Saturday, December 29, 2007

Timeout for Snowboarding

While I was home for the holidays and since we were in West Virgina only a few minute drive from Winterplace Ski Resort, Garland and I decided we would have a guys night out and learn to snowboard.

We had an hour and a half intro lesson that taught us the basics of stopping, using the edges of the board to control your speed while you are moving in all directions and how to get on and off the lift without making a fool of yourself.

To make a long story short snowboarding is much tougher than it looks. We spent a lot of time on the snow and our ski gear was soaked when we left. If you are new to snowboarding expect to fall a lot and to be sore the next few days.

Garland took to it like a natural. By the end of the night he was doing tricks and going down the mountain in style. Check out this video of him snowboarding. We had a great relaxing night of fun.

Here are a few photos of us on the mountain.

I know it's not quite Switzerland but that trip is right around the corner. However, it will be on skis...

There's no place like home for the holidays....!

That song had a new meaning for us this year. There really is no place like home for the holidays! We had a great time in West Virginia and Lexington seeing our friends and family. It was a whirlwind trip going from one Christmas event to the next. And every moment was great!

We are back in London safe and sound already having unpacked and repacked for Edinburgh. The cats were glad to see us but are going to be upset again tomorrow.

We want to thank all of our friends and families that helped to accommodate our crazy schedule.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Absolut Ice Bar Review

On Tuesday night Zac, Tara, Steph and I decided it would be fun to visit the Absolut London Ice Bar so here is my take on the experience.

First a little background, the temperature inside the bar is kept at a constant 5 degrees and everything is made from water (ice) frozen from the Torne River in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden.

To get into the bar you book a 40 minute time slot that costs £12 during the week and £15 on the weekends to get in. Its a bit expensive but the entry fee does include a designer thermal cape to keep you warm, an ice glass and one cocktail.

Initially we were excited to get into the cold but after getting our drink and taking a look around we realized the bar itself wasn't all that impressive. Other than some music blaring there wasn't much to enhance the experience. The bar itself was a dark modern gray that was amplified by the ice. There was just something missing.

They had some ice seats covered in fake animal skin so you could sit down without sitting straight on the ice.

One cool thing however was the ice cup you were given for your drink. It was a neat to drink out of a hollowed block of ice.

In summary it is something I'm glad I could experience but probably won't do again.

Ice Bar Photos

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Back From Venice

Sadly, the family reunion in London and Venice is over. Everybody is back in KY getting back to normal life preparing for Christmas. I'm sorry the post is a bit late but we had to recover from the hectic pace and put in a few extra hours to make up for the last few weeks (sleep and work!).

We started at the Tower of London, home to the royal crown jewels. They were a spectacular sight and included the world's largest cut diamond, the Star of Africa. Sorry Steph, that diamond wasn't for sale when I bought your ring, shame...

Another cool siting at the Tower of London were the ravens which have been on the grounds since 1865. It is said that if the ravens leave the tower the kingdom would fall. They are fairly spooky birds flying and hovering around. Especially since it was dark, rainy and foggy.

The following day it was cold, windy and rainy which turned out to be a theme for the week. Since it was typical British November weather we decided to visit Harrods, which was all geared up for Christmas. They ladies did plenty of shopping and us men found the pub in the basement.

Monday Steph and I went back to work for the week while everyone else did more touring in London. As we didn't go with them I will let them tell the stories but they visited the British Museum (finding Zac's portrait on the wall), the London eye, the south bank of Parliament, and toured the Chelsea Football Club grounds.

Their week in London was capped off with a Thanksgiving dinner at Hard Rock Cafe. Amazingly, dozens of places serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in London, however, Hard Rock's meal turned out to be not so traditional (in our opinion) so we all ate other things off the Americanized menu - yum! Our "Thanksgiving dinner", minus the turkey and trimmings, is captured in the group photo above.

More to come...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Here's wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! Eat extra turkey and stuffing for us. Steph's craving some of Kathy's sweet potato souffle and oh how I would love a big helping of my Mum's pineapple casserole...

Unfortunately its not a holiday in the UK so Steph and I are at work counting the hours until we can get our fill of turkey tonight. Thankfully we have some family over to help us celebrate which is a great added bonus. I will hopefully blog more about our adventures this past week or so after we get back from Venice.

Tonight we have reservations at the original Hard Rock Cafe in London to have our Thanksgiving meal. Its not exactly home cooked but it should be entertaining. Plus it gave me a good excuse to use that image above.

In any event here's what the Hard Rock's website says about their menu tonight, "Join us this Thanksgiving for turkey with all the trimmings.... Turkey dinner, pumpkin pie and an infamous rock n roll atmosphere." Hopefully they will ROCK the turkey...

In honor of the day we want to say how thankful we are for those we have in our lives at the present and for the memories we have of those who are no longer with us.

Happy turkey day to all, gobble gobble gobble...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

They made it

I just want to let everybody know that Kenny & Lois made it over without a hitch and have had a great start to the trip.

A Few Weekend Photos

After they landed on Friday we toured London seeing the main sights of Big Ben, Parliament, the London Eye, Trafalgar Square and Oxford Street which is already decorated for Christmas. We decided that Christmas here starts after Halloween without Thanksgiving to hold things up a bit. All of the Christmas decorations and commercial blitz have already started which is another reason to dig Thanksgiving, bring on the turkey and stuffing...

On Saturday we took the train back into London touring the Borough Market where we had some tasty treats and then watched the fireworks over the Thames for the Lord Mayor's celebrations. Finally, we hit a pub for fish and chips.

After sending them on the Eurostar to Paris yesterday I just spoke to them and they arrived in Paris as expected. Here's wishing them a Happy 30th Anniversary!

That's all from here until Zac and Tara arrive and when things really pick up. Any experienced travelers be sure to throw any pub suggestions my way.

See you soon bro, I can't wait...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We have exorciiiiiiised the (kitty) demons!

Mia has been plagued by a demon recently. She has been spending the majority of the day in the bedroom and most times being under the bed in the bedroom. She might start in a lovey mood in the bedroom and I would carry her in to the living room and sit on the couch....then she would look around in a panic, jump off my lap and run hunching low to the ground, back to the bedroom. What on earth is wrong with Mia?

We started thinking about it and Mia was definitely not happy in the living room. What's new in the living room? Nothing really. Then tonight we thought about the toy Josh bought them while I was in the US. He bought a kitty toy consisting of a foot-long piece of feather boa that was hanging from a string on a pole. So waving it around it kind of looked like a bird or squirrel (the boa makes it look like a squirrel). Simply enough, right? All cats love feathery, fuzzy things tied to a pole, right? We've had "birders" before - two long, stiff feathers tied to a string on a pole and they loved it.

Well, when I got home from the US Josh said, "Hey, look. I bought them this toy but Mia acts really weird with it." So, he pulled it out of the desk drawer (which is in the living room) and Mia freezes. She watches it fly around, then hisses! And when he put it on the ground for her to approach she would hiss more and make this awful low growl!! She acted as if she wanted to absolutely kill it - and not in a I'm-a-cat-and-I-love-to-play-hunt kind of way.....I'm talking a this-is-the-most-wretched-thing-I-have-ever-seen-and-I-want-to-annihilate-it!

