Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Meanwhile, in Norwich...

All right, so not that I've finished up recounting my Winter Break adventures, it's time to get back to more day to day business.

So, on Sunday, Jan. 11, I returned to Norwich. It was almost as if I had never left, which I find both comforting and disturbing. Walking back up to the Village, I sort of felt like my travels hadn't really happened. I was worried that the memories would start to fade as I got back into the swing of school life. Thank God for Photobucket and this blog. I go back and look at pictures every so often. It helps.

This semester I'm taking three classes at UEA.
I have Mondays free, which is wonderful. On Tuesdays, I have Performance: French Language and Theatre. I wasn't sure what to expect when I signed up for it, but I needed to take a French class over here in order to have enough classes for my minor. What I've found so far is that it's basically a drama class taught in French and using French texts. I'm glad that I did drama in high school, because I'm not finding it completely foreign. We've only had three classes thus far, but I'm really enjoying it. Our instructor, Dani, this 50-some, feisty, chain-smoking, semi-stereotypical French woman who is thoroughly entertaining. I'm the only non-British student in the class, but everyone is very nice. There's a lot of...hands on activity, so we're learning to get comfortable with each other.
What I really hope this class will help me with is French speaking. I find that I can read and write well enough. For the most part, I can understand about 80% of what is said to me. But I just can't think fast enough in French to get a sentence out. I can't speak terribly well. I find this particularly frustrating because I've been taking French since I was 5 years old! I was just never forced to practice much until I got to college. This class will hopefully help me with my pronunciation and confidence. And I'm going to make Matt speak to me in French when we're together from now on. If he gets to force me to speak English to him, than I can do the same with French.

I have Wednesdays free. Thursdays I have Medieval Arthurian Traditions. I've only had one class so far (I skipped the first week. I'll explain later.) but it seems like it will be a good class. I'm not entirely sure what to expect from it, but the work load seems manageable and the texts look interesting. It's strange, because the seminar is in the same room as we used for Shakespeare's Moment last semester, with five of the same people. When I went last week, I sort of found that I didn't want to talk about King Arthur. I wanted to talk about Shakespeare.
Our instructor is a very nice, enthusiastic Irish woman named Karen Smyth. She was one of the lecturers for my Medieval Writing lecture last semester. She gave the lectures on Hoccleve, which were deathly boring. She seems much better in a seminar setting. I'm really hoping that all the medieval literature I'm studying this year will come in handy, since I'm leaning more and more heavily on the idea of researching Thomas Chatterton for my senior thesis. I haven't actually read any of his poetry yet. I really should, since Chad was wonderful and found me a book of his Selected Poems for Christmas. Chatterton just has such an interesting story. I think I'd like to spend a semester researching him.
On Friday mornings I have Creative Writing: Prose Fiction. Again, I've only been to one class. When I went last week, I felt really awkward because it seemed like I missed a lot the first week. Hopefully I'll feel better this Friday, now that I've caught up. But, honestly, I've realized something. I don't really like creative writing classes. I know they're helpful. I know I need to practice in order to improve. I know it's good to have a class full of people to workshop a draft. But I hate doing exercises that don't lead me anywhere. Then again, I know that the idea is to spark creativity. It's just a complicated sort of feeling. Whatever.

So, the reason I didn't go to my first Medieval Arthurian Legends or Creative Writing classes is that, on the first Thursday and Friday we were back, Prof. Rudy scheduled an overnight trip to London for a series of meetings. We left Thursday at noon. First stop was the US Embassy for a meeting with some PR representatives to talk about how the US Embassy works to promote and explain American culture to the UK, and then British culture back to America. Then we went to Chatham House to sit in on a press conference with the US Ambassador. He's a bit of an idiot, although I'm sure in his position it's best to just avoid answering every question.
From there we went to the Arran House. Even though I had just left the Arran that Sunday, it still felt good to be back. I was even in the same room I had shared with Alex and Erica! In the evening, Chris and I went to Planet Organic to grab some dinner to bring back to the hotel. Cold vegetable curry is actually very good. Then Chris, Katie, Lauren Martin, Jen, Alana, and I met Katie's friend at Goodge St. Station and walked over toward Leicester Square to find a pub and get a drink.
I had a bit of trouble concentrating on this excursion. I had found out Wednesday night that my grandfather had passed away. Jewish custom says that the body must be buried as soon as possible, so the funeral was going on right while I was in the middle of all the meetings. I had cried when I first got my mom's email, and had felt a bit...heavy since then, but the meetings had kept me so busy that I really didn't have much time to dwell on it. I still haven't dwelt on it much. I suppose it's for the best. I fought back tears while we were at the pub, because I knew that the funeral would have just finished. Chris was very helpful and comforting. At one point I stepped out to call my parents. They were driving back to my grandmother's house in New Jersey from Long Island, where the funeral had taken place. I spoke with my cousin for a second, and said a quick hello to my parents. I didn't have much credit on my phone, so I couldn't talk for long. I just wanted to check in.
I Skyped with my parents later that week. I asked them about the funeral. I wanted to to hear that it had been a lovely service, with lots of fond memories shared. Apparently the entire thing had been arranged by my grandfather's children (My grandmother was his second wife. They married when I was 3). They hadn't consulted my grandmother on anything, didn't mention her during the service, and didn't give anyone from my side of the family a chance to say anything. The entire service had taken place at the gravesite. It was freezing cold. Grandpa's children filled in the grave by hand. Personally, I think this was a nice gesture, but apparently not in 7 degree weather. When everyone got back to my grandmother's house, my grandfather's children wanted to start rifling through his papers, attempted to steal family photos from my grandmother, and tried to stick her with the bill for the entire funeral. My grandfather was always the sweetest man. He died a week before his 94th birthday and had been in and out of hospitals for a while, but he was still walking until this most recent visit. Up until the last couple of years he had been going on walks for daily exercise. He used to go to current events discussion groups in his retirement community. He always read the newspaper and was up to date on what was going on in the world. He would tell the same stories over and over, but I loved hearing them. I can't even imagine how it must have felt, seeing all he had seen in his lifetime. He was born before the average household had a radio. He lived in New York City through the Great Depression, was drafted into WWII, saw man walk on the moon, lived through the computer and internet age. He and my grandmother traveled a lot during his retirement. He never had an unkind word to say about anyone. And to know how unkindly he was treated in his death made me so angry.

