Category Archives: adventures

Trip to the Southwest Day 2

Wow, Sedona is beautiful!

Seriously. Sedona is so beautiful that it looks as if the photo background from my 6th grade photos has been pulled down all around us. And it’s like that everywhere! Anywhere you drive near Sedona is breathtaking – behind the grocery store, along the Sedona 192 (touristy strip full of items no one needs), along side the bank, and most importantly, all around our motel. We woke up early and popped our heads outside (because somebody possibly named Todd was cackling at the top of his lungs outside our open window), to find that the famous red rocks were not at all hard to find because they were HUGE and they were everywhere.

We were booked for an early morning Pink Jeep Tour so after a deliciously greasy breakfast in the Coffee Pot (which I highly recommend if you’re ever in Sedona – they have 101 omelets!) we made it to the Pink Jeep location. We were running a bit late but after a good hustle we arrived – I don’t think I mentioned that we were traveling with 9 people (I know that is a lot of people) so it’s a bit more challenging to get that many folks moving in the morning. We were traveling with Todd (who I used to work with in Tomorrowland who was the birthday boy), Rebecca (Todd’s wife), Estalene (Todd’s mom), Pat (Todd’s sister), Deb (Todd’s other sister), Larry (Deb’s husband), and Amanda (Larry’s daughter), so it was a pretty full house – and now you know the players!

The Pink Jeep tour was spectacular even though our tour guide was only a little bit crazy – bless her, she was awfully friendly though! She was thorough and very knowledgeable of the area, but also told us all about her pet chameleon and the trouble he’s had – don’t worry though, he’s back to hissing and biting which makes her very happy (see what I mean?) We were taking a Morgan Family Photo at the top of a big red rock (yes, we’ve been adopted) and we saw a butterfly who flew by in a friendly way and flew a bit closer and then landed on the zipper of my shorts. This is the point when everyone (including those outside the Morgan clan) whipped out their cameras and started taking multiple photos of my crotch – I love it when strangers have pictures of my downstairs’l area. . The butterfly stayed to pose and twirl for everyone (very thoughtful) when our crazy tour guide gingerly removed him so that he could be free (and not move into my shorts).

The coolest part of the tour was that the jeep could scale a mountain with only a little revving – it drove up on great big rocks and then down huge hills. It’s hard to describe but trust me, it was very cool.

We took the crazy tour guide’s dining recommendation for the Cowboy Club where I enjoyed my first prickly pear margarita which became a regular occurrence in our dining routine – delicious!

After a quick lay-down/cool-down (riding in a jeep in the ridiculous Arizona heat can be very taxing) we popped into our front desk to pay up and ask for a vortex recommendation. What’s a vortex you might ask? We don’t know… but the front desk woman (who was wearing animal print stretchy pants, a clingy blouse, and sunglasses that she never took off – even after the sun went down) enthusiastically told us that they were real and we’d HAVE to visit one. She gave us directions to find her favorite and very powerful vortex while telling us that we’d definitely “feel” it and “see” it, even though it can’t be seen and our watches might even stop from the electromagnetic energy. Yes, I know. That seems ridiculous, but she was passionate and animated when talking about it and Todd had always wanted to “see” one so we were off. After several frustrating wrong turns from the crazy front desk lady’s directions, we found ourselves at a park that seemed to be the right place.

We’d asked for directions several times and tried to play it cool but we were pretty much over it and wanted to just get straight answers, so Todd (who was driving) pulled forward so that Rebecca and I (the bossy backseat drivers) could take control of this lingering question. There was a bright faced young man at the ranger’s station/entry kiosk ready to answer our questions. I explained that we were looking for a vortex, whatever the hell that was, and that we weren’t crazy believers or anything, but just wanted to go “see” one and could he please direct us to the vortex location. The “ranger” aka: Crikey-Dave (clearly an Australian import) had a good humored laugh, telling us that it was a bit of a walk and that we’d be close if we parked close and walked a bit when (like a stripper out of a birthday cake) Dave’s opinionated girlfriend/fellow ranger popped up from below him in the window (eeeew). Crikey-Dave’s girlfriend told us that vortexes were scientifically proven and very much real because she had made a list of the characteristics of the perfect partner and written it down at a vortex (she didn’t say which one) and Crikey-Dave showed up miraculously two weeks later. We held back our rolling eyes, and gag reflexes and listened long enough to hear Crikey-Dave tell us that they’re supposed to be so powerful that we should already be feeling “it”. Skeptical Rebecca and Sarcastic Andrea held our watches up to our ears and once we heard that they were still working allowed ourselves to roll our eyes before venturing into the park to discover an invisible and sign-less but scientifically proven and very real vortex.

The park was beautiful (and we’ll post photos for you to enjoy) but apparently our disbelief of the vortex angered it and threw Deb (Todd’s sister) down a ravine (or into a rock or something) in the park. She wouldn’t let us photograph it, but trust me, it’s reason alone to become a believer.

The theme of the trip seems to be our experiences with crazy people. Don’t get too jealous, more crazy’s are to come!

Trip to the Southwest Day 1

Holy crap. It’s hot here.

After a long time on various planes with great big wide legged men next to us, we landed in Phoenix. We got our luggage and just in time, the Morgans (our traveling companions) were coming to pick us up so we headed outside. Holy crap. It was 9:15pm and as we walked outside, were smacked in the face with an oven’s worth of blasting heat without the delicious chocolate brownie scent that one would associate with such a sensation. Feeling claustrophobic and panicky, I stopped a woman who looked southwestern (or at least like she wasn’t being affected by the unreasonable heat radiating all around us. I asked her if it was really this hot outside or if was just because of the pavement, cars, and closed-in-ness of the airport. She told me that it was cool like this at night – usually about 100 degrees. I (almost argumentatively) spat out No, I said hot like this! Which is when she laughed at me a little and said yes, it’s hot here, shaking her head and walked away.

