Friday, May 21, 2010

Field Trip!

As we were walking from one activity to another in Stoke-on-Trent (another city stop in our makeshift adventure in England), Britt mentioned something that I felt to be quite fitting that day.  See, in preparing for this adventure of ours, the condition of our selecting locations to visit were based solely on if what we found on the city's web page was "cool" or not.  Stoke-on-Trent, in internet form, looked mighty cool. 

Once we arrived (and drove in circles looking for the information center) we gathered a number of brochures about the city, since we didn't do any planning beforehand, and settled on two things to see. The first was a monkey sanctuary, as odd as that may be.  But then again, during an improvised vacation, why not see them?  It was a bitter-sweet visit once we found out the monkeys in the park were Barbary Macaques which are found in the mountains of Morocco. "OH!", I cried to myself "another reminder of our failed trip."   They were cute creatures who roamed free so, had we been allowed, we could have reached out and touched them, they were so close.
An hour or two later we made our way over to site number two: the Gladstone Pottery Museum. Pottery is what put Stoke-on-Trent on the map.  In the industrial era the city was full of bottle neck ovens... and a whole lot of smoke.  Today, Gladstone boasts the last remaining ovens of it's kind at their factory turned museum.  

It was there that Britt stated, "man, first a monkey sanctuary and now a pottery factory... it's like a school field trip - except better, because we're adults."  Yes, there was no better way to describe it, we were on a field trip!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Seventh Heaven

In the early 1800's, a Quaker by the name of John Cadbury owned a small tea shop in Birmingham England.  Like most tea merchants in that day and age, other drinks besides tea were sold in order to make a bigger profit.  Due to his religious and moral beliefs, instead of selling alcohol, (which was the most prominent tea alternative) he sold drinking chocolate.

A few years later, the one room shop was replaced for a larger factory to produce chocolate of their own.  By the time his sons took over the company in 1861, business was booming.  Since they worried about the well being of their employees, they moved the company to the country in the outskirts of Birmingham and built the village of Bournville.  The employees were provided low cost living, great wages, really good working conditions, a beautiful community to live in with clean air, outdoor recreational facilities, and the list goes on.  The respect the Cadbury family held for their employees was easily seen as Britt and I drove into Bournville, now a town, which we both commented we wouldn't mind living in at all.

But I'm not here to tell you about Bournville, or the way that the Cadbury family treated their employees.  I'm here to tell you about what truly made them famous, and the whole reason we even drove into Bournville.  I'm here to tell you about chocolate.  Now, I know I may be speaking to some dark chocolate fans out there, but when it comes to milk chocolate, Cadbury is hard to beat.  In fact, there are only two brands of milk chocolate I deem worthy enough (since moving to Europe) to put in my mouth, one being the Swiss brand named Milka, and the other, Cadbury.

When Britt and I stepped into the Cadbury factory, it was as if we had found Utopia. We doubted if there was anything better in the world.  It was a building flowing with milk and chocolate.  Before even setting off on our interactive tour, we were provided with chocolate.  During our journey through the factory we were given more chocolate, and we ended at the largest Cadbury store in existence.  All chocolates at a fraction of the cost of what would be found in regular stores. 

But we soon discovered that heaven extended beyond the building we had just spent a few hours in.  For, behind that building lies a shop in which they call Essence.  It is there where we discovered the secret behind Cadbury's great taste, along with sampling a cup full of melted milk chocolate mixed with toppings of our choice.  It couldn't have been a better chocolate experience had we dreamt it up ourselves.

Recently Kraft bought out Cadbury, worrying the British and myself.  Will the chocolate they produce in the future be as good as it is now?  Although I don't have an answer to that question, I have enough Cadbury chocolate to last me quite a few years just in case.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oh say, what is truth?

Indulge me for a moment while I express my gratitude.  For, I have many things to be grateful for.  One of which being friends who twist the truth. 

I understand that you may find it odd, but my claim is genuine none-the-less.  Why, you may ask, do I like it when friends aren't anything but truthful to me?  Well, let me try to explain.

As a woman, I can confirm that those of my gender like complements - even if they may be completely false.  For example, when a woman asks if the outfit she's wearing makes her look fat, (which in fact it does - a great deal), and she claims she want nothing but an honest answer, she's bucket loads of happy when she hears: "not at all! You look amazing."  It may have been a lie, but she's left feeling content in the answer, even if she has an inkling that it's not entirely true. Don't get me wrong, we don't always want a truth bending complement, but I have yet to find someone (myself included) who gets outraged when a complement is received instead of the ego shattering truth.

This is why Britt falls in the category of friends I am grateful for.  Because, although I got dangerously close to the curb on occasion, I drove us in circles a few times, I nearly knocked off the right side mirror as I hit a plastic garbage can, and almost killed us as habit took over by driving on the right, instead of left, side of the road, she would do nothing but offer kind complements by constantly telling me what a great job I was doing. Plus, she was courageous enough to be a passenger in the car I was driving in England. The car which was a manual drive. One where the stick shift is on the left instead of the right.

Granted, my left-sided driving really wasn't too bad, considering.  However, I just wasn't as good a driver as she said I was either.  But to Britt, and all other friends of mine who bend the truth to make me feel good, I solute you.

Friday, May 7, 2010

It's about "time"

I don't know about you, but when I go on vacation I like seeing things I haven't seen before.

So what happens when, through a series of events, you go to the same place twice?  Like, London for example?  Well, I'll tell you what I did.  I thanked my lucky stars that the city is so big, that's what.  Because even with a few days worth of vacation at the beginning of the year, my checklist of the city wasn't complete. And even better, during the one day we were there together, Britt wanted to see something I hadn't yet! 

Although I had seen and done so much in January, we were limited in what time allotted us to see. Which is why I found it fitting to go to the place that actually put a limit on my exploring the entire city previously.  This visit we straddled the line of that ever present, all encompassing, fundamental structure of the universe: Time.  Yes, we went to Greenwich.

We hit up the famous street market, where we ate Moroccan food in memorial of our perished trip.  We went to the Maritime museum where we learned about navigation and exploration.  We were even able to commandeer our own naval ship (thanks to a virtual simulator), but what was most important (simulation or not), is that we didn't crash!  We stepped inside the Greenwich Royal Observatory and were able to learn about the skies, along with touching a rock that was over 4.5 billion - yeah, you read that right - 4.5 billion years old.

But most importantly, we saw the line... the line that divides the time, aka. the Prime Meridian.  And we straddled it. One side of us was in the past, while the other was in the future. Now, how many people can say that??

(Probably a lot, actually.  But don't be a killjoy.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Second best.

When I arrived at Britt's hotel room the following morning, she regretfully informed me that all RyanAir flights had been canceled for the next 48 hours. Meaning: our trip to Morocco was no more.  For added proof, or dramatic effect,... or for the slight hope that a miracle occurred and flights were cleared for take-off, she had BBC news playing in the background.  Devistation filled my heart, although I bravely tried to keep it from showing on my face. (Not too sure how well that worked). 

But, devistation or not, we picked up our things and continued onward... deciding to take advantage of our week by doing the next best thing (mainly out of necessity more than anything else).

We took on England.