A brief chronology of Ellen's and Bob's trip to England October 29-November 9, 1999.



Friday, October 29 - The saga starts with an early-morning bus ride from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles airport (there's a regular bus schedule, which makes a lot of sense; cheaper than flying and a lot easier than driving and parking in L.A.). Surprisingly good Japanese meal at the Tom Bradley Int'l Terminal at Los Angeles Airport. Very authentic and tasty.

Then ten-plus hours of flying in a chock-full and very cramped British Airways 767 aircraft. We were surprised, as BA has been pretty good about space and service in the past. A few bumps along the way, but generally good weather and an easy trip through customs. 

Saturday, October 30 - London's skies were overcast and threatening when we landed, but we only had occasional showers the entire time in the city.

Of course, London is eight hours later than California, so we arrived in the late morning of October 30.

Took the Heathrow Shuttle (a new train from the airport to Paddington Station in London proper), and then a cab to the Victoria Hotel (previously the Grosvenor, attached to Victoria station), in Buckingham Palace Road.

Moved in to our not overlarge but comfortable room, and promptly headed out for a walk (after the long flight!) down Victoria street to Westminster Cathedral (not the Abbey). Where the Abbey is mostly gray stone (and nicely cleaned recently, according to Ellen, who visited there), the Cathedral is a mixture of all types of granite and marble. Much more colorful. A wedding was in progress in a side-aisle chapel, and we stayed to hear the organist play Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D" in that great building. 

Walked on down to the Abbey (which was crowded and with a long line; the weather was so warm that the tourist season had apparently been extended). We found the Dean's Yard next to the Abbey, where Church House, the meeting area, was located. The caretaker there showed us the rooms that were to be used for the joint meeting of the US International Loran Association (ILA) and the UK's Royal Institute of Navigation. The main room is the meeting room for the Synod of the Church of England; very impressive debating chamber (speakers later seemed to rise to that sense of importance; papers were even better than usual). The side hall, used for exhibits and receptions, was the chamber where the House of Commons had met during the War; Winston Churchill gave famous speeches there.

Westminster Abbey dominated the view from the anteroom and its balconies, used for breaks and receptions.


Had lunch in the restaurant above the Duke of York pub on Victoria Street - prawn salad. We noted that more salad seems to appear on the menus in England these days. A gentleman in the pub reminded us that the time changes back to standard time tonight. After the 8-hour time warp we've been through, we'll likely not notice the one-hour change.

ILA President Linn Roth of LOCUS, Inc., makers of Loran receivers and a member of the consortium Bob has put together for Loran-C work for FAA, and his wife suggested we have dinner at Goya, a Spanish restaurant near the hotel, and we walked there. Excellent meal.

Just before calling it a day, we encountered Langhorne Bond, former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head, in the hotel galleria and had a nightcap with him. He is still pressing for multiple systems worldwide, and has been a good friend and ally (co-conspirator?) since he and Bob met at a Nashville meeting in 1995. 

Sunday, October 31 - There are phone troubles; the long-distance "800" number which the office long-distance service provided does not work. Bob will have to use the hotel phone charge to the room, which will likely be expensive. Walked down toward Church House again, this time turning toward Trafalgar Square at the river. The Red Lion pub was crowded, but we found a nice lunch spot next door; a friendly, noisy Italian place. (The Red Lion just has to have been the site of famous goings-on, but we can't remember what.)

Then off for a short visit to the Cabinet War rooms, under a large government building nearby. These rooms are pictured every time WWII is mentioned; Churchill and others directed the British effort from there. All the fittings have been preserved; the white wood reinforcing beams, old BBC equipment and the maps, charts and original furniture. Interesting note: In one room, there was a "Photostat" ashtray (the metal end of a spool for a roll of "Photostat" paper) just like the ones that Bob's dad rescued from Union Carbide trash in South Charleston and were used at Far View (Bob's grandparents' place in the West Virginia mountains) in the 50s and 60s. 

Then to Church House to assist in setting up for the ILA/RIN meeting. John Beukers was there, as were Bill Roland and David Broughton, President of the Royal Institute, plus various volunteers, and we joined in stapling programs, stuffing carry-pouches, and other preparations for Monday's start of the meeting.

The hospitality suite was open at the Victoria Hotel this evening, and we reacquainted with old friends and met new ones over gin and tonic and soda water, etc. 

