Saturday, February 27, 2016

Reflections on traveling abroad, alone.

Now that I'm back in America, I have some final reflections from my 2 weeks away.

What I'll miss about the uk:
-The smell of toast in the morning
-Cool Humidity
-Birds of all types chirping in the morning
-Lights that turn yellow before they turn green
-Standing at bars  (rather than barstools)
-British accents
- more lax about things like personal hygiene
- poached eggs

Things I could take or leave:
- shops closing down after 6 (thought I guess Albuquerque does that to sine extent)
-posh culture
-dapper men
-8 million people
- transport via tube

What I'm looking forward to upon return:
- Sun
- vast open spaces
- my park
- my sweet Sid
- my full music collection (with the exception of wax tailor I only allowed myself to listen to British artists during my travels. Which turned out to be not so bad)

Thoughts on packing an urban backpack:
While I greatly enjoyed the pride I felt at being able to carry everything I needed for two weeks x4, it caused some hassles... and there are a few things I would change.
I was told twice that I was "over dressed" which I assume was in reference to my backpack. One guy told me I looked like I was ready for the arctic (nope) and another asked if I was sleeping on a bench that night. To which I replied that I didn't know yet (though I did).
At the end of my trip, my backpack weighed about 27lbs, but my shoulder bag was probably about 10. I tried to mostly acquire light clothing, though I did pick up one pretty dense rock and 3 books. I didn't even buy gifts for all the people I thought of.... due to the diminishing space. But there are some things I would do differently.
1) enough socks and underwear for the whole trip (I ended up buying both, but more for the opportunity than out of need, which there also was)
2) two jackets and two pairs of shoes proved helpful though not necessary. I could have done with less shirts. Because I bought 4 shirts and two pants my first day I about doubled my wardrobe. I would have rather that space for gifts our souvineers.
3) fixed my buckle before I left. I meant to replace the buckle oh my backpack. I ended up just taking it off and tying it, which took a bit more time but had the desired effect of causing the backpack to rest well on my hips so I could hardly feel the 30lbs shadowing me.
4) I was pleased that I happened to but a bigger shoulder bag, as it held more of the crap I acquired, for better or worse. I was also glad that I decided against getting rid of my computer. Even though it's a mini, it's at least 3lbs that I carried around all of England but  only used twice. I had considered wiping the memory and recycling it at the beginning of my trip, but when my phone started flaking out I was glad I had it as back up.

Final thoughts:
I feel that I achieved my goals of finding historical context, self reflecting, and challenging myself to do new things. I made memories and came to understandings that will affect the rest of life. However, I spent more money than I felt cause to... and I missed my beautiful community. I am looking forward to putting my energies into my community now that I have fulfilled my need for far off adventures. I will always have a sense of wanderlust that is kept in balance by my homing nature. I am fortunate to have a profession where I can achieve both, and I am looking forward to giving my all to that.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Last day in the U.K.

I took a little break from blogging for my birthday, and because by the time I arrived to my humble bnb for the night, I was to disenchanted to type anything unbiased.

I woke up on my birthday on a 7th floor flat in the heart of London. I snoozed for an hour then went in a run like the Londoners do- weaving in and out of tourists along busy Oxford street, crossing under the marble arch into Hyde park and back. Running through all those changing obstacles was way more intense than running on trail, although the air quality and hard pavement make it less ideal.
I spent the rest of the morning with my friend Jodi, walking around town, shopping at Primark and Snog and sine strange little sex shops in SoHo. It was nice to feel a little more like a local, but maybe I let it go to my head. I left Jodi for my much anticipated room, and adorable- looking room on the south bank of the Thames, and after just one turn around, I made it.
Immediately I was disappointed. Not only did I get asked to buy a high schooler cigarettes, the room want in great condition and the sheets weren't clean.  This little sanctuary  where I was going to reflect on my last year didn't have the vibe I was hoping for, and ironically was the least appealing of all the airbnbs I stayed in.
So, as to not dwell, but enjoy the daylight remaining, I head out toward the river accompanied by Damien Rice, and watched the sun fade and the building lights come on. 

