Bespolka Home Page   Summer 2002
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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

United Kingdom  -   17 July - 9 August, 2002

 

19 July, 2002 - London:  South America trip re-union

21 July, 2002 - Alresford:  Lunch at the Globe

25 July, 2002 - Winchester:  Birthday Celebrations - Take 1

27 July, 2002 - Winchester:  Birthday Celebrations - Take 2

28 July, 2002 - East Croydon:  Cameron's Baptism

29 July, 2002 - London:  A Day Out in the City

1 August, 2002 - Oxford:  A Trip Down Memory Lane

3 August, 2002 - Salisbury:  A Day's Outing with Steffi and Olaf

4 August, 2002 - Winchester:  Finally, Exploring Our Host City

5 August, 2002 - London:  Visa Run

6 August, 2002 - Winchester:  Playing in the Itchen River

9 August, 2002 - The Start of Our Central Silk Route Expedition

 

 

Weather: We had quite good weather (and that is saying something in England).  Very few days with rain, and only light rain at that, a fair bit of sun and it was usually warm.

 

 

We spent more than two weeks in the United Kingdom.  There were two primary reasons for us coming to England and staying so long - we are here to visit family and to get our visas for our upcoming Central Asia trip.  While our visas are being processed in London (on the day we arrived from Oslo, we went straight into the city to hand over our passports and applications to the visa processing service), we stay with Lars' brother who had just moved to Winchester.

 

While in Winchester, we pretty much took it easy.  Lars went for a run in the morning whenever he could, we helped out where we could in the moving in process, we went out shopping and helped assembly furniture and other household appliances, we walked into Winchester to enjoy the quaint English country living, we played with the children and we helped put the children to bed (that is, read them stories and tried our best to be helpful).  With young triplets and one toddler, the house was never quiet, but we still had a nice relaxing time and enjoyed being with family.  Lars' parents were also there for most of the time and we had a number of other visitors as we shall see later on.

 

Some of the other things we did while in England included:

 

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19 July, 2002 - London:  South America trip re-union

In the early evening we left the house to head to London.  We decide to walk to the train station - about a 20 minute walk away.  We get to walk down the trail that leads off of St. Giles Hill, walk up the High Street through the center of town and turn right to the train station.  We are catching the train to London in order to head to a re-union dinner with our fellow travelers from our South America circuit in 2001-02.  The outrageously priced train ride takes a bit over an hour and we arrive at Waterloo train station.  From there, we walk to the restaurant in Convent Garden.

 

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We all meet up at the Boulevard Brassiere, occupying a long table down in the basement.  Maybe they thought we were going to be wild and crazy.  Everyone slowly trickles in and the table fills up - it is amazing how many of the group that we traveled with there was able to make it.  It was great getting back together with everyone.  With all the experiences that we had been through together, there was no shortage of things to talk about.  It was fun to catch up with everyone.

 

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After dinner is over, we decide to head out to a nearby night club.  We make our way through the night streets of London to a nice trendy club.  One of our group works there is one form or another, so we are all let in without waiting.  We all get a drink and hang out watching the varied scene.  What really gets our interest is the creation of another couple from our South America group - they get to know each other quite intimately at the bar.  Guess some belated revision needs to be made to the trip statistics on couple formed on that trip.

 

After a bit of an hour at the club, a group of us decides to call it a night.  Melissa has been kind enough to offer some of us a place to crash for the night.  We head back to her place, where we hang around and chat for a while.  Melissa has put together some great photo albums for the trip and we spend some time going through them and catching up on some of the great experiences.

 

The next morning we struggle out of bed a bit after 11 AM and, after a quick shower, head downstairs for a fantastic brunch.  Melissa has put together a great spread and even makes the effort to cook up a great English breakfast (now, why did she not do that during the South America trip).  After that filling meal, we head off to the train station to catch our train back to Winchester.  Back in Winchester, we arrive just in time for a game of croquet on the back lawn - along with the Pimm's and gin and tonic's, what a typical way to spend an English afternoon.

