Sunday, October 23, 2011

Let Me Take You Down 2

The Pepper Pot

So, several weekends ago I showed my dad all the pictures from our holiday, and he quite literally was falling asleep. I can only imagine the boredom my little travel anecdotes create. I shall persevere in the knowledge that no one has to read this. They can look at the pictures and then move on. I totally understand.

By the way, I know there are riots in London and Liverpool. And I know that Morrissey made some controversial statements (again). But I have a blog to write. I know it should seemingly be about Morrissey, but I reserve the right not to write about him. Besides, he seems to have effectively defended his statements. I am not trying to make light of the seriousness by seemingly brushing it aside.

Isle of Wight Continued
Above you see the photo of the Pepper Pot. This was originally a beacon used like a lighthouse might be used and part of a monastery. A monastery that was dissolved due to Henry VIIIs dissolving relationship with the Catholic Church. We walked up the hill and had a fantastic view of the island as you can kind of make out in the photo. My camera and I are not able to take pictures like Ansel Adams but I think you get the idea,

It was near a place called Blackgang Chine, which was a place where pirates would hide their booty. I asked Roland about seeing it and it is falling into the sea. Although it is falling into the sea, there is a roller coaster that is near the edge somewhere. So as I was taking pictures of the Pepper Pot, I was hearing the terrifying screams from the roller coaster. 
St. Catharine's Lighthouse

St. Catharine's Lighthouse
Roland made us go to the lighthouse. It sounded okay to me, I have to admit. But it turned out to be one of the best things we did on the Isle of Wight. They conduct free tours of the lighthouse. Our guide was excellent. We climbed all the way to the top which was a little unnerving, but satisfying in the end.  He told us about the lighthouse being bombed in WW2 and the fact that the keepers died. There is a photograph taken by the German pilot who bombed it seconds before it hit. This intrigued the boys and began a conversation about WW2 on the walk back to the car.

Peace at Quarr Abby
Quarr Abbey
Quarr Abbey is an interesting place. But I simply do not want to bore you with too many details. The abbey is in Binstead, where Roland's parents live and we were able to walk there very easily. It is near the site of the old abbey in which our dear King Henry VIII tore down. The original site is now a farm house with sheep and cows but a new one has been built nearby. Basically, monks fled to France and then came back in the 1920s to rebuild. They did and it is a lovely place. We had tea and coffee there after our walk and then browsed the bookstore.

Debs, Stu, and Zara at the Castle

A Night Out
Roland and I were lucky enough to go out one night in Newport and see Duncan play music at the Castle pub. Thanks to Charlie and the boys' good behaviour, we were able to steal away for a few hours. Duncan quite often posts invitations to gigs that we cannot attend for obvious reasons. So it was a special treat to see him in person. By the way, Roland used to play in a band with Duncan (that is how we met).  We went out with Debs, Stu and Zara and met some very nice people including a friend named Vicky and another named Ben.

Bembridge Mill
Bembridge Windmill
The Isle of Wight is home to an old windmill and we decided to have a close look at this landmark. Not much to tell but we had a nice picnic lunch beforehand and took the boys in to see what a windmill actually does besides turn in the wind.

Happy Anniversary
So one of the main reasons we came to old blighty in the first place was to attend Roland's parents Golden Wedding Anniversary.It was on Patsy's birthday, July 4. If you look at the table setting you will see American flags. This was a great night out. It was at a place called Albert Cottage which is very near Osborne House and was once used by Victoria's royal family. This was a wonderful time spent with family and friends of the family, including David and Diana who we stayed with later on our trip.

Isle of Wight spook
Ghost Walk
One of the last things we did on the Isle of Wight was a ghost walk in Newport. I wasn't really sure about it, to be honest. I thought it would be really lame with fake ghosts and so on. We thought Oliver might be too young for this and I am glad he did not go, so he stayed at Debs and Stu's and Roland came round to visit Duncan and Libby. Zara and Charlie came along and it made it more fun for me, Enrique and Miguel. There was a lot of history included of course. And the ghost stories were great. But our guide, Marc, had obviously hired some kids to act out the parts of ghosts. They were extremely funny. Seriously, one of them was in the midst of trying to scare people and he got up and walked into a wall probably because he couldn't see because of his outfit. It was kind of a mixture of laughter and screaming for about two hours. Very Monty Python.

It was also interesting for us since Zara had a personal experience with one of the ghosts mentioned on the tour. Francesca.

