequently, we will only have two hours to tour the great complex, beginning with the great arched entry that admits visitors onto the sacred grounds. There will be just enough time for us to see the entire exterior and interior of the Cathedral, and everything else we want to see, but we will not have the luxury of lingering.

We will have time to visit the main church interior, and The Chapter House, and the crypt, and a few other nooks and crannies of the Cathedral.

Canterbury Cathedral, from a purely architectural view, is unremarkable. The Cathedral has been in various stages of construction and destruction for over 1400 years, and its extended history is reflected in its hodgepodge of architectural styles and interior decorations. The building is partly Anglo-Saxon, largely Romanesque, partly Gothic, partly English Perpendicular, partly Neo-Classical, and partly Victorian Neo-Gothic. The building has suffered damage during various upheavals over the last 1400 years, from The Norman Conquest to The Dissolution Of The Monasteries to The Civil War to World War II.

Natural causes have played their parts, too—there have been several Cathedral fires, and one of the Cathedral towers on the verge of collapse was torn down in the 18th Century and rebuilt in a style completely different from the original tower.

As an historic site, Canterbury Cathedral is one of the great attractions in all of Britain. As an aesthetic experience, it does not live up to its billing, except for its stained glass.

And the stained glass is the most remarkable artistic glory of Canterbury Cathedral. It contains some of the most rare and most beautiful stained glass to be seen anywhere. Much of the stained glass was created in the 12th and 13th Centuries, when glassmaking as an art and as a science had reached a peak of perfection. Almost all of the stained glass in the Cathedral pre-dates 1500, a remarkable fact, given that so much stained glass throughout England was destroyed during The Dissolution Of The Monasteries and, barely one hundred years later, during The Civil War. Indeed, some of the stained glass at Canterbury Cathedral WAS destroyed during those periods of turmoil, and it is miraculous that such a substantial portion of its ancient glass survived, remaining on view today, centuries after its creation.

Some of the glass is modern, dating from times as recent as the 1950’s, but it is the ancient glass that is extraordinary. The ancient glass at Canterbury is breathtaking. Large, complex scenes, from the bible and from history, are portrayed in giant windows of startling imagination, color and artistry, created by the greatest stained-glass artists from all over Europe during the era in which glassmaking had reached its highest level of accomplishment. A couple of the giant windows at Canterbury Cathedral are among my favorite windows anywhere. Happily, because the Cathedral is so large, there are many, many giant windows to view and admire. In all, there are over 1100 square meters of stained glass in the giant Cathedral.

Several of the windows commemorate Thomas Becket, slain in the Cathedral in 1170. These windows were created in the centuries immediately following his murder.

We will devote as much time as possible to the windows, which will not be easy, given the time constraints under which our visit will operate.

When Canterbury Cathedral closes at 2:30 p.m., we will walk toward the center of the town of Canterbury and walk around for an hour, and get a sandwich somewhere.

Other than the ruins of Saint Augustine’s Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral, there is very little worth visiting in Canterbury. The only other attraction in Canterbury we wanted to visit, Saint Martin’s Church, one of the oldest churches in Britain, is closed on Sundays. The couple of small museums in town have no appeal for us, nor does the commercial “Canterbury Tales” attraction.

Canterbury used to be filled with medieval buildings of the greatest interest. For centuries, Canterbury offered ample rewards to pilgrims in addition to the Abbey and the Cathedral.

World War II ended that. Much of the town was destroyed during the War, including most of the town center. Canterbury was on the Luftwaffe’s direct route to London, and the Luftwaffe took advantage of that, bombing Canterbury repeatedly.

Canterbury Cathedral was specifically targeted by the Luftwaffe, but only one large bomb ever struck the Cathedral. That bomb destroyed the Cathedral library, a Neo-Gothic creation from the 19th Century, but it did not strike the heart of the structure.

Small incendiary devices struck the Cathedral numerous times—such devices were dropped everywhere in Canterbury—but brave men were stationed on the Cathedral rooftop during bombing raids, armed with fire hoses to put out blazes started by incendiary devices. Because of the bravery of the Canterbury fire squads, and because of luck, the Cathedral emerged relatively unscathed from the War.

The town, alas, did not. Whatever remarkable buildings Canterbury had before the War were destroyed, and the town was rebuilt after the War in a most unpleasant, undistinguished fashion.

We picked a bad day to visit Canterbury, alas, but geography and the calendar prevented us from rearranging our schedule so as to visit Canterbury on a weekday.

Our alternatives were to substitute another nearby town—such as Dover—for Canterbury, or to omit Canterbury and environs from our itinerary altogether. We did not want to do that. We very much wanted to visit the ruins of Saint Augustine’s Abbey and we very much wanted to visit Canterbury Cathedral, even if we had to restrict our enjoyment of the Cathedral to two hours. We will make the best of the situation.

Once we have completed seeing whatever we want to see in Canterbury, we will leave Canterbury and drive to Rye, one hour away, where we will spend the next two nights.

In Rye, after we check into our hotel, we will have plenty of time to walk around this charming town for an hour or two before dinner.

My brother and I have visited Rye on two previous occasions. My parents visited Rye for a few days many, many years ago, but this will be their first return visit.

That previous visit was their honeymoon.

