Sunday, November 6, 2011
Wednesday, October 25th, was the official 6 month anniversary for my gastric surgery. Post-op, I was given a prescription for Prilosec to reduce the production of acid in the stomach and thereby reduce the risk of ulcers. I was told to take it for six months.... October 25th was six months... ergo, when the prescription ran out on Saturday the 29th, I took the last pill and said adios to the Prilosec!
Sunday, I made chili and had some for dinner. Monday, I had chili for lunch. Not mine, but some Buffalo Wing Chili which was super spicy. For dinner, I don't recall what I had, but for Tuesday breakfast, I had the rest of the Buffalo Wing Chili that Deborah graciously let me make off with. Lunch was... I don't know, but for dinner, Mom made spanish rice which, while not as spicy as I would have made it, did have a tomato base. I had leftovers for breakfast and lunch on Wednesday. For dinner, Mom made spaghetti. Again, not overly spicy, but tomato-y.
Thursday morning, I awoke at my usual 5:30 am. I didn't want to get up. In fact I laid there for a couple of minutes weighing the pros/cons of calling in for a mental health day and decided that it would only make going in on Friday almost impossible, thereby requiring two mental health days and I didn't think I needed that. I got up. The muscle in my upper left arm ached, like I'd had a shot in it. I thought maybe I'd slept wrong on it. I ambled into the kitchen to make my protein shake, I noticed that it was pouring outside and quietly said a prayer of thanks because obviously God knew that I didn't want to go out for a walk and provided accordingly. I also noticed that my tum wasn't feeling all that great, but... I took my shake to my room, sat at my computer and started to farm while slurping it down.
About 20 minutes into the shake, and I hadn't drunk but about 1/3 of the 16oz shake, I started having pains and it hurt to breathe. I got up to try to "walk it off", but that didn't work and I realized that I needed help. I hobbled into Mom's room and woke her up from a complete sleep (slacker), told her she needed to take me to the ER and I walked to my bathroom to put on my sweatpants... a total of 40 feet? During that incredibly long trip, I started hearing the blood rush in my head and all sound started coming from far away thru a tunnel. I knew I was going to pass out. Thank God that I got my sweatpants and was able to collapse onto my bed. I didn't pass out. Mom got the elevator, I got in, knowing that it's the world's slowest elevator, and when I started feeling woozy, slid to the floor, so I ended up crawling to the car.
Mom drove my car to the ER. Now, anyone who really knows me knows that NO ONE drives my car unless I'm dead or dying, so that alone should speak volumes.
At the ER, my insurance paid for an EKG, blood tests, a chest x-ray, and a CT scan (my fourth one this year - I should be due a free one soon, I think). The end result was that although I was having pain when I breathe and couldn't breathe deeply, they had ruled out anything life-threatening and were sending me home. WTF!? I should rest and follow up with my doctor. Sigh.
On the way home, I called my doctor who, as I already knew but hoped I was wrong about, doesn't work on Thursdays. After arguing with the telephone nurse that this wasn't acid reflux because I've HAD acid reflux, I was told I could either see my doctor, the best in the world, at 9:30 on Friday morning or come in and see Dr. Conway at 11:45 (a couple of hours away). I decided to wait for my doctor.
Mom got me home and up the elevator without incident or gravity taking over. I slipped off the sweatpants and, having wore my Snoopy nightshirt to the ER, I was ready to crawl back in bed. The tech had told me to drink lots of fluids in order to flush the CT scan dye from my system, so I asked Mom to get me some juice. She wanted to get me water, but I wanted juice, so I whined and she brought me juice. In retrospect, I would argue that although this whining is/was not a mature thing, it was beneficial as it brought us to an answer sooner rather than later... so don't judge!
Since you've already read the background, I'm sure you can guess that, yes, the juice caused more pain. We called the doctor's office back and got that 11:45 appt with Dr. Conway. An interesting man, he was my father's general doctor... yeah. Anyway, after listening to all of my back story about surgeries, health conditions, current meds (including the fact that I'd stopped taking the Prilosec almost a week before, he gave me some Mylanta to see if it helped. I can't say that it HELPED!!, but it did make me feel somewhat better. We decided that the stopping of the Prilosec, combined with the almost full meals of spicy acidic food for a week, had caused some damaged. I needed to resume the Prilosec to get back to the acid reduction, take Mylanta to help heal the damage, and resume my Carafate (this pink liquidy stuff I had to have an hour before meals and at bedtime for the first two months post-op - it creates a protective liner on the stomach wall to prevent further damage and help aid healing.)
As I'm typing this, it is Sunday evening. I've been taking the medicine, eating only bland foods, and resting/sleeping a lot. Oh, I forgot to mention the Lortab the doctor gave me for the pain! :) I'm not 100% back to the Rosemary version of normal, but I do feel much better. I will admit that this afternoon, after Mom left to go somewhere, I got me a glass of juice and, even though I watered it down, it make my tum hurt, so I'm drinking water. It still hurts to take deep breaths, to yawn (damn, why is it even typing that word makes me do it?), etc., but I do think we're on the road to recovery. If not, I'll call and go see MY doctor!! The bestest doctor in the whole-wide-world!... but obviously not on a Thursday!
