Friday, July 11, 2008

England and Ireland 2001

May 2nd and 3rd.
John and Jeanne our friends, who exchanged their house, are taking us along as their guests, picked us up at 1:00 PM. We had to be creative loading the car. We ended up folding down the 1/3 section back of the rear seat to enlarge the trunk. This gave us less seating room but it worked out for the short trip. We were wondering though what kind of car the people had whose house we were occupying for the next four weeks.
I had Doreen’s large hand bag on my lap and after ten minutes felt something cold in my lap. Doreen had put a bottle of water in the freezer to cool it and did not fasten the cap properly. I ended up with a wet, cold lap. This was a good start.
We left the car at the Budget Rental Car parking lot and John attached the key under the car and we jumped on the shuttle bus. Near the airport John remembered that he forgot to put the ticket for parking the car in the car. At the airport we unloaded our baggage and John jumped on the next shuttle to go back to the car. We got in line at the ticket counter and got rid of the luggage and received our seat cards, only John’s we could not get. they wanted to see his face and his passport. Since we were early everything worked out fine.
We left Lindbergh Field at 4:40 PM with British Air and had a good flight,
There were only 15 minutes of disturbance. The Boeing 777 was shaking so bad that the flight attendants stopped serving beverages. I hoped that the Japanese mechanics had build the fuselage sections without build in stresses and that the Boeing mechanics had done a good job joining the section.
We arrived at Gatwick on time and it took us two hours to drive to Stamford. The Fiat was similar to John’s and Jeanne’s car and we loaded it the same way. John is left handed and since he lived in England he got in the car and shifted the gears like there was nothing to it. I sat in the back watching the cars coming on the right side toward us while we were going 85- 95 miles an hour.
The instructions for finding the house were very good but the last mile was very interesting, We were looking for a side street and slowly drove up the main street looking for the street sign, In England the street signs are attached to the house and are very small. We finally turned around and looked again, We knew we were very close but could not find the street. We stopped and looked again at the little map and looked at the street which would come first. We headed back found that street, and continued very slowly and saw what looked like a driveway and turned in, that’s when we saw a wooden sign on a little post on the lawn. Now we had to find the house. In this section the house have no house numbers they have names.
Our house is “The Butterlys” it is on Windmill Way, off Empingham Road. That makes it a long address. The house was the last house on this private road.

We looked at the giant lawn and hope the grass does not grow fast, We have to mow it at least once, There are three lawn mowers and one riding mower. We will use the two push lawn mowers. The house is rather large. It is a bungalow with four bed rooms, a separate living room, a separate dining room and a family room at the other end of the house. The kitchen is very large and we eat there. The cat lives in the laundry/freezer room. She has her own entrance and does not spend much time in the house. We have plenty of bath rooms. There is an exercise room with a tanning bed. The Spiers lived most of their live in South Africa and probably want to look tanned. Too bad we will not see them because when we get to San Diego they will be in line to fly back to England.
After unloading the car we figured out how to turn off the parking lights on the car. We actually called the Fiat dealer in town after going through the manual. Then we tried to figure out how to close the house door. We could not do it and then we read the four page instruction the Spiers had prepared. We have to lift the door handle before turning the key.
After a rest we walked to the center of town. It is an old Saxon town with very narrow streets and beautiful old stone churches and stone houses. Some of the streets are shut off for motor vehicles and the street is full of people going from store to store,
We live in the country and are only seven minutes ,on foot, away from the center of town. We tried to get some food in the Pubs but they do not serve any hot food after 3:00 PM. We finally found a Chinese restaurant and will go there one more time before we leave, the food was super.A German Shepherd dog was watching us through the window, while we were eating.
When we walked home I had three people with me who complained about the temperature, it was 33 degree F. The Spiers had told us not to bring any heavy coats, they have plenty of them here.

Today we went to Peterborough which is also a beautiful old city with a large Cathedral. We went to the Cathedral and the town square were all the fancy stores are.

We walked again to the center of town and decided to walk from there to Burghly House, a large Elizabethan stately home with hundreds of rooms. It is a large estate with land as far as you can see. There is a large lake, a park and beautiful gardens. We had a nice lunch there and then walked through the garden. We did not walk the 1 1/2 miles back to town, we took the bus.
So far we had to go twice through disinfectant solution for hoof and mouth decease.
The weather is rather nice for walking. During the day the temperature is 60 degrees F and at night it goes down to 33 degrees F.

