Monday, May 31, 2010

United Kingdom vacation - the first days

So I'm back from vacation.  I had a great - though very busy - trip visiting The Husband's friends and relatives.

The biggest surprise?  Nice weather!!  Weather in England is rather like that in Seattle - 8 days of sunny, clear skies and warm temps in May is unusual.  Of course, this trip I packed no shorts, my Goretex rain shell, my waterproof shoes, 2 sweaters, and 2 fleece.  Last year I was freezing and wet for most of the trip, so this year I was prepared (or not....).

Here are some highlights from the first couple of days.  Spent with some of The Husband's best friends in the countryside near Oxford.

Since this is a dog blog (not that you can tell from all of my travel posts lately) here are some pics of our canine hosts in Oxford:

Jack, a 14 year old Staffie mix

Flutie, a 1.5 year old well, you know the breed....

We took a few walks in the countryside.  One of the great things about England is the wealth of public walking paths and bridlepaths.  

A peek at some sheep

Oh, here's a better look.  Cardi heaven!

We were lucky to be just in time for the bluebells

The entire wood was blanketed in bluebells.  Enchanting!

Here's a closer look.  The have a lovely, light fragrance, too.

A view of Oxford University

The front gardens at our host's house.  
They're lucky I didn't move in!

The view from our guest room window.
See what I mean about wanting to move in?

On our last day in Oxford we went to a cricket match, had a picnic, and watched people punting in boats on the nearby river.  We also had an afternoon tea.  The Child really took to it all.  Channeling the English part of his heritage, I guess.  Rather like a Cardi seeing cows for the first time?

Always fun to splash in the river on sunny day

Tomorrow I'll post some pics and notes from the rest of our trip.  Now I need to go brush The Trio of Trouble.  They're all looking a bit ragged with no brushing for 11 days during the spring (yikes!).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Here I go again.

Right now I'm taking a break from packing (some would call it procrastinating - I call it a break).  Why am I packing?  To go on a family vacation to the United Kingdom!

The Husband and The Child are already there.  I depart later this evening.

I think my internal time clock is going to give up on me.  The only thing that's keeping it going now is regular infusions of caffeine.

Before I go, I'd like to share one of the sweetest pics.  The Husband took this last week.  The Child and Denzil were out in the yard together.  Here's how things ended up:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

China: Rest of May 2010 Trip

Most of the rest of the week was spent working (I guess that's what they pay me for...).  I did sneak in some sightseeing though.  Some highlights:


We went to a couple of markets - one specializing in knockoff merchandise ("Gucci" handbags, "North Face" jackets, etc.).  Fun and frightening to see all of the stuff.  Much of it looked just like the real thing on the outside (as far as I can tell), but didn't look the same on the inside - especially the clothes & shoes.  Some of the handbags & wallets, etc.  looked great and felt like good quality.  My favorite was a Burberry handbag.  Looked nice, but it said Burberry "Londoy."  I've not been to Londoy before.

We also spent a few hours at the Pearl Market.  AMAZING market.  Real pearls for cheap.  Shop after shop and stall after stall of pearls.  Pearls in every shape and size imaginable.  Pearl necklaces made to order if you're willing to wait for a few minutes.  I got some GREAT deals.  Haggling can be fun!  For approx $60 I got:  A long pearl & bead necklace; a double strand of multi-colored, differently shaped pearls; a jade bracelet; 3 pairs of differently shaped pearl earrings - 2 white and one blue (2 of these are going out as gifts); and various silk bags (for jewelry, shoes, etc.).


Our flight didn't leave until 4pm on Saturday, so a colleague and I went to the Forbidden City.  It's in downtown Beijing across from Tiananmen Square.  The place was packed with tour groups, and we were one of just a few folks who weren't Chinese.  The tour groups were easy to spot, as each group wore matching, differently colored hats (you can see one of the white hat groups in the top picture).  The tour guide held a flag that matched the hats.  The Forbidden City was awash with tour groups.  My colleague and I would periodically find ourselves surrounded by the "red hat group" then the "orange hat group" and so on.  Not a green hat group, though.  No green hats in China.  A man wearing a green hat signals that his wife is cheating on him...

Just a few pictures from the tour.  And no, my camera lens wasn't dirty.  That's some nice Beijing smog.

Tiananmen Square 

Looking across the Square to the entrance to the Forbidden City

Inside the City.  Wow that's a big square....

