The Crown (Glastonbury Backpackers)
Glastonbury, Somerset - England
Once upon a time (in 2005), two new young lovers embarked on a journey. It was a journey so epic, so ambitious, so entirely without hotel reservations, that few couples come out the other side without having invoked the dreaded Silent Treatment (or worse): they backpacked across Europe for two months with only one another for company. It was a journey with only one stipulation: get from Athens to Amsterdam in 8 weeks, though as those of you who read the Logs know, it was soon to become an epic beach safari, the Quest for Laundry, the Quest for the Perfect Salad, an ode to gelato, and many other things, most of them involving tomatoes and nearly all of them being in the same elbow space as Everybody Else and their mother, cousin, sister, and aunt.
Now, six years later, it is time once again for one of the renowned, if notorious, Kessler Family Reunions, this time to be held in Broadway, England, and which this time- after much successive hoop-jumping and a urine test (kidding…about the urine part)- the heroine will also be permitted to attend. Thus, our young lovers find themselves back in Europe, older and, surely, infinitely wiser…
I’ve had “Werewolves of London” in my head for six days. Is that really the only song I know about Britain?
In contrast to our last two international trips, I am pleased to report that the journey here went incredibly smoothly. The only bit of trouble we had was when we arrived in Hounslow and spent a ridiculous fifteen minutes wheeling our luggage back and forth through the puddles, trying to locate the hotel where we were to meet Devon (Marlon’s mom) and Terry… Silly us, we actually thought the street numbers would be sequential!
After a quintessentially English cup of tea during which Devon and Terry regaled us with tales and tips from their last ten days in Ireland, we caught the “tube” (subway) into the West End of London. Getting off at Piccadilly Circus (I was expecting clowns and elephants but apparently it’s not that kind of circus), we strolled Trafalgar Square, admired the iconic silhouette of “Big Ben” in the distance, and got directions from a “bobby” (police officer) for where we could find really good Indian food (and it was… There is a surprisingly large Indian population here, especially in Hounslow, where our hotel was run by a very nice Indian family and where the unexpected sight of a Bollywood movie poster on the side of a bus queue nearly got me left behind by the group and run over).
The next morning we hopped the tube back to Heathrow International to meet the private Family-hired “coach” (bus) that was to take us to the Reunion, along with Marlon's uncle, aunt and a smattering of cousins that had just flown in from California and southern France, respectively. We then proceeded to spend the entire hour and a half ride in fits of laughter as they all reminisced about some of the more outrageous antics at previous Reunions (stolen bikes in Switzerland, too much tequila in Costa Rica, sex shows in Amsterdam, and face-plants in Vancouver, to name a few).
The village of Broadway in the heart of the Cotswolds charmed one immediately: all stone walls and gabled roofs and pristine lawns and distinguished couples strolling High Street with their ice cream cones. The Family had booked us all at the Lygon Arms (literally all 106 guests were part of the Reunion and it was closed to the public), one of the oldest hotels in England with records dating back to 1532 and ties to several distinguished military members throughout history. Initially I was disappointed that our room was in the newer part of the hotel and not the original building, but considering the strong level of paranormal energy evident in the main house, in the end I figure I slept much better being removed from it all!
Day 1 of the Reunion started with a group of us (namely those with kids and those who act like kids) heading off to the Cotswold Falconry Center, where we had the privilege of seeing several enchanting birds of prey, including Eagles, Falcons, Hawks, Vultures and Owls, as well as an impressive flying demonstration where the handler’s accent was nearly as engaging as the show itself.
That afternoon it was off to “Sphering,” which none of us had heard of before but essentially involves careening down a hill in something that resembles a huge hamster ball. (Let’s be honest, I was never going as anything but a spectator.) There are two different types of Sphering, both of which were available: Harness or Eclipse Sphering, where two people are harnessed to the inside of the ball and sent careening down a hill, and Aqua Sphering, where up to three individuals lie down in the base of the ball in a pool of water, which theoretically keeps them in place as the ball spins around them while careening down a hill. (It could be described as an extreme sport under any circumstances, even without the chilly rain that started immediately after we arrived and continued intermittently all afternoon!) In order to get inside the ball, one literally had to run and dive through a hole in the side, which was especially entertaining in the case of the Aqua Spherers, as they all screamed when entering the freezing water. (“Eh, they’re just puttin’ it on!” scoffed our facilitator with an ironic smile, having assured us beforehand that the water was heated.) Perhaps the most collectively enjoyable aspect of the event was that we were invited- nay, encouraged- to help shove our family members down the hill when it was their turn in the sphere!
