Monday, November 30, 2009

Belfast

me at the Christmas Market

Amy at the Christmas Market

Friday: Amy and I got up really early so we could catch a train to Gatwick Airport where we got on our EasyJet flight to Belfast. We got into the city around 10:30, took a trip to the Visitor’s Centre to buy tickets for touring and then decided it was lunch time. Conveniently, right down the street from the Visitor’s Centre was an outdoor Christmas market which had all sorts of delicious food, drinks and gifts. It quickly became our new favorite spot. After checking out all the Christmas sights and getting lunch, we headed toward the Hop-on Hop-off bus for a tour of Belfast. Even though it was really cold we decided to sit on the open top of the double-decker bus. We passed by the docks where the Titantic was built and stopped at another little market where I bought a new hat. Then we waited and waited for the next bus and when one finally did come, it did not respond to my flagging it down. It was a little upsetting but we wandered back toward the city centre and found a really nice mall with a great view of the city. We decided to catch the bus at the next stop, so after we toured St. Ann’s Cathedral, we waited another good while for the next bus. Amy and I had a good time taking pictures of each other jumping in the courtyard outside the church while we waited though. By this time it was getting dark, so we rode the bus (on the top again) for the rest of the tour of the city, saw the Peace Wall and some of the famous wall murals. After the tour, we found a cute pizza place for dinner and then walked though the Christmas market again for desert before going to find our hostel. We still had some time so we walked around another nearby mall and then crashed early in our frigid hostel room.
Amy and I by the rope bridge

Saturday: Peter, our Northern Irish friend who lives on the same hall as Amy and I, had suggested that we see the Causeway, so we hopped on a bus tour on Saturday to take us there. We got on the coach bus early Saturday morning with a bunch of other tourists, and then we took a tour along the Irish coast which was gorgeous. By this time Amy and I had learned to layer and layer and layer our clothing so the freezing weather wasn’t as bad. We stopped for a short photo-op at Carrickfergus Castle and then drove up along the coastal road to Carrick-a-rede Ropebridge. Amy and I were daring enough to cross the 80-foot high bridge that spanned two cliffs across the ocean. Then it was back on the bus to the Giant’s Causeway (Ireland’s only world heritage site). I was a little grumpy at this point because I hadn’t had lunch yet and it was 2:30 so Amy and I snagged a snack in the gift shop and then walked down the road to the Causeway. We took all sorts of pictures (including more jumping pictures) on the ancient stones and then it was back on the bus for a short trip down the road to Old Bushmill’s Distillery. We sampled the Irish whiskey but I was a bigger fan of the whiskey cake we ate. Then one more photo stop at Dunluce Castle before I feel asleep for the rest of the ride back into Belfast. Amy and I had wanted to have dinner at an Irish pub but they were too crowded on a Saturday night so we went to TGI Fridays instead. Probably the best decision ever- we were really excited about the American food. We then headed back to the Christmas market, walked around for a bit, and then rode the giant tour wheel that showed up a night-time sky view of the city. Then we turned in for another early night. Giant's Causeway
Sunday: We got up, stopped at a coffee place for breakfast (no free breakfast in this hostel) and then attempted to catch the bus back to the airport. Unfortunately, no one had told us where to catch the bus, so we ended up missing it by seconds. Instead of risking not making our flight, we took a cap to the airport and successfully made it back to Gatwick and then back to campus. Sunday afternoon I did laundry and then Sunday night it was back to real school world so I did homework all night.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving week

Apologies again for being SO behind but with only two weeks of class left and 10,000 words to turn in, I’ve been a bit busy. Here are the highlights of last week:
Saturday night (Nov 21): We ate delicious early-birthday cake and then I watched the end of the WashU men’s basketball and WU women’s volleyball games online via live stats; the men won their game, and the women won their national championship! It was very exciting and I can’t wait to get back to WashU and go to basketball games and the volleyball celebration.
Sunday: Jena and I went to the Brighton Orchestra to see them play music from Harry Potter, the Snowman, and the Nutcracker. Jena’s two friends from home arrived and they, Jena, me, and Amy all made tacos together for dinner in a smoky kitchen because our hall-mate Peter had accidentally tried to burn the kitchen down by cooking noodles without water. Then I went to see New Moon (again) with Afua. It was still awesome.I was a little stressed Sunday night trying to get my reading done for Monday but finally managed it.

