Sunday, May 20, 2007

And at the end...

I know I haven't written since I've been back. After the jetlag let go, I was faced with yet another unscheduled hospital visit for my mom. She was admitted on Tuesday with a high temp. I know she's frustrated because she doesn't feel like she's ill enough right now to be stuck in that hospital room, but after her last infection they're not taking any chances.

I've been tossing the idea around in my head for a while of throwing a party for my mom to celebrate kicking cancer's ass. The theme, I know, is going to be Asian to highlight the wonderful paper crane project she's undertaken. She received 1000 paper cranes from her amazing friends at work in accordance with Japanese custom. My mom, who has taken every opportunity during this struggle to create postitive things out of an impossible situation, worked with the hospital to get the cranes into the children's cancer ward to give them hope as well. I've been in her room when she's talked to counselors, nurses, doctors, anyone... who would listen to her idea of spreading hope through these cranes...

Back to the party. I have been so impressed with the people in my mom's life who have done so much to help her get through all her treatments, hospital stays, infections, ICU visits, difficult recoveries at home.. I just had to do something. So I'm throwing a party! A thank you party for everyone who has shown there love for my mom because she deserves it. She's just that wonderful...

But at the same time as we're shaking our heads wondering how all these people could do so much for one person, we've definitely discovered who true friends are. It is amazing the people who disappear when something like Lukemia strikes. My mom's closest colleague at work, her oldest friend.. Where are they?

And one of the things that has amazed me is how some of my girlfriends stepped up. I've had a lot of time over the last 7 months to think about why people react the way they do.. And on a selfish note, I've been thinking about how wonderful my girlfriends are and how much I love them. Bec has visited my parents, sent magazines to keep my mom entertained, constantly checked to see how I was dealing, and she even got her parents involved. They sent cards to my mom! Not that I should be surprised because they're amazing people... And then there's my girlfriends who moved far away. Not only did KC send her well-wishes, she comissioned her awesome mama to make some meals when things were rough. And Jen, my oldest friend, sent my mom DVDs to make the hospital more tolerable and she and her boyfriend not only visited with my mom, but her bf took it upon himself to get involed in the paper crane project! He's responsible for the paper crane decoration my mom has in her hospital room right now, and I hear he's making some decorations for our party. Hope this guy sticks around! Love him.

And then there's Kel. Everyone who reads Kel's blog knows that she's a giving person, but with my mom.... I just don't know what to say. She's made meals. She's crafted gifts. But most of all, she's just been there. For me and my mom. I don't know how many times she's been to the hospital, but I have a feeling by reading on her blog about her 'friend Judy' that its more times than I know. I just don't know what to say about that.

I guess my point with this is that even though I know my girlfriends have done these things because my mom is such a good person, I really do think they've done it because they love me. And I'll be forever greatful that I have such good friends...

Monday, May 07, 2007


My stomach is having flashbacks to the England trip of January 2005. Ohhhh. Just goes to show even countries as similar as your own can disagree with your stomach. Maybe I needed more beer today.

So for my last free day of this England trip I decided to go to Bath. Of all the places I've visited on this trip, this is the only one that is a tourist attraction per se. So, for the whole weekend, this is the first day I actually heard some American accents. It was a nice change. And it was nice to not have English people reacting like they'd never seen an American before like they have been the rest of the weekend...

I wasn't as camera-happy today simply because I've been here before, and my whole purpose for visiting was to soak it all in. So I walked about 5 miles of hills today visiting every major thing in Bath, but taking back-roads so I could see things I've missed in the past.

I find that when I'm alone walking around major tourist places like this, people tend to think I'm not a tourist. I got asked for directions many times today! And for the most part I could point people in the right direction! Not hard though, because I swear Brits are awesome about signage. Its hard to get lost here.

The day started off miserable and rainy but cleared up beautifully. Here's what I

Pulteney Bridge. Its one of the most photographed in the world! And for good
reason. Right near where I'm standing are the Roman Baths that the town is named for. Ryan and I took the tour a few years ago and it is a must see! Right next door to there is Bath Abbey. Next, lunch at an English pub, then I stumbled around the corner and found a Parisian market going on. They had all these wonderful stands full of produce (pink garlic! gorgeous asparagus! biggest grapes I've ever seen!), piles of fresh cheese, bins full of candies, fresh bread and pastries... It was gorgeous. I got my mom a Mother's Day gift here. Shhh, don't tell her.

Kept walking and ended up in The Circus. It is a completely round block of houses built in 1754 and designed by John Wood the Elder. It was designed to look like a turned inside-out version of The Collesium in Greece. In 1942 a bomb was dropped into The Circus. Its since been fixed. Crazy!

