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April 2006 Archives

April 30, 2006


Tonight is Beltane, and I have tickets! I'm very excited!

I had never heard that Edinburgh had a world-famous Beltane celebtration on Calton hill every year, so I was pleasantly surprised to stumble on the flyers. Apparently there are dancers and hyjinks and bright colours. Since I'm easily distracted by bright colours, I'm hoping this will do something serious about my current boredom with life.

In slightly more serious news: I have job interviews lined up all next week. I decided to be a bit more proactive and stop waiting for the temp agency to get me something. According to the interview I had on Friday, I am "hot property".... Does that sound vaugely obscene to anyone else?

Will write all about Beltane, with pictures, tomorrow.

April 27, 2006

Escape! ESCAPE!!

You know what the world needs?

This is what the world needs: It needs a website (which probably exists, but I can't find it) where I can just say 'I'm in Edinburgh, I'm bored, I have money. Where can I go? What will be cheap? I want to leave *today*.' Cuz, dude... I want to leave *today*. And I don't want it to cost me an arm and a leg. Surely every flight between here and the rest of the whole world isn't full, is it?

I just wanna be able to plug that into a search engine, and it'll come up with three or four places with cheap flights leaving in the next 12 hours, and I'll just go. I don't want to have to pick a destination and an airline or any of that crap. I'll find a hostel when I get there.

I'm so *bored* right now. Being under-employed *sucks*.

PS: I'd do it by train, but they don't let me just say "I want to be someplace other than here, where can I go?" either.

April 21, 2006

Anna: Princess Warrior

Hobbit God, I had a great time at Linlithgow today! (Or, I suppose, yesterday. Why yes, I can't sleep again, why do you ask?)

I've been to Linlithgow before, of course, and loved it there, but this time Don and I were silly as Joe, Kristi, Myles and Aaron explored the castle. There are many photos, and some of them are available for you to laugh at. (I also have a video of Don and I attempting to sword fight. I scream a lot at the end. Don is mean.)

I'm gonna try to avoid gushing about Linlithgow (since I love it, and thus can), but I will write a bit about it. It's the palace where Mary Queen of Scots was born, and where Margaret Tudor waited for word of Flodden, and found out about the death of her husband. It's very pretty, and obviously not meant to be a place to hide in a seige.

It rained most of the time we were there, which was unfortunate, but heck, it's Scotland. When it doesn't rain, I get suspicious. We also got into the beautiful church just outside the palace, which I wasn't able to last time. The stained glass inside is just gorgeous, all replaced at the turn of the last century, so it has this very... in between look, between the older stuff that looks so regal and the newer stuff that just looks gaudy and overdone to me. I wish I had some photos, but I don't like to take pictures in working churches.

Everyone else ended our trip with a walk around the loch, but I bowed out - the damned plague is still dogging my every step. I hates it. But I'm feeling much better now. Really! Just... can't sleep. At all. Ever again. *sigh*

Nothing new to add on the job front. Going nuts from lack of things to do that bring in money instead of sending it out.

April 20, 2006

In the still of the night....

In a few short hours, we're heading off to Linlithgow to spend a delightful morning and early afternoon being silly in a ruined palace. I think nothing can go wrong when you're in a ruined palace, but that's just me. Since I've been there before, I've decided to dress up in my faux-medeival dress and take silly photos of myself being dramatic. There will be toy swords, and maybe even a plastic axe.

The trip will be myself and the rest of my merry little household of Canadians (where did all these people come from, and why are they eating my pie?) and a couple of my friends from "here". I put here in quotiations because it's Joe M., who is currently living in Stirling and is from someplace in Ireland, and Myles, who is one of those rare people: someone actually from Edinburgh who still lives here (he has assured me that will change as soon as possible). And here's the best part: Joe has lived in Stirling for 12 years, has gone through Linlithgow countless times on his way back and forth to Edinburgh, and has never once actually been there. Myles tells me he "may" have been there when he was a kid, but he can't recall.

*bang head against wall* It's a PALACE! Stuff happened there! It's all picturesque and there's a lake and Flodden and Mary and stuff, and how did you not go there? How?? It's so *close*!

And then I remind myself that I hadn't been to the mountains in ages before I left Edmonton, and I'd only been to Calgary briefly, and three hours isn't that far to drive, especially for a milkshake, so yeah.

So, yeah, Linlithgow later today, assuming I sleep between now and then, because now that I'm over the plague (for the most part), I have insomnia instead. And I'm unemployed. So I made Lemon Vanilla Jam and apple pie tonight and spent the afternoon sitting in Princes Street Gardens looking up at the castle and the clouds and just being content with the world. Which was nice, but I still can't sleep.

