Saturday, 25 September 2010

People Watching

I'm not too sure what's wrong with me... as i'm sitting here in the Frankfurt airport waiting for Natalie to arrive i've almost cried twice while people watching. I saw this man waiting for his wife and two kids at the gate. When his little boy walked through the doors they met and held hands over the glass barrier the whole way around until the little boy came to the exit and jumped on his dad for a hug. I have no idea what they were saying but German spoken by a little kid is just the cutest... whether i understand it or not. The second time, i saw this man in his 60s pacing back and forth holding a little bouquet of gerber daisies. I smiled at him but he just gave me a nervous look and half smile. I'm not the type to cry during commercials or usually cry for any other reason besides pain, but these little moments that i just observed actually made tears come to my eyes. If anyone saw me watching them they might wonder why that strange girl is crying and staring. I kind of wondered the same thing! I guess it just touched me and i got excited for when i come home and have the people i care about waiting for me. (NOT that i'm ready to come home yet!)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Off to London town

It's been a busy few days! Newcastle was alot of fun! We woke up at about 6 on Sunday morning to drive from Carlisle to Newcastle so Steve could run his half marathon. It was a massive event! We got there early and ate breakfast before he had to go. It was a rainy kind of miserable day but cool enough so that was good for running. His sister and I walked to see him off and I couldn't believe how many people were there! Olympic athletes and other celebrities were also competing it in the run. (We heard that Johnny Depp was there... but i didn't see him) Once he was off Sheree and I went shopping! I was pretty excited to check out the shopping and styles in England. Since i was mostly with Steve whenever we'd go anywhere i didn't want to drag him through shops while i had a look. I was also on a mission for boots! I've seen all the girls wearing boots since i got here and felt rather out of place wearing my runners with jeans every day. (I looked especially cute when i wore my skinny jeans. Just the worst style! I may be backpacking but i don't have to look like it!) I was being very practical while packing and decided on only bringing two pairs of shoes... runners and flip flops. I quickly learned that my flip flops will probably only be good for hostel showers with this kind of weather. After a couple hours and much frusteration trying to find boots for my infant feet i was successful! Just in time for us to go back and meet Steve after his run.

The next day i headed off to the train station to catch the next train to Durham all on my own. I'm proud to say that i made it just fine! I caught the right train, got off at the right stop, found the bus i needed, and found the statue (the giant man riding the horse with the really ugly hat) that Dan told me he'd meet me under at the right time. How all of that worked out was total luck! They speak English here but i only truly understand every other word so asking for directions is a bit confusing.

Seeing Dan was really nice! He told me that I didn't grow at all but that i seem more calm and sure of myself. I told him that he looks more hairy and happy than he used to be. I'd say that both of us were correct.
Since i had no expectations for Durham it was a really nice surprise! It's a very small town with a massive cathedral and very old buildings with alot of history. Dan was a great tour guide with a wealth of knowledge about the town and how things have changed over the years.  The first day i got there we grabbed lunch at a cute cafe, then took a walk along the river that runs through Durham. It was a shockingly beautiful day! My jacket was hanging over my arm for most of it and i could have gotten away with wearing sunglasses because the sky was so beautiful and clear.

The town is mainly a university town and classes start next week so it was very quiet. I think i preferred it that way since i don't really like crowds of people very much anyways. It was kind of nice to take pictures and not have any people in the way. The cathedral was beautiful! I wasn't allowed to take pictures but i made a special case to remember as many details as possible. By the way, Dan informed me that the cathedral is where Harry Potter was filmed - Trac and Cait, that little tidbit was for you. We were walking down one of the halls and Dan spotted a little bat on the wall. I don't think i've ever examined a bat so closely before but it's wings were really cool! Then we saw another bat just doing laps up and around the hallways. I think they were confused because it was the middle of the day and a very sunny one at that! I thought they were supposed to be creepy little nocturnal creatures!

