Saturday, April 30, 2011

That's what Royalty is made of!

Words cannot quite describe the events of the royal wedding but I will do my best to describe my experiences in London. Lets start from the beginning. We arrived back in Bangor from Dublin a little after 5 on Thursday afternoon. That gave me just enough time to unpack, repack, take a shower and head out. The train ride was uneventful and all went as planned for the most part. We didn't miss our connecting train which is always good but it was running behind because it got behind a sleeper train, so we didn't end up getting into Euston until after 2AM. The minute we stepped off the train you could just tell there was something in the air in London. There were 2 police officers just outside the train and the people were just humming. I had my tourist map from the first time I went to London and Sheilagh printed off some walking directions. I have a fairly good sense of directions so we were in pretty good shape. As we wandered closer and closer to where the action would be taking place the people just kept getting more and more. They were everywhere and it was 2 in the morning. I couldn't believe the amount of people. As we got closer to Trafalgar Square there were Union Jack flags flying in abundance. The town was decorated to the 9s.

Once we found Trafalgar Square it was smooth sailing. We walked down The Mall which was the main road where the procession would travel from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey and back again. We didn't care all that much where we ended up sitting for the night and as we walked down The Mall the people and tents just kept growing. The people and tents were everywhere lining both sides of the street. We kept making our way towards the palace and eventually came to a section right in front of the left side of the palace. We knew this would be prime real estate when it came time for the kiss from the balcony so we called it good enough. We never dreamed we would find a place that close to the palace that late in the game but we did. I had brought a blanket with so we laid it out and decided to try and catch some shut eye. That was easier said than done. We had been traveling since 10 that morning from Ireland so we should have been tired but the air was just buzzing with excitement from everyone. We sat there and talked for awhile about how surreal it all was and just enjoyed the crowed. Most people were sleeping but there was a constan flow of people into the area. After a quick bathroom break at 4:30 I think we fell asleep for a few minutes.

By 5AM everyone was starting to stir. The sun was just starting to make an appearance as most of the tents and lawn chairs were put away for the day. We slowly but surely inched our way closer and closer to the barricades as people packed their stuff up. We ended up being about 5 people away from the barricades... I never in a million years would have thought we would have ended up that close when there were that many people there before us. That spot ended up being our spot for the next 8 or 9 hours. There were a couple of groups in front of us that hadn't taken down their tents but eventually were asked by the police to pack up their stuff. So we eventually got a little closer. We were all packed in like sardines with no room to move. By about 8 I decided I needed to use the toilets so I, as politely as I could, pushed my way back through the crowed. They were much more willing to let me out than they were letting me come back in. I had to stand in line for 20 minutes just to use a port-o-potty that had no TP... that was fun. I was going to go look for a coffee shop but I decided against it since then I would have to pee again. Instead I pushed my way back through the crowed to Sheilagh who was holding down our blanket. We would take turns sitting down for a few minutes at a time because there was really no room to sit but it was very hard to stand for that long. We mingled with the people standing around us and everyone was really nice for the most part. Then there were some people who just absolutely "knew it all" about the royal family and what was going down that day. They were the ones that got annoying after awhile. The British pride was everywhere to be seen. Most people had flags, some had their faces painted and some were dressed from head to toe in the Union Jack flag. It was a pretty cool site to see.

The Queen

The Bridesmaids
From about 9AM on there was movement around the palace. Guards started doing their thing and royal looking cars were moving around. Nothing really big happened until about 10:40 when the Queen left the palace for Westminster. It was one of the coolest feelings watching the crowed erupt as her car pulled out of the palace. She had on yellow that could be spotted a mile away. Even though we were on the other side of Queen Victoria Memorial we could see her through the car windows quite clearly. Before that we knew Prince William had left for Westminster because of the uproar down the street. He left from a different spot and he was actually the only one that didn't go past us. Along with the Queen we saw Cate's parents in the own car, we saw Prince Charles and Camilla come from the palace. We also so Cate's sister with the miniature bridesmaids and at about 10:52 we even saw Cate pass right in front of us! The people who knew the area that were sitting around us said her hotel was in the area and she would have to pass by to get to Westminster, so we knew she was coming. I dropped the ball when it came to a picture of her. I got the before and after shot but I missed the money shot, but it will forever be ingrained in my memory. Probably the coolest thing that happened the whole day. She was so close I could make out ever facial feature, absolutely amazing!

The newlyweds
Cate's sister and Bridemaids
The service was broadcasted so we heard the vows and eventually everyone made their way back to the palace. Seeing Prince William and the new Princess Cate in the fairytale carriage was also one of the greatest experiences of the journey. They were right there in front of us and they were so happy. It made it feel so much better because you could just feel how happy they were. The smiles on their faces were just priceless. After everyone, and I mean everyone, was back in the palace the crowed was allowed to walk up to the palace. All of the guests where brought back to the palace via buses and cars, it was very cool. The crowed was brought forward from the end of The Mall and they were walked their by a wall of police. This was to keep the crowed from getting too crazy and it was amazing to see. It also kind of sucked that the people who probably gathered in at the last second got to pile into the area closest to the palace while we had to stay further back. We still had a great place and got to see everything so I can't really complain. Like clockwork the newlyweds and the rest of the family came out on the balcony right at 1:25 like scheduled. I think they even managed to steal 3 kisses. The crowed was in an uproar and everyone was so happy. I was so glad I could share this amazing day with the millions of other people in London.

The crowed being ushered in
The happy family










After it was all said and done we slowly made our way away from the palace. There was only one way we were allowed to go and we eventually ended up down by Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster. I can't imagine what it was like down in that area for the wedding because there is nowhere to go. The people where everywhere, we just couldn't escape them. Eventually, once we got past Trafalgar Square we found a cute little pub where we sat and relaxed and enjoyed some food. We got to see the whole event over and over on TV and it was so surreal seeing it happen on TV. They were such a cute couple, perfect for each other. I hope they live long and happy lives together and again I'm so glad I had the opportunity to share this special day with them! We eventually made our way back to Euston station, avoiding the underground at all costs. If it was as crazy in the underground as it was on the streets there was so way we were going anywhere near it, even if it was faster. We tried to get on an earlier train home but because we bought te cheapest tickets ever, we had to stay with the trains we paid for. Our train didn't leave until 11:30 that night with a 4 hour lay over in Woverhampton. I did manage to sleep for a few minutes off and on but I was so paranoid we would miss our stop, I tried to stay awake. Once in Woverhampton I found a spot on the floor of the lounge and made myself as comphy as I could. I used my blanket that had seen better days as a pillow and caught a few shut eyes. Again i was paranoid that we would miss our 5:48 departure for Bangor so I still didn't get much sleep. Once on our last train home I was able to sleep a little bit better. After Sheilagh and I arrived back in Bangor we talked about how surreal the whole experience was. We were actually in London for the biggest wedding of our life time. So hard to believe, we were so lucky! This was by far the best experience, as exhausting as it was, of my study abroad experience so far! I'm so lucky!

