Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day Six- Parlez-vous fran├žais ?

Hey all,

Here is your next installment of the travel journal.  Sorry it's late.  Enjoy this day of touring thorugh this beautiful country.

We left our hotel early...and omg, was it hard to get up.  We were exhausted and still not quite over our jet lag.  Our first stop was Belgium...just because.  LOL   We haven't been there before and we decided to at least cross the border to say we'd been.

We crossed the border, YAY, and went to the tiny town of Andinkirk and De Panne.  We wanted to eat some Belgium waffles, but it was so early none of the restaurants were open.  We looked and looked, but had to settle for coffee and Belgium chocolates.  We did come across an amusement park that totally cracked me up.  It was called Plopsaland.    Everytime I say it I laugh.  Plopsaland.

Afterwards we headed on to Paris.  Stopped at a quickie mart for food and we were totally amazed at a machine that dispensed wine like soft drinks.  Would you like white, rose or red?????

Got into Paris later than we wanted.  We didn't have a city map, just a regional one and it was difficult to know where we were.  We did see a lot of Paris you might not normally, but traffic was insane and so were the drivers.  Scooters are HUGE over there and they zip and slide around you and take their lives into their hands every second.  There are even scooters with roll bars--I kid you not--so you know there are accidents.  

Parking in Paris is hard as well.  Finding lots and spaces that a car will fit in.  Jonathon was a bit hesitant over some of them, but we finally found a place and thankfully started using our feet.  We went first to Notre Dame Cathedral.  When I was in college, I was with a singing group who performed at this church and I have fond memories of it.  I was looking forward to showing it off to Jonathon and was pleased that it was open and you could walk in.  The church is magnificent...filled with history and beauty.  You could spend hours wandering and looking at all the dead people there.  But, alas, we only had a short time and we were off again.

Our next stop was the Effiel Tower.  It was a fair distance from where we parked, but we walked along the river Seine and it was nice.  We passed by the Louve, the mini arches (no...not McDonalds  LOL), the Royal Palace, and some very odd book sellers.  They display their wares in big metal boxes attached to the side of the wall next to the street.  Apparently, they've been doing it since olden times and it is a city institution.  There were also street artists which was enjoyable to see.  Not many, since the weather was iffy, but enough to add to the flavor of the city.


Got to the tower just before dark and we went up to the hightest floor.  I'd been here before, but I didn't remember going to the top of the tower.  Once I did, I remembered why I HADN'T!  LOL  The elevator was terrifying!!!  It shimmied and shook and I had my head buried in Jonathon's chest the whole time.  I thought I was being a baby, but he said it was scary for him too and he isn't afraid of heights like I am.



It was worth it though...the city is beautiful from up there.  We got to see it at dusk as well as full dark and the lights were lovely.  Everything is laid out before you, and you can spend hours just gazing at the city.  We stayed up there for about an hour, but we were getting hungry so we regretfully came down and headed for our next destination, Champ de Elysses and the Arch de Triumph.  


We had dinner at this sidewalk cafe--something I'd always dreamed of doing--and it was wonderful.  The cafe was called the King George V and we tried everything French.  I had snails.  OMG yummy, and Jonathon had Beef Bourgonouis.  We tried two types of wine, and I, who am NOT a wine drinker, actually liked mine.  It was a perfect night.  Cold, so we snuggled together under their heat lamps, ate and people watched.  


One of the most interesting things we saw was this game they must play in France.  Bottle rolling.  Seriously, it must be a game because as we were sitting there we watched this bottle roll by.  When it bumped into someone, instead of picking it up or tossing it away, each person it came near either moved out of the way so it could keep going, or if it was heading for a wall or gutter, they'd move it so it was rolling down the street again.  We watched it for the longest time.  Totally amazing and we were in stitches over it!  LOL


After the meal we walked for awhile, enjoying the sights and sounds of Paris at night.  It is a magical place and made for lovers, so Jonathon and I took every advantage of it!    We did some last minute souvenier shopping and headed back to our car, fat and happy.  It had been a long day, but filled with fun and new sights.  As we left the city, we promised ourselves we would come back again and stay for awhile.  Taste a little more of what the city of love has to offer and bring back more memories.  


Next stop is the beaches of Normandy!  See ya next time with more!


Hugs,


CJ

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day Five- We're off like a Herd of Turtles

Hey all,

It's time to leave London and move on to another part of the world.  Ready?  Here we go!