Afua at New Moon!

Monday: I had my two classes and it was Jena’s birthday. She went out with some friends but I stayed in and ended up having a dance party with my friend Afua who taught me the dance to Beyonce’s Single Ladies which was a crazy good time.


Tuesday: I got work done and talked to two different instructors about my final papers. Then I went to tea with Nick and Serene in Lewes and then we came back to our dorm and had a frozen pizza party. It’s nice to switch up who I do things with. Then I buckled down and wrote some paper. I got a little intimidated by the sheer amount of work I have left to do so I scheduled each day until my departure with a piece of work.



Wednesday: I had Wordsworth class which was painful because I was tired, only part of the class was there and the teacher was disgruntled because of Sussex teacher politics. But then Wednesday after class Jena and her two friends (Bryce and Dan) and I all went to Lewes (the town over) and toured the castle there and saw where Thomas Paine lived before he moved to the States. Then we came back for dinner and Jena, Amy and I decided to go to Athens for our final weekend together! They’re my American floor-mates and we had wanted to all go on a trip together and this is our last chance! I also Skyped with my family (and Allison!) for a couple of hours while they baked which was awesome. Then Amy and I went to the library and worked for a few hours but then I left (during a break in the giant thunderstorm) while Amy pulled an all-nighter.

Jena and I at Lewes Castle

Thursday (Thanksgiving): Luckily I don’t have class on Thursdays so it was a like a holiday even though the English didn’t know it was Thanksgiving. In the morning I made mashed potatoes (about 20 large potatoes worth) all by myself (although I was cooking in the kitchen with Nick). I decided I deserved a day off so I took a nap and then headed to the American pot-luck Thanksgiving. Let’s just say that I ate enough to make Thanksgiving proud. Then I came back to my room and watched YouTube videos with some friends.


Weekend updates from Belfast to come soon!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

All my favorite American things in British form

North Street in Brighton with Christmas lights
Last Sunday I did homework and then watched the WashU men’s basketball team take on our first opponent of the year. The online quality of the video left something to be desired but it was worth it to see the game! I can’t wait to get home and watch basketball live! I also watched the end of the Chiefs game (play by play, not live) online and we won as I was skyping with my parents which was exciting! Monday I had class and registered from classes new semester at WashU. Then a bunch of the American students went up on a hill outside of the campus Monday night to try and see the meteor shower. Even though the sky cleared up we didn’t have any luck seeing anything. Tuesday I went to the farmer’s market on campus for fresh fruit and prepared my presentation in Wordsworth class which I had on Wednesday. I’m glad that’s over with! Right after class on Wednesday I had to catch the bus to Brighton to have lunch with someone sent down from Accent. We went to a nice Italian restaurant and I had a great conversation with Natasa who went to grad school at WashU and now works for Accent. After a delicious chocolate pudding with ice cream dessert, we parted ways and I did some relaxing shopping at the pound store and at the bookstore for thank you and birthday cards. Wednesday night I hung out with a couple different groups of friends in the dorm. Thursday the groceries we ordered from ASDA (owned by Wal-Mart) were delivered so now I have food! I also spend a good part of the day working on my final paper for my Jane Austen class. I’m trying to write part of the paper each week as we read each novel. Thursday night was the lighting of the Christmas lights in Brighton, not very exciting compared to the Plaza lighting, but I saw Santa and he gave me a water bottle. I then went out to dinner with some friends at a different Italian restaurant before meeting up with some other friends from dessert at yet another Italian restaurant! The second group of friends and I then headed over to the movie theatre to see the midnight premiere of New Moon which was amazing!! I went with a group of Americans and we were all a little upset that it didn’t start directly at 12:01 but more at 12:20. Luckily, they skipped previews and went right into the movie which was slightly appeasing. I slept in on Friday because I was up so late the night before and then decided to take a day off so I watched some youtube! Then I jumped on a train to London, met my friend Alyssa there, and went to the Jonas Brothers Concert!!! I guess the English have a different concept of time than us because the concert started an hour late, but there were no opening acts. It’s like they cut out the stuff that makes waiting worthwhile and just make you wait. But the Jonas Brothers were awesome and I’m glad I went. Super sadly, we had to leave really early in the concert to catch the last train from London to Brighton. I was just glad I had already seen them in concert this summer or I might have been really disappointed. Saturday Nick and I went to a coffee shop in Brighton and I got some reading done. Then I baked a cake as an early surprise for Jena’s birthday so that it would be here when she got back from her trip to Amsterdam!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The most relaxing week yet

