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Dublinites Revisited

You may want to read my original Dublin post to start, so you understand what I’m talking about.  : )

My husband’s family came to visit back in July, and they chose Ireland for their out-of-England excursion – when you come all the way across the Atlantic, you might as well see a couple different places.  I embraced this opportunity to show them the highlights of what I enjoyed in Dublin last time and take some day trips out to other areas of the country.

So, we hopped up to Dublin, and I, of course, took them straight to Trinity College because that library is still one of my absolute favorites.  I couldn’t help hoping that Kayla & I’s friend from last time might still be around leading tours.  Luck was shining down like the surprisingly hot sun because there he was waiting at the podium!  We purchased our tour tickets, and I approached him.  Turns out, he remembered us quite clearly, and I told him I brought him some more tourers.  He expressed concern that I would be bored taking the tour again and kept making sure that I wasn’t throughout.  He would point out when he had added some new information & even tried to quiz me.  Best of all, he introduced me to the entire group at the start, saying I was one of two people who had ever taken his tour twice, then told this awkward story about the other person who was apparently mad – awesome!  When the tour was over, I asked him about the museum building (which was his favorite) since we didn’t go in this time around.  Due to it being exam period, the building wasn’t currently open, but he took our little group in by a side entry with a code & gave us a private tour – the perks of being chatty, I guess!  I learned my lesson from last time and got his name & a picture.  So, here’s Jaime, AKA Mr. Adorkable:

Jaime
We continued on to the Book of Kells entry which is included at the end of the tour, and I began my hunt for our friend, Pat, who let us take pictures in the library last time.  They now let everyone take pictures, but that didn’t sully my appreciation for Pat.  It was fun telling him how he made our trip last time with those photos and his response to being so favorably remembered.  We really should tell people we appreciate them more often.  I got my picture with him too, my adorable friend, Pat:

Pat

I kept wanting to swing by the Arlington and find our leprechaun friend, James, but there was never enough time.  There was one more perk to a repeat trip: when we went to eat at Gallagher’s Boxty House for dinner, I was very excited to have the meal I had last time.  To my chagrin, it was nowhere to be found on the new menu (they’ve updated the whole place!).  I got up the guts to ask the waitress if it might be possible, after all the makings of it were all still there just not all together and it was my favorite meal from last time.  The kind waitress asked the chef who agreed, and I gleefully devoured my delicious corned beef & cabbage boxty – just as good as I remembered!

corned beef & cabbage boxty

It was a great trip back to Dublin; I’m still a fan of this charming little city.  We had wonderful excursions out to the Cliffs of Moher and Wicklow areas while in Ireland as well.  The country really does have an appeal and atmosphere all its own!

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Spa Sunday: The Weirdest Massage I Have Ever Had

I love a good spa day!  Massages are my favorite kind of pampering; they are so relaxing & restoring. … Well, most of the time.  Here’s another tale of European adventure:

Way back in the summer of 2006, I was lucky enough to study abroad in Paris for 8 weeks, thanks to some scholarship overlap!  It was an amazing experience.  It was my first real encounter with independence; I didn’t know anyone, & I had to take care of myself.  Obviously, there were some adults working for the program that were there to help, but nobody was keeping tabs on when & where I did what.

For my first birthday away from home, I decided some splurging was in order!  My roommate & I planned to get massages & go to a show at the Moulin Rouge.  Our French program director helped us book a massage at a spa not too far from our hotel.  We made our way over on the day of, excited about some relaxing.  We checked in & were given towels, bathrobes, & sandals.  There were many different rooms to hang out in until time for you massage: steam room, lounge chair room where everyone had hot drinks, quite dark room ringed with a cushy bench, etc.  We started to realize that we might be one of the few people wearing swim suits, but didn’t think anything further of it.  When our turn came, we were taken into a room connected to the steam room where the 2 ladies had tables on either side of a wall made of those clear blocks that you could see through but stuff on the other side was distorted.  It was a steamy room too & the tables were hard – no cushy tables & dimly lit room with zen music.  The ladies were telling us to do something that we were not grasping until finally one of them tugged at my swim top & said “Off!”  Brittany & I gave each other unsure, slightly mortified glances (having known each other maybe 5 weeks), shrugged, decidedly turned away from each other & let the ladies have our suits, as they were practically removing them themselves at this point.  Europeans!

