Saturday, August 31, 2013

Peterhof Pictures

Ode to Peterhof

Location: St. Petersburg, Russia (this is my last night here!)

My last full day in Russia is officially drawing to a close. That feels really weird to say. I'm sitting up on the pool deck wrapped in my UO blanket and preparing to do some school work before turning in for the night. I'm feeling a bit reluctant to do so, because I know tomorrow will go by fast and I don't really want to say goodbye to Russia yet.

...So in honor of my last night here, everyone gets a history lesson! Yay!

Today I went on another SAS organized trip to see Peterhof palace and gardens. This was the former residence of Peter the Great, a 6'8" Russian Tsar who founded St. Petersburg in 1703. In his desire to give Russia a port, Peter had the city constructed on one of Russia's few access points to a body of water which would not freeze and become inaccessible during the winter. He was a visionary fellow who payed little heed to the fact that the area was presently an inhospitable swamp, and that many thousands of serfs would die trying to construct a city atop it. Peter the Great also waged a campaign to Europeanize Russia, and much of the architecture and layout of St. Petersburg was actually constructed by architects from a number of European countries, including France and Italy.

Peterhof palace was quite impressive, and the gardens were nice. One of the most impressive features were the fountains, the main display of which was actually constructed after Peter's death. I think the most interesting thing about the visit was learning about the place's tumultuous history. During World War II, Peterhof was actually captured and occupied for three years by Nazi troops, during which time much of it was destroyed. The serene forested grounds were riddled with trenches and land mines, statues were broken and toppled, and part of the palace itself was exploded. Our tour guide told us which parts of the castle and grounds had managed to survive the onslaught and which parts were painstakingly reconstructed in the 66 year restoration effort which followed. An impressive number of statues were placed in wooden boxed and buried on the grounds, and some lovely violet glass chandeliers were taken down, hidden, and put in storage in St. Petersburg. I believe they had only three months to try and save what they could.

It was really interesting walking the grounds with our tour guide while watching all these other tour groups from all different parts of the world and thinking "Wow, there were trenches and land mines over there trying to repel Nazi troops" or "Hey, Peter the Great himself was the first to turn on this exact fountain." Another interesting fact (tired of hearing that yet?) about the fountains is that a certain number of them were made to look innocuous until someone stepped on the wrong stone or was in the wrong place at the wrong time, whereby they would be suddenly doused. Peter the Great apparently enjoyed playing practical jokes on his guests.

Also, right up against the opulent golden fountains a set of large temporary structures were being put up for a pretty major event. Can anyone guess? Apparently the G20 Summit is being held right there in Peterhof in about a week! There was extra security and everything. Vladimir Putin will be there, as will President Obama and a number of other world leaders (18, perhaps? I'm not really sure what the G20 Summit is all about.) So if anything about that happens to come up on the news (yes, I'm thinking about you, Grandma and Grandpa!) you can look and think "Hey, Lindsey was there just about a week before this was happening!"

Anyhow, it's getting late again (every night! The nerve!), so I'm going to head to bed. Don't forget to comment!

P.S. Nobody mentioned how weird looking my posts have been! I can't actually see them while I'm at sea, you know. I just checked my blog while at a little cafe (or kафе) with free WiFi and noticed that not only does it reformat the pictures all to the top, but it apparently cut off the middle of the text in one post. I've fixed it now, so if you want to go back and take a look the "Tomato Soup and Peanut Butter" one should make a lot more sense now (it really was named that for a reason, I promise!)

P.P.S I'm just crazy enough to try to write that whole post as a real ode as promised by the post title, but then I would be up until like 4am and I was be cold and tired for my Dacha Community Visit tomorrow, which would be sad, so raincheck on the odes for tonight.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Location: St. Petersburg, Russia

I'm too tired to write a post tonight! Have a picture instead to tide you over (it's a panorama so it gets a bit wonky; just sort of ignore that):

(This is the interior of the Church of the Savior on Blood. The artwork on the walls is all made up of individual little tiny tiles.)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

M.V. Explorer at Night

(My sans-tripod panoramas always end up a bit odd looking, but if you can manage not stare too close, this one is pretty cool!)

