October 31, 2010

Josh does the UK

Before we left for the UK, I asked our trusty dog/condo/plant-sitter Josh what he’d like us to bring him back as a souvenir. In addition to wanting a hot British man and some nice clothes, Josh requested that we bring a photo of him with us and take pictures of it in various spots so he could imagine he’d been along for the trip.

Here you go, Joshua:

Josh, slightly jet-lagged, at Avebury.

Look closely--there's little Josh at Stone Henge!

Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy gazes longingly at Josh in the restroom at the Jane Austen Museum in Bath.

Josh enjoys a Peeptini at the Roman Baths in Bath.

Josh admires the beauty of Wells Cathedral.

Josh quickly masters the maze at Longleat.

Josh explores Caerphilly Castle in Wales.

Josh in front of the Millennium Center in Cardiff, Wales.

Josh catches the eye of a knight in Conwy, Wales.

Josh says, "Rules be damned!" in Conwy.

Josh takes in a Man United game at Old Trafford.

Josh enjoys seeing John Simm in "Hamlet" in Sheffield, England.

Josh enjoys a Peeptini after crossing the stepping stones at Bolton Abbey.

Josh admires the Bridge of Sighs at Cambridge University.

Josh in the London Underground.

Josh at the British Museum in London.

Josh by the River Thames with the Millennium Bridge and St. Paul's Cathedral behind him.

Yes, we got a lot of strange looks from people around us. Thanks, Josh!

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October 30, 2010

Leaving London

Just popping on briefly to say we’re heading to the airport in a little bit. We have to check out by 10 am, and we’ll have all our stuff with us, so we figured we’d just go to Heathrow a little early. Let joy be unconfined.

Despite the rocky start, we’ve had a nice couple of days in London–visited the Borough Market, the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Sherlock Holmes Museum, and a few other things as well. We are both very tired and not looking forward to the flight, but it will be nice to see our friends and our pets and be back in our own bed (which isn’t perfect, but is much better than what we’ve been sleeping on for the last several days).

If there is wireless at Heathrow I will try to post some more photos. If not, I guess I will post them from the comfort of my own home.

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October 28, 2010

Adventures in vomitourism

Yesterday I spent the day vomiting my way across England.

I knew I wasn’t feeling well when we woke up and checked out of the hotel, but it wasn’t until we were about ten minutes from our first stop that I realized the full magnitude of the situation. It was at that point, watching traffic build up in front of us, that I knew I was going to vomit. I know myself pretty well, so I knew there was at least a chance I’d make it to our stop, but the countdown had definitely started.

Sure enough, as soon as we pulled into the parking lot (full of children and nice old ladies) my time ran out. Deciding against puking in front of an audience, I ran to the public toilet and immediately almost killed myself. Apparently they had hosed down the floors, so when I hit it at a full run I went sliding into a wall. Then I slid into a stall–with a broken toilet! Slid into another stall and, trying not to fall down and hit my head, promptly vomited loudly and longly. Ah sweet relief!

After that I felt a bit better, as one does. So we went to a few shops and a post office. But by the time we were walking back to the car I realized the ordeal was not over. I sent Larry to the car and headed back into the ice skating rink of a public toilet. I think I actually vomited up some internal organs that time. Possibly I even lost a pinkie toe. I think I probably brought up the contents of every stomach within a three-mile radius because there really was no way that there should have been anything in there after round one, and yet…

Feeling considerably more shaky I got back in the car, and we started our drive to London Heathrow to return the rental car. No one can accuse me of not having hilariously poor timing. Those of you who have driven over here will know that when I say we had to go through 10,000 roundabouts during the drive I am not kidding. Nothing settles the stomach like driving in endless circles in a tiny car. But at least I knew–I KNEW–I wouldn’t need to throw up again because NOTHING could have survived the last round.

Or could it?

A hint: It could.

As Larry pulled into the rental car return I knew with a sudden and horrible certainty that I was about to vomit again. And this time I had almost no warning. I walked as quickly as possible across the parking lot, and–literally choking it back now–burst through the doors of the Avis rental offices, hand over my mouth, and into the restroom where I almost made it to the toilets. Almost. I got as far as the sinks.

The one small mercy is that no one walked into the restroom at that point.

