About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


We all woke up early this morning. We are trying to get into a routine before school starts on Monday.

Brandon was up at 7:30, ready to go shopping. He's been saving his allowance for a large Lego airport set - 94 euro. It helped a lot that he found a 50 euro bill on one of our bike rides recently.

Brandon and I headed to the toy store to buy the set. We also stopped at Auchan to stock up on some groceries.

Brandon spent most of the day building his new Lego airport. I worked on my usual household chores and tried to catch up on this blog.

Late this afternoon the two of us went for a bike ride in Parco di Monza. We rode 20 kilometers. Sometimes after a week break I feel strong and refreshed - and sometimes I don't. Today I didn't. My legs were tired and sore for most of the ride. We are trying to get some miles in Brandon's legs before his bike race on Sunday. He will be entering a mountain bike race in Casatenovo. It's a short race, 2 km, so I'm sure he will do great.

I made roasted chicken and salad for dinner. We are trying to eat a bit lighter after all the foods we ate in England. They seem to have a lot of fried foods.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Home Again

We had to get up early this morning. Our flight from London to Milan was set for 7:10am, so we woke up and got ready then caught the shuttle bus to the airport. As the past few days have been chilly in England, this morning was no different. I wore pants and a long sleeve shirt.

Once we made successfully navigated our way through security, we stopped for some breakfast (we needed to eat and we needed to use up our last few British pounds).

Our flight to Milan was fairly uneventful, other than being woken up by some occasional snoring - Katrina had to wake me up because she said I was the one who was snoring. I never heard anything.

We touched down in balmy Milan around 10:30am. My jeans and long sleeve shirt were too warm.

We had a nervous moment when immigration asked for a Permisso Di Soggiorno. England is not part of the EU, so we had our passports stamped when we left Milan for England. We also had to have our passports stamped to reenter the EU. Well, a normal visitor to the EU can only stay for 90 days, then leave the EU for a specified amount of time...I think it is a few weeks. Since we live here, we need a Permisso to show that we can come and go freely. Anyway, I had mine but Katrina and Brandon did not have theirs. After some talk and some examination of my card, the inspector let us go through. Whew!

Home again. As much as we love to travel, its always nice to be home again. We unpacked and started some laundry. Katrina changed clothes and headed to work for the day.

This afternoon was pretty low key. Brandon played while I caught up on finances, laundry and a few other household chores.

No more trips for a few weeks. Brandon starts school one week from today, so we will lay low this week, go for some bike rides and get into a school year routine.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weekly Count

70 Week Gelati Count: 257
70 Week Wine Bottle Count: 87

Changing of the Guard

We checked out of the wonderful (NOT) Travelodge Royal Scot this morning. Did I mention not to stay there?! Tonight we will be staying near Gatwick airport since we have an early 7:10am flight back home.

We hopped on the Underground and rode it to Victoria station, where we put our luggage in storage for the day.

First plan of the day, to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. The serious faced, red coated, furry hatted guards change posts with a 40 minute ceremony. Its quite a serious show. I think much of what was happening is lost on a majority of the crowd, including us. To have someone explain the ceremony would make it more interesting.

I'm glad we saw it and I would recommend it to anyone visiting London, though overall I would give it an average rating. The idea of seeing the ceremony is much more intersting that the ceremony itself.

Buckingham Palace

Gates of Buckingham Palace

Horse Guard

The brass band was interesting. Once all the guard units were in place, they played several 'pop' songs to keep the crowds entertained while the duty officers changed out the guards. This included one song by Michael Jackson. It seemed a bit out of place for a royal ceremony.

The changing of the guard attracts large crowds.

Once the ceremony was over, we hopped on the Underground and headed to the Imperial War Museum. Not so much because we wanted to see the War Museum, but because there was a kids exhibit that Brandon wanted to see - Terrible Trenches. This exhibit is based on a series of books called 'Horrible Histories' by Terry Deary. As the book says, "It's history with the nasty bits left in!" Perfect for boys.


Imperial War Museum

Brandon tries on a gas mask

After some Cinese for lunch, we headed to the National Portrait Gallery. Katrina wanted to see a special photography exhibit. Brandon and I were tired, so we hung out in the lobby and waited patiently.

From the museum we walked through the park and past Buckingham Palace to Victoria station, where we collected our luggage and caught a train to Gatwick Airport. From there we rode the hotel shuttle to the Travelodge for the night.

The Royal Mail

Our England adventure is over. Tomorrow morning we fly home to Milan.

My favorites from England: Bath, Stonehenge and the villages of the Cotswolds, the York Castle Museum, pasties, Tower Bridge, the London Eye and the British Museum. It was a great trip. We would love to go back and see other parts of England, as well as Scotland. Someday...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The London Eye

We split up first thing this morning. Brandon and I headed to the London Eye.

Katrina headed to the Tate Museum. The Tate has the best collection of British art in the world. It specializes in works from the 16th century to the 20th century.

