Most Popular Articles

  • Chicago

    I've fallen in love with Chicago! I almost feel like I'm betraying San Francisco but they're such different cities. Say San Francisco was, I don't know, Football (or as the Americans term it, soccer) then Chicago is Hockey! One is played on grass whilst the other on ice and last time I checked there are no sticks involved in football. Honestly though, the buildings are amazing and whilst it is a skyscraper city such as New York, for me personally, Chicago far exceeds New York for beauty. The river that meanders through the skyscrapers and Lincoln Park that is located to the west of the enormous Lake Michigan just singles it out as a winner for me. Was talking to a woman who was staying in the same dorm as I was, and who always stays at the Chicago Getaway Hostel, was telling me the best thing to do in Chicago is to go swimming in Lake Michigan with the whole city skyline just right in front of you. Wish she'd told me this before I was just about to leave to get the bus! Went for a walk along the river walk downtown, all the way from Millennium park (which is also really pretty) and I got completely lost in my surroundings, honestly felt like I'd been swallowed up by the city, but in a really good way. I know this all sounds really cheesy, but I'm in love, people in love get all sentimental and gushy! There's also loads of wildlife around. Was talking to Otis on the phone, and every other minute I was either squealing or gasping because there was a millipede on me, or a mouse running past my feet or a firefly flying into my face (ok, I've become aware that these aren't really the creatures you want to encounter anywhere, BUT the glowing fire flies were really cool, and these were all just right outside my hostel) Needless to say, Otis didn't believe I was in Chicago at all, and had actually crossed the border into SOuth America somewhere. There was also a flock of geese, probs about a hundred of them, in Lincoln Park, but I stayed WELL clear of them, never trust geese, especially when they're in a huge crew! I've also not really overcome my recent habit of attracting birds to fly into my head, not sure whether I mentioned this before, but in the last week in San Francisco there were 5, YES 5!!!! instances where a bird either flew into my head or arm....crazy s***. To top things off, the majority of these times I was hungover. Enough about the wildlife, I did actually venture out and do more productive things than just count the number of millipede species I'd encountered. Went to the Chicago Art Institute, where there was a Lichtenstein exhibit on, which I really enjoyed. Not so much a fan of his more recent work, but his pop art and early abstract work was really interesting and fun to look at. Also saw some other American art and an exhibit of statues found in South East Asia. Got the bus to Cleveland yesterday afternoon, last 3 hours felt SO long. We got one break, and everyone was queuing for starbucks or KFC or Burger King cos the "convenient" store, was closed for inventory and NONE of them realised there was a gas station RIGHT NEXT DOOR, or they did and couldn't be bothered to walk there, either way it doesn't portray them in a good light. So I got back on the bus feeling really smug when I got quizzical (and at times hostile) glances from my fellow travelers. Got to downtown Cleveland, in what I'm guessing is their less touristy/ more run down part of the city at midnight, and once again google maps lied to me, leading me to completely overestimate the distance I needed to walk with my huge hiking back pack (which seems to be getting heavier, despite me actually losing stuff rather than acquiring it). Now, I bet you're thinking that's a good thing right? WRONG. It just meant I still walked the distance I'd been expecting to walk, only to have to turn around and walk that erroneous route all over again, and be smirked at by drunk idiots who'd just seen me walk past them in the opposite direction. I'll be honest, I didn't have very high expectations of Cleveland (in fact, they were pretty much down there with my thoughts on the right to bear arms and religion) but, I was mistaken. Obviously, didn't touch Chicago, but it's not half bad. Downtown is relatively pretty and clean and I found a really nice, old graveyard to explore once I'd walked the entire circumference of the downtown area.... Nah it was fine, although VERY quiet, this could have had something to do with the gay pride parade that was going on today, but something tells me that when students aren't at the State university here, it's not exactly buzzing with life. After 5 hours of walking around 2 of which were through a cemetery (really peaceful, and really interesting/sad because it was an old one and most headstones were surrounded by entire families, most of which had an average of 3 to 5 infant deaths on them) I decided to walk back to the hotel to write this. Still got an hour to kill before I need to leave to get my bus to Pittsburgh, which thankfully is only a 2 hour trip.....Was just offered some vikidin off a guy, maybe that would be a good way to spend the time left..... I kid I kid I didn't buy any...why would I? I've already got some in my bag leftover from my appendectomy surgery!
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  • alinafrica

