UK Road Trip Part II: Seven Sisters and the Roman Baths

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Following the directions we got from Mr. Martin at Jeake’s House, we drove south from Rye, towards the coast and then along the shoreline through some charming coastal towns. They all appeared ready for summer with beach toys and umbrellas on display, despite the fact that it was already mid-May and we were still wearing scarves and jackets.

Based on Mr. Martin’s suggestion we stopped at Beachy Head to see the Seven Sisters, a series of sheer white limestone cliffs with a drop so sudden it made me dizzy. He called this the suicide capital of England. He told us the pay phone here is free but only dials the National Suicide Hotline. He chuckled with a dark sense of humor as he told us this.

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From the carpark you can’t really tell that you are walking towards a sheer cliff. To me, it just looked like a hill. I assumed the cliffs were on the other side. I started walking up the “hill” at a rather fast pace (I was excited) and Brandon kept telling me to slow down. Apparently I was about to walk right over the edge! Continue reading “UK Road Trip Part II: Seven Sisters and the Roman Baths”

The Road Trip Begins: Rye, England

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While we thoroughly enjoyed our time in London, we were also looking forward to getting out of the city. And today is the first day of our 12 day road trip around the UK! We have lots of exciting stops planned, as well as time to simply see where the road takes us.

Step one was to find our way back to the airport and rent a car. We decided to rent from the airport based on the advice of a guy named David who works at the Burberry perfume counter at Harrods. While sampling perfumes we got to chatting and learned that he was planning his own road trip adventure in the states! He and his fiancé are renting a Hummer conversion camper and spending three weeks out west for their honeymoon. So basically, we had lots to chat about!

The reason to rent from the airport is that Heathrow Airport is outside of the city making it a lot easier to navigate your way out-of-town. He said that starting from inside the city would be confusing. I’m glad we took his advice, navigating our way out of the airport was confusing enough!

For future reference, we should have booked our rental car online in advance. This would have saved us a couple hundred bucks. Ouch! But you live and learn. We waited to rent the car because we weren’t sure where we should choose as the pick-up point due to our lack of knowledge of the area.

We ended up renting a compact hatchback Vauxhall. It was a manual right-side drive, which meant Brandon had to get used to shifting on the left. At least the pedals weren’t switched too! It took some time to learn the car. The gear box was much smaller than on our manual Jeep. Brandon kept accidentally taking off in third instead of first. But once he worked out this tiny issue, he did great.

Funny thing about renting a car in the UK — they seem very unconcerned with damage to the car. They kept saying, “If something gets damaged, let us know, but don’t worry, you already paid for it!”. Full-coverage insurance was the only option. It’s as if they know foreign drivers on narrow streets (on the wrong side of the road) are bound to hit something so they just factor it into the cost of the rental. We nearly curbed the left tire before we even left the airport!

The highways (or motorways in England) look much like the highways in the states. The narrow roads we were warned about don’t really show up until you get into the countryside. We saw lots of caravans (RVs), making us think about doing a European RV trip some day. I think our RV is far to big for Europe though.

It was about 90 miles to our first destination — The medieval citadel of Rye on the southeastern coast. We knew we wanted to visit Rye as soon as we saw the first images of it on Google. The city is remarkably preserved as it looked in the 1400s. Some buildings date from the 1100s. Plus, the town is small enough that you can easily walk everywhere, exploring the cobbled streets and quaint shops by foot.

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Harry Potter & The Girl Who Never Got Her Letter

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This is it! The reason we’re in London. Nearly two years ago I bought tickets to Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, the final story in the Harry Potter saga. Tickets to the play were selling like hot cakes and I thought, why not? I’ve wasted money on much dumber ideas than this. The tickets were non-refundable, non-transferable, and basically un-sellable due to Rowling’s decision to require the original purchaser’s ID at the will-call window. She knows her fans are loyal and didn’t want them paying exorbitant prices for tickets that had been bought up by third-party sellers looking to make a profit. If I couldn’t make it, I would be out a couple hundred bucks (and very disappointed). But here I am!

I suppose the life lesson is this: Just buy the tickets — to Thailand, Burning Man, or whatever you’re into. You can figure the details out later. And if it doesn’t work out, at least you tried. You can always make more money, but living out your dreams is priceless. Plus, having tickets in hand, a date set, and money already invested creates a great motivation to save money for your trip!

But before we get to the play, we’re doing something else that is only available here in Harry Potter’s birthplace — The Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour! Continue reading “Harry Potter & The Girl Who Never Got Her Letter”

Across the Pond: London, England

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We’re finally here! The first trip across the Atlantic for both of us.

I have wanted to visit England ever since I was little. To me, England has always been a magical and mysterious place that I could only visit through my favorite books — and not just Harry Potter. In fact, many of my favorite authors, from childhood on, have been British and either wrote books set here or inspired by what they saw around them.

As a kid I devoured all of Roald Dahl’s children’s books (Matilda was my favorite). In college I took classes devoted to British literature and wrote my thesis on a little known period of British history. I won’t bore you with the full-synopsis but it involved that one time the Brits tried (sort of) legalizing prostitution as a way to curb the spread of syphilis. Fascinating stuff.

During law school I finally discovered Tolkien. One year for Christmas, Brandon bought me a beautifully bound copy of The Lord of the Rings, complete with additional appendices for reference. Pure magic. And of course, I’ve now reread and rewatched the Harry Potter series more times than I care to admit.

