I've finally posted all the photos from our trip! They're up online on my picasa page if you'd like to see them, but there are A LOT!
A taste of Edinburgh, crowds on the Royal Mile:
Stonehenge may be the most dramatic and well known of the Stone Circles in Britain, but it is far from the only one. Since our travels would not be taking us in the direction of Stonehenge, and we had a car for a week of our time in Britain, I decided I would fine another stone circle for us to visit. As luck would have it Mitchell's Fold, a stone circle labeled but not named on our Britain Road Atlas, was not terribly far from where we stayed in Shropshire. After a Sunday afternoon (7/17) in lovely Shrewsbury we headed out in search of the stone circle on our map.
The day was a little stormy, raining on and off, with a blustery wind that picked up the higher up you went. Little did we know as started out from Shrewsbury, this was going to be the most exciting adventure of our trip, leading us far off the beaten path. We drove most of the way on a main road, out in the country, but still a main thoroughfare, until the directions I had pulled up on the iphone indicated we should turn off on to a narrowroad, still large enough for two cars. On our right as we turned was a field with the stone ruins of a small building. As we drove, our paved road turned to dirt. We crossed over a livestock/cattle guard and kept going, as Chip asked, was I sure we were going the right way? Then our road abruptly ended with a sign that said we were entering a private road, only foot traffic allowed. Luckily, the map on the iphone still showed we were going in the right direction, giving us the courage to pull off the road and park in a small patch of sheep poop filled grass, and continue on foot.
We started off up the private road, passing a small house where a dog watched our progress and a farmer waved. Up we went, the path getting steeper and rockier, wild looking sheep looking at us as we passed. At this point we were glad to have parked the car, it probably wouldn't have made it up, especially with all the mud. We passed another farm house, and then as we climbed higher , it was just us and the sheep, and tall grass on either side, until finally up ahead and above, Chip spotted the circle.
Its scale is small, only 15 stones left of maybe 30, most broken, only one or two standing at the height of a person. But from here, it seems you can see forever, Wales spread out to the west, England to the east. And you can see why, 3000 years ago, people chose this as a spot for something special, whatever it may have been. Paths lead up to the circle from all four sides, there must be other ways people get here and find this place. But our way was exciting and felt like a real adventure of discovery. What amazed us most, or struck us as the most foreign thing about the place was that up in that wild sheep pasture, with no seeming official place to p ark or even way to get there, there was still an official English Heritage plaque explaining the site. It's hard to imagine an attraction or site in the US that is important enough to be given some official designation, but where you're not given clear directions or instructions for how to get there, where it's ok to park, etc. Luckily, none of that had stopped us, and we'd found the circle. Our reward was a grand and awe inspiring view of an ancient and beautiful place.
For more pictures from this adventure, including some glaring sheep, check out pictures from our trip on picasa. Part 2, Shropshire is where you'll find more from Mitchell's Fold.
Today was the last full day of our UK vacation. We packed it full of more London exploring and a last bit of souvenir shopping. We fly home tomorrow afternoon, leaving at 3pm and arriving at 6pm, we'll be in the air for eleven hours with the sun chasing, but never catching us. We've had a great time on our trip & I plan to write more about our adventures and post more pictures after we get back home!
Picture below: me, at our last stop of the day.
Today (Wednesday) we leave York and head for Scotland, stopping for a few adventures of the way. I'm falling behind in my posting (and pictures!) but am so tired from all the fun we have each day it's hard to keep up! I still plan to post about the rest of our adventures in Shropshire as well as on the Peak District and in the beautiful York. But for now it's onwards and north! Tonight we sleep in Scotland!
At the center of every English dream kitchen, is an AGA stove. A new one can, apparently, run up to £20,000, though older ones can be found in kitchens all over the country. A very fancy kitchen will have both an AGA and a regular stove. Because is AGA is not regular.
An AGA is always on, always hot. It has two large burners with lift covers. One burner is hot, one burner is warm. It has two oven compartments, one hot, one warm. You can change the "hot" temperature, but it will take hours to change. Now imagine cooking (& baking!) just with these hot and warm burners and compartments.