For dinner he took me to this really nice restaurant called zen. It was the first actual service i've experienced since being in England. Also, the first time that the servers didn't look like they hated their lives and would rather be doing anything else other than talking to me. Kind of refreshing! I had a really nice pad thai which made me very very happy since i've been craving thai food since i got here. Since i only have a couple days left i really need to find an indian restaurant to eat at. Jordan's mom told me before i left that the indian food was excellent so i guess i better try it out!

While i'm on the topic of food, one thing i found very untrue since i've been here is the myth that all English food is bland. So far it's been alright! I've mainly tried to eat traditional english breakfast as much as possible but everything else i've had i've really enjoyed! I'm so happy that i'm not a picky eater... makes life so much easier. A few days ago when Steve and i went for breakfast i apparently made a very difficult request - I asked for my eggs to be done over hard. The man taking my order looked at me with raised eyebrows and just stared at me for a while. I then asked if i was allowed to order my eggs any other way than just fried... had to explain to him what over hard meant and he told me he'd see if they could do that for me. I guess i was being a high maintenance, diva customer but i really don't like my eggs runny!! They managed to make them right and as far as i know it didn't kill anyone so i was very happy with my breakfast! :)

Also, i love love love the coffee! I'm not totally sure why i find it so much better than home but i can't say that i've had a bad cup my whole time here. It's also very cheap for Starbucks type fancy drinks... baristas are everywhere! Tim Hortons?? What's that?!

At the moment i'm on the train for a 3 hour journey to London. So far, no one has painted a very great picture of London for me so my expectations are super low. It's probably best because then i'm sure i will love it even more. Everything is such a novelty to me and i've really enjoyed seeing the variety of places I've been to in England. Steve has arranged for me to stay with one of his friends while i'm in London which is very nice of him! I spoke to him the other day and he said he would be more than happy to show me around and see all the big sights. I really have been lucky so far on my trip with my own personal tour guides and a more local view of England! So i'm not quite sure what's on the agenda for tomorrow but i know Buckingham Palace is definitely on the list! Lets just hope i have nice weather like i have the last couple of days. I woudln't mind if England made everyone a liar about it's rainy reputation. I've think i've seen enough rain so far and am ready for a little bit more sunshine. I think my tan has literally left my body running and screaming since I left my Canadian summer. I feel like i look a bit sick but im definitely blending in even more now with the rest of the country - boots and pale skin! Next all i need is to turn into one of the crusty English girls i've seen who wear 10 layers of makeup on their face and horrible fake eyelashes coated in way too many layers of mascara with dirty messy hair. (haha i wish i was exaggerating!) Meh! To each their own i guess??

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Change of plans!

I got in touch with Dan (a friend that Caleigh and I met while in Australia) and what are the chances but he's living in England at the moment! My plan is to be in Newcastle Sun-Mon and he lives in Durham which is literally 15 minutes away. So instead of heading back to Steve's house i'm just going to hop on a train and head to Durham for a day and go to London from there.
Very excited to have another piece of my Aussie trip in my Euro trip!!
Dan was the Australian that we met while in Melbourne who showed us around and helped us out alot, especially the first month of our trip. Should be nice to catch up and have a look around yet another lovely English town.
I'm sure I'll have lots to say after the next couple of days! :)

Friday, 17 September 2010

That Feeling

Before i start talking about what I've been up to the past couple of days....
Steve, his sister, and I headed off to this local place in their town to play pool. About 2 minutes after we get there 2 of his friends walk in and stand in front of me with huge smiles like i should know them already. It took me about 10 seconds but i realized that i did! It was 2 guys who Cale and I met while in Cairns, Australia. I worked with the one guy, Liam, and the other, Andy, just lived in town at the same time we did and often came into my work. Andy also dated one of the girls i worked with so i talked to him quite a bit since he was always around. I didn't realize but they both only lived a few minutes from Steve and met when they all were travelling. It was really nice to see them and catch up! Kind of a piece of my Aussie trip inside my Euro trip!

