Royal Jubilations

An all-American girl explores England

Old Oxted, Surrey

Master Park in Oxted. You can just make out the village
church at the opposite end of the green.

Several weeks ago I moved from Edenbridge to Oxted. I was staying with the grandmother of the family I work for, but it seemed much more convenient for me to be living in the same town as the kids’ school, the church, the shops, etc. I love it! I am not staying with the first reader, and she and I have a lovely time. We talk a lot and drink tea and watch “Strictly Come Dancing” every Saturday and “Downton Abbey” every Sunday. Here are some pictures of where I’m living. The leaves have started to change and it’s simply beautiful! Old Oxted is technically where I live. It’s just the one high street with a few poshish pubs, but Oxted Oxted, where all the shops and restaurants and the station and the church and Costa and the school and the library, is just about a ten minute walk. I get to walk past the park, and sometimes the bells from the Church of England church are ringing. Read the rest of this entry »


What I Love About England

I’ve been living in England for two months now, and it’s hard not to recognise the various ways English and American cultures differ. To be sure, there are some freak moments when I just wish I were walking through an air-conditioned Walmart in 100-degree weather, but it’s not that often! This is a list of things I love most about England.

1.) Ribena: it’s blackcurrent squash (drink concentrate) that puts our obsession with cranberry juice to shame.

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Paralympics 2012: Sitting Volleyball

Margaret, Imogen, Louis, Hanah at Paralympicscrowd after gameSitting volleyballGB vs. Iran men's gameWomen's sitting volleyballwomen's team huddle
Netherlands vs. China women's gameImogen, Louis, Hannah, Audrey at ParalympicsEntrance to ExCel stadiumHannah, Louis, Imogen at ParalympicsImogen, Hannah, Louis at ParalympicsExCel stadium and Orbit ride
Docklands, East LondonExCel Paralympics stadiumHigh fives from volunteers


Paralympics, a set on Flickr.

When I wrote a previous post about the general atmosphere in England during the Summer 2012 Olympic Games, I had no idea that I would actually be able to experience a part of the games for myself! A few weeks ago, we had the privilege to attend a Christian Science lecture at the Reading Room setup outside the Olympic Park in London. Then a few nights ago, we got to go to the ExCel arena to watch some of the Paralympics! Read the rest of this entry »

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France Day 7 (Thursday): Chinon and Ussé

Chinon FortressChinon from across the riverChinon ceilingLouis in the dungeons at Chinonview atop ChinonChinon
Louis at ChinonJoan of Arc American WWI poster at Chinonview from Chinonview from ChinonChinonthe clocktower at Chinon
France Day 7, a set on Flickr.

Chinon was my absolute favourite castle because it is all about Katharine Hepburn (and you thought I wouldn’t mention The Great KH on this blog!). Well, it’s not about her, but it does mention a great deal about the great Eleanor of Aquitaine, played by Miss Hepburn in 1968’s THE LION IN WINTER, starring Peter O’Toole as England’s King Henry II. Chinon was the location of the royal family’s last Christmas together before Eleanor was returned to imprisonment and Henry died and their sons started vying for the crown. Joan of Arc also visited Chinon several years after that to meet the future king of France. It also served as the prison for members of the Knights Templar – how cool is that!? Read the rest of this entry »

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France Day 6 (Wednesday): Cheverny, Chambord, and Blois

BloisChambord from the waterChambord form the boatChambordfrom the top of Chambordthe top of the double-helix staircase at Chambord
music room at Chevernynursery at Chevernyminiature suit of armour at Chevernythe parc at ChevernyChevernyTintin books in the gift shop at Cheverny
France Day 6, a set on Flickr.

If you’ve ever read the Tintin comic books, you’ll know that Cheverny is portrayed in a couple of the stories, thus the nickname “The Tintin Castle.” Cheverny is definitely a sissy castle, but I really liked how the rooms were arranged inside. Ancestors of the original aristocratic family currently own the chateau, and they’ve done a beautiful job preserving the history of the place. Cheverny has been open to the public since 1922, and it has only been closed on 3 occasions during all those years – it’s welcomes visitors 365 days a year! After viewing the interiors of the castle, we took a walk around the grounds, where we encountered some of the hunting hounds that call Cheverny home. They smelled bad. Then we took our pique-nique near the canal and enjoyed lunch in the shade of a beautiful tree. Read the rest of this entry »

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France Day 5 (Tuesday): Azay-le-Rideau, Tours, and Langeais

view of Langeais from the gardensImogen in the treehouse at LangeaisLangeais from gardensLangeaisLangeaismemorial to the French Resistance
LangeaisAzay-le-RideauChateau Azay-le-RideauHannah and Lucia in Azay-le-RideauImogen walking up to Azay-le-Rideauthe town of Azay-le-Rideau
France Day 5, a set on Flickr.

