Roadside Wonder

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Living in East Anglia surrounded by fenland, and slow moving watercourses making their final approaches to the sea, we do not have many occasions when we can see the power of falling water.

Our youngest attended university in Lampeter in Wales, and our several journeys at the beginning or end of term-time however gave us ample opportunity to witness waterfalls.  Some of these natural water features are small with their plunging waters dancing and splashing upon the exposed rock, while other are mighty churning affairs that thunder and roar as the white foam and spray highlight their power.

In the face of these, and fr a great excuse to break up a long drive, we would find a nearby viewing place and enjoy the spectacle.

Cascading Waters
Nature’s Power Manifest
Mighty Pool-wards Plunge

Padre

Heeding Haiku With Chèvrefeuille, August 28th 2019, waterfall

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Tips for Visiting Places of Worship as a Tourist

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For several years now, I have served as an instructor and guide for school groups visiting a particular place of worship in Cambridge.  The purpose of the students’ visits is to receive a measure of “religious education” about the design, architecture, and practices of the venue.  Church furnishings, symbolism, and art are explained.  But this isn’t the only type of Sacred Site Tourism.  Many people visit cathedrals, temples, mosques, and shrines, with a view of seeing them as historical structures, cultural artifacts, or as “museums.”

The purpose of this post is not to give advice for those visiting places of worship for the purpose of worship or prayer while on their holidays, but rather to give tips for those visiting with a “tourist” agenda.  Many of these points are given to visiting students in my introductory comments of educational visits, and some are more generally “touristy.”

Number One: Be Respectful 

You may not be a believer, or at least share the beliefs of those who worship within the site you are visiting.  It may be to you a historical building, or repository of heritage.  But for those who worship there, it is a special place.  It is therefore useful to get a feel of the place when you arrive.  What is the atmosphere?  Is it a quiet place of prayer and contemplation (as is often the case of Catholic Cathedrals) or of active prayer (Mosques), or of education and teaching.  Try to conform to the feel of the place.

Another area of respect is to aware of dress codes, and gender expectations.  Check to see if there are any notices in regards to these.  Most mosques expect that those entering have their arms and legs covered (avoiding sleeveless tops, and shorts), women are often expected to have their heads covered.  Note that these are not uniquely Muslim norms.  Some cathedrals in Italy expect women to cover the hair, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem requires legs to be covered (men and women).   If visiting during worship time, many mosques require women to stay behind men (for the issue of decency), Orthodox Synagogues for women to be in a gallery, and Sikh Gurdwaras usually have men’s and women’s sides of the worship hall, and men and women are expected to cover their heads in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib.    Many Jain temples also request that leather not be brought into the worship areas.

Number Two:  Photography

Here again see if there are any notices.  Some places ban photography during worship period, but allow it between services.  Others require a permit for photography (some of the ancient synagogues in Prague have this policy).  Even if photography is permitted – then consider Tip One.  Be respectful.  Don’t use flash photography if it will disturb others’ prayer or worship.  Don’t photograph worshipers without their permission, and don’t take too many snaps – giving the impression that the venue is a cheap tourist trap.

Number Three:  Cleanliness and Godliness

Eating and drinking within worship spaces may be permitted, but littering definitely isn’t.  Many places of worship do not have extensive cleaning staffs, but rather are maintained by volunteers from within their congregations.  What you may leave behind, may not be cleared away before the “true purpose” of the space is next conducted.  If eating and drinking is prohibited, then again see Tip One.  Respect the practices of the place.  This is equally true when it comes to foot ware.  In mosques, prayer is conducted by bowing down on a clean surface.  Shoes which have been outside soil this, and therefore are not permitted in the worship areas.  Similar shoe removal is seen in Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist sites.

Number Four: Avoid Souvenir Hunting

Okay for this one you may get a mixed message.  Many famous cathedrals and churches have small shops in which religious medallions, post cards, and the like are sold.  If they are available – go for it.  Other smaller churches have pamphlets, and the like in racks sometimes with “honesty boxes.”  If a price is put on a booklet, please pay it.  If tracts and other literature is noted as “please take one” then follow your conscience allowing for the fact that the intent is to teach you about their beliefs.  As such don’t clear out their pamphlet stands just for souvenirs.

