Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rolling Skating In Hades

I recently volunteered to be a driver for a school function to Corpus Christi. (They were desperate and let me!) While there, the students had a free evening and we all decided to go roller skating.  The teacher in charge had seen a roller rink the day before and that is where we decided to go.

I don't really know my way around Corpus so I was following the other teacher.  We drove and drove and drove and then turned into a place of business.  I seriously thought she had missed the roller skating place and was just turning around.  But then she parked.

There were NO lights and this was after dark. There was NO sign, not near the road, not close to the building, not anywhere. The only signal that this might have been the right place was the fact that there were other cars parked around the building.

We slowly got out of the vehicle and then hurriedly ran towards the building. It looked abandoned. As we drew closer there was a vinyl sign strapped to the building that gave the name of the place, so I felt a little better about it.  I did trust the other teacher, but it was a very strange situation!

Later, I checked on Google maps to see what this place looked like in the daytime....


Yeah, so image that, but in the dark!

After scurrying through the parking lot, we made our way inside.  There were lights!  Yay!  And there was sound....boy was there sound!  The music was blaring!  I don't guess I have been to a roller rink before, because I think that I would have remembered how loud they are!

We got out of the foyer, which by the way the cashier was behind plexiglass, and into the actual rink.  It was super crowded in there.  It wasn't just crowded with normal people either.  It was crowded with MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS!!!  

AAAAAHHHH!!!!!

So combine these elements:

1. Very loud music
2. Large crowds
3. Middle Schoolers

and you have my version of Hades!  I wasn't skating in that mess!  Luckily no one else in our group wanted to either so we hightailed it to the vehicles and went bowling!  Where there were lights, signs and adults!  Yay!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Jollies of Small Town Post Offices

As I am sure you are well aware, you can purchase just about anything through the Internet.  With that being said, my husband mentioned he really needed a new windshield wiper blade for our hatchback car.  We live in a tiny town where you cannot purchase such items and Wal-Mart, which is in the next town over, doesn't carry the small wiper we would need.  Now we could go to one of the auto parts stores in the next town over, but it is outside of our normal places we visit and we never think of it when we are in the next town over.

Next best thing, the Internet!  I was able to find one very easily on Amazon and purchased it.  It arrived and I went to the post office to pick it up.  We have a small post office box like the ones shown below. Except our town is so small it has nowhere near 900 something boxes!  I think we might make it to maybe 500 boxes.


The post office people tend to stuff them full if you miss picking up mail a few days in a row, but the post master warned us when we first moved here that if we got a small one it wouldn't hold much.

When I opened our box there was the normal mail and this long plastic envelope containing the windshield wiper.  I pulled on it to remove it from the box but it wouldn't come out.  It kept getting caught on something.  I pulled the rest of the mail out hoping that would help, but it didn't. It wasn't that the wiper was too big, it went in the box from the other side just fine, it just kept getting stuck.  I didn't want to break the wiper so I didn't pull too hard.

I could hear the post master putting mail in other people's box a little further down from mine so I put my mouth near the entrance my post office box and said, "Help, I am stuck.!" 

The post master laughed and said jokingly, "You're stuck?"

"Yes."

"Ok, I will get it and bring it around to the front desk.  You probably have a bunch of books to mail too don't you?"

"Nope, not today."

Now the post master couldn't see me, but she sees me all the time when I do bring in books to mail (side job) and she recognized my voice and/or she knew who's box that 2 feet long envelope was protruding out of!  So, I stood there waiting with the post office box opened on my end.  If anybody had come in they would have thought I had gone crazy just standing there with the box open doing nothing.

The post master got done with what she was doing and came over  to the box from her side of the wall.  The envelope just needed to be pushed down some to allow it to slip out of the box on my side.  I laughed, told her thank you, and said I was glad she had been there or I would have been out of luck on getting that silly windshield wiper out of the box.

There are perks to living in a small town.  We may not be able to buy a windshield wiper, but when it gets stuck in the post office box, we have a familiar friend on our side to help fix it!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Christmas Day Walk - London

On Sunday, December 25th, there was no public transportation. We were not able to get to a church for worship. There were not stores open. It was dead. It was Christmas! We slept in, because really we couldn't do anything else, and eventually got out the door by noon. We started walking towards Trafalgar Square looking for lunch. We were hoping, just hoping we would find something to eat, because we chanced it and didn't buy any food at the grocery store like we did in Rome (which wasn't needed) and in Dublin (which was needed).

