Thursday, November 30, 2006

"We were selfless representing that name on the front of the jersey. We lost ourselves in the game." (Wayne Ellington)

At last, an update. Hopefully there is at least one person out there still checking on this blog, and you can let everyone else know that she has finally updated! The details aren’t the greatest, and who knows when I’ll have pictures posted, but it is what it is and I’ll try harder in the future. :-) I've separated everything into sections so skip around if you like.

First, big news: I’ll be home for Christmas! I booked a flight this week and will be back in my precious state of North Carolina from Dec. 22 to 29. This wasn’t the plan, but it was the right thing to do. For some insane reason, I had been foolishly thinking that it would prove that I could be on my own, be an adult, if I could do Christmas on my own. No no no no. I need my Mom and Dad and sister and brother! I need homemade rolls and wedding soup. I need Christmas ornaments and our village. I need to be there when we go see lights on Christmas Eve, when we light candles in the living room and open pajamas. I need to be there when we look for our stockings and whine because Daddy hid them too well. Need to fight over present order, going youngest to oldest, oldest to youngest, or maybe even starting in the middle. We do the same things, year after year after year, and I thought that would make it easier, knowing that what I missed this year I’d be back for next year. No. It’s too special of a time in my family and I realize that wherever I go and whatever I do, I may be an adultish person, but I will always be home for Christmas.

Was wonderful. I constantly had to stop and think to myself, “Wow, you are in Scotland. Scotland!” Edinburgh is a beautiful city. It’s old, old in a different way than how London is old. London is a potpourri of different historical eras and architectural phases, while Edinburgh just blends together so well. We took a bus tour on our first day in order to see as much of the city as possible, and see it as a whole. It’s a city, but yet so different from London. Quieter, less hustle and bustle. But it’s city street set-up may be even more confusing than London’s! Quite literally a city on top of a city, I’m glad we didn’t have to navigate too much of it ourselves!

While in Edinburgh we were able to meet up with a friend of mine from UNC studying there, Amy. We had dinner at “The Elephant House,” a really cute café where J.K. Rowling supposedly wrote some of the first Harry Potter. Amy told us about life in Edinburgh, how going to school there differs from UNC, and then showed us some of the city at night. It was great to see a friend and to talk about Tar Heel basketball and missing UNC with someone else.

The next two days were spent on day tours in the Highlands through the amazing tour company Haggis. Already all the details of everything we did is getting a little hazy, and until I force myself to sit down and go over all my pictures and the tour brochures, this very short account will have to do. (And it really doesn’t do Scotland justice!) But I will say that the Highlands, even in winter, afford some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. I was completely over-whelmed by nature in the best possible sense, feeling completely insignificant, again, in a good way. We went to Stirling and saw the William Wallace monument – the largest monument in Europe not built for Jesus. We learned, both days, about the inaccuracies in “Braveheart.” We drove through Rob Roy territority, along lochs, and twisty mountain roads. We saw the castle where they filmed scenes from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” We saw the oldest tree on Earth, Scottish sheep, and learned that, according to our second tour guide Ped, the Scots invented just about everything you can think of. My favorite Scottish invention tidbit? The gun that fired the first shot of the American Revolution, the “shot heard round the world” at Lexington and Concord, well, the gun was made in Scotland. So it was, quite literally, the shot heard round the world. We took a boat cruise on Loch Ness in search of Nessie – and have video to prove we saw her! Loch Ness! Something I’ve read stories about, seen emblazoned on those tacky supermarket tabloids, and I was on it! We learned about the depths and passion of Scottish pride, and that English reserve doesn’t really apply to the Scots.

It was a wonderful trip and I am very glad I was able to share it with Mom and Aunt LuAnn.

I have settled into my job-change, and rather like it. I only miss working reception because I miss the internet access. But I don’t mind doing the “bitch” job every day, and I’ve been able to make my own routine and do things more how I like them. Tuesday I felt like a real adult as I put on my first work birthday partyish. (It wasn’t really a party.) But really, it's all good.

Two days after Mom and Aunt LuAnn left Ashley came! To say I was happy to see her was an under-statement. I truly miss talking to my friends, having people I have so much in common with around me, having people who know me so well. Just sitting and talking with her at Café Nero on the first day, early in the morning after her flight got in, could easily have been enough for me. But luckily we had a whole week for even more fun and talking! We walked around London, rode the terrifying slides at the Tate Modern, and just had a great week.

We took a day trip to the, to steal Ashley’s word, “lovely,” quintessentially British town of Bath. It was rainy and a bit dreary and cold at times, but was still a great day. Houses were built up on a hill that reminded Ashley of Salzburg and me of the French Riviera – just with less sun. We walked through a gorgeous park where the leaves were changing, and around gorgeous buildings, some shaped in a circular way, and others built like houses in San Fransisco – close together and appearing to be on a slant. We took a tour of the Roman Baths. A fascinating place full, absolutely full, of history. We got close to the baths – you aren’t allowed in them – and could feel the steam from them. I was entranced by display cases of items found in the baths – coins, hair pins, wishes etched on metal, and so much more. They had stone blocks where one could see the symbol of the masons engraved on the side. And they even had the orginial drainage pipe! A thousand-plus years old! I could go on and on about how authentic and old everything was. Many of you know how much I HATE going to historical places and have them tell me how something might have looked, or how they may have slept in this room, or even worse, have replica furnishings and buildings. Ugh! I want my 1754 wood from Richmond and 12th century Westminster Hall! We then warmed up with a cup of tea at the charmingly named café, “The Boston Tea Party.” Even though it was clearly a dig at silly Revolutionary Americans, it was good tea. (Gasp! Traitor! Or, considering my previous rant, just a really big history dork.) All in all it was a wonderful day with one of my favorite travel buddies.