 

21 July, 2002 - Alresford:  Lunch at the Globe

Lars heads out this morning for a jog, running away from town, across the M3 motorway that passes nearby and into the South Downs.  What a great place to run - the dirt path runs alongside fields and hedges.  It is open and beautiful.  Back at the house, Lars cools off and grabs a quick shower before joining up with his parents and Jacqui.

 

We will be heading to the nearby town of Alresford.  We walk down into town to the bus stop and find the right bus that will take us there.  It is a pleasant ride - not the most direct one - but passing through very pretty countryside and by typical English country cottages with their well kept lawns and stone walls.  Once in Alresford, we head down one of the main streets, enjoying the well kept old houses that line the sidewalks, and make our way to the famous country pub - The Globe.

 

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While it is a bit cool today, after ordering our drinks and food, we decide to enjoy the tables in the garden alongside the stream that passes through.  It is such a typical English country scene - old pub, green grass, quiet percolating stream, geese and ducks, and plenty of beer and ale.  What a great way to spend an afternoon.

 

25 July, 2002 - Winchester:  Birthday Celebrations - Take 1

Some how we have gathered together a whole bunch of people that are celebrating their birthdays within a week. And we decide to have a few festive occasions to celebrate.  This morning we start off with a brunch at home - lots of champagne and light snacks to enjoy.  This morning three of the birthday boy and girls are here - the fourth will arrive in a couple of days.  Presents are handed out to each of the honored guests.

 

In mid-afternoon we decide to go and explore the town.  In part this to keep the children busy - one of the birthday presents.  We head down the hill to the stream, where we go check out the old mill.  It is actually quite cool to check out - we see how they ran the mill stones through the water wheels powered by the flowing stream.  It is amazing to see how ingenious they can be.

 

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We then decide to go for a walk along the river.  It is such a pleasant spot to hang out in.  We stop along the way to go and feed the ducks that hang out in the stream - they must get too much food, they do not seem to interested.  The children are having a great time - the next game is jump all over the uncle.  And jump they do - once they get going and excited, it can be hard to calm them down.  The beauty of being a child.

 

We pass through some of the many parks that dot the town and then head back up to the house.  Lars decides to go for a quick run before dinner.  Lars has discovered a new route - one that passes along the Itchen River.  It is a beautiful route - hardly any section is along a road.  It is a dirt path that runs alongside the river with trees and bushes lining the path.  At one point it passes by an old monastery with cows wandering trough the fields.

 

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We have a special dinner tonight.  After a quick drink at home - this is a great place to visit, a bottle of wine is always open - we head down to one of the best restaurants in town - the Old Chesil Rectory.  This is fine dining at it's finest.  We are joined by Tante Berit and Jorgen, both of whom have flown in all the way from Norway for the festivities.  We have a fantastic dinner - we take our time, enjoying a few bottles of wine, multiple courses and after-dinner drinks and coffee.

 

27 July, 2002 - Winchester:  Birthday Celebrations - Take 2

It is a wonderful day for a lawn party.  The skies are clear, the sun is shining and it is warm, if not hot out.  We are celebrating the birthdays of four people from all over the world.  Kevin has recently moved to Winchester.  Tante Berit comes from Norway.  Carl comes from the United States.  And Jacqui comes from Malaysia.  And they bring family and friends from all over.  It is a great day.

 

Tables and chairs have been set up in the lawn.  The croquet set is out and ready.  The beer, wine and drinks have been chilled in the huge ice coolers.  And the food is varied and delicious.  After some snacks and a few drinks and chit chat, we have lunch on the lawn.

 

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Then the great (and vicious) croquet game starts.  No holds barred.  Each team is out to win.  And, of course, there is always the ever present sibling rivalry.  All this gets the competitive juices flowing.  The lead switches back and forth and the play can get down right nasty at times.  Balls are knocked off the field, plays thwarted and curses thrown - never knew that what looked like such a family, staid game can be so "evil" (as you can tell, at times we were badly defeated).  And then the children wanted to get involved.  So, balls were flying everywhere.

