Sunday, 24 June 2012

Tropical Storm Deby

Since Wednesday we have seen a turn in the weather. The bright sun and extreme heat was displaced by light cloud cover and intermittent showers. It was not enough to stop us from cycling or snorkeling, just enough to cool you off a bit while cycling.

On Thursday we played some tennis before heading out to the beach. It was lovely and sunny, just a lot windier than it had been the last week. When we got to the beach we could see the effects of the increased wind. The tide was extremely high as were the waves. Areas of beach we had sat reading on were now covered with a foot of water, sometimes more. The sandbars we had comfortably waded discovering sea stars and sand dollars with our toes were now getting pummeled by crashing waves.

We spent some time in the sun reading our Randy Wayne White novels from his Doc Ford series, watching the waves from time to time. Eventually we were too tempted by the activity in the typically docile Gulf of Mexico to sit and watch any longer.

I put on my rash guard and headed down to the water. Getting in was almost the hardest part as there was an escarpment about a foot high at the waters edge. Once in the water, you were carried by a long shore current along the beach as you dodged, jumped, our swam through waves. When you were back at the escarpment it was time to get out, walk down the beach and do it again. No rip tides occurred on our stretch of beach so we played in the waves until I got cold. I definitely wished I had a wetsuit and a surfboard that day (and knew how to surf)! After a short bike ride, we came back to the beach, prepared for big waves and they had already died down significantly. We could swim against the long shore current when earlier we couldn't even stand in place.

Friday morning we tried our hand at shuffleboard then headed out to the beach. The tide was not as high as Thursday but it was getting higher. We did not spend much time on the beach as the rain was closing in. By the time we got back to the room heavy showers had begun. We read on the balcony with the rain as our background music. The eurochampionships entertained us in the afternoon for a while, but cabin fever set in soon afterwards. We drove around the islands exploring new corners and walked around Captiva for an hour or so between showers, keeping us occupied until supper time.

Yesterday was obviously a wash out from the word go. We visited with Charles, our real estate agent for a while and talked more about the environment than houses, but enjoyed our time out of the condo. We watched another eurochampionship match and met him again and some of his friends (more wildlife people) for supper at the Lazy Flamingo. Charles brought fish he'd caught in the Gulf, the cooks prepared it for us and we had a family style meal served at a very reasonable price. It was a local secret and we were glad to have been chosen to have it shared with us.

Today I had hoped to cycle to city hall for the farmers market, but the rain was too heavy. We drove past and it appeared to be too heavy to even set up the market at all. So we drove off the island and explored Cape Coral. We went to one open house and drove past a few other houses on the market. Since we missed the farmers market, we stopped at the fruit stand and the fresh seafood truck on the way back to the island. We wanted to be back in the room for the England match of the eurochampionship. As we crossed the causeway back onto the island, the Intracoastal Waterway was splashing over the road. We made it back just in time to see kickoff! Come On England!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Two down One to go.

Our second week was as good as our first week on the Island. We have used our bikes and racked up quite a few miles. We even did 21 in one day! Our roller blades have not been quite as successful though. My husband had a little tumble and we've not been back on since. We will go on again before leaving Florida, just not sure when.

We kept hoping for some rain, actually the thunderstorms that are part of the hot summer afternoon routine in Florida. Instead, we are getting outer bands of a tropical depression (could be tropical storm Debbie soon). It doesn't look like it will have a major impact on Florida but it will create a lot of rain bands for another day or so. The upside to the storm? Great waves. This is not the gentle Gulf of Mexico I adore, but it is fun for a little while. Just wish I knew how to surf!

We have seen some great wildlife so far too. You can see a one day list on my Wild Wednesday post. I will make a list for the whole trip as well. As far as our hawk goes, I need to check up on him after the weekend. I promised myself I would only check once a week so as to not bother the staff of CROW too much. Today's big sighting, flying ants. The rain must have flooded out a nest. They are looking for drier ground but have only found our screens so far. As long as they don't come in I'm fine.

In between the cycling and wildlife viewing, we had time to learn a new activity, shuffle board! There is a board next to the grills, so our curiosity was peaked. We weren't sure of the rules so we had a look online and played a little yesterday before the rain came too heavy. I could see us playing more while we are grilling, as long as we remember the bug spray! I think we counted 54 bites on my poor husband!

We hope to get out on the water next week. We are looking at renting some kayaks or just doing the tarpon bay explorers cruise. It depends on the weather and how ambitious we get!

