Whirlwind Trip to the UK

This has taken much longer getting back into posting after our busy holiday than I imagined it would.  Before I get to our amazing holiday I wanted to share a PSA with everyone.  Our trip was 3 weeks long but it’s been another couple of weeks since and I haven’t posted.

I had decided a few months ago I would come off my fibro meds once we were back from holiday because I still had the fibro symptoms plus some awful side effects.  Including a brain fog that was something else!  Now I spoke with doctors beforehand and the only thing they said was to step down the dose carefully.  I did it nice and slow.  It went better than I thought it would.  But once I finished the fun really started and they never mentioned anything about this which is why I’m sharing this with you.  I know I’m not the only one going through this.  The withdrawal after the meds was horrendous and I could barely get out of bed.  I did some research and found that people can end up having seizures or have to be in hospital.  Luckily I didn’t have that but I was really upset that I wasn’t told of this prior to going on the meds and not being told this when I said I was coming off!  So if you are going to be dealing with this, do research and really push your doctor to give you proper support, otherwise it can get really miserable.

That’s the end of the PSA and on to the fun stuff!

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This year we took the kids with us to the UK, one because we were due for a family trip and two because our daughter is touring universities this year.  Surreal that she is beginning this new chapter!  We had so much to fit into this trip and hit the ground running by taking a day trip to Cardiff.  We were all pleasantly surprised at what a fabulous city it is.  The university was right near the town centre and we were fortunate to be able to speak with a senior professor who is part of the admissions.  It was a well spent half hour.  Crossing the Severn was quite the treat as well.

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Without much of a break we headed to our next adventure.  My husband’s family planned a day coach trip to the Somme because his great great uncle was killed in action 100 years ago to the day.  The cemeteries take your breath away and they are immaculate.

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Thiepval was very powerful.  73,000 names of people of unknown burial.  73,000 families had the heartbreak of not knowing what happened.  It was overwhelming for me.  I was struck by the inability of humans to learn from history and the current climate doesn’t hold much hope that we won’t see another Thiepval.

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We were treated to a gorgeous view back across the channel with the sunset.  Hard to beat the sun going down over water.

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We realised that the kids had never been to Stonehenge so it sounded like a perfect day trip.  I really like how they’ve changed the area by moving the visitor centre a mile and a half away.  It really opens up the surrounding area so you see how it was in ancient times.  It was really lovely to walk in the countryside seeing all the barrows.  We also went to Avebury which is a village smack in the middle of a very large stone circle.  A fascinating place.

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After a couple of days puttering about it was time to head north.  I couldn’t wait to show the kids the countryside up north.  University of Manchester was on the list to tour and my friend works there.  Which was fabulous as she actually gave us a much better tour than the official one.  Including getting into the Rutherford Room where the atom was split in 1911.  That was so cool.

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The next day was a gorgeous trip into Yorkshire with Skipton Castle and Bolton Abbey.  I hadn’t been to the Abbey before and I loved it.  The whole area includes the Abbey, the current church in use and the village.  Loads of walking to be done.

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The next day was a great mix of geeky stuff.  We went to see the Lovell Telescope which is an incredible bit of engineering.  You have to have your phones off or in airplane mode as you can interfere with the telescope.  The telescope can pick up a single mobile phone signal from Mars.  We also enjoyed the diesel gala at the East Lancs Railway.  We rode the rails for bit.  The door windows were popular as it was the best way to cool off on the trains!

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It was time to head to London, no rest for the wicked!  Our daughter wanted to visit the Tate as some of the art work was in her image set from her AP Art History course.  I’ll admit, I don’t get the Tate.  At all but to each their own.  It was this afternoon that our daughter got her results for her AP Art History and AP Bio.  She achieved a 5 in both, we are so incredibly proud of all her hard work.  She worked so much with the studying.  It took a lot of time after school and weekends for the heavy coursework.

My husband noticed before our trip that the London Transport Museum was having an open day at Acton.  Our kids weren’t overly impressed but he and I loved walking round all the old stock, maps, signs and artifacts.

