Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Random Happenings

There is a story... and while some of you may not believe it... i swear it is true.I was in London... St. John's Wood to be exact, on a night just like this... at The Clifton (where King Edward the something-or-other-with-Roman-Numerals... a V and maybe II used to hang out).

Stephanie, Kate, Josh, Andy and myself, all of us boozin', havin' a few laughs... I went to get a beer...

I ordered a Kirin (it's a tasty Japanese beer I'd never had before but it was cheap and the little tag said it was good... i trust the little tag... I'm glad i did.)

The beer came in a tall glass, and when I recognized the emblem printed upon it I let slip from my parted lips a small scream...

It was fucking Sleemans. Amazing. I asked the bartender excitedly, "Do you sell this?!" gesturing at the glass, "No." he replied, but noticing my excitement proclaimed, "but there's a place in Covent Garden that does. The Phoenix." (Sweet, I typed it without spell check, I rule!)

We had a short conversation about Sleemans which ended with me walking away mumbling about how good it is to myself, because the barman was never really listening anyway, and I showed my glass excitedly to my home table. No one but Steph even realized the scope of what they were seeing.

Later, after eating and my visible excitement subsiding proportionally to the fullity of my stomach and the number of beers consumed (which was only two, but I hadn't eaten much that day)... another barman came back to get the glasses...

As the guy lifted the glss from the table I asked, "where could I get a glass like that? Assuming one wanted one..."
"I don't know..." he said, confused.
"cause I really like it... I love Sleeman," I continued happily.
"You want one? I'll bring it back in a second."

I was extatic! He brought it back and asked me if i had somewhere to put it, and I hid it in my bag... the end of the story. I now have my very own Bar Glass of Sleemans! :-D

I was ecstatic! He brought it back and asked me if I had somewhere to put it, and I hid it in my bag... the end of the story. I now have my very own Bar Glass of Sleeman’s!

I am so excited. Plus I met another Fifer! That was the other night at the Ten Bells (Jack the Ripper or something used to hang out there, and it was featured in some writings... I forget which but they were dark, appropriately so because the place was trashy, but nice to sit in) His name is Kevin... I think I made mention of this already... but Andy, Kevin, James, Jenn, Kevin's girlfriend (I forget her name... damn) and I are all going, after New Year, to The Maple Leaf. It's a Canadian bar in Covent Garden. We are going to drink Canadian beers and watch a frickin' Hockey game!! Holy Wah! We met at this pub at Liverpool St. that I went with Andy. The two of us were going to meet his friend Tim, and as we were sitting there James texts me, “I see you over there being a blatant slut. Look toward the bar.” “No way,” I exclaimed. James had randomly walked in with two friends. We all ended up sitting together, hanging out the rest of the night, though later we went to this place called the Ten Bells, which was important for something, and someone cool hung out there. It was fun. Posted by Picasa

Scott and Christian

Here is Scott the 6'3" Aussie guy that is also a BUNAC-er. He's cool. We've hung out.

The 'yelling kid' is Christian. He works at the BUNAC office and upon reading this blog (something he does occasionally) I am sure he'll be pleased to see himself on here... Especially in such a flattering picture!

(check out that face folks, he's not faking) Posted by Picasa

Me --> Anna --> Shawna

You've heard of them, you've wondered, and now you know! This is the rest of the flatmates referred to as Alex, Shawna, and Anna, or some variation thereof.

From left to right:

Me --> Anna --> Shawna Posted by Picasa

My Mom Called Me!

My mother called me yesterday!! She said I sounded depressed!! I am going to not do that! Sorry Mom! Sorry everyone! :-D I'm in frickin' London! I always have that to be excited about!

--- ok to business... ---

I forgot to mention! When Steph and I were at a pub in Derby I had spotted dick!! It’s a dessert… quit making jokes about STI’s… IT was really, really good! I want to get it again, it is an English dessert that involves a spongy cake with raisins in it (the spots) and a hot custard poured over it… it was really incredible!

Friday began as any other Friday, not really wanting to work because it was the TGIF day… Anne was still sick with something with her neck, so this time it was Debbie Harris who had something for me to do. I was fine with doing jobs for her because she (while probably in her 40s) smells nice and is quite prettyJ. In the end her job determined to be waiting for a long time for someone to call back and confirm their time for an interview the following week, not exactly challenging. I spent part of the day working as usual, but part of the day was spent working on Wikipedia… I updated the article about Girl Scout Cookies, and added a section on the Samoa vs. the Caramel deLite. It was a very important addition! Wikipedia did not take into account the differences between the two or how to tell them apart, it made them sound like they were both the same! Needless to say I set it right and then went back to work.

Around 330 most everyone in the office had already gone home, and I was feeling restless. Work was done, I had nothing to do, my job for Debbie being done Lisa said that I should just cut out early. I felt bad cutting out at 330 so instead I went to Emily and saw that she was suffering as I was. We succeeded in distracting each other for about 35 minutes talking about Disney World, home, family, and other things. It was probably the most ‘real’ conversation we’ve ever had. I left work around 425 or so and headed home. I was going to meet Amanda and hang out, but first I needed a shower. I headed home and took care of the cleaning and went to Bayswater. Ruthie headed to Paris for the weekend, but Morgan was due back soon. I hung out for a while and sat around with her. Amanda was still feeling sick, and had even taken off work that day to stay in bed.

This weekend was planning on being a chill weekend. I wanted to do nothing, and I think I kind of succeeded. Friday, I hung out doing mostly nothing all day. I hung out with Amanda in the evening, but after our failed attempt to see Polar Express we pretty much split. Instead I headed over to Leicester Square to meet Anna and a couple of her friends. We walked around the touristy areas (Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, et cetera) and even stopped at a really cool pub in the centre of the main touristy areas. Around 12 I was going to head home, but I changed my mind, decided to brave the ‘sleepover’ and continued walking around London into the wee hours of the morning. Finally, I ended up back at Anna’s house, and the next day I headed back to W.G. to get the post from home.

Saturday I was planning on joining Steph (and friends) at the Tower of London, but I was stuck at the god-damn post office. I left Alex, Anna, and Shawna’s at 830am to go get my package that my parents had sent me with the wireless internet in it. Jenn had texted me with a urgent request to talk the night before, and when I arrived home she told me why, her grandpa had died. We walked and talked as I headed to the post office, I was really tired and I thought it was going to be a short walk, but it ended up to be about 30 minutes. Upon arrival there was a queue out the door… we waited for a while, and then I realized that they probably don’t take Solo (my debit card) or Visa or anything… Stupid Britain… I’ll rant about that on my LiveJournal later. I ran a quarter mile to the nearest cash-point while Jenn waited in the queue for me… I ran back and paid for the package. Afterward, the two of us headed to a pastry shop and had some tasty dessert for breakfast and parted ways. Jenn got on the tube and I went home to take a nap. That afternoon we all went to try and see The Polar Express, but it didn’t work out… Instead Andy, Meg, and I went to Nachos and had nachos and Dos Equis. It was excellent food, and after we went to a pub called the Goat in Boots. It was a cool pub with strings of lights in the window and three levels, the waitresses were cute, the company was good, and the stomach was full, a good night. We went home around 9…

Later that night we had a movie at our place in WG (Sin City) and even Alex came over to watch and drink a bit of beer. We had a heart to heart after the movie when everyone else went to bed. She was upset from earlier that week, she’d had a bit of a row with her ‘(ex?)boyfriend’ who was still at home and had just returned from Semester at Sea. She felt that he would come back with all of his questions answered, and it was quite the opposite. I talked to her about how it was similar for me with Kristen and the feelings that she was having being so far from him, and me from her; it was a really interesting conversation. Finally, we all went to bed, and Meg and Alex stayed over.

