Archive for July, 2011


July 31, 2011

Our summer vacation this year took us to London, the city of fish ‘n chips, mind the gap and British accents; at least that was my perception of it before the trip and I have to admit it hasn’t changed much now after. We stayed with Mark’s dad who works in the city and has a flat in Hampstead for a grand total of 9 days, seeing just about every touristy landmark among many other things.

By far our favorite event was attending Wimbledon; in fact, the dates of our trip were planned around being there during the tournament. It was quite the experience and we have a now funny but then very frustrating story to go along with it…

Our first attempt at getting into Wimbledon didn’t exactly go as planned. We woke up late, took the tube to the wrong Wimbledon station, walked a mile in the wrong direction {thanks to a false Google maps pin}, asked for directions, took 3 buses across town, walked another mile and finally made it to the entrance around 10:30am. Since it was the day of the men’s singles quarterfinals and William and Kate would be present to watch Andy Murray’s match the place was absolutely packed. After talking to some very nice attendants we were told that we could queue for a few hours to see if any tickets would be available for resell after 5pm or we could come back tomorrow. Defeated, we took the correct bus back to the correct station with plans to do it all over again the next day.

Day two went much more smoothly; we made it to Wimbledon and were in the Queue by 7:30am. Queue is just a fancy British term for line, though I do think it makes standing in one for hours sound a little more interesting. We received our queue cards which gave us our number in line in case anyone got out of order; we were numbers #1599 and #1600. This guaranteed us at least grounds tickets because each day there are only 500 tickets available for the show courts and 6,000 tickets available for the grounds.

After queuing for about an hour, attendants came through the line with wristbands for the show courts and we were able to reserve two tickets for court one! It was somewhat of a miracle because it means approximately 1,100 people must have turned down the pricier tickets and opted just to get into the grounds.

Slowly, we shuffled through the Queue and eventually made it through the gates at around 10:00am. We grabbed a bite to eat and bought some souvenirs at the pro shop before the grounds opened 30 minutes later. A couple of the picnic tables on Henman Hill/Murray Mound were open so we took a break there before the matches were to begin. The atmosphere and energy of the whole place was so exciting; we couldn’t believe we were actually at Wimbledon!

On court 14 we caught a glimpse of Sabine Lisicki warming up with her doubles partner before her match on center court. Being that close to a pro tennis player in action and watching her technique and movement was pretty amazing.

Our main match on court one was between Tsvetana Pironkova and Petra Kvitova {the eventual Wimbledon champion}. We settled into our seats about 5 rows back behind the players’ chairs and just before the match was to begin the rain started to fall…3.5 hours later the rain cover came off and the match began. It was tough to stick it out that long not knowing if or when the rain would stop but I’m glad we did because it ended up being a great match. Seeing all of the ball boys and line judges in action was pretty entertaining too.

After the craziness of those two days at Wimbledon, we decided to take it easy the next day and we spent our time touring around Hampstead.

I loved how old everything was there, just check out those worn stone steps. Can you imagine how long that took to wear down? Simply amazing.

Of course, we had to visit all of the major sights including Big Ben, the London Eye, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace.

The immense amount of detail in every single structure was awe inspiring.

We spent a good couple of hours in the British Museum where we saw the Rosetta Stone, a great ancient Egyptian exhibit and, my favorite, a collection of Greek sculptures and sections of the Parthenon’s frieze.

We waited in another queue to get in and explore Westminster Abbey and it was 100% worth it. Once inside, I couldn’t stop looking up and staring at the beautiful ceiling and rose windows. We had fun trying to take pictures without the attendants noticing but my forehead ruined the best shot.

We also visited the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London where we waited in yet another long queue to see the royal jewels.

One of the best parts about being in London was the pub atmosphere. You see, pubs in the UK are nothing like bars here in the states, they are all locally run, family friendly establishments nestled into the neighborhoods. They are open during the day and close early, usually around 10-11:00pm. To give you a better idea, here’s what was written on a sign outside of the Holly Bush:

“The Holly Bush requests that you please treat our local residents property with respect. Please don’t sit or stand in their doorways. Please leave quietly. Please don’t leave litter on our pavements. Thank you.”

We had our fair share of delicious pub food including fish ‘n chips as well as something I’d never had before, the scotch egg. It’s basically a hard boiled egg covered in spiced, ground lamb, coated with bread crumbs and fried. I’m going to try making some of my own using this recipe.

Our favorite UK beers: Fuller’s London Pride, Carlsberg and 1664.

Our most visited pub was the Duke of Hamilton. Since it was only a short 5 minute walk from the flat, we often stopped by for a pint on our way home each night.

After 9 full days away we were ready to head home, but not without bringing a little bit of London back with us. Just a couple blocks from the flat was a huge open green space full of trails called the Heath; we took a walk or jog through there almost every day. Towards the end of the trip I broke off a couple of fern branches to bring home to press and dry. I placed each branch in an old phone book for the trek back to Austin and once home I stacked a few heavy books on top to press them flat. A couple frames from Target and a little craft paper for the background was all I needed to create these great reminders of our trip. They are now hanging on the wall above our sofa along with some of the framed pictures from our Maine trip last year.

I love having these decorative mementos from all the places that we’ve been together and I’m excited to keep adding to it!


Boys & Their Toys

July 27, 2011

For quite a while now Mark has been wanting his own shotgun…I finally said yes. He saved his pennies and a few weeks ago he foundĀ a barely used one online from a local Aggie. While we were visiting my parents in Rogers he got to shoot it for the first time {many smiles ensued}.

He even let me shoot it a few times :)

Of course Sadie came along too. She insisted on hunting through the grass after every shot to find the “birds” we were shooting.