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Women’s March in London

I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit

On January 21 2017, the first day of Donald Trump’s Presidency, women-led marches, welcoming all participants took place across the world, with over 2 million (and counting!) global participants.

We marched for the protection of our fundamental human rights. I marched to remind Mr Trump that we exist, we are watching, and we will not let him take away our rights. I marched along with my sisters (and brothers) across the globe to remind the world that love trumps hate. We will not remain silent. We will not allow Mr Trump to take away rights for women, the LGBT family, or minorities.

I attended the march in London. There were many marches across the UK – some even in some of my favourite places to be – but I chose to attend the London march to march with some of my fellow ex-pat friends. At last count, they estimated 100,000 people participated in London alone….and the police only expected about 10,000. So given those numbers, you can imagine how crazy the event was. This led to me thinking the event wasn’t very organised, but after speaking with a friend who was part of the volunteer base, I found out that the problem actually was more people than they had planned for, but in my friend Bonnie’s words:

When a march greatly exceeds its expected size, the very fact that it strains the organised plans is a mark of success. Traffic is tied up, streets & rally points overflow, AND THAT MAKES THE CITY & COUNTRY TAKE NOTICE. It is a bit of bother for participants but it means you got your point across. So pat yourself on the back. You just launched a Movement!

Of course we will need to do things to keep this movement growing, and I am committing myself to making whatever difference I can, in the UK, US, and globally.

Same shit, different century*


I share in their sentiments.

My day started off early in the morning. Too early, in my opinion, but when you can catch a lift into town with your husband on early turn, you take it. Even if it means waking up at 0400 and arriving in town at 0530 and your train isn’t until 7! But that’s OK. I had plans to grab a coffee from wherever was opened and then sit in the warm waiting room in the station, which opens at 6 (the waiting room opens at 6. The station opens earlier for the 0526 train, but then you’d have to sit on the cold platform until they unlocked the waiting room). I wound up going to McDonald’s after noticing a distinct smell of oranges coming from my back.

I bought a coffee, grabbed a stack of napkins, and found a corner. As soon as I opened up my rucksack I saw the problem — my bottle of orange juice to go along with my packed breakfast had leaked…everywhere. Fortunately, I am a smart packer even for a day trip so everything inside my bag was inside bags (plastic or cloth) and my electronics (my kindle, selfie stick, and emergency charger) were all in a separate pocket. The item that really got the damage, which I ultimately threw away was an A5 sized make up bag from Accessorize I had bought on clearance for £2 (because it was damaged by missing a single bead!) last year. Inside the bag was some extra layering items in case it got colder. All the items inside the bag were fine as the bag absorbed most of the juice. The juice also got on the drawstring bag my butterfly twist flats are stored in and a folding shopping bag (I kept both of those). I also had some face wipes in my bag, so I used those to give the inside of the bag a quick clean, re-loaded, and headed over to the station. It was around 0630, but the London train was already on a platform so the guard let me board even though the lights were out. Fortunately, by dumb luck I picked an unreserved seat once the reservation signs lit up! I managed to sleep for part of the journey until about Nottingham when other people boarded and sat with me (I was at a table) and we chatted – including a girl who was also attending the march. We arrived into St Pancras a few minutes before 10, and I made a beeline for the toilets since I knew we wouldn’t have many opportunities for a loo once we were part of the crowd.

I arranged with my other friends coming down from the North that we would meet up at the Meeting Point at St Pancras, also known as The Lovers. It’s a huge statue of a couple embracing right in front of the Eurostar platforms (which are behind glass). It’s a relatively quiet spot too, so I knew we’d easily be able to meet up. People started trickling in, and we finally had our group by 11AM so we headed to the tube. Plans were to go as far as Oxford Street and then walk to Grosvenor Square from there as we knew it was going to be hectic.

What we hadn’t planned on was how hard it was going to be to keep 6 adults and 4 children (one in a pushchair) together, and we actually became separated with one child with us on a platform while mum and the other 3 had boarded a train! No worries, we just took her with her and kept her calm until we met up with her mum again at Oxford Street….where we joined massive, massive groups of people all with signs all with one purpose. Fortunately, several of us know the area pretty well and we knew to go down a different side street than everyone was being directed on….but we met with a wall of people just shy of Grosvenor Square!