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
In 2009, I made a damn good pot of chili and I think I should have won. I was robbed. Let me point out that the most important key to winning is LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION... of your crock pot, that is. In 2009, I got there late that day, I don't recall why, and by the time I got there all of the prime spots were taken and my lowly little crock pot was stuffed in the far corner with another crock pot filled with grey chili - it was grey in color and in flavor. It was gross - and the attorney who brought it in knew it and boldly said that he just put anything that was in his refrigerator into it. So consequently, anyone who went over to that table, saw the grey stuff and immediately turned away without giving my lovely chili any consideration.
In 2010, I wasn't able to do anything about my miffedness over being robbed because I was in Washington DC attending the Stewart/Colbert Rally for Insanity. But I knew my day would come.
This year, the theme was "Little Schop of Horrors." Don't write in and tell me I misspelled the name, I didn't make a mistake. One of the managing partners is named Schopmeyer and Greg, the attorney/creative mind behind the chili cook-off thought it was a great idea and that we could superimpose Schop's picture over the plant in photos/decorations. (see below)
The rules of the cook off are simple, there are three categories: traditional, spicy, and non-traditional. The votes are $1 each with no limit as to how many you can purchase. The top vote-getters in each category win the medal for best in category. The top vote getter of the category winners wins the travelling trophy and bragging rights. This year, for the first time, Greg also got an adorable smaller trophy that the grand champion got to keep - it was adorable. I wanted it.
My friend Ashley and I discussed it to death and came to the following conclusions: no entrants in the spicy or non-traditional categories have ever won the grand prize. We both wanted to win - her because she wanted the travelling trophy for the next year and me because I wanted the cute little keeper. Therefore, we both needed to make traditional chili. But our running against each other might result in a splitting of the vote and allow a dark horse to come from behind and snipe it from us. So first we discussed my not entering any chili. But I really wanted to make chili.
So I contemplated making a spicy chili. But honestly, I don't know how to make a "spicy" chili. My mom thinks my chili is plenty spicy, but she has a wussy palate. So then we contemplated Ashley making and entering her traditional chili and making and ME entering her spicy chili (which in retrospect would've worked because she said that the ONLY spicy entrant that we ended up with ...ergo the winner of that category...was no way as spicy as her spicy chili!) Ah, hindsight.
Then I set my sight on the non-traditional category. Shawn, our HR peep, was going to make chocolate chili cupcakes - in another life, Shawn was/will be a famous cupcake maker. So, being a fan of the Food Network, having read Like Water for Chocolate, and seen the movie "Chocolat" many times over, I knew that chocolate and chili (the spice, not the dish) go well together. I got on the Google and found several recipes for Chocolate Chili. I picked the one that had ingredients we were likely to have or be able to find and decided I'd enter the non-traditional category with chocolate chili. But, having never made it before, thought maybe we should make it before hand to see how it was. This was a good idea because while it wasn't bad, it wasn't a winner. And I really ought to get on and find that recipe again, just so I can make a comment to the person who commented on the recipe about how it's such a fab dish and gets raves everywhere she takes it. LIAR!!
Now it's Saturday (the cook off was on Monday), and I'm back to the start. I just decided WTF! I was going to make my chili and what happened, happened.
Sunday afternoon, I dug out all of my chili ingredients which I had purchased before all of the above waffley angst and started making chili. Meat, check. Onion, a big one. Celery, potatoes and beans, enough but not a lot. Tomatoes, diced and sauce, check. Salt, garlic, chili powder, check, check. check. Hot sauce. I got to the fridge and look for the bottle that I know mom not too long ago because we ran out back when I was in the baby food stage post-op. I find the bottle and it has a Big Lots price tag on it and I'm thinking "hmm.. how strange that she went and got that at Big Lots." But I put it in my chili nonetheless. As I'm returning the bottle to the fridge, I find the bottle that mom bought at Schnucks a couple of months ago and realize that the Big Lots bottle was the one that was in my fridge for years at one or both of my apartments... therefore, nice and, uh.. well-aged. If I say so myself, it was very good. Duncan thought it could use more spice. Mom said it was spicy enough and had a big glass of milk with hers for dinner.
Monday morning, I reheated it, tasted it, added more salt (as the potatoes must've soaked it all up) and chili power, and poured it into my lucky crockpot. Ok, our only crockpot. I've been working a lot of OT at work lately on a big project, so I got there shortly after 7am and put my crockpot in a good spot. (Remember, LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!) I then emailed Boss #1 Steve, Boss #2 Carrie, and Jake (one of the attorney who has a special place in his heart for my biscuits and gravy) that if, when they go in to eat at lunchtime, they recognize my adorable little white crockpot with purple grapes and green leaves on it and feel sentimental toward it because of all the good biscuit and gravy memories and it compels them to vote for it's contents, to go with the feeling. (No one said that campaigning was against the rules!)
Long story short, when all the votes were tallied, my chili had won not only the non-traditional category, but the big trophy too boot! (see picture).