Our American hosts in Shropshire have one of these stoves. It seemed crazy when we first saw it, and I especially have trouble imagining baking, but I can also see the charm having lived with it for a few days and even getting a little cooking experience on it. On Saturday evening our hosts had a gala to attend in Liverpool, so we babysat the kids, including cooking dinner & breakfast the next morning. After a couple days watching how it's done & with a few instructions, I managed cheeseburgers & french fries for dinner and a full English breakfast (minus baked beans) in the morning, but including eggs, over easy. Even the toast was made on the AGA! The warm burner makes a mean toast!
I'm not sure how I'd feel about living with an AGA instead of my gas stove, but it was a fun challenge, and I can definitely see the advantage of an always on oven making your kitchen toasty warm in the damp & chilly English weather.
We survived our first British driving experience in one piece and made it to Tibberton in Shropshire yesterday (Thursday) evening. Chip drove, and stayed remarkably calm, even in the hellish traffic circles. Navigating was much more stressful than I expected, especially since sitting on the left hand side meant I automatically kept checking the mirrors, except I couldn't see anything out of them!
Today we had a relaxing day starting with sleeping in and a home cooked English breakfast. Chip slept till almost 9am which is unheard of! That driving on the wrong side really did take a lot out of him. We had a tour of the Lilleshall sports training facility later in the morning, which is amazing, both in building, scenery & training facilities. The core of the training center is a old English hunting lodge (ie mansion in the woods) with more modern facilities built around it.
After our tour, I finally got in the cross-Atlantic coaching session I've been waiting for, and found I have a lot of work to do, but am doing better than expected in some. But mostly have a lot if work to do. I expected that, but now I have a better idea of how to direct that work.
I'm falling behind in posting pictures so below are a few from today. In order: our home for the next few days, the view from the top front window (see the sheep?!), and two shots of Lilleshall.
We're traveling in the Heathrow Express - a speedy train that takes us from Paddington Station back to Heathrow Airport. From there, we'll pick up our rental car and head in the direction of Shropshire for the next stage of our journey.
We plan to stop for lunch at the Royal Standard of England, a old and storied pub only 30 minutes or so from Heathrow. By then we'll need a stop with some ale & a nice countryside walk to cool our frazzled nerves after trying to drive on the left side of the road.
Today we got up early (5am!) & were going strong until early afternoon when we finally came back to our room for a rest. The highlights:
-Smithfield Butcher Markets! The reason for our early rise - butchers have sold their meat at this site for 800 years
-Another English Breakfast! This one at a cafe near the market. Just as delicious, but this one had especially amazing bacon . (more like ham, the English call our bacon 'streaky bacon')
-Waiting the train after breakfast, a small boy (maybe 10 years old?) sat beside us in his school uniform, dress coat & all, reading the paper. When his train came, he got up, took his place standing amongst the businessmen, snapped his paper & returned to reading his paper as the train door closed.
-Tower of London! This was as amazing as we were told! Definitely worth the price of admission & just so cool to be wandering about in old yards & halls full of so much history.
Three and a half hours in the Tower of London thoroughly wore us out & we had energy only for lunch at the nearby Wagamama Noodle (yum! & fun to say!) before dragging back to our hotel room & collapsing!
Free wifi & a snack in the Pret A Manger mean more posts & pictures going up soon! Highlights from our day in London Tuesday:
-Full English Breakfast
-Riding The Tube for the first time
-Visit to Lord's Cricket Ground, home of the 2012 Olympic Archery event (unfortunately the Lord's Shop only has cricket stuff for sale. What?! ;)
-Picnic on the Ministry of Defence lawn (No sign of the Ministry of Magic)
-Walk about Westminster Abbey, Parliament & Buckingham Palace
-Dinner at a 'posh' fish & chips place in Notting Hill not far from out hotel
-British dessert treats from Marks & Spencer (turns out Turkish delight is not bad, but nothing to sell out your family to a white witch for)
This morning we found a nice little English Pub down the street from our hotel with a full English breakfast & free wifi.
Two notes on breakfast:
-these sausage are AMAZING! they taste like they have potato mixed in there with the meat!
