Friday, March 30, 2012

Charity Night: Once Upon a Time.....

"If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn't be, and what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"

Our third year of attending the Brunssum Charity Night, we were fortunate enough to go with a great group of friends. We decided to all dress in theme together and the idea of "Alice in Wonderland" was born. We each chose characters and looked forward to yet another occasion to dress in costume.  This is such an incredibly fun evening hosted by the International Club at Brunssum and each country has their own decorated stand with drinks and food representative of their country. And of course there's great music and dancing. Although we saw plenty of other great costumes, there was no other group that was quite as decked out and in-sync as we were. 

 White Rabbit: I'm late, I'm late, For a very important date. No time to say "Hello, Goodbye". I'm late, I'm late, I'm late.

Cheshire Cat: If I were looking for a white rabbit, I'd ask the Mad Hatter.
Alice: The Mad Hatter? Oh, no no no...
Cheshire Cat: Or, you could ask the March Hare, in that direction.
Alice: Oh, thank you. I think I'll see him...
Cheshire Cat: Of course, he's mad, too.
Alice: But I don't want to go among mad people.
Cheshire Cat: Oh, you can't help that. Most everyone's mad here.
Cheshire Cat: You may have noticed that I'm not all there myself. 

The Mad Hatter: Your carriage, my lady. 
Alice Kingsley: A hat? 
The Mad Hatter: Of course. Anyone can go by horse or rail, but the absolute best way to travel is by hat.

Cheshire Cat: Those who say there's nothing like a nice cup of tea for calming the nerves never had *real* tea. It's like a syringe of adrenaline straight to the heart! 

The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
Alice Kingsley: I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are. 

Cheshire Cat: All this talk of blood and slaying has put me off my tea. 

The Mad Hatter: What a regrettably large head you have. I would very much like to hat it. I used to hat The White Queen, you know. Her head was so small.
The Red Queen: It's tiny. It's a pimple of a head. 

The White Queen: "It goes against my vows to harm any living creature." 

The Mad Hatter: There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter. Which luckily I am. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Weekend in England: Bury's Pubs and Livin' it up in Liverpool

Jon attended a conference in England mid-March and I joined him there for St. Patrick's Day weekend. We were most excited to spend time with our friend Justin, who is a buddy from the Wiesbaden days. He's currently stationed at Leakenheath and lives in the quaint town of Bury St. Edmunds, near Cambridge. Jon and I had only spent time in London before, so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to see different parts of England away from the capital. We spent our first two nights at Justin's place and enjoyed exploring Bury (as the locals call it) and its thriving pub culture.

Justin and Jon exploring the pubs of Church St.

Bury St. Edmunds' town square

Bury has an adorable downtown and is the idyllic English village I had always imagined, but had never had the opportunity to visit. There is a beautiful abbey in the center of town with gorgeous surrounding gardens and a peaceful stream. Though it was only mid-March, the flowers were already in full bloom. 

Abbey and Gardens in Bury St. Edmunds

In addition to the abbey, this small village also has St. Mary's church, which is where Mary Tudor (Henry VIII's sister) is believed to be buried. We enjoyed visiting the churches and walking around the quaint streets before our highlight of the day......

St. Mary's Cathedral in Bury St. Edmunds

....A visit to the Greene King Brewery! In actuality, we had never heard of this brewery prior to our trip to England, but Justin told us a tour there was a must-do, so we made it happen. 

View of Bury St. Edmunds from Brewery rooftop

The tour was extremely well-run and it was quite interesting to learn about the various ales they make and the history of the brewery, which dates back to 1799. It was incredibly interesting to walk around the various areas of the brewery and actually see the process and impressive machinery. 

The tour ended at the Brewery Tap where we were able to sample the many types of beer they make. Our fave was the Abbot Ale. 

On Saturday morning, we caravan-ed with Justin and his girlfriend, Sara, to Liverpool for the Beatles "Magical Mystery Tour." Justin had already planned to do this with his squadron and we were able to tag along. This was not necessarily something on our bucket-list, but I am so glad we decided to take part in this unique experience. 

