Category: Uncategorized

Heidelberg (and a bit of Star Wars)

These past few days I have spent in Heidelberg with Meike and her boyfriend Lukas, at his shared flat in the old city. Before coming here I saw the Star Wars premiere in London!

Unfortunately, I am not fancy or famous enough to have seen the real premiere with the movie stars but we did get to see a few of them on the red carpet before we saw the film at midnight. I got a particularly good photo of John Boyega, one of the leads of the new films. We left and came back around 1030pm when the real premiere was ending and I saw quite a few famous people wandering around and we got up to the front of the line right when Mark Hamill came out of the theater! We had to wait around a bit while they cleaned up the mess that all the rich/famous people made in the theater but we finally got in and got to sit back and enjoy Star Wars!! This is a spoiler-free zone so I will not say anything about the film other than that it was the most exciting midnight premiere I’ve been to and that the film is worth the hype!

After the film I had a long and complex journey to the Stansted airport for my cheap Ryanair flight to Frankfurt. I just stayed up all night to travel because I had to catch a bus to the edge of the city, a coach (that was late) up to the airport, and then finally my flight to Frankfurt, after which, I had to take a bus into the city and then catch a train to Heidelberg. By the time I reached Meike, I had been awake for 26 hours with only a few 30min naps on the bus and plane. Meike had other things to do anyway, so she helped me set up a place to sleep and I just slept for 20 hours to get back on schedule.

 

Visiting Heidelberg was more about visiting friends than seeing the city (though I did do that in between). The first night was a big all-night party in Lukas’ flat so we all made sure to sleep in extra late that morning and Meike and I went out that day to see the old city and to pick up party supplies. I met quite a few nice people at the party who were willing to accommodate my English needs. I still remember enough German to partially understand the stories people tell (and of course I know all the food related terms) but many times throughout the night people would translate a joke or two for me. I also, as I do, taught a lot of people a bit about Hawaiian history and had a hilarious conversation about Zappa and Prince with Lukas.

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The Neckar

The second night, we had yet another party planned but this one was a smaller Christmas party. It was Meike’s friend’s annual Christmas party that she throws with her husband and that usually consists of about 5-6 friends. This party was definitely quieter and I got to have a lot of nice conversations with everyone. The husband of Meike’s friend is American, so everyone spoke English for the most part around him anyway. There was a mini secret santa and someone ended up with a game called Black Stories and we played that together for a while. In the game, one person picks a card and reads a line of the story (which usually involves a death or something creepy), only they have all the details of what happened, and everyone else has to ask yes/no questions to try and figure out the entire story. The game was in German but we played it in both languages and it was hilarious!

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On Sunday, we planned to go out to Meike’s parents’ house for dinner. I had the morning to myself so I just went on a walk through the old city and saw all the different Christmas markets. Not much was open on Sunday but I was able to be out and enjoy the city for a while. Before heading off for dinner we drove over to Lukas’ family home and had tea with his parents, brother, brother’s girlfriend, and their grumpy cat. We made it out to Meike’s parents a bit early and helped them finish up dinner. Dinner was Winter Salat (a special lettuce that only grows in winter), Kartoffelklöße, Sauerkraut, and some sort of beef thing for everyone except Meike and me. Dessert was a dish with cream puffs covered in fruit sauce and whipped cream. The only translation for Kartoffelklöße is potato dumplings, but we did not think that was good enough of a name so Meike’s dad dubbed them “German Hot Balls,” and we all decided that was probably the best name for them in English. Meike’s parents were very sweet and we all told funny stories and I told them a bit about Hawaii (with Meike and Lukas as the expert translators). Meike also told her parents how much I like whisky and they had a nice collection, so after dessert we sat in the living room together and each had a glass of whisky (except Meike, who doesn’t like it, and Lukas, who had to drive).

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Today was my last full day in Heidelberg so Meike and I went out together to walk through the city and to do chores. Our first stop was the castle up on the hill, which was a bit of a walk. As with everything touristy, there was a special price to go inside but we mostly just wanted to see the view and hang out so that is exactly what we did! After the castle we went to meet up with Meike’s old school friend who was born in Venezuela, lived in the US for a while, and has been in Germany for the last 14 years. She is also pretty nerdy (she watches a lot of nerdy shows, does cosplay, plays video games, and goes to conventions) and we hit it off (just as Meike expected). After parting ways with that friend, we met up with students from Meike’s old English course and had Glühwein at the Christmas market.

