The Victoria and Albert: “Greatest Decorative-Arts Museum in the World”

01Every time we go to London we find some amazing new treasure that we’d never 02seen before. This time it was the Victoria and Albert Museum. It has the largest 03collection of Renaissance sculpture outside of Italy and the greatest collection of Indian ArtIndian art outside India. There are fascinating Chinese and Japanese galleries, Dresssuites of furniture, a superb dress collection and an outstanding display of IMG_2777musical instruments. ArchitectureThe V&A has also opened 15 modern galleries that explain Glove the development of British design from the 16th to the 20th centuries using over Great Bed of Ware 3,000 exhibits. “The Great Bed of Ware” from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night 05resides here, as well as the wedding suite of James II. One of the most incredible Henry VIII galleries (at least to me) holds “Fakes and Forgeries,” some of which seem to 04exceed the quality of the old masters that the forgers imitated! There are a trio of IMG_2986galleries dedicated to British landscapes featuring such fabulous painters as IMG_2917Turner and Constable. And on, and on! Really, for anyone interested in any form 08of art, not only painting and sculpture, but metallurgy, Pulpitcarpentry and furniture,Tapestry weaving and tapestries, Tiles ceramic tiles,  Embroideryembroideries,07 glassware, stained glass stained glass,  Plateexquisite dishware, jewelryjewelry… 06if you enjoy beauty imagined by the human brain & fashioned by human hands, 09 please take the time to visit the “V&A” if you get to London!

“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created.”    (Revelation 4:11)

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17).

Lost in London: Guard Yourselves at the Changing of the Guard!

01Alan says that before we go touring next spring, he’s going to buy us a baby buddy toddler tether so we never get separated again! Know why?  Well, do you 25remember my pointing out at various places on our tour of the British Isles how Alan would meander off, lost in the beauty of some magnificent garden or05museum? Uh huh! 🙂 Well, on this lovely spring day, we all decided to take the London bus tour, and we timed it so that we would hit the stop in front of 06Buckingham Palace just in time to see the changing the guard.08At 10:30 am, we joined the crowds gathering to admire the spectacle, and before 09long people were everywhere vying for elevated spots or places along the fence12 with a good view of the courtyard where the solemnities of the guard changing would transpire. By 10:45 am the entire area was packed with a sea of people,14 and it was a bit of “every man for himself” trying to find somewhere to stand 13where  you could see more than just a patch of red behind the bars! 15Being a mother at heart, I  kept one eye on the soldiers and one eye on my sons lest they get lost,17 but once I had a bead on where they were standing, I stopped worrying & stood 18transfixed, enjoying the marvelous pageantry! It only took a matter of minutes 03before the entire event was over. The 100,000 spectators dispersed into thin air,07while Stephen, Joel, and I looked for Alan…and looked…and looked! 04The entire plaza in front of Buckingham Palace seemed pretty empty, but there 19was no trace of pater noster! “Well,” we said, “he knows we’re going to the Victoria and Albert Museum next, so let’s meet him at our London bus stop!” 20Alas, no Papa! We missed our bus, and then missed a second bus. Where had he gone? By this time, I was more than ready to find a restroom and very disappointed to discover that there are NO public restrooms near the palace! 02It was also a very brisk 60° out, and Joel and I were both freezing in the cold. What to do? Joel offered to stay and wait longer, but I didn’t want to leave him 21 alone, and I was too needy to wait any longer, so we decided to go together to the the Victoria and Albert Museum and hope to find Alan there. It was a good 23choice for us: warm, beautiful, a great place for lunch, and a wonderful way to invest some time. (In fact, I’ll show you some pictures next week.) However, we 22never saw Alan again until late that night back at our hotel. He’d needed to use the restroom too, and after he got back, he couldn’t find us anywhere. He forgot 24

to think about meeting us at the London bus, and by the time it occurred to him, we were gone. (We didn’t have international cell phones.) 😦 Alan had a relatively good day touring on his own, but when it came time to go home, two of the tube stations were closed, so he had to walk a long way to find a station, and then he forgot which stop was ours and ended up out in the country before he realized it and got turned around. Poor honey! I was quite alarmed to find that he hadn’t returned when we got there, and I was even more anxious by the time he finally made it back to our hotel, since I assumed he’d have no trouble finding his way!

27Moral of the story? Keep a firm hand (or a baby buddy toddler tether) on your  honey, and don’t let her get away!

