Sunday, March 25, 2007

Loch Ness Monster...Here we come!

Sunday (March 18th) took me with the family up to Scotland. (Jared headed off to Copenhagen the same day to work there for a few days.) We flew into Inverness and headed down past Loch Ness to a town called Invergarry where we stayed at the Glengarry Castle Hotel B&B. This was the view from our B&B. It was right on Loch Oich. I thought it was so beautiful! I'm sure you can also tell that it was VERY, VERY cold up in Scotland while we were there!
On Monday we travelled up to the Kilravock Castle (pronounced Kil-rock). It is the home of the Clan Rose, so we were excited to see it. We can't be sure that our ancestors were a part of this clan, but it makes sense that they may have been. The ancestor that we've been stuck on (Daniel Rose) left his family when he was young. We believe he left one of the surrounding areas near the castle, but we don't know who his parents were so we can only guess that they were related. Regardless, it was really neat to see the castle and learn about the Clan Rose. I especially liked their family motto, "Constant and True."
I wish I had a better picture of the castle. I'll have to get one from Mike who was able to take a picture from a better view point with his wide-angle lens. After touring the castle we went out into the snowy gardens. They have an amazing arboretum. I haven't seen trees like some of these before. They were so beautiful!
. . . and cold :)

Tuesday took us to the Isle of Skye. An island on the west side of Scotland. We spent the day driving around to see the sites, stopping for a short hike, visiting castle ruins, and one of my favorite parts was the waterfalls. This one was particularly interesting. I think it is called Kilt Falls. It came right out of the cliffs and fell into the ocean. It was really spectacular! . . . and very cold, once again!

We flew back to England on Wednesday so we just spent the morning driving through the scenic countryside. We also stopped for a short while at Fort George, but opted not to go in past the gift shop.

Note: No Loch Ness monster sited on this visit to Scotland. Too bad!

We've really enjoyed having family visit us! Thanks for coming all the way out here, guys! We love you all and will see you back home in less than a month!

p.s. This last weekend Jared & I finally took it easy. We spent a few hours shopping near Windsor and then just hung out and relaxed the rest of the day. A very welcome break from the pace we've been keeping! :)

Family, Family, We Love Family!

Hey All! Sorry that we've taken so long to post to the blog lately. So...we'll go quick and a little more sparse on details in our attempts to catch back up.

A few weeks ago (on March 13th) my mom, brother, Mike, and Grandma & Grandpa came into town. We were so excited to see more family!

The first day they were here we visited Windsor Castle (below). We loved watching the guards march around the grounds and change shifts periodically. (It wasn't the official procession, but still really cool to watch.) The afternoon was spent resting up (for Mike this meant HOURS of resting) and walking around Staines with Grandma & Mom. (We also had fun feeding the swans!)
The following two days were spent in London. Mike took the tube for the first time and was a natural! He was so good at getting around on it - I was really impressed!

Between the two days we visited the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St. Pauls Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and the Imperial War Museum. (Talk about a packed couple of days, huh?)

I had seen a lot of London before, so my favorite part was probably the Tower of London. We followed their complementary guided tour. The guide was AMAZING and so much fun to listen to. We really enjoyed our time there!

It was fantastic to have Dad come and join us on Friday! Once we got him to the apartment and settled in we were all off (except for poor Jared who had to stay home and work, work, work) to Hampton Court Palace. We toured part of the palace and the gardens and went through the maze too. (Although the maze wasn't that difficult . . . a little anti-climatic if you ask me.)

My favorite part were the gardens. They were all starting to bloom and the flowers were so brilliant!

Finally Saturday came along and Jared was able to join us in our adventures! We headed up to Warwick Castles and immediately got Jared & I in the stocks for pictures!

Warwick Castle has probably been my favorite of the castles so far. I really liked their Kingmaker exhibit. It was really life-like and very interesting to look at.

I think Jared's favorite part might have been torturing Michael. What do you think?
We had a great time together at Warwick Castle! Here's a shot of all of us together - How cute! ;)
After Warwick we headed off to try to give the family a taste of a couple of the Cotswold towns. Mom & Dad had been there before, but it was new to the others. We stopped in Stow-on-the-wold, drove through Bourton-on-the-water, and stopped again in Bibury.

Here's a picture of Grandma, Grandpa, Mom and Dad on Arlington Row in Bibury. Isn't it beautiful?