Moving on.
We slept over at the Arran House on Thursday night. On Friday we got up, ate breakfast and had a meeting with a manager from the UK Foreign Office. They served us tea and cakes in the Locarno Room, the beautifully decorated room where the Treaty of Locarno was signed (the treaty that basically allowed Germany to invade Poland). We talked about UK foreign policy. It was a really interesting meeting.
From there we went to Canary Wharf, one of the major financial districts of London, for a lunch meeting with the CEO of Barclays Wealth at the Barclays Bank headquarters. I'll admit that the economic discussion was a bit over my head, but the lunch was a fantastic gourmet buffet. And they gave us little toys, like a nifty USB picture-storer device and a really great pen.

Then we went back to Norwich.
Since then, what noteworthy things have I done? Chad and I joined LitSoc for its Fairy Tale Pub Crawl. He went as a hobbit and I went as Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Oh! And I finally got my LitSoc sweatshirt. It's quite comfortable.
I've been to Circus at least twice so far. I was supposed to go last Wednesday, but I spent the entire day working on a paper for Prof. Rudalevige. I think all the Dickinson students did. It was easily the worst paper I've ever written. I was ashamed to send it in, but I figured a bad paper is better than no paper at all. I've never been so unhappy and so stressed about a paper. I was on the verge of tears. Though, most of my peers also admitted to writing substandard essays. I suppose none of us were in the mood so soon after winter break. The essay had to be emailed to Rudy by midnight, and I was working on it until 10pm. Circus normally starts around 8. I could have gone late, or just met my friends at the pub, but I wasn't in the mood to go out. My flatmates convinced me to come into the kitchen for a drink, and the six of us actually had a great time drinking and talking, playing games. It was the first time we had all hung out as a flat since we had gotten back, and one of the few times this entire year. We should do it more often. It's fun. They made me take my first shots (mixed shots, though, so they weren't as strong) and tried to get me drunk, since I never have been. I don't know. I'm just not interested. But I had a good time, regardless. It was a good way to break the horrible mood I had been in.

This past Monday night, Pawel and I went to see Underworld: Revenge of the Lycans. He invited me because he knows I like vampires, but I had never actually seen Underworld or Underworld: Evolution. So I prepped by watching them back to back on my computer the previous Friday afternoon. They're not very good. This newest one was passable. Mostly I like seeing the same guy who plays Tony Blair in The Queen play Lucien, the badass werewolf leader.
After the movie, Pawel and I went to the Forum for a cup of coffee (well, I had chai) and we talked for a while.

I suppose the most exciting thing to happen occured yesterday. Chad and I finished booking a trip to Spain and Morocco for the end of February. On Feb. 25 we're flying into Malaga, where his friend Chris is studying on the Dickinson abroad program. We're staying at this fantastic-looking hostel, and Chris has offered to show us around. We're there for two nights. Then, on Feb. 27, Chad, Chris, and I have booked spots on a 3 day/2 night tour around northern Morocco. We're staying up near the northern coast, so no Marrakesh or anything quite so well-known, but, still, I'm ridiculously excited. The tour seems like a good deal, too. 180 euros for the tourguide, two nights hotel, and meals. On Mar. 1 we head back to Malaga. Chad and I stay one more night at our hostel, and then we fly back to London on Mar. 2.

There are still a million places I want to go before I leave. I need to travel around England more. I particularly want to see the Lake District, Bristol, and Cornwall. I want to go back to Ireland. I want to see more of Wales. I still have to get to Scotland. I want to just take a weekend trip to Sweden. Matthieu has invited me to go home to Paris with him for a weekend. And I spent four hours online last night researching tours of Romania.

We have four weeks off for Spring Break, and then immediately after we go into a five week Exam Period. I'm taking all my classes "Coursework Only," which means that my grade is dependent on the essays I write during the semester, not on an exam. So I have an extra 5 weeks to travel. I'd love to take at least a week in Romania. Yes, this is my weird vampire fixation coming through. Unfortunately, all the tours that hit the spots I want to see are a bit cheesy, "Dracula Tours!" Normal Romania or Transylvania tours go to "Castle Dracula," which is actually Bran Castle, where Vlad the Impaler never lived. His actual castle is called Poenari, and only the cheesy tours go there. The cheesy ones also go to the monastery at Lake Snagov, where Vlad the Impaler is buried. Those are the two sights I most want to see. I found two tours that look amazing, but one list a bit...dubious (The website wasn't that impressive. Poor English grammar, although, that might just be because the guy who runs the tour is Italian and working in Romania...) That tour is only 375 Euro, though. A more credible-looking one was over 800. So...we'll see. I really, really want to go, though. I got a bit giddy last night looking them up.

Other than that, I can't think of anything else to relate. Tonight I have Circus again. Tomorrow is the LitSoc Games Night. There's a Burn on Saturday that I might go to. Sunday is Rudy's Superbowl party. Then, come Feb. 25, it's off to Malaga and Morocco!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Anarchy in the UK: Holyhead and London

Monday, Jan. 5 - In the wee hours of the morning, a very nice cab driver delivered a very tired Erica, Alex, and myself to The Boathouse Hotel. We arrive sometime around 1AM, and a very nice lady was at the door, holding it open and ushering us into her little establishment right near the water, although we were a bit too tired and it was a bit too dark to fully take in the landscape. The woman, who I later learned was named Sasha Howard, owner of the hotel, was possibly the nicest person on Earth. She asked quickly that I sign us in, but told us that we could take care of paying in the morning. She offered us tea and coffee, saying that there were kettles up in our rooms, but that she could make us a fresh pot down in the kitchen. Remember, we had just come from the Travelodge Castleknock, the most unhelpful hotel in the world, and so, tired and stunned by this unprecedented kindness, we sort of mumbled, "No thank you. I think we'll just head to bed." The woman helped me with my bag up a flight of stairs and, just as we were about to head into our rooms, she asked, "Oh, and what time would you like breakfast? It's served from 7 to 9:45. Is that too early? Too late?" Again, we sort of mumbled that 9:45 would be wonderful, thanked her profusely, and collapsed into our respective rooms. My room was amazingly cozy, the way you'd imagine rooms at a lake house or mountain cabin that you rent for a week in the summer. Despite how tired I was, it took me a while to fall asleep, but I've never been happier going to bed.

