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May 31, 2008

Circle Day and Camelot

I have been really busy but here's a quick update of a few days that I spent traveling with Barb & Bill. On Saturday we went to Bath and saw the costume museum and it's gorgeous!!! There are some absolutely amazing clothes in there - as well as some very unfortunate 80's clothes that should really be burned... We also saw the circus and wandered around the town and I love it! It's all really stunning Georgian architecture and the whole town seems to fit together so much better than most other cities.

After we left Bath we went to see the Avebury Stone Circles! I'd been looking forward to them since I found out about them so that was awesome! It's just stunning and huge! It's kind of hard to believe it, but the whole town just sort of built around it! Some of the rocks were moved away because the villagers thought that they were idols for ancient gods, but I'm just glad that they didn't get all of them! We were able to walk among them and some people were even climbing up on top of the big ones! Barb and Bill and I walked around the whole circle and it's crazy to believe that it was created so long ago because the stones are so big! I'm really glad that I got to see it because when I go to Stonehenge I won't be able to walk up to the stones. Also, I picked up some stones and chalk from the ground to bring home (just don't tell customs!!).

The next day I was extra refreshed because I had stayed in a hotel instead of a hostel. Barb and Bill stayed in the same hotel so it was really convenient to get going early in the morning. After they'd found their keys (one of them left them in a drawer in the hotel) we drove off to see Glastonbury Abbey and randomly drove past Stonehenge! That was a good sign, even though it was raining and a little bit miserable.

Glastonbury Abbey was absolutely amazing - so powerful! It is huge and it's a little hard to comprehend just how big it would have been when it was still standing! We went down into the chapel first and it was just stunning to know that those stones had been there for so long! Barb & I both threw pennies into St. Joseph's well (mine went in, hers didn't) and then we walked around. AS we got up to the main part of the ruins, Barb put her hand onto one of the largest parts of the ruins and just then the bells from the church next door started to chime! Oh, and I picked up some stones from Glastonbury Abbey too and some of them looked like they'd been part of the actual abbey!

After we left we went over to see the Cerne Abbas Giant, a man carved into the hillside (and he's got all of his parts, btw.). In that part of the country, the chalk is only a little bit down into the ground so it's not really deep or anything. No one knows how old it is - some people think it's really old and others think it's a more modern caricature of Oliver Cromwell. I like to think that it's older than that. Either way though, he's pretty impressive!

Next we drove through the New Forest for a little while and I saw some wild horses! The forest is really dense and very beautiful. After that we went to Salisbury and we decided not to go out to the pub that night because we were really tired. That's all for the weekend!

May 23, 2008

The Castle of a Lifetime!

Another fantastic day! It started out a little rainy and cold and I was a little worried that our streak of good days had come to an end but I was delightfully surprised! Barb & Bill picked me up around 9:30 and we went off to see our final 2 Shakespeare sights.

First we went to his church and burial site - Holy Trinity Church. There was a big old graveyard as we entered the grounds with a bunch of very old headstones. One of them had a hedge growing around it with the stone showing in the front! There was even a little bird living in there and now Barb says that she wants one on her grave! The church is big and very beautiful and old. Shakespeare's grave is in the back of the church and he's alongside some of his family members. The curse on his grave is a little faint by now but can still be picked out and is quite good! It's said that he was very much afraid of getting dug back up (as was common in those days) and so he had himself buried 15 feet underground to make sure he stayed in the ground for good!

We next went to his birthplace and the house of his parents. It looks rather large from the outside but it's only one room wide and so it isn't really all that large. I now understand why he gave his wife the second-best bed, though. The best bed in the hose is placed in the main sitting room and is used for guests and to show off the family's wealth. The second-best bed would have been used by Shakespeare and his wife as their marriage bed. They had a rather interesting setup there, with a little museum-type info display before you got to the house itself, but it was overall very interesting.