Where the hell are we?

Blaine – you grew up here and lived here for 22 years. What the hell?
Ralph – you too! Ridiculus!

Anyway, once they picked us up and turned on the ac, I was quickly able to acclimate to the Arizona-in-August experience (so long as it was in an air-conditioned vehicle). We made a quick stop at in and out burger (where I had the most delicious chocolate milkshake I’ve ever had) and drove to our motel in Sedona where we crashed hard.

Birthday Weekend – Key West Day Two (part two)

Saturday, July 19th – Part Two
It’s STILL my birthday!

We caught back up to the group who assumed we’d chickened out because we’d only been gone 15 minutes (apparently they were under the impression that we were going to take time to get to know our nude neighbors, but boy were they wrong). It was time to get ready and catch the boat for our Sunset Snorkeling Adventure! We rushed and ran to the dock to take celebrating my birthday in style up one more notch! The water was beautiful and the boys running the boat were of model quality (at least that’s what I’m assuming by the number of photos Mike and Jed took of them). As we were getting to the protected reef, the water got a bit rougher and by the time we anchored, there were white foamy waves on the water where we’d be snorkeling.

Though it was beautiful, once we got into the water we were thrown around as much as one might be thrown about in that wavepool from hell at Typhoon Lagoon – so yes, a little rough is a mild description. I wasn’t feeling so hot and by the time I got back onto the boat after being in the water for an hour, I felt pretty horrible. Mike G. had thrown up in the water (which apparently brings the most beautiful fish very close – just a tip) and then on the boat several more times. Hope was feeling nauseated and looked glassy eyed. I decided to lie down on Frank’s lap to try the trip back with my eyes closed to ward off the yacks. After having my head down for a few minutes a strong wave of nausea came over me and Frank sent me down to the bathroom in the boat…. Not a great recommendation. If I felt sick before going downstairs in to the fecal mater capital of everywhere and everything, the smell of the debris covered room only made it worse. I hadn’t even closed the door before my full and flavorful lunch from Caroline’s shot out and then again, because apparently the margarita and fries I consumed were also offensive to my fragile belly. 4 rounds of yacking later I emerged, white and clammy. While I was below deck, Mike G. and Hope had set up a sickbay of sorts in the center most area of the boat that they now welcomed me into with open arms. The truly sad part of this is that there was a delicious menagerie of complimentary beverages for the trip back that the three of us couldn’t participate in (but don’t worry, that didn’t stop Frank, Jed, and Mike M. from sampling them thoroughly).

We watched bitterly as the boys drank and congratulated themselves and we sipped on plastic cups of water. As we were about to park the boat, Mike G. had one more round in him and having already christened the other three sides of the boat, tossed the last bits of his shrimp-filled lettuce wrap off the final side of the boat – he’s thorough!

We got back to the house and I decided that I wasn’t feeling up to going out and getting crazy so we decided to put on our pajamas and spend the night in. The boys had bought fish and steak earlier in the weekend to grill but the idea of eating what I’d just thrown up (did I mention that I had a blackened mahi mahi sandwich for lunch?) was not something I was prepared to do so we ordered Papa John’s. The gang surprised me with a delicious strawberry-and-cream-filled cake that after a bit I was even able to eat a bite of – my birthday wish came true!

That’s how you ring in a 30th birthday with style!

Don’t get jealous – one more day of excitement to come!

Birthday Weekend – Key West Day Two

Saturday, July 19th – Part One
It’s my birthday!

Sweet and wonderful Frank took the girls for an early morning walk so that I could sleep in. I woke up to find that thoughtful and beautiful Hope bought doughnuts and muffins for breakfast. I opened super birthday presents while we enjoyed our lazy Saturday morning and then we put a stop to the laziness and got ready for the good times! First thing, first – off to Key West’s own Butterfly Museum. A nice museum man told us all sorts of stuff about some scary big moths and how moths differ from butterflies – a learning experience for all!

We ate lunch at Caroline’s – my favorite Key West restaurant. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their HUGE meals and cleaned their plates. During lunch, due to some heckling from the rest of the gang, it occurred to Mike M. and I that it was probably time to complete another item on the list. Yes, you guessed it – it was Naked Margarita Time.

For those of who don’t know the details of this particular ridiculousness, I’ll explain. One of my unfinished 30-before-30 list items was to drink naked margaritas. There is a clothing-optional bar there, on Duval Street called the Garden of Eden where I’d never been, but had always heard about and this seemed like the sort of adventurous thing that a 30th birthday called for. I didn’t want to embark on this adventure alone, (goodness knows what sorts of crazies would pray on a lonesome naked gal) but unfortunately most of my traveling companions politely declined the invitation. Fortunately for me, Mike M. is a handsome single man who is game for just about anything, and he thought it seemed like the sort of craziness he was eager to participate in. Back to the story…

Mike M. and I headed to the restroom at Caroline’s to take one last look at “ourselves” to make sure that we were “show ready” if you will… (and we will). We were as ready as we were going to get (which really means that our stomachs had started to rumble and we were really beginning to freak out). We’d left the bill for the rest of the gang (aka: the non-participants) and walked quickly and frantically to the Garden of Eden. We agreed that we just had to do it, get there and get it done, so that we wouldn’t chicken out. We marched into the bar and up the stairs. The Garden of Eden (the bar, not the original biblical version) is on the roof, so we walked up one flight of stairs and concerned and confused, realized that it wasn’t the roof. Have no fear though, after looking around frantically, we found a flight of stairs and a sign so we timidly climbed another flight, finding ourselves on the roof. We knew right away that we were in the right place because a naked man was sitting on a towel on a barstool at the bar. I didn’t look too closely, but Mike M. checked to make sure that everything was available to see, and according to him, everything was very available.

