Friday, June 29, 2007

The end is here

I am back at home. More pictures and stories later!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

New Pix

There should be 12 new pictures up on flickr. Enjoy!

The Saga of Norwich

As with many of my travel stories, this is best described as a saga. So...for those of you blissfully unaware of my travel disasters, I have had several, many of them involving travelling to King's Singers Concerts.

Disasters I have known:
1) Bicycling to the concert in Harrogate, Yorkshire (chain off bike, getting lost, about to twist ankle, out of shape, etc)
2) Road trip to the concert in Milwaukee, WI (car accident, snow storm, bus cancellations, laptop dissapearance, plane ride)
3) Conference trip to Salt Lake City, UT (hotel didn't exist)
4) Not quite as high up as the others, but my recent Stansted to Wales trip (8 hours, 6 trains, running across platforms, wandering up hills)

So, on Saturday morning, I headed out from York. The plan was to meet up with Adam in Ely and then go on to Norwich, where I'd booked a concert ticket and a hotel room. Now, being the brilliant person I am, I forgot to look up the concert details in York. So, at Adam's, I looked up where my hotel and the concert were. I forgot one vital detail: noting the time of the concert. I did stay longer than intended in Ely, but I was on the train around 4.15 or so, and we got into Norwich at 5.08. Still, in plenty of time to get ready before the concert. But, this is where I made my next huge mistake. I had looked at a map about 3 hours earlier and "knew" where I was headed. I did not stop to pick up a map. I did not go with my gut to get a cab. I decided to walk, mapless, to my hotel.

For those of you who are more visual, this is the route I should have taken: Route on Google

But I made a mistake early on. I took a left where I should have taken a right. Then I followed it. I knew I was on the ring road, hence I would arrive at my hotel shortly. It wouldn't be more than 30 minutes, 45 max. At this point, I should also mention that my pack weighs about 17 kg and my feet were blistered. I should've taken a hint when the first lady I asked for directions told me that I should catch a bus. But I ignored her comment and kept walking. Finally I ran into some very helpful men who told me that I was still 20 minutes from the road that my hotel was on. This was at 6.05. Smartly, I called the hotel to figure out which direction I should turn on my road, preventing me from taking a long, long, detour. I got to the hotel at 6.30-still in plenty of time for my 7.30 concert. I thought it was a bit odd that doors opened at 6.25, but I ignored it. I had to take a shower and eat my three slices of apple and two strawberries. I took my time, and, headed out of the hotel around 6.55, hopped a bus, and got to the city centre around 7ish. At which point I got lost in a mall and finally stumbled into the Salvation Army Hall around 7.15...early. But alas, I was not early, for the concert had begun at 7.

I took off my jacket (for it had been pouring rain, so I was soaked) and at the end of the song, creapt into the back of the hall. The rest of the evening went much more smoothly, although, as typically happens, I didn't eat...cause I really couldn't be bothered. It was a fun evening and showed off an interesting collaboration between the K'S and the Salvation Army.

The next morning, I set off around 9 in order to DEFINITELY make it to the station by 10.45. I had a map this time as well, but a lovely couple from my hotel gave me a lift, saving me a long walk.

On this note, I think, I will head out. I might go down to the Science Museum (I hear you all screaming "geek," but I am at a CS conference.) Then I'll go back to my hotel - I forget what I need, other than a cd of pictures, but I will go back there, before returning to my current location, the Computer Science building at the University of Dundee, for our evening activities and more free internet.

For those of you curious about my future travels, I'm headed to Lanark and Glasgow tomorrow and then from Glasgow to London either overnight Wednesday or Thursday early. Thursday is London and on Friday I head home...hopefully in time to get the key to my new flat so that I can move in before I leave for SC on Wednesday. *Sigh* I'm looking forward to the rest of the free and scorching hot. Well, not the hot bit...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Running Out of Time

My time is almost up on this computer...Just wanted to let everyone know that I am in Dundee and my talk is over (YAY). I'll post tomorrow (when I have internet again) about my crazy adventures and a recent travel saga (involving, of course, the King's Singers...whom I should NEVER travel to go see on my own). I think I might have an ear infection, but I am planning to ignore that for the rest of the day. In 45 minutes, our coaches leave for a castle where there shall be dancing. I am sure that my blistered feet will love me then.
More tomorrow.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Random Mini Post

Due to the inadequacies of American stores (i.e. NY and Company) and the outrageous cost of living in the UK, I only have one pair of jeans. They are sprouting holes. It is quite scary, when I sit on the train, contemplating how much longer they will stay together. I suppose that most of next week i can get by with dress pants and a skirt, but the holes are scary. Especially when that's all I have to contemplate on my random cross-country train journeys.

