Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jen's European Adventure: A Happy Reunion, a Messy Situation, and Falling in Love

Who's ready for Part II?

In the morning, we got up and got ready using British Airway's toiletries, so we all smelled very generic.  We had to sneak Ben out of the hotel, which was much easier than sneaking him in.  (We just walked out at different times...)  We drove to Heathrow to go get our bags, but when we got there, we weren't sure where to go.  They said that they would call us when our bags were ready, so we just hung out in the parking garage for an hour.  We still hadn't heard anything from them, so we finally called them, and it turns out that they had our bags, but it would take 2-3 hours to "process" them. 

What the heck does that even mean?

So we decided to go around London and come get our stuff at the end of the day.  Josh met this girl on the plane, Delia, who was coming to London for a study abroad, so we invited her to go around London with us.  We got to her apartment and only got lost once.  Her apartment was about a 10 minute walk to the tube, so we headed over.  Once we got there we realized that we had forgotten our tickets for the Tower of London, so it was back to our car.

We finally made it on the tube with everything that we needed.  The thing about this day was that we were going to have dinner with one of Josh's mission companions, so we were on a tight schedule.  We were literally running through London from one sight to another.  An interesting way to see the city, for sure.  

We went to the Tower of London first, which was exceptionally cool.  
And it was totally sweet seeing this sucker in real life.  The Olympic rings!  So cool!
Then we went over to Parliament and saw Big Ben (not the Ben we traveled with, the clock tower.  Geez, guys).
When we walked up towards this, I couldn't help but sing "The second star to the right, shines in the night for you..."

Then we raced over to Westminster Abbey.

And then we made it to Buckingham Palace for our last stop.

We went to get our luggage from the airport, and for some reason I was super worried that it wouldn't all be there.  But we went back to where they store the lost luggage, and after searching for a minute, I found my two bags, all in one piece.  I think I was close to crying, I was so excited to have my own luggage back.

Then we made our way to meet Josh's mission companion's family, the Shenton's.  Boy, were they a hoot.  This was my first experience in a British household, and it was an experience to remember.  Oliver, the mission companion, has Asperger's, but he's very high functioning, and his dad is blind.  So I didn't know what to expect, and let's face it, I was still facing terrible jet lag, so even dinner with a family in America would seem foreign to me in that state.

But it was so much fun.  The Shenton's were so nice and welcoming.  The dad did endless impressions, and I'm not sure if Oliver stopped talking the whole time, but we enjoyed every second of it.

And I got my first try of Yorkshire pudding, which was delicioso.  

After that, it was time to go to the house where we were going to spend the night.  It was another one of Josh's mission companion's, but he was at EFY as a counselor, so we had to go find him to get the key.  The GPS was wonky the whole trip, and as we were going to find his companion, it tried to direct us to go through a croquet club.  Good times, good times.  

But we found the companion (whose name is also Josh, so will hereafter be called British Josh), then found the house.  Well, we were pretty sure it was the right house.  It was late at night, and we go up to the front door, and try to fit the key in.  But guess what?  It's not working.

That's when Josh turns around with a priceless look on his face, saying "We've got the wrong house!"

It was terrifying.  We're Americans, creeping around the streets at night, trying to pry our way in to a strangers house.  Yeesh.

So we called British Josh, and he told us that was the right house, we just needed to go in through the back door.

So we all stash our stuff in a room, and I go to the bathroom to finally take a shower with my own, familiar product.  You wouldn't think it was a problem to take a shower, I mean, I've been doing it for 23 years... but I get into the bathroom, and have NO IDEA how to turn on the shower.  So with Josh's help, I finally got the shower going, and got back to smelling like myself again, instead of airline product.

I went to bed that night, very peacefully, not knowing at all what was going on with Ben and Josh.

The next morning I woke up, got ready, and we started heading out.  Ben or Josh made a comment about the toilet, and I asked them what they meant by it.  I find out the Ben had clogged the toilet last night.  And that they searched in vain for a plunger, but couldn't find one. 