Here are some of the sights we saw along the way.  If you are curious as to what they are, hover over the picture with your mouse and you will see the title of the photo. You can also click on the picture to open up Flickr to see the title.  I tried to look things up the best I could, but there were somethings I still have no clue as to what they were.  All I know is that if I took a picture it was something caught my eye!

City of London


The Punch Tavern


The Old Bell


Green Elephant at Serjeant's Inn


El Vino


El Vino's Window Display


Romanian Orthodox Church


Falcon Court EC4


Ye Olde Cock Tavern


Corner of Fleet St and Chancery Ln


The Old Bank Of England


The Royal Courts of Justice Sign


The Devil Tavern


Temple Bar Memorial Top


Twinings Tea


Somerset House


We found that a restaurant called Scotch Steak Houses were open so we went in for lunch. We both got the Scotch cheeseburger with chips (let me translate that for the Americans...french fries).

Hamburger and Fries at Scotch Steak Houses


It came to the table and Frankie asked for mustard. They brought it and he lathered on, took a bite, and found out it was English mustard which is very spicy.  I took a bite of mine and found the burger had been cooked with pieces of onions in it. I hate onions.  We both ate our burgers despite the "surprises" and survived.

After eating we kept walking and the closer we go to Trafalgar Square the more stuff that was open!!  If we had waited just five more minutes we could have had this!

Pizza at Alexy's Cafe


 If we had only waited!  Oh well, live and learn!  I continued to take pictures all along the way to Trafalgar Square.  The closer we got the more people there were.  We were actually very surprised by how many people were out and about.  The following are pictures I took while we wandered around Trafalgar Square.

Interesting People Trafaglar Square


Gold Mime Trafalgar Square


Shrek at Trafalgar Square


Waiting in Line at a Wall Trafalgar Square

I have to make a comment about the picture above.  These people were standing in a line, but the beginning of the line seemed to start at the wall.  There was nothing around that seemed to require a line, especially one that started at the wall.  And to top it off, it was not just one line but two!  No clue.


Trafalgar Square Fountain


Nelsons Ship in a Bottle Far


Nelsons Ship in a Bottle Front


Olympic Countdown in Trafalgar Square


Lions at Trafalgar Square


Nelson on His Column


Red Phone Booths, Cafe Nero, and Pret a Manger
The real London: Red telephone booths, Caffe Nero, and Pret A Manger, on every corner!


Little Frankie's
Awwwhhh!!!!  Little Frankie's!!!!
After finally seeing Trafalgar Square in the daylight we decided to start heading back to the hotel.  As we were walking we stumbled across the Calvary Horse Guard Museum with real horse guards!

Horse Guard-Beware


People were standing by the horses to get pictures and some of them would grab the reins! You don't grab the reins of a horse that you aren't sitting on without asking unless it is an emergency! A few people would be near the horse to get a picture and they were scared to death of the horse.  I am sure the horses are use to being around lots of people and have been trained, but they are still animals who could panic at anytime!

Horse Guard with Asian Tourist
Asian tourist throwing the peace sign....

 There was one guy guarding on foot.  He would pause and tourist would run up beside him to pose for pictures.  Then he would turn to go to a different spot and they people would run after him.  I don't know if he was moving because he was suppose to or just to mess with the people.  I know they are trained guards, but the poor guards looked really silly with their pony tail hats and it was hard not to pity them on the horses. They were in their special pretty red Christmas uniforms though.

Horse Guard From Behind

We continued making our way back to the hotel passing the Tower of Big Ben for the final time.


Big Ben in Distance


Lamborghini


Frankie Pinching Big Ben Tower


Close up in Evening


London Eye Portion
Last view of the London Eye

We finished our walked back to hotel along the South Bank. It was so lovely and peaceful.

South Bank with St Pauls


River Thames in Evening Light

Crossed the Millennium Bridge one last time with the spectacular view of St. Paul's Cathedral.


St Pauls and Christmas Tree from Millennium Bridge


Back at the hotel we mapped out our walk online and found out we had walked four miles! It was good for us. We washed all the clothes and packed for our return home in the morning. Every bag we had was stuffed to the gills and our suitcase ended up being a few kilograms over. The airline didn't charge us though. Probably because we only had one bag between the two of us. But we learned a very valuable lesson, from now one we take a bag each.  This way we don't have worry about being possibly charged because we brought back more than we took over!

We had a fabulous trip to London and it is a place that we would go back to visit. There is so much to see and do!  We have been talking it over and it looks like our next trip will be to Budapest Hungary this summer!  We have been bitten by the travel bug and it has now infected us!