Greetings from Selby

I'm in Selby at the moment. It's a bit south of York and I'm staying with two Glee friends. I went with Clare to the Glee Concert last night and then we went to the Glash. It all made me feel quite old, really. The funny thing is that most of my MN friends are at least 3 years older than me, most of my KY friends are at least a few months older than me, and most of my Glee friends are younger (if only by a few months).
This will not be a deep post. I'm watching the British version of Jerry Springer at the moment. It's much more sophisticated (i.e. no throwing things...people just walk off when they're mad).
I am putting more pictures on flickr right now though. Tomorrow I'm heading down to Norwich for about 24 hours (or less) before heading up to the conference. Yesterday I went to Scarborough for 15 minutes. It was highly amusing, my friends I met up with for lunch thought that it was really funny. Then we played the computerized pub quiz for several hours. We really need those machines in the states. They are loads of fun.
I should probably go and get something done now though. There is no sword of Damacles here in Selby (i.e. I have more than 30 minutes on the computer) so perhaps I can finish up this presentation before heading into York for lunch.
More, hopefully, later...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Addendum and York

Some of my 3 readers may question my crtisism of the kids invading the youth hostels. So, to fight off the most hardened readers, I present you with numbers.
There are over 150 beds in this hostel. Tonight there are two rooms for non-school people. One 4 bed mens room and one 8 bed womens room. That's right. A maximum of 12 beds for non kids. Less than ONE TENTH of the beds are for travellers. Tomorrow night they had no room for me (which is fine, because I was planning to stay with friends anyways, but...).(If you wonder how I am writing, I will tell you that my ipod is cranked up to max to drown out the kids waiting in line for dinner.)

I wandered about York today. City center and University mainly. York Uni still smells the same :) It looks a bit different htough. Even in Goodricke, the mailboxes have been moved. We used to have slots in the wall. Mine was the PQ slot. Then you look in the slot to see if any of the mail is actually yours. Apparently, according to Holly, they decided that perhaps it wasn't the best idea to just leave the mail out where anyone could get it. They also now have microwaves and toasters in the kitchens in A-block AND they have key card access, instead of having to type in the 5 number code. Quite amusing. I ran into Holly on the bridge between Goodricke and Wentworth and, perhaps more surprisingly, she recognized me. We chatted for a bit and she said that I should come to Glee tonight, so I'm planning to go, although I don't know if I'll go for rehersal or just for the social time.

Anyways, I'm off to track down lodging for Saturday night.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Deep depths of despair

Why is it that I can't work a reception desk bell? (Other than reid's answer that I am a bad ta...)

Youth Hostel, where is your youth?

Just to inform you, this will be a slightly whiney post, primarily because it's that time in my travels, and I have no one to vent to privately :)

I generally think of myself as a fairly tolerant person. I have many friends from many backgrounds, I enjoy conversations with young and old alike and diverse perspectives interest me.

On this trip, I am staying in Youth Hostels. In Italy/Switzerland, I stayed in independent hostels and now I'm in Hostelling International Hostels. In England and Wales, it is called the YHA (Youth Hostel Association). When I think of Youth, I think of folks between, say 15 and 25. I don't think of my grandparents and I don't think of 10 year olds. But, that is not to say that they are not the primary clients of the YHA though.

This is the second hostel on my trip where I have yet to see anyone within 3 years of my age (either direction) who is travelling on their own (aka not a leader of the school group). Most of the independent travellers are in their late 50s, early to mid 60s. Not that I am generally social in places like this, but the older folks are just downright anti-social: either because they don't speak to others or because once they open their mouths they will not be quiet. I'm not sure why this is.

The other end of the spectrum though, is the children. The screaming school children. I don't quite know why they are here, I suppose for the history. But they scream. And then you try to get away from the screaming...but you can't, because everywhere you go in the hostel you can either hear the screaming children, or quiet children have taken over (like the TV lounge) or there are no seats.

