Monday, February 28, 2011

Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Krispy Kreme

WOW!  What a week.  Thursday morning we headed to Stonehenge which is only about a 40 minute drive from here.  Stonehenge sits high on the Salisbury plain and as you're driving along, it just pops out in front of you.  It was truly amazing.  I kept saying to John, "I can't believe I'm actually here.  I never thought I would see Stonehenge in my life."  I was in a state of awe all day.  The kids were also fascinated by it.  You can get recorded devices that tell you about the structure as you make your way around.  Jack and Kim were diligent about listening and learning.  Evie wasn't as enthralled and decided to just take it all in without the help of a guide.  It was a cold day but at least it wasn't raining.  Not sure what I was thinking when I headed out the door without my coat.  Luckily my husband is a true gentleman and gave me his coat.  He, unfortunately, froze his butt off.

After leaving Stonehenge, we made our way down to Old Sorham.  The remains of a castle once inhabited by William the Conqueror.  Jack loved this.  Before we knew it he was off storming the castle and exploring the site.  There wasn't much left so it was hard to imagine what stood there so many years ago.  But just being there, you could feel the history surrounding it.  We explored for a while before heading back home to Basingstoke.

We had planned to head to Windsor Castle on Saturday but a migraine for Kim kept us from going that day.  We did make it to the mall, The Oracle, in Reading.  We had lunch at Jamie Oliver's restaurant there and then went off searching for dessert.  We came across a Krispy Kreme!  I couldn't believe it.  I little bit of home right here in England.  I also found a First Communion Dress for Evie.  Now she has something from England to wear on her big day, whenever that may be.

On Sunday, we headed to Windsor.  We almost made it without getting lost till right at the last turn.  There just aren't many signs telling you where things are.  It rained like the dickens so we didn't spend much time outside exploring the grounds.  We did make it to see Queen Mary's dolls house which is magnificent.  It even has power and running water.  We walked through the state apartments, the main dining room and where the fire broke out in 1992.  You're not allowed to take pictures inside, so you'll have to take my word for it, it was beautiful.  Since we were there on a Sunday, St. George's Chapel was not open so we plan to go back to see the chapel (where Henry the viii is buried) and to explore the outside.

I now have the job of finding our next excursion.  The list of possibilities is long and overwhelming but I shall persevere.

We miss you all and hope you are all well.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Y'All Come Back Now...

Yes, I did it, I said y'all to someone.  It was actually on my first day here.  We were in line at the cafe trying to decide what we wanted to eat, a lady and her children came up behind us and I turned to her and said, "y'all can go ahead of us."  At which point she said, "sorry?" (in a very proper British accent),  then I said, "you all may go ahead of us, we haven't decided what to order."

Trying not to sound like a total idiot is very difficult.  Everyone here speaks so politely.  Most every phrase is followed by ma'am, love, dearie or some other term of endearment.  Someone asked me for my surname today and it took me a minute to figure out what he was asking.

When we were at Jim and Anne's on Saturday, Jim showed us the funniest video about how we, Americans, have butchered "The Queen's English".  They are willing to let some things slide, like not saying the h in herbs or saying trunk instead of boot.  One thing they are not willing to compromise on is the use of "I couldn't care less."  It isn't "I could care less", because if you could care less it would mean that you at least care a little bit.  I couldn't care less means that there was no caring to begin with so there is no way to care less.  Makes perfect sense to me, once explained.  So now, when I hear y'all say, "I could care less," I will correct thee in the proper Queen's English and remind you that you "couldn't care less."

Went to the mall today, they have Build A Bear in England.  Guess what Evie got?  They also have video game stores.   Guess what Jack got?  So far, we have not purchased a single thing here that we couldn't get in the states.  However, the tea cup with Will's & Kate's faces on it was very tempting!

I'm adding a few pics to this post.  Looks like we are off to Stonehenge tomorrow, there's a rumor about that the sun may make an appearance.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Invitations are in the Mail

Apparently, Wills and Kate have sent our their wedding invitations.  Since Sarah Ferguson didn't get one, I won't hold my breath. 

We had the most lovely day yesterday.  We drove up to the McDermott's house near Oxford.  I was able to see the Themes and some very beautiful English landscape.  The children were introduced to the chickens and got along very well with Ellie and Will.  Jim and Anne are the nicest people you could meet.  They opened their home to us and we had the best fish and chips for lunch.  We played games and chatted and even got a lesson on the difference between England, the United Kingdom and Great Britain.  It was very confusing but the venn diagram helped!

Today was a laid back Sunday for the Leveilles.  The kids tried out the jacuzzi and we had a nice dinner together.  We start "school" tomorrow which is a whole new adventure.  I've decided that our first field trip will be to Windsor Castle, hopefully sometime this week.  I'm afraid that if I don't get the kids out and about, their homesickness will take over.  They have each had spells of wanting to go home, but gratefully, they are short lived.

Well, I'm off to put more furniture together!


Friday, February 18, 2011

No Phones, No Lights, No Motor Cars...

Well, okay, maybe it's not quite that bad.  Living without phones and internet for the past few days has been like being in the dark ages.  We have become so dependent on communication technology that when we don't have it, life comes to a standstill!

