Sunday, July 27, 2008
So long not so Premier Inn with your hallway stench, mildewy bathroom with the ineffective fan, and to the cute little rat scurrying outside the window at midnight. That's it, our travel agent is fired. At least the staff at the hotel was polite and I do believe that the rats were not a problem until the nearby construction started. So I won't post the video I took of the rat or send it to their manager. You know they have this good night sleep gaurantee and I wonder how many people actually get their money back at this hotel. Hmmmmm.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
We just got one day of sightseeing at Oxford, but after staying in the night before Kevin and I were both looking forward to seeing the town. We knew Sydney was a little under the weather with a cold, but she didn’t seem to feel too bad. Well, I think the girls are getting burned out - I'm going to skip the part where I complain about the non-stop whining heard from both girls today. I hate to say it, but the best part of going to Oxford was the hour long bus ride. The girls were busy with their iPods (we’ve given up on trying to get them to enjoy the new scenery – to them it all looks the same) and Kevin and I shared my headphones while we took turns playing songs for each other – kind of romantic. We started off with the very appropriate song by Ben Lee called “We’re all in this together”. Once we got to Oxford we got see some of Christ Church College, but the cathedral was closed because there was a wedding. It’s the most touristy (my grammar check just told be to replace that with touristiest, that can’t be right) place we’ve been so far – it was really crowded on a Saturday afternoon.
Here is a street that is closed to traffic - check out all the people.
Sydney got a lot of shoulder rides from dad.
Here is a college picture, not sure which one. Check out those walls and that lawn - even the girls were impressed. Needless to say, there was a sign that said, "Keep off the grass". When we first arrived we were sad the last bus was so early, leaving at 6:30. It was really sad that we were happy to catch 5:30 bus home after buying supplies to eat PB&J on the way home. The best part was getting to see the pub, Eagle and Child (aka Bird and Baby), where JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis used to hang out on Tuesday nights as part of the “Inkwells” writing club.
Friday, July 25, 2008
We bought our train tickets to Oxford today, but when we checked with the hotel to find out the best way to there we realized that our hotel was not that close to Oxford. So we will bus there tomorrow. Luckily I called to hotel as we were changing trains and we never boarded the second one. It seems the best way to reach the hotel is to drive. I think we must be the only people here without a car. We actually had to convince the bus driver that his route would take us the right way. Nobody knew where the hotel was, but they did know the McDonald's across the street. And we have a lovely view of several nuclear cooling towers in the distance. Sydney seems to have a little cold and we all needed a rest so we are just hanging out at the hotel for the rest of the day. I'm way behind on my blogging, but I have internet for the rest of the day so I'll do some catching up. I had about 15 minutes to post from Bristol two days ago and blogger wasn’t working – oh well. Since leaving Scotland we have stayed two nights in Cardiff, Wales and three in Bristol, England. I know most of you wouldn’t mind if I skipped a few days on the blog, but I’m afraid if I do, then I won’t remember what we did that last day in such and such city. So now for a little back- blogging. Be sure to scroll down to catch up on the last week.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
We went to the town of Bath, named for the Roman baths there. First stop was the bath Abbey, which is right next to the baths. There were musicians playing in the courtyard, including a guys dressed as a fawn, complete with horns and everything. There was a long audio tour at bath, which included some commentary by author Bill Bryson, who is always entertaining. They even had a separate commentary for kids, which really kept the girls entertained. It’s amazing to think that the bath and stones there are 2000 years old, in fact the drains that the Romans built are still functional today.
The girls were so tired of walking but we promised them there would be a park at the end and what a park it was! The biggest one yet. I love it how when you take your kids to the park (even if they get to stay for 90 min) that when they have to leave they whine and cry that they didn’t get to try the digging thing (mini dirt mover) in the sand box and they want to stay longer. What about saying, “Thanks mom & dad, that was really fun!” Click here for pics of Bath.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
We left our wee apartment today where I practiced my yoga pose (just for the picture). It was kind of like living in a train car with a bathroom off to the side of course. I will try to relay a conversation our family had on the bus on the way to the airport. We were all a bit hungry after a quick breakfast on the way out of town. D=Dad, M=Mom, K=Kyla, S=Sydney
M: There’s a Chinese restaurant, we haven’t had Chinise yet, I could eat there.
S: What about Pig Latin?
M: No, we haven’t had that yet.
S: But I only know two words, igpay atinlay.
M: Have you ever been to Pig Latin Kyla?
