01 November 2009

Our final stop - Berlin!!

Hello to all of you followers of kelandrewbrock (the few and the faithful)! This is our final overseas post. Our travels have been wonderful but exhausting, and now we're ready for a vacation from our vacation!! ;)

So our last stop was Berlin. Andrew and I arrived Thursday evening after a long drive from Warsaw. Apparently, Poland has no motorways, so the drive was especially difficult along two-lane highways with lots of lorries driving slower than we would have liked. We went to bed relatively early so that we could get up early the next morning and do an all-day walking tour that our friend Sharon recommended. The walking tour we took was the Best of Berlin tour on Friday morning, and I definitely recommend it to anyone going to Berlin. The guide (whose name slips my mind, unfortunately) was very thorough and well versed in Berlin's past and present. The website says the tour last "6+ hours", but I think he was going to go well past seven hours, which sounds really long, but you can skip out early if you wish though you probably won't want to because it's so interesting. Just make sure to wear comfortable shoes!

Anyway, so Andrew and I did that all day on my birthday and then rushed back to our hotel to meet the Frasers, who were flying all the way from London to celebrate my birthday with us and see us off to Atlanta! Andrew had made us reservations at a really nice restaurant on top of the Reichstag building, which houses Germany's parliament. The food was great; we ordered German champagne that was surprising good! Andrew arranged for cake with a candle, and he and the Frasers sang "Happy birthday" to me! Then the hostess at the restaurant brought me a present from the restaurant! It was a coffee cup and saucer with the Reichstag building on it! The Reichstag building is a really beautiful building, and the views from the roof (where the restaurant is located) are amazing. Here's a little video of it (sorry it's so dark and goofy, but we were having a good time after dinner).

After dinner we went to this bar that we'd walked past on our tour earlier that day. It was called Clärchens Ballhaus. We were the only tourists there; I'm sure. Hardly anyone we tried to talk to spoke any English, though we shared a table with a nice German couple and talked to them for ages with me translating everything in my very broken and limited German! Then someone gets the wild idea to tell the band that it's "meine dreizig Geburtstag" (my 30th birthday), and the announce it and call me over. Here's what happened next...

In case you can't understand the lyrics (I barely could, and I was reading them off the page!) or (like me) have never heard this song in your LIFE, here they are:

(Burdon / Briggs / Weider / Jenkins / McCulloch)
Eric Burdon & The Animals - 1967

[This is the part that the band leader reads out loud at the beginning, when I clearly am clueless as to what's going on.]
This following program is dedicated to the city and people of
San Francisco, who may not know it but they are beautiful and so
is their city this is a very personal song, so if the viewer
cannot understand it particularly those of you who are European
residents save up all your brand and fly trans love airways to
San Francisco U.S.A., then maybe you'll understand the song, it
will be worth it, if not for the sake of this song but for the
sake of your own peace of mind.

Strobe lights beam create dreams
walls move minds to do
on a warm San Francisco night
old child young child feel alright
on a warm San Francisco night
angels sing leather wings
jeans of blue Harley Davisons too
on a warm San Francisco night
old angels young angels feel alright
on a warm San Francisco night.

I wasn't born there perhaps I'll die there
there's no place left to go, San Francisco.

[And this is the part where the band leader makes me take it over on my own for a bit!! Yikes!]
Cop's face is filled with hate
heavens above he's on a street called love
when will they even learn
old cop young cop feel alright
on a warm San Francisco night
the children are cool
they don't raise fools
it's an american dream
includes indians too.

Wow. That was some night! Thank you Andrew and the Frasers and the staff at the Reichstag building restaurant and the German couple and the band at Clärchens Ballhaus for making my 30th birthday one that I will NEVER forget!

Love to all,

18 October 2009

07 October 2009

Nice is nice!

Day 6: Nice

Day 3: Driving to Bordeaux

We took a pit stop on the way to Bordeaux to see Mont St Michelle, a gothic cathedral atop a small mountain surrounded by mudflats.

01 October 2009

Goodbye, London!

So Andrew and I have finished our stint in London and are spending the entire month of October driving through Europe as our last hurrah. We've decided to do video updates during our trip, which we'll post when we can as we're traveling (depending on when we get hotels with good internet access).

