Reaching Out 2 The World


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A Perfect London Visit

Today we’d be walking throughout London, taking in as much of this beautifully large city as we could! We arrived my train just outside the newly finished Shard which stands as the highest building in England. The building was built to resemble a shard of glass. IMG_3131Inside this building you’ll have offices, restaurants, luxury apartments, as well as England’s first 6 star hotel. I didn’t even know the stars went that high… of course after my trip to Manchester I couldn’t help but wonder if the architect on this building also resided somewhere high up above us on a floor he specifically designed just for himself.

We crossed over the London Bridge into the heart of London. While crossing this bridge we could look down the Thames RiverIMG_3006 and spot the famous Tower Bridge off in the distance. This would eventually be a destination of ours. On the other side of the bridge we came across a monument that allowed people to take the spiral staircase to the top. The Monument was built in 1671 to commemorate the Great Fire of London and to celebrate the rebuilding of the city. More importantly, the views from above were breathtaking! IMG_3129IMG_3018For good measure we constructed a paper airplane which we would launch from the top of the monument. Being 311 steps up ensured a nice long flight for our little plane. If you’re wondering it did in fact graze someone upon landing but the gentleman hardly seemed to notice. The plane’s maiden flight was actually quite graceful. We also recovered the craft after descending from the peak.

Our next stop in London was St. Pauls, which is a super huge cathedral. The dome on St. Pauls is the second heaviest unsupported dome in the world. When we got there it was right around lunch time and it seemed as though everyone in city, that was on lunch break, had made their way to bask in the sun and enjoy their lunches on the nice grass just outside. IMG_3027Although we didn’t have lunch here we did decide to join in on the grass lounging. Just next to where we sat were these trees that had been painted blue. They had been painted to highlight the importance of trees in the urban environment. I couldn’t help but wonder if the pain on the trees would harm them and therefor contradict the idea of highlighting their importance… but let’s just hope they calculated all that before plunging their brushes elbow deep in a can of blue paint. IMG_3133IMG_3132

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next stop on our list was to walk through St. James gardens which would lead us to Buckingham Palace. This of course is where the Queen lives. From what I understand she was out of town for the day or else I’m convinced I would have been able to meet her. IMG_3134As we stood outside the palace I thought about what it must have been like to grow up as royalty. I know they live a life of luxury but I’m not so sure I’d be a fan of waking up each morning with thousands of tourists and paparazzi outside my front doors. The palace is so large I’m sure there has to be places with in it that the royal family haven’t even explored. I bet as kids they probably couldn’t even go outside without being in danger. I’d say most of their lifestyle is just so far from my own that it’s just a bit to hard to comprehend. I think they spend the majority of their time as ambassadors of their country.

Outside of the palace were guards. These guys were dressedIMG_3054 in the traditional garb of the red jacket with their large tall black fluffy hat. These guys carry guns, and will yell at you if you do something you aren’t supposed to be doing, but for the most part they just stand there. I’m not sure how much training these guards have to protect and serve, or if they are there more for traditional reasons. You used to be able to get close to them, try to bother them, and take a picture with them, but it seems as though that’s no longer allowed. I imagine they received a lot of abuse with tourist trying to get them to react. Generally, whenever you saw a royal guard there would be a London police officer standing close.

Our next place of interest was Westminster. This is where you’ll find the Parliament Buildings as well as Big Ben. These buildings were easily some of the most impressive buildings I saw in London… and that’s saying a lot. IMG_3069There was just so much detail that went into each part of this building. I can’t imagine how much time and effort went into creating such a structure. IMG_3141

From there we hopped on a boat which would charter us down the Thames Rivers. Our guide told us about the buildings lining the river, some of which we had already seen that day. On this journey we passed under several bridges like the London Bridge, Millennium Bridge, and London Bridge. If you’re wondering what the Millennium Bridge is then you should watch the 6th Harry Potter movie. Those darn Death Eaters took that sucker down! In all realness I guess it’s a pretty wobbly bridge to begin with. They actually had to close it the day after opening it because they found it to be too unsafe. It’s since been reopen, but even foot traffic can cause a wobble. The last bridge we went under was Tower Bridge. I’d say this is the most famous bridge in London. IMG_3135With the sun coming down I’d say we picked a great time to few these bridges.

We had a reservation for the London Eye at 7 so we had to make our way back to Westminster. England’s underground is relatively superior when it comes to public transportation so getting from one side of the city to the other was fairly easy. It did help that I was traveling with 3 people that knew where they were at all times.