K: No, hee hee hee
D: Where is the country of Pig Latin?
S: That way. (She says pointing NE) It’s pretty far, it would take you two trains and a plane to get there.
I was too busy trying not to laugh out loud to tell her that pig latin is a made up language and therefore not a real country. Maybe next week.
Six hours later we made it to Cardiff, Wales and checked in at The Big Sleep hotel on the 7th floor with huge windows in our room. We really enjoyed having a view. We took the girls down to the bay and found the Dr. Who exhibit, which we had to see since Kevin and I recently starting watching the new series. We have also seen the spin-off, Torchwood, both are filmed in Cardiff. If you didn’t know, I’m sure you’ve figured out that Kevin and I are both big sci-fi fans. The picture is the Millennium Center on Cardiff Bay. The area in front is named Roald Dahl Pass, after a children's literature writer (think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). I think the strawberries on the silver tower are a temporary ad for the summer festival, at least there not there in Torchwood.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
This link will take you back to the Edinburgh pictures, but I’ve added more on to the end from this day.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Today we visited Stirling, Scotland which is considered the “clasp of Scotland” due to its geographical importance in the battles between England and Scotland. It’s where William Wallace (WW) of Braveheart won his great victory and where Robert the Bruce won the battle of Bannockburn. We saw the William Wallace memorial and Stirling Castle. The girls had a great time trying on chainmail and helmets. Kyla doesn’t really like to hear about the gruesome deaths that happened in those times. We left the tour when the guide with the great Scottish accent was telling about the fate of WW, then I brought her back just in time to hear about the beheading of Mary Queen of Scotts. She really doesn’t like the beheading thing, poor Kyla. We just try to tell her how happy she should be that she lives in a time where that sort of thing is not OK. Click here to see pics from Stirling.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The weather forecast predicted rain today although it can always rain in Scotland, kind of like spring in Oregon. We decided to take the bus to Roslin, just south of town. There we visited the Rosslyn Chapel, a late Gothic church built in 1484 that is steeped in legend. They are in the process of restoring it and won’t allow pictures inside, so I don’t have much to show. This is the chapel featured in the Da Vinci Code. It was very interesting to hear about all the history and legends about the Knights Templar, the Apprentice Pillar, and the Holy Grail.
A stained glass window from the outside of the church. We did get to walk up on some scaffolding which allowed a close up view of several windows and the flying buttresses.
It has carvings covering every inch of the ceiling and walls (no wonder it took them 40 years to build it). Amazing!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
We had a uneventful but pleasant transition from the Highlands to Edinburgh. Our apartment is on the east side of town, fairly close to trains and buses. As Kyla says, "We live in a wee house.", yes it is quite a cozy studio apartment. What it lacks in size, it makes up for with stylish decor. We're trying to sound more Scottish and say wee instead of small or little. Sunday we walked to the stores nearby and found a Woolworths (the big W) and a Walmart (Called ASDA here). I usually don't shop at Walmart and after walking around for a bit, I felt kind of sick, so we left. I don't really think it had anything to do with Walmart unless I was poisoned by the free popsicles they were handing out at the front door.
Then we decided to have dinner at this bar (the building in the middle of the picture) we heard about on the beach. The Dalriada was quite nice with live music, but they didn't have dinner. So we had to walk on and find some fish-n-chips in Portobello, a popular beach in Edinburgh.
There is a long promenade at the beach and the girls ran down the wall, but had to be ferried by dad across the gaps.
On the way back to our apartment, Sydney said, "Look, there's the Eiffel Tower!" Yes, the same basic shape, but a lot smaller and of course in the wrong country.
I wonder how the girls got their shorts so dirty (anyone pack the oxy?) and how Sydney got an eye-full of sand? See the video to find out.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Today we rode the train to Plockton, a small fishing town on the west coast of Scotland. We stopped at the Plockton Inn restaurant for a fresh seafood lunch. Then we got a taxi ride to the Eilean Donan Castle, which has appeared in a few movies (Highlander and one of the Bond movies). The scenery on the way home from Kyle of Lochalsh was "crackin' good".
We also got to hear a wee bit o' bagpipin'. Ooooh, I almost sound Scottish. This was the favorite castle so far. No pictures taken inside of course, but lots of cool historical items. As the girls were admiring a case of silver flasks and such, we heard Sydney exclaim, "Look, it's a Nintendo DS!" There I saw a silver case the exact size of a Nintendo player. I thought it was hilarious, but maybe you had to be there.
