Cawood Castle

imageThis remnant of a much larger building is called Cawood Castle.  Located, naturally enough, in Cawood, England, a few miles from York. This was the last of our Landmark Trust stays throughout the UK. This place has some interesting history. While the building was begun in the 12th century, it later was better known as where the Archbishop of York would have living quarters. In fact one of the most complete tally of a huge feast was held around 1450. Thousands of items were consumed over a period of four days.imageimage

The one other significant event that occurred took place in 1529.  Cardinal Woolsey, who had risen to be the most powerful person in England outside of Henry VIII, was arrested for treason. It crushed Woolsey and he died on the way back to London. And sometime later Henry VIII stayed here for two days.

As with all Landmark Trust buildings, the restoration and remodeling for the kitchen are well done.imageimage

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Noting like sitting in front of the fire on a cool English night, papers and scotch at the ready.

IMG_5912IMG_5911It is just amazing to be able to stay in a place like this! We have decided this was one of our more favourite places we stayed at.

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Spiral staircase, Cawood Castle, Cawood, England

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Spiral staircase, Cawood Castle, England

There was a drawback to staying at Cawood Castle…….the stairs!IMG_5933

Just going to the facilities was a bit of a crawl or climb. The rope ‘handrail’ is to hang on to going up and down. What was interesting was that in the logbook (all Landmark places have logbooks that have what people who stay at a Landmark place can comment on the place and surrounding area), everyone seemed to comment on the narrowness of the stairs and how one had to watch it going up and down.

But there were rewards for climbing up to the top……imageimageFrom the roof you can look out over Cawood

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And the town of Cawood is as charmingly English as you can find….imageimageIMG_5926IMG_5925IMG_5923IMG_5921IMG_5920IMG_5919IMG_5918IMG_5917You can see that the river level is high in these pictures taken around the 1st of December. Not too much later there was extensive flooding in this part of England. York is only about 10 miles away. At one point there had been an evacuation of Cawood due to the flooding….

Old Hall, Croscombe

Setting the timeline back to November 2 – November 6, 2015.

On the morning of November 2, we set out from Salisbury, via Avebury, to the little Somerset village of Croscombe in southwest England.  The day was exquisite and very unseasonal, sunny and mild.  Avebury was stunning, enhanced by having the site mostly to ourselves.

The drive from Avebury to Croscombe, however, can only be described as harrowing, including a nerve-wracking hour on what seemed, judging on width and meanderings, a paved cow path, and a traffic jam involving us, four other cars and a Royal Mail van all converging on a little one lane lane (not a typo) in Croscombe.  Sorry, Royal Mail guy, for the busted rear right tail light – and thanks for trying to help us out of the jam.

Our frayed nerves were soon calmed as we opened the door to our second Landmark Trust stay, the Old Hall.

The south entrance into the kitchen at Old Hall, Croscombe

The south entrance into the kitchen at Old Hall, Croscombe

The hall is all that remains of an early 15th century manor house.  It is a rare example of a small late medieval holding, many of which dotted the English country side for centuries, but most of which have succumbed to neglect and local salvagers.

We entered the the kitchen, little changed except for the fireplace insert and the removal of a dividing wall that separated cooking from larder.  Two doors from the kitchen to the hall are the only reminders of the previous floor plan.

The cozy, and original, kitchen at Old Hall

The cozy, and original, kitchen at Old Hall

From one of the kitchen doors , we walked into the hall.  We found it hard to believe that this was our home for the next four nights.

The Hall of Old Hall, Croscombe

Old Hall, Croscombe

It is the the roof and its beams and trusses that make this hall such a fine example of late medieval domestic architecture.  Five trusses frame four bays, all in oak.  Most of the wood is still sound; only a few sections needed replacement.  How did such a beautiful roof survive in such good condition for almost six hundred years?

Early in the 18th century, the hall was converted into a Baptist Church.  The congregation created a ceiling at the juncture where the beams met the wall, covering – and therefore conserving – the beautiful roof.  The congregation continued to maintain the hall through the 1950s, when the dwindling membership could no longer afford to keep the hall.  The hall was then purchased by a private party, who turned the property over to Landmark Trust for restoration.