In other news, I am in York. It is quite odd walking around, not a stranger, but not exactly at home either. Things have changed since I was here last. Shops have moved, shops have closed, shops have opened. There is massive construction on campus and I don't fit in there any more. Hopefully, when I go by tomorrow, the CS building will be open and I can sit on a computer for free and write my presentation and do email, etc etc.

Tomorrow night, I may go to a concert. I know at least one person in it and it sounds quite random... I think it's a musical about Herod dating back to about 1300. I'm off now. It's amazing how much sitting on a train for 6 hours can wipe you out!

No pictures today, hopefully more tomorrow :)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Exeter Public Library

I am very sleepy. I am trying to not write a crappy essay, and, I believe, failing. The computer won't let me check gmail (although I can get on flickr), and CS email is down. On an up note though, it's getting brighter out and is no longer raining.

Some new pix are up...check them out. Possibly more later.

Florence at Night

Florence at Night

Italian Rice balls are GOOD!

Deep fried rice balls...mmmm!

Fried veggies and fruit salad

Fried veggies and fresh fruit (the cantelope was perfectly ripe!)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Day of Immense Proportions

Today was crazy.
Fast facts:
Distance travelled: 2, 297 km
Distance travelled within UK: 247 miles
Types of transportation: 4 (bus, train, plane, feet)
Number of trains: 6
Number of hours to get from Stansted Airport to Conwy Wales (247 miles): 8
Number of hours it was supposed to take: 4
Number of hours spent standing with backpack on: approx. 4
Number of hours slept last night: 4
Trip to Italy and Switzerland with Rachel: Priceless

Ok, so that's a little cheesy. But I wanted to present the craziness of it all. The truth is that I'm not as exhausted as I feel I should be, given this list and the fact that I'm on the verge of getting sick. I had two trains cancelled on me. One due to weather (there was a huge electrical storm in the midlands with flooding and other nastiness), the other who knows why (I caught up to it at the next stop). Rachel and I had an excellent time in Rome and wrote several sketches for PPR, which are to be recorded and mixed at a later time, due to conflicts with management.

We are also puzzling Roman transportation. If any of my 3 readers know why the Rome Metro line A closes at NINE o'clock PM and is replaced by buses until 11.30 pm, we would be extremely grateful.

Tomorrow the plan is to maybe go up a mountain (Mount Snowdon) although I've wussed out and am now planning to take the train and to try to track down the castle that Sarah works in in Bangor to see if I can find her. Other than that I also want to get a new (cheap?) mobile as Tony's is on it's last legs/dead. Perhaps more pictures later, but this computer doesn't have an accessible cd drive.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Short Post from Rome

I feel bad for not writing longer posts, but I suppose I'd feel worse if I didn't see the sights. Rach and I (since I last wrote) have finished Firenze (Florence) and moved on to Rome. I'm uploading six completely random pictures from Florence at the moment and we'll see how long that takes. Internet cafes here seem to have very slow upload times.
So, yessterday morning we waited in line for three hours for the Uffizi and are hoping to not have to do that tomorrow for the Vatican museums. My guidebook says that people start queuing at 6.30 am, so we're planning to get an early start. This morning we went to visit the pope. When I say went to visit I mean that we went through the metal detectors and stood in St. Peter's Square for 3 hours. Luckily the guard left his post after the homily and ANYONE was allowed in to sit on the chairs. We enjoyed the chairs. My arms did not enjoy the sun quite so much :) It was really interesting because the last time I was at a papal audience (ok, so the only other time in my life) was about this time of year in 2002. Pope John Paul II was very ill though and it was impossible to understand him no matter what language he was speaking. Pope Benedict XVI is so much healthier and young than his predecessor. Not only could I understand him in English, but also, partly, in Italian, German, Spanish, and French.
More on all this later though, we are trying to make it to the Colosseo before it closes. I leave you with these two pictures.

On top of Monte San Salvatore (looking from Switzerland into Italy)

Rach and Me squinting on top of Monte San Salvatore (picture by Jon)

Ponte Vecchio at night

The Ponte Vecchio at night...a somehow miraculous photo by yours truly.

Monday, June 11, 2007

At last!

Here are some belated pictures!

