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Kelsey Ingle

8 Blog Entries
1 Trip
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A Rover in the Clover

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I'm a junior at Knox College studying abroad for a semester in Dublin, Ireland at the Gaiety School for Acting.

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The last of the UK

Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve written. It’s always a little spotty when I will get a wireless connection and my last post came from a happy accident of an internet café—the first I’d seen of its kind here. And then, even when I do get wireless, the connection might be too slow to transfer large amounts of information. In addition to apologizing for tardiness, I want to say sorry for some of the pictures. This site seems to get confused about which pictures I tell it to put where which makes for some interesting pairings of photos and captions. So don’t always trust the pictures factual information. Just admire them. Most of them are pretty at least, haha.

Well, we left London with a smile. It is an extremely cosmopolitan metropolis and after a while it seems to resemble a permanently upturned nose with all its cutting edge fashion coupled with its considerable historic value. By the time we’d left, we had honestly hit everything we could have done in a reasonable amount of time we stayed there: 5 days. On our last day, we stopped at Oxford for only a short while, but it was enough time for Carly and I to both declare that we really liked the city. It had a much friendlier and laid back feel than London, with street performers out the wazoo. You may have heard of Oxford college, but did you know that there’s not just one, but many? There was an enormous amount of students there, which resulted in a young, hip city. Christ Church College, one of the oldest buildings there, was open to tourists. We bought our tickets and were puttering around the gardens, when I remembered that Oxford had been an inspiration for JK Rowling and subsequently the movie crew for the construction of Hogwarts. Well, I wasn’t very impressed until I walked straight into the Great Hall. I actually experienced déjà vu. Although the movies weren’t filmed there, it was obvious that the filmmakers drew heavily from Christ Church, to the point of literal imitation. The Great Hall had the four long tables, the arching ceiling, the staff table at the front, and even enormous, austere pictures of headmasters on the walls. I saw a glimmer of the movies in other places like hallways, staircases, courtyards, and window sills. It was fantastic!

We ate at a pub called Checquers with real English food—greasy, thick sausages, large crescent shaped “chips” (fries), and beer. I’ve heard people say that English food has been improving… I have yet to see the proof. I do believe that my favorite beer so far is Carling, a lighter cold beer (yes they do sell warm beer here) with a very creamy head that’s tempers the yeasty taste. Amstell is pretty decent as well. I’m not going to try Guinness until I get to Ireland itself 

Warrick Castle is my least favorite thing we’ve visited on this whole trip. It marketed itself as a place where history comes alive, so being the Ingle family, we assumed it was like a Renaissance Festival—well it really didn’t know what it was. It had entertainment for young kids, scary places for thrill seekers, a few siege machines for the males, but what my age group and gender was supposed to enjoy were the tours of the insides of the castle that had been preserved with the same decorations and furnishings that had been used by the last residents. They had even gone to the extent of making wax figures of the last residents. Dummies. There were dummies everywhere. Dummies are my worst fear. They won’t send me screaming, but I definitely cannot relax when they’re around. Talk about uncanny valley. Dad enjoyed the trebuchet, a kind of catapult thing that he called a “tree-bucket” instead of the fancy sounding “treh-byoo-shay.” Mom and Carly were brave enough to take on the castle dungeons filled with plague riddled bodies, unsanitary surgeons, and cruel judges. We took a tour of the ramparts aka walked around the castle walls through lots of narrow, steep, stone steps—I could literally place my hand on the stairs near my head, comfortably, without stooping over.

We returned to Stratford-upon-Avon where we were staying, and spent our time simply walking along the streets since it was too late to go to any of the tourist areas and too early to eat yet. Carly and I bought some ritz crackers from a European dollar store (called “Poundland!”) and fed the birds at the river’s edge. Most of them were enormous swans, twice as big as a Canadian Goose, and equally as vicious. Carly and I had a good time feeding them though, and we gave some crackers to some children nearby so they could join in the fun. (As a side note: Little children speaking with a British accent are probably the cutest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s like “Charlie bit my finger” but on steroids). In the morning, Mom and Dad did the touristy things like visiting Shakespeare’s birthplace as well as a few other houses that his daughters or wife had lived in. Carly wanted to go shopping so I walked around with her, and pumped Mom and Dad for information after they rejoined us. Carly and I picked over a store called New Look which reminded me of a European Wet Seal and also browsed a covered market that was in town for the weekend. We looked for Shakespeare’s grave and saw the cathedral where his tomb was located.

