Category Archives: Trips

Tattershall Castle


Impressive keep. Bridge over the moat.

We were between international fairs and decided to drive towards the east coast for the day. We wanted to visit Tattershall Castle. We’d driven by before and, this time, we were determined to stop. Tattershall Castle is a tall imposing structure made of red bricks. Not exactly the picture that flashes in your mind when you hear the word “castle”. It’s more of a fortified tower house (a giant keep), not a castle used as a fortress.


Parking is to the right of the Holy Trinity. Here, you can see the two moats. There wasn’t any water when we were there.

It was built as a private residence for Lord Cromwell, the Lord Treasurer to King Henry VI in 1434, taking 13 years to complete. This is not the Cromwell from the Civil War, Commonwealth and Protectorate. It was built on the site of a stone castle, built two centuries earlier. Now, it is owned by the National Trust. It is set right beside the A153 in the town of Tattershall, about 30 miles from the North Sea coast.


View of the guardhouse on the left and Holy Trinity Church. We had ice cream at the picnic tables.

After parking, we strolled past the Holy Trinity Church and the almshouses (we’ve shown these photos on Instagram), crossed the first moat and stopped in at the guardhouse to purchase tickets and pick up our headsets (which we didn’t use).


Amazing spiral staircase with built in handrail.

What’s left of the castle is a red brick keep, a tall tower (crazy tall) that’s been around for 550 years, some ruins and two moats. The keep is four stories high with a basement below and battlements above. All of the keep is opened to visitors. On each corner of the keep is a turret. One turret contains the spiral winding 149 stairs that take you from the ground floor up to the battlements. It’s the widest spiral staircase we’ve ever encountered. A separate, smaller staircase takes you into the basement.





We wanted this massive table. If you have one, let us know.






Fireplace on the second floor.


Fireplace on the ground floor.


Cool ceiling.

On each of the four floors is one ginormous room and then the other three turrets contain smaller rooms for the guards and bathrooms. In the large open chambers are where the family lived and conducted their business. Each floor has a massive fireplace that dominates the room. The higher you go up in the tower, the more impressive the Fireplaces and rooms. Decorated with strained glass, carvings, and painted ceilings. It’s important to note, that while the family’s servants shared the common rooms with the family, the family did not enter the basement nor the ground floor. The family did not mix with the locals. The kitchens were located in another building that no longer exists.


Looking northwest from the battlements. Lincoln Cathedral is just a little right from the center.

Tattershall Castle was built on high ground, though not on a hill or cliff. When we huffed and puffed up to the top battlements, we could see Lincoln Cathedral, as we looked northwest. Drive time between the two landmarks takes about 40 minutes. The day we were there was exceptionally windy and hazy, but we could still make out the cathedral. The family had Spectacular views, as they looked down.


Battlements and one of the turrets.

There’s always something about a place that captures your imagination. We were fascinated that the castle was left empty from 1693 until 1914. Here’s this massive structure allowed to decay and it’s used as a stable for cows! The locals took stones away to built their own garden walls and buildings. During this period, visitors still came to view the romantic ruin. Even as a ruin, it must have been something to see.


Beautiful in the fall.

It wasn’t until 1911 that Lord Curzon of Kedlestone decided it was a national treasure and must be saved. He was one of those titled English gentlemen that rich American girls wanted to marry. He married well (thank you America) and had enough money to save Tattershall Castle, Bodiam Castle and the Taj Mahal in India! At the time he bought the castle, a company had purchased it and had begun tearing it down. The four massive fireplaces had been sold to people in America and they were already removed and waiting on the shipping docks. Lord Curzon stepped in and pulled some important strings. Since the fireplaces were part of a national treasure, they were returned to the castle by horses and carts.


The rocky opening is where the wall would have connected to the keep.

We hoped you enjoyed reading about our adventures in the midlands of England in October. Thanks for reading! And be sure to stop in the store and tell us your England stories. You might even find a special English antique to take home with you.


Cool drawing that they give children who visit. Philip qualified.


