Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tintagel, Part 2

I was waiting for my mom to comment on the last post before I added another one, but I still got nothin' from her so after putting on sackcloth and ashes and wandering around the village wailing for an hour, I decided to do a new post anyway : )  So here's the other half of the pictures from Tintagel, which I am posting while eating DoubleStuf Oreos for breakfast (thank you Missy!) and listening to the Bangles.  I know my mommy loves me even if she hasn't commented on here, 'cause she went to Barnes & Noble and got me the BRAND NEW just released Tuesday Bangles album, which she promises to ship to me (I was going to order it on Amazon, but the BN one has two exclusive tracks and I couldn't pass that up, Bangles fan that I am!).

Oh yeah.  Pictures.

This is a ruined wall on top of the headland which the guidebook says may be the remains of a medieval walled garden, although it's a bit odd to have a garden in such an exposed place and so far from the keep.  Those wacky medieval folks.

Here's Lee on the Danger Cliffs...seriously, they had signs all around the headland that said Danger Cliffs, so we figured that must be their name.  Kind of like the last set of cliffs was White Cliffs.

As we were going through all the pictures the first time, Lee commented on how many of my photos seem to lean just the tiniest bit, most of them to the left but this one seems to be leaning to the right.  Wonder why that is?

Here's Lee falling off the Danger Cliffs : )

Hanging on by his fingernails!  Really, there's another set of rocks under where he's standing so it just LOOKS like he's dangling over the water.  He just thought it would be a funny picture and remind my mom of the time she thought I was going to fall in the Grand Canyon (I didn't).

Hmm, this one leans to the right as well.  Anywha, this is a view from the headland over the gorge between it and the mainland, and the village in the background.  You can see some fields divided by hedgerows way in the back (if you click the pictures you can see them enlarged).

Here's the southern side of the Danger Cliffs.

This is the curtain wall that I showed you in the last post, but taken from above and the opposite direction.  I like how the light is hitting just the top of the wall all the way down.  Behind the wall you can see the ruins that are on the mainland.

Another shot of the curtain wall, aimed more towards the water.  That big building in the upper right is the Camelot Hotel; we heard about it when we were looking for a place to stay but all the reviews were negative for that place.  Sure it looks cool, and it's close to the castle, but the rooms are tiny and prices are ridonkulous.  We really liked the place we ended up staying.

This is the inside of Merlin's Cave; we waited for low tide to go down to it since it was kinda underwater when we arrived.  The cave goes all the way through the headland close to the narrowest bit that connects it to the mainland, so that's why you can see the light coming through the back of the cave.  We did walk into it for a ways but decided against trying to get all the way to the other side.  In the interests of full disclosure, I have to tell you that Lee took this picture and the next one.

This little waterfall is across the way from Merlin's Cave.  There's a small stream that we saw near the visitor center when we first arrived, and this is where it goes.

One more shot of the bit of land that's across The Haven from the Tintagel Castle headland.

And there's the headland and just a small fraction of the stairs we climbed.

We climbed up a bazillion more stairs to go see the mainland side ruins and this little dude caught my attention, so I took his picture.

These are the southern Danger Cliffs as seen from the mainland.  That dark spot might be where Merlin's Cave lets out, I'm not sure.

Last picture for Tintagel.  I hope you enjoyed your tour!

If you made it this far, I have a funny story for you.  Lee's on a business trip for a few days, and he left early yesterday morning, and I told Tiana yesterday afternoon when we talked that the spiders were going to start invading the house since he's not here.  Sure enough, last night I was in the kitchen unpacking the box of Oreos and canned pumpkin from Missy (thank you Missy!) and a ginormous arachnid strolls across the floor in there.  As you know, spiders totally freak me out, so I don't even want to get close to kill them.  I looked at the full box, then at the spider, and the proverbial light bulb went off over my head--I so totally dropped that box right on top of the spider and squished him dead.  I was even brave enough to pick up the box and make sure he had joined the choir invisible, and then I smack-talked him as I deposited him in the trash can.  Booyah!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Legendary Birthplace of King Arthur

I do have pictures to share today, so if that's what you're here for you can skip all the typey stuff at the top of this post.  For those of you who want to do more than look at the pretty pictures, I thought I'd start with a retelling of the start of King Arthur's story because I think it'll be fun.  Here goes.

