Sunday, April 29, 2018

England 2018, Day 11

When we arrived on Sunday night it was too late to fully appreciate the charm of the Edward Hotel in Gloucester. The hotel is located a few blocks from the historic part of town near the cathedral and was built in 18th and 19th century. Our room was accessed by climbing a flight of stairs then walking a narrow hallway across the length of the building to another flight or two of stairs. The room had slanted ceilings but was quite spacious and had its own bathroom. There were biscuits thoughtfully tucked next to the tea making supplies.
Gloucester Cathedral from the west
Downstairs there was a large breakfast room and nice-looking bar. There were hundreds of pictures of historical items in the passageways and public rooms of the hotel, including a puzzle in the dining room about the connection between several of the pictures. We were intrigued but got sidetracked by breakfast: croissants.
The Cathedral's secluded garth
The male owner of the Edward Hotel in Gloucester provided tea and croissants, which made us happy (a cooked English breakfast was available but not our preference). His wife had suggested we ask him for sightseeing advice to supplement our visit to Gloucester Cathedral, and first he asked my niece if she was a Harry Potter fan.
The Great Cloister with magnificent fan vaulting (but no Harry, Ron, or Hermione)
Overlooking the Garth (courtyard)
Intrigued, she said yes, and he told her that Gloucester Cathedral had been used for filming some of the HP movies.  It has also been used for The Choir (dramatization of Joanna Trollope's book), Wolf Hall, and the Hollow Crown.  Then he very kindly offered to meet us there at 10:30 to provide some historical background: he even knew some fascinating connections with Boston history which had us intrigued, involving the organist's (practically a hereditary position) family.  
Robert of Normandy (c. 1054-1134)
We left our luggage in the front office, then headed on our way, spending a little over an hour in the Cathedral ourselves.  We saw the great Cloister with its beautiful fan vaulting where the original Abbey's monks lived and prayed, which were featured in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, HP and the Chamber of Secrets, and HP and the Half-Blood Prince.   Edward II, not one of my favorite English kings, is buried in this cathedral, as well as, more intriguingly, Robert of Normandy, eldest son of William the Conqueror, who did not get along with his family so never became king.
The lectern's majestic eagle crushes a dragon-like monster to symbolize the triumph of good over evil
Mine host was waiting for us on the steps of the Cathedral and led us on an amazing tour.  I had to ask his name, which was embarrassing not to know, and it turned out to be St. John (pronounced Sinjin as in Elswyth Thane; of course, a delightful bonus) and I introduced the three of us. He took us around the exterior of the Cathedral, pointing out many historical and architectural facts. My favorite story was his description of a visit paid to the Cathedral by Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, showing us which gate they would have approached, that they had stayed in the Bishop's rooms, and had probably come because Henry wanted to hunt nearby. He told us that when Henry stayed out late hunting two lackeys waited at the gate with torches to light his way back to the Bishop’s House and that Anne Boleyn supposedly gave them a gold coin each, enormous largesse, which caused a stir. “The next day,” St. John said deadpan, “there were 20 men with torches!”
He took us throughout the town, which was extremely kind, and continued to be fascinating, pointing out, for example, the “New” Inn (1450) which is the most complete surviving example of a medieval courtyard inn with galleries in Britain, and it is possible Shakespeare performed there with his company. From the exterior, St. John showed us how the eaves jut out of the walls and how there was no privacy at such a busy place – people could stand beneath to listen and that is the etymology of the word “eavesdrop.” I would recommend that anyone visiting Gloucester see if he would be willing to provide a tour.
The nave is Norman but the Cathedral's many additions are Gothic
My mother and I were enjoying every word but eventually he had to get back to work at the hotel and left us on our own.  We continued through the town and visited the Victoria dock and warehouses, then headed back; Lily’s Tea Room where, in addition to sandwiches, we shared our last Victoria Sponge Cake of the trip. This was a fancy version with frosting flowers that were very tasty.
The Victoria Warehouses (1849) were used for corn storage
My mother went back to look at the Cathedral while my niece and I (churched out) scouted a place for lunch and did a little shopping. She found some pretty sterling silver earrings at Debenham’s and I charitably donated the two paperbacks I had brought to read on the plane to Oxfam. Somehow, I found myself buying three more but they definitely weighed less than the two I discarded, so definitely a net gain. I was proud of myself for being restrained and didn’t do any serious book hunting elsewhere. At the appointed time, we retrieved my mother and had lunch at

