Photo Blog by Amie

April 10, 2011

For me, Europe has always been a place of dreams.  Just being somewhere that looks similar to how it did hundreds or even thousands of years ago blows my mind. Especially coming from American suburbia where everything looks either 1)brand new or 2)fifteen years old and uber ugly (yes, I’m talking to you 15 strip malls all along Hwy 49).

My latest trip to Europe was to visit the lovely adventuress, Stephanie Hardy.  Me, my husband and my best friend decided months ago that we HAD to go visit Stephanie as soon as possible.  A free place to stay in Europe paired with a few graciously given ‘buddy pass’ airplane tickets was not an opportunity to be missed.

Daniel, Jill and I hopped on a plane a few weeks ago and began our marvelous adventure!  For your viewing pleasure, here is a photo journey of our trip.

We began our time with Stephanie in her quaint town of Huntingdon.  BTW, Oliver Cromwell was born there.  I was very impressed.

 

Our first trip was to Cambridge.  I always thought that Cambridge was one school but, in fact, Cambridge is made up of many universities/colleges.  We went punting on the River Cam, which is equivalent to going on a gondola in Venice.  We visited the market, found some very cool old bookstores and snuck through a beautiful churchyard.  

 

The next day we took our first day trip to London.  Our first stop was at Platform 9 3/4 ! We visited Hillsong London for church and then went to the amazing British Museum.  We saw the Rosetta Stone and sculptures from Ancient Greece and Rome.  After a delicious lunch of vintage ale pie and mashed potatoes we walked (A LOT) and took an unofficial tour of the bridges of London. The tour included but was not limited to: The Tower Bridge, The London Bridge and the Millennium Bridge. 

  

 

Monday was day three and we headed to Oxford.  Oxford, like Cambridge, is old and beautiful and full of history (and Harry Potter sites)!  We visited Christ Church, shopped like madwomen at Primark, visited the incredible Bodleian Library and finished up this most incredible day with a meal at the Eagle and Child Pub! The Eagle and Child was where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used to hang out.  The food was delicious and cheap but the best part of the evening was, of course, the company.

 

Tuesday we visited the High Street of Huntingdon then headed to Alconbury to set up and run Club Beyond with Stephanie.  The games were wild, the youtube videos were hilarious and Stephanie’s message of the gospel was powerful.  She encouraged the kids to come up after to share with her about how Jesus has worked in their life.  One of my favorite pictures of the whole trip was this picture of Stephanie and one of her youth boys talking after the meeting.

 

After Club we went back to Stephanie’s and walked the 20 yards to the Samuel Pepys pub just across the street from her house.  This magical night of laughter and conversation is not done justice by these pictures.

 

The next day we had to say goodbye to Stephanie as we headed to London and then to Paris. Our second day at London was enjoyed from the top of a “Hop On, Hop Off Bus”.   We climbed the Lions at Trafalgar’s Square (a personal dream come true), toured the National Gallery and the Tower of London, stopped by Buckingham Palace and finally caught the Chunnel to Paris.

 

 

Our first day in Paris we went straight to the Louvre, ate a crepe, went to the tippy top of the Eiffel Tower, ate another crepe and then ate a very French dinner of lamb and ratatouille.

Day two consisted of visiting the Arc de Triomphe, walking the Champs Elysees, eating more crepes, lunching on Turkish gyros, ogling at the inside of Notre Dame, eating a fourth crepe and then climbing to the top of Notre Dame.   We ended our day with a deliciously expensive dinner at a French Café.  The finale of the night (and maybe of the trip) was the twinkling of the Eiffel Tower at night.  Magical.

 

Cheers!


Guest Blogger: Jill Stuckey

March 24, 2011

So since Stephanie seems averse to authoring her own blog (when was the last time you posted, Stephanie??), she’s made a new rule. All are welcome to visit her adorable home in Huntingdon, the fee is just one blog post.

It was such a reasonable offer that I jumped at the chance.  My friends, Amie and Daniel Berryhill, and I flew to England last week to spend a few days in the life of our dear friend Stephanie Hardy.  We hit tourist hotspots like Cambridge, London and Oxford with Stephanie, but we also got to spend plenty of quality time catching up with her and discovering life in Huntingdon/Alconbury.

A great benefit of the trip (besides the tourist extravanga) was getting to see where Stephanie lives, where she shops, and where she works, and especially getting to meet the students Stephanie loves so much.  I love being able to picture her life now. The town of Huntingdon, is bigger than we imagined, but also adorable and charming. Walk out of Stephanie’s house, turn right and cross over the road and you’ll find the river Ouse and a lovely walking path that runs alongside it.  Walk out of Stephanie’s house, turn left and you’re just a few steps from Huntingdon’s High Street (similar to a Main Street in the U.S.).  This is a mainly pedestrian street with bakeries, charity shops, grocery stores, and more.

On Tuesday we got to spend the afternoon and evening with the Club Beyond students.  I loved sitting with the kids as they ate, getting to know them a little bit.  We had helped Stephanie plan some games for the meeting, and organized a crazy M&M relay race.  There were M&Ms everywhere by the time we were done, which, I think, is the sign of successful youth group game.

There was one thing Stephanie said to the kids that really stood out to me.  She was telling them how much they are loved and said, “I loved you before I even met you. I started praying for you before I even knew that I would be coming to Alconbury. Amie and Jill and Daniel and lots of other people back in Charlotte have loved you enough to be praying for you too.”

I think I loved it so much because it just brought home the fact that this is all real.  Stephanie really heeded a call to serve God here, and she did it to come play crazy games with these students in hopes that she might get to share the gospel with them along the way.

What she did was not easy.  Moving across an ocean from her family and friends and the only world she’s ever known isn’t simple.  While, luckily, they do speak English in Huntingdon, she’s had to learn about the local culture and customs, how to drive on the left side of the road and how to navigate around towns she is completely unfamiliar with. 

But last Tuesday, she shared the gospel with about 75 middle and high school students, and it was easy to see that is why she is at Alconbury.

P.S. Another thing I learned is that she does separate Club Beyonds back to back for the middle schoolers and then the high school students, and that is exhausting.

————-

Note from Stephanie: Thanks Jill…you are wonderful, amazing and too much fun! My friend is on her own incredible inspiring journey; and you can read her blog, Lost and Not Found. It also includes more stories about our week together.

And I will start back blogging soon!!

They love Club Beyond!


Mom & Dad: Photo Blog

March 24, 2011

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From my mom…week three.

