Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tour of Anglesey

First of all, shout out to miss Rylee Capesius who will be turning 9 tomorrow! Happy birthday girly, I miss you!

Second, today we did a tour of the island of Anglesey for our field trip. It was a very fun and beautiful day! We started in the town with the longest name in the world: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogoch (58 letters that took me 5 minutes to type and I have to no idea how to say it haha!) In English it means 'The church of many in the hollow of the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool and the church of the tysilid by the red cave". That is a mouth full. There is pretty much nothing in this town but it is actually a huge tourist stop just because of the name.

Then we went to the Penmon Priory and we saw a really old church that is over 1000 years old. It was very cool! There were ancient Celtic crosses in the church that were amazing just because of how old they were. There was also another holy well called St. Seiriol's Well. It was not nearly as glamorous as the last one but still had the same healing powers. Not so sure how much I believe in the powers...

We then went to Beaumoris Castle which was very beautiful. Cool thing about this castle is there is a mote around it! At this point my camera died, sad day! We got to walk all throughout the castle, on the walls and lot of other places. It would have been a great place to play hide and seek! There was also a chapel in the castle which was different from the other castles we have been to. There was a woman in there singing opera type music, she was amazing and just singing for fun. I look forward to taking my family to this castle when they come to visit. We then wandered around town for awhile. Saw the pier and had some AMAZING ice cream, I think it was the best I have ever had! The town as so cute. We also found a cute little gift shop so I finally got some souvenirs from Wales! And I think I even saw a dragon wandering around town ;o)

After Beaumaris we stopped briefly at the Marquis of Anglesey. This was basically a tower in the middle of nowhere with a statue at the top that you could climb up to. We climbed up in 2 groups because there were too many of us. There were 116 steps! It was insanely narrow at the top but the view was unreal. You could see both bridges that go to Anglesey and you could see back over to Bangor. Quite cool!

Our last stop on the trip was Llanddwyn Island. Tecwyn told us we would have just over 2 hours to explore, and I was like "Oh great what are we going to do for 2 hours on a beach in Feburary?" Well there was plenty to keep us busy because the island just off the coast was so beautiful. It had 2 Celtic crosses, a church in ruins, 2 light houses and some cliffs we climbed around. It was just so beautiful, words and pictures can't explain. We wandered around easily for 2 hours. We even climbed on some of the rocks near with waves splashing in from the sea. It was a very cool experience! Hopefully I can borrow someone's memory card so I can get some pictures.

Well, the night is still very young and it is time to do some celebrating for one of the girls' 21st birthday. Should be a a fun night!

Until next time...


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why yes, my hair is pink!

So for a long time now I've wanted to add some color to my hair. Even before coming to Wales! Ever since I have been here, the urge has been growing stronger and stronger since it seems like EVERYONE here has crazy colored hair. So, last week I made an appointment to get my hair colored. I debated all week if I was going to keep the appointment or not. Was I really brave enough to actually dye my hair pink? Why yes, it's only hair! Today I spent two and a half hours in a salon chair and I now have beautiful multicolored highlights on top and pink hair on the bottom half. I really really like it and it is not overwhelming at all. And it will probably be completely faded out in six weeks. Oh well! It was fun and I love it!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lets go to the movies!

Today Sheilagh and Riley and myself decided we missed going to the theater to see a movie. They actually call it the cinema here; I'm still having a hard time changing my vocabulary. So we took the 12:02 train to Llandudno Junction where the closest "cinema" is located. It was 5 pounds to get there which wasn't too bad and it took about 20 minutes. The train was PACKED! We couldn't even come close to getting a seat. It was full of annoying adolescents! Guess we now know what all of the youth in Bangor does on a Saturday, they go to Llandudno... We got off the train and really didn't have a clue where we were going, so what did we do? We followed the giant mob of teeny-boppers, guessing they would probably lead us to where we needed to be. Sure enough, that is exactly what they did! We checked out the movie times and decided we would go to "Just go with it" at 3:30. We had some time to kill so we had some McDonalds just because it was there. It was awful! Ugh, I really don't like McDonalds to begin with and I thought the burgers here are terrible. The fries are ok but like I said the burger was terrible. We still had more time to kill so we walked around Tesco, which is basically like Walmart. Finally 3:30 rolled around and we were super ready to see a movie. The other two got some popcorn but I declined because I didn't want to pay 6 pounds for it and I knew it wouldn't be like the great terribly awesome movie theater popcorn like at home. The theater room we were in was tiny and it filled up really fast. I'm glad we got there early. They played tons of "adverts" or as we call them, commercials before the movie started. The movie was super funny, but hardly no one laughed out loud but us. We were pretty loud and obnoxious when it came to laughing, or so it seemed, because we were pretty much the only ones that were laughing out loud. The best part about the movie was, the little girl was pretending to have a British accent. I found that really comical and I wondered what all the British people thought of that character. The train ride home was also full of annoying teenagers. I can't believe their parents let them go out and about like that. They all seemed really young to be traveling by train all over the place by themselves. I guess that is a cultural difference, and we don't have the train transportation back home. I guess it is normal to them, but seems strange to me. But, overall it was a really fun day and we will have to do it again for sure!