Crowds at Grosvenor Square

The rest of our friends were “near the drums”, so we asked a volunteer how to get there and they directed us to use the pavement to get down to our friends, but we soon were blocked there as well. Two of our group managed to get through (though I don’t know if they ever found the rest of the group!), and the rest of us were stood on the opposite end of Grosvenor Square from the US embassy for at least a half hour. Probably longer now that I really think about it. At some point we got shoved around by people behind (obviously wanting to get moving) and the official march time start came and went. Chants of “We want to march” rang out, and my friends and I kept ourselves amused by looking at all the different signs people had brought. I pulled out my selfie stick to grab some pics of the crowd, as I knew this was the only way I was going to get any!

Eventually, a volunteer with a megaphone came near us followed by a motorcade of motorcycles and told us we needed to move, so we threaded our way through the taxis to a little slip….where we stood again for probably another half hour before we finally started to move! We got to the corner and people were being directed to march back towards the embassy building, but we headed straight instead and caught up with another section of the march further on.

We were finally on the move! But the crowds were still very large and it became harder and harder to keep our small group together. At one point, I got cut off from my friends and I thought I could see the hat of one of my friends, but it turned out not to be her and I was well and truly separated from them. I marched on, but I really needed a loo.

I got as far as the Hard Rock Cafe, and I decided that I would go use their loo, even if it meant that I had to get a table or go to the bar, but fortunately, they were allowing people who asked in to use their loo. I then walked a bit past the Hard Rock to try to find out where my friends had got to, but a police officer told me I needed to keep moving as “this wasn’t a stopping area”. Err…Ok.

I wound up on a quiet side street where I managed to get myself back in with the main march crowd, and I had hoped closer to where my friends were…..but then I soon gave up on finding them or getting through the crowd. Someone near me murmured that online it was reported that we had 50k (this figure later turned into 80k, then 100k as they realised how many were there). Someone else was loudly complaining that they didn’t understand what all these people were here for (I’m assuming they were a tourist and got swept up in the crowds by accident). I finally saw the Green Park tube station, and that was when I decided I was going to head back to King’s Cross as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to find my friends again, and it was already well past 1500. The rally was supposed to have started at 1400, and I knew if I didn’t make it back to KGX by 1830, I would have to wait until 2030, which would be the very last train that could get me home on a Saturday.

After looking at the National Rail app and talking to Tim, I decided to get something to eat and made plans to get on the 1630 Virgin East Coast train to Newark, and then onto Lincoln from there. I even made it home and was in bed before some of my friends made it out of London!

I’m really glad I went, I’m glad I was counted in the numbers demonstrating, and I would absolutely do it again if the need arises.

Artist remains anonymous, but gives her permission for her art to be shared/used.**

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*I saw these ladies, but I did not take this picture. This picture was taken by Tara Rose. I just borrowed it for instagram (So this pic has been edited by me via Instagram).
**As stated in the caption, the artist wishes to remain anonymous, but has given her permission for others to use her art and to share her art. This image is not mine.

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th Birthday Beacon Lighting

HMQ90-logo

Today marks Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday and people up and down the country are celebrating, including my small village in Lincolnshire. And this isn’t the Queen’s only birthday! on 11 June, we will also celebrate the Queen’s official birthday! Why, you ask? Apparently, it all started with King George II who was born in the Autumn, but the military cavalcade celebrating the king was held over the summer. Ever since, the reigning royal can have two birthdays – the day of their birth, and a day during the summer when weather would be more suitable. I’m not kidding. Seriously. Google it.

Anyway…..

Our village applied for a beacon when we were celebrating the Queen’s jubilee, and apparently we were the only local parish to be given one! I attended the Jubilee, and so I thought I would have a wander down to the village hall for her birthday beacon.

It really does make me feel proud to be British and proud to be part of this country when I see so many people turning out for these kinds of events, even at the local level.

Here’s a short video I put together for the lighting:

What a fun and chilly evening. Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth!!

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The contents of this post, including personal images and videos are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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My Visa Journey Part 2: ILR (aka Permanent Residency)

Yesterday was probably the most nerve-wracking and important day in our lives. As if getting married and applying for a Spousal Visa wasn’t bad enough, it only lasts for 2 years (technically, 28 months to give extra time in case you arrived more than a month after your visa was issued). To stay in the UK longer, you currently need to apply for ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain AKA Permanent Residency). You can apply by post or in-person. The in-person appointment has a heftier fee, but it’s an immediate decision and saves weeks of finger nail biting. We decided on an in-person appointment for peace of mind, and also just in case we decide to go abroad on a long weekend (we’ve toyed with a weekend in Paris, but might put it off so we can save more for a trip to Austria in June).

