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    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Tower of London and the V&A

    The Continuing Adventure in England 2007

    On Monday we decided to try and get in both the Tower of London and the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A). Realistically, though, visiting the Tower is really a full day activity.

    The day started off a bit cold and cloudy, but it was still quite nice.

    Here's Glennys standing in front of the main entrance to the Tower of London. You can that it's a chilly day (mostly overcast with a brisk wind most of the day).
    In front of  Byward Tower - Tower of London (3/19/07)

    And here's a shot of me on the drawbridge:
    On the Drawbridge - Tower of London
    (I wasn't really posing for this one as she took it before I realized what she was doing =)

    One of my favorite photos (especially to use as a Desktop/Wallpaper image at work!) - Traitor's Gate:
    Traitor's Gate - Tower of London (3/19/07)

    This is the Water Gate that was used to bring Traitors into the Tower. Yes, I said Water Gate. In days past, this area would be filled with water, and the only way to enter was to come in by boat. The moat that lead to this gate (and filled this area) was drained in the 1840s.

    Anyways, we picked up the audio tour and skipped the Beefeater tour (since we had such a good experience with the last audio tour...with Windsor...we thought we'd try it again). Next time I'm there I do want to do the Beefeater tour, though. Soon we were walking around, following the directions given by the audio tour. Unfortunately, one of the areas was closed for reconstruction/rehab work, but we got to see most of the areas of interest while there, including the Bloody Tower, The Scaffold Site, the White Tower, and the Crown Jewels (held inside the Barracks). We grabbed a bite of lunch from the cafe (?) on site (for a very pretty penny, let me tell you!), and then we finished our tour by checking out the famous Ravens and some cannons that were made by a John Fuller. (We of course had to check those out due to a name connection).

    Then, we made our way over to the V&A...and wandered there for a while. I was REALLY hoping to see a costuming/fashion exhibit. But I couldn't find it for the longest time. I did find a lovely section with beautiful cameos and another with fabric/textile samples, and some wonderfully intricate carved wooden items. (Oh, and there were some lovely and pretty ornate snuff boxes on display too). Finally, we found the exhibit I was looking for...but discovered that the reason I had difficulty finding it in the first place was due to the fact that it was closed! (They were renovating that section!) I was so disappointed, let me tell you!. And by this time both of us were exhausted from our day so far, so we decided to just head home and relax. (Probably a good call, too!)

    Later that evening we went out for a walk along Bayswater Rd just to explore and see what was around us. While we were out we stopped at a nicer place for dinner, which I can't recall right now. We shopped a bit more for souvenirs and then ended up walking home as it was getting pretty late (and we were flying out in the morning). We stopped to pick up a few breakfast type items in a little shop for the morning, and then went back to our room to pack up and get some sleep.

    Sunday, March 18, 2007

    Windsor Castle

    The Continuing Adventure in England 2007

    On Sunday, we decided to do a day-trip out of London and headed for Windsor. It was amazing, really! A gorgeous day and perfect for sight-seers such as ourselves.

    We boarded a morning train from Paddington Station and were off on a new journey! (A friendly man at the ticket counter figured out the best ticket purchase for us when we told him we were tourists and wanted to go to Windsor...he also gave us some free info including a 2 for 1 admission coupon/advert for the Tower of London). We changed trains at Slough and eventually arrived in Windsor town. We walked to the Castle and were soon joining the queue at the front entrance.
    Glennys & I both took A TON of photos from this day, so go check my Flickr site for the rest.
    Main entrance - Windsor Castle (3/18/07) Becky & Glennys - Windsor Castle
    View Though St. George's Gate - Windsor Castle (3/18/07) Glennys next to the Arrow Slot - Windsor Castle (3/18/07)

    Unfortunately, we weren't able to take pictures inside the semi-state rooms, but that was definitely one of the highlights of the tour (seeing inside those rooms). I did pick up some postcards with shots of many of those rooms as a souvenir...just so I could attempt to show others what the rooms were like (if nothing else).

    Afterwards, we headed over to the pub across the way, The Horse and Groom, to grab a bit of lunch. Glennys got the Fish and Chips while I got the Beef Ale Pie. It was absolutely Fabulous! (Yummy!!!)

    Then we stopped in a few of the local shops to browse (and pick up a few souvenirs) and then headed back home.

