Monday, 15 September 2008

Now We Are Home

it doesn't seem right to carry on blogging here since this blog was about our travels. And so, due to requests by hubby, I have decided to start a new blog which isn't about travelling, but just about stuff in general. You will find me wittering on over at - good of me to stick with another short blog name!

Monday, 18 August 2008

Home on the Range

We're home! Ah, life is good when you can sit on a comfy sofa and eat toast whenever you like. All the time we were away hubby said he missed the sofa most of all, and I missed the joy that is Sky+. And now we're back, the sofa has pride of place in the living room and Sky+ is being connected tomorrow, then life will be complete.

We have moved in to a new place in the countryside and have taken to the lifestyle like ducks to water. Yesterday we even went out on a 'ramble' with our trusty Ordnance Survey map of the area; everything started well as hubby showed me where we planned to walk -along here, down there, across there, up there, across there and back home. 'Fine by me', I said, 'I'll just follow you' having no great clue where he was pointing on the map. Although we walked for about an hour we didn't actually get anywhere as we apparently missed a turning somewhere and simply ended up walking all the way round the outside of a very large field. Still, there were three plus points to this - a feeling of smug wellbeing (apart from the bits where I puffed and panted my way uphill), a tub full of blackberries and the knowledge of future great blackberrying spots just a stone's throw from our front door. Excellent.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Flashpackers Do France

After our somewhat disappointing visit to Switzerland, hubby & I motored over to France where we spent the next few days staying in fancy country houses and chateaux.

We were able to gorge on fabulous croissants and marvellous goats cheese, all washed down with delicious Orangina! French cuisine, eh?!

And then, on Friday it was time for us to head to the Chunnel and take the train back to Blighty.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Knit One, Purl One

As hubby & I wound our weary way through the Swiss mountains we came upon an awesome sight. Not the largest cuckoo clock in the world; not an entire Alp made from Toberlone chocolate (I would still be there if we'd found something like that, doing my bit to help create a tunnel through the bottom of the mountain using nothing but my teeth), but something much, much better. Let me set the scene for you - this is the view that we were admiring at the time:

Quite something, I'm sure you'll agree.
Then hubby walked a little way round the corner and came scurrying back with a delighted grin on his face. 'Walk round there and see if something makes you smile' he said. 'Chocolate' was my initial thought, but this is what he had come upon:

Isn't that just wonderful?! Perhaps these ladies were of the same mindset as me that day - once you've seen one Swiss mountain, you've seen them all.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Switzerland - It's Very Swiss

After a thrilling Saturday night in the Ibis above the McDonalds in Chur, we set off on Sunday morning for Interlaken. The road took us through a couple of very high mountain passes, past Alpine meadows full of sedate Swiss cows, snow capped peaks and round literally hundreds of hair pin bends. After my experience at Mt Washington I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the drive and after a while, quite frankly, I was rather fed up. In fact, at the time my feeling was thus - once you’ve seen one Alpine meadow, one snow capped peak, one mountain pass and one sedate Swiss cow with obligatory bell round neck, you’ve seen them all. And, due to the wiggliness of the roads it took what felt like forever (about 5 hours) to get to Interlaken which as the crow flies was only about 2 inches away on the map. Poor hubby wasn’t exactly impressed by my attitude of fed up-ness.

Still, we finally made it to Interlaken which has the most beautiful setting between (as the name suggests) two lakes, both of which look like the Swiss Tourist Board has been out touching them up for the postcards and tourist photos - the bluey-green colour is quite stunning. The town is at the foot of the three huge mountains - the Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch - which certainly make for a pretty picture. This is the view of said mountains from our hotel balcony.

The town itself isn’t too bad – it’s quite touristy with lots of shops selling Swiss products (Toberlerones, penknives, expensive watches and cow bells) and there are also lots of restaurants and bars. But one really good thing about it being so touristy is the fact that, despite the fact it was Sunday, the shops were actually open! I had become somewhat disillusioned with Switzerland on our drive to Interlaken since all along the route none of the shops were open; it wasn’t that I wanted to buy anything, but I find it a little disconcerting when entire towns are closed. It can be a bit like that in the rest of Europe on Saturday afternoons or during the inordinately long lunch hours that shop keepers seem to take – the entire town/village is like something from Day of the Living Dead, there’s not a soul to be seen. Most odd and very disconcerting to those of us from countries where shopping is seen as a past time, and is most definitely something which is to be undertaken on a Sunday.

So, I told hubby in no uncertain terms that Switzerland was not going to be a future holiday destination and we decided to spend just one night in Interlaken before setting off the next morning for the joys of France.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Three Countries in One Day

On Thursday hubby drove us from the embarassingly multi-lingual Luxembourg and in to the Black Forest region of Germany. We spent two nights at a very lovely, but very 70s hotel overlooking the city of Freiburg. We were very excited about this hotel as it had lots of terraces upon which we could lounge and catch some rays as well as a swimming pool. The weather so far on our trip has been very hot (apart from the day when it started a little overcast but then ended up roasting as soon as we got to Amsterdam) so we planned to spend most of Friday making use of the pool and sun loungers. And guess what? It rained.

