Friday, July 27, 2012

House of the Lord

Well we wandered all over London and Paris looking at great old buildings that the folks had built to glorify their God’s, but we are home in the place he built for himself.

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This was our view out the window when we awoke this morning and although we had a great holiday it sure is nice to trade in the roar of traffic and the gabble of the crowds for the sounds of deer slipping through the dew and the ponies munching on green grass. I think I will just go out and go for a walk and not worry about dodging cars, buses and hordes of folks hurrying one way or the other.

We have a few more rounds to cut on the lawn as you can see and it has been growing pretty quickly while we were gone so it might take a while to get it back under control but hopefully the John Deere’s are up to the task. Once we get the yard back in shape we are loading up and heading west with our ponies for a few days of peace and quiet at the Yaha.

Oh I forgot we put that little garden statue here at Dogpound North while we figure out where it should really fit in.

Venus does Dogpound

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Back in the Commonwealth

Well we had a great trip over to the continent and really enjoyed our time in Paris, but it is always good to come home too. Well not our own home but Canada is a member of the Commonwealth and as the biggest country in that group of nations we hold a special place in the hearts of our British hosts. We were welcomed back at our hotel and especially our favourite restaurant, Bar Remo, with open arms. You’d almost think we were family there, last night every member of the staff was out to great us and the drinks and appy’s were flowing fast and free. We won’t leave this place without going there once more anyway.

Once again we tore across France on the Eurostar and just a couple of hours after a breakfast of croissants, we were back in the land of English Bobbies and Fish and Chips. They are getting ready to host the Olympic Games here starting Friday so things are starting to hop all over the city. Luckily we get out of town the night before that happens but we have a busy week ahead of us making sure we do and see everything we want to as it might be awhile before we are back.

Tuesday Brenda drug me kicking and screaming back to the British Museum, well I wasn’t really kicking and screaming, but it was her idea to go, much to my surprise as we had already been there once and it is usually me who wants to hit all the museums. The fellow who guided our tour at Stonehenge had told her about some exhibits there so off we went to check that he wasn’t pulling her leg.

Our hotel here on the north side of Hyde Park is pretty conveniently located so we have been walking most places and this morning was no different although we did catch the train part way back when we were finished as it had warmed up quite nicely while we were in the museum. Another great part of this spot is the fact that Hyde Park is directly across the street from us so it is a great place to go for a relaxing wander.

DSCF0602 Yesterday, Wednesday, I walked over to the Natural History Museum and what a great place that it is. There is everything under the sun under their roof. Both a geological history of the world as well as a collection that must encompass most of the species of critters who have inhabited this place over the centuries, some long extinct and others like Man, who are still pretty abundant. I got there early so the crowds were not bad at all, although when I left there were getting to be a few too many of this species around the place.

Since we have come back to London we have seen two more musicals, Blood Brothers and my favourite all time musical, The Phantom of the Opera. Both were as good as advertised and we have throughly enjoyed our cultural education. Not to much opportunity to hit the “theatttre” at Dogpound North, or for that matter Dogpouind South either.

We are off this morning on that quest for the world’s greatest grilled cheese and then it is off to the airport for our flight home. Hopefully we will get clear of this spot before to many of the expected 1 million visitors arrive for the Olympics.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Shopping in Paris

Remember the last entry we were looking at a little summer place here in Paris, well we thought we should kinda of spruce the place of with some homey touches so we headed out today to find some of those hidden treasures that would kind of make it OURS. First off we thought we should find some pieces to put around the back yard and although it was a little damaged we figured we could get this one at a decent price at a scratch and dent sale.

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Then we needed to pick up something for a bare spot on the wall in the back kitchen and found this little portrait of someone's grandma that kinda of fit the bill.

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There was an almost unlimited selection at this little market called the Louvre but it was a little crowded there, 24,000 folks a DAY go through the place. We actually had a guided tour of the place and was that ever worth the money. Our guide got us around through the mobs and we got to see some pretty cool art up close and actually have someone who knew what they were looking at explain it to us. The little painting above was done by an Italian fellow who also painted a few church ceilings back home, his home, in Italy, and had a commission to do this portrait of someone's wife but just one of the mysteries surrounding it is that no one knows whose wife it was and obviously the fellow who commissioned it didn’t like it cause it was still in this Da Vinci possession when he died. Big mistake not picking up that little painting I am thinking.

Maybe the best part of the Louvre is not the art inside it but the museum itself is a work of art well worth the trip to see all by itself.

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It is huge and the shot above is just one of thousand of similar pictures you could take of the exterior.

Of course no trip to Paris would be complete without an ├ęclair and these were a way better than they look in the picture, I could eat a dozen all by myself, but then I would have to buy new clothes so Brenda drug me away with only one, the other one was hers.