We left Stratford for Hay-on-Wye, but on the way we stopped at a place called Little Slaughter. Its name belies its beauty, as this tiny village was the most picturesque, quintessential representation of a small English hamlet I’ve seen during this trip. It was in an area called the Cotswolds which is provincial region of England. We strolled along a shallow river with low footbridges overgrown with moss and lichen. The small houses with sloping, triangular roofs accented by intricate weathervanes and precisely manicured flower gardens gave the place an idyllic feel. We stopped at the only restaurant in town for a traditional English cream tea, which includes scones, pastries, sandwiches, jam, and the most divine smooth, sweet butter called “clotted cream.” Clotted Cream also belies its name, since it really doesn’t sound that appetizing to me, but it is in actuality the most delicately sweet flavor I’ve tasted this trip. In addition to their odd names, the English have a strange way of dropping out the center of their words just as the French drop out the ends of theirs. So Leicester will become simply Lester. From little Slaughter, we stopped at the ruins of Tinturn Abbey. Simply saying we stopped there does not do the journey to get there justice. We had mostly stuck to what the locals called the “A” roads during the beginning of our trips, but in these back country areas we were driving on “B” roads and even “C” roads. The roads were so narrow, bumpy, steep, that you defied death at every turn. At one point the road narrowed to one lane on a two way street. We met a huge black SUV at that point (of course we hadn’t seen another car for nearing fifteen minutes before we saw them at that particular passage). They had to back up to let us through. Other encounters of that sort were made even more difficult by huge hedges blocking sightlines around corners. Once we passed into Wales, hedges and sheep became practically permanent features outside of the car’s windows. The countryside is absolutely breathtaking with rolling green hills, rich black earth, and lush vegetation that is watered gratuitously. Wales is a very wet country. Unfortunately, the hedges were so high that even though I tried to take pictures, it was absolutely impossible to get a decent shot from the road. When we got to our destination city, it was drizzling and low gray clouds had crept over the town. Puddles made the cobble stone roads more difficult to traverse, but we walked through the streets which were very quiet in contrast to Stratford’s surprisingly boisterous nightlife. There was a definite lack of greenspace which gave the town a kind of desolate atmosphere until we met some of the people who seemed to recognize the beauty in the gray, lapping shores and flat, sandy beaches which we walked along. It was obvious that we weren’t locals because we let the tide sneak up on us. Our path back to our car had been completely submerged by the time we turned around to come back. We visited Dylan Thomas’s boathouse. He was a Welsh poet with an extremely likeable and self-aware kind of humor. He wrote only in English (instead of the Welsh language which has a lot of y’s and double letters. Apparently the y’s are pronounced with the “oo” sound found in “water.” Well, I can’t find and “oo” in “water,” so I have little hope of pronouncing anything correctly). Anyway, Thomas wrote mostly about life, transformation, and pastoral living. My favorite of his poems is the villanelle “Do not go Gently into that Good Night.”

We checked into the Bear’s Inn, our bed and breakfast which was absolutely gorgeous, the owner said her and her husband had built it themselves, along with the help of their son. We went into town for dinner and realized how sleepy the little village was since none of the places were open for Sunday dinner. We were turned away from absolutely every restaurant and pub in town. We finally had to grab some takeaway from a nearby restaurant and eat at a pub. It was an interesting night! We got up this morning to drive to the place where we’ll take a ferry to Ireland. We stopped at a town called Tenby Bay. It looked like something you’d see in southern France. There was a large inlet in which sailboats were docked, the town was built on a sloping hill which gave the roads a crazy tilt and made it necessary to declare some roads only for walking. The buildings were all painted pastel colors and clung on to their precarious perch gamely. The water was a beautiful teal color and just a few metres away from the beach was an island that used to be a jail. It was breathtaking. We got some creamy ice cream and hopped back into the car to drive to Pembroke where we’ll get on a ferry to head to Ireland. Ireland! My home for the next term. I’m a bundle of nerves, but I can’t wait to get there.

I'll get pictures up as soon as I can!

permalink written by  Kelsey Ingle on August 25, 2009 from Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: A Rover in the Clover
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Bus Tour: Bath, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge

London, United Kingdom

This is actually posted a day late because of no internet at the charming little B&B we are staying at. I'm at an internet cafe trying to post in under an hour right now. So this is yesterday's entry talking about how I didn't post a day before... Yeah.

I didn’t write a blog entry yesterday, even though it was the first time that we got back to the flat before ten o’clock for the five days that we’ve been in London. When you’re on a big vacation like this and you have an itinerary that goes on and on and on, you don’t have the time to do the normal things that make you happy… such as killing stick figures at bored.com (Causuality!), doing a Sudoku, or sticking it to the man by playing a one player game with two sets of hands with my sister. Last night was definitely rejuvenating 

This morning we packed up, hopped in a cab at 10 AM and are now sitting in the parking lot of Heathrow airport while Dad figures out how to drive a car with the steering wheel on the other side in the most confusing roads I’ve ever come across. Good luck to him. I’m glad that you have to be 25 to drive a rental car, otherwise, I might be taking my turn at the wheel and I would be so frightened, the stress on my system might shorten my life by a few weeks.

Anyway, we’re off to Oxford for the day and then settling down in Stratford-upon-Avon for the night (Shakespeare’s birthplace). Consequently, I’ve heard a lot of Dadada-“on”-dadada kind of names and I never knew quite what they meant. I might have just been ignorant not knowing this, but the second names are usually rivers. So we’re going to Hay-on-Wye later in the trip so “Wye” is probably a river, just like “Avon.”

