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Amy's Adventures Abroad

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Wow! What an eventful weekend! Meghan Thomson, one of the girls I used to live with at Roberts is volunteering in a Christian youth hostel (basically a cheap place to stay - sort of like a hotel, but dorm room style) for the year. Since we are both in Europe we figured it would be great to meet up and go somewhere. We originally planned for Paris, but later changed it to Scotland. We both have Scottish heritage so it’s cool. We were going to travel by train overnight on Thursday the 26th, but the tickets were sold out. Instead, Meghan flew into London on Thursday night, I had to take the train up after class to pick her up from the airport. I had taken the train before and figured it was no problem to use my oyster card (it is a weekly pre-paid pass to use the tube). However, when I tried to leave they told me I couldn’t use it and fined me ?20!!! I was stressed to begin with and they caught me off guard so of course my eyes welled up with tears. My tear ducts are plugged to help with my eye problems so soon the tears were pouring down my face as I’m trying to talk to the men at the station. I think they felt a bit bad for me because he told me I could try to write and appeal it, but I guess he didn’t feel bad enough to let me off the hook just this once! Ah! So I finally get to the airport and get Meghs, she looks so good! Her hair is shorter now, very cute :) It was good to see a familiar face. Since I arrived in the UK I have not been able to fully “ be myself.” No one knows me so I don’t feel comfortable just being crazy and random like I am with the people I am close with, I have had to be “cool, calm, and collected” for 2 ? months and it’s driving me nuts! I know that I can be crazy with Meghs, because she is even crazier than me! Haha. When we got back into town we stopped at Subway to get some dinner. While we were waiting we stood and compared our money…Euros and Sterling. I still like American money better – here the smallest bill is a 5, so anything less than that weighs you down with all coins.

That night we just hung out in the room, packed for the weekend, looked at her pictures from Amsterdam and read some funny journals online. We finally crawled into bed around 1am, and we had to get up at 5! I have a twin bed, so we slept head to foot, which gives each person plenty of room. However, I was nervous and anxious about the weekend plus the fact that I didn’t want to move and wake her up, so I ended up not sleeping at all the entire night (I didn’t even doze!). I was so stressed about not being able to fall asleep, but surprisingly I was in a good mood the entire next day in spite of it. We got ready quickly in the morning and set out for the bus stop (which would bring us to the train which would bring us to the airport) at 5:30am. I was loaded down with luggage so when I stepped on some black ice I couldn’t catch my balance and down I went! I was laying on the sidewalk with my hair over my face and my bags on the ground laughing. It was quite humorous that I had fallen! Standing up I was still laughing, then I looked at my hand…blood! And a big gaping hole in the palm of my hand. We couldn’t be late though so I had to press a tissue onto the wound and run to the bus. When we finally got to the airport I had to buy a first aid kit and I spent the rest of the weekend with my hand wrapped in gauze (Meghan did a stellar job with the wrapping…we have pictures, haha). What a great way to start off the weekend though, right?

The flight was 1 hour and I was able to doze, finally! When we arrived in Scotland it was SNOWING! And for the first time in my life I was excited about it! Haha. It really was a beautiful snow, and put me in the mood for Christmas! We took a bus into the city center and then then took another bus up to find our hostel (which was just north of the city). I looked on the map and saw that the bus went straight to Commercial Street…perfect! We wouldn’t have to walk! When we got off the bus on commercial street we started looking for street numbers, we were searching for #55. We saw 191, 193….and a bit further on was #40. Wait a minute…those are all on the same side of the street, with nothing in between? Roads in the UK really don’t make sense. We asked in a few shops and started getting a bit nervous that no one had heard of the hostel. After walking and struggling with our luggage for almost an hour I finally pulled out my paper with the address…Shoot! It’s on Constitution Street, not Commercial! (Hey, they were both long “C” names!) ha! So we FINALLY make it there, and the owner is in the hall vacuuming…didn’t hear us knocking for 10 minutes, we just wanted to set down our bags!! He shows us to our room, it’s not bad…14 beds (7 bunk beds) in one room, not much space to move around, but it was what I had expected. Meghs on the other hand was a bit disappointed…she works in a hostel so she compared the 2 and found this one quite lacking. Ok though because we had a place to sleep!

We brought a lot of food with us so we made up some lunch and then took a bus back into town. Headed straight for Edinburgh castle, which is supposedly the “thing to see.” It was still raining/sleeting at this point and when we got there we see that they had closed the castle because of the weather conditions!! Haha, we were half upset and half amused that the tiniest little flurries scare these people, they aren’t used to anything more than rain! Oh well, instead we walked around town for a few hours and did a bit of shopping. As we were walking down the road this guy our age stopped us and was like “Hi, I’m a monk, we are raising money for kids in Scotland, blah blah.“ And kept talking about Monk Rock - they had a CD that they were giving away if you gave a donation. Meghs gave 5 pounds and I have like 3, but he only gave us one CD, what a bummer…but have *you* ever heard Monk Rock before? Haha. Next we went to H&M where I bought a cute dress, but I tried it on again when I got home and it seems to fit differently than I remembered so I’m going to return it. H&M is just as cool here as in the states though, it originates in Europe so they have all the high fashion, but it’s affordable. We went in a few tourist shops and found the plaid fabric/tartan pattern for our “clans.” The ‘clan’ is where your family originated from…mine is Dunbar. It was so exciting! Our fabric is a red and black plaid. Meghan’s is ‘Thomson’ and it’s a blueish plaid. We tried on hats and got pictures…it was an afternoon full of laughs! The joke of the day was that we kept tripping and almost falling…good thing there were no more injuries though!