The London Eye is the world's largest observational wheel. It is designed like a giant bicycle wheel. The British and Dutch did all the engineering, with Czech, German, French and Italian mechanical parts. Approximately 25 people ride in 32 air conditioned capsules for the 30 minute ride. Yes, it takes 30 minutes to complete a complete rotation. At the top, visitors are 443 feet above the city.

Near the top

Big Ben

At the top

At the top, looking straight down.

Big Ben

The London Eye was built to celebrate the millennium, but due to its popularity, it's 5 year lease has been extended as it becomes a fixture of the London skyline.
Brandon and I really enjoyed the ride and the views.

Our next stop was Hamley's, near Piccadilly Square. Hamley's is the biggest toy store in Britain. In 2010 it is celebrating 250 years in business. It boasts 7 floors of toys (for those from Corvallis, imagine the main floor of toys at the Toy Factory then multiply by 7). One floor was just stuffed animals. Another floor was full of games. One whole floor carried just 'girl' stuff and the next one had 'boy' stuff. The store carries over 28,000 toys and is staffed by 200 employees, some dressed in costumes while others give demos of the latest toys. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed in the store.

Katrina sent us a text that she was done, so we agreed to meet in Piccadilly Square to find some lunch. While walking back toward Piccadilly, we spotted firemen pulling a firetruck down the street. They were raising money for testicular cancer research. They were hilarious and very blunt, shouting things like "Whip em out, check em out!" "Testicles, everyone loves balls - men love them, women love them." We donated several pounds.

They passed this wedding party and invited them out into the street for a picture. They are all laughing because the firemen were explaning to the bride how important her new husbands testicles are.

We found some lunch, then headed to the London Transport Museum. This museum covers the history of tranportation in London, Europe's third largest city. It has displays of transportation from the 1800's to present day.

Brandon with a famous black London taxi

This evening we went to the cinema to see Toy Story 3! We were so excited to find a movie we could all see in English. The movie was fantastic. I liked it just as much as the first two. We saw it at the Apollo West theaters, near Piccadilly Circus. We paid the equivalent of $67 for the three of us to see it. No popcorn or snacks - just admission. That is a lot, but in this instance it was money well spent. By the way, this was the nicest movie theater I have ever been in. It had stadium seating with wide cushy seats. If you wanted, you could get wine, beer or even a bucket of ice with champagne.

Tomorrow we will visit Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard ceremony.

Friday, August 27, 2010

British Museum and Tower Bridge

We started our day at the British Museum. This museum is considered by many to the the greatest chronicle of cililization anywhere.

One of the great things about the National museums in England is, they are all free. They do ask for donations, but there is no admission charge, except for special exhibitions. Some of the most popular sections of the museum are the Egyptian, Assyrian and ancient Greek sections.

Roman Mosaics


Brandon tells us about the exibits

The Crystal Skull. No sign of Indiana Jones though

The inner courtyard of the museum is under a wonderul glass canopy.

We really enjoyed this museum, but were a little overwhelmed. Like the Lourve in Paris, this museum is huge and has so much to see. I would really recommend breaking this museum into sections and do bits of it on different days.

We had a very nice lunch at a Thai restaurant just down the street from the museum. One of the great things about London is the variety of Asian and other ethnic foods.

After lunch we made our way down to the River Thames for a boat ride. We started near Big Ben and ended our ride near the Tower Bridge.

The London Eye

Big Ben, the clock tower (315 ft high) is named for its 13-ton bell.

County Hall

Shakespeare's Globe. This is a replica of the original Globe theater.

HMS Belfast, the last big-gun warship of WWII.

City Hall, designed by Sir Norman Foster.

30 St Mary Axe, designed by the same architect as a similiar building in Barcelona, Torre Agbar.

London Tower has served as a castle in wartime, a king's residence in peace time, and a prison and execution site for rebels.

Tower Bridge

We paid to see the museum inside the Tower Bridge, built in 1894. People often mistake the name of the Tower Bridge by calling it the London Bridge, which is actually a different bridge just down the river.

An elevator whisks visitors to the top of one tower where you can watch a short film about the history of the bridge. You can walk across the upper observation decks and see fantastic views of the city and the river. On the opposite side of the river, you can tour through the Victorian engine room that controls the lifting of the bridge. This bridge lifts for ships approximately 1000 times a year.

View from the top.

WC for gearheads?

Engine Room

It was close to dinner time, so we walked along the River Thames until we found Cote Brasserie, a French restaurant. It was fabulous. Very tasty!


We wanted to see Piccadilly Circus, London's most touristy square. It is indeed a very busy intersection and square. You can reach many of the famous West End theaters from here, as well as very cheesy touristy places like Ripley's Believe It or Not. We took a few pictures and walked to Trafalgar Square. From there we hopped on the Underground back to Tower Bridge for some night photos.

Piccadilly Circus - a lot like Times Square

Trafalgar Square

London Eye

Big Ben

Kateye View

It was a busy and exhausting day, but we had a lot of fun and stayed reasonable dry.

Tomorrow we will take a ride on the London Eye.