    Posted by alinafrica @ 17:12 Hello All, I thought that instead of various emails, I would put a few things in a blog so as to keep whoever is interested informed of what I'm doing. In case you didn't know, I am working in Uganda for 8 weeks as part of an International Learning Opportunity, funded by the Welsh Government. It seems that there are some perks to living in Wales! I have also taken an additional 7 weeks leave to travel around the area and may be flying back to the UK as late as 20th May. Hopefully this will be an honest and not too tedious account of what I'm up to. Please note, that the views I give are my own and do not represent that of the Environment Agency or the Welsh Government. Basically, keep it to grade 4 level and below colleagues and no forwarding it on to Chris Mills, that means you Ash! A more sanitised and professional (and probably boring) account will be published by our internal comms team for our stakeholders. // The big adventure started for Dani, Sue and I and we flew out of Heathrow on Sunday 5th Feb. We were luckily to do so as I heard later that over half the flights were cancelled that day due to the snow. After sitting at the back of the plane next to a couple of Ugandans, Dani, a couple of rows in front was asked by an Air Hostess if she wanted her Husband to sit next to her in the spare seat. Well I have never seen anyone more insulted in my life. For that reason, I decided to move seats and sit next to her so I could get my own back over the next 10 hours or so. The rest of the flight was pretty uneventful apart from finding out that there was a complementary bar, which we made full use of. // We arrived in Entebbe Airport in the early hours but was not greeted by Edward our Country Manager as it was too late for him, but his friend Alex met us instead. Alex then passed us over to his friend who we got in a random car with. It might of only been a hour but the drive into Kampala seemed to last forever as we tried to acclimatise to the heat and the surroundings while being extremely tired. We stayed in Kampala that night in a relatively nice hotel still a bit shell shocked. // The next morning I awoke and drew back the curtain to take in Uganda in all its glory and instead found myself staring at 3 men with AK47s staring right back at me, yep I thought, This Is Africa! We met with Edward our Country Manager who took us to a western shopping centre to get local phones and to exchange money, before hitting the road for Mbale. The main roads were surprising good to start with but the further we got from Kampala, the worst they became. The tarmaced roads had so many pot holes that traffic simply did not drive on it. This had lead to widely used dirt tracks either site of the tarmac which for the majority of time saw no action. My first impressions of Uganda was how smartly people dressed with shoes, shirt and trousers being the minimal for whatever your job is as well as for casual wear. A million miles away from what I'm used to. I was also surprised at how green everything was considering it is coming to the end of the dry season and hasn't rained in months. // We stopped for lunch in Jinja, where we had no other option but to eat a suspicious looking buffet, that I would have put money on giving us the "inevitables". After a couple more hours of driving we arrived in Mbale in the early evening. Our arrival into Mbale had been somewhat dampened as we drove past an RTA moments after it had happened between two motorbikes. The two motorbike drivers were both getting to their feet and trying to rite the motorbikes, but it was the passenger that concerned us most as he was lying on the road motionless and bleeding from the head. Edward's response was of "it happens all the time". Within a minute of this we arrived at Dani's accommodation. With Dani seeing her home for the next two months and having what just happened resting heaving in all our minds, I think she was in a state of shock as the realisation of where she was hit her. Put it this way, it's the only time I have ever seen Dani speechless! // The next day, after Edward took Sue to her district North of Mbale, he took me to mine, Bududa. Bududa is a hilly rural district that had only been formed 6 years ago, when it broke away from Mbale District for political reasons. The area is notoriously poor and lacks money needed to develop it. After introducing myself at the District Offices, we went to the guest house. The Guest house I'm staying in is the only one in the District and run by an American Missionary project that has built a school locally and accommodates volunteers from oversees. The two American girls who run it, Lacey and Caitlin, seemed nice. There was also a couple of other American girls there who were doing a photographic project for a couple of weeks. // The accommodation is basic, with 4 rooms with 4 beds in each, all equipped with concrete floors and complementary geckos on the walls. Fortunately I have a bedroom to myself at the moment. There is a small common area with a smelly dog and basic food rashons. There is an outside shower and toilet but due to a water shortage we are only allowed a bucket wash and selective flushing!!! There is electricity, well sort of! The power is out for a least 50% of the time. There is a backup battery that runs minimal lighting and power to one socket, which is difficult with 5 people with laptops and the photography girls with 40 digital cameras to charge (that's not an exaggeration). To top it, I have found that the work laptop that caused me so much grief before I left does not hold power and needs a constant supply to work! All this makes for very interesting nights. There is a dongle for basic internet access but only allowed very restricted access due to cost!!! There is also a house help called Jenifer who (should) come in every day and do the cooking and laundry which is included in the price of the guest house. This will be my home for the next two months.
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  • “Shopping” trip to Athens