What commenced was less a massage & more an extremely thorough bath.  We were scrubbed & scrubbed until my skin felt brand new like a babies then oiled up to protect our newly exposed layer of epidermis.  We left feeling rosy & much too clean for the grimy city streets, full of puddles from an afternoon shower.  We were baffled as to how this qualified as a massage to Ann Laure, our director.  We also decided that Europeans must stink because instead of regular showers, they just get super-cleaned at the spa weekly.  That had to be it.

Now, it’s just a funny memory of a modest, small-town girl’s encounter with a truly European lifestyle & mindset.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I was aware & prepared for topless performers at the Moulin Rouge.  It was surprisingly easy to ignore.  I figured: just do it, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I’m grateful for these and all of the other weird & wonderful experiences I had that summer!  Paris will forever have a special place in my heart.

The People You Meet: Dublinites

Dubliners?  Dubloons?  Dublinarians?  Hmm…

Moving on!  My lovely sister visited me last October, and we used part of her time here for a short hop to Dublin.  London to Dublin is less than an hour flight; it was like flying NWA to DFW, but so much cooler!  The only shorter flight I have ever been on was from Honolulu to Kauai, which was about 20 mins.  We flew early in the AM to make the most of our day then had one full second day and another morning to explore the city.  This was a decent amount of time as Dublin is an extremely manageable city with it’s own charm.

A lot of that charm came from the people themselves.  To quote our Musical Pub Crawl guide; “The rumor is that we’re a friendly people, but we’re not. We’re nosey.”  Well, whatever you want to call it, Dubliners are interested in the people visiting their city & have an open manner that makes them very approachable.  Now for some examples!

The Temple  Bar

– Men in Temple Bar on Temple Bar Street in the area of Temple Bar: obviously our first destination after storing our luggage despite the early hour.  Temple Bar area was right across the Ha’Penny Bridge from our hotel, so we wandered over for an early lunch before tackling the city.  While waiting for our meat & cheese board  & Irish coffees, I wandered around the bar admiring the atmosphere.  A middle-aged gentleman chilling at a table in one of the rooms started a conversation with me about where I was from.  When you’re obviously a tourist, people ask this.  I told him I live in England, & he started telling me about his brother who had moved to London years ago.  From this trip, I’ve decided that the Irish try to do one of two things (or both): find out if you have any Irish family or make some kind of connection with you via where you are from.  They like to relate to people, and I totally get that.  In fact, I think I might be Irish because when I meet people I try to make those kinds of connections, too; they’ll say they are from Washington, and I’ll tell them about our roadtrip there & what I loved about it.  Also, the Irish & myself usually end up doing most of the talking beyond getting the answers to questions.  So after learning about his brother in London, I asked him for recommendations during our brief stay.  He calls over another guy, and they start discussing the various pubs & bars in Temple Bar for food & nightlife.  Here they are, 2 Dublinians, hanging out in the most touristy part of town because they’ve always gone there.  The Temple Bar is their place and their main recommendation, too.  Later, I was asking the bartender for some stats regarding their Guinness consumption at The Temple Bar (my dear, Sam, wasn’t able to come with us, so I thought this would be something he would be interested in knowing).  To my surprise, they actually use kegs (about 180 kegs per week at approx. 48 pints per keg and add an extra 200 kegs on top of that for St. Patty’s week).  I actually was thinking that since they used so much that they might have a big vat underneath the bar that got filled by a truck weekly or something (I was apparently thinking they treated Guinness like gasoline).  A guy at the bar laughed at that & said, “Sure, come by later, & we’ll let you go swimming in it!”  I told him my husband would probably love that.  So, Dublinites – friendly, loyal, & a bit roguish.

