21 September 2007

The Final Act: London

Here I am, my last day in London and less than 24 hours before I leave for home. My stay here has been wonderful. The first day I reacquainted myself with the city. I walked down fleet street to Trafalgar square, to Westminster and Parliament; I crossed the Thames at Big Ben (even though he's not there, he's being polished or repaired someplace). I went past the London Eye and walked along the river to Shakespeare's Globe theatre. I purchased a ticket to "The Merchant of Venice" matinée. Here I became a Groundling, one who stands in the yard during the performance. It was fantastic!! A ghost tour ended the evening.

Wednesday I walked to Leicester Square and then to the British Museum where I made my linguistic pilgrimage to The Rosetta Stone. Then it was to a pub for a few delicious ales and to the theatre. We saw a comedy, "Boeing Boeing" which was really good. I love to watch live theatre. One of the actors lost it on stage and a giggling fit ensued (brief, but still amusing). This play had Rhea Perlman playing one of the main characters.

Thursday was more walking... or should I say, limping. I wandered to the Borough Market, stopping for lunch along the way. I ended up at the Tower but shortly before it closed. So I had a tea in a shop called "Eat." and watched it pour down rain. I ended up walking back to the apartment and propped my feet up for the rest of the evening. I let my friend cook for me and we enjoyed some mead purchased at the Edinburgh castle that I don't want to drag home with me.

Today has been the Tower (took a bus this time). A stop to write a post. Now I'll enjoy an Ale and reflect on my trip.

I am exhausted today and pretty much ready to head home. I need to savor the last few hours of my time here and head home with a happy heart. I feel content with what I've seen and done here. I see why everyone wants to live in London despite the expense. It's really an international city with no shortage of things to do and see. Walking around everywhere has been really revealing and really hard on my poor feet. I've loved it though. I decided today I need to train for my next trip abroad. I have to figure out where I'll go next!!

19 September 2007

Act Two, Scene Two: York

note to the reader: read the post below for a chronological read.

This city is fascinating. A large northern England town where everything is within walking distance. My backpack is weighted down with a few bottles of alcohol which I'm thinking of drinking instead of figuring out how to get them home.

I arrive late and check into my hostel. I'm staying in a room with 10 bunkbeds (20 beds) co-ed. For £12 a night, it can't be beat. I wander into town early Sunday morning and I am one of only a dozen people on the street. I encounter ancient roman walls and towers. A mideveal castle tower atop a large mound so many sinking buildings. Oh yes, and several Starbucks and Pizza Huts.

I end up in the queue at the Jorvik museum. This place is very scatalogical. They take you through a disney-like ride through a typical Viking town... including the toilet where an old man is straining himself (a bit too realistic for me). Did I mention there are actual smells being piped in? Ugh! After the ride, the museum begins with a petrified human poo! At that point, I wonder what the rest of the museum is like?! Turns out it's quite interesting. My ancestors were inventive folk. They were adventurous travelers, lived in quaint communitites and were overall quite intersting. My favorite exhibit was an actual skeleton found on the site and they pointed out all of his battle injuries. Broken limbs, several stab wounds including a spear through the neck which severed his spine. It was like watching a forensic science show!

I enjoyed a typical Sunday dinner in Yorkshire: roast beef, vegetables, potatoes, gravy and yorkshire pudding. With a local hand-pulled cask ale, of course! With every corner I turned I found another ancient building and about as much character as one could stand. The York Minster is unbelievable! I say that having seen more than my fair share of gothic cathedrals. The size of which could be compared to St. Peter's in the Vatican. A walk along the city wall -- built by the Romans -- and lunch in the "most haunted pub" in England (or is it Europe) rounded up my visit to this fine city. I bought some clotted cream fudge in the Shambles (tastes like candy corn) and by then it was time to head to London for the final Act of my journey.

I really enjoy train travel. I cherish the last train I'll be on during my trip and look forward to wandering around London seeing sites I encountered 20 years ago, and learning more about these English folk. Until the next act...

