Monday, August 2, 2010

Bad Bean Takes Corolla ... and England

Derek made me do it.
So, you haven't heard from me for a while. My apologies. I even started drafting an "I'm about to go on vacation" blog post, but in true procrastinator style, I never finished it. So, here I sit at 9:00 a.m. on a Monday morning, feeling like it's 3:00 in the afternoon, and eking out bits of my travels for you.

In my original plans for this summer, I was to spend two weeks in England followed by a week in Italy at the Montefiascone Conservation Project, taking a class on medieval pigments. The first week in England was to have been in Cambridge, taking a hands-on Islamic binding workshop with John Mumford, since the one in Montefiascone was full. The second week was to have been spent visiting friends in Oxford and London before flying to Italy. We all know what happens to plans, however. When the Islamic binding workshop in Cambridge was suddenly canceled, I delayed my British Airways flight (ka-ching!) and spent four days on this side of the pond in a blissful road trip to Corolla with my husband, Derek.

We stopped in Assateague to see the wild horses, in Kill Devil Hills to see the Wright Brothers' Memorial, and in Corolla itself to climb the Currituck Light. In between, we swam and bodysurfed and lounged on the beach, sampled the local brews, and slept more than I would have believed possible. Jersey shore, eat your heart out. The Outer Banks are where it's at. The sand is fine and white, the water is bathtub warm, and the people are few and far between. By the time we got home, I had two new stamps in my National Parks passport, the beginnings of what passes for a tan on someone as white and pasty as myself, and t-shirts from Bad Bean Taqueria and Dogfish Head Brewing. Woo-hoo!

After our road trip home, Derek and I repacked for a shared week-long trip to London. Highlights included dinner in St. James's Park, a beer-appreciation class at Meantime Brewing's Old Brewery, the hours-long beer tasting with Carrie and friends that followed, a whirl in the London Eye, a river trip along the Thames, and A Comedy of Errors at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Picking our way up Brick Lane on a Sunday evening was also an adventure, with frenzied runners from all the Indian restaurants trying to seduce us with promises of free drinks and the best curry in town.

Derek and I in the London Eye. I cut off the top of Big Ben, but those are the Houses of Parliament in the background.

We also took a bus ride to Oxford for a short stay with friends in Beckley. Cathy and Pierre were kind enough to drive us into the Cotswalds for a tour of the Hook Norton Brewery and a visit to the Rollright Stones, a Neolithic stone circle. With Lyn, they also treated us to an Indian feast of epic proportions. We were all shockingly full after the appetizer, but the food just kept coming. Delicious and amazing. The next day we helped in the garden and made fresh black currant jam. For a city girl, the delights of a country garden are spectacular: fresh potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, carrots, asparagus, broad and runner beans, and zucchini, although of course the Brits call it courgette.

After Derek returned to the States, I enjoyed more country rambles, a thorough soaking in an English thunderstorm, and a walk through the New College gardens at Oxford. I also visited the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, complete with an outdoor "ghost forest" exhibition of tree trunks from African rain forests, and the Pitt-Rivers Museum, England's equivalent of the jam-packed and eccentric Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA. Unfortunately, conflicting schedules made a tour of the Bodleian Library conservation labs--something I've lusted after for years--impossible. Alas. At least it gives me a reason to return!

In my next installment: Italy! Caffe latte! Medieval manuscripts!

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