Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day 5 and 6 Yorkshire – In Which Twinkies are Expensive, We Sample Cheese and the Cousins are Lovely.

1 day 5 london to yorkshire 066

While the English accent can vary noticeably from town to town, it seems that, to the English, there is just one accent for the entire land mass from the North Pole to the Mexican Border, and that accent is American. We have probably been asked a dozen times where we are from and when we say ‘Canada’, they usually nod knowingly, and then go on about America this and America that.

So far I’ve been pretty patient about it, but I might start to get annoyed, especially tomorrow on Canada Day. It’s like the woman at the grocery store:

Lady: Where you frum then luff?

Me: Canada

Lady(nodding knowingly): Yes ah thought ah heard an American accent

Me: No no I said Canada

Lady: Ah’ve bin to America ah have.

Me: Have you been to Canada?

Lady: Yes Ah’ve been to Chicago. Lovely it were.

Me: Was it windy?

Lady: And of course Florider too

Me: Hellooo

Lady: Me ‘usband hayted it though. Couldn’t wait ta get back.

Me: you have a purple frog on your head

Lady: Ahd go back in an ‘artbeat though yes I wood. Spend more time there to get a feel for it.

Me (making robot movements): I am an emissary from the robot revolution I am going to kill you in five seconds

Lady: well haff a luvely oliday then wont you and here’s your change. Say hi to America for me and tell them I’ll be back soon

Me:You cracy lady, me no love you long time. You annoy me you CRACY lady you know nusing!

Jacob: come on, Mum, let’s go.

The English actually seem to be a bit obsessed with America. For example, we found a sweet shop in Skipton that sold individual Twinkies for 2.50 pounds EACH. That’s like $4 a Twinkie! And they are obviously out of a box, which you can also buy for the equivalent of about $25.

1 day 5 london to yorkshire 068

Are they crazy? I asked the guy if he knew what was in a Twinkie and he said ‘cream’. So, no, they don’t know what is in a Twinkie. I told him they would be the only thing to survive the apocalypse and he just stared at me like I had three heads. He probably didn’t understand my Canadian accent.

But it seemed like his most prized item on offer was this box of Froot Loops.

1 day 5 london to yorkshire 069

Please note this is a “Genuine American Article” and not some shoddy “cheap imitation” and it can be yours for the equivalent of about $12.

The jars of Marshmallow Fluff were also a hot ticket item, going for about $10 each. I think I may have found my business option here: open an ‘American’ grocery and charge an outrageous amount of money for genuine American ‘food’. I bet I wouldn’t be able to keep enough string cheese on the shelves.

1 day 5 london to yorkshire 054

Speaking of genuine food articles, these chips were for sale at a market stall on the street. Hmmm.  Something is not quite right.

1 day 5 london to yorkshire 055

The Mr. Porky product didn’t seem to be moving very quickly, either. The marketing team must have been asleep when they named this one. Who wants to eat Mr. Porky? Don’t answer that.

1 day 5 london to yorkshire 072

Fortunately the next stall was selling cheese, and lots of it. Our Cheese Man was happy to give us generous sample of whatever we wanted, and so as not to appear rude, I ended up trying a lot of cheese, and also bought a lot. The best was a Yorkshire Blue, although there was a delicious Sheep’s milk cheddar as well that I may need to go back for more.

1 day 5 london to yorkshire 063

You could also by fresh butter in huge blocks.

We also picked up bread, and jars of fresh farmer’s pickle and we may have bought a few cakes as well. This was all so that we could make our own Ploughman’s Lunch when my Aunt Daphne, and cousin Julie came for a visit with her husband Simon and son Oliver.

1 day 6 Yorkshire 2013 001

This picture is actually freaking me out as Jacob looks like a freakin GIANT and everyone else looks like miniature versions of themselves. I guess I’m just getting used to how tall he is and don’t really notice until I see a picture of him. Wow.

It was really great to see them and they are as lovely as ever. Simon and Julie could run their own comedy show 24/7 – I actually don’t know how the surgeons in the operating room where Julie works as a nurse manage to carry out surgery with her around. She must have to just keep her mouth shut the whole time or they would all be staggering around holding each other up laughing.

We had lunch at the house then drove to the village of Ingleton where there is a fairly impressive (for England) set of waterfalls.

To do the whole walk would have been a couple of hours which we didn’t realize when we showed up in flip flops and without any water. But that didn’t matter because the forest was as green as can be, the river was tea-coloured, and the air was actually sweet with the smell of wild onion. All along the way, walkers have pushed two-penny coins into trees and logs. I have no idea why, but it’s kind of cool. We laughed and chatted our way along a beautiful trail beside a river that led up to one of the waterfalls, played Pooh Sticks, and then turned around and came back.

