Welcome Friends! I hope you enjoy tasting these teaching and travel tidbits.
Come along with me as I attempt to navigate my way through a new country, school system, and life for a year!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Think Global; Weekend Local

Ightham Mote

Most of this weekend has been spent cleaning and packing.  The only way to determine if I need to ship things home is to pack everything I own here into my 2 suitcases and weigh them to see if they are each under 50 pounds.  It's a little tricky, since I'll be using things for a few more weeks, but since I'll be gone most of that time, I needed to get cracking.  So this weekend, I decided to stay local. 

The weekend did get off to a good start, however, with a Stocks Green Staff party with an ABBA sing-a-long at a curry place on Friday night.  Brilliant combination!   I do have photos, but I know that some of the school parents read my blog and I'd rather not lose my job with only 3 days left to teach.  Suffice it to say, a good time was had by all.        
A very good time.

I decided that if I met my packing goals over the weekend, I would visit a couple local places that I've been wanting to see, Ightham Mote and Knole.  Both are National Trust Properties.  The National Trust is a wonderful agency that protects historic homes, castles, gardens, pubs and even entire villages!   I have definitely  got my money's worth from my National Trust membership this year!  

When I got my first suitcase packed, I headed off to Ightham Mote.  

I'm a  big fan of anything with a moat around it!

Ightham Mote is a 14th century moated manor house.  It comes complete with a Great Hall, a crypt and  a couple of knights in shining armour.   (I'm so torn if I should spell that the British way or the American way..... well, it's their armour, so we'll go with the Brits.)

What do you think, "armor" or "armour"?

Can you believe that beautiful building is a horse stable?

I really liked the gardens!

I wish my blog had "smell-o-vision", Sweet Peas and Lavender,
it doesn't get much better that that!

The Courtyard

Thank you National Trust, for letting the public visit places like this!

Okay, I didn't exactly get the second suitcase packed, but I made good progress and did all the laundry and hung it out to dry, so that's worth something, right?  So it was off to Knole.  Knole was built as a palace for the Archbishops of Canterbury.  Not a bad parsonage!  Archbishop Tomas Bourchier liked to hunt deer, so in 1456, Knole became a deer park.  There are still 400 descendents of those 15th century deer at Knole!  In 1538 Knole was given to King Henry VIII  (he always seemed to get what he wanted!)  and it eventually ended up belonging to the Sackville family who have lived here for 400 years and still occupy part of the house.  It's a "calendar house" with 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards.

Descendants of the Original Knole Deer!


This guy really got around!  It seems Henry VIII
has something to do with almost everyplace I visit!

This looks a lot like one of the rooms in my flat. 

Clocktower:  I think I read it came from Denmark.

Knole Courtyard 

As I was leaving Knole, I noticed some fellows in white up on the top of a nearby hill.  I had a sneaking suspicion that they might be playing this game that I still cannot figure out!  I went to investigate, and indeed they were.  No time to stick around and learn the rules of cricket, I had a shower back home to clean!

Today also marked my last day to attend church at St. John's in Hildenborough.  My plan was to visit different churches during the year and not really get attached to one in particular, but I've really enjoyed St. John's so that plan went out the window.  Unfortunately, I was out of town last weekend for the vicar's last Sunday before retirement, but I did get to say goodbye to him when he came to do an assembly at my school. I got one last photo with the Hamlyn family who have been so wonderful to me and took me into their home when I needed to move out of my first UK home.

With the Hamlyns: Sal and Richard and their sons, Josh and Isaac

My church home for the past year, St. John's Church in Hildenborough

So I did manage to squeeze in some good times this weekend.  
I'd tell you more, but my floor isn't gong to mop itself!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Beautiful Bruges

I had a chance for one last weekend get-a-way, and after seeing photos posted by a fellow Fulbrighter, I decided Bruges was the place to go.  On Friday night, my friend and travel partner, Catherine, met me at the train station in London, and off we went through the Channel Tunnel.  The Eurostar train took us to Brussels, then we hopped on a Belgian train to Bruges.  On Saturday we set off to explore the city.  From our hotel it was just a few moments walk to these pretty sites:
This colorful square is in the heart of the city.

The Belfry
The Stadhuis (Town Hall)

 The canals in Bruges are lovely, so one of our first missions of the weekend was to take a canal boat ride.

 Here are some shots from the canal boat ride.
I love the reflections in the canal!
Fidel, the most famous dog in Bruges.
You may have seen him in the movie, In Bruges.

I'm still not sure what to call the stair-step facades of the buildings, but I love them!

