Wednesday through Friday, May 25-27, 2022—Time for Mid-Year Medical Appointments

Because we spend winters away from “home” in Hot Springs Village, we schedule medical appointments in late May and early June, and again in late November and early December. By stacking them together like this, they do not interfere too much with other activities like travel, golf, pickleball, etc. More about this later.

On Wednesday, it was again too wet for golf. Kay and Pam collected Hostas in North Little Rock and strawberries from Holland Bottoms (near Cabot, Arkansas.) The deck beckoned to me in the afternoon; there were a pair of Summer Tanagers I wanted to photograph. They didn’t show up, but a couple of birds landed in nearby trees, and both were experiencing bad hair days—I can sympathize.

With light wind, I decided to check out the lake side of our place. There were Slender Bluet damselflies seemingly everywhere. 

A few more regular dragonflies were observed.

There were also dragonflies not previously observed here in the “backyard.” Two beautiful Pennants were photographed: a Banded Pennant and a Calico Pennant.

A Least Skipper appears on one the sea wall rocks and opened up for a photograph. The Least Skipper is tiny, about the size of one’s little finger fingernail. 

Least Skipper

We ate the dinner special at Raffaella Rose at the Cortez Golf Course. The food was good, but the music was so loud that we moved to an outside table; I didn’t even have hearing aids in at a the time.

Thursday was a busy day for the both of us. Kay worked tremendously hard removing gravel from between the hot tub and patio, and planting Hostas—back breaking work! I met with the cardiologist and got a good report. And then it was to the Honda dealership for a key and programming of a key fob (almost $300). And then it was off to Walmart for a few items. And then, finally, I bought gasoline at Sam’s Club and picked up some junk food, one of the important food groups!

Kay and I switched places on Friday, as she had her yearly visit with the pulmonologist NP, and then grocery shopping. Meanwhile, I removed the rest of the gravel and plastic ground sheet from the work area, and planted the remaining Hostas. There was some hickory left over from a broken tree, and I cut it up into pieces for the Big Green Egg. Finally, tools were cleaned and stored, the patio was cleaned, and the plants were watered. Kay then played golf in the afternoon, and I shot a few photographs of damselflies and dragonflies.

Friday to Tuesday, May 20-24, 2022—More Rain and Wet Conditions

All the plants in the area are green, and the forests are lush. We have been beset with rain every few days, enough that the ground has not dried out. Consequently, the fairways are wet and most have been cart path only, and the pickleball courts are wet from precipitation or seepage through cracks in the surface. Kay did get in some practice on Friday, May 20, with Pickleball Sisters. Pickleball Sisters exists to equip families, instructors and facilities with tools to plan, build, and develop successful programs everywhere. Kay had a great time and a good practice.

Despite the wind, Middle Fork Barrens Natural Area offered up some wildflowers, and quite a few butterflies. Indian Pink is still blooming, and a couple of Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus blooms were found. The Pale Purple Coneflowers were just beginning to bloom; while they are lanky and droopy, they are still attractive flowers. And despite its name, Wild Garlic is dainty and beautiful! 

Indian Pink
Prickly Pear Cactus
Pale Purple Cone Flower
Fiery Skipper on Wild Garlic

There were other wildflowers in near perfect bloom.

Last year, the Fiery Skipper was absent in large numbers in the areas I visited, but they were in abundance at the Middle Fork Barrens this day.

In addition, other skippers were present.

An Eastern Tailed-blue, Pearl Crescent, and Hackberry Emperor flitted about, but posed long enough for quick photos. 

Even a Gray Petaltail dragonfly and a Powdered Dancer damselfly presented themselves.

Our plans on Saturday included a visit to watch granddaughter Harper dance in a recital, but the pool darling had been and remained sick, not only missing the recital but also awards day at school; poor thing. Sunday was a quiet day, except for our attending church; weather was unsatisfactory, and heavy rains prevented golf from being played Monday. Kay did take Ridge and Aker to the movie on this, their first day of summer break. I did play golf on Tuesday with our church mens’ group, despite a light rain and mist the whole game. Kay had scheduled pickleball, but remained home to take care of an electrician visit and termite inspection. Conditions proved too wet for pickleball. A cut and color followed in the afternoon.

