So it’s been forever since I’ve written. Lots has happened. My life is entirely different than I expected it to be at this point. Made some new friends, lost some old ones. Learned many new things.

The travels are still happening. Went to Medieval Times in Toronto yesterday. It was my second time there, and just as great as the first time. And the green knight sure was cute!!

I found Toronto overwhelming though. London England was easier to navigate, less impatient, and less overwhelming to the senses. Perhaps things were worse than usual because of the transit strike.

Short post for now. Considering not continuing with this blog.

Here’s a modified version of my itinerary, so anyone who wants to can follow what I’m doing each day, since I won’t be able to post things often.

Friday, May 18

Tour: HTCX – 49 Day Mega European Brand: Topdeck
PARIS FRANCE

Meet your Top Deck Trip Leader and fellow travellers for an early morning departure from London to catch the ferry from Dover to Calais. You will have the opportunity on board the ferry to exchange some money into Euros and some of the other currencies you will need for your trip. Once on board the coach you make your way to Paris. This evening you head into “The City of Lights” for the spectacular night light tour. Paris is renowned for its beauty, which will be evident as you pass some of the many famous sights along the River Seine. The comprehensive city tour takes you past the Place de la Concorde, Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and much more! (D)

Saturday, May 19

PARIS FRANCE

Today you have plenty of free time to explore the sights of Paris at your own pace – Notre Dame Cathedral, the Georges Pompidou Centre, the Louvre or the impressive Musee D’Orsay. Why not spend the morning on a bicycle tour around this spectacular city. Wander through the shops on Rue de Rivoli or spend the afternoon in a sidewalk cafe. Tonight, after our famous champagne picnic dinner under the shadows of the Eiffel Tower, you can take an optional Seine River cruise or see the oldest cabaret show in Paris at the famous ‘Paradis Latin’. (B,L,D)

Sunday, May 20

LAUTERBRUNNEN SWITZERLAND

This morning we say farewell to Paris and travel through the French countryside before reaching Switzerland. After the border formalities, we head on to our accommodation at Lauterbrunnen, a tiny village at the base of the famous Jungfrau and Schilthorn mountains. (B,L,D)

Monday, May 21

LAUTERBRUNNEN SWITZERLAND

Time to lay back, relax and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the glacial valley of Lauterbrunnen. The options available to you are all equally unforgettable. A real highlight of your visit here is an optional trip up the awesome, snow covered, 4000m high Jungfrau mountain by railway. Here, you can view the Ice Palace, go glacial skiing (weather permitting) or take a husky ride. Hire a mountain bike and cycle to the famous Trummelbach Falls or there are numerous mountain walks to savour the stunning countryside – all are exciting options to consider. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, May 22

AVIGNON FRANCE

Today, drive back through the heart of France to Avignon in the wine-growing region of the Rhone Valley. This evening you will take a walk into the old town centre past the Palace of the Popes and the Pont St Benezet (immortalised in the nursery rhyme) and experience the peaceful ambience of this ancient walled city. (B,L)

Wednesday, May 23

BARCELONA SPAIN

Today you will travel to Spain and the Capital of Catalunya, Barcelona. (B,L,D)


Thursday, May 24

BARCELONA SPAIN

The highlights tour will show you the Columbus Monument, Sagrada Familia- Gaudi’s spectacular cathedral, Montjuic (site of the 1992 Olympics) and more! You’ll have plenty of time to wander around the lively Las Ramblas markets or visit Parc Guell. In the evening you can sample the local cuisine and watch (or maybe even join in) a boisterous Flamenco Dancing show. (B)

Friday, May 25

FRENCH RIVIERA FRANCE

On to the French Riviera, home of the rich and famous. This afternoon we will visit a French Perfumery for a short, guided tour. (B,L,D)

Saturday, May 26

FRENCH RIVIERA FRANCE

Today you have a free day to visit Nice, capital of the Riviera. Stroll the famous Promenades, go Roller Blading, or just lay by the Mediterranean. In the evening it’s on to the Principality of Monaco to make your fortune at Monte Carlo’s Casino. (B)

Sunday, May 27

VENICE ITALY

This morning we cross into Italy, stopping to visit ancient Verona, where Romeo and Juliet played out their tragic love affair. Our walking tour will take you to see Juliet’s balcony, and the impressive Roman Forum on to our next stop, the captivating city of Venice, built on stilts, a city of canals and gondolas. (B,L,D)