Again, getting off subject. Okay, yesterday was a bus tour. We met our transport at 8:15 AM which meant that I was really, really tired for the first part. We started off at Windsor Castle which is the weekend residence to the Queen. We picked up our audio tours at the entrance and set off to explore some of the reception chambers, gardens, chapels, and other ornate looking rooms. (For the record, I HATE audio tours) We saw a few famous paintings by Van Dyke, who has a very unique, natural, and vibrant way of painting portraits. I got used to the colors being a bit dull in portraits, but when we got to the Van Dyke room, you could still see the reflections on the taffeta which made some of the dresses shimmer. Windsor was the favorite castle of Queen Victoria so there were a lot of statues of her (and like we saw Sparky with Charles II, we saw a Jazzy with Queen Victoria!). My favorite room, however, was a banquet hall which displayed the crests of each of the historic knights that have served the crown. Their coats of arms had stags, dragons, lions, hounds, and other symbolic devices painted on them. Some were completely white though, and these were the shields of knights who had dishonored themselves and their country and were degraded from the Order of the Garter. In the chapel, we saw the tomb of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s favorite wife, along with a few other lesser known monarchs.

We got back on the bus, with the other 45 tourists. The bus was nice, it was a charter with air vents and window curtains. Our tour guide was a very prim, delicate looking old man with a short and wiry build, crinkly eyes, and a thick, pointed upper lip and knobby neck that made him look a bit like a turtle. He had a very posh accent as well as a wry sense of humor. He ended up singing most of his directions to us, and made sure that the numerous other nationalities on the tour who only spoke broken English knew where to meet up by referring to them by the name of their home country. “Got that, Japan?” “Spain, step over here please.”

Armym Hennessey was his name, and he was full of dry trivia and points of interest, but he had a soothing voice that I slept through on the way to our second stop, Bath.

This city was very much influenced by the Romans who came before. Much of their architecture was preserved, including the allegedly restorative bath pits that were respected because of their supposed healing powers. The city itself was absolutely breathtaking. There were Kodak moments everywhere. It was absolutely picturesque. In the heart of the baths, we saw deep greenish pools, murky from stagnation, but still managing to look oddly appealing. There were alcoves, columns, and statues cut into the stone near which the bathers would languish, long, long ago. The history of the place was fun to read about, but again, the audio tours annoyed me so much that I was ready to leave about half an hour before we had to get on the bus, so the family went shopping a bit. I found a street vendor who was selling British themed negligee. Definitely saw a Union Jack thong.

We stopped at a restaurant called “Shakeaway” which would blend pretty much anything for you. I got a banana and nutella shake, which is very, very thin compared to American shakes. It’s practically melted ice cream when they give it to you. Carly and I were admiring a statue that looked innoculous enough, until a little boy ran up to it, pressed a button, and water shot out of a leak. It was a water fountain! I took a drink of Bath water!

Carly fell asleep on the way to Stonhenge. I finished my book. When we got there, I was really expecting a bit more drama or hullabaloo. Stonehenge is seriously just off the highway. We could have just driven past it. There was a rope which kept visitors about 30 feet away from the monument, but you could walk around it. I mean there were only so many times you can take pictures of rocks. I didn’t get it. I listened to all the speculation and read my pamphlet back to front, and I know it’s got hidden meanings or something, but I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. It was really cool to be there and now to say that I’ve seen it, but don’t expect anyone to stand on ceremony when you go check it out. I mean, it’s surrounded by hay fields.

When we got back to London (our last night in London!), we got dropped at Herrod’s, a large, classy, and expensive department store. Mom said that Princess Diana was dating the owner of Herrod’s at the time that she died. I could find nothing within my price range. When I walked through a display of Gucci and Dior for 7-12 year olds, I knew this really wasn’t my style. Carly bought a shirt though that cost more than everything I’ve bought in London put together. Some of the fashion was WAY out there, but it was fun to look at 450 pound dresses (more like 900 dollars).

We left the store early and slipped into what looked like a fast food restaurant for a quick dinner and encountered a very pleasant surprise. The food was all on a conveyor belt! It was Lebanese cuisine (to add to our varied lists of traditional foods which also include Turkish and Indian). You could pick off the entrees you wanted, the ring around the dish told you how much it would cost, and the entire menu would pass by in front of your eyes within about two minutes of watching. I took a video of it because it was so cool.

After dinner, like I said before, we had a relaxing night and went to bed early in order to get up for our trip to Oxford. Right now, Dad is driving like a pro in our rental car, Mom is navigating, and Carly is sleeping some more. We have another big day ahead of us. This is Kelsey Ingle, signing out.

permalink written by  Kelsey Ingle on August 21, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: A Rover in the Clover
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Shopping in London, St Paul's Cathedral, and Romeo and Juliet

London, United Kingdom

Hey guys. Unfortunately, I didn't take my memory card out of my computer, so all the pictures I took today are on the internal memory of my camera, and I didn't bring the cord... the long and short of it is I took pictures, but I can't get them on my computer unfortunately.