Wednesday through Thursday, May 11-19, 2022—Leisure Sickness

Despite testing negative for COVID on the day before, I began to experience a scratchy throat, coughing, and sneezing on the return flight back to the US. I almost always get “sick” during Christmas holidays or extended travel. Apparently, this is known as “leisure sickness”, a term coined by Ad Vingerhoets, a psychologist in the Netherlands. Leisure sickness is the result of significant changes in the levels of adrenaline, a hormone that’s a crucial part of our fight-or-flight response. In an article in Conde Nast Traveler  (February 2, 2017), Vingerhoets say, “The engine is kept running and new energy is constantly produced.” “This ‘useless’ energy may result in an imbalance in the body, resulting, among other things, in a weakened immune system, which may imply that one is more vulnerable to infectious disease.” Combined with allergic reactions to the high UK pollen count, I succumbed to the common virus. And to make matters worse, did I report that we came home to 90° plus weather; insane!

Nevertheless, we immediately began our busy routine in Hot Springs Village. Kay worked parts of Wednesday through Saturday assisting with our church’s United Methodist Women’s Bake and Garage Sale, a huge event. In addition she played lots of pickleball and golf. I played pickleball on Wednesday afternoon, exacerbating the virus. I rested on Thursday, but went to nearby Middle Fork Barrens Natural Area to do some photography Friday morning.

The first wildflower photographed was the common Selfheal herb.

Selfheal herb

The Selfheal herb has been used medicinally for centuries. In fact, the entire plant, which is edible, can be used both internally and externally to treat a number of health complaints and wounds. The parts that grow above the ground are used to make medicine. It is used for inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), diarrhea, colic, and stomach upset and irritation (gastroenteritis). It is also used for mouth and throat ulcers, sore throat, and internal bleeding. The plant’s most common use is for the treatment of cold sores.

Some people use self-heal for HIV/AIDS, fever, headache, dizziness, liver disease, and spasm. It is also used to kill germs (as an antiseptic), loosen phlegm (as an expectorant), and tighten and dry skin (as an astringent). Self-heal is applied directly to the skin for vaginal discharges and other disorders of women’s reproductive systems, as well as for wounds and bruises. It is a favorite of bumblebees and butterflies, and is the larval host of the Clouded Sulphur butterfly.

Summer Tanager

The Summer Tanager shown above landed in a nearby tree just as my walk began. We have a pair actively feeding on a suet block at the house.

Some of my favorite wildflower blooms were observed—their colors were sometimes subtle like Blue Star and the Plains Larkspur, while the red and yellow Indian Pink stood out among the otherwise green ground cover.

Even a few butterflies landed long enough for a photograph.

Appearance of the Bee Balm (Minarda) indicates that the rare Diana Fritillary butterfly is not far behind.

Bee Balm

After only an hour afield, I returned home and went to bed.

Of course the cold was worsening, and reached its peak Saturday. In as much as it took five days to mature, it would likely take five days to wane. I returned to golf on Monday, albeit shooting a poor round.

The pollen “season” here in Arkansas leaves outdoor spaces and furniture covered with a dusty layer of yellow green powder. It has become an annual routine that virtually everything outside has to be power washed, and we generally try to clean before Memorial Day weekend. Tuesday, after Kay’s pickleball games, the power washer was connected to hose and power supply, and deck furniture moved. Kay and I made quick work of it, taking turns with the wand, and then using the blower to assist in drying.

Kay played golf Wednesday morning, and had some laser work done on her eyes in the afternoon. I played pickleball three hours plus at Diamante in the morning, and with three other hardy souls in the afternoon at the HSV pickleball courts in the high heat and humidity.  The Book Club met Thursday, and while Kay was away, I slept most of day, recovering from the cold and from too much pickleball!

Tuesday, May 10, 2022—Thoughts on Bus Touring, the UK, and Flying Home

Visiting the UK and Ireland has been on our bucket list for some time. Regrettably this trip did not include Ireland, nor much of Scotland and Wales. When originally scheduled, our trip via CIE Tours was much more inclusive, and for a total of 28 days. And then, COVID struck, and it was postponed a couple of times, and then entirely cancelled, leaving us with few options since our sizable deposits were at risk, and since CIE Tours converted our plane tickets to cover the remaining costs, without our knowing! Fortunately, we chose the 10-day trip rather than two back to back lengthy tours. 

