Sunday, 22 April 2012

Flash, Buxton and Ashbourne in the Peak District

Hello Readers,
I'll start out this week's entry by answering a question from our Indy neighbour Hot Rod.  On our trip home we were discussing our experience and I had mentioned that they don't have any "French" things here like french toast (called eggy toast) or french fries (called chips).  So he asked me "what do they call french kissing then?"  After we all finished laughed he told he was serious so I was tasked with bird dogging the answer.  I ended up asking one of the mothers at Kalle's school and after her initial shock wore off (thanks again Hot Rod) she told me they call it french kissing.  Anticlimactic ending but now we know.

The Better Halves Club met this week at Jack Rabbits (link).  I had a tasty ham and cheese panini with a deliciously creamy mocha coffee.  (The English definitely know how to make chocolate btw.)  Our group was seven and a half strong this time.  The half was our youngest member, six week old baby A who is adorable.  She managed to sleep through the lunch which was impressive.  We had a couple of guests also, one of our group had her parents visiting so she brought them along.  The more the merrier! 

We had a guest at the house this week, camera shy Greg from Indy.  We had a fun night plus he donated to my pub glass collection.  Double bonus!  The glass pic is at the end of blog so stay tuned.

This week's Kevin Coleman pic - With Greg over we broke out my pub glass collection.  The Kronenbourg 1664 is a premier French beer that was better than expected.

This week's "Dan Stine extreme self restraint in the face of surmounting adversity moment of the week" is the total lack of communication with the schools.  May 7 is a bank holiday so Lori has it off but the kids schedules didn't show that being an off day so I didn't have anything planned.  After checking with some parents and with the kids it appears that the kids are off also.  So... not wanting to waste any three day weekends I spun the board, tossed the dart, and... bam!  Wales it is.  I actually picked Wales because we can get there without a train or plane and don't want to pay a premium for short notice tickets.  I am almost done with planning the trip and am getting a little excited.  Wales is supposed to have picturesque coast lines and stately castles.  Ex-ci-ting!

Finally another Carol Seppanen book update.  I finished Life and Fate by Visaly Grossman (Wiki link) which tells the story of a Russian family during WWII, specifically during the battle of Stalingrad.  A thick 855 page monster that alternated between scenes of plodding, depressive human nature and painfully realistic Russian life.  Fascinating to read, the book was a grim portrayal of the oppressive Russian life in the early 1900's. 

Borrowing from Steve Frey's blog (thanks Steve) I am including a YouTube link (YouTube link) to an informative clip that explains some of the UK, Britain, Ireland, etc. terminology.  I found it to be entertaining and informative so hopefully you will as well.

Since we spent Saturday doing homework and mostly staying inside I booked a Peak District tour for Sunday.  Lori tried punking us by taking the GPS with her to Indy this week but we persevered!  Instead of guarding the house all weekend I Mapquested our trip and promoted Karl to Assistant to the Regional Navigator.  I did plan a short trip since exploring with a GPS can be frustrating enough already, exploring without one is just foolish.  Plus we didn't want to do anything fun since Lori would miss out.  So armed with a four page Mapquest itinerary and a half tank of gas we started off. 

Unfortunately the on again - off again rainy weather didn't cooperate and I didn't get as many scenery pictures as I was hoping for.  It was cloudy when we departed, rained in the hills, sunny when we returned, and rained again in the evening.  Overall the weather has been very good since we have been here so no complaining from me.
Our trip.  Points A (under E) and E is our house.  Point B is Flash, Point C is Buxton, and Point D is Ashbourne.  The green on the map between Ashbourne and Buxton is the Peak National Park or Peak District.

I picked Flash since it is the highest elevation village in Britain.  Scenic drive on decent roads but the constant rain prevented us from taking many decent pictures.  The village had a small school, church and fifteen houses - bigger than I expected. 

One of the unpredictable parts of travelling here is the folklore you will run into.  I'm not sure how much of the stories are true but I'll fill y'all in anyway.  In Ashbourne's Heritage Centre we were told the "flash in the pan" story origin.  A few years back (remember that a few years to the Brits is slightly different than a few years to us Yanks) there were "some men who should have known better" in Flash who were making counterfeiting coins.  When heating the metals to melt them, the metals would jump or flash which supposedly started the expression.  In researching Flash it was known for its lawlessness, specifically mentioning counterfeiting and cock fighting, so maybe the story is true.

