London (Katy)

August 9, 2006

We haven’t talked about London a whole lot so I’ll try to give my general impressions. London is big, and has an incredible amount of history, which means the list of things to see is intimidatiing and endless. We averaged about four sights a day, which was three too many (except for things like Buckingham Palace where all you can do is walk past and gawk for five minutes before moving on). We had a great time but moaned and groaned about aching feet every night after walking on concrete all day. Along with the size and amount of history in the city comes a corresponding number of tourists, Saturday in the city is particularly overwhelming trying to walk down any of the streets – and the number of people watching The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is . . . indescribable. We managed to see the brass band and some of the mounted guard march through the gates of the palace and nothing but the wall of people pressed up against the fence after that. Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St. James Park are all brown because of an ongoing drought in England – which also means all the fountains are turned off. My favorite thing in Hyde Park was the Peter Pan statue, which is just perfect to represent the innocence of the play. The lakes/water bodies in each park are still really pretty and they do have some green vegetation immediately around them in the parks.

The things I enjoyed most were Westminster Abbey (particularly Poet’s Corner, where Chaucer is buried and memorialised), the Tower of London (which has an incredibly bloody history – makes sense for a prison) and the British Museum. The only thing I missed during our sojourn there was time to shop, I wanted to look at English china and just never got an opportunity. The other thing I really enjoyed about London was the number of statues and memorials, particularly the ones for WWI and WWII, they are everywhere, it seems like you see a new one every time you turn a corner. There is a really cool one called Trinity Park right across the street from the Tower of London on the opposite side from the Thames for all the merchant navymen who never enlisted in the military but gave their lives anyway and had no grave but the sea during one or both of the world wars.

We are home again now (I love having my own shower again) and I’m about to keel over from jet lag – it’s 2 am London time – so I’m stopping here and resting my eyes.

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Bryan-Quick Update

August 6, 2006

Hi all, we’ll be flying out tomorrow morning so this is the last you’ll hear from us before we’re back in the US. Anyways I only have time for a quick post.

We saw the Tower of London which was great (if a bit pricey at £12 each) and the crown jewels. After we went to Saint Pauls Cathedral which was amazingly big. Then we trotted off to the British Museum which was enormous but sadly closes at 5:30pm so we could only look at a small part of it, since the Tower of London took most of the day .

The next time you hear from us we’ll be back in the US, it hard to imagine that our holiday (as the English say) is practically over with more funds I’d be happy to stay longer and take a look at Eastern Europe!

Cheers Bryan

Bryan and Katy London

August 5, 2006

No pics since I’ve forgotten the usb cord. We saw a lot of stuff today and Katy finally got tired of meat and bread so we ate out ūüôā

In the morning we saw Portabello market which is in the movie Notting Hill, it was very crowded, Katy bartered a merchant down ¬£5 for a pashmina. Then we dashed off to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace where it was insanely touristy and packed with people. The day before without the changing of the guard we’d thought it was busy! We were extremely incorrect.

We took a look around Westminster Abbey which was larger than expected (apparently a few scenes from Da Vinci Code were filmed there, we didn’t find the spot). Katy also bought postcards and a CD at the Abbey shop. After that we took the tube to Elephant and Castle (that’s the name of the stop) and walked to the Imperial War Museum which I greatly enjoyed and even Katy liked.

Finally to conclude the day (it was 5:45pm by the time we dragged ourselves away from the Imperial War Museum) we saw the British Youth Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall.

Bryan-More photos

August 4, 2006

I’ve uploaded some photos of Bath, my second (the second hike was the same as the first, i.e. to the top of sugarloaf but I took a different route than the first time) and third hikes in Wales, and of London.

Bath

Wales second hike

Wales third hike

London

Cheers Bryan

Katy – London pics

August 4, 2006

Here’s the site:

 http://www.flickr.com/photos/95293409@N00/tags/london/

We’ve had a whirlwind two days in London with two more coming up, although I will get to catch my breath for a couple of hours tomorrow night while attending a performance at Royal Albert Hall.

