Day 1: Depart USA
To men of other minds my fancy flies, Embosom’d in the deep where Holland lies. Methinks her patient sons before me stand, Where the broad ocean leans against the land (OliverGoldsmith, The Traveller).
Our journey begins with an overnight flight with full meal/beverage service and in-flight entertainment to Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Day 2: Amsterdam & Leiden
For these & other reasons they removed to Leyden, a fair & bewtifull citie, and of a sweete situation… And at length they came to raise a competente & comforteable living, but with hard and continuall labor (William Bradford re the years the Pilgrims lived in Leiden).
From Amsterdam, we transfer to historic Leiden where we will check into our hotel and have the remainder of the day at leisure before gathering for a special welcome dinner.
Day 3: Leiden, Delft & Brussels
I charge you before God and his blessed angels that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow Christ. If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as you were to receive any truth from my ministry, for I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth from His holy word (from John Robinson’s Farewell Speech).
This morning we’ll find, near the clock tower of the Hooglandskerk in a beautifully preserved house built between 1365 and 1370, the American Pilgrim Museum which tells the powerful stories of the founders of the New England Pilgrims. We’ll learn from actual furnishings and artifacts about the reality of the Pilgrims’ daily life; and from a collection of 16th and 17th century maps and engravings by such artists as Gerard Mercator, Adrian van de Venne, and Jacques de Gheyn, we’ll be introduced to many riveting historical events. At the close of the 15th century, Leiden developed an important printing and publishing industry. We’ll have the opportunity to walk by the site of the printing press of William Brewster, a Pilgrim colonist leader who lived in Leiden from about 1616 to 1619 and who printed and published religious books for sale. We’ll also visit Pieterskerk, a late-Gothic church in Leiden dedicated to Saint Peter but best known as the church of the Pilgrim Fathers where John Robinson was buried. We’ll continue on to Delft (birthplace of the famous painter, Vermeer, and nicknamed the “City of Tiles” because of its famous ceramics) to enjoy a visit to the city’s oldest pottery factory and its charming main square before continuing to Delfshaven. We’ll stop at the Dutch Reformed Pilgrim Fathers Church in Delfshaven, where the great Pilgrim adventure began on 21 July 1620. There a ship awaited them, the Speedwell, bound for America. According to the chronicles, the Pilgrim Fathers knelt down in prayer on the quay near that church that was later to be named after them. After a full day, we’ll continue on to Brussels to enjoy dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 4: Brussels, Olney, Bedford & Cambridge
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound/ That saved a wretch like me./ I once was lost, but now am found,/ Was blind but now I see (John Newton and William Cowper).
We board a high-speed train from Brussels to London today, and upon arrival, take a motor coach to Olney, home of 18th century hymn writers John Newton and William Cowper. The Olney Hymns, as they are called, were first published in February 1779 and were written for use in Newton’s rural parish which was made up of relatively poor and uneducated followers. These hymns are a product of the potent ideologies of the Evangelical movement, to which both men belonged. For example, Amazing Grace is an expression of both sinfulness and conversion; it speaks of being lost and blind to being found and ‘now I see’. After a visit to the Cowper and Newton Museum (opened in 1900 and housed in a large red-brick Georgian house called Orchard Side with attached gardens), we’ll be treated to a walking tour of the town before continuing to Bedford. We’ll stop in Bedford to see the statue of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress (Bunyan’s spirituality was born when he claimed he heard a voice ask, “Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven or have thy sins and go to hell?”) and the Meeting House. Our last stop of the day is in Cambridge, famous for its great university, where we’ll be given a brief tour of Emmanuel College and Corpus Christi College before dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 5: Cambridge, Babworth, Scrooby, Austerfield & Epworth
So they lefte… [and] they knew they were pilgrimes, & looked not much on these things; but lift up their eyes to ye heavens, their dearest cuntrie, and quieted their spirits (The first use of the word pilgrims for the Mayflower passengers appearing in William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation).
After breakfast, we travel to Babworth, well known for its connection with the Pilgrim Fathers, for a visit to the 900-year old quintessentially English All Saints’ Parish Church, which is a small structure with a tower steeple and three old bells, and home to Richard Clyfton and the Pilgrim movement. We will also see St. Helena’s Church, and while enjoying a walking tour of nearby Scrooby, we will visit the parish church of St. Wilfred (with its octagonal spire), and see the Scrooby Manor House where William Brewster once stayed. En route to Epworth, home of John Wesley, we’ll stop in the charming village of Austerfield, birthplace of William Bradford who was later governor of the Plymouth Plantation. The Old Rectory in Epworth is a fine Queen Anne style building rebuilt after the famous fire of 1709 and now completely restored and maintained as a museum. We’ll see it along with St. Andrew’s Church, located on hill overlooking town where John Wesley’s father, Samuel, ministered to his flock.
