Sunday, February 27, 2005

In search of water

Edinburgh and other places, Scotland

There has been sucess in downloading my pictures and putting a few online! Yay!

Today and yesterday have been full of driving around Scotland. I've discovered that Rich really likes to drive and I like to sit and look out the window, so it works quite well. The coolest thing we saw yesterday was the Falkirk wheel. It's kind of hard to see in the picture but there's a gondola on the top and one on the bottom. They both have tons of water and a boat can sail into one either at the top or bottom and because of Archimedes and his principle the weight will stay the same as long as the water level is the same in both gondolas. So then the wheel turns and the boat can go to the other part of the cannal. That means they don't have to use locks.

Today things got even weirder with the electric brae. It's this hill and balls and cars roll up hill on it!! Or that's how it looks. In reality it's an optical illusion and it's actually going down hill. My eyes still don't believe that. We also drove around in the dark, through construction sites to get close to loch lomond. I think we took the low road.

I made an apple pie last night. It was a pretty funny experience. I wanted to make a pumpkin pie, however they don't really have pumpkins over here. In fact for a long time they carved turnips (they have big turnips) for halloween. So I decided I could make an apple pie. And then I couldn't find a pie pan so I used a cake pan. But the funniest thing was having to convert all of the measurements into metric, because there are no cups or tablespoons over here. It really mae me feel like I was far away from home. It worked out okay though. I've been told it was bloody good.

Falkirk wheel Posted by Hello

Margaret's house Posted by Hello

Christ Church College hall...can you imagine that being your dining hall? Posted by Hello

Wallace monument (think Braveheart) Posted by Hello

Edinburgh Castle Posted by Hello

Friday, February 25, 2005

Trousers not pants

Edinburgh, Scotland

So it's been snowing, but I had no idea that it was actually serious snow. So yesterday I took the bus across the city to go walking in the hills. When I left it was sunny and crisp, but by the time I got there it was snowing again. There was also a foot of snow in the hills. It was more of a trudge than a walk, but the view was still really good once I got up to the top. There were also a bunch of kids sledding, and so after lying under the trees and looking up at the branches I gathered my courage and asked a mom if I could use the trash bag she was holding. The best way to sled in a trash bag she told me is to step into it and then sit down and away you go. On the bus ride home I thought I might never be warm again.

Last night I went to the folk club to hear this band named Flook. They were amazing, absolutely brilliant!!!! You should all find their music and listen to it. Their drummer played this one traditional drum that's held vertically. He could get maybe 20 different sounds out of that one drum.

After mixing up trousers and pants in conversation several times since Joy warned me about the difference I'm finally starting to get it right. In fact, I had to go buy some trousers today because I accidental brought a pair that was holey. The new trousers are purple and corduroy. I don't know why you all needed to know about my trousers, but oh well.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Edinburgh, Scotland

The weather here is crazy. One minute it's snowing and five minutes later it's sunny. None of the snow is sticking, but it's really pretty. And drivers here don't freak out when they see it. I'm staying in a flat with this guy Rich who is a friend of Margaret and Peter. It's very nice and I have a very pink room.

Edinburgh has a castle! So today I went to see it. It's way up on castle rock and it's a bit of a walk to get up there. But from up there the view of the city is really great. The castle has been around for about 700 years, and it has a very colorful history including numberous seiges. It's also where Mary Queen of Scotts was born. There's a chapel to St. Margaret which they almost knocked down numberous times to renovate, but fortunatly they never did. The castle is also home to the Scottish Honors which include the crown, sword, sceptor, and rock. The rock was used in the corrination of the first kings about a thousand years ago before they had a crown or anything. Then England stole it and kept it under their corrination chair for many years. The scotts only got it back about 50 years ago. It's a great castle!

I also visited the camera obscura. Good view can be had from up there too. In the upper most room is a white dish and there are lenses and a mirror in the ceiling. When you turn out the lights you can see a view of Edinburgh on the plate. And it's a hundred and fifty years old. You can also rotate the mirror to see different parts of the city. You can see people walking around and cars driving by, it's like spying on them. And if you get a white piece of paper, you can lift the people up off the ground and "throw" them. Those poor people walking around down below.

The street that goes from the castle to the Queen's palace is a mile long and is called the Royal Mile. The catch is that it's actually a mile and an eighth, or a scotish mile. It's a nice walk though with lots of stores selling warm looking sweaters and kilts. I was actually almost warm today, and was wearing almost everything I had and some clothes that are borrowed.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Cambridge, England

I arrived in Cambridge yesterday after a bus ride that stopped in every shopping center between Oxford and Cambridge to pick people up and let them off. Rachel met me at the bus station, and walked me to her house which is um way the heck out of town. There are 11 people living there, but they have a real kitchen. The house is owned by her college which is Claire hall but she has a department that has people from lots of's all very confusing. Anyways we went to a public lecture on the orgin of conflict, and the guy giving the lecture had this idea that the only way to gain prestige in a society was through violence and conflict. Oh, and there was also Troy bashing. Afterward I went to the pub with Rachel and her fellow grad students and there was much discussion on his idea. And on many other ideas. They give you crisps (chips) when you drink. Very smart these brits. It was a very rocous (not really and I can't spell) evening with the grad students.

