Archive for December, 2006

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Thought of the Day

December 31, 2006

Though my feet are screaming at the end of the day, it’s a good thing that Drew and I have walked so many miles whilst in the U.K.  We have been feasting non-stop since our arrival in Stockport, and we’ve also been introduced to the beauty of Thorntons chocolates…

Hopefully I will get in a real update soon.  Today and tomorrow will be low-key, so we might get to catch up a bit on photo uploading and blogging.  So much to do and so little time…but then again the plan is to finish up our blogging after we get back.

Happy New Year, all!

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Day Five – Morrissey In Manchester

December 28, 2006

*geek warning* Most of you will probably have no idea who I will be gushing about in this post. Just ignore my ramblings if you wish (wink, wink).

Saturday was a relaxing day, which was desperately needed. I hadn’t been sleeping well two weeks prior to our trip, then proceeded to run myself ragged in London. I slept in until 10:30 and spent a good portion of the day uploading photos and finally updating this blog. Drew did some shopping with Mark, while Sara rested up before a holiday open house they were having from 5-9 p.m.

Drew and I left for Manchester by train after 5. After a 15 minute ride, we took a tram (similar to the “L” in Chicago) to the G-Mex Centre, a huge venue which used to be the central railway station in Manchester. We got there quite early, and the opening act came on almost an hour late. I was feeling a bit impatient by that point, she was alright, but I think everyone was in the same mindset as myself. Everyone was chattering by the end of her set and she stormed off after her last song, thanking “those of you who listened.” Hurrah! Soon Morrissey would be on.

I had been keeping tabs on Morrissey’s current setlists, and this show followed them without any surprises. It was still a great show though. He opened with “Panic“, a Smiths favorite, which was glorious and left me grinning like a loon. He played four more Smiths songs that night: “William, It Was Really Nothing”, “Girlfriend in a Coma”, “How Soon is Now?”, and “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”. I loved how self-deprecating he was in regards to the Smiths material. Before performing “How Soon Is Now?”, he told the crowd, “I think this was the one you all came to hear.” Not quite for me, not my favorite Smiths tune by far, but it is a classic of that musical era.

You know what’s almost better than seeing Morrissey? Watching all the cute British boys who are far more stylish than myself (better hair and shoes), singing their hearts out while Morrissey performs. American men…well, they just aren’t that liberated. But I digress…

Moz was great and spoke to the crowd a lot during the show, often launching into politcal attacks. Being a massive U2 fan, I am used to that sort of thing during a show. He also went on about people such as Jamie Oliver who are ruining Britain. After the second song, Morrissey ripped off his shirt and bounded around the stage, which was really funny. He used to be such a twig in his younger days, and now he’s got a slight paunch which heightened the comedic effect of it all. He did this four more times throughout the evening, changing into a new shirt each time.

Drew and I spent most of the evening in the middle of the crowd to avoid the annoying folk who push and shove to get to the front. The venue was huge though, and the three large video screens helped us get a better view. We didn’t have any problems with the crowd. Some people became a bit chatty during the show, but I’ve experienced much worse at a concert.

All in all, fabulous show. Enthusiastic crowd and Morrissey sounded great as well. So glad I got to go! Seeing him in his hometown was just too, too cool. The setlist can be found here (it was being all wonky when I tried to cut and paste it).

We made it home by 11:30, and the party was still hopping. I got to meet some of Mark and Sara’s friends and got into some discussions of the Madchester music scene. It was nice meeting and chatting with them, but thankfully they were all gone by 12:30 so we could crash. I’m turning into an old lady already!

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Day Four – Last Day In London

December 27, 2006

Friday was a hard day. Drew and I were both tired and really depressed over Nesta. We were going to plan an agenda the night before, but it never happened so we just decided to wing it.

Since Wednesday was such a full day, we didn’t spend as much time at the Tate Modern as we had wished. Also, Drew had wanted to take a trip down one of the “Super-Happy Fun Slides” as he called them. Trips down the slides required a (free) ticket, but they were timed. Last time we were there, we would have had to wait over two hours, and due to our itinerary, it would have been impossible. So Drew was going to finally get his turn Friday.

We checked out of the B&B around eleven, then headed to our tube station to make the trip to Euston Station where at 6:35 p.m. we would leave via train to Mark and Sara’s in Stockport, which is just south of Manchester. Unfortunately, there was an accident on our tube’s line, a collision of some sort (thank god we weren’t involved) so we had to take a bus to the station instead.

