Sunday, October 26, 2008

We Have Irish Adventures

I think that this is a good time to note that I haven't watched any TV in the soon to be 2 months that I have been away from home. In the face of hearing about how funny the new episodes of the Office are, I think that this shows that I have a really stong character.

Ok, now we can move on.

I did nothing all last week (like I literally did not leave the center except for like two times when I made the trek to buy more sprite. with assistance). But then I miraculously got better in time to go to Ireland! Yay!

So then we went to Ireland.

I guess I'll give you some more details, because it was amazing.

So our adventure started at the Notting Hill tube station, where we rode to the Victoria station and caught the Gatwick express to the Gatwick airport. There we sat on the floor until we could check in, and then we sat in chairs while our plane got delayed because of the crazy Ireland wind.

But don't worry, because we totally got there. Our first order of business we finding our hostel, the Abraham House, which was a lot easier to do this time because we had the foresight to bring a map with us. Maps really do help, by the way. After that we hopped on the bus to go see Jekyll and Hyde the musical, which we bought tickets to online before. Of course, we totally took the bus like twice as far as we were supposed to so we got off at some random place and had to walk towards where we imagined the theater to be, because we had driven off the map. It really didn't take that long though; mostly it was just funny. Jekyll and Hyde was incredible, despite the fact that we were pretty much sitting in the pit (where the instruments are, in case you didn't know). We did get the added benefit of making friends with the base player and the percussion section, though. They were nice. And the actual play was fabulous, and the music was amazing. All of the people had perfect voices. The play was also a little scary before we walked back through Dublin to the hostel (we decided not to attempt the busses again). Walking turned out to be a great idea because we were able to see a good amount of the city, which I loved. It turns out that unlike all the little cities in England, Dublin actually has a night life too so it was fun. Also, we discovered that the map was definitely not made to scale, so while it looked like the theater was 20 miles away, it was only like 20 minutes.

Oh, I forgot to mention that we boarded and got off of the plane we got to actually walk on the tarmac. Awesome.

And just to let you know there were 8 of us in the group, and we were travelling on our own. And we did a fabulous job of planning everything, if I might say so myself.

So after a night of really cold sleep (the window wouldn't close! I slept with my coat over my face! I'm sure you should pity me) we woke up early (even when we're on our own we wake up early. lame.) and walked to the bus stop where we were picked up for the Wild Wicklow Tour! Ok, I am definitely someone who is very skeptical of all things touristy, so my first impression of the trip was that it was probably just a way to suck money out of tourists and that it would be lame. But I was very wrong, because it was probably my favorite part of the whole trip. Our coach driver was a fantastic Irish guy who looked like he prbably hadn't been out of college too long, and he was really funny. On the way out of Dublin he told us all about the history of the city and drove us past some of the sites, like U2's recording studio and whatnot and told us a bunch of funny local stories and nicknames for places. In addition to being entertaining it was great because I learned a lot more about Irish history, so it really made me appreaciate the whole trip a lot more. Like did you know that in the 1980's Ireland was considered a third country? Ireland definitely has a really rough history, and you can tell that they have come a long way. Anyways, back to the tour. So our first stop on the tour was the coast, where we got to get out and walk around and it was gorgeous. As usual we took pictures. So, crazy detail, there were tons of old people swimming in the freezing cold Irish Sea. I touched it, but had absolutely no desire to immerse myself in it despite the fact that it was really pretty. Other highlights of the day trip (the bus tour was from 9 to 5) include stopping at the top of the hill/mountain to look at Guiness lake where we did not have whiskey (everyone else did. I think 90% of the past times in Ireland involve whiskey), stopping in a little town where we ate lunch on rocks next to the water, going to the bog, exploring the ruins of a monestary and such. Once again we were so lucky because the weather was great. It wasn't warm or anything, but it was sunny and there was no rain involved. Apparently this is quite the feat because it rains 275 days a year in Wicklow on average.

