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Goodbye England — Hello France!!

We left England by ferry yesterday and waved good bye to the white cliffs of Dover!  Very nice ferry ride and entry to Calais!

Nice to be in France – but the most joyous event of the day – perhaps the trip – was to find out  – our renal car had been upgraded to a midsize WITH A GPS system!!!!    We call her Bessie and she did a FABULOUS job of getting us to Bayeux.   What a relief. I didn’t have to look at the map once and Richard and I could actually converse without worrying about finding the next route. It was wonderful! 

Had a nice dinner and good wine in Bayeux. The boys have gotten into the spirit of learning French and even conversed with the waiter a bit.

Today Rich and David are going to see the Bayeux tapestry and then we’ll all go visit the invasion beaches and a WWII museum. With Bessie  – I am confident we’ll find everything!

Off to breakfast of chocolate croissants and cafe ole!  We will miss the English breakfasts!

Good bye England! 

Last Night in England

Had an easy drive into Dover today. Rich has gotten quite comfortable with the driving here – me – less so. I’ll be happy to switch back to the right side and maybe some wider roads would be nice.   And as much as I *love* navigating for Rich (“Left here honey — oh wait – maybe you should have gone right?”) – we will try to get a GPS system for the France car and hope that relieves some stress for me anyway. (At a minimum  Rich can scold the GPS system instead of me.)

All in all driving wasn’t too bad and we had no major accidents!  

We have both been surprised at the number of road signs we don’t immediately understand. My favorite is the large exclamation point with no description.  It seemed to sum up my feelings much of the time while driving. We called it the “PANIC NOW!!!” sign.  Another was a big red X that at first we thought was “wrong way” – but knew that wasn’t right as all cars were going in that direction. We figured it meant don’t do something but were not sure what. Sometimes it would have “X – for 10 miles” and then “X – end” – and I’d tell Rich – whatever it is – you can start doing it now. (We found out later it was for no stopping on shoulder.)

Don’t complain to the Brits about high gas prices – they are over $9 a gallon here!

After our arrival in Dover – Rich and Alex hiked up to Dover castle which Rich will detail for anyone interested.  David and I took a relaxing walk into town, had a light lunch and checked out the shops.

For dinner we went to a wonderful Italian restaurant. David refused to do one more pub – much to Rich’s disappointment. We had a good meal nonetheless and toasted our last dinner in England.

It has been just great and we are looking forward to France!!

Alex and I had a great three hour walk around Dover Castle today. The castle was built in the late 1100s and was added on to frequently in the subsequent centuries. It had extensive use during WWII and the secret tunnels originally dug for the Napoleonic Wars were significantly expanded. The evacuation of Dunkirk and the naval operations for D-Day were supervised from the tunnels in Dover Castle.

Gas prices – 1.17 pounds for a litre. Equates to over $9 a gallon.

Dover Castle

Way home from Dinner – last night in England!

On to Eastborne!

We drove from Crediton to Eastborne yesterday.  Long day of driving and getting lost – but finally made it.

First we stopped in Porstmouth to see the HMS Victory  – an amazing battleship from the 1800s.  One level was completely filled with cannons – 13 on each side.  Was interesting to imagine life on the ship. I’m glad to be living in modern times! We also saw the HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose.

We stopped for lunch in Portsmouth at an old stone church that had been converted to a Pub. When you walk in you can still see the stained glass windows on the side and the alter in the front and the balcony with the pipe organ. But on the side there is a bar with tons of taps for beers and plenty of bottles of hard liquor on hand.   In front of the altar is a large screen television with Wimbledon on (it is playing *everywhere* here),  then in the front and back are about 6 gambling machineswith neon lights flashing.  Very odd mix. But even odder – the woman barkeep asked me pointedly to remove my hat – as if I was being disrespectful in the church/pub with a hat on.  geesh!

We arrived in Eastborne around 8:00pm and our first impression was that is was kind of strange. We saw several houses boarded up in disrepair, the streets were dirty, a few rowdy people roaming around.  Our B&B is right across the sreet from the sea – and the street is just one hotel and B&B after another.  Although there were no people around. It was almost eerie.

We found a pub though and had a good meal and a pint of beer which made everything seem OK.  Finally back at the B&B around 10:30 – even Alex begged Rich to turn the light out and go to sleep.

