Thursday, October 30, 2008

Space Ships in Gatwick Airport

Aunt Mary, this extremely short post is JUST FOR YOU! I though I'd quickly show you all where I'll be sleeping the night before my SOLO flight to Rome, Italy! Since my flight is at 6:55 AM (ungodly hour, I know!), I will be slumbering my night away in the South Terminal of London's Gatwick Airport in one of the "pods," which are rented by the hours. I went wild and booked it for 10! It has a bed, TV, shower, and bathroom. What more could a girl ask for? Check it out!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And If I'm flying solo...

On my blog’s 18th post birthday, I thought a new layout would be nice. In the spirit of missing anything and everything about fall (by the way, heard you had snow in NY?! What’s up with that?), I had hoped to find some sort of foliage background. But alas, as is the norm with KR, the pink and green trumped. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!

Trips are continuing to shape up, which makes me a very happy camper. I have actually planned a SOLO trip to Italy for Thanksgiving. I will give thanks for the Coliseum, the Vatican, the Sistine Ceiling, the Statue of David (blushing and giggles!), the Ponte Vecchio, and the FOOD of course, as you all chow down on turkey, stuffing, turnip, mashed potatoes, cream boiled onions, string beans, pumpkin pie, apple pie… No complaints, though. I’ve heard the pasta in Italy is decent. HAHA!

My SOLO trip stems from the fact that Kathleen is lucky enough to have family visiting for the week. So, instead of crying alone in my room, I thought, “Why not go on a vacation?” I’m totally excited, and plan on making friends while I’m there. Everyone could use a new travel buddy! I’ll be staying in a friend-recommended hostel in Rome for one night and a dorm or hostel, depending on timing, in Florence for the rest of the time, as I know a few Stonehill-ers there. Venice will be a day trip. I absolutely can’t wait!

This weekend, IFSA-Butler is treating us to a weekend in London. We get to stay in the St. Giles Hotel, right on Oxford Street, so it will be the first time I’m staying right in the heart of Central London. They take us out for a Mexican dinner (I’m obviously already salivating) on Friday night, and on a Thames River cruise on Saturday night. Halloween costumes are required. I’ll be the one with super curly hair and Minnie Mouse ears!

What are you all being? Fill me in! Cheers!

PS, Enjoy some random pictures from 80s night and my trip to Dover, which, by the way, is a very cute city with fantastic white cliffs! The two Europeans in the 80s night picture are my housemates, Tristan of Southern England by way of South Africa, and Marie of Eastern France! You obviously already know the lady in white, and the FABULOUS gal in pink and black with teased hair!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Am. Ster. Dam.

Amsterdam is literally a city that words cannot describe. So, in an to attempt to paint the city, from its red lights to its clog makers, through my prose, I decided a little list might come in handy.

1. Traveling to Amsterdam by coach is quite a lengthy process. The process unfortunately began an hour later than necessary, since six people on the trip forgot their passports. Six! Now, you might say, “Who the heck forgets their passport when they know they’ll be leaving the country?” Well, blond girls who need to clarify if “five past nine” is the same as “nine oh five” do. This delay resulted in our coach missing the ferry, waiting two hours at the Dover port, and sitting in three hours of traffic upon our arrival into Calais that we would not have sat in had the dumb blonde and her cohorts not forgotten their passports. (Excuse my bitterness. I promise it just stems from the fact that our bathroomless coach bus caused me to walk dangerously close to intense embarrassment, if you catch my drift. I begged the drive to stop, as my bladder literally loathes me, and TWO HOURS later, he found a rest stop in the Netherlands. I bolted out of the bus, sprinted to the toilet, and sighed some serious relief. Blondie needed snacks at this stop, which also added some time to the trip.) To make up time, we stopped for a ten minute dinner break, ate our food on the bus, and finally made it to Amsterdam by 10 PM… five hours later than we should have. At least we made it!

2. After checking in to the hotel, which sits on the edge of the Red Light District, Kathleen and I made way for our seriously tripped out hotel room. The walls were neon blue, and the view from our window was a neon sign of a girl dancing around a pole. Below that, were windows incased in red lights… and you know what that means! Our view was everything Amsterdam’s Red Light District epitomizes.