I spend so much time on my feet walking each day they are throbbing by the time we get back to the hostel. Listing everything off we have seen so far: Kensington Gardens (I don’t know why they are called Gardens I didn’t see any flowers in them), Hyde Park, Royal Albert Hall (to buy my tickets), Royal Geographical Society, Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Harrods (had to stop in and see what the famous store was like . . . expensive, expensive, expensive), American Embassy, Green Park, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, Westminster Abbey (although we have not yet gone inside), Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (they are huge, now I want to see Capitol Hill to see if it is as big and elaborate), walked along the Thames, we went past the London Eye but it was too expensive (¬£13) and the lines were too long plus you have to stand for the half hour while you go round if you aren’t one of the lucky three people first into the bubble that gets a seat¬† (if you aren’t sure what the London Eye is look here:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Eye)

Trafalgar Square with the statue of Nelson, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. The National Galleries were cool, my first time seeing the works of Van Gogh, Monet, Constable, Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Ruisdael, Turner, Renoir, Botticelli and others, that I can’t remember off the top of my head, in person and not just in books.

Anyway, we’ve been walking our feet off and the next two days are going to be just as bad. We still have to see the Imperial War Museum, Florence Nightengale Museum, inside of Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, British Museum, National British Library, St Paul’s Cathedral and I can’t remember what else – all in two days.

Katy – Wales and London

August 4, 2006

I can’t remember if I finished the last day in Wales, so I’ll write a quick rundown now. First things first we spent a couple of hours at the library writing updates for the blog and then went to see the ruins of a castle from the 9th century (roughly, it was attacked by some king in the 1200s and already pretty old by then so I’m guessing at the 9th century as when it was originally built) and ate lunch on a bench by the castle. There’s not much left, as you can see from the pictures but it’s pretty cool and has some great views. After that Bryan went off to hike to the top of Blorenge, a mountain to the west of Sugarloaf and I kept walking around the castle. It kept threatening to rain so I finally decided to walk back to the hostel and read for the afternoon, where I met a couple of Welshman who had just arrived at the hostel and spent the afternoon chatting with them and watching British TV, which they were kind enough to explain when it didn’t make any sense to me.

We caught the train to Cardiff and a bus back to London from there the next day(it involved a bit of backtracking but made it much more affordable), arriving in London around six o’ clock. We checked into the hostel, after dragging ourselves through the tube again and up and down streets to find it, and settled into the room for the night.

Every day in London has been jampacked, there is so much to see you kind of have to go non-stop each day to even scrape the surface. We’ll put up more pictures soon to get you caught up on our activities here and so everyone else can see how much there is to be seen here. It’s amazing to see all kinds of things I’ve heard about for years.

Katy – Wales and London

August 4, 2006

I can’t remember if I finished the last day in Wales, so I’ll write a quick rundown now. First things first we spent a couple of hours at the library writing updates for the blog and then went to see the ruins of a castle from the 9th century (roughly, it was attacked by some king in the 1200s and already pretty old by then so I’m guessing at the 9th century as when it was originally built) and ate lunch on a bench by the castle. There’s not much left, as you can see from the pictures but it’s pretty cool and has some great views. After that Bryan went off to hike to the top of Blorenge, a mountain to the west of Sugarloaf and I kept walking around the castle. It kept threatening to rain so I finally decided to walk back to the hostel and read for the afternoon, where I met a couple of Welshman who had just arrived at the hostel and spent the afternoon chatting with them and watching British TV, which they were kind enough to explain when it didn’t make any sense to me.

We caught the train to Cardiff and a bus back to London from there the next day(it involved a bit of backtracking but made it much more affordable), arriving in London around six o’ clock. We checked into the hostel, after dragging ourselves through the tube again and up and down streets to find it, and settled into the room for the night.

Every day in London has been jampacked, there is so much to see you kind of have to go non-stop each day to even scrape the surface. We’ll put up more pictures soon to get you caught up on our activities here and so everyone else can see how much there is to be seen here. It’s amazing to see all kinds of things I’ve heard about for years.