Today was a bit slower. I think the fervor of OMGWEREINLONDONANDWEONLYHAVEALITTLETIMESOLETSDOITALLRIGHTNOW is kind of wearing off, thankfully. Carly and I spent from 10:30 - 2:00 shopping in Covent Gardens while Mom and Dad took a canal tour. I bought some fashion basics that I know will help be blend in at Dublin: A elastic, thick belt with a decorative buckle, a knit slouch cap, a stretchy black half-vest, and a plaid button down. All of these have shown up so many times, I felt out of place not owning one. The leggings here are not so much tights, but more like tight pants. They're of a more sturdy material which hovers between the definition of hosiery and skinny jeans, and they extend right to the ankle. I hadn't seen any like them back in the States. We window shopped a bit more, and I'm loving the fashion here so much that I think I'll start making sketches of my favorite clothing just to remember it. Drapery is very in (something I could stand to work on in my doodles anyway... might as well have fun doing it!).

We met up with Mom and Dad and took the underground over to St. Paul's Cathedral. I couldn't help but think of the Mary Poppins song, "Feed the Birds." Early each day to the steps of St. Paul's/the little old bird woman comes/in her own special way to the people she calls/come by my bags full of crumbs. I even had tuppence in my pocket at the time :) Cathedrals are a beautiful place to think. You mind seems to soar up into the domes and fills the great, echoing space between the marble and stained glass. It's a very heightened feeling, which is exactly what the architect, Christoper Wren wanted to evoke. He thought St. Paul's was a place were Heaven and Earth communed. Well, Carly and I climbed pretty close to Heaven if that's a fact. We went almost all the way up the 2nd largest unsupported dome (1st is St. Peter's Basilica) to get a great view of downtown London. For some reason there is a lot of construction going on and the skyline is peppered with cranes.

Afterwards, we took a rather roundabout way to the spot where the Globe Theatre used to stand. Now there is a replica of Shakespeare's most famous playhouse. We had a five course meal at the Swan Restaurant before heading to a performance of Romeo and Juliet. I honestly cannot say enough good things about this performance. (Once again, dramatic critic hat coming on, ignore if you may).

This performance weaved in the comedic and the tragic elements of the piece seamlessly together. Many characters were double-cast in order to support a round 15 or so players upon the boards. The theatre was slight thrust, but with mostly arena type seating, giving some people really bad seats... well they couldn't have been worse than the groundlings who stood throughout the 3 hour performance. So glad I had a seat. There was a spiral staircase upstage, a trap door downstage, and three entrances on both the first and second levels.

Faithful to real Shakespearean plays, their set was very sparse while the costumes and props were elaborate. The casting was color blind which made for a very interesting combination of characters onstage. The lighting was real candles as well as natural light which dimmed as the play went on. Music in the play guided the audience's mood through the somewhat murky passages that the regular audience member's attention might have strayed since however well the actor did speaking the speech, the language was a bit too dense for easy comprehension in some places, and that's where you'd hear bells, chimes, lutes, trumpets, drums, or other renaissance instruments of which I don't know the names. There was also a quartet of men who sang beautiful harmonies during transitions, festive scenes, and even while the audience was taking their seats at the beginning. It was a great way to end the play too. The tragic ending, though with an uplifting note of reconciliation still left the audience with sadness until the quartet and the rest of the company serenaded us with a bittersweet but hopeful song while taking their bows. The sword fights were honestly the BEST I'd ever seen. You barely knew it was choreography. Swords clashed instead of alighted only to make a scraping noise. Stage blood was used. Anticipation of blows never happened. And it was quick! I could barely follow the action. It always bothered me that Mercutio (my favorite character) had been wounded under Romeo's arm, but in this play, it was totally believable... since it happened in a split second!

The acting... oh the acting. It was fabulous. I've rarely seen better. I have felt a bit ashamed of my sometimes harsh criticism of Peter Pan a few posts back, but this play reminded me of what real acting can do, and how it should feel. Even the bit parts were memorable. I fell in love with Peter (the nurse's man) of all people! He was splendidly dull-witted and loud. The nurse herself really made the talkative old busy-body come to life. Lady Capulet was so multifaceted!!! I'd never seen so much depth in her character! Is it a often done thing to make it so that she's having an affair with Tybalt? Because she certainly was all over him at the feast, as well as weeping bitterly after his death. It really added a charge to the scene where Capulet loses his temper at Juliet. It's obvious that he's just found out about the affair but can only loose his spleen on his daughter rather than his wife. Lady Capulet was a cougar... but one with a heart. I really, really liked her. Benvolio was sexy. I always just thought of him as the reluctant party-er and peacekeeper, usually making sure Mercutio stayed out of trouble. He was absolutely hilarious in this one! Maybe because Romeo didn't play up the lovey-dovey side of his character, Benvolio had more latitude to be rough and entertaining. The scene where Mercutio and Benvolio are looking for Romeo after the feast was the funniest part of the play. They were both plastered, making each other laugh, Benvolio kept falling asleep, and they acted out everything they were saying on one another. So. Freaking. Funny. Mercutio is my fav, and I am hard on my favs. He wasn't as high class as I thought a cousin to the Prince should act which kind of gives him the flair of a nobleman who can roll in the mud with the pigs but pick himself up the next second to outclass you right there on the spot. He was more the prodigal son, with money but likes to act like a frat boy. Oh well, he played the interpretation splendidly (he entered with his pants down, when Tybalt threatened him with a sword, he made a jerking off gesture on it, and he even kissed the nurse full on the lips), it just didn't fit with mine.