Monday, May 28

VENICE ITALY

Today you have a full day in this fascinating city built on an island. During the day you will have the opportunity to travel by motorboat along the Grand Canal. On the walking tour, discover the sights of St. Mark’s Square, Rialto Bridge, St. Mark’s Basilica and the Bridge of Sighs. There’s the option to cruise the canals in a gondola, explore the narrow streets, shops, markets, or sit in the cafes that line the canals. See a demonstration of traditional Venetian lace making. (B,D)

Tuesday, May 29

FLORENCE ITALY

Driving south through the Tuscany region we stop at Pisa, home to the famous Leaning Tower. Then we travel on to Florence, home of the Renaissance. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, May 30

FLORENCE ITALY

During the walking tour with our local guide of this beautiful city you will see the Ponte Vecchio, Duomo Cathedral, Uffizi Gallery and Santa Croce – burial place of Michelangelo. Florence is famous for its shopping, and you will go to a leather demonstration, visit Walter’s Gold and Silver shop, and there is also time to explore the markets and galleries. Discover Michelangelo’s “David”, and after dinner why not visit the ‘Red Garter’, one of Florence’s leading live music venues. (B)

Thursday, May 31

ROME ITALY

This morning there is time to visit the historic hilltop city of Orvieto on the way to Italy’s capital – “The Eternal City of Rome” – home of the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Cathedral, the Coliseum and many more archaeological treasures. The walking tour takes you to see the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the ancient Roman Forum, the massive Victor Emmanuel Monument and the Coliseum. (B,L,D)

Friday, June 01

ROME ITALY

This morning is your chance to visit the stunning Vatican Museum and St Peter’s Cathedral. Use your free time to explore the Palantine hill area (the ancient commercial and political heart of Rome) or treat yourself in some of the trendy fashion boutiques. (B,D)

Saturday, June 02

SORRENTO ITALY

A morning drive to Pompeii, where you can take a fascinating tour of this city, buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius nearly two thousand years ago. It’s then onto the campsite in beautiful Sorrento, set high on the cliffs overlooking the Bay of Naples. (B,L,D)

Sunday, June 03

SORRENTO ITALY

Today we include a day trip out to the Island of Capri. Whilst there, you can see the amazing Blue Grotto. After returning to Sorrento, there is time to wander around the narrow back streets of Sorrento with its craft shops and seafood restaurants. (B,L)

Monday, June 04

ROME TO BARI TO GREECE

We pass through the olive groves of Southern Italy, to the port town of Bari where we board our overnight ferry to the Greek mainland. (B,L)

Tuesday, June 05

FLOTILLA SAILING GREECE

After instructions from the Flotilla Leader you set sail on the Ionian Sea for 2 fantastic days. You’ll join in crewing the yachts and between sailing, swimming, and sunbathing, you’ll have a chance to sample Greek food, drink and dance at the various Tavernas where you make your overnight stops. On the afternoon of the 2nd day, you return to Plataria for the night. (Bx2,Lx2,Dx1)

Thursday, June 07

PLATARIA GREECE

After leaving your yachts this morning, we head to one of the local areas fantastic beaches for the day. Time to totally relax and soak up the sun. Tonight we will have dinner in a local restaurant. (Bx1,Lx1,Dx1)

Friday, June 08

ATHENS GREECE

It’s an early departure today for the drive to Athens. You will drive down to the Peloponese. A highlight of the day is a stop at the spectacular Corinth Canal, which separates the Peloponese from the rest of mainland Greece. (B,L,D)

Saturday, June 09

ATHENS GREECE

Your time in Athens is spent looking at some of the ancient wonders of this classical city – for example the Acropolis and Parthenon. You can wander through the “Plaka” markets, visit the National Museum and see the changing of the guards outside the National Palace in Syntagma Square. (B,D)

Sunday, June 10

METEORA GREECE

The hustle and bustle of the city is left behind as you travel to the dramatic 14th century cliff top monasteries on the Thessaly plains, once numbering 24, there are now only five still occupied. You visit one of the Monasteries where you will need to cover up, as this is a religious site. Make sure you bring plenty of film for your camera – the scenery is breathtaking. (B,L,D)

Monday, June 11

KAVALLA GREECE

Today you head to the beachside camp in Kavalla with time to work on your suntan or just relax on the beach enjoying the lovely scenery. Go for a walk into town, but get back in time for dinner. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, June 12