That night we explored Dublin and just walked around and stuff. We wanted to go somewhere and get an authentic Irish meal, but we totally ended up going to 50's style American diner. At first I thought that was kind of lame sicne we were in Ireland, but once we walked in I immediately changed my mind. We've been gone for almost two months now, and I LOVE Europe but a taste of home felt a lot better than I realized it would. Especially after being sick this past week and realizing that all of my comfort foods weren't here. For example, there is no chicken noodle soup in England anywhere. Or jello. And KFC doesn't have mashed potatoes, which I think is a crime. So my first actual meal after being sick ended up being a cheeseburger and oreo milkshake while listening to 50's music. It was perfect. Then we walked around more before going back to the hostel.

The next day was all Dublin. We all got up early and hit the streets, where the weather had spontaneously decided to be ridiculous. As in it was pouring and the wind was trying to blow us off the sidewalk. Nevertheless we decided to walk around and see all the sights in London. It was fantastic. We ran around on the streets to all of the random old sights, where we would quickly drop the umbrellas and smile. Ashley was a group photographer and managed to take group shots of all of us, with her in it, on all occasions. We have us and the old Dublin walls, us and St. Patrick's, us and Chrsit Church... It was really funny. Ashley and Dassily decided to pull out their umbrellas because it was pouring, but me and Talyn were too lazy, despite the fact that we were carrying our umbrellas in our backpacks the entire time. It was a really good call on our part though, because even though we were soaked we had the opportunity to laugh at Ashley and Dassily wrestle with their umbrellas, which were flipping inside out every two seconds. I'm pretty sure umbrellas go to Dublin to die. It was much better to embrace the wet, because you were going to get wet anyways. So we wandered around and then met up with Linsday and Megan, who had gone and paid to see the Book of Kells and then we walked to Kilmainham Gaol (jail spelled the European way). Walking there was an adventure, because once again the map was not to scale. The fact that it was so far away really shouldn't have been that big of a surprise, because it's not like people want jails right in the middle of your city. Anyways when we finally made it there, soaking wet, and it was really cool. The whole tour was really interesting. The jail was built in the late 1700's and was in operation until the 1920's and is intertwined with a lot of Irish history because it was used during a lot of their wars for ?Independence and stuff. There were a lot of political prisoners there, and exectutions and stuff. And it just looked really looked and sounded creepy. But that was really cool. Then we went to the Irish museum of archeology, where we got to see the Bog Bodies, which are crazy. Apparently back when the Vikings came or something they would bury bodies three feet deep in the bog (we learned this on the bus tour) because they believed it would keep their enemies souls from being able to go to heaven, but what it actually did was preserve the bodies perfectly until they were found recently. They still have skin and everything. So we looked at them. It was really weird because you could even see facial expressions. So we did that and then we just hit up a couple of souvenir stores before heading back to the bus to get to the airport. At the airport our plane was once again delayed, this time for an hour and a half. I can't really blame them though because the wind was insane.

So I think that's everything that happened, but it probably isn't. But I'm tired so that's all your getting.

Just to let you know, today was nice. Since I didn't leave the center at all this week I needed to go to three galleries today for humanities, so I went to all of these places and then walked aimlessly around London just because I could. I loved being in Ireland, but it is always so nice to be back in London. And the center bed always seems a thousand times better after being in the hostels.

Um, that's the end. Cheers.

Wait, I have a question. When exactly am I supposed to write papers when we have something going on every single day this week? Any volunteers to do it for me?

Phase One: the Tube. Notice how we're still nice and clean.

Waiting to check in at Gatwick

The Beauteous Irish Coast
Us on the CoastA Sample of the Irish RoadsMountains and Smiling PeopleLunch. It was a delicious Apple.
We're just so cool.

We're all about the ruined cities.Prettyness.

The creepy hallways.

We're hardened criminals. Ok, maybe I'm very soft.

Outside the Jail

So the McFlurry's are better in Ireland than England, but not quite as good as in the states.