As usual, there were rumblings about ballot-stuffing. I say that no one prevented them from spending all the money that they would normally donate toward the holiday family in December in October on chili voting. Plus, my chili got 95 votes. I know that I did not 1) spend $95 dollars; or B) even put all of my votes into my pot - I shared some with Ashley and I put some in Deborah's Buffalo Wing Chili (I got the recipe, BTW) which was terrific and won it's category. Therefore, other people must've voted for my chili!
I did offer Ashley possession of the big trophy, but she declined. Next year, she will win. I'm sure. :)
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Friday, October 7, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
But then, what is that quote?... "When people make plans, God laughs." ?? Sigh.
You will recall that Mom and Holly were staying in dorm rooms on the campus of the University of Edinburgh. They had originally been given single rooms, with a shared restroom down the hall... typical college dorm. The plan was that when I got out we would either get another one for me or, if I wasn't up to being by myself, upgrading Mom's room to a double. Well, the Lord took care of it and the first night after sleeping in their singles, they were informed that they'd been given the wrong rooms and for their trouble of having to be moved, were being upgraded to doubles! And the doubles came with a bathroom! Praise God!
So they got me to our room, I crashed.
Monday - The rooms came with a free breakfast each morning. Breakfast like, OMG!, if I could have eaten more than 3 ounces per meal, I shudder to think of what I could have shoveled in! So after breakfast, we called the airline to confirm that they'd received the form from the doctor's office. We were told that they had not received it, but as soon as they did, blah, blah, blah. So I called the hospital to confirm that it had been sent. I had to leave a message. In retrospect, we lost an entire day on Monday because I didn't call and push enough. By the end of the day, Air Canada still didn't have the form and I needed to talk to Mrs. Gillis's secretary who had already left for the day.
Tuesday - after breakfast, I call and speak with Mrs. Gillis's secretary. She knows nothing about this, which is understandable, but will investigate. An hour later I call her back. She says she's found the form. Holly hops on the bus to go pick up a copy of the letter/form. When she gets back with the letter, Holly, who by now has cultivated a nice relationship with the ladies in the office at the University, has them fax the form. We give it about 15 minutes and call Air Canada and were told that they had not received the form, but as soon as they did, blah, blah, blah. Someone suggested that we email the form to them. So Holly went and talked her new friends into scanning the pages so we could email them. After calling the idiots at Air Canada and confirming that they had all of the pages (after multiple attempts at emailing them) and explaining that we didn't send page 5 because there was nothing on it as it was not applicable to my situation, we think we're good.
Next, we get a call from Air Canada advising that they didn't get page 5. Sigh. Yeah, we told the other lady that it was empty so we didn't send. Well, they need page 5, so we need to have the doctor write "not applicable" across it and fax it. Right, like I'm going to go bother the woman again so as to her have her write "not applicable" across of piece of paper. I made the note across the page and Holly asked her friends to scan it for emailing. About 15 minutes later, I call Air Canada and confirm that they have it...that they have ALL of the pages necessary. They did.
Next, they call to advise us that the attachments are unreadable. They couldn't have told us this before?? They want us to fax the forms to them... You mean fax the same forms which we've unsuccessfully faxed multiple times to the same number where you've NOT received them those same multiple times?? Yes, ma'am. Holly faxes the forms, but again, it's the end of the day and they've left for the day, so we're left in limbo. I contact my office here in the US and ask for information on how to contact the US Embassy in the UK for help.
Wednesday, we are fully prepared to call the Embassy (not knowing what they could do for us, but still) if we do not get help. Fortunately, along came Frieda. God bless Frieda. Frieda must've had the week off up until this point because she was a breath of intelligent fresh wind in the Air Canada office. Frieda was able to confirm that they were in receipt of the fax, all pages. Frieda had to sent the documentation to the medical office in Canada, but I conveyed our frustration with this whole process and how badly we just wanted to get home as gently as possible, and she said she'd put a rush on it so that the minute the Canada office opened (2pm Edinburgh time at the earliest), they'd look at it.
Finally, about 5pm Frieda called to advise that my flying was approved, so she transferred us to reservations. Long story short, though, there were no flights out of Edinburgh for the next week, so we had to take a train back to London, spend the night and fly out of Heathrow on Friday morning. We could do it!
Thursday, after our breakfast, we left for the train station and boarded our train back to London. This time the train ride was more enjoyable for me. The countryside as we rode by was gorgeous. Lots of cows and sheep, very lovely.
Friday, we flew home and fueled on McDonald's Sweet Tea, Holly drove us down to Evansville. It felt so good to sleep in my own bed, with my cats, that I almost cried before going to bed.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Monday - About 2:30 in the am, I woke up with such severe pain and cramping as I’d never had before, except for when I had gall bladder attacks, of course those were 11 years ago. Without getting too graphic, they were the types of cramps that make you go sit on the toilet because you feel like you have to do something, but you don’t have anything to do, but you sit there praying that something will come out, even if it’s the creature from Alien, just to ease the pain. Of course nothing does. So then you start popping pain medication, whatever is on hand, just praying that it’ll knock you out so you can go to sleep. Sleep never came, or at least not for long. I’d maybe get 30 minutes to an hour in then I’d be back crying/praying on the toilet. Enough of that… fade to the morning.
