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A Wedding, Historic Houses, Castles and the English Seaside

12 Aug

The last few days have been rather hectic. After the wedding on Saturday and a reception that lasted into the wee hours, our friends Heather and Graham have been the perfect hosts. They’ve taken us to visit some historic homes and castles. We’ve had a quick visit to the English seaside at Lyme Regis where they own a cottage and a gift shop. And when we haven’t dined at pubs or tea shops, Heather has prepared some amazing meals. It will be difficult to say goodbye tomorrow morning but I’m sure we will meet up again with our good friends.

The happy couple at All Saint's Church in Martock

The happy couple at All Saint’s Church in Martock

The grounds of Orchardleigh, the wedding reception venue

The grounds of Orchardleigh, the wedding reception venue

Orchardleigh, the wedding reception venue

Orchardleigh, the wedding reception venue

Cupcakes!!

Cupcakes!!

Lytes Carey Manor

Lytes Carey Manor

Heather & Graham's Garden

Heather & Graham’s Garden

Heather & Graham's House in Martock

Heather & Graham’s House in Martock

Montacute House

Montacute House

Lyme Regis, Dorset seaside resort

Lyme Regis, Dorset seaside resort

Lyme Regis from the Cobb

Lyme Regis from the Cobb

Sherborne Castle, former home of Sir Walter Raleigh

Sherborne Castle, former home of Sir Walter Raleigh

Family of swans at Sherborne Lake

Family of swans at Sherborne Lake

Sherborne Abbey

Sherborne Abbey

Breakfast at Heather and Graham's

Breakfast at Heather and Graham’s

The inimitable Bertie, Heather and Graham's working Cocker Spaniel

The inimitable Bertie, Heather and Graham’s working Cocker Spaniel

A Mid-Somerset Day Trip

8 Aug

We are in Somerset now, having rented a car at Heathrow airport. The drive south west of London took us past Stonehenge and on to a homely B&B on a small lane outside a little village in the midst of the Somerset Levels next door to an apple cider mill and across from Burrow Hill, a local landmark. If I passed a hobbit along the lane I wouldn’t be surprised.

Today, we took a drive to nearby Glastonbury where we toured the Abbey ruins and climbed 518 feet up to the top of Glastonbury Tor for a spectacular view of the surrounding area. The Tor is actually the name of the hill. Atop the hill is a single roofless stone tower, all that remains of 14th Century St. Michael’s Church.

Glastonbury is host to countless myths and legends tied to King Arthur, the Holy Grail and Joseph of Arimithea and is now home to a thriving New Age community of which we saw evidence in daisy chain head bands, dreadlocked hairstyles and psychedelic murals about town.

Mocha Berry Café in Glastonbury town center.

Mocha Berry Café in Glastonbury town center.

Glastonbury Town Center

Glastonbury Town Center

Abbott's Kitchen at Glastonbury Abbey

Abbott’s Kitchen at Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey Ruins

Herb Garden at Glastonbury Abbey

Herb Garden at Glastonbury Abbey

St. Michael's Tower atop Glastonbury Tor

St. Michael’s Tower atop Glastonbury Tor

The View from Glastonbury Tor

The View from Glastonbury Tor

Burrow Hill

Burrow Hill

Thatched Roof house next door to our B&B

Thatched roof house next door to our B&B

Burrow Hill B&B with a view of Burrow Hill

Burrow Hill B&B with a view of Burrow Hill

Out and About in London

5 Aug

Enjoying lovely weather on this visit to one of our favorite cities. We’ve been seeking out places we’ve never been to, such as Little Venice, and are revisiting familiar haunts.

Boats Along Grand Union Canal

Boats Along Grand Union Canal in Little Venice

Along Grand Union Canal

Along Grand Union Canal

Coot gliding in the canal

Coot gliding in the canal

Grand Union Canal

Grand Union Canal

Paddington Station, home of Isambard Brunel's Great Western Railway

Paddington Station, home of Isambard Brunel’s Great Western Railway

The Victoria pub

The Victoria pub

Strange but tasty salad of  poached salmon, avocado, beans, grapefruit, oranges and arugula

Strange but tasty salad of poached salmon, avocado, beans, grapefruit, oranges and arugula

Can't do London without some fish and chips!

Can’t do London without some fish and chips!

Phenomenal display of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London

Phenomenal display of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London

Phenomenal display of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London

Phenomenal display of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London

London Bridge as seen from the river bus

London Bridge as seen from the river bus

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

Chihuly chandelier at the V&A

Chihuly chandelier at the V&A

Ceiling at the V&A

Ceiling at the V&A

Paddington Pair

4 Aug

The Victoria

The Victoria

On the way to Hyde Park

On the way to Hyde Park

Duck in the Serpentine

Duck in the Serpentine

Feeding the Ducks and Swans

Feeding the Ducks and Swans

Room 204

Room 204

The bathroom even has a heated towel rail!

The bathroom even has a heated towel rail!

We arrived at Heathrow on schedule around 10 a.m. GMT and caught the Heathrow Connect train to Paddington Station. A very short walk brought the two of us to Hotel Indigo Paddington about an hour before our room was ready. No worries. They stored our bags for us and told us we would be VIP guests of the day. This entitled us to a complimentary wine and cheese platter and breakfast tomorrow morning will also be on the house. The cheese selection was generous and quite tasty and we both opted for beer in place of wine to satisfy our parched throats.