On the drive to Buxton.

Also on the drive to Buxton, sky is starting to clear now

Our next stop was Buxton, the highest elevation market town in Britain.  Market town is an expression to signify towns large enough to host markets of different varieties.  Once again the weather prevented me from getting decent pictures or exploring Buxton.  Maybe we'll go again on a sunny afternoon and get better pictures.

After Buxton we headed to Ashbourne to eat at George & Dragon.  Monday is an unofficial bank holiday, St. George and the Dragon Day.  My Scandinavian trip readers will remember the Stockholm post (link) where I drooled over the St. George and the Dragon Sculpture in the cathedral.  So with this being the holiday weekend I wanted to do an activity but found all kiddie or adult activities, nothing for teenagers.  So when I found the George & Dragon pub online I figured that was the best I was going to get on short notice.  

When we arrived in Ashbourne the weather had cleared so we could explore the town on foot.  Ashbourne was small so the walking tour was short and sweet.  You can read about St. George and his legend here. 

Relatives Mark?

Maybe get Keith a summer job here to learn the family business?

George & Dragon pub.  Happy St. Georges Day!

 Since it is Sunday we had to have Sunday roast or eat elsewhere.  I wanted to eat here so we chose to stay.  We had two choices: First choice was meat - beef, pork, or lamb.  Second choice was big Yorkshire pudding boat or small Yorkshire puddings on the side.  We all chose the boat option and then each picked a different meat.  After ordering we sat down to wait for our meal and watched some marathon race taking place in London.  I don't know what the race was but thought the overhead shots of Tower Bridge and Tower of London were neat since I've been there.  Definitely one of the many bonuses of travelling - seeing places on TV that I've seen in person.  Within a seemingly few minutes they brought out the food - a huge (6-7 inch diameter) pudding bowl holding mashed potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and cauliflower topped with meat served Dana style - drowning in gravy.  Very good and very, very big.  We were all glad we stayed since it tasted better than we expected.  But then again, what doesn't gravy make better?

My lamb roast.  Look familiar Dana? 

Kalle's pork roast.  She was the only one with stuffing but since she doesn't like it she gave it to KJ and I.

Market Place in Ashbourne, the market centre dates back to 13th century.  The memorial on the right is to Francis Wright, some "prominent figure in Ashbourne".  Never heard of him.

The white building is a 16th century timber framed building.

Shrovetide Football.  Now this was interesting.  You can check out the website here.  It is a two day football game played on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday with a round basketball sized ball filled with shaved cork.  The ball weigh six pounds dry and eleven pounds wet which is common since most of the game is played in the river bed.  The goal posts are three miles apart on opposite ends of the town and the sides have about three thousand players each at the height of the popularity.  The only out of bounds are cemetaries, churches and another place I forget.  The ball is carried like in American football.  Sounded like sand lot football.  

St. Oswald's Parish Church, consecrated in 1241.  We couldn't tour inside since there was a service in session.  To bad because we missed a carved marble effigy, "splendid monuments", and "one of the finest pre-Raphaelite windows in the country".  Sounded pretty good.

The kids in front of St. Oswald's 212 foot single spire.
The lower floor was built in 1610, upper floor was built in 1848.

Bust of Catherine Booth.  Wife of the founder of The Salvation Army and Ashbourne native.

This week's Steve Frey pic - strange looking tufted head ducks.

Shrovetide plinth - start of the shrovetide football game.  Prince Charles "turned up" the ball to start the 2003 game.

One of Kal's travelling window pics on the way home from Ashbourne.

Kojak admiring the new Boddington's glass - thanks Greg!

Thanks for listening,

Monday, 16 April 2012

Holidaying in the States

Hello readers,
We are back from from our U.P. and Indy holiday/vacation.  The Brit's "holiday" is our "vacation", I believe the Brit's "bank holiday" is our "holiday" but am not 100% sure.  I am sure one of my fact checkers (Steve for English geography/terminology, Dana for English culture/customs) will correct me if I am wrong. 

We had fun at home and it was great to see family and friends.  Lori and the kids had mixed feelings returning to the UK (sightseeing is awesome, miss family/friends) while I am glad to be back.  Lori says I have it too good here and she may be right (or is that correct Jim Lang?) but I am excited for our sightseeing trips this summer.  We all miss everyone at home but our fantastic journey is just beginning so I wanted to get back and continue the experience.  I may be a scrooge but if it were up to me we would have spent the Easter break holidaying in Europe instead of going home but the timing was good to go home so off we went. 

