One month and one week left - in some ways it feels like I've been doing this much longer than that - in other ways it seems like it's impossible that it's already 2/3 over. And this is the fun part - there's so incredibly unbelievably much work to be done when I get home. But
for the next five weeks, I still have more adventures abroad.
This weekend I'm traveling to see Sandra (the Canoness of Augustine that I met in Bruges) in Walsingham. I figured out how to get to Walsingham so she doesn't have to pick me up in Watlington - 50 km isn't much to an American, but I think it's considered something of a chore here. So here is how I get there: train from Cambridge to King's Lynn. Bus Station Bay 2 - Take the Norfolk Green/X8 toward Fakenham: Oak Street Interchange. (41 minute ride to Fakenham Wells Road Toll Bar). Cross the road and take the Norfolk Green/29 toward Wells: The Buttlands Church - 9 minutes to Walsingham: The Pump.
So wish me luck with that! Anyway, I've got her cell.
On Monday I'll reverse the process back to King's Lynn and travel to...
Where? You might be thinking. Whazza? Well, as I was googling places that were on the rail line from King's Lynn to Birmingham (and then down to Worcester) I came across the following piece of information on travelwiki:
"Melton Mowbray - usually referred to locally as just Melton - is a market town in the county of Leicestershire, England. It is famous for the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie and as the centre of Stilton Cheese production."
Regular readers know that Stilton is one of my favorite cheeses (maybe even the number one) and I read that the traditional way to serve pork pie is with a slice of stilton and a spoonful of Branston pickle! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner please.
"Stilton whey fed a large pig population in the Melton area. Local bakers developed the edible hot crust pastry which is ‘raised’ to make the pie and filled with coarsely chopped pork, salt and pepper. Fresh pork, from pigs killed in the winter, the hunting season, is grey when cooked. The pies were bow shaped as they were baked free standing in the oven. They were filled with hot pig stock which jellified when cool filling all the spaces so that huntsmen could carry them riding without breaking. The pies were soon in hot demand in the London clubs. Protection for the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie is now set to be approved in October by the European Commission after legal battles in the High Court and Court of Appeal. An authentic Melton Mowbray is bow shaped, grey inside and made in the Melton Mowbray area."
My plan is to have mine from the famous and venerable
What's a pork pie? Well, in addition to being a cute hat, it's pretty much a thick, flaky pastry crust that's stuffed with seasoned finely ground pork, then capped, then baked, then hot pork jelly gets piped in (the sauce is on the inside - part of the reason for it's popularity is its hot saucy lunchtime goodness).
"Renowned worldwide for its production of pork pies and Stilton cheese, Melton Mowbray lies at the centre of Melton Borough in attractive and unspoilt countryside. The town is a typical bustling mid-England market town that still retains a busy street market (Tues & Sat) and one of the last surviving Cattle Markets in the Country (Tues). It has a strong local history linked to its local food delicacies and the ancient sport of fox-hunting. Although located in a rural setting on the banks of the River Wreake, the town is encircled by the cities of Nottingham and Leicester, and the towns of Loughborough, Oakham and Grantham (all within 30 minutes drive time).Population 26,000"
I will also be going to The Melton Cheeseboard for some delicious Stilton from local producers, and believe me: if I get word of any available illegal unpasteurized king of cheese Stiltons (that episode of Lenny Henry's wonderful show Chef! was my favorite) I will be hot on the trail.
I have read that The Eating House on Sherrard Street is the best restaurant in town, though the name "The Eating House" kind of suggests that a) it's the only one and b) that the locals aren't aware of what other people call eating houses. All the food at The Eating House is made exclusively with fresh, local ingredients. The restaurant web page actually specifies that it buys all its meat from Derek Jones! It's very popular and I was unable to book a table for dinner, but I will be there for lunch on Tuesday after my morning at the market (and I had to make a reservation for that!) All the to-do to get a table, and the menu is the essence of simplicity - fresh fish with chips and peas, or fresh meat with chips and peas. I love that kind of restaurant.
