Monday, December 13, 2010

Address: Various Choir Recitals

Dear All,
This is my last ditch attempt at catching up on correspondence. Since I have been studying here, I've had the pleasure of being part of University choir. It's been a lot of fun and has provided me with opportunities to visit great places. Case in point: Gloucester Cathedral. The beginnings of this beautiful church began as far back as 900 a.d. Not only was it a pleasure to sing in such an ancient setting, but it was incredibly gorgeous too. We sang there for two of the graduation ceremonies (which are held in November even though seniors are finished in June). We were also able to tour around Gloucester and this allowed me to see part of the original Roman wall that used to circle the city, as well as visit the tea shop that inspired Beatrix Potter to write the beloved classic stories of Peter Rabbit.

Choir in the States is not quite the same...

PS. We were also able to sing at the Cheltenham Race course, FCH chapel, and a lovely church in Stanton (a cotswolds village). I don't have pictures from these places, but just getting to be there was amazing!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Enclosed pictures

As always, have your fill of photography excellence : )
....haha, if only.


The Ireland Collection

Address: Somewhere in Wales

Yo ho, yo ho,
Our epic trip to Ireland started out not so epically. We missed our very first train and therefore had to play catch-up the whole way to Holyhead, Wales. We arrived in Wales four minutes after our ferry left for ye ol' green land! It was frustrating at first, but then we decided to just laugh about it and have a good time where we were stranded...which was the middle of nowhere. The town was very small, but hosted a lovely, garage-like "Bargains Galore," several consignment shops, and a Turkish pizza place. With our bellies full of Turkish pizza, and a few random purchases in hand, we proudly boarded the last ferry of the day at 5:30. The ferry was much nicer than I assumed it would be. There were a few places to get food, a gift shop, and a theater area (playing a rugby match). Since the ride was a bit choppy, I sat for most of it. Upon arriving in Dublin, we had to ask for directions several times before finding our hostel, but it isn't too bad so I think we're ok : ).
May the luck of the Irish be with you,
Address: Mountains outside of Dublin

Thanks to Sandy, our English Mum, we had booked a day tour before coming to Ireland. The tour was definitely a trip highlight. We boarded a bus at 9 am and it took us into the Wicklow mountains, which are gorgeous! The pics don't really do it justice, but it really was a lovely area. We stopped at spots where "PS. I love you" and "Braveheart" were filmed (awesome!!). It was really neat to step outside of the beaten path and explore the countryside. We also saw Glendalough Monastery, which is so old it dates back to around the 900s or so! Many of the original walls are still standing, even though they were constructed without cement or any sort of sealing agent. They don't make things like they used to.
I'm just going to go pretend that I'm meeting Gerald Butler randomly on the road, like the movie...If you'll excuse me : ).
~Glenda Lough
Address: Dublin at Night

I honestly think that Dublin has been my favorite city that I've visited so far. The people are so friendly and helpful, the weather was nice during our trip (which I realize is a miracle), and the city itself is just great. After our tour, we went to the Leprechaun Museum, which is brand new and totally worth the 7 euros we spent to tour it. Most of it was interactive, we could climb huge pieces of furniture, explore a wooden version of Giant's Causeway, and walk through a rainbow. We also lucked out with a hilarious tour guide, which made everything that much better. Afterwards, we ate at a church that had been converted to a pub. Ironically enough, it was the same church that Arthur Guinness was married in! We spent the rest of the night walking around the city and enjoying the city lights.
I should write a song about Dublin city lights....
~Cold in Dublin (but it's not raining)

Address: Ferry Port

Sadly, Saturday to Monday was our limited time in Dublin. On our last day, we got up early and walked to the Guinness Warehouse/ seemed appropriate. However, after we walked all the way there, it was too expensive for us to deem worthy of our time so we just shopped around before heading to our ferry port. Unfortunately, we grossly misjudged the distance to the port. We thought that we were almost there when a well-meaning taxi driver pulled over and told us that we still had about 2 miles to go (after we'd already been walking about 40 minutes). He willingly gave us a ride (that's probably how he makes most of his money, picking up stupid tourists trying to get to their ferry) and we made it just in time.
All in all, a great trip. How many times in your life can you say you were in 3 countries in one day? or walked on the same road as Gerald Butler? or pretended to be a leprechaun? I <3 Ireland...and should have bought a t-shirt that said so : ).
Be ye Blessed,
~Maggie O'Donnell (hmmm)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Address: Cardiff

Dear Americans,
Do you know what the true beauty of being in England entails? Being able to travel to Wales by train! Seriously, how many times in your life could you say you took a train for an hour and arrived in Wales? Well that's what we did. On a bit of a whim, we decided to go to Cardiff for the day. Immediately, I learned that they actually speak a different language there (Welsh), call me an idiot, but I didn't know that.
We didn't have much of an agenda, but we did get to visit the castle in Cardiff and tour the museum for a little bit. After that, we enjoyed real, authentic Welsh Starbucks (ok, I know, but I can never turn down Gingerbread lattes when they're in season) and shopped for a few hours. Just like England, everything closes around 5, so we had to spend a few hours walking around in the cold, but it was still a lovely place to visit.

