We have left Oxford England, our last “touring destination”, and are train-bound for Manchester. In deference to our early morning “red-eye” flight we have booked a room near the airport far from the city-center. Neither of us are looking forward to the upcoming 18 hours of travel. However our house, family, and friends beckon so the end certainly justifies the means.

My last series of posts were from our tour of 3 remarkable sailing warships on May 16th. I felt that each ship deserved detailed discussion and I did not want to load up all three on the same day. We have not been idle since the 16th, so here is a summary of our wandering since then.

On the 17th we took a day trip by train to Winchester. The Cathedral dates to the 11th Century and is one of the largest in Europe. A discerning eye reveals that there are architectural features from both the English Gothic (high peaked arches) and earlier Norman periods (lower round arches).

Jane Austin is buried here, but curiously there is no mention of her fame as an author. Perhaps the culture of the time considered such undertaking by women “unseemly”.

Issac Walton’s grave is also found within the Cathedral. His 1653 “best selling” treatise on fishing, The Compleat Angler, is still in print. Among quotes attributed to him are, “I have laid aside business, and gone a-fishing.” and, “Angling may be said to be so like the mathematics that it can never be fully learned.”

Six decorative funerary chests are found within the Cathedral, three on each side of the presbytery before the high alter.

There were originally at least 8 of these chests, containing the remains of an 8 ancient kings, 2 bishops, and 11th Century Queen Emma of Normandy. In 1642 during England’s Civil War Oliver Cromwell’s troops sacked the Cathedral smashing all but 6 of the chests, scattering the contents of all the chests.

It was impossible for church officials to determine who’s bones belonged in which chest so the six chests have held a mixture of remains for nearly 400 years. This year anthropologists and geneticists have undertaken the task of identifying the remains and properly sorting them.

Almost immediately after its construction the Cathedral began to slowly sink. It’s foundations had been laid in a peat bog instead upon stone located another 8-10 feet below. Conventional efforts to underpin the piers proved impossible. As soon as workers excavated along any part of the foundation the hole would fill with water. The entire structure was in serious peril of collapse. In places the waviness of the floor and bowing of the walls are obvious to the eye.

In desperation, deep sea diver William Walker was employed. Between 1906 and 1911 he worked entirely alone under 30 feet of water, and solely by touch. He hand laid over 25,000 bags of concrete under the Cathedral’s foundations. He is credited with being the single handed savior of Winchester Cathedral.

Winchester is also the home of the Great Hall of Winchester Castle. It is all that remains of the castle and was constructed in 1067 shortly after William the Conqueror’s victory at the Battle of Hastings.

High upon a wall is mounted a huge round table that was reputed to be that of King Arthur. It measures 18 feet across and weighs nearly 3,000 pounds. While it certainly is not the table of Arthurian legend, carbon and dendrochronological dating place its creation at approximately the year 1250. Originally plain, King Henry VIII ordered it painted in the early 1500’s as it currently appears.

We spent the 18th and 19th strolling the streets of Oxford. We attended a moving Evensong in Christ Church Cathedral (sorry, no pictures), and took in the somewhat cheesy tour of Oxford Castle and jail.

We also visited the Ashmolean Museum of History, and the Oxford History of Science Museum where there is a blackboard upon which Albert Einstein’s hand written equations are preserved.

Our visual highlight of Oxford was Christ Church’s Tom Tower, Tom Quad, and the Cathedral.

I confess that we could have better seen and enjoyed Oxford. However, travel fatigue has taken its toll. I intend to pen some personal reflections on our 6 week journey at another time. Until then…

Peace Everyone. Pete

Paraphrasing Charles Dickens, “She was the first of such battleships, she was the last of such battleships…” Indeed this is a fitting statement for HMS Warrior.

She was conceived in 1859 and launched in 1861 at the virtual direction of Queen Victoria who had questioned the readiness of her admirals to meet the challenge posed by France’s new armored battleship “Gloire”. The Admiralty responded with the creation of “Warrior” and her sister ship, “Black Prince”.

When launched Warrior was the world’s largest, fastest, and most powerful warship. For comparison, at 420 feet long and displacing 9,200 tons she was 200 feet longer and 3 times the displacement of HMS Victory which had been Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar just 45 years earlier.