 

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The highlight (at least to Lars and Cameron) were the birthday cakes - we had not one cake, but four cakes.  One for each birthday boy and girl.  They came in a variety of flavors.  This is the best part of a birthday - digging into the cakes.  And dig in we did (some more than others).

 

Presents are handed out and the rest of the afternoon is spent relaxing and hanging out in the fantastic weather.  Dinner is a light affair - left over food (and cake!).  For those guests staying in hotels in town, we walk them down into town and to their hotels.  A wonderful day.

 

28 July, 2002 - East Croydon:  Cameron's Baptism

Today we are heading back to London or, more specifically, East Croydon.  We are up early and walk down to the Winchester train station.  It is quite a pleasant walk and we enjoy it each time we do it - usually exploring a slightly different route.  Then it is time to take the train again - what an outrageously priced ordeal.  We head to Clapham Junction, where we go through the very unclear process of changing tracks and trains.  After a few delays, we are on our way to East Croydon, arriving there at 11 AM sharp.

 

Now we change to the tram and see if we can find our way to the church.  Surprise, surprise - we are able to make it to the church on time (in fact we are a little early) for the christening of little Cameron - the new born son of Jacqui's good friend Thida and her husband, Ashley.

 

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The church is modern and airy and nicely decorated.  It is a wonderful service - the priest does an excellent job.  Soon it is Cameron's turn to get christened.  The family goes up with the child to the christening bowl and the priest baptises him.  It is a moving ceremony, watching the priest go through the ritual, the baby being sprinkled with water and the proud family looking on.

 

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After the service, we all head over to Thida's place for a christening party.  The tables have been laid out and they are groaning under the load of food that has been placed on them.  Once again, the weather is cooperating with clear, blue sunny skies and we are also able to sit out in the lawn.  We all make our best attempt at devouring all the food and drinks beautifully laid out, but it defeats us.  The party winds down in the later afternoon, and we take the opportunity to head out for a quick visit.  We go and visit Uncle George, who is in the hospital.  We must say, it is quite an experience going and visiting a public health service hospital.  While we are sure the care is good, the hospital looks like what it must have been like in the 50's.

 

The rest of the evening is spent back at Thida's place.  We help clean up the place after the party and try to help in finishing off some of the leftovers.  That night, Aunt Betty is kind enough to put us up.

 

29 July, 2002 - London:  A Day Out in the City

Today we will be heading from East Croydon into London for a day out in the city.  We catch the train just before 10 AM, arriving shortly after the hour.  We still have a bit over an hour to spare before Lars' parents join us, so we just go out and wander the streets.  After a cup of coffee and a delightful time just going here and there, we head over to Waterloo station and meet the parental units.

 

First things first - lunch.  We decide to take the short walk to Convent Garden, where we find a nice bistro where we can sit at French windows that are open to the street.  Then we decide to head over to Buckingham Palace to go see the special exhibit at the Queen's Gallery, recently renovated for her Jubilee Year.  The museum has been very well done.  It has been beautifully refurbished and the exhibits are amazing.  It was well worth going to see.  We, of course, spent a bit of money in the gift shop - some silver cufflinks (for Lars) and necklace (for Jacqui) - they even match.

 

Then, how can you go to London and not have afternoon tea?  So, of to Brown's by taxi.  What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.  With family and friends, we sit in the delightful room with all the tea we can drink and all the scones, sandwiches, savories and desserts that we can eat.  It certainly is not cheap, but what a magnificent way to wile away the afternoon.

 

We will finish off our day in London with, you guessed it, a show in the West End.  As we have some time before the show starts, we slowly make our way over to the Drury Lane Theater where we will see the old, but classic, "My Fair Lady".  We have some great seats and we thoroughly enjoy ourselves.  This ends our day out in the city and we head over to Waterloo Station to catch our train back to Winchester.