    For dinner, we headed back to our local pub, the Duke of Kent. This time we were in for a surprise as it was packed! Apparently Sunday night is the place to be there. Someone was playing the piano and a bunch of people (presumably locals) were singing along. Most of the repertoire consisted of well known show-tunes, so I sand along when I could (from our table down the way). For dinner that night I got a shepherd's pie. Tasty!

    When we had finished with dinner, we returned to our lodgings for the night. But as it wasn't quite bedtime just yet, we watched a bit of the Tele (TV) before turning in for the night.

    Saturday, March 17, 2007

    Glennys' Birthday - Part 2

    The Continuing Adventure in England 2007
    3/17/2007 - Part 2

    After I got back from my walk in the Park, I took a nap! (I was all tired out. Partly from Jet Lag, I'm sure!) Then Glennys & I gave up waiting on the credit card that hadn't showed and decided we better get out and see something while we still could as it was already afternoon. So we headed out and hopped on the tube to Trafalgar Square. We had heard that there was supposed to be some St. Patrick's Day celebrations there, but unfortunately for us it looks like they were already over and were in process of cleaning up. There were still a lot of people around (as evidenced by our photos). But we made the best of it and took photos of each other standing on the steps of the National Portrait Gallery in front of a hanging banner (down the way) that proclaimed it was St. Patrick's Day.

    This shot is from the steps of the National Gallery, looking south across the Square. Center of the shot is Nelson's Column (with his statute atop).

    After our picture posing, we decided to head indoors and check out the famous paintings inside the National Portrait Gallery. It was amazing seeing all those paintings (and we only got to see a portion, since the building was so large and we didn't plan on spending more than a couple of hours there). Finally, we got hungry enough to leave the building and search out a suitable place to get some dinner while exploring the nearby area.

    Obviously, our first plan was to find a pub and grab some dinner. Unfortunately, it being St. Patrick's Day and all, we had to quickly nix that idea as ever pub we wandered past was full to the brim with locals (and tourists). Eventually, our wanderings took us to Soho Square (and its lovely garden/park). Just as we entered the Square, we noticed that a church off to one side of the square was calling parishioners to a special Saturday evening (6:00pm) service for St. Patrick's day. The church was appropriately named St. Patrick's Church. (The church is Roman Catholic Parish Church, and according to Wikipedia, it has some extensive Catacombs underneath! Wow!) Glennys asked if I would mind if we delayed our search for food to attend the Mass, and I said of course not! So, we attended Mass, and Glennys afterwards told me that it was the perfect way to end her birthday.

    As all the parishioners were filing out after the service we lingered just a bit to take a few photos (which are on my Flickr site).

    By now, it was quite dark and we decided we should just head back to our place and look for some food closer to 'home', so we made our way to the nearest tube station, Tottenham Court Rd. Fortunately for us, this station happened to be on the Central/Red line - which was perfect for us as that's what we needed to get to our stop at Marble Arch Station. As the Tottenham Court Rd Station had such interesting tile mosaics, we decided to pause briefly and take a few photos. The Mosaic patterned walls were done by Eduardo Paolozzi in 1984 (you can see his signature and date in this photo!).

    And here's a self portrait shot of the two of us

    Eventually, we were back in our 'neighborhood' and decided to try an "Ask" restaurant, which had a bit of an Italian flair. Afterwards, we headed across the way to our local pub (The Duke of Kent) to get a pint of Guinness. (How else should you end St. Patrick's Day while in London, really?)

    Enjoying a Guiness at the Pub (March 17 2007)

    Glennys' Birthday - Part 1

    The Continuing Adventure in England 2007
    3/17/2007 - Part 1

    The next morning dawned soon enough and it was a beautiful day...which was especially grand since not only was this our first FULL day in England, it also happened to be Glennys' birthday!

    We slept in just a tad (still getting used to the change in timezones) but were up at a relatively reasonable morning hour. We decided to take a stroll and find a local place to buy some breakfast. Eventually, we ended up on Edgeware (?) road and found a little hole in the wall cafe serving breakfast. We ordered our breakfast (I got two fried eggs, toast and either sausage or bacon...I can't recall now). After Breakfast, we ambled back to our room. As Glennys was going to wait around for a replacement card that was (supposedly) being shipped overnight to us (and she had to be there to sign for it), I decided to go take a stroll through Hyde Park. (See my Flickr site for tons of photos from my trip. )

    However, here's a self portrait shot I took just as I was setting out on my walk, and a few of my favorite photos from that little adventure from mid-day.

