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York, UK. Not to be confused with New York or York, PA

In July, Tim was scheduled for his annual work physical in York and I decided to tag along for the day to wander the city during his appointment. Of course, we took the train up to York, and since we had time before Tim’s appointment, we had a wander around the National Rail Museum. We visit it alot, but you always see things you didn’t see before – either because you hadn’t noticed it or because they rotated something new in. The NRM has the same problem a lot of museums have – too much stuff and not enough places to show it off – so they let visitors take a walk through their store rooms where you almost always notice something you hadn’t before because there’s just THAT MUCH stuff in it. Tim and I saw loads of things that we wished we had!

After the NRM, Tim was off to his appointment, and I headed off into the city. The NRM is across the street from the train station, and train station isn’t quite in the center of town, so it is a bit of a walk. Fortunately, a nice man selling newspapers outside the train station pointed me in the right direction and I began my wander…..to get lost.

I had wanted to do some shopping in some specific stores I knew were in York but not Lincoln, and I couldn’t find any of them. Even the little souvenir shop I was positive I knew where it was….couldn’t find it. I think I probably walked in a circle at least twice. I did see things that looked familiar and that I remembered from previous visits to York, though, so I don’t think I was honestly lost. Plus, I could nearly always see the Minster, and if you can find your way to the Minster, you’re definitely not lost! I did discover a few shops I hadn’t seen before though, so that’s always a treat. Then, I was in the “square” and just about to leave when I turned around and saw a church was having a used book sale! Books for only 50p! It was about this time that Tim called to tell me he was done, so he met me there and between the two of us, we spent over £10. For a good cause and used, but this meant that our packs were full and HEAVY, so we decided to call it a day. While walking back to the station, we spotted a street artist who had painted himself purple, so naturally I had to get my picture taken with him.

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London Transport and War

It’s no secret, my husband is a big transport nut. And surprisingly, I’m starting to turn into one, too. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, one of Tim’s job benefits is rail passes. We get a certain amount per year, but each time we use it, it’s valid for 48 hours. We try to plan overnight trips or back-to-back daytrips to make the most of our passes. I put in a request to go to London, as London is in my top 5 places to visit in the UK, and I hadn’t been to London since I moved. Tim agreed, and I’m sure I shocked him when I told him where I wanted to spend the day – The London Transport Museum and the Imperial War Museum.

The London Transport Museum is in Covent Gardens. If you’re approaching the market from the underground station, walk around the left side and you should see the entrance straight ahead. Admission to the museum is £13.50 for adults, but this includes an annual pass to return at any time in the following 12 months.

The museum has everything and anything related to transport in London, including old underground cars from the ages complete with models dressed in the fashion of that era. When you walk into the museum, they have the walls decorated with maps of transit systems all over the world, and imagine my surprise to see a corner of a New Jersey Transit map!

In addition to underground cars, there are plenty of busses, trollys, trolly busses and trams on display – even some horse-drawn vehicles from the 1800s! They have over 80 assorted transportation vehicles in their collection, 20 of which can be seen at the museum daily. If you want to see the other vehicles, you have to pay a visit to the depot Acton Town. Many of the vehicles are open so you can climb aboard and see the interiors.

There is so much to see at the Transport Museum, if I went into detail you would feel as though you were reading a novel, so I’ll let you go down and explore it on your own.

Our second stop for the day was the Imperial War Museum. The IWM is surrounded by the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, a perfect spot to have a picnic lunch before entering the museum. This museum is free, however if you want to see one of the special exhibits there might be a charge.

I wanted to go because they were having a Ministry of Food special exhibit showcasing life during World War I and II, including the “Dig for Victory” campaign and the Women’s Land Army, two topics that interest me.

By the time we got to the IWM, I was very tired and I was starting to not feel too good, so I skipped out on parts of the museum in order to make it to the MoF exhibit. The MoF is running until 3 January 2011 and there is a small fee (less than a fiver). To be honest, the exhibit didn’t have anything “new” in it. Everything that was on display was something I had either seen elsewhere or read about, but I think that was to be expected since this is a major interest of mine. I even have been trying to decorate my kitchen in the post-war style. But if you are unfamiliar with the MoF, this would be a great exhibit to take a look at, and you don’t have much time left to do so!

After the IWM, we wandered over to the Thames, and I debated getting a ticket for the London Eye. Tim doesn’t want to go on it, so I would have gone up on my own. I decided not to, and hope that I can ride on it when my mom visits in December.

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Digging Shakespeare

When my mom had her extended visit courtesy of volcanic ash, we decided to take advantage of Tim’s day off and took Mom to Stratford-upon-Avon. Tim and I had previously been there in October 2008, but we hadn’t seen all the attractions, and it’s just a nice place to go!

Fortunately, the weather agreed with us, and we had a fantastic day. We started with Shakespeare’s birthplace and walked on floors he once walked on as a child. We even got treated to an impromptu performance of selected scenes from Macbath, Othello, Romeo & Juliet, and several other plays. The performers were more than happy to continue to perform for us as the crowd kept asking for more!

We had a picnic lunch along the Avon before we wandered over to Nash’s house and gardens where they are currently doing “Dig for Shakespeare” – an archaeological dig to try to find the original house! Dig for Shakespeare includes a display where you can touch artefacts they found and I got to hold a 500yr old brick and some Roman coins. Pretty nifty.

After that, we headed to the car to drive out to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. We just made it before they closed, and as we were the only people there, the guide went above and beyond in talking to us, showing us everything, and telling us stories that had been passed down.

We had an absolutely fantastic day, and since the Shakespeare homes offer an annual pass with your admission, we can go back again within the year without having to pay again!