It was a dark time for the people of Britain.  Rome had withdrawn her legions over a century before, and the desperate King Vortigern had, a generation or two previously, invited the Saxons into Britain by granting them a small bit of land in exchange for their help in fighting off the Picts, Irish, and Scots, all of whom were harrying the borders of Britain.  Once they had a toe-hold in Britain, the Saxons gradually increased their numbers and soon became a greater threat to the native British population than ever the Picts had been.

Uther, a fierce warrior, was at this time a powerful British king who had spent his life fighting the Saxons.  At a conference of British leaders, Uther met and fell in love with the Lady Igraine, who was already married to Gorlois, the lord of Cornwall.  Gorlois could not help but notice Uther's love for his wife, and so in anger he attacked Uther and his armies, but he was no match for the younger man and Gorlois was killed in battle.  Uther's adviser Merlin, a great enchanter, bespelled Uther to give him the face of Gorlois and Uther then went to Gorlois' stronghold, the castle of Tintagel on the wild Cornish coast, and he impregnated the Lady Igraine.

When news arrived of Gorlois' death in battle, Uther dropped the enchantment and revealed his true identity.  He promptly married Lady Igraine, and in due course they welcomed their son Arthur into the world.  Though Uther was a great king, Merlin had foreseen that his son Arthur would be greater yet, and he convinced Uther and Igraine to give him the child for training; thus did Arthur disappear for a number of years while Uther grew old and eventually died.

Upon Uther's death, the other British kings began to fight between themselves trying to determine which of them was strong enough to succeed Uther as leader of all the Britons.  Therefore Merlin cast a great enchantment, placing a sword into a stone and anvil which was inscribed "Whoso pulleth out the sword from this stone and anvil is the true-born king of all Britain."  Many men, from king to knight to lowliest servant, tried to remove the sword from the stone, but it would not budge.  Several more years passed with the leadership of the Britons still unsettled, until at last the kings decided to hold a great tournament with the winner acceding to Uther's mantle of High King.

One of the competitors in the tournament was Sir Kay, a young knight.  This was Sir Kay's first tournament and in all the excitement, he accidentally left his sword at the inn where he was staying with his family.  Sir Kay's father, the elderly knight Sir Ector, sent Kay's squire to retrieve the sword, but upon returning to the inn, the squire discovered that it was locked up and that everyone had left to watch or participate in the tournament.  Desperate not to disappoint Kay, the young squire happened to see a sword stuck into an stone, and thinking to himself that the sword was doing no good there, he slipped it out of its rocky sheath and ran back to the tournament.

When he saw the sword that the squire had retrieved, Sir Ector recognized it immediately as the famous Sword in the Stone, which caused a great commotion at the tournament.  He did not believe at first that the squire had taken the sword from the stone himself, and so they along with all the competitors at the tournament went back to the stone and replaced the sword in it.  The squire was told to take it out again, and this he did easily, though everyone else who tried to remove it was unable to do so.  Still, the men were unwilling to acclaim the young man their king until the enchanter Merlin reappeared and revealed to all that the young squire was in fact Arthur, the son of Uther, and therefore the King of the Britons.

When I was a freshman in high school, my English class spent an entire term studying the King Arthur stories.  We read excerpts from Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur as well as the script to the musical Camelot.  (I still listen to the soundtrack to Camelot on a regular basis; Julie Andrews is Queen Guenevere and it's *awesome*!  Vanessa Redgrave played Guenevere in the movie adaptation.)  So you can imagine my excitement at having the opportunity to visit Tintagel, where Arthur's story began.  Giddiness, even.  So how 'bout some pictures!

Tintagel is on the cliffs of Cornwall, and the nearest parking lot is at least a half mile away, so we walked from the town to the castle of the same name.  This is a view from the path leading to the visitor center, which you can't see from this angle; the white building sits across from the visitor center and houses the cafe.  You can see some of the castle ruins up on the headland on the left.  The castle doesn't date back to Arthurian times, but to the 13th century.  It was built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, probably because of the legends connected with the place because otherwise it doesn't make much sense to build way out here.  There are some Dark Age ruins up on the cliffs though.