GALLIPOLI TURKEY

On to Turkey, and a stunning drive along the Gallipoli peninsular. Together with our experienced Local Guide, you will appreciate the experiences of the ANZAC Forces during the campaign in World War One. An unforgettable and moving experience. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, June 13

ISTANBUL TURKEY

This morning we head for the exotic city of Istanbul. You have plenty of time in this amazing trading city where East meets West and all is for sale. (B,L,D)

Thursday, June 14

ISTANBUL TURKEY

Today our local guide takes you to the Topkapi Palace, Saint Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Underground Cistern, Hippodrome and more. You can’t go to Turkey without visiting a leather or carpet shop to practice your bartering skills before heading into the Grand Bazaar. (B)

Friday, June 15

ISTANBUL TURKEY

A free day today so take some time out and experience a Turkish bath. Why not take a cruise on the Bosphorus, where Europe meets Asia. Tonight you can spend an unforgettable evening of belly dancing in a Turkish nightclub. (B)

Saturday, June 16

SOFIA BULGARIA

This morning, an early start as you leave Turkey for Bulgaria, arriving late afternoon in historic Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. (B,L,D)

Sunday, June 17

SOFIA BULGARIA

Our city tour with a local guide will take us to St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral, St Georges 4th Century Church, St Sofia’s Church and more. There is plenty of time in the afternoon to enjoy this fascinating city, and at night make the most of the local atmosphere. (B)

Monday, June 18

BUCHAREST ROMANIA

This morning you will stop at Veliko Tarnovo, the medieval capital of Bulgaria. This afternoon you enter Romania, another of the former Eastern Block countries still undergoing massive changes, staying overnight in the capital Bucharest. (B,L)

Tuesday, June 19

BRASOV ROMANIA

During our morning city tour, your local guide will show you sights such as the Triumphal Arch commemorating Romania’s losses in World War One, Cretalescu Church and the main city square – site of the 1989 Revolution. From the capital you travel through the changing scenery of wooded hills and ski fields to the province of Transylvania – famous for its legend of Dracula. You visit Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle) today, before heading on to the quaint town of Brasov where you will be given free time to explore. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, June 20

CLUJ NAPOCA ROMANIA

Today, enjoy the scenery of northern Romania. You stop in the small town of Sighisoara, birthplace of Dracula, before continuing on to spend the night in Cluj Napoca. A welcome rest after a long day travelling through this former Eastern Block country, where the rural lifestyle remains as it has been for generations. (B,L,D)

Thursday, June 21

BUDAPEST HUNGARY

After leaving Romania, you arrive in Budapest, one of Europe’s most romantic cities, situated on both sides of the river Danube, which divides beautiful old Buda with the bustling district of Pest. (B,L,D)

Friday, June 22

BUDAPEST HUNGARY

See the Liberation Memorial, Roosevelt Square, Chain Bridge, St Mathias’ Cathedral, and Fisherman’s Bastion. There’s time to explore the Castle District with its cobbled streets and network of underground tunnels, visit one of the famous bathhouses for a massage and perhaps do some shopping in this wonderful city. (B,L)

Saturday, June 23

VIENNA via BRATISLAVA AUSTRIA/SLOVAKIA

Following the Danube you travel on to Slovakia and the capital of Bratislava. This city has undergone rebuilding in the past few years and is an easy place to explore. Sights include the 14th century Cathedral of St Martins, the Michael Gate, Baroque Tower and Gothic structures, but if sightseeing is not your fancy today then just enjoy the local café’s and watch the world pass by. This afternoon we travel on to musical Vienna, capital of Austria. Tonight visit the Prater Amusement Park (see if you recognise it from a scene in one of the James Bond films). (B,D)

Sunday, June 24

VIENNA AUSTRIA

This morning, on our driving tour you will see the Schonbrunn and Hoffburg Palaces; St Stephen’s Cathedral, the Opera House and Spanish Riding School. You have free time to enjoy this musical city, and there is an optional excursion to a traditional Schnapps Museum where you can sample the local product! Tonight you can visit a traditional Viennese Chamber Orchestra in one of Vienna’s many Palaces, followed by dinner looking out over the Palace gardens. (B,L)