“A man that has friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

The Flowers in London’s Royal Parks

IMG_2489With nearly 5,000 acres of parkland within the greater metro area, London is IMG_2492considered one of the world’s greenest capitals. Although Regent’s Park 08(highlighted last Tuesday) is the largest of Central London’s five “Royal Parks,” IMG_2496 Kensington Gardens and adjacent Hyde Park, St. James’ Park, and Green Park 06are all within easy walking distance of Buckingham Palace, and they’re the IMG_2483perfect place for a refreshing stroll! Instead of telling you more “facts” about IMG_2497London’s gardens, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite London 24flower photos coupled with a few words of wisdom passed on the me from my IMG_2493daughter-in-law’s Irish mother, Sarah, via Linda’s Australian aunt, Dorthea. 🙂25 Giving someone all your love is never an assurance that they’ll love you back!

Don’t expect love in return;
Just wait for it to grow in their heart,
But if it doesn’t, be content it grew in yours.20May you have

Enough happiness to make you sweet,
Enough trials to make you strong,
Enough sorrow to keep you human,
And enough hope to make you happy.19Always put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If what you feel hurts you, it probably hurts the other person too. Bless others, don’t hurt them.22

The happiest of people
Don’t necessarily have the best of everything;
They just make the most of everything that comes along their way.28

When you were born, you were crying
And everyone around you was smiling.
Live your life so that when you die,
You’re the one who is smiling
And everyone around you is crying.26It’s true that we often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone,
but it’s also true that we don’t know what we’ve been missing until it arrives.


Don’t go for looks; they can deceive.
Don’t go for wealth; even that fades away.
Go for someone whose life radiates love and joy,
Because their smile will make
Even dark days seem bright.
Find the one who makes your heart smile! 21Please share this message with
Those people who bring love and joy to you,
Those who have touched your life in a special way,
Those who make you smile when you really need it,
Those who help you see the brighter side of things when you are really down,
Those whose friendship is especially precious to you.30

And if you don’t, don’t worry,
Nothing bad will happen to you,
You will just miss out on the opportunity
to brighten someone’s life with this message.18“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” (Galatians 5:22)

London’s Famed Regent’s Park

01If you’re a fan of British lit, when in London be sure to visit Regent’s Park,   03backdrop for 101  Dalmations, Harry Potter’s visit to the London Zoo, 11James Bond’s MI6 headquarters,13 many Agatha Christie novels, 23 Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, and 27on and on. 10 Regent’s Park is so famous that it has its own tube stop, although it’s also a stop 04 on the  Red Route of the Original London Bus Tour. Regent’s Park encompasses 02410 acres of land, the London Zoo, Regent’s College, a lake with waterfowl, 09playgrounds, and boating, formal Italian Gardens, 07 and informal English Gardens, 15 although as one who is especially fond of roses, 05my very favorite retreat is the beautifully manicured Queen Mary’s Gardens 17 in the Inner Circle, which is free and open year around. There really is good  14reason for Regent’s Park being mentioned in so many stories: it’s just that lovely!12I will never be  as famous and beautiful—or have such a sterling reputation—as that of Regent’s Park, but I’m glad to worship the famous  and beautiful One whose reputation is blameless and who lives up to the God’s perfect standard of holiness: my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 29

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).

The British Museum: My Vote for Best of Kind

IMG_2203The British Museum was established in 1753 and to my mind has the most IMG_2430comprehensive collection of artifacts and art works (about 8 million) any where IMG_2248on the planet because it depicts the development of human history and culture IMG_2218not simply of the western world, but throughout every continent on earth. IMG_2161Among the museum’s most revered treasures are highly contested pieces, like  IMG_2173the Elgin marbles from the Parthenon, and then there are amazing storesOxus Treasure of golden objects such as this chariot from the Oxus Treasures of Persia. IMG_2169However, for those of us who love history, and in particular those of us who  IMG_2159believe in the biblical accounts as being accurate narratives of historical truth, IMG_2236the British Museum is a gold mine, not only of gold, but of historical affirmation.IMG_2189Perhaps the most famous artifact is the Rosetta Stone, on which is written an  Rosetta Stone ancient Egyptian edict inscribed in 3 languages. This stone became the key to IMG_2170unlocking ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. There are also hundreds of finds IMG_2154 that depict or describe events recorded in the Bible, verifying the accuracy of  IMG_2145biblical accounts. The Black Obelisk of Shalmanezer III is one of the most  IMG_2146famous artifacts, but it is just one of a multitude in a vast collection of evidence  IMG_2171supporting the existence of the people who became the Israelites and settled in IMG_2200the Land of Canaan after being freed from bondage in Egypt.IMG_2303If anybody is skeptical of the historical accuracy of biblical records, I think a trip IMG_2304to the British Museum might give them reason to reconsider! Cyrus really DIDIMG_2281 exist! Someone back there thought a ram really did get caught in a bush! IMG_2336Ancient women really did have mirrors made out of bronze! IMG_2373Want to see what a Roman nail looked like at the time of Christ? IMG_2258 Ancient texts?  IMG_2276Ancient musical instruments? IMG_2313How about a golden cape that brings to mind the story of Gideon making a IMG_2314golden ephod for himself to wear back about  1249 BC.? I mean, this one was found in Wales, but it proves such articles were made. I was totally fascinated!IMG_2419There are treasures from every period of history and from around the globe.IMG_2431It would take about 8 million pictures to attempt to share everything, IMG_2434and Alan wisely reminds me I need to refrain from trying to share too much infoIMG_2433since nobody has that much time, so I’ll just say: If you get a chance—GO! IMG_2144If you can spend the whole day, they have a great cafeteria for lunch or tea time. Jade BoulderI am sure you’ll be delighted with all the treasures you find hidden there, IMG_2421and I hope it strengthens your faith in the credibility of the Bible, as it did mine!

“Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endures forever” (Psalm 119:160).

Introducing London’s Top Sites and the British Museum

01No matter how you cut it, the British Museum is the most educational and fascinating single site in London, and it’s also one of the greatest museums in the entire world. We have a running family joke that it’s the best museum the kids have ever seen in 50 minutes (which is also, sadly, an honor that’s occurred at Florence’s Uffizi more than once, although at least you can get in free at the Uffizi if you get there that late). However, the British Museum is always free (along with the National Portrait Gallery, another fantastic resource for art and history buffs that is  very close by and well worth several hours. 🙂 ) 03The trick with the British Museum is that if you catch the tube (subway) into the heart of the city at Leicester Square (which is where we like to start in order to buy half-price tickets for an evening West End musical performance that night…look for the TKTS booth in the Clocktower building), and if you start withLondon Bus an Original London Bus Tour (my favorite is the Red tour, but the Yellow tour is also great, and of course, you can buy a two-day pass if you have the time and money and go on a half a dozen tours 🙂 )…at any rate if you start at Leister Changing of the GuardSquare and want to take an entire trip around the city, stopping at Buckingham Palace at 11:00AM in time for the changing of the guard (which doesn’t always happen, so check ahead if you hope to see it), Big Ben                                              and then if you want to hop on  and

London Eye off 04all Kids on Lion's Pawday London Bridgeto 05enjoy Marble Archall 08the fascinating markets,10exotic gardens, 09and historic galleries…Museums

well, that brings you back around to the British Museum after 4PM and gives you less than an hour to zoom through it’s seemingly endless labyrinth of great halls and passageways before it closes at 5:30 PM and you need to look for a yummy supper along Charing Cross before you jaunt over to the theatre in time for your12 evening performance (if you’re not utterly worn out by then). Ah, but I’ve done it again! It’s already late and I’ve not even begun to show you pictures of the treasures in the British Museum, but I will try to next Tuesday, the good Lord willing!13I wonder, are you ever like me…so busy trying to see and do everything that you never really have enough time to do “the very best” right? I want you to know that we started at the British Museum this time and made it our first stop when we visited London so that we finally had enough time, and I’m so glad that we did! I am now trying to keep first things first in my life! 🙂

“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; beside me there is no god” (Isaiah 44:6).