After a long discussion about dinner, we tried Goya again, but it was closed on Sunday. We wound up at the Angus Steak House, with Bill and Ellena Roland (he is just retired as President of Megapulse, Inc., maker of Loran transmitters and is a consultant), and others. 

Monday, November 1 - The meeting got underway with a message from Britain's Prince Philip, patron of the Royal Institute of Navigation and an active navigator himself. It was a fitting beginning to a meeting in this historic place and it set a quality tone for the group. This day was policy and management-oriented, and was well attended by U. S. Department of Transportation and Coast Guard representatives (but no one from the Federal Aviation Administration, unfortunately), plus government, academic, commercial and user representatives from around the world. Much opportunity for side conversations and "networking" and promoting.

Lunch was a pretty heavy British affair; meat and potatoes and dessert all the way!

Meetings again in the afternoon, then we went to "Ask," an Italian restaurant in Victoria Street, for dinner.

Tuesday, November 2 - Bob presented his conference paper (the first one, on low-frequency aviation antennas operating in precipitation, where static build-up can cause loss of navigation). The paper, showing how magnetic-loop antennas could eliminate or reduce considerably this problem, was well received, and seems to have generated much FAA interest (read: more project money!). Many other papers presented by authors from around the world, all on navigation subjects. A smooth and well-run meeting. Same lunch!

Meanwhile, having been instructed by Santa Barbara Britisher friend Catherine Woodford to visit Harrod's ("...be sure to check out each of the escalators."), Ellen went to visit this wonderful location. Truly a beautiful store, and indeed each of the escalator areas was decorated with a different theme. Of course, a visit to Harrod's wouldn't be complete without a purchase, so Ellen visited the "Bear" department and the loooong process of selecting and taking home the "perfect" bear.

In the evening, the annual convention banquet featured fine food and good company (Ellen and Bob at the head table next to representatives of Boeing Aircraft, who had sponsored the banquet and participated in the technical meeting). After dinner a member of the National Trust (preservation of antiquities) gave a most interesting but very long report on the restoration of Windsor Castle after the fire a few years ago. Since the fire burned off many more modern coats of covering, the basic castle structure was revealed, a treasure trove for preservationists and historians.

Among other awards, the ILA presented Langhorne Bond its Medal of Merit for his work on behalf of Loran-C and on navigation safety in general. This is a prestigious award by one's peers, and Bob is proud to have received it in 1995. Our long-time friend John Beukers also is an earlier awardee. 

She has always admired the wallpaper and draperies of Bob's aunts Ruth and Maude Lilley, Pittsburgh relatives, which combined exotic birds and flowers. At one of the museums in London, just such a fabric was described and displayed. The search was then on to find just that perfect English fabric. She solicited suggestions on where to look from various folk, and then asked at the hotel for "walking to" directions. The bell captain was very willing to help, but insisted, "...madam, that is much too far to walk." Ellen the long-time, long-distance walker, chuckled and set off on what turned out to be a pleasant 2-3 mile walk each way. Unfortunately, no fabric was to be found, though the fabric store was most interesting experience with many floors and sections, in a very old building.. 

Bob did some last-minute preparation on his second paper (prepared to fill in for a Federal Aviation Administration speaker who did not make the meeting) and for the technical symposium session he directs today. The disk he prepared failed at just the wrong moment, so he had to rush back to the hotel to get the laptop computer, which had the original file on it. Returned to the meeting by London taxi just in time. The paper, on the two-year FAA program for demonstrating Loran-C as a complement to GPS satellite systems, describes a $4-million effort that Bob designed for the agency.

After the full day of technical papers, the meeting concluded with a strong resolution on stable navigation policies worldwide and for continued pressure for backup or alternative systems to provide a safety net for satellite systems.

Langhorne Bond invited the Rolands and Lilleys to dinner at a favorite spot of his (he lived in London's West End for a time while attending school, and has visited often since). This French restaurant is built in the building where the Michelin company once dealt with tires (tyres?), and there are clear signs of this in the pictures and stained-glass windows. The "Michelin Man" is much in evidence. A wonderful dinner of best British beef (Bob) and salmon (Ellen), excellent wine (the name of which we again forgot to write down!) and good company. A nice finish to the meeting, followed by a walk around the Chelsea area and a short London Underground ride back to the hotel.


