Friday, March 30, 2007

Windsor Castle


I still can't believe I didn't do this post a couple weeks ago when I had a series of pics on my Shutterchance (SC) blog. Too many things going on (too many excuses!).

Or maybe I saved the best for the last! Which raises the question, which WAS the best of the 3 places we were so lucky to see: Stonehenge, Bath (last post) or Windsor Castle? Luckily, I don't need to make that decision because all 3 places are as different as they can be.

This Windsor Castle is something else! It's the largest inhabited castle in the world and dates back to 1070 when William the Conqueror reigned. Here's my photo album of 72 pics. The pics I'm posting here are different from the ones I showed on SC, if you want to start here and see the week's series I posted there (in large format).


Even before walking inside the castle walls, from the outside you get quite a feel for the immense bulwark this place is! And with a clock, of course. :)


When you see the flag raised atop this Round Tower, you know that the Queen is in residence. Since she's usually at Buckingham Palace during the week (when the flag is raised there), it's a fairly safe assumption it is the weekend when the flag is raised here. It was: Saturday, February 24th.



We walked through the Norman Gate (above) to get to the State Apartments and, more specifically, the Queen Mary's Dolls' House (below) from 1924. The doll house, believe it or not, has running water and electricity! It's 3 feet tall and is filled with thousands of objects made by leading craftsmen, artists and designers.




What amazed me about this castle, that covers 484,000 square feet of floor area alone, is how many roads and walkways were along castle walls. DUH! Everything is connected!


The main place of worship for the residents is St. George's Chapel, built from the 15th to 16th centuries. Photos were not allowed but this is one outside the nave that I was able to sneak in.


After walking through the chapel, we had time to watch the changing of the guard at 12:30p before heading back to the coach.

This ends that fabulous excursion day when we were in London back in February. I'll never forget it in all my life!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Shower or Bath?


You know those questions when you have to be spontaneous with your answer to find out quick info about each other when you first meet? Dennis has a list of these he can shoot off. In fact, when he and Amy first met almost a year ago, that's what they were doing--finding out about each other through these questions of opposites. If you're single , they're a great way to get to know someone. :)

How's that for my introduction to my Bath (England) pics from when we were there that Saturday excursion on February 24th! I've already shown you my Stonehenge pics and could have sworn I did a post on Windsor Castle (I guess that was Shutterchance!). I'll have to do the castle later but here's my Bath photo album (63 pics).


My sister, Ruth, was the first one who told me that Jane Austen (of Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion fame) lived there, from 1801 until 1806. Apparently she didn't like the city but I found it to be absolutely charming, along the River Avon.


At the River Avon just a brief walk from city center is the Pulteney Bridge, "one of only four bridges in the world with shops across the full span on both sides." This is a view of the bridge from the south side but my album has views also from the north. I did NOT have time to walk across the bridge and check out the shops, but that's something I'd want to do if ever we go back.


As is typical of almost all old European cities, the main cathedral, the Bath Abbey, is right in city center, a stone's throw from the river. Since Bath was the last of our 3 stops, we caught it from mid to late afternoon, just as the sun was setting. So beautiful!



The biggest attraction of the city, of course, is the Roman baths that date back 2000 years ago. "The city is founded around the only naturally occurring hot springs in the United Kingdom." And of course, that's where my title comes in. With all that the Romans knew about transporting water and aquaducts, you'd think that they'd have baths and showers both as options (maybe they did?). But I guess you can't beat those hot springs, so that's what they're known for!



Speaking of which. After the tour of the baths, we had a chance to drink some of the hot mineral water, which I did. I think if you were able to do that every day, you'd cure everything that ailed you. HA!

In a couple days I'll do the post on Windsor Castle that I thought I had already done. Till then, enjoy a Bath! :)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Things to be Happy About



This isn't exactly a meme, but I have a Page-a-Day Calendar that comes to my InBox, yes, every day. Once you buy a real version, you have the option to order the online version, or any other calendar, for free. Of all the ones to pick from, this year I decided to choose this one, because I wanted to be reminded of fun/silly things to be happy about. Things I don't normally think about.

