"If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under." - Ronald Reagan

Saturday, June 30, 2007

LONDON! Day 9: Southwark Cathedral

The sign in front of the building read Southwark Cathedral.




I was a little confused because people kept referring to it as "Suth-ick" Cathedral. Them English person sure do talk funny...

Now, at Westminster Abbey, all visitors were asked not to take pictures. Here, we were actually encouraged to do so.




Pretty amazing ceiling, don't you think?




This is the stained glass at the rear of the building and the lovely gold sculpture is actually the top of their font. The font itself is very small, black and rather plain. Interesting that they decorated the top in such a way.



This is the Harvard Chapel. A man by the name of Harvard also started some sort of American school, I believe. His family paid for this chapel, too.




The main altar piece. I had more photos of it, up closer, but I'm really putting a lot of pictures up and this page is taking time to load. I promise to put all of this up on my Snapfish account so you can see things I'm leaving out. There's also an awesome picture of floor tiles. "Tiles??" I know, but trust me, they were very cool.


Still plenty more to see...please keep the line moving.

LONDON! Day 9: Borough Market

I heard about this place on another blog where the guy's wife was going to London. All the English commentors raved about Borough Market. So I added it to the list and Roz took us there. It's all about food!

We got there just about lunch time and the place was in full swing.


It's hard to take a clear picture when you're raising the camera overhead but you get the idea.


I about dove mouth-first onto this table...Mmmmmmm!


Just wanted to take this picture. No reason whatsoever. heeheeheehee...


And isn't this just a lovely display? Looks so very tasty!
Stay tuned...there's a gorgeous cathedral right next to the market. You won't want to miss it!

Friday, June 29, 2007

LONDON! Day 8: A Lot of Fast Walking...and then eventually dinner

Roz wanted us to see the real London, not just the tourist part. We marched/speed walked down the River Thames bank. Periodically, our guide would stop and point out a place of interest (or she would just stop to make sure that I was still behind her).

Things we saw:


A Busker.


A replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. It's smaller than I thought it would be. Also, we couldn't go inside because they were already seating for that night's production of Othello.



A true-to-scale replica of The Golden Hinde. Anyone know why this boat was famous? Anyone? Anyone? Okay, Emily, you tell them why this boat was famous (and tell Griffin I have several more pictures for him!).


A remnant of the Winchester Palace, home of the Bishop of Winchester. This guy, while a religious figure and all, was also a pimp and a gangster. There is a prison around the corner that he would fill with "heretics" and other people who crossed him.



The George, the oldest inn in London. It's said to be 400 years old.


This was where we had dinner. The atmosphere was amazing! The timbers inside were bare and the feel of history was everywhere. Dinner was also very tasty. Roz and the Man had wild boar (tasted like pork chops) and I had venison for the first time (tasted like, well, like meat). For desert, we split profiteroles. This was something I had seen on menus before but had no idea what they were, as an adequate description was never included. Obviously, everyone is born with an innate knowledge of profiteroles, just not Americans. Roz was kind enough to describe them and here's what I learned: they're cream puffs. Yup. And they taste goooooooood! Must have been all that walking that worked up my appetite.

Something else about London on a Friday night...

The people who work in the city will head to a local pub, grab a pint, then stand in the street with their friends and chat until the lines for the Tube go down. Then they return the glasses and head home. It's a fun kind of feeling, like there's a long party going on. This picture was taken on the street outside The George.

We had to make one more stop before heading back for the evening...(this one is for you, Mom!)

LONDON! Day 8: Trafalgar Square (And Roz)

While we were in another country, we were not alone. We had a trusty and knowledgeable (and fun) guide in Roz. Now, Roz is a distant relative of my mother's. So distant, in fact, that we're not sure we are even related. Nevertheless, Roz was willing to serve as our tour guide/boot camp instructor for the duration of our vacation.

After Westminster Abbey, we went back to the hotel to rest and unload the pictures on our camera. Then Roz met us in the lobby and off we went on an adventure!

We took the Tube to Trafalgar Square (my toe started to cry at the mere mention of the place). I got better pictures this time.




This lion was one of four that surrounded a tall pillar.



Then the Square has beautiful fountains and a courtyard, with the British Gallery in the background.



