Triberg/Black Forest Daytrip


We went to Triberg (Black Forest - Home of Hansel & Gretel) today. Carlos, Ethan and I spent 2 hours climbing a mountain and taking pictures of Germany's largest waterfall. Afterward we met up with the girls (shopping!) and had a late lunch. After lunch the boys went and found "Maria in the Fir Tree Church" and took more pictures. We all ended the day with Black Forest cake (they don't make it like this in the States!) and drove home. We are packing and planning to leave for Trier/Spangdahlem tomorrow morning. Right now we plan to spend Friday in Spangdahlem/Bitberg followed by Saturday in Trier and Luxembourg and then close the weekend on Sunday in Tongerem. It'll be a whirlwind tour but we're gonna give it a try.

I hope you hear from me soon!

Random Thoughts


Trip Plans
Most of these posts have been ridiculously long winded (like me). And they take forever to write and add good pictures. From here on out I'm going to be writing less. Tomorrow we are going to the Black Forest for the day. On Friday all of us will be heading to Trier and Normandy for the weekend. On Monday I'm thinking about heading to Heidelburg for the day and on Tuesday we are going to the Mercedes Benz Museum and a chocolate factory. Then we come home. I'll try to get more pictures posted in my free time!

Foods that made me think of my daughter-in-law, Ash
The ice cream people in Strasbourg are artists. I got a banana split that was a work of art in fruit and ice cream. You would love it.

If you ever come here, don't eat the weiss wurst (white sausage) or onion tarts/quiche. It's a texture thing!

Other Food Thoughts
I haven't had nachos or tacos in 3 weeks and I'm just now missing them. However, a breakfast taco stand in Petite France, Strasbourg might make a killing - pretty much all we could find was bread and VERY strong coffee on Sunday morning.

I've heard of currants but never had any. Tart but good. Today we are macerating some red currants to put over ice cream.

It's impressive the things the Germans can do with pork!

Jobs
Michelle has been trying to convince Diane and I that we should work for the DoD as teachers. Seems there are 2 openings here in Stuttgart this year. One is for a kindergarten teacher and the other is for middle school teacher. Hmmmm, Eric and Kathy what can you do to entice me to stay?

Freshness
Michelle had mentioned how fresh things here are but I was skeptical. As we prepare to leave I'm sorry I'll end up missing out on so much fresh food. I'm not just talking about fruit, vegetables and bread. At every "farmers market" we've been to there has been cheese people, sausage stands, butchers and flowers.

Language
I think I could learn conversational German fairly quickly. If you sound out the words, it's amazing how you can decode things. On the other hand, it's also also amusing how they compound words. For instance, today we were at a store and Diane found some "basmatireis" or Basmati rice. There are words like this everywhere. It's so amusing that we've even started making up our own words. For instance, Zoe, the boxer dog appears to have a problem traveling in the car so Diane and I started calling her the "barfnhoundn."

Blessings
I knew it before I came but I must continually remind myself that this trip would not be possible in it's current form had it not been for Diane's sister and brother-in-law. If we had to pay for hotel rooms and meals like real tourists I probably wouldn't have been able to stay but for a week to 10 days, not 23 days. We are truly blessed. Michelle swears she's not tired of me (she and Diane could crochet together for weeks!) but I might be tired of her and Carlos if the rolls were reversed!

You Can't Go Home Again
My grandmother's family immigrated to Texas from Pforzheim, Germany. We are staying 25 minutes away from that town. I went there to look around because I do a bit of genealogy. In 1945 the town center was leveled by American bombers. Since then they have rebuilt but it's more 60's modern than anything else. Additionally there are over 100,000 people in this town. I never did find a cemetery. 30 minutes farther along the road is Karlsruhe. Another "town" with 285,000 people. I'm sure that if I came here specifically for genealogy purposes and had a real plan of attack I could find some valuable stuff. Not this trip. There are way too many things that interest me and I'm like a kid in a candy shop. Which brings me to...

Another Castle? Sure!
On the second day we were here I said something to Carlos about exploring lots of castles. His response was "Ok, but after awhile they all start to look the same." I told him that didn't bother me. I haven't gotten tired of them yet! Above is a picture of Hohenzollern that I took yesterday.

German Pizza? Meet Stephen!


On Monday morning we decided to leave Garmisch early and head back to Stuttgart while taking some pictures. We stopped in Ettal and thoroughly covered the monastery there. WE spent close to 1.5 hours pouring over the church and grounds. This link will take you to a picture of a confessional booth that Diane and I were very impressed with. Also, the ceiling was covered with gorgeous frescoes as seen in this picture. If you are interested in learning more about this church and monastery ask me and I'll loan you a book I bought.