So, Wednesday night I theorized that she is avoiding the living room because she knows this thing is in the desk drawer (she was eyeing it down still in a fit when Josh put it away that day). I suggested we bring it out in the hall, (grab her from under the bed first!), show it to her then throw it in the guest room. We always keep our guest room door closed - the kitties are not allowed in there (so guests can rest in a cat allergy free and hair free environment).

Well, we did. We let her growl over it, bite it and hiss at it for about 10 minutes in the hall and then I took and with her eyeing me down suspiciously, I opened the guest room door and threw it in. She jumped as if to chase after it but I closed the door and we all left the hall.

It being Saturday morning now, I am glad to saw we have, in fact, exorcised that demon. Mia has been in the living non-stop, hanging out with us again like normal. I think we need to write a letter to that toy manufacturer - that was a scary incident! haha!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Last Minute Arsenal Game

I received a great phone call from Steph Tuesday at work about a coworker that had an extra ticket to the nights Arsenal Champions League Game. Wow what a great surprise because I have been wanting to go to a game since we moved. Thanks Steph!

The game was at 7:45 so I left work a bit early, drove home, caught the train to London Bridge, and hopped on the tube getting off at the Arsenal stop. It was a journey but worth it.

My seat was in the upper deck of gate D behind Arsenal's second half attacking goal. They scored 4 second half goals right in front of us to win going away 7-0. Are you kidding me? 7 goals?! That just doesn't happen very often. Lucky me. It equaled the biggest Champions League win in history.

Since tickets are so hard to get a hold of I hope this isn't the last game I will have a chance to see but if it is I sure picked a good one.

Here are the photos I took from my seat including a nice one of a corner kick in the second half.

One final note because I don't want anybody to get confused where my loyalties lie. I am still true blue. Go Cats!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Steph's Back in the UK

Just a quick post to let everyone know Steph made it back safe. Her flight left half an hour late and arrived half an hour early thanks to a big tail wind.

Now the only thing left to do is unpack...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Kentucky Upsets #1 LSU

What a game! Down by 13 in the 3rd quarter the cats came back to win in 3 overtimes. The best thing about it is that I was able to watch it all live and in color thanks to my shiny new Slingbox.

I was practically there jumping and yelling at every big moment. That is if you make exceptions for the fact that I woke up my neighbors because its 1:30 AM, stepped on one of my cats who were scared out of their minds at my crazy behavior, and had the Rugby World Cup on the tele to see England advance to the finals. Ha!

The Slingbox purchase has officially been justified.

Lucky Steph sure picked a good football game to attend. Lets just hope she didn't get in trouble trying to tear down the goal posts...

Before I go I need to give a big shout out to my cool nephew Garland who's West Jessamine football team beat their cross town rivals, East, to make it to the playoffs. Good luck in the playoffs G!

Finally a big thanks to Jamo for turning on the Slingbox today so I could watch the game.

I am so wound up, luckily I don't have to work tomorrow. GO CATS!!!

Cats Win! Cats Win!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sat Nav: friend or foe?

To make our adventures a little easier we decided to invest in a Satellite Navigation unit, a Sat Nav. After hours of research, I decided on the Garmin 350, and found a used one on Ebay. (Amazingly the Gamin's are cheaper here even with the conversion - much cheaper, same products!)

It arrived a couple of days before our Poole anniversary trip and Josh used it going to and from work to test it out - no problems.

Well, little did we know the system, which I'm sure was originally configured for US roads, has some quirks when applied to British roads.

To get to the Sandbanks Beach for our RIB ride, we needed to drive down to the tip of the harbour. Imagine the harbour is a clock face, Poole is 3 and Sandbanks Beach is 5. The opening of the harbour is 6 and the land resumes at 7 (small opening, big harbour!). Well, we jumped in the car, typed in the post code and Josh noted it would take 40 minutes. I had looked on a map to see it wasn't very far but I thought maybe the roads are strange.

We set off and we kept taking left turns (moving from 3 to 2 to 1, etc)...and I started to worry. I pulled out a real map and was frantically searching for the names of the towns/streets we were passing. To no avail, I grabbed the Sat Nav and zoomed out on the route to see it was taking us from 3 o'clock, counterclockwise to 7, directing us to get on a ferry and then get to our destination at 5!!! What?! We had it set on fastest route so we were perplexed how that was faster. I could see the one main road we SHOULD have taken to get easily to our destination and it should have only taken us 10 minutes (instead of 40).

In playing with the settings I realised it was set to avoid U-turns, seems normal, but after contemplating the error of its way...we figured it out! Garmin interprets the 3rd exit on a roundabout as a u-turn and thus would not tell us to go the shorter distance trip because we would have had to take a right turn...AKA a 3rd exit in a roundabout. This was confirmed in thinking back, remembering the Garmin had yet to ever tell us to take a 3rd exit AND it avoided the easier route from our apartment to the highway (which would have involved taking a 3rd exit).

In sum, I think the Garmin will be helpful in trekking the UK and Europe but ALWAYS preview the route to ensure it makes sense!

A 2nd Anniversary Adventure

Last year for our first anniversary we decided that we would rather travel than exchange presents for our anniversary. As another condition, we added that we would take turns planning the trip and it would be a surprise for the other person. Last year, Josh planned an exciting weekend. This year it was my turn.

The surprise destination was Poole, England, situated on the world's second largest natural harbour. A quaint town with a lot of pizazz, there was fun to be had. Our room overlooked the harbour and we were located on The Quay (pronounced: key) - the main road running along the harbour where all sorts of stores and restaurants were located. We yet again lucked out with amazing weather and decided to take part in some of the many water activities offered around Poole harbour. We hired a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) to take us on the tour of the harbour the proper way. It was a nice peaceful ride and then heading out to the Old Harry Rocks, the driver let loose and we held on for dear life as we bounced across the wake of a huge ferry! Awesome!

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out on the Sandbanks Beach where there was a windsurfing completion going on. Unfortunately there wasn't any wind so instead we watched speed boats and some water skiing stunts. Who'd think we be chillin' (literally) on the beach in September in England?! It was nice, but a tad cold for our tastes (around 70 degrees F and windy on the beach) to be in swim kit.

Saturday night we got to enjoy a parade put on as part of the Inside Out Festival, an arts festival. It was essentially a night parade exhibiting an underwater fantasy world with some kickin' music. Pretty cool.

To cap off the weekend, I surprised....well, tried to surprise Josh (he opened the mail when I told him not to and found our tickets) with Zorbing. A sport invented in New Zealand, consisting of rolling down a hill in a big bubble!