I almost forgot, we found the dream house! It is well beyond our means, but a girl can dream! It has prime location, gorgeous views, private dock and beach, and it's for sale! Really need to win the lottery now lol.

Friday, 22 June 2012

AmSub Grub! Tropical Flavors

One of the things I had been looking forward to in Florida was lighter food. Even though I make salads for supper several days a week at home in England, we still have a couple of meals where comfort food seems to rule. When it is cold and wet outside, mashed potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, and homemade baked goods seem to make it more bearable.

I learned some great new recipes from a friend of mine while she visited us on the island. I hope to repeat them at home if it ever stops raining or I am just a bit homesick for Florida!

One of the great things about these recipes is how easy they are. My friend R who spotted the injured hawk, not only shared them, but prepared them for us during her visit. Now for those of you who know R, she has not been known for her culinary skills. She works multiple jobs, has long hours, and racks up a ton of miles driving all around Florida in the aid of sick and injured sea turtles. Convenience used to be the most important factor, so fast food drive throughs would win out over home cooked meals. They would for most of us when driving 10+ hours in a day. Knowing even someone with that kind of schedule can make great tasting and healthy food gives hope to us all!

Our supper consisted of chicken with citrus and avocado salsa and mango salsa with whole grain tortilla chips for "dessert". Now we didn't have exactly what the recipes called for, but it didn't matter, they still tasted great.

She started by making the mango salsa and enlisted me to assist with some of the chopping. I think she said the recipe came from simply food, but I am not positive. We chopped everything and let it sit in the bowl for the flavors to combine while we were out on our bikes.

After the bike ride, I made some brown rice while R poached some chicken and did some more chopping and dinner was served! So easy, I could even handle it on vacation.


One ripe mango
(we used some plum tomatoes, but
what ever you have in your garden
would work I'm sure)
(we used a but of vidalia onion I had
in the fridge but I think the recipe
called for red onion)
(fresh coriander for my English

Chop all the ingredients into a small dice. Remember you will be scooping it out with tortilla chips, so small is good in this case. I would add nearly equal amounts tomato to mango. The other flavors are up to you. If you like onion add lots, if you hate onion, skip it!

We didn't have any fresh cilantro on hand and the island grocery store was out as well, but it tasted fine. I loved the mango salsa but my husband found it a bit sweet (English taste buds). I thought adding some jalapeño peppers might add a nice contrast of heat to the other flavors. I'll let you know how it turns out!


1 grapefruit section and chopped
1 avocado chopped

Serve over chicken

I have attached a photo of the original recipe out of an old issue prevention magazine, one of those walking fit guides you find at the checkout. We once again did not follow the recipe exactly. That is the great thing about good foods, you can adapt to fit your situation, and as long as you have the basics it's pretty good.

We served over brown rice instead of salad as we had eaten salad several days in a row earlier that week. We also did not have fresh basil. The island grocery store had it, we just forgot to buy it (I think some chocolate took presidence lol). This would be great just with salad or rice as a vegetarian meal. Or try it with grilled chicken or fish.

A tip: I would always cut the grapefruit first for 2 reasons, first it takes more time, second the citric acid (grapefruit juice) prevents your avocado from going brown.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Wild Wednesday: Florida Style

So yesterday we headed out on our bikes, not really sure of our route, just a few ideas in mind. We let the weather tell us when to stop and when to move on. We got stopped by one rain shower and hung out at Lighthouse Beach while we could see another passing the causeway. Other than that, the weather held out for us and the breezy overcast skies made for good cycling weather, so good we did about 21 miles!

Wildlife was plentiful throughout the day, although we have still not seen any signs of the bear that we hear so much about on the news. And I guess we won't see him since they caught him a few hours ago.

Here are some pictures I took yesterday!

Our total checklist for the day:
Ant lions
Fiddler crabs
Purple sea urchin
Brown anole
Black racer
Laughing gull
Fish crow
Snowy egret
Great egret
Great blue heron
Reddish egret
Yellow crown night heron
Brown pelican
Red-bellied woodpecker
Pileated woodpecker
Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins


Sunday, 17 June 2012

Birds of a Feather

If you don't know me personally and haven't gathered by reading my posts, I am an animal person. I have worked with animals of all sizes since college where I helped to take care of the biology department's office frog and tarantula my freshman year. Most of the time I lived in Florida I worked or volunteered with animals, often in a rescue, rehab situation. So when I get together with my friends were are talking about our pets or exploring the outdoors and local wildlife. So it should come to no surprise that when my friend R came down to visit we got ourselves involved with a little rescue work.

