On July 31, 2015 we witnessed a Blue Moon.
According to Wikipedia, a “blue moon” is an additional full moon that appears in a subdivision of a year: either the third of four full moons in a season, or a second full moon in a month of the common calendar.
When two full moons occur in one month, the second is called a Blue Moon. Owing to the rarity of a blue moon, the term “blue moon” is used colloquially to mean a rare event, as in the phrase “once in a blue moon”.
We have been on the road for over 6 months. It was a rare event for us to quit our jobs, sell most of our possessions and start to travel. We’ve been in Ecuador, Colombia, Alaska, Portugal, Scotland, and England and will be in Spain by the time you’re reading this. Traveling like this still feels like a very rare, and special event. Start here for the whole story.
Exploring Hadrian’s Wall
On July 21, we pointed our rental car south towards the border between Scotland and England to seek the old Roman frontier border. Marching from sea-to-sea across dramatic country is the World Heritage Site of the northwest frontier of the Roman Empire known as Hadrian’s Wall.
In this area alone there are over two dozen sites with survivng portions of Roman wall, turrets, milecastles, towers, granaries, temples, bridges, forts, gates, latrines, baths, ovens – as well as visitor centers, exhibits and museums. The wall was patrolled for 300 years until 410AD. What a sight to see 2000-year-old earthworks snaking across the land. It’s miraculous that any of it remains as many of the stones have been recycled and reused in other construction projects through the ages.
Birdoswald Roman Fort, known as ‘Banna’ was constructed on a hill overlooking a river and has the best-preserved defences of any major fort along Hadrian’s Wall. It was garrisoned by a thousand Roman soldiers.
Housesteads Roman Fort, known as ‘Vercovicium‘, sitting high on a dramatic and windy hilltop is the most complete example and best preserved of the Roman forts in Britain. Begun in AD 124 it was one of the 16 forts supporting Hadrian’s frontier system.
York: England’s Second City
The city of York was founded by the Romans in 71AD and named Eboracum, but the Romans withdrew in the 400s leaving it open to Saxon invaders. Under Ivan the Boneless, Vikings captured the city in 954AD and renamed it Jorvik (The “J” has the “y” sound) thus the present name of York.
Historical York is very picturesque. In 1314 Edward II based his court in York and in the 1390s Richard II made it the capitol of England. King Henry VII married Elizabeth of York, thus ending the War of the Roses or Cousins’ War.
Romans, Vikings, and Soviets…oh my!
Remember the Cold War? After WWII, the West lived in fear of the Soviets and nuclear disaster. The York Cold War Bunker is a time capsule of recent history with original monitoring equipment and furnishings. For 30 years volunteers across England trained and watched and awaited nuclear Armaggedon in these bunkers.
A Tiny Taste of London
London is said to be one of the world’s most expensive cities. So how do budget travelers do Europe’s largest, and most expensive city? In 30 hours!
The first hurdle was getting to London, 2+ hours away from Suffolk in East Anglia where we were starting a new housesit. I researched trains, overground and underground, overnight parking, The Tube (London’s subway system) and it’s myriad and ridiculously confusing ticketing possibilities – only to be ever more confused. (Really, London, you could make it simpler for the folks.)
Driving to the outskirts of the city, we left our car at Stratford Mall, walked to the Stratford Underground station, bought our Oyster cards, loaded them with funds, and were on our way to The City.
It was a very rainy day, so we headed to the London City Museum which documents the history of London from prehistoric times to the present. It gave us a great overview and understanding for what we hoped to see. Later that evening we visited the British Museum which was open until 8:30pm.
Most of London’s world class museums are free, maybe because they have to compete with so many other London attractions. This is wonderful for the budget traveler, since EVEN THE CHURCHES (St. Paul’s and Northminster Abbey) charge high admission fees, although one can enter at no cost if attending one of the many scheduled services.
The next morning dawned clear and sunny, perfect for our All-in-One London Walking Tour with London On-Foot, a “free, gratuities appreciated” tour. See here. Our guide Margaret was fantastic, entertaining and extremely knowledeable. We toured with her from 10:30AM to 5:00PM (with a lunch break) – from Buckingham Palace to the Tower of London – learned a lot and loved it!
Exhausted, we retraced our steps to the Tube, returning to the mall where we found our car just as we left it, and drove back to our new home.
Thirty hours was not enough time to do London justice, but it’s all the time we had. Samuel Johnson said “…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Someday I may say, “Once in a blue moon we visited London.”
Coming soon on the blog: July Travel Expense Report
Thanks so much for reading!
Until next time when I’ll Meet You in the Morning.