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Dover is an easy day trip from London and well worth the train ride. We caught the 10:10 train from St Pancras and made it to the Dover Priory station by 11:15. The taxi from the train station to the White Cliffs of Dover Visitors Center cost £7 and took 15 minutes. We ate lunch then headed out for a hike around the area. The visitors brochure listed the Top Five Things to Do while in Dover:

  1. Watch the hustle and bustle of the World’s busiest passenger port  ~ check
  2. Enjoy a gentle stroll along the famous White Cliffs of Dover   ~  check
  3. Catch a glimpse of France on a clear day ~ sadly, despite the warm temps and sunshine it was too misty to see France across the channel
  4. Experience a wonder of Victorian engineering at the South Foreland Lighthouse  ~  check
  5. Discover the rare plants and insects that make the cliff top their home   ~ don’t think they’re rare, but I loved the poppy fields

Dover Cliffs

White Cliffs of Dover

Dover beach view

The cliffs are gorgeous and we lucked out with a sunny and warm day to enjoy a two mile hike to the South Foreland Lighthouse.

Dover foot Path Sign

The pathways are marked with the purple or pink trail signs. We had no problem finding our way but I can imagine on a heavily misty day, it might be difficult to know where you’re going.

Dover Light House

The South Foreland Lighthouse was built in 1843 and guided boats safely around the dangerous Goodwin Sands. It also claims to be the first lighthouse to use electric light.

Dover view from lighthouse
View from the lighthouse

Dover Poppy Fields
Poppy Fields

Dover looking over the edge

Looking over the White Cliffs of Dover

Dover Gull nesting
Seagull nesting

Dover Gull and Rocks
Along the rocky coastline

Dover Ladder to beach
Climbing down the ladder to the beach area

Dover ladder to the beach
Logan on the ladder to the beach

Dover Lighthouse desk
Desk items at the Lighthouse

As always, we love exploring the English countryside…

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Ascot No Nay Never and the rest of the pack

I was on the fence about attending Ladies Day at Royal Ascot but since the outing was being organized by a fun British friend, I decided if nothing else, I’d enjoy the company of my new international friends. Little did I know I would thoroughly enjoy myself once I got into the to the races ~ the atmosphere was formal, fun and something I probably won’t get a chance to do again anytime soon.

During the year, Ascot hosts a total of 26 days of horse racing, but the five-day Royal Meeting in June is the most famous with race goers dressed in formal attire. Before the races, many of those attendees enjoy the traditional Car Park Picnic or, as we call it in the states TAILGATING. Our package included Champagne, Wine, Beer, Buck’s Fizz (aka Mimosa) and a few snacks.

The first race ever held at Ascot occurred on 11 August 1711 at the instigation of Queen Anne but it was during George II’s reign when the race became the second most popular in England. The Royal Enclosure was established in the 1790s to ensure privacy for the royal family. In 1822, George IV commissioned the exclusive Royal Box and it was only accessible to guests with the coveted royal invitation. There are MANY dress rules for the Royal Enclosure so it’s just as well I was in the Silver Enclosure.

The five-day meeting of Royal Ascot starts on Tuesday with the Royal Procession entering the racecourse through the Golden Gates. The Queen and her party are in horse-drawn open-top carriages parading along the track in front of the race-goers. Each day has a theme and we chose to attend Ladies Day (Thursday) which features the prestigious Gold Cup event.  Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot can be traced back to 1823 when an anonymous poet said of the Thursday Royal meeting as ‘Ladies’ Day… when the women, like angels, look sweetly divine.’

Ascot Waiting for the Gentlemen

I thought it was funny seeing all the beautifully garbed ladies hanging out side the men’s toilets.

Ascot White Hat

Ascot the ladies

The international ladies in my group.

Ascot no Shoes

This lady had the right idea ~ just take the shoes off completely!

Ascot The biggest Hat

This was my vote for the biggest and most unusual hat of the day (that I saw) but there were obviously more elaborate ones in the Royal enclosure. Click here to see the fabulous hats.

Ascot Red Hat

Those heels make my feet hurt just looking at them. Pretty but painful.

Ascot Pink Hat

This woman was an obvious “regular” of Royal Ascot. She seemed very comfortable with the whole thing.

Ascot Gray Hat

Ascot Brown hat

Ascot Big Hats

It was a lot of fun to see all the beautifully dressed women attending Ladies Day. I got into the spirit of things by wearing a bright pink fascinator and carrying a matching pink handbag. I thought I was being “bold” but paled in comparison.

