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.