Today we went back to Peterborough and looked for a nice Pub and had lunch. The rest of the day we sat in the living room reading newspapers and books. There are a lot of good books in this house and I put my Nancy Reagan book aside and took the Albert Speer book from the shelf. It is a thick book and I probably have to finish it by taking it out from the Carlsbad library.

Today is a Bank Holiday and the British nation is on the road. We saw a lot of campers and cars with little trailers on our way to Cambridge. Cambridge is another beautiful old city. There are a lot of colleges and universities. We did not see many old people, it is a city for the young. We toured St. John College and ate our lunch in their beautiful garden. Afterward we went through the old section of town and enjoyed the beautiful buildings.

John and Jeanne drove us to Nottingham. We enjoyed the one hour drive through the East Midland country side. Some of the fields were in a bright yellow bloom and gave a beautiful contrast to the remaining dark green fields. The yellow fields produce rape seed, which is used for making granola oil. The fields in the Midlands are surrounded by hedges, not with stones like in Yorkshire. The trees have young, lightly colored leaves and the fruit trees are blooming in red, pink and white, there is color everywhere.
The temperature is now 70 degrees F and very pleasant for walking. As soon as John and Jeanne dropped us off at Brian’s apartment, Doreen , Brian and I went for a long walk.
We went along the canal. People moor their long, narrow and low house boats along the canal. The house boats are similar to the ones in Holland.
Down Town, at the bus station, we bought tickets for our return trip to Stamford. Brian went home and Doreen bought some flowers and we went to the nursing home were Doreen’s mother stayed for her last four years.
This was a long walk and Doreen’s right foot was hurting. We took the bus home.

Doreen’s favorite uncle died two months ago Doreen wanted to visit Evelyn, his lady friend. We jumped on the bus and went to her apartment. After a cup of tea and some biscuits Doreen called Bill Miller, another of Doreen’s friends to come and pick us up.
The Miller’s stored Doreen’s mothers belongings and one of the reasons for the England trip was to take care of this. We went trough all the stuff and ended up with a suit case full of papers, pictures, and some of the trophies Reggie had won as a teenager riding motor cycles in the desert and had given them to his grandmother.
Going through the belongings of her mother was an emotional event for Doreen.

Last night we had a light show accompanied by a lot of noise. Brian lives on the 14th floor and the lightning was highly visible. It also rained. In the morning the rain was gone.
Doreen and I took a city bus to the bus depot which is located down town and I stayed with the baggage while Doreen got her last chance to go shopping in her home town. I think it is probably the last time.
The bus trip back to Stamford was very pleasant.

We brought wonderful weather to England. During the day the temperature goes up to 80 degrees F. John went golfing today and I walked into town with the women. Doreen and I walked to the bank to settle some of her mothers business and Jeanne went to the travel office to pay for the tickets for the ferry to Ireland. The two women wanted to go shopping and since this is not my favorite pastime I went home and took it easy.
After dinner John and I did a power walk through town.

It took us five hours to drive from Stamford to Holyhead. We drove through Wales, which has hills and valleys. We stopped at the Snowdon Mountain National Park where we saw many people with back packs, walking on the hiking trails.
There are stone walls all over the country side, the walls also go up the mountains. Since there are plenty of stones to build the walls barbed wire is not needed.
Because of the foot and mouth decease and it is early in the year, there are not many tourists in England. This gave us more room on the ferry and we all got an one hour nap on the soft benches. The Irish sea was calm and we had a pleasant three hour voyage.
John and Jeanne had booked a Bed and Breakfast for two nights in Dun Laoghaire, near Dublin.
When we got off the ferry we found out that the ferry had landed in Dublin and we had to drive to Dun Laoghaire. During the voyage and while driving to the B&B it was raining lightly.

The four of us jumped on the train and went to down town Dublin. First we went to John’s bank where he got some Irish punts and we took out loans. John was our banker.
He and Jeanne went to complete some more business and visit relatives while Doreen and I went on a double decker sightseeing bus and toured Dublin.
Dublin is a very beautiful city with many Georgian homes and public buildings.