Until next time...

~Amy

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Holy sh*t that's AMAZING!

So just a quick reference to the title of this blog before I really get into it. It is in reference to the cliffs in on the west coast of Ireland. They are so amazing; pictures don't do them justice and there just aren't words that describe them just right. But anyways, back to the beginning. On Monday (the 25th) We packed up our stuff in Dublin. It was sad to go, Dublin was such an amazing city! We had to be out of our rooms by 10 but we weren't leaving until 12 so we had a bit of time to waste. After another amazing breakfast a few of us headed out into the city one last time. We wandered around for awhile playing the "nose goes" game. Eventually we ended up at  coffee shop where we shared OP stories and spring break adventures. It was a lot of fun and a great way to spend our last morning in Dublin. At noon we loaded the bus and headed West.

After arriving in Galway we went over a list or "rules" for the hostel. We were staying in a very very nice hostel that was very strict. They had a kitchen we could use at our own leisure but we had to follow rules to a T. There was absolutely no drinking allowed, no one was allowed in the kitchen from 10-12 in the morning and then from midnight to 7:30, we had to quite at all times in the bed room and blah blah blah. I guess they wanted to keep it nice. So we tried our best to follow the rules.

After we got all settled in we went for a short walk around the city. We went through a beautiful catholic cathedral  It is nice for a change to be somewhere where the primary region is that of my own. When I grew up EVERYONE I knew was catholic so being somewhere where no one is catholic is still hard to grip sometimes. The cathedral was so beautiful and huge, I really enjoyed it. After the cathedral we headed down to the bay. Galway used to be a big fishing community so the bay area is really developed and really beautiful. At this point Tecwyn did his normal thing and ditched us expecting us to be able to make our way back to the hostel on our own. We headed up a very touristy street with tons of shopping ad eating places. Eventually we did manage to make our way back. We decided to take advantage of the kitchen and cooked... if you can call it cooking. We ended up with a huge box of chicken nuggets and salad for dinner. It was cheap and it was delicious! That night Sheilagh and I decided we wanted to explore the pub life so we headed out. We found a cute little pub called Taffee's that had live Irish music wafting out of the front door. We decided to give it a try. There was a cute little band playing right in the front. I got myself a delicious pint of Guiness and Sheilagh went with the cider. Eventually the music ended and we were able to snag some stools at the bar. This is where we stayed parked for the next few hours. We met some cool people and were in awe of the bar tenders and how they were able to serve a million people without losing it. Eventually more live music started that was really enjoyable. After spending way too much money (because the drinks were super expensive) we called it a night and stumbled back to the hostel.

The next day we headed to the Aran islands for a bike tour of the island. It took an hour bus ride to get to a place where we could hop the ferry and another 45 minute ride to the island. The boat ride was pretty tipsy, at times I thought we were going in. The Aran islands are a very remote place and it was kind of like going back in time. We got our bikes and we headed off.Our goal for the day was to get to Dun Aengus which are cliffs that are over 300 feet high. They were very very intimidating! We were told the best way to approach them was on your stomach so you don't get dizzy and fall off. That was exactly what we did and it was one of the scariest things I have ever experienced. The vertigo was so intense, just looking over the edge I thought I was going to fall. I did get the courage for like 2 seconds to hang my legs over the edge but I couldn't get myself to look over very far in that position. Some people were crazy and set of this little rock that was sticking off the edge. It looked like it was going to break off and crumble down the cliff, but they all managed to stay alive. After the cliffs we wandered around on the bikes for awhile. We came to a beach where we took our shoes off and put our toes in. The water was freeing but so beautiful. It was also the strangest beach I have ever seen. It had the softest grey sand that looked just like cat litter. After that we made our way to another part of the coast where we could see some seals playing around in the water. We were hoping they would come beach themselves but they stayed out in the water. After arriving back in Galway we decided we were too lazy to cook so we went out to eat. We ended up in an amazing pub where everyone enjoyed some of the best food we have had since beig abroad. I had chicken pot pie and then a caramel/chocolate cheesecake for dessert. By the time we were done eating I was so full I thought I would need to be rolled home. It was soooooo good!

The next day (Wed the 27th) our destination was the cliffs of Moher. This cliffs are probably the most iconic tourist stop in Ireland. No one travels on the west coast of Ireland without stopping at these cliffs. They were over twice as tall as the ones on the Aran islands but they were all fenced off. Apparently they are also a place where suicide is very popular so they had to fence them all off... well almost all of them. There was a spot where we could climb through the fence and walk to a place where we could really enjoy the cliffs. Of course we had to bend the rules a bit, but we were just doing what everyone else was doing. I thought the cliffs from the day before were intense but these left me speechless. I was so scared and I was walking around with people who were fearless. Grant even posed for a picture with one foot on the edge of the cliff and the other one raised over the edge looking like he was walking right off. I couldn't even watch it was so scary. We did a few jumping pictures that turned out really cool. Some people were jumping right on the edge making it look like they were jumping right off but I stayed far enough back that there was no way I had any chance of going over. Quite intense! Another cool fact about the cliffs of Moher, the cave scene in the latest Harry Potter movie was actually filmed at the cliffs! Pretty cool! After an intense day at the cliffs we needed a nice relaxing night. A bunch of us cooked together and then headed back down to the bay to watch the sun set. It was absolutely breath taking. I am a little jaded after living in Florida and seeing 500 million sun sets they just don't trip my trigger like most. But this one was pretty cool just because we were in Ireland.

Today we are heading back to Bangor and then as most of you know a few of us are heading to the big wedding. It is going to be crazy beautiful and the next time I really get to sleep will be in about 48 hours from now. I cringe to think that I won't have a bed for the next two nights but it will be sooo worth it. It is an opportunity of a lifetime that I'm glad is not passing me by. I think the hum of the city is going to be just amazing. After we get back to Bangor I will have some catching up on school work to do. And then on Tuesday and Wednesday and good friend from home, who has been backpacking all over Europe, is coming to visit me! I'm super excited to see him so hopefully I can get everything done before he gets here. So I will try to do my best but it might be awhile before I get a chance to post another blog. Look for me on TV, I have a shirt that says "Marry me instead" that I am wearing to the wedding. I will wave!

Until next time...

~Amy

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Rocky Road to Dublin!