Tuesday, Jan. 6 - I woke up and remembered that I had died and gone to Heaven. It was a beautiful day, and the view out my window looked over the coastline and a rocky Irish Sea. Erica knocked on my door sometime after I had showered and dressed, and we both just sort of stared at each other, affirming the thought that, yes, this was Heaven. I met them downstairs in the breakfast room. Mrs. Howard came out and asked me what I wanted for breakfast, directed me towards the juices and milk on the bar counter, and then brought me out a breakfast that she had cooked herself. Alex and I played with the Howards' cat for a while. Alex was thrilled to see a cat. Eventually Mrs. Howard came out to make herself a cup of coffee and we talked about her work as an art teacher on a cruise ship, the hotel business, and Holyhead. We had to catch a train to London at 2, but she recommended that we take a walk around the neighborhood before we left, and offered that either she or her husband would drive us to the train station. Heaven.

After breakfast we went for a walk around the coast, came across some cats in an abandoned playground, mused that it was a playground for cats only, and went up on a hill by someone's horse paddocks. We pet the horses, traded "hello's" with some passers-by, watched an old woman stop to give carrots to the horses on her walk back from the supermarket, and took pictures of the gorgeous scenery, all the while repeating various incarnations of the phrase "We're in Heaven."

Holyhead seems to be a small, peaceful sort of coastal town. When I mention it to people back at UEA, they sort of scoff and say it's not all that interesting. Not a prime tourist destination in Wales. I can see how there isn't a lot to do, but it was lovely for a morning stroll. Around noon we headed back to the hotel. Mrs. Howard gave us all one last cup of tea as we waited for her husband to get ready to leave. Then Mr. Howard and his little grandson took us down to the train station, asking all the sorts of stereotypical questions that foreigners ask about Americans. In turn, though, he seemed like a stereotypical grumpy old Welshman, except that, according to him, he wasn't Welsh. He was originally Italian. I didn't see it, but I suppose he'd know best. We thanked him for the lift, told him to say goodbye to his wife for us, at which he commented, "I wish I could say goodbye to her!" and left.
Our train ride was mostly uneventful. It wasn't all that long, considering how we were going cross country. Our train was supposed to go straight into London Euston, but there had been some sort of accident along the way, so instead we had to get off and change trains at one point. The only thing that occured on this trip was that there were these two gossiping women and this one guy they had met on the platform who kept having the same conversation over and over again. It was really annoying. And then, on the second train into London, I sat right across from the two women, who continued to have the same conversation.
Around 7 we got into Euston Station and walked over the the Arran House. It felt so good to be back in London. I felt like I was home, back on my territory, doing a walk I had done a dozen times or more back during my first month in England. After checking in, we went up to our room, which was up four flights of stairs. I hadn't known that the Arran had that many floors, since my room had been in the basement. Anyway, we made a bag of pasta that we had bought in Belfast, ran into Katie and Sarah (and her boyfriend) from the Norwich program, and hung out in the room until we fell asleep.
Wednesday, Jan. 7 - We woke up and had breakfast. It was so nice to have an Arran House breakfast again! Then we walked over to the British Museum. We got fish and chips at the Museum Tavern, because they had a sale on certain menu items, stopped at a comic book store around the corner, and went to Sainsbury's to get ingredients for the night's dinner. I introduced Alex and Erica to elderflower water, which I hadn't had since London, and we bought more Jaffa Cakes. Erica also spend a good ten minutes debating whether or not to buy a bottle of wine. We did eventually get a very cheap bottle of rose.
When we got back to the Arran, we put the wine in the gutter outside our window to chill. It then became known as "gutter wine." We spent some time reading in our room. Eventually I got a call from Katie saying she had found cheap tickets to a show at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, and did we want to go? So around 6 we went to my beloved Goodge Street Station, fumbled with putting money on Oyster cards, and took the Tube down to Embankment to meet Katie at the theatre. We saw The Lost and Found Orchestra, from the creators of Stomp, which was really entertaining. Good choice, Katie. Eight pounds well spent.
After the show, we walked over toward the London Eye, and I found my playground! The same playground I had played on with Bonnie and her friends the summer I went to stay with her in London. The gate was closed but not locked, so we went in and I giddily started climbing the big rope castle while Alex, Erica, and Katie watched, amused and probably annoyed. We took pictures, played around, Katie and I had a swing contest, and eventually went back to the Arran.
Thursday, Jan. 8 - We woke up, ate breakfast spent the day out. I'm not entirely sure what we did this day. They all sort of started to run together. I think we spend the time after breakfast reading and just sort of staying in. Eventually I think I convinced people to get up. I'm pretty sure we went to the Sir John Soane Museum, which I thought Erica would like because it's just a random collection of artifacts that this one guy amassed in his house. I think she liked it, but we left the museum engaged in a heated debate about museum politics. I'm not sure what else we did that day. It might have been the day that we went to Trafalgar Square to see the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. We got lunch (falafel!) at a pub. At night we made dinner, ate it, and then remembered that we had a bottle of wine in the gutter. So I had a glass, Erica had one or two, and surprisingly Alex had most of it. Katie eventually came up, had a glass of gutter wine, and then convinced Erica and I to go out to the Marlborough Arms, the local pub, for a drink, but Alex staunchly refused. I was still on antibiotics, so I didn't want to drink too much, but after standing around watching Erica and Katie with their pints, I finally bought a Baileys. I don't think I had ever had straight Baileys before, but I find that I really enjoy it. Yay, something else I can drink.
Friday, Jan 9. - I'm pretty sure we spent the day at the Tate Britain, then decided to dash over to St. Paul's for Evensong, but got there right after it had finished. So, instead, we walked around the City. I basically dragged Alex and Erica all over, but I showed them the ruins of the Temple of Mithras, and I tried to show them the last remaining piece of the Roman London Bridge, but it was gone! Fiends! I finally found Bread Street, where Milton was born. Then I took them over towards Leadenhall Market to see the Lloyds HQ. We did a futuristic dystopia photoshoot, then went back to the Arran. At some point in the day I finally finished Shelley's The Last Man, which just might be one of my least favorite books ever, but I started the book Alex had bought me for Christmas, To Reign in Hell, a sci-fi interpretation of Satan's fall from Heaven. I finished it before we left London. It was interesting, different, but really good.
Saturday, Jan. 10 - We went back to the British Museum in the morning so that Erica could see the Sutton Hoo helmet, which she had missed our first time around. Alex stopped back in at the comic book store, we dropped stuff off at the Arran, got paninis at the patisserie, and went on to Goodge. At the Tube station, we watched a bunch of guys in Guy Fawkes masks protesting the Scientology Centre that was next to the station. Honestly, there are better things to protest. Then we went to the British Library to see the Gutenburg Bible and other wonders. It was fabulous, as always. One of Erica's friends from Bryn Athyn was in town, so we met up with her, got lunch at the Library's cafe, stopped in quickly at King's Cross to see Platform 9 3/4, and took the Tube out to Camden Market. Erica's friend led us specifically to a store called Cyberdog, which sells clothes that the Jetsons would be proud of. It was really, really cool, though, and I sort of regret not buying anything. We stopped at little hole in the wall place called Falafel King right across from the Tube stop because Alex and I wanted fresh falafel. We ate and went back to the Arran.
Sunday, Jan. 11 - I bid Alex and Erica an early morning adieu as they headed off for Sheffield. I had breakfast and found that Abby was staying there with her family and needed a travel buddy back to Norwich. So we took a series of Tubes, buses, trains, and cabs until we were finally back safe and sound at the Village.