Wrth eu bodd yn fy ffrindiau,

PS. The welsh language is composed almost entirely of consonants....

Address: Salisbury

After Stonehenge, we went to Salisbury for the rest of the day. Salisbury is a quaint town (though that word could be used to describe many towns here) and home to the Mompesson (sp?) House which was part of the set in the movie for "Sense and Sensibility." Of course, being the nerd that I am, I adore Jane Austin and was eager to mosey around the house and look at all the artifacts from that time period. We were also lucky enough to come to Salisbury on a day when the street fair was happening. There were sellers with fresh donuts and scones and all sorts of handmade items. I seized the opportunity to try Pumpkin soup....which was actually fairly delicious.
The best part of the day was seeing the Salisbury Cathedral, which was the largest one I have seen so far. It was so beautiful, I could have stayed for awhile. Our main objective was to see one of the 4 original copies of the Magna Carta, but sadly that display was closed for the day.

Why can't churches be this beautiful in the States?

PS. I may not have seen the Magna Carta, but I did see several tombs of VIPs from long ago, check out my pictures!

Address: Stonehenge

Stonehenge, one of the greatest henges in the world (homage to Eddie Izzard). I have seen pictures on this place so many times in my life that it was almost strange to see it up close. That's how a lot of memorable places are here....still so cool, yet weird. At any rate, stonehenge was pretty straight forward, if you've seen pictures you know what I'm talking about. But a few days before visitting, our BCA class discussed the history of the henges in England, which is actually quite interesting. Did you know that there are actually around 300 henges in the UK? It's just that Stonehenge is the most preserved because many of the others were made from wood. We did the normal, touristy pictures and then moved on. It's just another landmark that I can check off my list of things to see within my lifetime!

Stonily yours,


PS. We also learned that based upon skeletons from this time period that have been studied by archeologists, women helped to construct the henges as well as men. Yay woman power!! Our tutor recommended that we draw lady parts on the mural of the tribal men raising the stones....and someone was almost successful.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Address: Washington DC (sort of)

Dear Bed-Sheet Ghosts, Glittery Vampires, and Plastic-Tiared Princesses,
Happy Halloween! Regency celebrated Halloween in style (and quite loudly at times). Since I am admittedly, a newcomer to the idea of dressing up for Halloween (never got to trick or treat as a sad) I have just as much fun with it as the kids do. The holiday is not really as popular over here as in the States (at least not with kids going door to door). To me it actually seemed to be more of a big deal to those of us who are over 18 and want to go to costume parties. Michelle and I showed off our love for the show "NCIS" by dressing up as two of the characters. If you don't know the show, I was Ziva, an Israeli-American hardcore agent, and Michelle is Abby, a sweet, brilliant gothic scientist. It was so much fun that we spent the whole night posing and making ridiculous videos. Who says you can't play dress-up after you're "grown-up?"

Agent Ziva David

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pictures enclosed

Couldn't forget to send pictures as well! Enjoy = )

(Remember, all albums are listed on the right side ->, and Twitter updates are on the left <-, just in case you wanted to stay completely informed)

The "picasa photostream" on the right is an album with pics that other people took that I wanted to share.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Paris Collection

Address: YWAM Paris Base (19th district)

Dear Map-readers,
I wish more of you decided to journey with me to Paris. Poor Danelle was stuck with the navigation segment of our trip. The rest of us couldn't make any sense of Parisian streets. We only made fools of ourselves a few times while jumping from bus to train to plane to train to metro. Thankfully, by a lucky correspondence with a YWAM base in Paris, we were able to have a place to stay for the night after being turned down by hostels with curfew times. I love how YWAM is like a huge family around the world. As part of their ministry, this particular base runs a restaurant that serves 3-course, phenomenal meals for only 16 euros (crazy cheap here). It was much better food than our first Paris cuisine (which was actually Thai food) which we inhaled after traveling all day. We were then stuck with the dilemma of figuring out how to pay/tip in this new country. Hopefully we didn't offend too many waiters during our weekend.

