Saturday, May 19, 2012

Traveling with the Family

I have just finished cleaning gutters and weeding the backyard at my new home for the summer in Indiana. But I decided that I didn't like doing that anymore so here I am to tell all my followers of my last memories of my time abroad. (Over three weeks ago).

After our last exam on that Wednesday it became a mad dash to throw everything I owned into 2 suitcases and a backpack! This was because we had a train to catch and no idea where the house we were staying at actually was. All I really remember from these few hours was a mental breakdown to pack all my stuff, try to say good bye to all the friends I had made and watch over my parents. It was a mess. We eventually made it to the train station and were off to London for the rest of the week. When we made it there it turned into yet another mess as we had to figure out how to get to our apartment that was on the very outskirts of London and a half hour away. Long story short they got on a train with all my luggage while I stayed back with my friends Missy and Matt because Matt and I had a burlesque show to attend that night! I believe we got ready in the bathrooms at a McDonald's that did not have mirrors. Then we plopped Missy down at a Starbucks in the train station and caught a train out to our show.

Also long story short, I had bought two tickets to a burlesque show off of groupon a few months ahead of time and spent the time in between trying to convince Matt to go watch naked people dance with me. Thankfully he agreed and brought our $9 drinks! The show went from 7 to 2 with dancing after their performance. But because we didn't know where the apartment was we had to actually leave the show after two hours so that I could catch the last train out to the apartment. Anyways, the part of the show that we actually got to see was interesting and amazing! There was a red carpet leading into the place then we had to head down these stairs surrounded by mirrors. After that we walked into the room where there was a bar, stage and tables. The room was completely decked out like any burlesque movie with red curtains hanging everywhere, low lighting and fog machines. It was amazing and I was in love. Our table was directly next to the stage so we had greattttt views of EVERYTHING. The fun part came when we could not understand the waiters or how the system worked but we somehow managed to get drinks and our delicious three course meals! Then had to figure out how to pay for our drinks and sneak out while the show was going on. Somehow we managed and made our way back to pick up Missy. This is the sad part. When I left for England on January 5th all by myself, Missy and Matt were the only other people on my plane that were going to Harlaxton so they were the first people I met on my trip and some of the best friends I had made and now it was time to say goodbye to the last of my friends that I had made as the semester had come full circle. So there I left them at Starbucks and headed out to the ghetto of London that our apartment was in but it was ok because as I was powerwalking away from the men watching me I was greeted by my sister that I had not seen in months!

The next day was Harry Potter time. A little outside of London they had just opened up a Harry Potter Studio tour so we had no option but to go. Sarah would have shot us if we didn't go. It was really cool because we got to see thousands of different things that were used throughout the shooting of the Harry Potter series including many set pieces (I was in the Great Hall) and behind the scene secrets(like how Hogwarts is just a small model that they make look real and huge). It is still exciting because last night I watched the full first movie of the series! Tonight I will even get to see the second one for the first time! It's more of a game of searching for things that I had seen on the tour so it gives me quite the adrenaline rush. Oh and I also decided to look into animal training so I can train owls.

After Harry we headed back into London and found a cheap ticket booth for Broadway shows. So that night we got some tickets to go see Rock of Ages but we didn't see it until after I took the fam to my favorite steak house in London! The steaks were still amazing and the show was awesome. One of my favorites, I'm still listening to the soundtrack. After that we took the trip home, only to realize we were locked out of the apartment and had to walk to a hotel down the road to call the apartment owner.

On Friday we decided to venture out so the fam could see some more of London. We ended up taking a bus and boat tour around the city. We were able to see all the important stuff while on the bus/boat. My family brought the most terrible weather with them so we did not spend much time actually outside and walking. But I think they still enjoyed their time and we made the most of it. That night we finally decided that it was time to book our trip to Liverpool. So the next morning bright and early I headed off to the train station with Mommy and Daddy and just a few hours later we were in the land of the Beatles! We booked a tour and were able to take a tour through the life of the Beatles,  we had a little 4D experience which was interesting, and then there was another part of how Elvis influenced the Beatles. I have always wanted to go to Liverpool every since I listened to the Beatles on my cd player every bus ride in middle school and I was so happy to finally be there! I learned so many new things about the Beatles and also about Elvis. My favorite part however was when we went and found the Cavern Club where the Beatles played when they were just starting also but the Club has hosted pretty much every famous singer and band from Britain. We had to pay at the door then go down about 4 flights of stairs and there was already a band playing at 3 in the afternoon and the place was full of people! It was also nice because there was also another side stage that just played a video about the Beatles so me and Mom enjoyed a pint there and than got our souvenirs and headed out. Some how we also managed to book our trip to Liverpool on the same day as the Sea Odyssey Titanic. Which was basically a big parade that had a gigantic sea diver start at one end and a big girl start at the other end and they walked until they met up in the middle. The diver and the girl were literally taller than all the buildings they were passing and the streets were packed with THOUSANDS of people! It was the best way to end the trip as we were headed to the train station and headed home.

That Sunday Sarah, Kevin, Dad, and I had a nice relaxing day wandering around London crossing last minute things off the list. We spent sometime out at Abbey Road Studio and took our pictures on the street. We also stopped for awhile at a park and walked around Harrods. Then we tried to see where sand volleyball would be played at the Olympics but it started pouring rain so we settled for a walk around the National Gallery before heading home for the night.