Scotland is known for their shortbread, so our goal for the afternoon was to find a caf? or bakery to buy some shortbread. As we were walking down one of the main shopping roads we passed a store with a restaurant above it. The menu said shortbread so we went in! It was decorated adorably! Looked very ‘Scottish’ with red plaid curtains and everything. Since I arrived in the UK I had been really wanting to try a traditional English afternoon tea, but no one wanted to do it with me because it is ?15 in London! But on the menu at this restaurant was a full afternoon tea, with sandwiches, cakes, shortbread, scones, and jam. I was PSYCHED! And it was only ?7 here! We each got one and had a lovely time…the shortbread was boxed and not fresh, but we still had a lot of fun, felt like it was straight out of a movie!

After tea it was practically dark (only 4:00 though!), so we went to a Christmas fair that they had in the park. There were little booths set up and people were selling crafts and food. I saw a man in a kilt! The Christmas lights were beautiful and we could see the castle lit up in the distance. There was an ice skating rink and Meghan wanted to go…I was a bit nervous but agreed. It was ?8 to rent the skates though…too expensive for us so we just watched for a bit. Not knowing what else to do, Meghs randomly came up with the idea to see a movie, so we found a caf? that was still open to ask where a cinema was. The guy gave us a paper and we saw that there was a cinema close to our hostel that was showing the chick flick “In Her Shoes” in an hours time. We got there just in time. There were assigned seats in the theatre, which was so weird! But it worked out well…we had good seats. The movie was ADORABLE! It was about 2 sisters that are close in some ways, but at the same time they drive each other nuts. It was very sweet and made me really wish that I was closer to my sister, I’ll have to work on that because it really is so important! :) We both cried several times watching it and were so excited at the end, we can’t wait till it comes out on DVD to buy! Haha. We decided to walk back in the rain after the movie, but we got lost and ended up walking around for awhile, finally we made our way back to the hostel and I went straight to bed while Meghan read.

Saturday morning we woke up early to head out to Edinburgh Castle. We packed a lunch and were on our way. We took a bus into the city and then walked to the castle…well, what we thought was the castle. We ended up on this hill overlooking the city, great view…we could see the castle on the other side of town though. Oops! Walked back down and finally found the castle, this time it was still open, even though it rained all day. We spent 3 ? hours exploring the castle. It was very educational and was an amazing place to spend the day. I took plenty of pictures of course…though there were some places in the castle we couldn’t take pictures in. We went into this one room and there was a live demonstration going on. It was a soldier explaining some of the meanings of words that come from old-times. It was really funny. Afterwards, we did a bit more shopping and then looked for a pub to get a traditional Scottish meal: Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. It is mince (ground beef) in LAMB STOMACH with mashed potatoes and turnips. I couldn’t believe I was going to eat it, but you can’t go somewhere and not try their food! We split one dish and it was DELICIOUS! We wished the serving was bigger because it was so good! It was well past dark by this point, but still only 6 or so in the evening. The UK shuts down after about 5, which I really don’t understand, so nothing was open and we went back to the hostel early. After performing a bit of surgery on my hand, we sat on Meghs bunk and played Ziggity (a card game version of Cranium) for a few hours. It is such a fun game! By this point there was a guy from Connecticut, a girl from Michigan, and another girl from Australia in the room. We talked to them for a bit, then the 2 Americans started playing a drinking game naming the US capitals. I felt so dumb, I didn’t know any of them! They were cool though. Meghs went to bed early and I read for a little while before falling asleep.

Sunday morning we got up early and packed up our luggage in the hall and made a lunch to bring. Our train left at 10am and we had to make it into the city. We got to the bus stop and read the sign…the bus wasn’t coming until 9:49! Eek! So we had to walk around with our luggage some more, killing our backs to try to find another bus stop that would pick us up earlier…no such luck. We had to take a taxi! Meghan was excited because she hadn’t been in a car for 3 months. It wasn’t too expensive because we weren’t that far away. One of the men working for the train company looked at our tickets and said “You’re in first class, so wait here.” Wait a minute…FIRST CLASS?!?! Wahoo! Meghs and I were PUMPED! We got out picture taken next to the first class sign just because we had never travelled that nicely before! Haha. When we got on the train we found that we had big plush seats around a wooden table. They brought us each a newspaper and then brought free tea, cookies, shortbread, and peanuts every 15 minutes. AH! This was too exciting for us!! The lady across the isle was smiling because we kept saying how excited we were. Haha, oh well. We got to drive through Dunbar, which was great! It is where my family is originally from, and Grandma says we still have family there! I was sad that we didn’t get to actually go to the city, but at least I got to see part of it. Better than nothing, right?