We had no plans of animal adventures that afternoon. In the morning she had to do some work in the area and we were able to coordinate her visit with her work. She gave her talk about sea turtles and my husband and I were able to tag along as she was toured around the rehab facilities of CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation Of Wildlife). Once we left we thought that was he end of our animal adventures aside from a bit if bird watching.

We came back to the room and watched the England match of the UEFA Eurochampionships then we set out for a bike ride. After cycling nearly 7 miles we stopped for an ice-cream at the Blue Giraffe in Periwinkle Place. As we were leaving I noticed the car speeding through the parking lot. I remember thinking "he is in the wrong place if he wants to go fast". Not only was he in a parking lot, he is on an island that is a tourist haven and the fastest speed limit on any of the roads is 35 MPH.

Behind me R was looking across the road into the church lot. She had seen something on the ground that could have been a branch blown down or an injured bird. She called ahead to see if I had seen it. I had not, so I turned around and all 3 of us went to investigate. It was not a branch, it was an injured hawk, they do not typically sit on the ground. It also appeared he was not tucking his wings properly.

We quickly crossed the street as I formulated a plan. I sent my husband 2 miles by bicycle to the condo. He is 15 inches taller than me, so in my mind the faster cyclist. I asked him to bring back a towel to protect me when I caught it. He quickly set off once he was sure he had the key.

R and myself kept our distance and observed the bird. I took a few pictures to see if I could determine what had happened to it. It appeared that its nictitating membranes (or third eyelids) were up. Normally these only close for protection, not for normal activity.

While we waited, the wind began to pick up as a possible afternoon thunderstorm approached. While it cooled us down it seemed to energize the hawk a bit. He positioned himself head into the wind and opened his wings and began to flap. While he gained a little lift from the winds, he could not sustain flight.

While I would rather see the hawk fly away, R and I were thankful it did not catch air at this time. The eyelids up meant he was not healthy and flying away would just prolong his suffering. He needed to get into rehabilitative care as quickly as possible. We tried to observe from a less threatening position (we were already +15 ft away) but the hawk made it difficult on us. He attempted to fly again. This time it appeared he was not steady on his feet as if he possibly injured a leg. He was now along the edge of the landscaped portion of the driveway. I looked down at my watch and by the time I looked back up, he had disappeared. Since he could not fly the increasing winds seemed to unsettle the bird. He had just walked into the ornamental grasses. R headed around the vegetation to prevent him from getting into the denser woods just beyond the ornamental plants that lined the driveway while I kept an eye on him, not ready to turn my gaze and loose him again. While he moved deeper into the plants, he settled along a large tree root where it appeared he was sheltered from the wind.

Meantime, the wind was picking up and an afternoon thunderstorm seemed inevitable. I hoped my husband made it to the condo before it hit...and was back to our position before we were having to catch this hawk in the rain.

Since the bird seemed content against this root, R kept watch and I headed back to my bike to collect my camera and my cell phone. No sooner did I pick up my bag, did the phone ring. It was my husband letting us know he was in the car on the way back. He had 2 beach towels, a sheet, and a laundry basket. He was also bringing the bike lock so that we could leave the bikes at Periwinkle Place for an extended time if we needed to. Well done hubby, we will make an animal rescuer out of you in no time!

I let R know he would be here soon and we started to discuss the next part of the plan. We decided the bike basket might be easier than the laundry basket to contain the bird for a short trip, especially in the car. I had no idea how he was going to react and if he was going to resist restraint, having less room to move would be better. The laundry basket may help over the top of the bike basket if we needed a "lid", we would wait to see the birds reaction to capture. We did realize that once I caught him, I probably would not be able to safely let go.

When my husband arrived, we collected supplies from the trunk and removed my bike basket. I folded one towel in the bottom of the basket and held on to the other. My husband started running bikes across the street while R and I prepared ourselves for the capture.

I slowly moved in, walked into the vegetation, and watched the hawks reaction to my movement. He tilted his head towards me but did not move away. The wind was making it difficult to handle the towel, and for a split second I thought about making the capture bare handed. That idea quickly passed when that head turned and I was reminded of how sharp his beak was. I folded the towel in half and determined the next step. While I wanted to cover and grab at the same time, the low shrubs were going to make that difficult, and I did not want to have to do this twice. So I placed the towel over and covered the hawk completely. I was then able to pick him up from behind, talons and beak away from me. We placed him in the bike basket and I was in the back seat of the car. It all went so quickly and smoothly that I was not optimistic about his condition.