Anarchy in the UK: Dublin

Ok, so Dublin's not actually the UK. Whatever.

Saturday, Jan. 3 - We got a bus down to Larne. We expected it to go straight to Belfast, since we hadn't had to switch buses on the way from Belfast, but we had to wait about half an hour at the Larne bus station. Oh well. There was an oddly nice young man, probably our age or younger, who told us we had to wait, where to get the next bus, and then when the bus actually got there, he helped us load our luggage. Then he was our only company on the back half of the bendy bus that took us back to Belfast. It was nice, but slightly odd. Other occurances on the ride? At some point we stopped for about ten minutes in some town to switch drivers. As we were waiting on the bus, this older gentleman came by, leading his pet goat by a chain. It was a tad unexpected, and kept us amused until the bus departed.

Once we got to Belfast, Erica and Alex ran to get in line for the bus to Dublin while I ran to the ticket counter to buy our tickets. I got the tickets right before Alex and Erica got to the bus door. Good timing. Then we embarked on the three hour bus ride down to Dublin. Basically I tried to read and sleep, but at some point my hypochondria kicked in and I was convinced that I couldn't talk. Honestly, though, I felt something wrong with my throat and had trouble talking for the next few hours. Not sure what it was, but it eventually went away. I had been ill since before I left for Istanbul, and I finally broke down and started taking my antibiotics while in Belfast.

Anyway, we got to the main bus station in Dublin. Alex found out where the bus to our hotel, the Travelodge Castleknock, was, but we ended up walking in circles around the bus station until he went back in, asked again, and realized that our bus left from O'Connell Street, about three blocks away. So we dragged our luggage up to O'Connell Street, and a very nice police officer helped us find our bus, count out exact change for the bus fare, and told the bus driver where we had to get off, since we didn't know where the stop for the Travelodge was.

Alex had said that the hotel advertised being only a couple of kilometers outside the city centre. And by a couple, they meant seven. So we were on the bus for about half an hour, and the bus driver didn't tell us where to get off, so based on our limited knowledge of the Dublin suburbs, we guessed. We saw the Travelodge sign on our right and got off at the next stop after that. It wasn't exactly close, and we had to cross a highway in order to get over towards the hotel. Then we checked in, got into our rooms, which were comfortable enough, but nothing special, and ate dinner at the Denny's-type restaurant next to the hotel. It was the only non-residential establishment nearby, and everyone who worked there looked like they hated their lives. Another early night. I think I watched National Treasure and read before going to bed.

Sunday, Jan. 4 - We woke up and ate handfuls of Frosties for breakfast (the same Frosties we had bought in Belfast). Then we set out to look for a closer bus stop than the one we had seen the previous night. But to use the Dublin buses, you need exact change, which we didn't have. Between the three of us, we had enough change for one one-way fare into the city centre. We asked at the hotel desk if they could give us change for a 5Euro bill, but the girl at the counter was thoroughly unhelpful. Then we went back to the Denny's-type place next door and asked if they could give us change, but, of course, they, too, were unhelpful. I asked some other travelers in the lobby of the hotel if they could break a 5, but none of them spoke English. Finally, desparing, we decided that I would take a bus into town, get change, and then come back for them. We headed off across the highway, back to the bus stop we had gotten off at the previous night, hoping maybe there would be a change machine. There wasn't. We despaired and cursed the unwholesome Dublin suburbs, and then decided to simply walk down the side of the highway toward Dublin until we came across something that looked like it could break a 5. The Dublin suburbs are not an attractive place. It was literally crappy, because at least once we had to step over dog droppings. Finally we saw a petrol station across the highway, darted across four lanes of traffic once again, and bought a couple things at the convenience store in order to have change. Then we went back across the highway, and waited at the nearest bus stop. Finally a bus came and we were on our way into Dublin.

We saw most of the main sights. Alex was a wonderful tour guide, remembering all the places he had been the last time he was in Dublin. We walked through Trinity College, but the Old Library wasn't open until noon, and the Book of Kells wasn't on display at all. So we walked over to the History and Archeology Museum, which wasn't open until 2. I'm not sure what we did in the meantime. At some point we walked through St. Stephen's Green, went to the Dublin Tourist Office, and walked to Grafton Street, Dublin's trendy shopping street. Then we went back to see Trinity's Old Library, which was amazing, as old libraries tend to be. From there we went to the Archeology Museum, which was a very good museum. I liked the exhibit on ritual sacrafice and bog bodies. We randomly ran into Erica's friend Tony from Durham. It was odd.

At some point we got bagels for lunch, which were delicious. Alex even admitted that they were a good choice. For some reason, there were a lot of bagel places in Dublin. This surprised me, since I was hard pressed to find a decent bagel anywhere in London or Norwich. We walked around some more.

