A Call to Adventure: Rendezvous with Me in England!

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There’s a place across the sea where some of my favorite stories were born. Aslan, Frodo, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Hazel and Fiver of Watership Down, King Arthur, young Diamond (who visited the Back of the North Wind), Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes—they all haunt the cobblestone streets and grassy downs of England, and when I’m there I feel like the kid I was when I first read about them. However you may feel about Peter Pan, it’s hard to deny the magic of seeing Big Ben, that majestic clock tower, rising out of the moonlit clouds as the Darling children glide past. And after two quick trips to London over the years, I can tell you the sight of the real Big Ben still contains some of that magic. But London is only part of the story.

A short train ride from away you’ll find the ancient city of Oxford, where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and their friends gathered in the original Rabbit Room to share their stories (and a few pints of ale). I would wager that anyone who’s had their heart nourished by some of these tales has wished at least once to visit the ground where they sprang up like Samwise’s vegetables. I jokingly called it my C.S. Lewis Pilgrimage as we saw the Kilns, Tolkien’s house, the Eagle and Child pub, Addison’s Walk, and Lewis’s resting place beside the old stone church he attended. While Jamie and I stood in silence I spotted long-haired cows grazing on the adjacent hill, and the cold spring sun broke through for a few minutes while I thanked God for good stories and their tellers.

It’s not that there aren’t places in America that are just as beautiful or spiritually significant; I’ll never forget the first time I drove across Kansas and into Colorado when at last I caught my first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. I grew up reading about those, too. I’m a proud American, but I’m also a shameless Anglophile. Now that I’m in the process of finishing the Wingfeather Saga I’m thinking more and more about that faraway land and how I long to visit it with my children before they outgrow me. So I’m going back. We’re touring Sweden again (as lovely a country as ever there was), then heading over to the U.K. for several shows—and this time the kids are coming with us. I can hardly wait.

When I first visited London and Oxford with Jamie a few years back, I had two regrets. First, I wished I had more time. We were there for three days, I think, and there was no way we could see it all, or have time to process what we were seeing. (Hutchmooters, think about the brain-weariness you feel at the end of the weekend, then add jet lag and culture shock.) Second, I wished someone had been there to lead the trip to Oxford. We popped in and out in an afternoon without much help, and Jamie and I both would have gained much from a curator or docent to help us to know what we should see and why.

I’m telling you all that to tell you this. In July, Dan DeWitt (from Boyce College/Southern Seminary in Louisville) is leading a trip to England, sponsored by the seminary, and I’m planning to meet you there. Since the Peterson family will be in the middle of a European tour anyway, Dan and I agreed that an acoustic concert by a self-professed Inklings nerd would be more than appropriate. The trip is more than two weeks long, includes time in both London and Oxford, and will be led by three smart professors dudes (including my friend Dr. Dan DeWitt, an expert on all things Lewis and Tolkien) who will conduct field lectures. It’s not cheap, but an adventure never is (one way or another). I guarantee you that it’ll be worth every penny. As old Bilbo said, “It’s a dangerous thing, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you’ll be swept off to.”

Maybe even an AP concert in England?

Click here to learn more about the trip.

And just for fun, I dug up these photos from an impromptu, last-minute concert at a pub in London back in (I think) 2009. I posted on Facebook that I’d have my guitar at a certain pub at 10:00 one morning, and these fine Londoners showed up. It was just as fun as it looks.

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As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


24 Comments

  1. yankeegospelgirl

    _Watership Down_— now that’s a great novel. I can’t have been more than ten or so when I first got caught up in that one. Couldn’t put it down. Like _The Chosen_, a stunning debut work.

  2. Bailey Gillespie

    Andrew, it’s hard not to be eaten alive by jealousy while reading this post– even when I’m about ready to leave for my own trip to England in 9 days! Somehow when I read your description about the July tour being an adventure, I had this fleeting childish hope that Frodo and Sam, Peter and Susan, and all my other literary heroes might actually pop up over there and want to chat over a cup of tea. But you’re right… an AP concert would be nearly as fun. Unfortunately, I will have just returned from my other trip in April, and my pocketbook won’t allow for another trip so early.