After a peaceful little dinner in a building where they used to forge iron, I made easy to the Globe for one of the best theatrical experiences of my life. 

Turns out The Winters Tale, for which I bought the last available ticket, which was two seats from the corner of the small stage, was actually in the Sam Whitiker theatre, a smaller indoor style theatre styled for Shakespeare's later plays. That means that there were only 100 or so audience members, and at times I could have reached out ans touched the actors.
The inside of the theatre had a 17th venture feel, complete with astrology paintings on the ceiling. The seats were but benches, but since I was on the front row, I could lean into the railing. The actually performance was remarkable, stylized, intimate and entertaining. I loved every moment of it, and it was worth every pence. From actors belting the fourth wall by handing off items, drinking wine our kissing the audience to several interesting dance and singing scenes, I felt fully enraptured in the play.
Sadly, it came to an end, and I decided to walk home feeling only a bit nervous about walking home alone at night. I returned to my unappealing room and shut out the world. 

This morning I packed up my bags, though not for the last time. I still have two days of journeying and much time and space to conquer. With so much ahead of me, I didn't want to do anything to complicated.... but I DID go to the museum of natural history, the science museum and the Victoria and Albert museum. 

But not before having my third avocado and toast.  :) 

I mostly explored the science museum because it cost £8 to do my bags at the natural history museum! I walked through the halls though, and to the Darwin Centre, where I enjoyed watching scientists work on a whale skeleton that had been on display for 81 years, as well as rows and rows of old collections in jars. (Unfortunately I mostly used my camera to capture these).

At the science museum, I enjoyed the clock and watch collection, and the basement collection of appliances from people's homes.

 Not only was I overwhelmed by the 5 floors of stuff and information..... there must have been at least a thousand school children screaming and running through any of the exhibits. Overhearing the delight of two girls behind me in the space room, made me think about how I once marveled museums but now am overwhelmed by them. As a child, I think museums are a great way to introduce you to single items and concepts, and start connecting them. Once you maintain your own web of understanding, they are of less use, save the areas of your interest. 

I only walked through the Victoria and Albert museum on my way to the train, but now I can say I've been there. I arrived ay the airport a few hours before my flight but I didn't want any complications.
Next stop, NYC... A much needed catch up date with my dear friend Stephanie. Then to Denver for another one with my cousin Brittney before arriving in the caring hands of my lover, and finally going home.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Eyes and ears in England

My what my eyes have seen today and my ears did hear.
I saw:
*a group of dancers singing hari Krishna in the street, accompanied by a man decorated in los of yellow and gold fabric
*A GIANT disco ball

*dozens of bow and arrows, spears, guns, locks, purses, beads, drums, jewelry, capes and ancient toiletries... organized by item in the Pitts River museum in Oxford

*fossils and animals relics of all types in the most beautiful museum I've ever been in

Just upon entry it was love. 

*a piece of road paved in ox and sheep knuckle bones

And I've heard:

*A live organist playing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor at Oxford's town hall

*3 hours of British poets and comedians performing live at the poetry cafe near Drury lane (where sadly there is muffin man)

What a day indeed! And a short post since it is technically tomorrow, and my birthday.

I think I enjoyed the museum as much if not more than the parts within. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Aaah! Oxford...

Today's highlights were: Sun, skies and beautiful buildings. (And dare I say, my phone)
The only downside was some immense cramping that made everything uncomfortable for most of the day. 

I woke up in my beautiful bedroom to the sun coming over the Royal Crescent across the street. After some dancing, I went for a stroll with a playlist of English musicians around Victoria park. It was a lovely sunshiney morning and my spirits were high.

 I came back to pack up again and hit the Jane Austen center. I was never a huge fan, though I watched the 2005 Pride and Prejudice a few nights ago, but this museum was captivating. They started you off with a live Museum curator giving a history of Jane Austen's family. Then they release you into a room that explains what residents of Bath were like when Jane Austen lived there. I most enjoyed (and part of the reason I went was) the costume dress up area, and they also had a calligraphy pen to play with. 

