Reaching Out 2 The World

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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



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

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Frisbee on Batman’s Front Lawn

I knew our plan on Thursday was to go to a park to throw the Frisbee around, but it wasn’t until we were on our way that I realized we were headed Wollaton Park. In this park you’ll find Wollaton Hall which just so happens to be the home Batman lives in throughout the movies! Not only have a seen the movies, but they are amongst some of my all-time favorites!! IMG_2779

Myself, Sean, and his sister Cassie took a bus to the entrance of the park. To enter the park by foot you have to carefully walk across a metal grated driveway. This was to keep the deer in the park so they couldn’t roam throughout Nottingham. I have to say that to cross it, was no walk in the park. But it’s a clever idea and seemly works really well.

Wollaton Park is a massive 500 acres and is surrounded by the city of Nottingham so you can understand the importance of keeping the wildlife within the large estate. Of course this did mean that while we were playing Frisbee we had to keep a close eye on the ground so we wouldn’t stumble into deer poop. While we were playing a large deer actually ran right through our game. IMG_2899

In the center of the park located up on a hill was Wollaton Hall. Built in 1580 for Sir Francis Willoughby you can imagine the history this residence has seen. The Willoughby’s are known for being avid explorers. Notably, Sir Hugh Willoughby died in the Arctic attempting a North East passage. The home is currently being use as a Natural History Museum and features animals from all walks of life. If you are into, biology, hunting, or taxidermy you might want to consider a trip to this place. For me, it was a combination of sorrow and awesomeness. I couldn’t help but feel bad that in order for these animals to be featured as they were they had to die, but at the same time I was thankful because of how amazing it was to see and learn about so many different animals. The museum really did a great job presenting such a diverse group of animals.

After spending some time walking throughout the museum, aka Batmans House, we took a stroll around the rest of the park. The place was really quite beautiful and made for a really enjoyable afternoon. On the way to the bus stop we came across a few small frogs. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such small frogs! I thought Cassie may take one home with her. IMG_2780

For dinner we ate a Nandos, a restaurant whose specialty is chicken. Sean described it as a step up from KFC but I think it’s safe to say that it’s several steps above that. In fact you really ought to consider taking a lift to get there as this place was really that much better. Because Sean works for the NHS we received a discount on the entire meal which consisted of two types of prepared chicken, chips, peas, rice, and garlic bread! Oh how I love food! Maybe I should figure out a way to just travel throughout the world eating my way through new cities! Lucky for me, there is a Nandos in South Africa too haha.

In the evening Sean and I went to the local pub, same one as the first night, and met up with a few more of his friends. We shared some stories, had a few drinks before heading back to Sean’s home for a relatively early night. I think we watch the travel documentary 180 degrees and were in bed before 3am. Early night…


A Kick @$$ Day With Robin Hood

Wednesday started with a trip to the Sherwood Forrest. It is here where Robin Hood and his bandits would meet. Deep in the woods is an oak tree that is said to be over 1,000 years old. The tree is so old that it actually has a few support beams to help hold the branches up. Nonetheless, I thought the tree was impressive. Not only was it enormous all the way around, but it’s been around for so long! Just imagine if the tree could talk and all the stories it would tell. IMG_2721

I should mention that before touring around the ground, Sean and Koren each purchased small wooden bow’s with little arrows fashioned with suction cups. This probably goes without being said, but we battled the better part of the day with those arrows. Luckily for all of us they weren’t the most efficient combat tools and we quickly found that you’re actually safest from an oncoming arrow if you just stood still. Honestly, they traveled slow enough that you could just catch them out of the air.IMG_2730

Sean and Koren both opted for an archery lesson, which provided them with a much sturdier bow and 6 arrows.

These of course were not for playing around, but they did have targets set up for them. If I learned one thing when shooting an arrow, it was to keep your arms up.