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A Day Out

I took the bus into Lincoln today because I had a few errands I needed to run.

I got off the bus at the “top of the hill” near the Cathedral, as my original plans were to talk to the people at the pub we want to use for the reception in person, but that didn’t work out. As I was walking down Steep Hill (yes, it’s called that) I happened to spot a volunteer sign in the window of the Cancer Research charity shop. Since my application for OxFam must have been rejected (never heard back from them!), I was still looking for some place to volunteer, both as something to do, and as part of the new requirements for seeking citizenship in the UK. I walked in, asked about volunteering, and 10 minutes later I was “hired”. I’ll be working every Thursday from 1-5PM, which goes nicely with my other activity on Thursdays – an all-female Barbershop group (part of Sweet Adelines).

After landing the “job”, I went to Primark to replace some of the items I accidentally shrank in the wash* and then to Boots (drug store) to use some coupons that expired at the end of the month, and to place an order for photos to be printed to go with my insurance claim form. Then, it was the trek over to the other side of High Street to Argos to make a return. Right as I got to the barriers for the train, they went down, so I sent a text to Tim. He called and played “big brother” on me by looking at me through his CCTV! Item returned and new item purchased (I needed a new small crock pot), I walked back only to get to the crossing right as the barriers were going down again.

I met up with Tim and we went shopping for Mother’s Day cards and Birthday cards and then decided we’d just go look at eyeglass frames at one of the discount stores. I found frames for both regular and sunglasses that I liked (and they were only £70) and so we asked about making an appointment, and there happened to be an opening right then, so this afternoon I had an eye exam and got new glasses and sunglasses! I pick up the glasses on Thursday.

We also did our weekly run at Tesco, and now I’m busy (at midnight) finishing roasting a chicken so I can use it tomorrow in a stew I’m making for Tim’s grandad.

I just need to keep my eyes open for another half hour….

*Last week when I did the wash, I forgot that temperatures were in Celsius and I set it for 60…..60C is a hot water wash, not the lukewarm water wash I thought it was.

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Touring Dublin by Bus

[This is a recap of a trip taken in September 2009. A post had bot been previously written on the subject]

On a recommendation from Tim’s mum, my mom and I decided to take the Dublin Bus Tour on our first full day. There is more than one bus tour company in Dublin. All stop at mostly the same places, but the tour we took was operated by the Dublin city bus company, and our driver explained to us that they rotate drivers – a driver will be a regular route driver for 2 weeks, then he’ll go and drive the tour bus for 2. Our driver explained this was mostly because they’d lose their voices if they were tour bus drivers constantly, but also told us that all the drivers absolutely LOVE being the tour bus driver.

The bus is “hop on/hop off”, which means that as long as you hang onto your ticket, you can ride the tour bus as many times as you want from 9 in the morning until around 5PM in the evening. The busses go in a continual loop, reaching stops every 10-15 minutes, so if you get off, chances are you’ll have a different bus driver on the next bus. The full length tour is about an hour and a half, not counting stops.

We boarded one of the first buses of the morning and decided to ride it the full loop before making any decisions on where to stop. We rode up on the upper deck so we could see better and it was fantastic. We saw loads of things we had passed on the airport shuttle, but hadn’t paid attention to. On our second loop around Dublin, we got off at the Guinness Storehouse. I purchased a ticket online before we left the US, but Mom wasn’t interested in seeing the brewery. She had a book tucked into her bag though, and planned on finding a bench to sit on while I did the tour. Fortunately, there was a really nice person working at the entrance, and he let Mom through so she could go up to the cafe to sit and wait for me. As it turns out, the cafe was on the third floor of the exhibit, and if we had been dishonest, Mom could have toured the facility for free!

The Guinness Storehouse was incredible and well worth the trip if you’re a fan of the beer! You even get free beer at several stops throughout the tour as you go through a tasting room (where you can have as many as you want), learn how to pull the perfect pint, and finally up at the top where you get a complimentary pint of Guinness and are treated to a 360 degree view of Dublin and the surrounding countryside.

After the Storehouse, we boarded the bus again, and decided to get off at the Writer’s Museum. Our plans didn’t quite go as we thought, however, when our bus driver received a message that there had been a major bus/train accident along the main shopping street in Dublin…which also happened to be the street many of the attractions were on, and where the bus needed to go to get to the rest of the stops! Our bus driver was incredible, and told us that we could all get off at the next stop and do whichever attraction it was and hope the mess was over by the time we were done OR we could stay on the bus and he would do his best to get us around Dublin and promised to show us “areas of Dublin not included on a typical tour”. Mom and I decided to stick it out and see where the driver would take us.


Direct Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOshnFiUbWo

True to his word, he took us through the more residential areas of Dublin and told us stories about the city and buildings (and about himself!) that we would not have heard otherwise. He finally reached a point where he needed to discharge us, and we were directed to find the next bus that would (hopefully) resume the route and get us back. Unfortunately, we got a little mixed up, but did finally find a tour bus stop in the end.

We never did make it to the Writer’s Museum, but I think our adventure was well worth it. We certainly got our money’s worth out of the tickets!

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For more pictures, please see: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/index.php?album=Dublin+Bus+Tour

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Hotel Review: The Fleet Street Hotel in Dublin, Ireland

When my mom and I went on our European trip, we started in Dublin. Primarily because the airfare into Dublin was less than any other European city we had been considering, and I wanted to take my mom to more than just the United Kingdom. So we picked Dublin, and I began my hotel hunt. Unfortunately, the hotel I had decided on in my previous post was no longer available when we were finally ready to book, but I found a just-as-inexpensive hotel in an even better part of Dublin for around US$40/night. The Fleet Street Hotel at Temple Bar. Reviews on TripAdvisor were favourable (at the time), and the photos on Travelocity and their own website looked nice, so we booked it for our 3 night stay.