We will make a point of having dinner at an especially nice restaurant this evening.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Day Four: Rye

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ypres Tower, Rye
The Parish Church Of Saint Mary, Rye
Lamb House, Rye
Rye Castle Museum

This day will be a very mellow day, probably the most restful and relaxing day of our entire trip.

Rye is a small town. Charming as it is, there are not many attractions in Rye, and none of the attractions requires significant amounts of time. Nevertheless, it is a quintessential English market town, very pretty, with cobbled streets, half-timbered buildings dating back to Tudor times, and ancient remnants of castles and fortifications befitting its status as a member of England’s ancient “Cinque Ports” Confederation of coastal towns.

We will be in no hurry to rise early on this day.

We plan to set out from our hotel at 9:30 a.m. and walk to Ypres Tower, a fortification erected in the mid-13th Century to defend Rye against invasion from France. There are remnants of ancient fortifications throughout Rye, but Ypres Tower is the only substantial structure that has survived, intact, through the centuries. We will go through the building and examine both the architecture and the exhibits covering Rye’s history, and we will climb to the top of the Tower to view the town and the surrounding countryside.

From Ypres Tower, we will walk to The Parish Church Of Saint Mary. Over 900 years old, Saint Mary’s is a rather significant church for such a small town (the church was planned and erected while much of Kent was under the control of Normandy, and the structure was intended to make an impression upon local residents of the benevolence and wisdom of Norman power) with many interesting monuments and a large, garden-like graveyard. Its tower clock has been in continuous working form since 1562, and its eight giant church bells, among the loudest anywhere, strike the quarter hour (but not the hour, oddly) in fearsome fashion. We will explore the church and graveyard, and climb the tower, which affords views all the way to the sea.

The next item on our agenda will be Lamb House, a former home of both Henry James and E.F. Benson. We will not be able to visit the interior of Lamb House, however, because it is not open on Monday (it is open to the public only a couple of hours two afternoons a week), but there is not much to see inside Lamb House anyway.

Lamb House is of interest primarily to lovers of literature. Henry James wrote his mature novels at Lamb House. E.F. Benson not only wrote his “Lucia” novels at Lamb House, but he had his heroine actually reside there. It was from Lamb House that the worshipful Lucia governed the inhabitants of Tilling, making them come to her various soirees and dinners, and making them listen to her butcher the first movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata over and over. It was at Lamb House that Lucia played the piano duets of “Celestial Mozartino” with Georgie, plotted against Miss Mapp, guarded her secret recipe, Lobster A La Risholme, and started The War Of The Chintz Roses. It was also from Lamb House that Lucia placed her successful stock trades with her London banker, Mammoncash And Company.

We will explore the exterior of Lamb House, and the two charming streets Lamb House overlooks.

The legendary Garden Room at Lamb House—a one-room separate building in which both James and Benson did their writing, and the building from which Lucia maintained her discreet surveillance of her Tilling subjects—is no longer there, a victim of an errant World War II bomb. However, a plaque marks the site of the former Garden Room, and visitors may observe, instantly, what a wonderful view it provided up and down two of Rye’s main market streets.

From Lamb House, we will find a place to have a light lunch.

After lunch, we will visit the Rye Castle Museum. The Rye Castle Museum has all kinds of exhibits about the history of Rye. It traces the fortunes of this once-coastal town whose prosperity was closely-tied to its status as a port town until the port silted and the town, over four centuries, found itself no longer on the coast at all but two miles inland from the sea. It tells the story of the town’s long history as a haven for smugglers until the townspeople, offended by a couple of especially vicious murders, suddenly turned on the members of the local band of smugglers and executed them. It provides a history of Rye’s membership in the Cinque Ports Confederation. It even houses Rye’s first fire engine, a monstrosity from 1745 with lead-lined water tanks.

There are two current temporary exhibitions. One is an exhibition about E.F. Benson, apparently the most significant exhibition ever devoted to the famous author (and former mayor of Rye). The other is an exhibition about Rye between the world wars, which addresses the social and technological changes that occurred in the town between 1918 and 1939.

I suspect we will enjoy a couple of hours in the museum. Once we have seen what we want to see in the museum, we will spend the rest of the afternoon strolling the cobblestone streets of the town, visiting antique shops and book shops and whatever else captures our fancy, until it is time to find a place to have dinner.

I always look forward to a return to Rye.

Day Five: Arundel

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Arundel Cathedral
Arundel Castle
“The Circle” At Chichester Festival Theatre

After two nights in Rye, we will set out early—we plan to leave no later than 7:45 a.m.—for Arundel.

My brother and I passed through Arundel early one morning in 2004, and we spent an hour walking around the town. We did not visit anything, however, because everything appeared to be closed, including Arundel Castle, so we moved on to another town.

My parents and Josh and his sister have never visited Arundel. Consequently, Arundel will be new territory for everyone.

It should take us ninety minutes to reach Arundel from Rye. We hope to be in the center of Arundel, and have the car parked for the day, by 9:30 a.m.

Arundel, situated on The River Arun, is irrevocably associated with the Howard family, Britain’s leading family of the Roman Catholic faith.

The Howard family holds two exalted titles: those of The Dukes Of Norfolk and The Earls Of Arundel. As such, the family ranks first in The Peerage Of England, outranked only by The British Royal Family. Because of its exalted status, the Howard family has been solely responsible, for centuries, for State Ceremonials. These include the coronation and the funeral of The Sovereign, as well as anything else The Sovereign declares to be a State Occasion, such as the funeral of Winston Churchill.

