Becca Jane St Clair

Personal Blog

Charity Shops

I volunteer once a week for Cancer Research UK in their charity shop on the high street in Lincoln (if anyone wants to visit, I’m there on a Thursday and we are located near the base of Steep Hill across from the Slug & Lettuce). My job is mostly downstairs in the shop – running the till, putting clothing and other items out on the racks/shelves, and general tidying up. Sometimes I also help W, the other volunteer with picking items for the window display, make price labels for B, our manager, and set up displays. I love volunteering and helping out…but the biggest benefit of working in a charity shop? Shopping in a charity shop.

Charity shops in the UK are different from shops in the US. In the US, the two big shops are Salvation Army and Goodwill. At SA you can get t-shirts for $0.50, jeans for $2, and even prom dresses for less than $10. You really have to comb through the racks of clothing to try your luck at finding something branded. I remember one time I found an Express skirt for $2, but most of the time it was combing through lots of discount chain brands and promotional items.

Charity shops in the UK are different. First of all, most big charities (Cancer Research UK, British Red Cross, British Heart Foundation, OxFam, etc.) have their own shops where they sell commercial goods for fundraising, branded items, and donated items. Some charities have multiple shops, such as the OxFam bookshop or the Heart Foundation furniture & appliance shop. Signs in the window at the British Heart Foundation shop advertise used televisions starting at £15 and other used appliances for under £100. I wish I had known of their existence when we had to buy a new washing machine in February!

Since I started volunteering in March, I think I’ve spent around £30 total in different charity shops (though most in the one I volunteer at!). But if I had purchased those same things on the high street? I bet I would have easily spent £300. I shop for high street branded items – I’ve scored per una (Marks & Spencers) blouses and tops for £3-£5, a dress from Evans for £7, a dress from Monsoon for £4, and assorted practically new books for £1-£3. And a quick glance at M&S shows a shirt similar to the one I purchased for £3 selling in their shop for £22, a new-with-tags shirt I paid £5 for selling at £25, and another new-with-tags shirt I paid £4 for selling at £19. And the dress from Evans would have set me back at least £25, and the Monsoon dress at least £55!

And I can’t forget about books. If I forget a book when I go into town, I usually stop in at the OxFam shop and pick out a book and spend £1-2, less than the cost of a magazine. I’ve even picked up the latest Phillipa Gregory book at the charity shop for £2. Buying books used is a great way to expand your collection if you don’t have much to spend. I also decided to purchase cookbooks at charity shops and used book shops instead of £25-30 at Waterstones.

So please, if you’re looking for some new clothing, consider checking in a charity shop first. Not only will you save some money, you’re money will go to a good cause. Or even better, donate some time to your local charity shop!

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Serious Tourism Blunder!

As some of you might know, Tim is traveling across the pond to visit me for three weeks in July and August. Being a British bloke, he’s not used to the really hot summers we can have in Pennsylvania, so I’ve been trying to prepare him. Today, for example, it was 30C in Lancaster, PA. While we were on the phone (Skype), I googled “average temperatures july lancaster pa” to try and give him a decent taste on what the weather would be like.

I stumbled upon the “World Guide to Lancaster, PA”. Where do I begin on how inaccurate this website is? We can start with the website suggesting that Zoo America is located in Lancaster, when it is in fact located in Hershey, PA, about a half-hours drive. Or how about how it claims that you’ll get views of the countryside, but most of the hotels are downtown. No, I know. Let’s look at the photos. You know, the main item on the webpage that is supposed to grab people’s attention and make them want to visit the town your site is showcasing.

Photo 1 – The center square in Lancaster, PA. Nothing wrong here.
Photo 2 – The side of Central Market, the oldest market in the United States. Again, nothing wrong.
Photo 3 – “Lancaster Castle Prison”

Uhm, what?

That castle you’re looking at? Is this castle:

(image provided by Wikipedia)

That castle is in fact, Lancaster Castle. In Lancaster. However, it’s not in Lancaster, PA. Heck, it’s not even in the United States. Nope. It’s in Lancaster, United Kingdom.

