Hiking and swimming in NC


A couple Saturdays back, we drove from Philly down to the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina to visit Chelsea’s cousin Jessica and her family.  One of our first pieces of business there was to go for a hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is adjacent to the town in which Jessica’s family lives.  There is an abandoned highway tunnel in one corner of the park, and we started our hike there.



The hike took us along the side of a very small stream, that grew to a creek, and led to Fontana Lake, a man-made lake that is part of the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Since it was a bright, hot summer day, we took the opportunity to go swimming.




And thus our big road trip started off swimmingly.

Go to the woods

Gentle readers, we are back again.  We took a two-week road trip to North Carolina and Georgia, doing a ton of visiting with both sides of Chelsea’s family and having some adventures along the way.  We have many new stories to tell!


Stay with us all this week and next as we review.

Windsor Castle


It’s every bit as impressive as you would imagine.  On Saturday afternoon we bundled up our purchases from Portobello and hopped on a train out to Windsor Castle.  The train station is across the street from the castle – how convenient – and it was a lively, bustling place even though we were under overcast skies.


The castle is magnificent, and while the inside reminded me a great deal of Versailles, the outside couldn’t be more different. Versailles stands out in the open, with no particular defenses. Windsor was clearly a working castle in the days when that meant having narrow slits in the outer wall for your archers to fire on invaders.


Happily, Britain is a little less concerned about invaders these days, so the moat has been converted into flower gardens.


We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside any of the buildings, which is just as well, since it would be hard to do justice to those opulent spaces with my battered little point and shoot. However, we did get the opportunity to take the stereotypical tourist picture with one of the Queen’s royal guards:


A few minutes later, several of those soldiers marched past while I was waiting on Chels outside a gift shop. I don’t know if you can see it in the picture, but these boys are carrying serious guns:


One of the highlights of the entire trip came for us at the end of our afternoon in Windsor. We decided to stay after touring hours for the Evensong service at St. George’s Chapel on the castle grounds. There were only about 40 people there, so it was incredibly intimate. The service took place in the Quire, which is the room in which the Queen and her knights and ladies of the Order of the Garter sit for ceremonial events. Chelsea got to sit in Prince William’s seat. This was another no-photos occasion, but sitting in the dim lights of the chapel, listening to this incredible choir sing the service, I felt like the memory would be more than enough for me.


Gentle readers, your correspondent will be taking a summer break, and posting will be very light over the next two weeks.  See you again soon.  In the meantime, happy weekend!

Portobello Road Market


London’s Portobello Road Market is an extraordinary sight on a Saturday morning – more than one mile (1.6 km) of densely packed merchants and buyers, with everything for sale from antique silver to wooden iPhone cases.  Your intrepid correspondent took the opportunity to eat Ghanaian street food – peanut butter chicken over a bed of fried plantains.  (Heaven!)  Chelsea found some beautiful Italian antique jewelry.  We also ate some crepes and knocked out a whole bunch of our souvenir shopping for family and friends.


The Market is located in the London borough of Chelsea and Kensington, so you can imagine how many things we saw that bore a certain somebody’s name:



Tomorrow: Windsor Castle!

Happy 4th of July!

A year ago today, we were out riding horses in Yellowstone:


Hope all of you in the US enjoy the holiday.  And for those of you elsewhere in the world, please consider taking a moment to celebrate the American Rebellion.  It’s 236 years old today, and still going strong.

Tate Britain


Chelsea and I had been riding bikes on Friday evening with the goal of reaching the Tate Britain Museum, which collects British art of all kinds dating from 1500 through the present. Like so many places in London, the building itself is impressive and boasts of a long and distinguished history. We reveled in the galleries of paintings and sculpture, going all the way back to Elizabethan times:


After visiting the museum, we headed back to the South Bank to find a late dinner.  As you saw the other day with the multi-colored sand, the South Bank is positively bursting to life as folks get ready for the Olympics with all sorts of special events and features.  One of the strangest items we saw was an oversized collection of living room furniture, upholstered in Astroturf.  Chelsea took a seat in the largest easy chair we’ve ever seen:


Later this week: Portobello Road Market and Windsor Castle.

Big red bus

London is universally known for its big red double-decker buses.  Any visitor to London discovers with delight that those buses are indeed everywhere – updated for the modern era, to be sure, but as much a fixture on the city streets as newspaper vendors and Tube stations.


Chelsea was determined to take a ride on one of the big buses, so in the midst of our weekend touristing we rode from Paddington Station to the Oxford High Street on a double-decker, sitting (of course) right up front on the upper level.


The bus was nearly empty, and the ride was surprising – a lurching, stop-and-start experience.  Though we only rode about two miles (3.2 km), we’d had quite enough when we disembarked.


We would file the London double-decker bus in the category of “looks cooler than it really is”.

Tomorrow: The undeniable coolness of Windsor Castle.