Friday, June 2, 2017

Down in Devon

Trip to England 2017

Peter is still sleeping, but my internal clock is recalibrating and I cannot stay still in bed.   We are in a tiny village named Oakford. It is so tiny that we had a hard time finding it yesterday afternoon.  After leaving the main roads we turned down a tiny, winding lane, walled on both sides by enormous hedgerows. Occasional breaks in the hedges gave glimpses  of sheep grazing in green fields, thatched cottages, cool streams, and wooded glens.
Once we had an abrupt face off with another car. Bill explained that the car nearest to a turn off was expected to back up until there was a space wide enough to allow the other car to pass. He backed up pretty far before the two cars could pass each other.  

We are in Devon, known for its deep valleys known as combes The foliage is green and lush, full of flowers and birds darting from tree to bush. The weather was warm and sunny yesterday, and we were very contented with our first day. 

We arrived at the Red Lion Inn at about 5:30, ready to stretch our legs. Peter and I had been dozing off and on, so we were awake enough for a comfortable dinner in the hotel restaurant. It was cozy, local and very tasty. 

Yesterday morning Bill and Lillian met us at the Europcar rental lot at Heathrow Airport. Well, near is a relative term. The airport complex sprawls in every direction, but our rendez vous was smooth, and before long we were headed southwest towards Salisbury. 

It turned out that our road took us right past Stonehenge, so we decided to stop in on our way. Since it in the middle of a large field on a broad hill, we could see the site from the road, and were amazed by the large ring of people around the megalithic stones. As we approached the tour bus parking was the first tip off. Then the large lot of cars next to a welcome center discouraged us further. The price of tickets and the crowds of tourists were too much to cope with for our jet lagged bodies, so we decided to follow the original plan and head to Salisbury Cathedral. 

Salisbury Cathedral is a magnificent site. The cathedral is set in the medieval center of a large city.  The cathedral itself is surrounded by a large green lawn where couples and groups of friends lounged in the afternoon sun. The cathedral dates from 1258, although with all such structures various parts were added at different moments.  It is very different from churches from the same era in France, which we know much better. But the differences are fascinating.   There is less emphasis on glass and more on sculpture. The spire is at the center, and the nave overwhelms the transept. There is a magnificent, large cloister where we ate quiche and salad in the cathedral cafeteria. And the jewel of the place is one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta, displayed in a little tent in the middle of the graceful chapter house. 

The most stunning artwork in the building, however dates from 2008. To commemorate the 750th anniversary of the cathedral a magnificent baptismal font was donated. It dominates the center of the nave and recalls the large ceremonial basin in the ancient Temple of Solomon. It is a huge, cross shaped fountain, filled to the brim with water,  perpetually spilling from the four corners into drains in the stone floor. The water mirrors everything around it and draws people in groups and individually to interact with its perpetual movement.  

Im having trouble downloading my photos, so cathedral pictures will have to wait. Hopefully I can solve the problem soon. 

Today should start with rain but clear by mid morning for a walk near the coast. 

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