Click here for a few more pics.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Well, here is the view from the visitor center on the top of Cairn Gorm mountain. No, I didn't forget to take off the lens cap, those are clouds. Just clouds, for only 25 pounds you to could see this. I try not to think about that part.
Here is a picture of a picture of the visitor's center.
Here is the view from the funicular on the way down the mountain. By the way it wasn't raining on the way up, so we could see a little better. Riding in the funicular was pretty fun, plus it's a funny word to say. It was a wee bit chilly on top of that mountain, but we stayed pretty dry. Don't the Cairngorm Mountains sound like something from Lord of the Rings? It's the highest point in Britain, but it's a little hard to be impressed by a 3000 something foot high mountain. The girls enjoyed the visitor's center and we got to have hot chocolate.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Today the girls needed a little down time so Kevin decided to ride the rails and take a 12-hour round trip to Wick/Thurso, the northernmost stop in Scotland. The usual route has a fork at the end where the train goes to Thurso, then back to the junction and on to Wick. After several delays the train was running about 45 minutes late. The conductor asked any one who wanted to go to Thurso to let him know, and he would arrange a bus ride in order to get the train back on schedule. At the junction many got off to catch the bus, but there was still much confusion: the conductor, ticket taker, ticket taker in training, and the trolley girl were all having a big discussion outside and passing cell phones back and forth. There was a group of about 20 German rail enthusiasts (the same group that had stopped up both toilets on the train) getting on and off the train, talking to each other and talking to the conductor. Finally they all got back on the train and the train starts moving backwards. At this point a group of three teenage Scottish backpackers stopped playing their Nintendos to ask the conductor, "Where are we going?" After massaging is forehead for a moment he replied, "Straight ta Hell laddies, strait ta Hell." Apparently the german group had insisted that the train cover all of the rail lines in the highlands, so the train finally got to Wick about 1.5 hours late. There was just enough time to buy a few grocieries (as much beer as one person can carry) before they headed back south again.The girls and I had a relaxing day of swimming at the pool, complete with waves and a big slide, eating ice-cream followed by fish-n-chips and and stopping once more at the Funfair.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Oh no, that's just a model of Nessie we found at the Loch Ness visitor center.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Here is Kyla at the entrance. It was filled with tons of antique furniture and historic portraits. They wouldn't let us take any pictures of the inside though. The gardens were beautiful. Sydney had great fun running around to hide in the little maze. Wallace and Gromit's Were-rabbit came to mind when I glimpsed those big rabbit ear shaped shrubs behind the garden wall. Kyla enjoyed taking multiple pictures of Sydney and the flowers.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Not much to say about yesterday (day 5). Up at 5am to have time to take the Metro to the airport which went well and saved us at least $100 on an airport shuttle. The rest of the day was hurry up and wait for two commuter flights on EasyJet to Inverness (accent on the ness) Scotland. We did have to wait for what seemed like forever outside in this metal tunnel. After being let out of the tunnel to stand in the cold and windy rain, then we started to really appreciate the tunnel. Thank goodness we didn't pay extra for express boarding as the seating on this airline in not assigned. The girls love our new accommodations. The only one for the whole summer we were able to book through our timeshare exchange. So we are in a condo at the Scandinavian Village, a winter ski resort. We have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, full kitchen, washer/dryer and sometimes flaky internet. It’s so beautiful and green here, looks a lot like home.
Today was a day of rest, which we desperately needed. Everyone slept about 12 hours and got recharged on some cereal, computer time and cartoons. We walked into town for lunch at the pub and stopped at the grocery store in time to come back and cook some dinner. On the way the girls found a Funfair and got to pay $3 each for 15 minutes in a bouncy house which they loved. I’m going to start telling prices in pounds because it sounds better. You can then freak out silently (or not so silently) when you multiply it by two to figure out how many dollars it is, just like I do every time we have to buy something or go out to eat.
Here is something new we found at the grocery store, wheat biscuits that are found with the cereal. The biscuits are all stacked very neatly in the box. You pour the milk on and biscuit soaks it up like sponge.
Then you have to eat it quick if you don't like soggy cereal.
If you like them as much as Sydney, you have another. Don't tell her, but I tried them and they're not that great. I'm glad she likes them, someone has to finish that box of 36. I finally found something cheap here - I bought a jar of lemon curd for only 50 cents! I usually get it at Trader Joe's for at least $3.50. Everything else seems to be normally priced, if you get paid in pounds for a living.
