Friday, June 24, 2011

Cambridge

  • I had my first European couch surfing experience in Cambridge. My host brought me to a couch surfers “meeting” one night. I didn’t see an official meeting agenda, but we drank a lot of beer and talked about traveling, so those must have been on it. I was also taken to a poetry performance which isn’t what most people would think it is. It was essentially standup comedy spoken in rhythm.
  • If you go to Cambridge in summer you are likely to be harassed, yes harassed, by what I’m going to call the Cambridge Tourism Punting Enforcement Agency. Their mission is to ensure that every single person who visits Cambridge gets an opportunity to learn about punting. See pictures below to see what punting is.
  • My guidebook states that Cambridge is the University where William Wordsworth, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and John Cleese studied. “And this window here is where some guy named Newton did some stuff with math and science or something like that. But over here, right over there by that very bush…you’ll want to get your cameras out for this one…this is where John Cleese made his very first penis joke. I know, I couldn’t believe it either.”

Trinity College (I think)

Trinity College (for sure)

Rubbish Rock

Punters on canal


More Punters


They are fun to watch




View from Castle Hill

Kings College



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

York

  • The train system is the UK…could be vastly improved upon with one minor change: tell people what platform their train is leaving from more than fifteen minutes before it leaves. My only guess as to why the current system is the way it is because the Minister of Transportation, if such a person exists, decided that there was not enough stress in the lives of the citizens of Great Britain and he wanted to ensure scrambling and cursing would never be short in abundance at the train stations. To expand the rail system problem to an airport scale: imagine if there were one hundred people looking at the departure monitor screens at for a 12:00 flight. At 11:30 the screen displayed what gate people need to go to and everyone rushed across the airport to get there a few minutes before the plane left. As a German girl I met on my trip told me, “This iz not good plan.”
  • York is an amazing city to visit. My favorite part is the old (we’re talking like almost a thousand years) Nordic wall that goes around the city center that you can still walk on. Most of it is still there although some of it has been repaired.
  • There are plenty of examples of Roman foundations and walls which you can walk on. One structure we walked on was built on Roman foundations. My brain froze a little bit when a tour guide only needed two digits to tell the date that something I was looking at was built. The main cathedral there, York Minster, is built on old Roman foundations. Below the church you can see Roman, Viking, Anglo Saxon and Medieval foundations. Only a small part of the city has been excavated, but they are pretty sure there was an intricate system of plumbing for water transportation and waste removal existed. That’s a little more than interesting if you consider that 1500 years later people were using the “piss pot” system.
  • On the first evening I was in York I walked into my dorm room to find what was essentially a slumber party. Yeah. About ten girls were in the room. Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears were blaring from a stereo. The girls were all bouncing around putting makeup on and giggling and being…girls. One of them was like, “Who’s the boy?” It might sound like a slightly unpleasant situation, but it was far worse even than that. A nightmare even.
  • I met a guy from Tours, France at the hostel looking for work. I told him I was from Louisiana and he knew about the Saints. I said yeah and the Fleur-de-lis is their symbol. He had no idea what I was talking about. I repeated it slower and in a French accent and even showed him a picture of it on my phone. He just shrugged. He wasn’t exactly France’s proudest citizen though. Once he told me out of the blue, ‘I think America is better than France.” I asked him how so and he told me his visions of driving down Route 66 on a motorcycle. His English was decent, but he was trying to improve it. His favorite band was Nickelback and he asked me what “burn it to the ground” meant. I did my best. The most interesting thing I learned from him was the recent movie he had seen: Very Bad Trip 2. The Hangover? I asked. You know, Las Vegas he said. Yeah, that’s the Hangover. I think he was just as surprised as me. He said they might have changed it as to not alarm the French people. Something tells me whoever said the title of that movie needed to be changed did not watch the movie.
  • My walking tour guide said there used to be a law that it was legal to shoot a Scot if one was found roaming around York after dusk. For one reason or another that law turned into one of those that hasn’t been removed in modern times. They really don’t like each other.

Cliffords Tower

Shambles Street - really old

Reason 1: Nobody is taking me seriously

Awesome Geometric Stained Glass Inside York Minster


It's big.


Old Roman Tower





Old Nordic Wall

York Minster front


Back of lady's head

Did you realize if we get this crap out of the way we'll have room for a Starbucks, a McDonalds and a Sizzlers?




Stairs inside old city wall



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Edinburgh

  • I was scheduled to catch a 2:30 bus from Glasgow to Edinburgh. It was 2:17 and there was a bus at the platform my bus was scheduled to leave from. I knew there was a 2:15 bus, but I had never seen a bus leave later than it was scheduled to in the UK. There was about 25 people in line so I knew this bus probably wasn’t going to leave until close to 2:30 which made me wonder whether this bus was the 2:15 or the 2:30 bus. I saw a few men who worked at the bus station on a bench so I walked over and asked them if it was the 2:15 or 2:30 bus. They talked amongst themselves some and then one man looked at his watch, looked at his clipboard, walked over to the bus driver, verified it was the 2:15 bus and then told him to get the heck out of there, leaving a long line of very angry people. Whoops.
  • I went on my first free walking tour in the UK which was really cool. I learned how it was a dangerous place to walk around at night a few hundred years ago because every evening the “piss pots” were emptied out of windows onto the streets. I guess when your city is that dirty it doesn’t make sense to take a bath more than once a year. We visited a cemetery where hundreds of people who died from the Black Death were buried in mass. I didn’t see anything decided to them, but there was a statue dedicated to dog who was so loyal to his master that after his owner died, the dog stayed at his grave for the remainder of the dog’s life.
  • I ate at my first Indian restaurant in Great Britain. It was so good that it made me realize I like Indian food.
  • One weekend a couple Irish guys were staying in my dorm. The first night they got back at 6am. The second I got up at 6:30am and found one of them asleep on the common room couch with a girl. I was wondering where he was.
  • On my last night in Edinburgh I went to a stand-up comedy show. It turned out to be inside the basement of a cafĂ© and there were 8 comedians performing and about that many audience members. It was more of a new material practice session than a performance, but I really enjoyed it. The first guy had such a thick Scottish accent and used so many local references that I only understand about one out of every three jokes. Another performer appeared to be doing standup for the first time in his life and cut his own act short in about two minutes. The last performer in the first session was hilarious and made a bunch of well timed jokes about his wank shed. The group was so small that the audience members on the front row (including me) said where we were from. I was the only American in the audience and was prepared for anything. Surprisingly only the last comedian really took a shot at pre-Obama America. The joke bombed worse than any the entire night. Not even pretend laughs. The highlight of the night was a girl with a ukulele who sang about meeting an okay guy.
  • At this point in my trip I no longer feel like I am in a foreign country. England and Scotland don’t feel like home to me, but they are also definitely not foreign to me.
  • Did you know Scotland is thinking of splitting with England? This time for good.*

How Majestic

View JK Rowling had while writing Harry Potter

Houses in Old Town

Important Church

Calton Hill

View from Calton Hill



Half finished Greek Monument


Bentley Day