I've got things a bit more sorted out for my trip back to Canada for Tom's wedding, and found an affordable flight between London and Vancouver. Still up in the air about Amsterdam. But maybe, Australia is worked out. Again. For real this time.

No, I mean it!

April 19, 2006

Jack the Ripper

The first night I was in London, I did this Jack the Ripper tour, which I mentioned before.

First, and foremost: Are you in London? Are you going to London? If either of these things are true, check out London Walks. I can't remember who recommended them to me, but this is the second one of their walks I've gone on, and they are outstanding. Great fun, good value for your money, and not nearly as difficult as one would think. I wouldn't necessarily recommend them if you've got mobility issues, but if you're just lazy (like me - god, I'm lazy), they're fine. And fun! This one met in the evening just across the street from the Tower of London, and it was huge. Well over 70 people showed up, and it was a Monday. They ended up splitting the group into two, and I got this great tour leader. She had a real presence to her, and just the way she used her voice, her posture, and the area around her was just outstanding. She'd completely alter her voice when she was quoting from letters, from the police reports, or from media commentary. I wish I had caught a video of her, but sadly, I didn't.

The Wall If you're in to Jack the Ripper, this really is the tour for you. They showed where the victims were found, pointed out some of the major landmarks of the time (like Prostitute's church), and really recreated the atmosphere of the time - how dark and dingy it was, how horrible it was to be a prostitute at the time, and how incredibly shocking the murders had been. Previously, I hadn't really gotten the whole "Jack the Ripper" mystique, but now I get why it's such a big thing.

The picture here shows her standing in front of the one of the remaining fragments of the Walls of London. And this is where I'm getting confused.

See, when I think about Old Edinburgh (Auld Reekie, as it was called), I can picture it. When I walk down the Royal Mile, I can see the place where the original walls around Edinburgh ended (about half way down the Mile), protecting the city from the Evil English. I think it was the Flodden Wall, and the descriptions of the city I've heard time and again make it pretty obvious that it was hellish to live there. They had a huge number of people crammed into a very small space, and it was called Auld Reekie becuase you could smell it from several miles away. Ick ick ick, not my thing.

London, however, I'm having a hard time grasping the medeival geography of. (This is probably because I read a lot of historically based fiction, like Sharon Kay Penman's books about 12th Century England, or the reign of Richard III.) What I understand so far is that London is sort of like the English Language: It ran around and nabbed a bunch of stuff from other places and called it London. (See, like English, which robs words from other languages and calls it English. See how witty I am? *sigh* I am such a geek.) So, Westminster used to be its own place, but now is basically London. Is that right? I don't know....

Maybe I need to stop trying to learn my medeival geography from novels.

{Note to self: London Walks has a sister group called Paris Walks. Go to Paris. Take Paris Walk. Have coffee with Anne. Sounds like a good day....}

PS: I may or may not be going to Amsterdam at the beginning of May. Depends on how money works out. If I do go to Amsterdam... what should I do? I mean, other than go to the War Memorial, which is why parts of my family are going. I hadn't considered going to Amsterdam before. That's in Holland, right? They eat salt candy there, don't they? Oh well... Holland!

April 16, 2006

Historically Significant

You know what? I'm a great marriage catch. And now I'm gonna tell you why.

I went to Jedburgh, as I said, to collect the latest in my list of ruined abbeys in Scotland and England (and to have little fits about Henry VIII, although he apparently had very little to do with the ruin of Jedburgh). It was a great trip, the abbey is lovely and very well presented, and I also checked out Mary Queen of Scot's house and the lovely little Royal Burgh of Jed. It's a great trip, and I do recommend it for a lovely half-day if that's your thing.

But really, what makes me great marriage material is that I got the urge to go out and see the Historically Significant Tree in Jedburgh, and thus I missed my 2:00 p.m. bus back to Edinburgh. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes me great marriage material because don't you want to be married to someone who is that flighty?

Capon TreeSo, yes, there is this Historically Significant Tree in Jedburgh. (You think I'm making this up, don't you?) Back in 2002, the United Kingdom was celebrating Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee and found 50 Historically Significant Trees to ... make important somehow for this. Jedburgh's tree is the Capon Tree, the last tree that survives of the Great Forest of Jed. Allegedly, it's the tree that several members of the clergy travelling to the Abbey sheltered under during a storm.

They say it could be as much as 500 years old.



Look, I know this makes me sound awful, but come on. 500 years old? That's nothing for a tree. I'm sure there are trees on my street in Edmonton that are 500 years old. I remember being a kid and looking at trees that were over a thousand years old. Call me then for your "historically significant trees".