Enjoying life at the Dublin airport and attempting to be studious.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

We Retake Croft Castle

Sorry to keep you guys waiting for this blog update. I know that you just sit by your computer hitting the refresh button hoping that I've written something new. But no more worries, it's here!
So, last week started out with a midterm and a paper. Yay! I'm sure that you guys want all of the horrific details about that, but I'm afraid I'm going to pass over it. On a more fun note, me and Lindsay were invited to a surprise birthday party in Peckham for one of the guys in our ward (there are a ton of single adults in our ward. It's pretty fantastic). It was Peter Pan themed, so we attempted to dress us but since we only could bring like 5 shirts here we didn't have much to work with. We tried for Lost Boys, but I'm not sure how that worked out. But it was fun anyways and now we have some more friends, which is always a good thing. We even got to play some games and eat cake.
Thursday we started our brief vacation from the real world (aka more tests and papers) with a day trip to Stratford-on-Avon. In Stratford you can meet all of your Shakespeare needs for an entire year between visiting old houses, seeing plays, and eating at places like William Shakes (all shakes all the time). Our program started out the day late by leaving at noon (don't get too excited, we didn't actually get to sleep in. Instead we had a test at 9 in the classroom) and our first stop was Anne Hathaway's cottage (Shakespeare's wife, not the actress in Princess Diaries) where we got to walk through the old Tudor house. We learned various things, like how thatchers (people who make the straw roofs) are apparently very rich and all drive Porsche's. We learned stuff about Shakespeare too, but it didn't involve nice cars, although apparently the Hathaway's were pretty well to do in their time. Then we advanced to Shakespeare's birthplace, where we got to see more Shakespeare stuff and walk where he did and all of that. I have to admit that it was cute and charming during the day, but when we walked past it at night it looked a lot like one of those buildings that should be condemned. But it is like 400 years old, so I guess that's to be expected. We had some time to kill after the birth place, so we got to wander around Statford, which is a really cute town. We ate fish and chips and went into a cool used book store and just wandered around aimlessly until it was time for the show. Oh yes, we went to a show. How could you leave Stratford-on-Avon without seeing some quality Shakespeare performed. And it was really good. Take into consideration the fact that I don't really even like Shakespeare, and that should tell you that it was excellent. We got to see Love's Labor Lost, and it was performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company, which is supposed to be like the very best. Berowne (the main guy in this production) was played by David Tennant, who is supposed to be the up and coming star of theater (he was also Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and stuff) and was absolutely fabulous. He plays Hamlet for the company as well, and they're going to be traveling to London in December... Tickets are selling at 300 pounds, but we think it might be worth standing (which is 5 pounds) because he was just that good. So that was fun.

Right after the play came the epic moment of splitting off from the group for good. This past weekend we didn't have class on Friday, so the professors left it open for us to travel in small groups as we wanted. To save time and money Me, Ashley, Annie and Sam decided to just stay overnight at a hostel in Stratford before beginning our adventures. So that was a defining moment when we walked away from everyone else in the program and hopped in a taxi by ourselves in a foreign country for the first time. Don't worry, we totally made it to the hostel alive. And we even had the room all to ourselves, which was a bonus.

The next day is when the action started. Let me begin by saying that the trains officially hate us. We had it all nice and planned out before, had our tickets, got to the station on time and everything. It was after the train started that the problems started. Apparently some train decided that it would be fun to get itself stuck on the track we needed to go on. Long story short, a ride that should have gotten us to Leominster at noon got us there at three, which was twice as long as it should have been. The train even terminated before it was supposed to so the station hired a coach for to take everybody to the station we were supposed to be at, where we arrived minutes late to miss the last train to leave for Leominster in an hour. We spent a lot of quality time on trains and in stations. Nevertheless we did ultimately prevail and made it to Leominster, and eventually we found a taxi (which is apparently just locals doing it for some extra cash because the town is TINY) to get us to Croft Castle.

That's right, Croft Castle. You may have been wondering why we were going through all of this trouble to go to a tiny place you've never heard of and that would be why. It's never too far to go to your own castle. I've wanted to go there forever, since my dad told me that the knight who was given the castle was our great times a thousand grandpa or something. So it was totally awesome to go there and be able to drag a couple of friends with me. It was absolutely gorgeous. Croft Castle is just barely on the border of Wales, and has the most beautiful view of the surrounding farm lands. It was especially beautiful since it was such a perfect autumn day. We got to take a tour of the castle after hearing a brief history, and then we just walked the grounds and stuff. It was fun because there was even a family history chart in there, even though I have no idea where we fit in. The whole experience was just a lot of fun. They had dress up in one of the rooms in the castle, and a bookstore in the stables, and tons and tons of gardens. We might not have been there as long as we would have liked, but it was still great.