Early 15th c. ceiling of Old Hall

Early 15th c. ceiling of Old Hall

Every evening, after our day’s adventure, we would settle in with reading materials from the old oak bookshelf in the hall (every Landmark Trust property comes with a bookshelf full of non-fiction, fiction and maps relevant to the site) and steep ourselves in local history.  Regularly, I would put down my book and gaze up in awe at the beams, shadowy and dark in the soft evening lamplight.  Yes, we really are here.

Old Hall, Croscombe

Old Hall, Croscombe

The north entrance, Old Hall, Croscombe

The north entrance, Old Hall, Croscombe

The remains of the main fireplace on the east exterior wall, Old Hall, Croscombe

The remains of the main fireplace on the east exterior wall, Old Hall, Croscombe

Young heirloom apple trees at Old Hall, Croscombe

Young heirloom apple trees in the garden at Old Hall, Croscombe

The little town of Croscombe was charming and welcoming.  The local pub, the George Inn, is, as in every little town, the evening gathering spot for town folk.  They were warm and welcoming (and had free Wifi to boot!); the food was good; and we especially enjoyed the many pups, young and old, that settled at their masters’/mistresses’ feet (until they didn’t, which created brief flurries of interventions).

The George Inn, Croscombe

The George Inn, Croscombe

Locals at the fireplace, George Inn, Croscombe

Locals at the fireplace, George Inn, Croscombe

There was a small store that stocked quite a bit of local food.  The roll of butter below was from a farm less than five miles away.  This was the best butter I have ever had, rich and creamy.

Butter from a dairy just a few miles down the road from Croscombe

Butter from a dairy just a few miles down the road from Croscombe

For our last supper at Old Hall, we feasted on locally baked bread, local cheese, local salmon pate and local cider.

A simple and delicious meal, all locally sourced, Old Hall, Croscombe

A simple and delicious meal, all locally sourced, Old Hall, Croscombe

Do we even have to say how hard it was to leave?  How we wished we had made reservations for eight nights, not the four we had?  It was a good thing we still had almost two months of travel ahead of us, and much to urge us on.

Before the Memories Fade…

It’s been almost four month since the last post!

And we’ve been home for almost two and half months.   Tempus fugit.

Now that we’ve settled down into new and old routines, we’re determined to capture some of our many wonderful memories before the details blur.  So, here we go awandering amongst the memory midden pile; sorting through what captures our attention at the moment; reliving some of the highlights of our adventure.

Down the rabbit hole of reminiscence we go!

Spiral staircase, Cawood Castle, England

 

Ireland’s School of Falconry

When planning this trip there was always the idea of ‘What is there to do in X place?’  Judith had discovered this place called Ireland’s School of Falconry. The setting is in a little village called Cong a short distance away from Galway.image

For you movie buffs, Cong is where they filmed the John Wayne/Mareen O’Hara movie ‘The Quiet Man’.  The village is small and one can walk around it in about a half an hour. Off to the side of Cong is Ashford Castle, parts of it date back to the 12 century and once was owned by the Guiness family.

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We were lucky in that, even though it is November, the weather was nice and not too cold. On these grounds is the Ireland’s School of Falconry.

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Nedless to say we were both looking forward to this. It was kinda funny after 4 months of making the arrangements that we were actually going to do this. We could see the hawks in the cages with a central office area across the way. Ed, our delightful trainer, explained everything that we needed to know and would be doing. Because we both opted to ‘fly’ hawks, we don’t have pictures of that. But for an hour on the Ashford Castle grounds, many times the hawks would take off from our heavy gloved hands and fly back with generally a little piece of meat tucked away. There is nothing like this! At one point, I blurted out,”This is as cool as shit!”  After that we were able to fly Dingle, an owl, with luminous yellow eyes and an incredible silent way of gliding up to your arm.

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That is Ed the trainer with Judith on the right. What was fasinating is that the claws are covered in feathers that feel more like fur,  which makes flying even more silent when the owl would be on the hunt. Because the owl’s talons are more sharp, the glove is twice the thinkness of the glove used for the hawks.