Until next time...


Friday, February 18, 2011

Surfin' USA. No... Wait, Surfin' in the UK!!!

What is the perfect thing to do in North Wales in the Middle of February? Yeah, you guessed it, go surfing! My thoughts exactly... All week we were trying to guess what we would be doing for OP because it was the first time we didn't have any knowledge of what we would be doing before hand. When Llion picked us up at 9 and said we would be surfing I wasn't quite sure how I felt about that. I was hoping to do something in the water this week but I was thinking something that involved us getting a little less wet... So we got to the Conway center and gathered all of the stuff we needed to go surfing. There was a lot of stuff involved so this took us quite a bit of time. The hardest part was getting into the full body winter wet suit. We were told they needed to be as tight fitting as we could possibly stand... this would help with the cold. By the time I got the wet suit on I felt like a giant rubber band. Then we had to get about a thousand other things including the board! The boards were absolutely huge! They were either 8 or 9 feet long. I felt very intimidated. But we loaded everything up and headed for the coast.

When we left for the coast the sun was shinning and it looked beautiful. By the time we got there, it was cloudy and raining. Not that the rain mattered since we were going to be in the water anyways, but the sun would have been nice. Llion gave us a few pointers and told us to head out into the water, two people to a board. I went first on the board and Eric was my partner. I was actually the first person to "catch a wave" and ride the board on my belly the whole way in. It was such a awesome feeling floating on top of the wave. I had to paddle really hard at first but then the wave did all of the work. I trudged through the water to get back out to Eric to try again, and all was going great. eventually we switched and Eric had good luck on the board too.

Llion called us back in for some more pointers and we all got to have our own board at that point. We were told to more or less make a circle, walk out on one side and ride in on the other so we don't run each other over. This worked well. Again I trudged out (it was a lot of work just getting out deep enough, it was very hard to move in the really tight wet suits). I was floating on the board waiting for the perfect wave to come along and then there it was. So I paddled as hard as I could and before I knew it I was flipped over and going under the water. I got a mouthful of salty water and had just enough time to grab a breath of air before another wave went over my head. I was kind of in panic mode by this point because I didn't know what was up. Right when I hit the surface, my board hit my right in the eye. It hurt so bad because it hit me just right on the bone. I was all shaken up and just about to tears. I wanted to give up. I was exhausted, but I knew I had to keep trying. It seemed like it took me forever to get back out but I made it. After several more failed attempts to stay on my board Llion called us back in.

This time Llion said our goal was to pop up to our knees... yeah right! I couldn't even stay balanced on the board how in the heck was I going to "hop" up to my knees? I was so discouraged by this point I wanted to quit. I didn't want to go back to the freezing cold water and get knocked over by the power of the sea. I was getting really bummed and I didn't like it one bit. I had done so well the two weeks before and I just couldn't get surfing. I was so excited when the day started and because of one good spill I lost all motivation. I was trying so hard to stay on the board, I didn't care about getting on my knees at all. It was so exhausting walking in the water and my arms were so tired from being so restricted by the wet suit. Llion called us back in one last time and made us practice on our board going from laying down to hopping up to our feet. I couldn't do it on land my arms were so tired, there was no way I would be able to stand up in the water. I just didn't have the balance, so my goal was to at least get to my knees. We practiced some more and I still didn't have any luck. I was getting really really frustrated.

