Acupuncture – I can walk without pain again!

Out of desperation, I tried acupuncture while in Blackheath. My lower back was in terrible shape. It started hurting in Amsterdam, and in Paris I was in real pain. I can only assume the long days driving in the car over the previous few weeks threw it out of alignment. I started taking ibuprofen in Paris and used a back pain patch, but that just made it bearable. By London, the pain was intense again. I could barely walk. The afternoon at the Tower of London was awful, I was shuffling and limping like an old man. I was extremely worried that this would go on for the rest of the trip, I was in my second week of misery and not feeling at all that whatever was wrong was going away. There was an Osteopath/Acupuncture sign over a herbal medicine shop on the main street of Blackheath. I went in asking about Osteopathy, I assumed it must be something like what a chiropractor does. The woman said I needed acupuncture, so I tried it. I felt immediately better after the first session. I went again the next day, and felt further improvement. The pain was totally gone, but I had to watch how much I walked because my back would start to fatigue – not really pain but a feeling of weakness. I went a 3rd time on Monday. By this time I was back to my normal gate when walking, and could actually move quickly, for example when crossing a street. Even after the long 13 hour flight from London to Singapore, I arrived in Singapore with my back feeling fine. I am a convert to acupuncture now! It really healed my lower back problem.

First Sighting of Spring

After months of sleet, snow, rain and freezing temperatures, we got our first sight of Spring yesterday in Greenwich Park.  Bob was just commenting that we would probably miss the bloom since we leave London on the 14th. Lucky for us, one little flower was in a hurry.IMG_2544

Humping it through the Paris Metro and London Tube on the same day

Now that our trusty pack mule – the Kangoo – is no longer with us, we are back to carrying everything when we move and using public transportation. Today, we were travelling from the 1st Arrondisement in Paris to Blackheath, which is in the southeast of greater London. We started with a half hour walk to the St. Michel-Notre Dame metro station. Why, when the closest Metro stop was only 1 ½ blocks away from our apartment? L’Amour, of course!IMG_4349 Along the way is the Ponte des Arts, famous for the padlocks on the handrail’s steel mesh. Lovers pledge their eternal love by locking the padlock to the bridge and throwing the keys into the Seine. I had bought a hand painted padlock here for Gigi back in September. We had waited until our last moments in Paris to do the deed of eternal love pledging and key tossing.

Its not like we were unsure about what we were doing, we IMG_4331just were never near the bridge during all our time in Paris this trip. (Honest) We had to do it before leaving. The boys giggled; they were really enjoying the ceremony of us adding our padlock to the thousands of others on the bridge. So, on with the travel tale…

We had a straight shot from St. Michel to Gare du Nord on the RER B line; the real issue was wandering the underground maze trying to figure out what platform we needed to be on, and the stairs. You do not see wheelchairs or seriously handicapped people in the Paris Metro. With as much luggage as we are carrying, stairs IMG_4327are a killer. Justin could not pick up and carry his bag, so either I doubled back to help or a stranger helped him carry it before I could, which happened twice.

We missed our 1:13 Paris – London Eurostar train because we misunderstood the boarding time and were stopped at the gate with the statement that boarding had closed 10 minutes earlier. This Eurostar leg is a lot like being at an airport and getting on a plane. Ticket check, baggage scan, passport check, waiting lounge, assigned seating. We were able to get on the 3:13 train and zoomed westwards to London. Jordan and I played several games of Risk on his iPad. Even acting as allies, we had a hard time beating the computer’s players. Having baggage on this train was not so bad. They have a sloping moving walkway instead of an escalator to bridge the elevation differences of the train platform and waiting area. There were enough luggage racks for our bags in the train compartment. As I was loading baggage onto the train, I did take a nice, slow motion tumble stepping from the train when my foot slipped into the open air between track and platform and I fell sideways all the way to the ground and almost went under the train to the tracks. Absolutely no harm done, and I got up with a nervous laugh meant to hide my embarrassment.

Once we arrived at London St. Pancras, we were back into the bustle of moving rivers of humanity, and stairs and escalators. It was rush hour, a lovely time to be carrying luggage in the tube. We moved through fairly efficiently and took the Northern Line to London Bridge station. We got on the tube easily enough, plenty of space for our luggage, but the first stop brought a crush of humanity into our car, and for the next 4 stops we were overdressed sardines. We were wearing all our heavy jackets, and it got uncomfortably toasty.