So Ben might have had to resort to using his hands... using a grocery bag, of course, and depositing the fecal matter in the outside garbage can.

How in the world did I miss all of that excitement?  But I guess I'm glad I missed it, we might have had another mess to clean up had I witnessed that.

We were finally on our way to Scotland.  Scotland was absolutely beautiful.  Definitely the most beautiful place we went to in Europe.  I loved so many things about it, and I dream about going back.

That night, we were going to stay with a lady Josh knew on his mission.  Her name is Sister Liu.  Get this, she's an American, living in Scotland, married to a Chinese man.  Pretty sweet, eh?  Plus, she's the nicest, sweetest lady in the whole world.

So we went to drop our stuff off at her house and chat for a little bit.  Then we headed to Edinburgh to the Fringe, which is this street festival they have in Scotland every year.  It was really cool to walk up and down the streets, and just take in the atmosphere of Edinburgh.  I absolutely loved it.  Plus, we got deep fried Mars Bars, which are death in a basket, but so delicious that I didn't care.

I tried to call the Ministry of Magic, but then I remembered we were in Scotland, not London.  Darn.
We also went to Nando's.  Let me just take a minute and tell you about Nando's.  This is where I fell in love.  With food and a boy.  I've had dreams about Nando's since I've gotten home (just the food... not the boy).  It's so good (the food and the boy).  Nando's is a Portuguese restaurant that has delicious chicken sandwiches and fries... er, chips.  I tried finding a picture of  the chicken sandwich, but there wasn't a good one, so I guess this will do.

When we went there, this guy took my order, and yes, he was super cute. And yes, he had the perfect Scottish accent.  I didn't say anything to the boys, because you just don't talk about that kind of stuff with your guy friends.  But we were talking about different Scottish accents, and Josh made the comment that the guy that took our order had the best Scottish accent, and I agreed with him... but I guess I agreed a little to quickly, because the boys saw right through me, and they knew.  And of course I checked out his name tag, so I could know his name.  Which is Phil.  And from here on out, he will be known as Nando's Phil.  And yes, I'm planning on going back to Edinburgh just to find him and marry him.

That evening, we went to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which was amazing!  One of my favorite parts of the trip.  It's in the stadium that's connected to the Edinburgh castle, and different military bands come out and play songs.  They had a bagpipe band, and a drill team, and a drum line, and it was all so amazing.  They would project images onto the castle, and at the end, we all held hands and sang Auld Lang Syne, and then there were fireworks over the castle.  Amazing, I tell you.

Well, that's the end of this part of the adventure.   Stay tuned for more Scotland fun!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Jen's European Adventure: How it All Began




Long time, no talk.  I've just been traveling around the world the past month, starting with beautiful Southern Utah, then heading west to sunny California, and then crossing the seas to visit Europe and all of its wonders.

So now I'm here, ready to tell you about all of my adventures.

Ready, folks?

I spent 2 weeks in Europe with Josh and Ben, and oh my, it was amazing, but oh so crazy.  It all started in the Salt Lake airport where we had no idea the adventures that were in store for us.  We were waiting for our plane, when they announced that our flight was full, and that they would check our carry-ons for free.  We gladly checked them in, and we were so excited with our luck!  Our plane ended up being delayed, and we had a layover in Dallas, so that was a little nerve racking.  But we got to Dallas with time to spare, and all was well.  After 9 hours on our flight, sleeping so horribly, we landed in London ready to begin our adventures for the day.  We go to get our bags.  We wait and wait.  Everyone else from our flight has come and gone, and the same 7 bags are going around the conveyor belt.

Uh oh.

We talk to the baggage claim people, and find out that even though we made our flight, our bags didn't.  So they were sitting in Dallas, while we were stuck across the ocean in a different country with nothing but the clothes on our backs.  ...And Ben's 57 medications that he packed.  Our bags would come on the next flight, which would arrive the next morning at 8:30.