1 day 6 Yorkshire 2013 0111 day 6 Yorkshire 2013 0131 day 6 Yorkshire 2013 0141 day 6 Yorkshire 2013 0171 day 6 Yorkshire 2013 0191 day 6 Yorkshire 2013 0241 day 6 Yorkshire 2013 0261 day 6 Yorkshire 2013 0281 day 6 Yorkshire 2013 029

We ended our perfect English Countryside Experience by having tea at the local tea shop.

1 day 6 Yorkshire 2013 032

At the table behind us were June and Tony, Margery and Alan, and Suzanne and Emma. They really get around.

1 day 6 Yorkshire 2013 033

And then we went round the corner and of course, there was a cricket game going on and someone was just yelling HOOWWWWZZZAAATTT or whatever they say.

We went home a happy bunch, then felt sad at having to say goodbye. But there’s always next time.

Thanks for reading-



Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 5– In Which we Meet Mr. Canada and Practically Walk on to the Set of All Creatures Great and Small

1 Day 2 UK 2013 012

Leaving London is never easy, but at least it was raining when we got into the cab that was taking us to King’s Cross Station. Cab drivers here are either locals, who call everyone Guv, or they are from very far away and are here trying to make a new life. Our cabbie was from the latter group but had an accent I couldn’t place. Then he asked me where we were from:

Cabbie: Where you are from madam?

Me: Canada

Cabbie: Oh! That is my name.

Me: Pardon?

Cabbie: My name

Me: your name is Canada?

Cabbie (pulling out his ID badge): Yes. See? Canada.

Me (observing  his badge which identifies him as Erdem Canada): Well so it is! Are you Turkish?

Mr. Canada: I am only one! I google myself! I am Cyprus!

Me: Yes I expect you are…

Mr. Canada: I have trouble when I go to borders. They don’t believe.

Me: No would think they might have some questions.

Mr. Canada: Ok here you go. Bye Bye from Mr. Canada!

All of us: Good bye Mr. Canada! And Good Luck…

I had more questions for Mr. Canada but we had to run for the train.

I love taking the train in England – I love the little man who pushes his trolley up and down (“anything from the trolley?”), I love the whoosh as the doors close, the man blowing his whistle on the platform. I love listening to Margery and Alan discuss what they had for tea. It’s all so satisfyingly efficient. Except when it isn’t. Like when there is a piece of concrete on the line between Doncaster and Leeds and so your train has to be diverted to a completely different city because apparently no one can move said piece of concrete. How did it get there anyway? Are they sure? Did anyone check? Just get a back hoe or something. It can’t be that big.

Anyway. My point is that the trip was slightly delayed, but that meant that I had more time for tea on the train

1 day 5 london to yorkshire 003

Yes, but what is it???  I put it in my tea anyway and I’m still here.

We eventually made it to Skipton in Yorkshire where it was time to pick up the rental car. I always dread this part as it means I have to listen to driving directions to wherever I’m going, whether or not I have asked for them.

Rental car lady: Where you goin then luff?

Me: Just around the corner really

Rental Car Lady: Right well I’ll just get out the map

Me: Actually it’s ok I’ve got it sorted…

Rental Car Lady (unfolding a huge map): Right we’re here (placing a pudgy finger on an undefined area of the map) and you’re goin where luff? Round the Corner?

Me: yes it’s just a short trip…

Rental Car Lady: out the gate, take your first left, you’ll see a railway bridge, go under it, then take your first left, turn right at the Dead Hedgehog, then go back over the bridge, take your first right, then you’ll be outside our offices again but now you’ll be facing t’other direction.

Me: well thanks very much bu…

Rental Car Lady: Now, carry on down road, past The Boar’s Head pub, look for a sign that says Round the Corner. If you see a sign that says ‘London’ then you’ve gone too far and you’ll need to double back. Go past the pub again and…

Me: Thanks so much! Really Helpful! Bye!

Rental Car Lady: But I haven’t fini

Me: Lovely to meet you!

Our destination was a vacation rental just outside the puny village of Wigglesworth. I kid you not, that is the name. There is also a Giggleswick near by and several other villages that were clearly named by the Ministry of Silly Village Names. Like Upper Tooting and Loose Membley.

This village is also in the middle of the nowhere, and to my chagrin, I had to rely on Jacob’s powers of navigation and the Sat Nav lady to get me there. I’m not used to sat nav and so I wasn’t very good at listening to her. She annoyingly insisted repeatedly that I “TURN LEFT” and when I didn’t, you could practically hear her sigh before saying ‘Recalculating’. Or maybe that was Jacob.

