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Saturday, November 16, 2013

London Day 1

Well obviously I'm not sticking to my once a week goal of blogging. I was in London Oct 25th, 26th and 27th. It was quiet a whirlwind and I have so much to do the next time I go. And I have so many pictures I've only done the first day here. 

Actually I'll start with the journey. I left Oct the 24th a bit after noon. As I've said before the train went really fast! When I returned I traveled at night and faced backwards. I liked that much better. 1) I wasn't as excited/nervous having already seen my celebrity crush. 2) It was dark so I couldn't see all the scenery flying past the windows. For my next trip I will definitely be taking an evening train. 

I arrived in London about 5pm. Found my way to the ticket station and got my tube ticket. Thankfully I only had to get on one line and then walk about 3 blocks to the hostel. The hostel was an experience in and of it self. I was supposed to bring my passport. I keep forgetting that my drivers license does't work here! Thankfully I had a document on my computer that had my passport information so I wasn't kicked to the curb. I stayed in a room with 5 other people. It was a mixed dorm (with girls AND boys). Each room had a key and the bathroom and showers were up or down half a level. I was in a room with 5 people from a touring group. I guess that was nice because I knew if anything went missing I could ask their guide. It was not great because they were all on a totally different schedule than I was. I was in London to check out the sites and they were their for partying. I had to be really quiet in the mornings but thankfully they were quiet when then came back at night. 

Friday morning the first thing on my to do list was to get tickets to a book launch. I had seen Jack Whitehall on a TV show and then found out about this event. I trekked over to Cadogan Hall and arrived 20min before they opened. I had no idea what the scale on the map was and it was a lot bigger (? things were farther) than I expected. Well I did find it and got my ticket and then headed do the Palace. 

Ok I found this while waiting for Cadogan Hall to open. Not sure if this is the actual Telephone Exchange or just an older building but check out that unicorn!!! gorgeous!

I've been living in Scotland for about 2 months and am starting to get used to people driving on the wrong side of the road. London is obviously more touristy than Glasgow and there for needs these markings at the major intersections. 

I arrived at Buckingham Palace about 10:45. The changing of the guards starts at 11:30 and already people are crowding in. 

Not a single good spot by the fence. 

Pretty Gates!

Here's a guard! Sometimes they stood still

And sometimes they moved. 

The crowd is starting to form. And there's the London Eye too. 

First some horses left. 

OH NO WikiLeaks is trying to get to the Royal Family. (Oh man it was hard to take this photo casually, I took a ton of other crowd pictures to look less suspicious)

At some point this group came down the road but I couldn't see them until they were inside. They were the left side guys. 

Be Careful of Pick Pockets! This guy said that in like 4 different languages. 

Now it's time for the Right Side Guys! First a band came in 

Followed by infantry. 

And another horse.

Apparently the big show now started. Check out my view! I couldn't really see anything so I started walking down the Mall


Wouldn't you love to live there? 

After it's all done some people walk back down the mall. 

The "Mall" is this fancy bit of road that goes from those arches down there.

To the Palace.

The Admiralty Arch

Then I had lunch/breakfast at a cafe on Trafalgar Square. As you can see it was "Fan Rally" for the NFL. The square was closed off and there were tents and stuff and a stage. Oh and there's the national gallery in the back. 

I then went over to pick up my Mojo Tickets! No one came out but I did notice this handy notice. I had to leave the cardboard cutout of our wedding in my suitcase :) 

I then decided to try and check out Westminster Abbey. On my way I found this! Wowzy Neato!


And also on the way was Houses of Parliament! Well for a little bit I thought this was actually the Abbey but like I said London was a touristy town so there were helpful signs around the corner. 


Big Ben! Notice it's about 2:30. My pictures all look kind of dark but the sun was just behind the buildings. 

Which is how this picture was created. 


After following the signs I finally saw Westminster Abbey! So intricate and detailed and beautiful!


Look at this beautiful door with all the carvings. Do you notice something that would impede my touring? OH the doors are closed! The abbey was closed for something or other. I guess that was ok because it would've cost 18pounds! Maybe when my parents or aunts visit they can take me. 