Tomato Soup and Peanut Butter

Edit: apparently posting blogs via my email over the ship's internet had some kinks, so my posts have been turning out a little weird; about half of this one was actually missing. Hopefully I've fixed it and it's better now! Since I really have no way of knowing what my blog looks like while at sea make sure to comment and inform me if the posts stop making sense again!

Location: St. Petersburg, Russia

I came really close to naming this post "My Boat Crashed!" but I thought that might freak some people out, so I refrained. As it turns out, the boat did crash. It wasn't the M.V. Explorer though; it was a medium-sized river boat which was touring myself and about twenty other SAS students through the canals of St. Petersburg. At least it was until about 10:30pm, when the motor died mid-turn and it ran head first into the stone walls of the canal.

But I am getting a bit ahead of myself.

My first day in St. Petersburg officially started when I went out on deck this morning with breakfast and caught my first view of the city as the ship drifted down the Neva River toward our port at south-eastern Vasilyevsky Island. The part of the city we were going through at that point was mostly industrial, with cranes, shipping containers, and the occasional refuse dump. But the lighting outside was nice, and everyone was super excited to disembark. I will save all the boring stuff about the ship getting cleared and me almost missing my first field program for another time. Pretty soon, I and my fellow St. Petersburg Walking Tour field program folks were packed into a bus, given radios and earpieces, and ferried off to our first destination: the Hermitage Museum, located in the former winter palace of the Tsars.

...Which was, of course, really neat. Every single wall, floor, ceiling, window, and doorway was so opulently constructed that much of my time was just spent admiring the building, aside from its contents. The museum contains rooms and rooms of famous paintings, among them works by Da Vinci and Rembrandt. I found the paintings to be somewhat lackluster in comparison with their setting, but to be fair it's a bit hard to compete with this:


We also either saw or visited several churches, including the Church of the Savior on Blood, which were gorgeous. After the walking tour was finished, I found a small cafe and hung out there for about an hour, waiting for the day's second field program to begin.


...Which brings us to the infamous canal tour boat. As the last ones on, myself and three other students did not manage to grab the outside seating on the boat, and were ushered below into what turned out to be a very pleasant room with panoramic windows and a cozy sofa. We therefor had a front row seat to witness the unceremonious meeting of our ship and the canal wall:

(Left = small picture of our boat.  Right = the wall.)

Everything went fine of course; the boat didn't start taking on water or anything (it really didn't hit super hard), and we just had to wait about 30 minutes before we were transferred into another boat and sent back on our tour. Apparently this sort of thing doesn't happen very often though, because our trip liaison says we made the news. Yeah, only one day in the first port and we're already making a country's news!

In other news (haha) somehow in all of this I managed to miss both dinner and evening snack on the ship. So tonight I will be dining on the fine cuisine which I have stockpiled in my cabin during the voyage; instant tomato soup (from the B&B in Southampton) and peanut butter (rejected by Jazlin and salvaged by me back in England.) Well, that's all I've got for you and it is once again quite late. Let's see if posting this many pictures makes the internet mad...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Does a Bear Have in Common with Chamomile?

Location: 7 1/2 hours west of Russia, in the Baltic Sea

Hey everyone! This is it: the night before our first port of call. We will be arriving in the city of St. Petersburg at around 0800 Thursday morning. That is 9pm Wednesday evening for all you Pacific Standard Time folks!

Now those who know me (which hopefully most of you do) know that I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to researching things. I spend hours and hours at it. I have been known to be in the process of looking something up for a short assignment and then to get distracted by some interesting fact which I then spend the next several hours reading all about. For this voyage, I have spent a huge amount of time putting together nice little info pages for countries, currencies, finances... The list goes on. You may be surprised to learn then that I have managed to go through this many years of schooling and independent research with a relatively limited knowledge of the history, culture, and geography of Russia. It's cold, big, it used to be part of the USSR, and the US wasn't so thrilled with them back in the Cold War. I may be exaggerating a bit, but that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge.