Day 6: Gainsborough, Boston & Stratford Upon Avon
Near this place in September 1607 those later known as “The Pilgrim Fathers” made their first attempt to find religious freedom across the seas. Erected 1957 (The inscription on the front of the Pilgrim Fathers Memorial)
Gainsborough, called the “capital that never was” (because in 1013, the Dane Sweyn Forkbeard based his large empire here after gaining the kingship of England but died five weeks later and his son Canute established the capital elsewhere), is the day’s first destination, where we visit one of the best-preserved medieval manor houses in Britain, the Old Hall where John Smyth and others (including some of the Mayflower Pilgrims) worshipped. This timber-framed building with its magnificent Great Hall and brick tower (a splendid view of the town awaits those who brave the fifty-nine step climb to the top) is now a museum and is located just south of the site of the Gainsborough Castle. We’ll also tour Boston and the Guildhall which was converted into a museum in 1929 and is the place where the Pilgrim Fathers were imprisoned and tried. The cells in which the pilgrims are said to have been held at the time of their trial are on the ground floor, where there is also a special room called the American Room opened by the U.S. Ambassador, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., in 1938. Boston is also home of John Cotton, pastor of St. Botolph’s Church before he left for New England. St. Botolph’s Church, the largest parish church in England, is one of Boston’s most notable landmarks because it has one of the highest towers in England and the tower is visible for miles in the flat lands of Lincolnshire. Just outside Boston, we’ll make a stop along the River Witham to see the Pilgrim Fathers Memorial, and then travel to Stratford upon Avon for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 7: Stratford Upon Avon
Heaven take my soul, and England keeps my bones! (Shakespeare; King John, IV, iii, 10).
We’ll awaken in Stratford-upon-Avon, a charming town visited by three million visitors a year owing to its status as birthplace of the playwright and poet William Shakespeare, and home to the Royal Shakespeare Company. On our half-day sightseeing tour, we’ll see Shakespeare’s birthplace, a beautifully restored 16th century half-timbered house situated in Henley Street, where it is believed that ‘The Bard’ was born in 1564 and spent his childhood years there. It is now a small museum open to the public and has been referred to as a “Mecca” for lovers of literature. We will also visit the childhood home of William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway. Although called Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, it is a spacious twelve-roomed farmhouse now set in extensive gardens. As in many houses of the period, it has multiple chimneys to spread the heat evenly throughout the house during winter, and has visible timber framing, a trademark of Tudor style architecture. We’ll have free time to visit the Harvard House on our own, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant or a see a theater presentation at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Our overnight will be in Stratford Upon Avon.
Day 8: Plymouth & Dartmouth
A schipman was ther, wonyng fer by weste; For ought I wost, he was of Dertemouthe (Geoffrey Chaucer (who visited in 1373) and created the pilgrim shipman from Dartmouth for use in Canterbury Tales).
The morning finds us in Plymouth where the Pilgrims left for the New World in 1620 near the commemorative Mayflower Steps in Sutton Pool. We’ll visit the Island House on the Quay where the Pilgrims sought shelter and essential repairs because of bad weather in the English Channel, and see the memorial at the Barbican, the name given to the western and northern sides of the old harbor, where their ship finally left. We’ll also visit enchanting Dartmouth with its many medieval and Elizabethan streetscapes, narrow lanes and historic buildings. Dartmouth was home to Puritan John Flavel (a prolific and popular author who wrote The Mystery of Providence, Husbandry Spiritualised, Navigation Spiritualised, and The Seamon’s Companion) and an important stop for the Pilgrims as the Mayflower and its companion ship, the Speedwell, made an unscheduled stop for repairs there (about 300 miles west of Land’s End, they realized that the Speedwell was unseaworthy and returned to Plymouth where the Mayflower eventually departed alone). We’ll see the Mayflower Stone on the quay wall in Bayard’s Cove before traveling on to Southampton for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 9: Southampton, Stonehenge & London
Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing (Isaac Watts).