It should be mentioned that this spectacle was occurring in the middle of the English countryside, literally with three cows watching from the bottom of the hill (apparently they had escaped from a neighboring farm and simply refused to be rounded up- and why should they, with such ready entertainment available to them?). The reactions of those emerging after the Harness Sphering ranged from deathly pale and sickly to ecstatic and grinning (Marlon being one of the few of the latter), but the Aqua Sphering seemed universally enjoyed, despite everyone being blue with cold!
That night was “Quiz Night” in the Great Hall, where we were all assigned to a table for dinner that was to be our “team.” A few of us were nervous we’d have to answer family trivia questions- or worse, be asked to recite everyone’s name- but topics were general pop culture stuff in three rounds: “People,” “World,” and “Random.” Our team was unequivocally the Rowdy Table, which was partly due to the fact that we had a Bingley brother and partly because we were next to the Kids’ Table and kept trying to call each other out for using mobile technology to cheat!
Day 2 was Marlon’s 30th birthday and we were off to see a castle! In usual Kessler style, we had the place entirely to ourselves, and after tea and biscuits in the Tea Room, the private guided tour began. Berkeley Castle is perhaps most renowned for being the site of King Edward II’s imprisonment and murder by his wife Queen Isabella (actually a refreshing change from the usual King-with-ten-mistresses beheads wife for making eye contact with another man), but there are two other facts that make it unique and, in my opinion, more interesting: the same family has lived there for nearly 900 years and its descendants still reside in a wing of the castle; and Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (indisputably my favorite by the Bard) had its first performance there in the Great Hall!
Almost immediately after I entered the castle, I was aware of the spirit of a woman, who linked arms with me and whispered conspiratorially like a long lost girlfriend. I was trying to make an impression of some semblance of sanity on Marlon’s family so I felt that I needed to stay grounded in the present and couldn’t tune in with her as I desired, but she was simply delightful and so was the home for which she obviously had a great love, which felt considerably more warm and cozy than your average castle. (Later our guide revealed that the current Mrs. Berkeley, mistress of the castle, has spoken with conviction of having a friendly ghost that follows her around.) The Keep on the opposite side of the courtyard where the dungeon and King Edward II’s cell was located had an entirely different energy however, cold and crawly and not really worth detailing.
Next up was pre-dinner cocktails at Broadway Tower. Everyone enjoyed the stunning view from the top, which is said to encompass thirteen counties, however only the Europeans enjoyed the “pims,” some sort of gin concoctions with fruit. (I had my own little adventure getting there, as I had wanted to join the group that was walking from the hotel however they had already left so I ended up wandering through a maze of sheep, pastures and gates trying to find the correct footpath. Fortunately I soon ran into Marlon’s second cousin and his girlfriend who were also attempting the walk and we sorted it out.)
Dinner was at the pristine home of the remarkable hostess and planner of this particular Reunion. It was only a few blocks walk from the hotel, along a pretty little lane bordered by stone walls and attractive homes that straddled a line somewhere between cottage and estate (I can only imagine what the neighbors thought, seeing our 100-strong throng shuffle by). When we arrived we were directed around to the back, where a large dining tent, live band, clown, juggler and three different carnival booths were set up there on the lawn behind the flower beds! The BBQ buffet was followed by Marlon's Birthday Cake, which was followed by many valiant and humorous efforts in The Strong Man Game, or "High Striker", where one attempts to ring the bell at the top by striking the appropriate spot with a mallet (it turns out more a game of precision than strength). Pretty surreal to play such classic carnival games for indefinite periods of time without ever having to fork over money or tickets!
Because the battery is almost dead and this is reaching novel proportions, TO BE CONTINUED in Part 2...
Infinite love to all of you,
Arielle & Marlon
Vibrational alchemist, writer, artistic mystic, pack mama and spiritual adventurer living in The Goodland - Goleta, CA. Creator of Lioness Energetics.
*Disclaimer: The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and none of these products or content herein are intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please use my products responsibly, as an adjunct to any medical treatment or other care your body requires. You know what is best for your own healing.
Join the lion(ess) pride.