So on Saturday we spent the morning crossing the Irish Sea from Hollyhead to Dublin. It was a fairly uneventful trip but the ferry was pretty cool. I had never been on a ferry before so it absolutely amazed me that you could put that many cars on a boat and it would still float across the water. It moved super fast too! We made it across in just under 2 hours. On the inside it was extremely crowded and we were lucky to get a seat. I passed the time with my kindle and my iPod because there were about 500 screaming kids on the ferry with us. I love kids but these kids were just completely out of control! We even ventured out onto the deck to take a peak at the fast approaching Ireland. The deck was so windy I ended up with more of an afro than I already have! Ireland looked beautiful from the boat, I couldn't wait to step foot on land and enjoy it for all of its beauty. Once we made land we had to board a city bus to take us semi close to our hostel. I think they jammed about 500 people on the double decker bus because there was no room to move with all of us AND our luggage. A short ride later and we were smack dab in the middle of Dublin. The hostel we stayed in was pretty sweet! There were 6 of us girls staying together in a room with 8 beds (all to ourselves). We had our own bath room and shower in the room so we also didnt have to share that with anyone else.

Entrance to Trinity College
After we got all settled in we headed out into the city with Tecwyn for a walking tour. We went through the city center which was super cool and we walked down O'Donnell street which is a very touristy street. Our walking tour ended at Trinity College which is a very iconic college of Dublin. At the college is the Book of Kells exhibition which was also very unique. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript of the 4 gospels written in 800AD in Latin. The exhibition ended in the Great Library which holds thousands of books, none of which date later than 1700. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. 

At that point, Tecwyn did his normal thing of ditching us. He likes to lead us into the middle of a strange town and then just leave us there for us to find our own way back. I think he has it in for us... haha! Anyways, we were on our own for the rest of the afternoon and night so a few of us decided to just walk around and explore the city. We ended up in the Temple Bar area which is a bunch of local pubs and resaturates, most of which have live music. There are also a bunch of souvenir shops and other shops; very easy to waste an afternoon in this part of town. We checked out a few of the souvenir shops and then ended up in this cute little pub that had amazing food and even better live music. We enjoyed the food upstairs with the music playing below us. This one man band did covers of everything from Bon Jovi to Van Morrison and so much more. The place was packed of people having a grand old time and it was only like 6 in the afternoon! We enjoyed our 5 euro drinks (SUPER EXPENSIVE!!! that would be like $8) and then headed back to the hostel. We debated whether we wanted to go out to another pub for live traditional Irish music or if we just wanted to stay in. We ended up going to get a few drinks to have at the hostel and we watched Aladdin. While watching Aladdin we turned it into a drinking game where you had to drink every time the words Genie, Lamp, Wish, Prince or Princess was said. It was super fun!

On Sunday our plan was to go to the 8:30 Easter mass at a beautiful cathedral just down the street. Tecwyn told us the mass was at 8:30 but when we got there we saw the gates were padlocked shut and the mass wasn't until 10. We were all pretty bummed since we all got up extra early to make it to mass before the events for the day started. Oh well! After we started walking back to the hostel we heard a marching band playing down the street so we went to check it out. There was going to be a parade later in the day in honor of the Irish revolts against the British on Easter; this eventually led to Ireland's independence from the rest of the UK. 


Once our day officially started we did another walking tour of the city. We went through Trinity College again and we also went through some beautiful parks and learned all sorts of informational stuff! We saw the Irish Parliament building and a couple of Protestant cathedrals including St. Patrick's. The walking tour ended with the Guiness Factory tour. I had never had Guinees before coming to the UK and I wasn't huge on it the first time I had it but I didn't give up. If you have never had or seen this beer before, it is very unique. This beer is thick and creamy and black! I can't describe exactly what it tastes like; you just have to try it for yourself. The more I drink it the more I love it. I thought it was good over in the UK and then yesterday I had one in Ireland. It was so fresh and so delicious I thought it couldn't get any better, I was wrong. At the end of the brewery tour you got a pint of Guiness fresh from the brewery. It was so amazing! It was well worth the 11 euro :o) The tour itself wasn't that cool because you didn't get to see any of the actual working factory; everything you got to see was made especially just for the tour. None the less it was still interesting to learn about how it all works. The brewery is way out in the middle of nowhere and of course Tecwyn did his usual thing of stranding us. We did what we thought best and that was take a horse and buggy ride back into the Temple Bar area, again well worth the 20 euro we split between the 4 of us. 

Because we missed church that morning we decided we would go to the 6:30 mass. We still had a couple of hours to spare so we came back and took a nap. The mass was your typical catholic service and the church itself was very beautiful. It was a similar set up to the one we went to in Scotland but it wasn't as elaborately decorated. After mass I called home to Gram's. Everyone was there to celebrate Easter and I got to talk to most everyone. It was nice to talk to some of the kids and Gram. She still thinks it is amazing how I can call home from Ireland via my computer. She doesn't really get it but its ok. Since we didn't hit up the traditional Irish music the night before we decided to hit it up that night. Around 9 we made our was to The Celt. We sandwiched ourselves into a few chairs on the side of the "stage" and waited for the band to start. They were pretty awesome and a few people even did some Irish dancing. You could tell it was a pub that was mostly visited by the locals. They were all having a great time and we didn't want to invest too much money into the drinks so we only stayed for a few songs. 

Tomorrow (Monday) we head to the west coast of Ireland to Galway. I'm really excited to see more of the country side and especially the cliffs. The city has been beautiful but I know Ireland has more to offer than just the city!

Until next time...

~Amy

Friday, April 22, 2011

Quick Update

Nothing too exciting to report for the past week. The weather here in Bangor has been absolutely beautiful so I have been taking advantage as much as possible. I climbed Snowdon for the second time on Monday. Rachel and I did it in record time! We were up and down in 4 and a half hours! I thought I was going to die but it was all good. I have also been running (or trying to) most days. My goal is to run the Bix 7 this summer down in Davenport so I need to keep training! I would say I can run about half of it as of right now. We have also been spending time up at Roman camp just laying out. The sun has been shining all week so I have been soaking it up! Not enough to get a tan but enough to enjoy. I have also been trying to be studious! I am close to having all of my papers written that are due on May 6th. I think I have given up for now though! Last night we had a Scream marathon (watched all 3 of them) and today we went to the cinema to see the 4th! If you like the Scream movies you must go see the 4th. It was excellent! I was really impressed. Tomorrow our study abroad group heads to Ireland for 6 days! I'm super excited. It should be great! I won't have my computer so you guys will have to wait for the blogs. As many of you probably know, there is a huge event here in the UK on the 29th. The big royal wedding is that day and a few of us will be heading to London for the big event. We get back from Ireland around 5 on the 28th and we leave for London at 8 that night! We will be pulling an all nighter and partying it up in the streets of London since we don't actually get in until 1:14. I figure there will be people lining the streets by that time anyways. So the next week will be quite the adventure! Stay tuned and I will try to update you guys when I have a chance!

Until next time...

~Amy

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Just for fun, I'm bored...

