Thursday, September 25, 2008

Okay...Stonehenge, Finally

Getting back to last year's European adventure, day four was spent at Stonehenge. I was really excited for this day. We used a tour company called MadMax for this portion of the trip, and were very impressed. They crammed a lot into the day but we never felt rushed at any of the sites. They also do small tours, so you're not being herded around with 100 other people--just about a dozen or so. Nice.

Stonehenge was our first stop on the tour, and this was the first time on the trip where it really hit me that I’m in England! Stonehenge was the reason we went to England in the first place, and it did not disappoint. It is roped off, but at one point, you can get fairly close to it—close enough where you feel very, very small next to the stones.

Next stop was Avebury, which is another ancient stone formation, but it is huge. It is about a mile long, and you are still allowed to walk amongst the stones. The tour guide gave us a little background information, then we were free to roam for a little while. There were sheep roaming amongst the stones too, which I thought was cool in a random sort of way.

After Avebury, we went to visit two Cotswold Villages. The first was Lacock. (Ladies, you will probably recognize this town from the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Lacock was transformed into the town of Merryton.) We went to the King George pub in Lacock for lunch. It has the longest standing liquor license in the country. I loved Lacock. I kept walking up and down the streets (all four of them) marveling that these cottages had existed for so long.

Our final stop was Castle Combe, which was also really cute. It made me want a cottage in the Cotswolds. It had one main street, and some of the cottages had been there for hundreds of years.

The tour had left from Bath, which is about an hour and a half west of London by train, and a tourist destination in and of itself. We were lucky to get back in time to see the Roman Baths--literally a spa dating to Roman times, with the infrastructure still largely intact. It was fascinating.

As we got to the train station to head back to London, we discovered it was rush hour. We used rail passes for our long train trips in England for the flexibility, but while the rail passes allow you onto any train, they do not guarantee you a seat. We managed to find one empty seat, which Hubby gallantly let me have, but he got stuck standing for a couple of stops.

I had really hoped to be able to sleep a little on the train, but unfortunately the seats directly across from me were taken by two girls in their early 20’s who were very excited about their trip to London and were quite passionate in their discussions of how big their bums were and the fact that with their bosses getting Myspace accounts, their bosses can now see when they have been active on their own pages. Every time I started to fall asleep, one of them would shriek something and I’d be jolted awake again, sigh.

We stopped by Parliament and Big Ben when we got back so Hubby could get some nighttime shots. Our first order of business however is dinner. We started heading in the same direction we had gotten lost in the day before on our way to Buckingham Palace, when Hubby said something that completely caught me off guard: “There was a McDonald’s in this direction.”

What? McDonald’s? Hubby never wants to eat at McDonald’s. Plus, I did not come all the way to London to eat at McDonald’s. Then Hubby said that he had seen a hamburger place the night before, but I had been so eager to try another place that he didn’t mention he wanted to try it. Oh. For Hubby to suggest McDonald’s, Hubby must really, really really want a hamburger. We eat at McDonald’s.

McDonald’s is just as crappy in the UK as it is in the US.

But at least we got some great pictures for our efforts.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Life Has Been A Whirlwind

I will continue my Europe report, but I wanted to apologize for the lack of posting. Life has been crazy lately. I got a new job, and we've had a lot of family commitments in both CA and MN. I promise to start swinging by all your blogs again soon! I miss you guys.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

They Say It Comes In Three's...

There's nothing like getting a call on a three-day weekend from your father that starts out "I have some bad news..."

My maternal grandfather died yesterday. My parents got a call yesterday morning from his neighbors, who became alarmed when they noticed he hadn't picked up his newspaper by his usual time. They knocked on the door and called for him, but he didn't respond. They called my mom, who told them how to get into the house. My parents left for my grandfather's house right away, but my mom was thinking it was more likely that the paper had just been delivered late, and that my grandfather had gone to run errands. But she got a call back a few minutes later from the neighbors, who had found him on the floor in his bedroom. The coroner said it looked like cardiac arrest, and said death would have been almost instantaneous. The coroner put the time of death at 8 a.m., but my mom and uncle thought it was earlier, because all of the night lights were still on in the house, and there was no sign that my grandfather had started his day. He was an early riser, and religiously stuck to his daily routines. They had both talked to him the day before, and my parents had gone over on Saturday to help with some of the household chores.

He was a stubborn man--my mother and uncle had approached him several times about assisted living, but he refused to leave his house. I guess in a way it was good timing--he was getting to the point where he would not have been able to live on his own, and this way he got to finish his life in his house the way he wanted to. He loved basketball, and was an avid Lakers fan. He played both football and basketball at Colorado State, before World War II cut his career short. He served in the Navy, and used to tell us stories about the pet monkey he got in the service (that he wasn't allowed to bring back to the States).

The funeral will be sometime within the next week. I'm going to take a break from the blog until about the middle of the month. When this has all passed, I'll post the Stonehenge stuff (oh, and just to clarify, all the Europe stuff is from a trip we took last year--I just got lazy with the blog and resurrected my trip report so I wouldn't have to write--sorry for the confusion).

I like to think my grandfather and grandmother are together again, and that maybe they're enjoying the time together they never got because of Alzheimer's. It's still weird to lose them both within six months though. My husband's great-uncle recently passed as well, so maybe if the old addage about death coming in three's is really true, the Grim Reaper will leave us alone for awhile.