Well, not to proclaim myself an expert on Russian affairs now or anything, but I think I have just born witness to the most thorough yet condensed overview of the country of Russia that has ever been given. I'm pretty sure the Geography professor on this ship is going to be hoarse tomorrow morning, because he just lectured with great enthusiasm on the topic for the last... three hours? I'm not really sure, because I had logistical and cultural pre-port meetings beforehand in that same room. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I just spent the last 5 hours straight sitting in the student union hearing everything from "Don't go places on your own," to "Don't drink too much vodka," to "*insert everything you could ever want to know about the geography/history of Russia here*" to "Seriously! Easy on the vodka!"

....Woo! Who's excited for Russia!?

So now I'm allowing myself to relish a mug of hot chocolate born of one of only two instant hot chocolate packets I gained at a B&B somewhere along the way in England while firing off this quick blog post (which is thus probably fraught with grammatical errors. Bear with me! Oh, did you know that bears are considered a symbol of Russia, and that the national flower is chamomile? Are you starting to have trouble following a train of thought with all of these parenthetical remarks sprinkled about?) before getting the stuff together that I will need for tomorrow morning, taking a shower, and finally getting to bed. It's going to be a long night!

I would like to take a minute though to mention again how much I love receiving your comments; seriously, I wish I had time to reply to them individually here, but then I'd never have time to update the blog itself! That would be a bit unfortunate.

Okay, I'd seriously better start getting ready now. Love you all!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Jellyfish, submarines, and bridges: Oh my!

Location: Eastbound in the Baltic Sea

Hey everyone! Good to know that those pictures are showing up for you. I was just informed that some computers view commas in my blog posts as periods. Sorry! Everything looked fine from my computer last time I was able to check it. I knew that it looked a bit odd on Jazlin's iPad, but as nobody else had mentioned it I assumed it was an isolated incident. If there is anyone besides me who is not experiencing the strange comma syndrome I would like to know! For everyone else I recommend copy/pasting into an external text editor if that makes it more readable for you. I can't really change it now that I am on the ship.

So, first day of classes! I woke up at around 7:30am this morning, only to go to breakfast 20 minutes later and find out that there was no breakfast because I had missed another hour time change the night before and they stopped serving at 8:30 (I am 10 hours ahead of PST now.) Oh well. My first class was not until after lunch, so I spent a bit of time in the newly opened campus store before heading up to lunch (a pair of SAS sweatpants and a sweatshirt were planned purchases, and the small sizes sell out absurdly fast. Actually all the smalls in the sweatshirt I liked had sold out in the hour before I arrived, but it's all good.) As I was sitting on deck eating my pasta, bread, and rice (finally there are no objections to my eating those things in conjunction! Yeah!) I encountered the first interesting occurrence of the day. I was absently looking out over the water, when I saw some pale shapes drifting along next to the ship. At first I thought they were pieces of trash, but I quickly realized that they were actually jellyfish! They kept coming too––hundreds of jellyfish drifting in little groups past the ship. They were kind of a yellowish color, all shapes and sizes, and the angle of the sun on the horizon made beams of light shine through the water, giving them a dreamy, luminescent quality. I was pretty excited, as I haven't really seen anything like that before. No pictures, unfortunately. Hopefully it will happen again and I will be able to snap a few.

Next came my first SAS class: Mixed Media Visual Journal. That is going to be fun; I'm very glad I chose it. The class is basically sketching, painting, writing, and random arts and crafts activities all rolled into one. It is all very academic of course; they don't just unleash us and our paintbrushes upon the world. There are prompts to document concepts in each port, but the topics of the 16-pages of official spreads we create are going to be pretty open, which is nice.