IMG_3096The London Eye is a large Ferris wheel that provides a birds eye view of the entire city. It reaches 135 meters into the sky so you really can see just about everything. IMG_3138Basically after touring the city on foot all day we had the chance to see everything again from a new perspective. Certainly a pretty cool way to end the day.

We had one more task before heading home. I really wanted to meet up with my friend Ndidi. I met Ndidi while in South Africa and she lives in London. For the past 6 months she’s been working in Singapore with her law firm but she arrived back in London this week. Although she worked a very long day today we all waited it out so we could meet her for drinks at a bar called Abacus. IMG_3139

My time in London was nothing short of incredible and I owe so much to the friends I met up with. Thanks so much to Sean for traveling with me for the past two weeks and providing me with my own personal tour of his awesome country. Thanks to Koren for driving us the long distances to amazing places like Cambridge and the Sherwood Forrest. Thanks to Fraser for the much needed drinks and company as we toured London! Ndidi, it was so great to see you, I wish we had more time! Everyone I’ve met along the way has been so accommodating and helpful. I look forward to the next time we can meet up.

Thursday and Friday would be my final days in England before I head to South Africa. I’m feeling very thankful and very anxious!

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The Bridge Over the Cam

After a very late night we woke up and started our Tuesday around 7. This was a bit rough but it was necessary as we had a lot to see today. The first thing we had to do was drive to Guildford to the school Koren is a teacher at. She needed to print out her thesis which she’d be handing in today in Cambridge.

Koren works as a Math teacher at Royal Grammar school which is an elite boy’s school. IMG_2931The school specializes in math and science and goes from year 7 to year 13 which equates to the ages 11 to 18. Walking about the school I can tell you that it was an extremely fine school. It was however quite early and Sean and I were coming off a long Monday, so while Koren was printing what she needed we used the time to relax in the teachers’ lounge. I napped. I tried to nap on the way to the school but the roads were a bit too windy for me.

IMG_2959Our next destination would be Cambridge which would mean more highways and better quality sleep. After another couple hours in the car I woke up feeling much better!

My first reaction to Cambridge was how incredibly beautiful it was. The buildings were so old and so architecturally appealing. We spent the entire day walking about the city.

The first place we went was the Facility of Education where Koren turned in her thesis. She is now a Master of Education! Yay Koren! I’m happy I could be a part of your celebratory day!! Afterwards we ate ice cream 🙂IMG_2953

We decided the best way to celebrate would be to go punting down the Cam. Punting is similar to a gondola where everyone sits in the boat and the person in the back stands and propels you through the water by dropping the punting staff into the water and then pushing off the bottom so as to move the boat forward. IMG_2956This was much easier said than done, but after going back and forth, crashing into a few other boats and the canal walls, I finally started to get it. We had the option to hire someone to take us around but with Koren’s awesome student (no longer a student as of this day) discounts we decided to just do it ourselves! It was a very enjoyable time and we had a few drinks along the way to celebrate. We started at Trinity College, the college Steven Hawking attended and is now a fellow, and traveled down as far as the famous IMG_2939mathematical bridge. This bridge receives its name because the beams that hold it together are all at a tangent to the ark which means that it is self-supporting and you won’t find any nuts or bolts holding it together. Before all was said and done we all had the chance to try punting down the Cam. None of us were really that great at it.

The next stop of our Koren guided tour was St. John’s College. Because we were with Koren we were granted access inside the walls of this college. This isn’t something generally granted to tourists so it was extra special that we could walk through. In addition to that, the places tourists were allowed, we didn’t have to pay. We took our time walking through the gigantic buildings and admired the surrounded cathedrals. Everything about these colleges were excellent and prestige. The grounds were perfect, and the buildings were immaculate. IMG_2962

IMG_2965On the way back to the car we checked out the Corpus Christi College and famous clock. We also saw Kings College which had another enormous cathedral. IMG_2967

After the lengthy drive home we made and ate some yummy fajitas, played a game of spades and watched the 5th Harry Potter. Koren’s boyfriend Fraser arrived back home just in time for dinner and spades. On Wednesday we’d all be traveling into London which would surely prove to be  yet another full day of traveling. IMG_2992