Ascot traveling by carriage

Several people came to the party in horse-drawn carriages.

Ascot Uniform of the day

And the men were dressed so elegantly.

Ascot No Nay Never

“No Nay Never”

People watching was a lot of fun but the real excitement for me was actually placing a bet on a horse, watching it run and seeing it WIN! This was my first venture to a horse race and I can understand the excitement people feel from the thrill of the races. Since none of the ladies in my group knew a thing about betting on a horse, I “picked” a name from the list which at first glance I thought it said “No Hay Fever.” With my allergies raging these past few weeks, I thought that was the perfect horse to bet on. The name is actually “No Nay Never” but I stuck with it. On further research, No Nay Never is from the US and has a US owner and trainer so how could I not go with it. Odds were 6:1 when I placed my bet but I didn’t realize the odds could change. As the race got closer the odds went to 4:1 which would pay out less. Turns out, in order to keep the odds stated at the time of the bet, you have to say “Fixed Odds”.  Oh, well ~ live and learn. I placed a £10 bet to win and made £40.  Chump change for some, but I was thrilled.

Ascot Times Up

“Times Up”

Since I got my feet wet with the first bet, I decided to go for “worse” odds in the hopes of a bigger payoff. I placed a £5 bet on “Times Up” to win the Golden Cup. But The Queen’s horse, “Estimate” came in first. Watching her face during the win of her horse was so nice. It was obvious she was truly and completely in the moment and so happy. In the past, The Queen has owned 20 winning horses at Royal Ascot but yesterday was the first Gold Cup a monarch has won in the 207 years of the race.

Ascot is located southwest of London. Since I don’t have a car, I took the Jubilee line to Waterloo then a train (about 50 minutes) to Ascot. Biggest worry was my hat getting crushed by the rush hour mob. It’s a bit of a walk from the Ascot train station to the Silver Enclosure so if you go, wear comfortable shoes to walk in. I ended up keeping my comfy shoes on even after getting into the race area ~ I’m in awe of the ladies who could pull off the 4+ inch heels.

I would definitely recommend attending Ladies Day. Be sure to wear a hat and DRESS UP!!

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Stonehenge

I FINALLY made it to Stonehenge ~ it’s been on my “travel must-do” list for many, many years. There are more questions than answers regarding the reason Stonehenge was built. Lots of speculation but no definitive answers. The explanations for it being built range from “temple for human sacrifice” to “astronomy.” Due to the alignment of the stones, worship to lunar and solar beings is most likely (a Druid Temple). The circle is aligned with the midsummer sunrise, the midwinter sunset, and the most southerly rising and northerly setting of the moon.

More is known about the construction of Stonehenge. The original Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge which began about 3,100 BC. It consists of a ditch, bank, and the Aubrey holes. Aubrey holes refers to a ring of 56 mysterious circular cavities at Stonehenge and named after John Aubrey who discovered and recorded them in 1666.

The second stage of Stonehenge is thought to have occurred in 2150 BC. According to the Stonehenge website,82 bluestones from the Preseli Mountains in SW Wales were dragged to Milford Haven and then loaded onto rafts. These 4 ton stones were taken by water down the coast and then up the rivers Avon and Frome. They were then dragged overland again to outside Warminster in Wiltshire. Then, the final journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then from Salisbury Avon river to west Amesbury. In all, it was about 240 miles.

The third stage: The outer circle was built around 2100 BC using Sarsen stones, which were from the Avebury area located about 25 miles north of Stonehenge. Some of these stones weigh 50 tons but the average weight is 25 tons. These stones couldn’t be transported by water so they had to use sleds. It is thought that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull one stone.

The final changes took place around 1500 BC when the bluestones were rearranged in a horseshoe and circle that is what we see today. Originally, there were around 60 stones in the bluestone circle but these were removed or broken up long ago. A few stumps are below ground level.

Experts estimate it took over 30 million working hours to built Stonehenge. Whew ~ I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Stonehenge Closeup

Stonehenge II

Years ago visitors were allowed to walk amongst the stones but, due to the ever-increasing number of tourists, it was fenced off in 1978. Currently, there’s a walkway around the stone structure which still allows a very close up view. There is a parking area within easy walking distance to the stones but a new visitor’s center is being built and, once that is completed, visitors will have to take a shuttle to the site. English Heritage manages the area and hopefully they will continue to protect and preserve it.  There is a charge to enter the area (or you can peek in for free through the fence). If you plan to go, click here for all the latest rates and information.

