August 29, 2006

London: Arrival and First Impressions (8.11.2006)

[Prologue] Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Surely everyone reading this remembers what occurred in the early hours of the morning. Not being one to read up on the news online hindered my ability to be aware of the situation. That, and the fact that the radio and television I have access to is mostly presented in the Spanish language, which on its own is not so terrible (love those rrr's), but when coupled with my inability to fully comprehend español when spoken, well, let's just say that it makes for a good bit of "No entiendo." (I do not understand) on my part.

Luckily for me, Señor CC was kind enough to send me an email detailing the new travel restrictions and the fact that most flights were cancelled and would be for the next few days.

My reaction went something like this: ACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Perhaps it was: NOOOOooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!! (falling into deep chasm)

Really, at this point it is all just a blur and all I can tell you with any certainty is that whatever it was, it had many exclamation points after it:


There we go. NOW you understand.

We decided not to cancel or change our flights as suggested by our friendly airline email, but to wait it out - a choice that in the end worked out wonderfully, if it did cause a bit of a flight-status obsession on my part.

Friday, August 11, 2006

This was our first experience flying out of Jerez International Airport - a very small, but excellent airport. This place is easy to get to; its size makes for a non-hectic airport experience, and the drive up is beautiful. As a bonus, you pass not one, but two (count 'em!) bullboards on your way. What is a bullboard, you ask? Why, an enormous bull-shaped billboard (the only kind you'll find here in España). Oh yes, they are large and black and quite impressive. For a little more info, go here and read the bullboard information at the bottom of the page. If you want the full-blown story from the creators of the brave little bulls, go to Osborne's homepage, click on tEnglishish language tab, and read your fill.

Another first this trip was our flight on Ryan Air, one of the airlines where everyone just gets into the queue and you choose your own seat as you board. I have never been on a more chaotic flight - wait! I lie. You will read about a more chaotic flight when I post about our return trip. The people traveling, not the airline or its employees, make things crazy. We were traveling during peak holiday time. Ours was a very loud flight, no one listened to any of the announcements or even attempted to appear as if they were paying attention to the safety instructions, but all-in-all we got where we were headed and it was fine. Yes I would fly with them again.

One nice aspect of our flight was that we were able to purchase our Stansted Express tickets on the plane and save a bit on the cost of a return trip ticket. The Stansted Express is the train that travels from Stansted Airport to Liverpool Street Station in London. The trip is about forty minutes, and only stops twice on the way, hence the term express. We arrived at Stansted at about 22:40, passed through passport control (I cannot explain how happy we were that we are not UK citizens; their line was easily a few hours long - yes, hours), gathered our bag, changed our money, and boarded the train. *whooooo-whooooo*

Liverpool Street Station is huge. It is a junction for trains and buses as well as the tube, and this makes for a very large place. We got there at 0:30 or so and opted to take a cab to our hotel. Our driver was pleased to tell us about all of the sights we were passing as we rode along, and everything was lit up along the way. We caught our first glimpse of St. Paul's Cathedral, Whitehall, St. James's Park, Hyde Park, and a few other places of interest. It was almost surreal to be driving around in a car looking at all of these streets and buildings that previously we had only seen in movies and pictures. I don't know how to describe it except to say that it all looked very 'London' and you felt like you could be in a Sherlock Holmes story. Everywhere we looked we felt like stating the obvious: "Hey, that looks just like London!" as if we thought that maybe the books and movies had exaggerated the very London-ness of it all.

See, I warned you that I didn't know how to describe it.

Excited and exhausted we arrived at our accommodations, the Hyde Park Radnor Hotel (Bed and Breakfast). We were very happy with our stay here. Full English breakfast is included in the price of the room, they have a 24-hour check-in policy, and you can leave your bags with them after check-out if you are taking a late flight on your day of departure. The rooms and bathrooms are snug and you have to pass through a fire door every two steps (normal in London), but the place and its employees are great. As an added bonus, it is only a two minute walk to Paddington Station. We would definitely stay there again.