Sideways Zorbing Video

Up to two people can ride in one Zorb and you can chose from being harnessed in the bubble or just sitting inside with a nice amount of water so you slosh all the way down! I chose the water! You can have take a running jump to jump through this narrow hole in the Zorb to get inside (Josh had to push me in...I didn't take a very good running jump)! Then sitting inside the guy sticks he head in and says ok, I'm gonna zip you up...stand up and start walking down the hill - what walking down the hill?! Yep, he said, you'll fall eventually, but you have to start walking to get going. Josh was rearing to go and we started walking...

I quickly hit the floor and then Josh joined me as we slide and tumbled over each other the entire way down! It was awesome!! Then to get out of the Zorb through that narrow hole the guy said its easier to come out head first so you reach out hands and head first to catch yourself on the ground! All in all, it was great and we'd do it again in a heartbeat! Here we are after changing into dry clothes.

All of the Poole photos

2 years down many more to come...

Kentucky Upsets No. 9 Louisville, 40-34

I just heard the good news! I starting jumping up and down in the flat so I can't even imagine the excitement from those who were there. Our first win over a top 10 team in 30 years, really, are you kidding me...

Wait a second. That's the same score of the upset over Alabama. Nice.

Anyway from what I can find on the web it was an exciting game but I need a full recap. So for all of who were in attendance and those who watched on TV send me an email or post comments with your thoughts on the game.

Go Cats!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Rocks in a field

Ok, so they were some rather large rocks. Rocks from Wales, moved by humans around 5000 years ago and somehow stacked in this field without the help of modern machinery. Also interesting, the alignment of the rocks has all to do with the sun and the passing of seasons. Even more interesting, there is a strong magnetic presence at one side of the stones...we eaves dropped on a tour guide taking a bus group through and watched her do a demonstration where these metal rods she was balancing on her fingers would come together or push away depending on how close she got to this one spot....hmmm....

Obviously, I am kidding at saying Stonehenge is just some rocks in a is actually am amazing site, so connected to the movement of the planet and science, nearly impossible to fathom how it was built in its day and completely unknown what it was actually used for. Strangely, it really is just some rocks in a field when considering the are driving through English countryside then off in the distance in one of the many open fields you see some rocks and as you get closer you realise they are the infamous Stonehenge. Its right next to the road and in one of the pictures you can see the country highway through two of the upright stones. Very neat place and a lovely day. We ended our tour by taking a nap in the field at Stonehenge.

Just a few towns over is a place called Avebury. Its a small town that has similar stones standing upright around the town. Also a strange sight, many of these stones are in the middle of sheep or cow pastures and people can just go wondering around through all of this property. Along with the stones making a large (and I mean large) circle around the town, there is also what only can be described as a moat. Its a 20 feet deep ravine running around the town. The Avebury stones are also about 5000 year old and their original purpose unknown. But again, very interesting.

We found some good lighing late in the day and were able to pose with the stones. Can you tell who is who?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

New Addition to the Flat

The cats are in heaven because we bought them a new place to take a nap. It hangs over the radiators in the flat and is in the sun for a good portion of the day. As you can see in the picture Mia has claimed it for the time being. Man I wish I could snooze like that...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

August Bank Holiday Weekend

So what does a guy in the UK do while his wife is at home in KY?

Thus far he plays golf, goes to the pub, and eats KFC fried chicken...

It was a beautiful day here in Surrey after many ugly ones this past week. No rain, no clouds just the sun at a marvelous 80 degrees. A great day for a round of golf!

While Steph is away I am thinking of going to Notting Hill Carnival on Monday. Its one of the largest street festivals in Europe. Sounds tempting, has anyone been that can give me some pointers?

Also, I posted the Paris pictures for those who are interested.

The one above is me in front of Notre Dam. Here I am at the Louvre and here sliding down a hand rail on a huge set of stairs. Check out Steph by the Arc with the Grande Arche and La Défense district in the background.

Finally, please tell Steph the cats say hi but they want her to hurry back...

Now its time for a movie.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Steph's home in KY

Steph has landed safely in Lexington and will be in KY through the weekend. Everyone help give her a big welcome home for me.

This means the cats and I are on our own for a few days. What is a guy and his 2 cats to do? Funny right? I guess its is a good time to practice driving because I need to get my UK drivers licensee. I hear its quite a bit tougher than the US's process so I better start preparing.

Steph enjoy the heat. Its cold and rainy here. What happened to summer? I am not sure we even had one...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Quick Trip to Paris

We are back from Paris. It was supposed to be a relaxing weekend but we are worn out. The walks on the Champs-Élysées, to the Eiffel Tower, through the vast Louvre, up the 250+ stairs of the Arc de Triomphe plus strolls through a quite a few of the lovely surrounding neighborhoods have taken their toll.

In short we had dinner at 2:00 am Saturday morning, got stuck in the metro, lost in the Louvre, and still can't speak but a few words of French. It was a good time and totally Parisian.

Paris has such a different pace of life if you can stay away from the tourist hot spots. It is a pace we could easily get used and one we totally enjoyed.

For now I am off to catch up on some much needed sleep before work tomorrow. We will fill in the gaps in the coming week...

Monday, August 13, 2007

We bought a car!

After looking at car options - buying one versus leasing one through my company - we decided the used car market here is loaded with good deals, AKA cheap cars. And as we are more interested in spending cash on airplane tickets than a shiny new car, used car prices work for us.
We started looking in June before Tanzania and went to see a couple dodgy looking vehicles (well they didn't look dodgy on autotrader). We were trying to stay under 1000 GBP (yeah, I know, cheap). After a couple strikes, we decided to give up until after we got back from Africa and dealt with the fact that our car budget might have to increase.

After having a rental for the past two weeks it crystallised the fact that we need a car. Although public transport here is awesome, having a car can just let you do so much more... allowing you to roam around small villages looking for a neat place to eat dinner and to tour the English countryside on the weekends.

Well, after all of the suspense, here she is - the 1996 Vauxhall Vectra. I know you're jealous. haha! This is actually a larger vehicle here but it will allow us to tote around our guests without their knees being up to their chins in the back seat.

Yes, that beauty and we stayed within our original budget! (Ok, it DOES have a little ding on the bumper, but oh well...)

Friday, August 10, 2007

We went to the Queen's house last weekend...

Haha! Well, we toured Buckingham Palace last weekend while the royal family is at their summer home, Holyrood Palace in Scotland. You have to book tickets far in advance to tour the palace as it is only open for a few weeks each year.

It was the hottest day yet this summer, but a nice day for being out and about. The palace interior was absolutely AMAZING. The Palace is full of intricately carved wood, amazing ceilings, silk covered walls, art and sculptures from all ages, and so much more! Beautiful place, but unfortunately we have no pictures to share as no pictures are allowed inside. Google it. I'm sure you'll find something.

Interestingly enough, the guy hired (way back when) to decorate the palace was fired prematurely as he vastly over spent on his budget. The rooms not decorated by him are lovely as well, but you can tell they are missing the minute details and intricacy of the other rooms. Although that must have been bad for the government that fiscal year, I'm sure the royal family is not upset by what he gave them.

