Thursday, June 28, 2012

I usually drag Mark around to look at mouldy old stones and buildings, or through art museums or interesting houses, and he manfully goes along with the plan. But the tradeoff is that we do go to see war museums, airplanes, and anything mechanical whenever possible. So, today is RAF Museum day, up north of London. 

I shouldn't complain, it really is a great museum -- probably the best display of old planes and helicopters of all the air museums we've visited (and we've visited quite a few, I tell you). They have an old restored workshop with the truly antique planes that I found interesting and beautiful, and huge hangers full of bombers and early jets that Mark found fascinating. It is a huge collection, and the museum is well-laid-out and documented. I took tons of pictures of the planes - which are interesting to me as photo subjects, not necessarily as military paraphernalia, of course -- and poked around at the older planes. Some o the old wood and fabric biplanes and triplanes on display are just beautiful, in a way that the modern jets and planes just aren't, at least not to a non-buff like myself. We didn't realize that we'd timed our visit with the live opening of the Bomber Command Memorial  in London, which was on a huge screen in hte main hanger, and there was a flyover of modern jets and an old Lancaster bomber at noon. It was pretty cool, if I say so myself.  If you are at all in terested in military history (particularly WW1 and WW2) it's worth the trip up on the tube (about half an hour). 

I finally dragged Mark away from the planes and battle plans, and we hurried back to London to see the London Museum -- the history of London from prehistoric times to Roman city, to medieval city and onward. Super museum!! Worth a couple of hours, at least -- starting upstairs you wander down through the archeological evidence from the stone age to the thriving settlement here in Roman times, and then to the medieval town (and plague, and then fire!) . You can see how the city evolved and grew -- and how the fire reshaped the "modern" London in a way tha t wasn't matched until the Blitz destroyed so much of the city again. I loved it -- and dawdled over each area until Mark was ready to throttle me, I'm sure. But we were both mesmerized by the modern section of the museum, with photos and audio/video clips of the bombings and the privations of WW2. The collection is fantastic, and well organized, too, which is nice. The museum doesn't tend to get mentioned much in the guidebooks, but it's a gem and I would love to go back when I wsn't so tired and my feet didnt hurt. That's the side effect of how we travel -- go go go go! , by the end of the day, we're both just dragging and footsore. But there is so much to see, I can't bear to slow down much.

We walked over to Smithfields Market -- the usually busy meat market and shopping district -- but it had already closed  and we could only peek inside at the ornate Victorian market stalls and roofed-over arcade. Ah, well. The day was beautiful, sunny, and clear -- so off to The Eye!

We decided to take advantage of the London Card offer for a free Red Rover river ticket to take the boat from the Tower pier to the  Eye, not realizing that it was slow, and we would wait for almost an hour for the next boat. How this can be presented as a hop-on-hop-off option  is beyond me -- the wait alone for the boat was nuts. But the views from the river are pretty, I guess, and we can at least say we saw the Tower bridge raised at least once.  We went from one long wait to another, of course-- the Eye is a huge attraction and it made me feel particularly  touristy this afternoon -- long wait, exorbitant price, rewarded by cool views, but frankly I'm not seeing the allure. I can't imagine doing it in high season when thousands more people show up. It was not too bad a wait, but we queued up and trailed through the barriers to get into our pod with twenty or so people (including one family with not one, but TWO wailing children) and did our slow arc over the top of the wheel, gawking at the views. They are good, I'll admit -- you can see all the way to the edge of the city andinto the countryside if the weather is clear, as it was today. It was neat to see the places we'd visited laid out like a huge map as we looked down. 

Can't say I like the new tall building, "the Shard", though. It's touted as the tallest building in Europe (when it's finished) and it really isn't that attractive ...just a narrow obelisk-shaped glass building...very harsh. I am rather fond of the rounded, squat building they call 'The Gherkin', though. It looks like some sort of sex toy dropped in the middle of the financial district. The architecture of the city is so diverse,though, that there is ap lace for everyting -- tudor half-timbered buildings next to modern glass-and-steel monoliths. It all just sort of melds together in a hodge-podge of styles. I have to admit that I like the huge Georgian squares that surround the city center the best of all, though. Row after row of pale -painted townhouses with identicfal doors, facing great green park squares. There is something just so civilized about them. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