So instead we made the short drive to Titisee (great name) to admire the lake and profusion of tat shops offering all manner of cuckoo clocks, stuffed toys and other souvenirs you really don’t need. We bought a Christmas tree decoration in the shape of a cuckoo clock – how could we resist?!

This morning dawned bright and sunny, of course, as we set out to drive to Liechtenstein (tick!) Took a few hours to get there due to my map reading which detoured us through the centre of Zurich and along the side of the lake when we should have been on the motorway, but at least it was scenic. We found ourselves in Vaduz, the tiny capital of tiny Liechtenstein just in time for lunch which was very fortuitous. After lunch we enjoyed a 10 minute stroll around the ‘city’ and by then we’d seen just about everything Vaduz had to offer.
It is in a very pretty setting, overlooked by a craggy mountain on top of which sits the royal castle – all very fairytale – but not much to detain us especially when we enquired about hotel rooms and were somewhat stunned by the prices . And so we drove on to our third country of the day – Switzerland. And now we are spending an exciting Saturday night in an Ibis hotel situated above a McDonalds (handy for dinner…) in the town of Chur. Tomorrow we plan to head to Interlaken where hubby once went on a school trip and which he remembers as being very nice. Let’s hope his memory serves him correctly or there could be trouble ahead.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Je Suis Inadequate

This morning I took our dirty washing along to a local launderette having decided that the indignity of washing clothes in a shower cap in the sink was getting too much. Now, after a month in New York I am more than au fait with the workings of a laundromat - change machine, washing powder machine, put coins in slot and away you go. Unfortunately here in Luxembourg I managed to pick a 'service wash' type of launderette, along the lines of the one Pauline & Dot ran in EastEnders. So, there I was looking around in a vague fashion for the change machine and desparately trying to work out what to do when a young boy of about 14 approached me and started talking. Clearly my blank expression led him to the conclusion that I didn't have the foggiest what he was saying. So he tried 'Francais?", to which I mumbled in response "Un petit" while holding my thumb and index finger a millimeter apart to help demonstrate exactly how 'petit' this was. And then he said 'English?', to which I gratefully answered 'Yes!' and he proceeded to explain exactly what I needed to do and how the process worked in perfect English. I don't doubt that if I had shaken my head to 'English', he would have been able to speak to me fluently in German or Italian, such is the level of multi-lingualism (is that a word?) over here on the Continent which constantly puts us to shame. I studied French for 5 years at school and even managed to get an A in my GCSE (don't know how, must have been a lenient marker who looked at my paper and listened to my oral exam cassette) and yet put me in any situation where I'm expected to say anything more advanced than 'Je voudrais un baguette' and it all goes terribly, horribly, embarrassingly wrong. Hubby announced that we should take French classes but I'm sure that anything we learn will go in one brain cell and out the other. Is there any hope for us?

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Luxembourg - It's a Tick!

Tick number 58 to be precise. That means in my lifetime I have now visited 58 of the world's countries or dependencies. Sounds like a lot, but there are an awful lot more still to visit and without the use of air travel it could be somewhat tricky to get to some of them. Looks like I'll just have to pull myself together re airplanes if I want to maintain the status of No.1 in the tick chart (number one out of only six of us, so it's not exactly a huge competition we're involved in here!)

So, today we (meaning hubby) drove from Haarlem to Luxembourg, with a brief stop along the wait at a Carrefour hypermarket - the first we had seen on our trip so far. Hubby always goes on about how much he likes foreign (particularly French) hyper/supermarkets because of all the nice food they have. I'm inclined to agree with him in terms of "foreign" food, which they seem to have in abundance, but surely they are no match for the good old English supermarket. Where, for example, are the baked beans, the bourbon biscuits (they're even named after some foreign bloke yet you still can't get them abroad), the custard creams, the HP Sauce, the Ribena, the Vimto (for hubby, due to him being from oop north), and every other staple of our weekly shopping basket?! Nowhere to be seen, unless they are hiding behind the mountains of freshly baked baguettes, grapes the size of ping pong balls, bottles of wine at 2 euros a pop, framboise flavoured beer and shelves of gooey patisserie goods. Ah, it's a hard life this food shooping lark.

Monday, 28 July 2008

A Trip to the Dam

Amsterdam, that is. Today hubby & I went to the capital. The original plan was to go to the seaside but when we woke up it was rather overcast so we thought a trip to the big city was in order. Hubby & I don't really do cities (except NYC, which is a whole other ball game) so we only spent a few hours there, most of which involved sitting next to a canal (of course) eating lunch.

Needless to say, almost as soon as we arrived in Amsterdam the sun came out and it got really, really hot so clearly the beach would have been the best place to be, but we soldiered on and took in a few sights. We had planned to visit Anne Frank's House in an attempt to be cultured but when we got there the queue was huge and, as well as not really doing cities, we don't do queues either (except in Starbucks...) So we had lunch, had a bit of a wander and then went to the Flower Market. And, in all honesty, that was that and so we toddled back to Haarlem which is a very pretty town with, you've guessed it, lots of canals and a large central square surrounded by grand olde worlde buildings.