Me trying to be prim and proper while having tea (with giant scones!)


This week was reading week where we potentially don’t have class. I just had to go to one class Monday because it was cancelled the week before because my instructor was ill (he was so sick that he sneezed out his front tooth and still didn’t have it back in class!). Monday night my floor-mates and I decided to have a nice dance party in the kitchen and I baked cookies. Tuesday I had a nice day off, went to the Farmer’s market on campus and did some research at the library. That night I went to see the musical Blood Brothers in Brighton because Accent (WashU’s London program) bought me a ticket. The musical was great and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place by the end. Unfortunately I had a terrible headache through the whole play but finally got rid of it during my powernap on the way back on the bus. Wednesday I didn’t have class so I went to tea at the Mock Turtle, this eclectic little tea shop in Brighton, with Rachel and Afua. Then I went back to my room with the intention of writing my paper but got distracted by putting my friends’ faces on singing elves online. Then Jena and I joined Amy and her mom in Brighton for dinner which was a lot of fun. Then Jena and I decided we really did need to get work done so we had a paper writing party in her room. Me, Amy and Jena at the bus stop
Thursday morning I woke up, packed and hopped on a train to Manchester to visit my Great Aunt. The trip went well and I was picked up at the Manchester train station that afternoon by Auntie Joy and her friend, Pam. They took me on a driving tour of the city (we saw the Manchester United stadium!) and then to the big shopping center in the area, the Trafford Centre. We walked around there for a bit, saw Santa’s singing bears, and snuck in Santa’s grotto. All the places where you sit on Santa’s lap are called grottos in England. Then Auntie Joy bought me some Krispie Kreme doughnuts and Pam drove us back to Auntie Joy’s house. Auntie Joy let me sit in her special reclining chair and made me relax while she fixed us a yummy dinner of chicken and potatoes. And of course there was dessert: ice cream and strawberries! Her neighbors came over to say hi and then they took me to this really cool place called The Chill Factor, which was an indoor snow slope. It was really cool (literally and figuratively!). Then we went shopping at Asda (their Walmart) and I saw my first Costco in England and took pictures for my mom. Auntie Joy and I then called my parents that night just to say hi and then we went to bed. At the indoor snow slope
Friday morning I was cooked eggs on toast for breakfast and then we watched a little TV together until Pam came to pick us up again. She drove us into the City Centre and we walked around there and they showed me all the sights. Auntie Joy hadn’t been into Manchester for years so she didn’t recognize a lot of the modern stuff but still remembered all the places she had been when she was younger. We had tea (I had hot chocolate) at a fancy department store and then went to tour Manchester Cathedral (where my great great granddad had been married). Auntie Joy was disappointed at the inside of the cathedral and I agreed that I had seen prettier. We then went back toward Auntie Joy’s house but drove so that I could see the house where my Auntie Joy and grandma had grown up and Flixton House, the place where my grandma and grandpa met. Auntie Joy then made me eat a snack before her young neighbor, John, took me out for Chinese and to a pub for a drink. I didn’t want to worry Auntie Joy, so we didn’t stay out too late. Auntie Joy's house, with her friend the cat waiting to be let inside
Saturday Auntie Joy cooked me scrambled eggs and toast and we watched Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman together. Then Pam came over again to take my back to the train station, loaded down with even more food from Auntie Joy. I didn’t have any problems getting back to Falmer, and never went hungry! Saturday night was very low key- I unpacked and Amy and I booked a trip to Ireland for Thanksgiving weekend and then watched a movie. Overall, my trip to Manchester was one of the nicest I’ve had so far- I was very much spoiled and am thankful for having such a great Great Aunt!!