One to more sites today! Back onto the tube (only a bit less crowded today) and to Tower Hill and the Tower of London -- perhaps the most popular of the sites in London (ok, well, a lot of people thronging the gates of Buckingham Palace might disagree,  I love all things castle-y, so I was really excited to go -- which means we were hella early. But that's normal for us.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a BBC miniseries on The Tower streaming on Netflix, and watched something like eight hours of documentary about the history of the tower, the beefeaters, and how the fortress evolved. It was fascinating (and I totally recommend it), and was great preparation for actually visiting. For example, one of the episodes followed a new Yeoman Warder as he was trying out for the job, and how intense and stringent the requirements are for being part of the garrison here. All the warders are 20+ year veterans of the armed services, with good conduct and performance commendations, and they pretty much audition for the job. They all live here, in the tower, with their families, and not only do they have tourist-related duties, but they still have serious security duties as well. The best part for us, of course, was that they do the famous Beefeater Tours -- a one-hour condensed history of the tower, done with quite a bit of flair. Our Yeoman Warder, Barney, was a hoot. I hope that he enjoys his job as much as he appears to!

The tower has a long and blood history -- but much of it is hyperbole, of course. There were not that many people beheaded here, and it was more often a storehouse and garrisoned fort than prison, despite some of the famous prisoners we all know about -- Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn (and two other wives of Henry VIII), Guy Fawkes, a few Scottish Earls, etc.  A few of them were beheaded somewhere in the tower green, the rest on Tower Hill, with the public crowded around the gallows there.  The "Bloody Tower" was originally the Garden Tower, until Shakespeare got a hold of it. It sounded better, I"m sure.

Based on the very good recommendation of the guidebook, we marched in as soon as the gates opened and rushed to see the Crown Jewels displayed. In summer, the lines can be over an hour long to file past the half-dozen crowns displayed inside. We had no crowds, and were able to peer at the shiny stuff almost on our own for a half-hour or so. They are impressive -- knowing that you're looking at the actual jewels, the biggest diamonds in the world, is rather cool. I can't imagine wearing a five-pound crown for very long, though,  and carrying the orb and jeweled scepter. Heavy stuff, that.  There are also a ton of gold items that go along with the coronation stuff -- the Coronation Spoon (seriously, a spoon, one of the oldest relics in the collections, and used to hold the oil to anoint the new king or queen),and the bird-shaped ewer that stores the oil, as well as a giant and ornate gold tower-looking thing called the Exeter Salt -- a decorative salt holder. All gifts from dignitaries in the last eight hundred years or so. It's fun to look at things, and I appreciated that we had the time to go back and look at things in detail instead of being railroaded through, one way, in a queue. Definitely go in early and go there FIRST!

The White Tower itself is a great museum of arms and armor -- including a bunch of different suits of armor for Henry VIII that follow his progression from energetic, muscular young man to hugely obese old man. We laughed that as the girth of the armor got bigger, so did the size of the metal codpiece.  The collection is great, though, and the Hall of Kings has 17th life-sized horse models that used to have mounted mannequins of each of the kings since William, we could see the heads and hands of the models, and the suits of armor that would have sat upon the horses, arrayed in the long hall. Pretty cool, actually.

We walked along the tower walk to the east and south of the castle -- there are really two layers of defensive walls inside a moat (now just a garden, they filled it centuries ago). The original tower had a bailey wall with towers for defense, but then a second outer wall was built and the 120' moat was dug to further protect the kings.  There isn't any way to approach the tower that isn't covered by more than one of the towers. Even if you managed to swim the (stinky cesspit) moat, climb the huge outer wall, get past the guarded still had another wall to scale -- and by that time, the soldiers here had picked you off from the inner towers, I'm sure.

The ravens are here, too, of course. The legend is that as long as Raven live at the tower, England will remain and the tower will stand. There are seven now, and they have the run of the tower during the day. Their wings are clipped, so they can't fly very far, but they seem content to hop around the green and yell at the tourists. They're smart birds, I can't imagine they don't appreciate the easy life they have -- good food, nice place to sleep, someone to take care of them, interesting people hanging around all the time. A few of them even talk. Of course, they are also eager to tell you that there is a tryout period for the ravens, too, and a few have been rejected and one was even dismissede for being destructive and mean to the tourists.