That had to be the quickest hour and half I’ve spent lately and we both left with a memory that is a highlight of this whole trip. And to remember even more clearly, of course had to have a souvenir of the occasion…..

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November 13, 2015

There is a post that Stan and I have not yet written.  But we have spent hours, hours discussing it.

We came up with the title, however, some time ago.  “The Long Shadow.”

Our travels began in Germany, then onto Eastern Europe, and then back to Germany, The Netherlands, and again, Germany.  Each place we visited was strongly marked by the shadow of World War II and, more specifically, the Holocaust.  All the delights and charms of each of these places cannot mask this darker history.

Memorial at Birkenau, Poland

Memorial at Birkenau, Poland

But as I have reflected these past hours on the massacres in Paris, that phrase, “the long shadow,” has taken on a broader application.  It is not just those horrible, horrible years, 1933 -1945, that cast such a shadow.  It is far more ancient than that.

Sunny Italy seems to hide it better.  But it, too, is haunted.  One of the most visited tourist attractions in the world was a centuries-long scene of mass murder of humans and animals, often just for blood sport.

Coliseum, Rome

Coliseum, Rome

And then, all the memorials and ceremonies in England and Ireland, commemorating World War I.  As Stan wrote, it was an ugly war that lead to an ugly peace, that ultimately led to an even uglier war and the ultimate horrors of the Holocaust.

Poppy wreath at St. Canice Church, Kilkenny, Ireland

Poppy wreath at St. Canice Church, Kilkenny, Ireland

Yesterday, we saw “famine houses” on the Dingle Penisula.  Approximately one million Irish died during the potato famine.  But it was not just “simple” starvation that brought death and the diaspora of another million and a half.  As a British colony, Ireland exported most of it food stuffs – grain, meat, dairy – to England.

You’ll remember that the Industrial Revolution was in full swing in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century.  Masses of agricultural workers were moving to the cities.  Ireland took up much of the slack of providing food to those workers.  As Irish families were devastated, either by death or emigration, they could no longer pay their English landlords rent.  So, the landlords’ men came to evict the tenants and then proceed to destroy the roof and one wall of the house so that no one would be able to return to live there.  Many of these houses still stand.  The memory is deep and long.

It should come as no surprise that much of the money to buy weapons for the violent arm of the Sinn Fein has come from the United States, from the descendants of those who died and those who left.

“Famine house,” Dingle Penisula, Ireland

And now, in Paris, we see another ancient cycle of violence and hatred play out.  The threads are the same.  Mass murder in the name of religion and race.

What is one to think in the face of this?  Philosophers, historians, theologians, psychologists have been asking this question for millennia.  We ignore it at our peril, yet the heart quakes, breaks, must turn away from such unrelenting, devastating horror and sorrow.

Some of the more ancient and universal rituals may, at least, offer some solace.  It can be no coincidence that so many cultures and religions celebrate the returning of the light in the dark nights of late Autumn.  Christmas.  Solstice.  Hanukkah.  Diwali.  And the newer holiday of Kwanza.  Carl Jung stated that when encountering the shadow, it is critical to focus on your own little light, lest you be overcome.  So, we do what we can.  We bake bread, hug a friend, put a coin in a cup.  We light a candle, say a prayer, sing a song.

Paris is dark these nights.  But not for long.  She is, after all, the City of Light.

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Paris

Setting the time machine to Thursday, October 15 to Monday, October 19.

Our romp through the Best of Europe with Rick Steves ended with a day and a half in Paris.  We extended that by two more days before heading out to Le Moulin (see our separate post).

Of course, even having been to Paris before, four days is hardly enough to revisit old favorites and explore new treasures.  There is so much to see and do, Paris can seem a little daunting.  Still, I am always a little surprised with each visit how easy, cozy and intimate Paris can be.  A small corner table in a cafe, a green bench along a path in a park, a tucked away pew in a medieval parish church are all marvelous places to watch Parisians – and tourists!  – go about their lives.  And a ride during rush hour on the Metro brings a whole new meaning to “intimate!”