Today – I took Alex and headed to the beach and Rich took David and headed for history. Alex and I can take only so much history.  We had a great time on the beach – me resting, Alex throwing rocks and swimming. It was a pleasantly warm absolutely beautiful day. We were very happy to have crowds at this point. Someone told us that in August they typically have over 30,000 people over a weekend. We have been very fortunate to miss the crowds and have great weather.

After awhile on the beach we headed to “Pirate Island” – which turned out to be a wonderful play area for Alex  – pool, sand, pirate ship and miniature golf. But the best for me was grass, shade trees and a comfortable chair. I read my book and Alex played and we were both content. Afterwards a stop at the beach for ice cream and back to the B&B.

I will leave it to Rich to describe the days adventure of the history buffs —

David and I had a fabulous day that began with visiting Pevensey Castle, site of the landing of William the Conqueror in 1066. Mostly ruins today, the castle is surrounded by walls that date back to 200 A.D. The castle was laid seige to on four different occasions. We then headed to Battle and toured the battlefield where the last Anglo-Saxon king (Harold) was defeated by William (a Norman). A terrific site as you walk around the entire battlefield accompanied with an audio device that takes you through the day long battle. Our final stop was Bodiam Castle which, while a beautiful structure, does not have the violent history of our other two stops. Simply an ideal day and the weather was gorgeous. Now, off to a pub!

Aboard the HMS Warrior built in 1860. The precursor to the modern battleship.

David trying on replicas of armor from the 1540s. Alex tried some armor too and the helmet became stuck on his head and we needed assistance to remove it!

The HMS Victory, flag ship of the British fleet that defeated the French at Trafalgar.

Penvesey Castle, landing site of William the Conqueror’s invasion in 1066.

The view William’s troops had of King Harold’s army as they prepared their assault.

Site where King Harold (the last Anglo-Saxon king) fell, shot in the eye with an arrow and then dismembered.

Bodiam Castle

In Crediton!

A quick (1 hour) drive to Crediton yesterday where we met up with Richard’s friends Robin and Jean Langhorne. They are a wonderful older British couple. Jean looks a bit like the queen.  Robin was a history teacher at the local school – “Queen Elizabeth School” – where Richard worked with him for a semester in 1980.

Robin took David and Richard on a tour of the old church in Crediton. The church dates back to 1100.  They had a sword from 1640 that David was allowed to test out.  Robin is a wealth of information on English history and tells it with a wonderful flair and his deep English accents makes it even more special. David was enthralled.

Alex – not quite the history buff – was content to play at the local playground and met some British playmates.

We went back to the Langhorne’s home and Jean had tea waiting. A delicious affair that included lemon cake, chocolate biscuits, shortbread, bread butter and jam, fruitcake and of course plenty of tea.  It was a hot  afternoon and I wasn’t interested in hot tea – a cold drink sounded better to me. She thought that very odd. “No tea?? She looked at me as if I was off a little.

After our vist with Langhornes we checked into a wonderful B&B on a working farm  – 90 cows – and you can tell by the smell!  It is a big farm house with a fabulous view of the green valley.   The boys loved wandering around looking at the barn, the cows and the big tractors.

Alex was in heaven when he met up with the farm dog – “Rosie”.  Alex and Rosie played together for several hours.  Rosie was exhausted – but Alex – who never seems to run out of energy was still raring to go.

In the morning the owner served cereal and fresh fruit and juice. Then she offered: eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, broiled tomatoes, hash browns, beans, and toast. She said “Just tell me what you don’t want.”  Richard said – “I’ll take it all – except the beans!”  He is really enjoying the big breakfasts!

The boys and I had a nice walk down the country lane to a river – where they soon stripped to underpants and went for a quick swim.  Great spot.  

Back in town we took the Langhornes to lunch at “The New Inn” – odd name for the Inn built in the 1200s.  We had roast beef and yorkshire pudding and for “pudding” or “puds” as they call it on the children’s menu, we had a choice of chocolate mouse, lemon ice cream or hazelnut merinque among other things.

Afterwards more play time at the park where David made a friend named Jack.  We had plans to meet up with the Langhornes later to feed the ducks at a pond. David invited Jack along. Jack said he’d ask his grandfather to take him and hoped to meet us there. We didn’t expect him to actually show up – but once we got to the pond there was Jack with his grandfather who,  it turned out, was a good friend of Robin. The three boys had a fun feeding the ducks. We also got to watch a cricket match for awhile. I’m still not quite clear on the rules – but it was so perfectly British to watch the teams all in crisp white outfits playing cricket out in this beautiful green area.