My appointment was for 11:15 at the Sheffield PEO office and the appointment information states you should arrive 30 minutes before your slot. We decided to take public transportation the whole way starting with a bus at 7:40AM out of the village. Our train was running early and we actually arrived at the PEO office with an hour to spare.

Getting through security was an ordeal. There was a couple behind us complaining that their appointment was in 10 minutes and I couldn’t help but wonder why they hadn’t read the information on the website! To get through security, we had to take the batteries out of our mobile phones to show the inside. We were allowed to put the phones back together, but we had to leave them off the whole time we were in the PEO. Tim made the best blunder of the day by forgetting his dress shoes were work issued and had steel toes! Fortunately, security just waved him through after I said “it’s the shoes”.

We checked in early and were quite surprised to get called up to the desk within 5 minutes. Our case worker, Joe, looked at my application and asked me when I filled it out. I told him I had printed it off the website a few days prior and he said “everyone’s been telling me that, but this is the old form”. He then handed me the new form and asked me to fill it out. There are NO differences between the old form and the new form, save for the fact that the bottom of the new form says “10/2011” and the old form “04/2011”. Apparently, the website hadn’t been updated with the new form and everyone coming in this week has had to re-do their form on arrival. I told the man at reception I had finished the new application, and before we even found seats in the crowded lobby, we were called to the desk again.

This time, Joe went through our entire packet. He asked me where in New York I was from, and I puzzled him by answering “I’m not”. I then explained how I was born in Brooklyn, but my parents moved when I was a baby. Surprisingly, he knew where Princeton was after he didn’t know where Hightstown was. He checked to make sure we had the required documents, transferred it into a plastic document folder, and told us to proceed to the payment counter. We had to wait for about 10 minutes while someone came to the counter, but the money was soon out of our account and the woman at the payment counter said she would “pop (y)our documents over to the case worker” and that he would be with us “shortly”.

Shortly turned into two hours. Two nervous hours. I tried reading, but I couldn’t even tell you what I was reading. I couldn’t even speak to Tim because I knew if I opened my mouth I might start crying from all the stress. I kept worrying that we had missed something, or something was wrong. I kept wondering if I should go back up to Joe to ask him if they needed more documents, because I had two years of bank statements, payslips, etc. with me just in case. Finally, we were called to another window where we faced a stony-faced man named John.

From the look on his face, I was expecting bad news, but he surprised me by telling us we had been approved! He then chatted with Tim about his job for a little, and asked us how we met (in some ways, I wonder if he was checking the information on file from my first application, but I’ll pretend he really was interested). He then told us we could leave and return in a half hour to 45 minutes for the visa to be processed. I really wish they had given us the option of leaving and returning during the two hour wait instead!

We left and walked down the river to a Tesco Extra for a snack and by the time we got back and went through security again, my visa was ready! Happy day! What a relief!

We celebrated by having a late lunch at Meadowhall at our favourite restaurant, Frankie and Benny’s.

As of January 2012*, These are the minimum required documents for ILR (if settling as a spouse**):
-Completed ILR application. The bottom of the application should read “10/2011”.
-Life in the UK pass certificate
-Your passport
-Your spouse’s passport
-Two passport photos of yourself
-One passport photo of your spouse
-Three most recent payslips for your spouse and yourself (if applicable***)
-Three most recent bank statements (jointly held or singly held)
-Six pieces of post spread out over the previous two years illustrating that you and your spouse share an address. Alternately, you may use six addressed to each of you for a total of 12. They should be from at least three different sources****.

Anything else is just extra fodder and they honestly don’t need it unless you need further documents to prove residency, employment, or funds. If you are in doubt, contact an immigration lawyer^.

All hurdles are complete for settlement in the UK. Once you have ILR, as long as you do not leave the country for an extended period of time (I believe it currently is two years), you are permitted to live here.

My plans? Citizenship, once I become eligible. As a spouse and under current rules, I will become eligible on January 22, 2013, after three years of residency.

