You are in for a photo intensive, wordy, geeked-out version of my England trip.

Blow by blow, all the horrid photos, all the stories, and all the commentaries, created as much for you all as for me to remember the most memorable of 2.5 weeks...

You might be here for a while...

But I hope you enjoy. :-)


Dad geeks out on the computer and I read the New York Times as we (impatiently) wait for the plane...

Approach to Gatwick

Here we are on the plane, circling Gatwick and NOT landing. Clearly, I'm stoked to start our vacation...Dad just looks ill. He perked right up after another nap before we landed though. ;-)


We finally get on the ground, race through immigration, get our rental car, and drive the hour to Eastbourne, where my paternal grandmother, Mum-Mum, lives (I admit, for about the first 15 minutes on the road, I was freaking out about the whole wrong-side-of-the-road-with-roundabout thingies, but Dad just breezed along). We get settled in, have a cuppa tea, take a quick nap, and then head out for the first of many pub lunches at The Pilot, the "local" pub...

Back home to the flat for a sprawl about, a computer picture show, some quality BBC programming and an early night.


The next morning, we're up early to adjust to jet lag. Coffee, shower in a packing-crate-sized shower (I swear, they aren't particular roomy in their bathrooms in the UK), and off to the Sovereign Centre - a marina, pub crawl and market spot. We meander through the market on the way to lunch, and I drool over the pastries...

Market Nummies

Dad and I skirt around the marina to see the sea, and admire the locks that maintain the marina depth. Dad had to snap a photo or two of that...geek. ;-)


We pop into the pub for (another) pub lunch of fish and chips (apparently a great value...every day *grin*). I'd forgotten how good really fresh fish and chips can be...and shandys...and comfortable temperatures...

(That's Mum-Mum and I in the corner)

Pub Lunch

After lunch, we hop back into our trusty Toyota (an absolutely enormous car by UK standards) and take the "coast" road to the Seven Sisters. Eastbourne lies on the sunny southern coast, and is known as a great beachside resort town with lots of pretty vistas. Seven Sisters are the seven hills visible from the sea...


Backtracking a bit, we go back the way we came and stop at Beachy Head, the often-photographed lighthouse and coastal walk. We leave Mum-Mum in the car and decide to scale the enormous hill to the former lighthouse. Beautiful, no?


And so we hike. Straight up. And then someone gets tired. ;-)


But we finally make it!


The lighthouse at the top of the mountain...


We head back to the flat for tea and crosswords, and then I persuade Dad to head down to the beach for a walkabout. It's only about 5 minutes from where Mum-Mum lives...bliss!


On the beach!


A true "pebble beach"...


There are lots of lovely benches for resting all along the front, and Dad and I take our time climbing back to street level and heading home.


A true "bowling green" - and not the town in Kentucky. ;-)


Of course, on the way I make Dad buy me a Wall's ice cream so I can remember what my childhood in England tastes like. I swear, it's exactly the same - Flake and all. :-)

The following morning, we head for Cambridge, where my maternal grandfather lives. Though glad to see us, I know he was disappointed not to see Mum or Michelle (the favored granddaughter). Nonetheless, we settle into his flat, and then I insist on a trip to Sainbury's, where I swear I could spend days just wandering about and squealing over everything I find...


This one was just for you all...Bubble and Squeak in one hand and Mushy Peas in the other. :-)


I've long been a devotee of the BBC show "As Time Goes By". The main character is always eating custard tarts, so I insist we buy some so I can finally see what they are all about. Quite tasty, I might add - and only 99p!


We order in Indian food and relax for the rest of the evening, and plan to visit Newmarket in the morning.

The following morning, we're up early and take the road to Newmarket, a famous horse racing town and home to a lovely town market. We mooch around the market and the three surrounding butcher shops, and do some shopping. This is me in front of a "fishmonger" on the market square...Mum's so jealous. ;-)


In our wanderings, we find the local library and pop inside for a look round. I love this photo, because it's so England...post box, bicycle with basket, and books outside with no one watching. And a Limey girl standing there. ;-)


After mucking about for a while, we head for a pub in a town with about 7 residents. The pub is the "Hole in the Wall" and is just beautiful (and expensive, Dad would add!)