Some fun facts:

*Jane Austen's books weren't published with her name until after she died (in 1817, the first in her family, other than her father to pass, and just 41).
*She nor her sister Cassandra ever married. But her 5 brothers did, I think.
*her brother Henry named the books Persuasion and P&P, which were better than her original titles
I finished my tour by buying two books - Austen's history of England, written when she was 11, and a book of spirits she shared with her sister. Then I went up for a tea.

 Eating sandwiches full of dairy was definitely a bad idea in hindsight but I wanted the experience.

And I got to dine with Mr. Darcy.

After tea I departed Bath for Oxford passing the Didcot power plant just hours(?) Before part of it exploded. (

Every new town I visit I swear I like more than the last. I am so thankful I journeyed beyond London, and am already dreaming I could stop time and walk across this whole country. 

As I write this, chomping away at a veggie burger and chips in lieu, yet again, of the salad I was planning on, 

and I'm listening to two bearded Oxfordians discuss American pop culture due to the terrible Katy Perry/Miley Cirus station on. (That was auto corrected to millet citrus)

Yet Oxford initially was much different than I expected. I imagined Charles Darwin types walking around big buildings stroking their beards. I was met with a newer vibe than I expected. A modern town pulsing with new thought but built on the shoulders of giants.

I arrived with a couple hours to kill so I just key my feet direct me. I wound up in a very overwhelming museum of Art and Architecture, where I passed an hour comparing old coins, learning about historical material conservation, and passing mummies and Grecian statutes. Then I made my way "home"for the night, taking a long but magical detour. 

I think my favorite part of England has been making connections to places I've read about, and imagining the inventors, explorers and philosophers who created and shaped our world standing on the same streets and seeing some of the same sights. I'm looking forward to Museuming tomorrow before returning to London. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

The most beautiful city...

Bad news: my phone broke again, my period started (so now I'm extra emotional and have no appetite), my credit card got declined on the train and my airbnb host won't give me his address
Good news: my phone came through, so did my host, and I had an INCREDIBLE tour of the most beautiful city I've ever been in.

Today makes a full week of my journey and I know, despite challenges, this week is gonna be full of delightment.
I remember flipping through a travel channel where a woman was on a tour of Bath. Although she was American, she called it Baaath, sort of like the Brits do. I, however, got teased for my pronunciation... so now I'm referring to it just as Bath, with a softer a.
I've been thinking a lot about the accent here and how they pronounce vowels. I thought they really elongated their vowels, especially compared to Americans, but then I heard "p'haps" and "shre" (for Shire) and realized that they like their Oooeau sounds like we like our hard As and Es. They make "No" quite fun. Anyway, this is what runs through your head when you have no one to talk to all day.
So back to Bath. I arrived at lunch and grabbed a falafel. I felt kind of guilty at not getting something authentic (though this was real Halal falafel) but I needed to find a map and orient myself sans smartphone. And use a loo.
Once I walked the other 100 feet out of the dingy falafel place and into the town, my mood was lightened and my eyes glittered. Wow! Tan limestone surrounded by green hills... Even waking around at night, when my phone could take photos, the town dazzled.