The Howard family is responsible for Arundel’s two primary attractions: Arundel Cathedral, which the family founded and funded; and Arundel Castle, owned and occupied by the Howard family (and its predecessors) for almost nine centuries.

Arundel Cathedral will be our first stop. It is a Roman Catholic Cathedral, not a Church Of England Cathedral.

Arundel Cathedral looks like an ancient edifice, but in fact it is comparatively new. It was planned and erected in the remarkably short span of five years, between 1868 and 1873, an astonishing achievement given that it is a pure and magnificent French Gothic structure, of the kind that formerly required between one and two centuries to erect. The giant Cathedral sits atop one of Arundel’s highest hills, overlooking the town of Arundel and The River Arun below. It is a very impressive sight indeed.

We will walk up the hill to the Cathedral and spend two hours or so exploring the giant building. Most of the monuments and all of the glass are from the 19th and 20th Centuries, but the Cathedral should nonetheless be a real treat, since French Gothic architecture is so flamboyant, inside and out, and since this is one of the most perfect and most glorious examples of French Gothic architecture anywhere outside France.

After Arundel Cathedral, we will spend the rest of the day at Arundel Castle, also atop one of the town’s hills.

Arundel Castle is supposed to be one of the most elaborate and most fascinating castles anywhere. It is the second-largest castle in Britain, and its grounds and gardens alone occupy more than 40 acres.

We will buy a comprehensive ticket—at a cost of 15 British pounds per person, or roughly $35.00 a head—because a comprehensive ticket will grant us access to everything, including the “bedrooms” (state apartments for official visitors), which will be open to the public on this particular afternoon.

The interior of the castle opens precisely at 12:00 Noon, and remains open only for four hours, so we will begin our explorations there.

Despite the fact that the castle serves as a residence, it is also, for practical purposes, both an art museum and a history museum. It is a repository of paintings (Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Thomas Lawrence, Joshua Reynolds, Canaletto), tapestries, sculpture, stained glass, china and porcelain, clocks, heraldry and armor, and furniture, all of which are of the very highest quality, distinction and interest. Because nothing is labeled—the Castle is, after all, a home—there is a professional guide situated in each room to answer any visitor questions about that room’s architecture and art objects.

The castle is also a treasure trove of history. Because the Howard family has been closely associated with the British Crown for so many centuries, the family owns innumerable historic artifacts of the greatest interest, many of which are on display, such as the prayer book and rosary beads of Mary, Queen Of Scots.

Apparently it takes approximately two hours to go through the Castle rooms on a normal day—and on this day the “bedrooms” will be open, which will require additional time to explore. The “bedrooms” in question are not the family’s own bedrooms—the family bedrooms are never open to the public—but state apartments created especially for official guests. The most impressive of these “bedrooms” is an elaborate suite of rooms created and decorated especially for Queen Victoria, who made a single visit to Arundel Castle very early in her reign. The “bedrooms” of Queen Victoria remain exactly as they were at the time of her visit in 1846, and they are among the “bedrooms” open to visitors on this particular day.

Once we have completed our visit to the interior of the castle, we will have a late lunch at the castle restaurant, situated in the original Servants’ Hall. It is supposed to be quite excellent.

After lunch, we will explore the grounds—flower gardens, herb gardens and kitchen gardens (actually in use for the family’s needs), formal gardens with statuary (several of which are patterned after historic gardens from the 14th and 15th Centuries)—and explore the glass houses (special plants) and the Castle Keep (131 steps to the top, but it affords what is supposed to be a literally stunning view of the town below) and the Fitzalan Chapel, a splendid example of English Perpendicular architecture. Dukes Of Norfolk are always buried in Fitzalan Chapel.

Fitzalan Chapel is part of a very unusual building. Fitzalan Chapel, built for private Roman Catholic worship, occupies castle grounds, and it is only accessible by purchasing a ticket to visit Arundel Castle. Fitzalan Chapel shares its building, however, with a public Anglican church, The Parish And Priory Church Of Saint Nicholas. The Parish And Priory Church Of Saint Nicholas has its own separate entrance outside castle grounds and is freely open for public worship. A glass partition divides the private Roman Catholic Fitzalan Chapel from the public Anglican Church Of Saint Nicholas, making the building one of the most unusual houses of worship in the world. As a practical matter, the Anglican portion of the building occupies the nave of the church structure, and the Roman Catholic portion occupies the chancel. I am keen to see the church interior in person, and observe how this all works out.

We plan to remain at Arundel Castle until 5:15 p.m. or so. Around that time, we intend to leave the castle and return to the town, pick up our car, and drive to nearby Chichester, where we will spend the next two nights. Chichester is only ten miles away from Arundel, and it should take us only twenty or thirty minutes to arrive at our hotel in Chichester.

We will check into our hotel, but almost immediately we will leave for the Chichester Festival Theatre, where we will attend the 7:30 p.m. performance of Somerset Maugham’s serious comedy from 1921, “The Circle”, starring Susan Hampshire.