Sunday I got up late, around 12 and Meg was gone; I remember her leaving sometime early, but who knows what time. Alex had stayed over and she commented on the lateness of the hour and proceeded to hurriedly go to the washroom to change. She grabbed her bags and left to go home. She needed to get home for the ball! It was the Harrod’s Christmas Ball Sunday night and she and Shawna needed to get ready!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's Almost Christmas! 8 days...

This week has flown by. I think every week will from now on. I have been here nearly two months now, and it feels like no time at all. I really don’t know what to think. I need to work to live, I definitely don’t live to work, but at the same time, 9 to 5 is just crappy. I miss my friends still, Kristen and I talk all the time still, and I still have doubts about me having significant changes, I analyze myself a lot to see if I have different feelings, but really I think this is something that I will just have to work out when I get home. I know it’s not something that I am going to feel as it happens… but I over-analyse… anyway…

Monday I started the day at work, but being bored I decided to go to Wikipedia and edit the Fort Mackinac page (everything on the page in the section on Modern History is mine, also I added the section on the Springfield 1873 Model, yea I’m a dork, but I roxor). After work I headed home to have an in-night to do laundry, I opened a bottle of wine (Beaujolais Nouveau 2005) and drank the whole thing in the night, while watching a movie. It was a relaxing night to be sure.

The next day after work Andy, Stephanie, GP, Amanda and I headed to the Albery theatre to see Patrick Stewart in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. I didn’t know what to expect, but there were no sets, no actors, nothing, just Patrick Stewart, the stage, a chair, a stool, a table, and a desk. It was incredible. I had flashbacks to Jim Dale, because Stewart did all of the characters himself! He acted out the whole book, doing voices for each character, blocking out their motions and even dancing and singing while pretending to do a reel and play a fiddle very poorly. He really did some incredible work. After the show Amanda commented (for she’d seen more shows than I, this being my first London show) that in London they don’t give standing ovations, and that this was the first she’d seen since arriving. We discussed the differences between American theatre and British theatre over a bitter at the Cambridge, quickly becoming our favourite West End pub, and then all of us parted and headed home.

Wednesday was the Christmas dinner for work, after working during the day I headed downstairs around 4:45 to say farewell to an American BUNAC-er I hardly knew… she was the one who had given me the confidence to admit my patriotism at the office (by giving me a little flag to put on my desk, I taped it to my display by the little plastic mast). She was very nice, her name was Susana and she did not want to go home, her flight was the next morning. We all began to drink wine out of little plastic cups, and then headed over to the dinner on The Cut (a street in Southwark where I work, pronounced: Suth-urk) at a Turkish food place. It was excellent, and the Brits and I chatted about everything except work! We talked about the service in America vs. Britain, the differences between what people expect of their services; including bagging your own groceries. They don’t want them bagged!! The groceries here you bag yourself… just so you know, and they like that control, they can make sure the eggs are not crushed and that things that go in the same cupboard are together, et cetera. We chatted for a few hours, even after dinner had come and gone, and many bottles of wine had been consumed. It was all great fun, and around 930 I left and went to the BUNAC pub meet. There I chatted with the group of friends that always go to the meets and hung out with Christian (the BUNAC guy) before we all headed home for an early night.