The children and I did make it safely to England on Wednesday morning.  The flight was uneventful, even slept a bit.  Made it off the plane and through customs with no problems.  Loaded our 6 suitcases onto a "trolley" and made it out of the airport to find John and Anne and Jim waiting for us.  I was greeted with a "well done, Patti" and realized what I had actually just accomplished!  We loaded the suitcases into our new BMW estate car, aka station wagon, and piled into the McDermott's Range Rover, and we were off.  We arrived at the house about an hour later.  Anne had done some shopping for us so we had a few necessities in the house.  We bid so long to the McDermott's, I turned around, went up the stairs and fell into bed!  Yes, I know that you're supposed to stay awake, but that just wasn't going to happen.  I only slept for an hour :)  Evie and I then took a walk to the local Sainsbury's pronounced Sainesbrie to purchase a few cleaning supplies and then came back and went to town on the house. 

Since then, we have made several more trips to Sainsbury's, a trip to Argos ( a catalog store), and various other stores to collect items for setting up the house.  I'm still trying to unpack the suitcases but we are short on storage space so I have to come up with some creative ideas for putting stuff away.  I would post some pics, but the camera was smashed on the trip over and will need to be fixed before I can use it.  The kids are on their third day without tv and haven't gone mad or combusted.  We feel lucky about that.  Evie is already complaining she is bored, so I may have to fly Kelly over so she has someone to play with.  She's about to drive Jack and Kim crazy. 

John has been driving all around the city.  The roads around here are more than a bit confusing.  I will stick to walking.  As if the whole driving on the wrong side of the road wasn't enough, they have these round abouts everywhere.  You have to be in a certain lane to go in a certain direction, and no one stops, everyone just keeps going.  I've closed my eyes more than a few times and screeched once or twice.

The plan for tomorrow is to head up to the McDermott's which should be a wonderful drive through the countryside.  I look forward to getting out of the house for awhile and so do the kids. 


Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Long Good Bye

Saying good bye is hard.  I feel like I have been saying it for a month now.  Jack had his two best friends spend the night and they just left.  Of course, he doesn't get upset at things like saying good bye, but I do.  It's hard for me to see these kids walk out the front door and know that we won't be seeing them again for awhile.  I got tears in my eyes.  Kim said good bye to her best friends this morning.  Evie and Kelly are laughing and giggling upstairs right now.  I will miss that sound.  The sound of their laughter joined together in an amazing chorus.  These children are an important part of our family.  They love my children and I in return love them.  I will miss them.

As for my friends, I can't even think about saying good bye.  I have a lump in my throat right now.  I can't imagine not going shopping with Allison, sitting on Suzannes's front porch, holding Olivia, getting hugs from Mia, drinking out on the patio, hanging at the bus stop, girls' nights, bitch fests, crying on their shoulders, laughing at their jokes, and just being in their presence.  I have the best group of friends a girl could ever want.  I love you guys and will miss you more than I can say. 

Pam, you are my friend, but even more you are my sister.  I'm so lucky to have you in my life and I will be back!

And so, my long good bye continues.  Each day I do something for the last time, for awhile anyway.  I will look ahead at the adventure that awaits and anxiously wait til I get to say hello instead of good bye!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What time is it?

Greetings from the Motherland. (Who's your mummy?)

I arrived a bit ahead of schedule. The plane, the airport, baggage and customs were all a breeze. I hope that Patti and the kids have as easy a time as I did.

At the airport, I stepped out into sunlight to wait for Jim and Anne. I could see my breath, but it wasn't cold. They sent a text saying they hit a spot of traffic but would arrive shortly. The drive home to Oxfordshire was taken up mostly by Jim trying to educate me on UK road signage -- none of which I remember today due to jet lag brain fog.

Day 1 was spent simply trying to stay awake. Jim makes an excellent coffee which helped tremendously. I managed to stay awake until 10PM (5PM Eastern time) with only a 5 minute doze around 3PM.

Their home is a charming little cottage at the end of the lane. Two chickens greeted us. Jim picked one up for a closer inspection, and a pat on the head. After placing the one chicken on the ground both ran over to Anne, "They know who feeds them, they do." I settled into "spare oom" and unpacked some things. into town.

Driving through town, Jim turns down an alley (now, they will call it a road, I know, but seriously, it was generous calling this an alley, I mean, it was so narrow...) and says, "Anne won't drive down this road. Your not going to believe me, but it goes both directions." I look out the window as the building window sills clear the car on both sides by, perhaps, 5 inches! Lunch at the pub and some other errands followed. I was happy to receive several mini lessons meant to help convert my language to UK English (proper?).

sidewalk --> pavement
pants --> trousers (don't say 'pants' as it means undergarments)
truck --> lorrie (not sure of the spelling on this one)
(a few off color words that I will leave as independent research for the reader)

Later in the evening I met Jim and Anne's two children. A lovely family and wonderful hosts.

Phone calls ahhhh.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Redy to Wenden on My Pilgrimage...

For my Meredith Buddies out there, you're welcome. 

Since England is our destination, I've decided to use as many phrases and quotes from British authors that I can come up with. 

John left this evening, he is officially on his way across the pond.  He arrives in England tomorrow morning around 4:00 am our time, which is 9:00 am English time.  Our friends Jim and Anne McDermott are meeting him at the airport and giving him a place to stay for the first few days he is there.  He really has a very difficult task, he has to get ready for US.  I told him that as long as I had a bed to sleep in and a coffee pot, I could get the rest after I got there.

So, this week is full of finishing up the list.  Dropping off the cat and bird, laundry, last minute shopping trip to the outlets (not really necessary but absolutely needed) and trying to cram all of our stuff into four suitcases...Lord help me.  I have a feeling we'll be racking up the overage charges for our bags, they will most definitely be over 50 pounds. 

John has begun his part of the pilgrimage, and now I must get ready for mine...