We finally took a break for lunch, which was "fun" because of the sand and rain (sarcasm!) After lunch and a pep talk with Riley I regained some confidence and determination. We headed back to the water for another go. Some of the guys were actually able to stand up before we got out there, it was nice to see it could be done. I just wanted to get to my knees. I gave up on thinking I would be able to get to my feet. I was way too tired and I just didn't have the balance for it, and I was scared of getting more hurt honestly. So I trudged back out and waited for some waves... and waited.... and waited.... The water had changed so much in that short amount of time. the tide was way out and the waves were there but they didn't have any force. I tired to ride a few but I just wouldn't go anywhere. Sure, just the time I actually got some motivation, the waves just weren't the same. We were all really cold so we headed in... I was way bummed :(

Then the real fun began, it was so much fun changing out of the wet suits in the back of the trailer along the side of the road with four other girls, haha! Oh well we some how managed. Overall, it was a good day. I learned a lot and had some new experience. I wish I would have been better at surfing, but I guess I can't get everything on the first try. Guess I will have to take a trip to Hawaii and try again ;o)

Until next time...


Monday, February 14, 2011

I miss you

Like I said in the last post, I have been missing home a lot lately. It was really hard leaving home, harder than I thought it was going to be. But I said all my good byes and I was off. The hardest good bye was to Jaime and the kids. I didn't have trouble saying good bye before that because I just kept telling everyone "It's not like I'm not coming back". But when it came time to say good bye to the person who is like the sister I never had, I had a really hard time. It was also hard to saying good bye to my mom and dad, but after I did I was on to new feelings. Meeting new people and new adventures. I quickly got over missing people because by the time I arrived in Wales I was so busy taking in all of my new surroundings. Now that I have been here for a month, all of the new things are wearing off. Everything is becoming routine for the most part and I have had a lot of free time to myself to just think... Think about all of the people I miss, think about the great food, I miss driving, I miss the snow, I miss it all! Don't get me wrong, I love it here, I'm having a great time. I love the classes I'm taking and I love all the new people I have met. I really didn't think it would ever hit me because I have left home before. I never had trouble leaving home, I have always kind of been a traveler. But everything here is different and it makes it a little harder. I got word that some of my family is coming to visit, which is great but I just wish they were here and I didn't have to wait. I'm sure this will all pass, but for now I will just miss everyone at home.

The really great thing about today is my mom's skype was not working. This may sound like a bad thing, but because it wasn't working I broke down and bought some skype credit to make phone calls. So I called home and got to talk to mom, which isn't anything new since we talk on skype all the time. But what was cool was I had a lot of left over credit, because you had to get at least $10, I was able to call and talk to Grandma Millie. Tears rolled down my eyes when she picked up. She was so surprised to hear my voice. Caroline was there, so I got to talk to her too. It was a good day. I don't want to keep calling to everyone at home because it will only make it harder, but it was nice to hear Gram's voice. So I'm going to keep my chin up and try to stay positive, but all and all, I miss you all!

Until next time...


Sunday, February 13, 2011


First of all, thank you to everyone who has been leaving messages! I love the messages keep them coming! Second, I have been missing home a lot lately. Especially that baby girl Briella that keeps growing! I wish I could come home for just a day to see everyone, but that won't work. I'm really excited to see my family that has finally set some plans in stone. They will be arriving on April 7th! I can't wait for them to get here. So, for everyone else reading, I miss you all dearly and I can't wait to see you in June!

So, on to Liverpool! To get there, we had to drive UNDER the river, which was pretty cool. Surprisingly enough, the tunnel under the river was really long and windy. I expected it to be long, but I figured it would be straight like the one on the way to VA beach. From the far side of the river we could see the coolest thing we were going to visit all day... the Anglican Cathedral. Can you say WOW! It was by far the biggest church I have ever seen! And if you think it is big from the outside, just imagine what it is like on the inside! The archetect had a saying, "Don't look at my arches, look at my space". The church is known for "The Great Space". Inside the church is pretty much all open and it was great to see. It took 75 years to complete the church and it is easy to see why when you see just how huge it is!

After the Anglican Church we went to the Roman Catholic church, which is the largest AND strangest looking Catholic church I have ever seen. It was very strange from the outside but very beautiful on the inside. It actually sort of reminded me of my home church in Balltown, St. Francis of Assisi. The stained glass was so beautiful. There are tons more pictures on my facebook so be sure to check them out.

After the churches we headed down to the Albert Dock which was made famous by The Beatles! Being in Liverpool, home of The Beatles, we had to take a tour of The Beatles Story. Had all the information you ever wanted to know about how they began, all of the great things they did together and how they broke up. We even got to walk through the yellow submarine. There was even a Starbucks at the end so for the first time since I left the states I enjoyed some Starbucks and it was amazing! There are far too many pictures from The Beatles Story to put on here so be sure to check out facebook!