There is my handsome Man with the lovely Roz. I would have taken more picture but there was some sort of concert/protest forming so we didn't linger. One thing I will say: there were hardly any pigeons! Trafalgar Square used to be famous for the pigeons and the birdseed sellers ("tuppence a bag!") but the new London mayor decided it wasn't so much fun to have this place over-run with the winged vermin so he drove them out. Hardly any now. Not such a bad thing!



This is another site in Trafalgar Square. Pretty cool, huh?

From here, we crossed A Bridge.


This is A Bridge because I seem to have forgotten the name...perhaps Roz will read this post and be so kind as to remind me of it's name...



And then of course, I had to take a picture of the River Thames.

Roz had a full schedule of things for us to see and she set a fast pace. I have short legs. And I'm chubby. So it was a little difficult to keep up. She took pity on me and slowed down. But dinner was waiting...

TO BE CONTINUED...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

LONDON! Day 8: Westminster Abbey

We came by Tube to the heart of Downtown London. Here you can see the London Eye, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, all within easy walking distance.




Westminster Abbey is famous for being the location of choice for the royal marriages, christenings, coronations and burials. There are officially about 3,300 people buried in the church but the records aren't complete. Among the famous include Mary Queen of Scots, Sir Isaac Newton, Darwin, Handel, Laurence Olivier, And it is just an amazingly spectacular structure!



North Entrance.


Entry was 10 pounds each, along with another 4 pounds for the audio tour, which I highly recommend if you've never been there before. There are also vicar-guided tours but it would have been a wait for the next one so we opted for the audio instead. It looks like a long telephone receiver that go flat instead of having a mouth piece. In the very first area, the North Transept, I was already tearing up. There was a tomb for a husband and wife that had an amazing sculpture. On it the man held his dying wife while trying to fend off Death as it rose from the base. Very touching. Good thing I also had allergies so I could blame them for my sudden need of a tissue.



Side View of North Entrance.


I do not have pictures of the interior because this is a church and as such, it's not polite nor proper to take pictures inside. Still, people were sneaking their cameras out at every opportunity and the vicars had to ask them to stop. So if you visit the Abbey, please don't take pictures.


There are several very famous people buried here with the kings and queens but perhaps my favorite is the tomb of the Unknown Warrior. It's a tribute to an unidentified soldier killed in the Great War of 1914-1918. To read the words written on the black marble, go to this site, click on Abbey Tour, then on the upright rectangle in the lower end of the Nave. When Queen Elizabeth's mother was married at Westminster, she laid her bridal bouquet here. So when she died, the Queen laid her mother's funeral wreath on the tomb, as well. I thought that was a sweet thing to do.

Front View.


In fact, go to the Westminster Abbey website and take a virtual tour. It's really quite amazing. And you'll get to see a picture of the tomb I talked about earlier, with the allergy-inspiring sculpture.




Detail of Front Door.


On a lighter note, this was parked outside the Abbey...



They're called Smart Cars. We saw them all over the place. Just looking at them makes me giggle! Would you believe that it even had a BACK seat? No leg room, but there was a seat there!

LONDON! Day 8: Wimbledon

Bright and early on Friday morning, we decided our first destination on our vacation would be Wimbledon. Now, my husband and I are not big fans of tennis but his Aunt Denise is! We were under strict orders from her to get an official Wimbledon towel by any means necessary or no more free babysitting (okay, it wasn't worded quite like that but the gist was clear). Lucky for us, the Tube goes right through the area. It took about 30 minutes on the Tube and then another 10 minutes of walking. But this was the kind of area we were walking through:



Not exactly a hard walk! I lost count of how many times I stumbled because I was gawking at the buildings instead of watching where I was going. And all these little townhouses have gardens out front!


Now, that is a good tradition! Wish Americans would do that.

Then we arrive!


I had to call Aunt Denise (as per her instructions). With the time difference, it was before 6 a.m. when I called and woke her up! Not sure she would remember the actual conversation, I took a picture of the phone next to the official symbols.


Now she can say she's been to Wimbledon! The complex was gearing up for the tennis tournament (which started this week) so there wasn't much they would let us see. Had to settle for pictures from a distance.



Official Wimbledon towel in hand, we rode a bus back into town, where one of the locals taught us some lingo. You don't "scan" your Oyster card...you "blip" it. Good to know!