We had a rough start getting there, our Newark to Chicago pilots were delayed getting to Newark so we missed our Chicago to Hancock flight.  The airline did put us up in a hotel in Chicago but after eight hours in a plane followed by eight hours in a terminal followed by an uncomfortable plane ride to Chicago we were up for about twenty four hours as we finally arrived at our compensatory hotel.  By now we are very tired, kind of crabby (not just me) and out of patience.  So what would make it better?  How about having a room overlooking the pool?  It sounded like rock and roll party night with music thumping the walls and screams punctuating the air as we entered the room.  Talk about capping off a frustrating day.  Lori called the front desk and they switched us a quieter room so our day finally ended.  One note from the day - it felt weird seeing the Welcome to the USA sign in the Newark airport.  We have been here long enough that it feels like home to me but in my heart I'll always be a US citizen so I felt a little conflicted seeing the sign.  Feelings sure can be confusing - good thing I don't have many left.  (Inside joke for my long suffering wife.  Love ya Lor!)  Flying wasn't all bad however.  We saw the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty from a distance as we flew into Newark on the return trip which I thought was neat.

A day later and a few dollars longer (love the exchange rate going home) we are back at Mom and Dad's.  I won't cover our two weeks in great detail, I'll just try to hit the highlights.  My apologies if I miss something/someone in my recollections. 

We met the Stines at Mom and Dad's since they've been avoiding us for the last six months. We went to Silver Mountain which is close to my parents.  Not many pictures here but we all had fun (I think) since it was a pretty nice day.  After trekking the small mountain we had Irene's Pizza which is a must have every time we return.  Much better than the Italian style thinner than thin crust topped with a miser's portion of meat and vegetables we get over here.  They do have American style pizza here but it is a little "different" so I was really looking forward to US style pizza.

Information board.

Sadie in red coat.  Lori and Christy not surprisingly doing more talking than walking - you can barely make them out guarding the back trail.  Women!
Ethan, Sadie, Karl, Kalle and Bear (SQUIRREL!).  Cute pic of Ethan and Sadie, much cuter than the previous pic on my camera of Ethan giving Sadie bunny ears.  Not sure what akimbo Kalle is huffing about.  Girls!
One of the trip highlights - Karl drove the tractor by himself.  Also a rare picture of dad wearing matching colour clothes.  He has a history of leading edge clothes fashion but today's outfit was colour coordinated for some reason.  Must be close to laundry day.  He also has a history of inappropriate tee shirts I am carrying on with the help of Hardcore Dan Stine and others.  Stand up btw Dad, good thing Grandma Rose wasn't there or else she would given you a lecture on posture. 

Another highlight for Karl was being able to shoot our guns.  One of the cultural differences here is that guns are the eighth deadly sin but swearing, nudity, drug use, drinking, sex and violence is all okay on TV.
Thanks for stopping by Tim.  I haven't seen cousin Tim in a few years so he was gracious enough to be walked by his sled dogs up to say hi.  We'll catch Michelle and daughter Aurora on the next trip.  Aurora just turned six months old and hadn't been to Mall of America yet so Michelle took her - what a great Mom!  Too funny Michelle.

We had birthday cake in Alston for Karl, Kalle and Ma.  Better than the cake was the sauna (sow-na not saw-na to us Yoopers).  Thanks Joanie and Jim.

We saw as many family and friends as we could.  Budding pig farmer Rog and Heather, Mary Jo and Mister Rogers plus Christopher (Karl used to call Mary's husband Robert Mister Rogers when he was small and it has been a joke ever since), Ronnie and Donna (enjoy retirement Ronnie), Rick and Wanda, my Grandma Rose (starting to slow down as she approaches number 99), Meg and Lucas, Aunt B and Uncle Fran, Aunt Joanie and Uncle Jim, Tim, Kunick, and Buck (thanks again for the gift, Lori loves it).   We also assembled Mom's elliptical so no more excuses on bad weather days Ma! 

Karl had another first, splitting wood with a splitting maul.  He found out that it isn't as easy as it looks but did improve with some direction.  Splitting wood with Dad brought back memories of MANY summer days splitting, cutting, hauling and stacking wood for the ever hungry wood stove in the basement.  Karl officially became a teenager on the trip, Lori and I are soooooo excited for those years to start.