After that we were free to venture around the city on our own so a few of us decided to ride the huge ferris wheel. Not quite as huge as the one in London but it still gave some great views of the city. It was especially great because you got a perfect view of the Anglican Cathedral to see how huge it really is! We then set off in search of some food and it is just crazy how so many places close down around 4! You would think on a Saturday afternoon everything would stay open longer but we had a hard time finding something that was open. We had to venture a little further than we wanted to but we eventually found a sports bar type place and had some traditional British food. A few of us had the cottage pie, which reminded me of mom's tater-top casserole, super yummy! And another got the traditional fish and chips.

Last night, after we returned from Liverpool we played a intense game of name that tune! It was so much fun and the best part was when all of us girls ended up having a dance fest to some classic Backstreet Boys! I am sure we were a pretty funny sight but it was a great time!

Now it is time for some serious homework, I have been a huge slacker when it comes to being academic since I have been here. I'm having too much fun to think about being studious ;o)

Until next time...


Friday, February 11, 2011

Well, at least I'm still alive!

Picture this, a steep, jagged-rock, muddy, single track path in the middle of a heavily wooded area. That was almost the setting of my death!

Yesterday was the second day for outdoor pursuits, and if you have been following along you knew that we went mountain biking! I was way nervous for this day and in all honesty I'mm not quite sure how I'm still alive. We started the day by getting the bikes all ready at the Conway center and then we loaded them up and headed for the mountains. We drove on these crazy narrow roads that were apparently 2-way roads with the big van and trailer behind us. We finally got to a place where we could pull off and we unloaded the bikes. We played follow the leader with Sally and everything she did, we had to do too! She took us up and down a small embankment and told us to stand up and lean back when we went down. I was quite scared just doing that, how was I going to survive the real stuff?? We took off for the "real" stuff and we were given multiple tips on the first "trail". We were told to feather the breaks with both hands, never just slam on them unless you want to go flying off the bike! We were taught the attack position which involved us practically sitting on the back tire while squeezing the seat with our thighs.

We hit the first single track path and it was ups and down and round and rounds. There were crazy rocks and lots and lots of mud and water! We were instructed to just go through everything and over everything, it is amazing what the bikes can make it through. I made it to the end with out too much trouble. I had to stop a few times to prevent myself from tipping over. I was terrified the whole time and I'm really not sure how I kept going, but somehow I did! All but one made it out of the first single track with out recking. Although, what she did was more amazing than anything else. She was just about out, just one small down-hill section left. We were all watching but I still don't quite know what happened. One moment she was at the top of the path and the next moment she was at the bottom of the embankment standing up and walking away. She pretty much rolled down a 30 foot drop with lots of trees and rocks, and she just walked away with out a scratch. It was pretty amazing! Llion, one of our guides went up to get her bike and checked it out to make sure it was alright. I think her pride was hurt but there was no reason for it, what she did was down right amazing!

Next, we "practiced" on a more difficult track with more obstacles. It was a short path and we could ride it and then come back out to the road, ride back up, and do the path again. It was really intense the first time down, but I stayed in my attack position and I made it through. After practicing the course we practiced some moves. Sally taught us how to do a front tire lift, a back tire lift and the bunny hop, which involved getting both tires off the ground and the same time. It took a lot of practice but I was determined to get it. After a lot of upper body strain and determination, I finally got the bunny hop, once! Once was better than not at all, I was satisfied! We then stopped near a beautiful lake for lunch, and Llion told us about how it is a "dead" lake because of the lead and mercury that are in it. It looked so clear, but poisonous! Oh and the joys of peeing outside... haha!

After that we had to go up a huge hill! And you know what that means, you have to go up to go down. We went really high up and we were so exhausted by the time we got there. I only had to get off once and that was because I started off too fast and then I couldn't get my gears to down-shift fast enough. Oh well, I made it none-the-less. Once at the top we were instructed to take it nice and slow and again use the attack position. We were also instructed that it got very steep at the end so be careful! As I was going down, I could see myself crashing on every rock and ever turn, but I just kept leaning back and somehow I made it though. At the end, especially I could see myself crashing, it was very steep and rocky and twisty. I leaned back and feathered the breaks just right apparently, I was still alive!

