England! and Scotland!

Well, we’ve made it to our 9th country of the year (Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, USA, Canada, Iceland, England, Scotland)! This is a personal record for me in one year, though not all of them (or even most) are new. Ideally, we’re going to get to at least 7 or 8 more before the end of the year, but we’ll see!

We’re staying with Luke’s mom (and sister) around Huddersfield (between Manchester and Leeds), but we just got back from a trip up north to Edinburgh (Scotland) and Lindisfarne/Northumberland (England) with Luke’s dad and his wife. It was the first time I had met either of them, but we ended up having a very nice time. Here are just a few pictures from the trip. 

New Lanark, a communist/socialist mill town from the 1800s

A church in Edinburgh’s city center

Edinburgh Castle, probably the inspiration for Casterly Rock from Game of Thrones

Alnwick gardens, which we walked through on our way back south

Alnwick Castle, where Harry Potter and Downtown Abbey have both filmed!

Luke at Lindisfarne castle

All in all our was a great trip and I’d love to go back to Edinburgh again to see Holyrood Palace (the royal residence in Scotland ) and more of the outskirts of town.  Another trip to Lindisfarne would certainly be interesting,  too!

Takeoffs and landings (but mostly layovers) 

One of the things about being super budget travelers (which we are) is that you sometimes find some very odd flights with interesting times/caveats to them. In order to get to London from Detroit for under $300 each, we had to have two layovers; one in Boston, Massachusetts (USA), and one in Reykjavik, Iceland. Oh, and each was 9.5 hours. Since we knew we didn’t need to be up and running right away, we decided to go for it.

Boston was great. The public transport made it easy (super easy) to get in,  get around,  and get back out. The weather was lovely and after some lunch,  we decided to go on one of those hop-on, hop-off tours. Typically not our style,  but when pressed for time,  it was the perfect option (plus a Groupon and some deals from the organizer made it very affordable).

 

Old Ironsides, aka the USS Constitution

“Nevermore!” Edgar Allen Poe and a raven, appropriately.

The harbor area from our tour bus

So we wandered around Boston (mostly via bus,  but Luke had his backpack and a computer bag, so it wasn’t all easy)  and headed back to the airport around 6:30 for our 9:30 flight. Our flight from Detroit was at 10 a.m., but we were anxious and hadn’t slept much the night before,  so we were fairly exhausted after our day in the city. Add to that a desire to try to get on English time and I’m sure you can see where this is headed.

Feeling bogged down with the backpack, we grabbed some jackets and our Kindles and checked the bag. Our thought was that we had done so well in Boston that Iceland could only be better, so why bother with the weight.  We got a snack and got ready for our flight to Iceland!

Well,  fast forward 5 hours and we had one of the bumpiest landings either of us has ever experienced. Even after the wheels touched down and we were sitting at the gate,  the plane was still shaking from side to side. And there was rain, SO MUCH RAIN. It was 6:30 am Iceland time, and we were already exhausted.  I had tried to book a trip to the Blue Lagoon, but the only entrance time was at 8 am, and we weren’t convinced we’d make it through immigration and customs in time to get the bus (but of course we did, so that was pretty disappointing). So, instead of a relaxing morning at a natural hot spring, we braved the cold (5°c!) and rain and hopped a bus into the city.

 

Leif Erikson and an ultra-modern church in Reykjavik 

 

A view of Reykjavik from the top of the church

The first thing we came to was a huge church (Hallgrímskirkja). While neither terribly old nor ornate, it was certainly an interesting contrast to the more quaint buildings surrounding it. We ended up going up to the top (for about $9 each, but it would’ve been easy [if unethical] to avoid paying) and the view of the surrounding area was great. The wind, however, made it sound like there were sirens in the top of the tower and the rain and cold had us running back inside very quickly.

 

Cute Icelandic row houses

 

Toast! Delicious, but this meal cost us nearly $30 USD

We walked around a bit more and got some breakfast, but it was expensive, lacking in substance, and not that tasty (and super expensive). Overall, the jetlag and rain/wind drove us out of Iceland quickly. We went back to the airport, hunkered down by a heater, tried to dry off, and took a nap before our flight. Little did we know that would be the most sleep we’d be getting for the next 24 hours…

Back at it (again) 

Well,  let’s see… I’ve left Korea (for the time being) and am currently on the road with my boyfriend, Luke. We spent 5 days in Taiwan before heading to Michigan to see my family. We went tubing down a river,  swam in lakes,  ate too much good food,  probably drank too much good beer, saw my grandparents,  went to Chicago,  Montana,  Niagara Falls, Cleveland, and Boston.  It was a fun, if exhausting, 5 weeks. 

