E-mail Update - 2008-06-13

Bristol, Bath, Wales and Hip Hop Dancing!

Hello Again,

Right now I am in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria where I will be for the next several days. Before I get into the email I want to put in a plug for facebook (www.facebook.com). I have been updating the status of where I am at usually every 3-4 days and often more frequently. You can find me on their by searching my name or adding my email. As always if you wish to be removed from this list just let me know...

The last email update left off on Friday, May 30 with me going to Bristol. In the morning I said goodbye to Charlotte and Emily who I had spent the last day with going to Stonehenge and Avebury. For this leg of the journey I was taking the bus & it was a nice, relaxing ride there. On route I called Tash and Grant, who were friends I had met originally in Melbourne (Australia) and whom had also came to see me while I was at Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. They gave me directions on how to get the bus to their place in Bradley Stoke which is about 45 minutes away from the town center. On the bus I asked the driver to let me know when we made it to Bradley Stoke which he said would be fine. The problem was that he didn't actually drop me off where I needed to be left. In fact he dropped me off well past the actual stop in a location with no landmarks. So I had to call Grant which was bad because him and Tash were at a funeral (which is the reason they weren't able to pick me up at the station). Anyway after a few phone calls Grant actually made his way back with his car since I was so far away from where I needed to be. Sometimes stuff like this happens when you travel, it can be an adventure ;) Either way it was great to see Grant again, he showed me the house before he went back to the funeral. In the afternoon Grant, Tash and Vey (Veronica - Tash's Aunt) came back to the house and we all got ready to attend Tash's Hip Hop Dance celebration. Tash is part of a 20 person group from England that won the World Hip Hop Dance Championship, which was a couple weeks before this in Florida. The celebration was a formal event, so Vey had actually went shopping buying several different black dress pants and white button up long sleeve shirt for me to try. The ones that didn't fit end up being the ones she took back. It was the first time I had ever dressed formally while I had been traveling :) On the way to the event Tash called the scooter man service, which is a service that at a preset time meets you so you don't drive home drunk. He comes on his scooter which he takes apart and puts into your car's truck. The night was good fun, they did some awards presentations and we watched the video of the dance performance, which Tash had setup. Of course there was dancing later and yeah hip champions can dance ;) Grant and I kept our seats nice and warm watching the display of dancing, not wanting to show up anyone!! It was good to catch up with Grant and he is the kind of guy who always has something funny to say so I spent a lot of the night laughing with him about different things. One thing I found quite interesting was how in Bristol they drink so much more cider than in other places. The whole first night I drank cider only, which was quite different from the lager I had been drinking in London. Eventually it was the end of the night and scooter man met us at 1:15am. It was a good night and Grant, Tash and Vey had really took care of me getting my entrance fee, clothes and most of the drinks. How good are my friends to me!

After a good sleep in on Saturday, Grant and I went out for some food at the local pub, while Tash went to a hen (bachelorette) party. The interesting thing about England is that the best food is often in the pubs. In fact it is really a pub culture and that is where pretty much everything happens and everyone meets. There was a rugby match so we watched the first half while we ate. After that we moved on to another pub where we met some of Grant's friends and drank some more cider. They were cool to meet and talk to, however after a while we moved onto a house party/barbecue, where we spent the rest of the night. Grant's friends were cool and I spent a lot of time getting to know several of them. At the end of the night we walked home from there which was about a 30-40 minute walk. One thing I always find so different is how little people in the U.S. walk compared with people from other countries. People in England use public transport and walk a lot of the time. It is a much healthier life style and I quite enjoy it.

Sunday and Monday were not real eventful days. In fact the weather was quite bad for both days so I basically did some laundry and other errands and used the time to plan the rest of the trip. My time in Salisbury had made me decide that I needed to go to the cheaper countries in Eastern Europe to stay on my budget. While doing the research I decided that Romania and Bulgaria, would be my first 2 stops. I also watch several episodes of the TV show 'Gavin and Stacey', which is basically about this Welsh girl that meets an English guy. It is quite funny so I watched all 10 episodes Tash and Grant had recorded on their DVR (Sky+). British humor is something I enjoy and the series has this dry, sarcastic style which suits me quite well.