Well, when we got about an hour and a half into our 5 hour journey the train had a bit of a delay because of flooding on the tracks…we thought it would be fine, until they announced that we were going to have to go back to the last station and then take buses through the flooded area and then get back on the train at the next station. Darn! We had been planning on making it into London in time to drop off our luggage and then go to a Delirious concert at my church. Meghan had invited one of her friends from Amsterdam to the concert, and I was going to meet up with Ally and Ryan. With the delay we started to get worried we weren’t going to make it! The first bus arrived and we got on it, as we were driving away we saw that all the rest of the passengers were turning around and going back into the station…we wanted the bus driver to turn around and check to make sure the train wasn’t running again. But he didn’t…part of the way through the hour bus ride we got a cell phone call that the rest of the passengers had gotten back on the train and were already through the flooded area. Eek! We shouldn’t have gotten on the first bus! Oh well…we looked to the left and saw our train speed past. When we got to the next station we got on the next train, which wasn’t as nice as the first. We were sitting with an adorable little old woman and a group of 3 people in their mid 20’s. They were all fun and we chatted for part of the journey. The old lady’s cell phone rang and she didn’t know how to answer it so Meghs did it for her, haha. So cute! We played Ziggity for most of the ride, and then read for a little while.

We arrived in London at 5:30 and had a half hour to make it to the concert at church. We made it there just after it had started but there was a line that wrapped all the way around the building…there was no hope at getting in since the building was already full. Darn! We went to the internet caf? across the street and I got Ally’s cell # to call and see if they perchance had seats for us, but she didn’t hear her phone. Oh well…we got some dinner at Burger King (which had pay toilets! Haha) and went back to my room. At least we finally got to put our luggage down! I unpacked and Meghs talked to a few people online. Then she called her friend from Amsterdam…he didn’t make it through the line either so he couldn’t go to the concert. She was glad she at least got to talk to him though. We watched Dirty Dancing (of course! J ) and then went to bed for the night. Monday morning Meghan had a flight back to Amsterdam…I brought her as far as the train station and then said our goodbyes. I don’t know when I will see her again! Perhaps sometime visiting Roberts, I hope it won’t be too long at least! It was a great weekend though despite the fact that it was raining constantly! Full of adventures and good times with Meghs…she has adopted her own language since the last time I saw her (yummer (aka: bummer), daaaaang, poopsin, and many more). I’m so glad we were able to go!

Posted by amysadventuresabroad at 12:01 AM GMT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, December 4, 2005 12:57 AM GMT

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I quit a London walk!!
A pretty disappointing day…I planned on going on the “London’s violent past: The horrors of Whitechapel” walk. I probably should have taken a hint from the name! Even though it was a Saturday afternoon, all of the stores in this part of town were closed. The streets were run-down and I didn’t feel safe at all. Walking through the ghetto by myself? No thanks, the walk wasn’t very exciting anyways, so I quit a quarter of the way into it. On my way back to the tube I cane across a street market…I was among the 5% of women who didn’t have their hair and/or face covered. As I was walking through the market I was thinking about the change in my comfort levels since I arrived 3 months ago. When I first got to London and I was the only white student among all the internationals, I felt very uncomfortable and out of place. I was always conscious of how different I was from them and how much I stood out. Now that I have been in this international environment for so long I am used to it. I didn’t even phase me to be in a place where almost every other woman had her head covered (Hindu I believe? Not positive). That’s good, I’m glad there are subconscious changes occurring in me while I’m here! After the market I found a bakery and treated myself to some bread pudding and a pastry, then headed home. An uneventful day, but at least I made a realization about myself!

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday afternoon
After class I decided to have a somewhat relaxing day and do a bit of shopping. First I had to return a pair of boots because I found better ones a week after I bought them. I asked the salesman twice if I could return them and he guaranteed me I could. Well today the manager was there, he said I could refund them, but told me that I wore the boots, which of course I didn’t! He finally let me exchange them for another pair - after screaming at the salesman. But yet after getting yelled at and in trouble because of me he still came over and asked me out about 10 times. Too bad for him he was creepy, 5 foot tall, and couldn’t speak English! Haha. Then a friend had told me about this store called Primark with cheap clothes. I needed to take a bus there…but of course the traffic was horrendous! I spent an hour and a half on the bus making it to the store 10 minutes before I thought it was supposed to close. Turns out that it was open an extra hour, lucky me! I bought a skirt, it’s a bit of a different style for me though. We’ll see. But back to the long bus ride…as I was sitting there the batteries on my discman died and at that exact second the lady next to me asked if I was a Christian. Woah! I couldn’t’ figure out how she would know that…then she pointed out that I still had my “Hillsong Women” bracelet on from the conference a few weeks ago, and she recognized the name of the church. She was a Christian also and we had a nice little chat. She has been all over the world and has an incredible faith, she was so cool! I knew I left that bracelet on for a reason! Well after Primark I decided to take the tube back from there, when we stopped at one stop the non-English-speaking driver made an announcement, then the doors closed and we started going back in he same direction we came from! Turns out he said the train was going to change directions. Spent another hour going in circles on the tube, haha.

