Archive for category Travel
Our first weeks in Tucson seemed like never-ending shopping trips. We were trying to furnish our house and we quickly signed ourselves up for some DIY projects like building a bed and shortening the legs of our counter-height table, which meant we were buying power tools in addition to furniture, dishes, groceries, and other miscellany.
It was hot. Like unbelievably hot. I walked out of my sister’s house in Mesa one day when it was 117 degrees and I felt like I had just opened the oven door. A hot wind in my face. It was so nice to have a place to stay when we got here though. A sister with a guest room and a swimming pool was just the best thing we could have asked for. But we had also booked our townhouse just a week or two before we arrived. That was a little terrifying since I had never seen the place before, but the whole move became easier because we had an address: getting drivers licenses, car insurance, voter registration; changing our address with all the various organizations that need to know where we are. Everything turned out to be a breeze.
Furnishing the house was a little harder than we expected, though. This was the third (or fourth?) time we’ve moved to a new place without any furniture and we’re usually pretty good at snagging things for free or cheap. In the past, we’ve been able to find things that look pretty nice, but not so nice that we’ll miss them when we leave them behind (ok not entirely true. I truly loved a lot of the furnishings we left in Boston). But even in the birthplace of Freecycle, the free market is pretty sparse here. And if you want used stuff for sale–even lousy looking used stuff–its selling for much more than I’m used to paying.
One of the first things we bought was a piano. The unfortunate seller said he would deliver it himself for an extra $35 dollars. I thought he was crazy, and I think he did regret it afterward, but a deal is a deal! The funniest part was when he finally got it in the door and realized he forgot the bench. Oy.
But all this running around and shopping in the city called for a few excursions. I’m not sure where this hike was, exactly, but a couple of the pictures are from the parking lot at Sabino Canyon.
As I said in my last post, we returned from England to Calgary right in the middle of Stampede. The Calgary Stampede is the largest rodeo in the world and the whole city goes all out. There was a cowboy band at the airport that serenaded us as we waited at the luggage carousel. All the bus drivers wear cowboy hats. Hay bales are basically everywhere downtown. And “business casual” suddenly becomes plaid shirts, jeans, belt buckles, and cowboy boots.
Since E was born around Stampede time last year, I didn’t get to go, so this year we were determined to make it happy. The free family day was the day after we arrived, and we had to get there before 9am or something in order to get in for free. We thought this might be a crazy idea because we might be jetlagging and unsettled, but it actually worked out alright.
We got to watch a few races, some acrobatics, but mostly we looked at the animals in the expo center. E was intimidated by the horses and cows, but the races and the chicks were a big hit.
But this first day back in Calgary was also the first day of our next wild ride. We had one week to finish packing, selling as much of our stuff as we could, and moving out of the city. We stayed in Penticton for one week before catching a plane to our new home in Tucson, Arizona.
Our stay in Penticton was a lovely time with lots of visiting parents, grandparents, and friends, paddle boarding, swimming, and some much-needed relaxation. M has all the pictures from that trip on his phone, which brings me to a question: how do you store your photos? I’m trying to navigate the best way to get photos from my camera, my phone, and my husband’s phone all in one place. If you have advice, do tell.
It’s called the Jurassic Coast because it’s been a hotbed for fossil finding, and I was lucky enough to find a few fossils along the way! At least I think they were fossils. So for our grand finale, here are the shots from the most breathtaking hike of my life. The colors were so vibrant. The hills were so steep. The chase was so real.
We had a series of busses to catch, and if we missed that first bus, we missed our nonrefundable flight home. Thankfully my memory card was already full. I had been frantically deleting pictures to free up a little space for snapshots of the hike, so my capacity was really limited. Otherwise, I’m sure there would have been hundreds of pictures and we would have missed our bus for sure.
Not long after Lulworth Cove, E started fussing and I said we might need to stop and let her out for a while. M said we’ll break at the top of the hill, so I fed her a few morsels of bread to tie her over. By the time we got to the top of the hill she was asleep. So we moved right along! We skipped the picnic lunch that we packed and just kept going. Hill after hill.