So until later, bon voyage!

Sherlock Holmes Museum, Abbey Road Studio, and Indian Food

Slept an hour later on Saturday, December 24th. It was nice! There were only a few attractions that were going to be opened that we had not already seen, so we could spend a little more time snoozing and be all right.

I was looking out the window of our hotel as Frankie was getting ready and I saw this guy.

Cab Driver in Training
 
Before our trip we had watch a Rick Steves' video about London and he mentioned how the cab drivers have to study all the roads in London and even know the history.  Rick Steves also said that if we saw anyone driving around on a scooter with a map in front of them that they very well could be a cab driver in training.  I am pretty sure the man in the picture was doing just that.  At one point I saw him raise his hands in confusion and disgust trying to figure out where he was.  I was very comical from my point of view.

Out of the hotel we started our day off by stopping at a French bakery called Paul, for a pastry and a coffee.  They had some delicious looking goods!

Paul-French Bakery

Paul-French Bakery3

Paul-French Bakery4


I had taken several pictures, as you can see, and then there was something I saw in the front counter that I wanted to take a picture of.  I asked the lady behind the counter, since she was standing right there, if she minded and she said that she preferred that I didn't take any pictures.  It was fine if I took them from the window outside though.  Ummm.....oops! C'est la vie!

Sneaking off with my stolen pictures we headed to the tube stop and on to Baker Street, home of the world's most famous address. 221b Baker Street - Sherlock Holmes!

Baker Street Station

Baker Street Tube Decor
I am sure this was just promotional for the movie, but it was still cool to see at the Baker Street tube station.
221B Baker St Door


Time Period Police
That is not a real policeman, he was dressed in the time period that Sherlock Holmes was set.
It was 6 pounds (about $9.50) each to get in.  I really wish I would have read Sherlock Holmes BEFORE going to the museum.  I think we would have found it much more enjoyable.  I already knew about the pipe and hat of Sherlock Holmes and I did read the book once we got home. I found it fascinating and highly recommend it to you!

Sherlock Holmes Pipes

Sherlock Holmes Hats

The rooms were set up to show scenes from different cases that Holmes had solved and it showed how the rooms in his house might have been set up in the Victorian age.

The Man with the Twisted Lip
This one portrayed the case called, "The Man with the Twisted Lip".
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
From "The Adventure of the Speckled Band".
Our experience, without any real background knowledge, caused it to be not very fun.  We were crammed in a small house with a bunch of Asian tourists. Not to offend anyone, but my experience with the majority of Asian tourists have been as follows: They come in large groups and take a lot and I mean a lot of photos of each other at each and every landmark, spot, or anything of interest. They pose in their pictures and use a lot of peace signs....a lot of peace signs.

We finished up at the Sherlock Holmes Museum and headed out towards Abbey Road Studios.

Adjust Your Dress
Seen on the way out of the Sherlock Holmes Museum
 Just down the street from 221b Baker we stopped at a shop dedicated to the Beatles.  They had EVERYTHING Beatles!

London Beatles Store
Store Window
Beatles Socks
Socks!
Beatles Suitcases
Suitcases!
With all the goodies I walked out of there with only some postcards, which my usual souvenir. They are cheap, easy to bring back home and they usually capture scene that I cannot because of a no photo policy, too many people, the event or scene was in the past, or I can't get to the right angle for that perfect shot.

We were now prepared to go to the Beatles Coffee Shop and Abbey Road Studios which required us to get back on the tube and head to the St John's Wood station.  The coffee shop is just around the corner from the exit of the station. It is small but a nice stop.  Abbey Road Studio is a short walk from the station.

Beatles Coffee Shop

Abbey Road Studio2
 
We couldn't go into the studio but that is OK, the fun part is the famous crosswalk and the fence outside.

Abbey Road Crossing and Studio
THE crosswalk that the Beatles walked across for their album titled Abbey Road.
Abbey Road Crossing

Let It Be

Yellow Submarine

Hey jude

Come Together

Take a Sad Song and Make It Better


We sat there awhile and watched other people crossing it and pausing for pictures.  There were a lot of cars that would drive by but some of them would stop and wait. I am sure the people of that area are use to it.

Girls Walking Across Abbey Road
 
Once done with Abbey Road Studio we decided to go to Camden Market, but before we got very far we saw this family.  Is this not the epitome of an English family!?

