Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Trip "Home"

I'm not exactly sure what "home" is these days.  I guess we have many.  Our home here in Derby, the house back in Indy and our respective home towns.  It was good to see the latter and also get back to our new home in the UK!

Like most Christmas breaks, we packed up and visited friends and family in Maryland and North Carolina but instead of driving from Indianapolis, we flew across the Atlantic.  It only took slightly longer but the time changes were certainly more complicated.  All the travel logistics went well and we had no issues.  Our trip included a 2.5 hr drive to Heathrow (1-way rental), 8.5 hr flight to Baltimore for a week stay in Laurel, 7-hr drive to NC with a stop in Virgina for lunch with my aunt (another 1 way rental and a 3 night stay) and then a red-eye flight from Charlotte to Manchester via O'Hare and a chauffeured 1.5 hour ride back to Derby.

This was our first trip back since we arrived here 9 months ago.  Comfort food was high on the list of things we've missed.  For me, that meant American beer, Mexican food, a good steak and my mother-in-law's Korean cooking.  All boxes checked.  There were also some processed food items that we "needed" to bring back -- I'll get to those later.

Other than the traffic in both MD and NC, driving was not a problem.  The brain switched right back like I'd never left.  No problems on return to the UK either.  I thought there might be more thinking involved.  It was nice to have the big lanes and parking spaces again.  The cars and SUVs all seemed very big though.

Though we did a few touristy things while there, this trip was mostly about family and friends.  Some blog fans will actually be in the blog this time!  As usual I'll talk around the photos.  A bit less exotic this time but I hope you'll enjoy it.

First stop was Laurel, MD at my wonderful in-laws.  High on the kids' list were my sister-in-law's two dogs, Annie and Nickoli.  Lounging with them commenced immediately.

On our first full day, we had the opportunity to partake in our annual visit with Julie, Roy and Ashley Harris.  Unfortunately, I forgot my camera.  Sorry guys!  Great food, drink and conversation.  Julie was one of Kuk's first friends when she moved to the States many years ago . . .

On Christmas Eve (day) we continued another tradition of getting together with Kuk's older sister and family for ice skating in Washington, DC (where they live).

While the others were queuing for the ice skating tickets, the non-skaters (Alex and me) had a walk around the sculpture garden.  Having now been to Paris, I recognized the Metro entrance that has been moved from Paris to DC.

So here's Alex's version of where's Waldo with all the modern sculptures.

 3-D R?

This aluminum tree was really neat.

 Stairway (of chairs) to heaven?

This reminded me of a really old computer game called Q-bert.  Showing my age . . .

 buncha cubes (art critic I'm not)

Check this out.  I didn't realize this until I started putting this post together, but this sculpture is by British Artist Barry Flanagan who also has a piece at Chatsworth.  Low and behold, I've got a shot of that too (see below).

Chatsworth, April 2011-- how about that?

National Archives in the background

Additional shot of Archives.  We actually had to wait a bit before the allotted skate time so we all took a quick walk through the Archives (original Declaration of Independence, original Constitution, Magna Carta facsimile, etc.).  DC is great with it's many free museums around the city.


not sure what this (or most of these) are,this one's kinda gross if you ask me

 Donkey Kong bomb (yes, I grew up in the 80s)

My goofball.  We had a good time walking around.  He deftly moved the orange cone out of the way to get this shot.

Hard to beat the Washington Monument and the flag in the same shot.  Not that we would have bothered, but the Monument has been closed since the earthquake for structural reasons.  Checkout the security footage from the quake or a shorter voiced over blurb here.

Finally time to get the skates on:  Nicole with her cousin Shay.

Action shot of Kuk.

 . . . and Nicole

Alex watching the Zamboni.  That never gets old for me.

Kuk with her older sister.

. . . and another action shot.  Kuk's missed the skating lessons that she took back in Indy.  She has her skates here in the UK but hasn't found a convenient time/place to skate.

one last shot of Nicole

Back at the Houseknect abode after skating.  Nicole and Shay put together this globe puzzle and had lots of fun doing it.

Did I mention missing America beer?  Beer here has been a little disappointing.  You've got your ales/bitters and you have your lagers.  They are quite different to each other but there really doesn't seem to be much variety within each group here.  Brits will think that is blasphemous but I know that some other Americans feel the same.  Much more variety back in the States (later in the week I went to a tavern with 50 beers on tap from around the US and the world).  Well, my brother-in-law (-in-law?) Ted has a nice dedicated beer fridge with quite a selection.  With general permission, I helped myself to a few over the course of the day.  He had a few singles lying around that looked interesting so I thought I'd help him out by finishing a few off . . .

