Friday, April 13, 2012

Easter Holidays in the UK

Sorry for taking so long to post. If you recall, I went to Stockholm a few weeks back. I saw a museum with a giant boat that sank on its maiden voyage. I also met two Americans, two English girls, and an Australian and talked to them at the same time. 3 types of "English" being spoken at once! That was neat, and I had a great time, but other than that there isn't much to say.

From March 31st to April 9th I was touring the UK. Our first stop was London which was beautiful. The first night we explored Greenwich (an area outside of the city center where our hostel was) by foot. We found this DEEP staircase that went down to a foot tunnel under the River Thames. That was pretty sketch..but we found the old Naval College which was beautiful. We also passed a grocery store and I started my search for Hot Pockets (wikipedia says they are sold in the UK. I was determined to find them!) The next day we saw the major tourist locations such as Buckingham Palace, Parliament and Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower of London, etc. It was amazing! I ate fish and chips from a greasy stand outside the Tower of London, I saw the Crown Jewels and imagined Moriarty from the BBC show Sherlock breaking in and dancing in them, I bought amazing sunglasses with the UK Flag design on the lenses, and much more. Towards the end of our trip we passed a guy doing some quick but impressive paintings in the entrance to the Underground (their subway system). After walking about 100 feet we decided to turn around and go back and look. They were 10 pounds (16 dollars each) and there were three of us, so I asked if we could buy 3 for 25 pounds. He agreed! The neat thing is that each painting was different, they were all scenes of London but all were different. Definitely my favorite souvenir of the trip :D

We were supposed to go to Ireland from London, but we didn't really plan our traveling ahead of time. "Oh, we can figure it out when we get there". But then when we tried to figure it out "oh, you mean that Ireland isn't connected to the rest of the UK and we'd have to spend an entire day to get there by bus/train and FERRY?" Yeah, American's are bad at we decided to go to Cardiff, Wales instead. Best accidental decision ever. In Cardiff I found out there was a 4 hour tour of locations used for filming in my favorite show (well, tied with Supernatural P) Doctor Who for only 20 pounds (about 32 dollars). Four hours of talking about, learning about, and SEEING places that I love from my favorite show with people who share my enthusiasm? Priceless. I met a great English family that was visiting. The tour was the christmas present to their daughters. I reenacted some scenes and poses with the oldest daughter, Hannah (she was a Ginger like the character in the show :D). We also talked about their terrible school uniforms, how yellow school buses don't exist in the UK so they rent them for Prom, and other things. She informed me on facebook later that her mom wants to adopt me. I probably couldn't The tour guide was a really quirky but nice guy who has been an extra in 6 episodes of the show and had some great and embarrassing "fangirl" moments with David Tennant. But it gets better. We stopped at Amy Pond's house (she is a character in the show) and the "real" person that lives there told our guide that he had been warned they were filming there the next day. He only told me and the English family and we made plans to meet up the next day. So the next day we met up and walked back to Amy's house and saw them film! Karen Gillan walked by and waved and say Hi to us, and I even met her obviously gay flatmate who had come with her to watch. I asked him if she was a good flatmate, if she did her dishes and didn't leave her laundry around and he said yes, she was the best. Then I asked to take a picture with him and I probably weirded him out, but he said yes :D So I took plenty of pictures and even filmed a scene that showed two of the beloved characters (a married couple) fighting. I put the video on youtube and shared it on tumblr and it got picked up by a Doctor Who blog and now it has over 16,000 views :-)

Aside from the Doctor Who stuff, I toured Cardiff Castle which is a beautiful castle in the middle of the city. It is surreal to see that sort of structure in the middle of a city! At night Nikki, Danni and I went to O'Neil's, a chain Irish Pub place that had a deal: 2 meals for pounds (normal meals were 6.50, so for just a little more you could eat two!). So the first night I had fish and chips for one meal and "gammon steak" with another. That was essentially a ham steak with eggs and it was all delicious! Then we bought a bottle of wine and watched some live music in O'Neil's by a local band called "The Smoking Aces". I requested some great songs like "If I Die Young" (the girl looked like the singer from The Band Perry), "Just a Kiss", etc, but they didn't know any :-( During the night a girl walked in and sat down alone and was watching. The curious thing was that she was writing things down while watching. The twins and I speculated about what it could be and we decided she was reviewing the band. During a break I went over and started to talk to her and found out that actually she was just writing down private thoughts, like a journal or diary. She was also a french girl with a masters in econ who was in town for an interview to get into a Journalism program so she could be a finance journalist. I hope it went well for her! The next night the twins and I ate at O'Neil's again. I ate a bbq chicken breast and a bbq burger with bacon. English bacon. English bacon is basically a thin ham steak and is as delicious as traditional bacon, but for different reasons. And again we watched the live music and again we failed at making requests :-/ but both nights the music they did play was great! I didn't take any pictures, but I should mention that the look and feel of this hostel was great. The lounge/bar on the main floor had seats plastered in stamps, or stickers, or interesting colors as well as some beds set up as couches/lounges.

And then we went to Edinburgh, Scotland to meet up with some friends of a friend. My floormate of two years, Zane, studied in Edinburgh this past fall semester and most of his friends were studying there for a year. One of them was going on holiday and was kind enough to let us stay in his room! What a nice guy. Another of his friends, a Spaniard named Fernando, gave us the best guided tour of a city that I have ever been on! He knew so much information about everywhere that we went that I almost didn't believe him! It makes me feel bad about the College of Engineering tours I give :-/ That night we met up with even more Spaniards to go out and party for the only night over break. In Odense, Spaniards tend to stick together so I thought it made me chuckle to see that they do the same in Edinburgh. And, just like in Odense, they are some of the nicest and most fun people you could possibly meet! One of the girls did premium make up jobs for the other girls and then we went out to a super neat club called Espionage. It had multiple floors, each with it's own bar and I think slightly different music (though, my memory can't be fully trusted...). The next day we were taken to "Arthur's Seat", an extinct volcano literally just across the street from the residence hall we were staying in. It isn't super tall, but it is tall enough. And IN town. So. Cool.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned my search for Hot Pockets and then haven't said anything since. Because wikipedia is a liar and there are no goddamn hot pockets anywhere! There were poptarts and they were bloody expensive, but no hot pockets. :-/ O well, it was a pretty great (and expensive) trip, but well worth it all!!

oh, ps: American money is ugly and boring compared to European money. Seriously. look at the picture below for how awesome the coins in the UK are!!

p.p.s: i accidentally put the captions ABOVE the pictures this time. I hope it makes sense :P

Tower Bridge in London

Westminster Abbey

Me, rocking my sweet souvenir shades, with Big Ben in the background (Big Ben is actually the bell inside, but whatever)

The center keep (surrounded by a moat) in Cardiff Castle

Amy and Rory Pond (aka Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill) outside "their" house filming :D

My British family and our tour guide, Matt

My fish and chips meal and gammon steak meal, as well as a bacon burger, irish stew, and ham and bacon salad. We ate every bite.

The ceiling of a room in Cardiff Castle. Awesome, right?

I failed to mention this, but the street sweepers in Cardiff went around seriously every 30 minutes or so. It was insane. There was always one right outside the hostel cleaning. All day, every day.

Faggots are meat things made from a bunch of disarded pig parts. Apparently they like them in Wales.

Us sitting upon "Artur's Seat" in Edinburgh (where the rest of the picture are)