-the pepper shaker has 5 holes & the salt one. The pepper pours out and the salt sprinkles on generously. THANK YOU! This is as it should be
The free wifi gave me the chance to upload our first day in photos. You can find them here: https://picasaweb.google.com/altair
When I check into a hotel, pick up a prescription, anything i have to give my name, I tell them my last name and then I spell it. Hyde. H Y D E. And a good portion of the time, they still hear H I D E. While I haven't met a ton of other Hyde's (outside my family) I have never met someone named Hide. Plus there's all those parks, the fellow Dr. Jekyll turns in to...
So today, when we checked into the Hyde Park Hilton in London, I started to spell my name, and then thought, hey, surely, this must be the one place I don't need to spell my name. So I didn't. And hen he asked how to spell my name. Just being careful I guess!
So for our first few days in the UK we'll be staying just across from Hyde Park on the north west side. In addition to the good location, the awesome name & the free nights I earned from all those conferences, the bar downstairs is called the library lounge. It's walls are lined with old books, a beautiful stain glass ceiling floats above and the menu boasts a great scotch whisky list. Tonight I topped the evening off with a 16 year old Islay that was quite a bit cheaper than you'd ever pay to drink out in the US. looking forward to more evening whiskies after walks in Hyde Park.
Tonight, Chip & I leave for Britain. We're in the airport now, can you see how excited we are? Aside from day trips down to Tiajuana, this is our first time out of the country. Our virgin passports are as excited as we are! My goal is chronicle our adventures here, both to share with anyone who wishes to read, and for our future selves, as a digital scrapbook of our journey.
This summer, I had multiple encounters with The Empire. They were fun, scary and a little bit surreal.
Passing through the exhbits at the ALA Conference in D.C. I happened by the DK Publishing booth, where who was standing, but the Lord Vader himself with a few stormtroopers.
But that wasn't the end of it...a couple weeks later, back in San Diego there was another encounter.
Do you see Darth Vader back there in the back? Well he looks far away now, but I was on the sidewalk right next to these guys and Darth Vader passed within two feet of me. Now I know intellectually this was just some guy, dressed up in a Darth Vader suit, but that certainly didn't stop part of me from being terrified to be that close to the towering Lord Vader surrounded by his minnions.
About a month later we ended up at Legoland on Star Wars day. It was probably the most surreal and strange of all our summer brushes with the Empire.
While we didn't actually get to see another live Vader, we did see this lego Vader, and plenty of "real" Imperial Guards and stormtroopers. Except that all those live agents of the Empire, were taking pictures with small children who were happy to see them and not at all afraid. This red, Imperial gaurd had a child come up and take its hand just before posing for a picture. What!?
So I know, these small children are being introduced to an earlier, cartoon universe, but it was still a bit surreal.
And strange to think of people growing up with a totally different idea of who and what Stormtroopers are. It would have been interesting to see how the small ones reacted to a real-life Vader though. I imagine that might have been a bit different.
My favorite image from the day, was this one, of the Stormtrooper seeming to be taken with this small child. Though I like to think it's a rebel fighter hiding out in a stormtrooper suit.
Today I wake up in San Diego and go to sleep in our Nation's Capital.
I will have a leisurely trip, free of danger and hardship. People will wait on me as I travel. I will have access to everything I need and more.
When I arrive in my room in D.C. (currently being cleaned and prepared for my arrival) I will pull a tiny phone from my purse and call my husband across the country. There will be no lag. He will sound as if he is right beside me.
I'm writing this on a device no bigger than my hand. I am using another device no bigger than a calling card to connect to a vast web of information, allowing me to post this where millions of people could (but won't) read it.
Your personal jet pack may not have arrived as scheduled. But the future did not wait. We are living it.
I'm walking around the city of Boston in the slushy snow. Sometimes rain, sometimes fat flakes, sometimes a mix. The ground has wet and slushy snow that crunches underfoot with huge cold puddles at the curbs and corners of streets. The cold air stings my face and refreshes me down to my soul.
I miss this. Big snowy & cold city, walking alone in streets surrounded by people. Side excursions into small parks and alleys most people avoid in the cold and damp. Ducking inside feels cozy rather than too warm and revives for more time out in the world.
I know the winter can get old when you live it for eight months or so out of the year. But even in month eight there are moments of wonder to be found. Every where the weather, the place, the scenery gets old, even miserable there are moments if wonder to be found. But you have to let them happen. Let yourself be open to wonder in whatever place it might find you.
