Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Our First Day on Elegance of Britain Trip

Ray and Jackie
We have been home from our visit to the United Kingdom for about three weeks now and I am finally over (hopefully) the cold that caught me while riding the London Tube.  At least, that is what I am blaming.  We traveled and visited so many places in England and Edinburgh, Scotland that I will divide our adventures in a number of posts.  I had visited London three other times, but never ventured far from the city, so was excited to see the rest of the country.  Ray had never been to this was all new for him.

Bruce and Stephanie
We traveled with our friends, Stephanie Stephens and Bruce Thompson.  When we began planning this trip we thought that renting a car would be the best way to see everything on our lists....but then memories of another trip in Las Vegas, where three were calling out directions to the driver (me) on the strip during rush hour (which seems to be all of the time).  That was the first and only time I have ever stopped a car, gotten out, and offered the wheel to anyone willing to drive.  We laugh now, but the tension  was not fun.  Thoughts of driving on the left side of the road in unfamiliar territory...and knowing that each of us think we 'know' the correct route even though we have no clue was reason to find a tour that would take us to most of the places on our lists.

I had doubts about this decision as I had never been on this type of tour.  When traveling overseas my sister and I did rent a car in Ireland and all other times I have used public transportation...and liked the flexibility.  (Driving a stick shift in Ireland was a bit unnerving with two young children in the back seat crying that we were going to wreck.  We finally figured that if I, the passenger, would work the shift with my right hand...then the driver could work the pedals.  Ah...but that is another trip and the children are adults back to this trip.)  After traveling on this tour, I think I am ready to try it again.  We took the Elegance of Britain offered by Insight Tours.  We not only had no hassle with driving (and getting lost), we had no worries about parking.  But the best, was that we became friends with a lot of fellow travelers.

Departure was from Detroit Metro Airport.  Ray and I were waiting to meet Stephanie and Bruce at Detroit Metro when I decided to exchange some of our British currency to a few British pounds so that we could use them for tips when we arrived in England.  I only had bills and needed the pound coins.  The young man was surprised that I wanted to exchange the bills for some coins and did not even charge me a fee because he 'wanted to get rid of the coins.'  So I exchanged a 20 pound note for 20 pound coins.  When Stephanie heard what I did she decided to get some coins too....but returned empty handed.  She was told that some lady came earlier and took all of the coins. :-)  I was kind enough to share the coins with her.

On the plane ready to go.
We arrived at Heathrow Airport in the late morning and managed to get to our hotel by early afternoon.  We stayed at the Thistle Marble Arch for two nights, a beautiful hotel near Selfridges, Hyde Park and an Underground station.  Stephanie and Bruce had a room overlooking Oxford Street.  Our room overlooked a "courtyard" full of air conditioning units and a small patio with multi-colored chairs.
Cy looking out the window at Thistle Marble Arch Hotel
We liked our room though...the beds were comfortable and we had lots of room with a nice desk....and free Wi-Fi.   We did find out that in many hotels do not have face cloths.  There were plenty of bath and hand towels, but no face cloths...(or as some in Britain call...'flannels').
This was what we got when we requested a double bed.

The rest of the first day we spent getting acclimated to the time change and our surroundings.  We found a pub, Three Tuns, nearby where we had dinner.  Ray, Stephanie and Bruce opted for fish and chips.  Any of you who know me know I would never put fish in my I got a chicken sandwich.  Everyone liked the food.  The place was quite crowded but we found a table tucked in the back corner.
Three Tuns when not so busy

We returned to the hotel and settled for a good night's rest because the next day was a busy one.  There was a ring at our door and there was Bruce with some face cloths for us.  He and Stephanie had gone out again to find a store that carried face cloths and were kind enough to get us some too.
The rest of the evening was uneventful except a horrid news story on the telly.  Some poor 18 month old child...they called it the mummified child...had been found in his mother's apartment.  I won't go into the details, but we heart this same story almost every day.  The news there seems to be just as sensationalized as it is here in the states.

We turned off the telly and lights and had a nice night's sleep hoping that jet lag would not be too severe.  Tomorrow was going to be a fun day!
Flying over Great Britain

Jackie walking along Oxford St.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dogged Determination

It's been a long time since my last post and I have many excuses...but that is just what they are. I am sure I could have made time to write something, but it just did not happen.  So, I will write a short post about this picture that I found of my mother, Maxine.
  I do wish that the photographer had not chopped part of the head off.  I am sure that my father did not take this picture because (unlike Henry the VIII) he would never chop off part of Maxine's head.  In fact, this was taken many years after his death.  Mother was past her 70th birthday.
A little background would help here.  My parents were quite active in their church, Monroe Street United Methodist.  Every year, all the Sunday School classes would put on skits as a money maker...and of course, there was quite the competition to have the best skit.  Once her class decided on the skit Mother was in her glory sewing her costume...a puppy dog.
The skit goes like this.
On the stage there are two desks.  One has a type writer on it.  The other has one sitting with a stack of papers that are to be forms for employment.  There is a door to the side where one by one people come in to be interviewed for a secretarial job.  Each person is rejected for some failing...either typing, spelling, phone answering...etc.  Finally, there is just one more applicant left.  The employer is getting frustrated as no one has all the needed requirements for the job.
In walks the last applicant....the puppy dog...on all fours....ears flopping.  The employer is a bit taken aback but continues with the interview which the puppy dog passes with ease.  Typing was no problem, phone etiquette was perfect.  There was one last question that the employer knew the puppy dog would fail.
"We are looking for a bilingual secretary.  Can you speak a second language?"
With that...Maxine (the puppy) cocked and scratched her head...and then said with confidence..." MEOW."
The audience loved the skit, but were even more impressed when Maxine took off the puppy's head and they realized that the puppy was not some young grandchild but a 70 something woman.  Oh how I hope I am as nimble as my mother as I get older.  And, yes, they did win the competition!