Stonehenge under menacing sky
So we left the IOW after two great weeks and headed for the North. On our way to Liverpool we stopped off at Stonehenge. It was raining off and on and a little bit cold but it was the perfect way to see it. I mean, it was so Druid-like.  
Liverpool was a great visit for a few reasons. Firstly, we stayed at a self-catering farm called The Barn. And indeed, our little place was a renovated barn. We even had chickens and sheep at the barn. The toilet was not easy to flush so that created a problem-embarrassing for some. Secondly, we were able to see my friends Andy and Moe. I have known Moe for a number of years. She is from Wisconsin originally and then moved to California like fifteen years ago. We pretty much clicked from the word go and had many funny times together at The Harp in Costa Mesa back in the day. Andy is from Liverpool and they decided to settle there for a while with Henry, their newest addition. I did not get any pictures of Henry, I am sorry to say. He was so adorable I only wanted to hold him, not take his picture. Plus, he was in various stages of sleep whenever I saw him.Thirdly, if you know me at all you know that while I am a Smiths/Morrissey fan, I am also a Beatle fan. Many years ago I went to Liverpool and did the Magical Mystery Beatle Tour and saw the homes, etc. of the Beatles. When I returned home, my mother infamously opened her camera that I had borrowed to remove the film (you know how long ago this took place now) and destoyed all my photographs from Liverpool. Hilariously, she took a last photo of me to finish off the film and that survived. So somewhere there is a sweaty picture of me fresh off a twelve hour flight looking impatient because I most likely wanted to go to bed before starting work the next day.

So, yeah. I did drag the kids to see the Magical Mystery Tour but I don't think it was any less boring for them than a Medieval castle or an art gallery. It was very detailed, yes. But it simply had to be done. The best thing was that Moe came along and we had some time to chat in the bus.

During our stay, Oliver got very into Superlambananas, which are these artistic creatures desgined by a Japanese artist and only found in Liverpool. Whenever we encountered one, Oliver had to take his picture with it and he was constantly looking for new ones. I got him a book which kept him occupied for hours.

Oliver and Superlambanana
Andy's mom bravely watched all the kids, including Henry, and Roland and I were able to have a beer or two with Andy, Moe and Sally, Andy's sister at a pub on Penny Lane. (Very strange). But fun! I miss Moe and Andy.

So, the next day we drove up to Edinburgh, Scotland. It was about a four hour drive-you know, just long enough to hear choruses of, "Are we almost there yet?" repeated for two hours of the journey. Hilariously, as we passed the border into Scotland, it began to rain-a lot!
Edinburgh when the sun was shining
It rained all the way into Edinburgh and while we arrived and then even when we were searching for a place to eat dinner. We settled on an warm Italian restaurant with kind of slow service-but what did it matter? We got to eat. Because service was so slow, Roland stayed in the restaurant until the bill came and I went for a stroll with the boys. We walked to the corner facing Edinburgh Castle and suddenly the rain stopped and the sun was shining on the city. It was lovely.

We did in Edinburgh what we did in London-we took an open top bus tour to get an overview of the city. After the tour, we lunched at a place called The Elephant Cafe (or something like that). This is where JK Rowling wrote some of the first Harry Potter books. I could see how it would be a great place to write as it overlooks the castle and has that warm, coffeehouse feel. We also went to Edinburgh Castle which was enormous and wonderful as you would probably expect. Looking back, we should have done the castle first thing because it was crowded by the time we got there.We ended our first day with a tour of Holyrood House which is where the queen stays when in Edinburgh. It was the end of the day so we were pretty tired when we got there, we had about an hour left before it closed. We kind of hurried through it but it was good because when you have kids you just don't have the attention span you might have had otherwise.

Salisbury Crags
The second day in Edinburgh we climbed Salisbury Crag and I think Arthur's Seat which are hills in Edinburgh. We wanted to burn some calories and also to experience a bit of nature. We were treated to some beautiful scenery and fantastic views of the city. The hill was really wet though, and Enrique had zero traction on his sneakers so he fell about seven times-I fell once and I was wearing my sandals. My theory is that the Romans climbed those hills in sandals and they did fairly well, so why not me?

Royal Britannia
We were kind of tired but still went to the geological museum which had a great interactive exhibit called Mother Earth. I was on the war path for any kind of seating but the kids were interested in the exhibit so it was kind of relaxing. We had lunch and then we trekked to the Royal Britannia-the Queen's former yacht. I have to admit that by the time we got to the Royal Brittania, we were kind of blase about seeing royal thngs. We had seen so much and it was interesting, but it loses its affect after a while. Still, I look back on it now and am glad that we saw it.

We drove up to Durham after leaving Scotland. It was not too far-not as far as we had been traveling. Durham was special because it is where Roland went to University. He has always said he wanted to take me to see it and we finally had our chance. Our first day there we only had time to have dinner. Oddly enough we ended up eating at a Tex Mexican Restaurant. I found that quite often in Britain, that they could not simply have a Mexican restaurant-it had to be Tex Mex-which is code word for "we don't really know how to make true Mexican food, so we added some spice and rice and beans" restaurant. However, I cannot complain. I had mac and cheese and it was awesome. It was spicey and not at all like any Mexican food I have ever had but it was excellent. The boys and Roland would say the same, I am sure. The proprietor was pleased that Enrique and Miguel enjoyed it since they actually are Mexican.