When we got back to our hotel I had to undertake a little chore, namely washing some underwear (it's all glamour, this travelling lark). I'm sure you didn't really need to know that, but I think you'll all be impressed by what I would like to call "Traveller's Tip of the Week".
So, here you go - this is how to do your washing in a sink with no plug. Although, of course, you do need a shower cap. And you might not want to use the shower cap on your head afterwards...

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Delft and the Beach

Friday we drove all of 13km from Rotterdam to Delft - we have been constantly amazed so far by how compact the Netherlands is, which is perfect for a driving holiday. And so to Delft - what a pretty, pretty little place it is. A typical Dutch town full of winding cobbled streets, canals and olde worlde buildings set round a huge central square. Lovely.
Except for all those darned cyclists absolutely everywhere. I can't cope, they're all over the place swarming around like wasps ready to strike me down if I make one false move and dare to try to cross the road. Still, at least Delft doesn't have a tram system in the centre like Rotterdam. Honestly, between trying to dodge cyclists and cars in order to get anywhere, you also have to look out for the trams hurtling around. And all of this ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD! Take me back to good old Blighty where the car is king, public transport is practically non-existent and cyclists take their lives in to their hands even going to the corner shop.

While in Delft poor hubby made the mistake of climbing the 100-metre spire of the church on the main square. I would have gone with him had there been an elevator, but since there wasn't I decided to sit on a bench at the bottom and wait. Am I glad I did. Hubby came back dripping with sweat (it was a very hot day) and very shaky of leg having tramped his way up and back down again. Still, he did take some nice photos out over the town.

Saturday we decided to have a day at the seaside at Scheveningen, just outside The Hague and about 15mins drive from Delft. since hubby & I have yet to get back in to any semblance of a routine whereby we can actually get up in the mornings, it was after lunch by the time we finally got to the beach, but that was still plenty of time to soak up the sun. In true "Brits abroad" style we hired deckchairs and made ourselves comfy. There was one extremely good thing about the beach - it was crammed full of people who were very, very pale so hubby and I looked rather tanned in comparison with the remainder of our Central American weather-beatenness still hanging about us. Hubby said he felt like an Italian on the beach at Blackpool. Unfortunately, there was also one very bad thing about the beach and that was the tendency of ladies of a certain age to be sunbathing topless - not a pretty sight, and hubby & I just didn't know where to look half the time. Hence we settled down in our deckchairs behind our books while the Continental types and their wobbly bits sprawled this way and that on sun loungers.

On our way back to Delft we passed the prison where Radovan Karadicz is set to be held while awaiting trial - you wouldn't believe the number of television crews already set up outside.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Europe - It's Not That Bad

To tell the truth I’ve tended to shy away from spending a “proper” holiday in Europe; in my opinion, Europe is great for a short city break or a long weekend but not for the “two weeks in the sun” vacation. My reasoning behind this is that Europe is so close to the UK that it can be saved for a later date, perhaps when travelling is more tricky (ie when I’m a bit doddery). However, now that I have become an anti-flying wuss, Europe is a very attractive option since it can be easily reached by the lovely ferry.

And so, here we are on the Continent; a long way from Australia, but nice and close to good old Blighty. The first stop on this part of our trip was actually in London, where we spent Monday night at Kesh & Kate’s swanky apartment in Canary Wharf.

How’s about that for a view from your living room window?! Kate fed us up on traditional English food – sausage, mash & beans followed by trifle AND Victoria sponge – in preparation for not getting anything half as good while away, and we left the following morning still feeling thoroughly stuffed to the gills.

Tuesday at noon saw us aboard the Norfolk Line ferry from Dover to Dunkirk - cheaper than Calais, and actually closer to our destination, so a double whammy. The sailing was great, very calm and not a sweaty palm in sight from yours truly. I even commented to hubby that cruising might be the way forward as far as holidays were concerned, although I’m not too sure about the whole dressing up/Captain’s table palaver. And it doesn't look like hubby's a smart dresser either, does it?!

After disembarking, a short drive brought us to the lovely town of Ypres in Belgium where we spent two nights. We didn’t do an awful lot on our first evening in town – just a short wander around the main square, a trip to the Menin Gate to see the Last Post ceremony which is performed every evening at 8pm, and then a hearty meal and a couple of drinks.

Wednesday we started the day at the German trenches, then went to Hill 60 and finished off the afternoon with a trip to one of the many war cemeteries in the area - not your standard holiday outings, but interesting nonetheless. And the cemetery was, in fact, very beautiful. We ended our trip to Ypres with a walk round the ramparts and another hearty meal in the town square.

Thursday we drove north in to the Netherlands, to the city of Rotterdam which prompted hubby to continually sing the wrong words to the Beautiful South song. Rotterdam isn’t a bad place all in all, but we decided that one day/night is enough to do it justice.

Two other things that are so far making Europe not such a bad place: 1) it is lovely and warm and sunny; 2) we can pick up BBC1, BBC2 and ITV on the TV over here – no need to miss Corrie!!!

