When we went to bed last night the wind was howling and rain was beating against the windows. We were concerned we wouldn’t have good weather for our trip to Glastonbury; however, when we got up the sun was shining and the sky was a beautiful blue.
I went down stairs to rouse the sleeping, and loudly snoring Tait, which is how I learned the poor sod had been up half the night watching a film. I am not sure he could sleep well on the floor and so stayed up until he crashed. It was very nice of him to let us stay in his bed, but now I was feeling guilty.
Once we were all up, and had a quick cup of tea, we made our way to the train station, where we easily caught a fast train to Basingstoke. Waiting there was Tait’s girlfriend Paula, who was serving as our guide. We made introductions, hopped into her comfortable car, and I began to drift off in the back seat.
Our first night away from the comforts of the Mear home was a hard adjustment, but we woke up ready to explore. The first part of the day was to wander around Oxford Circus and check out the insanity of post-holiday sales, and wow was today mad. We thought it was crazy when people were out doing their last-minute Christmas shopping, but this was much worse. Each store had signs advertising up to 70% off, and it made me wonder why anyone even bothers with shopping until after Christmas. We only braved the crowds in Liberty because we had planned to pick up a holiday ornament as a memento of spending our 2007 Christmas in England, and it seemed appropriate. The tough part was finding something we could bring back with us that wouldn’t end up as broken glass at the bottom our our luggage. We found a couple of cute little unbreakable items which were small, pretty and only cost a couple of quid.
Afterwards, we looked for a place to eat and decide to sate our desire for tapas by having lunch at a local La Tasca. The place was deserted when we arrived, and we settled in for a lovely meal. The menu was a bit overwhelming, so we ordered a pre-set sampling meal that had half vegetarian and half meat items. We also ordered wine, and after the meal a couple of glasses of sweet Muscatel. It was difficult to move after that large lunch, but the wine helped reinvigorate us for the crowds still out on the sidewalk.
We decided to head back to the hotel to drop off the ornaments we bought and the heavy backpack I was carrying. The latter was because we had the laptop with us to check-in with Tait about our plans to go to Reading to see him the next day. All day we had trouble finding anyplace with free wi-fi so we had to go to the local Apple store to check email, and firm up plans for the next few days. The lack of free wi-fi in the UK surprises me.
We dropped our stuff and got ready for the rest of our long evening of doing touristy stuff. We took the Tube to Embankment, walked across the Jubilee bridge, and took in the beauty of the Thames at night. It was a clear night and places like the London Eye, Parliament, and St. Paul’s were brightly lit and glowing in the rippling river which was at high tide. We wander along the river, past the London Eye and eventually crossed over on the Westminster Bridge just as Big Ben was about to chime five o’clock.
When we woke up this morning it looked like quintessential English weather as a fog hung over London. I assumed it would burn off as the day went on, but we lucked out that it remained for the rest of the day. It added a lovely aesthetic to our trip to Cambridge. The drive to Cambridge, however, was uneventful because the same fog made it impossible to view any scenery with the exception of the motorway. Thankfully Chris knew his way.
Once in Cambridge, we made a beeline to the outdoor cafe near the carpark for hot coffee, before making our way to the outdoor market to shop for last minute gifts. The market was an eclectic mix of art, knick knacks, and food shops all with interesting wares as well as shopkeepers.
We had no real destinations while in Cambridge. Chris guided us around in order to see the various colleges and their sites, all the while imparting little bits of wisdom on Cambridge history and lore. Many of the colleges were closed due to the holidays, including Emmanuel—Chris’ college—while others thankfully had their gates open. The buildings and chapels are breathtaking.
After 13 weeks of instruction on everything from botany to bugs, I completed the Vermont Master Gardener course that I started last February. Now all I need to do to earn my certificate is complete 40 hours of volunteer work between now and December 2007. This should be a breeze, as I was lucky enough to find an approved project practically in my backyard.
The Justin Morrill homestead is in the middle of a renovation, which started a few years ago with the amazing—and very pink—gothic revival house, and now has moved on to restoring the beautiful gardens.
Justin Morrill was a successful storekeeper in Strafford, Vermont when he designed and built the house, but his prominence comes from his legislative accomplishments, and not his interest in architecture and landscape gardening. In 1857, while a U.S. Representative from Vermont, he became the chief sponsor of the Land Grant Act, which was to become the most important piece of educational legislation in the 19th century.
“The goal of this legislation was to create in each state a land grant college which would provide a liberal and practical education for farmers, mechanics, artisans and laborers. Inspired in large part by Morrill’s own lack of a formal education, these colleges were to teach courses in science, agriculture and engineering, in addition to the classics. The significance of this legislation was that it expanded American higher education to include practical training along with the classical studies traditionally offered only to clergymen, teachers, physicians and lawyers.” [source]
For the foreseeable future I will be volunteering my time helping to renovate the beautiful display and kitchen gardens at the former Senator’s beautiful—and very pink—homestead.