Sunday, July 31, 2011

Let Me Take You Down

Me at Strawberry Fields (in case you hadn't guessed)
Trying to squeeze detail in describing our month long holiday is like trying to eat a seven layer sandwich. It looks and sounds really good but impossible to actually eat. So you have to break it apart.

During our eleven hour plane ride home, I gave it a lot of thought-about how I was going to organize my blog. I thought that sections would be good because I have this theory that people don't really like reading long blogs. So if I were to break it up into sections, readers could just find the section they are interested in and skip or skim the rest.

Silly antics on the plane
A Very Good Place to Start
Let's start with the plane ride to London. Not much to tell except that Oliver and I had to fly separately from Roland and the boys. We got kind of lucky. We flew on Virgin Airlines in their 747 which has an upstairs economy area (just behind the envious first class). This meant several things: we were served food more quickly, it was warmer than the rest of the plane (which could be good or bad, depending on your personal needs) and this also meant that Oliver was excited simply because we were higher up. He also got a window seat thanks to a lady that was in our row of three seats. She could just see that Oliver wanted the window so she sat in the aisle and Oliver had a window.

I was able to read virtually more than half of Patti Smith's Just Kids while Oliver watched videos and cartoons. This book is an extremely well-written account of Patti's relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. I have to admire her artistic spirit. I mean, it takes a lot to believe in your craft so much that you are willing to sacrifice so much for it. Food, shelter, etc. It appears she has a supportive family though. That's got to help.The book also won the National Book Award so I am not the only one to sing its praises.

Jet Lagged Boys

Wightlink car ferry
Isle of Wight
We hired an estate car (a bigger car) at Heathrow and made our way to Portsmouth in order to catch the ferry to the island. If it doesn't sound exciting imagine you are a seven or twelve year old child. Its pretty cool. Even more cool was that Roland's parents, Nana and Pops, were at Portsmouth waiting for us and took the same ferry back to the island with us.

It took us a few days to get in the swing of things, so we had a day of rest and then Roland's sister, Debs, and her family, and Duncs, his brother and his family came over to Nana and Pops' (where we were staying) for a nice BBQ dinner. We had the chance to catch up and anticipate all the fun things we could do while we were there. I have to say that I love spending time with Roland's family. I know there are many people in the world who could not say that they enjoy their significant other's family. But its just like having friends round and you don't really want the evening to end-they are funny, cool and entertaining.

Oliver had not seen Libby, his cousin who is close in age, for a few years so they ran around like crazy and it was also a chance for  Miguel and Enrique to meet their new cousins, Charlie and Ben. In other words, it was an important evening that turned out to be a good time.

Brading Roman Villa
The first place we visited on the island was Brading Roman Villa. It was most likely the home of a wealthy farmer who lived on the Isle of Wight (the Romans called it Vectis) and who adopted much of the Roman style and way of life back in the day.

I think the most striking thing about it is the state of the mosaic tiles. They are still quite beautiful although they were constructed back around the second century AD. It had been discovered in 1879 and you may now visit the site and learn more about the British-Romano way of life.
Roman Tiles
I think the thing we enjoyed most however, was having a Minghella ice cream from the Minghella ice cream truck on the way to Brading. If you think you recognize the name-it may be that you remember a great movie director by the name of Anthony Minghella (Grange Hill, Inspector Morse, The English Patient, Talented Mr. Ripley). Well, he was from the island and it is his family who run the ice cream business. Fame and talent aside, they serve excellent ice cream in unusual flavors. For example, I had coconut (I know it isn't that unusual) and Roland had ginger flavor. I think the boys had something boring like chocolate but they raved about how good it was and every time we saw the truck they would longingly gaze at the little ice cream truck.
You scream I scream

Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle
Two other places we visited with significant historical value were Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle. Osborne House was the vacation home of Queen Victoria and her family. In fact, she died there in 1902. I don't want to bore you with a lot of historical detail  but the grounds were beautiful and it has been lovingly cared for by English Heritage. It was a great opportunity for the boys to learn more about Queen Victoria.

Carisbrooke Castle was one of the boy's favorite places we visited. We walked to the castle from Duncan and Zara's house. It is an enjoyable, scenic ten minute stroll to the top of the hill where the castle is. Enrique managed to fall into the moat but luckily it has been dried up for at least a hundred years.

