Sunday, March 28, 2010

Never can say goodbye

Oh, the comforts and joy of family! After my short trip to Berlin, I flew back to London and spent the rest of spring break with dear family members: little brother Austin and dad Bruce. I must admit, it was very bittersweet because I knew that time would go by quickly and they would be gone again, just like that.

Right when I landed into London, I stank so bad that I couldn't even withstand myself. I think I might have stunk up the tube hehe. So I went straight back to Regent's College to take a blissful shower and freshen up to impress the fam! Our reunion was uplifting, the hugs and kisses - I really missed them. Every time, without fail, I have really learned to appreciate my family more when I go long periods of time without seeing them. I have taken the comforts of home for granted all these years, up until I went off to college. There really isn't anything like it, that warm and fuzzy feeling and just being extremely comfortable with the people around you. Being out in London has put a strain on my deaf world, I had gotten small glimpses of the British deaf world, but not enough to actually establish some kind of connection to become comfortable and be a frequent visitor. So, when Austin and my dad finally got out here, I felt very relaxed and relieved because I had been working so hard to keep up with everyone's conversations and patiently asking for repetition. It gets annoying after awhile.

I gave them a mini tour of the College campus and a little bit of Regents Park (a beautiful place where I get my bird watching episodes every once in awhile) and then took them to one of my favorite restaurants, The Creperie, an excellent French restaurant that serves only the bestest (yes, it's that good!) crepes in London. Through the mouth-watering meal, I had the chance to catch up a bit with Austin on his life and the latest high school scandals. He had just finished acting in the school play, Little Women as the grandfather and he really enjoyed the entire experience. I was bummed out about not being able to see it. We also made plans for the week, places to see and things to do. By the end of dinner, we established a hefty but achievable list. Afterwards, we headed over to Green Park, where I crashed their hotel room for the rest of the week. Before we hit the hay, I thought I'd give them a small taste of London at night, so I took them on the tube to Westminster. As we came out of the tube station, we were greeted by the London Eye, Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. It is always a very cool sight to see, especially at night.

After an interesting night (let's just say Austin tends to move around a lot at night...), we hit the ground running. I took them to see Big Ben, London Eye, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. When we were getting ready to enter Westminster Abbey and purchase tickets, a woman who worked for the Abbey noticed our cochlear implants/hearing aids and our signing came up to us asking if we were deaf (what a question! haha). "Yes" we answered, she then said that we should get into the Abbey for free. She came with us to the ticket booth and told the booth lady that we were deaf. The booth lady asked the nice lady how she knew we were deaf....these people really are brilliant. So, instead of paying £40, we got in free! :) Gotta love that deaf card. The Abbey is absolutely majestic, the ceilings are extremely high. I underestimated the size of this place, it is huge! There are so many people buried there, Sir Issac Newton, Charles Darwin (I was surprised), Winston Churchill, the Queen Mum, several Kings and Queens. Westminster Abbey is the place where the coronation takes place, so its history is impressive and intimidating. We had spent perhaps 2 hours there, just so much to see! Photography was not allowed inside, sadly.

The picture above is the entryway to Westminster Abbey, I really like the detail and artwork. Below is obviously a flower, in the background is one part of the Houses of Parliament. The third picture is the front of Westminster Abbey, it is nearly impossible to get the entire building in one shot!

We met up with a good high school friend of my dad's for lunch. I expected to eat at a sit down restaurant, but we ended up picnicking on Green Park, which is beautiful. Any idea why this place is called Green Park? I thought it had to do with the green grass and the British not being so clever. It actually was named Green Park because there are no flowers, go figure! One of the kings was married to a beautiful queen and she was always given flowers from various men as they strolled about. The king was super jealous, so he banned flowers. Whoo whee... that is one jealous dude if you ask me.

After lunch, we headed over to Trafalger's Square, place where they have the world famous lion statues, several museums and it is a great place to sit and people watch. On the way, we cut through St. James' Park where we ran into some beautiful daffodils. Naturally, we HAD to get pictures taken by the flowers :) I felt like I was getting my senior pictures taken again.

When in London, you have got to have a picture taken with a phone booth...after all, it is the thing to do!

