Tuesday, December 25

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone! I am having a good time doing this holiday away from home thing English style! Yesterday, Christmas eve, I took the kids ice skating at the tower of London which was really cool. Things have been crazy and although I have been excited for Christmas, I am also excited for all the stress and hype to be over! I also have a little som'n som'n for all of you. Remember waaaay back when I promised an amazing music video produced by yours truely starring the munchkins? WELL. It is ready. Yep, just in time for Christmas! It was a gift from the kids and me to Sarah and Terry. Now it's not really that "Christmas-y" cause originally it was just us messing around to a song that few people have heard. But it turned into a Christmas gift, and the both loved it! There are a few things you can look out for in this video. One being the park, which is by the house that provides stunning views of the area and is just so beautiful. Secondly there is the Horse-Dog that attacks Callum while he is trying to do a football scene, thirdly the monkey bars Gemma broke her wrist on, and last there is some footage of us in yesterday in London near the end. Hope you like it-



Saturday, December 22

Paris Continued

Finally in a timely fashion! Here is that video I promised last blog. It is a compilation of all the video I took along with (most) all of my pictures. I also had to throw a song in--couldn't resist. It's not even a christmas song, but it is one of my favorites (If you have seen Enchanted you know what I mean!).


I am also uploading some more pictures of Marie Antoinette's gardens, as requested by my Dad. It was definitely a highlight of my trip!

Wednesday, December 19

Se La Vie!

Whew! So in my last blog post...2 weeks ago... I think I said something about posting the next day, yada yada yada. Everyone who believed that when they read it raise your hand. HAH. Your hand didn't go up. It's ok, I have been a little bit of a blog-slacker lately- and it's time to catch up and share some of what I have been up to! First, the event that overshadows all other events: Paris. It's true, I couldn't find anyone to go with me, so I went to the city of lights by myself! And you know what? I wouldn't have had it any other way (ok I would have loved for a family member or English hottie to accompany me, but you know what I am saying). Lets start from the very beginning, each day has a title to help me keep them straight!

Friday- Oh Boy!
I arrived in Paris about...2:30 in the afternoon, and headed up to the 18th district of Paris where I booked my stay in my very first Hostel. Supposedly it was easy to find, but as soon as I stepped out of the Metro I was twisted and couldn't figure out where in the crud I was. Fortunately, a nice (cute) chap saw the look on my face (probably a mixture of 'I-am-gonna-cry' and 'I just ate 3 tins of baked beans') as I looked down at the map, and then up squinting at the street corners looking for posted signs. He stopped and asked if I needed help (in english, cause obviously I was foreign) and offered me assistance. Then, he just kept talking. Chat Chat Chat... we stood there and talked for a good 15-20 minutes with breif exclamations every 5 of "I just Love Americans!" Then he asked me out for a drink and offered to show me around the city. He gave me his business card and told me to call him once I got my things dropped off at my Hostel...uh huh. Right. Even though it probably would have been fine, and he was really nice (and cute) I could here this little jabbering in the back of my head that sounded and awful lot like my father going into detail of all the bad things that could happen. Anyways, I got a souvenir business card out of it. After that fun little encounter, I dropped my stuff on and headed over to the Eiffel Tower. Yes, I did go to this famous monument last time I was there with my parents, but we only went to the second level...and I had to go to the top! So, to the top I went, and it was great! The views were lovely, and even though I had icicles growing out of my nose after 3 minutes of standing at the top, it was worth it!

After going up the Eiffel Tower, I really wanted to see it light up and sparkle like it does on the top of the hour, every hour. According to Rick Steves, its good to walk to the end of the Champs De Mars to see the Tower. so as I was walking the reasonably well crowded walkway to the end of the road I was stopped by another guy, who-to make a long story short- ended up asking me out for a drink and offered to show me the city. I made up a pretty darn good story about meeting up with the people I was here with blah blah blah so I couldn't do anything. But this one wasn't taking no for an answer, he made me promise to call him at 10:00am the next morning and wrote his phone number on my hand. I left him with a very convincing "see ya tomorrow" as he waved goodbye and flashed an insanely cheesy smile- like you would give a monster-child you just spent the night babysitting and you can't wait to get out of their sight, but you smile cause the little twerp's mother is standing there believing her child is flawless.

