Wednesday, August 29, 2012

YES to the Spirit and the Mystery ( Part 3 )

It is early evening when we tour the Abbey ruins. After our time at the Wells Cathedral earlier today, it is difficult not to imagine what Glastonbury Abbey may have been like prior to the dissolution. With these imaginings comes the stark reality as we witness the remnants of fire on the stone walls and areas within the remaining walls where stone has been ripped out:

Nothing remains of the High Alter. A gated off sign displays where it would have lied and that is all.

Now, of course, it would not be Glastonbury (in the present day sense of the place) without a mythical legend or two to accompany the Abbey grounds.

In the year 1191, monks dug up a grave and within it they discovered the bodies of King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere. The plaque that was found with these bodies, declaring them to be the King and Queen from legend was later determined to be wrote in a Latin that was not used at the time Arthur is said to have reigned. A more likely explanation is that the Abbey had fallen on some hard times ( due to an earthquake if memory serves me correctly). This "discovery" was exploited in order to gain pilgrims and therefore their money.
That being said, I prefer to believe for the sake of believing that Glastonbury, or the Isle of Avalon, truly is the final resting place of this mythological king.

A little mystery in life is good for ones soul after all.

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YES to the Spirit and the Mystery ( Part 2 )

It has been raining pretty much all morning and now into the afternoon, we are wet, and as we ascend to the top of The Tor, whose peak reaches 521 feet, we are becoming more and more aware of the wind. The wind is almost as strong as the views are spectacular.

When we reach the summit, we are met with the sight of a woman meditating and another woman circling around her with a singing bowl, best not to disturb them in ritual, so we circle around to another vantage point.

I am in love with the English countryside, and my breath is taken away as I gaze around me.

Now that we are here and have snapped some photo's and oohed and awed we decide it's high time to eat a very well deserved lunch. We choose a spot within the tower to sit and we eat our lunch in gratitude while enjoying a Grandmother reading the history plaque to the children.

This is especially entertaining as she reads the last sentence with dramatic flare: "The monastic church of St. Michael, closely associated with the great abbey in the town below, fell into ruin after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, when Richard Whiting, the last Abbot of Glastonbury, was hanged on the Tor".
The kids gasp, and then exclaim: "Coooooool".
It does not escape us that only a few feet from where we sit and eat our picnic is the site of a death caused by King Henry's greed.

Once back down on Magdalene Street, we are waiting at a bus stop (in the rain) and meet some older gentlemen who we had met at The Tor: "The Canadians!" they shout out in greeting as they spot us. We are on our way to the neighboring town of Wells, so are they. We chat for a while as we wait for the bus. They are from Bath and are excited about the Rio carnival that is supposed to go through Bath the following day. They are under the impression there could be some nudity. We are entertained thoroughly by their wit and are grateful for their hospitality as they take time away from their pub and bread pudding time to guide us towards where we are headed, the Wells Cathedral.

I have heard this described as England's most beautiful Church. I'm not certain that phrase does it justice. From the outside you are literally welcomed by the building. The sculptures set into the front facade all hold their hands in sign of welcome:

Inside, we make a donation to the upkeep of this incredible place. It takes roughly £4000 per day to maintain this site. We also have to purchase a photography permit for £3. This is money well spent. We slowly walk into the Cathedral we are met with the ethereal voices of the choir warming up for Evensong. We really could not have come at a better time. The singing, the architecture, the atmosphere, the way this ancient building has found a way to let in the light, it is all so moving.

I sit alone while Mom goes to view the world's second oldest working clock.

I am not a person that is convinced of the notion of Divinity. I don't rule it out either. I tend to describe my philosophy as a belief in the Spirit of humanity. As I marvel at this Cathedral that retains it's power to strike awe into the hearts of those who enter it's arches more than 800 years after i's conception, I need to acknowledge that something powerful compelled these people to build such beauty.

Mom and I are both tempted to stay for Evensong, but we also want to make certain we see the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey. Somewhat saddened, we make the decision to leave the Cathedral, but not before a quick stroll down Europe's oldest complete medieval street, connected to the Cathedral, Vicar's Close:

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

YES to the Spirit and the Mystery ( Part 1 )

I overheard a young boy exclaim "Wow!" as he gazed up the interior of the tower of St. Michael that crowns Glastonbury Tor. This breathtaking exclamation is apt for our time spent in Glastonbury and surrounding communities within the Somerset region.

Our room in the beautiful George and Pilgrim directly looks over the corners of High Street and Magdalene Street. This is a popular convergence point where you will see just about any character you can think of meeting in one rather small locale. Witches, wizards, Goddesses, young, old, families, everyone can be seen here. On our final night I was even lucky enough to spy a pirate walk out of a taxi.

Every Tuesday there is a market held here as well. We missed this but were in for a delight on Saturday morning when we awoke to a market being set up.

The market was a lovely assortment of fresh cheeses, poultry, vegetables, strawberries, and beautiful breads. I've discovered I like the breads in England more than home. The texture is hearty and real and therefore more appealing.