Warrior was capable of 12 knots under sail, 15 knots under steam power, and 17.5 knots (over 20mph) under the combination of sail and steam. To reduce drag and enhance her speed under sail her smoke stacks retracted into the deck and her massive propeller was hoisted into a hull recess. The hoisting of the prop, as well as the anchors (the largest manually raised in history) required the effort of 500 of her crew.

Some of Warrior’s innovations of the first order were her armored iron-plate hull, the largest (26 ton) hoistable propeller ever made, and her compliment of rifled breech loading guns.

She was essentially invulnerable to attack by any other ship of that day. Yet she was still a sailing ship. In ten years Great Britain would launch its first mastless warship, HMS Devastation, which featured larger guns mounted in swiveling turrets. Warrior’s sail rigging meant that she was limited to smaller conventional gun placements down her sides.

Whereas Victory served as a ship-of-the-line in active duty for nearly 50 years, Warrior became obsolete in 10!

Warrior never fired her guns in anger. She was retired from first line duty in 1871 thereafter serving in secondary capacities until her masts were found to be rotten and were removed in 1883. She became a storage hulk in 1900, and for 50 years after 1927 she was a floating oil storage platform. Her salvage and restoration began in 1979, a decade long project intended to return her to 1862 trim… including the “brig”.

Her masts, many of her guns, rigging, fittings, her engines and boilers are very convincing reproductions. The excellent tour allowed access to most of the ship and questions could be addressed to knowledgeable volunteers dressed in Victorian attire. In response to my questions one such lady dressed in hooped skirts directed me in the operation of the breech loading mechanism of one of the cannons. Warrior is visited by over 250,000 people each year.

This concludes my three day posting cycle on the vessels of Historic Portsmouth Harbour. I am typing this in Oxford England on the evening of May 19th. Tomorrow morning we train to Manchester where we will spend the night of the 20th, departing the morning of the 21st for home.

Peace Everyone. Pete

In planning this trip I looked forward to spending a day in historical Portsmouth Harbor. The wharves feature a number of museums and attractions. However, for me there were but three items of interest and each was a battleship considered a creation of the “cutting edge” technology of its time. They were King Henry VIII’s 16th Century “Mary Rose”, Admiral Horatio Nelson’s 1805 flagship “Victory”, and Queen Victoria’s 1860 ironclad, the “Warrior”. It was remarkable to see the strides in defense and lethality that were made in the years separating each of these leviathans. It was just as remarkable that these vessels lay within a few hundred feet of each other.

First the Mary Rose:

She was launched from Portsmouth England in 1511 as a part of young King Henry VIII’s efforts to expand his navy and project his power across the oceans.

She carried up to 91 cannon and was manned by a combination of approximately 500 sailors and marines. It is estimated that her construction required over 600 large oak trees, the equivalent of a 40 acre forest. Some of these trees (such as those required for the masts) would be difficult if not impossible to secure today.

She was approximately 40 feet wide at the beam and her keel was over 100 feet long, although she was certainly much longer overall. The exact dimensions have been lost to history.

The Mary Rose would have been one of the earliest ships capable of attack by a cannon broadside. However her primary offense remained the tried and true technique of close, grapple, and board the enemy ship. Heavy reliance was still placed upon longbow archers firing from raised platforms at the ends of the ship. The English longbow archer was able to accurately fire up to 15 arrows a minute at the enemy from 200 yards!

In 1545 the Mary Rose sank in battle, not because of enemy action but because a gust of wind caught her sails immediately after she launched a broadside. The ship heeled over and the open gun ports allowed water to rush in. She sank within minutes, taking all but 35 of her crew to an unmarked watery grave.

In 1836 an early deep-sea diver was hired by fishermen to investigate a hazard that was snagging their nets. He uncovered the first signs of Mary Rose seen in nearly 300 years. She remained undisturbed for another 150 years before serious salvage efforts were undertaken in the 1970’s. That ocean salvage operation remains the most expensive and difficult ever undertaken.

Most of the Mary Rose was consumed by rot and sea creatures. However a significant portion of her hull, stores, and the remains of 179 of her crew were recovered. The excavation was so complete that even the bones of a rat and the ship’s dog were preserved and cataloged.

