Posts Tagged ‘fun’

Americans in Paris

22 June 2009

A little bit of music to set the mood…

Hannah and I arrived in Paris on May 25 on the train from Lyon. As previously mentioned, we had to take a slower train that got us there much later in the day than we had planned originally. We tried a couple of times to reach Grace and Tyler to let them know (they were arriving the night before and checking in to the hostel) that’d we’d be late and they should go ahead and start sight seeing etc etc. But no luck on the contact front.

So our train got in around 1:30 in the afternoon, and we successfully navigated the Paris metro and walked the GRUELLINGLY HOT few blocks to the hostel. At the check in desk, I’m all “Hi. We’re checking in. Our friends got here last night. We’re all in the same room. Tra la la.” And then Monsieur Check-In is like “Non! Zhey did not arrive! Zhey are not here! We are mad zhey cancelled! Zhey will have to pay! If zhey are not coming tonight, we want to sell zheir beds!”

To which I respond with a bit of OH EM GEE ARE THEY DEAD? WHERE ARE THEY??? AHHHHH THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE HERE LAST NIGHT!!!! Except a little bit calmer on the outside.

Luckily, there was free wifi in the lobby, so Hannah whips out her iPhone, and checks email/facebook to see if they contacted us. Thankfully, we had a message that they’d had trouble with the train tickets and had to stay an extra night in Strausborg.

I had just calmed down from thinking they were dead when they appeared on the sidewalk in front of the hostel. A sweaty reunion group hug ensued.

Our room was ridonkulously small (there was barely enough space to stand between the two sets of bunkbeds) but we had our own bathroom and a tiny balconey and AIR CONDITIONING, which we partook of for awhile before venturing into the city.

First up was Sacre Coeur Basilica, which was right down the street and on top of butte Monmartre. It’s the highest point in the city, but in an effort to save money, we walked instead of taking the funicular.

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Once we got to the top, we toured the inside (pretty; no photos allowed) and then sat on the steps people and pigeon watching for kind of a long time because it was too hot to move. We had shade and a breeze and this view,

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so why not hang out there for a long time?

When we finally managed to rouse ourselves, we headed more “in to” Paris to see the Arc de Triomphe.

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We wanted to climb to the top, but it wasn’t quite dark enough yet, so instead we walked down the Champs Elysees, and saw the gates to what we speculated was the residence of the French Prez (I just checked…it was, in fact, the Elysee Palace, where Le Prez lives) as well as the big fancy National Gallery complex.

We kept walking toward the river and caught our first good view of Le Tour Eiffel!!

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Yay!

It was getting darkish so we walked back up to the Arc to climb to the top. The view was pretty pretty! And we even saw the Eiffel Tower do its sparkley thing.

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Spoiler alert: The Eiffel Tower is a vampire.

At that point, it was after 10pm, and The Team was STARVING. But we were trapped in a fancy pants area with not that many options for food. It all worked out in the end, because we got to eat at tables on the sidewalk of the Champs Elysees, at a dining establishment, that shall remain nameless.

It started to drizzle near the end of our meal, so we took our cue to head for the metro back to our hostel.

Day 2 dawned a bit sunnier and MUCH cooler, leading The Team to a collective sigh of relief because the previous day’s heat was so draining. The hostel breakfast wasn’t stellar, but hey, it was free, so we loaded up on croissants and bad coffee, and then set out for Musee d’Orsay. Because the weather is cruel and unusual, it started to rain while we waited in line.

My favorite moment of the morning was when we were on the way to the metro stop, and Tyler had the map/guidebook out to figure out which line to take to get to the museum, and this adorable old french man stopped and tried to explain to us how to get to Sacre Coeur (since it’s the only touristy thing in that area). And he even told us to bring umbrellas because it was supposed to rain. Or at least that’s what I’m assuming happened based on my interpretation of context clues and his gestures. It was sweet though.

We spent a lot of time at the museum (which I liked better than the Louvre, in hindsight) admiring the impressionism/post-impressionism housed in the former train station,

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then it was back out into the drizzle for some lunch and a walk down the Seine toward Pont Neuf and  the Ile de la Cite.

Did you know there’s an island in the middle of the Seine in the middle of Paris?

I did not.

It turned out to be a “two-fer” because we saw the Sainte-Chapelle

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AND Notre Dame.

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Not only did I not know about the island, but I also didn’t know that Notre Dame was on it.

