I am finally shoving off today. I adore London, and I wish I could’ve had more time to see more of it. As it is, I am exhausted from travelling and living out of a suitcase. I miss my house and my Mike. Yesterday I had almost no energy to go out after I came home from my 2 hour walk. I laid around the hotel room, read a book, and after dark I went for a little walk and then got some take away curry. I watched a little BBC on the telly and read a book until I fell asleep. I have an incredibly long day ahead of me. I can’t even tally how much time it will take me because I’ll be gaining hours as I go. I have to leave my hotel at 11am, my plane takes off at 3:20pm, and I arrive in Portland at 11pm. I have about a 2hour layover in Chicago, too. Oh well, I’ve got a book and I can look at it as relaxation time.
Anyhoo, I’m showered, packed and ready to go. I have to wait around a bit so I’m not at the airport too early. I’m going to grab some coffee and read the paper.
Oh yeah, one thing I really need at home is an electric kettle. This thing is so great! Fill it with water, push a little button and in 2 minutes you’ve got boiling water. It’s amazing. I also need to buy a case of Lemon Fanta, which we don’t have in the States, but it’s delicious. I have a few pounds left to spend this morning (not enough to justify paying a fee on exchanging it back to USD). I’m going to stock up on british candy, which makes great stocking stuffers.
So Ciao for now. I may update from O’Hare if they’ve got free wifi. Otherwise, I’ll see you in Portland!
So far, so good. I decided that I’m not going to spend my final full day in the UK getting lost on the Tube system, so I’m sticking to things that are within walking distance. Luckily, it looks like the sun is coming out and it’s a beautiful day here. I slept in nice and late (8am), made some instant coffee (I gotta get back to Portland, instant coffee is starting to taste really good), and set out to find a bike shop so I can bring something back for Mike. I got out my map and set out…the wrong way. I was totally turned around here–I still have no idea which way is north. Luckily, my little misstep led me to discover that Hyde Park is about 5 blocks from my hotel. I’ll be going back there later today. Once I got turned in the right direction I walked about 2 miles and found the bike shop I was looking for. Unfortunately, they don’t sell t-shirts, but I got a really cute cycling cap for MIke (sorry babe, it isn’t a team cap). On my way back home I stopped in to a fish & chips place near my hotel and I am currently eating the greasiest meal I think I’ve ever had. It’s pretty gross actually. I think I’ll stick to Lebanese and Indian food from now on.
In other news, I’ve decided to not use this blog for my assignment. I don’t want to feel like I’m censoring myself with what I write here. Not that I say anything provocative, but I’ve already been advised to change a thing or two for “political reasons”. So I’m going to turn in the paper like everyone else and I can keep this blog for my own purposes. I also found out that what we felt on Saturday night was, in fact, an earthquake. A 4.0 to be exact. I still haven’t seen it on the USGS website, but I did find a link to the news report later on. Exciting!
I’m going to sit around and read for a bit before setting out again. I didn’t take any pictures on my jaunt because honestly, it’s just a bunch of London streets and they all sort of look the same. Also I’m alone, so there’s no one else to pose for me.
Well Anna and I had a whirlwind tour of London today. She’s leaving in the morning, so we had to pack in all we could in one day (I’ll do more tomorrow). We got up super early and went out to see if any of the museums were open. They weren’t. So we decided to walk from the cafe where we had coffee this morning to the Tate Modern to see the Mark Rothko exhibit. We walked along the Thames from Trafalgar Square. We crossed the Millenium bridge over to the Tate. The museum itself is free, but the ROthko exhibit was about 12.5 quid. And I’m note sure it was totally worth it. I’m sorry modernists, but I really don’t get Rothko. I’m sure he was talented, etc, but I don’t see the big deal about layering and texture paints to get a completely black panel, hanging it on a gallery wall and calling it modern art. If I wanted to reflect, I’d look in a mirror.
Okay, sorry, maybe that’s a little harsh. The Lichtenstens were great, and they have an exhibition of Soviet propoganda posters. Those were fabulous. So after Tate Modern we walked along the South Bank of the Thames, past the Globe Theater to cross the Tower Bridge so we could see the ole Tower of London. We went all that way and then saw that it was 16.5 quid to get in! WTF!? Sorry, no. I’ve seen it before and Anna will have a chance to get back here to see it if she really wants to. I’m not paying almost $25 to walk around and look at buildings where so-and-so was held prisoner, or executed, or see the crown jewels. I’m really just not big on looking at royal baubles.