We grabbed lunch at the cafeteria in the tower before leaving for St Pauls Cathedral (we often have lunch in the cafes that are attached to the various sites we visit -- they are usually very good, quick and convenient. ) St Pauls is an amazing church, and you gain even more respect for Wren's complete mastery of architecture when you walk through the incredible chapels and aisle of this, his masterpiece.  There is a very good audioguide for the church, which is totally worth the rather slow pace it requires, by the way. I spent most of the time walking around listening tot he audio and craning my head up to see the stupendous mosaics on the ceilings. Seriously, I walk into walls and things all the time because I'm staring straight up.

One of the huge draws of the Cathedral is that you can climb up the stairs to the very top of the dome for spectacular views (well, spectacular if you aren't afraid of heights or narrow spiral stairs).  It's about 530 steps to the top, with access to three different galleries.  The first is the Whispering gallery around the base of the done -- the acoustics are so good you can hear a whisper halfway around the dome -- although it was too loud for us to really test it out. The view down into the church is impressive from here, of course, but getting closer to the painted dome ceiling is the real draw. Up another two hundred stairs or so is the Stone Galley -- outside around the dome.    I  didn't realize that the dome you see inside and the dome you see outside are not the same, by the way. The inner dome is designed to look perfectly proportioned from the church floor, and above it, supported by a cone-shaped set of supports, is a much taller outer dome that look pefectly proportioned from the ground outside. If Wren had simply built a single dome, it would have looked squashed and dumpy from outside if it was correctly viewed inside, or too tall and narrow if he'd built it to look right from outside. It's a rather magnificent bit of engineering that you don't actually realize exists until you see it.

Up another narrow, spiral staircase to the very top of the done, the Golden Gallery -- with views over mos of the city on a clear day. We ran into a few people on the way up who were apparently a bit afraid of heights and the spiral stairs -- cast iron, so you can see straight down most of the way--freaked them out a bit. At the very top, before you go outside on the narrow circlet around the dome, is an oculus that looks straight down on the very center of the floor below -- it's a bit dizzying, even if you aren't afraid of heights. It's a small hole, though, and glassed over now, so no worries.

We wandered around the aisles looking at the numerous (and enormous) tombs and memorials that fill the chapel almost entirely. While there aren't quite as many here as in Westminster Cathedral, it i stil impressive. Most are really, really gaudy; these Victorian/Gothic memorials to everyone worth mentioning -- they fill every spare space. Even more fill the crypts down beneath the cathedral -- Wellington, Nelson, dozens of other minor military people that we didn't recognize, all with vast, overwrought statues and flowery epitaphs. Nearly every stone floor panel is a memorial or's a bit weird to think about how many people are interred beneath the floor.

Off to find food -- this time, no arguments, we are going to be super cheesy and head to the reputed oldest continuously operating pub in London -- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. (by the way, it's not 'yee old'.  Y is pronounced 'Th', so it's 'The Old Cheshire Cheese'). This is a labrynthine maze of rooms and chambers tunneling underground to the bar beneath. Nothing terrifically special about the decor, other than to know who used to hang out here and drink pints. We trailed down to the lowest level, had a very serviceable fish-and-chips dinner and a few glasses of wine and beer, and enjoyed the constant trail of people coming and going.

We have tickets to see Taming of the Shrew in the Globe Theater tonight -- hey, you have to see Shakespeare in its element, if you have the chance!) so we walked back to the Cathedral and then across the Millenium Bridge to the theater. The Bridge is pretty neat, but frankly not as fabulous as it's made out to be -- narrow and blade-like, it's a bit too modern for my taste. Apparently when they opened it the first time, it wobbled disarmingly and had to be closed for further reinforcement. It does, however, have fabulous views back across the Thames to the dome of St Pauls. And, it dumps you out next to the theater. We had the option to be 'groundings' -- 5 pounds a ticket, stand on the floor in front of the stage and be part of the action. Given that by the end of the day we are both exhausted, I opted instead for seats in the highest gallery, right on the rail, and I even rented cushions. How terribly posh!  The theater is amazing -- a down-to-the-peg reproduction of the original (albeit a bit smaller) Globe theater, it is realy an experience to see Shakespeare performed in the round, with no stage lighting, no real sound system..just actors, on the stage, and the audience surging forward on the floor when things get interesting.