Tybalt looked exactly as I pictured him, and was an excellent fighter. The bit parts, like I said were fabulous, like the Apothecary, the Musicians, and Paris (played as a gangly fop who hugged everyone, overstayed his welcome, and smiled foolishly when not being told what to do). Friar Lawrence was younger than I had imagined, but was more Romeo's friend than a father figure. And as for the star-crossed-lovers, I honestly don't think they could have found a better Juliet. She could speak iambic pentameter so gracefully, she had the stature of a young girl, the wide doe eyes, pale skin, and long black hair of Italian nobility. She was so moving in her speeches. She had such life and passion, as well as guileless, innocent love that drove her to such extents. Her decision making was well played out (quite a feat since Juliet goes through so many massive transformations) and the scene in which she thinks Romeo had died was so very moving, as well as right before she takes Friar Lawrence's drought. Romeo, I wasn't sure about at first. He must be a dancer because he literally skipped around the stage sometimes. He was light on his feet anyway, but it was well-played. I always thought that Romeo was being so emo when he collapsed on the floor in Friar Lawrence's cell after he hears that he's banished, but seeing his performance, it was so obvious that he should that it didn't look out of place to me at all. The certainty of Romeo and Juliet's love and the force with which they pursued it carried the play. Honestly, sincerely, this was a fantastic work of theatre. I can't haven't even told about the procession through the audience with Juliet's body, or the ease and flow of the transitions jaw-dropping costumes, and yet it's 2 o'clock in the morning here and I have a bus tour to get to tomorrow.

I'll try to come back with an accent, Kristen. I've already mastered a semblance of an English one if Lizzy's judgment is sound. I have seen street performers, from musicians to gymnasts. They're all superb!

Thanks for reading, guys! Sorry again for no photos.

permalink written by  Kelsey Ingle on August 18, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: A Rover in the Clover
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Hampton Court, The London Eye, and Thames Cruise

London, United Kingdom

What a day!  I am beat.  The only thing I can think about is how much my feet hurt.  Sightseeing is hard work.The family started out the day by traveling by way of the Underground to Waterloo train station.  There was a seamless transition between the tube and the train, and we were on our way again, heading to Hampton Court, the summer lodgings of English royalty.  Most notably, Henry VIII, Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth I.  There we met up with some cousins, Jill and her two daughters Pip and Lizzy.  Lizzy is Carly's age and Pip is (I think) three years younger.  They were all delightful, and it was great to see Pip and Jill again because since the family reunion a few years back.  We toured Hampton court with them before heading out to eat at a nearby pub.  I got my first sip of cider there.  In London, cider is alcoholic.  If you want American cider that you'd usually see around Autumn, it's called "pressed" cider.At Hampton Court, we walked through the main plaza, called clock court for a very impresive Astrological Clock that graced one of the turrets, then headed to William and Mary's lodgings that were located through some banquet halls.  The open air parks in between buildings were very well-manicured and had a very fitting geometrical grace to them, instead of the hodge podge of additions, refurbishments, and wear that other castles/old buildings I've seen in the area.  Even though it looked refined, we were informed by one of the costumed workers that during the summer months with more than 1,000 only slightly hygenic people living there, it could get a bit foul.  It's better than living in the thick of London though.  Can you imagine the state of the streets and the river?  It would absolutely reek in this heat!We were lucky to stumble upon a portrait of Charles I with a bunch of puppies gamboling around his feet.  We recognized the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel right off because it's only one breed away from our Continental Toy Spaniels back home. 
We always said that my dog, Sparky, was just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Cavalier (while Jazzy favors the Papillons) and this picture proves it!  That's the spitting image of Sparkplug.We all took a walk in the gardens after viewing a game of "real tennis."  Don't ask me to explain it.  Mom geeked out about a few of the flowers, and Carly geeked out about how great it would be to have parks like this back home.  I was just ready for the maze.  It's one of the most popular hedge mazes anywhere, and we were able to solve it in under 20 minutes!After eating with the Soars, we were ready to head back to London.  Just around the corner from the train station was "The London Eye."  It's a very large ferris wheel (stands at a height of 443 ft) on the bank of the Thames with 32 pill-shaped passenger capsules that seat about 20 people at a time.  The wheel does not stop for loading and unloading.  You're just encouraged to move quickly... after the bomb squad has sweeped the compartment for explosives after every group departs that is...  It was a fun trip, including a 4D introduction experience that took you soaring through London, but the best part was Madam Toussaud's wax figure of Daniel Radcliffe standing near the queue.  My stomach did a backflip, but I was hustled away before I could snap a picture.
After looking at them from above, we popped over the Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey (which were all closed), before we hopped on a river cruise of the Thames.  Parliament makes an appearance in the new Sherlock Holmes movie (that I've seen commercials for around). 
You can see Holmes diving into the Thames from one of Parliament's windows :D Westminster Abbey is behind Parliament (which is the buidling attached to Big Ben if you didn't know) and it's kind of yellowish looking. I dunno if the picture picks it up well.  While on the cruise we made a round trip from the Eye to Tower Bridge in about an hour.At that time, we were ready for dinner, so we headed back to Covent Garden (a nice shopping area) for a bit of shopping (I found the Disney store!) and dinner at a Indian Restaurant called Mansala Zone.  The menu had little peppers next to the dishes that were spicy.  Good thing I didn't even try for a one pepper dish because the regular entree they brought out was more than hot for my pampered American taste buds.  It was hot, but it was gooood.  The entire restaurant was decorated in Rajhasthani Puppets assembled in a entourage celebrating a parade day.  It gave the restaurant a fun, festive air.  Two thumbs way, way up.We turned in early tonight and are hopefully going to take it a bit easy tomorrow because we're all exhausted from the continuing effects of jet lag and non-stop schedules.  The food is keeping us going.  The food here is super!  I can't say enough about how much fun I'm having.  EVERYTHING is fun.  Just walking down the street or going into the underground or people watching or playing your team/my team with Carly.  It's all super super fun.  Maybe it's just the novelty.  I'm not sure, but I am having the time of my life over here!  Hope you all are well.  Thanks for reading, I'm putting a lot of effort into this every night and it's nice to see comments when I get back from a busy day.Christina-- They're treating us just fine :)  When we don't talk, look confused, walk out into the street when we're not supposed to, aim a camera at something, or carry around a map wide-open, we blend right in!  So... not very often.  We're obviously tourists, but not obviously American. Lizzy and I fired off questions to each other about the different cultures.  She pretty much wanted to know whether or not Americans act like they do in the movies, since England gets a lot of American cinema, and I wanted to know more about the education system (which is a little dry to go into here).  They said my English accent was a bit "posh" sounding, but almost indestinguishable from a native!  Wohoo!

