Friday, December 15, 2017

Holiday Visit

One of the advantages Baxter and I offer by staying in one place for a while (i.e. more than two weeks) is that we get to know it really well.  We extend invitations to family and friends who could simply take a quick flight, land and leave the rest to us.  Baxter and I line up the transportation, the hotel, and the fun-genda, as it has come to be known, essentially playing the role of a full time tour guide.  Molly's Mom and sister experienced this in Guadeloupe last January, Edd and Becca on Tour-de-Caribbean in February, and then Mary, Regina, Brent and Amado in St Maarten in March.  So we were so thrilled when Baxter's parents booked a visit at the beginning of December here in Plymouth.  

We hired a car in Plymouth and were waiting at the door at Heathrow Airport as soon as they stepped out of customs.  From then on, it was nothing but f-u-n!  Within an hour, we were driving by Stonehenge and having lunch at a British pub.  Afterwards, we made our way to Plymouth and talked about the exciting plans for the week.

We spent the next five days driving throughout southwest England including visits to Dorchester, Falmouth, and Salcombe, allowing us plenty of time to chat and catch up and experience each seaside town with its unique style and charm.  The weather was, well, true to England in December so sometimes it was sunny warm(ish) and then five mintues later raining and cold.

The days went by so fast and before we knew it, we were driving back to London with six inches of snow on the ground.  We had one last fun thing planned with them which was a tour of Highclere Castle, the estate featured in Downton Abbey.  We had watched so many episodes with Baxter's parents so it was great to see inside the castle where "Earl Grantham wrote letters from his desk", where "Matthew and Mary were engaged", to see "Sybil's bedroom", etc.  Another bonus was that the 5th Earl of Carnarvon (the family who owns Highclere) actually discovered the tomb of King Tut, along with Howard Carter.  

Many of the actual artifacts from the archaeological excavation were on display, including a stone that dated back to 4000 BC, which still had carvings that were as clear as if engraved yesterday.  Unfortunately, we couldn't take photos in the castle or the expo but it was wonderful to have the memories.  We were so fortunate the dates lined up as tours in the castle are only available on select times.  This particular event, Sing for Peace, also raised money for Syrian war refugees which has become a pivotal event in British history.  

The next morning, we sadly said goodbye and dropped Baxter's parents at the airport.  We headed back to Plymouth where the snow faded and the temperatures warmed.  We had such a great time and welcome anyone interested in joining us for their own adventure.

Baxter's Mom and Dad paying a visit to Terrapin
Falmouth Haven Marina on a breezy winter day
Big smiles after breakfast at Fuel, one of our favorite eateries in Falmouth.
Fuel goodness! Who wouldn't want to eat this tasty deliciousness?
Walking through the town of Falmouth as the snow begins - but we were prepared
St Andrews Church in Plymouth, built in 700AD
Baxter's Dad had so much fun on Terrapin, he even tried our Cat's Meow - the best sleeping bag on the planet (duct tape and all)
Kala showed Granny her favorite beaches in Falmouth
Drinks by the fire at the Duke of Cornwall hotel
Having fun at Highclere - Isn't this is where Thomas tripped Bates in Season 1?
Such a beautiful estate
Staying in London for the night offered the luxury of a bathtub.  We haven't see one of these since June in Atlanta.
Stopping at Starbucks after leaving London.  Fortunately, we didn't have this snow on Terrapin in Plymouth

Thursday, December 7, 2017

What's On Your List?

As the seasons change and autumn transitions into winter, we can feel the change, especially on the boat where temps have dropped to 3°C at night.  So, we are compiling our favorite reading list.  Is there anything more cozy than snuggling with a warm blanket, a hot cuppa tea and a book that you can’t put down?  Maybe a nice fire, but since we don’t promote open flames on boats, we’ll stick to the scene outlined above.

Here is our list of some of our favorites, mostly nonfiction adventure tales.  If you have any that you’d like to share, please leave a comment – it is going to be a long winter.

Voyage for Mad Men - Story of the 1968 Golden Globe Race in which Robin Knox-Johnson became the first person to be recognized as a solo non-stop circumnavigation around the world.

Over The Edge of The World - Magellan set out for the Spice Islands going west around the world, proving that the world wasn't flat.  One of the reasons I like this book is because it talks about the reign of Spain and Portugal as dominant world superpowers but in 2017, neither have very much influence.  Power is fleeting and greed is tragic.

Salty Piece of Land - Surprising page-turner by Jimmy Buffet.  He didn't set out to write a Pulitzer Prize winner, but it's entertaining and a bit philosophical.

Chasing The Horizon - Captain Fatty Goodlander with words of wisdom from his life living aboard sail boats.

