Becca Jane St Clair

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Euro Road Trip Day 7: The Sound of Music Tour

IMG_9200 For my mom’s birthday, I decided to gift her with the Sound of Music bus tour. It was something she had told me she wanted to do, so Tim and I first thought about doing it on our own, but then in the end we decided to book the bus tour. Tim decided not to go with us today as he’s not a fan of the Sound of Music or bus tours. And honestly? I’m not really a fan of organised tours either. The last time I went on one was when I was visiting my friend in Germany and she had a lot of appointments one day, so she booked me on a tour out of Ramstein (her husband is USAF) and I hated it because it was designed for people who had never visited Germany and didn’t speak German. The Sound of Music Tour turned out to be fairly similar.

I booked the tour back in October through emailing the company and asking about available tours on the third (Mom’s birthday) because I knew I wanted to do it on her birthday. We reserved it at a cost of €42 per person. That’s A LOT of money for people who have mostly done things on a budget. But it was mom’s birthday. And I wasn’t going to send her on it by herself, so I had to book a ticket for myself too.

The tour takes four hours, and at first you think it’s pretty ambitious, considering the website lists 6 stops:

-Mirabell Gardens
-Leopoldskron Palace
-Hellebrun Palace
-Nonnberg Abbey
-St Gilgen

Except that it doesn’t actually have 6 stops. It has a “hey, here’s a drive past some of the lakes and oh, we’ll stop at this overlook for photos” kind of stop, 2 stops that were basically get off the bus and walk to see a single thing and then leave, and over an hour in Mondsee. We never saw Mirabell Gardens. The tour guide claimed that most of the city was shut that day for a bicycle race….except that Tim had just driven into the centre of Salzburg to drop us off an hour prior and there were NO road closures and NO diversions. We were told that due to this race, they were doing the tour “backwards” and we would hit the gardens at the end….but then we actually somehow managed to run out of time even though we had started the tour 15 minutes early.

I’m not entirely sure what the St Gilgen stop even was. I guess that was when we stopped at a scenic overlook over Wolfgangsee? The tour guide never said the words St Gilgen, so I’m not sure if we did this or what it was. We did drive through part of the lake district though (to get to Mondsee).

Our stop at Mondsee was largely unplanned. We were told how to find the basilica, but left to our own devices to get to it and walk around it or to explore Mondsee. I did wish we had more time in Mondsee only because I really only had time to walk to the basilica, walk around it, and walk back to the coach. I would have loved to have walked to the lake front.

Our next stop was Hellebrun Palace to see the iconic gazebo used in the ’16 going on 17′ song:

And the stop literally was a hop off the bus and a walk through the back gates of the palace gardens straight to the gazebo for a 10 minute photo shoot before returning to the bus for the drive to Leopoldskron.

Leopoldskron palace was used as the back of the Von Trapp home….sort of. They don’t show the bak of Leopoldskron, but we see the lion statues and the gate that opens up to the lake as seen in this scene:

So naturally, the tour takes us to the park on the opposite side of the lake so we can see those lion statues and the gate. Leopoldskron is now a hotel, so you probably could go there for a meal and then get to see the statues and gate up close.

And that was basically it! We then were vaguely shown the outside of Nonnberg (“see that red roof?”) before returning to Mirabellplatz and the end of the tour, where we were told we could freely roam Mirabell Gardens if we wanted (how nice of them, it’s FREE), but the tour was over. Mom and I wound up grabbing a tram to get a train to Pfarrwefen to meet Tim and go see our next accommodation.

Our tour guide was an older gentleman, and you could tell because his jokes seemed to be dating back to the 90s. He also definitely assumed that all of his patrons were American and were unfamiliar with Salzburg and Austria in general and he spent too much time telling us about the owner of Red Bull and the Red Bull Headquarters we drove past!

Value for Money
If all 6 stops were genuine stops, then this would be a great value for money as you get to visit 6 sites for €42, or €7 each. BUT Mirabell Gardens is free, you don’t get to see Nonnberg except as a drive-by, You aren’t even on the grounds of Leopoldskron, just across the lake from it in a park (free!), getting into the Basilica in Mondsee is free (they ask for a small donation), and you see St Gilgen as a drive-by. So essentially, you’ve paid €42 for admission to the grounds of Hellebrun palace and the bus ride itself. Oh, and it turns out you can visit the entire Hellebrun (so actually see the palace, trick fountains, AND gazebo) for €12,50 and it’s a short bus or boat ride from Salzburg (for €18!) if you don’t have a car. So…not worth it for anyone who knows German or at least can communicate in it or who is familiar with Salzburg. BUT if you aren’t comfortable with the German language or if it’s your first trip to Salzburg, this might be a great way to see some of the sites! However I will warn you that while this is a bus tour, there’s still a lot of walking involved as the coach parking area in Mondsee is a fairly long walk away from the basilica and the other two stops involve walking from a coach car park which isn’t directly on site. So if you were looking for something to do that didn’t involve a lot of walking, this wouldn’t be the tour for you.