I had a bit of a break, and then went on to Cross-Cultural Psychology! That class also looks like it will be really interesting. It doesn't hurt that our field lab is studying the cultural context of Samba dancing in Rio de Janeiro (and getting to learn a bit ourselves.) Field labs are a day trips you take with each class. Your professor chooses the country/activities, and each one counts as 20% of your class grade. As Semester at Sea professors come from universities all around the US (and abroad) the content of these field labs is naturally quite varied. The field lab for my Visual Journal class is to study the art of tile painting in Lisbon, Portugal, so that is pretty awesome too.

Then came the second interesting occurrence of the day. During the evening announcements they told us that the ship would be going under a bridge in about 45 minutes and we may want to grab cameras and come out on deck to look. Everyone got really excited, and we went out to the deck to see that, sure enough, there was a giant bridge rising up in the distance. We all trouped on out to the observation deck on the front of the ship where it was super cold and windy, and everyone cheered as we went under it. We have actually been in a relatively narrow/shallow bit of ocean east of Denmark from which land is visible far in the distance from either side of the ship, so a bridge over this part of the ocean isn't as crazy as it sounds. Stretching from Denmark to Sweden, this bridge apparently divides the North and Baltic Seas (note that I have yet to verify this information or actually look up the name of the bridge because the internet is on the fritz. That also means this post probably won't be up until tomorrow morning.)

Below you will also notice a picture of a submarine. We were passing it, and everyone was squinting and saying "Hey, is that an actual submarine?" before a voice came over the loudspeaker to inform us that yes, it was actually a Russian submarine. The loudspeaker folks are very helpful. The picture was of course taken with my telephoto lens, so the submarine looks closer than it really was. Still interesting though.

If you're still hanging around don't forget to comment! I check them every morning, and if there are none I may just fall back to sleep and miss breakfast again. You wouldn't want that on your conscience, would you?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pictures... Maybe?

This is a bit of an experiment. If it works, there will be pictures somewhere. If not, this post might not even be visible (which is why it is separate from the main post.)

If it has worked, feel free to let me know!

Life on the Giant Waterbed

Location: Somewhere in the North Sea (going around the tip of Denmark, I think)

All of today was spent in orientation meetings in the Union on deck 6 (see the SAS website ship tour page for pictures.) At least it was for most people. After many nights in a row of what was probably not enough sleep, culminating with the night before embarkation, when I couldn't get to sleep until 5am, I finally succumbed. I must have switched off the sound on my alarm, because I vaguely remember dreaming about ignoring it and then... nothing.

...Until I woke up to the noon announcements over the shipboard loudspeaker. Panic! I missed all of the morning orientation meetings, though I'm pretty sure they didn't say anything I haven't already read all about (at least from what I manage to gather from all the sleepy people who did make it there this morning.) I was just in time for lunch, and to the next round of orientation sessions (in which they also didn't really say anything I didn't already know.) I did find out that the M.V. Explorer (this ship) has the largest floating library in the world! Apparently there is a cruise ship with 8000 volumes which has been claiming the honor, but we actually have over 9000 - awesome, huh?

On the bright side, I've (sorta) caught up on sleep now! And I don't feel at all seasick - in fact, I kind of like the rocking of the ship. It's like living on a giant waterbed.

There was also a big clubs/activities fair this evening, which had quite an impressive selection. I signed up for four:
1) A group that plans independent travel (so that I'm not traveling around just by myself! Much...)
2) "Talk Nerdy to Me" (seriously, it's called that! I'll feel right at home: I even brought the "Talk Nerdy to Me" T-shirt I won in an NSCS raffle)
3) The Semester at Sea Alumni association organizes something they call "shipboard families" in which you are paired with fellow students, lifelong leaners, and professors into little makeshift family groups. Which sounds kind of awesome.
4) Being a Spanish tutor for the little kids who are on board (for those of you who don't know, the professors and some other staff actually bring their entire families with them on the ship! Apparently on Halloween they even go trick-or-treating at our cabins)

... And there will also be an email sent out for Yoga and Zumba gatherings, which will be first come first serve, so I may do one of those as well.