Right around the corner is a masterpiece designed by John Wood's son, John Wood the Younger. (original names, huh?) That tree right in the middle is in front of The Royal Crescent Hotel, which you can stay in for $1000 per night. A steal! Here it is:

For that picture I'm standing in Royal Victoria Park, opened by 11 year-old Princess Victoria in 1830. It has, hands down, the best playground I've ever seen. I'd never walked in the park before. Its beautiful! And because of the holiday weekend there was a flower show going on. English people love their gardens.

On my way back to find a phone for my call home to Ryan for the day, I stumbled across this garden in the back of one of the Circus houses. Gorgeous, eh??

That's it for me. I'm back to work tomorrow, so you're off the hook as far as pictures go. Off to take some stomach meds and hit the hay. Ohhhhh.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Here Comes the Sun?

England showed its true colors today with a little rain. I knew the sunshiny weather was too good to be true. Not that it stopped me! More fun accounts of touring in England? Yes please!

But first...

"Hi. My name is Amanda. I'm a pictureholic"
"Hi Amanda!"

I'm warning you, this post is going to be as picture-heavy as the last. In the last 2 years or so I've started looking at the world through a lens, and when I'm all on my own, its just that much easier to use the camera as a crutch. My traveling companion. So prepare yourself (although I did take like 100 pictures today, so consider yourself lucky!).

I fit so much in today! I started off with breakfast. Wait! Before you click to another website, I swear I'm not giving you that kind of detail. Just wanted to show you my breakfast companions:

This momma duck and her babies thought my scrambles eggs and 'brown' bread looked better than their own breakfast.

Off we go! First stop Lullworth Castle. I chose this first because I really had to pee when I started getting close, and this was the first available bathroom. Turns out I got lucky two days in a row! Because of the bank holiday Lullworth Castle was having a special event today. They had this massive scale Civil War reinactment going on! 100s of people in period costumes who had set up an actual camp w/ fires for cooking, kids running around with wooden swords, women painting, people playing
old instruments, presentation of the troops to the master of the castle, cannons firing... I swear it was like I stepped back in time. Add to it the accents and I swear it was like I woke up today and was back in time. Surreal. Here's some pictures for you:

Here is one of my favorite pictures. I swear it was like I was strolling through the English countryside in 1650 and happend across 2 men and their dog.

Lullworth Castle also had an Animal Park where kids could play with sheep, birds, pigs etc.

After eating in a pub nearby that was full of guys in their costumes taking a break (again, descriptives about a meal, sorry. But it was like eating in a pub full of drunk men in the 1600s! so weird...) I headed to the coast. Last time I was here I kept meaning to go see Durdle Door, a huge rock structure of softer rock worn away by
time until it had a little door through it.

It was so pleasant out (read: not raining anymore) that I plopped myself at the top of a cliff with my book and enjoyed the sounds of the waves and the crazy Brits swimming in the freezing ass cold water.

Oh, but we're not done there! Its easier to fill every second of the day so I'm not hanging out in my hotel drinking beer alone (who are we kidding?! that's totally what I'm doing RIGHT NOW). I drove East to visit Corfe Castle. I knew this was actually the ruins of the castle, but I wasn't prepared for how gorgeous and magical it would be. Corfe Castle is 1000 years old. Can you imagine? "Old" houses in Phoenix were built in 1970. America's got nothing on England's history. Corfe Castle survived many attacks over hundreds of years, was lived in by kings, and has in its history poisonings, stabbings, and other scandelous things. In 1646 the Parliamentarians blew it up. I don't know who they are, but that's insane. What a waste. What's left is
magical. Again I felt thrown back in time. I was a little girl running through ruins of a castle. With a camera. I wish these pictures were better. I wish they showed how magical it is...

Ok, I'll wrap it up. Its 10:40 here, and I'm 3 Boddingtons and a Pizza Hut pizza in. I'm off to Bath tomorrow. Its one of my favorite places in the world. Too bad its supposed to be pouring... Cheers!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Barenaked Motoring Part 2

My favorite thing about England is the driving. I know a lot of people are nervous about the 'wrong' side of the road thing, and I was too, but once I got over that I just loved it. You just have to go for it! Drive like you know what you're doing! People here are much more confident in their driving, and they really work together to keep everything running smoothly. Most towns in England have roads that are barely wide enough for one car, let alone two. And even if there is room for two, people usually park in one lane. And those are the good roads! I was on roads today that literally have two groves for two tires, and then hedgerows on either side. The excitement comes in not knowing when another car is going to come! Zoom and pray!!

So today I took my people mover out for an adventure. Here she is. Isn't she silly? They call her a 'people mover' because she's so BIG compared to the other cars out here. SUVs? What's that? She's got a sunroof that's half the top of the car! Perfect for a rare sunny day in England. The other day I sent this site to my girlfriends to show them what I was driving, and Bec pointed out that it described my England car thus: "Engines are smooth and quiet, while ride is supple." Supple indeed!