Forensic examinations determined all the crew were male, the youngest being age 10 and the oldest over 60. Facial reconstructions were accomplished of a number of the crew. Human remains, including a complete skeleton are displayed.

The main efforts to raise the ship occurred between 1979 and 1982, involving over 500 volunteers and over 22,000 dive hours. Even the Prince of Wales personally participated in dives on the wreck. Her preservation out of the water was to then take another 34 years. In all over 26,000 items have been secured, cataloged, and preserved. Dives continue to this day recovering more artifacts of the vessel. She is considered a national treasure and is on display in a high-tech environment that utilizes temperature and humidity controls and holographic imaging.

Significant to the experience, everything on display is an original artifact and not a replica.

Next, Nelson’s flagship, Victory. Until then…

Peace Everyone. Pete

Our last day on Jersey Island was extended due to the change in the ferry schedule and ferry destination that was unfortunately imposed upon us. We took the opportunity to “make lemons into lemonade” by spending the day at Mont Orgueil, better known as Gorey Castle.

“Gorey” was built in 1204 upon a site that had featured fortifications for thousands of years dating back to Neolithic times. It remained Jersey Island’s primary defense until advances in gunpowder and cannon rendered it obsolete in the early 1600’s. Over the preceding 400 years Castle Gorey underwent many additions and improvements.

It was ideally situated for viewing the coast of (then) military rival France, only 14 miles across the water.

It again became important with the Nazi occupation in 1940. Those troops, with the use of imported slave labor, converted portions of the castle into reconnaissance and gun positions.

As currently presented, Gorey is a well preserved labyrinth of rooms, stairways, and passages. We frequently found ourselves turning a corner only to find that we had traveled in a circle.

It also has become a venue for a variety of interesting and unique art pieces that are relevant to the Castle’s place in history.

We boarded the ferry at 7pm for an 8pm departure. The terminal, and subsequently the vessel, were significantly more crowded than our previous two passages. This was due to the combined passenger loads of two ferries, the one we were on and the cancelled ferry we had intended to travel. Fortunately, we still were booked into a private en-suite cabin that allowed us a good night’s sleep and hot showers.

Not so lucky were most of the other passengers who passed on the extra cost of a cabin and instead curled up in whatever nook, cranny, or floor space was available to them.

Before bed Christine and I secured a table in the bar for a nightcap. Tables were at a premium so I held the table while Chris went for drinks. There were 4 chairs at our table, two obviously unclaimed. An attractive woman of our generation approached and asked is she and her husband might join us. This was the most fortunate question of the day as Liz and her husband Fred, who happened to be standing next in line with a Christine at the bar, were as pleasant a couple as one could hope to meet.

We spent the better part of 3 hours laughing and sharing our “stories”. They were originally from mainland England but years past had fallen in love with Jersey and made it their home. We agreed to meet for breakfast aboard ship at 6am prior to our arrival in Poole.

Before our evening ended the discussion turned to my annoyance with the change in the ferry itinerary and the challenges that this presented to us. A gentleman at the next table overheard and joined the discussion long enough to offer to drive us to our hotel in Portsmouth. This was Kevin, and his offered kindness saved us over 2 hours of travel and $150 dollars in added costs the morning of our arrival. Kevin declined our offers of compensation explaining that the detour only added a few miles to his trip home. Of course he was ignoring the fact that the rerouted ferry also impacted him. Sharing his cost would have been fair.

Liz, Fred, and Kevin are good examples of the friendliness and generosity that we have continually experienced in the UK. These good people are our “neighbors”, our Allies, our brothers and our sisters. We share the bonds of a common heritage. As a people, we should not allow those gifts to be thoughtlessly trashed by the whims of any one person or administration.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. The afternoon I typed the above (May 17th) we encountered a English gentleman who upon learning of our nationality waxed longingly of a trip he dreams of one day taking across the States traveling old Route 66 on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. His ardor had a pilgrimage quality and he specifically mentioned the “Rocket Man” statue located in Wilmington Illinois, a scant 30 minute drive from where I grew up. Pilgrimage may be defined as an intentional journey to a place of spiritual significance. Some may scoff at the notion that icons found along Route 66 are spiritual. However, spirituality is found within the pilgrim’s heart and not that of the audience. I understand how the dream of a journey feeds the soul, even if it is to stand at the foot of a 25 foot tall “Rocket Man”. I also know of two Scots from Glasgow, Sean and Garry, who understand this as well. We all need our dreams.