Cool info of the day: in case anyone is curious how this internet at sea thing works, it was explained to us in one of the many orientation sessions: first, the info is sent from my computer to the IT department, where the computers there package it all up and send it through one of the two tennis ball shaped antennas on top of the ship (once again, you can always view the ship and its layout by going to the SAS website. There are even links to it right at the top of this page.) After that, the signal is bounced waaay up to our satellite, and waaay back down to the University of Virginia. The UVA sends the signal off to whatever server in the US hosts the website I am attempting to view. Then the info goes back to the UVA, up to the satellite, down to the ship, through the antennas, to the IT computers, and back to my computer. That's how the whole process was explained, and I thought it was neat enough to merit sharing. I also like to think about that whenever I'm emailing to my blog, or loading one of the sites that are free to visit (which includes wikipedia! Yay!) Considering all the technological effort (and the money: the Institute for Shipboard Eduction spends $200,000 a year so that we can have internet at sea) which goes into this process, the internet is actually quite good.

Well, classes start tomorrow so I'd better stop rambling and actually sleep. It's an A day so I will be starting with Mixed Media Visual Journal and finishing with Cross Cultural Psychology.

A comment a day keeps the Lindsey happy :)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Embarkation Information

Location: Somewhere in the North Sea

I am now commencing the blog update-by-email function! Because I only have about 2 hours (50 megabytes) of internet usage allotted for the entire voyage I cannot update the blog via traditional channels, and I cannot post pictures. I can still post though, because I am allowed free unlimited use of my shipboard email account, and I have already set up my blog so that I can update it simply by sending an email. Cool, huh? This also means that I cannot edit what I have already posted (or even see it!), however your comments are still emailed to me so I can continue enjoying them.

Anyhow.... Semester at Sea! It is 10:30pm right now (though we have been informed to set our clocks forward an hour tonight), and I am on the M.V. Explorer, typing this from my bed in my cabin (number 3123!). Because I can no longer post pictures I will just describe everything in excruciating detail instead (just kidding! Sort of...) My room itself is actually quite like what you see when you look at the pictures posted on the SAS website virtual tour of the ship. I have an inside room on deck three, which means that I do not have a porthole view of the ocean, but I do have a massive wall-sized mirror which serves to make the room feel larger than it is (and it is already larger than my last dorm room at the UO, so I'm happy with it.)

My roommate's name is Emily, and she seems very nice. We have a room that's officially right next to the engine, so we get to be on deck three for the price of a room on deck two. I don't think the engine noise is bad at all. In fact, I kind of like it because it keeps the room from feeling too quiet. For all you who are feeling a bit skeptical about that, let me reassure you that I am not just saying it to make you feel better, and I really like my room. In fact, when I first came in (Emily hadn't gotten here yet) I was so excited I jumped up in the air and broke a fingernail on the ceiling. Yah, not my finest moment. I don't usually do things like that.

So yah, we had safety drills and speeches by faculty which ate up a decent amount of time, so I haven't had a chance to explore the ship much. I have gotten lost a couple of times though, so I think it's big. I have had two meals now, and the food is great (pasta, rice, potatoes, bread.... all of my favorites!), but I'm not yet sure if one can get tea outside of the normal dining hours, which would be a bit sad.

The Fall 2013 voyage falls on the 50th Anniversary of Semester at Sea, and in celebration they gave us complementary bubbles to blow on deck as we left the dock, watched the shore grow smaller and smaller in the distance, and waved goodbye to the little group of family members who came to see off students. I last saw Jazlin headed off in a taxi bound for the train station, so hopefully she made it up to the Lake District alright (El if you could email and let me know you're still alive that would be great!)

I think that's all for now! I'm really appreciating all of your comments even though it isn't possible for me to reply to them individually.
I've gotta hurry! Here are some pictures from our journey in England, my part of which is now drawing to a close:

Location: Southampton, England

(Posting now for last night because the internet was a bit sketchy.)

Well, this is it. I officially board the M.V. Explorer and leave for Semester at Sea tomorrow. Jazlin and I made it down to Southampton after a very action-packed day in London, and I have finally been reunited with my long-lost luggage (it made it! The B&B owner emailed to tell me it was here while I was back in Cardiff, but I forgot to mention it.) The airline security folks had rooted around in the larger of my bags and tossed everything haphazardly back in, so a couple of my books are sporting rather bent pages, but at least everything looks like it's still there.

