September 30, 2006

And here he is...El Pájaro:

The cause of all the drama. Just picture that head sticking through the itty-bitty opening we provided.

We are lucky enough to have had yet another visitor in our kitchen. El Portero will be happy to know that this time we did not need his help. Again with the sound effects and the falling-to-doom, etc.

We've got to get some sort of blockade going on the opening!!!

El Pájaro En Mi Cocina (Part III)

In order to be caught up on the drama in the kitchen, you should read part I and part II!

To recap: I have been asked twice (TWICE!) to put my precious hand (ha!) into the fan to grab (!) the bird and pull him out to release him.

All I thought was: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Luckily for me, el pájaro is muy inteligente (as far as birds go), and he had 'escaped to the ceiling' both times.

On with the story:

I suggest to el Portero that we angle the duct work so that the bird can see the light from our completely open window so that he will come out of the hole in the ductwork instead of going all the way down into the fan. He bends and crumples and am quite certain that the 'duct' will never be the same, but he manages to bend it so that the bird pretty much has to land near the opening into the kitchen.

So we wait.

And of course we hear this:



*cht cht cht*


*cht cht cht cht cht*


Followed immediately by:

*cht   cht   cht   cht   cht*

Oh yes, by this point in time, el pájaro has been warned by his fellow FC comrades that Operation Free Bird was taking place. He would listen for us and when he believed we were gone, he would walk to the edge of the vertical duct where he would stop for about two seconds before running back to his hide-out to await further instructions.

After scouting the situation about three times only to find and hear nothing from us, he was apparently given the go-ahead from the F-I-C (fowls-in-charge) to attempt his escape.

This time we hear:



*cht cht cht*


*cht cht cht cht cht*



I slowly peer around the side of the hood to see a eye...a head...a body...THE WHOLE BIRD!!!!!

In a flash of grey, that bird flew in a wide arc through my kitchen and out the kitchen window. El Portero immediately shut the window, and we celebrated. Okay, so the celebration was many "muchas gracias" outwardly with big smiles, but on the inside I was totally doing a happy-dance. I didn't want to scare the man into never helping me again.

Finally the bird is free and I thank el Portero like a broken record until he leaves to go back to the gate. I go in to tell Señor CC that all is well and the bird is gone. He is slightly oblivious to the whole ordeal because, as mentioned, he is working. He is happy that the bird is gone, if for no other reason than the fact that we can now allow the dog to go in there again with the guarantee that we will not be subjected to adamant '' barking.

ChewyChomp, on the other hand, has been anxiously awaiting my return from the kitchen-of-doom and immediately rushes in there to stare and shake in excitement at the hood to the stove. I told him the bird was gone, but he

In fact, the first thing he did for the next week and a half was to go in the kitchen and stare down the stove in this 'I dare you' kind of get him, Cooper, get that bird.

And now? NOW? No more birds making any sounds in the duct-work in, around, or near the kitchen. Occasionally we hear them from the fireplace, but that is directly open to the air above, so no problems there.


Yes, there IS one of those.

Do you recall how I ended the first part of my story? If not, go read the ending; I'll wait.

I failed to tell you, in the first part, about how after I took the six (SIX!) screws out of that tiny piece of plastic so that the poor bird could poke his big old head through (so that consequently I COULD SEE IT! and Señor CC Could Not See It! so he scared the hoo-haa out of el pájaro by tapping on the plastic, which caused great amounts of flapping-and-climbing-like-life-is-about-to-end noises from the bird) I also took about 6 screws out of the cylindrical casement around the fan. The round part was split right down the middle, and I was hoping that if I took the screws out, then one of us could pull the pieces apart far enough that the bird would either push through or fall through and therefore escape (yes, I now realize this was silly because as long as we were there, that bird was NOT coming near us, but I was in-the-moment, people!).

Regardless, I took them out and could only open it a tiny bit, me with the wimpy arms and all. I enlisted the help of Señor CC and his arms-so-strong to pull the thing apart, and well...he did...but...

I have never seen anyone jump across a room that far, that fast IN!MY!LIFE!

You see, as he opened it up, he exclaimed that "HE IS RIGHT THERE!" and at the same time jumped back(read: flew across the room in a blur). I would have too, because at the time we had heard the bird go UP, UP, UP into the ceiling! A surprise, indeed.

We convinced ourselves that it couldn't be OUR bird, and Señor CC began prying it apart that I could see...and oh, yes, there was (still is) something there...

and oh, yes, it has (had?) feathers...

and OH! YES!! IT IS A DEAD! DEAD! DEAD! BIRD!!!!!!!!!!!