March 24, 2011

Tuesday, February 22

Yup I finally got up around 8 or so –  Jack was up cooking bacon –  (most of you who have ever traveled with us have experienced Jack’s breakfasts –  they are pretty awesome) and Stephanie was in the shower.  Pretty good way to wake up.  Stephanie went to work and encouraged her Dad and I to stay home today and get some rest and I must say so far we are doing just that.  

I think today is a good break for all of us –  Stephanie can do her work and we can kinda of gather ourselves and get ready for the last two days.  Stephanie has really enjoyed us being here (especially her Dad’s spaghetti and breakfast) and being able to experience some new sites for herself as well.  

Got an e-mail from  Allison saying they are riding around town (in my car – which is fine) with the top down.  Oh man,  I can truly say we are looking forward to some sunshine – Stephanie is right – they don’t get much here. 

Well, right now this is all I know –  We have Wednesday and Thursday left with travel back home all day on Friday.  Hoping to visit Cambridge and walk around Huntingdon one more time before we leave. 

Wednesday, February 23

Didn’t get our wish for sunshine but off we went anyway.  We went to the English grocery store – Tesco –   absolutely amazing –  puts Super Walmart to shame –  I promise you if they don’t have it you really don’t need it.  It is huge –  on the first floor are all of the groceries –  they have really different potato crisps (that would be chips here but chips in English are our French fries) – Chilli Prawn, Black Pepper Steak, Cheddar & Bacon,  Black Peppercorn & Sea Salt to name a few of the crisps available.  They do have wonderful “all butter” short bread biscuits (we call them cookies) and their crackers are also called biscuits –  plus the selection of biscuits and cheese are so much larger than ours.  They love chocolate and it is bountiful plus most of their candy is very very sweet.  Their pancake and waffles are all ready made and packaged with six small pancakes or four medium waffles – they come with the syrup and all you do is put them in the microwave (if you want them hot) or just eat as they are –  they are not frozen.   Of course, the tea and biscuits selection is insane.  They are incredibly busy (Stephanie says it is always packed – and the shoppers are very persistent).  They advertise they are open twenty-four hours –  check this out –  they open Monday mornings at 8 am and don’t close until Saturday at 10 pm – and then reopen Sunday from 10 am – 4 pm and then start over on Monday; however, everywhere you look they “say” they are open 24 hours – oh well guess it doesn’t matter as long as you know when they are really open –  found that amusing and confusing ).

Then you head to the second floor –  we get there by an escalator that doesn’t have steps – ( it just goes straight up –  experienced several like that in Europe –  I had never seen that before)  –  plus – this is cool, if you have a cart –  then wheels are magnetic and will not roll forwards or backwards on the escalator – pretty neat huh??)   Well on the second floor they have clothes, TV’s, etc. –  I promise I think they have everything except maybe cars.

Well off we go again to meet Stephanie’s friend Tina who took us to a wonderful “real” farm about 15 minutes from Alconbury –  truly in the English country side  –Unbelievable –  a real English farm with a farm shop and a “tea” room.  The menu from the Eccentric Englishman’s Tea Room describes the Farm Shop as –  “Johnson’s of Old Hurst since 1899 – farmers, butchers and game dealers.  Home and local farm reared beef, pork, lamb, poultry, game, venison, and ostrich.  (we actually saw the live pigs, cows, and ostriches ) Homemade porkpies, haslets, brawns, pasties and sausage rolls – locally produced fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, cooked meats and preserves.  Plus a wide variety of homemade sausages.  (Chef Scott Craig would have a fit)  Then they have another little room with all sorts of beer and ales, crisps, biscuits, jams and pickled stuff. 

Their Eccentric Englishman Tea Room is quaint –(located in separate building) – truly English setting.  If you get breakfast (freshly cooked to order so allow 20 minutes –  no one complains)  –     Order Henry VII –   3 bacon (kinda of like our ham) 4 chipolatas, 2 fried eggs, black pudding (yuk- made from pork blood), mushrooms, tomato, beans, toast  and fried bread  – or try a sausage, bacon, mushroom and fried egg baguette along with homemade pastry (mince beef and vegetable puff pastry).  Lunch can consist of a sandwich with roast beef, brie & cranberry, ham, brie and bacon, cheddar cheese, egg mayo or tuna mayo with cucumber served on white or malted brown bread, or white or seeded brown baguette serve d with salad or coleslaw and Tyrell’s homemade crisps.  They also serve hot items i.e. The Eccentric Ploughman’s –  a piece of homemade pork pie, a slice of beef and ham, cheddar cheese, brie, pickle, sliced apple salad and your choice of half a white or seeded brown baguette –- just to mention one.  To top things off –  they had a selection of six freshly made cakes – i.e. – death by chocolate, an English pound cake, lemon with meringue and my favorite a cappuccino cake that was to die for .  The cakes vary every day, depending on what they chose to make.  Of course, all day long you can get cream tea along with a plain scone served with clotted cream and jam or a scone with butter and jam, or a cheese scone with butter.  Don’t forget the cappuccino, lattes, espressos, specialty teas and or hot chocolate (with whipped cream and marshmallows.

I promise all of this is true and it is truly located in the English country side on a very large farm!!! –  Nothing else is around. 

Well the end of another awesome day full of adventure and new things.  – one more day left.

Thursday, February 24

Today we wake up to a beautiful day and off to St. Neots we go.  It is about a 30 minute drive from Stephanie’s and today is market day.  Every Thursday there is a “big” auction (with furniture and lots of other stuff) plus market.   The open-air market is amazing.  Everything from clothes (new) to a butcher offering all type of fresh cut meats, to fresh cut flowers, to homemade breads, pastries, to fresh vegetables, to “dog food,  including large dog bones for “big dogs” , to “things advertised on TV, to wheelchairs and scooters.  You actually see a good many “elderly” folks on their motorized wheelchairs in all of the little villages.  They go everywhere.  The town is full of folks shopping at the market and all of the other stores.  St. Neots is again one of those wonderful  English village type towns –  cobble stone streets – however they have traffic.  They too have cathedrals, fish and chip takeaways, a river that runs through the middle with quaint restaurants and hotels everywhere.   We don’t stay too long as we must get back to the base for the “Newcomers Luncheon .  This again is where all of the newcomers are being introduced to all of the amenities of the base.  Most of the newcomers have only been there a week or so.  They come from all over the world.  Stephanie does a wonderful job presenting Club Beyond and Chaplain Reedy is there informing them of the religious opportunities available. Most of the active duty today are young and single; and it makes me very proud to see the young men and women who serve our country every day. 