Thursday was another good day at work, Anne is out sick unfortunately, but this means that instead of being her bitch I am everyone else’s. I took notes on the QAA for Mary on Wednesday (That was 3 hours of my life spent writing notes that I then typed up Thursday). After work I went for a walk while listening to Harry Potter 6 (Amazing!) and ended up walking from Southwark to Paddington before I was through… I passed Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Jubliee bridge, and even went through Hyde Park and out the other side before Amanda called me back. I had promised Amanda that we’d have our date out, so we met at Tottenham Court Road, but couldn’t think of anything to do, so per usual ended up wandering and talking about Ross, Kristen, London, life, and all of the other great topics we talk about. I think without Amanda I would be truly alone with my thoughts, but we can definitely get them out when we’re together; I think it is just brilliant.

~~~~ …Deep thoughts with Trace and Amanda… ~~~~

Amanda and I discussed over dinner tonight the feelings we’d had about ‘becoming more English.’ So, when you all think, “what a poser! Look at him musing words like ‘Brilliant’ or ‘centre’ or ‘spot on’ et cetera, it’s not something I am trying to do. It’s something that happens. Amanda said to me at random over dinner, “Do you find yourself thinking in British?” I of course cried my agreement, and we both laughed and talked about it for a while. We definitely have begun this long road to integration into the culture. These new words that everyone uses are falling into our vocab just as if we were living in Spain and beginning to use Spanish. Very strange, and sometimes I slip back and forth. I say ‘basil’ both ways and get chastised for being a “poser,” but I don’t think that’s the case. I am not trying to say it right or wrong, just the trying to say the damn word. In my head it says it British, but when it comes out of my Midwestern mouth, it’s all… yucky. I don’t expect you to understand, but these are my thoughts, take it of leave it.

After wandering for a long time we headed back to Bayswater (a big loop for me as that I was just on that end of town. We went to her flat so I could drop my bag and Ruthie as there (she’s staying over while waiting for her flight back) and she offered us free Godiva chocolate!! HOLY CRAP! Free Truffles! Amazing. So good. We tore ourselves away from the free mouthgasms in little chocolate packaging, and headed to Whiteley’s (the mall) and went to an Italian place. In this Whiteley’s there is a Christmas tree, and you all have seen it before. Want to see it again? Watch LoveActually, it’s the one they show when they are telling how many weeks until Christmas. It’s very beautiful. We ate at this really good Italian place and for the first time in weeks we ate without having to talk over music, rush our pace, or anything. We relaxed, took a long time to order, to eat, and to enjoy each other’s company. It was fab. We ate, had cokes, and split a tiramisu that actually had rum in it… not an American thing to drizzle alcohol on the cake when the recipe clearly says to… prudes… We talked forever and laughed and shared thoughts and feelings, I think I am just as much of an outlet for her as she is for me. We’re a good pairing for friends that’s for sure. I hope I don’t lose her to Ross when he gets here, but I don’t think I will, Ross seems like he’s going to be really cool. I am excited that she is so happy that he’ll be here soon (11 days). Dinner being over, we got our cheque and I left for home after grabbing my bag. A great night… this has been a good week, and this weekend will be way chilled out.

I have been feeling apprehensive; I am habituating to these new surroundings. I am getting used to seeing monuments and beautifully intricate architecture around every corner. I don’t want to get like that; I force myself not to look at the sidewalk, to see the city for what it is, in its beauty, but when you live there…

I try really hard. I will win this fight. I live in London, but that doesn’t mean I have to become so engrossed in being a Londoner I forget that there is nothing like it. Nowhere.

Derby, not the hat... its a town.

I say trouble, but I what I really mean is the breakdown of all time and space around us. Stephanie was the one who really put forth the effort for this trip, and we were planning on staying the night in Derby (finding a place upon arrival) and then leaving the next morning and travelling to Matlock to get a bus to Chatsworth House and the Peak District, spend the day and then head back to catch the last train home.

We arrived in Derby and walked around a bit, there was a Christmas Market in the centre of town complete with an oversized windmill, but it was really cool, and it smelled amazing. The visitor information centre was in the town square, so we headed there and got some information, proceeding to the nearest (and cheapest) bed & breakfasts. The first we tried was full up, and although we were in a dodgy area we felt it was fine to check the one down the road as well… The place didn’t have Sylvia or the loving atmosphere of the Sylvia’s place (those of you who are religious readers know Sylvia from Stratford-upon-Avon), but it would do. We dropped our stuff and I had a nap while Steph watched television, and after an hour we headed back out to find some food. We went to a local pub, had some dinner and a local bitter (tasty) and then wandered the city. We found out later that the area we were staying in really was dodgy, and the guy that we’d been making fun of thinking he was probably a drug dealing: sitting in his car all he time listening to music and reading the paper, probably was a drug dealer, as they hang out in that section of town.

We ended up heading home shortly thereafter and getting to bed. We had to share a double bed, but we were fine with it, and it was much more comfortable then the crappy p.o.s. mattresses we had to sleep on at our flats. We ended up in bed around *ahem* 10pm…

The next morning we got up early had showers packed up and headed down to a full English breakfast. It took a while to get all of our food, but it was really quite good. I even got my back-bacon crispy… ish… We headed to the bus station and bought a Wayfarer ticket (which meant we could wander all of the Derbyshire area for the day using most all of the rail and bus transport for free after paying the £7.50 for a ticket. Upon heading to the bus stop and being quite confused by the times and schedules (very unlike the ‘easy’ ones in London) we waited at what we hoped was our stop. This started the downward spiral of waiting and being late so we could wait more. The bus came after about 30 minutes, and after a long ride we arrived 5 minutes too late for the but to Chatsworth house.

Chatsworth House is a huge house located in the South East corner of the Peak District (Britain’s first national park founded in 1955). It is basically a gigantic mansion, and you can tour it for a small fee. So when we arrived in Matlock and discovered that the bus that we’d wanted we just missed, this was after waiting for a while to get the bus from Derby as well we were a little miffed. The schedule said that there’d be another bus in a little over and hour. So we walked around the downtown of Matlock. It was a cute little town, and it was built in a kind of valley, so we headed up a high hill to look down over the town. It was a beautiful view of the valley, with the quaint little homes and stone walls that had been there for a long, long time. You could even see a large castle on the hill looking down over the town, as if guarding from the battlements of an encampment. I really wanted to walk to it, but Stephanie wanted to wait for the bus. It was her plan, I didn’t want to argue. We found that on this hill we’d wandered up, was a field, right on the hill, where there were two cows and a horse just chilling in the sunlight. It was funny to just have them hanging out up there we could have walked right up to them, no fencing, just them on a hill. We gave them a generous berth as we passed, not wanted to disturb them, and after taking a few pictures from the hill headed back into town.
We arrived back at the bus station after stopping in a Yeoman’s camping store to look at backpacks, and waited for the 1:05 bus. 1:00 came and went… 1:05 came and went… 1:10 came and went… 1:15 came and went… I know because I was watching the other buses come in, and the fat drivers conversing and enjoying a midday bite. Finally, at 1:20 I went back to the schedule and next to the 1305 bus time it said… British GMT only… this indicated that it was only during the summer… we were very disheartened. Finally we just said, “fuck it,” and jumped on a bus to Buxton, into the depths of the Peak District.