We woke up and the pain was still there, so we decided we needed to investigate a local hospital. At work we have this weird travel accident emergency coverage, and they were a big help in finding a hospital and getting us to the right place. Holly called a taxi and we were off.
Of course, the UK has socialized medicine. There won’t be any political discussion about the pros and cons here, my long term readers know that I’m not that deep. However, occasionally I may point out something… and it may be a socialized medicine thing, or it may be an England thing, but…so I sign in and sit and wait for my name to be called. It is, by the "A&E Nurse" whose sole purpose it to evaluate me to see if I’m dying and need to see a doctor now, or if I have a broken bone and, presumably get an x-ray now, or if my name goes on the list to see the doctor and I’ll have to wait about 4 hours. Fortunately, I think, by the time my name was called, the pain had eased. I don’t know what had happened, maybe the drugs had finally kicked in, but… so we decided to leave and if it got worse to come back. The four hour wait just to tell the doctor that it didn’t hurt anymore didn’t hold the appeal one might think. So another taxi ride back to the apartment – I felt foolish for dragging everyone to the hospital for nothing. I went to bed and Mom, Holly, and Haley went out to do some sight seeing as it was our last day in England.
I slept and then got up and laid on the couch and, finding that England’s daytime TV is as bad as American daytime TV, dozed until they got home. They made dinner and I nibbled a little, making this another day where I’d eaten much less than the 9 oz I’m supposed to eat each day, and went to bed with more drugs.
Tuesday – Tuesday was the day we were to leave the apartment, find a train and travel to Edinburgh, Scotland, where we’d stay for a couple of days before flying home on Friday. I woke up with pain, but it wasn’t the all-abdomen-encompassing pain from before, but localized more in the lower right region. Never having been very sure where the appendix was, I was more concerned that it was a burst cyst on an ovary or that alien baby thing. But I managed to get my morning shake down along with some eggs and more drugs and we made it to the tube, then to the train, and were off on our 4 hour ride to Edinburgh. I wish I could say I enjoyed it. The sights out the window were very pretty and had I felt better I might have dug out the camera… actually, I’m thinking maybe someone did. Hmmm.. I nibbled a little lunch and tried to drink as much water as possible having had it drilled into my head that dehydration would be BAD for me with my tiny tummy. But mostly I tried to snooze.
We arrived, found a taxi and got to the hotel. I took a shower and crawled into bed. They went to dinner, brought me back some, which I nibbled and tried to go to sleep. However by now the pain was much worse and I was feverish. So we’re up and on our way to the hospital again! The guy at the front desk called us a taxi and Mom and Holly and I were off. Unfortunately, our hotel was like as far from the hospital as possible! But we arrived at the Royal Infirmary University Medical School Hospital. We walked in the A&E area and it was so full I almost wept, but turned out all of those people were here with the patients who were in another area. Still about 10 people, but made me feel better about the possible wait. And it quickly became obvious they were doing it on a triage basis rather than first come first serve which, in my mind, bode well. It was a little over an hour before I saw a doctor, but the Tylenol PM I’d taken had kicked in and I only really hurt when I moved or someone poked me in the tum, I tried to avoid both and the wait was bearable. I’m not sure that’s spelled right.
My doctor, Dr. Hunter is/was a true dreamboat, sort of a MacDreamy. Had I not been sick, I might have attempted to sneak a pic of him with my phone. As it was, I just kick myself for not doing it when I had the chance. He was the first of many who started poking my tum – declared it an appendix and called for a surgeon to come poke on my tum. She duly showed up, poked on my tum and agreed, most likely appendix, but they’d have to admit me and let Mrs. Gillis decide how to proceed in the morning.
At this point, I should point out that although technically they speak English up here, it is so fast and with such a thick accent, I generally get about 40% of what they’re saying the first time around. Choosing items from a menu is fun, too, as I was soon to learn.
I wasn’t sure who Mrs. Gillis was, but I got that they were going to admit me, give me something for the horrible nauseau and pain, and they’d do something in the morning. So about 1am-ish, I got settled in my room. Mom and Holly were able to go home and get some rest.
Wednesday – My first real day in a Scottish hospital. First thing I noticed was that there doesn’t appear to be a division of labor among the nurses. I may be wrong, but using my most recent experience in comparision, at St. Vincent’s certain nurses brought me meds, certain one got me drinks, and no nurses changed my bed linens, that was like a tech or something. Here the same nurses do it all. Also, no private, or even semi-private rooms. You’re in a "ward" of four people… think like in Harry Potter only without the pretty view. Well, actually I have a nice view, we must be on the 2nd or 3rd floor looking over the parking lot, but of course all I can see from my bed is blue sky, fluffy clouds and tree tops. The tea trolley shows up first – I was on no food or drink by mouth, which was fine as I hadn’t eaten much over the past several days. My roomies all got tea. Then a few minutes later the breakfast trolley rolls thru with porridge, rice krispies and corn flakes – again nothing I could eat even if I wanted or was allowed.
