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Some Cliffs, a Battle, and Fish & Chips

BY ABBY

semi-overcast 5 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Today we went out as a threesome, and left Hannah and my mom at home, as they were both feeling a little ill. But my dad, aunt and I braved the cold and the wind to go for a walk at Beachy Head, which is a very green area right on the side of some cliffs, looking right over the water. It was a very pretty spot, and the cliffs were extremely high and went straight down. Our walk was a little under two hours, and despite the strong wind and low temperature, we all enjoyed it.

After our walk we took a little drive to Battle, a small town near Hastings where the Battle of Hastings took place. On the way we stopped at a place for lunch called Crown Carveries. It reminded us of a cross between ABC's and Denny's back home. Unfortunately, earlier that day they had a little mishap in their kitchen, and the only thing they were able to feed us were desserts or starters. Even though there wasn't much to choose from we decided to give it a go, as we didn't have very many options otherwise. I ordered some tomato soup and cheesy garlic bread, my dad had a ham and cheese melt and my aunt had some nachos. Unfortunately for me, my soup was a little on the cool side, but I was happy to have a little food in me.

Beachy Head

Beachy Head

From there we drove into Battle, and went to the Battle Abbey as well as a couple other stops included in the site. We saw where King Harold died, as well as the area in which the monks stayed. We saw a very short but informative show about the Battle of Hastings, which allowed us to understand what we were seeing. The Normans won by the way.

Click here for a little more information about the battle.
Click here for information on Battle Abbey.

After this we started on our way home, and came back to find the rest of our group sitting on the couch with some hot chocolate, in a very warm house that felt like an old folks home... just how I like it.

I started to cook some chili for dinner, but instead of just coming home with a few more ingredients for the meal, my mom and my aunt came back with some fish and chips from a food truck they had encountered on their journey. Here is a first hand account of their travels:

Muriel's notes:

Battle Abbey

Battle Abbey

Running into the fish and chip truck seemed so advantageous that we couldn't pass it up. When we asked them how long they would be around, they told us only for another 15 minutes (and they only came once a week). We quickly continued on with our original errand of getting a couple of things at the store, knowing we would have to hurry back. They all know everyone here, and everyone's house name as well, it seems. At the shop, the storekeeper asked "Who are you staying with?" (apparently, we stuck out like sore thumbs). When we mentioned the cottage's name, he immediately identifed the owner. He explained they don't get many visitors. Running back to the chip truck, we put in our order and started a conversation with three young British guys while we waited. They were surprised we were in Plumpton Green, they too stating Plumpton doesn't see very many tourists. It turns out one of the young men had been to Canada, staying in Vancouver for two months and becoming a fan of the Canucks en route. Two of the group were planning a trip back to Canada in January, to capitalize on the skiiing. When I mentioned they would have no problem meeting women with those British accents, he said with a cheeky grin, 'Why do you think we're going back?'

We put in a reasonable order for some scampi, 4 large cod pieces, a small one (for Abby) and three large orders of fries to share. Well, what we got was massive! Five small pieces of fish and 1.5 orders of fries would have done us just fine as it turns out. We had chips galore and masses of newsprint to carry them in. When we got our bounty home, everyone was excited and dug in with relish (and ketchup and vinegar, too). The meal on the stove was relegated to the next day.

Posted by KZFamily 02:08 Archived in England Tagged cliffs united_kingdom england walk battle uk cold hastings beachy_head carvary battle_of_hastings Comments (2)

Leaving London: Logistics, Beer and Wine

by Ben

semi-overcast 7 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end”; except in our case. Yes we will miss London but we are off to see more great things so the sting of leaving is pretty mild. Considering four of us have had colds for the past week we still kept up a pretty brisk pace this week, so we opted to change things up with a more lazy start to our travel day (at least for the girls and Helen).