I will be staying in a room above a local pub, as there's just one hotel and it's outside of town there are a few rooms for visitors in a couple of the pubs. Mine is the Noels Arms, which has a web site here. I'll stay there Monday night, and spend Tuesday morning at the Melton Mowbray market, which sounds AMAZING: it has "livestock, plants, produce, timber, chattel, antiques, and sundry." And it also has a web site! Note that "Fur and Feathers" and "Farmer's Market" and "Antique Market" and "Livestock" are all on Tuesday morning, so I am looking forward to a really eclectic market! I am seriously very excited.
After lunch I'll probably swing back by the market to see if it's winding down, maybe take some more pictures, and then take the train to Worcester. In Worcester I'll be staying at The Great Western hotel, a modest but well-reviewed place near to the rail station and an easy walk to the cathedral, shopping, and the bus depot. I need the bus depot because my plan is to spend Wednesday wandering around the beautiful Witley Court ruins, gardens, and fountains, and the best way to get there is on the Yarrington 758, or so I read.
On Thursday I'll be at the cathedral chapter library working on my manuscripts. Friday I travel on to Oxford, where my mama will also be in the early afternoon! I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to seeing her!
I'm at Oxford, where there is a nice lode of manuscripts, until the 23rd of May. On the 24th I'll leave for Chartres, where I'm just dipping in to see the manuscript (and the cathedral, of course) - I check out on the 26th and move on to Paris. I have made happy arrangements for housing in Paris - I think one would be hard-pressed to find a cooler place to stay, in fact. Because I'm staying HERE:
Yep. I'm staying IN the Basilica. At night. After it is closed. And all the tourists are gone. And I will be at vespers every night with the nuns, and vigils in the morning, and I'm SO HAPPY that they agreed to take me, there was a Process involved. Of gentle questioning. For 15 minutes.
At the end of the week I will go to visit ma copine Julie in Dunkerque, returning on Monday. I made one extravagant hotel reservation this semester, and it was getting a room at the CDG Hilton (the one in the terminal) so I can have a good dinner, a long soak in the room's hot marble tub, and a good night's sleep before heading home.
It's going to be a shock to get back to Bloomington. There's no getting around it. I'm already braced for orbital re-entry. The blow will be softened a lot by the fact that I'm planning to spend a few weeks doing nothing but working and sleeping, and then heading back to Kansas for the summer. People never believe me when I say this, but Kansas is INFINITY TIMES BETTER than Indiana, which I don't even think is Midwestern. It's a trans-Appalachian state. It doesn't have a thing to do with Midwestern culture, the accent is all weird and southern, and culturally it's just awful. I can't stand it. I have no words for how much I have come to hate Indiana - poor backwards Indiana, which missed out on the 60s and 70s, in which Bloomington is a kind of pathetic defensive encampment of its 34 aging hippies and anyone born in Indiana who has anything resembling originality or difference in their soul, plus a bunch of the awful people too. Bloomington is like the Alcatraz Island of Misfit Toys of Indiana and it's just depressing. It's like nobody living there understands that the rest of the world is better. They've all come to love their tiny little prison, because it feels like freedom compared to the hells that spawned them. SO SAD. I can't wait to move on.
This summer my mother and I are going to clean out the house and garage and get the inventory of the home down to things needed and loved and cherished - there are a lot of things that she's picked up over the years for the love of the hunt (antiques and collectibles) that are gathering dust in storage downstairs and in the garage. I also intend to go to every pow-wow, county fair, carnival, and rodeo within a day-tripper's drive. I am looking forward to putting my camera on Kansas in the summer - when it's at its hottest and dustiest and fullest of events and people doing interesting things. I took a few pictures - some of them pretty good - of Kansas when I was home for Christmas, but January is a hibernaty time in the Midwest. I am really looking forward to photographing it this summer. So much to do and see.
So those are the plans!