Sunday, June 30, 2013

You Are Correct - York It Is

My, but do I ever have a bunch of brilliant blog followers.  
I can't stump you, York it was.  
My Mom and I went up to attend the York Family History Fair.  I have a passion for genealogy and ties to the Wakefield area.

We took the train to York and enjoyed the scenery along the way.

We also enjoyed travelling First Class (Brit-Rail passes).  Some of us were more blasé about it than others.

The Big Surprise?
Michelle, of the world famous Tales of a Stitching Mouse blog, drove to York meet us.  I'm on the left, Michelle on the right.

After a super lunch at Hole in the Wall (I had Yorkshire pudding!), we set off on a walking tour. York has been an important ecclesiastical city for centuries - second only to Canterbury. It was the unofficial capital of the North. York is thus awash in history wherever you look. 

The Shambles, historically a street of butchers, is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The narrow cobbled streets made it a challenge to look about and walk at the same time - but then I'm clumsy anyway.

This structure dates from the 1400's.

This set of row house was built in 1316. Notice how low the ground floor is.  Mind your head!

There were so many interesting architectural details too.
Signs, and doors, and light-posts. I popped into a stitching shop, and I drooled over a pair of silver and enamel owls at a jeweller's.

The Ouse (is that a great name for a river or what?!) flows through the middle of York.  Michelle said it often floods in the winter.

We had a wonderfully sunny afternoon to tramp about York.

My one Must See in York - the York Minster. The title "minster" is attributed to churches established in the Anglo-Saxon period as missionary teaching churches.  It is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, and was begun in 1220 when Archbishop Walter de Grey set out to build a cathedral to rival Canterbury.  (Aren't envy and jealousy sins?)  It is immense - 534 feet long and 249 feet wide and 90 feet high.

Fifty years ago it was discovered that the foundation of the Minster was crumbling, and the cathedral was in imminent danger of collapsing.  Yikes!  Repair and reinforcement work began post-haste and the cathedral is on solid footings once again.  But a building of its size and age is always in a state of restoration and conservation.  Currently stonemasons are preparing stones for the East Front of the Minster.  To give you an idea of the scope of the project - they will finish up in March 2016. I've another picture of their work on the collage below - top right photo. 

Before even entering the Minster I was in awe of its magnitude and architectural details.

Once inside, the Minster seems to command, "Look up!" 
Perhaps because the York Minster is so large, it has a very clean feel to it.

The quire and organ are especially lovely, as is the ceiling.

The Minster contains half of the medieval stained glass in England! 
So even with the Great West Window blanketed for repairs (such is my luck!), there are plenty to see and admire.

Big windows, huge window, magnificent windows.

Up, up, up and ever upwards.

I like blue in stitching and cobalt blue in stained glass.

Another of the wonderful windows.

Here's a photo of the organ and the Quire screen.The quire screen has 15 statues of the Kings of England - from William the Conqueror to Henry VI.

The Chapter House is a marvel as well. completed in 1286, the Chapter House roof is unique in not having a center pole to support its weight.  From 1290 onwards the Chapter House was used for Parliament by kings Edward I and Edward II during their campaigns against the Scots.

It is still used for the meeting of the College of Canons with each Canon having an equal voice.

I became quite riveted with the little figures atop each Canon's bench.  As best I could tell, there was no repetition.  I think my favorite is the three faced figure on the upper left.

The Minster is a vibrant active church.  The organ played and choir practice wrapped up while we strolled about.  We were long enough that Evensong service began with good attendance, and strawberry shortcake and meringues for dessert after!

Mom and I had a wonderful day in York.  We managed to see the gates and walls, the river and streets and historic buildings, and of course the Minster.
Much thanks goes to Michelle for sharing her city with us.  We even got to see a group of owls and other birds of prey in a small churchyard.  Such are the surprises you can find in York!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Catching Up Back At Home And Here Too

It's late and it has been a long and busy and fun day.
I'm going to quickly write about the cats and critters back home and post a few pictures of today's adventure.  I'm not going to say where we went, but perhaps you can figure it out - guesses welcome.

The cats have been pestering me long distance.  They feel that they've not received the 'face time' due to them. So here are sojme recent photos thanks to my sister.
Padma (bottom right) has taken to rolling about in/on my podophyllums as though they were catnip.

Solomon is once again wearing a cone of shame. He had a recurrence of a medical issue - we hope this second surgery will be his last. 

On the critter front - it is Baby Time.  My sister felt the fawns were less than 24 hours old on the 3rd of June when she took the top right photograph. We have lots of swallow babies, and my sister has counted four different quail families - each with around ten chicks.  I am waiting to hear if the Acorn Woodpeckers show up later this summer at the peanut feeder with newly fledged babies.  I think that would me most exciting.

Now on to today's adventure.  Here are the clues:  

Cobblestone streets with old buildings.

A major river that often floods in winter months.

Norman defenses.

An iconic cathedral.

Close up of the cathedral - also referred to by another ecclesiastical name which I will not use as it would give the game away.

Guesses, anyone?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sissinghurst - Part Two

I've kitted up a new Heart in Hand stitch. 
Someone asked via a comment, and yes, I carted over several pieces of linen and the charts and threads so that I could stitch during my stay here.
Now on with the travelogue... 
The history of Sissinghurst goes back centuries. A manor house with a three-armed moat was built there in the Middle Ages. By 1305, Sissinghurst was important enough that King Edward I came calling and spent a night. The house was given a new brick gatehouse in the 1530s by Sir John Baker, one of Henry VIII's Privy Councillors, and greatly enlarged in the 1560s by his son, Sir Richard Baker, when it became the center of a 700-acre deer park. In 1573, Queen Elizabeth I spent three nights at Sissinghurst.  It is thought that she probably climbed the tower to survey the impressive views of the Kentish countryside.

By the time Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicholas purchased the property in the 1930s, it was derelict.  But Vita, the only child of Lionel, the third Lord Sackville, had grown up at Knole, the largest house in England, and she could see the potential of the property.

Certainly the views were enchanting.

Harold was in charge of the garden layout, while Vita handled the plant placement. It was a charge and a mission that would last for decades. 

The White Garden is probably the most famous of the garden rooms.

I had feared it might feel contrived and constrained.

Instead it is breath-takingly lovely.

The garden also entails several long beds of plants.

And it uses the warm brick walls to great effect.

Plant placement is everything.  It separates a great garden from a good garden. 

Sissinghurst takes advantage of every color of the rainbow.

It does not neglect trees and shrubs.

I suppose the over-riding color is green.

I found lots of plant combinations that I'd like to recreate (on a much smaller scale).

I can't even begin to narrow it down to a favorite color or hue.
I think I go gaga over bronzish-red...

and then this peony attacks me~

...and suddenly I am new best friends with pink!

Note the diagonal stripes on the lawn that play off the flower beds. 

Okay, I quite like blue too!

I just hope that once in a while Harold and Vita sat on a bench and enjoyed their garden.

The garden and surrounding acreage was perfect for an array of birds.  Anyone want to attempt to identify the top three birds and the bottom left? I know I have pictures of a chaffinch, blackbird, crow, goldfinch, wagtail, and robin.

Again I have to say what a wonderful place.  It was a great, if exhausting day out.  
As a result we had a quiet day today. I even took a nap!
Late this afternoon, we did go to the Pompeii exhibition at the British Museum. Note the woman on the far left - she is sewing. Our sister in spirit.