3. Our walking tour of the Red Light District was led by our weekend tour guide Rob, the same Northern Englishman who guided us while in Hell… I mean the mountains of Wales. Rob does not understand the limits of personal space and was entirely too touchy throughout the whole walk. As a result, Brigette made an appearance, and he got the idea. Brigette, as you may know, is my sassy alter-ego, and she made it clear that she was NOT OKAY with Sketchy Rob’s constant shoulder squeezes and arm rubs. Honestly, he should have just knocked on one of the windows if he wanted affection. But that’s just the beginning. He spoke so highly of the prostitute profession as we walked through alleyway upon alleyway of twenty-year-old women selling themselves, and said that if I never publish a book or make it big as a businesswoman, I should look into it, as it is extremely lucrative. He also mentioned that I’d finally be able to have control over a man. I wish I could say he was joking, but he was far from it. Brigette’s even meaner twin busted loose after that, and Rob now knows that New York girls are not to be messed with – mentally and physically.

4. Red Light District = Disturbing. That’s sums it up completely. One night is enough.

5. Amsterdam is only one part of Holland, so I was thrilled to take a break from the cloud of marijuana smoke that surrounded me and spend the following afternoon in the Dutch countryside. We saw tons of windmills, which are staples of the Netherlands, and then saw how wooden clogs are made. It’s quite a process, and takes several months to complete a single shoe. After that, we visited a Dutch cheese shop and got to sample a few types. I only tasted the smoked goat’s cheese, though others loved the varieties so much, they took several trips down the sample line. I think this is why we Americans are quite larger than Europeans.

6. After a morning in the country, we made way back to Amsterdam. The Van Gogh museum was fantastic, but it was no where near as moving like the Anne Frank House. We walked through the bookcase, saw the pictures on her wall, and got to look at the famous diary she wrote while hiding in the secret annex. It was unbelievable, and made the trip 100% worth it.

7. By now it was about 10. Since I didn’t feel like watching hookers flash potential patrons, I hit the sack and bid farewell to a Netherlands night.

8. Some religious observations: There is a cathedral in the Red Light District, which rings every hour, on the hour. Amsterdam has one of the highest concentrations of Christian Youth Hostels. Funny, eh?

9. Dutch people are nicer than the English.

10. The Dutch language is funny to see written. Words are spelled like this: Regaslkhfjhsjgjukivick. I kid you not. That might mean street or something. I didn’t bother an attempt at pronunciation.

11. There was a Thai tranny on our trip. His/her name is Benjamin/Natasha, and he/she registered as a man, though dressed in full-on girly gear. This meant that he/she stayed in a room with three other guys, but evidentially had parts that proved otherwise. On our way home, Benjamin/Natasha became obsessed with yours truly (he must have sensed that I’ve seen Rent lucky number seven times), and wanted to talk about New York fashion from Amsterdam to Bruges, which, by the way, is a Belgian canal city three hours from Amsterdam where we took a long lunch break. He/she called me Princess as we discussed the fabulousness of Woodside, Queens, where he/she called home for five years. Benjamin/Natasha’s “deal” right now is finding a boyfriend in every city, which might be a little difficult, as he/she was not allowed entry back into the UK due to misinformation on his/her Thai passport. I’m sure that he/she is working hard on finding a honey in Calais, France…

In summary, Amsterdam was quite an adventure. I hope my words convey what pictures would, if taking them in the Red Light District were actually allowed! Visit if you dare… Cheers!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

HORSES are NOT a few of my favorite things...

Remember the last scene in “The Sound of Music?” You know, Georg, Maria, and the seven von Trapp children are climbing every mountain as the nuns sing about it? Well, extract that very mountain from the Swiss Alps, implant it in Wales, remove the climbing von Trapps, and replace them with me upon a horse, and you’ve got a pretty decent picture of where I horseback rode this weekend. But that’s nothing. Get ready for some (hopefully long-awaited!) tales from Wales!

