Sunday, September 29, 2013

UK 2013 - day 9: Wendover, Windsor, Scrooby and Wigan

Sunday, July 28, 2013
Today... was it the two ciders from last night? My stomach wasn't holding anything. Or was it the realization that I'm a loser who walks all the way to Paul's house and doesn't ring the doorbell? ...

Now on to the things we actually did!!!

We learned at Breakfast that  the Morse code was invented here in Bletchley. Our tavern owners told us how to get to the place, Bletchley park. So, if you have a chance go there. But we had to make it to the church on time, and the park didn't open till 10, so we skipped it and drove straight to Wendover.

At church we learned that the priest - a woman - is very much a defender of evolution, but we had very little success finding anyone with our family name. Talking to the locals was fun as usual.
We ate lunch at Shoulder of Mutton with our genealogist Robert Watt and his wife. It is recommended to make reservations on Sundays, but we couldn't use our phone to call With all those issues with Orange), so we took our chances and got lucky!

Food was yummy, and I was sad to hear from the waiter that they were changing their menus from that traditional book-like one to the more AppleBees style. I like the old style menu better - at least for traditional restaurants.

I wanted to get pudding (desert), but I had a feeling Robert would be paying for our food, so I didn't.

After lunch we figured we could drive to Windsor and at least take pictures. Maybe go in. BUt we didn't really go in.
By the way, Windsor traffic is insane! I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that the baby was just born.

We parked at a residents car park just to go check out the castle and take a picture. We were not supposed to park there, but for 5 minutes I don't think anyone would complain. It turns out you can't get near near the castle unless you pay. We heard the guards saying that standing on that line wouldn't guarantee entrance for that day... h'm... Yeah... The line was long - very long. We opted for taking a picture outside, then hopping in the car and heading to Wigan.

First we detoured to Scrooby to see the church where the pilgrims plotted their escape to America.
Dean called his Parents from there, and our credits ended. Oh! That will be another big fight with Orange. A few hours later, we had a huge discussion with EE (Orange) customer service. Their foreign service is pitiful.

Scrooby's pub food serving time was till 8 pm, and it was 5 of 8 when we got there. It was a two-hour drive to Wigan... we passed on the pub and ate on the road :(.

We got to Lu's house by 10 pm, talked to her and her hubby till 3 am. Why so late? Bc no one could figure out how to get the air mattress to inflate. It is a foot pump that gets the job done in 5 min. When we figured it out every one was worn out from trying it other ways.

Lu's hubby grew up near Liverpool, so he sounds a little like the Beatles to me.
Remember I said that it is good that tourist don't have internet because they get to talk to people?
Well, yesterday, by talking to our hosts at the inn, we learned about speed cameras. They are everywhere and we were terrified of them. But everyone else seemed to be fine with it. Actually they seemed to not care at all.
Well, it turned out speed cameras allow for a 10% above the speed limit error.
But do you know that those skinny roads have a limit of 60 MILES per hour? Should I laugh or cry?Dean has been very annoyed by the way that they keep cars driving slowly in cities. They build some sort if a curb on the road with a sign that says "give way to oncoming traffic", so that you have to stop, give way, then drive on the oncoming traffic lane.
Another traffic habit thing that annoys Dean and confuses us a lot is the habit people have here to park on the oncoming traffic lane. This is illegal in both our countries, and we never know if we are the ones driving on the wrong side.
Today we saw a Ferrarri Enzo ... Not sure of the spelling ... and Dean is almost sure it is some famous musician, because only a handful of people own that car, including this guy.
Well, how do you own one if those? You have to be asked to purchase one.

Today's purchases:
rest stop £7.13 (credit)
petrol station - £39.40(credit) (42.13mpg)
rest stop - £4.75(credit)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

UK 2013 - day 8: London instead of Windsor, and why I'll hate myself forever.

