The Amazing Race, Part One

o, over Easter break, my family came to visit: mom, brother, and aunt. I was already into my second week of AIB holidays, and they were starting theirs (with a little extra padding from some strategically cashed sick days...) It was quite a two weeks; the itinerary included Bournemouth, Paris, Venice, and London. It involved a lot of running around and jostling of daylight hours, but it was well worth it. This was Mom and Anthony's first time in Europe (Aunt Janet and I had already been - visiting Kat in Seville). Speaking of Seville, this trip mirrored that one in more ways than one. I will explain as we go, with cited 'Schmerm-notes'. First comparison: it was an adventure!

In the interest of space, I'm breaking this post up into four parts: one for each leg of the trip. As always, there are Facebook photo albums for each port-of-call, which will be linked. I will mention here that I am hopelessly addicted to Photoshop's Photomerge function, which automatically stitches pictures together and blends them all nice and pretty. If you've ever tried to take multiple-shot scenes or panoramas you understand how awesome this function is. Now, one issue with the Facebook albums is that all photos are resized to roughly 500x700 pixels, which is a bit small for these photos, which can get up to 7000 pixels or more on a side. There were only one or two of the more squarely-proportioned panoramas* that would hold up under Facebook's resizing. So here's the Blogspot exclusive, my faithful followers... Included in this account of our trip are all** the panoramic photos in their full-sized glory! Lucky you! Clicking on these puppies to enlarge is a must.
* Or Stitch-Em-Ups, as I like to call them.
** Or at least most.

That said, without further ado, allow me to present our wonderful trip!

The Jennettes'*

Part One

* Plus Aunt Janet

D . . . . O . . . . R . . . . S . . . . E . . . . T

The astute among you may find fault with the above title. "Stonehenge is in Wiltshire, not Dorset," you say?* I know. But to make things easier, I'm labelling the first part of our trip "Dorset". It's a lot easier than "Dorset, and Wiltshire, with a little bit of Hampshire thrown in toward the end" and calling it "England" would be less helpful, since we return to London later on. So Dorset it remains.
* You didn't say that? Oh, well then it's just me.

Mom, Anthony, and Aunt Janet arrived on Sunday the 5th. That first day's highlight was Anthony almost winning a random Guitar Hero tournament in a pub. He could have won twenty pints gratis. Instead, he ended up with a chocolate egg and a Toffee Crisp mug. He still had the highest qualifying score the other players had ever seen (apparently this is a recurring thing). It's easy enough to explain: Anthony doesn't have a life.

On Monday, we had our Discover Dorset tour with Jerry, our driver. We first went to Knowlton Henge in North Dorset, site of a very old Saxon-Norman church and some interesting yew trees. Names and initials of lovers were carved into the Norman stone, and dated circa 1941. A very interesting clash of time. We continued on to Stonehenge, yes, in Wiltshire. I've always heard that you can't get close to Stonehenge because it's an archaeological site of special magnificence. I don't know, but we were able to get pretty darn close. Not enough to touch, obviously, because it's an archaeological site, but a lot closer than I had expected. There were sheep grazing on the hill as well. There are sheep everywhere in England.

After Stonehenge, we carted off to Salisbury, also in Wiltshire. This is where your Stitch-Em-Up pictures come in; the only ones from this leg of the trip. Enjoy. I'm glad I pushed for a walkthrough of the cathedral (the first of many). It's just amazing how old things are in Europe. The Cathedral is over 700 years old, and has the tallest spire in the UK. It houses the world's oldest working clock, and the best-preserved copy of the Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215. On a side note, the Cathedral is the final resting place of Bishop Roger (d. 1139). Bishoping was his trade. He was a bishop. His name was Roger the Bishop. He arranged, designed, and sold bishopries.*
* Yes, that is actually a word. I could have also used 'diocese' or 'episcopacy' but bishopry was a bit easier. Don't you think?

We ended by driving through New Forest. The ground is covered in gorse and heather and, more interestingly, wild Shetland ponies. They like chips. They also try to get in your van.* Driving to another part of the forest, we found a herd of fallow deer which included some white ones, and an impressive white stag. We also caught a glimpse of the fabled Flower Power van, now quite endangered in these parts of the world. A real treat. Afterward, we stopped in the town of Burley for tea, but it was basically closed (It was 5:00, after all).
* Schmerm-note #1: Much like the barbary apes of Gibraltar.

Mother, you might want to skip ahead at this point.
I will notify you when it is once again clear to read.

Tuesday was the Day at the Post Office.* We started the day by packing everything in my room that I didn't need into two boxes to ship home: cold-weather clothes, extra shoes, comforters, books, books, and more books. When we brought the boxes to the counter at the post office, the clerk told us that it would be much cheaper to ship everything in 2kg parcels. "They don't do much overseas shipping, so the price shoots up for larger parcels." Our boxes weighed 8kg each. As is, it would have cost us £170 to ship both. Begin Hour of Repacking, Weighing, and Reweighing. After about an hour at least we ended up with 6 2kg boxes of assorted sizes, and one box for all the rest. After all was said and done, the total came to...
It was a good thing our original clerk had chosen that moment to go on lunch break.
* Schmerm-note #2: Compare with the Day at the U.S. Embassy.

It's okay now, Mom.

We (or Mom) cooled down with some delicious Cornish pasties, and then we visited AIB. Even though it was holiday, there was still bustle about the studio. Deadlines don't take holidays. The family was able to meet both directors, and we stopped to chat with (i.e. distract) Team Sol. I felt like a St. Rose ambassador again, giving tours of the school. For dinner we went out to Poole on a whim, which proved semi-successful: shops were all closed (it was coming on 6:00), and there was a Dream Machines motorcycle outing at the quay, killing all hopes for a relaxing, quiet dinner. So we found a Chinese buffet near the train station. Don't worry, it was nowhere near as good as Brick's buffets.

Thus ends part one of the Amazing Race. Pictures from today's post may be found on Facebook and in stores near you. Join us next week for La Course Extraordinaire, Partie Deux.

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