After we left I mentioned that I wanted to go through Oberammergau to look at and photograph frescoes on the houses. We decided to eat lunch while there. As we entered the town Michelle said she and the kids wanted something other than German food and we passed a small place with a sign outside that said "Pizza!" After driving through town we decided to return to the pizza place and as we parked I noticed that this was a mini-golf joint and wondered just how good the pizza could be. I found out, once again, that looks can be deceiving.

The restaurant was very small and decorated with little witches all over the place. I was initially taken with the plates that were at our table. Then, when the waiter couldn't speak any English (it's impressive how many people here DO speak English) I thought, "This can't be a good sign. I mean, it's a mini-golf joint!" But when he brought the food out, it was terrific. I frankly like a thin crust and this was just right. Substantial enough to hold the toppings but not over-powering. And the spices were perfect. They really do specialize in pizza at this place. After lunch I asked to take the waiter/cook's picture and he agreed. If you are ever in Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany you need to check this place out!


After lunch we went on into town, spent some time getting pictures of the church (they do a huge Passion Play here every 10 years) and cemetery and then left. The rest of the day was spent coming home and returning the car.

Castles in the Rain


I got up early (have I mentioned it gets light around 4am?) on Sunday morning . Long before anyone else. So to give them all a break I decided to go down to the lobby and take some pictures. The weather looked like it was clearing off and the pictures were coming out very nice. So I went back to our room. They were still asleep. I went down to the "computer room" and bought 1 hour of time. When I was done I checked on the family and they were still asleep. I went down to the breakfast bar and ate. Needless to say, I was starting to get antsy. When I was done - 9am - I returned to the room to find everyone up and STARTING to get ready for the day. Of course, now THEY needed to eat breakfast! I took more pictures.

Finally, around 10ish we got going. Now understand, in order to not annoy each other by being over-bearing, all four of us are "decision averse." That is, no one wants to really make a final, "Let's do it!" decision in case someone else gets annoyed. Obviously this attitude makes for great relations but slow decision making. After much discussion, we finally decided that we wanted to go see Schloss Neuschwanstein (the Disney Castle) because it looked like the weather was breaking. After more discussion, we decided to take the route that would run us through Austria instead of staying in Germany the whole time.

To make a long story short, the view from the car was supposedly beautiful but I didn't see much. This was mainly due to the facts that 1) my back was bothering me when I got up so I took a "back pill" and 2) I had gotten up at 6am and had only had 5.5 hours of sleep. Needless to say I zonked out in the car. They tell me we got caught in traffic because of an accident and the entire drive took close to two hours. So sometime after noon we finally arrived.

Expecting to walk right up to the castle and start exploring we were in for a big surprise. It's like a small town below the castle including hotels, restaurants transportation and such. We had to find parking, a WC (toilette for you US readers) and the line to buy tickets. I didn't realize there were two castles on the property (one for "mad" King Ludwig and Hohenschwangau built by his parents). We finally got in a line that we assumed was for tickets - remember, none of us speak much of the German language and while there are some signs in English, not all of them are particularly helpful. And we waited. For your enjoyment, here is a picture of a bored nephew.

We finally got to the front of the line and received tickets for the 5:10pm tour conducted in English - "oh, and by the way, if you want to avoid the 40 minute walk up the winding road to the castle, buy tickets for the bus over there!" Since we had 3 hours to kill we decided to eat lunch and look around. We got our table (outside of course) and it started raining. We moved to a table that was under a large umbrella/awning thing. It was then that we noticed that the line for the bus tickets was particularly long. We tried to eat quickly and then got in line for the bus.

The bus ride took less than 5 minutes and dropped us off at a spot that still required a 15 minute walk up the hill. In the rain/drizzle/mist. Carlos and Kendall went one direction to get pictures from a catwalk above the castle while the rest of us walked around and up, and up, and up. Once we got to the Castle entrance we found that we still had a 50 minute wait - mostly in the rain.

Finally, things dried up a bit and Carlos and I were able to get several decent pictures around the courtyard. At long last our group was queued up and we went through the castle. While there the weather cleared a bit and I was able to get a couple of decent shots from inside looking out (you can't photograph the interior).