"Jessica..." you may be thinking, "What is that?"

Well, dear reader, that is a pay potty. See, you slide your coins into the proper cut-out, receive your change (if necessary) and then the door will slide open to reveal a toilet (or loo for those of you playing along at home). I believe this one was 20 pence (40 cents), which isn't too bad. Neither of us had to go, so we just stood outside giggling instead. Also in town was a fantastic bakery that specialized in fondant and gum-paste decorated cakes. I really wanted to take pictures but thought that might be kinda tacky. So I just settled for pressing my face against the window and drooling over this woman's extraordinary talent. One small tiered cake, decorated with white gum-paste daisies had the price tag of 675 pounds. Whoa!
While waiting for the Tube train to arrive, it started to rain. Good thing I had my trusty umbrella! Since we had the rest of the afternoon, we decided our next stop would be Westminster Abbey.
TO BE CONTINUED....

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

LONDON! Day 7

Thursday was the last day we had to work! Yippeee!! We started to carefully plan our vacation, crossing off the things we had already done and adding a couple more that others had suggested. Super Dave left us that morning. He had to get back to the States for yet another show.

That evening, we decided that we had spent far too much time walking up and down the street of Little Lebanon. We decided to throw caution to the wind and head a different direction. Daring, I know, but we're like that when we've had too much European Coke. Oh, and London Survival Tip #4: Soda in Europe is weird and highly caffeinated. It also comes in smaller sizes and waiters will look at you funny if you ask for a refill.

So we turn right instead of heading straight and this is what we see:

THIS is what I imagined London would look like! THIS is what I saw on all those TV shows and movies! THIS is what we were missing when we went the other way! Just goes to show you...sometimes another direction is all you need.

Also, we had struggled to find a quaint English pub that resembled more a restaurant than a bar. Within 3 blocks, we found 5! And another restaurant - a real one, no bar - that we decided to eat at that night. I had a tasty Shepard's Pie (basically chili with mashed potatoes and cheese on top) while the Man enjoyed some English ribs (he said they were a little dry). We were so thrilled, we even ordered dessert. My normal-sized piece of chocolate cake was served in a bowl that was roughly half the size of the table. Good use of space, people.

On our way back, we passed a nice little market with a large display of fresh breads. This market would be invaluable, as it also was the first place we found to have Dr. Pepper; which, if you known the Man, is what flows through his veins. (Try diagramming that last sentence!)

We tried getting to bed at a decent hour. That shouldn't be so hard as there is virtually nothing on television. London Survival Tip #5: Don't worry about wasting time watching TV. There are only about 10 channels, half of which are in another language (and playing some sort of phone-in trivia game that we did not understand).

Get ready for the next post! Lots of pictures!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

LONDON! Days 5 & 6

You are going to be upset with me. I don't have any interesting pictures for these two days. Sorry! *dodging hurled keyboards*

BUT I do have a good story! Well, more of a rant, with lots of sighs and rolling of eyes! And exclamation points!!! Okay?

Let's start with Tuesday. That night we were kinda dragging so we opted for the Italian restaurant we found on our first night. Topped the night off with another visit to that amazing ice cream place. Actually, I believe it was gelato, as some commentors noticed. Also, see that cute little dish the lady is scooping into? Well, we thought they were very cute as well, flower shaped and pretty colors. So we saved them; rinsed them out in the hotel sink. Even saved the funny little shovel/spoons. Then we brought them home and gave them to da Boo! She loves them.


Wednesday night was quite an...adventure. Now that it's over, I'm back home, and surrounded once again with chocolate and Aleve, I'm fine. Not mad. But you would not have wanted to cross my path that night...

It started with the closing party for the main portion of the conference. It was an evening event and we decided to stop by, make an appearance before heading back out again. I took a picture of some friends we made and, while waiting for Super Dave, I took a picture of this cool staircase at the hotel.

Because of our less-than-stellar experience at a steak place the night before, the boys had talked to someone about finding a decent restaurant. They were given directions and a map was involved so I assumed they knew where we were going. Now, in my journalism studies, it was ingrained in me that you never, never, never, ever assume anything. Because when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me. Yeah. So we head out.

