Thursday, August 27, 2015

Malvern Link Pt II

Hi again friends!

     Have you seen our Facebook and LuAnn & Andy's Instagram? Not sure how to handle us being in two different places for blog purposes. I guess LuAnn will have to write her own about her two weeks in Jacksonville. Weird. Here's a pic she took there:

     Thursday AM I got the rental and drove her to Heathrow and checked her in. We had breakfast and said adieu at the security line where they immediately flagged her for a thorough pat down and interrogation. I wonder if this is because we've traveled so much, especially through Indonesia, or if it was just random. I guess we'll see when I go through at the end of the month.

     I drove back in the pouring rain to Worcester, went to the Vodaphone to top off my international minutes and, of course, it was a rip off. Despite what they told me about how easy it was to top off when I bought the SIM it turns out I can't top off at the 'good' rate until the end of the month; useless. 70 pence a minute. Thanks a lot.

     I haven't actually done the math but when you factor in what an absolute pain in the ass the phone thing has been I think I should have kept my old US number and just bit the bullet. Some people seem fine with changing numbers every month and constantly running out of bandwidth or minutes when they need them most, in places they can't top off easily, but to me that was one of the biggest hassles of the whole trip.

     Anyway, I had a spot of lunch, went home to the hound, had a couple pints at Gloster Arms and packed it in. Next day I did pretty much f*ck all, as they say here. I read Vinnie Jones' biography "It's Been Emotional" at the suggestion of a local friend, Tim, and it was great. I went to the Arms again for a Who tribute band called 5:15 who were pretty damned good. It was pretty much bucketing down rain all day so the barbecue they had planned was canceled.

     Sunday I again did 'not much'. Slept in, watched movies, worked on the blog; truth be told I'm a little blue and missing LuAnn. In 9 months of constant often times stressful travel we've exchanged nary a cross word. That's pretty impressive if I say so myself. Along the way we've seen some pretty bitter fighting among other couples traveling and they were just on vacation. So yeah, I miss my partner pretty bad. I have the hound to keep me company and make me laugh but it's not the same.

    I've been spending  time working on my CV and applying for jobs in Jacksonville. Had a few bites and at least there seems to be some to apply to. I'm kind of hoping to do a few different things, scare up some photo work, music stuff, etc. Since LuAnn's insurance will cover me I might be able to make it work at least until I find something in QA land. Here's a few pix of town:

     I don't really know what this means for WeTrotAbout but I figure we'll keep it up by documenting our travels in and around Florida and talking about stuff we learned in our year of traveling. We've had many questions about how we planned all this, how we packed, what we liked best, or didn't like, that we'd like to answer at some length. I think we will return to the nomadic lifestyle sooner or later, but at a much slower pace. Moving every few days or even weeks is not sustainable. at least for us.

     I feel like i'm not going to get in much blog worthy sightseeing or anything without LuAnn around so we'll see what happens. The shower broke here and trying to sort a plumber out has been a big fail. No one picks up their phone or returns calls or messages. Strange! Baths for me!

     Monday I got some recording & writing in but still haven't really finished anything yet. I hope I can get that done. I had to stop when I caught myself at 1AM still working. Whoops! Don't want to keep the lodger awake! Battling a little depression without the wife which is so strange! I haven't felt like this in so long it's a bit shocking; a reminder that even when you have a great life you can feel crappy. Other times...

     Tuesday I did a bit of gardening & cleaning and took the pup to the pub for lunch. Everyone at the Nag's Head is so nice and they all love Nessie, the staff and punters both. Then I came home and watched a couple Louis CK specials on youtube. I've re-watched a bunch of old movies in the last few days which again is a symptom of depression-related life-avoidance. You know it's bad when you get all hyphenated. I don't want to listen to what I recorded or work on it for fear it's shite. Oh the artist's craziness. I want to try standup and have been putting together some stuff to try that.

     Wednesday. Yay! Another cold and rainy day! Ugh. Since I stayed up watching youtube I slept until 1PM. You can tell I'm not myself. A plumber finally got back to me! He can't come until after I leave. Anyway he basically said the shower sounds busted and since the owner isn't springing for a new one...baths for the duration. Did some food shopping and checked on LuAnn's painting. It hasn't arrived in PA so that's bad. I really don't want her to have to do another one and I don't want to return the money either so we pray to the gods of the post office to git 'er done. Meantime, churchbells!

