Southampton for the Day...

After saying our goodbyes, we headed to our last stop in the UK, Southampton. Our cruise departs here tomorrow so we wanted to learn as much as we could about this historic town.

We began by following England's well-preserved, third longest stretch of medieval town walling and stepped back in time to find out more about the Old Town.

Holyrood Church was one of the original five churches serving the old walled town. Built in 1320, the church was destroyed by enemy bombing during the blitz in November 1940. In 1957 the shell of the church was dedicated as a memorial to the sailors of the Merchant Navy.
Nowhere was the tragedy of the Titanic disaster more felt than here, where more than 500 households lost a family member. Memorials were plentiful.

Best deal and taste of fish & chips came at the Standing Order Bar. Note the price £6.25 for this huge plate and a refreshing pint of beer. Score!
Our day ended at The Blue Keys Hotel for our last British slumber. This was an idyllic sojourn in a delightful country.

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Ashwell for History and Fish Dogs...

We spent the day with David Short, Ashwell historian and really nice guy. Ashwell is a picturesque village in north Hertfordshire some 45 miles from the center of London. It has a wealth of architecture spanning several centuries. A perfect place to visit on our last day with Eileen and Ian.

The parish church dates almost entirely from the 14th century and is renowned for its ornate church tower which stands at 176 feet, and is crowned by an octagonal lantern with a leaded 'spike'.

An attractive natural feature are 'The Springs', a perennial source of the River Cam.

Lunch was at The Three Tuns, "a satisfying mix of real ales, fine wines and fantastic pub food using local and artisan suppliers."
I delighted in a Fish Dog... on my goodness, it was great. Yum.
Tomorrow, we leave the warm hospitality of our friends. We laughed, reminisced, loved on their grandchildren, dined exceptionally well and will part with fond memories and sincere promises of another visit. This was an incredible beginning to our much needed escape.

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Our Second Day of Exploring...

This was to be our most diverse day in a long time. We began at the village church. The parish church at Steeple Morden has been dedicated to St Peter and St Paul since at least the 14th century. The church was rebuilt in the early 13th century, giving the village its present name.

This was a day of learning about Americans in Cambridgeshire. The 355th Squadron Fighter Group memorial stands outside the old Steeple Morden fighter base (AAF Station F-122). This was manned by American personnel during World War II.
Next stop was the darling town of Ely (name derived from eels, which were historically big here).
Construction of the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity was started in 1083 by the first Norman bishop and a beautiful sight from all parts of the city.

Lunch was at a quirky tea shop that we all enjoyed, observing the local people.
We then toured the Ely History Museum, located in the old Bishop's Gaol, learning much about this ancient town.
We have learned that the best way to see sights here is by the water, so we boarded a ship to cruise the River Great Ouse.

One stop on our amazing day was the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial. Donated by the University of Cambridge, its 30.5 acres lies on a slope with the west and south sides framed by woodland. The cemetery contains the remains of 3,812 of our military dead; 5,127 names are recorded on the Tablets of the Missing. Most died in the Battle of the Atlantic or in the strategic air bombardment of northwest Europe.
The museum was informative and emotional. Two famous people mentioned here are Joseph Kennedy, Jr. (JFK's brother) and Glenn Miller (the bandleader).

Our next Festival of Ideas talk was one Steve chose. Tony Hey, Vice President of Microsoft Research, explored the origins of computers and of ‘computational thinking’. It was so over my head that I was lost. Here are some of the key words...the twin concepts of universality and hierarchical abstraction... ‘File clerk’ model... logic gates to the microprocessor and Moore’s Law... algorithms... Greatest Common Divisor... Butler Lampson’s ‘Third Age of Computing’. That said, Steve thoroughly enjoyed it.
Dinner was our first foray into pub food. The Mitre, a pub of long and venerable history, stands on the site of two former inns and serves delicious fish & chips. Wow.
If you want to understand today,
you have to search yesterday.
~Pearl Buck

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Our Cambridge Day...

We began with a delightful morning in the company of Juliette, one of Ian and Eileen's four adorable grandchildren.

Wimpole Estate is a large estate with the house being the largest in Cambridgeshire (c. 1640). We meandered some of its 3,000 acres of parkland and farmland enjoying the California weather we brought with us. Halloween will be a heatwave day, breaking all records. Can't wait. 

We then attended a wonderful concert by the Cambridge Choral group. The theme was Italian, which totally fit our 'theme'.
We were all thoroughly enthralled with this Theorbo (a kind of lute).
Lunch and a walking tour of the quaint village of Cambridge followed. What an amazing explore of the place known as the home of the University of Cambridge, founded in 1209 and consistently ranked one of the top five universities in the world.

To see this town properly, it is fun to get on the River Cam for a pleasure punt. A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water. Punting refers to boating in a punt. The punter generally propels the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole. A punt should not be confused with a gondola, which is propelled by an oar rather than a pole.

Punts were originally built as cargo boats or platforms for fowling and angling, but in modern times their use is almost exclusively confined to pleasure trips.

The University was hosting the Festival of Ideas and we all agreed to see author Alexander McCall Smith, one of the world’s most popular and prolific writers. We were mesmerized as this engaging man discussed the art of combining traditional publishing formats with contemporary writing, the themes of his book series and the people who encouraged the characters. It was a very entertaining seminar.
Mr. McCall Smith was busy, so we snapped a candid photo anyway. Interestingly, Ian and Eileen chose to wander away as I stalked him- funny stuff. Dinner was 'home' in the countryside.

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We've Arrived at our Home in England

Our evening flight was the best and we even slept for six hours. We passed through customs with ease and our rental car was awaiting us right at Gatwick. Wow. 

A two hour drive brought us to Northbrook End Farmhouse, and Ian and Eileen. How amazing, and fortunate, to have friends all around the world. And what a place to call home for five nights!
This Manx Loaghtan lives on the property and was a delight to observe and reminding us that we are staying on a farm.

This was our third floor loft. What hospitality.
To commemorate our Italian connection, Prosecco was served before dinner. Bellisima!
The day ended contentedly with the promise of an exceptional itinerary to come. This long awaited adventure is really happening and expectations are being exceeded. 

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L.A. & Beyond... in Style

Brady was our chauffeur for our trip to the airport. We stopped in Santa Monica for lunch, at 3rd Street Promenade and enjoyed the sights.

We arrived for check-in early and Norwegian Air offered a deal we couldn't refuse... First class for an extra $200 each. How could we ever say no?! We were invited to wait for our flight in the One World Lounge, with unlimited food and beverages. The airplane offered us amazing reclining bed/seats, delicious meals, drinks... did I mention reclining bed/seats? Incredible.
This was the best 10 hour flight... ever. The adventure has begun.

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