Sunday, October 28, 2007

Home via York

By Friday we just wanted to be out of the car and back at the flat, but we still had a 6 hour drive ahead of us. We stopped in York long enough for Dave and Chris to eat lunch and walk the medieval walls.

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I skipped lunch to visit York Minster - inside and out. The timing was perfect. I arrived at 12:55, and a guided tour began at 13:00.

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These are both views of the West Window. The equally impressive East Window is undergoing major restoration.

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We made it home safe and sound, and even survived all the traffic on the M1 and the M25. It was nice having "Speed Buggy" for the week, but we decided that in general, we really don't miss the car. Tomorrow it's back to business as usual. Chris will bike to school, Dave will take the train into London, and I will walk around town. The big difference? Shelly arrives!

Hadrian's Wall

Dave and Keith had work to do together on Thursday. Chris and I were supposed to visit Hadrian's Wall, but after our whirlwind trip of Scotland, the last thing he wanted to do was get back in the car, even for an hour. So off I went on my own. I drove to Housesteads Roman Fort and Museum, described in my Great Britain guidebook as "the wall's most dramatic site and the best preserved Roman fort in the whole country." It was a 10 minute walk from the car park, and there were lots of sheep along the way!

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Yes, the ruins of the fort were interesting, but what I really wanted to see was the wall. Parts of it are covered in grass.

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Parts of it are not.

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There is a even seasonal shuttle bus in the area - it's Route AD 122!


On Wednesday morning we had a 2 hour drive south to Edinburgh. We were surrounded by lowland fog (not highland mist) for most of the journey, but it lifted by the time we arrived. From Edinburgh Castle in the west...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket the Palace of Holyroodhouse in the east...

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...we walked the Royal Mile. Never tired of churches, I visited St. Giles' Cathedral.

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Very tired of churches, Dave and Chris visited Our Dynamic Earth and the Royal Museum of Scotland. For dinner we sought out the highly recommended David Bann Vegetarian Restaurant - a far cry from haggis, which we have yet to try! It was a long drive back to Durham that night on dark, single lane roads, and we didn't arrive back at Keith's until around midnight.

The Enchanted Forest

Chris was given the task of finding interesting things to do and see in the general vicinity of Edinburgh. One of his top choices was The Enchanted Forest (near Pitlochry), a sound and light show that runs for just 2 weeks in the fall. It was a homecoming of sorts, because Dave and I had visited Pitlochry 13 years ago! Back then we arrived by train, did some hiking, toured Scotland's smallest distillery (Edradour), and celebrated Easter 1994 in the local Church of Scotland.

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On Tuesday night the brief show was spectacular, and yes, the water really was as smooth as glass.

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Once the show ended, we were free to wander along the paths in Faskally Wood. It was a clear but cold night (see the almost full moon?), and even Chris wore long pants. This wonderful attraction is now in its 6th year, and is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. Great choice, Chris!

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On Tuesday morning we continued north on the A1. We drove by the Angel of the North, which is the world's most frequently viewed work of art, thanks to all the traffic that passes by it every day. It's 20 meters high and has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 767, so you can't miss it. And we knew exactly what it looks like, because we had seen a miniature version just days before at Legoland!

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Thanks to my Medieval Church History class, I was looking forward to visiting Lindisfarne (Holy Island). It was originally home to St Cuthbert (now buried in Durham Cathedral), and the Lindisfarne Gospels (now in the British Library in London, much to the chagrin of many people living up north). Dave and Chris were simply intrigued by the fact that Lindisfarne is a tidal island, so the causeway that connects it to the mainland is under water at high tide.

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We briefly walked around the grounds of Lindisfarne Priory, and then had to be on our way. The tide was coming in, and we were due in Pitlochry that night.

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Half Term in Durham

All across England, students below university level had last week off from school, so we rented a car and drove north on Sunday. Having selected the smallest automatic vehicle possible (a Nissan Micra), Dave affectionately nicknamed it "Speed Buggy." (Remember that cartoon from the 70s?) Here it is parked at the Craigmhor Lodge for the one night we stayed in Pitlochry, Scotland. Given that Chris had the entire back seat to himself, he actually did have enough room.

