My original plans to fly to New Zealand changed, evolving into a trip through Europe visiting friends. Jamie still had a few more weeks off from school, so we planned a quick trip to Ireland via England. We landed in Manchester and stayed a night with one of her friends, then set off on a far-too-rushed train journey to a few locations around England. We whizzed through Stratford-upon-Avon to visit Shakespeare's birthplace and final resting place, then continued down to Salisbury to see the Stonehenge. Finally we headed through London up to Ipswich to visit friends I'd met years ago when working in Florida.
With the current exchange rate of two British Pounds for ever American Dollar, the country proved far more expensive than I'd quasi-planned. In addition, the time required to travel by train was greater than we'd expected, cutting into our time to actually enjoy the destinations. In spite of that, the whirlwind trip proved to be a lot of fun.
Yakka met us at the Manchester airpot and took us on a tour of the city. We fought off our jetlag with an AM visit to a local pub, and managed to have quite a bit of fun in spite of being far too tired.
Jamie minored in Shakesperean studies as an undergraduate, and continues to be enthralled by The Bard. In this photo she's ecstatic to be standing outside of the house that Shakespeare was born in, and for the rest of our trip she would bubble over when remembering that we actually got to see the First Folio.
The Joy of Trains
We stretched our visit in Stratford-upon-Avon as long as we possibly could, literally having to run to the station to catch our train before it pulled out. Jamie was befuddled that one minute I was rushing as quick as I could, and the next I stopped to take a picture of the train station -- truth be told, in my travel-induced exhaustion I was suddenly convinced the picture was a necessary addition to our photographic collection of Shakespearean memorabilia. Unfortunately my little gesture had consequences I didn't foresee, as in my rush to try and buy tickets for the departing train I set down the camera that I had pulled out for the photo. The ticket agent rapidly rushed us on board our train, and in the excitement I neglected to retrieve the camera from the ticket counter. In the moments that the train pulled away from the station, it dawned on me what I'd done. Fortunately the conductor was able to find a number for the ticket agent, and after a quick call from my cell phone he kindly agreed to put the camera on the next train going our way. Thus we waited in the next station for the camera to catch up with us, the first of several events putting us behind schedule that day. On this same trip we learned how important it is to pay close attention to the muddled-sounding overhead announcements when waiting for a train, as it's common in busy stations for a train to be rerouted to another platform at the last minute.
A famous Neolithic collection of large standing stones erected sometime between 2500 BC and 2000 BC. Much mystery surrounds the purpose of the henge, as well as how the stones were transported, some of the biggest ones from the Preseli Mountains in Wales, some 240 miles away. The henge is roped off and you view it from a large path that circles the monument.
Another view of the standing circle of stones. When we arrived at the site, my digital camera starting flashing an error code. Jamie had her camera phone on her, but her attempt to take a photo was thwarted by a low battery. I fiddled with my camera while finally dislodging the lens which was evidently jammed with a piece of sand. The camera worked for the rest of the day before finally completely failing the next morning. Somewhat ironic considering all the effort we'd made the day before to retrieve the camera after I'd left it in the train station.
We stayed with Eddie and his family in Ipswich our last night in England. From left to right, Eliot, Trish, Eddie, Lara, and Josh. The morning before we flew to Ireland they took us hiking in one of their favorite parks. We got some much needed exercise clambering up the hillsides of a river, chasing after the kids.
Watching others fail to climb to the top of the tree, I bragged about my own tree climbing abilities which I then attempted to show off. Part way up I was suddenly reminded of my fear of heights, and wisely decided I was plenty close to the top. The kids suggested that I was only barely a third of the way up the tree, but from my perspective I was clearly very near the top and brusquely endangering my life. Hopefully you can't tell that my smile is forced and that in fact I'm busy trying to figure a way out of the tree that doesn't involve falling and pain.
The Bryants had a trampoline in their backyard which we all took great pleasure in using. We also had a quick game of "football", what Americans refer to as Soccer. The kids thought my inability to control where the ball was going to go when I kicked it quite humorous. Fortunately I restored my dignity later with a game of Foosball, calling back on skills earned years ago when working with Eddie in Florida.