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Walking the Medieval Steps of Nottingham Castle


A print of the Nottingham Castle.

When a place has been around for 1000 years and has been the subject of myth, legend, and movies, you expect a pretty awesome story. Nottingham Castle has everything you expect: murder, treason, imprisonment. Everything that is except a castle. Not there anymore. The castle was torn down in 1649 because of the role it played in rebellion. Instead of a castle, there’s a museum in a mansion built on the cliff overlooking Nottingham. Some walls remain and so do the castle tunnels carved into the castle’s sandstone hill. The tunnels eventually spill out into the yard next to Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem pub (see previous post).

The first Nottingham Castle was built in 1067 by William the Conqueror as part of the Norman Conquest takeover of England. He came from France and proceeded to build massive stone towers and castles to maintain his hold over the island. As generations passed and the castle changed hands over and over again, it had lots of stories to tell. About Robin Hood. About the murder of the Queen Mother’s lover. About brother versus brother. Battle after battle. Rebellion.


Robin Hood Statue outside the castle walls.

After we had our Sunday Roast at the pub at the base of the cliff, we started our walk to visit Castle Hill. We walked passed a statue of Robin Hood and continued our climb until we reached the gatehouse. Most of the hill is preserved as a park with the museum at the top. From the outer gate, you continue to climb up to the top of the hill where the 19th century mansion is perched. The cave tour begins in the mansion and winds down through the sandstone tunnels carved into the hill.


Spooky cave room under Castle Hill.

Climbing up and down the 300 slippery steep steps, we heard the infamous stories of the castle. Stopping in small cave rooms, we heard ghost stories. Some of the tunnels were opened up to the outside, so defensive weapons could be used against attacking armies. The steps are worn down and it’s dark and ominous.


The openings in the yard below the castle hill.

Most of all, we were interested in stories during the Robin Hood time period. King Richard the Lionheart left to fight the Crusades without having an heir to the throne. His younger brother Prince John already had control of most of Nottingham including the Sherwood Forest. He had land but no castle. When Richard left, John decided it was time make his move and he sent in his cronies to seize Nottingham Castle in 1191. Three years later, Richard had to use force to take back the castle from his brother’s soldiers. The siege lasted only a few days. Even though Prince John lost the castle, he eventually got the castle back when he became King John in 1199.


The inner gate.

Even without a castle, it’s an interesting, historic site. It was a strenuous climb, but well worth it. It’s not often you can step back into the Middle Ages with a story-telling tour guide.

Next up, our last blog from our October trip, Tattershall Castle.


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The Oldest Pub in England?


Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, at the base of the Nottingham Castle.

There are three pubs in England that claim the title of “Oldest Pub in England”. We visited the one in Nottingham on our last trip. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is located in the centre of the city of Nottingham, in the county of Nottingham and yes, it’s THAT Nottingham. The one with the ties to Robin Hood and the evil Sheriff and bad King John and crusading King Richard the Lionhearted.

Nottingham is a confusing city with one-way streets, crazy roads for buses only, and the most compacted multi-storied parking garages, which by the way, are equally confusing. We had to stop three people just to figure out the ticketing system for the garage and don’t even get us started on how small the ramps were. But back to the story.

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is said to have been functioning as a pub since 1189. The records are vague at best, but there seems to have been a brewery established for the Nottingham Castle, at or near this spot. A brewery was a necessity for a castle in medieval times, because no one wanted to die by drinking the water. This was a gathering spot for the Knights on their way to fight in the crusades, thus the name.


One of the rooms carved into the side of the limestone cliff. On the wall are the Crusaders’ swords.

The Nottingham Castle is built on top of a sandstone cliff and the pub at the base of cliff. Only half of the pub is wood, the rest of the rooms are really small grottos carved into the rock like small caves with pub tables and chairs. There are two levels. You enter through the garden door, walk around the bar, passing by a couple of these small grottos and walk into a larger wooden room, which is where we ate our Sunday Roast lunch and had our pints.


Philip’s waiting on his Sunday Roast.

