Monday, April 25, 2011

The Parentals

As I type this, my parents are headed to the airport- without the GPS- so let's hope they find it! They left the GPS "Emily" with me because I have another trip coming up in a few weeks to Wales that will require it! We have had a really fun trip and I am sad to see them go- but I will be there in just over a month so I think I will make it!

Lunch at The Royal Standard of England.
It has been an alcohol-serving establishment of some kind
for over 900 years. They have GREAT food!
I am an excellent trip planner, if I do say so myself! We had 9.5 days and I tried to fill it with a lot, (but not too many because who likes that?) things to do! We started the trip just hanging around the area of England where I've been living since August (minus that three month stint in France!) and of course, had to start with a lunch in a country pub. When I posted this picture to Facebook, everyone was freaking out about how large the beers were, but I will just remind you that they are only a pint, but they are in Pilsner glasses so they appear bigger.

One of the things I have loved about living in England are the country pubs. Most of them have excellent food, lots of good beer, and a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere. At this particular pub we were actually seated in a bay window and so we had our own little nook! The Sunday Roast consists of either beef, lamb, or pork with many, many side dishes. The big puffs of bread are called Yorkshire Puddings. They are delish!! I'd rather go out for a roast as it just seems like WAY too much work to make all of the side dishes on the same day and have them ready at the same time.

There are cute little towns and villages about every three feet in England and so we were able to tour around to see many of the ones in my area. This was also the first full day of driving on the other side of the road. As it turned out, my dad did all of the driving because
Old church in the town of Beaconsfield.
The English pronounce it "Beckensfield." I
I could live here my whole life and never pronounce
things correctly on a consistent basis!
it was extra-expensive to have two drivers. I am extremely grateful for this as I think it seems pretty stressful to just train your brain suddenly to the other side of the road- but my dad did a GREAT job!

My parents stayed at a bed and breakfast near my house, which really, turned out to be just an extra room in someone's house that they now rent out. Chesham is not really a metropolis for tourists and so the options are rather limited for guests. If they had stayed with me, we would have all had to sleep in the same bed, and so I think the bed and breakfast, though completely no frills, was the better option! :)

We spent a lot of the first day just driving around looking at the areas around my town. Since I haven't had a car while living here, I basically don't know where anything is and if we hadn't had Emily the GPS (she is called Emily because the British female voice is named Emily), we never would have even made it home from the airport.
When being a tourist in England, I believe it is
required by law that one must pose in or around
a red phone box!

I believe the law also states that you must take
pictures with all combinations of tourists present.

Our next three days we spent touring a part of England called The Cotswolds. The Cotswolds were the center of the wool industry in Britain before the colonies began growing cotton. Because of the wool industry, many people were able to get very rich and so there are many grand houses in the area. I had been to the Cotswolds once before because my Uncle Abdul's (married to my dad's sister, JoAnn) brother and family live there. After going to visit them in November, I knew that I had to return because it is such a beautiful area. My biggest problem is that I began to run out of synonyms for cute and adorable because everything was so cute and adorable! 

Blenheim Palace.
Our first stop in the Cotswolds.
Our first stop in the Cotswolds was Blenheim Palace (pronouced Blennem Palace, of course) which was given to a war hero in the 1600s-ish by Queen Anne. Later in that same family's history, they also produced Winston Churchill. So, this palace is now known for being the birthplace of Winston Churchill- his uncle was the Duke of Marlborough who owned the house. There was an excellent exhibit on Winston Churchill and they even had his curly locks that were cut off around age 5. He was a very interesting person and after seeing the exhibit, it makes me want to know more about him!

After our stop at Bleheim Palace we continued to a village called Woodstock which is only about a mile away to have "High Tea!" As usual (is this true for everyone or just my fat-ass self?) a vacation revolves around food so we had to have High Tea just once. I found a 700 year old hotel in Woodstock and we had scones with clotted cream and strawberries, cucumber sandwiches, and a few pots of delicious English tea.
I made sure to practice the proper etiquette and put out my pinky!

High Tea comes on tiered plates and was super-delish!
The next few days we toured around the adorably cute (see...need synonyms!) villages in the Cotswolds while staying in a village called Kingham, about 1/2 mile from where our relatives live. I stayed at the same B & B back in November and was even in the same room again! We visited several country houses that were more than 500 years old, gardens, and drove on roads that were basically only slightly wider than the car itself with hedges on each side! Again, glad my dad was driving!

Onc of the adorably cute villages in The Cotswolds.
All of the buildings were made of limestone which annoyingly
reminded me of when I had to teach that stupid unit
"Products from Rocks."

One of the country houses we visited- Great Chalfied Manor.
It was completed in the 1480s and had amazing gardens.
But, even on a sunny day, it was FREEZING inside!

The Cotswolds are still a big sheep-raising area despite the fact that wool isn't the world's #1 fabric anymore. Everywhere around there were cute little lambs standing by their mamas out in the fields. Yet another thing I like about England is the BBC. There is such delightful nerd TV on and the other day I saw a show called "Lambing Live" where they just go to a farm and show lots of lambs being born. A little bit gross but after they are all cleaned off they are SO adorable. For as hot as it has been in the last week (low 80s) I think these sheep are ready to have their coats off! I know I wouldn't want to be wearing a wool coat in 80 degree weather!