First stop, our beloved Tube station. We arrive in the underground just as a train is preparing to depart. Rather than waiting the 3 minutes it would take for the next one to arrive, Super Dave leaps onto the train. Super Dave has traveled on many a subway/train/underground transport system and on all of these, when you get in the way of closing doors, the doors reopen. Another London Survival Tip: The Tube doors, once closing, do not reopen. But Super Dave made it safely so the Man jumps on, also. That leaves me, standing on the platform, considering my freaking out options. The Man, sensing upcoming freak out, hauls me on board. Did I mention the doors were closing and that they do not reopen? Did I say that already? Perhaps you might have seen me in a previous photo and may have noticed that I am not a slender girl. In fact, I describe my figure as Ruben-esque, after the famous painter who liked to paint chubby females. I. Will. Not. Fit.

Alas, the Man is undeterred and simply pulls harder. This might have worked except for the fact that I happen to have a bad shoulder. Bad shoulders do not like to be pulled any more than they like to be shut in Tube doors. I manage to make it into the train. For the moment, I am just grateful that all body parts are intact. It takes sitting down, glaring at Super Dave and the Man for it to finally hit me: my shoulder hurts. Now I'm really glaring. But everything seems fine because shortly, we will exit the blasted Tube and arrive at a lovely little restaurant, as promised. Right?

We do indeed exit the train and I am trying to decide whether to ignore the throbbing shoulder or the rumbling tummy. Alas, both are forgotten once I see Trafalgar Square just outside the station. More pictures of that later - taken when I wasn't ready to murder someone. We set off around the Square. Again, I think we actually know where we are going!

Things that happen in the next 5 minutes:
  1. We get lost.
  2. Boys decide to wander around aimlessly instead.
  3. It starts to rain.
  4. My shoe breaks. (My favorite shoes, brought on this trip because they are my most comfortable but are now pinching the crud out of my little pinkie toe.)
  5. Boys gets irritated that I interrupt their aimless wandering to look at souvenirs.
Momma ain't happy. And if Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!

Have you ever played the Sims? I played it regularly until the kids came along. On this game, you have your Needs that must be maintained, such as Energy, Hunger, Bathroom, Fun, etc. If one Need is not being met, it's not such a big deal (unless it's Bathroom, then your Sims just pees on the floor). But if several Needs are in the red, well, then look out! All that Sim will do is yell, stomp their feet and basically act like a 3-year-old until you give them what they want. I was tired, in pain and getting very hungry. AND I wasn't having any fun. You can guess what came next...Okay, I didn't yell and I didn't stomp my feet because when I get really, really angry, all I can do is cry. This is when the boys decide to get back on the Tube and go to Piccadilly Circus, AGAIN! Why? Why go back to a place that has restaurants we know are lousy? What exactly was the logic here!?! But crying, emotional women also have difficulty conveying coherent thoughts. We headed back to Piccadilly Circus.

The boys, being sensitive and highly observant people, realize that not all is well with the female. In an effort to placate me, the Man asks me to pick the restaurant. I believe my response was to give him a glaringly angry "Talk to me again without chocolate and you die"-look. Hey, at least with me looking like I did, no panhandlers or street merchants approached us!

We finally arrive at an Italian place that looks pretty good. When it appears that the boys can't commit to entering, I use my veto powers by immediately marching inside and asking for a table for three. Decision made. Was that so hard? Now that we are seated, my toe can rest. Food is arriving so my hunger is abated. All my Needs are returning to green. I can now join in conversation without glaring. Oh look! I'm smiling again! I don't even remember what I had...but the Man had pizza that didn't look very appetizing. London Survival Tip #3: Pizza anywhere else in the world is not like pizza in the Good Ol' U S of A.

And yes, we did get more of that delicious gelato.

Monday, June 25, 2007

LONDON! Day 4

It was a Monday night and work was finally winding down at a reasonable time. So we changed our clothes and headed out for some sight-seeing! Having read through Rick Steve's London guidebook (highly recommend this author, great information and tells you straight up what sites are worth your time or money), we had a list of things we wanted to see. Later on, when we would be on an actual vacation, my mom's relative, Roz, would act as our trusty tour guide, but for now, we were on our own.

