As promised, I have a new post for you today that will be filled with pictures (more than you ever needed to see of some places, I’m sure) of my outing with the IFSA-Butler group. It was truly a day of firsts for this finally-caught-up-on-sleep (sort of) traveler. So let’s begin!
Shall I begin with Friday night? That is where it all begins, I believe. Friday night found me alternately planning that trip to London with Amanda, Betsey, and Iris for the weekend of February 17, and getting ready for my early start for my trip into London the next day. We got our tickets to Phantom purchased (Friday night 7:30 showing Royal Circle seats here we come!) and decided that we would stay in a hostel over the weekend. After that I skyped with my parents for a bit and discussed the finer details of my travel plans the next day – I think they were as nervous as I was, perhaps more so (they are parents, after all!).
The reason for our shared anxiety was that it was going to be my first time traveling outside of Brighton by myself. I had only taken the train over here once before with Joi and Oran, and have never taken the underground tube in London before. To make matters worse, we had to meet at the London Butler office at 8:30…meaning I had to wake up at the lovely hour of 5:30. Joy. And it certainly didn’t surprise me at all that I got to bed later than I had planned on, and then every hour of sleep I did happen to get I would wake up. But hey, I didn’t sleep through my alarm! In fact I was up 5 minutes before it…
And so we’ve reached Saturday. I woke up, dressed in the clothes I had laid out for myself, grabbed two slices of my orange-cranberry bread to go, grabbed my purse and hat, and was out the door. It was still dark outside as I made my way to Falmer station; about ten minute’s walk from my flat. I was able to get my tickets I had purchased on Friday from the self-ticket dispenser machine and used the side entrance (a little gate that was open as no one was working at the station yet) and caught the train with a few other students into Brighton.
From there it was about a 15 minute wait for the train to Victoria station in London, and it was a very cold wait indeed. Once on the train, we had 3 quick stops to make on the way, however, the second stop ended up being not quite so quick. The driver came on the speaker saying we had some electrical maintenance problems and that it would be just a few minutes – no problem, right? Well ten minutes later the voice comes on again asking if we could all please exit the train as it was being cancelled due to the issues and going back into Brighton.
Ok. Small moment of discomfort here, but not panic. I knew one way or another I was going to be getting a train into London, of course they would send another one, but I was worried about getting there before the buses left. I had given myself half an hour of extra time, but if worse came to worse, well I paid to get into London so I’ll just spend the day in London – oh wait, what’s that?
Nevermind, we can get back on the train now? Well, great! So we made it from there to Victoria station without any other problems. Then I was glad of how easy it was to reach the underground station at Victoria from there – you don’t have to even leave the station, just follow the signs. But I did have a few minutes of figuring out which underground train to take until deciding that, yes, I did need to get on the other side of the platform to go in that direction. So from there I made my way to the other side, also easy, and got on the next train. It was about a 10 minute ride from there and once I arrived it was a simple matter of looking at a map on a nearby bus stop to decide where the street I needed to get to was. A few minutes later I was standing in the queue of students waiting to get on the bus. While I was 10 minutes late, I had made it just fine.
Then we were off to Stonehenge, one of the seven world wonders! Or apparently, one of the seven world wonders of the “Medieval World” according to the Wikipedia page I’m on. I had actually completely forgotten that it was classified as such until I saw something mentioning the world wonders in the gift shop! But Stonehenge was very cool, though I admit, I would have preferred to visit at a warmer time. Everyone walked around it, got their pictures, and then took their time browsing inside the warm gift shop. I would like to do a little research on the specific rocks that are pointed out in the guide pamphlet now, though (I did my best to point them out in the pictures below).
After our allotted time at the historic site, we boarded the bus and were on our way to Winchester (not too far from Stonehenge). I have absolutely nothing bad to say about Winchester from what I saw of it! It is a beautiful small town and I would love to go back for a day; again, preferably when it gets warmer. As you will be able to see from the photos, there was a farmer’s market going on in the wide pedestrian-only street and lots of locals walking about. Even in the cold the town was full of parents pushing strollers, kids showing off in at the market, and a general sort of quiet and peaceful liveliness; just beautiful.