Saturday, July 27, 2013
The following photograph shows three rotaries at the place where we slept this night.
Today should have been Windsor Castle day, but we stayed in London all day. We walked to the train station and bought an all day pass for £22 each. This was to avoid driving to Windsor and paying congestion charge. This was a mistake. A mistake that could have been avoided if I had stuck to my plan.

We had oyster cards with credit in them. And congestion charge is not charged on weekend. Actually congestion charge doesn't apply to Windsor. I knew all of that. The problem was that I made the mistake of listening to locals who had no idea what they were talking about.

So, what is the lesson? Don't listen to locals? No, listen to locals but TRUST YOUR home RESEARCH.  We decided to listen to the locals  and ignore our research.
I also woke us up late, because I felt bad that Dean had driven so late the night before.
What happened was that, by followings the advice of the motel lady and taking the train into London to take another train to Windsor we missed the change of the guard time.

We got to London by the time the changing of the guard should be starting. We still had to catch the train to Windsor.

Congestion charge days and places are here in this website:

So we figured we should just go to the shaving store Dean wanted to go to -Taylor of Old Bond Street - then solve our phone card problem during hours we knew the stores would be open, since nothing works in England after 5 pm. Remember - it is a weekend and business close early in the UK.

What was our phone problem?
Orange cell phone company was our problem!!!! They won't let you use your credit card if you don't live in the UK! Yes, well, first you must register the card with a UK post code. They used the store post code to register my card. But then your credit card had to be registered at the same post code. Give me a break! I am a freaking foreigner.

When we were done with everything, there was not a way to make to Windsor in time. So we stuck to London.

It was ok. I was lucky enough to find a bus route 15, which you can get at St. Paul's Cathedral. 15 and 9 are the only lines that still have those old time buses that we have pictures of. And I rode in one!

Now - for the regret of my life. There is a certain guy who lives in London, whose address I happen to know - the one address that I consider the most important address in all if the UK. I went there - and didn't knock on the door. If you're sitting there thinking, "what an idiot," believe me, I agree with you. I am writing this with tears rolling down my face. Everything in this trip could have gone wrong, but I couldn't have chickened out on that day. I did. And I think I will always hate myself for that.

Back on the station, back to the car.
On the way back to the car we got lost in the rain, and it took us forever to find our way back. I went barefoot because my heels were blistering. When we made it to our sleeping place, The Swan hotel, booked last minute to save us from Premier Inn, I took off my torn socks and washed my feet with nice hot water. Wonderful feeling!

Dinner was something called donner kebab at this Indian take-away place called Desy's. I have no idea what donner is. I don't even know if this is the right spelling.
Back to the Swan, we chatted to the owners till 2. They paid us a second round of cider - 2 freaking pints for a tiny little girl like me... and ... I'm not much of a drinker, so, but the time I walked back to my room, I was drunk. I went up the stairs seeing them move and going like, "Baby, don't let me fall back."

Expenses -
McDonald's - £4.38 (credit)
Wilkinson - £5.98(credit)
EE - £15(cash)
pret-a-manger - £10.88(credit) at the train station
Taylor of Old Bond Street - £19.95(credit)
Day travel card - £44.60(credit)
Desy's - £20 (cash) this is an approximate amount - they did not give us a receipt and I didn't log in the amount.

Monday, September 16, 2013

UK 2013 - Day 7: Last day at the Cotswolds + lodging issue

Friday, July 26, 2013

I am writing from a place called Aylesbury. I am not happy.
We were not going to come up here, but the unthinkable happened - the tavern we booked for tonight simply went out of business. No emails letting us know of anything, we just got there and the new administration said - "sorry, the owner just packed up and left!"
That's an awesome thing to find out at 11pm of the night you're supposed to be arriving.

Word to the wise (or note to self - whatever you want to call it):

Call your lodging the weekend before you travel. Check if they are still in operation. it is better than finding it out at 11pm after driving and walking all day.
We ended up paying £81 to sleep over at this Premier Inn (sort of a Days Inn). £81 with no breakfast included.
It is funny to think about that price. Two years ago we paid the scandalous amount of £71 for a fancy B&B in the rich-sy town (posh, is that what they say in British?) of Hastings. How can a regular motel charge more than a fancy Hastings B&B? That is a mystery to me.