We had a great time having the family stay with us here in Staines! They were such great sports! We were all packed in like sardines, but it was great to see them up until bedtime and again at the crack of dawn! :)

Monday, March 12, 2007


Wales, Wales, we love Wales!
Well, we enjoyed Wales so much last time that we decided to go there again this last weekend. This time we went to North Wales -- into the Snowdonia National Park area. It was around a four hour drive so we left after work Friday night and stayed in a Bed and Breakfast in the small town of Betws-y-Coed (which means 'Sanctuary in the Wood'). We were so surprised when we woke up in the morning to see what we had driven through in the dark the night before. Tons of green fields, mountains (if you can believe it or not), forests, a river running through it all, and sheep all around!
We had a great time that morning just wandering around the small town, visiting the local church and graveyard, climbing a tree, crossing a suspension bridge and admiring the sheep with their baby lambs. It was so much fun to just watch the baby lambs run around. (Their bounding kind of reminded us of the lamb in the "Bound and Re-Bound" clip that you see at the beginning of the movie The Incredibles.) :)
After that we headed off to a local waterfall - Swallow Falls. They were really amazing and we enjoyed walking to the different levels of the falls. This part was my favorite - plus, doesn't Jared look so handsome! ;)
After that we decided to take a hike in their mountains. The hike was a pretty good one, but the wind was blowing so hard that we didn't get to enjoy it as much as we would have liked to. Oh, well! The view was still very pretty!
On our way home we stopped in a town called Froncysyllte to see their famous aqueduct: The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct! This aqueduct is the longest and highest one in Britain. Beyond the fact that small boats can travel across it there is also a walking path on it, so of course we had to walk across it. Although I have to say that it even made me question whether I was afraid of heights or not. I gathered that I was okay because there was a railing, but if there hadn't been I don't think I could have crossed it. It was a great stop and we're really glad that we got to see it in the day light!
We had another great weekend! It's so much fun to go out and see what you can find. It makes me think that we need to do it a lot more at home.

We also have to add the funny two things we came across whilst driving between Wales and back home in Staines.

First, amidst the fields of sheep we came across a "karting" course. Pretty much a race course for kart racing. We stopped to watch the racing. Pretty funny amidst all of the green fields of sheep to find a race course like that.

Second, was the Indoor Snow Ski resort that we came across when we stopped for dinner. It was the strangest thing to find man-made snow indoors along with a lift, slopes, and snow skiers decked out just like they would be back at home for a day on the real (outdoor) slopes. Pretty ingenuitive!

Well, that's all folks! Blog ya later! ;)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Florence & Venice

We arrived in Florence Friday afternoon. It had been a crazy drive there and we were glad to finally be parked and on our feet. (I've decided that driving in Florence makes Utah drivers look REALLY good!)

We didn't have very much daylight left when we got to Florence so we don't have many pictures to share. We stopped by the Ponte Veccio. (A famous bridge there with shops all along the top of it.) We enjoyed walking along the river and across the bridge and then up the the Piazzale Michelangelo a terrace above the city that gave a wonderful view of the town and also had a replica of the David statue in it. We enjoyed more pizza in Florence, but the gelato shops were all closed by the time we finished dinner so we had to pass on that for the rest of the night! Too bad! :(

We drove on to Bologna for the night. What a bunch of Bologna! We had a hard time finding our way around and finding a hotel to stay in. (We'd recommend booking your hotels in advance!) We finally found one for a pretty penny and got a short night sleep before waking up Saturday morning to drive the rest of the way to Venice.

We were so happy to finally get to Venice, drop off the rental car, and get onto the island! It was so pretty! (Hey, have you noticed that we haven't been in coats for any of these pictures? The weather in Italy was lovely and the coldest it got was jacket weather when we were in the shade or in the evenings.)

Of course, we had pizza there too! YUMMY!
We spent a lot of time just walking around the streets (that are mainly pedestrian streets) and exploring the town. The buildings here were also so amazing. They were just like what I've seen in so many movies - how magical!We had to stop by the Piazza San Marco. It was filled with more beautiful buildings, but Jared and Ira enjoyed the pidgeons the most! (For me, I just lived in fright that I was going to get pooped on again! But, I was lucky enough that it didn't happen.) The boys had so much fun feeding the birds and letting them land on them.
I'm guessing that one of their favorite parts was the scaring the birds part! It was so funny!
We spent a while shopping for souvenirs too. Rachelle, Ira and I got sweatshirts and Jared got a t-shirt. (The sweatshirts were too small and didn't have long enough sleeves for him - poor guy!)

