Monday, November 30, 2009


November 28-29 (traveling days 27, 30)
I just returned from a weekend in northern England with my flatmate's family. She invited my friend, Christina and I up to her house a few weeks ago but she was unable to come with us. It was a funny situation at first, being at my friend's house without her, but it turned out just wonderful. We became daughters instantly. Her mom took care of us as if we were Amy. She fed us, gave us a warm bed, and constantly tried to give/buy us stuff. She was so good to us! We could not possibly have asked for more. The small little town that they live in is called Maryport and it is right on the coast. If you walk down the street you can look over the Irish Sea and see Scotland. It is amazing! They are less than an hour from Scotland and less than an hour from the Lake District. It was so nice seeing a different part of England. Northern England is much different from Southern England... not just the appearance of it, but also the way people speak. When we first arrived early in the morning, 6:45am to be exact, it was dark and cold. Our bus dropped us off in the smallest town of all of England, Carlisle. In this small, itty bitty town, nothing opened until after 8... and most places did not open until 9 or 9:30. After walking around for awhile, we decided to sit in the waiting room at the Railway station that we stumbled upon. And we just waited for something to open. Finally a little cafe opened at 8 and then the pub next to it opened at 9. We got some hot drinks and then a nice English meal. We decided to get the Traditional English Breakfast. I mean why not right? We are in England! Might as well :) The breakfast came with fried eggs, sausage, hashbrowns, ham, and a choice of either a flat mushroom or black pudding. I got the black pudding and she got the mushroom, so we could try both :) I like them both! Christina did not really like either... but she did try them both. The black pudding tasted like something had just been burnt really badly, it was a peculiar taste and I did not find out what it was until we met up with Jeanne ( Amy's mom). I am not going to say what it was for those who want to try it first, but let's just say I will not be eating it again...
We took the train to Maryport which took only about 30 minutes and then we walked to their house. All the houses are connected. They did not have backyards and they are really tall. I think there were probably 4 or 5 different floors but they are not very wide. It was a good sized house and there were little laced curtains and paintings around the walls. There was a small little fire in the common room and we all huddled around there to keep ourselves warm. After Christina and I settled into Amy's room, we got a nice little tour of Maryport. We walked down the streets and went to the little coastline. It was a beautiful view.
The sky shone bright blue with a few decorative clouds. The perfect day. We decided to "pop up" to Scotland for the day, to a place called Gretna Green. A town where young lovers used to go to get married when England changed the marriage age to 21. Although many things have changed, people still go there to get married in the notorious blacksmith's shop. We had a great time there, it was a short visit but it was lovely.
As the months begin to get colder, it is harder to see scenary in northern England because the sun does not come up until after 8am and then it starts going down before 4pm.
But we made great use of the little time we had.
After Gretna Green, we went back to Amy's home and had a real traditional Scottish dinner. Haggus, Neeps, and Tatties. :)
More fun stuff to explain hehe.
Haggus is kind of like meatloaf... Scottish style.
Needs is this vegetable that the English call Sweed.... maybe like a turnip?
And tatties are potatoes!
It was a very interesting meal, I loved it! Oh and theeeeen we had a Clohty Dumpling ( which means a dumpling in a cloth... it is a dessert). It was all delicious!
Jeanne gave it to me to bring back to share with my flatmates and friends, but I left it on the bus when I was getting off in London :/ Sad. I guess I will just have to learn how to make it :D

After we had a very filling meal, we made mincemeat pies!! Contrary to what many people think, they are not made with meat. They are made with a mosh posh of different dried fruits. And they are absolutely delicious! Those I did bring back.
Jeanne let Christina and I pretty much make the entire pies with her instructions. They are very easy to make and I am excited to hopefully be able to make them for others. They are really good with cream or custard or by themselves. Mmmmmm.
We enjoyed the fire for quite sometime before heading up to bed with our wheaties ( hot packs).
It was so nice to be in a home with a family that was so welcoming we felt as if we were at home. Made me realize how much I miss my own family and how blessed I am.