Thursday, November 4 - Rented a Rover automobile and fought London traffic (a real fight!) to escape to the northwest of London, the Cotswolds and East Ridge, John and Marilyn Beukers' home at Longborough near Moreton-in-Marsh. As always, they were generous hosts, with twenty or more navigation meeting participants and friends in attendance. We immediately recognized their neighbor, Denise Bryer, from a previous visit, and once she found that we were planning a driving trip after the party, she quickly offered us her guest room for the night and an early-morning getaway..

John and Marilyn hosted a catered lunch with wine, and John toured us through his listening-post, where he keeps tabs on Loran-C and GPS navigation systems from the European perspective. He and Bob have been working for years to preserve this multi-system navigational mix, in the interest of safety but often to the consternation of some government types (notably in the U. S.). At this point, however, the idea seems to be catching on, after a long hard period of persuasion, thanks to the intervention of the US Congress, providing money ("going around" the executive-branch agencies in some cases). The data collected at John's station has been very helpful in this "educational" effort. 

Later, with Denise, we enjoyed again her 16th-century restored half-timbered rectory with its huge fireplace and high beamed ceilings. After an excellent Scotch, she insisted on preparing a full chicken dinner with trimmings and wine. The perfect hostess, even referring during a phone call from a family member to those "enchanting Americans" who were visiting her! We noted the pet-door, which she referred to as a "cat flap." She had a wonderful story of her daughter's cats staying with her and inviting in all the neighbor cats through their "flap" and the neighbor cats being most unwilling to leave! Apparently, now there is a magnetic collar that your own cat wears, which unlocks the flap, presumably closing it in the face of the neighbors. Wonder how long it takes the magnetized cat to learn how to get around that puzzle? The cat flap was firmly locked, since the daughter's cats are with the daughter at this point.

A good night's sleep in this charming home, but with wind and rain outside. The season has caught up with us, we fear!

Friday, November 5 - Bob was unable to use Denise's phone to connect to the computer-based electronic-mail network (but did notice a wiring difference compared to the US which was helpful later), so after a quick trip back to John Beukers' house to send Bob's conference presentation slides by computer to the Royal Institute in London, we left Denise Bryer's house later than planned in the morning, in the rain and some wind. 

Now, we had less of a plan than we sometimes do. Bob was inspired long ago by high-school teacher Thelma Conley to take an interest in English literature and history; Ellen's interest comes from education as a teacher of English and literature. We both have read much of the Arthurian material, and we had talked about the places we had already seen (many connected with that informal but persistent interest in the Arthur legends and stories and history). We had visited Stonehenge, of course, and Cadbury Rings (our candidate for Camelot), and Glastonbury (Avalon and the Glastonbury Tor). This time, we thought we would mix some general sightseeing along the west coast with visits to Tintagel (Arthur's birthplace according to some) and the site of the battle of Camlann in about 525 A.D., Arthur's last. We planned to get down to Land's End at the southwest corner and see St. Michel's Mount if we could in the time we had. 


We drove from Longborough to Stow-on-the-Wold, a charming village in the Cotswold tradition. Many stone buildings lined the main streets, and we visited the Queen's Head pub for a sandwich and 1/2-pint of lager. While there, the rain stopped and we saw sunshine for the first time in two days. 

It is impossible to walk past all the shops in such a village without a little shopping. Some excellent ginger fudge, for example! 

After spending more time in Stow than planned, we continued. On the way southwest, saw signs for the "Mechanical Music Museum" at Northleach, and stopped in. It turned out to be a small music shop with a museum attached to the rear. Also, these people are the world's best at restoring music boxes and are called upon by owners and collectors around the world. Very nice presentation of mechanical music-boxes, Victrola acoustic phonographs, an Edison cylinder machine, player pianos, very large drum music boxes including pipes, strings, drums and other instruments. Highlights were a Welte player piano which reproduces not only notes but variations in attack and dynamics, and a player pump organ (what a beautiful sound!).

Herr Welte was also the inventor of the Vorsetzer or "sitter in front" and he was able to attract major piano heroes to his castle in Germany where he recorded their playing on paper chart recordings, later punched as player rolls. While the player piano we saw is piano plus paper reader, the Vorsetzer is a robot piano player which sits in front of any piano and plays with mechanical fingers for each key (so the user might choose a big Steinway for better sound…). This museum did not have a Vorsetzer, but the young man giving the presentation was quite knowledgeable about his collection and other items, so it was interesting to talk with him. Bob's interest was heightened by his long-standing self-promise to do some restoration on our old pump organ, which works, but needs some help.