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Me at the castle and an expert photobomb
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View from the castle

Meike’s goal in this time was to give me the full German experience via food (minus the meat). Just about every day for breakfast I’ve had good German bread, I had German beer at the house party, traditional German dinner and dessert with Meike’s parents, and German Glühwein at the market. We sadly have to say goodbye tomorrow, after a term in London and a few days in Germany together, but now I have a great reason to visit Germany again (and Meike and her parents want to come to Hawaii now 😛 ) Tomorrow I continue my German Holiday Adventure and head off to Stuttgart and then Munich for a couple days.

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Oxford (aka Hogwarts)

On Tuesday my friend and I went out to Oxfordshire and she showed me all around the town and the university campus.

The first stop we made was to climb the tower that overlooks the campus. Unfortunately, the student discounts in the town were only for students of Oxford… and we are not that fancy. This was the view!

Okay, be prepared for Hogwarts photos. Our next stop was the dining hall and the surrounding area, all of which was used in the first two Harry Potter films before they built the film studio.

I had quite a lot of fun geeking out about being at ‘Hogwarts.’

The other interesting fiction-related thing about this place is all the Alice in Wonderland history. In the great hall, one of the stained glass windows had some of the characters throughout (they were quite small so the photo’s are very zoomed in).

We continued around the town and had lunch at a little cafe that was also decorated with Alice in Wonderland art. Then we stopped by the Turf Tavern, which is the famous pub in Oxford and a well known stop for students and faculty of the university.

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They had a little list of the notable people who have been through their doors.

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We didn’t stop there! We continued on to the University museum and the Pitt Rivers collection. There were just so. many. things. My photos were mostly of the music sections. There was a huge collection of flutes, a ukulele, and a leather violin:

 

Bonus Picture!!!

It was a successful adventure! Before heading back to Swindon we stopped by a music shop and there were quite a few funny musical items.

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Cardiff

On Monday I went over to Cardiff to see my flatmate from RHUL and explore the city. As expected, it was quite rainy all day. She was used to it and I brought my rain coat so we powered through the weather and went to see the Cardiff castle. It was the one tourist thing I was willing to pay for since it was a self guided tour through the entire castle and the restored Victorian house.

I think we went a bit backwards because the first part of the castle we went through was set up to show how it was used as an air raid shelter during WWII. There were old posters along the walls and a loud speaker that played the shelter warning message.

Moving on, we learned about how the castle was thought to be a certain age but when a Roman style wall was uncovered the age of the castle was pushed back by 1000 years.

We got to go up into the main castle and learn about how the rooms would have been decorated for the people living there. IMG_8008.jpg

One of the funny things was the toilet that was just a hole in the rock that opened up to the yard below:

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After seeing the castle, we went over to the restored Victorian house that was built on the same grounds. This is me with the house in the distance:

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The house was used as a music and drama school for a few years after the family sold it but then it was decided that it should be restored and used as a museum. These photos are of the main hall decorated for Christmas, a bookshelf in the library, and the chimneypiece in the library.

My friend and I spent the rest of the day enjoying the city. We got lunch together at a little vegan/vegetarian shop that she takes all her friends to. We also went to this amazing 3 story used book shop but I had to control myself since I’ve already bought more than a few used books while here.

It was sad to say goodbye to my flatmate yet again but now I have the perfect reason to go visit Wales again!

 

Bonus Picture!!!

John Batchelor with a seagull on his head!

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Avebury

Subtitle: The Stonehenge that isn’t a tourist trap.

This weekend I moved out of my flat at Royal Holloway and bid farewell to my majestic Hogwarts-like study abroad campus.

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I set out for Swindon with all my bags (I looked like quite the bag lady). Saturday evening was just a relaxing night in, since I was quite tired from traveling.

Unfortunately, Stonehenge has turned into quite a tourist trap costing £15-20 to get in and another £15 to take the private tour bus up to the site. So, as a perfectly good substitute, we went out to Avebury to see the stone circles and giant man-made hill.