After lunch we headed to Cambridge, and the day is beautiful.  Cambridge is amazing – a large city full of colleges, i.e. King’s College, University of Cambridge (oldest, founded 13th century), Queens College, Trinity College, St. John College, Jesus College, Pembrook (3rd oldest founded  1347),Clare College (2nd oldest) , St. Catharines College (1473), and Corpus Christi College  (WOW) .   The day is so wonderful we go punting on the river Cam.  Punting (very popular with “everyone”) is done in a wooden row boat with one person on the back of the boat moving and guiding the boat with one long oar.  The oarsman stands on the back of the boat at all times.   As we ride along the river, the oarsman points out all sights of interest – yes we had a guide this time – however, you can hire your own boat if you want to – maybe next time.   The history is overwhelming.  College students were everywhere along with the tourists.  The town is chalked full of history museums and churches, yet with all of the amenities of the “new world”.  Most everybody rides bikes and/or walks.  We walked along King’s Parade and Grafton Center which houses all of the exclusive shops, souvenir shops as well as pubs, restaurants, candy stores (chocolate), cafes and clubs.  The streets in the heart of Cambridge are set up so that the only traffic allowed is buses and taxis (and of course bicycles (everywhere)).  They have these amazing poles in the ground that go up and down (rising bollards) and won’t budge for regular cars but do allow the buses, taxis and emergency vehicles with the appropriate transformers.  Pretty cool.  In the center of town there is an open air market Monday – Saturday.  They always have fresh fruits. vegs, breads, cakes, clothes and even a bicycle repair.  On Sundays the market becomes more of an arts and crafts center with pottery, ceramics, prints,etc.  I can only imagine how beautiful this city is in full bloom of spring (their green areas are referred to as backs).   We were beginning to see a little bit of evidence of spring as a few of the flowers were blooming. 

On the way home we chat about some of the customs and traditions we have seen.  The bathroom is the “loo”, chips (French fries), crisps (potato chips), biscuits (cookies & crackers). Another one, is there are designated areas along all of the roads where truck drivers (and/or I guess anybody) can pull over, park and just sleep.  Nobody bothers them and they get a good rest.   Of course driving on the “wrong side” is still amazing and a little uncomfortable to me; however, Stephanie has it down pretty good and knows in the round abouts to take the outside lane if you are exiting the first or second exit, or take the inner lane and then move over if you are taking the third or fourth exit (actually makes sense).  She knows how to keep up on the M’s too – even though they drive fast (unless there is a major traffic jam where you can literally sit and/or just roll for up to a couple of hours), most people are not rude drivers and they don’t have near the on and off ramps that we have.  Her GPS is a God send.  As we traveled along, Jack rode in the front seat and constantly looked for the steering wheel and brake (they are on the wrong side too).  We passed by table tennis clubs, farms, windmills (for energy), leisure centers, rivers and lot of green pasture land.  In Godmanchester there is a large pasture area where folks can “rent garden space”.  I’ve seen this in Hilton Head.  They then can raise their own vegs and flowers. 

When we get to Stephanie’s, I go upstairs with mixed emotions to gather our things and begin to pack.  Tears roll down my face as I know our wonderful trip and seeing Stephanie on a daily basis is about to end.  However, I then begin to look forward to coming home and seeing Allison, Chris, Jackie, our family and friends with the thought that we will be able to come back!!!  What a wonderful spot to be in!!

To conclude our evening we walk over to the Bridge Hotel for drinks.  Jack and I had been  earlier on our visit and when we walked in this time, the young lady who had served us last time, greeted us with “Oh so glad you have come back to see us  –    and this must be your daughter Stephanie” .  She had remembered, and I then remembered that her name is Stephanie also.  What a nice warm greeting.  After enjoying our drinks, we walked to Prima Bar Restaurant (right across the street from Stephanie’s house) for dinner.  Prima is known as one of the best Italian restaurants in the Huntingdon area and it was delicious. 

Now it really is time to go back to Stephanie’s and go to bed so that we can arise early (5 AM) to head to the airport.  On our way, we were very fortunate and didn’t hit any traffic jams on the way, so arrived early at the airport.  No problem –  we enjoyed a good breakfast.  Our travels had been so smooth, we weren’t surprised when once we boarded the plane for Philadelphia – we sat at the gate for almost 1 hour  and then on the tarmac for 45 minutes.  Needless to say, we arrived late in Philadelphia and by the time we went through customs and all of the other hoops, we missed our connecting flight.  Lucky for us; however, there was another leaving for Charlotte in about 30 minutes and we got two of the very few seats left.  We had no idea where our luggage might be; however, as they had taken it earlier during the customs process.  But, again, luck being a lady –  our bags were the last two to descend down the baggage chute in Charlotte.  Jackie and Allison had been riding around the Charlotte airport for about 30 minutes; even though we were able to let them know we would be on a later flight.   Charlotte Douglas was a zoo with the cell lot being full, people everywhere on late flights and luggage stacked up for people to find.  What a mess.

Anyhow,  travel weary as we were, joy immediately returned as we saw Jackie waving from the car telling his Mom he saw us.  He shouted “hey grandma and granddaddy” and our hearts melted and Allison drove us home. 

Footnote: For you folks who actually read all of this stuff, please know that this is just me writing about our wonderful adventure.  A lot of the descriptive stuff came from brochures we got as we visited places (I think this covers me as not plagiarizing).  I am so thankful that Jack and I were able to do this trip and visit with Stephanie.  Her mission is so wonderful and I must say, as a Mom, it sure was good to see where she actually lives and to meet her new friends and co-workers.  God is good.  Thanks be to God!!


From my mom…week two.

February 22, 2011

Sunday, February 13

Off to church we went –  two services – Catholic Mass – Father Marty and met one of the Colonels –  he had wonderful words to say about Stephanie –  yea. Protestant Service by Chaplin Reedy.  Then “work” today –  washed 4 loads of clothes (at the Laundromat on base).  Shopped at the PX – shopped at the Commissary – had lunch at the bowling alley and then home to REST.   Yea –  helped Stephanie make 80 something favors for Valentines for Club Beyond, skype Jackie and Chris, and Jack made spaghetti.  Nice to rest a little while; however, off to Dublin tomorrow for a few days.   That’s all for now!!!