As we finished and started to make the long trek back (20 minutes going downhill instead of 40+ going uphill - assuming you go in the right direction to begin with!) what should happen? It started raining! While the entire day wasn't a washout the rain did put a bit of a damper on things. We ended up getting back to Garmisch sometime around 9:30pm and finished the day eating McDonald's hamburgers. This last shot is of Diane, Michelle & Ethan and way up front Carlos & Kendall as we walked down the hill. This was one of the more level spots.

1st Weekend Trip: Garmisch-Partenkirchen


pre-script: for those of you from an earlier age (mom(s), I'm talking to you!), in case you didn't notice, some of my posts have words that are light blue (remember that I'm color blind)...these are links that I have purposefully inserted into my writing for you to click on for more information. That's how this "blog" stuff is supposed to work. Hope you use and like it.

Now for the real post:

While in London Michelle called Diane and said, "Do you have any plans for the 1st weekend when you get here?" Diane answered in the negative and Michelle proceeded to tell her that Carlos had tentatively booked 2 nights in Garmisch at the military run Edelweiss Resort. We were to share a "family" room that sleeps 6 and we could split the cost between us. Supposedly, finding a room available at this place on short notice is nearly impossible because a lot of our active duty troops use it for healing and R&R. We jumped on the idea and told them to go with the plans. Needless to say, it was very nice. Not to frou-frou but very nice.

We started our trip on Saturday morning at about 7am. Although we couldn't check into the room until 1pm the girls wanted to shop in Garmisch and Carlos and I wanted to do a bit of picture taking. The night before I found that we could stop in Ulm (1 hour away from Stuttgart) and get pictures of the tallest church spire in Germany. Additionally this is the town where Albert Einstein was born and a tailor there tried to glide off a river bridge using a para sail design that was close to workable. When we got to Ulm, a farmer's market had set up shop in front of the church and it was great. I had all sorts of picture taking possibilities (colors!) and the pastries and cheese and fruit was absolutely great. We ended up spending two hours walking around, touring a very nice cathedral and snapping pictures.

After leaving Ulm we went on to Garmisch. The countryside continued to get greener, more mountainous and gorgeous. In case you are not familiar with the area, the place we were going to is in Bavaria and part of the Bavarian Alps. On the way we passed through Ettal and snapped a couple of pictures but otherwise tried to make good time. We arrived in Garmisch about 1pm. The girls headed off shopping while the boys checked into the hotel (as I said, a much better one than the London "hotel") and returned to city center for picture taking.

Because of all the German food we had eaten recently we decided to dine at the hotel and have hamburgers (small children and all) and make an early night of it. During the night it rained but on Sunday morning it looked like it was going to clear off. At the top of this post is a picture of what the nearby mountain looked like at 6am. We decided that since it was such a fine day we would go see the nearby Neuschwanstein castle (the one Walt Disney used for inspiration in making Disney Land).

It's taking lots longer to write this than I planned and I need to finish packing to go to Strasbourg, France for the weekend. Rest assured there is more to this story and I'll finish writing about touring castles in the rain, and pizza in small towns in Germany as soon as I get back.

In the meantime au revoir! And don't forget to click on the links to my pictures. I think you will enjoy some of them!

Back Tracking (aka Filler Information)


Because someone (my friend Sandra) asked for more info...I forgot to take a picture of the "hotel" room we had in London. You're not missing much. Lets just say it wasn't what I expected. I mean, I had read that hotel/B&B rooms in Europe are small and extremely pricey. I thought I was prepared for that. I figured $140/night for a small room (with restroom facilities) probably wasn't too bad.

Those reports I read, were seriously misleading. When we got to the area of our "hotel" (by subway, during morning rush hour, with 5 suitcases/bags and no sleep) we ended up walking completely around the block before finding the place. Now, how do I describe it correctly...Imagine (if you will) a block long, 4 story, 100+ year old building. There are several "stoops" leading to doors and outside most all doors is hanging a sign that announces which "hotel/B&B" it is. The picture above gives a small idea of what I'm talking about. Ours was on the corner so you can't see all the prior signs/stoops.

We enter the hallway, the proprietor greets us and puts all our bags in his office...with everyone else's bags and his desk and chair and couch and table...and the room is no bigger than 6'X9'. He nearly had to crawl over things to go the 4 feet from his desk to the door. At that point we discussed breakfast and as I mentioned earlier, we ended up eating with the clown.