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Keith's flat in Durham was our base for the rest of the week. (Formerly at Loyola, Keith is now at the University of Durham. He was here for our September BBQ, and there is an earlier blog entry on that.) On Monday morning I toured Durham Cathedral, and in the afternoon Chris and I explored the town while Dave spoke at the CS Departmental Seminar. We especially enjoyed our time at the small Museum of Archaeology, located in a former mill on the beautiful River Wear.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fall Back

We change our clocks tonight, so London will only be 4 hours ahead of the East Coast for the next week. And I thought it got dark early around here already! The NFL game at Wembley Stadium kicks off at 5 pm tomorrow, so it will be under the lights from the start. I bet that will seem strange to people watching it at 1 pm (or earlier) in the "Colonies." And yes, that term is still used around here occasionally. My response? I just smile.


Years ago when we flew to San Diego, Legoland California was at the top of our "must do" list for Chris. So we couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit Legoland Windsor before it closed for the season, and that is where we could be found last Saturday. Sure, the rides and shows are geared for the kiddies, but the Lego creations all around the park are spectacular. Here is an example from the "Knights' Kingdom" area.

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Miniland contains the greatest concentration of bricks. San Diego features American cities such as New York and San Francisco, while Windsor highlights European cities such as Paris and London.

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Right down to the Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London, the attention to detail everywhere is impressive.

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And the USA is not ignored completely! (Miniland also includes the Kennedy Space Center.)

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We even got to peek into the workshop of the Master Builders. Imagine getting paid to play with Legos! Yes indeed, it was a "magical" day....

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Twas the night before...

...Erin's birthday! That's right, Erin will be 20 years old tomorrow. She was born on Monday, October 26, 1987 at St. Mary's Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. She came into this world at 12:04 pm, and was officially 7 lbs 7 oz in weight and 19 1/2 inches long.

We've been on the road this week with limited internet access, so I'm sending this off now in case we don't get to a computer tomorrow. More soon - with pictures! - on Durham, Lindisfarne, Pitlochry, Edinburgh, York....

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pub Crawl

A friend of a friend now lives in London, and he was more than happy to share a few of his favorite pubs with us. After several scheduling attempts, last night finally worked out, so off we went to 4 different places.

Old Bank of England - Can you guess what this was before it became a pub?
Seven Stars - Opened in 1602, it actually survived the Great Fire of 1666.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese - This one was destroyed by the Great Fire, but rebuilt a year later.
Black Friar - The surrounding area was formerly home to a Dominican Priory.

Each pub has a fascinating history, a unique character, and an unexpectedly beautiful interior. (You can view pictures and learn more about them at a site such as From Fuller's to Samuel Smith's, all have a variety of local brews on tap. I had a killer headache before we even started, so I enjoyed a half pint of a real ale and a half pint of a cider, and then called it quits. Dave and Marc both happily lifted a pint at each of our stops! And if we're up for it another night, Marc has at least 4 more favorites....

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Woking URC

Our temporary church home is Woking United Reformed Church. Now 35 years old, the URC was born from the merger of several denominations - including the Presbyterian Church of England - so we feel very comfortable. Several years ago, two local URC congregations merged into one. They hired a wonderful young minister (Lucy) fresh out of seminary, and have been growing ever since. From the weekly Toddlers' Group to the monthly Diamond Cluster (ages 60+), they have something for just about everyone. Dave and I recently joined a Fall Study Group in which we are covering Acts 13-28. These chapters are also the current focus of both the sermons and Junior Church. We certainly miss our Havenwood family, but we feel very fortunate to have found such a welcoming group of people while we are here.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007


Today was a big day in sport. (Nope, there's never an "s.") We started the afternoon by attending our third home match of the Woking Football Club. Unfortunately, they lost to York City, 3-0. Fortunately, it was all uphill from there. Day matches usually kick off at 3 pm, but this one was bumped up to 1 pm so that it would finish just in time for the England vs. Estonia football match at Wembley. Fans were encouraged to purchase their Seafare fish and chips (on the stadium grounds) and then join others at The Cardinal Bar (also on the stadium grounds) to watch the match on the "big screen." We did, but it really wasn't. England won, as expected, 3-0. Tonight we headed out to Rat & Parrot (love that name!) to watch the England vs. France rugby match. Talk about a big screen - the one hanging over the bar was a good 12 feet high by 20 feet wide! In yet another rugby upset, England won, 14-9, and now moves on to the Rugby World Cup Final next Saturday.