Stonehenge sheep

Stonehenge Yellow fields

Surrounding Stonehenge is the beautiful English countryside with the yellow fields in bloom and, of course, sheep.

S Narrow Road

S graveyard

S Church

After Stonehenge, we visited a lovely English town called Sturminster Newton (Dorset County). To me, the town was quintessentially English with its thatched roof homes, narrow roads, old graveyards, stone fences, cute shops/pubs, etc.

S Church II

S Wall

This was an interesting wall ~ didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the town but interesting nonetheless.

At the local church, the minister happened to be outside greeting people as they came up for an event. I enjoyed walking around this quaint town and it reminded me that, as much as I love living in Central London, it’s so nice to get out to the countryside for a reprieve from the hustle and bustle.

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Gold Entrance Gate, Palace of Versailles, France

Gold Entrance Gate, Palace of Versailles, France

Versailles Gardens

My first recollection of the Palace of Versailles was in Junior High history class when we studied World War One. The signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended WWI, took place at the palace on 28th June 1919. Since then, I’ve read about and seen numerous documentaries about the French Revolution and, of course, the famous (or is it infamous) Marie Antoinette.

Versailles was the focal point of France’s Royal court from 1682 until 1789. It’s easy to envision it as a Royal Playground ~ Opulence is how most people describe it. It’s that and then some. It was built by Louis XIV because he wanted to remove himself and his courtiers from the intrigues of politics in Paris. It housed over 6,000 courtiers and, from what I’ve read, the gossip, jealousies and back stabbing would make a viper pit more enjoyable. By removing the nobles from Paris, it made Versailles very insular. That’s why I’m fascinated by General Lafayette who plays a part in the history of the palace of Versailles.

Marquis de Lafayette (Gilbert du Motier) went to Versailles at the age of 17. Even though he had a huge fortune and ties by his marriage to a powerful family close to Louis XVI, his independent spirit led him to a military career rather than a highly sought after court position.  He was impassioned with the American Revolution and secretly organized a voyage to the New World against the king’s wishes. Quite a bold move for such a young man. By the age of 20, Lafayette was a Major-General in the American army and a close friend of George Washington’s. I’ve read that George Washington treated him like a son. Lafayette helped the Colonial Army win several battles, including the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 ~ losing this battle led England to grant independence to the Americans. After his experience in the Americas, Lafayette returned to Versailles and was welcomed by the King and Queen. But the ideas of liberty he learned while in the US were not forgotten and in June 1789, he drafted the first Declaration of the Rights of Man, a document closely based on the Declaration of Independence. On 14 July, 1789, the storming of the Bastille occurred and he was appointed (again against the Kings wishes) as Commander of the French National Guard. He was responsible for keeping order in Paris and so he played a large role in the French Revolution’s early days. Although he was part of the revolution, he did save Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette when people of Paris overran the château and killed the bodyguards defending the queen’s apartment. Although he saved them that day, he couldn’t keep them from being executed by guillotine in 1793. He was viewed as straddling the fence by both sides and fled France. In 2002, Lafayette was posthumously made an honorary citizen of the United States.

But let’s get back to the gorgeous Palace:

Versailles Hall of Mirrors (2)

Versailles Hall of mirrors

The Hall of Mirrors is a 235-foot ballroom lined with 17 floor to ceiling mirrors. The cost of these mirrors were staggering and, like the building of the rest of the Palace, the expenses drained the Royal coffers and sadly that meant not much left for the running of the country. It’s a very impressive room with chandeliers, statues, ceiling frescos and windows which open up to the gardens.

Chapel at Palace of Versailles, France

Chapel at Palace of Versailles, France

Louis XVI (age 16) and Marie Antoinette (age 15) were married in the beautiful White and Gold Royal Chapel in 1770. We weren’t allowed into the chapel which was OK by me since there were so many people visiting the Palace. It was nice to see the Chapel without anyone in it.

There were large paintings throughout such as this one :

Coronation Painting at the Palace of Versailles

Coronation Painting at the Palace of Versailles

One of the ceiling paintings at Palace of Versailles

One of the ceiling paintings at Palace of Versailles

I was especially enthralled with the frescos on the ceiling ~ so much so I got a neck ache from looking up for so long. They are stunning!

Versailles The Battles Gallery

The Battle Gallery was interesting but, as I looked at the names on the marble busts, it was obvious I need to study a little more about French history because a lot of the names were unfamiliar to me.