The Climb - Anatoli Boukarev's answer to the 1996 tragedy on Mt. Everest.  If you've read Into Thin Air by John Krakauer - this is the real story.

Once Is Enough - Miles and Beryl Smeaton.  Sailed around Cape Horn in the 1950s and were dismasted - twice.  Adventure at it's extreme.

Flirting With Mermaids - Sailing stories from a delivery captain, with a bit of romance thrown in. 

Desert Solitaire - Edward Abbey's experience as a ranger in Moab, UT and the importance of nature to humans.

The Long Way - Bernard Moitissier's version of the 1968 Golden Globe Race.  Very philosophical regarding the relationship of ocean to man and the solo journey around the world helping a person understand his very existence.


Barbarian Days - A life of surfing with struggles and adventures along the way.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Having A Jolly


Baxter, Kala and I no longer have a house.  We have a home – on Terrapin - but not a physical house on a plot of land somewhere in the suburbs of the US.  We do, however, have a few belongings that would not fit on Terrapin that we could not leave behind, even as minimalistic as we strive to be.  Most of the things are gear related, or “tools” for future adventure as we think of it – climbing racks, mountain bikes, road bikes, skis, helmets (lots of helmets), BASE jumping rigs, our VW Bus, among other things.  All neatly packed in a small 16x10 storage unit in Utah. 

In planning our winter and spring travel, we realized there could be an occasion we might need a few of those things.  So Baxter made a quick, 72-hour trip from Plymouth to London to Salt Lake City and back, while I stayed and watched after Terrapin and Kala.  Leaving on Thursday morning and back by Sunday morning, Baxter, who has never been one to waste time, accomplished the mission and was back in the UK with “tools” in hand, equipped for future adventures.

While we were in London for 6 hours, we took the opportunity to visit recognizable historical locations that we have only seen in pictures – Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, House of Parliament and Big Ben.   There is still quite a bit we have left undiscovered but we have plenty of time for that.  

When someone at the marina asked us about Baxter's trip, they said "Off for a jolly?"  Yep.  That's exactly what it was.

Beautiful sunrise in Little Cottonwood Canyon (Salt Lake City, UT)
The gates of Buckingham Palace

Stopping by the Queen's house
The Victoria Memorial
Princess Diana Walk in St James Park

Westminster Abbey - every English and British monarch since 1066 has been crowned here and 16 royal weddings since 1100 AD.
The Dean's Yard - the former Westminster Monastery
Big Ben - having a facelift
Rare, but beautiful, English sunset

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Pot Lucks and Dead Ringers

On our visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon, we did more than take pictures of 400 year old houses and walk around in the pouring rain.  We also learned the origin of select Shakespearean idioms that don’t even give us pause today. 





So many of the things we say in everyday language, might seem ridiculous but are actually derived from real situations.  More specifically, when we say something like “Wow, it’s raining cats and dogs!” – most of us don’t expect that cats and dogs will be falling out of the sky when we open the door.  However, the derivation of that saying from hundreds of years ago was based on cats and dogs falling out of the sky, or something seemingly the same. 

We thought we’d share those with you.

Saved By The Bell - Back in the good 'ol 1600s, people were prematurely buried.  As graves were reused (I know, crazy stuff happening here), they began to realize people were buried alive by the scratch marks on the underside of the tops of coffins.  To help resolve this "problem" of burying dead people while they were alive, a bell would be placed next to the grave and if the dead (but not really dead) woke up, they could ring the bell and be saved.

Deadringer – Another problem with burying people who aren't dead.  If a person were to see someone in town who they had been to the funeral of the week before, they might say "You look just like ..." and the response would be "Oh, I am [that person].  I was a dead ringer" -  meaning they were buried alive, woke up, rung the bell and were saved by the bell.

Graveyard Shift - The one who kept watch for dead ringers.

Raining cats and dogs -  The roofs back in the 1600s were thatched and sometimes thinly.  Animals would take comfort on the straw, especially in times of inclement weather.  However, if it rained hard enough, the animals would fall through the hatch and it would be raining cats and dogs.

Going through thick and thin - King George I had mistresses, of course, who lived with him and essentially kept his attention and gave him direction on his affairs.  One mistress was overweight and the other was skinny so it was said you would have to go through "Thick and Thin" to get to the king.

Pot luck
Guests would be invited to a house for dinner and would not know what was being served.  They were resigned to having whatever was in the pot - leaving it up to luck.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Midlands

After being in Plymouth for a couple weeks, Baxter and I decided to travel inland a bit.  We hired a car and set out to explore the Midlands including Solihull and Stratford-Upon-Avon.  We had fun with a LandRover Experience adventure and Baxter drove a Defender along the historic track that has been testing Land Rovers since 1947.  Through waist deep waters, across logs, up rocky hills and down steep slopes and staircases, the course was challenging and fun but no problem in the vehicles that were designed for this terrain.  To see a short video of the adventure, click here.