Where to Stay in London

01Alan and I have been to or through London a half a dozen times, but it always  02seems that there’s too much going on at Buckingham Palace for the queen to invite us to spend the night, so we’ve had to forage for ourselves, and I’m guessing you might be in the same boat! :)I thought I’d let you know where we’ve stayed and then ask if anybody out there reading this has any even better ideas! 03       If you really want to spend as few shekels as possible, then I can (almost) St-Pauls-Exteriorrecommend the YHA under the shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral. We’ve stayed there, and you can’t beat the price: £15 ($23) per bed or £32 ($50) for a room. It host_stpauls_101004_025_1was once the school for St. Paul’s choir boys but has been converted into multiple dorm rooms full of international young people. There isn’t much in the way of Triple-Bunk-No-Numberssecurity unless you think ahead and reserve a room to yourselves, so I slept quite poorly, keeping my purse under my pillow and listening to Asian kids calling host_stpauls_101004_027_1their parents all through the night (when their folks would be awake). The cafeteria serves ample food, but we now fondly refer to this hostel as “Mel’s East,” because it definitely reminds us of our local rescue mission.04If money isn’t super tight, perhaps the most lovely place we’ve stayed is the Tudor Lodge, a charming 45-room hotel/bed and breakfast in Eastcote, Pinner, 06about a half an hour ride by train from downtown. (Very reasonable for London, at about £ 69-79 per night, which equals $100-$125, since the exchange rate is 08about 1.57 right now.) The only drawback for us was that the night we went to see the play production of The Woman in White, by the time we walked back to 09the tube station, the trains had shut down for the night, & we weren’t too thrilled wandering about the streets near midnight trying to find (and pay for) a cabby 07who would drive us that far out of town. However, we have now found “the perfect” solution for us personally: the Ibis Hotel near London’s Heathrow Ibis London Heathrow Airport H0794Airport. If all you need is a clean, safe, economical place to stay while visiting London, I unreservedly recommend the Ibis. You can get a room for about $60. 05That’s only $10 more than the cheapest (legitimate) place in town, and it’s a lot cleaner and more secure. We’ve stayed there numerous times, and I’ve already Ibis London Heathrow Airport H0794paid for our reservations for our next visit. On the other hand, if any of you reading this blog have a tip on an even better deal for a place somewhere 13     safe and clean (like a B’n’B downtown with great food), please let us know!10I’ve been thinking about the similarities and contrasts between the thousands of possible places to stay in any big city, be it London, Paris, NYC, or GR. What are we really looking for? What do we need? How much are we willing to spend? How do we make our choice? Is it comfort? Ease? Location? Value? Safety? Beauty? What are we looking for in life? What do we need? How much are we willing to spend? How do we make our choice? For me, the answer has been overwhelming clear: I’m not really looking for comfort or ease, but I’m definitely looking for value, safety, and beauty…and I find them all wrapped up in the person of Jesus. I am at home in his heart and under his wing!

“For he [we] looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

Hidden Away…Eynsham Village

01Here is my beloved youngest son, Joel, loyally attending me even after Alan and 02Stephen had given out for the day and evening shadows were growing long. It 03was our last night in the country, & we’d seen everything listed in the guidebooks 04noteworthy in the area…the famous towns of the Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace,05the world-famous University at Oxford, Christ Church Cathedral, the Eagle and 23Child Restaurant, Stratford-upon-Avon, and even a Shakespearean play.06What was left, and why go in search of Eynsham…a tiny village so insignificant 08that it wasn’t discussed in the guidebooks…or even listed in the index?09As a matter of fact, Eynsham is in West Oxfordshire and one of the Cotswold10villages. It has existed since the Bronze Age and has a fascinating history…11but because it’s off the “beaten path,” it was totally devoid of tourists and felt12as peaceful and serene as a village untouched for hundreds of years!07 The thatched roofs were more authentic-looking than Anne Hathaway’s house,13 and the flowers as pristine14and fragrant as any growing in the country gardens at Stow-on-the-Wold.18The stone cottages were just as honey-colored and the gardens just as tidy.

15Why, I wondered, wasn’t Eynsham famous and crowded with tourists too?16I really don’t know. Maybe the townsfolk would like to keep their community 17hidden away. Maybe they don’t want fame! Maybe they’d rather not be bothered19 with thousands of gawking tourists day in and day out. Maybe they’d like to get 21 lots of attention, but for some reason, they just don’t. It made me think of my22youngest son, who is a truly authentic and magnificent person but has at times 24 felt overlooked. I’m sure we all feel that way from time to time—at school, at 20 work, or when we feel lonely. I was caught by this phrase: “To the glory of God.”25If we do all that we do “to the glory of God,” then nothing will go unnoticed or unappreciated. May an audience of One be enough to make us bloom radiantly!

P.S.—As an after thought, I wonder if we sometimes overlook people who are truly wonderful simply because they don’t promote themselves…might be time to start looking around a bit more carefully! 🙂

“Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).