Chichester Festival Theatre has many parallels with the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Both were planned, established and built from scratch in the early 1960’s. Both had legendary inaugural artistic directors (Laurence Oliver and Tyrone Guthrie, respectively). Both were deliberately established in the “provinces”. Both erected modernist concrete structures typical of the 1960’s (the original Chichester Festival Theatre, still in use, is a hexagonal concrete-and-glass bunker of some architectural interest; the first Guthrie Theater has already been demolished and been replaced with a new, larger, glass-and-steel monstrosity). Both theaters abandoned the traditional proscenium stage from the start in favor of a thrust stage (Olivier liked the result in Chichester so much that one of the theaters in The National Theatre—the one named after him—was also built with a thrust stage). Both theaters had as their mission the development of a repertory theater company, and the development of a sophisticated theater audience, that would be capable of offering and sustaining better and more serious work than could be done commercially in London and New York. Both theaters are still thriving forty-six and forty-five years, respectively, after their openings.

The production of “The Circle” we shall attend will be performed at the Festival Theatre, the larger of the two theatres in use by Chichester Festival Theatre. Festival Theatre seats just over 1200 persons.

We shall have a light picnic supper prior to the performance—the Chichester Festival Theatre is situated in a lovely parkland setting, ideal for picnics, and the theater offers picnics to theatergoers prior to performances—and we have already made reservations at the theater’s very fine formal dining establishment for a post-performance three-course dinner. We decided to do things right for this inaugural visit to Chichester Festival Theatre by my parents and Josh and Josh’s sister.

I look forward to “The Circle” and I look forward to seeing Susan Hampshire, who is supposed to be a very fine stage actress. I have never seen her.

I predict this will be a very special evening for everyone.

Day Six: Chichester

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Chichester Cathedral
Goodwood House
“Taking Sides” At Chichester Festival Theatre

We will not be in any hurry to get out and about this day.

We plan to leave the hotel at 9:30 a.m. and walk to Chichester Cathedral, where we will spend the morning.

Chichester Cathedral was begun almost 1000 years ago; the Cathedral celebrates the 900th anniversary of its consecration this year. It is a large and beautiful Cathedral, with a very unusual feature for Britain: it has a separate bell tower, just as many Italian churches have a campanile. The Cathedral’s architecture is largely Norman but, like most English cathedrals, it features a variety of styles and decorations, reflecting the fact that it was built over many centuries and continues to evolve.

Chichester Cathedral was erected upon the site of a Roman settlement, and an ancient Roman mosaic is preserved in the Cathedral floor. The Cathedral has many beautiful and unusual monuments—a monument to the first human being killed in a railroad accident is one of the most fascinating memorials in the Cathedral—and in the last fifty years the Cathedral has aggressively commissioned windows, murals, monuments and other artworks from contemporary artists. One of the Cathedral’s most famous works of art is the window created by Marc Chagall. Another famous work commissioned by the Cathedral is Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms”, premiered at the Cathedral in 1965.

The grave of Gustav Holst is in Chichester Cathedral.

We will explore the Cathedral exterior and interior in depth, and examine the monuments and artworks. When we have completed our explorations, we will have lunch in the café located in The Cloisters.

After lunch, we will walk back to our hotel and retrieve the car and drive to an attraction three miles outside the town of Chichester: Goodwood House, an estate owned (but not occupied) by The Duke Of Richmond.

Goodwood House is open to the public, on average, only thirty to sixty afternoons each year. According to the Goodwood House website, it will be open to the public on this particular afternoon, so we plan to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the property.

The Duke Of Richmond was a title bestowed upon an illegitimate son of Charles II (“The Merry Monarch”) and, over generations and through marriage into other titled families, three additional titles have been acquired by The Duke Of Richmond: The Duke Of Lennox, The Duke Of Gordon and The Duke Of Aubigny. Accordingly, the present incumbent is officially known as The Tenth Duke Of Richmond, The Tenth Duke Of Lennox, The Fifth Duke Of Gordon And The Duke Of Aubigny.

Goodwood Estate is presently occupied by The Heir Apparent Of The Duke Of Richmond, Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, Earl Of March, Darnley and Kinrara; his second wife, Janet Elizabeth, The Countess Of March (and daughter of The Third Viscount Of Ascot); their son, The Heir Apparent Of The Earl Of March, 13-year-old Charles Henry, Lord Settrington; and Lord Settrington’s younger siblings, The Honorable William Rupert (age eleven) and The Honorable Frederick Lysander and Lady Eloise Cordelia (seven-year-old twins).

I believe that Lord Settrington’s older half-sister, Lady Alexandra, no longer resides at Goodwood House and now resides in London, but my information on this latter point may not be up-to-date. It is not always easy to keep up with The Peerage.

On the rare afternoons it is open to the public, Goodwood House may be visited by taking either a “stewarded” tour or a “guided” tour. From the Goodwood House website, I cannot for the life of me figure out what is the difference between the two, but on August 6 only “guided” tours—and not “stewarded” tours—will be offered, so I guess it makes no difference for our purposes.

The “guided” tours are one hour in length, but there will be one 90-minute “connoisseurs” tour precisely at 2:45 p.m. on August 6, so we will take the 2:45 p.m. “connoisseurs” tour in order to see as much of the house as possible.

Goodwood House is a very unusual structure: it consists of three sides of an incomplete octagon. The building was constructed over a prolonged period of time, in the 17th and 18th Centuries, but the interiors were completely transformed early in the 19th Century, redecorated in The Regency Style. The interiors remain consistent with The Regency Style to this day, and are considered to be among the finest Regency interiors anywhere.