Trinity College

Trinity College workers – our next stop was Ireland’s oldest university.  We walked up to the stand for student-led tours manned by a tall, skinny guy with glasses & a red-haired girl.  We got our tickets, and I couldn’t help myself from making small talk by asking questions about them & the campus around us.  When I asked them about the robes they were wearing, the guy told me he would answer that in a moment when we started the tour & that he would be our guide.  The girl laughed as he walked away to gather the other sight-seers and said, “he’s so awkward.”  It probably didn’t help that he fell into my sister’s adorkable category, so I was teasing her & we were giggling.  He began walking our little group around the campus and giving us lots of info on the history & the current functionality of the buildings & the university in general.  When he would stop talking to walk us a little further, he would turn to us & ask, “and do You have any questions?”  It was hilarious mostly because of his awkward demeanor, so I would just come up with something random to ask.  At one point, he told a story of a professor who had died in a gunfight with students back in the day from a gunshot to the groin; the nurse in me wanted to know how he could have died from such an injury.  He looked a little baffled and said, “no one’s ever asked me that particulars before!”  After he showed us the museum building, he came over to ask specifically if we had liked it because it was his favorite.  I really just wanted to pinch his cheeks!  He dropped the tour group off at the library to view the Book of Kells exhibit on our own.  After we had admired the ancient manuscripts there, we headed up to the Library‘s Long Room.  On the stairs on the way up, I asked an older gentleman who worked there if we could take pictures.  He said no, so I put away my camera most likely with a bit of a pout (I am a huge shutterbug; I take way too many pictures of just about everything).  I loved this place; the dark wood architecture & the hundreds of old books was like my heaven.  As I was gaping probably open-mouthed at the beauty, the same man came up behind us & whispered “quick, get your camera out! I’ve sent the other guy downstairs for a minute!”  He literally came up & sent his co-worker down to check on something to give us a few minutes opportunity to snap some shots!  I will love this man forever.  After we finished our exploring, we found him outside of the gift shop.  He introduced himself as Pat, & we thanked him profusely for our pictures.  He asked us where we were from & the other typical questions, then wished us a wonderful rest of our trip.  My new BFF Pat – how Irish!  We saw our tour guide again on the way out, so I took the opportunity to ask his recommendations for the city.  He recommended a street where students congregated & not Temple Bar (probably too obvious for his hipster tendencies).  I then asked where he thought we should go now, and he responded, “Outside.”  Kayla & I died laughing!  To explain, it was a very nice day, & he was probably encouraging us to go enjoy the sun while it was out; however, it definitely sounded like he was telling us to go away.  We laughed about this for days; we would just look at each other seriously & say, “outside” and bust up all over again.  What a character!  So Mr. Adorkable & my BFF Pat kept our high opinion of the Dublineers going!

Thanks, Pat!

Arlington Hotel employees – We really enjoyed staying here: great location, good breakfast, music & dancing every night, but we did have one issue.  Our room’s radiator had a broken nob, so we couldn’t adjust it ourselves.  Luckily, the workers were helpful & prompt to adjust it for us (if not overzealous because they would frequently turn it too much & we would either be freezing or burning up at one point or another – oh well! we weren’t in there that much).  Our first friend we called Alex John Mark Paul because that was a mixture of what Kayla & I thought his name was.  His name was James, and he is a leprechaun.  I’m serious, he was short & had red-hair & simply the cutest little face with a huge smile.  He was super nice & even let us borrow his pen.  Our other radiator adjuster was Peter (actual name John), who was super young & preciously shy.  Our only unfriendly friend was the front desk girl.  She looked like Grumpy Cat, a mixture of bored & annoyed.  She was still helpful & gave me my best quote for an Irish impression: “the music starts at eight-tir’ty & goes until eleven-tir’ty.”

Grumpy CatSide bar: I don’t like cats & am not always a huge fan of memes, but this guy kills me!

– Etc. – The guy manning the desk at the National Library was bound & determined to find some Irish in our blood, making us review all of our relatives last names.  It was adorable.  He was also a chatty-Kathy telling us about the time he travelled to the States.  The worker at Arthur’s Pub in the Guinness Storehouse gave Kayla & I an extra beer because we couldn’t decide which ones we wanted to try; wasn’t that nice!  Then the bartender downstairs at the hotel shared his Minstrels with us because I talked ManUnited football with him.  Minstrels are M&M-like candies, & he kept them in the fridge.

National Library

My impression of the Dubliners is that they’re just a bunch of friendly, down-to-earth people.  They’ve had a rough go of it in the past, but it just makes them more relatable.

We did learn a couple of things on our trip: ask & remember people’s names that you meet and take pictures of or with them.  We can’t even remember our tour guide’s name and don’t have decent pictures of any of our friends!  Luckily, we did catch a couple of them in the background of our shots, and it made us laugh every time we found them.

Kay & I

We really enjoyed our time in Dublin & all of the people we met.  Call them friendly or nosey or whatever you will, I like them!