What about our day? That is what matters, right? Oh the day was very pleasant!

We drove to pretty Cotswold towns. We loved Broadway and Chipping Camden. They are small towns, easy to park and walk around, and have that lovely Cotswold atmosphere.
There were a couple of towns we didn't care for - Winchcombe and Cirencester were too large cities for our taste. Not what we were looking for.
We went back to Cirencester because I thought Dean wanted to walk around there and I pulled him away yesterday to go have tea in Castle Combe.
Well, we couldn't find tea rooms there - in Cirencester. Tea rooms, the ones we look for as tourists in the land of the tea - will be in the small towns, like the ones I've  mentioned. Other small towns are Stow on the World and Bourton on the Water. The really small ones - the ones you blink and miss - will not have them either. It seems they are made to attract tourists.
And yes, again, tea time is from 3-5!!!!
If I had known about the little lodging issue, we would have driven east to the birth place of Churchill, but we chose to visit Lacock again to eat at the George Inn - open since 1361!!!!
You know what happened next, we drove to Benson and found out we had no room to stay...

And here are our expenses:
The Halfway House £22.50 (credit) dinner. We found this on the way to Cirencester.
The Cake House - cirencester £ 4.40 (cash) sodas
Aylesbury Premier Inn - £81.00(credit)
petrol station - £38.22(credit)
the george inn - £17.45 (credit) dinner
brewery car park - £1.30(cash) Cirencester
brewery car park - £2.00(cash)
broadway high street car park - £1.00(cash)
Mouse trap inn - £61.00(credit)
Snack break - £1.95(cash)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Uk 2013 - Day 6: Cotswolds

I apologize - I have skipped the past two postings because of the back to school madness - I got a new job and it has been crazy being able to get everything done in time. But here we are - back to our routine. Let's talk today about our first day in the Cotswolds.
Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Breakfast was yummy, but unfortunately we won't be having dinner here since our hosts are leaving n vacation. That means the kitchen won't work at dinner time. Aw, this place is so beautiful!!!!

We got up and walked around Castle Combe. I thought of going on a country walk, but I wasn't aware of what the idea of a country walk was - fields, fields and more fields. Fields of wheat or barley, who knows. Really? Who cares? I know there are other places to see, but there are simply to much of the fields to go through. I really should have planned this part of our trip. Never mind. We can walk elsewhere. We then bought a 50p guide at the tourist center and drove to Stow-on-the-Wold - the highest town in the Cotswolds. It's is a fairly touristy town.
We had lunch there and went around for ride to towns where tourists don't go.

And we quickly learned why some of these towns are places where tourists don't go - the roads barely fit one car and are supposed to be made for two! We almost had a front collision with some girl who was driving way too fast, and had to back up down a hill for a mini van. However, nothing on this trip - so far - was as scary as our first trip when we almost hit a truck and I began to cry.

Word to the wise- if you ever move here, always plan on not leaving for work or school right on time. You will be late. Part of your drive will include backing up and stopping for others to pass.

Small detail - some of the hedges have concrete walls behind them. So do not try driving into one of them to allow the other car to pass. Yeah. We appreciated that a friend of Dean's gave us that advice.

The name of this town was Sheepscombe, near Painswick.

Then we drove to a small city called Cirencester. Silly me, I was calling it Cirenster (Like we call Worcester - Woster) - Yeah, I was wrong.

But it was a quarter to 5 and I had the idiotic assumption, MY WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE, that tea time is at 5. Well, if you are British, you are now laughing at me. Tea time  starts at 3 and freaking ENDS at 5!!!!!!

We drove back to Castle Combe for tea and got there at 5:10 just to learn we would not be served by any tea room - they had all just closed. The one place open was getting ready for 6pm dinner and would not serve tea.