    Have a fantastic tour! Take some amazing shots in Scotland– visiting that place is high on my bucket list. πŸ™‚

  3. Laura Peterson

    The first time I visited London*, I spent the first few hours walking around with a vaguely unsettled, “something’s off, but I can’t quite put my finger on it” feeling. It wasn’t until later that I realized I had been expecting to time-warp to the early 1900s as soon as we landed at Heathrow. Oops. My favorite parts were the bits of the city that didn’t feel quite as modern, where it still felt like Holmes or the Pevensie children might be peeking through. The magic’s still there, I think. This trip will be FANTASTIC.

    *I say “the first time” even though I’ve only been there once. I fully expect to go back someday; although not on this trip. (Trust me, I thought about it.)

    AP, I’m going to play the “unsolicited travel advice” card and say that you MUST go to Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London. I think they’re staging A Midsummer Night’s Dream in July. GO!

  4. Collin Bullard

    Thanks for the heads up. I live in Anglo-land, at the Other Place. I’ve been a mostly silent lurker in the RR for a while, and an AP fan for half my life. I’d love to be a part of whatever is happening; or at least join up for the concert if that’s allowed.

    If I could tempt you to Cambridge, it is, in my humble, but biased, opinion, at least as beautiful and equally hallowed–Lewis did spend some time here as well :). His Cambridge college, Magdalene, one of his favourite pubs, The Pickerel Inn, and one his favourite walks, along the River Cam through Grantchester Meadows where the lamp-post that inspired Narnia stands in a field surrounded by trees… they all await you! We’ve been here about four years now, and, though we’re headed back at the end of the summer, we’ve loved very much living in Ye Olde Land.

  5. Gareth Davies

    Wow, that photo goes a little way back, that was a much appreciated and fondly remembered morning, belated thanks again.

    Please let us know if the natives may be welcomed at any acoustic gatherings.

  6. Jonathan Perkin

    Hi Andrew,

    Have been waiting a long time for the opportunity to see you here in England, so it’s great to hear you’re coming this way! Hope you enjoy your trip and will hopefully get to hear some of your amazing songs live.

    Any chance of bringing Ben and Andy along for the ride too? πŸ˜‰ If not and you happen to need someone on piano, give me a shout, it’d be a real privilege.

  7. Tom Hart

    Hi AP,

    Fab to hear you’re coming over to london again! If you’re looking for some places to play, get in touch as I have a few ideas that I want to float past you…

    Tom
    p.s I’m the guy who named his daughter Jodie after the Queen of Iowa

  8. Ming-Wai

    Do you have to be a student to go? I am seriously considering this if I can get the time off of work…

  9. PaulH

    I would be happy just visiting the Bird & The Babe. What a trip that will be.

    I would like to think that one day one or more of my grandkids and maybe one of their kids will pilgrimage off to a nestled, rolling peice of Nashville soil called The Warren where the Igiby Children were created, just to snap a few photos on their Iphone67.

    I am not exaggrating nor kissing up either, just being on the level.

  10. Lisa

    You have no idea how much I wish I could go. England is the place of my heart, and to go there AND hear AP live??? Wow… Unfortunately the lack of funds is a hill too big to climb. I have had the privilege of being there before, and so I humbly suggest my “must see” …. the British Library. The Lindisfarne Gospels alone are so magnificent, but all the rest? The original copies of Handel’s Messiah? Alice in Wonderland? John Lennon lyrics written on a napkin? SHAKESPEARE???? For a writer and a music lover and a lover of history, it is truly my Mecca…. something tells me you might enjoy it too… πŸ™‚

  11. Matthew Benefiel

    The UK is a wonderful place (Not just England). Sadly even though I lived there from 2000 to 2001 I didn’t visit Oxford (I know! And I like C.S. Lewis and Tolkien). I visited London a few times which was great, and Big Ben is amazing, as is Westminster and the London Tower.