All I really wanted to do in Dublin was go to a pub with live music. So we went over to Temple Bar, looked around, and found The Temple Bar, which boasted having live folk music later that night. But rather than be overcharged for pub food, we went to a fast food, takeout type place and ordered a pizza and curry fries. In a desperate move not to be British, the Irish say "fries" instead of "chips." I was skeptical at first, but curry sauce and cheese on fries is actually very good. Then we went to the pub, which was very crowded. Erica forced Alex to get something. So he and I each got a pint of Bulmers cider, and Erica got a Guinness. I'm not a fan of beer. Not even in Ireland. It was expensive, though. Six Euros for one pint! A good excuse not to drink in Ireland. I was on antibiotics, too, so I really shouldn't have been drinking anything, but I felt like I should have at least one pint in an Irish pub. We sat by the window and listened to the music, which was good. At one point Erica got a phone call from her mom, so she stepped outside. I caught Alex staring out the window at someone, and he told me he was watching this particular, somewhat dubious-looking guy who had been standing on the same street corner for the past fifteen minutes. I recognized him as the same guy I had seen pass by the window three times already. We spent the next half an hour coming up with stories about why he was waiting there. Eventually a woman came up to him, gestured like she had been held up in traffic or something, and then they left. He must have been waiting for over an hour.

After we had finished our drinks, we went back to O'Connell Street, making sure we had enough money for both the bus back that night and one back into town the next morning, and went back to Castleknock.

Monday, Jan. 4 - We woke up early, checked out, and waited at our new-found bus stop. We saw a bus approach, hailed it down, turned to pick up our bags, and by the time we had turned around the bus had left. Bastard. Eventually another one came by, but this time we were ready.

We got into town, rented lockers at the bus station, stored our bags, and went to walk around Christchurch and St. Patrick's Cathedrals. We were going to catch a ferry to Holyhead, Wales, later that night. Christchurch was interesting, but I didn't get the same sort of serene feeling that I usually get in cathedrals. Oh well. At St. Patrick's I randomly ran into Liza from the Norwich program. We hugged, I called Erica over, since they knew each other from DTG, and we took a couple of pictures before she left to go look around. We stayed there for a while, just sitting and looking. I think Erica fell asleep in one of the pews. When we got out of the cathedral the clouds in the sky had turned this incredible mixture of purple and pink, so we spent a good twenty minutes taking artistic pictures.

Then we went off to Grafton Street to find something to eat. Eventually we ended up at a mall on the end of Grafton Street, but not a normal mall. This one was very pretty and Victorian. Far nicer than an American mall. I called up Liza and she met us for dinner at the mall. We walked around a bit, and then she headed off back to her hostel, since it was getting dark and she was there alone. Erica, Alex, and I went back to the bus depot, got our bags, and got on the bus to the port. We were expecting a small car ferry, the kind of thing I once took across the Delaware. Instead, we were greeted with this enormous cruise ship! It was absolutely fantastic. We sat in one of several lounges, got a snack from the bar, and talked and took pictures for three hours while we sailed across the Irish Sea. We arrived in Holyhead around half past midnight, took a shuttle from the port to the station to collect our luggage, and then Alex, Erica, and I hailed a cab to take us to the most wonderful place on earth: The Boathouse Hotel.

Anarchy in the UK: Belfast and The Giant's Causeway

I landed in Belfast around 1:30pm and met Erica and Alex right outside of backage claim. It's a pretty small airport. It was really good to see them, even though I had seen Erica just a few weeks earlier in Durham. I think I've seen her more this past winter than I did last year! Ok, that's an exaggeration.

Alex has grown his hair out. It looks good. Don't worry, Erica. He's all yours.

We took a bus into the city center and walked to the Belfast International Youth Hostel. I had never stayed in a hostel before, and wasn't entirely sure what to expect. It was really nice, actually. Alex had booked me my own room, so for three nights I had a double room with my own bathroom to myself. I'm not sure how we managed that, but it was good. The whole set up reminded me of a college residence hall, so the transition from Best Western to hostel wasn't that great a shock. The rooms were clean, I had clean sheets, and, like I said, my own bathroom. I even had an green accent wall in my room, which Alex and Erica didn't have.

We sat around for a while and then went on a walk. We stopped in this cute used bookshop/cafe, and then headed out toward the Botanical Gardens. It would probably be gorgeous in the spring, but botanical gardens in the winter are a bit lackluster. The weather wasn't too cold, though, and it was a nice walk. They had a hot house that we stopped in for a while, and the humidity was a welcomed change from the dry, dry air I had experienced in Munich.

Belfast itself is a bit run down. You can tell that the economic downturn has hit Northern Ireland rather hard. It could also be that it was the New Year's season, so everything was closed and quiet. There's not terribly a lot to see. So after the gardens we stopped at a grocery store and bought bread, cheese, peanut butter, hummus, pitta, a box of Frosties cereal, Jaffa Cakes, and Penguin candy bars. A lovely dinner. I was only a couple days later that we realized there was a guest kitchen downstairs, and that we weren't allowed to eat in the rooms. Oops. So dinner that night consisted of a mixture of all of the aforementioned items. We talked about eating penguins, we might have read a bit, and then we went to bed around 10. A bunch of party hounds, us. But I did get Alex hooked on Jaffa Cakes. The night wasn't a complete waste.

Wednesday, Dec. 31 - New Year's Eve. We breakfasted on Frosties and bread with peanut butter, checked our email on the ridiculously expensive computers downstairs, and walked down to City Hall, stopping in at a Neo-gothic combination church and shopping mall called Spires Mall. At City Hall we got a bus to Cave Hill Park, a very large park just outside the city. Erica wanted to see the caves of Cave Hill, since they were carved by prehistoric inhabitants of Antrim, but they were quite a ways up in the park, so instead we contented ourselves to wander up to and around Belfast Castle, another Victorian Neo-gothic construction that was accented in a faded red paint so that the entire structure looked like a pink and purple Barbie castle. From the castle we walked up the hill a bit further through the muddy trails in the shockinly green landscape. It was the middle of winter, and Ireland is still 10 times greener than anywhere else I've ever been. It was rather...magical. Oh, and apparently if you're going to be in a park in Ireland, you have to have a dog. Everyone we passed in the park was walking a dog. Everyone.

We walked back down the hill, very tired and hungry, since we hadn't eaten since breakfast. We took the bus back to City Hall, and then walked back to the hostel. We had planned to go out that night to an Indian restaurant that was boasting a full Indian meal and Bollywood entertainment for New Year's, but Erica wasn't feeling well, so instead we spent the night sitting in my room at the hostel. Alex and I ran out to the sketchy Indian/kebab place across the street and we ate very greasy Indian food back in the room. Then Alex did dramatic dramatic readings from my copy of J.K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which was rather entertaining. At one point, Erica was laughing so hard that she ran into my bathroom and came out stating, "Alex, you just made me throw up in Shannyn's shower!" Even funnier was that, directly after the sentence Alex had been reading came "Mrs. Bloxam's tale has met the same response from generations of Wizarding children: uncontrollable retching..." This was so funny that we laughed for a good 10 minutes.