permalink written by  Kelsey Ingle on August 17, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: A Rover in the Clover
tagged LondonEye, BigBen, Fun, Indian and HamptonCourt

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Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and STOMP

London, United Kingdom

I've realized that my blog entries are longer than average, so I thought I could give the rundown of the day quick and easy like a bandaid and then go into more detail.

Tower of London-- Beefeaters, Ravens, Torture, Crown Jewels, Beheadings, Henry the VIII
Tower Bridge-- Two landmasses connected by a strip of iron... yup
Shopping-- First European Beer!
STOMP!-- Hella sweet
Dinner—Sorastro’s, Turkish themed restaurant

(The Tower of London)

The Tower of London isn't actually a tower. It's an entire fortress with six foot thick walls, portcullises, primitive plumbing and everything else that goes along with a castle built in 1066. We were led on the tour by the infamous Yeoman (the Beefeaters), and our guide was cracking jokes as he told us the history of the place. We stopped by to see the crown jewels which aren't just jewels either. They are the entire vestments and ceremonial regalia worn by the Queen and her company during coronations and other stately affairs. We got to see the biggest diamond in the world set into the Queen's staff, all her robes, the solid gold plates used for royal christenings, and a large array of crowns. Because they're celebrating Henry the VIII's 500th anniversary since taking the crown, there was an exhibit devoted to him and his armor, but once you went in, there wasn't any getting out until you finished the entire thing (and went through the gift shop)! They definitely know how to control a crowd there.

(The Tower Bridge)

We ate on the bank of the Thames with a view of the Tower Bridge which we visited after lunch. It was 194 stairs up which led me to start keeping a tally of how many steps we'd climbed that day going in and out of exhibits, underground stations, and other attractions. I broke 500 easily.

We went shopping for a bit in Convent Square and stopped for a pint at Sussex pub where I had my first European beer. Foster’s lager, which is actually very popular in Australia. We toodled around for only a bit because STOMP started at 6 o’clock. In London, you aren’t given programs… you have to buy them! While we were perusing our three pound program, the entire audience was greatly entertained by the antics of a mouse that had scurried out from one of the wings and had taken its place center stage without a care in the world. It received cat calls and rounds of applause until the ushers lowered the curtain to take care of the lovable rodent discreetly. The show itself was absolutely spectacular… and HILARIOUS! Not a word was spoken, but the rhythms, gags, and physical stunts seemed to fly by. The cast banged on everything imaginable… INCLUDING the kitchen sink which a quartet of men came waltzing out with strapped to their fronts, and still full of water!

After STOMP, we headed to a restaurant called Sorastro’s whose tagline is “The show after the show.” It caters especially to people who have just been out to the theatre and provides some additional entertainment if the first performance of the night left them begging for more. The decorations were incredible. It was Turkish themed, and unlike many restaurants like this in America, the ornamentations and design genuinely had a ring of truth to it. We were entertained by a string quartet and a pair of opera singers while we ate. The real surprise was dessert: baked pumpkin and fresh fruit. The pumpkin was very sweet and had oats sprinkled on it—very good, and the fruit was whole! No preparation at all.

(Thankfully, the Underground is pretty easy to figure out)

Walking home, we passed through London’s Time Square, Picadilly Circus. Even on a Sunday night, it was hopping. The buskers here are actually very good and play music that I would actually pay to listen to, instead of the normal street performers that I’ve heard.

(This is the theater where the London premiere of Harry Potter was!!!)

I have to crack another fashion rumor that I had heard before I left. If Londoners are anything to judge by, Europeans definitely wear sandals. For some reason, I had heard that it was all closed-toed shoes across the pond. Well, you can put that piece of gossip to rest.