Drove on to Thornbury, our goal for the day near Bristol, with the rain letting up somewhat. After a wrong turn or two even in this small town, we found the castle just after dark. They were booked solid thanks to a wedding and the rugby World Cup match nearby. We decided to settle for dinner so we would not miss the place altogether.

There was a wait with drinks in the lounge room, a wainscoted room with wonderful Oriel windows looking across the privy garden. A wood fire warmed the room even more than the portraits and drawings of Henry VIII and his wives, the dark wood, and the coats of arms displayed on walls and mantel. Then upstairs to a small dining room (one of three) for a fine three-course meal: scallops on pineapple and chili salsa, with greens wrapped in smoked salmon ribbons. Bob's fillet steak with rice, blackpudding and Ellen's poached salmon with spinach were excellent. A crème brulèe for us both for dessert. Then back to the lounge room for tea and petit fours. We felt absolutely aristocratic!

The reception desk people at Thornbury Castle recommended Abbotsway Bed and Breakfast, nearby, as a good place to stay, as the Castle was full (only 21 rooms, after all). After a couple of false starts (unfamiliar country and driving on the unfamiliar side of the road at night are hard work!), we found the B&B, a modern house with a wonderful view of the Bristol area and the river Severn, rather narrow here, far from the sea. A cold north wind and clear skies locally had replaced the rain, although we could see a thunderstorm in the west (we got a little shower later).

Talked with the owner, a Geoff Watkins, for a while over tea in his conservatory facing the river view. He had a Jack Russell terrier and we were reminded of the story Langhorne Bond told Bob when they were out in the Virginia countryside at a steeplechase event last year, about the Jack Russell being the chosen dog of the fox hunt master. Apparently, the Master of the Hunt has a task to flush out a fox for the other horse-people to chase around the countryside. The Jack Russell has a penchant for going down foxholes and getting the fox to run out. Unfortunately, the terrier sometimes gets stuck, so the Master of the Hunt also always carries a shovel to dig his dog out! (Bond put it slightly more colorfully than that.)

Apparently, Watkins' terrier and her mother once got stuck in a hole for several days; as he put it, they had to wait to "slim down" so they could get out… The mother was later killed by a badger whose den she invaded. When we registeered, the daughter dog was very annoyed at the sound of the credit-card printer, and would cry every time it was used.

Ellen noted a Sarracenia Hybridae plant in the conservatory. A bog plant which is attractive, but probably not drought-resistant enough for Santa Barbara!

Saturday, November 6 - Continental breakfast at the Abbotsway B&B with a chat with another guest who was in town for a job interview. Everybody is talking about the Rugby match coming up. Another nice visit with the owner and his dog, and off for the Southwest corner of England. 

Well, actually, off first for a daylight visit to Thornbury Castle, which was well worth while! Looked at the remaining stonework on the battlements and the castellated walls surrounding the inner court and the gardens. When fully in use, one could walk along the tops of these walls for exercise without going outside the castle. A church is near the castle, and the two were once connected by an elevated walkway so the duke could attend church easily. Actually, this was a large and impressive house rather than a castle from which an army would operate. Henry VIII thought he saw to that, in the licensing of the Duke of Buckingham in 1511 to build the place, and he approved the fortress-like walls, etc. Later, though, Henry became suspicious of the Duke's motives, and had his suspicions bolstered by Cardinal Wolsey, who was not above a little mischief at court. As things developed, Buckingham was beheaded in 1521, which stopped work on the castle and it remained unfinished. After a long history, available in the booklet obtained there, the castle was bought by Maurice C. R. Taylor, the Baron of Porthelhen, whose family owns it today.

A wedding was being set up (taking over the entire castle, with at least one Baroness in attendance) but we had been invited to tour informally the lower level of the main buildings, with wonderful restored library and sitting rooms lighted this time by the morning sun. Then to the second wing of the main building, where the owner lives with his family. Ellen ventured in to this section and was immediately met by the owner himself, one Justin Taylor; we talked with him and his son, who was just about to have his 4th birthday party. This section of the castle was open to the sky (ruined) from 1550 until 1997, when Justin rebuilt the interior and roof. It is beautifully restored. Large fireplaces (this section was once the kitchen and bakery area for the castle overall) and modern conveniences were set off by the massive stone walls and beams.

