Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ultimate London

Eileen playing Tour Guide

Day 10 (8/21/12)
We got up early to get ready for our first big day. We had booked “The Ultimate London Tour” which consisted of ten hours of bus travel punctuated with stops at St Paul’s Cathedral, The Changing of the Guard, lunch at a medieval restaurant (The Medieval Banquet) by the tower of London, the Tower of London, a boat tour on the Thames, and finally the London Eye. After we had started on the tour we were told that the tour ended at the Eye and we would have to find our way home from there, so we had our second experience with the Underground. At this point we were starting to wonder if we should have bought the Oyster. The Oyster, we found out, is a card which like a gift card electronically keeps track of your current balance and subtracts your fair as you go. The fairs are also much cheaper with the Oyster. Unfortunately we didn’t find this out until two days before we left. At any rate, like most European Cathedrals St. Paul’s was magnificent to observe.  Designed by Christopher Wren, who was enthralled with the Catholic cathedrals in Rome, It is as opulent as the protestant hierarchy would allow. It was completed in only thirty five years which was a major feat. Compared to Denmark the changing of the guard was a bit of a letdown. There are so many people that you can barely get a glimpse of any one part and at best much takes place behind a fenced in area so you do not get the intimacy that you get in Copenhagen. Then it was a mad rush to get out and back on to the bus. Next we headed to the Tower of London. There were only about nine of us who went to the Medieval Banquet restaurant for lunch. They say that company makes the meal and although the food was forgettable we made a couple of friends on the journey that made it worth our while. The tower of London itself is a very interesting place and seeing the crown jewels is, for most people, a once in a life time thing but like many of the attractions it is somewhat spoiled by the over the top presentation. To see the jewels you have to go through several rooms with multimedia fluff that adds nothing to the display and in my opinion cheapens the whole experience. The highlight of the Tower was getting to listen and talk to one of the “Beefeaters”. All of the Yeomen Warders (the real title of the beefeaters) have had at least 20 years of exemplarily military service and live on the grounds. Our particular Warder had thirty five years in the actual military and two service metals. From the Tower we boarded a tour boat that took us up the Thames to the Eye of London. We decided to do the Eye in daylight because we still were not that familiar with the undergrounds and wanted to get back to our hotel before too late. As it turned out that was a very good decision because when we got back to our room there was a message that our tour for the next day could no longer pick us up at our hotel and we had to use the time to find our pickup site. 
St Paul's Cathedral

Queen Anne turning her back on the Church

Changing of the Guard

The Medieval Banquet

Stairs into The Medieval Banquet

Dining Room

Tower Bridge

White Tower

Eileen with The Yeoman Warder

Changing of the Guard at the Tower of London

Eileen with the Guard

Warders Houses

Tower Bridge

Eye of London

House of Parliament from Eye

Victoria Station

Queens Tower with Big Ben

Monday, August 20, 2012

London the journey

The Tube

Day 9 (8/19/12)
We are just starting the first leg of our journey to London. As usual we are at the airport way early but that is how we roll. Our flight from Milwaukee to Philadelphia was running a little late. We had been awoken last night to a robocall telling us that it was going to be late but then we got another call this morning saying it was on time. At any rate it was a half hour late which is ok because we have a six hour wait in Philadelphia anyway. The plane was quite small and cramped but at least it went without a hitch. After a shuttle ride from terminal F to Terminal A we are now sitting and waiting for our overnight flight to London. I am hoping to get some sleep since tomorrow will be a big day. As I expected, not as I hoped, we got very little sleep on the flight to London. Lucky are the people who can actually sleep on a plane. Again our flight went off without a hitch. When we got to Heathrow we had to catch the “Tube” to get us to our hotel. That was a little bit of an experience since it is all automated and nobody around to help. Eileen got it all figured out though and eventually we made it to our hotel. We did a bit of sightseeing right around the area and the decided to get some badly needed sleep.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Osprey at Waldo

Up the River
Day 8 (8/12/12)
Eileen had taken some vacation days this week and we had planned on going to Mauthe Lake camping Wednesday and Thursday. The weather had other plans. It ended up raining Wednesday, Thursday and part of Friday. After the rain it got very windy so we did not get out camping and didn’t even get out kayaking until today. This year we have hardly ever been out kayaking with little wind. Today, finally, it was totally calm and quiet. Because it was the weekend we decided to shy away from the more popular venues and go to Waldo. By the time we got there it was mostly overcast but otherwise beautiful. Eileen had a couple of new fairy houses she was hoping to set up so we searched along the southern shore for environments. We hadn’t gone too far when we spied two cranes further up the shore. Unlike the ones we had seen at Mauthe Lake these were very timid and they took off before we even got close. As we were sneaking up on the crane we noticed an Osprey flying off in the distance. We have never seen an Osprey at Waldo before so it was pretty exciting. As we continued along the shore Eileen was able to get some pictures of baby turtles out sunning themselves. As we approached the mouth  of the river again we noticed the Osprey but now it was heading in the other direction carrying something in its talons. We couldn’t help being impressed by the size of it. A couple of years ago we had seen a weird phenomenon at Hingham Flowage where either fish or tadpoles were swimming in what would best be described as murmurations. Today we saw another one. It is hard to photograph because of the reflections and they move fast but I was able to get some video of them today. After posting it on Facebook I have learned that it was most likely baby bullheads or catfish. By the time we got to the river we had already had a fascinating day. As we went into the mouth of the river we could see a blue heron way up ahead. As we got closer we noticed there were more. Like the cranes, they were to weary to get close to but when they took off we saw that there were four of them. They stayed ahead of us as we worked our way upriver. Finally, they flew off and we found them later way down at the other end of the flowage. We have always enjoyed how lush it gets as you go up the river. With the overcast skies it made it even more dark and mysterious. At the bridge we decided to stay dry and turn around instead of getting out and dragging the kayaks up the rapids. When we got back to the millpond we again saw the osprey sitting in an old dead tree so I thought I would try to stalk it. Again he wasn’t having anything to do with getting his picture taken so we had to settle for some good memories. We managed to do the whole trip without getting rained on although it looked like the skies could open up at any time. As we loaded the kayaks we talked to a man who was there with his son and father. They said they were catching bullheads, which kind of confirms our murmurations as being schools of bullheads. You do learn something new every day.  

Eileen setting up a Homestead.

Fisher Fairy

Floating Rock

Rock Fairies

Baby Turtle


More Turtles


Herons in Flight