Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sorting It Out

The British are renowned for "sorting it out." Everything gets "sorted out." At Wickes Trade and DIY Superstore in Penrith, they have even sorted out which kind of trolley (shopping cart) to choose. If only Home Depot were so well sorted out.... I remember, with regret, so many occasions on which, uninformed, and certainly unsorted, I chose the wrong trolley.
Please choose, carefully, among: the flat bed trolley, the 
basket trolley, the board trolley, or the insulation trolley

Some of the bewildering variety of trolleys

Long Meg

Long Meg and Her Daughters is the sixth-largest stone circle
in Britain, out in the boonies in Cumbria, near Penrith. The
place is sufficiently remote that even the signage refers to
a "Druid Circle." (But the area, Eden Valley, is surpassingly
beautiful; Edenic). There are 69 stones (the daughters; or
lovers, some say); I'd guess the circle is 200 feet in diameter,
large enough for a country lane to pass right through. Long
Meg herself is a sandstone out-lyer, carved with cups/rings,
perhaps not part of the circle originally.

Long Meg and a few of her daughters at sunset

Vicki and Long Meg

Carvings on Long Meg (but none of the others)

View of circle, Long Meg on right

East side of circle

Beautiful old tree in midst of circle

Present use of stones

Wordsworth's poem on Long Meg, posted on a nearby tree 
by some caring, intelligent soul...

Into the Lake District

From our campsite, a lay-by at Deep Water, Ullswater (it
wouldn't do to call them "lakes"), at the beginning of the
Lake District, Sunday evening

A lake steamer chugs by near sunset

More of Ullswater

Castlerigg stone circle, near Keswick

Me, by the remains of one of the cairns within the circle 

September 28. We spent the morning picking blackberries along the lake and pondering future travels, complications engendered by the Schengen Agreement, distances, holidays, seasons, and so forth. A year or even a year-and-a-half is not nearly enough time to do everything we want to do here, and there is much of Europe in which we have little or no interest. And then there are questions of cost.

Rain is forecast for three days now, not the best time to see the Lake District, so we have decided to slow down, loaf, and do some of the peripherals. The latter include the Castlerigg stone circle, near Keswick, where Coleridge lived, and which we visited at lunch time. The weather is dismal grey, cool, raining, a ceiling so low you can't see the nearby mountains, yet there were a dozen cars here, people out in the middle of a valley of sheep pastures, looking at the 4,500 year old stones. The circle is fairly well intact, 20-some stones, none terribly large, but a beautiful site. Often, megalithic sites seem calculated to be the only thing of visual interest around. This one is different, set in a valley of surpassing Lake District beauty, even on an ugly (but probably normal) day.

After seeing Castlerigg, we drove into Keswick and shopped. It is a gateway to the Lake District, a recreational center for hill-walking, fell-walking, climbing, etc. (What is fell-walking?) At an L-shaped central intersection, I counted thirteen different mountain gear shops in view. This rivals Kathmandu, at least for those two streets. Although we need little gear-wise, we did manage to pick up a few items of interest. It was a rainy day, and the place was crowded consequently with people dressed for walking or climbing, but shopping instead. Later, we drove to Penlith to check email and do some blog, and then back out into the countryside to near Langwathby, and the Long Meg stone circle, where we parked. Our good luck in finding excellent rough-camping/parking sites at the carparks of megalithic monuments continues. And we are not even the only ones here tonight.

Hadrian's Wall: Housesteads

The next day we drove further east along the Wall to the Housesteads Camp, near Milecastle 37. (They built towers every mile, and a garrison fort, about 160 men, every five miles). We'd always thought about walking the Wall--one of Britland's great walks is the Wall, coast-to-coast. On this latest cool, rainy, and windy day, we settled for a few miles west and back.