And now for the grand conclusion: we went to our room, unpacked our bag, and went to bed. Zzzzzzzzzzzz...

August 23, 2006

The Mystery of the Missing Pass

where-in I turn all Nancy-Drew sans Ned Nickerson...

It is the wee hours of the night, and by that I mean that the wee ones are in bed sleeping. The time is actually more like 23:30 Yes, we are all a bunch of fuddy-duddies; living with wee ones can do that to you.

I creep stealthily into the room I am sharing with the rrawr-monster and slink into my bed so as not to wake her. Mission: Accomplished. Sleep arrives in minutes.

Fast-forward to the real wee hours of the night, as in 02:00-something, and I hear rrawr-monster sounds - the kind that mean she is awake, and oh, by-the-way something is amiss.

Being the child-less-for-now wonder that I am, I am UP! UP! UP! in an INSTANT! to assess the situation. First off, there is a need for the potty. No problem, I've dealt with this before, so off we go aaaaannnnd: success! Can I get a "whoop!" and a high-five, cause it is a b.i.g. deal when 'wee ones wee successfully' (say that 5 times, it's got a rhythm to it).

Accompany the rrawr-monster back to the bedroom, and snuggle her into bed for the sleep-time ritual wherein rrawr-monster says night-night to everything and gives them all a kiss. There's a kiss for the pooh-bear, a kiss for the blankies, a kiss-kiss here and a kiss-kiss get the idea.

We are almost done and auntie doesn't-really-know-what-she's-doing is therefore almost back to HER bed when GAH!!!!! the pass, it is MISSING!!!!! There is an immediate serious proclamation from the rrawr-monster: "I need my pass." which induces harried searching by auntie DRKWSD.

On the bed? Nope.

Under the covers? Negative.

Under the bed? Not that I can see.

Wrapped up in any of the assorted things-rrawr-monster-takes-to-bed-with-her? Nah.

Did we lose it on our excursion into potty-land, perhaps? No.

Okie-dokie. Now what? Ah-ha! I shall simply leave the confines of this room and search the apartment for another pass as I know that rrawr-monster has at least two! Pats-on-the-back to me for a solution. Out I go, with no light, and the search begins.

Immediately I am FOILED! You see, there are two wee-ones staying with us this week, and they both have a pass. Granted, rrawr-monster only gets hers for sleeping, as we are in the weaning stages, but still, two wee-ones makes for a multitude of pass choices. Do you see my dilemma? If you have or have taken care of wee-ones, you certainly do.

They each have their own, and yes rrawr-monster does too know which ones are hers, as she should. Unfortunately, I do not. Imagine that. Dismayed at the fact that I am simply going to have to find the original pass as well as the fact that rrawr-monster is beginning to think Mommy would be a better, most certainly more qualified, person to tackle this little problem (don't worry, I agree with her), I head back to the bedroom to ponder my choices.

After reassessment, I deduce that it simply must be under the bed somewhere, although from my preliminary (and secondary...and whatever you call the next few) scouting reports, it would appear that it has donned some camouflage and is taking this game s.e.r.i.o.u.s.l.y. This does not bode well for my chances at finding it.

What is auntie-DRKWSD to do? Well, I put on my super-hero cape and my spelunking gear and dive right under that bed into the cavernous darkness lurking below. And let me tell you, I feared that I may never get out. I search long-ways, I look short-ways, I crawl on my belly all army-style and I can't find the pass. After an indeterminable amount of time I finally (FINALLY!) discover the problem: AN OBSTRUCTION!

What, pray tell, could possible be hampering my foray into the sleep-cave in this second bedroom of an apartment that we only rented for a week so we could enjoy the sand and the surf (and DO NOT forget the "poo(silent l)" and it's chlorinated goodness)?!?!? Something that, had we known it was there we would have been using it: a guard-rail for wee-ones who sleep in big-girl beds.

Yes, the foreign-to-me world of the wee-ones strikes again.

Sidenote: at this point auntie-DRKWSD and rrawr-monster are both completely wide awake and rrawr-monster's confidence in me and my rescue abilities is about nil. Unabated, I forge ahead.