Me & The Tree*sigh* I know, I know, it's the UK, we have to judge things differently here. Here, 200 kilometers is long way to travel (and probably not something you'd do just for a milkshake), and there are buildings on the street I live in now that are older than the Capon Tree, and I totally respect that. But 500 year old trees? Not so much. Call me pretentious.

But, yeah. Me good marriage material. I walked the 3 kilometers out to see the 500 year old tree, took some photos, and then walked back to just miss the bus by 10 minutes. *sigh* Because I am just *that* geeky. ("Oooh, historically significant tree! I wanna see that!" "Do you have a car?" "Oh god no, I'll walk! How long could it take?")

{All my exciting photos of the Capon Tree are here}

* * *

In unrelated news, I'm also the type of geek that not only now owns a lemon zester, but actually said to someone "And it makes my life so much easier now, too!"

Please shoot me.

April 14, 2006

Choo Choo!

One thing I love about living in the UK: I hopped a train yesterday and went to Stirling so I could sit in a pub for five hours drinking cider with a friend and eating bad pub food. It was great.

I love the trains here, that I can go to Stirling for the day for about 7 pounds and it's so relaxing. No stress, just hop on the train, watch the pretty scenery go by, then hop off. I might do this more often.

Canada should really revitalise their passenger service. My understanding (picked up from various places, may be completely wrong) is that for some time here the trains were awful and no one wanted to take them. But now, they're great. I is happy.

Tomorrow I'm going to Jedburgh to see another ruined Abbey. I think, after this one, I'll have only one left in my quest to see all of the ruined border abbeys, but I'm not sure. That would be Dryburgh, which I understand is the most complete of the lot.

(Let's see... Lindisfarne, Kelso, Melrose, Jedburgh, Dryburgh.... I think that's all of them.)

Sadly, I will be going by bus.

April 12, 2006

Drinking Games: Relentless

I'm bored of being sick, so I went to the grocery store the other day to buy things to make Tomato Sauce with (it was so good!) and saw this:


And since I am nothing if not a huge impulse buyer, I had to get it and try it and tell you all about it.

Relentless... "Ho Half Measures" "Your Energy, Your OBsession - Relentless -" It is best served ice cold. "Relentless is an energy drink that helps give you the stamina, focus and drive you need, when you need it. Your energy. No half measures." "Even genius has to pay its dues. It's goodbye to the shortcuts, hello to the grind. Nobody ever said it would be an easy ride. So, puish more, risk more, feel more. How much is just a question of courage, a matter of heart."

If you read that all out loud in your best "Look at me, I'm a cliche!" voice, it's even more fun.

You probably can't see the details from the photo but it looks like there's a Cthulu-esque thing drawn in the background, rising out of the water and consuming the Earth. I'm all for welcoming out Dark Overlords, so I totally support this energy drink.

500 ml of energy drink goodness later, and I was up for most of last night. Think it's a coincidence?

If you're wondering what it tastes like (not corpses, not like last time), it's like Red Bull, or Cream Soda. It basically tastes like a cliche, too.

Would I buy it again? Probably not - I don't really like energy drinks, for all that I'm a cola addict. It does warn that it's not for people with a sensitivity to caffeine and to consume it responsibly. I love how it tries to make itself sound bad ass.

So, that's Relentless, folks. Drink it for all your Elder God needs!

Relentless Energy Drink Official Website Warning: Requires Quick Time and Flash 8 and probably 16 other things. It comes with movies.

April 10, 2006

Visa: It's everywhere you want to be

I'm so witty.

So, I was looking at more details about the infamous Australia Visa Thing. This is what I currently understand:

1) I can apply online.
2) If I do apply online, it usually takes 2 business days for an approval.
3) I can do it until the day I turn 31.
4) It's good to enter the country any time for a year, and then the countdown for how long I can stay starts, with a year from that date.
5) I can only work for the same employer for 3 months.


I think.

I need 5000 Australian dollars, which looks like about 2000 pounds. This isn't as much as I originally thought. For once, the exchange rate is in my favour! (I thought I'd need about the same amount in pounds, and 5000 pounds is a lot of money.)

It looks like this will not be as complicated as I thought it would be, which is a huge load off my mind. I'm still a bit torn - I'm pretty sure if I wanted to, I could arrange to stay in Scotland and work for longer, but I was leary to do that if it would screw things up too badly for Australia. Assuming I don't want to stay in Aus for 2 years instead of just 1, I should be okay. (As a note, you can apply for an extension of your Visa for Australia, but you have to work for three months in the agriculture industry. Me? Lazy. So, probably not.)