Yesterday we took in the urban delights of Saint Helier. After breakfast today I set off on bus 4 for the remote north coast of Jersey Island. Christine chose to again “chill-out” in town. We were each rewarded in our own way… I will focus on my most remarkable day:

The north Jersey coast is verdant and rugged in a way that congers up memories of last year’s hike along Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher. Given a few days, one can easily walk the 45 mile circuit of this 45 square mile island. The Jersey features over a hundred miles of well marked and maintained footpaths.

Unfortunately, I only have the one day for a serious hike which is something that I hope to rectify in a future visit. I chose a portion of the coast that was represented to be both rugged and beautiful.

Starting out at Bonne Nuit Bay the well maintained trail makes a serpentine course east along the coast. A choice was soon presented; whether to take the upper or lower cliff path. I figured that what comes down must eventually go back up, and elected the lower (and more rugged) lower path.

Paradoxically, Bonne Nuit (“Good Night”) Bay derives its name from a local legend when on a night in the 6th Century, pirates destroyed a monastic community that was situated there.

The vistas were stunning! This was a day that featured an electric blue sky, and radiant sunlight that made the green foliage fairly explode before the eye. The path not only wound into and out of countless inlets, but up and down the precipitous cliff sides. Most of the time hobnail covered timbers were provided as steps on the steeper portions. This was nothing short of glorious!

In the distance I saw a fortification that I was soon to learn was the early 19th Century La Crête Fort. It has been modernized and is now maintained as an event space that is available for hire through Jersey Heritage.

A few more miles into my hike I came upon a monument to the tragedy of a failed Allied commando raid during the 2nd World War. An older gentleman, very fit and perhaps in his mid-80’s, stood before the stone and casually remarked to me, “Isn’t it a shame that they are allowing Phillip’s name to degrade like that?” I politely agreed as I noticed that the name of the honored dead was “P. Ayton”. I was left to wonder if the gentleman actually knew the deceased Captain. From some post hike research I learned that “Operation Hardtack” was a series of commando raids conducted by the Allies in the Channel Islands. These were intended to secure intelligence and German prisoners that might prove valuable in making plans for the eventual D-Day Invasion. Captain Ayton died of injuries caused by the explosion of an anti-personnel mine.

About 5 miles on I came to Bouley Bay and the welcome sight of toilet facilities and refreshments. Signs pointed the way to “Mad Mary’s”. Rounding the corner I found a series of tables just above the beach and a small trailer with signage that touted crab sandwiches. Inside was “Mad Mary” in the flesh! Mary Seaford is originally from Ireland and she has been a larger-than-life personality since her arrival in Jersey over 30 years ago. Her beachside cafe is a “must visit” for anyone who comes within 10 miles of Bouley Bay… in other words anyone who visits Jersey.

I was not disappointed. Her homemade crab sandwich and “millionaire shortbread” are to die for. The experience of meeting Mary is alone worth the visit!

Continuing I encountered an 18th Century Guardhouse,

and later I passed a curious formation of house sized rocks. I regret not taking a picture as I later learned that these were remnants of a thousands of years old neolithic fortification. The coast of France was visible in the distance.

My hike concluded by locating a roadway and bus stop. For the price of £2.30 a 50 minute bus ride brought me back to Saint Helier where Christine was waiting for me. We later enjoyed dinner at a wonderful Portuguese restaurant that was recommended to us by our hotel host, Rebecca.

I did not bring my serious Camino walking boots on this trip. I will have pleasant memories of this 9 mile walking day long after my less pleasant reminders have healed.

Peace Everyone! Pete

Dawn broke on our second day on Jersey Island with an unwelcome suprise.

I began receiving email notices of a series of small charges to our credit card from “Taxibeats” of London. Within a span of minutes 3 of these “Card Not Present” warnings had arrived. I was then on the telephone to our credit card issuer. Fraud! Some miscreants had started testing the waters on my card number. They did not have the card or supporting details of the account, but it was a virtual certainty that these small “test” charges were a precursor to a much larger spending spree.