I, of little sleep and no experience, pull the guard-rail out from the bed, turning it and sliding it and oh, yeah! clanging it against the metal rails of the bed for good know, JUST IN CASE we were getting sleepy. What do I see waaaaaaaaaaaay back there, barely visible to the naked eye, basking in its sleep-enhancing abilities? You've got it: pass.

Had I not been squished under the bed at this point, rrawr-monster would have been treated to an exceptional example of the victory-dance. Unfortunately, squished I was, and therefore I was only able to celebrate in my head. As you know, it is a big place (what with all of the closets, drawers, and don't forget the attic), and I had some killer choreography going. That is, until I remembered the sleep. So, approximately 3.5 seconds?

I commence doing the army-crawl backwards to get out of the sleep cave (so much more difficult than going forward), I shove the dern guard-rail back under the bed, and then, THEN, I let rrawr-monster know what a SILLY pass she has. I mean, hiding under the bed like that from us, what a silly pass!! Yeah...that is what I said...what I was thinking was not so wee-one-appropriate.

I manage to pull the bed away from the wall, because did I mention that the bed was shoved ALL THE WAY up against it so as to prevent any wee-ones from slipping through the cracks? It was. I pull it away, and then, oh! the lucky little rrawr-monster, she got to experience the thrill of sitting on the bed while auntie-DRKWSD flops herself prostrate on it (well, except for the one leg that had to go up in the air for balance), reaches into the cavernous darkness that is the sleep-cave, and TA-DAH! saves pass from inevitable doom.

Pass gets washed, kisses to all, and off to sleepy-time we go.
Crisis averted (hers), and rest achieved (ours).

August 20, 2006

Who Am I?

Isn't that the question everyone is trying to answer? Especially perhaps if they are of a younger generation...and as this is my blog, yes, I mean people close to my own place in life...more my place in life than an actual age, as a number can have so very little to do with growth...regardless, I think that most people are searching for themselves or for a way to define themselves. I also believe that we never really stop searching and defining, just as life never stops changing.

This could be very disconcerting, because OH! the changes life can throw at you, but I have hope in my belief that as I gain experience and wisdom (ha!) along with years, this quest to define myself will become easier to address and deal with than it appears to be at the moment.

I also believe that there will come a time when the question will move from the forefront of my consciousness: HERE I AM!!! DEAL WITH ME!!! to the dusty, cob-webbed recesses of my sub-conscious: *knock, knock* remember me? Not that I will be cleaning out the drawers, closets and attic (to me it is a big place with lots of junk, okay?) of my mind one day and decide: hmmmm....I think it's time to put that waaaaaay back there in the corner, rather that my life will develop and its contents will grow, and somehow this question will just slip back there in the shadows simply because it is the only place it will fit. And we all know important questions such as these, life-defining ones, anyway, like a little room to breathe.

I also assume that this move will occur if/when I have children.

[We have arrived at the point where this is just what I *think* may happen to some people. It is what I believe will happen to me. No, I don't know what I am talking about because I have no children. See there? Up-front and honest, to the best of my ability.]

Depending on how you look at it (and also perhaps how jaded and/or naive you are), children either consume all of your time as the loving little pink, chubby bundles of joy that they are, OR do so by sucking the will to live right out of you with the occasional (read: I fear it may be constant) bouts of incessant crying, neediness, difficult-ness (and mine SO will be, because I am - life is like that) and days that would cause me to say things like "You won't believe what went on in THIS house today!!" - or any other versions and variations of the trials and tribulations of raising children that all parents could insert here:_______.

Just in case you can't seem to absorb the cynical nature of the above comments, I will now let you, the lovely masses, know that I believe life with children (or life at all, for that matter) is a combination of both ends of the crazy-spectrum, and actually more a balance of being somewhere in the middle of it most of the time, with occasional forays to either end, which conveniently makes one forget the all-important question because everything in your being is shouting at you that the answer is: YOU ARE A PARENT! WHAT ELSE COULD THERE BE?!??!