It is SO dead, that it does not smell at all. In fact, we are now quite certain that some other bird experienced what our bird went through, except without the people there to open the escape hatch. So, EW!

Now we get to deal with that one. Mmm, Mmm.

It makes me wonder...what was our bird thinking? Every time he fell down in there, he most likely stepped on his dead relative. Talk about freaky! Our kitchen must have seemed like some sort of end-of-the-bird-world realm where bad birds are subjected to psychological fowl-fare. After hearing his story I bet the F-I-C's gave him some sort of heroic POW award for his ordeal.

I can only hope that they aren't planning a rescue mission; they will be sorely disappointed.

September 29, 2006

El Pájaro En Mi Cocina (Part II)

Just in case you haven't read it yet, you can find part one here.

Where was I?

Oh, yes: Operation Involve The Portero (poor guy)

Prior to walking out to the gate and conveying my message to the portero - A.K.A The.Only.Man.Who.Can.Help.Us.I.Really.Hope.He.Can - I took some time to make a list of Spanish words I might possibly need, and in the process I happened to look up a few words in my Spanish dictionary that I did not know. Oh boy, do I KNOW THEM NOW. If nothing else, I can mark this one as an Educational Experience, yes indeed! For fun, or not, depending on your interest or lack thereof, here is that list as found this morning in my trusty handy-dandy notebook of all things Spanish/in Spain*.

  • bird (small) - el pájaro

  • stove - la cocina

  • fan - el ventilador

  • duct - el conducto

  • piece - la pieza

  • plastic - el plástico

  • opening - la abertura

As you can easily see, I am not all that sophisticated with the conversing in español. It was an emergency, people! I figured I could rely on my mad skills in charades!

*I have no idea why it could possibly be called 'trusty' as I am the one who writes in it and just in case we all forgot or something, I am not in any way Spanish. Not.One.Bit. I just live here, people; that's my claim to fame.

Off to el Portero's building(A.K.A. The Office of TOMWCHUIRHHC) I go, trusty handy-dandy notebook of all things Spanish/in Spain in hand. I arrive, and score-one-for-the-home-team; he is there! I mention el pájaro and mi cocina and he is totally understanding already (YAY!) and locks up his office to head to my place.

He then tells me that he had the same situation in another apartment just yesterday.


Oh, yes - it is a conspiracy of a very fowl nature. Apparently they are infesting the kitchens of our urbanización in an attempt to reclaim their migratory lands for their long trek made twice a year. We have so much to look forward to; I shall wait in anticipation of my next visitor. No stress here, no INDEED.

On our way to my apartment, which is about a five minute walk from the front gate, I feel the need to tell the man all about my situation. Yes I do (I did mention that I was a little lacking in the genius area, people! Keep UP!), even though he has already shown that he fully comprehends the nature of my problem. I describe it in full detail. When I say 'describe' and 'full detail' I of course mean that I use a combination of crazy-lady hand signals and sound-effects with the occasional Spanish word thrown in (whoop for the Spanish word!) to, you know, describe what he already knows.

Another facet of the Fowl Conspiracy (FC): to cause unsuspecting humans to act like blathering idiots in times of (supposed) dire need.

Just in case you are wondering, here is a list of some of the things that I "spoke" (and I use that term in its loosest definition) to el Portero:

  • cht......cht..cht.....cht.cht.cht.cht...

  • [hand signals for walking and falling and]

  • boom!

Oh, to be able to read the mind of el Portero. Or, better yet, to be able to hear and comprehend his words when he relays this mighty-fine story to the other porteros - what a LAUGH we could all have!!

We arrive at my apartment, thank goodness! I can stop acting like a loony bird - el Portero meets the chompy-chomp 'I'm Gonna Get that Bird' Cooperchew, and we shut everyone out of the kitchen but ourselves.

He is acting very confident and is telling me that this will be no problem, so I am feeling pretty relieved. Once again with the collective "HA!", as we all know how these kinds of stories go. It really IS just like the movies. If you start to feel safe and relieved and so on, then SOMETHING bad is bound to happen, and SOON!

El Portero takes a small plastic piece off of the vertical surround to the ductwork leading from the fan to the ceiling. He then slowly pushes up the so-called ductwork, which is very crinkly and sharp looking, and then he attempts to stick his hand down through the duct into the fan...

Where he immediately realizes that his hand/wrist/arm is way too big to do such a thing.

What to do? What to do?

Oh, I'll tell you what to do! He informs me that I should stick my hand/wrist/arm down in there because mine is much smaller than his!

