Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Willy Wonka is Real

Well, almost. Today we toured Cadbury World here in Birmingham. If you have eaten a Cadbury egg at Easter time, you know how wonderful their chocolates are.

And they have always been made right here in Birmingham. Mr. Cadbury began making and selling first chocolate drinks and then fine chocolate candies in the late 1860s. At that time, drinking chocolate was as popular as drinking alcohol and it was an acceptable alternative to alcohol for the large Quaker population here. The Cadbury chocolates are still made here, but we didn’t tour the actual factory.

When we checked in for our tour, we were given 4 chocolate bars and, later, 2 more.

The story of Chocolate and Cadbury history was told through descriptive signs and (I think) holograms of the Cadbury family telling how the business developed.

In the last room the tour allowed us to temper the chocolate—stir and move it around on a marble surface to cool it from 50 degrees to 28 degrees Celsius. (That is 122 down to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.) There were also squeeze bottles where people could write their names in chocolate.

At the end, they gave each person a small paper cup with maybe 1 1/2 to 2 fluid ounces of milk chocolate and we could add other items. John added crushed biscuits, I chose salted carmel and cranberries. Absolutely delicious!

The Dairy Milk Oreo candy bar would be my absolute favorite. I wonder if it is sold in the US?

Monday, July 30, 2018

Friendly People and Take-Away Stores

We have found the people here in England extremely friendly and helpful. Today we drove to do our laundry. We had purchased a TomTom gps to guide us when driving our rental car. When we couldn’t find the laundromat, I went into a post office and the clerk gave me very good directions to our location—only about 1 1/2 blocks away.

We parked and took our dirty laundry in.  I had very few coins and didn’t really know what they were worth and there was no change machine in the laundromat.  However, there was a money store next door—they transfer money for customers.  The man there came to help me—the 2 businesses are owned by the same person, and he gave me the change I needed and explained how the machines worked.

Another customer was in the place and he helped us 2 or 3 times, even calling the correct person over to help when one dryer didn’t work.  And he was interesting to talk to as we all did our wash.

After taking the laundry back to our apartment, we walked to the Birmingham Library, hoping to find historical information about this area and do some family history research.  In the USA, the 1630s and 40s are important history—Winthrop Fleet, Massachusettes Bay Colony, etc.  Since some of John’s family had lived in the Birmingham area, we were hoping to learn about them at the library.  The staff member we talked to at the front desk and another in the history section both said those dates are way too early for written records here.  Even churches weren’t required to keep records of birth and death till a later century and there are almost no written records available before printing became more widespread.

We did find a little religious history on-line at the library and a history book that explains the early history of this area from Roman times forward.  But nothing really helpful to us.

We did, however, see more of the Birmingham city center, including the city hall and lots of new, modern construction.  So it was a very interesting day.  This is England’s second largest city and it is obviously a vibrant place.

Something else stands our here and in London.  There are lots of take-away stores.  Think a cross between take-out food and grocery stores with prepared food.  Since we have a very small refrigerator and can only stock about 1 day’s food at a time, we have been buying remade entrees for dinner, plus salad and dessert.  Today we bought a sandwich to “take away” for lunch.  Two familiar stores now are Tesco Express and Sainsbury Local.

These stores do have some fresh vegetables and some canned—very little canned.  And we have frozen a bottle of 7 UP and a head of lettuce so we are careful what we put in the fridge.  One day I turned the temp up a little and the whole fridge defrosted!

It’s all about learning to live like the locals, I guess.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Things Are Different Here

Things are different here. That’s why we travel, isn’t it? To experience things outside of our regular daily lives. We have been in England just a few days. What have we found that’s different?

In the US, the 1st floor is the ground floor. Here, there is ground, sometimes even -1 ground, then the first floor is one level up from the ground floor entrance.

We were surprised to discover our hotel didn’t provide wash cloths. We had good towels, but no wash cloths. We are now in our second lodging and still, no wash cloths. So yesterday we stopped in Boots, a chemist shop (pharmacy) and found what we needed in the facial care aisle.

Our bed has a bottom sheet and a heavy duvet, but no top sheet. England is experiencing a record heat wave and the duvet is way too heavy. But there is no top sheet to use instead. As I said, it is a record heat wave. And many buildings don’t have air conditioning. The underground trains don’t have air conditioning. People everywhere keep saying, “It’s so hot!.”

London has a population of over 8 million and everywhere we went, there were people everywhere. Last summer we visited New York City and it was less crowded and less busy than here. And the great majority of people in London, especially near our hotel, were carrying or pulling luggage. Don’t know if it replaces a brief case or what. We had been worried about using the tube and trains to get around England. No problem—everyone does it. And everyone moves so fast! I’m old—75–and I don’t move that fast, I don’t figure out how to move about at that speed.