     Thursday and Friday were pretty much lost. I watched movies and generally felt bummed.  Went to the pub and tried to sort out living arrangements and cars which was a loss. Ah, but the painting arrived, so yay! Saturday was better. The weather was fine so I did laundry, cleaned up and generally improved my state. I had a crazy moment where some douche with the smallest dog on a leash and the biggest rottweiller NOT on a leash. Both decided to have a go at me and my dog. Jesus! Miraculously no blood was spilled but I was ready to kill the guy with the dogs. Spent a bit of time on the phone with LuAnn sorting apartments and made some progress.

     That night I went out with Jason & Pearl and met up with Neil, Paul & Mary, Kerry & Alexis at Kev's birthday bash and we all had a fabulous time. Chris and Sue got into a drunken fight and reminded me once again how great my life is. Sunday was the jam session at the Unicorn with Jason (Pearl's beau) and Neil, who did a sterling Bob Dylan impression. I played a few of my originals which were well received. Then we went to the Nag's Head and I entertained the crowd there until closing time. I cleverly failed to get pictures of any of that so here's two ducks with shoes:

     Monday I slept late, then went to the jam at The Grand Malvern (pronounced "Mullvuhn"BTW) Hotel and it was packed. Enzo got me onstage and I again played some of my new songs to great applause. After I went with some fellows, including the organizer of Malvern Rocks, to the after hours place and rocked some more. I found my calling at the pulpit:

    Tuesday and Wednesday were mostly a waste as I was again feeling sort of low, just watching movies and snoozing. Oh yes, had a couple phone interviews for work in Florida. Thursday I was up and at 'em, cleaning, packing, organizing a car to get to Heathrow in, doing laundry, et cetera; exciting stuff! Friday I'll be in Boston, Saturday NY, Sunday DC, Monday VA, and by Tuesday I should be at my new digs in Jacksonville Florida with the wifeypoo! Yay!!!!!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Malvern, England and the Cotswolds Pt I

Hello again! Here's our post about the first half of our stay in the English countryside! BTW have you seen our Facebook and LuAnn & Andy's Instagram?

     Sorry for the wait but every two weeks seems to be our rhythm lately. The train ride to Malvern Link was uneventful, though I thought I would have a heart attack when two pre-teen siblings sat opposite us for a 3 hour ride. Fortunately they got off at the first stop before they drove me crazy.

     Our host Martin met us at the station and drove us around the corner to their house to meet his wife Natalie and Nessie, a sweet 8 year old black greyhound mix the brits call a lurcher. They are going off to house sit for a whole farm of ducks, chickens, goats, etc on Vancouver Island in Canada whilst we mind their house and hound here in England. They're lovely people with a beautiful home and we are feeling quite lucky. We feed and walk Nessie daily, though so far we are taking her on more and much longer walks than I think she is used to, but she doesn't seem to mind.

     We took a really long walk up the hill of Malvern Hills but didn't quite make it to the beacon, which is the very top. We had a lovely lunch at Nag's Head Pub, which allows dogs inside and out of the actual pub. There were some comical characters there, Helen who runs a dog rescue who loved Nessie and an old fellow who looks like he practically lives there.

     Next day we walked down into Malvern proper and got LuAnn some art supplies and then went up to St Anne's Well. Several people had said the food there was great but it was strictly veggie and no pints so I coldn't be arsed. Instead we went back down to Nag's Head and it was again delish.

     We went home and the three of us cuddled up since there's nothing the Ness likes better than a good snuggle. Afterwards I went out for a few pints and met a bunch of local chaps who all knew Nessie. Gary, the local pub owner, was a stellar chap and his daughter was getting married the next day so he kicked everyone out at midnight. Mark, Brad and Simon were charming blokes and I had a good time trying to understand their accents. Here's a pic and hey! It's the #Roadbear!