The public rooms are supposed to be very grand, very beautiful and very sumptuously adorned. The house is filled with paintings, furniture, porcelain and tapestries of the very greatest interest and highest quality.

The painting collection includes grand portraits, including Royal portraits, by Van Dyck. It also includes scenes of London commissioned from Canaletto. There are also English paintings by George Romney, George Stubbs, Joshua Reynolds, Henry Raeburn and Thomas Lawrence.

The furniture is British and French, with French furniture taking precedence: The Third Duke Of Richmond was Britain’s Ambassador To France during the reign of Louis XV, and The Duke personally commissioned numerous pieces of furniture from France’s finest cabinet-makers. Further, The Duke purchased enormous quantities of French furniture on the open market during his years in Paris. He purchased even more French furniture during The French Revolution, when French nobles were frantically trying to sell whatever they could unload at whatever prices they could obtain, and he and his heirs continued to acquire furniture from France at bargain prices for over half a century after The Revolution.

The porcelain is Sevres and, once again, it was acquired by The Third Duke Of Richmond during his diplomatic service in France. In fact, the Goodwood House Sevres porcelain, a complete and astonishingly-elaborate dinner and dessert service, was commissioned directly from the Sevres Porcelain Factory. Moreover, Goodwood House’s Sevres dinner and dessert service is of the greatest rarity because it features not one but two primary colors, blue and green, virtually unprecedented at the time of its commission (1765). The entire service is on display in the Card Room.

The tapestries are Gobelin, a gift to The Third Duke Of Richmond from Louis XV himself. The tapestries portray scenes from Cervantes’s “Don Quixote”, and are supposed to be extraordinary.

(London’s National Portrait Gallery contains a magnificent portrait by George Romney of The Third Duke Of Richmond and Lennox, as he was styled at the time. My brother and I made a point of showing the painting to my parents and Josh last September. The portrait is in profile, with The Duke glancing down at a book while sitting outdoors at Goodwood. The tower of Chichester Cathedral is in the distant background. It is my favorite George Romney painting anywhere. The National Portrait Gallery version of the painting is only one of several versions, and I suspect that there must be another version of the same painting at Goodwood House. The Third Duke Of Richmond And Lennox is also one of the figures portrayed in John Singleton Copley’s grand history painting, “The Collapse Of The Earl Of Chatham In The House Of Lords 7 April 1778”, also at London’s National Portrait Gallery. In Copley’s painting, The Duke is portrayed as having just finished speaking at the moment of Chatham’s collapse.)

I think we will enjoy going through Goodwood House very much, whether we be guided or stewarded through the premises.

How likely will it be that any of us will ever again find ourselves in or anywhere near Chichester on a day that Goodwood House is open? The opportunity to visit the House will probably never repeat itself for any of us.

After Goodwood House, we will drive back to Chichester and spend some time walking the market streets and locating a pleasing restaurant for dinner.

After dinner, we will attend a second performance at Chichester Festival Theatre. Tonight’s performance will be in the smaller venue, the Minerva Theatre, which accommodates only 283 persons.

The play will be “Taking Sides”, Ronald Harwood’s drama about the de-Nazification proceedings of Wilhelm Furtwangler. The role of Furtwangler will be played by Michael Pennington, the actor who played the role of Furtwangler’s interrogator at the play’s world premiere, unveiled in this very theater in 1995. In the original production (directed by Harold Pinter), the very, very short Daniel Massey played the very, very tall Furtwangler.

The play itself is not very good--Harwood has no intellectual depth, and his play, among other things, turns Furtwangler's American interrogator into a cartoon--but I will not mind seeing the play again.

Day Seven: Salisbury

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Salisbury Cathedral

We intend to depart Chichester at 8:15 a.m. and drive to Salisbury, where we hope to arrive by 9:30 a.m.

Salisbury, for us, will be all about Salisbury Cathedral and nothing but Salisbury Cathedral.

Salisbury Cathedral, in itself, is worth crossing oceans to visit.

Salisbury Cathedral is one of the most magnificent buildings anywhere. As a work of art, it puts to shame the two great medieval cathedrals we will already have visited, Canterbury Cathedral and Chichester Cathedral.

Salisbury Cathedral’s magnificence is a result, primarily, of three factors: it has a very large Cathedral Close, the largest in England (80 acres), which allowed the Cathedral to be set apart from all surrounding buildings and placed in the very center of the Close, affording the viewer magnificent views of the Cathedral from all sides, angles and distances; it has England’s tallest spire, 404 feet high, which serves as a glorious and fitting capstone of the Cathedral’s structure (it is the tallest surviving pre-1400 spire anywhere in the world); and, most important, it was built in a single architectural style, owing to the fact that the Cathedral was planned, designed, erected and completed in the remarkably short span of 60 years.

The foundation for the Cathedral was laid in 1220. By 1258, the interior of the Cathedral had largely been completed. The exterior of the main structure was finished in 1265, including the magnificent West Front. The Cloisters and Chapter House were completed by 1280.

The architectural style is Early English Gothic, and there is a purity and a uniformity in the architecture of Salisbury Cathedral lacking in most other great English cathedrals. The exterior is breathtaking from a distance, it is breathtaking up close, and it is breathtaking from all angles, making it one the most pleasurable buildings anywhere to visit. We will probably spend at least an hour, if not more, walking around the exterior of the structure, admiring it from all vantage points, of which there are many due to the size of the Close.

