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On the River Welland in Lincolnshire

Greetings! Our next adventure took us on a walking tour of Stamford. Stamford is about 90 miles north of London, next to the A1. Stamford is probably most famous for Burghley House, home of William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I. It is a cute little town with gorgeous Georgian architecture. Stamford even had its own castle, built by the Normans around 1075 and unfortunately demolished in 1484. A small bit of ruins remains today.

Stamford has been hosting an annual fair, mid-Lent, since the Middle Ages and it is even mentioned in Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 2 (Act 3, Scene 2). The fair is the largest street fair in Lincolnshire and among the largest in the country. For over 600 years, Stamford was the site of the Stamford Bull Run, a festival held annually on 13 November, St Brice's day, until 1839. Not quite Pamplona, but I'm sure just as entertaining. Stamford is a the perfect place for filming and was the site of Meryton in Pride & Prejudice and was also a filming location for The Da Vinci Code and a few other notable movies and TV shows.

Our tour guide Ruth was fantastic. She had a great sense of humor, was very knowledgeable, and had wonderful recommendations.

Stamford Sights & Secrets Tour: https://www.stamfordsightsandsecretstours.com

We started our tour in St. George's Square.

Of course, St. George's Church

Some of the very small roads and wonderful architecture around Stamford.

Yes, this is exactly what you think it is; it was a place where one could pay to take a bath...but now it's a house!

One of the famous hotels, Crown Hotel, and a Bentley parked out front with a parking ticket...I couldn't resist taking a picture!

The cute little shop next door to the hotel.

One of the oldest tea rooms in the town.

We loved Stamford. It is a cute and charming English town. It has very narrow streets and can be very interesting to maneuver around in. Stamford was a bit crowded the day we visited, but that certainly wouldn't deter me from returning to the town. I bet the town is gorgeous at Christmastime!

On to the next adventure!

Posted by LCP 00:27 Archived in England Tagged and tour sights secrets stamford burghley Comments (1)

Handmade Polish Pottery

Manufaktura Pottery Tour - Bolesławiec

I must admit, like I mentioned in my previous post, I did not know about Polish pottery. I was lucky enough to have a friend introduce me to it and now I am hooked! There are five quality levels for handmade Polish pottery, 1-5. The best being "Quality 1" is exported to the US and other countries while "Quality 2-5" are sold in the local factory outlets and also any leftover pottery from export is also sold in the factory outlets. The pottery sold in the States costs at least two times as much as it is in Poland and a lot of the time, more than that. The pottery is handmade in factories and my friend was able to get us into a tour of one of the factories.

Factory outlets:

I found the tour very interesting and it helped that it was in English. We went to "Manufaktura" for our tour, which was located in Bolesławiec, Poland. I believe the guide said there are three factories in the Bolesławiec-area that are associated with Manufaktura. I included a link to company down below, if you care to read more. The tour was about an hour long. I learned that there are basically four steps to the handmade pottery process: shaping/molding the clay, firing, painting and glazing, and then the final firing. The first stop on the tour was the shaping area. We watched a worker shaping the clay into the various shapes of plates, mugs, dishes, figurines, etc. A pink line is painted/put onto each piece (this will disappear later in the process, as I recall) signaling a piece can move on in the process. If the shape is not right, the clay can be reused and remolded. Next, the pottery is ready to be baked/fired in the oven at 900 degrees Celsius for 8 hours. During this baking, the pottery pieces are stacked on one another. After the baking, the pottery is put into a water bath to find any cracks that may have appeared. If there are cracks, the pottery does not move onto the next point, which is painting the pattern. The paint is mineral based and therefore can rub off on your fingers. So, the painters are only allowed to touch the rim and the bottom of the pottery. The painters are given a pattern/design to follow and sometimes these are seasonal other times it is the traditional blue and white pattern which most people are familiar with. Patterns/designs are specific to a certain factory; each factory has their own designs and shapes for their specific handmade pottery and in some instances, these can be rare. For this particular factory, the key was a blue rim around the top of the piece of pottery. I was amazed at the intricacy of the designs on the pottery. After painting, the pieces are glazed and then baked again. The baking this time occurs at 1250 degrees Celsius for 13 hours. During this baking, the pottery cannot touch because the glaze will cause the pieces to stick together, so each piece is carefully arranged on the cart. Once the pieces are done, they are reviewed for any flaws, which could be an extra polka dot or flower, etc. Each piece is given one of the quality ratings above during this review. To my untrained eye, I could not tell the difference between and Quality 1 and 3, but there is a price difference. On some pieces, if you look at the bottom, the painter will have signed the piece. After we finished the tour, we did a little more pottery shopping and then departed for yet another acclaimed pottery shop, Andy Pottery. I also included a link to Andy Pottery below, too.

Shop inside Manufaktura:

Factory Tour:

Manufaktura: http://polish-pottery.com.pl/en/manufactory/
Andy: http://www.andypolishpottery.com

I was able to purchase some pottery at the factory outlets, some at Manufaktura and at Andy Pottery. There were so many options in shape, size, and pattern to choose from, it is definitely overwhelming. The pottery is dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe, but I think it is just too pretty to eat off of, ha! I really enjoyed the tour and learned quite a bit.

On to Slovakia...

Posted by LCP 01:46 Archived in Poland Tagged poland tour polish pottery handmade andy manufaktura bolesławiec Comments (1)

Castles, Castles, Castles

Finally got the blog up and running!!!