Well – tonight is our last night here in Crediton. We hope to be back again someday. David and Jack have exchanged emails and plan to correspond.

Tomorrow – we are off to Eastbourne. It will be a 4 hour drive. Our number 1 priority is to find a laudromat!  Oh the joy of packing light!

We are enjoying your comments!

The Langhornes

David trying on helmet during the tour of the church – founded in 1100!


View fom the B&B

Alex and Rosie the farm dog.

Walk down the lane

Pants off – time to swim!

In Taunton

We have been in Taunton visiting Richard’s friends Andrew and Helen the last few days. They have been incredibly hospitable to us and have taken us touring and had us to dinner every night. It is great to connect with frieds after being on our own for a week. We have loved the home cooked meals! Especially the “puddings” – desserts! Helen made delicious homemade ice cream and we had strawberries and double cream which was great. Andrew said during Wimbledon it is tradition to eat strawberries and cream.

Helen even did did our laundry, hung it to dry and returned it to us neatly folded. She asked me if I would like it ironed. I say – “Of course!!” – no just kidding. Our clothes would go into shock if they were ironed – it has never happened to them.

We are staying at a great Bed and Breakfast about 1 mile from Andrew and Helen’s home. We can walk to their house for dinner and it is a pleasant walk home through a pretty neighborhood.  The traditional breakfast here is eggs, canadian style bacon, baked beans, roasted tomatoes and very strong coffee. Big breakfast!

The first day here Richard and David took a day off and rested. Helen, Alex and I took an old steam train to visit Dunster castle which was fun. The next day we all went to visit the SS Great Britain in Bristol.  Took the train and then walked through Bristol (got lost many times) – finally found the ship. It was launched in 1853. Looked quite luxurious for its day – if you were in first class at least. I wouldn’t want to have travelled back in steerage. ugh. Boys had fun running around the ship.

Today Richard is off with Andrew and the boys to visit the RAF museum. I am staying home and relaxing. It’s nice to be alone for a bit.

We’re taking Helen and Andrew out to dinner tonight. Looking forward to steak and kidney pie and some good ale. Laura – her eldest daughter will babysit our boys. Even better – a night with just adults!

Tomorrow we leave for Crediton to see Richard’s friends the Langhornes. It will be sad to say good bye to Helen and Andrew – who will do our laundry??
Alex and Helen on the steam train to Dunster.

Alex and Helen on the steam train to Dunster.

Waiting for the train to Bristol

Trying on hats on the SS Great Britain

Lost in Bristol

Helen, Timothy, Rachael (Tim’s girlfriend), Alex, David, and Laura.

Day 5: Last Day in London!

Well – our last day in London was good and bad.  First the good. We actually got up at out by 9:00 – which is quite early for us. Had a delicious breakfast in the city. Eggs and Rashers – which is bacon or sausage -not sure which. Then we hopped on the double-decker sight seeing bus for a tour around. It’s great because you can hop off anytime you want to see a sight and then hop back on later.

Only problem….. you *need* to hang on to your ticket. Oops. We hopped off to visit the Imperial War Museum (great time!).  Hopped back on over to the Tower of London – wonderful tour! 

And then – bad news – no more ticket.  Worse news – David lost his iPod.   Seems all that hopping is not so good for keeping things in your pockets.  Poor David – this morning he received a stern lecture from Richard – “You can take the iPod for the day – but if you lose it – it is *gone* – you’ll never be given another.”  Oh dear. A painful life lesson was hopefully learned today.

Other than lost tickets and treasure and paying $6 per bottle for 4 bottles of water when we were thirsty – it was a great day!

London has been great – but  I think the boys are ready to slow the pace. Tomorrow we drive to Taunton to visit friends. I’m sure the adventure of driving on the left in unknown teriitoy with me navigating will be just the calm, quiet day the boys need. Sadly there willl be no iPod to tune the world out. More of the adventure.

David on the hop on hop off bus. Where is the iPod??

Changing of the guard

David, Alex, and Rich volunteered to be soldiers at the Tower of London



Day 4: HMS Belfast & London Bridge Experience

We got a late start today. Richard slept until 11:30 and then we decided we needed to do laundry. The laundry machine takes over an hour to run!  Finally got on our way and made it into the city.

