DAY 4:  Coventry to York

We were able to sleep in later today.  What a relief.  We had a full English breakfast in a private dining room in the hotel.  They serve much the same as we would, but add much more fruit, and things like tomatoes and cereals we don't often see for breakfast.  We headed out shortly after 8:00 a.m.  Our tour director was furious with this hotel.  Some of us had problems with service and rooms.  Don't get me wrong, it was nothing to "ruin the trip", but it wasn't in the words of the tour director "as good as it should have been".

Our drive took us into the central part of Coventry.  We saw the memorial to Lady Godiva, and continued through the town, hearing about the extensive bombing and destruction caused by the Luftwaffe in World War II.  The impact becomes clear as you see so little of "the old" as is so common elsewhere.  The physical city is essentially a creation of the late 40's and 50's.  There is a telling monument to this destruction and the people of Coventry in the form of the main Cathedral.  The destroyed shell of the Cathedral stands today as a part of the new Cathedral.  We even met and talked with people who stood on the steps of the Cathedral the day after it was destroyed.   Since the early 90's, a major theme of the Cathedral has been reconciliation.  As you walk through the ruins, you discover plaques and statues dedicated to reconciliation along side those of remembrance.  Meeting those people who lived through it all made a significant impact.

We left Coventry and headed north to Stoke-on-Trent and the Wedgwood Pottery Center.  This was a fairly long drive (a good thing).   Despite the later start time this morning, Douglas and I stayed up late again, talking, telling jokes and generally having fits of uncontrollable laughter!  We were both able to take a nap as we headed to Wedgwood.  At first, I think we both thought this was going to some utterly boring shopping stop for all the old ladies.  Instead, it turned out to be a very interesting experience.  The museum and shops were very well done.  The great thing is that Wedgwood has also constructed a miniature factory outside the museum.  The artisans are incredible.

One of the many craftspersons at Wedgwood Pottery.

We video taped several of the stops.  You can see everything from "throwing" the clay and formation on a wheel, to painting, handmade details for pieces, metal work, and more.  The best part is that the craftspeople stop and talk to you as they work.  Seeing what and how they produce, it becomes clear why Wedgwood is spoken of as one of the finest pottery makers in the world.  Not a bad stop on the tour after all!

We headed off again for another long ride (and quick nap).  We arrived in York in the early afternoon.  We took off into the old walled portion of the city.  We saw large sections of the old wall, the main entrance, and of course, York Minster -- a gigantic cathedral.  Pictures of cathedrals never impressed me much.  Standing beside some these is breathtaking.  Of course, Douglas and I didn't spend a lot of time poking around old churches.  We took off down through "The Shambles".  The Shambles is a row of shops and stores in very old houses along a narrow cobbled  street in York.

I think the shambles part comes from the "leaning" of these houses.  Some of these houses literally lean so far in that you can reach out and touch a building from the other side of the street (from the top windows).  It's quite a sight, and I think some of our pictures and video will come out very nicely.  The real meaning of shambles is from a term for shop shelves that butchers sold their meat from.

York Minster

The city of York.  York Minster in the background and part of the city wall in the foreground.

Along the way, I finally had to stop and buy some canvas shoes.  My feet have never hurt so much.  We grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then we headed down to the Castle area and then up the Castle Keep.  It was a significant climb, but the view at the top was well worth it.  We got a great view of almost every part of the city.  The afternoon was nearly over, and the shops and museums began to close around 5 p.m.  My only disappointment is that we don't have another day in York.  I'd really like to spend another day here to walk around the city and see more of the major museums and sites.

Most of our tour group has headed off for an optional "group" dinner.  Douglas and I ate a late lunch, so we 're opting out of that.  Instead, Douglas is off to town for a "Ghost Walk" tour, and I'm headed to the spa and steam room.  I'm just going to lay around this evening, order a good old pizza, fill out some postcards, and watch some T.V!  Our hotel here is great -- even better than expected.  As the old saying goes, we're "livin' large!"

Despite having to leave York, tomorrow is looking great.  We head up into Scotland for two days in Edinburgh.  As we did with our unofficial trip to Paris, Douglas and I are making plans for another significant "unofficial" excursion.  I'll let you know how it turns out. 

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