A word about candles.  Candles are seen in many churches flickering away in alcoves.  These are often (especially in Catholic churches) as aids and symbols of prayer.  Many of these welcome you lighting a candle of remembrance or of prayer.  But if a donation is requested please follow your conscience.  If you don’t plan on using the candle as intended,  but want it as a souvenir, then please give a fair gift for it.

Of other items.  Weekly bulletins, and the like are often found in places of worship.  They are usually intended for the regular attendees.  These may seem ideal keepsakes of your visit, but refrain if it seems they are dwindling in supply.

Number Five: Leaving Your Mark

This too is an interesting one.  You may find in ancient sites, graffiti that is centuries old.  Some of these were left by pilgrims, others by conquering armies, and all give a sense of history.   While it may be tempting to “join the tradition,” it is problematic on several fronts.  A simple one is you are weakening the infrastructure, and a second is that you may be inadvertently removing or obscuring more ancient marks.  If you really feel that your visit needs to be recorded for posterity, many churches and temples have visitors’ books.  Feel free to use them.

Number Six: Provide for the Site’s Future

Remember, these venues were never intended to be tourist sites.   Many of these ancient structures require huge sums to maintain their fabric.   Gravity alone is a foe, pulling on roofs and walls.  But pollution, erosion, and human visitation take their toll as well.  Stairs become worn, woodwork decays, and cloth decays.  If you see a donation box at the end of your visit, show your appreciation for the opportunity you have had to enrich your vacation.

Padre

 

Afternoon Tea for a Travel Tuesday

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I have to admit that I still occasionally cringe when I hear American (and some other) visitors describe England as “quaint.”  It seems that the image of Bertie Wooster, Bowler hats, and Downton Abbey still prevail.  But one area where this nostalgic England still does have a foothold is High Tea.

Okay, let’s get this straight the country does not stop at 3 pm and the entire populous settle down to crumpets and gooseberry jam.  In fact, in the modern UK it is more likely that a ready-made supermarket sandwich will be wolfed down on the run, washed down with a Starbuck’s coffee.  But sometimes, especially on special occasions it is nice to slow down and enjoy some luxury.

Afternoon tea, is a real treat, and in recent years we have marked my wife’s birthday with the indulgence.

The top photo is of a High Tea we enjoyed at the Cliff Hotel in Gorleston, Norfolk last year, to celebrate my wife’s birthday.   We booked the tea (and High Teas often need pre-bookings) there as we have stayed at this hotel before, and it is a favourite venue for us.   We ate on the terrace overlooking the sea, and it made a pleasant back drop with a clear sunny sky, and the beach and sea below us.

The tea was well brewed, and came in a generous sized pot.  It was accompanied by finger sandwiches (salmon and cream cheese, ham and cheese, prawn with mayonnaise,  and cheese and pickle).  A portion of sharp cress was provided that could be used to enhance the sandwiches as well.  Two warm scones, with clotted cream and jam were next.  This was followed by an assortment of macaroons, mini cream cakes, and a chocolate and an apple tart. The portions were sufficient to leave us both satisfied.

The price is reasonable for the experience at £15 per person with tea or coffee (2019 updated price) and a £10 booking fee is required.  The service was very friendly and attentive, and it made for a lovely afternoon together.

Link:  Cliff Hotel High Tea

Another nice venue is Harriets Cafe Tea Rooms in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.  This venue offers a step back into time, with marble-topped tables, chandeliers, and big band music all to enjoy.  The service was on our professional and friendly (and the retro uniforms helped the ambiance as well). There was no sense of rush, and it was a time to just savour the drinks and take in the experience.

When we arrived we were offered chilled water with lemon wedges (another blast from the past, as most places don’t offer this these days). We had ample time to review the menu and to take in the atmosphere.  We ordered cream teas to our own tastes, a lovely chai blend for me, and Rooibos for my wife.  The tea was loose leaf, and individual strainers, and additional hot water were provided to make the most of the brews.  The scones were fairly large, and had a good balance of moistness without feeling underdone.  I far prefer this to those that crumple at the first attempt to cut them.  All in all is was a lovely spread with nice presentation.  At about £21 per it is a bit more dear, but the nostalgia and atmosphere are worth the price for the experience.

Link: Harriet’s

This year we made our High Tea visit to The Swan in Lavenham, Suffolk.  This Medieval Inn with its timber frame construction is wonderful to behold.  Inside there are still the beams, but also modern luxury.

