Cheers from England

Trip Start Apr 30, 2008
Trip End Apr 17, 2009

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Wednesday, August 6, 2008

We flew from Berlin to London on EasyJet- one of the really cheap carriers in Europe you may have heard about. For some flights (not ours) you just pay the tax--the fare is $0-- because one or both of the cities pay to have flights (and tourists) come. Interesting business model.

We stayed with Candy's friend, Paul, about an hour outside London in the countryside around Reading.  Paul lives in a lovely country home built by a WWI General. We loved hanging out in the garden, orchards, and pastures. Paul shares the house with Freddy and Bungee.  These two buddies were fun to watch play.  

Paul took us to Stratford-Upon-Avon (Shakespeare's birthplace). It's a lovely town that we toured in one of the double-decker buses. We learned the origin of lots of English words and sayings during the tour. For example, in Shakespeare's time, it was common to remove the bones from cemeteries every once in a while so that new people could be buried. The bones were burned; hence our word bonfire (bone-fire). We also got to tour Anne Hathaway's house (Shakespeare's wife-not that actress that many people say resembles Candy). The cooking devices in the home--including a mechanical spit added in later years--were really interesting.

Paul also took us to Portsmouth where he keeps his sailboat.   While the Force 8 winds made it too rough to go out into the Solent (or to the Isle of Wight) as we had planned, we enjoyed staying on the boat and touring the city. It was very interesting to see the many memorial plaques to such important events in history---the launching of the ships to settle Jamestown and Botany Bay and preparations during the Napoleonic, Crimean, and World Wars.

A highlight for Ray was his long awaited first visit to a proper English pub (and second visit, third visit...) Ray was able to try many authentic ales (hand pulled from the cask with no artificial carbonation to do the job). Another highlight for us were the meat pies and pasties. Mom Skaff-- have you made that Guinness Pie recipe you saw Jamie Oliver cook on the TV at our house? Dad Smith-- the Cornish Pasties were very similar to Dobber's. But we knew you would have loved the steak and Stilton pasty that we had in Winchester (another old English town that seems so charming that it feels like you're in Epcot and not a real place).

We also enjoyed the home cooked meals. Paul's English Fry-up (eggs, rashers of bacon, sausages, toast and baked beans) and Sunday Roast with Yorkshire Puddings were wonderful. Candy made French toast and her mom's pancakes (substituting yogurt for buttermilk as buttermilk doesn't seem to be available in the UK). Ray made grilled cheese sandwiches with Coleman's mustard that we dipped in brown sauce and Branston's pickles.

As our fellow Minnesotan might have put it, it was a bad week for poultry in Lake Wobegon. Paul had purchased some chickens so that he could enjoy fresh eggs. He had recently added a cockerel (a rooster to us) to the roost. The rooster was both louder, earlier, and more vocal than Paul had anticipated. After trying innovative methods to quiet the rooster and inquiring about the returns policy at the cockerel store, the rooster met the ax. Over the next few days, the hens disappeared. At first we hoped that they were just laying low to see if the ax would come again. Alas, it appears that a fox had found the chickens.

Our quick visit was eventful. We look forward to our return in the end of October. If Paul's efforts dealing with the fox are half as funny as his rooster stories, we can't wait to hear them. Tune in soon to hear about our brief eye (and pore) opening trip to Abu Dhabi.

Candy and Ray
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michellej on

Were you still in Minnesota when we brought Guinea Hens to the ranch? They met there unfortunate and untimely demise no thanks to our dogs and cats. Also loud- it wasn't such a bad thing that they are no longer :( Sounds like you guys are having a blast! Work is not the same without you and our intern is leaving on Friday so it will be empty and quiet again. Enjoy your journey!

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