We' hope you enjoy traveling with us as we see the world!

Sorry for the shaky camera during some of these first ones. The cab was already waiting outside, so I was kind of in a hurry!

30 July 2009

Hampton Court Palace and Greenwich!

Hampton Court Palace!

This weekend Andrew and I went on our first two of many upcoming day trips. We’ve realised that we’re about to leave the UK , and we’ve hardly even seen the UK ! Europe, yes, but not the UK . So this weekend we knocked two places in London (but very far out for us) off our list: Hampton Court Palace and Greenwich.

At Hampton Court Palace, there were loads of activities happening. They had performers dressed up as courtiers who simulated the celebrations that happened after the wedding of King Henry VIII to Kateryn Parr, his sixth wife.

We arrived mid-morning and wandered around for a bit before the festivities got underway. We explored the Base court and the Clock Court (with the beautiful clock), and then wandered on inside.

In Henry VII's apartments, they had set up a great dining hall with a full set head table (only minus the food) and tapestries from Henry's time covered the walls.

Then we met a courtier at Base Court who was led us to congratulate the King and his new bride!

Next, we wandered down to the cookery, where they were doing a special live presentation demonstrating how they prepared a lavish wedding banquet using authentic Tudor methods.

They even provided robes for everyone to wear to the festivities. (Andrew and I tried them on, but opted not to wear them.)

Afterward, we wandered around the gardens for a while before heading to the café for lunch. We ate authentic Tudor beef pies with chips (ie, fries) and seasonal vegetables.

After lunch, we headed straight for the garden maze, where we had agreed that we would race to the finish. Andrew, of course, beat me to the centre. I have no sense of direction whatsoever and get really disoriented in mazes!

Then we went to the back gardens to claim our spot ahead of time for the impending swordfight and falconry display.

We'd brought a blanket with us, so we plopped down on the grass and claimed one of the best spots. Andrew almost immediately fell asleep in the sun.

After a day full of Tudor fun, we headed home to have an icy beverage in our backyard!


On Sunday we got up early again and headed to Greenwich. Greenwich houses the Royal Observatory, where the Meridian line runs (hence Greenwich Mean Time). We saw the clock, and Andrew set his watch to it.

Then there was an amazing display of Britishness in which all the tourists actually, of their own accord, formed a queue to line up and have their picture taken standing on the line in front of the sculpture. No one had specifically organised the queue; the people just did it. We were amazed. So we wanted the picture, too, and we got in line. All of a sudden, we were bombarded with a huge group of students (possibly Italian?), who either did not notice or completely ignored the queue, and they started jumping in line and breaking in front of everyone.

Andrew to the rescue! He and the guy behind us walked over and started policing the queue, making all the students respect the line of people waiting and go to the back. They were not pleased, but they obeyed! Everyone else in the queue was so thankful!

While that was going on, I was dealing with my own breaker. Some guy, who didn't speak a lick of English, came up and stood in front of me. I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he was with the two girls in front of me.

"Yes," he said (I later realised this is possibly the only English word he knows). So I stood there a minute, and then a woman came up and joined him, and she was motioning to someone else. Meanwhile, neither of them had spoken to the two girls in front of me, nor had they acknowledged his prescience, so I then realised he was not, in fact, with them.

I got right up next to him, so that I was kind of nudging him and the woman out of the line and was back behind the two girls, and I said, loudly, "I'm [pointing to myself] behind them [pointing the girls in front of me]. Y'all [pointing to they guy and the woman] need to move to the back of the queue [pointing to the end of the line]." (I hoped that with all the pointing, they would understand.)

Then the woman behind me, whose boyfriend was helping Andrew police the front of the queue, piped up and said, "Yeah. And I'm behind her [pointing to me], so don't try and nudge in here, either!" He ended up moving behind her, and the people back there either never noticed, didn't care, or were too afraid to speak up.

While we were standing in line for the picture, we got to see the Greenwich Time Ball rise and drop. The Greenwich Time Ball is a giant red ball on top of the Flamsteed House, and is one of the world's earliest public time signals. At 12:55pm every day, the ball rises half way up it's mast, and then at 12:58pm it goes up the rest of the way, and at 1pm exactly it falls to mark the hour.