I was amazed at how much water their was everywhere on the island. I should have expected that, but was still shocked by it all. We crossed too many bridges to count and saw so much water. We even got to take a Water Bus a couple of times to get from place to place. One of my favorite parts was our gondola ride. It was a nice relaxing end to our afternoon in Venice. Our guide did a great job and pointed out a lot of historic buildings throughout the ride. He was even decked out in the stiped shirt and all.

We had a great time and enjoyed more gelato in Venice. For dinner Saturday night some of us were "pizza'd-out" so we tried some not so wonderful lasagna. The sad part is that the best part of that meal were the french fries that Rachelle ordered and shared with everyone. They tasted just like the best American french fries you've ever had. Now I can't stop craving them! :)

We stayed in a hotel in Mestre (on the mainland) that night and were able to walk around for a couple more hours on Sunday, before we had to head to the airport to fly back to England.

We really enjoyed our time in Italy! It was lots of fun and great company! We love you all and miss you a ton! We can't wait to see you. (Six more weeks!)

Pizza in Pisa!

We have had a great time with Rachelle & Ira in town. Jared took a couple of days off of work so that we could go and be with them in Italy.

Day 1 started off with an incredibly early morning, again. (We are getting really good at waking up at 3 am to try to catch the flights we want.) After flying into Pisa we picked up our rental car equipped with a navigation system which we later learned only spoke in Italian - Oh, My! We made do though and after stalling the car a few times and making a few wrong turns we made it to the train station where we were meeting Rachelle & Ira (who had spent the previous day and a half in Rome). Our first point of business was to go and see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was pretty amazing to look at and surrounded by other marvelous buildings and a ton of street vendors who tried selling us just about everything you can imagine possible. We had a lot of fun walking around the area, taking pictures, and then off down a nearby street to find some authentic Italian food!

It didn't take long at all to find a great pizzeria where we all ate pizza or calzones and then a gelateria across the street for a taste of the famous Italian Ice Cream! And boy is it as good as everyone says it is. (I think we had pizza and gelato every day we were in Italy!)

After spending a few hours in Pisa it was time to head off to Cinque Terre. An area about an hour north of Pisa where there are five small towns along the Italian coastline. The drive was amazing and we enjoyed stopping along the way to look at the views and take some pictures. We even found a little train on a track that they have in a lot of the towns. I'm quessing they are used to transport the people and their harvests (maybe of grapes) up and down the steep terrain of the area. We stopped to get some information in the first of the five towns (heading from south to north), Riomaggiore. It looked like a pretty neat place, but we didn't stay long because we wanted to get a hike in to another town before dark. We drove on past the next town, Manarola, without stopping. The drive was nice and we were so excited. We stopped in the third town Corniglia where a fabulous gentleman gave us instructions on where to park and where to start hiking. Because we would be spending the night in the next town we all packed our own backpacks with clean clothes (or at least clean underwear and a shirt) for the next day, and headed out.

The hike from Corniglia to Vernazza was amazing! It was a lot of fun to walk along the coast and see the greenery, cliffs, and sea down below. It took us about an hour and a half including stops for picture breaks (which also served the purpose of giving us a chance to catch our breath)! We were so excited to get to Vernazza. It was amazing. Most of the streets weren't even car accessible and most of the buildings were attached to each other and built into the landscape! We loved that the town was down at sea level and stopped for pictures. We got a few before one HUGE wave came and got us. Rachelle, Ira, and Jared all got away in time to only get minimally wet, but I got completely soaked! (I guess it didn't help that I ran cross-country and track in high school, huh?) :)

Hope you enjoy the Before and After photos below!

(Believe me, I was even wetter than I look in this picture!)

We hadn't booked a place to stay while there so we walked around and finally knocked on a man's door that had a sign for rooms posted by it. He took us to a small room that had two twin beds pushed together and two cots that we could use too. We took it gratefully and all shared a cozy night together!

The next morning we were up and at 'em again. We hiked from Vernazza to Monterosso. The hike was about the same length and lots of stairs up and down. We were exhausted by the time we made it to the town. But again, the hiking was amazing!

We loved the beauty of the towns in Cinque Terre. It was fun to get a more untouched view of what old Italy is like. We especially loved the colors and architecture of their buildings! We ended our adventures in Cinque Terra half way through the day on Friday. We loved our time there and would have enjoyed spending more except that we had other things on the agenda for the weekend.