Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wine and Cider Day!

As it turns out, our GPS has the same "lets see where this road leads" style as Penny took us down this road en route to the Three Choirs Vineyard.  While it looks like single lane traffic, it is actually meant for two way traffic!  Fortunately, we made it all the way to the end (about 5 miles) before we met another car...and they were kind enough to back up for us.  It seems as though when Penny tells us it will take 30 minutes to get somewhere, we need to add at least 20 minutes to that for missed roads and inevitably being in the road lane on a roundabout and having to make another loop.

We finally arrived at the Three Choirs Vineyard and started with the tasting!  The vineyards were beautiful and a great way to start the day.  They produce 13 different wines, 3 beers and 2 ciders.  We tried 2 beers, 2 ciders and 11 wines...including 1 sparkling.  Only 2 really stood out for us...May Hill and English House Medium Dry.  The ladies in the vineyard shop were so very nice and helpful.  One of them even spoke "American" as she put it! 

A little too much vino...time for a nap!

Linda Lu doing her best to
polish off the wine! 

Next stop...Westons Cider.  According to Penny, it was only 15 minutes from Three Choirs...translation...25 minutes.  Both the winery and Westons were down very narrow roads...not a good thing for sampling their products.

This house (The Bounds) is where Westons began in the late 1800's.  Mr. Weston used to pay his employees in cider...needless to say, the workers moved a bit slower as the day progressed...the original apple trees ares till producing fruit but you can tell the workers were a bit tipsy when planting the trees.   

Mr Weston and his staff had trouble keeping the vats straight when they were numbered (probably has something to do with paying them in cider) so they named the vats.  Squeak is the largest vat...if you were to drink 4 pints a day every day, it would take 250 years to drink Squeak dry!

During their peak producing period (September - December), they produce 20,000 bottles of cider an hour!

After Westons, our plan was to visit Eastnor Castle.  Imagine our shock when we arrived only to find them closed...clearly they didn't get the memo we were coming!  All turned out well as we stumbled upon a cricket game...something I was hoping to see while over here.  Five minutes was plenty of time to watch the game...a bit like watching paint dry in my humble opinion.  Apparently Pimms and Sarnies make it a bit more bearable.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Random Things We've Noticed

Every day we notice little things about are just a few:
  • Olive oil and canned corned beef are refrigerated but eggs are not
  • Grocery buggies are called trolleys and you pay a £1 deposit to use them
  • Drivers are absolutely insane...a two lane road suddenly becomes a three lane road when someone feels the need to over take another driver
  • When an electrical outlet is not in use, you turn off the power source
  • In the grocery store, you can buy pre-packaged veggies, meats and other foods in single or two person serving sizes...what a fabulous idea!
  • Store clerks are actually friendly and helpful!
  • You "give way" instead of "yield" to another driver
  • Instead of "exit" signs, you have "way out" signs
  • Roundabouts are crazy fun
  • The English don't wash their windows...a window washer comes to your house every few weeks and washes the outside for you...and they are super friendly
  • You "mind" rather than "watch" (ie. the gap and the step)
  • Rather than continuing down the road or on your way, you "carry on"
  • They have the HUGEST flies...the house flies are like bomber flies but the funny thing is only one will come in the house at a time...guess they're territorial!
  • Things don't spoil, they "go off"...learned that term while at Westons Cider

You never know what you'll find when you take the road less traveled...

sign in a church yard we stumbled upon
in a little village called Oxenton
After getting lost many many times yesterday going to Stratford-Upon-Avon, we headed over to Curry's to pick up a new GPS (or Sat Nav as they call them over here).  I couldn't believe how inexpensive a Garmin with maps of the UK, Ireland and all of Europe are over here!  I'm now set for home exchanges all over Europe now!!

We spent a good bit of time wandering around the stores near Curry's in Cheltenham before giving Penny (of course we had to give our GPS a name) a run for her money.  While driving back to the house, we saw road signs for Bishop's Cleve and took the turn off to see what was happening in Bishop's Cleve.  En route, we say a little sign for Oxenton.