This morning Jazlin and I woke up bright and early in our London Hostel in a valiant (yet ultimately fruitless) effort to have breakfast eaten, stuff packed, and to arrive in time for a 10:30am Westminster walking tour. I think everything worked out for the best though, because after we zoomed out of the underground at the Westminster station at 10:32 and failed to locate the tour, we got to meander (speed-walk) at our own pace past Buckingham palace, Westminster Abbey, Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, and the London Eye (not sure if that is a complete list, but you get the idea) before finally descending back into the subway and zooming off to Kew Gardens. I'm pretty sure that last sentence was much longer than it should have been, but I am way too lazy to trace the root of the run-on.

We arrived at Kew Gardens in time to enjoy a heavily discounted entrance fee via the garden's "lazy summer afternoons" special. Of course, this only gave us a couple of hours to traverse what is probably the largest botanic garden I've ever been to. We tackled this challenge in typical Jazlin & Lindsey fashion: speed walking!

We actually made it a decent way, though by no means did we reach everything in the 300 acre garden. We even stopped in the Orangery (an eatery) for a bit and got a nice cup of tea and jammy dodger each before heading off again.

Then it was back to the subway, on to Waterloo station, and down to Southampton by train.

What do blogger like almost as much as Jammy Dodgers?
.... Comments!

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Adventures of the Easily Distracted

Location: London, England

I did it again! I fell asleep while writing an entry. So I'm posting it now instead:

The day is Thursday the 22nd, the time is 10:30pm, and Jazlin and I are sitting on the floor of the laundry room in the basement of the Palmer's Lodge Swiss Cottage hostel. As our clothes go swish-swash back and forth in the machines to our left, we sit and contemplate the day.

It started out just like any other day, with an insistent alarm clock chattering away in my ear. Then, just three hours later, Jazlin and I were ambling down Baker Street toward the Sherlock Holmes museum. We didn't end up going inside the museum itself, as we encountered an unmoving line stretching out for several hundred feet and we had already gotten going a bit late, but we did pay a brief visit to the gift shop and took several moderately blurry pictures of ourselves standing out in front of 221 Baker Street.

At that point we had not yet worked up the courage to attempt the London underground with our shiny new day passes for zones 1 and 2. So, after spending a bit of time looking around for food inexpensive enough that I wouldn't snub it, we took a bus to the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was big. We barely left the first floor. It was awesome though, and we got to see statues, massive plaster pillar castings with cool designs running all the way around them, a collection of ancient keys, locks, and lockboxes, entire rooms of intricate stonework, woodwork, and metalwork, and a strange but neat glass sculpture which was suspended over the information desk and bore thousands of tendrils of blue and yellow glass.

Also visited today was the outside of the Globe Theater (located near from a bridge which Jazlin and I were fairly certain has been "destroyed" several times in movies we have watched.) We even hiked over to an obscure street which lay claim to one of the few remaining actual police call boxes (How many renditions of the Tardis can Lindsey and Jazlin visit? Hmmm...)

(As promised, a few pictures of the hostel we stayed at in London.)

Comments make the world go 'round! (Or maybe they just make me happy.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In Which Lindsey and Jazlin Go to Bath

Location: Bristol, England to London, England

This is going to be a bit of a short summary post, as I would really like to get caught up with the present and it's a bit late.

So after Oakhampton Jazlin and I made our way south along the edge of Dartmoor to a place called Lydford Gorge, where we hiked around, visited a waterfall, and had a marvelously good scone with cream and jam to go with our tea.

Then we headed down to Plymouth and took a train to Bristol Temple Meads, which is my favorite of all of the train stations we have gone to (nice architecture, lovely hanging flower baskets, and bathroom sinks which soap, wash, and dry your hands all in one go. What more could a person want?)