It turns out that Justin's family are the owners, and his mother, the Lady Carole, is currently a California (Palm Springs) resident. The family lived in Santa Barbara / Montecito for some time, and that apparently is how our acquaintance Jeremy -- from the Montecito clothing store Saffron came to know them. He recommended our visit there before we left the States. Unfinished or not, the place is impressive and very active as a hotel and restaurant.

Bob picked up a computer adapter in the town of Thornbury, so he could send and receive e-mail out in the country (in B&Bs, etc) away from John Beukers' set-up and the London hotel. We have an "800" number good all over England, thanks to John.

Stopped at the Cheddar Gorge in Somerset (where Bob had visited in the 60s when his family lived in Lymington, Hampshire) and were delighted to find it largely unchanged. Travel brochures had made it sound rather commercialized, and there is some of that, but the impressive limestone cliffs forming the gorge, and the caves, are protected. We drove nearly to the top, encountering a small flock of the Soay sheep that are encouraged to graze there to limit the growth of scrub bushes which push into cracks in the granite and cause rockfalls. (Two people have been killed outright by falling rock in the Gorge, according to a local resident we met while eating at midday in the Edelweiss Restaurant at Cheddar.) Restaurant was very nice; large meal of turkey and trimmings plus dessert and tea was filling even though it was the "small" size. The restaurant was crowded even though tourist season is about over, with cooler weather and less sun.

Yes, we bought some of the local Cheddar cheese. Excellent!

Also: it's worth remembering that in England, wool has always been a key element in the economy. As far back as pre-medieval times, villages sprang up as wool markets, and then cathedrals followed in areas where a lot of people gathered, and roads were built, etc. That's easy to see in the millions of sheep that graze seemingly everywhere. Also in the prices this shows -- we bought a wool sweater in Cheddar for about 1/4 the U.S. cost, and this in a store at a tourist spot! As they say, the price rise is in the shipping and the duty… 

Rental car gas - it runs about 72 pence (about $1.12) per liter (about a quart!).

Spent longer than we had intended (this is always the case), and hit the road toward Tingtagel on Cornwell's north coast. In Devonshire at about Minehead, got our first views of the water at the mouth of the Severn (which is miles wide here). Looks like open ocean, but is officially the Bristol Channel, which then gives into the St. George's Channel before becoming the Atlantic once one is west of Ireland. Whatever … it's a LOT of water, and it can look really angry under a gray sky and with a stiff wind. The lights of south Wales are visible to the west. Rough surf on the rocky beach. 

We tried to get a room at a hotel or B&B in Porlock, a lovely (in a hardy sort of way) coastal town, but all was full. So on to Lynmouth, also on the coast. A steep climb and a drive atop the high coastal cliffs. Beautiful green fields and some wooded areas, with sheep and cows grazing everywhere, including the road! A steep descent into Lynmouth with striking views of seaside town lights and the ocean. One of those nights where the sky is still blue at sunset, with pink on the horizon and the hard charcoal-gray clouds in wave-lines off to the western horizon. Hope the pictures turn out!

Finally a room at the Pine Lodge run by Pat and Malcolm Davies near Lynton. Very quiet hillside house near the East Lyn River, which roars by in its gorge across the road. Bob and the proprietor rewired the "adapter cord" to actually work with the British Telecom circuits (based on the apparent differences noted earlier at Denise Bryer's house), and e-mail commenced again. Network magic - once we got a dial tone, the e-mail downloaded immediately from California. John Beukers had given a UK-wide "800" number to use to avoid high long-distance charges.

Once we saw the e-mail, requests to the office had resulted in a message with a revised UK "800" number which did connect to the service. Turns out the number was mis-printed on the plastic telephone card Bob carries!

Sunday, November 7 -- Full English breakfast of juice, cereal, eggs, ham, sausage, toast, tea to make up for no dinner last night, after the big lunch yesterday… Sent the latest batch of e-mail and picked up our phone messages for today, using our new-found technology adaptations. 

Left the Pine Inn in light rain and continued across the Moors (replete with mist; but no sound of the "Hound of the Baskervilles." Maybe only at night…) Caught glimpses of the ocean across wide and very green fields with the oddly-marked (painted) sheep and herds of cows. Pheasants were in evidence, and an occasional rabbit and magpie. Large hawks and smaller kestrels rode the wind waves watching for smaller critters to emerge from the hedges. Gulls are everywhere, noisy and hyper-active. Generally pastoral, with the widely-spaced villages popping up over a rise here and there. Hedges are used like fences, and there are few exposed wires and cables, making for a very "clean" countryside. We observed that the hedges are generally overgrown stone walls. There must be hundreds of miles of these dry-stone fence-walls here.