1. Real name : Amy Marie Dupont
2. Nickname(s) : don't really have one
3. Zodiac Sign : Cancer
4. Male or female : Female
5. Elementary School : Balltown Sherrill Catholic School
6. Middle School : RHCL
7. High School : Wahlert
8. College : St. Ambrose/Bangor University
9. Hair Color : Brownish
10. Tall or Short: 5'8
11. Sweats or Jeans : Jeans
12. Phone or Camera : Camera
13. Health freak : not a freak, but aware
14. Orange or Apple : either
15. Do you have a crush on someone: no
16. Eat or Drink : eat
17. Piercings : a few in my ears
18. pepsi or coke: neither

HAVE YOU EVER?
19. Been in an airplane : yes
20. Been in a relationship : Yes
21. Been in a car accident : Yes
22. Been in a fist fight : No
23. First piercing : ears
24. best friend : Ashley
25. First award : Digger award in Volleyball maybe?
26. First crush : oh I don't remember
27. First word : probably daddy
29. Last person you talked to: mom
30. Last person you texted : Sheilagh
31. Last TV show you watched: Veronica Mars
32. Last thing you ate: Ben and Jerry's half baked ice cream :)
33. Last movie you watched: Inception
34. Last song you listened to: I'd do anything
35. Last thing you bought: groceries
36. Last person you hugged : I dont remember who was last but my family that came to visit

FAVE: 
37. Food : Chinese food
38. Drink: Dr. Water
39. Bottoms : Jeans
40. Flower : Not a flower fan
41. Animal : Cat
42. Color : Pink
 43. Movie : Pirates
44. Subject : this semester... Hollywood probably

HAVE YOU EVER:
(Put an X in the brackets if yes)
45. [x] Fallen in love with someone.
46. [x] Celebrated Halloween.
47. [x] had your heart broken...
48. [x] went over the minutes/texts on your cell phone.
49. [x] had someone like you
51. [] got pregnant.
52. [] had an abortion.
53. [x] did something you regret.
54. [x] broke a promise.
55. [x] hid a secret.
56. [X] pretended to be happy.
57. [x] met someone who changed your life.
58. [x] pretended to be sick.
59. [x] left the country.
60. [x] tried something you normally wouldn't try and liked it.
61. [x] cried over the silliest thing.
62. [x] ran a mile.
63. [x] went to the beach with your best friend.
64. [x] got into an argument with your friends.
65. [x] disliked someone.
66. [x] stayed single for 2 years since the first time you had a boyfriend/girlfriend

CURRENTLY:
67. Eating : Nothing.
68. Drinking : Nothing.
69. Listening : Teenage Dream
70. Sitting/Laying : Sitting
71. Plans for tomorrow: Climb Snowdon if it is as nice as it is today, if not, writing papers
72. Waiting for : Melissa to see if she still wants to go for a walk

YOUR FUTURE:
73. Want kids : more than anything
74. Want to get married : i suppose
75. Career : PA
76. Lips or eyes : eyes
77. Shorter or Taller : Taller
78. Romantic or spontaneous : Spontaneous
81. Hook-up or relationship : Relationship.
82. Looks or personality : Personallity

HAVE YOU EVER: 
83. Lost glasses/contacts : probably
84. Snuck out of a house : yes
85. Held a gun/knife for self defense : No
86. Killed somebody : No
87. Broken someone's heart : probably
88. Been in love : I thought so...
89. Cried when someone died : Yes

DO YOU BELIEVE IN:
90. Yourself :  mostly
91. Miracles : yes
92. Love at first sight : no
93. Heaven : Yes
94. Santa Clause : of course :)
95. Aliens : No
96. Ghosts : no

TRUTHFULLY:
97. Is there one person you really want to be with right now : there are many people, not just one
98. Do you know who your real friends are : yeah i think so
99. Do you believe in God : i think so
100. Post as 100 truths : Yes

Friday, April 15, 2011

Continued Travels in Scotland, Saying Good-Bye and Traveling Home

I am currently sitting on a train from Glasgow to London (but I'm not going to London, I have to switch before the train goes that far). I will talk more about my travels home a little later. Before I get to that, I should pick up where I left off on the last blog. I stopped after our Catholic mass experience on Sunday the 10th and it is now Friday the 15th. A lot has happened since then! We have just been so busy and had so much fun that I haven’t had a chance to blog. We also haven’t had any internet connections on our travels through Scotland so I wasn’t really motivated to type anything up. I guess I shouldn’t say we didn’t have internet access, we did, but we had to pay extra for it. Now, I’m sitting on a train with all the time in the world so I thought I would reflect a little bit on my time with my family.

So, mass on Sunday was very cool and the church was amazing. After mass we still had a couple of hours before our tour officially started so some of us wandered around Glasgow. Our hotel was right in the center of town and close to everything we could possibly need. We found a pedestrian shopping strip so we had a walk around. Guess what we found? My favorite store over here in the UK… Primark! I have shopped in this store a few times now and I just love it. They have super cheap clothes and shoes and more and it is all so cute! It is probably a good thing there isn’t one in Bangor or I would have bought one of everything by now. Anyways, we shopped for awhile and then at 2:30 we loaded our tour bus for the first of many times. We were going for a guided bus ride though the town. Barbra was our awesome tour guide and Jim was our awesome driver. Jim had a really thick Scottish accent so that was fun! Dad always got a kick out of how he always called him Peter with the accent (Pee – Ta). So for the next couple of hours we drove around the city and saw everything from the three universities, the BBC, a bunch of parks, cathedrals and everything else Glasgow had to offer. We also stopped at one of the museums. I’m not huge on museums but this one had a HUGE organ in it and it was being played the whole time. I simply sat up on the balcony and watched the man play this massive instrument that made music that went right through you as he played. It was just amazing! There were cameras on his hands and feet so you could watch him play 3 levels of keys with his hand and a set with his feet. There were also numerous knobs on the organ that he could constantly be pulling in and pushing out. What a magnificent instrument; I couldn’t imagine how long it took him to learn to play like that! That night we enjoyed a drink in the hotel bar that was compliments of the tour and then we enjoyed the first of 3 very formal dinners. After dinner we decided to have our own party in our rooms. We had stocked up on some beer and wine earlier in the day so we did some drinking and played some euchre. This ended up being a tradition for every nightJ.

The next morning (Monday the 11th) we had to have our luggage in the hall and be down to breakfast by 7 to be ready for a departure at 8. We enjoyed yet another full Brit breakfast! There was more food then I knew what to do with, but it was so yummy! Soon enough we were all loaded back onto the bus. We were informed the day before that the tour requires the seats to be rotated so we had to check the sheet before we got on to see where we were assigned to sit that day. Our group was in the first four rows on the left side of the bus; prime real estate for sightseeing. We also found out that the tour we were on was continuing on to Ireland after the Scotland tour and since we were not going to Ireland we would have the front of the bus rotation first J. Our journey to the highlands involved lots of history of the kings and queens of years past in Scotland. We made a lot of random stops but most of the day consisted of driving. There were a couple of highlights such as driving along the lochs (including Loch Ness). I even got Nessie to poke her head up for a photo shoot ;o). We also stopped at Urquhart castle, which was cool but there were tons of people there and it started to rain. The castle did have an amazing view of Loch Ness where I spotted Nessie. We eventually made our way to Newton hotel for the night which looked more like a castle then a hotel. The hotel was so beautiful! For dinner that night we had a traditional Scottish meal. This included haggis neeps and tatties, (haggis, turnips and potatoes which believe it or not, I ate) Scottish broth soup, a fancy chicken breast main course and a raspberry/pudding/oatmeal dessert. This was the most formal meal I had ever experienced. It took us about 2 hours to get through all the courses and I really enjoyed it. If it was my choice I probably would have skipped the meal but it ended up being great. After our meal we were indulged in traditional Scottish music and dance. This involved to young girls doing some Celtic dancing and a man playing an accordion and another man playing the bagpipes. The dancers were amazing and the old guy playing the bagpipes was amazing (he even wore the kilt and admitted he didn’t wear anything under it!) This was very entertaining and I probably enjoyed this part of the Scottish experience the most.