Of course!!!

I commence FREAKING OUT in my head while attempting to give an outward appearance of 'I agree, that totally makes sense, let's get on that!'




I get up on the countertop, put my hand very close to the opening, and just in case I misunderstood (ha!) I ask the man (who I am now not believing is much more sane than I): "Que me quiere hacer?", which should mean "What do you want me to do?"

Now he gets a turn with the charades, and yes, dear readers, he most certainly does want me to stick my hand IN THE FAN and attempt to GRAB THE BIRD AND PULL IT OUT!

Just in case you are wondering, here is what my mind was doing:





I ssssssslllllloooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwllllllyyyyyyyyy put my hand down into the fan (all balled up in a tight little fist so that I CANNOT touch the bird) and get no I open up my fingers and wiggle them a bit and touch....


That smart bird had long ago done his flapping-and-climbing-like-life-is-about-to-end noises into the ceiling, and el Portero and I had simply not heard it!

I love this bird!

We decide to wait for the bird to make his way, cautiously, I might add, back down into the fan. He does, after about 10 minutes of el Portero and I staring at nothing in particular, but certainly not.each.other, and again, the man wants me to stick my hand in there! IN. THERE. to TOUCH. THE. WILD. BIRD.

Once again, with the freaking out of my mind (see above), I climb up there and begin to ssssssslllllloooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwllllllyyyyyyyyy put my hand down into the fan (in the same manner as before), and lo-and-behold, that bird has escaped again!

I need a t-shirt that says I ♥ bird.

So now the questions are:

  • Do I stick my hand in there once again only to be mangled for all time?

  • Do I finally grab that bird and throw him out the window?

  • Is there a bird still in our oven...withering away...smelly...ew?

I can think of more questions, but those will have to do for now!

Part III is coming, dear readers...just you wait!

September 15, 2006

Happy Birthday, BU!

If you did not get here via Brian, please go check out his zone.

I suggest reading the 222 things about him (if you have the time) as he is an interesting fellow. I realize that many of us are busy folk with jobs and other activities, so I took the time to compile a very concise 2-part list (can it even be a list if it only has two entries?) that pretty much sums up his excellence:

  • He is yellow.

  • He appears to be mostly is Korean.

There you have it, people.

One more thing that makes him great:

Wee one BU!

Need I say more?

Today is his birthday, so wish him well.

Today is one of those days...

...when I can't believe I live here.

It began early this morning. I walked The Extra 17 Pounds (dog) at 6:30. It was brisk out, but refreshing. The sky was completely dark and clear. I could see every star in the sky.

I love living where street lamps are just that and not the huge overly brilliant lights frequently used to provide a beacon so scintillant that people from miles away can point and say "See that yellow glow? That's insert name of town/city/university here."

Now, at 11:06, the clear skies continue. I can still see the svelte moon up high in the sky. The detail on the surrounding mountains is outstanding. If I went up in the hills a bit, I would be able to see Africa across the sea. It is rare to have a day so completely sans clouds or haze; I wish I could better describe the beauty.

I live beside a river. Today the sunlight shines off of the waves; it appears as if it is made of jewels. The wind coaxes the tiny crests along enhancing the continuous parade of lucid liquid configurations. To say it is mesmerizing is an understatement; I could watch it all day.

Today is one of those days when I wish that I could capture it to remember always. It is so amazingly beautiful. I refrain from pictures because a picture (or a thousand) can't quite do nature justice. My words fall short as well. I can only rely on my memory.

I won't live here forever; I have a very limited amount of time to appreciate and experience this place. I want to be like a sponge and soak it all up; I don't ever want to get full and have to release anything. Yet, there is no way for me to experience it all; having that goal will only lead to my disappointment. Instead I have to take things as they come and hold on to what I can.

Today I will watch the show nature provides. I will sit on my terrace and be relaxed by my river view. I will take breaks to look and listen and I will allow it all to make an imprint in my mind, my memories.

Here I am, holding on.

September 13, 2006

12 of 12 September

It is that time again. For those of you who do not know the drill, check out the rules right here. Thanks Chad; what a great idea!

7:01 - I usually start the day reading online.

7:01 - Chompy keeps an eye on me until his breakfast is served.

7:03 - Coffee in my Texas mug.

8:26 - I watch this every morning on my terrace.

10:07 - Time for some blogging.

11:07 - Laundry begins.

13:26 - Lunch.

15:35 - I've been working on this since lunch.

15:37 - Finally, the wash cycle is complete.

15:37 - Bonus Picture: Taking a break.

19:46 - The beginnings of a good meal.