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A Day With English Family

Sunday was meant to be a lazy day. Nothing really planned but some much needed laundry. Of course things changed and we went with the flow! Sean and I were invited for tea with Jenny and Frank. Jenny and Frank live in a high rise located in the center of a park. The building is a sheltered accommodation where residents live and look after themselves. Jenny used to manage the building but has since retired from that position and now lives there. IMG_2897

These two truly are two of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Both very successful and very well-traveled as they’ve been to over 70 countries and counting! Sean refers to them as his grandparents and after a day’s visit I’d say I’ve also adopted myself my very own English grandparents.IMG_2896

Throughout their travels they have generously reached out to many individuals. Having no children of their own they have done their part to help out hundreds if not thousands of others. For the past 10 years they have been traveling to Tunisia to help support an orphanage. They travel there off and on for 6 months at a time! In some regards, the world is their family! It was truly a pleasure to meet them and they couldn’t have been more welcoming of me into their home. I look forward to the next time we can meet Jenny and Frank! IMG_2900

Afterwards we headed back to Sean’s were it was finally time to get some much needed laundry done. In the mean time we watched the fourth Harry Potter. To my delight Bev, Sean’s mum, had prepared a delicious spread of food as well as a BBQ.  IMG_2901

The night turned into a highly enjoyable family night and concluded with me teaching the rest of the family how to play Catan. I sat out as Bev and her boyfriend Colin teamed up against Sean, Jason, and Cassie. It was a very entertaining game to watch the family battle towards victory. If anyone is reading these blogs and is still unsure what Catan is, it’s basically the best board game ever. Take the best parts of Monopoly, and Risk, lose all the parts you hate about those games and add a bit of ever-changing strategy and you’ll have Catan. Look it up and buy it, it’s that good and you’ll thank me later. IMG_2904


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Parkour Through Nottingham

Our plan on Saturday was to head to the Peak District for an overnight camping trip with Sean’s brother and sisters. This was something that we were all really looking forward to but we ended up having to cancel do to the evening’s forecast. My time in England has been filled with unusually beautiful weather but with rain coming we didn’t want to risk a wet night in the country side. Of course with that being said the weather in Nottingham ended up being great!

Sean had some friends that would be meeting up in the city center to train parkour so we headed in to meet them. The first place we went had three areas for training, all of which seemed almost too perfect for parkour. I’ve never formally trained nor have I looked at a city in the same way these guys do, but after a glimpse into the life of a free runner I’m suddenly seeing things with a new perspective. Cities, often referred to as concrete jungles, couldn’t be more fitting for those looking to explore the less traveled path in the style of parkour.IMG_2853

It’s easy to get hurt while bounding across ledges, and jumping gaps and that’s why so much practice and training has to be done. What may look like carefree maneuvers is quite actually precision jumps that take loads and loads of practice and strength building.

The runners that I met up with were Matt, Will, Edgar, James Parish, James Holbrook, and James Allen. Each of these guys had their own style and each was infinitely better than I was. We spent a few hours at each location and I spent the majority of my time amazed at what these guys were doing. There were 3 things I saw on Saturday that I was extra impressed with.

The first of which was Matt’s ability to flip. These guys could all flip, but Matt could flip up walls. Meaning if there was a wall 1-3 feet high, he would be able to hit the wall in stride, flip, and then land on top of the wall. If you’re reading this and trying to figure out how that’s possible then we are on the same level. I was right there watching it happen and can’t even provide an explanation!

TIMG_2883he next ridiculous feat I observed was by Will. I suppose it goes without saying, but these guys are not scared of heights. If you don’t want to take my word for it, here’s a picture of Will walking along the rooftop edge of a parking garage 12 floors up. Don’t worry folks, you will NOT find me doing anything like that. IMG_2881

The third most incredible thing I witnessed today with my own two eyes was James Parish jumping gap that no human should be able to do with as much ease as he did. I ran track and field back in High School and I’d like to think I was pretty good, especially when it came to the long jump. But I suppose that’s all relative when I’m running down a runway, wearing track shoes, jumping into a sand box and James is a stand still jumping over 10 feet where he’d be landing on a wall about a foot wide. Little room for error when coming up short means breaking something vital and not sticking your landing results in a fall where you’ll just have to rely on instincts to save you from injury. This was all impressive, a bit crazy, and so very awesome. IMG_2882

After training for a bit and defying the laws of gravity we moved about through city to various locations these guys use for training. We through the Frisbee around a bit, explored some forbidden locations, and enjoyed the day expecting it to start raining at any moment. The rain never came… at least not in Nottingham. Apparently it was pretty brutal throughout the rest of England and we’re quite sure that had we gone camping it would have been a soggy experience.

