I have arrived!
Finally, after months of planning, arranging, re-arranging and confusion, I have arrived at the first stop on my strange little journey – the UK!
I was picked up at Gatwick by extended family (a third or fourth cousin so many times removed called Dennis, and his wonderful wife Jean). What a relief it is after an 8 hour flight, and the joys of customs, to be greeted by smiling faces!
They took me to their home outside of Portsmouth, by way of many lovely little country roads, the castle where the Duke of Norfolk lives (he is the guy who throws all the big parties for the Queen) and a lovely little tea shop in Petworth, a quaint little British village. Who knew Dennis would like to amble his way around as much as I do – a kindred spirit! Instead of an hour and a half it took us almost 3 hours to get back to their home, which was delightful. The tiny little lanes with old brick houses , fields and farms and quaint little villages, I felt a bit like I was in a Jane Austen novel…and then I remembered I was in a car.
Today on the way to drop me off at the coach bound for London, we did some more car-ambling and ended up at an ancient Roman Castle. We roamed around outside and inside, we went for tea in the little church, and looked at some of the falling down old markers in the graveyard. Dennis pointed at one and said “1920’s, now that’s not very old is it?” and I had a moment of arriving again; one of those great moments where you realize you are not in Canada anymore, where something built in the 1920’s is considered recent! That was almost 100 years ago! But 100 years is really nothing in UK or European time, and that’s something I am so excited about. I love walking through the past, I love how immediate the past is here, all the old mixed in with new. It is one of the things I have been looking forward to, exploring the past, the history of each of the countries I travel to, in whatever way I end up exploring it. Castles, churches, old buildings, museums. I could have spent hours in that old castle, wandering around, imaging what life would have been like back in the Roman days. Portsmouth is a naval port now, and has been historically, defending against French invasion, so I imagine it would have been similar in Roman times.
I wonder what it would have been like way back when, living in the castle, in England as a Roman…