We decided CROW clinic was the next stop, even if they were closed. If no one was around, R could access a number of animal carriers and we would be able to properly contain him overnight.

The clinic was quiet when we arrived. Although the interns live in student housing on property, we did not disturb them. We picked a carrier in which we hoped the hawk would be able to stand up, put it in the car, and headed back to the condo.

Once we got there, we closed ourselves into the screened balcony and we moved the hawk from the bike basket to the animal carrier. He stood up and moved himself to a comfortable position, a good sign. As we were placing the carrier on the floor he even pecked at the side of the carrier, another good sign. We covered the carrier with a towel and set a chair on top of everything. There he would wait until morning when the rehab clinic opened again.

I went out to the balcony twice to check on him before driving him to CROW Clinic after they opened at 8am. We did the best we could, his fate was out of our hands now. Hopefully his ability to get through the night was a good sign for his future.

R had some things to pick up from CROW Clinic this morning before leaving the island, so my husband and I tagged along with her. We were there to help of there was no one to help with the heavy items, but we had ulterior motives! I wanted to know how the hawk was doing. In the past I was usually assisting the veterinarian with the long term care of the patient until its release or placement, dropping it off with no further care involved seemed a bit strange. Good news so far, he was placed on antibiotics and seems to be holding his own so far. I have done rehab long enough to know you can never think an animal is out of the woods, that is when they give up. I can't lie though, I was pleased he wasn't put to sleep upon admission and made it through another night!


Saturday, 16 June 2012

A week already!

Wow, can't believe a week ago today was the first day we woke up on the island! It is going by way too fast. That being said, we have been very busy relaxing.

We've explored Pine Island, bought bikes, rollerblades, and tennis rackets. Have had a couple of friends visit and look forward to a few more visits including my bestie coming down with her family! We've been to Doc Fords 3 times. Most importantly, we've had our nails done.

I really feel like we are getting to know more of the island and the island is starting to give up a few of its secrets to us. For example, yesterday, we rode the Bailey Tract of Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge (part of the National Park System). It was our second time on this part of the trail (there are over 200 miles of bike trails on the island). We had stopped to get some water and within 100 yards from us, what I think must have been, a wild coyote emerged from the underbrush. It stood on the path for a minute and studied us before deciding 3 humans on bicycles meant retreat.

I also had a bumble bee ride my handlebars for over half a mile around the preserve, was privy to a behind the scenes tour of CROW Clinic, helped rescue an injured hawk (that we took to CROW), and hope to see some sea turtle activity in the near future.

What a week it has been, and we have so much more to look forward to!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Florida Bound

We arrived home from London late Tuesday night (really, it was early Wednesday morning) and we had a flight to the States on Friday morning. We did not leave ourselves much time to transition from one trip to the next. I have been on the go, no one place for more than 2 weeks, since my trip to PA in April. I was really feeling the strain by Thursday evening trying to get everything sorted.

We have 7 cats kept in 3 different areas on 2 different diets. God Bless our cat sitter! There was some gardening to do so that the outdoor English cats didn't use the flower bed as a litter box. We laundered anything and everything in common areas and our guest bedroom to help reduce my father's allergic response to cats. We needed to get to the vets to get more of the rX cat food for Isis. We caught up with my sister-in-law's family and the G family. Not to mention I was packing for 2 of us for a month away in 1 suitcase and hand luggage.

My husband and I tried to divide and conquer the list and he really did help. Never the less I was still running around Friday morning with last minute tasks (feed and clean cats, pack a few of the toiletries, shower, pack pillow).

One of our last minute jobs was cleaning the last few things out of the fridge (milk for my husbands tea, homemade chocolate buttercream frosting for my fairy cake breakfast). When we were about to walk out the door I wanted to prop the fridge door open so I turned one of the shelves around, it worked fine for the freezer. It did not work fine for the fridge!

When I stood up, I hit my head on the freezer shelf, so I sat on the floor for a minute to regroup. While I was sat on the floor, the turned shelf tilted and a few bottles of beer rolled out of the fridge. Needless to say one of those bottles of beer, even though it never fell, broke. Suddenly I was on the floor with broken glass and beer. Thankfully, I stood up quickly enough to not get a beer bath and far enough away to not hit my head again. It was literally seconds away from becoming a sit con sketch. We quickly cleaned up the beer and left another request for the sitter to help out with.

