Thursday, April 29, 2010

Song of the Week!

Has it already been a week since I posted my last song of the week?? Wow... the days just fly by! I can't believe I'll be home in a little over a month! I know I say that every week but it's true!! Anyways... this week's song of the week is "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus. And yes I admitt that I am a Miley fan. I used to love watching her Hannah Montana show on Disney, and I have about 20 of her songs on my ipod... I have also ALWAYS been a huge Billy Ray Cyrus fan, and I'm pretty sure that his song "Achy Breaky Heart" is the first song that I remember dancing to... besides maybe some of my mom's disco music hehe. Anyways! Back to the climb!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_khKYx5QCY&feature=fvst

I really think that The Climb has a good message. It talks about how life isn't where you get to but it's the climb to get there... and if you listen to the song I think the lyrics give a really good message. Also I am in the UK and Nicholas Spark's new movie The Last Song is coming out on Friday and I am really pumped up to see it!! The movie actually stars Miley Cyrus. I watched an interview by Nicholas Sparks the other day and it turns out that he actually wrote the book with Miley in mind. Disney gave Miley Cyrus a two movie contract the first movie was Hannah Montana and the second movie was up in the air... Apparently Miley is a huge Nicholas Sparks fan and her agent called him and asked him if he had any stories laying around that could fit into a movie that Miley could play, and Nicholas Sparks had actually just decided that he wanted to write a story about a teenage girl so he jumped on board and actually wrote the screenplay for the movie BEFORE he wrote the book. So lies commercials that say "Based off the best selling book by Nicholas Sparks" haha... The book is based off the movie! Anyways, as soon as I get back from Dublin on Monday I'm heading into town to watch it. :D

Monday, April 26, 2010

Luckiest Day Ever!!

Today was a wonderful day!! It was actually warm out and the sun was shining!! It was a nice change from the past couple of cold/rainy days. So I walked into town. I went to the Pound Store which is like the Dollar Store, because I needed to get batteries!! I'm proud to say that I got 12 AA Kodak batteries for free...?? I think. I'm not 100% sure on this one. I went to the counter to pay, and the girl at the counter was talking to another girl. I believe that I handed her a pound, and I was waiting for her to give me my bag back. And she goes, a pounds your change... here's your batteries. And I just kinda stood there for a second confused... but in the end I was like well... alright. Haha so I took the pound and off I went!

I then proceeded to make my way to the library, and I WISH that I would have had my camera on me, because I walked past a park and there was an arraignment of flowers that I swear were arraigned into a smiley face. I stopped there for a while too looking at it a bit perplexed. It was pretty sweet!! I'm going to have to walk back out there in a few days and take a picture of it so that you guys can see it!!

After that I walked to Morrison's to buy some baking paper, and when I walked into the store they had a display of 4 Blueberry Muffins for a pound! SCORE! You know how I spent that extra pound that I got today!! Yippee!! Then when I was in line at the counter I decided that I actually would like some fruit as well... so I got out of line and got some fruit. Got back into line, and paid. I then proceeded to walk out side and watch the bus go driving away from the stop I was planning on catching it at. So I sat down, and happily consumed one of my muffins!! Yum! I was really hungry, and it was really good. I thought that was fare for the bus was 1.60 for one way... and here they don't have .25 they have .20 pence instead so I had a pound and three 20 pence pieces out ready for the bus. Well when I hopped onto the bus the bus driver told me that it was actually 1.50. So I put the pound in and then I went to dig in my purse for either a 50 pence or a 10 pence... and the guy just waved me off and was like ehhh that's good enough... go ahead and sit down. And again for the third time that day I had that surprised feeling, and was like really?? Ohhhhh... okay... thanks! And he was like yep... have a good day. Why thank you Mr. Bus Driver... I did have a good day.

BUT the best part of my day is yet to come. I have been raiding today on Castle Age, which probably won't mean a lot to most people. But I fight a person one click at a time, and usually it takes a while to load. So instead of watching it impatiently and getting frustrated while it loads I click over to MLIA, or My Life is Average and read stories that people post about things that have happened to them. I read one of the entries then I flip back to my game. I click, then I flip back to MLIA... it's a great system. Takes forever... but it's a great system haha. ANYWAYS! As I was casually flipping through the MLIA pages I came across this one and I just BUSTED out laughing. I thought it was hilarious!


"Today, I was hiking with my dad when we came to a stop, where a sign was hanging with instructions “WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE BEING ATTACKED BY A WILD TURKEY” I then proceeded to read the instructions out loud, when my dad started calling my name. I ignored him, until he yelled it. I looked at him, only to see a large, ruffled turkey charging right at me. Forget the instructions, I have never run so fast in my life. -MLIA"

Bahahhahahaa!!! Just picture it. I see the whole scene playing out in my mind, and I can't help just cracking up every time I read it! Hahaha!! Way to make my good day complete MLIA... way to make my day. Haha!!

Edinburgh

Welcome to Edinburgh!! I'm sorry for how long this took to post!! I've been side tracked setting up my trip to Ireland this weekend :)

Here is the famous Edinburgh Castle!! I don't feel like I got a proper picture of it, because the pictures that I have don't truely do it justice. The castle is on top of a HUGE volcanic rock! Keep in mind I was in Edinburgh at the same time that the volcano had gone off in Iceland... so I was like ohh huge volcanic rock... exactly what I want to see... haha. But don't worry they assured me that it hasn't gone off 350 million years!! And don't worry you haven't missed any headlines... my luck held and it didn't go off while I was there haha.
Here is another view of the main city area with the castle in the background.
In Edinburgh they had a bus ticket deal. For 25 pounds I could ride 4 bus tours around the city for two days!! So I went on the busses a bunch of times!! I got a new guide almost every time, and I feel like I should know the city like the back of my hand... Towards the end I felt like I could give the commentary!!
This is the entrance to the castle. If you look on the right hand side you will see a statue of William Wallace aka Braveheart. This was another person that I was extremely excited to hear about, because I remembered his name from my days of playing Age of Empire!! I love how Age of Empire puts actual heroes of the past into the game... it made it fasinating to see the statues and to hear the stories behind them.
This is on the main street in Edinburgh called Princes's street. When I first arrived in Edinburgh I thought that it was Princess street, and I was refering to it as such... I guess the locals couldn't tell that I was asking directions to the wrong princess street instead of princes's street! Woohoo thank you foreign accent for saving me from feeling like a fool! Anyways!! This picture is a watch tower that guards the grave yard behind it. Apparently when you had a loved one that passed away and you buried them you hired a guard to stay in the watch tower during the night to protect the body from the body snatchers! People used to dig up bodies from their graves and sell them to the University in town to make extra money! And that made guard neccesary to keep the bodies in the grave! Apparently, if you didn't hire one... you didn't have a body for long!
I passed this statue on every single tour that I went on. It is a largest monument ever made for a writer. It is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott who wrote a novel called Waverly. There is a lot of things dedicated to Sir Walter Scott throughout Edinburgh. The Waverly Bridge (Where all of the busses started and ended for one) and they used to have a fruit market dedicated to him as well.


Now this might not be as obvious in the picture, and trust me... had it not been pointed out to me I would have never noticed the difference either... BUT if you look at the four older windows on the right hand side you will notice that it is black behind him. Well years ago there was a king that taxed the people of Edinburgh on just about everything... including windows. People had to pay a tax for each window that they had in their house. So people began to brick their windows over with black bricks so they wouldn't have to pay the extra tax. You can see in this window how half of the windows are bricked up. You see houses like this all over Edinburgh. People used to say that by having to brick up their windows they were losing light into their house... so it was "Daylight robbery" I've heard this saying before, and it was cool to hear how it came about.


I know that the quality of this picture is pretty bad, because I was inside of the bus when I quickly tried to snap this picture (it was cold and raining out!!) but there is a cool story behind this picture! Years ago a huge wall with a gate was built around the city. You were allowed to leave the city without paying any feels, but if you wanted to come back into the city you had to pay a fee to get back through the gate. This made it so that the poor people of the town could never leave the city. They lived their whole lives in the city, because they couldn't afford to pay the toll. This pub was right before the gate, and to the people of the city it was the end of the world, because it was as far as they could get in the world.


They say in Scotland the best way to be immortalized is to get a pub named after you...
If you scrolled in on this picture you would be able to read the story of Deacon Brodie. He was a respectable business man by day (as shown on the left) and then he was robber by night (on right). He would go into his clients homes and when they were looking he would get an imprint of their key, and make a copy. Then when they went out of town, or weren't in their home he would sneak in and rob them blind! Robert Stevenson grew up and lived in Edinburgh. He heard this story of Deacon Brodie and it inspired him to write Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde. Also, we drove past the place that Robert Stevenson grew up in as a child, and I saw the park that he used to play in. This park was his inspiration to eventually write Treasure Island. I would have taken pictures, but it's a private park... and they have trees and shrubs all around the border so that people can't really get a good look inside of the park.
Remember how I said that in order to get immortalized in Scotland you had to get a pub named after you?? Well... You'll never guess who Bobby is...

Meet Bobby!! Yes... he is a dog! He is famous because when Bobby was two years old his master died. Every single day until the dog died (12 years later) the dog would lie on his masters grave. People loved how faithful and sweet the dog was... years later a new law was passed in Edinburgh that every dog had to have a license. Any dog that didn't have a license was to be put down. The public was outraged by the fact that the city was considered putting this faithful dog down, and so much pressure was put on the mayor by the public that the mayor himself bought the dog it's license, and decreed that no one was to harm the dog, and that the dog was allowed full access to the city. Today, their is a grave with a tombstone near Bobby's bar where the dog is buried. They wanted to bury him next to his master, but the church wouldn't allow it. It's said that more people visit the dog's graveyard than the dog's masters, and every time we passed the grave on our tour I saw someone standing at this dogs grave.


And now... for the BEST part of Edinburgh :) Harry Potter! I know that this is a horrible picture. 1. I was sitting inside of the cabin 2. I was totally not expecting it. Ever so casually we were riding down the road, and we got stopped at a red light. So my tour guide pointed behind us, and says "Oh and behind us is Edinburgh University... most famous for graduating J. K. Rowling" And of course I was like... Gaaaasp! And I hurriedly tried to snap a picture of the building before we moved on. I have always heard that J.K. Rowling was actually on welfare when she wrote Harry Potter, and that the first verison of the Socerer's Stone was actually written on parts of napkins at a cafe in Edinburgh. Well at this point in the tour I was on it was just about over, so I asked the tour guide if he knew where the cafe was... And he told me that we'd actually passed it, and that if I went on his next bus tour he'd point it out to me! Well he ended up pointing out a lot more than that to me! :) SCORE!

This is an all boy's boarding school in Edinburgh that was supposively the inspiration for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy in the books. J.K. Rowling walked past it everyday, and when she was writing the first book it was this building she described.

This is the hotel that J.K. Rowling stays in when she visits the city. The top suite is also the room that she finished Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (6th book) inside of. :) If you walk into the hotel they have a signed manuscript on their front desk.


And here it is!! The cafe that J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book inside of!! The cafe is actually not run by the original owners of the cafe that J.K.R. went to. It used to be called Nicholson's, and JKR went there because they gave her free coffee and let her sit inside. Before she published the first book it went out of business and was actually turned into a chinese restaraunt. Now it's been turned back into a cafe, but it isn't owned by the same people which is a same, because I feel like they might have done really well if they would have stayed in business until the books took off... because I have a feeling a lot of Harry Potter fans would love to go there... Even though it isn't the exact cafe it was still amazing to sit inside of it. I felt like I was in the footsteps of greatness. I was just imagining that she walked around this area and came here everyday. It was really cool.
This is the plaque outside of the cafe. This was the only indication that JKR had ever been inside the cafe... which surprised me. I was expecting them to advertise it more, but I guess it's mostly for locals not tourist. Just a warning for anyone that might want to go to this cafe... there is a FAKE cafe in Edinburgh that advertises in HUGE writing across it's front window that it is the birth place of Harry Potter. JKR has said that that was NOT the place that she wrote the book, and the city is actually in the process of trying to make the cafe take down the claim. I saw a LOT of people posing outside of the cafe and taking pictures and going inside of it. So don't be taken in! The real place is on Chambers and Infirmary St. past Subway and Blackwells... if you walk down South Bridge you'll walk right into it!
Mmm... this was the delicous hot chocolate that I had i
n the building. It was a cold rainy day when I walked through town to find this cafe. Had it not been the cafe that JKR wrote HP in... I might not have gone, but I was determined to see it! Anyways... this hot chocolate was very well received by me. I was really happy to sip it and look around the place.
Not gonna lie... it was a little bit of a strange place. The decor really through me off. It wasn't the atmosphere I was expecting, but I'm sure that it's changed a lot since JKR wrote the first HP book. And I guess I had all kinds of preceived notions about what this place was going to be like in my mind. Trust me I have thought long and hard about this place before I ever even considered going to Edinburgh. In 10th grade I wrote a paper on JKR and how impressive she was, because she came from so little and did so well. I've thought about a young poor girl with a young child sitting in a cafe writing a story that she had no idea would be so successful. I always pictured that cafe, and when I was here I knew I had to see it. I wasn't sure what to expect I thought that they would surely advertise and try to capalize off the the HP connection... I even half expected them to have Harry Potter named drinks and food... I was slightly disappointed when the only reference they made to it was that small plaque outside. It had regular named drinks, and it was just a strange building over... Despite it all though I still felt a Harry Potter connection. Like I said before I felt like I was in the foot steps of greatness, and even though the cafe wasn't what I expected I could still picture it all... and that was awesome.
Moving on from Harry Potter (Yes I know it doesn't seem possible does it??) there is another famous lady that is from Edinburgh. St. Maragret. I never knew anything about her until I came to Scotland, and I had to write a paper on how she influenced Scotland for my Celtic Scotland class. I decided to write my paper on St. Maragret before I left for my trip. St. Maragret was also a Queen of Scotland, and she was one of the most treasured queen's in Scotland's history. Her era was known as the Golden Times in Scotland, and I had just gotten done writing a paper on why she was influential and amazing basically... so when I heard that Edinburgh Castle had a chapel dedicated to St. Maragret I knew that I had to go to the castle and see it. My tour guide pointed at the chapel from the bottom of the hill, and when he pointed I thought that he was referencing this building behind me. Well... that was actually the Scottish War Memorial...
This was St. Maragret's Chapel. I was so confused, and shocked. You have to realize that I have been traveling Europe and I've been seeing a lot Saints churches. Some like St. Peter's and St. Mark's have been glorious... others more modest. St. Maragrets? I was shocked. It was tiny. It could only fit about 15 people inside. I saw the sign out in front of it, and then I asked a worker to confirm that this was actually her chapel.... and yes it was.
This is the main decoration in the chapel. And then there were about 5 small windows around the chapel just like the one in the picture with stained glass. This chapel pretty much set the tone for the rest of my visit to Edinburgh Castle. I went to visit the Scottish Crown Jewels afterwards, and after having seen the English Crown Jewels in London... the Scottish ones were pretty disappointing. There were only three pieces compared to the massive collection in London. I wouldn't recommend going to Edinburgh Castle. There are a lot of other castles that are far more interesting, and a lot more beautiful. I had been to the Sun Palace in France a few days before, and after having seen the magificance of that palace Edinburgh Castle seemed very plain to me. There were very few decorations, and I felt like I was in a less grand verison of the Tower of London. If someone is heading to Edinburgh I would not commend seeing the castle they don't have student discounts and I personally don't think it's worth the money.
The Radison Hotel chain choose this spot to build a new hotel on in 1990. It's a great location in Edinburgh, and I'm sure they they would be able to charge top dollar for a room inside of it. They even give you complimentary ropes to use incase a fire breaks out... Yes. Since it has been built in 1990 the fire station has been called to the site 363 times. Apparently, in 1671 a man was burned at the stake on this ground, and since then every building on the site has burnt to the ground. Fires just randomly start, and they think that it is haunted.