Then I slowly meandered back, walking past the School of Art. I had an online assignment due so I had to look up and read an article. I read about the different influence on knowledge sharing on weblogs! It was pretty cool. Basically I'm more likely to share stuff on my blog if the online community is nice! So Thank you for all the kind words and thanks for reading. 

Then I went out to dinner at a Mexican Restaurant. Not really Mexican but like ChiChis or Don Pedro's. The only Mexican place near my place is like Chitople but with only 5 ingredients so I was excited to get a delicious burrito. Then I went to the book reading! The book is by Jack Whitehall and his father Michael. They each write a chapter then the other writes commentary on it. It was pretty funny watching the father and son banter. Now they even have a TV show starting on BBC3: http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/jack_whitehall_backchat/ 
Well I obviously couldn't take a bunch of photos when they were on stage. Also I think the people in front of me actually knew them so I was worried they would yell at me. I did get this picture and a book! I read half the book on the return trip on the train. I just have to hole up for another day and finish it. 

I then walked back to the hostel to pass out! I'll work on Day 2 this week and should have it up by next weekend. Email me if I forget!

Lots of Love to All
Erica

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Baking

I am writing this post on the train to London. I figure I will be too tired on Sunday to post and a bit unprepared to make a post about London. So I will tell you about my first baking experience at my apartment. My flat doesn’t have a regular stove/oven. The landlord said they were too hard to keep clean. We do have a stovetop and a microwave. Well a special microwave. It’s called a convection microwave (and I think it has a grill function but I haven’t quite figured that out yet).

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It mostly looks like a microwave but you can see there is a coil on the top. There are 3 buttons for microwave, grill, and convection. So far I undestand the microwave, oven, turny knob, and start button. There’s a defrost and grill but as my steak told me last night the grill still needs to be figured out. The microwave works normally just input power level and time. The oven though is a little more complicated. Basically you just pick the temperature and time. First I have to remember that I am in the UK and even though the recipe says 350 I only set the oven to 180. And there is no preheat so I either just put it on for 5mins or I add a few minutes onto the baking time.

My birthday was Oct 7th! I went out with a few friends the previous weekend but I wanted to celebrate with my classmates (all 7 people in my masters program). I thought cookies would be easy to pass and also something the microwave could handle. I had half a jar of peanut butter and eggs I needed to use so I decided on kiss cookies! I found the flour and brown sugar, and figured out what we call cane sugar is “caster sugar” [Unrelated to this recipe I also found out molasses is “treacle” so I got some of that for bbq and when my dad visits. And coriander is not just the powder or seeds but also the name for cilantro]

 

Here are my prebaked cookies! yumm

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Baking! [the “oven” turns off when the timer goes off so I had to be quick getting the next pan in]

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Besides calling sugar a funny name, this country doesn’t have Hershey KISSES!!!! I imagine this leaves a huge hole in everyone’s hearts. 1) no kiss cookies, 2) no different colored kisses for holidays…or any variety of kisses. 3) They can’t give huge kisses to people on Valentine’s Day. 4) They don’t have little woven ornaments  that hid kisses all over the tree and house at Christmas time. 5) I did not get to experience the cathartic action of unwrapping 50 kisses.  Here’s what I had to work with:

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The circles are flat “buttons” (I don’t understand how these things sell in the candy aisle). I ended up not using these as I figured they would melt all over creating more of an icing then a cookie centerpiece. The rectangles on the left are Bitsa Wispa. These are aerated so I was worried they would melt too much. The rectangles on the right are Cadbury and are most like a Hershey’s bar.

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Out of the oven! The ones with the bigger chocolate are Cadburys. Based on my extensive testing

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Based on my extensive testing I determined the Bitsa Wispa melted the exact right amount and gave the correct cookie to chocolate ratio. The Cadbury didn’t really melt and I was afraid they wouldn’t stick onto the cookie while I toted them to school. [Sorry I couldn’t get a clear picture]

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Everyone at school LOVED them! They were impressed that I actually make them myself. It also seemed like these were unique cookies that they hadn’t really heard of before. I was glad I got to share these with my classmates.  AND no one got sick so I baked them well too!