I think the best purchase we've ever made was to buy this GPS. If we hadn't had this thing, there is NO WAY we would have made it through this trip.
"Please turn right on ROAD."
Thanks for being so specific, Emily the GPS.
Without it, we would have all been yelling at each other and stressed out from trying to get around on the tiny tiny tiny roads that were only one-car wide. Sometimes the roads were so remote that Emily wouldn't even know their names and she would just tell us to turn on "Road." The funny thing to us was when we'd make a wrong turn (usually we'd get off the wrong exit on a roundabout!) and she'd freak out and start yelling about RECALCULATING but in a polite English accent. We started the trip with the American voice but Jill was a disaster at pronouncing the English names (I can relate!) and so we had to switch over to Emily.

After our lovely three days in the Cotswolds- where I would gladly live if I could just be rich and never have to work- (as opposed to now where I don't work but I am poor!) we headed back toward Chesham but HAD to stop at Stonehenge on the way home.

Unlike when the Griswolds visited Stonehenge, you cannot actually walk up to it anymore! This is probably a good thing as apparently people were chipping off pieces of it! Fortunately, also unlike the Griswolds, we didn't have the opportunity to back the car into it- the parking lot is actually pretty far! Not to be blassé, but Stonehenge was actually smaller than I thought it was going to be and while there, I wasn't completely overwhelmed and freaking out like I thought I might be. I am aware that very few things ever live up to their hype (except the Taj Mahal which TOTALLY did!) but it was still pretty cool nonetheless. Because I am a complete dork, I had downloaded a National Geographic special on it that we watched the night before so that we would be completely prepared. The current thinking is that this was a monument to the ancestors and they've discovered a large road to "Woodhenge" which was the same shape but was likely the monument to the living. My dad listened to the audio commentary and shared out what it was saying as my mom and I were too lazy and couldn't be bothered!

Ever since I had the picture taken were I was holding up the Taj Mahal,
my dad and I are obsessed with trying to do this again.
Apparently a piece Stonehenge was trying to float away,
good thing he is holding it down! 
Since my parents have been to London lots of times before having only lived about 45 minutes from it for three years, we only spent one day there. But, we still managed to see a lot! Everything is totally decked out for the Royal Wedding and the entire long street in front of Buckingham Palace is closed while they finish constructing all of the media tents to film the procession and the "wave" from the balcony! This time, we took a boat tour to Greenwich and then walked around finally ending up at Harrods, the giant store. I personally enjoyed the crystal chandelier section of the store- you don't see a section like that at very many department stores!
Senior picture in London.

My parents are always more than obliging of my senior
picture antics and in fact, they sometimes seek the locations
for me and even for their own! In Maryland, we didn't do the cheesy
outdoor senior pictures so I think that I've more than made up for that
in the last 15 years.

We share the same name and we are not amused!
The souvenirs for the Royal Wedding are out in full force and I just couldn't resist (this was my mom and dad's idea- I swear) taking this picture! I heard that the Queen waves as she does so as not to have her upper arms (her batwings as I call them!) jiggle. Good idea. I'm totally going to start waving like that and I will speak of myself in the "Royal We" from now on.

I am sure the souvenir situation will only escalate after the wedding so if there is anything people want, you've got a month to tell me! My pending visitors may be lucky enough to receive some Kate and Will playing cards! In the newspaper yesterday, there was an article with odds for betting on which tiara Kate Middleton would wear. Hilarious. I know that it is cheesy but it is really fun being here during this festive time as the whole country is decked out in Union Jack flags. The street party after the wedding in my town is called "C.R.O.W.D." which stands for the Chesham Royal Wedding Do. I love it! We are going to have a garden party in the backyard with Coronation Chicken, cucumber sandwiches, and the most English of summer drinks- Pimms & Lemonade. Pimms is like a brandy or something similar and it is delicious when mixed with lemonade (which is really Sprite to Americans).

I had such a fun time with my parents and I was really sad to see them go! I cried, big shock. But, I will see them on June 3rd when I arrive back in the US. And, they are already planning to come visit me in October in Germany where we are looking into taking a several day cruise on the Rhine River. FUN TIMES!

The next two weeks until my friend Nicole arrives I am going to be working on packing up all of my stuff and sending it to Germany! And then, Nicole and I are going to the Scottish Highlands for a few days before we full-on power tourist it up in London! She has all sorts of fun things planned that she wants to do including seeing Macbeth at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and taking a ghost walk of London.

I just had to show a picture of the most complicated roundabout of all time!
Each small circle is a roundabout within a giant roundabout.
Our American brains just about exploded and Emily the GPS yelled
at us a few times because we made some wrong turns!

And, to end this, I must say thank you to my parents for such an amazing trip! You guys are awesome and I love you!!!

And finally, what would a blog post be without a picture of Felix.

Felix was naughty. He got drunk. It was hot and the beer was just so
delicious and cold! BAD FELIX! I wonder if he'll like the whiskey in
Scottish Highlands? Can't wait to find out!

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