Traveling the world has made me pretty fabulous at getting up at the crack of dawn. After a decent bus ride spent slumbering down the A-40 (that’s British for highway), I woke up in Wales. The Welsh are, by nature, friendlier than the English, which made for a nice change of pace. Our first stop was a village in South Wales that borders England. I took the most touristy picture ever and stood with one foot in each country. It was cute! The village is also home to an AWESOME castle, which Kathleen and I explored for an hour before leaving. We got some great pictures, and since it was such a beautiful day out, they look quite exceptional, I may add. The view of the Welsh countryside and rural neighborhoods was spectacular from the castle’s top tower, making this stop my definite favorite of the weekend. You’ll read why in a minute. My life was never in question while walking through the countryside.

Our next stop of the day was Tinturn, home to the famous Tinturn Abbey, which the poet William Wordsworth wrote some lines, which I painstakingly read last year in my Literature History class. He’s almost as dreadful as Chaucer. Almost. Unlike Westminster Abbey, Tinturn Abbey is completely run down and no longer in use, but its ancient, rustic charm remains, making it an interesting and authentic site indeed.

After Tinturn, we made way for our hostel. 16 girls. 8 bunk beds. Too much estrogen. Hostels are SOMETHING, and according to my bunkmates, this one was of the FANCY variety. I can’t complain, though. The beds were warm, the bathrooms were clean, and the Strongbow was a-flowing in the downstairs pub, where we dined with other people on the trip. They were all American, and either working, interning, or studying in London for an extended period. We all swapped travel stories, and I loved sharing with others my European experiences thus far. Their stories were great as well, but you know me… I prefer the talking aspect! =)

Dinner was decent, and served as a great preparation for the night that followed. Bachelor parties, or “Stag Parties” as the Brits say, were in full swing at the hostel, which, by the way, is actually a castle-esque building that also serves as a hotel (I think we were the lucky ones, staying in a room of 16… Just kidding!). The bachelors dressed in full “fancy dress,” which is Brit talk for costume. Before I knew it, I was standing in a life-size portrayal of the cover of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album. “Peace and Love, man,” said the pink-clad faux-Beatle every five minutes. What a night! But that’s just the beginning!

As I have mentioned before, clubbing is all the rage on this fair isle. Next to the ho[s]tel was a nightclub, which our tour guide recommend we definitely check out, as the people watching was supposed to be insane. With no proper dressier clothing to change into, I trekked in my Ralph Lauren oxford shirt, J. Crew blazer, jeans, and Ugg boots to the club, and what a site it was! It was for “clubbers in training,” meaning it was filled with tons of 18-year-old boys fist pumping their nights away. I pretended to know the moves to “Thriller.” It was great. People almost followed my crazy moves. Gotta love those 80s! I lasted about an hour dancing like a machine before taking a well needed shower and hitting the top bunk for some sleep before what turned out to be a fateful day of horseback riding. All of this was done in pitch black, by the way. The other 14 residents were sleepy, I guess. Too bad for them. They could have busted moves to Billie Jean with me! (MJ was in full swing that night!)

After a slack of sleep (the other girls also decided that waking up two hours earlier than necessary was also a good idea), the fateful day arrived. I ate my “last” meal and made way for the stables. Riding helmets are not very becoming, but I fastened that strap right up and listened intently as the instructor taught us the ways of tacking up a horse, or whatever it’s called. I was assigned to Paddy, a beautiful brown horse, and I thought we made a nice match, as we’re both Irish. However, I couldn’t mount him. It’s a shame my attempts aren’t on YouTube, or America’s Funniest Home Videos, rather. The mounting block came in handy, and before I knew it, I was trotting away to the mountain of doom. Holding onto the reigns for dear life, we walked through some flat paths, and though my tush was in agony, the scenery of sheep, cows, hills, and trees made up for the pain… but only for about fifteen minutes.

The “good part” starts here. Brace yourselves.