Turkey Thrice!

If in February 2012 you would had asked me if I would ever visit Turkey, I probably would have said, “I don’t think so… maybe?”  I also would most likely not have been able to point to it on a map!  I certainly wouldn’t have believed you if you told me that I would visit Turkey three times in the coming year, but I have.  I just made my third trip to Turkey in 7 months, this time to Istanbul.  How on Earth did this happen?!  I blame it on my friends : )

It all started last July when my friend, Katie, planned a last-minute trip to get away from England, to find a place with sun & heat & a reasonably-priced 5-star resort.  All she needed was a travel partner ready to relax & bask in the sun, and you bet I was the girl for the job!  Thomas Cook took us to the Melas Resort in Side where it was a beautifully scorching 95°.  It was so hot that we couldn’t even stay down on the Mediterranean beach very long.  We quickly learned why everyone fought over the poolside chairs (literally! – another story for another time).  The pool was about 5 stories up from the beach, so you could feel the breeze and not completely melt.  It was glorious!  We feasted and baked and had the best shower ever!  We did wrassle up the energy to walk into town one day to buy jewelry & spices & apple tea & knock-offs & ceramics & turkish delight – this will be a theme, shopping : )  So, trip one: sun & shopping!
Side, South Turkey

Next, Katie, Suzi, Laura, & I took a ladies’ cruise in the Mediterranean that had stops in Italy, Greece, &  what do you know, Turkey!  We made port in Kusadasi in West Turkey on the Aegean Sea.  Just outside of Kusadasi is the location of Ancient Ephesus.  Our day’s stop was spent on an excursion to the house of Mary, mother of Jesus, the archaeology museum, and walking the ancient pathways of Ephesus, a place rich with history.  Before we got back on our ship, we meandered through the port-side market buying up cheap scarves & quality leather knock-offs.  We even got a “carpet show!”  So if you are keeping up, Turkey = sun & shopping, history & shopping, shopping for spices & tea & scarves & leather & knock-offs & ceramics & carpets & turkish delight : )
The LibraryBeautiful Handwoven Carpets

And now, the weekend before last, Suzi, Katie, Bethany, & I travelled to Istanbul to celebrate Suzi’s 30th Birthday.  You may be realizing a couple of things at this point: 1) our husbands never get to come with us, 2) Katie & I are the common denominators here.  My only response is that our husbands work too much and just call us Esme & Smesme – those are our Turkey names!  Anyway, we spent an awesome weekend hitting up the hamam, seeing the top sites in old town, eating great food, and you guessed it, shopping!  I haven’t mentioned the food yet, but it has always been good.  In Istanbul, it was great!  Moussaka has convinced me that I’m a fan of eggplant – I love that stuff.  We stayed right in the middle of old town, just minutes from the Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia, and again, we had fantastic showers!  We hit up the Grand Bazaar & the Spice Market for teas & saffron & mixes & delight & scarves & ceramics & rugs & lanterns & even some raki.  We marveled at the beauty of Ottoman architecture & decorating.  It was a fantastic weekend; there was so much to do we didn’t even make it into new town across the Golden Horn or the Asiatic side across the Bosphorus Straight but stayed in old town on the Sea of Marmara.
Grand BazaarBlue MosqueBeautiful Tile

In conclusion, Turkey – sun, history, shopping, showers, food, buildings, beauty, baths, spices, apple tea, & more shopping.  I would definitely recommend it!

The People You Meet: A Day With Hot Philip

This past October, I went on a Mediterranean cruise with a fun group of ladies.  We had a blast exploring locations in Italy, Greece, & Turkey!  We had an unexpected treat at our second port, the Greek island of Corfu.

We didn’t have an excursion planned for this stop, but we did have a short list of things we wanted to see that we knew weren’t going to be walking distance.  Once we disembarked, we looked at the taxi tours offered from the port building.  We found a good deal: 2-hours including our main spots for 20Euro each.  The lady handling our transaction gave us a sly smile and told us she knew just the person to take us.  She says, “He’s very handsome. Just watch his face when he sees all of you!”  A guy walks up & escorts us outside, and I’m thinking he’s alright, nothing to fuss over.  Then, I realize my mistake as our driver emerges from the taxi – umm, what’s the Greek word for “wowza!”?  His shades kept us from seeing his reaction to us, but I’m sure we were conspicuously exchanging loaded glances.

