Tuesday, 20 July 2010

July 13, 2010 Happy Birthday Gary!

Hello all! I am home alone again. Joe went out of town, only until tomorrow though. And he wonders why I want a dog! I am so torn on the issue because last week when he had to go to Bristol (about 2 hours away, close to Wales) I decided to go at the last minute and was able to shop at a nice mall that was near our hotel. I know if we had a pet that our spontaneity would be seriously affected. The RSPCA never did call. My application took longer because they had to write me and ask for email addresses for references since I didn't have any here. Maybe they use the volunteers as they need them and I am just lower on the list. I don't know. It was going to be a stretch for me to get there (3 miles each way) anyway.

Today is Gary's birthday. He is 27 years old. I can hardly believe it! Thursday is mine! Joe is taking me to London for a few days. Last time he was there for work he ended up going out with a few guys to an Irish pub where they had a couple of guys that sang and played Irish music all night. Apparently they are there every Thursday night so he made plans for us to go and hear them for my birthday. He says I will love it. I'm sure I will. I can't wait to go to Ireland for the REAL thing! We may be doing that sometime in August.

I doubt if any of you follow soccer, but Spain beat The Netherlands for the World Cup. I was rooting for Netherlands but Spain played a better game (and faked more fouls). Never thought I'd be watching soccer. There are just not that many sports here. Forget cricket! Boring! We can't figure that dang game out. Rugby is pretty exciting, but of course we don't know the rules. That's pretty much it! Oh yeah, Wimbledon was going on, we didn't pay any attention to that either.

Poor Melanie has really had to work at our house down at Lake Anna. She loves going down there in the summer so she started out this spring going down and taking care of the lawn for us. It didn't take long before the yard was getting overrun with weeds. We have a gravel driveway and it was apparently covered with weeds too. It got to be where she was spending 3-4 hours working in the yard while she was there. So we told her to go ahead and hire someone. She did a great job, interviewing a few and chose a retired gentleman who says he just takes a few jobs on to "keep himself out of trouble". He was reasonable and has done a fantastic job according to Melanie.

So Melanie has been going down and enjoying her time without having to work outside and the next thing she knows a mouse has come into the house. Now I don't know if you all know that I have a mouse phobia. I absolutely HATE them and so does Melanie. She was there for a whole weekend setting a million traps and hiding on the couch with her little dog before her friends showed up to help her. They laughed because she had all the traps set wrong and had put SO much peanut butter on the traps that it could have fed a colony. Once her friends got there and re-set them all they apparently still didn't catch any for a couple of days. I was so mad and told her that she probably got the mice all full and now they weren't hungry enough to go for the traps. But alas, the last night they caught it!! Of course Melanie and I were hoping there was only one. She cleaned out every cupboard and drawer that she saw mouse turds (GROSS)!

The next weekend she goes down she sees more mouse turds. She had friends down again but there was no mice to be caught. But she is sure that there were fresh turds. So we called and made an appointment with an exterminator and she had to go down again to meet him. He actually recommended that we not hire him yet. Wait and see if it gets worse. He told her he would basically do what she is doing. Traps. He can also go into our crawl space under the house (where he says they are getting in) and fill any holes with steel wool. At a cost of $100/hour. I think we can do that ourselves. So she has traps all over and poison under the house. He also told her to set the traps with gloves on so the mice don't smell her scent. Never thought of that! She is definitely the best Mousebuster in the world by now. We are so fortunate to have her down there taking care of things for us.

I almost forgot. She had to re-seal the toilets for us too! She was down there and noticed water leaking under one of them so went out and got the seals and re-did both the toilets. I was so impressed. She loves doing work like that and was glad to do it as she hadn't done it before and now she knows how! I should just put her on the payroll. Now you see why the boys called her when they couldn't get their washer working.