The “Lancaster Castle Prison” is this building:
(image provided by Wikipedia)

Which is an actual county prison. The only way you’re visiting it is if you’ve broken the law.

Now, both Wikipedia entries for Lancaster Castle and Lancaster County Prison as well as the Lancaster County Prison’s website claim the Lancaster County Prison was modeled after Lancaster Castle. Personally, I can’t really see it as being an “exact replica”, but it’ll do nicely as a homage. Still though, I can’t quite justify showing an image of a castle on a tourism website that is located in another country.

I can see tourists wanting to see “the castle” and being directed over to the prison and soon being disappointed that it’s not the castle pictured on the website. Uh, sure, just drive to the Atlantic Ocean, swim for about 3,000 miles, then travel halfway up the UK to get to it.



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

We finally had a sunny day! Our last day in the North was bright and sunny, so we split our day doing some train things for Tim, and a castle for me.

We parked at a park and ride near Durham. We’ve discovered the park and rides really are a much better deal than trying to find parking in a city centre, not to mention the cost. Plus, you don’t have to deal with town traffic…just avoid the bendy busses. The bendy bus in York made me sick.

Once again though, we managed to find a site closed! But this one had a legitimate excuse other than the off-season. Durham Castle is part of Durham University and they actually conduct classes in the castle, and close it on days there are classes. Imagine taking a class in a castle? How cool would that be?

But, we were just across the green from Durham Cathedral, and decided to take a look around the inside. We were not permitted to take any inside pictures, but I assure you, it was breathtaking. Durham Cathedral is actually only the second Cathedral in the UK I’ve been in. I was in Westminster Abby in 1997 when I went to London for the first time, and that’s it. Even though Lincoln has a cathedral (that I’ve photographed many times!), Tim and I just never actually made time to go to it, and I didn’t want to go it alone. Ah well, something to do in the future.

Anyway. After wandering around the cathedral for a bit, we headed to the cathedral’s cafe for a light lunch before locating the park and ride (conveniently outside the University Library between the Castle and Cathedral!) and heading back to the car.

We did several train-related things on this weekend, too, but I’m going to ask Tim to be a guest blogger and write about those, since I know I won’t do it justice!



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Castles in the North

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

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

(photo by Tim)

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


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



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

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

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


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


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

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Take a Step Back in Time…

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

I’m still playing catch-up on my UK trip. Tim arrives in 25 days for his US visit, so I thought I ought to try and get things caught up!

Tim had a long weekend coming and we were trying to decide what to do on it and where to go. He handed me this big map book he has of the UK (complete with a mini visitor guide. This book is amazing and helped us plan several of our other trips!). I opened it up to the front page that shows all of the UK, and after two “splashes” (finger pointing at the Irish Sea), I landed somewhere in the Northeast. I think I landed specifically on Newcastle-upon-Tyne, or it might have been Durham. Either way, it sparked off a weekend in the Northeast! I was googling for things to do, and Tim remembered a place called Beamish. One look at the webpage, and I told him we had to go there!

Our weekend started off the day after one of the snow storms that swept across the UK. Actually, the storm that hit London the day before we left was the first big snow storm to hit London in 18 years! Since it wasn’t too bad in Lincoln, we decided to head on out anyway. I scored us a great deal on a hotel again, this time staying at a Holiday Inn a little bit north of Newcastle, for about half the price of even the local bed & breakfast! We settled into our hotel that evening, and planned on heading out to Beamish in the morning.

It snowed overnight, but only a light dusting. We headed out to Beamish, and right when we got there it started snowing harder! What perfect conditions to explore 1913!

Beamish is an open air museum designed to give you a glimpse of life in 1913 Northeastern England, and 1825. During the winter months, the 1825 section is closed, so you can only visit the 1913 town.

Fortunately, the trolley was running, so we hopped on the trolley and it took us back in time to 1913. Our first stop was a masonic temple, originally from Sunderland. The front of the temple was brought over brick-by-brick, but the inside was built new from the old plans. Our guide told us all about the secret society and talked about how to join the Masons. It was pretty interesting, but I lost interest after being told women couldn’t join! They also offered the opportunity to go upstairs, but I didn’t want to climb the steps.

