For my 30th birthday, my amazing husband gave me a trip to visit friends in Brighton, England. These were some of the best 5 days of my life!
Ian and Chris Jones, old neighbors from Florida, picked me up from the airport and swept me off to two pubs in short order for a pot of tea and a half pint. The pubs are ancient and charming.
Chris and Ian cheer over a cuppa. It's a big year for all of us--my 30th, Ian's 50th, Chris's 60th!
Not used to the food choices here. Hmm...
Cerys and Chris took me to see the Fishes comedy club Ian coaches. They perform improv at the top of a bar in Brighton and were brilliant.
After the show--Cerys, me, Ian, Chris.
Ian is a very interesting character--clever mind, once a guard for the queen in Buckingham Palace and at Balmoral, a life coach, and current coordinator of the Brighton Book Festival to begin in June 2011. I've always loved a good conversation with Ian, and we picked right back up on this trip. Here, Ian is coaching me in the plotting of a book. This was a real breakthrough on this trip--it focused my creativity and gave me great clarity.
Ian's apartment in Brighton overlooks the English Channel.
A morning in hippy Brighton.
The Brighton Pier.
The Royal Pavilion.
The cafe over the bookshop where we enjoyed tea.
Ian and Chris took me on a ride through Sussex's beautiful downs (hills) and into Ashdown Forest of the Hundred Acre Woods. We stopped inside Pooh Corner.
On day two, we ventured into London.
The London Eye.
I've always regretted not doing the Eye on my last trip, so this time Chris and I braved it (despite the raised terrorist alerts--security was tight!)
St. Paul's Church. I love this place and always imagine the little bird woman from Mary Poppins to the tune of "Feed the birds, tuppence a bag..."
At the top.
On either side of the Prime Meridian.
London's O2 arena. Mark bought us tickets to see Joel and Victoria Osteen's Night of Hope. Ian, not being one for religion, swore he'd be struck down by lightning. Bringing Ian here brought me and Chris distinct pleasure as we watched his tortured face. Surprisingly, he actually enjoyed Joel Osteen, and went on a passionate spree to convert others to Christianity over the following days. (I don't think anyone bought it.)
I thought the Night of Hope was incredible and so uplifting!
Joel and Victoria Osteen greet the crowd.
Cerys took me next day on a trip to Oxford. On our way, we stopped by Platform 9 3/4, King's Cross. We were, after all, on our way to Hogwarts! I hit a little bump on the way.
They finally put up a sign for the mysterious platform.
At Oxford Castle, where visitors were encouraged to create a family crest in chalk.
In tribute to my family, who I was missing much!
In the streets of Oxford.
Inside Christ College, Oxford, where Cerys's friend, a classics major named Jake, gave us a lovely tour.
To the right, you can see the Great Hall of Hogwarts, where the movie was filmed. Jake eats there everyday, surrounded by portraits of famous alumni. Incredible!
Recognize these stairs from the first movie, where Neville loses his toad, Trevor?
The Great Hall, Hogwarts.
I had to snag a photo with Jake. He aspires to being Prime Minister. Somehow, I believe him.
Inside Jake's dormitory, paneled in gorgeous dark wood.
He let me try on his Christ College robe, which students wear at formal dinners.
Jake's window overlooks the library, a favorite haunt of author C. S. Lewis.
Cerys, Jake, and his roommate showed me to this pub, Chequers, for lunch. The pub was old and charming, but I had waited too long to eat and, combined with jet lag, felt a bit like passing out. A full belly and the crisp air did me well.
But my favorite day of all was 10.10.10, which was no less than pure enchantment. We took a drive through the downs past charming villages and towns like Lewes (bonfire night fame), Ditchling, and my favorite of all, quaint and unspoiled Amberley.
Sheep and shire horses on the downs.
A red telephone booth, for luddites like me.
Just arrived in Amberley.
As we pulled in, an old lady was sweeping the church gate, residents were tending their front gardens, and several dogs were enjoying their evening stroll.
The Norman church.
Nearly every rooftop was thatched.
This place hasn't changed in centuries.
The back of Amberley Castle, where you can rent out rooms. It overlooks the church.
Though pictures could never capture its charm, I think words utterly fail this enchanting place, perhaps the most beautiful village I've seen in all my travels.
My fifth visit to England was the best yet! Gorgeous places and dear friends left me feeling, somehow, more alive. And though I couldn't wait to see my family, I felt like I left a part of myself behind here. Certain places have a way of becoming a part of you. Until we meet again, cheers!