July 19, 2010

This blog has just gotten put on the back burner for some reason. We had a great time in London and going to the Irish pub. I thoroughly enjoyed the music and the company we had. There were two Irish girls in our group (the people Joe had met previously) and they joined in on a couple of songs. The guys who worked for Joe at Aireco got him a Flip video camera before we left home, so I brought that along. It is such a great little camera. So easy to use and as small as a cell phone. The videos were dark as we knew they would be because the place was pretty dark and crowded. We were so excited to get home and watch them. They downloaded fine to our laptops but we found one snag when trying to email them and put them on here. When Joe registered the Flip camera he was using his old computer which has since died. So he needs to re-register on his new computer. You need their site to be able to send the videos out. He sent their tech department an email and is waiting to hear back from them. So if I don't get the video on this blog, I will share it later.

The Horse and Groom Pub - FUN!

Our hotel was right across the street from Windsor Castle. Joe told me that, but it just didn't register somehow. That castle is monstrous! I couldn't even get a good picture of it because of it's huge size. When you are on the street looking up it is just a huge stone wall for blocks and blocks! You couldn't get far enough away to get a picture of it all. It's by far the biggest castle I have seen yet. We went and toured it Saturday. We watched the changing of the guards (and videoed it) and went through the state apartments. It was really neat knowing that the Queen still spends most weekends (when she isn't traveling) there and considers it her home. When she is in residence they fly the Royal Standard flag (rather than the Union flag) from the tall round tower.

The Changing of the Guard

Bear with me for a little history. Windsor Castle is the largest and the oldest occupied castle in the world. William the Conqueror (again!) founded the castle in the 11th century. It was originally built to secure the western approach to London. But easy access to the capital and the close proximity to a royal hunting forest made it ideal as a royal residence. King Henry I had domestic quarters within the castle as early as 1110. Much building and changes have been made over the years but the original 'footprint' of the castle has remained the same since around 1070 when work began. The castle occupies 26 acres.

Just a couple of sections of the castle taken from the street.

Inside castle walls, not open to public.

One section of courtyard open to public.

Check out those cannons pointing out through the walls!

Taken inside castle walls. These were openings for guards to shoot enemies with arrows. Openings up and down so that they could aim low and high and slot in middle to aim side to side.

Unfortunately there are no pictures allowed inside the castle so I have taken some out of my souvenir book of various rooms for you to see. They have a glare and aren't the greatest, but it gives you some idea. They only allow people to tour a fraction of the castle. It is the most public part of the castle for sure. They call it The State Apartments. These included:

King's Drawing Room (below):
This was Charles II's withdrawing room where he received important visitors and held court assemblies. It divides the public ante-rooms and the King's private apartments. Queen Victoria regularly held theatrical performances here.

King's Bed Chamber:
Although there is a beautiful bed at one end of the room, the Kings didn't usually sleep there. The King met with his ministers, advisors and discussed secret affairs of the state. The bed was used mostly for important overnight guests.

King's Dressing Room:
A small intimate space that was Charles II's Little Bedchamber.

Green Drawing Room:
Originally planned as a library it is flanked by the White Drawing Room to the south and the Crimson Drawing Room to the north. It was George IV's favorite plan of a long room with a large window bay in the center at one side. The carpet is now considered too delicate to allow people to walk on it.

King's Closet:
A room created from two smaller rooms for George III in 1804. This was the site of Charles II Closet - his most private place which only he and his trusted servant had keys.

Queens Drawing Room:
This room was designed for Catherine of Braganza's Withdrawing Room. During the nineteenth century this room, then called the Picture Gallery, was densely hung with Old Masters.

King's Dining Room:
This was Charles II dining room, and the ceiling--one of three ceilings that remain from the 1680's--is painted with a banquet of gods. The King's Dining Room lies between the King's and Queen's apartments so that both the King and Queen could eat there.

St. George's Hall:
This was SO impressive. The room measures 185 x 30 feet. When they have state banquets the whole room is taken up by one long table that is 175 feet long and seats 162 people! The ceiling is hung with the coats of armor of all the Knights of the Garter since the foundation of the Order in 1348. The Order of the Garter is the pinnacle of the honors system in Britain. It is an order of chivalry or knighthood. There are a few blank shields on the ceilings. These represent the erased arms of those degraded Knights expelled from the Order at different times. The names of all the Knights past and present are also inscribed on their panels around the Hall, together with the date of their installation and the corresponding number of their coat of arms. The blank spaces on the ceiling have the numbers of the coat of arms only.