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Today was another day to wander the city and just look at things, we walked out this morning and stopped at this restaurant for our breakfast.

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I had the Egg Benedictine and they were excellent but Brenda had plain old bacon and eggs and they were not so good, so the picture is obviously before we ate. Once that was done we strolled on up to the Notre Dame Cathedral and caught a boat along the River Seine for a look at the town from the riverside. And jumped off at the Champs Elysees where we found this fellow completing a bicycle race.

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Well I am not sure he was actually in the race but he was the first guy on a bicycle we saw on the course so in my books that makes him the winner, but I guess the rules of the Tour de France are a little different and the gang of cyclists in the pictures below (the pics below didn’t publish so maybe when we get home) came ripping by and must of passed him before he got to the finish line a couple of hundred yards away from us. And like that bullet train we were on these guys fly, they tell me they were traveling uphill towards the Arc De Triomphe at 60 km/hour (36mph) and coming back down at speeds up to 80 km/hour (50mph). Now this isn’t a big hill, I know because we strolled up there and never really even noticed the hill. But I guess when you get to the last couple of kilometers of a 3479 km, 23 day bike ride you are in pretty good shape and can really boogie along.

Of course after all this strenous bike riding that was being done right in front of our very eyes we need to get some sustenance in us and it really wouldn’t be a trip to Paris if we didn’t indulge in a Crepe or two would it.

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The top was dinner and the bottom was dessert and as you can tell I had to taste them to make sure they were worthy of getting in the blog before I took the photo’s. Let me say there was nothing left on the plates when I was done and it was only the fact that we were in a crowded restaurant that prevented me from licking my plate clean.

Now the one thing we heard over and over when we told folks we were coming to France was some concerns about the French hospitality. I am hear to tell you we have been treated royally by everyone we have dealt with here. We got here hardly knowing how to do more than say hello and thank you and each and every person we have met has helped us to understand things and were excited to teach us new words and explain things to us. Heck tonight I ordered my dinner in French and and can even get the key to our room without resorting to sign language. Don’t get me wrong I am not going to be doing the play by play for the Montreal Canadiens or anything but I won’t starve to death either. All in all our Parisian adventure has been a highlight of our trip.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Around and About in Gay Paree

We thought we had better get going today and see if there is anything to see here in Paris. Rumour has it there is some art on display and some monuments around that are worth stopping in at. We found in London that one of those Hop on / Hop off buses worked well for giving us a quick overview and from there we could stop and spend time with those things that meant the most to us. We got a three day pass for the one here in Paris and will use it as our primary mode of transportation. Although it is not as well run as the British one and really needs to have more frequent bus service it will do the trick. The language is less of a problem than we had expected, for a couple of reasons, folks here are more than willing to try and communicate with them if you make the effort, and actually find our rudimentary French quite humourous. The other thing is as Canada is officially a bi-lingual country we have been reading French on the back of our corn flake boxes and other stuff for all our lives and a lot of French words have worked there way into our minds and although we have no idea how to pronounce them a lot of times we can actually read the menu’s and street side signs quite well. Just don’t try to order arsenic and fish (poisson) in the same place.

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Our tour took us near some famous spots and although you could get a lot closer to the Eiffel Tower than this it took much better photo’s from farther away, kinda like me! Winking smile Some of these spots we will return to in the next couple of days but others will have to wait for another time. This is the Paris Opera House, really a fantastic architecturally marvel.

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Another famous spot is the Notre Dame Cathedral and if you look closely you can see Quasimodo ringing the bells in the tower.

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What?, you say you can’t see him, well I guess next time I will have to bring my big zoom lense to get those old eyes a little closer.

After we had a look around Notre Dame and ate a not bad sandwich at a very expensive roadside (smell the carbon monoxide) cafe we walked our way back towards the Montparnesse district which is where all the artistic folks including us live. Well there may be a slight difference between my writing and old Papa Hemingway’s but we are hanging out on the same streets.

On the way we stumbled on a little place that we thought would make a great summering spot for us and our horses. Just enough grass to keep them happy and a few rooms for Brenda to keep busy decorating, and unlike Dogpound South not much dust.

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Now if I can just get those pesky French Senators to vacate the joint.

Oh and a ride our friend Rod, should keep the rain off and he does like that German engineering, but I am not sure Loyce will think much of the rumble seat.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Okay Paris it is Then!

After spending almost ten days in London we were ready for a little change of scenery. Kind of get away from all the hubbub of London. We hopped on the Eurostar and tore off for the continent for a little visit. And when I say tore off I mean tore off, that things cruises somewhere around 300 km/hour or 186 mph for those imperial measure folks. That’s moving right along, we paralleled a highway for a while and those folks looked like they were parked. It also travels through a tunnel about 50 odd kilometers long or 30 miles under the English Channel. I’m thinking when my grandfather fought his way across France in WWI with the cavalry it probably took him months if not years to get to Paris, for us the journey was just over two hours.