Then we took the train to London, where we hugged my niece goodbye (she was eager to get back to her dashing student life and architecture paper) and a difficult Tube ride to Gloucester Road with far too many stairs. Our new residence was extremely elegant and well appointed: Hotel Xenia, a boutique hotel affiliated with Marriott, with very courteous staff. Under other circumstances and wearing snappier clothes, I would have enjoyed hanging out in its trendy bar, but we were so tired they couldn’t tell us our room number fast enough! My mother was thrilled because although the room was small there was a luggage rack (which she feels strongly should always be provided), a wardrobe for our coats, Kleenex in the bathroom, and – mirabile dictu – a washcloth! I took a walk to figure out the best Tube station for the following day and to buy us a snack at a large Sainsbury next door as she was not interested in dinner.
Gloucester Cathedral
Cathedral count: one
Book count: donated two, purchased three
Miles walked: 7.8

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

England (and Wales) 2018, Day 9

The Clock Tower, Cardiff Castle
Off to Wales!  Our hotel in Worcester did not include breakfast so my niece thoughtfully suggested she go to a shop across the street to pick up some treats before we dashed to the train.  I was busy trying to buy advance tickets online to the Churchill War Rooms as we had been disappointed by the long line for entry the other day. Unfortunately, I had waited too long and the 10:00 am time slot on Tuesday was already sold out. I tried phoning my mother to see if she thought we could make 11:00 am work but eventually had to dash down the hall in my pjs - luckily, did not run into any other guests! However, this purchase took so long I had to throw everything back into my suitcase so we could meet in the lobby at the appointed time, and I left my brand new purple umbrella behind.
The 12-sided Castle Keep
I had spent a lot of time online figuring out our train tickets and this morning's particular route had been one of the trickiest for which to find a good price. I ended up using TicketClever which had us boarding at Worcester Foregate but switching trains at Worcester Shrub, just a couple minutes away, and making another connection before we reached Cardiff. The train ride was entertaining and my mother and I were entranced by lambs we saw frolicking as we sped past. All went well until we got out at Bristol Parkway, which is where we were supposed to make our connection to Filton Abbey Wood.
Looking down from the Norman Keep
I was heading to the monitor to check our platform but happened to ask a station employee instead, and he said there was no train to Cardiff at this stop. I asked if he was sure and showed him my ticket but he told us to get back on the train and go to another station. I dragged my very reluctant mother and niece and all our stuff back onto the train where we were all squashed into those standing. Luckily, someone else was going to Cardiff too and we followed her at the next stop, and only had to wait about 35 minutes for a train. We chatted with a friendly retired couple who were going to a huge flower show in Cardiff.

Looking down: 50 stone steps to the Keep entrance, then more to the top!

Once at Cardiff, we grabbed a taxi to the Tanes Guest House, which was the least appealing of any of our temporary homes. My mother had a single room, I shared a twin with my niece, and there was a bathroom half a flight down. The rooms were dark and depressing, and the bedspread was kind of icky. When there is no top sheet or blanket, one really has no choice but to use whatever duvet or comforter is provided but this was the only one where we really wondered how recently it had been cleaned. And why no top sheets in England anyway?

