Friday, January 30, 2009

I Found Turkish Delight!

Not having class on Fridays is pretty super.  Instead of laying in bed all day, as I am inclined to do, your favorite intrepid blogger decided to go back to the city centre and take some more pictures.  I found the market that I saw my first day here!  Lots of pictures later, I'm sure the locals think I'm pretty creepy.  Like an earlier post said, I get a kick out of British food, and there was no shortage of laughs today.  Anyway, here goes:

Supposedly the oldest telephone booths in England!

An open market.  Nice reminder of home-- very similar to a flea market.  TONS of tacky jewelry and secondhand clothes, etc.
Into the market I go!  

Fruit stall.

A meat stall.  Most of the stalls (as far as I could tell) were family owned and employed a meat cutter, a skilled laborer that is quickly disappearing in America.  I have a rant coming up later, so stay tuned.

Mutton!  All of the meat, and most of the vegetables, were British raised (I guess 'local' is redundant, because the UK is so small, everything is local).  This particular stall had pig tails, ox hearts, livers, and hamburgers already patted out (note: the lamb was actually cheaper than the beef burger).

A lot of bread. 

A flower stall! I kid you not!  They have to have lots of bright things because its so stinking cloudy here.

Huge bricks of Lancashire cheese and other European varieties.  Again, local stuff!

This is just outside of the markets.  The Greek looking building is free art museum that I have yet to explore.

More shops!  The church that you can see waaaaay in the background is right outside my flat.

Here are some more humorous/interesting food items:
Um, yum?

Turkish Delight!  It was a jelly-like moderately sweet candy covered in chocolate.  Not my favorite, but I could eat it again.  I don't understand how Edmund gorged himself on it...


Again, yum?

This is what we have to work with at The Guild (the international students' favorite pub).  English mustard (use with caution: LOTS of horseradish.  Not cool.), tartare sauce, malt vinegar (for use on your fish 'n chips), mayonnaise, and brown sauce.  These packets are also IMPOSSIBLE to open.  They've had to order more ketchup than usual because the Americans use SO much of it. lol

In our Pre-Departure Orientation at school, they told us about the different stages of Culture Shock, one of which being the Honeymoon or Enthusiasm stage.  I have gone through all of the stages, like a textbook.  But right now, I'm definitely in the Honeymoon phase.  My perspective has changed dramatically since I've been here...and I'm about to rant about it.  In my Issues in Sustainability class, we're currently talking about fuel usage and alternative fuels.  This is not a class where the professor tells us what to believe-- he likes to give a well rounded approach to all the issues and then lets us to decide what to think (I like this guy!).  He presented a startling statistic to us: Americans represent 4% of the world's population but account for 25% of energy usage and 25% of waste generated.  We enjoy the highest quality of life, but at what expense?  This isn't about politics, its about our way of life.  We can't continue to live like that and expect our natural resources to remain intact for generations to come.  Going down to the market in Preston made me realize how we should (in my opinion) model our food systems.  Family owned, local raised meat and vegetables.  Plenty of variety, very high quality.  You don't have to drive all over creation to get it.  No corporation telling you what to buy and giving you little choice.  I'm not saying this will solve our problem, but having something like this would certainly be a step in the right direction.  And let me tell you about transportation systems!  I truly believe that car and oil companies conspired, in the early 20th century, to kill off our glorious railways.  Taking the train in America is fun!  You should try it sometime!  Europe has an amazingly efficient system...they really know what they're doing.  A heck of a lot cheaper, energy efficient, not to mention more exciting than traveling by car.  Ok, rant over.  I really needed to get that out. :o]
Oh, and this weekend's travels: Katie and I are going to the Lake District.  The town of Kendal is known as the "gateway to the Lake District." It was also a big wool town back in the day (yay sheep!).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lovely Liverpool

Liverpool was voted 2008's European Capital of Culture, and its easy to see why. They've got the Beatles (obviously), Albert Docks, the largest Anglican Cathedral in Europe, and tons of museums (most of them FREE!). There's a lot of neat things to do there!

Due to an inadvertant time mix-up we arrived at the train station half an hour early.  Okay, it was my fault.  I thought we were leaving at 7:05, but that was how much the ticket cost.  Whatever.  The train was freezing, so we curled up and tried to stay warm.  I don't think we ever got properly warm the whole day.