Around 10pm we were starting to get tired. Erica kept falling asleep. Alex silently continued to read The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and I read a bit from Mary Shelley's The Last Man, a book I had been wanting to read for a while, bought and started in Durham, and had not yet finished. I've finished it now. It was very disappointing. Eventually I fell asleep, too. Luckily, Erica and I both woke up shortly before midnight. My clock turned to 0:00. We shouted "Happy New Year!" Hugged, took pictures, and watched people shoot off fireworks all over the city. I called my parents to say Happy New Year. Then Pawel drunk dialed me from Poland to wish me a Happy New Year and insist that I was out drinking, even though I assured him that I had spent the last six hours sitting in my hostel room talking and reading. Around 1 Erica and Alex went to their room, and I went to bed. Not exactly the crazy New Year's antics I had expected, but, you know, I enjoyed it. I'm not a party person. I probably couldn't have asked for anything better.

Thursday, Jan. 1 - Again, I think the better part of the day was spent in the hostel. I know at some point we went back to Alex's bookstore so he could buy some books for a friend. Then I think we went back to walk around the Botanical Gardens again. Other than that, though, I don't think we did anything else. The afternoon found us eating bread and peanut butter, and reading up in the hostel's library. I was bored of The Last Man, so I picked up a book called Rasputin Speaks. I've always been fascinated by Rasputin. I read the first few pages, and it was actually really good, a fictional autobiography of Russia's mad monk. I continued reading it for the rest of the night, but only got about half way before we had to leave the next morning. I think a general rule for hostels is take a book/leave a book, but I didn't have any book I was willing to leave, so I just put Rasputin Speaks back in the library and decided to try and find a copy for myself somewhere else. I later found out that it only went through one edition back in 1941, and even Amazon only had one used copy. I assume they don't have any copies now, because I bought it.

Friday, Jan. 2 - We headed off to the bus station far earlier than I would have liked to get up and caught a bus to The Giant's Causeway. The ride was about three hours, twice as long as a direct drive, but this bus went up the Causeway Coastal Route, which follows the Antrim coast and is very pretty. Belfast and the other towns we passed through were, like I've said, a bit run down, but the countryside is beautiful. Lots of sheep, cows, and horses. I even saw a field of highland mountain cows at one point. We arrived at our bus stop sometime in the early afternoon, got off the bus, and realized that we were sort of in the middle of nowhere. According to Alex's confirmation letter, The Causeway Hotel, where we had rooms for the night, was in the nearby town of Bush Mills, but, according to a sign, Bush Mills was another 2 miles down the road. There were two buildings right near our bus stop, so Alex went to ask if they knew were are hotel was. He had gotten about half way to the buildings when he turned and came back, saying, "Guys, I think that's our hotel." Huzzah! So we checked in, lugged our bags up a set of narrow stairs, and settled into our rooms. Again, I had my own. It was a very nice room with a lovely bathroom and a beautiful view of the coast. One thing I love about all British hotels? They all have electric kettles and tea fixings. This hotel even gave us buscuits.

The entrance to the Causeway itself was a five minute walk from the hotel, so we embarked on our hike across the gorgeous coastline. Again, it was remarkably green and, as Erica noted, the grass looked "like a guinea pig." Don't ask. The Causeway's a bit difficult to describe in words, so instead I will direct you to pictures.
We walked to the extremities of the pathways. I'm not sure exactly how far it was, but it was far enough. There was a path up on top of the cliff. At first I told Erica and Alex to go on without me. I was very tired and I wasn't sure my legs could handle the very steep stairs. But, after waiting awkwardly for about twenty minutes for them to come back down, I slowly ascended the warn and slippery stone steps to meet Erica and Alex at the top. Then we walked back down the steps and trudged all the way back to the hotel. We changed and decided to splurge on a real meal at the hotel restaurant, since we hadn't really eaten real food in Belfast. We were directed to wait at a table in the bar and to order there while they got a table ready in the restaurant. Adjacent to the actual bar itself we saw people eating at cozy wooden tables, so we assumed that was the restaurant. No. It was just an extention of the bar. Once we had ordered and a waitress came to escort us to our table, we were taken to the complete other side of the hotel into a very fancy room where the tables had tablecloths, cloth napkins, and candles. We were the only people in the restaurant. It was rather intimidating. At one point the owner of the hotel came in to assure us that we weren't being exiled and insisted that, eventually, other patrons would join us in the restaurant. They did, eventually. I ordered salmon, which came on a bed of grilled cabbage. I'd never eaten cabbage before, but it was actually pretty good. Everything came with chips. At that point, it was the best food I'd ever eaten. We had a cup of tea, and then retired to our rooms. I know I watched something on TV that night. At one point I flipped to the Gaelic news channel. I'm not sure why, but the woman speaking didn't sound like she was speaking with any particular accent, so the Gaelic just sounded fake. But then again, I don't speak Gaelic, so I don't know.

The next morning we paid and headed down to catch a bus back to Belfast, where we would catch a bus to Dublin.

Highlights of Munich and Bavaria

All right. I finally have some time on my hands. So, to pick up where I left off:

On Saturday, Dec. 27, my dad, sister, and I spent the morning at the Yerebatan Cistern, then rejoined my mother and went to the airport to catch our flight to Munich. I can't actually seem to remember the flight, which only makes me think that it was really boring.

We got into Munich late that afternoon, took the metro from the airport (the Flughafen...sorry, I think German is funny) to Hauptbahnhof station in the center of Munich. And then we got lost. Mel and I got off on the opposite side of the metro train from Mom and Dad, and it was only after the train had left that I realized that you got out on the right if you wanted to leave the station, the left if you wanted to change to another train. So we ended up going the wrong way up the stairs, lugging enormous suitcases each, and got into the station. And we didn't see our parents. Then Mel recalled seeing another staircase on the right side of the platform, so we went back down (again, the wrong way) another staircase onto the right side of the platform, and our parents weren't there. We must have gone up and down at least two more sets of stairs before we decided to call Dad to see where exactly they were. We briefly mused that it didn't matter, since we had the map. Dad said that they, too, had ended up on the wrong floor of the station, and were also lost. "We're by the McDonald's," he tells us. So we wander around the main floor of the station until we see the shining beacon of the golden arches. Then we got a bit lost on the way to our Best Western, but eventually found it. Then Mel's and my key wouldn't work. I swear. None of us could open the door. So I went to tell the guy and the front desk. He opened the door in one try. Boy, did I feel stupid. We settled into our rooms and then went out to a pizza place around the corner. Thus ended night one in Munich.

