Monday, March 25, 2013

God's Own County - Yorkshire

Did you know that no matter where you are in England,
you are never more than 75 miles from the coast?
Did you know that England is about the same size as Alabama?

I've mentioned before how much I love to travel by train, 
but there is really no better way to see England than by car.
Of course, I'm not the one driving so that's easy for me to say.
But, Matt loves it, too.

Yorkshire Countryside

A few weeks ago, we took a weekend trip up to Yorkshire for a look see.  Yorkshire is the largest county in England and is in The North.  As soon as we got out of London we began seeing signs pointing the way to The NORTH!  I love that.  I think we should adopt this in the US.  I'd love to see signs leading the way to The South.  

Yorkshire Road Trip

The highways motorways in the UK are great.   Road signage is plentiful and very detailed.  I'm still figuring out some of them, but most are pretty clear.  There are plenty of well-marked emergency refuge areas.  You will also notice quite a few Speed Cameras.  And obviously everything is reversed.  You drive in the far left lane and pass only on the right. 

Yorshire Road Trip Petrol Station

Gas stations are familiar looking with just a few differences.  First, it's called petrol not gas.  You will also notice it's sold by the litre rather than the gallon.  This works out to about $8.50 per gallon and diesel is a little more.  Diesel cars are very popular in the UK and they get great mileage.  We have one and can go forever on a tank.  I'm also in love with the Motorway Service Centers.  They are large, clean centers with fast food, cafes, coffee shops, bookstores, grocers, etc.  They are open and safe with huge clean bathrooms with showers.  Like a truck stop in the US but much nicer. 

Yorkshire Road Trip

Once we got into Yorkshire and off of the Motorway, everything changed; narrow lanes, hedgerows, roundabouts, dry stone walls, villages, markets, moors, sheep and pubs.  I turned on the radio and snuggled into the heated seat.  Then with Matt and Helga (our GPS) leading the way, I sit back and soak up England and the Yorkshire countryside.   

Yorkshire Road Trip

Yorkshire Road Trip

Yorshire Road Trip

Yorkshire Countryside

Yorkshire Wall

Lichen covered dry stone wall in Yorkshire

Yorkshire Sheep

Window Scene in Yorkshire

Muffins at Yorkshire Market

Red Lion

Yorkshire Church

Yorkshire Road Trip

Walking along Yorkshire Road

Road in Yorkshire

Yorkshire Sheep

Yorkshire Lambs

View of Dry Stone Wall in Yorkshire

Foothpath Sign

Several days later, we left Yorkshire with me declaring that I wanted to live there.  
(This usually happens wherever we go, mind you.)

I've broken our trip into the following posts which I'll be publishing over the next week or so.

York Minster
Skipton Castle
The Wheatley Arms
Bolton Abbey

I hope you enjoy the Yorkshire Road Trip!

Friday, March 22, 2013

I Spy Friday

On one of my last few days at work, I came up from the tube station into a light rain.  As I pulled up my hood, the rain suddenly turned into big, fat, fluffy snowflakes. I walked to the bus station and instead of getting under the shelter, I stood on the sidewalk and imagined myself in a London snow globe.

It was dusk.  London must have the best lighting specialist.  Even on the worst days the lighting at dawn and dusk can take your breath away.  I was in a movie, standing on a London sidewalk with magical snow falling from the sky.  Everyone was rushing by, hunkered down under black umbrellas, anxious to get into a warm pub.  I looked out over the Thames and had a moment.  London in the snow is beautiful.  I tilted my head back to catch a snowflake on my tongue.

It landed on my eyeball. 

Aaaaand... moment over.  

London Snow

Sorry, but that's kind of what my last few weeks have been like, the good, the bad and the fluffy.

The Good.

I'm done with the job.  My coworkers were so sweet I almost regretted leaving (almost).  They took me out for a curry, gave me wine and chocolate.  I was surprised at the effort considering I was only there for a few months.  It made my day.

I've attended some great blogging events recently and I'm learning so much about the technical stuff.  I have a new URL for my site.  It's  (I've updated my badge.)  I also installed Disqus for my commenting.  I'd love your feedback.  Please let me know if you have any trouble. 