Added to the tranquility of the town was a street performer playing classical guitar. I'll add more photos/videos when I can load them from my camera. 
Since I didn't know where to drop my bags, I carried then around for an hour while scoping  out the shops. I DID buy a shirt for a pound at a charity shop. I need to stop adding things to my bag but I can't help cheap, good quality clothes! Then I happened into a fudge shop with free samples, good jokes, and an almost 200 year old butter-free recipe. 
At 2:00 I joined the mayor's tour which was introduced by the mayor himself! (And he had a neck tattoo hidden under his collar). The tour was amazing! so much history here! First the Romans used the springs here, then in medieval times it was used, though not very appealing, due to their hygiene, or lack of. Then the queen found the water to heal her gout, and invited everyone to come, so it became a special place... And the guy who ran it insisted that everyone who comes here, once they enter the walls and sign in are equal... farmers and dukes and all. I hope I remember more from the tour but I'll post it with photos, for context. 
An old bath at the end of a walkway, right past where Jane Austen's aunt got busted for shoplifting. 
I left the tour a touch early so I could make it to the astronomy museum, held in the home of the man who discovered Uranus! I was so giddy walking down the path to the museum, but I did stop top notice that rent prices here are reasonable... so Bath is noted as a potential space for me to run away and become a schoolteacher or bartender. Or both. 
I should mention that despite a chill in the air, I escaped the drizzle in Bournemouth and actually saw some blue sky today! 
So after I got my fill of astronomical history, I hoped over to "Sally Lunn's Historic eating house and museum" to taste Sally's buns...a 300 year old recipe. I had planned to have a proper tea, but seeing as that included a lot of dairy and sugar, I opted for a veggie plate. Still good, and not too expensive, unlike some of the places for an afternoon tea in town.
I finally made it to my airbnb, only through some incredible miracles of the God Mercury, and am now typing under the huge ceilings in a spacious room in the Marlborough homes, built in the 18th century just east of where all the sewage was dumped, to protect the Royal Crescent from the stench. My tour guide called this row of Gregorian houses to be the most expensive wind block in history. And I'm staying here for £ 30. Not bad. 
I'm going to check out Jane Austen's museum and try at a tea again before training to Oxford! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Frank in stein

Today, I...

*Slept in... finally catching up on sleep with a 12 hour sleep session, minus the hour break for chatting at 1am

*walked around West End of Southampton- through forests and town. Bought a kinder egg.
*took a bus to a train to a train to Bournemouth. 

*Saw Kyri! Who I had not seen for 4 years! 
*had a vegan lunch (curry!) at a place called Mad Cucumber.
*walked around the Victorian town appreciating the subtleties of time and culture. Saw Mary Shelly's grave.

*had a miniature freak out when my phone randomly shut down and refused to turn on. But it reminded me to be grateful for what I have and for each moment here. Time is swiftly dwindling down to 4 full days. 
*planned my next two stops: Bath and Oxford
*had a delightful homemade dinner of chickpea patties and sweet potato chips (fries)
Now time to work through this library book I've been lugging around.

Travel scorecard:

WINNING: relaxing, observing

ON PAR: sense of direction, technology

FAILING: packing, maximizing vacation experiences

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Gettin' Down with it.

I don't have much too comment about my travels today cause I did s lot of self reflecting, and I don't think that belongs here.  I woke up and ran up Kings Arms Street, which I meant to get photos of. It's about a 50 degree incline? I ran it 5 times, enjoying the warm most air and the alternating squacking of crows and cooing of doves. Then went to the conservatory to enjoy a breakfast for a queen:oj, tea, toast, granola and yogurt, plus delicious eggs mushrooms and roasted tomatoes. I almost ate all my mushrooms! There were some interesting jams like ginger and  lemon-lime, but I stuck with apricot. 

I wrote a letter while watching British soaps. 

I checked out the quaint farmers market in Arundel, bought an Apple and an almond bread. I'm still impressed ay how cheap bread is here. 

Then walked 4 or 5 miles through the South Downs, enjoying every moment of the birds, the mud, the wind, rain and sun. most of my photos were camera photos so they'll come later. 

I did find Repunzel's castle
and ate my treats with this view. 
Then feel in the mud on my way back. 
Then I made my slow, sleepy journey to Southampton. It's a newer-feeling city. Lots if chain restaurants and buses. I had one of the worst meals I've ever eaten at a pub where I thought I could watch rugby, but they just talked about all the football (soccer for US) games going on. I had some gelato for desert too make up for a shoddy dinner but my dairy intolerance reminded me that that also was a poor idea. 
So there's some room for improvement tomorrow. I'm traveling to another new place to see an old friend and hopefully user her laundry. At least I have a sweet little airbnb to cuddle up in. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

