“OH, to be in England, now that April’s there.”
I am English, born and bred. And even though I have lived, for the most part, outside my native Britain for nearly 40 years, I’m still very much an English woman at heart. You can imagine, then the absolutely marvelous time I’ve had setting the stage for a variety of articles about the UK as we produced this very British-oriented edition of Cruise & Travel Lifestyles. We cover much of the land - “This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,” as Shakespeare wrote, with a selection of articles featuring the countries of Scotland, Wales and England, and we even cross the Irish Sea to spend time touring the glorious and engaging Emerald Isle.
I have always loved springtime in England as it is one of the most beautiful seasons anywhere and as we worked on this issue, two famous and much-loved poems came to mind. One has a very recognizable opening line from one of Britain’s most renowned poets, Robert Browning, in his “Home Thoughts from Abroad”:
“Oh, to be in England, now that April’s there
And whoever wakes in England sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough,
In England – now!”
As a young girl growing up on the Sussex south coast near the famous seaside town of Brighton, (complete with a pebbly beach and famous pier) I would often travel to London with my mother. A native Londoner, she always called it “Town” and we would make the one-hour journey on a train called the Brighton Belle. We would shop, see the famous sights, visit relatives and attend the theatre every year without fail. London was exciting and thrilling and I never tired of walking its streets, shopping on Oxford or Bond Street, taking tea at Liberty’s famous store or spending time in Knightsbridge and Kensington – often staying in Sloan Square. If we were lucky, we would have famous companions in the train’s tea car – such as Sir Laurence Olivier, the comedienne Dora Bryan and other famous folk who called Brighton their home - all very exciting!
Because of my long-time love affair with London I have a particular soft spot for a favorite William Wordsworth poem – Upon Westminster Bridge – written in 1802 as the poet stood one early morning on the bridge. It certainly conjures up how he felt about London and how remarkable the view must have been for him at that time. Wordsworth was born in Cumberland in the bucolic English Lake District which is highlighted in our Real Britain article on page xx, became Poet Laureate and was probably one of England’s most famous romantic poets. This poem stirs wonderful memories for me and I cannot think of London without his words coming to mind. Here is the first part of the poem – words I can still recite from memory 50 years later.
“Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air”.
I hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we have enjoyed creating it and that our writer’s words, amazing photography and creative design provide you with the impetus and desire to visit these hallowed lands or to consider sailing on some of these amazing ships.
Vanessa Lee, Publisher