After the first huge down hill we all felt a little indestructible and were hungry for more. Sally informed us that the next path was not for everyone. She was not going to sugar coat it, it was going to be rough. She told us we could take the road around or we could venture into the hardest part of the day with her, the choice was ours. Of course I had the need for thrill by this point, but I was still pretty nervous. She wouldn't tell us it was bad unless it was really bad; we wouldn't get the option to not go if it wasn't crazy. Well, of course I chose to do it. I had to prove to myself that I could do it. I was confident I could do it. We had to ride a little higher to get to the right path and when we got there Sally told us it would be the same deal as before; take it easy and she was going to pull off eventually for us to go around her. I went second last, here's nothing! I took it really slow, and she wasn't kidding, it was crazy. So, remember that first line from the blog? Insert here. I'm going down nice and slow, staying low on the back of my bike when I see Sally pulled off to the side. No problem right? Not right, when I'm getting close to her I end up getting a little too far forward on my bike because of a previous hump. I hit the brakes a little too hard but thats ok. I get slowed down enough to where I could put my feet out. So my feet are on the ground but I'm still hitting the breaks and the bike is still going forward. My left leg is now wedged between the turning handle bar and the rest of the bike, I'm still propelling forward when just like that I finally come to a stop. I thought I had stopped myself, but I just happened to be crashing in the right spot. I turned around and Sally was right next to me on the path and she had grabbed my back tired that was now higher than my head. Oh wow! My life had just flashed before my eyes. I thought I was going down, and had I gone down I'm pretty sure I would have snapped my leg in half because of how it was wedged in my bike. I cheated death so I decided I should probably walk the bike down past the really bad stuff.

After that event, the day was pretty uneventful. A few in the group did these crazy camel back rollers and tried to get some air. Most of them found the ground instead. I got some good footage of that part :) I decided after cheating death I probably should try it again, I might not win twice in a row. Overall, it was an amazing day and I'm so proud I pushed myself as hard as I did. I was very nervous going into mountain biking and I came over very confident!

Tomorrow, Liverpool! The Beatles Story is going to be amazing... All you need is love...

Until next time...


Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl Sunday

I've never been a huge pro football fan but I have always liked watching the game. If I have to cheer for a team, it is usually anyone playing the Packers. I don't really know why, but I have always felt compelled to hate them. Probably not a good reason to not like a team, but so be it. Last night was the Superbowl as I'm sure you ALL know, and it was very interesting viewing it from a different country.

Kick-off here was at 11:30 PM and it was only being shown in a few select places. So a few of us headed for a local bar in lower Bangor around 9:30 to ensure we would get in. It wasn't too bad when we got there but it soon got much busier. There is an American Football league here at the University so pretty much the whole team was there. Plus most of us Americans were there and a bunch of locals.

It soon occurred to me that there would be no commercials during the game and I got very bummed! In the UK you have to have a licence to have a TV because there is no advertisements, so there wouldn't be an exception to the rule just for the Super Bowl. So,one I didn't care for either team playing and two, no commercials, why bother watching? Well, at least there was the half time show with the Black Eyed Peas.

They finally turned the TV on at around 11 and before you know it they were announcing who would be singing to open the game. It was announced that Lea Michele from Glee would be singing. Everyone except us Americans burst into boos and screams. Granted they were booing because of who was singing but I still felt hurt that they would be so disrespectful during a time of honor for our country. I realized she was singing God Bless America and not the National Anthem but it still hurt. After that Christina Agulara came on to sing the National Anthem, and they didn't boo but they sure didn't quite down. I never thought about it before but you don't notice how patriotic you are until someone disrespects your country. And I know they didn't do it on purpose but I know I would show more respect than that if the situation was reversed.

The game started and I wasn't really cheering for anyone but it really felt like being at home watching the game. The major difference while watching the game was no commercials. To me, that is what makes the Super Bowl what it truly is, and it just wasn't the same without them. I never thought I would miss commercials but I sure did last night.

The half-time show looked pretty cool, but I heard from people in the states today that the sound was terrible. I didn't notice because I couldn't really hear anyways. We walked back from the pub after the half-time show and then my friend had her parents skype the rest of the game to us. It was nice to see some of the commercials, but we still really couldn't hear that well. Overall, it was a crazy experience watching the game in a different country.

This Thursday for OP we are mountain biking, wish me luck that I don't die!

Until next time...


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Outdoor Pursuits Day 1

This past Thursday was one of the most challenging days of my life. I was pushed more physically and mentally than I have ever been pushed before. The experience overall was also one of the best experiences of my life! I should probably explain a little bit what Outdoor Pursuits (OP) is about. OP is a course that is offered through the Bangor program but is not done at the University. There are 18 of us taking the course so they split us up into 2 groups, one group on Tuesday and one on Thursday. So every Thursday this semester I will be participating in the most challenging things of my life that range from ropes courses to mountain climbing to surfing.