Large Fireplace at Palace of Versailles

Large Fireplace at Palace of Versailles

Versailles the Queens Bedroom

The Queen’s Bedchamber ~ not very cozy!

Statue of Artemis (Diana), Palace of Versailles

Statue of Artemis (Diana), Palace of Versailles

Versailles View of the gardens

Looking out to the Gardens ~ so beautiful.

Gardens at the Palace of Versailles

Gardens at the Palace of Versailles

Statue in the Gardens  of Versailles

Statue in the Gardens of Versailles

Versailles Gasrdens and pond

Versailles Gardens Little angels on garden urn

Loved these plant urns ~ unfortunately, they weren’t for sale in the gift shop.

It truly was sensory overload for me. I got to see a lot of the Palace and a little of the gardens but I feel I only touched the surface. We were limited on time and both of us didn’t want to miss the gardens so I felt a bit rushed the whole time I was at the Palace. I’m calling this visit a preview and will leave it on the “return visit” list. I would love to go back sometime when I can spend a day or two exploring the Palace.

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With both John and Logan on their own travel adventures, a friend and I decided to catch the Eurostar train to Paris and Versailles for a day trip. Paris is a little over two hours from London so it makes for an easy to get there day trip. I visited Paris once before in 2004 and enjoyed seeing the familiar sights again. We decided to go with a fully escorted tour thinking it would save us the trouble of having to deal with purchasing tickets for Eiffel Tower and Versailles nor deal with transportation. In hindsight, I’m not sure it was worth it since we got stuck in severe traffic jams several times throughout the day (train and metro would have been so much quicker) which cut-in to the time we had to enjoy Paris. Ah, well…live and learn.

The Eurostar left London at 7:00am and we were in Paris at 10:15am. France is one hour ahead. It was my first time on the Eurostar and I was impressed. It was clean, on time and there was a decent selection of food/drinks.

Our first stop was the Eiffel Tower:

Looking up the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Looking up the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Inside the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Inside the Eiffel Tower, Paris

The Eiffel Tower was built by French engineer Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair (Exposition Universelle ). It was built to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the French Revolution as well as demonstrate France’s technological advances in the Industrial Age. The construction took 2 years, 2 months and 5 days and the result is a very impressive technical and architectural achievement. Although the panoramic views from the 2nd floor are wonderful, I also love looking up into the inside of the tower from the ground level.  Originally the Tower was built to last only 20 years but when the first radio transmissions were sent from the top of the tower, it became a permanent structure. Even for the people who opposed keeping it (many considered it an eyesore), the practical uses of the Tower outweighed the insult to the Frenchmen’s sense of aesthetics.  Good thing for Paris since each year, almost seven million visitors make the trek to the Eiffel Tower.

View of the Seine River, Paris, France

View of the Seine River, Paris, France

View from 2nd Floor of the Eiffel Tower

View from 2nd Floor of the Eiffel Tower

View of the gardens from the Eiffel Tower

View of the gardens from the Eiffel Tower

Another view from the second floor of the Eiffel tower

Another view from the second floor of the Eiffel tower

Statue dedicated to Gustave Eiffel, Paris

Statue dedicated to Gustave Eiffel, Paris

On my last visit to Paris, I was able to see the tower lit up at night but it stays light too late into the evening for us to see it this time.

A few sights from around Paris:

Statue in Paris

Statue in Paris

Paris, France

Paris, France

Balcony Smoke Break, Paris France

Balcony Smoke Break, Paris France

3,300 year old Obelisk of Luxor, Place du Concorde

3,300 year old Obelisk of Luxor, Place du Concorde

Music Academy in Paris

Music Academy in Paris

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Champs Elysee, Paris, France

Champs Elysee, Paris, France

After touring the Eiffel Tower and a quick bite to eat, it was time to journey to the Palace of Versailles but more about that in the next post…

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We decided, very last minute, to visit Windsor Castle and Eton. Unfortunately, the scheduled 55 minute direct train from Waterloo Train Station (London) to Windsor & Eaton Riverside Train Station took over TWO hours. The tracks were undergoing repairs which required a change of train stations via a 30 minute bus ride. Being flexible is a must when traveling on public transportation, especially on the weekends when repairs are scheduled.

Arriving in Windsor, we walked across the bridge over the River Thames and into Eton. The area oozes with history and I loved walking down the High Street looking at the old buildings and all the details on them.

