Archive for the 'travel' Category

the UK by car

this trip to the UK i have yet to be in london. when i arrived, i went straight out to the soul survivor events and spent 10 days there. then i headed to eastbourne to stay with friends. over the weekend, we went to greenbelt & to grapevine, two other festivals. we also stopped off at my friend’s mom’s in cambridge before heading back to eastbourne. it was quite the road trip. here’s a little map to give you an idea:

A: london heathrow, where i started
B: the royal bath & west showground, home to soul survivor, weeks b & c and momentum
C/G: eastbourne, where my friends live, and home to christian music & publishing
D: cheltenham race course, home to greenbelt
E: lincoln, home to grapevine
F: cambridge, where my friend’s mom lives

it was fun to get to see so much territory by car & i love that it’s really green here. san diego is fantastic, but there’s not much green. the best part was the people of course. lots of time to chat with a friend, and opportunities to meet new people plus see friends from the states.

UK Update

i am having a fabulous time hanging out with my friends at soul survivor. soul survivor is held on the UK version of a fairgrounds and the exhibit hall is in a cattle barn. most delegates camp but i’m in a b & b, which is lovely and has fantastic breakfasts. my typical day has been: wake up, have a lovely breakfast (when i haven’t hit the snooze & opted for toast), head over to the event site, hang out with friends, go to part of the morning session, get some lunch, help on the spring harvest exhibit til tea time. have tea, go to part of the evening service, back to the spring harvest exhibit, then back to the b & b for bed. so, this morning i’m missing the morning service to catch up a bit on email & blogging.

i realize this isn’t loads of details, but here are a few random thoughts on my UK visit so far, in no particular order, some of which i’ll unpack later & some are just here. if for some reason you, dear reader, have a wish for me to unpack a specific one, feel free to comment and i’ll do my best.

  • i think choosing a marriage partner might be as simple as saying, ‘you are someone i can love, respect & who i have fun hanging out with and whose faults & foilbiles i can live with on most days without it driving me nuts.’
  • hope is often hard, but worth it.
  • the church at large is most likely failing to recognize in kids ages 8-11 the ability to begin understanding God at deeper levels. which in turn likely means we’re not giving our young teens and teens enough respect and challenge in discipling them.
  • and the previous thought leads to the thought that if in youth ministry (and this is a sweeping statement i realize), we were better at discipling our teens in a way that allowed them to feed themselves spiritually, we might be spending less time scratching our heads at how to keep 18-25 year olds in the church.
  • how possible is it in current youth ministry models to use the training model of ‘i do, you watch; we do it together; you do, i watch (& coach); you do for someone else’?
  • in the UK, there is an event volunteer whose sole job is to sit amongst a huge stack of fire extinguishers with a radio, a phone & a megaphone, just in case a fire should break out. it’s a UK safety requirement.
  • it is possible to run a large scale event without a minute-by-minute for the plenary session, but it seems to require a production team with quick reflexes.
  • people from the US speak American and people from the UK speak English and there is a difference.

Top Ten Things I Love about the UK

so i’ve been asked repeatedly just what it is i love about london/the uk, usually with a laugh that it must be the accent. and while i do find the accent charming (of course when i’m there, i’m the one with the accent), here is a list of 10 things i love about the uk. there are more, but this will be a good start.

10. broader world view: the national news there consistently carries more stories that are global in nature and considers the story’s impact on the globe.

9. public transport: with an oyster card, you can go anywhere in london by tube or by bus and you can catch a train to anywhere else you want to go in the country. also, love that it’s easy to walk most places in the center of london.

8. the history/age: i’m completely fascinated by the history and how old things are. in the states, 200ish years is old. in the uk, i think it has to be at least 400 years old to start being old.

7. going to the cinema: i went to see a movie in theatre in leicester square. it reminded me of what it was like to go to a movie in a 50’s movie in a way; it was somehow more elegant. first, choice of popcorn–sweet or salty–brilliant to have the option. second, assigned seats. i’m sure not every theatre was like that but i really did like it.

6. the authors: i know this next bit is geeky of me, but i’m okay with that. i love shakespeare. jane austen. chaucer. and then there are modern authors there i love: katie fforde, marian keyes & maeve binchy (technically irish, but closer to english than american), nick hornby. one of the trip highlights was picking up marian keyes’ new book in paperback & katie fforde’s new book, both before they were available here.