With all these people in a hurry to get somewhere, it is good that the city and the country have such excellent mass transportation. We rode a train from London to Birmingham and it was nearly full—and there are 48 trains a day between the 2 cities. The underground or tube takes people quickly all around London. These trains are packed.

Each electrical outlet has its own on/off switch. You plug something in, then turn on the switch, then you have power.

We all know exit signs. Here they say “way out.” People say cheers and lovely.

As far as I am concerned, breakfast can be bacon and eggs or cereal or toast—or all three. But cold cuts and cheese and lettuce and tomato—what kind of breakfast is that? Well, it is a continental breakfast. A full English breakfast is more like it—sausage, bacon, potatoes, eggs, grilled tomatoes. That’s good—and very fattening if we had it every day.

American society is becoming more diverse. But in our part of the US, Colorado and Arizona, when you say multi-cultural you probably refer to Black, White and Hispanic. Here in England include Muslims, Sikhs, Orthodox Jews, orientals and Africans.

And we have met so many really friendly, helpful people. Twice I have gone into a store to ask where to reach some destination. Both times the clerk walked out onto the sidewalk and took us in the direction we needed to go, pointing where we should head and giving the rest of the directions. Today we asked some sort of street monitor how to get somewhere and she walked us almost a block till we could see our destination. They all went out of their way to be helpful.

And Tuesday when we went through EU Boarder control, the man was very friendly and wished us a good visit.

I’m sure there will be more differences, and similarities during the next 7 weeks. We are excited to see what they are.

Be Flexible

Thursday we decided to visit Westminster Abbey, then shop at Harrods—a really upscale department store.  We took the tube to the Westminster Station.  We hoped to visit the Abbey and maybe attend the mid-day Holy Eucharist.  The line just to get a ticket to tour the historic church was so long we decided to skip that.  And the Eucharist was an hour-long wait.  Changing plans, we went to look at the Parliament building and Big Ben.  The building was surrounded by scaffolding.  We could see one face of the iconic clock and that was it.

This is the Harrods exterior.

Harrods window display.

Harrods food court.

More good displays.

Westminster Abbey.

So, we headed to the tube to go to the Knightsbridge station near Harrods.  Even the window displays at Harrods are beautiful.  John wants to buy a rain coat but we quickly decided we were in the wrong place to do that.  They cost 450 pounds and more.  Really nice coats but after we leave England John won’t have much use for a rain coat in Colorado or Arizona.

We walked by other exclusive shops, the returned to our hotel and had burgers from the Savannah Bar in the hotel.  We had seen beautiful buildings and many interesting people.  It was a good day, but it was very necessary to be flexible about what we did and how we enjoyed it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

First Day, Night, and 2nd Day of England Trip

Monday afternoon we were picked up by Super Shuttle early—about 15 min before the scheduled pickup time—for the almost one-hour trip to Sky Harbor Airport.  We were early for our 7:45 pm flight but we wanted to have plenty of time to purchase British pound notes and have dinner before boarding.  We still had a wait, but it is easier to wait than to be worried about being late.  Finally, this big, huge 747 arrived and we were able to board for our 9 hour and 55 minute direct flight to London Heathrow.

After our arrival we picked up our bags, stopped at the SIM shop to get UK SIM cards and UK phone numbers for our nearly 2 months in England.  Paying for the international plan on our Verizon plan would have been prohibitive.

We then boarded the Underground, or tube train, Piccadilly Line, to the Victoria Line, then it was one stop to Euston where we got off and quickly found our Hotel Wesley.  This is obviously a really hip, “in” neighborhood.  The streets and restaurants are full of younger (than us) men and women who just got off work and are drinking, eating and smoking.

After dinner at Cafe Rouge, we quickly headed to bed.  I only slept 2 hours on the plane and John didn’t get much more than that.  We slept long and hard in our hotel bed.

This morning we had a continental breakfast in our hotel then headed to the tube station and the train   taking us near the British Library.  As we approached the library we saw a building with all sorts of red walls and spires.  We thought it might be a church but found it was the St. Pancras Hotel.  Pretty impressive.

Along the way, we saw lines of black London taxis  and numerous red London 2-decker busses, as well as other tall tour busses..  The roads here are narrow and the busses and trucks are narrow and very tall.  After several years of watching vehicle clearance for 12’9” and 13’6” RVs, we are amazed at the many tall vehicles.

After an hour or two doing genealogy research at the museum, we went for a walk.  On our first trip to London 23 years ago, we had to keep awake after the long trip here while waiting for check-in time at our hotel.  On our walk that day we happened on Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard ceremony.  We wanted to see that part of the city again today.  These are the gates to the palace.

Here is a sentry of the Grenadier Guards outside of the palace.

Across from the palace is the Queen Victoria Monument.

These beautiful fences and gates surround the monument, as well as the palace.

On a walk around St. James Park we happened on this local man, feeding the pigeons.

