Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday Road Trip: Weston-Super-Mare

Back in July, we decided our Sunday road trip should take us to Weston-Super-Mare where they were hosting a sand sculpture competition. The weather was a bit hit and miss, but we did get a few moments of sun during our adventure.

They have a long boardwalk area with arcade games and amusement rides. We didn't bother as it was rainy and blustery at that point, but we did like the ferris wheel.

We preferred the gardens we stumbled across while walking around - very pretty area.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Road Trip: York, England

Our final stop on our July roadtrip was York, England. A beautiful old town with lots of history. The main attraction is the York Minster (Cathedral) which was quite nice, but expensive! I tell you, the Brits definitely know how to make money on tourism. :)

This was actually a random Abbey we ran across when we stopped for lunch and missed our turn! Couldn't go in to explore, but it was beautiful from the outside. And our first bright sunny day of the trip!

 A bit of York.
 A bit more - and a random Yorker who photobombed my picture!

This was just outside a cute little wine bar we found on TripAdvisor. Nice tapas, good wine and a super friendly owner who "loved our accent".

Old town York and the original gates into the city.

A couple of views of the cathedral.

A bit of the city walls and the tourist trap, err, I mean train that rides around part of the city.

And that was it - we headed back to Bristol with a few more miles on the car and a bunch of new UK adventure under our belts.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Road Trip: Glasgow, Scotland

The next stop on our road trip was Glasgow, Scotland. We'd been to Edinburgh a few years prior so decided to explore Glasgow this time. I have to say I do prefer Edinburgh, but Glasgow was a great adventure too.

Beautiful architecture.

One of our waiters suggested we check out the top of The Lighthouse, which is an art gallery tucked away down a side street, but with one of the best views of Glasgow. We never would have found it without his tip.

We ended our day in Glasgow at the Botanical gardens. You can see it was another rainy overcast day, but the colours of the garden sure lightened the mood.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Road Trip: Keswick Lake District

I promise we do actually work most weeks, but that's not very interesting to blog about so here goes another few posts about our July adventure. We decided it was time for a multi-day road trip so planned a 5-day excursion north through England's Lake district, up through Glasgow, Scotland and back down again through York. It was a beautiful road trip - although a bit longer driving than expected due to traffic.

Our first night was spent in Keswick (pronounced kessick) which is a quaint little town in the English Lake District. Due to heavy traffic, we had a lot less time here than planned, which was disappointing. We'll just have to go back, I guess!

This is a little walking path I found the following morning while out and about. Cuts through a farmer's sheep pasture. It was a rainy and overcast morning, but that didn't detract from the gorgeous countryside.

I love the contrast here of the old building with the new truck out front - that really sums up a lot of England for me. Such rich history surrounding my modern day comforts.

I think much of the reason the rainy weather doesn't bother me much is because the result is this green, green, green almost all year long. I never get tired of it.

Cut little church.

Definitely need more time to explore the little villages and winding roads.

We stayed at a country inn, complete with multiple sitting rooms - every on with a fireplace, full made to order breakfast, and really nice people. On this rainy day, we would have been happy to plonk down here and laze the day away, but we had adventures to chase so got back on the road.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sunday Road Trip: The Cotswolds

Another Sunday, another Sunday road trip - this time to the Cotswolds, which are pretty much just out our front door. For this trip we did a route up to Burton on the Water and then over to Blenheim Castle before heading back home. It was a really nice day too - not like all the cold rainy weather we've been having in August.  Here are a few pics of our adventures.

We stopped for breakfast and a stroll around Burton on the Water - a very cute little town with a shallow canal running through the centre. Very pretty.

We then spent the afternoon at Blenheim Castle walking through parts of the castle itself and then around the grounds. We barely scratched the surface as the place is huge. Luckily the tickets are good for a year so we'll try to come back and explore a bit more.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Tales of a UK Driving License

With our year anniversary of living in Bristol, came the expiration of our legal permission to drive in the UK on our US driving licenses. After that year grace, we're required to apply for a UK driving license, and unfortunately, that means starting from scratch like all the 16 year olds! Ugh.

The process starts with an application (and fee) for a provisional license, which can take up to 3 weeks. Mine took about a week and Brian's almost 3. Your provisional allows you to drive with a qualified driver (21+ years old with a valid license for at least 3 years) and anywhere except on the motorway. You also need to display a big red L on your car front and back to indicate you're a learner.
To avoid these requirements, we needed to make sure we had our UK license before our US ones expired, otherwise, it would be back to taking the bus to work!

Step 2 is the theory test and another fee.  Once you have your provisional license, you can schedule your theory test. This can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, depending on how busy the testing centres are. I ended up driving 40 min to Newport to get in earlier as we were starting to run out of time on our US licenses.

The theory test consists of 50 multiple choice questions (you need 86% to pass) and a hazard perception test where you watch a video and indicate potential road hazards as they appear. You can practice both tests online in advance, which is highly recommended and really helped us with some of the UK language and those darn roundabouts.
Go on, give it a try!

The good news is that we both passed on our first try, but I tell you, it was stressful. We both practiced a lot the week before our test - can you imagine the embarrassment of failing at our age!!

And that took us to step 3, the practical driving test - and yes, another fee! This is what we were most nervous about. Yes, of course we can drive and had been in the UK now for almost a year. But driving to the public's standards and driving to the standard of passing a UK driving test seemed like two very different things. On top of that, I was getting lots of US acquaintances on Facebook and other venues tell me they had failed their first and sometimes second time, which made me more nervous. I even took a driving lesson which ended up being validation and confidence boosting more than anything else but helpful to calm the nerves. We created some additional pressure by procrastinating the whole thing and having an upcoming road trip to Scotland planned.  Luckily, I passed on my first try and the day before my US license was set to expire!

Next, we had Brian to worry about. His provisional took 2 weeks longer than mine for some reason, so he was behind schedule and our road trip was coming up soon. We now knew I would be able to drive us, but Brian wasn't so keen on being a passenger for a 5 day road trip. He was able to get a quick theory test appointment and just around the corner from his office - great! He then arrived to be told the tests for that day had been cancelled because of a computer malfunction. He was rescheduled to the following week, and the day before our trip was to start. Looked like I would be driving to Scotland.

He passed his theory test with no trouble and logged on that evening (the night before our trip) to see when he could schedule his practical test. Believe it or not, there was 1 appointment the following morning at our preferred test site. Fate had intervened and all we had to do was leave a couple of hours later for Scotland.

He passed the following morning and off we went on holiday!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sunday Road Trip: Cardiff Castle

Cardiff, the capital of Wales is less than an hour away, so one Sunday, we jumped in the car for a road trip to the Cardiff Castle and a boat tour around the bay.