Next to the temple was a branch of Barclay’s bank. A teller sat behind the counter working on needlework, waiting to show off the coins and bills used previously in England. We also took a trip downstairs and got to see the old fashioned vaults and deposit boxes. Wow, glad I wasn’t a banker in 1913!

After a stop at the (thankfully modern!) toilets, we moved onto some of the shops in town. The people in the confectionery told us to come back later if we wanted to watch a demonstration, so we headed to the Pub for a cup of tea to warm up with before heading back in. We got to watch how Toffee is made,and got samples fresh off the block! Tim and I picked up some old fashioned candy (at old fashioned prices!) to nibble on for the rest of the trip.

Across the street was the large co-op, where people could buy everything they needed for their homes, from washing machines and dishes to food and clothing. The shopkeeper explained everything to us, and showed us a very clever way of taking cash from customers. The shop had an overhead system of “rails”. Run completely by gravity (no electricity here!), the counter person was able to put the customer’s bill and money into a hollow croquet ball. Then, she’d put it onto the “track” and the ball whizzed it’s way back to a separate locked office where the cashier would take out the money, put change and a receipt in, and send it back to the counter person. This way, all the money was kept behind a locked door and it was actually a lot safer than most stores today!

Further down the block was a printing shop, where we got to watch the typesetter set the newspaper, and then used the press to make a “I’ve been to Beamish!” sign for a souvenir.

We skipped a few of the houses/offices and some of them weren’t open, but we did get to glimpse in the law office, and into the kitchen of a typical 1913 home.

Further down the block, we got to the Railway station – Tim’s favourite place! The station wasn’t open, but we took a few photos and got to see the Westoe Netty – and outdoor public toilet for men made famous by a 1972 painting. The toilet was built in the 1890s (and also the third old-fashioned toilet display we saw on my visit!).

On our walk back we stopped in at the stables and the garage before taking the trolly back to the entrance. We packed a picnic lunch, but supplemented it with some soup from the cafe.

We both had a great time, and I look forward to going back with Tim next Summer when we can see everything else!

The trolly we rode on


The Westoe Netty

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Royal Observatory at Greenwich

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

Back when Tim and I started planning my trip, he asked me to make a list of places I’d like to see. The list was in no way a guarantee that we’d go, but it was a good jumping off point for making plans. I can also proudly say that after 6 months, we did nearly everything on the list!

One of the places on my list, was the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. The map geek in me was overjoyed that I was going to be traveling from 100 degrees (when I was in Manitoba last summer) to 0 within a matter of weeks (and, at the beginning of 2008 I was almost at the Equator, too!). When I was doing some research for my UK trip, I discovered that you could go to Greenwich and stand on the Prime Meridian…thus being in both the West and the East at the same time!

When Tim and I planned our weekend to London this past January, we included a trip to Greenwich. We started our trek by taking the Docklands Light Railway, which is a light railway that does not have any drivers on it! (You might remember my vlog I made that day, viewable here.). The DLR doesn’t drop you off right at the observatory, of course, so we had a bit of a walk through Greenwich (though we could have taken the bus, we opted to walk). Once we got there, I also discovered you need to walk uphill to get to the observatory. By this point in our weekend, my legs were really hurting from the prior days, so we took it slow, stopping to sit on benches along the way. Our goal was to get to the Prime Meridian before 1300 GMT, as we wanted to watch the red ball drop at 1300, but we had plenty of time.

Believe it or not, I was actually pretty awe-struck finally getting to see the world clock and getting to stand right on the Prime Meridan. There are few things that can excite a map geek as much as being able to be both East and West at the same time!

We went into the observatory and got to see a huge display about clocks, and learned about the first clocks ever built. After we watched the red ball drop, we decided to head to the Maritime Museum. Tim wound up going through this museum mostly on his own. My legs were just too tired to take it all in, but the museum had a small cafe, so I was able to sit at a table with a drink and I read and listened to music (and I think I might have even fallen asleep at one point!). I felt bad leaving Tim to look at the museum on his own, but I was glad he was able to get the chance to do it.