20:05 - bean and chicken burritos.

21:23 - The only golf I play.

September 12, 2006

El Pájaro En Mi Cocina



*cht cht cht*


*cht cht cht cht cht*




(Repeat the above at thirty minute increments throughout the day)

Señor CC: "What is that?"

Señora CC: "They must be working on the kitchen upstairs; I can
hear whatever they are doing in the ceiling."



What was I thinking? I hear an-animal-is-walking-and-running noises and then falling-to-its-doom noises followed by flapping-and-climbing-like-life-is-about-to-end noises and I use my genius to say that someone is working on the kitchen above ours? Why yes, because IF they are indeed doing so, they would most certainly need to poke and prod DOWN into our kitchen, and more importantly, they would need to do so INTO the fan duct for our stove. Oh yes, indeed.

I obviously have very low standards for the so-called genius.

The handy-man began his work on the neighbor's kitchen sometime Sunday morning. That alone should have alerted me to the fact that it simply COULD NOT be a PERSON because aside from security personnel, no one like that even works on Sunday! NO.ONE.

We eventually decided it was a bird, by the way, and no I don't know how long it took me to figure that out. I would like to think that I was simply blocking that particular possibility out of my mind because then OH MY GOODNESS there is a BIRD in my house and it is STUCK THERE with no hope of escape!!!

So that we are all aware of the exact situation we were in, let me set up the day for you. Señor CC had loads of work this past week, and that meant that he was clickity-clacking in the living room *cough* hisoffice *cough* all the day long. I was making all attempts to assist his progress by *ahem* being quiet and by assisting Chewychomp in doing the same.

Around noon I left to pick up a friend, KS, to head out to the market. There are essentially two kinds of markets in Spain: the food market, and the everything-under-the-sun market. We went to one of the latter.

Off to Sabanillas we went, speaking only momentarily of el pájaro en mi cocina because Señor CC and I have convinced ourselves that it will certainly manage to get out in whichever manner it entered. All of you with more experience may present your collective "HA!".

No more than two hours later, we left. I drop KS at her place and then return to the drama. I should point out that I have pretty much forgotten that some poor bird is living out a nightmare in my kitchen, but that is neither here nor there because as soon as I got home I could hear it doing the flapping-and-climbing-like-life-is-about-to-end noises once again.

We have arrived at the active portion of the program.

I, the self-proclaimed genius-of-sorts (that sort being a far cry from the actual meaning of the word), began to dismantle the hood to the stove. I discovered a small plastic piece on the side of the fan encasement that, if removed, just may be large enough for our house guest to escape. While inspecting this piece of plastic, our newest resident did the falling-to-its-doom activity once again, and I could see it through a hole in the encasement! I COULD SEE IT.

 I!  COULD!  SEE!  IT!

I shouted to Señor CC, who rushed into the kitchen only to find that the tiny hole where I was able to see el pájaro is, of course, dark.

What is a guy to do?

I am so glad you asked that! He is to tap on the fan encasement, scaring the living hoo-haa out of the poor pájaro, and convince it that its life is in mortal danger (as if it weren't already thinking something along those lines), which caused it to flap-and-climb-like-life-is-about-to-end right back up into the ceiling!

I removed the six (SIX!) tiny screws holding the small piece of plastic onto the side of the fan encasement, and then we waited. Much like the watched pot, nothing came of that. So we decided that we would leave the kitchen, with window open and door closed, to give el pájaro some privacy in its quest for freedom. After a while we heard some noises, though not of the kinds mentioned previously, and then:




I decided to brave the kitchen once more. I walked in, crept around to the side of the fan where the escape hatch had been opened, and what do I see? A bird head. Yup, that is it. Just the poor bird's head would fit through the opening. I said something along the lines of "Oh, you poor bird!" which caused el pájaro to notice me, and - you guessed it:

flapping-and-climbing-like-life-is-about-to-end noises galore.

It was at this point that Señor CC and I made the decision to involve el portero in our quest to free the bird. FREE BIRD! The portero is the guard at the gate to our urbanización. We have four men who routinely take care of our complex. We had never called on them to do more than open the gate or the gym up until Sunday and we weren't even sure if he could help us. Add to that the fact that Señor CC speaks no español and that I only speak a little, and well: an interesting encounter indeed!

Could he help?

Would I be able to communicate the problem?

Are we currently suffering the consequences of having a smelly dead bird in our kitchen?

Stay tuned to find out!

September 8, 2006

London, Day Four (15.8.2006)

The final breakfast was had and enjoyed. We checked out and stored our bags at the hotel and then were off. We had a quest: find a souvenir!

