Thursday, December 10, 2009

Goodbye London

Everything about the centre reminds me that it’s time to leave.  Suitcases are piled up along the long staircase, the walls in our rooms are bare, and Teresa seems unusually cheery.  We can hear her singing throaty Irish songs as she rummages through the laundry downstairs.  She’ll have no more loose hairballs to pick up off the ground for a few weeks.  That is, until the new girls come.

Most of the lights in our stairwell and in our attic have burnt out.  I suppose the staff decided there’s no point in replacing them at this point.  All of these things make me so sad.  I don’t want to leave London- except of course to see the people I love who are back in the states.  But I wish that I could move everyone out to England with me. 

I have miraculously fit everything into one suitcase and one carryon, except for a large print I’d bought Alexa from Portobello Road.  Sorry Lex.  I left it for charity.  But don’t worry, I’ve got more awesome things. 

This experience has been crazy.  And amazing.  Without a doubt, it was one of the best decisions I ever made to apply for the BYU London Program. 

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Highlanders (us)


There’s really no time to blog about Scotland, which is sad because it was amazing.  Blame final examinations.  Our professors are trying to kill us.   

So I’m just going to write some brief descriptions even though there's so much I want to say… sorry there are so many pictures.  This Scotland trip was one of my favorite things from the last four months, and I wish more than anything that I had time to write down all of the details!  So much happened!

We spent one day in Edinburgh, then took a three day tour of the highlands and the Isle of Skye (which I've been dying to do since July) and then spent our final day back in Edinburgh.  

That first night we found the graveyard that inspired much of Harry Potter, including the names of McGonagle (sp?) and Tom Riddle.  The Elephant House Cafe was one of the places where J.K. Rowling began writing her series.  It overlooks this graveyard as well as a private school that looks like a castle... perhaps inspiration Hogwarts.  Naturally we wanted to go in and see if the headstones, but we didn't have flashlights or any source of light.  We still wandered between the headstones anyway, feeling the engravings with our fingers to get an idea as to what they said.  When that proved useless we just began telling ghost stories.  That was fun until we got a little too scared.  I was in the middle of my story when a man with an umbrella emerged from the shadows.  Rachel grabbed my arm and screamed.  But of course the poor old guy was just trying to get home in the rain.  

The next day we walked a few streets over from our amazing hostel to where we would be picked up by our tour bus.  This was it:
There were 16 people on the bus, including we six girls; Sarah, Rachel, Brittany, Ashael, Haley, and me.  We monopolized the back of the bus.  
In front of us sat a young, adventurous Australian couple.  They were fun to talk to.  Then there was another guy from Australia who came on his own, and with a super nice camera.  There were two college-aged Korean girls and then another family of four from another Asian country.  I'm not sure which, but they were nice- they shared their Pringles with me. 

Eddie was our bus driver.  It just doesn't get more Scottish than Eddie.  He was pretty old, but really lively.  He knew everything- the date of every battle ever fought in Scottish history, the name of every plant that grows on Scottish land, and every Scottish myth and legend.  Listening to him and his thick accent was awesome.  Having to smell him... was a different story. 

He stopped frequently for "photo opportunities"- which were amazing!!!  We saw the natural settings for movies like Harry Potter and Stardust.  I've never seen anything so beautiful.  True, it was cold, but it was gorgeous.  In the winter the highlands have a look that is completely unique.  

Here we stopped to look for "coppa".  They were just sitting there, shinning in the water.  I took some home with me.

This dam is way prettier than any I've seen in the states.

The smallest lighthouse in the UK is at Loch Ness.  Here is it!
And here we are walking along the dock at Loch Ness.
We spotted her!

If you can see those big guys in the corner- those are highland cattle.  They're enormous and hairy- but so cool looking!  They were everywhere in the highlands.

When I was collecting shells in front of one of the island castles I accidentally picked up one that was still occupied.  I didn't realize this until I was back on the coach.  Sooo, I waited until we got to our next watery destination to set him free.

Recognize this?  It has been in many movies.  See if you can think of any.

Scottish rainbow.
Throwing rocks into the ocean- and Sarah throws like a girl. ;-p

Thanksgiving dinner!  
It was the first Thanksgiving dinner I've ever had in my life without my family.  I missed all of them a lot that night.  Grandma and the rest of my family cook much better than the Scottish.  No offense to the Scottish but... pig's blood?  

The other girls tried the haggis and I tried the neeps and tatties.  I'd already paid my dues with haggis and didn't feel the desire to repeat the experience.  The tatties were great, the neeps were gross. 

This is the Fairy Castle, in the Fairy Glen.  

Some (or many) locals believe in fairies for real.  This was considered very special ground, and Eddie warned us that if someone came running our waving a shotgun that we should just stay calm and smile, and that he would take care of it.  This place isn't just something you can look up in a tourist map.  The locals keep it secret.

The "gate".

Can we fit?
There is Eddie with his weird little Scottish hat.

There are the girls making an offering to the fairies.
I was the first one up the castle.
See some of the symbols created for the fairies?

And here are some of the offerings.  People leave hairbands, thread, decorated feathers, glass hearts, and money as tributes.  

Eddie warned us that if we made any deals with any fairies to remember that the spells only work for one year and one day.  Sooo, I kept that in mind as I left my ratty old hair-tie in the center of the stone heart.

Fairy poo!

It was really REALLY wet, windy, and WET while we were in the highlands.  But we honestly had so much fun running around in it.  Even if we did end up looking like this...
Recognize this?  Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed here.  This is where the French are taunting the English etc. etc.  "An African or a European swallow?"

Back in Edinburgh!
And sad to leave.