Our next stop on the day was Rufford Manor. Rufford’s enjoyments include a large wood and 150 acres of parkland, a children’s play area, formal gardens, an arboretum and sculpture garden. Years ago, this place was home to monks. The estate was a bit in ruins, but there were still showcases that teach of their times. We made sure to grab a picture with our favorite monk before heading back home. IMG_2748

We ate dinner that night at a place called Sherwood Manor. There were deals that allowed us to get a burger, chips, and a drink for 5 pounds so we seized the opportunity for a cheap bite. There was, however, a dessert that caught our eye. It was one of those cake showcases and it’s featured item was this multi layered chocolate cake. We decided that we were going to have to split a piece and it was probably one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Not only was this cake incredibly delicious, but it also filled all three of us to capacity. Good luck to the person who tries to take that slice on independently. IMG_2750

Wednesdays in the UK mean discounted tickets to the cinema if you are a member of the orange network, a mobile phone provider. Koren is an orange member so the three of us went into town and saw the movie, “Kick Ass 2.” This action comedy is about a group of teenage, self-proclaimed super heroes who fight crime. I hadn’t seen the first one, but both Koren and Sean are fans. Actually, the theater was completely packed to see this movie. I don’t recall this movie being very popular back in the states, but I suppose everyone has their movie preferences.

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Today I Met Robin Hood

On Friday, after having a glorious 10 hours of sleep, Sean and I started the day by setting up a game plan for my time in England. After buying a few train tickets to head to Manchester on Sunday, and scanning through Groupon for low cost activities and meals, we made our way into the city of Nottingham. Sean lives just on the outskirts of Nottingham so we took a bus into the heart of the city. Home to nearly 300,000  people and about 2 hours north of London, Sean showed me around his city.

IMG_2497This first building I saw after getting off the bus was the Town Hall, and it was nothing short of incredible. I quickly noted that there are a lot of beautiful buildings throughout Nottingham. We made our way around until we got to the Castle of Nottingham. The gates weren’t open, but we were still able to see a bit inside. Around the side of the castle was a pub that had been built into the cliffs. This pub, The Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Is considered the oldest inn in England. It’s dated 1189 AD and is carved out of the cliffs, going under the castle! We went in and had a drink before moving onto what Nottingham is best known for. Did you know that Robin Hood is from Nottingham?! Well he is, and I took a picture of Sean posing with his statue just outside the castle wall. IMG_2502

The plan was to meet up with a few of Sean’s friends later that evening at a pub known as Wetherspoons in the Market Square, but before heading there, we decided to make a couple of stops. Sean is big into parkour, also known as free running. He’s been on many buildings and often looks at buildings the same way I do… The look that questions, “how can I get up there?” The simple reason as to why it’s so appealing to ascend these buildings has to be the view. You can’t argue the fact that you can just see more from a higher loft. As we walked around, he shared with me the buildings he’s been on, and inevitably the crazy stories that followed. Cities in England, specifically the older ones, are built out more than up. If you can get on top of a building in Nottingham, you can just about see all of Nottingham. So, that’s just what we did. I know you’re probably thinking this is a bad idea, but we did it in the most responsible of ways. We just went to the top of a parking garage, known here as a car park. From above, we could see the tops of all the church steeples, and there were a lot! After some time, we made our way down and were in route to the pub when we came across a church that had recently been converted into a bar. It was called Pitcher & Piano, and was totally awesome. I personally think all churches should consider this transformation. I’ve always been a huge fan of the architecture that goes into churches, and the stain glass always looks brilliant! This beautiful work of art also had a full bar and could be rented out for parties and events! Someone needs to make this happen back home.IMG_2512

After a quick drink at the P&P, we went over to Wetherspoons where we had a burger and met up with Josh, Luke, and Liam. These guys are friends of Sean through free running and were all really great. We spent the night telling stories and having a few drinks before heading to a club called The Forum. We were out pretty late and had to catch a bus back to Sean’s. It was a great night, and Sean’s friends were a very entertaining bunch to hang with. I think later in the week we’ll be getting together for some free running. Wish me luck!