Unfortunately, one of the big sites to see was closed for renovations but we got to go on a nice walk around the area. We were trying not to be touristy, so we didn’t pay to go in to the museum but we went around to see the outside of it (The Christmas tree photo).

 

My time in Swindon is mostly a relaxing vacation but I’m going over to Cardiff tomorrow to visit one of my flatmates from RoHo!

 

Bonus Picture!!!

My new best friend: Hamish the cat ❤

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Stratford-upon-Avon

My last big excursion before moving out of my flat was to Stratford-upon-Avon! I missed the original group excursion so my friend and I booked train tickets to go up on Friday. It was quite a journey on the train but I slept most of the way. The sun sets quite early this time of year but we were able to get there in the early afternoon so we had a few hours of daylight left. We made our way to the old town and looked around at some of the statues and old buildings that have been kept up.

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These were some of the buildings and the Christmas decorations that they had up around the town.

I got a student price admission ticket and got to see the Shakespeare house, the Harvard house, the Hall house, and the Trinity church where Shakespeare is buried. I told the people in the Harvard house that I was American (I mean they could probably tell) and they told me the story of how the University was named after the Harvard that grew up in that home. Most people think he founded the school but he just left his inheritance to the local college when he died and it later became the University.

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Shakespeare’s birthplace house

Most of the furniture in the homes were just replicas or more modern styles but certain things were original. This stained glass window is from 1400 and was found while someone was going through the basement of the Harvard house. The Hall house had the epitaphs of Susanna and John Hall and I thought the first line of Susanna’s was pretty funny.

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Trinity Church
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Cursed be he that moves my bones

We only made it to the statues after the sun had set, which made them a bit more creepy than they probably already were. Lady Macbeth was especially frightening.

The town itself was beautiful too (beyond all the history in the homes). The Trinity church stands right next to the river and it was quite picturesque!

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After a long day of walking around we needed to go catch our train back. We had a bit of time left and it was cold so we found a pub to sit in that just happened to be from the 1470s.

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Stratford-upon-Avon was definitely worth the trip because we got a beautiful day to explore and see all the historical sites around. After we got back, I spent the night chatting with my American friends before we all left in the morning (everyone else had left already).

 

 

Bonus Picture!!!

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We should bring back the neck ruff style 

 

Last Weekend in London

I finally finished all my final papers and turned them in last Thursday, after a few fights with the printer. In the afternoon I was able to go to meet Meike before her Mumford & Sons concert. We didn’t have much time in the city but we enjoyed our last day walking around London together. Meike did a bit of holiday shopping and then we went to this used music store we had been told about.

It. Was. Amazing. I got to dig through these boxes of flute music and ended up with three duet books.

We continued on to look for dinner. I think I scared Meike at one point because I screamed “Moomins” and ran up into this store:

I refrained from buying anything but it was still fun to look around for a bit… Meike just waited outside for me, she’s clearly had a deprived childhood.  At the end of the night, Meike had to run off to her concert and left me in Waterloo station with this brass band:

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It was a quick trip but it was nice to get out after finishing my finals and it was a relaxing way to say goodbye (for now) to the crazy city of London.

Until next time!

Snickerdoodles Go International

This weekend was the intensive orchestra rehearsal weekend for the Royal Holloway Symphony Orchestra. To break up all the music making we had a few social gatherings and activities. On the first night, we all went out to a pub after the rehearsal for a relaxing evening. On the second day, during the longer break there was a Bake Off, due to the popularity of “The Great British Bake Off.” We didn’t have the facilities for a live bake off so we all made our cakes and cookies at home and brought them to the rehearsal to be judged by everyone. I have already revealed what I made in the title: Yes, Granny’s (and now my) snickerdoodle recipe has gone international. None of the English students knew what they were but fortunately, the director is American and so is one of the oboe players, so they joined me in chanting the word “Snickerdoodle!” Besides the name, they aren’t very odd cookies and soon everyone was trying them. The most common reaction was a face that somewhat resembles this 😮 followed by this 😀

This was the spread, and Meike cutting her carrot cake.

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Our director posted the results on Facebook. I won 3rd place! But that’s not what mattered, what mattered was that we all got to eat snickerdoodles.

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After we were all somewhat disgustingly full of cake, we got back to rehearsals and ended the night with an 80s themed party at the campus pub.