Sunday, August 31, 2014

London

Samuel Johnson said that if a man was tired of London he was tired of life, but I say if you're tired of London it's because the hordes of tourists armed with maps, cameras and brellys have worn you out.  We visit England frequently, but hadn't spent any time in London since 2001 so we decided to spend 4 days there after our week in the cottage.  Looking for a thrifty hotel we finally settled on a Travelodge, nothing fancy, basic hotel room at a reasonable rate and we opted to pay for the daily all you can eat breakfast to fuel our day.  Standard English breakfast, eggs, bacon (looks more like ham than bacon), sausage, beans, tomatoes, cereal, toast, croissants, juice, coffee, quite a bargain.
We'd turned our car into Hertz and had arranged for a car service to take us into London.  In the past we'd always dragged our bags to the tube and gone in, but decided we were old enough to deserve a better way to travel.
After checking into our hotel we walked down to the Thames, pass the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern to catch a boat going to Greenwich.  Beautiful day for a boat ride, got to go under Tower Bridge (in the past we'd been driven across it and had walked across it, but this was the first time going under it), passed Canary Wharf the new financial center of London and finally arriving at Greenwich.  Had lunch at a pub, the Adrmiral Nelson if I remember correctly, walked through the covered market and made our way up the hill to the Observatory to see the Prime Meridian.  Enjoyed the museum there, but as everywhere else it was heaving with tourists (and just what did I think we were?).
So back down the hill, back onto a boat who instead of taking us to where we'd originally gotten on dropped us at the Tower of London and we had to make our way back home on foot.
Globe Theatre
The Tower where they're putting in a poppy a day until Nov. 11
Observatory at Greenwich








Me on the Prime Meridian 0ยบ Longitude

Lunch at the Admiral Nelson

Imperial War Museum

The next morning we were up bright and early to visit the Imperial War Museum, we both wanted to visit the World War I exhibits.  The museum was free, you were asked to make a donation, and you were handed a timed ticket for the WWI rooms.  We had a bit over an hour to wait so we enjoyed the rest of the exhibits.
Main Exhibit Hall
Sopwith Camel

Trench with tank

The WWI exhibits were really well done, had it not been packed we could have spent the rest of the day there.  Particularly liked the trench exhibit and I finally got to see a Sopwith Camel.
From this museum we made our way to the Victoria and Albert Museum, again very crowded, but upstairs we found a section on the theatre that was very interesting.  Also liked the fashion from the Regency to Modern exhibit.
Regency Theatre at the Victoria and Albert
Had lunch at a barbeque place, great chicken and ribs.
On Sunday we went to the British Museum.  As we came up out of the tube station at Russell Square we were approached by 3 young Chinese men as we studied the street map.  They asked if we were going to the British Museum and when we said yes they asked if the could follow us, and of course we told them they were more than welcome to get lost with us.  As we walked one asked if I spoke Chinese, I offered up Spanish and German and Mac Turkish, but no Chinese.  He told me they were from China, but students in Manchester.  I told him that our daughter was flying to Beijing the next day on business.  She's there now in fact.
Turkish Temple

Copy of the Sutton Hoo Helmet
At the museum we went to look at minatures, then a Turkish tomb Mac wanted to see.  We skipped the Greek, Roman and Egyptian exhibits, we'd seen them before plus we've visited Greece, Rome and Egypt, so what we wanted to see were the Anglo-Saxon exhibits and the Celtic.
Saw parts of the Sutton Hoo find and the Battersea Shield.
After the museum we made our way to 221 Baker Street to pay homage to Sherlock Holmes, no desire to stand in line to visit, but it was fun seeing the outside.  Then it was off to Harrods to visit the food halls, OMG!  if I were rich I'd order all my food from there.
221B Baker Street
Then we walked down to Piccadilly and found a ticket agency to get tickets to see Jeeves and Wooster, the P.G. Wodehouse play.
Dinner was at a Chinese buffet.  Mac loves Chinese and I went along for the ride.
On Monday we had the first rain we'd had the whole trip, but that was ok, we had tickets for Churchill's Underground War Rooms which were spectacular and I'll blog about them tomorrow.
After that we decided to do one more museum and we chose
The National Gallery, looking at mostly 17th-19th century paintings.  Talked to a guard who said he'd visited the States and did it by Greyhound bus, I told him I bet he'd met some interesting folks on that trip.
That night we went to our play and loved it.  There were 3 actors playing all the parts and it was hilarious.  We've both been going around saying, "Jello", in Roderick Spode's voice since seeing it.
Boat in a bottle Greenwich
View From Greenwich
Greenwich
Tuesday it was time to head home, our driver picked us up promptly at 6:30 am and  dropped us at Heathrow an hour later, we had breakfast in the First Class Lounge and then boarded our flight where they proceeded to feed us way too much food.
Breakfast in the Lounge

We're home now, tired, but already planning next year's trip.  If we can find a place that will accept pets we may stay a month, but not in London, too many tourists and I don't want to be one of them.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

