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Friday, August 25, 2006

Theater in the Round

This is my last post from across the pond. The sun has set on what was a glorious final day in London.

We started at the street markets along Portabello Road in Notting Hill. Despite just having had breakfast, I couldn't resist a cupcake at the Hummingbird Bakery.

And finally, our day ended in Shakespeare's Globe Theater where we saw The Comedy of Errors. The acting was splendid (yes, I'm adopting English phrases). The open-air theater, which opened in 1991, is a faithful replica of the original theater located not far from where it now stands.

Speaking of standing, we were groundlings--we had $10 standing-room only tickets. On one hand, we were right in front of the stage, and on the other, we had to stand the entire show. Luckily it was only an hour and a half long. Plus, it was a comedy, which I quite enjoyed. Anyone who knows me knows I dislike the tragedies tremendously--having been dragged to all of them at least once during my ten-year marriage.

So, as the evening draws to a close on our last day in jolly ol' England, I am pleased to say this has been a great anniversary trip. I just hope the security situation at the airport tomorrow morning doesn't leave a bad taste in my mouth.

And for those of you waiting for photos, I will post a few once I am home.


War Room

Even if you're not into war history, you might enjoy a visit to the Cabinet War Rooms, part of the two-year-old Churchill Museum. Churchill used these underground bunkers to conduct World War II and protect himself from the bombs falling all over the city. The day the war ended, the rooms were locked up with all of their contents and forgotten until Margaret Thatcher gave the OK to open them.

We wandered through the map room, where a map of world covered a long wall. In the Atlantic Ocean are clusters of pinholes where shipping boats had been destroyed by German U-boats.

On another map, one of the cabinet members had doodled a drawing of Hitler. There must have been a lull in the bombing campaign.

The museum is located near 10 Downing Street and the House of Parliament (Big Ben).

THe visit to the museum was part of a day-long excursion in the heart of London. We walked everywhere and are completely exhausted now!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The whole world in my hands

It is possible to travel the whole world by just visiting the British Museum. I spent most of my time in Africa, especially Egypt. The museum has an astonishing quantity of statues and mummies (including Cleopatra). As much as I enjoy seeing these artifacts, they would have more meaning, or context, if they were returned to Egypt. There is an ongoing battle between the museum and Egypt over the return of some of these treasures that had been plundered by the British. And recently, I believe, Greece recovered some of its things.

Ever since I visited Actun Tunichil Maknal, I am in favor of having artifacts left where they are found. The cave in Belize had been thoroughly explored and documented by an archaeologist who left everything in situ. I was able to see the exact location where the Mayans had performed ritualistic deaths--the bones of the "chosen ones" in a pile on the ground with pottery shards laying all around.

A pot in a case in a museum doesn't tell me a story. Nontheless, I was most looking forward to the British Museum, despite my beliefs. The most famous if its treasures is the Rosetta Stone, which made the translation of certain hieroglyphics possible.

The museum offers free tours of the various exhibits and we purposely chose Africa (not including Egypt) to learn more about the continent. We
were the only ones to show up for the talk, so it was totally worth it.

In the three hours we spent in the museum, I have selected more travel destinations. So, it was quite fitting that we would stumble upon the world's largest travel bookstore while wandering through Covent Garden. Stanford's has three levels of books, travel gear and much more. I was in heaven. I didn't buy anything. The prices are double what they are stateside.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

London calling

I have been indoctrinated.

As we passed deeper and deeper inside the Cadbury chocolate factory, we were told again and again by holographic 19th century figures that Cadbury was awesome in every way.

The company was one of the first to offer benefits to the factory workers, it built schools and hospitals for the town in which it built its factory and most importantly, it made sure its chocolate was of the highest quality. I wasn't going to argue--I had my mouth full of the full-size candy bars they pass out during the tour.

The highlight was being able to select some kind of treat and have it covered in thick, gooey, liquid hot chocolate. Unfortunately, we had to endure the cheesiest of the holographic presentations to reach that room.

Cheese and chocolate do not go well together.

Armed with plenty of chocolate, we made our journey to London, stopping briefly in Stratford-Upon-Avon to visit the grave of William Shakespeare.

Last night, at the stroke of 10 o'clock, we were locked up in the Tower of London. Not every tourist can say they've been locked up in the tower where Ann Boleyn lost her head. Well, only about 50 a night. Free tickets for the Ceremony of the Keys must be requested two months in advance.

It was pretty cool.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Roundabouts and chocolate

What do Duran Duran and the Cadbury bunny have in common?

They both have roots in Birmingham, England.

We actually thought we would have made it further south on Monday, but the roads, signs and roundabouts are confusing. Yesterday morning, it took hours to find the town of Roslin, which is only 12 miles south of Edinburgh, despite having a sheet of instructions given to us.

The hundreds of people that were at the Roslin Chapel when we arrived didn't seem to have any problem getting there. Our visit was worth it. The chapel has a fascinating history, not all of it related to the fame it received when Dan Brown wrote about it in the DaVinci Code. Even though scaffolding covers the entire church on the outside, it allows the visitor to climb around at roof level. It's definitely unique to get that perspective and get a closeup view of the spires with their rose carvings.