Posted by amysadventuresabroad at 12:01 AM GMT | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Lord Mayors Show and Victoria & Albert Museum
When I first got to London I remember hearing about the “Lord Mayors Show” and knew it was something I wanted to experience. It is a once a year parade through London where the new Lord Mayor goes to swear loyalty to the crown, and then later that night he is sworn in as the new mayor of London. It’s a big deal I guess! They said to be there well before 10:30 to be able to see. I got there at 10:30 and I was still able to get a front row spot in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral (the best spot of the whole parade-the only place where the procession stops and the mayor gets out to go through a little ceremony on the steps with a priest…I couldn’t tell exactly what was going on). I was so psyched though because when I got there I could see marines lined up on the steps of the Cathedral! I guess they aren’t the same as US Marines, but they have the same uniform!! They were goofing off the whole time, which didn’t look very good, but it was still cool to see. I was getting caught up in the excitement of the parade and was smiling like an idiot even though I didn’t know anyone there. I guess that’s a good thing though because BBC (british television) was broadcasting directly in front of me, so I’m sure I was on the TV about 200 times, ha. Cool right?

The parade started and it was so incredible! I’m convinced it was the best parade I’ve ever seen, now I just need to see Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and I’ll be satisfied! This one had over 5,500 people in it (of which 2000 were servicemen and women - no wonder there were so many military processions and bands!), 180 vehicles, 66 floats, 21 marching bands and 21 carriages including the glorious State Coach. The procession is 2.8 miles long but fits into a route of only 1.7 miles. It really was great, my pictures don’t do it justice! I met one American girl who is visiting London for a week, she left halfway through though. 2 hours later it was over and I went off in search of something to do for the rest of the day.

I decided to go on a walk in Knightsbridge and South Kensington, since my time in London is limited I have to pick and choose which walks I go on, which is disappointing. This one was good though, started near Harrods and I went shopping across the street and bought another pair of boots, so cute! The first part of the walk was down some side roads and parks, but the rest of it was passing by a strip of museums. I planned on going into the Victoria and Albert Museum…it was listed in my guidebook as a nice museum, and free! What could be better than that? Haha. First I walked past it and got what I *thought* would be a cheap lunch at a corner store. Turns out that a sandwich, drink, and cookies cost me $10! So crazy…anyways, on my way back to the museum I passed one of the many homeless men sitting on the sidewalk with a blanket. I walked past him pretending I didn’t notice, until my heart reminded me that I really *did* notice the man and I had a nice fresh sandwich in my hand. I turned around and went back to him and offered him my sandwich, he was very nice…I wish there was a way to help people like this help themselves, if only this world wasn’t such a harsh place.

In a somber mood I went into the museum and started looking around. It is by far my favorite museum in London. I really hope I can find a few hours to go back to this one before I leave! The most stunning rooms were the two plaster cast rooms. In these there are plaster replicas of many great masterpieces…including the statue of David by Michelangelo! Since I can’t go to Rome to see the real thing, this is pretty amazing! Walking into the plaster cast rooms I was blown away by the magnitude of everything, there were some pretty amazing pieces of art there. One in particular grabbed my attention for a good 20 minutes. It was a sort of sculpture-mural of Jesus’ death and in the background were so many biblical references. It was a really captivating scene…the sorrow on the faces of those holding the lifeless body of Christ was very powerful. Later in the museum I found a carved wood scene of the 3 crosses and all the people reacting to it in the foreground. All of the guards were obviously glad to see Jesus on the cross they were all yelling. But there was one guard amidst the chaos that was still, he was looking up at Christ on the cross with his hands to his chest. It was so powerful to see something like that because in that time, the guards would be people who hated Christ, but this one saw the Truth…that Christ was real. So awesome!

Combining the parade and the museum, it was a very exciting day! After weekends like this, I never want to start life again on Monday morning! ha

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Notting Hill!
After class this morning I decided it was finally time to go to Notting Hill! They have a street market and my friend Andrea told me that Fridays are the best day to go. My London Walks book has one for Notting Hill, so it was perfect! When I got there, I got an Eggnog Latte at Starbucks…very good! But if you want your drink to stay warm for more than 10 minutes, unfortunately you shouldn’t get the whipped cream on top. Bummer! Anyways, I made my way along the walk, which brought me to Holland Park. When I met Doug last month he said he always brings his grandson to this park, so I was excited to see it. However, he said there are peacocks there…I was very disappointed not to see any…the cold weather *might* have something to do with that.