It was much steeper than we were expecting. Just up and down rolling hills over sharp white cliffs. Stop for a photo op at the Durdle Door. More up and down. Stop and say hi to the sheep. Every once in a while I would stop and call out, “Don’t forget to look behind you!” because it was just as beautiful in front as it was behind.
We were really racing at the end to get to the bus stop, and we made it with 15 minutes to spare! So we had a sandwich and headed back to town, and then took the train to London.
But fate wouldn’t let us make it to the airport quite so smoothly. We waited on the corner for the EasyBus to take us to Gatwick, and when it pulled up the driver said we couldn’t take a baby without a car seat. We argued and argued, saying we’ve looked up the law and it’s not required on a bus in England. We said we’ve been on half a dozen busses with her and no one batted an eye. We said we even took her the EasyBus two weeks ago and no one cared. But he wouldn’t have it. No bus ride. No refund.
We turned around and bought some train tickets. The train is much more expensive, but it’s also faster, so we took advantage of the situation and lingered in London for a few more minutes. We had a bite to eat at the base of London Eye, snapped a couple more pictures, and finally breathed a sigh of relief when we made it to our hotel. Yeah, seriously, we slept in a hotel one night. Of course we made sure it was one with a full English breakfast before our early morning flight back to Calgary, where Stampede was in full swing.
Our Sunday began with a brisk walk to church. The bus would have been a reasonable option, as it was a few miles to hike, but we seem to do things the hard way. As we expected, we got a lot of attention, being the visitors in a small branch. In fact, someone mentioned us in his testimony. He had seen us walking up the hill and holding hands, and it made an impression on him as being kind to each other, but then he was surprised to see us show up in his own congregation.
We had decided Sunday would be a good day to hike the white cliffs. This was the primary reason for our trip to Weymouth. However, the hike is a short drive out of town, and on Saturday night, we realized the bus we needed doesn’t run on Sundays anymore. We weren’t sure if it would be possible to do the hike on Monday, but it seemed unlikely because we had to be back in town by early afternoon to catch our train to London, so we could catch our plane home.
To make a long story short, we found a way to make it work Monday morning, but it was definitely cutting it close. With a little free time Sunday evening, we decided to walk to the cliffs from town. So we just started walking to see how far we could get.
It was my absolute favorite weather. Heavy overcast skies, with a couple of pockets of sunshine that make the green earth look so vibrant against the gray sky. The rain only threatened a couple times, but the storm cast a full double rainbow. I couldn’t back up enough to capture the whole thing with my camera, but M caught a panorama here with his phone if you want to see it.
Our last few days in England were spent on the Southwest coast, in the seaside town of Weymouth. We kept missing out on good deals when we were trying to book a B&Bs, so finally we found some lodging with a small family through Couchsurfing, again capitalizing on having access to a kitchen in child-friendly housing. We weren’t able to check into the house until the evening, and Weymouth doesn’t have any place to check luggage. Thankfully we packed light, but it was still a heavy load to drag around the town. We found a comfortable spot on the beach, E took a nap, M took a swim–a short swim. The water was quite cold. We had fish and chips with mushy peas. Then, once we dropped off our luggage, we headed back out to get some groceries before the Sabbath, and to chase seagulls on the beach.
After retrieving our luggage from Victoria Station, we headed East to Basingstoke, an old English town east of London where one of M’s legendary mission companions live. Legendary because he is not only taller than M, but he is also Scottish and this was a unique and memorable asset for a missionary in Utah. I had heard many stories about Jamie Cairns and even his wife Lindsay, who was in the picture well before the mission. So this was quite a treat for me to visit the family, hear some mission stories, see some photos and videos of both spiritual and embarrassing moments for my husband in his youth.
The Cairns family let us stay with them for a couple nights. It was E’s birthday when we arrived, but we celebrated the occasion the next day by “strawb’ry pickin'” in the English countryside. She loved it so much that we might make strawberry picking an annual birthday tradition.
How do you decide what to do on your last day when there are still hundreds of things to see? With only half a day before we had to catch our bus out of town, we decided a museum or two would fit the bill. We started out at Trafalgar Square and said we would do a blitz of the National Gallery in 15 minutes. I spent at least 2 or 3 minutes looking at the mosaic floors in the foyer, though, so obviously it was a little longer than 15 minutes that we spent there.