 

A little about the start of my journey. I have a little over an hour to go. First let me set the stage: I am going to London to see a play that has Rupert Grint in it. I’ve been a huge fan of his since like the second Harry Potter movie and now I am working for his #1 fansite [rupertgrint.net]  That’s a bit surreal. Through the site, I heard of the play and it’s first night is the weekend that I have a reading week so that’s basically destiny. I got my ticket like 2 weeks ago and have basically been bouncing off the walls since then. I‘ve been so excited these last few days I haven’t been sleeping well and I think the butterflies have started to attack my stomach. Now I am on the train but this train is much different compared to Amtrak. These trains go like 125mph! So because of the combination of my excitement and the bumpiness of the train, I’ve been a little queasy for almost 3hrs. At least I didn’t miss the train! Once I get to London I have to figure out the Tube and get to my hostel. (which I’m quite nervous about as well)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Edinburgh

I took a trip to Edinburgh. (A wee while ago so hopefully I remember everything) The international student orientation ended with day trips. The one to the distillery was all sold out so I took the one to Edinbugh (the capital) and the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The bus dropped us off on Waterloo Pl. First we walked to Calton Hill


After a trek to the top we saw the North SEA!  and Leith which is the town right on the coast. 

 The Nelson Monument

The national Monument of Scotland


 The city

Looking down the main drag of Princes St.

Here is a view of the Edinburgh Castle from Calton Hill

Scott Monument (There's Sir Walton sitting in the middle)

Edinburgh Castle! (I didn't actually go in because it's huge and I didn't have enough time but that gives me something to do for a future post)

Then it was off to lunch. We were told to walk up the street and turn around at the door statue. It was a bit smaller than expected. 

Where was lunch? At the place where JK Rowling started writing Harry Potter!!!  

The inside wasn't turned into Harry Potter world but you can see as the name emplies there are elephants all over! 



And here a sign you probably don't see too often outside of Scotland!


 Then it was time to meet back up with the tour. While I was waiting I saw people going to a wedding. I had to take a (discrete) picture as the men had kilts and the women had hats! very Scottish indeed

Obviously it was a fancy wedding with the bride being picked up in this!  

More of my discrete photography


Then it was off to the ship. To get to the ship you have to go through a mall. We had a bit of time to window shop. Check out these cool coloring books!


Going into another place that looks like a shop-shaped museum. For a long time the royal family has had a yacht. Until 1997, then they found something funner to do than go boating. 


Here's the compass.


Pretty fancy! but it's not like I paid for it


And it's a pretty big ship too!


 Obviously if you boat to an island you have to bring your own car.  

It's a bit hard to tell but these windows are above head height. So pesky servants can't see into the royal rooms. 

The deck. The top part is now a tea room and the bottom part was the sun/sitting room (see next photo). You'll also notice the guy with the huge cell phone. It's not a phone. It is the self guided tour guide. Also the compass that's on the deck is a fake! The real one got moved inside (see photo above).


The Queen's room.

Prince Charles and Diana's room (with clothes in the closet)


The officer's quarter (I think my mom needs a bench like this around the wood stove)


Here is once of THREE kitchens. 

The Royal Dining room. When we entered "The Four Seasons" by Vivaldi started playing

Now they rent it out for corporate events or Erica's 28th birthday party. 

They said the carpet rolls up for a dance floor and the doors at the back used to have a projector in it so the family could watch movies. 

 Here's the bar! where the staff stands in a special room to make your drink. 

The formal sitting room where the family would read or play cards

The yacht had a super fancy hospital (well fancy for a boat) It was actually designed so it could be converted to a hospital ship in times of war but never needed to be.  

The sick bay

And finally how to get to from ship to shore? With the launch ship. Although decommissioned in 1997, the Queen used it in her Golden Jubilee in 2012. 


That's all for my trip to Edinburgh. As you can tell it was rainy that day but that's to be expected in Scotland. Recently it has started raining here for days! and when it's not raining it's really muggy. oh alas. I hope all of you are surviving with first days of snow. I'm off on my first train adventure to London on Thursday! My mom says I have to write a post once a week so that's my goal!