(Sleepy Jazlin waving in front of Bristol station on the way to Bristol YHA hostel)

Once again, we hadn't been able to book our next hostel, but at least this time we knew where it was located. Fortunately reception was open and there were beds available at around 10:30pm when we arrived. It was also the biggest/most sophisticated hostel we've stayed at, with elevators operated by keycard and rooms with en suite bathroom and shower.

Which finally brings us to today! (Actually yesterday when you consider that it's past midnight at the moment. Drat.) Anyhow, Wednesday: we decided that since we were so close to Bath we ought to pay the city a visit before continuing on to London. I think that Bath is my favorite city so far. The architecture is gorgeous, and it has a happy sort of air about it. So we spent the day there and went on a free walking tour, though we decided against spending the time/funds to see in the actual Roman Baths (our walking tour gave us a bit of a view of one part from the top though.) Our tour guide was a neat elderly woman with all sorts of interesting information, and the tour was two hours long so I don't feel like we missed out much.

(Our awesome tour guide)

Then on to London! I haven't mentioned it, but Jazlin and I are still sick. We stocked up on cough drops (which we've mostly run out of) and have tried not to let it slow us down much, but we've been sniffling all day and I had a bout of very inconvenient light sensitivity and eye soreness which threatened to put a damper on Bath whenever the sun came out (and my sunglasses broke.)

But we're doing well, don't worry! We just made it to the hostel we had pre-booked in London; the place is adorable, with cute little curtains around the beds and rather impressive architecture. I'll take pictures tomorrow.

Over the Hills and Through the Woods

Location: Okehampton, England

This is a much-belated post for Monday, as Jazlin and were a bit off the beaten path and away from WiFi. As always, thanks a bunch for all your comments! I've done the best that I can to put up new posts, but as you will read it has not been particularly easy.

Monday morning we made it into the castle ruins of Tintagel, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. We had started out the day with another proper English breakfast at our B&B (complete with baked beans - still not sure if those belong at breakfast), and then, after waving off a polite offer by the owner of our B&B to watch our backpacks for the day, we were off!

...Naturally, we regretting not taking him up on his offer, because Tintagel actually involves quite a bit of steps, walking, more steps, and more walking. It is also rather steep at some points. We did stop to take a break up on the grassy hill above the castle ruins, where we took a bit of time to draw, write in our journals, and eat a can of sweet corn I had purchased back in Wales.

After Tintagel castle, we went (read: hiked laboriously up a hill) to the modern town of Tintagel, where we found a pub with free WiFi and sat down to find and book our next hostel (for some strange reason we didn't want a repeat of the previous night) and to update my blog. We were there for about a half an hour while I tried unsuccessfully to do so. Then I checked the bus timetables. The last bus to Okehampton (where we were going next) left in a half an hour from Camelford. The bus from Tintagel to Camelford left in two minutes. We had to be on that bus.

Grabbing our stuff and flying out of the pub, Jazlin and I speed-walked to the bus stop (which we knew the location of from our damp trudge the night before) and arrived just as it pulled up. We had made it! In fact, we made the next bus in Camelford and arrived in Okehampton at about 6:30pm. Granted, we hadn't booked a hostel yet. So with an unfortunate sense of deja vu, we meandered around Okehampton looking for accommodations which could accommodate our budget. We were not having much luck; even the tourist information center was closed.

But then, lo and behold, there was a little wooden sign. And the sign said "Youth Hostel." With a mixture of anticipation and trepidation (we had no way of know whether they still had beds available, after all) we followed the sign... through a park, alongside a river, around a strip of residential neighborhood, up a hill, under a bridge, and up another hill. Then we had arrived!

It is worth noting at this point, that Jazlin and I had both woken up that morning with a sore throats. By the evening, our affliction was rapidly deteriorating into full-blown cold. When we finally got to the hostel we probably looked about as bedraggled as the previous night (though less damp!) and were really praying that it would not be full. It wasn't! But we still had to go back into town to scrounge up some dinner, and by the time we returned there wasn't time for  blog post (plus we were both tired after doing so much walking. Being sick probably didn't help that either.)