Another gray day but the bus stop was right outside Tanes and it took us right to Cardiff Castle in the center of town. It was lunch time but I really thought we should visit the Castle while the sun was shining. Remembering my sister's warning to feed my niece regularly, I stopped at a shop that was selling Welsh tea cakes and got everyone a chocolate chip one, fresh out of the oven. They were a little like round thick pancakes but sweeter - quite delicious - I should have bought half a dozen! The Castle itself was not as large or enthralling as Edinburgh Castle but was still entertaining. It had been a Roman fort, then a Norman fortress but in the 18th century it had been purchased by a rich aristocrat, the third Marquess of Bute, who restored it expensively and somewhat gaudily.
We also toured the house restored by the Marquess and his eager architect.  Some of the rooms were furnished, including the library, which was impressive but when have I ever seen a library I didn't like?  The sun came out, motivating my mother to join us for the climb to the Keep and then as close to the top of the tower as possible, where we enjoyed the view.
Cardiff through a narrow keep window
After the Castle, we had a snack at a nearby Caffe Nero, then walked to the National Cardiff Museum, which contains both natural history and art. We stayed there until it closed, then sat in a park across the street to enjoy the improved weather before we strolled back to the Castle area, admiring a very attractive, historic church, St. John the Baptist. My niece and I had been excited about trying a nearby restaurant called Café Citta, which smelled enticing but it was tiny and they told us they were full all night and closed on Sunday. Boo!
Happily, we had seen another restaurant in our wanderings called Gray's that had a varied menu, so we retraced our stops and persuaded them to find us a table even though we had no reservation (oddly, it never seemed all that full, so I wonder why the hesitation - we looked respectable, if casually dressed).  The food was great, and we loved our desserts: Sticky Toffee Pudding and Apple Crumble. Despite being in London since January, my niece had not discovered the joys of a well-made Sticky Toffee Pudding and she was most gratifyingly appreciative.   As we headed back to the guest house, we noticed that the families who had been out enjoying a Saturday were now replaced by a rowdier but harmless contingent who were out on the town.
The Welsh kings of Aberffraw adopted the dragon in the 5th century
to symbolize their power after the Romans left Britain

Did anyone notice I posted Day 10 before Day 9?

Castle count: one
Church count: exterior only
Miles walked: 4.0

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Charmed Life (Book Review) #1977Club

The 1977 Club is a theme in which two prolific bloggers, Simon from Stuck in a Book and Karen from Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings, promote a specific year of published books. Anyone can join in by reading and reviewing a book published in 1977 and adding a link to that book's review in the comments on Simon's blog. 1968 and 1951 have also been promoted recently. 
Title: Charmed Life (Book 1 in the Chrestomanci quartet)
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publication: 1977, Beech Tree Books paperback edition
Genre: Children's Fantasy

Plot: As the younger brother of imperious Gwendolen, a talented young witch, Cat is used to being ignored and he is happy that way. But after their parents die and the town authorities put them in charge of elderly Mrs. Sharp, Gwendolen writes to their parents' oldest friend, Chrestomanci, about their situation.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

England (and Wales) 2018, Day 10

We had breakfast at our guest house and arranged to leave our bags before heading out to Mass at St. Peter's Church, the oldest surviving Catholic Church in Cardiff, and fortunately only half a mile away. Afterwards, I flagged down a bus and thanks to its helpful driver was able to buy an all-day group bus pass for £10 for all three of us. One of my ideas for Sunday had been to visit St. Fagan's, a living history museum on the other side of Cardiff, but there didn't seem to be any Sunday bus service there. The other plan was to visit Penarth, a seaside community on the other side of Cardiff Bay.
We were a little dubious in case the rain began again but set off regardless, jumping on a bus that arrived barely two minutes after we reached the stop. I told my companions we were heading to the Vale of Glamorgan, which sounded very glamorous.  From Penarth's town center (an appealing-looking bookstore was closed), we walked about 20 minutes down to a pier and impressive sea view.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

That's What She Said (Book Review)

Title: That’s What She Said: Wise Words from Influential Women
Author: Kimothy Joy
Publication: HarperCollins Wave, hardcover, April 2018
Genre: Nonfiction/Women/Inspirational/Gift
Description: This is an illustrated book that blends watercolor and short biography to showcase the contributions of more than fifty influential female leaders.  Author/editor Kimothy Joy found herself poring over the biographies of brave women throughout history—those who persisted in the face of daunting circumstances—to learn from their experiences. Turning to art, Joy channeled her feelings to the canvas, bringing these strong women to life in bold watercolor portraits surrounded by inspirational hand-lettered quotes. She shared her watercolors with her online community and encouraged everyone to raise their own voices and recharge for the battles ahead.

Now Joy has gathered her memorable illustrations and quotes and paired them with surprising, illuminating biographies of her subjects to inspire women of all ages, races, and backgrounds. That’s What She Said honors a powerful and diverse group of over fifty women—from Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, and Virginia Woolf to Sojourner Truth, Malala Yousafzai, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg—role models whose words and insights remind us that we must never give up the fight for a more just and equitable society.

