DAYS ONE AND TWO
This week I am off to Suffolk in Anglia, north of London and about three hours from my home base to attend the Suffolk Shakedown put on by Backwater Tours. As many of you know, I have planned numerous turn-by-turn tours for the Jag and Healey clubs, including multi-week tours in Scotland and New Zealand, and eleven Surf and Turf day tours. Each of these required detailed driving directions in a format I largely developed myself. This would be a chance to see how a real professional tour company puts on a similar program.
Our tour includes four nights at Hintlesham Hall, another English manor house converted into a hotel (photo above) and three “tulip runs” (more on this later). It seems that very few of the old grand houses remain in private ownership, with the more significant ones given to the National Trust (akin to our National Park system, but much broader in scope) to be used is tourist sites, while the bulk of the others have been converted into hotels. I plan to write another blog at some point about the enormous cost involved in maintaining these great old estates, which largely explains why so many are no longer private.
Hintlesham is on a lovely piece of property in rural Ipswich, Suffolkshire. The large port of Felixstowe is not far away. The countryside is larger rural farming land with many tiny lanes and over 300 scattered villages.
Yesterday, on the drive in I diverted into Cambridge and spent an hour driving around the city and University. Like Oxford, Cambridge is really a collection of colleges spread out all over town….in fact, the town pretty much IS the University campus. Lot’s of tourists, even at this time of year, but it looks like a lovely place with some interesting museums, so I will try to get back.
TRINITY CATHEDRAL AT TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE
I also stopped at Bury St. Edmunds, a small town with a big past. Once the most important town in Anglia, it had an enormous cathedral and abbey, which Henry VIII largely had destroyed when he split with the Catholic Church. Even the ruins that remain are impressive.
RUINS OF THE OLD CATHEDRAL AT BURY ST. EDMUND’S, NOW RE-PURPOSED INTO HOMES
THE “NEW” CATHEDRAL AT BURY ST. EDMUND’S FROM THE 1700’S
THE GARDENS ON THE CATHEDRAL GROUNDS
Today we made our first run, about 70 miles, a good bit of it on one lane “single track roads”. The weather remains mostly dry, though it is threatening rain tonight. So far, I have not put up my hood (convertible top), though I am the only one. Our group is about 40, almost all XK150’s and E-Types. While XK120’s and XK140’s seem to be the preferred models in the US (and usually in convertible form), over here they seem to prefer the 150, and fixed head coupes are predominant (and of course make more sense in the rain). The Brits think I am a bit of a banzai, but so far nothing but light sprinkles have tempted me to put the top up.
Our tour today was conducted in the “tulip” format. I hope you can see the photo here of one page.. Apparently, this directional method was developed by the Dutch for traversing the flower roads and is now widely used for road rallies in the UK and all over Europe. As you can see it consists of distances, diagrams of turns, road sign info and general comments. Most of the navigators (wives) are very proficient at following routes in this format. I, of course, have no navigator, so the organizers were kind enough to program a Garmin with turn-by-turn directions for me. I have not mastered the software enough to do this, which would be of great value on our long Healey tours, and Paul Thrill, the tour company owner, has promised me a “training session” to improve my Garmin skills. Maybe on our next long Healey trip we will be led entirely by Garmin directions!
A PAGE FROM A TULIP RALLY BOOK
No blog would be complete without some food news. I am a sucker for the “Ploughman’s Lunch”, sort of a DIY plate of meat, cheese, greens, and crusty bread. You cut it, slice it, spread it and stack it the way you like it. Sometimes you get some choices as to type of meat or cheese you want, other times it is a set plate. Either way it is usually yummy with a pint of ale alongside and some Colman’s mustard.
TYPICAL PLOUGHMAN’S LUNCH
And a little pub news. The Nutshell, in Bury St. Edmund’s, is reputed to be the smallest pub in England. Seats about eight with standing room for another half dozen. The bartender looked like a leprechaun in his green vest! The bar is about two paces from the front door and about four feet long!
The internet connection at our hotel is very weak, which makes posting very slow, so maybe the next post will be when I return “home” on Friday.