Once I walked the whole length of the Champs De Mars I decided I was terribly hungry, so I grabbed a crepe at the crepe stand there, and headed on my way when I was stopped by a guy selling souvenir Eiffel Towers- we talked for about 10 minutes and he ended up giving me a free Eiffel tower that lights up and everything. Then, for the third time in one night, he asked me out for a drink. I quickly explained how I was meeting my boyfriend for dinner because he just got off work and I didn't want to be late.... and off I went. After that -yes, there is more- I was walking along and this guy asked me if he could draw my picture. I said no. He said it was free, I said no. We argued for a minute or two and finally I gave in and said he could draw me here- and he had better make it snappy. So 15 minutes later he was finished, and the portrait he showed me was absolutely, positively, the most hideous thing I have ever seen in my entire life. It made me look like a cross between a Sloth and a Platypus. When I told him I thought it wasn't very good he said he didn't have much time to perfect it. And in my mind I was thinking that no amount of work on earth or heaven could fix the face of the girl in this drawing!!! But of course I didn't say that out loud.... so I said I had to go and He just happened to be headed in the same direction as I was. Anyways, I will cut this down cause I spent a little bit of time with this one- but I had a really nice time, and he even held my hand as we walked down the Champs Elysees-kind of awkward, kind of not. So before it got too late I said I had to go, and I headed back to my Hostel. It was a really fun day!

This is my room at the Hostel. I think I did pretty well for myself! If anybody needs any hostel recommendations in Paris, let me know!

Saturday- Versailles

Mozart played on the organ in that Chapel.

A change of plans landed me on a day tour to Versailles, which was really great. I was in a small group of about 9 people with a private tour guide who was really passionate about the history and really knew her stuff! I got a fantastic history lesson, and I learned a lot about French history. I even had a really posh lunch in "little Venice" on the Versailles garden grounds, don't ask me what it was thought. I learned that in foreign countries you don't question what the food is- you just eat it.

The place where we ate in little Venice

Marie Antoinette's Gardens recently opened up at Versailles

The Dome of Love in the Gardens

Once I returned from Versailles I walked from the Louvre Museum to the Arc De Triomphe which is a little bit over 2 miles, and it was completely jam packed with people. This walk included the Louvre, Place De La Concorde, Jardin De Tuilleries, Champs Elysees, and Arc De Triomphe.

I admired the views and weaved my way in and out of the crowd, and I also picked up some chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Someone should have warned me that you aren't supposed to just pop the entire flippin' nut in your mouth- it might have saved me some embarrassment. I figured it out after the first nut though. Once I reached the end of the Champs Elysees I went to the top of the Arc De Triomphe to get a really impressive view of the city.

Once finished here, I really wanted to see Notre Dame all lit up at night, so I took the Metro over there and walked around a bit, and really enjoyed myself.

Sunday- At Least I went to A Church....

I woke up early sunday morning to go up to the Sacre Coer and watch the sunrise over Paris... It was really beautiful!

Then, I went to the Rodin Museum, which far surpassed my expectations! I absolutely loved it, and I would dare say that it is my favorite museum that I have been to in Paris. Even better then the Orsay or the Louvre. I say that for this reason- it was small, it was focused and educational, and it was spectacular. I was able to see everything in an hour and a half and be perfectly content- not feeling overwhelmed or "museumed out", i thought it was just right!

After the Rodin Museum, I went to the St. Sulpice Chapel where- agian, according to my friend Rick Steves, they have world-renouned organists playing at 11:35 in the morning on sundays. Supposedly they even play 5 organs at once! I also heard there was a Christmas fair over there, something that I was dying to see since it is one of those things that only happens at Christmas...and seriously, when am I ever coming back to Paris for Christmas?! So I did get distracted outside the Church as the Christmas fair for a little while- it didn't help that I spotted a crepe maker, because it only reminded me that i had not eaten all morning! So, 2 nutella crepes later I went into the church and listened to the Organist play. I was also pleasantly suprised to find a robotic nativity (sounds weird, was kind of cool thought) which I took some video of for you all to see. I actually took a lot of videos for you guys, but I haven't quite grouped them together yet so I will get that done in the next couple days and then post them up!