After closing time, we decided to take a bus back over to the DLR (yay!), and then the Tube back to Victoria Station for the short walk back to the hotel.

The Royal Observatory

I’m standing in the East and the West!

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Blogging the UK

I’ve decided I’m not going to take the time to completely blog every single town and place we visited. I’ve been home for over a month, and I just haven’t had the time. BUT – I know I have some readers (i hope?) who want to read about things, so here is the list of places we were. If there is a place you’d like to see me write more about and I haven’t already, please leave me a comment.

Lincoln (multiple times)
Hay-On-Wye/Brecon Beacons
Robin Hood’s Bay
Yorkshire Moors (and NYMR!)
Alnwick and other Castles in the North
Scottish Borders
Bletchley Park
Mablethorpe (and other seaside towns)

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Lincoln Cathedral in Fog

A few weeks ago, Tim and I were invited over to his Aunt W’s house for dinner. W lives in Lincoln off of Steep Hill (and ironically, the day I walked Steep Hill I went to the newsstand across the street from her house!), so we parked over by the castle/cathedral. The fog was absolutely beautiful, so I took this video:

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More London Vlogs!

I promise a real entry soon!

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More Vlogs….

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More Vlogs from London

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Two Vlogs from London

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UK by Rail: Blackpool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UK by Train: Exterminate 45

Tim’s dad had been in the Leicestser hospital, and while his mum was driving back and forth visiting him she heard on the radio about an event at the National Space Centre called “Exterminate 45“. Since she knew we are both big Doctor Who fans (okay, I’m probably a bigger fan than Tim), she made sure she told us about it.

Unfortunately, Tim had to work that day from 2-10, so we originally planned to head out in the morning, and then he’d leave for work and I’d make my way back on the train. I posted on a Doctor Who community to see if I could find anyone to hang out with, and I met C of the Leicester Doctor Who Club, who invited me to spend the afternoon with her and the rest of the club. Unfortunately, Tim and I had to alter our plans again, as a neighbourhood kid who looks to Tim as a mentor needed his help Saturday morning, so Tim and I decided I was going to make the trip by myself by rail and bus!

The trip really wasn’t too bad, and the train was a straight journey from Lincoln to Leicester. The trip took two hours because of all the little station stops, but I’m used to that with SEPTA!

My problems began when I got to Leicester. The Space Centre’s website tells you you can take two busses from the rail station and mentions the street names where the stops are….which was fine, but they didn’t give you any directions on how to find the streets. I had foolishly assumed the two streets were streets bordering the train station (I was sort of picturing 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, where you can get to 4 different streets from within the station)…they didn’t, but I did see a sign that said “bus station”, so I started walking towards it, pulling out Tim’s copy of the Leicester A-Z map to see if I could figure out where to go.

I got lost in the marketplace area. Many city centers have a pedestrian-only section of town where all the shops are, and there are loads of side streets and alleys with shops. I’ve gotten pretty good at navigating Lincoln, but Leicester confused me. There were streets that weren’t on my map, and streets that had two different names at an intersection. Confusing, right? I finally saw a bus, and I walked up to it and asked the driver if he knew where I could find bus 54, and he directed me to the correct stop. I finally made it to the bus and paid my £1.80 for a return (US: round trip) ticket.

I was expecting to get dropped off right outside the Space Centre, but the bus actually drops you off about a half mile away. I asked the driver how to get there and he told me to “cross the street and you can’t miss it”. Well, I crossed the street and couldn’t see the Space Centre through the fog, but I DID see the top of the Abby Pumping House Tim and I had gone to in October. The Pumping House is next door to the Space Centre, so I headed in that direction.

I got in line to pay my admission, £12. The person behind the counter wasn’t quite prepared for my American debit card, so I wound up with a complimentary ticket. Not bad at all. I walked around a little bit, and then shortly after met up with C and she and I wandered around until we found the rest of the Leicester Doctor Who Club.