After getting our complimentary toiletries bag from the airline, we went to pick up our rental car.  We were on the tube for an hour and a half, and I was literally a zombie because of jet lag.  I probably could have slept standing up.  When we got to our car rental place, we found out the car wasn't insured, so if anything happened to it, we would be buying a new car.  So we fished out an extra £118, and we were on our way.

The problem was that this day we had been planning to go around London, but our day was pretty much shot.  We had to be in London the next day to pick up our luggage, so we decided to do the sights the next day, and hit up Highclere castle and Stonehenge that evening.  It's around now that we discover that Josh's GPS doesn't have any London maps on it, and without it, we are completely lost.   So Ben had to go into a sketchy petrol station to buy an old school map of London.

We decided we were hungry, and this is when we discovered the beauty of Tesco.  Seriously, sometimes I wish I could go back to the UK just for Tesco.  It's just that amazing.  We got sandwiches, white cheddar cheese (which Josh claimed was amazing, so of course I had to try it), deodorant, and contact solution.  Then we went to go check in to our hotel.  Josh just went in while Ben and I sat in the car waiting.  Josh locked the car, and as soon as he was inside the hotel, the car alarm starts going off.  There are horns and sirens, and the doors are locked with Ben and I inside, not being able to do a single thing.  We were trying in vain to unlock the doors, but there was nothing to be done.  A man was sitting in a car next to us just laughing his head off at us.  Ben and I would stop moving, and then the alarm would stop, but then one false move from either of us would set it off again.  Ben and I gave up trying to escape the car, and just slunk down as far as we could in our seats. Finally, Josh came to our rescue and turned off the alarm, and all we could do was just sit there and laugh about it. What makes this story even funnier is the fact that there was this button on the roof of the car that we kept pushing and wondering what the heck it was for.  When we got back to the States, Josh looked it up, and it ended up being the button that could disable interior compartment monitoring for the alarm system.

Go figure.

Our next stop was Highclere Castle, better known as Downton Abbey.

Notice our lovely poofy hair from being on a plane all night and having no hair product.

We got to tour the castle, and the grounds, and it was so much fun!  Honestly, one of the best parts of the trip.  Plus, the grass is the softest grass I have ever felt.  In my entire life.

After Highclere, we got some curry, but realized we didn't have any forks, so a 2nd trip to Tesco was necessary.  We went to a park to eat it, and mine was so so greasy.  It was getting all over my hands/arms. I was pouring some of the grease out onto the sidewalk, and not realizing that I was spilling it all over Ben's foot... oops.

So, covered in grease, we headed to Stonehenge next.  We got there too late to go to the Visitor's Center, but it was still awesome to see this in real life.

After Stonehenge, we realized we needed pajamas and clothes for the next day.  And so our 3rd trip to Tesco came about.  Josh and Ben found Tesco value shirts for only £4.  Josh bought a coral one, which we were very fond of.

It was finally time to go to bed, but the problem was that we might have only paid for 2 people to be in our hotel room.  And we might have had to pass right by reception to get to our room.  And the outside doors to the hotel locked at 11:00, and it was past that time.  And we only had one key.  Which Josh snapped as he was trying to get into the hotel.  So we had to cleverly sneak Ben into the hotel room.  I'm not sure exactly how he got into the hotel, because we couldn't get him the key, but he made it in without a hitch.  The problem was that we forgot to tell him our room number.  So Ben was creepily listening to the hotel doors listening for our voices.  

The problem was that Josh was in the shower, and I surely wasn't talking to myself, so Ben was in the hallway, completely lost.  It was just lucky that Josh called out asking if there was soap anywhere, otherwise Ben might have been out there for a while.

Whew, well, that was just the first two days.  Can you believe it?

More European adventures are to come!  Stay tuned!