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We spent the rest of the day wandering round Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square.  I have to say by this time I was tired of the sun and heat.  It wasn’t so bad in the countryside but London was pushing it!

For the last full day we headed to Cambridge for the last of the university tours.  We loved being able to walk in the footsteps of Darwin.  His room is still used by students.  Can you imagine being assigned his room?  Because most of the colleges own the river banks they charge you to walk through to the River Cam so we decided to do a punt tour down the river.  So much cooler on the river!  We got a great view of the Bridge of Sighs, named because Queen Victoria thought it looked just like a bridge in Venice.  It doesn’t but who was going to argue with the Queen?

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After a week straight of walking 4-8 miles a day, we were done in but what memories.  It was amazing to do all the exploring with the kids and spending the time with them before they went off on their next summer adventures.

 

 

Over the Rainbows at Niagara Falls

We’ve had a great week away.  It started off by doing a couple of university tours for our daughter.  The tradition of saying “we’re the best ever!” is still alive and well though the young gentleman at Cornell was funny and probably answered the most honest I’ve heard on any tour.  While our daughter went back home with her mother, my husband and I headed to Niagara Falls, Ontario for a long weekend.  A break was definitely needed!

The weather was just gorgeous though it was quite cold on the Sunday, particularly with the wind.  It was lovely to get out in fresh air and do a lot of walking.  We also went to Bird Kingdom which was fascinating.  The birds fly around free in the aviaries with trees, waterfalls, etc to keep them happy.  I liked it because if any human bugs them they can get away.  We went to a greenhouse floral show but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was called.

I wanted to share with you some of the photos I took on our trip.

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Given the gorgeous weather the rainbows were out in force.  Just incredible.

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Here are some videos of the falls.  The power of the falls is so mesmerising.

This video is behind the falls in one of the two portals.

Bird Kingdom didn’t just have birds, there were reptiles and tortoises.  I have to say this guy could hustle faster than I thought they could.  Headed right for us.

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I just love birds and all the colours they come in.  It’s remarkable how varied and bright they can be.

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I was surprised how many there were pure white.  Against the backdrop they were beautiful.

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The greenhouse didn’t have as many flowers as I had hoped because they were redoing a significant portion of the greenhouses.

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We had a wonderful time recharging our batteries and spending time together.  I loved how friendly everyone was across the border.  It made for a great experience.

 

 

New York in August

This month has been a bit of a whirlwind.  My friend,  whom I’ve been friends with since I was about 15 months old, came to visit with her family for a couple of weeks from the UK.  With the distance between us, we obviously don’t see each other often so I was really looking forward to this.  I am very fortunate to have her friendship, she is one of those people that are true friends.  Never any judging, just complete acceptance and support.  She is just a lovely person.  I also count her wonderful husband as a very old friend.  The funny thing is our children share the same names so you can bet it got a little confusing having everyone together!

We packed in loads of adventures into the two weeks they were here.  The kids were introduced to the massive sized ice creams, root beer floats, and New York style pizza.  I fear there was a withdrawal from the newfound root beer habit.  

The highlight of the visit was the trek to NYC.  Given the time of year I do wish that we had portable air conditioning units to carry with us.  The concrete jungle definitely gives off the heat waves!  This visit was a whirlwind tour of the more popular sites. Good thing we had excellent trainers!  


Grand Central is a great place to start the adventure.  It’s such an amazing building and thankfully it was restored rather than suffering the fate that Penn Station had.  Their son is a massive train fan so this was such a treat for him.  



We started in Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty.  Apparently you have to book tickets 3 months in advance to go up it.  To be honest I remember doing that as a child and the time it takes to get up to the top doesn’t make it worth it.  We wandered to the World Trade Center and the memorial there.  The memorial was incredibly moving, they really did it well.  Despite the crowds it’s a peaceful spot.  What got me the most was that they put a white rose on the names when it is the person’s birthday.  

My son, who had visited there with school, said we had to go straight up to the new World Trade Center building.  Then look straight up.  A very cool view.  The way they designed it, looks like it goes on forever.

As this was proving a very hot afternoon I suggested the next stop be Little Italy for refreshments.  