The road in Oxenton was a tiny one lane road made for two way traffic.  The village has several thatch roof houses...just what you expect to find in the English countryside.

At the end of the village, we stumbled upon St. John's Church.  We wandered around the church cemetery reading the headstones...many of which dated back to the 1800's.  It is aways interesting reading headstones.  One had "he was a good man" and on his wife's headstone, it read "she was a brave lady".  Their daughter was also buried by their side.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Shakespeare's Home and Birthplace

Would any trip to England be complete without a visit to Shakespeare's birthplace?  Absolutely off we went!

The drive here was interesting to say the least as we had to write down directions because I couldn't figure out Bry's GPS...good thing I take the "let's see where this road leads" approach to driving.  The adventure continued once we arrived in Stratford at the car park.  It was a garage with VERY narrow lanes and glad we don't have a big car but in those small quarters, I felt like I was driving a tank!

Stratford is a charming little town and bustling with locals and tourists today.  We stopped for lunch in a pub before starting to explore and struck up a conversation with some locals...the English and we Southerners have much in common...especially our willingness to talk to anyone anywhere!
One of the things we've noticed in our short time here, is just how much the English do love their flowers.  It seems everywhere you turn, there are flower beds, flower pots and hanging baskets.  Just give them a little bit of dirt and they'll have grow some pretty flowers.

After you tour Shakespeare's Birthplace, you end up in the courtyard where a few thespians perform acts from several of the Old Bard's plays.  The red head was a hoot!

Being the old telephone folks they are, I had to get a pic of Moma and Daddy in the traditional English phone booths.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Driving in England…it’s an adventure!

Picking up the car on Saturday was an adventure in itself as we took the Tube to Heathrow then hopped the shuttle to car rental office where the queue was almost out the door…Saturdays are popular pick-up days for the locals as it turns out. After chatting up the desk agent, I was able to get us upgraded to a zippy little Mercedes for 5GPB…still trying to figure out all the bells and whistles!

Di gave us two routes – a scenic route and a motorway route – we opted for the scenic route which was lovely and a bit narrow at times. A small portion of the journey was on a motorway which was actually less nerve wrecking than the small roads at first. By process of elimination, I figured out the left lane was the slow lane…I’ve been hanging out in the left lane needless to say.

We stopped off at a Welcome Break along the way for a quick bite where I called Di’s neighbor to give an update on our arrival. He was so funny when he told me to be careful on some of the scenic roads when I tried to “over take” other drivers…no worry of me over taking…though many drivers were over taking me on the small roads! We stopped on the roadside at one point and heard sheep…poor things had just been sheared. After battling the roundabouts along the way, we finally arrived at our destination!

Di and Bry have the cutest house! Their conservatory is wonderful and a favorite spot of ours. Di has done a fabulous job decorating their home…right down to the matching conservatory drapes and upper landing wallpaper. Her kitchen is quite snazzy…with the exception of the over and hob (aka stove), the other major appliances are built in and hidden. It is such a treat to have all the windows open…something we don’t get to do for long in Charleston!

After a lazy morning, we headed out to Cheltenham – the larger town nearby and area where Di and Bry work. Our mission was to find Dad some shorts as the weather is definitely warm. As I was having some challenges with Bry’s GPS, we just winged it and eventually made our way to town centre where we accomplished our mission. Later in the day, Moma and I headed into Tewkesbury to visit the Abbey…we actually arrived in the midst of Evensong…definitely want to revisit for the full service. Tewkesbury is a cute town and we look forward exploring it more.

I think we may try to make our way to Stratford-upon-Avon tomorrow. With such long days, we have so much time to explore. It is just past 10pm and there is actually still light outside!

Friday, June 25, 2010

London: Day 2

Wow...what a busy day we had!  First, it is so great the sun is up around 4ish and doesn't completely set until around 10pm...lots of time for seeing all this town has to offer!