We looked around to the rest of the bar for a private place to have our margaritas and were thwarted. Oh there was a bar and probably even fixin’s for margaritas but privacy was not an option – a rooftop bar doesn’t exactly have separate sections or partitions. We counted 7 patrons along with the bartender who at this point had realized what we were there for. We were not sticking to the plan of “keeping cool” by anyone’s imagination. We were sweaty, panicky, and jumpy. The bartender (who was wearing tie-wasted pants and a string bikini) told us that there were showers in case we were interested (something I rudely dismissed) and told us that we could take off as much or as little as we wanted to. She’d figured us out. I had a nasty case of the dry mouth syndrome, because as most of you know I’m a little chatty and usually this would give me the perfect opportunity to share our plan, making it a funny story, and win her over… but I didn’t want to win her over. I didn’t want her to remember us, or even pay any special attention to us, but our fidgety, frantic nature was taking priority and that seemed like an unlikely objective. Mike M. pointed out a piece of railing and palm tree to be our designated drinking location and we ordered. I asked for 2 margaritas on the rocks (since the urgency of our slurping would rule out the frozen sort – no one wants an ice cream headache), when our string bikini’d bartender told us that the two-for-one margaritas were on downstairs. We giggled and said that we were in the right place and just wanted two of her special rooftop margaritas – which she informed us had been called the best on the island (again, not something we wanted to hang around to find out about, but I digress). We headed to our selected slice of banister and got to business. I started to take off my watch, jewelry, and glasses. Mike M. took his top layer shirt (because boys in Florida should rarely wear one layer for fear of the sweaty monster within) and gave me a frantic “you’d better start taking something real off” look when I told him that if I were to take ANY clothes off, private moments would be shared, which was not the case for him in his layered glory so I was merely pacing myself. In a moment, he was down to his underoos so it was time for me to remove something meaningful and in the attempt to do so I got stuck inside my shirt when trying to do a tricky bra-tshirt combination of removal… I stopped being fancy, as did Mike M. and we just pulled it all off.

That’s when we’re fairly sure that we heard cheering, and hooting from the bar. We didn’t look around though, because we had an unspoken agreement to look straight ahead – at each other’s faces only – and drink, drink, drink! We only had to stay naked as long as there was margarita to drink so drink we did! In unison, at some point during our frantic slurping we both realized how much nicer it was there, in no clothes with a cool drink and the lovely breeze, than it had been all day in our sticky clothes two stories down. We giggled about it a little and then Mike M. said “Time to drink”! So we wrapped up our glasses of tequila and hurriedly put our damp clothes back on. Our seven-minutes in hell was finally over! We turned around to find the bartender cheering and waving her girls around eagerly as she’d freed them from their bikini’d harnesses by wrapping the little bit of fabric around her ladies as if it were acting as border to her gal-parts. Priceless. I’m glad I tipped her $5 as anything less than that would be seen as an insult for the “show” we subsequently received! As we were rushing to get down the stairs and appreciate the conversations that we were trying to evacuate from a big handsome man stopped us to thank us for our big reveal and tell us that it was the best 5 minutes of his day.

That’s a compliment I’ll take to the bank!

We Have A Winner!

The famous and beautiful Martha Thelma Buchta is our winner! She will be receiving her prize shortly in the mail – please congratulate her heartily and enviously. I’ve also added the answers (for your reading enjoyment) to the questions throughout the blog.

Oh, and yes, the final (and most interesting) days of our trip to Key West are still just about finished! We’ve saved the best for last!

Birthday Weekend – Trivia Day One

Trivia question #17
Q – How long did Phyllis sleep in the car on the way to Key West?
A – Zero minutes

Trivia question #18
Q – How many fiber one bars did Andrea eat in the car on the way to Key West?
A – Two and a half – that’s alot of gas!

Trivia question #19
Q – What sort of dangerous alcohol was in Andrea’s first Key West beverage?
A – Grain Alcohol – only the finest for me!

Trivia question #20
Q – Where did we see our first chicken of the weekend?
A – Mallory Square

Apple Flapple Day 4

I’m tired. Washington DC is big and we had the most beautiful day to enjoy it but I’m tired and need a nap, so this’ll be short tonight. We saw the outside of the librairy of congress, visited Lincoln’s memorial, saw the Vietnam Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial. We also stopped by the Museum of Native American History where we saw a very cool copper wall and the most delicious lunch ever (including pumpkin cookies – delicious)! Finally, we witnessed a man being struck down by four policemen outside the White house (now known as beat-down alley). Overall it was a fine day in our nation’s capital.

Apple Flapple Day 3

Lauren is besties with Wayne and his body guards. Mindi wanted, more than anything, to meet and possibly have a private experience with Wayne Newton this weekend which might seem strange when visiting Virginia, but Wayne happens to be the Grand Marshall of the Apple Blossom Festival… so it isn’t really that crazy. Unfortunately, Mindi, Frank, and I had no such Wayne experience. Lauren, on the other hand, met him for a life changing 5 seconds when attempting to board an elevator in the nicest (yes really) hotel in Winchester (we only enjoy the finer things in life so we went Wingate all the way). She greeted him with an enthusastic “Wow, hi there!” Wayne said hello back and then the doors shut. Though Mindi was standing right next to her, she assumed Lauren was greeting an old town bar friend, and not having a once in a lifetime celebrity meeting. Anyway, we’re mad at Lauren as she’s been in the presence of greatness.