Well, crying in this case wouldn't help, so we turned around and left. Found on the way to our place and planned the next day.

Then we had dinner at a pub by the river - they had internet there too, we sat outside, but the sun went down and it got too cold for my Brazilian skin. I wanted to move inside, but for some weird reason by husband won't switch tables once he's picked one - did I mention my husband does things that drive me crazy? Yup. This is one of them.

The internet we have picked up today is thanks to FON,  a user provided internet network Dean purchased a few years ago. It has been saving our lives.

That was it for today. I have to log on expenses now.

Oh!!! One thing we have loved about the UK is its small cars. Not the narrow roads, but the tiny cars. The funny thing are the lories (trucks in British English) - they are so skinny!

Londis Store Bourton on the Water - £1.87(cash) snack
Queens head inn - £15.05(credit) LUNCH
Kings bridge - £22.45(credit) DINNER

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Uk 2013 - day 5: Dublin - To cry or not to cry

"Crying is non use," said the little mouse to Gretel at the witch's house. "You have to act."

But hey, if acting is no use, then cry. Yes, cry your lungs out, and make sure people see you and hear you - people who can do something about it.

Today was Murphy's Law day. The lucky part of today was the weather. People have been talking about the end of the heat wave, about thunderstorms, but we got another bright sunny day. "Oh happy day!"

But here we go on to all the comedy of errors that was today:
I started the day last night, by leaving for today what I could have done yesterday. How typically Brazilian of me. And taht is not meant to be a compliment. I am such a procrastinator, and even though I keep getting myself in trouble because of that, I never learn. That has to be something inherent to Brazilian blood. Or maybe I just have a learning issue. A big learning issue.

Last night we realized our flight left too early for all our plans. So instead of planning on a relaxing local morning we decided to drive downtown Dublin and get two things done: Guiness and Book of Kells. Then lunch at Brazen Head.
We woke up late - that means breakfast was late and we left late. And I didn't weigh the suitcase which should have been 15kg max. Well,  it wasn't. I should have done that the night before. Ask me if I did. Well, don't ask.

The one good thing about it all is that on the way to Book of Kells, at a random traffic light, I met a college mate that i hadn't seen in years.

If you go to the Guiness Brewery by park use their complimentary parking lot Crane Street.

We got there by 11 am. By the time we left Guiness, it was past 1. I knew we should have gone straight to the airport, but Dean thought we could make it to the Book of Kells. He was trying to accommodate the schedule for me, since I had wanted to do it since our first trip. All we had to do was skip the Brazen Head. Right?

Bad idea.

The flight gate closed at 4:15 and we still had a 20 minute drive to the airport, plus returning the car at a location we were not sure of - because in my procrastination, I figured I'd check it in the morning (the morning on which we were late, so I didn't check).
Whenever you rent a car, make sure you know the returning procedure - either ask the agent, or check the paperwork they give you.
And if you have a flight closing at 4:15, don‘t plan to arrive at 3:30.

We made it to the airport, and had to go to this "closing flight" line. Yes! Remember that! If you are ever cutting close to your flight, go to the Closing Flight line!!!

Our Checked Bag was 9 kilos too heavy. We took all the heavy stuff out of it, and it still was 2 kilos too heavy. Guys, this is Ryanair. It gets as cheap or as expensive as you make it. At £20 a kilo we lost £40. Or was it Euros? Who knows!

That created another problem. When we went through security, all the heavy stuff we removed from the suitcase had liquids and gels in them - they were now in our hand luggage. To make matters worse, the security guy decided to be a jerk (for lack of a worse word that is appropriate to write on a kid-friendly blog) and inspected each and every item on Dean's shaving bag and shopping bag (which were supposed to have been checked in).

Remember I told you the worse thing for me is to realize things are getting screwed up because of me. Well this was the day I screwed up EVERYTHING. So I felt lower than a snake's belly.
I was already feeling awful because my inability to:
pack the night before;
weigh the suitcase;
check the returning place of the rental car;
decide to buy an extra check in luggage at £25 - instead of the £20/extra kilo;
decide to go straight to the airport and the Book of Kells.