Now, in case you haven't figured this out, Catherine is the brains behind our travels.  I have enough of planning during the school week, so I'm just happy to traipse along wherever, but she's armed with maps and guidebooks and travel apps on her phone.  I highly suggest traveling with someone like this!  Her guide book mentioned the Basilica of the Holy Blood.  At certain times of the day, a vial containing a cloth with the blood of Christ is taken out to be venerated by those who wish to do so.   Legend has it that this blood-soaked cloth was collected by Joseph of Arimathea when Jesus' body was being prepared for burial.  The cloth was then brought to Bruges during the Crusades.  We just happened to get to the church 5 minutes before the vial was brought out for public view, so I had a chance to venerate as well as a Lutheran girl can manage.  Who knows, maybe it really is the blood of Christ; I wouldn't want to miss my chance just in case! 

Basilica of the Holy Blood
Disclaimer:  Photos were not allowed in the Basilica,
so I got this image of the vial off the internet. 

Veneration can build up an appetite!  When in Belgium, the right thing to do is to have waffles, so we stopped at a sidewalk cafe to partake.

I am trying to show off my waffle, but it's hard to see in this shot.
Trust me, it was tasty!

We had admired the Stadhuis on the square from the outside, but according to Catherine's book the interior was "jaw dropping," so we didn't want to miss that!  We had to wait for 3 weddings to take place, but when we got our chance to enter, it really was incredible.  The Gothic Hall is absolutely covered with gilded paintings of scenes from the history of the city.

The Gothic Hall

After picking our jaws up off the floor, we headed to another part of town to take a look at some of the famous Belgian lace being made.  I've seen the process of  lace tatting before, but I'd never seen the technique that they use here, which involves lots of bobbins that the women briskly manipulate around little pins to create with threads a copy of the pattern they have beneath their work.  I'm kind of a crafty girl, but I can't even imagine the patience and eye-strain it would take to do this intricate work!

Lace Maker at Work

Right next door to the lace makers is the entrance to a chapel in the Jeruzalemkerk, which is a privately owned church patterned after the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  I really didn't see the resemblance, but I did like the cool skull motif above the altar. 

Detail of the Skull Altar

A stroll along the canal took us by 4 windmills.  I climbed up one of them, which wasn't all that high but was really steep and rather scary.

The windmill that I climbed. 

Inner Workings of the Windmill

View of another windmill from the window
of the windmill that I climbed. 

The Steep Climb Down

Another Windmill

If your name isn't Kim, skip this next photo.  It's a personal shout-out to the friend who introduced me to Catherine.  (If it's too small to read, the name on the bottle is Kimberly. Although you weren't able to be with us this month as planned, we were still thinking of you.)

Thanks, Kim!

                                                                 Okay, the rest of you can come back now.

We love Bruges!

Bruges is as stunning at night as it is during the day.  Here's a shot of the Belfry lit up in the evening.  Catherine had the crazy idea that we should climb the 366 steps to the top in the morning.

Lovely, and Very Tall, Belfry

So, first thing the next morning we started the long climb to the top.  Luckily there were periodic landings with information to read about the tower where I could pretend I was really interested in the history of the building and not just catching my breath before the next set of stairs.  I liked the fact that at each landing it indicated how many stairs you had climbed and how many there were left to go;  it gave me hope.  We were rewarded with a fabulous view of the city when we reached the top!  I was really glad I made the climb!

View from Part-way up the  Belfry
View from the Top

Another View from the Top

Rooftops of Bruges

Another perk of climbing the Belfry was that we happened to be there when the bells of the carillon were being played!  Charming!

Some of the Bells of the Carillon  

This is the best photo I could get through a small window
along the winding staircase of the man playing
the bells of the carillon.

After surviving the climb up and down the tower, we decided to dedicate the remainder of our time in Bruges to some of the foods for which Belgium is most well-known.  We started off with a tour through Choco-Story, Bruges' museum of chocolate.  After learning all about the history of chocolate, we ended up in the demonstration room where we learned how they make this delicious treat. And of course, we enjoyed a few samples!

The Chocolatier

One of the teachers at my school had mentioned to me that Bruges was famous for it's fries.  It wouldn't be right to leave out the Frietmuseum, dedicated to the history of French Fries!

I was skeptical, but the fries really were the best I've ever tasted.
Well, not these giant ones, but the smaller version was fantastic!

It was time to leave Bruges, so we walked back to our hotel through the square for the last time.

The train to Brussels only took about an hour, so we had a little time there before we had to catch the Eurostar.  Now this will come as a shock to my husband, who has tried for over 26 years to find a beer that I like, (whenever he offers me sips of one he thinks is wonderful, I give it a try and reply "it tastes like beer") but as you know, it's not only lace, waffles, chocolate and fries that put Belgium on the map.  A few times during our trip, Catherine had offered me a sip of beer, and I had the same reaction as always, until she had this pretty red beverage with pink foam called Kriek.  I was still skeptical, but gave it a try.  It was actually tasty!  Cherry beer, who knew!  For the first time in my life I actually ordered a beer for myself.  This year has indeed been a learning experience!