But from hubby’s point of view one thing that takes Europe down in his estimation is that over here in the Netherlands a pepperoni pizza doesn’t come laden with tasty slices of salami, but instead with red peppers and anchovies – quite a shock to the system.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

International Jet-Setters Oop North

Hubby and I have been spending some time with the in-laws (mine, not his) oop north. From our base in Wigan we have sallied forth on a few day trips and outings.

Day Trip/Outing Number One: Southport
Well, it wasn't a day trip in the strict sense of the words since we only spent an hour there, the majority of which was spent in Waterstones and Starbucks (nice to be back in the UK enjoying these twin comforts.) Hubby had fond memories of Southport from when he used to go there in the last century with his gran "on't'buzz" (Wiganese for "on the bus".) Unfortunately, Southport didn't live up to those fond memories; Lord Street was very pleasant, with some grand buildings and a lot of shops but the seafront was somewhat let down by the recent appearance of a large retail complex featuring such delights as Matalan and McDonalds. Tell me, who goes to the seaside to shop at Matalan? Hubby was also a bit upset that the old wooden rollercoaster, the bingo halls and the train that ran the length of the pier were no more. He doesn't like change.

Day Trip/Outing Number Two: Mediaeval Fair at St Thomas the Martyr Church

This was a tip-top outing since it combined a love of food and old buildings in one fell swoop. Hubby enjoyed a glass of Mediaeval Ale and we both enjoyed a Mediaeval Hot Dog with Onions. After filling our boots we decided to go on the Church Tour, which turned out to both informative and entertaining. Who knew that we were standing in a Grade I listed former Benedictine Priory built in 1307. Yes, 1307 - that's old! Apparently it survived Henry VIII and his Reforming ways due to the fact that the monks had pawned all the silver and several of the nuns who lived there had managed to fall pregnant (and not due to the immaculate conception.) The graveyard there is also home to the last highwayman to be executed in England.

Day Trip/Outing Number Three: Grange-over-Sands & Cartmel

This was my first ever visit to the Lake District, and what a very pretty place it is, especially Cartmel (Grange-over-Sands was a little too hilly for my liking.) Cartmel had another thing in its favour, being the home of the world-famous Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding, as sold in Waitrose no less. There was also a very pretty priory (which had also survived the Reformation, although we don't know why - perhaps the Reformers were too full of pudding to do anything else.) And on the way home, we made a slight detour along a country lane where, two days earlier, we had lost the hub cap from my parents' car after hubby drove somewhat speedily through a pothole disguised as a puddle (it was a bit like the famous puddle from The Vicar of Dibley.) And, lo and behold! There was the hub cap, sitting in a water-filled ditch. It is now firmly re-attached to the parents' car; shhh, don't tell them.

Monday, 7 July 2008

A Big Thank You, and Please Keep Reading!

Just a little posting to say a big thank you to everyone who has been kind enough to email or phone following my somewhat girly behaviour regarding aeroplanes! It's great to know you're all reading the blog and, on that note, can I encourage you all to keep reading as hubby and I will be embarking on the next part of our trip (minus the air travel, so we won't make it quite as far as Australia) just as soon as we can get the old Peugeot in roadworthy condition.

Watch this space to find out where we go next!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Who Needs NYC When You've Got Bristol?!

How many weeks did we spend in NY? Four. And how many in the USA altogether? Ten. And how many celebrities did we spot in that entire time? One - JP from The F Word. And how many days we were back in Bristol before I spotted a celebrity (I use that word in its loosest sense)? One. Yes, siree, you can take your New Yorks and Los Angeleses (nice pluralisation there), all you need is a trip to Marks & Spencer at Cribbs Causeway for your fill of celebrity-spotting. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you none other than Big Brother 2 runner-up, Helen Adams. And I don't want any comments that it's sad that I recognised her! And, just so you know, I didn't ask for her autograph or try to get my photo taken with her because I am one cool customer when it comes to celebrities - I just watched her, in a very subtle manner, whilst pretending to be very interested in a display of cheese.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Greetings From... England!

No doubt you were all eagerly awaiting the next blog installment from the Land Down Under. But here's the surprise - we're still in England. Some of you may know that all the way back in New Hampshire (goodness, it seems a lifetime ago already) I had a panic attack as we drove up Mount Washington. Poor hubby was forced to turn the car around at about 5 miles in to an 8 mile uphill drive and escort his sobbing wife off the mountainside. To tell the truth, this is very unlike me - I've never had an issue with heights before, nor really with journeys up mountains, as the various bus rides in Mexico & Guatemala testify. Anyway, this weird behaviour then reared its ugly head on the flight back from NY to the UK. And then, when we got to Heathrow on Sunday morning I had another panic attack and just could not face the thought of 21 hours of flying. We'd made it through check-in, security, everything and were just minutes away from getting on the flight with boarding cards in (sweaty) hand, and I was in fits of tears. What a wuss I am! So, the most lovely Rachel & Gordon rescued us from the airport and looked after us for the day and night with fab food and general loveliness and then on Monday we drove to Bristol to hole up in my parents house while they are in Canada. Now we just have to decide what to do with the rest of our lives (as long as it doesn't involve flying, in the near future at least.) Any suggestions?!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Say Au Revoir to the Continent of Americaland!