Of course it became cloudy and windy and cold again as soon as Hannah and I decided to climb to the top.

We were freezing, but the climb up the tiny winding staircase warmed us up, and as soon as we got out, the bells starting ringing.

The Bells…of…Nooo-tre DAAAAAME! (Ah AH ah, ah AH ah)

No but seriously, it was so loud and cool! And we could kind of see through the slats and saw the bells moving!

The rest of the day was spent getting stuck in childrens’ playground equipment (Tyler) and jumping over walls of guarded palace complexes to follow cats (again, Tyler) and not protecting us from creepos who reached out and tried to touch us (also Tyler). We had dinner in the Latin Quarter (that’s Latin as in Virgil, not latin as in Cha Cha) and that was about it for another great day in Paris.

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I’ve only posted the first set of pics on fb (the ones that correspond to the events herein recounted) but more coming soon from Versailles and the rest of Paris!

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The Evolution of Leonore

22 May 2009

During my EAwH (England Adventure with Hannah), I returned to some places that have special significance: Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.

Windsor Castle is the very first place I went in England (that wasn’t on Campus) my 1st weekend in the UK.

Here is me, circa January 10, 2009

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and here is me on Monday this week.

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And Buckingham Palace is the very first place I went when RoHo took us into London my second weekend here.

This is me, January 17, 2009:

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and this is me from Tuesday:

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I can’t believe it’s been as long as it has. And it seems like no time at all.

The song that goes “Look how far we’ve come, my baby…” keeps playing in my head whenever I start to think about it.

In other news, I finished my exams!!!! All work is now done for RoHo and junior year!!

AND!

EUROPEAN ADVENTURE! PART 2 begins in like an hour!!!

May 22-24 Lyon, France
May 25-28 Paris
May 29-30, Sommentier + Other parts of Switzerland
May 31-June 3 Madrid + Segovia, Spain

And…June 3 back to London. 

And TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY, I will be flying back to the States.

Crazy.

EAwH!!*

19 May 2009

*England Adventure with Hannah!!

We’re having a JOLLY GOOD TIME! We’ve already seen Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle and Eton, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, 10 Downing St, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, St. Martins in the Fields, the British Museum, Covent Garden, and Picadilly Circus. 

Here’s proof that we’re together:

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And here’s proof that we’re together in England:

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Tomorrow, we’re off to Salisbury and Stonehenge (GASP!)…but I should have more time for a proper update.

It is a truth universally acknowledged…

10 May 2009

…that I am way behind in updates.

Before we get started, a few things:

1. Friday was my four monthaversary with England! I have been here for four months and two days. Can you believe it? Because I can’t.
2. On a similar yet opposite note, Tuesday marked T-1 month until I bid farewell to my beloved. America–I will be turning up on your doorstep in 26 days. Please be ready.
3. Hannah (my precious little sister) will be here NEXT SUNDAY!! The dynamic duo will be reunited at last!
4. Happy Mother’s Day! In my country, this holiday has already passed (similar to Canadian and American Thanksgivings) but I am worldly now and appreciate the cultural traditions of others.

Last weekend, I went to Hampshire with Miranda and Phoebe (of Bright Eyes fame) to commune with the spirit of Jane Austen and such. On the train there, it occurred to me the great lengths to which I am going to prepare for my Romantic Lit final, because I went to Wales for Tintern Abbey, and now, spoiler alert, I’ve seen Jane Austen’s house(s) and grave!

First up was Winchester, where Jane lived for a short while before she died.

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I tried knocking at her house…but she never came to the door. Not even her ghost could be bothered to make an appearance. I guess ghosts is more Bronte (been there, done that) than Austen, so I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.

Then it was over to Winchester Cathedral, which has the longest nave and overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe (according to Wikipedia, at least…so take that with a grain of salt).

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It did seem long while we were walking around inside, but from the outside it doesn’t seem significantly larger than the other cathedrals I’ve seen. Maybe because it was kinda short. I feel like big tall cathedrals with huuuge ceilings and towers seem bigger, even if they aren’t.

We kept seeing photos of old-timey divers, with plaques praising William Walker for “single handedly” saving the cathedral from collapse.

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This was very confusing because the Cathedral did not seem to be surrounded by water or anything that would require the services of a diver, but then I found this info on a diving history website:

In 1079 the foundations of the cathedral were placed on a layer of peat without knowing it. Over the years it turned out that the cathedral was sinking. Soon the layer of peat was discovered. The only way to save the cathedral was to remove the complete layer of peat and replace it with concrete. The space below the cathedral was 3.5 meters high and filled with turbid ground water. A diver had to do this job.