Hard Rock!! Woohoo!! I ate at this one. :) I'll be making my impressive Hard Rock Cafe blog with my pictures of Hard Rock's throughout the world after I visit the one in Dublin!! :)
Now what is the cooky building you ask? Scottish Parliment? Why yes.. .it is... Intersting design isn't it?? Originally it was supposed to cost 40 million pounds. In the end it ended up costing 450 million pounds! When the government was halfway through with the project 9/11 occured, and the Scottish government decided that the building they were working on was not secure enough from attacks. So they began tearing down parts, reinforcing others... and it ended up getting expensive! They made put up all kinds of blockades so that a terrorist couldn't drive into the building with explosives. If someone crashed through the concrete posts on the outside that flips a trigger and spikes will shoot up out of the ground and impale the car. Yep. They aren't messing around here! My Harry Potter friend tour guide commented that he thought this building was worth every penny they had to pay for it, because if you and your family was inside of it while there was an attack you would be perfectly fine inside of it. Another tour guide that I had was very bitter about it, and it was obvious that he didn't approve of how much the government spent on the building. He also didn't like the fact that they used a Spanish architect to build it... even though apparently every part of the building represents something Scottish. Do you notice the black things next to the windows? My tour guide asked us what we thought it was... he said that most women think that it looks like a hair dryer or upside down shoe, and that most men thinks that it looks like a hammer or a tool. In reality it's a symbol that the Scottish government has it's curtains open for the Scottish people to look inside the building. I thought it was a really strange funny looking building, but I'm sure they have their reasons... :) Hope that you enjoyed the tour of Edinburgh!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beware!

So two things have happened to me in the past couple of days that I feel that I must share with you. First of all, I have been drinking A LOT of water lately, and I was just getting sick and tired of not drinking anything with flavor. I'm not a huge pop drinker as it is, and I really don't like the pop that they have here so I don't drink it often... So what else is there to buy?? It was a hard decision, because there weren't any brand names of stuff... so I wasn't sure what the good drinks were. I decided to just get a cheap Morrison brand. I was looking through the names of all of the drinks and there was one called Apple Squash. And I was like what kind of flavor is Apple Squash?? Well it looked like just regular apple juice so I decided that it would be a good option to try. BLEH! I took a sip of it, and it tasted almost like it was carbonated! It was GROSS!! I almost threw it away, but I carried it home. And my roommate Kris told me that it was syrup! Apparently squash means syrup here and I didn't know it! You're supposed to get a glass of water and pour a little bit of it in to flavor it. I tried it and with the water in it it wasn't too bad! Go figure!! I would have never known... I've never heard of such a thing, and it looked like it was ready to be drunk. It's not like thick syrup or anything. It looks identical to apple juice... But boy don't let that trick ya!!

Also Scotland's weather is very interesting! One second it will be bright blue and the sun will be shining the next moment it will start raining with hail included! I was just walking along enjoying the bright blue sky looking at the flowers, and then I started to get pelted with hail! I was like... where the heck did that come from! Instead of the clouds being completely white here they'll be a little bit gray. So there will be blue skies complete with tons of sunshine, but then the clouds will loom over you, and you won't even notice that they are gray at all until it starts raining/hailing on you!!

When it happened everyone was looking around in shock, because it was probably THE most random hail storm I have ever been apart of... especially since I wasn't expecting it at all! Beware of the sneaky Scotland weather!!

On a happy note I just found out that I am officially catching a plane to come home on June 2nd instead of the originally scheduled June 12th flight home! Since my exams ended early there wasn't any reason to not come home earlier, and it wasn't a problem to change my flight! Yay!! Not that I don't love it here, but I've seen just about everything that I want, and I know by then I'll be ready to go home! :)

Stone Henge

Stone Henge dates to around 3,000 BC!! That means that it is over 5,000 years old!! That is pretty impressive when you consider how it was constructed all of those years ago... I was extremely excited to see Stone Henge.... I was like a little kid bouncing up and down in my seat! I couldn't wait to see it...
Then our tour bus had a little bit of mechanical problems. Ok not a little bit of problems... the bus actually died on the side of the road and wouldn't start back up!! Luckily this happened during our lunch stop so we were kind of in the middle of no where with this one little family run restaurant in the whole area. We had to wait three hours for another bus to come!!! This is because it was two days after the volcano had erupted and all extra buses were being used to get people to other places.... so there wasn't an extra one for us when we broke down. Nyree was laughing at me, because I was pointing at this sign going nooooo we were sooo close!! We ended up getting to go to Stone Henge in the end! Yippee!! But unfortunately we didn't get to go to the other section of our tour which was Roman baths... which I really wanted to see. They ended up refunding 1/3 of our tour... which I guess was alright.

Here is Nyree walking onto our rescue bus!

Surrounding the Stone Henge area are large man made mounds. These mounds are ancient burial grounds. It is thought that it might be a royal burial ground, because upon further inspection it was found that all of the people buried there were from the same family line, but they weren't buried there at the same time. So it would be like someone going to West Minister Abbey in London and comparing all of the graves there. They would all come from different time frames, but they would all share the same bloodline, because they are from the same family and have similar DNA. Researchers believe that the graves surrounding Stone Henge might have a similar story that we just aren't aware of.


Here is a better view of all of the mounds. You can see some in the distance by the trees.

And that leads us to.... STONE HENGE! Henge means hanging... so Stone Henge literally means hanging stone, and you can see how the top stones are just placed right on top of the larger stones, and are basically hanging inbetween the two pillars.
You might ask what is so special about Stone Henge... Stone Henge is not the largest arraignments of circular stones in Great Britain, but it is the most decorated. There are two different types of stones used to create Stone Henge. The stones that adorn the top are the smaller stones called Blue stones... even though I couldn't detect any blue color in them... I guess when it rains they change color so you can't tell in these pictures. Anyways, these stones weigh approximately 4 to 5 TONS each!! And they come from Wales with is over 150 miles away from the site that Stone Henge is built!!!! The larger stones that you can see on the bottom weigh 40 tons each, are about 18 feet tall, and are from a place about 20 miles away from the site. How impressive is that?? You can tell that Stone Henge had a lot of significance because of all of the effort it most have taken to create it! Imagine people 5,000 years ago moving those stones to this location! I can't even imagine how back breaking, and how much effort must have gone into getting the stones to the place, and then in shape. Imagine lifting the "small" 4 to 5 ton stones on top of the larger one!!