Despite my comedic interludes, monsoon like rain, and crazy truck drivers we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. It doesn't hurt that Manchester airport has some of the shortest security lines I have ever seen. Hopefully it is due to precision and efficiency, not the slack that infiltrated the TSA at Ft. Myers airport. Which, after nearly 23 hours, we arrived in Friday night!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Public transportation lets us down

After the Jubilee Celebrations had ended, we made our way back to The Grange St. Paul. We had checked out but could still use the warm lobby as a wifi hotspot. We did not want to go far for supper as the rain was pounding down by this point. There was a pizza express around the corner. We managed to spend over an hour there and another hour at the hotel lobby before getting our luggage and heading towards the tube.

Tired, cold, and wet I thought why not take a Circle Line train from Mansion House station instead of changing trains on the Central Line to get to Kings Cross. The stations were about the same distance from the hotel so it seemed like a good decision.

Boy what a mistake on my part. First we got on a District Line train instead of the Circle Line train. I was not paying attention until it was too late. So at the next station we still had to get off and change platforms/trains.

We managed to correctly get on a Circle Line train with plenty of time to get to Kings Cross. We made about 4 stops as normal. It seemed we were progressing at a fairly normal rate up to that point.

Upon departure from Liverpool Street Station though, things seemed to slow down. At first I thought it was just tracks shifting as a few lines come through the station. We moved a little then stopped again. After a few rounds of stop, crawl, stop the tube driver came on the overhead stating there was a disruption on the Circle Line near Kings Cross. It had been going on for about 45 minutes but would hopefully be resolved soon. He recommended getting off at the next station for anyone with time sensitive travel plans to get off and make alternate travel plans. My husband and I looked at each other and just decided we would see how things went. We weren't really sure where we were at this point and we still had nearly 30 minutes to get to Kings Cross.

Soon after his announcement the driver came on again stating he needed to do a "special procedure" to get us moving again as part of the problem on the line was electrical. He recommended holding on as he was about to begin this procedure. We then started to move, he applied the brakes hard and fast, stopped, then started again. There was a bit of bouncing back and forth during this process, but we seemed to be moving again.

We arrived to the next station and it seemed the line was cleared and we would move on no problem. The Tube driver came on again but was very difficult to hear. It had been hard to understand him previously but the noise on the train was getting worse. There was a group of young guys on the train who thought it was their opportunity to have a captive audience and act like stereotypical, self indulged adolescents. One girl even shushed them. She too was carrying luggage and obviously heading for a connection somewhere. They paid no attention.

We departed the station, everyone still on board. We continued at a very slow pace though. After another 15 minutes or so and very little progress, you could see people's frustrations build. Phones came out and people started messaging those expecting them, watches glanced at and tickets checked to calculate scenarios of still making the connection.

When we got to the next station, Barbicon, we, like most, exited the train and emerged above ground. At street level my husband saw a sign stating we were 7 minutes from St. Paul's, it had taken us more than 45 minutes to get this far.

At this point our train was pulling out of Kings Cross Station in about 5 minutes and we were far from making it on time. We shared a taxi with another girl from our train. I'm glad we hailed a taxi because we never would have made it on foot.

We arrived at the station about 5 minutes late. We looked at the screen with hope to see if any of the trains had been delayed by the same electrical fault that delayed the underground, but no such luck. We stood there for a couple of minutes debating what to do next. There was another train at 2200, should we just get on?

We decided to go into the ticket office and speak to an agent. He quickly sorted things out for us. The 2200 train obviously had numerous empty seats as we were switched to that train. He swiped our tube tickets to see that we were indeed on the delayed tube. Simple as that tickets with a hand written signed note stapled to them and we were cleared for the next train. No additional payment needed, just thank you and smiles from us.

We had a little time before our train left and the weather outside was cold and windy. So we did what all good tourists do, entertained ourselves at "platform 9 3/4" and tried to get to Hogwarts!

A 2-1/2 hour train ride to York, 15 minutes or so at the taxi stand, to the G families house to pick up our car and 30 minute drive home before we crashed into bed. So thankful to be there, cats thankful we were home, sleep came quickly. I would worry about details for the next trip in the morning!

