Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another example of Lloyd fame

My favourite place we visited today was called DIG. It is a centre to teach about archaeology. You have to set up a time to join in as a tour guide leads you through the centre. They start your tour with a brief introductory talk. There is an archaeological dig happening in York right now. They are excavating ruins near the church where the DIG centre has been set up. There most recent find is a Roman burial site. York is interesting because of the number of different people who called it home.

The Romans had a fort here, the Vikings had a city here, the Normans built a castle here and the Saxons also built here. Their ruins are in layers under the present city. The DIG centre has set up areas to excavate according to the people you want to learn about. The pits are filled with rubber “dirt”. Under the dirt they have planted interesting things to find and as you dig through the pit, the guide walks around to help you understand the significance of your find. All of the things planted in the pits were actually discovered in York. We dug in a Medieval church and found a human skeleton; very exciting. We dug in a Viking pit and discovered food waste such as shells and animal bones; less exciting.

After our dig, we went to another area where there were bins of actual finds from the dig. We were asked to sort the pieces as to what they could possibly be according to a guide we were given. The tour guide also circulated to help and to explain differences. It was all very interesting and well done. Because you had to book a time, you were in a small group so everyone had a chance to touch and participate. The tour guide had lots of time to get around to all of us and we had some great conversations.

At the end of the tour, the guide brought out a replica of their most precious find to date. It is a large piece of Viking pooh (and I do mean ‘ouch’). It is so important a discovery that the original is kept in a climate controlled, sealed transparent case at Jorvik. I kid you not, We saw it earlier. It has helped the scientists understand the eating habits and health of the Viking people. For example, they discovered thousands of parasite eggs in the pooh and have concluded that the majority of Vikings must have had many worms in their intestines. This would have made for stomach aches and a very unpleasant existence by today’s standards,

Pooh in and of itself is a fascinating topic as I am sure you would all agree. However, the scientists felt this pooh was so interesting and significant that it needed a name. As Lloyd’s Bank had put up the funding to help with the excavation at the time of the find, the pooh has been named, “Lloyd’s Pooh”. Naturally, we had a family photo taken with the pooh. I mean, first a bank and now a piece of pooh? Is there no end to the honours our family name has acquired?

I leave you all here, knowing that many of your minds are furiously working with the connotations this presents and thankful I am not part of this further conversation. :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

the UK experience

You can still contact us using our Shaw mail accounts, also the travelling Lloyds one works good too. Our internet connections are weak to put it mildly. I thought we would Skype every night. Not possible, not even close due to our connection. Email is good. It would be nice to hear a bit of what is going on at home, keeping up so to speak.

Prices in the UK are good except for accommodations. We can have a nice family pub meal for about $75 CDN, even if Julia has two beers. Pubs are nice but everyone has the same menu (almost)

  1. Fish and chips

  2. Scampi

  3. Jacket potato

  4. Meat pie

All good, but once you have run the table, you are pretty much done. I had the Haggis, Neaps and Tatties two nights in a row. Turnips are one vegetable the Scots can do well. I love Haggis but the two pubs had exactly the same haggis. I think it is all made in the same big sheep’s stomach. If it was different from place to place I would have it every night in Scotland. Kids have to be out by 9 PM. If you have seen Julia after two beers you know this is a good rule.

At the Sainsbury we can get 10 thick slices of real cheddar for $1.60 CDN that would cost $6 back home. Fuel is costly, the price is 1.15 pounds per liter. That is about $1.90 CDN. We have leaned how to eat well at less cost. For breakfast we eat cereal and milk from the store, maybe a banana or scone too. If we have nothing we try to hit a bakery, for about $2 each we can get a light snack, hard to stay away from the sweet Danish or pies. For lunch a hot sandwich or meat pie is cheap and good. We have been very good sometimes and pack a lunch. Ham and cheese was great the first few days, then, not so much. Nobody in the UK can make a sausage coil. This would go great with the cheap brie cheese at 1.60 for a big wedge.

We bought two phones at the beginning of the trip from Car Phone Warehouse.

Two phones

Two 15 pound sim cards

1 family call plan, (call the twin phone for free)

Total $60 CDN, we keep the phones, pay as you go, no plan. Canada’s phone companies are pirates.

I should mention that one of the phones went through the wash yesterday; we’ll see how it recovers. You just can get a decent phone for $7 anymore.

We arrived in York today. Best hostel yet. The hostel in Edinburgh we in a great location but filthy. Scotland was greet, I felt sad leaving.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Military Tattoo Experience

For Christmas last year, my mom and Ian gave us tickets to the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh along with a city sight-seeing tour. As head organizer, I kept those tickets in a folder with other important documents like our itinerary, flight schedules, international driver’s licenses and so on. Sadly, I misplaced that folder somewhere along the way in England. I called many places but no one seemed to have seen it. Sigh. So, we spent one morning at the library in Inverness reprinting our itinerary and flight stuff. I made several phone calls to the travel agent after looking her up online. She was wonderful and very sympathetic, fortunately. She had our tickets reprinted and put together another package which she left at the Edinburgh hostel we were staying at. I tell this story not to illustrate that the cheese is slipping off my cracker…which it probably is…but because we had the BEST time yesterday.

We picked up our tickets at the Tattoo office and then went to catch the sight-seeing tour bus. When I presented our voucher they looked concerned and it took three of them discussing the voucher to decide that we had been over charged. Therefore, they upgraded our sight-seeing tour and refunded some of the money to cover what they perceived as having been unfair to us. This came as a complete surprise. Bank error in OUR favour?? We were able to take several different buses all day yesterday and one of them was called MAC tours which I thought was particularly appropriate. We toured the castle to ooh and awe, then got ready for the 10:30pm showing of the Tattoo. Can you believe I stayed up that late??

The Tattoo was everything we had been led to expect. All day we had run into people who had either been or were going and the reports were always the same. We were in for a treat! Our seats were fabulous, right on the centre line, mid-way up. The Tattoo, for those of you who don’t know, is made up of marching military bands from around the world. These are the best of the best. It is held AT the Edinburgh Castle so you can’t get much more picturesque than that! We saw bands but we also saw motorbike riders from age 5-15 do stunts, an elite band of military personnel perform very cool gymnastics, and several young ladies and men do the highland fling. My favourite band was the New Zealand band. They could have been on Glee. They sang without their instruments. They played their instruments. They provided comedic relief by doing ballet while others played. The band from South Carolina was also excellent. They started in a very formal march and then broke into boogie woogie. The band members all danced and it was just fantastic.

At the end, they did a touching tribute to the soldiers still in Afghanistan. A lone piper played from the ramparts of the castle. They also projected images of soldiers onto the walls of the castle which was very cool. The fireworks coming from the castle walls were spectacular. We tried to take pictures but I honestly don’t think anything could compare to the wonder of the moment.

Thanks Mom and Ian.