Rachel in Lugano

Rachel enjoys the view in Lugano

View from our Picnic Table in Origlio

View from the Picnic Table in Origlio

More photos (about 6) are available on with more to come

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The most gorgeous place on the planet

First, I will state that I should not be allowed to post this without pictures. We are working on finding a place that will allow us to back up pictures to disk, so perhaps it will work later on today or tomorrow. There is also a lot more that I intend to write later, but it is irrelevant at the moment.

I met up with Rach in Milano yesterday. We waited in some lines, ate spinach, pickled mushroom, and mozzerella panini and had great fun. Then we got on the train. Originally we intended to stay in Lugano Switzerland, a city just across the Italian border in the lake area. (There are lots of lakes...) But, alas, there were no hostels available, so we (meaning me) investigated other options including agriturismos and the schlaf im stroh network. Agriturismos are like B&Bs on farms, and schlaf im stroh means litterally sleep in straw. These are generally places that put the cows out to pasture in the summer and clean out the barn and you sleep in the stalls. Odd idea, but cool, we thought. So we are staying in one of those...Website will follow after we leave.

The bus dropped us off a quarter mile from the farm (following directions in Italian is still a struggle for me) and it is in a stunning location. (Again, pictures help!) Think a small farm in a small village in rural Switzerland. We met the farmer, who speaks Italian and German and no English...forcing me to become...TRANSLATOR GIRL. He took us on a short tour involving the bathroom (a normal Western bathroom with running water) which is located on the upper level of the goat and cow barn and then to our lodgings for last night. A small hut, with a picnic table and covered balcony and lots of straw inside. (With reading lights, of course, because what sort of bed would it be without reading lights??) Then we walked outside. The view from the door is indescibable. It is one of those views that you see when you read a book. It's not the view that you see from a front door.

At this point Rach and I were recovering from gorgeous shock and ate our dinner (bought sandwiches and random Swiss snacks) on the picnic table overlooking the hills. On one of the hills was a small church and Rach made it her life's goal to reach the church (when I say life, I mean 36 hours...not that she is only living 36 hours, but...) So after dinner, we took a walk through the town. We passed the small primary school with the playground, the soccer pitch, the municipal building, and walked towards the church, until we realized that we were walking on a small path, not a road. So we turned around and headed to walk around the local lake, where we were to protect the fish. We walked around the lake, taking time to sit down and chat, taking pictures, and watching all the locals stroll or jog by, with and without dogs. As everyone passed they chirped, ¨Buona sera.¨ ¨Buona Sera,¨we'd reply.

There are so many houses in our neighborhood where there is the house, a small garden, and then a small vineyard. I am very curious about the vineyards. Our house, however, has no vineyard. Upon our return, Rach and I kept catching up. We also decided, DRUMROLL, that by the end of our week, we will have put together a NEW REUNION travel video edition of PPR!!!!! For those of you unfamiliar with PPR, PPR stands for Pearsons Public Radio, Pearsons being our freshman dorm at Berea. We started a radio station which had about 4 episodes our freshman year. We planned to return and do a seniors edition our senior year, but that didn't happen. So, we hope to eventually have a You Tube Version, not because we like video of ourselves, but because we really feel that there is no other way, since we are lacking in audio only recording equipment. So watch this space for more details.

Edit: From this point on was erased, so I am recreating the original...
Alright, take two.

We fell asleep to rain pounding on the roof of the small hut. Rach awoke quickly this morning, but I took longer to get moving. Breakfast was served on the picnic table overlooking the barn and the mountains. The farmer first brought two pitchers: coffee and hot water, along with farm placemats, tea, cocoa, sugar, dishes, and cutlery. After a short period, he returned bearing food: bread, apricot jelly, fresh butter, formaggio, and formaggini. Since the place is a farm, they also make and sell goat and cow dairy products. Formaggio appears to be hard or aged cheese, where formaggini is soft, fresh cheese. The formaggio plate contained hard goat cheese (amazing!), hard cow cheese (strong), and what Rach affectionately called penicillin cheese (covered with mold, but FANTASTIC). The formaggini plate had two types of soft cheese, a mozzerella type and a spreadable ricotta, like cream cheese, but with a strong aftertaste. Both were goats cheeses, but I'm not supposed to let Efe know that!