What better place to look than Piccadilly Circus?

They say this is the 'Times Square' of London. I have a feeling Londoners would put it the other way around.

We went to the bookstore and found an excellent coffee-table book with pictures of all the things we hadn't been allowed to take pictures of - an excellent reminder of our trip.

We then returned to the hotel, claimed our bags, and went to Stansted Airport via tube and train. We made sure to arrive in plenty of time (three hours) because of the extra security measures. Luckily they had changed the requirements so that we could have one very small carry-on instead of all of the clear plastic bags. We checked in quickly, had a good meal, and then waited for a about an hour and a half.

We then were directed towards our gate where we waited in line to board. I have never in my life been on a plane with so many children. Granted, my life isn't in the running for longest ever, but I have flown a lot. So. Many. Children. Really, I like them, so that isn't a terrible thing in and of itself. What made things bad was the fact that many of these families were going on holiday. Oh yes, and maybe the fact that it appeared as if none of the parents were being responsible for their children's actions, nor had they (apparently) ever taught their children how to behave in public or how to be responsible for themselves (especially those of an age to do so)...yes, that may have had something to do with the utter chaos that ensued - for the whole trip.

There was screaming, there was crying, there was hitting, kicking, and stomping. If you can think of it, my guess is it occurred. I kept thinking about those super-crowded school buses back home with the drivers that never made anyone be quiet and just let everyone go crazy while they sped along - it was like that. There were children kicking and shoving the chairs of adults in front of them and the innocent adults (not the parents/guardians) had to give the evil eyes in an attempt to make them stop. And did they? Of course not!


Incredibly, we all made it home in one piece. What a relief it was to get off of that plane! We gathered our bags and practically sprinted out of there. An hour-long drive later and we were home and ready for bed. Unfortunately we had to wait until the next day to collect Pantalon. Yes, that is a nick-name (he has many...more on that later). For your viewing pleasure, and because you listened to my long commentary on London, here he is:

London, Day Three (14.8.2006)

How many steps was that?

An early start was required; we had a very full day planned and most of it was to take place on the eastern end of London's tourist area. Monday was also our first day to travel with all of the usual commuters. There was an ocean of dark colored suits that greeted us at Paddington Station. In fact, we arrived there before it was officially open, and we had to wait with the mass of black, gray and blue up on Praed Street. Once the gates were unlocked we were practically swept down the stairs towards the trains.

Our destination was Saint Paul's Cathedral. This landmark is huge and the ceilings stretch upwards to indiscernible heights. Visiting here is similar to visiting West Minster Abbey due to the outstanding architecture and attention to details (mostly shiny and gold up on the ceiling), and different in that it is not crowded with statues and tombs nor are the passageways cramped.

We decided to travel the 530 stairs to the very top of the dome. There are three levels to this trip. The first is the Whispering Gallery, located in the base of the dome(inside the church). The room is circular and because of the acoustics, you can hear anyone in the room as if they are right next to you, even if they only whisper. You can also see more of the church from here. We were able to see the pipes for the organ; I have never seen any so gigantic; I am sure it is an amazing thing to hear.

The next two levels are on the outside of the cathedral. The first lookout is the Stone Gallery. We had a rather foggy day, but could see fairly well from here. The last stop is the Golden Gallery; if you could manage to get up there on a clear day, you would be able to see all of London.

Our next stop was Tower Bridge. We went up into the buildings and once done with the views and the interactive computer exhibits (very cool), we went into the engine rooms. This bridge used to be raised and lowered with steam power in just about a minute. Today of course, they use oil and electricity to get the job done.

Near the Tower Bridge on the north side of the Thames is the Tower of London. We saw beefeaters, The Crown Jewels, a multitude of weapons and armor for men and horses and the massive ravens who have a story of their own.

We walked across the Millennium Foot Bridge, found a place to rest our legs and eat and then visited Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. An American, Sam Wanamaker, was the driving force behind the recreation of Shakespeare's Globe. The building is constructed with the same materials as would have been used in Shakespeare's time. The exhibit and tour did an excellent job of demonstrating what theatre was really like in his lifetime.

Our last stop for the day was the Catamaran Cruisers booth on Embankment Pier to claim tickets for a fifty minutes circular Thames boat tour. This was an excellent way to see some of the things we didn't have time to personally visit. One of the items on that list included the London Eye, the tallest observation wheel in the world. It moves at the rate of one rotation every thirty minutes, which is slow enough that it doesn't even stop for people to exit and board.

