Monday, July 22, 2013

Fourth of July Weekend

Thursday, July 4 we kicked off our expat Fourth of July Weekend in the UK.  We met up with some friends (both American and otherwise) and had a BBQ.

I found a recipe for Johnsonville brats and made them, starting from a pork shoulder, using my meat grinder and some collagen casing.

Tara made a patriotic cake

Kerry made patriotic Oreo balls


Huge thanks to host Vivek!

We were all enjoying the sun, beer, conversation, and good food

Kerry discovered Kopparberg pear cider and hasn't looked back

New expat Kristy and a patriotic Xavier

I hadn't seen this in the UK before, we're on a good weather streak!

We all reverted back to University mode when the red Solo cups and ping-pong balls came out.  I think the Spaniards were most excited.

The next day we went to a cricket 20/20 match after work with a big group (many of which were in attendance on Thursday).  I learned all about cricket from some patient friends.  Most importantly I now understand why the the dartboard game cricket is named such.  Kerry and I play dartboard cricket all the time, and understanding that game is what made real cricket click.   Also, check out Doug and Tara's recap, since we hung out with them the whole weekend anyway, their experience was very similar.

We watched the Derby Falcons take on the Notts Outlaws.  To put it in baseball terms, they 20/20, it means they are each capped at 20 "innings" to run as many laps as possible, unless they get 10 "outs".  In normal cricket you continue to score until the "fielding" team gets all the runners out.  Then they switch.  Falcons only scored 115 runs in their 20 rounds, so all Notts had to do was get 116 before they got out or hit the cap.  Can the do it?

Cricket field layout to a sold-out crowd
For some reason they put the walkway in front of the seating, so when you walk by during play, everyone yells at you.  Also, they sold the place out, when there was still a lot of space.  People tended to spread out.

Here's what the scoreboard looks like

Between the fielding/batting switch, they brought the cricket zamboni out to smooth down the infield.

Beer queues got quite long, indeed.  Yes, quite.  So you'd see a lot of this.  I call it a trifecta:  One man, 3 beers.  Thumb and forefingers clasp the main two, and the auxiliary 3rd pint is secured by joining middle fingers and applying a light amount of pressure of the pint against the backs of the forefingers.  Don't squeeze to hard or you'll slosh, and keep the shoulders loose.  

Father teaching son the ways of the cricket bat

A streaker on the pitch!  Wowzers, this was just supposed to be a family-friendly evening

Near the end of the match these guys had 7 pints lined up.  They may have had a cup-carrier.

Anyway, despite the distraction, the Outlaws managed to best the Falcons using only 17 of their 20 innings.  And the nice thing is that it only took about 2 and a half hours.  Real cricket takes 25 days, like the current Ashes tournament of England vs. Australia.  

The last bit of new experience was our partaking of a "pick & mix".  For 99p per 100 grams I could fill my bag with a wide selection of sweet offerings from gummy bears, chocolates, licorice, and other sugary concoctions.  Not sure about the hygenic nature of the selection, what with kids running around, but it was something I've never done before at a sporting event.  And lord have mercy on those chocolates should the vendor attempt to sell chocolate like that on a hot sunny day.

Saturday, we joined up with Doug and Tara (as they already shared on their blog) to drive down to the Cotswolds known officially as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ONB).  We chose a circular walk along Cleeve Hill near Gloucester, about 90 minutes away.  It was just a small section of the Cotswolds way, a trail from Chipping Campden to Bath.  Should you ever find yourself needing to walk to Bath from Chipping Campden, the trail is well marked.

After Tara declared "we were failing" when we misleading signs directed us to park in a tall grass field which scraped the bottom of the car, we were rerouted to the general (free) car park by a friendly competitive orienteering club member.

We started off at a golf club with very friendly members.  No worries to use their toilets.

We wasted no time in viewing some serious ONB.

It was another nice warm day.

ONB poppies

Young cows on a farm near our path enjoy the ONB too

After the steep climb snaking up the wooded hillside, a well-placed kissing gate was placed for me to lean upon and catch my breath.

The old abandoned farm

ONB to the extreme!

The views from the top of Cleeve hill were also outstanding

Rules of conduct posted on the hill

Sheep oasis in the cool shade

Doug enjoying his tuna salad snack

Back at the pro shop at the end of our hike we stopped for a pint and made a friend.

Outstanding beer on an outstanding day

At the end of our walk we drove up to Stratford-upon-Avon to see what there was to see.  The free parking streak continued!  No failing here!

The Old Tramway, buy a lunch and park free

We enjoyed the outdoor seating, but I felt bad asking the staff to go back and bring condiments

However, the waitress did tell us about the River festival which was in full swing, so off we went to check it out.

Crowds in the park for a very happening River fest!

Fun band was a hit with the children

I got us a pitcher of Pimms, or English sangria as I call it.  It's a tea-based drink with some citrus and cucumber.  Refreshing.

We enjoyed our Pimms on the river Avon.

A nice monument to Shakespeare.  He was born here in Stratford-upon-Avon.

I had to buy a bandana for my skull, the sun was too intense.  I did not buy the complete works of Shakespeare.

This is the house where Shakespeare was born.  I've now visited two birthplace homes, if you include this one.  The other being George Harrison's in Liverpool.

Back in Tudor times people build homes without right angles or plumb lines.  But the thatch roofing is always fun to see. 
A very modern theater that's all Shakespeare all the time.

The canal boats were out in full regalia

Good deal for a chain ferry ride!  Wait, what's a chain ferry ride?

Pay the man and get on the ferry

He cranks away on a winch and pulls himself along an underwater chain to cross the canal.  Nice deal if you're missing a bridge.

Well I must say that was a very successful weekend, and the good weather continues.  Great Britain in the summer is outstanding.


  1. We had some near misses, but avoided most failures.

  2. Haha I like the picture of the all-blue sky!