Our next stop was Birmingham, where we stayed for the night. You might wonder why we chose Birmingham, and the reason would be purely because it was convenient. It turned out to be a ton of fun though. We got in from the train station after all of the stores closed (I swear everything in England closes so early!) so we decided to entertain ourselves at the movie theater, where we saw Eagle Eye. In case you're wondering, it was good. And perfect after an exhausting day filled with train stations. When that got out we had the fun task of locating our hostel in the dark in a city we've never been to, which we actually did very well considering the fact that none of us remembered to bring a map.

The hostel was probably the most exciting one I've been to so far, since all the walls were painted different bright colors. It was definitely my kind of place. Unfortunately it was probably my worst night of sleep since I've been here thanks to a dance party down the street that lasted past 5 AM. Good times. We started out the day with the plan of going to the Cadbury chocolate factory, where I would have bought Tiffany a souvenir, but once again the trains failed us. So we opted for plan B, which actually turned out great. We got to wander around the Bull Ring, which is a really nice outdoor shopping center and the other surrounding parts of Birmingham while enjoying the fabulous weather. They even had an open air market right there. The best was when we got to eat lunch outside at Nando's, that just happened to be right where a music competition called the Festibull was taking starting that day. Apparently four bands play a show everyday, and then people go online to vote who they like the best. The band we watched was the amateurs, and they were perfect with my tasty food.

After the show ended we decided it would probably be a good idea to head over to our highlight of the day, the FOOTBALL GAME! Yep. We got to go to a professional football game. When we were brainstorming things to do on the trip we discovered that there just happened to be a home game for Aston Villa (!) the day that we were there. So we immediately ordered tickets online. It was the best idea we had. From the beginning we knew it would be good-- the tickets came with a note saying that these were tickets for Aston Villa fans only, and that anyone else would be refused at the door. We were very concerned that we would accidentally wear the wrong colors and get beat up. Our seats were definitely only like three rows from the top of the stadium, but I'm sure that just made it so we could see the spread of the field better or something. The best part was watching the fans. All I can say is that they were all very British and that they train them young. They had all sorts of songs that they would break out into (that sounded remarkably like drinking songs) at various times. My favorite would have to have been "The referee's a wanker". It was also funny because everyone (I mean everyone) would do the exact same thing at the same time. No one scored in the first half, and as we progressed through the second half the atmosphere kept getting more and more intense. There was a lot of swearing coming from the row behind me. If the other team had scored a goal I honestly don't know what would have happened. The weirdest thing to me though was the end. The game was so intense because it was still tied at zero, and then all of a sudden the ball went out of bounds and everyone just stood up and left. It was like nothing had even happened. Not one person even said, "well that's too bad." Nope. They were just done. I, however, was sad that Aston Villa didn't win, because they totally should have.

Once that was abruptly over we caught a train back home, where nothing too exciting happened other than the fact that they charged us an arm and a leg to retreat to London. We sulked about how much money it cost while we were on the train and decided to rebel against doing homework.

Sunday night I proceeded to get sick, which I will kindly spare you the details of. Let's just say that I wouldn't recommend it.

Yesterday after a lot of sleeping and such I managed to put myself together enough to go to Swan Lake, which I most definitely did not want to miss. And it was totally worth it. I'd have to say that the royal opera house is probably the swankiest place I have ever been. It looked like it came straight out of a movie. And the ballet was incredible. They were all so graceful and made it look so easy, even though it most definitely is not. The whole production was just beautiful, and there was a full orchestra and everything. I'd go again in a second.

This morning was far less exciting when I got to take a humanities test. And tomorrow I have a paper due for British Studies that I am currently not writing. That could be a problem.

Miss you all!
Oh, and the descriptions for the pictures are on top this time because the internet hates me.
Anne Hathaway's Place

We may have got distracted by the apples there
Shakespeare's HouseWe tried like a thousand times to get a jumping picture in front of Shakespeare's. This was the creepiest.
We have gotten really bored of normal poses

The first view of Croft Castle

They totally had dress up. We had to do it.

The castle again...

More Apples!

Mmm... water in a barrell.