The cruise took us east along the Thames past Tower Bridge and then back to Embankment Pier. This was a quick informative way to see some of the sights of London and it was a great end to our day. We headed to the West End for dinner at an Italian restaurant and then walked around the area a bit afterwards amazed at how alive the city truly feels. What a great place to visit.

September 7, 2006

London, Day Two (8.13.2006)

True to form for London, a gentle rain was coming down Sunday morning. After breakfast we headed to Marble Arch at the northeast corner of Hyde Park. I have mentioned that I love the tube art; the same is true for the subway art. Yes, London has both. Subways are convenient walkways that pass under busy intersections or round-abouts; they also occasionally connect the various tube lines at a large station. I cannot recall if this artwork was in the tube or subway, but it is only one example of the excellent decor we saw while there.

The northeast corner of Hyde Park is named Speakers' Corner. Here people can get up on their soapbox and speak their mind. I have read here and here that Speakers' Corner was where public hangings took place, most notably at the Tyburn hanging tree. Felons would sometimes begin speaking to the crowd, and usually their comments would be directed toward the state. Many Catholics would profess their allegiance to the monarchy while denouncing the Church of England. In so doing, they established a political arena of sorts and a location for public debate.

In 1872 Parliament passed the Royal Parks and Gardens Regulation Act which allowed the area to be dedicated to public speaking. The Reform League was instrumental in this development; they had worked for it since 1866, when large protests were organized in the quest for a place to assemble and assert the right to speak.

Many famous people have utilized Speakers' Corner over the years, and it is still in use today, although you are more likely to hear speeches concerning religion than anything else these days. Unfortunately for us, it was raining. There were absolutely no speakers at 10:00 on 13.8.2006 - so we took a photo of the refreshment place instead.

Our next stop was Wellington Arch. From the top, you can look down the Mall towards the Horse Parade on Whitehall. "The Iron Duke" Wellington was an interesting character. What is even more interesting is the people's feelings toward/about him. He was a war hero as well as a Prime Minister. He was successful at granting almost full rights to Catholics, something previous PMs couldn't accomplish. Unfortunately, he was against reform, and this caused people to become so upset with him that they gathered to throw missiles at his home. Oh yes, they did. Did I mention that he participated in a duel?

Our next stop was Kensington Palace. The Kensington area is very high-end, as it should be. Kensington Palace was the palace prior to Buckingham Palace. It was also the residence of Princess Diana. I enjoyed our visit there because it is a much older location than Buckingham Palace, and rooms were set up to show you how people, like Queen Victoria, lived there. We saw bedrooms and small rooms for dining in addition to the usual portrait galleries and staircases. There was an additional exhibit of some of Princess Diana's dresses as photographed prior to her death. We were able to eat some very delicious tomato soup at The Orangery, a restaurant on the premises.

The British Museum is awesome. I love ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, etc., and this free museum has everything you can think of in those areas and more. I especially enjoy Egyptian history, and this Museum has one of the largest Egyptian collections in the world. Yes, we saw mummies and the Rosetta Stone!

We saw armor from Rome, giants from Easter Island, winged bulls from Assyria, pediments from the Parthenon, pottery, money, masks, jewelry, head adornments and marble statues.

George Frederic Handel spent much of his life in London. He lived in a home near Bond Street and Oxford Street, both of which are known for being very upscale. The house on Brook Street is where he composed Messiah as well as Music for the Royal Fireworks. In addition to a few instruments, we were able to see manuscripts and letters of correspondence between Handel and librettists. Included in the manuscripts was an arrangement of a Handel fugue by Mozart. There was also an exhibit on the castrati that Señor CC was especially keen to pass by. Interesting note: the house attached to Handel House was home to Jimi Hendricks in the late 1960s. There are a few photos of him on display in the museum.

Haz is fantabulous. Yes, it is so good that I feel compelled to use a non-existent word to describe its excellence. We have never had such good everything. The wine was the best we've ever had, the starters were wonderful, and the chicken shish is a must. The dessert was delicious and the waiter even gave us drinks on the house to top it all off. We very highly recommend a visit here if you ever have a chance to spend a night in London. I cannot express how much we both enjoyed it!

Day Two ~ The End

September 2, 2006

London: Day One (12.8.2006)

[Warning: loooooooooong post due to my awe of all things old.]


Egg, thick bacon, sausage link, cooked tomato (sans skin), hash brown (triangle-shaped...I don't know why that matters, but it made it oh so tasty), baked beans (not as strongly flavored as those in the U.S., but baked beans indeed), toast with assorted jams, and coffee.

Can you smell it? Can you taste it?