Lion to represent the power of the Emperor

Detail of the painting on one of the buildings.
There was building, after building, after building like this.

Crane statue symbolizes good luck

Rocks and plants in the garden

My colleague and I spent about 2 hours moving pretty quickly through the city, and only made it to the very largest halls.  There's always more to see.  Maybe next time...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

China: Days 1 & 2 of May 2010 trip

Sorry I couldn't post from China.  No access to social networking.  Yet another drawback to a communist government.

I'll do a couple of posts to summarize my week.  Starting with the first couple of days.

Day One:
Arrival in Shanghai.  Wanted to sightsee for a couple of hours.  Driver was supposed to take us to the Bund area of Shanghai.  It's an area that's said to have some spectacular art deco architecture and a great view across the river to downtown Shanghai.  Driver didn't take us there.  Driver didn't speak English so I couldn't ask.

Got to travel over the Hangzhou Bay Bridge on the way to Ningbo, China.  The bridge is 22 miles long, and it's the second longest bridge in the world.  It was a foggy/rainy day, so the bridge seemed to go on forever.  We were on the bridge for more than 1/2 hour.  Wow.

Day Two:
Work all day, then to Ningbo airport for a flight to Beijing.

Woman at airport check-in told my colleague and I that our bags were overweight.  We had checked online before leaving, as sometimes domestic flights have lower baggage allowances than international flights (remember this if you're ever traveling overseas, then around a country).  The baggage allowance was 40lbs each for each of the 2 bags allowed.  My bags (and my colleague's bags) were under this amount.  We asked the woman what the allowance was.  She said 20 kg total per passenger.  She asked us to pay an overage fee of 130RMB (about $18).  She wouldn't finish checking us in until we paid her.  My colleague offered up her credit card, as we were short on currency.  The woman looked flustered, and said, "no problem, this time it's ok."  Lesson learned:  capitalism and the art of the scam are alive and well in China.

Arrived at hotel in Beijing after midnight (after starting the day with a bus ride to the factory beginning at 7:30am).  Hotel says they only have smoking rooms.  I get cranky (but polite) and demand non-smoking rooms - as we had guaranteed reservations.  Check-in person suddenly finds non-smoking rooms.  Lesson learned:  Don't be afraid to be pushy - especially if it's something you can't tolerate.

Here's a  picture from Beijing (looking on to Tianenmen Square at night - view from a great restaurant we went to).  I'll post notes from the rest of the week tomorrow.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Best of Winners!

So I got home from China on Saturday night at about 8:30 pm - after a 14 hour flight to Chicago, then a 3 hour van ride home.  By the time I got home I'd already been up for 27 hours - with about 4.5 hours of sleep on the plane.

What would a normal person do?  Go to bed early, and sleep in late the next day?  This is probably what a normal person would do.

What did I do?

I went to bed at 11pm, and got up at 6am for a dog show.

It was our kennel club's annual all-breed dog show and obedience & rally trials.  As a club member, I'm required to work one day.  Saturday I was sight seeing in Beijing, then traveling home, so Sunday I had to work.

My job was to help fill in at the Rally and Obedience trials.  I ran errands for the stewards, served as honor steward for Rally, etc.

One of those "etc" involved being asked by a Rally exhibitor if I'd hold one of her dogs while she showed each of her dogs in the breed ring.  She had a bitch and a dog of the same breed, so needed someone to hold the dogs while she's in the ring.  Not a problem.

There I am, standing by the ring, trying to keep an Am Staff dog that I don't even know from sniffing every dog that walks by.  His owner flies out of the ring after showing her bitch and says, "they both need to go back in, can you show her?"

My reply, "but I'm wearing jeans, and I've never shown in conformation before."  Her reply, "it doesn't matter.  Here's your number."

And so it went.  My first conformation showing.  With a breed I've never met before.  With a bitch I've never met before.  If I do say so myself, my down and back was very straight (all of that practice walking in straight lines for obedience actually helped).  My stacking of the dog - well, let's just say that at least I got her to stand still.

The result?  Best of winners!  Just think how well she might have done with a decent handler...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I haven't disappeared!

I'm currently traveling in China.  I've tried to post a couple of times, and read other people's blogs, but I can't access any blogs (mine or other people's).  I asked around at work, and found out that the government restricts access to social media.  Right now I'm logged on to the work network.  Can't post much at work, so I'll be quiet for another week or so.  I promise to post some China updates w/ pics when I return.
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