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    Arrival in England

    England Trip - 2007
    Arrived at Heathrow Airport on 3/16/2007

    After collecting our Luggage, Glennys and I made our way to the Heathrow Express/Connect (train) station. We planned on traveling via a Heathrow Connect train (cheaper than Express as it made stops at various stations) to Paddington Station.

    I just *had* to take a photo of my Train Ticket from Heathrow to Paddington. Yes, those are my green fingernails, in honor of St. Patrick's Day

    The train ride itself was quite nice, and it was certainly a good change of pace after being on the airplane for such a long time (even if we were back to sitting again). I enjoyed looking out at the scenery. We were both just SO excited to finally be in England!

    A friendly conductor paused to chat with us after seeing our tickets. When he found out we were Americans, he launched into an interesting discussion on his observations on the differences between Americans and Brits. (He felt that Americans are more open and hat they will tell you *exactly* what they’re feeling – which he admired ).

    After chatting with him for a while, we asked him to take our picture, and then Glennys asked to take a picture with him.

    a Friendly porter - Heathrow Connect

    Once we reached Paddington station, we got in the queue for an ATM to withdraw some cash, and then we got a bite to eat. (I bought some soup to settle my stomach since it hadn’t really liked the croissant from breakfast). While we ate, we of course had to gaze around us and people watch. The station was very large and the ‘food court’ section with shops and food vendors was a big open area with (if I recall correctly) huge skylights overhead.

    When we finished, we got out our Travelcards and hopped on the Tube (aka the Underground) to take us to our Lodgings for the weekend.

    Unfortunately, while switching from the Circle/District line (Yellow/Green Lines on the Tube map) to the Central (Red) Line, Glennys was pickpocketed. We think it was this guy that at first blocked her path from exiting the train (or perhaps he was working in conjunction with someone else so that he was the distraction). Obviously, he flustered Glennys since I had already left the train (I had pushed right by him) and she needed to get around him and off the train before the doors closed. When we were half-way to the platform for the Red Line, she realized that he had stolen her wallet…with all the recently with-drawn cash, her credit cards, her driver’s license, and her 3 Day Travelcard. Fortunately, her passport wasn’t in her wallet nor was the Travelcard she was currently using. (That was a miracle!)

    I wanted to find someone to report it to immediately, but she said what’s the point? He was probably long gone by now (and the police probably get a lot of these calls). So we proceeded on to our lodgings (in a not-as excited mood by now, obviously).

    We exited from the Lancaster station as our Lodgings (part of a Timeshare) were half-way between that Station and the Marble Arch station. Since we'd been sitting for so long and since it didn't seem *that* far on the map, we decided to walk the rest of the way to the lodgings. Wow! While it was great to get out and stretch and see part of the city (Westminster) from a pedestrian's point of view, I definitely was regretting the whole idea near the end as we were tired of hauling our luggage all that way. (Everything seems farther when you're dealing with luggage and trying to find a new place...especially in a town where streets change names as you round the corner!). Later, we realized that we could have hopped on a bus to at least take us closer to our destination. But oh well - didn't know that upon arrival.


    Eventually, we did find our destination.
    Here's a shot of the outside (entrance) of 2 Hyde Park St, where we stayed on our whirlwind trip. A doorman let us in (if he wasn't there, then you had to ring the buzzer to be let in - definitely something different from what I'm used to!) After our experience that afternoon in the tube (pickpocketing), the staff was very pleasant and even though we were too early to check in right away (check in was 3pm) so the room wasn't ready yet, they let Glennys use a lobby phone to start calling her credit card companies to report the stolen cards. I think they took pity on us, so they gave us an upgrade! A Top floor flat!