Monday, February 14

Happy Valentine’s Day finds us on our way to Dublin Ireland –  Stephanie took us to Stansted (London Airport) about an hour away.  We flew Ryan Air – a no frills airline but inexpensive and nice.  Jack and I managed to navigate our way around the airport with all of the proper documentation, weight requirements and “little bags”.  The flight was about 55 minutes.   Upon arriving in Dublin, again we managed all of the “check points’ and found a bus that would take us downtown close to our hotel –   note – close in Dublin is not close in Charlotte.  After walking about 20 minutes we found our hotel.  The Arlington Hotel –  Temple Bar.  Nice hotel with a large restaurant and bar, plus another neat area that housed tables (like cocktail tables).  Each table had its own beer taps –  you could pour your own.  We didn’t have time to try – but it looked neat.  Our room was small but nice and clean.  The weather is very nice so off we went to another “hop-on-hop-off tour bus”  –  we love those.  Lady at hotel recommended we definitely stop at the Guinness Storehouse today.  Boy was she right –    the tour was on floors one and two was very informative and interesting if you want to know how to make beer.   However, the best part came next – we went to the seventh floor – the Gravity Bar –  wow – what a view of Dublin (and because the weather was nice the view was awesome –  they say usually they are invisible.)  This part included a pint of Guinness poured for you from the circular bar with all of the table and chairs set up around the bar to view  the city of Dublin through floor to ceiling windows.   The lady was right – it was a perfect day to be there and we enjoyed our pint.  The rest of the afternoon we toured around on the bus and got a good feel for Dublin.   The tour is actually a full hour and one half if you don’t’ get off; however, there are 23 stops and we hit a lot of them.  We saw castles, museums, cathedrals, Trinity College (had the greenest grass I have ever seen – that’s why Ireland is called the Emerald state), shopping areas –Grafton Street, like Rodeo Drive, the Liffey (the river that divides the city), theatres, banks, Post office (yup very famous), 17th century gardens, Phoenix Park 1662 (larger than Central Park NY), mental institutions, prisons and statues (an awesome one of “Sweet Molly Malone”.)    By this time it is around 5 pm so we figured it was time to hit the Temple Bar area (a lot like New Orleans with tons of bars and restaurants).  As we walked along, not sure what “bar” to frequent, we heard live Irish music coming from the Temple Bar – so we chose that one –  Unbeknownst to us ‘‘this bar was established in 1840 and takes great pride in the live traditional music sessions that take place every day. The musicians are passionate about their music and it is contagious.  Before long you will find yourself tapping your foot and your hands will begin to clap to the beat of the music.  They are noted for being the best “Traditional Irish Music Pub of the year from 2002 to 2008’’ (and I personally think they still are).  We found a table right up front (imagine that) and settled in.  Ordered our first pint along with a cheese platter and olives (missed lunch).  The bar was full and everyone was very festive.  We noticed a young man dancing the Irish gig.  We clapped for his dancing (actually a pretty bad imitation but he was having fun and you know how I feel about people having fun and dancing.)  He then came over to the table.  We introduced ourselves (his name was Paul) and he “loved Jack’s southern accent”.  We also met his buddy Shane.  Both of the young men (29 and 30) were pharmacists in Ireland.  They were in town for the big Rugby Game on that Sunday. Shane kept saying Paul never buys drinks for anybody but his Dad, to which Paul replied “Jack reminds me of my Dad and besides they are Americans and I like Americans and I am offering them Irish hospitality.” The Temple Bar is also known for their established selection of rare and interesting whiskeys.  Paul insisted Jack try one and then he decided he wanted him to try another (and it was rare).  Jack said they were smooth!!  As the evening progressed we met lots of folks in the bar.  Amazing – folks from UK, France, Brazil and Venezuela– we all sang along together.  Once, I asked Paul whose beer was in front of me – I had not asked for it – he quickly told me if a drink appears before you in Ireland it is tradition you simply just drink it –  I said uh OK.  Well, we finally convinced the young men we were leaving –  wanted to eat –  they said ugh – in Ireland food and Guinness don’t mix.  Well, we were in Ireland; however, we both needed some food.  Walked right across the street and had wonderful Irish Stew at the Shack Restaurant and then headed back to the hotel.  What an awesome night.  I have no idea who Paul and Shane really are or how to get in touch with them again; however, I do hope that life is good to them.  They are special people!!!

Tuesday, February 15

We slept in this morning  –  only to wake up to pouring rain and cold – and I do mean pouring rain.  Anyway we finally got up and went downstairs where the chef proudly prepared a traditional Irish breakfast for us –  poached egg, Irish bacon, toast, grilled tomatoes, potato cake, white sausage and “yuk” black sausage (which is made from pigs blood).   Then we were troopers and ventured out into the “pouring rain”  –  thank goodness we were prepared  –  our jackets and boots worked great!   However, after a while, we got back on the hop-on-hop-off bus and just rode around for while trying to get warm and dry.  When we finally got off, we strolled up the street (still pouring rain) and found a quaint pub – so we went it –  again having no idea what we were doing we had stumbled onto one of the oldest bars in town –  some of the folks inside appeared to have been there from the beginning –  anyway enjoyed a pint and marveled at the old place.  They serve nothing but beer and whiskey (again going back to the theory that food and pints don’t mix).   Well for Jack and I, food is a necessity, so off we went looking for a restaurant –  found a wonderful one Gallagher’s Boxty House .   “Gallagher’s Boxty House is the brainchild of Padraic Og Gallagher, a native of Mohill, County Leitrim. While working in Venezuela in the early 1980’s, Padraic Og observed the Syrians that he worked with practicing their native home-cooking, preparing pittas and koftas. It reminded him of home-cooked food that his mother used to prepare when he was a child, particularly Boxty. He vowed that when he returned to Ireland he would set up his own restaurant and share his favourite food with the people of Dublin and its visitors. True to his word, Gallagher’s Boxty House was incorporated in 1988, and opened its doors at Number 20, Temple Bar in February 1989. At this time the restaurant seated just 30 people.   Great place – boxty good! Check out website boxtyhouse.ie (you can read in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian – why do we only speak English ???) –  then to the hotel to rest and dry out –  had plans to go to the “Irish Dancing” later that evening.  I won’t go into detail; however, this was a real disappointment.  Our table was like sitting in the wings –  that was our view –  well anyway I fussed for a little while – then got over it and went to bed!!!  Don’t recommend it to anyone – and that is all I have to say about that!!!