 

1 August, 2002 - Oxford:  A Trip Down Memory Lane

We have decided to check out Oxford - Lars spent a year here studying (or at least pretending to) under a one year abroad program while at MIT.  It is back down to the train station - we are really getting to know the station and trains well.  Today we will be taking one of the Virgin trains - and what a disaster.  It is one thing to pay ridiculous prices for the train, it only adds salt to the wound when the service is lousy.  First, the train arrives late at which point we find out that this is not the usual service.  It has only half the number of cars - people are packed in, sitting and standing everywhere.  Then half way to Oxford, we have to get off the train and change to another one - this one at least has a few more carriages so everyone gets a seat.

 

We finally arrive in Oxford just before noon.  As we emerge from the station, it already looks very changed to Lars.  There are new buildings everywhere and it just seems so much more busy and filled with people.  There are people everywhere - not sure where they all come from.  First order of business - lunch.  Then we decide to see a bit of the city.

 

From George Street, we turn left down Cornmarket Street and head down to Christ Church College.  This college has a pretty impressive grounds and the cathedral is wonderful.  Lars is able to get us in for free as a former Oxford student.  So we check out the church and the grounds of the college, including the center of the college - the Tom Quad.  We leave by the back entrance out onto the Christ Church Meadow, wandering through the Merton Field then along the Cherwell river (where people are out doing the traditional punting - with some couples looking like they will come to blows when their romantic outing turns bad when the bloke just cannot get a hang of the boat) and then back onto the streets of Oxford at High Street near Magdalen College (where they will not let us in).

 

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A short way up the High Street, we decide it would be better to wander through some of the back lanes, so we turn right into the lane that passes behind The Queen's College, All Souls College and New College (you know things have been around for a while in Oxford when the "New" College was founded in 1379) emerging onto Cattle Street by Hertford College after passing under the arch. In this area we check out the Radcliffe Camera, Sheldonian Theater, and the Bodleian Library (where Lars spent very little of his time while at Oxford).

 

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From here we head across the city via Broad Street, St. Giles Street and Beaumont Street to Lars' old college - Worcester College.  It is amazing how little has changed at the college.  While the grounds are normally closed to visitors, as a former student we are able to enter.  We wander around the buildings that line the quad on three sides.

 

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We check out the dining hall where Lars had some many atrocious food.  The English can do many things well, but cooking is not one of them.  Maybe that is why they needed an empire - to discover other cuisines and bring them back to England.  Anyway, Lars has some unpleasant recollections of the watery oxtail soup, the mushy vegetables, unidentifiable meat and rhubarb pie (how can that be a dessert?).

 

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Then on to the chapel - a peaceful place whose walls were filled with beautiful song by the choir each Sunday.  The last stop in the Quad was at the buttery- now that is the true center of life in the college.  Here is where you got your snacks and, more importantly, your pint of ale or sherry before dinner and port after dinner.

 

We then went for a walk around the grounds of the college - the best part about Worcester College.  The grounds form a great arch with the quad and a large lake in the middle.  We started out at the end with most of the student dorms.  From there we wandered around the lake to the other side, where the huge cricket playing field is located.

 

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Next to the playing field is situated the Sainsbury building, built by Sainsbury to help his son get through college.  Here is where Lars spent a year of his life.  The building was brand new at the time and it was modern and looked fantastic.  Even heard that it won some awards.  But those judges who gave those awards must not have lived in it.  It was freezing in winter, hot in summer, had these convoluted corridors and countless doors.  To get to my room, I had to pass through like a dozen doors.  But we had a nice housekeeper, Rose, who took good care of us.

 

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We finished the loop and made our way back to the quad where we had one more look around and moved on.

 

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Our final stop on memory lane was at the Oxford Union Society.  Countless great memories come from this place; which still seems like a glass of fine old port - rich, dark, woody and refined.  Back then, Lars signed up as a lifetime member and he certainly took took advantage of the facilities.  The pub was the cheapest in town, but the best part of the Union were the debates that took place on a regular basis in the debating hall.  There were some great debates with some excellent guests.  Lars was, for one term, the official photographer of the Union and attended all the functions, dinners and debates.  In addition, there were the many balls that took place at the Union.

