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!