We also saw Stan and Linda (thanks for the liver in meat tip Linda, I think Lori is on a chicken only diet now), Dana and Becky, Tina and her cousin Tammy, Mark and Kathy, Frank (see you next time Darby), Kevin and Kathy, Renee, Hot Rod and Steph (I'll have your answer in my next blog Hot Rod), and Christy Powell.  The kids saw their friends and managed to squeeze in a few sleep overs which was great.

We ate at a few home restaurants - Irene's, Ambassador, Chipotle, BW3, Bob Evans, Flap-Jacks, Cold Stone; the only item I missed was a steak.  Maybe next time.  We did get an Easter dinner with Tina at Bob and Lona's which tasted great.  We also ran some errands which included dentist visits and clothes shopping.  I am still recovering from the clothes shopping.  Growing kids is not good for the pocketbook, plus Karl is wearing a size 12.5 shoe which is a half size less than me.  I guess the good news is that I will be able to wear his shoes now.  Bad news is he is only thirteen.  I also put together a seventy-five slide Power Point presentation on our experience for Kalle's US class that everyone seemed to enjoy.  The teachers liked it and the students had about 200 questions so I think it was a success.  She spent a day with her old class which she really enjoyed.    

The kids in The Ambassador in front of the Portage Canal Lift Bridge.  You can read about the bridge on Wiki.

This week's Dana Johnson pic - Tostada pizza from The Ambassador.

Kalle and Bear looking for Easter eggs.  Kalle 11, Bear 0.

It was great to see the Johnson's and Tina (not pictured). 

The Beagle Girls in time out.  Deceptively cute, I'm sure they are really planning their next crime spree.

One afternoon we went to The Exotic Feline Rescue Center near Center Point, IN.  Interesting tour with tigers, lions, cougars, bobcats, lynx and other felines but not as good as I expected.  Most of the felines are from circuses or illegal pets.  Not many good pictures due to the fence and feline nap time.  Not sure if the pictures count as Steve Frey worthy or not.  Somewhat domesticated animals unless you are in the fence with them I am guessing.
It's good to be king.

This cougar must have seen us and thought of lunch.

White tiger that purred to the tour guide.  The guide said cats either purred or roared.  Purring is good, roaring is bad.  Also per the guide the white tigers are rare since they are a product of intentional inbreeding.  If I remember correctly she said one in seven or eight white tigers live to adulthood due to the side effects of repeated inbreeding. 

600 pound tiger that paced near us the whole time.  Very unnerving.  One of the other tigers roared a few times and sprayed at the group.  This area was boxed in by four cages holding the big tigers so the group was constantly looking around us so we didn't get sprayed and could see all the pacing tigers.  A little unsettling even with the cages enclosing the tigers.  Except for fearless Kalle who was all over the area.

Female lion eating some salad after her meal. 

 Tiger still working on its lunch. 

We can't stop in Indy without stopping by Mark's Bar!  When you coming to see us Homey?

I did find it interesting that driving on the right side of the road felt natural after being away six months.  It also felt natural to drive on the left side now that I am back in Merry Old England.  Not sure what to make of it. 

We passed our six month anniversary last week.  Some random thoughts on our first six months... a lot of American influences here (music, clothing, Ford cars, TV shows,advertising, etc.) so it doesn't always feel like we are living in a foreign country.  Sightseeing has been great and we are excited about our tentative summer/fall trips - Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Croatia, Israel.  Not to mention Italy, Spain, Greece and the others I had planned for next year.  Plus local sights like Dover, London, York, Stonehenge, Liverpool, etc.  Weather has been pretty good, warm enough and sunny enough for me.  People have been friendly.  A very good start to a great experience.   

And I would be remiss if I didn't thank mom and dad and Bob and Lona for all of your hospitality.  Free housing, transportation, meals - hard to beat that deal.  Thanks again for all you did for us.

And finally, my facial hair of the month is the Kojak or no hair.  Not exactly by design but I have had a few interviews for a Project Engineer position so I had to look respectable.  No word on the job yet but I will keep everyone posted.  I asked the kids what they thought of me working and they were both for it.  Karl was okay with it, Kalle was excited for it.  She wants us to eat out.  I guess we all know what she thinks about my cooking now.  Oh well, things can always be worse... right?

Thanks for listening,