Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Ok, seriously, it's just been way too long without a post. I mean, the past couple have been pretty weak anyway. So here goes.

To begin with, I want everyone (both of you out there) to know that I had fully planned to update as soon as I got back from London, however my computer disagreed with that idea. It in fact vehemently disagreed and then went ahead and commited suicide. So right now, I am sans computer. I have to use the pathetic computer labs they have over here and let me tell you, technology hasn't quite crossed the pond just yet. I think I saw a steam boat the other day. Not really, but I think these computers were used along side Apollo 11 and then just shipped over here when we got done with them. It's pretty rough. So that was this week.

The weekend, though, was a pretty good time. I left for London at about 7:00 p.m. here in York. I walked for roughly 45 minutes because I'm just too cheap to take the bus to the train station. No big deal, I'm still ok with having walked for that long, and I'll probably do it again next time I take the train. So I made it to the station and bought myself a tasty-lookin BLT from the little convenience store there. Amazing how decietful they can make these sandwiches these days. It tasted like soggy mush with the occasional crunch of an un-ripe tomato or whatever strips of lettuce hadn't become saturated in the mayo. Not pleasant. But that was my dinner. I got on the train that pulled up and found a seat. Only after it started moving did I realize that I hadn't even taken the time to check and see if it was my train, I just got on. That was a fun little freak-out. Turns out I'm just that lucky, it was my train. So roughly 2 hours later I pulled into London, well I didn't personally pull in, the dude driving the train did, but I was on board...anyway... I got off and called Gina, the Study Abroad Advisor that was in charge of the weekend, but of course she didn't pick up her phone, so I just left a message. I knew where I was going, so that wasn't a huge deal. Although I don't have a cell phone, so the money for that call could have been used elsewhere, but whatever. I got on the Tube and headed toward the nearest stop to the hostel we were staying at. I didn't print off the map because I don't have a printer and I figured I have a decent enough memory, I should be able to find my way well enough. I didn't take into account (as I never do) the fact that English cities are not set up in the Roman style like we're used to, they're way older than that and the roads are still the original ones, so they go pretty much wherever they want to. Seriously, go find an online map of London and when you find yourself assuming that once you're on the ground it can't be as absurd as it looks just believe me when I say it is. In fact, it's worse. So, lucky me, I got to take a little tour of the area around my hostel before I actually got to the hostel. Actually, a big tour. I got to know the area fairly intimately. We go way back now, me and those streets. Well, after about 40 minutes I got to the hostel and got settled. I met my roommate a couple hours later when he came in (most of the people had been there since about 4 or 5 in the evening, so they had dinner together and most of them went out). Fortunately, he was very sober and a generally good guy. That was reassuring.

Day two was fun, and not only because it started about 3 hours earlier than had been originally planned. We found out the night before - or for me just hours before when my roomy came home - that there was a big change in plans and we were getting started at a little before 8 in the morning. Cool. We started out with the free "breakfast" from the hostel (it actually tended to encourage the fasting for a few more hours, so appetizing it was) and then a walking tour. The walking tour was really cool. Well, after I switched groups so that I could get away from the crazy lady with this strange parrot-head clicky thing that made a lot of noise so that people could find her (she was pretty senile, folks, a very strange woman) and got in with the normal tour guide, it was cool. We learned all kinds of interesting stuff about London like the fact that Churchill actually created a tunnel system under much of the city of Westminster (it spanned 2 miles or more) and he and roughly 200 people lived down there for the entirety of WW II using it as the British command post. This was kept secret until just a few years ago when somebody just stumbled upon the tunnels when I think they were expanding the Tube system. You can tour it, now, and it's all exactly like it was when they left, complete with Churchill's cigar stub in an ashtray in the map room - seriously, they just up and left. I didn't actually take the tour, but when I go back next weekend it will most definitely happen.

After the walking tour we went to the National Portrait Gallery. I wish I could tell you that it was really cool, but it really wasn't all that great. They do, however, have the picture of ol' George Washington that's on the $1 bill. So that's cool.

Free time after the gallery, so the four of us from York went back to Westminster Abby and found it closed. But, being brilliant resourceful young minds we went and had a drink and then came back for the Evensong service that started around 5:30. That was cool. Not every day you get to see a service in Westminster Abby. Did you know the kings and queens of England have been crowned there since 1066? Ten freakin sixty six! That's a long time.

Dinner was cool and then we went to a pub in Notting Hill. Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts were both absent, so that's no fun, and the drinks were expensive, which made it a little worse, so we just went back to the hostel.

Day 2 saw another fantastic breakfast and a boat tour on the River Thames. That was very entertaining and if you're in London and have some time to spare, I would certainly recommend it. The commentary guy was very funny and knew way too much about all the old buildings. The boat went to Greenwich, so we saw the division of the east and west hemispheres and ate at a place where the special was stewed eel. Naturally, I went with the minced beef pie. A very tasty choice, and it has the bonus of not containing any eel. Score.

Then we went to a play that night, not much to talk about there, it was a little rough. But not a bad way to spend an evening. The highlight, though, had to be eating at a Japanese restaurant called Wagamama. That was cool. Wagamama. Come on. And it wasn't that bad, either so that's a plus.

On Sunday I met up with Andy for a couple hours, which is always a good time. We ran out of ideas for things to do after our first idea, though, which made it kinda rough. But we had fun anyway. Then I went back to the train station and read until I got tired and then watched football for about an hour and a half until my train left. It was a good time. Two guys got hurt. Cool. A two hour train ride and I was home again. Well, after another 40 minute walk, then I was home again. But all in all it was a pretty exciting weekend.

As if that wasn't enough, on Monday I went into town and came upon a magic show. I think entertainers like that have a knack for picking the American out of the crowd. That's right, I was the one who was asked to come up on stage "ALL THE WAY FROM THE UNITED STATES PEOPLE, COME AND SEE JOE!!!!" to put the straight-jacket on the guy. But fortunately he was really funny and it was mostly painless. Mostly. I suppose the good news is he got out. He was pretty good. And I got to be made a spectacle of. Every American's dream, right? I feel like I've failed the State Department, seeing as how after they issued a warning to all Americans abroad that tensions were high and we should maybe keep a low profile I get called up in front of a big crowd and some guy stands next to me and screams about how I'm "Joe-from-the-United-States" for 15 minutes. Yeah, I should be a spy.

Alright, on that note, I leave you. I hope you've enjoyed the update and thanks to everybody who has sent mail, it's really exciting. Hope things are well at home. Peace.

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