5. manners: the vast majority of everyone i encountered in the uk were terribly polite. well-mannered. and chivalrous. men opened doors. lifted my luggage up stairs in tube stops. i hear people complain about the british being stiff and reserved, and i think that while that can be true, more often than not it’s just people being very polite and proper.

4. the museums: i hate to admit it, but i’d never seen a da vinci painting, a vermeer, van gogh, picasso, or botticelli or reuben in person until i visited the national gallery. totally amazing art that has literally endured centuries. this trip i also went to the national portrait gallery and the churchill museum and cabinet war rooms. all incredibly fascinating and places i look forward to visiting again.

3. the food: americans complain about not finding good food in london & i have absolutely no idea where they’re going. whether it was curry take-away, wagamama, paella from a street vendor, sandwiches at pret, or nutella & banana pancakes, or traditional fish & chips, everything i ate was yummy. oh, and then there was the chocolate. galaxy bars, rose & violet creams, vodka truffles. and then the food halls. for someone who loves to cook & bake, the food hall at harrods is a bit like heaven i think. if it hadn’t been for the walking, i’d have gained 20 lbs.

2. fairtrade products: along with being a little more environmentally sensitive (all the grocery stores charge for plastic bags & encourage the use of reusable bags), there is also a higher demand for fairtrade products at reasonable prices. tea, coffee, chocolate, and clothing seem to have a particular demand by consumers on fairtrade. for example, cadbury dairy milk, the uk equivalent to america’s hershey bar, will be made from fairtrade cocoa by the end of the summer. and you can purchase fairtrade t-shirts at marks & spencers 2 for 8 pounds (us 2 for $12). okay, if m & s can offer that deal, surely old navy or target could offer it here in the states.

1. the people: the dry sense of humor, the propriety, the warmth paired with reserve, the “stiff upper lip”, i could go on and on, but i do love the brits.

editor’s note: i wonder if the uk tourism board is hiring. i might be really good at marketing the uk. 🙂

london days 3, 4, & 5

editor’s note: i’m a little behind on the posting and photo upload. what can i say, i’ve either been running around london or resting up to run around. below is a really short synopsis of the last 3 days with more detail to come later.

day 3 (saturday): this was ‘market day’ in which i went to the portobello road market and walked the entire 2+ miles of it! from there, i went to camden town and found the camden locks & market. camden locks will be a return stop on future visit. the waterway looked lovely & the locks interesting from what little i could see of it through the insane crowds. i came back to hotel, took a little nap and went to the ‘mall’ next to my hotel. made for a relaxing evening after a day of a *lot* of walking. i did find lots of fun things to buy for family & friends, lots of odd things i’m not sure i’d ever seen before or at least not in that quantity (as in shop after shop and tons of stalls selling minimum 3 inch platform shoes), and discovered some really yummy food. i didn’t do much in the way of photos this day, but did do some video which i’ll upload at some point.

day 4 (sunday): attempted to go to st. paul’s for easter service but discovered i’d lost my tube pass so i spent too long looking for it and realized if i dashed out the door right then i could just make it to the church around the corner, which turned out to be greek orthodox and not easter for them yet. i ended up sneaking out during a hymn since i found myself still tired, a bit disoriented and with the beginnings of being cranky. i headed back to the hotel, changed, took a little bit of nap and then started over, which worked much better. i went to the westminster area and walked around a bit and toured the churchill museum & cabinet war rooms which housed the british government & war command during ww2. completely fascinating! from there i walked over to the southbank centre and explored it a bit before meeting jeannie & max, friends from the states who happened to arrive in london the day after i did, for dinner at wagamama. so much fun to be with them. we went to the london eye together after that and then we took the tube to our respective stops together.

day 5 (monday): packed up and checked out of my hotel, then went to the national portrait gallery and wandered around there for quite sometime. i could have stayed longer there which surprised me. it’s also on the list to revist on a future trip. from there went to knightsbridge and to the wagamama in the basement of harvey nicks. (yes, i love wagamama & the only place in the states where there is one is boston which is terribly inconvenient when you live in san diego!) after that, i went to collect my luggage which i’d stored at the hotel and then take the tube & the london overground (yes you read that correctly & i didn’t know there was one until yesterday either) to watford junction, which is where i met a friend of a friend to drive to minehead for the event i’m at for the rest of this week called spring harvest.

so, that brings us up to now in a short version. really, really excited to be at spring harvest this week. will post more as time allows.

london travelog day two (click here for pix)

editor’s note: each day of my trip, i’ll post in a few consistent categories, as well as make the post title a link to a photo album.