Despite the effort that went into making it Stone Henge's claim to fame is really what happens there on the summer solace. Now I'm not to sure how familiar everyone is with myth and magic knowledge so I'll give you a brief background so that you can understand why this is significant. They say that summer and winter solace are extremely powerful days to Wiccan/magical people. To us these are the longest and shortest days of the year respectively. The summer solace being the longest day of sunlight is supposed to be the most powerful day of the year. This middle section of Stone Henge that you can see in this picture is illuminated by the sun on the summer solace. It is the first place on Earth that the light touches as it rises on the summer solace. Therefore, possibly the most powerful place on Earth during this time. Still to this day on the summer solace over 100,000 Wiccans/Pagans meet at Stone Henge to celebrate and do rituals.

The exact purpose of Stone Henge has long been debated. Since it has been found people have been fasinated with it, and have wanted to know about it's origins and purpose. Obviously a great deal of effort and care went into building it, and I have a feeling that it's location is not a concidence. The most popular theory as to why Stone Henge was built was that it was a temple to worship the sun and the moon. Others say that is a giant calendar, and that people used the shadows that it cast as a marker as to what time of the year it was. Some say that is was built by Merlin, or the devil, or even aliens... Others think that it has healing powers. Personally, I think it has something to do with religion, and most likely Paganism. And along that line of thinking I also think that it has some kind of power aspect to it. Pagans celebrated life and nature and the sun... so to me it seems likely.
Here is a picture of the trail that you walk on to see Stone Henge.

It is roped off so that you can't actually go inside of it, and walk around the stones... You have to stay from a distance. Only once a year are the boundaries lifted... Yes you guessed it on the summer solace it is reclaimed and used for rituals.


In the 19th century people WERE allowed to walk amongst the stones. They could also buy a chisel for a small price, and get to take a part of the stone away with them as a souviner. Now a days we are given audio guides!! As you can see in this picture.


When we were on the bus on our way to Stone Henge, Nyree had fallen asleep, and our guide was telling us some facts about Stone Henge. He mentioned that there was a military base near by, and that if we saw any plans not to be alarmed... and that a war or terrorist attack hadn't started/occured. Well... we get there and are walking around for a while and five fighter jets fly over us (you can see one in this picture) and I'm pretty sure they alarmed poor Nyree!! So I had to tell her that no it's alright... just a base near by. :)

Here is a distance shot of Stone Henge. :)

Here is Nyree and I. The sun was sooo bright while we were there!! It cast shadows all over my pictures. But overall I enjoyed seeing Stone Henge. It's not a place that you go to for all day long. An hour or so there is a good amount of time. The audio guides were interesting to listen to, and it was very peaceful there. I found it pretty fascinating, and I'm glad that I had the chance to go there. :)


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Windors Castle

Instead of heading straight to Edinburgh I decided to stay in London with my friend Nyree for an extra night so that we could go to Windsor Castle, Stone Henge, and Bath together the next day. I really wanted to see Windsor Castle, but I didn't think that I would make it out there. Luckily, when Nyree and I were flipping through tours we happened to stumble across one that did the castle as well!! Yippee!! So enjoy!




Windsor Castle is the only remaining castle left out of an original 9 castles that were built to protect London. These castles were spread out 20 miles away from the city center in every direction. They were perfectly 20 miles apart from each other, and 20 miles away from London. The reason for the 20 miles is because in that time 20 miles was considered how far an army could march in one day. That way if one ever got attacked in a days time reinforcements could be there to help.



I got to go into several areas of Windsor Castle that I was sadly not allowed to take pictures of. First we went into Queen Mary's Doll House... which was ridiculous!! It was given to her as a present when she was an adult, and was never meant for children to play with. It was known that she was found of dolls, so they thought it would be a nice present for her. The doll house is MASSIVE! I don't think my flat is even wide enough to display it. It's not extremely tall, but it WAS taller than me! It is an exact replica of the castle. With all of the rooms decorated and furnished exactly like the castle. Apparently the people that created the artwork, chairs, tables, etc... were asked to create mini-verisons of their work to the dolls house. The doll house even had about 5 or 6 models of expensive cars. It was really cool to see. And after the doll house was a series of dolls with the most EXPENSIVE play clothes you have ever seen. Those dolls were dressed as if they were princesses. Nyree and I just looked at each other in disbelief at how nice their clothing was... but I guess it shouldn't shock us too much.



Here is the keep of the castle. The keep is where people went to if the castle was ever attacked. It is surrounded by a ditch... which was meant to be a moat, but due to the fact that the earth surrounding the castle is made out of chalk the water would never hold, and would always disappear into the ground.