The next day, Sunday was the day we decided to go around the lakes in the Lake District. We had our beautiful day the day before, so it was time for some rain. And there was no holding out on this one. We got buckets of rain and wind and the whole lot. Luckily we were inside the car and Jeanne was nice enough to drive us around to see the lakes without us needing to get out of the car much at all. It was so much fun. One of my favorite things about the Lake District and Scotland was all the sheep. EVERYONE seems to have sheep. They are so cute! Black ones and grey ones and white ones and multi-colored ones. They just walked around eating their little grass. It was precious. We drove up windy mountain roads around and through the Fells ( which is what they call the mountains in that area). The lakes were beautiful and the mountains came right down to the water. It was lovely. Beacuse there has been so much rainfall lately there has been a lot of flooding and the rivers and lakes were very very high.
The first time we got out of the car was when we toured William Wordsworth's cottage and museum. We also got some gingerbread from a little shop that has been making it for years with their secret recipe. It is nothing I have ever had before. It is not really like bread at all, it is more like a biscuit. It is good though... very ginergy.
We drove around the lakes for hours and it was really quite nice. Even though we were in the car, we were still able to see everything and experience the vastness of the nature around. The area reminded me of Vermont and Maine, the narrow roads with all the trees and mountains.
Our last stop before heading home was at a little small church. Jeanne wanted us to get a chance to have our own little Sunday service since we were missing our regular church service. We went to the smallest church in all of England. And it was this little room a little ways off the main mountain road, surrounded by big green trees. It was a treck getting to the church because the wind was pressing against us so badly we could hardly walk. I was so glad I wore my wellies because then I could just stomp around without getting my feet wet. Hehe.
The small little church was so serene. No one was there and it was dark with a few benches, but you could still tell there was good news being spread there. The few moments we spent in there was really nice, even though it was cold and dark, I knew God was there.
After leaving the church, we walked over to the pub to get a nice warm meal. We started with some warm drinks and then we all got a traditional Sunday roast. It was so good!
We had a nice time at the small little pub. Two guys came in with their dogs and the dogs stared at us as we at our roast beef. They kept giving me those big sad brown eyes, oh it made my heart melt. When we were done, we had a few pieces of meat left on our plates and asked if we could give it to the dogs. The men agreed and the dogs licked those plates clean!
It was a really nice time, we talked with the men and played with the dogs. They were so cute. One was a black and white collie, the other was some sort of terrier that looked like a pit bull.
It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.
In the short amount of time we were able to be there for, we saw everything we wanted to see and more. We experienced a different part of England and we were blessed with a little piece of home.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Je t'aime Paris <3

November 10-12
Today I arrived back in London, from Paris. It felt so good to be home again. I loved Paris, but I missed London so much during the three days I was away. I realized how accustomed I have gotten to the English ways when I went to Paris and no longer knew which way the cars were coming from. Crazy how just a few months can really change your view.

Oh but let me tell you about Paris... I fell in love the moment I stepped out of the metro and the Eiffel Tower appeared right in front of me. It took my breathe away, it was so beautiful!! It was more than I expected, the three of us stood staring at the tower for a couple minutes before we could get ourselves to move closer towards it. Then we took about ten minutes just taking pictures of it and enjoying it. I felt all giddy around that Eiffel Tower, I just knew I would love that city! We got their early in the morning, at about 8:30 and France is an hour ahead of London so it was more like 7:30 to us. Luckily the cold kept us awake...and the fact we were in Paris!! The only thing I did not enjoy about being around the Eiffel Tower was the mobs scattered around the base selling cheap, fake, Paris souvenirs. They would come up to us trying to get us to buy little cheap Eiffel Towers and other random things with Eiffel Towers on them that we did not need. At first we tried to be kind and just simply say "no merci" , but when they did not work and they were EVERYWHERE I would just give completely ignore them. They were so persistent, it was crazy! However even with those guys, we could not stay away from the beautiful Tower. We walked along the Seine River and stayed near the Tower, taking pictures from other different angles. When we first arrived in Paris, it was cloudy which actually made for beautiful pictures. Hehe.

