Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Yes, Zac is the man in the painting

All of the guesses where correct. The painting does in fact look like my brother Zac. Go figure since it was painted so long ago. I guess he could now be considered famous since his face in history is preserved...

Cheers Zac

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The many intricacies of commuting

Allright, we have been commuting now for over a week and we have both had variations in our commutes. Josh carpooled with someone last week which worked out nicely and I only had to go a couple stops on the train to my office. Sounds simple, right? WRONG! There are so many aspects of commuting that are unglamourous, tedious, exhausting, etc! Whew!

Last week on my first day of work, I walked out of the flat in my pretty little Enzo flats (shoes, for those of you of the male persuasion)...and I thought I was thinking ahead! I had already learned that they have these bumps on the ground where the sidewalks meet the roads and at the edges of train platforms, etc. They are killer on your ankles in a pair of heels (already learned that the hard way in March while visiting...nearly lost it a couple times). There are also tons of stairs, "mind the gaps", long walkways, escalators, worn sidewalks....

So, I felt good heading off in my sensible shoes. To make a long story short, after wondering around Gatwick airport, going to the wrong terminal first and then finally finding my way out and after a good 15 minute walk to the office....I had a nice blister developing. At that moment, I realized that all those people wearing suits and tennis shoes (or a casual shoe equivalent) had the right idea. I've been commuting in my tennis shoes since. Lesson #1.

Lesson #2 is that people don't talk. You get on board and put you head into a book or newspaper or fiddle with your mobile phone or Ipod (Lesson #3 - own or bring one of these things). (Although one girl was putting on her makeup!).

Lesson #4. A long commute will replace your daily workout. This week, I have been commuting to central London - takes about an hour door-to-door. But, whew - it can be exhausting (and brutal if you are in the wrong shoes)! Let me try to recreate my commute:

Walk to train station. Through turnstiles. Up stairs. Up stairs. Get on train (Redhill is about the last stop on the way in to London where you can guarantee that you will get a seat!). Get off train (from this point on always assume that I am surrounded on all sides by people - herding cattle will give you a visual). Walk length of about 6 railcars. Walk across platform landing. Through turnstiles. Walk across London Victoria station (a huge place by the way - dodging people as everyone is aggressively moving in all directions). Down stairs. Through turnstiles. Down 3-4 story escalator. Down some halls, up some stairs, down some stairs (you get the point). Get on the Tube (after making yourself a sardine and watching not to get either set of cheeks caught in the closing doors!). Hold on. Sweat. Get off tube. Walk down platform. Walk down halls, up stairs, down stairs (or something like that). Get on another tube line (again - sardine - and that is if you can even get on!). Hold on. Sweat some more. Get off tube. Walk down platform. Walk down halls, up some stairs. Up 3-4 story escalator (don't get caught on the left side or you will be expected to walk UP the escalator...that's the escalator fast lane!). Through turnstiles. Out into the world - hello city streets. (Still herding cattle) Walk down street watching for irregularities in sidewalks and trying not to get hit by a car as the crowd crosses the streets (and this is easier if you really know in which direction to look for oncoming cars!). Ah-ha! Client site! Down alley. Up the lift. Through three sets of doors (who built this building?!) Done.

I have been getting my exercise and this week Josh decided to take the trains to work. Epsom is almost due west of Redhill and the trains generally run north to south to feed London so going side-to-side is more complex. He has the option of going almost all the way to London, switching trains and then heading back out....or he can go west, get off a train and walk about 5-10 minutes to the neighbor train station and catch another train there. Unfortunately, the Epsom station is about a 15 minutes walk from his office. So, Jnoland has been adjusting to the mass transit commuting lifestyle as well.

The bright side - mass transit is awesome! It is fascinating to think that so many people are moving around in the greater London area every day! Kudos to the mass transit system here.

Although they have such a great mass transit system, over 90% of people own a car (rough number I heard somewhere, someone can challenge that if they like). Bikes are also popular and are used in conjunction with taking the trains or bus. We are working on getting a car here...currently only planning to have one.