The performance was amazing, and really a joy to watch (although I am reminded that I don't actually like the play itself very much) and it had an intimacy that most theaters simply don't have. I loved it --and wish I'd gotten tickets to see Henry V, too.  I would have gone back in a heartbeat to see another play.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Another SUNNY day. Seriously - I'm already sunburned (which no one is going to believe happened in London,of all places) and we're expecting two more days of sunshine and minimal rain. It was gorgeous out this morning.

Our room at the New Linden Hotel is in the basement. It's a nice hotel, and the room is nice, but somehow I feel like a second-class citizen with tile floors and having to walk through the laundry area to get to the room. They promise to move us when possible. I'm actually ok with the room -- it's cool, the bathroom is pretty large, tehre is a full-size window -- but we'll see.

Mark promptly locked thingsi n he safe this morning, and then realized that it was slightly different than the room safes at home and he coudln't open it. I rather sheepishly had to report this to the desk clerk ad luckily they do have a master key. We weren't the first (or the last) to have the same problem. Crisis averted, we trooped out to catch the Tube to Westminster Abbey.

Much less crowded today, although we were on a different line than last night. We were dumped out directly in front of Parliament and across the street from the Abbey and took some really nice photos of the Big Ben clocktower (the clock is NOT Big Ben, that's just the bell inside!) before queueing up for the Abbey. Every tourist in London comes to Westminster Abbey, it seems, and t was packed full of people almost immediately.

Of course, I can see why. It's really rather spectacular -- over the top gothic and other decorations, and hundreds (if not thousands) of tombs and monuments packed inside. there are so many of them, I wonder if they can even have services in the church -- they block every possibleo pening with casckets, giant self-aggrandizing sculptures and effigies, and huge, ornate declarations of greatness.

We intended to walk up to see the changing of the horse guards (not the Buckingham palace guard thing which is always so crowded) and were thwarted by construction in St James Park for the Olympics. But, we did manage to find the temporary parade ground and watch the guards do their thing--with almost no people!

Up toTrafalgar Square, to see Nelson's column and the bronze lions, and then to lunch in th crypt of St Martin in the Fields( which is nowhere near a field now, of course, but hemmed in closely on all sides by buildings. I dragged mark in a quick run Through the National Portrait gallery, just so I could see the Holbein cartoon of the famous painting of Henry VIII. We just started up on the top floor and spiraled down.

Seeking out food as much as anything else, we popped into st Martin in the fields and had lunch in the crypt. The church is lovely, though, and looks immediately familiar to anyone who has visited the east cost of the US--the "colonial" church we are all familiar with is based on this classical style. Portico, white columns, central steeple, all there. There are lunchtime concerts I. The church most days, and we caught just the end of one, with local students singing bits from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.

I, being the architectur buff, dragged us back down Whitehall to see the Banqueting House. It is the only remaining building from the original palace, although it feels unbelievably modern, to be honest. And it's not that it has been updated, but that it was designed as a completely new sort of building. Inside, it is rather plain, a double cube, with pale walls and white columns...but the ceiling! Nine enormous panels exalting the divine right of kings, by Rubens. They are gorgeous...and at least part of the reason that King Charles was beheaded. We spent too long inside ( the audio I guide is interesting, but interminably long, especially for a building that is, really, one bare room.)

I really wanted a glimpse of the hammer beam roof in Westminster Hall in the parliament building, but the only way in was to go through the while hoopla of security and queues to get in to watch parliament. Then nice security person did tell me that while she couldnt tell me it was ok, they wouldn't stop me if I got inside, looked around, and decided not to go in. But, mi would probably be prohibited from taking pictures, so...we passed on the hour-long queue, and instead pressed on for the Jewel Tower across the street. It's just a small tower house, once the storeroom for parliament, and before that the repository for the crown jewels...but I love castles of any sort, so we climbed tot the top and looked around. I get extra points for noticing that the spiral staircase(de rigeur for any stone tower)was spiralling the wrong way.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I'm only running a day up bright an early this morning to head into London today. The B&B (Athole House) was AMAZING. Seriously, one of the nicest places that I have stayed. Friendly owner, great staff, terrific breakfast, big room and perfect location. It's a bit outside of Bath, but it's a pleasant walk (downhill into town, at least) and quiet and lovely. (note to self: must leave great review on Tripadvisor).