One thing we learned was to not let the horses eat. Horses love to break from the Indian-style line and graze on leaves and grass, but as their rider and boss, our job is to yank those reigns, kick their torsos with our legs, and pull them away from the green goodness and direct them back to the path. Paddy, or Devil as I like to call him, was NOT cooperative. Every ten seconds, he would wander off the side of the path to munch, munch, munch. You obviously know I’m not a physically strong girl, so no matter how hard I pulled, kicked, and yelled at him (being an older sister gave me good practice for that third one!), the stubborn Devil would not comply. This caused me to fall far back in line, which resulted in Paddy cantering to catch up with the rest of the line. As an untrained rider, I had no clue how to move properly. I think you’re supposed to stand up and down in the stirrups or something. I held onto the saddle for dear life and said Hail Marys as my heartbeat approached attack levels. By now, I was literally crying. My too-big helmet kept covering my eyes, and I literally felt like I’d never be able to ride the New York subway again. (Oh the horror!) THEN, Devil started grazing right next to a tree branch. I had no time to lean forward, as instructed, so to avoid getting clotheslined and falling off, I laid down in the saddle so my helmet was uncomfortably close to Devil’s tail -- and you know what else it right near the tail! It’s unspeakable. I watched my life flash before my eyes and silently thanked Dad for making me go to church every Sunday when I realized I neither fell on my head nor got trampled by the line of horses behind me. Despite that, I still felt like death, and wanted nothing more than to run back to the stables, find a river, get to the Atlantic, and breast stroke my way back to NYC. No such luck. The trail guide tied Devil to her horse and we made way onto our next trail, which was the aforementioned Sound of Music-esque mountain. I’d much rather climb every mountain by foot. Apparently, the mountain was freezing, but I was too hyped to realize. I just planted my shaking hands on the saddle and tried to enjoy the scenery, which, I must say was spectacular.

After our time on the mountain, we took a quick break to let the horses eat. They decided it was a good idea to switch me from Paddy to Warrior. They said Paddy really should have been given to an experienced rider, since he’s the oldest in the barn, and knows every trick in the book. “Well, THANKS for that,” was all I could think as I miraculously mounted Warrior, who proved to me much less devilish than Paddy.

I could not have been happier when we reached the stables after three whole hours of sitting on horseback. It’s Tuesday now, and I am still in agony from bending back in a way humans are not supposed to. Oh well. Wasn’t that a great story?! Mad props if you made it this far.

This week was certainly one of daring experiences. I forgot to mention that on the Friday before heading to Wales, I day tripped into London to check out the Burberry outlet. I did not know that the neighborhood, Hackney, is known as the roughest part of London. I’ve never clenched my purse tighter in my life. You should have seen my face when the cab driver said that Hackney is “Packed to the brim with crack and guns when it gets dark out.” And after all of that, I made no purchases. Paying in pounds was a bit too rich for my blood, though the jackets, raincoats, and umbrellas certainly were nice.

Friday morning marks the beginning of my first trip into continental Europe. I never thought The Netherlands would be my first stop, but since it’s Kathleen’s 21st birthday, we decided a crazy city such as Amsterdam would be “the” place to celebrate her American legality. After riding Paddy the Devil, I’m sure I can take on the Red Light district… just not from behind a window, obviously!

I send a special thanks to Mom and Aunt Kathy for the 57 “Where are you?” instant messages I came home to Sunday night. I told you I would be okay! =) Love and cheers to all. Also, I send a special shout-out to Stonehill! Miss you all! <3

(PS, Please excuse the photos of me with Devil and Warrior. I had on about 15 layers, and the camera already adds 15 pounds!)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

It had to happen eventually

I regret to inform you all that I’ve had my first experience with theft while abroad. I’ve been warned that the Brits do not want to hurt you; they just want your possessions. Apparently, the dreaded thief was in desperate need of my generic brand cranberry juice and semi-splurge bottle of sauvignon blanc. (S)he also made it out of Ellenden #10’s kitchen with a half-full (See, I’m still keeping it positive, just like Elle Woods!) bottle of Tabasco sauce, three onions, 10 tomatoes, and loads of cheddar cheese, among other things. The residents of our fair house believe a careless resident forgot to lock the door, which then allowed the soulless and uninvited visitor to raid our kitchen while we were upstairs asleep or counting sheep. Apparently, I was one of the lucky ones, as the only things I had in the fridge at the time were some peppers, kale (It was cheaper that lettuce.), carrots, and yogurt. The criminal must not have a mom who is into balanced meals. It’s a good thing (s)he didn’t take my Nutella. If so, there would be serious hell to pay. I now store my groceries in my room for safe keeping.

Granted, it could have been worse. My passport, wallet, computer, and most importantly, my Burberry jacket, are all safe and sound, as they are locked in my room at all times, but the principle of the whole debacle seriously irks me. Get your own groceries!