Bridge between Eton and Windsor

Along the Thames

Swan Feeding along the Thames

Feeding the many swans along the Thames

Directional sign in Eton

Directional sign in Eton

15th Century home in Eton

15th Century home in Eton

Details on 15th Century house

Details on 15th Century house

Private alleyway in Eton

Private alleyway in Eton

Bike stand

Bike stand

Eton College is one of the most prestigious all-male schools in the world for boys ages 13-18. No less than 18 Prime Ministers of the UK have graduated from Eton including the current PM.  The school was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI who wished to provide a free education for poor but scholarly boys.  The college continues to offer scholarships but for the rest of the attendees, the cost of schooling runs about £ 32,000 per year ($41,800). Famous graduates you know: Prince William and Prince Harry.

Eaton College

Eaton College

Statue at Eton College

Statue at Eton College

Henry VI Statue in Eton College Courtyard

Henry VI Statue in Eton College Courtyard

We walked back over the bridge and up the High Street towards Windsor Castle. There are lots of restaurants and shops along the way.

Crooked House in Windsor

Crooked House in Windsor

Shortest Street in Britain

Shortest Street in Britain

On one of the buildings in Windsor is the “Warrant to Execute” King Charles I. He’s the only sitting monarch in England’s history to be executed.  And we think politics is rough these days!What a dangerous mess it was back in the 17th century.  Oliver Cromwell was instrumental in the downfall of the monarchy by having Charles I executed (his signature is easily seen on the warrant). On Feb 6, 1649, the monarchy was abolished and Oliver Cromwell became Chairman of the “Council of States.” 11 years later, Charles II returned to re-establish the monarchy and more heads rolled.

Warrant for the excecution of King Charles I

Warrant for the excecution of King Charles I

After working up an appetite walking around, we stopped for lunch at The Thai Place  (12 Thames Street) and it’s the best Thai food we’ve had in the UK. Very friendly and attentive service. I’ll definitely go back next time we visit.

Windsor Castle dominates the landscape and can be seen from every angle of town. It’s one of Queen Elizabeth’s official residences and is used for state dinners/sleepover for Heads of State. The castle was built by William the Conqueror over 900 years ago. Not only is it the oldest occupied castle in the world, it’s the largest.  It’s impressive with a spectacular chapel, beautiful staterooms and a fascinating collection of artwork, china, furniture, and memorabilia. My favorite were the gifts given to and from Queen Victoria with hand written notes. It’s so obvious how in love she was with Prince Albert, her husband. If you plan to visit the castle, check the website to make sure it’s open to visitors. They close occasionally when the Queen is in residence and if there’s an event happening there.  No photos were allowed in St George’s Chapel or the state apartments but I took plenty outside!

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle Entrance

Windsor Castle V

Windsor Castle IV

Windsor Castle at Dusk

Windsor Castle tour

Windsor Castle Logan at Dusk

I haven’t marked Windsor Castle/Eton College off my “London must see” list just yet since I’d like to go back and take a “Precinct Tour” which the guide discusses the history of the Castle and I’d like to go on a tour of Eton College when it’s open to the public (between March and October). There’s also the Saville Gardens (located in Windsor Great Park) which I’m sure will be a lovely display of flowers.

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I’ve got a good excuse for not being on facebook for a week ~ Heidi and Colin came to visit. Heidi is a good friend who I met when I moved to Germany in 2001.  Her son, Colin is 8 years old (soon to be 9) which I find hard to believe since it seems like yesterday we were visiting the Weiden Klinikum and he was one day old.

I’m very impressed how both of them dealt with the six hour time difference and jet-lag with no problem at all.  Heidi is an intrepid traveler and is passing on this wonderful trait to Colin.  Logan was in charge of making sure they felt welcomed to her room (she camped in our room for the week):

And in case they didn’t remember the time back in Texas

Hampton Court was on the schedule for Monday but since the landlord called and stated the window repairman would be coming to fix a window which has been broken since we moved in (and is very unsightly), Heidi and Colin ventured off to Hampton Court on their own.  Turns out, the repairman cancelled around 11.  I was bummed since I wanted to spend the day with my friends and I haven’t been to Hampton Court yet.

On Tuesday, we went on a “behind the scenes” tour of St Paul’s Cathedral.  I was a little disappointed as I was lead to believe we’d be going to the top of the dome (or at least higher than usual).  They even warned us about the 400 plus stairs and I wore my running shoes which I’m loathed to do in this fashion conscious group/town.  I was anticipating great views. It was not to be.  Our tour guide was informative and gushed when she spoke of Christopher Wren, the builder of the Cathedral.  I think she has a bit of a crush on him but I didn’t come away feeling I’d learned much about the history of the Cathedral that I didn’t already know (which isn’t much).  I’ll be going back for another tour soon.  There’s so much to see there and we didn’t scratch the surface.  Photos aren’t allowed in the Cathedral but you can check out beautiful photos on their website by clicking here.