After a heavenly breakfast at my fancy hotel, I headed out into the country searching for rapeseed fields. It wasn't long until I found them!!

After braving the farming roads for my rapeseed pics, I headed to Stourhead House and Gardens. A guy at work here told me that it was known for being one of the most beautiful gardens in England, so I knew I had to check it out. Turns out today was the annual Festival of Voices. I couldn't have been any luckier. The place was magical. There were flowers in bloom everywhere, and as I walked the 2.5miles around the lake in the gardens there were singing voices drifting out over the water. Every once in a while I'd catch music like magic across the lake. The Stourhead House was nice and full of centuries-old furniture and paintings, but its the Gardens people go for... Here's the house and the stable house:

In the 'Garden' (which is actually more like a massive landscape park) Henry the Magnificant (named such because of his garden!) recreated his favorite Italian architecture. There's the Temple of Flora, the Pantheon, the Temple of Apollo, Gothic ruins, and a grotto. Here's some pictures:

I mentioned it was a special Festival day due to the bank holiday this weekend. Well there were about 20 different choral groups that were rotating between designated areas throughout the park. I was having so much fun I totally bagged the rest of my plans for the day, grabbed a sandwich (farm fresh eggs!) and lounged on the grass with the hundreds of adorable British families that came out to enjoy the Festival and the beautiful weather. I made friends with a duck who literally poked at me to try to get me to feed him. The whole thing was just perfect. I spent 2 hours munching, reading my book, listening to music, and watching cute little proper English kids
running around. This was my view at lunch. Choir on bridge and Pantheon bulding on the other side of the lake....

Since I stayed so long soaking up the sun and English air, I bagged going to Bath. Instead I headed to Glastonbury. I'll save those pictures for tomorrow... seeing as this post has gotten really picture-heavy as it is.

But for now, just wanted to show you how my day ended. My perfect husband (*sniff* miss him!) figured out how to send me flowers! And because I had such good company all of a sudden, I decided to order room service. A big ole burger and fries with Boddingtons beer. Perfect end to the perfect day.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Self Awareness

I've had to learn to be alone. Everyone always talking about needing 'me time', but I never was one of those people. When Ryan started firefighting I found myself single half the time. Cooking for one, sleeping alone, talking to my dogs... But that was just dealing with being alone. When I was in England for the 3 months in 2005, I had to learn to like being alone. And I got there eventually after many tearful phone calls home. I mean really, what was my choice? I would have been miserable if I'd just given into the loneliness. So I learned to find cafes with a good view, pack a good book, and really take my time with my meals instead of rushing so I could escape feeling like everyone was watching the poor lonely girl. And I finally got to the point where I was purposely ditching my coworkers so I could be alone and anonymous in a restaurant somewhere.

But when it comes down to it, I really would much rather be with someone I love. My husband, my girlfriend, my mom...

I was sitting in a restaurant tonight listening to people laughing with their friends over drinks, parents and children shaking off the week with a nice family dinner, English men drunkenly laughing and stumbling down the street with their friends... and that sucks. It is good to have 'me' time, but much better to have 'us' time.

And now I'm sitting in my new hotel room with a beer. I couldn't even bring myself to sit at the hotel bar for fear that I'd run into fake conversation that would make me feel all that much more alone.

This weekend I've got some big plans, and they all involve places where I can take pictures. I really considered Paris (sorry girls!), but the English countryside is intoxicating. The idea of getting in my Picasso 'people mover' with the sunroof and just driving... Sounds like heaven. My plan for tomorrow: hunt down some rapeseed fields (they're in bloom and GORGEOUS right now), go to Stourhead, known for having one of the most gorgeous gardens in England. And 'garden' here really means miles of walking paths through gorgeous gardens and around a lake. I'm doing that tomorrow because its the only day that promises sunshine this weekend. Bummer, huh? Then I'm off to Bath. Yeah sure, I've been there many times before, but when you love a place... And I do love Bath. (England tip: If you come to England, limit your time in London to the British Museum and quickly looking at the major sites, then take a train to Bath! You won't regret it...)

I'm trying not to be down about being here because I know I'm lucky. And I know it comes off as slightly snotty to complain about being here when some people dream of coming, but still... Nothing beats home.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A British Chimp in a Bar

Ten points if you can name that band!