At 1pm (check-in time) we arrived back, registered and Savior (that's his name) grabbed my largest suitcase, swung it up over his shoulder and said, "Follow me to your room." I quickly latched on to another bag and my camera backpack and started climbing very narrow stairs, up and around in several circles. We were going to room #205. By the way, in England they count ground level as floor #0 so we were actually 3 flights up. As a math guy, this makes sense. As someone new to the area it gets a bit crazy. Anyhow, I digress. By the time we got to our room, I was panting and my calves were killing me. He hands me the key and says, I'll go get your other bags and leaves me to open the room.

At this point I'm being generous in my descriptions. A 1.5 foot long hallway leads to a 8'X10' room (I measured with my out-stretched arms). In the middle was a full sized bed (mattress on a wood base). There was also a small built-in cabinet with openings large enough to put 2 of our 3 suitcases. A third opening housed the bath towels. On top of this cabinet was a 13" or 15" TV and a small oscillating fan. Between the door and the cabinet I described was a small (1'X2') desk table/shelf with a chair. On top of this shelf was enough room for a small tray with an assortment of teas, coffees and 2 cups plus a gallon sized, plug-in, warming jug. I kid you not. I was paying 70 pounds ($140) a night for this.

Oh and we got the deluxe room because it had a bathroom en-suite. I'm sure I'm about to be too graphic for some of my more delicate friends and I know I'm no small boy but the truth was that I could NOT stand in the bathroom, bend over and drop my drawers to sit on the toilet. Not enough room. It was THAT small. And then, when I did "settle in" I had to rest my left arm on the midget sized wash basin because it was right in front of me. To make matter worse, every time you flushed the toilet it sounded like a barge was coming down the river blowing its horn. The next morning when Diane took a shower she ran out of hot water and had to rinse off with cold. I later figured out it was a problem with the faucet handles and not the amount of hot water. I didn't even try to shower at that point.

We ate breakfast in the kitchen on two mornings. It held 4 four-top tables. The full English Breakfast was delightful (ok the sausage was marginal but you could substitute bacon) and the staff was very friendly.

On the back side of this building (opposite of where we were) a Motel 6 franchise also had a suite of rooms. The area was old. Seriously, some buildings had signs showing they were 100+ years old. The neighborhood was very mixed ethnically. But we were right across the street from St. Pancras rail station which was absolutely gorgeous (pictures to follow). We were also 2 blocks from the British Library and a couple of blocks from Shakespeare's house/museum. It's just an OLD city with OLD stuff. The photography around the place was to die for and there was some sort of park or green space in nearly every block.

All in all, even though I was not prepared for the cost to size ratio it wasn't a terrible place to be. We felt reasonably safe and comfortable - as long as you didn't have to get into the bathroom.

It's Good to be Flexible


Diane and I had made some tentative plans to go out to Triberg (Black Forest - home of cuckoo clocks and good cake) today to do a bit of shopping. Michelle was going to stay home, mainly because some work crews are doing a refurb on the ceiling fans they have installed here (military base housing). We (just Diane and I) also made plans to go to Strasbourg, France for the weekend. I know what you're thinking, "That's really romantic of you Chuck!" - and I would say you're right, plus I hear there is great architecture (read photography possibilities) and Diane is certain there are a couple of places to do a bit of shopping there too!

Sometime late yesterday evening I found that it's a 1 .5 hour drive (maybe more, based on traffic - darned tourists!) to Triberg and it's a 1.5 hour drive to Strasbourg. After a bit of thinking and discussing we decided that driving to the black forest in the am, driving back to Stuttgart in the pm, buying some shoes (on sale, Friday only) on Friday morning and then driving to Strasbourg was going to be too much. So we've postponed the Triberg trip to next week. Also, this way Michelle can go with us and spend more of Carlos' well earned money.

So I suddenly find myself with a bit of time to work on pictures and blog posts - while the ceiling fan guys cut huge holes in the ceiling of two rooms here. Since it's 4am (for most of you) your time as I write this, I will probably have 1 or 2 more posts put up before you get up and read this. Otherwise look for a bit more writing and picture taking later today.

I finally figured out that part of my blog posting problem is that I'm not only trying to write entertaining/useful posts but I'm also trying to add some decent, edited pictures. Both of those endeavors take a considerable amount of time if you don't want to look AND sound like a middle schooler. Add to that mix the fact that I'm trying to cram as much sight-seeing as I can into my days and you get periods of quiet from me. Oh well, I guess it's more your problem than mine 'cause I'm the one controlling things!

I'm working on a couple of posts and pictures now so hopefully you'll have more to read shortly. In the meantime, the picture above is of the Kloster Ettal. The inside of this was a beautiful church/sanctuary.