The next day (Tuesday the 12th) started with another traditional breakfast served right to us. The hotel staff was so awesome, I never felt so catered to… I could get used to that! We headed out by 8:30 from the hotel and we were shortly at our first stop for the day. I think most of us could have lived without this stop but some enjoyed it. We went to a battle field where Scotland and England battled in the 18th century. There was tons of history behind it and it was cool to see the guns and stuff but we spent way too much time there. Oh well! After that we headed south toward Edinburgh. The day involved a lot of stories from our awesome tour guide accompanied by beautiful landscapes out the bus windows. We made a stop in a small tourist town where we had a delicious lunch and did some shopping. After that we pushed onwards to Edinburgh. The hotel we stayed in for our Edinburgh experience was about 7 miles out of town and it was super ritzy. I don’t know if that is the right word because all of the hotels we stayed in were pretty ritzy, but this one was different. It just had a different feel to it. It was part of the golf and country club and everyone staying there just seemed stuck up, like they were above us. We (as in my family and I) really felt out of place. It really just sucked because we were so secluded from town. Anyways, that night after arriving at the hotel we had a chance to freshen up and then we loaded the bus to go into town for dinner and a walking tour from a real Scotsman. The dinner was the last of the dinners that were included in the tour and yet again it was extremely formal. The restaurant we ate at had an amazing view of Edinburgh castle, which was all lit up after the sun went down. The meal was pretty good and I had cheesecake for dessert which was amazing! There was some confusion about the drinks. We assumed they were included with the meal and were complimentary since they were the two nights before, but we were wrong. All the tables ended up getting drinks but we didn’t realize we had to pay. Some of the people got all the way outside before the waiters tracked them down to pay. It was kind of funny, but how were we supposed to know. They gave us the drink menus to order off of just like our meals so we didn’t think anything of it. After we got everything figured out we were off on a short tour of the old city. Richard, our authentic Scotsman tour guide, told us ghost stories and was extremely entertaining. He made the stories feel real and he was just so into it. Made the tour very interesting; he even told the story of how Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came to be. After returning to the hotel we enjoyed a drink at the bar and then called it a night.

The next day (Wednesday the 13th) we went back into the city with Richard as our guide. We traveled down the royal mile which connected Edinburgh castle to the Holyrood Palace (home to the Queen for at least 1 week every year). We also saw other historic sites in the city and then ended at the castle. Richard gave us a tour of the castle and then we had the rest of the day free. We explored some more in the castle and even saw the Royal Crown and Jewels of Scotland. They were in this highly secured room behind glass that looked like it was about 10 inches thick! They were very cool and of course there were no pictures allowed. After we explored more of the castle, including the dungeon prisons, we were off to explore more of the city on our own. At this point, technically the tour was over but we were still able to take the bus back to the hotel that afternoon. So we wandered around and hit a few pubs and shops. We ended up eating at Hard Rock Café because I have been craving American food. Our waiter was from Canada and he gave us a hard time about being American and eating there. The main highlight of the afternoon was when Steve, Aggie, Mom, Pat and I climbed the Scott Monument. This was a huge steeple looking monument in the middle of the city. It had four levels to climb. All the levels were connected by two-way spiral stair cases that got narrower and narrower as your climbed higher. It was crazy when you met other people going he opposite direction because at some points they were hardly wide enough for one person. For about the last 10 steps or so, I even had to climb sideways just so I would fit. The view from the top was absolutely spectacular! You could see pretty much every inch of the city with Waverly station just below and Edinburgh castle just off in the distance. Words can’t describe and pictures just don’t do it justice. If you ever visit Edinburgh, the Scotts Monument is a must! We had just about an hour before the bus was going to pick us up so we decided to grab some subs and beer to keep us occupied for the night. We drank, we were merry and we played lots and lots of euchre. It was an absolute blast hanging out with my family!

The next day (Thursday 14th) was an extra day for us. The rest of the tour was on to Ireland and we had the day to enjoy Scotland. We had a few things picked out that we didn’t get done the day before. Our first adventure for the day was getting back into town. We had to walk from the hotel down to the main road where there was a bus stop. We were instructed to take the 27 or 28 into town and it would take us right to the city center. Seemed easy enough and it was. After we arrived out on the road a bus was there within 5 minutes. It was a huge double-decker bus so of course we had to ride on top! The view from the top was just insane. Every time the bus slowed down for a car in front of it we were sure it was going to run it over. We would peer down the window and there would still be plenty of room in between the bus and the car. It also seemed like the bus was going to take out everything on the left side but it didn’t. It must not have been his first day driving! One of the things we wanted to do that day was go down to the water front and we thought maybe if we stayed on the bus long enough we would end up down there. That didn’t end up being true. After we passed by the city center the bus soon came to a stop near the Scottish government building and it shut down. We figured we better get off. The driver advised us that the number 44 would get us close to the water so we decided we would do that. We had day tickets for “First Bus” so as long as we took one of those buses we wouldn’t have to pay any more. The problem with that was the fact that there are about 10 different bus services circulating around the city. We found the closest bus stop that appeared to be a stop for 44 so we waited there, and we waited and waited. Needless to say we really didn’t know what we were doing and everyone we asked tried explaining it a different way, but the 44 “first bus” was going to be the only one that would get us close to where we wanted to go. Finally it came so we got on. We asked the driver if the bus would take us to the water and he told us eventually it would; that didn’t sound overly promising. As we rode around it seemed like we were going further and further out but eventually the water was close. I asked the driver when we should get off and he said we could get off any time and walk to the water. We were hoping to find a board walk and shops and restaurants but that didn’t seem to happen. However, we did find the water so the girls stuck their toes in it. I didn’t because I had tights on; I survived and they said the water was freezing. I could have told them that before they stuck their toes in. The day was still young so we headed back to the city. Once there, we found a cute little pub to have a drink and lunch at. Aggie even went out on a limb and tried some chicken curry; she said it was great. We were going to do something called the Underground City but we talked to one of the waitresses at the pub and she said it wasn’t worth it. We were unaware that you had to pay to go to this underground city and we thought it was literally like an underground city. The waitress told us it was more like a museum… so much for that. There is a little café in Edinburgh where J.K. Rowling started writing the Harry Potter series so Pat and Aggie and I went to check it out. It really wasn’t anything to see but it was still cool to be where Harry Potter was brought to life. The rest of the afternoon we just kind of walked around and enjoyed the little shops and all the cool architecture. And you ask what we did to entertain ourselves that night at the hotel? Well we played cards of course! It was another great night of friendly cards and drinking. I couldn’t have asked for a better night.