We were generally all smiles

Our tour manager, Harry Gray, was really good, as was the driver, Dennis. Other guides along the way were good as well. Dennis kept the bus clean and comfortable. The hotel accommodations were good, but not great. The food provided as part of the tour was good. We visited a large number of important places and saw enough castles to do us the rest of our lives. In fact, the tour kept us so busy that there was hardly time to rest at night before sleeping. We only stayed in two hotels for more than one night, meaning our luggage would have to be outside the room at 7 AM every day but two, in order for us to leave at 8 AM — a little too frantic for us. There were a few acceptable snafus, like the out-of-date Toot Bus tickets. But the tardiness of the pick-up driver from the airport to the hotel, and the total failure of our pick-up from the hotel to the airport to catch our plane home were unacceptable, causing unwanted and unnecessary stress. Neither of us have a desire to do a bus trip again, and we wouldn’t use CIE Tours again, either. We’ll stick to river and ocean cruises for international travel, and auto and RV trips for domestic travel.

On the road, again—via bus

There were many positive things about the UK. The people were genuine, friendly, and helpful. It is a “proper” society, and certainly not flamboyant like some places in the US. Dress was informal and casual, and there were no provocative pants, shorts, tops, etc. The food was good, and I liked the baked beans for breakfast every morning, though Kay did not. The “fried” eggs were from free range chickens, the sausages were less fat than we’re used to, and there is little to no artificial sweeteners available. We both liked the cream tea (tea with scones, jam, and butter cream); in fact we drank hot tea several times a day, but didn’t drink any diet sodas. The fish and chips were good, but we tired of them. We ate sufficiently that snacking was not necessary. We both liked the Guinness draft beer by the pint, and the gin and tonics were good as well. Surprisingly, Beefeaters gin was not available most places, while Bombay Sapphire seemed to be the preferred gin. We saw few obese people, perhaps because people in the UK seemed to walk everywhere. Prices were reasonable, though it did take some getting used to the pound sterling currency. Cash WAS NOT accepted in quite a few places. Credit cards were scanned by the user; we liked that.

On the negative side was the pollen; nearly everyone in our group coughed, sneezed, and gagged the whole time due to pollen; we did not expect that.

Our flights to and from the UK were on time. Before we flew home, the US required us to have a negative COVID test the day before traveling. That proved to be fairly easy as the English pharmacy accommodated us efficiently. On the flight over, the seat space was tight, especially for a big man like me. In fact, seat space seems to get smaller each time we fly, with little room to move. The flight home was definitely better than the flight over, perhaps to the quality and timeliness of their feeding us, and the fact that we were flight east to west. And, it seemed that the seats had a bit more room. The last few times we’ve flown internationally we ask ourselves afterward how much longer we can continue. We definitely think it’s time to upgrade seats for long flights should we take any more.

After 8-1/2 hours flying

And lastly, thank you Dan for picking us up at the Little Rock airport at 9:30 PM. We are very grateful.

Monday, May 9, 2022—London’s Top Attractions via Toot Bus

Sunday was “on our own” for independent sightseeing. CIE Tours provided each of us with a ticket for the Tootbus. We caught the “Underground” to Marble Arch, and after a brief walk caught the Tootbus. Regrettably, the ticket had expired 30 days ago; a CIE Tours faux pas! However, Tootbus gave us credit and we hopped onboard the open-top double-decker buses with a recorded commentary in English and several other languages which can be listened to with headphones.

Kay sightseeing from the Toot Bus

We “explored” London’s famous sites including the Marble Arch, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, 10 Downing Street, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards, Tower Bridge, and many more. 

Centrally located in London, the Coca Cola London Eye can be termed as the heart of the city. It rotates gracefully over the River Thames, opposite the Houses of the Parliament and Big Ben.

London Eye

A historically relevant 1000-year old World Heritage Site, Westminster Abbey in the City of Westminster is one of London’s most regal and noteworthy religious churches. Located along the western bank of the River Thames, it is known for having hosted coronations, weddings, and for being a burial site for the English and British monarchs back in the day.