14 to get in. A bet a few Americans are wishing for that...


It's actually cool enough this day for a wood fire, so we settle in the "bar section" and order lunch in the perfect pub ambiance...


Shandys all around, please!

(A shandy is part ale and part fizzy lemonade...sort of like Sprite, but not as syrupy and heavy. Yum-my!)


Time for another pub lunch...this time Newmarket sausages (the same kind the Queen insists upon), potatoes, onion gravy, peas, and a shandy.


It was pretty good. ;-)


After returning to the flat and quick nap, Dad and I head for Mill Road - a road filled with grocers, ethnic stores, eclectic shops and a slice of life. This is the park we cruise through on the way there. Well, at least the flowers are pretty...


The day before, Dad had called Martin, who was his best man a hundred thousand years ago. Martin and Dad hadn't seen each other in 23 years, so we arrange for a night out with Martin and his wife Margaret.


Despite not having seen each other for 23 years, and never having met me, I don't think there was more than 5 seconds silence for the next 4 hours! A truly lovely, memorable night...


I took this so everyone can see that spotted dick is still popular as a pub dessert. ;-)


We head for home and for bed, after rummaging for a midnight snack culled from our Sainsbury's bonanza. ;-)

The following morning, Dad and I were going to "do" Cambridge - the weather was gorgeous and the traffic fairly light. We park in downtown Cambridge and set out on foot for a LOT of walking. First stop, all the beautiful colleges on the Cam (River) and all "the backs" - the grassy areas and gardens on the other side of the river. Crossing over the river...


That's King's College Chapel behind Dad...home of a famous boy's choir and a beautiful interior. But...they wanted 5 pounds apiece to get in, and frankly, we've both seen it...


I love seeing the punts on the Cam, though we didn't rent one for ourselves...


After walking, wandering, and generally getting frustrated at the "no visitors" signs, we finally opt to pay the fee to visit St. John's College...which is home to the Bridge of Sighs. Neither Dad nor I had ever seen it close up and thought this was our chance. This is the main courtyard of the college - IU sure didn't look like this!


Or this!


Because it's finals week on campus, we aren't allowed in the chapel (they are setting up for the ceremony), so we head straight for the Bridge of Sighs - so named because when students are walking towards their exams, they take a big sigh as they cross the bridge...


There are signs everywhere warning visitors not to go into certain areas because of finals, so Dad and opt to "look casual, look like we belong" and totally jump the sign so that we can cross the bridge. We were so proud to have made it!


Dad's turn in front of the camera...


We "casually" stroll back onto the grounds, and I'm blown away by the landscaping and beauty of the campus...


We're also impressed with that whole "built in 1624" thing...


We opt to walk further down the Cam to Queen's College, home of the famous "Mathematical Bridge".


We backtrack (I told you we walked a lot!) to the market in the center of the square, and look at all the wares for sale. I decide strawberries and tea would make a nice morning snack, and so we sit for a few minutes to recuperate...


We shop our way across Cambridge, still looking for a few requests from home. We finally make it to the Grafton Centre, the mall I remember visiting with my grandmother on a weekly basis. I insist we go to the Debenam's tea room, just as I always did with Grandma. It hasn't changed at all in my mind. We opt to grab lunch here...crayfish and rocket sandwich for Dad, All Day Breakfast for me, complete with Hula Hoops, sweets and pots of tea. Ahhhhh....


We finally manage to finance our car out of the expensive parking garage and head back for the flat, where we walk back to Mill Road and Dad makes a run to Sainsbury's. I grab a photo of our car outside the flat while Grandpa makes goulash for dinner. Trust me, by UK standards, this thing in the size of a Tahoe.


The following morning is both my birthday and a dreary day outside. Dad and I valiantly set off north anyway, eager to see more sights. We pass through Newmarket again, where Dad found his favorite sign of the trip...


We continue north to Ely, home of the enormous and beautiful Ely Cathedral.


We walk through the rain to go inside, look around, buy some postcards and light a few candles for my mother and my grandmother.