In this peaceful setting we could see the London Eye, a Ferris wheel along the Thames River.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Packed and Ready

At least almost ready. Tomorrow evening we fly out of Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix to London for a 2-month trip around England. Everything we need is packed in the suitcases or laid out--all around the house--waiting for us to pick it up and take it to the UK with us. We are excited and a little anxious about the trip.

I will be really glad when the trip really begins. I began the planning and reservation-making in January. This week I have reserved shuttle rides to and from Sky Harbor and bought tickets for our train ride from London to Birmingham at the end of the week. Now it is time to take advantage of all that planning and begin using those reservations.

Hopefully, I will have good enough internet to blog often during the trip.

Monday, July 16, 2018

It Isn't Fair

I had the shot, at the right age, when my doctor recommended it.  And I still got shingles!

If you  are of a certain age, you are probably aware that, if you had chicken pox as a child, you are susceptible to getting shingles after the age of 50.  When I turned 60 (I think) I was vaccinated against shingles.

During the last week I started itching on one place on my lower right back.  It got worse and worse, no matter what I put on it.  If we weren't leaving next week for England I probably would have waited a week or more, hoping it would go away.  Because of that trip, we made a visit to the local urgent care this morning.

I reported I had a rash or a bite on my back.  Once glance by the PA and she said, that is shingles.  Not what I wanted to hear.  But it surely isn't the end of the world.  She gave me a prescription for 10 days of medication.  And she told me that should help control it.  I hope the attack is milder because of my earlier medication.

At least I am not going to some third-world country.  If it doesn't clear up, I can get more treatment in England.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Flagstaff Fun

We decided to walk in downtown Flagstaff Tuesday. There has been a classic car gathering in the area and we enjoyed seeing several of the cars drive by.

Wednesday wasn't as interesting. John had the truck serviced and I did the laundry. Thursday, we decided to drive to nearby Sedona through the beautiful Oak Creek Canyon.

One of the tile roofs in town had very interesting colors. Much different from the standard sandstone color.

Sedona's setting is spectacular. Everywhere you look, their are beautiful rocks.

The stores in downtown Sedona are either art galleries, t-shirt shops or restaurants.  It reminds us of Estes Park in Colorado.

We saw this interesting tree as we walked around.

This tree is live and covered with beautiful magenta flowers.

We spotted several statues of picturesque javalina.

We had a mediocre lunch at a pizza restaurant before returning to Flagstaff. The scenery was beautiful but I think that is the only reason we will drive to Sedona again.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Changing Scenery

Monday we left Blanding, headed to Flagstaff, Arizona, for a few days. For more than 2 weeks we have been amid the colorful rock formations in Utah. As we approached Flagstaff the scenery changed. It was a beautiful drive.

We drove through a narrow canyon for a short time.

On the other side we saw more rock formations. These looked like what we had been seeing.

But then the shape and color of the rock changed.  These two formations were thin layers of gray rock.

Then we passed more gray stone, but with more thickness.  A sign described this as church rock.

Then the vegetation and the rocks changed for a while.

These two towers weren't named as far as we could see.  Like we saw often along the road through the Navajo Indian Reservation, there were booths set up to sell the jewelry and other artistic works of the Navajos.

For a while it looked like we were driving on the moon.  I'm not impressed with this lunar landscape.

Finally, we cane to the mountains surrounding Flagstaff.

We will be here for a few days before heading to our house in very hot Gold Canyon to prepare to fly to England in less then 2 weeks.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Capitol Reef

The geology in Utah creates many beautiful and unusual rock formations. After leaving Bryce Canyon, we came to Torrey where we have driven the scenic road and hiked during the past week. We have been here before, but it was still worth it to spend time this year. The formations are different than we saw in Bryce. Not as many hoodoos.

We were interested in the steaks of color running down the cliff faces. I think the dark color is called varnish.  I wonder if the light streaks are dissolved light-colored rock.

Here you can see the many different layers of rock running across the landscape.

On Tuesday we hiked the 2.2 mile Grand Wash.  That make a 4.5 or so mile round trip.  We were dwarfed by the high rock walls in the wash.

We found this free-standing rock in the wash.  Thought it looked like a space ship.  Are we sure we are in Utah and not the weird part of New Mexico?

John climbed up into this small cave for a rest.

The national park includes the early settlement of Fruita where Mormon pioneers planted several orchards.  Visitors were able to pick the ripe apricots while we were there.  They are charged only a small amount for every pound of fruit.  The apricots were so small, we passed on picking any.

It isn't often you see a marmot crossing.

Capitol Reef is named for a large white stone formation early explorers thought looked like the dome of the U.S. Capitol.  The white formation on the left here may be that dome.

On the 4th of July we hiked the 1 mile trail to Hickman Bridge.  Not far from here at Arches National Park there are lots of bridges.  There aren't so many here but we found here.

Nearby, John noticed another small arch or bridge.

As we headed back to our truck we walked up this staircase.  It looks a lot more like stairs then the Grand Staircase we drove down last week.