For now it's "tschus" or "see you later" in German.

Update


No real time to write now, I'm off to explore the towns of my forefathers... Pforzheim, Bonfeld and Weilbach. Will write more as I get a chance. In the meantime click here for additional pictures. I'll probably be using Flickr for more of my pictures so you might want to keep a regular eye out there.

If you look to the right on this page you'll see a daily listing of all we have done. Rest assured I have plenty of pictures!

Don't Trust Tour Books!


The tour book I was using told me that the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace happened at 11:30 am Monday through Saturday and 10:30am on Sundays. So we discussed trying to see this "classic" tourist attraction on Sunday morning. Needless to say, we got to running late on Sunday and then our bus took a detour (construction) which meant we didn't make it by 10:30. So as we entered the Palace Grounds we decided to stroll along the little lake on our way up to the palace. Along our way we ran into an elderly man sitting on a park bench with nuts spread out for the local critters. People were swarmed around the guy taking pictures as he was trying to sit still and patiently wait for his friends. Finally one lone squirrel came around but wouldn't hold still for long. He ran off. By this time I was also taking pictures but from a bit farther vantage point. After a few minutes most of the gawkers moved on but we stayed there while I snapped a few more pictures. All of a sudden, Squirrel Guy let out a couple of shrill whistles and hollered for "CJ" to come over. Sure enough, after a couple more minutes, here comes "CJ' looking for peanuts and posing for me.

The stick on the side of the man was used to scare off birds. Squirrel Guy apparently had a system and was a regular on the grounds.

As all this happened I kept hearing loud noises over the next ridge but didn't pay much attention. It was later when we found out that the changing of the guards also happens at 11:30 on Sundays and we missed it. Ah well, I think this shot of Squirrel Guy was worth the miss.

The picture below is of some of the guards as they returned to the palace after the "show."
I just love their hats. I think I need one to wear at school! At least I got some sort of picture.


A London Encounter


The London portion of our trip went by entirely too fast. If you are the kind of traveler who likes to just soak in the color and culture of an area 4.5 days in London won't work. We stayed constantly rushed and exhausted - even though we were trying desperately to take our time and make sure we noticed the small things as well as the "tourist" things. Upon reflection, we missed many of the tourist things that we (I) had hoped to pass by.

We never got really close to "Big Ben" although the clock does show up in a picture I took when we walked on the Waterloo Bridge. We went to/in the British Library but were so exhausted from our trip Diane ended up napping and I was too scared we were about to be ushered out that I sat by her while she slept. Didn't make it to the British Museum, The Globe Theater, Shakespeare's House/museum, or numerous other things.

One the other hand, we did have a couple of encounters that will stay with us as we fondly remember our trip. The first one came the first day we were in town. We had finally gotten into our room and took a 3 hour nap. We got up around 5pm, freshened up and decided to just walk around and finally get something to eat. As we walked down Woburn Pl./Southhampton Row/Kingsway (essentially all the same street) we found ourselves in front of a small green grocer who had set up his truck between buildings. Diane noticed taht he had raspberries (her favorite) for one pound and they smelled amazingly good so she bought a pint (or so). I snapped a couple of pictures and we moved on. We walked on for several blocks and finally found ourselves on Waterloo bridge where we ambled around for 15-20 minutes. We started heading back, intent on finding a small cafe or such for dinner and finally decided upon a "Italian" place called Guido's - about 1 block from where we got the raspberries. The penne was very good. I remember that Diane had the Penne Ariabiatta and commented about how hot the peppers were but that it was wonderful. Finally, as we sat there Diane could resist the fruit no longer and broke them out. She thought she had died and I had to agree. The raspberries were sweet and plump and wonderful. After dinner we walked across the street, got a coffee and crossed back to the other side.

As we passed back in front of the green grocer I decided that if his raspberries were that good, maybe we ought to find something else to take back with us to the "hotel." So I stopped. As I gazed longingly at all the fruit he had, he noticed Diane and asked her if she had already eaten the other fruit (nearly 3 hours had passed) and she told him that they were wonderful. As he gave me the cherries that I had picked up he asked if I wanted them in a bag and I responded "sounds great!" At this, a man the grocer had been visiting with looked at me and said, "Sour Grapes? Did you just say sour grapes?" After I figured out why this guy might be asking me such a silly question I finally pointed out that it must be the Texas accent that threw him. Since then, the phrase "sour grapes?" has become a running joke.