Nothing was open when we got there, so we wandered down to Albert Docks

At Albert Docks...see the painted boat?

There are lots of little restaurants, museums, and shops at the docks.

The first thing we did was The Beatles Story.  Lots of neat artifacts, cool exhibits and reproductions.  I love the Beatles, so this was a pretty cool museum to go to.  Here are some pictures that I got while I was there.

The Beatles Story at Albert Docks.

George Harrison's first guitar!

John and Paul were originally part of a group called the Quarrymen.  There are a lot of quarries in Liverpool, hence the name.

The Cavern Club!  Where the Beatles played some of their first shows.  They played over 90 shows there!

Inside the Cavern Club.

Where the Beatles played many of their shows in Liverpool.

Awesome mohair suit!

John Lennon's orange glasses.

John Lennon's white piano.

They had a kid's section at the museum.  And the answer is no.  No, I can't play a Beatles melody on your giant piano.  I tried.

After we raided the gift shop, we continued to wander around Albert Docks.  We went to the Merseyside Maritime Museum, which was free (its amazing how many museums were free!  The Beatles weren't...).  Liverpool is a big shipping and manufacturing town, given its location.  The Titanic was actually registered to Liverpool, as the White Star Lines were headquartered there.  They had an exhibit about the Titanic, the Lusitania, and the Empress of Ireland, three big cruise ships that sank.  There was also the International Slavery Museum within the Maritime Museum.  Many of the slave ships left from Liverpool and went to Africa and then on to the infamous "middle passage."  All in all, a very depressing museum, but interesting.
We had lunch at Albert Docks next.  There was a French place, where I had a quiche and a terrific crepe for dessert.  Yum!  We took some more pictures of the docks...

Proof I was there!

Pretty city centre.

Liverpool is home to Europe's largest Anglican cathedral ; I have a soft spot for cathedrals and it was HUGE.  We happened to be there during choir practice and it created an amazing atmosphere.  It was an all male choir, with men and young boys.  They were fantastic!  The cathedral is also fairly new; it was completed in 1978. 

Like I said, its huge!

Inside the Liverpool Cathedral.

Trippy picture of some prayer candles in the cathedral.

Proof that it is modern...neon lights!  I didn't use the flash and this is what I got.
"I felt you and I knew you loved me."

Next, we trekked to the Walker Art Museum, near the train station.  We were getting pretty weary at this point, so we finished up there.  The Walker is also free!  Music to my ears!  They had some famous portraits there.

I forget who this is...but her dress is pretty!

Hey!  Its Henry VIII!  I've seen him in history books!

Beautiful sculptures!

So we had a jam-packed day in Liverpool!  We saw a lot of an interesting city.  I decided that I should invest in a pedometer, because I have put in many miles in the scant two and a half weeks I've been here.  You can see ALL of my pictures at  

Friday, January 23, 2009

A room with a personality and another trip!

So the Students' Union on campus was having an awesome sale on posters-- 3 for 5 pounds, so my room no longer looks like a prison cell!  I've got the Muppets, the Beatles, and the famous "Kissing the War Goodbye" poster.  How's that for variety?

My new friends on the wall, plus my awesome T-shirt quilt on my bed.

I've met a new friend, Katie, who goes to Bellarmine and we're going to Liverpool tomorrow.  Other people might tag along, but no one has expressed interest just yet.  Apparently there's lots of stuff to do in Liverpool, not just the Beatles, so I'm excited!!  I'll post pictures as soon as I can!

Oh, and I have uploaded ALL of my pictures from Edinburgh onto photobucket.  The url is  I'm going to continue to do this in the future with my photos, post some here and ALL of them on photobucket.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Scotland Pt. 2

*I finally figured out what the problem with the pictures browser.  Anyway, with the addition of pictures, the post became rather long, so I split it into two parts.  Double the fun!*

This is the cathedral/chapel within the Castle.  I think this where the Crown Jewels were.  Can't remember...

After the Castle, we walked around and did some shopping at the plethora of small shops along the Royal Mile. We explored some of the smaller side streets and cafes. And let me tell you, Edinburgh is absolutely DRAPED in plaid. Its everywhere. Kilt shops, scarves, bagpipes, pants, towels, you name it and it comes in plaid. Each major family or clan native to Scotland has a certain plaid, I found the Campbell (my maternal grandmother's family) plaid, but I didn't get a scarf or anything.
A whole bunch of family crests and plaids.  Campbell is fourth row down, far left.