Thank-you for allowing me to vent.

In true Kaitlyn Rose fashion, I didn’t let the thievery ruin my day. We all went out that night to blow off some steam on the dance floor at “The Works,” the nightclub in town. We busted out our best moves, of course, and made it a late night. While on the bathroom line, a sauced blonde Brit asked where my accent was from, to which I replied “New York!’ Her first question: “Have you seen LEGALLY BLONDE on Broadway?!” Need I say more?

After last night, we’re keeping it low key in Canterbury tonight and treating ourselves to a Tex-Mex dinner at Origins, a cheap yet delish restaurant on campus. Tomorrow night is 80s night at “The Venue.” Get ready for some outrageous pictures… Cheers!

Monday, October 6, 2008

My first trip! =)

Hi everyone! Long time no blog! I just got back from an absolutely incredible weekend tour of Oxford, the Cotswolds, Bath, and Stonehenge. It began at 4 AM on Saturday morning. I’ve never seen that hour before; the darkness is comparable to 11 PM and the coldness absolutely unspeakable, but that did not stop us from making it to our bus into London on time. After arriving in London, we hopped on our “International Friends” mini bus of 16. 5 American students, 5 Canadians, 2 Aussies, and 4 Singaporians made up the company. The bus chatter made me feel like I was back in my days as an intern at Fusia Communications, if you catch my drift.... After some light dozing on the mini bus, which, by the way, was driven by an adorable English man named David who we were undoubtedly obsessed with, we made it to our first destination: Oxford! Debbie of Oxford Tours led us around the city, pointing out where people from her nieces to J.R.R Tolkein studied. She was the most enthusiastic woman I’ve ever met. After the tour, which brought us around museums, libraries, various colleges, and famous buildings which have been in movies that feature famous Brits from James Bond to Harry Potter, we had some free time to explore the shops in the city. Jenna, Kathleen and I all bought matching “Oxford Blue” rugby shirts, our only souvenirs of the weekend.

After our Oxford departure, we made way for the Cotswolds, a collection of adorable English villages that are pretty much untouched by anything modern, except for the cars, which now line the streets and driveways. Burton and Stoe-on-the-Wold are two similar towns filled with shops and pubs, including the oldest in all of England! It was unfortunately closed, so we popped into the tea shop next door for some jacket potatoes, a dish that is equally huge and delicious on this side of the pond. We kept saying our moms would have loved these villages! We then moved onto the residential neighborhoods of the Cotswolds. Their beauty cannot be conveyed in words, so you must all promise to tour them at some point. You can thank me later. Upper and Lower Slaughter and Bibury were utterly picturesque. Each house was cuter than the next, making the Cotswolds a spot I’d love to visit again in my later years.

After a very full day, we made it to the hotel and essentially collapsed on our beds after enjoying the best meal we’ve had since our arrival. I took Oxford Debbie’s suggestion and bravely ordered a meat pie. My life changed and I no longer think the English food is gross. This pub alone was worth the trip into the countryside!

Sunday brought some rain and another full day of touring. We visited Bath and saw the Roman Baths, which are much cooler in person than in pictures. Thought it rained during our trip, the baths are under awnings. We then strolled around the city for a few hours, noticing that it is the most Italian of any English city. No surprise there, as Bath is know as a “Roman City.” From Bath, we moved on to Castle Combe, which was my favorite stop of the entire weekend. Castle Combe is another picturesque English village, similar to the Cotswolds, but 10 times better. It’s known as the prettiest English town, and with good reason. Little streams with little ducks made this city girl want to move into one of the little houses in little old Castle Combe… for retirement, of course! After Castle Combe, we visited Lacock, a medieval town which pops up all over every Harry Potter movie. I felt famous to walk on Daniel Radcliffe’s coveted ground. We visited a Scottish Wollen Shop, and chatted it up with a little old man, who was the best thing about Lacock!

Our final stop of the weekend was Stonehenge. Though it’s essentially a huge clump of rocks, it is awesome in its own right. We got some good pictures there and then snoozed our whole way back to Canterbury… after a three hour wait for a bus home in London, of course! No complaints, though. It was a great weekend, and I recommend the touring company “International Friends” to anyone and everyone looking for a fun weekend get-a-way.