We hop back in the car and continue on until we finally reach our destination - Sandringham, the Queen's winter home. Open through most of the year, Sandringham has beautiful, enormous gardens, the house, and a museum inside. We stop first at the Norwich Gates, through which the Queen enters when she visits. They are kinda big and grand...kinda...


We drive into the grounds, park and walk through the misty rain through the gardens towards the house itself. We get to tour the house, see where the Windsors spend Christmas and so forth, and explore the museum for a while. The house is beautiful, but certainly not very cosy...


The main "Queenie" entrance...


We head back for the gift shops and tea room, and decide to have "tea with the Queen"...tea for both, and a cream slice for Dad - most of which ended up going up his nose!


We manage to get back to the car, and I insist we go another 20 minutes so that we can see the beach at Hunstanton (on The Wash), where Grandpa and Grandma used to take me for day trips when I would visit for the summer. We bypass "new Hunstanton" and instead go for the older, more deserted beach. It's a tad windy, overcast and chilly, but smells of sea air...


Did I mention it was windy?!


We head for home, and have a birthday feast of fish and chips and a birthday cake. A couple of neighbors stop by and we sit and chat for a few hours before bed. We're getting up early tomorrow to continue our Tour O' Britain...

We hop into the car in the early morning and head towards London, with Eastbourne being our final destination. We cross the QEII Bridge over the Thames River on our way...


Throughout our travels, I had asked Dad about growing up in England, and about his school days. We decide to detour into London to visit his old boarding school, Dulwich College. We are greeted by the administration, and left to wander about and see how things have changed. This is the front door of the college...doesn't look like MY high school!


Dad's old "house", Ivyholme, of which he was house captain his senior year...


We walk down the street to the church where all the boys had to go on Sundays. It's a beautiful old church, both inside and out. Dad relives the memories of having to speak on Sundays to a full church!




We walk back to Dulwich and go back inside to look at Ernest Shackleton's boat (Shackleton was a Dulwich boy, and left the "James Caird" to the college when he died. This tiny boat carried 6 men across 800 miles of Antarctic seas in a bid to save their mates after their original ship was destroyed in the ice. Not a single man died, and the rescue is considered one of the most amazing in history).


A truly beautiful campus...


A bit of trivia...you know the graduation scene in "Legally Blonde"? That was actually filmed in the Dulwich College Great Hall! We took photos of the hall, but they didn't turn out. :-(

We hop back into the car and head for Mum-Mum's in Eastbourne. We settle in for the night, and repack for the next leg of our journey...

We wake the next morning and head out for Southampton, where my cousin Faye and her family live. We decide to take the coast road through Brighton and follow the sea for quite a while before heading for the pub where we are meeting for lunch. It's lovely to see Faye after so many years, as well as Peter (husband), and Rebecca (daughter)...

We sit down for a kickass pub lunch, and go for a walk to the sea after lunch before heading for the house to muck about for the rest of the day. We sit and chat, make dinner, and settle in for the night, knowing we are up and going again tomorrow...




We get up and decide to visit the New Forest before setting out again. We take photos of the wild ponies, the rhododendrons, and each other as we drive, hike and sit our way through the forest...




Does Mummy like butter?


We finally say our goodbyes and Dad, Mum-Mum and I hop into the car to head for Wales...with a detour to Stonehenge. I make Dad pull over so I can take a photo of this town name...not to be confused with Upper Wallop, Lower Wallop, or Middle Wallop. No kidding.


We drive to Stonehenge, and I am totally enamored, if only the weather were a bit clearer. Still, it truly is amazing...



While in England, I was reading the "Outlander" series by Diana Gabaldon, which involves time travel from a huge rock formation. Here I'm trying to wish my way back into Jamie Fraser's arms in the book. Sadly, it didn't work. :-(


And so, after a brief sojourn at Stonehenge, we're off across Salisbury Plain towards Wales...


We cross the bridge into Wales - my first visit there!


We wind our way through the mountains, aiming for Hay-on-Wye, where Dad's cousin Pat lives. I haven't seen Pat in years, but she is one of those "kindred spirits" whom I have always loved. She lives near Hay-on-Wye, which is known as a "town of books" - it has a few thousand residents and over 40 used bookshops. I can't wait to see it...