So, this is it. After 160 days, we are about to embark on our final day on this side of the pond. It's one final 'hoorah' as we spend the next few hours (shopping and eating) in New York City before flying back to Blighty this evening at 9pm. Then we have four days at home before jetting off to Australia on Sunday.

I can hardly believe we've been away for five-and-a-half months. It seems pretty natural to be doing what we're doing now, travelling from one place to another, spending 24-7 in each other's company. I can't say I loved every minute, especially not the nasty accommodation in Liberia (Costa Rica), and the endless bus journeys in Mexico, but mostly it has been a super-duper trip of a lifetime. Thank goodness we've still got another nine weeks to enjoy on the other side of the world before reality bites!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Someone Stole Las Vegas

and dumped it next to Niagara Falls. Or so it would seem.

Hubby and I decided a trip to Canada wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Falls, but crikey heck, we were in for a shock! We have both been before but things sure have changed. Admittedly, the last time I was there was about 25 years ago so some change was to be expected, but I really wasn't prepared to be greeted by a huge Planet Hollywood, at least three waxworks museums, a huge Sheraton hotel, two casinos, three Starbucks and various other shops and eateries. If you had plonked me down amid all the tackiness and asked me to guess exactly where I was I would probably have said Las Vegas or possibly Blackpool, but I never would have thought I was just a few hundred metres from one of the great natural wonders of the world!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Desparate Measures in Fight Against Rising Fuel Costs

Oh, those poor Americans. You've got to feel sorry for them, paying all of $4.00 a gallon for "gas", while in the UK it costs the equivalent of $10.00 a gallon. Some Americans are clearly feeling the pinch and are going in for the new "compact" car.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Bonjour Canada!

Here we are in Canada; we arrived on Friday, driving from St Albans in Vermont all the way across to Guelph in Ontario in one day. We're staying with my aunt which is great as it means we get to do all those normal things that living in a house rather than a hotel allow such as sitting on a sofa, having barbecues and eating home-cooked food. Hooray! I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but sometimes it can actually get boring having to go out to eat three times a day, every day; we were just craving simple food like a cheese sandwich or a jacket potato. In America it's almost impossible to get a sandwich with just one filling - a cheese sandwich invariably also includes lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise, mustard, and sometimes even a slice of ham and, of course, once all those ingredients go between the two slices of bread the sandwich is about 4 inches high and it's quite an effort to even take a bite out of it. So getting to Aunty Pauline's means we can eat sandwiches with just cheese, and jacket potatoes, and plenty of vegetables, and everything is in a manageable size!

Of course, we count ourselves lucky to have got to Guelph in one piece after driving along Highway 401 through Toronto. The drivers were absolutely crazy, constantly cutting each other up, undertaking, overtaking, squeezing in to the tiniest spaces imaginable. Quite possibly the worse driving we have seen on this entire trip, which is saying something after Honduras. I must admit I was very surprised as I've always thought of Canadians as being quite sedate; hubby thinks perhaps it is the French influence.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

The Agatha Raisin Appreciation Society

Have you ever noticed what a teeny, tiny, little world we live in? I have, and especially in the last week. On Tuesday hubby & I met a fellow blogger for coffee in Kennebunk, Maine. Pie, as this fellow blogger is known, first left a comment on my blog when we were in Central America (Nicaragua, I think) and I was so totally chuffed that someone in the big wide world other than friends and family who may have felt obliged to, was reading my ramblings. She had stumbled across me through our mutual adoration of Agatha Raisin, the main character in such delightful books as Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death. Blogspot allows its bloggers to set up profiles which can be searched by fellow bloggers to see if we have anything in common - Pie & I are two of approximately four people in the blogging world who admit to loving Agatha.

Anyway, I'm rambling here, so to get back to the story - Pie lives in Maine which is where we were, so we arranged to meet for coffee. Hubby & I had such a lovely time meeting her - she was pretty much the first person on our travels who we have sat down with and chatted to for that length of time. We must have half bored her to death as our mouths went 20 to the dozen trying to get out nearly 6 months worth of talking. And, of course, we had to talk properly rather than in that weird code language that seems to have evolved between us while we've been travelling.

And then, to cap it all, Pie clearly thought we weren't too odd as she invited us to her house the following evening to meet her hubby and kids, and to practice our social interaction a little more! We had a great evening chit-chatting away, and it was fun to meet her children, especially Henry who greeted us with a fishing net over his head.

Anyway, isn't it a small world? Who would have thought when I started this blog back in cold and damp England in November, that seven months later we'd be sitting in a kitchen in Maine chatting over beer and wine with the natives! For this reason alone, I am really pleased that I started this blog, cos without it I wouldn't have met the lovely Pie and her family.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Can't Walk and Chew Gum or, Why Men Shouldn't Multi-Task

So, I was sitting at the computer checking my email while hubby having a shower and doing whatever else it is that men do in the 10 milliseconds that they seem to need in the bathroom, when hubby appeared looking a little sheepish. "I tried to multi-task." he said. "OK", said I "what did you do?" "Well, I was trying to save time [who knows why, since I had only managed to open one email in the entire time he was in the bathroom, so it's not like he was in there a long time anyway], so I blew my nose whilst using mouthwash." "Riiiight," I said "and what happened?" as if I (and you, dear reader) didn't already know. "Some of the mouthwash came down my nose." said hubby, in a plaintive voice.