*Please check the UKBA website for up to date information as requirements can change at any time and use my information as a rough guide.
**ILR applicants that fall under other categories have additional requirements. See website and application for details.
***Include payslips from whoever is employed. If you both have jobs, include payslips for each.
****My documents were council tax bills for both 2010 and 2011, e.on bills from random months in 2010 and 2011, a barclay’s bank statement, and a Santander/Soverign Bank statement. If you have changed address, you might require more documents.
^ I did not contact a lawyer to review my application as I felt fairly confident I knew what I was doing based on my own research. However, I brought along additional information in case we were asked for it including our birth certificates, marriage certificate, expired passports, Tim’s payslips for the previous two years, bank statements for the past 6 months, mortgage statements for both 2010 and 2011, and pieces of mail for each month from January 2010 to December 2011 addressed to either myself, Tim, or both of us. If I was sending my application by post, I might have included some of the other documents.

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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Welcome to Wales. Our vowels are A,E,I,O,U,Y, and sometimes W

And, we’re back! I have loads of photos to sort through (over 1000 of my own, not counting Tim’s or the video) before I can really start posting, but I thought I’d post quickly to say that we’re back and mention a few things.

Welsh Language
You would think that with all the time I spend in Wales, I’d be picking up Welsh, but no. Though I can tell you that a microwave is called a Popty Ping (a word Tim and I want to start using at home). And some of the place names looked like they had no vowels due to Y and W. Even the town we were staying in, Caersws, isn’t pronounced anything like how it looks. For one thing, the second R is silent. And the WS makes an “oo” sound.

Camping
Camping was great. We stayed at Maesmawr Farms, a small family-run camping site in Caersws. We used our large Halford’s tent again this year, but we’re wondering how many more years it will be good for as it started to fade a lot in colour this week. But I think I can get some spray to re-waterproof it and re-sunproof it. The campsite was great, and I’ll write a full review of it later.

Railways
We visited a lot more railways than we probably should have. We actually re-visited three of the railways twice because of bad weather the first time we rode them or because we had plans to do them with different people, but it all worked out. I had more fun on the trains than I would have walking around castles getting soaked.

Weather
It’s Wales. It rained. A lot. Apparently I slept through a really bad thunderstorm on our last night, too. Most of the rain during the day was all light drizzle, but we did have a major downpour on the one day which left us soaked from the hip down, including squelching trainers (US: Sneakers). Most of the rain kept to night time, which made me need the loo about 5 times each night. The nights it didn’t rain were a lot colder than the nights it did.

Friends and Family
We spent part of our holiday with friends and family. For the first three days, Tim’s brother and his girlfriend were camping with us in the in-laws caravan. We had the rest of the week to ourselves, and then met up with Helen and Mark on the first Saturday.

Unfortunately, while we were away, Tim’s best mate’s dad passed away and we got a call asking if we could come to the service. So we did. 11 hours of travel in a single day because we first had to take the train up to Lincoln to pick up appropriate clothing (we debated buying new things for the funeral, but in the end it would have been expensive). We were home for 2 hours and then got back on the train down to Brighton. On Wednesday after the service we took the train from Brighton back to Wales, where we kept our tent and car sitting while we were away. In the end, while it took two days away from our holiday, we were glad we went.

Welsh Wildlife
…and farm life. Our campsite was on a working farm, so there were sheep grazing in the next field over. We never saw them, but we could hear them at night. We also had to stop in the middle of the road for a few sheep that had escaped and were trying to cross the road! From the various trains, I also saw sheep being herded by sheepdogs and shepherd’s riding quad-bikes. Pretty interesting things. In other wildlife, Tim saw a badger for the first time ever, we watched loads of Red Kites hunting for food (even have brief video), and on our last night, we were treated to a dance by two bats swopping just inches away from our heads!

And that about sums things up for now. I will be writing more detailed posts later, as time permits and after I sort through my photos. You might catch photos on facebook and video on youtube before I get to the posts about things!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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Royal Wedding Fever, Part II

Apparently my Olympus Mμ 3000 takes video in Mp4 mode (aka Apple format) and though Windows Movie Maker let me drag the Mp4s in and let me edit things, it wouldn’t publish the final video. This was frustrating me to no end yesterday as I tried about three times to edit the footage together, only to have it stall all three times at 20%, 46%, and 24%. I gave up and decided I would try again tomorrow, not realizing the video format issue.