This appealing book celebrates strong female leadership throughout history and may inspire current and future generations to find their voices and create change in their communities.

Audience: Readers who appreciate intelligent, outspoken women
Michelle Obama takes the high road *
My Impressions: Rather than simply review this book, I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes:

Emmeline Pankhurst – This famous suffragette family has interested me since I was a teen when I watched a miniseries called Shoulder to Shoulder about them.
“As long as women consent to be unjustly governed, they will be.”

Jane Addams – Ever since I read a Childhood of Famous Americans biography of Jane Addams, she has been a favorite (and that was before I learned more about her from Emily of Deep Valley)
“True Peace is not merely the absence of war; it is the presence of justice.”

Grace Hopper – brilliant mathematician and Naval Rear Admiral
“Probably the most dangerous phrase that anyone could use in the world today is the dreadful one: “But we’ve always done it that way.”

Eleanor Roosevelt – perhaps the most impressive First Lady
“Do what you feel in your heart is right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

About the Author: Kimothy Joy is a Denver-based artist whose work combines watercolor and pen with hand lettering. Her artwork tries to add a sincere and hopeful message of empowerment to women and girls in a conversation where that is often lacking. She collaborates with like-minded individuals and organizations such as Melinda Gates, Reese Witherspoon's digital media company HelloSunshine, GUCCI, The Huffington Post, I AM THAT GIRL, and more - to spread a positive message of joy. 
Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Harper Collins IndieBound

Source: I was provided a pre-publication copy of this book by the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review purposes.   Please visit other stops on the tour by clicking below:

Tuesday, April 3rd: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, April 4th: G. Jacks Writes
Thursday, April 5th: bookchickdi
Tuesday, April 10th: Leigh Kramer
Wednesday, April 11th: Literary Quicksand
Thursday, April 12th: Instagram: @thats_what_she_read
Wednesday, April 18th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, April 19th: A Bookish Way of Life

*Image of Michelle Obama is copyright to HarperCollins; shared above to show the illustrated format of the book

Sunday, April 15, 2018

England 2018, Day 8

Enid Blyton lives as we begin our adventure
In which we travel to the original Worcester:

It was time for my niece to be swept from her studies at IES by two of the family historians (and we could have used my brother Peter on many occasions). We met at Paddington (where we expected but did not see many stuffed bears for sale) and zipped off by train to Worcester, a city of 100,000 in the West Midlands. Why, Worcester, you ask? Not because Simon de Montford, one of my favorite historical characters was killed there in 1245 (I don't recall which Sharon Kay Penman book recounted this sad event but I remember needed lots of Kleenex!)  It was more because I had heard that the Cathedral was beautiful and that there had been two significant battles in the English Civil War in Worcester, including the final battle.

Our luggage had gotten heavier (at least mine had! I wonder why) since arriving in London, and it was great to have additional hands.  We were pleased to find our hotel was directly opposite the train station, the Worcester Whitehouse Hotel. Sometimes the hotels near the stations are seedy but this was very nice - by far the most spacious of the places we had stayed (you could have got about 4 or 5 of our London room into the twin room my niece and I shared) and my mother was pleased to have a luggage rack.

Composer Edward Elgar, native son 
We set off for the Cathedral which was a ten-minute walk from the hotel, and was impressive even on a gray (yet again) day. The two most interesting (non-architecture) aspects of the Cathedral were the tombs of Bad King John (died 1216; you may recall we saw his effigy on Day 1 in London at the Temple Church), younger brother of Richard the Lionheart and, more unexpected, the tomb of Prince Arthur, older brother of Henry VIII. Arthur was just 15 when he died in 1502, having been married to Catherine of Aragon six months earlier. The story goes that his father, Henry VII, did not want to return Catherine's dowry so insisted she marry his second son (later Henry VIII) after a suitable mourning period. Had Catherine's parents, Ferdinand and Isabella of Columbus fame, known what sorrow and humiliation were in store for their daughter, I hope they would have sent an escort to bring her home, no matter how beneficial an alliance between England and Spain would be!
With King John I (more or less)
Next we stopped at the Cathedral Café for a fabulous lunch! I had a Coronation Chicken panini, my niece had a cranberry and brie panini, my mother had mushrooms on toast (this was not a punishment - she requested it), and we shared a slice of Victoria Sponge cake between us (the first of many amazing desserts on this trip) as I had been yearning for one since my last trip. An army marches on its stomach!   Everyone was in a very good mood as we left the Cathedral, and headed for the Commandery, a historic building / war museum that served as Charles II's headquarters during the last battle of the Civil War. It had some good exhibits but is desperately in need of funding and some high-tech embellishments. I did think my nephews would have enjoyed all the weapons!  Some of us may have told the locals we were from the Worcester in the United States, which is only a slight exaggeration as it is barely an hour away and I visit my friend Judith there regularly.
A stool made from the famous Royal Oak that saved Charles II