After getting over that tragic blow, we headed down to breakfast (which was delicious – thank you Wingate) and saw another fine Winchester celebrity, Miss Virginia, in a gold shiny slinky rusched dress at 9:15am… She is clearly a glamorous pagent winner all the way!

We thought we’d attempt to have another Wayne sighting at the pre-parade street show, but we were tragically thwarted in our efforts when, for the second time this weekend, the glossy brochures held misinformation and lead us astray. Fortunately, we did receive a free bottle of water and religious tract from the Nazarenes – thank you Nazarenes, my thirst is finally quenched!

We decided to leave Winchester a bit early as it was raining (and we’d missed Wayne again) so we headed off to my cousin’s house (which is lovely – thank you for letting us stay Jess and Jeff). We were greeted by an enthusiastic Sophie (of course pictures are in the gallery) and then headed to the Torpedo Factory and downtown Alexandria which is SOOO much cooler than I ever remember it being! We saw oodles of crazy art in the Torpedo Factory (beautiful and expensive!) shopped around town where Mindi bought every kind of turquiose Sharpie imaginable and we tortured the boys (Frank mostly) by shopping for purses and jewelry… again. He’s so good to us!

We sent the boys off to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at an Irish Pub called Murphy’s where Frank was named the “Cricketeer” due to his dart prowess. He, Jeff, and Jon attracted a gaggle of “bar hags” who came over to “learn how to play darts.” We did not come to their rescue but sat 6 inches away and laughed out loud as the married ones kept throwing Jon to the courger… or hag. Murphy’s also had live music that required us to clap and dance along – my favourite kind of bar music :) Who doesn’t like to join in? I don’t know! Our favourite was the unicorn song and yes, we can show you all of the choreography.

Apple Flapple Day 2

First thing – our friend from Jacksonville (now known as JAX and it’s alright that we have a nickname for him since he called Lauren “blondie”). Anyway, he followed us today as well (check the photos and you’ll see how handsome his is) and we discovered that he was not on vacation, but in fact, was here to work the Apple Blossom Festival as a carnie who was very upset with us when we wouldn’t play his dart, ballon, and three balls for 7 dollar game… “small hands, smell like cabbage.”

While checking out Jax’s fellow carnies, we bumped into Big E or Eric from MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge Fresh Meat. As Eric is who and what he is, we all assumed we knew him from high school, but since none of us went to the same high school (or college for that matter) we discoverd that although his looks aren’t stereotypically “celebrity” he was, in fact, a local celebrity. Frank likes to embarass me so you can see a photo of him and I in the photo gallaries. I’m mortified even mentioning it…. and yet, we’ve fashioned a list of informative questions to ask him in case we bump into him tomorrow… our lives are sad.

We tried to see the coronation of the Apple Blossom Queen but were lead a stray by the informative maps, and guidebooks to a location a mile in the wrong direction that was under construction but the lengthy walk afforded us the opportunity to make wishes on weeds and see the surrounding neighborhoods. Since we missed the coronation, we decided to have a thirst quenching beverage and go shopping for all the things we felt too guilty about buying yesterday… the economy of Winchester (who’s building is very festively decorated) has properly thanked us :)

Today we attended the world’s largest (yes, that means it was three full hours) firefighter’s parade. Though we waited a very very long time, we did not see Wayne Newton, aka: Apple Blossom’s Grand Marshall, or Tom Wopat, or George Hamilton, or Dorothy Hamill who were all proudly advertised in the brochures and website. Liars in Virginia, all liars. Although, we did see the most laid back townie ever who was mascotting his own tractor/float while kicking back and enjoying the sites… with the occasional nether-scratch. Have a gander, you’ll crack up. We also saw the most poorly behaved musician in the history of middle school marching bands ever. As the photo shows, he is using his trombone as a walking stick, armrest, and cane to lean on as well as adjusting his chin strap as a teething ring while looking around to notice himself being noticed. He is the reason we have all sworn off children that become pain-in-the-you-know-where teenagers. We’ll also remind our families at this point, that we were well behaved and respectful of authority in our youth.

Trivia Question #3

Mindi purchased several brush art animals today made from seeds, glue, wire, leaves, and seed pods. What sorts of animals did she buy?
A) two giraffs and a non-family-friendly joey B) a red-jay, squirel , and sharp nosed hummingburd C) five squirels who she’s named and is designing costumes for

Apple Flapple Day 1

We (Lauren, Mindi, Frank, and I) hopped onto a plane early this morning headed toward Winchester for the 80th annual Apple Blossom Festival (for more information, go to Our first stop was Sheetz where Lauren discovered the wonderment that is the never ending condiment option and Mindi sampled the new and delicately flavoured garlic fries (the car still smells).

We took a short walk around Shenandoah University and saw the cutest goslings waddling near the water. I stopped into the campus health center to see if my favorite sign was still on the wall (so I could share it with you all arounhd the world) but unfortunately, the “Love carefully, chlamydia is not a flower” sign has been taken down and I can only imagine that the students of Shenandoah are now at risk, without that sage advice.

We also walked around “old town” Winchester where we did some shopping (alright, a good deal of shopping) and chatting with the locals. A soiled man from Jacksonville (who itched the area under his shirt continually throughout the day) stopped us to celebrate and share his Florida heritage with us. He made us nervous… especially since he seemed to follow us throughout the day. We found ourselves at Brewbakers (one of our favorite pubs ever) and located the best people watching table ever. We took in the “local culture” and in the end met a man who could not resist my loveliness (it’s no surprise that he had clearly been drinking for hours and was the resident drunk).