Except for the extremely dirty windows on the bus, the view was amazing. The Peak District is 555 sq. miles and is incredibly beautiful. I was dazzled by the rock formations, the fields, the plants (that would have had flowers had it been in season). We alighted in Buxton and wandered the city for a while. We went to a downtown shopping centre and enjoyed a Chocolate rum truffle heart, and bought some excellent travel books for really cheap at this interesting little bookstore. The store was located in what used to be the Buxton bath house. The interior was covered in tiles that were robin’s-egg-blue and had very ornate pearl coloured inlays every metre or so. We left there and headed to the High street and shopped at the Clarks store, and a few other places, but finally headed back to the park in the centre of town to take a couple of pictures before going to the bus to head back toward Derby. We stopped in Bakewell to have dinner, by then it was getting dark. We wanted to try and see as much as we could, especially since we couldn’t get deep into the national park without a tour group or a car of our own, so in Bakewell we wandered the village and found a little shop that sold sweets. We walked out a few minutes later, after chatting with the other patrons and the workers about Bakewell and our trip, with two Bakewell Christmas tarts and two gingerbread cookies.

At this point we were a bit hungry, so we stopped into this Aussie place for dinner, and then headed back to the bus, then an hour later the train, and then were back in London a few hours later. All in all a pretty relaxed trip out of town, but still with all of our timing problems, we didn’t get to see as much as we’d wanted. Oh well. Maybe another time, we both vowed that one day we’d have to go back to the Peak District…
Back at home we had to go thru King's Cross, so we went to 9 3/4, yes it is there, and it was fun to just see it... even though the REAL platform 9 3/4 is platform 4... so we went to that too, then headed home. We're dorks, but we love it anyway.

Nottingham (and Robin Hood)

The weekend began on Saturday, Stephanie and I met at Kings Cross VERY early to catch the train to Nottingham. I had forgotten my pictures so I got some taken in a photo booth and bought a Youth Rail Card, which was technically free because I would have had to pay the same amount (or a few £ more) if I’d not used its discount. We rushed over and got on the train; we talked or tried to nap most of the way there, heading north into the deep beautiful green of the English countryside.

was not too pretty from the train, but once we’d left the station behind and headed into the bustling downtown, it was very different. I had imagined a small town with old houses and a market, but Nottingham in my imagination was not the Nottingham of today! It was just like any other city, except there was a castle on a stone hill, and they use railcars instead of buses! Both of those parts were really cool! We walked by the Fabric and Clothing museum, past the Lace Museum (located a building that was built in the mid-1300s) and walked right up to Nottingham Castle.

Right in front of us was a large statue of a man with a large English bow, the string taught the arrow ready to fly to a target, frozen for all time… Robin Hood! There were placards around about the Sheriff of Nottingham and what he was like, what his job was (to be the king’s representative in the towns he oversaw). The Sheriff was not nobility, nor did he hold claim to a true title; it was an appointment by the local lords to keep the law. Much like today most anyone can be sheriff they just have to lobby for it. There is no real power there; it was more of a figurehead. We walked around the corner (because we were starving) and headed to the Oldest Pub in Great Britain, the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem.

The pub was, quite literally, built into the side of the sandstone cliff that the Castle sat on, and was opened in 1189! We entered and chatted with the barman for a while, my first thought was the smell. It smelled like damp earth… not in a bad or overpowering way, but definitely wet sand. It was really cool. The ceilings were low and supported by dark-wood beams, and the rooms were small with uneven floors. It was really a great pub. We ordered a couple of beers, which were EXCELLENT, bought some food, and had a seat by the fire in the front room. We peeled off our layers of coat and scarf and settled in for brunch. Bangers (made with Old Trip ale their distinct brew which was incredible) and Mash, with beer; all in all an excellent, and filling, breakfast. We left feeling quite good about the day so far, a feeling assisted by the beer I must say, and headed into the castle.

We paid the few pounds entrance fee, and wandered the castle grounds for a while, taking pictures and looking out at Nottingham. I usually try and imagine what it would have looked like without the modern landscaping, which this one would have looked really amazing, with Sherwood Forest off to the North. We wandered into the main building (of which there was only one) and looking around didn’t see much about Nottingham, but more about the Medieval time period, the dress the life, and the military history of the soldiers of Nottingham. I was a little disappointed and sleepy wandering the castle, but then we decided to take a tour. For a mere £1 coin Stephanie and I had secured ourselves the best (and cheapest) damn tour we’d have had yet in our days in England. Which we soon found out…

The tour guide was a small man, with a quick speaking manner; he would walk quickly and speak with an air of knowing the history inside and out. We headed around the outer walls of the main building learning about the original owner and how it had been internally reconstructed after the peasants of the town who were angry at the Earl, (I think that’s what he was) burned the residence when he was away, leaving only the shell that stands there today. They were so angry they even destroyed some of the statue of the owner himself on a steed that was well above the entrance. The interesting tour guide then herded us through a locked gate and down into the tunnels and caves below the castle. We walked through the dungeon and into the caves, learning about how the prisoners, being chained to the wall and getting mouldy food and dirty water, were given an added torture… the bakery and kitchens were right near the dungeon, and the smells wafted into the space, so not only did they get to eat crappy food, but they could smell the amazing food being prepared by the chefs. Horrible eh?!

We left the dungeon and headed into a courtyard where the Earl would have welcomed his guests and had them enter the castle, it even had little carriage garages for any coaches that were brought by more distinguished guests. We walked around the wall and down again, this time going deeper into the caves, these were natural formations burrowed out of the sandstone by water travelling through the earth, the caves were really amazing, and if you even brushed the walls with your back you’d be covered in sand… they were very fragile. We headed deep into them, the guide stopping and talking about them and the area. We popped out at the base of the cliff, just past the Ye Olde Trip! Walking back toward the entrance gates we stopped by the Olde Trip and then by the Robin Hood statue. We learned that if a peasant had to stand trial in the times of Robin Hood the punishments laid down by the lords were quite harsh. It was often better for them to go live in the woods then to be punished, and therefore many of them fled into the forest.

After the tour ended with the viewing of the Sheriff of Nottingham’s office (and a funny article hanging from the 1960s about Robin Hood being a Communist and how Americans should be wary about their heroes) we headed back to the train station to go to Derby (pronounced Darby, I don’t know why, so don’t ask). This was when the trouble started…

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

December 9th and Narnia

On Friday the 9th of December (my mother’s birthday as well, i called her) I went out after work with Emily and her sister Sarah. Sarah was transferring to a new position at the university so we were going out to celebrate. We headed to the Slug and Lettuce (a horrible name I know, but a very popular and modern pub it seems, good for just sitting and talking, except that the music was way too loud). Emily and I went a little beforehand to get the table that Sarah had reserved and then the rest of them arrived shortly after. I did not know any of the others, but we drank and talked just the same. It was a fun night and Emily was on her way to getting wasted, and then remembered that after we’d decided to go see a movie! So she slowed down on her second Strongbow (a bit of a light weight she is).

We hung out at the Slug and Lettuce for some time when finally the 10 people or so started to trail off one by one, and we felt it was time for us to go to. We headed for the cinema intent on seeing the Chronicles of Narnia, which had just come out that day, and we’re not disappointed. Emily wouldn’t let me rest until I agreed to eat the popcorn she’d purchased and made sure that I’d be given a drink as well… so nice of her. The movie was excellent, some of the creatures were a little cartooney and I found myself indulging an unhealthy habit of comparing it to the Lord of the Rings, something I knew would cause dissatisfaction.

After the film, we headed to Leicester Square for a snack before turning in, coffee it was decided, which was not a good idea for me, but turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable large glass mug of hazelnut chocolate latte. I was in heaven, but Sarah would not let me pay for my own coffee! They were just too damn nice… Canadians, what can you do? I headed home and went to bed late, but the coffee wasworth it, and I got a little done. I even got to webcam chat with my mother!! Brock bought her a webcam for her birthday, so I chatted for a while with her. She was really happy, and so was I... :)