My niece tries out the 5-meter training pike!
After the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Charles II fled and is reputed to have avoided capture by hiding in an oak tree. I had always imagined a hollow oak with a convenient hole but one exhibit describes him hiding in the branches as Parliamentary soldiers passed below and later a stool was made from the root of this famous Royal Oak.  We were surprised to learn that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had visited Worcester and the Commandery in 1786 (Adams seems to have cheered on Cromwell's victory - I guess not too surprising but regicide is not very nice, John). We stopped at one charity shop on the way back to the hotel (I found a Katie Fforde I didn't have and an Elizabeth Elgin, an author I had not read for years).

No time to visit Edward Elgar's birthplace but I thoughtfully hummed Pomp and Circumstance from time to time so my niece would know what she was missing.

Dessert at Slug and Lettuce

My mother was not interested in dinner after a surfeit of mushrooms (literary allusion) but after my niece and I recuperated for a bit, we set out to explore the Worcester night life. Although most of the city shut down promptly at 5, we found a branch of a chain called Slug and Lettuce (British humor?) that had great food and a lively bar scene. There was one moment when the waitress took my niece's empty water glass away and never refilled it, but we liked the vibe and the dessert was delicious!

Book count: two
Cathedral count: one
Miles walked: 5.0

Saturday, April 14, 2018

In Her Skin (Book Review and Giveaway)

Title: In Her Skin
Author: Kim Savage
Publication: Farrar Straus Giroux, April 2018 (hardcover, Kindle, audio)
Genre: YA
Plot: From childhood Jolene Chastain's mother taught her how to survive by scamming the public, pretending to be someone else to garner sympathy and extract cash. Jo can be whatever or whoever anyone wants her to be. When her mother takes up with a series of bad boyfriends, Jo's life deteriorates rapidly even as her con artist skills become very lucrative. But after her mother is killed, she takes off, ending up on Boston where she makes friends with another abused teen, Wolf, in the tent city where the homeless live.

Friday, April 13, 2018

England 2018, Day 7

The Old Palace, Hatfield House
The one place my mother wanted to see more than any other on this trip was Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, where Elizabeth I had grown up and where she was living, under house arrest, on November 17, 1558 when Sir Nicholas Throckmorton*  rides from London to tell Elizabeth her sister Mary I had died and she was now queen. Tradition has it that Elizabeth was standing under an oak tree when she heard the news and said, "This is the Lord's doing: it is marvelous in our eyes." Of course, we wanted to stand beneath that same oak tree. There were two small obstacles: the first was that the tree was a 20-minute walk and we were already tired.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

England 2018, Day 6

On Wednesday, we headed to a fashionable part of London - Mayfair! My mother wanted to visit the house where composer George Frideric Handel had lived - now a museum housing both German-born Handel and Seattle-born rock star Jimi Hendrix memorabilia!  We have a particular interest in the former because my grandfather was a Handel scholar, author of a book on Handel that is still in print. The museum was small but charming: we enjoyed a young musician playing the harpsichord while singing Bach in German (he said he'd get to Handel if I was patient), and I learned a little about Jimi Hendrix also!  Most of all, it was exciting to think of Handel working on Messiah in this very house (and I was amazed to learn he had completed it in about three weeks), using this very bookcase.
Handel's bookcase
Before leaving Mayfair, I also poked my head into nearby Claridge's Hotel which made me feel like the royalty and celebrities who often stay there. Perhaps one sign of a five star hotel (not to mention L500/night) is that they made me feel welcome even in jeans and sneakers (if it weren't always cold and rainy I might have looked less disheveled). The hostess at the restaurant urged me to bring my mother in for a coffee but there wasn't time.