What a way to start your day. It was excellent; I highly recommend it.

Knowing that we would be spending the better part of three days in the city, I had purchased two three-day London Passes with travel for our sight-seeing extravaganza. I felt that they were worth it for a few reasons:

  • You spend your money up front, therefore you don't need to carry a lot of cash and you don't have to wait in long lines at the ticket booths.

  • You have your travel card for tube and bus lines, good for your entire trip and again, no cash needed.

  • Discounts and free items abound; all you have to do is use the site or guidebook to determine which ones you want to take advantage of.

Obviously some would use these same points in a negative manner; I would just like to point out that I had plenty of time to plan this trip. Yes, there are some things that the London Pass won't get you into; we did go to some of those places. Overall, we were able to plan our trip so that we got our money's worth, and the time and hassle we saved by not standing in lines was an excellent bonus.

First thing after breakfast we headed to Paddington Station and the tube. I love traveling on the tube. It is extensive, efficient, and fun. Yes, I grew up far, far away from a city with any kind of excellent massive public transportation. Things I LOVE about the tube:

  • When a sign says: "Stand to the right, walk to the left." everyone does just that. Really!

  • Likewise, if a sign states: "Please allow passengers to exit before boarding." everyone actually does it. Honestly!

  • The decor is interesting and varied. I could ride the tube all day and take pictures of the stations. Some are graphic, some minimal, some fantastic, but all reflect the area and/or the name of the stop.

Our first trip took us to Piccadilly Circus where we picked up our London Passes. We walked from the Britain and London Visitor Centre towards St. James's Park and saw this phone booth. Being the obvious tourists, we had to take a picture. We continued down through the park to the Mall (the tree-lined street leading to Buckingham Palace) and leisurely walked towards Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's humble abode.

I would like to take a moment to clue you, the wonderful masses, in on a tidbit of information that should add to the whole sight-seeing-extravaganza as experienced by Señor y Señora CC:




We did bring an umbrella. On day one, however, we were both wearing t-shirts and shorts. Yes indeedy we were, and just to be clear: It. Was. Cold.

The Mall is a beautiful street, and if we lived in or near London, I imagine it is one place we would greatly enjoy spending time. It does end at Buckingham Palace, where we went that morning to pick up our 15:15 entry tickets to the staterooms. The Palace is only open for a short time in the summer when Her Majesty visits Scotland. It was an extra expense, but we figured that we should see it since we had no idea if we would ever be returning to the city for a visit.

Tickets were claimed and we were off to Victoria Station. So began the farce-like attempts to read the signs and follow vague arrows pointing almost in the right direction that seem to plague (at one time or another) every trip we take. At least we can laugh about it.



We found it in not nearly as much time as we thought and were soon speeding along to Westminster Station. The best thing about this particular station is that when you exit towards Parliament, you are bombarded by the building and the clock tower housing Big Ben. This picture is from quite a ways up the street and does not do justice to the overwhelming sensation experienced upon arrival. I am fairly certain we took over 20 pictures of the clock tower on our short walk to Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey: House of Kings

As I have stated, the Abbey is beyond description. I cannot begin to do justice to the architecture of the building. The ceiling is so high that you lose all sense of depth perception when looking in its direction. Senor CC and I sat down on a bench in the entrance and took a few moments to scrape our jaws off of the floor. This turned out to be a good idea, since there are people buried under there and their grave markers make up the flooring of a large part of the church. The intricate details overwhelm you and we were in awe for the entirety of our visit.

In addition to the building being amazing, there is an abundance of artwork within the tombs and monuments that covers a wide range of styles and periods. We felt like we were in an art-history lesson watching the transformation from style to style as we walked. Tombs up to almost one thousand years old reside in Westminster Abbey and include those of Edward I & III, Henry III & V & VII, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.

The floor is worn away by the thousands who come to Westminster Abbey for services and prayer, not to mention the tourists like ourselves. I felt as if I was literally walking in the footsteps of those before me. Where people have knelt at different shrines is also worn down and you can see exactly where knees have supported people in prayer over the years.

Poet's corner was an interesting area. We were able to find many names we recognize. There are memorials to Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats, T.S.Eliot, Jane Austin and the Bronte sisters, among others. Those buried included Tennyson and Dickens. Directly across from Poets' corner we found Handel's monument and grave as well as those of Laurence Olivier.