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And who says the French are rude, even the TV was glad to see us come to visit.

We have just strolled around the neigbourhood a little and discovered a likely looking Italian restaurant just down the street. We looked at a few French restaurants but my French is pretty rusty, or non-existent, and both my stomach and my mind know enough Italian to know what I am eating. But we will see if we get adventurous.

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Above is a shot of the boulevard just down the street and below is our hotel, we are the window center left, two floors above the bar sign. Nice room if a little small, but that is the norm over here.

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I took these shots below for Retired Rod, in this part of the world the scooter guys don’t wave at the Harley folks and they far outnumber them too.

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There are a lot of these scooters with the double fronts wheels both here and in the U.K.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rocks

Yesterday we headed off to have a look around the Tower of London. Although I have been there it was Brenda’s first visit. I am thinking she wasn’t impressed with it although the Crown Jewels did catch her eye. Legend has it that as long as the Ravens nest in the Tower the monarchy will be safe and these characters look like they know just how important they are.

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Although they are free to roam the grounds just to ensure that nothing comes of the legend their wings are clipped and a couple of their mates are kept caged while the others wander the grounds. Now any gin drinkers out there will recognize this fellow, but he and his partners actually function as guards and tour guards around the Tower.

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These Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters) are all formerly senior non-commissioned officers with at least 22 years of service in the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth Realm. Guess if I headed home joined the army, served my 22 years, I could just possibly become the first Canadian as well as possibly the oldest Beefeater ever.

And last night we took in another musical at the Apollo Theatre, this one called Wicked. It was excellent as we had heard and well worth attending.

Today was a tour day, we hopped on a bus and headed out on a trip to see the sights beginning with Windsor Castle the oldest and largest working castle in world today. It is the weekend residence of Queen Elizabeth and has many State Rooms that are still used on special occasions. The private apartments take up about 35% of the castle and a large part of the rest is accessible to the public on tours. Security is very airport like to get in but once in it is a beautiful spot. This is a garden in an old moat.

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We only spent a couple of hours here and then we were off to another famous spot. Stonehenge and nobody, not even me, have any idea what in the world all these rocks are piled up here for.

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I am certain it made a lot of sense to someone 3 or 4 thousand years ago, as some of the rocks were hauled a couple of hundred miles, but they didn’t leave the secret behind with anyone so theories abound, from religious to aliens, and I guess I will just have to keep pondering it for awhile more.

From here we hopped back on our bus and headed over to Oxford. Not surprisingly like a lot of college towns there are a lot of young folks around although I am thinking most of them were like us, tourists, rather than students. So now when anyone asks we will be able to say “We went to Oxford” and leave it at that. Below is just a picture of the English countryside.

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Tomorrow we jump on the Eurostar and tear off for Paris for a few days so if I can figure out the French internet that will be where you hear from us next.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Just Hangin’

The last couple of days we have just wandered around town and had a look at some of the sights. The highlight yesterday was a trip down to Trafalgar Square and Canada House.

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Sharing the square with Canada House is the National Portrait Gallery home to many of the Old Masters. I am sure we walked by many millions if not billions of dollars worth of paintings but not to many would have made it onto the walls at Dogpound North or South, but interesting nevertheless. We also walked down to visit with the Horseguards and get the mandatory picture with them.

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So that horse is looking like he is saying “So what’s with the Canadian Cowboy in Queen Elizabeth's court?” Pretty quiet horses as there were literally hundreds of folks swarming around petting and getting their pictures taken with him. We continued our walk on around the Buckingham Palace to get a few more of those required pictures and do a little visiting.

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Well Liz must have heard we were in town so she told the boys to make sure the gates were locked.

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And another gated neigbourhood along our trail today.

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Down at the end of this street is #10 Downing Street, the residence of the Prime Minister of Great Britain. An unfortunate side effect of the world we live in, the last time I was down this street in 1993 I am sure you could walk almost right by the door.

DSCF0130 I am throwing this fellow in here for Judy, I am guessing some kind of coot but pretty cool feet whatever he is.

Today we wandered down the road to the British Museum, keeping in mind that the English have been plundering the world for hundreds of years this museum has some 8 million items on their books. I suppose the fact that some of the things were rescued from rubbish heaps and road building materials can help you get used to the fact that they drug them all home to show to the world.

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And lo and behold they had an exhibition on the horse, what a coincidence we like horses. It was mainly about the development of the Arabian horse and subsequently the Thoroughbred and was called from Arabia to Royal Ascot. Pretty interesting exhibit but not a lot of photo ops.