A great story? Probably not, but definitely the kinds of encounters we are looking for. The picture above is a quick shot of the grocer and his stand just before we bought the raspberries.

Did I mention I've taken 614 pictures so far?


For your viewing pleasure, while you wait for me to post more stories please click on the following website.

Most of them have not been edited in any way except to turn them when necessary. I'll get around to culling and editing when I get in to Germany.

We're here, where are you?

While the flights and all were entirely too long, we made it to London at last. Unfortunately, neither of us got any real sleep on the planes so we were exhausted (21 hours awake) when we arrived and we couldn't get into our room (if you want to call it that) until 1pm. So we dropped off our bags and asked where a good place for breakfast could be found. Our host suggested that since he didn't know our likes he would propose we go to everyone's favorite:


So, yeah, our first meal in cheery ol' England was with Ronald the Clown. Thankfully, their idea of bacon is way different than ours and very yummy (yum-o as Rach would say).

Since then we got some sleep (napping in the British Library is quite the story), ate and walked considerably. We've seen Trafalgar Square, St. Paul's Cathedral, St. Paul's Church (the actors church), Waterloo bridge, Picadilly Circus (big circle where several roads intersect - think of it as San Antonio's 'Five Points' with electronic billboards), Covent Gardens (shopping & food), Spamalot at the Palace Theater (hilarious, except for the kid in front of us who nearly mooned Diane - there are sagging pants everywhere I go!) and more shopping. I'm sure I've missed a few places but my internet clock is running out.

I'll post more when we get to Germany and I have more time to think and write (and find places with internet access). For now I'll leave you with a picture of the mass of tourists I saw in the middle of the shopping district on Saturday afternoon. The one thing I've noticed the most is the huge crush of people.



Take care and comment if you'd like. I'd love to hear from you even if I can't write back just yet.

Timing is Everything


For several days now I have been getting up earlier and earlier in order to do a bit of time shifting in anticipation of the trip. London is 6 hours ahead of us and Stuttgart is 7 hours. Diane has been dutifully getting up with me and has offered minimal grumbling. I keep telling her she will thank me come Thursday morning. She's not so sure. The one nice part to this has been that we have been getting up and watching movies because, well, what else can you do at 4am besides drink lots of coffee? Anyhow, we've been catching up on old movies. On Saturday we re-watched "Wall Street", Sunday we finally caught up on "Ratatouille," Monday we saw "Legends of the Fall," and today we watched "The China Syndrom" (for the umpteenth time).

So the interesting part came after we finished watching the movie, changed channels and found that the SA Airport had a power outage at about 5am. Supposedly it didn't delay flights but according to the report I heard, the TSA screeners couldn't do their jobs which resulted in long lines of grumbling people waiting to get on airplanes. We appear to have dodged this bullet by 24 hours! I can hardly imagine what we'll have to go through starting tomorrow at 6:45am.

By the way, since I can't find any news shots, the picture above is my interpretation of a power outage at 5am. I hope you enjoy it.

So many titles, so little time!


Summer school is over ("School's Out for Summer") and the grand trip is only days away ("On the Road, Again"). Yesterday I got home from work and Diane had received the $997 USD worth of £470 British Pounds we ordered from our friendly banker - yikes! After years of working in banks and retail, this stuff looks fake ("Funny Money"). It's all colorful and feels funky, like fake paper. And don't even get me started on the exchange rate. I knew that it would be steep. The annoying part came when Diane said that since we have an account at the bank they told her they weren't charging us a fee for the exchange, but when I checked several different sites on the internet it appears that we lost about 6.5% on the whole deal. This makes paying the B&B we're staying at with a credit card all the easier because they only charge a 5% fee!

Ah, well...nothing I can do about it but float with the waves. In only 5 days we'll be walking our fat off through London checking out all the sights that are so famous. I'll tell you now, don't expect to read about little out-of-the-way places that no one has ever heard of before. So sir, we're gonna be Tourists (with a capital T) gawking over all the same things that everyone else is! British Museum, Buckingham Palace, The British Library, Hyde Park, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, etc. We do have tickets to see SpamAlot at a theater there...seemed like a much better place to see that particular play than in San Antonio! Otherwise, our general plan is to walk 10 feet, snap another picture, repeat. We'll probably stop to eat a couple of times.

I hate to make this so short but I do have to rest up in anticipation of my vacation! Also, I really ought to start packing. Your next post will probably be on Wednesday as we head out. For now, I'll leave you with my new favorite phrase, "cheerio."