Sunday, Dec. 28 - We woke up early to get breakfast before we had to meet our tour bus over by the train station. I've never seen such a big breakfast buffet. They had at least four hot dishes, an entire table devoted to tea, four different juice machines, an orange juice squeezer machine, about six types of breads or rolls, fruit, smoked salmon and other deli meats...there was more but I can't remember it all. It was incredible. So we ate and headed out to meet our bus for a tour of Bavarian Castles. The tour guide was...what might be decribed as a stereotypical German. He was very pushy and a bit condescending at times. His accent was slight, but it sort of added to the overall mood. Anyway, we drove on the Autobahn for about an hour and the Alps rose in the distance. I had never seen the Alps before. They're beautiful. We drove up into the mountains and went to Linderhof Palace, King Ludwig II's little mountain getaway. I completely underestimated how cold it would be in the mountains. Or, rather, I didn't think much about it at all. It was very cold. But the snow was beautiful. The palace was rather small for a palace, as was the intention, but it sort of made the ten minute wait out in the snow for a ten minute tour a bit of a let-down. Oh well. It was a nice house. With nice scenery. On the way down to the parking lot, I bought a pair of fluffy socks to wear under my boots. My feet were freezing.

From Linderhof we drove to Oberammergau, a small, typically Bavarian town in the mountains which is famous for putting on the Passion play every ten years. It used to be every year, to thank God for sparing the town during a bout of plague, but then they got lazy, apparently. The next play is next year, 2010, and they estimate that over 5 million people will come to this tiny town to see the play.
So Mom and I took a walk around town and looked at the painted houses and mused on how quaintly German it all was.

We then drove even further up to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, Ludwig's fairy tale castle tribute to Wagner. We stopped at the base of the mountain and ate lunch in the Hotel Muller. I had Kartoffelspatzl. Kartoffel is my favorite German word.
Then we began the half hour climb up the snow mountain road to get to the castle. It was cold. I was wearing fashion boots (thank God they didn't have high heels), we were all a bit tired, and Mom was recovering from pneumonia, so, needless to say, it was a long walk. Finally we arrived up at the castle, which is big and white and looks like a fairy tale castle. Again we waited for our tour number to be called, taking pictures and talking to other tourists. Unfortunately I couldn't take pictures of the interior of the castle, but let's just say it was a bit intense. Especially the room Ludwig had decorated to resemble an underground grotto. Let's just say it almost makes Disney look tame. But the colors were vibrant and the paintings were interesting. I wish the castle had been finished, but unfortunately Ludwig died before its completion, and the government basically decided it wasn't worth it to continue.

After Neuschwanstein, we trudged back down the hill to the bus, and attempted to sleep as our tourguide kept talking, even though he said that he would stop. So it goes.

We got back to Munich sometime in the late afternoon and decided to walk around Karlplatz, right near to where the bus dropped us off. There was a festive-looking ice skating rink decorated in big plastic polar bears, and lots of lights. We watched for a while, looked around, and then decided we were hungry. Unfortunately, the only thing open was a McDonald's. Mom and I couldn't eat there, since she's allergic to seafood and I'm a vegetarian, but they had a McCafe upstairs, so dinner consisted of hot chocolate and muffins. Why is it that McDonald's restaurants in Europe are so much fancier than they are in the States?

Monday, Dec. 29 -We got up, had breakfast, and spent the day walking around Munich. There's not a whole lot to do in Munich, especially when most things are closed for the holiday season. But we saw the Glockenspiel go off in Marienplatz, explored Fraunkirche, and took a look at the Hofbrauhaus. Then Mel and I decided we wanted to go off on our own, so we split ways with the parents. Basically we went shopping, although I didn't buy much. I'd been looking for a plain white turtleneck forever, and I found one that wasn't too expensive, so I'd say it was an excursion well-spent. We got hot chocolate at a cafe run by Italians who didn't speak English, so our lack of Italian and German was poignant. But it's not that hard to say "hot chocolate," so it all worked out. We walked around some more. Mel took pictures. I got really really tired for some reason. Around 6 we met my parents outside the Hofbrauhaus for dinner. I wanted to sit down in the beer hall, surrounded by drunk strangers like you're supposed to, but Mom wanted to find something quieter, so we went upstairs to the more restaurant-like atmosphere. They only took reservations, and we didn't have one, so we were advised to go back downstairs or wait an hour. I was content to go back downstairs, but Mom pouted and the guy let us have a table. We ordered beer, of course. Mel's first beer. I got the German equivalent of a shandy (beer and lemonade). It turns out I don't like them in England or Germany. I ordered potato soup and shared Mel's spatzel. We heard the oompa band on the way out, and made our way back to the hotel.

Tuesday, Dec. 30 - We got up, ate breakfast, took the subway out to the Flughafen, and I went off to check into my flight for Belfast while my family got on their flight home. It was really nice to see them, even if it was only for a few days. I felt really strange, leaving them in the airport knowing that I wouldn't see them for another six months. At least when I left for England I had another 20 some people to talk to and distract me. But walking through the airport at Munich, I was all alone.
The flight from Munich to Belfast was uneventful. I was at the gate really early, surrounded by people leaving on a flight to Abu Dhabi that left from the same gate. I got a snack and wandered around for a while. Then we borded. I got a window seat. Yay me. I always love looking out plane windows. It was really cool to see the Alps as we took off, and see the little brown and white Bavarian towns scattered across the landscape as we left Germany. It was remarkably clear all the way until we reached the English Channel. I could tell we'd made it to the Isles because the clouds started rolling in. But I made it to Belfast without incident. I'll leave that for my next post.

But first, some pictures, again to convince you to check out my Photobucket.

A view of Neuschwanstein from the base of the hill.
The oompa band at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm Back! And highlights of Istanbul

OK, first things first. I urge everyone to check out the pictures from my trip. They'll probably give you a better sense of my travels than anything I can say here.

Here's a taste, and hopefully it will encourage you to waste some time and look at the rest of them.

Right, that having been said, I suppose I should update. If you've been reading my blog, then you know that I have quite the adventure this past break.