About 9:45, we meet the infamous Mrs. Gillis. Turns out she’s the dean of surgery at this medical school and she has a gaggle of doctors and nurses following her and writing down everything she says. Sort of like House only prettier and nicer… although I do like House a lot. She pokes around on me and agrees it’s appendix and says to get me a CT scan and then we’ll see what we see, but odds are, surgery will be today or this evening. So, 9:45, right? Everybody says it’s appendix, right? These things burst and get infected goo all over the place and cause problems, right? So, being an American with an American mind-set, I’m thinking probably by 11am for the CT. Nope. They came and got me at 3:15 pm. I had been on the list and had to wait my turn. The only people who didn’t have to wait were emergencies coming through the A&E. Sigh. Anyway, we got the CT. Everyone was relieved to see, yep, it’s the appendix, and Mrs. Gillis comes back to say surgery tonight, probably about in 3 hours… it was 5:30-6 at that point.
Then the anesthesiologiest comes to talk to me and I said something about going HOME on Friday and he and the nurse both agreed that airlines won’t fly you after having surgery in under 2-3 weeks, and that’s only IF the surgery is "keyhole" or laproscopic. If it’s the full blown surgery, it’s more like 5-6 weeks. OH, MY FREAKING LORD! I don’t want to be stuck here in Scotland for 3-6 weeks! The tears flew freely at that point because I wanted nothing more than to go home!
So Mom, Holly and Haley left for dinner, knowing it would be about 3 hours until they come and take me to surgery, and about 15 minutes later, they come to take me to surgery. I was like "what about the two gall bladders ahead of me??" because by now I knew that if there’d been a hang nail ahead of me it was going ahead of me.
Post-op – I remember someone telling me there’d been a "wee nick" in my appendix. I remember mom giving me a smooch. Then nothing.
Thursday – I wake up, in pain, thirsty, and my mouth is dry. Oh, and by the way, that "wee nick" in my appendix meant that it had burst. No one will give me anything to drink until Mrs. Gillis comes through to say it’s ok. Understood, but I was on no food and drink because I was having surgery. Now that I’ve had surgery, and I’m dying of thirst, give me something to drink!! Mrs. Gillis came through, finally about 9:15 and said yes food and drink as tolerated and a dietician would come see me to see what, if anything, could be done to help met my special nutritional needs. (Note: 48 hours later, I’m writing this and I still haven’t seen the nutritionist.) Mrs. Gillis did say that I would be able to fly after a week and that she’d write a letter to the airline okaying my travel.
Those of you who’ve read my blog for a while, will remember my crying on the toilet after my bypass surgery and my thinking it had to do with the pain and my trying not to take much pain meds..? Well, you know me, can’t teach a dumb Rose tricks. My theory is and has always been that I am too poor to risk becoming a drug addict, so I tried not to ask for much medicine. And here I was in pain, in a foreign land, with strangers seeing my butt everytime I went to the bathroom because no one in Scotland is big and they don’t have large gowns to cover my butt, and we were (are) in the hottest room in the hospital on a day that it’s a glorious 70 something outside, my mommy hadn’t called (she had, but no one told me that) and hadn’t shown up (yes, I knew visiting hours techincally didn’t start until 3, but…), so I was feeling alone and unloved and wanted my mommy. I was never so happy to see her as when she walked in. There’s just something that having your mommy by your side does for you that pain meds can’t. They’d spent all day contacting the airlines about changing Mom, mine, and Holly’s flights, and finding us someplace to stay as Thursday night was the last night at the hotel – which was fine, because it was like $40 round trip to and from the hospital.
Mom got me some more drugs and I felt much better.
Friday – more of the same, not being shy about asking for meds, feeling better except for the changing from laying down to sitting up position and the sitting up to standing positions – your average post-op. When Holly and Mom got here, they’d seen Haley off to the airport, gotten us checked out of the hotel and moved into a residence hall on the campus of the University of Edinburgh where we’ll stay until we fly out on Thursday. While they were downstairs eating dinner, they were reading the brochure on this odd machine each patient has that you can buy for 5 pounds a day access to the "Telly", films, and the internet. So when they came back up, while I was showering and getting into my cookie monster night shirt, Holly was signing me up… the internet being the big draw, as the TV here was crappy and the films aren’t that great.
After Mom and Holly left for their dorm rooms, I sat here and s-l-o-w-l-y tapped out an email to the few people whose email addresses I was sure I could remember. I swear it’s so horribly slow it almost isn’t worth it, but at least peoples were able to hear from my fingertips that I was alive, if in pain.
Well, it’s Saturday morning now, and I don’t foresee today or tomorrow being much different, other than the excitement at meal times, so this’ll be it for this blog entry. Holly tell’s me that there is internet access at the dorm, so we might figure out how to get this posted, otherwise, when we get to Indy. Mom and I’ll probably stay Friday at Holly’s house then come back down on Saturday.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
I can say that the day was beautiful and Stonehenge, up on a hill as it is, had the most wonderful breezes blowing around it. We again had the audio tour guide thingees which told us all about the three separate sets of rings which make up Stonehenge and the peoples who were responsible for the building of each of them. One thing which the audio did not give full disclosure regarding was the aliens who really built it and their motivations.