Rachel's floor is very comfy. I got up and walked back from way the heck out of town into the town and wandered about. It's something that I seem to be getting very good at. Kings college is beautiful. I can't really find words to describe it. And the chapel is amazing. There was an orchestra, probobly the college orchestra rehersing when I went in. I understand now why Duke needed a chapel, since every college at Oxford and Cambridge have chapels. It makes Duke's seem less impressive.

I have a phone number. It's very exciting. If you would like it you should email me and I will gladly give it to you. Off to think of something exciting to do tonight.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Blenheim Palace

Woodstock, England

As the title may suggest I visited Blenheim Palace today which is located next to the town of Woodstock. John Churchill was made Duke of Marlborough by defeating Napoleon and the french at the battle of Blenheim. That's how the english know it at least. It was fought on the Danube and I think they might have a different name for it there. Anyways he was given by the crown the land and money to build this palace. One cool thing is that this John had no surviving male heirs, so there was a special act of parliment passed so his daughter could inherit the title. And it is an amazing palace. It has lots of paintings of the dukes (they're now on their 11th) and tapistries and highly decorated ceilings and fancy furnature. All the things a good palace ought to have. It also has an exhibit on Winston Churchill, because he was born there. He was not destined to be a duke though because his father was the second son. But he was born there and I stood in his birth room. That makes two rooms famous men were born in three days.

The palace also has magnificient grounds. I did one of their walks which went past a temple to diana and a waterfall. Since that wasn't enough I went on another past the front of the palace. They have a flock of sheep grazing out on the grassy lawn of the palace...very interesting. There's also a secret garden with a sign pointing to it. Not so secret anymore, but lovely all the same.

Peter (margaret's special person) took Margaret and her mother and me to this lovely resteraunt called the boot for dinner. It has boots or shoes from lots of famous brits on the wall. I didn't know who any of them were though which was sad. It was the same way in the palace. An eight or so year old girl was looking at the paintings and identifying the historic people in them, and I had no idea who they were. Anyways dinner was really good. For dessert I had sticky banana pudding (cake) with hot fudge sauce which they tell me is typically brittish. I'm going to have to learn how to make it for all of you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Stratford Upon Avon, England

I have now made the pilgramage to Shakespeare's birthplace. I've even stood in the room where he was born. As have many other important people, including Thomas Jefferson and many others whose names escape me. They were important though. The house is nice. There was a funny story about a Mrs. Hornsby who for a while rented the place and was the caretaker. When they increased her rent she had to leave, so she took all the artifacts with her. Then there was a large rivalry between her and the new caretaker.

I also got to see Two Gentlemen of Verona which was put on by the Royal Shakespeare company. They were sold out of all the regular tickets by the time I got there, so I got a ticket for standing. I feel as though that's a very historically appropriate way for a poor college student to watch a Shakespeare play even though my standing spot was on the first balconywhich is not historically accurate. They did an amazing job!! The lighting was fabulous and the costumes were brilliant. Oh yeah, and the acting was also amazing.

On the return journey (by train) to Eynsham I had a lovely conversation with an older american gentleman (whose very quit son was with him) and a brittish woman. Two trains and platform waits later we had managed a very thorough discussion of american politics and of finding one's spirituallity. The American, who was from Iowa was very liberal and was one of those people that inspires you with hope for the rest of america. We were trying to explain to the Brittish woman possible reasons for the way americans (or at least the ones that voted for bush) act the way they do. She thinks that the brittish do a better job of running their country because they're more cynical. The amazing people you meet late at night at train stations.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day

Eynshem and Oxford, England

Well, I'm here. Happy Valentine's Day to one and all. Oxford is a beautiful city. Oxford university is not like UNC though. There are lots, maybe 15 different colleges and they are all separate. However, there is one building for awarding degrees. I was disappointed to find out there isn't really a college called Jordan college, but the His Dark Materials books are featured prominently in all the bookstores. The first one is called the Northern Lights though. Speaking of books they have the most amazing book store. It's called Blackwell's and it is four floors. They have academic books, used books, fiction, kids books, everything you could possibly think of. There are also 2 other book stores on the street. These people are serious about their books.

I was definitely sure I was in a different country when I went with Margaret (my mom's friend that I'm staying with) and her mother to a pub for lunch. We had the wedding breakfast, or two eggs and chips, which is two fried eggs served over french fries. In addition there was a half a Guinness (my first legal alcohol) and tomato juice with wostesher sauce...the bitter and the salty. They put this brown sauce on their chips, it reminds me of barbecue sauce only not quite. I've also had some of the most amazing Indian food ever. Of course it wasn't better than Vimala's, but outside of that it was the best.

I'm staying in what used to be an old church. But they ran out of congregation and now it's a house. They say there's a picture of how it used to look somewhere, but I haven't seen it yet. It's in Eynshem which is a small village outside Oxford. There's a bus that goes into Oxford. My first night here I had a funny conversation with two drunk brittish guys on the bus. They weren't impressed with football (of the american variety). They insisted that rugby was a real man's game. They were also shocked that I didn't watch wrestling, as I was from america and all.