There is evidence that new telephone cables and fiber are being laid under many roads; a lot of work in progress. The newer (and thankfully occasional) cell and microwave towers clash with the old hedges and the otherwise unspoiled skyline. There is just no trash along the roads.

Rejoined the A39 route at Barnstaple, and on to Bude, where we had a late "Sunday roast" meal at the Bencoolen restaurant (a pub-like establishment, with the stone walls and low ceilings). This was a real meal, and will undoubtedly replace both lunch and dinner. Juice/pattè for starters plus roast chicken/lamb, potatoes, peas, Yorkshire pudding, cauliflower, trimmings. Then wonderful apple pie and cheesecake for dessert, plus tea, of course. Bude is a rather sturdy and somewhat wind-worn seaside resort, mostly closed at this time of year, but clearly set up for the vacationer in season. Many hotels and vacation cottages, beachside car parks and bath-houses, all facing the rather rocky beach. Even at this brisk and bracing time, there were people beachcombing, often with their dogs in tow (or vice-versa). 

We stopped at Clovelly, but could not take the time for a long almost-vertical walk to the lower town, near the shore. We settled for a view of the sea, and pictures of a thatched roof being repaired (thatch is becoming increasingly rare here; being replaced by tile roofs for practical reasons).

On to Cornwall and Tintagel across the Cornish countryside, noting the strange shapes of trees bent inland by the constant sea winds. A modern satellite uplink station with what appeared to be some twenty large dish antennas was in view near the coast near Kilkhampton, just after we entered Cornwall.

Most roads in the region are well-maintained, but are built without much in the way of shoulder, and with grass, trees, stone walls, hedges, etc. right against the pavement. In many places the hedges have horizontal slots sliced along their faces which match truck and car mirror locations exactly!

Tintagel is a somewhat commercialized place, featuring a group of B&Bs, hotels and shops surrounding the entrance road to the headland, where the remains of the Medieval-era castle stand. Some British tour information is scathing in its description of the popularization of the area since Tennyson and other writers made it the legendary birthplace of Arthur. Except for the King Arthur Hotel, a supremely ugly building built all too close to the castle site (across the ravine to the north of the castle), the rest of the buildings do not intrude too close. 


The castle ruins visible today are probably not relevant to the time of the Arthur literature, but there is some evidence of much older construction there as well… We're willing to go with the story, tending to be more romantic than scholarly about it. Like accepting Cadbury Rings as the site of Camelot, Tintagel "works for us" as Arthur's birthplace, and the place where Merlin spirited the infant Arthur away from danger through "the postern gate."

We found a room easily, with a good view of the headland and the castle ruins. This B&B was an older, more traditional place, with bath and shower "down the hall." Comfortable enough, and with a nice proprietor, his cat and collie dog. We went to the castle site late in the afternoon, under gray skies with a few sunny breaks over the sea. The coastline was reasonably calm this day, but it was easy to imagine powerful storm surges and crashing waves against the sheer cliffs and huge rocks, which form fijord-like narrows that amplify the waves and their voices. We took some pictures and remarked at the motivation to put a castle here, with one's back to the often-grumpy sea and with only one narrow land route of escape. 

Walked along the main street with its shops and pubs; had a lager at the King Arthur's Arms, in the company of a few other visitors to town, and their West Highland White Terrier who like us, looked comfortable by the open wood fire. 

We are disappointed that we have to turn toward London and the flight home tomorrow; we won’t make Land's End this trip. We had hoped to see St. Michael's Mount and to wonder in person at the stories and legends of the lost sunken land of Lyonesse (Guinevere's land before she became Arthur's Queen?), or maybe even Atlantis?

Monday, November 8 -- Up relatively early for the long drive back to the vicinity of London and a few stops along the way at south-facing English Channel seaside towns and cities. A continental breakfast with a couple of other residents and then packing and departure.

Camelford, said by some to be the location of Arthur's last battle, is by what is now called the Slaughter Bridge over the Camel river. The wide rolling fields there seem still to echo the swordplay (at least to us romantics). There is the "Arthur stone" here, inscribed with commemoration to a soldier who might have been killed in the battle of Camlann in about 500 AD. 

Met an old man and his Chow dog walking on the path to the Arthur stone. He called the dog, Herbert, to keep him close, even though Herbert seemed quite friendly; we tried to talk with the man, but he was very hard of hearing. After concerted and good-natured efforts on both sides, he wished us well, and pointed us toward the entry. 