The River Thames and Eynsham Lock

Talbot InnHave you ever had a meander along the River Thames? I had not, and so when I read that the Talbot Inn had originally been a wharf along the Thames, I was 05intrigued, and all the more so when that our room was named “Eynsham Lock.”07Alan was too tired for another adventure, but I prevailed upon my two sons to11 join me in a jaunt across the pastureland behind the inn in search of the illusive10 Eynsham Lock. This was particularly exciting to me, since I grew up in Sault Ste.09Marie, Michigan, soo2 where the mighty “Soo Locks”* were a constant source of interest each summer. 13I was curious about how the lock worked, and (as always) in the 25mood for an evening (or morning, or afternoon) constitutional! I had never seen14an old-fashioned “pound” lock that could be manually operated by boaters at will15and found the whole idea of house boats and river cruising fascinating. 12What would it be like to live a week, a month, a year…or a lifetime on a boat,16plying along some scenic river? I’ve heard of people doing this, but I wondered…17how do they support themselves? Are they all independently wealthy? Or, do19 some wealthy people just own house boats and take them out from time to time

21 the way Americans own sailboats, RV’s, and yachts? I tried to imagine what it might be like, but the Lord has made me so content that it didn’t really seem that appealing…although I’m sure it would be wonderful fun for a while, and I suspect those who enjoy such a life style love it dearly.  Alan and I went to the RV20show in GR last weekend, and we both came away with a happy consensus: Let’s just be content and thankful for what we have: a car and two pairs of sturdy legs!Heathrow 3It’s a fabulous privilege to be able to travel, and I am a fan of all sorts of transportation, but I also love variety, so I’m glad I can fly to far away places andHeathrow 2 then walk a few miles. “A taste is as good as a feast,” my mother used to say, and I’ve noticed feeling that way too. As we walked along the bank, this is what we saw overhead…the sky streaked with contrails from the many jets at HeathrowHeathrow 1International Airport. Definitely time to move on to our next adventure: London!

But oh, how I hated to give up the pastoral setting of rural England. So, before we ended the evening,  Joel indulged me in one last Pooh-Bearian expotition…a walking quest to find Eynsham Village.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servants, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).

“But covet earnestly the best gifts…” (I Corinthians 12:31, just before Paul launched into his treatise on love, which is “the greatest gift”  🙂 )

*Picture of Soo Locks from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ website.

England’s Talbot Inn on the River Thames

01If you’re looking for a place to stay in merry, old England while exploring Oxford, Bleinheim, and the Cotswolds, consider the Talbot Inn, a 16th century building 22just four miles from Oxford on the River Thames. This delightful B’n’B with 11 rooms and a family-friendly pub serves food and friendship around a crackling 04fire until late in the evenings. There has been a building on this site since 1376, 03                                                    (ancient well still on site)                                  although at that time the area was used as a wharf for storing and loading produce and products such as hay, malt, and timber, which were then floated down the River Thames into London. By 1774, there was a pub on this spotCartercrest named the  Horse & Jockey, but in 1836 it was renamed the Talbot Inn. A “talbot” is a light-colored hound with a highly developed sense of smell. They are eager hunters, so of course this brought to mind visions of Sherlock Holmes out pursuing some evil suspect on a misty moor or sitting thoughtfully in a shadowy corner of the pub smoking his pipe and trying to solve his case over a glass of ale.02Today, the Talbot Inn  is the epitome of delicious cuisine for a good value. They pride themselves in using local produce, serve all the traditional fare such as shepherd’s pie (made from scratch, mind you) and their boast that it “seems like a holiday experience every night” was indeed true, at least when we were there!26Every so often they have special events, and the night we visited, they were hosting a joint venture between the Eynsham and Oxford traditional dance and 27music troops. We were totally charmed by their lively folk music, unusual instruments, and traditional dances, and I really felt like we’d traveled back to days of yore. The kids stayed up late watching, but Alan and I fell asleep with 06the pleasant sounds of music and laughter wafting in through our upstairs window. And, the next morning, we were treated to “the full English.” Just in 28case you’ve never experienced the full English, it’s a breakfast meant to keep you satisfied for hours! Once, after the full English at Big Mike’s in Haworth, Alan 29 and I hiked the moors with Kathy and Daniel for 7 hours without needing anything more than some biscuits and tea to freshen up at the top of  Top Withins (but that will be the story for another day). The full English often starts 30with juice, fruits, cereals, and toast with marmalade and tea, but it always concludes with 7 items: baked beans, sausage, ham, and butter- fried toast, eggs, tomatoes, and mushrooms. You can order as much as you want of each of these items, and you can opt out of whatever you don’t want…but who’d want to?! 08After a breakfast like that, we were ready to conquer London…but not before I tell you about our walking tour of the River Thames and Eynsham. 🙂  Also, I hope none of us are opting out of all the fulness of the life that God has planned 24for us! Sometimes I think we’re more like Eeyore, feasting on thistles instead of the abundance of wonderful things that God offers us. If any of you feel like you’re missing out on life, please open your mouth wide and ask God to fill it!

23“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (Psalm 81:10)