At this point, it was nearing dark and most of us agreed to meet back at the hostel and go on a Haunted Tour of Edinburgh (I don't know who's bright idea this was...). It had started to drizzle a little and our tour guide (a rather jovial woman by the name of Kirsty) conducted the tour entirely underground, in the vaults. Ok, everyone who knows me at all, knows that I don't do scary: horror movies, haunted houses, and the like. Well, I almost had some people talked out of going on the tour and going straight to a pub. I failed. Obviously. So I sucked it up and learned of the grisly, bloody history of Edinburgh and got the crap scared out of me. We went into the Edinburgh Torture Museum (well, a room with a sickening variety of torture devices). My favorite (in a sick, twisted way) was the rat cage. The victim was placed in a holster of sorts that rendered their torso immobile. A rat in a cage was placed directly in front of their lower abdomen and a fire was lit under the rat. Obviously, the rat went crazy and chewed his way through the only way out: the victim's abdomen. The victim was conscious for the entire process, but usually didn't die. Fun, right?

We then went into the vaults underneath South Bridge Road. They were built with the intention of storage, but the bright minds of the time constructed them with porous, volcanic rock. Therefore, every time in rained in Edinburgh (daily), water seeped through the rock and got all of the stored good wet. So they abandoned them, and the homeless and the criminals of the middle ages took over, in which case lots of nasty things happened. There's a working Wiccan temple in one of the vaults and the South Bridge Poltergeist occupies another (we visited his vault, but he didn't grace us with his presence. *wipes forehead with relief*). The British TV show Most Haunted declared it the Most Haunted Place in Britain. I survived the tour in one piece, but the tour guide managed to make me jump out of my skin in the last vault (big surprise).

After the tour, everyone was starving. After eating pub food for a week and a half, we decided burgers would do nicely. A pit stop in Wannaburger (they got the American students' seal of approval from us) rendered me sleepy. I wanted to go back to hostel and crash, but thankfully, I was talked out of it. I would have missed one of the most interesting and FUN nights of my life.

Cassie heard of this pub that played local Scottish folk music-- the Royal Oak. We found it and proceeded inside, but it was PACKED. A woman walking out told us that the bar downstairs had live music and was practically empty. We got downstairs, ordered drinks (and yes, I have photographic evidence that I drank!), and plopped down right beside the band.

The photographic evidence.  NO, its not beer.  Its a delightful hard cider stuff with fruit.  
Quite good.

Since we were the only ones downstairs, we all introduced ourselves. When I mentioned that I was from Kentucky, the barman, Grant, asked, "Kentucky? Is that Lexington?" I, of course, was like , "How did you KNOW that?!" Turns out, he had played on Woodsongs several years ago! Wild! There was Ewan (of course. We were in Scotland. How could we NOT meet someone named Ewan?) on fiddle, Jack on guitar, Charlie (an adorable old man) who sang with no accompaniment, and Chris on guitar as well. Here's a video that I recorded on my camera of them singing. I thought that if I placed my camera vertically it would flip when I uploaded it. I was wrong, so I apologize for my poor cinematography skills.


So we sat in this pub and listened to them play for HOURS. It was awesome. We told stories, sang, drank, and listened to great music. As it got later, more people showed up. In fact, a pair of Swedish students (Henrich and Joe) showed up with a recorder and accordian and played for us as well. We were regailed with Scottish folk songs, had political discussions (they love Obama), and even heard an American song or two! At about 1:30AM, we all started to turn to pumpkins and we sadly had to get back to the hostel. I was exhausted and promptly crashed in a room full of people I didn't know (such is the nature of hostels). What a night! Doing things like this is why I wanted to come to Europe in the first place.

Friends at the Royal Oak. Cassie, me, Jori, and Aimee.  

We all finally made it to bed and got moving around 10:00AM. After a quick breakfast and checking out at the hostel, we set upon our mission for the day: climbing Arthur's Seat (note: this was NOT my idea). Arthur's Seat is an extinct volcano about a mile from Edinburgh Castle. It's huge! From a distance, it doesn't look that big, but up close, it's rather intimidating. We started the steep and rocky ascent to the top. Two and a half hours later, I somehow found myself at the top. I don't know how I made it, because I nearly threw the towel in halfway through. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I'd probably never get the chance to do it again. Once on top, I got spectacular views of the city and Dunsapie Loch. The wind was so high that once we started our descent, we were practically blown down. So we got great pictures and some exercise out of that one (and we'll probably regret it in the morning, as we'll all be stiff and sore).

