Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mmmmmm, waffles!

Katie and I are leaving realllllllllly early tomorrow for Belgium. Like, the plane leaves Manchester at 7:20, which means we need to be there in the 5:30 vicinity, which means we have to leave Preston at 4AM (yes, the trains are operating then, believe it or not!). So while you are warm in your beds, think of us hanging out in an airport in England. But then, we're going to a freaking CHOCOLATE MUSEUM. In Belgium. Try not to be too jealous. Ha. Barring any delays, we should arrive back in Manchester at 8AM GMT on Sunday, putting us back in Preston at 9:30/10ish. I'll probably want a nap, but I'll try to put up a post then.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

York Is All You Need

If you had only one weekend to spend in England, after London (even though I haven't been there yet), I'd say go to York.  York has cathedrals (yes, plural), ancient ruins, and tons of history.  And we (there were six of us this time- Carly, Alma, Cassie, Jori, Aubrey, and me) happened to be there during the annual Viking Festival.  So it was pretty awesome to walk around ancient ruins and run into a Viking, hehe.  It was pretty crowded this weekend, so when I go back with Mom and Mary in April, I'll probably enjoy it even more.  So, here we go!

We all met out in the quad at 6:20AM, so we could get the 6:54 direct train to York.  Some of our other friends who had already been to York had been up ALL NIGHT (doing goodness knows what, lol) and were just getting back to bed when we were leaving.  They had a mattress out in their flat and were mattress surfing down the stairs.  Jori wanted to join in, so I got her picture.

Jori mattress surfing.  No injuries!
So we got to the rail station in plenty of time to get our train.  It was a two and a half hour ride, so most of our crew slept.  I did *try* to read my book for my Lit class (Tale of Two Cities, yuck), but I didn't get very far.  The route went through Leeds, so we got to see a little from our train.  As we got into Yorkshire, it got FLAT.  Like, Indiana flat.  Only with more trees, and much, much prettier.  And the soil is so dark, very rich.
We got into York at about 9:30.  The weather was pretty mild in the morning, great weather for walking around.  We headed toward the city centre, crossing the York River.  There were rowers out early practicing, and some other neat things.

Female rowers, even!
Pigeons on a turret, near the bridge. 

Bridge near river.

Our first Viking sighting!

We continued to walk towards the city centre and stopped at the Museum Gardens, where our program said battle practice was supposed to be.  In April, I'm sure the gardens will be even more spectacular.  I got some video of the Viking practice.  And enjoy my commentary, haha.
Here are some pictures:
This is an old hospital near the gardens.  St. Leonard's Hospital, built in the 1200s, dissolved in the 1500s.  Wow.
 Inside part of the hospital.  Those are tombs/caskets, right? Awesome.
One of my favorite pictures of the day, inside the hospital.  They don't make hospitals like this anymore.  Shame, really.
 Cool window outside the hospital.
 Vikings!! Preparing for battle.  Awesome shields.  Today, there are female Vikings, which I have a feeling weren't around (at least in battles) back in the day.
 Part of an old castle, near the gardens.
 I have NO IDEA why, but there was a "Birds of Prey" exhibit right beside the gardens, and they had a Bald Eagle.  I don't know how they managed to get it into England (pretty sure they're not native!).
We kept walking, and got quite close to the Minster Area.  There is an old 13th Century wall around the city centre, and we walked around a lot of it.  
Monk Bar, medieval gate into the city centre.

Inside the Monk Bar looking into the streets.
  We walked around a lot of the wall-- this is the Minster!
We were hungry about now, and we knew there was a huge food market a short walk down the city centre.  It wasn't Viking food, but a lot of international food.  I took a lot of pictures, because there was a lot of cool food!
No, I didn't try any.
 German sausages/salami.
Artisan bread.
 Olives + Spices
 Paella!!  A traditional Spanish dish (I had some when I was in Spain).  It has rice, onions, peppers, usually seafood and/or shrimp and saffron gives it the color.  This kind had chicken in it and sausage on top, and you couldn't taste the saffron.  I need to learn how to make this stuff.

Next, we walked to the Shambles.  They're not *in* shambles, its a twisting of the word "shamel" meaning stall or bench, where merchants would sell their wares.  They're tiny twisted streets with tons of little shops, cafes, tea shops, etc.
 Diagon Alley, anyone?

Everything looks like its about to fall in on itself, but its been there for centuries, so no worries.

There was another market right next to the Shambles, more pictures!
Cheese, seafood, and meat.

All of their meat was raised within 25 miles of York.

We all sat down for a while and tried to decide what to do next.  I was the only one who wanted to go the Minster, so I borrowed one of their cell phones and went by myself.  I don't know what they did while I was gone, but I got to indulge in my new favorite hobby of cathedral-stalking.
It's HUGE!!

And beautiful..

Remember, remember the fifth of November, of gunpowder, treason, and plot.
PLEASE tell me somebody knows what I'm talking about.


Columns, etc.

Apparently I can't center a photo properly...

Great West Wall.

Rose Window

Choir area, facing west.

The Tower

The Great East Window.  They're doing a massive, decade-long repair/restoration of the Great East Window and the outside.  It took me a good 10 minutes to realize that this was NOT the actual window, but, in fact, the largest printed photograph in the world.  No kidding!

BIG column.