The 4 rules of travel according to Cass

There are so many ways to travel. Different things to emphasize, ways to meet needs and challenge selves. 
It seems that many people get rather stressed on vacation, feeling pressure to see as much as they can, get the best deals, eat at the best rated restaurants, etc. I've realized on this trip that I've developed a travel style that repels such stress. It's my vacation, after all... and after these two weeks of bliss I'm scheduled to work for 9 weeks without a day off. So this is how I ensure I make the most of it.
1) identify my primary needs:
*Warmth (bitter temps in my explorations are fine as long as I can ensure a warm bed  to return to at the end of a long day in the chill)
* fresh vegetables (without which I will get cranky and tired)
*exercise (walking is not high enough in intensity. Runs seem unobtrusive to others, but I really just wanna do some explosive hiit workouts at 10:00pm or 7:00am sometimes)
2) establish goals of travel:
*attain historical context
*walk a lot
*immerse in another culture
*reflect on previous 27 years of life and make mental preparation for the next 14
3) beyond hopes of meeting primary needs, abolish all sets of expectations
*expectations only lead to disappointment. Don't expect the bus to arrive on time or your dinner to be served warm and you'll be pleasantly surprised when these things do happen. **Warning:this can take years of practice.
4) Find beauty in simple things.
Sure it was worth paying £11 for a tour of a King's palace... gold covered dragons are beautiful in their own way. But watching the light reflect through a yellow glass lens onto 400 year old cobblestones has beauty, too. As does hearing a child exclaim she's figured out a riddle... Training your eye and ear and nose to appreciate the simplicity in life will reduce the stress of having a perfect vacation.
The castle was closed but the churches were beautiful! 
Today, I met my goals through avocado toast and cake.

I walked up and down some hills in the small town of Arundel, took a bath, ate an entire container of hummus and 4 teacups of granola. I danced a lot in my bed and breakfast room.I took a lot of selfies. And I watched pride and prejudice. Needs met. Goals achieved. Good day.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A simple satisfying day.

I've much enjoyed a full day with my friends Joe and Katie. 

We had a simple but fulfilling day that started with an avocado/toast/tomato and poached egg breakfast, inspired and enjoyed by yours truly.

We went on a nice walk along the sea, then came back for a lunch before Katie and I set of to Brighton (after just one train mishap - good to know it's not just the tourists who get confused). 

I really loved Brighton for all its quirky energy, and agreed that it had a sort of Austin vibe. We toured the Pavillion, a grand palace built entirely in Chinese theme by king George. where i want able to take any photos. Seeing the extreme wealth lavishly displayed in 1ton chandeliers and gold leaf wallpaper only grew my distaste in the extremely rich. Still, I suppose it put on a good show then and now. I've started using my camera more, so I'm slacking on the blog photos but my Facebook will get a healthy dose when I'm done...

 We popped in a home store where i thought of all the things i wanted to buy for other people, then ask the extra arms I would need to carry it along. Sorry friends. The process for most food seem rather decent though. A jar of Himalayan sea salt that would go for $8.99-14.99 was £4.99? And yesterday I bought a pre-made sandwich for £3.89, made from local, fresh ingredients. 

We had dinner at an awesome all you can eat place with gourmet veggie dishes, for only £7! Then retreated home too watch Bill an awful, historically inaccurate and mildly entertaining film with William Shakespeare as a main character.

Twas a bright Sunday day in Shoreham.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Notes from the underground

I awoke again in a sweat, but comfortable in the cute little bed I'm staying in. If only my Sid were with me. :p
Went for a run up to telegraph hill, which bright me much delight since the chapter I'm reading outlines Beaufort (father of the Beaufort wind scale)'s experience on the original optical telegraph, one of which was built right where I did 50 star jumps.
I re-packed my bags, which somehow got heavier, and walked a mile or so to breakfast at cute little vegetarian restaurant, where I evesdropped on a woman planning her move.
Feeling satiated I took the bus to Victoria station and walked to Buckingham Palace, thinking I could squeeze in some touring before heading down south. There's a lot of construction going on, and a LOT of people... not my favorite piece of London so far. 
I watched the royal guards walk around a bit with their big funny hats then walked through Green Park toward Picadilly. It's like a British 5th ave... not really my scene, I thought. Right as I was affirming my lack of money to spend or space to take anything with me, I stumbled upon a little market at St.Johns church. 

After trying to decide between a Pocket watch and a compass, I bought a brass compass sundial with the time zones on the lid. Then I bought a stamp... I'm a sucker. 