We got up at a decent hour and did a quick run down to a place I'd always wanted to see.  I love teas and one of my favorite brands is Twinings.  We often use it at home and when we are at Epcot, we always go in and see what kind of new treats they have at their shop there.  So Jon and I stopped at their main store on Strand Street in London.  It is only open during the week, so we had to wait until today to go. I was looking for a special tea pot, but they didn't have anything I liked, so I wound up getting a  glossy wood tea caddy instead.  The shop is very small and narrow, but it is filled with the scents of tea.  Lovely.

We headed back to the hotel and after one last visit to the computer, we grabbed our luggage and headed to pick up the car.  Now THAT was an adventure...carrying luggage on the tube.  Luckily it wasn't rush hour.  That would have been interesting.  LOL

We made it to the Hertz agency and after a computer glitch was fixed, we got our car.  We thought we were getting an economy, but the car we actually got was nice and roomy.  Great!  Not so great.  Have you ever tried to drive in European cities in a bigger car?  Bloody impossible unless maybe you're the queen!

But after a nervewracking hour of "is that bus too close?" and "am I on the right side of the road this time?" we made it out of London and we headed toward a place I'd read about in a bunch of novels.  Brighton Beach.

Now I've read about this place in romance novels as well as a few mystery ones.  I was always curious about it, so we drove down to take a look and see the ocean.  It was well  worth it.  Brighton reminds me very much of Santa Cruz Boardwalk or Coney Island.  A pier on the shore with a carnival and rides, restaurants and great fishing.  Nothing was open.  Wrong time of year, but we walked the pier and the beach, collected sand and took some pictures.  It was fun.

The beach wasn't sandy, but instead made up of pebbles from the size of beans up to the size of a tangerine.  Very odd, but beautiful in its own way.  After our walk we had our some yummy fish and chips and then headed off along the beach road towards Cliffs of Dover.

Now that was an adventure.  The road was very narrow and picturesque, with small hamlets and villages along the way.  We lost light about half way through, but it was a nice drive until then.  Then it got scary.  The road has a tendency to just stop because people park in it.  Not on the sidewalk, but right there...where the lane should be.  Jonathon was totally stressed by the time we got to the ferry terminal.

But there was a bright spot that became a running joke for the rest of the trip.  Now we in the states are used to signs that warn of falling rocks or deer in the road, but I've never seen one like this before...

WTF???  It took us awhile ( I think we were in Ireland) before we realized it was a "Be Careful of Badgers" warning sign.  It's amazing how different yet the same our two countries are.  The exclaimation mark was what threw us.  LOL

By the grace of God, even with the narrow windy road, we made the last ferry of the night.  The trip over was pretty quiet.  Not many people.  Only problem was this family with a bunch of monster kids that couldn't settle and kept the crew jumping to keep them out of trouble.  After a quick ride, we landed in Calais, France and after some snarled tempers because we got lost, we found a motel I'd researched online and fell exhausted into bed. 

We have an early day tomorrow.  We're headed towards Paris and want to make a quick run up to Belgium first.  Why?  Just to say we did!
Take care and I'll see you next week!



CJ England

Friday, May 1, 2009

Day Four- Let's Go Shopping!!!!

Hey all,

One thing about vacations is bringing home souveniers.  And I'm VERY good at it!  LOL  In fact, we brought extra suitcases just to have something to pack it in.  Today was our shopping day.  We'd done so well the day before that we had a bit of extra time so we decided to have some extra fun.
After uploading some pics to our photobox, we went to a newer attraction, The London Eye.  This is sort of a huge ferris wheel, but instead of cars, it has large glass enclosed gondolas that can hold close to twenty people.  It is VERY expensive, but it is a great way to see the whole city.  The ride lasts about twenty minutes and moves very slowly so you can see the city quite well.


I'm not sure if I'd recommend this experience to everyone.  It was fun and since we had the money, we did it, but it is definately NOT for those on a budget.  There are other ways to see the city, but I have to admit, seeing London from a bird's eye view was extraordinary.  If you are interested in doing this, save up the money...and enjoy.

Afterwards, we boarded a bus and headed out to somewhere I was really looking forward to...Portebello Row.  Remember the movie Bednobs and Broomsticks?  With Angela Landsbury?  This song sung as she is shopping is one of my faves...

Portobello road, Portobello road
Street where the riches of ages are stowed.
Anything and everything a chap can unload
Is sold off the barrow in Portobello road.
You’ll find what you want in the Portobello road.