We had a great time goofing off and checking out all the Doctor Who stuff AND the Space Centre. About half of us rode on the “Europa Simulator”, which was a small 3-D ride to “prepare” you for being an astronaut sent to Jupiter. The ride had one of those lap bars they pull down and the guy doing it just kept slamming it down. We had to have it done several times because one of the bars wasn’t going down fully, so I kept having this bar jammed into me over and over. At one point I told C if he slammed the bar down again I might have thrown up on him, it was that jarring.

At Exterminate 45 they wanted to try to beat the world record for people dressed as Daleks, one of the monsters of Doctor Who. None of us were in costume, but we headed outside to look at all the costumes and things ranged from the incredibly accurate to small children wearing cardboard boxes carrying a whisk and a plunger (the two “arms” of a Dalek look similar to those items). We even saw a child dressed as “The Empty Child” with another kid dressed as Captain Jack!

We wandered back inside and started making our way through the exhibits – both the Space Centre exhibits and the Exterminate 45 exhibits – and kept “running into” assorted Daleks, and I even shook hands with one of them!

There was loads of other Doctor Who related things there, too. Several people had brought along versions of the TARDIS, there was at least 2 versions of K-9 (aka “the tin dog”), one that was super accurate, and a club member dressed as an Ood!

When things started to wind down, the group I was with decided to head to a pub in town for a few drinks and asked me to tag along. We boarded bus #54 and I went to hand over my return….but what’s this? It seems I rode OUT on one bus line and was riding IN on another, and they don’t take each other’s tickets….but BOTH buses were Bus #54 and went to the Space Centre and even stopped at the same place. *shakes head* So I had to hold up the line while I dug out an additional £1.50.

I forget the name of the pub we had gone to, but we found a table in a corner and chatted. One of the guys in the club, N, and I started discussing words that mean different things in the UK vs. US. I’ll have to write up a blog entry about that at some time, because it was a really fun conversation.

I left the group around 6 to get back to the station. I was told it was really easy to get back – and it was! I boarded the 1830 train, and headed back to Lincoln.

Tim kept texting me telling me where I was (on the route) and I was really confused until I realized that he could monitor my train from his signal box, though I didn’t pass the box he was working at.

We got into Lincoln at 8:30, where Tim’s mum (and dog!) picked me up since the bus to the village stops running at 6.

The Leicester Doctor Who club invited me to come out for their December meeting, and if the train schedule can be coordinated, I just might, I had such a great time with them!

view overlooking most of the displays

(Photo taken by C) Members of the Leicester Doctor Who Club (and me!)

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UK Road Trip Part VIII, iii: Portsmouth and Isle of Wight

Tim had been given one “rule” for places to take me – I didn’t want to go to any military museums or see war stuff. I wanted history, but not war history. Tim asked me if I’d consider going to look at ships as “war stuff”, and then explained what he wanted to take me to. He wanted to go to Portsmouth and go see the Mary Rose, a ship ordered to be built by King Henry VIII in 1509! The Mary Rose sank off the coast of Portsmouth in 1545, but over half the ship remained intact and was recovered in 1982 by divers. I agreed to see it, as I’m a sucker for Tudor history, and we headed back to the train station and into Portsmouth. We got tickets that included entrance to the Mary Rose, the Victory, another warship who’s name I’ve forgotten, and several museums. Our ticket also included a boat tour around the bay, but they don’t run in the winter months. The nice thing about our tickets though is that they are good for an entire YEAR, so if I come back in the Spring and we go to Portsmouth, we won’t need to pay for admission again.

Seeing the Mary Rose was incredible. They managed to recover lots of artifacts from the wreckage as well, giving us a glimpse of life as a seaman in the 1500s. You can view the ship as it’s being treated with a wax drip. The hope is that the wood will absorb the wax to protect and seal it, so that the ship can eventually be walked up to and touched by visitors by 2016. While we were in the museum, they were doing a hands-on experience, so I got to hold an actual piece of the Mary Rose!

We then boarded the HMS Victory, the oldest naval ship still in commission, for a guided tour. The people running the tour warned us to be careful of headroom as we headed down into the lower levels of the ship, because the ceilings got lower, but even on the lowest level, I had no problems! I enjoyed the Victory, but not as much as I did the Mary Rose…and I also had a good giggle over it being called the Victory.