Monday, June 25

PRAGUE CZECH REPUBLIC

On to Prague, the stunning city of a thousand spires nestled astride the Vltava River. Our city tour takes you to the Hradcany Castle complex, Wenceslas Square where the 1989 “Velvet Revolution” took place, and the beautiful Old Town Square where you will see the astrological clock display on the Old Town Hall, and Tyne Church. Cross the famous Charles Bridge with 30 impressive statue groups and climb the gothic defence tower for a superb view over the city. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, June 26

PRAGUE CZECH REPUBLIC

This city will amaze and captivate you, from the trams rumbling along the streets and the artists around Charles Bridge, to the old traditional Inns and had-made puppets. This city has it all! You have plenty of free time today to wander around the historic city centre, lunch in one of the local cafes, and enjoy the excellent (and cheap) local beer. Tonight, why not spend the evening in the largest club in eastern Europe, with 5 levels of different music (B)

Wednesday, June 27

KRAKOW POLAND

Next stop is Krakow, the former capital of Poland. Krakow miraculously escaped the destruction of World War 2. The atmosphere of the city is concentrated around Rynek Glowny (the market square) and the old town. (B,L,D)

Thursday, June 28

KRAKOW POLAND

You’ll have plenty of time to wander around the narrow streets, explore the Wawel castle hill, shop in the Cloth hall markets for great Polish souvenirs or visit one of the many cellar or courtyard bars. If you prefer, you may wish to take a trip out to the famous salt mines, or perhaps a Schindler tour of the Jewish ghetto. (B)

Friday, June 29

WARSAW POLAND

A sombre start to the day as you make your way to the memorial camps of Birkenau and Auschwitz. Then travel on to the modern capital of Poland, Warsaw, a city destroyed by the 2nd World War and lovingly reconstructed in the following years. (B,L,D)

Saturday, June 30

WARSAW POLAND

The highlights tour of Warsaw includes the Chopin Monument, Victory Square, Heroes of the Uprising Monument, sights of the Old Jewish Ghetto and the Old Town. In the afternoon you have plenty of free time to discover the colourful city of Warsaw in more depth. (B,D)

Sunday, July 01

BERLIN GERMANY

Today we travel through the Polish countryside, then into Germany, travelling on to Berlin, the vibrant capital of Germany. On our driving tour of this fascinating city you will discover the outstanding sights and museums as you see the famous Victory Monument, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Ku’Dam and the world renowned Zoo. You will stop at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and travel down the Unter Den Linden in former East Berlin. (B,L,D)

Monday, July 02

BERLIN GERMANY

Many years have now passed since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, once separating East from West. Today you have plenty of time to further explore this reunified city. In the morning there is an optional Third Reich walking tour with a local guide which will take you through some of the most important times during the Second World War. Tonight you could go for a tour of some of the more interesting local bars and nightclubs. The choice is yours! (B)

Tuesday, July 03

AMSTERDAM NETHERLANDS

Today we head to Amsterdam, the party capital of Holland. On our way into the city, you will have the opportunity to watch cheese and traditional clog making demonstrations. Tonight is spent in the famous Red Light District. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, July 04

AMSTERDAM NETHERLANDS

This morning you will have a bicycle tour of the Dutch countryside. See Amsterdam as the locals do. You’ll see the sights of Dam Square, the Royal Palace, Anne Frank’s House and also have a chance to spend some time in the Rijks and Van Gogh Museums. Why not visit the ‘Heineken Experience’ in the original Heineken Brewery before our farewell dinner. (B,D)

Thursday, July 05

LONDON ENGLAND

You travel through the Belgian countryside to catch an early afternoon ferry from Calais to Dover ensuring that you arrive back in London by early evening. (B)

I’m going to be leaving residence the day after my birthday. So if anyone plans to send me anything in the mail (cards or letters), you’ll be better off sending it to my Canadian home at this point. Or save it for when I get back. As for gifts, money is of course very acceptable 😉 It’ll really help for my Europe trip. It’s not necessary though, I’m pretty sure I have enough to live off for those 2 months. If you don’t want to just give me money again, then I’ll be needing supplies for living on my own by the end of summer (pots and pans, broom, that kind of thing).

If you don’t like me getting all practical in my old age (I don’t blame you, I don’t like it much either), you could buy me something fun. Like a new computer game. Or TV shows on DVD. Or Terry Pratchett books.

I’d like to get together with everyone when I get back to have a coming home/birthday party. Even if you all send me money for my birthday and there are no presents present, it would still be great to celebrate it together.