I should mention that while training today Sean was teaching me a move called a kong. Basically, you run at a ledge about waist height and jump over it using your arms to help vault you through. Your legs travel through your arms and you land on the opposing ledge on your feet. This is something they have all mastered and continue to add elements of difficulty to it in order to step up their running. Unfortunately while Sean was showing me how to do this he landed abruptly on the wall he was aiming for, stuck his landing, before coming down quite gingerly. Turns out when he had landed a jolt went through his back and he’d have to take the rest of the day at a much slower pace. He’s a champ though and made it through the rest of the day as if nothing was bothering him. Certainly a better pain tolerance than most!

When we got back to Sean’s we opted to cook up the food that we had acquired for our camping trip. That night we feasted on ham, pasta, and the remaining cheese and crackers we had from the previous night. We also watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I hadn’t seen this movie since back when it came out and I forgot this was about the time they switched directors. There were loads of changes in this movie but all things moving in the right direction.

Exhausted from running throughout Nottingham we called it an early night with high hopes of getting a lot done on Sunday as it would be my last day in Nottingham. IMG_2880IMG_2884


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High Tea, Cheese and Crackers, and of course… Harry Potter

My time in England has been filled with new places, new people, and of course new customs. One custom, which I quite enjoy, is having a cup of tea. I take mine with sugar and milk but everyone has their preference. I’ve discovered over my first week that there is no wrong time to have a cup of tea. In fact, I don’t think there has been a moment along my trip where I haven’t been offered or provided with a cup of tea. I’m drinking a cup of tea right now, and it’s my fourth cup of the day! Although having a cup of tea is a consistency in day to day life there are some traditions which take it to the next level. This is known as High Tea.

IMG_2800We didn’t have any major plans for today so we hopped onto Groupon to see what kind of deals we’d come across. We saw a deal in Nottingham for High Tea which included champagne, finger sandwiches, and desert. For the two of us it was going to be 14 pounds which is a fantastic deal seeing as we were considering do the same activity in London for 29 pounds… each! Obviously things are going to be more expensive and posh in London but we weren’t going to let that bother us. We decided that we should dress to impress before making our way across town.  IMG_2801

Since I didn’t pack in preparation for a tradition such as high tea I had to borrow a suit from Sean. Fortunately I was able to squeeze into it, but I didn’t have really have a pair of shoes to fit the part. We looked pretty fly though walking about the streets in our suits with our t-shirts as undershirts, and my flip flops as my footwear.

We had great time, talking extra posh, and making sure our pinkies were out as we sipped our tea. The food was delicious but the portions were a bit small. Of course with that being said, I was pretty full after all was said and done.

We opted to take the scenic way home after our high tea and walked along the Trent River which goes through Nottingham. It reminded me a lot of the Schuylkill River heading into Philadelphia. We saw crew members passing up and down the river, as well as a gander of geese. We also came across a few swans. Sean informed me that the queen owns all the swans throughout England. That’s a hard concept for me to grasp but I’ll take his word for it. I suppose if you’re the queen of England you can really do whatever you’d like. You’ll find her face on all the currency including coins and paper bills. We watched a comedian the other night, Michael Maclntyre, who referenced the currency in one of his bits. He didn’t think her same portrait should show up on each value. He simply suggested that the less of value the currency the less “revealing” the picture of the queen would be. For example, the penny would maybe show the queen with no makeup, wearing her pajamas while the 50 pound bill might show the queen showing a little more and dressed to impress. I couldn’t help but agree, I think it may even drive people to work harder so as to earn higher valued queen bills. IMG_2852

Before heading back to Sean’s home we made a stop at the grocery store to pick up cheese and crackers for the evening. We also had plans to go camping over the weekend and wanted a ham roast for our wood fire. IMG_2851

Friday night we tuned into the first Harry Potter movie while dining on cheese and crackers. Sean’s sisters, Elli and Cassie joined us for the movie. I was legitimately surprised to find out that Cassie hasn’t seen any of the Harry Potter movies! I’m happy so say that we are currently 4 movies deep at this point and Cassie will be a Harry Potter fan when all is said and done. This coming Thursday we have plans to visit Harry Potter World outside of London which has the studios where the series was filmed. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t really excited for that!IMG_2898