I discovered the issue today, when I was looking at the files and noticed they had the Quicktime symbol on them….ooops. I converted the Mp4s down to wmv files thanks to a free program called Prism, and finally got it edited and up on YouTube*. So, here it is. My video from Friday!

Link if the embedded video doesn’t show up: http://youtu.be/F1TDnVX42B8

*I’m sure there are easier ways to do this, but what can I say? I like doing things the hard way!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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Royal Wedding Fever, Part I

I woke up at 4AM on Friday morning and Tim drove me to the train station where I boarded a train headed for Newark North Gate (followed by a train to London King’s Cross). Yes, I was going to join the crowds outside Westminster Abbey. I didn’t expect to get close enough to see much, but I was going for the experience and so I could say I was there.

I will write a post later describing my day, but for now, here’s a copy of my Twitter feed from yesterday:

  • 05:20:35: People on train with bacon buttys. Makes me hungry!
  • 05:29:14: Wave at the signalling centre!
  • 06:05:04: Snagged an unreserved seat to london
  • 07:38:54: Have met two lovely people on the train. We decided to stick together for a bit
  • 07:52:02: Mcdonalds at kings cross has free loos. (Bought a cup of tea though) #london
  • 08:30:27: At big ben. Trying to get close to westminster
  • 09:01:22: Amidst the crowds at westminster
  • 09:04:23: Anyone know where nbc is camped out?
  • 09:07:40: Cant see a thing but this is so worth it!
  • 09:21:00: Beckham has arrived
  • 09:29:30: American stations need to find me!
  • 09:37:32: Mayor of london arrived
  • 09:50:25: Just got interviewed by fox 11!
  • 10:03:48: On the move again. Can’t see anything anyway!
  • 10:18:17: Can see prince charles and harry’s car
  • 10:35:46: Saw princess anne!
  • 10:53:07: Oops. Walked in front of a ‘news caster’ who had a cheaper camera than me
  • 10:59:04: Found nbc but they are on the roof
  • 11:12:38: Passed a few regiments of marching soldiers.
  • 11:43:10: Listening to wedding in the park
  • 11:53:14: Whole crowd singing along to god save the queen
  • 12:07:14: Walking, walking, walking
  • 12:15:32: Ha! Knapsack got caught in cop’s handcuffs as i squeezed past!
  • 12:26:28: Omg. Just saw the queen!
  • 12:32:30: I’ve lost my new friends. 🙁 oh well it was a fun few hours
  • 12:35:34: Not going to see the official wave. Had enough of crowds. Might find a bench and have my lunch
  • 12:50:06: My bottle of sparkling water exploded on me and person next to me. He was a good sport though
  • 12:53:05: To rosa and arthur of grantham- thanks for making it fun. Sorry we got separated
  • 13:11:11: Is westminster abbey open to tour this afternoon?
  • 13:15:41: Have taken off and put back on longsleeved undershirt in public without flashing thank you hhs marching band!
  • 13:27:57: And a cheer went up! Must be the wave
  • 13:31:23: Amazing flyover!
  • 14:04:45: Should have stayed in park longer! Too many people
  • 14:14:33: Just walked past downing street
  • 14:31:01: Abbey not open 🙁
  • 15:19:28: Twit on underground giggles everytime cockfosters is announced
  • 15:39:59: In the loo at st. Pancras giving myself
    Wet wipe refresh. Sweat=more infections in armpit
  • 15:54:36: St pancras so much quieter than kings cross! Love the hubs for suggesting it
  • 16:18:52: Ah. East midlands trains…smooth and quiet
  • 18:28:35: Almost home…the rapeseed is killing my nose!
  • 19:33:27: Fine alk day and my knee goes at st mark’s in lincoln
  • 19:47:23: Uni campus is dead
  • 20:45:40: Should i be concerned that the door to the ladies loo at frankie and bennies reads ‘dies’?
  • 22:12:28: Home from my big day out after a wonderful meal with Tim. off to bed for this sleepy commoner! Will update with pics and blogs tomorrow!

You also can watch parts of the Royal Wedding on their official YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheRoyalChannel including THREE HOURS of coverage via this link: http://youtu.be/schQZY3QjCw

I do have a vlog I took while in the crowd, it’s in the process of being uploaded now.