British Family
 

The twin boys with the hats and scooters.  The baby in the pram.  It was perfect and I got a picture of them without them seeing me and wondering why I was taking a picture of them!

After another tube ride we made it to Camden Market....wow! It is not food market like Borough market. It is a mix of strange, interesting, and the possibly illegal (we didn't see anything bad, but you never know!)

Camden Market2

London Shirts
The one on the right is from the recent riots!
Rainboots
I want the skulls and roses rain boots (or wellies as they call them)!

London Punker
Oh crud! They saw me taking their picture!  Teehee!
Platform Boots
Those on the left would make me at least 5 foot 7 inches tall! (Assuming they would add 6 inches)
We were walking along among the tightly pack stalls. I was about 10 feet in front of Frankie when suddenly he catches up to me and says that we needed to get out of this area very quickly. He said that he was about to punch some guys because as I walked past them they acted like they were going to grab me from behind. They were joking (I think) but Frankie didn't think it was very funny. He just glared at them. They turned and saw him and instantly started to apologize repeatedly.

Frankie is a BIG white dude with a beard and mustache and if you don't know him he can be VERY intimidating. He is my body guard. They were not big white dudes, they were average sized Indian guys. I thought their reaction was so funny...they probably wet their pants just a little. It took Frankie awhile to calm down and even if you bring up now he still will start fuming.

We ended up eating lunch at Camden market at a Mexican food place of all things. They said their boss was from Mexico. We both had quesadillas and they were good!

Mexican Food
 
I though it was funny that we were in London eating Mexican food made by Asian guys while listening to Middle Eastern music and sitting on the seats of Italian motor scooters. It was GREAT!

Moped Seats
 
Frankie saw that one of the stalls was selling Persian tea. He bought us both some and it tasted so good although it was very hot.  I burned my mouth terribly!  They guy also gave Frankie a date (the fruit) for each of us to try. I like dates, Frankie didn't care for the texture. This was the first one I had fresh as opposed to dried.

Before we got too far out of Camden market Frankie saw a little shop that was offering foot massages. He wanted to get one yesterday in Chinatown but I didn't want to have to wait around. We didn't have much else to do so he went in. I thought he was going to ask that poor Asian lady to marry him because it felt so good to him. I just felt sorry she had to touch his feet for 15 minutes. He feet are not use to as much walking as we have done this trip and they were hurting him.

Frankie Getting Foot Massage
That's Kim from Thailand...poor girl!
We had plans to meet friends at 6:30 at Khan's restaurant and we still had about 3 hours to kill. So we walked on and found this huge "for Europe" grocery store. It was the size of  a Wal-Mart Super Center food section. We bought some food gifts found only in the UK and went on our way with a now heavy-ish bag.

We went to see Big Ben and the London Eye one more time and then headed to the restaurant.

London Eye and Blue Lights in Trees

At Khans Restaurant we ate some wonderful Indian food. I had Chicken Korma which is chicken with cream, almonds and coconut.  The picture does not do it any justice.  It was my first taste of Indian food and man I have been missing out! It was DELICIOUS!

Chicken Korma and Naan
 
Frankie had Pasanda which was marinated lamb pieces prepared in cream, spices and cooked with coconut, almonds and cashew nuts. Also, very good! We both ordered naan which is the flatbread in the picture above.  It is a little thicker than a flour tortilla but with a similar taste if the tortilla is a homemade one. We also had papad which is a like a thin chip that can get dipped in various sauces.

Papad and Dipping Choices
The Papad and dips.
I knew I would be experimenting with Indian food recipes once we get home and have.  It has been a great adventure into a new food land. I know there are Indian restaurants near where we live but we will have to search them out. We tried one recently because we had a Groupon (online coupon) for it, but I don't think we would go there without the Groupon, because it was rather expensive.  It was good, but costly.

The friends that we met up with are great people and I am so glad we got to meet. It was the first time to meet them offline.

 At one point I was digging in my purse for something and realized my passport was not in there. I didn't say anything to anyone.  I swallowed my heart and reasoned with myself that I probably took it out accidentally when I grabbed post cards and bags yesterday out of my purse. I stayed calm and when we got to the hotel I checked for it as I prayed. It was there...shew!!!

The next day was Christmas and we knew that there would be no public transport and very few things open.  We decided we were going to chance it and not buy any groceries for Christmas day and just hope we could find something to eat.

Stay tuned for our last day in London and see if we had to go hungry for the day or if we found food!  I know, I know...very dramatic and now you are hooked, right?