I have to be honest, Thanksgiving day was quite miserable for me. I don’t even really care for Thanksgiving that much, but it’s still a holiday I’m used to spending with my family, and to not be with them and to be at work – gasp – on a holiday obviously not celebrated over here, was much harder than I expected. But I came home after work to a package from Melissa, full of Thanksgiving-type goodies – stuffing and pumpking gnoche, plus hot chocolate, grits, and a slinky! The package brightened me up for sure. And of course having Ashley here helped brighten me up as well. We went to a pub and had nachos and drinks, and then came back to my flat to drink a bit and sing a long to the Beastie Boys and take silly pictures. It wasn’t a conventional Thanksgiving, but it was nice.

Saturday it was off to Cambridge, after we spent the morning at Portobello Road. We left a cold and rainy London, and traded it for a wet and cool Cambridge. It was a bit overcast, but it ended up still being a beautiful day. Ashley and I have both been to Oxford and were eager to see which we liked better. I think Ashley liked Cambridge better, but it’s hard for me to say. I feel like I saw more of Cambridge than I did Oxford, but at Oxford I went on a student-led tour and feel like I learned more about their university experience. And, I’ll be honest, as beautiful as both were, and they both were, it just can’t compare to that other university that has completely captured my heart. Still, we were able to go inside the courtyards of several of the colleges, my favorite being King’s College, with it’s lush green lawn, wood bridges over the river, and big, important looking buildings. I don’t see how anyone could possibly not feel smarter studying there, how anyone could possibly procrastinate or not want to do well. (Ha, I’m now thinking though that even the beautiful scenery would be no match for my mad procrastination skills. Still sure they have access to YouTube and Facebook. And AIM.) I am still perplexed, however, at both Oxford and Cambridge, at how they don’t like people to walk on the grass. I know I should quit comparing them to my college experience, but where are you supposed to go on the first day of Spring when you skip class? Watch boys who really should put their shirts back on play Frisbee? Or my favorite, wince everytime you see a dog lift it’s leg over a tree that has been there longer than any of us can imagine? Anyway, we walked around the city, a city by the way dominated by cyclists, stopped at a market in the city centre and wondered in shops. We had tea and cake at “Aunties Tea Shop,” and enjoyed a day out of London.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Home sweet home

Back safe and sound from Scotland. Hooray! Mom and Aunt LuAnn are on their way to Paris, or may actually already be there, as I type. I am at work struggling to keep my eyes open and longing for my lunch break at half one.

Scotland was absolutely stunning. It was cold, rainy, and windy, but hardly mattered as the scenery was so beautiful. More details and hopefully pictures coming later this week.

My job has changed at work, however, so I will no longer be on reception, which means no internet time. This is going to affect my blogging and picture-posting for a time until I figure something out. But don't worry, I will figure something out.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Really really long post ahead

Well, exhausted doesn't even begin to describe me right now. But also really really happy and excited. The past few days since Mom and Aunt LuAnn have been here have been jam-packed with lots of walking, talking, and going. Having to work was actually a nice break from being a tour guide, even though I probably wasn't even that great of one as I forgot a lot of the important stuff about places. But anyway...

Saturday, of all days, I slept past 9 a.m. for the first time since being in London, and was woken by a phone call from Mom to tell me they were about to board the Gatwick Express. I get to Victoria shortly after they did, though they like to tell it like they were waiting for hours. But, needless to say, I was very happy and excited to finally have them here! After dropping the luggage off at my flat, we set right off before the jet-lag could really hit them. We had lunch at a Pizza Express on Marylebone, then went to Oxford Street and Hyde Park. We walked a lot and saw a lot and it was a good first sight-seeing day.

Sunday we went to church, then had "lunch" at Starbucks. While it's not exactly the same as my caramel apple cider, their caramel hot chocolate is good as well. We stopped at a few shops on Regent Street, including the famous Hamleys toystore. Even though I am "adultish", Mom bought me a Paddington Bear, which has made me dorkily happy. Afterward we headed for Westminster, or as I like to call it, "real London." Big Ben and Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Thames, the Eye and so on. We went up in the Eye and the view was even more spectactular this time than the first time I went up. Aunt LuAnn didn't care for it too much once we got to the top, but I think we all still enjoyed the experience. Afterward we took a short river cruise on the Thames. Just a 20 minute ride to get us from the Eye to Tower Bridge. But the sun was setting and it was a beautiful backdrop for the city and all the amazing buildings along the river. Tower Bridge is just stunning at night and it was a great way to see it. A long day was capped off a truly British restaurant in Piccadilly Circus - Planet Hollywood. Yes, we all crossed an ocean to eat at Planet Hollywood. But I had never eaten at one before and I got chicken fingers for the first time in more than two months so I was happy!