    “Shopping” trip to Athens
    Posted on June 28, 2011 by etrexler

    On Sunday we traveled to Athens for the second time so we could do some shopping
    around and see some things we couldn’t see before the first time. We had a
    rough start to the trip. Jon had checked the times for the trains before and
    thought they would be same. Apparently everything had just switched over to
    Summer hours which Jon did not know about. We got up, drove to the train
    station, get to the platform and no one is there. We all thought this was quite
    strange. Jon goes down to try to figure things out and finds out the train left
    2 minutes ago and then next one would be here in an hour. The first thing we
    all thought was, damn we could have slept in an extra hour. Jon felt really bad
    but you know , it was good bonding time. We met a very cute friend. He was a
    some kind of mixed breed but so sweet. He sat with us until our train showed
    up. While we were waiting I decided to get up for a second to just walk around
    because I had been sitting for so long. I was walking back literally two steps
    away from sitting down on the bench that everyone else was on, and some man
    just swooped right in and sat down. He saw me sitting there 2 seconds before
    but decided to do it anyway. I just didn’t know what to do. I just laughed and
    walked away. The train came and we were so relieved. Off to Athens we went. We had to switch trains and then also take the subway to get to where we wanted to go and we did
    it! Here was a little conversation that we on on our long ride.

    We all agreed we wanted to try out the McDonalds in the middle of Athens
    just to compare it to back home in the States. It was basically the same. They
    did have a different menu item called the McRoyal. It basically looked like a
    Big Mac to me. One thing that is kind of strange is that you are supposed to
    eat fries with a fork. Every fast food place gives you a tiny fork to eat your French
    fries with. I like it. It keeps you from shoveling a handful of fries in your
    mouth at once and makes you eat slower. After lunch we made our way through
    Athens and realized something else…that most of the stores were closed. Jon had
    warned us before because it was Sunday but we didn’t think all of them would
    be. We did find the flea market and found some interesting things there so I
    was happy with our day. I bought a few souvenirs and bargained my way for a
    cute purse. Successful day!
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    You know there’s a problem when you can smell your neighbors…
    Posted on June 28, 2011 by etrexler

    There is nothing better than waking up every morning in the wonderful town of Loutros
    Elenis, taking a  deep breath, and smelling a nice wif of dirty chickens. At first it wasn’t so bad but now it’s becoming unbearable. This morning was the worst of all. I couldn’t even sit on my porch without feeling like I might puke. It’s bad enough we have to wake up to the roosters crowing every morning and all day as they are doing right now while I
    am writing this.  It was quite funny actually one day, my roommate Christina and I were just hanging out in our room and we both smelled something awful. We had no idea what it was. We thought our toilet had been clogged or something was wrong with our sink. Little did we know that the awful smell was coming from right next door through our balcony door and into our room. It’s always a fun game to come home from work and see if the chickens smell worse then the day before.

    Next door neighbors

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    Inconsistent Showers
    Posted on June 28, 2011 by etrexler

    Here in Loutros Elenis, you never know what kind of shower you will be taking each
    day. Some days its too hot you can’t bare the heat. Some days it’s so cold,
    your shower lasts a whole 3 minutes. The other day was probably the worst
    shower I have experienced since we got here. I should note that the showers
    here are not like normal at home. All it is, is an on/off nob, and a shower
    head on a hose. The first time I tried it, it was quite interesting, but now
    it’s just normal. So anyways, we had just gotten off of a long day at work and
    a trip a to the beach. I came in and took a shower to rinse the salt water off.
    Anticipating the refreshing flow of water to replenish my body, what comes
    out?…A trickle down the head of freezing cold water. I was in such disbelief
    that I turned the knob all the way up, but nothing really did the trick. I
    worked with what I had but, but what I had was whole lot of nothing. Cleansing
    myself was going to have to wait another day. Read more »
  • Stephengmarshall

