Wednesday, August 17, 2016

8/15 - 8/18/2016 Visiting in Beaconsfield

I am consolidating my last 4 days.  John wasn't well, so we stayed close to home.  When we realized the situation, Elizabeth and I went to Cooks, which has the best frozen dinners I have ever seen.  

One night we had chicken in lemon and thyme sauce with peas, leeks, and mint.

Another night we had Moroccan lamb with grilled vegetables.

John, poor thing, had poached chicken.

Elizabeth felt badly about leaving me alone the day she had to take John to the doctor.  I said that I could just walk the 2 blocks into town and explore the shops and get a little lunch.  But another of her friends  invited me for coffee.

We went to the Rotary Club dinner. The speaker was the town crier.  WHO KNEW THAT THERE WERE STILL TOWN CRIERS?  I was fascinated.  He spoke about other things in just regular clothes, but offered to bring a picture the next day.  He won the competition for this post when he graduated from high school and will hold it until he can't fulfill his duties.  He has won national competitions and was the official crier at Queen Elizabeth's golden jubilee ceremony in Windsor.  For his day job, he remodels bathrooms.  I got to ring the bell. It is really really heavy.

I had pork medallions and Eton Mess for dessert at the Rotary dinner. 

Elizabeth took me to the airport early Thursday morning.  Virgin Atlantic was much better than KLM.  The family brought pizza for dinner and I went to bed soon after.

Thus ends another great trip.  We are building memories.

Monday, August 15, 2016

8/14/2016 Elizabeth's, nibbles, lunch, talk

The rest of the family took uber to the airport and went home.  Alec said the flight was brutal for him because he  had caught a bad cough.  He slept sitting up on the couch last night.  I'm sure that anyone sitting near him thought they were going to catch the plague.

I took uber to a train station to go to Beaconsfield to visit my friends Elizabeth and John.  We met in Geneva when Elizabeth and I were part of the craft group of the English church.  (The children have been taking good care of me this trip.  They carried my suitcases down to the street.  Calder has taken responsibility for hooking up my CPAP machine and he also finds the WiFi passwords and connects everyone's devices.)

Elizabeth picked me up and then we were off to a friend of theirs for drinks and nibbles.  The woman was widowed and was entertaining friends and neighbors for the first time.  She served much more than we expected, but we couldn't eat too much because we had lunch reservations.

We all had plaice.

You can have nice flowers when you live someplace where it rains.

Mostly we just talk and talk and talk.

8/13/2016 Changing of the guard, Dungeons, water bus, last night

For our last day on London, we went to the changing of the guard.  It is horribly crowded, but we were able to get a little view.

Went by Big Ben on our way to the Dungeons.

The dungeons were fun.  There were costumed guides in rooms explaining different parts of the past.  A boat ride took us to the tower; Jef was put in a punishment cage in the torture room, Alec was looked at as a possible victim for the pie maker; I was put on trial as Black Beard the pirate.  The ending ride was the hanging drop.

We took the water bus back home.  This was a relaxing way to get there and see some sights along the way.

We wanted an easy dinner the last night, so went to Dickens (also right where we lived.)  Had pub type food in their grill section.

Packed up and ready to leave in the morning.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

8/12/2016 Tower,

We are staying right next to the Tower, so made it our first stop.  The exhibits have really improved since I visited in the early 70's.  We went up to the walkway and followed it around through 3 towers each with different information about the history of the Tower.  There were a lot of film and slide shows to illustrate different points.  One room was devoted to the animals that had lived in the menagerie and stories about their care (or lack of care).

Me with a Yoman of the Guard.  In order to be a Yoman, they have to have served with distinction in the armed forces for 22 years.  One perk of job is a little house in the tower.

The 6 ravens were there, so Britain is safe.

We went to Nando's for lunch.  (Another recommendation from our friends.) This is chicken with African flavors, very yummy.  We want one in L.A.

Took the tube to a shopping area.  The fourth recommendation was Hamley's, a multi-floor toy store.  We split up there.  Alec and Calder went to the zoo.  Jef and Branwen continued shopping at Liberty's and Fortnum and Mason.  I went home to rest.  Met some London red hat ladies at The Docks.