This castle is where Charles I was held before he was executed (beheaded). While imprisoned there the king tried to escape but got stuck in the window. That had to be pretty humiliating.

Carisbrooke Castle
Another interesting tidbit is that the castle has a working well operated by donkey power. Very cute and sweet donkeys.

Island Games Parade and Compton Bay
We happened to be on the island during the Island Games which is an athletic event kind of like a mini Olympics between different island nations all over the world. The parade featured children and some adults dressed up in clothing themed to cover the history of the Isle of Wight. For example,Romans and pirates were some of the historical peoples represented. It ended with the athletes from each island marching past for them to receive a warm welcome.

Fun digging at Compton Bay
We also managed to go to Compton. Now, if you live in the Los Angeles area, you probably think of drive-by shootings, houses with bars on windows and liquor stores-places you don't want to be after dark when you are lost trying to find the 91 freeway. However, since my first visit to the IOW, Compton has retained a much more positive image for me. Its a cliffy, sandy beach with lovely water and fun people. I don't personally know all the fun people but Zara does and she is the one to go to the beach with if you want to meet the cool people. I got to be cool by association. We actually got a bit sunburned one of the three days we went.

Our Bus Around the Island
Yarmouth and the Needles
We decided that sitting on top of a double-decker bus would be a great way to see part of the island. The bus has a recorded narration as you cruise the island. It was kind of rainy that day so we couldn't take advantage of the open top part of the bus so much. But it was fun all the same.

The Needles

Driving up to the Needles atop a double-decker bus is kind of scary. There were some twists and turns that were quite impressive. In case you were wondering why these cliffs are called The Needles, you should know that there was once a long, needle-shaped rock out there which was destroyed in a storm back in 1769.

Entrance to the castle
Near the Needles are the Old Battery which was used during war time as a watch to protect from enemy ships. There was a display of its usage during the wars which was very informative. The New Battery houses rocket displays regarding The Black Knight which was tested but never launched from The Needles. It was successfully launched in Australia. Oddly enough, the British government did not think that rockets and satilliates were a good investment and abandoned the project.

Yarmouth Castle was next. Compared to Carisbrooke, it was not as popular with the boys. It was built by Henry VIII to guard Yarmouth Harbour most likely against the French. Henry VIII, we discovered, figured prominantly in many of the historic sights. As Miguel stated, "He must have been a powerful and important king."

Appuldurcombe is very deceiving. I thought it was a furnished  house much like Osborne. But instead, it is a shell. It has a beautiful exterior with lovely grounds perfect for taking photographs. In fact, I took quite a few shots of this house. It was a livable house back in 1100 AD as a priory until 1943. During World War 2, it had been used as a hospital. Supposedly it is the most haunted place on the island. And there are many haunted places on the Isle of Wight. The thing that lends to its creepiness factor is that it is in ruins and because it is deceiving. Its kind of like a scene from a horror movie where you hear beautiful organ music. You draw closer into a room where you see the back of  a womanly figure with long, blonde, beautiful hair playing the organ in the candlelight. The music stops. The figure turns around. It is a living skeleton. You scream in terror.

Appuldurcombe House
I think this house is that way. It looks so beautiful and lived in but as you get closer you discover it is only a skeleton of a building.

A Day Out in London
We took the ferry and train into London with Deb's and Stu. We just wanted the boys to get an overview of London.On my very first trip to London a hundred years ago, my friend, John, took me out atop a double decker bus tour and it has been something I do in a new town ever since. We thought (wisely) that when we returned to London later on our holiday, we could take them back to the places they wanted to see more of. They decided they like Trafalgar Square and The Globe. Oliver simply wanted to shop at Hamley's.

At Victoria Station, we saw the huge advertisement for the Hop Farm event. I know I had made my peace with the fact that I was not going to see Morrissey this trip. Yet seeing the sign was a cruel twist of fate.
So close, yet so far away
Hilariously, I also missed Morrissey televised live at the Glastonbury Festival.Stu told me about it. And then once I arrived back here in the US, I found it on YouTube.

I was just thinking that Morrissey is probably having a successful tour. But is he having as much fun without me?