Year in Review #9
In July, we went to Chicago. It was the first time we'd been back together since leaving four years ago. I had a conference there and Chip wasn't working, which made it the perfect excuse for a vacation. We went about a week before the conference, and stayed at a friends house out in Oak Park, which gave us a chance to explore part of the city we spent very little time in when we lived there. We saw friends, went to our favorite restaurants, walked past our old apartment, rode around on the El. Had a fabulous time.
A story book house in Oak Park.
The view out our hotel windows once we moved downtown for the conference.
There were lots of candidate city advertisements all over Chicago. I saw this one on Michigan Ave. I tried to figure out if it was an actual Olympic Archer or someone modeling as one. I didn't recognize him from all the Olympic matches I watched last summer, but you never know.
I played hooky from my meetings one afternoon to go check out the archery range in Lincoln Park, right on the Lake. I just which I knew it was there and started shooting when I still lived in Chicago!
Towers over the River
Year in Review #6
In April I went back to Florida for the first time in almost 5 years - the first time since Chip & I got married. I went for a conference, but I stretched it out into a week and a half vacation and the highlight was all the family time.
Before my conference my brother Tyson (who just moved to Tampa from Chicago a couple month before) & I drove out to Alachua to the farm that was my Grandpas for the first time in over 10 years. I saw my Aunt, who lives there now and my Uncle & Aunt & cousins who live across the little dirt road. Even though they are on separate properties everyone is so close that is like one big Hyde Family farm. The animals are split between fields on each, the dogs run back and forth and everyone eats breakfast and dinner together. It was wonderful.
I loved being there and visiting with my family I hadn't seen in so long, working in the dirt, eating potatoes and salad just harvested 30 minutes before dinner. We worked in the "garden" which is big enough to be plowed with a tractor, helped feed & gather eggs from the 80 or so chickens. There are also horses and a small herd of Angus, plus another small herd of lowline (smaller) angus. I could have stayed a whole week just on the farm, instead of just a couple days. It was so great to see my family and so nice to feel so at home there even though we hadn't seen each other since my wedding.
Thoughts from my journal, written at the time of the visit, about being back on the farm and in the former home of my Grandpa. "The air was cooler and dryer than I expected. Actually immensely pleasant. Enough to trick you into thinking that everyday could be like that. Hot, but not too much, with puffy clouds to keep the sun off your neck and cool enough in the evening to sleep with the windows open and the comforter on. Tile floors cool on your toes in the morning, with just the slightest bit of dirt tacked in from outside. The house smells so familiar, but has Aunt Dorothy's touches so is somehow less stale, fresher...no smoke cigarette smoke anywhere."
After my conference, I stayed with my brother Bryan (he just finished college at USF in Tampa), but we saw Tyson quite a bit and I got to meet both of my brother's girlfriends. It was wonderful spending time with two of my brothers (I do only seem to get to see only two at a time recently!) We had all kinds of fun adventures in the short time I had with them. One highlight of the visit was an impromptu afternoon "snack" at Pollo Tropical, which is only the best fast food place in the world. Yummy chicken, great, greasy black beans & rice. Oh and of course Jupina ('it's like a party in your mouth!') but that's more Florida than just Pollo Tropical. They really need to open some franchises out to California.
This was actually my first time in Tampa, but I'd say it was a fun town. But then again, everything is more fun when there's multiple Hyde's around!
Year in Review #4
In the beginning of March, Chip quit his job. Finally. The job had been making him unhappy for a long time, but that unhappiness also made him realize that what he really should be doing, is teaching. In February, he was offered a job teaching physics at a high school in North County this coming Fall, and that meant he could could quit his unhappy job with no guilt and have a few months of fun and curriculum planning before the Fall.
The first thing we did, with his new found freedom was fly to St. Louis a week of celebrations of the new baby Brand to be. Chip's sister Alicia, was pregnant, due in May, and the friend and family baby showers were both in the same week which meant we could come to St. Louis and go to both in addition to having some time to visit with the family. A whole album of our adventure can be found below, just click on the picture of Alicia & Wayne comparing tummies!