Category Archives: England

The First Thanksgiving – What you May have Missed

pilgrims_color_631.jpg__800x600_q85_cropOur national holiday stems from the feast held almost 400 years ago by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest.  The Pilgrims came from religious congregations who originally fled the volatile political environment in England for the relative calm and tolerance of Holland in the Netherlands.  They were known as Brownists, named after Robert Browne an Anglican priest who preached against the doctrines of the Church of England.  The Brownists were advocates of a congregational form of organization for the Church of England starting in the time of Henry VIII.   Openly disagreeing with the monarchy however, was a rather hazardous affair.

Mary_I_by_Master_JohnMary I, Queen of England and Ireland from 1553 – 1558, was the only child of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon that survived to adulthood.  As the fourth crowned monarch of the Tudor dynasty, Mary is most remembered for her restoration of Roman Catholicism after the short reign of her younger Protestant half-brother.  Mary was fond of executing protestants by burning them at the stake and earned the nickname “Bloody Mary”.   After her death, Mary’s successor Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry  and Anne Boleyn re-established the Protestant Church of England – where the Monarch is the Supreme Governor, rather than that power residing with the Catholic Pope.  Regardless of who was in charge – it was a messy time to not agree with the only official religion in town, even though it could change depending on who was in charge.  Under the 1559 Act of Uniformity, it was illegal not to attend official Church of England services with a fine of one shilling for each missed Sunday and holy day.  The penalties for conducting unofficial services included large fines and imprisonment.  Your activities contrary to the Church could also be interpreted as Sedition, which generally resulted in execution.

So back to our intrepid Pilgrims.  They had a different set of ideas and it was a dangerous time for that sort of thing so they packed their bags and went to Holland.  Holland?  I thought they went to America?  Gouda Cheese is not a traditional Thanksgiving item!  Well they did not stay there – apparently Holland was a bit too tolerant as the Pilgrims were worried about losing their cultural identity so they hatched plans to establish a new colony in North America.

As the trip would be long and arduous, it was thought that the initial settlement should be undertaken primarily by the younger and stronger members.  The remainder agreed to follow if and when they could at a later date.  It was time to go, so a small ship was procured to set sail for North America – the 60 ton Speedwell.  Speedwell?  Wait a minute – that does not sound right.  My first grade project was to build the Mayflower with toilet paper tubes and tongue depressors.   Well all was not well with the Speedwell.  It was supposed to bring some passengers from the Netherlands to England and then set sail for North America, but…. it leaked.  A second larger ship, the Mayflower had already been leased for other transport and exploration services. Once the Speedwell was officially deemed not to be seaworthy, plans were changed and some crew and passengers were transferred to the Mayflower.

MayflowerAtSeaCroppedThe Mayflower was no cruise ship.  She was a merchant vessel and not built for passengers at all.  She was a typical English merchant ship of the time, square-rigged with high castle like structures fore and aft that served to protect the crew and main deck from the elements.  But having such structures made the ship extremely difficult to sail against the wind.  As a result the voyage to America took over 2 months.  There were roughly 102 passengers and 30 crew members aboard.  The Mayflower carried stores aboard to supply the Pilgrims with essentials needed for their journey and future lives.  Among them would have been tools, weapons, live animals including dogs, sheep, goats and poultry.

The crossing would be miserable,  with huge waves constantly crashing against the topside deck which eventually fractured key structural supports.  After long delays to even get the voyage started, the passengers put up with shortages of food and supplies, and also had to help repair the ship.  One passenger and one crew member died during the voyage and one child was born.  The Pilgrims lived ‘Tween decks with no privacy and only a chamber pot for a toilet.  They suffered injuries from being thrown against the walls of the wind tossed ship and when they weren’t seasick they were mostly bored.  The rare opportunities to go above deck and get fresh air occurred when it was time to empty chamber pots.

The Pilgrims eventually arrived in the New World, but it was winter – making it very difficult for them to find food and build shelters.  Already weakened by their 66 day voyage, most passengers failed to survive the first few months.  Fortunately, native Americans called the Wampanoag lived in the area and shared knowledge of local game and crops, helping the colonists survive. Waterfowl such as duck was plentiful and during the winter wild game such as rabbit, squirrel, deer and yes, turkey.  The first Thanksgiving feast was held in the autumn of 1621 to celebrate the first successful harvest.

So what does this have to do with travel? 

Well you can still make the voyage between England and America.  One great way to do this is aboard the Queen Mary 2 – recognized as Best Luxury Cruise Ship by readers of Travel Weekly.  It won’t take you 66 days, but only 7 or 8.  The Queen Mary 2 entered service in 2004.  Built in France and coming in at 148,528 tons – over 800 times the size of the Mayflower at 180 tons.  The Queen Mary 2 is 1132 ft long – 10 times longer than the Mayflower at 100 ft.  The Mayflower had 4 decks, the Queen Mary 2 has 14.RMS_Queen_Mary_2

Queen Mary 2 holds about 2600 passengers (Mayflower 102) and a crew size of 1253 (Mayflower 30).