I walked around Piccadilly circus, taking a longer route than I intended back to the train. And passing through a very rich area...

 £7,000 for a flat, anyone?  I'm thankful for all the maps posted along the roads for keeping me on track. 

Caught a train to Shorham-by-Sea to meetup with two lovely people I worked with in 2011! We drank tea and caught up and ate a delicious homemade curry (I hadn't meet my curry fix yet) then went to town to see Youth, a curious and long movie with to many producers.
Now I sit on a sweet pull out sofa reflecting on my day but feeling wide awake somehow. My brain still thinks I'm in America I guess.

Total miles this morning: roughly 4
Total spent: $26 on souvineers, £ 16 on food

Despite the chill, everything is starting to bloom. It's promising to be a beautiful time to visit. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Oooh that smell.

It's only day two but I'm starting to become familiar with some things here, like looking right at crosswalks (the signs on the road help), and where to find the street signs. Even the accents are delighting again, and I'm staying to pick up on a few British-isms, and the peculiarity of their syntax. Just hearing a mom say something similar like at the comic shop where one asked her pleading son "you don't NEED that. What are you going to do with it, Really?, " made me smile, as did the little girl in a blue onsey covered in stars saying "excuuuse me!  May I please have a box?"

I spent over 12 hours traversing the crowded streets of Central London, today, and visited two museums, ate at 3 establishments and drank at one,  and saw an old friend from college. 

I woke up in a sweat, but definitely well rested from the jet lag. While watching scenery pass by on a double-decker bus two hours later, I was already tired from all the sensory information my brain had processed. 
The kitchen  in the house I'm staying at smelled like Germany, the only other place in Europe that I've been. I'm not sure how to explain it: Tea, spices, bread? And Ikea.

I rode down to Covent garden market and followed another walking tour from my guidebook. The first stop was a street of bookstores which unfortunately (but luckily for my back) were all closed. 
I tried to trust my gut on the best place for breakfast... there are many options. This caught my eye though, and I was rewarded by my favorite breakfast of avocado toast with an egg and lots of olive oil. 
I shopped around a bit at Covent garden and enjoyed the street performers. 

I continued my tour to Neal's yard, where I treated myself to a raw vegan snack before meeting you with my college friend Jodi.
 She walked me to the cartoon museum, which was fairly interesting, then I wandered down to the British Library through Russel park. 

A cute Marie Curie comic. 
The British Library had wonderful displays! None of which I was allowed to take photos of. 
Here's king George's collection. 
They had an extensive layout of all things Alice in Wonderland over the 150 years since it was written. I didn't realize Lewis Caroll was a mathematician who dabbled in photography and took a photo of a girl named Alice Liddell. He told her a story to keep her entertained during the sitting of the photo, and eventually expanded it and partnered with an artist from Punch magazine to illustrate it. He even continued to the hype of the culture surrounding Alice by encouraging the books translation into dozens of languages and promoting  Alice - items. Also, his name is a play of his actual name being converted into Latin them back into English. 

In the collection of treasures they had some real interesting items. Hard days night by the Beatles written on the back of John Lennon's sins birthday card. The first sheet music ever printed. A giant globe of celestial bodies from the 1800s. Oh! Galileo's letter stating his apology to the church (and the lies behind it)... a letter from Karl Marx under a fake identity. Oi. So many. 

After that I grabbed dinner at Byron, the burger place cause they had a veggie burger, then struggled with the transit system for a 2 hour journey home. Come to think of it, I could have walked back faster. Oi.

Overhearing brilliant British phrases is making me happy again. I'm glad I can distract my inner dialogue occasionally by eavesdropping on others. I suppose traveling alone is cheaper at least, than bringing along someone to nod at my mundane observations. 

Travel scorecard for today:

WINNING: discovery on foot; food portions
ON PAR: not looking like a tourist; translating Britishisms, spending, museums, finding WiFi
FAILING: clothing for long days of walking, flushing toilets, using the oyster card correctly.

My bowels are still on American time. :/

vegan Raw desserts from Wild Food cafe.