Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Cotswolds - Weekend in the Country

This week we decided to get away from the busy cities and head to the country side. My boss, Mick, is away on vacation for a couple of weeks and, as they say, "When the cat's away..."

Actually, he offered to let us stay in his "little" cottage in the country. Up above is an ariel view from Google Maps. This place was surrounded by thick trees and beautiful hills. Like everything else in England, the house was built a long time ago, but it was very nice. Friday morning we went for a jog through the fields and up Beacon Hill. In medieval times Beacon Hill was used to light a huge fire and send messages from one city to another (just like in Lord of the Rings!).

Friday, I worked from Mick's home office and that night Allyson and I played in his "games" room and watched a movie.
Saturday morning we drove an hour north-west of Mick's home into the region called the Cotswold. Men beware! Cotswold is just another name for a 90-mile radius of what Allyson would call, "little quaint villages dotted with antique shops and other cute stuff." In spite of this, I still managed to have a good time.

Our first stop was in a little town called Chipping Campden. They had awesome buildings and tons of shops to walk through. They also had a very cool church complete with grave yard, ruins, and sheep grazing throughout and in near by fields. (Eat your heart out Mum!)

Our next stop was to a town called Stow-on-the-Wold. Supposedly it's the coldest and highest of the Cotswold towns placing itself on top of a very lofty plateau at 700 feet above sea level. (Doesn't sound very high to those in Utah does it?!?!)

They had even more shops than the first town, a beautiful church with stained glass windows (and a super cool north porch door as seen below) and . . .

. . . best of all was the "tea and crumpets!" (or Hot Chocolate and scones - that counts, right?)

For sake of time we just drove through the villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter. They had amazing buildings though and were very "quaint!"

One of our favorite parts was the parking lot that we found in Lower Slaughter. In a lot of probably about 40 parking places there were 16 Porsche cars. Jared was in heaven (and believe it or not, so was I)!

The procession continued with us heading to the town of Bourton-on-the-Water. This town is know for having a whole bunch of bridges across the River Windrush - It was very cool!

We should also say that this town is also now know to us as the land of bird poop! (Sorry for the language!) All Allyson can say is "Aargh, YUCK!!!" But, once we got that cleaned up, we still really got to enjoy the 1/9th scale model of the village and walking the beautiful streets!

The last of the villages that we were able to see before dark hit was Bibury. It was sure beautiful!

We were amazed at the beauty found in the church yard and bet that the rose bush trees are fabulous in bloom. Sadly, we didn't see them that way, but amazingly we could still smell some of the fragrance. Peculiar, huh?

We also appreciated the signs written to the dogs that said "DOGS PLEASE DO NOT FOUL THE CHURCHYARD." We wonder if that really works?!?!

They had beautiful trails and water all around!

What a nice quaint, quiet town!

We also stopped by one more town called Tetbury, but we didn't really see any sights, we mainly just went for our first dinner in a pub! Yeah, crazy huh? We had pork loin and pizza - guess who had what.

We love you all and miss you tons!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

How do you say, "Sorry, you're too late" in French?

Well, our one day trip into Paris actually worked out to be 1.5 days. Read on...

The plan was to get going at the crack of dawn...ok, 3 hours before the crack of dawn. We woke up at 4am, packed a single backpack of just the bare necessities for the day. Leaving at 4:30am we walked the 15 minutes to the nearest train station and caught the first train to the London Waterloo station. We were excited for the day, but feeling pretty tired because we were up until midnight the night before.
We only had to wait about 20 minutes between getting off the local train and onto the Eurostar train. The Eurostar is that train in Mission Impossible that goes over 200 miles per hour! Unfortunately, we didn't see too much of the country side because we both slept the first 2 hours :) The last half hour before arriving in Paris was beautiful though. The green rolling hills (surprising for Jan!), tiny towns with old church steeples, and trains flying by in the opposite direction.

The first order of business when we arrived at the Gare du Nord train station was to get a map and buy an all-day pass for the metro. That part was easy enough. We found another tourist couple who knew the metro better than we did and they showed us the best way to the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower was by far the BEST part of Paris. We took the elevator clear to the tippy top. The views were awesome and despite the cold, high winds we had an absolute blast!
After the Tower, we took the metro to Notre Dame to find Quasi Moto. We didn't find him, but we did find a yummy Donor Kebab in the nearby Latin Quarter. That's right, DONOR KEBAB. Jason, Travis, Brian -- Wipe the drool off your keyboard! :) Not quite as good as the German version, but still pretty tasty!
By this time it started to rain so we picked up a cheap umbrella--our only real souvenir from Paris :( We were determined to not let it get us down though, so we headed off to get some real French culture at the Louvre. The good news least it wasn't closed. The bad news was that we had only 1 hour before it did! Oh well, we ran to check out the Mona Lisa and then wandered around for the rest of the time. Can you say, "naked statues?" :) But, for the sake of the children, here's the edited version.
When we left the Louvre we had 2 1/2 hours before we had to be back to the train station
so we figured we could get some dinner then jet back to the Eiffel Tower for a few night-time pictures. We went back to the Latin Quarter for dinner and found one of the many "authentic" French restaurants serving cheese fondue. At first we were pretty apprehensive, given our, shall we say, "less than scrumptious" meal at China Town the weekend before. We couldn't understand a thing on the menu (it was all in French, if you can believe that!) Finally, we just asked the waiter (who didn't speak much English) to give us something good :)

I thought the cheese fondue was delicious, and Allyson liked it too. They gave us bread, potatoes and various meats to dip in the melted cheese. Yum!
We left the restaurant and picked up a scrum-diddily-umptious Nutella and banana crepe.
After that, we felt like we had plenty of time to get back to the Eiffel Tower and still make it to the train station in time. Our train didn't leave until 8:45 and it was only 7:30. We jumped on the first train back to the Tower and made it just in time for the 8:00 light show. We took a couple of pictures then jumped on a train in the opposite direction to head back to the Gare du Nord station.
Let's just say it took us longer to get back to the train station than we planned. By the time we got off the local train it was 8:30 so we broke into a dead run for the Eurostar. The station was so confusing though we had to keep stopping people and asking (frantically) "Which way to the Eurostar?!"