And although using mass transit can be quite a challenge is nice to be able to sit and relax on your way to and from work (on the trains only...and not on trains any closer to London than we are). I have been reading a great little book Ashley and Ali bought me just before I left. I can't tell you the last time I read a fiction novel! (Admittedly, books I have picked up over the past couple of years have been business books or the like - informative books - crazy, I know).

So, Josh and I are adjusting well to the mass transit commuting culture. Although, we are anxious to get our own wheels! Redhill only has so much to see and do!

On his way home

In honor of my Dad getting to come home early after surgery I am posting a picture of a tuba player from the Royal Band taken at last weekend's activities in London.

Hang in there dad. Soon enough you will be playing at the UK games in the Alumni Band on your blue sousaphone. Go Cats!

You are in our thoughts and prayers.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Who is this?

This is a painting by Giovanni Battista MORONI on display at the National Gallery in London painted in the 1560's. As we toured the galleries Saturday I was struck when I walked by this saying "Why does that seem so familiar".

I think it looks like somebody we all know but you have to guess first. Leave a guess in the comments. I will reveal my thoughts in a few days.

The Queen's Birthday Salute

Yesterday was another beautiful day in Redhill and I must say that since we have been here Redhill has had nothing but nice weather. So cheers to Josh and Steph for all of the great the weather...!

Since it was sunny and warm we took the train into London to see the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery perform a 21 gun salute for the Queen's birthday at Hyde Park. The show was only a few minutes in length but was worth it. Once the horses rode in and dropped off the 6 cannons they started the count down and began firing. One after another a few seconds apart they rumbled the center of London. After each shot you could hear the echo throughout London as I am sure all parts of London could hear if not feel the boom.

Unfortunately the pictures I took didn't turn out as I had hoped but I posted them anyway along with a short movie I filmed during the salute. Check it out below.

Royal Cannons Movie Clip

Photos from the day

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bath Pictures

We have returned from Bath and it was a great trip. I will blog in more detail later but the photos have been uploaded and are available here in case anyone wants to take a look.

You can also see the photos via the map if you would like location context while viewing here. What does everyone think of viewing the photos on the map? Has anyone used it yet? Let me know through the comments...

One note however, my free Flickr account has hit a limit and has starting restricting my photos only showing the last 200 photos I have uploaded. This means you may not be able to view the oldest photos. Sorry :(

I am trying to figure out what to do so I can show all my photos without having to pay for extra benefits. I may need to move away from Flickr...not sure yet.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Off to Baaath

Just a quick post to say we are off to Bath. Google Map of Bath

I have updated our Flickr map where you can browse our photos by location. I think it is a really neat way to look at photos because it gives you a good idea where the photos were taken.

Flickr Map

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hampton Court Palace - wow!

Today, Josh and I went the touristy route and decided to go the Henry the VIII's palace Hampton Court. I have to say it was amazing!

Josh and I went to the Biltmore House in North Carolina in November 2006 (also amazing! You should go.). There were parts of each of these grand homes that were similar but the fact of the sheer AGE of the palace knocks the Biltmore out of the water! This palace got its beginings not long after "Colombus sailed the ocean blue"! To give you a comparsion the Biltmore has 250 rooms while Hampton Court has over 1000. The incredible architectural detail, the carved stone, the carved wood, the gold leafing, the grand scale of every room - it was truly a place fit for royalty. Also odd about it was the started out in Tudor styling then as other royalty lived there and built on the sytles changed (baroque) so in the courtyard there is a vast contrast in the type of architecture. But there are all sorts of stories on why there was no architectural continuity and I won't elaborate here - Skype me if you are interested. :)

You can learn more about the historical significance of the Hampton Court palace here.

One of the most impressive parts of the palace was the gardens....gardens on three sides including fields of flowers (currently daffodils), shaped trees and shrubery, water features, arbors, etc! One of the most amusing parts of the garden was the 300 year old garden maze - yes, like you have seen in movies (think Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Josh and I got lost in there for a few minutes which was fun! We then explored the acres and acres of finely manicured gardens. Being springtime it was absolutely breaktaking - the colors and variety of flowers were impressive.