The Cloisters form a square and were one of the busiest parts of the building when it was a monastery. The windows used to have panes but are now completely open to the courtyard within. We walked around the cloisters and visited the Pyx Chamber, which served as a treasure room of sorts for many years. It is best known for being the home to the wooden boxes called pyx that held coins set aside to be "tried". In the Trial of the Pyx the public would gather, usually in the Palace of Westminster, to watch the coins be melted down so that the silver content could be measured and thus everyone assured that it was real. This trial still takes place today.

My favorite room in Westminster Abbey was the Chapter House. This octagonal room is off of the East Cloisters and has magnificent stained glass windows, gothic paintings of the apocalypse, and magnificent floor tiles. This room is where Parliament began. Once they moved to the Parliament building, it was used to store government records before it was restored to its current use.

As you can see, we were very happy that we went to Westminster Abbey. It is definitely on my list of favorite things in London, and I would most likely pay to go through it again. It is amazing. If you would like to learn more about it, visit the online tour at this site and read away. There are excellent pictures of the entire building.

Once we left Westminster Abbey and our senses returned to their normal state, we were reminded how incredibly hungry and cold we were. Most tour books and sites tell you to take a leisurely walk up Whitehall (street) towards Trafalgar Square and gander at the buildings along the way. Granted, there are many historic and government buildings here, but may I remind you:


Our leisurely stroll was more of a stand-as-close-together-as-possible-for-the-body-heat-while-power-walking-to-the-restaurant-at-Trafalgar-Square. Take a millisecond to say "Look! There's the square with the Lions and the fountain..." followed rapidly by "The restaurant! Quick!! Enter!!!"

We ate at Garfulkels. I know. It is American food. However, it is made in London, so it is not exactly American. And hey, we live in Spain, so if we want to eat American food while we are in London, then so be it! It was very good and an excellent price. We ended our meal with a large cup of coffee which was also mighty tasty.

By this point we were a little tired...heh...little...of being cold and had decided that if we could find a couple of jackets, then by golly, we were going to purchase them. They could be our souvenir for the trip. Of course, neither of us wanted sweatshirts or jackets that said anything like: LONDON, which is all you can find in the tourist shops, so we had a bit of a challenge. We walked up the strand a bit and found some nice name-brand fancy shops that cost a bundle, so we eventually headed to the tube and back to Victoria Station. We had almost given up hope on the jacket front when Señor CC spotted an outdoor store. Hooray! We went in and both left with North Face fleeces and a brand-spanking-new outlook for the remainder of our trip.

[Insert happy-dance of your choice here.]

It was close to time for our appointment with the Queen('s staterooms), so we walked to the Palace and took a few pictures out front before heading to the queue to enter. Although it is timed, there are a lot of people for each entry, so we waited for about thirty-forty minutes. We were sent through security and were given a free (included in the price) headset audio tour. Those were awesome! It meant you were free to look around at your own pace and that you didn't have to strain to hear a tour guide. Plus, since everyone got one for free, everyone was quiet as you made your way through the extravagance. No pictures are allowed, but to give you an idea of the inside, I have included a photo of a little piece of the front gate.

We saw gold upon gold upon silks and tapestry and did I mention the gold? There are original paintings everywhere, gold chandeliers that are on pulleys, carving and detail everywhere - it is an abundance of all that is majestic. The rooms are all perfectly and completely overdone and it all perfectly and completely works. Nowhere else could that much just feel right.

Because of the Queen's 80th birthday there was a special exhibition of eighty of Her Majesty's gowns from over the years. Included in this exhibition were some of the jewels that she wore to events. This was also amazing. I am usually not one for the frilly or anything above simply elegant, but these gowns were amazing. Some had to weigh at least a third of her weight, if not half, and the details and materials were, well, fit for a queen.

When you exit Buckingham Palace, you hand over your audio tour and then walk through part of the palace gardens. Although it was rainy and most of the grass was brownish-green, the gardens were still quite nice. The garden path spits you out at the western end of St. James's Park so that you are directly across from Hyde Park Corner. We walked over there and took some pictures of Wellington Arch. We would have to wait until Sunday to tour the small museum, but we did take some pictures. Monuments, statues, and memorials abound in this city. Marble is everywhere. The fact that most of these items were made without the help of modern equipment is somewhat baffling. This picture is the inside of the archway of Wellington's Arch.

Tired, cold, and ready for a rest, we headed back to the Radnor. We were able to rest up and then we headed over to our dinner reservation at Porter's English Restaurant. Remember the farce-like attempts I mentioned earlier? Well, we have indeed come full circle, because we spent no less than forty-five minutes trying to find this place. We were very lucky that they let us in and had a table. The food was excellent, and we were full when we left. We headed back to the hotel for a much-needed sleep.

Again: Zzzzzzzzz....