Card Services locked our account but gave me a telephone number to call with a special code to temporarily enable the account for 15 minute periods when needed. This happened to us once before while traveling in Canada. We learned from that incident to always have backup cards handy. Imagine being 6,000 miles from home without the means to convienently finance the basics of food, shelter, and transportation.

Stress resolved, the rest of the day was much the traveler’s equivalent of “just breathing”. With a few exceptions one proceeds in an automatic and unconscious way. For me it is a sign that my thoughts are becoming more homeward centered.

(We just received a video call from Tom and Nanci who are currently in Italy. The 15 minutes of conversation and laughter were a real boost. The times that we spent with them on the Portuguese Camino, in Ottawa, and on the Narrowboat have forged a cherished friendship.)

The morning view from our window at the charming Hotel DeL’Etang is of a large 19th Century tidal swimming pool that was built in the 1800’s as the result of a tragedy that took the lives of two young boys.

We walked the streets of Saint Helier, the capital of Jersey. It is more modern and developed than Saint Peter Port in Guernsey, yet we understand that most of Jersey remains pristine with expanses of beach, natural cliffs, and woodlands. The island is also laced with miles of dedicated bicycle paths… something to consider for a longer future visit that would include travel to Normandy.

As with Guernsey, the harbor is dominated by a fortress from the Middle Ages that became a Nazi fortification during the Second World War.

Elizabeth Castle dates to the 1500’s. During the early 1600’s Sir Walter Raleigh was placed by Queen Elizabeth as its governor. This assignment (banishment?) may actually have been a punishment for marrying one of the Queen’s Ladies-in-Waiting without first securing the Queen’s permission.

The Castle is connected to land only 4 out of every 12 hours. The rest of the time the tide submerges the causeway. Unaware pedestrians risk drowning if caught by the rising tide. During the remaining 8 hours access to Castle Elizabeth is made via a 10 minute ride in an amphibious bus.

The site of the Castle has an earlier history dating to the Sixth Century when it was the home of the hermit Hellerius. His lofty hermitage allowed him to see approaching raiders and issue warnings to the residents living ashore.

His claim to sainthood derived from his efforts in the year 555 to tame and convert a band of the Viking pirates. Legend has it that they promptly beheaded him, but he just stooped down, picked up his head and then continued about his business by walking hundreds of feet back to Jersey Island. He was sainted, renamed Saint Helier, and a monastery was founded on the site of his former hermitage. It remains to this day a place of pilgrimage. Saint Helier is the patron of Jersey and the capitol city bears his name and symbol, two upturned crossed axes.

As with Guernsey, we continue to be amazed by the tidal range. I delight in taking low vs. high tide photos for the comparison.

Our hotel features a well regarded Greek restaurant. Unfortunately, it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Walking along the seawall we came upon a quirky but popular Thai restaurant, The “Dicq Shack”.

It is little more than a shack that has served great Thai food to beach customers since 1963. There is no inside dining. Instead one places an order and takes a seat at one of the colorful outside picnic tables where the food is served.

The only complications occur nearing high tide. Customers often find that they must hastily move their tables or risk being overtaken by the surge. Unusually high tides deny access to the restaurant, causing it to suspend operation until the waters recede an hour or so later. This place is a BYOB affair and the nearby mini-mart is happy to oblige with inexpensive wine and plastic glasses. This was fun, memorable, although a bit cold.

Enough for now, and of course…

Peace Everyone. Pete

First of all, Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers, those who made them Mothers, and those who were born to a Mother… It’s a Mother of a Day!

Our re-booked ferry for Jersey Island wasn’t scheduled to depart Guernsey until 5:20 p.m.. We made the best of the situation and did a bit more Guernsey touring. We had thus far missed the German Occupation Museum so off we went by bus.

We were not disappointed. This private museum houses a remarkable collection of artifacts of the Nazi occupation. It provides a thoughtful and sobering experience.

Guernsey was de-militarized in hopes of avoiding civilian casualties. Apparently Germany had not gotten the word. It launched an air strike on the harbor 2 days prior to landing troops that killed 34 Guernsey civilians.

Prior to the invasion over half of the population, including all children and men of service age had evacuated to England. Sadly, those who were not native born of Guernsey were denied evacuation. Those same folks, including many Jews, were arrested by the Germans and transferred to prison camps on the Continent. Many never lived out the war.