Monday was busy as well, of course. First thing was Abbey Road. It was awesome to be able to see it with Mom and we all crossed and took pictures. Sadly they've taken down the sign on the sidwalk that says "Abbey Road" and has lots of signatures on it, but it was nice all the same. We then set off for Buckingham Palace, but first a stop at Green Park for another Starbucks brunch. I've had more Starbucks this week than I have all year! Unfortunately "Liz" wasn't at home to invite us in for tea, so Mom thinks we should try and catch her this weekend up at Balmoral. Next was Trafalgar Square and the National Portrait Gallery. All the fountains were on so that somewhat lessened my desire to kick all the pigeons, but only somewhat. Next was Kensington Palace. We went inside and I'm glad we did because it was really lovely and interesting. They had the apartment where Princess Margaret lived open to the public, and that was really neat to walk where she had walked and see her bedroom and such. There was also a display of photographs of Princess Diana and several of her dresses. We got to see the dress she wore to the White House and danced with John Travolta in, and that just took my breath away. I'm not usually a huge fan of palaces but this one was real, not overly opulent or cold. I could live at this one, easily. After the Palace we took the long walk to Knightsbridge to Harrods, by far the most extravagant and nearly over-the-top department store I've ever been in. As has become our custom, we went to the Christmas shop for tree ornaments, and later spent ten minutes trying to exit the massive store. We ended yet another long day at an Italian place called "La Dolce Vita." Love the name and the food.

Now you can see why I, and they, are exhausted! But we are all having a great time and it's been nice showing them London and hopefully they can understand more why I love it so much. Last night we saw "The Sound of Music" and it was amazing. The sets were beautiful, the leads and chldren had great voices and were great actors, and it all came together very nicely, very much like the film. Longer review later, along with Spamalot, promise. But this is entirely too long and I'm tired all over again just writing! Tomorrow we leave for Scotland so I probably won't be writing again until Monday. And will post pictures then as well. Thanks if you made it this far!

Friday, November 3, 2006


Some light reading before the weekend. From our company newsletter. Ignore the picture, it looked a lot better on the tiny digital camera screen when our HR lady let me check it.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Less than 24 hours until I get to see Mom and Aunt LuAnn!! There are honestly no words as to how excited I am. A brief rundown of our itinerary:
Saturday: they arrive
Sunday - Monday: we explore London together
Tuesday - Wednesday: they explore while I work
Thursday - Sunday: Scotland!!! One day in Edinburgh and two day-trips throughout Scotland
Monday - Thursday: Mom and LuAnn in Paris
Friday: We won't talk about that Friday. But at least Ashley comes two days after that!

Ok, will review "Spamalot" next week. But in short: amazing! funny! totally worth the hype! Have great weekends!

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

"So now I am a liberal, communist, feminist. Are you proud?"

Portobello Road pictures added!

Today's post title comes from an e-mail from Karey. Better watch out what you e-mail me because you never know where it might show up. :-) Oh, and yes Karey, I am very very proud.

Now for a series of completely un-related thoughts.

  • It's cold today. First day I had to wear a hat and gloves in addition to my pashmina and coat. But at least it wasn't windy...yet. But apparently we are going to be getting "Arctic winds" for the next few days. Oh joy.
  • Basketball starts tonite!!!!!!!!
  • Speaking of UNC, the number of people I've seen over here wearing UNC hoodies: 3. The number of guys who I'm pretty sure thought I was hitting on them because I grinned when I saw what they were wearing: 1. I quickly walked away while shaking my head. Oops. Can't help that I liked his shirt and not him.
  • I have noticed my accent getting stronger over here. As in my Southern accent, not a British one. Maybe it's because I'm perpetually exhausted and that always leads to more of a drawl as I don't have the energy to make words the proper two syllables instead of six. Or maybe it's because on my reception days I say things like "ring him on his mobile" or have started saying "France" like "Frahnce" and "Grant" like "Grahnt" and I am trying to compensate. Either way, there appears to be no danger of me losing what little bit of an accent I have while over here.
  • Tonite I am going to see the play "Spamalot." I've never seen anything Monty Python, but because it was such a hit on Broadway, is getting rave reviews over here, and is advertised as one of the funniest shows in years, I decided to give it a shot. Tim Curry is one of the stars and I think it will be cool to see him. Right now I'm reading all about Monty Python on Wikipedia so I don't go blindly into the show. I'm a little worried I won't get the jokes because I don't know anything about anything, but we'll see. Will review here later of course.

I think that's it for now. I ran around like a crazy person at work on Tuesday, barely sat down for five minutes all day, which meant I crashed at about 9:30, only to wake up at 11:30 unable to go back to sleep. Today is reception day, so I get a chance to rest and maybe even respond to all the e-mails I can't seem to get to. I have hit another e-mail rut unfortunately so if you are waiting to hear back from me you aren't the only one and it's nothing personal!