Thursday, November 11, 2010

UK Travels

Ola Ya'll!
Wow! So much awesomeness in the last two weeks! Sorry it's been so long since an update, that'll make this one longer. It is hard to even imagine where to start letting you know about it, life continues to roll along and good and bad events, I am thankful for cause I'm getting to live a pretty cool life! So, I'm just going to give you some highlights.
I left the 28th of October at 5 am from downtown Andorra. This process involved me going to bed at 3 and then waking up at 4! Guess who passed out completely on the 3 hour bus ride?!?! My bus went to Girona which is on the Costa Brava coast of Spain, north of Barcelona and the famous home of Ryan Air-where flying is so cheap you are afraid! I was lucky because the sunrise that morning was unbelievably fantastic. Unfortunately, I did not get a good photo of it but just know, it was truly a recognition of God. wonderful.... I had the whole day in Girona, which, for those of you who have been there, is just about perfect. I went to the Old City which has a bunch of museums and a cool wall that surrounds it. My stops there were primarily the Jewish Museum of Girona-fascinating and the Cathedral-2nd widest in europe after the Vatican. And yes, for those who were wondering, I did wander around the cathedral with one of those touristy headsets on.... hehe. The Jewish museum was also fascinating as Girona was one of the latter places to feel the bite of the inquisition and it was also a large center of Jewish study.  There were some lovely outside cafes and I indulged in some wonderful coffees while people watching and reading a newspaper in catalan (which made me feel like an official retired Catalan man!).
I flew out that evening for the metropolis of Edinburgh and arrived after dark (not hard to do). Thankfully, my expectations of Scotland were not destroyed and it was raining when I got off the plane and walked into the terminal. YES! Stereotype #1 confirmed although I must say teh rest of my time in the UK was pretty fabulous weather-wise. My friend Megan McHaney from Aberdeen was kind enough to come all the way down to meet me in Edinburgh and stay in the city with me. I chilled in the airport for about 30 minutes till she got there and then we headed off to the city center. On our bus (of course it's a double-decker) we got to meet a new friend, Kaytlin who is studying in London and was also visiting. Yay for new travel buddies. Ended up we were staying literally 50m away from each other so we hung out the whole weekend. First thing first, I was about ready to actually eat the Ryan Airplane I came on-which I'm sure I could have done for some fee that they would charge me.... so we all grabbed some Kebabs which were, of course, fantastic! Then we got a drink at a cool bar near the university and just chatted. The next day I began being a tourist in earnest, taking pictures while walking with my face pointed up the majority of the time. You know the type. It was excellent. First thing of the day to attend to was breakfast and we found an awesome little dive and I enjoyed a delightful mocha and ate albeit enjoy is too strong, 3 pancakes that looked better than they tasted. Stereotype #2: Brits don't cook too well. I'm going to have to say I was not disproved, excellent Indian and various other foods but did not eat a lot of British food, only time I ate only with Brits we ate pasta so... I'm not letting this one go. NEW FACT!: They make good coffee AND tea? I had no idea...
We did pay the small fortune required to enter the Edinburgh castle (sorry retirement fund) and I'm not going to lie, it was pretty cool, albeit smaller than I had always imagined. Saw the Crown Jewels of Scotland, shiny and expensive looking hats and scarves if you ask me, but neat anyway. Went through a great museum on various elements of the Scottish army which was fascinating for me-saw a captured flag from Napoleonic wars, cool eh? Coolest part, got to watch the 1 o'clock guns get fired, which was SuhWeet! Did I jump when it was fired? Yes. The next highlight was lunch/tea at this delightful little place on one of the main squares with a clear view of the castle. Cool pots of tea which, all my Wakie friends know, would make me excited considering my minor addiction to tea. Then walked through a lovely park which made me happy as I love nice city parks.That night we went ot an interesting little pub with live music and slept, I was still tired.
Crieff, Aberdeen, and Petersburg shall be lumped together for the sake of your reading. Crieff is where Megan grew up and we stayed with an awesome family friend of hers. They were so hospitable and let me sleep on the bunkbed where their son sleeps-very kind. It was fun to get to see her school, grocery story, and the big Hydro hotel that attracts tons of tourists. It is a sleepy little town and it was a really neat place to get to see. I was also SUPER lucky because I hit the town on the peak of Autumn which was REALLY gorgeous because there are lots of woods around that is awesome to see. Also, Megan and I watched Frost Nixon which I had heard about but never watched which was really interesting and helped my American history.
Aberdeen: Granite... granite.... granite. So, Aberdeen is totally made from the exact same stone and there is very little color in the make-up of the buildings. Highlights: getting to meet Vijay and some others at her church potluck Halloween night, getting to see where Megan works and went to school which is a beautiful university where you feel smart walking around, meeting two American girls who were studying abroad and were with Alban Howorth from RVA, making fajitas which was tasty, eating Indian, countless coffees, a trip to Dunnotar Castle outside of Stonehaven which was gorgeous, great convos and hang-out time with Megan, a trip to Petersburg which is a small little fishing village 30 miles north of Aberdeen. This is where I had my first personal experience with Doric which is officially a dialect but, I can tell you that I understood almost nothing of it... actually, nothing! although, to be fair, some of the Scottish speaking english I didn't understand! That evening, Megan came with me to the airport, I checked in, ate 2 sandwiches in the terminal. One of the tiniest airports I have ever seen in the western... crazy small, only one place to eat food and MAYBE two stores. This flight was EasyJet, which, just so you all know is VASTLY superior to Ryan Air for reasons that aren't terribly tangible but true. So, this is an unfairly short summary of my time is Scotland.