Once I had my fill of the fair and music, I realized that I had never been inside Notre Dame Cathedral, I have seen the outside several times, but never inside! So I made my way to the Quazzie's old stomping grounds and took my brief tour of the inside. (excluding the top- I was too tired to even think about trekking up those towers!) Following that I walked around Place De Concorde once more along with Jardin De Tuilleries, which was beautiful and crowded on a Sunday.

Unfortunately, my trip ended all to quickly and I was at Gare Du Nord boarding my Eurostar train back to London. I was sad to leave, but excited to write about it in my blog!

Sunday, December 2

It's begining to look a lot like Christmas

Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.
Charles Dickens

It is the oddest thing. Ever since I have been here in England, I have had this uncontrollable urge to read. For those of you who knew me in my pre-European years know that I would rather staple my fingers to a car and be dragged 100 miles in parachute pants than flip through the pages of a book for more than 5 minutes. Well all that has changed my friends, I go to the library several times a week simply because I love books. It is becoming an addiction and obsession, and I just can't get enough!

This weekend was particularly fantastic in light of my new hobby. I went to Leed's castle, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful castles in the world, and I attended the Charles Dickens Christmas Festival. First of all, the weather for the day was supposed to be dreadful, hurricane winds of up to 70 mph and constant rain--and I swear after that stinkin' Wales trip if another BUNAC "adventure" was wet windy and cold, I was not going. Luckily, the storm moved to Sunday and Saturday was absolutely beautiful.

First stop: Leeds Castle. It was amazing, and it could have been straight out of a fairy tale.

The grounds were one of the main reasons it was so incredible, just look at the Nessie imitation...You see, this saves me a trip to Loch Ness.

The grounds are well known for their fowl, especially a pair of albino peacocks (which I saw but didn't photograph...sorry folks) and black swans.

The whole structure of the castle was impressive, and like I said, the weather cooperated so I could get some nice pictures.

This is a very happy me outside the main portion of the castle

This is just one corner of the library inside Leeds, the books were all antique, old, and I was drooling just looking at them. I probably could have stayed in there forever. One day, when I make my fortune, I will have an old fashioned library like this one--and maybe I will let you tour it!

Also on the castle grounds we have a scientifically engineered maze, which--no matter how simple it may seem--was incredibly difficult and I was lost for longer than I would like to admit. It was all worth it though, because below the maze (the exit) was unlike anything I have ever seen before. Everything was intricately lined and decorated in sea shells, its hard to describe, so check out the pics and realize that everything you see is in a different color shell!

This one is a phoenix, in case you can't tell-it is a bit hard to see.

This was also on the castle grounds, I just want to meet the person who thought this was a good idea... no really, I do.

Now on to the Dickens Festival, which was defiantly a highlight! I have never been a part of anything like it before (I think I find myself saying that a lot these days) so it was an experience to remember! I took little bits of video to try and capture the feeling of what was going on- it doesn't quite do it justice- but it's not bad!

I guess it only fake snows here... but It's a nice effect!

There were so many people there, it was crazy!

So that pretty much covers my weekend, excluding only but a few things that I will write about later this week! In fact, I have every intention of writing tomorrow because my friend Marie, who has two amazing blogs, tagged me today--and since it is my first time being tagged by another blogger--I don't want to blow it by not following through on my tag. So look forward to that! And since you are looking, check out her blog which gets hits from all over the world, and was also featured in the Ensign. She is an amazing cook who has recipes that will make your tummy tingle! She also takes all her own pictures of the food she prepares, so this is the real deal guys, check it out--Marie's Food Blog, and Marie's other equally-as-good food blog. You won't be disappointed!

Saturday, November 24

Wet, Windy, Wales

As some of you know, this past weekend I took a horseback riding trip to Wales. This was a much anticipated weekend with my visa student group, and since I had never seen Wales, I was so excited to get that opportunity. The trip started off being delayed by almost 3 hours, for boring reasons I won't go into. So, late as we were, the journey to Wales began. Our first stop on the road was Chepstow Castle, the oldest castle in England and Wales. It was almost exactly what I would picture a castle to look like.

