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!