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Gallery

The Gallery dining room is overlooked by a grand piano, and the gardens are just beyond period windows. We sat near a huge inglenook fireplace, and the atmosphere was a perfect as the meal.

We had our choices of teas, which were served – “on fine Royal Worcester Crockery specifically created for The Swan by Walpole of Stoke-on-Trent, whose prestigious special commissions are found in many of Britain’s Royal palaces – the perfect crockery then upon which to savour our delicious treats (Swans’ quote).”  I had the English breakfast tea and my wife, Redbush.   Both were loose leaf, and served with strainers, and it was fitting with surrounding luxury.

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Royal Worcester

Unlike some venues where the entire meal is served on a stacked “High Tea Tray”, the Swan served in courses, rather than all at once. The tray does make its appearance during the dessert course however.

 

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Finger Sandwiches

The sandwiches, were a nice mix with salmon, egg, ham, and cucumber. The scones were light and flavourful. The cakes were luxurious and the chocolate one was absolutely rich.

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Cakes and Scones

The service was attentive, and the server even offered to take pictures for us.

At £22.50 per person, it is the most dear, but the price is exceeded by the measure of luxury and service.
Happy travels, and I hope you find your perfect breaks.
Padre

 

 

Birthday in Great Yarmouth (My Turn)

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Last August we celebrated my wife’s birthday in Great Yarmouth.  This year we revisited Great Yarmouth as part of my birthday celebration.  We again stayed at the Nelson Hotel, and took in the early summer beach and seaside activities.

One of the first things we noticed was that Yarmouth in the early evening on a Monday was “closed.”  Unbeknownst to us our arrival corresponded to the very time when food is least available along the seafront.  Looking for someplace for a meal, we happened onto Harry Ramsden’s.  We had passsed at least three other fish and chip shops between the hotel and Ramsden’s and it too looked to be closed.   But the sign on the pavement indicated otherwise.

On entering the server took a couple of minutes to notice me, it being a slow night, and I asked if they were open. He responded that they were but it would be a few minutes while he finished the task he was on. He then took my order, and I went to wait. The fish batter was dark, and the haddock a bit grey looking, but the flavour and texture were okay. The onion rings were a little greasy, but that was excused as they were the real thing, not just the minced pulp of onions like some places serve. The price was a little dear for what I got, but all in all it was adequate. So much for “world famous” however.

On returning to the hotel I was able to take in the sounds of the gulls, and to relax a bit.  The Nelson is rated as a three star hotel.  It is a Georgian/Regency building, and has a mixed 1970s decor, but it is clean (if not a little tired) and the staff are wonderfully helpful.

A note to those with mobility issues is that the upper floors do have occasional stairs in the hallways, and there is only one small lift.

We had a sea view room on the second floor, almost exactly under the room we had on our previous stay, so the view was almost exactly the same with the Sea Life Centre and Wellington Pier as the features along with the sea of course.

The room had plenty of hot water though the tub was narrow, and the mattress on this occasion was hard, and a little uneven.  The room as a whole was comfortable however and very quiet being isolated along with its neighbouring room from the main hall way by a fire door.

Breakfast was included in the price, and hot items were ordered through table service, with toast and accompanying items were available in a buffet in an annex to the dining room.

Again, staff make this place.  They took a weary three star establishment, and made it a place worth staying in.

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Sorry for blurred pic of a wonderful seafood platter

The high point of the visit was the birthday meal at the Ocean Spray Seafood & Steakhouse.   The decor is maritime (fishing nets, shells, etc) and the atmosphere is calm and the service friendly.   All customers are greeted warmly and regulars fawned over by the staff.  

On this occasion we had a “Dips” starter with warm pita bread served with olives, hummus, taramasalata, and tzatziki.  To be honest, this starter can make a meal in itself, and though intended for a two person sharer, it would easily accommodate three.

We then had the seafood platter with Greek salad, and a half lobster to share.  There was the aforementioned lobster, grilled king prawns, a cod and haddock fillet, shell on shrimp, whitebait, scampy, and calamori served in a garlic butter sauce.  This was surrounded with portions of feta cheese and black olives.  New potatoes rounded out the meal.  Excellent does not begin to describe the meal.  The platter easily fed the two of us, especially after the generous dips course.