After I saw all I wanted to see inside the Minster, I wandered down to the opposite side of town, towards Clifford's Tower.
This is all that's left of the medieval York Castle.

The Viking battle was supposed to take place in the York Eye (an area between three museums), but it was sold out!  We watched the fire dancers practice (without the fire, lol) and went back to Preston.  We met a creepy English guy and his creepy Polish friends and we were very thankful when they got off at Accrington, close to Leeds.  
Also, Flat Stanley hasn't come yet.  Hopefully, he'll get here before I go to Belgium this weekend!  
All of my pictures (I took 185 in an 8 hour span!) are here.
Photobucket got all of my pictures hopelessly out of order, so good luck sorting through them.  I might switch to another photo hosting website this week when I have time.  Maybe.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Flat Stanley!

I got in contact with my first grade teacher before I left in January, and told her I'd love to do a Flat Stanley project with a class at her school (she doesn't teach anymore, she's a curriculum specialist). For those of you who don't know, Flat Stanley is a children's book about a boy who gets flattened when a bulletin board falls on him. His parents don't know what to do with him, so they put him in an envelope and send him around the world. He sends postcards and letters from all his travels. When I was in first grade, we each made a Flat Stanley and sent him to our family and friends around the country. Aunt Gail got mine and she did a great trip to New York City and London, as I recall. The great thing is, I get to be Flat Stanley's travel companion this time. Ms. Tribble's class at MLK Elementary School (Ms. Adam's daughter is in the class) sent Flat Stanley off this past Friday, so I should be getting him sometime this week. I've told my friends about him (a lot of them never heard of him! Shocking!) and I think they're just as excited as I am. Carly is going on a trip to Hungary with one of her friends from home and she has requested custody of Flat Stanley that weekend, haha. I'm hoping to get him in time to go York on our Viking adventure. I'm also planning to keep a separate blog for Flat Stanley's adventures ( so everyone, especially Ms. Tribble's class, can keep up with Flat Stanley. I'm going to try to do a scrapbook (or an iPhoto book, something) at the end.

More info about Flat Stanley:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Surf's Up!

I'm not a control freak, really I'm not! I just prefer to know where I'm going on a trip at least 2-3 days in advance! That way I can read up on the place, look at maps, etc. Well, Jori, Carly and I decided we would go somewhere this weekend together. So last night (at 10PM, mind you) I almost had them talked into York. Then Jori and Carly mentioned that they wanted to go somewhere outdoorsy... beaches, hiking, etc. The Yorkshire Dales were an option, but that would have been a longer trip and more expensive than we liked. So we decided beaches would be good (in February? In England?). We decided that Southport Beach looked promising, so we decided to catch the 9:09AM train. We got to the Rail Station and were told that its actually a bus that would take us there, and we'd have to swich buses at some point. And we couldn't find the bus we wanted anyway. So we made a group decision to go to Blackpool. It was only a 30 minute train ride anyway. I was a little irritated because I had no idea what was in Blackpool, as far as what to see and stuff to do. Carly felt the same way, but she knew there was the beach (obviously) and an amusement park called Pleasure Beach.

We walked down to the beach and of course it is COLD. But we made it all the way down to the water. I got some pretty good pictures.

Blackpool Pier. We wondered why it was closed, but Jori mentioned that they probably closed it for Valentine's Day because single people throw themselves off. hahahaha

The Golden Mile at Blackpool.

Ripples in the sand!

Pier + Blackpool Tower

Carly is from southern California...this was obviously a disappointment.

Pleasure Beach

Note how high the barnacles are on the posts...

Donkeys on the beach! Yes, Jori is smelling them. The little one bit me!

After walking around on the beach for a while, we were popsicles. We decided to go warm up, so we walked along the Golden Mile for a while. If you've ever been to the Western Kentucky State Fair, you'll have a pretty good idea of what the Golden Mile in Blackpool is like. TACKY. Only a lot more raunchy than our county fair. Some of the stuff in there was truly horrifying, so I won't go into detail. Apparently, Blackpool is England's second most visited city, after London. I suppose it is a lot nicer in the summer, but good grief. So we ate some warm food and tea (I've developed a liking for tea, yum) and walked around a little more. By the time we went back down to the beach, the whole thing was gone! The Irish Sea ate it (or the tide came in, whichever version you prefer)!
AH! We had just been walking under that pier earlier!

Jori was smart and wore rain boots (er, Wellingtons).

We were still cold, so we walked back towards the rail station. The walk there was a whole lot less trashy.
Grand Theatre, I think...

Another interesting, non-tacky building in Blackpool.

Aaaaaaand, just because I hadn't done it yet! Me in a legit British phonebooth.

Thankfully, my next two weekends are already planned. Next weekend we ARE going to York, because there is a Viking festival going on, and who doesn't want to see Vikings? The weekend after that, Katie and I are going to....Belgium! We found dirt cheap tickets online (seriously, they were less than $30) so we're going to have waffles and chocolate and beer in Brussels. We're really really really excited. And on one of the two weekends after that Toni (from Wisconsin, not mom!) and I are going to London to do the Harry Potter thing and see a musical called "Spring Awakening" on the West End. And Jori, Carly, and I are planning a weekend trip to Bath, Stonehenge, and Swansea (in Wales). And I want to go to Ireland and some point. Whew, that makes me tired!
All of my pictures are