The interior of the Cathedral is fascinating, too. The ceiling, the vaulting, the glass, the carvings, the side chapels: all are remarkable. There are innumerable ancient monuments and memorials in the Cathedral, many of them of the greatest interest.

The world’s oldest working clock is in Salisbury Cathedral, dating from 1386. The clock is a giant mechanism, an enormous contraption with wheels, weights and pulleys. I would estimate the clock mechanism to measure eight-to-ten feet high, deep and wide. It has no clock face, because it was constructed solely to regulate time for the bells of the Cathedral. Salisbury Cathedral has no bells today, because the bells were contained in a separate bell tower that was demolished in 1792. Salisbury Cathedral is today one of only three cathedrals in Britain without bells.

Salisbury Cathedral has a stunning octagonal Chapter House. Its vaulting and wall paintings and stone carvings and stone reliefs are original, all from the 13th Century. Visitors are permitted to rest on the stone ledges of The Chapter House and admire the vaulting and paintings and stonework at their leisure.

It is in The Chapter House that one of four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta is on display. The Salisbury Cathedral Magna Carta, of all copies that survive, is in the best condition.

The Cloisters at Salisbury Cathedral are the largest in Britain. They are a wonderful place for strolling, resting and contemplating.

I have always been in love with Salisbury Cathedral from my initial glimpse of the Cathedral as I first entered the Close, and I have maintained a deep emotional attachment to Salisbury Cathedral ever since. My brother loves Salisbury Cathedral, too. It is almost impossible for him to visit the English countryside without working in a visit to Salisbury Cathedral.

My parents have not visited Salisbury Cathedral for many years, and they welcome the prospect of returning. This will be Josh’s and Josh’s sister’s first visit to the Cathedral. I suspect they will find Salisbury Cathedral to be one of the highlights of our entire trip.

We will spend the entire day in the Cathedral and Close. Between walking around the Close and examining the Cathedral exterior as well as the exteriors of the buildings that line the edge of the Close, and examining the interior of the Cathedral, and visiting The Cloisters and The Chapter House, we will easily be able to occupy the time between 9:30 a.m. and 3: 15 p.m. Sometime in the early afternoon, we will have lunch in the excellent Cathedral restaurant.

At 3:15 p.m., we have something very special planned: we will take a two-hour guided tour of Salisbury Cathedral’s roof and tower. The guided tour is quite extensive, and extremely detailed. In fact, it is more than simply a guided tour of the roof and tower—it is a guided tour of the Cathedral’s many inner passageways that eventually lead upward, lending access to the roof and tower. A total of 322 steps is required to reach the roof, but the guided tour stops frequently along the way in order for the guide to point out interesting features of the great building’s interior and history. Because of all the stops, visitors are not winded in the least once they finally reach the roof, where they may look out over the Cathedral ramparts upon the town of Salisbury and the surrounding countryside.

Visitors do not actually go up into the great tower. Visitors are only permitted to look up into the interior of the tower from directly beneath the center of the tower’s base. The tower is too dangerous for visitors to attempt to climb. Its interior support is composed entirely of wood, and the tower leans—its peak is more than two feet off center.

After the guided tour is over, we will make one final stroll around the Cathedral Close and then proceed to our hotel. We will check in for our single night in Salisbury—we tried to arrange as many two-nights stays as possible throughout our journey, but there will, nonetheless, be three single-night stays during the trip, and Salisbury will be one of them—and afterward we will walk around the market streets of Salisbury for an hour or two before locating a suitable establishment for dinner.

Day Eight: Dartmoor

Friday, August 8, 2008

Widecombe In The Moor
The Church Of Saint Pancras, Widecombe In The Moor

We plan to leave Salisbury at 8:30 a.m. and proceed immediately to Stonehenge, located just outside the town of Salisbury.

My brother and I have visited Stonehenge twice, and my parents visited Stonehenge on one occasion many years ago. We are making a return visit so that Josh and Josh’s sister may see the great stone circles for themselves.

Stonehenge is one of the world’s great travel disappointments. The stones themselves are not a particularly impressive sight when viewed in person, and the manner in which visitors must view this ancient monument is a disgrace.

A two-lane blacktop highway separates the giant parking lot from the stone circles. Visitors must cross the blacktop highway by dodging traffic flowing in both directions—there are no traffic stoplights, and no pedestrian crossings painted onto the blacktop—and then make their way through mud paths to the circles. It is not a pleasing experience.

Visitors have the option of purchasing tickets that enable them to approach the circles fairly closely (but not too closely, as the circles are fenced off from the public—with an American prairie snow fence, of all things) or simply walking along a barbwire livestock fence that parallels the two-lane blacktop, separating the road from the adjacent fields. This latter option allows visitors to observe the circles from a slightly more distant perspective than the paying customers.

Stonehenge is generally mobbed with tourists, and it is always fun to see the profound looks of disappointment on the faces of visitors. Most typical is a look of incredulous disbelief evidencing “We traveled all this way to see THIS?” on visitors’ faces. Most tourists spend a few minutes looking at the stone circles, re-cross the road, get in their cars, and drive away.

The first time my brother and I visited Stonehenge, in 2002, we witnessed an incident in the Stonehenge parking lot involving a double-deck bus full of German university students. Whatever touring schedule the German students were obliged to observe required that they spend one hour at Stonehenge. The students became incensed—they wanted to leave Stonehenge as soon as they saw a glimpse of the stone circles across the road. About half of the German students did not even bother to get off the bus.