The group photo

Street in Birmingham

The concert in Birmingham from where we're eating

Aston Villa stadium!I swear there is a soccer field behind us.The crowd passed this around and it was cool.We tried to look Swan-like. It didn't work.I mailed my ballot today! Yay!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Ok, so maybe it wasn't "yesterday", but "the day after the day after yesterday" isn't the name of a Beatles song. So I had to make do.
For those of you who don't know (and you all should know because you memorize my blog daily) I just got back from our four day trip to the North. I'll give you the run-down.
Departure from London-- We left at 7:00 in the morning. This means that we had to finish breakfast by 6:30. This was my least favorite part of the trip by far.

Quarry Bank Mill-- Our first stop of the day was just outside of Manchester in Cheshire. It used to be a cotton mill, but now it's a museum. It was pretty cool to visit though because they had working machines and stuff in there so you could get a little but of a feel for what it would have felt like to work in there. Let's just say that I wouldn't be volunteering for it.

Port Sunlight-- It's right outside of Liverpool. It could even be part of it. We stopped there to go to the Lady Lever Art Gallery. I thought it was funny because there was all this amazing artwork there and we totally spent a lot of our time in the basement coloring pictures of the famous artwork upstairs. Just because we're in college doesn't mean that we don't want to color!

Liverpool!-- We crashed in Liverpool for the first night. We got there when everything was closing, so we mostly wandered the docks and took lots of pictures. Pretty much all of them involved the Beatles in one form or another, like jumping next to the river while listening to the Beatles, with Beatles signs, with an orange submarine... You get the idea. While we were wandering the docks we were offered tickets by someone on the street. Of course we had no idea what they were for. And I was pretty sure that they were speaking another language (they weren't). But it turns out that there was an Oasis concert right where we were that night to kick off their new CD or something. So that was almost exciting.

Since we didn't blindly buy tickets for the concert we ended up going across the street to this giant new mall type place where we went in a bunch of stores but didn't spend any money. Which was probably a good thing, since I definitely spent a good amount of money the next day... We ended up having to hide in McDonald's from the rain (I know, a real cultural experience) before we retreated to the hostel where we did nothing. Cities in England shut down way too early. I think all of the stores closed at like 8. Luckily they open up again in the morning, so first thing we went and hit up the Beatles gift shop, where I spent the bulk of my money on a fabulous bag. Yes, it was so worth it.

Then we took more pictures before we all met up at the Maritime Museum. All of the Beatles stuff was cool, but this was definitely the best part. The real reason we went to Liverpool (no, we didn't just go there for the Beatles) was because the ports there used to be the major place for emigration to the states in the UK and Scandinavia, so pretty much all of us had ancestors who would have passed through there before leaving for America. I have to admit it was another one of those things that I couldn't really process, but I tried to imagine standing where they would have and looking out at the ocean knowing that you were going someplace completely foreign and that you were never coming back. I think they said that 100's of thousands of LDS emigrants passed through those ports alone. The church actually has a monument there, so we took a moment to read about people's experiences with the journey and sing a song. That was the best part of the trip. Then we actually went into the museum, which was pretty cool although I have to admit that it wasn't quite as cool as I had hoped. I think that I was imagining it to be more like Ellis Island or something. But they did have models of a bunch of the ships that had left and there was a life size model that you got to walk through and stuff. Somehow I don't feel as bad about my long plane ride to get over here now.

After our moment of reflection we resumed being normal tourists and decided to head out in search of the famous Cavern, where the Beatles and tons of other famous bands performed. We totally found it and proceeded to take pictures of it. Then we ran back to the hostel to make sure we didn't miss the bus. That wouldn't have been good.

Preston-- On the way to the Lake District we stopped in Preston, because when the first missionaries came to England way back at the beginning of church history this is where they came. We got to go see the Preston Temple, which of course was gorgeous. It was actually funny because there was a group of missionaries there taking a group photo at the same time, and one of the girls in our group totally knew one of the missionaries from school. We were only there for a little bit, and then we had a couple hour tour of Preston, which was pretty cool. It's definitely a very nice place. Then we all packed onto the bus and we were off again. In case your guys haven't picked up on this, these trips are all jam packed with things to do and see. By the end of the day we're so exhausted that we don't even care that we have to sleep in questionable hostel beds.