So, off we go!

After arriving in Paris from Beaune in the early afternoon, our RS group set off to one of the most exquisite buildings in the world: the 13th century Sainte-Chapelle. Built in less than 10 years, it has a unified aesthetic rare among other Gothic churches, which often took centuries to complete.  Even more rare, almost two-thirds of the stained glass is original, surviving storms, wars and revolutions.

The lower level of the chapel was essentially a parish church for people like you and me, ordinary red-blooded folk who happened to be servants of the King. It is a marvel of rich, warm colors and gilt.  At first, it’s hard to imagine that the next level could be even more grand and impressive.

Lower level of Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

Lower level of Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

But it is.  The chapel exemplifies the soaring beauty of gothic architecture.  Even on a cloudy day, as we had during our visit, light pours down in jewel colors.  Our photos cannot begin to do justice.  If you’ve not seen Sainte-Chapelle, I encourage you to google and feast your eyes on images that better capture the radiance, light and beauty of this spectacular site.

The glorious upper level of Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

The glorious upper level of Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

After a wander through the Latin Quarter with our group, we entered Notre Dame.  Stan and I stayed for Mass.  As you might imagine with such a great cathedral, the organ and cantor were superb.  Afterwards, there was a smaller ritual (for those familiar, the Veneration of the Blessed Sacrament).  At this point, all tourists had left.  Most of the lights were dimmed, with only the altar illuminated, a large basin of incense beside it creating wisps of patterns in the scented air, accompanied by the murmurs of many prayers.  A deeply sacred moment.

Entering out into the cool, damp air, we grabbed a bite to eat, and then rejoined our RS group for a night cruise along the Seine.  Another magical experience of a different sort.

Eiffel Tower from the Seine

Eiffel Tower from the Seine

The next day, while I relaxed and followed up on future travel arrangements, Stan went with our RS group for a dash through the Louvre, followed with viewing the Monet’s at L’Orangerie.  Stan rates this as one of his top experiences on our trip.

Stan and one of Monet's Water Lillies

Stan in front of one of Monet’s Water Lilies

Later, all the RS group had a superb last dinner together.  It was bittersweet, saying goodbye to so many interesting, good people that we had really just begun to know.

Last meal with fellow tour members in Paris

Last meal with fellow tour members in Paris

After bidding a final “au revoir” to our fellow RSers on the morning of the 17th, we headed off to Les Invalides and Napoleon’s Tomb.  No particular reason to spend much time there (although the Military Museum is impressive, if that is an interest), other than wanting to see the venue of a splendid recording of Berlioz’s Requium, which took full advantage of the lively acoustics there.

Napoleon's Tomb, Paris

Napoleon’s Tomb, Paris

We then headed to the nearby Musee Rodin.  The actual museum was closed due to renovations.  But no matter.  The museum’s gardens are full of reproductions, and the day was beautiful.  The sun emphasized the robust musculature of Rodin’s bronze statues, conveying a surging creative life force or struggles against injustice.

The Thinker in the gardens of Musee Rodin

The Thinker in the gardens of Musee Rodin

The hands of The Three Shades, Rodin

The hands of The Three Shades, Rodin

And then, onto the Eiffel Tower.  No commentary needed.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Top of the Eiffel Tower

Top of the Eiffel Tower

After descending to the ground, we hailed a taxi and headed across town to the Philharmonie de Paris.  Stan has written an earlier post about the stunning performance from the London Symphony Orchestra that night.  I will only add that I agree it was the best concert I have ever heard.  Thrilling.

The next morning, we spent some hours at the Musee Cluny, possibly the finest medieval art museum in the world.  (Sorry, Cloisters!)  The Unicorn Tapestries, bejeweled reliquaries, beautiful gilt-framed triptychs, exquisite wood carvings of Madonna and Child (many of them nursing!).  But the most stunning collections were of the stained glass.  Many of the techniques for creating the rich jewel colors are now lost.  How fortunate we still have some reminders of their glory.