For dinner we met more relatives.  Jonathan is the son of Joyce, the relative that I know best.  He and his wife Becky visited me in L.A. 11 years ago.  ( I can't believe I forgot to take a picture.). We went to Mala, an Indian restaurant practically right outside our door. After dinner they came back to the apartment for coffee and more conversation.

Friday, August 12, 2016

8/11/2016 London, Borough market, Battersea Park, Simpsons-in-the-strand

The dad from last night told the kids about several things that they would like to do.  These aren't touristy, but the kids loved them.  

First we went to the Borough market for lunch.  It is basically a huge group of food stalls.  It was hard choosing.  The kids went for noodles.  Alec and I chose "salt beef".  This was corned beef with mustard and pickle.  I was able to just order a half.  Very tasty.

Next we took a taxi to Battersea park, where there were low rider bikes to rent.

After a short instruction, they were off for an hour to ride around the park.  Jef and I found a bench nearby.  For the last circuit, Alec and Jef traded.  We planned on taking the water bus home, but it only ran to that stop during rush hour.  We took a taxi instead.  For 5 people it is almost cheaper to take the taxi.

Once home we all cleaned up for our special dinner at Simpsons-in-the-Strand.  Lawry's is one of their favorite restaurants, so we wanted to show them where the idea had come from. Our carvers:


Fish & chips

Popover with vege and roasted potatoes:

Medley of desserts 

Ice cream

Little chocolate cookie cake

And off to bed.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

8/6/2016 breakfast with cousin Peter Ballantine, St. Maurs cemetery, Roman wall museum

Leaving Glasgow, we drove to Kilmaurs.  This is where my family is from.  We met a new cousin.  His grandmother and my grandfather were siblings.  We met for breakfast at Rowallen castle.  When Alec and I were here, it was being restored.  Uncle John (with the accent so thick we could only understand 1 word in 10) showed us through because he had worked on it and he could get a key from a friend.  Now it is a golf club and very posh.  Peter is an architect so he and Alec had interests in common.

After a lovely but really slowly served breakfast, we headed off to the cemetery. My grandfather died and was buried in Ewing Township, NJ, but he is mentioned on the family grave stone.  No one could remember exactly where the stone was so we were going to have a scavenger hunt.

We found it.

My grandfather was David.  

For future reference: in the old cemetery, with your back at the wall by the road, counting the stones at the wall as one, it is in the third row, slightly right of center.  The name on the top of the stone is Margaret Rowen in loving memory of her husband John Tennant, who was accidentally killed in the railway Collision at Barrassie, 4th Feb., 1898, aged 36 years.

Bidding a fond farewell to Peter, we proceeded to the fan shop of the Killmarnoch Killies, the local soccer team. More souvenirs, this time for Alec.  There was a game that afternoon, but we had places to go, things to see.

On to Hadrian's Wall.  There is a great Roman war museum about the life of the soldiers.  It has lots of little movies showing their daily lives and what they were expected to do.  

The others hiked up the hill to see the wall, I stayed in the car and knitted.  I've seen the wall up close and personal after walking through a field filled with black faced sheep.

Found a small restaurant built at a ruined castle close by for dinner.  Fish & chips and a burger.

We are staying at a very wide variety of places.  This night was a Day's Inn at a rest stop on the highway near Gretna Green.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

8/10/2016 Stonehenge, then London

Lovely breakfast at Leena's Guest house.  I don't know who Leena is - neither Gary nor his wife is named that.  This is the "princess portion" of the queens breakfast.

Off to Stonehenge.  Achievements like this always impress me. It is truly amazing what ancient humans have been able to accomplish.

Might as well take a selfie like everyone else.

After the henge we walked back to the visitor center.  (Took a bus going there) We ate in the cafe and did a little shopping, and looked through the Neolithic village.  Since no one knows exactly how the roofs were made each house had a different style.