1 day 5 london to yorkshire 008

I finally made it to the house, and we all fell out of the car and practically cried with happiness. Sorry about the hazy pics – I inadvertently changed a setting and can’t figure it out…Oh no, wait, it’s just the weather…

1 day 5 london to yorkshire 032

1 day 5 london to yorkshire 0091 day 5 london to yorkshire 0111 day 5 london to yorkshire 0131 day 5 london to yorkshire 0141 day 5 london to yorkshire 0201 day 5 london to yorkshire 0221 day 5 london to yorkshire 043

We are only a few miles from the town of Wensleydale (yes sir?) and that happens to be my favourite cheese. Perfect! There was also a loaf of bread, fresh butter and milk, tea, and biscuits and a bottle of wine. Our hosts are lovely, and the place is perfectly equipped.

This, my friends, is what I’m talking about.

And then Jacob turned on the TV and what was playing? ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL!!! If that doesn’t mean anything to you then I’m sorry but you’ll have to leave now.

We were all exhausted from the trip up and our week of extreme Londoning, but we managed to make some dinner, and venture out on to the Dales just outside our window to hang out with sheep. There is a lot of sheep here. Like a lot.

But thankfully sheep are quiet at night so it was another great sleep for all of us. More on the Dales and area tomorrow.

Thanks for reading -



Friday, June 28, 2013

London Day 4 - In Which we Ride Broomsticks, Soak up the Southbank, and Laugh Ourselves Silly at the Tate Modern

Having read the Harry Potter series once to myself, once again to Jacob, then again to Zoe, and then having watched all the movies, I consider myself to be a bit of an expert, and a huge fan. So I was super excited when I learned that the Warner Bros Studio where they filmed the Harry Potter movies was open for tours just north of London. To get there involved a train trip from London to the town of Watford Junction, which possibly rivals parts of Detroit’s inner city in terms of sheer bleakness. This sign welcomes you when you emerge from the train station: 

1 day 4 london 2013 002

Come to the circus, then later, this clown will eat you in your sleep.

Fortunately we were quickly whisked away on a shuttle bus to the huge complex that is the Warner Bros Studio. Unfortunately, there is a period of time when you are made to wait in various holding rooms, and forced to listen to annoying tour guides who insist on asking everyone repeatedly if they are a) Harry Potter fans (Duh) and b) if they are having fun yet. As our entry time was the first of the day, most of our group was still asleep so he felt compelled to ask us two or three times. as we got quieter each time, he finally figured out that he should just get on with it.

We did pass the Cupboard under the Stairs on our way. So cute.

1 day 4 london 2013 007

And I would like to point out that Daniel Radcliffe and I have the same sized hands. I’m not sure of the significance of this, but as my hand size seems to be a discussion point for many people, here is something new to talk about.

1 day 4 london 2013 004

Ok – well almost as big.

But it was all worth it when they opened the the doors to the great hall (THE Great Hall!!) and there were all the tables, laid and waiting for the house elves to send up the dishes.

1 day 4 london 2013 010

After the Great Hall, we were let loose in a huge sound stage where many of the sets from the movies were located, as well as the make-up and costuming areas


1 day 4 london 2013 023

Dumbledore’s office was one of my favourites, complete with the Sorting Hat.

1 day 4 london 2013 029

I could go on and on, about how each of the oil paintings on the walls at Hogwarts were hand painted, and each of the 11000 wand boxes in Ollivanders were hand decorated, but I might lose you.

I did have moments where I felt vaguely disappointed that everything was actually fake, but that was quickly replaced by awe and respect for the sheer volume of creative talent that went into the making of the movies. From the incredibly detailed masks in the Creature Shop, to the walls and walls of architectural drawings for each of the sets, to the 1:24 sized model of Hogwarts that was used for all the shots of the castle from the air, it was all extremely fascinating, and inspiring.

1 day 4 london 2013 0501 day 4 london 2013 0561 day 4 london 2013 0601 day 4 london 2013 0691 day 4 london 2013 0711 day 4 london 2013 075

Zoe has been wondering pretty much all her life what Butterbeer tastes like, so she was more excited about the chance to try some than almost anything else.

I’m happy to report that it tastes just like you would think it should.

1 day 4 london 2013 049

The best part of the day though, was the chance to try out the green screen technology and ride a broomstick. Jacob stole the show but I can’t figure out stupid YouTube so sorry you’ll have to wait to see that.