Tuesday, June 3, I was back on the road as I was going to Cardiff, which is in Wales. There I met my friend Rob who I had originally met in Fiji in October of 2004. We had kept in touch over the years and when I said I was coming to England he invited me to Cardiff. Tash dropped me off at the station and I was in time to catch the train to be there at 9am, but the train was 20 minutes late. Either way it was a good ride there and Rob met me at the station. As with previous friends it was like no time had passed since last seeing him and in our time that day we spent time catching up on what had happened over time and what the current events were in each others lives. As with all the friends I had met before it was so easy to just spend hours talking to Rob. However we actually saw a lot of the city. Rob first took me walking through the park and by the river, which was quite nice. One of the first things you notice walking around are the signs being in both Welsh and English, which is one of the only ways to differentiate being in England visually. After a while seeing the city in general we went to the Castle of Wales. It was the first castle I had been to in Europe which made it quite cool. It was a beautiful castle, which has obviously seen loads of things happen, and I particularly liked the huge Welsh flag flying atop that castle. For those of you who don't know the Welsh flag is white and green with a red dragon, which makes it look quite cool. Inside the castle we saw the walls, clock towers and eventually made our way to the main part of the castle which was surround by a moat! In my mind a castle is not really a castle without a good moat around it and it would be even better with some alligators around too :) This one had the proper moat which made it quite cool. Rob and I made out way up the main part into the top of the building where we had a great view over the city and the entire castle. We actually spent a while up there and Rob was cool enough to go back to the bottom to take pictures of me in the window of the castle (SEE - Brock in Castle.jpg). After walking around the outer walls we eventually exited the castle (SEE Rob at Castle.jpg). Across from the castle the longest word in the world is shown, which I have pictured with a Welsh flag (SEE - Longest Word & Welsh Flag.jpg). After a little more time walking around the city we got hungry and eventually got a paste to eat. After getting it we sat in front of a restaurant near the shop. However, we were soon kicked out by the owner, which was weird because his business wasn't even open. We ended up walking about 10 minute away to sit and eat. The interesting thing is that the next day I got an email from Rob and it seems just minutes after we left where we had been sitting a huge fire broke out next door, which ended up burning down several buildings, so it was good to be kicked out I guess. Next we checked out the markets. After that was more walking around the city allowing me to take in the architecture including the churches, government buildings and even buildings in the parks, all of which is so different from what I see back home. After that we headed to a little river bar where we drank and talked for several hours. It was a nice setting and the interesting thing was that we met a woman who was traveling around southern Wales writing the Lonely Planet book for there. She had been traveling for 6 years straight! I love traveling but I can't even imagine doing 3 years in a row without a trip back home. One of the cool things about this river front pub was that from there I could see the factory of the beer which I was drinking (called 45), it was obviously quite fresh :) Eventually we went to another local pub where we played several games of pool and talked before I had to catch the train back to Bristol. English pool is quite different from pool in America. For one the table and pool balls are much smaller and the pockets are quite tight, which all makes the angles different. The rules are also different, for instance you get 2 shots on a foul, all this makes it quite tough. Eventually it was the end of the day so I said goodbye to Rob and caught the train back to Bristol. It was so awesome to have been able to spend the day with him and we were able to catch up on each other's lives. When I got back Tash has made the traditional dish of shepherds pie which was good and something new to me :)

Bristol was were I spent Wednesday sight seeing. Grant had gave me an overview and hand drawn map of the city. Also per Tash's recommendation I had downloaded an audio tour which I was going to listen to while I walked around using my MP3 player. However, after walking a little on the tour I decided I would just do my traditional walk around without much of a plan because that usually works out quite well. After walking in the city for a while and then along the river I eventually came to the SS Great Britain which is a ship that is now shown as a museum. It was originally launched in 1843 being the first of its kind and demonstrating the new balanced rudder technology with is still used with todays ships. It was built in Bristol originally in a dry dock so it could then launch from there. Now it sits again in a dry dock so that you can go "under water" to see it. You can walk around the hull seeing the shape of it and even getting to examine the propeller. Once you have walked around the bottom of the ship you go through the museum where you can learn about it's history and impact, plus other ship's history before getting aboard the boat top side. I spent a couple hours there in total and learned quite a bit about how ships work. Up to that point I had been able to walk along the river, but after you leave the ship you have to go away from the river and there is no real path, so I got a little lost on my way to the suspension bridge. It was nice to be in a country where I could ask people in English how to get where I was going, that hasn't always been the case and it something that makes things so much easier :) Anyway I eventually spotted the suspension bridge and used it to navigate the last part which brought me to its base. Luckily, as I expected, there was a trail I could take to get to the top of the bridge. Of course once I got there I had to cross the bridge on foot. Doing this gave me great views over the city and plus I love the feeling of being that far off the ground (SEE - Bristol Suspension Bridge.jpg). On the way back across the bridge I had wanted to go to the other side so I could see a castle better which was on the other side and the views, but was told I couldn't. However about half way across I saw other people on that side so I did the same, it seemed only the first guard cared about people not being on that side :) After that I again went about getting to someplace without really using the map which took me through a residential area of the town and back down the hill into the area where I needed the bus. On the way I was able to see the cathedral and area around it which was full of people enjoying the day. After catching the bus back to Bradley Stoke I ended up talking to Grant for a while since it was he had came back from Ireland (where he had been for work since Sunday), before he flew out early the next morning to Spain.