Above is a picture of the world famous lion statues at Trafalger's Square. It was a challenge to climb up and there were so many people...ugh. Below is the view of Trafalger's Square from the National Gallery, where we saw several Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso. Jealous?
Many people don't realize how close everything is in London. Trafalger's Square is a 5 minute walk from Big Ben, houses of Parliament and Westminister Abbey. 10 Downing Street is in between the two sites. The structure is very similar to Washington, D.C. with all the monuments in close proximity.

Interestingly, I had never noticed this until my dad asked for it. It is nearly impossible to find iced tea in England! We went to Starbucks (yes, they have Starbucks here and it's not quite the same, but it's close enough) and my dad asked for iced tea. You know how they did it? I watched them and couldn't stop laughing. What they did was they brewed a cup of hot tea, put it in the cup and filled it with ice. Bizarre!! I guess iced tea is an American thing?

The next day was a bit more crazier. We hunted for a breakfast place and there wasn't much luck so we headed over to King's Cross for some quick breakfast before heading out to our activities for the day. If you are a Harry Potter fan, your heart would have skipped a beat when you read King's Cross. Yes, this King's Cross is the very same one where Harry gets to the Hogwarts Express! Naturally, Austin and I wanted our pictures taken at platform 9 3/4. We actually had a bit of a hard time finding it, so we were walking up and down the platform, looking for this glamorous platform. What's really funny is that the workers knew exactly what we were looking for and without asking, told us where to go. After three explanations, there it was, platform 9 3/4! Believe it or not, it has a cart in the wall :) We took our sweet time, snatching pictures and trying out different poses. It was a proud Harry Potter moment :)
Finally, after about 30 pictures with the cart at platform 9 3/4, we hopped onto the train to head out to Windsor where Windsor Castle, the Queen's favorite weekend home, is located. It was about a 45 minute trip and a bit relaxing. Before we knew it, we were in Windsor! I really liked the town, so small and quaint. It actually reminded me so much of Vail, Colorado. The castle is beautiful, no wonder why the Queen favors it. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed inside...grrr. They had really beautiful rooms decorated with all kinds of things from all over the world. We could not believe how much weaponry and armory there was...seriously, there was a lot, so much that it would cover every inch of my house and there would still be more to hang up.
These pictures are my attempts to capture the extravagance of Windsor Castle. Sadly, I did not accomplish that intention.
Even though the castle was beautiful and we enjoyed looking at everything, my favorite part was the guard. You know how in movies, they always have that guard who is not allowed to move, make any facial expressions, or anything of the sort? WE FOUND ONE OF THEM! :) Oh did we love him...
I waited for awhile to see if he would ask me out or at least compliment my beauty....after several minutes of awkward stares, nothing! I won't be going on a second date with him, for sure.

After Windsor, we went to Kensington Palace, where Princess Diana lived after she divorced Prince Charles. I tell ya, she was WELL off. The place was gorgeous! Psh, she did not have any problems living after the divorce haha. Sadly, the place was closed, so we wandered around Kensington Park/Hyde Park. Apparently, that was where they filmed Finding Neverland! Way cool! Before we knew it, we were exhausted and had no problems falling asleep that night.

The next day, we went to Tower of London mainly because my dad wanted to see some King Henry VIII history. One of my friends from St. Louis, Aislyn, was in town on her spring break visiting her British boyfriend and we met up! It was SO FREAKING good to see her. She and I got into the place for free because we were the "carers" for my dad and Austin haha! I ended up interpreting the entire tour for my dad. It was quite a challenge because the guy talked fast, he was British so he had the accent, and he was very funny. Nevertheless, I think I got most of the stuff right haha. If one is at the Tower of London, one must not only see the place, but also see the crown jewels. This was my second time seeing them and they still shimmered with gems. I am still convinced they may be replicas, hmmm....

After spending some quality time getting to know the history of armory and weaponry, we went over to the Tower of London. This bridge is pretty awesome, it has two towers and can open up when big ships go through on the River Thames. Many people think this bridge is called the London Bridge, guess what, it actually isn't! And the actual London bridge is pretty boring. We walked up and down the bridge, looked over to the sides and waved at boats that passed through. So much fun!