In all of this local excitement, I haven't forgotten about the boys of summer back home. I don't follow the baseball games live - they usually start here at midnight or later - but I do check the scores first thing in the morning. The Indians are off to a rough start against the Red Sox. (Dave and I grew up in Cleveland.) But given that they knocked off the Yankees in the previous round of postseason play, we already have much for which to celebrate!

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Arts

With the recent opening of The Lightbox (a new art gallery), Woking is providing some interesting cultural options. On Sunday afternoon we saw Tiago Guedes do a solo 'skit?' involving paper bags, markers, and scissors (no running!). The highlight from the Binkley perspective was on Monday night when Compagnie Beau Geste performed a dance involving a 4 ton digger! aahhhh culture :)


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Celebrity Sightings

Supposedly they're everywhere in London...if you know where to look. But it often involves trendy restaurants or nightclubs in the wee hours of the morning, so I haven't been very successful. (Especially since I haven't tried.) Yesterday I was walking along the South Bank of the Thames - on my way back to Waterloo Station - when I came across this scene.

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It's a movie set for Last Chance Harvey, due out in 2008 or 2009. Stars include Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson.

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Filming was actually not in progress when I went by, so I won't be making my Hollywood debut. Instead, Dustin (on left, looking down) and Emma (on right, in profile) had just finished looking at some scenes on the monitors. Someone made an announcement that 3 minutes remained until sunset, so apparently nature determined when filming would resume.

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I didn't hang around, because I wanted to be on my train before it got dark. But you just never know who you'll see when you're least expecting it. And I do like Dustin Hoffman....

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Woking College

Chris keeps promising to write about school, but he has yet to do so. Compulsory education here in England goes through age 16. Those who are planning to then attend university must first take 2 years of A levels at college. Thus, college is a transitional period between high school and university, and is roughly equivalent to our 11th and 12th grades. It is a time of increased freedom - there are no school uniforms, backpacks can be carried at all times, and students can go into town for lunch. Chris likes all of that! He also likes the later hours (8:45 - 4:00) that let him sleep until a reasonable hour. The campus is almost a mile from our flat, so he's out the door and on his bicycle no later than 8:30.

His timetable is different each day of the week, and on Thursday and Friday he is done by 3:00. He originally signed up for English literature, computing, physics, and maths. For his enrichment period on Wednesday afternoon he chose photography, and this is a picture he took of the campus for his first assignment. The math curriculum is different from ours in that it includes multiple topics in a single year. Thus, he will be getting an introduction to calculus, but is also seeing material that he has already learned. Those who do well are encouraged to add a fifth course - further maths! - and that is exactly what he did. However, it meant dropping photography. And now that I've gotten this started, maybe I can convince Chris to tell you more over the weekend....

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Weekend in Paris

Dave had a conference in Paris, so all three of us took advantage of it. We boarded our Eurostar train on Friday afternoon, and headed toward the Chunnel. Many of the passengers were on their way to the England vs. Tonga Rugby World Cup match in Paris that night, and were already in party mode. The bar ran out of beer halfway through the journey - bet that doesn't happen very often! After checking into our hotel, we ate dinner at a nearby restaurant that was showing the match. (England won, but the Parisians were obviously cheering for Tonga).

Saturday was our one full day in Paris, so we made the most of it by leaving the hotel at 8:30 am, and not returning until 1:00 am. We took a Segway tour in the morning, climbed La Tour Eiffel in the afternoon, and took a bike/boat tour that night. (Adam was our wonderful guide for both tours. He's from Madison, WI, which is where both Dave and Chris were born.) What's that in the middle of the Eiffel Tower, you ask? Why, it's a giant inflatable rugby ball!

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On Sunday Dave headed off to his conference, while Chris and I slept in. Once we finally got moving, Chris shared his baguette with the pigeons at Le Jardin du Luxembourg.

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We spent the afternoon at Le Musee des arts et metiers, which is the oldest museum of science and technology in Europe, and was described in our guidebook as "a must for anyone with an interest in how things work." Our walk back to the hotel took us behind Notre Dame for Chris to get some better pictures of those flying buttresses. That evening we were boarding our train a mere 48 hours after our arrival at Gare du Nord on Friday. But we'll be back....

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