We also toured the Royal Mews - the stables....for the horses and the royal carriages. We also saw the Rolls-Royce stretch Phantom. Amoung the many carriages was the one Princess Diana rode in on her wedding day...I have no idea how her dress and Prince Charles both fit in there with her! They also have a carriage that has Waterford crystal lamps on the side that have the Queen's likeness carved in to them. The horses look like they have a nice place to stay although I'm sure some Kentucky stables would knock their socks off.

The third part of our tour was the Royal Gallery - a collection of fine art. Nice. Josh and I appreciate art but we weren't moved by this collection in any paintings that resembled family members here.

Oh, for the of the most spectacular parts of the Royal Gallery and the Palace were the jewelry pieces on display. Oh, I get woozy thinking about them. I drooled over the ascher cut and pear shaped diamond broch being 64 and 94 carats, respectively. Oh my. And the crowns...every little girl's (or young-at-heart-woman's) dream! Amazing. Oh, and the diamond bracelet about 2 inches didn't just sparkle - it glowed! Oh, and the pink diamond - the largest pink diamond in the world! (Jane, you would have loved it!) I lingered for awhile at these cases while Josh waited for me patiently. What a good man.

Overall it was a nice day minus Josh being slightly under the weather due to a cold. We would suggest the Palace tour to friends but would say you could skip the Royal Gallery and the Mews (although ladies, half of the jewels you see are in the Royal Gallery).

Watch out Britain - Steph's on the M25

Yep, that's right...I am driving. I have officially been driving for 2 weeks now (I know, I really should have blogged about this sooner). However, if I had blogged about this the first day that I drove to my client site on the west side of London, then you all would have been getting a much different blog.

So, we picked up the rental car on a Sunday so that I could "practice" for Monday. Practice went well, although I had a white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel, and Bill Fisher was right in saying that it takes two people to drive in Britain! After studying the step-by-step map on Mapquest, I was ready - at least I thought I was!

I set out Monday morning with about 1 hr 45 minutes to get there. Mapquest said it would take 45 min (no traffic estimate though). As soon as I hit the M25, I understood why people hate it.

TRAFFIC. 4 lanes of speedy little cars and lorries all zooming in the same direction. Narrow lanes. Variable speed limits and speed cameras...let me explain that one. They are big on speed cameras. We hear that they are still using film versus being digital so theoretically, a freshly loaded speed camera will run out in about 10 minutes per the locals...but you never know. Hmm. Variable speed limits: they have these huge lighted signs across the motorway saying what the limit is, then there is a series of white dash lines after you drive under the sign that the camera uses to measure your speed. It doesn't sound all that bad, EXCEPT that these variable speed limit signs are about every half mile! And driving 30 miles around the M25, passing Heathrow airport in the process, the variable speed is super annoying. The one benefit is that they truly slow you down for an upcoming traffic standstill or wreck. The speed goes from 60 to 50 to 40 then, bam, sitting still.

I survived the variable speed signs but to make a long story short, Mapquest was wrong, who knows how to deal with a double roundabout and a phone call to ask directions is never out of line....I finally made it to the client site about 20 minutes late. I would not have had a positive blog at the end of that day! haha!

Since then, I have figured out how to get to the client site without getting lost and I have MASTERED the double roundabout! (Picture a figure 8 with cars moving all around you). Yes, I mastered that...without side-swiping someone.

Even funnier, Josh can't drive the rental (that would have cost 9 GBP per day * 13 days...umm, no). So, he has been patiently dealing with me. He says he can't wait until he can drive....I can't wait until he can drive so I have the chance to make fun of him! It's not easy adjusting your natural driving instincts.

After two weeks, I can confidently say that driving here is getting easier. I guess I need to read that Rules of the Road book that PwC sent me in my welcome package...that might explain some of those funny looking, colorful signs! haha!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tanzania and The Journey Back to London

The last day of the safari really started our journey home even though our flight wasn't for another day. From the Serengeti we had about a 6-7 hour drive back to Arusha. It's times like these when you really miss the Interstate system. Check out this short video clip of our ride. Now try and imagine 4+ hours of this before you hit the paved roads. Dust anyone...

After we made it back to Arusha we had to re-confirm our flights at the local Kenya Airways office. For some reason if you have more than 72 hours between your arrival and departure flights you must re-confirm your flight or else it will be cancelled. Yes I know, its a strange policy.

To wind down our trip we had one more night at the Patwa's residence. Luckily we took some advice and booked a flight to Dar instead of the 8 hour bus ride again. The 12-seater plane was an adventure and when we hit a nice little air pocket in the sky it gave us that feeling of free fall. Although it lasted a mere moment, it made us exchange sideways glances!

We caught our flight in Dar back to London and arrived "home" without any issues.

Finally Steph and I want to give a few shout outs to wrap up the trip.

The Patwa's, thank you for all of your hospitality! Thanks for giving us more food than we could possible eat, places to stay before, during and after the wedding and for helping schedule the safari and Zanzibar trip. To the whole family - we enjoyed meeting and getting to know you all. Someone ask the Secretary General to keep an eye on his "diet" for me...

Ali, thanks again for helping schedule our flight from Dar along with shuttling us to the airport. Also thanks for keeping an eye on me during the wedding ceremonies helping me to avoid any "stupid moments". It was a pleasure!

Sameer, thank you for letting us be a part of your wedding. It was a wonderful experience and we were honored to be invited. Best wishes to you and Tez.

That's all for Tanzania. So what's next?

Safari Day 4 - Sunrise over the Serengeti

We had our driver pick us up early, 6:30am, so that we could see the sun rise over the Serengeti. As we headed towards the game areas, we had several beautiful sunrise moments.

Today's mission was to spot some large cats as they tend to hunt in the early morning. As we drove around, the silence of nature was amazing. With the vehicle stopped, engine off, the delicate sounds of grass chewing, a few gentle steps and the occasional trot, made a peaceful soundtrack to the spectacular views. There were also fields as far as you could see full of gazelle and zebra.

During the early morning drive we found a pack of hyenas that were following a male lion. We came to find out from our driver that the hyenas thought they were following a female lion hoping to chase her off of an eventual kill. As the lion continued they soon realized it was a male lion and dispersed. It wasn't a total loss because the lion walked directly in front of our vehicle as he sauntered across the road. See this short video of the lion.

After a couple more peaceful hours of morning drive, with no major sitings, our driver started cutting through a field. In some parts of the park you are allowed to drive off the paths which can be helpful due to the size of the park.

We saw a few vulchers circling above and then saw movement in the tall grass as we drove closer. We spotted more vulchers finishing off a recent kill and not too many paces away were two cheetah. They were walking away having just given up their leftovers to the vulchers.

We followed the cheetah across the field where they stopped to sit on top of a dirt mound for a good view. Then we noticed the cheetahs were surrounded by lions. On one side was a lone lioness on the prowl. On the other was another lioness with her two cubs. Since none of the cat species get along the cheetahs were trying to avoid any contact with the lions by laying low not moving or drawing attention.