At any rate, we packed up and were out the door by a bit before 9am, heading to Hampton Court Palace. It was one of the "must sees" on the list for London,and  it definitely worth it. We got a bit lost trying to find it, but copped  a perfect parking spot jut outside the Lion Gate, got to walk through the gardens to the palace, and spent four hours wandering around gawking at the building and the exhibits. We actually ran out of time, and felt a bit rushed -- this is a full day sort of thing, if you tend to wander about and ask questions.  There are seven or eight different paths you can take through he buildings, each with a different theme and section of the enormous complex.  Queen Mary, William III, Henry VIII, the kitchens, the gardens, etc. There is an audio guide,which is good but a bit slow, but it's really necessary as the building itself has very few notes or placards to tell you anything about the particular location you are in. The building ranges over several centuries, from Tudor to Georgian, and is a long, confusing jumble of buildings that culminates in a Versailles-like "long water" and carefully planned garden. It was really interesting, and I could have spent all day poking around in the corners.

The Queens Apartments were given over to a display of portraits and sexy-pinup-girl type paintings (most by a portrait artists named Lely) that were surprisingly racy. Apparently, it was quite common to have ones mistress painted in some sort of classically-themed scene (Cleopatra was very common) in various states of dishabille. Some of the better ones were copied over and over.

The Great Hall and Kings apartments were predictably monumental and intended to give the sense of power and control, and it certainly does that. And, of course, the obligatory study with the teensy little bed in it was included.

In one of the side-halls, we discovered a tiny courtyard which  had a huge round, barn-like building in it -- like a cone. I immediately said that it was a larder, a store for meat...and I was right! We saw one just like it (round, even) in Sweden at one of the great houses we toured. Now, of course, it's a staff toilet, but it was originally a cooler/larder for hanging meat. Ha!

We visited The Great Vine -- a grape vine that has been growing and producing for four hundred years, and walked through the exquisitely tended gardens: rose garden, knot garden, sunken pond, french-style patterned gardens. I tracked down one of the gardeners and asked how many people were around to maintain the acres and acres of stuff...only 24 people, plus a few greenhouse staff.  Wow.

Headed into London with only a few false starts, and a renewed understanding of why you don't drive a car in the city. We did manage to find the hotel without much problem once we got pointed in the right direction, but oy, what a trial. Too much traffic, lanes that are only vaguely followed, and not understanding the "hive mind" of British drivers made it pretty nerve-wracking.  We both breathed a sigh of relief when we returned the car nd walked back to the hotel.

Of course, we headed back out almost immediately, since we had reservations at the Denis Severs Museum, up n Spitalfields. We hopped on the Tube at the nearest station and were immediately crushed and crammed with all the rush-hour commuters.  It was hot, sweaty, crushed and sardine-like. I was surprised to discover that the Tube trains aer NOT air conditioned (or even have fans) and that you can, indeed, cram another fifteen people into every car if you get very friendly. The conductor (or his recorded facsimile) kept urging everyone to move into the center of the car and use every space. He sounded so optimistic. I spent the ride to Liverpool station with my  face about even with the armpit of a hot, sweaty businessman. I'm really getting to know Londoners in an intimate way I wasn't expecting.

Oh,it's all very civilized, of course; everyone ignores everyone else and politely smiles or says 'sorry' when you bang into someone with particular force or step on their toes.  We may have to avoid rush-hour at all costs, or at the very least, stay off the Central Line.

We arrived in Spitalfields with an hour to spare, so we grabbed some dinner before heading to the museum. *I* loved the museum, Mark definitely humored me -- it's more of an art exhibit, an "experience" than a museum-- five floors of a Georgian townhouse decked out on each floor as if the residents have just stepped out for  second. You can hear hints of them in the house, smell the dinner on the table, the beds rae mussed, the drinks half gone, forks left haphazardly in the pie -- it's a very weird sort of place that you either get or you don't, I guess. By the time you reach the upper floor the family has fallen precipitously in their finances and they are living in squalor (whereas on the first floor, they were in luxurious rooms with every fine thing. Mark wasn't into it, I don't think, but he was a good sport about it.   I'm sure the turnaround-is-fair-play will be when he drags me to the RAF museum to stare are planes for half a day.