Every day there are 5 things to be happy about. Today's five are:

  • pictures of faraway places
  • solving a riddle
  • a great teacher
  • tic-tac-toe
  • strawberries and champagne

I was thinking I should add 5 more of my own and get in the exercise of thinking this way. So here are the five I'm adding on my own today:

  • ceiling fans with 3 different speeds
  • pen/pencil holders
  • digital cameras where you can "waste" pics :)
  • The Golden Girls (if you haven't seen Christina's video, please do. I laughed till I cried)
  • phone calls from Europe when Donica is away (from last Thursday to this Saturday, she's in Amsterdam, Basel, Vienna, Dijon and Amsterdam!)

You know what they say: We choose our own happiness! I totally agree.

Addendum: I just found out that this day in history, 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk successfully tested a vaccine against polio. It wasn't until 1955 that the vaccine became available nationwide. I had polio the year before (very mild case) when I turned 9 but am happy today that the vaccine saved many children from the crippling disease that has been almost eradicated around the world! Add this to my list.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

My First Love


Actually, I'm talking about YOU. My In Soul blogger friends! Most of you know by now that I have two blogs: this one that's been going strong for 2+ years and my Shutterchance (SC) Hart & Soul photoblog that I started last October. Two entirely different blogs and sites and neighborhoods. I started the photoblog only because I wanted to see some of my favorite photos in a larger format.

BUT, you will always have first place in my heart. I started with you and you have stuck with me through thick and thin.

THEREFORE, before I post these GA Aquarium pics next week, one by one (on the larger SC screen), I want to show them all in one "swell foop" to you first. These are pics I took this past Monday when I took Judy to see the world's largest aquarium, here in Atlanta.













If you want to see a write-up on each one, I invite you to go look at SC next week. Each pic is special in it's own way, but at least you can say you saw them first here on In Soul.

You are my first love. :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Long Girlie Birthday Weekend


As in FOUR WHOLE DAYS! Has it really come and gone already??!!

I told you in my last post that Dennis' mom, Judy, was here with us as a 65th birthday gift (from Dennis--awwww!). Since Atlanta is new to her, we made sure she saw as much of it as possible, starting soon after I picked her up from the airport Friday morning.

We shopped (yay for Trader Joe's being here in Atlanta!), we ate, had ice-cream treats, drove all over tarnation, attended a Josh Groban concert, and even went to the GA Aquarium. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Judy!


While driving all over tarnation, even Donica and I had a chance to see housing developments in our own neighborhood that were new to us. It also gave us a chance to see what kind of construction is going up in wooded areas with spring-fed lakes. Atlanta really does have something for everyone's tastes.


Judy wanted to see where Nicholas and I play in the woods, so, yes, we went off traipsing through the woods before going off to the GA Aquarium yesterday morning.


As we came back from the woods to get in the car, we both started pulling last year's "sticks" from the day lilies starting to bloom for spring. HA! We're much more alike than we realized. Once we got started, we couldn't stop till we were finished!


Our aquarium really is spectacular! Even though I have already taken hundreds of pics there, I took many more, several of which were of Judy taking pics. A nice twist for me. :)

Last evening Dennis treated us all to a birthday dinner for Judy at Outback Steakhouse: Dennis, Amy, Nicholas, Donica, myself and Judy, of course. Topped with two birthday ice-cream sundaes on the house! Since I'm the only one of the bunch that likes Maraschino cherries, I got both of them and felt like it was MY birthday.

But it wasn't. It was truly JUDY'S birthday weekend. One we will remember for a loooong time!

As I write this, Dennis and Judy are on the plane back to LA. Life will get back to "normal" for all of us. I'll now get back to blogrolling and finding out what's going on with all of you. But it was a very nice interlude for us. A nice break for celebrating an important milestone for a special lady.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Makeover


No, we're not copying Christina, but yes, our kitchen just got a makeover! The original white (formica?) counters were starting to get on my nerves. Actually, it was the space above them that was driving me crazy. I needed more of a backsplash. (Not that I'm that messy, of course!)