I will still be here on my birthday, so if anyone wants to call you should be able to reach me on one of my 3 numbers. Of course after that it may seem like I’ve fallen off the edge of the planet, I know my computer will miss me. But I should still be able to use my cell-phone in most or all of the countries I visit, so if you get worried or miss me terribly (Chris: “yea right!”) I’m just a phone call or a text away.

I was just on the government of Canada website to get the travel advisories for all the countries I’m going to be visiting. Even reading one is enough to get you scared and paranoid, and I just read through 15! They’re very alarmist. I understand they want travellers to take precautions and everything, but it’s enough to scare you away from travelling in the first place! And I’m not sure how they expect you to avoid pickpockets and bag-snatchers while at the same time not leaving anything in a locked car. Or there’s the police in many countries who can stop you and ask for ID, but you’re supposed to keep your passport (the one acceptable form of ID) locked up in a hotel safe.

Oh well, I’m just really really glad that, as a Canadian, I didn’t need to send my passport off to a dozen different places to get visas. I am still excited to be going, but those travel advisories sure put a damper on things.

I had lots of fun this weekend. It’s just too bad that I never had the chance to get to Ireland instead of doing a second tour of Wales. It was a long drive from London to North Wales, but that just meant time to get to know my fellow travellers and have a few cat-naps on the way. We arrived at our hostel in Caernarfon late, after 1am. I got up around 8:30, went and saw the local castle before we headed out. It’s where the ceremonies for the princes of Wales are held. Unfortunately I only had 45 minutes to spend there before we had to move on, so I only got to see about half of it. It was a huge castle though, very easy to get lost in. First stop was Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, the longest place-name in the world (no surprise there!) Then we went to Snowdonia National Park, where some of the group climbed Mount Snowdon. It’s over 1000m high, and took them 6 hours to do it. I chose not to attempt that one at this point, I had trouble with the much smaller mountains on other trips. Instead I visited another castle, had a nice sit-down lunch, went for a long stroll on the edge of the lake, and then back to the castle to sit and read for awhile. Nice and relaxing for my holiday 🙂 Then those of us who didn’t climb the mountain met up with those who did, exchanged stories, and then went out for a barbeque supper by the lake.  Then back to the hostel for the night.

Sunday we went on a little trip on an old steam-engine train in Porthmadog. Then on to Portmeirion, a little fake Italian village in Wales for lunch. Then to a giant beach for a quick swim in the Atlantic. Last stop was for ice cream in Gellert (a village named after a dog). Passed a giant pipe-line that featured in a James Bond film, and then the long ride back to London.

I realize that my posts are getting shorter and farther apart. It’s getting closer to the end, and harder to keep up with blogging. I suspect that I won’t have the patience when I get home after my 7-week trip to blog about it all. I may just post the itinerary and leave it at that. Besides, soon after I’ll be home and you can hear the good stories in person. The price is set at taking me out for supper 😉

I finally gave in and joined facebook. The reason I’m mentioning that here is because it’s easier to put pictures there, and you can see them in a larger size if you click on them. I’ve put some of the better photos from my trips on facebook, so feel free to go and check them out.

Sorry this one’s so late folks, I’ve been catching up on schoolwork.

Last Friday (March 23) afternoon, after class, I caught the train to London. There I met up with the tour group leaving for Wales. We left London at 6:30pm, and made it to our hostel in Llanstephan around 11:30. A long drive, but it gave us all time to talk and get to know each other. There was me (the token Canadian), one guy from England, 4 people from France, and the rest (of 16 total) were from Australia or New Zealand. One of the girls from Australia is a human rights lawyer working in London, she and I got on really well.

So we made it to our hostel and went to bed. Breakfast on Saturday and Sunday was at 7:30, so we had to be up before then.  We had a ‘Welsh breakfast’, which included some foods I’ve never heard of before. Unfortunately I can’t remember the names 😦 I did try everything though. And the hostel owner has a dog that has prize-winning begging eyes. I thought I had met masters in the art of begging before (like grandpa’s dogs…) but this one was just incredible. The dog and I were fast friends, lol.