overview: leicester square, picadilly circus, parks and buckingham palace, and trafalgar square and the west end were the areas i roamed today.

sights & observations: the plan had been to go to st. paul’s but being good friday, it was open only for services. so i headed to the 1/2 price ticket booth at leicester square. there wasn’t anything with a discount ticket that i was dying to see, but i did spot a movie at the odeon theatre there that i did want to see & it was one that seems unlikely to be released in the states as it was about british pirate radio in the 60’s called the boat that rocked. movie was fabulous!

and the experience of going to a movie here, at least at the odeon theatre in leicester square, was completely different than going to the movie in the states. first of all, you choose your seat like you would if you were going to live theatre. second, at the concession, i was asked what kind of popcorn i wanted: sweet or salty. never once have i had this option at home. i chose sweet which was good-we’d call it kettle corn! next the theatre was huge and had a stage with curtains. the curtains opened, two sets of them, and the previews and ‘adverts’ began. then the second curtain closed and reopened for the start of the film. and then i loved the movie. need to locate the soundtrack before i go home.

after leaving the theatre i wandered to waterstone’s, a five story bookstore in the picadilly area. was very excited to find a 3 for 2 on books including a couple of books by my favorite uk chick lit authors katie fforde, whose new book isn’t available in the states for another few weeks, and marian keyes new book in paperback, which is still only in hardback at home. for my third book, i picked up a copy of miss pettigrew saves the day. i LOVED that movie and am excited to now read the book behind it.

from waterstone’s i went a few blocks down to fortnum & mason, kind of like harrod’s only somehow, more refined & elegant. a friend recommended having tea there, but being easter weekend, the wait was really long. instead i wandered through the food halls. so facsincating! i’ve decided i love food halls and wish we had them in the states. while our grocery stores are convenient, they just aren’t as interesting or have as much eye and sense appeal. oh, and they had simply the most gorgeous wedding cakes i’d ever seen on display. should i ever need a wedding cake, i’d like it modeled after the chandelier cake here.

since i skipped the wait for tea at fortnum & mason, i was hungry and went in search of food and found a hole in the wall curry shop. i got a chicken curry take-away and wandered a bit further to the green park and had a little al fresco late lunch in the park. from there i walked to buckingham palace and then up the mall back to trafalgar square and to the national gallery, which i adored on my last trip to london.

since there were still tickets available for the picasso exhibition, i checked that out. while i obviously respect his work, for me personally, the majority of it is disturbing. it’s just disjointed and unsettling. so i left picasso and headed up to the old master’s and the early italian renaissance art. because much of it deals with religious themes from the early catholic church, it was good for reflection on good friday. one of the things i noticed this time is how there are quite a number of paintings with elizabeth and mary and john the baptist and jesus as infants. in most of them, there is an obvious intimacy between the two women which i found interesting that it was there since most all of the paintings were done by men. just something for me to ponder for a bit.

after the national gallery, i came across an older gentleman playing the most amazing waltzes on his violin. the classical music he played was completely a contrast from the lime green tux and neon pink cowboy hat he wore. i watched and listened for awhile. he seemed to be having a great time. from there i wandered across the street to st. martin in the fields, and was mesmerized by a statue in front of the church. i could also hear the concert of handel’s music drifting out. from there, i wandered back thru the west end to picadilly circus before taking the tube back to the hotel. i’d thot i’d stop into a pub between my tube stop and the hotel, but i was wiped, that i just came back to the hotel and crashed.

food: started the day with a latte & croissant from a local coffee shop. next stop was the movie where i proceeded to eat almost the entire container of ‘sweet popcorn’ which didn’t leave me hungry for quite sometime. when i finally was hungry, i found a curry shop and a yummy, oversized chicken curry. so good! i capped off the evening with an orange cream and a violet cream chocolates i’d purchased yesterday at harrod’s. apparently in english chocolates, the use of flower oil from roses and violets is quite popular in making creams. and it’s really good. it has a delicate flavor. i think some of these need to make the trip home with me. i am down to my last two chocolates, so i think i need to replenish that supply :). oh, and i stopped in a couple pret shops (see yesterday’s post) in search of the crayfish and rocket sandwich. no luck. oh well.

today: it’s market day! off to notting hill & the portobello road market, then up to camden for the market there.

london travelog day one (click here for pix)

editor’s note: each day of my trip, i’ll post in a few consistent categories, as well as make the post title a link to a photo album.

overview: i made it to london on a plane that actually arrived early! made it to my hotel where my room was ready so i unpacked, took a quick shower, and headed out for my first adventures: kensington palace, kensington gardens, & high street kensington, where i checked out a few shops and ended up at harrod’s.