I got a bit lost in the park though, its different than following a road map, because there arent street names in a park! I did a bit of exploring on my own, found a whole field of wild black bunnies! I’ve never seen them in the wild before! I was supposed to leave the park by a certain exit, but I couldn’t find it and since it gets dark early and my time was limited, I left out of the first exit I came across. It took me a bit to get my bearings again and find my place on the map. I ended up taking a bus and missing a small part of the walk because I wasn’t feeling well. Finally got back on track just in time to see the Coronet Theatre…JULIA ROBERTS and HUGH GRANT were there (in the movie Notting Hill)!!!!! I was excited about that, wish they were there that weekend! Haha.

Next came St. Peters church. It was pretty, but the red stucco seemed so out of place! After walking a bit more I finally came upon Portobello Market! It was cute…it seemed like they just set up booths in front of the stores that are open on weekdays. There were a lot of jewelry stands, I had fun browsing around. I found a few antiques I really liked, but of course they were well over my budget. As it got dark I found a dried fruit stand and bought myself a treat of candied pineapple rings, mmm. I’m glad I got to experience Notting Hill, but I wish I had more time here to explore places like this, and the market better!

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Sunday, November 6, 2005

Hillsong Women and the Geffrye Museum
Mood:  happy
I have friends!! Haha. Saturday I finally got to meet Ally from myspace! We met up at the women’s conference, she had 2 friends with her - Melissa (another Navy wife like Ally), and Melissa (a Navy girl herself). They were so awesome! I felt comfortable with them right away…the conference has 1,200 women there and 14 toilet stalls. It was interesting, haha. We sang worship and then had Bobbie Houston speak about gracing our testimony - she was hilarious and also had a good message, I felt like I could relate to her well. Basically she taught us that we need to be real in our Christianity, so others will see it in us. I really want to come back from London and be the type of girl who shows her love to everyone…I always wanted to be like that and now I realize the importance so people can see Christ in me!

Morning tea came next, basically a mob of women in the foyer and I didn’t even get any tea! Bobbie talked more, she is an inspiration because her and her husband are pastors and they founded Hillsong church 20 years ago and it has not evolved into an enormous church that started in Australia, but has now sprung up in London and Paris. For lunch we got to stay in our seats and be SERVED by the men ;) How wonderful right? They brought us our lunches, and then the girls and I took a walk down to Starbucks - I’ve discovered a new love: Starbucks Christmas flavors. I tried the Chocolate Mint Bliss and it literally tasted like a liquid peppermint patty, mmmm. They have a gingerbread flavor and eggnog latte that I’m excited to try. I usually get myself a special coffee to sip on when I go for walks in London, so now I have something extra special to look forward to! On our way back into the room the men served us Lindt chocolates and brownies…how did they know what 1,200 women would love?? Haha.

Christine Caine spoke in the afternoon, she had a great message about how to “affair-proof” your relationship with Christ. Which means, you are the “bride of Christ” but so many times we are tempted by things in the world to have an “affair” on God and give something else more importance in your life than Him. This was a challenging message for me so it will be a struggle to work at that issue. But such a great word from Christine! She is 7 months pregnant, 39 years old, and still traveling 300 days out of the year to speak at conferences like this. How amazing! The day ended with some more worship and then we all headed home. It was so great though because early in the day one of the speakers told us to turn to our neighbor and give them a hug, so I got a few hugs and I mentioned to Melissa (the Navy wife one) that I haven’t gotten a hug in 2 months and it’s my favorite thing to do! So after that I got lots of hugs from all of them…FINALLY!

Sunday I met the same girls and their husbands (and another random guy) at church. Christine Caine spoke again about receiving blessings from God. After service they said they were going to lunch and invited me along! While we were walking I got to talk to Ryan (Ally’s husband - I also met him online) and he seems like an amazing man of God…I’m excited to get to know them more! Ryan has been able to bring a lot of the men he works with in the Navy to church and some have really responded to the Word which is so encouraging!

We went to a Japanese restaurant for lunch…the table was about a foot off the ground and we got to sit on the floor! So fun! I ordered crab and cucumber sushi and some fried California spring rolls with green tea. We also had tempura to share. Very very good…but I ended up spending $20! So I had to wait until I got home for dinner to save money.

After lunch they went back home and I went to the Geffrye Museum. It was this small museum that I found in my big London guidebook. I was going to go for a London walk, but it was raining and miserable out…perfect day for a museum. This one showcased an overview of British interiors and lifestyles of the past 4 centuries. It was so fun! I love old books and romances set in Britain so it was awesome to be able to finally picture what the rooms and houses actually looked like! They have a room set up for each time period with all authentic furniture, pictures, wallpaper, etc and you walk along a corridor and see each room and read about it. Then after each “century” there is a big picture of what the whole house would look like so you can see where the rooms typically were located in the house. I really enjoyed that and it was a great place to end a great weekend!