You can watch my YouTube video of our tour here:

I promise it’s not 4 hours long!

Suffice it to say, while I enjoyed seeing the sites for the filming of Sound of Music, I did not enjoy this tour and I feel like Tim and I could have taken Mom to all these locations for a lot less than 84 euros.

Read about the full trip here as links are added as new posts and videos are posted.


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A Visit to the Seaside Penn State Style

A brief post today and then I will try to get back to my regular posting…I just haven’t been in a good enough mood to sit down and write happy things this past week while I’m still crying if I see a grey tabby cat on the telly.

On Saturday, my chorus held a workshop followed by a short performance for the attendees to invite their family and friends to. Tim tagged along to take pictures and video for us, and we were chatting in the car…

Me: It’s such a shame we were both stuck inside on this beautiful day.
Tim: The day isn’t over yet.
Me: I know. We should have gone to the seaside today or something.
Tim: Want to?
Me: Err…serious?
Tim: Serious.
Me: Yes!

So we did. We stopped off at home briefly to put tea in flasks, grab some jumpers and a blanket and we were off! Living close to the North Sea coast has it’s benefits for sure.

We stopped off in Sutton-on-Sea to pick up some fish and chips, and by a happy accident, followed a turned sign for parking completely bypassing the shore. Instead, we wound up in Sandilands, which I kept referring to as “Candyland”. It was gorgeous and empty, save for one fisherman and the occasional dog walker.

We spent a pleasant hour or two sitting on the beach, walking, and collecting some seashells before we decided to head home. As we turned a corner, I spotted a closed down hotel with a broken sign reading “We are”. I shouted “Penn State” and then I had to explain the cheer to Tim. He said “do you want to get a picture of it?” Erm, yes please! So we turned around and got some shots of Tim holding up my Penn State stadium blanket under the sign.

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Lincolnshire Life

Way back in March (yes, I know….I’m horrible at posting!) Tim and I went to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life

The Museum of Lincolnshire Life is FREE and is absolutely fantastic. Lincs Life has exhibits showing the county’s culture and people from 1750 to present day, with a large exhibition of the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment, where I found an interesting US connection.

Those of us who grew up in the US and studied US history have all heard about the “shot heard round the world” – The first shot that signified the start of the American Revolution (or if you’re in the UK, you call it the “American War of Independence“). As it turns out, the first shot was fired at a Lincolnshire man!

They also have a tank called Flirt. Flirt was the first tank (a Mark IV) built for World War I, and she just happened to be built in Lincolnshire. The museum also houses a Ruston engine, and other assorted bits of transportation related to Lincolnshire.

They even have a section of mock store-fronts and a section to play “dress up” with clothing from the different eras.

A friend of mine who used to work for Lincs Life told me they occasionally rotate the displays, and that they have loads more items to exhibit than they have room for, which means I’ll be sure to visit again! I loved learning a little bit more about the county I moved to. Paired with some of the other museums, attractions, and community events I’ve attended, I’m starting to feel like I fit in here.

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Bramble Ramble

Monday was a day off for Tim. After I got back from a GP appointment, I said to Tim “let’s go on a walk ’round the farmer’s fields”. Tim got out the Ordnance Survey Map for the area instead and picked out a route that went across the A46 through a wooded area and through some fields. We were originally going to walk to the Stepping Stones (some metal stepping stones placed in the river to walk across), but Tim got a phone call while we were out asking him to pick up a shift that evening, so we cut across a nettle-filled path that went right on the edge of a grain field and the beck to get home, but we walked 5 miles in total! We stopped at the corner Spar shop on our way out and picked up some sandwiches and snacks, and filled up our water bottles before we left. Fortunately, the rain held off and we only got spritzed on as we were almost back home.

There are over 140,000 footpaths in England and Wales. Picking up an Ordnance Survey map is a great way to get to know an area. The maps have all the public right of ways marked, so as long as you can read a map (and maybe have a compass) you’re good to go out and explore. You just need to remember to always stay on the footpaths. Some footpaths go around farmer’s fields, and some even cut through people’s gardens! Tim was telling me a story once about a public right-of-way that actually went through a person’s house because their house got built on top of one.

As we were walking, I noticed wild blackberry bushes. I commented that I wished I had brought along a basket…and then I had a brilliant thought. I could use my hat! So, my hat became a basket and we gathered blackberries and hazelnuts (off the trees) while we walked.

Apologies for the photo quality. I forgot to grab my camera and I’m still using the Sony Ericsson W200i phone, and it only has a VGA camera.

I’m going to freeze these, I think. I leave on Saturday for a trip to Wales with my friend H and her son, and I don’t want to make something Tim will forget to eat, so I’ll freeze them and figure out what to do later.