    If you have a chance make it over to Snowdonia Whales, I still believe that is the most magical place in the UK. The mountains are beautiful and stories are written from there if you have ever read the Over Sea Under Stone series.

    I did get to visit Loche Te in Scotland where even though they don’t have a monster, they have the cave where the evil bunny from the Holy Grail lives. Sadly I didn’t know at the time or I would have demanded my parents that we go in search of it (I guess it only stands about three feet high and they used camera angles and props to make it look bigger).

  12. Aaron

    Are there waif rates? You know, where I stay in hostels and tag along behind the rest of the group wearing gloves with no fingers, periodically coughing pathetically?

  13. Heather Irene @ Rambling Rose

    Alas, I will have to follow the adventures from here in Florida while snuggling with my new baby boy. I’ve wanted to go back since I first went in 2002 on our college’s January term choir tour. I’ve sung at St. Mary’s in Oxford, but never got to go to the Eagle and the Child because we were in rehearsal! So close!

  14. Heather Irene @ Rambling Rose

    Alas, I will have to follow the adventures from here in Florida while snuggling with my new baby boy (Andrew – due June 3!). I’ve wanted to go back since I first went in 2002 on our college’s January term choir tour. I’ve sung at St. Mary’s in Oxford, but never got to go to the Eagle and the Child because we were in rehearsal! So close!

  15. Laura Peterson

    (Aaron, thanks for the “waif rates” comment. I’ve had a bummed-out attitude about not being able to make this happen, and that made me laugh. Fingerless gloves, ha!)

  16. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    Aaron, Laura, and everybody else: thanks for the comments! I was honestly a little flabbergasted when I saw how much the trip would cost for folks. It’s working out for us because we’ll already be there on our little European Family Music Tour-and-Sabbatical—and besides, I’m really just popping in for my concert (in full waif attire).

    Still, when you consider the lecturers, the airfare, the curated tour, the credit, and the lodging, it’s not that unreasonable for students rolling it into their education expenses, or for folks who have been saving for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Jamie and the kids and I have been dreaming of an adventure like this for years, and we can hardly believe it’s finally happening.

  17. Aaron

    The rates are completely understandable. No worries. It’s just more than I got.

    But… if I just happened to be in England at the time… and maybe drifted into the Eagle and Child and all the other places the group is going at a completely random moments, randomly… Wha? Oh? There’s an Andrew Peterson in here? Wha?

  18. vicki

    Wow, sounds like a most awesome trip! I would go in a flash, but in my old age I decided to rescue rabbits and therefore I can’t go anywhere for a few years because I am trying to re-home 47 bunnies right now.. one reason I love that you called it the Rabbit Room. Rabbits are amazing enchanting little creatures by the way!
    I was in Oxford for a summer in 74, when I was living in Holland with my family and one of my teachers did a sabbatical in Oxford for the summer and invited some of us…..he rented a age old Vicarage and it had a stone kitchen and outside was an amazing vegetable garden! I remember wearing long Laura Ashley dresses my girlfriend and I bought in Oxford, and going out with big baskets to collect potatoes and vegetable from the garden and then cooking them in the stone kitchen…..it was a fairy tale summer. I hope you will make the CS LEWIS Tour a regular trip every few years, so someday I will have a chance to go! AN AP concert in England sounds so wonderful!

  19. Ming-Wai

    Alas, I could not get that much time off…this time. I will visit Oxford one day though…eventually πŸ™‚

  20. angelicamichel

    Speaking of waifs, I happen to be taking my very first trip to England July this year! πŸ™‚ How might a wandering ragamuffin non-SBTS tourist discover the whereabouts and date for this concert and sneak in? That would be 2 dreams come true–A trip to England and an AP concert all in one month!

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