I had some friends over for lunch last weekend which was fantastic!  It was the first visitors we've had to our apartment (great excuse to get it clean).  Friends are definitely the last piece of the Expat Puzzle and probably one of the most important ones.  It was such a fun day.  I didn't want them to leave.   

The Bad.

There was a 4am phone call that makes every mother bolt straight out of bed.  It's amazing what one can discern from that one shaky word "Mom."  My mind instantly knew this is more serious than a fender bender but less serious than an ambulance ride.  "I think I broke my foot."  And she was right.   

I could easily insert a rant here.  About US retail companies that don't give their employees full-time hours (even after 6 years of service) so that they don't have to give them health benefits.  About how expensive health insurance is in the US.  About how my daughter has had to live life without health coverage for the past 5 years.  About the orthopedist who refused to see my uninsured daughter without $500 up front, spent 5 minutes with her and then told her to come back in two weeks (with another $150).   

She just started a new full-time job a few weeks ago and her health benefits kick in in a few months.  Luckily, her new employer has been extremely helpful and it looks like she will only be out for a few weeks.  She is working so hard to get her life going and I hate to see her face these challenges.  It sucks being away from her in times like this!  But, she is one tough cookie.

I had such big plans for this first week at home.  I had lists!  But, instead I've spent the week curled up on the couch under a blanket with a chest cold.  The week has gone by in a blur of hot tea and tissues.   

And I hate to go there, but the weather is so not helping!  Spring is dragging her feet and everyone is just over it.  I just want the feel of sunshine on my skin.  Is that too much to ask?  I think I'll just end this here before it turns into a foot-stomping, full-on hissy fit.  

Here are a few more London in the snow photographs from a few weeks ago.  Hopefully, this will be the last of it. 

London Snow

London in the Snow
London Winter Skyline

London Snow

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Has Spring arrived yet where you are?


P.S.  You might have noticed I've added a few BlogLovin buttons!  Have a click!!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Stalking the Locals in Salzburg

To nap or not to nap.  That is the question.
After our Sound of Music Tour, we went back to the room to regroup.
The clean white sheets were calling my name and we had that discussion that we
often have on a travel day at about 2pm.
"Should we nap?"

I will admit that occasionally the answer is a resounding "Yes."  And those are some of the best naps.
But, not on this day.  We decided that we just couldn't do it.
It would be a shame to leave Salzburg without experiencing
the views from the Hohensalzburg Castle.

I'm so glad we got up and out, because what came later was one of the highlights of the trip.

Salzburg, Austria

A funicular took us up to the Fortress which was built in 1077
and is one of the largest fortresses in Europe.
It also has the distinction of being one of the few that was never conquered in her long history. 

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, Austria

There are several tours and attractions including a Fortress Museum and a Marionette Museum.
As it was off-season, not everything was open but the views from the top are not to be missed.
Austria takes my breath away with its majestic mountains and medieval rooftops.

Salburg, Austria

Austrian Alps

Austrian Alps
Last week, I had the privilege of attending a travel bloggers meeting sponsored by BritMums.
It was an amazing day and I'm still buzzing with ideas and inspiration.

One of the guest speakers was from the Tourist Board of Costa Brava.
In his charming, Spanish accent, he passionately told us
"Don't just give me castles and cathedrals, give me a story."

When we travel, we try to hit the highlights of the city that we are visiting.
What will we regret not seeing or doing if we never get back to this place?
And in most big cities of Europe, that involves castles and cathedrals.

But, we also try to spend some time "stalking the locals."
Which led to one of the best evenings of our trip,
and hey, it involved beer.
Win. Win.

 Best beer hall in Europe Sazlburg, Austria

Our Sound of Music tour guide told us not to  miss the beer hall so we marked it on the map and headed that way.  It was late on a week night and once we got out of the main tourist district things quieted down.  After a bit of wandering, we found a small door that we thought must be the right place.
Matt tried it a few times but it wouldn't open.
We were about to just go back to the hotel when Matt tried that handle one more time and it opened.  

We followed the sound of laughter and smell of food through the halls
and eventually found the Augustiner Braustubl.