We disgorged at London Bridge and made our way over to the Southeastern Railway platforms to catch a train to Blackheath. We managed to find the right platform the first time, and a conductor on the platform confirmed we were getting on a train that did stop in Blackheath. Yes! 5 minute wait for the train to arrive, then 3 stops later on a not-too-crowded train we were on the sidewalk of Blackheath in the twilight. The final 10 minute walk we did without a map and only 3 street names to guide us. I asked directions 3 times from passersby to make sure we were going the right way, the last one a lady walking two border terriers who had a smartphone and Google mapped our address to make absolutely sure she was giving us the correct directions. We had not had the chance yet to switch over to an English simm card for our iPhone, and this little encounter reminded us we needed to do it. So handy!

Statistics for the trip: Travel time: approximately 9 hours; Sets of tickets purchased: 3; Flights of stairs: 5; Escalators: 5; Elevators: 1; Train/Tube/Metro stations traversed: 5; Trains: 4

Thank God we are staying in one place for the next two weeks.

Justin’s Blog: Life in the Cotswolds

Life in the Cottswolds has been very enjoyable. I have been in the Cottswolds for 3 weeks now. I spent my birthday here.

Mom made me a coconut and lime cake in the AGA oven. For my birthday lunch, I had 2 California rolls at a sushi restaurant called Soushi in Cirencester.                                                               I had a lot of time to hang out here. I watched movies, played on my iPad, and watched more movies. The house has a big back yard. We could play cricket and badminton, and fly my helicopter. We went on a lot of walks. We saw and petted horses. We walked among cows and calves on the Commons. Thanks Stuart and Glynis for letting us stay at your wonderful house!

Jordan’s Blog: Bath and Glastonbury

On Wednesday, we went to the city of Bath in Somerset, England. Why is this town called Bath? It is called  Bath because when the Romans came here they found a natural spring of endless hot water. They quickly built around it and channeled the water into pools that they bathed in. The Romans called it Aquae Sulis after the goddess, Sulis Minerva. They believed it was a gift from Minerva and that the water had special healing powers that could cure sickness. Romans from all over came to bathe here, not just to be healed, but to clean themselves and socialize with other people. They made huge hot rooms to sweat off the dirt and grime and workers would clean the bathers by hand using oil and a scraping tool called a strigil. There were so many people set about the place that the pools were often crowded. Since the Romans thought that Aquae Sulis was a gift, they built a place of worship where people could pray and thank the goddess Minerva for giving them this great supply of hot water. After our tour of the Roman baths it was time to head to our next destination.

Our drive to Glastonbury was not fun. We were lost almost half the time, so our quick 30 minute drive lasted an hour and a half. But by five thirty we finally got there. The reason we came to Glastonbury was to visit king Arthur’s grave site in a ruined Abbey and to climb a 517 foot tall Tor, or ‘big hill’. Both were interesting, and my favorite was the view on top of the Tor. Everything around me was flat and standing on this hill five hundred and seventeen feet in the air, I felt like i could see everyone and everything for miles. I would definitely like to come back to Glastonbury in the future. We had too little time there.

Jordan’s Blog: Stonehenge and Avebury

Stonehenge and Avebury are prehistoric henge monuments located in southwest England. These sites are among the most well known tourist attractions in the world because of the mystery that has stumped archeologists for years. How did these giant stones get here? And why were they brought to this place?

Scientists believe that these sites were built around 3000 B.C. to 2000

B.C. That was over 5000 years ago!  The first stones that were brought to

Stonehenge were brought from a site in Wales between 2400 B.C. and 2200 B.C. it is thought they were then somehow loaded onto large ships to be carried down river to a village some 100 miles away from Stonehenge. The stones were then most likely rolled on top of large logs to where they would be stacked on top of each other in a circular setting.

This was probably the same case for the stones gathered in Avebury for they are not too far away from each other. No easy feat when you consider that the stones weigh anywhere from 5 tons to 45 tons each! The stones that were brought there were composed in larger circular setting than Stonehenge and had a huge ditch with two smaller stone circles lining the inside.

The original purpose of these monuments is unknown. Perhaps they were places of worship? There have been many theories but evidence suggests that Stonehenge was most likely used as a burial site. But what scientists discovered about this place surprised them. Twice a year, on the solstices, the sun shines through the front stone doorway. This allows you to see which month you are in by how the sun rotates and shines through a different doorway each month.