Wednesday,  February 16

Next morning – sun is out bright.  We asked for a good place for breakfast and the lady recommended Bewleys and boy again was she right.  We walked about 20 minutes and found the Bewley Restaurant.  The Grafton Street Café was opened by Ernest Bewley in November 1927.  Ernest commissioned the renowned stained glass window artist Harry Clark to create the windows for his new café at the cost of 60,000 pounds.  The grandeur and ambition of Ernest Bewley’s achievement resulted in Bewley’s Grafton Street immediately becoming an essential part of the literary, cultural, artistic architectural and social life of Dublin.  The café became a focal point for some of Ireland’s most famous literary and artistic figures, including Patrick Kavanagh, Samuel Beckett and Sean O’Casey. Here at Bewleys they handroast all of their coffee.  Bewley’s coffee beans are roasted on the fourth floor in a roasting room and are sourced by Paul O’Toole, Bewley’s Master Roaster.  Paul sources the Arabica beans from all over the world and has 30 years of experience.”  WOW.  After breakfast, we toodled along Grafton Street (Rodeo Drive LA) it was beautiful – fancy shops –  fresh flowers – and tons of people walking up and down the street.   Well – now is time to head back to the hotel – gather our things and off to the airport. Once more time Jack and I managed to do all of the right things –  stamped passports, no liquids, etc. – and please excuse us but we ate at a Burger King in the airport – sorry.  Stephanie met us right on time at the airport.   When we arrived at Stephanie’s, she and Jack went to the local “take away” fish shop (Prices Chicken Coop)  and  I began to get ready for our next adventure –  Paris tomorrow –  Stephanie is going with us.  YEA –  Taking the train – Eurostar!!

Thursday, February 17

Train ride was good –  took a train to London (55 minutes) and then got Eurostar to Paris (two hours) – again amazing.  We arrived in Paris safely (did all the right things again YEA – train doesn’t require as many hoops to get through as air travel does) and took a taxi to our hotel. First impression was total disappointment (had to go through some bad areas to get downtown) and then OMG it became truly unreal.  Our first big wow was actually seeing Champs Elysees-Etoile – there we were with this incredible piece of history right in front of us – the Arc de Triomphe. I think all three of us dropped our jaws at the same time.  And then to our amazement, the taxi driver turned – went two blocks and there was our hotel (tucked away on a little side street).  We stayed at the Balmoral, 6 Rue Du General Lanrezac (a proximite des Champs-Elysees et duPalais des Conoges).  I had been practicing how to say “Sorry, I don’t speak French” (“Je ne parle pas francais”) the whole way to the hotel; however, fortunately we were greeted by the front desk gentlemen; who immediately knew we didn’t speak a lick of French –  he was very good with his English).  “The rooms are medium in size and in excellent condition with all the facilities. They are refurbished in elegant and distinctive style. Furniture (from the Louis XV era) was selected by the owner, Madame Mercadier, at the well known antique shops in Paris, along with the wall papers and fabrics reflecting different theme colours and creating a different atmosphere in each room. The pictures on the walls were chosen by an art professional to match the wall paper. It is a traditional Parisian 6 storey building with 57 rooms.”

We hurried and put out things away and then off we went.  We asked the gentleman down stairs where to catch the “hop-on-hop-off bus” and again we were floored –  he said just go up the street a couple of blocks and  we could catch the bus there.  As we wandered that way, we encountered our first “Paris scam”. (Stephanie looked them up on the internet when we returned to our hotel that night).  A lady approached Jack (while conveniently dropping a wedding band on the ground) and then saying Monsieur, this must be your ring.  Of course, it was not and he “finally” said no –  the scam is that some folks will take the “gold” ring and then the lady/guy will asked for some money –  once they see where your wallet is the “second” person usually will pick pocket you.  If no second person, the scammer simply takes whatever you will give them.  Good boy Jack –  he didn’t enter into conversation with the scammer!!   By now we are truly standing next to the Arc de Triomphe (again with our mouths open).  The magnitude is almost overwhelming –  we just stood there for a few minutes in awe –  saying we are “truly” in Paris France –  pinch me.

We find the bus and hop on –  it is cold; however, we are determined to sit on the top (open air – but on the second row shielded a little bit from the wind.)  We passed the GrandPalais (Avenue Winston Churchill), Trocadero Museum, the Eiffel Tower (have  tickets tomorrow to go to the top), Champ de Mars, Musee Du Louvre and upon reaching  Notre Dame we got off the bus.  We are cold so we stop in one of the many “souvenir” shops and buy hats (real cute French types).  I bet there are 20 souvenir shops all in one row.  After our purchases we spotted a café right across from Notre Dame –  we went in and enjoyed a ham and cheese sandwich – the cheese was melted on top of the sandwich.  We all passed on the $5 coke.  One lesson learned –  went to the potty (downstairs); however there was a charge to enter and of course I had no money on me – oh well I guess I’ll just wait.  We wandered over to the Notre Dame.  Again we are overwhelmed by the simple magnitude of the entire structure. Profoundly beautiful.  As we entered into the Notre Dame, a Catholic Mass was in session. Again overwhelmed.  Stephanie actually videoed the service.   We then toured around the building and prayers were said for “everyone”.  How close to God can you feel!!!  We hopped back on the bus and saw the Mussee D’Orsay, the Opera House and arrived back at the Champs Elysees.  It took us about an hour to return (the full tour is narrated and lasts about 2 hrs.)  Each minute is filled with wonder regarding the incredible city.  We went back to the room to freshen up before dinner.   Went to LaCave Lanrezac, (recommended by the front desk folks).   Dinner was excellent – very frenchy.

Friday, February 18

Today is a little cold;  however we are ready (no rain).   We walked down the street to a real French pastry shop (again recommended by the front desk person) – OMG –  again unbelievable.  We made our selection of croissants, fruits, coffees and a French pastry.  What a neat little shop with folks coming and going with their Fresh breads and pastries   –  we were told everything is hand made fresh everyday and I do believe it –  AWESOME.  We enjoyed our breakfast at one of the few tables. (mainly take away). We hop back on the bus and once again pass by the wonders of Paris headed to the Eiffel Tower.  We were a little early for our 11:30 am tour to the top so we wandered around the Seine River area.  I can only imagine this area in the spring and summer time bustling with all of the river boat cruises and shops open in full force.  Some of the boats are going out; however, a little cold for us.  There was a big stand selling hot chocolate, coffee, popcorn, etc. and hand made crepes –  Stephanie couldn’t stand it –  she had to have a crepe –(I tasted it and was amazing).  

As we were standing under the Eiffel Tower (as anyone who knows us would  imagine) Jack and I danced a couple of steps at the bottom (yup – shagging in Europe – yippee) and Stephanie caught the act on camera and placed it on Facebook –  we got about 15 hits!!!  It is in this area we encounter two other scams.  One is men trying to sell you stuff on the street – some really aggressive) – again scam appears to be seeing where your wallet is and taking it later.  The second one is someone approaching you asking if you speak English –  I’m not exactly sure how this works but ends up with you again being pick pocketed.  The police were present off and on and would run off the “street vendors” but they would return as soon as the  police left.  Made you feel a little uncomfortable; but three military guys armed with machine guns stayed around the entire time.  Pretty sad but made us feel more secure none the less.  Now it is our turn, up the tower in iron cages (sort of) we go – they stop about midway, (you can walk around at this point too) and then you take another cage to the top.  Wow –  a little cloudy however, the view is still incredible –  Jack did good once he got his sea legs –  you know he is afraid of heights.  As we wandered around the top, we had the privilege of witnessing a young man dropping to his knees asking his girl friend to marry him –  ring and all – she cried and they both jumped with joy. I got a neat picture.   Everyone around them clapped and wished them well.  Pretty cool.