BUNAC/ISH Christmas Cruise on the Thames

The Xmas boat trip was really a lot of fun. Steph and I got there right on time and only had to wait for a little while before they opened the boat. G.P., Steph, Kate, Jenn, [who got tickets from] Marissa, James, Dave, Josh, Robin, Alex, Shawna, Anna, and even more people! They were all there.

The boat had a bar and sitting area downstairs, and then the upper was a dance floor with really funny music for most of the trip, but entertaining nonetheless. For the first bit of the trip we started to drink the beers, and would keep running out to the back of the upper floor, where they had sliding doors leading onto an aft deck. We wanted to not miss the beautiful scenery from the Thames river.

The dock was right by the Tower of London, and the captain said we were to sail all the way down the Thames and then back again past the dock and then back to the end. We all were talking and laughing and having a grand old time, running back and forth to the upstairs, until; it started to rain outside. Then we had even more fun because we’d been drinking a bit so the floor was slippery, that just made the going up and down and to and fro even better! One of the most memorable moments was coming out from under the Westminster Bridge and seeing the Houses of Parliament all lit up. Everyone on the deck said their ooh’s and ahh’s, and took pictures. It was really amazing, and beautiful. Then we went back to drinking.

Once we had consumed enough brew we headed to the (now wet and slippery) dance floor and danced to tracks by the likes of Brittany Spears, or the sultry sounds of Lionel Ritchie’s - Dancin’ on the Ceiling. It was… quite a feeling… to be dancing on the ceiling. The ceiling on the upper floor was, in fact, so low that there was hardly a space for GP and I in the room without watching out for our heads, but it was fun all the same.

After leaving at 8 we arrived back on the dock at 11, not drunk per say, but in a festive and jovial mood. A few of us decided it was time to try and find a bar, although at 11 in the business district that was incredibly difficult, so after trying a half dozen places we gave up and headed home. Not very Christmas-y, but defiantly fun.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A post that weighs more than a metic ton!

Today was pretty chill. I started the day going out with Andy to see Amanda in Bayswater. We were going to go to Camden just for something to do, but we hadn’t even gotten out and around until 1400 or so, and it was raining, so we went to a pub instead. It was amazingly cheap (like £4 for bangers and mash) so we ate lunch while we waited for the rain to stop and chatted. This was the first time the three of us had hung out since we’d left for Nice. It was great out just chill with the two of them again.
Afterward we bummed around Portobello Market for a while, enjoying the outdoor music and not-so-much the crowds. Around 1600 Amanda and Andy both had to split to work so I headed over to Trafalgar’s Square and met Stephanie at the National Gallery. I went in for a few minutes while waiting for her to head outside. The inside was hot, and huge! It must cost a fortune to heat that place!! Really amazing artwork from as early as the 1200s that I saw in the few minutes that I spent in there… I really must go back. After that we decided to wander around in the downtown area. We headed to Holborn (where all the touristy stuff is like Tower Bridge and the London Eye) and wandered around for a couple of hours. We talked and talked… it was really nice to hang out with Steph, we’ve got a lot of history, but we’re really in a good place and have a great friendship now.

There were a number of buskers around (street musicians) and one of them really perked my interest, he was sitting by the OXO building right on the Thames with St. Paul’s in view and the Tate Modern right there and the Millennium Bridge connecting the two, accompanied by the singing was really great. We sat talking and listening to the guy for about 40 minutes and as we left I went to put money in his box and saw that he had CD’s so I bought one of those instead! I haven’t listened to it yet… but I hope its good (I’m pretty sure it is). We headed over by St. Paul’s and Steph took some pictures and we headed to this really great pub called Ye Olde Yorkshire Cheese, but wanted food so we left and went to O’Neill’s (a chain Irish pub) and had some nachos (yum). It was a winding maze of blackened wooden tunnels connecting three or four different restaurants and little bars in this building. Steph and I got beers and waited for Jenn to meet us. She finally got there around 9 and we all enjoyed a beer and talked about the Contiki tour. We headed out shortly with a plan to go somewhere else, but ended up back at Steph’s place and then heading home… We had a trip the next day anyway…

Sunday was the big day of the weekend. Leeds Castle and Rochester for the Charles Dickens Christmas Festival! I got up nice and early to get on the bus, and since the tube was not running to Great Portland Street so G.P., Steph, Kate and I walked from Baker Street, of course stopping by the over-large statue of Sherlock Holmes (he ‘lived’ on Baker St.) to get a picture. After a 90 minute bus ride we alighted for Leeds castle, it wasn’t huge, but it sure was pretty. Stephanie and I paired off and let Amanda, Kate, and G.P. wander around, while we walked back to the hedge maze. We were confident and wandered in the maze making good progress for about 20 minutes until a guy stationed in the maze asked if we give up and we didn’t respond quick enough so he pointed down the next row we were about to head and said, “Go that way… and turn left…” Steph and I were a little put out, but we were on limited time anyway, so we didn’t let it bother us. The centre of the maze was a mound with kind of a goonies-type well below it! We went down into the well and there was a giant face of a bearded man made of rock with a waterfall pouring down over it. Very cool, but the light made it so there was no picture to be taken.

On the way back toward the castle we headed into a bird aviary, and saw a number of colourful birds including parrots, and scarlet macaws, even a set of toucans! They were really pretty, and we mused that they should be named Sam… After the aviary we headed back to the castle, seeing Kate on the way and stopping to take a few pictures. The castle itself was not as impressive or as large as Warwick castle, so we felt a little crestfallen, but it was still pretty. We wandered for a while, looking at the cool rooms and the great views, even enjoying the moat that was still in place outside the castle, until we headed back to the bus to go to Rochester.

We arrived and were a little sceptical, it was the town of Dickens (and I’ve never read Dickens) and there was even a Christmas Festival going on as well. People were dressed up in Dickens era attire and everything. We started with a tour led by a guy that seemed to be a little scattered, so after about 45 minutes when he said to meet him on the other side of the carnival (yes there were stalls and even a Ferris wheel) we buggered off instead. GP, Steph, Kate, Amanda, Morgan and I were all hungry so we tried a pub, but there were so many people there was no way we’d make it in. Finally, we broke down and went to a stand run by the Lions club and got hot mulled wine and I bought a mince pie which we drank while finding something to eat. We found a burger stand over by a bagpipe band and all of us got food and sat listening peripherally. Steph and I were really giddy because of the atmosphere, there was a fifer on the street, people dressed up, and we even recognized some of the bagpipe tunes! The others were convinced that we were dorks all the way (rightly so).

After the burgers we headed over to the craft show, but it cost money to get in, so we wandered the streets looking at the people dressed up and glancing in shop windows, just enjoying the scenery and atmosphere in general. Shortly, a man sitting in an armchair on wheels came rolling by, pulled by another man rickshaw-style down the main street. The man in the chair was singing Christmas carols and was painted up (I assume he was supposed to be Scrooge). They stopped at Stephanie and the pull-man kissed her on the cheek while the Scrooge asked her if she’s been “naughty or nice” and before she could give a proper reply, “a little bit of both I’d wager…” he shouted into is mic with a laugh. Then he kept down the road singing again and yelling insults and generally being crude, how marvellous.