After about 3 hours in the hotel room on our first day, we really wished we had stayed elsewhere.

The hotel itself is fairly rundown. There used to be a pub/restaurant attached, but it was closed down and made the place feel a little creepy. We asked for a room in the back to avoid the street noise, and we were given a room facing a back alley. The back alley that all the delivery vehicles used for the stores, so we were woken up around four in the morning each day by the noises of the deliveries.

It’s an odd building, quite literally looks like something designed by MC Escher. The most likely explanation is that the hotel took over several row houses and converted things to rooms, making it a bit of a maze. But the funnier thing had to be being told we were on the second floor….and to take the lift, turn left, then go down 2 short flights of steps. I wish I was kidding. The worst thing was, my mom and I both had large suitcases (with wheels) as this was leg 1 of a 15-day trip! Trying to carry the suitcases down the short flights was rough, and it was even harder when we had to check out. The staircases didn’t have any railing to hold onto, you just had to use the wall for support. At one point, I really thought one of the steps was going to give out on me.

Our room was….a room. We had two twin-sized beds, one chair, a desk, a table, a bedside table, a suitcase rack, and a dresser with a TV on top of it. There was a heater/air unit up against the ceiling but no matter how many times I tried to adjust it I just couldn’t figure it out. Not all of our outlets worked (and yes, I flipped the switch), so it was hard charging devices. On first glance, the bathroom was really nice looking. What appeared to be all new tile lining the walls and floor, and a towel warming bar (which didn’t seem to work) next to the shower. The sink could have done with more counter space, as there was plenty of room for it, and they really needed a new toilet. The shower looked to be pretty decent. It was just a standard shower stall, or at least appeared to be.

Since we were coming off of a long flight to Paris, followed by the short flight to Dublin and a bus ride, I really wanted to take a shower before we did anything outside the hotel. The shower went on alright….but the floor soon filled with water as if the drain was clogged. Fortunately, I take a fairly short shower. I went t o get out of the shower and tried to turn the knob to off…and it wouldn’t go. I wrapped a towel around me and called for Mom, and she couldn’t get it to turn off, either. Oh, and did I mention the rooms don’t have phones? Mom starts bailing out the shower into the sink, and I threw on the first clothing I could find and ran down to the lobby to tell the desk person about the shower. He comes up and tells me there’s nothing wrong with it, and turns it off. Then, he calls housekeeping and all the woman does is plunge at the drain! Plunging? Plunging isn’t going to get out the major clog the drain probably has! We get offered a new room, but neither one of us really feels like lugging our bags around, so we declined. Each morning we would have to take a towel, wrap it around our hand, and tug the shower off.

Travelocity claimed the hotel had free wi-fi. And they did. In the lobby. The only place in the entire hotel the wi-fi worked was sitting in the Lobby. Get 2-3 people in there with their laptops and there wasn’t any room to move! Fortunately, I had my N810 and iPod and didn’t need to get out my laptop, but it was really annoying trying to make private phone calls on Skype (to my aunt and to Tim) with other people hanging around.

In the end, I found the hotel tolerable. It was in a great location central to a lot of the Dublin attractions, and the bus that took you over to the Ferry port even picked up right outside the hotel. However, I don’t think the hotel was pleasing to my mom, and I don’t think she’d ever stay there again. Really, it’s debatable if I’d stay there again, though for the price and location, you really can’t beat it. It’s right at the entrance to Temple Bar, Trinity College is 3 blocks away, and it’s a short walk over to Guinness.

One thing I do have to say about the staff – ALL of the desk staff we interacted with were friendly…even if they didn’t have any good suggestions for places to eat. I felt safe staying there and sleeping there, and I wasn’t too worried about leaving our things in the room while we were away (though I did still lock the expensive electronics in my suitcase while we were out!). Since the hotel is at the opening to Temple Bar, which is essentially an entire street of pubs, they use a buzzer system to get into the hotel after dark. You press the buzzer and tell them your room number before they will let you in….and they have close-circuit TV at the door to check people’s appearances. So I do need to add that it was a friendly and safe hotel to dtay in…even if it wasn’t quite what we were expecting.

On our way back through Dublin, we just had a stopover and I booked us at the Travelodge Swords, as it was close to the airport. The Travelodge was so much nicer, and only $10 more. The only negatives of the Travelodge was the €27 cab ride from the ferry port (which I paid for ALL in small coin), and the fact that if you based yourself there for sightseeing, you’d be paying for cabs into town daily. The Travelodge also had a restaurant attached…even if it was super expensive for a small pizza (€10!).

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Castles in the North

[This entry refers to a trip taken in March 2009. As requested, I will be going back and blogging the trips I only posted vlogs about January – April.]

Tim and I picked up the AA Leisure Guide Northumbria & Coast and in the book were some suggestions for “driving tours”. We knew we wanted to see some of the castles in Northern England, and the route in the book took us neatly around to several castles we really wanted to see!

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(photo by Tim)

Our first stop was Alnwick. I wanted to go to Alnwick Castle, as it was one of the filming locations for the Harry Potter movies, and Hogwart’s was partially modeled after it. Unfortunately, the castle was closed for the Winter months, but we took some photos up by the gate, and then Tim walked down the icy hill to see if there was access at another gate and to take more photos. Unfortunately, the gates were all closed, so we headed back to the car and continued on our route.