Posted by amysadventuresabroad at 12:01 AM GMT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2005 8:25 PM GMT

Friday, November 4, 2005

National Museum
Today I had Marketing Research lecture in the morning. Ugh, I get so frustrated with that class…the teacher confuses me to no end, and the stuff is probably not even that confusing! Oh well…when I got back to my room at 11:30 I was very sleepy and cold (I turned on the heater in my room for the first time yesterday…smelled like something was burning!), so I lay down for a little while to read and relax and I ended up falling asleep for 2 hours…guess I was more tired than I thought! Once I finally made lunch and headed out the door, it was too late to go on the walk in Notting Hill like I originally planned. So I picked a shorter walk in London that would end at the British Museum (which was open until 8:30 tonight so I’d be able to go there after the walk). I finally got into the city and started on the walk, but I got turned around and couldn’t find the first road I needed to go down. Once I finally figured out where I was on the map it was starting to get dark and I knew I didn’t want to be walking down all these side roads at dusk, so I gave up on the walk (will try to do it another day) and wandered through some random shops before heading towards the museum. I figured I would be there until 8:30 so I found a cute caf? to buy myself a sandwich in. After staring at the menu board for a few minutes I gave up and asked the cute little man what he recommended. He was impressed that I was asking *his* opinion! Haha, but all of the selections seemed so foreign to me that I would never know what to pick. He showed me a few ideas and the final one was this sort of “mush” called Three Musketeers. It was a combination of 3 different Italian sausages and was served warm. Didn’t look like something I would have picked on my own, but decided to give it a try and boy was I glad I did! It was so delicious!! The shop is maybe a 10 minute walk from my church so I might just have to stop in there on Sunday afternoons to get a sandwich ;)

I went into the museum after that and the main lobby was GORGEOUS! Inside a dome in the center of the circular lobby was a library, which was gorgeous as well. I was a bit confused about the layout of the museum though, so I spent more time trying to find my way around than actually looking at exhibits! It is 252 years old and is considered the greatest of public museums. The stuff they have in there was certainly amazing…I was able to see part of the Egyptian and Roman exhibits, but when they say it closes at 8:30 they are really just kidding because they start closing off rooms and staircases long before that, so I couldn’t go upstairs to see some of the other exhibits. Hopefully I will have time to go back once more.

On the way back to the tube I stopped in a convenience store to get a drink and decided to buy a can of “Ginger Beer” (which is really just a soda). I had seen several people drinking it since I got here and I’ve been trying to eat and drink things that I wouldn’t be able to try at home. Well…it is quite interesting! Basically it tastes like someone took really strong tasting ginger snap cookies and blended them into a liquid and then carbonated it. It is SO STRONG, I could only take tiny sips at a time because the ginger (they call it “fiery Jamaican root ginger”) burns your throat! I don’t think I will buy it again, but I’m glad I tried it!

It’s about time for me to get to bed now, I have an early morning tomorrow…Hillsong (my new church) is having an all day woman’s conference tomorrow, Ally (the girl who told me about the church) asked if I was going to go, but I had to say no because I knew I couldn’t afford the $60. So I woke up this morning to an email from her…she thought I should go so she went ahead and PAID for me!!! How incredible is that?! I guess God really wants me there ;) She is just so great! I will get to meet her tomorrow for the first time, and now I will get to go to the conference - a full day of girl time, bonding, and growing deeper in God…what could be better?!

Posted by amysadventuresabroad at 11:18 PM GMT | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hillsong church, "Regents Park" walk and Doug
Mood:  happy
Today was so incredible!!!
Earlier in the week I did a search on myspace (a website to connect with friends and classmates and also meet new people if you want) for my aged Christians in London and it came up with a lot of results, but I happened to click on this one girl named Ally/Allison. Her profile talked about the church she goes to here, so I sent her a simple message asking what church it was and she was so enthusiastic in her response. She wrote me back about the church and just seemed so excited for me to try it out and also to maybe meet me. Then I received a message from her husband (she must have told him about me) who was also really nice. I was blown away with how nice and enthusiastic they were so I decided to try the church out. It is about 45 minutes away from where I live, which is nothing since it takes that long for me to get anywhere since I live in the north. It is actually located in one of the theatres in Central London, they must be allowed to use the theatre for church services on Sunday because there are no theatre productions.

There are services at 11, 1:15 and 6. Ally was going to the afternoon one, so I wouldn’t get to meet her. But it was still so incredibly amazing! It is called Hillsong, and it started in Australia but is spreading across the globe. They just opened one in Paris last year and it is growing already. I am used to tiny home-town churches and this is a BIG church. It was such an amazing environment though…they had worship for the first 40 or so minutes, and then had announcements, and then a guest speaker (Mal Fletcher I think?). The worship was exactly what I needed, I’ve really slipped in my relationship with God the past 6 months or so, but this really hit home…I think I got tears in my eyes at least 5 times. Haha. I’m excited to get back on track though, so I really hope this church helps while I’m here…even though it was so big and full of people, they really made you feel welcome and at home. SO COOL!