We were able to get extremely close to the cheetahs on the mound. It was one of the best moments of our safari, rivaling one of the lion hunts in the crater! The cheetahs were so amazing, too bad we couldn't have seen them in action at full speed.

We saw quite a few other animals and the only other thing to mention is a leopard we found sleeping in a tree that had carried its kill into the tree. Unfortunately it was quite far away so the pictures didn't really turn out.

Finally the picture is of a yawning hippo.

Serengeti Photos

Next Up: The Journey Home

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Safari Part 3 - Serengeti Day 1

Where to start with the Serengeti? For starters it is the most well known National Park and biggest in Tanzania plus it is casually referred to as the eighth wonder of the world. The first thing that strikes you as you are driving through is the vastness the park. The plains and forest go in all directions as far as you can see....and in some ares the animals seem endless too.

We were in Tanzania during winter, the dry season. This means the plains are usually only inhabited by gazelles at this time who can quench their thirst by eating the grass so they don't need to be next to a water source. My favorite gazelle was the Thompsons Gazelle which is a smaller gazelle. They have a 6-8 inch tail that is constantly wagging happily like an excited dog. It is quite humorous to see a herd of them bent over eating peacefully but to see a wave of little black flicking tails! So cute!

One of our first stops was a hippo pool. Oh, the hippo pool, how it stinks. During the dry season the water where these hippos were doesn't turn over very much so the water becomes filthy dirty with poop. Yuk, it smelled so bad. Here is my initial reaction, funny I know. The hippos spend a lot of the time under the water or in the water during the day. They actually get out to eat at night. They are interesting to watch, bobbing up and down, snorting water, moving slowly about in the water...but the smell was too much to handle for too long!

We also found a huge crocodile, thankfully at a good distance. We were fighting off the infamous tsetse flies while spying on the croc. These flies are super annoying, flying all around your face and at your ears. They also carry the disease better known as Sleeping Sickness which basically makes you very sleepy. So, we headed straight for our bottle of DEET bug spray! It helped immensely!

The remainder of our first day was relaxing with several lion spottings but they were all in trees, relaxing in the shade from the late afternoon sun.

We also spent some time at a zebra watering hole. There was a VERY large herd of zebra and wildebeest next to the river. Zebra are smart, but suspicious animals so they always feel conscious of potential lion or crocodile attacks. The watering hole was hilarious because zebra in a group would wonder over, start drinking, then one zebra would flinch and they would all take off in a mad dash away from the river. In this short video clip you can see them running away but also here a zebra call (donkey-like he-haw). It was always being echoed throughout the herd. I wonder what they were saying...

We then took the long ride back to the lodge, speeding fast down some questionably rocky roads, but standing out the roof with the warm wind in your face was actually quite invigorating. Talk about fresh air - we were breathing it all in.

At the lodge, we relaxed with a cup of coffee and the view over the vast Serengeti before getting ready for dinner.

All of the Serengeti Photos

Next Up: Serengeti Day 2

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Safari Part 2 - Ngorongoro Crater

Our second day of safari started with about a 2 hour drive to the Ngorongoro National Park and Conservation Area. We then had to to descend 7000 feet down to the crater floor where all of the action is.

Two words sum up this day, "Lion Hunts".

After our descent we enjoyed our first glimpse of the wildebeest. They are such goofy looking creatures but we decided they are very photogenic. One even decided to run into our vehicle.

From there we ran across our first and only Serval cat of the safari. A small but beautifully colored cat. She was the size of a very large house cat.

At our next stop there was a moment to savor, our first glimpse of a pride of lions in the wild.

As we watched a pair of warthogs stumbled into the area, the poor things have terrible vision. In this picture, you can see one of the lions watching hungrily. Gradually the lions all took notice and started moving into place stalking the warthogs. You can see the lioness stalking in the background.

This went on for a while when our driver said, "Oh, that warthog is in danger".

Then out of nowhere a few zebras wondered into the area near the warthogs and one of the lionesses took off chasing them across the plains. The surprised warthogs and zebras scattered in all directions trying to confuse the lioness. Wait, a moment of indecision by the lioness. She tried to change targets in mid chase. That was all it took, one moment of indecision and the prey escaped, luckily. The hunt was over with no snack for the lions this time.

The adrenaline was pumping. Steph and I exchanged looks in awe of what we had just seen. It was intense and thrilling to watch the lions in action. What a show!

We left the lions since there was no prey remaining to see what else we could find. We drove around for some time until we found another pride of lions which included males as well. We were on a road bumper-to-bumper with other safari vehicles. Then one lioness just stands up and starts walking towards the vehicles. Steph was getting a little nervous as it looked like her sight was fixed on our vehicle, then our driver says, "She is hunting. You are very lucky to see this twice". Steph, still a little nervous, didn't relax until she turned around to see a large herd of zebra in the field behind us.

The lioness proceeded to stalk the zebras, walking between the safari vehicles as if we were part of the environment. She ended up walking one vehicle away from us. You can actually see the tire of the vehicle right behind us in this picture of the lioness, not to mention her whiskers and teeth. She ended up chasing the herd, aiming at the slowest zebra at the back of the running herd, but was quickly out run by the zebras. Our driver at one point during this chase said, "just dive at it", but she didn't and failed. Again totally breathtaking.

After lunch we came back to the spot of the second hunt to find the male lion snacking on a kill. Again some warthogs wondered in and another hunt was on. Three in one day, can you believe it?! This one was short lived as the warthogs got wind of the lions and took off. We did however get this incredible picture of one of the lionesses stalking about to pounce and another of the warthogs escaping.

Overall, Ngorongoro crater was an amazing day. We saw many other animals but the lions stole to the show.

All of the Ngorongoro Photos

Next Up: Serengeti

Safari Part 1 - Lake Manyara

Our Safari started at the Lake Manyara National Park. It is a smaller park that gave us a good start into our safari. In the picture you can see our safari vehicle. The roof pops up for optimal animal viewing.

After entering the park the first animals we saw were elephants. We turned a corner and there was a family of elephants blocking the road. It was a male and female elephant with their little ones. We watched them for quite awhile but eventually they decided they were tired of us so the last one let out a silent, but deadly, elephant fart and as they strolled off into the jungle. And YES, elephant farts stink. We didn't stick around much longer.

At one point during the morning drive we found ourselves stopped looking at a family of hyper monkeys on the right side of the vehicle and a family of bandit mongoose on the left side of the vehicle. A few minutes pasted when our driver noticed an eagle high up in a tree straight ahead. All at once the eagle took off and everything went into action. The monkeys starting sounding off to each other while they dashed for cover...up into the trees and into the bushes. On the other side, the mongoose simultaneously did the same disappearing act. They were all locked on the eagle in defensive mode. It all happened so fast. In case you didn't realize, this eagle eats animals such as these small monkeys and mongoose.