And that's where things stand now. I really want to do this, but at the same time, I don't want to leave Scotland quite yet. Luckily, I've got until July to get at least part of it sorted out....

April 9, 2006


This is what I think happened:

I had a cold. A nice, regular cold that would eventually give up and I would get better. But then, I went on the Tube in London. And, as everyone knows, the air in the Tube is its own special kind of icky. And something that I breathed in combined with my cold and transformed into some sort of plague that will eventually bring down humanity.

But before that happens, I want to write about this second trip to London.

Time Like I said before, seeing Big Ben when I came out of the Tube station was... wow. It really felt like that sudden shock of familiar. I knew where I was, I could get around without difficulty, and I was good. It's kind of strange the idea that I can get around a city like London without getting too terribly lost. Granted, I didn't go exploring snickleways or strange alleys, but I didn't get lost, either.

Unlike last time, I did decide to go into Westminster Abbey, and while there I took one of their guided tours. The tour was amazing, but sadly not because of the quality of the tourguide. The guide seemed so bored, like he had done this so many times he couldn't understand why anyone else would want to take the tour. On the other hand, taking the tour gets you into areas that you can't get into otherwise, like the actual tomb of Edward the Confessor. You get to spend some time wandering around in this area that is dominated by royal tombs, like Richard II and Henry III, but there was no real historical context for any of them. I mean, I know this stuff, but most people don't, and that was frustrating.

(Of course, this is where my coughing got so bad that the person leading the tour had to get me a glass of water. *sigh*)

But, putting aside the boredom of the guide (a priest of the Abbey), the building itself is outstanding. I had caught a glimpse of it the first time I went in for Evensong back in December, but seeing the whole thing was just so overwhelming. I can't even describe the size of this abbey....

It actually reminded me so much of places like Lindsifarne, or Kelso, and the ruined abbeys there. I never really got a sense of how big they would have been until I went into Westminster. These sites would have been huge, and they're all in ruins and stones now.

I'm not sure what I'd say the highlight of the tour itself was. Inside the Abbey is the tomb of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, as well as Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. There is also some amazing stained glass, and the details of the floors, the ceilings, and the walls... well, it's amazing.

One thing, though, is the burials and the memorials throughout the Abbey. No one's buried there anymore, but for some time people were, and you walk over the stones without thinking so easily. There are memorials up to various poets, writers, artists, and actors, as well as scientists (the one to Newton is beatiful) and politicians. They cover a lot of the walls and the floors. The Bronte sisters are there, as is Lewis Carroll.

The tour ended not all that long before Evensong was to begin. This time was different than last time in that it was a guest choir, and with the time change it was still afternoon light filtering through the windows, and I was surprised at how bright it still was when we got out of the Abbey at 6. It felt like it should be dark, like there should be a hush over the world after the beautiful music and the awe-inspiring setting.

I know I've mentioned before that I'm not religious, but I do recommend Evensong at Westminster Abbey if you're ever in London. It is the most beautiful call to prayer I've attended yet, and it's very moving. It's... well, it's beautiful.

April 8, 2006

Just as a note, I think I caught the plague on the Tube in London.

Not dead, just wishing I was.

April 6, 2006


Got in from London a couple of hours ago, and I gotta say: there's no place like home. Don't get me wrong, I adored London, but I'm happy to be back in my nice little flat with my nice little bed that isn't a bunk bed in a hostel that's trying to be "indy" or something. Ew.

Today was an awful lot of Saint Paul's Cathedral. Worth every minute - I could probably have spent another couple of hours there happily. Sadly, no photos inside (same with Westminster). Whereas I get the concept of no photos in a working church (which I don't take, anyway, it strikes me as incredibly disrespectful, even if they will let you), I don't like the charging of huge admission fees (10 pounds each!) and not letting photos.

But putting that aside... I was awed. As I was with almost everything in London, even the Tube. Still no sign of the tube-riding pidgeons, but I'm heading back.

Just... not for a while. London = Very Expensive!

All the details and photos over the next few days, I'm sure.

April 5, 2006

London Bridge is Falling Down...

Having a fabulous time, wish you were here!

Just another quick blog-through of my day, because everything really does deserve a full entry to itself. With pictures. And gaping awe on my part.

Hit the Tower of London. Could have easily spent the whole damned day there and not counted it a "small" day. It was amazing and fantabulous. The guided tours are great! Raven, we saw a Raven and thought of you - can't wait to show you the pic we got. I know that you've been there (of course!), but we were thinking of you a lot.

Saw London Bridge. So.Very.Cool. Also, took a river boat up the Thames.