    Hope you saw last blog!! Check it out two in one day!!On from Bath to Stratford Upon Avon – Shakespeare Country, first stop was Anne Hathaways’ house, wife of William Shakespeare.  The cottage was where Anne grew up and where William and Anne had done their courting.  The house still had the original courting chair as they used to call them centuries ago.  Anne was 7 years older than William when they had to get married William only being 18 years of age. The cottage was set on a few acres of land with a lovely woodlands, apple orchard and statue garden.  We spent a few hours there, a very pretty place and then on to our B&B.  A walk into town across the River Avon and a few more stops at William Shakespeare destinations, house where he died, home of one of his daughters and Husband and the cemetery where the family is buried.  That night we had dinner at one of the Calluccio restaurants which completed another lovely day.    A drive to Mary Arden’s farm, mother of Shakespeare, the next morning which was a few miles out of town.  This farm was a working farm with people dressed in period clothing, cooking food from the period from animals still being raised there today.  It was amazing how the upstairs bedrooms filled with smoke as they cooked their meals on the huge open fires.  It is said that they all slept sitting up because the devil would take them if they slept lying down, we thought it would be more from smoke inhalation I think that was a cause as well.  The people working on the farm were real Shakespearians and they spoke with such passion when telling you about the family and the surrounding properties. We then headed back into town and went to Shakespeare’s birthplace which completed the Shakespeare picture.   Unfortunately the theatre was closed for an upgrade not reopening until next month.  We then walked along the river and watched some locks in operation and checked out the narrow boats dotted along the banks.   Wednesday we decided to head towards Blackpool and before we left as always the host at the B&B asked where we were heading to and we said Blackpool.  Great he said they have a light show there, good and we told him about the one that we had seen in Hong Kong, no he said it won’t be like that – oh we thought how could it be that different, anyway he said just keep in mind it can be a bit tacky.  Tacky we thought, we thought that we had seen tacky but no all was revealed when we arrived in Blackpool.  Probably our interest with Blackpool came from Coronation Street when Vera & Jack went there for their summer holidays and that should have told us a story – oh a bit of fun to be had ahead.   Luckily we hadn’t prebooked accommodation; this was one day that I didn’t mind.  We could not believe it, bigger and more brash than Brighton, B&B’s, arcades, Piers oh and once again we can not forget the Fish n Chip shops all the way along the promenade.  The promenade stretched along probably more than 5 kms.  We headed down the south end of the beach and decided we had better get somewhere to sleep, I was thinking I might just like to head out of town hehe.  The first hotel I went into seemed ok, 84 quid for the night with breakfast, no wifi in rooms though, I could try a newer hotel down the road they would have wifi in the room I was told, that’s ok I thought, would I like  showed me the room, oh my gosh no I wasn’t going to stay there.  I quickly gapped it out the front door dived into the car, gave Steve the bully and we promptly smoked it out of their car park to drive down the road and see if we could find this new hotel.  Luckily we did and wPleasure Beach outside our Hotel windowhen I went into see if I could get a room I asked the girl was the room nice, she looked at me strangely and said this is a new hotel, how many stars, 4 was her reply and the price was right so all was good for the night.  We got our gear and went to our room before heading out to walk the promenade and find somewhere for dinner oh and not to forget the lights which were turned on at 8.00 pm and we could catch a tram if we wanted to run the length of the promenade.  Actually out of our bedroom window was Pleasure Island theme park and we had a roller coaster screaming past our window every 5 minutes but that was fun to see.   In Blackpool although one beach they have a number of so called beachless beaches.  South beach, Pleasure beach, Myrtle Beach and North Beach.  If it was indeed Pleasure Beach I have never seen so many unimpressed people in my life, ….happy….NOT!  Geez these people look rough.  Never seen so many Mohican haircuts in my life, not even in a 1960s western movie.  Mind you the weather has cooled so that maybe why.  Virtually every shop sells Blackpool Rock, that is the candy with the writing down the inside; I remember that from my childhood days, best price seemed to be 7 pieces for 1 pound.  The entire waterfront wall to wall hotels or B&Bs, some very sad looking indeed.  Then the streets leading off the promenade were all B&Bs too, literally thousands of them and what was interesting was all the people on motorized scooters, it’s big business here we came across 3 shops within a small area.  Unfortunately with some of these sad looking people comes the gambling, the Arcades, the amount of bingo outlets calling you in, and the buy gold for cash shops that were everywhere.  We have been to Amsterdam where they have legalized cannabis and seen the culture and we have now been to Blackpool and seen what the pokey machines and arcades draw in – it’s not a great sight.   Well yes even we got sucked into the gambling, only a small amount but we needed to go to the toilet and Coral Island looked ok, well the machines, the lights and the music draws you in.  All that money could be yours just sitting on the shelf ready to fall off we must be able to win.  As you all know that we are pretty tight I thought I would chance a pound 50, 2p pieces that go into a machine with shelves moving back and forth, first haul we only lost 12p then it was all gone hey well we had a bit of fun, but you look around and see these old punk rockers with babies in pushchairs and you think how sad, what a way to spend a day.   Anyway plenty of fresh air and walking probably about 20ks one day was done in Blackpool and the lights were great, we will attach some photos, once again it is time to move on.  Next stop Edinburgh in Scotland.  