When we began to get hungry we decided we had to leave the Tower area to find some less expensive food. We wandered into a fruit and vegetable market, which had a man making crepes. When in Paris, you have to have crepes. Mmmmm. They were so delicious! He simply put butter with cinamon sugar. Oh we would have had those all day everyday if we could. After the crepes, we made our way toward our hotel. Getting to our hotel was an adventure, but once we were there it was so nice. We ended up taking a long nap after being up all night traveling, we decided we needed some rest. Also since Paris seems to be more alive at night, we wanted to be able to enjoy that.

After our nap we headed out to the Notre Dame Cathedral. I am so thankful for the London tube because it made traveling on the Paris metro system a lot easier. We took the metro to a station nearby the Notre Dame Cathedral and then just walked the rest of the night. Looking back at what we did, we realized that we walked across half the city in about six hours... no wonder we were so sore the next day! At least we slept good though, hehe. Notre Dame was absolutely picturesque! The huge stone building with beautiful wooden doors and the gargoils glaring from the top. Everything about it was so lovely, it was different from the other cathedrals we had seen before. And we were blessed to be there when they were having a service, we did not sit and listen, but we walked around the inside and got to experience it just the same. It was all in French, but it was still beautiful. They did a lot of singing and they had communion and it was just amazing. I cannot imagine having church in their, it was huge! Also I saw something I had never seen before, there were clear glass rooms with about ten chairs in rows outside of them. Inside the rooms were a priest and another person. They were confession rooms, but it looked more like a bank meeting. It was very interesting. I saw the same sort of thing in another church we went to during this trip, but had never seen it all through our traveling in Eurpope. It must be a French thing. After we left the cathedral, we walked along the Seine River just simply enjoying the view. We saw so much wonderful architecture. I really like the stone, it just looks so... ah I am running out of adjectives to describe everything in this city. And this is only the first day we were there... well all of you who have been there before will know what I am talking about, and all you who have not will hopefully understand a little through the pictures...

We walked toward the Arc de Triomphe... which was probably one of the longest walks of my life... but it was completely worth it! We took many stops and detours during the long street toward the arc. This arc is where the soliders would walk through when they obtained victory and I felt like arriving at that arc was victory for us as well. he arc is in the middle of the street and the only way to get to it is by going underground. Once we got there, we found out we were able to climb up it to the very top... so after over a mile or two walk to the Arc and just under 300 steps, we stood on the top of the Arc de Triomphe and surveyed all of Paris. We saw the Eiffel Tower doing a light show, we saw streets lit up and parks without lights, we saw in the distance places we would go and explore. I was awestuck by the view I was blessed with. WOW! And even Christina who is deathly afraid of heights, enjoyed the view from a distance. I am so proud of her! That adventure was the perfect ending to an amazing day and we headed back to our hotel to get prepared for another filled day ahead.