We came to a skidding halt at the entrance to the Eurostar terminal where they had about 10 security people blocking the way. They were all holding up their hands saying "sorry, too late!" We begged and argued but they wouldn't budge! We still had about 13 minutes before the train left, but they wouldn't let us into the terminal. They said you had to be there 30 minutes before departure and there was NO way we were getting on this train tonight. They handed us a list of local hotels and told us to come back in the morning for the 8:07 train.

We were completely bummed!
But, looking on the bright least we got to stay the night in Paris. Here's a picture looking out our hotel window onto the "dodgey" part of town :)
Well, we made it back home this morning safe and sound. What an awesome adventure!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Cookie Making

We were thrilled to find chocolate chips at the store yesterday! So, last night we braved our first cookie making experience. It was a pretty funny because the only measuring cup we have is a large measuring cup that measures fluid ounces, but that didn't hold us back.

The cookies turned out pretty well, but definitely had a different flavor to them. We ate them anyway, and found that they tasted better dipped in milk! :)

Check out how TINY the bags of chocolate chips are!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Day in London!

Yesterday we decided to be real tourists so we spent the entire day going from one site to another in downtown London. We started off by catching the train in Staines to the Waterloo station. From there we took the underground subway (tube) to our first stop--Tower Bridge. Only, we got off on the wrong station so we ended up having to catch a double-decker bus.

From the picture below you can see a typical sunny London day. If you can't see the sun, let me direct your attention to the lower, right-hand corner of the picture ;)

(More boring dialog here. We know you're here just for the pictures anyway!)
You can see so far in both directions when looking out of the footbridge windows - it's amazing!

Here's Jared scoping out the view from the elevated footpath (which is the higher bridge in the picture above). The lower bridge is built to open up so taller ships can go under the bridge. Not only did we get to walk across the very top of the bridge, but we also got to go deep down into the engine room to learn how the bridge lifts and lowers.
Jared just can't get off the phone - can he?
Allyson couldn't believe that the actual tools they used on the bridge were actually almost as big as she is.

After touring through the bridge we went and walked around the outside of the Tower of London. We didn't go inside because we chose the bridge tour instead of the Tower tour. Maybe next time.
This is what we had for lunch. Just kidding, we actually had fish and chips. But we did find this "lovely" game in the same open air market place. Scary huh?

After lunch we found St. Paul's Cathedral. We're amazed at how gargantuous the buildings out here are. It was really pretty. We went inside and saw a tomb and the chapel. We opted not to take the full tour because it was a little more than just a pretty penny. (We promise - we are planning on going inside of some of the sights we visit! :)

Later on we took the tube over to another part of London where we found Westmister Abbey. . .

and Big Ben! Wowzers!
By this point of the day we were incredibly tired, but we still made a quick stop by to say hello to the queen. Unfortunately, she didn't respond. Actually we don't even think she knew we were there. But, her's our proof that at least Jared was.

We swang by China town for dinner - Bad choice! We don't recommend this! Let's just say that we've never had worse. Oh well, chalk it up to experience, right?

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Visit to Windsor

Yesterday (Jan 6) Allyson and I decided to go on a driving adventure! We're still trying to get used to being on the left side and we've had only one or two near-death experiences :) (j/k...probably a lot more).

We started off from Staines and went North about 15 minutes to Windsor to see the famous Windsor castle. Unfortunately, we got there pretty late and it was starting to get dark. The castle was already closed, but we had a great time looking around the grounds and going through the little shops.

Allyson and I were both super surprised at how large the castle is! It seemed to go on forever!

We went into one of the local pastry shops and tried out a strawberry tart--hmmm, delicious! Unfortunately, we didn't get the picture where Allyson smeared pudding on my face :)

Thursday, January 4, 2007

We're Here!

Here we are at SL International Airport – Leaving Home Sweet Home! We know we are in for a HUGE adventure!

The flight to Chicago was no big deal, but our flight from Chicago to London was really tight and uncomfortable. We were really envious of the people in first class - their chairs actually laid down into beds, can you believe it?

Here's one of the amazing views out of our airplane over London. (If you look above the wing – over the river – you'll see the "Tower Bridge of London." We can't wait to see this in person!

A minute or so later we could also see "Big Ben."

We were shocked at how big London is and also surprised that Staines (the town where we are staying) is more like a suburb than a little quaint town. In all actuality, we feel like we're living in a busy city. We've never thought of ourselves as city types, so this should be quite the experience!

We've been pleasantly surprised out how clean (and modern) our apartment is. These are pictures of the "lounge" from two differnent angles.

This is our "state of the art" kitchen. Believe it or not, there is a dishwasher in one of the cabinets and washer/dryer in another one. Wow! They sure do use their space well here!

We'll spare you the picture of the nook area. (We have a fridge and freezer, and a table and four chairs all shoved in an 8x12 ? area - it's really tight over there!)

The BEST part of the apartment is the incredible view. This picture was taken out our window. We're right on the Thames river!