22 September 2011

Mom and Dad's Visit--Part Four: Dover Castle. . .

We ended our time in Dover with a trek up to Dover Castle.  It was built by William the Conqueror following the Battle of Hastings in 1066. . probably within an already existing Iron Age fort.  It has been rebuilt and expanded over the years, and has served as a fortress from medieval sieges through the Second World War-- when it was modernized for artillery warfare with anti-aircraft weaponry.  Its underground tunnels were adapted in the 1960s to serve as a regional seat of government after a nuclear attack.  We only toured the really old areas of the castle; next time, we will hit the World War II part.

The views were pretty incredible, especially out across the English Channel, but one of the most entertaining parts were the people dressed up in period garb walking around in character.  One guy in particular (his picture is below) was excellent; we met him when he was searching the grounds for his wife.  He had suspicions that she was "making a cuckold of him" and our conversation was interrupted when he caught sight of her and raced off hollering at and chasing her.  Later he returned to teach us a bit about life in the castle.  Then about an hour later, the girls caught sight of him dragging the "other man" up a set of steps.  We followed and witnessed a bit of a trial--the eventual outcome was that she was expecting their first baby and the "other man" was the midwife's son. The girls loved it!!  We also got to meet Henry the II--who built the great tower as a grand residence and a place to welcome important guests.

21 September 2011

Windsor Castle. . .

So. . . back to Maggie's birthday weekend (in JULY--never credit me with being able to keep up with things!!)

On our second day in Windsor, we headed to Windsor Castle.  One of the things that struck me the most about this very historic and important place was that it was smack-dab in the middle of the surrounding town.  Most of it is not set off in the distance past rolling fields or contained in a fortress of trees. . .it was right in the middle of it all.  Here is an aerial shot from Google images of the whole thing.

The castle was founded by William the Conqueror at the end of the 11th century and it is one of the official residences of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II--in fact, it has been the home of 39 monarchs.  It sits on 26 acres and in the Upper Ward, where the State and royal apartments are, there are 951 rooms--225 are bedrooms.  In other words, it is a obnoxiously fancy weekend  home for the Queen! :)  (Can't imagine the Obamas could get away with that!)

It is a working castle, with staff driving through the crowds of tourists, and official business happening while all of us were snapping photographs and ogling at the artifacts.  We had a ton of fun at this castle. . .Keith and the older girls especially like the places that we go that have headphone tours.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone touring England--it is touristy, but worth the crowds!

A little bit of sister love on the walk there. . .best part was that we didn't even make them hug!  :)

Along the street on the walk there.

A little bit of the USA right next door. . .McDonalds, Starbucks and Pizza Hut in this shot.

We were pretty excited about this flag. . it meant that the Queen was currently in residence.  I am guessing that is the closest we are going to get to Her Majesty while we are here.  The girls practiced a curtsy, but no royal sightings this trip!

Since the Queen was in residence, this area was restricted to tourists because it is an entrance to the private royal apartments--their very gorgeous "front door" is below.

The girls listening to the tour.

Apparently, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (King Edward the VIII and Wallis Simpson) were huge pug fanatics and owned 11 or so of them over the years. . .in honor of our Wrigley, I had to snap this one!

Ironically, they were playing American music.

St. George's Chapel on the right.

Obviously Daddy and I were far more excited about the cannons than especially Hannah was!

Different angle on courtyard to the royal residence. . .

So glad to have the pushchair join us in this shot. . oh well. . it's still a nice pic!

The important stuff!

14 September 2011

Just a few bits and bobs. . .

Love "bits and bobs" (odds and ends). . here are some things I am figuring out about life in the UK:
  •  You can't order sausage on your pizza. . but you can get donor (lamb) on it.
  • They don't sell spray butter at the supermarket--or Crisco.
  • Apparently to be a proper English mother, you have to add ironing (school uniforms, etc) to the list of laundry to-do's. . thankfully I am an American mom and there is the lovely invention of non-iron clothing!
  • The metric system stinks!
  • Kids really don't eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. . jam sandwiches, yes. . Marmite, yuck. . but not PB&J.
  • Jello is called jelly; jelly is called jam--so it was funny to see the look on the neighbor girl's face when I offered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
  • Brits are huge American-philes. . .it's our music on the radio, Hollywood at the cinema, US celebs in the "glossies"--our pop culture is the one that they follow (with some small mention of UK celebs).  BBC covers Obama/Congress as much as Cameron/Parliament (if not more).  I can catch all of my favorite sitcoms on British television and get many familiar products--albeit with different names--at the shops.
  • On the subject of TV. . .was loving watching "Friends" in syndication while making dinner and then again when cleaning up after kids' bedtime.  The other night I cried my way through the series finale--there were TWO babies, Rachel got off the plane, leaving the purple apartment for the last time to get coffee, etc.  Then I cried even harder when between shows the announcer said: "The series finale of Friends--that's all for our run.  But don't worry we will have another American sitcom to take its place--Scrubs."  Apparently the channel had shown all of the episodes in order and was just done with it!  Bollocks! :)
  • Ground meat like beef is called "mince"
  • Article in the paper advertising the "potato shindig" at Hatton Family Farm. . guess that means no apple orchards this fall for the Brummels!
  • One of the more fun ones:  went to my first PTA meeting the other night. . at a pub.  And even better?  They ran a tab paid for by the PTA!   Pint of Stella for me!
Don't really have anything to add. . it just seemed this would be even more disgusting than the baby food the girls had.

12 September 2011

Mom and Dad's Visit Part Three: Dover. . .

After exploring Sandwich, England, we drove on to Dover where we were booked to stay the night.  I had always heard of the "white cliffs of Dover". . but seeing them was really impressive.  I had booked our hotel through a travel website and wasn't sure what to expect.  We were pleasantly surprised to find out we would be staying right on the waterfront; the hotel was perfect for a one night stay (except there was no air conditioning!).  

When we checked in, I asked them at the front desk if there might be a place nearby where we could buy beach toys because I had forgotten ours.  I got some odd looks--figured it was my accent--and they said there were a bunch of small shops nearby and one of them might have something.  After a nice dinner at a really quaint little wharf resturant, we headed to the "beach."  I quickly realized why the looks. . .what appeared to be a sandy was actually a beach full of rocks!  It was a little disappointing, but the girls still had fun skipping rocks into the ocean.

Yep. . that's France in the distance!!  So cool!

I wanted to ask this guy if he was training to swim the English Channel, but he never swam back our way.

That's Dover Castle. . it is in the next post.

First trip to the beach and it's all rocks. . sorry, Charlie!

08 September 2011

Mom and Dad's visit. . Part Two: Sandwich. . .

For anyone who doesn't know, I grew up in a town called Sandwich, Illinois.  Most people who hear it never forget that name.  My parents still live there (about 27 years now) as does my brother, Mike, his wife Beth, and their two daughters, Brynn and Anne.  When we asked Mom and Dad what they wanted to do while they were here, Dad's immediate answer was visit Sandwich, Kent here in England.

After our day in London, the next morning we were off to Sandwich.  It is a small village and very charming.  We walked around, saw a bit of the events of the festival that was happening, and even hit some shops.  I got a clock for my mantel that I have set to US time; kind of nice to have gotten it there in Sandwich.

Gotta love those narrow streets!  At times during this day it was a toss-up as to whether the cars and the people/strollers could actually fit on the street at the same time!

Entertainment with period dress and music. . the girls loved it!!

The courthouse gate (front left of picture) was dated from the 1500's (or something crazy like that!). . and you could just walk right up and touch it.