When we stopped for lunch at a picnic site we were with a group of other tourists. After one group of people finished the mother and daughter starting walking away from the site towards the lake. They were a ways away before the driver noticed and starting yelling for them to come back. "Hey. Come back. Its not safe to be walking out there". Think - you are in an open park that inhabits lions, leopards and other large wild animals. Stupid tourists...

Finally on our way to the lodge we met a family of baboons walking in the road. Here is a photo one of the baboons sitting on the guard rail. Not a bad photo.

Lake Manyara Photos

Next Up: Ngorongoro Crater

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wedding Photos

I posted photos from Sameer and Tehzeen's wedding photos. The picture above after the final reception and we holding traditional Maasia symbols.

For some reason quite a few of the photos didn't turn out as expected. We think it may have been the lighting because we were quite a bit of low lighting during the wedding. Anyway the best of the bunch are available. Have a look. There are some good ones of us wearing some traditional outfits. Steph was digging the clothes...

Next Up: Lake Manyara

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Zanzibar Photos Online

I have posted a collection of the Zanzibar photos. They are broken down into 4 sets organized into the one collection. Below is a brief description of the sets but you can also refer to the blogs Zanzibar 1 and Zanzibar 2 for more detail.

Dar Es Salaam Photos - The economic capital of Tanzania, this is the city we flew into on day one, having lunch at a place called Slipaway. We then caught a ferry to Zanzibar the same day. Only a few photos here.

Stone Town Photos - This was the first portion of Zanzibar where we visited the Stone Town a World Heritage Site. It was a vibrant and hectic place.

Ras Nungwi Photos - Sitting on the north tip of Zanzibar is our resort Ras Nungwi. Here we were able to take a break from the hectic pace and relax on the beach. The service and food were fantastic. We even took a snorkeling trip.

Jozani Forest Photos - Here we took a trip to the Jozani Forest where they have an endangered species of monkey, the Red Colobus Monkey.

Next Up: Sameer's wedding

Am I Really Back To Work Already?

The trip home from Tanzania was uneventful which is how we like it. We reached the flat early Sunday morning and had to happy cats waiting for us. Now we are resting up getting back to real life which kicked in quickly because we both went to work on Monday after 17 days away.

As many of you know our trip was split into 3 distinct events Zanzibar, Sameer's wedding and our safari. We have right at 1000 photos for the entire trip so I have some weeding outdo. Over the next week I am planning to post the 3 sets of pictures and blog about the remaining portions of the trip, mainly the safari so check back this week.

Next Up: Zanzibar

Friday, July 13, 2007

Back From the Safari

We are back from safari safe and sound. What an adventure!

Lions, leopards, cheetas, jackals, hyenas, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, buffalos, hippos, crocidiles, monkeys, elephants, vulchers and on it goes.

I don't have much time at the moment so I have to be quick.

We start our journey home tomorrow morning getting in to London some
time early morning on Sunday. I will do my best to get some pictures and blogs up on the safari soon. We haven't had any access to the internet all week. For some reason in the middle of the Serengetti they just don't have internet connectivity...

More safari details coming soon.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Back in Arusha

The wedding is over and we are back in Arusha. Yesterday and today we are spending with the Patwa family as we all recover from the wedding especially Sameer & Tez.

Today we are going to do a little souvenir shopping at the Arusha Cultural Heritage. I hear its hosted quite a few important people including former US presidents so it should be a neat place. Then tonight we are talking about catching a movie.

Finally, our long awaited safari starts tomorrow. We can't wait! We will try and report from the field but no guarantees...

Friday, July 6, 2007

Congratulations to Sameer and Tehzeen

After several events and a couple days, Sameer and Tezheen are now Mr. & Mrs. Patwa. The picture of them is after the wedding ceremony.

The events leading up to the wedding have been amazing and there are still a couple more to go. Here is what we have done so far.

The first event here in Moshi (Tez's hometown) was a lunch provided by the bride's family. Then all the women attended an event at the bride's family house where the groom's family presented her with gifts...tons of gifts that included clothing, shoes, gold jewelry, purses, etc, etc! The bride's family also gave us small gifts and served us food (food is a big part of every event).

Later that evening, everyone went to the bride's family house where Sameer was to be received by the bride's family formally for the first time. Sounds simple, but the process includes the bridesmaids playing tricks on the groom and groomsmen to make it more complicated. Sometimes grooms have to be covered by a cloth to prevent flying eggs from hitting him...but no eggs for Sameer. They did however put salt and vinegar in foods that should have been sugary sweet - yuk! Josh had a yummy piece of chocolate made with vinegar. :) That event was capped off by a huge barbecue.

Yesterday was the actual wedding ceremony at the mosque which is between Sameer and his new father in-law. Tez was sitting in a separate room watching though. After the ceremony - we ate. Then that evening the groom's family hosted an event to receive the bride in to the family. This is a big event where the groom's family serves the food and provides gifts.

Today we have the last two events of the wedding. First is lunch provided by the groom's family then the BIG reception to cap off the events. I hear we are having a live band. Also we want to wish Sameer luck as he has to give a speech to all of the family tonight.

Good luck buddy...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Time to Focus on the wedding

We said good bye to Zanzibar and boarded the ferry back to Dar which was quite a trip. It started off being an hour and a half late so we had to stand at the not so friendly port waiting on the boat. Luckily our fantastic guide Omar waited with us. The ride was really wavy and we could hear everybody getting sick as they were handing out plastic bags left and right. Luckily they were playing an old Sylvester Stallone movie that kept us occupied. Out of sight out of mind right?

One funny note, as we were leaving the ship (everybody trying to exit at the same time through one small door, arg) Steph had to be careful to not hit a 32' TV that a guy was balancing on his head while exiting in front of her. Oh man what a site..

We then took the bus (a grueling 9+ hours) from Dar to Arusha where we finally met up with Sameer which was a big relief. This is when Steph got here henna tatoo in the picture. We then had a huge party where we were able to meet all of Sameer's family, who are a riot by the way, and had our first taste of Tanzanian grilled kabobs called Nando (I think). The kabobs were marinated in some sort of spiced yogurt concoction grilled over real charcoal and excellent! I am getting the recipe so we can try it out at home.

Today we drove to Moshi where the wedding will take place. We started off with lunch at a mosque where we ate traditional Tanzanian/Indian food. Believe it or not I am enjoying all of the food. It is so different from anything I normally eat but it is really good. We may just have to start eating more Indian food...

Finally Happy 4th of July everyone! Put a hotdog on the grill for us...

Zanzibar Continued...

Our adventures in Zanzibar are going as planned. We toured Stone Town including what has to be the craziest open air market on the planet and then headed to the northern costal city of Nungi. In the picture we are drinking sugar cane juice.

Our hotel, Ras Nungi, sat right on the beach of white sand and emerald ocean. When we arrived we were greeted with cold towels to freshen up with and fresh juice to sip on while we checked in. Sweet service!

