Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Day in Deal

We spent the day enjoying Deal. Ruth did a trail ride with a local stable this morning, even though it was a bit wet. Meanwhile the rest of us were unable to resist the siren song of the bookstore, all the more as we were looking for a dry place to wait on Ruth. As usual, we left with all kinds of goodies. By the time we picked Ruth up, the rain had mostly cleared out, so we decided to have lunch at Jasin's Restaurant, out on the pier. Afterwards, we had ice cream and coffee at the Deal Beach Parlour. We then walked down to the castle and then ended up playing on the beach for a while before heading back to our house. We wrapped up the day with a lovely visit with our landlords, who live upstairs. It was such a wonderful and relaxing day, and we enjoyed ourselves very much!

The pier, with Jasin's Restaurant at the end

Looking back at Deal from the pier

Walking along the pier

You know we had to stop and take a photo with the giant statue!

Ice cream on a cold day

Deal Castle




The rocky beach is fun for everyone!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What's the Deal?

We arrived at our new home in Deal, England, late Monday afternoon, just as the sun was preparing to call it a day, so we didn't really have a chance to look around. During the night, crazy rain, wind and fog set in, literally cutting off our view of our surroundings. It only let up this morning, so we were finally able to take a good look around and get the lay of the land. Deal is an adorable little sea town, and our house sits just across the street from the rocky beach and the English Channel. This afternoon, we drove over to St. Margaret's at Cliffe for tea. We also got to visit a lovely garden and walk a coastal path up to a lighthouse, which offered us nice views of the white cliffs of Dover, the Channel, and France. When we got home, Weston made a spectacular steak dinner for us, which was the perfect end to the day.

We only occupy the bottom floor on the left side of this townhouse,
but with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a large well-equipped kitchen,
it feels like a mansion compared to the last several places before this. 

This sits about ten paces from our front door!

One advantage of having the same address for more than a week
is the ability to have packages delivered.
It was like Christmas around here when our Amazon package
containing our Russian train entertainment arrived!

We had tea at the tea room on the right this afternoon.
You can see the white cliffs on the left. 

We enjoyed a day of sun, taking in some beautiful sights!

I was taking a picture of the Winston Churchill statue,
but when Clay saw me with my camera, he stopped to pose.

Simple Beauty

If you look closely, you can see France in the distance.

We enjoyed a wonderful walk along the White Cliffs of Dover.

South Foreland Lighthouse

Sunday, January 24, 2016

More London Fun

Since we were all up and at 'em a little earlier this morning, and since we are now pros at using London's public transportation systems, we made it into the city a little earlier this morning than we did yesterday morning. We had hopes of joining a walking tour, using our hop-on, hop-off tour ticket, but at the last minute, we changed our plans and decided to stop at King's Cross station, instead of the one nearest the meeting place of the walking tour. There, we followed the signs for platforms 9 and 10, and found ourselves at Platform 9 3/4, where we saw Harry Potter's trolley, right outside the Harry Potter store. The kids were so thrilled with this stop, and we got them each a little souvenir. The older boys chose Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, which provided entertainment for most of the rest of the day. Clay chose a chocolate lollipop, and Ruth opted for a Gryffindor ink pen. (None of that will mean anything to you, though, if you haven't read the Harry Potter books or at least seen the movies, so I apologize if you have no idea what I'm talking about.)

After that fun stop, we hustled back on the train and headed to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard. It was fun to see all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the ceremony. Plus, it was nice to get a good look at the palace, since commercial vehicles, like our tour bus, aren't allowed to drive in front of it.

From there, we walked through Green Park and Hyde Park, taking advantage, once again, of the surprisingly sunny weather. We decided to picnic in Hyde Park, next to The Serpentine Lake, where the swans, geese, and ducks entertained us while we ate. Our last act in the park was to visit Speaker's Corner, where, on Sundays, the public is invited to speak about whatever might be on its mind. The only caveat is that an individual who wishes to speak must be at least six inches off royal soil, so you need to bring your "soapbox," which is where, we were told, the saying "On your (my) soapbox" comes from.