So I guess that makes sense. But I still don’t understand how he got under there. A reverse Count of Monte Cristo?

In other fun WC news, Mary (as in “bloody”) was married there, and Richard I (as in “lionheart”) was re-coronated there (not sure why you need 2 coronations, but there you go).

And of course!

JANE AUSTEN IS BURIED THERE.

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It was kind of like when I stood on King Henry VIII’s grave my very 1st weekend in England. My brain was just like “THE REMAINS OF A VERY IMPORTANT AND FAMOUS AND INFLUENTIAL AND LONG LASTING  PERSON ARE RIGHT UNDER HERE. Does not compute! Does not compute!”

Not that you can really compare H8 and JA as people or anything, but the experience, for me, was similarly hard to comprehend.

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I paid my respects solemnly, unlike, ahem, some people, who may or may not have danced on or around her grave. 

After some cornish pasties (that’s PAH-stees, not PAY-sties, just for the record), we went in search of the mythical round table of King Arthur fame, supposedly in the Great Hall (all that’s left of the Winchester Castle, which was built in the time of William the Conquerer). So we walk in, and the first thing I see is…

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THE ROUND TABLE! It’s so round! And table-y!

Just kidding.

This is it, really:

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You’re probably wondering, as I was, a few things about this. Obviously, it’s not really Arthur’s roundtable, but rather, it’s a 13th century imaginary imitation of what it might have been like. So then, you are now wondering, if it’s from the 13th century, why is there a gigando Tudor rose painted on it? Well, that’s because it was repainted for King H8 in the 1500s. Weird. But cool. And now we know where Merv Griffin got his inspriation for Wheel of Fortune. 

Mythical legend quotient filled for the day, we ventured by bus to nearby Chawton to see Jane Austen’s better known abode. I was following along with the cryptic instructions from the TI for where to get off (it reminded me of trying to get to the Venice hostel) when a lovely old english lady tapped me on the shoulder and said if we were trying to get to Jane Austen’s we should get off here. Looking out the window, the only thing visible was a busy roundabout and lots of trees. So either that lady was part of a plot to murder us in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road, or JA’s house was somewhere nearby.

Luckily, it was the latter.

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Jane (I’ve been to her house, so I think we’re on a first name basis now) lived here with her mother and sister Cassandra, and this is where she wrote Emma, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion, while revising some of her other manuscripts as well.

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I’ll never complain again about my desk being too small.

Chawton is quite possibly the most charming town in the whole world. Across from Jane’s house was a pub and a tea shop and some houses and a playground, and that’s about it.

Oh, and THATCHED ROOFS. 

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THATCHED ROOFS!

How English is that?

Here’s a little video I made to try and capture how wonderful and storybook this town was.

There was a field with horses, and men playing cricket, and sheep!

And did I mention the THATCHED ROOFS?

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I think it might’ve been one of my all-time favorite day trips. I kept looking around and thinking, “Wow, am I really here in this actual real place that is real and not imaginary?” because it was exactly the kind of little town I dreamed about going to in England.

Please have a glance at the rest of the photos. They’re SO ENGLISH that you just might die.

Aventures sur la Côte d’Azur

24 April 2009

Here begins a massive undertaking: trying to chronicle all that must be chronicled from EA!P1.

First up, La Côte d’Azur. Aka the French Riviera. Aka Nice and Monaco.

That should set the mood nicely, if you want to just play it on loop.

I arose bright and early on the morning of April 11 to make the trek to Gatwick Airport for my flight to Nice. The rest of The Team (DM and JP) was in Barcelona, so I was on my own for this leg of the journey. I flew on EasyJet, which was not as traumatic as I was expecting it to be (thank goodness for online check-in though…the lines at the airport were a bit reminiscient of That Time That Shall Not Be Named). It’s like Southwest, so I had to fight for my seat, but after knocking out a lady and punching a dude in the face, I got an aisle seat in the exit row! V for Victory!!

Ok fine not really. I just rolled up and the flight attendent was like, “Exit row??” and I was all, “Don’t mind if I do.”