So when I visited a friend last fall and saw what they were doing in their kitchen, I was sold! (You don't need to advertize when you get referrals like that!) They were putting in granite-composite counters that were heat, stain and scratch resistant--and never needed polishing! And not as expensive as granite! It was a cinch to then sell Donica.


First of all, before our last trip to Europe, Steve came out and made the template. It was like making the pieces of a puzzle, most of which would be cut ahead of time in their shop to then be installed here.


The installers came yesterday! After taking out the sink, they then sawed off the original backsplash (above). Believe it or not, the new counter fits right on top of the old, whether it's formica, tile or whatever else.


Luckily, this biggest piece has no seams. This was already cut at the shop and was ready to fit into place. Then, of course, they cut out the hole for the sink.


At the end, this was the last piece of the puzzle to be installed, just below the window.


So Bud measured twice and cut twice (not once), just to make sure it fit in perfectly. It did. (BTW, the woods behind him is where Nicholas and I play--right at our fingertips!)


And just like that--VOILA!--this morning's look! Donica installed the under-counter lights over the weekend and still has to staple up the cords. I go get black outlet covers today and will put on the final touches. Isn't it amazing what a makeover can do!!!

Now that all this is done, I'm spit-spotting to get everything cleaned and put back together again before our very wonderful guest, Judy (from LA--Dennis' mom, remember?), arrives tomorrow morning, staying with us till Tuesday morning (while Dennis is off with Amy, of course). This is Dennis' gift to his mom for her 65th birthday. Aren't we the lucky ones!

Don't know when I'll post again, but if it's longer than normal, you'll know why. If you get bored, you can always go check me out at my photoblog, where pics will be queued to publish each day automatically.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Our Lumberjack


It feels like forever since I have posted here on In Soul! Last Wednesday. But then, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, some of which I'll get to later.

But for now, before I backtrack to Windsor Castle or Bath or Hannover or Amsterdam, I just have to focus on our BLB (Big Little Boy) who was with us over the weekend for an overnight. We miss him so much when we're gone!


Thankfully, Saturday and Sunday both were glorious days here in Atlanta, so going out into the woods again was at the top of the list. Our first time this 2007 year! The first thing Nicholas (6-1/2) said before we went out was "And G'ma, I can eat my snack up in the tree!" Which he did.


From that point on, every single tree or branch that could be moved WAS moved. I started to see a pattern that I had not picked up before. Well, it's something he has always done but not with the same relentless vigor.






The determination and the final look of satisfaction! How can you beat that!

I'll tell you what: I can go to London or Stonehenge or Windsor Castle or Bath or Hannover or Amsterdam. But none of that is equal to spending a couple of hours out in the woods with our BLB Lumberjack. Hands down--you can't beat that!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Stonehenge


Remember that we had an all-day excursion that Saturday while in London, February 24th, going by coach from Windsor Castle to Stonehenge to Bath. Well, here's Stonehenge first because it was the quickest photo album (32 pics) to publish since it was the shortest of the trips.


We had spent all morning at Windsor Castle. By the time we got to the outskirts of Stonehenge, it was time for our Traditional English Pub lunch. The tour guide had taken our menu requests earlier on the coach and had phoned them in. So once there, the plates of food started coming out to us.


Donica's mom had told me ahead of time to make sure I ordered Sausage and Mashed Potatoes, which I did (there were only 2 of us who did so!). When the plate came out, the server shouted out, "Bangers and Mash!" HA! Little did I know. And I must say that it was fabulous. Good choice, Mom!


Our time at the actual Stonehenge site was only 30 minutes in the windy rain! I knew the wind would whip my umbrella inside out, so I decided to shield myself with my coat up over my head while I snapped pics with my camera. It actually worked well. I have chosen this pic from the lot with people in it to give a feel for the size of these stones.