See the coats of armor on the ceilings.

Queen Mary's Doll House:
This doll house was built in the early 1920's for Queen Mary, wife of King George V. It is the most famous dolls' house in the world. It took three years and 1500 craftsmen, artists and authors to complete. The house has electric lighting, hot and cold running water, working lifts and even flushing toilets! It was made to a scale of 1 to 12. It is completely decorated, tables set with REAL silver, paintings, furniture. An exact miniature castle.

China Museum:
If you like china, this would be the place for you. Tons and tons of china used over the years by the different monarchs. Each with information on when it was made, who made it, who it was made for. There was a particularly unusual set that was ordered made by William IV on his accession in 1830. However it was such an undertaking that the set wasn't finished until 1837, the year of his death. It ended up being used first by his niece, Queen Victoria. The company that made the set was ruined by the expense of it and went out of business.

I can't remember which room had the suit of armor that belonged to King Henry VIII. Amazing how they could even move in that stuff! The sign said that the armor shows the King's impressive proportions, which were quite exceptional in the sixteenth century.

They had a special exhibition of royal portraits by Marcus Adams, who photographed four generations of the Royal Family between 1926 - 1956. There were some really beautiful portraits and gave you an idea of the royal family outside of the media. There were many of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret taken in the 1920's and 30's. I really enjoyed that.

Unfortunately we did not see St. George's Chapel which was there too. I guess we were just too tired at the end of the day. I am sorry now of course. The outside was just gorgeous and the inside is supposed to be among the finest examples of late medieval architecture. Ten monarchs are buried in the chapel including Henry VIII with his wife Jane Seymour and Charles I. Darn I would have liked to see them (if they are in sight for the public). Next time.

St. George's Chapel

It was an interesting day. Of course there are tapestries, paintings, paintings and more paintings all over the walls, along with lavish artifacts and furniture throughout. We saw some beautiful silver furniture (tables and mirrors). I was kind of surprised because so much of everything from that time is gold. But our headphones that talk us through the self guided tour said that very little silver survives over the years because it is so easy to melt down into currency. Never thought of that!

I am still disappointed about one thing when it comes to castles. I have always thought about seeing castles in far off countries. For many years. So when we found out we were moving here I was very excited about that. However, I have yet to see the part of the castles that I REALLY want to see. The dungeons, the long winding stone steps and all the little bedrooms and hidden tunnels, servants quarters, kitchens, etc. I want to see the behind the scenes castle, like it was in the day. All the spooky stuff. So far all we've seen are the public rooms and the areas where the rich ate, relaxed, entertained. That is all fine and good and I do love the history, but my quest is to find one that will let you go anywhere you want!

I LOVE the beautiful baskets of flowers that some of the stores put out in the summer. Pretty way to end my blog today!

Restaurant near the castle on the River Thames:


  1. Hey Kathy, I'm with you I'd love to see the dungeons and try to conjur out a ghost or two...


  2. Hi Kathy,

    Followed the link from postsecret and just kept reading. I'm an Aussie living in London and have visited tons of castles all over Europe (love it!). Most castles, in my experience, broadly fall into one of two catagories:

    1. Ruins: Castles in various state of ruin which you can walk around as much as you like, but you need to use your imagination and there is little to no furnishin of rooms

    2. Castles decorated as the were: Usually only a portion is restored to original splendour and you get to see only that part. Or the rest of it is still a working castle, as in the case of windsor.

    If you want to be able to explore a castle including dungeons I would recommend:

    Chillon: Gorgeous setting on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. From memory, you take a self guided tour of the castles and I'm pretty sure you can go down into the dungeons. Google it and you'll see from the pictures what it's like.

    There is another one in France that would also be good to visit, but the name escapes me. If I remember it I will let you know.


  3. Kathy,
    I followed the link from postsecret and kept reading, and I have a castle recommendation for you! Caernarfon Castle is in North Wales, its "ruined" so theres no furniture or anything, but the walls and staircases and stuff are all pretty much in tact, and you can walk around them all. Also, its a beautiful place, and the castle looks over the Straits of Anglesey, which is also lovely!