All day I had been wondering why on earth did I even schedule any events for that day when we could perfectly well have driven to places around Cookstown ...

So I was feeling pretty crappy about myself when at the x-ray stop, Dean pulled this very heavy tray right onto my cheek bone at full speed. I wanted to punch him so bad, and I wanted to sit down and cry in pain, but, instead, I just called out a number of nasty words and got our stuff ready for x-ray.

Now - after all that feeling crappy plus dealing with the pain of a heavy plastic tray being thrust as my cheekbone for no reason (those freaking Irish trays are just extra heavy! What is wrong with those people?) - there was I, watching some guy with power issues, in a security uniform, treat my husband like an idiot who can not pack a hand luggage in the post-9/11 age, and take away all the stuff my husband had carefully bought at Boots over the course of 4 days.

Can you guess what happened?

I began to cry - uncontrollably.

Everyone around me, including my husband, thought I was worried we would miss the flight. The flight at that point was the least of my worries. My trigger was the humiliation of having our personal items searched and taken away from us.

But, hey, let them think what they want as long as they get me what I want.

This security lady (maybe Mr. Power-issues boss) came asking him why I was crying. Dean said we were supposed to be boarding in 5 minutes, the Lady told the security guy to just let us go, while she assured me we would not be missing the flight.

And I? I cried all the way to the gate, I kept on copiously crying at boarding line, and I cried until I decided to ask, because I am borderline masochist,  "How much money did you lose in confiscated products?"
" Nothing!" Dean replied. "After you cried the lady had us take everything."
Then my crying turned into laughter. It was like watching water turning into wine - Unbelievable. I laughed and I laughed!

That, one more time, proves my theses - when nothing else works, cry your lungs out.

But that wasn't the end of the day's troubles. Remember this is a Murphy Law day
We boarded, we landed in London's Luton and went to pick up the car...

Oh! BTW, there is no immigration in London if you're coming from a EU  country... This is a beautiful thing.

At the car counter, the girl says she will charge us for the one way fee and other fees, even though I had been assured twice over the phone that those would not be charged - if you ever see, stay away from them - they lie. I found them via Kayak. I took me an email threat to get my credit card to cancel their whole purchase for them to refund my money.

Well, their little lie cost me £72+, a better and cheaper flight at a later time in the evening, which would have avoided all the rush, stress and crying of that day.

Word to the wise - never book the car before you know for sure you will be arriving at a specific airport.

Our car is a cute Hyundai i10, but not nearly as well built and spacious as the VW up!.

Dean says it doesn't drive as well either, and the pedals aren't very user friendly. As for fuel economy, we haven't been keeping track of it at all. This is so wrong! We are a couple of slackers!

We drove to St.Albans to have dinner at one of the oldest pubs in England -Ye old fighting Cocks - but it was to pricey, so we figured, who cares! And walked back to a pub we had walked by on the way there. It looked cute and affordable.

We had to pay for parking at St. Albans. It is really upsetting to pay for parking when you are going to spend money anyway... I like the idea of the validation - you don't pay if you have purchased stuff.

The drive to Castle Combe was long, and I fell asleep many times, because we lost the aux cable and couldn't listen to music.

The Mouse Trap Inn is a lovely place and the bed is so cozy!

So, yes, I am in my yummy cozy bed. The perfect ending for a stressful day. Hoping for a great, big, beautiful tomorrow -  and better than today, because another day like this is torture. Good night, people. ... mmm, cozy yummy bed ...

Book of Kells - €9.00(cash)
Book of Kells - €9.00(credit)
Christopher place car park  in St.Albans - £3.00(credit)
The Fleur de Lys - £29.40(credit) dinner
Ryanair - €40.00(credit)
The Belfast House £165.00(credit)
Guiness Storehouse - €33.00(cash)
Petrol - €5.01(cash)