When we finally left the studios, there was still time to see more of London, so we headed back into the City, and wrestled our way through the underground to the Embankment, where we walked across the Thames to the Southbank. There is a vibrancy to this side of the Thames, with theatres and galleries practically stacked up on each other, festivals for anything you can think of, and street performers all over the place. I love it and could stay there all day, but we thought it would be a good idea to pay a visit to the Tate Modern as everyone always raves about it, it’s free, and it was near the tube station. So three good reasons right there.

The Gallery used to be a working power station until 1981. It’s an imposing structure with a 325 foot high tower and looks like the last place on earth that you might find art. Jacob and Zoe formed an opinion early on about whether or not that might have been a sign of things to come, but in we went anyway.

One of the first paintings we saw was a Picasso – I forget which… ‘Lady with a Blue Head’ or something like that.

1 day 4 london 2013 099

My mum and I had the following conversation about Picasso, which she wasn’t very impressed with. (The conversation, not Picasso…).

Me (Looking at the Picasso): Hmmmmm…

My Mum: It’s very interesting isn’t it?

Me: That’s one word for it.

My Mum: I think he must have been a very interesting man don’t you?

Me: Well judging by his art…

My Mum: Have you seen his eyes?

Me: No. Do they look like halibut eyes too or that just his art?

My Mum: No no they’re just full of such intelligence

Me: But are they crooked?

My Mum: Where have Jacob and Zoe gone?

Me: I mean why does everyone in his pictures have to be so crazy looking? And what about the feet?

My Mum: They must have moved to the next room.

Me: What does he have against fish anyway?

My Mum: I’ll be in the next room.

The next room was where things started to fall apart for us:

1 day 4 london 2013 097

Jacob took one look at this and suggested that perhaps the artist hadn’t finished putting things together before the Gallery opened that day.

1 day 4 london 2013 098

This was on the other side of the room. What is it. I mean, apart from looking like giant turds. Which I’m sure was not the artists intent. But let’s face it, that’s exactly what it looks like. Like maybe an elephant had eaten too much cement.

1 day 4 london 2013 102

And how do you like this net bell made from concrete sausages? Hmm? How do you like it? Zoe was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes.

1 day 4 london 2013 101

And then there was this in the corner.

When Jacob said it should come with a sound effect button, I completely lost it. We were holding each other up we were laughing so hard and Zoe had to tell me to stop making a scene. It was time to leave the building.

I’m afraid that was the extent of our brief foray into modern art. I can at least say that if nothing else, it stirred our emotions and definitely elicited a response. I'm just not sure it was what the artist  was hoping for.

After that we needed food so we hit up a local pub for a delicious dinner, then dragged ourselves home. It wasn’t hard to fall asleep.

Tomorrow we leave London for Yorkshire. It’s been another amazing few days here, and while I’m not happy to leave, I’m looking forward to the next leg of the trip.

Thanks for reading,



Thursday, June 27, 2013

London Day 3 In Which We Check Out some Dead Kings and Queens, Zoe Asks a Million Questions, and We Shop till we Drop.


Today we fully embraced our status as tourists, and spent as much time as possible soaking up the old (Westminster Abbey), the new (Hamley’s), and the outrageous (Harrod’s).

We tried our best to get of the house early in order to ‘miss the queue’ as my mum said, but it was still 11am by the time we walked up to the main gate. Thankfully there was only about 600 people in line so we were inside and kitted out with our audio guides in no time. At first I felt like the confused resident of an overcrowded nursing home shuffling along with a new-fangled contraption to my ear wondering what exactly Jeremy Irons was doing in my ear, but we soon fell in step with the rest of the crowd and made our way through the 19 different stations on the Abbey tour.

This is not my first time to the Abbey, but the last time was so ridiculously busy that I could barely see the ground beneath my feet and all I remember is trying to avoid being stepped on by what seemed to be the entire German School System. The time before that, however, was back in the good old days before admission charges and bossy walking tours. It was free to get in and you could wander at will, going straight to Poet’s Corner if you so desired instead of having to visit every other corner of the Abbey first.

But times have changed, and order is the order of the day, and so we all follow in one long line, snaking in and out of chapels, and between huge ornate tombs and memorials to this Lord and that Lady, Jeremy Irons going on about whatever it is he goes on about.

We loved it.

Each time I see the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I, and her half sister Queen Mary (Bloody Mary), I still can’t quite believe I am standing so close to her bones. Turn a corner and it’s Mary Queen of Scots, or Edward the Confessor, or Henry the V. Here is the grave of Anne of Cleves, Fourth Wife of my favourite slovenly Tudor King, Henry VIII. Over there is the grave of Charles Darwin (anyone else see the irony here? Just wondering…).