So, nagivating the world in a fog, and with the worst taste EVER in my burning throat, we caught the shuttle to Heathrow and bought tickets for the hourlong tube ride to London. From there we stumbled to the rental office for the flat we’re staying in. Then walked for god knows how long to get from there to the actual flat. I don’t even know. At that point I just wanted to get somewhere, anywhere, where I could safely be unconscious.

Finally I was allowed to collapse on the world’s smallest, least comfortable bed. I slept for many hours. Larry worked on homework. He ventured out for food. He watched TV. I slept on. Time passed. Eventually I woke to find Larry had bought me a Gatorade. Larry is a most excellent human being. He also bought me a smoothie but decided to drink that himself before I woke up. Nobody’s perfect.

Around 7:30 pm, having kept the Gatorade down and wasted an entire day in London, I figured I was well enough to venture out for a little while. So we walked to the closest Underground station and headed to the Embankment to take some night shots:

After about an hour of that we went back to the room so I could rest some more. Ah well.

This morning I am feeling less than perfect and have a horrible pain in my neck, but I’m still doing considerably better than yesterday, so we are off to explore. Wish me luck!

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October 26, 2010

Catching up, sort of

Sorry for the long delay in posting. We’ve been very busy during the days, and Larry has been working hard in the evenings to keep up with his school assignments, all of which require the use of the computer. I have been watching a very odd assortment of TV shows each night.

So what have we been up to? Lots of stuff. For the last few days we’ve been staying in Hemel Hempstead, a nice enough town situated between a lot of interesting places. Today we went to 78 Durngate, a house renovated by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (no photography allowed); yesterday we explored Cambridge; and the day before that we visited the Roald Dahl Museum, mastered the Marlborough Maze at Blenheim, and saw a bit of Oxford.

Before we arrived here we were at a great B&B in Cullingworth, which is Brontë country (pity I don’t care about the Brontës).

Tomorrow we head to London for the last few days of the trip. We won’t have internet access at the hotel, but we will try to check in from a coffee shop or something. Until then, Larry needs the computer back, so here are a few photos:

Butterfly in the Blenheim Butterfly House

Me in the Marlborough Maze

Triumphant maze masters

Some building in Oxford

Market in Cambridge

Fountain, Great Court, Trinity College, Cambridge

Saint John's College, Cambridge

River Cam running through Cambridge University

More Cambridge

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October 22, 2010

A piece of Manchester history

I didn’t have a chance to blog about this the other day, but Larry and I visited the coolest place in Manchester: the Victoria Baths. The baths were built in the early 1900s and are currently in the process of being restored, or at least as much as they can be with the money available. I found the Victoria Baths while searching for “fun places to photograph in the UK.” It wasn’t until later that I realized I’d read about the baths before because they are used for location shooting on lots of random British shows, including one of my favorites: Life on Mars. In fact, the day we visited there was a commercial being shot in one of the main rooms for some sort of Coke beverage.

If you want to read up on the history of the Victoria Baths go here. If you are ever in Manchester and enjoy history or architecture or both, make sure to take the tour. And if you are wealthy please give them lots of money so they can continue the restoration work. It really is a fantastic building. Here are some photos:

Front exterior of the Victoria Baths, Manchester

Interior tile wall, detail

Bannister detail, staircase in First Class Men's Entrance

Windows in one of the upstairs rooms

An upstairs hallway

Glass ceiling over one of the three pools

The Aeratone in the former women's waiting room

Stained glass

Stained glass windows

Fireplace in an upstairs room

Larry in a familiar room

The "morgue" from Life on Mars

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October 22, 2010

The play’s the thing

Last night we drove to Sheffield to see Hamlet. We were almost late because we hit some rush hour traffic and then poor Larry kept missing his turns and ending up farther and farther from the theater. I did my best to stay calm, but the whole time I was worried there would be trouble picking the tickets up from the box office. But we got there eventually and there was no trouble with the tickets and we had plenty of time to get settled in our seats before the play started.

This production of Hamlet was being put on at the Sheffield Crucible, which I’d just like to stop and say is a really lovely theater. I know a lot of people were skeptical about us going to see a play in Sheffield, but we were both very impressed with the theater. I quite liked the set as well. And our seats were very good–third row, a bit off to one side. But the Crucible really doesn’t have “bad” seats.

So, the play. The cast was all excellent. Larry and I both particularly enjoyed Hugh Ross who played Polonius, a part I admit I’d never really given much thought to. I don’t even remember who played him in the last production I saw. But Ross was great! He made Polonius very funny and oddly endearing. But really the whole cast was just terrific. And this Ophelia was waaaaay better than the last one I saw.