We (I) also encounter an angry staring man who huffed at me after I came out of the restroom. Since I remembered to flush, I couldn’t figure out why he was hmph-ing at me and assumed I was being paranoid. He looked a little familiar but not so much that it seemed appropriate to say hi. As we left to head home for the evening, he (according to Mindi) gave me the “angry stare down” so this is my formal appology to the angry man. I’m not sure what I did to you, or wrote you up for in college, but I’m sorry if it had a lasting scarring effect. I’m sure I was in the wrong, and you were blameless, as most teenage co-eds are. My bad.

We’ve put together some new features, including “phrases of Winchester” and “trivia” so please participate in this holiday with us – there might even be a prizzze in it for you! Please respond to the trivia questions by emailing me directly at


Jed Daiger is the big winner in our competition.
Yeah Jed!
Second place goes to Mike Strange
Third place goes to Martha Buchta
Fourth Place goes to Patrick Hayes
and noteworthy effort goes to the following: Lauren, Andy, Bev, Marie, The Hendrys, and The Blums.
Finally, the special “spicy award” going to Chuck!
Thanks to everyone for playing – you really made our trip a fun one!

day ten

Bonjour Disneyland Paris! Our friend James brought us with him to work on the 45 minute Metro (train) ride to Disneyland Paris. He headed to work and we headed to play. The park was beautiful but the most beautiful and fun part of the park was Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (with the accompanying dragon). There were really pretty stained glass windows and tapestries that told Aurora’s story on the second floor of the castle. Underneath the castle is where the fire breathing dragon lives but he must have been on his best behavior because he didn’t breathe any fire at us (we probably just got lucky). We also got to see/ride Space Mountain, It’s a Small World, Phantom Manor and Indiana Jones (which does not go backwards). There was a lengthy psudo-american section in small world that focused on our country’s need to shoot rifles, purchase dry goods, play football, and eat popcorn. I love to see the American people through the eyes of international folks, ahhhh, a breath of fresh air. I really do love popcorn, and considering the popularity of Sams, and Costco, our culture certainly loves its dry goods as well!

James finished working and gave us a tour of the Paris Studios and took us to lunch at their Disney Village at a 50’s Diner which, though terribly greasy, was really quite delicious (especially the onion rings – seriously delicious).

We headed back toward Paris to relax and later on that night James took us to a small Italian restaurant just around the corner. Though this restaurant didn’t have translations of their items in English it was by far the best food we had in Paris (but, then again, I may have just been really hungry). We had a bottle of wine, lots of hand made pastas and delicious sauces clearly made from scratch, and pizza. It was wonderful. We ordered dessert (of course), I had the caramel panna cotta, Frank had tiramisu, and James had some sort of ice cream deliciousness. A nice man a few tables over laughed at me when I proudly finished mine first (I’m a gifted dessert eater), but never fear, I helped the other two polish theirs off.

We thanked James for his wonderful hospitality and headed back to our beautiful apartment in Paris, for our final night of our European vacation.
We’re ready to go home but not for our vacation to end.

finis fete!

Well, that’s as good as our French is ever going to get.
Our game is over and most of your votes are in but if you’d like to put in a few more by tomorrow (March 16th) by 5pm est we’ll still accept your answers.
At 6pm est from 11606 Ottawa Ave we will award the prize and bragging rights appropriately.
We’ll keep you posted!

day nine

Today we woke up bright and early to see the Louvre and it is beautiful. We saw Mona Lisa and the Vince de Milo. Although we did notice that in most of the paintings the men and women are wearing little to no clothing while in battle, which seems like poor planning all around. The men were very exposed for battle with most of them only wearing a sling from which they hung their swords, and it seemed like the ladies must have been trying to distract the enemy by freeing their ladies if you knwo what we mean….

We then met up with our friend James for lunch where we ordered a proper meal “en francais” with a bottle of wine (where Andrea proceeded to spill a glass across the table when garishly ripping her bread – just like an American). Not quite an international incident but an incident nonetheless.

Next we went to see Notre Damn which was beautiful and they were selling take away candles in the middle of the sanctuary along with the remembrance lighting candles. Like take out food, candles can also be taken home for a price. As we looked around the cathedral at the stained glass windows and the amazing architecture we heard an upbeat sound. We looked around and realized that it was some sort of singing group associated with Notre Damn, led by a finger-snapping woman and man on the acoustic guitar. The group snapped and sang with feeling while swaying to the rhythm of their song. I love a cathedral show choir!

We stopped at the fanciest ice cream shop ever just outside Notre Damn where we had formal hot chocolate, huge sundaes and little tiny glasses of water. It was absolutely delicious – probably the best ice cream we’ve ever had! Next we were off to Sacre Ceur which is at the top of a giant hill in the north side of Paris. It was beautiful as well but overshadowed a bit when a large man grabbed Andrea while trying to sell us a string that we think he wanted to put into her hair. James’ actual quote: “What the heck was that man going to do with those strings he was trying to get us to buy?” Just shy of our first formal international incident but luckily for us (and them) Andrea didn’t have to knock in any heads (she’s very feisty when she’s abroad). We walked down the hill back towards the heart of Paris in a meandering was so that we could see little shops and funny side streets along our way. It was chilly but a really great time.
Our last adventure of the day was going to see the Arch de Triumph. It was beautiful but in the center of a road so we walked through the underground pathway to get closer to the arch. It is spectacular and we were fortunate enough to get there when it was reasonably clear so the sky was a beautiful cloudy blue. Overall, we had a great day in Paris.

Tomorrow is the day we are going to go back on our word and visiting Disneyland Paris. We are not going to explain ourselves we are just going to go to Disneyland Paris and we’ll tell you how it is.

day eight

Yesterday was a wildly busy day. We were so exhausted from all the fun that we didn’t get to it until right now – on the train with the loud stupid people.
Stay on the darn track jack – no, Frank said, it’s Jaques and he went to get me a …. Cocktail.