Big Ben is the nickname for the great bell of the striking clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, England, and the name is frequently extended to refer also to the clock and the clock tower.

Buckingham Palace is a London royal residence and the administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the center of state occasions and royal hospitality. Regrettably, we couldn’t get anywhere near the palace.

A central and prime location in the city, Trafalgar Square is located in the city of Westminster and is a public square with many cultural spaces, museums and galleries around the square. Distances to other places are measured from Trafalgar Square, which was initially designed by famous architect John Nash in the 1820s.

Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London, built between 1886 and 1894, designed by Horace Jones and engineered by John Wolfe Barry with the help of Henry Marc Brunel.  Tower Bridge is famous because it’s London’s most striking bridge thanks to its Neo-Gothic architecture and lifting central sections. When it opened, it was the most sophisticated bascule bridge in the world.

The heavily guarded 10 Downing Street, also known colloquially in the United Kingdom as Number 10, is the official residence and executive office of the First Lord of the Treasury, usually also the Primer Minister of the United Kingdom. Along with the adjoining Cabinet Office at 70 Whitehall, it is the headquarters of the governments of the United Kingdom.

Whitehall is a road and area in the City of Westminster, Central London. The road forms the first part of the road from Trafalgar Square to Chelsea. It is the main thoroughfare running south from Trafalgar Square towards Parliament Square. The street is recognized as the center of Parliament Square, thus the center of Government of the United Kingdom. It is lined with numerous departments and ministries, including Ministry of “Defence,” Horse Guards, and the Cabinet Office.

A couple other photos are shown below of our London sightseeing.

Sunday, May 8, 2022—London via Bus and Tower of London

The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, which is separated from the eastern edge of the square mile of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was also used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under kings Richard I, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.

The Tower of London has played a prominent role in English history. It was besieged several times, and controlling it has been important to controlling the country. The Tower has served variously as an armory, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and best known as the home of the Crown Jewels of England (no photographs allowed) and a prison.

In the Middle Ages the Tower of London became a prison and place of execution for politically related crimes, with most captives being put to death on Tower Green or, outside the castle, in public on Tower Hill. Prisoners were generally brought in via the Traitor’s Gate, transported by barge along the Thames, and passing under London Bridge, where the heads of recently executed prisoners were displayed on spikes. Among those killed there were Sir Simon Burley, an adviser and tutor of Richard II; the statesman Edmund Dudley (1510); the humanist Sir Thomas More (1535); the second wife of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn (1536); Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley (1554); and the 11th Lord Lovat, Simon Fraser (1747), who was a Scottish Jacobite leader. During World War I several spies were executed there by firing squad. Other notable inmates included Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I), who was briefly imprisoned by Mary I for suspicion of conspiracy; the soldier and conspirator Guy Fawkes; the adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh; and Sir Roger Casement, who was arrested for treason during World War I. In 1483 the adolescent king Edward V and his younger brother were last seen in the Tower before their disappearance and probable murder (great show on PBS about their plight, Lucy Worsley Investigates, Princes in the Tower).

A military garrison is maintained within the Tower.

There is a resident governor, who occupies the 16th-century Queen’s House on Tower Green and is in charge of the yeoman warders, or “beefeaters,” as they are popularly called. They still wear a Tudor uniform and live within the Tower, and their responsibilities include guiding tours for the Tower’s two million to three million annual visitors.

Ravens with clipped wings are kept on the grounds by the yeoman ravenmaster; a tradition dating from the time of King Charles II (reigned 1660–85) states that, should the ravens leave the Tower, the fortification and the state would fall. By the Tower is Tower Bridge (1894), the only central-city bridge across the Thames below London Bridge. The fortress was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988.

Saturday, May 7, 2022—Part II, Stonehenge

From Bath, our travels took us through the English countryside with it slightly rolling hills, grazing sheep and cattle, and rape seed fields shining golden in the green landscape.

We arrived in Stonehenge about mid-afternoon. We were told to be underwhelmed: it was a bunch of big rocks in a field. However, we were quite impressed. The experience was amazing and interesting, and left us wanting to see more.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wilshire, England. It consists of an outer ring of vertical sarsen standing stones, each about 13 feet high, seven feet wide, and weighing around 25 tons, topped by connecting horizontal lintel stones. Inside is a ring of smaller bluestones. Inside these are free-standing trilithons, two bulkier vertical Sarsens joined by one lintel. The following photos are from a complete walk around the ancient monument.