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The next place to stop on the route was called Preston Tower. We actually nearly drove right past the place because we thought we were driving past private property! Preston Tower is located on a private farm, but the owners allow access to the tower. Admission is on your honour with a little wooden box, and they also had postcards and brochures. We were able to climb up to the clock itself and even go outside to check out the view. The clock at Preston Tower is designed after the clock at Westminster (Big Ben). While we were there, the clock struck the hour and it was super loud! I climbed all the way up to the top (even higher than the clock) and was treated to a 360 degree view of the English and Scottish countryside.

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Our next stop should have been Holy Island. Holy Island is connected to the mainland by a causeway and you can only cross at certain times of the day or risk getting stuck in the water (or on the island!). We looked at the schedule,and had just missed going over. Paired with seeing that we’d have a short amount of time over on the Island before needing to leave, we decided to skip Holy Island, and continued on to Bamburgh Castle

While we were in Bamburgh, we stopped at the Grace Darling Museum, a museum dedicated to the life of Grace Darling, daughter of the lighthouse keeper who assisted in a rescue at sea in 1838.

The sun was starting to set, but we weren’t finished yet! We kept on heading North and got to Norham Castle, the last stronghold before the Scottish border. The site itself was closed, but we were able to take photos of the castle.

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Tim then decided that we were going to drive as far North as the border with Scotland, just so I could say I was officially in Scotland!

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We ended our day there and headed back towards Newcastle-upon-Tyne and in search of dinner.

For more photos please see: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/uk-trip-2008/northern-castles/

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London, Day 2

We really packed a lot into day two, without actually planning on it. We wound up going to the Tower Bridge, the HMS Belfast, Big Ben/Parliament, seeing Oliver! in the West End, and Piccadilly Circus! Thanks to our daypasses for the Underground, we didn’t have to do a whole lot of walking, either.

The first thing we wanted to do was to see about getting theatre tickets for Oliver!, the production Burn Gorman is currently appearing in. Fortunately, there was a discount ticket booth right in the Covent Gardens tube station, and thanks to the person behind the counter calling the theatre, we scored high balcony seats for that evening’s performance. With tickets safely tucked into my camera case, we headed back onto the Tube to start our day.

Our day started with the trip to the Tower Bridge. I had discovered the Tower Bridge has a tour where you can walk along the top of it, and I really wanted to do it…and somehow I convinced Tim to go along with me! It was really neat learning about how the Tower Bridge was built and why, and then getting to walk across both sides of the upper bridge to take photos and video of London. We had a great time doing this, and fortunately, the Tower Bridge was a short walk away from our next stop. We decided against the Tower of London, since we both had already been there and I knew when I come back this fall with my mom, I’d be taking her there.

Just a short walk away from the Tower Bridge is the HMS Belfast. Again, I don’t know or remember much about it other than it is a 1930s warship. They were testing out a new route for their tour, so we got a little confused walking around and I kept feeling like we were places we shouldn’t be since there was no organized tour like with the HMS Victory. We did a lot of climbing up and down ladders, which I wasn’t a fan of, and had to squeeze past a lot of really tight locations to see it all. We learned all about how the sailors lived on the ship, as well as how the ship itself worked. We also stopped to eat on the HMS Belfast, and we purchased cups of tea to go along with the sandwiches we had packed.

From the HMS Belfast, it was another short walk to the London Bridge tube stop. When I saw we were going to be near Westminster, I asked Tim if we could stop to take photos of Big Ben and Parliament. I have photos from my first trip back in 1997, but there’s something about going to London and taking photos of all the important landmarks that appealed to me, so we stopped and after shooting short videos and taking photos, headed back onto the Tube to go back to our hotel to change for the play!

We stopped for dinner at a chippy around the corner from the hotel. I can’t rave about the food, because I really didn’t enjoy it all that much and ordered a hot drink when I wanted a cold drink, but it didn’t matter – we were off to Oliver!

Sadly, we didn’t get to see Jodie Prenger perform and saw Tamsin instead. I was disappointed, as I was really looking forward to seeing Jodie after watching I’d Do Anything. Tamsin didn’t impress me much. Her chemistry with Burn Gorman, who plays Bill Sikes, seemed non-existent to me. But Burn was amazing as Bill, and Rowan Atkinson gave a very hilarious performance as Fagin. Burn even managed to sing a bit of “My Name”. The character is so dark and cynical and I think Burn pulls it off well. The music cues when Bill comes on stage are sinister and dark, but it also takes a good actor to be able to take those music cues and actually make the audience fearful of him. Amazing performance, I loved it.

But perhaps the best part came after the show. I ran around the corner to the Stage Door, and got to catch Burn long enough to shake his hand and tell him who I was. It really made my evening! He was in a hurry to get home, but he still took the time to respond to my “Excuse me, Mr Gorman” and came over to say hello.

Needless to say, I was flying high after this and convinced Tim we should stop at Piccadilly Circus to take some photos before we headed back to the hotel for bed. We returned to the hotel, exhausted, but still flying high (at least for me!) after the performance.


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Previously posted video logs can be found here:
http://www.blog.beccajanestclair.com/2009/01/more-vlogs-from-london/
http://www.blog.beccajanestclair.com/2009/01/more-vlogs/

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UK by Rail: London, Day One

I was waiting to post about our London trip until I had copies of Tim’s photos to post with mine, but he’s been busy with his workshop and other stuff, and I thought I’d get up at least the first post before we head out traveling this weekend. I’ll post photos later, when I have Tim’s.

We were looking for something to do over a long weekend, and after rejecting a trip to the Lakes District (nothing was open, and it would be too cold), as well as the Norfolk Broads (same reason), we settled on going down to London and spending a few days there. I previously visited London back in November, but we did a theatre trip with Tim’s siblings and met up with one of my friends, so we didn’t do as much touristy things as I’d have liked, so we decided to do a real tourist weekend in London!