So after breakfast we were off. First stop was Llanstephen castle. It’s mostly ruins now of course, but there’s a lot still there to see. And it’s all open so you can climb the towers and get a great view.  Every time I see a castle I want to design and build my own, rather than having a regular house, hehe. Then we went to see Dylan Thomas’ grave and boathouse. I tend to be interested in rather older historical things, but apparently anything to do with him is a huge tourist draw. There was a castle there too, but it’s closed off until after Easter, so I couldn’t go exploring in that one. After that we went horse-riding. My horse (named Belfast) was acting up quite a bit, so one of the guys from the stable ended up hooking a lead onto him. It meant that I really didn’t have to do anything (which was kind of both good and bad), but it also meant that I was right behind the leader. This was a plus, he was a cute Welsh boy and I had him to myself to talk to for over an hour, lol. It’s weird that when I’m not on a horse, I always forget how much it can hurt to ride a horse. It’s still very fun though, and there were some spectacular views.

After the horseriding we went to St. David’s. Apparently this is the smallest city in the UK, and is only afforded the status of a city because it has a cathedral. I went in of course, but I’m beginning to think that it was a mistake to have St. Paul’s as the first cathedral that I’ve seen, because everything else pales in comparison. It was still a very beautiful building though, and I got to walk through it while hearing a live choir singing, very nice. I also did some shopping in St. David’s (it wouldn’t be a trip if there weren’t some shopping involved!) Everywhere I go now I get a patch (still haven’t decided what I’m going to sew them all to), some postcards, and a charm for my charm-bracelet. If I keep it up I might need a new charm bracelet by the time I get home!

After St. David’s we went to the Preseli mountains, where the stones used to build Stonehenge are from. There’s a stone structure here too, called the Pentre Ifan. It’s a 5000 year old burial structure for a king. It was really neat.

Last but not least we went to a pub for supper, accompanied by mouse racing and faggots. For clarity, faggots are food, they’re like big meatballs made mostly of liver or something. Not really all that good, but I did try them! And if you’ve ever seen ‘The Saint’, the mouse racing was just like the rat racing scene in the movie.

By this time we were all exhausted. We got back to the hostel around 11:30pm and I think we all just crashed into bed. We had to get up early again for breakfast, and this was also the night that we lost an hour because of daylight savings, ouch! Needless to say there was a lot more dragging of feet on Sunday morning than there was on Saturday!

Sunday we went for a visit to the Brecon Beacons national park. Here we climbed a mountain. (When I say mountain, they’re generally just very big hills with nice hiking paths laid out on them). That took a good few hours. After the walk we tried some Black Mountain Liqueur. The weird thing about it for me was that it tasted really good, and yet I didn’t like it anyways, lol. Then we went to the ‘Big Pit’, which is an old coal mine that has been opened up to let people see how they used to work there. It’s neat to see, but I always get kind of sad when I visit old mines. Especially when they start talking about the kids and horses that essentially never saw the light of day (except Sundays on their way to church – the kids, not the horses).

And then it was back to London. I stayed in London for a couple more days before coming back to res. I went and saw a small fraction of the British Museum (it’s 13.5 acres of things to see, you get tired long before you see much at all). There I saw the Rosetta stone (the real one), mummies, and all sorts of other goodies. Then I went to the cinema to see ‘Becoming Jane’, I miss going to the movies! They have 2 flavours of popcorn here. Sweet and salty. No butter!! After that I thought about going back to the hostel, but instead opted on going to see ‘Wicked’ the musical instead. Good choice! I got crappy cheap seats, like always, but it’s the same play no matter where you’re watching from. The next day I went to the National Gallery to see some of the artwork, and then I made the mistake of going to Covent Garden again. I am not a good window shopper, especially when there are no real windows between me and the goods.

All in all it was a really fun long weekend 🙂

This trip was probably the worst I’ve had all year, but considering how good they’ve all been that’s not bad. Plus it got me out of res for a couple days, so it was really quite good. I probably could have seen enough to keep me happy in a day-trip, but the need to get away justified 2 nights at a hostel. It was probably the dirtiest hostel I’ve been in, but again the others were really good. And this one was the only option, unless I wanted to spend 4x as much to stay in a hotel. The shower was annoying in that I had to keep pushing a button to keep it going, but on the plus side it stayed a consistent temperature and pressure, which is more than my shower in res can claim. And what I absolutely love about hostels: everyone plans on getting up early to go out and do things, so it’s always quiet by 11. And if people come in the room after you’re already in bed, they’re very careful to be quiet. They’re considerate. Then again it’s always people from the UK and its colonies, not Spanish people, so maybe that’s the difference. Heh, this is becoming an extension of my rant…

On to the good stuff. As soon as I got there I dropped off my stuff and went out again. First to Peveril castle, which is why the village is called Castleton. It was built in the 11th century after the Norman conquest, but is mostly in ruins now. It was still pretty neat to climb up to it and take a look though. Of course there was an admission fee. I’m surprised they haven’t walled in all the paths so they can charge you to walk them. But I suppose the village has to make its money somehow.