I learned a lot about the struggle of the Irish people for independence. There are many monuments in the streets for that cause.
The front doors on row houses have different colors which is very unique. The tour guide thought this made it easier for the husbands to find their own house when they came from the Pub.
We stopped at Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, one of the oldest bibles in the world. The bible was made in the 9th century and every page has art work besides the text.
We went also to the Long Room, a library with over 200,000 rare books. There they had an exhibit by Compaq Computers and Microsoft on the Gutenberg Bible, which was very interesting.
We are very lucky with the weather, today it was in the seventies and no rain.

We left Dublin this morning and John had to fight the city traffic. It took us over an hour to get out of Dublin. Prosperity has its price. The Irish economy is growing 7 1/2 % per year. European and American companies are building factories here.
It was raining lightly. Even in the rain the Irish country side was beautiful. Everything is so clean, the houses in the villages are colorful and even the barns are painted.
We went across Ireland to Oughterard near Galway, where we are staying in the house of a friend of John and Jeanne. Their friend is in England on vacation and we have the house for ourselves for the next ten days. Our neighbors are milk cows with their small calves.

We still have a light rain but we went for a day trip to the Kylemore Abby in Connemara.We went along peat bogs where the peat is more than 20 feet thick. Peat is used for fuel in houses and electric power stations. Bell Heather and other plants grow in the bogs.The mountain range along the bogs is called the Twelve Pins.We stopped at the cottage and bridge where the movie “ The Quiet Man” with John Wayne was filmed.

In the evening John and Jeanne went out with friends while Doreen and I wrote post cards and caught up on our diary.

We went to down town Galway and had lunch in an old fish restaurant, and walked around the harbor and the city. I went to an Internet Cafe and checked my E mail.
We had mail from Dixie and Larry. I lost Larry’s E mail and have to ask him to send it again. I wish I had gone to an Internet Cafe before I left for England and experienced some of the problems I encounter now. I feel pretty dumb and frustrated. The person in charge is pretty busy and the clock is ticking. In Ireland I could not find the @ on the key board, which is very important when one types in the addresses. My address book from the states did not work but I brought a printed page of it. Next time I know better.

We had a wonderful day. We drove to Clifden where the women spend an hour in the shops. Then we drove along the Ocean to Cashel House Hotel and Garden where we had Lunch.

A big dog was watching us through the window.
After Lunch we took a walk in the Garden. The 25 acre garden has rare plants from all over the world, which thrive in this part of Ireland because of the Gulf Stream. It was cloudy most of the day but it did not rain.
Along the road are yellow gorse bushes and of course sheep, thousands of them and the mothers have their little babies now. It is a spectacular sight.

Another easy day, we did a lot of reading in the morning and in the afternoon we took a ride into Oughterard, the small village, where John and Jean used to live. Oughterard is located on Lough Corrib, a very large lake. The lake is 15 miles wide at some point and 35 miles long and has 350 islands.

The ride along the lake was beautiful. A lot of people who live on this region have second homes in the States or some place else. At the cash register in the food store the have two pictures of Bob Hope pushing a grocery cart. He looks rather old which means the picture was taken only a few years ago. His daughter has a large home near Oughterard.

We walked to the river in the village and looked at the water fall. Oughterard is known for salmon and trout fishing. Unfortunately the spawning season was over and we did not see any salmon go up the waterfall.

We went again to Galway. John and Jeanne visited friends and Doreen and I went to the old part of the city. Several blocks of this part of Galway are traffic free and the stores in this area are open also on Sundays. This is common in Europe. There are sidewalk cafes and entertainment in the middle of the street. We also walked along the river where anglers where standing in the middle of the fast running river casting for trout.
In the evening we went to the Lake Hotel in Oughterard for dinner. Doreen had fresh trout, I had salmon and Jeanne had lamb chops, and John had a mixture of everything.
One of the thousands of lambs ended up on our dinner table. We teased Doreen about this since she goes gaga when she sees all those little lambs in the meadows.

Today was visiting day. We went to John’s and Jeanne’s old house and visited the new owners. They had arrived from Arizona a few days ago. Their winter home is in Tucson. They gave us the tour of the house and the large garden with boat dock. A lot of bushes were in bloom and the colors were unbelievable.

Afterward we went next door to see John’s and Jeanne’s old neighbors and got the tea and biscuit treatment and enjoyed another beautiful, colorful garden. Those people spend their winter in Dublin.
John and Jeanne had a dinner party in a restaurant in town, but we could not attend because Doreen did not feel well.. Jeanne and Doreen had taken advantage of the warm , sunny day and taken the lawn chairs out of the garage. Doreen got a lot of sun.