I scored us super cheap accommodations at a Bed & Breakfast (Belgravia Hotel) near Victoria Station. Because it was the off-season, the B&B was charging £100 for the 3 nights (less than £35/night for two people!), when their usual rate for the room we had (a deluxe double) was £80/night. I can’t remember which website I found it on, I just remember googling “inexpensive hotels London” and google spit back a few sites and we had them all open in tabs to compare the places. There was one other place that was cheaper for the three nights at £85 for all three, but that location did not serve breakfast, and had a kitchenette instead. While we could have stayed there and paid £15 less, I think our included continental breakfasts were worth the £2.50/each per day…and we’d have spent more on breakfast probably if we had been cooking it ourselves. (Plus who wants to cook when they’re staying in a hotel?)

We decided to take the train down from Lincoln, and while it was a crowded train, it was a pleasant journey. We had to switch in Newark from the local train to a National Express train, but we were lucky to only have to wait about 5 minutes. The National Express train even had wifi! I didn’t pull out my laptop, but I used the wifi on my iPod. We had packed some sandwiches for the trip, but wound up saving them for the next day.

We had to switch to the Underground at King’s Cross. A single fare cost me over £4! Insanity when the day pass is only £7, but since we only needed it for one trip, the daypass was pointless. Our hotel was located about 3/4 of a mile away from Victoria Station….which wasn’t bad, but it felt like a mighty long walk carrying luggage!

It was coming up on dinnertime, so we checked into our B&B, got ourselves settled and discovered both the smallest bathroom I’ve ever seen (even smaller than the bathroom on the cruise ship I was on!), as well as a mini fridge to keep our snacks cool, and headed out in search of dinner.

We wound up at the mini mall connected to Victoria Station and had a great dinner in one of the restaurants. After dinner, we returned to the hotel, grabbed our cameras, and walked down to Buckingham Palace (about a mile from where we were staying), and shot some photo and video in the dark. The evening wasn’t cold at all, but we were getting tired, so we retired back to the hotel around 10. We knew we wanted to get up and out early the following day (plus didn’t want to miss breakfast!), but my stomach had other plans for me. We still got out on time in the morning, but for about half the day my stomach was churning.

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The bathroom was so small, part of the toilet tank stuck into the shower and the shower stall was so tiny, neither one of us could really turn around without getting the entire bathroom wet! (And I’m a small person!) If you shut the door to use the toilet (like most people do), your knees almost touched the door and I kept banging my knee on the sink. We barely had any room to keep our toiletries and towels in there!

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Buckingham Palace!

I fixed my photo posting, so you can now click on images again to get a larger pic.

If you want to watch the video logs from the first night again, you can find them here: http://www.blog.beccajanestclair.com/2009/01/two-vlogs-from-london/

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UK by Rail: Blackpool

I wanted to go to Blackpool. It’s famous for being “The Atlantic City of Britain” and is pretty touristy, so I really wanted to go. What cinched it for us was finding out there was a Doctor Who Exhibit featuring Classic Doctor Who….only, the exhibit wasn’t open :(.

Our train trip was pretty confusing with all the delays and canceled trains, but we made it to Blackpool South and dashed over to the tram stop to get to the tourist section. Everything seemed to be deserted, which really wasn’t surprising considering we were going not only mid-week, but in the middle of Winter! I’ve been to Atlantic City in the winter though, and because of all the casinos there’s always something going on….I’m not sure if all the people were inside the game places or if it was just empty, but we crossed the street and headed towards the Doctor Who exhibit.

We got waylaid by a bloke running a dart game, and he somehow convinced Tim to play to “win his lady a stuffed animal”. £10 later and we quit after Tim won me a small stuffed Pterodactyl I’ve named Myfanwy.

The gates were down at the Doctor Who exhibit, but the Sea Life aquarium next door was open, so we thought maybe there was a way into the exhibit through there since they seemed to be attached, but no luck. We decided not to waste the trip to Blackpool, and visited the aquarium…where I think we were the only people in it for quite a while! We had a good time with the fish, but it wasn’t nearly as thrilling as it would have been if the Doctor Who thing had been open. Ah, well.

We decided to ride the tram all the way to the end of the line, and we were glad we did, because on the way back we got to ride on one of the few surviving double decker trams! We stopped at the same fish and chip chain we ate at in Cardiff because we recognized the name and it was one of the few places still open…and I tried spotted dick for the first time ever. It really wasn’t as bad as some people say it is, but it’s really sweet. I only could eat half of it!

We were just a short walk back to the Blackpool North train station, so we headed over and took the train back to Rainhill once again.


For more photos: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/uk-trip-2008/blackpool/

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UK By Rail: Liverpool

We took the train from Rainhill to Liverpool, and then through Liverpool on the light rail until we got over towards the waterfront. At our hotel, we saw brochures for a doctor who exhibition called from Script to Screen, and we decided to check that out. The exhibit was part of the Spaceport on the other side of the Mersey River, and we found a combination ticket for the Spaceport and the ferry tour of the river, so we picked up tickets for that and we were right in time to catch the next ferry!

Over at the Spaceport we walked through exhibits about the solar system and watched a planetarium-style movie about space’s affect on astronauts. Then, we headed up to the Doctor Who exhibit. One thing we noticed was that a lot of the items were similar to items we saw at Earl’s Court, but we still saw loads of costumes, props, and monster masks we hadn’t seen before. This exhibit had several items from the classic/old series, too, whereas the exhibit in London focused on the recent series only.

After a quick snack in the ferry terminal, we headed back onto the ferry which took us on a small tour of the waterfront before dropping us off back on the other side where we originally borded. (see my video log previously posted for boat-stuff).