The whole monument, now ruinous, is aligned towards the sunrise on the summer solstice.

What is really intriguing is that Stonehenge is only one of many monuments in the complex, i.e. the stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the densest complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds. Stonehenge was the only one we visited.

Archaeologists believe that Stonehenge was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. It is one of the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom, if not the entire world. The site and its surroundings were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986.

Saturday, May 7, 2022—Part 1, Cardiff and Bath

Before leaving Wales, the tour took us on a panoramic drive around Cardiff, and then a brief walk to see the principal areas and buildings. We then traveled back into England to Bath.

Bath is the largest city in the county of Somerset, in the valley of the River Avon; it is best known for its Roman-built baths.

About 60 AD the Romans built baths and a temple at this ancient spot. However, the hot springs were known well before the Romans and were a sacred site for the local Celts.The Romans constructed a temple in AD 60–70, and a bathing complex was built up over the next 300 years. Roman engineers drove oak piles into the mud to provide stable foundations and surrounded the spring with an irregular stone chamber lined with lead. In the 2nd century, the spring was enclosed within a wooden barrel-vaulted structure. The Baths consisted of the caldarium (hot bath), tepidarium (warm bath), and frigidarium (cold bath). The town was later given defensive walls in the 3rd century. After the retreat of Roman authority in the first decade of the 5th century, the baths fell into disrepair. The baths were eventually lost as a result of rising water levels and silting, but were eventually rediscovered and modified on several occasions. In the 17th century, claims were again made for the curative properties of water from the springs, and Bath became famous as a spa town in the Georgian era. Georgian architecture, crafted from Bath stone, together with modern streets and squares laid out in the 18th century, made the city fashionable and attracted a growing population and wealth, and today the springs are housed in 18th-century architecture. Victorian expansion of the baths complex followed the neo-classical tradition. Victorian visitors drank the waters in the Grand Pump Room, a neo-classical salon which remains in use, both for taking the waters and for social functions.

With the arrival of Christianity, Bath Abbey was founded in the 7th century and became a religious center. England was widespread in support of Ukraine, and many buildings and residences maintained the Ukraine flag. The day we visited Bath Abbey, a college graduation was taking place, and people in England dress ups for graduation, i.e. coat and tie.

UNESCO added the City of Bath as a World Heritage site in 1987.

Friday, May 6, 2022—Ludlow, Tintern Abbey, and Cardiff

Liverpool was exciting for someone last night; it wasn’t one of us—either a lucky night or a bad one!

From Liverpool, we entered Wales from the north. And then, it was back in England as the tour bus traveled along the Welsh border in England’s Shropshire County, one of the country’s most unspoiled rural areas, with farms lined by an irregular grid of long green hedgerows. At nearly 1500 square miles, Shropshire is one of Britain’s least populated areas.

The spectacular Shropshire hills cover a quarter of the county and are designated an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. To the west the English/Welsh border is castle country; under the Normans, it became heavily fortified, indicated by the number of Norman Castles still standing here today.

A brief stop for food and toilet breaks followed in the medieval town of Ludlow, built to support Ludlow Castle, now in ruins.

Ludlow is a thriving medieval market town and an architectural gem with a lively community feel, busy with events and festivals throughout the year. The historic town center and the 11th century Ludlow Castle are situated on a cliff above the River Teme and are surrounded by the beautiful countryside of south Shropshire and the Welsh Marches. This proved to be one of our favorite stops.

Leaving the county of Shropshire, we entered the county of Hereford, home of our Hereford cattle in the US. The drive through Hereford provided views of picturesque farms of cattle, sheep, and rape seed. South of Hereford, the tour followed the River Wye southward; in this area the River Wye separates England and Wales.

Next we drove through the Wales county side to Tintern Abbey.

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey was founded in 1131,but fell into ruin after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century. Its remains have been celebrated in poetry and painting from the 18th century onwards. In 1984, Cadw took over responsibility for managing the site.