The moral of the story for all those men out there - 'don't walk and chew gum' as the saying goes.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!

Goodness me, I think the weather gods were listening when I had a little whinge about the fog/lack of summer in Vermont. Yesterday it got hot, in fact it got very hot - in the 90s. Crikey heck, we've not seen the mercury soar like that since we were in Belize. As hubby said, it's like being on the first day of your holidays all over again, trying to get used to the heat. Not that I'm complaining, oh gosh no, I need to catch me some rays and top that tan right back up again. So, what luck that the weather held out today - again in the 90s - and is due to continue in the same vein for the rest of the week. Tantastic!

Anyway, this morning we had to give up pretending we lived at the Four Columns Inn and drag ourselves away. We just loved being there; I think it's the nicest place I've ever stayed at so I suggest that you all take a holiday to Vermont asap and stay at the Four Columns. And if you do go, be sure to try their homemade granola which is fab (and if you don't get the chance to go drop me an email as I have the recipe for said granola, which the owners very kindly gave me!)

We are now in Ogunquit, Maine. A funny little town right on the coast. As we drove here from Newfane, we stopped at the Nubble Lighthouse, apparently either "the most photographed lighthouse in the USA" or "the most famous lightouse in the world", depending on who you listen to. We added our vote to the former by taking a snap. Pretty, isn't it?

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Only in America, Part V

Hubby & I spotted this sign as we pulled in to the car park of the huge Christmas shop I mentioned a few postings ago. Firstly I would just like say "18 wheels, 18? are you sure?", I can't believe a vehicle with 18 wheels is allowed on the public highways let alone in a car park where innocent people are going about their business and wandering around in a daze admiring their purchases, having just emerged from the Christmas shop. Secondly, can anyone afford to drive something that big with petrol prices as high as they are?! And thirdly, what on earth would the driver of such a monster truck (who in my head resembles a member of ZZTop) be doing in a place that sells Christmas decorations and smelly candles?!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Summer in Vermont...

Exsqueeeeze me, but itsn't it June? Could someone tell the weather in Vermont that it is June which, in my book, is summer and which, in my book, means sunshine and NOT fog at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Thank you.

Although, having said that, these photos were taken when hubby and I were driving back to the hotel having just been to visit a nearby Christmas shop where we bought three tree decorations, so in actual fact the weather was quite apt. Did you know it's only 202 days til Christmas?

Thursday, 5 June 2008

A Blogging Epiphany

Finally, after seven months of blogging, I have worked out how to position photos WITHIN the text of the blog, rather than having to lump them all at the top. Hooray, my technological education continues apace. I'll just give myself a big old round of applause for being brilliant.
Now I just need to work out how to leave captions so I can tell you exactly what the photos are of. Give me another seven months and I'll have it sussed.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Vermont, From Top to Bottom and Side to Side

Hubby and I have traversed the length and breadth of Vermont in the last few days. On Monday morning we left the wonderful, fabulous, delightful (can you tell I liked it?) Four Columns Inn in wonderful, fabulous, delightful, pretty and quiet as a mouse Newfane with its exceptionally friendly folk (can you tell I liked it?!) and set off to drive to Burlington which is in the north-west of Vermont. We stopped along the way in Woodstock (not the one where they had the hippy festival back in the days of yore), but another Woodstock where we fortified ourselves with a cup of tea (hubby) and coffee (me), and a little look round the shops before heading off again. We arrived in Burlington about 6pm, but we were rather disappointed I'm afraid; our guide book had made us all excited with talk of a "cafe society" as hubby and I do love a cup of tea/coffee and a slice of cake, but when we got there hubby thought it looked just like Watford whereas I was a little more gracious and said it reminded me of Wellington in New Zealand. But from this you can probably gather it was just like any other city in the world. Except for the fabulous setting on Lake Champlain. Such was our disappointment that hubby announced we should return to the lovely Four Columns Inn in Newfane and spend two more nights there. Imagine my delight!

So we left Burlington on Tuesday morning and decided to spend that day and the next heading back to Newfane. We stopped in Waterbury to visit the number 1 tourist destination in the whole of Vermont. Is it a) the lodge where the Von Trapp family of Sound of Music fame lived; b) the Ben & Jerry Ice Cream Factory; c) the Windsor-Cornish covered bridge or d) Queechee Gorge, the Grand Canyon of Vermont?

Yes, that's right, it's b) the Ben & Jerry Factory. YUM! We had a tour of the factory and a free sample of one of their new flavours 'Imagine Swirled Peace', which was very good. A little way down the road we stopped in The Cabot Annex which is a shop selling lots of cheeses from around Vermont. They had about 12 different samples set out on a table which had foolishly been left unguarded so hubby and I totally filled our boots with all the varieties of cheddar, plus some crisps and crackers. Then I went next door to the chocolate shop and they had free samples too so I scoffed plenty of them. We had so many freebies that we didn't need lunch. Result! We then rolled across the parking lot and squeezed ourselves back in to the car and headed south back to Woodstock, which had looked so nice on the way through that we decided to stay there.

