Monday, September 14, 2015

An American Family in Europe, Day 11: Blists Hill and Ironbridge

(Previously: Day 10, the waterfalls of Wales)

For once, we got an early start this morning and we were in the parking lot of Blists Hill Victorian Town before it opened at 10 a.m.

Blists Hill is a re-created English town that tries to capture the year 1900. It is built around the ruins of a brick and tile factory that once operated here. The grounds feature an old school house, a candy shop, a bakery, a printshop, horse stables, a steam locomotive, a merry-go-round, some walking trails and more.

Demonstrators stroll the grounds in period costumes, and various demonstrations and shows are held throughout the day. It is similar to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich.

In all, Blists Hill is a pleasant place to walk around, and "experience" history rather than just learn about it. Two particular events made our visit especially enjoyable.

The first was a "class" held in the one-room school house by a stern, disciplinarian school master. I wish I knew this man's name because he played his role to perfection. He chastised girls and women for wearing nail polish, scolded anyone who dared write with his or her left hand, and mocked those who hesitated even slightly when answering his questions. It was all-at-once frightening and funny.

The second memorable episode was an amateur dog show put on near the end of the day. The emphasis here should be on amateur.

None of the five dogs participating were trained, yet they and their owners tried earnestly to navigate the simple obstacle course and the barking contest. You couldn't help but root for them, but few had success. It's hard to explain, but it was simply hilarious. This was not a regular feature of Blists Hill, so we were fortunate to see it.

We also saw a talk on braiding horse tails, and participated in a sing-along of old songs, aimed mostly at small children. The fresh bread from the bakery was delicious.

We had a little time after we left Blists Hill, so we drove a short distance to Ironbridge, a small town on the River Severn, that is famous -- you guessed it -- for its iron bridge. This area is called by some the birthplace of the industrial revolution because the smelting of iron was perfected here.

The bridge and the town are a picturesque place for a little walking around. We spent some time in a crowded bookstore there, and grabbed some fish and chips for dinner. The fish, once again, was excellent, but at this point all of us had had WAY too many french fries on this trip. We vowed to stay away from them for awhile.

Next: Day 12, Warwick Castle

The full trip, by day: 

Days 1 and 2, Los Angeles to Paris

Day 3, Paris

Day 4, the Palace of Versailles

Day 5, the Eiffel Tower

Day 6, Goodbye France, hello England

Day 7, Windsor Castle & Stonehenge

Day 8, Bath

Day 9, Doctor Who and Swansea's LC

Day 10, the waterfalls of Wales

Day 11, Blists Hill and Ironbridge

Day 12, Warwick Castle

Day 13, Oxford and Harry Potter Studio Tour

Day 14, this is London

Day 15, British Museum and British Library

Day 16, the Tube goes on strike

Day 17, Greenwich, the Thames and Westminster Abbey

Day 18, the Tower of London

Day 19, heading home  


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