We also have a bumper crop coming in outside on our “cultivated” bushes, as our neighbour called them. Apparently the difference is the “cultivated” bushes have tighter, smaller sections than the wild ones. No matter to me, a blackberry is a blackberry and mmm, I’m already dreaming of blackberry and apple crumbles made from our own apples and blackberries!

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Annual Passes

Tim and I have visited various attractions the past two years that offer annual passes. We hardly ever take advantage of the offer since in many of the cases it’s an attraction that isn’t local, such as Walt Disney World or something like that. But I’ve been noticing a lot of attractions that are “local” (by local, I mean within a few hours drive) that offer an annual pass when you buy your admission.

Examples include:

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – Your admission price gives you unlimited entry to HMS Warrior 1860, Royal Naval Museum, and Action Stations for one year, however it is only valid for one entry to HMS Victory, the Mary Rose Museum, and Harbour Tours. Tim and I went in fall 2008. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to return to use our tickets again, but if you live close enough that you can go over the course of a few days, I highly recommend it! There’s so much to see there. Currently, you cannot visit the Mary Rose, as they are in the process of building a museum around her and expect to open in 2012, but you can still see everything else. Touring the HMS Victory was well-worth the banged heads on the lower decks!

Shakespeare’s Houses and Gardens – Entry is valid for one year, and if you download the voucher located here, you can even get a two for one offer on the multi-house ticket until October 2010. Tim and I first went in the fall 2008, and then recently took my mom for a visit a few weeks ago. This time, we used the 2 for 1 voucher (didn’t have one last time) and are planning on returning before our year is up. Just like Portsmouth, there is a lot to do there that all fall under the one ticket. When we went in 2008, we only had time to tour two of the buildings since we also had tickets to see a show at the theatre.

Beamish is another place that gives you a full year for the price of a single admission, and with so much to see there, it’s well worth it. We purchased tickets in September (2009) when my mom and I were visiting, and Tim and I took advantage of the annual pass and took a trip up to Beamish with a packed lunch so it only cost us petrol for a full day out! The first two times I was at Beamish, I only was able to see a few areas, as it was the Winter season. We finally went during the “Summer” season, but there’s still more to explore!

Or, if you’d rather a large variety of places to visit, there are organizations such as English Heritage (Membership starts at £44) and National Trust (Membership starts at £36). Each organization manages over 300 sites throughout the United Kingdom, and an annual membership gives you free admission to ALL attractions they own/operate.

Another website I’ve found useful for planning trips is Enjoy England. Enjoy England frequently offers 2 for 1 deals on many attractions.

Going away for a weekend getaway doesn’t have to be expensive!

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An Abbey in Ruins…Right in Our Backyard!

Today’s post is brought to you courtesy of Tim and I wanting to avoid the traffic back-up caused by an accident near Lincoln.

Tim and I went to Tesco a few Fridays ago to pick up some chicken wings, as I had promised my Father-in-Law that I would make him some buffalo wings. On our way into town we noticed there were huge back-ups going the other way. Not wanting to get caught in the traffic, Tim decided to take the long way out of town through some smaller villages and towns. It was a route I had never been on before with some beautiful scenery and winding country roads.

At one point he said to me, “if we turn here, we can see the abbey ruins”. Of course, I had to ask about them! Our short detour took all of about 20-30 minutes, and most of that time was actually walking from the side of the road over to the ruins, as there really isn’t much there to look at. It used to be an abbey called Barlings Abbey.

Barlings Abbey was founded in 1154. in 1537, the abbey was closed by King Henry VIII (when he was closing lots of abbeys, priories, and churches) and all of the valuables were taken away, including the roof! By 1726, only the tower and a few bits here and there remained. The tower fell in 1757 and you can see that some of the stone was used in the nearby farmhouse and farm buildings. Today, all that remains is a bricked up arch, part of the tower base, and lots of rubble. No formal excavating has ever been done on the site, and the remaining wall will probably eventually fall down as well, as it doesn’t have any support nor really a way to support it.

I still get a small thrill touching stones from the 12th century. I can’t help it. It thrills me to the bone to touch pieces of history. I really should have become a historian!

Barlings Abbey is located seven miles east of Lincoln. The site is in private ownership with public access through the farmland (provided you stick to the designated public footpaths) and is free. We actually were only two or three miles away from Tim’s grandad’s house in Langworth, which is only about four miles away from our house!

For more information, see:

Selected photos. More can be seen on facebook:

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Walking on a Country Road…

Tim and I have been trying to get out and do more walking lately, and one of the best ways to do so is to walk on one of the many Public Footpaths in our area. Public footpaths are pretty interesting. If you’ve got one on your property, you aren’t allowed to block access to it and need to let people walk on it, so some of the footpaths run down the middle of a farmer’s field or behind someone’s house! Apparently there have even been cases where a house had been built over a public right of way, and the owner had to let people traipse through their house! (not really. If you needed to, you could provide an alternate path and ask that the current path be diverted).

