Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
Trip End Oct 04, 2005

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Thursday, August 11, 2005

Few things are more exhilarating than driving on the left hand side of the road. However, nothing serves to diminish that exhilaration like driving a 1.3L Hyundai Getz. It has an acceleration similar to my push mower, but uses way more gas. I did pick up a bit of experience driving on the left side when we were in Ireland a few years back. Unfortunately, this car differs by having the turn signal and wiper controls reversed. Much to my chagrin, I've managed to clean the windshield far more times than I've effectively communicated my intention to turn to other drivers.

We picked up our "hot rod" in London and began the adventure of exploring the English countryside. Old cottages surrounded by lush flower gardens, green fields speckled with white sheep and hay bales, centuries old walls lining narrow roads, and the occasional castle, made for a breathtaking drive (that's good, because we periodically got us something to do while aimlessly driving around). We loitered (got lost) about Coventry, spent the night in a bed and breakfast in Leicester, visited the coastal town of Sunderland, and then landed in Edinburgh, Scotland...right in time for their annual performing arts festival. The streets of Edinburgh were lined with street performers, musicians, drunken tourists, and weirdos. We took a late night tour of the Edinburgh vaults (part of the city was built over an older part of the city after the plague swept through the streets). We then found a B&B that ended up being our own cottage in the country outside of town. The next morning, we stormed Edinburgh castle (stormed as in paid $20 and then walked through in a quiet and orderly fashion).

From Edinburgh, we drove to Glasgow, dilly dallied about (got lost), and then headed to Carlisle, England. We stayed in a farmhouse B&B owned by a very talkative, atheist, muslim-hating British woman. We discussed a variety of subjects with her, including our favorite TV shows and the difference between British and American culture. In attempting to describe how disgusted we are with some of the "Fear Factor" foods, Sara told her about one stunt that involved the consumption of pig testicles. The woman smiled and said, "We spread those on crackers." Needless to say, we have sworn off all British food.

We left Carlisle en route to Cardiff, Wales. We tried our darndest to make it there by a decent hour, but failed to take one factor into consideration: Cadbury World. Upon entering Birmingham, I saw a sign from the highway. And like a moth to a flame, we could not resist the call of the cream egg.  Seriously, the billboard called it "the chocolate mecca of Europe," who could resist that?Hoping to eat our weight in chocolate, we drove as fast as that little engine could - imagining a Disneylike experience replete with rides and costumed characters. Much to our EXTREME disappointment, we could not gain access to this little heaven-on-earth due to the eternally long line (seriously, three hours to get in!). We were forced to turn away and proceed to Wales. We stopped at a gas station to grab a snack.  In the car, I attacked my king size Snickers bar with a violence that has never been matched in England to try and ease the pain. It helped.

I am writing this entry from Cardiff, the capital of Wales. They speak Welsh as well as English and all signs have both languages. We're staying in a youth hostel and sharing a room with a young girl that I call Sonya (I don't know if that's her name, but she looks like a Sonya).

For meals, we've been having traditional English breakfasts (bacon, sausage, egg, baked beans, toast, cereal, OJ, tea/coffee), lunches are usually sandwiches, and dinners are pub grub. I've become a fish and chips connoisseur and have also been experimenting with various local ales.

Upcoming events:
Tomorrow, we are visiting another castle and then heading to see Stonehenge. We leave the UK for good on Friday when we take the Chunnel (a train that travels under the English channel) to Brussels, Belgium (where we will make up for the Cadbury fiasco by gorging ourselves on expensive chocolate).

If you find yourself checking travelpod more often than we are posting, you can always subscribe to our travel log. This will send you an email notification whenever we add a new entry. There should be a link from our homepage (click on the actual Europe 2005 log and you'll se the link). Or send me an email at and I will add your email manually. You can also post to our message board or send us emails directly from it.
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rickbranstetter on

Knife collection
Bill, any chance your knife collection got a new addition from the Edinburgh Castle Keep?

Are you keeping track of the miles you are traveling? You know how I like that kind of trivia.

Your mom drove to Springfield again today to find an apartment for Sunny. She loaded up the car with a bunch of our attic furniture she had been saving. She is meeting the mother of Sunny's roommate and they will select the apartment.

We are going to Kansas City for the weekend to Glen Winkler's wedding.

I went to Big Brothers yesterday for a two hour interview. Most of the time was spent talking about you and Sara on this two month vacation.

Have fun and enjoy this time together - you deserve it!

rickbranstetter on

Family gathering
Bill, Uncle John is driving in for the week. Uncle Jim and Peggy are driving up from Springfield for the next few days. Aaron, Holly, Emma and Chi are coming on Sunday for a few days. Are you sure you can't work in a quick stop by Jefferson City for this mini family reunion? After all you are going from one country to another, it isn't like the USA is just another country you could divert to if you wanted. You don't have a specific itinerary as I remember.

Are you gaining weight?

The Costa Rica Club Rock kids just returned. They worked with Eric and Carolyn. Jay Fast also was in Costa Rica with his church group at the same time, so they had a mini reunion. Someone had a book of previous groups and the Tico girls thought John Caswell was a real 'hotie'. Jeff Barber wrote it into the webpage and asked parents to be sure John got to see their comments.
Love you two!

rickbranstetter on

Phone Call
Bill, we just got your phone call. We were having breakfast outside with Uncle John. We are having rain (praise God), and lower temperatures. We missed talking to you and Sara. You sounded tired with a somewhat hoarse voice. Too much chocolate?

Today is Saturday the 13th and the last update on your Travelpod page is for the 10th. Are you having trouble finding an Internet cafe?

I did get a message that you had an update on the 10th, however, it went into my SPAM box. I only check the SPAM box once a week. Normally, Uncle John's messages end up there.

We are off to Kansas City in another hour for the Winkler wedding. Uncle John will be staying at house when we are gone.
Love you both!

billandsara on

Re: Did you say chocolate?
Your Belgian chocolate is in the mail, mom. I brought some Chacos and wear them occasionally...but I don't take too many pictures of my feet. I'm not sure if you'd be able to tell.

billandsara on

Re: Knife collection
No new knives, but that is a rather good idea. I did see quite a few swords for sale in the local shops. But then I asked myself what I would do with the swords after I bought them and came to my senses.

We drove about 1300 miles around England, Scotland, and Wales. It cost about $50-60 to fill up the car. It's much cheaper to take the train around Europe.

billandsara on

Re: Phone Call
It's not so much difficulty finding an Internet cafe as it is having time to write updates and upload pictures. We aren't rushing around trying to fit everything in, so it takes a few days to get enough material to post on the site. Currently, we've misplaced our USB cable. So we can't upload pictures until we get a new one. Our next update is almost done, but we won't post it until the pictures can be added.

rickbranstetter on

From Grandma
Bill, did you forget your razor?


rickbranstetter on

From Uncle John
Bill, my souveniers of choice: gold, chocolate, waffle.

Tell NATO to go to hell!

Love ya!
Representing Michigan Branstetters,
Uncle John

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