Our next stop is the Musee Du Louvre –  again OMG –  overwhelming –  the largest museum in the world and housing the Mona Lisa as well as thousands of other art pieces, sculptures, etc. We marked the Mona Lisa, The Wedding Feast, the sculpture the Winged Victory of Samothrace and several other famous items we wanted to see.  Four hours later we had seen five out of the seven we marked plus a zillion other pieces of incredible art and sculptures.  By this time, Jack and Stephanie’s feet are killing them  (I must admit I’m a little weary too –   been a long day).  We rested and got a bit to eat at the Comptoir Du Louvre and off we went to the indoor shopping area (Gallerie Lafayette)   Another OMG – unbelievable – we looked around for a while  – it was like being in a huge English theatre with a magnificent ceiling and retail being all around.  Bought a few things and then back to the hotel.  Upon our request, the front desk person recommended another place for dinner.  It was named Restaurant Graindorge.  Last night was great but this one was over the top.  The menu was all written in French; so it just happened the Chef came out and explained everything to us – I am amazed. Our two dinners were consumed in very small restaurants – ( I bet each one held no more than 40 people and they don’t turn the tables either).  We arrived at the restaurant around 7:30 pm – it was almost empty until 8 pm and here they came (all with reservations – filled right up). Everyone takes their time and enjoys their food and wine (or drink of choice) and lots of conversation.  After dinner and an incredible dessert we are off to the hotel and back to bed.

Saturday, February 19

Today brings a little rain.  We know we must leave for the train station around 3 or 3:30 pm so we plan our day.  We walked back to the pastry shop (same as yesterday) and enjoyed another array of quiche, croissants, pastries, fruit and coffee.  We walked back up to the circle where the Arc de Triomphe sits.  There are 12 streets that shoot off from this circle –  they say from the sky it appears as a star  (the cars and motorcycles and bicycles  were amazing as they worked their way around this hugh circle with all of the 12 exits).   We walked down the Avenue Des Champs seeing everything from Lexus and Mercedes car dealership (yup- right along the other shops) including every designer you can think of –   Shopping in Paris is amazing –  very trendy and very very costly. Despite the rain, the streets were full of shoppers.  We bought a few things and then went to the famous restaurant Fouquets – lot of stars, politicians, etc.  eat there –  we entered and asked to be seated at the bar –just thinking we might have a drink (too early for lunch)  –  as we looked at the menu and noticed a Bloody Mary was 20euros (that’s about $30 in American) – we gently got up and left  (too rich for our blood). Amazing what some people will pay – there were people in there  (FYI – I noticed the filet of sole entrée was 65 euros –  oh my).  We wandered around some more looking at purses in the Lancel shop –  beginning around 700 euros – oh my my).  The whole street was over the top.  Time for lunch again –  went to a great place (Vesuvio) that was located on the same street and we enjoyed our lunch (Jack spaghetti and me French Onion soup (yum) – with Stephanie deciding only on hot chocolate.)  Now it really is time to go – so back to the hotel – get a taxi and off we go to the train station.  We also encountered our first march of protest –  not sure what they were doing but police all around with a large group of people in the street.  PS –  yesterday we noticed an incredible mass of police (we didn’t know why and didn’t ask); however –  come to find out, Paris was on high alert for terrorism.)  Whoopee!!  Glad to be leaving and avoiding all of the scams.   Did however, learn a little French –  Excusez-moi. S’il vous plait, merci, and ou sont les toilettes?  (we were very polite Americans  when asking for the bathroom).  –  We arrived back at Stephanies’ about 8:30pm  – absolutely worn out but happy to be home safe and sound!!!!

 Sunday, February 20

 Off to church we go (two services – one mass – one protestant).  Service very nice – small crowd – the base has a three day weekend with Monday being President’s Day – a lot of folks traveling!!  Unfortunately, a young airman was killed in a 4-wheel gator accident at his deployed location in Qatar; and it was announced during both services.  He was 20 years old – his first deployment.  A memorial service will be held some time this week pending on when and/or if his parents come to England for a service.  A notice will be sent later.  This was Stephanie’s first death.  This young man was not married and obviously didn’t have kids in Club Beyond; however, there could come a time.  This is the reality of what she does;  and what many of the men and women at Alconbury do.  God Bless America; and the men and women who serve. 

Now is it off to the laundromat (five loads this time), the commissary  (Stephanie wants bacon, eggs, grits and biscuits for dinner).  Eventually, we get home, I eat lunch and then off to bed for a long nap!!!  YEA –   Tonight we had our delicious “breakfast” prepared by Chef Jack.  It was delightful.  Headed to London tomorrow just for the day!!  Meeting our friend Yeomen First Sergeant Phil Wilson the Beefeater!!

Monday, February 21

Here we go again – to the train station –  got it all down by now (I didn’t get caught in the turnstile this time  – yes I did this once – so what!!)  Arrive in London – catch the tube and go directly to the Tower of London (boy we are good).  Walked down and Phil was there to greet us.  It was good seeing him again – sorry we couldn’t spend time with him; however, his day off is Friday and we are leaving then.  Anyhow –  into the Tower we go –  we go and view the Crown Jewels; and they are just as big and shiny as they were last time.  Yup, Jack and I had seen them on our first trip but this was Stephanie’s first time.  Our main reason to go was to introduce Stephanie to Phil so perhaps he can guide her if she decides to take the kids from Club Beyond  –  I think that would be a neat “field trip” . We didn’t stay long, Stephanie said that was all she wanted to see at this time as she felt she would be back on several occasions with friends and visitors.  Off to lunch we went –  right across the street to Liberty Bounds –  Boy it is cold; however, we want to see Westminster Abbey (it was closed the first time we were in London)  – back on the tube we go (thinking how good we are because we again come right out at the right stop).  Must have been our lucky day –  unbeknownst to us the Abbey closed for tours at 3:30pm –  We arrived at 3:15 and were the “very last” three people they let in –  Yea – thank you Lord.  Of course, “Westminister Abbey is a working church with a daily cycle of prayer and worship. Its soaring vaults proclaim the unimaginable greatness of God.  Christians believe that He is a personal being both within and beyond our everyday world.  Like many other great churches, the Abbey is designed in the shape of a cross, recalling the death of Jesus Christ, the source of new life for all who acknowledge Him”.  “The Tombs and monuments speak both of human dignity and achievement and the Christian confidence in life after death.  Westminster Abbey was founded in the 10th century.  Then most Christians in Europe accepted the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope.  In the 16th century the Reformation brought many changes to the organization and worship of churches throughout Europe. The Church of England became independent of Rome.  However, it kept much of its tradition while developing its own distinctive forms of worship conducting its services in English instead of Latin and taking scripture and tradition as it authorities.” “Since the crowning of William the Conqueror here in 1066, The Abbey has been the nation’s Coronation Church.  It is also the burial and memorial place for many famous historical figures from the last thousand years of British history.  Down through the centuries it has been visited by millions of pilgrims and today WE became a part of that great tradition.”  WOW  “ Above all the Abbey is a working church-  a place for Christian worship.  Each hour, for a minute or so, they pause to pray.  We got to be a part of this.  Everyone is invited to join in – or they might want to simply take a quiet moment to reflect.  Everyone is welcome at the regular services and a priest or chaplain is always on hand for private conversation”.  (nope I didn’t do confession; however, could probably use it- but,  what some folks don’t know about me is I try to confess sins each and every time I pray and ask for forgiveness knowing that God is not done with me yet – I am still a work in progress).  Of course, being in the Abbey and touring around left me in awe.  Before we left I stood in the exact place where Kate will soon stand on her wedding day –  I must say that it quite an entrance!!!!!  Wow another great adventure and we are headed home.

