Category Archives: England

On Tour for Dracula

So, the last work we’re covering for my Romantic and Victorian Gothic course is Dracula, on December 2nd.  For “educational” purposes, I’m going to post some pictures that Yang and I took on our visits to England in 2013 and 2015.  The first trip was a kind of “English major’s dream.”  We visited Tintern Abbey, the Lake Country, Haworth and Whitby in Yorkshire, and in London St. Pancras Cemetery,  Samuel Johnson’s House, Highgate Cemetery, and other neat places.   So, let’s start with images from Whitby that correspond to events in Dracula.
Here is a shot of the cemetery for the Church of St. Mary’s,Whitby6 overlooking the harbor.  You can even see a few graves that might have been the very ones that Mina and Lucy sat upon – where Lucy was attacked by the evil Count and where he hid out during the day.



Here are some of the views of the harbor that the young gals would have see from their spot – or Dracula if he peeked through the cracks of his sepulcher hideyhole.  Whitby7Note the man-made breakwater with its lighthouse, described in the novel.
 The brilliant  roofs on the houses perhaps inspired Stoker’s emphasis of red predominating his descriptions of the town.Whitby13


Whitby12The other arm of the harbor stretches mightily outward.  You can see the depth of the harbor just by noting the height of the opposite cliff.
You get the same impression looking at the abbey and St. Mary’s from the heights above the beach and the concert pavilion. Whitby8






Whitby10Mina must have lied.  She could never have run up these stairs in her bare feet.  The girl must have had her New Balance sneakers on – and collapsed when she got to the top!




Here are some shots of the magnificent ruins themselves.Whiby14












Notice me in the corner for scale.Whitby5






The other Dracula portion of my tour was at Highgate Cemetery.  There are actually two sides to the cemetery.  One is called the Old Highgate and the other the New.  They’re both pretty old, but Yang and I figure that the encounters highgatecwith Lucy’s Undead self probably occurred in  New Highgate, since she would have been buried in 1897.  We weren’t there in the middle of the night; that’s frowned on.  So, our pictures are all in daylight – they wouldn’t have looked too good with only flash light, anyway.  Still, these pics definitely capture the eeriness – especially if you are a Dr. Who fan.  Don’t blink!Highgate2






The graves are closely crowded, so you can imagine how easy Dr.Van Helsing and the boys would have had it finding a place to hide and peek at the vampires.  I don’t know how overgrown the landscape would have been about 120 years ago, though.











You can’t forget to visit some of the famous folk buried here, highgatealike George Eliot.







And my husband said hello to one of the more fiery of the Marx Brothers, Karl.highgatemarx  I guess Van Helsing and Co. were in too much of a rush to pay any literary/political social calls.


To end on an adorable note, enjoy the English Robin on the tomb stone, though you might have to click on the picture and enlarge it to see him/her.Highgate4


Or this fox, who is way too adorable to fall under Dracula’s evil sway.

Great Bustards, Batman! Holy Rooks! Birds in England

 The last few days of May and the first week of June, my spousal unit and I joined a tour in England and France.  Of course, we had to take advantage of the opportunity to sight and photograph lots of birds that we couldn’t see back home.  In England, we got most of our shots in and around London and at Stonehenge.  The special guest star who appeared at Stonehenge, I’m saving for last on this page.

One of the most common birds comes first, the Wood Pigeon.  This guy looks a bit like thewood pigeon Rock Doves back home, but he is quite plumper and longer.  People in Europe probably see them the way we see pigeons back here, but for my husband and I they are a treat for being a bit different from what we’re used to seeing.

We got to add some new ducks and geese to our list of bird sightings for the year.  Here is the Grey Lag  goose.Grey Lag1 There was also another duck we weren’t quite sure of.

It looks like a Tufted Duck with his tuft slicked down.  If anyone else can better identify these guys, please let me know.  We photographed both the male and the female.  Dig those crazy, Satanic orange eyes!  Tufted3


This one is probably the male.

This one looks like the female.  What a lovely couple!


We also saw some coots, including these  babies.


grey heron1One of the prettiest of the water birds was this Grey Heron.  I believe he is an immature one.  Not only have the tuft feathers on his head not developed as they do on a mature bird, but he giggled anytime anyone said “underwear.”  Don’t ask me why anyone did.


Here’s an even better shot of the heron.grey heron2


We also noticed there were lots more birds in the crow family here in England than back at home.  We saw this beautiful Magpie in Highgate Cemetary.Magpie4  Notice how the blue toward the back of his wings picks up the blue of the flowers.  Did he plan that?  We don’t have any of these guys in New England, but I’ve seen them on the West Coast, in California and as far east as Colorado. There are tons of them in China as well.  I wonder why they never seemed to spread past the Rockies?

At Stonehenge, we also saw some other crow relatives, Rooks and  Jackdaws.  I’m fascinated by the missing feathers right above the beak on Rooks.  Since Rooks are carrion feeders, does this lack of feathers help them ward off bacterial infections, as does the Condor’s and vulture’s featherless noggin?IMG_0487

Here’s a Rook.

And here’s a Jackdaw. My husband loves the grey at the back of their heads. jackdaw2 He thinks it makes them look cute.

So here is the treat I promised you at the beginning of this blog!  The Great Bustard! Apparently this bird was almost extinct, and the conservation people have been breeding them to bring them back to repopulate the country.  I was told that I was extremely lucky to be able to see one when I was at Stonehenge.  I certainly feel lucky.  Good luck to these guys making a comeback.