Rock stars, Royalty and Ghosts… What do they have in common? They all seem to prefer staying at the same hotel.
“Springs hotel” got this romantic name because of seven springs which fill the lake next to the hotel… The water temperature in the lake is a constant (53°F) ideal condition for trout farming. The surrounding Evergreen Park gives one a relaxing feeling during any time of the year and the adjacent golf course is a wonderful place for lovers of this sport. Rooms in the hotel have oak panels, fireplaces with carved wooden surrounds and magnificent furniture which helps to create a very comfortable chic atmosphere.
The history of the house dates back to the Victorian era, it began in 1874 when one member of royal family Sir Alexander Kondi Stevens built a Tudor style country house on the bank of the River Thames. According to archaeologists it is said that it was a place of an ancient Roman ruin. Soon the Mansion became a popular holiday country house for diplomats and members of the royal family. Some years later, King Edward the VIII became a regular visitor. Over the years the hotel was owned by many well known people. One of them was Ian Gillan from the group “Deep Purple”. Together with his girlfriend he bought the house in 1973 and turned it into a fine hotel. A distinctive feature installed at the hotel by this well known pop star is the pool in the form of a guitar.
The hotel was fully refurbished ten years ago and to commemorate all the famous people that stayed in this magnificent house each room has been named after it’s well-known visitor. One of these, was the famous English contralto Clara Butt the opera star (1873-1936).
The history and career of Clara Butt is both successful and tragic. It seems that fate had a hand throughout her life. Her talent was first noticed during her schooldays in Bristol and later she was trained by many well known teachers from France, Germany and Italy, Clara was also sponsored by Queen Victoria. At the age of 20 she had her professional debut at the Albert Hall in London and later enjoyed some of the choicest parts in the best theaters of the time. Talented with a bright career it would seem that it was more than she could dream or wish for. But tragedy just like good fortune struck when she suffered the death of her two sons and in the last years of life she contracted a serious illness that left her in a wheelchair. Nevertheless, Clara Butt continued to make records.
Many mysterious myths exist about Clara Butt. One is that her ghost still appears in the park on warm summer nights. Would you care to meet the charming Clara Butt’s ghost and “hear” her bewitching singing? If so, “Springs hotel” for you.
They say “all roads lead to Rome “. Many strait roads, according to researchers, were founded by the ancient Romans and you can find evidence of the Romans having been in England. They founded many cities and towns. One of them is Bath, which was established as a spa resort. Curative thermal sources were known long before the appearance of the Romans, The Bath springs are the only hot springs in Great Britain. Water temperatures can reach 96 degrees Celsius at a depth of 4000 meters and thanks to a natural geothermal system eventually rise to the surface having been cooled by up to 46 degrees. Natural hot baths with all the magnificence of a Spa service are the heritage of a Roman civilization. The Romans built the Bath house and a temple dedicated to Sul, (a Celtic god) and Minerva, (a Roman goddess). This they hoped would please two gods at once.
There is also another legend from ancient times, about prince Bladud, the father of King Lear who was suffering from leprosy and was sent away to look after some pigs. The pigs were also sick with a skin infection but after they wallowed in some hot dirt, they were suddenly cured. So the prince followed their example and also got well after bathing in this mud. Eventually he became the King of England and founded the city of Bath.
I visited this city for the first time in 2008 and never heard anything about this legend. Therefore I could not understand why there were so many pig sculptures all around the city streets. A thought came to mind that there has to be a legend connected with these strange pigs! I was right, the city was celebrating, the art festival of “King Bladud’s Pigs in Bath” that day and was organized to commemorate this special event. 104 ornamental sculptures of pigs decorated many streets and were eventually sold at auction to raise funds for two Greenway road tunnels in the city.
Whether the Romans or the Prince founded this city, nobody can say for sure today. Legends over this also exist to enhance history with a peculiar sort of charm. But we can be surer about the history of Bath in the 18th century when it became famous as a fashionable place to visit. Members of the Royal family, most of the nobility, high society and the beautiful people of London visited this resort. There was a special social group in England named the Dandies, representatives of the middle class, fans of fashion and chic with special aristocratic manners, refined speech, and elegantly dressed gentlemen, which character is best described as boastful and coddled in Charles Dickens’s story “The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club”. But never mind about Dickens! Not only did they become famous in literary novels but a recent statue of the most well known dandy of them all Beau Brummell was erected in Jermyn Street central London. In those days Dandies used to visit City of Bath every summer. The Master of Ceremonies Beau Nash was well known in those days as “the king of dandies” who entertained society.
What attracted people to Bath all those years ago? The refined Palladian and Georgian architecture has attracted many people to this city for many years. Bath has Georgian buildings made from honey coloured stone. A Medieval Abbey in Gothic style where the first king Edgar of a united England was crowned in 973. It has a beautiful Palladian (Poultney) Bridge through which the river Avon flows and was also used as a shopping mall like the ones in Europe. Poultney Street may have some really beautiful Georgian terraces but the most spectacular of Bath’s terraces The Royal Crescent is well-known throughout Europe, constructed more than 250 years ago it is now considered an architectural classic!