After a last visit to the loo, we headed off to London.  England has highways so we made good time until we hit rush hour.  Our apartment is next to the Tower at St. Katherine's Docks, so we are right at the heart of things.  As we fought our way across town the navigation system had a nervous breakdown. It thought there was a roundabout where one had been taken away.  Luckily Google had a correct route.  I thought I was going to have to hire a taxi to lead us there.  We made it!  

Had a little trouble finding the actual apartment, but we are here and it is great.  3 bedrooms upstairs, one with bunk beds, a full bath up and powder-room down, and a fully equipped kitchen.

Alec took a quick shower.  He and I took the car back, and then he took off to have drinks and dinner with a roommate from Yale.  (They had a great time catching up.) I took a taxi back and went with Jef and the kids to have dinner with friends from the kids' school at a Turkish restaurant at the docks.

Everyone had a fine time.  We totally unpacked so we could see what we had and we will need to rearrange things to get everything in.

8/9/2016 2 castles, 6 hour drive on goat tracks

This was the farmhouse living room.

The view from my bedroom

We have a lot of territory to cover today.  Starting with Caernarfon Castle.  Built by Edward I, and never finished.  This is where the investiture of the Prince of Wales takes place.  There was film of Prince Charles and the Queen.

This was a big castle with many turrets, I climbed up and down one and then said, "If you've seen one you've seen them all.

I did spend time in the lower rooms with the slide shows.  Calder was quite interested in the film showing scenes of WWI.

Picked up fluff and fold laundry had lunch and went to our next castle.  Back to Harlech Castle also built by Edward.  He was a big builder!  The original Harlech was the scene of Branwen's wedding to the King of Ireland.  

Way down below is the Y Branwen Inn where we ate last night.

Then began our 6 hour trek to Salisbury.  This part of Wales does't seem to have highways or even many two lane roads.  We went from one goat track to another smaller goat track.  I asked if the navigation system was set to take the smallest roads possible.  I had told our next innkeeper that I would get in touch when I had a good idea of our arrival time.  THERE WAS NO SERVICE UNTIL WE GOT TO A HIGHWAY STOP IN ENGLAND!

When I finally called, Gary answered with, "Joan, where are you? I've been waiting for your call all day."  When I answered, "Wales, with no service." He immediately understood.  Then I told him our ETA and he said that he would be in bed, but gave me his mobile number and said to let it ring a long time.

Dinner that night was McDonald's.  On we went.  Gary had fallen asleep in his clothes and let us in promptly.  He gave us keys, showed us our rooms, told us what time breakfast was, and went to bed.  As we were bringing in the luggage with the door open, a group of men arrived to go in.  I made them show me their key before I let them in.  Now that I think of it, 3 men could have just picked me up and moved me aside.  

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

8/8/2016 Exploring Branwen's Wales

JAfter the swim, we took a small walk though the woods of the castle's grounds and then checked out.

We headed for Branwen's gravestone.  Alec had goggled it and we hoped the farmer hadn't planted any tall crops in the meantime.  We waded through a field of grass and found it.  Yeh, Google.

Next we went to the very edge of the island and looked toward Ireland - where Branwen went after she married the king.  

They were having a fund raiser for birds so I added to my hedgehog collection.

Then we went to the Halen Mon sea salt factory.  It obviously was started as a way of creating jobs in the area.  The founders had had a sea food distributing business that segued into a sea zoo.  That was too seasonal, so they started the salt works.  It is small and all the packing and salt skimming are done by hand.  At the end of the tour, we had a salt tasting.  It is interesting how different they can be.

Dinner at the Y Branwen.  We had tried to stay here, but the were completely booked for a ladies international golf tournament.

We started with tomato soup which tasted like thinned marinara sauce.

Most of us had fish & chips with mushy peas

Bangers & mash.  Branwen loves mashed potatoes.  She is in heaven here.

Toberone tart for dessert.

We are staying in a farmhouse tonight.  Finding it in the dark was a treat.  The ROAD to it was 2 tracks with grass in the middle, then we turned into the drive which was even more problematic.  But we made it.  The lady was happy to see us.  I think she was worried that we weren't coming.

Family room had bunks, but since my room had twins, Calder came in with me.