W is for…

WWoodstock

Just outside the spreading grounds of Blenheim Palace is the little village of Woodstock. It is one of those charming little places that seems to transcend time. Well, if there weren’t so many dang cars parked up and down the streets, that is. But the houses are old stone, the windows full of flower boxes, and the doors have adorable little fox and lion door knockers. After we exhausted ourselves at Blenheim we were revived by the charm of this little village and its loveliness.

woodstock

Charming streets of Woodstock

What knockers!

What knockers!

U is for…

UUpper Broadheath

This little hamlet is the birthplace of one of Britain’s most famous composers: Edward Elgar. Everyone knows Pomp and Circumstance, which is played at nearly every graduation in the world, but he was an amazing composer well beyond that lovely piece of music.

The cozy little cottage where Edward Elgar was born

The cozy little cottage where Edward Elgar was born

Elgar was born in a tiny brick house in 1857. Being one of my husbands favorite composers, we made the trip to Upper Broadheath to see the house and the small museum erected nearby. It was a lovely little spot–the house small but cozy, the garden lovely with fall flowers and apples trees heavy with fruit. The museum was well put together and had interesting displays, artifacts, and of course, listening stations to hear his music.

And the gardens in their fall splendor

And the gardens in their fall splendor

Q is for…

QQuinto Books

In London there is an area around Charing Cross Road that is loaded with used bookstores. It’s not as packed as it was when I first visited in 1995, but there are still a fair amount still around. Quinto Books is one of them.

Quinto Books

Quinto Books

I don’t mind mentioning that we came home from this vacation barely making our luggage weight because of all the books we bought. Not only did we spend a serious amount of hours in Blackwell in Oxford, we also spent the better part of a day knocking around Quinto’s and others like it on Charing Cross. Kosta was looking for history (Ancient Greek or WWII) and music books, while I was intent upon handsome old volumes of fiction and life in Tudor England. We each came away happy, as you can see.

Heaven!

Heaven!

Heaven part 2!

Heaven part 2!

P is for…

PPort Isaac

Have you ever seen the TV show Doc Martin? If you haven’t, I demand you go find it right now and watch it. It stars Martin Clunes as a possibly Asperger’s surgeon who developed a phobia for blood and had to take a position as a town doctor in the small coastal town of Port Wenn in Cornwall. Port Isaac is the place where this show is filmed and Kosta and I made a special trip to see it during our 2012 trip to England.

My parking place at the hotel.

My parking place at the hotel.

Let me first tell you about driving in Cornwall–if you have any tiny little hint of anxiety disorder I suggest you avoid it at all costs. The roads are about the width of a horse’s butt, lined with tall hedgerows and corkscrew around like a Matchbox car race course. Don’t forget as an American, I was driving backwards to what I was used to. And then of course the locals drive like demons escaped from hell. I felt like peering through my fingers the whole time I was behind the wheel.

Doc Martin's house!

Doc Martin’s house!

A view of the port from up on the hill.

A view of the port from up on the hill.

But once we got there? PERFECTION. This town is so breathtakingly charming I could have stayed for months, just wandering the streets and the grassy cliffs above. We didn’t see anyone famous as they weren’t filming, but we did see Doc Martin’s house, Mrs. Tischel’s chemist’s shop, and actually stayed at the Old School Hotel which is the school where Louisa Glassin teaches. It was an extremely cool experience.

Old School Hotel

Old School Hotel

Until we had to get back in the car and drive back to Oxford.

O is for…

OOxford

I’ve spent a little time in this achingly beautiful town. In 1995 I did a study abroad tour called Eurospring where a group of us studied at Oxford for five weeks and then had a three-week bus tour of the Continent. It was the best thing I had ever done in my young life and the travel bug bit me hard.

Theology school from the 12th century.

Theology school from the 12th century. (Also, for you Harry Potter nerds, the hospital wing at Hogwarts.)

I’ve been back twice since: once with my mother in 1997 and once in 2012 with my husband. If you’ve been reading my posts this month you’ll already know I studied Gothic architecture in college, and this town is chock-a-block with it. It’s heaven for someone like me to just wander the streets and look up at all the beautiful buildings.

Wandering the streets.

Wandering the streets.

I can’t believe though, that it took me until 2012 to take a tour of the Bodleian Library. Kosta and I both positively went weak at the knees when we were led up to the stacks on the second floor. Oh, but could we have touched those books. Just one little fingertip on a spine.

Bodleian Library

Bodleian Library…Don’t you just want to take a peek?

Yes, I know I’m a nerd. Proud of it too.

E is for…

EEttington Park

My husband introduced me to the best haunted house story ever: Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. They made a movie of it in 1964 starring Julie Harris, Russ Tamblyn, and Claire Bloom. While most of it was shot on a sound stage, the exteriors of Hill House were shot at Ettington Park, a manor house in the area of Stratford-On -Avon in Warwickshire.

The front edifice of Ettington Park

Me at the front edifice of Ettington Park.

We were so excited to see the place because The Haunting is one of our favorite movies… we watch it every year at Halloween. So when we saw the edifice in person it gave us a delightful chill. It is now run as a boutique hotel mainly catering to weddings, so we decided to peek in the lobby. We spoke briefly to the receptionist, who called over the caretaker, a man named Peter. He was very affable and was delighted to take us on a 45 minute tour of the house and grounds, telling us of the history. It was really remarkable and unexpected, and we had a blast.

The library and the secret door.

The library and the secret door.

Hill House, not same, stood by itself against the hill, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, wall continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

“Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against the hill, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, wall continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.” -The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

B is for…

BBlenheim Palace

Just outside of Oxford, England lies the imposingly grand palace of the Duke of Marlborough. I have been here twice. Once on my study abroad tour in 1995, and once with my husband on 2012. There are no words to convey the vastness or the grandeur of this place. The grounds go on farther than the eye can see and the house almost does too. The formal gardens are beautiful and the park is lush and inviting.

Blenheim Palace

An interesting thing about this place is that Winston Churchill was born here. His mother was related to the family. There is a neat little display in the room where the great Prime Minister was born. It has wonderful memorabilia, including his “siren suit,” a red jumpsuit he used to don in midnight bombing raids. He must have been quite fetching in it.

Statue in the gardens.

Statue in the gardens.

The formal gardens at the back of the house.

The formal gardens at the back of the house.