A group of the students got into a very public argument first with their guide and then with their bus driver, both of which were also German. The guide and bus driver refused to leave the parking lot ahead of schedule, and the students became very upset, heaping abuse upon the guide and driver, dumping trash in the parking lot and relieving themselves against the bus.

Finally, about half of the students left to visit the concession stand in the Stonehenge parking lot, while the other half remained in the bus. None of the students bothered to cross the road to get a closer look at the stone circles.

In a short while, the students who had departed for the concession stand returned, bearing sausages laden with mustard. They boarded the bus and glumly sat, eating their sausages and mustard—and drinking beer. It was 9:00 in the morning.

Since Stonehenge is so close to Salisbury, it makes no sense for Josh and his sister NOT to visit Stonehenge while we are so close by. It is imperative for everyone to see Stonehenge at least once, even if deep disappointment is inevitable.

After spending whatever time Josh and his sister want to spend with the stone circles, we will head toward our evening’s destination, Plymouth, routing ourselves through Dartmoor.

Dartmoor is the giant moorland that occupies much of Devon. Over half of Dartmoor is covered with peat; the rest of the land is farmed or tended, or is a combination of bare hills and rock that has its own special beauty.

Dartmoor is very sparsely populated—only 33,000 persons reside in this giant swath of moorland—and it is a warren of narrow roads, hills, streams, bogs, farms and villages. On a dark, cloudy, rainy day, Dartmoor is very mysterious and evokes moods right out of “The Hound Of The Baskervilles”. On a sunny day, Dartmoor does not look much different than parts of Northern Minnesota, only with peat on the ground instead of grassland.

We have planned what we believe to be an interesting path through the giant moorland, and it should make for an interesting day’s drive.

Halfway through the moor, we will stop at Widecombe In The Moor, a small village near the center of Dartmoor, and walk around the village and have lunch.

Widecombe In The Moor is one of the more popular villages in Dartmoor for visitors, but I cannot say why, precisely. It is a convenient stop if one is driving through Dartmoor, but the village itself has only one interesting feature: an ancient church, The Church Of Saint Pancras, erected in the 14th Century in the English Perpendicular style.

The church is very large for such a small village because, as the only church for miles and miles around, it serves a very large parish. It has a large, tree-laden churchyard, and its exterior is very beautiful, although the interior is not very notable.

The Church Of Saint Pancras was the site of the earliest recorded instance of ball lightning.

In 1638, during Sunday afternoon worship service at which 300 persons were present, an eight-foot-wide bolt of ball lightning entered the church through a window, made its way around the full church interior and exited through the roof. There is confusion on the question how long the incident of ball lightning lasted. Some persons insisted it lasted a full minute, others insisted it lasted a full two minutes. However long it lasted, it must have seemed like an eternity. Four persons were killed by the lightning and another 60 were injured. A dog died, too, first thrown into the air and then thrown several feet out the church’s main door. The path of destruction was random, and inexplicable. Some victims had their clothes burned off but were otherwise unharmed. Other victims suffered severe burns to their flesh but their clothing remained untouched and unscorched. In the months following the event, all persons in the church that day were asked to write an account of what had happened or asked to dictate their personal observations to local clergy and schoolteachers, who duly recorded their tales. It is from these old eyewitness accounts that scientists of today have concluded that the phenomenon of ball lightning is the only possible explanation for what occurred that day at The Church Of Saint Pancras.

Once we have spent whatever time we want to devote to Widecombe In The Moor, we will continue our drive to Plymouth.

We should arrive in the late afternoon. We will check into our hotel first thing and relax.

Our Plymouth hotel has a swimming pool, and my brother and Josh and I will probably take advantage of that luxury. Our Plymouth hotel is the only hotel during our trip that has a pool.

Later, we’ll find a place to have dinner.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Day Nine: Plymouth

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Charles Church, Plymouth
Saint Andrew’s Church, Plymouth
Plymouth Barbican
Cruise On Plymouth Harbor
Plymouth Hoe
The Royal Citadel, Plymouth
“A Disappearing Number” At Theatre Royal, Plymouth

We hope to set out this day around 9:00 a.m.

Our first stop will be Charles Church, which lies in the middle of a great traffic circle in downtown Plymouth.

Charles Church was erected during The Civil War. It was named after Charles I, the Sovereign who granted its charter but who was soon to lose his head.

The church was one of the last churches built in the English Gothic style, a style that was falling from fashion at the time. It served as one of Plymouth’s two principal churches for over three centuries until it was destroyed during World War II.

All that remains of Charles Church today is the tower and the striking English Gothic vaults and a few walls, but the ruins fully reveal the church’s original structure and are a most impressive and beautiful sight. The remains of Charles Church now serve as a memorial to those Plymouth residents who lost their lives as a result of German bombs (Plymouth, owing to its status as a major port, was one of the most heavily-bombed cities in all of Britain).

From Charles Church, we will walk over to Saint Andrew’s Church, the other historic principal church of Plymouth.

Saint Andrew’s Church, too, was destroyed during the war, but Saint Andrew’s Church was rebuilt at war’s end.

The original building was constructed over several centuries, from 1100 to 1500, but most of its present form dates from the 14th and 15th Centuries, when the building was substantially enlarged in the English Gothic style. It is the largest parish church in Devon. The post-war reconstruction duplicates the church, as it was, before the war.