Tomorrow we head off into London proper to see the big tourist sights -- Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, etc. I need to figure out the Tube map!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

We slept Ike big rocks for about 11 hours, waking up wide-eyed at about 3 am for abit due to jet lag. But, down for breakfast early (the ful English fry-up, including black pudding and fried bread!) and then walked into town to have a look at the lovely city of

It really is a pretty place. All the buildings are this pale golden stone, that glows a bit in the sun--and yes, there was sun! Lots of sun. True to form I got sunburned on our first day. we met the Mayors Blue Guide corp for a walk through town, taking in the baths, the new spa, the old city walls, the crescent, and the Circus, grand Georgian buildings all. The crescent is the iconic view of bath, this arc of perfectly symmetrical, perfectly identical townhouses in a huge ac overlooking the town. Well. Not quite perfectly identical...there is a yellow door. Some resident wanted to paint her door yellow (horrors!) and the city ended up going to the highest court to decide the matter. Talk about HOAs going mad!

While the city is probably best known for the Roman baths for which it is named, there are so many examples of famous architects work here thatyou can wander for hours just admiring the different facades. We popped into the abbey to see the fan vaulting, and joined the crowd at the Roman baths. The baths are fascinating, even if most of what you see are actually Victoria. Reproductios or rebuilds of the earlier spas. They sit on the hot spring in Britain, and people have used the natural spring since they discovered it, i imagine. Wouldn't you? Winters are cold and damp here...I'd love a dip in hot water if I could get one.

The foundations of the earliest bathhouse here ca still be seen, and a ton of archaeological finds from Roman Bath. They have recreated what they think the town looked like then, and do e a great job linking that to the baths today. Of course, the brand new spa on the hot springs is open, and is a bit of a polarizing building in tow . Either you liked he modern glass structure, or you hate it. Me? Undecided. I'm all for keeping the homogenous look a d feel of the town, but building modern replicas of Georgian buildings just because you have to isnt any better Than dropping a metal and glass behemoth down. Cities do change. The status of the whole town as as World Heritage Site makes any sort of change difficult, I imagine. At any rate, poking around at the baths was interesting. We even tasted the water, once purported to cure ills and increase fertility ( if early proponents can be believed). People came here for "the cure" and drank the water to improve their health. And then stayed to gamble and be seen by the height of society. This was a party town!

Grabbing a few portable pasties for lunch, we walked back up to the B&B and fetched the car to go off to visit Salisbury and Stonehenge. We stopped quickly in Salisbury Cathedral, which is huge and walked around the churchyard before heading off to find Old Sarum, the site of the fortifications of the original city. We arrived just too late to get to the castle, and so pressed on to Stonehenge...which was overrun by Druids. Dozens of them, chanting and beating drums. I will admit to being a little irked. It's enough that the whole stone circle is about eight feet from a major road, but I really did want some pictures without people in them! The Druids did leave after an hour or so, and we walked slowly around the is weirdly impressive, and much smaller than I would ha,be though. I knew that it was sandwiched in between two major roads, but I though it was larger..and it's pretty big, so that's a stretch.

I wish you could go closer--you're cordoned off a Soren yards away and can't actually approach the stones. (which made thedruids in the center even more annoying...I wanted to walk inside, too!) Very cool, though. We even managed to stay late enough that only a handful of people remained.

Made the mistake of driving back to Sarum to walk around the earthworks. There as bee a fortress on this site, a huge man-made motte, for thousands of years. First a ring fort, then a woods. Motte and bailey, then stone. It's i pressingly huge and Mark walked the perimeter, commenting on the defensibility f the place.

The day got away from us, and the forty minutes back to Bath for dinner were a bit crabby. We didn't sit down to eat until after nine, and we were DONE. We ate at a Morrocan restaurant and I had perhaps the best chicken that I have ever had. Mark had brochettes with lamb, sausage, and chicken that were quite tasty. Not sure Morrocan cooking is to our liking in general, but it was tasty.

Tomorrow, off to London.
Arrived in fine fashion-- a bit sleepless, and crunched from the flight, but alive and well. It took over an hour to get through customs and fetch our luggage, and we weren't on the road to Bath until after three.

It's only two hours or a little less to Bath, although we ended up arriving too late to go to the abbey and climb the tower. Not much to miss, though, since it had begun raining in earnest just as we arrived.