We headed into a few of the museums after a quick lunch and got to view the original Trafalgar sail. This was the sail used on the HMS Victory in 1805 at the battle. The sail has over 90 holes in it from cannon fire!

We also went into a museum showing ship figureheads, and experienced the “reenactment” of the Battle of Trafalgar.

I also found out that the story of the ship captain who had his body preserved in a barrel of brandy so he could be buried at home was the true story of Vice Admiral Nelson, who died during the Battle of Trafalgar.

I vetoed going into the other naval history museums, and Tim proposed an idea for the rest of our afternoon. If you’ve ever seen some of the Monty Python sketches, then you might be familiar with the line “my hovercraft is full of eels”. There’s also a website out there that translates that phrase into well over 20 other languages, including Welsh. Tim was trying to teach me how to pronounce it one day via Skype (I failed miserably) and I had asked him what a hovercraft was…

There is a company that goes between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight using hovercrafts! Tim suggested we ride over to the Isle and take a trip through part of the island via train, have dinner on the Isle, and then head back. I agreed and we booked ourselves on the next hovercraft.

My video of the hovercraft we were on taking off to go back to Portsmouth

The hovercraft was really interesting. I still don’t really know how they move, but I know they go quite fast! The train on the Isle of Wight is made from old Underground cars, and we rode it from one end to the other, where we got off to walk around before heading back to the hovercraft and the mainland.

Once again, we got back to N’s house super late, and after stopping to pick up snack food we headed straight to bed since we had a long drive the following day!

The picture didn’t come out the greatest, but that’s the Mary Rose!

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UK Road Trip Part VIII, i: London Calling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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.

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

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Where In The World Am I?

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I have been staying a few miles outside of Lincoln, UK. I’ve been into town a few times – Tim and I have gone shopping twice, and I went in with Tim’s mum and sister last week. Yesterday, Tim and I went into town to shop, and to do some sightseeing. We wound up spending too much time shopping that we never did get to do the sightseeing, but we still had a good time wandering around the town.

Return of the cat photos: here’s Prudence, Tim’s cat.

The (now decommissioned) High Street signal box, one of Tim’s first jobs. He still works at signal boxes, but the one in Lincoln switched over to a computerized system and they no longer need to man the box.

The castle gate

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UK Road Trip Part VII: Nottingham

Sorry I haven’t been keeping up here, I was under the weather for a few days thanks to a lovely cold that seemed to come and go and the card reader on my laptop broke so I had to get a new one.

Last week on Tim’s day off, we headed towards Nottingham. Yes, Nottingham as in the Sheriff of. The plan was to spend the day in Nottingham, and then head out towards IKEA Nottingham for the evening — Tim hadn’t actually ever been to an IKEA and after his sister and I harped on him to go, he agreed to go with me!

We parked at a park and ride and took the tram into town. It was a much smoother ride over the bus we had in York! We purchased day passes and decided to ride it down to the end of the line before it turned around and the ticket-taker (conductor?) was very nice and gave us some advice about going to the castle grounds and how to get there. So we headed towards the castle, and on the way we spotted a Sci-Fi/Comic shop. We had to go in, and I came out with a Captain Jack figurine and a TARDIS phone charm. Shortly after, we saw a sign that said “The Hub” and I couldn’t stop giggling.

There isn’t an actual castle in Nottingham anymore, but there is a mansion turned into an art gallery on the castle grounds, so we headed towards that and climbed up the 130 foot high cliff. I love castles, but why do they always have to be at the top of cliffs? We had an enjoyable walk about the museum until I started not feeling well. We left, and after a stop for some hot chocolate and muffins, headed back to the trams and the car.

We made it over to IKEA though, and had a wander through the showroom and marketplace. Despite not buying any furniture, Tim still managed to buy £46 of household goods. We headed home and didn’t even bother unloading the car. We got inside, I took some medicine and slept. The next day I woke up briefly when Tim did, and then stayed in bed until early afternoon.

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