Cannoli and cocktails are very restorative don’t you know.  There is nothing like a well prepared cannoli.  This gave us enough energy to get through the queues to the top of the Empire State Building.  We timed it so by the time we got to the top the sun was going down.  It was insanely crowded at the top but we were able to get some great views.


Not bad for a first day.  The next day was museum day in a bid to keep cool.  For some reason I had yet to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I’m really glad we went, what an amazing museum.  There is something for everyone and their collections are extensive.  Because we didn’t have an endless amount of time we had to pick and choose what we wanted to see.  I would love to go back again.


We ended up spending most of the day there so we had to briskly walk across Central Park as we had promised a visit to the Natural History Museum.  


I hadn’t been in this part of the park before and the flowers and pond were really pretty.  As luck would have it, we emerged from the park right at the museum.  Unfortunately we discovered we only had two hours before it closed.  We were impressed by the greeters, though I wouldn’t mess with them, given the size of their teeth!


Because of the movie “Night at the Museum” we had to go see Dum Dum.  For those that haven’t seen the movie, it is a large Easter Island head.  I asked a guide where the Easter Island head was and he looked confused until I said Dum Dum.  So you can imagine how many parents are dragged there by their children!  Though given the cool stuff there it’s not much of a hardship.

After including Times Square, cheesecake and Gulliver’s Gate, we were very tired on the trip back.  All in all it was a very successful trip and loads of fabulous memories were made. 

The Cowards Will Never Win

It’s been another trying few weeks for Britain.  The startling and crazy politics aside, I mean really, the DUP?  But two cities close to my heart were once again cruelly attacked by  cowards.  What else can you call them?  It’s bad enough if you target fellow man but to target children?  No, you are a coward.

We were in London when the attacks happened in Manchester.  Once again I was taken and impressed with the spirit of the people coming together, despite what an orange useless so called leader likes to spout on stuff he doesn’t understand.  He doesn’t get what the people of Britain are made of.  We’re very good at getting back up again, pulling up the boot straps, and coming together with humour, strength, and acts of kindness.

So while this terrible problem needs to be solved, preferably sooner rather than later, these cowards need to know they aren’t ever going to win.

When we were in London we walked miles and miles visiting places I used to go when I lived there and discovering new sights.  I took my husband to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park.  I used to go years ago.  I love how people can just have a soap box to talk about whatever they want as long as it doesn’t incite hate or violence.

It was only just starting when we arrived, just one guy talking about his Christian beliefs.    He did have a sense of humour about it.  There was a lively debate between him and a gentleman who was Muslim.  I couldn’t hear too much what he was saying but all of a sudden the man holding court said “but you don’t want 4 wives, you’d have 4 mother in laws!”  Given that most obviously don’t have 4 wives, I do wonder what point was being brought up.

While this was going on a man came up to us asking if he could talk to us.  Nice enough but it wasn’t too long before we realised he was a bit out there.  He had some wild ideas about saving the earth and that we shouldn’t pollute, as he was rolling cigarettes.  He also talked about how the policeman was rude trying to arrest him for riding his bicycle on the M5.  He moved on to how we should all love each other which is when I got a bit naughty and suggested he talk to the guy above as he was talking about love as well.

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And so he did!  Much to the delight of the crowd.  Which begs the question why some choose to just chant and sing to get their message across.

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I don’t think their message is getting out, or maybe it is.  Who knows?

It was a gorgeous day and as we were walking through the park, for a laugh, I called to a squirrel.  Wouldn’t you know, it came running!  I think people need to stop feeding the animals!

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We also had a bit of fun with celebrity sightings on this trip.  When we arrived in the UK, James Blunt walked by me with his guitar, not a bad start.  As we were walking through Leicester Sq we came upon the theatre for “Don Juan in Soho” starring David Tennant.  We quickly got tickets.  It was hilarious and not for children!

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Because we queued politely, we missed out on getting an autograph.  I might have to rethink that!  But while we were sitting in the theatre I suddenly realised Tom Hollander was 10 feet away.  I stayed perfectly calm.  Well most of me, my left arm was hitting my husband frantically so he could look over.  It wasn’t long before I was tapping him again because 4 feet away Steven Moffat was sitting there!  Needless to say it was a fun night.