Already tired,

Address: Vintage Hostel (1st District)
Dear Cheese, Bread and Wine-Lovers.
Our first full day in Paris was spent wandering through the streets with no particular aim. This is not a good idea BTW. We did happen upon the highest point in Paris (Sacre Coeur) and were harassed by street vendors. It was a lovely day for meandering though, so we get a good taste of upper Paris. We have decided from this point on to take the metro as much as possible to save on map-reading and foot strength. Our first night in a hostel turned up some mixed up room situations and Michelle and I ended up sharing a single bed (nice and cozy), but other than that it wasn't too bad. We were given free croissants in the morning and we hoarded as many brochures and maps as possible. At the end of the day we visited the Louvre and took advantage of Friday night free entry (I do love free things). The Louvre is amazing. I wish I had a few days to peruse it.

A girl who cannot pronounce French to save her life

Address: St. Christopher's Hostel (19th District)

Dear Art and History Enthusiasts,
We packed a lot into our Saturday. Upon discovering a free walking tour of the city, we excitedly signed up. The tour was led by a hilarious guide (definitely easy on the eyes as well) who shared so many random stories that you would never read in history books. We stopped at all the famous touristy sites including: Notre Dame, Louvre, Jardin de T(something that I don't know how to spell), etc. We saw the great Eiffel Tower from afar, but didn't get close. After 4 hours of walking in the rain and FREEZING cold, we went back to our hostel (10x nicer than the last) and crashed for a few hours. Later, after eating, we decided to make a spontaneous trip to see Eiffel. While it was an unplanned visit, it was spectacular! Every hour, on the hour, the tower sparkles. So pretty!


PS. Did you know that the French have a "cultural ministry" building which simply serves to keep English words out of their language (i.e. computer or weekend)? They also tackle problems like what to do when statues' noses start to fall off...but it may take them 2 years to come to a decision (true story).

Address: Navigating Paris Transportation (multiple districts)
Dear Excitable People,
What happens when you get to visit places that you've always dreamed of seeing in real life? You go a little crazy that's what! On our last day, we decided to splurge a bit a pay to ascend the Eiffel Tower. Totally worth the money!! We did so at night so it was almost looking at the sky from above, all the tiny lights looked like stars on the ground. Beautiful. It was incredibly cold however, but we still loved it. Of course, that was the end of the day. The beginning was spent visiting Napoleon's tomb, taking lots of pictures, and eating authentic, French crepes (mmm). Finally, to wrap up the whole experience, we made another spontaneous stop at the Moulin Rouge because I love the movie and was singing the music all day. It was a must.

Perfectly Satisfied with this visit,

Ps. I don't think I've ever walked this much in one weekend!

Address: Plane over the English Channel

A last note,
Travelling back to our temporary home in England brought some stumbling blocks in the form of French pride. We still made our traveling times just fine, but it took a bit of annoyed eye rolls, broken English/French pleas, lots of running around airports, and a tiny bit of hair-pulling. But for the most part things went smoothly. We all decided that Paris would never be a place we could live because: A.) The city is way too confusing. B.) The people are kinda...well, French at times. C.) We couldn't put up with the street vendors any more than necessary. All things considered, we loved our time there, but it was nice to be back in the UK with a cup of tea, slippers, and our own room once again.

Home again, Home again,

PS. I don't think my foot will ever be the same.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Address: Oxford and Cotswold Villages

To all those closet nerds out there,
I got to visit Oxford last Saturday. This was exciting on two counts: #1. It was Oxford, land of the biggest library systems and areas of academia in (dare I say)the world. #2. My darling cousin, who happens to be studying abroad there, met up with us. I have missed her, and it's pretty awesome that even though I'm across the ocean she's still 40 min. away.
Anyway, Oxford is lovely. We didn't visit any of the actual campuses besides Christ's College (where Harry Potter was filmed), but we did get to visit the famous pub where Tolkien and CS Lewis used to meet. The grandeur and antiquity of everything in the city was just stunning. I took a few pics, but we weren't there very long so I will have to schedule another visit some time soon!