All the paths are marked on the Ordinance Survey map, and Tim happens to have one for the area. Tim’s parents walk the family dog along a public foot path and we did some walking with them (or just with the dog) last year, so this time we set out for a different path. Last week, we drove over to explore a new path in a nearby town, but yesterday we stayed close to home and probably walked about a mile round trip.

The walking was great fun….until we came to a muddy field that almost took my new shoe! In the future when we walk that path, we’re going to make sure it has been dry for a few days, I think. It also started to rain on us, which wasn’t too pleasant either!

We made it about halfway to Scothern (a neighbouring village) yesterday before we had to turn around and head back home due to the weather. Our goal is to walk the same path multiple times and to see how far we can get in a half hour as we improve our stamina.

I got new shoes just for doing all this walking, too. I think I spent at least an hour in Millets trying on multiple pairs of hiking shoes until I settled on the pair I got. They were a little pricey at £69, but not as high as some of the pairs they had (there was a pair I wouldn’t even look at because it was priced at over £120!). And I actually do notice the difference walking in them. My feet don’t hurt as much (or at all) when I’m wearing the boots. They’re a bit cumbersome though. I’m not used to clunky shoes so I keep tripping myself. But it’s still way better than trying to walk the muddy paths in some of the shoes I usually wear! I should take a picture of my shoes sometime ;).

Here are some photos of our ramble yesterday. It looks like (judging from the quality of the photos) my camera might be on it’s last legs (or it was the dying battery), so please excuse the poor quality:

(this also was my first try at using the WordPress gallery function. Pretty neat!)

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Have some Train with your Wine (and Cheese)

p5309533-640x480 This morning, my mom and I went to the Bird in Hand Farmer’s Market to pick up some vegetables. Since we were on that side of town, we decided we’d go over to the Strasburg Railroad and take a ride….only, we got to the parking lot and discovered that neither of us had managed to bring along a camera, so back home we went. We weren’t really planning on going back out today, but I was checking the Strasburg Railroad website to see what times the train was running on a Sunday, and discovered tonight was a Wine and Cheese train. I also discovered the Wine and Cheese train would be running on both our birthdays, but since Mom’s birthday is near Independence Day and my birthday is near Labour Day, we figured it’d be busy on those days, so we called up and got tickets for the 6PM train.

We boarded at gate “0” and were at the back of the train for the ride over to Paradise. They brought around trays with cubes of cheese, grapes, and strawberries for us to get what we wanted. I think we had four choices of cheese, but by the time the tray got to us, there was only Gouda, Cheddar, and an herb cheese to pick from. Our crackers were from a small basket sitting on our table. 4 Carr’s Wafers and 2 wheat crackers for the two of us to share. We had a choice of 4 wines – Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, or Strasburg Red. I was a little disappointed there wasn’t a blush/pink option. A Zinfandel would have rounded out the choices nicely! We picked the Riesling for starters.

The train got going and it’s a fairly straight 20 minute ride through the Amish countryside between Strasburg and Paradise. We passed the Red Caboose Inn and the site of the Amazing Maize Maze (currently being grown), as well as several Amish and non-Amish farms. in Paradise, we briefly meet up with the Amtrak line and the engine loops around to hook onto the back to pull us back in the other direction, so for the ride back, we were now the first car.

While the engine was being moved, we were offered our second glass of wine (this time we picked the Strasburg Red) and the platter of grapes and cheese went around again. We happened to be in the middle of the car, so by the time the trays came by this time, it was really slim pickings! We each managed to find a few pieces of cheese and some grapes. We were not offered seconds on the crackers. The group sitting across from us decided to order non-alcoholic drinks. 2 colas and a bottle of water. I was surprised when the gentleman on the end got out his wallet and needed to pay for the drinks. I think it would have been nice if they offered the non-alcoholic beverages for free (or at least, offer free water) since you pre-paid for your wine and if you weren’t going to drink the second glass, why not?

The train soon re-attached and we were headed on our way back to Strasburg. They came around for a third time offering wine, and I decided to try a bit of the Chardonnay. Mom opted to skip on her third glass. This time, the grapes and cheese were not offered.

We made it back to Strasburg a little before 7PM, which leads me to believe we must not have left right at 6, since it’s supposed to be a 45 minute ride total.

After a visit to the restroom (I had to, I had too much wine in me!) and some more photos, we headed to the car and decided to round out our little trip with dinner at Willow Valley.

Amish Farmland

Shadow of the Engine on the way back.

More photos are available at my Facebook page, which can be found here.

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More Snow Vlogs!

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I Climbed Steep Hill!

Last week Tim was doing training in town all week for a new system at his work, and since his days were a bit shorter (4-6 hours, depending on the day), I decided to tag along with him in the morning. The plans were for me to wander Lincoln on my own, maybe do a little shopping, and then when Tim was done, he’d call me to find out where I was and meet me so we could check the farmer’s market together.