Going back down the road we were all still hungry so we found a church on a side street selling food and entered. In the line I asked the small girl behind the counter about the topping of some delicious looking pieces of cake, “It’s a Christmas cake, [the topping] he thinks is cinnamon, but I don’t think so…” motioning the boy next to her, it was so cute with her little English accent (she was probably 10) that I had to buy some cake, plus it was cheap! I also bought a Cornish pasty from the boy, and then some Cadbury hot chocolate with coloured marshmallows. The food was amazing, and after eating until we were thoroughly full we wandered back toward the main street; stopping to enjoy a group of chimney sweep singers. Another Scrooge was with them (although this one looked more like a natural Scrooge since he was without makeup) and they began to make fun of the crowd and sing ‘The 12 Days of Christmas.’ After they’d moved on we made it to the main street and saw the Phantom of the Opera (or a man dressed such) singing, and not well I’d add… She wanted a picture with him, so we got ready and he started to get in positions including one that made it look like he was kissing her. He commented that we should send him a picture in his place in London where he was an understudy for the real Phantom! He was a bit drunk… more than a bit.

We finally got away from his horrible singing that just kept spilling from his drunken lips, and got in a position for the parade. All of the characters walked in a procession down the street and then up to Rochester Castle. The parade was pretty cool, though short, and after we all headed for the bus.

Monday was a good day at work, but after a long day at work and then doing nothing, Kristen and I got in a bit of a tiff, but the next morning she set sent me flowers at work... I was pretty upset, but in a good way, she can’t afford that. We really settled a bit there while fighting, but I think it would have happened eventually… Tuesday at work was boring again, but after was the best part. I called Grandma and talked to her for about a half-hour! I told her all about the Ultimate European trip and she was so excited she was getting me excited and from our conversation my parents later requested that she be able to use my computer to read my blog. I miss my family… Then after I got off the phone with her I randomly decided to call Jacqui, and she answered!! I talked to her for about fifteen minutes for the first time in weeks. It really made my day. I called Amanda as well because I’d just topped up that day and we decided to hang out that night and have dinner at her place. On the way there I met Morgan at random on the underground! We chatted n the way back to Bayswater and after arriving waited for Amanda. I ended up having a stir fry dinner with them (the rice was yummy though clumpy) and we decided that it was the rice’s fault… stupid rice. Then I fixed her computer so it could access her Brazilian landlords wireless, and we some of the night transferring music from my iPod to her computer, and then listening to the iTunes Music stores Billboard Top 100 from 1982, 83, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, and 97. It seems like a lot, but we didn’t listen to all of them, and we determined that 94 and 96 were really big years, and that the 90s was a slow decade for new music. I headed home in a great mood and went to bed around 2.

Wednesday: Went home, did nothing. Jenn came over, had dinner and then we wandered around London. In nearly the same places as Steph and I had two nights before. IT was nice to walk around, but I am afraid that I am starting to habituate to this environment; it wasn’t as amazing as I usually think it is… It is starting to lose its value as places to see. I am getting bored of it, more restless sooner… it’s kind of scaring me, because I really enjoy, enjoying these sites… We went over to London Town Hall and saw the Earth from the Air exhibit. I love it. I think it is beautiful and educational. It makes me think a lot about my life and other lives. It’s an incredible exhibit. I wish I could show everyone I know… Maybe I can… There are pictures of the Earth taken by this artist as s/he flew around in various countries in a helicopter. Some are natural formations or animal things; some are human made formations like dying vats in Singapore, just incredible pictures. Sometimes the people in them are just going about their business sometimes they are gazing skyward at the camera in the helicopter… We were there for about 45 minutes look at pictures and learning about the destruction of the Earth, both in the environment and in humanity… for example Hundreds (they had the number but I don’t remember) of kilos of cereal is produced per person every year, but 40 million people a year die of hunger, or Every year [some number in hectares] of natural forest disappear every year (more than the size of Florida), or one of my favourites, 90% of the people in the world have never made a telephone call. I like the exhibit a lot, and there are a few key people I wish I could bring to it… unfortunately that is not possible. We left there we went across Tower Bridge and in the end I got one pound chips and went home.

Thursday was another boring day at work, but it was busy at least. I spent most of the day in Etienne’s office (another guy I work with) because he is off for the week doing some of the work he left for me. I was putting newsletters in envelopes, putting pre-printed labels on them, sealing them, and scanning documents into the picture. It was fun… actually it wasn’t too bad because I had my iPod and on it… Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince! It was amazing!

After work I headed over to Westminster to go to a choir concert at the Abbey, but it turned out that they only had £17 tickets left. This meant that we were to go to plan B, St Martin in the Fields, but that fell through as well. We ended up back in Bayswater having amazing nachos at a pub and then heading home. It was so great!! Then I spent time on this travelogue and get to go to bed early! Yay!!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Week # 3 of Job.

The last few days have been mostly filled with work. Now that I have a job it’s harder to just bum around. I spend most of my day as an Administrative Assistant to Anne Garvey, Deputy Dean of Faculty in the School of Health and Social Sciences at London’s South Bank University. Either way, I haven’t decided if it sucks, or if I like it. I think I am just there. I am a temporary worker only there until the end of April, so I don’t really have to get into it too much, right? I file, I organize files, I make copies, I answer the phone, I work with Anne’s diary (calendar for you Americans), I receive/send tons of emails, I mark who in the faculty is sick that day (like roll call only complicated because I hear about it second hand thru calls or email and I don’t know anyone), and a number of other tasks. Basically I am Anne’s bitch. But they pay me well and I don’t hate the work, although sometimes the work gets me really frustrated, especially when they give me jobs to do and I have no way of doing them because I don’t know how… yet.

Wednesday after work I went to the Pub Meet and saw a bunch of new people, the pub we met at weas really cool, situated in the basement of this other pub and was long like a tunnel and filled with tables and chairs. It was basically empty. I got a lot of questions about Nice and how it was, so I told the stories as I drank Bavarian Wheat beer (which was really tasty) and by the time 11 rolled around we were all ready to go home. I rode he tube with Jenn and this new girl who lives down the street from me (Michelle) and we chatted, I told them a couple of funny stories from my childhood that I might not have told had I been sober (might not have…).

Thursday after work I went home and did laundry, worked on my Travel Journal and Blog, ate dinner, cleaned my room, all before heading back out on the town. I went to Shawna, Alex, and Anna’s because we were thinking of going out to a movie, but we couldn’t decide on anything really, and then by the time I got there it was 9 already. We ended up hanging out and watching most of Mr. Deeds before they kicked me out to catch the tube for home. It was a good time as usual, me and my girls.

Friday I ended up going out for a drink with Emily after work, but we couldn’t find a place that wasn’t crowded. As we were going out of the second place we’d checked Andy called me and reminded me that Christina (one of the flatmates) was having a going away party @ the Square Pig by Holborn. I asked Emily she was down so we left and headed there. On the way Emily started to feel sick (she has anxiety, but said it wasn’t from that) and by the time we got to the Pig she didn’t want a drink, although for her credit I didn’t really feel like one either. We only stayed for a short while (long enough for me to almost blow the cover on Christina’s office romance that no one in the office knows about) and Emily and I left. Andy stayed and hung out for who knows how long, but Emily wanted to head home. She’s nice and all, but not really a people person, she likes to just hang out at home by herself or get wrapped up in her work. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not something I can appreciate as much as she can I guess.