PS. I wish I was a student just so I could enter the forbidden sections of the library and read books that are chained to their shelves.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Address: London

Dear Readers,
Well I was mostly right about regretting the 3:30 am coach ticket to London. However, the trip was very enjoyable. There was something special in watching the capital slowly wake up (plus it provided perfect lighting for photo-ops).
We must have walked at least 10 miles all day, but we saw Westminster Abbey, several of the parks, Buckingham palace (and the changing of the guards), The National Gallery, King's Cross, Picadilly Square, the parliament houses, and part of the British Museum (though an alarm went off randomly and we had to evacuate after only 15 min.). We also enjoyed some solid London Pub food and browsed touristy shops.
By the end of our day (aka 6 pm) we were all starting to get a bit grumpy and very ready for bed...of course it started raining by this point. We boarded our bus right on time and settled in for the 2 1/2 hr. journey back...and that's when the trip turned a bit sour. We sat in London traffic for 4 hours, moving maybe 1/2 a mile in that whole time because (drum roll) a car hit a lampost and that post was blocking 3 lanes of traffic. The trip ended up taking 7 hours!! Needless to say, when we finally got home at 1 am we were all exhausted.
Not too bad of a trip overall, but I think we're taking the train next time...

The Girl Who Will Move Lightposts Herself Next Time

PS. I saw the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum and Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" at the National Gallery. How flippin cool is that?!?!?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Address: Under Covers in My Bed

Dear Americans,
Thanks for the rain. For the most part we've had lovely weather the whole time we've been here, then suddenly the West sends a monsoon our way. I'm not looking forward to walking 30 minutes to class in a few hours. Emily came back earlier soaked in every part that wasn't covered by her coat. Umbrellas are pointless here since it rains up and sideways.
I am currently fighting off a bit of the sniffles. I think it's the unreliable sleep schedule I've had. I slept 10 hours last night (which I never do) and feel better this morning, but tomorrow a group of us are leaving for London at 3:30 am...which could quite possibly be the dumbest idea we've ever had. Oh well, here's to experiences!! I can't wait to show you pictures of what London looks like at 6 am.
I think i'm going to go make some chamomile tea and drink it with digestive biscuits, PB, and nutella (my new favorite combo). Maybe that will perk up my mood before class.

Rainily Yours,
Amanda The Red-Nosed Sniffler

PS. I had my first choir rehearsal last night and discovered that all i've been told in voice lessons is true....singing with a British accent really does make the song sound smoother.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Cornwall Collection

Address: Lanhydrock House via Coach Bus

Greetings from Lanhydrock House, a
place that I would more be inclined to dub a "castle," however, after Warwick this would be a house by comparison. We left for a weekend in Cornwall and this magnificent house was one of our scheduled stops. Besides the interesting history of the house, the grounds surrounding it are enough to take your breath away. Don't worry, I took lots of pictures! We explored all the rooms that were open to the public; each was furnished with authentic antiques and items from the past, right down to the toys in the nursery. After exploring our fill, we went outside and sneaked a peak inside the church (yes the family had their own parish) and wandered on the myriads of footpaths that snaked up and around the gardens. It was a very beautiful rest stop, I can't imagine what it would be like to live there!

Address: Newquay

We've arrived at our destination, which I gotta say is not too shabby. For two nights we will be living in a sweet surf lodge, which actually has a rule that you can't stay there unless you're under the age of 35. The lodge is sort of like a hostel, but it's really nice, almost like living in a club. There are tiny tv's that dot the walls in the hallways so you can watch British music channels while you wait for your friends to get ready, and black lights line the stairwells...just i
n case you feel like having a late night rave. We've announced our presence with several sporadic dance parties, and each night we've traipsed around town, checking out places to eat. The beach is beautiful, but very cold and extremely windy at night. I've never stood in such wind. For the most part, we've just been enjoying the fact that we're near the water.

Catch ya later!
English Surf Diva

Ps. We've made friends with a couple
who run a cute ocean cafe. Each morning we've bought breakfast there and joke around with them. We needed to ask them to explain some of the Cornish menu options--like gammon (ham) and tea cakes (still not quite sure)--but they always did their best to help us out.

Address: Land's End

Hello again from Cornwall!
Contrary to what you may believe, the name "Land's End" refers not only to a clothing like that makes practical and comfy ensembles, but actually to a place where (quite literally) the land ends. England drops off to steep cliffs which fall into gorgeous, blue water. If you squint your eyes and stare really hard, you can see New York, but that's only if you know it's there ;). I'm running out of words to describe landscapes here. We've been blessed with such lovely weather that it seems as though everything sparkles and hues just come alive. This time of year is the perfect time to see everything, the days are becoming chilly, but the crispness of the air makes everything look even more spectacular!