That the Wall remains at all is nothing short of a marvel. (The same is true in China). Six or more centuries passed between the time the Romans departed and Norman rule (that is, centralized, powerful government). The Wall is indeed reduced and in some places incomplete. It is safe to assume that any pasture fence, barn, house, great house, abbey, cathedral, or castle within a hundred miles each way has got some of Hadrian's Wall built-in!
The Caulfield Quarry and Crags

Granary at Housesteads Camp--note raised flooring

Vicki on the Wall--a graveled part passing through some 

The Wall, looking back toward the woods, all over-grown, but still mostly there 
and standing

Remains of Milecastle 37

Somehow this view reminded me of the Great Wall of China--although 
Hadrian's is but the faintest shadow...

Hadrian's Wall: Birdoswald

After camping at the holiday park at Strathclyde, we finally left Scotland the next day, humming "Scotland the Brave" triumphantly as we entered Cumbria. We loved Scotland, and it is certainly one of the places to which we shall return. Especially when they get the weather fixed.

Once in Cumbria, we turned east into Northumberland and another one of those sites one always hopes to see one day, Hadrian's Wall. We toured the remains of the fort at Birdoswald, then camped there for the evening.
“All quiet on the northern front,” observes Centurion Marcus, “no barbarian Scots 
nor Picts in sight. They must all be up in the Highlands, flinging or tossing their 
cabers or hunting haggis. Damn them. Perhaps I should transfer back to the eastern 
front. Dacean weather is sunny and warm, the Danube girls are fair, the Bulgar 
food is great. And Alaric the Goth's emissaries have made peaceful overtures to 
the Emperor, I hear.”

Model of the fort as it would have appeared in 3rd century AD

The granary

South entrance

The Wall, looking east toward the Caulfield Crags

Monday, September 28, 2009

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral/St. Mungo's

Practically all the great buildings of Europe have scaffolding
on them, perpetually, but this is the first such notice I have
ever seen

Nave interior...12th century, small but very
handsome and straightforward

Memorial to Reformation martyrs in the crypt
...ironically, the St. Mungo Center for World
Religions and Arts, or somesuch, which we
visited, is next door, and scarcely notices the
intolerance, inhumanity, brutality, etc; oh well,
Mungo is my favorite character from Blazing


Next day we took the bus into Glasgow and spent the day wandering the centre city sights.

George Square, ground zero, with inevitable
Walter Scott monument

Main drag

Glasgow Tower

Merchant Square--pretty much what Glasgow was all about

Wellington monument...outside the modern
art museum

Dr. Livingstone, I presume

Oldest building in Glasgow

Outside city hall

Just in case you need to know how long a foot is (we don't
need no stinking meters)

Police sub-station

Burrell Collection

After Falkirk, we drove on to Glasgow, home of Glaswegians (love that term), straight to the Burrell Collection, in Pollok Park, south of the city, a big beautiful metro park, with forest, trails, playing fields, etc. We spent most of the rest of the day touring the Burrell, which, idiosyncratic as it is, we liked very much. It is one man's collection--a wealthy Glasgow ship-owner who died in 1944. He left the collection to the city, but with the stipulation that the museum housing it cater to the contents and that it be in an outdoorsy location. It took Glasgow 50 years to work this out, but what resulted is very fine indeed. The strengths of the collection are late medieval and early Renaissance northern European, but also tapestry, Degas, and antiquities, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Chinese. Burrell also asked that three rooms from his castle/home be displayed.  We camped in a corner of the park's car park and enjoyed a quiet night.
Large and purpose-built, much of the Burrell's conservation work goes on right 
out in the open; when she heard us snapping pix, this conservator came over 
and explained what she was doing...

Typical doorway...from a castle or great house Burrell collected

Typical room display, painting, furniture, tapestry, carpet...

Drawing room from Burrell's castle

The multi-tasking wife, one of our favorite tapestries

Evidently Rembrandt painted enough of these for every 
museum to have at least one...

A Chinese Buddha, displayed against the giant windows 
and forest outside

Degas' portrait of his friend, the writer Duranty

With the royalties from L'Assomoir, Zola bought a country house which his  close 
personal bud Degas also painted (two coats!)