The AchilleionOff we ride to our first destination: the Achilleion Palace.  Philip’s English is fairly good; he’s able to tell us about the surroundings and mostly answer our questions.  Sometimes, he pauses or stares for a minute as he processes what you’ve said, but the 4 talkative Americans keep the convo rolling.  We arrive at the Achilleion, and he drops us off right at the front gate and says “I’ll be waiting right here.”  Seriously, he just hangs out while we explore.  The palace is beautiful!  What else would you expect from our dear, Sisi.  We learned a good deal about The ViewEmpress Elisabeth on our EuroTrip, so we loved seeing a different aspect of her life here.  We decided we absolutely did not blame her for not wanting to be in Vienna when places like these were her other options.  The inside is lovely, but the courtyards & views are spectacular.  The atmosphere of the breezy, hilltop palace is so relaxing & lush.  I would certainly live there!

Next, Philip takes on a drive around the island, passing lots of gorgeous scenery & up onto the mountain where he points out the olive trees & explains the harvesting process.  He takes us to a shop on the hillside run by a family he is obviously familiar with because he goes around the shop  picking things & opening things up & having us sample all of them.  More ViewsHe shows us Greek basil, olives, kumquats & feeds us homemade olive oil on bread, canned olives, & wine, and packages of Greek almonds, figs, & sesame seed snacks, and probably some other stuff I can’t recall.  He then takes us to a spot with fantastic views & takes group pictures for us.  What a guy!

Next is an Greek Orthodox church on yet another hill with even more great views – are you starting to see a trend with Corfu?  Again, he waits as we explore & Lovin' It!take pictures.  After that, we drive down into town, so we can get gyros & shop.  He takes us to get gyros, orders for us, & makes sure we get plenty of tzatziki sauce – yum-oh!  Then, he drops us off close to town center to wander & shop, and again, waits for us.  We finally wander back, & there he is, ready to take us to the boat.  I’m fairly certain we saw most of the island as he drove us around for 5hours – that’s right 3 more than we paid for, he was like our own Greek god of tourism!  He showed us the many different sites of the island while sharing facts & history, pointing out local trees & plants, & even teaching us some Greek (including a swear on accident when someone pulled out in front of him!); it was much more than we could have hoped for from our time at port.  Plus, if our husbands ever frustrate us, we can threaten to go back to Corfu & find Philip!

Phillip & his ladiesIn all seriousness though, we had a fantastic day in Corfu thanks to this very nice Greek man who shared his time & his beautiful island with us.  Ευχαριστώ, Philip!

 

 

 

 

PS: My husband, who is completely certain of my love & devotion to only him, has approved this post.

A Winter’s Day Out in Kent

Sam & I had a lovely Saturday!  We had pretty exciting plans for this weekend, but one of Sam’s work trips got in the way – not an unusual occurrence, but hey, that same work has us living here in England, so no complaints.  We took advantage of our one good day together to explore more of England; so far, we have only really covered our local area (Suffolk/Norfolk/Cambridge) & London.  Taking some good suggestions from a friend, we headed in the direction of Kent – Canterbury & Dover, specifically.

The county of Kent is southeast of London & is the closest part of England to mainland Europe.  It is around a 2.5hr drive for us on mostly motorways, including the M25 ring road around London.

After dragging ourselves out of bed later than planned (it is so hard to leave a warm bed in the middle of winter), getting the all clear from Sam weather-wise (not that it was going to be nice, just that we should have safe driving conditions – have I mentioned it’s been highs in the 30’s and snowy lately?), and dropping the sweet pup off at the dog sitter’s, we were on our way!  Sam & I don’t mind traveling by car; we’re pretty experienced at it, having lived so many different places & traveling often with a dog.  So, we started up an audiobook & rolled on.  Most of our drive saw the same inch or two of snow covering we’ve had back at our place for a week, and it makes for lovely scenery from the warmth of your car.

Less than three hours later, we were parking our car in Canterbury right next to the city wall, founded in Roman times & rebuilt in the 14th Century.  This is so England: history right in front of your nose!  We paid & displayed (remember, parking isn’t free) and followed the signs to the cathedral.  Walking up the cobbled street, we passed shops, eateries, & St. Thomas’s Catholic Church, all with the charm of being old & still new – like a modern shop’s window display bordered by the aged wood accents of the original building.