Stained glass, Musee Cluny, Paris

Stained glass, Musee Cluny, Paris

Then, off on the hunt for a small street I recently read about in “The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris,” by John Baxter:

“For more than two centuries, the Cour du Commerce has remained virtually unchanged, embedded in time.  This is a place on which the past refuses to relax its grip. In a way that always escapes museums, it preserves the essence of Paris… It hasn’t changed much from 1732, when the Cour du Commerce was nothing but a ditch to channel storm water and worse as it rushed out if Rue de l’Odeon.  It still looks more like a gutter than a thoroughfare.  A sidewalk clings to one edge.  Ancient cobblestones pave the rest, with gaps to trap the careless high heel.  Subsidence has dragged down the left-hand gutter.  Buildings on that side lean out unpleasantly.”

As Stan and I were tromping down the Boulevard St. Germaine, hot on the scent, I looked to our right, and with a shock, recognized the Cour immediately!  I was so caught up in the excitement and romance of discovery that I had us walking up and down the Cour three times, peering into the little shops and cafes.

Cour du Commerce, Paris

Cour du Commerce, Paris

Cour du Commerce, Paris

Cour du Commerce, Paris

We stopped for lunch at the cafe at the far left of the photo above (in the passageway).  Later, when we arrived back at our hotel room, I realized I had only taken four photographs, I was that intent on my explorations!

After lunch, we wandered for a while along St. Andres des Arts, enjoying the windows full of chic fashion, colorful art and antiques.

Along St. Andre's des Arts

Along St. Andres des Arts

We spent the rest of the afternoon ambling through the Musee d’Orsay.  Who does not fall in love with this museum?  Converted from an old train station, the interior is light and graceful. The conversion created intimate rooms for the paintings, while most of the sculpture is in galleries with long deep benches for viewers to sit and absorb the beauty.

Musee d'Orsay

Musee d’Orsay

One of the primary highlights of the museum is its collection of Impression art.  It is always a thrill to see a beloved piece of art, known only through books (or, now, online), in person.  Rarely is the piece how you initially saw it.  There is always something surprising, whether it’s the size, the brush strokes, the vividness of the colors.

Van Gogh’s La Siesta was one of many surprises the Musee held in store for me.  I was taken by what felt to me a great tenderness in the painting.

La Siesta, Van Gogh, Musee d'Orsay

La Siesta, Van Gogh, Musee d’Orsay

We know from Van Gogh’s letters to his brother how he longed for human connection, and in particular, a stable, safe relationship with a woman.  But how he feared rejection and abondonment.  Look at the couple, asleep on the hay, her head nestling close under his arm, but not in full embrace.

Detail of La Siesta, Van Gogh

Detail of La Siesta, Van Gogh

Then look at the sickles, lying side by side with a sense of formality,  with little overlap.  The shoes, side by side, but barely touching.  So, tenderness, but also distance.  Or so I project!

So many more rich moments that afternoon.  But this post is getting rather long.  Let’s wrap it up as we did on our last morning in Paris, with a walk down Rue Cler.  Yum!

Flower shop on Rue Cler, Paris

Flower shop on Rue Cler, Paris

Luscious fruit, Rue Cler, Paris

Luscious fruit, Rue Cler, Paris

Fromage, Rue Cler, Paris

Fromage, Rue Cler, Paris

Take out, Rue Cler, Paris

Take out, Rue Cler, Paris

Huge and small macaroons, Rue Cler

Huge and small macaroons, Rue Cler

11 November

In our travels we have seen how things can be different than back in the United States. 11 November is an important date as it marks the day that World War I ended. (On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour….)image

There have been a series of memorials that we have come across in England and now in Ireland. In the last few years I have been reading and thinking about what used to be called ‘The Great War’.  One thing that was immediate to me was as much as war is ugly and horrible, WWI was really ugly and horrible. Ugly in how the war started, ugly in the trench warfare that consumed a generation of young men, ugly in that the peace just set up the next war.

It has been noticed that if you look at a map of Europe from 1900 and then looked at a map of Europe in 2000, you might think not much changed in the hundred years separating the two. But so much happened. But I’m digressing…..