I'm sure in the high season many tourists find this place.  
It's highly rated on all the travel sights as one of the best beer halls in Europe.
But on this night, it seemed we were the only tourists there.
Beer Hall in Salzburg, Austria

 This is a traditional Austrian Beer Hall
that serves beer brewed by Monks in a tradition dating back hundred of years.

We found a place to sit and Matt sent me off to figure out how to get a beer.
You should have seen my beaming face when I returned a short while later with two frothy mugs.
Success!  I did get in trouble and there was some back and forthing but I figured it out.  

Here is a video from Samantha Brown that gives you the basics.  Take a look.
I had no idea what the fountain was for, I thought maybe rinsing between pints.
And the part she doesn't show is where you go visit the man at the cashier booth
to pay for your pints.  Or in my case, ask about the wine selection and get scolded in German.

Salzburg, Austria

I think it was probably the best pint of beer I've ever had.

Matt was sent on a mission to find food
and soon after he proudly plopped this massive plate of meat down in front of me.  

Augustiner Beer Hall in Salzburg, Austria

"Um. What's that?"
"Pork knuckle."
"I'm not eating pig's feet."
"It's not trotter."
"Trotter?  I'm definitely not eating trotter...  What's trotter?"
"Pig's feet."
"See.  I'm so not eating that."
"It's the knee, not the foot"
"I'm gonna find something else."
  Austrian Food in Salzburg, Austria

I came back with a baked potato and a pretzel, 'cause you can never have too many carbs after a long day of exploring.  (I did taste the pork and it was pretty good.)

This was the coolest place.  In the photo below, you see cabinets lining the walls with plaques.
The locals keep their own mugs locked up in the cabinets for when they visit. 
But it was really all about the atmosphere.

There are several big halls, each open and well lit,
completely different from a small, dark British pub.
Large family groups were laughing and enjoying each others company.
It was festive but in a relaxed way. 

Salzburg, Austria

I can't recommend a trip to Austria highly enough. 
We are still talking about it and it's a definite favorite for us both.
The scenery, the train rides, the food and the people all made for a very memorable weekend.

View from the Hohensalzburg, Castle

And I promise to remember those wise words
and to not give you only castles and cathedrals as we continue our journey.

What has been your most memorable trip?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Six Degrees of Celebration

One. Matt & I had drinks at the Maple Leaf recently before a movie.

Two. The Maple Leaf is a Canadian Pub.

Three.  I like Canadian bacon.

Four.  Before the movie, they played this ad featuring Kevin Bacon (hysterical!)

Five.  The movie we saw was The Hobbit.

Six.  The movie was filmed in New Zealand.

The point of this post...

A few weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon, we joined four thousand young 
Kiwis in London as they celebrated the 30th Annual Waitangi Day Pub Crawl.

Each year New Zealanders in London celebrate with a Pub Crawl along the Circle Line.
This year the Circle Line happened to be closed for "scheduled maintenance"
but they managed without it. 
We didn't actually join the pub crawl part.

 (Well, maybe for just one.)
We did join them as they gathered at Old Palace Road between Parliament and Westminster Abbey for a Haka.

Doesn't she look just like Zooey Deschanel?
Everyone was in such good spirits.  There was quite a bit of drinking,
but nothing too rowdy.
They had a large area blocked off for them and a decent police presence.


These airline hostesses rode through on their Boris Bikes with cardboard
Air New Zealand airplanes around them.  Very cute.

At 4pm a large group of young men tore off their shirts and performed a traditional Haka. 
Unfortunately, I couldn't get close enough to see it.  

It was freezing that day, none of them seemed in a rush to put their shirts back on. 
(Serious blogger here.  Documenting life in London just for my readers.)


"Come on down from there, Mate."
He came down and they shook hands and had a laugh together.  

Everyone disbursed peacefully after the Haka, off to their after parties.  
I read later that there were no arrests.
The police were very friendly with the revelers, posing for pictures and
even letting them pose on their bikes.


So, if you are out and about next February
and see some people dressed up as sheep,
follow them to Parliament
and you might get to see a Haka!


P.S.  Sorry there are so many pictures, but I just couldn't narrow it down any further.  And the commercial is only included because I think it's really funny, (and I love Kevin Bacon) not for the benefit of the advertiser.