Katy – Photos Bath and Abergavenny

August 3, 2006

I uploaded photos from Bath and Abergavenny

http://www.flickr.com/photos/95293409@N00/tags/bath/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/95293409@N00/tags/abergavenny/

I’m not familiar with Flickr so mine aren’t as nicely organized as Bryan’s, tough luck you’ll have to enjoy them however you can get them.

Bryan – Finally some photos!

August 3, 2006

I’ve finally been able to upload some photo’s from Bern and Germany. Without further ado here they are

(Bern) http://www.flickr.com/photos/95293409@N00/tags/bern/

(Germany) http://www.flickr.com/photos/95293409@N00/tags/germany/

I don’t have these organized into cohesive sets, since with the free version of flickr you only have 3 sets available.

Cheers Bryan

Katy – Wales

August 2, 2006

Wales is gorgeous, I almost want to wait until I am on a¬†computer where I can upload photos to talk about it because words just don’t do it justice. However, I’ll go ahead and get started and catch up with the photo’s when I can. Everything is green and rolling and we had¬†clouds¬†adding big puffy white accents to the sky during our stay. It’s almost like looking at a big¬†quilt with the hedges and fences outlining the¬†square fields in patterns across the hills.¬†

It only took two hours on the trains with one half hour connection to get to Abergavenny from Bath, which put us at our hostel, conveniently located right across the road from the train station, at one o’ clock. We dropped our luggage off, explored the premises a bit – I highly recommend this particular hostel it has a wonderful comfortable homey atmosphere that was wonderful for the entire stay, and then set off to walk to the town center. There was a tourist information center and Brecon Beacons National Park Center (sharing the same premises) at the very beginning of High St where we spent awhile looking at maps and information. Bryan agonised for a good twenty minutes on whether or not to buy a topo type map of the area for ¬£6 before finally giving in and getting it. We went off down High St to see what there was to see¬†and find the library next. The library is almost all the way through town down a little side street off the high street, really easy to find. Unfortunately, it was Saturday and it closes at one o’ clock on Saturday. By that time we were starving so we stopped at a little fish and chips place and I had my second experience of British fish and chips (luckily it was better than the first experience when I was disappointed in the fish – I expected anything that deeply fried to taste better than it did). It was between four and five o’ clock when we got back to the hostel and met some of our fellow hostel stayers. A father son duo (father of fifty-nine and son of twenty) backpacking around Wales for a two week vacation together. The son had just transferred from McGill College in Canada to the University of Austria in Vienna (or possibly the University of Vienna, I can’t remember) and was spending his summer in Austria. They were really interesting and we chatted for quite awhile, they made dinner and generously invited us to eat with them and we just kept chatting, eventually going to bed at one-thirty. Consequently I didn’t get up until nine o’ clock the next morning and we got a late start. We eventually set off to walk up Sugarloaf, the “mountain” to the north of Abergavenny – stopping to get some stuff for lunch at Tesco’s, the only local grocery store. We learned from the checker that since it was Sunday Tesco’s was only open until four, it was a little before noon at that point and I wanted to make dinner for everybody that night and reciprocate for the dinner from the night before. That gave me four hours to hike and then get back to do the grocery shopping. I’m a very slow hiker, so I figured I would hike as far as I could get by two o’ clock and then turn around in order to have plenty of time to get back and shop.

It was a beautiful hike, the first bit walking through the town was almost level and pretty easy walking, with lots of scenic houses and cricket grounds. We eventually left the houses and started walking through fields and seeing cows and horses – in one case hiking around the horses through a field, crossing stiles from one field to the next. Part of the hike was also along a narrow little road with tall hedges on each side so all you could see was a little slice of sky above. When we started walking up the actual hill it was through the Deri fach, which means small oak woodland. It was lovely but we were ready to stop and eat some lunch and a bit astounded that there were no logs or anything anywhere to sit on, and the ground was wet and not conducive to sitting on comfortably. We had almost given up hope of eating lunch when a bench finally appeared on the side of the path.

