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Summer Vacation 2018 Day 4: The Globe Theater, Afternoon Tea, and Soho

So after a couple days outside London, we decided to stay in the city on day four. We started by sleeping in a bit, but still making it up in time for the amazing buffet breakfast the hotel  provided every day. There was every kind of cereal you could want along with milk, coffee, tea, cocoa, orange and other fruit juices, fruit, yogurt, a variety of breads for toast, croissants, deli meats and cheeses, and heated items as well such as eggs two ways (scrambled or sunny-side up), pork bacon, smoked fish, roasted tomatoes, baked beans, sausage links, and hashed brown potatoes. I promise you will NOT go hungry at this hotel!


After breakfast we headed down to Shakespeare's Globe Theater for a tour of the theater followed by Afternoon Tea. Because they weren’t rehearsing at the time we were able to go inside and actually tour the stage area itself. The Globe is an open air arena, so if it rains and you're on the "yard", you're going to get wet! Luckily, although it was cloudy, it didn't rain. The original Globe Theater was built in the late 1500s, burned down in 1613 then was rebuilt and used to entertain people until the Puritans closed it - and all other theaters - in 1642. By 1644 it was demolished. The idea to rebuild The Globe came from American actor Sam Wanamaker who spent many many years of his life working to get The Globe rebuilt. Sadly he died in 1993 and didn’t get to see the project finished. Shakespeare’s Globe Theater opened in 1997. Someday I hope to come back and see a play here!








After our amazing tour, we headed next door to The Swan Restaurant for our Afternoon Tea. We had a great table by a window with a view of the Thames. It was A Mid-Summer’s Night Dream themed, and the plates featured drawings of Bottom and Puck. The tea was delicious (I had Earl Grey, my favorite,), as was the glass of Prosecco, and there was a lot of food - finger sandwiches and a mini quiche, scones with clotted cream and jam, and delicious desserts! I added the Love Potion cocktail as well and it was fantastic!









After our fantastic tea, we strolled down the Jubilee Walkway back towards the hotel. It was a Bank Holiday, so there were lots of people out and about, and there were food trucks, and street performers (we met Charlie Chaplin!!), and even a merry-go-round! It was a lovely walk, and I think I could spend a whole day just exploring that area with all the shops and restaurants!










When we got back to Westminster Bridge, we were checking out the Hop On/Hop Off double-decker bus tours when Darlene spotted a bike taxi and said, “Let’s go to Soho!” So we did! We thought it would be fun to do a pub hop, and went to a few different pubs and bars and had some very good cocktails. As we walked around one corner we found ourselves in Piccadilly Circus across the street from a theater ticket kiosk. Did we want to see a show in London?? Of course!! So we checked out what was available and settled on three tickets for Wicked! 







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Excited but exhaused, and knowing we had another big day coming up, we hopped on the Tube back to the hotel. 

Stay tuned for the next exciting stop on our amazing adventure!!

Summer Vacation Day 3: Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford

For day three of our amazing summer adventure, Pam and Darlene and I headed off once again in a lovely climate-controlled coach for a day-long trip to Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon (home to William Shakespeare), and finally Oxford University. It was the only day during our entire trip that it rained and was cold, so that was a bummer, but it was still a lot of fun!



Our first stop was Warwick Castle which dates back almost 11 centuries! Inside they have tons of art and antiques including paintings, armour, statues, and busts, and several rooms are roped off and displayed with wax figures from Madame Tussaud's portraying various people who lived or stayed at the castle throughout the years. They also have a variety of shows and activities at the Castle (those actually made it feel a bit theme-parky to me; not that that's a bad thing!), but we pretty much only had time for a tour of the main castle (sadly no time to tour the dungeon!) before moving on to Stratford-upon-Avon.



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In Stratford-upon-Avon, we had the opportunity to tour Shakespeare's birthplace and grab some lunch. I was hoping to visit Gower Memorial in Bancroft Gardens that has all the statue of Shakespeare and some of his characters, but I wasn't sure exactly where that was, and the cold and rain made the idea of just walking around a bit unpleasant. Still it was fun to see Shakespeare's birthplace! The house was staged with furnishings and clothing items as it would have been when he lived there, and they had costumed actors and guides who share historical information and insight into his life. (I thought this was a lot more fun than the wax figures - as fascinating as they were - at Warwick Castle!) By far the most popular room was the Glover's Workshop where John Shakespeare, the playwright's' father, made gloves. It was packed, and I wasn't able to get any good shots of the demonstrator, but it was still fascinating, and I recommend checking it out if you get the chance!