And now we finally come to today (Friday the 15th) which means I’m almost caught up! As I write this I am currently on my third train for the day (I only missed one and it wasn’t even my fault, but I will get to that eventually). This morning was a sad one. After our last full Brit breakfast we were all taxied to the airport. I was told it would be easiest for me to go to the airport and then just take a bus to the railway station. The taxi to the airport was included with the tour so it was just as easy. So after lots of sad goodbyes and hugs I was on my own. I had such a great time with my family it really made it hard to say goodbye. I will be back home with them in less than 2 months but it was still hard. I put on my strong face as I hugged them all but a few tears were shed when I was on the bus back into town. The airbus arrived at Waverly station a few minutes before 8 and I looked at the monitors and saw there was a train leaving at 8 for Glasgow so I scurried to platform 10. Before I could get on the train I was stopped by the ticket people. Sometimes you can buy your ticket after you get on the train and other times you have to buy them before you board; of course this had to be one of those times. I quickly bought my ticket and made the train just before to took off. It was a short ride back to Glasgow and then the fun began. I had looked up my route before we ever left for Scotland so I was pretty sure I needed a train that took me to Warrington Bank Quay (whatever that was). I looked at the monitors and I didn’t see anything that had that name… hummm… now what? I asked the closest guy that looked like he worked there. I asked what plate form for Warrington and he asked me where I was trying to go and then explained I needed to be at the other Glasgow station… great! How do I get there? Well thankfully there was a bus that goes between the two stations and if you have a ticket already for the trains, the bus doesn’t cost anything extra! So I hopped on the train and a few short minutes later I was at Glasgow Central. This was the same station we came into earlier in the week so it at least felt familiar. I looked at the monitors again and still didn’t see anything that said Warrington. However, I did see one to Crew so I thought maybe I would jump on that one since that was the way we came. Instead of jumping right on I asked and I was told I had to have a specific ticket for that train so I needed to take the original route I was looking for. The lady told me it was the train leaving from plate form 2 going to London Euston. I had a few minutes so I paid my 30 pents to use the rest room and then boarded the train. The train ride was just over 2 hours long and as we got closer and closer to London the train got fuller and fuller. I had general tickets which didn’t reserve me an actual seat so eventually I had to get up and stand. That wasn’t too bad since we were only about 15 minutes from where I had to get off, or so I thought. I was supposed to arrive at Warrington at 12:20 and get on a train to Chester at 12:26 and it was 12:21 when I looked at my watch and we still had one stop to go. I was getting really anxious as they announced they were being delayed because of speed restrictions in certain parts of the tracks. Great… it was 12:28 when we finally arrived in Warrington and I asked right away if the train to Chester was gone already and he told me it had pulled out just before we pulled in. Awesome… Oh well, at least there was one every hour so it wasn’t too much longer.  Once I was on the train to Chester is was all smooth sailing. I had done that route before so I knew exactly what I was doing. I knew the train I was looking for was Holyhead so there was no guessing. So it took 2 buses, 4 trains and 8 hours for me to get home. I really shouldn’t complain because the rest of the family will be in transit for at least 9 more hours. Right now they should be getting close to the USA. Then they have a 6 hour layover in Chicago before they can get to Dubuque. That would drive me crazy knowing they could drive home in less than 4.

I’m pretty sure everyone had a great time and I know they were all ready to go home. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye but I was ready to come back and be done traveling for a little bit. They asked me if I was ready to come home and I really don’t think I am. There are a lot of people and things I miss, but I’m not done exploring yet. I know when June 4th comes around I will be ready. Until then, I’m going to keep enjoying myself! I have this next week free and there really isn’t anyone around campus. When I got back the parking lot was pretty much disserted, so we will see what kind of trouble I can get into. If the weather is nice I might go climb Snowdon again tomorrow.

Until next time…

~Amy


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Scotland so far!

What an amazing time this past week has been spending time with my family. I wish it didn’t have to end and I wish I wouldn’t have gone so fast. I was waiting and waiting for them to get here and I knew it was going to go faster than I wanted it to. Oh well, we had a great time while it lasted. I apologize for not posting more often; I’m sure there were a lot of people who were patiently waiting to hear about our experiences. We were so busy that it was hard to keep up with everything. I tried to write the blog as we went but there was no internet access at the hotels and if there was we had to pay extra to use it for a few minutes. So, I tried to at least type up what we were doing each day, but needless to say, I fell behind. I hope you enjoy the following experiences. They may be a little scrambled because some were written as we traveled and others were written after the fact.

On Saturday the 9th we left Wales and headed north to Scotland. Before we left for the day we did a little last minute exploring of Bangor. The family hadn’t been to the pier yet so we wondered that way. The pier is home to the scones and I couldn’t let the family come to Bangor and not have a scone. The day was one of the most beautiful days I have witnessed since I have been in Wales so they were really in for a treat. The tide has been exceptionally low since the family got here so as we were walking to the end of the pier it seemed like there was no water in the Menai. By the time we walked back from the pier the tide was coming back in. Everyone enjoyed their scone and the oh-so-rare view of the mountains that over shadow Bangor.

After everyone said their goodbyes to Les we headed for the train station. We were there plenty early because we weren’t sure how busy it was going to be with classes just ending for the three week Easter break. Everyone had to pick up their tickets except me, so I wanted to make sure we would have plenty of time; we did. We sat on the platform for about an hour before our train came. We enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and I think I even got some sun on my legs J.

After we got on the train I knew it would be as busy as it was. I have taken the train on a Saturday before and it always seems quite busy, at least between Bangor and Llandudno. The family all had reserved seats but I just had a general ticket. I told them that probably wouldn’t matter but they insisted they would be fine. We got on the train and of course it was packed. They all did manage to find a seat but not the ones that were printed on their ticket. There was really no space for the luggage so we left it sitting near the front of the car. I stayed with the luggage for a few stops but eventually found a seat. We switched trains in Chester and then there was a short ride to Crew. Once we switched in Crew we had about a 6 hour ride to Glasgow. The ride up was very beautiful and so green. I think everyone, including myself, thoroughly enjoyed the ride north and all the beautiful scenery. As we got closer to Glasgow the train got emptier so we enjoyed all the space. Mom, Dad Steve and I even enjoyed some four-handed euchre.