     Next day was the start of Malvern Rocks, a weekend of concerts all around, but we were super lazy in the morning mostly lounging around ahead of going out for the evening to see a bunch of bands. The four we saw varied quite a bit, quality wise. I wrote a detailed review but realized to one cares so I'll spare you. Sunday was another lounge around kind of day. We slept in, had breakfast, did some food shopping, then came back for a nap. LuAnn worked on her painting commission  and we walked Nessie around the park and pondered the awfulness of buying a car when she goes back to the states next week. I want this one:

     We can't even believe that's happening but she got the job in Jacksonville, Florida so it's time to refill the coffers of this establishment a bit. We are actually looking forward to being in Florida for the forthcoming winter and being in one place for a spell. We counted up 52 places we have stayed in since we left last November. That's about 40 weeks, call it 280 days, so on average we moved every 5 days. In practice it was more like every 3 days, with breaks of two weeks here and there but anyway we are both ready to be parked for a spell and Jacksonville looks like as good a place as any to regroup. Here it is:

     That night we went to see a rhythm and blues revue with horns at the local pub called Rattlesnake Jake and they were great. We danced the night away. Good thing we forced ourselves to sit through the opening band, who were horrendously awful. Monday was another low key day spent reading, writing, playing, painting & walking the dog.  We went food shopping and booked the next day's tour.

     Tuesday we toured the Morgan Motorcar Company and saw all the beautiful cars being hand made. They have quite an operation. They aren't cheap but they tend to increase their value. Alas they only have passenger airbag so you can't import them to the US. Thank you, Nanny State. This is why we can't have nice things. Surprisingly they are mostly left-hand drive models because they are mostly sold throughout Europe (where they drive on the right), not the UK. The most unusual of all their models is the 3 wheeler.

     Wednesday we rented a car and drove to Cardiff, the capitol of Wales, and saw the castle there. We've now seen two of the four capitol cities of the UK, the others being Edinburgh, Scotland and Dublin, Ireland! Next time!

     We drove through several lovely villages and LuAnn loved seeing all the many Welsh ponies along side the road. We missed a turn and ended up driving through some nasty industrial areas. Oh well! Adventure! You can't be lost when you have no destination.

     We ended up parking at the mall and at first we were like "Uh-oh!" but we got out of there and went to a little specialty beer place where the barkeep Jordan hipped us to a cool Italian place there where we had a delicious lunch on Church St. The castle, keep and mansion took a good couple hours to get through and was all around stunning in it's beauty. Then we drove down to the seaside in Penarth. Some of it reminded us of Cape May on the Jersey Shore.

     Thursday we slept in. I returned the car and we had another mellow day. LuAnn worked on her painting and I played guitar and napped. LuAnn made Chicken cassoulet, a delicious comfort food type dish which we needed because the weather is so shite. It's very cold and clear in the mornings, then it gets warmer, but also clouds up and either threatens to rain or just plain rains. I've never seen such changeable weather. An umbrella is a permanent fixture in our backpack here in England.  Like everywhere we've been this whole year, the locals say they are having weather unlike anything they've seen before. Bad news. Friday night we got a cab to Ask Italian, a local restaurant. The food was OK. Tried to find a band afterwards but no dice. Disco karaoke? No thanks.

     On Saturday my friend Stuart came from London and took us round the Cotswolds to Broughton-on-the-Water, Broadway, Spetchley Gardens  and finally Worcester (pronounced Wooster) Cathedral.

     There are really no words to describe the beauty of this area of England. Several people have mentioned to us that they invented green and it seems so. Broughton-on-the-water and Broadway were villages that look like they came straight out of a children's book of fairytales, old english cottages with perennial gardens bursting with color.

     We wandered around Broughton and had lunch there, but this sunny Saturday in August we were not the only ones with this idea, so it was quite crowded. We arrived at Spetchley Gardens about an hour before close, but it turns out there was not a lot to see as they were doing some renovations. There was a very old church dating back to the 1100's which was quite interesting and more than a little creepy. Worester was on our way home, but with a service going on a quick peek into the cathedral was all we could manage so we missed the tomb of King John for which the Cathedral is famous. Here's the cathedral: would be better if I kept this up each day. Trying to remember what we did is a big pain, what with my ancient failing memory chips. Generally we have been taking it easy compared to our usual pace, we do some crossword puzzling, play backgammon, paint & play guitar, walk the hound and watch movies or read. It's wonderfully relaxing. When the dog gets me up too early as she is wont to do I sometimes have an afternoon nap, a custom I shall miss when we are back to work.

     Monday it was kind of rainy so we did errands, and generally did more of the above. We tried to watch a David Tennant Dr Who since we had had a conversation with Stu about the whole backstory but we just couldn't get through it. Gotta try a different Doctor maybe.