We then went over to the National Portrait Gallery and saw the Annie Liebowitz exhibition. Amazing. I’ve loved her work for so long and it was just so thrilling to see her retrospective pieces enlarged for the gallery walls. It was such a great show. I then wandered upstairs to see all the portraits. Hundreds of dead Brits. After awhile they all started to look the same, different wigs.
I needed to get a new book for my flight home so we went to a few bookshops and then back to the hotel. I’m so beat right now. I’m going to shower and we’re going to head out and grab some pub food for dinner. Oh yeah, it gets dark here at about 3:30! How disorienting!
I think I’ll head to the British Museum and British Library tomorrow. I’ve got an entire day to myself in London. I’m a tad bit freaked out about the prospect of riding the Tube system by myself. It was hard enough with Anna there to help me. Wish me luck!
I miss home. I’m so happy that I get to leave in a day and a half! I miss Mike and my bed in that order.
So yesterday ran as smoothly as it possibly could’ve. All of my connecting flights were on time, had an empty seat next to me each flight, and when I arrived at baggage claim in Heathrow, I walked in the room just as my suitcase came into view. My train from Heathrow pulled into the station just as I was walking up and my hotel happens to be only about 4 blocks from Paddington Station, where the train ends up. My hotel room is tiny but so cozy. The bed is a little twin bed, but could be a giant down-filled pillowtop mattress compared to the beds I slept in in Sofia. Anna and I went around the corner for Indian food for dinner. I had the most delicious lamb masala of my life. We came back to the hotel to sleep because we’ve only got 1 day together and we wanted to get up early to pack as much in as possible. We’re hoping to see: The Tate Modern, British Library and Museum, the Tower, and some other odds and ends along the way. It’s about 7:30am now and the sun is rising (good sign!) and the forecast is for 10 degrees C (50F). I plan on uploading photos tonight when we get back.
The greatest thing is that everything is in English! No more Cyrillic alphabets and quick-paced Bulgarian! My whole psyche is breathing a huge sigh of relief just for this fact. One downside of being here: things are expensive! I’m having to do new mental math when I read prices. In Turkey and Bg, 1lira or 1lev was about the same as $.70USD. Here it’s the opposite. 1 pound is equivalent to about 2 dollars.
Alright, I’m off to start my day
Right now I’m only going to say that “I love London, I love London, I love London”
Our day excursion to Rila Monastery was amazing. Our tour bus wound up into the Rila Mountains to reach the picturesque little monastery, which was nestled in a little crook shadowed by the surrounding peaks. There were elaborate and colorful frescoes covering most of the outer buildings within the monastery, and inside the church. We weren’t allowed to take photos within the church which was unfortunate because it was so beautifully painted. Every inch of surface was covered in Byzantine (I think?) iconography. The space itself was rather small and dark compared to the expansive setting of the mountains. The only light came from a few small windows and the altar area where hundreds of votive candles sputtered and smoked. A tiny, ancient nun wove in and out of the smoking flaming candelabra; plucking the lit candles from their holders, snuffing them out and tossing them into a basket at her feet.
After the monastery, we wound 3km down the hill to a little hotel/restaurant that’s owned by the monastery but family run. I had a lunch of tomato/cucumber salad and potatoes (big surprise!) and pan-fried fresh river trout that had been fished out of the river next to the hotel that morning. After lunch we stopped at a little roadside stand that sold honey of all kinds. I bought a little jar of honey to take home.
The girls (Candise, Carson, Amy, Sarah, and I) decided to spend our last night in Sofia together. We’ve been travelling together since Istanbul (almost 2 full weeks). So we walked to a grocery store and bought junk food, cheese, crackers, and fruit and came back to Amy and my hotel room to watch “Baby Mama” on my laptop. It seemed like so long since we’d watched any American media that wasn’t dubbed over in Turkish, Bulgarian, or German. To cap the night off we had a little earthquake! Later after everyone left for their own rooms, Amy and I were just reading in bed when the shaking began. I recognized the side-to-side shaking as an earthquake, but it seemed fairly mild in intensity. I checked the USGS website this morning, but there was no report of a quake in the area, even though several people I’d talked to this morning all felt the same thing. So someone should research that for me.
I’m in the Munich airport right now typing this all up. My laptop is about to lose battery power so I’ve got to cut it short and I’ll post this to the blog when I get to London.