Today Bath is a magnificent place and cultural city for tourists, with lots of musical traditions evolved over the years, with numerous organ concerts, because Bath Abbey is home to the famous Klais Organ. Annual competitions of bards are well known as well as competitions to find the best singer, poet and story-teller. This tradition stems from the middle ages when wandering bards not only entertained the public but were also chroniclers of history. Perhaps, thanks to them, myths about druids, prophets and healers survive to this day as well as the legend of the Lion and the Bear which are represented on the emblem of The City.
You can admire the harmony of beautiful architecture when walking along the streets of Bath and possibly learn something about history but the English Bath of today really began from the Roman bath house all those years ago.
The deserts round the Dead Sea are places where ancient Qumran manuscripts where found, as well as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah from the Book of Genesis, it is also the lowest point on earth. The surface of the Dead Sea is 400 meters lower than the level of the World’s Ocean. Unfortunately the sea level is falling annually by about 1 meter, that’s why some experts claim that it will disappear from the earth in the not too distant future.
One day on a very warm sunny day in November, some friends and I were driving through the Negev desert in Israel, my impression of a desert soon changed as we drove through mountains, along winding and twisting roads all heading to this unique place. The desert with its bright yellow sand dunes and blue sky, constantly changing to shades of white, orange and brown doesn’t leave anybody indifferent to its nature. I never realized before that the beauty of the desert, with empty miles full of rich colors without a single bush or green tree could fascinate me so! We stopped half way along the road were Nubian Ibex’s (a type of mountain goat) welcomed us with their play, unfortunately, we did not have any food for them but they posed perfectly for our photos. Funny how these animals made the desert feel alive for me.
The Dead Sea appeared on the horizon as a mirage; it did not seem like a sea at first with the whitish colors of salt merging with the blue horizon. Finally, after our long travel on the empty desert road, we came across lots of beautiful hotels with green palm trees appearing all along the coast.
You should enter into the salt water of the Dead Sea gently as the bottom is covered with salt crystals which can easily cut your feet. The salty water is so heavy that it is possible to semi-sit or semi-lye but impossible to sink. One must also be very careful not to turn over and allow your face to go in the water as you can burn your eyes with most unpleasant consequences.
The sea was named Dead because nobody assumed that any animal can survive in this salty water. But actually, scientist discovered some micro organisms and some of the tallest mushrooms live in this water. The saltiest water in the world is well known for its healing properties. It is recommended that the first dip be no longer then 20 minutes in this salty bath but then I personally wanted to go into this oily liquid again and again which envelops the body with the soft feeling of a gentle touch. Later on at the end of the day, my body was fully relaxed and there was a great desire to lie down and do nothing. That night my friends felt exactly the same and we all slept like a baby.
Nevertheless, be it the active influence of human civilization or natural erosion, the Dead Sea is under serious threat of disappearing forever. Jordan offered a way of rescuing it by pumping up water from the Red Sea into the Dead Sea. It will require up two billion cubic meters of water annually, otherwise, it will disappear in about 50 year’s time. With global warming this could happen even earlier so do not miss the chance to visit this amazing, beautiful, and fascinating sea.
This article is not only about political scandals and intrigue…
Where can you buy the most expensive sandwich in the world? In an Italian mansion, now a magnificent hotel called CLIVEDEN. In the 2007 Guinness Book of Records the Essen Platinum Sandwich costing £100 was registered as the most expensive sandwich ever sold, it was ordered in the restaurant of the Cliveden hotel referred to as “The valley among cliffs” this romantically sounding title derives from the fact that it is nestled among some beautiful cliffs above the Thames in Taplow, England.
This hotel is not only well-known for their “golden” sandwiches...
The history of this Manor house began in 1237 according to some documents found in ancient archives. At various times over the centuries the estate belonged to a Count, two Dukes, a Prince and a Viscount. Three times the Manor was rebuilt over many years, in 1795 the first house was burned down due to a servant knocking over a candle and in 1849 the second house burned down when decorators set off a fire by accident which completely destroyed it.
The modern mansion now used as a hotel was designed in 1851 by the architect Charles Barry in a Palladian style, Charles Barry is known for his project at Westminster (The House of Commons and the Chamber of Lords). George, the 2nd Duke of Sutherland and a one time owner rebuilt the Manor in the style of an Italian country house.
In 1893 the nouveau riche Lord Astor bought the Manor house and spent a fortune redecorating it with a magnificent huge hall, ceilings and walls decorated with panels from English oak, columns with wooden carvings and a 16th century fireplace brought over from a destroyed Palace in Burgundy. Most of the rooms were covered with tapestries and armor from the 18th century. One ceiling painted to represent the four seasons with portraits of the of Duke Sutherland’s children, (The only surviving element of the architect Charles Barry) was too beautiful to be destroyed so Lord Astor decided to keep it. The Rococo style French dining room, was acquired from a French Castle which was rented at one time by King Louis XV for his mistress Madam Pompadour.
Outside, the Parterre in the landscaped gardens is one of the biggest in Europe. Beautiful green pyramids, wedge-shaped flower beds, and seasonal flowers adorn the Manor’s great park. A water garden with an island and a Chinese pagoda was acquired in 1900.