After the castle, it was off to Tintern Abbey, which was my favorite destination of the entire trip! It was so beautiful, especially with the backdrop of autumn leaves. It reminded me of someplace from the storybooks. I can only imagine a time when this place was inhabited and not ruined! wow!

A short 20 minute walk up the hillside by Tintern Abbey lands you at an old ruined church. This isn't any church, however, it is a site where black magic was used and everyone inside caught fire and burned alive... very interesting. It was a very creepy place, and I would never go there alone, but with the group it was kinda fun!

Towards the end of the day we went to this cute little town called Hay-On-Wye, and I should have you know that it is the sister town to Timbuktu. They have a 1 pound bookshop with all new books, so I bought a couple goodies, it was really fantastic!

That night we stayed at a hostle, this being my first experience staying at one, I didn't really know what to expect. This particular hostle, was in the middle of nowhere, and it had the only nightclub within a 50 mile radius so people were literally bussed in from all the surrounding villages to party there. Because we stayed at the hostle, we got free admission to the night club, so since I can't resist anything free, I decided to give it a go. I do believe I am the only person ever to leave there sober. This club was a bit diffrent, really wild and crazy, and lots of underage drinking, and just all out madness. But I have to admit, I did enjoy it a tad, though the look on my face most of the time was something like this:

Because seriously guys, I saw some crazy stuff.

So Sunday we woke up and, much to my horror, it was raining. At this point it was only a drizzle, so we went to saddle em up and get out there like a native would no matter what the weather. I was thinking to myself, "yeah, I'm young, I can handle it. So what if I get a little wet." And that was where I couldn't be more wrong, I didn't get a little wet, I got drenched. I am talkin' I-just-jumped-into-a-pool-of-arctic-water-with-all-my-rain-gear wet, and this is only after the first hour. We were out there for three and a half miserable hours on whiny dis-heartened ponies. The wind was blowing at a thousand miles an hour and the rain kept mercilessly pouring on us. I was quite literally a popsicle. It came to about the 2nd hour when I thought that maybe I would actually die out here, I was looking around at things I could use to make a shelter should I choose to hop off my horse and refuse to continue another step. It was a nice idea, however, I was frozen stuck to the horse and it would get some prying to get me off. Finally hour 3 came, and I can quite honestly say I have never been that cold in my entire life. I was solid as stone with no feeling in any of my limbs, and only a faint heartbeat was left inside my chest. I think 5 more minutes out there and I would have drifted to a sleep and nobody would have noticed I was dead until I fell off my horse-which would have been a while because, like I said, I was stuck to it. Good thing we made it back to the stables just in time, when I chipped away the ice that was holding me to the beast I hopped off, and when I hit the ground I felt a little tiny tingle in my feet-which was good because it meant I still had some feeling left!

The Ponies in the Stables

This is a picture of my friend Charmaign (pictured with me above at the club). This is the only time I took my camera out because a) we had to stop b) it stopped pouring (it was still raining) and c) I could still move my hands enough at this point to reach my camera. Notice how wet the horse is, and my friend. It was bad.

After I changed into some semi dry clothes we got back on the coach, and only then did I take a picture of the landscape. Note that it had stopped raining at this time, and about 5 minutes after I took the photo it started to snow.

The trip back was just as bad. The coach was leaking water on me, and only on me from the roof. If the coach had not been pack full I might have changed seats. Instead I was left shivering with water dripping on me. Then, the windscreen wipers stopped working on the bus, so we had to stop and wait for the train to come-which was delayed. By the time I got to my London station where I would catch the train home I found out that no trains were leaving the station that day, and I had to wait for the next shuttle train to another station. 20 minutes later I hopped on the shuttle. 5 minutes later I boarded the train for home which was, you guessed it, delayed. So 45 minutes later we left London, and the trip that was supposed to have me home by 9:30 had me home at 12:30-wet, shivering cold, and frustrated. All of those images of me racing through the Welsh countryside with the (light) wind in my hair and sunshine on my face had disappeared long ago. I crawled into bed with 2 heaters on full blast in my room, shivered for another hour and finally got to sleep.

And I guess that is what I get for planning a trip on a Sunday. Never Again!