Luck would have it, two of my cousins arrived in London just before we left and my younger cousin had never been to London before.  It was a great treat giving her a bit of a walking tour at night, introducing her to some of the famous sites.  How wonderful to see London through fresh eyes.

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We did swing by the Lego store, where I am envious of those who have the job of building this:

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We walked through the War Rooms of Churchill and through the area filled with monuments and symbols of strength and perseverance.

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As I said, the cowards will never overcome the spirit and the strength of the people.

Life is Bloomin’ Good….

We are in the midst of enjoying a lovely holiday back in the U.K.  A much needed holiday but I haven’t done much cooking.  Instead we’ve been enjoying the diesel gala and walking our pins off.  The weather has been absolutely wonderful and I’ve taken the opportunity to indulge in a bit of photography with my SLR.  

With the gala there were some pretty sweet setups with cameras, my husband teased me saying I had lens envy.  😊.  True enough!  Though this post is a quick one to share some photos I took of flowers, I will be doing a post on the gala.  


The cat is a neighbourhood cat that is just desperate for belly rubs.  Soft thing.  Tomorrow we’re popping over to France by ferry. We’re in need of wine.

Warship D832 Onslaught

I am a very lucky woman.  I have a husband that supports me 100% and takes amazing care of me.  This past year has been very hard with issues with my family and my health.  He never wavered and really had to do more than his fair share while I worked to get healthy again.  Plus he works crazy hours.  I wanted to give him a treat that would make him smile.  Since I am horrible at winning any lottery ticket I thought something train related would do the trick.

My husband is a fan of the Warship class of diesels and luckily one was going to be at the Swanage Railway Diesel Gala.  I asked my MIL if there was a possibility of setting up a driver’s experience but as she rightly pointed out, that wasn’t an option for safety reasons.  I’m sure the passengers would prefer experienced drivers!

But the option of a cab ride was a go as long as everyone was ok with it.  As the drivers were staying with us, that part was easy and as my FIL works with the railway and we know a few people that was taken care of as well.  I can’t lie, I was excited to get this set up.  Then when I found out I could have a cab ride as well, that was just a bonus!  My husband went first then I got to have my ride.

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I had some videos but they are too large.  Wordpress recommends I upgrade to Premium.  Those of you who have upgraded, do you recommend?  And have they improved importing your followers to the new upgraded site?

Both of us enjoyed the cab ride very much.  Everyone was such a great help and so generous with their time.  It was a fabulous gala.

 

Quite the Diesel Show in Swanage

The main reason for the timing of our trip to England was the springtime Diesel Gala at Swanage Railway.  Obviously we were there for friends and family but if we can get our train fix than all the better!

We had the perfect weather for this trip and it really made the gala shine.  A few locos trickled at the beginning of the week but several came in as a convoy on the Wednesday before the gala.  My husband and I have fun “racing” the convoy from Corfe Castle to Swanage.

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Because they need to come down when the rails aren’t busy we don’t get a lot of light for the display but it was still loads of fun.  It is so impressive the amount of work the volunteers put into this.  There is quite a lot of logistics to wrangle.  We stayed in Swanage well after dark watching them shunting the locos round to get them staged for the first day.

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We bought a three day pass for this so we just rode the rails so to speak enjoying all the different locos and watching the locos changing out at Norden.

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I had been noticing people perched up on the hill at the castle in Corfe taking pictures.  When I say perched, I mean just that.  It’s almost like a cliff!  I can’t imagine having to storm the castle with armor, shields, and weapons.  It seems like an impossible task to me!  But it does give you the perfect spot to watch the locos go over the viaduct.

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Still need to get over there for a Steam Gala but this was a lot of fun.  The vibe was great and it was just what we needed to have a blast.  A huge success all round.  🙂

 

The Dorset Coast

We have been having a wonderful visit back in the UK.  It is going by very quickly though, wish there was a way to slow it down.  Right now we are on the train to London on our way to Manchester.  Since our last visit they have put wifi on the trains so I can blog while we travel.  Which is great because with the diesel gala and day trips I haven’t had time!  