    Tuesday, another early rise. I should say a few words about the hound. Nessie is a lurcher (those are dogs before you ask) which is a cross between a Greyhound and (in her case) a lab, though they can also be crossed with Collies and other types. This sets my dog breeding self on edge as I imagine all the American purists recoiling in horror. Purposely crossing purebreds?!? But actually she is a darling dog. We tends to wake me up whimpering at the door about 6:30 and I feed her and let her out. Then we usually pile back into the bed until 9 AM, then coffee & breakfast, after which we take her for a walk. We try to take her with us when we go out if we can. We stopped into the local pub, the Gloster Arms, for a couple pints and a nice chat with Mick and Pauline, a brother and sister from the area. They were much curious about America and it was fun exchanging information and stories. Afterwards was zucchini boats from the garden and watching a movie.

    Wednesday we spent packing and getting LuAnn ready to head to Florida to start her new gig while I stay and watch the hound two more weeks. It's gonna be tough to be apart after all this time together. Some people said we might kill each other being together constantly but that didn't happen. In fact we already miss one another.

This is actually the two week mark so I'll sign off now. The next post should be a little sooner. Maybe I'll do one next week! Cheers mates!

Saturday, August 8, 2015


London! We never seem to have enough time in you!    

FYI we are also on Facebook and we post a lot more pictures on LuAnn and Andy's instagrams so please check 'em out? Thanks! Flying in was a bit stressful. It was another one of these late night, not enough people at customs, long-ass lines that make me crazy. We actually got out of line to try the electronic readers only to find they were closed. Why even have them if they are closed or don't work? I have yet to see one that wasn't a huge pain.

     We got through that, got our luggage after a brief hunt and then went looking for the train. Not easy to find. We somehow got the last train to Paddington Station and didn't have to pay, which was great because the tickets were like 40 pounds, about $60 which is in itself ridiculous for what is basically a 30-minute subway ride. London is one of the most expensive places we've been.

     A short walk got us to the hotel, despite bad directions a bodega clerk. His customer came running after us to put us on the right track, so thanks to that guy! We've seen no end to the kindness of strangers on our travels. The Tune Hotel in Paddington was great. Cheap, clean, comfortable and centrally located on the Bakerloo line.

     Next morning we got our Oyster cards, caught the Tube to The British Museum. This museum was the main reason we decided to return to London and spend a few days, since we missed it on our first trip here. There collection was absolutely fantastic, containing the other half of the friezes from the Parthenon, which we saw in the Acropolis Museum. There is still a lot controversy about that.

     There was also the original Rosetta Stone. You could spend days just browsing the bookshelves of ancient books, under glass, but we read its possible to get a special pass to actually open them. It was also insanely packed. Most London museums are free, so kudos to the city for that, but therefore tend to be very crowded especially on a rainy Sunday in July. Yikes. Afterward, we went to dinner at a local pub where LuAnn had the roast and I had a meat pie. I love those things. I must have had 5 different types in two days. All in all there was a lot of walking that day and our legs were shot.

     Next day we did a lot of errands, getting our train tickets to Malvern sorted, getting our phones working, money changed, etc, etc, then went to the Tate Modern museum, stopping on the way at the Royal Watercolor Society exhibit, which was great. The Tate had some highs and lows. There were some really great pieces by Dali, Picasso, Miro and others but also a lot of other not-so-great pieces. Modern art can be a challenge. For one thing they have 100-year-old pieces in a "modern art" museum, many of which were edgy then but now seem silly (cue the all-white canvas). On the other hand most of the contemporary work is, for me, less than exciting. The one I liked was a 4 minute black-and-white film loop of a big stack of sugar cubes being melted with oil. LuAnn hated it.LOL

     For lunch we went to Dogget's Coat & Badge Pub and had pints and fish & chips (or fush und chupsh, as I like to call them) and chatted with the family on our new British phone numbers. Afterward we caught up with an old friend of mine, Stuart, and we had a great knees up at a couple pubs thereabouts, and heard a bit of piano jazz.

     We had planned to go to a watercolor exhibit the next day but it turned out to be in Cambridge, which was a good distance away so we made do with the National Portrait Gallery. Although the hundreds of portraits of British royalty and such got sort of tedious after awhile, luckily they were featuring the 2015 Portrait Awards Show which had really stupendous paintings. However, we disagreed with the award winners, but that was part of the fun. After that we scooted over the Hyde Park to see the restored Italian Gardens of Albert and Victoria and the abundant bird life there.

     Finally we headed back to the hotel, got our stuff and rolled back over to Paddington station to get our train to Malvern and our dog sit there. And that was 2 days in London. That'll be the subject of our next post!