Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Well, we made it home, after the world's longest Mother's Day. We got up at 5:30am on Sunday, ate breakfast and headed to the airport. We flew 10.5 hours to Los Angeles, trekked through luggage, customs and immigration, then headed off to a different terminal and caught our flight to Portland. More waiting then finally home to Eugene at 10pm. Midnight before we crashed. For those of you keeping track, you subtract 8 hours from the time in Britian, so we were up basically from 9:30pm Saturday night until midnight Sunday. Harsh.
I think overall the trip was a success, although it sure is hard traveling with the little people.
Looking back, I have the following highlights to share...
In London, the Courtland Gallery. Its such a little gem at Sommerset House on the Thames. Being able to stand up and really look at great art is amazing. So often in the bigger museums you are forced to stand miles from the art and you just can't see how it is put together. While I was there, the kids had a great time playing in the fountains outside.
In Paris, my best memory is kind of a fluke. We took a boat tour on the Seinne one evenning, which took off from the far end of Isle de la Cite' We were walking back to Isle St. Louis where we lived for the week, and we went by Notre Dame. In the courtyard outside there were performers in the dark. We have a movie of it, I'll try to load it this weekend. They juggled fire to rock music and it was simply magnificent.
In Wales the castles all were lovely, but I guess my nicest time was probably not at a castle. We had tried to see Manorbier, and we were hungry. I saw a town called Saundersfoot on the coast, and we drove to it as the newspaper had a lot of restaurants listed there. Saundersfoot has a little harbor and we parked. Dinner was eaten in a restaurant called 'Mermaid's Quay' overlooking the water. The fish had been caught in the harbor that day and cooked that evening, it was magnificent! After dinner we walked along the path and watched a local woman use a 2 liter coca cola bottle to play fetch with her labrador in the surf. We walked by lots of tiny ships, and it was just wonderful.
My other good memory is really of those rides through the countryside down paved sheep trails. It was fun, felt like an adventure and although stressful it was always great to actually arrive somewhere at the other end. DH did a great job on some scary roads!
We are slowly getting back on the schedule here. More when we hae time.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Castle Marathon

Caerphilly Castle
The chapel at Avebury

Thursday, May 8, 2008

More castles

Today we went to a HUGE castle, Caerphilly, and then on to one that had been restored into a fairy tale, Castle Coch. I'll post pictures later, but they were grand. They are doing a ton of work on Caerphilly so you couldn't go into very many places, but Castle Coch was just the opposite. I guess someone bought it in the late 1800s and had it redone. They had all kinds of painting done, and they used it as a residence for a while and a hunting lodge. It was beautiful.
Went to Mermaid's Quay tonight for dinner and found a geocache. It was a microcache and it was great fun.
Also drove out to Pernath, and looked at the ocean. I guess James Bond films have been shot here at Cardiff Bay, with him racing a boat out to Penarth.
Have a good night!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Then Anglo Saxons and the Normans

On to Wales

After 2 weeks of big cities, we have slowed down considerably on our last day and wandered off the beaten path to what I can only describe as the wonderful, slow, charming country of Wales. I LOVE this place, I can't say that enough.

We rented a car that dh has been bravely been driving on the wrong side of the road. We find the traffic circles quite amusing, as they are everywhere. We rented a Kia van since there are 5 of us and lots of luggage. I think dh is sorry we did. I don't think I can appropriately display the roads here, but I'll try to explain.

Garmin has been a godsend on this trip. Thank goodness dh bought the European maps.
A roads are faily decent usually a lane in each direction and a dashed white stripe down the middle more then half the time. B roads are mostly single wide, but have ample pull outs. Then there are roads with no names, merely referred to as 'road'. A, B and 'road' roads all have high berms on either side of the road, with fences and underneath years of growth.

In the US, if you go down a road and it narrows to a single lane you are pretty certain that the pavement will end in someone's driveway. In southern Oregon, where we both spent our teen years, it often ended on a property with a rather hairy mountain man holding a shotgun and a rotweiller, so we are both a bit shy to go down those types of roads.

Not so here. As we wandered down the road looking for Gellifawr, our apartment/hotel, we made jokes about how we were on a sheeps trail, etc. Lots of turns, no cell service, and lots of farms in rolling hills.