The next day we went in to explore the cathedral and the universtity-although we did not see too much of the university. We saw a lot of the huge, impressive cathedral and saw the final resting place for the Venerable Bede. We spent about a morning there before heading off to David and Diana's house in Buntingford.

Buntingford and More of London
Buntingford was awesome mainly because we stayed with David and Diana, Roland's godparents, who are the among the best hosts anyone could ever hope to meet. Diana served chocolate with every meal, which certainly edeared her to the hearts of the kids. Really. Where could you go wrong?

We spent about four days there and during that time went into London at least twice. We drove to Cockfosters and then took the tube into London. Its actually a lot harder than it sounds when someone gets in the train tracks and causes bus routes to get rerouted and its hot and muggy. Ugh! On the day we met Duncs, Zara, Charlie and Libby, we did not meet up with them until midday at the Tower of London. So we did a whirlwind tour of the tour seeing the jewels and a few other things like the Bloody Tower and the rack and other various instruments of torture.

Smth-Joneses on the Eye
The highlight of that day, however, was the London Eye. We waited a long time-nearly two hours-but the view was spectacular and it gave us a lot of time to take lots of pictures.

I have yet to make a T-shirt for Duncan as we came up the idea of making one that says, "I Survived the London Eye Queue!"

We had a bite to eat at a nice place nearby before we had to part ways knowing we will not see each other for a very long time.

London Again, and Finally
We went back to London the next day and visited Trafalgar Square, Hamley's and The Globe Theatre-although we did not go into the Globe or see a play there-not a good idea with tired pre-teens and children under 11. Not good when you are tired and above the age of 40 either. We went  back to David and Diana's and were spoiled with a wonderfully huge meal and dessert.
Bridge to the Globe, and St. Paul's

Duxford American Hangar
While at David and Diana's, we were taken to Duxford where David is a volunteer and therefore knows many details about the many fighter planes at this air museum. There are many different hangars filled with various planes from everywhere. The most noticeable and impressive to me (and I may be biased here) was the American hangar. This featured many planes and memorabilia from World War II fighter planes. My other favorite was a World War II hangar. The reason it was my favorite was not because of what was in it so much as the memories it brought back to David and Diana who were both children living in the London area during the time period. They were able to share their experiences and make the time period come alive for all of us. The two older boys were bored up until that time. Oliver loves planes but perhaps overwhelmed at a certain point. Its just one of those experiences that I am sure they will look upon later as most impressive as time passes.

Saying Good-bye
David and Diana went out of their way to make us feel totally at home. It was lovely just to hang around Buntingford and spend time together. They also took me to my new favorite store called John Lewis. I know, as an American when I hear that name I think of a civil rights activist from the 1960s but its actually an awesome store I became acquainted with in Liverpool and then David and Diana drove me to the one in Cambridge so that I could purchase some tea spoons. We just don't seem to have them around here so much although since that time, I have seen them at Ikea.

Anyway, they took us bowling and for Mexican food with their daughter and her family just before we left. We had a nice time and the boys enjoyed playing with other kids who are not related to them.

Then we left for our hotel room near the airport at Heathrow to meet up with Nana and Pops before our departure.

We met up with Nana and Pops and had dinner in the evening and some wine to celebrate a great visit.

Our last moments with Nana and Pops in Windsor
The next morning Roland and the boys had to leave. The took an earlier flight because when we booked the flights, we did not have the necessary permission to take the boys yet. So Roland ended up purchasing tickets for just Oliver and me until that paper work came through. By that time, he could not get us all on the same flight home.

Nana and Pops drove us to Windsor for the afternoon and dropped us off at the airport. It was interesting because Oliver really did not want to go anywhere with Nana and Pops or without them. Then when we waved good-bye he became very emotional and said that he missed them. Yet, he hardly said anything the entire afternoon.

I forgot to mention our trip to York. I believe we were there after Edinburgh or Durham. I  cannot remember. Anyway, we went to the National Train Museum-which was awesome for Oliver. And we did a couple of walking tours. The first one was a ghost tour, which paled in comparison to the one in Newport. The only thing I actually remember is some American or Aussie girl telling her traveling companion, " . . . and for my birthday he gave me gonorrhea." A very odd thing to say on a ghost tour!

So here I am several months later. I have neglected this blog due to work and familial obligations. However, the good news is that Roland and I have tickets to see Morrissey in November. I shall try to be better about updating from now on!