Have you been to a pub? If not, here’s your instructions. First, find your table and lay claim. Second, note your table number. Third, review the menu, either found at the bar, at your table or on a wall somewhere in the pub. Fourth, order at the bar, giving your table number first, then your food and drink order. Usually, you can either leave the tap open or go ahead and pay. You carry your drinks back to the table and get refreshed. A server will bring your silverware and food.


Up the stairs into the second bar. Note the wonderful Black Forest Carving above the button-back bench.

While we waited on our lunch, we took turns exploring the historic and haunted pub. Up some wobbly stairs are two more rooms with partial cliff walls. In the second “museum” room, they have swords that were used during the crusades. They have several artifacts that are haunted. No, we didn’t see any ghosts, but we were there on a Sunday morning, much to Philip’s dismay.


The most amazing water filter we’ve ever seen. Too bad it wasn’t for sale!

After lunch, we headed up to the castle for tour, but that’s the next blog.


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The amazing railroad viaduct.

While out antique shopping on a Saturday, a dealer suggested we visit the three antique shops in the Georgian town of Knaresborough. The town is located at the bend of the River Nidd, with most of the town perched on the sandstone cliff. It’s located in North Yorkshire about 15 minutes from Harrogate. The town was listed in William the Conqueror’s Doomsday Book in 1086. So, it’s been around for a while.


We ate in the Tearoom on the second floor, in the left window and watched families out doing their weekend shopping.

We visited the charming market square before having lunch at the Lavender Tea Room. The tearoom is located up some tiny steps above the oldest operating chemist in England. Records show that medicines had been dispensed here from the 17th century until 1997. It’s now a candy store! Our lunch was served on a traditional tea tiered server and we managed to finish it all off. Usually, we don’t stop for lunch, so this was a real treat.


This is the view you see as you come up from the market square. Note how the brickwork goes down the right side of the cliff.

Near the market square, Knaresborough Castle is situated at the top of a large cliff, with a wonderful view of the River Nidd. It dates from the Norman times. The castle ruins are owned by the Queen. However, in 1170, Hugh de Moreville owned the castle and he and his followers took refuge there after they had murdered Thomas Beckett in Canterbury. Hugh de Morville was the Constable of the Castle of Knaresborough and leader of the group of four knights who took King Henry II at his word when he said “will nobody rid me of this turbulent priest”. The tie-in for us: 36 years ago, we visited Canterbury Cathedral!


The castle ruins.

The ruins are surrounded by a park, so we strolled around and peered out over the river. We watched several trains cross the Victorian stone viaduct built in the mid-1800s. Canoes rowed under the bridge. Peaceful. The leaves were just starting to turn their fall colours.


The castle ruins from the park. England is so green.

This town sums up why we like England so much. It’s easy to take the word of a stranger and end up in an enchanting little town that belongs to an earlier time. Full of history and just waiting to be discovered. And, yes, we bought several things for the store!



So beautiful! Along the river are restaurants and other tearooms.

Up next: The oldest pub in England.


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A Country House Visit


The Belton House.

The National Trust cares for over 300 historic buildings and gardens around England. One of these properties is located between Lincoln (our home base while in England) and Grantham. Belton House is a country house estate built for Sir John Brownlow between 1685-1689. We stopped in for a tour after a morning of antique shopping in Grantham.


The private approach into the courtyard on the West Wing, under the clock tower.


In the Courtyard between the House and the stables.

So, what’s the draw of a visit to a stately manor? For some, it’s the gardens and grounds. For others, a chance to see how the 1% live. For us, it’s the history, art and architecture. And it doesn’t hurt that we’ve seen some of these buildings on television and in the movies.


Up the stairs at Belton House.

The money for the Belton House came from practicing law. The accumulated wealth allowed the gentry family to build the symmetrical H-style manor house and to fill it with wonderful pieces of furniture and paintings. In addition, the house has two fabulous libraries filled with over 11,000 books collected over 300 years. Our favourite paintings were the massive canvasses of birds, painted by Melchior d’Hondecoeter in the 17th century, that decorate the dining room. The grandeur and size is outstanding and, amazingly, the gargantuan canvases were cut down to fit the room.