You know how when you land, they always get on the intercom and tell you not to get up until the captain turns off the fasten seatbelt sign, and be careful when opening the overhead compartments as items may have shifted during flight? Well, I usually hear that and think “Oh that’s so funny and cute how they always that.” AND THEN lo and behold, homie from across the aisle opens it up, and A BAG FALLS ON MY HEAD. I never thought that warning was REAL! It’s just a cute thing they have to say, like where the exits are.  W-t-heck??

I was mildly concussed, but I still managed to find the bus to the train station, from which I walked a few blocks to the hotel.

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Hahahhaahah I wish. No this is what it actually looked like:

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I explored a bit, checked out the beach, and eagerly awaited the arrival of the rest of The Team. They had train problems (and literally 12 hours of travel from Barcelona bless their lil hearts) and finally showed up a bit before 9pm.

Sunday was Easter, so I woke up, no joke, to choirs singing and organ playing from the cathedral next door.

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That was the view out our window.

We climbed the Colline de Chateau, which was this big hill with a waterfall on top, and fantastic panoramas of Nice, illustrated in this short film I shot up there:

And that’s not even the top. From the top, we spent an obscene amount of time watching a big ferry from Corsica come into port and, I’m not kidding, parallel park. Or parallel dock, since it was a boat. Other highlights of the day include, but are not limited to: collecting sea glass, getting chased by mean mean waves that drenched my poor 1 pair of shoes, and exploring the alley-like avenues of Vieux Nice.

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Monday was Monaco Day! We took a 40 minute bus ride along the coast, and arrived in that lovely playground of a Principality for the rich and famous. Did you know…

1. Monaco is only .76 square miles?
2. The average person can walk across Monaco in 56 minutes?
3. Monaco’s beloved Princess Grace is American actress Grace Kelly?

I didn’t. Also, the bus ride (round trip) was the same price as a can of coke. 2 euro. This seems strange to me.

Also, in Monaco, I learned that you have to weigh your own produce and get a price sticker BEFORE going to the cash register.

We got back to Nice around 4pm, and I decided to venture up to Cimiez and the Matisse Museum. The rest of The Team pooped out and took a nap at the hotel. LAME.

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Not only did I get to see a lot of Matisse (FOR FREE), I also saw an olive grove, some ruins, a monestary, lots of bocce balls, and bunches of people enjoying Easter Monday picnics.

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It was tres beautiful.

That night, I fulfilled a life-long dream: eat dinner in a plaza between a fountain and a church. Added bonus: crazy man who we nicknamed “The Troll.”

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Sorry it’s crooked. The Cathedrale Ste-Reparate was behind me.

In Nice, I ate a lot of bagettes and drank cafe au lait. Yum! Did I mention the crisis we witnessed TWICE during breakfasts? The cafe we were eating at RAN OUT OF BAGETTES! Gasp! On the 1st morning there, we saw our waiter run down the street looking quite distressed. We jokingly suggested that he was going for more bagettes, when LO AND BEHOLD, he comes back carrying an armful of bagettes. Crisis averted.

Also, I saw topless sunbathers and this:

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Go figure.

Check out the rest of the pics here. And there’s probably little things I forgot to mention in the captions.

In Dublin’s Fair City…

14 March 2009

…where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone.

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And she is WELL endowed, if you know what I mean. 

This trip made me a little bit nervous because it was organized by us, required passports, involved airports and getting there on public transport under time constraints (ahemNORWAYahem) but everything worked out SPLENDIDLY. As the hostel chooser, I am quite proud to say that it was rather nice and PERFECTLY located on the River Liffey by O’Connell Bridge.

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This is a different bridge, but you get the idea.

Dublin is a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be. We managed to walk almost the whole time, with the exception of on the way back from the Gaol/Modern Art Museum when we realized the walking we had done in two sections before was daunting as a single journey. Then we took the bus and encountered a crazy old man who yelled all of the stops, a sad woman with the whooping cough and too many toothless children, and an adorable boy and his father:

SON: Hey Da, when we got on it was empty and now it’s full.
DAD: Yes, son. That’s the way of busses.

It sounded a lot better with an irish accent. Just trust me on this one.

We were walking around in Temple Bar our first night and heard some AMAZING irish music coming from upstairs…and stumbled in on this:

It was free! But after a few songs, we had to leave because we hadn’t bought drinks. Oh well.

In other news, I saw lots of beer, lots of churches, and practically the whole set of the brilliant movie Once.

Not to mention James Joyce, the Book of Kells, a giant Spire that is, in fact, smaller than the space needle, a leprechaun, four-leafed clover, and an unfortunate amount of sidewalk vomit. Sorry. That was probably TMI.