We found the ornamented entrance to the cathedral grounds that lays flush with the line of Canterbury Cathedralbuildings on the street, like it was just another house, paid, & made our way in.  The massive Canterbury Cathedral has many claims to fame: it is the Anglican mother church housing the seat of the leader of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury; it is where Thomas Beckett was murdered by knights of Henry II for giving the king too much grief; it then became a place of pilgrimage, setting the scene for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  That’s just the big stuff!  The church has tons of history & is a magnificent Gothic structure.  The arched ceilings soar over you and the amount of detail on every surface is overwhelming.  You follow the path marked out for you down the nave to the Martyrdom.  There is a surprisingly modern memorial to Beckett in the place where he was slain. Out “the oldest doors [Sam] has ever operated” to the Cloister & Chapter House of the Benedictine monks, then back in and down to Romanesque Crypt, once housing Beckett’s tomb & still housing In the Navesome of the oldest Christian wall paintings in the country.  You then climb back up & proceed through the Bell Harry Tower into the Quire preceding the Trinity Chapel.  The chapel housed St. Thomas’s shrine until Henry VIII demolished it, a candle now marks its place directly behind the Chair of St. Augustine for the “Primate of All England” (just click the link).  At some point along the loop, the hourly prayers were said over loudspeaker, ending with the Lord’s Prayer in which you were invited to join.  We then briefly explored the exterior in the lightly falling snow, as students of The King’s School (oh,  just the oldest school in England that was nearby) hurried past.  On the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral, I had what undoubtedly was the coldest bathroom experience of my life – I’m sharing this in case anyone else is planning on visiting here during the winter, so you can plan accordingly to avoid a potty break on the grounds where they do not bother with heating the fully enclosed St. Thomas's Memorialpermanent building.  You can exit through the Cathedral Shop, where they sell lots of differing souvenirs including your standard guide books, magnets, and shot glasses, but also small stained glass works, books by the most recent AoC Rowan Williams, different versions of the Canterbury Tales, completely unrelated home goods, and local products plus much more.  A quick note on my MO regarding souvenirs, I like to commemorate with purchases like any good tourist, but I don’t have just one thing I always get – I’m too sporadic for that.  I’m either in the mood to buy anything or to have to really like it if I buy anything at all.  It’s probably very high maintenance of me, but I can be very “I know when I see it” & sometimes I just don’t see it.  Most likely, I will walk away with a magnet, food or drink stuffs, or a book, but today we chose this cute little mug depicting some of the history Canterbury Cupof the cathedral.  Educational, useful, & presh – sold!  Sam also snatched some local honey.

On our way back to the car, we realized that an adorable place I had pointed out earlier was actually a tea shop with soup & sandwich specials posted on a chalkboard & pretty pastries in the window.  The Moat Tea Rooms has a slightly wonky facade with dark wood beams over off-white paint while the interior is rich red accented by the same dark wood & even more crooked-looking.  Pretty red & white polka dot table cloths add a bit of fun.  There are a few tables downstairs, but most of the space is used by the kitchen & displays on the opposing walls of loose leaf teas & coffee beans for sale.  We went up the narrow stairs to the front room to the right to sit by the window, but there is more seating in the room to the left.  I went for a full traditional teaMy Instagrammed Pic of The Moat Tea Rooms while Sam ordered the soup of the day & a hot bacon, brie, & cranberry sandwich.  My tea service was as expected with a pot of the loose-leaf Keemun I selected, cup & saucer, strainer, & cream (how else do you have a cream tea!).  My little tower held my cucumber sandwiches, scones (one fruit, one plain) with clotted cream & jam, and my selected cake, Victorian sponge.  It was all tasty & lovely.  This was my first Victorian sponge: the cake is similar to pound cake with a yummy crunchy crust, in between the two layers of cake were a layer of jam and a layer of buttercream, sprinkled with Our spread!powdered sugar – it was satisfyingly sweet, but not too heavy & overall delicious!  Sam’s leek & potato soup & sandwich were also very good; although, I may have actually preferred the sandwich without bacon (shocker, I know), but it may be that I am still not used to British bacon.