Tim dropped me off around quarter of nine on his way to work. Shops weren’t open yet, so I started walking. I walked all the way up High Street and started thinking “hmm, this is getting kind of steep”, but I kept going until I saw a new street sign. I wasn’t on High Street anymore…I was on Steep Hill!

Steep Hill is a shopping section of town that goes between the High Street shopping area and the castle. Tim told me if I wanted to check out Steep Hill we could take a bus to the top and walk down, because he knows how much I dislike going uphill…and yet here I was at 9 in the morning walking up the hill.

I stopped at a tea house about halfway up for something to drink…I had neglected to pack along a water bottle for the day, not thinking I’d be far from the main drag of shops. Tea turned out to be just what I needed to get the rest of the way up the hill. The shops still weren’t open yet, so I walked all the way over to the archway that goes across the road. It’s the last remains of the Roman Wall that once walled off the city in the 1200s! It also happens to be the only part of a Roman wall that is part of a street for automobiles. All the other wall arches in the country go across pedestrian only walkways.

I had a poke around the tourist information center and then I headed back down the hill, taking a different route. This time, the shops on High Street were open, so I managed to get some Christmas shopping done.

I wound up going up into the Waterfront shopping centre to have my Lunch. There’s a mini food court, so plenty of tables. I parked myself in front of the window overlooking the canal, and I watched the people feed the swans and ducks..and pigeons. One man even had 4 or 5 pigeons perched on his arm!

I waited there for Tim to get off work and just read a book for about an hour or so. The farmer’s market turned out to be disappointing – only three stands actually showed up for it, but we did score some rolls and scones made with flour ground by a windmill, so that was exciting (and the man at the bakery stand also sold me the last 5 scones for less than one pound because it was the end of the day).

We headed home, and I started gearing up for our long weekend away the following day by doing some laundry.

Sunrise over Lincoln

Steep Hill

Roman Archway

More Photos:

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Local Day Out: Lincoln Castle and Ellis Mill

Yesterday, Tim and I decided to stay local and headed into town. We had hoped to do several things, but as many of the tourist sites close at “dusk” and it started to rain pretty badly, so we cut our trip short and didn’t get to go to the Cathedral, but I did get plenty of photos of it!

We started the day at Lincoln Castle. Lincoln Castle was built in 1068 by William the Conqueror. Lincoln Castle’s grounds also hosts one of the few surviving copies of the Magna Carta, as well as several prison buildings, and the Crown Court for the county, still in use!

We started our day by going into the display for the Magna Carta. I was absolutely awe-struck at seeing a piece of paper (well, vellum) that had been around since 1215 AND is the founding document for even our own (US) Constitution! The original is well-worn, and you can tell the ink on it is fading, so they provide for you a facsimile to read. The original is kept under very low light to help preserve it, and after we looked at it, I could tell why!

The next building we entered was the prison chapel. This was really creepy! In the chapel, the prisoners weren’t allowed to look at each other or talk to each other so they each had their own (uncomfortable) cubicle to sit in an had to wear a mask. The only person who could see anyone else was the Priest. They put dummies made up as prisoners into some of the cubicles so you could see what it would have looked like.

Around the corner was the gaol. We saw how each prisoner was kept in solitary confinement, down to having individual work rooms and how they received medical care. People were well-fed in gaol too, but some of the prisoners would make up ailments so they’d get fed better. Pregnant women would sometimes do things to get thrown into gaol because they would receive better care as a prisoner.

After the gaol, we decided to head up the castle wall and walk around the perimeter. We started by walking up almost to the top of the observatory tower before it got too windy and decided to stay on the castle wall. We walked the entire length visitors were permitted to walk on, and walked back down through Cobb’s Hall, a tower once used for public execution. You could see the steel hooks in the wall that the prisoners awaiting execution were chained up with!

It had started to rain while we were up on the wall, but it was still early in the afternoon. A few times when we were driving past Lincoln, I pointed out the windmill to Tim and asked him if we could go. I happened to see on the website that in the Fall/Winter they were only open on Sundays, so we headed over to Ellis Mill. Ellis Mill is a fully-functional windmill in Lincoln, the only one out of nine original mills to have survived. The mill was functioning until 1940, when the machinery was taken out to make equiptment for the war. A fire destroyed most of the mill in the mid-70s and then a restoration group came in and completely restored the mill. It’s been working again since 1981. For a very nominal fee (£1) we were able to go up inside the mill and watch it make flour. I love windmills and had even done a report on them when I was 12, so this was a very special trip for me.

For more photos:

I also took a short (16 second) video of the mill moving:

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UK Road Trip Part V: The North

On the suggestion of Tim’s Mum and my request to see the North Sea, we headed for the Eastern coast of Britain on Friday.

We headed towards “The North” and made the jaunt across the Humber Bridge to our first stop, Bridlington. We arrived in time to watch a rescue helicopter drill including sending the rescuer down in the cage and releasing flares! It was freezing standing out there by the sea, so we went across the street to a pub for some Lunch, where I discovered “pickle” doesn’t mean the same thing in the UK that it does in the US. I ordered a cheese and pickle toastie (US: grilled cheese sandwich) and got brown relish type stuff on it.