Wishing I could cliff-jump here,

Address: St. Ives

I really wish sometimes that certain places could just be transplanted to the States so that I could visit them everyday; though I suppose that would detract the novelty of seeing sights such as these for the first time. St. Ives is a lovely seaside town, full of quaint shops which captured our attention. Sadly, we only had two hours to wander around, which wasn't nearly enough time. However, we did squeeze in a stop for Cornish Cream Tea (tea with scones, clotted cream, and jam) and Clotted Cream Ice Cream (the creamiest ice cream you'll ever eat). I wasn't really prepared to like English food so much (the country isn't exactly known for its eatery), but I'm really going to miss some of these delicious treats (like haven't lived til you try fresh English scones).


Ps. Now I have a sudden urge to go out and buy more scones and tea.

Address: Eden Project

Dear Faithful Readers,
Sadly we are now leaving Cornwall just in time to start classes (yes, finally) on Monday. On our return trip however, we managed to squeeze in a stop at the Eden Project which is a self-sustainable exhibit dedicated to raising awareness about environment conservation. The giant "bubbles" are home to real life biomes where you can experience a completely new environment just by walking through a door. Sadly, I do not have many pictures of the rainforest biome because: #1. my camera lens fogged over immediately, and #2. it was so stiflingly hot in there that I couldn't stand to walk around for very long. The Mediterranean biome was much more tolerable and was full of beautiful flowers.
We ordered lunches which consisted of fresh bread, hummous, pepper, and greens sandwiches and fresh bananas (yes, fresh! they were actually grown on-site). The freshness reason is enough to make me wish I could just erect a giant bubble in my backyard so that I too could grow fresh produce all year round!

Temporarily Vegan and ready to be rid of this bus,

Ps. My first class is on Tuesday and while I'm nervous, I'm mostly excited to start. It feels as though this has all been one long, fabulous vacation up to this point.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Address: Regency Hall, Cheltenham

Dear Americans,
What's up with the rule about white and Labor Day? This was a question blurted from a new acquaintance who just had to know more about our eccentricities. This past Sunday, our quiet building was filled with "freshers" who are all excited about being away from home for the first time. This fact, combined with the legal drinking age in England being 18, creates quite a stir at night. Ok, so I know that coming from a dry campus to here would be an adjustment, but seriously I've been shocked at the amount of alcohol some of them can go through in a night. It doesn't help that all shops and stores in Cheltenham close at around 5, so the only places open for entertainment are pubs or clubs.
But that aside, we've being having a lot of fun getting to know people here. Last night I was up until past 2 talking about accents. They would try to speak "American" and make me speak "English." At any given time this is a perfect conversation starter. I'm slowly getting better at discerning who is from what area of England (one day I made the mistake of saying that their accents all sounded the same to me and ever since then I've been working on listening). After all, I wouldn't want to see like just another....American.


PS. We introduced our new friends to the epic Messiah tradition of Ninja Warrior. They really liked it and i'm pretty sure it's the first game they've played all week that didn't involve intoxication.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Address: Warwick Castle

Dear Readers,
I'm thinking that there won't be too many times in my life when I can say that I was exploring a 900 year-old castle. Warwick Castle was built in 1068 by William the Conqueror and was subsequently passed down through the eras as a home to many "Earls of Warwick" and as temporary lodging for guests such as Henry VII.
The castle was about an hour from where we are staying so we spent a good part of the day exploring it, climbing endless/tiny staircases, and taking lots of pictures. My abundant imagination juices were pumping all day as I thought about wandering through those halls in an excellent ball gown, being attended by servants and introduced to duchesses. I can't even describe to you how incredible it feels to walk around in the same rooms that royal persons did hundreds of years ago. Everything is so well preserved that you'd think the castle was built far more recently. Moral of the story: They don't build things like they used to!

Most Sincerely,
Her Royal Highness the Countess of Warwick

PS. The castle grounds included a Peacock Garden which, contrary to what you might believe, does not mean that peacock-shaped flowers burst into bloom here or that the garden is very proud. No, it's an actual garden full of the living, breathing (and very vocal) bird.

Enclosed pictures

Inside my room, as I mentioned, it's small but comfy : ).

The view from my window, this is our courtyard for the building.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Address: Cheltenham

Dear Readers,
Arrived safely in Cheltenham yesterday, though it feels as though I've been here for weeks. So far we've been touring about the city and have been introduced to lots of people and places we'll be seeing in the weeks to come once "modules" start.
I have my own room and bathroom, though both are small. I am learning where to buy the things I need and a helpful note left in Michelle's room instructed us on where to go each night of the week to experience the best nightlife (oddly enough the note was signed "the Little Monster"). Hmm, um ok. Good to know.

Amanda (aka The Very Tired Monster)

PS. Ate dinner at a deconsecrated church this was the most beautiful restaurant I've ever been to, right down to the stained glass window of Jesus that was next to the list of specials.