We also went to Abbey Road to get some pictures taken. It was not that difficult because it wasn't as crowded as we had anticipated it to be. The whole experience was hilarious because not only did we have to practice our pose, but we also had to worry about dodging oncoming traffic! Friday night, we met with dad's high school friend Mark and his wife, Melissa for dinner at a restaurant where Michael Cain is part-owner. Austin and I devoured our dinner so we could make it in time to go see musical Billy Elliot! The play was amazing, I am still in awe with the skills of the actors. A 12 year old boy pretty much led the entire show and man! could he dance! Austin and I teared up a couple of times during the show, it was emotional, inspiring, and absolutely dazzling.

Saturday was the last full day for dad and Austin, we went up to Greenwich with Mark and Melissa. What's at Greenwich you might ask. Well, the prime meridian is there! Yes, coordinates 0 degrees, 0' 0" in other words, the beginning of time. We stood on two halves of the world at the same time, pretty impressive, yes? We looked in the museum where the world's most reliable clock is located as well as history of navigation in the sea. It was really fascinating for my dad since he's a big sailboat guy.

I am proud to say that I have stood on two halves of the world simultaneously! Now, I want to stand on all four corners of the Earth. I wonder where that may be...

At precisely 1 o'clock in the afternoon, this red ball rises up to the top and drops, setting off a loud boom to let the world know it is 1 o' clock. We waited around since it was 20 'til 1. The anticipation built up and we got excited watching the ball rise dramatically aaaannnnnddddd that was it. The boom really wasn't that loud. What a disappointment. I think the whole New Year's Eve in Times Square Ball dropping thing came from this idea, I'm pretty sure it was copied off from the Museum. :)

As we walked around, Austin and I saw our first port-a-potties. To show just how civilized and proper the British are, they call their portapotties portaloos. What's next?
We decided to be cool and take the river cruise back to London. On this cruise we got to see much more of London than I had expected. Along the way, we saw Tower Bridge, London Bridge at its boring state and coolest of all, we saw Millennium Bridge, the very bridge that is filmed in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It's in the scene where the death eaters are celebrating in the very beginning, the bridge that they zoom around and snap it from its supports, yeah that one!
Mark and Melissa took us to the Texas Embassy (it's a mexican restaurant and it used to be the official embassy when Texas was its own state way back when). We didn't eat there because apparently the food sucks, but the margaritas are awesome. A side note: mexican food in London is absolutely distgusting and I have been craving Chipotle for a very long time. So, when I get back to the states, I will be having Chipotle! :)

Dad, Austin and I had the rest of the night to ourselves so we took it easy and relaxed. It was really hard for me because I knew that in a few hours, my family was going to leave and I was going to have to go back into the hearing world, fully immersed once again. Their flight was way too early in the morning, so they got up around 5 am, woke me up and gave their biggest hugs. As I watched them leave the hotel room, tears streamed down my face. It was really hard, but I knew that I would be seeing them again before I know it. Getting back into the routine was not very hard, I tend to keep myself busy. A few hours after I left the hotel (I took my sweet time there, took a nice bath and all that jazz, it was so nice!), the family visit felt like a million years old already.

I am forever grateful for their visit, it gave me a sweet taste of home and it was enough to hold me over for the next half of the semester. I look forward to embracing them and the rest of the family again in May. However, as I look forward to seeing the family again and eating Chipotle, I am not looking forward to going back home because I love it out here. I have learned so much about the world and myself. I will definitely be back in Europe in the near future.


  1. How AMAZING!!! I am so happy for you that you are having the adventure of a ROCK!! Thank you so much for taking the time to share it with those of us who love and follow you. Never having been to London (YET!), your beautiful narrative and stunning photos truly let me live it vicariously. So glad that Dad and Austin got to soak it up with you. Can't wait to get the next update!! God bless you, Cuz!

  2. I MISS YOU!!! That was such a fun trip!! Oh and I love the portaloo description ... as well as everything else!
    Love you!

  3. What a wonderful life! Keep writing!