We took of a tour of a great battleship and then decided to take the “London Experience”.  A tour/show about London Bridge.  I thought it was very lame – but the boys enjoyed it and Richard actually liked it.

We enjoyed walking over London Bridge – which doesn’t appear to be falling down. A long tube ride home and dinner near our apartment.

Our plan is to get an early start tomorrow and make the most of our last day in London!  We’ll see….

On London Bridge

Hanging out clothes to dry in the back of our apartment. Oh the joy of packing light!

Day 3: Playground and Lord of the Rings

We went back into the city again. We are getting good at using the subway.  Rich bought oyster cards so we just swipe the card which is nice.  Boys go free – so they have to go through the gate with us. But the gates close so quickly we can barely make it through without it beeping and making a big scene. Rich and I have a contest to see who can get through without a beep. So far, I keep losing.

Rich and David went to “The Lord of the Rings” play today. In Richard’s words: “It was a magical experience.”

Alex and I went to Hyde park and Kensington gardens and found the Princess Diana playground. It was wonderful. A pirate ship, sand, tee pees, suspension bridges and ice cream. Alex was in heavan. I got to sit on a bench and visit. Met a guy from Seattle who is living in London for awhile.

Then we all met up at Trafalgar Square.  Thought we’d meet on the steps – hmmm – seems a few other people had the same idea!

Pancakes for dinner!

Day 2: In the City!

We had our first day in the city!  Took a bus and then the “tube” and finally got to Trafalgar Square.  Lots of pigeons that Alex loved to chase.   Had a good lunch in “The Crypt” then took the London Eye for a ride.

The London Eye is a big ferris wheel thing only instead of seat there are enclosed capsules.  David had a great time taking pictures.  We now have 100 photos of the people below on the ground. 

After the riding the eye – we took the subway to the war cabinet rooms and Churchill museum.  It was a wonderful museum. The cabinet rooms are underground where Churchill met with his staff to conduct the war. The rooms were restored to exactly the way they were during WWII.  They gave you a headset to listen to a guide to museum. It was excellent. The boys enjoyed it and Richard loved it.

At this point David was done for the day! He said “I’m hungry, thirsty, and tired — my feet hurt and I WANT TO GO TO BED!”  We got the feeling he didn’t want to go to another site. So home it was on the tube where they both promptly fell asleep.

After an hour relaxing in the apartment – we walked across the street to a great Italian restaurant. So far in England we have had Thai food and Italian food!

It is now 8am day 3 and David is still sound asleep. Alex is up and ready to go! Alex had the best transition of anybody. No problem.

Today’s agenda – “Lord of the Rings” for Rich and David and Science Museum for Alex and me. It’s raining!

London Eye

David’s photo of Big Ben

Wonderful museum! Richard’s favorite visit of the day.

End of a long day. Guess who is ready for bed?

We arrive in London!!

We made it to London!!!  Everythinhg went smooth as silk. Rich insisted we carry on ALL 8 of our bags – but amazingly they all fit.

We were on a 777 – each seat has a TV screen.  They served a full dinner. Alex and David were thrilled – Alex insisted that we must be in FIRST CLASS! After dinner we watched TV, the boys played the games boys for awhile and then we all fell asleep. 

The TV had several movies you could choose from and 1 channel that showed a picture of the airplan with a map so you could see where we were flying.  We followed the plane across Canada a bit over the Atlantic and then Greenland and down into London. It was fun.

Two hours before we landed they served breakfast and coffee – which was great.

We took a funny looking cab to our apartment about 10 minutes from the airport. Was good to settle in.
At first I thought the apartment  was odd – no sheets, no towels!  But then the cleaners arrived and made everything up and now I like it. It has 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room and small table and kitchen.  It’s great – in an interesting neighborhood.

We walked to the first restaurant we could find =- a Thai restaurant and pub!  It was great. Now we are home for the night – let’s hope we can all sleep tonight!  The boys are watching “The Simpsons”.

Tomorrow we take the bus to the Tube station and the Tube into the city. We’l see the Parliment and Westminster Abbey and have Gellato at Harrods and maybe do the London Eye – which is a ferris wheel that goes up high and you get a great view.

We are so excited!  So far so good!

Getting a cab outside of London.