The first night of our stay was my birthday. After dinner we heard some singing coming from the kitchen where the wait staff was carrying a cake. Immediately I looked at Steph who said she did not set it up so I thought it must be for someone else. They walked around the entire dinning room before finally stopping at our table to sing Happy Birthday to me and present me with a two layer cake that even said "Happy Birthday Josh" for dessert. It was an unexpected but welcome and memorable surprise. Oh, in case you were wondering I to put out all of the candles with one breath...

After breakfast the next morning Steph decided to read in the hammock so I went for a walk down the beach where the local fisherman were bringing in the days catch. I made a friend in one of the tribes who took me around to all of the fisherman showing me their catch as they cut it up. He even went so far as to translate in English what they were all saying. It was unbelievable that I could get this close to real life on the Zanzibar coast. My new friend was so friendly and welcoming that at one point he was even telling me about his wife and soon to be born child along with some of the tribe gossip. He whispered and pointed, "This guy has 2 wives, shhh"...

From Nungi we toured the Jozani Forrest which has an endangered species of monkeys. This was our first chance to see monkeys in the wild and they are to say the least fascinating. After the forest we went to Prison Island where they have the giant turtles that live for 150 years or so. Our guide even arranged for us to feed the turtles! Steph was in heaven.

Now off to the mainland of Tanzania...

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Let the touring begin

Basically, a few bumps along the way but we are here without too much craziness. The hotel is as beautiful as the pictures, which we will post later. Weather will be steamy today as we do our historic Stone Town tour. Then we are heading to the north part of the island to Nungwi - supposed to be an incredible beach area!

Last night, we had an ok dinner but with a spectacular view over the Indian ocean. It was reminiscent of one place we ate at in Hawaii - music playing, ocean crashing, amazing sunset, etc. There was even a group of local musicians played live music during dinner - we have a sound clip for you all later.

We went walking around town last night as well. There is an outdoor market area where they were selling everything from fresh squeezed sugar cane juice to kebabs of meats, lobster and fish galore. Oh, I forgot to mention the grilled octopus legs - they looked yummy. :p

Allrighty, well we have just had a peaceful breakfast on the rooftop of the hotel and we are meeting our driver soon.

Kesha, kwa heri.
(Until tomorrow, goodbye).

The Safari Begins...

We made it safe and sound. Our journey (aka safari) went something like this...

Train to Victoria Station, tube to Heathrow Airport (2 hours)
Standing in line to check in with Kenya Airways (45 mins)
Standing in line to change to a British Airways flight because Kenya was overbooked (45 mins)
Going through security, Josh being pulled aside for the full body scan (20 mins)
British Airways direct flight, versus laying over in Nairobi with Kenya Airways (10 hours)
Passport control in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (30 mins)
Met driver and guide, sat in traffic, ran errands such as changing money, buying a SIM card, buying ferry tickets (2 hours)
Lunch at pub on coast (1.5 hours)
Ferry to Zanzibar, packed to the brim (4 hours)
Standing on Zanzibar port wondering where to go, looking for our new driver/guide (20 mins)
Found driver, Zanzibar passport control and transfer to our beautifully unique hotel (30 min)
Finding yourself in the midst of a new cultural experience (timeless)

More to come...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tanzania Itinerary

On popular request here is our itinerary for Tanzania along with an itinerary map I put together. Sorry for the long post and lack of links but we are gone for 17 days and I ran out of time, what could I do...

28 June - Travel Day
We leave from Heathrow. Unfortunately it takes almost 2 hours to get to the airport from Redhill on the train. We fly all night arriving early the next morning in Kenya. Its then a quick hop to Dar es Salaam our first destination.

Zanzibar Itinerary

29 June - Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar
After we are picked up from the airport we have a few errands to run and then we will be off for a quick lunch. After lunch we will catch a ferry at Dar Harbor to Zanzibar's Stone Town staying at Dhow Palace hotel.

30 June - Happy Birthday JNoland, Zanzibar Stone Town tours
After breakfast at the hotel we will have morning city tour of the many historical sites of Stone Town. From there we will have lunch and then an afternoon tour, possibly a Spice tour. The day will end with a drive to Ras Nungwi, the most northern point of Zanzibar. Here we will be staying at Ras Nungwi Beach Village HB Garden Rooms.

01 July - Ras Nungwi
This will be a day of leisure. The beaches at Ras Nungwi are picturesque white sand so we are going to catch a few rays. If we get bored they have plenty of water sports to keep us entertained. We will stay a second night at Ras Ningwi Beach Village HB Garden rooms.

02 July - Jozani Forest
This is another day of touring. We will first hit the Jozani Forrest where you can spot a monkey that only lives in this forest. Then we will drive back to Stone Town for the prison island tour. Finally we will catch the ferry back to Dar es Salaam staying at the Holiday Inn.

03 July - Off to Arusha, start of the wedding
We catch the Dar Express at 6:00am for the half day bus ride to Arusha, Sameer's home town. Estimates on the arrival time vary and depend on the driver. Some say arriving by 2-3pm other say arriving by 5-6pm?

Wedding Itinerary

03 July - Wedding Day 1
Mehndi Party at Patwa’s residence in Arusha at 05.30 p.m.

04 July - Wedding Day 2
Paan Gulab at Munaver’s residence in Moshi at 05.00 p.m.
Barne & Sharbat at Munaver’s residence in Moshi at 07.30 p.m.

05 July - Wedding Day 3
Nikah followed by Jaman at the Moshi mosque at 01.00 p.m.
Zafaf at the Youth League Hall, Moshi at 08.30 p.m.

06 July - Wedding Day 4
Walima Jaman at the mosque hall in Moshi at 01.30 p.m.
Reception at El Rancho Hotel, Moshi at 08.30 p.m.

Safari Itinerary

09 July - Safari Day 1
08h30, P/up from residence/hotel in Arusha and drive to Lake Manyara with lunch boxes, Afternoon game drive in Lake Manyara National Park, dinner and overnight at Lake Manyara Serena Lodge.

10 July - Safari Day 2
After breakfast depart with lunch boxes and drive to Ngorongoro Conservation Area, descend down the crater tour for game drive, dinner and overnight at Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge.

11 July - Safari Day 3
After breakfast depart with lunch boxes and drive to Serengeti National Park for game drive, dinner and overnight at Serengeti Sopa Lodge.

12 July - Safari Day 4
After breakfast have morning and afternoon game drive in Serengeti National Park, All meals and overnight at Serengeti Sopa Lodge.

13 July - Safari Day 5
After breakfast depart with lunch boxes and drive to Arusha.

14 July - Travel Day
Our final day in Tanzania. We catch the bus back to Dar es Salaam to the airport where are flight departs for London.

15 July - Early Arrival
We get in early morning UK time and catch the train back to Redhill.

Whew...That is it!

Keep an eye on the blog as we plan to update it while we are gone...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Delta SiteSeer Challenge

All you travelling buffs listen up. Delta is looking for people to participate in there SiteSeer Challenge for a chance to win 5 international trips and a load of Sky Miles.

Steph and I are planning on entering but we need some help. We are leaving for Tanzania on Thursday so it gives us a good opportunity to put together a video while we are in Zanzibar. Any ideas?