After that we went to a chocolatier across the street and had truffles and then went onto Warwick Castle. It's a real big, old castle like one you'd see in the movies about the Medieval ages. We first went through their 1989 display and although it was a little hokey at first it was really cool to see how people actually lived in these castles until rather recently. I also found out that Winston Churchill isn't very tall - only about 5'5" or so! We next went into the state rooms and they are absolutely stunning. They had a great setup and you could see that people really lived in there. Actually, we had to go back for two of the state rooms because the BBC was filming in there when we arrived!

Next we ate and then went on our biggest adventure of the week as far as I'm concerned - we went on the hike along the castle walk and up the turrets! That was pretty strenuous but the view from the top of the turrets made it entirely worth it to me! You could see for miles along the countryside! Next we went down into the dungeon and boy, was it creepy! There were a lot of crosses etched into the stone and names and dates showing just how long certain people were locked into the dungeon! CREEEPY!!!

At the end of the trip to Warwick we went over to see the flowers and it turned out that it was a peacock garden. After sitting down for awhile a few of them even came over to check us out. The peacocks keps showing off their feathers but the peahens did not seem at all interested!

When we got back to Stratford, it was raining a little bit so we decided to go to another pub and have a pint and a quick bit to eat and then go to bed since we all had a very big day! That's all for now - next up is Glastonbury, Bath and Avebury!!!!!!!

May 22, 2008

Another fabulous day!!!

Well, somehow I keep getting all the luck - I keep picking hostels while they have large groups of schoolkids there! Oh, well. They were pretty quiet in Oxford and I'll hope for the same. My room for the next 2 nights is pretty cute - besides the squeaky bed and the shower and bathroom down the hall. It's a nice old, big white house and it seems like it'll be a nice place to stay. This morning we took a walking tour of Oxford and went through a lot of little winding roads through the colleges that we never wouldn've been able to see otherwise! We got to go into one of the colleges and see what their hall (dining hall - just like Harry Potter) and chapel were like, and they're gorgeous!

It's been another great day - a bit cloudy, but the rain held off and it's been nice and warm. After Oxford, we drove through the Cotswolds, and they're adorable! So picture-perfect, it's hard to believe! After we got into Stratford, we went to Anne Hathaway's house (Shakespeare's wife) and toured it and the gardens. It's so quaint and tiny, it's kind of hard to believe!

Barb and Bill and I tried to go out on a ghost tour of Oxford that we'd found out about at the tourist bureau, but no one came to do the tour! We're going to try to call them tomorrow and reserve tickets so that they know to come and tell us about all of the ghosts and goblins haunting the streets! Instead, we went to a cute little pub overlooking the Avon river and had a pint, some onion rings and a cheese platter with some really tasty local cheeses! I've got to get to bed, so that's all for today!

My starter palace...

Well, Wednesday was a very entertaining day! We got up early and went straight to Blenheim Palace. It was absolutely stunning! The gardens are extremely well maintained and beautiful (Barb loved the grounds more than the palace itself) and it didn't even matter that not all of the flowers were planted. It's just so lush and green - absolutely incredible! The tour of the palace was fun, too. The rooms are all extremely opulent and exquisite - they even have 24 carat gold inlaid in the ceilings! It has a really interesting history, too. I think I could definitely see it as a starter palace... heehee

We ate at Blenheim (a tasty veggie soup and spring water) and then came back to Oxford to explore. We wandered around for awhile and then intended on taking a walking tour of the city, but ended up on a bus tour instead since all of the walking tours were done for the day! The bus tour was fun - we took a lot of good (I hope) pictures and learned about the castle and the oodles of colleges.

After, Barb & Bill and I went out for a pizza and then I met some of the girls from my room in the hostel and we all went out to an Irish pub (O'Grady's, I think) and watched a big football (soccer) match between Manchester United and Chelsea. They're both British teams, so the crowd was really fun and very enthusiastic. The match ended up going to a shoot out and then Man U won. It wasn't pretty surprising - as if New England had won the Super Bowl. I'll try to write again soon!!!

Finally here!!!

Well, it's finally offical - I'm 21 in the UK!!! The first night was not great, since I was absolutely exhausted and had a headache on top of it. Those 24 hours were nuts!! The flights all went pretty well - the one from MSP to Toronto was kind of cramped but the seats were leather, so that wasn't too bad. The layover in Toronto would have gone better had a few more places been open!!! There were only a few stores open, and only 2 of them weren't STARBUCKS!!!!!!!! I had a soup and then worked on a Sudoku book that I bought (sigh - pathetic, I know!) out of boredom.