After St Pauls. we walked over to the Tate Modern which is, hmmm how to I say this…. very modern.  After going through several of the exhibit rooms, Heidi and I gave each other “the look”  which we both knew meant let’s get the heck out of here.  Thankfully, Heidi and I have very similar tastes/tolerances.  Once we left the Tate Modern, we walked over the Millenium Bridge (for walkers only) to the tube station. Here’s Heidi and Colin on the bridge with the Cathedral Dome in the background.

On Wednesday, we thought Colin (being the 8 year old boy that he is) would enjoy the Guard Museum and the National Army Museum.  I hadn’t even thought of going prior to their visit since there’s so many other museums to see but I’m glad I did. I would highly recommend both of them.  The Guard museum is small enough to go through in about an hour and the Army museum is about an hour and a half or so.  And there’s a really nice gift shop at the Army Museum.

Wednesday evening, Logan and Colin stayed at the flat while John, Heidi and I went to an event with a few friends from John’s class.  It was an “American” themed evening with dinner at The Diner  (My dinner was good/Heidi’s a little too rare)

and then it was off to Rock of Ages which we really enjoyed. Although all the performers were spot on, my favorite is Simon Lipkin who plays Lonny the narrator.  He could easily interact with the audience and then drop right back in line with the story.  Very talented and can really rock the mullet hairstyle. The show is a little raunchy and a lot burlesque so if you’re in any way prudish I suggest you don’t go but if you want a good laugh and want to rock to the 80s music, give it a try.  I haven’t seen the film version but can’t imagine I’d like it  ~  it’s the live performance that made this so much fun.

After a late night at the theater, we got up at 0’dark thirty to catch the 8:30 train from Paddington station to Bath Spa.  Again no photos but this time it’s because I forgot to bring my camera.  Will have to rely on Heidi to send me her photos.  Speaking of cameras, Colin accidentally left his camera on the back of the stall door hook at the Roman Baths Museum and he/Heidi didn’t realize it until we were on the train to London.  Thankfully an honest soul turned it in to Lost Property!  Good karma for him/her.  Colin has some interesting photos on the camera and was relieved it’s not gone forever.

Bath is a World Heritage Site and truly a beautiful town.  I had fun just walking around the town spying a couple of locations I’ve seen in films such as “Persuasion” and “Vanity Fair.”  Unfortunately,  it was started to rain as we got off the train and it was VERY windy.  I lost another umbrella to the wind ~ this makes my third since moving here.  Guess that means I shouldn’t buy the cheap umbrellas and go for sturdiness.

For me, the highlight of the visit was the Roman Bath Museum ~ the self guided audio tour is interesting and the kid version was fun too. Colin clued me in when to listen to the kids version if there was something particularly funny or something “gross” like the killing of a sacrificial goat.  Sometimes it’s interesting to see life through the eyes of an 8 year old boy or, at least, try to figure out what they find entertaining.

Bath is also having their Christmas Market now.  Although Heidi and I are spoiled by having been to so many German Christmas Markets (they are the best!), we both enjoyed wandering the streets looking at all the vendors.  The vendors were selling quality items.

I’ll be going back to Bath soon with John and Logan. It’s easy to see why Bath is listed as a must see on all the travel guides and has been the number one city suggested by our British friends.

Yesterday (their last day) came way too quickly ~ they went to Hamleys (the FAO Schwartz of London) in the morning and then we went to the Wallace Collection for a student led tour.  The students were from St Vincents and are between the ages of 8 to 13.  I was impressed at their presentation of selected collection pieces.  Colin even got to try on a knight’s helmet.

For our final dinner, we went to our favorite neighborhood restaurant on the corner called “Gettis”  We’re always treated so well when we go there and this time was no exception.  The waiter picked up right away that Colin is a “meat only” kind of guy and so the waiter teased him for the entire meal that he was bringing “vegetables” for him.

…and Colin declared Getti pizza better than Pizza Express.

… and then we said farewell until next time.  Heidi and Colin stayed at a Heathrow hotel on Friday night so they wouldn’t have to get up any earlier than necessary.  Smart traveler!

Missing them lots ~ the flat is way too quiet!

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