Yep, I climbed up that!  All the way to the top!

Great view of Edinburgh Castle from atop Arthur's Seat.

My next stop was going to be Holyrood Palace. Unfortunately, it cost 10 pounds to get in, and we were nasty and sweaty from the hike, so we went shopping for last minute souveniers before we caught our train back to Preston. We ate and then grabbed the 3 o'clock train from Edinburgh Waverly to Preston. We were (and still are) exhausted but exhilerated from an exciting and fascinating trip into Edinburgh, with lots of stuff still to explore!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

We climbed the ENTIRETY of Arthur's Seat. Why? Because we're crazy! Pt. 1

Oh, what a weekend! Edinburgh is a lovely city, I had a fabulous time! 137 pictures and one dormant volcano later, I'm exhausted but its quite possible I've fallen in love with Edinburgh. I'll start off by saying that Edinburgh and what I've seen of Scotland (from the train) is everything that the movies and Epcot depict and more! Very picturesque. Anyway, here's the rundown of the weekend, photos included. Brace yourself for a rather lengthy post.

We started off bright and early Saturday morning, leaving the rail station at 8:24AM. The scenery and the views were outstanding from the train. I saw a TON of sheep and possibly a few shorthorn cattle. And because I'm a sheep nerd, I tried to notice the differences in the way they're raised in the US and the UK. For example, the sheep are either docked rather long or not at all, which I find annoying. Also, they don't have any kind of shelter (that I could see) in their pastures or paddocks, which are fenced in by one of three things: woven wire (not much of them were though), rock fences, or hedgerows. I also got some of the breeds down: Suffolk, Border Leicester (lol), and regular old "Hill Sheep" (brockle faced and horned, for all of my fellow sheep nerds). The most bizarre though, was a black sheep with white legs and face. I have no idea on the breed, but I'll have to find it. My favorite part was when one of our group asked (rather loudly) why the sheep's butts were orange. I, of course, got the lovely task of explaining exactly why that is. I relished the looks of shock on their faces. I tried to take some pictures and videos from the train, but the quality stinks, so I won't bore you with them.
A decent quality one that I nabbed off of my friend's facebook page.  Picturesque, right? 

We arrived in the Edinburgh Waverly rail station and started off in search of our hostel. 
Monitors at the Edinburgh Waverly Rail Station.  Cool picture, I think.

It turned out to be a short walk and just off the Royal Mile (the main drag in Edinburgh). I had never stayed in a hostel, but I'll just state for the record that I LOVE hostels, this one in particular. The atmosphere, the people, the beds, everything was awesome and homey.
High Street Hostel...actually on Blackfriar's Street.  Oh well.

The lobby...lots of neat people from EVERYWHERE.

After we dropped our luggage at the hostel, our group (there were about 20 of us) split up and did our own thing. Cassie and I wound up together (we originally had about 3 more, but we lost them, somehow) and headed straight for Edinburgh Castle. On the way up there, we saw several interesting things-- a bagpiper decked out in kilt and all and the best was a William Wallace actor. He had the face paint and everything, but his favorite thing to do was lift his kilt and show his strategically placed Braveheart tattoo. Sadly, I didn't get a picture of this guy, but he was selling postcards and I regret not buying one :). 

HA!  Another picture stolen from a friend's facebook.  He was awesome!

Once up in the castle, Cassie ran into an Australian girl that she met in Dublin, before she arrived in Preston. Neither had any idea that the other was going to be in Edinburgh, and then they randomly (literally) met at the Castle. Very weird. Aimee is a very neat-- she's spending her summer holiday here in Europe (remember, its summer in Australia), just traveling and hosteling. So we all did the Castle together.

Edinburgh Castle is a strategically placed embattlement on the top of a big hill at the start of the Royal Mile. 
This is the Royal Mile/High Street.  You can just make out the Castle at the top there.

It has seen a large number of wars and has a view of miles around, all the way out to the sea. The Castle has a rich military history, and Cassie, Aimee, and I enjoyed walking through the Scottish Dragoons exhibit AND we got to see the Scottish Crown Jewels. 
We made it!  It's HUGE!

A Royal Scottish Dragoon...I think.