From Tintern Abbey, the tour took us to Cardiff, the capital and largest city of Wales, for sightseeing and overnighting. Upon arriving, we were taken on a brief walking tour of the town center. Since it was Friday afternoon, the streets and sidewalks were filled with people scurrying from pubs to sidewalk cafes to shops and stores.

Next, we toured Cardiff Castle.

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle is a medieval castle and Victorian Gothic revival mansion located in the city center. The original castle was built in the late 11th century by Norman invaders on top of a 3rd-century Roman fort. The castle was commissioned either by William the Conqueror or by Robert Fitzhamon, and formed the heart of the medieval town of Cardiff.

Castle built on top of earlier ruins

Over the centuries and into the 1800s, much renovation, rebuilding, and remodeling occurred. In the mid-18th century, Cardiff Castle passed into the hands of the Stuart dynasty. During the first half of the 19th century the family became extremely wealthy as a result of the growth of the coal industry in Glamorgan. Consequently, the castle was remodeled in a Gothic revival style. The resulting interior designs are considered to be among “the most magnificent that the gothic revival ever achieved” and, at least to me, a bit out of place.  The grounds were re-landscaped and, following the discovery of the old Roman remains, reconstructed walls and a gatehouse in a Roman style were incorporated into the castle design as seen in the photographs. When the 4th Marquess died in 1947, the castle was given to the City of Cardiff (for tax purposes, of course). Today, the castle is run as a tourist attraction.

Thursday, May 5, 2022—The Lake District, Liverpool, and the Cavern Club

Departing Edinburgh early to avoid traffic, the tour took us east and south to Gretna Green for a final stop in Scotland for shopping and a bathroom break. Gretna Green is a village on the Scottish border that is world-famous as a romantic wedding destination. Because of its proximity to the border, it became a haven for young lovers following the 1754 Marriage Act introduced in England and Wales. You were forbidden to marry without your parents’ permission if you were under 21. So the young and in love began eloping to Scotland, where it was much easier to marry. 

Crossing into England, we entered the Lake District, best known as the home and inspiration of Beatrix Potter, famous author of children’s’ books, and for William Wordsworth and other Lake poets. Lakes, rolling farmland and pastures with their perfectly straight rock fences, grazing sheep and newborn lambs, and low colorful mountains comprised the picturesque countryside. Through the efforts of Beatrix Potter, the Lake District National Park was established in 1951 and covers an area of 912 square miles. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017. With 16 lakes and more than 150 high peaks—four over 3,000 feet—it is the most visited national park in the United Kingdom.

We stopped at the lovely village of Grasmere in Cumbria, England, in the centre of the Lake District, and named after its adjacent lake. It has links with the lake poets William and Dorothy Wordsworth; they lived in Grasmere for 14 years and called it “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.”

Wordsworth headstone in Grasmere

Although gingerbread was brought to Europe by an Armenian monk in 992, Victorian cook Sarah Nelson invented Grasmere Gingerbread in 1854 in the English Lake District village from where it gets its name. It is a unique, spicy-sweet cross between a biscuit (cookie) and cake. The shop remains open and we received a short history and a sample. The aromas wafting through the air were awesome.

Our overnight stop was in Liverpool. Liverpool is a maritime city in northwest England, where the River Mersey meets the Irish Sea. (Ferry Cross the Mersey, Gerry and the Pacemakers, 1965). A key trade and migration port from the 18th to the early 20th centuries, it’s also, famously, the hometown of The Beatles. A short walking tour of the docks followed our arrival (Kay went, I did not), and then the group headed off to the world-famous Cavern Club. The Beatles made their first appearance at the club on 9 February 1961. From 1961 to 1963 the Beatles made 292 appearances at the club, with their last occurring on 3 August 1963, a month after the band recorded “She Loves You” and just six months before the Beatles’ first trip to the U.S. The Cavern Club was the most publicized pop venue in the world. In the decades that followed the Beatles’ last appearance, a wide variety of popular acts appeared at the club, including, but not limited to The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Hollies, The Kinks, Elton John, Black Sabbath, Queen, The Who, and John Lee Hooker, Paul McCartney, Status Quo, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Oasis, Gerry & the Pacemakers, and more recently, Adele.