Many famous persons are associated with Saint Andrew’s Church. It was the first church in England in which Catherine Of Aragon worshipped after arriving from Spain. Francis Drake was a member of the church, as was Captain Bligh of the Bounty. It was the church of Francis Chichester.

After exploring Saint Andrew’s Church, we will walk to the Plymouth Barbican, the area with which so much of Plymouth’s history is associated.

The Barbican is a maze of narrow streets and alleys just off the harbor that, miraculously, survived the bombs of World War II. A few of the buildings date to Elizabethan times.

We will walk around this area and examine the old buildings, and then we will walk to the harbor front and visit The Mayflower Steps, from which the Pilgrims embarked en route to The New World. We will walk the entirety of the harbor. Many, many epic voyages originated from the harbor in Plymouth, from the Pilgrims to Francis Drake to Walter Raleigh to Captain Cook to Scott Of The Antarctic.

Once we have seen everything on the harbor front, we plan to take a cruise from the harbor. The particular cruise we plan to take first circles the inner harbor—named Sutton Harbor—after which it sails out into Plymouth Sound, sailing below Plymouth Hoe, the high ground overlooking both Sutton Harbor and Plymouth Sound (and that formerly served as the town’s major fortification), and then into the Naval Dockyards, Europe’s largest port, which serves as home to British warships and nuclear submarines.

After we return to the harbor, we plan to buy a picnic lunch and take it up to Plymouth Hoe and eat upon the grounds. Plymouth Hoe is nothing so much as an enormous park overlooking Sutton Harbor on one side and Plymouth Sound on another. Plymouth Hoe is very beautiful, the finest feature of the city of Plymouth in my estimation.

After lunch, we plan to spend the afternoon exploring the Hoe. There are many things to see on the Hoe. One is a giant statue of Francis Drake. Another is the Boer War Monument. There are several other interesting memorials on the grounds, too. Most impressive of all the monuments, perhaps, is an elaborate and imposing memorial to The Royal Navy, commemorating those who lost their lives in both world wars while serving on the seas.

Plymouth Hoe is also home to Smeaton’s Tower, a lighthouse that used to be situated upon rock out in Plymouth Sound, only to be dismantled and re-erected at the top of Plymouth Hoe. We plan to tour Smeaton’s Tower, and climb to the top and enjoy the prime views over Plymouth, Sutton Harbor and Plymouth Sound.

The largest man-made attraction on Plymouth Hoe is The Royal Citadel, a fortress that was constructed shortly after The Civil War to protect Plymouth from foreign invasion. It was to become Britain’s most important fortification for over a century after its completion.

The Royal Citadel is enormous. Its walls are seventy feet high, and within those walls lie a large parade ground, storerooms for weapons and provisions, officer quarters, working quarters and barracks for 300 men. 113 guns are in place on its ramparts. Hundreds of military personnel—representing The Royal Navy, The Royal Marines and The Royal Artillery—currently work within the Citadel. Units operating out of The Royal Citadel served in Basra in Iraq.

The entrance to The Royal Citadel is a dramatic Baroque Arch at the end of a long moat (the moat never was filled with water).

The Royal Citadel is periodically but infrequently opened for guided tours, but there are no guided tours scheduled for August 9. The most we will be able to do is to circle the giant fortress and admire its exterior.

After we have completed our explorations of Plymouth Hoe, we will return to our hotel for an hour or two (and once again take advantage of the hotel's swimming pool).

In the evening, we will have dinner and attend a performance at Plymouth’s Theatre Royal, a modern and excellent theater facility. My brother and I attended a performance of “Hamlet” at Theatre Royal in 2004 (at that performance, Michael Maloney portrayed Hamlet, creditably).

This evening’s performance will be presented by an experimental British theater company known as Complicite. The play is titled “A Disappearing Number”. It was “conceived and directed” by Simon McBurney.

“A Disappearing Number” tells duo stories: the real-life story of the professional collaboration between two leading mathematicians of the early 20th Century, G. H. Hardy (1877-1947), a Cambridge Professor, and Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920), a Brahmin from South India whose spiritual journey took him from India to Cambridge and back to India again to face an early death; and the fictional story of two present-day mathematicians, one Western and one Asian, whose spiritual journey begins in the West but ends in India—a journey that also ends in death.

“A Disappearing Number” received its world premiere at Plymouth’s Theatre Royal in 2007. It returns for one weekend of performances in 2008, after having toured the world, and we have decided to take advantage of the opportunity to attend one of the four Plymouth performances.

It is supposed to be a very experimental work—having nothing to do with the conventional narratives of the stage—but it is also supposed to be fascinating if not rewarding. The play is probably not too experimental, because it won the Evening Standard, Olivier and Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Play Of 2007. It combines text, music, sound, projections and dance to tell the story.

We shall probably all either love or hate “A Disappearing Number”. The play is only one hour and forty-five minutes in duration, so it is not too long—and we can always leave if we intensely dislike the play or performance. It is the only evening event we could find in Plymouth that attracted our interest in the least, so it seems sensible that we go.

I worry that no one will like the play, but Josh and I forwarded articles about the play to my brother and Josh’s sister, and they read the articles and they said they want to attend a performance. They are intrigued, and so are my parents.

I hope it works out.