Friday, 8 June 2012

A La Côte d'Azure, our second port of call

Villefranche was our second port of call. It was a tendered port so we were up and waiting in line for our tender boat tickets. We managed to get on the second boat to shore. I guess it was worth Matt standing in line while I showered.

We walked straight to the train station and got our tickets for Monaco and Nice. Within a few minutes our train was at the station and we were on our way to Monaco.

Once out of the station in Monaco we signs for the upcoming Monaco formula-1 grand prix. We walked through town up to the castle (yup another uphill walk). When we made it to the top we discovered the changing of the guard was only 15 minutes away. So after a stop to get our postcards from every stop and a patch we waited just behind the chain. We wrote our postcards as the guard readied for their change and then I snapped TONS of pictures.

After a walking back down the hill and drooling over all of the luxury yachts, we passed the swimming pool chicane before getting back on the train to Nice.

Once in Nice I was a bit disappointed. It was just crowded and full of tourists. We wanted to eat at a cafe on the beach and after not being able to get served we just went to a chain on the high street between the beach and the train station. I did dip my toes into the Mediterranean Sea and picked up a souvenir shell from the very crowded and rocky beach so it wasn't all bad.

We took the train back to Villefranche and spent the rest of our afternoon on the beach. The local children were having a great time swimming and jumping off the rocks. The water was much too cold for any more than the quick dip in the wave wash at Nice.

A quick trip on one of the tender/life boats and we were back aboard our ship. We sat on our balcony and read as we waited to pull up anchor and get underway again. Apparently a few people were late getting back as a tender boat pulled up to the ship about 20 minutes after we were set to leave. Then we had to wait for the pilot boat to move some kids on a row boat out of the way. A little late, but we were all aboard and safely on our way to Italy.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee Weekend

We were home from our cruise for just a few days before we headed down to London to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, or 60 years of service and devotion by Queen Elizabeth II. Although she her coronation was not until 1953, she had put in more than a years service between her fathers death in February 1952 and her coronation 2 June 1953.

We took the train to London on Saturday and upon arrival noticed bunting and Union Jacks anywhere and everywhere. Whether or not your a royalist, you will have to admit they put on a pretty good party!

We were very lucky to have been able to check into our room as soon as we arrived (before noon). We were expecting just to leave our luggage at the concierge desk and go off to explore. We have stayed at The Grange St. Paul's in the past and hope to do so again in the future! So after unpacking and freshening up, we watched the Epsom Derby to see Camelot do what was expected of him before we made it out on the streets of London.

We passed Shakespeare's globe theatre and picked up a snack at the borough market before crossing London Bridge and getting on the tube to the Olympic village. We headed to Covent Garden to have supper and decided on the Marquess of Anglesey. After our very filling meal we were planning a bit of walking to work it off but the rain was coming down pretty heavy so we only made it to Trafalgar Square were we snapped a few pictures of the Olympic countdown clock and got mooned by some girls on a party bus before we went underground and took the tube back to St. Paul's.

Despite the rain throughout the night, many people camped out along the Thames to get a glimpse of the Queen and the royal family during the flotilla. The pageant truly was reminiscent of the painting xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxx by xxxx xxxxx from 17xx. We however watched most of it from the warm dry comfort of our room. We did get out early and walked the Thames up to Parliament but walked The Strand back to the room. We did cone out to the river as the Royal Barge was approaching, we could hear the bells on the leading barge, but couldn't see a thing. The atmosphere was great though, the people along the river may have been soaked but their spirit was high and bright. Once the Royal Barge passed, we went back to our room to watch the rest of the pageant. Had we stayed out in the weather the whole time I may have ended up in a hospital bed on the same wing as the Duke of Edinburg though! That night we met up with some friends for supper and the rain just kept coming.

I must have been confused as to where we were because I did not pack any boots for London. It was the beginning of June after all, surely I wouldn't need boots! Boy was I wrong! I wore a pair of flip flops down on the train and brought my Merell Barefoot shoes with me. The flip flops only came out when we went to the pool. By the time we returned to our room that night, my feet were blue (and a bit smelly from walking around in wet shoes all day). I was very thankful to have a warm dry room that night.

A bit skeptical, I looked out the window the following morning expecting to see another flotilla coming down the streets of London instead of the Thames, but was pleasantly surprised to find most of the puddles drying out. So after some food and the pool, we walked the South Bank from the Millennium Bridge to Battersea Park, crossed Chelsea Bridge, then walked the North Bank towards St. James Park via Parliament.