I was looking forward to coming out of the woodland and getting into the greenery on the top of the ridge, I wouldn’t have been so naive if I had had any previous experience of gorse and bracken. Bracken looks like ferns, very tenacious, nasty overgrowing ferns that you have to fight your way through, making you think longingly of having a machete to hack them to pieces. The way we were going had been a path at some point in the distant path and enough of the trail remained that we kept going. As we kept walking up the bracken got shorter and shorter and started being interspersed with heather, which is a really pretty plant of deep green with light purple flowers. It was getting on toward two o’ clock by then and I was wondering how far I would be able to go, the point of Sugarloaf was right in front of us, getting closer and closer with every step but still far away. At first I thought I would just see how close I could get to the top, but then I was so close to the top I wanted to get there and a) be able to say I’d hiked to the top and b) see the views from the top. They were unbelievable, definitely worth the hike. And there was a constant buffeting wind at the top that was really refreshing after making it up the last steeply vertical stretch. We stayed up there for about twenty-five minutes resting and looking at all the different vistas, Abergavenny to the south and a ring of other mountains (I think the Black Mountains) to the north. There are sheep everywhere on Sugarloaf, even the top, it’s actually kind of cool to be walking up a mountain/hill and have sheep bleat at you randomly while you walk. We didn’t start walking back down until three o’ clock and since I couldn’t keep up the technique of “falling” down the hill at all the steep stretches to get back to Abergavenny, it was after four by the time we were back among the houses. However, we had taken a wrong turn and didn’t know where we were when we came out in the town again from the residential area. Fortuitously I went into an Esso station to ask how to get back to High Street and discovered the station stocked a small number of groceries, enough to come up with an imaginative dinner. Pasta, a chicken dish (which I unfortunately can’t remember the name of) which turned out to be an Indian dish and very very spicy, bacon, canned peaches, canned mandarin slices and canned corn. It actually all went together really well, I mixed the pasta (called Eliche) with the bacon and the chicken dish for a sauce and then served everything else on the side with some bread and cheese as well. The dad actually ate enough of the spicy pasta dish he started sweating, I was shocked when everything got eaten – I was sure there would be extra. The guys went up and played pool after dinner, Bryan kind of got hooked on it he said. He and I played again a couple of nights later and he had actually gotten¬†pretty good in just the one night of playing, I’m a really bad player and he beat me handily at two games. We went to bed pretty late again that night and I got up again just in time the next morning to say goodbye to our dinner companions when they left to¬†catch a train to Paddington Station.

Since I was once again a bit sore from hiking the previous day, I took that day off and made one trip to Abergavenny to spend a couple of hours at the library writing posts and then did the delayed grocery shopping. Taking everything back to the hostel to put it away before going back to Abergavenny to spend the afternoon just walking around and then walking back again in the rain when the clouds finally broke. Bryan didn’t get back from his hike until around seven, although I learned he had actually just hiked up Sugarloaf again and then discovered at the top that the bread he had with him had started molding and the ham didn’t smell quite right – he fed either just the bread or both to the sheep and then came back to Abergavenny since he didn’t want to try to hike any farther on an empty stomach. And then spent an undemanding afternoon, on the same empty stomach, reading in the library until they closed. He had located a book there that he wanted to buy in Bern but forced himself not to because it was a little too expensive. He was starving when he got back and practically scarfed up the bread, apple and cheese I sliced up for an appetizer. We managed to go to bed a little earlier that night, but by now we were in the habit of sleeping in and didn’t get up any earlier.

I’m running out of time so our final day in Wales will be the next installment.

We’re in London now and a bit overwhelmed by the number of things we want to cram into the four days we will be here – luckily a lot of the things we were hoping to see, specifically the British Museum, have free admission and it is pretty easy to decide which things to see when some are free and others, like Madame Tussauds, charge ¬£20 admission. It’s going to be non-stop until we get on the plane next Monday.