Sunday morning, we went about 30 minutes outside of the city to the charming seaside village of Howth. It was so windy. I felt like I was one of those weathermen who blows away on camera during a hurricane.

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Seriously. And I saw 2 sailboats capsize and everything. On an unrelated note, I also saw 2 seals.

It was SO PRETTY though. We found this magical cove with rocks and tidepools and caves and exploring ensued.

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Oh yeah. It was hardcore. Hardcore awesome.

The weather was crazy though. It went from sunny to cloudy to pouring and back again at least 82 times while we were there.

In conclusion, Dublin is a cool city, but I’d really love to go back to Ireland and see the countryside and some other town, rolling green hills, and castles (Dublin’s “castle” is a weird office park amalgamation of old buildings and junk from the 1970s that was utterly incomprehensible…).

More pictures: In Dublin’s Fair City and The Pipes, The Pipes Are Calling. Can you name those tunes?

Anddddddddd…

Coming soon, to a web browser near you:

Updates on Oxford, charming campus anecdotes, more Londoning, and my trip to York (which starts tomorrow, so I’m not yet behind on that).

XOXO,

Londongirl

I got to Scotland ‘afore ye

11 March 2009

Yes yes yes I am very behind in blog-update-age. Please accept my profuse apologies.

So anyway, rewinding to the last weekend in February, I went to Scotland!

I like to imagine the whole thing in the frame of Harry Potter. As previously mentioned, everything in England is either exactly like Narnia or Harry Potter, and this was DUH Harry Potter.

We went on a train. From Kings Cross Station. With a group of students. To a mysterious and unknowable location in Scotland.

Aka, Hogwarts.

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There was a snack trolley and everything. And some annoying gits who kept trying to intrude on our compartment. By compartment, I mean group of 4 seats near each other.

Our tour guide wore a kilt and had crazy Scottish hair. He knew SO MUCH and talked pretty much the whole time we were in the Highlands on the bus. We saw Loch Lomond (that is a sad sad song if you know the meaning) and Loch Lochey and Loch Lochey Lochey Lochey Loch (ok that’s not real, but the 1st one is) and Loch Ness and part of the train tracks the Hogwarts express goes on and the hillside where Hagrid’s hut is and lots of clan territory and THE LOCH NESS MONSTER.

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That’s right. I saw Nessie. I know you’re jealous.

The guide told us some of the leading theories about the identity of the LNM, and one of my friends slept through it, so I filled her in while we walked around some castle ruins on the banks of the Loch.

FRIEND: So what’s the deal with this monster?
ME: Um well, sonar, blah blah blah, ancient tunnels to the sea. One of the leading theories, though, is that it’s actually a giant cactus.
FRIEND: Oh cool.
WIND: blows.
FRIEND: Wait. What?
ME: Yeah a giant cactus from when the Loch was connected to the ocean.
FRIEND: I think this treacherous bus trip has damaged your brain like a shaken baby.
ME: What? Giant catfish. Isn’t that what I said?
FRIEND: Not at all. I shall…go over here now…kthxbye.

We also learned about clan wars and the Jacobite rebellion and whisky (no “e”) and hostels and rugby fans and the best bridge in the world and how the scottish mountains used to be higher than the Himalayas.

It was SO. Beautiful. A lot of bits reminded me of the Dixie Hicks tour around Colorado.

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Pretty epic, right??

It felt like there was a much greater sense of identity and pride in Scotland (as opposed to England). Maybe that’s because of all the years of oppression and having to stand up to The Man (england).

And finally, I’m proud to announce that this was a 2 album trip! Scotland could not be contained in one measley 60 photo facebook album (though some people no longer seem to have this limit, and I don’t understand why) so please checkout this AND this!!

So that was brief, and I’m probably leaving out lots of good bits, but I’ve got to get to bed before I fall asleep on the keyboard. 

Hey East Coast: good news! I’m only 4 hours ahead of you from now until March 29.

More soon about this weekend’s Ireland trip and tomorrow’s little jaunt to Oxford.

Teaser Trailer!!

3 March 2009

Amsterdarn

26 February 2009

 According to about 82 novelty tshirts I saw…

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But I promise that I am still a Good Girl. Don’t even worry about it.

Still reeling from our previous Travel Nightmare, my RoHo homies and I were wary about all of the necessary arrangements needed to rendezvous with the tour group in London. Everything worked out perfectly though, and we got on our coach and headed for the continent.