    Tue Oct 05, 2010 My new Scotsmanimage236Hi from Scotland - do you like the hat & hairdo?  Having fun will update blog again soon!!

    Thu Sep 30, 2010 We’re on the road again -  Monday morning and we are heading out of Brighton and as yet we don’t know where we will end up today but  we are heading west and the plan is to be in Padstow by the Wednesday 22nd so we have a couple of days to get there.  We agree on Dorchester as the destination and arrive in town around 3.00 pm after a couple of stops on the way.  Now where to stay, well the GPS has this great little tool that finds accommodation so we have a look, there appears to be heaps of places 10 kms south  so lets try there.  Neither of us knowing where we would end up and were a bit apprehensive, we arrived in this place called Weymouth pronounced Wimith by the locals.  This is a seaside town, fantastic; streets of B&B’s, which one do we pick who knows but lets have a go.  First one unsuccessful - she had a room but don’t think she wanted anyone staying so then 2 along into the next one.  As I was walking in a bloke came running in and told me it was the best B&B along there, great this would do and we have a room with a view but only for one night as it was rented but we could move to another room tomorrow if we wanted to stay.  Our room had a little table in the window and we looked out to sea, very nice.    After being cooped up in the car all day we headed out for a walk along the promenade, this place also had the Punch & Judy cabins for puppet shows, the candy cane painted sheds on the beach, game arcades, deck chairs for rent but without the sophistication and the crowds of Brighton.  We stopped at one of the stalls for a coffee and did some people watching then headed further up the road where we found a great shopping area, some of the streets were lined with flags Steve could not believe it, very kitsch. We then went down to the wharf for a wander around, a very interesting little place.   We then headed back to the B&B this was our first experience so weren’t quite sure of the protocol.  Well they appear generally to be owned by couples & it’s interesting it seems that one fronts the people and the other is in the background doing the cooking etc.  We went back down the road for dinner to this funny little place not too far away but had a great meal for 12 quid, also met some people there who filled us in on what was worth doing the next day   Tuesday we thought Weymouth was definitely a place for another nights stay so let our host know aCorfe Castlet breakfast, ok great but we would need to move rooms, that’s fine, oh no she came back in and said a booking had come in over  night so we would need to go but she ran down the road to one of her friends and we were in another B&B with a room with a view, so before we knew it we were moved down the road and good for another nights accommodation – so time for the sight seeing.   First stop was Swanage to the weekly market, then a walk into the town where they run a tourist steam train from Swanage through to Corfe Castle.  We stood and watched them loading coal on to the engine and then walked to the train station.  Next stop was Corfe Castle; this had been the setting and inspiration for Enid Blyton when she was writing her Famous Five books.  A stop at the local Tea Rooms to try Clotted Cream & Jam Scones – beautiful, yaar ummm.     Next to Lulworth lullith as the locals say Castle and on the way a sign that says Lulworth Cove so figuring that the castle is in the same direction head there.  What a gem of a find, no castle that we can see but it seems that everybody comes here.  The surprise of our lives there are 100s of cars in the limestone carpark and big grass overspill park too.  We see this limestone pathway up the cliff edge to the top and decide to the tackle it.  What a stupid move, heaving and perspiring like a couple of boxers in the 12th round we stagger to the top, obviously very steep.  The view was immense and worth the walk, at this point we kid ourselves that we have used all the calories in the jam and cream scones so a drink is deserved.  Another gem is the cove, no sand here though but hardy people braving the rocks for a lie in the sun.  We pass a little fish shop and I mean little, selling all sorts of what we do not see at home.  Smoked sprats, well they are bait at home but I am going to catch some at Pauanui and smoke them. Big Turbot for sale at 19 quid a kilo, jellied eels and all sort of strange stuff.  Now to the local for a drink and I get the drinks in, Janet the usual wine and a cider for me.  Then we decide that we are hungry again after all the exercise so we have to have a Cornish pasty.  You just have to have a pasty when in Cornwall, so a pasty with cider or wine is great I can tell you.   I had seen a cider museum on the way today so we called in there on the way home.  Great to see but their cider was shocking.  Needless to say that we did not purchase any of that brand.  Back to wimith as they say.    Another new venture today and off to Padstow – Rick Stein country for all of you who watch the food channel -.  What a hoot of a place a quaint fishing village specialising in crabs and lobster, with thousands of tourists thronging the tiny streets.  Accommodation is tight so we call in to the tourist info centre, they assist.  