The flight was a little alte because some stupid American couple didn't have a passport for their child who they wanted to bring into Heathrow. That was frustrating, since it cost us about 35 minutes, which was multiplied by barely being able to sleep on the plane. I might have gotten 2 hours or so, but it sure didn't feel like it! I stayed up as late as I could on tuesday night to try to combat jetlag, but ended up falling asleep around 6 or 7 and sleeping for 12 hours! Luckily, I was completely on British time on Wednesday, so that worked out great!

Once I got into the UK, it was very easy to get throug customs and find Barb & Bill. Bill was a little rusty in his driving on the wrong side of the road, but once we figured out how to go through roundabouts we were fine! Once we parked in Oxford, Barb & Bill took me out to a pub (St. Aldates) for a birthday dinner and a half pint (I was already so sleepy, I didn't want a whole pint). I had some battered shrimp and chips (fries), and the food was great! I tried to wander around and stay up later, but ended up crashing early in the night! All in all, though, a pretty good start to my 21st year of life!

May 11, 2008

Possibly a plan?

Well, I may just have figured out the rest of my plans but I won't know for sure until Monday when I get a confirmation email from the Streatey hostel. I emailed the hostel and was told that they still had openings, so I'm hoping for a very good morning tomorrow and an email saying that I actually DO have everything planned out!

I'm almost done with school, and I'm basically just waiting for all of my finals to be over so I can move home and get ready to go! Mom's helping me move tomorrow, so I have a long night ahead of me, packing up everything that I'm not wearing, using, or eating until Wednesday! Hopefully I'll be able to get enough sleep so that I don't crash entirely since i still have to rework my argumentation paper and study for my tech 2 and spanish tests. Oh, well - as long as I remember that it's only 8 days away, I should be able to get through this next week (though work might make me want to pull my hair out!!!).

May 8, 2008

Scratch that

Well, I guess my well-crafted plan was... not so well-crafted. I was able to book Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon without any problems, but I had to book an actual hotel for the next night because the Salisbury hostel didn't have any openings and no other places were open for that night (it's a bank weekend, so it makes sense).

Now, I am currently trying to book my last two nights near Reading, but the place that I was planning on staying (Streatley = adorable!!) is not available!!! Arrrgh!

Now I'm just trying to figure out where else to go and trying to decide whether or not I should call the YMCA or try to see if another place will be cheap...

Once this is all figured out, my life will be SOOOO much less stressful!

May 6, 2008

Getting ready

Well, it's finally really real. I am actually going to England! It's finally becoming real to me right now because I just booked my hostels for my travels with my aunt & uncle (Barb & Bill - love em!). We're traveling around before I actually start the London program, and I'm psyched! We're going to SO MANY AMAZING PLACES!!! YAA!!!!

Well, I figured I'd put the places down so everyone else can see just how incredible this is going to be!!!

First, we're going to stay in Oxford for 2 nights

it looks so adorable!! color me psyched! next up is Stratford-upon-Avon for 2 nights

Yeay!! that one really psyches me up - I'm going to be staying in a Georgian mansion!!! how adorable! the next place we're staying in is Salisbury for 3 nights

I'll be there for 3 days so I hope it's cozy! Aww, who am I kidding?! I'm just happy to be there! (I'm so easy to please, it's ridiculous!) the final place that i'll be staying in is called Streatley on Thames!! It just sounds posh, doesn't it?!

Looks it, too! this one's a Victorian mansion!

Well, while we're there we are going to be taking day trips around since Barb & Bill will be renting a car. We're planning on visiting Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle, Glastonbury Abbey, Avery (and the stone circle!!), the Isle of Wight, Windsor Palace and Hampton Court along with the cities we're staying in - what a packed week!

I'm going to try to keep this updated with my progress whenever I get a chance to use the internet in London, so hopefully this won't be a one-time occurrence! Till then, au revior!