Becca Jane St Clair

Personal Blog

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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A Visitor’s Guide to Getting Birth Control in the UK

[Note added 9/12/12: This post gets a lot of traffic because there isn’t a lot of information out there about this subject. Please note that this post was written in 2009. Information may have changed, so please check the links provided or ask at a local GP practice.]

It’s bound to happen to you – you’re traveling and didn’t calculate how much birth control you needed to bring with you, or you decide to extend your stay past the amount you’ve brought with you. The idea of making an overseas phone call to your doctor to get a prescription filled, then calling and begging a friend or relative to pick it up, pay for it, and ship it over to you just doesn’t sit well with you, either. So, what can you do, other than going off your birth control for a few weeks or months?

The UK-Yankee website and board is a fabulous place to start for information about anything regarding visiting/living in the UK as an American. Several of the ladies on the message board advised in the past that visitors have access to free birth control through the NHS. This some-what contradicts the big stamp in my passport that says “no recourse to public funds”, so I was a little skeptical.

I first researched family planning clinics in the area near Tim’s house. I found one in Grimsby that also had a website and e-mail address, and I contacted them with my questions. The woman who wrote back told me I would need to pay for the visit but the pills would be free, and gave me the number of a clinic closer to here. I didn’t call them.

Then, I did some more research online, and found the Marie Stopes organization. Marie Stopes provides birth control to low-income women throughout the world, and their main office is in London. I sent off an email inquiring if they had a location closer to here, and what the costs would be as a foreign visitor. Marie Stopes calculates their fees on a sliding scale (similar to Planned Parenthood), but did not tell me what fees would be charged to a foreign visitor. Unfortunately, their closest clinic to me was in Leeds, which isn’t all that close!

Several ladies on UKY mentioned Dr. Thom Dr Thom offers online birth control pill ordering – no exam or need to see a doctor. Dr. Thom charges £29.99 for a three-month supply. The only catch is that you have to already be on birth control and you must be on one of the pills Dr. Thom provides. Unfortunately, my brand of pill was not on the list. The only “American” brands I noticed were Yaz and Ortho-Tri-Cyclen. I emailed Dr. Thom and asked about ordering a similar pill, but was told they could not provide a pill I wasn’t already prescribed. Dr. Thom also requires the person placing the order to have a credit card in their name and a UK address associated with the card, so you would also need to add your UK address to your credit card before using their services.

It was beginning to become clear to me that I would need to try to see a doctor here, and I was a bit worried about the cost. There’s a family clinic (not family planning, just family clinic) in the next village over, so when Tim and I happened to be in that area, I stopped in with my old prescription.

I was told that if the dispensary supplied my brand, they would just give it to me, but since I was on a brand they were unfamiliar with, I needed to make an appointment to have a doctor give the prescription. I was told that as a visitor, I might need to pay £12 for the office visit, but they were not sure and would let me know when I had my appointment if that was alright with me. Well, £12 certainly didn’t seem like too much money to me, so I said that was fine.

My appointment took all of 10 minutes. The doctor weighed me, took my blood pressure, and asked me medical history questions. Then she looked up the chemical make-up of my pill and prescribed me a similar pill. I was expecting a month’s supply, but she prescribed me with a 3 month supply, and I was told to get it filled next door at the co-op. They did not mention paying a fee for the visit to me, but I assumed I would have to pay for my pills. I went next door, and to my surprise I was handed a 3-month pack of pills after a very short wait. I asked if I needed to pay for them, and was told no, they were covered under the NHS.

So, my advice to any of you ladies traveling to the UK who find yourself needing birth control (or the morning after pill, apparently), find a local family clinic or a family planning clinic…but don’t wait until the last minute. I started looking into things with 2 weeks left in my current pill pack, and by the time I saw the doctor and got a new prescription, I was less than a week away from running out!

For more information about what visitors are entitled to, please see:

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UK Road Trip Part VI: The North Yorkshire Moors and York

After our night at the Bed & Breakfast, Tim wanted to share with me the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and promised me I’d get to see the station used for Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter movies! We started our day at Grosmont and toured the rail yards while we waited for our train. We wound our way through the North Yorkshire Moors, making several stops along the way, including Goathland (AKA Hogsmeade!). The ride terminates in Pickering, where we turned ourselves around for the ride back to Grosmont.

The scenery passing by the window was beautiful – lots of trees, farmland, and farm animals, including some sheep who had wandered out of their pen and close to the tracks! We purchased some tea to stay warm from the food-trolly (and I suppressed my desire to say “we’ll take the lot!”) and jsut enjoyed the scenery on the way out. The way back, however, was only slightly enjoyable. I say this because our ride out was quiet and peaceful, and while people were boarding in Pickering a rather noisy party of about 12 or so got on and sat across and behind us. Tim dubbed them the noisy family.