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Seeing this memorial in Kilkenny, Ireland made me think about how WWI, or even WWII, is still so immediate for people here. War was not something far away on a TV screen or newsreels, every family was effected one way or another. Now that we are remembering the centennial of WWI, the memories may have faded a bit, but the impacts have not been forgotten. In our travels in Germany, Czech Republic,France, Poland, Hungary, England and now Ireland, we have seen how the war had effected them.

Coming from the US, where the last war fought on our soil was the Civil War of 1861-1865, the wars we have had a part in have been ‘Over There’ to borrow George M. Cohan’s song title. Which gets me to where I began thinking about 11 November. Here in Ireland and England they call it Remembrance Day. In the US it used to be called Armistice Day and later turned into Veterans Day. There are generally parades and ceremonies at graveyards (and Veterans Day sales at supermarkets and other stores!) But seeing these quiet little memorials made me reflect about how far at times what the day should mean is so subsumed with rah-rah patriotism and commercialism.

So far me, 11 November is about those who fought, at Ypres and at the Marne, at Normandy and Stalingrad, in New Guinea and at Okinawa, in Laos and Da Nang and in Kabul or Beirut or the West Bank or in Ukraine. But somehow it has to end, there is no other place to go to.

Philharmonie de Paris

As we have commented before, one of the threads of our time in Europe is going to concerts. This post  is about our visit to the relatively new Philharmonie de Paris that opened in January of 2015. While the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam has an acoustic that is more warm,  The Philharmonie is more ‘live’.

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In comparison with another hall, the Philharmonie in Berlin, Paris is all curves and swoops versus the angularity in Berlin

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The concert itself was amazing.

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Valery Gergiev, considered one of the leading conductors of our time, and the London Symphony Orchestra were in Paris for a series of concerts. The program was Bartok’s Dance Suite and a suite of Miraculous Mandarin followed by Stravinsky’s complete 1910 Firebird ballet score which had its premire in Paris. I think this may be the best concert I have ever had the opportunity to witness.  The LSO was on fire throughout the program and by the time the final chord came crashing down at the end of Firebird, you knew that this had been a very special concert indeed. The audience reaction was ecstatic with a  rthymic clapping that only seems to happen when the performance was so good. Then to top it off an encore from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet,  the Dance of the Knights.  As Judith said, “Everything came together”.

Le Moulin de Tuilerie

Setting the time machine back to Monday, October 19.

We left Paris in the morning, picked up a car at Orly Airport and headed west to the small town of Gif-sur-Yvette, an “exurban” suburb of Paris.  One of Gif’s claim to fame is that it was here that Kissinger met with the North Vietnamese delegation for many of the “Paris” peace talks that ended the Vietnam War.

Another claim to fame is that Gif is where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor had their weekend home, Le Moulin de Tuilerie.  The Moulin is now owned by the Landmark Trust, a British non-profit that buys historically significant properties, restores and maintains them, and then rents them out for short holidays to continue to generate funds.  Le Moulin is their only French property, but the historical connection with English history needs no explanation.

Le Moulin de Tuilerie, Gif-sur-Yvette

Le Moulin de Tuilerie, Gif-sur-Yvette

And that is how we came to stay for four nights at the “Windsor Place!”  There are three units at La Moulin.  The main house, where the Windsors stayed, sleeps eleven;  another smaller guest house sleeps four, and is attached to “Le Celibitaire,” or “Bachelor Pad’ which sleeps one to two.  It is where Cecil Beaton stayed when he visited the Windsors, and it is where we stayed.

Stan heading towards the front door of Le Celibitaire at Le Moulin

Stan heading towards the front door of Le Celibitaire at Le Moulin

Moulin means “mill” in French, and indeed, the buildings were a working flour mill for many of its two hundred years.  Sometime in the 1920s, the French artist, Adrien Etienne (also known as Drian), bought the mill, and in 1952, sold it to the Duke and Duchess.  After the Duke’s death, the mill changed hands until the Landmark Trust bought it in 2009.

