March 28th, 2005

little review

Rievaulx Abbey and Castle Howard

Quick update as we are getting up early tomorrow. After all these months of knowing her online, I have finally met liars_dance! And we met at Rievaulx Abbey -- a place I heard of first because of photos that she had posted in her LiveJournal. The place is soaring and magnificent, better preserved and grander in scale than the Glastonbury Abbey ruins which we saw last trip to England. To get there one must drive almost straight down a hill in the moors, past what's left of the similarly crumbling Helmsley Castle. It is really hard to articulate the grandeur of Rievaulx, which we saw overcast and with relatively little blooming on this early spring day; I would love to see it in all the seasons. liars_dance, who has been there many times and gave us a guided tour.

From Rievaulx we drove to Castle Howard, the great house that was the setting for Brideshead Revisited, which was not originally on our schedule -- we were going to drive to the sea at Whitby, where the Endeavour docks, though she is sailing in the Pacific now -- but absolutely everyone we knew who had ever been there insisted that we needed to go to Castle Howard, and they were right. Leeds Castle in the south bills itself as the most beautiful castle in Britain, and as fortress-style fairytale castles go, its moat and gardens are glorious, but Castle Howard (which is much newer, dating from about 1700) has a fantastic collection of furniture and art, original wallpapers by William Morris, and a chapel that alone is worth the price of admission with stained glass windows by Burne-Jones and gorgeous painted ceilings and walls. The grounds are spectacular too, with flowers, fountains and sculpture near the castle and a lake a bit further on. Son #2 had wanted to return to Leeds Castle to see the peacocks and was pleased to find four walking around the courtyard. The Temple of the Four Winds, mausoleum and obelisk are lovely too, and there is a big playground on the lake that the kids loved and got very muddy in.

We were all pretty tired from a long day yesterday and needed to stop to buy food on the way back, so we returned to the cottage relatively early and watched Billy Elliot on the BBC (a neat movie to watch with kids, despite a lot of cursing, as the story is about a father coming to terms with his son's desire to study ballet rather than boxing in the midst of a miner's strike in a Northern town where there aren't many options for children with unconventional interests). The news is very different here; five minutes on the Indonesian earthquake and ten on a Parliamentary scandal. Now we are going to sleep so we can go to York tomorrow and see both liars_dance and friede. Again, apologies about the long delay on answering comments; I promise I am reading them, I just can't stay online long enough to answer!

Rievaulx Abbey, founded 1132, stripped during the Dissolution