This morning, after a night at the very lovely Charleston House B&B, we headed for Queechee Gorge, touted as the "Grand Canyon of Vermont". Hmmm. The "Don't Blink or You'll Miss It Canyon of Vermont" might be a more apt name.

We actually had to turn the car round and drive back over the bridge as we missed it the first time. After that we decided to head for Hanover but took a wrong turning and couldn't be fussed to go back, so we carried on along the road to Windsor where they have the longest covered bridge in the USA. It makes for a lovely photo from the outside as you can see below, but actually driving across it is no great shakes as it just feels like being in a tunnel. And anyway, I don't get it, why do bridges need to be covered? Can anyone tell me? Am I missing a vital point?

So, here I am now typing this in the lovely sitting room at the lovely Four Columns Inn in lovely Newfane while poor hubby is upstairs lying down on the bed with a wet flannel clutched to his forehead, trying to figure out how exactly he is ever going to pay for this trip and what he did to deserve a wife with such expensive tastes.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Only in America Part IV - Can You Guess What It Is Yet?

This is what hubby and I did for the first time ever in Litchfield.

Yes, that's right, we used a Drive-thru ATM! We’ve seen the Drive-thru McDonalds, the Drive-thru Starbucks, but never a Drive-thru ATM. Amazing! We were so excited to use it. And, not only was there a Drive-thru ATM, there was also a Drive-Up Bank Counter.

New England and a Mojo Rediscovered

So, the first full day of our road trip found us in New Haven, home to Yale University. Urrgghhhh. What a grotbag place. The campus of Yale is very pretty, but the town of New Haven is horrid. And we stayed in what ranks as the joint worst hotel we have stayed in on this entire trip so far. So, imagine how pleased I was having had a hissy fit because we couldn't find anywhere to stay, and then ending up in a total dump in order to stay under hubby's measly $80 budget. You'll all be pleased to hear that hubby has since revised the budget in an upward direction after we didn't get to sleep until 3.30am in the horrid hotel as we were too busy jumping out of bed every 5 minutes to make sure the car hadn't been stolen or vandalised. The following day, after a large coffee to help me stay awake, we spent time being cultured and visiting the Yale Center (such terrible spelling these Americans have!) for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery (we were only this cultured because they were both free to get in to). Then we drove north to the tiny town of Litchfield, all centred round a very pretty, half-mile long village green where we stayed in a lovely little B&B (for just $20 over budget...) The following morning we went to church. Not because we have found religion, but because the First Congregational Church of Litchfield has a second hand bookshop in its basement where books are mostly $1-2! And these are good books too, not nasty old ones. The three ladies running the place were a total hoot; Martha was telling the other two about a bookshop she had been to where all the books were in a long alphabetical run, ie they didn't separate out the mystery or sci-fi or poetry or romance from the general fiction. The other two ladies thought this sounded great and wanted to get started on rearranging the entire bookshop then and there. Martha was a little concerned that this was quite a big job, but was willing to go ahead with it too. She thought they could do with some help though and suggested they find someone with Asperger's Syndrome who would "just get on with it and not stop til they had finished". And there we were thinking Americans were PC! In Litchfield we also tried something for the very first time - please see the separate posting with photos to see if you can guess what it was.

Saturday saw us heading east to the city of Hartford and a visit to the Mark Twain House. We had a fun tour round the house which is beautiful and full of lovely antiques and we learnt all about Samuel Langhorn Clemens who was apparently 5 feet 7inches tall, had red hair and a dislike of institutions; sounds like someone I know. See how cultured we are? And I didn't go to Starbucks once that day. After Hartford we headed across the state line to Amherst, Massachusetts, a pretty college town where we spent the night. It chucked it down with rain so we went to the cinema to see Sex and the City, which is very funny but, if you were a fan of the series, you may find it lacks a little something.

Sunday, we headed north. We were extremely excited (as you can see by hubby's face in the photo) to find the World's Best Christmas Shop and spent quite a while walking around ooohing and ahhhing at all the lovely stuff in there. We then crossed the state line in to Vermont. Vermont is very beautiful and very green and full of the prettiest houses you ever saw. We pass a house we want to live in approximately every 100 yards. We arrived in the tiny village of Newfane and decided to stay at The Four Columns Inn, which is without doubt one of the nicest hotels we have ever stayed in. And Newfane itself is one of the friendliest places we have ever stopped in. It felt like the lady at The Four Columns couldn't do enough for us, and I was especially pleased when the chef baked some choc chip cookies just for us and we had them warm from the oven. How fab is that? And we loved the story about Mick Jagger who stayed there for his 40th birthday. See what high circles we can mix in when the Keeper of the Purse loosens his hold on those strings?! And see how a little bit of money goes a long way towards getting wifey's mojo back?