Of course we had the poor timing of missing the biggest day of the year Stonehenge-wise, which was June 21st, the summer solstice a/k/a longest day of the year. On that day, according to the guide book, they let people get up close and personal amongst the stones. Much like in Diana Gabaldon's time travel epic, Outlander, I just know that if I'd been there on that day and been able to roam amongst the stones, I know I'd have hit my head on something and when I woke up I'd be in another time with the highlander of my dreams... although now that I'm thinking about it, maybe she wasn't at Stonehenge... it isn't in Scotland. Hmm... I'm going to have to reread those things, aren't I? Sigh...
Well, sorry about the lack of content in this blog entry, so I'll try to make up for it with some more pics....
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Before setting off on the tube, we all followed the Barger Family Motto and used the facilities in the underground station. I was very impressed by the cleanliness and the fact that it was one of those toilets you think of as English. Here's a pic...
Then we rode the tube to the train station and got on. Very exciting, and comfy. We'd gotten first class tickets on the advice of some friends, and were pleased that we had. The only thing about the train ride that I didn't like was that it was over too soon. We had to ride the train for about 15 minutes, get off at another station, and get on another train for 15 minutes or so to get to Windsor. Each time we'd get comfy, it was time to switch again. But this made me look forward to our upcoming trip to Edinburgh.
We got to the train station about lunch time, so we decided to have lunch at the cafe in the station before venturing forth to the Castle. This cafe was the world's slowest restaurant. I'm pretty sure I saw the Guinness people at the table beside us taking notes. But while we waited to be served, to get our food, to get the bill, etc., the crowd was treated to some Morris dancing, an English folk dance, by some local groups.
We went to the Castle and got equipped with our audio tour telephone thingees and started the tour. The first place we saw, because it would be closing soon, was the cathedral. Photography was not allowed, but I, rebel that I am, snapped a couple of pics. This was, after all, where Chuck married Camilla.
Much like when you go to the White House you only get to see six rooms, we only got to see a small portion of the Castle, but what we saw was pretty impressive. Again, no air conditioning - or at least very ineffective air conditioning.
Mom insists that while she and I were sitting cooling off while waiting for Haley and Holly to find a restroom, that she saw a car with Kate riding in it. And I suppose it's possible, as the next day, in the paper, it showed pictures of Kate and William at Windsor awarding military medals/honors to a bunch of British soldiers who'd just returned from Afghanistan.
After seeing what we could see and visiting the ubiquitous gift shoppes, we trotted down the street to find a pub that some woman had recommended to Haley as being not just your usual touristy place. Well, she had that right! Picture this, an English pub, named Two Brewers. Outside, a bunch of people having a pint, enjoying the beautiful evening. When we get inside and look at the menu, instead of steak and kidney pie (which I really wasn't interested in anyway), we find out that the chef is Spanish and cooks in the tapas style - meaning small portions, appetizer like. AND the chef is the one who comes and takes our order, serves the food, and provides a bit of kibitzing along the way! A very enjoyable experience.
After dinner, we made our way back to the station, the underground and then home. I was pooped, I showered and went to bed. Tomorrow, after all, is another day.
did see was pretty fantastic. The gardens were amazing and I could just imagine taking a book, a lawn chair, and my drink out there and spending hours... on a cooler day. The day we were there was rather warmish... in the 80's. I know, I know... you all were sweltering in the 90's on the same day, but for London, this was rather hot!
The tour for Kensington Palace was not your usual guided tour filled with historic bits of info and such. Actually, being a fan of historic bits and such, I would have preferred that. But, what they had set up was a search for 7 Princesses who'd lived in the Palace and while you roamed from room to room to figure out the names of the princesses, you could read info on plaques and such about the princesses. Unfortunately, the rooms were too darkly lit for my myopic monocles to make out the info. Plus I was hot and sweating. I don't know if it was just me (and the impending feverish frenzy into which my vacation would spiral) or if it was the weather and the fact that the Palace just wasn't air conditioned to my preferences, but...
We had lunch at the Orangery - which was a beautiful building, built on the Palace grounds, for some Queen, used as a green house. It was at the Orangery that we had "Tea". Well, I had parts of a chicken wrap and some lemonade, but Haley, Mom and Holly shared the tiny finger sandwiches and tea and a dessert consisting of a huge baked meringue, raspberries, and cream. I stupidly didn't think to take a picture of it until after it had all been scarfed down. So I took a picture of the dessert counter as we left instead.
After spending the morning and lunch at Kensington Palace, we next walked through Hyde Park toward the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and then ultimately on to Buckingham Palace. Along the way, we walked around a HUGE pond, or lake, or I'm not sure what, and there were tons of ducks, geese, and other miscellaneous birds. They were all very friendly, posing for pics. The birds that really struck my fancy were solid black except for the Phantom of the Opera masks they wore on their face. We took a pic of them with the intention of asking Tom (the brother-in-law who knows birds, fowl and fair) what they were. We'll see if Tom can hang on to his title by identifying this bird/duck.