I thought this might be the appropriate inaugural post for England...castles, castles, castles. We have been fortunate to be able to visit a few of the many castles here. So far, we have visited three castles and a "house" since we arrived: Knebworth House, Windsor Castle, Kimbolton Castle, and Rockingham Castle. Each castle has been unique in its own right and the history that is associated with each location is fascinating.

First up, Knebworth House. It's located right off of the A1 in Stevenage. Knebworth is considered an English country house located in, of all places, Knebworth in Hertfordshire. The house has been in the same family since 1490...yes, 1490. Knebworth is probably best known as being Britain's largest music venue. Fun fact, Queen played their last concert here with Freddie Mercury in 1986. Another fun fact...Led Zeppelin played the last of their British concerts on the property in 1979. Many famous people have stayed the night in the house, as I recall from the tour guide, reportedly Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1571 and Mick Jagger, just to name a few. Hosting a Queen was quite expensive and was known to have bankrupt estates. As one might imagine, the grounds around the house are beautiful and the architecture is Tudor Gothic. The house is cozy despite its large size and the gardens are perfectly manicured. The house is also famous because parts of several films have been filmed in or at the house. The Lytton family still lives in the house to this day.

Next, was Windsor Castle. We were so lucky to have won tickets via a lottery for this visit!!! We visited Windsor Castle right before Princess Eugenie's wedding in October. Before we began our tour, we had a light dinner at the Prince Harry pub about a block away from the castle. Windsor is a quaint little town, with so much to do and see. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and was originally built by William the Conquerer in the 11th century. To beigin our private tour, we walked into the Grand Staircase and the Grand Vestibule. The Grand Vestibule is amazing with the different swords and historical artifacts, such as the musket ball that killed Lord Nelson. We then went into the Waterloo Chamber. The room was quite impressive and was painted to showcase the success of the forces of Great Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815 when Napoleon was finally defeated. Next, we were led into the King's Drawing Room, the King's Bedchamber (such interesting decor), The Queen's Drawing Room and then the King's Dining Room. Apparently, the King's Dining Room was open to the sky until the 1820s and one could come and watch the King and Queen eat dinner, if that's what one wanted to do (not awkward at all). We also saw the Queen's Ballroom (lots of dance parties here we were told), the Queen's Audience Chamber, and the Queen's Guard Chamber. One of the most interesting rooms was St. George's Hall. Palace staff were setting up for the wedding so tables were placed all over the room (pretty interesting to see wedding photos from the room after having just been there!). The names of all Knights past and present are inscribed on the panels that cover the walls and ceiling of the Hall. We also walked into the Lantern Lobby which was built after the 1992 fire. It does feel a bit more modern in this part of the castle, but that does not take away, in my opinion, from the impressive nature of the castle. We also were treated to the Grand Reception Room and the Garter Throne Room. The Grand Reception Room houses the massive Malachite Urn, which was gifted to Queen Victoria by Tsar Nicholas I in 1839. During the 1992 fire, the urn was filled with hose water to preserve it, since the urn was too heavy to remove from the room. It did require restoration, but I didn't notice any difference or damage (not that my layman's eye could).

We visited Kimbolton Castle next on our own. We are kind of spoiled because this castle is so close. The castle was converted to a school in the 1950s. The village of Kimbolton is also adorable and is literally right across the street. Henry VIII banished his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, here when she produced a female heir, who would later become the Queen of England, Queen Mary. The room where Catherine died is now the headmaster's office..not creepy at all. Catherine was buried up in Peterborough at Peterborough Cathedral. One of the docents also mentioned the castle has a reputation for being haunted, not only by Catherine, but also by a baby. Apparently at one point in the castle's history, one of the judges - involved in the Guy Fawkes trials - lived in the castle or rented it. He apparently came home inebriated one evening, saw that his wife had delivered a baby girl, and took the child and threw it out a second story window into the courtyard. Supposedly, every year the ground where the baby was thrown turns a red hue on the anniversary of the baby's death. On a brighter note, the gardens are rather unique and were the result of "Capability" Brown, who was famous for telling clients that their property had capability for improvement. His designs were markedly different than the original gardens and not necessarily for the better, in my opinion, especially at Kimbolton. We went to the little Christmas market held at Kimbolton around the holidays and had a great time tasting, and picking up a few things.

The last castle we visited was Rockingham Castle. Rockingham Castle is located in Leicestershire. Rockingham has been in the Saunders Watson family for 450 years. Again, this castle was built by William the Conquerer. The last King to use the castle as a royal residence was Henry V in 1422. Henry VIII sold the castle because he didn't care for it and preferred the money. The tour was really unique in that our guide was a "butler" and led us on a "Victorian" Christmas tour. We started in the servants quarters and then were led into The Kitchen. It was VERY interesting to see how cooking occurred way back in the day. We saw The Great Hall which was very cozy and masculine and had fantastic Christmas decor. We toured a few more rooms in the house. It was staged for a Christmas event in the 1800s, so that was pretty interesting. Unfortunately, it was evening when we toured so we didn't see the gardens, but we did have "Christmas Dinner" at the castle which reminded me of Thanksgiving dinner in a way. Christmas is HUGE here...

Well, I suppose that is all for now. These posts will get better as I find a rhythm and get more comfortable....And no one judge me please, English was not my major and I am not a writer :) We'll also work on uploading pictures, again neither one of us is a photographer. Photography is also not approved most of the time in the castles.

Up next, the recap of our trip to London in November...possible royal sighting included!!!

Posted by LCP 08:24 Tagged castles architecture england history tour Comments (4)

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