Rick Stein is huge here and has taken the town to a real destination to visit, it appears to us if it wasn’t for him it would be some sleepy smelly hollow.  He owns so much of the town, 5 or 6 restaurants and shops for a start.  Mind you he knows how to charge!  We find a great B&B up the hill and it is great .   We tried to book into one of the restaurants but couldn’t get in till 9.30 pm too late .   Back across the road to further explore the village and guess what?  Time for something to eat so we take in a late lunch and decided on the English favourite and had fish and chips, really nice too.   A guy is on the stBirthday Boyreet outside his Pasty shop disposing of the balance of the days stock at 1.50 pound each, well we decide that we will have these for dinner tonight and buy a couple.   Today it is my birthday and as breakfast is served in your room with all the nice table setting and the gear etc we break out a bottle of Moet which just happened to be chilled and had a great Champagne breakfast.  What a great start to the day.  We decide on a quiet day today and just walk the village exploring and book in for dinner tonight.  Dinner was fantastic with the both of us having lobster.  All I can say is that NZ Crayfish beats it hands down for flavour and taste, we still enjoyed it though and ate them like true Kiwis and just left a pile of dust on the plates.   So Padstow was great but it was time to move on to Bath today.  Lots to see in Bath and our drive took us down very skinny lanes in some beautiful villages.  We stopped at a farm shop for a coffee and the produce on offer was immense.  It is strange to drive down such skinny roads with the trees and bush etc right on the road.  We had to reverse up a couple of times because two into one does not go and I do not want to damage the car.  We find our B&B for the next few days and it is off to the city center to find our bearings.    This place is beautiful, very old and simply lovely, we are in the city center in a matter of minutes walk and Stone Hengewe have booked a Stone Henge tour and need to find out where it leaves from tomorrow morning.  That sorted we start our usual snooping of the city, walking, looking, photographing etc, noting places that we need to come back to, to spend more time on.   Breakfast is late tomorrow after we leave for the henge so Janet arranges for toast in the room.   We duly arise early and are quiet getting ready so that we do not disturb any other guests, how very considerate of us, then……it could only happen to us….you guessed it at 6.30am we are cooking our toast and the smoke alarm decides to wake up and because it is awake decides to wake the whole place.  I am sure that these things are louder when things are quiet, do you know how hard it is to stop these once they start screaming.  Needless to say we settled the jolly thing down furiously waving towels etc and scampered for the day.  Beats having an alarm even if you don’t want one.  I recall a pommy television program, neighbours from hell, maybe we will feature?   It is cooler these days, a lot cooler in the mornings under 5c and we find our way to the Mad Max tours meet point.  Stone Henge was incredible, unbelievable and all of those words.  The day was brilliantly sunny and fine but with a freezing breeze cutting like a knife across the henge. We wandered around with our whisper telling us all about the different aspects of the henge.  There are other henges around and we saw a wooden henge and all sorts of stuff.  On to Lacock lacuc in roman times and we had lunch here in a very old pub, the George Inn dating from 1361.  This is also the village where parts of Harry Potter was filmed and also the movie Pride and prejudice, Wolfman and The other Boleyn Girl.  We passed Cley Hill which is the sight of very many UFO sightings.  What nobody tells you is that most are seen after the pub closes of an evening and most were from  a commune in the 60s’.  We also saw the limestone horses carved out of the hillside, not so much carved as the soil scraped off and one of them known as the Westbury White Horse. We also saw many Neolithic burial mounds.  Then on to Castle Combes which was a very small village where as it happened  Steven Spielberg was making a movie.  I can tell you that it is going to be called Warhorse.  This had to be the best value tour on offer in the world at 30 pounds for the whole day, thanks Mad Max Tours.   Sunday was spent walking the town and we went to the Roman baths.  Now that is a place to see, unbelievable engineering 2000 years ago.  Well worth the entry fee.  We then walked alongside the Avon River across the Pulteney Bridge built with shops along both sides with views through the shop to the Avon.  We also found the original Sally Lunns house which is the oldest house in bath dating from 1462, we even booked in for dinner here and have dinner served in a traditional Trencher.  A trencher is a wooden board a with bread base, used before metal or ceramic plates were invented.  One mops up the meal juices and cleans the plate with the bread trencher.  You are allowed to lick the plate as these were not washed and usually had the owners name carved into the back.  Who would want to use something that someone else had cleaned by licking?   Yuk!