To really appreciate Stonehenge and Avebury is to see them first-hand and get an idea of how massive the stones really are and why archeologists are so interested in these monuments. It is a nice place to go and reflect on the mystery of how humans with only the bones of animals and stone tools could accomplish such a feat.

Justin’s Blog: Stonehenge

Last Wednesday, my family and I went to Stonehenge. Stonehenge is in the County of Wiltshire, Southwest England. It is in farmland next to a busy road.

Stonehenge was started in the Stone Age between 3,000 BC and 2,000 BC. That is over 4,000 years ago! Stonehenge is made of blue stones from Wales which weigh 4 tons, and sandstone stones which weigh 40 tons. Stonehenge is a calendar for the summer and winter solstices. I thought that Stonehenge was peaceful and mysterious.

Six pounds for a museum ticket or…a giant bubble maker?

On Friday, we took a day trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon for Justin’s 10th birthday. Gigi got us tickets for the play “Twelfth Night” at the Royal Shakespeare Company Theater.  We are staying only about an hour and half away from Stratford and Gigi and I had great memories of visiting the area when we lived here 20 years ago.  Seeing the play was the main reason for going to Stratford, we really had not planned anything beyond having a picnic lunch in a park when we got there. I was dubious about the idea of taking the boys to a Shakespeare play, how would they be able to follow the dialogue? Justin especially has a history of simply going to sleep when he is in an audience. Did we really want to spend the money on something that the boys probably wouldn’t understand? Gigi reminded me that this could be one of our literature lessons for the week and we should read the play before we go. We had a copy of the play and on Wednesday started reading it aloud. Shakespeare’s dialogue is not easy reading, and we were constantly stopping to look up a word or “trying” to explain what is going on in the scene. We finally decided to skip reading the actual play (since we kept loosing the boy’s attention) and simply read a summary while quizzing the boys a few times on the characters and the general plot. They actually knew quite a bit.

When we got to Stratford, we picnicked in the park just outside the theater along the Avon river. Gigi and I were asking each other, “So, what do you want to do?” Heck, sitting in the park seemed just the thing to do. There was a jazz guitarist playing music not far away and lots of other families doing the same thing as us. The river was full of swans and geese,which Justin found quite enthralling. There was a vendor selling giant soap bubble wands and several kids were chasing bubbles through the park. We decided Justin could have another birthday present, so we bought one for him. That provided quite a lot of entertainment for Jordan and Justin. They had much more fun with that little purchase than if we had spent money on

admission to the Anne Hathaway house. One thing we did do was go boating on the Avon. We didn’t go “punting”, but hired a rowboat for an hour. The Avon does have a mild current, which made rowing a bit challenging. I had real trouble rowing straight. Jordan and Justin got to try theirhands at rowing. Gigi only got raked by low hung branches twice.

For dinner, Gigi and I had a nice Indian meal while the boys played in the big park nearby. Jordan had eaten two Cornish pasties from a shop when the store woman announced on the street “We’re closing! All pasties

for a pound!” Jordan has taken a liking to pasties and sausage rolls. Justin got his birthday dinner wish – his favorite subway sandwich: a foot-long with black forest ham, bacon, and black olives. Nothing else.


Finally, it was time for the theater. The new RSC building has only been open for two years, and it was fantastic. The seating was horseshoe style around the stage, and there were only maybe 10 rows on the floor and each of the balconies only had about 5 rows. We were 5 rows from the stage.

The performance was simply amazing. Forget that that there were huge swathes of dialogue that we could not follow, the acting was so good, the comedic cues so well executed that we were engulfed in the action, able to follow the plot, and laughed a lot. Sir Toby looked like a crazed Jeff Bridges in capri pants and a Hawaiian shirt, and he really played the drunk well. All of the actors were amazing and the nonsense was wild! The sight of a bare chested Malvolio coming out of the on-stage elevator in thigh high yellow stockings with cross-garters and nothing but a black and yellow cod-piece thong (he did turn around to moon the audience) set the entire audience into hysterics. It was so engaging that Justin did not fall asleep once during the three-hour performance. He laughed along with us and kept telling Gigi that he couldn’t believe they would allow the guy to show his behind on stage. Jordan really loved it too. When we left the theater, Justin’s comment about Shakespeare was “He makes good plays” and proceeded to re-count parts of the final scene and his thoughts on it. The next morning, he told me he wanted to see “Twelfth Night” again. Thank you RSC. You have created a new admirer of Shakespeare.