Germany considered Guernsey British territory and thus the conquest was prime propaganda material. Hitler personally ordered the creation of a fortress state. Thousands of slave laborers were imported to build the fortifications. Many of those sad souls also did not live to see the end of the war.

As an indication of the importance Hitler placed on this “prize”, in France there were approximately 150 French citizens for every occupying German soldier. In Guernsey the ratio was 3 citizens for every soldier!

The waters surrounding the island were mined. Anti-aircraft batteries were strategically placed, massive fortification were constructed, and huge artillery batteries were installed.

While those defenses did not cause an immediate impact on the lives of the civilians, the placement of over 65,000 land mines altered much for the island folk both during the war and for years after.

Among the thousands of items on display a number caught my eye:

There was a display of the variety of land mines deployed by the Germans including anti-personnel and anti-tank.

About half of the anti-tank mines were equipped with special hidden detonators that would explode if an attempt was made to move the mine.

A cabinet exhibiting medical and dental equipment included packages of official German Army issued condoms.

There was one of the famous Enigma Coding Machines. These devices created an unbreakable cypher that was changed daily and had literally trillions of permutations.

The Nazi’s relied upon the strength of this communication tool without knowing that early in the war one of these machines had been captured along with the U-505 submarine in a top secret United States Navy operation. That Enigma device was delivered to Britain’s Bletchley Park code breakers who were able to deconstruct the machine and thereafter decode thousands of German dispatches every day. Below is a picture of the U-505 as it is displayed in Chicago.

The U-505 has been a featured exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry since my childhood. One of my neighbors in the late 1950’s was Zenon Lukosius. He was credited with single handedly thwarting the submarine crew’s efforts to scuttle the vessel. (seen below, back row, fourth from the left)

Another easily overlooked item was a “shower head” of the type used to dispense poison gas in Nazi Death Camps.

There was an anti-tank battery, and also a recreation of a Guernsey street scene from the time of occupation.

We could have spent an entire day in the museum and still not taken it all in. There is a point where one succumbs to emotional overload, and at 3 hours I had reached it.

We boarded the Condor Clipper at 4:30 p.m. for our 5:20 departure and 3 hour crossing. Thankfully, the seas are calm. Therefore…

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS: Our ferry arrived on Jersey Island at dusk. No cabs were available so we set off with our bags on a 1 mile night trek to our “home” for the next 3 nights, the very charming Hotel De L’Etang. Our host, Rebecca, was cheerfully awaiting our late arrival and after providing our room keys and instructions she served us nightcaps in the bar. She is a new grandmother of a precious little 5 month old girl. It took no time for Rebecca and Christine to do some serious grandmother bonding.

In my home hangs a picture from the 1950’s. It frames the happy faces of a beautiful young woman with her two little boys. One, a toddler, sits on her lap. He is laughing. The older boy’s eyes meet the reflection of mine in the picture’s glass. We’ve known each other a lifetime. He looks forward to the day that he will be me.

In one of life’s little ironies I know that I can not tell him that the most secure, peaceful, and carefree days of his life are those he is living. Our connection is the young woman who cares for him. She is our Mother. She loves us both and we love her. Happy Mother’s day to you Mom… from both of us.

⁃ Love, Peter

Friday (photos are from Friday and Saturday):

Our rather rainy day was spent pleasantly walking the streets of Guernsey’s capital city, Saint Peter Port. It is a city of about 18,000 that is dominated by its harbor and the 13th Century Castle Coronet.

The seafaring nature of this culture was humorously exemplified to us in the spectacle of children participating in sailing lessons in the harbor parking lot.

We continue to find the amazing 33+ foot tidal range and adaptations to accommodate this 6 hour “heartbeat of the sea” to be remarkable.

The fort has successfully repelled invaders for centuries, but not the Nazi troops who overran the island in 1940.

These days it is also insufficient to resist thousands of invading tourists who arrive via huge cruise ships. The throng temporarily packed the streets of the city, overloading sidewalks and shops.

More sanguine is the presence of the privately owned sailing vessel, Eos. It is the largest sailing vessel in the world. She is 305 feet long and carries masts that are 200 feet tall, the maximum allowable for navigation under bridges worldwide.

Castle Coronet is now maintained as a popular museum that chronicles the fort’s history from the Middle Ages through the end of the Second World War.