Our B&B is lovely. The Athole House, just on the outskirts of town, very comfortable and quiet, and Wolfgang, the owner, even drove us into town so we could grab some dinner! We got soaking wet, of course, but popped into a pub for a beer and beef pie to dry off. And then, of course, we were hit by the jet lag and barely made it back intime to collapse. That might have been the first taxi ride we've taken on vacation, but a twenty minute walk in the downpour would have been a bit too much.

Stupefied with food and local beer (Elderwitch, and some other hoppy local ale) we collapsed into heaps and slept for twelve hours. a king size bed was much welcome.

Today started out blustery and chilly, but I've been assured that it will clear up (hah--that's what I thought last night!) so we are going to head out with raincoats this morning. And waterproof shoes. If it does clear up, yeah! The plan today is to wander around Bath, see the abbey and take the Bath walking tour, then cme back to see the actual Roman baths, before heading out of town to see Stonehenge later today. We'll drive out after lunch, I think. Originally we were going to e at the baths whe. They opened, but that would mean a short visit. Since the walk begins at 10:30 and that would only gives an hour...instead of the recommended two. And, since I am rarely quick at historic sites, probably a better plan to tryit after lunch. We'll loop around to Salisbury and Stonehenge n the afternoon...I think we just need to be there by five or six. I'll check the book!

Off to breakfast!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ah-hah! At th airport, heading off on vacation! We're here about screen hours early, as usual, but that does give us time to sit down to a nice (if expensive) steak dinner at the chophouse, and then sit and wait to board. Nice wine, good steak...can't complain too much. The flight is delayed about 35 minutes, but that's ok. I'm sure thry'll make up some time in the air. At the moment, though, fortified by large glasses of wine, I don't really care much. I do worry that Mark wasnt able to get bulkhead seats...he may be Pretzell Boy by the time we land tomorrow. I spent the morning a bit frantically trying to make sure that I had everything covered at work--lots of emails and calls. Why does it take three times as long totellsoeoe what you do, as it does to do it yourself? Seriously, I spent more time writing about what Ido each day as I did actuall doing it. Hopefully things go smoothly. Off to London, and then to polar bears and narwhals!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Getting ready for vacation, and realizing that I haven't posted on the blog in...months. Oy. The packing list is done, housesitter is lined up, stocked up on dog treats and munchies...same-old, same-old. The Adorable Husband is laughing at my lists and schedule, but how else are we going to see everything we want to in London before meeting with the rest of the family? No, it's not color coded this time. Not really.

So, as I have been sitting here at my computer for a few hours getting work done a quick break -- , a quick picture that made  me laugh and laugh. You may have to be a tech-geek for it to make sense.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Well, oops. Sorry about the removed video -- hope you had a chance to see it before it disappeared.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I clicked on the link, thinking I'd take a quick peek at the map...and was mesmerized for the entire 11 minutes. It's fascinating to watch how things changed. If you have a larger monitor, make sure to watch it full-screen; there is a date scrolling in the upper left corner, and important events pop up on the bottom left.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Book Nerds are thrilled!

How seriously cool is this?

Albatros bookmarks from Oscar Lhermitte on Vimeo.

Simple, re-usable, un-loseable (critical for me, anyway)...very cool.

The Albatross Bookmark -- I may have to try some of these!

Of course, there are some drawbacks; if someone flips through your book, you'll lose your page, but as someone who tends to either slip little pieces of paper into books or (gasp!) fold pages, that happens anyway.

Now, will it mean I'll give up my Kindle? Not a chance. But then again, getting a Kindle (I'm not on my third e-reader) hasn't slowed down the purchase of physical books in my house one bit!

Friday, January 20, 2012


I think Maxwell as a name for the new car is appropriate.

This is what I've been doing while driving my car.

Wheee! Wee-wee-weee! Wheeeeee!!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's rather amusing that this post, months after the last one, is about the same thing -- went to test drive the John Cooper Works Mini Coupe...and drove home in a brand-new, super-spiffy car!

This is not an actual photograph yet (too dark to actually take one), but it's just what my car looks like. Adorable, no? And plenty speedy, to boot.

Now it just needs a name, apparently (according to the Mini dealer, everyone names their car). Something suitably British, I think. Clive? Bertram? Reginald? NIgel? Ian? Make a suggestion, we'll see what sticks!