Then I went down to Peak Cavern (AKA ‘The Devil’s Arse’), a very large cave that actually extends beneath the castle itself. Apparently robbers and bandits used to live in it (and invited the devil to dine on lawyers etc). And it’s said that the first sherriff of Nottingham made use of the castle, so some say Robin Hood and his group lived in the cave once. Lots of stories surrounding this particular cave.

After that I went to the Castleton visitor’s centre. Before coming to Castleton I thought I might like to try climbing Mam Tor. Then I saw it. But I wasn’t about to give up so I asked them how long it usually takes. I expected a response in the area of 6 hours. It was 1. 10 minutes if you drive to the base and start from there. The distances and heights can be rather deceptive. I decided to give it a shot in the morning and set out to find some food. I had some beef and mushroom pie, which was pretty good. The gravy was rather thick though, and tastes quite a bit different, which made me wonder if they make it more like black pudding. They probably don’t, but the thought kind of put me off anyways.

I went back to the hostel and asked about breakfast (‘Well it’s this meal you see, we tend to have it in the mornings…’ haha). Eventually found out that they want 4.60 for an all you can eat continental buffet deal. Remember that’s the equivalent of about $10. Considering how little I eat, it’s really not worth it. So I asked about grocery stores. The nearest thing to a grocery store (more like a convenience store) is in Hope, so I got directions and set off. I went by roads there and then found a more direct footpath between the two for my way back. I wanted to avoid the roads because I was in dark clothes and it was coming on to dusk. But that’s also the time when the shepherds round up the sheep to feed them something, or take them back to the barn or whatever (I know, I’m completely ignorant about sheep. But I saw a couple of guys dumping food on to the ground for their sheep from a big bag when I was on my way to Hope, and I saw some sheep in a barn on my way back.) The problem here is that the footpath goes through fields where the sheep are grazing. And they weren’t all in. And I was carrying a white plastic bag on my way back. So in every field I was having a bunch of sheep getting rather upset that I was passing them by and following me through the field. I know that sheep are generally peaceful creatures. But I also know that peaceful creatures get very upset if you get too close to their young, and there are lots of young sheep out there right now. And I’ve never been around sheep, and I was alone, so it kind of freaked me out. I was glad to be away from them. Maybe now I won’t be so against eating them though…

Then it was back to the hostel for an early night and some reading. So nice to be able to read in the quiet.

I got up in the morning and it was hailing. With 60mph winds. So Mam Tor was out. That sucked, because it was something I really wanted to do and it was all I really had left that I wanted to do. So instead I went and saw Treak Cliff Cavern and Speedwell Cavern. They were both pretty cool. There were some very cool fossils that I saw in Treak Cliff Cavern, unfortunately it was cold and batteries like to play dead when it’s cold, so my camera wouldn’t take a picture.

Roasts are popular in pubs on Sunday, so I had a nice (and surprisingly inexpensive) roast beef dinner. And the place must have been made for me, you could order smaller servings instead of the huge plate that I only would have eaten a quarter of. Then back to the hostel for another early night and reading.

And then back to prison. This isn’t homesickness. Yes I miss home, but I’d be happy anywhere other than here at the moment. Hence all the hostels. I can’t wait until May when they all leave. It’ll be great if Dad and Kathy can make it here for my Easter break, two whole weeks away from here! Then again everyone seems to be going home for those 2 weeks, so it wouldn’t be quite so bad anyways.

Ok, I know I’m putting this on before the bit about Castleton, but I think I should start with the bad and end with the good.