[I also realize that things are never as cut-and-dry as the following pretends to be. To emphasize that, I give you this: As people, we don't just *poof!* turn into something we previously weren't ('cause oooooh, buddy if we could do that, I would just *poof* turn myself into a rock-star!). I can't possibly just change overnight from being me (whoever THAT is) to being baby's Mama. Those would never be two completely different identities (we hope, cause if they were then I'd need to see a doctor), rather the Mama would just add to the Me that I already was, and presto-change-o, who I am will not have been re-defined, but further defined. Let me just add that I DO believe that the Mama instincts will override the Me instincts quite frequently, hence the *knock, knock*, remember me?]

I believe that as long as your children are the main focus of your life, they are a (the?) large(est?) part of how we define ourselves, and therefore provide much, if not all of the answer to the question. Yes, we have jobs - because we need to support our family. We become coaches, cheerleaders, chauffers, cooks, care-takers, and assorted other roles (many of which don't start with the letter " for cookie") to enhance/fulfill their lives, and by doing so, they, in turn, fulfill ours. Our quest is at (somewhat of) a stand-still and the question gets placed up high on that dusty shelf where we forget we have placed it.

Until - and that is the key word - until - they are adults themselves and do not *need* us in great capacity any longer. Don't misunderstand; I fully know that children always need their parents. I need my Mom to listen to me babble on and on and ON about silly things and to then give me wisdom and advice on said things, and I need my Dad to tell me the best way to do a large number of things that only Dad knows (the best) how to do. And there are many other things that I need them for, love, understanding and support being the least of them (and perhaps the most important). But the fact is that I no longer rely on them to sustain my life. Food, shelter, clothing, and other essentials are covered by myself and my husband (as they should be, that is NOT the point). They do not exist to provide for me any longer. I do not define, in such a large way as I assume I once did, who they are. Having no children, I do not have a CLUE what that is like, but I imagine that it can be tough, OR like a gentle glide into what should be, depending on the parent.**

**Again, I have no children. I have made that abundantly clear. I am writing what I think, and I imagine that for some people I am right-on-the-money (whoooop!) and for others, I am completely-off-the-mark (*fizzle*). As I said, I believe it depends on the person, and again, I am writing (who-da thunk it?) about me and what I think I will probably do in regards to the question.

So when THAT happens, that change, that identity shift, parents begin the cleaning of the drawers, closets and attic. This occurs literally and figuratively. They get rid of what is no longer needed, or what is no longer relevant. Mementos are kept reminding them of what was, and memories are catalogued neatly into the files to be reviewed and enjoyed at a moment's notice, but cleaning occurs none-the-less. So guess what happens to be (lurking?) in that dark, cob-webbed corner? You know, just sitting there all dusty on the shelf? Ah, yes: the question.

This would mean that after a brief hiatus (of sorts) from the quest, we are once again back-on-board the ship in search of ourselves. Who am I, indeed.

A turn of events such as this would pretty much put me right back where I am today. Yes, the situation will be slightly different, and I will be older (still holding on to the older=wiser), but essentially I will still be asking the same old thing. I wonder if it will matter as much to me then as it does today, or if time wears it down and makes it not so shiny and new, and therefore not as important. I certainly hope not, as I cannot imagine a world where we are content to just *be* with nary a core belief of who we are in sight, nor the hint of desire to go and find out.

Why this topic? It just so happens that I have encountered a (what will most likely be one of many) very certain caesura in my life. By that I mean a rather inevitable pause in my path through life. What I was, who I was, as previously defined by me, has changed drastically over the past year. No, I did not lose myself, but the first few entries in my definition have been put away into their appropriate files, and I am left with a few things on the table that are not wholly familiar to me. And yet, they are me. I am faced with the task of further defining myself at a time when I never thought I would need or have to.

I only hope that I will have as great of an interest in and a need to answer the question throughout my life as I do right now.