Now there is a pretty garden surrounding the keep. As pretty as the garden was the thing that made me the most excited i the castle was the art gallery. Now this isn't something I would normally say, because I'm not a huge art fan... BUT one of my favorite movies is Ever After with Drew Barrymore. In this movie they portray Leonardo Da Vinci as this super sweet wise man that paints a portrait of the girl that plays Cindrella. The whole point of the story is that this old Queen brings the Brothers Grim (who wrote almost all of the stories that our fairy tales are based off) and she tells them that she has a problem with the story they wrote about the little cinder girl. She then proceeds to point to this old painting, and begins to tell them this whole elaborate story about the life of her great great grandmother, and how she was actually the real cinderella. At the end of the story she has "The point, gentlemen... is that they lived." I always liked this movie, and imagine my surprise when I walked into this royal art gallery and saw a sketch that looked extremely familar. I did a doubled take, stopped, and stared at it for a while... and I was like "Oh my gosh!!!! That's the picture from Ever After!!!" Then I looked at the artist and wouldn't you know it was a Da Vinci! I think I might have hooted in excitement and jump in the air a little bit right then and there. I was sooo thrilled to have seen it. It was beyond awesome, and the sad part was I don't think anyone else caught the reference!! Apparently the royal crown own over 800 pieces of Da Vinci's earlier work, and rotates them daily! So I got really lucky!! I might not ever see it again... but I saw it that ONE time woohoo!



This is the city that surrounds the castle. You know back in the old days cities ususally developed around castles, because of all of the people that were needed to provide a castle with everything that it needed, and the castle could be used to defend people as well. Besides getting to see the Da Vinci sketch we also got really lucky, because the state apartments weren't supposed to be open the day that we went, and we actually got a discounted admission onto the tour because of it... but lucky us!! We got there and they were open. :) So I got to walk around the castle a bit. We weren't allowed to take any pictures inside of it though. The first room that we walked into was full of different types of armor. It was really impressive, and I looked around in it for a quite a bit. Another room had conquered treasures that Britain had won from previous battles/wars. Then there was a room that was full of different types of weapons, and the weapons were used as decorations in the room. It's hard to is describe without a picture, but the weapons were arraigned artistically. There was a series of about 100 pistals all with their barrels facing each other in a giant circle. And this was above racks and racks of different types of weapons. It was pretty impressive, and that was what it was designed to be. They say that ever person that was lead into the castle walked through this room so that they could see that the monarch they were about to met was well protected. If the person tried anything all of the king/queen's guards could rush out and grab a weapon. There was another room full of paintings of generals or leaders that fought in Waterloo and helped defeat Napoleon. Another impressive room was the banquet hall. This room is still used today, and it is cerimonial for knighting new knights into the King/Queen's services. The queen's chair is the most decorated, and has a giant canopy on the top of it to mark it as being regal.



Yes we were here at the right time to see the changing out of the guards!! Nyree and I didn't realize it at the time, but apparently while the cermony is going on you have to stay inside the castle grounds... well we were just walking along, and came to an archway and walked outside of it... we were immediately scorned and shooed to the side of the road... and these guards walked right past us! Opps! Who knew that the guards with machine guns were going to be walking through that archway in a few seconds!! Eep! I guess we must have given the guy watching the other side of the gate the slip or something by accident...


YES! I did do it! Haha!!! Now this wasn't on the bucket list, but it totally should have been!! I have ALWAYS wanted to get my picture taken next to one of these guys, and I was extremely disappointed when I went to Buckingham Palace in London and didn't see any of them. The ones at Buckingham Palace weren't even all wearing this traditional uniform! Hehe! I felt only slightly silly standing next to him taking a picture... people were lined up to do it too!! Poor kid haha. But I just couldn't pass up doing it! Even Nyree who doesn't like pictures being taken of herself went up to him and got one taken.


Song of the Week!

Is this blog actually... ON... TIME?!?! It's shocking... I know. But I'm finally NOT extremely busy for the first Thursday in a few weeks. :) So here is your ON TIME song of the week... This week the song that I choose was 23 days by Shedaisy. I think it's a perfect fit for me this week, because I had been traveling for 23 days and I was just ready to get back to Aberdeen... and overall I've been thinking about home a lot. I just found out that I booked my flight for 13 days after my last test. :( It's not my fault though, I booked my plane months ago, and I only got my test schedule on Monday... the testing period lasts until June 12th. My last test just so happens to be on June 2nd, but I didn't know that in advance so I had to book my ticket for June 13th. I don't really know what I'm going to do with all that spare time... I've already seen just about everything that was on my list to see! Woohoo! But anyways... back to the point of this blog.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zg5d-tB-Xf4

Hope you enjoyed it! I have written out other blogs for the next couple of days, but I'm not going to post them yet!! I want to give you something to look foward to... I can't post all my blogs now and have nothing for the next couple of weeks. :) So be expecting blog single updates on a daily basis for the next couple of days... If I can tear myself away from the new Castle Age monster to post it that is hehehe

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Overall

I know that saying this is probably obvious... but I'll say it anyways... I think the trip I went on was one of the best experiences I've ever had. I loved just about all aspects of the trip. It was fascinating to get to go to other countries and get to experience some of the most amazes places in the world.

After this trip I feel a huge sense of awe to any person that can speak multiple languages. I don't know why I never considered this a big deal before, but after coming to Europe it's something that really impresses me, and it's a capability that I truly wish to accomplish. I feel like I would really like to study some more now and really try to at least learn how to speak Spanish properly. I think that even a basic level of understanding and knowledge of different languages is very important.

