Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Years in London

We returned from Ireland to London for a week at Lori's flat.  Doug and his family joined us as well for a week of shows, sight-seeing and food.

Columbia Road Flower Market.  It was a little sparse on a cold weekend after Christmas.  But it was an outdoor activity that kept the Browne's awake after their trans-Atlantic flight.  

A great title for a shop at the Market..."Stoned and Plastered"
We visited Harrod's for their after Christmas sale...along with a million other people.  

Only available at Harrods.  Your own personal hovercraft.  

One cold morning we walked across the bridge to Westminster Abbey.  The air was perfectly clear (very unusual for London) so I got a great shot of Big Ben.  

The front of Westminster

Paddington was at the entrance to the Churchill War Rooms, a museum of the underground rooms where Churchill directed the war efforts.  

St Paul's Cathedral

We climbed to the top of St. Paul's and were rewarded with this view of downtown.  The Cathedral is located at the highest point in London.  Then we climbed 528 steps to reach the top viewing area.    

I found this sign on the way up.  Seems like a mean trick. 

We shopped at the food stalls of Borough Street Market.  Doug is not a big brussels sprout fan.  We had never bought them still on the stalk before.   

Thanks to Dave (Doug's Dad) the boys got to attend a Premier League Football (soccer) game.  Tottenham upset the top ranked Chelsea team 5-3.  Great fun.  No hooligans.  

New Years Eve Dinner
We saw two shows....Book of Mormon and....

....Jersey Boys.  Grant loves this show with all the quartet music.  

The real reason to go to London......a chance to visit the Harry Potter Studios outside of the city.  Once they were done filming movies, the studios were opened up for tours.  We even took the  Knight Bus to get there.  

Grant & Lori at the gates of Hogwarts

The wands of all the major characters in the movies.

Dumbledore's Office

Snape's Potions Lab

Kate warms up with a real butterbeer

Kate and Doug drive the Weasley's car

Kate and Grant in front of wizard's chess pieces from the first movie. 

The electronics were amazing.  Much better than Abe Lincoln welcoming you to the Hall of Presidents at Disney.  

The model used to film Hogwarts

At the end, we all flew to Holland where Kate got a chance to see Graber for the first time in 18 months.  

We also caught up with the entire Sechler family for what seemed like the first time in ......

......over 10 years.  

And then everyone went home, to work and to school and Graber was left all alone.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Christmas on the Emerald Isle

We spent the Christmas holidays at Dromoland Castle in Ireland.  We had stayed there during our visit to Ireland in summer 2005 and were glad to get a chance to go back.    Per Wikipedia, other famous guests include George W Bush, Bill Clinton, Juan Carlos I of Spain, Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Cash, Michael Flatley, Bono and John Travolta.  I wonder if the folks at wiki will update their information to include us now?  
The crew with our shooting guide, Patrick.  He's been shooting on the castle grounds since he was 10.  

Patrick helps Kate kill another clay pigeon.  
After shooting we moved on to archery.  
Don't mess with Lori if she has a bow in her hand. 
I think that Kate's bow impacted her aim.

Ireland truly is the land of rainbows.  Probably because it rains every day.  

This girl was feeding the resident ducks.  Shortly after I took this picture her mother told her that one of those birds would be on their Christmas dinner table.   No need to sugar coat things I guess.  

There's a beautiful golf course on the castle grounds.  We didn't play but it had nice walking trails.  

Another rainbow.  Most of the time, they were double rainbows.  

Prior to Christmas Eve dinner.  Another not very good picture taken by hotel staff (see Kate's birthday blog of NYC). 
We were told that a piper would lead Santa in that evening.  We didn't realize it would be a bagpiper.  
Santa handed out presents to everyone.....
....even Kate.  

Before Christmas Lunch.  This time we didn't use the hotel staff for photographs.  With much better results.  

While the girls went to the spa (no photo's allowed) Grant & I met with the resident falconer.  We walked through the woods with Damion, the falconer (who was originally from Hawaii) and TJ, one of his 15 or so birds.  TJ would fly away, then return to our glove...usually enticed by a small piece of meat.   He was a friendly bird; sometimes even getting on our shoulders.  As we walked I noticed that Damion has two bandaids on his finger.  It turns out that TJ's sister, Alice, is not a nice bird.  He's been training her with limited success.  

On the last day we drove to the west coast to see the Cliffs of Moher.  They're an impressive sight, rising 200 meters out of the Atlantic.  As you can see from the photo's, it was very windy and cold that day.  We didn't spend too much time gazing out to sea.  The Cliffs got us ready for the second half of our vacation -- some scenes from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince were shot there.