You can see the actual performance at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqY1lHJYIgY


Anyway, we travelled through the rain in a red, double-decker bus to get there.  Now THAT was an experience.  They drive so damn fast and it was slick and...  Well, let's just leave it at that...shall we?   It was closing as we arrived, but I was able to find a couple of cool little antique-type souvenirs to remember it by.

Then we had the bestest coolest part of our day...  I got to meet one of my biggest fans and good friend Emma!!!  We met her at yet another shopping mecca of London, Camden Market.  This place is huge and filled with trendy boutiques, craft tables, food carts and antique dealers.  A great place to spend LOTS of money and you can literally get lost there.

We met Emma at a little cafe and had a cuppa with her.  We talked and laughed and had a wonderful time.  Then we all walked around and looked at the shops together.  It was so much fun, we didn't want it to end.  I wished I had another day just to wander around and get to know her better.  If I get to go back to London, I'm going to plan to spend a whole day with Emma!  We'll have a blast!!!!!

We ended our day with a popular nighttime adventure.  A Jack the Ripper's tour led by Donald Rumbelow, who is, as the Jack the Ripper A to Z puts it, "internationally recognised as the leading authority on Jack the Ripper."  He was great.  Really interesting and very informative.  We walked all around the area where the killings took place and it was like being inside the story of Jack.  I got so many ideas for a book, I was on overload by the time we finished.  It was spooky and actually parts made me feel a bit ill.  Not sure if it was my empathic gifting that was picking stuff up or something seld, but I was really glad when the night was over.  We had a drink in a pub where it is reported that some of the prostitues worked and then once it was over, we went and had dinner at a place called Giraffe's...a around the world type food place.

Since we were heading out of town the next day, we grabbed desert and headed back to the hotel to pack.  Our time in London had come to an end, but it had been a wonderful adventure packed three days.  We visited kings and queens, churches and markets and loved every minute of it.  My vote?  London is a great place and totally worth a visit!!!

Next stop on our itinerary???  FRANCE  Can anyone say...ooo la la???  See ya next week!


 CJ England

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day Three- Palaces, Parliament and Purity

Hey all,

Sorry for the delay and I hope this makes it up.  It's day three of our little trip and after a great night's sleep we were up and out.  Since we slept in a bit to make up for two days of NOT sleeping, we headed straight to our first tourist venue...Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard.
 
It's really a magnificent building.  Huge with so much history behind it.  Rather than lose ourselves in the crowd at the gate, we decided to watch from uptop the fountain in the center of the square.  That way we could not only see the changing of the guard, (see courtyard above), but we could watch them come in and leave as well.


The ceremony is full of pomp and circumstance.  It lasts close to 45 minutes from beginning to end and for the average tourist, it's hard to understand exactly what all the fuss is about.  Even my military-bent hubby couldn't grasp all the nuances.  When we researched it later, we discovered that each stomp, each shout and even each song played has a specific meaning for the day.


The guards leave the barricks in perfect formation, accompanied by a marching band.  They walk up a long street, circle around the statue (above pic with Jonathon) and enter through one of the gates.  That's when the actual changing begins.  One by one the guard is changed out, the new guards walking the perimeter with the old guard.  They ignore the crowd.  This may be a show, but it's all deadly serious for them.  Especially when the Union Jack is flying, which we were told means the Queen is in residence.

We were also fortunate to see the changing of the Horse Guards (other pic)  They are wearing their colorful red winter outfits and the horses are beautiful.  That changing takes place at another gate, but is just as ceremonial as this one.

Afterwards, we had this great meal in this historic pub called, The Albert.  (see pic to right) We just came across it as we wandered back towards the main tourist areas near Big Ben.  It is this tiny little building surrounded on all sides by skyscrapers.  Looks totally out of place, and when you walk inside, it's like heading back into the past.  

Lords, Dukes, Prime Ministers and even royalty have eaten here and because of that, it is safe from the wrecking ball.  I was pleased to hear it.  This small pub is one of the nicest ones we were in and it's great to hear that my children's children might have a chance to visit it someday!

Next up on our tour were some churches.  We stopped at both Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.  The first is one of the older churches in town and quite beautiful in it's own right, although it is often confused with the Abbey where the coronations and wedding of the royals are held.

