Saturday, May 14, 2005

A hike in the Clent Hills

The weather was too good to be missed this weekend, so in my ever increasing motivation to get back in the outdoors and back in shape, I went for a hike in the Clent Hills with Stacey (another American who came over in January). I knew Clent was not too far from where I live, but it was suprisingly closer than I had thought. We had a great, rigorous hike to the top of the hill and around. This time of year there are beautiful patches of Blue Bells blooming along the hike.

I don't feel like these pictures of the Blue Bells do them justice. The color was amazing in large patches throughout the hike.

Once we reached the top of the hill, these were the views. We were able to see where we live and work and on the other end we saw as far as Malvern Hills.

These are just a few views with Hagley Castle ruins and horse farm areas we passed along the hike...

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A Night at the Robin Hood

Well, a few of you have asked for it so here you go! A few pics from my local, the Robin Hood, we took over mom's last two nights here. She got to experienence the joys of Quiz Night on Tuesday night, a regular recreational activity in these parts. Unfortunately, I abandoned my winning team from last month and our team came in last this time!

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

My First Visitor!

My mamasita was my first official visitor to my home in the UK (hopefully not to be my last, hint-hint). She arrived Wednesday and after a short rest at the flat, we hit the ground running. That day I drove her around where I live, pointing out where I work, what's around, and the highs and the lows of the Black Country. We went to the Black Country Museum, which-for you Hoosiers- is like Conner's Prairie. Volunteers are dressed in clothing of the period but they don't completely play-up the farce that they actually belong in that time period like they always did at Connor's. It was a really good way to get a picture of where the people here come from. The culture here is built on an impressive history of engineering, including the chains that held the anchor for the Titanic, the first steam engines, and some of the most amazing glass making of it's time. We took a little tour in an old coal mine to get a sense of what it was like to walk doubled over, in the dark for 12 hours a day, six days a week... a half hour tour gives a decent picture but in no way aids to fully comprehend what the working conditions were like for those men. Plus, they have the best fish and chips I've had since I've been here!

This is the High Street in the village at Black Country Museum.

Wednesday afternoon we headed to Jackie and Martin's, the proprietors of the Silverdale Hotel where I first stayed, so I could introduce my mom to two of the most wonderful people I have been fortunate to know since I arrived. We stayed for a few cups of tea and a nice long chat and then headed out for dinner. The night ended on a crazy note, but I won't bore you with the details. I'll just say we eased the stress with a little drink and it was all resolved by morning!

Thursday we headed to Stratford. This was my first time driving throughout the countryside and attempting to navigate the difficult roads (with Mom's help). We did get a little lost but it was a beautiful drive and Mom was very patient with my frustrated outbursts. Stratford was a beautiful town that thrives on the franchise of Shakespeare. This can make it a bit touristy but it still had a lovely charm to the area.

Anne Hathaway's home. The wife of William Shakespeare.

Surrounding gardens at Anne Hathaway's home...

Shakespeare's Birthplace from the back garden.

Shakespeare's birthplace from the front. Actually, it is not 100% proven that this is his "birthplace" but it is evidenced the family lived here around that time and into his early adulthood.

Friday, we headed on the train to London. We arrived a little confused about transportation and how to get to our hotel but by the end of the day I was a pro with the Underground (or at least I like to think so)! When we arrived at our hotel, I was struck by the forthcoming, what I took to be somewhat rude, attitude of the hotel manager. We walked the four or five flights up to our room and found our two single beds so close together we might as well have had one bed to share. Good thing Mom and I get along so well! London is all at once amazing and exhausting. There is sense that everything is rushed and in turn you tend to rush every action subconsciously. As with most big cities and me, we don't get along so well. Overall, I loved it and I am ready to go again (especially for the theatre and the market shopping), but just like New York- after three days I am done. By the time we checked out of our hotel Monday morning, I told Mom, "I'm ready to go back to England now." London is not to me true England; it is another metropolis full of all cultures except perhaps English. It's another big city with amazing English architecture (and some amazing modern architecture).

Trafalgar Square

The view from London Bridge.

One of many Wellingtons, but this was the first I saw and it made me think of home!

Various statues such as this one can be seen along the boundaries of Westminster.

St. Paul's Cathedral

The front entrance to St. Paul's

Tower Bridge

Guard inside Tower of London. I am not sure what he is guarding, perhaps the crown jewels but they have CCTV for that these days!

Views inside the Tower. Notice the Raven in the lower right corner, a symbolic bird in the Tower's history.

More views inside the Tower.

Outside the Tower. This is taken from the River Thames.

The London Eye. We didn't make it on but just to look at this amazing piece of engineering was impressive.

"Look kids, Big Ben; Parliment!"

For some very good shopping, only Camden Market will do for me!

Views among Camden Town...

Street performer at Covent Garden. There were some amazing artists and performers throughout the piazza. I wish I had more to share of some of them!

Monday morning we checked out of our hotel and headed to Windsor for a little day excursion before heading back home. Another beautiful town, but clearly VERY touristy. The castle was amazing, though. The inside is amazing and of course, you can't take pictures. Each room was filled with color, amazing art, and furniture. There was one room filled with amazing swords, guns and armor- not something I would normally appreciate but made me think fondly of two guys in my life who would have loved it!

Changing of the Guard, exiting Windsor Castle.

Entrance to Windsor Castle

Within the walls of the castle.

Random guard crossing while in the castle.
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