I will get to meet Ally and Ryan next week I think, so that will be a lot of fun. When I got back to my room tonight I had a message from Ryan explaining that they are from Florida and they live on a US Navy base here (they were transferred here), and then saying that I should come over to their house for dinner some time! And before, Ally said we should meet up for coffee or something. I really think they are going to be fun to meet, they seem so energetic and fun and SO NICE! Can you tell I’m excited?? Haha.

After church (which was like 2 hours, but I didn’t even realize it because it was so incredible) I set off for Regents Park. It is one of the royal parks in the city and is owned by the queen. It has a cool history…the area was designed by John Nash (George IVs favorite architect) in 1811. It was designed to be a “garden city” with concentric rings. The Inner Circle and the whole of the park are green spaces with paths and lakes and gardens, and the Outer Circle is a ring of fancy tan-colored houses that are technically owned by the queen, but are let out on leases of 40-50 years at a time. Interesting!

I completed the first half of the walk, had a lot of fun walking along the bank of the lake and playing with the millions of birds (they have SO many odd birds here!). I had lunch at a little caf? next to the lake, a simple tuna sandwich and cappuccino cost me $10! When I got to the Inner Circle I started walking through the rose garden and saw that there was a wedding party having pictures taken! It was very nice, some of the poses were so cute! Made me dream of the day I get to have wedding pictures, haha. As I was standing there watching, there was an older British gentleman standing there watching also. We made casual conversation about how a lot of people get wedding pictures done in the park. Then he (Doug) mentioned he was off to walk up Primrose Hill and asked if I had seen it yet. I showed him my book and map and told him that I was actually just headed there, so we agreed to walk together. We ended up spending several hours together walking around the park and the surrounding city. He grew up about 200 yards from Regents Park so he was very familiar with everything in it. He was a sweet man, about 60 years old, and he acted as my tour guide for the afternoon. I ditched the plan of following my map and went with him since he knew so much about it!

First he showed me this secluded garden that most people think is private so they don’t see it. It was beautiful, I was glad I was able to see it. We walked along the park and he pointed out all of the little historical details…for instance, if you stand at this one intersection of paths and look one way you see it is lined with 2 rows of old trees, then if you look the other way the trees are all young. It is because they decided to cut down the trees in that part so people could see what the park looked like 100 years ago before it had grown in with trees. Then they planted them again, I would have never noticed anything like that if I didn’t have him. He knew the names of all of the plants also.

As we walked he told me a lot of stories about all of the people he has met in the same way as I met him. He is a true Londoner and loves the city so he takes pride in showing off all the little back corners that the tourists don’t see. Once someone told him he should make a living showing people around, but he didn’t want to make a living off of it, he just enjoyed doing it for fun. Every time we would head off in a new direction he would make sure to ask me if I wanted to continue, he didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. I thought that was great and knew that he was harmless and was honestly just enjoying showing me around.

Regents Park is gorgeous, I hope I have another chance to explore it but know that will be difficult now that it gets dark so early and I am either at my internship or school until late. (It just hit me this week that I only have a month and a half left here and so much more to see! I feel like I will never get to do all I want to!) From Primrose hill there is a view of the whole city so that was a nice site to see. After the park, Doug took me around the streets surrounding it to see some more of Nash’s architecture, the houses are beautiful there! Growing up, he lived on Albany Street which is right next to the park, so he showed me from a distance the flats (apartments) that he lived in. When I saw the name of the street I was excited and he made the comment that sometimes he pronounces it the way I do, but sometimes pronounces it with a more “twangy” sounding A (if that is a good way to explain it). But people in England always comment that if it was spelled “all”bany then it would be pronounced with the “all” sound, but it is spelled “al”bany so it should be pronounced with the “Al” sound (like the mans name Al). If all of that explanation makes sense…but I found that interesting! Maybe everyone in NY has been pronouncing it wrong this whole time!

I ended up walking close to 7 or 8 miles! I learned one lesson…don’t go for that long of a walk without sneakers, I was still wearing my shoes from church and my feet were killing me! I had told Doug that I wanted to end up at Hamleys (a huge toy store), so he walked me all the way there and then gave me his card in case I ever wanted another “tour.” I don’t think I will call him and take him up on his offer, but I am glad to have his address because he certainly deserves at least a thank you note! A great start to the day had a great end, with a new friend made in the process!

Posted by amysadventuresabroad at 12:01 AM BST | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, October 29, 2005

"Greenwich Park to the Millennium Dome" walk
Earlier in the week I was looking through my London guidebook and it had a section talking about Greenwich, mentioning the street markets they have there and, being a river-town, all of the historical nautical sites to see. I had been excited to visit since I read about it, so when I planned my Saturday London walk, I was excited to see that my book had a walk through Greenwich! It is south of the river, so I ended up having to take the tube to one spot and then get on a regular above-ground train. My first experience with that since being here! Once I finally arrived it was late (of course I left later than I had planned because I got distracted with the internet in the morning - I’m too addicted to the computer!).