Well, I will let the pictures tell you the rest. Hampton Court Pics

Tomorrow, Josh and I are off to Bath (pronounce it like you are saying "moth" but with a "b"). Although, I was told today that Northerners (in England) actually do say Bath like a we say it - like a tub of water. haha!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Easter Everyone!

Steph and I woke up this morning to watch the Pope give his Easter Address live on the tele. We can't wait to see the Vatican City in person.

Yesterday was a fun day for us. We spent the day in London starting with the London Eye. What an amazing way to see the city at a glance. As it rotates around you can see so much of the city seeing all of the famous landmarks with a birds eye view. Too Cool.

For those interested, when you come and visit here are a couple of tips. First book your tickets ahead of time online. You save 10% and get to skip the lines to buy tickets which can be long. Second, grab one of the free bus tour maps to take with you on your flight. It is very handy so you can spot all of the landmarks on the ride. Some are tricky to recognize.

After the 30 minute ride on the London Eye we journeyed down to the Hammersmith bridge where the 153rd Cambridge Oxford boat race was to take place. Not knowing where we were going or much about the race we followed the crowd from the tube station and were able to find a seat along the bank of the Thames river to watch the race. We sat in front of some Americans from Chicago who had a daughter studying in London. They were fun to chat with.

One note about the race. If you have ever been to the Derby infield you get a very similar feel. It is a big party with around 250,000 people and you only get to see a small portion of the race and unless you sit near the finish line you won't even know who wins. In fact its worse than being at Derby Day because there are only 2 races instead of 12. At least at the derby you get to see a glimpse of 12 races...

Cambridge came back to win for the first time in 3 years.

I uploaded a small video of the boat race on YouTube here.

More photos are up on Flickr.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

You alright there?

This seemed to be the theme of the day. I guess we were standing around looking out of place and/or lost today while shopping but multiple times people would walk by and say "You alright there?" At first we were stunned thinking of course we are alright but we came to realize this is the same as some saying "May I help you" or "Is there anything I can help you with" in the US. So you just nod and carry on pretending to know what you are doing....

As you guessed today we did a little shopping in Redhll and took a journey to Reigate to find the HomeBase store. It is a small version of a Home Depot or Lowes. We need a rubbish bin so it was the best place to find a cheap on. It was a hoot to carry it back on the bus....

I uploaded some photos today. You will see some of Redhill and our bus ride.

The picture with the blog is the front our building. Yup thats Guinevere house. Our parking spot is to the left of the door which is the entrance to our flat. Convenient!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


We made it! Josh's parents and my mom were going to drive us to Cinci for our flight on Monday. Lois had made a joke that yes, they would drive us up but who was going to drive them back - apparently she meant it! Josh's parents surprised us at the last minute as an H2 Limo pulled up to their Firethorn home. It was honestly a good thing because at that moment Josh and I were trying to fit all the luggage in the back of the Highlander and it was not fitting. I was silently panicking thinking "oh no, we are going to have to use the back seat for luggage, not everyone is going to fit in the vehicle, who would we leave behind, ahhhh!" In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense. I was wondering why Kenny, Lois, my mom and my dad were all standing there in the driveway and none of them were noticing that the luggage was not going to fit - by far - and why none of them were offering any suggestions on how to resolve the issue - especially my dad, the engineer!

Josh had turned around and saw the huge H2 limo trying to make it around the traffic circle and laughed "ha, too bad that's not our ride"....and then it stopped right in front of the house. Lois announced that this WAS our ride...and that they would not be accompanying us. They wanted us to have a nice relaxing ride to the airport. We said our tearful goodbyes and climbed in to the H2 limo. As sad as it was that they did not come with us - we decided later that it would have been much harder to say the goodbyes in front of the airport and then try to check in. We had a nice ride up to Cinci enjoying our last Mountain Dew and Ale-8 - at least for a while. (We did not find any Mountain Dew here while we were visiting in early March and we all know they aren't going to have Ale-8).

We made it to the airport in plenty of time and had a nice flight over...although not much sleep - but who can really sleep well on an airplane?!

When we arrived, we got a minivan cab to Redhill and had one grumpy taxi driver. He was immune to Josh's friendly conversation. We had to swing by our estate agent's office to sign the apartment lease and Josh came running in saying "are you done? The driver is getting upset telling me to tell you to hurry"! haha! After he dropped us off at the apartment he ran straight into this metal pole laying on the ground (used to prop up to block your parking space). We got a little chuckle out of that since he was not-so-nice.