England: Ahhhh.... London! I arrived in "London Luton", which don't be tricked, is not anywhere near London but it is cheap! :-) The journey was part of the joy of my time there. I'll keep it short for ya'll's sake but after a one hour bus ride from the airport to town, a bus ride to where I thought I needed to go, and then the discovery that there was a tube strike meaning I had to then find where else to go without a map of London and being clueless at 11 am!, a very nice dude helped me out, pointed me in the right direction only to find out that the train I was supposed to take from the station was also cancelled. Two more wonderful souls who saw my clearly lost touristy look helped me figure out what bus station I should go to in order to PROBABLY get the right bus. While waiting to get on board that bus, I met a cool New Zealander guy who just got to London and wants to work for a while before moving on-hopefully will visit us in Andorra in the spring. Then, on the bus, I had two more angels appear, while talking to one guy about how lost I was, a woman who was sitting across let me know I could get off earlier and catch the bus at another stop! How awesome was that? just out of nowhere! Anyway, then I finally caught the bus that went near where Dave lives in London-with whom I stayed. Unfortunately, for me when I got there I must have read my directions wrong or something cause I ended up walking around for about 45 minutes before walking to 86 Lewisham way which was theoretically where I needed to go. By this time it is after 1 am. I ring this door to no avail.... oops, so I go to a nearby gas station and call (cause I couldn't use my phone) Dave and find out that I was at the wrong street. 20 minutes or so later I finally get to the ride address.... haha. Wow! I had such wonderful people come across my way and Dave so such a sport staying up late when he had to get up early the next day. Also, he had prepared my room for me and all complete with a small bottle of Baileys, which is something I normally drink with my vanilla black tea (for all you haters, don't knock it till you try it!). Awwwhhh, so lucky to have a network of wonderful friends. I slept a wonderfully hard night and then set off at 10 am to meet Allison at Trafalgar square. Megan Huber, I checked out the Malaysia embassy and at least dreamt about how cool it'd be to get a guided tour there! ;-)
London highlights. A) getting to see Allison's world. I have heard SOOOOO much about it so getting to see everything in person was awesome, the bar Steele's, the fantastic french crepe place with people from Marseille, her church (from the outside), the Hillsong church, her neighborhood, the parks she runs in etc. She once again managed to convince me to run which makes me a bit sick still to think about but... this time I had to walk a portion of it. I think while I was walking she easily could have kept running and probably sung too but... haha, I had to let my ego down for this one! B) Primrose park is right near the Worrell House and it is super cool, especially at night when you can see the whole city. C) the bridge that connects St. Paul and the Tate museum of Modern Art. SOOOOOO cool, D) getting to go to the Arsenal Emirates stadium... that had to come sometime!, E) eating delicious Indian food with Kara and Allison, F) watching of the changing of the guards and feeling like the biggest tourist EVA! got to talk to a dude nearby who used to be in the military and did it once! G) a great evening with Dave's roommates who are South African and awesome-there were 5 white africans all together with only 3 America-born Americans, pretty funny, eh?!, H) Allison and I made a great quick phone call with Larry Jones, I) lunch at an outdoor market. In general, I was very impressed with my visit to London. I'll be honest, I didn't come in with super high expectations of the city itself and I left very much enjoying my experience and even excited to look into opportunities to return. Kara goes to London School of Economics (LSE) which has a highly regarded school for Political Sciences and if I could get into it, it's a place I would definitely consider. Overall, London was a wonderful experience.

I left on Sunday morning and had almost EXACTLY enough money to pay for the 4 pound tube ride and a postcard. I ended up having 10 cents left. Got to Girona safely and spent about 4 hours wandering aimlessly getting lunch and coffee and reading. It was fine but not exactly a dream come true, haha.
Got back to Andorra around 11 pm, walked home, crashed, started work the next morning at 8:30. Got home eventually at midnight Monday. This is where another blessing came in. I somehow contrived to drop my wallet on the biggest road of Andorra and was nervous it might be gone for good. I went to sleep Monday night thinking I was going to have to go and try to find it the next day somewhere along the road or in my Catalan class. Turns out at 6 am, I get a call from the police telling me that they found my wallet and I could come pick it up. I did so later that day and not a thing was missing.... how awesome is that??? crazy, right? Anyway, I can't have been more thankful and lucky. The rest of this week has gone by quite normally, tutoring is still going quite well, due to the fact that some government dude didn't sign the right papers last week, we don't get paid until next week which kinda sucks but... oh well. Oh, this weekend, on Saturday night, I am going to go watch Barcelona play Villareal at 22:00 with one of my apartment mates, Antonio. Obviously, I am stoked about that being the football geek that I am. Friday night I may begin tutoring from 6-7 pm. then I have football practice till 12 and then I am going to try to go to a concert in La Massana in Andorra because of my fellow teachers is in a punk-rock cover band and they are playing there. So, Antoine (french teacher) and I are going to go, and perhaps one or more of my apartment mates will join us! should be a good time anyway, but likely going to be a rough morning wake-up to go to Barcelona! haha, we plan on leaving at 12 but... it's flexible.
All right, as always, love hearing from you guys and I do hope that everyone finds themselves in good spirits, good health and in the knowledge that I appreciate what you guys mean to me!
Peace and Love from the Principality!
Mark Titus

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