Mixed emotions today as it is hard to leave family but I am very excited to head up north as it’s been 13 years, which is far too long.  We’re staying with my friend that I’ve known for 42 years!  Since I was in nappies.  

While we were in Swanage we did a few day trips on the coast.  It was just breathtaking.  And a challenge!  With the steep climbs I really pushed my back.  I’m paying for it now but it felt really good to actually get up the hills.  Getting to the top makes it all worth it with the views.

The first coast trip was to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.  I have to say we’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather, sun for the whole trip with the exception of the last two days.  We both have a bit of a farmer’s tan.  

Here are some pics of that day.  I tried several times to load small video but the wifi can’t handle it.  It was becoming the definition of insanity!


The next day we drove to Portland Bill, a lighthouse on an island sticking out about six miles into the channel.  There is a guided tour to the top of the lighthouse and the guide showed us a map showing all the known shipwrecks in the immediate area.

A famous one, the Royal Adelaide, happened in 1872.  Because it happened close enough to the beach everyone was rescued.  Great success!  The next day they found 20 people dead on the beach.  Turns out some locals thought it would be a good idea to rescue the gin on the boat by drinking it.  They died of exposure.  Darwinism at work, unfortunately.



I have a few blog posts to do when we get back home including a Victorian Sponge.  Ooh la la.  😊.  But first we’re going to enjoy the last few days of our trip which include a visit to the East Lancashire Railway.  Should be fun!

Footplate Ride on the 31806

Whenever we travel back to the UK I always have a list of things to do and eat.  Once we land and make our way to Swanage we pop down to the water and I get my fish n chips.  Clears the cobwebs.  Nothing like the sea air to give you a second wind, or third or fourth, depending on how hard it is to stay awake.

Of course I always ask my FIL if it’s possible to have a footplate ride.  I make sure I pack clothes that can get dirty and trainers that are on their last legs.  Today I was able to have a ride on the 31806 and it was fabulous!  The weather was amazing, which is good as this one is an open cab.  Must be miserable in the rain but I didn’t have to worry about that!

Loco Yard had done a post about this particular loco a few years ago.  Originally it was a K class and rebuilt into a U class in 1928.  It’s home is now at the Swanage Railway.  I have to say I really enjoyed this loco.  I love how the little kids get so excited when they see it coming.  Well, and the big kids to.  I felt I should have worked on my royal wave with all the waving going on!

Here are some pictures and videos to share with you.


Next weekend the diesel gala is happening which makes my husband happy.  Fingers crossed the weather holds!

Villandry and Gardens to be Jealous of…

Hard to believe but the Chateau of Villandry was once up for demolition.  Fortunately Joachim Carvallo and his wife Ann Coleman, a Spaniard and an American, bought it in 1906.  Pretty remarkable that they took this on but take it on they did.  They refurbished the buildings and uncovered and brought back to life the gardens.  And what an amazing place it is.

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So of course it was a must on our list.  It was well worth the trip.  They have acres of formal gardens, both vegetable and flowers.  I can’t lie, I’m envious of how well their veg patch is doing given theirs seems to be surviving without rabbit damage.  Unlike ours!

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The formal part of the garden “spells” out tender love, passionate love, fickle love, and tragic love.

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I do wonder how the family, who still lives there, find ways to enjoy the gardens.  I would find it difficult to have to stay out of sight until the masses have left.  But it would be a wonderful place to stroll with a glass of wine.  There are lovely spots to find whether it be the stone watchdog or the graceful swan swimming by.

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But my favourite spot was the sun garden.  I much prefer the gardens that follow the English cottage garden, rather than formal, straight, and narrow gardens.  Letting the flowers and plants do what they are meant to do naturally.

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One thing I really enjoyed while in France was the wonderful food you can get at the tourist stops.  At Villandry they had a restaurant that used the veg from the kitchen gardens.  I had a smoked duck fillet salad with roasted pine nuts and a violet vinaigrette for a dressing.

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It was delicious.  It was such a great day with the kids.  We created so many good memories on this trip that will last a lifetime.