What a trooper! She even rode in the top level of a double-decker bus!!
Michael and I returned to the early Middle Ages and the ancient Roman Empire last weekend. Well, almost…
We travelled first to the city of Durham, about a 3 hour train ride north of London. A UNESCO World Heritage site, its magnificent cathedral holds the shrine of St. Cuthbert, an early English saint, as well as the tomb of the Venerable Bede, an historian of the early English church. Durham Cathedral is very interesting and important architecturally, as it is the finest example of Romanesque (Norman) architecture in England, but also includes early Gothic elements. It is believed to have the first pointed arches that define Gothic architecture. Construction began in 1093 and was completed in only 40 years. Extra bonus: it was also used in some Harry Potter scenes!
The next day, Michael and I drove up to see Hadrian’s Wall, the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire. Several forts and other Roman ruins have been partially excavated. There are so many Roman sites across northern England, but we only had the time to stop and explore two of them – Corbridge, a storage depot, and Housesteads, a Roman fort located right on the wall.
At Corbridge, a small museum houses some of the finds made during the excavation of the site, including this statue of a lion over a dead stag. You can see Michael in the background translating all of that Latin – I tried to get ahead of him so I wouldn’t be forced to attempt to translate!
After exploring the museum, we went out into the Roman ruins. An audio guide was helpful in interpreting the buildings and providing a history of the area. This site was used as a supply depot for area forts and did not lie directly on Hadrian’s Wall.
We also visited Housesteads, a Roman fort that was one of the 12 permanent forts along Hadrian’s Wall. The site was open, but the museum was closed and new walkways and signage were being put in. We explored the site for a while, then decided to follow the trail along the wall. Much of the wall has also been partially reconstructed here, and the surrounding countryside feels expansive and isolated. We enjoyed some of the great views across the area.
Here’s an oddball place in London: The Old Operating Theatre. Barbara and I took a long walk along the River Thames and detoured to visit this interesting site located near London Bridge and right by the new Shard.
Originally part of St. Thomas’ Hospital, this Operating Theatre was built in the attic of St. Thomas’ Church to help train apprentice surgeons. After St. Thomas’ Hospital moved to another location, the Operating Theatre was closed up and hidden away for almost 100 years. When rediscovered in the late 1950’s, it was like opening a time capsule with a look back at surgical practices in the early to mid 1800’s.
We were fortunate to have arrived during a group visit, when a docent was giving a lecture and demonstration. Well, maybe not “fortunate”, as she showed us the amputation tools, describing and demonstrating how amputations and other surgical procedures were performed in the early 1800’s. Gruesome! I’m happy I’m living in the 21st century, with anesthesia and antibiotics!
- London in your lunch break: The Old Operating Theatre (telegraph.co.uk)
John Constable was a British painter in the early 19th century, known for his beautiful landscapes. Perhaps his most famous painting is The Haywain, a luscious depiction of the English countryside along the River Stour in a small village called Flatford. This painting, along with several other Constable works, hangs in the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square.
Last week, four of us enjoyed a great hike to Flatford to visit the site that inspired the setting of The Haywain. After taking the train to Manningtree, about one hour outside of London, we followed signs that took us through a marsh and past some fields filled with sheep. Eventually we reached the small village of Flatford, where the National Trust owns several properties, including the cottage depicted in The Haywain. Today, the scene looks like this:
The 7 mile walk continued on a loop, eventually taking us to the picturesque little town of Dedham. The weather was perfect, and we really experienced some of the beautiful English countryside that inspired Constable.
And our day wouldn’t have been complete without some tea and scones as we finished our walk!