We went for a few hours to Galway and walked along the shore . On the way home we visited more of John’s and Jeanne’s friends. They have big, beautiful homes with large gardens.
Then we had to go home, wash the car and get the house in shape, and get to bed early.

The alarm clock rang at 3:00 AM and at 4:00 AM we were on our way to Dublin to catch the first ferry to England. The ferry was pretty empty and we had a lot of room to stretch out.
After getting lost once in Wales we made it home safely. John did eight hours driving and did a good job, even though he had three back seat drivers with him.
The grass has grown and we have to cut it as soon as possible. There are two push type motor lawn mowers and one riding lawn mower in the garage. I think we take the push lawn mowers and John and I have a race.

We hope all of you are still doing fine. Mr. and Mrs. Spears sent us a letter and let us know that there was not much sun in San Diego. We can not complain about the weather here. I expected a lot of rain and the little rain we had did not bother us.

John and I cut the lawn. With both lawn mowers it took us one hour. I lost ten minutes trying to figure out how to remove the loaded grass catcher.
While we were outside the women did the laundry, or at least tried. While I came by the back door I saw them coming out all dressed up and with their purses over their arms.

They announced: “We flooded the laundry room” and went shopping. Doreen went to take the laundry out of the machine and when she opened the door she got a surprise. Normally you can not open the door on a front loading machine until the cycle is over. But in this case there was no power and she was able to open the door.
After we cut the grass I checked out the machine and noticed there was no electricity. We tried to get to the fuse box but could not find a triangular key. Finally John got an idea. We moved the dryer and he had me crawl under the counter and check whether there was a switch on the outlet box. Most outlet boxes have on and off switches because they use 240 volts in Europe.
I found a timer and removed it and we were able to solve the problem.
The Spears take advantage of the cheap night electricity. They load the washing machine in the evening and set the program. The next morning at five AM the timer kicks on and the machine starts washing. When Mrs. Spears gets up she hangs the wash on the cloths line or throws them in the dryer. Since the house is so big they are not bothered by the noise of the machine.

Another sunny day. We got a visitor today. Richard, in whose house we stayed in Ireland while he is here in England, came by. He is staying with his son and family, they live 1 1/2 hours from here.
Doreen and I walked down town, had a super lunch in a Pub and went to the Friday open market. Besides the regular streets which are traffic free, on Fridays some more streets get blocked off and farmers and other merchants sell their wares in the middle of the street.
We are falling in love with this city. Walking through those narrow streets with those houses from the 14th century is like being in a movie, especially in the streets without autos.
We learned real fast to look to the right first before crossing a street. Some sidewalks are marked so foreigners do not run under a car.

Doreen and I took a 90 minutes bus ride to Lincoln, the capital city of Lincolnshire. From the bus depot in Lincoln we took a city bus up the hill to the castle. The castle is a Norman castle build in 1062 AD by William the Conqueror.
The walls are still the original walls. We took the guided castle tour, which was very interesting.

In the castle is one of the four surviving Magna Carta sealed by King John in 1215.
After the tour we went to a Pub and had lunch. After lunch we walked to the Cathedral. The Lincoln Cathedral is one of the largest in the world. Parts of the Cathedral were build in 1072-1092. As it stands today it was completed in 1250 AD. It is very difficult to understand how people at that time could build such a magnificent, giant building.
While reading the inscriptions on the stone plates on the floor, covering the people buried inside the Cathedral, I stepped on mismatch
From the Cathedral we walked down Steep Hill Street, which is a traffic free street. On both sides of the street are shops and I never have seen so many people on a street. Looking down the hill it was like ants were all over the street.

Today was John’s and Jeanne’s 46th Wedding Anniversary. We went first to Spalding and then to Boston. Those two cities are located in the Fens. The Fens is an area which was marshes and bogs before it was drained. We went to the Museum in Spalding and learned about the history of the area.
In Boston we went to a Pub and had lunch and the biggest dessert to celebrate the Shannon’s anniversary. After lunch I went slowly back to the car to take it easy on my sore ankle while the other three went sight seeing.
The ride home was kind of tricky. Too much food and a glass of wine made John sleepy and he drove over the serration on the side of the road several times. The noise the tires made got his attention of course. When we got home we all took a nap. So much for: “You are only as old as you feel”. The day started kind of dark and by noon it was rather nice again. Everybody tells us how nice the weather is and we agree and we tell them that we brought it with us from California.