We were able to walk around in both of them, and at the Abbey, after the service we attended, Jonathon was able to talk to one of the clergy--not sure what exactly she was...a rector maybe--and she gave us a short tour behind the scenes.  They were getting ready for the Queen to come the next day for the Queen's Jubilee, so everyone was kicked out after the service, so it was neat to see a little more.  She showed us several tombs.  (English churches are filled with dead people.  Very different from most in the states.)  Charles Darwin, Sir Issac Newton and several others whose names escape me now.


Next we headed to one of the most well know sights of London.  Parliament House and Big Ben.  We both were slightly surprised that Big Ben isn't well...bigger.  LOL  It is a normal size clock tower over an enormous building.  It just looks a lot bigger in pictures.  But it is still a beautiful sight and it's setting by the river Thames makes it quite magical in the afternoon sun.  And kissing my sweet baboo with Big Ben in the background is pretty cool too!

Boy, did we do some walking.  I have a little meter that tells me how many miles I walked and we hit 15 that day!!!  Next, we went up to Trafalgar Square and since it was so bloody cold, we got a cuppa of hot cocoa and people watched for awhile.  Then a bus ride took us up to Convent Garden (first pic below) where we spent several hours searching the stalls for bargains, enjoying the sidewalk entertainers, and we had our very first Cornish Pasty, which was totally yummy!  Somewhat like a beerrock, but even better.
It was getting late, so we decided to head over to Piccadilly Circus (2nd pic above) to check out the night life.  We got lost and in doing so, found Victoria Station, Chinatown and Soho!  LOL  We did some more souvenier shopping before we found a pub and listened to music while we had a drink.
Since we knew we wanted to get up early the next morning, we didn't stay out too late.  After an adventurous bus ride home...we got soooooo lost...we finally found the hotel and went to bed.  The next day...seeing London from a bird's eye view!  
Check back with me next week for the next day of this travel log!  
Hugs to all!
 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Day One/Two... London is A Merry Old Town

Hey all,

*Edited to Add*

Sorry all that I wasn't able to get this up on Tuesday. Stupid blog froze again. I've just about decided to shut down this one and make another one. One more time it does this and I am so out of here!!!! Anyway, here is the travel log. Two days for the price of one. Enjoy...

After we got our room all situated, we headed out to our first tourist destination. The Tower of London. When I'd been to London before, we hadn't been able to visit the Tower, so I wanted to make sure I saw it this time and I'm so glad I did.

After a quick lunch of fish and chips, (no one makes them like the Brits) we headed into the Tower Gates. It is an awesome place, filled with history, tragedy and beauty. We had the neatest guide, a guy who made the history come alive, yet was humorous in his story telling so it wasn't like a lecture.
He told us tales of murder and intrigue, some that would curl your hair. We walked the same steps that kings and queens walked, and stood in the place where the block rested and so many lost their lives. We visited the torture chambers and shivered over the rack and the other devices used to force confessions out of the guilty and not so guilty. We visited the armory, the soldiers museum and walked the entire palace grounds.

Then we went and saw the crown jewels. Wow! Are they cool! And since we went in the off season, there weren't many people so I could drool over them as long as I wanted to. LOL I spoke to a Beefeater Guard who told me the jewel security system has never been compromised, although once back in 1671, an attempt was made. We weren't allowed to take pictures, but here are a few pics I found on the web for you to take a gander at.
Pretty impressive, huh? The whole collection is well worth taking a look at, but make sure you go during an off time. I was also told during tourist season, they shuffle you through so quickly, you can barely see anything.
After the Tower, we walked down the street and over the famous Tower Bridge. It was huge and I have to say, the architecture was magnificent. We didn't take the tour, for us it was enough to just walk over it. But here are a couple of pics we took of us and the bridge.


After we walked along the Thames, enjoying the view of the city, London Bridge, and the Parliament Building, we decided to walk up to St. Paul's Cathedral and we lit a candle for our loved ones.

Saint Paul's is beautiful and we were lucky to have the chance to tour it. We went to Evening Song there and were able to hear the choir sing. The architecture and the tombs as well as the carvings and other religious artifacts were beyond belief.

http://www.catholic-church.org/st.paulcathedralpgh/current/images/saint-paul-interior.jpg

Afterwards we were pretty tired since we'd been up for the last 30 hours. We went to a pub right next to our hotel and had dinner. It was a neat place and quite busy. We sat at the table for a while before we realized that in England you have to go to the bar and place your order / giving them your table number. We were so tired we didn't notice how to do things for a long time. LOL But finally we did. Had a great dinner and then we headed back to the hotel for the night.

