People Underestimate the Value of a Good Ramble

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The UK Trip...from Dover to Wales

So if I'd known how boring this would be in the re-telling, I wouldn't have started.  But now I have notes. Therefore, everyone suffers.  In case you missed's Part 1.

On Saturday morning, after a look at the cliffs and a couple of wrong turns, we made our way to Stonehenge. Amazing.  It was kinda crazy, cause I had my eyes down, following the maps, getting ready for our next turn..wide right, keep left...when Jeff yells out, "It's right there!" And seriously, it was. Right in front of us, on a slight rise of land to the right of the motorway, there was Stonehenge. Out in the open where anyone could steal it. Or something. (Quick side note, when I was telling my 65 year old sister the places we visited, I mentioned Stonehenge, and she said, "I have no idea what that is, I've never heard of it." Huh.)

Apparently, they recently changed the visitor rules at Stonehenge. Starting in February, you have to actually purchase tickets ahead of time and schedule your visit.  In any case, they've moved the visitor center farther away and blocked off the area around the stones, so you can no longer go right up to them.

I would have liked to do that, obviously, but the ground around the stones is fragile and they want to protect it. Of course, the thing has been there for thousands of years and it's still standing so maybe they're over-reacting. Just a little. 

We walked slowly all the way around, taking pictures of the rocks and the sheep that graze in the pasture on the other side of the fencing.  They run in a group, really interesting.  Some students...maybe...early 20's...decided to climb over the fence, it's low enough to step over really, but the outer layer is electrified, and mess with the sheep.  One of them stepped in a present the sheep left, which was perfect. I mean, wishing they would get electrocuted for harrasing the sheep would be wrong. So very, very wrong. 

Then we drove on to Wales. We did pretty well, although we went a different way than intended. At least we got there.  We did get to travel through Bath, which I had originally wanted to do, but it wasn't the most direct route.  Bath was lovely, all hills and valleys with long narrow streets of houses stacked on each other.

Finally made it to Wales.  We did get turned around a couple of times on the even narrower and now dark streets of Tonna, Neath, while attempting to find Jo and Owen's house.  But we found it.

They were awesome. They have a Wall of Fame. Seriously.

We went to dinner with them at The Rock and Fountain, and I had a lovely steak and onion pie. I'd had fish and chips the night before, so that felt like a good choice.  Actually, I had one or the other most nights on our trip, cause most of the other food seemed either too American or too weird. You know? 

They very graciously allowed us to spend the night. I love my invisible internet friends. 

My phone had died by the time we got there, so the only pic I have of us is this one with me and Jo that Jeff took.  Not sure how we missed out on taking a group shot, but I blame it on jet lag

Coming soon...Doctor Who?

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Spectacular, Amazing, Hilarious and Terrifying 50th Birthday Bash UK Trip Adventure

Since so many people have been asking for this...OK, fine, only one person (but you know who you are @DrNeevil)...and since during the entire time I was there, I was only occasionally able to get off a tweet or a text - although not a UK text - but then nothing for ever and ever, and getting open a browser window was almost impossible, I've decided to make an attempt to share some blog posts about my birthday UK trip.

It was quite an adventure. 

We got in Friday morning, January 10, after a very rough flight. Well, the flight was fine, but I was so cramped in the middle seat, with no leg room, my seat wouldn't go back to rest, my tray table just balanced on my stomach and wouldn't go all the way down and my headset was all wonky. Ugh!! I was so miserable and interestingly Jeff said he didn't even know, so I must have been hiding it too well. That's not natural.

But eventually, we arrived and after wandering aimlessly through miles and miles of Heathrow searching for customs, our luggage and the Enterprise counter, we got our car and started out.
Our Vauxhall Corsa

First stop, Canterbury on the way to Dover. Except that we took a wrong turn out of the airport and ended up traveling miles in the wrong direction before we could figure out how to turn around. Oh, and the term "wide right" now has an entirely new meaning for us. 

In Canterbury, I just wanted to see the cathedral. I didn't want to go in or anything, I just wanted to see it. We could see the top, but no matter how we turned towards it, we just kept going around in circles on very narrow streets. At one point we ended up in a little dead end mews, that Jeff described as a possible crime scene area, and had to turn the car around, very carefully.

We never really got close to the cathedral.

Canterbury Cathedral
Once in Dover, things got a little better.  Our hotel was right in front of the cliffs, with The English Channel, the harbor and boats right outside our window.

We had been awake at this point for about 20 hours, so we were tired, bedraggled and hungry. There was a vague plan to see Dover Castle, but it wasn't open on weekends in winter and there was no way we'd have time to get there on Friday. Basically, we took showers, had a quick dinner and went to bed. We were both snoring by 7 pm.

On Saturday, after we re-packed our bags so we could just use a small overnight bag each night and keep the bigger bags in the car, we prepared to do some quick sight seeing and then leave Dover.

Jeff went out to get the car while I waited in the lobby. It took a while.  Turns out he forgot what the car looked like and he couldn't find it. 

The day was cold and windy but Jeff wanted to climb up the hill and look down, which he did.  I stayed off the cliff edge myself.  If I could have, I'd have stayed in the car, but I made the mistake of getting out and Jeff had the keys, so I had to just stand around near the parking lot and shiver. 

Then we also circled Dover Castle from a distance, much like Canterbury Cathedral, but it wasn't open anyway.  Tried to take pictures, but the car moved too fast and I needed to keep my eyes on the map. I was working with an Atlas, two sets of written notes (a list of all the places we were going with addresses, etc. and a list I made of all the route numbers we needed to follow), and using my phone as a GPS. 
Dover Castle
As we were driving, Jeff would suddenly say, "Quick, take a picture of that!" and I would fumble with all the paperwork and my phone, switching over to the camera, roll down the window and snap away. Of course, by that time I would have missed whatever picture there was to take. Add to that, pretty much every time that happened, we would miss a turn or something because I had the phone on camera and not GPS. 

Like every time. 

We never learned. 

Stay tuned for the next stage....Stonehenge and Wales.