Half of the castle was situated on the headland which juts out into the sea and is connected to the mainland by a thin piece of land and a bridge; this photo is of the castle ruins on the mainland side.  And a really cool sky, the clouds were very cooperative when we were there taking pictures.

The headland piece again, and you can see Merlin's Cave.  When the tide went out, we climbed down there and went in the cave (picture of that later).

And there's a wider shot of the headland, once again with the cave but in the lower left of the photo this time.

There is where the headland connects to the mainland, and the bridge between.  I think this place had more stairs than the rest of England combined! And we went up and down the stairs and walked everywhere.  It was like being back on the Great Wall of China, only English instead of Chinese.

I forget which section of ruins this is.  I took a LOT of photos here.

This was taken facing away from the castle ruins; that bit and the headland where the castle ruins are together form a small cove called The Haven.

Just because I'm proud of this picture : )  Lee and I both totally loved Cornwall, it is gorgeous and not just the cliffs here.  The whole area we drove through on the way to Tintagel is stunningly beautiful as well.

Ruins of the great hall on the headland.

And there's my sweet husband, who happily drove me to Cornwall to see a ruined castle 'cause he's that awesome.

More of the ruins on the headland.  The great peril at Tintagel is erosion; there used to be more castle ruins but the ocean eroded the cliffs and part of the castle collapsed into the sea.  This of course reminds me irresistibly of King Haggard's castle in The Last Unicorn

Very proud of this shot!!  I had to wait to get a picture with no tourists in it but I think it was worth it to get this picture.  This is part of the curtain wall.

This is a shot of the other side of The Haven taken from the top of the headland.

Self-portrait!  Lee set the camera down on the ground and got this shot, and then we found another tourist who took one for us:

That's all the pictures for today, which is about half of the ones I'm going to share from Tintagel.  Hope you enjoyed both the story and the photos.  Sadie and I are going to go spend some time in my craft room now : )

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More from Old Wardour

Back again with more pictures, mostly from the inside of Old Wardour.

Just 'cause I liked the curve of the walls and the interesting perspective.

Carved lion above one of the doorways.

It was difficult to take this picture since it's kind of backlit, but I think it turned out kinda cool in the end.

View of the courtyard from one of the upper floors, facing down towards the back of the castle and the lake.

I think this was part of one of the ruined towers.

Caught Lee in another picture : )

This is the "ancient" stone grotto on the castle grounds, it's a manmade cave that just looks kind of cool.  Not too far away from it, the owners of the castle moved a 4,000-year-old stone circle onto the castle grounds for more ambiance.

I like that word, ambiance.  It's so...French.

Again, the lighting was wrong to take a picture from this side of the castle, but I had to try it anyway.

And this one you can actually see the castle instead of just a silhouette.  I would not have minded another hour wandering around the castle and grounds, but we had to leave so we could make it to the coast in time to check into our hotel and make our dinner reservations.  We're planning to take my parents out to Old Wardour when they're here in November anyway so at least I get to go back : )

Next up, more King Arthur stuff.  Or possibly a baby book update, I haven't decided yet.  For now, I'm off to take my sweet little doglets for a walk.  Or maybe get into trouble shopping on the Bath & Body Works website.  That Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin stuff just looks so good...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Old Wardour Castle

After we left Stonehenge, we drove into a town whose name escapes me at the moment and had lunch at a Gucci Pizza Hut.  Lee and I both graduated from Baylor University, and there are three HEB grocery stores near the campus, which are nicknamed the Ghetto HEB (closest to campus), Gucci HEB, and Taj maHEB (and you pronounce HEB not as initials but "heeb").  So that's what I'm referencing when I say Gucci Pizza Hut : )  Missy will get it!

After lunch, we set out for Old Wardour Castle which is 15 miles away from Stonehenge.  Once again we thought our GPS had lost its marbles, but it turns out this castle is just kind of out back of beyond--the GPS got us close enough to the castle that we were able to follow signs to it when the GPS started telling us to go weird directions.  You have to drive up a couple of miles of narrow windy roads, narrow enough that it can be difficult to pass someone going the opposite direction, and you don't really see the castle until you're practically on top of it.  But the area is beyond gorgeous so it was a pleasant drive for all that, and here's what you see from the small parking lot when you get there:

I chose a tree branch shot for you, Miss Vicki : )  The sunlight was coming from the wrong direction to make this picture look really good, but we did get some very nice shots from the other side of the castle.  This one was never a residence of royalty; it was initially built by John, the fifth Lord Lovel, in the late 1300s, and then acquired later by the Arundell family and updated and altered in the 1570s.  Lord Lovel's wife, Maud Holand, was related by marriage to the royal family, and they were able to use that connection to increase their own money and power.

Again, not the best angle for the shot, but hey, it's proof that we were there.  The castle is an unusual hexagon shape; the back side of the castle was destroyed during the English Civil War in 1644.  Wardour didn't really have any tactical value, but was attacked because the Arundell family supported the Royalist cause and the neighboring Hungerford family (or at least part of it) supported the Parliamentarians.  (If you don't remember, the English Civil War kind of boiled down to the question of whether the king had "divine right" to rule any way he wished, or if he should be subject to the consent of Parliament.  The Parliamentarians eventually won and England became a Commonwealth with Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector, who later canceled Christmas.  True story.)  So Hungerford attacked the castle more to keep the Arundell family from using their wealth and power to support the Royalist cause; Hungerford won the castle in 1643 and Lord Arundell besieged it in an attempt to win it back, so he was the one who blew the wall off his own castle by accident.

This is a view of the lake with the castle's back side directly behind us.  Told you it was a pretty area.

After it was rendered uninhabitable, the Arundell family eventually built a new (much smaller) house a couple of miles away and used Old Wardour as a "romantic ruin".  They landscaped the area to make it look pretty because in the 1750s, romantic ruins were very popular not just with the artistic set, so this was kind of like a mini theme park.  I do have to say that the ruination of the castle does make for some interesting pictures, and the castle has also been used for films.  Go watch the beginning of Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves (I'll wait), and the castle where Robin's dad lives is Old Wardour.  Cool, huh?  So no King Arthur connection for this place, but Robin Hood is fun too.

The shadow on the ground is from the small Banqueting Hall that was added to the grounds when the "romantic ruin" thing was so popular; I just liked the pattern of the shadow on the grass.

I took lots and LOTS of pictures, like over 80, so of course I won't share *all* of those with you ; ) but I couldn't pick just a few favorites.

Lee loved the lawn here, and wishes that our lawn was like this.  Won't happen as long as we have two nutty dogs who don't confine themselves to a single patch of grass when they relieve themselves though.

K, too  much shadow in here for a really good shot, but that's Lee looking in the well inside the castle courtyard.  When it was intact, the castle was 4 or 5 stories tall and the courtyard was completely enclosed, so it would have been *really* dark back in the day.  I think they used the courtyard for the part where Robin finds his dead father.

Kind of gives you a sense of how tall the walls are with Lee standing there.  Since he insists that I take most of the pictures now, he's in a lot more of them than he used to be, haha.  He didn't consider that consequence when he said I had to take almost all the pictures from here on out.

I don't know exactly why, but I just loved this castle, it's one of my favorites thus far.  I like all the details like the arches on the doors and the carving everywhere; on behalf of English Heritage I was irritated to discover how much graffiti there is inside the castle.  The stones are relatively soft, so people have carved their names and stuff all over the place, which is just...argh.  Why do people do that?

Another courtyard shot.  Geez, I really thought I skinnied down the queue of pictures but it seems like I don't catch some similar shots until I've got them on the blog.  Well, whatever.

One of the many stairways in the castle, we liked how this one started out going to the left and then curled up to the right.  It seemed like there were stairs everywhere, I think my confusion with the layout is due to all the alterations to the original design in conjunction with the damage sustained in the Civil War.  Plus I really do think there were stairs everywhere : )  I have more pictures from Old Wardour but I'm going to wait to post the rest just because I like to drag things out a bit, ha!

I still haven't given Lee the chance to edit any pictures either, so the only thing changed on these is that I shrunk 'em down a bit to upload faster on here.  I'll just make sure Lee edits pictures how he wants them before I print them out for scrapbooks if I *ever* get back to my own books.  Guess I'd better go work on those baby books a little more today...TTFN!