The Lake District-- This place seriously doesn't even look real. I'll include a picture of our view from the hostel. We stayed at the hostel in Ambleside for two nights, so we got to see lots of the Lake District. We got in pretty late again, so we went on a walk into town. It was completely dark so we didn't really see anything. When we went back into town the next day I couldn't even tell I was in the same place. It's a really cute little town. They have a bunch of little shops and stuff. The best part of being in the Lake District was the scenery hands down. It's just so dramatic and green and perfect. There's also a ton of sheep everywhere. It looks like it came straight out of a book.

The first morning we got up early (no sleep allowed in England) and hiked for a couple hours up to Dove Cottage, which is where Wordsworth lived with his sister and wife for some odd years and wrote lots o' poetry. The hike was fabulous. We've really been lucking out on the weather. Apparently it rains like 90% of the time in the Lake District, but it didn't rain at all while we were there unless you count the storm (complete with severe weather warnings) that rolled in right when we rolled out. Oh, other funny bit of luck. Apparently we accidentally went to Wordsworth's place on national poetry day, so the BBC was there and they taped one of our professors and one of the girls reciting poetry. Later we ran into our BBC friends again the nest day at the Bronte's house... I'm pretty sure that they're stalking us.

After Dove Cottage we took the coach up to Hilltop, where Beatrix Potter lived. It was way cute and they had all sorts of Peter Rabbit stuff. It was also really interesting to learn more about her. She used the money she made from the books to buy 14 farms in the Lake District to preserve the land and keep it from being developed. When she died she left all of it to the National Trust, and they kept it just the way she left it. Pretty sweet stuff.

After Hilltop we had the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted to, so naturally we spent the majority of our time eating and buying candy. We also took a cruise on lake Windermere (the gorgeous one directly in front of the hostel).

Haworth-- one of the ways that we broke u pour long trek back home to London (it's like a five hour drive) was to stop in Haworth, where the Bronte sisters lived. This might have been my favorite little town so far. Everywhere was picturesque. As an example I will include a picture of where we went to the restroom below. I really wish we had more time here. Sadly we were on a tight schedule, so all we had time for was eating at a cute little place after visiting the parsonage where the Bronte's lived. I would have rather looked around the town more...

Chatsworth-- By this point we were running behind, so this was a crazy fast tour of another ridiculously massive building. This house is in the new movie the Duchess. It was also where Mr. Darcy lived in the new Pride and Prejudice. I can sum it up in one word-- big. Pretty would also be an acceptable answer.

Home!-- Four days later we made it back to the centre in one piece, complete with lots of new souvenirs and no energy.

Hampstead Heath-- So this wasn't part of the trip, but I'm sneaking it in here anyways. We went there yesterday when the weather was absolutely perfect (his was the same day Provo got 6 inches of snow. Oh yes). Hampstead is technically part of London, but it feels more like a New England town. We got the most delicious apples on the side of the street that I have ever had. The heath also offers fantastic views of the whole city since it sits higher than central London. We had a wondrous day of wandering the heath, even though we got incredibly lost after we got pointed in the wrong direction.

That's it for now. These nest couple of days I will be sentenced to doing nothing but homework, since I haven't done any for awhile and I totally have a paper, a midterm, and a bunch of other thrilling assignments to do this week. You should totally appreciate this because writing this has taken me like four hours, and I haven't even added the pictures yet. So you should leave me a comment to let me know that I'm not wasting my time when I should be doing homework, I'm sure. It's really easy. All you do is click on the comments link at the bottom of this entry and then type a little love note...

Pictorials of my Adventures in the North:

I know you can't tell, but this is us at the Mill
One of my favorite pasttimes on the bus is eating.
Coloring in the basement of a famous art galleryLiverpool!
Liverpool Docks! At night!

We didn't even have to leave the hostel for Beatles photo ops

We didn't actually go in the museum, but we took a ton of pictures outside!

The monument where the emigrants left

Liverpool Docks! In the Daytime!
Ready to emigrate to New York
We started a band in honor of the Cavern

Preston Temple. Note the missionary group picture in the back.

The view from the hostel of Windermere

On the hike

Dove Cottage

Reading Beatrix Potter at Hill Top (I totally stole Annie's book)

Docks not in Liverpool

A Sample of the View

Everyone has to take a touristy phone booth picture, so I figured I'd take mine here

This is where the bathroom was

Peace out. I'm going to try and catch up on some of my sleep.