Next, we were off to the home of Shakespeare who was born, grew up, married, and died in Stratford-Upon-Avon.  Baxter and I have read and learned so much about Shakespeare that we wanted to visit this historic town.  After traveling around Ireland, we have realized that tours are a great way to get the lay of the land and learn things that might not be obvious by seeing the sights yourself.  When we arrived, it was a downpour, so we opted for a "hop on/hop off" bus tour.  Through fateful events, the bus driver ended up leaving before we could hop on.  So instead, we headed for the starting point of the walking tour, hoping the rain would end soon.  We also thought that since it was pouring rain, we would be the only participants on the walking tour.  Nope - just as crowded as any other day with at least ten people ready to know all the secrets of this small village.

Our tour guide, Barbara, has lived in this town for over 40 years and provided excellent details about Shakespere, his family and the origin of many sayings and words that are used in every day life.    Though he left Stratford-Upon-Avon for London when he was in his twenties, Shakespeare returned here to his wife and children after becoming a successful writer and actor and eventually died here.  We walked around for hours exploring different stages in his life and pivotal events that formed who he was as a writer and a person.  Every time we pick up a Shakespearean classic, we will always think back to the images and places in this quaint little village in the middle of England.
Click here for a quick video of the Land Rover Experience

Shakespeare's birthplace and where he lived with his wife and children, along with his parents, until he left for London in his twenties.
The Shakespeare family Coat of Arms


The Harvard House behind the grey van.  John Harvard's mother lived here in the 1600s and the family donated the money and land for what would become Harvard University.
The new house Shakespeare purchased upon returning to Stratford-Upon-Avon




This is the New Place that William Shakespeare purchased and moved his family to after returning as a rich and famous writer and actor




The Avon River.  The name Stratford-Upon-Avon means "The street upon the river Avon"
The door knocker on the church where Shakespeare is buried
The door is only about five feet high.  It's top is where the sign is in the middle of the arch.
The baptism and burial certificates of William Shakespeare.
The King James Bible was completed in 1610 when Shakespeare was 46 years old.  In Psalm 46, the 46th word from the beginning is 'shake' and the 46th word from the end is 'spear' (omitting 'Selah' which means end).  Coincidence, or did he have a hand in the revision of the bible? 
Shakespeare's Grave, along with his wife, one of his daughters and her husband

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankful Third Thursday in November

Here in England, there really isn't such a thing as Thanksgiving, which only means we should take time on any ordinary Thursday to be thankful and grateful in our own way for the blessings of friends, family (both human and furry) and adventures in our lives.

On this beautiful autumn day, we celebrated with a walk on The Hoe, playing with sticks and a quick bit at Boston Tea Party for fritters and cake.  Tonight we'll have the traditional vegetarian roast, potatoes with gravy and such, just like any other Thursday in November on this side of the pond.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!
Kala hunting for sticks in front of the Royal Citadel
Beautiful day on The Hoe

Have I mentioned the Mayflower steps?  Perfect day to be here

Yum, Yum and Yum!  Lunch at BTP on Thanksgiving

Beautiful day on The Barbican

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Hoe and The Barbican

Two things we love about Plymouth are The Hoe and The Barbican.  Both for different reasons.

The Plymouth Hoe, or just "The Hoe" as the locals call it, is a great place to take a walk, or sit and relax, or just watch the boats sail in and out of the English Channel.  It is about half a mile from Sutton Harbor and perfect distance for taking Kala somewhere to run off leash.  The Hoe is filled with history dating back centuries ago and few things have changed since that time.  It is rumored that Sir Francis Drake, who was at one point Mayor of Plymouth, finished his game of bowls on the lawn of The Hoe while the Spanish Armada lined its ships outside of Plymouth before he victoriously waged his attack against them.

On the walk to The Hoe, a person walks past The Barbican.  The cobblestone streets of The Barbican are filled with shops, restaurants and souvenir stands.  It has everything from The Mayflower Steps to the Plymouth Gin distillery.  Fancy a pint?  There's no better place in Plymouth to find one than the Barbican.  
The map of The Hoe
The lawn of The Hoe with the Royal Citadel in the background.  Sutton Harbor is just around the corner to the left.  Could you imagine Drake playing a game of bowls here?
An hommage to Sir Francis Drake
Let's not forget the battles of vikings throughout England.  Given to the city of Plymouth by the Norwegians to honor the Vikings and their adventures in these waters.
This is the cornerstone of the Royal Citadel.  You can barely read the lettering towards the bottom, but you can see the year on the right side.  "Earle of Bath 1666"

Streets of The Barbican
Fancy a pint?
Patio seating with heaters along the wharf.