We arrive and have Pimms in the conservatory, and then dinner afterwards.


I get to sleep in a real bed for the first time on the trip, and the next morning dawns with bright sunshine. This is the breathtaking view from my bedroom window...


Pat's farmhouse was built in 1780, and is just gorgeous. When you look outside at night, there's isn't another light visible, and all you can hear are sheep in the fields. It was serene and perfect, with gardens and green all around...



Pat is very involved with the Hay Festival, so we go to the site to take care of a few things. The Festival is an annual, international event that is a book lover's geek dream. This year, Goldie Hawn, Jane Fonda, Alexander McCall Smith and Audrey Niffenegger were going to be there, among hundreds of others. Unfortunately, the Festival was AFTER we left England, but at least I got to see the enormous site for this tiny town...


We met up with Pat's friend Janice for a coffee and to chat about what to visit in Hay. She was delightful and very helpful in plotting a course...


In the center of this "town of books" is the Hay Castle, owned by the lead "book man" in town, who's rather an eccentric character. We visited his shops during the day, including the one IN the castle...


This is the view of part of the town. All those bookshelves below are "honour shelves" - if you pick something up, you drop 50p into a box, and they stay outside all the time. Lovely. :-)


We have a lovely lunch at the Granary, then Dad and I set off solo to explore. We wander in and out of dozens of bookshops, before finally coming to the largest in town...the Hay Cinema Bookshop, which stocks 200,000 used books at any given moment. It is literally an old cinema, and this picture simply doesn't do justice to the two ENORMOUS floors of books...


I picked up about a dozen books to try and pack home, and we went to sit outside to wait for Pat to arrive. Again we see the honour bookshelves...




I go with Pat to visit a friend who lives along the Wye River...gorgeous...


The following morning, we get up and head back to town to pick up a few odds and ends, including throat lozenges for me, as I seem to have picked up a sore throat and a stuffy nose. We got into a lovely glass shop, and Dad buys me a belated birthday necklace...I'm standing next to the lemon tree in Pat's conservatory...


We go through the windy roads to Hereford to have a look around. We eat lunch in a church that is half active church and half modern cafe...very, very interesting place...


Dad and I go in to the visit the Hereford Cathedral (these are the entrance doors), and then go on a special tour to see the Mappa Mundi (a famous old map of the world in the round) and the Hereford Chained Library. Books were so valuable in the 14, 15, and 16th centuries that they were literally chained to a bookcase if people wanted to see them. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed...


The new bishop of the church is a Priddis! Talk about a rare find - we're not a popular last name at all...


We head back home (and see some farm life!), and take a detour to a "black and white town" before going home for a lovely lamb and asparagus dinner...



With deep regret, we live Hay the following morning and head back for Eastbourne. Hay was definitely a highlight for me, and I would lovelovelove to work the Festival next year...we'll see...

Back across the bridge into England...


Dad enjoyed the lack of speeding scruples on the motorways. ;-)


We stop off for another pub lunch, and enjoy fish and chips - again!


We pop into Eastbourne to drop off Mum-Mum, then make the trek to London, where we are expected at my cousin Katy's house. We find it with relative ease, and settle in for the evening. After a lunch dinner and a night's sleep, we set off to "tour London!"

Our first double decker bus trip - from the top floor, of course!


Our first stop...the London Eye! The Eye was built for the millenium celebration, and is roughly 442 feet high! The capsules can hold 25 people, and it takes about 30-45 minutes to go around. The wheel moves very slowly, so there's no sensation of being thrust up into the air. Knowing that, this 'fraidy cat was willing to go on a ride!



That's Buckingham Palace in the background...


Look kids! Big Ben!





Look, Ma! I did it!


We cross the Thames to go to Westminster Abbey, which I have never visited.


Lots of tombs (including my girl Elizabeth I), Poet's Corner, and Newton's tomb, which featured into "The Da Vinci Code". This is the site of all royal coronations, as well (again, no photos allowed inside). We have a good wander about, and even visit the gardens outside...