Drop us a comment with all of your creative and contest winning thoughts. Shout outs would be possible once we make the cut and get on the show.

Oh and speaking of shout outs, here is a big CHEERS to Bill Fisher who forwarded us the contest information.

Below are the contest details from the email...

We're looking for five teams of two great people to compete in the first ever SiteSeer Challenge from Delta and American Express.

  • Submit a homemade video by July 5, 2007 and Delta might choose your team to be one of the five! If we choose you as contestants, your team travels with all the other teams to an incredible international destination, where Delta captures your travel adventures on video.

  • After the trip, we'll post the travel videos for each of the five teams on People at home watch the videos and vote. The team with the fewest votes gets eliminated.

  • Then, the remaining four teams go on to the next international destination.

  • The whole process repeats for three more rounds of voting. The last team standing wins the grand prize—1 million miles from Delta and more! Submit your video to become a contestant by July 5, 2007.

  • Make us a short video starring you and a friend that shows us you'd be a great contestant team.

  • Wish us luck...

    Sunday, June 24, 2007

    A Ball of an Evening

    We had a wonderful evening at the PwC Summer Ball. It was a lot of fun getting dressed up and acting like high rollers at the track. We had a luxury box and were separated from the main crowd in a special viewing area to watch the races.

    However wagering on the races was a bit tricky because we didn't recognize many names although quite a few of the horses were bred in KY at farms in Lexington. Small world I know...

    Finally the Tanzania count down is on. More to come soon...

    Saturday, June 23, 2007

    Off to the ball

    Tonight PwC is throwing a black tie summer ball at Lingfield Park. Yes you heard me right, black tie affair.

    The racing probably won't be Keeneland quality but the evening will be done in posh style if other PwC events are any precursor.


    Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    Intercontinental Cats...Mia & Gypsy

    It has been quite a long 2 days for Mia & Gypsy but they have arrived in the UK safe and sound!

    Their journey began Monday morning about 9:00(EST) when I loaded them into their carriers and we drove Cleveland to catch our flight. They checked in at the cargo warehouse around 3:45pm and boarded the plane for London Gatwick at 7:00pm(EST). Their ticket was first class cargo, well under the first class seating in the main cabin anyway. The plane landed at 8:20(BST +5 hours) where it took roughly 2 1/2 hours to clear customs and get entry clearance so Steph and I could pick them up. Finally after a short cab ride we made it to our flat in Redhill around 12:00pm(BST). Their total trip in the carriers was almost 5000 miles with a ridiculous travel time of 22 hours.

    Here is a good picture of Mia relaxing after the long trip.

    I posted the pictures of their journey here.

    Before I hit the couch I want to give a couple shout outs.

    First I want to say a big time thank you to Continental Airlines and their PetSafe program for taking excellent care of my 2 special travelers. They went above and beyond the call of duty which helped ease our minds on such a stressful journey.

    Second, a super special thanks to Kenny and Lois for cat-sitting for the past two months and for enduring the drive with me to Cleveland. Mia wasn't happy and she let us know all about it.

    Finally before anybody asks... the cats don't meow with a British accent just yet.

    Saturday, June 2, 2007

    Naked sheep, bunny fields and cow circles...oh my!

    Over the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of commuting to a client site via a train across the beautiful Surrey countryside. I have come to realize that siteseeing from the train can sometimes be are sometimes traveling so fast, you see something interesting and by the time your brain starts to process what you are seeing - its gone - the train has moved on. I wanted to share some of surreal, funny and just neat things that I have been seeing.

    Naked Sheep: Apparently, in the past couple weeks it has been wool harvesting season. I had been seeing the cute, dirty, puffy sheep all spring here dotted in fields and one morning, to my surprise, the sheep were replaced with some bright white alien-looking animals! The sheep had been sheared and they were left to their super clean, bright white little bodies! That first siting was so funny once I realized what I saw that I nearly laughed out loud in the train. And over the past couple weeks more and more fields of sheep are going naked.

    Bunny Fields: Bunnies are everywhere. I have been going past fields where it honestly looks like a farmer has a herd of bunnies! I have also seen three red fox just 30 feet away from these dozens of bunnies and ironically, everyone was just chillin'. That was a surreal train moment because I would have loved to linger at that site....were the foxes about to go on a hunt?...were they just relaxing?...were bunnies about to scatter like cockroaches? I'll never know unless a train goes by at the exact right moment. Another unusual bunny field was actually a RABBIT field...I am talking rabbits as big as cats...big ears, huge rabbits....and the surreal sight was a field of dozens of these large rabbits and a CAT standing with one leg up, as if frozen mid-walk, in the middle of this rabbit field. Again, I was wondering what was about to play out in that scene. That one was truly fascinating!

    Cow Circles: Some of the mornings have been quite cold and I was surprised to see that cows cuddle in circles in the fields. I am talking about a filled-in circle, not a ring of cows. Even more strange, I saw one cow circle, then in the next field all the cows were up grazing, then in the next field many cows up grazing and two more cow circles. Per discussion with Josh, if one cow gets up the whole circle probably gets up. I just thought it was funny that some cows were "sleeping in"!

    Well, those were some interesting and surreal train sites. I also see many red fox and a game bird that I have yet to identify. But, just wanted to share those animal phenomenon with you all!

    Phantom Tickets

    I want to give a big shout out to Chris for scoring 4 tickets in the 8th row for tonights showing of The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majestys Theatre. Cross your fingers that there isn't any type of obstruction blocking our view...

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007

    Ireland part 3

    Our second day in Ireland was completely filled by a driving tour of the Ring of Beara in southwest Ireland which starts in Kenmare and ends in Glengarrief. It is a rugged small windy road along the coast line that gives you stunning views of the mountains, valleys, rivers, coast line and the sheep. The sheep are everywhere, speckled all over the country side which was one of Steph's favorite parts. At one point she had taken so many pictures of the sheep I had to take the camera away from her.

    One stop along the way is Glen Inchaquin Park. This is a locally run park and I mean locally because it is a man and his wife running the park visitor center out of there home. Here you will find a waterfall over a rocky cliff and a beautiful valley specked with sheep. The park also offers many hiking trails through the valley and on the mountain. We took a short hike over the river and up the mountain. Steph took a good shot of me here. The park was also featured on a Passport to Europe episode covering County Cork Ireland!

    We stopped for lunch at this small restaurant that turned out to be 4km from the main road. When we turned off looking for it we did not know it was so far off the road but it was worth it. It had an amazing view of the mountains and lake sitting at the base. It was one of my favorite spots on the trip. I wanted to lay in the sun and take a nap, especially after the great lunch of the local seafood of mussels and salmon.

    The drive took us all day because we kept stopping along the way to take pictures and enjoy the magnificent views like this. Once we made the loop we ran across these cool tunnels.

    The words to describe the driving tour don't do it justice so hopefully the pictures will.

    Wow its already time to plan something for next weekend.