A good deal of travel is about logistics. Where are you going to get food and shelter? Where is the next landmark or attraction to visit? How are we going to get from A to B? Where are we going to get the money to pay for all this? I guess the last question is not really about logistics but if anyone has a line on some extra cash we are game to check it out. Today’s logistics were all about transportation. In order to satisfy the budget, I secured a much better deal by picking up our six week car rental from Heathrow rather than from a closer and more convenient location within London. The catch is this meant a fairly long tube ride to Heathrow.

Our London house: very cheery and homey

Our London house: very cheery and homey

The usual quick Underground travel has been complicated by the fact that several tube lines have been closed over the Easter holiday for maintenance. It took Muriel and me 90 minutes to get to Heathrow, which is a bit of slog when you know you need to drive back into London to pick up the rest of crew and then find your way out again. The silver lining is that the cost of our public transit journey to Heathrow was a mere three pounds each.

When we arrived at the car rental desk we were greeted by a little sign that said no one was operating the airport office and to head out the doors to take a 15 minute shuttle ride to their main office. So by the time we got to our car rental location we had been travelling for a full two hours. What you do to save a buck!

Our car pickup was an interesting illustration of where technology is taking us. For the first minute I was served by a person behind a desk but the rest of the transaction took place at a kiosk with a video phone. Here an attendant based in Ireland completed my rental agreement and told me what stall to pick my car up in. It is just a further step into a virtual world.

Plumpton Green cottage: pleasant but a tight squeeze

Plumpton Green cottage: pleasant but a tight squeeze

I had arranged to get a station wagon model of car so we could transport more food staples as we move from home to home over the next six weeks. We will average a new location every four days but would rather not rebuild our larder of staples from scratch each time we move. I was a little surprised to find that the station wagon parked in the rental stall was a Skoda. Skoda has been around for a long time but it has been the butt of as many jokes as its Russian cousin, the Lada. One joke in the 1980s about a Skoda went something like this. How do you double the value of a Skoda? You fill its tank with petrol. Fortunately, today’s Skoda is a subsidiary of Volkswagon and the cars have an appearance more like a BMW and drive like a Volkswagon.

I was thankful I had a six day refresher on driving on the left side of the road a few months ago in Malta. The drive back into London went smoothly although the traffic was thick. I said to Muriel that I was glad that the hardest driving would be done before I even picked up Helen and kids as we would be heading out of London. I had not really thought this through. Our house is in the north of London and we are heading to the south of England to the small village of Plumpton Green. If you punch this information into a GPS it efficiently plots a straight line from A to B which in our case took us pretty much straight through the heart of London. A straight line drive in London consists of many lines connected by circles (also known as roundabouts). Our fifty mile journey would take two and a half hours and take us within spitting distance of Buckingham Palace. I treated everyone to three times around the rotary next to Hyde Park around the Wellington monument. We truly came to understand the size of a city of 14 million people and the maze of road and traffic it creates. I must say that four and a half months of European and Turkish driving practice is finally paying off. Although the drive was a bit of a slog it was far from stressful. I can happily report that I have not singed any ears with any verbal outbursts. Perhaps this was a disappointment for Helen—having read about other incidents with relish from our earlier blog posts she may have been eagerly anticipating a live rendition. No worries. There is still time, I still have to drive in Cardiff before she parts ways with us.

Plumpton Green cottage

Plumpton Green cottage

Plumpton Green is your quintessential English village with one main road and a few short branch streets off it. It is situated in the gently rolling landscape of Sussex. Here we have rented a small backyard cottage. It is a bit of tight fit for five us but Abby is being a trooper and sleeping on some couch cushions on the floor to make it work. With Plumpton Green being fairly small we needed to drive a few miles to find a reasonably sized grocery store. It being Easter Monday, our selection was limited to a Lidl store. We had encountered this chain in Malta and found it a very basic grocery store for its overall size. Its limited wares said a great deal about what are not considered British staples. In a Lidl store, you will not find much in the way of salad dressing (two bottles in the whole store); there is no such thing as coffee cream; and brown bread is far from popular. As an aside, we were surprised to find that the all important British staple, beer, is relatively expensive.