After she got on the tube I called up Shawna and asked her what they were up to because I was already in the neighbourhood. They were about to go to a bar, and invited me along. I walked to their place dropped by bag and followed them to this Goth bat off Oxford street, it was really cool! Great décor, good music, and for a Goth bar what seemed like happy people too… strange. Shawna had a friend who was moving to LA from London so she wanted to go to her going away party, which we did, stayed for a beer and then went to meet Alex at Knightsbridge where the third bar (for me) of that night was. We stopped while waiting for Alex to get out of work at this little place by Harrods and I ate dinner for under £5. Alex met us and had a quick burger while telling us about her horrible day. The worst part was these four women who came in and were looking at the ‘Just Like Me’ dolls (Alex works in the toy section) and started to complain about how they didn’t look just like them. They weren’t dark enough (the women were black) and they were verbally accosting this other girl who works in the room, and the other customers were getting upset. Alex tried to diffuse the situation by going over and getting the girl out of it by telling the women she had a phone call, and the woman pushed her out of the way and they kept yelling at her about racism and how unfair and unethical it should be to carry mostly blonde with blue eyed dolls, et cetera. Alex was very upset and the women finally left, but it seemed like a horrible situation. Alex said something that I completely agree with; that those type of people are the ones who give racial action a bad name. The people that yell and piss and moan just to be loud (and yell at a sales associate at Harrods who has nothing to do with the demographics of the sales at Harrods or the purchasing) cornering them (literally) and yelling at them?! Those are the people who create the stereotypes. I agreed, but what can you do about it?

After the food and the conversation we headed to another going away party for a Harrods friend of Alex and Shawna’s, Anna stayed for one drink and she and I chatted for a while off the ‘dance floor’ before she headed home and although I didn’t feel like it I went and danced. It was Shawna, Alex, and me dancing, which was odd in itself, but the floor was so cramped we couldn’t have fun with it. So instead we just kind of gyrated and laughed and gyrated again. It was ok, when I found a space someone had spilled something so I got all excited and used the slippery floor to do some James Brown feet during Can’t touch this and this other guy started getting all huffy and I found myself in a Dance Off!! Now for those of you who don’t know. Trace cannot dance. He makes it up as it goes. This guy, knew what the hell he was doing. I was honoured that he felt I was worthy but he kicked my ass, and I knew it 2 seconds after he started. In the future I have to keep my James Brown feet to myself and stick with the Lawn Sprinkler or the Shopping Cart. It was really fun to do anyway. I got home around 1 leaving my bag at their place and tomorrow is a day trip to Leeds Castle! Today? No clue.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Nice, France: Part 1

Last Wednesday I left work early and headed home for the final prep before the flight. I packed a little more, grabbed what I’d missed and Andy and I headed over to Baker street to catch the easyBUS® to Luton Airport north of London. The flight and the little car ride were uneventful at best except that we saw Paris from the plane as we flew over. It was beautiful, lots of lights and we could even see the Eiffel Tower! We landed in Nice around 2250 after the 2 hour flight and the bus ride and the waiting at the airport and got on a bus to the centre of town. It was a quick glimpse of Nice as we rode all over with Alison and her Dad (who was also visiting).

We got back to their flat and her dad switched on the French TV while Andy and Alison caught up and started to get the turkey ready for the cooking tomorrow. She’d found a large uncooked fresh turkey (still with a few little feathers here and there as well) and wanted to put it in a bag and soak it in this secret family solution overnight, so we got all that around and soaked the turkey on the balcony off of their kitchen… they had multiple balconies, 12 or higher foot ceilings and tile floors. It seriously reminded me of a trip to Florida except everyone was speaking French.
On Thursday we got up around 10 and packed up all the food we’d collected (we’d brought some things from England and her dad had brought some things from the US too) and headed over to Marco’s Apartment (no idea to this day who Marco is) with multiple bags in our hands and even a suitcase full of food, including 2 turkeys! We started the long process of cooking as soon as we’d walking in the door. Marco’s Oven being occupied by one turkey meant that we’d need another apt for the second one, so Alison and Andy headed over to another friend’s place for the cooking of the other turkey and the other prep. Alison and Christina were kind of at odds with each other, but in a sporting way over who would have the best turkey. I spent most of the cooking time running back and forth between the two apartments in the complex helping out where I was needed taking things back and forth et cetera. I met a number of new people that way including a couple of Americans studying at the same Uni as Alison, a Peruvian named Pancho who really enjoyed chocolate covered marshmallows (he also made us a drink while we were cooking, a Peruvian specialty at that), an English boy named Callum, a Scot named Jenni, three Irish Boys (Greg, James, and Patrick/Porrig), a Frenchie named Pierre (so stereotypical), and another guy I whom I can’t remember where he’s from or his name. Most of those people ended up at the dinner with us, which also included: Andy, Myself, Alison’s Dad, Alison, Christina, and Flo and Nina (who were both German). Overall the dinner turned out great and we ate until we couldn’t anymore. We had some Pastis (French appetising liquor that is 90 proof) after we’d eaten to help us digest and get ready for dessert. The final count for dinner was: 2 Turkeys, a Big Bowl of Mashed Potatoes, a Pumpkin Bake (custard filled pumpkin baked in the oven), green bean casserole, croissants (that andy brought from England to France, they had a good laugh about that), carrot & celery sticks, lots of butter on whatever we wanted, a huge thing of stuffing, and two different types of gravy. Then, for dessert: American Brownies (that Alison’s Dad brought over in a suitcase full of food), Apple Pie from the Sainsbury’s that was supposed to stay frozen, the pumpkin bake (that didn’t really work out in the end), vanilla ice cream, and of course leftovers of everything else.

Once the food had been consumed the foreigners complimented all the Americans on a truly great holiday, we settled in and chatted while attempting not to nod off, just like home, but without the football. We talked enough about it that one of the Irish guys (James) grabbed an old tape of a Rugby playoff game when Ireland was playing England a couple of years ago and we enjoyed that for a while, then watched Super Troopers on Alison’s laptop before retiring for the night. Overall it was an excellent Thanksgiving spent in France and one I shall not soon forget.

Nice, France. Part II

Friday was great! We started late which was kind of the theme of this trip… around 1130, but that was OK, Andy and Alison had dropped off Alison’s Dad that morning and didn’t get back until 830am… but the roommates didn’t get back until much later (1130a). Flo slept so long he missed his very last class and was really upset later that day. Andy and I started to wander around Nice by ourselves for the first time on Friday. Nice is amazingly beautiful, I’d heard good things about the French Rivera, but they didn’t really do justice to the beauty of the region.

We started by wandering East into Old Town, the touristy part of Nice, and it looked it for sure, we saw Christina and Nina randomly on the street (which was weird) and headed into the depths of Old Town. We shopped around, but didn’t really buy anything, until I came across a postcard that I just had to have, a vintage travel poster of Nice on a postcard. Good thing they didn’t have the actual poster; that could have been unfortunate for me (because I’d have had to get it!). We looked around for a while, wandering the picturesque streets, we even bought a pastry! A framboise pastry, it was EXCELLENT. Andy and I shared it and we did not regret the 1€75 that it cost either… or whatever, it was really cheap.

After a while we found this little place that looked like it was out of a movie, big copper tanks in one corner with little porthole windows holding some clear substance and an occasional bubble, fans that were driven by a belt attached to a motor on the wall a meter away, and French pictures and architecture (of course) complete with a spin-the-wheel game where you could win all sorts of things that we couldn’t pronounce! We decided to have a glass of Bordeaux and we sipped it while talking about the city and what we thought. After our glass we headed up the street further and it started to slant upward, at the top of the ‘stairs’ was a school that was just letting out. There were little French children everywhere yelling in their little French-speak and their parents were coming out of the woodwork (er… stonework) to walk them home.
We kept walking after enjoying the view over the city from the ‘School on the Hill’ and headed further up the winding walled in streets until we found a Jewish Cemetery, and followed the road higher and higher, with every step bringing a better view of the city falling away below us. Finally we heard rushing water and we’d found The Waterfall. The city of Nice has a man-made waterfall, and it was beautiful, and the view was amazing, we were there just at dusk and the lights were coming on and you could still hear the crashing of the Mediterranean far below. It was beautiful. We walked around for a while and then decided to head back down the mountainside, stopping to take pictures and see the city on the way.