After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we met up with the rest of his squadron for our Beatles private tour. The tour guide was fantastic and was a wealth of information about the Beatles and their lives in Liverpool. This tour focused on the childhood of the Fab Four and how they met. We were able to see each of their childhood homes and places of significance such as Penny Lane and the Strawberry Fields. 

"Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies"

The lyrics go on to talk about a bank, a barber shop, a fire house and a shelter in the middle of the roundabout, all which really exist within the bustling intersection, where five streets come together.

"Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever."

Next, we visited the Strawberry Fields, which is more of an overgrown green area behind John Lennon's childhood home. He would come here to play and explore his imagination, and clearly always held a special place in his heart.

The tour ended in the bustling bar district of Liverpool at the Cavern Club. This was hugely significant as the place where the Beatles frequently played and were discovered by Brian Epstein. Today, they still have many big-name performances, but mostly showcase Beatles cover bands.

The underground Cavern Club

Justin and Jon

And of course we had to take a photo in the iconic British phone booth in the club

After the tour, we enjoyed a group dinner before everyone split up to partake in their own Liverpool nightlife. We had a blast exploring the waterfront where we came across these sheep-banana hybrids. And of course we had to strike a pose.

Justin and Sara

In the Albert Dock district we stumbled upon an amazing Circus-theme bar that was quite, well, Eccentrico!

We couldn't resist taking our picture with the dancers on stilts. I'm only sad we didn't think of these costumes for our Carnaval Circus! Talk about "standing" out!

At the end of the night, we made our way back to the bustling Matthews Street bar district and were amazed by the crowds out in full force to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I always had heard that it's more of an American holiday, but it has clearly caught on in this part of England as people were going nuts in green. We ended the night grabbing some kebabs and hanging with some leprechauns. An incredible end to an incredible Liverpudlian night!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Very Clough Skication

The first annual Cloughs-in-Germany ski trip commenced March 8 at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, nestled in the Bavarian Alps. Though this was my third (Jon's fourth) trip to Edelweiss, it was a first to go there with family and we hope it won't be the last.

After caravan-ing down to Garmisch from Ramstein the night before, we woke to an overcast and foggy day in the mountains. We all headed to the ski lodge and up the mountain where we spent some time together on the beginner slopes before Jon, Neil, Sybil and I headed farther up the mountain. The visibility continued to get worse and worse as the day went on, but we managed to get  back in the swing of skiiing, despite the slushy conditions. 

Thankfully, that night we received a good six inches of snow, which improved the conditions immensely. The visibility still wasn't great in the morning, but at least by the afternoon we were seeing pockets of sunshine and it completely cleared up by the end of the day. Jon and I spent the morning skiiing together and met up with Neil and Sybil that afternoon. Although I know Jon has fun skiing with me, I don't think it compares to the time he gets to spend with his brother.

Neil as King Ski!

The third day was absolutely perfect with sunshine and a clear blue sky. We spent most of our time skiing at the top of the Kreuzeck and Osterfelderkopf mountains for these amazing views. 

After 2.5 days of skiing our bodies were feeling the mega-soreness and we decided to spend our final afternoon visiting the Ettal Monastery and the quaint town of Oberammergau. 

The Flying Monolith (minus Mark)

Although there's never really any need to leave the Edelweiss Resort with their restaurants, hot tub, pool and other fabulous facilities, we decided to venture out and spend our final night eating at a traditional Bavarian restaurant in downtown Garmisch. Jon and I had been here previously on our squadron ski trips and in addition to being famous for their slap-dance and live music dinner entertainment, they are also famous for their 3-liter beers. Of course, Jon and Neil had to partake in this. 

So happy with their 3-liter beers.

All in all, it was an unforgettable, fabulous skication that, best of all, we were able to enjoy with family. I can't wait to hopefully do it again next year. Aufwiedersehen Edelweiss! Bis zum nächsten Jahr!