Would I recommend Cosmos Tours to other people? I would absolutely recommend going on a tour of Europe, and I don't think that there is any other better way to go across Europe than with a tour group. I thought it was excellent, and I learned so much more by being in a group than I could have ever learned on my own. The one thing that I didn't like about Cosmos is that the location of the hotels are not ideal for going back into the city. We rarely had hotels that were ideally located. I have heard that the company Globus is the parent company of Cosmos and their tours are a little bit more expensive, but I hear that they make up for in the accommodations. Besides that I thought that the tour was excellent. I do have one word of caution for you though... If you are going by yourself think very carefully about whether or not you would like a single suppliment or not. I got stuck with a very unpleasant person during my tour, but to me it was worth the money that I saved to share the room.

Despite it all I'm glad that I met each and every one of the people that were on my tour... regardless of whether or not I got along with them. I think that you meet everyone for a reason, and that every person you come across can teach you something. There were some truly lovely inspiring people on my tour that I really admire. On the other hand of that I'm glad that I also met a person on the opposite spectrum as well, because it really puts things into perspective to me, and it makes me thankful that I haven't passed up any opportunities in my life... and it makes me continue to strive to take the opportunities that come along. It's always fascinating to share stories, and learn about people from different places in the world. I really got to know a lot of Australians and New Zealanders on my trip!! The different sayings and philosophies that they have really amaze me. It was also interesting to hear their views about 9/11 and to learn what they think of America in general. It seems that every country in the world was affected by 9/11, and I guess before I didn't realize how big of an effect it had on the world. In Italy I had to show them my passport in order to get onto the internet, and I had to sign a paper saying that I understood that they were monitoring me to make sure that I wasn't a terrorist. Even when you're an innocent person, and you sign a paper that says "We are watching you" it's like "Ohhh snap! I hope I don't sign onto anything bad!"

While I did enjoy Europe... I sure am glad that I'm an American. I miss home, and all of the choices and options that we have in the United States. I never realized how great our country is until I went to several other ones. I miss everything that is in the US. The world is becoming more global, and most cities look a lot alike from country to country... but the cities in the US are different. In Madrid we walked around for an hour trying to find a proper restaurant to eat at, and Madrid is the capital city of Spain!! I don't know... it's just a lot of differences like that. I miss home, and as much as I loved my trip and wouldn't trade it for anything... I'm glad that I'm going to be coming home to the good old USA!

The rest of Paris

Welcome back to one of my regularly scheduled blogs! Sorry that it has taken me so long to post about Paris. I have just been so tired, and I could never get up the energy to make the blog! But never fear... here it is!



Yep! They don't have crazy parking in Paris like they do in Italy. It's a very different city than Rome. Currently around 12 million people live in Paris. But just like anywhere else in the world they have plenty of gypsies. It seems like they were more preventlant in Paris than anywhere else. It made me think of the Disney movie the Hunchback of Notre Dam. The female lead in that movie was indeed a gypsy. I've been wanting to watch the movie ever since I saw Notre Dam... which leads me to...


The actual Notre Dam. This is a view from the side. Notre Dam looks different from every direction. On this view you can't even see the flying buttresses in the back. I'm betting that Notre Dam has a similar story to the church that I showed you in Madrid. It took 200 years to build Notre Dam so obviously different architects and artists worked on various parts of it.

Like I said... completely different by which view you are looking. Here is the front of the Notre Dam. I tried to get a close up of it so that you could make out all of the details in the building.


This is the inside of Notre Dam. Churches in France are wonderful because they are free to everyone. All churches have their doors open to people, and they are a safe ground or sanctuary for people.

Here is the altar that you could see in a distance in the last picture.

Here you can see the altar, the stained glass windows, and the choirs chairs.

Notre Dam means Our Lady. So you see statues of Mary throughout it.

Here is one of the three marvelous Rose Windows.

This is a different one from the one that I showed you above. One is on each side of the church. They are considered to be a treasure of Notre Dam and Paris. During World War two they actually took the windows down because they were afraid that they would be destroyed.

Here I am. :)

Here I am again with the Rose Window in the background.

This section of Notre Dam is besides the altar and it was actually built onto the church to house the poor people that needed shelter back in the day. They added this part in so that the people had some privacy.



Here is the outside of the church. You can see the famous gargoyles at the top.

Here is a zoomed in verison. Gargoyles have two functions. 1. They were supposed to ward off evil spirits that wanted to come into the church. 2. They are drains. Gargoyles get their name, because of the gurgling sound water makes as it goes out of them.

Here are some of my favorite people on the trip in the gardens of Notre Dam!! Me, Bobby, Venessa, Pauline, Neil, George, and Nyree.


Here is the nice lady that had to take the above picture with 5 different cameras!! Her name is Margette and she was very nice. She sat in front of me on the bus, and we talked and sat with each other quite often.

Now moving away from the church... here is Napoleon's Arch. Napoleon wanted a great archway built that he could walk through after his victories. Sadly for Napoleon it wasn't built until after his death. But the inside of the arch is a monument of all of Napoleon's victories and accomplishments.

This is the building that Napoleon is built in. They say that he is buried in 7 coffins all made out of different precious material. Some say it was because of how cherished he was amongst his people.... others say they were trying to make sure he couldn't get out.

This is Princess Diana's Flame. This is just before the tunnel that she had her fatal crash in.


I'm sorry that these pictures won't be too high of quality, because we were zooming through the tunnel, and it was a VERY VERY small tunnel. It was probably one of the shortest that we went through in Paris. But here is the entrance to it.

Here is the inside you can just make out the pillars on the inside that the car hit.

She crashed into the 13th pillar in the tunnel which was about halfway through the tunnel. I tried to get a picture of it.

Her car was going 94 mph when they crashed.