The city of Southampton was the point of departure for the Mayflower when it sailed from England in 1620. It is also the birthplace of Isaac Watts, recognized as the “Father of English Hymnody” who displayed a propensity for rhyme at an early age (and purportedly drove his parents to the point of distraction with his verse; it is said that as a boy, when called upon to explain how he came to have his eyes open during prayers, he began with a little rhyme: A little mouse for want of stairs ran up a rope to say its prayers –and then upon fearing he would be punished, he ended with –O father, father, pity take. And I will no more verses make(!)). In Southhampton, we’ll walk along the old city walls, the longest surviving stretch of medieval wall in England, and go through the same gate the Pilgrims used to board their ships. After visiting the Mayflower Memorial, we continue our journey to Portsmouth, the UK’s only island city (being mainly located on Portsea Island) where we will explore the Mary Rose Museum with its display of artifacts and the history of King Henry VIII’s warship, the Mary Rose, which sank in 1535. We continue to Salisbury to view the best preserved of only four original copies of the Magna Carta (1215) and then travel on to experience the mystery of Stonehenge, one the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world. After an eventful day, we’ll continue to London for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 10: St. Paul’s Cathedral & Tower Of London
As I walked through the wilderness of this world… I saw a man clothed with rags… a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back (John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, pt. I).
In a city described as the flower of all cities, we’ll make our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral, which sits on ground long held sacred as it is the fourth cathedral to occupy this site. The present cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, whose original, grander plan met with considerable resistance. Although a compromise, the architecture of St. Paul’s still reflects the grandeur of Wren’s design; it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1962 and is still the highest point in the city, and its enormous dome is among the highest in the world second only to St. Peter’s in Rome. Next, we’ll visit Wesley’s Chapel on City Road which was built around the time the Americans were declaring their independence from Britain and Burnhill Fields Cemetery, burial site of Isaac Watts, Daniel Defoe, Susanna Wesley and John Bunyan. Later in the day, we’ll want to see the main tourist attraction in London: “Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress,” more commonly known as Tower of London, founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, and played a prominent role in English history, serving variously as an armory, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and a prison. The peak period of the castle’s use as a prison was the 16th and 17th centuries, when many famous figures (Thomas Moore, Anne Boleyn, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Elizabeth I, before she became queen) were all held within its walls and some executed on Tower Green. We’ll also get a close up view of the Tower Bridge. Toward end of day, we’ll enjoy dinner and our second overnight stay in London
Day 11: Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace & Southwark Cathedral
But after these things they could not long continue in any peaceable condition, but were hunted & persecuted on every side, so as their former afflictions were but as flea-bitings in comparison of these which now came upon them. For some were taken & clapt up in prison, others had their houses besett & watcht night and day, & hardly escaped their hands; and yet most were faine to flie & leave their howses & habitations, and the means of their livelehood (from William Bradford’s journal of congregation events).
Our day begins with an exploration of Westminster Abbey, a Gothic monastery church that is the traditional place of coronation and burial for English monarchs. The interior of Westminster Abbey is a veritable museum of English history where among other things are the medieval coronation throne, Poet’s Corner with memorials to Shakespeare, Dickens, and other literary giants, the tombs of Queen Elizabeth I, “Bloody” Queen Mary, explorer David Livingstone and naturalist Charles Darwin. It is also the home of the King James translation of the Bible. We will also tour Southwark Cathedral which stands on the south bank of the River Thames close to London Bridge. Built between 1220 and 1420, Southwark Cathedral is the first Gothic church in London and is where Puritan clergyman, John Harvard (for whom American Boston’s famous University was named), was baptized; the cathedral bears a chapel in his honor. The cathedral is also the burial place of Lancelot Andrewes, translator of the King James Bible. We’ll have opportunity to see the frightful instruments of torment used on Separatist prisoners at the Clink Prison Museum (possibly the oldest men’s prison in England, and probably the oldest women’s prison in England with its first female prisoner in 1246). As the English religious winds blew, the Clink was used for the detention of religious non-conformists, and at one point was reserved for priests who refused the Oath of Allegiance. We’ll visit the home berth of the Pilgrim’s ship at the Mayflower Pub Jetty, and spend the rest of the day visiting such favored London attractions as Buckingham Palace, the House of Parliament, and the Royal Albert Hall. We’ll enjoy a farewell dinner and our last overnight stay in London
Day 12: Return to the USA
We will let the wonder of all we have seen and heard settle over us; then like other pilgrims of other times, go back to our lives with great appreciation and renewed faith.
We leave our hotel and head for the airport to return to the US.
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