After a tasty breakfast at the hotel (not your typical comp continental here at the K+K George London...and the best part...Nutella in little individual containers which make for a great snack on the run!), we headed to the Tower of London.  You can spend hours wandering around the different towers...and trying to find your way out!  Of course, no visit to the Tower would be complete without checking on the Crown Jewels and I'm happy to report they are safely tucked away for the Commoners to view.

Next was a brief ride along the River Thames en route to the Eye of London.  Our guide was full of typical British humor...a true treat.  With a long queue ahead of us, we popped in to a cafe for a light bite...true genius on my part if I do say so because by the time we finished lunch, our queue time to stand in line to buy the tickets and then stand in line to board the flight was less than 20 minutes.  

From a distance, the wheel looks as though it is barely moving and up close it looks a bit faster...until you try hopping on as it is in motion.  The wheel continues to spin as passengers jump off and on.  With 32 pods full of 25 passengers each @ £17.95 per passenger and the wheel making 2 full rotations an hour, British Air is definitely making a nice penny!  But it is well worth every penny as it is an unbelievable view of the city on such a clear day like today.  We have been very fortunate with the weather as it has been in the upper 70's and very sunny...who would have thought I would come to Britain and get a tan?!

A view from above...

Next stop...Churchill Cabinet War Rooms...after another pass of Big Ben and Parliament (beginning to feel like I'm on Lampoon's European Vacation).  With all the sounds on the audio tape, you get a little idea of the chaos of the time.

Fortunately on today's ride back to the hotel, we all made the same train!  Linda Lu has gotten quite accustom pushing like the Londoners do on the tube.  Small world as we ran in to some other folks staying at our hotel we met at breakfast. You know Southerners, we'll talk to anyone if we're next to them for more than a minute.

I've discovered Brits are similar to Egyptians when it comes to time/distance as we asked two officers how to get to PC World when we go off our hotel tube stop and were told it was a 15 minute walk up this road to High Street with a right on High and then we'd be right there.  After walking more than 15 minutes, I asked a man on the street where PC World was and he said "oh just about 15 minutes up this road and right on High Street and then you can't miss it".  Another 15 minutes later, same situation with another man on the street...the Brits are a very nice/friendly lot!  Finally after almost an hour, we arrived at PC World!  I began chuckling inside as it so reminded me of my trip to Egypt as no mater how far your destination, Egyptians would tell you "5 minutes".  The truly humorous part is the hour long walk took all of 10 minutes in a taxi to return to the hotel!

For dinner we popped in to a local pub and had the traditional fish n' chips (with peas).  The Brits do love their soccer as every telly was on World Cup!  I just don't get soccer...maybe after this trip, I'll understand it better.

The true adventure will begin tomorrow around high noon as that is when we'll pick up the rental car and head to the Cotswolds.  Look out Brits, Lesa will be taking the wheel!

Stay tuned for news from the Cotswolds tomorrow.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

London: Day 1

Let me just say that taking the early morning flight and arriving in London in time for bed is the way to go...absolutely no jet lag!

Today was our day to get familiar with the city so we took one of the hop-on/hop-off tours with Big Bus Tours and it was fabulous...especially Andy our guide!   

The Queen Mum's Gate

I really need longer arms for these self portraits!

 The markings are from the Blitz in World War II
The Great Fire of London Monument...if you were to lie down the monument, it would hit the exact spot of where the fire of 1666.

Look kids...Big Ben...Parliament!

The tour finished up just in time for us to make Afternoon Tea at Harrod's and it was quite yummy...not to mention extremely need for dinner tonight!

Moma had her own little adventure as she ended up being the only one of us to squeeze on the tube during rush hour!  She was a total trooper and made her way to Earl's Court and waited for Daddy and I to arrive...3 trains later as they were slammed packed.

London Eye, Tower of London and Cabinet War Rooms are a few things on tomorrow's agenda.