We walked all around St. James Park to discover we needed to go back to where we came in and around the other way. We finally found an ok place to put our bin bags down and eat our sandwiches. We could see part of the screen minus one tree pesky tree branch. We applied for seats at the stage, but settled for the park. It was a blast, we stood up the whole time and danced most of the time. We could see the fireworks erupting over the trees behind the stage. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience!

When it was all said and done, Prince Charles put away his speech notes, Sir Paul McCartney hung up his guitar, and the Queen gave her last wave. We expected exiting the park to be a nightmare, but were pleasantly surprised. We all calmly and in an orderly fashion filed out of the park past the horse guard parade (which had bleachers already set up for Olympic beach volleyball games). We quickly made our way back along the Thames and continued our walk back to St. Paul's. 11.11 estimated miles covered and we didn't step onto a bus or a tube all day. Shattered, we returned to our room, packed and set the alarm to be at the palace early the next morning.

The alarm came much too early but our tickets to bee seated in front of Buckingham Palace (around the Victoria Monument and the stage from the previous night) said we must be seated by 0915 or we would not be allowed in. So bright eyed and bushy tailed we checked out, dropped our luggage at the concierge desk, end headed out towards the tube.

We couldn't get to the St. Paul's station due to road closures so we took the circle line from mansion house station.
Not exactly sure how to get to the north grandstand or where to get off the tube we picked St. James park. We were familiar with it after last night and figured we could cut through fairly easily if we needed to. We found a line quickly once we got to the park, but after standing in line for a few minutes my husbands gut instinct was correct...we were in line for the south grandstand. We quickly cut across the bridge, exited the other side of the park and asked a police officer how to get to our destination. Not exactly sure, he directed us to the general area.

When we got to the top of the road where we were to turn left we came up to a line of people, many of whom were holding tickets for the grandstands. This would have seemed a good point to get in line, but not for my number crunching husband. There were a total of 10,000 seats between the two grandstands, each with 5,000. The point where we came up on the cue was well over a mile away from the point of entry. Either no one was in the stands, more than 5,000 people were trying to get in, or the line had intermingled with another line.

Convinced it was not the right spot my husband started walking past the line. The more he talked, the more people we passed, the more I was believing he was correct. There was also a couple walking in front of us (with tickets in hand) walking past the line as well.

As we neared the front of the line and people started to tell us to keep their tickets out. We knew we were getting close but were still not in the right place as most of the people did not know what tickets they were talking about. We kept going though, walked around pedestrian subway, and suddenly came into a line and were directed into the security gates showed our tickets and we were in. We were directed to our seats and that was it.

The grandstands were pretty empty when we first arrived and only filled up moderately throughout the day. It was obvious the concert was the more desirable ticket. Cars started to head out and we all anticipated the Queen. I recognized her Bentley from her trip to York. It had gone into the Palace gates, but had yet to exit.

Several other cars exited before the Queen's car came out, without Prince Philip. The schedule for the day had him included in the days festivities and we were unsure of their accuracy until this point. He was indeed still in the hospital. I felt a bit sad for the Queen, for recent interviews Prince William commented on how close his grandparents relationship was, and today she was celebrating while her partner in life was ill.

We had a few hours before the royal family returned. We were able to watch the service in St. Paul's on the big screens. Also iI that time a number of bands, guards, horse guards, and police marched by. I am not sure if people thought they were missing something because they often stood up and swarmed to see whomever was marching by(even if the Queen could be seen on the big screen, obviously not on her way back).

The rain held out most of the afternoon, but not for the whole day. Just as the carriage procession was shown coming down The Mall, it began. First lightly, but steady and increasing. So much so my husband put up the hood on his jacket. It was a little soggy for the balcony appearance and fly by, but still drier than the flotilla, for now.

The Queen and potential successors did not appear on the balcony until hundreds of people calmly and efficiently filed down The Mall into the roundabout around the Victoria Monument in front of the Palace. First just the Queen, then Charles and Camilla, followed by William and Katherine. They waved, listened to the cheers, and watched the fly by and waved some more before retreating back into the warmth and dry of Buckingham Palace.

We exited the stands and joined the herds of people being corralled towards Victoria station. We found out tickets and gladly headed underground (away from the rain) to return to our hotel. Our jubilee weekend wasn't quite over, we had about 4 hours before our train left for the north, but that is a story all it's own.