It was early in the afternoon, so we headed down to York for the rest of the day. I had wanted to go to York specifically to pick up a few souvenirs for my family at home as we are from York, PA. We had fun just wandering the streets and going in and out of shops. We walked over to York Minister, but decided against going in (I was a little annoyed that the church actually charged admission as opposed to a donation box). We also spotted a sign that would have been Tim and my first fight, had either of the places still been opened:

Railway museum one way, quilts the other!

We poked around looking for a place to eat,and finally settled on the oldest Inn in York. The food was great, and it was extra special being in such an old establishment.

Immediately after dinner, we headed for the park-and-ride bus stop to head back to the car. This proved to be a bad idea, as the combination of cider, recently eating, and the bumpy bus lead to me feeling quite sick on our ride back to Tim’s house, but we managed with a few stops along the way.

We got in fairly late and headed straight to bed since Tim had to be up to work in the morning.

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Stamford Photo Album

Oops! I forgot to post the Stamford album from last Friday!


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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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UK Road Trip Part II: Stratford-Upon-Avon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shakespeare’s birthplace

a poster of David Tennant

For more photos see:

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UK Road Trip Part I: Lincoln and Leicester

We started out in Tim’s hometown, Lincoln, to run a few errands and then we were off on the road to Leicester (pronounced ‘Lester’). Tim gave me the choice of going to see the castle or going to the science center. I picked the science center, so we headed over there only to find we were five minutes too late for the last admittance! :(. Next door was the Abby Pump House that had been turned into a museum, so we poked around in there for a bit and learned all about how bathing and toilets have changed over the centuries and saw a giant steam powered water pump. We wandered a little outside, and found a (yellow) TARDIS! They locked us in, so we had to go the long way around back to the car in the rain/wind that already had destroyed my umbrella earlier in the day.

We got back on the road, and checked a map for towns close to our next stop, and we had the choice of two. I picked Leamington Spa and Tim located a Travelodge on the map…..unfortunately, after about a half hour, we still hadn’t located it. Fortunately, I spotted a Best Western along the road, so we checked in there for the night and FINALLY found a pub for dinner, called the Copper Pot.

We turned in fairly early, in anticipation of an early start the following day.


There was a TARDIS in Leicester!

Tim and me

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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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Ships and Dippers Invade Liverpool

Yesterday, Tim and I drove across the country to meet up with some of my fellow Ships and Dippers in Liverpool. Our plans were to meet at 3 at one of the pubs, do some sightseeing, go to more pubs, then go out to dinner. Of course, plans never quite go as they should.

Tim and I managed to get slightly turned around on our way into Liverpool thanks to an ambulance Tim got out of the way for, so we wound up taking the long way into town instead of the partial bypass, so we were about an hour behind schedule before we finally made it to the pub. Drink #1 was a lovely IPA. My friends decided they had to take me to a store called Quiggins, which is basically Hot Topic’s older and cooler sister. We had so much fun looking around. I wanted to buy a T-shirt, but sadly it wasn’t in my size. We decided to move onward to an Irish pub, where I had real Guinness. The next few stops became a little blurred. I remember an Irish-American pub, an American pub that had a statue of liberty outside of it, and we tried squeezing into the pub The Beatles used to play at before heading over to our dinner reservations at the Liner – a themed hotel made to look like a cruise ship.

Dinner was fantastic, though I think we might have really driven them a bit crazy with the different dietary restrictions in our group, but we managed. The picture on the wall behind us was a beach scene/water scene with a cruise ship and a naked person (behind shot). We decided that since we were the Ships and Dippers, we had to get our photo taken with the naked person before we left. Out group was actually the last group to leave the restaurant, but the staff was nice and didn’t really try to kick us out. Instead of trying to figure out what everyone ordered, we just decided to split the bill evenly, and then we asked to get our photo taken. We offered to explain why we wanted the naked person in the photo with us, but the Maitre D’ didn’t seem interested. Instead, he told us we could also find an exposed breast in the bar next door, so of course we had to go get our photo there, too.

We hung around for several hours chatting and having a good time before we had to break things up. Tim and I headed back to his car, and our plan was to just grab a hotel room at one of the hotels nearby. Unfortunately, there was a football (Soccer for you Americans) game the same day and all the hotels were booked solid. So, we headed back to the car and decided we would just start heading home and stop to nap along the way.

We broke down and stopped at a McDonald’s around 6AM for some coffee, as it was the only place around that was open and had public toilets that early in the morning. We rolled back into Lincoln around 8AM and promptly went to bed for a few hours.

The rest of today has been pretty relaxed. We wound up finally going to Tesco to get stuff to make dinner with, and then we’re going to plan out the rest of our week.

rainbow along the way

Our group

sunrise on the way home

[And a small note to those of you reading this on the RSS feed on LJ: If you want to leave a comment, would you mind clicking on the links at the top of the entry and commenting directly on the blog? The comments left on LJ don’t actually get emailed to me, and if I don’t look for a comment there I might miss yours!]