At noon each day soldiers dressed in 19th Century garb prime and fire a huge canon over the harbor.

Other volunteers make presentations about earlier life on and around the island nation.

A short walk on Friday from the Castle brought us to the more somber La Vallette Underground Military Museum. It presents a huge collection of artifacts and memorabilia from the time of the Nazi occupation. The facility was originally an underground refueling storage dump for German U-Boats. The concrete bunkers are now lined with weapons, uniformed manikins, and propaganda posters from that era. Included are a number of chilling declarations announcing the executions of residents for prohibited acts.

Our Friday afternoon continued with a commuter bus ride that circled the island. The bus service costs £1 a ride, but for £7.50 each we purchased unlimited passes that are good for 2 days. Service is convenient and covers the entire island.

Our one hour ride gave us some ideas on places to hike on Saturday, assuming that the positive weather forecast prevails.

Friday evening brought us to a pint and dinner at a very nice Inn next to our B&B.

In the course of relaxing I received a very disturbing email. The ferry service that was to take us from Guernsey to Jersey on May 12th was canceled due to engine problems. Additionally, the overnight ferry that was to take us to Portsmouth England on the 15th was rescheduled and rerouted to Poole England. We had already booked and paid for our non-refundable 3 day lodging on Jersey Island and lodging in Portsmouth. There are no flights available on the 12th between the islands so this was a problem of the first order to be addressed at the ferry office first thing Saturday morning.

Saturday, May 11th:

Problem solved, sort of. We successfully booked an alternate ferry crossing for tomorrow. Unfortunately it sails late in the day and denies us time that we had counted on in Jersey. Furthermore, we will lose at least 2 hours and about £75 making connections from Poole back to Portsmouth. It could be worse…

Christine elected to remain in Saint Peter Port while I spent the afternoon on a hike along the island’s south cliff face, through the bluebell woods, and on to the west coast.

Along the way I came across a British Battalion war cemetery in which 111 German soldiers were interred. The cemetery was significantly upgraded in recent years, a joint effort of British and German soldiers.

The perimeter of Guernsey bristles with fortifications. Some are from the Napoleonic period, but most were constructed by slave labor imported by the German troops during the occupation of 1940-45.

Reminders of that sad period abound. It seems that one cannot walk a quarter-mile along the coast without encountering a reinforced concrete fortification.

It has been 75 years since the occupation ended, but those events remain fresh in the collective memory of Guernsey’s citizens.

My walk also passed more pleasant sites which included the four unique bathing pools that date to the mid-19th Century. These include the “Gentlemens Pool”, “Ladies Pool”, “Children’s Pool”, and the “Horseshoe Pool” that provides increased privacy for its users.

These cleverly designed pools flush and refill 4 times a day with fresh sea water as each high tide overtops the impoundment. The water is retained when the tide drops.

A “perfect storm” in 1974 all but destroyed the 125+ year old pools. Even though the cost was exceedingly high, the popularity of the pools resulted in a successful funding campaign from private contributions. Moreover, a small army of 400 local volunteer workers provided much of the labor.

The quaint village atmosphere represented in the recent movie about Guernsey during the Second World War no longer exists. Instead it is highly developed with modern homes, some are even palatial.

The biggest surprise of my hike was stumbling upon a 6,000 year old Neolithic burial crypt that was open to my wanderings. Phenomenal!

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the United States. Until then…

Peace Everyone. Pete

John Churchill was named 1st Duke of Marlborough by England’s King William III in 1702.

This was in recognition of his military service to the Crown. His career went on to amass a remarkable string of 26 military victories without defeat. Churchill’s most noted victory occurred at The Battle of Blenheim where over 100,000 troops were engaged in combat.

Churchill dealt a stunning defeat to the French army which suffered over 30,000 casualties. Churchill dispatched word of his success in a note that he personally wrote on a tavern bill.

Shortly after this victory the King granted him an indeterminate lease of the estate that came to be known as Blenheim in honor of that victory. In 1704 Parliament authorized nearly a quarter million Pounds for the construction of a palace upon the grounds.

The Duke contributed another 60 thousand Pounds. The result was the construction of the monumental Blenheim Palace, the only non-royal “country home” in England to bear the designation of “Palace”. It is now a UNESCO