The morning after our arrival we discussed our plan for the day over our first full English breakfast:

We took a quick stroll up High Street to a place called Burns the Bread. Here, we bought our lunch for the day. The Somerset region is famous for i's apples and it's cheddar so I bought an apple and cheddar sandwich on. Spelt bun.

We walk out of this fantastic shop and turn left heading down High Street and then around the corner onto Magdalene Street, and then a right onto " who knows what" street! What I can tell you is that on a mission to begin our day with a climb up The Tor, we walked clear to another town!

It's a good thing the local are so friendly. We eventually made our way there. As we are so exhausted by our efforts we made the decision to stop at the foot of The Tor first. Here you will find The Chalice Well.

It is a reflective garden surrounding a natural spring that is said to host the Holy Grail. The story has it that Jesus' Uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, a tin trader, brought over with him the grail and buried it here, at the foot of The Tor. The waters run red and never run dry, even in drought. The mineral content of the water is high and is said to have healing properties:

The gardens are magnificent and the water is a central feature in many areas. I am brought to tears that I am finally here. I don't profess to know what my beliefs are of the religious aspects of the waters but it is definitely a place where one can feel peace.

What can be better than that?

My cousin ( <3 ), had given me a necklace prior to this trip, with my children's names and birthstones, so that I may keep them close to my heart while I'm away. As I kneel before the Lion's Head of the fountain, I take off he necklace and allow the waters to run overt before i place it back on. After this, I am ready to drink from the well:

The rest and reflection serves us well and we are ready to climb The Tor.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Arrival = reality television

It felt like our own Amazing Race involving an 8.5 hour flight in a sardine can, a search for a place to purchase a train ticket to get to the tube which will take us to Paddington Station for yet another train that transports us to a small rural station by the name of Castle Cary.

As we step off the train we are greeted with hugs and kisses from English relations of my Husband.

After the scariest drive down some very windy and narrow country roads on the wrong side of the road, we are in Glastonbury and the awe has begun with our hotel.

More than 600 years old, The George and Pilgrim is the oldest public house still operating in Southern England. It's age shows as we walk across the sloping floor to our window to take in the view.

King Henry VIII is rumored to have stayed here, in fact, the room next to us is named after him while our room is named after the Abbot he ordered to have hung and quartered.

As much as we may be feeling awestruck, it is time to walk through the streets, trying not to gawk overly much at the incredible array of colorful personalities, we have an appointment with a past life regression therapist! After all, when in Glastonbury, do as the Glastonburians do! And this is the very place to do look I into ones past life.

Post therapy, it was time for some award winning fish and chips with Scrumpy. Scrumpy is a local farm-house apple cider that we are told is so strong it is only sold to tourists in half-pints.

Mom was not fond of hers, she thought it was vinegary, I didn't mind mine:

It has been said that Scrumpy will make ones legs feel funny, but I apparently did not feel this effect so it was off for some walking and taking in the scenes before bed. Our hotel is located on High Street, a very busy and happening place.

The shops are all hippy chic and I'm certain I could spend an entire weekend or more going through these stores. The Market Cross is outside our window and is almost always the habitat of Buskers with guitars and drums.

An exhausting day means SLEEP, until 3am when we are woke to the beautiful, haunting, and slightly weird sound of a woman walking down the street under our window, singing.

Welcome to Glastonbury!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What will 25 days in a backpack look like?

When I created this blog, I alluded to a trip to Europe as my big YES moment. What are the details of this grand adventure? It's a Mother/Daughter trip with me playing the role of daughter.

The mission: 3 countries (England, France, & Italy) 25 days, 1 carry-on sized backpack.


When we disclosed this plan to our friends/family, many assumed we were joking. When it was realized we weren't, we were met with "But where will you put your shoes?"

After months of planning and researching and several calls to Germany, (Some tips and thoughts about the planning process will follow the actual adventure when it's all said and done), we are now 4 days away and the packing has begun.

So, what does 25 days in a backpack look like?

Well, obviously this will look differently for everyone. Even between Mom and I it differs. She has a conference to attend, I simply don't. However, assuming most backpackers are not attending a conference, we'll examine the contents of my pack:

4 Shirts
1 Swimsuit
1 Sleeping shirt
3 Bottoms
1 Dress
3 Socks
2 Underwear
1 Lightweight jacket
1 Light rain poncho
1 Pair Dr. Scholls ballet flats
1 Foldable cup (doubles as a bowl)
1 Spork Travel sized shampoo, conditioner, soap & lotion Compact folding/hanging toiletries bag
Electronics bag (Tablet,camera, battery pack, earbuds, power adapters)
2 Small travel books.

Eagle Creek packing cubes has really made this process all that much more simple. Black cube = Bottoms Blue cube = Tops, another smaller cube for socks/underwear. I use the two-sided cubes so that one side can be utilized for wet or dirty clothes. So that's a quick overview of the pre-journey adventure of packing. Oh, did I mention that all of this has been done to meet the tight carry-on weight restrictions of our airline? 11 pounds total, this includes the weight of the pack itself.

Friday, August 17, 2012


This is a test run of a blogging app for my iPad. I couldn't post pictures from the iPad before, so I'd like to see if this helps.

If you're reading this, just let me know if it seems to be working. I'm certain pictures would be of some use to a travel blog after all.