Well, I can truly admit it now, I am good for 14 straight days and then I crash – I hit the wall hard, falling asleep on the train and when arriving home around 8 pm I went straight to bed –  slept the clock around –  YEA.


From my mom…week one.

February 16, 2011

Sunday,  February 6  (Super Bowl  Sunday)  & Monday February 7

We left Charlotte and flew to Philadelphia where we watched the second quarter of the Super Bowl and had a Philly Cheese Sandwich in an airport sports bar.   The sandwich and beer was good –  and Green Bay finally won (so we found out after we arrived in England).

We flew from Philadelphia directly to Heathrow –  not a bad flight at all except it is over night.  We arrived in London at 9:35 am their time.  Stephanie picked us up at the airport –  (unfortunately it took her 2 ½ hours – traffic was bad)  Anyway we piled into her car and off we went – took less than 2 hours to get to her house.  Crazy “M” Interstate – so I sat in the back and didn’t look.  Stephanie is a  good driver – thank goodness!!  Stephanie’s house in wonderful, and we snuggled right in.  She was cruel; however, and made us stay up all day (good advice by the way).  We went with her to the base and got the grand tour.  We had lunch in the bowling alley, met Father Marty, went to the library and got a good feel for the base.  It is very comfortable.  Stephanie brought us back to the house around 4 (she went back to work) where immediately against forewarning I fell asleep (just a short while).  Jack did as instructed and fought the sleep.  That evening we went to a wonderful restaurant, The Brampton Mill –  just what you would expect in England – it was awesome.  The weather was unbelievably windy thereby making it cold!!

Tuesday, February 8

Still a little windy; however, the weather is nice. We went to the commissary (just like Harris-Teeter) for a few groceries and to the bank to exchange dollars for pounds and euros.

We headed back to Alconbury to help Stephanie with work.  Tuesday is her busy day.  First we had lunch at the “grind” – a Starbucks coffee shop on base.  Then we attend an awards program for the middle and high school students.  Many of the kids receiving awards are in Club Beyond.  Stephanie was greeted by so many folks (makes a Mom proud.)  Met Chaplain Reedy.  Then we helped Stephanie set up for Club Beyond.  Approximately 20 middle school students came and then approximately 40 senior highs came.  Mike (a friend of Stephanie’s) and some volunteers helped out.  Moms brought cookies and cupcakes for the middle school and other moms brought deli sandwiches and chips for the older crowd.  As you would image, Stephanie did an awesome job.  After viewing some funny videos, playing a few silly games, the program began with the focus on family.  Stephanie’s main message was to let the kids know we all have good and bad times with our families.  She also told the kids to be aware of things they can fix and family issues they cannot (let them go).   She also reminded all of us that we are all part of God’s family and he loves us 24-7.  After a fairly long day, we headed home and ate a sandwich (I had left overs from the night before – UMM.)  After dinner Stephanie and I played dueling laptops.  We were both working on Jack and mine’s trip to Dublin Ireland on Monday and all of us to Paris on Thursday.  We were finally successful after getting the block off of my credit card and zoning in on times and places to stay.  One word of caution –  when booking “cheap air fare”  make sure your information is correct the first time –  It is very costly to change –  oh well live and learn. 

Wednesday, February 9

We went to a village about 15 minutes away, St. Ives. People have lived in this place for thousands of years, but the history of the present-day town begins with the Saxons in AD 500.  In the 12th century the town of St Ives began to grow up around the fairground – it was one of the biggest in England, with merchants coming here from many parts of Europe to buy the local woolen cloth.  In the 13th century the Black Death and the Hundreds Years War destroyed that trade; however, the annual fair was replaced by the weekly market, held every Monday with very few breaks since the year 1200.

We putzed around a few shops and then went to the Bridge and Chapel – it is the town’s most unusal building.  Built in the 1420’s, replacing the wooden bridge of 300 years earlier, it is one of only a handful of surviving chapel bridges in the whole country.  We saw huge swans and an assortment of other ducks on the Great Ouse (later, I fed these swans my left over scone).  It is a beautiful view from the bridge with flat English country side on one side and quaint buildings on the other.  Beside the end of the bridge The Manor House is the oldest house in St. Ives, dating from about 1600.  The River Tea rooms are located in this building.  We had hot chocolate and scones  (freshly baked each morning on the premises and accompanied by jam and clotted cream).  Stephanie and I had cheese scones while Jack opted for the fruit.   Our table overlooked the river.  We went to a couple of stores (just looking) and then entered one that sold olives stuffed with “stuff”  – had to have a few so I got some stuffed with garlic and some stuffed with feta cheese.   Really tasty.  Went to a neat antique shop as well – saw my first “charity” shops (for heart and cancer), also the “pound” store – pretty cool.