Interior of St. George's, Hanover Square
My big miscalculation of this trip (at least so far) was looking on my phone at the distance between Brook Street and the Churchill War Rooms and deciding it was close enough to walk. It took us nearly an hour and half to get there and then there was an enormous line! Nicky had warned us the night before to buy tickets online but the website was uncooperative. It turned out that the tickets were sold out and a sympathetic guard said we might get in but it could be one hour or four! We were cold and disgruntled, so walked another 20 minutes before we found a Pret a Manger, where we partook of hot chocolate, tea, and cookies, which restored our good humor. The walk had been interesting, after all, and among other things we had visited St. George's, Hanover Square, the society church that makes appearances in Georgette Heyer's and others' books. We also walked by the shop (showroom?) of Jenny Packham, the British fashion designer patronized by the Duchess of Cambridge. As my guilty pleasure is this delighted me.
Jenny Packham, clothing designer to the stars
I had read about a fabulous exhibit about Charles I, King and Collector at the Royal Academy, so although we hated to walk another meter, we girded our loans and hustled over to Burlington House on Piccadilly. The queue there was almost as bad as the one we had left behind but fortunately they sold us tickets for 3:30 and we only had to wait patiently for 20 minutes or so to enter. The exhibit had brought the treasures of Charles I from all over the world for the first time since, presumably, he was chased out of town by those vile Roundheads. It consisted of paintings, sculpture, miniatures (by Nicholas Hilliard!), tapestries, medallions and more, dazzlingly displayed in many rooms. The most impressive paintings were by Anthony Van Dyck, who came to England and essentially became the court painter, painting many portraits of Charles and his family. Each room was extremely crowded because the exhibit is closing on April 15th and people were trying to catch it. It was worth elbowing our way through to see such exceptional works.
I really wanted the exhibition poster but was not sure I could get it home intact
By 5:15, however, we were not just tired of the crowds but also eager to see the real reason for our trip, my eldest niece, who is studying in London this semester. We had arranged to meet her at Zizzi on the Strand (a chain but the food was wonderful), so we hurried through the rush hour commuters and a kind manager at the restaurant found us a table although we did not have a reservation. It was great to see my niece and hear about her adventures! She is studying theatre and after dinner we went to see a new play, Quiz, which had just opened and was cleverly staged and great fun. 

Church count: one
Miles walked: 5.0

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

England 2018, Day 5

On Tuesday we walked to St. Pancras Station to meet Nicky Smith for a day trip to Rye, a small town in East Sussex  about 90 minutes from London with many historic and literary associations.
Looking toward St. Mary's
It is two miles from the sea and has long been mentioned in the same breath with smugglers. Jane Aiken Hodge lived in nearby Lewes and is probably responsible for some of my historical reading about smugglers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

England 2018, Day 4

Hotel Arosfa on Gower Street in London was recommended by one of my Betsy-Tacy friends and I thought it was a good suggestion because I wanted to stay near Bloomsbury. It is a townhouse that once belonged to Sir John Everett Millais; most suitable given my love of the Pre-Raphaelites. The room is tiny and my mother and I keep crashing into each other but the breakfast room is charming and the breakfast itself was abundant.
Throughout London, there are Blue Plaques, put up by British Heritage, which celebrate notable people from the past at the locations where they lived. Several years ago, Georgette Heyer was honored with one at her birthplace in Wimbledon (maybe one day I can combine a visit there with some tennis viewing). It is great fun when you walk by one of these Plaques and recognize someone! The last time I was in London, my friend Nicky Smith surprised my friend Ellen and me by walking us down Wimpole Street where we saw the Blue Plaque for Elizabeth Barrett Browning, which was most gratifying. Strolling to the British Museum in this historic neighborhood led us past many Blue Plaques this morning, and I was pleased to see several of significance to me, including Anthony Hope, author of The Prisoner of Zenda, an old favorite, and Randolph Caldecott, noted Victorian artist after whom the ALA picture book award is named.
The Corbridge Lanx, Roman Britain - notable not only for being an exquisite silver platter but also because our guide said the scene depicted may be set on the shrine on the Greek island of Delos, the birthplace of the twins, Apollo and Artemis  (all roads lead to Betsy-Tacy, even at the British Museum).
The British Museum was impressive in its vastness but almost too huge to be enjoyable. We saw many beautiful things, found a tour on the influence of Greek gods which was good (our guide was very earnest and congenial), then spent a lot of time with the Parthenon Sculptures (formerly known as the Elgin Marbles). We were both tired and should have stopped for tea and cake.
Thalia, Muse of Comedy, 2nd century AD (for Antonia Forest fans)
When Mother went back to the hotel to write, I went on a pilgrimage to Persephone Books which was about 15 minutes away, and then walked to Liberty of London - both amazing places to window shop. I resisted any purchases because my luggage is heavy enough already and I haven't even been to Foyles yet! We ate dinner at Saucy, a casual Greek restaurant on Marchmont Street, halfway between our hotel and King's Cross.
One of many appealing displays at Liberty!
Miles walked: 7.4