    Since Glenny's cards were stolen, we ended up using my cards for the trip. (Good thing I had brought them along!). We put the key deposit on my card (they only give you one key, and you have to turn it in each time you leave the building and ask for it upon your return) and were soon shown to our new room. It was a one bedroom place with a little front entry area (basically an outer door to the hallway, with a place to hang your coats and some light switches, and another door on your right that led to the rest of the place). Immediately upon entering there was a large room (relatively, of course) that functioned as both dining room and living room, with a set of doors set into a side wall. Turns out that those folding doors lead into a tiny enclosed kitchen, complete with min-fridge, sink, and microwave. (And coffeepot!) There was a small round table in the dining area along with a freestanding waist-high cabinet that separated that area from the living room portion (along with the couch along it's back). From the Living room, a sliding glass door on the right opened on to a small balcony. On the left, a TV was set into a wall with two openings (doorways without doors) that divided this room from the bedroom area. In the Bedroom, on the other side of the wall was a dresser and another tv (so you could watch tv in bed). The Bed was a Queen sized bed and decently comfortable. Standing facing the bed (with your back to the dresser/tv and living room), there was a set of windows facing 'The City'...we had a wonderful skyline view and could see the top of the London Eye from our Window. On the left was a closet and a doorway into the bathroom.

    After we had taken a few moments to settle in and unpack a bit (and I think we took a tiny nap as well), we decided it was time to go out and explore and get some dinner.

    Here's another shot of the exterior of our building as well as one of Glennys & I on our way to get some food.
    Exterior of Lodgings: I'm standing on the sidewalk across the street (at a nearby intersection - where you can get from Hyde Park Square to Connaught St).

    A Self-Portrait shot during our evening walk on the day of our arrival. Yes, it was a bit *brisk* that evening - quite refreshing! =) This was taken at the corner of Hyde Park St & Bayswater Rd.

    For dinner we found a KFC near Marble Arch Station. The only strange difference I found is that they DON'T offer mashed potatoes as a side, just fries, corn on the cob, and beans, etc. (and gravy - which is what I found odd...gravy but not mashed potatoes!)

    Once we had gotten some dinner we decided it was too early to turn in, so we might as well take advantage of our tube tickets since they were still good and just travel around. So we did. We got on at Marble Arch station and just started riding the various lines around. I'd pick a station, we'd get off and then I'd pick another line to transfer too. Eventually, we ended up at the Tower Bridge station and got out for a bit of a stroll. We saw the Tower Bridge all lite up for the night. It was so lovely! We attempted to take a picture, but neither of our cameras would focus correctly and since the pictures didn't do the subject matter justice, we deleted those pictures. Oh well.

    Soon, though we were headed back to our apartment to get some rest. It had been a long day and we wanted to make sure we went to bed at an normal hour in this new timezone so we could get used to the change.

    All in all, I think our traveling around on the tube was a great way to end our first day. We got out and did something, even though it wasn't that much, and I got familiar enough with the tube system that I was definitely comfortable using it the rest of the trip. (Which was great! I wouldn't ever want to drive in London!).

    For more photos of the apartment, as well as many other things from my trip, check out my Flickr site:


    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    England Here We Come!

    Waiting for our Flight (3/15/07)
    Originally uploaded by marcailgaelyn

    Here's a self portrait shot of my Aunt Glennys and I in LAX awaiting our fight to London. We flew on United Airlines Flight 934 out of Terminal 7 at 6:02pm (3/15/07) and arrived at LHR (Heathrow) in London about 11:35am (London time) on March 16th.

    Besides attempting to sleep on the flight, we watched a couple of movies, and got up a few times to stretch our legs a bit. Personally, I enjoyed the chicken dinner that was served to us, but I didn't really care for the croissant breakfast sandwich that was served for breakfast on the flight.

    Saturday, January 20, 2007

    Jane Austen Evening - Janurary 20, 2007

    Jane Austen Evening
    January 20, 2007
    Pasadena Masonic Hall: 200 S. Euclid., Pasadena, CA
    For the 2007 Jane Austen Evening, I was only able to attend the Ball (Dance) portion of the event. (I was double booked that day since an old friend was getting married in the morning/early afternoon). Even though I didn't attend the Tea, I still had a blast! We gals all met up to have dinner across the street (in the hotel's restaurant) and then join in with the dancing. Unfortunately for us, the restaurant was running a bit slow, so we missed the first dance! But we soon joined in and had a ball! (ha! Pun definitely intended). Anyways, here's a shot of the group posing after the dance had ended. Pretty much everyone poses next to the green marble fireplace for a photo op at *some* point in the evening. It's tradition!