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Having a Hissy Fit and Losing My Travelling Mojo

Hubby wants me to tell you about the little hissy fit I had this afternoon when we couldn't find anywhere to stay in New Haven. I went in to one hotel which had rooms for $80 (the limit that hubby has set us... what more can I say, The Holder of the Purse Strings is back) but it gave me the heebie-jeebies even with (or perhaps because of) its claim to fame of having the oldest hand-cranked elevator in America. Then we went to the Marriott, but the rooms there were $209 (and that's $129 over hubby's budget...) so we drove out of town a bit to look for a motel as they are usually much cheaper (and oh so lovely...). We pulled in to the forecourt of one motel and promptly turned round again as even hubby admitted it didn't look very nice. When we got to the road hubby turned to me and said "Which way shall we go?" and I replied "AAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH. I don't care! I don't want to be driving around at 7pm looking for a room. I don't want to do this anymore. I don't want to travel round New England for the next two weeks. I don't want to go to Australia. I don't want to go to South East Asia. I WANT TO GO HOME!!!!!" Hubby took it upon himself to turn right.

So, if anyone finds my travelling mojo I'm actually not sure whether I want it back right now. Perhaps you could keep it in a safe place for me til I calm down and maybe tomorrow everything will be lovely again when we are looking round Yale University at all the pretty buildings. Hubby says I need to go to the Library there as that will make me feel much better. I'll let you know.

Leaving New York

Today we left NYC. Hubby told me a couple of days ago that there is a song by REM which contains the lyrics "leaving New York's never easy". I assumed this meant that it was hard to tear yourself away from the city (and its shops) however, we discovered that what Michael Stipe meant when he sang the song was that it's difficult to find the I-95 which takes you out of city and in to Connecticut. We took at least three wrong turns in the desparate search for this darn road, but we got there in the end.

The first stop on our second American road trip of this round-the-world adventure was Greenwich, Connecticut. Apparently Paul Newman and Martha Stewart both live there but we didn't see either of them in the two hours we were there. We sat in the park and ate lunch in the sun (lovely weather at the moment) and then had a wander round the fancy shops (see photo of hubby in front of aptly-named restaurant), had a drink in Starbucks (of course) and then hit the road. Typically we chose rush hour to make the next part of our journey so it took about two hours to drive 40 miles along the coast to New Haven, home of Yale University. And this is where I have to start a new blog posting to enable you to fully appreciate the situation...

Monday, 26 May 2008

Two Trips to Brooklyn and an Afternoon in the Park

Saturday afternoon hubby and I made our first proper visit to Brooklyn, just across the water from Manhattan. Despite having visited NYC approximately 12 times each we have never made it that far. When we first emerged from the subway station I must admit I was a little worried that hubby had brought me to a place where I wouldn't be very happy. But a left turn here and a right turn there and we were in a much more salubrious area with shops and all sorts of things that were pleasing to the eye, with ne'ry a hobo in sight. After finding a fab deli where we had lunch and a very sweet cake shop where we shared a cupcake we came to the conclusion that we could live in Brooklyn - see how easily pleased we are? Some of the houses in Brooklyn are absolutely stunning so when we have a spare $3-4million we might buy one and move there. After admiring said houses we walked along Riverside Promenade and then down towards the Brooklyn Bridge under which can currently be found the Telectroscope. You may have heard of this marvellous feat of engineering whereby a huge two-way telescope has been buried under the Atlantic Ocean with one end at the Brooklyn Bridge and the other end at Tower Bridge in London. It allows people in NY and London to see each other simultaneously. And if you don't believe me, have a look at the website:

See! So, hubby and I duly queued up to have a look at London and its strange people.

Having recovered from the shock, we then got the water taxi around the bottom of Manhattan and up the other side to the Greenwich Village stop. It wasn't until we'd actually got on the boat that I remembered our last boat journey and began to regret the decision to "live life on the edge" by choosing to travel by water rather in the confines of the subway, safely ensconced under thousands of tons of earth and concrete. I announced to hubby that once we have finished this globetrotting adventure I'm never travelling anywhere by sea or air ever again. It's just not natural.

Our second trip to Brooklyn occurred the following day when we paid a visit to The River Cafe for a sumptuous and wallet-thumping brunch (remember I told you a few postings ago that we've given up backpacking for the more expensive past-time of "flashpacking"?) But you really can't beat the service, the views or the food (although hubby was a little disappointed and confused by his parsnip soup.)

And today, Memorial Day in the USA (a combination of Remembrance Sunday and a Bank Holiday in the UK), we spent a large chunk of the afternoon in Central Park with pretty much the entire population of NYC. Unlike the weather in the UK, this weekend has been a scorcher here in the city. As hubby said, "You know how the Brits go to Benidorm to get some sun? Well, this is clearly where New Yorkers come." As always in this wonderful country, there were plenty of people-watching and people-listening opportunities for those of us with eyes hidden behind sunglasses, and flappy ears twisting and turning at ten-to-the-dozen. Much fun,

But, but, but! Even better than all of the above. We found the other Magnolia Bakery shop near Central Park and THERE WAS NO QUEUE! Excuse capitals, but I have to show you how excited I am. I bought 4 cupcakes. Remarkably restrained I'm sure you'll agree. If hubby hadn't been there I'd probably have bought a lot more. But he reminded me that I already had a choc chip muffin and a peanut butter brownie in my bag so 4 cupcakes was probably more than enough. Humph. Spoilsport.