I didn’t even make it out of our car when a woman had her leg in the middle of the aisle and when I almost tripped looked at me like I was rude to her. Then I got into the middle car where the baggage is and my bag is just hanging out in the middle of the car like it’s unhappy with France and wants to go home. So I put it back and proceeded on my way to find every other car is sleeping but ours. Also I saw some teenagers curled up in on of the luggage racks and thought if I were 15 I would be doing the same thing, down with the establishment. I finally make it the beverage (the symbol was a wine glass which is how I knew how to find it but Andrea and I made up a new sign for it which is holding your hand in the air like your swirling the martini around). So in the beverage/food car there were clearly two ladies trying to pick men up. Welcome to France! Luckily I didn’t meet the description of anyone they were looking for so I was allowed to pass. I got us a box of Cookies (McDonald’s style but Frenchier and fancier) it also had a picture of an old lady on the package which means that old ladies in France as well as the US make lovely treats (but the ones in France wear bonnets). A “flapjack” which I thought Andrea would like and was very correct. Those snacks and two sodas were 9 euros. Yum…

We got off the eurostar rocket to Paris and stopped into a local McDonalds to sign on in the hopes of finding out where we were going. I assumed we needed to buy something to use their wireless (Wi-Fi pronounced weeee-feeee) services. After several minutes of my fra-nglish conversation combined with charades (while I acted out typing and repeated the words weee-fee, and internet far too many times to even appear polite). All of this excitement going on, only to find out that we needn’t have purchased the most awkward tasting milkshake ever, because Frank was upstairs already using their wee-fee services. My first official French conversation behind me, I was feeling more and more confident that worst case scenario, I could use charades to act out the stupid American I’ve always wanted to be.

We were off on our way to the Metro and figuring that future conversations, at worse, could only be filled with more charades. I love Europe already. We made it to the flat we were staying in and were thrilled to see that it was far lovelier than we would have anticipated. A full beautiful apartment in Paris all for Frank and me, sometimes we really end up somewhere great. We are very lucky.

We headed off to get a snack we found ourselves at a lovely patisserie where Frank had an éclair and I had “une grand chocolate”, I’m very international. Delicious delicious delicious! We stopped by the local grocery store to stock our fridge with breakfasty, frenchy snacks – including our first official baguette, a three dollar bottle of wine, and block of cheese. Delicious delicious delicious. We fashioned ourselves a mini dinner and then headed off to the Eiffel Tower. It is so much bigger and fancier in person then in any picture I’ve ever seen. But most importantly, it’s really freakin’ tall! I know that should be something we realized by seeing pictures or even by seeing it from the bottom, but until we were in the elevator heading up and my ears popped three times we really didn’t get it! Ridiculous! Soooo tall, and windy, and rainy, but don’t worry. More stories will come tomorrow because we were, lucky for you, not blown off the top of the Eiffel Tower!

question 28

The most expensive cats at Harrod’s cost how much:
a) Harrod’s does not sell pets b) Harrod’s had dogs but not cats c) The male and female together would be 3500 GBP d) There was one male for 2000 GBP

day seven

We woke up bright and early to head to Baker Street to report my camera and jacket lost/stolen. Europe even makes a visit to the police sound exotic, ahhhh Baker Street! The home of Sherlock Holmes is also the home of the underground lost property office. I don’t know if he is working on our case specifically but we’re sure it’ll be handled with the utmost professionalism and searched to the fullest extent possible (while someone smokes a pipe no doubt). After we spoke with a very friendly woman (whose picture we meant to get but were foolishly distracted by actually trying to get our items back – just picture a dirty blond haired woman with a pink button down blouse and a lovely British accent) we headed to see the queen at her house.

We were meeting (get excited) Bev, Will, and Natty to see the changing of the guard and say hi to the queen and as an added bonus, were very excited to be with people who spoke the language again. We were a little nervous about finding them since our cell phones don’t travel well internationally but fortunately for us, Will is a giant and typically carries a very pink Natty on his shoulders which makes them easy to spot, so it took almost no time to find them. We found them and almost instantly the men on horseback came a-trotting! The horses and their riders wore fancy parade day costumes and whilst they marched around the circle in front of the queen’s house, she looked out the window and waved to us – we’re friends of the queen! We knew she’d show, how could she disappoint her American fans?

(At least that’s what we told Natty, and Andrea)

After the changing of the guard and our visit with the queen, we walked through the park and saw really big hungry squirrels, a battered looking pelican (perhaps tired from all the baby deliveries?), and the strangest duck ever. Andrea told the group that she’s seen a duck like that before in New Jersey – that’s what pollution does to animals, changes them all sorts of wonky colours (notice the U, we’re in London baby!). Garden state, I think not!

Next we stopped by 10 Downing Street (or looked at it from across the street) for lunch with our new friend Tony Blair. It was delicious (blueberry cookie dough cheesecake and a chocolate something or other) and Tony kept us entertained all through lunch – boy is he a talker! I don’t know if he has lunch with everyone who stops by and invites him but it was mighty friendly of him to clear some time for us.

We headed toward the eye and to soar over London next. It was beautiful and we took oodles of pictures. We were lucky enough to avoid most of the rain making our flight on the eye a really beautiful one.

Next we headed to St. Paul’s Cathedral which was enormous! I’ve been to many cathedrals and fancy churches but never to one as big and beautiful as St. Paul’s. We were lucky enough to sneak in at the time of mass, avoiding the nine pound charge per person. We’re assuming they hand out a jug of holy water and a bag filled with absolution for that price but since we didn’t have to pay it we carry on, un-absolved. It’s rough. The rain came back in full force so we decided to pass on the tower of London and head to Harrod’s to stay dry and empty our wallets. It, again, was huge.