I hate people

Especially Spanish people

Friday night I planned to go to bed around 11 or 12, I wanted a good 9 hours sleep because I knew I’d be doing a lot of walking on Saturday. When was I finally allowed to sleep? 3 am. That’s when I drove the Spanish out of the flat by banging REALLY LOUDLY on the door and walls and screaming at them. They’d been in the kitchen having another party, like they do every night except Mondays. I hate when they’re in the kitchen that late because at night you can hear everything, especially if you’re being quiet and trying to sleep. But then when they decide to leave they come out into the hall, and stand right in front of my door to say goodbye. This lasts hours. And they don’t speak quietly. I ask them nicely to have their parties in the common room instead of the kitchen like they’re supposed to. I ask them not to congregate in front of my door. Eventually I end up screaming and yelling and swearing and they finally get the hint, though it still takes them half an hour to leave after that. It’s quite often that I have to go to class after only having had 4 or 5 hours sleep. They turn the oven on with the door open because they’re cold, and then forget to turn it off when they leave. And they smoke in the kitchen, despite the sign saying not to. I’m starting to think they do these things just because they know it makes me mad. The pans that I helped buy have half an inch of crud in the bottom because they just get a cursory wipe with a (sometimes) soapy sponge. Needless to say most of the hot food I eat is microwaved.

So I was pretty grumpy on my way to Castleton, but glad to be away from it for a couple days. My time in hostels has increased dramatically recently, I just can’t stand being here anymore.

And then I get back to res. Within less than an hour I’m informed that it’s now my week to take out the garbage. I already knew this, but whatever. (Also, it irks me that the only time people here talk to me is to ask me for change, or now to tell me it’s my turn for the garbage.) I go into the kitchen, and there are 2 huge garbage bags full, and all the recycling bins are full. The turns for garbage changes on a Monday. So apparently they think I’m stupid enough to believe that they created this much refuse within the space of half a day. I would just refuse to do it at all, especially since the garbage I generate in my room gets taken out by me every week while the rest of them pile it in the kitchen garbage, and also since I’m not even here half the time. Unfortunately the girl whos turn is after mine is the one girl here who is actually half friendly towards me, and I don’t want her to be punished for what the other girls are trying to do.

On the plus side I’m off for another trip, and thank the gods it’s a longer one, as of Friday evening. So I don’t have to put up with it for long right now. But I have a lot of work to get done before then, and it’s hard to work properly when I’m so wound up. I’d go for a nice long walk somewhere to work some of it off, but it’s dark out now and my feet would protest after all the walking this weekend anyways. So this is the best I can do. Maybe I should go and run up and down the stairs a few times… I hate that they make me want to act so violently. Seriously, there have been a few times this year where it’s been very lucky for them that I don’t have a gun licence. Of course I’m sure it would never get to that, I wouldn’t let myself stoop that low. But I hate that the thought is tempting. It’s only when I’m tired and my patience is short. But when you find that other people have prevented you from sleeping for 5 days straight and it’s pure luck that has prevented a fire starting in the next room, I’m sure anyone would be tempted. Especially since fire is one of my greatest fears. I’ve seen pictures. It’s enough to make you sick.

That’s another thing. They don’t leave when there’s a fire alarm. None of them. It’s too much effort for them. They stand in their rooms and look down at me outside in the cold, as if they’re better than me. It makes me almost hope for a fire sometimes, just to show them how incredibly stupid they are! You don’t even have to be near the fire. And we’re on the top floor. Guess what, smoke rises. You don’t even know what’s happening and suddenly you can’t breathe, can’t move, can’t get out. You collapse, and that’s the end. And yea, we have a lot of false alarms, but at least 2 of them this year have been real. One boy was rushed off in an ambulance. And yet still these empty-headed girls stand in their rooms staring down at me so smugly. The first alarm that we had this year was late at night, it was the only one that they went outside for. But they were in their pyjamas, so they decided to go back in their rooms to change and fix their make-up and whatnot first. Someone tell me, how is anyone this stupid? How do people this moronic make it to university? Fire alarm = exit building. It’s easier than 2+2=4. I could understand not knowing what to do during an earthquake if you’re from a place that never has them, but everyone has fires. It’s not like this is even a cultural thing, it’s a stupidity thing. In Windsor residences they check all the rooms and fine anyone who hasn’t left the building. I liked that policy. It keeps people safe. Apparently the prospect of a $125 fine is scarier than dying in a fire. Go figure.

The trip to Scotland has re-kindled my interest in the origins of the Rose family. Finding the name of the family castle on the tartans I bought, I looked it up today. Turns out that the tour came incredibly close to where the castle is! So frustrating. But part of it is a bed and breakfast now, so maybe one day I’ll have the chance to stay there.

Also, I found a group doing research on the Rose family and its many origins. I can send away for a lab kit and send it back with a DNA swab to see where we came from. I’ll have to look into this more when I get home.

I just wish I’d known that we came so close to Kilravock! It would have been nice to see the place.