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  • grace

    :Amie Grace Woodgate

    In the 2 weeks I have slowly been making my way from San Francisco to my current location of St Louis, Missouri, via Santa Cruz, Santa Ana, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Memphis. Attempted to write a blog jst over a week ago, but couldnt get internet access so here is it in all its glory: Blog Entry 07/06/12- All Change Here Currently sat on an Amtrak train from San Jose to Los Angeles, although has more similarities with a plane! SO much leg room (I know that doesn’t sound like a lot coming from myself, but even a 7 foot legged man would be comfortable). Listening to a bit of the old Kings of Leon, how did they digress so much from their early days? Scenery outside (hills, miles of vineyards and farms) is making the prospect of another 9 and a half hours on this train a little easier to process, but still, over 10 hours to get somewhere a car can get to in half the time? It’s like the opposite to trains in the UK. Leaving Santa Cruz lads and lasses was a bit too much at 7:00 this morning, didn’t help that I fell asleep before properly saying bye to everyone before going to bed, feel terrible! Woke up and first thought was “wow, I’m a dick!” I wrote a note apologizing and sent a text to Tom, so hopefully they’ll find it in their hearts to forgive me. Had so much fun hanging out with all of them this past week. All the girls were lovely, really easy going, so thank you for making me feel so welcome Jena, Kaitlin, Sasha and Sarah. Our trip to the Garden of Eden is also something I’ll never forget, so beautiful there, and the walk to it down a still functioning railway track made it all that much more exciting. Was a shame Charlie had to leave so early on in my visit, she seemed to have knowledge about everything! And Kaitlin and my attempts at creating mini red velvet cupcakes for Jena’s 20th didn’t fail quite as epically as we had expected after mixing the first bowl of mix and only being able to smell/taste the olive oil we were instructed to add. Also saw a dolphin at Natural bridges beach with Charlie and Jim, which was then abruptly switched from being a majestic moment by the arrival of their friend Ben who informed us that there is a real problem with dolphins raping people…. This then led to a very long discussion on the most uncomfortable and disgusting youtube videos we’d all seen, which included one about terminally ill people competing in their own Olympics to win money for their family when they die by cutting off limbs and other horrific contests. Also saw my first banana slug, so called for its vibrant yellow colouring. Apparently in Santa Cruz it’s custom to kiss one of these slugs if u see one, for good luck, so when neither Otis or I were willing to uphold this tradition, Jim took it upon himself to do the honours. Think the last week of drinking is catching up on me, absolutely exhausted, might just sleep for the entire train journey, but don’t want to miss out on where I’m going through. Almost feels like the end of an era! I’m really excited to start my trip across the U.S but at the same time I don’t want to leave California. It’s also going to be weird not having Otis around after living with him these past 10 months, but it’s ok, our house can’t be entirely split, planning on meeting Mikey in Austin (that’s if he actually puts words into actions) sure he will, might just need to nag him a little  Actually, really thankful to Mikey for his bluffing and negotiation skills with our pedant landlords, who were asking for $2000 out of our $2400 security deposit. Nearly had a heart attack when he informed me that a grand of that was being appointed to a tiny paint job of 3 walls! It doesn’t cost that much to paint an entire house, let alone 3 measly walls in an apartment. Douchebags! They must think we’re absolute mugs! (which mikey informed them quite diplomatically that we’re not) Ooh, just passing one of those totally anonymous central Californian towns, seriously they all look so alike, it’s kinda disconcerting. Anyway enough ranting! On my way to LA to meet up with these Irish girls I unfortunately only really got to know in the last two weeks in SF, but they seem sound, and pretty hilarious. Off to Vegas with them. Was going to go to Grand Canyon with them as well, but they decided it was better for them to do vegas first rather than GC, which I completely understand. I would just go see it on my own, but trying to play catch up with Henry and Andrea, who are steaming ahead, think they’re on their way to Austin now, and if I do end up flying there, it won’t be till at least Monday (4 days from now) so time really is of the essence right now. Got a month to get to Boston, via New Orleans and cities along the Mississippi. Just want to start actually organizing transport for it, but kind of need to know plans of others to do this. What I really don’t understand about American transportation is that a bus that takes 2 days is MORE expensive than a flight that takes 4 hours….honestly it really is just flip reverse to England, where the faster a journey is the more pricey it’s likely to be. Was looking at Cait-Lynn and Mandrea’s photos from New Orleans the other day, and it looks so amazing, I can’t wait to just be