On Monday morning we were up bright and early to begin our next adventure. ITALY! Our first stop was Rome and because we only had 2 days there we needed to use our time wisely. As soon as we got to our hostel we all climbed in our bunk beds and had a nice nap! After that we were finally ready to take on Rome! We began by getting our bus tour all scheduled. We bought a 24 hour pass to get on and off a bus line in order to see as much of the city as we could. On Day 1 we decided it would be best to ride the full bus tour in order to see everything and then we would spend the next day getting off to see the specific things we wanted. So after riding around on that Monday and enjoying our first two Italian meals we drank some wine and headed to bed. The next day we did a tour of the Colosseum and also walked around Vatican City. It is amazing how much history is in the city and that most of the things we were seeing were hundreds of years old. It was also cool to learn all the history of the Colosseum, I think the most interesting thing I learned was that in the first 100 days of the opening of the Colosseum around 5,000 Gladiators and animals were killed. It was just interesting after hearing of the history of it and seeing the movies it was crazy to actually be in the place where all the history took place. The other place we looked around was the Vatican and around the city. I wish we could have been there for a service to see the Pope but it was still cool seeing where the world famous services take place. After that we picked up a few souvenirs and had some gelato before our last Italian dinner.

The next morning we headed off to the train station (but not before we bought some cheap Italian shoes) to get to our next destination, Pisa. It was a long train ride so by time we got there we didn't have much day light left so we hurried on our to our last destination of Italy. The leaning tower is still standing. We helped it stay up as much as we could but then our arms got tired so we went and had our last Italian meal. After that we had a short last night in Italy then it was time to move on to the next country.

Early Thursday morning I got up with Mom and Dad. As we went our own way off to Ireland Sarah and Kevin stayed in Italy. After getting in many fights and sneaking past some security people with our over sized bags that they wanted us to pay extra for we finally made it to Ireland on an on time Ryanair flight with some triumphant music! After that we had a quick breakfast and found our hotel. We relaxed for a little bit and did some laundry then it was time for our first Irish tour. The Guinness Brewery tour in Dublin! In the tour we were able to walk around and see all the steps involved in making the world famous beer. It was even finished with a free pint on the top floor of the Brewery with a 360 degree panoramic view of the city. I think that was the highlight because the pint was hitting my parents just right so I heard many new stories that they had never told me before :) After the tour we searched for a pub with some live music and had some dinner and more pints. After that it was another early night to bed so that we could get up nice and early the next morning for the next tour on our list.

This was the tour I was most excited for while traveling with the family. The destination was Giants Causeway in northern Ireland with a few other stops along the way. We left at 6:30 in the morning and did not get back until around 7:00 that night but we saw soo much! One of our first stops was the Carrick-A-Rede Rope bridge. We got off the bus and had about a 20 minute walk in order to get to this old fishing bridge. Well it's no longer a fishing bridge and has been updated but it is still very known and very high up. I was impressed that I was able to get Mom to agree to go across it with me and we even got our own certificates for crossing! Our next main stop was the main attraction of Giants Causeway. Giants Causeway is an area filled with thousands of interlocking basalt columns that were created through a volcanic eruption (or so Wikipedia tells me). All of the columns were really cool to look at and even more fun to climb around, even if Mom got mad at me hanging over 30 foot drops. Our last stop on the tour was in Belfast, Ireland which has been known for being a troubling city of Ireland for a long time but has slowly become a nicer place. It is also the city where the Titanic was built. We only had an hour there which was just enough time for one more pint. After the tour it was time to head back to the hotel and relax for the night, which turned into me and dad going downstairs to the hotels pub for a few last pints while in Dublin.

After one last little flight we were over in Edinburgh, Scotland. The last stop on our trip before London and going home. It had been another early morning and we were all pretty exhausted from our entire trip so as soon as we got to the hotel we had a nice veryyyyy long nap. I was also pretty excited about this hotel because I had booked it and although it was a ways outside of town it was out on the water and had a great view! So we were able to eat our few meals there surrounded by great scenery. Anyways, after nap time we headed back into Edinburgh for a little fun. We were going to do a tour of the city but decided we had had enough of those so we switched it up a bit and decided to hit up the Edinburgh Dungeon which was basically an amusement tour through the history of the city. Kind of. They had actors and played through different stories of things that happened in the history of the city. There were even a few little rides involved. Ask Mom for the pictures (they are pretty entertaining). The next morning and our last full day of adventures we were back in town and decided to try out Edinburgh's Camera Obscura. I loved it! There was a tower up on top of this building and at the top there was a mirror that reflected the image of the city down onto a table in a dark room that we were in. By moving and twisting a rod attached to the mirror we were able to see everything around the city. We could even people watch everyone walking along the street without them knowing! After playing with the mirror we worked our way back down the building floor by floor and on each floor there was a different theme of optical illusions that we could look at and sometimes play with. We had a bit of fun the rest of the way!

Our very last tour was the Scotch Whiskey Experience. Although I had already been on the tour I decided that mom and dad needed to go on it as well. Unlike last time however, this time I was determined and finished my entire sampling of the whiskey. It was a struggle by I persevered and finished it. And that was the last of our adventures because we had a long train ride back to London. We got in late and headed right to our hotel and to bed. The next morning it was time to go home via a long airplane ride. I was not happy to be leaving at all and still wish I would have ran away or had done something to stay off that plane. But nevertheless I am back in the states now and back to real life.

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