Ahh yes, here I am. In England. But you know what? WEEEEEE! I'm having an AWESOME time now. I switched hotels! I'm staying in a super new, super nice hotel. Let's compare the differences:

-Bed that sags and smells like sweat VS. COMFY COMFY bed w/ duvet and fluffy pillow
-Shitty carpet with stains, outdated creaky furniture VS. 6 month-old contemporary furniture and decorations
- Working out to Billy Blanks on my computer but skipping the kicking and jumping parts due to the teeny room and squeeking floors VS. state-of-the-art workout equipment in a gym supplied with free waters and a nice TV
- Shitty bar vs. bar with lots of beer (I should have put this one first, of course)

Need I go on? This hotel is awesome! And I just walked to a skittles pub (skittles is a super fun game involving drinking and sorta bowling) and had sundried tomato, artichoke and wild mushroom risotto with basil pesto on top. And a Guiness. Which really is better here.

Well, coincidentally (swear, didn't plan this at all), but the UK has a bank holiday monday. Meaning, I can't go to work! Poor me! Free 3-day weekend! I do, technically have to work on Monday, but I'll do some touring too. My plans: Bath (love!), 2 castles, the coast, and possibly Stratford-Upon-Avon (although its super far). My girlfriends are voting Paris by train, but now I've got this kick-ass hotel and all... And I don't think I really want to go to the City of Love without my hubby...

Anyway, no good pictures because I've been working too much, but tons over the weekend! My plan tomorrow night is to take myself to this chain restaurant in town that's participating in the week-long real ale festival. Bet you didn't know there's a difference between REAL ale and the other stuff, huh? I didn't either! But I'm going to find out by the pint tomorrow!

Night night!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Wish you were here....


That right there? Is delirium. I'm sitting at my little desk in my teeny tiny British hotel room (I think they call this 'country quaint'?) trying to get a handle on my
swimming brain. I left Phx and my happy life on Sunday night after a tearful goodbye to my hubby. After checking in and heading up to the business class lounge (I know, spoiled) I was promptly upgraded to First Class! You have to capitalize First Class because it is JUST THAT AWESOME. (although I'm thinking I'm the only person who was watching The Incredibles in First. All those other saps were actually WORKING while I was living it up.) Imagine being pampered, then times it by 5. Awesome I tell you, and with my soft First Pillow, comfy First duvet, and roomy First bed in my First cubby after drinking First wine and letting First chocolates melt in my mouth, I slept like a baby for a record 5 hours. I was SURE I was going to miss out on the jet lag insanity.

Skip ahead to last night. Picture me waking up at 11:45pm and alternating crying, calling family (called Ryan an obsessive 3 times) and generally freaking out until 3:30am. When it comes to International travel, the nighttime is my enemy. I dread it. Even now I'm so exhausted I can't think straight, its 9:15pm, and I just can't bring myself to get ready for another night of homesickness and sleeplessness.

To add to that, the reason I couldn't fall asleep at all is because my father wrote me a
slightly berating email (just a tad, because I hadn't called to tell them I got here). Oh and by the way? They decided to admit your mom to the hospital today for more chemo. That right there is what made me so incredibly apprehensive about this trip. My mom. She would hate it that I'm so stressed about it, but I have this huge guilt hanging on my shoulders today over the fact that I agreed to be here when really I should be at home taking my turn next to her bed.

Ok, besides that. Here's the good: I just got back from the most delicious dinner at
my most favorite restaurant here in England. The Helyar Arms prides itself on making gourmet food from products from the surrounding farms. Oh my goodness.... So tonight I had myself creamy leak and potato soup with a granary roll and a salad that had fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh goat cheese, lettuce, red onion, and dressings on the side to choose from topped with toasted bread. I was one of the only people in the restaurant, but I really wanted to take a picture of my food for you. So here you go. Crappy pictures because I'm trying my hardest to take the picture while the staff wasn't looking. Seriously worst pics ever, but whatever. Anyway....

The bad: my hotel can bite me. It was the only hotel available so I was kind of stuck. I have a twin-sized bed in an outdated room that smells like smoke. The hotel is known for their restaurant, but when I went downstairs last night I realized that I was SORELY under dressed. I ended up eating outside on a picnic table like a uncouth freak.

The good: I think I might get some good work done here. AND, I've managed to book myself at the fanciest hotel in town (comfy beds! gym equipment!) for 5 nights. Hopefully they'll have an opening so I can stay the whole rest of my trip. But it looks like I'm going to have 4 different hotels right now. Anyway....

I'm dying to show you pictures of the INSANITY that Ryan and I participated in on Saturday last weekend. Curious? Here's something to get you thinking until tomorrow (and I'll also tell you that 3 people in our group got tickets, and another was picked up by the police in his speedo about 5 miles away from where the rest of
us were. Awesome. hehehe):

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    I'm Amanda. I'm an engineer in an industry full of men, a professional wedding and family portrait photographer, a firefighter's wife, a traveler, and a dogMa.

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