I don’t know what struck me so much about this painting. I guess I don’t see black and white paintings very often. Sketches, sure, but a painting in grayscale really stood out to me. But then I was scolded for taking pictures and I had to put away my camera.
Quick as we could, we headed to Greenwich, hoping to climb to the observatory to watch the ball drop at 13.00. We got busy eating our lunch from Greenwich Market and totally missed it. We also missed everything else we were hoping to do in Greenwich, including E’s birthday treat, but we totally made up for it the next day. It’s ok. She didn’t even know it was her birthday.
It wasn’t until after we arrived in Oxford that we learned we had scheduled our day trip on prospective student day at the University. So even though we were actually willing to pay to tour some of the colleges, we were denied entry. Bummer. We even tried sweet talking our way in as parents of a prospective student who might enter in about 17 years. Nobody bought our story.
But as you can see, we were still privileged to view dozens of beautiful buildings and doors from the outside. We visited a cathedral. We visited the Ashmoelan Museum. We actually did get into the Divinity School. We visited the Oxford Castle, which is something of a restaurant now. We went to the farmers market like the locals. We picnicked on the canal. We shopped the antique stores. We watched a cricket game in an incredibly picturesque field surrounded by steeples and very old trees. I mean, it was a great day. Every step was picture worthy. I’ll just let the photographs tell the rest of the story.
Am I the only person who didn’t know about the Tower of London? Sure I’ve heard of the Tower Bridge, and I’ve seen Robin Hood dozens of times and I know that the kings lived in a castle and whatnot, but somehow it just didn’t occur to me that that castle is standing in the middle of London and it’s totally a thing tourists can do. I almost talked myself out of it because of the price, but the more I thought about our plans to see Romeo and Juliet at the Globe, the more I thought the play would wouldn’t work well with a baby. The play was supposed to be our one splurge, so we had a little room in our budget. Plus, we got some two-for-one tickets to the Tower of London, so we decided to make it happen. It was so worth it.
We began our tour with a yeoman guide, who told us a lot about the history of the tower, how many kings lived here, how many weddings and beheadings were here…you know, all the juicy details. Then we were free to wander. Many of the buildings inside the fortress are set up as museums with collections of armor, weapons, furniture, and the likes. We could have easily spent all day here, but we only scheduled half a day for it.
We also waited in the long line to see the crown jewels, which again I was surprised to be worth the wait and proved to be an interesting exhibit. The building houses all the crowns, robes, orbs and other royal getup. No photos allowed, but you can check them out online.
Now, I know M already mentioned this in his account, but it’s too good of a story not to tell again. You see, our greatest fortune of the day stemmed from our greatest regret: we didn’t think to use the public toilets at the Tower before we crossed the Tower Bridge. Once we were well on our way, we were also near fainting for lack of food in the hot sun, so we had to make a choice: hunt for a washroom or find some lunch. We chose food, assuring ourselves that we would find a bathroom on the way, but no such luck. So we picnicked with a lovely view of the bridge and the tower on the other side of the Thames, and then only had enough time to race back to Westminster Abbey for Evensong.
Evensong! What a treat. And the best way to view Westminster Abbey for free. We just told the guard we were here for the service, and we were allowed to file in to the chapel and grab a seat. It’s not just the price that made it so special, though. Most cathedrals are best viewed with live choral accompaniment, and this was just a dream. E slept through half of it and actually stayed pretty quiet through the rest, so we were able to enjoy it and keep from disturbing the other worshipers. As a bonus, the service honored Canadians in honor of Canada Day. We felt pretty privileged.
So we ended up back on the street, greeted by the roaming ads for the Book of Mormon musical that apparently was visiting London the same time we were. It’s now evening and we’re in desperate need of a toilet. We saw some pay toilets on the street but they required coins, of which we had none. We knew that museums were not only free, but they were equipped with public restrooms, but the trouble with museums is they close in the late afternoon. M took to his smartphone to find out if any museums were open late. We found a listing of the John Soane Museum with this note:
The Museum is lit by candlelight on the first Tuesday of each month, from 6 until 9pm. This event is extremely popular and many more people arrive than we can possibly get in to the house. For this reason, at 5.30pm we issue tickets to the first 200 people who arrive. Please use your own judgment to decide what time to arrive, as people always arrive earlier than any time we may suggest.
