Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Very Yurty Christmas

Our yurt on the grounds of Rydal Hall.
My husband and I had a goal last year to see six places in England outside of London.  Our sixth was enjoyed covered in snow over the Christmas weekend from the vantage point of our cozy Full Circle yurt.

Our yurt, or Mongolian round tent, was equipped with wood-burning stove, real beds, cooking gas hob (stove), drinking water, cooking implements, and wood, books, and games to last through the millennium.  Once we figured out how to build a heat-producing fire, we were toasty warm (although we didn't quite figure out how to get it to last through the night, resulting in cold mornings).  We even used the oven in the wood-burning stove to bake our traditional family Christmas dishes of egg and sausage casserole and salmon bake.

With its Mongolian red and green decorations, hanging ornaments, tea-lit lanterns, and solar-powered twinkle (called faerie here) lights, the yurt naturally felt very Christmasy.  To this, our kind host added a miniature Christmas tree decorated with Mongolian ornaments, crackers (see last post on Christmas in England), Christmas card, and fruit cake (another English tradition I failed to mention).   Our host apologised upon our arrival for not leaving a bottle of wine per usual, and we assured him that was OK, that we didn't drink.  He correctly queried whether this was for religious reasons, to which we told him yes and told him which sect.  We were surprised when he told us that, as a one-time Evangelical, he knew about the angel Moroni and Joseph Smith already and knew enough to find it interesting.  We promised to send a Book of Mormon for his review.

From its prime spot on the grounds of Rydal Hall just north of Ambelside, our yurt gave us a window on the frozen world of the Lake Districts.  This 40-mile square tract of land was left in National Trust (the equivalent of American National Parks) by Beatrix Potter, who used her book proceeds to buy up prime country farmland where she had spent many happy summers as a child observing animals (for a wonderfully-acted window on this story, watch Miss Potter by Renee Zellweger).  Even though much was shrouded in frozen mist, this spot of the world was beautiful.

Walking paths stretched out in every direction.   Without the right gear (something we will rectify next time!), we didn't attempt the higher areas, but we made it out to Rydal water (walking on the ice to the island), Grassmere, Ambleside, Hawkshead, and, of course, saw the nearby home of William Wordsworth and explored the formal gardens, grotto, and grounds of Rydal Hall.

Besides the occasional wet toe and the first cold 20 minutes of each morning, the only downside was the reception by the Christian Community who managed Rydal Hall.  Christmas Day I wanted to charge my phone inside the hall so I might call my family, and was turned away because the manager was "in the middle of his Christmas lunch."  I wondered if Mary and the Christ child would have been turned away, too.

Our Christmas Tree amidst Mongolian decorations.
Frozen countryside along the walk to Hawkshead.

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