Me and Auntie Joy at the Manchester train station

Monday, November 9, 2009

Oxford and Cadbury World (Chocolate Frogs)

I had a pretty relaxing day on Friday, finished my paper and went up to London where I stayed the night with another girl from WashU because we had to get up early on Saturday to meet up with Angie for our tour of Oxford. We had our own little bus for the five WashU students going on the tour and drove the under two hour trip to Blenhiem Palace. This great big house is where Winston Churchill was born. It was gorgeous and had the nicest library (Beauty and the Beast style). We then took this little train through the grounds to the “Pleasure Gardens” where we attempted the second largest hedge maze in England. We got stopped by a giant puddle and a time constraint but had a good time anyway. We then walked back to our bus and rode the short trip to Oxford. We were on our own for lunch, so we found this cute outdoor French market and had brie and a baguette for lunch! Then Angie showed us all the highlights of Oxford. We saw the pubs where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used to hang out together and Lewis Carroll’s sheep shop from Alice in Wonderland. We then toured Christ College and saw the Great Hall featured in the Harry Potter movies! I stayed overnight in Oxford with a friend from WashU and the next morning, we hopped on a train to Bournville, home of Cadbury World, the original Cadbury factory! We met up with Erik, my dance teacher’s son, and a friend of his to tour the factory. We got three free candy bars and a cup of melted chocolate (we could pick a topping to put in it so I put some Jelly Babies in there). We saw where they package the candy and learned all about the history of Cadbury. We even rode a really creepy ride, tried to understand the complex children’s games on the playground and browsed the world’s largest Cadbury candy store! Then Steve and I headed back to Oxford where I had to hop on a train back to Falmer. It was a pretty awesome day, even if I did spend half of it on trains!

Burning effigies instead of pumpkins

Apologies for being so behind in my blog updates! Halloween wasn’t too big of a deal here and there was no free candy. I did managed to get off my sickbed and make an appearance at a party at one of my American friend’s flats, dressed as a cereal killer. The rest of the week was spent recuperating and always managing to go to bed later than intended. I spend a lot of time hanging out, watching YouTube videos with my floormates. By Wednesday night I was feeling a lot better and went to a 3OH!3 concert in Brighton with some friends. 3OH!3 is an American band from Colorado, and it was a lot of fun to see the crazy British fans. Also, the band is insane so the concert was great. It was one of the American’s 21st birthdays so we went to a pub after the concert but it was pretty low-key. Wednesday and Thursday I had plans to write my paper which was due on Monday, but instead of locking myself in the library, I went to two different Brighton coffee shops with two different friends, Jena and Nick. There might have been milkshakes involved on Wednesday as well. Coffee shops are quite an enjoyable place to write a paper, especially when you cannot connect to the internet and get distracted.

Thursday was Guy Fawkes Day, so a few friends and I went to the Lewes Bonfire night. Lewes is one train stop away from Falmer (my train station) but the bonfire night is a pretty big affair, so it took about an hour to get onto the train. The town itself was jam packed with people but we managed to follow the crowd and squeeze ourselves in along the parade route. I bought some hot chocolate (it was really cold out) and a toffee apple (not a caramel apple- it was actually so hard and I had to put it in my pocket for later) and we watched the parade. Turns out the British are all pyromaniacs and certifiably insane when it comes to Guy Fawkes Day. The entire parade was people holding burning things in the air, creating explosives, burning effigies, and burning giant carts of wood while rolling them down the street. It was almost frightening, especially with the fire being so close and the constant explosions. I realized this sort of celebration would never be allowed in the US because it’s too close to being a riot. After the majority of this long parade of burning objects, we headed over to the bonfire. There were carnival snacks and everything set up in this big field behind Tesco where a gazillion people gathered to watch a giant stack of wood set alight and then fireworks go off behind it. It was even more insane than the concert! Near the end of the fireworks display, we powerwalked back to the train station and managed to get back to Falmer pretty quickly.

video