It was time for Bev, Will, and Natty to head back to their station and we realized that we hadn’t taken care of the only reason that we were in London in the first place – Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station. We ran with all of the energy left in us to the station where we found that one of the Weasley’s carts was still left stuck in the platform – what if a muggle were to see it?!?!? We said our goodbyes to the Carrs and went off to dinner where we ate the Italian meal we’d had a hankering for, for a few days (you all know how we get if we aren’t filled with sugary pastas for at least two meals a day). The food was delicious (Frank had the lasagna, and Andrea had the manicotti – delicious), but unfortunately we were seated next to “those” girls in the restaurant. Yep, you guessed it. We were seated next to a table filled with Penn State sorority girls. The chatter was wildly worldly and educated (we learned that Nova Scotia was not a town and they didn’t understand how someone could know two languages fluently)….. Not that we were listening.

Off to gay Paris tomorrow. We’re really becoming quite the world travelers!

day six

Last night after we wrote we went to a pub called Porterhouse which is apparently a chain like Big River Brewery or Hops that make their own types of beer. Frank of course tried a sampler of the Stouts (dark) beers and their red lager as well. Andrea tried their banana flavored beer which she thought was lovely. Frank, on the other hand, made quite a face (the fruit face to be exact) after trying it. We love Frank’s fruit face!

Some of the funny things we noticed in Dublin were that some American establishments change their names slightly for other countries. Johnnie Rockets is Eddie Rockets and T.J. Maxx is T.K Maxx with the same logos, merchandise and menus. Not sure why they needed to change their names but I’m sure it’s a good story. Also, when you push the crosswalk button a very 1980’s pong sort of electrified sound happens – as if you’ve just beamed into the future according to Doc Brown from Back to the Future.

We realized today that it is shamrock shake time at McDonalds and we’re missing it. we certainly don’t subscribe to McDonalds loving American society but we were torn. How could we miss our favorite fast food experience of the year? Also, how could we be those American’s eating at McDonalds while abroad? We found a happy medium in the airport when the options were Sbarro, a food court, and McDonalds. Needless to say, we broke down and had some McDonalds but then we realized that it was totally fine because it was honorary because we had a shamrock shack in Ireland which is totally allowed – it’s green for crying out loud!.

question 21

So that we could avoid the rain and lengthy walk, how much did Frank and Andrea pay for taxi fare today?
a) Zero euros – we’re cheap, not lazy.
b) 8.25 – and saved ourselves a wet forty-minute walk!
c) 2.25 – it seemed far on the way there!

day five

We had some trouble sleeping but lucky for us, Magnum PI and Air Wolf are both phenomenon that have spread round the world and are now shown in Gaelic so at least we had some entertainment. We also caught the Academy Awards a day late with all of the boring crap cut out – god bless the Irish for being as bored with the cinematography, and make up categories as we are!

Woke up bright and early this morning and headed out for breakfast at our hotel. There’s nothing quite like fresh kiwi and strawberries first thing in the morning to really feel fancy, but the addition of a chocolate-chocolate chip muffin moved us well past fancy to fully international – delicious!

We headed out on our own walking tour of Dublin. We stopped to see Christ Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral which were both beautiful. After we took in some of the religious sites the only thing left to do was learn about how beer was made in the most famous brewery in the world. Yep, we’ve been to Guinness, and it was good. It was absolutely the fanciest (probably most expensive) beer tour we’ve ever been on. There were flat screen televisions, fancy restaurants, waterfalls, a frizzy haired Irish brew master, and several free pints of bread-like beer…. Delicious… (Picture Andrea shaking her head in an “I can’t drink any more of that” fashion). Needless to say, Andrea sipped her beer and Frank drank his and her left-over’s as well. He’s a trooper.

After that we headed back towards our hotel to dry off (rainy day) and ate lunch. After lunch we walked through St. Stephen’s Green. We stopped to see it (as it’s only two blocks from our hotel) for a few minutes after we arrived and wanted to spend more time there. Due to our drizzly afternoon, we decided to stay closer to where we were staying and took a nice long walk through the park.

question 15

When Andrea booked the Trinity Lodge Hotel she made which following mistake
a) registered Frank and Andrea Hendry for a stay b) reversed her month and date according to European standards c) ) failed to pay the deposit almost losing them the room in a foreign country

question 13

The painting reproduction in our room is of:
a) a couple dining b) a nude woman with a cat lying on her backside c) seven sheep d) a woman holding a cat affectionately e) three woman holding flowers

day four

Today was a traveling day to Dublin. We ate breakfast at the Mosborough Hall Hotel which, if you’re ever in need of lodging in Sheffield, is a lovely place to stay…. All but the haunted rooms are great.

Bev was nice enough to drive us to the Doncastor/Sheffield Airport. We had to pay 11 extra GBP because we of course brought too much stuff. Once we were settled up we headed out on Ryan Air to Dublin. We arrived fine in Ireland and didn’t even wait in line for our passport stamp. We were told it would be the last free thing we received in Ireland.

We checked into our hotel in downtown Dublin (Trinity Lodge) which is beautiful. We moved our things into our room when we discovered that Irish television plays Lizzie McGuire reruns and Sponge-Bob-Square-Pants in Gaelic. We’re so very cultured. We decided that if there was this much excitement in the room, we could hardly wait to see what was outside our hotel and we were off to find some dinner. At Martha’s recommendation we ate at Wagamama which was delicious. We headed towards a pub next, which lucky for us are everywhere, so it made for an easy search. We ended up in O’Brian’s where Frank got his first official Irish Guinness which he described as nice and fresh and Andrea had a Kilkarny (sp?) when attempting to avoid bread-y beverages. She failed; it was unfortunately very much like a glass of bread but better than a Guinness at least. Tomorrow we are off of to properly explore Dublin – we’ll keep you posted!

day three

After coming inside from the cold, Natty put her hands on the outside of her hot chocolate and said “I could just do this all day.”

