Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Finally, we were on our way

We finally boarded the plane at 7:45. My seat was in Business Class, just 3 rows away from Elder Bednar. People kept coming on the plane and nobody was sitting by me. As time went by, I was getting more excited thinking that Kelly could move out of coach and come sit by me. As each person passed, I held my breath. Each person kept on walking. A flight attendant came up to me just then and asked if anyone was sitting next to me. I said no and asked if Kelly could move up. He went and got her and Kelly and I were both seated comfortably in Business Class, right behind Elder Bednar.

Finally, at 8:30, the flight left. I was able to sleep this leg and woke up just as we were preparing for landing. I was home at last.

Not quite there yet

It got to be 7:00 so we decided to go check in at the gate and get our seat assignments. Only one problem: the gate sign said the next flight was to Panama City. We talked to the guy at the desk who told us our flight was leaving at 7:15 from gate E-24. We took off running again.

We got to our gate and the flight was again delayed – to 7:30. We got our seats and I was in 10F and Kelly was in 42 F. So much for our first class seats. At this point though, we were just thankful to be going home.

And then, I looked up and there was Elder Bednar standing in line. He was on our flight! I was so excited!

Atlanta at last

Only one problem: the plane wasn’t moving. After a couple of minutes, the pilot came on the intercom and told us there was a stalled plane at our gate and we had to wait for it to be towed away before we could get off. Twenty minutes later, we were finally at the gate. Kelly and I both knew at this point that we would miss our connecting flight, so we decided there was no point to even try to hurry.

We got through customs without any problem, but we had missed the flight. We talked to a Delta agent to get a new flight before we handed over our luggage again. This was a big mistake. The girl had no idea what she was doing. Finally, we ended up with a flight that was to leave at 6:30. But we didn’t have a gate number or seat assignment.

We went though security again and went to the gate where we supposed to leave from. We were at B-24. The lady at the desk informed us that our 6:30 flight had been delayed to 8:00. Oh, and we were supposed to be in E-8. We made the trek across the airport and found our gate. As we were walking down the hallway, I saw a familiar figure walking in the opposite direction. I looked and there was Elder Bednar. I about had a heart attack I was so excited! Only Kelly didn’t see him.

We went to call our parents to tell them our flight would be 4 hours later than they expected when I saw Elder Bednar again. This time, Kelly saw him and confirmed that my eyes were not playing tricks on me.

The flight across the ocean

To make matters worse, we were booked in Business Class, but since we had missed the flight, we were now seated in coach. And I had a middle seat.

We got on the airplane and not only did I have a middle seat, but there was a large bald man sitting in front of me. My view for the next 9 hours – a big, bald head. I knew then that this would be the longest 9 hours of my life.

I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. Tried to watch the movie, but couldn’t (because of the bald head), tried to read my book, but the guy next to me was moving too much. I was very uncomfortable. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we landed in Atlanta. Time: 1 hour and 5 minutes to make our flight. I had a small bit of hope, but not much. I was really hoping to make the next flight for 2 reasons: Number 1: because we got booted out of our Business Class seats in London, we were booked in First Class to SLC. And Number 2, I just really wanted to go home.

Gatwick airport

We got to the airport and found out we needed to be in the North terminal. We were in the South. Again, we ran for the train that goes between the terminals. Finally, we arrived at the Delta counter. We were greeted by a Delta employee who told us we had missed checking in for our flight by 10 minutes. We had to take a later flight. And this flight was to land in Atlanta.

We progressed through the LONGEST security line I have ever seen. At 10:05 a.m., we made it to the gate. Our flight was leaving at 11:00, so we decided to take a look at our connecting flight information. We soon realized we had exactly 1 hour to catch our flight to SLC once we arrived in Atlanta. Knowing past experiences at the Atlanta airport and realizing we had to get our luggage and go through customs, we knew we would never make our connecting flight. I was not happy.

Getting to the airport

Our pickup from the hotel was coming at 6:30 a.m. Our flight left Gatwick at 9:15 a.m. Considering it took us an hour to get from the airport when we arrived and I knew there would be long security lines, I was very nervous about our flight. Turns out I had every right to be nervous.

Our shuttle showed up right on time, but before the driver took our group to the airport, he made 3 more stops in the city. It was now 7:00 a.m. Next thing I know, the driver dropped us off at Victoria Station and told us the easiest way to get to Gatwick was on the train. He said trains left every 15 minutes and then the ride was only 30 minutes from there. OK, sounds easy enough. We got on our train at 7:10, only to find out that the train wouldn’t actually leave until 7:30. Estimated time of arrival at the airport 8:00 a.m.