On the way back we stopped at our now all time favourite Italian restaurant “Bar Remo” for a spot of lunch/dinner, once again a great meal. We are becoming regulars in this little out of the way spot and the owner showed his gratitude for our business by buying a drink for us after dinner. We saw these two guys working away in the kitchen getting our meals ready as the door swung open.

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Great cooks they are if a little rough looking. And tonight we took another stroll around Hyde Park and enjoyed the Kensington Gardens on our way home.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Zooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom!

That about describes the speed of life here in London. From the traffic to the tube everything is zooming by at breakneck speed. Today we took a run down towards the Tower of London and got on one of the riverboats there and headed back up towards Westminister, the parliament buildings.

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It was pouring rain but that didn’t stop the few hundred school kids from enjoying the trip with us. Seems like they are all on tour from various parts of the world. These fellows are patrolling the river already preparing for the Olympics soon to come.

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And as we cruised up the Thames who was out to wave hello at us but Liz and the kids.

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Darn I have to learn how to use this new camera it seems to take years off of folks every once in a while, but I can never get it to do it to me.  Winking smile

Once we got done with that we hopped back on our old friend the Big Bus and headed over to the Apollo Theatre to see about tickets for the show “Wicked”. More on that in a few days. Then it was off to Piccadilly Circus and a meander up the wandering road to see if we could find an evening gown for Brenda. Well maybe not an evening gown but maybe something a little dressier for few time we are going to the THEAAAAATRE over the next week or so.

And as she wandered through the shops I hung around outside and watched the goings on on Regent Street.

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But after braving the crowds and fighting her way in and out of a few stores she thought maybe she could dress up her jeans and give the locals a new fashion look. Suits me fine as all I have is my jeans, hat and boots and a few bright coloured shirts. So it was off to what is rapidly becoming our favourite restaurant in London “Bar Remo”. We have been here twice now and the food is fabulous, fast, hot, and oh so good. The service is beyond compare and after just two visits they are treating us like old friends. Tonight Brenda had a Pizza and I had the Fusilli Provinciale, both excellent and served piping hot.

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This evening we are off to see “Chicago the Musical” at the Garrett Theatre. The show was great, it is the longest running American musical in history here in London. I am not sure if the reason is the music, the acting, or the physical fitness of the cast. We both really enjoyed the evening. While we waited for show time we took a stroll down to Trafalgar Square. This is right across from Canada House that was shown in yesterdays journal and who says cowboys aren’t common in England. They even have statues of them here.

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A lot of our travel here in London is done on the subway, Underground or Tube it is called, Those trains seem to go everywhere and do it fast. We bought a weeks pass and find if pretty handy, seems like there is always a Tube station just around the corner and once you figure out where you are and where you need to be it will whisk you at breakneck speed to your destination.

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No the picture isn’t out of focus the dang train is just moving so fast the camera can’t catch it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Big Bus Tour

Today we decided to let the driver do the work and we would just sit around and watch the scenery roll by. For the life of me I can’t imagine getting my RV up and down these streets all by myself let alone with a crowd like an Escapees rally just finished and the campground was being evacuated. Their are 20,000 taxi’s charging around London and probably hundreds of double decker buses and they were all in our way today. Nevertheless that was the drivers problem and we just rode along in the open air coach and listened to the tour guide tell us what we were seeing. We hopped off down in the West End Theatre district and grabbed ourselves a late lunch. Place call Byron Hamburgers and they did make a good burger.

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We went in and out of the City of London and past a few of these dragons that guard all the entrances into that city.

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And of course like loyal Canadians we stopped by Canada House although not for one of the famous donuts at the “Beaver Club” that used to be served there during the Second World War.

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I didn’t get any pictures, shame, but we also went by the headquarters of the world’s largest company and a huge sponsor of our trip, Shell. It is surprising to me how many folks are here and it seems like English is far from the most common language being spoken on the streets. But it just might be the places we are going are full of tourists and they are coming from around the world to enjoy the sights and sounds of London.

The shot below is of the Tower Bridge, the bridge that the rumours say McCullough actually thought he was buying to move to Lake Havasu but it is still here, McCullough denies that there is any truth to the stories. The ship just in front of it to the right is the HMS Belfast the light cruiser that fired the first shots on D-Day.

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And no trip to London would be complete without a picture of Big Ben, and just for the record I am not sure why it is not straight but they tell me that a tunnel was built under the street in front of it and the tower actually is a half metre off of vertical at the tallest part. Either that or my camera was crooked, just to drive Al nuts.

Brenda thought she better throw in this picture just to answer some comments we got yesterday.

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