Around the Lidl store you could see the influx of American chains such as Blockbuster (yes they are still in business here), KFC and Papa John’s Pizza. Despite this, the British identity does not seem to be in great danger since fish and chips shops and pubs are still as common as thick British accents.

We enjoyed a home cooked meal of curried chicken and salad along with some British beer (I complain about the price but still can’t resist). It was nice to finish off the evening with some nice wine and conversation. It has been a treat having Helen here in more ways than one. I like having someone to share a bottle of wine with for one. She has the task of choosing the wine and has been batting a thousand in her choices. You can get wine from all over the world here at very reasonable prices. Who thought we would be choosing wine over beer in England!

Posted by KZFamily 15:44 Archived in England Tagged london united_kingdom england plumpton_green Comments (3)

A Day in London: Cousins George & Joan, St. Pauls, & Hardys

BY ABBY

overcast 5 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Today we planned to split up a little, with three groups going three separate ways. Hannah and I planned to check out Madame Tussaud's, the wax museum, together, while my parents visited my mom's first cousin once removed and his wife. All of us planned to meet up at Saint Paul's Cathedral later in the day, and then head off to an old fashioned sweet shop called Hardy's.

Saint Paul's Cathedral

Saint Paul's Cathedral

But not everything went to plan, because as my parents were dropping Hannah and me off, we noticed that the line was extremely long. It was estimated that it would take 2-3 hours to be able to get a ticket. Both of us came to the conclusion that this was simply going to be too long of a wait, and accompanied my parents on their visit.

I really enjoyed meeting Mr and Mrs Goodall (George and Joan), and I told my mom as we were leaving that it was almost nice that we couldn't go to the wax museum. They are both very nice people, and seem fit for each other. They fill their free time with writing, literature classes, and weekly practices with a music group that George has been with for 40 years.

After our visit, the four of us made our way to Saint Paul's to meet up with my aunt. Hannah was feeling a little ill, so she and my dad chose to skip the cathedral and go straight to the sweet shop for a little before heading off home. My mom and I stayed behind for the 25 minute wait for tickets. We found my aunt shortly, but it turned out that she had already completed most of the tour. She went down to the crypt while my mom and I did a short tour of the top floor, before heading downstairs ourselves. We had come a little too late though, because they closed off the galleries and the dome before we were able to go see them, which for me, was extremely disappointing. Although I have a slight fear of heights, I still had wanted to walk in the dome.

But the part of the cathedral that we did see was very grand and beautiful. Most of the ceiling is done in mosaics, except for a small portion that is painted. There are many memorials dedicated to various people, and thanks to our free audio guide, we were able to learn about each and every one of them. Downstairs in the crypt the tombs are very large and ornate, and many of the names can be recognized as the same ones that have memorials in the upstairs part of the church.

Hardy's Sweet Shop

Hardy's Sweet Shop

The dome, or should I say, domes, of the church are very interesting. There are actually two of them, although you can only see one at a time. From the outside of the church you can see the outer dome, which was built so that it would dominate part of the skyline. The inner dome is smaller, so that from the inside of the church you can still see its beauty, without it being too high up.

Click here for more information on the Cathedral.
Click here for information on the domes. (skip to second last paragraph on first page)

After our visit, the three of us trooped down to Hardy's, and I was very pleased with the result. I had been the one that came up with the idea to go there, and it went beyond my expectations. I bought two types of fudge, chocolate and clotted cream. And I also bought a candy called "Mega Cherry Sours", which, as it turns out, are indeed mega sour.

From here we headed off home, and had a nice warm dinner of leftovers, followed by the watching of an old movie called "Chariots of Fire", before heading off into dream land to wait for Easter morning.

