Monday, June 18, 2018

A Tale of Three Cities

Capture 4

A Tale of Three Cities

Aberdeen, York & Canterbury

We have left the far northern reaches of Scotland, and are now headed south along the west coast of England to our final destination of London.

Our first stop was Aberdeen Scotland which is on the border with England. Aberdeen is a large port city which supports a significant offshore oil petroleum industry. When we docked, our vessel was surrounded by some of the most unusual-looking ships I had ever seen. As we later learned from our guide, each of these vessels had been specifically designed to serve the needs of the petroleum industry and to operate in the harsh environment of the North Sea. Our visit today was not so much the city itself, but rather to take a drive outside of town to visit Crathes Castle and their gardens. This 16th century castle offers painted ceilings and family portraits along with a maze of internal tunnels and a multitude of turrets. Like so many old family castles, this is now owned by the National Trust of Scotland, and is open to the public. The castle was owned by the Burnett family who lived there for over 350 years, and could trace their heritage back to 1323 A.D., when Robert, the Bruce, granted them the land. The castle itself was not exceptionally large, and was relatively easy to visit. Of equal interest were the beautiful gardens; these gardens were completely contained within the perimeter of a brick wall. In other words, there was only one way in, and likewise, one way out. Unfortunately the day we were there, a multitude of gardening and watering activities were going on so that access to the entire garden was somewhat limited. We did get some good pictures, and I do hope you enjoy them. By the time we had finished our visit, it had grown to a long day at which point, Lisa and I were both tired, and called it a day.

The following day the ship was actually scheduled to visit Eyemouth, England; however, as a result of bad weather, we were not able to make our stop there, but instead continued on for our visit the following day in Kingston upon Hull. Hull, as it is commonly known, was a pretty port town that was to serve as our gateway to the city of York and the great York Minster. The city itself actually dates from 79 A.D., when it was founded by the Romans. Over the centuries it has grown, and today it is one of the great walled cities of the world, and home to the huge 13th century gothic cathedral known as York Minster. Now a pesky little problem arose today about whether or not I should actually make this trip. I think I mentioned that when coming aboard the ship from our zodiac at Fair Isle, I almost fell, however, the crew saved me. At the same time however, I took a substantial blow to my foot. I did not think much about it, but as the days passed, my ankle has become swollen, and the heel of my foot feels as if I had a stone bruise. So walking around in old city did not sound very appealing. I tried to learn how close our busses would be able to get to the Cathedral since that was the one thing I was most anxious to see. I got the sense that the walk would not be that long, and I reasoned that if I got to the Cathedral and did nothing more than sit, it would be worth the effort. Boy! Did I get fooled! Our busses had to park a considerable distance from the entrance to the Walled City, and once inside, it was a long and complicated journey to reach York Minster itself. I did the best I could to keep up with the group, and no one was complaining. However, when I reached the Minster, all I really wanted to do was to sit down because the pain was so bad in my ankle. Putting that aside for a minute, the city was one of the most unique and interesting that I had visited. I learned that much of the scenery used in the Harry Potter films were based on drawings that were made of the city. I would love to have taken more photographs to share, but unfortunately since I was having so much trouble keeping up with the group, the last thing I wanted to do was to stop and slow down to take photographs. I would also mention that the city was as jammed as if it was Disney World. It is an extremely popular attraction, and now has houses, shops, and stores of every kind.

As for the Cathedral itself, it is considered to be the largest Cathedral in Northern Europe, and is second in size, and importance only to the Cathedral at Canterbury. The first recorded building of a wooden structure on the site for the purpose of religion was recorded in 627 A.D. Since then, the church has immensely increased in size. Today it is held that the church represents every stage of the Gothic style of architecture from 1230 to 1475. Having worked so hard to get there, I spent much of my time just sitting quietly and trying to take in the enormity of what was before me. I did some walking around, but Lisa and I both left early so that we could begin our slow trek back to the bus. We departed Hull that evening in a dense fog, which then continued all night.

The next day when we arrived in Dover, our first view of the famous White Cliffs was almost completely shrouded by the thick fog. Once again, we were to undertake another five hour round-trip excursion, this time to Canterbury City and its famous Cathedral. Before going, however, I consulted with the ship’s physician on what was wrong with my ankle because at this point, it was not only quite swollen, but very painful to walk on my heel. An x-ray revealed that in all likelihood, there was no crack in my heel, but I was advised to limit the amount of walking that I did. So, once again, I tried to determine how much walking was involved from the bus to the Cathedral, with the idea that sadly enough I would sit once again in a pew, and take in the enormity of it all. After being convinced that the walk was minimal, we left on the tour. Well as it turns out, Canterbury was another walled City, and once again, there was a long walk from the bus to the Cathedral itself. I did get to walk around some, but spent most of my time listening and taking in the grand picture.

Departing Dover, our ship turned back northward to enter the mouth of the Thames River. During the evening, we cruised up the River. However, as luck would have it, fog was once again settling in. At one point, it was believed that the ship would have to dock some two miles from the city center, but at the last minute the fog lifted enough that we were able to proceed in the wee hours of the morning, underneath the Tower Bridge, and then to tie up alongside the famous HMS Belfast which is now a permanently anchored museum in the river. When I awoke the next morning, we were able to have breakfast while looking out at the Tower Bridge itself, and just to our left was the famous Tower of London. London is an incredibly beautiful city and incredibly vibrant. I will just comment that our cruise ends here, and most people are going home. We have been asked to stay on for another two nights, and while I have heard snippets of what might happen. For now, we will just wait and see.

For most of you who have followed my writings in the past, I apologize that this is not as exciting an article as I would like it to be; I guess that visiting old churches and cathedrals, and castles and gardens is just not the most exciting thing in the world to me, and when you add to that my injury which made it painful to walk, well, I guess you can see what happened. Lisa and I have missed you all, and we are looking forward to returning home. We are not looking forward to returning home to the heat and the thunderstorms, however! So, perhaps they will be done by the time we arrive.

Lisa and I wish you all well,


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