Azay-le-Rideau is Audrey’s favourite castle because she and her father visited it once before it was all touristy. It is still one of the quieter castles, but it isn’t as dilapidated as it once was. We had another gorgeous day to walk around the castle and grounds. One of the cool features of Azay is that you can walk into the attic area and see the great big beams holding up the roof – it smelled very strongly of cedar. Read the rest of this entry »

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France Day 4 (Monday): Chenonceau and Amboise

AmboiseAmboise chapel suspended over the townAmboiseAmboise castle and lavenderAmboise castleLeonardo's chapel
Leonardo Da Vanci's graveTree-lined moat at ChenonceauChenonceauthe twins at Chenonceaugardens at ChenonceauLouis at Chenonceau
the gallery at Chenonceauthe kitchens at ChenonceauChenonceau gardens on the river CherHannah and friend at Chenonceau


France Day 4, a set on Flickr.

We headed out about midday for the grand Chateau de Chenonceau on the river Cher. This is one of the bigger Chateaux of the Loire, and it was packed with tourists. We approached the castle along the tree-lined boulevard leading up to the impressive façade. The most significant part of Chenonceau is the long gallery suspended above the river by a series of arches. The chateau served a decisive role in both World Wars. In WWI the gallery was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers. During WWII it was on the border between Occupied and Free France, and thus served as a crossing point for many of the Resistance. German artillery were constantly poised at the ready to blow the whole thing out of the water – literally! Chenonceau also has some lovely gardens and a maze. Read the rest of this entry »

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France Day 2 (Saturday): from Chartres to Loches

our gitemoon and gitemoon and firled near gitehome from homeview from giteLucia and Hannah
LochesLoches castleLoches (2)Loche castleafter ChineseThe Twins
medieval townsmall medieval fair in Chartresinside Chartres Cathedralhalfway up the towerChartres CthedralChartres Cathedral 24.8.12
Cathedral and shops in ChartresWool stall Medieval fair Chartres


France Day 2, a set on Flickr.

We headed into Chartres again on the morning of Day 2, and this time we went into the cathedral. On our approach to the grand edifice, we encountered a small medieval fair nestled in the twisting streets of the town. Tradesmen in costume were exhibiting their work. There were stalls for stone carving, leather work, wool (yarn), chain mail, embroidery, the works! At the end of the road was a beautiful white horse with BIG feet that the kids enjoyed petting and feeding hay. Read the rest of this entry »

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France Day 1 (Friday): Crossing the Chanel

We left Oxted around 6:00 in the morning and drove to Dover while listening to the audio book “Carrie’s War.” We got on the ferry and quickly ran to get seats in the cafeteria area upstairs. While the kids took off to explore, we adults had some of the breakfast we’d brought and tried (not very successfully) to get forty winks before disembarking for France. When we got off the ferry in Calais, we went to the nearest Carrefour supermarket to stock up on provisions, including a seemingly unlimited amount of bread, cheese, pate, and Bonne Maman strawberry jam. Then we drove for several more hours until we reached Chartres. After dumping our stuff at the hotel, we headed into the town to walk around and find something to eat. We took some photos outside Chartres Cathedral and then meandered through the medieval streets at our leisure. We enjoyed a pizza dinner at a small restaurant
where I ordered my first ever menthe a l’eau – I’ve been wanting to do that since 8thgrade! When we got back to the hotel, the twins and the parents and I walked over to the nearby McDonalds for flurries and a coffee. A nice American ending to a multicultural day!
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Holiday in the Loire river valley of France

Last week, the English family I am staying with took me on holiday with them to the Loire river valley in France. That’s where all the chateaux are. We rented a gite, or small cottage, which the seven of us called home for our ten-day stay in the French countryside. I’ve broken down the trip into the seven days we spent site-seeng. Any other days were spent travelling, swimming, walking around Loches, or just chilling at the gite. Hope you enjoy these pictures and my reminiscences my first ever trip to the land of Descartes, Joan of Arc, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Richelieu!
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