(The Ritz Hotel)

permalink written by  Kelsey Ingle on August 16, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: A Rover in the Clover
tagged TowerBridge, TowerOfLondon, STOMP and SorastroS

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Travel to and Arrival in London

London, United Kingdom

This has been a day of firsts! Already, the trip has been incredibly eye-opening.

Our travel plan was as follows:
--Drive to Chicago
--Drop our car off at a Holiday Inn (taking advantage of the fact that if we rent a room there for one night we can leave our car there for 15 days)
--Take a shuttle to O'Hare
--Take a 4:20 PM flight Atlanta
--Four hour layover
--Take a 10:30 PM flight to London!

Flight to O'Hare was uneventful, though Carly, my little sister, and I had a fun time making up alternate captions for the picture-only safety precaution pamphlet as well as giggling at the outrageous contraptions that were being sold in the magazine, "Sky Mall."

When we got to Atlanta, things started to go wrong. The lady who assisted us with our Self-Check-In really got us off on the wrong foot. First of all, it's a self-check-in, and we were doing just fine on our own. She punched in the wrong number of bags, directed us to the wrong gate, and told us the wrong time of take-off, which resulted in a pretty frazzled sprint to the other side of the terminal. Luckily we had thirty minutes to spare before our real flight took off, and doubly luckily we switched when we did because I had inadvertently made a scene at the wrong flight line when I thought I had lost my purse and was grateful that I didn't have to spend the next eight hours with the people who were staring at me in that line.

The TVs on the back of the chairs in front of us had free entertainment! I finally got to watch "He's Just Not That Into You" (I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, but it was good) and a few episodes of the Office and Chuck totally free! There was an in flight poker game going on where you could play against other passengers through the TV, in addition to a few other games like Galactica or Zuma.

At around 12:30 AM Central time, most passengers were sleeping. I had a very difficult time getting comfortable and as a result got a grand total of about two hours of sleep. We landed in London at 11:30 AM their time, and it's now 2:30 PM, we've checked in, showered, and are about ready to head out, but I am battling some serious jet lag. It's 8:20 AM in the States!!! I have rarely seen that side of nine this summer, I'm afraid to admit. Carly's done this flight before, and she said the best thing to do was drink a lot of water. Mom says the best thing is to go outside and let your body acclimate to the new position of the sun. My goal is just not to pass out standing up.

The first British accent I heard was a (really cute) young man directing passport check in lines. And I got my first taste of the ill will between the British and the Irish. The man there asked if I needed a Visa for study in Ireland, and I said as a student I didn't, he sniffed and said, "We control the Nothern part of Ireland, but /unfortunately/ we have no jurisdiction over the Southern part, so whether they let you in or not is completely up to them." Ha!

Still looking forward to Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens tonight, but I spotted an H+M that I want to find again.

permalink written by  Kelsey Ingle on August 15, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: A Rover in the Clover
tagged Flight, London and Arrival

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First Day in London Town

London, United Kingdom

It's now late at night, around 12:30 AM, but it's only 6:30 PM back in the states. I'm so very tired. Jet lag is a beast, but I've stayed up all day, and am ready to fall into bed and rearrange my internal clock. The only reason I'm still up writing this is that when Carly went to Belgium she said that she barely remembers anything she did the first day because she was in such a fog of sleep deprivation, so I want to get some memories down before they fly out of my head.

After I wrote my earlier entry, we went to a nearby convenience store called the Signsbury Central. It must be so easy to eat healthy in the UK if that store was any indication. The whole family stocked up on some great snacks. I now declare my new favorite food to be real brie cheese with raspberry jam on crackers. Absolutely divine. I made everyone in the family try some Malomite (an English all-vitamin sandwich spread that is very popular and similar to Australia's Vegemite) because I had tried some at camp. Mom was so disgusted that she spit it out in the sink. Carly wrinkled her nose. I nibbled on a bit of cracker with a thin layer spread over it. But Dad LOVED it. It's very salty and pungent, but extremely good for you, and apparently most kids over here grow up eating it.

To pass the time before Peter Pan, we stole away to Portobello Road, a Market road packed with bargain stores. If you've seen "Notting Hill" with Julia Roberts, you've seen Portobello Road. Carly bought a lovely bag, but I have yet to spend a pound! The exchange rate isn't the best. It's about 1.61 dollars = 1 pound. In Dublin it's a bit better. I think it's around 1.42 dollars = 1 euro. I saw a monument to the Fallen Animals that died along with British soldiers near Hyde Park (which kind of bleeds into Kensington Gardens) that was very dear.

(Hyde Park. At one end is "Speaker's Corner" which is kind of like London's Capitol Hill)

The fashion here is great. I had been really worrying about what to pack/wear when I got here, but it's not as haute couture as I was nervous it was going to be. There are skinny jeans, but they are not the only kind of jeans worn (I heard somewhere that if you wore bootcut or flares, you were automatically a tourist which false I see now). There is a general lack of graphic tees on girls, though they're pretty common for men. Guys have fashion sense here! It's a beautiful thing. As we were returning from the play tonight, we saw a lot of the young people dressed for the clubs which was mostly dresses with the occasional dressy top and skinny jeans.

