Monday, June 14, 2010

Architecture, Poetry and Bloody Susan

By Chuck
June 11
We awoke bright and early, as is Claire's wont, and I usually follow about 20 minutes later, shamed by my laziness and driven by a mild desire to beat the thousands of other campers to the toilet block—I hate to wait in lines, especially before morning coffee. We had our porridge—in preparation for Scotland, you see—and were on the road by 8:45.

Our latest campground, Windermere Camping and Caravanning Club Site, Ashes Lane, Staveley, Kendal, Cumbria, is in the southern portion of the Lake District. We’re still trying to cope with these lengthy addresses without a street number. Furthermore, Staveley and Kendal are two towns, separated by 10 miles. What’s up with that? Are we in Staveley or Kendal? The name mentions Windermere but that’s another 12 miles north. So where exactly are we?

We arrived in the touristy, but pleasant, village of Windermere looking for a WiFi place: With our usual but misplaced desire to save a pound, we thought we'd have a cup of coffee/tea and get free Internet access. Well, we arrived before they were open; so we wandered through town for 20 minutes until the cafe opened; then we struggled for 40 minutes trying to get my netbook connected—we thought we'd travel light and not have to carry her 2 lbs. heavier laptop. I bought some bread and took that back to Homer and brought back her laptop; it connected with nary a glitch—go figure—except that we also learned that even when you are plugged in, you have to flip a switch to turn the electricity on.

Three hours later we had consumed cappuccino, tea, apple pie with custard (Chuck), parsnip and coriander soup, and bread; at the end of this, Claire had managed to upload—count 'em: one, two, three blog posts that had been written in timely fashion, but we had been unable to post them. Our parking fees and food for the free WiFi were more than the cost of our camping fees—₤18.15.

Wouldn’t this building be an improvement on the Davis food co-op?

Our next stop was intended to be Keswick (don't pronounce the 'w') in the Lake District; but, we decided to stop at Wordsworth's Dove Cottage in Grasmere, along the way.

Dove Cottage, Grasmere

Resting spot in back of Dove Cottage

Grasmere Lake which can be seen from the cottage

Romanticist William Wordsworth was one of the greatest poets of the English Language and was the poet laureate for England at one point. We enjoyed the tour of his cottage, which was charming—and the site of his most productive years: from 1799 to 1808. He lived here with his sister, Dorothy, and then with his wife, Mary, and children, too. Two of his best friends and frequent visitors were Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas de Quincey—most famous, respectively, for the poem, Xanadu (In Xanadu a stately pleasure dome did Kublai Khan decree... Think of an early scene from the movie, Citizen Kane) and the book Confessions of an English Opium Eater. So, part of the time, nature was enhanced by hallucinogens. There is a fine, small museum, next door, that has several manuscripts—most are in the handwriting of his sister, who often took dictation from Wordsworth. Among the artifacts in the cottage are his furniture, his passport and his (very small) traveling suitcase—this nature-lover liked to live simply. There is a lovely garden behind the cottage. He said that his years here were the happiest of his life. He lies buried, nearby, in St. Ostwald's churchyard in Grasmere.

Garden near Wordsworth’s Grave, 1770-1850

Grasmere, where William and Dorothy Walked

The guide mentioned that it was common during Wordsworth's lifetime to go four weeks without bathing and five weeks before doing laundry; then it took four days to wash the clothes, because they were so dirty. One rationale for this was, apparently, the belief that a layer of dirt kept the germs away; however, I am not sure the germ theory was well established in that time. Dental hygiene was quite poor back then: His sister, Dorothy, lost all of her teeth by the age of 40. Curiously, one of the display items was Wordsworth's dental pick set. There was a four poster bed with canopy in his bedroom; I had never realized that the cover kept rain leaks, rats and the crawly things from the roof and rafters from falling upon you while you slept—often there were no ceilings in old houses. The ceilings of the cottage were quite low—they were additions to the place; but, also, people were generally shorter at this time. The children’s room, upstairs, was interesting in that it was covered with newspapers from 1800, for insulation: the room was directly above the “refrigerator,” room, which was a room on the lower floor with a slate floor and a creek running underneath. The cottage rented for £8 per year and Wordsworth primarily lived off of an inheritance of £900 from a friend at Cambridge University. He was only a C student; but, he was determined not to spend his life behind a desk.

The small village of Grasmere was charming and we strolled by the lake and marveled at all the stonework.

Stone houses

Bridge at Grasmere

We finally arrived in Keswick and wandered around the town. We were disappointed that it was quite touristy—even though we thought we were prepared for that. We walked down to the lake nearby, strolling through the park, walking past the miniature golf course and the putting green. A highlight of this walk was the Bird Hide: a sanctuary for birds enclosed in a high wooden fence with view holes drilled at various heights for different ages and sizes of people. There was even an interpretive sign to show the various types of bird one might see. Sadly, fowl and pictures never seemed to match and we were never quite sure what we were seeing—but, we enjoyed the experience all the same.

House at Keswick

Arboretum, Keswick

Parkland, Keswick

Parkland shared with sheep

Gorgeous mountain view

Bird hide

The reward

We stopped to shop for groceries on our return to Homer and set off for the campground. Along the way, we decided we did not want to cook and would stop again at Windermere—this time for dinner. We settled upon the last place we saw: An Italian restaurant and pizzaria. The service was great, the pizza was fantastic and the wine was extraordinarily smooth. The cannoli was scrumptious. One funny communication issue concerned the wine: the server asked if we wanted a small or large glass. Never having been asked this question before, we asked what the difference was. He told us the small was 1.75 and the large was 2.50. We thought he meant price, turns out he meant volume. The price turned out to be £4.50 each. I know we’re cheap but it was only the house red, after all.

Dinner for Claire – Pizza with pine nuts, goat cheese and sun-blushed tomatoes

Dinner for Chuck – Pizza with prosciutto and fungi

Unfortunately, Susan let us down on the way home: She took us to the right road; but, to the wrong end. It was not a through street and we drove a long way around, without her guidance for most of the 45 extra minutes it took to return to the campground; we finally arrived at 9:30—we had been gone for over 12 hours. No wonder we were tired. On the other hand, it was fully light out and the place was jumping with people strolling and kids on their bikes. My challenge for tomorrow is to determine how many miles we can drive without exceeding our limit before our oil change and car servicing appointment on Monday—the earliest we could get.

She gave me eyes; she gave me ears;
And humble cares, and delicate fears.
A heart, the fountain of sweet tears;
And love, and thought, and joy.
The Sparrows Nest, William Wordsworth [excerpt—on his sister, Dorothy]


Ellisabetta said...

That was wonderful. Sensitive guy, that Wordsworth.
So I went online and found HOMER, I mean the exact foto you've posted of him from (I assume) the Dutch site where he was purchased. I didn't know you had to use campgrnd toilet & thinking I could never be a camper: don't all motor homes have their own toilets/showers? I thot one evacuated the dirty or gray water in the correct place provided.

B/c I didn't meet you till you were well established, I missed the nuts&bolts of ur camp set-up.
I know you can cook everything in HOmer, but can you not wash ur dishes and yourselves? & toilet?
Curious in Umbria...

Chuck and Claire said...

We have a toilet, shower, kitchen sink and running water. But, it's much easier to use the facilities provided by the campground. We use our shower to store our outdoor chairs and only under duress do we do dishes in our tiny sink.