About the Roads

Whenever Mac is asked how he likes driving in England he always says he's on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the ocean.  Truthfully he does very well driving over there.  It helps that we both only drive stick shift cars and that's primarily what they rent you in England.  I don't drive there, I'm the navigator, I interpret what Google directions and our map are telling us to do.
England has good roads, sometimes great roads.  Their freeways are M (for Motorway) roads and they're uniformly great, crowded, but great.  Their next level of roads are the A roads and they're quite good too, always at least 2 lanes, frequently divided and limited access with good sign posting.
The next roads are B roads, rather small, but not too bad.  But then comes the white roads with no letter designation, they're scary, often single track, few signs, no names,  hemmed in by walls and tall shrubs with few places to pull over and let a car go by.
I decided that M stands for Marvelous, A for Acceptable, B for Basic and the white road for OMG.
Mac had printed out Google driving directions for the places we were going to and thought we'd be ok.  Unfortunately Google wants to send you the most direct way and that frequently involves driving white roads. The shortest way is often not the best way, staying on bigger roads is always better.  We were lost, a lot, but eventually found our way to where we were going, usually after a lot of backtracking.
One feature of English roads we really like it the roundabout or traffic circle.  Once you figure out where you fit into the scheme of things ( always yield to the car already in the circle) and which lane to be in so you can take the correct exit, you're set, because if you miss your exit or your lane you just keep circling till you get it right.
Did Mac drive in London? NO !  Once we turned our car into Hertz we'd arranged a car service to pick us up and drive us in, and when we left London they came to our hotel and picked us up and drove us out to Heathrow.  They were great, nice car (Audi), good driver, a very relaxed way to go.  And in London the kindly folks there had written on curbside which way to look for traffic, I guess they got tired of tourists getting ran over.
This is a white road

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Adventure Continues

Example of a LIDAR picture showing underground
features--this is not of our dig
Because we both have always had an interest in archeology I started following several groups doing archeology digs in England this spring.  It was so fascinating that we decided we'd find one that would accept us as volunteers to do some digging.  We were lucky enough to find a group that had started work in Gloucestershire near Stroud that had beguntheir dig.  It had been mapped using LIDAR (light detection and ranging) and they hoped they would be uncovering some kind of temple.  Two trenches were being uncovered, the main one had a ditch cut through it and that's where most of the group were working.  As novices we worked with a lovely lady named Sue to uncover the second trench where LIDAR had indicated that a 20 meter in diameter circle was buried.
The sod was cut out and hauled off and then the digging with trowels began.  Working half way across the trench we removed the first 3-4 inches of topsoil lunch time came and then we started at the

Our Trench

Me digging with Sue in our trench

The other trench with folks digging in the ditch


Note the bedrock
beginning again and removed another 3-4 inches of soil.  We hit bedrock much sooner than we expected but not artifacts were found.  I found a teeny, tiny piece of glass and an animal tooth.
The other trench with its ditch had given up pieces of pottery jars and a quern which is a grinding stone.
Every rock and there were loads of those, every bit of dirt and there was even more of that had to be loaded into buckets, dumped into a wheelbarrow and wheeled over to the dump site.  It was hard, hard work and we enjoyed every minute of it.  The people we worked with were so interesting and helpful, particularly Tony the leader of the team and Sue who took us under her wing.
Blistered and sore we finished up around 4 pm and headed home.  The next day we were sore all over, but if we could go back again we'd be back there in a heartbeat, it was an incredible experience.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Home From England

We've been gone the last couple of weeks, to England of course.  Because the trip is long, around 7 1/2 hours over and more than 8 back we flew First Class and it was wonderful.  Quite decent food, champagne as soon as we boarded, snacks all day long, a seat that reclined into a bed with a real pillow and comforter, it was great to be so pampered.
Miss Kitty trying to convince us not to go
Every seat is an aisle seat
And upon arriving at Heathrow we were each given a teeny, tiny hotel room to shower and clean up in.  We had its use for  2 hours at no charge.
Next we picked up our rental car, a Seat ( a Spanish car, but obviously related to the Nissan Versa we'd rented in Utah because it had very little get up and go, but it was really good on gas and that's a good thing because British gas is about
Mac settling in
$8.00 a gallon.
We rented a cottage in Black Bourton (in
Teeny, tiny hotel room

Oxfordshire near Bampton where they film the village scenes for Downton Abbey), Garden Cottage, that we'd rented once before.  It's a beautiful little cottage sitting in the grounds of Shilbrook Manor with its gorgeous gardens.
Garden Cottage

Part of the gardens
We arrived on a Friday afternoon and after offloading our bags (and we took way, way too many) we went for a walk to get the kinks out, stopping at what we called Pooh Bridge to race our Pooh sticks.
Pooh Bridge
On Saturday we went to Chipping Norton to do some antique shopping, I'll post about that later, and on Sunday Mac had booked us for a steam train ride that included lunch---Steam and Cusine--I've always wanted to travel on a steam train, rather like Hercule Poirot on the Orient Express, minus the murder of course.
Our steam train




 It was a bit of a drive from where we were staying so we left early and did fine until we hit the teeny, tiny roads, the home made diversion over a dirt and gravel road, the movie being filmed at the train station and other bits, but made it with about 10 minutes to spare.  Nice linen table cloths, a rather good white wine, salmon tartlet, Yorkshire pudding with every vegetable under the sun, dessert and coffee, we were stuffed.  It was exactly as I'd always pictured it.
Our next adventure was going on an archeological dig, that's for tomorrow.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Wild Kingdom

Alligator with Turtles
The alligator has been hanging around out back.  Mac feeds the turtles and he (the alligator not Mac) came by to see if he could get a bite too.  Not going to happen, it's against state and federal law to feed an alligator.  They get use to a human feeding them and then if they don't get it they get nasty.
On the lighter side, these butterflies have been enjoying the lantana out front.




Fritillary Butterfly

Zebra Longwing

Native to South and Central America
Can be found in the panhandle of Florida
and Northern Texas
And in summer we find them here in Georgia


Red Spotted Purple

Tiger Swallowtail


All Wrapped Up

Started early, finished late.  I started wrapping presents way back in November and except for a few small things due in the mail I'm fi...