The other “must do” item on our list for Liverpool was going to The Beatles Story. The Beatles Story was located in Albert Docks, a place we had visited on our first trip to meet up with my friends, but we didn’t have time to do any of the attractions. Fortunately, we arrived with plenty of time to go through the exhibit at our own pace, and at any given time there was only one or two other people in each section with Tim and I! We had really started psyching ourselves up for our trip to the Beatles Story. In the car on the way we listened exclusively to the Beatles songs I had on my iPod, and then as I mentioned earlier, his uncle played some original 45s for us when we visited him, so both Tim and I were really excited for the exhibit.

Some of the stuff we already were familiar with from other documentaries and stories about the band, but I still found it fascinating. At the end of the exhibit they have a section where they show what each member did post-Beatles, and we were quite surprised at some of the projects former-Beatles had been involved with that we hadn’t been aware of before!

Of course, you get dumped out into a gift shop, and Tim purchased a few CDs he didn’t have before we needed to think about dinner.

When we went out with my friends, we met up at the Pump House. Since we liked the food and atmosphere (and it was close by!) we headed over there for a meal, where once again we were one of the few tables occupied. The food and cider was good, and after spending some time relaxing and warming up, we headed back out into the cold to get back to the station and took the train back to Rainhill, then walked the half mile or so back to our hotel, where we promptly made some tea, changed into pajamas, and relaxed for the rest of the evening watching the DVDs of Eureka I brought with me on my laptop.



Reflections on the Water


(previously posted Liverpool vlog)

For more photos: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/uk-trip-2008/liverpool/

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UK By Rail: York, take 2

(Finally writing up a trip from several weeks back!)

Tim had a day off on perhaps the snowiest day of the season so far here, but we had made plans to take the train to York to go to the quilt museum and the National Railway Museum, so we decided since we didn’t have to drive in the snow, we’d still go.

I think we both wish we hadn’t. Not because we didn’t have a good time, but because it was cold and wet and both of us were a bit under the weather…that turned into a really bad cold when we got home!

Our first stop was the quilt museum….once we found it. All we had to go by was the sign we had seen in the city centre. We followed the sign until we ran out of signs, and after not being able to find it, we decided to head to the information centre to get directions. The streets of York were unplowed, the sidewalks unshoveled, and when we walked on a narrower street we got splashed by the passing cars. It was absolutely miserable and the snow had turned to sleet, and then to rain. At the information centre we picked up a flier, looked at a map, and discovered the museum….right around the corner from where we were looking! My socks were completely soaked by this point, but fortunately I had thought to pack an extra pair of socks into my knapsack (US: backpack), so I swapped my socks when we got there.

The quilts were beautiful, but we weren’t allowed to take photos. Ironically, we traveled to York, UK to see two quilts that had been made in Lancaster, PA. One by Mennonites, one by Amish. I was pretty amused.

On our way over to the National Rail Museum we stopped for some Lunch and some hot chocolate to warm up. The wet had already soaked into my socks again, so we stopped in Marks & Spencer’s to purchase socks. I spent about £12 on two pairs of thermal socks, a pair of padded socks, and 2 pairs of knee highs and after getting permission from the women at the till (US: cash register), I changed my socks again in the shoe section of the store. I put on a pair of thermal socks AND the pair of padded socks. My feet were FINALLY warm.

Of course, we had to walk back across town to get to the NRM, but the good thing was the museum was right next to the train station we’d need for the trip home.

We had a good time in the museum. They had a lot of things related to Tim’s job (signalman), so I finally was able to learn more about his job since I wasn’t allowed to actually visit him at one of his boxes. They even had a signal box set-up in the children’s area that let you play with the signal, and Tim showed me how to work it.

We also saw several of the Royal trains, which I found fascinating.

It was getting dark, so we headed across to the station and boarded the next train back to Lincoln….I slept the whole way home on the train, I was so exhausted….but my feet were finally dry!



Tim’s job!

For more photos: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/uk-trip-2008/york-part-2/

[note to LJ feed readers: please click on the link at the top of this entry on LJ to leave comments, as I do not see comments left on LJ!]

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UK Road Trip Part VIII, i: London Calling

We started our long weekend away with a drive down to Shoreham-by-Sea, where Tim’s friend, N, lives, and where we would be sleeping all weekend.  We didn’t arrive with anytime to take a look around, but headed straight to bed because we needed to be up early for the next day!

Saturday morning we headed for the train station and purchased a “combination ticket” for me that would give me unlimited access to the trains, underground, and busses in London (Tim didn’t need a train ticket, as he works for the railway).  Once we got to London’s Victoria Station, we had to sort out finding the loo (us: bathroom) for me as the loo on the train was broken.  We had to pay 30p (US $0.45) to use the toilet!  Tim explained to me they charge for it to discourage people walking on off the streets to us the toilet.  Makes sense to me.

We didn’t have to meet Tim’s siblings for another hour or so, so he decided to surprise me and told me we were getting on the Tube (Underground) and would be getting off at King’s Cross.  I immediately perked up, as I knew what was at King’s Cross I wanted to see!  We exited the Underground and headed into the station and immediately started heading towards the signs for Platforms 9-11.  In case you haven’t figured it out yet, we were in search of Platform 9 3/4, the mysterious portal into the wizarding world (as seen in the Harry Potter movies).  We soon found it, and of course had to take a picture of me pushing the cart through.

We received a call letting us know Tim’s siblings were running late – part of the Underground was closed for maintenance and they were going to have to alter their route.  We didn’t mind, and when we got to Covent Garden, we headed into the first pub we saw.  I’m almost ashamed to admit I had a half pint of cider before 11 in the morning!  (but so were plenty of other people!)