We arrived in Glasgow around 9 and the town was booming. It appeared we were right in the middle of all the action. There were people wandering the streets having a grand old time. We really didn’t know where the hotel was so we asked around and found out we were not far and it was super easy to get to. Steve and Judy jumped in a taxi while the rest of us took off on foot. Up a small hill (at least compared to the ones in Bangor) and then down another street we soon arrived at the Thistle hotel. Steve and Judy had arrived before us and had us all checked in. We headed to our room and I was in awe! From this point on we were part of the CIE tour of Scotland and I was pretty sure we were in for a treat by the looks of the room. The outside of our door said “Executive Suite”. We opened the door and I was faced with the largest hotel room I had ever been in on a family trip. There were two huge queen beds. a huge flat screen TV, a comphy couch, tables, chairs and more. The only down side was internet was not included. You could buy 90 minutes to be used for a 24 hour period. I found it really hard to believe since the hotel seemed pretty fancy. Oh well. After we got all settled in we went to check out Steve and Judy’s room and Pat and Aggie’s room. They weren’t as lucky as we were because in each of their rooms they had two single beds. The rooms were still nice; they just didn’t get to enjoy the ginormous beds. Needless to say, the party was in our room that night.

Our group actually arrived in Glasgow a day before the tour began so we had some time to enjoy the city. We were going to grab a few beers from a liquor shop across the street from the hotel but as soon as we said that the shop closed. Humm, now what to do? Well the next best thing of course, go to the bar. There was a bar in the hotel so we went down and had a few rounds.

The next morning (Sunday the 10th) we decided to go wandering around town. The tour didn’t officially start until 2:30 that afternoon so we had plenty of time to get into trouble. Before we could find trouble, we found a Catholic church, how convenient! I’ve noticed the Catholic churches are much more common in Scotland. We found out there was a family mass at 10:30, plenty of time for us to enjoy a walk, have some breakfast and then make it in time for church. We wondered around Glasgow from awhile and found some very beautiful architecture. We also found a few churches that were transformed into other things. We also managed to wander into a not so nice part of town but we hightailed it out of there even though we would have been fine since it was so early in the morning. After our walk we went back to the hotel to enjoy a “full Brit” which was a very hearty breakfast. It even included black pudding (aka blood sausage) and haggis (a very traditional Scottish food that I don’t actually want to know what it is but I do know it is cooked in a sheep’s stomach). After we got all ready for the day we went to mass. The church was the most beautiful Catholic church I have ever seen. There were multiple different types and colors of marbles used to decorate the front of the church. There were also beautiful mosaics of the last supper and other religious figures that decorated the church. The mass was a traditional mass; nothing different than we would experience every Sunday back home except for the heavy Scottish accents. We were also lucky enough to experience to the music from the grand organ that was placed high above our heads.

This is where the blog is going to stop for now. We had internet access tonight for a little bit so I thought I would post what I have so far. The next time I will post will be after I arrive back in Bangor. I have one more day with the family tomorrow in Edinburgh and then the rest of the family will head home on Friday. Sorry there isn’t more, we have been having too much fun for me to sit and blog.

Until next time…

~Amy

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Judy's Honorary Blog

I asked Judy to to be an honorary author for my blog. I knew it would be kind of boring from my perspective because I have already experienced and written about everything they have done. It took some convincing but she eventually agreed. So, here is her experience from the time they left Iowa until the time we left for Scotland. I will prick up the blog from Scotland on when I have a chance. We have been having so much fun it is hard to get time to sit down and blog. Enjoy!

Amy asked that I write as a guest on her blog giving my impression of our trip to Wales and Scotland so far.  Where do I begin?  There is so much I could tell you but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum so I don’t bore you all to death.  It truly has been an adventure to say the least.   We took off out of Dubuque on a cloudy, dreary Wednesday afternoon at 2:05 p.m. and winged our way to Chicago.  Once above the clouds, we hit beautiful sunshine and could look down on puffy white marshmallow clouds. 

Since we had a bit of a layover before our flight to Wales, we decided to find something to wet our whistle, so we found a little bar and celebrated the start of our vacation with a nice cold glass of beer.  Once our flight was called we got ourselves settled in for the 8-hour ride to Manchester, England.  We were served a snack and shortly after, our dinner.  Then it was time to settle in to try to get some sleep, but how do you sleep when you’re not tired yet?  Once night settled in, it was a little easier to catch a few winks.  I could only doze off and on due to the excitement and anxiousness related to flying because I’m not really a big lover of flying, I’m sorry to say.  No sooner had I dozed off, and night quickly turned to day.  Even though my watch only said midnight our time, it was actually 5 a.m England time.  Believe me though my body was telling me it was only midnight.  We touched down at exactly 7:18 a.m. to a very misty, cloudy England day with a temp of only 50 degrees. 

Now came the fun part!  We had to discover how to get to Amy in Bangor, Wales, by taking the train system.  After some confusion and having a little difficulty understanding the thick English brogue, I finally got proper directions on how to board the train for Bangor.  The challenging part though was finding the correct platform for boarding and then having to change trains 3 times before we got there.  With the help of everyone, we soon became ole’ pros at taking the train system and finally arrived in Bangor at 12:30 p.m.  
What a beautiful, quaint, eclectic little town.  It looked like something out of a Hansel and Gretel book.   We began walking in search of The Garth Guest House, which was to be our home for 2 nights.  We walked and walked and walked.  Finally, after about 12 blocks, we found the quaint little bed and breakfast we would be staying in but alas, the proprietor of the property was nowhere to be found.  No one answered the doorbell to our dismay as we stood in the mist wondering what to do next.  Julie decided to stop next door and see if anyone was home.  Since arriving in country we found people to be very helpful in answering any questions we might have so it couldn’t hurt, could it?  An elderly gentleman came to the door and said he knew Les and Rita, our hosts well but did not know where they could be so being the friendly gentleman he was, he quickly invited us in out of the rain for a cup of tea or coffee.  We told him we did not want to impose upon his day, but he insisted we come in out of the rain.  He proved to be a very nice man and made us immediately feel welcome in his home, serving us coffee and sharing some of his life history, which was quite interesting.  

Finally, our host arrived home and we proceeded to check into our B&B.  Steve and I and Aggie were given a small room on 2nd floor with 3 twin beds in it, while Pat was given her own room, and Pete and Julie were given theirs.  Fortunately, we picked a room that had its own bathroom.  Sorry to say, Pat, Pete, & Julie had to share a bathroom with other guests.   

We were meeting Amy at 5 p.m. in a local pub so immediately freshened up and took off walking to find the pub called Yates to join Amy for dinner.  As we approached downtown we came upon a very old church and immediately stepped back into history when we walked into an old Cathedral named St. Deiniol (St. Daniel) Cathedral.  The Cathedral was made entirely of very old stone, and we discovered it was built in the early 1200’s.  It was absolutely too beautiful to describe with old frescos depicting the life of Christ, a very old cross hanging from the ceiling, and a very old story to go along with its old edifice. It really was like traveling through a time machine back to the 13th century.  We even heard the old pipe organ playing.   