  4. Dear Kathy,
    I followed the link from Postsecret, and am delighted with your blog. Your descriptions are fantastic and I have really enjoyed reading about your Adventure.

    As a Canadian who has lived in the US and visited England, I find your stories very funny!

    Thank you so much for keeping us up to date on your comings and goings. Cheers, Heather

  5. Hi Kathy,
    I came here via the PostSecret link and have been reading back through the entries - interesting to get a visitor's-eye view of my country!

    Have you considered joining the National Trust, as you are interested in visiting historic buildings? A lot oftheir proerties do have kitchens or other 'below stairs' areas you can visit, as well as the more formal areas.
    I can particularly recommend seeing Little Moreton Hall, in Cheshire, if you get the chance.(it's a Tudor moated manor house, virtually unchanged!)

  6. Kathy, like many others, I am here from PostSecret. I, too, loved England when I lived there (I was in London), and if I may suggest a couple of other places where you might satisfy your longing for further tours of castles, I would offer two places to visit, if you haven't yet.
    1. Tower of London. Very fascinating and might satisfy your need to see dungeons and whatnot.
    2. Hampton Court Palace. The tour was so much fun, and the gardens are lovely (with a hedge maze). It's only a short train ride from London (I don't know how long it would be from your town), and it was beautiful.

  7. Hi Kathy, I'm another person who followed the PostSecret link and I've read the whole blog from the beginning this afternoon!

    I can echo the recommendation of Caernarfon Castle, I was there a few weeks ago and was very impressed with it.

    I'm English and live a county or so away from you, but my partner is Australian and only moved here 18 months ago so we've explored the UK together! I've lived here all my life and I'm only just finding all the wonderful and picturesque places...

    I'm really enjoying seeing your view of my country. I can only apologise for the roundabouts, by the way!


  8. If you're still planning on heading to Ireland you should try Blarney Castle, that thing is pratically a ruin!

    The road from Dublin to Cork is a motorway these days. Plus you can stop off at the Rock of Cashal on your way down from Dublin (Mum and I stopped off there a couple of weeks ago going in the opposite direction). That's another ruined castle. And if you do choose to visit the West Cork area you should go to Gougane Barra. It is, quite simply, stunning.

  9. Oh woooow!! I love all the photos you've put up of the castle and the history of each. I followed post secrets link to your blog and fell in love with England, haha! Thank you for sharing these with us!

  10. Hi Kathy!

    Just a random Brit that got linked here from Post Secret. :)

    If you're wanting servants quarters, etc, I suggest you try National Trust Properties. Because they're smaller and usually unoccupied you can usually see the more domestic features like the kids quarters, servants quarters, etc.

    For ruined castles, I suggest you try the borderlands near Wales (Herefordshire, Worcestershire) and into Wales itself.

    For ghosts/dungeons, I recommend doing a city ghost tour (I think you can get some that include the Tower of London?). Edinburgh castle lets you into its dungeons and I think they do a separate ghost tour too. Places like Portsmouth, Norwich, Manchester, etc all have really good ghost tours.

    Unfortunately I've found the most interesting stuff tends not to be very accessible to visitors. For instance, moving to the middle of the countryside I've met people who live in old castles. There was one guy who had recently cleared out the old dungeon underneath his property and found a human hand (now a skeleton) and a suit of armour.

    Hope this helps!

  11. Hi Kathy,

    Like many others, I got here from the PostSecret site. I liked reading your post about that.

    Castles: my favourite castle in England is a National Trust property in Devon called Castle Drogo. If I remember correctly, it was the last castle to be built in England - either late 19th or early 20th century - so it has electricity and everything. I think there's a family still living in part of it. (I desperately wish I lived there!)

    Also you wrote briefly about sport here. I am English and not a sports fan; often if you are not from a family of football fans you don't tend to care very much! I live in a moderately posh Roman town called Cirencester and the other day I took my boyfriend and a German girl who was visiting for a walk up to the polo club. It turned out there was a polo match on so we sat down to watch, as it didn't cost us anything. It's actually quite good; it doesn't last too long because the horses get tired and it's pretty entertaining when the riders fall off...

    Maybe some of that will be of interest to you. :-)