After lunch we hopped back on the coach and headed for Oxford to tour the University, and do a little shopping in town. The University campus is gorgeous with cobbled walkways and amazingly ornate buildings! After the tour, we had a few moments to do a little shopping in town which was a  Harry Potter fan's dream come true! Nearly every shop had something to do with Harry Potter - T-shirts, scarves, novelty glasses, beer steins, and replica wands just to name a few. My friend Pam and I discovered the Fudge Kitchen, and bought ourselves some delicious treats! And, of course I had to stop by a small churchyard that was right in the middle of town. They graves were very old, and most of them covered with ivy or moss. It was really beautiful and so peaceful!






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Coming up: spending a little more time in London! Cheers!

Summer Vacation 2018 Day 2: Windsor Castle, Bath, Stonehenge

On day two of our summer trip, Pam, Darlene, and I took a day-long coach tour to Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge with a stop in the village of  Lacock for a traditional pub lunch. There wasn't as much walking as the day before (only 10,301 steps), but we got to see the  beautiful English countryside and quaint little villages with thatched-roof cottages and lovely little gardens from the comfort of a lovely coach. 



The first stop was Windsor Castle. The Castle and grounds are beautiful, and St. George's Chapel is gorgeous! I wish we'd had time to do a little shopping in town, because it looked like there were some fun shops. We got to see a bit of their Changing of the Guards ceremony as well!



Next we went to Bath and got a coach tour of the town before stopping for an hour or so for some free time. I'd already seen the Roman baths on a previous trip, and the lines were really long anyway, so I was planning to tour the Abbey instead. Unfortunately it was closed for a private event, so I just did a little shopping and sight-seeing. They were having a public art event called Minerva's Owls of Bath so there were painted statues of owls scattered around town. I was able to see just a few of them, including the one called "J.K. Owling"!


For lunch we stopped in the adorable village of Lacock and enjoyed a traditional pub lunch at The  George Inn. I had the cottage pie with peas and carrots along with their own house-made ale, while my friends opted for the fish and chips. Mine was delicious, and theirs looked good, too! After lunch we had a few minutes to wander around the village which is famous for being the location for several movie shoots including "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince". In fact the home I photographed below was used as the exterior for Horace Slughorn's house! One of the residence has a food stand set up on their block which contains cookies, baked goods, and jams and preserves. It was set up on the "honor system" with a box for you to leave your payment and made change, if needed. I couldn't resist, and picked up a jar of Raspberry Jam!



Our final stop was Stonehenge! I was really looking forward to seeing this again, and wasn't disappointed! Stonehenge is simply awesome and beautiful! Even with the crowds of people, I was still able to get a couple really good shots of the circle. They have significantly improved the Visitor's Center since I was last there, including a large cafeteria and Gift Shop, and have added a life-size replica of the type of village that might have stood on the sight to house the labourers who worked on the site. There are also maps and other educational information around the area.


All-in-all this was a really fun day filled with lots of sights, attractions, great food and drink, and wonderful information provided by our guide, Leon, and great driving from our coach driver Fernando.  We got home late, and collapsed into bed to rest up for our next action-packed day which would include Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford University!


Summer Vacation 2018 Day 1: London in a Day

For the first day of our Summer Adventure, Darlene, Pam and I decided to tackle the London in a Day walking tour. The tour included Westminster Abbey, the Changing of the Guards outside Buckingham Palace, lunch by Trafalgar Square, a Thames River Cruise, a tour of the inner workings of Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels. Phew! 


We met our Tour Guide, Toby, and other people in our group by the Churchill statue in Parliament Square across the street from Big Ben and Parliament and right next to Westminster Abbey. These walking tours max out at 15 people, but I don't think we had more than 8 - 10 in our party, which was really nice! I also liked that technology made the whole experience super easy as we each had an earphone and receiver so we could hear our tour guide even if he was several feet away from us. I'm sure the tour guides like this much better, too, as now they don't have to shout to be heard over the hustle and bustle of the city! Surrounding Parliament Square are statues of 12 statesmen and other notable peoples such as Gandhi,  Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, and the newest - and only female statue - Millicent Fawcett who campaigned for women's suffrage. 


Our first stop was Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs inside the Abbey, which was disappointing because it's just as gorgeous inside as it is outside. It's most known as a burial place for Kings and Queens, and other notable people like Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, and the most recent to be interred, physicist Stephen Hawking. One section known as Poet's Corner, boasts Geoffrey Chauser, Charles Dickens, Lawrence Olivier, memorials for Shakespeare and C.S. Lewis. 



Next we headed up along St. James' Park towards Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. I didn't get many pictures because I was trying to take video instead. It didn't  really come out too well, unfortunately, but I did get a great shot of the Palace complete with the huge number of tourists mingling about! After the ceremony, we headed up the Mall and watched the Horse Guards come out, then headed up to Whitehall to walk past the heavily guarded 10 Downing street, Horse Guards, and Ben Franklin's home (when he was staying in London). 