there. Really got that travelling bug now, kind of couldn’t be bothered with it all last week, but think that was because of the stress of moving out and cleaning up and deciding what things I’ve accumulated over the last year was worth keeping or sending home, and what was just junk that could be thrown out or given away. And back to the present. New Orleans was as amazing as I had expected, if not more so. The French Quarter was beautiful, although Bourbon Street was a bit too cheesy and touristy for my liking, but went out for a night out on Frenchmen street, and that was far superior. Live jazz and blues bands playing in pretty much every bar, and you could just saunter in and out, enjoying and soaking up as much of the atmosphere as you could. Henry foolishly drank two hand grenade cocktails too fast, as the alcohol was barely detectable, but it was there, which Henry soon found out.... he just kinda wondered behind us, not really knowing what was going on. We were able to watch quite a lot of the Euro football matches which was a good and bad thing, always great to watch nationalistic sport, but it did delay our exploration of the city to a certain extent. Went to try and see the remnants of devastation Hurricane Katrina left 7 years ago, but the lady at our hostel (The India House,really good hostel may i quickly add) directed us to the completely opposite part of town for this, could have been because she was looking at the map upside down, but that's no excuse! Ended up having really good bbq in that area tho, so every cloud has its silver lining. Then Mikey, Henry and I walked through the french quarter again (stopped to watch some guys break dance as they threatened the crowd that if they didnt donate some money for the show hey'd be robbing their houses) I gave $4. Decided to walk all the way to the warehouse and arts district to see the guide book labelled a house constructed of debris from the hurricane by an artist. At first when we got to the spot it was supposed to be at we thought maybe because the book was slightly dated, the house had only been temporary, but then we came out of the park we thought it had been, to find this tiny little sculpture of a house in a tree.....yeh, not so much a house, more of a statue. But hey ho, it was still kinda cool, if not what we'd exactly envisioned. Anyhow, since then I've travelled northwards with henry and andrea and stayed in Memphis with them for a couple of nights (they were couch surfing, I was doing chores to earn my keep in the Pilgrim Hostel, not actually as bad as it sounds, I just had to wipe down the surface of the hob to get my deposit back, which I didnt actually end up giving them as they wanted it in cash, so I basically just cleaned for the fun of it). Oh nearly forgot, one last thing about New Orleans, watch out for the huge green Io Moth caterpillars. One unfortunately took a liking to the inside of Henry's pj bottoms.....the girly scream that echoed in our dorm was kinda hilarious, but the caterpillar was massive and terrifying and did cause quite a lot of pain on Henry's part.....was close to being his more private parts, but once again, every cloud, could have been a WHOLE lot worse! Memphis was alright, didn't really do it for me though. Bit of a mismatch of things, I mean, what is a mid-town part of a city? Uptown i understand, downtown, I understand, but is there really any need for a mid-town? Also the neighborhoods there are manic, one minute you're commenting on how beautiful the houses are, next minute you see a shack with barred windows and posters declaring unsettling religious statements about how everyone's going to hell unless they sacrifice a dog, by gouging its left eye out whilst also drowning it simultaneously and then eat its spleen, chewing only on the right side of your mouth! or something along those lines. MADNESS! Had a quick glance at Graceland and bought a t-shirt from sun studios, standard procedure. Went to the same suchi place we'd gone to the night before and went for drinks, where i parted ways from Henry and Andrea, who are off to nashville, the smokey mountains and ashville. Really hope they managed to replace their tyre. It's the second time a tyre has burst whilst ive been in the car on this trip, and Andrea's wheels are pretty much brand new....perhaps i should stay away from cars for a while, obviously not the luckiest of companions. Had to get up at 5 this morning to get a bus from memphis to st louis. Was really hoping there would be lockers at the station so i could have a look round downtown as the only hotel i could get was like 10 miles out and a good $40 cab fare, but alas, st louis is stupid, so didnt really get to see much more than what i saw from the bus on arriving, and been cooped up in my room all day! But HEY, CHICAGO tomorrow, hostel and bus all booked, and already have a vague plan of what i want to do when im there, so that's something. This whole being organised thing is such a foreign concept to me, but i really dont want to have to sleep on the streets so kinda making it happen, had to book another hotel in Cleveland because, like St Louis, they dont believe in hostels, absolute travesty! Anyway, I should probs be getting to sleep, got a long day ahead of me tomorrow.
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