For other more official coverage, see:

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11767495
Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/royal-wedding/
And another person who was amidst the crowds: http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2011/04/29/135834585/the-royal-wedding-a-crowds-eye-view

My photos are available on Facebook via this link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/fbx/?set=a.10150235908637160.371117.522022159&l=9961b76489 but I will post highlights when I write my longer post!

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Photo at the top of this entry © The British Monarchy and may only be used for media purposes.
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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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Anglesey in the Rain

Tuesday brought us rain. Not wanting to walk around castles in the rain, we headed over to the Isle of Anglesey. Anglesey is the largest Welsh island and the largest island in the Irish Sea, as well as the fifth largest island surrounding Britain. It covers over 700 square kilometres of land (over 250 square miles) and includes the port of Holyhead. You might remember that my mom and I took the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead (and back) as part of our visit to the UK in September 2009.

Our first destination was the Pili Palas, a butterfly hut that included a reptile room, bird room, farm animals, and other insects (There was a row of spiders which I avoided looking at!). The butterfly section was kept at a balmy 80 degrees Fahrenheit for the tropical butterflies…which were allowed to roam all over the room. Unfortunately, the extreme change in temperature (from the chilly outside to the warm inside) caused the digital SLR to steam up. Fortunately, I also had my small camera with me, and I was still able to take photos of the butterflies. Also unfortunate was Mark’s displeasure for the heat. He did not spend much time with Helen and I as we admired the butterflies, and we moved quickly through the rest of the palas.

Our second stop was Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. No, I’m not kidding. It is, in fact, the longest town name in the United Kingdom, and is tied for the third longest word in the world as far as I can tell*. The town name means “Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of Saint Tysilio near the red cave” in Welsh. Most people refer to it simply as “Llanfair PG”, but I kept calling it “Llanfair gogogoch”. I remember when I was at Penn State and I lived on the International Language floor, all our rooms were named after international cities and one of the rooms got the name “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch”…though we all thought the town was in Scotland, and were told it was the home of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. Whoops.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is pretty much only known for it’s long name. There’s a railway station and a shop/cafe. After Lunch, we shopped for a bit, then wandered over to the station to take some photos.

It was still early in the day, so we headed over to Beaumaris. We did not go into the castle grounds since none of us were in the mood for climbing lots of steps, but we took some photos and explored the town and waterfront area.

On our way back to the mainland, Helen spotted a spot to stop where we could get photos of both the Menai Bridge and the Brittania Bridge, the two bridges that connect Anglesey to the mainland.

*Through research, it appears to be the third longest word in the world at 58 English characters, but in Welsh, double letters count as one letter, so it then becomes tied for third. The longest word in the world, by the way, according to the Guinness Book of World’s Records is the Swedish town of Nordöstersjökustartilleriflygspaningssimulatoranläggningsmaterielunderhållsuppföljningssystemdiskussionsinläggsförberedelsearbeten, which apparently means “Coast artillery flight searching simulator area material maintaining follow-up system discussion post preparation tasks of the Northern Baltic Sea”.

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Llanberis Lake Railway & Caernarfon

Monday took us to Llanberis Lake Railway and the adjoining National Slate Museum. We arrived early enough in the morning to watch the two engines get steamed up, and got to ride on the first train of the day.

I was lucky enough to be able to show my Network Rail Spouse ID card and received a 75% discount on my ticket. A regular return ticket costs £7.20 for this five mile journey. The return trip takes an hour, and it is well worth it. The scenery is beautiful, and if you’re lucky, you can even catch Snowdon as it peeks out from the clouds!

The Llanberis Lake Railway is a narrow gauge railway. Mark was told the official size is 1 foot 11 5/8 inches, and our friend Dave told us on Wednesday that this is close enough to be considered two-foot gauge. We all enjoy narrow gauge railways very much, as that’s what Helen and Mark, Tim and I, and Dave and his family all have running through our gardens in a much smaller scale (we use 16mm to the foot, so our tracks are 32mm). One of the engines at Llanberis is blue and named “Little Thomas”, but they will claim it has nothing to do with a certain children’s story….

There’s not much else to say about Llanberis, as everything is better said in photos.

After our trip on the train, we took a quick look around the slate museum before heading off to Caernarfon, where we had lunch at the Floating Restaurant and then had a look around Caernarfon Castle.