OK – obviously there is really no comparison, and you certainly won’t have to live ‘tween deck and only get to go up top to empty your chamber pot!  Also you won’t be bored.  There is a long list of daily activities – Fitness class, card games, dance lessons, lectures, and watercolor instruction to name but a few.  The on board planetarium is a big draw with 3 shows a day produced by the NY American Museum of Natural History.  Computer, IPod and IPhone classes are offered as well as interactive fun gatherings in the Golden Lion Pub for trivia contests.

RMS-Queen-Mary-2-factsIn the evening, entertainment comes alive in the plush Royal Court Theatre.  The spectacular Queens room lounge recalls the main ballroom of a 1930s ocean liner with all the glitter.  Veuve Clicquot lent its name to the Champagne Bar.  The Chart Room is a great place for pre-dinner drinks, being kind of a traditional ocean liner smoking room, but without the smoke.  Across the way is the wine bar, Sir Samuel’s.

The Canyon Ranch Spa is the largest ever mounted in a ship, with a staff of 50 to perform an array of services.  Movies are shown under the stars on warm nights.  The deck space has the longest promenade at sea.  Five swimming pools, some with adjoining whirlpools are available in the open and under a Magrodome.  Sports include: tennis, golf driving range, basketball and shuffleboard.

The main dining venue is the soaring Britannia Restaurant, a spectacular space with 3 tiers.  Spaciousness and elegance are apparent in all the public room corridors, foyers and lounges.

If the Pilgrims were aboard the Queen Mary 2, they may have never left the ship when it arrived in America, and we would miss out on our annual Thanksgiving feast (and day of Football).  So let’s give thanks to the Pilgrims, thanks to the native Americans that kept them all from starving to death in the new world – and thanks for the many amazing travel options we have today!

May you and your family have a great Thanksgiving holiday.

 

 

 

Top 10 Reasons to have GetAway Travel help Plan your next Vacation – #6

Ahhh Europe!

Rich culture and history, amazing cuisine and diverse heritage are all packed into this amazing destination.  Europe has some of the greatest intellectual and artistic developments the world has ever known.  The landscape is dense with museums, cathedrals, monuments and palaces.  Irresistible and intriguing, Europe continues to call us to visit. to experience the rich culture, history, and warm friendly people.

There are so many places to go – where do you begin?   From the oldest monument in Europe (Stonehenge) to the most amazing museums:  Louvre in Paris, Uffizi in Florence, Guggenheim in Blibao, and the list goes on and on.  From the rolling Tuscan countryside wine regions in Italy to the mecca of beer – Hofbrauhaus in Munich.  From the pristine beaches at Normandy where the allies initiated the liberation of Europe in World War II to the defensive fortification of Hadrian’s Wall built in the 1st century AD.

There are so many places to go and so many ways to see Europe that the best place to begin is right here with us.  We can help plan the perfect trip that is right for you.

#6 Europe

 

Largest Grape Vine in the World

Planted in 1769, the Hampton Court Palace grape vine is the largest in the world.  The vine even has a certificate from Guinness World Records to prove it.  “The largest vine is the Great Vine at Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, UK, which has a circumference of 3.8m (12 ft 5 in) and branches typically measuring up to 33 m (108 ft) long.  The longest measures 75 m (246 ft) long as of January 2005.”

view our previous post about Hampton Court Palace here

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Guinness World Record Certificate

The black dessert grapes ripen in August and are sold every year during the first 3 weeks of September.  Average crops are about 600 lbs – all from just one vine!

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A view of the greenhouse where the vine resides.

The vine is currently 245 years old!

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View through the window at the base of the vine

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The vine climbing the trellis system within the greenhouse

Hampton Court Palace – a “Gift” for a Tudor King

Here is what Frommers has to say about Hampton Court Palace

“The 16th-century palace of Cardinal Wolsey can teach us a lesson: Don’t try to outdo your boss, particularly if he happens to be Henry VIII. The rich cardinal did just that, and he eventually lost his fortune, power, and prestige, and ended up giving his lavish palace to the Tudor monarch. Henry’s additions include the Anne Boleyn gateway, and the aptly named Great Hall, with its hammerbeam ceiling, as well as a Tiltyard (where jousting competitions were held) and a “real tennis” court.”

Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York and chief minister to Henry VIII spent lavishly to build the finest palace in England at Hampton Court.  Wolsey however did not live at Hampton Court for very long.  His fall from favor was swift as he was unable to assist Henry with his desire to have the Pope annul Henry’s marriage to his first wife Catherine of Aragon.  The property was given to Henry who then went on to separate the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church and very famously have 5 more wives in his attempt to have a legitimate male heir.  Along with St James’s, Hampton Court is one of the only two surviving palaces out of the many owned by King Henry VIII.

Today the palace is open to the public and is a major tourist attraction, quite easily reached by rail from central London.  The architecture is amazing with stunning brickwork and of course the beautiful gardens.  The palace is cared for by an independent charity and receives no funding from the Government or the Crown for upkeep.

Put Hampton Court Palace on the list of places to see when you vacation in London.  We can help make this happen – contact us today!

Canterbury Tales to Tell

Canterbury, England has it all:  a great destination combining the excellent Canterbury Cathedral, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey, a very well-preserved medieval town center AND a fantastic brew pub.

Check out our new page with photo gallery

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