The upstairs library.

In more recent history, the 6th Baron Brownlow served as the King’s Lord-in-Waiting for King Edward VIII. He and Wallis Simpson visited Belton House on several occasions before and during Edward’s short reign before he abdicated. As we strolled through the home, we noticed photos of the couple in different rooms and guides were quick to point out rooms that the couple used.


An English tapestry in a room used by Edward and Mrs. Simpson.

Okay, so you know there has to be a Mr. Darcy connection. Belton House served as the setting for Rosings in the BBCs 1995 adaption of Pride and Prejudice starting Colin Firth. We took a photo of the desk where Darcy sits to write THE letter to Elizabeth.


Darcy’s desk.

Around the house, you notice the greyhounds. Painted on floors, carved in sculptures, placed in the ceiling, and embossed on door plates, the greyhound appears in the family’s coat-of-arms and the motif is found throughout the house.

We enjoyed our quick visit this time and, if time allows, we’ll go back and check out the downstairs!

Up next, we stray from our agenda and visit Knaresborough.


The greyhound motif on a door knob plate.

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Exploring the Vasa Ship


A model of the Vasa, painted to show the grandeur of the ship when it was launched.

Almost four hundred years ago, a warship sank on its maiden voyage, right inside the harbour where it was constructed in Stockholm Sweden. It sank into the mud and was left there and forgotten. Now, it resides in a museum.


Doesn’t it remind you of the Black Pearl? Note the people in the shadows at the 3:00 position.

We visited the Vasa Museum, home to the ship, in Stockholm on our cruise aboard the Viking Sea. Walking into the museum, you’re immediately struck by the size of the resurrected ship; it looks like the Black Pearl of the Pirates of the Caribbean. We wandered up and down stairs and platforms which allows you views of the outside of the ship in all its glory. Each year, a million visitors view the Vasa.


The masts were cut off as soon as it sank, so these are reconstructions.

In the early 1600s, Sweden’s King Gustav II Adolf was ready for Sweden to become a naval power and had ordered four identical warships built. The Vasa was the first one finished. The ship was impressive. It had 10 sails, 64 cannons and hundreds of sculptures. It communicated the wealth and power of Sweden. Four hundred and fifty people were needed to run the guns and the ship. There were concerns during the Vasa’s construction about the ship being too narrow and too top heavy, but the King pushed forward.


This is the back of ship, which was highly carved. The wood was saved because the water was so cold that worms and bacteria could not survive. Thus, there was no damage for hundreds of years. 


These are the carvings directly below the former photo. Note how the carvings would have been painted. 

On August 10, 1628, thousands of spectators gathered to watch the Vasa set sail from Stockholm’s harbor. About 1300 meters from the shipyard, a gust of wind causes the ship to list and water to flood the open and low positioned gun-ports. Yep, it sank and sank fast. Ending up on the ocean floor along with fifteen crew members.


Isn’t this grand?!! On a battleship?



So much detail on the sculptures. 

They tried to raise the Vasa, but it was stuck in the mud. Later, in the mid-1600s, they raised most of the cannons using a new invention, the diving bell. But the Vasa continued to sit at the bottom in cold ice water. The exact location was lost in time. In the 1950s, a determined Swede set out to find the battleship. And he did.

In August 1959, the Vasa was lifted and moved in stages. On Monday, April 24, 1961, the Swedish people gathered to see the Vasa appear over the water. The first of its kind to be raised in its entirety. Years passed as they work to dry out the wood and preserve it. In 1990, a museum housing the Vasa opened to the public.


The model next to the ship. 

Thanks for reading about our adventures aboard the Viking Sea. This concludes our trip blog series.  Back to antiquing!


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Archipelago of Stockholm Sweden


Arriving by ship to Stockholm Sweden had its advantages. Early in the morning, as dawn was breaking, the Viking Sea sailed into the archipelago of Stockholm from the Baltic Sea. There are over 30,000 islands that make up the archipelago.