The Floating Restaurant was fantastic. If you are trying to find it, you will need to walk the entire way around the outside of the castle and you will find the Floating Restaurant tied up close to the swing bridge. While we were eating we got to watch the bridge open several times. The food was reasonably priced and very good…and you got quite a lot for your money! During low tide, the restaurant doesn’t float, but once the tide comes in you can feel the boat sway slightly.

Admission to the castle is £4.95 for an adult, but if you have an English Heritage membership, you can get in for free. The earliest date with a reference to the castle is 1289, and it’s quite impressive how much of i is still standing. While visiting you can climb up the steps of all of the towers to see impressive views over the sea and town, walk around the castle walls, or look at the small exhibits scattered around the castle. In 1969 the castle grounds were used for the investiture of Charles, Prince of Wales and you can still see the dais where it took place in the centre of the courtyard.

The castle lawn is immaculate, largely due to the many “keep of the grass” signs, no doubt. It struck me as a little odd that people could not use the castle lawn area for picnics, games, or lounging when I am used to seeing people scattered about on the castle grounds at Lincoln, but I’m sure there is a reason behind it.

From Queens Gate (which is the gate Queen Elizabeth II entered from during Prince Charles’ investiture), you can look out over Caernarfon and see the Welsh Highland Railway. I visited the Welsh Highland Railway in September 2009 with my mom and Tim, but sadly, I never blogged about it. Something about getting engaged while visiting the UK in September and then planning a November 2009 wedding got in the way of blogging that trip.

Admission is money well spent, provided you have enough time to explore the entire grounds!

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Llandudno and the Great Orme

Our first full day in Wales was spend visiting the seaside town of Llandudno, the largest seaside resort in Wales. Llandudno is located on a peninsula between the Great Orme and the Little Orme. There are four ways to get up the Great Orme – drive, walk/hike, take the Great Orme Tramway, or take the cable cars. We chose to take the cable car, since Helen and Mark had ridden the Tramway in previous years and I knew I’d ride it with Tim in the future (Tim doesn’t like heights, so I knew he wouldn’t go on the cable car). Before we headed up the Great Orme, we split up to explore Llandudno.

I chose to visit the World War II Home Front Museum, as one of my specific interests is life during World War II in the UK of everyday people. Things like the child evacuation and the Ministry of Food initiatives fascinate me. The museum is hard to locate. It’s off on a side street, behind a church. I felt as though I was entering a residential area, but most of the homes that line the street are bed and breakfasts. I finally found the museum and paid my £3.25 admission. I was handled a WWII era torch to use in case I wanted to take a closer look at anything.

I was disappointed. It’s a very small museum, and for someone who is interested in this era and has been to lots of museums/exhibits on the subject, there wasn’t anything “new”. The museum contains a collection of war-time toys, gas masks, food products, and mock-ups of a grocery store, kitchen, and police station. If I hadn’t stopped to read everything, I would have been done in about 20 minutes. I stayed for about 45 minutes.

I still had nearly an hour before I was to meet back up with Helen and Mark, so I rang Tim for a few minutes, and then did some charity shop browsing (always fun to do in a new town!). As I was walking back up the high street, I noticed a parade going on, so I stopped and watched the majorettes for a bit before meeting up with Helen and Mark for lunch at a Wetherspoons. It was so busy, we had to wait 45 minutes for our food to arrive, but we were pretty impressed with the portion sizes once it did arrive!

After Lunch, we headed on over to the cable cars and had a long wait to get on one! The cable car is £6.50 for a single (one way) or £7 for a return (round trip), so we paid for returns. The cable car is the longest cable car ride in the UK and is over a mile long! The views going up were spectacular! Absolutely breathtaking and well worth the £7. We got to the top and had about an hour before the last return trip down, so we set off to explore the surrounding area and to do some shopping in the summit center. We also walked over to the tramway to get some photos of it. I also had what I have to call the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Whether it was because I don’t eat a lot of ice cream any more, or because I was eating it at the summit of the Great Orme I don’t know, but it was delicious!

We then headed into the queue for the return trip. There was a long queue! A man came by to make sure we had return tickets and assured us we would get a ride back down. After about 45 minutes, we finally boarded a cable car to begin the descent, and once again, the views were spectacular. We saw Llandudno from above, and I loved the way the houses all curved away from the shore.

Back at the bottom of the cable car ride, we wound our way down a footpath through the bottom of the mountain and headed back to the car to return to our caravan.

