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Sarlat Square

We left for three weeks in France, Scotland and England on June 18. After two different flights and a 4 hour train ride, we arrived in Bordeaux, France hot, tired; but really glad to be there. Picked up a car and drove up through the Dordogne Valley to Sarlat. Sarlat is an old medieval town, the center of which is mostly made up of beautiful old buildings, squares and rabbit warrens of narrow passages.

Sarlat Market

Big day in Sarlat is Market Day. Every Saturday the streets are filled with vendors selling everything imaginable: spices, shoes, copper pots, knives, cheeses, kittens, sausages. You name it, they were selling it.

Smart Car

From Sarlat, moved on to Lyon and Paris. In Paris, Erin found a car, a SmartCar, just her size.

Figuring it should be a vacation for the kids too, so we spent a day at Disneyland. Had a blast, Euro-Disney is just like the one in Anaheim, but a little smaller. Same basic rides: Teacups, Space Mountain, Big Thunder rollercoaster; but, curiously, no Matterhorn! Then we flew to Edinburgh, rented another car and drove around Scotland and England for a week or so.

High points for me was a visit to Jedburgh, Scotland along the Scottish-English border where the Kerrs come from. Visited Jedburgh Abbey to see the Kerr Crypt. The abbey is truly "a shell of it's former self". Back in the 12th century it was the religious center of the border area; but the area and the abbey suffered from constant attacks by the English. In 1523, they burned it, leaving only the shell behind. Standing in the center of the Abbey today is like standing in the middle of an ancient Egyptian temple (but without the sand).

Jedburgh Abbey Exterior
Jedburgh Abbey Interior

In the 1600s, the Kerr family took over one of the transepts, walled it up and turned it into a crypt. Today, only Kerrs are permitted to visit the crypt; we told the caretaker we were Kerrs and asked to see it. She got the key, a huge, heavy skeleton key, escorted us to the small door, unlocked it and let us in. I had expected a crypt would be a small room, hidden away in dark, dank basement.

Not this one, room was 15' x 25' with 30 foot ceiling, stained glass windows (the only ones left in the abbey). In the center was a single stone sarcophagus where an Alexander Kerr, died 1832, was buried. On the walls are carved stone plaques behind which were older Kerrs going back to the 1600s. Several with our "Sero Sed Serio" ("Late, but in Earnest") motto.

Ferniehirst Castle

Next day, we visited Ferniehirst Castle; the ancestral home of the Kerrs. It dates from the 1400s and is the current residence of Lord Lothian, the Chief of Clan Kerr. It's only open to the public in July and we were there, bright and early the first day. Got to see Lord Lothian himself. Had a really nice tour of the home, chapel, and the Kerr Museum.

The place had the feel of an ordinary, nice family home; except, of course, it's in a really neat castle and there were Christmas cards from Queen Elizabeth on the mantel.

Haddon Hall

Pressed on to York for a couple of days and then on to Derbyshire. Drove round this mostly rural area. Most interesting place we visited, and what made this little side trip worth it, was Haddon Hall.

Really fascinating old home. House was begun about 1170, but most of the construction occurred during the 14th and 15th centuries. Remained in the same family since the Norman Invasion; in the 1700s, they moved to fancier digs and the house was closed, boarded up and abandoned until the 20th century when the 9th Duke of Rutland began restoration work.

Haddon Hall Kitchen

It's a perfect example of a medieval manor house in suspended animation. Beginning about the time of its abandonment, the "Grand Tour of Europe" became all rage among the British upper classes. Upon returning to Britain, they built or remodeled their homes along continental styling: plastered walls, ostentatious gilt work, mirrors, grand staircases, etc.

But Haddon Hall's stone and wood architecture remains, preserved. Dark, stone halls, "warmed" by huge fireplaces and 11th century tapestries. Floors still connected by spiral staircases, cut into the stone walls. Even the original kitchen is still there; with wood preparation tables.

And here's a picture of our rental car - we saved money by renting one with just three wheels - just kidding.

Three Wheeler

To wind up the trip, spent several days in London. While Diane took Erin to the play, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", I went on the "Jack the Ripper" walk. It started at 7:30, lasted two hours and I assumed not a lot of folks would come out in the rain for a walk around the Whitechapel area of London. Dozen, maybe 20. Nope, there were over 150. Each paying $7.50 to follow a guide through old streets and narrow passageways. It was great, he took us to many of the murder sites and related locations. Quite bizarre and grisly I grant you, but very interesting. A side of London, I'd never seen before.

Erin and Friend at Tower of London

Took the kids to see the Tower of London (here's Erin with a friend she met at the Tower). Several improvements to the Tower since I was there last. It now has cafeteria on the grounds. And speaking of grounds, they serve Starbucks, yes, Starbucks Coffee, in the Tower of London!