For my last few posts, I’ve shared photos of some favorite moments during a recent trip to England. As I mentioned, the memories that stand out most are not the many interesting sights we saw, but the people we connected with along the way. Like the reader, Katie, who took us horseback riding around her family’s stables, then to tea at her mother-in-law’s 500-year-old cottage. And like Linda, the dear woman who sneaked us onto the last, sold-out tour, so I could see inside the manor that inspired the one in my next book, The Secret of Pembrooke Park. And now I’ll close this trio of posts with photos of the other special people we met up with during the trip.
Penny Culliford is a British author I knew only through Facebook. But she and her friend Cath took the train in to London from Kent to meet us at the historic George Inn. After dinner and great conversation, we went for a walk, Penny keen to show us the new Globe Theatre. (In honor of Cath’s impeccable sense of direction, we later named our GPS after her.) What a pleasure to meet them both.
Anne Rogers works for Lion Hudson, who distributes my books in the UK. I met her three years before when she gave my husband and I a tour of Oxford and Downton Abbey sights. What fun to see her again, enjoy a delicious dinner together in Burford, and catch up with all this busy photographer/writer/traveler has going on in her life.
In Oxford, my traveling companion Sara met up with an old friend of hers, an Irish woman named Fiona. The two had met during a study abroad program, and hadn’t seen each other in over 25 years. Sara said her favorite moment of the day was when Fiona leaned back and sighed, “Ah Sara, the years just melt away.”
While Sara and Fiona were catching up, I had lunch and toured Christ Church College with author Marion Stroud. Marion and I had briefly met once before, but I enjoyed getting to know her better and learning about her writing ministry.
The next day, Sara’s friend Becky (who recently moved to Oxford with her professor-husband), took us on a walking tour of C.S. Lewis sites. As we walked, we saw a crowd of people taking photos. Bill and Hillary Clinton were there to see their daughter Chelsea graduate with her PhD. As the Clintons walked away, Becky and Sara got girlish, mischievous glints in their eyes and took off after them, cameras at the ready. I followed more slowly and less girlishly—right behind one of the secret service guys. (I could have plucked that earpiece right outta his ear. :)) We were within 10 feet of the Clintons and Sara got some great pictures. Here’s one. Becky assured us that she arranges presidential sightings on all her Oxford tours. 🙂
Afterward, Becky took us to beautiful Blenheim Palace, the birth place of Winston Churchill. There we met her husband and sons. Those 3 little boys were about the cutest and most charming young fellows I have ever had the pleasure to meet. (Don’t tell my sons! :)) One is already developing a British accent. Adorable. Becky was even hospitable and brave enough to invite Sara and me—whom she had never met—to dinner at her house. I felt an instant connection with her, due to our shared faith and shared status of mother-of-boys. How lovely to enjoy a home-cooked meal and spend our last evening in England with this dear family.
Last, but not least: Sara and I have known each other for over 25 years—we met in our first jobs after college. But we hadn’t spent a lot of time together in recent years, nor had we traveled together. So when I asked her to accompany me, I wasn’t entirely sure how the trip would go. For 9 out of 10 days we were together nearly every minute. And I am happy to report I made a good choice. Sara and I got along well, she took tons of amazing research photos for me, and drove on the wrong side of the road like a champ! The whole trip was a blessing, and having Sara along was a big part of that. Thanks, Sara!
I’ll close with this excerpt from a blog post Sara wrote, because she summed it up so well:
“We saw so much natural beauty, history, architecture, and artifacts. So many times I was stunned at God’s abundant mercies and grace in our protection and experiences there. But woven through all the sightseeing, picture taking and challenging driving (those roundabouts – eek!)… I was reminded repeatedly that it’s the people that make it all meaningful. It’s so easy for me to get caught up with the next task or project, and neglect to enjoy the people along the way. Praying that God continues to remind me that only people and His Word are eternal, so I should intentionally spend more time with both.”
A good reminder for us all, don’t you think?