We also overheard a very amusing conversation between two older ladies and Obama became “Alabama”. Oh, and women aren’t voting for “Alabama” because he’s Muslim. *rolls eyes*.

After lunch and being sufficiently warmed up from the hot chocolate and the sun coming in through the pub window, we decided to walk down along the shore. We managed to get as far out as a few yards away from the cliffs, but the tide started to come in and we didn’t want to get stuck somewhere! The shore is beautiful, the chalk from the cliffs really stand out, and while I haven’t seen the White Cliffs of Dover, I can’t see what would make those “better” than the ones we saw! The chalk that falls off the cliffs into the water gets rubbed smooth by the sea and is washed up onto the shore, so the shore is littered with white smooth stones and pebbles. We wandered back to the car and decided to continue North towards Flamborough Head, one of the places Tim’s mum suggested.

Flamborough is beautiful. A pristine white lighthouse dots the coastline, and if you walk out far enough on the cliffs, you can even catch a glimpse of the original lighthouse tower from 1647! We drove past the original tower, but there wasn’t any place to pull over to get closer photos of it, sadly.

We spent some time wandering the cliffs behind the lighthouse and being careful of the edges – if you get too close to the edge, the cliffs can crumble right under you!

We soon left, and decided to check out Scarborough. I spotted a castle in the distance, so we headed towards it. As it turns out, that was Scarborough Castle, built in the 1160s by Henry II! I touched a wall that is almost 850 years old! We also discovered Anne Bronte’s grave was located in Scarborough…and not only that, but the graveyard we parked in (sponsored by the Church!) was the same graveyard she was buried in!

We managed the hike up the hill to see the castle ruins after paying a small, nominal fee and I was just awestruck by the ruins. It’s absolutely amazing to see these places in person and to know just how old they are!

The sun was starting to get lower in the sky, and we had one more place on recommendation from Tim’s mum – Robin Hood’s Bay.

As we walked uphill (again!) towards the shore, we passed several Bed & Breakfasts and restaurants. We had originally planned on continuing onto Whitby before finding lodging, but after passing a Bed & Breakfast that had a sign claiming to have a Vegetarian English Breakfast in the AM, we decided to see if they had a room available for the evening. The B&B was beautiful, and the owners were really nice. We also had our pick of three places that served dinner along the block. We looked at the menu at the two places farther away from where we were staying, and in the end picked the Victoria, the bed and breakfast next door to the one we were staying at! We both agreed we made a good choice, as the food was excellent. True to the owner’s words, the following morning I had a Full English Vegetarian Breakfast with veggie sausage instead of the traditional bacon and pork sausage.

More photos:

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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!

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UK Road Trip III: Hay-on-Wye and the Brecon Beacons

We set off early the next day for Hay-on-Wye, a small town at the edge of the Brecon Beacons that is known for it’s book festival and book shops….a map we picked up contained a full listing and there were 29 stores all within the small town!

We didn’t go into all the shops…quite frankly, I would have been afraid of our budget as well as our backs if we had! As it is, we picked up about 20 books between the two of us. We did avoid some of the specialty shops, but imagine Tim’s surprise when we ducked into a Social Sciences store for me and he wound up purchasing two railroad books!

We also got to admire the Hay Castle, a lovely falling-apart building (that had apparently survived a fire in the mid-70s). In the courtyard was a honour system based store with books that had been left to be reclaimed by the elements. 30p/book, which sounded like a great bargain until you started to look at the books and realized they were all water damaged and faded and in some cases partially growing into the foliage!

We stopped for a bit of lunch in a small mom-and-pop sandwich shop. The shop owner immediately recognized my accent as being American and asked where I was from, then asked “is that a Pennsylvania accent”, so I had to explain I grew up in New Jersey and he said to me “oh, I thought I heard a bit of a New York accent there”…which *really* puzzles me because I don’t think I have an accent from NY/NJ at all! He and his wife had gone to New York the previous spring, so we had a chat about that in between bites of (my first) toastie.

We left around 2, and on the way back to the car picked up some delicious fudge. The view from the carpark was beautiful – rolling welsh countryside dotted with sheep.

We had a leisurely drive through the Brecon Beacons (and I didn’t get eaten by cannibals!*) and arrived in Cardiff sometime around mid-afternoon….

the view from the carpark

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Just a Quick Note

I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be updating over the next few days later today with posts and photos from Lincoln, Leicester, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Hey-on-Wye, the Brecon Beacons, and Cardiff.

A few highlights before I forget:

Shakespeare’s Birthplace
29 book shops in Hey-on-Wye
The nice man in the sandwich shop who asked me what part of the US I was from and then chatted to us about his trip to New York
Finding the Torchwood door in Cardiff

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Made it to the UK!