 

After our tour of the Union, we decided to have a tea break before meeting up with Sarah.  Sarah was one of our fellow passengers on our trip around South America.  She lives and works around Oxford and we were fortunate enough to have the chance to catch up with her.  We were able to have a couple of drinks at a bar and catch up on old memories and discuss what we are all up to these days.  Then off to the train station to catch our train back to Winchester (with this train ride being a bit smoother than the way to Oxford).

 

3 August, 2002 - Salisbury:  A Day's Outing with Steffi and Olaf

While we were in Winchester, we were fortunate to have a visit from Steffi and Olaf, friends of ours from Hamburg.  They came over for the weekend.  On Saturday we decided to head over to Salisbury and check out that city.  They have rented, so they come and pick us up and we take about 40 minutes to get there.

 

We spend about five hours exploring the city.  We check out the High Street, looking into the various stores, shops and restaurants and cafes that line the street.  From there we head to the market.  It is quite cool how sections are named after the trades that historically have existed in each part.  Then to the main attraction - the cathedral.

 

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It is an awesome building and when combined with the Close, an amazing complex with its surrounding buildings.  We take our time exploring the interior of the cathedral.  In addition to just taking in the whole grand interior, with such a long and storied past, there are so many nooks and crannies to check out.  Individual tombs, carvings, windows, plaques, memorials and so on keep us very busy.

 

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In an attached building, we get the opportunity to check out one of the most important documents in history - the Magna Carta.  And this is one of the few originals still left.  They have a very informative exhibit that takes some time to review.  But the most fascinating thing is to just stand over and stare at the document itself.

 

Well, after all that historical and spiritual nourishment, it is time to get some other form of nourishment - food.  We have decided to check out the pub the Haunch of Venison.  It is a classic old pub.  Dark and smoky and lots of wood.  We decide to eat up on the second floor.  We have to make our way with care - avoiding hitting our heads on all the old, low beams and tripping on the buckling floor.  We have an excellent meal and, appropriately fortified with food and drink, continue our wanderings around Salisbury.

 

Well, when we have had our fill of Salisbury, we decide to collect our car and move on.  Olaf likes big ships, so we agree to head over to Southampton to check out this historical port city.  At this point the weather turns for the worse, so we have some light rain and drizzle when we get there.  But, the intrepid tourists that we are, we decide to carry on and wander the ports and streets.  Unfortunately, this city has not been as well preserved.  They have traces of their historical past remaining, but not much.  It is a shame.  Given the rain and the lack of extensive things to see, a couple of hours is enough, and we are on our way back to Winchester.  After a short rest back at the house, we meet up once again and go for a walk around the town and then have a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants.

 

4 August, 2002 - Winchester:  Finally, Exploring Our Host City

We have been here for over two weeks and we really have not checked out the sights in this city - so, it is now time to do so with Steffi and Olaf.  After breakfast at the house, we wander down the hill to the High Street.  The first thing we do today is go and visit an antique fair in the old City Hall.  After browsing through what in general is a lot of junk, we need to rush out.  We are heading to the cathedral for the Sunday service.

 

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Winchester Cathedral's foundations were initially laid in 1079,with major expansions taking place in the 13th century.  We do not often get to go to a Sunday service in one of the huge cathedrals and this is quite an experience, sitting in this huge building dedicated to God, with a wonderful choir filling the hall with beautiful songs.  It is about half full, but it must be tough to fill such a large space these days.

 

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After the service, we decide to grab a couple of sandwiches and sit on the grass in the Close just outside the cathedral.  At the moment we have sunshine and it is warm, so it is very pleasant sitting out here in the shadow of the tower amongst the ancient gravestones.  Then it is time to do some more exploring.

 

First it is to the Westgate, where we see one of the old gates that used to guard the city.  We also check out the small chapel at the top of an arch that crosses the lane.  From here, we walk to the Great Hall.  Not much is left of the ancient buildings that used to exist here when this was, at one point in time, the capital of England.  Most of it was destroyed by various armies and conquerors.