We've now settled in to our apartment, cleaned a bit and we have already gone to the grocery twice. It is colder here, we are back in our winter coats - although I here you all are too in KY.

And thanks to someone around here having an unsecure wireless network we have had internet since arrival! It has been awesome because Skype is the only way we can make a decent phone call - without having to go to a payphone or pay $0.40+/minute to use our cell phones.

Wednesday, we woke up at 1:30pm. Yep, pm. We were sitting in the living room having a bowl of the Frosted Flakes equivalent when we actually realized it was 1:30pm. It's amazing how waking up that late messes up your day. It's even a bigger mess in England. We walked to town center at 6:30pm and it felt much like a ghost town - all retail businesses were gates down, lights out, closed - except for restaurants. Kind of weird. But Sainsbury's - the grocery store - was open so we went grocery shopping again.

Now, it's almost 2am our time and we need to get to bed to try to adjust to London time. So, we'll talk with you all later. In case you don't have it - our Skype phone number is 859-648-0344. It's a local call for you and it rings our computer...there is voicemail if we are not home. Depending on your phone, you may have to dial "1-859-648-0344", "859-648-0344" or just "648-0344". I think it depends on your phone (cell versus landline versus location, not sure, but start with just 648, then keep adding prefixes until it works). :) Also, if you use Skype (internet chat and video chat) look for username "josh.noland".

Monday, April 2, 2007

Packing - yeah, that was not fun.

Due to us living on such a limited amount of stuff (since we shipped the main load of stuff off about 3 weeks ago), we have been wearing the same small lot of clothing. Thus saving laundry day and packing day until the last day. :)

Josh was more motivated than I to start packing on Sunday as I kept saying "oh, we can finish up on Monday". But it was a good thing I listened to Josh...we were up until 5am packing everything. Fortunately, everything fit in to two carryons, two large suitcases and 3 large computer boxes. That was only 1 more box than we had originally planned - so not bad. To make the packing night, or should I say morning, more interesting - Mia popped our air mattress that we had been sleeping on the scrapbooking room at Josh's parent's house AND she escaped!

Let me explain. We propped our queen size air mattress up against the wall so we had more floor space to work. Mia was eyeballing the perch since we flipped it up but Josh yelled at her early to get away....see, Mia likes to be up high and likes to explore new perches. So, way later in the evening just as we were getting close to done, Mia jumps. Much to her surprise the air mattress was leaned against the wall where the ceiling was slanted down (think attic room), so there was no space at the top of the mattress on which to stand. So in the split second that she used to ascertain that there was no space for her, she planted two rear claws in the mattress side to get a grip. Also in that split second Josh bounded across the room and began to yell...but the damage had been done. One nice puncture and a smaller puncture right next to it. I grabbed the "repair kit" and read aloud to Josh "deflate, clean space, apply patch, LET SET FOR 4 HOURS". Ugh. We were going to bed in about 1 hour. After about 10 minutes of pure shock that she actually popped our brand new mattress, our only bed, we went back to packing.

I was in a zone...a sleepy, quite unaware I was taking papers to our file boxes in the hall and left the scrapbooking room door wide open. I was even crouched at the top of the stairs filing the paperwork. Josh was downstairs and came back up as I was finishing and then we both went into our room. Josh noted that I left the door open and then looked for both cats. Gypsy was out and about, but Mia was no where to be found. After looking under every chair, couch and crevice, we went downstairs. To make this more interesting Sadie, the parent's cat, and the two dogs were downstairs in the parent's bedroom and the door is open. Amazingly, I found Mia hiding behind the trashcan in the half bath at the bottom of the stairs. Also amazing - as Josh was carrying her up I saw Sadie standing in the doorway of the parent's bedroom - thank goodness Sadie didn't see Mia or the whole house would have quickly known we had an escaped cat. Whew.

We finished packing, feeling quite satisfied that everything fit and that we were done. Then we headed down to the couch - our new bed thanks to Mia.