For those of you wondering, I made it to the UK! 😀 I even managed to get the last seat in Business Class for the flight instead of having to fly in Economy Plus. Woot. United has incredible service (at least in Business Class). I don’t think my water glass was ever empty, and they were constantly trying to push glasses of wine!

The food was alright, but I wound up having to have the steak wrapped in bacon, which as a vegetarian was a no-no. So I ate the salad, the veggies, and potatoes. Fortunately, I had planned ahead for this and packed a bento so I had plenty of food.

We actually got to London around 5:30, but because planes aren’t allowed to land until 6, we had to circle around. 6 was still early for our flight, and we were the only international flight heading to immigrations/customs.

Going through Immigration/Customs was a breeze! Tim wrote a letter stating he had invited me for the length of time I was staying, and that *really* helped.

Of course, this meant I was ready to go by 6:30, and Tim wasn’t coming to get me until 7:30!

Tim and I decided we would make afew stops on the way back, and after trying to stop at two different manor houses that were both closed for the season, and being unable to locate the castle he wanted to take me to, we headed to Stamford for a few hours. We walked the town and the shops – a lady in a store selling hair clips convinced Tim to buy my clips (75p), and we went in a few used bookstores.

I loved Stamford. Such a lovely old beautiful town with even prettier buildings.

A sneak peek of some photos:

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Little Campsite on the Prairie

I spent the September long weekend (what the Canadians call the Labour Day holiday) camping at Blue Lakes with C, J, B, L, and the kids (6 of ’em in all!). It had it’s ups and downs, but overall I had a great time.

We got off to a slightly late start on Friday afternoon after having to run a few errands in town. The campsite is about 100km north of Dauphin or about an hour’s drive. We were camping on Manitoba’s only mountain that I saw in the distance on my train ride up. Part of the drive up involves a dirt road! I was once again fascinated watching the scenery out the window. The prairies that just never end and the endless blue sky.

B, L, and their kids had an adjoining campsite to ours, so we set up to cook and eat at our site. Unfortunately, the campsite had rules about the number of adults allowed to sleep on a site, so we couldn’t all sleep on one site. I borrowed a small tent from C, and with her help, put it up, and then we even managed to put up the large tent for C, J, and Baby C (J wasn’t joining us until later, as he had to work). L lent me an air mattress so I didn’t have to sleep directly on the ground, for which I was quite grateful. We finally got everything set up and got a campfire going for dinner.

We really were roughing it – Latreens for bathroom facilities, no showers (there were facilities, but it was a loonie for 5 minutes), and cooking over an open flame.

Friday night I noticed a lot of stars when I looked up….more than I’ve ever seen before. C suggested I walk out away from the campfire to see more, and K2 (B & L’s second oldest) came with me. We sat on a picnic table at an unused site and just looked up at the sky. We saw the milky way and all sorts of constellations I had only seen in books before. K1 and K2 (and B!) tried to convince me there were aliens and spaceships and when there was a moving star would say “hey look! aliens!”, but I’m not sure I buy that. I also saw several shooting stars that first night. Friday overnight was really cold and it rained. Unfortunately, I had to leave the warmth of my tent to find my way to the bathrooms around three in the morning.

Saturday morning was chilly, but fortunately it warmed up enough for us to go to the lake in the afternoon and go swimming. I had fun in the water with K1 & K2, playing catch and swimming. The kids discovered “sink sand” spots on the beach, and had fun getting sucked in up to their ankles in the sand before hopping out and then running into the lake to rinse off the sand.

Saturday overnight was chilly again. I was rolled in two blankets and I still was cold. Fortunately, I managed to get to the bathroom between rainstorms so I avoided getting wet.

Sunday, B & J took the kids fishing, so L, C, and I played Yahtzee and had a late lunch of blueberry pancakes. The kids came back in the afternoon because they got cold, and then in the late afternoon I learned how to play Canasta. I was partnered with B, and I didn’t know he was a card hoarder and we wound up losing because I went out while he was holding high cards! Whoops. Shortly after dinner, the downpour started. C, L, the babies, and I hightailed it into C & J’s tent where we all piled onto the bed and got under blankets to stay warm. I went and retrieved most of my belongings out of my tent in case it leaked, and for a while we thought I might have to sleep in their tent. The rain finally let up around 10:30, so I headed into my own tent and read by flashlight until I was tired enough to sleep.

Monday was miserable. It was pouring, and we had to do tear down! Of course, since most of us fled the screen tents the night before, everything had been left out overnight so we had to first clean up Sunday’s dinner. Taking down tents in the rain is no fun. Several times I got hit with water that had pooled on the top of one of the tents or tarps. We were all so cold and miserable, but we had to pack up! We finally had everything in the car and headed back to Dauphin.