We finally wandered on to meet Amy and her 2 good friends, Riley and Sheilagh, to have dinner, and to discover what ales, lagers, and hard ciders tasted like.  Julie, Aggie, and the boys really enjoyed an ale drink called Carling while I decided I really enjoyed the Strongbow hard cider with black current.  Yum!!!  We each had a sandwich with chips (really French fries), each trying something a little different.  Pete tried the Bangors and mash, which is really sausages and mashed potatoes with onion gravy.  I had a steak sandwich with a sweet onion relish sauce.  Believe me boys and girls, the beef is certainly not good ole Iowa corn-fed beef, so anybody growing corn-fed beef can be very proud with what you supply to the American population.  To say the least, beef was not a favorite of mine. 

We then proceeded to wonder around town hitting a few pubs here and there.  Amy took us down to the pier, which is a pier leading out over the Menai Strait, a body of water that runs through the town of Bangor.  On our way back to the B&B we stopped at a few more pubs called The Tap and Spile and the Shipyard along the way, meeting some very exceptionally friendly people along the way.  We even ran into our B&B host at one pub who promptly bought a round for all of us to celebrate our Wales adventure.  One gentleman even taught us a little Welsh, but sorry to say, I don’t remember a word of it now.  He even told us about an old Welsh town with 52 letters in it.  What fun!!  Needless to say, we all slept quite soundly that night.
The following morning we awoke to a somewhat cloudy day.  I was quite excited as Amy was going to play tour guide and take us to 2 of the exceptionally well-preserved castles in the area.  But first, we were going to experience a full English, which is a breakfast consisting of fried eggs, bacon (which to me was really ham), 2 sausages (which were more like a blah, mealy hot dogs), pork n’ beans, sautéed mushrooms, a grilled Roma tomato, toast, and OJ.  Pat and I also noticed that when you ask for coffee, it is usually not perked coffee but instant.  I am guessing since the English are tea-drinking people, real perked coffee is not a top priority. 

We proceeded onto the bus station to purchase our tickets and head out to Beaumaris Castle.  Oh my God…there really are no words to describe what a beautifully preserved castle it is.  This castle is located on Anglesey Island and was a fortress built by King Edward I for defending the coast line.  This castle was built around 1289.  We entered the castle over the moat filled with water sporting beautiful swimming pairs of swans to create a Romeo and Juliet feel about the entrance.  Pictures just had to be taken and I started snapping away in every direction trying to capture the feeling I was having about this place.  When we think of the United States having old things, we can only go back about 200 years in history, but imaging seeing something anywhere from 800 to 1000 years old!!!  I imagined myself as a knight running (even though I can’t run anymore) up the tiny, narrow stone stairs to the top fortress to defend my king, pointing my bow and arrow through tiny rectangular openings in the sides of the castle, and throwing my enemies in the dungeon.  I know it sounds far-fetched, but imaging what really happened there is astounding and imaging whose footsteps you might have stepped in was awe-inspiring.  King Arthur and Sir Lancelot lived in these ruins.  It is truly one of those things if you have a chance to experience, you must.  We crawled around the fortresses and discovered every nook and cranny possible.  What fun!!!

We were transported back to Bangor by bus and settled on eating at The Fat Cat Café for lunch.  I had a meal of a Belgian waffle with caramelized hot sauce over bananas and ice cream.  Yum is all I can say!  Steve tried a mackerel sandwich.  Holy mackerel!!!  He is an adventuresome eater though and had to try something different.  I don’t think he was too fond of it though, too fishy tasting, he said.  I noticed some of the more popular cuisines in Wales are mushy peas (smashed up peas that look like baby food), the bangers and mash, soups are all pureed, and fish and chips (French fries).

After lunch, we got back on the bus and headed over to the Caenarfon Castle.  I’m sure glad we went to see Beaumaris Castle first because this one was even more exceptional.  Again, we crawled around and to my 3 daughters, believe it or not, your old mother walked up or I should probably say crawled up, 142 very steep stone steps to get to the top of a tower that overlooked the entire castle.  That was quite a feat for me to those of you who know me.  I am not a very physically active person, so this was quite a challenge for me especially with only being able to hang onto a rope as a stair rail.  I climbed and climbed and then crawled up the last 10 to 12 steps.  I was totally exhausted once I made it to the top but it was totally worth it.  I felt like I should have shouted, “Romeo, Oh Romeo, where art thou Romeo”.  But alas, my Romeo was standing right next to me.  The view was stupendous.  This castle also was built sometime in the 13th century and in the center of the courtyard is a large circle floor where Prince Charles was invested as the Prince of Wales, which simply means he was endowed the title of Prince by Queen Elizabeth.  This will also be the place where William will be given the title of Prince once Charles has taken over as king upon Elizabeth’s death.

Some of the interesting things I noticed about Wales is that green ivy grows everywhere…up trees, in the ditches, over fences, in sidewalk cracks, everywhere and I mean everywhere.  Chimneys are also very unique in Wales and England.  Most houses sport anywhere from 1 to 4 chimneys, sometimes even more, each sporting very different looking tops…some looked like hen and chick flower pots, others like royal crowns, some like turned over soup bowls.  Some had wire cages over the tops to keep the gulls from nesting on them.  These chimneys led to fireplaces throughout the house.  Years ago each house had a fireplace in every room, therefore for each fireplace, 1 chimney was needed. 

Speaking of gulls, they are everywhere.  Sometimes while walking around I felt like I was in a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “The Birds”.  They are everywhere and pooping everywhere.  We had commented numerous times that we had all been extremely lucky no one had been gull pooped on.  We spoke too soon…on the ride back from the castle, Steve got gull pooped on.

For those farmers out there reading this, you make your fences all wrong.  You need to take the rocks from your fields and build your fences.  Paddocks or blocked off sections of fields are cordoned off for quite large herds of sheep to graze in.  You can see sheep everywhere you look.

Some words we found interesting were nappies, which are diapers; when someone graduates from school, they pass out; to rent is to let; to exit an area is way out; restrooms are toilets; yielding the right away is give way; an elevator is a lift; a car park is a parking lot; it is anti-clockwise and clockwise, not counter-clockwise; putting a sprint on is getting a move on; and a detour is deviated traffic.  There were others but too many to mention here.  Oh and by the way, if you think gas (petro) is expensive in the U.S. you should have to buy it here…it’s 135.9 per liter, which is approximately $9 or $10 per gallon!!!

Well, I hope I haven’t bored all of you too much, but I have so much to tell and not enough time.  We haven’t even gotten to Scotland yet but I will let Amy tell you about Scotland.  We are having an absolute blast, and I am treasuring every moment here as I am sure I will never return, so am trying to capture every moment to memory.  Everyone take care, and I’ll see you when we get back to the good ole’ USA."

Stay posted for the Scotland experience!

Until next time...

~Amy