Our first destination was the London Eye. This is partly because the night before, while dining at Nippon Tuk, we had such an excellent view of the skyline and this really dominated. Having finally obtained our Oyster cards, we headed for our first ride on the Tube. Having never ridden on an underground train before, I was a little nervous but the Man and Super Dave had been studying the maps while looking to everyone else like they were busy working on important convention stuff. This closest stop was the Edgware station on the Bakerloo line. It's the brown line on all the maps. It's very small and instead of riding down a steep escalator, like at most of the stations, this one packs everyone into a large elevator. There are stairs but a sign posted on them reads "This staircase contains 127 stairs. Please use only in an emergency."

We emerge triumphantly from the Underground at the Waterloo station. We see the Eye almost immediately. I mean, really, how could you miss it?




It's the largest Ferris wheel in the world. And yes, that is the Silver Surfer flying through the center. It big and impressive, kinda cool. And very expensive. We didn't want to *ride* the thing, just gawk at it. And we were looking for a place to eat. Now, one of our little group was not educated in all things London. I won't tell you his name (but his initials are Super Dave). When we approached a potential location for food consumption, he was appalled to discover that it was, in reality, a bar. It's a pub. Pubs are restaurants. Yes, they serve copious amounts of booze but they've got real food, too. So begins the walking. While walking, we see something familiar across the river...



Houses of Parliament (the castle-looking part, like our Congress) and Big Ben. Big Ben is not the name of the clock or the tower. It's the name of the bell inside, which we got to hear toll on a few occasions.

Pretty, isn't it? Oh, I got a lot more photos as we weren't finding any place acceptable to eat (I said no to McDonald's).



Thought we might have more luck going down a particular street but we hadn't taken but a few steps when suddenly, coppers were asking us to please leave the area (and more coppers were arriving with sirens blaring). So we left. Really left. We got on the Westminster Tube and headed somewhere completely different: Piccadilly Circus. And boy, is it a circus! My pictures of this place didn't come out at all. So just imagine Time Square-like flashing digital billboards mixed with statues and fountains that are probably 100 years old. Interesting place! And very busy, as it has quite the nightlife. We strolled for a little while until Super Dave spotted his greatest love: a steak house. We made a beeline for the place.


It was called Aberdeen Steak House (and is apparently a chain, as we saw many of them). The boys had Coke and I ordered a lemonade. Okay, here's another London Survival Tip: lemonade in England is really Sprite with a lemon wedge stuck in it. *sigh* This place offered all different kinds of sauces to drip all over your steak, but the boys were having none of that. And after one bite, they realized why sauce was needed. The steak was not seasoned, marinated or in any other way altered from it's natural form (other than the cooking part). My chicken Kiev was a disappointment, as well. If only we'd known. We didn't bother to order dessert and instead, we trudged back to the hotel, where happiness awaited us in an ice cream form.




They obviously get a lot of people who don't speak the same language so they tried to make things easy when indicating the flavors. Notice the whole coconut smooshed in the - get this - coconut ice cream. Clever, eh? Their mint chocolate chip was excellent but my favorite was the hazelnut (which is being scooped).

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Strawberry Days

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blogging to bring this special announcement...

Our quaint little town has an annual festival called Strawberry Days. There are all sorts of activities, like children's parades, fishing, craft boutique, big parade, rodeo, and of course, the carnival. Mom and I went toured the craft fair yesterday. It was a very good thing that I took a limited amount of cash and that none of those booths took American Express! This afternoon, we took the kids to see it and maybe ride a few of the attractions.

First choice was the Carousel. This was something that da Boo talked about all year long.


Doesn't she look like she's having fun?



And the Boy was pretty excited about riding a horse, too.



This is what happens when the Man attempts to take my picture...
The train was next.

The Boy was very excited about this one! Da Boo liked the fact that she got to ride in the engine and pull the handle that rung the bell. We have no good pictures of her because another little boy sat on the other side of her and was also very excited about ringing the bell.

After rides came games!



In this game, the kids got to pick a ducky out of the pond and then they got to choose a prize.


Da Boo named her bird Georgina and the Boy will get to see just how fun those balls can be the next time he runs through the sprinklers.


Time for one last ride for da Boo (because Mommy didn't give her 2 tickets on the carousel...). Then we headed home, very hot and tired but we had a fun time!

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