Next up, we take a river ferry down the river towards St. Paul's. This is a reproduction of the Globe Theatre, located in the original location of the theatre from Shakespeare's time...


We hop off the ferry and go into Tate Modern for a look 'round and a lunch (of...yes...fish and chips!). This is the view from our seventh floor dining window. The bridge below is the Millenium Bridge, also known as the Wibbly-Wobbly bridge. It is pedestrian only, and we hoof across to see St. Paul's Cathedral...


Our only view of Tower Bridge during our entire visit...


We sit for a moment outside St. Paul's (an incredibly popular spot for sitting and people watching) before going in for a look 'round...


St. Paul's (no photos, again!) is absolutely breathtaking. If you remember, this the church where Charles and Diana got married. We walk up about 9764597619457645 steps to get to the "Whispering Gallery", where Dad takes an illegal (and in my case, unknown) photo...


Katy, who is significantly less afraid of heights than I am, climbed to the top of St. Paul's and went outside for this photo of the river...the Eye is just downriver...


Goodbye to St. Paul's...


We cross back across the river, hop our ferry back to the bus stop, and go home to clean up and go to dinner in a charming Italian restaurant. We snap a photo of Katy and Ben (her husband) upon returning, and before collapsing into bed from exhaustion and cold symptoms!


The next morning, we hop on the tube...


...and go to the British Library, where Katy has a friend who works in the Preservation Department. This is going to be a treat...

Interior and Exterior shots of the British Library building (Dad is sitting on a "chained book" seat - how appropriate!)...




We meet up and have a quick coffee, before entering the "King's Library", which is in the center of the building and is the visual focal point, being entirely built of glass. Few people ever set foot in the King's Library, but with senior staff clearance, we get to walk around inside. Amazing, amazing...


We get a complete tour of the preservation lab at the British Library (think the UK equivalent of the Library of Congress), which few people ever see. We get to see Persian manuscripts, Japanese scrolls from the 9th century, restored manuscripts, seals from letters, box making machines, and everyone is so friendly and kind to show us their latest projects and all the old, fragile, absolutely priceless pieces in the lab. This is truly a once in a lifetime morning, and few people will ever see what we saw, nor grasp the value and rarity of all those items. We're very, very fortunate to see it...


After lunch in a lovely cafe, we head for Picadilly Circus, for the obligatory "tourist stroll"!

Katy and I sit at the base of "Eros"...


And Dad and I...




We walk down through Leicester Square to Trafalger Square and have a walk 'round, before heading for Covent Garden...



Covent Garden is a huge open air market(clothes, knick knacks, jewelry, etc), and we do some shopping before heading home for a Ben-cooked meal!


Before we know it, it's the next morning, the day we leave London and go to Eastbourne for the last time. Before we leave, we go to the Borough Market, an AWESOME outdoor market primarily of food and flower stands...



We hop back into the trusty Toyota and make our way home to Eastbourne. On the way, we see a sign for another priceless town name (top line)...


We arrive and go flying out for a last pub lunch at The Pilot...


After lunch, the older set snooze and I take a last (and solo) walk down to the beach, armed with camera, iPod, smokes and a smile. :-)





For my girl Jen...proof that even on the beach, I'm listening to "With Teeth" by Nine Inch Nails. Rock. On. :-)


Before I know it, I'm back in the flat, valiantly packing all our wares and trying to get to sleep early for the trip back to the US. We have a smooth and speedy flight back to Cinci, and manage to get back to TinyTown in one piece, after essentially pulling an all nighter to get here. After more than 24 hours of being awake, packing, unpacking, traveling and talking, we finally fall into bed, and the realization hits that the trip is finally over.

I've never spent that much time with my Dad, ever. And we had a great time, and got along really well.

I've never seen so much of England, and I'm so grateful I was able to.

I've not seen my cousins in such a long time, but we picked up as though we saw each other last week.

I shopped, I ate fish and chips, I walked on the beach, I saw London from the air, I bought books in a town of books, I walked along the Backs, I stood awestruck at Stonehenge, I had tea at the Queen's house, and I snapped more photos than I could ever contain in this travelogue, as though to preserve every moment of this memorable trip.

I had a blast.

Until the next adventure,