This is probably my last report from England. I will go tomorrow morning to the Internet Cafe and check my E mail and sent this letter. I sent both my first reports to everybody because I did not know who received what the first time. Using computers in an Internet Cafe is not like using my own computer. I am a slow learner but I am getting better.
The owners of the establishment sell also food and are very busy. Help is not easy to get when I am stuck.
We are leaving Wednesday or Thursday for Gatwick Airport, depending on whether we stay in an B&B near the airport or go straight to the airport. We have to get the house ready. I am the expert with the vacuum cleaner, the women have to do the laundry and we have to dust in the house and clean the car inside and outside.
A neighbor here invited me to go sailing with him. I hope he makes it tomorrow since Tuesday we will be busy with packing and cleaning.
We hope all of you had a good month. We had a fantastic time. Doreen had no health problems, this is normal for her. When we are on the road she feels fine. The women laughed a lot, sometimes on our expense, but we laughed with them. Those two stick together, people think they are sisters.
We met a lot of nice people in England and in Ireland. Everybody was polite and friendly. People went out of their way to help us. Doreen and I would have liked to go to Germany for a few days to visit Larry and Darlene, but that would have been too much. I hope we will see them in the Arizona or California desert next January or February.
I hope we can take care of some appointments and get the motorhome smogged by the middle of June so we can take off for three months to the Midwest and Niagara Falls.

Another Bank Holiday. We went to Ely to take the guided tour of the Cathedral. The guide was an elderly gentleman who was very knowledgeable. He knew the history of the region, which spilled over to George Washington. We got also a lecture on the the Stars and Stripes which are part of the Washington Coat of Arms here in England..
In the cathedral, one large stained glass window is a memorial, dedicated to the B-17and B-24 bomber units which were located during the war in this area.

It appears we only go to churches while we are in England, but they are only part of the beauty of this country. To stand in one of those Cathedrals and look around and realize the size of it, one has to stand in awe. There are no permanent seats in the Nave, since the Normans brought their animals, their produce and anything they had for sale to the Cathedral. This accounts for the length and width of the building. The height was for to being nearer to god and since the Normans were a vain people, they showed off. They went as high as they could go. There are no bells in the towers since they would be to heavy.
We completed the day with a nice late lunch at a restaurant at the river. The sun was out and the locals really soaked up the sun.

We packed our stuff, did some house cleaning, cut the grass and did one final long walk around town while Jeanne stayed home and did some dusting. We went along the river and through really narrow walkways. One can almost touch the houses on both sides. Stamford is a beautiful city and so are some of the other old East Anglican cities we visited. People are fighting to keep it that way and I do not blame them.

I went to the public library to check my E mail. I had E mail from Dick, Dixie , Vera and Larry. As soon as I get home I will send some personal letters.
We had our last lunch in town, Doreen and John did their final banking and I went home and figured how much I owe Doreen and how much Doreen owes John. We have three currencies involved, the Irish Punt, where John was the banker and the English Pound, where Doreen was my banker . Everything was settled in Dollars. We put the suit cases in the car after John cleaned the outside of the car and I did the inside . Tomorrow morning at three o’clock the alarm clock goes off and at 4:00 o’clock we will be on our way to Gatwick airport.
We will miss this beautiful part of England. Unfortunately the Spears did not have nice weather in Carlsbad. I heard there was a lot of June Gloom in Southern California. We had super weather.

We made it to the airport without a problem and had a good flight, but a long flight.
At the San Diego airport we met the Spiers and had a nice conversation with them. They flew back with the same aeroplane we came with. They went back to their big house and back to Misty. Misty is their ten year old wild cat. Sometimes we were able to touch her but with caution. She had her private entrance to the house and was sleeping at night on top of the water heater for the central heating system. The pilot light kept the unit warm. One night she was miauing in front of my window. I thought her little door was stuck and got up at 2:00 AM to check it out. The door was not stuck, she came in ,ate some food, and went back to my window and kept on making noises. John has one advantage over me, he takes his hearing aid out at night and nothing bothers him.
At home we found a lot of mail. We have some appointments and hope to get everything done in two weeks so we can take off with the motorhome.

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