Versaille was our plan for the second day in Paris. Novemeber 11 was the 90th anniversary of something connected with the Treaty of Versaille. It was fun getting the opportunity to be there on that day. We had to wake up before the sun to get our day started. It was a cold morning as most of the days were in Paris, however it did warm up in the afternoon. Before going to Paris; Christina, Chelsea, and I watched Marie Antoinnette, I had never seen it before. I am so glad we did because going to Versaille held so much more value for me after seeing the history ( Hollywood status) behind it. The palace itself was a bit overwhelming. So much gold and wealth went into each room. There was hardly a place you could look that did not have some sort of pattern covering it. It was a place that would be nice to look at, but not necessarily to live. Which seemed to be the same thought that Marie Antionette had because the Petite Trianon was a place of personal retreat for her. We toured the palace which at one point housed 20,000 people! Which gives you a feel for how large this place was, it was the largest palace in Europe! After leaving the palace we walked into their backyard which was miles and miles of gardens. Our timing of coming to Versaille was perfect because the leaves were all changing and had not completely all fallen off the trees yet. We were able to just wander through the green and fall colored bushes and trees then we decided to rent bikes to give ourselves a chance to see more. It was as if we were in a movie, everything was just so wonderful. After our bike ride, we went to visit the place that all three of us agreed was our favorite part of all of Versaille... the village built for Marie Antionnette. It was the most precious little place ever! There were animals everywhere and all the little houses were just perfect with their thatched roofs and wooden doors. Even with the small village feel, you could still tell this was built for royalty. Some of the houses had wooden spiral staircases and everything was without fault. I loved it! We pet some goat, feed some sheep, and just explored. Oh I loved Versaille!!! Eventually the time came when we had to leave Versaille, it was bittersweet. We enjoyed Versaille very much, but we were heading back to the Tower we loved... ah it was as if things could not get better and then they would! We were exhausted by the time we got to our train to head back into Paris, but we wanted to take advantage of the short amount of time we had. We bought some dinner, I had a baguette, brie, and a carrot of course because I did not want to pay the ridiculous price for a sandwhich, and then got in line to go up to the tippy top of the Eiffel Tower or Tour de Eiffel. After waiting for what seemed like eternity, we got into an elevator and rode to the top. We found out that the Eiffel Tower was 120 years old this year... HAPPY BIRTHDAY EIFFEY!!!! It is exaclty 100 years older than the three of us, we were excited. Hehe.

The view from the top was beautiful, I love the lights and everything. I think the fact that I was at the top of the Eiffel Tower was more exciting to me then actually what I saw because I love seeing the Eiffel Tower and when you are in it, you cannot see it. But it was fun. The wind was so strong up there and it was cold, but it was well worht it!

Another exhausting, wonderful day! We decided that our last day in Paris would not start as early because we felt that we needed our rest. We had just a few things we wanted to see and we just wanted to be able to take in Paris because we none of us know if we will ever be so blessed to return. We woke up and left the hotel around 9:20 or so and we headed to the Moulin Rouge. We just wanted to see it. It turned out there was a lovely little crepe place right next door which we just could not pass up. I had nutella with a little bit of crepe. It was delicious! Intense... but delicious! After simply seeing the Moulin Rouge, we headed to the Louvre. It was so amazing! We got into the Louvre for free because we were students in England, it was great! I mean what are the odds of that?! We would have paid to get in, but it is sooooo nice when you do not have to. We spent about 4 hours in the Louvre seeing as much as we could. The art was magnicient! So many famous art pieces and artists in there, it seemed surreal that we were actually in there. It made me love art so much more!! I just wanted to sit and take it all in, but sadly our time did not allow that. Hopefully I will get a chance to come back one day because seeing everything in the Louvre... really seeing it all, would take weeks! After the Louvre, we headed to see Sacre Coeur... It was the perfect ending to our Paris trip. The area that this church resided was called Montmarte and it was probably my favorite part of all of Paris. It was nothing like Paris, it was more French. It had cobblestone streets and brick homes. Everything seemed to be on a hill and no matter which way you went, it felt like you were always walking up. The church was beautiful! We climbed the many stairs to the top of the dome and saw yet another breath-taking view of Paris. The sun was getting ready for its big debut and the Eiffel Tower seemed like just a spec in the distance. The climb up the dome almost made me closterphobic, luckily I am not or else I would not have been able to do it. A narrow staircase of 300 stairs was well worth the view. It was beautiful, Paris. I loved being there, I loved the people and the culture and everything about it. Now I know why so many people love Paris and why it is the city of love. Not only is the language beautiful, but the city itself is stunning! One day I hope to return and see it all again, but if I do not I am just thankful for all the memories Paris gave to me. :)