This is Britain's greatest ancient temple (to the Sun and the changing seasons at midsummer and midwinter), from about 3000 to 1600 BC. The largest stones weigh over 40 tons. The highest stone is 24 feet (7.3m). And some are believed to have come from as far away as Wales. This all is a prehistoric mystery--one of the wonders of the world!


Whenever we travel and find medals/medallions of the places we visit, we buy them on the spot for our collection. Not all places have them but this one did. The way the light shown on the medal when I took the pic seemed appropriate as a tribute to the sun!

I'm done with my Windsor pics, so that will be next. But before that, today I meet up with Christina in Hannover's City Center before taking the train at 2:40p to Amsterdam, where I'll join Donica till we both fly home to Atlanta on Friday. I tell you this in case I don't have access to the Internet for my laptop until after we're back home.

Have a great rest of your week! Mercury is going direct again, as we speak, and will be free and clear in a couple days. We'll all feel the release! YAY!

Monday, March 05, 2007

The London Scene


Here I am in the second week of our Hannover stay and I've finally got my London pics sorted into a photo album (100 pics). And I'm not even talking about Windsor Castle, Stonehenge or Bath! Actually, my Stonehenge album is publishing as we speak, so that will be my next post.

For now, here's just a bit more of what I saw the Friday I arrived in London a week ago. You've seen my posts on the Victoria Memorial and St. Paul's Cathedral. Here's a smattering of the rest.

When I left our hotel for St. Paul's, I first walked through this Admiralty Arch before Trafalgar Square. Notice the pink taxi cab! It was one of the only times the sun was shining that day.


There he stood, Lord Nelson, one of Britain's best-loved heroes, with the loss of one arm (click pic to enlarge) and an eye! Nelson's Column is 151 feet high (46 m.); Lord Nelson himself is 18 feet tall (5.5 m.). This is what I think of when I think of Trafalgar Square. But this is also the spot, Charing Cross, which is considered the heart of London and from which all distances in London are measured.

We never went down to the River Thames this trip, except while on the bus/coach for our Saturday excursion, so I had to be satisfied with this view of Big Ben as seen from Trafalgar Square. In reality, all these famous landmarks are within walking distance. I remember how much that surprised us in 2002.


The ubiquitous red phone booths are everywhere, of course. You could do an entire art book just on phones from the UK! I remember how much we loved seeing them out in the fields by the side of the road in Scotland!

Canadian Swiss will like this because it's a pic of the Covent Garden market not far from our hotel where we went to find an Indian restaurant she recommended for dinner Friday night. It was so fun to be there at night. Magical.

Next post will be Stonehenge, a bit out of order because it was a smaller, faster album to publish. But it was also my favorite because of the ancient history it represents. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 02, 2007

St. Paul's Cathedral


It's hard to believe it's taking me this long to get through my London pics from last weekend. And I'm not even talking about Windsor Castle, Stonehenge or Bath!

BUT, at least here's St. Paul's Cathedral. It was my main goal for Friday, a week ago today, to visit it and try to get some pics. Here's a photo album of 24 pics, if you want to see more. And some of these I'll be showing on my Shutterchance blog next week in a larger format.


This is what you see from Ludgate Hill, the west facade. To get it straight on means stepping into the middle of the street. Not a good idea.


You know me and clocks, so I had to get the clock tower zoomed in. I've converted it here to sepia, just for the halibut.


You know what they say: It's better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. So with every pic I took inside, I asked for St. Paul's forgiveness. I did NOT use flash; I DID pay an entrance fee (about $17 when converted from pounds) and fully believed St. Paul would wink.


The ceiling that runs to the High Altar was worth the entire trip!


My entrance fee was what I needed to get me into the Whispering Gallery of the dome. All 259 steps up! The inner dome is decorated with exquisite grisaille paintings in monochrome, like engravings, set on a gold ground and designed by Sir James Thornhill.

The Whispering Gallery circles the perimeter of the inner dome and is where a whisper on one side can be heard 32 meters away on the other. Thank God I had no one to whisper to, for surely someone would have heard that I was asking St. Paul for forgiveness.