The inside is even better. The masons that built it included many fine details representing a mixture of pagan, Christian and local history.

From Roslin, we headed south into England stopping for a hike along Hadrian's wall. We had hoped to ride bikes, but the weather wasn't cooperating (and riding on the narrow, hilly and winding roads would have been scary--a couple of times I drove over a hill encountering a cyclist just over the summit).

We finally stumbled into Birmingham after dark and after taking a few wrong roads. I had some caffeine to keep me going, but I calculated its consumption based on an on-time arrival. Needless to say, I found myself on the side of the road in some bushes that left me with some kind of skin reaction--luckily only on my ankle.

When we finally made into Birmingham, we filled up the tank of our Mercedes Zero Class hatchback for $100 (not a typo) and had dinner along the canals. Besides being the home of Duran Duran and the Cadbury bunny, this city has earned the distinction of being the Venice of England.

Now, we're off to Cadbury World. When I write next, I may be in a chocolated-induced haze.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Crazy duffers

Like devout muslims performing the haj--or pilgrimage--to mecca, golf enthusiasts come to St. Andrews, Scotland, to visit the birthplace of golf.

Even though it was raining heavily on this Sunday afternoon, diehard fans of the sport, and us, were wandering the links of the Old Course behind the the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse on the 18th hole. It seems the course is closed on Sundays, so anyone can walk the fairways.

While it didn't mean that much to me, Chris would chuckle every once in a while or comment that the water hazards and sand traps looked quite difficult.

St. Andrews has more than just golf and, until recently had Prince William. Yes ladies, the future King of England lived here while attending University.

The town also features the largest cathedral in all of Scotland, although it's nothing more than a skeleton on the sea. I'm not exactly sure what happened to it, but now it serves as a cemetery.

We didn't spend much time on the labryntian streets of St. Andrew. We had rented a car and on a whim, decided to make the hour-long journey north of Edinburgh. We made it back just in time (seriously) to see our 6:30 film at the film festival.

The film, called ICEBERG was a story about a woman who gets locked in a freezer at the fast food restaurant in which she works and then starts obsessing about icebergs. The movie was all physical comedy with very little dialogue and it stars the filmmakers who made it. 

They showed up after the film for a Q+A session. I thought it was a little odd to be sitting 10 feet away from two people that had been naked on screen just a few moments before.

That's all I've got for now. I am currently writing from Chris's blackberry and it's hard to type. The good news is that we can receive email anywhere and respond from anywhere.

Feel free to email us at We will be on the road all day Monday and would love to hear from you.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


I don't know how many times I've tried to start writing this entry. I think I'm having a bout of writer's block. That isn't good since I'm sitting in the Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling scribbled the "birth" of Harry Potter on a napkin. Shouldn't I be inspired to write something? Is it possible that there is just too much creativity in this town at one time, and that it is preventing me from posting a simple blog entry?

Afterall, the Edinburgh International Festival, The Fringe Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival are all going one right this minute.

All sorts of street performers are just outside--being creative. At this point, I guess I'm using my creative energy to stay awake. It's the jet lag...yeah.

After a healthy nap yesterday, Chris and I managed to get to see a Fringe performance called "Confessions of a Paralyzed Porn Star." Before we arrived at the show, we got caught in a rain storm that hit. Even though I had a rain jacket and umbrella, somehow I managed to get drenched.

The rain cleared this morning and I could finally see Edinburgh's extinct volcano, Arthur's Seat, from where we are staying. We headed over to the Edinburgh Castle and walked through. At one o'clock, a cannon is fired over to city to indicate the time. The cannon was so loud that I didn't keep my hand steady as I took a photo at the momemt the cannon was fired. In the photo is smoke, but no "smoking gun." Very startling.

That's all I can muster now. CHEERS!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

U.K. adventure to begin this Friday

It's perfect timing for a trip to the United Kingdom. The flights have never been safer!

Chris and I will be heading to Great Britain on Thursday night for 10 days in celebration of our 10th Anniversary. We had been considering Newfoundland and the French colonies of St. Pierre and Miquelon for the last year or so. But after I saw an article about St. Pierre in the Cleveland Plain Dealer's travel section (June 25, 2006), the magic was lost.

At the last minute, I suggested England and Chris quickly agreed.

We will fly into Edinburgh, Scotland on Friday morning. Rent a car on Monday, Aug. 21, and drive to London over two days. We'll fly home from London on the direct flight to Cleveland on Aug. 26.

I'm most looking forward to the British Museum. I can't wait to see all the things the British have pilfered from other cultures over the years.

If the weather holds out, we hope to rent bikes and cycle along Hadrian's Wall, a great wall, 73 miles long, constructed by order of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in A.D. 122.

Right now, it looks like rain will plague us everywhere we go, unfortunately. We'll make the most of our visit anyway.

Stay tuned for more posts this coming weekend!