We passed some bigger cow farms, and then we found it. It was an old blue stone 2 story manor house and the corresponding buildings had been renovated into apartments. We were tired, it was late, and I was wondering if we'd blown it by picking the place.

I foolishly didn't take photos inside, but wow. I walked into the dining room and I was greeted by a man in a tie serving people sitting a beautiful cherry tables with white leather chairs, fine crystal and china. Our apartment was huge, with 3 bedrooms, big white fluffy duvets, clear laquered wood floors, and a state of the art kitchen.

Each morning they fed us a full English breakfast. That means cereal, fruit juice, coffee, a basket of fruit, a poached egg, 2 slices of ham, sausage, potatoes, a stewed tomato, mushrooms, and toast. It was terrific.

We spent our time adventuring around western Wales. The first day turned out to be a 'Bank Holiday' and we headed to Newport Shores in search of a geocache and some stores. As we wandered down an A road into town, we came to something I've never seen before. In town people had parked on the side of the road, in a section that wasn't a full 2 cars wide. It was still a 2 way road. We got stuck. We opened the windows, pulled the mirrors in and made it. I kid you not there was not more then 1" on either side of that van. We definately ran against the plantlife over the stone wall on the one side. I didn't actually believe the van would fit, but DH performed magic and made it. I asked him how he was and he said he needed to go home and lay on the bed and twitch for a while

We tried to find a woolen mill that we saw advertised. It didn't have a street address, and we got lost. We ended up on a very narrow lane with high berms and twists. We rounded a corner and found two women pushing baby carriages going for a walk!

I mentioned this to our hostess this morning, and she said to me that she had moved here from Sweeden. They took her out to show her the sites and she has been baffled, since you can't actually see anything with the high fences!

We journeyed north and saw a castle where a princess was stolen away from her husband, then south to the place where she stayed for a few years. Guess she was busy - she stayed long enough to have 2 kids with the guy before heading home. They said they think she had 21 children with 6 different men, guess she was 'captured' a lot!

Today we drove to Kidwelly on our way to Cardiff, for the last part of our holiday. Kidwelly is well preserved and huge. We'll post more pics as we can.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Paris Photos

May 2nd

We did better today on the museum front. Got up and braved the subway system here in Paris. Not sure what the hangup was for us as we are usually quite the brave travelers. Of course it was fine. Took the subway to The Museum of Science and Industry and let the kids play for a few hours. Emma woke up with a horrid cold, but we dosed her and took her along to spread germs. I hate that honestly, but dh said we are are not spending the week in Paris in the apartment, and that other kids would get sick regardless so we should go. I caved.
We rode the subway over to the Sacre Couer as well. I did my workout for the day, I climbed all those steps (and there are a million of them) carrying Emma. It was sunny and actually hot out there.
Then we subwayed to the Orangerie, and miracle of miracles it was open!!! I finally got to see my Monet's. They are huge, who would have imagined!
Then we came home to the island, ate dinner and walked to Point Neuf. We bought tickets for the boat ride tonight at 9:30, so we could see the city lights at night.
Today a few more museums and maybe a flea market.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day

We got up early this morning, unfortunately to the sound that someone had an accident in the bed downstairs. So I put everyone in our bed and while dh tried to sleep I did laundry and started reading. Murder in Montmartre is here, and so I've been reading that. Kinda catches the feel of the places well.
Took Jakey down and bought some eggs and snacks, and then made breakfast. Then we were off to find the 'hop on hop off bus'. We road the batobus (water taxi)down to the center of town. We got off near the Orangerie Museum, which we tried to go to on Tuesday. It has a big display of Monet's water lillies and I'm drying to see it. Anyway, today we were there by 12 (it opens at 12:30) so we hung around and hung around along with a growing crowd.
Turns out they are closed for May Day. So strike 2. Walked in and found the bus, and rode it to the Arc de Triumph. It too was closed. Took photos of the outside, and tried to do another geocache. Did I mention we found a geocache near the Orangerie?
Anyway, tried to find a second geocache near the arc, and then rode the bus to the Eiffel Tower. It was a madhouse. Also saw about 20 police cars/vans going through town earlier. I guess there were big protests.
Rode the batobus back to the house and I just ate the most amazing cake. They make this layer cake that is just fantastic. Glad we are walking a lot, I need it to offset the food here!
More pics later.