This past week was an introduction to the whole course to help us develop skills we will need to use over the whole semester. The first day was set up to challenge the group and to help bring the group together. All of the activities are leadership and teamwork builders. We started on Thursday with a few trust building activities that were pretty simple and then got more challenging as we went along. Activities included piling the eight of us into the inside of a platform and then all of us getting out and get on top of it without touching the ground on the outside of the platform. (It was way harder than it sounded) We then had to swing from the platform to a smaller one on a giant rope without falling, and then we had 40 seconds for everyone to swing back. After we were done swinging from trees we had to get over a log that was suspended 4ish feet in between two trees and then one that was 6ish feet and then 8ish feet off the ground. The trick was we had to help each other get over but we could only help from the side we were on. And then the hardest part was for the last person to get over but luckily we had three tall guys in our group that had pretty good "ups". After we finished jumping logs, we did an obstacle course. This was no ordinary obstacle course though. One of us had to be blind folded the whole time and we had to carry a platic barrel and a pipe for the whole thing. Very challenging and forced us to work together to get Riley (our blindfolded person) through without losing a life (falling off) or dropping the barrel and pipe.

The second half of the day was dedicated to the high and low ropes course. This required us to get all geared up in full-body harnesses. After we were taught how to properly tie an overhand knot and a figure-eight knot and how to properly work the karibiners we headed off to the courses. The first course was a practice course that was about 15 feet off the ground built into the trees. Each feature of the course required us to attach the 2 karibiners to the cables above our heads. The karibiners were attached to us by the ropes we learned how to properly knots in earlier. While on the course, we were instructed to "fall" to help give us confidence, knowing we would be fine because we were attached to the cables. So after we all "passed" the low ropes course we moved onto the real thing! The high ropes course was, I would guess, 40-60 feet off the ground. Once started you actually climbed higher through a net tunnel which I found to be the scariest part. The course ended on a huge zip line and you then lowered yourself to the ground. It was very challenging, intense and very fun!

Because our group is smaller than the Tuesday group, we had time to do the last activity that Tuesday's group did not have time to do. This activity was by far the most challenging activity for me. It was called the trapeze and involved us climbing to a small platform about 50 feet up into a tree and then jumping out onto a hanging trapeze. We were held up by a rope and by our friends below that were belaying us if we missed. Needless to say, jumping was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. I wouldn't say I'm afraid of heights but I am afraid of falling. It took a lot of trust between me and the others to make a leap of death. Granted, there were four people below belaying the rope attached to my back and the lead person was also attached to a cement block that probably weighed a ton. I had nothing to fear, ha! As I climbed higher and higher I got more nervous. Then, as I stood on the small platform, I didn't think I could do it. I thought I was going to have to be rescued. I could feel my heart racing in my chest and my hands were shaking. I could do this! This was just like when we were kids and we would jump on the monkey bars to reach the furthest one you could. So I closed my eyes and forced my legs to leap! I almost had it! I was so close, my left hand got it but only my fingertips reached the bar on my right. And in the same instant I was stopped by the rope attached to my back. They lowered me down, I was pretty much a limp noodle. I couldn't move, but I did jumped and that was all that mattered. I was so proud of myself! After I stopped shaking ten  minutes later, I felt an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. What a great day! Next week, mountain biking, oh dear!

Until next time...


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Defying Gravity in London, Day 3 and 4

I knew the moment I woke up that morning, that it was going to be a great day! Today was the day I was finally going to get to see Wicked preformed in LONDON! Anyone who knows me, knows I am a wee bit obsessed with the play Wicked. For anyone who hasn't seen it, you should! Or at least listen to the music and fall in love with the Wicked Witch... for she really isn't all that Wicked!

The other half of our group arrived in the middle of the night and they informed us at breakfast that they just made it in time to take the underground from the train station to the hostel. They made it on the very last train of the night and they arrived at the hostel at 1 in the morning, pretty good for leaving Bangor at 7 at night I would say! After eating we decided to go our separate ways since they wanted to see if it was still going to be possible for them to get tickets to Wicked for the matinĂ©e showing at 2:30 with us.