Amazing! Some are little more than uninhabited barren rocks and some are wooded islands with gorgeous historical homes perched on their coasts. Rugged shores and little hideaways captured our imagination. Sailboats flitted among the islands. Small villages hugged the shoreline. It was so quiet.




As we got closer to the islands that make up Stockholm, we saw more activity as the city was waking up. Stockholm is made up of fourteen islands set on a lake. It’s a beautiful clean city and easy to find out the layout.



A dry dock with a “giraffe” crane.


Amusement Park near the ABBA Museum.

We loved our visit to Stockholm. All the photos were taken from our balcony aboard the Viking Sea.

Only one more vacation blog! Thanks for reading.


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Palaces in St. Petersburg


Catherine’s Palace

On our Baltic Sea cruise, we visited St. Petersburg Russia for two days and managed to see three palaces, do a tour of the city, visit a church, and attend a Russian Ballet performance of Swan Lake. Needless to say, we were a bit worn down after Russia.

Peter the Great planned this city on the Baltic Sea over 300 years ago. It gave his navy access to the sea and was meant as an elevated showcase to the world as Russia’s cultural capital. Most of his inspiration came from other European cities, including his grand boulevards and canals. What we experienced were his baroque and classical buildings.

All of the buildings we toured were magnificent. The opulence and artistry are hard to convey in a blog post, especially in a few photos. There were times we were overwhelmed by the art and architecture. Speechless. We can’t imagine the blood, sweat and tears it took to build these palaces and then, rebuild them after the war. The locals are extremely proud of these buildings, as they should be. As tourists to a foreign country, lining up in great herds to see priceless works of art and oh and ah over each room, it’s too hard to take it all in.

If we were turned loose, and allowed to wander at leisure in empty rooms, our experiences would have been different. We would have found favorite pieces of art, discussed details we found in the rooms, noted collections that spoke to us, but we were not allowed to stray from our particular herd. You cannot go into St. Petersburg, unless you are on approved tour or have applied for a visa. So, what we’ll share with you is a few photos of each location and let you linger if you want.

First up was Catherine’s Palace. We visited both the house and the extensive gardens. We saw the famous “Amber Room” and the 12 chandeliers in the Great Hall.




Next was the Winter Palace, home of the Russian Emperors from 1763 to 1917. Today, it’s one of the five buildings that make up the State Hermitage Museum. The Small Hermitage was built onto the Winter Palace to house Catherine the Great’s collection of artifacts. The Hermitage now has over 3 million items. Only a small portion are displayed for the masses. Here, we saw two da Vinci paintings and a number of Rembrandts.


Luckily, we got to by-pass the lines into the Hermitage.



Later, in the evening of the first day, we dressed up and went to the ballet. We were so exhausting it would have been easy to just stay on the ship. But this would be a chance of a lifetime, to see the Russian Ballet performance of the Swan Lake in the small private royal theatre located at the Hermitage. So, we pulled up our big boy pants and got back on the bus. The three-act ballet and orchestra performance were outstanding.


The next day, we visited the onion-domed Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. It is a memorial built where Alexander II was assassinated. With every inch filled with mosaics, it was something to see in person.




Our last palace was the Peterhof, the yellow palace of Peter the Great.  Established as a royal summer imperial residence, it opened in August 1723. The northern facade faces the sea and after touring the building, we followed the gardens from the palace to the sea. We stopped to admire the fountains and sculptures in the gardens, then boarded a hydrofoil back to the city.




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Scenes from Gdansk Poland


There are many choices for cruises sailing in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. We chose the Viking Ocean Cruises “Viking Homelands” for our vacation because it included several stops in Norway, visited eight countries and spent a day in Gdansk, Poland. Theresa is Polish on her mother’s side, so Poland was a must do.


Even the manhole covers are interesting.

Gdansk was one of the most prosperous cities in the Baltic during the Middle Ages and the Old Town has been beautifully restored since the end of World War II.