We ended up back at the far end of the promenade, with the rocky beach of Nice in front of us. We decided to head onto the beach even though it was dark and cold, and decided to test the waters to see if they were warm. As we tentatively stepped near the waters I made the mistake of calling the sea dumb for not coming close enough to let me touch it, and as a response it lunged and Andy and I got a bit wet. We decided we needed a rematch.

Nice, France. Part III

The next day we wanted to head north, to the Matisse Museum. But first we had to break away from Naruto, the anime that Alison really enjoyed, it was moderately addicting, but the gods pulled us away by making her computer screw up and not be able o play the 6th episode, so we left. Heading, again, out of the main downtown and up into the foothills of the surrounding mountains. We saw beautiful architecture on nearly every building, huge hanging vines, beautiful trees and scenery. Lucky for us, French is not that difficult to understand, as long as it is in writing, and we followed the signs for the Museum all the way to a park. On the way to the park we found a set of ruins and an old (I suspect Victorian style) Hotel call the Regina, where we found out later Matisse liked to hang out. The ruins I have no idea about, but they were cool and I saw some kids using the holes in the walls of this amphitheatre as soccer goals, how funny.
This park was probably the most amazing park I have ever seen. The park had little streets just like any park, but unlike a park in the states, it was really populated, there were kids playing a game of soccer among the trees, people walking dogs or lovers, kids playing, parents talking and laughing, old people on benches and playing games. The most significant part of the park was the trees; trees with knotted roots that seemed to grow just under the surface, breaking through like fingers in the dirt.
The trunks were like a half dozen individual think pieces of rope coming right out of the roots and twisting around each other, sometimes leaving spaces in between, but just as they met they burst into hundreds of smaller branches with white-silver leaves. They were unlike any trees I’d ever seen. They were everywhere, and it looked like an orchard because they were at regular intervals all over the park. In the middle was a huge red building with yellow trim and greenish shutters; this was the Matisse Museum. It was 2€50 each, and we wandered around inside for over an hour. It was really interesting to see pictures of him and his work, see things from his home, from which he probably drew inspiration or sat on while trying to think or relax. It was really cool.

After the museum we explored the park and found that all the streets were named for American Jazz musicians! (Ex: Dizzy Gillespie & Miles Davis were two of the avenue names and there were statues of Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton sitting in the park) We saw some old men playing botchee (sp) ball a game where you throw a little ball and try to get your bigger heavier balls to land nearby; it’s kind of like shuffle board, but with balls not sliders. After a long visit in the park (even stopping to watch some really young kids playing 500 with a soccer ball for a while we decided it was time to head home. We made the long walk around through the poorer section of Nice and all the way back through the centre of town stopping at a place to have crepes before dinner (Andy had Chocolate and I had Framboise) and then got back to Alison’s just in time for dinner with everyone (we ate at home every night after putting €40 in the Communal € Jar). After dinner we started drinking and headed out to the Tré Diablo but after a while there Alison couldn’t get back in, so we headed to Wayne’s (an American-ish Bar/Club) where we danced the night away on some benches and tables till it closed.

Nice, France. Part IV

Sunday we woke up nice and early (1030am was early for this trip) and headed with Alison in tow to the beach. She brought her Handycam and I took my camera so she could take pictures. We headed into the Mediterranean for a morning dip. It was actually a lot nicer than I would have ever imaged, the water felt great, and the air was much cooler than the water. I punched the ocean because it wasn’t giving us big enough waves, and immediately after Andy and I were hit by a wave that was as high as my chest. And then as another headed in I dove right into it. It was splendid and felt more wonderful. I loved it. We headed home and found there was no hot water at all, so I ‘showered’ by washing the salt out of my hair as the roommates heated water in the electric kettle and on the stove for sponge baths. After a nice salami lunch Andy and I headed back toward the beach for a walk up the promenade.

We walked for a so long the sun started to set, while we walked we talked about life in Nice, the sea, and how American’s just don’t go outside like this. It was only 55° F and there were people everywhere walking in the sun of the French Rivera. People biking, walking, running, kids, adults, senior citizens, university students, men & women of every creed and colour just out enjoying the evening. It was astounding. We headed back slowly but still had time for a nap before dinner. Quite the life they live. After dinner Andy and I went back out again (we’d done it earlier in the trip too).

We had been going to the bar every night just to have a drink and Sunday we headed to Irish McMahon’s for a beer. We talked to the German bartender about the place and Nice, met a couple of Americans from Pennsylvania and were eyed by a couple of girls speaking French, but eventually ended up having a couple of beers and a shot of absinth (it tasted like black liquorice) and headed back for sleep before our last day in France.

Nice, France. Part V

On Monday we left Nice, but not until the evening. Our original plan of getting up early to go swimming was bust… I woke up around 1030/1100 and read for a while until Andy woke up (Alison had class that morning). Flo was supposed to attend class with Alison but he was tired from the long night he’d had the night before and didn’t get out of bed until later in the day… only to then realize that he’d missed the very last class and the review for the final later that week. He was taken aback and freaked out a little, but got over it eventually. After we’d finally gotten around and had a bit of food in us we decided to wander and find the Port… for real this time. After our failed attempt on Sunday to find it that resulted in an excellent walk down the near entirety of the Promenade we had made up our minds to visit the port. We walked purposefully back to the beach, taking our now-familiar route, and when we arrived at the beach decided to take a couple of pictures and walk down toward the rocks at the far east end.
During the walk we finally saw the topless beach that we’d heard so much about. Not an attractive young lady, oh no, but a group of older ladies with their husbands all sitting by the sea wall sunning themselves in Speedos. Not a site to stare at, but definitely one to curve a smile on the ‘ol face. I chuckled to myself and kept walking right up onto these rocks and what seemed to be an old unused path, complete with rusty metal railing and a requirement that to get to part you have to time a short hop over the waves to avoid soggy trainers. We walked around the horn and found a beautiful section of rocks where you could not just hear the waves but feel the power of the sea crashing against the rocks under your feet. There was a couple of Germans (or Austrians) there as well, a mother and young daughter, who wanted me to take their picture (this was decided upon with hand gestures and a kind of half verbal communication).
After sitting around a while in the sun watching the waves we moved on down the rock wall to discover we had to go back if we wanted to get back to the normal pedestrian walk, but first we found a couple of small hollows covered in blankets… shelters that a few homeless people had built by the sea. Not too bad, I would consider it homeless luxury, if there is such a thing. There was even a tent on a flat spot by the wall, very nice locale.

We went back and wandered up into the port marvelling at all of the gigantic ships, the enormous yachts, and even the little teeny boats all parked tight and cosy in the small port of Nice. Andy and I enjoyed the picturesque views (as usual on this trip) and walked around the port, stopping for lunch at a small restaurant and crepe place to have an excellent sandwich with a carafe of water. We headed back around the canal of the port and out onto a long walkway toward the lighthouse that marked the entrance to get some pictures, you know how I am with lighthouses… eventually heading back home to head to the airport. Saying goodbye to Nice was a good thing, I was ready to head home, but it was amazingly beautiful and Andy and I both decided looking down at the illuminated city nestled in the mountains on the French Riviera that we could definitely return for an extended stay, but probably in the summer would be better.

(The Port of Nice)