sights & observations: on the walk to the palace it started drizzling and i opened my umbrella. i was the only one who did. apparently, londoners don’t find a bit of drizzle enough of a reason to use theirs. in the palace, it’s a little daunting to realize that despite how much of it you see, there’s so much more you don’t–apartments that are still in use by the royal family. there were two exhibitions in addition to the tour of the state apartments. one was the last of the debs, about the last group of debs to be presented to the queen in 1958-lots of fabulous vintage dresses that i took a few photos of. the other exhibition was of some of the more notable dresses that belonged to princess diana. they were gorgeous but it seemed a little sad. the funny thing at the palace was the kid i nicknamed in my head “balkan urkel”. he was about 4 feet tall, probably 8 or 9 with blonde hair that didn’t seem to have ever met a comb. he was wearing cordorouy cargo pants held up by white suspenders over a red shirt that was tucked in. the pants were high-waisted and about 4 inches to short. he was a coltish kid who was totally clumsy. it was apparent he’d had a growth spurt he hadn’t grown into yet. “balkan urkel” would bolt through the state apartments, invariably tripping over something or bumping into something. i have no idea how his parents stayed calm. i was nervous watching him that he’d manage to hurt either himself or something priceless.

wandering through the gardens after leaving the palace, i saw a guy old enough to be my dad teaching a guy my age the finer points of speed skating on roller blades. and a group of boys playing king of the mountain on the marble or granite borders of the steps leading up to the albert memorial. between them they spoke 3 different languages-a fact that wasn’t apparent til their parents came to claim them and tell them it was time to go. you never would have guessed they didn’t know each other from their laughter and play. it was entertaining to watch, especially since the smallest boy was really ruling the ‘mountain’!

food: i love to cook & eat and as i have friends who love to cook and eat, this will be a daily feature. so, for lunch, i stopped at a shop around the corner from the hotel called pret a manger. so yummy. it’s fresh, no preservatives, and healthy. i had an egg salad and bacon sandwich. why i haven’t i ever thot before to add bacon to egg salad sandwiches? i love both. it was also interesting to see a few unfamiliar things including a wild crayfish & rocket sandwich. i have no idea what it is, but i’m tempted to try it just for the adventure.

then there was the food halls at harrods. really, harrods deserves its own post. but as a teaser the food halls are amazing. i’m thinking i’ll go back there today & try and get some pix. it’s almost overwhelming the amount and diversity of choices there. including in the chocolates. i picked out a few to try. a champagne truffle, which was amazing. and a vodka truffle, which was unbelievably yummy. i still have a few more to sample. and finally for dinner, i found a noodle shop not far from the hotel where i got a shrimp wonton and a bbq type chicken & noodle takeaway. i posted photos of these to the link above. both were good, but the shrimp wontons were a total surprise and my favorite of the two. instead of being like the wontons we have in the states, shrimp or crab mashed up with cream cheese; these were whole, tailess shrimp, wrapped in one end of the wonton and flash fried. they were fresh, yummy, light and crisp–no grease at all. they coud become a favorite snack.

misc. on the underground on the way back from harrod’s i noticed a totally cute guy. i was watching him surreptitiously, when he totally stuck his finger up his nose, and then put that same finger in his mouth. i was so surprised i gasped aloud and then nearly burst into a fit of giggles. i was relieved we arrived at my station just a moment later. the other little oddity is that i kept getting stopped and asked for directions. it happened at least 4 or 5 times yesterday. i was actually able to help 3 times which just entertained me. and everyone who asked was surprised by my accent. it seemed they didn’t expect me to be american.

today: plan on visiting st. paul’s cathedral, then over to the picadilly circus area for trips to waterstone’s and fortnum & mason. tonite, i’m going to the national gallery since it’s open late.

london info request

one of the fun little bits about my london trip is that my friends jeannie & max oestreicher will be in london on some overlapping days. we decided to meet and have dinner at wagamama and visit the london eye together.

my plan at the moment (subject to change) is to wander around knightsbridge and kensington when i arrive on thursday; st. paul’s, national gallery and maybe a show on friday; notting hill & hopefully a couple other markets on saturday; church, the tate modern, wagamama & the london eye on sunday, and i haven’t decided what to do on monday before my train leaves.

my friend max is looking for some restaurant suggestions on his very cool blog over at the shnazzy blog, so check that out. and if you have any ideas for me, that’d be cool too.


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