The train finally left the station. I soon realized that express train meant anything but express. We were moving along at the slowest pace possible. Finally, at 8:15 a.m. we arrived at the airport. One hour until our flight to JFK was to leave.

We got out of the train car and were immediately met by a crowd of people. Running and pulling 50 pounds of luggage, Kelly and I went to the nearest exit. The elevators were way too crowded, so we hauled our luggage up the stairs. At this point, I was really wishing my suitcase weighed just a few pounds less. And my pants were falling off because I had forgotten my belt. Not a good thing.

The last day

Today was the last official day of the tour. We left Cardiff in the morning and headed to Bath. I really liked Bath. It was a charming little town and I thought the Roman baths were cool. I wanted to touch the water at the baths, but there were signs all over saying the water was untreated and to not touch. But I sure was tempted to stick my hand in there! Plus, Bath is Jane Austen country, so I couldn't have been more thrilled to spend some time there.

Roman baths

Bath - isn't it a beautiful little place?

Our next stop was Salisbury. This was a lunch stop, so we didn’t spend much time in Salisbury. There was a really cool cathedral here that we took a look at.


Then we were off to Stonehenge. Stonehenge was so crowded with tourists! Stonehenge was really neat to see and I was intrigued.


Then, we were back to London. We got in later in the evening, so Kelly and I walked around by our hotel in Kensington and then just went back to the hotel.

Back to the ferry

Today was the day I was not looking forward to. We headed back to England on the ferry – this time it was a 4 hour ride! I was on the look out for sea creatures, but all I saw was a duck!

On the ferry. Kelly was sick on the ferry, so I entertained myself by taking random pictures of the water.

I was so excited to finally see land!

After the ferry, we were in Wales. We drove to Cardiff where we took a tour of another castle. I sure did love all the castles! And then we headed back to our hotel. Today was definitely a travel day.

Cardiff castle


Ireland Day 3

We left Dublin this morning and headed south along the coast. The first stop was Kildare. We went to a stud farm and Japanese Gardens. I thought this was a weird combination. But what was weirder was that I misread the itinerary. When I saw stud farm, I read spud farm. Made sense in my mind that we would go to a potato farm in Ireland. So when I saw horses, I was a bit surprised.

Minature horses at the stud farm.

Japanese Gardens

After the stud farm and gardens, we continued traveling to Kilkenney. There was a castle here and we spent some time shopping. I found some killer black boots at a shop here. I can’t wait to wear them.

Kilkenney castle

Here I am trying to break in to the castle.


We finished out the day in Waterford. We went on a tour of the Waterford Crystal Factory and saw how they make crystal. We then had the evening to explore Waterford.

Millennial Ball at Waterford.

Making crystal.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Top O’ the Morning to You

We spent the day in Dublin. I really liked Dublin. It’s a young city and it’s full of energy. In the morning, we went on a city tour of Dublin. We saw Trinity College, Phoenix Park (Dublin’s version of Central Park), Georgian buildings, and the old town.

Georgian buildings

Phoenix park

After the city tour, we visited Maldahide Castle. Maladahide is a medieval castle that was a family home. It sits on a gorgeous, wide-open space.


The rest of the afternoon was ours to spend in Dublin. Kelly and I went to the Ireland National Gallery to look at art and then took a walk along Trinity College campus. We explored the streets and did some shopping. We spent some time in a beautiful park called St. Stephen’s Green. While we were in the park, I overhead the funniest conversation. Three teenage girls were walking down the path. One said to the other two, “I love ducks. I never knew they could fly until a year ago.” I about died of laughter!

Trinity College

Ducks that can fly.

The tour bus was heading back to the hotel at 4:00, but we decided that was way too early to go back to the hotel so we stayed in Dublin. We just kept exploring the city. After we ate dinner, we were walking down a busy pedestrian street and I saw a d*unk guy trying karate moves on the side of a building. I was laughing so hard. Then we saw a make-shift theater in the middle of the street with a talking bird. It was about this point in time that Kelly and I decided we should head back to the hotel because of the crazies that were out!

It’s extremely difficult to get a taxi cab in Dublin. The economy is really good right now and tons of people have moved to Dublin. As a result, transportation is a mess. So Kelly and I got a little adventurous and took a city bus back to the hotel. My very first adventure on a city bus, anywhere, happened to be in Dublin. Now I know I’ve arrived.