So they left for the Apollo and we set off randomly. We had seen pretty much everything we wanted to see the day before but during the tour we really didn't have a lot of time to explore the places we walked by. So we decided to set off for Buckingham Palace again. The day before we had arrived just in time for the changing of the guard so the place was packed tight we people so we really didn't get to see much. This time we got to walk right up to the gates and explore and really take it in for the greatness that it is! It is really a very magnificent place! After the palace we walked down The Mall Road and stopped in front of Prince Charles' place where there happened to be a couple of guards marching. We were really hoping to get really close to them to take a picture but they had really big guns so we decided we didn't want to get shot :)

After a short walk (probably a mile) we were in Trafalgar Square, which I mentioned we were at the day before. We didn't have any time to "play around" the day before, we only got to look. Trafalgar Square is famous for the gigantic lions that everyone climbs on, so we couldn't pass up the opportunity to play around. We all had to help each other out to first get up on the monument and then we had to help each other get on to the lions. The lions were very slick so once I was up there I really didn't move much, and as soon as the Kodak moment was captured I slid right down! At this point we started wasting time because we had been informed that the rest of the group was going to meet up with us. Only 2 of them were able to get tickets to Wicked... sad day! OH well, that didn't matter because I knew those of us that were going to see it were going to love it!

Next we decided to walk toward parliament, Westminster Abbey and of course Big Ben! Granted we had seen all of these great structures the day before, the rest of the group had not. They are so magnificent that it was ok seeing them twice :) We really wanted to go inside Westminster but they charged 16 to get in! How crazy is that? You have to pay to get inside of a church! Must be pretty amazing inside. And to think, in just under 2 months Prince William and Kate will be getting married in that very church! I would love to go, but I think it will be way to crazy in London, but who knows, we will have to wait and see. After all, it is history in the making!

"One Short Day"
Now it was time for the group to part ways. Six of us headed off, to what I consider to be the greatest part of the trip! It was time to head to Wicked. As we walked down Victoria St. I was getting very very excited. So excited I could hardly stand still. There was another girl in our group, Riley, that had seen the show before and she totally understood my excitement. The others, really had no idea about the greatness they were in store for! We arrived in plenty of time, before the doors opened actually. After we finally got into the theatre we looked around at the great merchandise. It took a lot of control to not buy a shirt but I decided since I already had one from the Chicago show I would save my money to buy something from a different show. I thought they would be really picky about cameras so I was trying to be sneaky about taking pictures because it was strictly forbidden in the Chicago theater. I soon realized after getting into our seats that they didn't mind because they didn't stop anyone from taking pictures. However, they did announce before the show started that flash photography and recording was prohibited, so what did I do? I shut off the flash. I actually got a few really good pictures during the show and I was bad because I recorded the "Defying Gravity" number. It is on facebook if anyone wants to see it (video isn't great but sound is perfect!) Overall, the show was absolutely amazing! It was everything I expected and it brought me to tears more than once. It was great and I hope to see it again before I leave!

After the show we decided to take the "newbies" up the river walk since it was so awesome the day before. So we got to see parliament and the Eye all lit up. It was even more magnificent the second night. I just loved everything London had to offer. It was such a beautiful city, I hope everyone reading this has a chance to see it someday! We did the same route as the night before and after the crossing the Tower Bridge we decided to take the underground back to the hostel. This wasn't such an easy task since there were a few lines that we not running over the weekend for maintenance. Apparently, Saturday nights are not busy nights for the underground because several of the stations were closed by 7:30! So we ended up walking way father than we thought we would have to and we were pretty much exhausted by the time we got back.

The next morning we headed back to the Euston train station to catch the 8:45 back to Bangor. We were there in plenty of time and since we had general tickets we decided to get on the 8:15 train instead. The train was running behind but we finally left a little before 8:30. We knew we had 2 connections but we weren't 100% sure what all the connections were. So we got off at what we knew would be our first connection spot, but we didn't know what train we needed to be on after that. We found out what train we needed to be on just in time to watch the doors close and the train pull away from the station... ooops! So we had to wait 2 more hours for the next train. I got caught up in a good book on the Kindle and before you knew it, it was time to board the next train. We made the next connection and we were back in Bangor in early afternoon. Not too bad! While walking from the train station back to campus, it was amazing, it was like we had traveled through time to a different world. Bangor and London are two complete opposites, different in every way. The best part of being back in Bangor was not worrying about getting hit by a double decker red bus at every street we crossed!

Until tomorrow...


