Saturday, March 27, 2010

Caleb and Kelly's East Anglian Adventures

It's hard to believe my brother and his family just left England on Tuesday morning. It feels like ages ago. I realize I still need to throw up a few blogs about our adventures with them, but today is going to be about a different adventure.

Tommy had school work to sort out today, but I was pretty eager to get out of the house. The day started off sunny, which of course meant it turned to crap as soon as we were ready to leave. But if there's one thing you learn in England is that you can't let rain dictate your day. Pack a brolly, wear a hooded jacket, and get on with it!

So that's what we did. We packed a lunch and left the house at about 11 and headed for Framlingham Castle. I'd been wanting to visit Framlingham since reading about Mary Tudor's accession to the throne. Her younger brother, Edward VI, violated his father (Henry VIII's)succession act by naming his cousin, Lady Jane Grey, as queen on his death bed. Mary rallied support at Framlingham and was able to take the crown without much of a fight.

The castle had a decent audio tour available for free. You never know what you're going to get with audio tours. Some of them have way too much detail and move too slowly. And some of them have seriously corny actors pretending to be prior residents of the castle. This audio tour did have a bit of cheesy acting that was easy enough to skip past, but the historical parts moved swiftly enough to get the gist of a room without having to linger too long. Although, with an active toddler, it's pretty much impossible to really stop and enjoy the tour for more than about 2.5 seconds at a time.

The curtain wall of the castle was largely still in tact, but the building inside it were mostly gone. Framlingham didn't have a traditional castle keep (large, central tower inside the curtain wall), like many of the more famous and larger castle. Instead, there were a series of buildings inside the castle for different purposes. The only remaining building served as a poor house after it was sold from the Howard family to a local politician, Sir Robert Hitcham.
Another cool thing about Framlingham is that the original owners and builders, the Bigod family, also founded the Thetford Priory! I love it when a bunch of random peices of the stuff I've experienced begins to tie together.
After we finished exploring Framlingham, Caleb and I headed for the coast. Aldeburgh was a short drive away, so we crossed our fingers for a bit of sunshine as we ventured to the beach. We weren't terribly lucky in the weather department. As we got there, half the sky was somewhat sunny and the other half was dark and ominous.

Aldeburgh is a rock-covered beach, which reminded me of our own gravel-filled backyard. Fortunately, there was less dog poop at the beach! Caleb and I plopped down and enjoyed our packed lunch for about 20 minutes before the clouds moved over us and began to rain.

I suppose we could have kept moving down beach to stay ahead of the clouds, but we decided to cut our losses and head home. It was a short trip to the beach, but we had fun anyway!

We left Aldeburgh with every intention of heading home. I was armed with Google maps with directions home from there. But as we began to head home, I saw signs for Orford. Orford Castle was on my short list of local castles to visit. As it was only about 2:30, I made a quick decision that we might as well head over to see it while we were in the area.

Where as Framlingham is primarily a curtain wall, all that remains of Orford is the keep. And it's a pretty impressive keep! Orford was built by Henry II to help manage the Suffolk area and to kind of serve as a reminder to the Bigods (who built Framilingham) that he (Henry) was king and had the power in the country. It was kind of cool to hear how the two castles histories were intertwined.

Caleb was excited to explore another castle! You can't see them here, but he had two puppets on the end of (unsharpened) pencils that we had purchased at Framlingham. One was a knight and the other was a princess. He spent most of his time at Orford making them talk to each other. He's still pretty young, though, so most of the conversations involved both characters asking the other, "What doing?" over and over again.

I'll go ahead and apologize now for the next two pictures. I have a bad habit of taking pictures of the garderobes (toilets) at castles. I just find historical personal hygiene to be interesting! Gross, but interesting.

This, however, seriously cracked me up. In all the castles we've seen over here, I've never seen this before. And the audio tour indicated that it's pretty rare. It's a urinal. A small, triangular cut out in the wall allowing for easy relief for the resident of that room (presumable the castle's constable.) The pee goes straight outside down the wall of the castle. Hilarious! Pardon the poor picture. I actually took it about six times, and this was the best I could get in that small hallway.

After we finished touring Orford Castle, we were ready to go home. But I got a bit turned around in town and ended up at Orford Quay (the town wharf.)

Since the sun was out again, we parked the car and wandered around for a bit.

Caleb loved looking at all the boats!

We wandered out onto a peir. I dunno. Would you call this a pier? Or a dock? Or a jetty? Or a berth? I really don't know. The town of Orford called this one a pontoon on the sign. But I'm used to thinking of swamp boats as pontoons. So I'll say it's a pier.

Caleb really loved looking at the boats and the buoys. And let me tell you, there's not much cuter than a two year old pronouncing the word "buoy."

The end of day sun made for some great pictures, but it was definitely getting cold and time to head home.

The ride home was a bit of an adventure, as well. Since our newly ordered GPS isn't in yet, I was utilizing some printed directions and a map of Southern England my brother gave me as a Christmas gift the year before we moved here. But every time I thought I had found my bearings, I would end up in a town I was not prepared to see. So I'd consult my maps, readjust my route, and press forward...just to find a sign indicating I was not heading the right way. So I'd recalculate and readjust and press forward.

For about a half hour I kept finding myself in strange towns. I'd review my route and have no idea how I ended up there. I'm telling you, man, English roads and English maps do NOT correlate. The first few times, I didn't mind too much. I had no deadline to get home, and it was kind of a challenge for my map skills. But after about the eight reevaluation of the map, I was going NUTS! When I finally saw a sign that indicated that I was actually on the road I meant to be on and heading in the direction I wanted to be going, I was literally proclaiming my own awesomeness as loudly as possible.

Just goes to show you, sometimes the adventures you set out to have may not be the most adventurous part of your day! In spite of our overly scenic route home, we had a great time. Glad to be checking a few more castles off of our list!

1 comment:

  1. Loved this...what a great day for Mom and Son. And, your driving adventures sound a bit like mine, only mine are with a GPS and I still get all messy and confused.