When I'm traveling I try to avoid spending too much time moving from place to place. I want to spend enough time in each place I visit to get a feel for it. My goal for this trip was to get a bit of a feel for London, Paris, and rural villages in England and France. In England we chose Willersey in the Cotswolds, and in France we chose Lutzelbourg in Alsace (well, technically Lorraine).
It all went very well. We had only a few days of rain in more than three weeks, pretty good considering it was winter. It was good to alternate city with rural, because the days in the cities were hectic. In London I visited Imperial College for the ECOOP PC meeting, the Mozilla office, friends in Highgate, the Museum Of London, St Paul's, Westminster Abbey, the Monument, the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Eye, and a lot more. In Paris, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, the Mozilla office, and the Arc de Triomphe. In the Cotswolds we explored Oxford and took a day trip to Warwick Castle, and otherwise rambled around the countryside, visiting the villages for Broadway, Snowshill, Stanton, Saintbury and thereabouts. From Lutzelbourg we walked to Pharlsbourg and Saverne, and took a train trip to Strasbourg.
Like most of our holidays there was a lot of walking and eating, hopefully waistline-neutral. We tried to eat local, of course, although it's not clear what that means in London. Food at inns in the Cotswolds was very good. We had a particularly memorable lunch at the Mount Inn in Stanton, in the middle of a long loop walk from Snowshill past Buckland and back; we were a bit tired and grumpy and the lunch cured everything. The Alsatian food was quite Germanic, unsurprisingly, and enormous.
It was the first time I have encountered really old cathedrals. I recalled the passage in The Mythical Man-Month where Fred Brooks points out the incredible self-discipline and humility required for a hundred-year building project; what it takes for generations of artisans to submit to the vision of an architect long gone. Those qualities are inspiring.
We attended an evensong service at St Paul's. It was a nice touch that they had separate seating for tourists and worshipers.
We attended an Anglican service at the parish church in Willersey. It's a great old church, dating back over eight hundred years. The congregation was mostly ancient too, and the sermon I felt was weak, but the people were most welcoming. We went to a French Catholic service in Lutzelbourg, which had much better demographics and was very lively. I couldn't understand a word of it but my translator said the sermon was informed and Biblical. Oddly though, when the service was over everyone left immediately with no fellowship.
Even where the people of God aren't doing well, I find it invigorating to see what he's done and is doing in different places and throughout history. Sometimes when I travel I'm lazy and don't bother going to the local churches on Sundays; that's a big mistake.
A great thing about Lutzelbourg and the Saverne area is the number of ruined castles. We explored the Château de Lutzelbourg just a short walk from the village, and Greifenstein near the road and canal to Saverne. Greifenstein has been abandoned for over five hundred years and looks exactly like I imagined a ruined castle should.
I'd certainly like to spend more time in Europe, but it also made me appreciate what we have here in Auckland, and it's good to be back.