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Remember Remember the 5th of November, London Day 2

Fence around the Palace Gardens
Our tourist map of London informed us that everyday at 11 and 1 there is a free tour of London that meets at The Wellington Arch.... perfect, now to find it! Because of the idiot from the previous day, I was still not so sure about my map skills. According to what he told me, I had the map flipped around in my mind, but deep down I knew I was right. So we started our trek across the park again, this time sticking to the perimeter. There were maps every so often in the park so we kept checking them. According to the maps in the park we continually got closer to our destination even though we were walking in the direction the idiot from the day before told us was the wrong direction. Finally we came to the southeast corner and we could see exactly where we needed to be... score! We were plenty early so we ventured off to see what we could find. We ended up walking around the heavily protected Palace Gardens. In London, public restrooms are very hard to come across and when you do happen to stumble upon one, you usually have to pay to use it. So before the tour started we stopped in a little coffee shop and got some water and used the restrooms. For the most part we brought food with for us to eat to save on money... so for now I can live without peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars!

With our tour guide Thomas
We headed back to the Wellington Arch a little before 11 and found a huge cluster of people and knew we were in the right spot. Because there were so many people, they broke the tour group into several smaller groups, there were 24 in ours. Our guide was a hilarious young man from Ireland named Thomas. He told us lots of fun stories and showed us all the great tourist sites in London... for free! We started at Buckingham Palace and we just happen to arrive at the exact time they were doing the changing of the guard. This was pretty cool because in the winter they only do it every other day, we got lucky! We couldn't really see because there were so many people, but I got some pretty good pictures which you can find on facebook! Thomas also told us some fun stories about the palace and a great story about a drunken Irish man who broke into the palace.

After the palace we headed toward Traflagar Square, home of the Admiral Nelson Memorial and the huge Lions. We were told the story of how Admiral Nelson and his crew won some huge battle but he was killed at the end. Instead of throwing the admiral overboard they stuck him in a barrel of rum to transport him home. After the crew returned home they found out during their celebrations of winning a huge battle, they had drank from the barrel the admiral had been in... gives a whole new meaning to the popular Admiral Nelson Rum brand.

After that we headed toward the most well known part of London, towards Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament. After turning the corner, the site was so unreal. Every time I think of London, that is what I thought of. Big Ben, which isn't actually the tower but rather the bell inside the tower, was absolutely amazing. We then walked around and stood facing parliament where Thomas told us the story of the conspiracy behind blowing up the building in 1605. Guy Fawkes was a Catholic who was tired of being a second class citizen because of his religion so he plotted to teach the government a lesson by blowing up their building. Long story short, one of his friends got cold feet and told on him. They caught him and tortured him until he gave all of the names of the conspirators. There is a little poem that goes along with this story and it goes like this:

"Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot..."

This idea behind this story can be seen in the great movie "V for Vendetta" if your interested. And after the story that was the end of our "free" tour. Thomas did such a great job we just had to tip him :)

We then ventured off on our own to find The Apollo Victoria theatre, home of Wicked! Once we arrived we found out there were only a few tickets left, but there did happen to be 4 together so we snatched them up right away! The only problem with this was more of our group was coming that night and they didn't have tickets yet.... I really really wanted to stand in line the next morning to get a front row seat but no one else wanted to. Every morning the theatre sells 24 front row seats, first come first serve. So there was no guarantee we would get them anyways but I still wanted to try. I figured it would be like a black Friday type deal where you stand in line forever to get the best deal but no one else went for it, oh well!

After that, we didn't really have any plans so we decided to set off on another walking tour of our own. We were not far from a bridge that would cross the River Thames, so we set off in search of it. All of the great sites of the city could be seen from the other side of the river so I knew it would be well worth the walk. As we were crossing the bridge we even got the see the sun for about 5 minutes before it set, very beautiful! As soon as we got across the bridge we found ourselves on a beautiful river walk called the Jubilee Greenway. As we walked north we could immediately see the London Eye on our side of the river and parliament and Big Ben on the other side. It was quite a beautiful site! We decided to continue on the river walk all the way to the end which I would guess was at least 5 miles. It took us over 2 hours to walk from Wicked to the end of the river walk, but it was so worth it! We passed a lot of great sites on the way including Shakespeare's Globe theatre, London bridge, and we ended at the Tower Bridge. After all that walking, we decided we did more than enough and we would treat ourselves to the Underground on the way home. All in all, it was a VERY successful day. We saw pretty much everything London had to offer and we did it for a very good price, almost free!

Stay tuned for the final installment of my adventure of London which I should have done soon!

Until tomorrow...