Ah, Anchor Christmas . . . this looked nice.  I didn't quite read the fine print until later.  This was a 1993 vintage that he'd been saving for a special occasion.  Oops.  Let's just say, my raiding his beer fridge wasn't the special occasion he had in mind.  So much for my brother-in-law of the year nomination.  I did get some further instructions going forward (i.e. stay away from shelf #2).  Sorry, Ted.  I did feel bad.  At least I appreciated the taste (and I was able to share it with him before partaking but after opening).

12 oz beer bottles seemed really small after having the much larger ones over here.  The best thing about beer in the UK is that a pint is 20 oz!

Christmas day at the Kim's.  The 3 sisters are making kimbap (some actually made in on the plate for the rest of us).

Kids enjoying the "traditional" (for us) feast:  kimbap, mandu/dumplings, sashimi and chop chae (noodles).  Cass, Nicole, Shay and Alex.

After a day of shopping on the 26th we headed back to DC for a day out.  Despite being so close to one of the great travel destinations, I don't tend to get into trip planner mode and we often just sit around and let inertia take over.  Fortunately, we had a strong enough desire to get out and do something and we chose the new-to-us National Museum of the American Indian.  I liked this bronze statue of Polly Cooper, George Washington and Chief Skenandoah and the multilayered symbolism contained within it.  Polly was an Oneida Indian who aided the men at Valley Forge though most history books don't contain that nugget.

Among the pile that they are standing on are a gun and a hatchet.  When peace treaties were made, weapons were buried (hence the term bury the hatchet).

More interesting art work.  The building design itself was unique.  The halls were curved and tall; made to look like canyon walls.

Great minds think alike

Never too far from the Capitol.

 the clouds started to break and we got one very large rainbow

 other side

On the following evening (our last in MD) we went to the Brookside Gardens in Wheaton Regional Park for the Christmas light show.   Here's a nice shot of Kuk's parents in the greenhouse before we headed outside.

token shot with me

some cool, crazy flower inside

The Loch Ness monster outside.  We hope to go to Loch Ness in 2012; this will probably have to suffice for Nessie though.

The 29th was a travel day though we did manage to have lunch with my aunt in Virginia and dinner with my siblings at Cracker Barrel (another annual custom, specifically requested by the kids this year).  [Apologies for not having any photos of my brother and sister.]  On the 30th, we got some quality time with my mom at her retirement/nursing home.

In the afternoon, we headed to the Carolina Raptor Center.   Lots of neat birds of prey including ospreys, eagles, hawks, falcons and owls.  Unfortunately, the displays were fairly static.  Many of the birds were flightless due to hunting or car accidents and sent here for rehab.  The kids were joined by their cousins Brian and Brett for this outing.

It was back to Grandma's afterwards for more cards (Apples to Apples this time).

For dinner, we headed to Outback for that steak I craved.  These 3 all got the ribs.  Nabbed Brett with his eyes closed on this one.

. . . and Nicole looking sleeping for this one

On New Year's Eve (day) were were able to visit long time friends John and Lori Tate and their darling, almost 2 year old twins Graydon and Margot.  Looks like the blocks gift was a hit.

 too cute

Alex remembered that "Mr. Tate" had some cool, tricky puzzles.  This one involves balancing 6 nails on one nail.  He was pretty proud of this one (once he got a hint).

It was about 60F and sunny (on 12/31!) so we actually took John's dad's pontoon boat out on Lake Norman.  It was brisk when moving but very nice.

John and Graydon.  Graydon was Mr. Chill on the boat -- it does have a calming effect.

what a day -- never been on the lake at this time of year

Destination:  The Rusty Rudder

great family shot on the way back

I'm all about acclimating to a new culture, which we have for the most part.  But it was hard to pass up the opportunity to bring back a few of our favs that we can't get here.  It's an embarrassingly unhealthy montage.  Some things are for the kids (Butterfingers and Velveeta shells and cheese); some for Kuk (Nutter Butters); some for all (cheez-its).  We've not adjusted to the different taste of lasagna noodles, taco seasoning (cumin, really?) and salad dressings so we brought some of those as well.  We can live without, but since we were home, why not?

I think we went to Target 3-4 times.  Love Target.  Nothing quite like it here.  It was good to frequent Starbucks as well.  One time, it was Starbucks in Target!

Alas, all good things must end and it was time to return home.  We left on the 1st and got back on the 2nd.  Minimal jet lag so far though I had some trouble last night (the others seemed to do well).  Kuk slogged into work while I was glad I planned another day to adjust and run errands.  Back to work tomorrow.  Ugh.


  1. Great post Steve. The aluminum tree was neat, loved the Q-bert reference although I have never heard of it before. You must be much older than me. ;) Donkey Kong exploding bomb made me laugh. Welcome back.

  2. Great info, thanks so much for sharing,