My first sights when I stepped out of the train station were amazing. This adorable quaint town with a “sea side” feel. I first got to see the Cutty Sark, an old historical boat that is dry docked in Greenwich. I went into the visitors center and as I was looking in the gift shop a man in full old-style army or navy uniform came in and announced that they were going to have a re-enactment in the next building. I wish I had more time because it would have been fun to see, but I passed on it because one of the main things I wanted to see was the open-air market. After looking through one of the nautical shops on the street I went into the marketplace. It was under a canopy and had tons of little tables and stalls set up with a variety of crafts. I had fun browsing through them and then went on to see the antiques market. I saw a few nice crafts and antiques but resisted buying them because I know my luggage space is very limited!

I got to walk up a big hill in Greenwich park and see a view of the city from the top. It was a peaceful walk, the fall colors on the trees are beautiful and all of the families, young children, and couples in love are so nice to watch as they enjoy the park. After seeing much of the park, my path took me back out onto the road to head down to the River Thames. As I walked along I would pass breaks in the brick wall which had paths that lead up to houses. As I passed one of these, I noticed an orange cat sitting on the path! I was so excited! I got him to come up and sniff me several times, and he let me pet his head once, but he was a little nervous of me. Instead he stood a few feet away and rubbed on the fence, hehe. He liked me, but was wary of getting too close. I was in my glory though and didn’t care whether the owners saw me. I had fun with him for 5-10 minutes and got to take a few pictures…gorgeous cat! I don’t know how I am going to last another 7 weeks before I can see my babies again!

I finally made it out of the residential road and onto a main stretch. I had been craving a good fish ‘n’ chips all day because I was in a town by the water. I found a nice place and while I was waiting for the chips to cook (everywhere here calls them chips, I don’t even think they would know what “fries” were if I said it, ha), I was talking with the older gentleman who was working there. He could tell I was American, so of course he was excited to talk to me like it seems everyone is! He said awhile back he went to America for 8 months on a sort of bus trip/tour all over. He loved NY, but when they went to Texas he hated it. I thought that was funny. It seems like people here are either really rude and wont say thank you or sorry or move out of your way on the path, or they are really nice like this man.

After I got my food I was a little lost and couldn’t find the road I needed. I was getting nervous because I was in a not as nice area of town, it was dusk already, and I still had another mile or 2 to walk! Luckily as I was trying to find my way I saw a sign for a rail station (I didn’t know it was there because not all of the rail stations are on a tube map), so I went down to it. There were delays so the next train wasn’t going to come for another 20 minutes and I had a hard time deciding whether I wanted to wait or continue walking because I didn‘t really want to skip the rest of my walk! I smartly decided to wait because 15 minutes later it was dark and it would have been very dangerous for me to be walking alone in that part of town. I took the train to a tube station and then connected with my line back home. London has a million things to do with a “city” setting, and another million things to do without a “city” feel…Greenwich is one of the later, and a great way to spend a warm fall afternoon.

Posted by amysadventuresabroad at 12:01 AM BST | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, October 28, 2005

Pride and Prejudice, Paris, and Pub walk
When I was kind of bummed out a few weeks and discouraged about being here alone, I talked to my big sis on the phone (as I mentioned in here before) and she told me she was jealous that I had time to do leisure reading…and since I am in England, I should read some classic English literature. So I went right out that day and bought this big book which is a compilation of 5 classic romances (Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Tess of the D’Urbervilles). I started out with Pride and Prejudice and it is AWESOME! I know we used to tease Meghan Thomson back at Roberts when she tried to get us to watch the 6 hour P&P movie, but now I understand why she loves it so much! I do tend to love romance novels that are set in olden-days (like the days of lords and ladies), so it’s great. PLUS, as I’m reading I hear them mention things in England and London, and now I actually know what it’s talking about. I literally say “OOOOO I know where that is!!” when I’m reading it. It’s ok if I’m a dork, as long as I’m enjoying myself!

Thursday night was another Brockport Extra, a pub walk. In the morning I wasn’t sure if I was in the mood to go, but Andrea convinced me to come. A traditional pub crawl means that you get off at one tube stop, go to a pub, drink a half pint, take the tube to the next stop, get off and drink another half pint, and go on like this as long as you can. I’m so glad that this was not what we did! It was actually really fun, we had a tour guide who was really fun and she showed us some cool things around the city at night and while doing this she took us into 3 classic pubs. They were very cute, one was very fancy and the walls and ceiling were ornately decorated, one had a bar in this adorable basement, and the other was all cute wood paneling. It was good to see all my friends from Brockport again. Niki and I got to talk a bit and we are going to try to plan on going to a traditional English afternoon tea on a random Friday. That was something I really wanted to do, so I’m looking forward to that!

Posted by amysadventuresabroad at 12:01 AM BST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, October 31, 2005 9:00 PM GMT

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