My destination for Thursday was city of Bath, which is meant to be one the most beautiful cities in all the UK due to its architecture. After getting the train there I did a self guided walking tour of the city. It didn't take long to see why so many people told me I had to go to Bath. The first thing I saw was a beautiful cathedral on the way to the tourist information center. At the tourist information center I got a map that allowed me to better plan out my time in Bath and got some information about the best places to walk. Using this I laid out a walking trail for the city which I stuck to during the day. Outside the tourist center are the Roman Baths, but I decided not to take the time to go in to see them which allowed more time for the rest of the city. Also outside the tourist information center was a beautiful church and other buildings. After that I headed to the river to follow its path for a way along the park. In the UK it amazed me how each city I went to had the river from which the city spread out. After walking through a few nice parks I got myself completely lost trying to find the Royal Cresent. I even ended up having to ask someone for directions. He walked with me most of the way because he was on his way to the dentist. He was an older man who told me how the city had been changing a lot in the past few years which was interesting to hear about from a local. Eventually I made it to my destination of the Royal Cresent which is this arced building which looks pretty interesting. After that I went to Brock Street! How cool is that? They must have known I was coming ;) After seeing more of the beautiful city buildings and churches I eventually made my way back to the river. This area along the river ended up being my favorite and I included a picture of it (SEE - Bath.jpg). I took some time to sit on a park bench enjoying the food I had brought with me for the day. After that I made my way back to the train station having spent most of the day walking around the city. Just before getting back I found a red old style English phone booth and met this American couple who took my picture in front of it. After catching the train back to Bristol I did some emailing, read about Eastern Europe and talked to Tash before calling it a night.

Friday was a trip preparation day as I spent the day getting everything I could done with my laptop, since I had decided to leave it in London with Tim while I traveled in Eastern Europe. In the afternoon I said goodbye to Tash since she was going to London for a hen party for the weekend. On Saturday morning I got everything packed and headed to the bus stop to go back to London. I had about 45 minutes of flex time which is a really good thing because it took about 25 minutes for a bus to show up. When I did get on the bus driver was the slowest one I have ever had and he took breaks, so I just made the bus I had reserved for London with about 10 minutes to spare. The bus ride there was quite nice as I spent most of the trip talking to this doctor who was heading there for a weekend with her friends. Once to London I found and got onto the tube so I could get to the station where Tim lives called Waterloo. Tim, who I had originally met in Cusco - Peru, picked me up at the station and we walked back to his apartment. He also did a nice big fry up for me for breakfast which was great because I hadn't had anything to that point and was hungry. I know I have said this before, but how amazing are my friends from abroad :) Tim had came to my reunion party in London from the week before but we got to talk quite a bit more which was nice. After a shower and talking for a while with Alejandro (who was also staying with Tim and whom we had met in Cusco), we went to the Camden markets. We drank for a while at a table overlooking part of the markets which was nice. Eventually we met up with other friends who Tim knew and a band who are people Tim knows from University. The club where they were playing was interesting and had this horse stall like areas where people could sit. I enjoyed listing to the music and talking to all of Tim's friends. Eventually everyone decided to catch the tube to another place where Alejandro knew people, but I needed to get my bag packed and catch some food so I went back to Tim's place. After some trouble finding the place and a couple calls to Tim I eventually found his apartment. My flight was from London Luton at 8:10am, which is not really London at all since it is over an hour north of London. Anyway when you consider the bus rides and being there 2 hours before check in I needed to leave from Tim's apartment at 3:45am. So I just stayed up and made sure I had everything ready. Everyone got back and Tim even walked me to the bus stop where I was able to get a bus to the spot where I needed to get a bus to the airport (yep 3 buses in total). Either way thanks to his help I made it in time and got all checked in. I even had time to withdraw some Euros (the currency of the European Union), which is the most common currency used across Europe.

The next email will pick up with me in Cluj-Napoca, Romania....

Love & Peace!