Friday, July 4, 2008
We tried to plan something easy and fun for our last day in Paris. We decided to go to Sacre Coeur, a church that looks like a huge white palace that we saw from afar and thought – let’s go there! It was beautiful inside and out and the view of Paris was great too. The girls found a carousel and a then we had crepes for dinner and a quick stop to see the Arc de Triomphe, where there was some kind of veteran’s march going on. On the way there we passed by the Moulin Rouge and I decided a little dancing would be appropiate (or not). Then we walked a short way down the connecting Champs Elysees, the most famous street in Paris. All I can tell you is that you can pee for free at Mickey D’s, although there are no toilet seats. Despite the jet lag and the language barrier the girls did great with all the walking and Metro riding and we had a good time.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
This is really the only monument our girls have even heard of in Paris, so they were very anxious to go see it. We read somewhere that it was great to see at night, but what we didn’t know was that the whole escapade would take five hours. We’ll spare you the details, but it involved long lines, a chunk of cash and four elevators (round trip), 5 minutes of photos at the top at midnight, followed by closed metro lines and searching for a taxi, carrying Sydney up the six flights to our flat and going to bed 2am. After saying all that, the Eiffel tower was quite impressive along with the view from the top, and it was blue! In all the pictures I’ve seen of it at night, it looks very golden, so when did they change it to blue? Not sure, but I kind of like it.
"Why are we having this for breakfast? ', says Sydney looking at her chicken dinner we were about to eat right after our long late nap.
"Everything that is big is …small. " Sydney from the top of the Eiffel Tower
"We walked all day and all night!" Kyla on our way home from the Eiffel Tower
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Last night the girls decided they had to have a snack at 1am, so after a banana, some bread and a few threats from mom everyone was asleep by 2am. Except for Kyla we were all awake at 5am and had a leisurely morning. After descending six flights in the spiral staircase of our apartment, we discovered a light rain and decided to go back and get our jackets. It was a good morning workout and it made us appreciate our ride on the Metro. Sydney had some anxiety about riding it again after our stressful experience, but after we got off she yelled, “That was easy!” Thank goodness!
Our first stop was Notre Dame and everyone was impressed by the beautiful stained glass windows. Kyla thought the red stained glass looked like fire.
Then we went to Jardin du Luxembourge, where the girls rested while Kevin went to look for lunch. We found a big playground that charged 2€ per person, but it was worth it. The girls had a great time even though it started pouring and all the parents were hanging out on the covered benches. The kids spent a lot of time on a rope climbing structure that resemble a shorter versions of the Eiffel Tower. Luckily we stayed long enough and found out from some other American moms that there was a marionette show in the building next door. A perfect place for the girls to get dry and for mom to catch a little nap. By the end Sydney had completely passed out and had to be carried several blocks to the restaurant where we decided to get dinner. She didn’t wake up well and had a little meltdown, but luckily a lot of things can be fixed with bribes of ice-cream. To see the rest of the pictures from Paris, click here.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
It's kind of ironic that this is the first picture I took in Paris. I've been a little worried about Sydney's willingness to use the toilets we might encounter. She likes them to be clean, quiet and not stinky. She refused to use the one at the airport, but here is the next one we found, and she rather liked it. Whew.
Paris: Day 1
We made it! Yesterday was the longest day of my life. We are all sleep deprived and frustrated by the language barrier (wish you were here Desiree), but we made it to our apartment in Paris. The shuttle from the airport went fairly smooth; we were the last to be dropped off and ran into some rush hour traffic and preparations for Bastille Day. This gave the girls a chance for a short nap and Kevin and I a little tour of the city. After getting the key we had to take the Metro about 2 miles to our apartment. That was the hardest part. Keeping track of the girls in the crowded metro the while lugging our 2 suitcases heavy with groceries (yes we packed a family of four for two months into two small suitcases) up and down stairs and on and off the metro the most stressful part of the day. If you are going to be jet lagged in a foreign country I recommend a hotel with an airport shuttle for your first couple of nights. Who hired our travel agent anyway? Oh yea, I am the travel agent. We really need to learn some menu items in French, otherwise, like yesterday we’ll be eating a lot of ham and cheese sandwiches, croissants, and quiche with mushrooms. I did spot a KFC and McDonald’s while riding in the shuttle. There is always the grocery store at least there you can see the food. We’re glad to be here but I think we’ll be able to relax a bit more once we make it to the UK.
Kid Quote: As we were deplaning in Houston and Sydney asked where we were. Her response to my Texas was, “Do they speak English in Texas?”