Next weekend will be spent in London, followed by the ever-talked-about trip to Wales! Can you believe how close it is?! Cheers!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Little boxes on the hillside...

Nothing makes me happier than bright colors.. I’ve realized that I can still bust out my brights while in England. I walk, talk, act, and eat like an American. I can’t hide that, even while wearing black tights and grey dresses. (To be honest, I find the European double-utensil eating style kind of gross and bad mannered. Just my opinion…)

Yikes. Moving on… Today was a great one in Kent, England. The weather was definitely crisp, but the sky was blue and the grass was dry. Apparently, Canterbury is in a little weather bubble due to its placement near the surf, so it misses out on the London fog, rain, and dreariness. It is simply wonderful, and made today’s excursion into Whitstable, an adorable and COLORFUL seaside fishing village, perfectly picturesque. Kathleen, Jenna, and I strolled along the surf, proving that you certainly can visit the beach during fall in England. It was nice to smell low tide again while watching the waves crash on the rocks. We passed fishing boats unloading their catches for the afternoon and wished we could pocket some to take back and cook ourselves. (You’d think fish would be cheaper here, island and all. Not so much.) We then made our way to a waterfront, hilly area, filled to the brim with tiny cottages in a rainbow of shades, and seriously went to town with our cameras. Kathleen and I attempted to make an “SC” for Stonehill College on the porch of the vacant purple cottage with our bodies. Then we fell. Good times and go Skyhawks! It was a truly adorable little place to spend the afternoon. The people were the friendliest English folk we’ve met thus far, which helped make some delicious icing on an already rich cake.

Tomorrow will consist of preparations for my first legitimate excursion! I am so excited, but must apologize that the next blog will have to grace this page next week, when I can blabber on about the happenings in Oxford, Bath, Stonehenge, and wherever else I wander! Keep on keeping it real in the States. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Turning a Big Fat No to a YES!

Kaitlyn Elizabeth Rose just does not accept NO for an answer. Here’s some background: Each class at Kent meets twice a week, once in a giant lecture hall, and once in a smaller seminar group room. Each module (That’s Kent-speak for class) has about four different groups that meet at different times during the week. One ANNOYING seminar on my timetable (again, Kent-speak for schedule) was listed for Thursday night, while all my other commitments fit comfortably into Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday slots. The ladies in the land of schedule changing wanted nothing to do with my American self. (Their loss.) They said absolutely nothing could be done, and that I’d have to deal with the Thursday time, as other students with more legitimate conflicts have priority. (Psshh, traveling is a priority of mine. It’s a totally legitimate conflict. To be fair and honest, though, I played the vague card and said I had “Other Commitments.”) Too bad those ladies don’t know me. Professors don’t scare me, even if they do have pompous British accents and shelf after shelf of books they wrote, edited, and forced students to purchase. I went straight to Professor A.V. Chadwick of the Physics department and switched that “timetable” right up. My four-day weekend is now official.

Now for the good part of the story! After hearing about my fabulous schedule, Kathleen and I decided to go on a celebratory bar crawl in Canterbury, organized for new students by old students. We did not realize one crucial factor, however. When we popped into the initial bar, the crowd was a little… off. All the girls were decked in black corsets, and the guys in very ripped jeans. Hair colors were neon, and combed into mohawks or greased into dreadlocks. We figured, hey, it’s just England. Oh how wrong we were! After a while, Kathleen and I were the only “normal” ones in the bar. People were talking about past acid trips as if they were as commonplace as afternoon pints. (It’s insane. In England, a Carlsberg lager is a totally acceptable lunch. I like my pints of Strongbow, of course, but I still crave some legitimate afternoon sustenance.) We found out we were on the Metal Rock Society’s bar crawl. Kathleen, my Burberry jacket (which, for the first time, looked out of style, and a coat this beautiful does not deserve that!) and I booked it out of there as fast as we could, laughing the whole walk back to Ellenden Court, where we then charmed our three American friends with our tale as they enjoyed their stirfry dinner. It was an unusual way to celebrate, but it did the trick.

On another note, our Ireland trip is planned, now that my schedule is known. It took until October, but all went according to plan. I think that deserves a big CHEERS!