Then we headed up to Trafalgar Square where the 14-foot-tall Nelson's Column stands with four Bronze lions at each corner, and two fountains in front of the National Gallery.  Here we had an hour to ourselves to get lunch and look around. We chose The Admiralty pub close by where I had a delicious brie and jam sandwich. We were able to get a table on the patio, and enjoyed some people watching!







After lunch we met up with our group in front of the George Washington statue by the National Gallery. It is said that Washington stated he wouldn't step foot in England, so soil from the US was shipped over and placed in the ground where the statue stands! We headed over to the Thames for our River Cruise, and enjoyed the view of London from the water.




Once back on dry land, we made our way toward the Tower Bridge for a tour of the inner workings of the bridge, a walk along the upper clear glass walkway, and were even treated to the sight of the bridge rising to let a larger boat through! 






After crossing to the other side, we ended our day-long walking tour of London at the Tower of London and got to view the Crown Jewels! Of course they do not allow photography of the jewels, and don't even let you get a close, lingering look at them. I remember the first time I saw them (back in 1987), they had you walking around the jewels in a large glass case with guards constantly chanting "Move along! Move along!" if people stood staring too long.  If you wanted to linger longer, you could go up a small flight of stairs to a viewing loft.  Now, while they are still in a glass case, they have the "moving walkways" you see in airports to take you past either side of the case the Crown Jewels are in so there's no chance of getting a very long look! There is space behind the walkway to stand back and look at them, but you can't get a real close view. 






Phew! So after all that walking (only 16,234 steps according to my bellabeat, though I swear I took more steps than that!!), we were exhausted and our feet hurt, so we took the tube back to our hotel in time for the evening reception then collapsed into bed! I really do recommend this tour, though! You get a great overview of the highlights of London, and it gives you ideas of sights you might want to take a closer look at. But! Be sure to be in really good shape beforehand, and wear really comfortable shoes!! 

Next up: Windsor, Bath, and Stonehenge! Cheers!

Just for Fun

So, I finished all my Christmas Cards and got them all mailed off. I like the two designs I came up with (one for the Holiday Card Exchange I participate in, and the other for my immediate family and friends), but I recently purchased the "Winter Scene" stamp and coordinating die set from Simon Says Stamp, and I just HAD to play with it! This set is SO adorable! There's a  frame with a snowy hillside,  and several smaller stamps you can use to build sweet little scenes including a small house (which I didn't use), two deer, pine trees, mountains, the moon and stars, and a string of lights. It also has a few sentiments like "Merry Christmas" and "May all your wishes come true".  I had a few pieces of flannel printed cardstock left over from my earlier cards, and whipped together this little design:


I coloured everything with Prismacolor pencils and used gamsol to blend out the sky. I used my clear Wink of Stella pen to add sparkle to the Christmas lights, the moon and stars, and the snow on the trees, mountains, and hillside. I then used my Glossy Accents on the Christmas lights and the moon and stars for extra shine, and a little dimension. I adhered it to the plaid cardstock, stamped the Merry Christmas sentiment underneath,  and put it all on a pre-folded white card base. It took about an hour all together to make this card, but it was a lot of fun, and I'm glad a decided to play with this stamp set before putting all my Christmas  stamps away for the season! Cheers!

2018 Christmas Card

I previously shared the Holiday Card I made for this year's card exchange, and here now is the "friends and family" Christmas card I made:




I kept this design simple so it was really easy to made the 10 cards in just a couple weekends.  I used the “love peace joy” ornament and sentiment from the Gina K  stamp set "Joy of the Season" from the Simon Says Stamp Stamptember release (sorry, I can't find the link to it anymore ... it must've sold out!), and embossed it with detail gold embossing powder from PSX on green paper. The panel was then cut using a Simon Says Stamp stitched edge rectangle die, and attached to either a plaid panel from the Tim Holtz Christmas paper pack or the flourish paper from Mistletoe and Pear (sorry, no link for that either. I've had it several years, though, and purchased it at Michael's) which was then adhered to a pre-scored white card base. I believe they are Recollections brand. As for my Christmas Letter, I've had this Christmas stationery for a while and don't remember who makes it, but it worked out really well for this year's letter which primarily featured my awesome vacation to London and Paris. 

I think everything turned out really nice this year, and it was all super easy to mass produce! I even got my cards and letters mailed by the 17th as I had hoped! Now I can just relax and enjoy the holiday season! I hope you all have a fantastic Holiday! Cheers!