There was commercialization of this place, but the tourist area was not open. We found this out by walking into what we thought was the entryway, which turned out to be a living room of the keeper's house. Very nice people, but firm on the point that the "stone" and walkway were closed. We were disappointed until one of the ladies said, "You could hike along the river to it…"

Bob hiked along the Camel River to the stone, wanting a closer attachment with the feel of history here. Wet leaves, and somewhat treacherous riverbank (it's a small river). Found the stone easily, with its inscription in the Latin, Hic Iacit Filus Magari (Here lies Latinus, son of Margarius Climbed the steep hill next to the stone, amid old tree roots and slippery grasses, coming upon the commercial walkway and overlook. ). Beside the walkway, there was some explanation of the significance of this stone, and some connection with the Arthurian period. Sort of sneaked around the closed tourist establishment, and back to the road.


On the way out of Camelford headed east, we saw some of the Cornish "engine houses" like those examples in this picture from a Cornwall web page; stone buildings built to house the huge steam-driven winches and pumps that served the very old and deep mines (copper, tin) in the area. Some shafts went two miles deep, some well out under the ocean. They have mostly given way now to sheep and pottery clay as products of the region.

We then drove the A30 (M) to Exeter in mist and rain. Scenery in this region is absolutely lovely, and the misty weather seemed to set off the bright green and the gaunt trees, misshapen by the coastal winds. 

At Sidmouth, (at the mouth of the Sid river) we visited the south-coastal (English Channel) town Denise had earlier recommended; Victorian buildings were evident. The town reminded us somewhat of Granville, in Ohio, with its wide streets, lawns behind low iron fences, and landscape very green.

Sidmouth was warmer and less windy, and better preserved than west-coast Bude.

On the way out of Sidmouth, we passed through Poppleford on the river Otter. Saw no otters, but encountered slow traffic due to a fire truck with "L" (learner driving) plates! Bob's parents always remembered having to keep "L" plates on the family cars for the first few months of driving as residents in England.

Then into Dorset and a stop at Lyme Regis, a resort with many hotels, boat rentals, restaurants. We reached it via a steep slope on the road into town, down to the Channel coast. 

Decided to take the (new?) divided-highway (dual-carriageway) A-31 through the New Forest and then a relatively new motorway M27 to Winchester, to put us within in striking distance of London Heathrow airport for the Tuesday trip back to the US. It was interesting near Southampton to see highway exits for such places as Fawley (where Bob's father built a Union Carbide plant in the 60s), Beaulieu (home of Lord Edward Montagu, of auto museum fame; he came to Santa Barbara recently for an antique car event), and New Milton, where Bob's sister Ruth attended the British equivalent of high school. The Lilley family lived at Lymington, near Beaulieu in the 60s, and they went to the Montagu family's annual traction-engine rally and general garden social events. 

That was Bob's first introduction to Britain; the New Forest roads were much less freeway-like then, with the Queen's ponies much in evidence on the heath (and on the road...). There's actually a road in Fawley that Bob's dad named Charleston Road in the 60s when the plant was being built. During a later visit, we discovered that the entire chemical complex there had been named the Charleston Works. Now, in England, if it's lasted this long, it'll probably be there forever! Bob's dad always joked that the Brits probably thought he was referring to Prince Charles, and that's why they let him name the road in the first place... Anyway, a little immortality.

We arrived in Winchester in due course, and found a booming city with seemingly hundreds of car parks, parking garages, etc. Traffic and parking seemed to be the obsession here. Even in this, the off-season, there is too much traffic. It's not at all like the city Bob visited in the 60s and is even more congested than when we both were here about 6 years ago. It was not even clear where Winchester Cathedral was located, given all the relatively new structures, malls, etc. 

After much driving and many wrong turns, we found the tourist information center in the city's Guildhall on the high street (now a pedestrian mall) and booked a B&B with a Mrs.York the proprietor, and set off on a walking tour of the High Street and environs. Many nice stores, right in the shadow of the famous Winchester Cathedral. Then off to find the B&B, which started the traffic mystery all over again. 