The Duke loved gardening, and it is easy to see why he chose Le Moulin.  The small river, Yvette, burbles through, tucked under a small woods.  The garden layout remains, although the phlox, lavender, roses and other flowers beloved of English gardeners have dissapeared.

Stan walks alongs one of three small channels diverted from the Yvette that ran the water wheels at the mill.

Stan walks alongs one of three small channels diverted from the Yvette that ran the water wheels at the mill.

The Yvette, as it cuts through the property of Le Moulin.

The Yvette, as it cuts through the property of Le Moulin.

A small series of weirs that helped turn the water mills.

A small series of weirs that helped turn the water mills.

Looking out the kitchen window to the formal gardens at Le Moulin.

Looking out the kitchen window to the formal gardens at Le Moulin.

During the Duke's lifetime, this would have been a full blown English garden. Can you hear the bees, and smell the roses?

During the Duke’s lifetime, this would have been a full blown English garden. Can you hear the bees, and smell the roses?

The changing room for the swimming pool. The pool was filled in years ago. You can see the pool outline in lighter green.

The changing room for the swimming pool. The pool was filled in years ago. You can see the pool outline in lighter green.

Outdoor terrace at Le Moulin.

Outdoor terrace at Le Moulin.

Our stay was delightful, especially after the romp through “The Best of Europe” with our Rick Steves tour group.  The quiet of the countryside, and the wistful melancholy that seeps through the stones and the garden gave us a chance to recharge.  Since each unit has a fully equipped kitchen, we went into the village each day to get daily provisions.  There was a bookcase full of volumes of Windsor history, some sympathetic, some salacious, much of it stylish.  This provided hours of entertainment.  We did not miss WiFi at all.

Local charcuterie and cheese. Yum!

Local charcuterie and cheese. Yum!

Comfy reading spot at Le Celibitaire.

Comfy reading spot at Le Celibitaire.

We were reluctant to leave this delightful, refreshing spot, but London beckoned, and we dared not ignore its clarion call!

Looking across the courtyard to the

Looking across the courtyard to the “Big House,” where the Windsors stayed (on the left).

The Map is not the Territory

Regency romance readers (I know there are a few of you out there), remember when the heroine is traveling by post coach to her new place in the country because she is now orphaned and has to live with an older, stern, but oddly memorizing guardian who became a friend of her now deceased older brother when they fought with Wellington, and the post coach is held up as it tries to make passage through a narrow lane with hedgerows 10 feet high on both sides?

Well, dear readers, those lanes still exist.  We have no photographic evidence to share.  Stan was gripping the steering wheel and I was trying my best to keep my screams, exhortations and hissed intakes to myself.  Not always successfully.

But we made it.

There were a couple of times when I got out of the car to guide Stan through.

So we made it.

And we now know that what appears to be a fairly straightforward route on a map can be very different when actually on the road.  We now know that even the Brits can have difficulties in navigating old roads that were not made for two way traffic.  We now know to instruct the old tom-tom (GPS) we have rented to triangulate from larger town to larger town, rather than let it “decide” what is the shortest route.

And, when possible, take the bus!  Below are some photos of the little town of Croscombe, where we caught the bus to Wells this morning.  It will give you a some idea of how challenging it can be to navigate country roads.  And it is considered a major route!  I kept my iPad in my purse, so I didn’t get photos.  But in the ten or so minutes we waited for the bus, we saw at least four semis, including one for autos (empty, thanks goodness!), a full size garbage truck, a full size road maintenance truck (that’s one of the crew members with the stop sign), and a large farm scyther with monster wheels pass by.

Traffic gingerly skirting a delivery truck, Croscombe, England

Traffic gingerly skirting a delivery truck, Croscombe, England

What's around that corner? Croscombe, England

What’s around that corner? Croscombe, England

But it is beautiful here.  A worthy setting for our Regency heroine.

Croscombe roofs from St. Mary's Church

Croscombe roofs from St. Mary’s Church

Croscombe, England

Croscombe, England

Old Hall, Croscombe, where we are staying

Old Hall, Croscombe, where we are staying

View from our kitchen window, Old Hall, Croscombe

View from our kitchen window, Old Hall, Croscombe