As luck would have it, this was actually the first Tuesday of the month. So we booked it up to Temple Station. We gawked at the justice building. We found more Canadian treasures:
And finally we found the museum. We had enough time waiting in line outside to take turns walking to Starbucks to use their bathroom (thanks!). And as the evening went on, we again found ourselves getting hungry, getting low blood sugar headaches, getting anxious. We almost left. But thankfully we didn’t. This museum was a gem of a find. It’s an architect’s own home and his personal collection of sketches and architectural models. He had architectural details, like gargoyles and the like. He had egyptian relics. He had paintings. It was horribly crowded with floor-to-ceiling collections of every kind. And lit by candles…it was pretty neat. And serendipitous that we made it there.
No photos were allowed inside, but check out the collection online here.
Afterward, we were on the prowl for dinner, but the neighborhood didn’t seem to have anything that looked satisfying. We made our way to St. Paul’s cathedral, hoping to find a bite nearby. Still no luck, but hey, we found a guitar. If I had known this cathedral was featured in Mary Poppins, maybe I would have played “Feed the Birds,” but instead I played “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”
It was a nice way to end a busy day before heading back to Holloway Road for an omelet and panini at a cafe down the street from our flat, and finally resting in bed.
Monday was conference day — the one obligatory work day that made our trip to London possible in the first place. This was my view from the bed in our apartment of our exquisite chandelier and M getting ready to go. It wasn’t too much later that E and I left to have some adventures without him.
I was lucky enough to meet up with a dear family that took me in for a few weeks during our transition from Boston to Calgary. We had to be out of our apartment on such and such a date, but I needed to stay for a conference three weeks later. So Rachel offered her basement to me during that limbo time. At the time, she had two boys, but she added a little girl to her family just a couple weeks before I did, and I was shocked when she announced the name of her daughter was the same name I had picked out for mine! So these two girls were born only a few days apart, and in two different countries, but I think their story makes them a bit like sisters.
I was thrilled to find out the Lambourne family was moving to London and arriving the day before us. It was so fun to meet up with them again. But I can’t believe I didn’t take a single picture with them! All I have are some blurry shots of crawling baby girls. So such as it is, I’ll leave you with a couple of animated gifs.
The Lambournes favored me with a trip to the British Museum, which was really cool, but so so very crowded. Also I was like an hour late because I don’t even know why or how that happened. So we didn’t have a ton of time at the museum because they had an appointment to view a flat later in the morning. How lucky that I was invited to go with them!
The flat was in the Primrose Hill neighborhood. I read the description of Primrose Hill to Rachel from my London guidebook. It says it’s near Regent’s Park, Queen Mary’s Gardens, the London Zoo, and Baker Street. Do I dare admit my ignorance to say I didn’t know why Rachel got so excited over Baker Street? All I could think of was the saxophone solo. So I just nodded and filed that as something to look up later.
But I thought I would venture toward Baker Street anyway after we parted ways. I first walked past the zoo, hoping it would be free like the London museums, but no such luck. So on to Regent’s park I went until it started raining, and I thought I should duck for cover. And as I looked for a friendly awning, I did see Baker Street and I looked up and down trying to figure out what it could be famous for. I saw this grand building with an ominous cloud behind it and I thought it would be worthy of a photograph and maybe there’s a chance it’s famous?
No, I don’t know what that building was. But for any who are as clueless as me, I did come across the Sherlock Holmes museum on Baker Street. Mystery solved.
Afterward, I still had some time to kill before meeting up with M, so I hopped on the Tube and just picked a stop to get off on. I picked Paddington because, why not? Well now that I’ve been there, I’ll tell you why not. There really wasn’t much to see. I didn’t even see any bears. So disappointing.
Finally, I went to meet M, and I found out he won the poster session! What a guy. Here’s a picture of him blinking (oops!) outside of a grandiose hotel near the British Library where his conference was.