Then we finally got our picture on the Meridian line!

We wandered through the Flamsteed House, the time galleries (which was basically a clock museum) and the astronomy galleries. Oddly enough, we bought a kitchen scale in the gift shop. I have no idea why they had a kitchen scale for sale in the gift shop of the Royal Observatory, but they did, and I needed one, so we bought it! The Royal Observatory sits on a great hill, and the views of London are wonderful.

After we'd seen enough of the Observatory, we wandered around Greenwich Park for a while. They were having a concert in the Park, and we eventually made our way there, but it started to rain, and we were hungry, so we went and had lunch in the café.

After lunch, we wandered into the heart of Greenwich, looking for the Tourist Information Centre so that we could get a map. The TIC was supposed to be right across the street from the Cutty Sark, the great ship that burned in 2007 and is going through major renovations now; we'd looked up the location on it's website before we left. However, when we arrived, we discovered that it had moved! You'd think it'd update its own website (apparently, now it has – I just checked).

Anyway, as we were making our way to the new location, we happened to pass Greenwich Market, so we popped in there on the way back from getting the map. It was a really great market! On a much smaller scale than most of the London markets we've visited, the Greenwich Market had all kinds of neat crafts and artwork and goods. Loads of wonderful smelling food, too; we were so disappointed that we'd lunched at that terrible café in the park!

Next we went to the Old Royal Naval College to see the Painted Hall
and the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul. Both were amazing and very impressive.

After that, we were some worn out puppies, and it was nearing five, so we headed back to the train station and home!

05 July 2009

4th of July

We were also home for our first 4th of July in three years, which was so great. It's just not the same trying to celebrate the Fourth in London!

We went to dinner in Soho (South Homewood) with our dear friends Clay, Steve, and his girlfriend Heather, and then walked around to the Horse's Tail bar where we had a "Happy birthday, America" shot compliments of Steve and then watched the Thunder on the Mountain firewords show from the car. I have to admit that I got a little teary-eyed when we heard the "Star-Spangled Banner". Happy birthday, America!

04 July 2009

Atlanta, here we come!

So just before we left for our LOOOONG trip to the US, we found out that when we move back in November, we'll be heading to the big ATL. We're getting excited. Andrew's brother, Neal, and his wife Ginny recently moved there, and we have several other friends who live in and around Atlanta, so it won't be like we're totally starting over again. We're looking forward to having a house and a yard (and our dogs back!), cars, and being close to our friends and family in Alabama (after all, Atlanta is much closer than Boston!).

So we went to Atlanta and spent a couple of nights with Neal and Ginny while were home so that we could see their new place, spend some time with them and get to know Atlanta. While Neal and Ginny were at work, Andrew and I drove around the suburbs of Atlanta, checking out about 10 different neighbourhoods to see which ones we liked best to help us along with our house hunt. We probably drove around for about four or five hours. Our favourite neighbourhoods were Ansley Park, Morningside, Piedmont, and Virginia Highlands. Later that night, we went to Turner Field and got tickets to see the Braves battle it out against the Phillies! After the game, there was a fireworks display, and when that was over, we found an English pub where some of Neal and Ginny's friends met us. Andrew and I even ran into one of our old college buddies!

We can't wait to be back in the South! See y'all soon!

28 June 2009

Taking home the girls...

So at the end of June and beginning of July, Andrew and I had two weddings to attend in Birmingham (Alabama), and since they were two weeks apart, we went home and stayed for 17 days. Because we were going to be home for so long, and because we're going to be travelling so much during our last three and a half months (!!!) in Europe, we decided it would be best to go ahead and take the dogs home with us on this trip and leave them with our parents for the remainder of our stay in Europe. Andrew booked the dogs' and our plane tickets a couple of months ago with Delta. I was in charge of making sure the dogs got all their shots and paperwork needed. I made the necessary veterinarian appointments, got their rabies vaccinations, and spoke with the Assistant Veterinarian of Georgia several times to make sure that their paperwork was okay. The week of the flight I took them to the vet for their final appointment, the one during which the vet looks them over and signs a form saying they're fit to fly. The previous week, our agent with Delta also sent us another form saying the dogs could sustain certain temperatures. The vet wouldn't sign. I cried. She still refused to sign. Andrew started working with the agent to come up with a "Plan B" while I started searching for another vet who would agree to sign the form. We ended up putting the dogs on another flight with Continental (which doesn't require that particular form). They had to fly out the day before we did, TO HOUSTON! They had to spend the night in Houston and then catch another flight the next day to Atlanta. Poor girls. When we dropped them off at the airport, we had to leave them in their crates, and as I was walking away, Hadley let out a terrified, "YELP!" and when I turned around, she put one paw up on the grate of the cage and just looked at me with those big brown eyes, and I totally lost it and cried most of the way back to the flat.