Here is the famous Louvre. This building is MASSIVE! The part that I'm showing you is only the entrance the building is actually 700 meters or 2,100 feet long!! It is the biggest museum in the world. And it is known for housing the Mona Lisa among many other famous artworks, and it was featured in the movie/book the Da Vinci Codes. I just got done reading the book before I came to France so I was extremely excited to see this building, and I wish that I would have been able to have had the time to go inside of it and walk around... and see SOME of the artwork inside. They say that if you looked at every piece of artwork inside of it for 3 seconds a piece it would take you 2 weeks to see everything inside of it. Alas I didn't have two weeks to spend inside the Louvre... I didn't even have an hour or so to just run in because I went to the Sun Palace instead of having free time to roam the city of Paris...

Welcome to the Sun Palace! The Sun Palace was created by Louis the 14th because he was afraid that his noblemen were going to rebel against him in Paris. It took 49 years to build the Sun Palace and all of the nobles were required to live there under the kings watchful eye.

This is the main entrance into the building. Every room in the building has a different theme to the Greek Gods. This room is of Hercules coming home to the Gods triumph, and there is a feast going on.

You can see how richly decorated the room is. By the way that is not paint or wallpaper you see on the walls... that is marble and gold. There are 40 different types of marble throughout the palace. And the king and queen of the palace had completely separate wings, and only ever saw each other to meet for dinner once or twice a week. Marriages were arraigned then, and romance was usually not involved... it was all strictly politics.

Here you can see Helena's room or the Goddess of the Hunt. Can you see how the ceiling is elaborately decorated?


This room is dedicated to Mars, or the God of War. Can you make out the battle theme on the walls? The picture surrounded by the gold circle is probably the easiest to make out in this picture. Most of the rooms only had a limited amount of original furniture in them, because as France went into debt it was sold off by the people of France.

Here is Apollo's room, or the God of Power, Beauty, and Sun. You can probably tell that this room was really bright. I just wanted to show you a couple of rooms so that you could get the feel for how elaborately decorated and themed this building was.. there were more rooms to more Gods, but I think that I've shown enough of them for you to get the gist. Now while these rooms were all nice... this next one is spectacular.

This is the Hall of Mirrors. There are 17 large mirrors and 17 large windows in the room. The light from the windows reflects off of the mirrors. And there are over 40 glass chandeliers up above that sparkle with the light. The room was really breath taking, and after some of the places I've seen on this trip that is an impressive statement.
Here is another view of the room. This is the main dining room, and dancing hall. This is also the room that the treaty of Versailles was signed in. For those that don't know what the treaty of Versailles is... it is the treaty that was signed after World War 1 to signify the ending of the war. So it is a big deal, and the room was definitely grand enough to deserve to be a spot of that kind of historical significance.

Here is a close up of one of the many gorgeous chandeliers in the room.


This room is actually the room right before the Hall of Mirrors. It is the Queen's bedroom, and is famously known for housing Marie Antoinette.


You can see her bed in this picture.


Here is the statue of her in the room.

This by contrast is the kings bed room on the other side of the palace. Whenever the king and queen were going to produce an heir to the throne a servant man would take the kings pillow and lay it on the queen's bed for all to witness... so that in 9 months time when a child was born it would not be questioned as to who the father was.

This room is after Hall of Mirrors and was dedicated to Napolean. This specific tapestry shows Napolean taking the crown from the Pope, and placing it upon his own head. Therefore, crowning himself and showing that he was above all authority and could do what he wanted.


This is later on in the night at our fair well dinner. :( This is Bobby, George, and Venessa.


Here is a picture of our whole table. Roanne, Me, Ursela, Venessa, George, Neil, Pauline, Bobby, Nyree, and Mark.

I ate escargo aka snails and duck that night!! Yikes!
Here I am with the plate to prove that I had it!! This picture was right before I tried to figure out how to eat them!!

I had my "Pretty Woman" moment and I almost lost a snail!! That picture is legitmate! Nyree caught me right as I about lost it! I was thinking that I'd wish that she would have ate the snail in the movie so that I would have had an idea on how to eat them. I knew to put them in the pincher, but I thought that I had to crack it like you do with most seafood... so there I am looking about all sneaky like to figure out what everyone else is doing, because to my horror the spoon was as tight as it would go... and whenever I tried to squeeze it to get it to crack the snail would fall out! Eventually Ursela took pity on me, and pointed at the little fork next to me. If you EVER are planning on eating escargo in your life pay attention to this next sentence it could save you someday!! You have to DIG the snails out with the fork! You pick them up with the little tongs, then you go to town with your fork and dig them out! It was really easy... after a little bit of wiggling around and talking nicely to it the snail comes right out.
Victory! Now to actually try the snail...
Yep! Not too bad. It was a little bit chewy, but it wasn't horrible. I was able to eat the next 5 quite happily. There was also this DELICOUS onion soup on the table with bread. So we were all dunking the bread into the soup, and it was just the best creation ever. I loved it. It was thick and full of flavor... and the bread soaked it up perfectly. It was a very good dinner, and I enjoyed the duck as well. I didn't really eat too much of my dessert because I was extremely full!! And we were all dancing to the band that was playing that night. It was a great way to say goodbye to everyone. It was really sad. After three weeks you really make friendships with people. Traveling is the best way to get to know people. I think that 3 weeks of traveling with a person beats out 3 years of just being friends and hanging out at home. It's such a different experience, because you're in a new place and that person is the only thing that is familar... and you really rely on each other to find your way around the city, and to stay safe. I'm really going to miss most of the people on this tour, and I hope that they all get back safely. I know quite a few are trapped in London until the volcano passes. I'll be posting a blog on my overall thoughts of the trip in a little while.