At Lake Michigan

With my family 🙂

 

Playing some mini-golf in Chicago with friends Max and Meaghan

Enjoying a Montana sunset with Tory

The view heading into Niagara Falls (horseshoe falls)

Currently, we’re sitting on a train heading north on the lady leg of our journey from Ann Arbor,  MI(my family) to Huddersfield, UK (his family). We left at 7:30 am, Tuesday October 4th  Ann Arbor time and will get in at about 2 pm on Thursday,  October 6th UK time, about 49 hours later. We had two long layovers in Boston,  Massachusetts and Reykjavik,  Iceland,  and we were in a hotel last night,  but hardly slept due to a bit of a crazy incident (and the impetus for restarting blogging).  After arriving exhausted from Iceland, we took an Uber to our hotel.  Long story short,  the parking aisles at Heathrow are not lettered alphabetically and we had quite a time finding our driver. We checked into the hotel, changed, and decided we’re hungry enough to go out.  Found an amazing Nepalese place and had lamb, shrimp, and chicken,  plus beer,  for super cheap. Got back to the hotel, showered, and passed out. Suddenly it’s 3 a.m. and Luke and I hear a noise.  Our room had an outer door and a room door. It sounds like someone just opened the our outer door and is shouting. Luke gets up to check,  and yes someone has opened it,  but the chain lock stopped them from getting in.  They are clearly drunk and yelling at us to get out of “their” room.  Luke tells me to dial reception and while I’m doing that,  he talks to them through the door. They ask if we’ve reserved this room,  and he says yes,  we have. I’m trying to dial reception but the phone isn’t connected (of course!). They agree to go back to the desk and Luke and I debate going to the desk, too. We don’t want to walk out, in case they’re robbers and about to mug us,  but we don’t want to leave the room, in case they try to break in while we’re gone. Finally, we agree to just go to reception together and it turns out they double booked the room, gave these people a second key,  and scared the pants off of us. All was fine in the end, and we got the room comped for the night (in the morning, after talking to the manager who seemed horrified). However,  we were so freaked out,  angry,  and so confused on time that neither of us really got back to sleep (after a day and a half of traveling and not sleeping much) .  

To continue the adventures,  when we got to King’s Cross Station. This morning,  our train was canceled! We got bumped to one 30 minutes later,  but with no reserved seats. Unlike in Korea,  there is no “show up and get a seat” policy so we fought/sprinted our way through the crowd to be sure we got seats. Finally, we’re  on our way north to Luke’s family. Definitely an exhausting trip! 

29

And we’re at 29 more days. I will be in FL visiting family for 4 of those days, so 25 more at home and then…Adventure! A new home! Who knows what.

I sent off for my Visa yesterday. I couldn’t get to the FedEx store before then because of the snow and cold (20 some odd inches of snow and sub-zero temps do not make for easy travel). Also, despite having successfully sent out packages with pre-paid return envelopes three times in the last few months, the guy at FedEx told me that it wasn’t possible to pre-pay for return shipping. I was pretty ticked off with him and his inability to be helpful. I walked in and the first thing he did was send me to a computer, despite me saying I had never had success with their online system. Guess what? Within 2 minutes I got an error message and had to redo all the paperwork by hand.

I think this post isn’t making much sense. I have a horrible migraine (the weather is changing just about every 30 seconds) and drank a cup of coffee, took two excedrin migraine pills, and feel wonky. Instead of trying to do anything productive today (like clean or sort through clothes or pack for FL), I’m watching vintage Doctor Who and trying not to puke. So much fun.

Weather questions

So, if you haven’t guessed, I live in Michigan. I love it here. It snows, it gets hot, the leaves change, new things grow…I love the seasons. In reading up on Korea, I’ve found that people really tend to complain about the hot and the cold. I imagine that it is quite a bit more humid in some places, being that it is a peninsula surrounded by ocean (rather than fresh water? I don’t know, it just seems like ocean winds would be stronger than lake ones?), but it can’t be that extreme, right? I guess I’m just a little worried that I’m going to freeze to death (despite long underwear, flannel lined jeans, fuzzy socks, and down coats).

