Saturday, August 6, 2016

Trip to England, U.K. (July 2016)

England is the largest state of four states that form the United Kingdom. England is also the largest state in the Island of Great Britain and has a population of 53 million. There was another post that covers the U.K. extensively. Please click here to go to this blog post.

Kristin and I visited several cities and towns of England to experience this marvelous country this summer. We visited London, Stonehenge, Stratford, Bath, Liverpool, Yorkshire, Cambridge. We also visited Oxford a few years ago.

London is the capital city of England as well as of the United Kingdom. It is one of the largest cities in the world and is the center for world finance and global politics. I have posted another blog to cover only London. Please click here to see this blog post.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, 2 miles west of Amesbury and 8 miles north of Salisbury. Stonehenge's ring of standing stones is set within earthworks in the middle of the most dense complex of neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.

Archaeologists believe that Stonehenge was constructed from 3000 B.C. to 2000 B.C. It is frequently included in the list of natural wonders, primarily for its prehistoric construction 4,500 years ago. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There were several legends about stones standing or lying down on the ground, such as Slaughter Stone, Heel Stone. But, we had to pay GBP14-19 to see the stones and felt somewhat ripped off.

Bath is a city in the Somerset County of England, located 97 miles west of London. It is well known for the Roman-built baths and 18th century Georgian architecture. These baths were built in this city because of its natural hot springs. In the city are the original Roman Baths, which is a museum that includes the Great Bath, Roman statues and a temple. The ruins are well preserved and attract 5 million tourists of which 1 million stay overnight in the city. The city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The Great Bath is a pool that is surrounded by Roman sculptures overlooking the pool. The water in the bath pool was so green and we were not allowed to touch.

The City of Bath has a population of less than 100,000 sitting on the valley of the River Avon. There was a pretty garden which we could look down from the bridge.

We saw Bath Abbey and in front of the Abbey was a statue of "Water is Best." Bath is also famous for cider.

We saw Royal Crescendent and The Circus both of which are of Georgian architecture. These buildings had consistent exterior facade, but the residents are allowed to have their own interior designs. The Circus is an exclusive residential area. Nicolas Cage once owned a town home strip worth GBP4 million. Yikes!

There was Queens Plaza that showed so many windows blocked. reportedly due to "window taxes" imposed upon the residents based on the number of windows, charging taxes essentially on light and air. These window taxes were pretty common in England, Scotland, Ireland and France during the 18th and 19th centuries. They all have been repealed now.

There were many street performers and some of them were amazing. This guy who stands on a bicycle without any movement looked just like a statue.

The city sightseeing bus showed 38 stopping points of interest. I am sure there are a lot more to see only had we had more time.

Stratford-upon-Avon is the birthplace of William Shakespeare, the greatest play writer in history. Stratford-upon-Avon should not be confused with Stratford that is part of East London. Stratford-upon-Avon is a small town surrounded by glorious rural countryside. We visited the birthplace of Shakespeare and his burial site at a church.

The birthplace is a cozy house that has been well preserved with the antiques of Shakespeare times. The Shakespeare Center was exhibiting Shakespeare's will. One of the contents in the will was giving the second best bed for his wife. Hmmm...

In the backyard of his birthplace, many actors were performing some of the scenes of the plays written by Shakespeare.

On a wall, a dozen famous plays that Shakespeare wrote were depicted in cartoons, such as Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello etc. It was an effective bird's eye view of Shakespeare's works.

Shakespeare died in 1616, exactly 400 years ago. I did not get to visit the burial site of Shakespeare located at the Church of the Holy Trinity, but Kristin visited the site and took some photos. Interestingly, the church had contemporary paintings displayed on the interior walls.

We had lunch at the Cornish Bakery, which claims that they make the best pasties, pies that have meats inside. They were tasty.

The main street was filled with tourists who wanted to experience the life of the greatest play writer in history. At the entrance of the main street was a statue of a folly that symbolizes the mixed state of human being, which is many times disguised under a mask.

Liverpool is one of major cities of England as the metropolitan borough in north west England. The city has a population of approximately 500,000, but its metropolitan area covers over 2.2. million inhabitants.

Liverpool is a port city and was the port of registry of the famous ocean liner RMS Titanic. It still is the port of registry of many other Cunard and White Star ocean liners such as the RMS Lusitania, Queen Mary and the Olympic. The city celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2007.

Liverpool is famous for its flagship football club Liverpool Football Club that belongs to the Premier League. But more than anything else it is the home for the Beatles.

The Beatles is known to be the legend of classic rock. They recorded 309 songs and they are still favorite songs of many. The Beatles Story would have been a great place to learn about their story, but we were bumped out basically because there were too many people. We had to settle for a photo taken in front of the place.

The Beatles first performed at The Cavern Club and there were musicians who were performing probably with a dream of becoming like the Beatles someday. Also, there were many places that were associated with their songs and we visited a few places, Strawberry Field associated with "Strawberry Fields Forever" and Penny Lane Cafe associated with "Penny Lane." We also saw John Lennon's house.

The Beatles is still alive in the city, not only with the Cavern Club, but also several places that are associated with them. I posed with the John Lennon statue and there was a wall-full of people who loved them and supported them. We listened to several songs of the Beatles and ended up humming for quite a while during our trip. "Let it be... oh oh let it be..."

Liverpool has a new mascot called Superlambanana. It was designed to be a cross between a lamb and a banana, whatever it may mean.

We visited several places of interest, including China Town where we had dim sum. It was delicioius! We also visited the Anglican Cathedral that is known to be the longest and fifth largest in the world.

Alnwich Castle is located in the county of Northumberland. It is the seat of the Duke of Northumberland. It was built following the Norman conquest and renovated and remodeled a number of times. It is the second largest inhabited castle in the U.K. after the Windsor Castle.

Alnwick Castle is famous for a site for filming many movies, including Harry Potter, The Philosopher's Stone, the Chamber of Secrets, Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, Downtown Abbey, The Black Adder, Star Trek: The Next Generation. On the green, a group of people were taking lessons about flying on the broomstick where the scene was filmed. Funny... We took the tour to the Knight Quest, staterooms.

Yorkshire is a county located in the northern part of England and York is the capital city. We could not visit the city because we had to leave early by train to London Heathrow Airport to catch a flight to return to Rwanda via Amsterdam. So we missed the opportunity of seeing wonderful places like York Minster.

Cambridge is a city on the River Cam in eastern England, home to the prestigious University of Cambridge founded in the 13th century. Again, we had to miss the opportunity to visit this fabulous city and the famous punting on the river.

Oxford is another city where a world-renowned educational institution is located: i.e. University of Oxford, the oldest university in English-speaking world. Oxford, known as the City of Dreaming Spires is culturally diverse and is one of the most rapidly growing cities in the U.K. Kristin and I visited this fantastic city several years ago and I posted a blog. Please click here to go to this blog post.

Overall, our visits to the cities and towns of England were filled with valuable experiences and fond memories. England remains a country that always has something to explore. - Jeffrey

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