The five of us (Tim, his sister, his brother, his brother’s girlfriend, and me) headed for Lunch inside the market and then split up.  Tim and his brother, B, headed to the transport museum and S, M, and I went shopping!

…Or at least, we tried.  The trouble was, the shops were so crowded you could barely move around to look at things, let alone actually *buy* anything, so we wound up just walking around until it was time to meet the boys to head to the theatre.

Tim’s parents got us tickets to see Spamalot, the musical based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  The show was hilarious, and thankfully not a word-for-word recreation of the movie, but it still managed to have in it all the best bits from the movie that were well-loved, such as the “bring out your dead” scene.  I was highly disappointed though to find they had skipped over the entire witch sketch!

After the show, we were meeting M’s brother for dinner.  Originally we were going to get Mexican, but the restaurant offering’s didn’t quite match up to my food restrictions, so we wound up at the Italian restaurant next door.  We all had very fulling meals, and after taking some silly photos, we all split up.  S, B, and M back up to Lincon, M’s brother back to his home, and Tim and I back to Shoreham-by-Sea.


For more photos see: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/uk-trip-2008/london/

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UK Road Trip IV: Cardiff

After Hey-on-Wye, we headed down to Cardiff. We originally were going to spend the night in Cardiff, but plans changed after we got there. I wanted to see the Doctor Who exhibit and see the water tower and other Cardiff Torchwood locations, but sadly the exhibit was closed for remodeling, and not even the shop was open to pick up DW/TW goodies! So we poked around the Plas for a bit and took some photos, then headed near the docks to check out some Torchwood filming locations including the dock Owen jumps off of in Dead Man Walking, and we found the Hub front door!

After dinner at a fish and chips type place, we decided since it was so early in the evening we would just head back to Lincoln to sleep at home. We got back around 11PM and shortly after went to bed.

Today has been spent doing some laundry and just having a relaxing day at home before it was off to meet Tim’s parents and sister. We had a good time, and now we’re contemplating what to do with the rest of our weekend before Tim has to get back to work. Tim’s dad was suggesting Scotland, but I’m not sure if that’s in the plans or not. Would be fun if it was, though!



My new wallpaper on my laptop – the millennium centre


the pier Owen jumps off of


Tim forgot to take off the wide-angled lens after we played with it, so I look a bit funny, but here I am at Torchwood!

More photos: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/uk-trip-2008/cardiff/

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UK Road Trip Part II: Stratford-Upon-Avon

Up bright and early for our drive out to Shakespeare’s birthplace. A friend of mine offered me her tickets to the understudy performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost, and I wanted to see Shakespeare’s birthplace, as I was disappointed we didn’t see it when we went to the UK in high school.

We managed to get 5-in-1 tickets, which gave us access to five different attractions, with admission good for an entire year! We saw Shakespeare’s birthplace, Nash’s House, and New Place, and will hopefully go back to see Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and her parent’s house.

It was amazing to be in a place steeped with so much history. The tour guide told us we were walking on the original flooring William Shakespeare himself played on as a young boy. In the attached museum, we learned all sorts of things about Shakespeare and his family…for example, his father had been the mayor of Stratford at one point, and we learned that when Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway got married she was already three months pregnant! In another building we got to see the complete works of William Shakespeare and all the different editions that had been produced, as well as what some publishers/editors changed in their editions.

Soon it was time to head to the theatre, and we had really good seats in the second tier. The understudy performance was a chance for the main actors to take a step back from their roles and allow their understudies to get some stage time in front of an audience. In some cases, the understudies were doubling up on roles and sometimes they even had to talk to each other! David Tennant (Doctor Who!) was one of the leads and we weren’t expecting to get to see him, so imagine our surprise when we were informed before the performance that he was stepping in to play the understudy’s understudy’s understudy for two small roles! The Doctor Who fangirl in me let out a few quiet squees of delight. At the end when everyone was clapping and the whole ensemble was on stage for bows, I’m fairly certain David looked over at me and grinned.

After the play we wandered around the town for a bit and I picked up some postcards and other items. There was a Crabtree and Evelyn store so I bought my aunt some rose soap (and it’s still pretty expensive even in the country it’s made in!). We had parked in a carpark, so we had to get ourselves back to it before the last bus, and started the drive to Hereford, where we had booked a hotel for the night.

After arriving and checking into the hotel, we decided to go out in search of dinner….and the town was absolutely DEAD for only being nine in the evening. We wound up over at a Fish and Chips place where I ordered a veggieburger that turned out to have onions in it, so we stopped at the Subway on the way back to the hotel and I picked up a sandwich.



Shakespeare’s birthplace


a poster of David Tennant

For more photos see: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/uk-trip-2008/stratford-upon-avon/

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Leg One: Philadelphia, PA to Winnipeg, MB

Today I embarked on the first leg of my trip up to Dauphin!

Flights:

Northwest Flt 1765 PHL -> DTW Departed 9:25 Arrived 11:12 at Gate A-40 (or some insanely high number)
Northwest Flt 4739 DTW -> YWG Departed 12:15 at Gate C-29!!!

YIKES! I had to travel across pretty much the entire MacNamara terminal to grab my connection…but I still had time to grab a gardenburger from Fudruckers. It wasn’t a bad burger, and surprisingly only $5.79. And other than a bagel I scarfed down in the car, and a peanut butter and jelly uncrustable, the only food I ate today so far. Oh, and I get to add “tram” to my list of transportation devices I’ve taken on this trip. IF I go to the mall, I’d also add a bus, but I just walked around one mall,and I’m not sure I have the energy to walk around another.