After breakfast we moved our things to the yurt where we'll be staying tonight. The farm particpates in a schools on the farm program and there are between 10 and 25 children there tonight. Hopefully though, we will be the only ones in the yurt. After moving our belongings into the yurt (and using any excuse to write the word yurt), we took off for Lugano, via the town graveyard and church.

In Lugano we have been the the H&M and a schoolchildren's orchestral concert in the square. We are off in search of lunch and then we plan to catch the funicular (look it up on Wikipedia) to the peak of Monte Bré where we shall be able to look out over Lake Lugano. It is a gorgeous day for being here. Tonight we're planniing to have dinner at a small restaurant (one of two in our small town) that has cheesy bar lights in the back yard. Rach still wants to get to the church as well!

That's all for now, the cheese is wearing off, and I'm getting hungry :)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Lack of Pictures

Well, after talking to mom, I decided to post pictures. (Or attempt to) I found, however, that both flickr and webshots are blocked from this hostel computer AND of course I can't get onto UMN computers to just dump my pix for now you shall be pictureless. (I don't feel like signing up for yet another photosharing site.) I'd like to put pix up soon, but I'm guessing that I won't care while I'm in Italy.
More later. I must sleep now so that I can be on a bus at 5am.

Adventures in Tired Land

I am now in London. I managed to sleep for about 3 hours on the flight, which was excellent. We were an hour sitting on the tarmac at JFK, so by the time I got through customs at Heathrow, it was 8am. I took the tube into my hostel, which is situated about a block from St. Paul's. A business neighborhood-pretty much everyone not staying in the hostel wore a tie. Plenty of construction going on, but a nice location.
My first goal was to get a sim card for my mobile. I was successful. Email me if you need/want my mobile number. Then I decided to go to the British Museum to keep myself awake. I walked and walked and walked and ended up in a Tescos. Tescos is kindof like Rainbow or Krogers. I bought my whole lunch (juice, sandwich, yogurt) for less than a hot chocolate had cost me at Starbucks. (Yes, I went to starbucks. I was starving, and it was there, and hot, and caffeinated, and sugary.) There are so many sensations that I associate with living here that I hadn't even realized I had missed. Like the Yogurt. The type of yogurt I got is kindof like fruit on the bottom, except the fruit is on the side, and the yogurt, instead of the fruit, is sweetened. It was SO good. I took a picture of it for Katie K.
When I finally found the British Museum I had just about zonked out. (I also decided that it's the hardest museum in the world to find.) So I looked at the Rosetta Stone, wandered a little more, and left. The Reading Room was closed, else I would have gone there as well. I decided to head back to the hostel, a copy of The Independent in hand, and wait til my hostel room opened up so I could take a nap. I took a lovely nap (with earplugs and sleeping mask to keep out the construction noise and sunlight) and when I woke up I went out in search of food and a tv screen to watch the game on. England played Estonia last night in a Euro cup qualifier. (3-0) I never managed to find the game, but I did find food, in the form of a strange restaurant called Nando (more on that later). Coming back to the hostel, I tried to ring the house, but no one answered, so I went to Marks and Sparks instead. More food memories! YAY! Then I went to sleep. I am very boring.
Today started with breakfast at the hostel. It's a nice breakfast, although now that its half 11, (that could be's half 12!), it's wearing off. I went in search of an internet cafe because I wanted to finish up some stuff for my Grace Hopper scholarship application. Well...that didn't happen because the stupid internet cafe doesn't let you use Office. You can look at porn (as was the man sittting next to me), but god forbid you do any work. So I have been wasting away my minutes doing other things. It's great fun. This morning I passed by a Sainsbury's (a cross between Rainbow and Lund's...hard to explain to KY folks). It was my preferred grocery store in England and I hadn't realized how distinctive it was. It smells like Sainsburys. Anyways, I'll save the raving for Katie K later. I did buy Madeira cake though...which I am very much looking forward to eating for lunch. I also went into the first British Whole Foods, which doesn't resemble in the slightest the Whole Foods on the west side of Calhoun. It was quite different. But hard to explain.
I'm off now. I think I'm going to head over to LTS (a tall women's shop) to see what their sale encompasses, and then down to the Westminster/Parliament area to see what's up there. I may try to go to evensong at Westminster and then grab dinner on the southbank before heading back to bed so that I can get on my early plane to Italy tomorrow to see Rach.
Over and out.