After leaving the pond/lake thing, we continued along the path toward the Diana Fountain. Let me just say that it was a long stinking way from where we were to this fountain. Sigh... My dogs were barking... well, not as much as they could have been had I not be wearing my good Sketchers, but still... my puppies were tiring fast... and then there was the heat. I may have lost 60-ish pounds at that point, but I still had (have) quite a bit more to mislay.
Anywho, as we continued to wander, Holly and I came across the Royal Albert Hall. Although we got a picture, we did not have time to investigate how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. Mostly because we had to get to this fountain or die trying.
After getting somewhat lost-ish, and asking for directions, we finally found the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. It was not like your average fountain, but a concrete circle on which water flowed. According to the sign at the entrance, they wanted the design to be open to all, much like the Princess. After I got over my initial what the?, I liked it. Again, I could see myself sitting on a blankie, with a book and big ol'glass of iced tea (not very British, I know) and relaxing on the grounds around it.
After a short rest at the fountain, we continued our journey to Buckingham Palace. By the end of the day, I was close to not giving a damn, but knew I'd regret not going to see it. So we continued on.
We made it, in fact, once we got on the tube to ride back, we got a bit of energy back, we decided to give the other Chinese restaurant between the station and the apartment a try for dinner. At this restaurant, I ordered my beloved chicken in garlic sauce which, in the States, comes with onions, mushrooms, celery, and water chestnuts along with the chicken in said garlic sauce. Not at this restaurant. I got a piece of chicken, white breast meat, in garlic sauce. It was good, and since I couldn't eat much of the veggies anyway, it was fine, but I still missed my crunchy veggies.
After dinner, Holly and Haley went on to hit the internet cafe and Mom and I headed home. I took a shower and hit the bed. To sleep, perchance to dream, of the exciting adventures the next day held for us..zzzzz...zz..zzz..zzz
After lunch, Holly and Haley took the camera and trekked through the "White Tower", so named because they would white-wash it every so often back in the day, and Mom and I found a bench in the sun and enjoyed the breeze. From our vantage point, we were able to see the changing of the guard (yes, I know, not THE changing of the guard, but fun to watch nonetheless!)
After an enjoyable morning and early afternoon, we finished up by getting a close-up view of the London Bridge. Now, THE London Bridge is somewhere in Arizona, of course, but this bridge looked good too. Had there been an elevator, Mom and I would have been game to go to the top and see the sights, but by this time, both of us were pooped.
Fortunately, the next item on the day's agenda was to catch a cruise up and down the Thames River to see London from that vantage point. We boarded our boat and since the weather was nippy, but not too bad, we rode the trip up the river (or maybe it was down... I get confused about that type of stuff) on the top of the boat. The trip included the comedy stylings of the first mate. He was cute and funny, so we gave him a nice tip.
We rode the boat down/up to Greenwich and since we had time before the last boat back, we got off and meandered around. Specifically, we meandered up the world's largest hill to get to the Royal Observatory so we could stand on the Prime Meridian and have a foot in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. I say this is the world's largest hill because I'm pretty sure that the bulk of the 15-ish pounds I lost while on this trip were lost going up the hill. Going down the hill was no picnic either, it was so steep you had to be careful not to pick up too much momentum lest inertia just carry you away! This picture is of the downhill trek, to give you an idea of the incline.
For dinner, we were too tired to make anything, so we stopped at the first of two Chinese places on the street between the flat and the underground station. It certainly was not Yen Ching, but it wasn't too bad. After dinner, we managed to get ourselves back to the flat and put our feet up to plan the next day's adventures.
The plan for today was to find our way to the Baker Street tube station and then go to Madame Tussauds. Of course, as a lover of mystery novels, if we'd been a little closer to 221B Baker Street, I'd have liked to go take a picture. Although I've been told that it is just a residence. However, at one of the platforms at the Baker Street station, there was a silhouette of Sherlock Holmes in the tiles. Unfortunately it was several levels below where we were, so Holly and Haley agreed to run down there and get a pic or two! Now, outside of the Baker Street station, there was a Sherlock Holmes statue. He looked very, uh.. detective-like. :)
Anywho, as we walked to Madame Tussauds', we passed several souvenir shops and I purchased myself a pair of socks with the British flag on them and an umbrella (it was raining).
Having purchased our tickets the day before, we did not have to stand outside in the rain to wait our turns to enter Madame Tussauds. We did find some telephone boxes for a quick photo op, though!
We met a big group of famous people at the exhibit. Holly got her pic taken with the man of her dreams, Zach Efron. Haley and Patrick Stewart were rather chatty. Brangelina was over in the corner. In addition to a variety of celebrities, there were political figures, including Henry VIII - Haley was concerned about her neck when she was talking to him!
Holly and I had the opportunity to hang with J.T., something that I know will make everyone at work jealous!
After our adventures in King's Cross, we went to go check out Harrod's - the BIG department store where you HAVE to go. Well, we went, but I must say that everything was incredibly overpriced - for example, Mom and I went to the cafe inside and her Pepsi (made with real sugar, BTW, not the fake stuff she's used to) was 4 pounds and 25p. My bottle of water (in a real glass bottle) was 4 pounds 50p. That's about a $7 bottle of water, there. The one part that I did want to see was the memorial that Dodi Al Feyad 's father had put up for him and Diana. A little cheesy, but not near as cheesy as the statues of both of them near one of the exits.