You may be thinking to yourself, “But Leonore! You cannot drive from England to Amsterdam. There is water in between! Water water all around but not a drop to drink! Alack!”

And this is true. However, you CAN drive to Dover (I saw the cliffs! They are magnifical–that’s magnificent/magical fyi) and drive onto a large large boat, which, in turn, drives (or swims or rows or whatever it is boats do) to Calais, where you drive off the boat and onto the ground and continue driving as normal. Except that the bus is made for The England, so it’s going on the other side of the road which is weird.

Driving across 3 countries in Northern Europe for 7ish hours was a lot like driving from Orlando to my grandparents’ house in Georgia–rest areas, the huge fields with/without animals, the change of language–but I don’t recall, unless I slept through it, any sort of “Welcome To Belgium!” signage. It’s so weird to drive for that length of time and pass through 4 countries (if you count England) instead of 2 states.

First stop: Bruges, Belgium

Did you know that Belgium is famous not only for its waffles and chocolates, but also for lace? And also there was that dodgy bit of history with King Leopold and Africa and The Heart of Darkness, but we don’t talk about that. Canals!

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Also, there is the movie In Bruges, which takes place in Bruges, but we (thankfully) didn’t watch that on the bus until we were out of Bruges. It was fun to be like “Been there. Know where that is.La la la. I’m so cool.”

Have you seen it? If you have, you may recognize

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this belltower. Ominous.

Got some chocolate (SO GOOD). Saw a church. Walked around. Moved on.

Second stop: Amsterdam

We got to the hotel (which was REALLY nice, especially coming off of the £10 no sheet Brighton experience) around 8pm, and the guide was going to take us into the center of town for a walking tour and dinner etc etc. Except there was a hullabaloo of misunderstanding about the tickets and the public transport etc etc etc. So we finally made it in around 10, and a la New York, there was still a LOT going on, and the party was just getting started in a lot of places. We went to this area called Ledes Plein (plein means square, we later learned) had dinner and some revelry. After midnight, the only public transport (as in no metro, tram, or regular bus) is the Knight Night bus. Unfortunately, it’s just like a regular bus, except that it runs in the middle of the night.

Third stop: Edam

Really cute little Holland (also, fun fact: Holland=2 of the 12 Netherlands provinces. So it’s a bit like the rectangle/square conundruum: All of Holland is also the Netherlands, but all of the Netherlands is not Holland) village, home to CHEESE, a giant church, more canals, and a naked man in a window.

Fourth stop: Volendam

Seaside town! Also, home to this:

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A wind mill!

Sidenote: I also saw lots of these:

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Anyway, and then it was back to Amsterdam for a canal tour, seeing of sites, wandering of streets, eating of food, going to museums.

Now the part I know you’re all eagerly awaiting:

The Red Light District (dun dun dun!)

Yes, I went. Interestingly enough, when you’re about to walk down the main street that is the aforementioned RLD, there are Ominious Red Lights shining on the sidewalk. Mostly, we spent our brief time there either 1. Giggling and being all “OHMAGOSH there’s a prostitute/sex museum/peep show!” or 2. being grossed out by groups of men oggling the prostitutes. But it was weird because 1. there really were skantily clad ladies in windows with red lights on them and 2. there were a lot of normal looking people (including other women/old couples) just wandering around also.

Needless to say, the Barnard Woman in me was rather unsettled by the whole experience. But it was overall amusing or at least intriguing, and now I can say I’ve been there.

Things I sadly did not see: Anne Frank’s House. The Van Gogh Museum. Not enough time/lines too long.

And now for a little multimedia!

Pictures, as usual, but (drum roll please) I now have a youtube account! These videos are not that exciting (bell towers in Edam and Amsterdam), but hey, you gotta start somewhere. Also, it sounds pretty. Also also, here’s another one from back when I went to Leeds Castle. It features amazing feats of nature. So amazing, in fact, that I must embed it here:

Ok sorry…that was a lot less exciting than I remember it being in person…

Off to Scotland tomorrow! If you have any messages for the Loch Ness Monster, please make them known to me ASAP.

AlternaNorway ’09

19 February 2009

Norway.

The land of vikings, trolls, big dreams, and broken hearts.