Stephanie had to go into work so Jack and I toodled around her town of Huntingdon.  It was a nice day, we walked to town and the streets were full.  Everybody walks everywhere.  There is evidence of early people in the Hungtingdon area from stone age times. By the end of the 13th century, the town had sixteen churches and six religious foundations.  The Black Death in 1348 saw an end to the town’s early fortunes.   During the Civil War, Huntingdon was one of Oliver Cromwell’s headquarter (he was actually born there on April 25, 1599.) Royalists entered the town in 1645 and the town suffered badly.  Two of the remaining four churches were demolished leaving them with the All Saints Church and St. Mary’s Chapel.  In recent times, rapid growth has again taken place, but the centre of Huntingdon retains its character as a county market town, and 172 buildings and structures have been protected for the Special Architectural or Historic Interest.  It is truly the little English village you have always imagined – .Museums, old churches, antique shops mingle among the drug store and cute grocery store.  We went into the charity shop for The British Heart Association.  Around 4 pm Jack and I headed toward the Old Bridge Hotel (right across the street from Stephanie’s house).  I had seen this hotel when I was googling around when Stephanie first found out she was coming here and, by George, we are here, Jack having a bourbon and me enjoying my wine.  I must say the hotel is all that I had envisioned.  Very English with a cozy bar and fireplace (a handsome ivy clad 18th century building overlook the River Ouse.)  We met a couple from Cambridge.  They had come to Huntingdon to buy some parts for his new motor bike (he was 83 years old –  said he was having a mid life crisis.)  Enjoyed chatting with them.  When they left we met a girl (around 40) who frequents the bar.  She is a schoolteacher, divorced  with three kids.  She said she comes  there often because she felt comfortable and could enjoy her glass of wine before going home.  Stephanie had just arrived home when Jack and I walked back.  After a brief visit, we headed down a couple of blocks to Barneys Plaice for fish and chips – take away –  reminded me of Prices’ Chicken Coop.  Wow – another wonderful day!!!

Thursday, February 10

Stephanie went to work early.  Jack and I dabbled around the house and Stephanie came to get us about 11 AM.  Now you talk about a wet and dreary day – today is one.  We joined her as she worked the newcomers luncheon.  Met several nice folks all just coming to Alconbury.  The majority seemed to be “cops” .  Met a young married couple (both cops – one originally from Kansas and the other from Texas) who had been stationed in Turkey before coming here.  They had heard of Club Beyond on that base.  YEA.   Despite the weather, off to Ely we went mainly to visit the Ely Cathedral (about 1 hour away).  Upon arriving we went directly to the Cathedral only to find it was closed for a private function until 3:30pm  (it was about 2 pm)  Oh well – we walked around and then I had my first cup of English Tea (and skimmed milk) at the Almonry  Refectory Café next to the Cathedral.  Jack and Stephanie opted for sinful pastries – Jack had a lemon meringue and Stephanie had a type of fruit tart and the famous Hot Chocolate.  Once 3:30 arrived we were back at the Cathedral.  The service had been a private funeral.  Actually saw the Dean (Michael Chandler) ; however, wasn’t fast enough to get a picture.  Anyway the Cathedral  is amazing, unbelievable and breath taking.  It was founded as a monastery in 673 – destroyed by the Dames  in 870 refounded in 970.  Work on the present  building commenced in the early 1080’s.  It is a place today where you can be quite and meet God our creator.  The details of the Catheral are amazing and I would suggest one day you visit their web site www.cathedral.ely.anglican.org.  to see what I mean.  I did take the opportunity to light a candle for all of my family and friends – and actually all of the world!!  Upon leaving Jack walked the Victorian Labyrinth, which if you follow it round, runs for the same distance as the height of the tower.  With its twist and turns it reminds us that life is far from straightforward.  It was a blessed experience.  Off we returned to Huntingdon – just for a minute and then off to dinner with Stephanie’s friends, Terri & Steve – what a delightful evening –  We are so thankful for their friendship with Stephanie.

Friday, February 11  brings another adventure. 

Off we went to Bletchley Park (Home of the Codebreakers)  – about one hour away.  We arrived around 10:30 am and didn’t leave until 4 pm –  Again another incredible experience.  Bletchley Park was once Britain’s best kept secret.  Today the Park is open to the public as a heritage site and museum.  We explored the exhibitions and learned how its codebreaking successes helped to save countless lives by shortening World War Two by around two years. The mission of codebreakers like Alan Turing was to crack Germany’s coded communications, such as those sent via the German Enigma machine.  It was Churchill’s secret passion; he called the codebreakers his”geese that laid the golden eggs but never cackled”   It was amazing to walk the same grounds where 8500 people worked in total secrecy and designed technology designed to crack codes.  Jack (being a history buff) really enjoyed the day –  Great granddaddy would have really had a fit!!  We thought about him often.  Again another website to visit for more details www.bletchleypark.org.uk.  Our passes are good for one year –   so Stephanie does plan to return –  it is a lot of information for one day and maybe if we get back this year we will go again as well.  It has been a wonderful day; however, Stephanie want to top it off at the BlackRock Grill –  Chef Scott Craig will love this.  We ordered steak which was served on a hot stone (440 c) –  The meat is presented raw and you cook it yourself on the hot stone.  Really – Really good –  of course don’t touch the hot stone.  The meat is served with a choice of potatoes and grilled vegetables –   We met the owner and he said he has a kiln out back and has 75 hot stone plates that he keeps at 440 c.  Great idea.  Might work at home.   Well now, I am finally caught up with my writings.  More to come tomorrow –  Good night!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Good morning and here we go again – this time to Stratford-upon-Avon – about 1 ½ hour trip.  Weather is beautiful and sunny and we arrived around 10:30 am –  What a beautiful place –  big —  decided to take the Hop on Hop off City Sightseeing Bus – The town is steeped in culture and history and offers a wealth of historic buildings linked to Shakespeare. We saw the birthplace of Shakespeare, toured Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, a thatched farmhouse where Shakespeare’s wife once lived. Very well restored with period furniture and furnishing –  also beautiful and very bountiful gardens and orchards.  As we rode around on the bus; of course the dialog was wonderful –  full of information.  –  I loved the one that said unmarried ladies slept on a “shelf” built on the second floor (reached by a ladder) until they were married.  If they didn’t get married – they were considered “left on the shelf”  Ha Ha.   We went into the two theatres in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.  They were getting ready for their season to start in March.   Unbelievable how close the audience is to the performers – Maybe we will take in a play next time.  The streets of Stratford were full of exciting people and the shops were amazing and the street market was in town.


Slacker

February 16, 2011

Oh my, I have been more of a slacker on the blog this year than I thought! Can’t believe that my last post was Christmas Day.  Of course, lots of stuff has been happening; but you’ll have to wait for a big update.

My parents have been here visiting since last week so I’m going to let my mother take over the blog with the journal that she’s keeping. So enjoy her recap of last week; and the ones to come.

Then I’ll be back. I’m so thankful that you choose to be part of this journey in so many unique ways. You bless my life!


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