Bus stop

Over the river and through the woods…or something like that

I was a little reluctant to leave my souvenir at the Radisson, but I just couldn’t think of a good way to get him home! So instead Kelly and I made up stories like, “He has to do his home teaching and then he’ll come over.”
We left Glasgow and made a quick stop at Robert Burns’ birthplace. He is the Scottish national poet.

Robert Burns' home.

We took a 2 hour ferry trip and went to Belfast. We did a city tour in Belfast and then continued our travels to Dublin.


The drive to Dublin was stunning! I was so in love with the green rolling hills.

Irish countryside

Dublin is a very busy city. With all the people, it reminded me of the excitement of New York City.


Edinburgh and Glasgow

This is the day we headed to Edinburgh, Scotland. Edinburgh was by far by favorite place we visited. We visited the Edinburgh castle and took a city tour. The city is built on 7 rolling hills, so the views were amazing.

When I left home I said I would be disappointed if I didn’t hear a live rendition of Scotland the Brave while I was in Scotland. Edinburgh didn’t disappoint. Here’s my “live” concert. Complete with kilt and all.

My own "private" bagpipe concert.

We took a tour of the Edinburgh castle. I pretended like I was shooting canons and imagined life as a princess.

The castle.

Showing off the entrance to my home.

Target practice.

After the castle, we spent a couple of hours in the city sight seeing and shopping. We went to the National Art Gallery where I saw some Monet and Gauguin.

After Edinburgh, we headed back to Glasgow. Kelly and I decided to check out the Modern Museum of Art. After the museum, we just walked around the city and took in the atmosphere. And this is where my second trip crush came. I’m pretty sure he was German, but he was eating in a cafĂ© with his parents. They looked like they were all traveling together. I couldn’t stop staring at him because he was so beautiful! But I finally gained control and let the poor guy eat in peace.

Kelly in Glasgow.

Glasgow city center.

When we got back to the hotel, I got a call. It was the front desk telling me that I had left my passport in the lobby! Who does that? Apparently me! Totally embarrassed, and a bit relieved I hadn’t lost my passport, I went to the front desk to retrieve my passport. There, standing in front of me, holding my passport, was my third crush of the trip. I lovingly refer to him as “Mr. Radisson.” I’m telling you, I spent the rest of the evening trying to figure out how I was going to pack this souvenir in my suitcase!

The adventure continues

We left York and made our way to the Lake District. The drive was beautiful! We traveled through the countryside and saw beautiful, green lands and lovely houses.

Some of the countryside.

The first lake we visited was Windemere. This is where Beatrix Potter, the author of Peter Rabbit, lived. A very charming village right on the lake.

The Lake

The village.

Then we had lunch at Glasmere Lake. This is where William Wordsworth lived. We visited his grave after lunch. It’s easy to see why poets and authors lived in this area. It’s so inspiring. I had visions of living in a little cottage on the lake front writing all day long.

Wordsworth's grave.

Our drive then continued into Scotland. I loved seeing the highlands with the sheep roaming on the sides of the hills.

There are a lot of trees in Scotland and the sides of the roads are covered in gorgeous purple Heather.

We ended up in Glasgow. Glasgow is the biggest city in Scotland.

Stratford-von-Avon and York

We left London at 7:15 a.m. We got in late and I didn’t sleep well, so I was very tired. After one little mishap of forgetting my jacket, we finally met up with our tour. We began our bus trip to Stratford-von-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare.

In Stratford-von-Avon, we took a tour of the home Shakespeare was born in and walked around the town. It’s a charming place that I immediately fell in love with. I could have stayed there for days. On the way out of Stratford-von-Avon, we visited the cottage of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife.


Me at Shakespeare's birthplace. Mostly I just liked this fruit tree.

Anne Hathaway's cottage. Checked out that thatched roof!

Back on the bus and we headed to York. York is a beautiful town full of history. I loved the architecture here and enjoyed experiencing the oldest cobblestone streets in England. We walked around York and learned about Shambles Street. This was the Butchers area back in the day. The houses are all really close together. Our tour guide said that you could literally stick you hand out the window and shake your neighbor’s hand. I believe it.

Shambles Street

York (Contrary to popular belief, I did not eat at the Pizza Hut in this picture.)

More of York.

