Monday, December 2, 2013

Adventure Weekend

Hello again! The past few weeks have been insane. With the approaching winter break we've been swamped with stacks on stacks of papers and other coursework, meaning staying up until 5:30 AM to finish essays sort of trumps making blog posts. There was also that lost week where I accidentally left my laptop on a bus and was computerless, but luckily those dark times are over and blogging can continue!

Finally, we present to you the exciting tale of when Jackie and I went on our program's 'Adventure Weekend' in the Lake District!

So, first things first. The Lake District is in Cumbria, and basically at the tippy top of England. This meant an early start time and a long drive. 

Thanks to an accident on the highway, our seven hour journey turned into a grueling nine hour ride. Like, people go into labor and have babies in less time than that. Luckily, we did have one break for lunch on our way, where I made friends with some nice little duckies (and also some terrifying geese) at a pond.

Animal befriending pit stop over, we jumped back on the bus, only to be told by the driver 45 minutes later that he was owed a 30 minute break, stalling us even further. When we finally arrived at our hotel it was pitch black. Pairing not being able to see anything with the scary winding road to get there was not a great combination. But we made it!

After our long awaited dinner, Jackie and I took a little stroll around the hotel grounds. It was so beautiful to see that even though it was pitch black out, we could still make out the huge outlines of mountains nearby. We walked the length of the field of the hotel and were faced with a small fence. Jackie suggested we continue through it, supposedly into another cute little field. All of a sudden a huge mass stood up within the gate, I freaked, and RAN out of there, Jackie on my tail. Turns out, it was just a little sheep, but it still gave us a shock! We saw the little fella the next morning, looking less scary, but still pretty menacing as he stared straight at us.

The next morning we woke up ready for a beautiful day in the countryside. Little did we know, the town we were seated in was right next to the rainiest town in the UK.

Yeah, that's right, this is a real blog, we've got gifs!

So, damp, cold, and tired, we ate our breakfast, packed our bag lunches, and walked out, ready to face the day. The first activity on both of our schedules was Gorge Scrambling. Basically, this is just hiking up a waterfall. So, the first order of business was to get all dolled up in some seriously sexy waterproof gear. 

Photo credit: Cambria Minott
See? Isn't that a hot outfit? We've got: two pairs of leggings, a fleece jacket, a woolen body suit/onesie thing, waterproof trousers, waterproof top with hood, helmet, and some Wellington rain boots. Absolutely no way water could ever get through that fortress, right? Yeah, that's what I thought. Turns out I thought very, very wrong. 

Photo credit: Adventure Makers UK

The above is a good visual of what we were doing. It started off pretty tame, just walking on rocks in a gentle stream, but it soon ramped up to us trying to wade through waist deep, freezing, strong waves of water. There was lots of falling and tripping involved, to say the least. I'd say within 20 minutes, everyone was soaked. The waterproof gear did little to keep the rest of our clothes from getting drenched. After a while, they even started to slow us down as water pooled in our trousers and in our boots, making us feel like huge water balloons. It was great fun though! We got to slide down a mini waterfall and jump off the rock wall into a big pooled area. At the very top of the waterfall, we just had our final steps and then we'd be done! Of course, for me it couldn't be that easy. As soon as one foot left the rock I was on to reach out to the next, both feet flew out from under me and threw me into the water, about to be rushed down the waterfall with the strong waves. Luckily, our instructor was on the ball and quickly grabbed me and threw me aside, safe to live another day. 

Glaramara Hotel

We headed back to our basecamp at the hotel to prepare for our next activity. Jackie was off to do the Via Ferrata, which is basically rock climbing on a mountain face with little foot holds to step on.  

Via Ferrata. Photo credit: Glaramara
I said nooooooooooo way to that, and instead went with the less insanely terrifying indoor rock climbing. 

Me rock climbing, or as Jackie says 'that's not rock climbing, that's rock posing'. I try.

It didn't take me too long to realize that maybe rock climbing is scary in any form, whether it be inside on a plastic wall or outside on a mountain. Either way, it was still fun, and although my paparazzi never sent me the photo, I did make it to the top. Wahoo! Waiting up there for someone to scramble to capture the moment on an iphone was the longest minute of my life.

After a long day of activities, we returned to the hotel, awaiting dinner, a pub quiz, and a dance in the evening. I decided to go out for a walk and check out the surrounding area. Of course, the second I went outside it started to pour.

Moss is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to photograph in England, which is good because there is certainly no shortage of it! 

After dinner, Jackie and I teamed up with the rest of our dinner table to form the 'Pirates of the Caribean' team for our pub quiz. We didn't win, but of over 15+ teams, we made third! After the quiz there was an awkward, middle school-ish dance for all of us. Jackie and I called it quits after they played 'Don't Stop Believing' the first time round. We could hear little snippets of 'Call Me Maybe' wafting up our window all night, I think they played it at least four times, and we knew we had made the right decision. 

Taking an early night ended up being a good idea, as we had to get up and at 'em the next morning for our last activity of the trip: a nice little half-day hike up a closeby mountain. It took about an hour to reach the top, all in the rain, but by the time we reached the peak, the clouds cleared and the sun started to shine. It was so beautiful, and we spent at least half an hour just looking around and taking pictures, in awe of the scenery. 

Some mega Lion King vibes

All weekend we saw sheep everywhere. Even while gorge scrambling, there was alway bound to be a sheep just around the corner. On the trail down from the top of the mountain we saw this sad sight of what was once a sheep.

R.I.P, dude

The journey home was non-eventful, save for a beautiful sunset, and for the fact that it didn't take nine hours like the ride down had. Yeah, boi!

Thanks for reading!

- Nina

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Don't worry, blog! We haven't forgotten about you!

