Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dream Vacation - Day 26

We were up early and on the road, Markus was taking me to Malvern Hills, The Malvern Hills are a range of hills in the English counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and a small area of northern Gloucestershire, dominating the surrounding countryside and the towns and villages of the district of Malvern. The highest summit of the hills affords a panorama of the Severn valley with the hills of Herefordshire and the Welsh mountains, parts of thirteen counties, the Bristol Channel, and the cathedrals of Worcester, Gloucester and Hereford. It's also said and more importantly the reason Markus wanted to take me there, that this mountain range was the inspiration for The White Mountains of Gondor from Lord of the Rings.

It's quite a trek driving up some of these very tiny (one car only) roads. There were more then a few times when I just closed my eyes and squeezed between 2 parked cars and hoped that I wouldn't nick them with my side mirrors. But we made it there safely and started to make the climb to one of the highest peaks. It was beautiful and well worth the hike. The weather wasn't that bad, there was a haze but the sun was out.

We then headed north east to Warwick Castle, Warwick Castle is a medieval castle developed from an original built by William the Conqueror in 1068. Warwick is the county town of Warwickshire, England, situated on a bend of the River Avon. The original wooden motte-and-bailey castle was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century. During the Hundred Years War, the facade opposite the town was refortified, resulting in one of the most recognizable examples of 14th century military architecture. It was used as a stronghold until the early 17th century.

I figured it was an old castle but when we got there it turns out that it's more like an medieval amusement park. You can check out their website HERE. We had planned to just stop by and check it out for an hour because we had a lot that we wanted to see today, but when we got there and saw the price to get in I decided that there was no way I was going to pay that much for an hour visit (It was close to $40 US dollars). But we talked it over and moved some things around (mainly Stonehenge). We would spend more time hear to make it worth the cost.

There is a ton to do here, besides the beautiful castle that you can walk around in and see "staged" scenes of what life would have been like back then. They had jousting tournaments and bird shows happening in the middle of the courtyard. There were other activities that you could pay extra to do and if we had planned to stay all day I might have done them but we passed on most of them. But we did partake in one of those activities.. bow and arrows. Both Markus and I tried our hand at it and it's alot harder then it looks as well as leave a nice burn mark on your forearm from the bow hitting it. We spent about 3 hours there and had a blast.

After Warwick Castle we headed south to Oxford. If you know me you know I'm a HUGE J.R.R Tolkien fan and I wanted to visit his grave site which is located in Oxford. We found the cemetery and there were stone markers directing you to his grave site. Once there I paid my respects and thanked him for his amazing stories that have brought so much joy to my life. It was a nice moment.

J.R.R Tolkien was a professor at Oxford Collage, so we headed out to find the house he lived in while being a professor. It took some doing but we found the house. It's just in the middle of a regular looking neighborhood owned by private owner. There is a blue plaque at the top of the house letting you know that this was Tolkien's house but you kind of feel weird taking pictures of someones private home.. but none the less I did.

We then headed over to a pub called Eagle and the Child, The Eagle and Child is a pub on St Giles' Street, Oxford, England which is owned by St. John's College, Oxford. The pub had been part of an endowment belonging to University College since the 17th century. It has associations with the Inklings writers' group which included J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. They would meet in a private lounge at the back of the pub known as the 'Rabbit Room'.

Markus and I went into the pub and grabbed a drink. Lots of Tolkien and Lewis history all over the place. We meet a cute couple who had met online and were vacationing together and were visiting the pub for the same reason as we were. We spent a good hour just enjoying the environment.

It was getting late and we had planned to hit up Stonehenge but since we took longer at Warwick Castle we decided to postpone Stonehenge until tomorrow. So we spent a half hour or so driving around the crazy streets of Oxford looking for Oxford Collage and I think I saw parts of it but we were to tired to continue so we made the 2 and a half hour trek back to Markus' place.

When we got back we walked into town to grab come yummy Chinese food before calling it an night.

We did lots of things today.. all of them were fun but my favorite was visiting and paying respect to one of my all time favorite authors. Thanks Markus for sharing such an amazing experience with me, couldn't ask for a better friend to do it with.

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