Monday, July 27, 2009

Leaving soon...

We leave England almost one week from today.  Even though I am looking forward to going back home, I am getting sad about leaving.  This year has been an incredible, life-changing experience.  I've loved being in school again, being in England again, traveling, writing and experiencing new things and making new friends.

Speaking of travels, this summer was chock full of them but since we're still recuperating from them (!) and are slow with the uploads, there won't be any pictures for a while.  I do have some on facebook though--for some reason, that's easier to do.  Stay tuned...

Aside from family and friends (and Nigel!), I think I am most looking forward to having my bathroom back, the garbage disposal, HEB, air conditioning and shops that stay open later than 5 p.m.  Russell is already salivating over the prospect of eating Rudy's, watching UT football and laying on a couch that doesn't let his legs hang over the edge.

The things I will miss most about Winchester/England (again, aside from people), are going to class, the cool weather (even when it rains every day for 2 weeks), the proximity of so many historical places, evening walks by the river and chocolate digestive biscuits.

So we are on a farewell tour right now, saying goodbye to all of the places we've come to love, locking the memories away in our hearts forever ;)
Oh, and freaking out over all the things that need to be done in the next week!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Twyford (April) and Our flat

Stephanie: In early April, we took a country walk to Twyford, a small village three miles from Winchester.  The English countryside is so beautiful!  I wish I could take it home with me. Check out the slide show for some pictures.  
It was supposed to be warming up but recently the weather has been a bit gloomy (although that makes it easier for me to stay inside and work).  People think I'm crazy since I actually like and defend the weather here.  For me, it's a refreshing change from the Austin heat.

Here's a bit about our flat:  It's an old church (not sure how old but guessing 1800s) that was converted a few years ago into eleven units.  A few people live here permanently but most rent.
Ours is a one bedroom with a living room, study nook, kitchen and bathroom.
It's very modern and we feel very fortunate to live here.  No complaints except that we do miss not having a garbage disposal (though most people don't seem to have them here anyway) and a yard, especially since grilling season is coming up!  

The location is perfect, especially since we don't have a car.  Downtown is a two minute walk and the university is about a      twelve minute walk.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Barcleona, Spain March 2009

Stephanie: Spain: next stop, Barcelona.  Barcelona is such a cool city.  It has everything: culture, shopping, museums, seaside, history, sports and an olympic stadium.  We took the tourist bus around town to the various sites.  Here are some of the highlights.

Sagrada Familia was first priority.  It is a huge and magnificent church, designed by the visionary architect Antoni Gaudi, who has many other famous buildings around the city.  The church is an on-going, privately funded project and probably won't be finished for another 40 or so years. 

Our guide book recommended we eat at Can Culleretes.  It is the oldest restaurant in Barcelona (est. in 1788!).  We arrived at opening time, 9p.m. and there was a line.  It was worth the wait: great food, great price, lovely decor.

The Barcelona museum had an amazing Roman Villa, very well preserved (seen above).  The Romans were so advanced.  It was so cool to see their central heating system, food storage and washing rooms.  They were more advanced than some modern countries are now.

We visited the Olympic Village which was really cool.  It's situated around some great views of the city.

Check out the slide show for other Barcelona sites: The Cathedral, Aquarium, Barcelona football game, Pier, random Spanish parades (O-lay!)

Valencia March 2009

Stephanie: On our trip to Spain, we went to Valencia first.  The city was having Las Falles, a huge festival where neighborhoods sponsor Falles, papier-mache monuments that they burn on the last night.  It's a week-long celebration, businesses shut down and everyone parties.  It was certainly like nothing we'd experienced before.

We learned early that the Spanish like fire, staying up late and having a good time!
The first night, we tried to look at as many Falles as possible around the city.  There were over 700 in Valencia and the surrounding area.

We tried to sleep in the next morning after a long day of travel and a late night but it wasn't to be as the city's wake-up call consisted of ear-splitting firecrackers going off at 8a.m.  This continued throughout the day and all night.  Children as young as two also lit firecrackers in the street.

The following day, we explored Valencia.  We enjoyed Spanish tapas at a cafe and waded in the Mediterranean.  The weather was cooler than I expected but still very nice.  The Falles started burning around 10p.m.  Each Falles was like its own bonfire and fireworks show.  I was surprised to see so many blazes close to people's flats, cars and historic buildings but there were lots of firemen on hand--they obviously know what they're doing.  We had a great time!

Santos comes to visit, March 2009

Stephanie: Our friend from Texas, Jayson Santos, came to visit in March.  We took him around Winchester, London and Portsmouth before heading to Spain.

London took a few days.  We visited Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, the British museum and the National Gallery.  Check out the slideshows on the side to view the sights.  Russell and Santos went to a Chelsea football game in London.  It was fairly sedate, no soccer hooligans.  Eight minutes after the game ended, they were told to leave immediately because an employee said 'I want to go home.'  Sorry, Santos, no more pictures for you!

In Portsmouth, Russell and Santos visited the Victory ship that Russ and Steph saw in the fall. They noticed a funny sign this time--ha!  Quit your whining!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

February 2009

Stephanie: February was a month of lots of working and classes started up again for me.  I am taking modules on Fantasy, Picture books, Publishing and Non-fiction for children this semester. Good stuff.

On Valentine's day, our friends hosted a Murder Mystery dinner.   Lots of fun!  There were eight of us and we had to act and dress as specific characters (I was a mysterious French socialite, Russell was a rough-around-the-edges, opportunistic Aussie).  Then we had to figure how who killed our host.  Turns out it was the Vicar. 
Seems like the 'Vicar' is the new the 'butler'--such a shame.

On February 26, we took a tour of the Abbey House (a former abbey), which is now the official residence of the Winchester mayor (for business purposes only though.  He lives somewhere else).  I have found a new dream career!  His or her main duties include attending official functions (i.e. ones with lots of good food) and acting as host for the city.  How awesome is that?  The mayor is elected from the city council and serves one year.  As Winchester is the ancient capital city, it shares a unique position with London's mayor: when the next coronation happens, they are the only two mayors invited (another reason it is a plush job!).  At the end of the tour, we got to rub elbows and chat with the former mayor and future mayor (the current one was unavailable--probably off at a fancy party :).

Friday, March 13, 2009

Salisbury, February 5, 2009

Stephanie: We were bummed about missing our Prague trip, so to cheer ourselves up we went to Salisbury for a day.  It was still very cold, with snow on the ground, so that made for a most picturesque visit.  First, we visited the Salisbury museum which has a wonderful Stonehenge exhibit (still need to go there) and a large collection of artifacts donated by General Pitt Rivers, the 'father of British archeology.'  Pitt River was born Augustus Henry Lane Fox but changed his name in order to inherit a large fortune from his great uncle--not a bad deal!

Next we visited the famous Salisbury Cathedral (although it wasn't famous enough to have an annoying pop song written about it like Winchester Cathedral, was it?).   A few facts about Salisbury Cathedral: 
it is one of the leading examples of Early English architecture, the main body took 38 years to complete, it has the tallest church spire in the UK at 404 feet, it has the largest cloister and largest cathedral close in Britain, and the world's oldest clock (from AD 1386).  It also has one of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta.

We took a tour of the tower where we got to see the ancient wood scaffolding in the interior of the hollow spire.  The views of the city were beautiful.  Russell and I were the only two people on the tour, so it was very personal.  Our guide was great and let us stop for lots of pictures!