Once there, we dropped off our bags, then took the tube to the London Bridge station. From there, we wandered around a bit before arriving at the Tate. Drew got his ticket (I’m a chicken and prefer to watch – they were huge slides), and we had almost two hours to kill. First we browsed the gift shops, then we sat outside on a bench overlooking the Thames. We watched the water and the bustling crowds around us. With an hour to spare, we headed back into the museum to check out the rest of the exhibits that we had missed the other day. Our heads really weren’t into interpreting the art, so we breezed through it all. Drew got to his slide at 3:30, and finally got his ride. I didn’t catch a photo of him, since he was a few floors above me, but did get a photo of a little girl coming out of one of the slides:

Before going back to Euston Station, we got dinner at a greek restaurant, which was disappointing. Our “starter” was good, but the lamb in our main course was tough and almost inedible. Boo. At the station, I got us some fresh cookies to make up for dinner, then we boarded our train. The station was crazy, but our train was a back-up train to Manchester (to handle the large demand of passengers), and luckily our car was half-empty and very quiet.

Exactly two hours later, we arrived in Stockport. Mark and Collin, Drew’s father, picked us up from the station. We met up with Sara at home and they all had cards for Drew in memory of Nesta, along with a cute fuzzy stuffed dog that looks a bit like her. Very sweet of them. We spent the evening catching up and marvelling at Sara’s big belly. None of us had seen any photos of her since she’s been pregnant, but apparently she hadn’t started to really show until recently. Drew was already excited about being an uncle, but finally seeing his sister made it a bit more real, and he’s been gushing all over her and the bump ever since.

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Day Three

December 24, 2006

I’ve just been on a four-plus hour hike through the British moors, which was insanely difficult, wet and freezing but SO worth it. It was Mark and his brother Paul’s annual Christmas Eve hike, and I was the first woman ever invited out with the guys. Since I sprained my ankle and messed up my knee earlier this fall, I’ve had a hard time working out and staying in shape. But I am so proud of myself for keeping up with all them (two of their friends were with us as well). The terrain was quite rugged, and I’ve never seen anything like it. Desolate, but really amazing. It was so cold that our eyelashes were frozen. But enough of that, just had to brag. More on that later, as I am trying to go in order here.

Day three found us meeting my friend Sally for brunch at the Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Last time I saw Sally, she was pregnant with her first son Oscar. Now she’s got three more weeks to go with her second son! Though we didn’t have much time, we all had a lovely chat. We took photos, too (of course):

After saying goodbye, Drew and I wandered around Trafalgar Square taking photos and avoiding all the crazy pigeons begging for food. We spent some time at the National Portrait Gallery, then we walked up toward Leicester Square to investigate the Photographers Gallery.

Around two, we hopped the tube North to Hampstead, which was obviously more quiet and cozier than central London. I had wanted to walk through Hampstead Heath, but the fog settled in quickly and it was soon dark outside. We had a great time walking the streets though, as it was such a beautiful and charming area. I was able to get a few photos in before the fog settled in, then took a few more in our muted surroundings:

Drew’s Uncle John recommended that we go to The Flask for a pint while in Hampstead. While we warmed up there (it was so peaceful and quiet compared to everywhere else we had been in London), a local recommended that we go to the Holly Bush next. Again, it was quiet and cozy and we had a spectacular dinner: meat pies (I had chicken and mushroom, Drew had the beef), with cheddar mash and a yummy salad. We headed back for the B&B early so we could catch up on our photo uploading and blogging, but that’s when we received the devastating news about Nesta and we were far too upset to do anything constructive.

Well, we are soon off for a church service complete with caroling. Merry Christmas everyone!

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Day Two

December 23, 2006

Time to backtrack a bit. It’s hard to believe that it is Saturday already!

Our second day in London was wonderful, and we covered so much ground. Wednesday was quite chilly, but the morning fog gradually gave way to sunshine. Our plan of the day was to head down to St. Paul’s Cathedral to walk around a bit, then take the Millennium Bridge across the Thames to the Tate Modern.

After investigating the Tate for a bit, we decided to take a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, which was really interesting, but naturally cold as the theatre is outside. We picked up some souvenirs afterward in the shop, then headed down along the South Bank of the river towards Waterloo Station, where we would take the tube to Westminster. Drew and I decided to stop for lunch and found a great hole-in-the-wall peking/cantonese restaurant tucked away in an alley. It was nice to relax, talk and warm up a bit before heading further down the river.