Yes, we went to Peter Pan. It was a very decent performance. I am slipping into my dramatic critique mode, so the following four paragraphs are more for my benefit than for yours:

The play itself was a beautiful piece of art. The images created by the costumes, the unique theatre experience, and all the other technical elements combined made for a very visually pleasing show, but this particular production fell short in many areas. First, it completely missed pleasing it's target audience, children. The play was way too long and subtle for anyone under 11 (most parents were talking to their children during the performance to keep them occupied which created a sort of buzz of noise heard behind most of the dialogue). Also, Tiger Lily had a seduction dance that was extremely uncomfortable for the parents of little kids sitting around me. The thrusting, hip revolving number really didn't add anything to the show, and was danced with mediocre skill to a soundtrack of Tiger Lily's heavy breathing... in a word: awkward. It was completely out of character for a family oriented piece.

I'm a huge Pan Fan, so I know the book inside and out, and this performance followed J.M. Barrie's original to the letter-- which made for a very long, very slow show. I am honestly not a purist. I will not get up in arms about changes. I'm all for intelligently making cuts or alterations to a good thing to adapt it to a new medium, and that's exactly what this show lacked. The adaptation was spotty at best. Key points were missed, and I'm sure there was some things lost in translation. In the beginning of the book, Peter says that he's "never been touched and never will." Well this is complete nonsense, and it's obviously something he's made up, since he had just claimed he's never cried in his life after Wendy found him bawling on the floor about his shadow. Yet, the fact that Peter is never touched was brought up again and again in this adaptation which made for a very standoff Peter (unwarrantably so!). In addition, not once is Captain Hook called by his real name, James, it's always the abbreviation, Jas. Hook. This makes me think the adapter actually thought that Jas. was Hook's real name...

I'm thankful Peter was played by a boy, but there were no children in this performance. Some of the actor's went over the top in playing young which came off as contrived stupidity instead of trusting innocence. Michael did a very good job at acting like a little boy though body language and inflection. I really liked Wendy because she was sympathetic, motherly, but still acted like a little girl. Smee was spot on. He even had some ditties to sing. Hook and Peter were disappointments. Their performances fell flat, since their motivations were very unclear and weak. In the tradition of the play, Hook and Mr. Darling are portrayed by the same actor, and this was no exception. Unfortunately, there was no magic or love created by the Darlings to bring their children back to them from the wonder of Neverland. Despite those lackluster performances, real deliveries were given by the actress who played Tink and the puppeteer who animated Nana. Tink had dreadlocks, wore combat boots and a smudgy, grimy-looking pink tutu. And she was perfect. Whether flying, making rude gestures, or reacting to Peter or Wendy, Tink really lit up the stage. She was kind of the cross-over point between the acting and the special effects... which were absolutely breathtaking.

The play was staged in arena style, the action going on in the middle while the audience sat in an almost complete circle around it, but behind the audience and extending above their heads to complete a globelike performance space was an IMAX theatre screen. The simulation of flight in this production was unlike anything I'd ever seen. This kind of theatre was able to take us soaring over London, up to the rigging of the Jolly Rodger where Peter and Hook did battle, and then down to the depths of the Mermaid's Lagoon where a rope-artist mermaid suspended at least 15 ft. from the ground performed an acrobatic dance (similar to AMEOBA to all those Knox folks reading this). There was a spectacular score composed solely for this production. The costumes were golden. But the most fun were the puppets. Performed by the same puppeteer, there was Nana the dog, the Tick-Tock Crocodile, and a new addition to the Lost Boys, an Ostrich (Ha!). The crocodile was probably 20 ft. long. It was all on rollers, controlled by a bicycle like contraption, and it was able to reach it's huge head out into the audience, and bellow a primeval roar that shook our seats. Even though the acting left something to be desired, the technical aspects of this play simply stole the show!!! It's not a must see, but if you have (a lot of) time, I'd still suggest it just to see the amazing effects.

(I had to)

What I'm looking forward to: Tour of London Bridge tomorrow as well as a performance of STOMP!!

Thanks for reading! Comment, please!

permalink written by  Kelsey Ingle on August 15, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: A Rover in the Clover
tagged Shopping, Fashion, PeterPan and Malomite

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Three days to go!

Waukesha, United States

It was never a question in my mind whether or not I was going to study abroad. It was only a matter of when and where. Ireland came naturally. Not only is the IES program right up my alley, the Irish are everything I love about the human spirit. They are irascible, hardy, brave, clever, and amiable.

My family and I will leave Waukesha on Friday night so that we arrive in London during the day on Saturday. London is six hours ahead of what I am used to, so I will be battling some jet lag during the first day so hopefully I can hopefully nap during the flight. This is my first time crossing the Atlantic, and I've already packed and repacked my suitcase twice! Come to think of it, my luggage is probably due for another organization.

What I'm looking forward to: Seeing "Peter Pan" in Kensington Gardens in an IMAX theatre Saturday night!

permalink written by  Kelsey Ingle on August 12, 2009 from Waukesha, United States
from the travel blog: A Rover in the Clover
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