This is a must try seafood establishment if in Yarmouth.

It was a wonderful birthday, and we are booked to visit again when hers comes around.

Padre

All You Will Ever Need

 

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Bazaar Jerusalem

I have all you will ever need –

And perhaps a few things more –

Far lower the prices here –

Than you’ll find in any store.

 

Is it for your wife you buy?

A scarf, a belt or ring –

I’m sure that within my stall –

You will find just the perfect thing.

 

My prices, my rivals –

They will never match –

And today it’s my birthday –

So there’s special deals for you to catch.

 

There are rugs, and throws, and carpets –

Bargains by the score –

Every kind of lovely covering –

To put upon your floor.

 

I have all you will ever need –

And perhaps a few things more –

Far lower the prices here –

Than you’ll find in any store.

 

Padre

 

dVerse Prompt: To market, to market!

 

Based on wonderful experiences in markets and souqs in East Asia and the Middle East.  please see my poem Souq Song  as well.

A Town on the Cam and its Centre of Learning

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image: public domain

The Romans had built a fort and a bridge at the point of the great bend of the Cam.  The settlement grew and in Saxon times it became market centre.

In the 12th Century there was an incident in distant Oxford which would change the fortunes of the settlement forever.   Two scholars were executed over the death of a woman by town officials without the usual referral to ecclesiastical authorities.  Teaching was suspended at the Thames-based centre, and scholars departed for the continent, and others to the small bridge settlement which was under the authority of the Bishop of Ely.

From 1209 scholars began to study on the banks of the “Granta” and Henry III granted the new learning centre a charter in 1231.  The Bishop of Ely, Hugh Balsham indirectly established one of the centre’s key features, the college system, when he founded Peterhouse in 1284.

Since then, kings, nobles, and other important benefactors have endowed more “houses” and the now University of Cambridge came to have thirty-one colleges and several associated centres.  My own college is a “newer” one being established in 1768.

The university has several sites and facilities including the Old School, many of them along “the Backs” of the River Cam; the Addenbrookes Hospital campus, and the Fitzwilliam Museum among them.

This centre of learning has produced the likes of Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Christopher Marlowe.  There are also numerous prime ministers, and bishops among its alumni, as well as 118 Nobel Laureates.  The University’s libraries have over 15 million, and the grounds of the centre hold world class architectural achievements.

Hinc lucem et pocula sacra.

Padre

 

Haunted Wordsmith Non-fiction Prompt

The Guidebook

“This doesn’t look right, Dean.”

“You must have . . .” Dean began, but Wendy’s firm stare cut the comment off mid-flow.

“Don’t you dare make a comment about women drivers,” she said.  “What we have is a true case of  ‘male navigators’,” she snapped.

“But the guidebook said that the entrance to the sea-view tunnel was the next left,” he pleaded.

“Does this look like a bloody glass-sided tunnel?” Wendy scolded. “Look in the guide again.”

He looked down into the book again, and mumbled to himself.  “We were at the plaza, took a left towards the lighthouse, then the second right at the casino,” he murmured as he traced their route on the little map in the tourist book.

“Well,” she said impatiently.

“We should be in the right place,” he said imploringly.

“Give it here,” she demanded.

He reluctantly handed her the guidebook.

“It’s in f’ing Italian,” she exploded.  “Do you read Italian?”

“No . . .” he almost whimpered.

“Bloody right, ‘No’,” she snapped.  “Why in Hell did you buy a guidebook in Italian?”

“It was – it was cheaper than the English one,” he tried to justify.

“Cheaper! How much cheaper?” she nearly shouted.

“A Euro,” he mumbled.

“So we are lost, and have probably burned up three Euros worth of petrol, following a guidebook you can’t even understand.  ‘What a wonderful holiday, Wendy, welcome to a world of wonder’,” she fumed.

“Sorry,” he said in a whispered apology.

“That’s it,” she said firmly. “We can’t back out, so I am going to get to the end of this crappy concrete sewer you’ve gotten us into, then I am going to ‘ask’ for directions back to the hotel.  Then I’m going to fly home!”

She put the rental car back into gear and proceeded forward.  Neither of them uttering another word.

They passed another set green-streaked concrete pillars and then the tunnel widened revealing thick panes of glass on either side through which dappled light revealed schools of brightly coloured fish, and the graceful glide of a stingray.