August 18, 2006

August 12 of 12...a few days behind the pack

This idea comes from Chad over at the UNTITLED CHAD DARNELL PROJECT. Here is what he has to say about it:

"If you are new to 12 of 12 - here are the basics:


2) After you post your pictures onto a webpage of your choice (Livejournal, typepad, MySpace, Flickr, etc...) please post the TIME, LOCATION, and A SMALL COMMENT in the pic.

3) You own the rights to all of your pictures.  The idea "12 of 12" is mine.  While credit is not necessary, please don't credit someone else with the idea.

4) The original concept was at least one body part in the picture.  That idea was slowly faded away.  The important part is that it is 12 pics.

5) The monthly Bonus pic is a 13th picture and is optional.

6) When referring to the project, please refer to it as "12 OF 12" - not "12 ON 12."

ANYONE is welcome to join in, even if you've never done it before! I hope you will."

London: 12.08.2006

Regent Street, 9:38

After a tasty English breakfast (thick bacon, sausage, egg, baked beans, grilled tomato, hash browns, and coffee) we took the tube to Piccadilly Circus. A short walk down Regent Street brought us to the Visitor's Center, where we were able to collect our 3-day London Passes and travel cards.

Buckingham Palace Road, 10:17

We took a short walk through St. James's Park and then went over to Buckingham Palace to collect our entry tickets for that afternoon. We passed this pub on our way to the tube at Victoria Station.

Westminster Station, 10:36

Upon arriving at Westminster, we left the tube station to be confronted by the Parliament building and Big Ben. They are literally looming over you as you stand there on the street. Big Ben is the bell (not the clock) in the tower and we heard him ring the hour while we were there. You can see the clock tower from almost anywhere in the city, and it is especially beautiful at night.

Westminster Abbey, 10:39

Westminster Abbey is indescribable. There are crypts on display and grave markers underfoot. One can follow the progression of artwork through the centuries by simply walking from room to room. No pictures are allowed inside, but the exterior of the building hints to its greatness.

Garden at the Abbey, 10:39

Two hours of awe later, we happened upon this garden at the Abbey. The fountain and foliage make for a peaceful place. The ironwork in and around the building is amazing.

Guarding the Palace, 14:57

Changing of the guard occurs every other day in the summer months when the Queen is in Scotland. We did not feel like fighting the crowds, so we opted for this photo in the afternoon. What a lovely job to have on a rainy day.

Green Park Gate, 15:01

Gates for all of the parks in London look very much like this one: Ironwork and gold. In fact, we had never seen so much marble, gold, or detail work on and in monuments and buildings before this trip.

Buckingham Palace, 16:43

This is a view of the palace from the gardens. We saw nine state rooms and a few hallways, as well as 80 of Her Majesty's dresses in celebration of her 80th birthday. Luxury. Gold. Detail. Everywhere.

Wellington Arch, 17:56

This arch, planned by King George IV, was once a gateway into the city from the west. It was moved in 1882-3 because the road needed to be widened. It served as a police station (the second smallest) at one time, but is now a museum.

Wellington Arch Gate, 17:58

King George IV had over-spent on his remodeling of Buckingham Palace, so much of the ornamentation originally planned for Wellington Arch was eliminated. These huge iron gates made the cut, however.

The Dickens Tavern, 17:29

On our walk towards the tube (and back to the B&B for a rest) we passed this tavern. There are references to Londond's literary past all over the city; you simply have to be paying attention. There isn't an abundance of huge monuments to the wordsmiths, but shops and restaurants with their namesake abound.

Porter's English Restaurant, 19:54

This place is on Henrietta Street over in the Covent Garden area. I had Steak, Guinness, and Mushroom pie with new potatoes for my meal and then the Dark Chocolate Chip Pudding for dessert. Mmmmm....

So there you have it; Saturday the 12th of August in London. We were there for four days, and this was during all of the flight restrictions. woo. hoo. We were able to see many sights and I took about 400 pictures (me? no kidding!). I am quite certain that we walked a *few* kilometers while we were there...I know we went up a few thousand stairs. I'll post more about our trip once I've got my thoughts together. I know, I know: woo. hoo.