And so it goes. Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton, Alfred Tennyson. It’s awesome.

The last time Zoe came she was 3yrs old and asleep in a push chair, oblivious to the hordes and history alike. So this time was special for her both in her awe and interest, and also the number of questions and clarifications required. We don’t call her Miss Many Questions for nothing.

Me: So this is the tomb of Elizabeth I, and her half sister Queen Mary. She…

Zoe: Wait… is that Bloody Mary?

Me: Yes, Elizabeth was Protestant and Mary was

Zoe: But why was she called Bloody Mary?

Me: I was just saying she was Roman Catholic, and felt strongly that all Protestants should be kil…

Zoe: Was she also Mary Queen of Scots?

Me: No that was the other Mary

Zoe: Why was she called Queen? Was she the Queen? Were they both Queen?

Me: She was Queen of Scotland. Sort of.

Zoe: What do you mean ‘Sort of’?

Me: Well she was very young when..

Zoe: But why did Bloody Mary want to kill the protesters?

Me: Not the protesters, the Protesta…

Zoe: Whatever, was she friends with Queen Mary?

Me: (fumbling with my Guide to the Kinds and Queens of England) No - Bloody Mary was queen befo…

Zoe: (walking off with her Audio Guide to her ear) This is way too complicated. Why did they make it so complicated?

Me: Well it all started when…

Zoe It’s ok, Mom, this man on the Audio Guide is explaining it.

Me: Oh ok well if you have any questions that he does…

Zoe: It’s ok you don’t really know it very well.

Me: I don’t?

Zoe: You should listen to the Audio Guide.

And so I did, and we soon found ourselves at the end of the tour. We were now free to explore the rest of the Abbey. There is a small Abbey Museum that houses some of the most fascinating items around. I highly recommend this place. Here, for example, are the original funeral effigies of several of the well known top-ten kings and queens, including those of Bloody Queen Mary I (“She looks like a man” said Zoe and indeed she did)


There was also one for Elizabeth I, complete with one of her original corsets. I’m not sure how she managed to breathe in that thing – Lord knows there is no way in heaven I could even fit it around my arm, let alone my waist. But as I will never have need to wear one, I guess I’ll just let that worry go.

After stopping for an exorbitant but delicious cup of tea in some ancient part of the abbey that was probably once the privy, we walked the cloisters, spotting 1000 yr old graves on our way out


Let’s hope he had a face at some point.

We also passed the ‘Oldest door in England’ which is allegedly from 955 or something like that.


Followed by the ‘Oldest Fire Escape in England’.


I’m not sure I would want to be fiddling with those old locks in the event of a fire. I guess you work with what you’ve got.

We were starving by now after breathing in all that musty old air, so we headed to Trafalgar Square to eat our lunch. I love doing this and have dragged the kids here to do this so many times that they act like they love it too.


2013 Trafalgar Square


2009 Trafalgar Square

I had promised Zoe a trip to Hamley’s Toy Store so we made our way through the throngs, only to find all the rest of the throngs were already at Hamley’s. On the way, we passed the Something Something Horse Guard where they put the horses practically on the sidewalk where everyone is trying to get by, and post this sign:


No no, please, I insist. THANK YOU! No Really. Thanks. Please kick me as I walk by. You’re welcome for kicking and biting me.

Here’s an idea: back the horses the fuck up.


Perhaps if he could see he would move his horse back. He probably has no idea he’s blocking the way.

Anyway - Back to Hamley’s. It’s got one or two redeeming features, one of which is their lego creations.

We also saw Will and Kate there.


Next on the list was Harrods. We thought we wanted to go to see the food floors, but we realized when we got there that actually we wanted to go so we could see how the other half lives. And if you are wondering, the other half are either from Brunei, Iran, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Oman or Saudi Arabia, are all drop-dead gorgeous, and dripping in money, expensive cars, and style. We sat and stared as car after car drove up, dispensed several outrageously rich and good looking women with the latest style of hijab (it looks like those towels the little old ladies wear on their heads when they get out of the pool –I kid you not. Long and flowing is out this year), then went and parked extremely illegally without anyone bothering them.


This was the shittiest car there. You can tell by how nicely they parked.


And everyone knows this dude by name. He has been here since the dawn of time.

We finally dragged ourselves away, successfully navigated our way back through the underground to our peaceful neighbourhood, and fell into bed.

Can’t wait to do it all again tomorrow!

Thanks for reading,