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Baby Plan (Book Review)

Title: The Baby Plan
Author: Kate Rorick
Publication: William Morrow, paperback, 2018
Genre: Fiction/Chick Lit
Taking a quick break from blogging about my trip to England with my mother to review a book that fits into the chick lit genre, despite being about three women who become pregnant. . .

Plot:   Meet three appealing mothers-to-be!

Nathalie Kneller: Nathalie's plan: to announce her pregnancy now that she's finally made it past twelve weeks! But just as she's about to deliver (so to speak) the big news to her family, her scene-stealing sister barfs all over the Thanksgiving centerpiece. Yup, Lyndi's pregnant too, swiping the spotlight once more…

Lyndi Kneller: Lyndi's plan: finally get her life together! She's got a new apartment, new promotion, new boyfriend. What she didn't count on-a new baby! She can barely afford her rent, much less a state-of-the-art stroller…

Sophia Nunez: Sophia's plan: Once she gets her daughter Maisey off to college, she'll finally be able to enjoy life as make-up artist to one of Hollywood's biggest stars, and girlfriend to one of rock's hottest musicians. But after 18 years she discovers the stork is once again on its way…
Now these women are about to jump headlong into the world of modern day pregnancy. It's a world of over the top gender reveal parties (with tacky cakes and fireworks); where every morsel you eat is scrutinized and discussed; where baby names are crowd-sourced and sonograms are Facebook-shared. And where nothing goes as planned…

Audience: I was reminded of Watermelon by Marian Keyes and books by Sophie Kinsella. In fact, I was sometimes startled to realize the book was set in Southern California and not London!

The Gerbera Daisies Lyndi likes to arrange 
My Impressions: This was a fun and pleasant airplane read for me about three appealing women. While most of my friends have finished their pregnancy adventures, I have certainly lived through it vicariously, with the baby-shower-giving scars to show for it! I certainly understood Nathalie's angst at waiting so long to be pregnant and getting upstaged by her careless sister, even if I wanted her to soften her attitude to disorganized and confused Lyndi. I also enjoyed how the author wove the third pregnant woman, Sophia, and her daughter Maisey into the narrative by creating relationships for them with other characters. All of the men in the story were flawed - or should we say human - with the possible exception of Nathalie's father (and while he saddled her with a stepmother, Kathy was annoying but not at all evil) but each of the women characters was depicted with sensitivity, and even Nathalie's over the top decorating obsession seemed sympathetically portrayed.

I was eager to read this book when I heard it was by the author of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which several friends had recommended to me and which has been on my mental TBR for ages. I definitely think it would be a fun shower gift for a pregnant friend!