We returned to the car and found a parking ticket for no apparent reason. There were dashed-white line markings around the parking space and no obvious prohibitions in view. Finally we spotted a tiny sign (about 4x6 inches, on a fence across the sidewalk which muttered about "residents parking permits only." Now, this sign was on the fence of a large parking lot, and it was natural to think it applied to the lot. Well, apparently that's wrong, in Winchester anyway. It was a 20-pound ticket (40 pounds if not paid in 14 days). We determined we would talk to our B&B hosts about it before paying. Maybe we can argue our way out of it.

We by now had a city map, but still made many wrong turns and became a little frustrated at the apparent impossibility of finding anything here. We were reminded of a similar situation in the town's namesake, Winchester, Virginia a few years ago, where it seemed the city deliberately hid route and street signs behind trees, making it almost impossible to find our way.

Finally we found the B&B (a house named "Birchlands") after three turns around the set of one-way streets that make up the city's ring-road system. A very nice, upscale neighborhood of brick homes with very well kept lawns and gardens. Chris and Ann York welcomed us with good conversation and questions about our trip so far. We liked them immediately.

After "moving in," we asked for a recommendation for a relaxing dinner; our last one this trip in the UK should be special…. Ann suggested "Nine" on the Cathedral square. By now we were getting used to a few Winchester streets, so we made it back to the car park and "paid and displayed"; paying at a vending machine for a ticket worth three hours and displaying it in the car window. No full-time attendant.

"Nine" turned out to be a French restaurant, but they offered an excellent Riesling wine and tasty spaghetti with seafood and goat-cheese sauce for Bob and a risotto of butternut squash and pesto for Ellen, followed by a shared crème brulee dessert. The restaurant became very busy later in the evening, and the three hostesses were scrambling up and down stairs, from kitchen to the several dining rooms, handling bar and food duties efficiently nonetheless. Returned to the B&B without getting lost! 

Easy to sleep after a busy day.

Tuesday November 9 -- A nice breakfast at Chris and Ann York's table, and good conversation with another guest, a Scotsman on holiday. He's interested in the migratory habits of birds; an engineer by trade. Most interesting fellow, with some suggestions on walking trips and things to see and do in Scotland. One of the benefits of Bed and Breakfast living -- we have met interesting people. Each one is different, and even if one is not too satisfactory, it's only for one night. We had much variety and were not disappointed on this trip.

Ann insisted that we fight the parking ticket rather than giving in to the Winchester Council ("…they hate cars…"). It is evident that the city has made parking a real industry. We will fight by mail from the US, most likely. [It worked; no fine.]

The Yorks agreed with our observation that there is more salad and more veggies available in the British diet (at least in restaurants) than we found before. A good sign, we think. When we returned from the trip 6 years ago, we feared all the fat and cholesterol from beef and lamb in combination with the lack of fresh greens, would kill us outright!

There is still a fair amount of smoking in UK restaurants and other places (but it seems a little reduced from other trips). There are more "no smoking" areas generally.

Ann and Chris talked with Ellen a bit about magnetic therapy for pain (it's their sideline), and Ellen is going to try it. Again, nice people with a very nice B&B. We got their e-mail address and will write.

We found the Motorway M3 and headed for London, arriving in plenty of time to return the rental car and get to the terminal for check-in and lunch before boarding the 747 for Los Angeles and a nearly 11-hour trip. We did a little tax-free shopping at the airport.

Seats this time were better; aircraft was less crowded. We had an inside row of four seats to ourselves, which let us "spread out" a little better. "The Runaway Bride" (Julia Roberts and Richard Gere) movie was excellent, and "Deep Blue Sea" (a shark thriller/horror film) was truly awful but a time-passer as background for books and diary-writing and eating.

Arrived at Los Angeles on time after a generally smooth flight in the clear nearly all the way. We finally lost our westbound race with the sun, and it was dark soon after arrival at LAX. Immediately, we were herded into a single file and checked over by a drug-sniffing dog on the way in. Never had that happen before... The customs and immigration process has apparently been streamlined since we last did it, and we were through there in just a few minutes, even though we brought some food in and had to declare it. Cheese from Cheddar, remember? When we arrived at the agriculture desk, the gentleman there asked about the food, and when Bob said, "It's a sealed package of cheese" he replied, "That's the right answer; welcome home." So cheese is not a problem, the "welcome home" was sincere, and it felt good to hear it, even after a short time away.

The Santa Barbara Airbus was quiet on the way home from LAX; after some initial conversation with the driver, we began to sleep off eleven hours of jetlag.

A very nice time, mixing business and pleasure, sightseeing/history, shopping and just plain relaxing.