Stay tuned for the next exciting installment! Remember, more comments = quicker posts! (I wish...)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Home Is Behind, the World Ahead, and There Are Many Paths to Tread...

Location: Tintagel, England

Saturday night we stayed in our first B&B of the trip: a little place in Exeter chosen for both it's low price and its proximity to the central train station. I think that the hostel we stayed at in Cardiff was a bit nicer, but we still got a nice traditional english breakfast (with fried egg, beans, mushrooms, tomato, bacon, sausage, toast, and tea.) We even got to stay in single rooms (one of which was en-suite) because one of their regulars had been unable to leave as planned and the owner of the B&B emailed me and asked if we would be alright with two singles instead of our double for the same price.

On our way to the train station to catch a bus (yes, you read that right) we happened upon a launderette and a nice guy helped us figure out how to navigate the washers and dryers (and gave us some laundry soap and 50 pence: he was very helpful) so we have clean clothes again! Then we took two buses and finally arrived at the little coastal town of Boscastle. The bus rides were an adventure unto themselves. The road winding it's way through the sheep-speckled fields was lined with hedges carefully trimmed so as to just barely allow two cars to pass each other. Barely. And we were in a bus, not a car. Our driver was fearless though, and I had the faith, so it was actually pretty fun.

We actually overshot the stop we needed by a little bit, so we ended up descending this hill down the edge of a road with no place to walk alongside it, stopping and flattening ourselves against the side whenever a car came toward us (it really wasn't that perilous, nobody worry! Well, maybe a bit. But we lived!) And then we came down into a little offshoot of the town with souvenir shops and cafes dotted along a strip of path leading to the ocean, and to the next part of our journey: the coastal footpath to Tintagel.

Sounds like just the time for a snag to occur. And it occurred in the form of a sudden gust of wind which reached out and snatched Jazlin's hat (which was on my head) away, off a bridge, and down to a mossy outcropping next to a stream. And inaccessible outcropping. Except by the owner of the shop it sat behind. So, while Jazlin looked over the bridge and lamented, I headed for the shop.

Feeling very sheepish, I explained the situation to the owner, who looked about how one might be expected to look at such a request, before announcing that she would have to close the shop so that we could go out back, and that I would need to wait until there were no other customers (there were about five at the time) before she could do so. I waited anxiously as the last person ambled out the door, and then the shopkeeper took me around the back to try and retrieve the hat. It was, of course, out of reach, (on the other side of a slippery mossy mini-stream) and she could not let me try to get it. She disappeared around the corner of the shop and returned with a long broom handle, with which she proceeded to free the hat from its moist resting place and deposit it into my waiting hands.

Feeling really grateful (and like a complete pest) I gave Jazlin back her hat and bought a knickknack from the store so that I at least had done something in return for all the lady's help. We dallied in Boscastle for a bit, before finally starting down the path to Tintagel.

Now, as it turned out, the path was quite lovely. It had little wildflowers growing along it, dramatic cliffs to one side, and rolling grassy fields to the other. Then there was the occasional field of sheep, or cows, or little bunny rabbits. We had also gotten started a little later than planned, thanks to the incident with the hat. These are all contributing factors to what ultimately ended in exhausted and mildy soggy Jazlin and Lindsey trudging along the streets of Tintagel at dusk in search of a place to stay (this being the first time we hadn't managed to book one online ahead of time.)

We were rapidly switching from the "I hope we can find someplace inexpensive..." to "Please just let someplace not be full!" when there, rising up before us, was the Castle View B&B. A yellow sign out front even announced that rooms started at 20 pounds: much better than we had been hoping for! I hesitantly went down and rang the bell next to the darkened windows. Soon Jazlin and I were being shown to quaint room with a queen bed, no TV, and no ocean view (the latter two points seemed much more serious drawbacks to our guide than they were to us by that point.)

Thanks for all your comments, I love reading them (and someday when I have time I will figure out how to set it so I can reply to them.)

Monday's adventures coming soon!