We’ve just returned from three weeks in the UK, our first visit in 3 years.  For Mike, it was a whirlwind tour of meeting up with friends and family, trying to catch up with all the news and rehash old stories. I love that part of these trips, but for me, my goal was searching for enough painting resources and inspiration to sustain me in to the future.

These trips give me the space and freshness that I rely on for months in my studio work.  Often I revisit my photos years later, and find a new vision that I hadn’t seen before. There is something about having the time to explore an unfamiliar environment, away from the daily routine.  You see things in a different way. Connections are made, insights discovered.

Whether on country strolls, or museum visits in the cities, it re-charges me for months to come.  This time I took close to 500 photos! But often I just walked and breathed in the images.

We started in Kent, in the Southeast corner of Great Britain and found a great bolt hole between Dover and Canterbury.  It was a beautiful resort, the Broome Park Hotel. Although promoted as a “Golf Resort and Wedding Venue” tucked in to the countryside, I found glorious walks in the early morning across the surrounding fields with no one else around except the birds and sheep. We had a “lodge” on the grounds with two bedrooms a living room and a washer and dryer!  A real bonus for European travel.  And we could walk to the pub in the main manor house at night along the fields for dinner. It was a mid-week bargain, and we could catch up on sleep.

Revived, we found time for a wonderful visit with family in Essex,

and joined up with old sailing mates at the Southampton Boat Show.

And then it was back to the countryside – The New Forest and the Montagu Arms.  The wild horses roam the streets in this unenclosed pastureland, heathland and forest, both in the countryside and through the towns and villages. On one of our very first trips to England together, Mike took me to The New Forest as a special treat, and I still love it.  Perfect weather that first week also helped. Mid-70s and sunny!  Could this really be September in England?

A quick stop at one of my favorite spots, Bath, then we were on our way to Cornwall and St. Ives, a north coast town that is now home to Tate St. Ives Art Museum. It was a challenge to park in the hilly, seaside town and make it down cobblestone streets with luggage in tow to our Inn, The Lifeboat. But when we got there it was worth the challenge. Reception told us it is a right of passage to deal with parking and luggage in St. Ives.  We succeeded, barely, but the reward was a room facing the sea right on the front.

We loved it here.  It was filled with galleries and art for me, and boats and pubs for Mike. It is a huge haven for artists with The Tate in the center of it all.  The exhibitions at the museum focus on the history of many local artists who came here during WWII to escape the bombings in London, and ended up starting a fresh new art colony. The tradition continues with studios tucked everywhere, many of them open during this autumn “Arts Week”.

Mike found a fabulous place in the backstreets of St.Ives, “Olives”, and we did a “lunch” of scones and cake and tea that was to die for. There were winding roads all through the town filled with many surprises, and we often just wandered, seeing where the twisted narrow roads would take us. It was a joy to explore, always looking for a new sea view for dinner.

Finally, we went down to the south side of Cornwall to visit and catch up with more family, and rediscover one of our favorite spots, Charlestown. I actually drove that day from St. Ives to Charlestown on those teeny tiny roads, roundabouts, and confusing lanes through the Cornish country. But we made it without a scratch!

The weather was changing, and fierce winds blew us along our walks from our Inn down the lane to the sea.

We then headed up the west side of England in the rain, across Bodmin Moor

and after a stop in the Cotswolds at a familiar site…The Hare and Hounds…

we were off to the north and The Lake District.

We had four days in the Wordsworth Inn in Grasmere and although the weather finally turned showery and cloudy after over a week of sunshine (very un-British) we didn’t mind. It’s the grey country, after all. And it’s what makes everything so lush and green.

I had brought my rain coat and “brollie” and managed to walk every day, visiting old haunts and discovering new inspiration.

After the best break ever, we headed back down south through Cambridge, home of one of my favorite art museums, The Fitzwilliam, and a room with a view of the punts on the River Cam.

Then on to visit friends at Burnham-on-Crouch, Mike’s old sailing hub,

and finally the last 5 days in London.  Phew!

London meant The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, and The Royal Academy.

We did Notting Hill, Piccadilly, Kensington and Hyde Park…and I even took a rainy afternoon to see a matineee of “Downton Abbey”.  What could be more appropriate.

We even managed to fit in Sunday Roast with friends in the center of London.

Finally Heathrow, and home! To paint…where to even begin?

Now starts the time of looking for connections, sorting through images, thinking of patterns and context of not just the visual images but also the stories that connect us all.  The depth and underlying currents are just as important to me as the visual beauty of our world. Country lanes and city streets with the background sounds of Brexit on the news.  I am already looking forward to the studio season.