Purchase Links: IndieBound *  Barnes & Noble  * Amazon *  Harper Collins
Source: I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review purposes. You can visit other stops on the tour below and read other reviews as well:
Tuesday, March 20th: A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, March 21st: Novel Gossip
Thursday, March 22nd: West Metro Mommy
Thursday, March 22nd: Tina Says…
Friday, March 23rd: Time 2 Read
Monday, March 26th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, March 27th: Instagram: @Novelmombooks
Thursday, March 29th: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, April 3rd: Ms. Nose in a Book
Wednesday, April 4th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, April 5th: Instagram: @jackiereadsbooks
Wednesday, April 11th: Sweet Southern Home
Thursday, April 12th: Books and Bindings
Friday, April 13th: Not in Jersey

England 2018, Day 3

Entrance of OLEM

We spent the night in Cambridge and breakfasted before walking to Mass at the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, a Roman Catholic church located in southeast Cambridge not far from the university. It is a large Gothic Revival church built between 1885 and 1890, fairly dark and dreary (although the morning rain didn't help).   However, as my mother wrote her thesis on the English Catholic Martyrs, I knew she would be excited to visit it.  Also, coincidentally, a book I reviewed recently, Look for Her by Emily Winslow, took place in this Cambridge and the main character attended a funeral at this very church.   I was tempted to tell the priest about this but separately my mother and I had asked him for more information on our favorite martyrs (Edmund Campion and Nicholas Owen; i.e., were they recognized anywhere in the church with plaques or stained glass) so did not want to overwhelm him with info.   The priest, who was very nice Benedictine, did not know much about his martyrs.  The deacon who was quite full of himself said he didn't remember. 
Approaching Ely Cathedral
The construction of the church in the 19th century has a story behind it that sounds like a historical romance: the local priest organizing land and fundraising was assisted by the Duke of Norfolk (a prominent Catholic peer since the 16th century despite Henry VIII's threats) but more money was needed or the church would not get built!   To the rescue, in 1884, came a retired ballerina who had married the richest banker in England with £70,000 of her fortune (an enormous amount in those days) to support the construction.  We also read that the local Protestants loudly opposed the construction of a Catholic church.  My mother posed for a rare picture in front of the church.
Bishop Peter Gunning, 1675-84; imprisoned for his loyalty to Charles I
Next, we headed to the train station to visit Ely, a historic city with a beautiful cathedral about 14 miles northeast of Cambridge.  Etheldreda, an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman (later sainted for her piety, etc.), founded an abbey in 693, which was destroyed by the Vikings several hundred years later, but rebuilt periodically from 970 to 1375, with contributions from the Normans (more or less helpful) and Tudors (unhelpful - Henry VIII and his henchmen took it from the Catholic church in 1539 when he imposed the Protestant Church on his country).  Henry's new bishop zealously destroyed the stained glass and much of the sculpture, and any Anglo-Saxon items remaining (a German tourist came into the cathedral just after I arrived, asking if there were any St. Etheldreda relics in existence to venerate but the answer was no). Further repressions took place when Oliver Cromwell ruled England.   However, after Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, it was safe to have beautiful churches again.   In the 19th century the Victorians undertook a massive restoration, resulting in the beauty we saw today.   And considering it was a gray and rainy day, it is even more amazing how the stained glass electrifies the interior of the church while from the outside the cathedral and grounds are also impressive - built onto a slight hill which my mother said was unusual for such a flat part of the country.  The church is huge: 537 feet in length (a football field is 300) with a west tower that is 215 feet high and turrets that are 120 feet high.
Listening to Evensong
After several hours exploring the cathedral, which had a great app we downloaded and free Wi-Fi to facilitate use, we braved the rain to check out the nearby High Street (the exact length of the nave of the church) and ate at the Almonry (indifferent roast beef sandwiches and Victoria sponge cake but the hot tea and picturesque setting were very appealing).   We also stopped a lovely bookstore, Topping and Company, which is hosting Robert Goddard in May.  I would have bought his new hardcover except did not want to carry it.  Had it already been signed, it would have been very hard to resist as I have been a fan since my first weeks at Bantam Doubleday Dell in 1989, when I picked up a Transworld paperback of Past Caring.  We bought a couple paperbacks for the nieces and nephews instead.

Then we laboriously made our way back to Cambridge (bus) and then London (train), and after a mishap with Uber landed happily at the Arosfa Hotel.  Our room is beyond tiny but well situated and very secure.  It even overlooks Waterstones!   Why does my mother keep saying I don't need any more books?
From 83 Gower Street
Book count: three
Cathedral count: one
Church count: one
Miles walked: 3.6