The main attractions in Winchester that we were there to see were the cathedral, the remains of a castle, and the Great Hall that held a reconstruction of what King Arthur’s Round Table would have been like. It was all very neat. Another first that day was my lunch – I had my very first pasty! It was a bacon, leek, and potato pasty and it was quite good (you’ll find a picture of it thrown in the mix below…), and so nice to have a warm lunch!
By 4 pm we – we being myself, Andrew, and Brittany (whom I had meant at the orientation in January) – had made our way back to the bus and ten minutes later were on our way back to London. I monopolized that time to catch up on a little sleep. We arrived around 6 and my train back to Brighton wasn’t leaving until 8:40 so I had some time to kill. Yet at this point, it had also started snowing. So Andrew, Brittany, and I made our way to a little Italian restaurant for dinner where we stayed until I had to make my way back to the underground. I had a good spinach and blue cheese pizza and as we chatted it was nice to get to know them better.
At 8 we managed to get our check and were out the door. Luckily we didn’t have far to go to reach the underground station; none of us had shoes on that were properly equipped for snow and a thin layer of white was already coating the ground!
We parted ways in the underground station at Notting Hill Gate as they took the Central Line and I the Circle Line (yellow). Unfortunately I started off going the wrong direction (silly me), but knew immediately once I stepped on and we were departing that I had gotten on the wrong train. So I got off at the next stop and switched sides, but then had to wait almost 10 minutes for the next underground train to arrive that would take me to Victoria station. Now that I think about it, I should have given myself a little extra time because of the weather. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20 as they say.
At any rate, things worked out well enough, I simply arrived back later than I was expecting to as I ended up having to take the next train into Brighton (my ticket was for a general way back with one change, though, so I didn’t have to pay for another ticket which was good). At the time as was waiting for the next train, however, I wasn’t positive about that minute ticket detail so to distract myself, I ate peanut m&ms. Nothing like a little chocolate to calm one’s nerves, right?
Well that’s what I’m sticking to, at least! More so, though, I was worried about not having the use of my phone. Turns out it’s time for me to top-up again, however I didn’t have to chance to do that before I had left. I didn’t want my flatmates to worry, but I also wanted to be able to contact someone in case of an emergency. Well, I got on the train without a problem and we made it to Brighton – and no maintenance issues despite the snow.
At the Brighton station it was a matter of waiting until the next train into Falmer, during which time a student from the University of Brighton was kind enough to let me use their phone to let one of my flatmates know I was in Brighton, just running late. Turns out she was a grad student from Jordan, and we chatted with each other while waiting and then riding on the train to Falmer. At the station we bid each other good luck in the snow and I trekked my way, very carefully, back up to my flat arriving a little before 11pm.
Then it was a matter of informing my flatmates and my parents of my safe return, deciding that a shower could wait until morning, and collapsing in bed. Despite the excitement from other students about the snow (three students were already having a snowball fight as I walked up the stairs to the door to the building, and apparently there are some students here from the Middle East who have never seen snow before), I was able to sleep through the night.
Sunday morning this is what the outside world looked like:
It has since occurred to me, after walking back from class today, how odd it is to see a seagull walking around in the snow. Someone also made a snowman outside my window. I have to tell you though, the snow is already melting as there wasn’t too thick of a layer on the ground. Going back to Sunday, it was primarily spent reading for class as well as allowing myself to relax after an eventful Saturday.
Today has been much the same. I had one class in the morning and have since done some work, picked up a few groceries for the week, had an amazing quesadilla for lunch, and taken care of things at a leisurely pace. After last week, this is great! The York House girls and I have also just booked our rooms at the hostel we are going to be staying at in two weekends when we go to London. This trip is coming together!
Tomorrow is another day – two classes, a hopefully cancelled football practice (it’s a high of 29F tomorrow!), and an anim8s meeting. There was a lot to share in this post, so I hope I’ve managed to adequately keep your attention and interest throughout! As always, I appreciate your interest in my writings and adventures. As promised, below are the photos from Saturday so have a look! Thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…