A leisurely walk in the neighborhood brought us to the Serpentine in Hyde Park. What a lovely summer day! On the way back we stopped off at The Victoria, a glorious old pub, for more refreshment.

We checked into the hotel about an hour ago. Our room is very small but is stylishly appointed and chock full of amenities including free bottled water and sodas, coffee and tea making equipment, free champagne and fresh fruit. Brad really did his homework in finding us such nice accommodations for our stay.

 

Weekend in NYC

18 Mar

Every once in a while, Brad and I like to shoot up to NYC, an easy 3-hour trip from the Baltimore area via train or bus. We didn’t realize it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend till we’d made the hotel reservations. Neither of us are crowd lovers and I don’t enjoy parades that much as I’m too short to see anything unless I’m right in front. We found plenty of other things to occupy ourselves with. Ate several delicious meals. Saw some great sights. Endured wicked cold temps and strong winds. In short, we had a blast.

Matzoh Ball Soup at Bubby's

Matzoh Ball Soup at Bubby’s

New York by Gehry

New York by Gehry

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was a visit to Jane’s carousel, a vintage carousel recently installed in Brooklyn just steps away from the Bridge. What makes it so special is that the carousel originally stood in Idora Park, Youngstown, Ohio, and holds a firm place in Brad’s childhood memories.

Vintage carousel in Brooklyn

Jane’s Carousel

Riding the carousel was almost as fun as walking back to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

More pictures from this visit can be found on my flickr photostream.

The Long Journey Home

3 Oct

Baxter and Lulu at Ben Gurion Airport

The driver arrived promptly at 2 a.m. We loaded all our bags and kitties in their carriers into the van and made our way to Ben Gurion Airport. Lulu cried nearly the entire way. And Baxter puked on his towel just minutes before arriving at the terminal. All standard and expected behavior for those two. Check-in at the airport was smooth and speedy. I was a bit miffed, though, that no one even asked to see the paperwork for the kitties that I’d spent so much time and money preparing before our departure. After we checked into the flight and paid for the kitties (they were flying as “excess baggage” at $200 per cat) we wheeled Baxter and Lulu in their carriers to an elevator where a Lufthansa employee took over and whisked our kitties away. It broke my heart to part with them and I prayed we’d soon be reunited safely in the U.S.

A four-hour layover in Frankfurt was mitigated by being able to hang out in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge, thanks to the subscription frequent flyer Brad had invested in. In the lounge we had comfy chairs, free wifi and free food at our disposal. And a Lufthansa rep checked on the kitties for us and verified that they had safely arrived and were resting in the “pet lounge.”

On the shuttle from the airport to the rental car facility

We arrived at Dulles Airport around 3:30 p.m., about a half-hour early only to find ourselves waiting in an hour-long queue to go through passport control. Ugh! While we were shuffling through the line, I spied Baxter’s and Lulu’s carriers way against the wall on the far side of the baggage carousels. As soon as we got through passport control I made a bee line for the kitties while Brad collected our luggage. Both Baxter and Lulu were alert and appeared healthy and there were no messes in their carriers. Baxter was hunkered down in the far corner of the carrier while Lulu cried and paced back and forth in her carrier. She calmed down as we began wheeling them out of the baggage area. We breezed through customs. Again, no one asked for nor looked at any paperwork relating to the cats. We loaded our bags and the kitties onto the shuttle to the rental car facility where we picked up our rental van.

At the rental car facility

By the time we hit the DC Beltway it was 6 p.m. We heard scarcely a peep out of Lulu and Baxter on the drive home. We figured by now they’d resigned themselves to their fate. We drove first to our house where we dropped the kitties off for the night. We opened the carrier doors and they both burst out into our empty house, and began exploring every inch of the house — jumping on top of counters and cabinets, nosing into closets, running up and down the stairs. I wondered again if they recognized  the place.

We’d arranged to have kitty litter waiting for us there and had brought cat food with us, so they were set for the night. By then we were famished and decided to stop off for a bite to eat before checking into the hotel. Luckily, one of our fave Thai restaurants is located just around the corner from the hotel. It was 9 p.m. by the time we checked in. We’d been on the road more than 24 hours. I slept like a log.

Calm Before The Storm?

21 Sep

This is how I found Baxter and Lulu this afternoon. They’ve recovered quite well from being shut up for a day in the bathroom while the movers traipsed through the house packing up all our belongings. During clean-up after the move, I found several cat toys behind one couch. The kids are ignoring them for now. Baxter’s hot spot seems to be healing quite well.

The two of them haven’t a clue what lies in their future: another vet visit for a health certificate. Then a few days later we will leave with them in the wee hours of the morning for a ride to the airport. After the long flight home, and a long drive home from Dulles Airport during DC rush hour traffic we will drop them off at our home in Linthicum.

I wonder if they will recognize their old stomping grounds? I also wonder if they will miss this house in Israel with its tall windows looking out onto an exotic landscape, its various nooks and corners for running and chasing each other around and one very nifty kitty hiding place?