We spent the rest of the afternoon aboard the hop-on, hop-off bus, seeing the interesting sights of the city and being thankful that we weren't seeing it on foot with the millions of other people wandering around. We are big fans of the hop-on, hop-off bus tour and will likely try it again sometime in another city.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in London, but we'll wrap it up tomorrow with a trip to Real Russia (the travel agency we are working with to book our Trans-Mongolian train trip), finalizing our visa applications for Russia and China, before heading to the coast for a few days, while they process everything.

Platform 9 3/4

A sweet treat for a sweet boy

Bertie Bott's Every Flavored Beans

Some of the flavors are truly disgusting,
but that is part of the appeal to boys, I think.

Buckingham Palace

The royal pipers during the Changing of the Guard

More Changing of the Guard pageantry

A walk in the royal park

Swan Love

A man on his "soapbox" in Speaker's Corner

Harrod's Department Store
(I personally think this building is prettier than Buckingham Palace!)

Piccadilly Circus:
London's answer to Times Square

You can't see it very well because of the fish decor,
but this is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.
We were so tempted to hop off the bus and go it to try it,
but Jeff and Weston already had big plans to hit the sports bar
in our hotel to watch real American football.

It was a full, fun, and fatiguing day!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

"Look, kids, Big Ben, Parliament"

We got up this morning, ate our hot cross buns (seriously), hopped on an iconic double decker bus which took us to the tube station, where we changed modes of transportation and headed into the center of London to explore some of the famous sites. But, unlike Clark Griswold and his family in European Vacation, we opted for the hop on, hop off bus option, rather than driving ourselves around in circles. This was our first experience with a hop on, hop off bus, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Our ticket included the bus tour, plus a boat tour on the Thames. (It also included a walking tour, which we didn't get to. But, the ticket is good for two days, so maybe we'll get to that tomorrow.) It was chilly (especially on the top deck of the open-air bus), but the sun was shining this morning, which I think may be something of a miracle, so we soaked it up. Both our bus guide and our boat guide were entertaining and knowledgeable, and we learned a great deal about the city. Our one big stop for the day was the Tower of London, where we got to see interesting torture devices, gobs of armor and "weaponary," and the very special crown jewels. From there, we also had a great view of Tower Bridge, which everyone really loved.

Trafalgar Square

Westminster Abby

Big Ben
(You can't actually see Big Ben, as it is the name of the bell inside
the clock tower. But everyone has taken to calling the tower itself
by that familiar moniker. So, there you go.)

Parliament, sitting on the bank of the Thames

The London Eye, with Big Ben in the background

St. Paul's Cathedral

London Tower

Clay's favorite part of the day was visiting the armory

The crown jewels live here

Cruising on the Thames, with Tower Bridge behind us

London Bridge, not to be confused with the more iconic Tower Bridge.
Thankfully, it did not fall down on us as we cruised underneath.
However, it has actually fallen five times over the years,
so I guess there is some truth to the nursery rhyme.

Friday, January 22, 2016

You might be a world traveler if...

1. ...You changed time zones three times in two days.

2. ...One day you drove on the right and the next day you drove on the left.

3. ...You conducted business in four different languages in two days.

4. ...You spent the time on the ferry between Spain and England applying for visas to Russia and China.

5. ...You got confused by all the visa stamps in your passport and had to recount them several times to make sure you didn't overlook any.

6. ...You emptied all the euros out of your pocket and stashed them in your car's console, while simultaneously snatching up all the pounds and pence (and filtering out several other currencies) to fill the void in your pocket.

7. ...You have a system for showing your passports to border officers.

8. ...You considered it a personal victory that your third crossing of the English Channel in the last five months did not result in any puking.

9. ...You stopped for groceries and were thrilled to discover a photo booth where you could have visa photos made.

10. ...Your children often begin sentences in this way: "On our next trip around the world..."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Last Day in Porto

Really into the Ramos Pinto's logo

Ramos Pinto calls this display "The Piano" 

The view of the river and the old town from Graham's winery

The Graham's bottles were very unique 

We decided to combine our previous experience in a Portuguese speaking country
with our current one, by having lunch at a Brazilian restaurant.

We love Porto!