Now about John Simm, because I am sure you are curious. John Simm was a fantastic Hamlet. Seriously. FAN-TASTIC. This actually shouldn’t be much of a shock because if there are two things Simm does really well, it is anguished and crazy. He also managed to inject some humor into the role, which was nice. Larry will back me up on this (see quote below), so you can’t just say it is because I like John Simm: The man did a great job. And one of the things I always enjoy about Simm is that I never feel like I am watching a play with John Simm in it–he really disappears into the role, and I will go for long periods watching before I remember that, Oh! Right! That’s John Simm on stage a few feet away from me! I really appreciate that because I feel like sometimes you see someone famous in a play and all you can think the whole time is: Look, it’s that famous guy as Hamlet. When really you should just be thinking: There’s Hamlet. (And for my fellow Simm-fanciers, yes, the fencing scene was as awesome as we’d hoped. Even when crazy and anguished the man is still attractive.) Now some comments from Larry:

“I agree the play was fabulous, and I’m not one who usually enjoys Shakespeare. John Simm and cast somehow managed to incorporate humor into what is otherwise a pretty depressing story. I can see why Sonja likes John Simm, as he is a very good actor.” –Larry

After the play we stayed for a brief talk-back thing with most of the cast, which was fun and also very kind of them to stick around for since it was quite late. They were all very charming and funny.

So there you have it. An excellent play experience. I am so glad we went!

Of course if Stacey asks I will say the play was terrible.

John looking tortured because he can't have me.

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October 21, 2010

Glory Glory Man United!

Last night we attended a Manchester United game at Old Trafford, thanks to our lovely benefactress Jen. Jen is the same one who got she and I the play tickets a few years back where we were essentially sitting on the actors’ laps, so it should have come as no surprise that our Man United seats were similarly impressive. We were about seven rows back, which really makes a huge difference when you are watching sports (although I had a vague fear I’d be hit in the face with the ball at some point–I was not).

Though I am not the sportiest person in the world I have to say that seeing a Manchester United football game at Old Trafford is like seeing a Red Sox baseball game at Fenway–the absolute best way to do it. Lovely stadium, enthusiastic crowd, lots of history, just fantastic!

Contrary to some people’s fears, we were able to watch the game without being crushed to death by crazed football fans. In fact, the Man United fans were all very well behaved. The fans of the opposing team, Bursa, were extremely enthusiastic but not in a scary way. The only bad behavior we saw involved a few banged shins, one bloodied nose, and a bit of handbagging–all on the field, between players.

Nani, king of awesome, continues to play despite a bloody nose.

On a side note, for the past few days Man United has been all over the news here due to one of its star players, Wayne Rooney (boooooh!), announcing plans to leave the team. Think Johnny Damon leaving the Red Sox. So that has been a major topic of conversation all over the city. The fans are feeling very wounded. Rooney, of course, did not play last night due to “an injury,” which seems awfully coincidental if you ask me. Whatever, Rooney. Shut your face.

Anyway, Man United won: 1-0.

We have another full day planned today, so the next update may be delayed a bit. Plus we seem to be suffering from some sort of Internet-connection curse. I suspect sorcery.

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October 17, 2010

The Edge of the Known Universe

Larry and I arrived at our B&B this evening only to find out that it has no internet access. None. At all. And we’re staying there for three nights.

So we spent half an hour driving around the area in the dark, enjoying music of the 1930s on our radio, looking for an unsecured wireless connection so Larry could download his homework assignments. I’m sure this in no way looked sketchy. Or at least no more sketchy than the stakeout we’re currently doing outside a hotel in a nearby town. Thanks, White Lion! Actually, I think at least part of the thanks should go to Julia Ward Howe, a Unitarian and author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” who died October 17, 1910. They’d just been discussing her on the radio and had started playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” when, Glory Glory, Hallelujah! we found a wireless connection! Thanks, Julia! I owe you a column in the magazine.

So anyways, don’t expect to hear much from us for the next few days. We aren’t dead; we’re just in Northern Wales.

No time for a complete photo account of the day, but for now here is this morning’s Epic Battle at Caerphilly Castle–this time a fencing battle for Stacey, who thinks we aren’t classy.

Epic Fencing Battle at Caerphilly

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