 

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We head into the Great Hall to check out the massive meeting place where knights used to gather.  Hanging on the wall is a massive round table - supposed to be the Round Table of the legendary King Arthur.  Carbon dating shows that, while it is hundreds of years old, it is not old enough to have been THE round table.

 

We carry on wandering around the city, trying to take the back lanes.  We pass through some of the former army barracks and make our way back down to the cathedral area, where we check Wolvesey - The Bishop's Palace.  We then decide to go for a wander up along the river to check out some of the countryside around here.  It is just when we get to our turn around point that it begins to rain.  One minute it is sunny, the next the rain is pouring down.  We hide from the rain under some awnings and wait for it to slow down.  After about 20 minutes, our wait is rewarded - we are able to head back without getting to wet.

 

At this point it is late in the afternoon and time for Olaf and Steffi to get ready to leave to catch their plane.  We have a cup of tea to warm up after our brief afternoon shower and then send them on their way to the airport.

 

5 August, 2002 - London:  Visa Run

Last Friday we had some bad news on our visa application process.  We were told that the Kazakhstan embassy would not issue a visa to Jacqui.  While we are not spending much time there, this visa is pretty critical to our planned trip.  So, now we have to go into London ourselves to sort this out.  Another outrageously priced train ride into the city.

 

We have to go to Clapham Junction to collect our passports from the visa agency, and then make our way to the embassy.  Well, in the end, it was no big deal.  They were just wondering if Jacqui needed a visa for the UK, and we told them that she does not.  They said they could issue the visa that same day - so we will stay in the city for the rest of the day and collect the passport in the afternoon.

 

To pass our time, Lars suggests that we go to the Imperial War Museum.  Maybe not on the top of the list for most women, but it is a very interesting museum.  Lars is able to drag Jacqui along and we head over to look around the museum for about three hours.  It is actually a very good museum and we could have spent lots more time wandering around, but our passport awaited us.  So back to the embassy to collect it.  Then, once again, back onto the train for the ride home to Winchester.

 

6 August, 2002 - Winchester:  Playing in the Itchen River

Lars has been trying out a new running route, or more precisely a modified one, that has been much tougher.  Along the route the passes besides the river, there is a hill called Katherine. While it is not too high, the sides are steep.  He has taken to climbing up some side on the dirt path, passing along the top (which includes some pre-historic ruins) and heading down the other side on wooden steps.  On the return, he does the same thing, only in reverse.  This has been a challenging run.

 

After lunch at home, everyone decides to head out to the Itchen River for an outing with the children.  It is only a short drive away, and we are soon walking along the river's bank on a dirt path with bushes and trees lining the route.  It is a beautiful little spot.  We wander along the river until we come to a spot where there is a small stream branching off from the main river.  There is also a small bridge crossing the stream.  Here we decide to stop and play.

 

You know what the best thing about hanging out with children is - adults can play with them and act just like children and complimented for it.  Otherwise, if you are caught acting childish with no children around, then you are told to grow up.  So here we are, free to act childish.  And we do.  We wade around in the stream (which is actually quite cold), carry rocks here and there, build barriers, collect more rocks (each child wants their own collection) and find chalk rocks.  This chalk is used to write and draw things all over the bridge.  Then we get the idea to wet the chalk and make hand and foot prints.  In the end, the whole bridge is covered with them.

 

When the children turn blue, it is time to go home.  We dry ourselves, gather up our stuff and head back the way we came.  What a great spot.  Back home, we continue to play with the children while dinner is prepared for them and us.  Once dinner is over, it is time for the children's bath and bedtime.  We read them stories and then tuck them in.  Now it is our time to relax with a glass of well deserved wine. 

 

9 August, 2002 - The Start of Our Central Silk Route Expedition

Today we have an early departure from Winchester to catch the bus to Heathrow to catch our plane to Istanbul to catch our plane to Tashkent, where we will start our Central Asia trip along the Central Silk Route through Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey.

 

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