“Hello, cousin. It’s lovely to meet you.” The goal of this last leg of our journey is to get an introduction to the UK, connecting with family and friends along the way. A few years ago, I embarked on a family history project that included tracing my roots back as far as I could. My Dad had laid some groundwork with visits in the past few years, but I had never met most of my Scottish and English relatives. Meeting relatives for the first time turned out to be fun and exciting, and we were blown away by the hospitality we were shown.
Our first host was my 1st cousin once removed, John. Basically, that means that his grandmother was my great grandmother, or that he and my Dad are 1st cousins. We were treated to delicious home-cooked meals, and got to meet John’s son and granddaughter (otherwise known as my second cousin and second cousin once removed!!) John lives in Coventry, so we were able to have a nice look around this modern town in the middle of England. During WWII, since Coventry was a big vehicle manufacturer (which meant they were also producing for the war effort), they became a target for devastating bombing. In 1940 the city was nearly levelled. One historic building hit by incendiary devices was the cathedral. The ruins that still remain are a solemn reminder of the violence of war. Two charred medieval roof timbers that had fallen in the shape of a cross are preserved in the open-air memorial.
The free Coventry Transport Museum has a very cool collection of cars, commercial vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles. It also has some good information on Coventry’s role in the war effort, and the dangers it faced because of that role. The special exhibition when we visited was of vehicles used by British surfers, 1950s to the present. One of the most memorable sections there is the Spirit of Speed Gallery, featuring Thrust2 and ThrustSSC, the two fastest cars on Earth. The current record stands at 763 miles per hour!
In the middle of the nearby town of Warwick lies the well preserved Warwick Castle. With well-manicured grounds and plenty of activities this was a very pleasant place to spend the day. The employees in period dress demonstrate everything from archery and weapons to laundry, with detailed explanations and historical context. You really get a feel of being transported back in time with these fun and educational reenactments. We did the dungeon tour which was quite enjoyable, in a twisted sort of way. The script is very good and you can tell the staff really enjoy their jobs, frightening people and showing off devices of torture and doom. Back above ground, walking through the castle’s state rooms you get a good idea of how it would have been to live within the castle. The walk around the ramparts, including way too many stairs!, offers great views of the surrounding countryside.
Another highlight of our visit to Coventry was seeing a local rugby match. John gave us a brief overview of the rules, and we did our best to follow what was going on. It was cool to see some heated, but friendly competition between neighbouring towns. These guys are serious about their sport!
Photos from Coventry can be seen HERE.