Jackie and I have been mega busy lately with school and clubs and trips going into full swing! We went on a few trips (North England, Edinburgh, and Brighton) and are getting ready to share all that with you, but haven't had time to make the posts perfect.

So, just for now, here are some random snaps I've taken over the past one and a half (oh my god) months out and about in London!

This little dude could have done worse than being tied up to a Bentley

Pretty much England in a nutshell: Union Jack, rain, and a (broken) umbrella

Camden Lock from behind

Rough Trade East

Columbia Road Flower Market

A piece from JR at the Somerset House

If only we could all 3D print out own men. amiright ladies???

Sunset on the way back to London from Keswick

The squirrels in St. James' Park are the friendliest I have ever met
We should be putting up our trip to Keswick for an ~*~Adventure Weekend~*~ sometime this week. But first, I've gotta jet on over to Ireland for a long weekend with an old friend. We're like SUCH jetsetters nowadays over here...

x Nina

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The first three weeks...

So, we've reached three week mark of living and breathing London. No accents to show for it yet (unless you get some ciders in me), although we've both sort of figured out the Tube, had a few celebrity sightings, and most importantly, remembered not to call trousers 'pants' in public.

What've we been up to? Here's a quick pictorial peek at the last few weeks:

The first meal! After touching down in London early in the morning, going through what was a 45 minute immigration wait (only 10 minutes for me, thanks for the British citizenship, dad!), we were all pretty jetlagged and grumpy when arriving at the hotel we'd call home for a few days during our initial orientation. So first stop? A pub for some lunch! First lesson learned in London: any pub that boasts 'authentic' pub food is not going to be authentic. Nevertheless, here was my steak and ale pie with cider. 

After a nap and a group dinner with the rest of the study abroad students, Jackie and I ventured out into the city, hitting up Trafalgar Square to watch some breakdancers as well as taking a nice stroll in one of the Royal Parks up to Buckingham Palace.

Ah, my first British friend!

Duck Island Cottage in St. James' Park

Buckingham Palace Gates

A few days later we finally made the big move to our permanent residence for the next nine months! Jackie and I are living in a 'clustered flat' in a student residence hall for our school. This means we each have our own single room (which, I should add, we both find much nicer than anything we had in the Minnesota dorms), along with three other American roommates whom we share two bathrooms and a kitchen/lounge with. Space in the fridge is tight, and you have to literally fold your body in half in the shower to shave your legs, but other than that it's pretty nice!

Drury Lane

We got very lucky in that where we live is quite centrally located. Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, King's Cross Station, and Shoreditch are all only a 20 minute walk away. I'm a sucker for street performers, so I keep finding myself wandering around and ending up in Covent Garden where there are usually at least three different shows at any given moment.  

Acts that require help from cute little kids are obviously the best

Last weekend we went off with our roommates and friends to check out Camden Market and Primrose Hill while the weather was still nice and sunny. We had the BEST falafels we've ever had. No joke.

Delicious Dutch nutella & strawberry mini pancakes in the making. While queueing up for these I struck up conversation with the people next to me and found out that their mom lives a block away from our apartment in Cairo! Small world.

Camden Lock

The view from Primrose Hill

It took a bit of convincing to get everyone to haul themselves, full from the delicious market food, all the way up Primrose Hill, but the view at the top was definitely worth it. An added bonus: on the way over to the hill, well known British comedian Russell Howard walked right past us! First celeb sighting down!

Jackie and I also took a little journey down to Brick Lane the other day to see HAIM perform at the Rough Trade East store. I had run into the three Haim sisters on the escalators of Euston Station a few days prior after a day trip to visit my Great Aunt and family in Berkhamsted (second celebrity sighting, check!), and it was the push I needed to say 'screw it' to my sleep schedule and wake up at 6 am to go to Rough Trade and snatch a wristband for Jackie and me to watch the show the next day.

How Jackie and I get to school everyday

It's hard to capture HAIM doing anything but whipping their hair back 'n' forth
The HAIM show was short and sweet, although in the following album signing, the Haim girls remembered me when I introduced myself as 'the girl that screeched at you on the escalator.' Booyah.

Don't worry, we've been doing ~*~educational~*~ things too. Besides classes, we've been enriching our minds by checking out some old stuff. Thanks to the British Museum being free and awesome, we've already made a few journeys there. The photo above shows the Gayer-Anderson Cat, which is one of the museum's 100 most popular objects. Fun fact: Major R.J. Gayer-Anderson, the man who donated the cat, is my paternal grandmother's second cousin. Where's my VIP pass to the museum, dude?

The ceiling of the museum atrium is like, super cool

The Crouching Aphrodite, forever staring you down

Here's a bonus picture found at my Great Aunt's house that probably also belongs in a museum: a snap of my dad (Steven) and his siblings back in the day! Hardly recognized him with hair and without a scarf...

Lastly, here's another awesome adventure I took, although without Jackie this time, instead accompanied by a local family friend, Naomi. Naomi and her neighbour switch off going to the Columbia Road Flower Market in Shoreditch each Sunday, buying each other flowers to brighten their homes for the week.  

The market was crowded, loud, and almost impossible to weave through without getting a flower in the face. But therein lay the charm of it all. When not being yelled at by florists trying to get us to pick their deal over their neighbour's, we walked around the little side streets and checked out vintage clothing, antique stalls, and food stands. I also saw my first crazy person there. Welcome to London!

Leaving with a bouquet in hand, I'm glad to say my room felt much brighter, and smelled better, as a result. I will definitely be back before the weather freezes everything up!

So there it is in a nutshell: the first three weeks.

For everyone missing us back at home (c'mon, you know you do!), here is just a lil note just for you: