Wednesday, November 28, 2007

England Trip Part Two

       OK, so we had the opportunity to go to the town of Ely (not Nevada).  As we got closer I could see the Ely cathedral.  It was pretty big.  Well, John Litecky was driving and as we got inot town, we were very close to all the buildings so I lost sight of the cathedral.  In Ely

We parked in the "car park" and started to walk through the town.

John and Chris Marion and Guenivier DSCF6459

     As we turned a corner, my hand immediately covered my open mouth (it was jaw dropping).  I stopped in my tracks.  What I had thought from a distance as a pretty big building was the biggest church I have ever seen!


The Ely Cathedral.  At 537 feet, Ely is the fourth longest of the English cathedrals (Winchester is the longest at 547 feet).  The west tower, which can be seen from miles around, is 215 feet high.  There has been a church in Ely since AD 673.  The original church was destroyed by the Danes and the Ely cathedral was built by the Normans between 1081 and 1189.

     It was amazing.  As we walked in the doors, it was one long open building, floor to ceiling.

The Octagon

This is a picture of the octagon.  On February 22nd, 1322 the central tower collapsed.  It's width of 74 feet was too big to support a stone vault and so it was built of wood and covered in lead.  The octagon's internal height is 142 feet and it's total weight is 400 tons.  It took 18 years to build!  It reminded me of a kaleidoscope, and as most of you know, I love kaleidoscopes.  It was beautiful. 


I didn't want to use my camera flash inside so I had a hard time getting some pictures.  So, I hope you enjoy the few that I did get.

 The Knave Cool Stained Glass

The 13th and 14th centuries saw the rise of the cult of the virgin Mary.  And chapels in her honor were added to many churches and cathedrals, including Ely.  We entered what was called "The Lady Chapel".  It was completed in 1349.  At one time it was colored and had stained glass and painted statues in the niches.  It was all destroyed, as you can see in the pictures below, in the 16th century during the reformation.  The Puritans rejected all forms of religious decoration.

DSCF6444 DSCF6445 If you look closely you can see the damage.  Figures have been defaced and there are now empty pedestals where the statues stood.  As I thought about these broken stones, I was actually quite sad.  I thought about our 11th article of faith; "We claim the privilege of worshipping all mighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."  So, the history of this beautiful building has been destroyed because the Puritans had no tolerance for others' beliefs.

Can I tell you how awesome it was to see this building and everything in it and around it and know that it was older than our own country?

The north and south choir aisles are full of memorials.  We found some interesting names, stories, and very old dates.

Bishop Hugh Northwald Bishop Hugh Northwold, died in 1254.







DSCF6424 This guy's obituary that was carved into the sarcophogas said he was from the family "Stewart" and had some wonderful adventures and stuff he'd been involved in.  In all actuality it was all lies.  Apparently his real name was "Stywart", meaning "one who works with pigs", and his obituary was his way of trying to make his life seem much more impressive.

Ely Cathedral

Ely Neighborhood We also spent some time just wandering around the town.  Here are some pictures of what we saw. 






DSCF6464 DSCF6466

We had a great time in Ely.  The next post will be about our visit to Cambridge.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cindy's Post

Tonight I thought I'd do something a little different. I'm having a guest blogger. I've asked Cindy to write this particular post so we could all hear her perspective on what happened.
This is a picture of the new British outer wear I bought on the trip.

If you had asked me 25 years ago where I would be in November of 2007, I would have imagined my life somewhat different.
David has had the opportunity to visit countries all over the world. I, however, have not. Well about 4 weeks ago he said, "Hey, a few of us from the office are going to England TDY. How would you feel about going with me?" I hesitated at first. I couldn't imagine how much that would cost us. OK, so here I am, 2 days after our trip still wanting to pinch myself. I went to England!

The trip over "the pond" was a new one for me as well. Riding in economy was an experience in and of itself. Sitting so close to the people next to you made for an entertaining flight. Your elbows at your side even while you are trying to eat. I couldn't help but giggle. It reminded me of the comedian Brian Regan and his routine about flight. All squished elbows at your side, eating a cold fish head and a turnip with a spork. I couldn't do it every day, but it made for some good entertainment for a bit.

Well, flying in to Heathrow Airport, I could see London Bridge and the Thames River. It made my heart skip a beat. I was so excited!
After getting our luggage and going though customs we had to wait for our bus to RAF Mildenhall. There was a group of high school students outside. A lot of them wearing I ♥ NY t-shirts. I couldn't decide if they were Americans coming to England or British just coming back from New York. I decided to go outside and listen. They were so quiet. It took me a minute to figure it out. They were quiet, reserved, British high school students. I was amazed! Also . . . They all sounded like Harry Potter. It was awesome. Everything was different. The taxis, the emergency vehicles. And . . . they drove on the opposite side of the car on the opposite side of the street!
The guys & girl, David, John, Chris, and Rhonda had to work during the days and I, being who I am, was very scared of exploring on my own. Didn't dare leave the base on my own. So I just walked around the base everyday, waiting for the crew to finish up. Each night we drove to one of the surrounding communities to eat dinner, usually in one of the many pubs (there were so many!).

On one of these trips, I noticed a very old overgrown cemetery. The headstones were thin, crooked, and placed in no fashion at all.

So I talked the guys into stopping so that I could take some pictures and names and dates. We found our way in and as we walked around reading names and dates, we realized it was newer than any of us thought. Some of the headstones were from 1978 or 1956 etc. The way it looked, I expected it to have dates form the 15, 16, or 1700s. But most were from the 1800s and 1900s. So as I looked around to see the scattered headstones my thought was "They must have tossed the bodies over the stone wall and buried them where they landed." And . . . No one has come back to take care of the grounds.