After a long day out having adventures, Natty said “I just need to be at home quickly.”

question 11

Why, in 1068, did William the Conquerer build a motte-and-baily castle on the present site of Clifford’s Tower in York?
a) to impress the local royals b) to gain a prominent spouse and to increase his stronghold in parliament c) to strengthen his military presence in the north

question 9

Frank lost Andrea’s memory card. Where did he find it?
a) on the floor in front of him b) held safely in the safe at Bolsover Castle c) on his half eaten plate at the Bakewell pudding shop

day three

Pudding and bodily functions (again) were the themes of the day. We started the day by snoozing too many times on the hotel alarm clock but then were on our way to Bolsover Castle. That’s where we ate some breakfast; Andrea had scone number 1 before the castle and scone number 2 after we did the tour. There was an audio tour which was great and gave us gobs of information throughout the castle and featured some wonderfully painted ceilings and nice windows (even in the bathrooms). The bathrooms were one on top of another to the fourth floor of the castle and they each had a window that overlooked a beautiful fountain to give the pottier some inspiration while doing their business.

After Andrea’s second scone (which she stole from Will) we drove through Chesterfield and saw the crooked spire. Then we went to see Chatsworth House (shooting location for Pride & Prejudice) from a distance and as a bonus walked through the mud to see some sheep.

Last but not least was our pudding trip to Bakewell which featured both Yorkshire pudding (crispy crust filled with gravy and 3 types of pork sausage) and Bakewell pudding (a sweeter crispy crust filled with a raspberry sauce and almond paste and on the side a jug of custard – like a warm vanilla pudding). Yes, I (Frank) had them both.

One of the highlights of the day was seeing this sign that in the US would probably not be too popular.

Tomorrow we’re off to Dublin!

Day Two

So today was full of excitement but we started out very tired. Our room was said to be haunted so I (Andrea) didn’t get much more than four hours of rough sleep. Needless to say, once we woke up we changed rooms and headed off to continental breakfast where we (just like the Americans we are) each had a bowl of cocoa krispies. Bev, Will, and Natty came to pick us up and we were off to York for our exciting day. We saw York Minster, did some shopping, and had proper afternoon tea at Betty’s Team Room where Frank made his “fruit face” for many English-folk when eating a spoonful of jam – it’s always funny, no matter how many times I see it.

We walked around the old York city wall, saw and photographed countless churches, and most exciting went to Jorvik Viking Adventure. It had smell-o-vision which allowed us to smell the burning wood of ancient York, various unsavory smelling animals, and as will called it, the “midden” (aka: poop). During the “ride through” experience we saw a man (and then proceeded to purchase his photo on postcards) grunting and making faces while he pooped during the Jorvik attraction. All I have to say about this spaceship-earth-like-experience is, awesome! Spaceship Earth would be so much more fun if you got to see people pooping during the ride – seriously. Afterward, Frank, Natty, Will, and I donned Viking attire and played dress-up while giving a friendly heckle to one of the Jorvik employees who we talk into literally blowing his horn, which he did, only after he made several embarrassing raspberry type noises in front of a crowd of approximately fifty…. Priceless. We love Jorvik!

Tonight, the Carrs treated us to a proper fish and chips dinner (in paper and everything) which was delicious – even more than I thought it would be. Frank even liked the fish, especially with the Henderson’s relish on it…. I love sauce. We’re totally addicted.

Hopefully we’ll (I’ll) be able to sleep straight through tonight and we look forward to tomorrow. If any of you are reading this from the Tam-lando area, stop by the house and tell the girls that we love and miss them. I know I do –a lot but thanks for reading. Talk to you tomorrow!

Day One

The flight was fine – long but fine. We were both able to sleep for about six hours between both flights so, though we were a bit out of sorts, we were up and ready to enjoy our first day of European travel.

You’ll all want to know that when we were getting onto the flight to North Carolina, we were in front of a man who was very important (well, at least by his phone conversation he certainly was). He said that he met four billionaires in the last month and was clearly a mover and a shaker. He said that he only did business with the best of the best which is why; he said to the person on the phone, they were lucky to be working with someone as talented as he was.

Once we got to London we figured that it was smooth sailing and then Frank’s bag was missing. A similar bag belonging to a Mr. Paul Wood from South Carolina was left and he realized about an hour later that he had taken the wrong bag. He had assigned his bag retrieval to one of his students who neglected to read its tag. Paul Wood kindly called to return it just an hour later and we made the switch – thanks again Mr. Wood!

Just a bit behind schedule we headed out into London. We decided to see Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and King’s Cross. We were exhausted (of course) and then we headed to Pancras Station to catch our train to Sheffield, to visit our friends the Carrs.

Bev and Natty picked us up from the train station and they took us to our beautiful old hotel where we settled in and showered in a newly refurbished but chilly bathroom. Then Will, Bev, and Natty took us out to dinner where Frank had Beef and Ale Crown Pie “served with an extra jug of gravy” and I had the Brie, Mushrooms and Cranberry Wellington without any extra jug of anything. We discovered a new dipping sauce called Henderson’s Relish which, have no fear, we’re bringing a bottle back with us and will share with all of you next week! It’s a lovely vinegar sort of sauce and we poured it onto everything we ate – delicious! For desert – get ready for this – I had “Clotted Cream Ice-Cream”. We’re going to be so pretty when we get back – I’m getting bigger by the minute! Frank is such a lucky guy ;.) After dinner we headed back to the Carr’s officially British home in Sheffield where we met Paddy and Jesse their dog and cat.

We are exhausted and are headed to bed – see you in the morning!