There is just something about this country that I seem to find intriguing. Maybe it’s the dry humor. (I did watch a lot of British comedies on PBS as a kid). Maybe it’s the idyllic countryside and the cobble stone roads. Maybe I just really like creamed tea and lemon curd. Or maybe I’m a huge nerd and want to find out what really happened to my Hogwarts acceptance letter.

For those of you that aren’t Harry Potter fans (muggles . . . ), please forgive the jokes and bear with me. The impetus for this trip may have been seeing the Harry Potter play in person, but that is just a small fraction of the things we have planned. In fact, I’m only planning to write one Harry Potter focused post. I solemnly swear. But if you’re also a fan and itching to hear all about the play — stay tuned! — that post is coming up right after this one.

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Continue reading “Across the Pond: London, England”

Land-Warming BBQ!

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I’ve learned many things from my parents over the years, one of which is how to throw a great party. It’s really pretty simple. All you need is a good spot, good friends, good food, and a little booze. Ever since we purchased our property in Bastrop people have been asking us, “When’s the party?!” Apparently we’ve developed a bit of a reputation.

Once we started looking at the calendar we realized that we had a limited number of weekends available. My mom had asked that we not double book with one of her gigs (both her reggae band and Hawaiian girl group have booked a number of gigs this spring). If you’re local, go check them out back-to-back on May 27th! Hear both Sister Jane and the Nani Wahinis at the Good Luck Grill in Manor, TX from 6:00 to 8:45 pm! 

Our upcoming trip to the UK was another big (but delightfully exciting) scheduling conflict. The only day we really had left happened to be our one-year wedding anniversary. Perfect! Continue reading “Land-Warming BBQ!”

A Perfectly Texas Easter BBQ

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This is not a typical Alpha1 blog post. We don’t have any major life updates and we didn’t go on some crazy adventure. Rather, we did something quite ordinary. We had Brandon’s family over for an Easter BBQ at the family ranch where we’ve been staying. And because this is Texas, that means shooting guns, riding 4-wheelers, and feeding the cows. Of course, we didn’t nix all tradition. There was also a raucous confetti egg fight and a brown sugar and bourbon glazed ham (which we smoked on the bbq pit because, well, Texas).  Continue reading “A Perfectly Texas Easter BBQ”

Round Top Antiques Fair

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Since we’re stuck in Texas for a while, we thought it might be fun to go exploring in our own backyard. I find that when we travel we think about places differently than we do during our “everyday” lives. On the road we are always exploring, looking for that day’s big adventure. We go hiking in the parks, visit funky little museums, check out old buildings just for fun. Sometimes all it takes is finding the perfect little coffeehouse somewhere unexpected, i.e., Hoodsport Coffee Co. near Lake Cushman, Washington! We LOVED that place.

But when we stay in one place (even without the grind of a 9 to 5) we tend to lose that sense of adventure. We eat at the same restaurants, visit the same shops, drive by interesting buildings and never stop. Most towns have a local museum, but honestly, how many of us ever actually go inside? (That school field trip back in 5th grade doesn’t count.) Because we love our life on the road, we are making a conscious effort not to lose our sense of adventure while also staying put. And this week made it really easy. Because guess what ya’ll?

It’s Antique Week in Roundtop!   Continue reading “Round Top Antiques Fair”

Update: Buying land and a change of plans

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Those of you keeping track have undoubtably realized we are back in Texas. We left the Bahamas right after Christmas and it’s now the middle of March. So, you ask, what on earth have we been doing? Why aren’t we back on the road sharing our adventures with you, dear reader?

We always planned to spend the month of January at home in Texas. We would visit with our friends and family. Spend time with our dog. But most importantly, we would shop for a plot of land where we could eventually build our home. Once we’d found the land we could get back on the road and drive east towards Florida. My mother doubted that we could find and purchase land in only a months time. She and my dad had spent a full year looking for the right place when they built their house 30 years ago. Well, she was wrong, but I think we just got lucky.

While we were still in the Bahamas, Brandon came across a listing for 35 acres just outside of Bastrop. As soon as we returned he drove by to have a look. He was sold. I was skeptical. We hired a realtor so that we could go have a proper look at the place. From outside the gate all we could really see was a hay field and a nice grove of mature oak trees. We knew that there was a dry weather creek running through the property, which is absolutely magical, but also a bit concerning. A portion of the property is a known flood zone.

It was the very first property we looked at and, honestly, we could have just stopped right then. I find that the biggest decisions in life are not actually that difficult. Who to marry, which house to buy, whether to quit your job and live in a big blue bus. If you trust your gut instincts you don’t really have to think much to make the right decision. You just know. Continue reading “Update: Buying land and a change of plans”

Christmas at the Abaco Inn

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Since buying the Irie Joe my parents have been spending more and more of their time here in the Bahamas. We joke with them that they might as well just move here but they say Texas is still home. Over their many trips they’ve learned that staying one extra day after packing up the boat really takes the sting out of leaving.

Their absolute favorite place to stay over is the Abaco Inn on Elbow Cay, just a few minutes down the road from Hopetown. When the boat isn’t being used it lives in Hopetown Harbour, which made transferring our bags to the Inn a cinch.

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During the Christmas holiday the Abaco Inn has a four-day booking minimum, turning what would usually be a quick stopover into a vacation in and of itself. Staying here was so relaxing, even more so than being on the boat. It’s a small boutique hotel made up of 20 or so small cabanas that surround the pool, restaurant and bar. What makes this place unique is its location on a very narrow section of the island. It is so narrow that the Inn is literally the only thing that fits between the ocean and White Sound. From the porch you can see both the breaking waves of the Atlantic and the calm shallow water of the sound.  Continue reading “Christmas at the Abaco Inn”