Here’s how it was supposed to go down:

  • Meet travel group on campus at 2:55am Sunday.
  • Get on minibus cab for 14 at 3:00am.
  • Arrive at Liverpool St. Station in London approx 3:50am.
  • Figure out where to get on Stansted Airport bus. Wait
  • Get on bus to airport @ 4:20.
  • 5:00/5:15: Arrive at Stansted. Check in.
  • 6:30 Flight departs for OSLO.

But no. It couldn’t be that easy!

First, the driver was about 10 minutes late picking us up. Then, he drove aimlessly around the East End of London, supposedly due to “construction” and “traffic diversions.” We drove down the same streets as the Jack the Ripper walking tour. At one point we were like “Oh look! There’s that church that the prostitutes used to circle all night long because they could only get arrested if they weren’t moving!”

A few moments later: “And there it is again.”

And then: “And…again.”

And then: “FOR THE LOVE OF PETE!  Is this church pulling us into its orbit like a bunch of whores??”

When we finally found the station (only after asking random 4am London streetwalkers), we had thoroughly missed the bus to the airport. HOPE WAS NOT YET LOST! There was another bust at 4:40 am, which, naturally, left late.

We got to the airport around 5:45. We ran into the terminal with the belief that we could still pull it off.

And then.

crowds 

A jillion people and their moms were in line at the RyanAir counter. The check in machines weren’t working, and we couldn’t do online check in because none of us have EU passports. A few intrepid leaders of the group managed to squeeze in sideways to the counter, and in the face of supreme incompetence, managed to secure roughly 3/4 of the boarding passes.

I was in the 1/4 left behind, but we sent the others to RUN FOR THEIR LIVES through security while we retreated to yet another line to see what could be done about rebooking for a later flight.

The boarding passers arrived just in time to see the plane pull away from the yet and dejectedly rejoined us in the other line. After much waiting, witnessing of Crazys Shout at the Poor Staff People, we finally managed to find someone to ask about our chances for getting on another flight (though at that point, there was still much line left to be waited in). He said the cheapest same day we could get would be £245, at which point we abandoned ship and retired to wallow in the food court.

It was at that point that I reached approximately 24 hours of wakefulness (because Saturday I got up at 7am to go to Canterbury and Leeds on a romantic Valentine’s date with the English countryside). The good news is that we’re going to hopefully get a partial refund of our tickets, and we want to MAJORLY complain to the stupid taxi company for a full refund.

We caught the bus back to London, and the group disbanded. Some went straight back to Egham, some (like me) stayed for the day and then went home, and the rest stayed the night in London.

Sorrows were drowned in milkshakes and the cuddling of oversized stuffed animals in the London equivalent of FAO Schwartz.

I came back to Egham that night with the intentions of sleeping and maybe trying to meet up with Team London for some kind of day trip. Had a nice 12 hour nap, woke up, heard the plan to spend the day in Brighton, in the south on the Channel. I was about to just give up and spend the day moping and being emo, but I got in touch with another girl who came back to RoHo with me, and we decided we might as well go for it.

BEST DECISION EVER!

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The sun and the waves and the smell and the sound of seagulls…it was LOVE at first site.

Now I understand why people in Victorian novels are always going to the seaside to Recover and Improve their Fragile Conditions. It has magical healing powers of awesome.

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Except it was only after I got there that I was informed of the plan to spend the night there in a hostel and continue exploring the coast on Tuesday. Throwing caution to the wind, we agreed. Everyone else still had their luggage from You Know Where, so between everyone, we managed to round up enough to get through the night. The hostel was super cheap, and they only had 4 blankets and no sheets for the 7 of us. I slept in my clothes with my jacket as a pillow. ADVENTURE!

Our hostel was also a bar, so we met an interesting group of English people that bought us lots of drinks, and a rousing good time was had by all.

The next morning, we continued onward down the coast to Portsmouth, where we spontaneously decided to catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight. It was about 10 times bigger than any of us were expecting, so we definitely did not have enough time to fully explore.

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So from the wreckage of the Trip That Shall Not Be Named, we managed to salvage an enjoyable mini-vacay on the seaside. 

The rest of the pictures are here.

We all decided that it was a learning curve kind of trip. We know now what we did wrong and how it will be better the next time. And by next time, I mean tomorrow when some of the same group are going to Bruges and Amsterdam. The good news is that we’re on a (mostly) guided tour, and we have already detailed (to the minute with A LOT of extra time to spare) how we’re going to meet the guide at 7am at Waterloo station.

Fingers crossed…