Later that night on the evening news, we heard about a crash that had happened a year ago on the Great Orme Tramway and the results of the investigation. Made us glad we had opted for the cable cars after all!

A selection of photos:

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Caravan Camping vs. Tent Camping

This past week in Wales, I stayed in a static caravan in Nebo with my friend Helen and her son, Mark. Our caravan was really nice – a lot nicer than I had expected! We had a large living room/dining room area with seating for at least 8-10 (though a small table that would struggle with more than 4!), and adequate walk-through kitchenette, a bathroom complete with a shower stall that was at least twice as big as the shower we have at home, and three bedrooms – a “master bedroom” that had a double bed, and two “kid’s rooms”. The kid’s rooms had single beds. One had two, and the other had two plus the capability of having a pull-down bunk bed up top. Each room had at least one small wardrobe and several drawers – the most being in the master bedroom, of course.

I slept in one of the kid’s rooms, and since I was alone was able to leave my suitcase and other belongings on the bed I wasn’t using, since there wasn’t really space to store my suitcase anywhere else. I even managed to unpack into the wardrobe and drawers, and had some of my toiletries lined up on the small shelf under the mirror. My room had one electric outlet, so I had to take turns charging the camera, phone, and ipod. The room was small – about as long as a single bed and then about a foot longer and really narrow. There was barely any room between the two single beds, but it was designed for kids, not adults.

The room next to mine was Mark’s, and his looked mostly the same except that at the foot of each bed overhanging it was a small wardrobe cabinet. I still think he and I should have changed rooms though, because he kept whacking his foot into the cabinet in his sleep and it woke everyone up!

Helen had the master bedroom. From what I could tell, it had plenty of storage and a small vanity, too.

Our living/dining area was nice and roomy. Three corners of the room were taken up by various sofas, and in one corner there was a dining table. The fourth corner held the entertainment section – a television, freebox, antennae, and DVD player. All running off of two outlets, so you had to constantly switch which item was plugged into the TV and outlet, but we managed. The people we rented from even leave a few DVDs in the caravan for perusal, though we had brought some of our own. The living room also had a gas operated fireplace, which was quite welcome on the chilly nights!

The kitchen was in the narrow hallway between the bedrooms and the outer wall, but adequate for a week. It had a small fridge/freezer, stove, microwave, kettle, and toaster. The owners stock the cabinets with dishes and cooking equipment as well as some dish soap and a dishtowel.

And boy, were those walls thin! Any noise in one of the rooms would carry into the others if it was loud enough. a few times I heard Mark’s CD player going at night. We had a bit of a fright on our second night there, though. We heard this loud knocking. I thought it was Helen knocking on my bedroom door, so I said “Yeah?” and then when no one opened the door, I got up with my torch (flashlight) and went to see what was going on. Helen was doing the same….and we had no idea where the noise was coming from!

The wind and the rain was pretty bad, too. The wind would shake the little caravan so much I really feared it tipping over and the rain was so noisy on the roof.

Were we camping? Technically, yes. Though, I don’t know many people who go camping with DVD players! In a few weeks, Tim and I will be tent camping (ie – REAL camping) in Austria and Germany. Since I’ve slept in the tent a few times, I know what to be prepared for…I just wish the tent had a kitchen! LOL

Here are some photos of the caravan:

And here’s a google earth shot of the 2 static cabins, the cottage the family lives in, and the surrounding area:

There were lots of public footpaths nearby, and we did go on a walk the first night (a post later with some pics). I’m hoping Tim and I can go back on our own and do some more walking!

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Return from Wales

I’m back from a week in Wales with my friend Helen and her son, Mark. Tim was unable to come with us due to his work schedule – he had the overnights this week – so I went without him. Our trip had it’s ups and downs…a major down being the camera (I took Tim’s big fancy Cannon EOS 300D) lens getting fogged up at the Pili Palace and me worrying that I had broken Tim’s camera (I hadn’t), and the rain. It rained one night so badly it was shaking our little static caravan! We had mostly good weather during the day, but then it all let loose on Friday afternoon and made it pretty miserable and wet in Porthmadog. But, a good time was still had by all and I will have several updates, hopefully before I head off to Austria with Tim 🙂

a few photos (highlights, really) are up on Facebook. I still have to pull the pictures off my regular camera (an Olympus SP 320)

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