Spent a bit of the afternoon (2 1/2 hours) looking at the Elgin Marbles. Yeah, the whole 2 1/2 hours. I have a thing for Greek Statues. I went into a swoon over a few of the things in the exhibit. I am aware there is more to the British Museum than just the one small area, but dude... it was the Elgin Marbles!

In the evening we ducked into a fabulous restaurant, spent some time in a really awful bar that tried really hard to have some theme to it, then found this surreal place in SoHo and danced until the smoke in the area drove me out. So much fun!

This place we ended up is so hard to describe. It felt like walking into something out of Alice in Wonderland, with Hooka-smoking caterpillers. (Oh, wait, my parents read this blog. Mom, Dad, anything I say that makes it sound like drugs would be a necessity to make sense of it is just for effect, really. Honest.) It seemed like being on drugs would help the whole place make more sense. Lots of very low couches and cushions scattered in various parts of the floor, the dance floor being in this weird room off the 'main' room, really different music than I was used to, and lots of people smoking. I had forgotten that the no smoking laws were only in Scotland, or I might have skipped the club entirely. My throat and lungs are killing me, but on some level - it was really worth it. I danced, and watched lots of other fun people dancing. There were mirrors in really odd places which added to the sureality.

Reminded me a bit of Paris Below. (Will link to that entry later.)

But really, having a fantabulous time, wish you were here.

Tomorrow, Saint Paul's Cathedral, maybe Les Miz, maybe the Globe Theatre, and then flying back home to sunny Edinburgh!

Did I just call Edinburgh home?

April 4, 2006

Big Ben

There's something very... intense about walking out of the Westminster Tube Station and seeing Big Ben. I'm certain it's not like this for other people from the UK, but when I see it, I can't help but go "Wow. I'm here." Even though I've been here before. London has this thing about it, you know?

Yesterday was a pretty packed day, today is looking like it will be as well, so of course I've been: a) unable to sleep (sleep? no thanks, I'm trying to cut back), b) sick (nothing like coughing so much during a prayer service the priest gets you a glass of water), and c) half-deaf. This was a new one, but my right ear refused to pop at all yesterday, and I was constantly staring at people in horror realising I couldn't hear them.

But, that's the bad stuff, and the day itself was outstanding and wonderful. I want to do a full writeup and all, because places like Westminster Abbey (expensive, but oh so worth it), and things like the Jack the Ripper Tour (intense) deserve as much of my full attention as I can give them.

Right now, I'm coping with a poor hostel choice (Ooh, I'll pick something with a bit of a fun-loving atmosphere this time, so Kristi can have some fun). It's not that there's anything bad about the place, it's just that I don't come to London so I can get drunk in the hostels. I just wanted a place to sleep.

Which I actually did a bit of last night. Just not nearly enough! *laugh*

I really am having a fabulous time though. The tentative plans for today include things like the Tower of London, a Thames boat, and seeing the Elgin Marbles and satisfying my fan-girly heart. Haven't planned my evening yet - it seems so far away....

April 2, 2006

Reading, not Doing

I've been reading an awful lot of travel logs lately, which I really enjoy doing. Not blogs and the like (although those are, as always, fun to read), but actual books about travelling. The latest is called "The Places In Between", and it tells about a man who decided to walk across Afganistan. In the mountains. In winter.

Then I read that and think, "Oh, I could do that."

Okay, not really. I'm lazy. But I think a lot when I read travel logs. I've read about people hitch-hiking across China, people taking their motorbikes across the world (that's the one written by Ewan MacGregor, and man, is he whiny in it), and watched movies about people trying to bike down the length of South America. I remember reading a magazine article about a woman who biked across Canada.

I think about doing these things, because although you're travelling the whole time, you get a completely different view of things. You get to see things up close, even if you don't get to emmerse yourself in everything. I mean, I *want* to do that. I want to get that sort of view of things, to be able to travel totally at my own pace, but be able to travel. To not have these pesky responsibilities like a job, and rent, and stuff... Which I suppose is just trading one problem for another (I'll have to have quite a bit of money, I'd think, to get myself across Canada), but...

But then I get afraid. I think I'd get eaten, as these things go. I'm a white girl, I'm lazy. (One does not follow the other, these are statements about me, not about all women who happen to be white.) I'd probably not make it, because something bad would happen to me, or because I would just give up.

Oh well, I love to live vicariously through books. Just... different books than other people.

* * *

The trip to London is still a go, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm still a bit sick (I can't stop coughing), but at least I can breath right now. I'm going to be taking all my pictures from the last week off my camera in preparation. God, I can't wait... Tower of London, here I come!

About April 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Anna Overseas in April 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2006 is the previous archive.

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