Act Two, Scene One: York

I belive it was Aristotle who created the theory that persists today of the three acts of life, and therefore the three acts of literature, and plays. Act one is the introduction of the characters and the establishment of the hero/heroine with his/her fatal flaw. Act two is the predicament, that event that creates a problem that must be solved. Act three is the resolution of that problem. My trip has three cities and perhaps follows this pattern. Edinburgh was the introduction. York was the inevitable realization of my fatal flaw/weakness: my feet. Sounds funny, eh? Well, I bought a new pair of shoes before I left for the Great Britain. I wore them an entire day and had no problems! I decided to put inserts into them to give a bit more support. The first day I wore them, I got a gigantic blister and wound on my left heel. So, I have been forced to wear these evil, yet popular, "shoes" called crocs. Giving almost no support, I've had terrible feet pain since. After a day in York, I had to sit for hours in the hostel with my feet up. Observing their swollen ankles, the new broken veins along the arch. This, in turn, required me to miss my York ghost tour. Ahh, such is life with my poor shoe decision making. I sat in the hostel wondering how on earth i ever did this for 3 months?! The sad realization is that it was 20 years ago and my body was much, much younger and pliable. The inevitable journey through life at some times unfortunate and at others simply wonderful.

My experiences with travel, my study of languages, my many years of meeting and talking with interesting (many times international) people have allowed me to see this world with a unique set of eyes. I know, for example, that this trip is changing me every day; moreso than my normal life does. I wonder who I will be when I return to my home country and what adventures I will encounter in the next moment. I've learned to notice the little things. Like door handles and light switches, but also street signs and language and the interesting things cities paint at cross walks or the convenience items that people living their daily lives take for granted.

So, with sore feet, awful shoes and keen eyes, I begin my next Act. York, England.

16 September 2007

Sunburn in Edinburgh

I made it to the Great Britain. The apartment in Edinburgh was quite nice. Especially since they had a washer and a dryer and a dishwasher! I have a terrible blister on my left heel which is causing me to wear the same pair of shoes everyday. Not a good thing for my feet! I know all about whisky and will surly tell you all about it when I return. I tried Haggis, Tatties and Neeps. Not bad, but I discovered I don't like mashed rudabegas (aka neeps). I ventured into the Greyfryers cemetery and the Covenanters Prison where there's a really famous poltergeist (named Makenzie). But he didn't attack anyone in my group. I discovered what a "close" is... it's essentally an alley. Short for enclose. I stayed next to Campbell's Close. These were the streets below the tennement houses. The richer you were, the higher you got to live. They streched up to 11 stories tall! This is at a time when all the slop from the house got thrown out the window at 7 am and 10 pm. Watch out if you're walking below!! and certainly don't look up! The wedding was fantastic! I got a sunburn while we celebrated outside. Who says the sun never shines here? The weather has been terrific! I'm really not enjoying the fact that my feet hurt like hell or that my calves have all but seized up from the numerous walks up to castle hill. I've also been reminded of how it sounds when a train passes a train on the tracks. The "WHOOMP" still makes me jump!!

Today is Sunday and I'm trying to take it easy. I spent the day wandering the streets of York and the Jorvik museum. I decided to skip the ghost walk tonight to preserve my feet.

09 September 2007

The Great Britain Itinerary

In less than 2 days I will be on a plane heading to Edinburgh. I leave Omaha at 3:45 and will arrive on Wednesday around 10:00 a.m.

I've been planning my trip with enthusiasm, and yet I still feel unprepared! I have finalized the basic itinerary so you can imagine what I'm doing at any given time.

I arrive in the morning of the 12 and will head into town to meet the landlord of the apartment I'll be staying in. This will be very handy. For one thing, it will be cheaper than any hotel I could find (about the same price as the hostels). But, there's full kitchen so we can make our own coffee/tea and dinner if we want (which should save us some money). I have Wednesday afternoon and Thursday to explore the city. Friday is the wedding and we will have the opportunity to wander about the castle. Friday evening we'll be going on a ghost walk courtesy of the newlyweds. Saturday morning is open and in the afternoon we'll be taking a tour of Mary King's Close. That night I have reservations at a hostel in York.

Sunday I'll spend the day wandering about the city and spending some time at the Jorvik museum (the viking museum)! This is the only day where rain is in the forecast. Monday I meet the newlyweds at the train station and get a knowledgeable tour of York. I know we'll be seeing York Minster and the Shambles. I'll probably have some extra time on Sunday, so if you know of something I can't miss while I'm in York, let me know! Monday evening I hop on a train to London.

I arrive late Monday night and head to my friend's apartment. I'm sure I will sleep well on her blue couch! London is where I don't have a lot of plans and I don't leave until early Saturday morning. I have tickets to see Boeing Boeing on Wednesday night and plan on going to the British Museum, the Kensington Museums--specifically the Natural History and possibly the Science museums--the Tower of London, The Globe (including a matinée of The Merchant of Venice), and a lot of wandering around the city.

If you know of anything in these three cities that I cannot miss, let me know!