We put our happy tummies in the car & navigated our way to Dover, only around 30 minutes away.  As we roll into town, we pass a sign for the White Cliffs; we’re discussing going there before the castleOn the cliff path to best use our daylight hours when we realize the decision is made for us.  Dover Castle is unexpectedly closed.  A quick visit to the English Heritage site shows the weather to blame even though I’m sure no such notice was posted Thursday night when we were making our plans.  Next time, I guess, and now we don’t have to rush.  Off to the cliffs, we go!  We park in the spots just off the road & walk up to the information center.  A very helpful lady gives us a leaflet with instructions Sam & the Cliffson a good route to take in the current weather to give us some good views but not take too long.  We proceed as directed carefully along the cliff path in case there are any slick patches, thinking that we aren’t really dressed the best for our outing.  Warmer layers & tennis shoes would have been better, but we were fine in our warm, casual wear.  The cliffs are beautiful as well as the now matching white countryside leading up to them.  We make our walk around then down some stairs to a lower level then back up & on the higher path to return,Dover Castle stopping frequently for different photo ops.  It was an exhilarating, albeit freezing little hike in the brisk wind & snow.  The walk back afforded some views of Dover Castle on the next hilltop over.  There is much history in this little strip of land from being the first line of defense from invasion for early England, to being the first glorious glimpse of home for returning pilots in the World Wars, to the current use as a hub of transport between the island & France snow(which you can see on a clear day from the cliffs).  I’m in awe, & I can’t feel my legs.  I look forward to the chance to return in more favorable weather to hike further out to the lighthouse & explore the castle.  We pit-stopped back by the visitor’s centre which thankfully does heat its restrooms a little, and my cute husband wrote in the snow on a picnic table.

We ended today’s adventure on a funny note.  When we got back to the car, we quickly realized that it was stuck.  Some foreign people (I think French, but couldn’t really hear them) who had been eyeing us offer Sam some help as he gets out of the car which he refuses.  They look a bit incredulous, and I’m, of course, irritated, assuming my husband is just being a stubborn man.  He reassures me it’s fine & gives me directions to very easily reverse the car.  As I do, he literally pushes the car right out of its little hole like it doesn’t weigh thousands of pounds.  He then waves politely to the foreigners as he drives by and acts like it was no big deal even though I’m completely impressed.  He’s humble, he’s sweet, and he’s buff – seriously, I’m married to Captain America!

Things That I Miss & Things That I Don’t

Being home in the States for Christmas had me reveling in all the wonders of America.  I didn’t realize all the things I miss about the good ol’ USofA, but there were a small number of things that I don’t mind living without.

Conveniences make up most of the things missed.  Who would have thought that parking for free in front of a store would feel like a treat?  Parking…not the most fun in England.  Store hours, there’s another one.  Our ASDA (WalMart in the UK) has 24hrs in large print on all of their signs; they close at 10, 4 on Sundays.  In fact, nothing is open after 4 on a Sunday.  Shopping closes at 5 on weekdays.  I know of 1 drive-thru – one, that I’ve ever found, and it is in Cambridge & a McDonalds.  Honestly, some days I really miss WalMart. That might be very Arkansas of me, but it’s true.  You just want to run to one place & grab all the stuff you need – not going to happen here!

Lack of familiarity can get tiring as well.  Not knowing where to go to find what you need, or what places have good value for your money. Not knowing what to expect from things on a menu because things are just done differently here.  Speaking of that, not always knowing how to act in a social situation or not getting subtle cultural references.  Like commercials, I don’t often understand them here; I found myself just enjoying a chuckle at silly TV ads when I was home because I actually understood them.  I also found myself craving familiar tastes – not the best, or my favorite, just familiar.

I did, however, realize that there are something things that I just don’t miss.  Like Pitbull, he’s terrible.  I kept hearing him around New Years, & I am not a fan.  I don’t miss American drivers.  British drivers might be dumb for their own reasons (like stopping in the middle of the road), but they are much more considerate.  I remember being frustrated that no one had let me out yet at one point when I was driving at home, and then realizing that the almost excessive level of courtesy the English drivers show must have rubbed off on me enough to adjust my expectations.  Lastly, I don’t miss politics.  America is an unsettled place right now.  Lots of differing opinions over big issues, and you can feel the tension.  It’s almost too easy to be distanced from that right now.

So, if you are there, appreciate the many conveniences we are afforded, the ease & familiarity of American life.  And perhaps, tread carefully & respectfully during these times of change.