One of the more unusual features of the gardens is a collection of sculptures, most of which were acquired by the Astors at the end of the last century in Rome. The most impressive is “The Love Fountain” on the lime avenue leading up to the Manor house, it is shaped in the form of a sea shell entirely sculpted from Carrara marble, supporting three full-scale female figures accompanied by cupids. Finally there is a unique collection of eight Roman marble sarcophagi, some of them dating back to 100 years AD as well as a mausoleum and a lovely Tortoise fountain.
Beyond the beautiful formal gardens lie open magnificent landscape garden and woodland with breathtaking views of the Thames and all sorts of wildlife.
Cliveden is well-known for its political scandals. One of them was about, a small club of political intellectuals led by Nancy Astor known as the “Cliveden set”. A journalist from the communist newspaper “The Week” published an article where it was reported that communications took place between the club and Nazi Germany. Later, in 1972 a man named Christopher Sykes wrote that the whole story about the club and the Nazis was ideologically motivated misinformation.
The worst scandal to be associated with the Manor came in the 1960’s which involved a Secretary of State for War, a high class call girl and a Soviet Embassy official. The story goes that a London call girl named Christine Killer was the mistress of the Soviet military attaché Eugenie Ivanov based at the Soviet Embassy in London and at the same time was also on friendly terms with the Secretary of State for War a Mr John Profumo. Peter Right a person working in the British counterintelligence agency MI5, spoke with Miss Keeler regarding her irregular liaisons and discovered that there was an attempt by the Soviet Military attaché to obtain confidential military data from John Profumo via his affair with Miss Keeler. It was during the time of the cold war between the Soviet Union and the West! The consequences from the point of view of national security were extremely serious. Profumo’s relationship with the alleged mistress of the Russian spy caused his resignation and brought great embarrassment to the Conservative government.
Famous people have visited Cliveden at different times, including Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Joseph Kennedy, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, F. D. Roosevelt and Rudyard Kipling and it still goes on today. Rich and famous people regularly visit this beautiful place. This five-star hotel can rent you a room from £ 462.00 a night and you can also order a “golden” sandwich for an extra £ 100.00. The history and magnificent beauty of this Manor house and park will never fail to impress you!
Much can be learned about some English history from Cliveden’s stories; so many famous names are connected with it and each one of them with a different tale to tell. The motto of the Sutherland family still remains on the radiators in some parts of the house, and has now been adopted as the hotel motto: “Nothing ordinary ever happened here, nor could it”.
How many legends do you know about geese? In China the goose is considered like a love and marriage talisman. In Rome geese saved the city from conquerors, defenders of the city were woken by cackling of geese when Gauls began storming the town walls.
In England there has been a traditional goose fair for 700 years. Nobody knows exactly the story behind this fair. From documentary sources, the Charter of King Edward of 1284 there is a mention of city fairs in Nottingham. They tell about 20,000 geese that were annually driven for hundreds of miles from the Counties of Lincolnshire, Cambridge, and Norfolk to the market place of Nottingham. The paws of the geese were covered with a mixture of pitch and sand to protect them during their long walk.
Let’s imagine for a moment how this fair would have been in reality, how it was originally a long time ago. Remember there were no roads, thousands of people, beggars, farmers, rich men, medieval singers, and sometimes even colleagues of Robin Hood who lived in Sherwood Forest would join in this procession. Dancers, acrobats, minstrels, medieval singers, and lots of other entertainments and games would be offered to the crowd. Smells of hot food mixed with the moos, cackle and bleating of the animals being sold in the market square.
How the world has changed since those wonderful days thanks to the invention of electricity and modern transport. Today, it is the biggest traveling fun fair in Britain, an entertaining, extremely cheerful and bright show, a holiday for children and adults alike, not forgetting romantics and thrill-seekers. Traditionally, there would always be lots of things to eat on offer, like bacon rolls, fried potatoes with fish and mushy peas, as well as grilled chicken and boiled sausages. All that is left from this ancient goose festival is just the name and the tradition. This year when I visited, I didn’t see any live or baked geese at this event, only a group of small plastic geese floating in an artificial pool to entertain the younger visitors.
The legend regarding the history of the Goose fair could be true, because we have Michaelmas day. The feast of St Michael which was celebrated on September the 29th a long time ago. It was usually held at the end the agricultural year and the beginning of the new season. Farmers had a belief that to eat a fried fat goose on this day would help to bewitch the following year and secure a good harvest. Students of many colleges especially at Oxford and Cambridge followed this tradition too. For them, the partaking of fried goose on this day provided them with prosperity and success for their academic year.
A lot of ancient traditions have been forgotten in England in the 70s and 80s although, lots of restaurants still offer traditional fried goose on Michaelmas day. Similar festivals are celebrated in many European countries, but never forget that there are two different types of geese, the green goose of Michaelmas, which is normally fed on fresh grass and is never as fat as the goose we normally eat at Christmas time which is fed on wheat to fatten her up for winter.
These are just some goose traditions. So, whoever did not manage to fry a goose last October, it is not too late for there is still a chance, Christmas is coming, so go get your goose!