After my trip to Durham to visit Erica, I basically sat around in my room for three days. On Sunday afternoon I went into town to meet Stephen and Pawel. We had hot cocoa in front of the Forum and then I went with them to Tesco to pick up some vodka and munchies for a party they were going to later that night. They were hung over all day, and this was the third consecutive night of drinking they had planned. I guess that's what it means to be Polish. Just kidding. But I was really glad to see them before I left.

On Monday, Dec. 22, around noon, I left with my enormous rolling duffle bag on a train for London, dragged my luggage through the Tube all the way to Heathrow, and got a bus over to the Holiday Inn for the night. I spent the rest of the night in the hotel, ate dinner in the hotel restaurant, and watched some TV. I think The Brothers Grimm was on. I had forgotten how much I hated that movie. In the morning I got up early, took a taxi to Heathrow, and got on a plane to Istanbul. I have to say, I'm not impressed with British Airways.

I landed in Istanbul about 3:15 local time, got my visa (basically a $20 postage stamp) and met my parents after going through customs. It was weird seeing them after so much time, because it didn't feel like it had been that long, thanks to Skype. It was just physically being with them. And then the family dynamics started coming into play once we were all together again. I had sort of forgotten how we all interact when together.
We took a shuttle to our hotel in Sultanahmet. Now, I'll preface this by saying that we were almost excusively in the touristy part of the city, but from what I saw, Istanbul is a really lovely, clean city. My sister remarked that it felt like walking through the Disney Epcot Morocco exhibit, and I sort of agree. Streets were clean and cobblestoned, there were Christmas lights everywhere (not that Turkey, being a Muslim country, celebrates Christmas, but they know where to hit the tourists), and music was playing from every shop and restaurant. Our hotel was amazing. We had a wonderful (although small) room with a balcony that overlooked the Hagia Sophia. Couldn't have asked for a better view. And, although it was annoying at 6AM, we could hear the call to prayer coming from the Blue Moque.
Istanbul really is where East meets West. Just different enough to know you're not in the West anymore, but there is so much that is familiar, that it's not uncomfortable. Almost everyone spoke English, which was very helpful, although somewhat regrettable, since I didn't have to pick up any Turkish. I did use "Teshekur ederim" quite often, which means "Thank you." A nice and patient waiter at one restaurant taught us to say it "Tea, sugar, a dream." I'm relatively good with languages, but pronunciation is not my strongest skill.
I can't possibly recount everything that happened, but I'll mention the highlights. Our first night, we wandered around our immediate neighborhood, went to dinner, and got pulled into this carpet shop and were offered apple tea (which is AMAZING) while this guy tried to sell my parents Turkish rugs. One thing I noticed throughout the trip, especially the next day when we went to the Grand and Spice Bazaars, was that everyone is VERY nice and welcoming. Now, to be fair, most of them are trying to sell something, but beyond that, everyone wants to talk to you, learn where you're from. If they've been to America, they want to talk to you about it. Everyone says, "Welcome to my country!" They offer you tea, they give you advice on which places to visit and what times are the best. They all offer you business cards. One man even gave us his personal phone number and offered to show us where the nearest hospital was, because we had mentioned that my sister was ill back at the hotel.
So, Dec. 24 we walked around the Grand Bazaar. Then we met my friend Duygu from Dickinson (she lived across the hall from me freshman year) and her friend Gul, who spent the rest of the day with us. Having them there to show us around was definitely one of the best parts of the trip. We went to lunch in the Grand Bazaar and they made sure we tried all sorts of traditional Turkish things, like iran, a drink made from plain yogurt. I can't say I'm a fan. (Oh, a side note. It turns out that they don't do falafel in Turkey. It's more of a Middle Eastern thing. I was crushed.) Then we walked through the Spice Market and bought some real Turkish Delight. At one point Gul stopped a man pushing a cart with this big cauldron on it and got us sahlep, a hot winter drink made from Turkish rice pudding. That was delicious. Then they took us to Taksim, the trendy shopping district of the new side of Istanbul, where all the hip, cool people hang out. We had dinner there, and looked around some shops.
On Christmas, Mel wasn't feeling well, so she stayed in the hotel. Mom, Dad, and I went to the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, and the Hagia Sophia. The Hippodrome is just this big park of what used to be the Roman stadium, but it still houses the Egyptian obelisk, Constantine's Column, and the remains of the Serpentine Column. The Blue Mosque was closed for prayer when we first got there, but we eventually got inside. It's massive, and absolutely beautiful. The Hagia Sophia is literally right across the street. It, too, while a bit more run down (although it's in excellent shape for being 1500 years old), is absolutely gorgeous and very impressive. In the afternoon we went back to the hotel. Everyone else napped while I checked my email on the hotel computer, and then we went back over to where we had been earlier to show Mel the area at night. We wandered around almost to the river and back before settling on this awesome little restaurant in a building that looked, again, like a front from a Disney ride. We ran into plenty of stray cats along the way. Istanbul is flooded with stray cats. A couple stray dogs, too.

The next day we toured Topkapi Palace, which is a bit too much, but more...understandable? than Versailles. The set-up of the Harem was really interesting, too. While I was waiting for my parents to get tickets, I sat on this bench surrounded three stray cats. I started petting one, and he immediately jumped on my lap. Then another one got jealous and jumped up, too. Then some Japanese tourists came over and took pictures.

In the afternoon we took a boat tour of the Bosphorous. It was raining and windy, so we stayed in the cabin for most of it. Mel and I nearly fell off the boat when we went up on deck, it was rocking so much. But now I can say that I've seen Asia, even if we didn't land on the Asian side. Then we took a coach up to Pierre Loti Hill, which normally has a beautiful view over the city, but it was cloudy and sort of miserable, so we didn't stay there long. We took a cable car down from the hill, and then back to Sultanahmet, where we walked back to our hotel.

In the morning, Mom was sort of tired, but Dad and I took Mel back to the Blue Mosque, which she had missed on Christmas, and then the three of us went to the Yerebatan Cistern, which is this underground...well...cistern. It reminded me of Moria from Lord of the Rings. In the afternoon we went to the airport and flew to Munich. But that'll be another post. Right now, I should probably leave my room and do something productive, like start my HUM 310 paper on...I'm not sure yet. I think poems. Maybe.

But definitely check out my pictures. Still to come: Munich and Bavaria, Belfast, the Giant's Causeway, Dublin, Holyhead, London, and my return to Norwich!