We ate at the Golden Boar pub. David had the Bangers and Mash, which basically was sausage and mashed potatoes. I went the safe route I thought, and had vegetable curry. Curry is huge in England! Since India was a British colony for so long, there is a lot of Indian influence in England.

Driving around the town was also really cool in and of itself. The buildings were so old and so small. A few of the homes had thatched roofs. The thatch was covered with chicken wire. Once again, I was amazed!

Night two. John, who had lived in England a few years ago, told us of an old mill that had been turned into a restaurant. He said "If you guys want to go, I can take you and drop you off tonight. It's kind of expensive, but very nice, and great food." When I asked how much, he said "I think about $40 per person." Kind of expensive, but we thought "What the heck, we're in England and we may not ever be back." The restaurant was called Tuddenham Mill, which as you would suspect, is in the town of Tuddenham.

John made the reservations for us and when we arrived we were the only ones there for most of our meal. They sat us in a lounge on a couch, took our drink orders and brought out veggie chips.

The waitress handed us printed menus for that evening. 3 courses and we each had to choose which item we wanted in each course. Right before our first course was ready, she took us upstairs to the dining room. The atmosphere was nice. Old building, tables in black set so beautifully. Old water wheel encased in glass in the middle of the room. David's first course was three slices of smoked pigeon breast on a roasted fig, grape and Aspall cider chutney, and beetroot and red pepper remoulade.

For my first course I had beef tomato, salsify and spring onion terrine with beetroot and horseradish pesto, and nettle and lavender sabyon. On my plate there were 3 tiny stems, each with 2 tiny leaves. One stem was even smaller and it was purple, the others were green. I said to David, "Am I supposed to eat these or look at them?" I decided that they must be edible because thy had their own spot on the plate. So, hoping that the kitchen help wasn't watching and laughing, I ate one of the stems. Having never tasted watercress, I imagine that's what it was like. Not too bad, so I ate the other two stems. The tomato/potato layer was very good. Very small, like an hors D'oeuvres, but very tasty. The julienned beets were not so good. Very tangy.

My second course was Tandoori marinated pork (yes, meat) filet with coconut, lime leaf and sweet chili sticky rice, and a water chestnut, bean sprout and bok choi stir fry. We shared a dessert, also very yummy. Banana and toffee crumble, vanilla waffle and maple syrup ice cream.
Well, we decided that in England they let you just relax for as long as you want. After several minutes after our dessert, we had to finally ask for our bill. As we were taking care of the bill at the table with "THE MACHINE", as the waitress referred to it (a portable credit card machine) I asked the waitress, who's name was Pip, how old the mill was. She said "Well I'm not sure, but it's older than Domesday." I looked at David and he shrugged. After she left I said "What the heck? . . . Domesday?" Thinking . . . the end of the world. What? We had to look it up when we got back to our room. Domesday was a great land survey from 1086, commissioned by William the Conqueror to assess the extent of the land and resources being owned in England at the time, and the extent of the taxes he could raise. The mill was in the Domesday book! So the mill was older than 900 years. Amazing.
So, back to the dinner. John was wrong on the $40 per person. I think he meant to say £40 per person, which meant our bill ended up being about $160. Wow! The grounds were beautiful, the waterway leading up to the mill had 8-10 swans in it. They had these lights on the lake that changed colors. So, as we watched out the window while we ate, the swans changed from red to orange to yellow to blue to green to purple. It was beautiful! We took a taxi back to the base.
As I explored every day and night, I wished that I had paid more attention to world history. I was glad that David had his computer with him. I had to look stuff up every night.
OK, this is getting longer than I thought it would. I'll end here for today and finish this up tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

In England

We are actually in England now. What a day today was! We arrived at the Shreveport airport at about 8:30 Saturday morning. We had a bit a of a wait for our flight and while we were waiting, Cindy pointed out one of the passengers to me. It was Harold Ramis (He played Egon in Ghostbusters with Dan Akroyd and Bill Murray). Apparently he is in Shreveport working on a movie with Jack Black.

We flew to Dallas for a short layover then it was on to Chicago. We were able to watch The Simpsons movie while we were flying. Funny movie! We had a 3 hour layover in Chicago and ate at Wolfgang Puck's. Very good food. We shopped around a bit, then got back on the plane (same one) and then flew the 7 hours to London. Long flight and a first for Cindy. She's never been on a plane that long. This is a good warm up trip for our Italy trip. We landed in London at 6 am. We're fighting jet lag pretty hard right now.

After getting through immigrations and customs and retrieving our bags, we were waiting for the shuttle bus that would take us to RAF Mildenhall. While we were waiting Cindy went outside to take a picture of the taxi cabs. She came back in smiling and said "They all sound like Harry Potter out there." Don't know why, but it struck me as very funny. It was about a 2 hour drive to the base from the airport and we napped as much as we could. We checked into our rooms and then it was time to go hit the "town". We found this really cool, old cemetery. We took some pictures and I'd post them here, but it turns out we forgot to bring the USB cord for the camera. We won't be able to post the photos until we get back, but we'll keep you up to date anyway. After looking around the town, we went to dinner at a pub called "The Golden Boar". We took pictures and everything. Then when we went in, it turned out that they had quit serving food for the day. So, we drove to another little village and ended up eating at "The Olde Bull" pub. Great food! I had the bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes). It was great. Melissa, you would have loved the potatoes. Cindy had the vegetable curry. We all had a great time.

After dinner we came back to base, hit the BX to stock up our refrigerators and now we're home for the night. We (the inspection team) start the inspection tomorrow morning and Cindy is going to explore the base and find out what kind of tours are available. WE are very happy to be here, and I am personally thrilled that Cindy was able to join me on this trip. Even though I'll be working during the day, it will give Cindy and opportunity to explore a little on her own, and we get to go to town each night and eat dinner together.