Next stop... Buckingham Palace...


Thanks for reading. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!!!

Hugs,

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Our Anniversary Trip - UK Bound

Hey all,


As promised, here is another installment of our travel adventures.  I may have started in the middle with Jonathon in a kilt, but how could I not???  He's sooooo hot!!!  LOL


Anyway, I'll start at the beginning and just hit the highlights of our travels.  Don't want this to be a boring home movie, but for those that are interested in what we did...read on.


DAY ONE...


As I have mentioned in my daily email, the airports are the worst part of traveling.  The stress, going through security and then the waiting...OMG.  Luckily for us, the first stop at the airport wasn't so bad.  I was worried about having "liquids" in our luggage, but they were small enough to go through so the Orlando security check wasn't so bad.  Once we got re-dressed (jewelry, belt, shoes and glasses) we were in and waiting for the plane.


Now, I haven't travelled a long distance for a while...not since we moved to Australia, but the planes are quite different now.  The leg space seemed a bit better for my long legs and the food--at least on the Continental flight--was decent.  Not four star, but nothing to turn up your nose at.  And instead of a single movie, there is a screen in the back of each seat where you can choose for a multitude of different medias to keep you entertained for the trip.  Our flight across the Atlantic was about seven hours, and it seemed much less.


Once we arrived, we gathered all our stuff and headed to British Customs.  Well, that was the easiest one we did.  No one was there!  We walked right through!  LOL  But that's when the adventure really began.  There are several ways to get into London from Heathrow Airport which is about 40 minutes from the city center.  You can hire a car or taxi (expensive), take a shuttle (a bit spendy), or take the tube (affordable barely).  Since we only had the two sets of suitcases and could lash them together, we opted for the tube. 


Now I've been on the tube before and it's no big deal.  Since we arrived in England so early ( like 6 in the morning) there weren't many people.  We wisked into London to Picidilly station and then took a taxi (expensive) to the hotel.




Bless them, they had our room ready and we were able to drop off our luggage.  Even though we'd been up for 30 hours, we weren't about to go to bed!  We showered, changed and headed out!  First stop...


The Tower of London...




Check back on Tuesday for more on that!!!!


Hugs to all!


CJ

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Magical Trip and A Wonderful Wedding!!!!

Hey everyone,


As you may know...I'm back from my month long trip and I've got so much to tell you.  I was originally planning on starting out with the first day and giving you a travel log of the trip, but I have had so many requests for a specific thing, I decided to start with that instead.  THEN, I'll go back and tell you all about our fantastic trip.

That being said...by popular request, here is the picture of Jonathon in a kilt!  No drooling ladies!  He's all mine!  LOL


 
Awesome, isn't he!    I tell you.  I got all hot and bothered when I first saw him put it on.  And now I know for sure exactly what is under one of those kilts!  LOLOL
Let me tell you about buying the kilt for him.  We went into Edinburgh, the capitol of Scotland, to see what we could find.  We had no idea what or where to go, but we stumbled into the perfect place.  A little shop on what is called the "Royal Mile", which is a street that leads up to Edinburgh Castle, the home of Scotland's Crown Jewels as well as the working home of part of the Scottish Military.
We wound up in a tiny little shop that happened to be the birthplace of Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver's Travels.  The proprietor was a delight.  He helped Jonathon find the perfect kilt--one from the clan Douglas.  I watched as he bustled around, telling us funny stories about life in Edinburgh and himself.  And low and behold, he transformed my hunky hottie into a Scottish hottie, complete with kilt and sporran!   Whew!    I had to ask him if he'd leave us alone for a while!

Well, that cracked him up and he offered the use of his dressing room!  That made us bust up laughing and it was a very merry time as we finished our shopping.  And as you can see by the picture, he did a hell of a job dressing up my man!

So, I leave you with this thought from our trip as well as another picture of Jonathon in his yummy kilt!!!

An Irish Blessings
May God give you...
for every storm a rainbow,
for every tear, a smile.
for every care, a promise, 
and a blessing in each trial.
for every problem life sends, 
a faithful friend to share,
for every sigh, a sweet song, 
and an answer
for each prayer.
 
 
Will send out another installment by the weekend!  And don't forget to check out my FREE READ at http://cj-england.livejournal.com/ .
Blessings to everyone!  
 
AND DON'T FORGET...  IN PRINT NOW!!!!













For an autographed copy email CJ at womanofthewind1@yahoo.com