I took these photos on our way to Waterloo Station after lunch:

We finally reached Waterloo Station, which was massive and incredibly busy and hopped the Tube to Westminster. We walked around and took photos of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, even though we’ve both seen the landmarks before. For me, it’s like I wasn’t really in London until Big Ben was right in my face, and when you’re staring up at it, it’s really quite thrilling:

Wandering around Westminster at dusk was gorgeous and so fun. After taking many photos, we stopped at the Churchill Museum at the Cabinet War Rooms, which was really interesting. Though we had a street map (thank you John and Jonie!), we had a bit of a rough time finding the place and when we arrived, it was closing in less than two hours. The guard gave us a hard time and was a bit of a prat and told us that we couldn’t get through in under two hours, but we grabbed our audio guides and rushed through with plenty of time to spare.

Afterwards, Drew and I went to the Blackfriars pub, which is a favorite of mine. It was packed to the gills, but a group left and we were able to sit and relax for a few. I also wanted to check out Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, which was in the area, so we headed off in that direction for a good 10 minute walk. The pub was packed, so we just wandered around upstairs and had a good look about and left.

On the way back, we ducked into an Indian restaurant off of Oxford Street, about a 15 minute walk from our B&B. It was great, but being off Oxford Street, we should have known better as it was insanely expensive. At the time, I decided not to care because it was cold and we were tired and hungry. Dinner was delicious, but cost us over $70 (after converting the pounds to U.S. dollars). Ouch! And we didn’t even get naan with that, because an order of naan would have set us over $80. Can you hear my bank account screaming? Uncle Tim and Aunt Carol, I thought of you that night! Thanks for helping to fund our Indian dinner.

So, it was a long day but it was such a good one. I really had a blast and got to wander all over the city. My muscles were sore and my feet have a few blisters, but it was so worth it. London is one hell of a workout!

A few more photos from the day (check out some more on my Flickr link)

I will be uploading even more photos on my site after we get back home. But for now, I can only do so much. I’ve already taken well over a hundred photos, but they will all be up eventually. For now, just my favorites will be on the site.

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Rest in Peace, Sweet Girl

December 23, 2006

We learned Thursday night that we lost our beloved Nesta, and we are so heartbroken. It seems that 2007 cannot come soon enough, as Drew and I have experienced so much loss together this year. But we are together with family and we are healthy and safe. And still, seems as soon as one void starts to close, another opens right up.

Nesta wasn’t the brightest of dogs, but she was so happy and full of love. It didn’t matter how lousy you were feeling, she would make you smile. Her enthusiasm for life and her love for us were constant. She came from a bad home and had such a good life with Drew. It turns out she was having a blast with her other doggie friends at Lisa and Paul’s, but she missed us too much. Nesta was found on the freeway, headed in the direction of home. May she rest in peace, with an unlimited supply of T-bone steaks.

This is the last photo I took of her:

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Day One

December 21, 2006

Hi!  Where to start?  My head is spinning already.  Today was wonderful, but I guess I better start with yesterday.
 
 Dad took us to the airport Monday, and we ended up arriving with plenty of time to spare.  Two whole hours, in fact.  The first flight to Detroit was snappy, and finally we were on our flight into London Gatwick.  The flight was fine, but neither of us got much sleep.  I dozed for about a half hour, and Drew was out for around an hour.
 
 We arrived into (what else?) thick fog, and due to the weather, we all ended up sitting in our plane for about an hour after we landed as we weren’t able to get into a gate.  Saw a newspaper today, apparently the fog this morning was a nightmare at Heathrow as well.  Such as life in England.
 
 After going through customs, we got our bags (all intact! phew), then waited for our train, which was a half hour late.  From there, we had to drag our bags all through the Underground which was so exhausting.  In addition to our things, we had to take over a ton of Christmas presents and also gifts for Mark and Sara’s baby.  Dragging all our heavy bulky things on the Tube and up and down stairs and escalators was awful.  We woke up quite sore this morning!
 
 Though we barely got any rest, Drew and I were determined to power through our day to make the transition to England time more bearable in the long run.  We got lunch, then went out to buy three day Tube passes and we hit up some stores on Oxford Street.
 
 Last night for dinner, we went to the Windsor Castle pub where we encountered an interesting group of locals.  While eating our fish, chips and peas, we were entertained by Frank (who was completely sauced) and Mick.  We all talked for a few hours, and by the time we left, both Frank and Mick were pressuring me to marry Drew.  It was almost like having dinner with family, though usually my family doesn’t mention marriage, they simply go on about grandchildren.  So yes, interesting evening and though we were completely knackered (when in Rome, right?), we managed to stay up until 11 p.m…

Since time is limited right now with the internet at our B & B, I won’t be posting photos today.  I uploaded a few from our first day…just click the Flickr link there on your right to see them.