Types of transportation today: Car, Plane, Tram, Cab (do the people mover things in the airports count?)

Probably the most nerve-wracking thing for me was going to be going through Customs once in Canada, but surprisingly? No problems at all.


here’s my passport stamp!

Thank you, Canada for hiring competent customs agents who are BNL fans and who just stamp my passport while babbling about BNL instead of asking me all the required questions!

After breezing through customs, it was a short (albeit pricey – CDN$12.30) taxi ride over to the holiday Inn, where Sarah had booked me for the night. The hotel is really nice, here’s a view from my window:

After settling in, I took a walk down to the Shoppers Drug Mart and a mini mall, then I headed to The Bay to do some browsing. Now, I’m back in my room, drinking the horrible excuse for tea the hotel offers for free.

Oh, and I turned the sink in the bathroom into a wet bar:

To see more photos from today, check out my album for today: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/winnipeg-manitoba-august-2008

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Welcome to Our Nation’s Capitol

I visited the nation’s Capitol this weekend with my friend L and her husband. We learned several important things we didn’t know before and hadn’t discovered on the school trips we used to take to DC.

  • Things aren’t as close as they look on the map. Sure, it may look like you’d be able to go between ALL the Smithsonian museums AND see all the major monuments, but the National Mall area is nearly two miles long from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol building. Even if you’re a fast walker and can walk across the length of the mall in a half hour, you still will have to contend with other tourists that may be blocking your way and construction. And that’s not the only walking you’ll do! Don’t forget you first have to get to the mall, plus walk around inside all the buildings. And if you’re planning on seeing anything that’s not actually part of the mall, factor in more walking.
  • since 11 September, security has been stepped up at ALL attractions. Each building has it’s own security checkpoint now, complete with metal detector and someone to check your bag(s). It’s not too bad when you’re going into something like the Freer Gallery of Art, but if you’re waiting in line at the Archives to see the US Constitution, prepare to wait. They even have signs snaking around the side of the building to tell you how long the wait is to get in from certain points.
  • The Metro is nice, but there can be delays, and stops might not be convenient. L picked a hotel near a Metro stop that had a shuttle, so we wouldn’t need to drive into the city. From where we were in Alexandria, it was a 40 minute Metro ride to the Smithsonian stop. Not a bad ride, but it depends on how late you’ve started your day. Currently, there’s also construction along the Orange line, so be prepared for delays.
  • Pack a water bottle, and make sure you have an insulated case for it. DC tap water isn’t the best thing to drink, and bottled water can cost an arm and a leg ($2 for a small bottle of Dasani). Make sure you have a way to keep it cool, too, especially if you’re visiting in the Summer. If you have room in your bag, pack a few snacks too. Remember that sugary drinks like soda will not quench your thirst and may actually make you hotter.
  • Do not trust your GPS within the city. L’s GPS got confused, and we wound our way through downtown into bad parts of town and through circles…Logan at least once, and Thomas twice. While we’re on the subject of GPS, don’t tell it to avoid stop-and-go traffic on the highway. It will take you through the city instead and make you contest with traffic lights.
  • Washington DC rolls up the sidewalks early! Many buildings and monuments close between 5:30 and 7:30PM, some even earlier. A late start to your day means you might miss out on some of the places you wanted to go.
  • If you have dietary needs, plan ahead. I’m a vegetarian with food allergies, and we had problems finding places I could eat at.
  • Wear comfortable shoes! Make sure you wear comfortable shoes. Don’t even attempt to wear new shoes, or shoes that might not be sturdy. A good pair of sneakers is your best friend. Wear socks, not only for extra cushioning, but to keep your feet from sliding around in the shoes if you sweat.
  • Don’t carry a large bag. Large bags mean more weight to carry around, and more time waiting for it to be searched. However, if you need to carry around a lot of things or plan on picking up souvenirs, then pack along something like a backpack which will distribute the weight evenly.
  • keep an eye on your belongings. Never leave a bag unattended, even if you’re sitting down to eat a meal. Hold your purse in your lap or put it on the floor with the strap looped though your leg. Don’t sling it on the back of a chair. Be mindful when you’re in a crowd too. Periodically check to make sure you still have all your essentials (wallet, phone, camera, etc.) and empty your bag of anything you won’t need. Avoid carrying all your cash at once or in the same location. If you are an international traveler, keep your passport in a safe place.
  • Make sure you get off the right side of the Metro. Most stops have two exits. Look at the signs and follow them to the side you want, or you not only may wind up doing lots of extra walking, but you could wind up on the “wrong side” of the tracks.

Washington DC can be a very fun place to visit. There’s a variety of museums for everyone in your family to find something they’ll like. Currently, the Museum of Natural History has a butterfly conservatory right inside the museum where you get up close to the butterflies by walking through their habitat. The National Gallery currently has a Jim Henson exhibit where you can see some of the original muppets running until October, and the National Archives has a display of political cartoons.

If you’re planning on eating while downtown and you’ve got a variety of tastes in your family, head to the Old Post Office. The bottom floor of this building has been converted into a food court with food ranging from pizza to Mediterranean to subs, hot dogs, and ice cream.

You can completely avoid driving by taking the Metro everywhere, and you can even fly or take a train into DC and then get on the Metro. I took the train from Lancaster to Hamilton, NJ where I was picked up by L and then we drove to our hotel in Alexandria where we left her car and used the Metro to get into DC. Fares vary depending on how far you need to travel, but a daypass is only $7 and you can purchase day passes at all Metro stops using an automated machine that takes both charge and cash.

To see photos from our trip to DC, including a free Carbon Leaf show in Baltimore, you can view them here: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/wa

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