We saw many accordions.


Children enjoying the costumed characters in the Long Market. 

As luck would have it, we visited Gdansk on the first weekend of their three-week St. Dominic Fair, held annually since 1270. The city was packed full of families and tourists spending the day in the street market and listening to music as it filled the old town city streets. We even found several streets with flea market items.


Marking the spot of the first engagement of WWII.

Our ship, the Viking Sea, docked at the Westerplatte Quay. It was here that the first invasion of WWII occurred, when Germany attacked the Polish Military Depot.


The Motlawa River that connects the town with the Baltic Sea.


The Green Gate is not green.

The old city of Gdansk sits on the Motlawa River and restaurants and shops line the riverbank. During the Fair, throngs of people bought bread, pierogies and souvenirs from all the temporary stalls along the city streets. Even though the town was crowded, we enjoyed the fair atmosphere. The Green Gate spans the opening of the Long Market Street. It’s actually a building with arches at the bottom and was built in the 1500s as the formal residence of the Poland’s monarchs. Walking through the arches, you enter the Long Market, a historic public square lined with period architecture.


Dluga Street.


Neptune’s Fountain in Long Market


Lovely architecture on a private home.


We also visited the Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption (Roman Catholic).


We also visited the Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption (Roman Catholic).


The house, now a hotel, where Nicolaus Copernicus (“sun is the center of the universe”) is said to have visited with his mistress/housekeeper. 

We had the opportunity to visit the shipyards where the strikes led by trade union activist Lech Walesa began the fall of communism in Poland and deconstruction of the Soviet Block.


Mariacka Street, quiet and cozy. Full of shops and cafes.

Gdansk was nothing like what we expected it to be. We thought it would be reflective of the war that happened at its doorstep, but instead the Polish people have rebuilt and stayed true to the original architectural designs. Neither dull, nor boring, instead it was lively and welcoming. If we have the opportunity, we’ll go back.



Back on the ship, a traditional Polish troupe shared folk music and dances from the area.

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Antiquing on the Viking Sea


Outdoor Market in Gdansk, Poland during St. Dominic’s Festival

We took a Viking Ocean cruise to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary In July/August. Even though this was a vacation, we still planned to use our downtime to hunt for antiques for the store. We were gone for 16 days and managed to pop into a couple of different antique shops and attend one flea market.


Antique Store in Bergen, Norway.

We visited two stores in Bergen, Norway, on the second day of our Homelands Cruise, but we came up empty. That happens a lot when you rely on the Internet to help you find shops. Antique stores are not always open when you are in their area. We tried again Stavanger, Norway and then, in Aalborg Denmark. We peered in many store windows.

We were in Copenhagen on a Friday and we had signed up to do a shore excursion to Trivoli Gardens and Rosenberg Castle in the afternoon. Since our morning was free, we hopped aboard the ship’s free shuttle that took us to the drop-off site and walked several blocks to a flea market we had found on the internet.


Thorvaldsen Flea Market


Philip’s wheeling and dealing!


Another view of the Thorvaldsen Flea Market

The outdoor Thorvaldsen Flea Market is located in a plaza near the Danish Parliament, close to the Christiansborg Palace. They are open every Friday and Saturday, April through October. We arrived just as the dealers were setting up, around 9:30. There was around 20 stalls with a good mix of actual antiques and vintage items. The dealers seemed to be willing to take Euros, which worked out well for us. We found what we were looking for and loved the beautiful setting to shop in.


Copenhagen, Denmark

We visited another outdoor market in Gdansk Poland without any luck. And then, we simply didn’t have any time in Berlin. We visited one small shop in Tallinn Estonia. No time in St. Petersburg, Russia. We had planned to visit another outdoor flea market in Helsinki Finland, but the rain caught up with us on that day and since it was raining buckets, no flea market. On the last day, our plans to shop were blocked by a Gay Rights Parade in Stockholm Sweden. Oh well.


We loved what we did buy. Stop by the store and let Philip show off his new treasures.

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