When we picked them up in Atlanta, everything was fine; their paperwork was all good, and the girls were in perfect condition though exhausted and worried. We loaded them in the rental van and drove from Atlanta to Birmingham. Savannah was so jetlagged on the way home! She refused to lay down; she wanted to see where she was going, but she kept falling asleep sitting up. Her head would slowly droop down and down until her nose was touching the seat, and then she'd do the "head bob" and jerk her head up again real fast.

Hadley, on the other hand, just laid out, taking up the entire backseat, and passed out... That is, when she wasn't hanging her head out the window, enjoying the car breeze!

The next day, we took them straight to the vet to get all their unpleasantness overwith in one go. We had them bathed, dipped, shaved and clipped. Hadley looks as though she lost 20 pounds! She now loves the pool. She chased tennis ball after tennis ball into Andrew's parents' pool. She looks positively graceful while she swims - head held so high and not making the slightest splash in the water! Savannah is so happy just laying in the sun, soaking up the rays.

We can't thank our parents enough for keeping our girls while we're away these last few months. Hadley is living it up in Cullman with my parents while Savannah lounges away her days in Birmingham with Andrew's parents...

22 June 2009

Golf pros and tennis... What?

Before (Hole 1)

After (Hole 9)

So our dear friend Kevin arranged a pub crawl for all of us because so many of us are leaving (including Kevin)! I'll let the pictures do most of the talking...


Hole 1
Pub: The White Horse
Name: "Pimpin' aint easy"
Drink: Cider
Men's Tee: 1 pint
Ladies' Tee: 1/2 pint

Hole 2
Pub: Fulham Mitre
Name: "Couch patrol"
Drink: Lager
Men's Tee: 1 pint
Ladies' Tee: 1 small wine

Hole 3
Pub: Malt House (watering hole)
Name: "Down goes Fraser"
Drink: Referee's shot of choice
Men's Tee: 1 shot
Ladies' Tee: 1 shot

For the next few holes, we headed from our neighbourhood up into Central London. Yes, we invaded the tube stations and Central London dressed like idiots.

Hole 4
Pub: Waxy O'Connor's (watering hole)
Name: "Footloose - 17 Mar '08"
Drink: Guinness
Men's Tee: 1 pint
Ladies' Tee: 1 shot Bailey's

Hole 5
Pub: The Salisbury
Name: "Livin' on a prayer..."
Drink: Tequila
Men's Tee: 1 shot
Ladies' Tee: 1 vodka cran

Hole 6
Pub: Lamb & Flag (watering hole)
Name: "My hands do not burrrn... I was a waitrrr"
Drink: English pump ale
Men's Tee: 1 pint
Ladies' Tee: 1/2 pint

Hole 7
Pub: Punch & Judy
Name: "Smack-a-what?"
Drink: Stella
Men's Tee: 1 pint
Ladies' Tee: 1/2 pint

Hole 8
Pub: Not the Porterhouse (denied entry); not the Walkabout (denied entry); but the Maple Leaf (Canadian bar)
Name: "Bringin' sexy back..."
Drink: Caddy Masters' Choice
Men's Tee: 1 pint
Ladies' Tee: 1/2 pint or other

Hole 9
Pub: The Chandos (watering hole)
Name: "Who's comin' wit me?"
Drink: Cider
Men's Tee: 1 bottle
Ladies' Tee: 1 bottle

And now, without further ado, we announce the winners...