Padre

 

Haunted Wordsmith

Prompt B (sentence starter): “Look in the guide again.”

Prompt C (photo): Above

Of Moors and More

 

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The Moors 1

The day had begun with a quiet sunrise over the bay at Scarborough.  Our long weekend was over and it was soon to be time to begin our journey homewards.

Our route took us through the Yorkshire Moors, and area of unspoiled natural beauty.  We came across falls, rugged landscapes, and field after field of heather, gorse,  and wildflower.  It was spectacular.

So awesome was it, that we made several photo stops.  While there are towns and cities in the area.  Today’s focus on Travel Tuesday is the moors themselves.  They can be bleak, and much literature makes this bleakness almost a character (think Brontë).  But in the spring and summer months the moors are transformed.

Much of the North Moors has been designated a national park, and the park covers an area of 554 square miles (1,430 sq km).

For many it is a place for hiking, and bird watching and the general communion with nature.  Sadly for us, it was just a pit stop on a journey home.  But oh, what a pit stop.

The Moors

Growing brightness the coming of day

Sparkling reflection upon the bay

Journey outward through moor and hill

Awed by beauty and the quiet still

 

Vast tracks open before us

Given to flower and heather

Stop we must

To enjoy the views and fine weather

 

Decorated by nature

Rolling hills and rugged views

Filling my heart with rapture

With its vast purple hues

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The Moors 2

 

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Sunrise Scarborough

Padre

OFMARIAANTONIA #2019picoftheweek: Natural Beauty

 

Suffolk Sushi Search

When I was stationed in Japan in the early ’80s one of the first “cultural experiences” I had was to try sushi.  While this may sound mundane today, “back in the day” it was something many Europeans and Americans had never done.  Tekka Maki (tuna maki roll) is a rather “safe” first introduction to the vinegared rice family of dishes.  Sushi is the rice by the way not the fish.

I became a sushi fan.  I have my favourites (tekka maki remains one of them), and I am ever keen to experience new combinations.  Leaving Japan, however, made finding these culinary treats more difficult (at least in the ’80s and ’90s).

Then came the sushi revolution, when even supermarkets began to produce own brand “sushi” or at least pseudo-sushi.  But where to find “the real thing?”

In rural Suffolk there is the interesting existence three American military bases in a relatively tight geographic cluster.  This has brought about the stationing of large numbers of well travelled restaurant goers from among their ranks.  Many of these (like me) having been formerly stationed in Japan.  This fact has not been lost on enterprising restaurateurs, and they have obligingly opened sushi houses.

Sumo Sushi in Mildenhall is one of my favourites of these.  Over the years, I have always found the quality of the fish, and the preparation of the sushi very good.  Recent visits were no exception.  The California Roll was nicely made and had a clean fresh taste. The tuna maki had good firm red fleshed tuna, and the rice a nice texture. The service is always very attentive and the dining area comfortable but a little lacking in “wow” factor. The Sumo does have a loyalty purchase scheme and does take away as well.

Sumo Sushi

 

Nearby, and more convenient to RAF Mildenhall is Tokyo Oysy.  The service was fast, and the sushi was well prepared and presented.  Their salmon is especially tasty and my  experiences here have always been good.  The interior is still basic, though it has a quirky “feature wall” in which hand drawn animes decorate the dining area.  The Tokyo Oysy also serves Chinese takeaway, but this does not mean that take away (pun intended) from the good sushi they make.

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Sakura

Sakura in Lakenheath is a clean, well laid out restaurant.  It too serves both Japanese and Chinese dishes, and provides a takeaway menu.  The sushi is fresh and clean tasting, and the presentation (even with the takeaway) is good.  The quality of the soya sauce is good, with a sharp Japanese flavour.  The portion sizes are good, and while a bit expensive, the balance of quantity, quality, and price make for good value for money.  My only real complaint about the Sakura is they are slow.  This too, I guess, is a trade off:  quality preparation and presentation versus time.  I leave that call up to you.

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Sakura takeaway

Lakenheath also has Green Box Sushi, this is more a takeaway, but it has quality food, and very reasonable prices.

All in all, rural Suffolk has a lot to offer the sushi lover.  It is amazing what treasures can be found in unexpected places.

Padre

 

Sumo Sushi Menu

Tokyo Oysy Menu

Sakura Menu

Green Box Menu