I had to do four loads of laundry last night when I got home because I had to wash everything I had taken with me including my backpack and other bags because everything smelled like campfire. Then, I needed to wash the towel I used when I took my after-camp shower because it was gross and I added in some of the kitchen towels and the bathmats to make it a full load. Then, I was getting ready to re-make the bed and I discovered one of the cats had gotten sick all over one of the pillows and the sheets, so I had to wash the sheets AND a pillow.

I took a bath when I got home, figuring it was the best way to warm my body up and the best way to make sure I was clean. The bathwater was grey when I got out! EW! I made some soup for dinner, and then got into bed.

This morning I woke up with a sore throat and a stuffed nose, and now I have a headache. 🙁 But more soup, some zicam, some tylenol and a nap and I’ll be good as new.

Camping was fun, minus the rain. I think I’d probably be willing to go camping again…but only if we knew it wasn’t going to rain, and maybe with someone to share a tent with for warmth at night!


My home for the weekend!

Blue Lake

Wildflowers. I love the purple centered daisies!

To see the rest of my photos from camping, check out my gallery:

And in other great news, my birthday package from my mom arrived and in it was my Nokia N810! She needs a name other than N810, so leave your comments with suggestions. It’s worth noting that my laptop is named Gwen, my external Owen, and my iPod is Tosh. I’m considering renaming the iPod Ianto though so I can name the N810 Tosh ;). This time, the package was never even opened by customs, so I have no idea why it took so long to get here.


Mosquitos that Eat You Alive!

I joined Facebook yesterday morning, because a lot of people I knew were posting their photos on it and I couldn’t see them since I wasn’t a facebook user. Facebook can take your gmail address book and find your friends, so I had it do that, and it added J, Sarah and Joe’s friend who I met the other day. About 15 minutes later, I got a friend request from C, J’s wife. She suggested we get together, and I agreed. She asked me if I brought my bathing suit with me, which I hadn’t, but we decided to go to Wal-Mart to get one for me and then head to the lake with her son, who’s name also starts with a C, so I’ll call him Baby C.

Shopping for a bathing suit in the clearance section was fun. Loads of suits that were 2XL and 3XL and then suits that were size small. Yeah. Not too good for either of us, but in the end after many suits being tried on, we both wound up with the same top! One of the tops I tried on was so low cut, the center of it was below my chest!

By the time we picked out our suits, Baby C was ready for a nap, so we went back to their house to get ready to go out to Dauphin Lake. It was beautiful. C tells me the lake isn’t the cleanest, but compared to some bodies of water I’ve seen, this seemed tame. The lake also had sandbars in the middle of it and so we were able to walk out really far with the water only ever getting up to my hips, then lowering down to my lower legs. After we got out of the lake, Baby C attracted the attention of two ladies who were also at the lake, so we hung around for a little while while they fawned over Baby C (and he really is that cute!).

We returned to their house for dinner, and then some Olympic watching with J, and wine drinking outside.

While we were at the lake, C advised me to coat myself in bug spray. While she was telling me this, a mosquito around an eighth of an inch long landed on her leg and started biting! Those things are vicious! I didn’t spray the back fo my neck, so of course I have a bite where I can’t reach it to scratch. I also got bit right below the edge of my bathing suit. Other than that, no other bites.

C invited me to go camping next weekend. I haven’t been camping in years, and that’s only if sleeping in my friend’s aunt’s pop up tent trailer counts, but I might do it anyway. We had a lot of fun, and I’d really like to experience more of the things to do around here.

The sky is streaking pink with the sunrise. I was going to go outside and take photos of it, but it’s chilly out there, and I discovered how far I’d need to walk to get photos and decided it wasn’t worth it. Maybe if I go camping, I’ll get some pretty photos. I’m not sure why I couldn’t sleep tonight…I was tired enough from being out in the sun, but for some reason I started tossing and turning around 4am and finally gave up around 530. Maybe now that I’ve done something I’ll be able to go back to sleep. I also forgot to shower last night to wash off the bug spray and sunblock, so I feel a little itchy from that, too.

For a few more photos of yesterday, check my gallery:

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Walking around Dauphin

Today I walked North of Sarah and Joe’s (I think. They can correct me if I’m wrong) to the actual town part of Dauphin. I had a lot of fun walking around and exploring. My pedometer told me I walked over 4 miles, but I can’t believe it was really that much, though I did go on some side streets and backtracked myself at one point, so maybe I did.

The town of Dauphin is small, I think maybe the entire area of “downtown” is about 6 or 7 blocks long. I found three Dollar General type stores, at least two (maybe even three) places that had “pharmacy” in their store name, a few assorted other stores, and three locations where you can mail stuff through Canada Post.

I walked down to the train station and discovered there is a train museum inside the station house. Unfortunately, even though the sign said it should be open, it wasn’t. I sent an e-mail to the address on the sign though to ask when it was open, so hopefully I’ll get to go to it at some point before I go home!

I also learned today that postage is expensive. Letters home are CDN$0.96, and letters to the UK are almost $2!


For more photos, check out my gallery for today:

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