Posted by KZFamily 14:52 Archived in England Tagged london united_kingdom england uk candy relatives saint_paul's_cathedral Comments (2)

British Museum and a Bridge too Far

by Ben

overcast 2 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

British Museum

British Museum

What can you say about London? It is the world's most visited city, and was for almost a century the world's largest urban center. It has 43 universities, the world's largest airport system and is one of the globe's biggest financial centres. At the height of the British Empire, London was the center of power and rule of one quarter of the world's population and land mass. So if you are in London, what institution do you visit that matches this prowess? You visit the British Museum. This repository of world history has been in existence for over 250 years and is home to over eight million artifacts. The contents of this museum are not without controversy. Imperial Britain was not shy in taking the most exquisite historical artifacts from its conquered territories and bringing them back to home turf.

With such a wide ranging collection and such divergent tastes in our party, we eventually decided to go in different directions for a least parts of the day. At one point it was only Muriel and I that stayed together. Abby chose to concentrate on ancient Egypt and the money exhibit. Hannah also concentrated on Ancient Egypt but also spent a great deal of time exploring the Enlightenment and the Living and Dying exhibits. Muriel and I chose to be more wide ranging in our explorations and took in the aforementioned exhibits at a more cursory level, the wonderful watches and clocks exhibit, much of the ancient Britain exhibit and a smattering of other European artifacts. Helen took the same tack.
The British Museum is a very popular attraction in London and it is no wonder. It doesn't hurt that there is no admission charged. It seems a wise policy as this museum has acquired some of the world's best cultural artifacts under somewhat questionable circumstances. For instance, Greece has been ever so slowly reconstructing the Parthenon. It is really an impossible task considering that most important detail work is on display in the British Museum.

The King's Library, British Museum

The King's Library, British Museum

For me there were many highlights in this museum. Perhaps the most beautiful is the King's Library which is home to the Enlightenment exhibit. This room displays artifacts from around the world that were collected during the Enlightenment period and they are grouped by the following subject areas: religion and ritual, trade and discovery, the birth of archaeology, art history, classification, the decipherment of ancient scripts and natural history. The exhibit represents how the British saw the world in the Enlightenment era. The room and the display is just plain gorgeous. It just renews one's awe of the world's diversity and beauty. I would be quite happy to spend the rest of my days just exploring and taking in this wonderful room.

After several hours of exploring the woderful museum, 4 of 5 of us had hit the limit of our ability to absorb any more of it (yes, Hannah has no limit in her abilities and desire to soak up more). We were not done sightseeing for the day but we needed to walk and just look around rather than read any more information signs. We set as our destination London Bridge. My sister Helen has an emotional soft spot for this piece of architecture as she has fond childhood memories associated with the ditty of the same name. We didn't realize it was more than a fair hoof from the British Museum to the bridge. We also eventually discovered that the visual that Helen had associated with the London Bridge was actually that of the Tower Bridge. We think this is probably a very common phenomenon. It wasn't until we saw the very plain and unremarkable London Bridge that it twigged my memory that I had already seen the London Bridge several years ago and not in London. Lake Havasu in Arizona is home to the 1800s version of the bridge. An American bought the old bridge when London replaced it with a wider version somewhere in the 1960s or 1970s. The modern London Bridge is quite a letdown. We could not just stop here. Even though it seemed too far we felt compelled to push on towards the Tower Bridge which is even further down the Thames. Pretty much exhausted, we finally crossed the Tower Bridge and in our minds thought it really should be called the London Bridge and deserves the association with the much loved song.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

We passed by the Tower of London almost oblivious to its existence since a tube station was all we really wanted to see now. Within 45 minutes we were back at Golder's Green, our home turf during our stay in London. Helen and Muriel graciously took up the task of grocery shopping while the rest of us trotted home to put up our feet. It was a great day in London, despite the cold and the long walk.

Posted by KZFamily 05:45 Archived in England Tagged london united_kingdom Comments (2)

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