22 June 2010

UK Trip #4

Wednesday was the first day our team got together. Most of the team went for a nice relaxing hike through town on Wednesday morning, but I had to go pick up Ria, the team PT, from the Bristol Airport (a smaller airport only 20 minutes away). I left to arrive a bit late, knowing most flights were detouring a bit north to go around the ash cloud. I only waited about 20 minutes before she came out, and we loaded up and headed back. Bristol has a nice, very close parking lot dedicated to pick-up/drop-off that is pretty cheap if you stay less than an hour. We didn't have time to sight-see that day because as soon as Ria got back she wanted to work on some of the dogs at the hotel before our first practice session. The organizers for the event rented out practice time on Wed for unofficial, closed (no spectators) practices, and we had an hour at 2pm. So at around 1 or so we headed over to the site. They allowed to set up our crates while waiting for our turn in the arena - there was a nice concrete floored stall building where USDAA had rented 3 stalls for us, which was more than enough room. Wednesday's practice went well. the dogs got on the slightly strange equipment (lollipop style tire with no outer frame, and VERY thick contact boards that small dogs had to almost jump onto). We learned that Thursday our team was the last to check in and practice, and we didn't need to be at the site till about 2:30 or so. We decided we'd go sight-see in Bath, as several people had told me it was beautiful and worth seeing, and i'd discovered it was less than an hour from Clevedon. So Thursday we got up somewhat early (like 7am or so) got breakfast at the hotel, and headed out. Drifter came along and stayed in the car - it was a nice 50ish degrees out (Fahrenheit!) and we parked in a parking garage to keep him out of the sun, so he was perfectly happy to nap.

First thing we saw on exiting the parking garage was a beautiful church.

Looking down one of the adorable streets. There was a lot of small side streets and shopping squares where cars weren't allowed, or were very rare. The entire town of Bath looks ancient and gorgeous! I love walking through streets with old buildings! (also the FCUK is kinda funny:)

Our first view of Bath Abbey, an ancient church that's been there practically forever in some form or another. Front right hand side building is actually the bath house.

Inside the Abbey. It was just GORGEOUS and there was no set fee, they just asked for donations. It was a working church, complete with flat-screen tv's for areas with a poor view.

There were several massive stained glass window walls. There was even a guide on paper below it so you could see what each scene represented.

Massive church. Just massive. Here's another window wall.

The pews faced center rather than forward.

Even the ceiling was intricate.

And the pipe organ.

This was an important woman's tomb. Sadly, some idiot kids had vandalized the edges of it by scratching their names in it. Just disrespectful! You can also see on the side walls the grave marker type memorials for many people. These were all over every wall and the floor as well, and dated back to the 1700's in some spots.

Next door was the bath house. This is not original Roman building, but was rebuilt to look pretty. The original Roman bath level (it really is the exact same spring location!) is a few feet down from the current water level - you can still see some of the stones and steps when you're on the lower level looking into the water.

From the top level, you can a lovely view of the bath house with the Abbey behind it.

There is a MASSIVE museum you wind your way through with lots of artifacts found in and around the baths. These are some of the stones from the original entryway to the Roman baths.

The Romans were very clever. This was their radiant heating system - they built columns of tiles, then built the flat floor on top of them. They used the steam and warm air off the hot springs and ran it through the floor to keep the floors warm.

After leaving the bath house and heading for the river, we got a lovely view of the Abbey from behind, which is just as pretty as the front.

Along the river is this beautiful park, which you had to pay to enter. We didn't. You can also see in the background how many large old residence type buildings there were.

And this is the Pulteney Bridge, considered one of the most romantic bridges in the world, even though its builder only built it for practicality. It was massive and beautiful and when you crossed it, you didn't even realize you were on a bridge, it looked like a normal street with narrow buildings on either side. There was a little cafe and shops inside!

Below the bridge there is a pretty water step thing, that I'm not sure has a point other than accenting the bridge. . .

Another view of the bridge center.

And here's a shot of what driving looked like. DJ took it, don't worry. Everywhere you went there were pretty old churches (like the one behind the tree here).

Another driving shot. You can see the weird passenger-on-the-left view here. You can also see the narrow street along the stone wall. And those are parked cars. And it's probably a 2-way street.

And here's the venue, the Hand Equestrian Center! The footing was very difficult to describe. We were told "sand/dirt", and so that's what I practiced on, but it really was not. It was mostly synthetic, sort of a mixed broken up but solid feeling felt consistency. It did not have little pieces, really, but definitely was soft and impact absorbing. It did not make you dirty, and the dogs did not get sore, so it is wonderful!

Official practice on Thursday - waiting my turn. See, Drifter can stay while other dogs are running!


Lateral fading off the weaves.
After practice and check-in it was picture time with the professional photographer (and the amateur ones! That's Don and Mike up front)

Look Angie rented an Aston Martin DB9!
Not really, but DJ thought it was so cool that he took a picture anyway. This was the hotel parking area.

And that's it for Wednesday and Thursday. We were all excited and nervous for Friday to get started. We knew the parade was first, followed by Team Jumpers, so I knew I wasn't running in the first class, so I could watch a bit before jumping into it. By this time, Drifter was still not really eating the lovely food I had bought him, so i was a bit concerned he was going to be a bit lacking energy. I should have probably just skirted the law and packed some food with me, although he might not have eaten that either. I was bringing him leftovers a good bit as well, but he IS picky. Thursday night was also the competitors dinner, and I won a bag of fish treats in the raffle, so I started mixing those into his food that night and the next day and he loved those, so after that he got more calories into him.
That's it for today's blog. I'm pretty busy the rest of the week so may not get to this again for a while.

20 June 2010

UK Post #3 - Clevedon

This is a brief post, I just wanted to post some pictures of the town we stayed in. It is a quaint and beautiful little coast town called Clevedon. (pronounced "clev" not "cleve"). There were quite a few places we could walk into town for dinner, as well as a pretty little trail along the cliffs that led to a tiny pebbley beach among some rocks, and a big beautiful rolling field we could walk the dogs in. There is a gorgeous old pier that is something special too, and almost every place we went in Clevedon had an artsy picture of it on the wall somewhere.

Wednesday while I drove over to Bristol Airport to pick up Ria, DJ went for a long walk through town and took a bunch of pictures. This is from the opposite side of town - our hotel would be located upper right hand somewhere, on top of the hill overlooking the water on the far side. You can see the pier on the left in this picture.

This, believe it or not, was the view from our bathroom window. I almost didn't want to close the curtain to shower! (but I did!)

Some views of the pier:

The pier came out from behind this structure. Not sure what it is, and it's obviously being renovated.

Adorable little (old) gazebo in town. Note the date on it. We also passed a very old water collection drinking fountain from about that time, with funny little statues on it.

DJ didn't know what this was.

Everywhere were beautiful views.

18 June 2010

UK Picture Post #2

Our first view of Stonehenge up close, walking up the path towards it.

Kate attempts to photobomb DJ:)
The fields surrounding Stonehenge are sheep pasture. The yellow fields in the background are rapeseed, which is used to make rapeseed oil. These pretty fields are all over England!

One of the barrows:

Cheddar Gorge, from the parking area. Scary corner, people flew around this in the middle of the road!

And finally, our Team Hotel, the Best Western Walton Park in Clevedon, Somerest.

The view from the back of our hotel and from the garden area. The land across the bay is Wales. We could see both Cardiff and Newport, especially at night.

Some of the sunsets over the water were stunning. Ria got a great pic on her iPhone of one. This is just a hint, but is taken directly from our hotel room window!