Mom and I got up early, drove to Indy in the Party Van, stopped and picked up Haley, then headed to Holly’s. We pottied at Holly’s and grabbed Duncan and were off like a herd of turtles. We stopped at Dairy Queen to get ice cream and give Natalie a hug good-bye and we were off!… like a herd of turtles.
At the airport, we gave Duncan goodbye smoochies and he drove off in the Party Van. Next, checking in and security.
Now, being a full-time viewer of The Daily Show and the Colbert Report, I knew all about these new full-body scans that they do now, but what were the odds, right? Well, Rose’s odds on this trip, as you will learn by continuing to read the never-ending saga of this trip, were just right every time. Yep, I got pulled aside to go through the full body thing. I thought about yelling "Hey, don’t look at my junk" at them, but #1, I wasn’t sure if, as a female, I had junk… and #2, I didn’t want to spend my two-week vacation in the pokey. I did ask my usual, whether or not I could have a copy for my Christmas cards, but I was told that no one could see the scans… not even them. Which really made me want to inquire as to the point, but… (see #2 above). So I was through security and attempting to get my shoes back on when someone realized that my bag wasn’t there – and another guard comes up to me to ask it if it is mine. Turns out that the box of Cream of Wheat that we’d packed looked suspicious. Imagine what their reactions could have been (see #2 above) – mom just poured it all into a ziploc baggie (yes, an off-white, powder-like substance, in a baggie) – I’m the one who insisted on putting the baggie back into the box! Fortunately, me and the Cream of Wheat must’ve looked innocent enough because we finally made it onto the plane to Toronto.
In Toronto, we had to go through customs and the moment I’d been waiting for finally arrived. I was going to get a stamp in my passport!! Wait a minute… he told me I could go on through. What about my stamp!? I the guy if I couldn’t have a stamp… he said sure and gave me a stamp. Rather anti-climactic and unfulfilling, but it was still a stamp. Whoo hoo!
The flight to London was supposed to leave at 8:30 p.m. I don’t think we even got called to board until almost 10! But once we got settled, we were on our way to London!
The plane was nice, each seat had a video monitor on it and you could watch TV or movies or whatever from it. During the 6-7 hour flight, I watched Rango (animated with Johnny Depp) and Hall Pass (not worth my time figuring out what to put here, but it was better than Rango.) One unexpected nicety was that we were served dinner. Who serves food on planes anymore? After two crappy movies and a rather fitful nap, we arrived in London Heathrow at 9:30 AM.
First, customs and the receipt of another stamp in Ye Olde Passport. Again, not as exciting as I'd hoped, but we were now officially on the Mother Ship! Pretty exciting.
Our first task was to get to the apartment (or the "flat") we'd rented for the week. We found the underground or "tube" and hopped on. Heathrow and our apartment were situated in the southwestern quadrant of the metropolis that is London. And the apartment was about 7-8 blocks (not sure that their definition of "block" is the same as ours, but...) from the closest tube station and going to the apartment, it was mostly downhill. The apartment was the lower floor of a two-story house. I think if we'd had the whole house, it would have been much likek the Dursleys' house in the Harry Potter movies - it even had a cupboard under the stairwell where we could have locked an unwanted relative for the evenings. As it was, it was a little smaller than we anticipated, considering there were four of us, but we were only there for the evenings, so didn't find it to be a problem. The wireless internet was not working, however, that we considered that to be a problem. Especially since I knew my beloved fans would be concerned if they did not hear from me. hmpf...
Anyway, I took a shower and a short nap - not sure what the others did, but then we decided to set out in search of sustenance and then to go see London from the London Eye. So we took the tube to the appropriate station and then took a wrong turn upon leaving the station. However, we could not complain as we discovered and had our first real "English" meal in a pub - the Camel and Artichoke. The inside was very reminiscent of the Jungle in downtown Evansville, for those who know what I'm talking about. And the food was very good. Holly had the ubiquitous fish and chips. I had a grilled chicken Cesaer salad of which I could only eat three ounces, of course. The great part came when I asked for a 'to-go' box for the remainder of my chicken and, after waiting about 15 minutes, the waitress came back with a plastic container!
The British Airways London Millenium Eye is a giant ferris wheel type of ride that was built for London's 2000 celebration. When you get on the ride, it takes about 30 minutes to make the entire circuit - while riding the Eye, you get a fabulous view of the bulk of the city or at least the buildings/sites on or near the Thames River. We were fortunate to have very nice weather and and we rode the Eye taking plenty of pics. I can't post all of the pics on this blog, of course, so I will try to post a representative selection and if you want to see the full photographic travelogue, you are encouraged to become my fiend on Facebook where all of the pics will be posted.
After the Eye, we hit the ever-loving gift shop, or maybe even two! And then we trotted back to the tube station and found our way back to the apartment about 9pm... and it was still daylight! What's up with that?!