I mean it, EVERY SINGLE BLOG says the same thing “OMG! KOREA IS SO COLD!” Are all the native teachers from southern climates? Does the humidity make that much of a difference? When I lived in Spain, I laughed at my host mother who told me that the cold would “get into [my] bones.” While it was chilly (January-May) with the near constant rain, it was certainly nothing like back home.

There isn’t much I can do about the weather in Korea, except experience it for myself and hope I’ve packed enough to be prepared for almost anything. In the mean time, I’m going to enjoy the free hot chocolate I got today (care of JSTOR!), the snow coming down outside my building, and the ability to multitask.

Pure Michigan

Pure Michigan

Oh, also, I made gingerbred cookie dough last night and I’m going to bake them today (HORRAY!). We’ll see how they turn out and I might post the recipe if they come out well!

Recently…

The thing that I often forget about blogging is that what I post doesn’t need to be from that day. It seems like I don’t have enough going on in my day-to-day life to warrant a post, but I can easily accumulate content in the span of a week.

I’m going to try to be better about posting, especially since it seems like I will have a good deal of free time coming up. My job is ending 2 weeks earlier than expected, so I’m currently scrambling to find something to hold me over until I leave for Korea. My departure date got pushed later (again) not because of the government shutdown (as I originally thought) but because someone didn’t forward a piece of mail correctly. HOPEFULLY, I will leave in January or so, but more than likely I will be leaving in March. That’s much longer than I originally anticipated, so I’m looking for work (again).

Anyway, here are some photos of my life recently. I think a monthly photo recap might be a “thing” I do from now on. So, here we go…

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I love the fall colors! Also, this is what happens when I use a real camera…

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But really…campus is so pretty this time of year (even in the rain)!

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Adam and I went to visit his family in Kentucky. We checked out the Falls of the Ohio (where Lewis and Clark started their journey). The fossil beds are a bit surreal, especially as the sun is going down.

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Another campus shot. I love the colors and textures in this one…and the light that only a late fall afternoon can bring (also, again with the real camera).

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This is before it was below freezing in the mornings; dew! on a spider web!

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My evenings recently have included a glass of wine, knitting, and Lost (WE’RE ALMOST DONE!).

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I made us dinosaur costumes for Halloween; clearly we are some ferocious dinos!

 This post brought to you by: the server down-time at work! I can’t work, but I can post!

Blender magic

I’m pretty sure that blenders are magic. I am not, by any means, a picky eater (difficult, yes, but not picky- no gluten, no dairy, no pork, no shellfish, but otherwise I eat pretty much everything else but okra). However, I am (like a lot of people, I assume) lazy. It takes TIME! and EFFORT! to prepare/eat food and, frankly, sometimes I just want to eat something NOW.

Enter the blender. In about 5 minutes I can whip up a smoothie that is delicious and (fairly) healthy. Too hot to turn on the oven? Blenders are the perfect. I usually just throw in whatever fruit I have (peaches, plums, grapes, blueberries, melon, whatever), some green stuff (kale, spinach, avocado, celery, cucumber), add a touch of water or soymilk (depending on the combo), and some ice cubes. Sometimes I add honey. Sometimes I use frozen fruit (we ALWAYS have frozen strawberries in the fridge). Occasionally I add peanut butter. I am not a rigid recipe follower, so it changes every single time. Sometimes I have a smoothie for a meal, sometimes for a snack. No matter what, it is always delicious and fast.

Yesterday  made a cantaloupe and avocado smoothie and drank the equivalent of half a medium cantaloupe and half a large avocado in about 30 minutes. I have very little self-control and I don’t even feel a little bit sorry. SO DELICIOUS.

Today’s smoothie: Cantaloupe and avocado

Time: 10 minutes prep (if you’re a slow cutter like me), 1 minute blending
Servings: 2 (approximately, they’re around 8 oz. each, or just drink this all yourself)

Ingredients:

  • Half a ripe, medium cantaloupe, cut into chunks
  • Half a ripe avocado (I used a Hall, but feel free to use a Hass and put the whole thing in)
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 1 T honey (optional, but I like it)
  • 1/4-1/2 C water

Instructions:

  • Put ice cubes, avocado, and cantaloupe in blender (in that order- it actually does make a difference). Add honey (if you’re using it) and 1/4 C water.
  • Blend. If it’s not blending nicely (because, say, you have a crappy blender), add some more water.
  • Pour, drink, revel in your amazingness.