While we were in York, the bells to all the cathedrals were going off. Hearing all the bells at one time was incredible. But after about 20 minutes, I was ready for them to stop. After the bells, I knew that York was not a town I could live in. It’s beautiful, but those bells!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Day 1 is still going

It was now almost 10:30 p.m. and we decided we should head back to the hotel. So back on the Tube we went. We were feeling pretty confident in our ability to navigate the Tube system by now and got on the right train and began traveling to our hotel. There were some interesting characters on our train car. There were two guys next to me totally d*unk. They were using some rather interesting language. One of the guys kept asking me if I had a cigare**e. Now keep in mind that you can’t smo*e on the Tube and I was probably the last person on that train car that would actually have a cigare**e. And then one of the d*unk guys got the hiccups. That was entertaining. Since the d*unk guys weren’t much fun, I turned my attention to the front of the car. This, my friends, is where I discovered my first British crush. There was an adorable guy, with the sweetest accent, talking to a young couple across from him. I can’t be positive, but I think he smiled at me. Then a guy that looked a lot like a young Hugh Grant got on our car.

We continued traveling, getting closer to our hotel, when all of a sudden, the train stopped. We weren’t at a normal stop and we were surrounded by dark walls. Kelly and I had no idea what was going on. Soon, an announcement came on stating that the train in front of us had stalled and we had to wait for it to be towed off the tracks before we could move further. Kelly and I gave each other weird looks.

One d*unk guy still had the hiccups and the other had given up on asking me for a cigare**e and was yelling to other train cars asking if anyone had a cigare**e. This lasted for about 15 minutes. I admit, I was mildly entertained by this. We started to move again, but at a very slow pace. We got to the station where people could get on/off, but only the front of the train could actually get off. We were still surrounded by dark walls. We had to walk up through all the cars and exit through the driver’s area. Now, I have no idea why our train couldn’t keep going, but apparently we couldn’t. So we went up the stairs and asked someone if there was another train we could take. Apparently, there was not. The lady we asked told us our best bet would be to get a bus.

We exited the station and discovered we were by Big Ben again. We weren’t sure which bus to take and by this point we were pretty tired. For some reason, we just wandered up and down the street for a little while and then hailed a cab. By 11:30 p.m. we were safely back at our hotel.

Wake-up call for Saturday: 5:45 a.m.

Day 1 still:

After Trafalgar Square, we decided to head back to the Tower of London. So back on the Tube we went. We got there and walked around for a bit. It was almost 9:00 by now and the streets were so quiet! I couldn’t believe how quiet the city was. So much different than the loudness and craziness of NYC.

Tower of London at night.

And then, it was time for the Ceremony of the Keys.

The Ceremony of the Keys was so cool. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take any pictures because of copyright reasons, but the experience was incredible. One of the guards greeted us at the door and explained some of the history of the Tower to us. He then walked us down a cobblestone path and four more guards appeared behind him. The first guard explained to us that another guard would come around the corner carrying a lantern and the keys. He then went to the four guards standing in front of us, gave one of them the light and the keys. Then all of them, including the guard that was talking to us, marched back down the cobblestone path and closed all the gates leading into the Tower. They then made their way towards us and turned up a pathway. The main guard turned to us and motioned to follow. We followed through the gate and up a path. At the top of the path was a set of stairs all the guards walked up. Another guard then came out, dressed in full military gear, and blew a horn. Then, they all walked off. I know the explanation doesn’t sound too cool, but I certainly can’t do it justice. It’s just something you have to experience.

Still more of Day 1

But really, it’s Day 2 by this time. But since I hadn’t been to sleep, I still consider it Day 1.
Next, we decided to go check out Parliament and Big Ben. So we got back on the Tube.

Here's Big Ben. (Sorry, I don't know how to turn the picture around the right way.)

Big Ben is actually in the process of being worked on right now, so we didn’t hear him chime. But it was still an impressive sight.


I really loved this area of the city. It was a beautiful area and I knew I was close to the Queen. No luck seeing her, but still, I was close.

By this point, we were both feeling kind of tired so we found a nice little park and sat down for awhile. We were sitting there chatting and all of a sudden I saw something that looked like a cat move in and out of the flower bed. I looked again and it was a giant rat! Kelly didn’t believe me that it was a rat…she said it must have been a squirrel. A few minutes later, out came the rat again. So we left.

Here's the park.

That's the flower bed where the rat lived.

We were feeling kind of hungry, so we went to get dinner. After dinner, we weren’t really sure where we should go. We still had about 3 hours until The Ceremony of the Keys and didn’t want to go back to the hotel. Just then, I looked at a street sign and saw that we were close to Trafalgar Square. So off we went to explore the square. Trafalgar Square was packed! There were so many people there.

Across the street from Trafalgar Square.

In the Square.

Another view of Trafalgar Square.

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a little bit sassy...