Day 3 and 4:

One thing i now appreciate about England is the vivid green colours. I guess that's what we can thank the rain for - such bright green that it's almost florescent! I was able to see plenty of that over the past couple days.

The Lake District was beyond beautiful! Such picture perfect rolly hills and stone walls holding in herds of sheep. I've done more walking than i'm sure i've ever done in my entire life. It was definitely worth it for the views but i'm also hoping for the nicest legs and super fit bod to come out of all of it!

To my shock the night before our trip to the lakes, i finally understood that Steve planned to camp while we were there. When he said "we'll camp out in the lake district" i sort of took it as an english figure of speech... but when he started talking about tents i finally understood that he was speaking very literally. It didn't make sense to me since i think the weather is probably typical for the middle of October and to top it off it decides to rain every 20 minutes. BUT i am glad to say that i lived to tell the story - all toes and limbs still intact! It was definitely a mission to sent the tent up. It took us probably about an hour and 3 different attempts, however, we finally figured it out and brought enough bedding for the entire campgrounds so we slept quite warmly! :)

The little buildings that make up the towns that surround the lakes are mostly made of dark, moss-covered, slate type stone which gave it a very uniform, clean,  and comfy kind of feel.  I didn't really care to go into many of the shops because i loved the look of the outside of them so much! We went on a few hikes and strolls by the lakes. There were ducks and swans  by the water close to town and i saw a lady living my worst nightmare. She had pigeons perched all up her arm and even on her head then swans that were almost as tall as me surrounding her on all sides. I was severely grossed out!! No idea why she would put herself in that situation and i definitely did not feel bad when she started going "ow, ow". Yuck! That would probably classify as the worst day of my life. I took a few pictures but that might take a while for me to get them on my computer until i make it to an electronics store. I never looked before i left home but apparently my new little computer doens't have a slot that fits my memory card from my camera so i'll have to buy a cord or something.

Last night after we figured our tent out we went back into this little town called Ambleside and went to a local pub for a quiz night. We didn't come close to winning or even feeling slightly good about ourselves. I've never felt more ignorant in my life. Steve's been out of England for over a year and i've never been so we both weren't exactly up to date on our current affairs. Most questions were about English politics or celebrities and it showed me how little i know about any other country outside of North America. It was still fun but kinda makes me feel like i should buy a book and learn a thing or two!

So, I got "that feeling" today. The feeling i've been waiting for since i left Australia. We were walking on this path that had an amazing view of a lake to my right and a gorgeous view of the mountains and hills on all sides. The sky was blue with fluffy white clouds that cast the odd shadow over the hills changing the colours just slightly. The sun was on my face and i was overwhelmed with this complete feeling of peace and contentment. That is exactly what i've been looking for. It's hard to explain and i'm sure some people get the same feeling but just in different ways. For me, it's always when experiencing something new, not having a care on my mind, just truly enjoying what i'm doing and where i am. It's these moments that remind me why i believe in God because i just know that nothing this amazing in life could have happened by chance. It's also then that i wish everyone i knew could be right there with me so i don't have to try and explain "that feeling"... so everyone can experience it for themselves.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Just the beginning

Day 1:

The plane ride was nothing to really mention. I slept almost the whole way through - no surprise there. 7 hours fly by pretty fast when you have the gift of voluntary travel comas.
Upon landing I was sort of nervous because I wasn't sure how strict customs would be and I was just praying that they would be ok with me only having a one-way ticket into Europe. We landed at around 6 in the morning and it was still dark and no shock to me - pouring rain. As we're filing into the lines for customs they seperated the UK citizens from the Canadians. So I get in line and the family behind me is trying to explain to their probably 7 year old son that he can't have Tim Hortons for breakfast. The people just to the right of me were speaking in a thick accent and I so badly wanted to yell at them and say "YOU sound like you're from LONDON!" however, i felt that perhaps the people in charge of letting me enter the country might think i was crazy, so i refrained. BUT just thinking about it made me laugh to myself while standing in line staring at the people across from me. (also might have looked a bit crazy so i stopped).
She gave me a hundred questions about why i was here and how long i was going to stay and where i was going and who i was with and how i know him. Ended up giving my passport yet another stamp and off we went to get our bags.
Steve's parents were picking us up from the airport and they both greeted me with a hug and made me feel very welcome. They live in a nice town outside of Manchester called St. Helens. The houses all look so different and i already feel very very foreign. I feel a bunch of questions about stupid things are coming Steve's way in the next couple of days.
We got to his house and visitied with his parents and sister for a while. His mum made us an egg, bacon, sausage and bean breakfast with tea. Very English, Steve assured me. After we ate i was feeling tired again so i went and had a couple hours nap and now here i am waiting for Steve to get up. Our plan for the rest of the day is the head to Liverpool on the train and check that out. Tomorrow is Chester, a traditional old english town. So i better dust off my camera and start looking like a tourist.
Feels great to have my pack on again!! (not literally... it's much heavier than i remembered)
Liverpool was really cool! The train ride only took a little over 20 minutes and the town immediately impressed me. Steve was laughing at me because every 2 minutes it seems i would be pointing at a building with an "ooooo, what do you think that building is?!". His answer was usually "i don't know". I definitely have no shortage of pictures so far of beautiful mystery buildings. Very few have signs on the front saying what they are for. We stumbled across an art gallery and took a look through. There was a nice mix of modern art as well as traditional art that i expected to see all over England. (you know... the typical naked people with sheets draped over them, babies, dark colours, laying down or floating in the air. haha... i'm so cultured!)
We walked through the town and down by the docks as the english weather didn't let me doubt its reputation. They literally don't lie when they say it can be sunny one moment then cloudy and rainy the next. I really began to doubt my packing choices. I feel as though shorts may have been altogether ambitious and that i should have considered a few more sweaters. The coat i bought just before leaving has already become my best friend. It is not only cloudy but almost always windy which is the part that really gets me. So far i love England but all you friends and family don't need to have any fear about me wanting to move here permanently.
As some of you know, Liverpool is famous for the Beatles. Steve and i went to the Cavern Club where the Beatles used to play and enjoyed some live entertainment where this man was playing covers of all the old songs. It was a really neat atmosphere with pictures all over the walls of famous people that have played there before.
We got home at a about 8:30 and had a fish and chip dinner and decided to just relax and watch a movie with his family. I didn't last too long before i started to nod off and headed to bed to get a solid 10 hour sleep.

Day 2:

I woke up feeling amazing and looked out to window to find it cloudy and windy however i felt so genuinely happy. Normally a day that like would motivate me to do nothing but crawl back into bed but i was very excited to go to Chester.
After breakfast, off we went in Steve's mom's car down all the windy roads and motorways about an hour away to Chester which i found to be a very charming little town. The buildings were exactly how i pictured England to be. I was so excited to be there and experiencing traditional England that i was practically hopping down the cobblestone streets, camera in hand.
We toured through this amazing cathedral! I would have loved to be there for a Sunday mass and hear the organ and choir but unfortunately i had to imagine all of that as we walked through. The detail on the outside was matched or beat by the amazing designs and sculptures on the inside. Once i figure this site out i can hopefully post a few pictures and give an idea of how amazing this church was.
The city was surrounded by a big wall that you can walk all around. It took us just a little over an hour to circle the whole town but it definitely gave a few good sights from a higher vantage point.
I'm still a bit tired today and i'm not sure whether to attribute that to the jet lag or the cloudy weather. Our plan is to take it very easy tonight and maybe after dinner go meet a few of his friends for a game or two of pool. Tomorrow we head to the lake district for 2 days and i'm very excited to see the countryside. I'm sure i'll have a million more pictures after that!

That's all i have for now. I fully expect my posts to get shorter and shorter as i go on. I know how i am and usually get bored of  explaining details. So if anyone actually read till the end of this post - congrats and don't get too used to it!