Naturally, we took photos:
( More photos under the cut... )
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A short time and £15.50 later, I was aloft in the London Eye and treated to a stunning view of the city. It was amazing to be able to see so many landmarks from just one point. Turn one way and you can see St. Paul's Cathedral and the 'Gherkin'. Turn another and both the Parliament buildings and, in the distance, the Battersea Powerstation can be seen from above. Yes, many pictures were taken, including some with Teddy. *grin* Those will have to be added to the growing list of photoblog entries that I need to sort out out when I have the time to do so. It brought back a lot of memories of my many gleeful explorations along the Thames and the city streets. My experiences of that magnificent city will be a treasure I will always hold in my heart.
As I left London by train to return home, I whispered 'goodbye' to the city that I realized that I had come to love, despite whatever else that has happened to me in the rest of England. And I promised myself that I would one day return; a final farewell would be just too heartbreaking to endure.
The rest of the photos to be found at: http://s6.photobucket.com/albums/y220/Ca thartesAura/Calais/?albumview=grid
I do apologize to anyone who has been eagerly awaiting this post; recently I've been getting a lot of pits from the bowl of cherries that life is purported to be, but I'll get into that later.
First, allow me to describe my second day of adventuring, in which I hopped a ferry from Dover, England, to Calais, France. It started off quite reasonably with stuffing myself with a tasty English fry-up, followed by a brisk morning walk to the ferry. Sadly, it was still misty and cloudy, so there were no great shots of the cliffs to be had as we sailed away.
I have to say, after many merry memories of sunny afternoons spent on the broad, open observation decks of BC Ferries, those of Sea France rather decidedly sucked, especially given that the tiny patio area that passed for an outdoor observation deck was frequently filled with smokers desperate for a fag, killing off any opportunity to appreciate fresh sea air, not that the cold wind and mist made it any more pleasurable. From outside, only a vague idea of what was happening outside could be gleaned through the film of water deposits that crusted the windows.
I was rather amused to discover a Space Invaders game in the video arcade, though.
The ferry ride took much longer than anticipated though, teasing me with a view of the French beachside for about half an hour as the ferry sat in the harbour waiting for its place at the dock. Between that, and discovering that there was a one hour time difference that everyone neglected to tell me about, my day in Calais was a bit shorter than anticipated.
My next consternation came as I left the ferry terminal building to discover that the next bus to town would be about forty minutes in arriving. Thankfully, I'm not adverse to walking, and after taking a minute or two to get my bearing, I predicted, quite accurately, that it would take me a hell of a lot less time just to walk into town from the terminal and I promptly left behind the group of folk despondently settling in for that long wait for the bus (What's wrong with your feet, people?!?)
Many architectual delights awaited my camera lens and I spent a great deal of time snapping and striding from one place of interest to the next. I got some delightful shots of Teddy with the Town Hall, which has a most impressive clock tower. Other nifty subjects of the shutter included a roundabout topped with topiary shaped like a peacock and many attempts to capture the little public busses that can only be described as "cute".
Realizing that I was running out of time, I opted out of checking out the hypermarkets, which tend to hold the interest of most English visitors to Calais. I've since been told that I haven't missed much in that regard. 'Course, if I had gone, I might have actually found some souvenirs to purchase, something which was strangely lacking in the shops of this port town.
I took in a nice meal in an actual French cafe (Le Cafe de Paris, no less!), which included a decidely French appetizer I had not had since I was a child, escargots. And, yes, I sipped une cafe at le cafe.
My final visit in Calais was to the beach. In Dover, the beach consisted entirely of small pebbles without a grain of sand to be found. This, I discovered, is because the French stole all the sand for their own. The beach of Calais was a broad expanse of fine, clean sand that formed dunes in the wind. When I say clean, I mean CLEAN. I imagine it might be different in the summer when this beach is likely cram packed with beachgoers from a variety of nations, but, during my visit, I saw nothing of the usual flotsam and jetsam found upon beaches, no driftwood, no seaweed, no partial remains of any critters, save a singular pretty clam shell (cardida?) that, due to its very uniqueness of presence on this beach, was an offering from it to me (as there weren't any rocks to be found, interesting or otherwise!).
I eventually made it back to the ferry terminal where, upon attempting to enter the British Customs area, I was nearly given a heartattack along with the proclamation that my passport had expired. GLAH!!! For some reason, I thought I still had time on it, but, apparently, as scrambled as my brain was before the holidays, I mixed up my driver's license expiry date with my passport expiry date. Fortunately, the customs officer was really good about it and, after checking out my (still valid) entry visa and asking a few questions about what I was doing in England, he waived me on with signed declaration and the emphatic advice to get my passport renewed post-haste (got the photos shot yesterday). Yep, THAT was excitement I didn't need!
THEN (yes, there's more) there was the last second panic over not having a proper boarding pass. Apparently, I was supposed to have gotten from the lady at the counter when I arrived at the terminal (my return ticket wasn't good enough?), but I didn't know that, as there wasn't anyone AT the counter when I had arrived some time earlier. This time, though, I wasn't alone in this bit of stupidity, as many folk had to race back to the ticket counter for their boarding passes. Yerg!
Add to that a choppy, and subsequently nauseating, ferry ride and a couple hours of train ride, and you've got one very exhausted Vulture arriving home late and very glad to see his bed. Thus ended an otherwise lovely couple days out. Oh and hey, I've now set my feet upon THREE continents! Yay me!
As I mentioned earlier, I would have got this post out sooner, but the last couple days at school have been utterly exhausting (wretched hellspawn!). The creative energy just to even write a decent blog response has been quite lacking, let alone something like this. I am exceedingly glad I put in my notice for the end of this term; it's going to be a test of my mental fortitude just to last THAT long. I've only been teaching two days and I already feel as physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted as I did before the break began. Ugh! Fortunately, there's going to be a lot of breaks inserted here and there, including an inset day next Monday and an Easter long weekend, to help stave off insanity during my last remaining weeks at this school.
Lookee! Finally, photographic evidence of Teddy's existence in England! *chuckle*
As PDC has been messing something fiercely with all of my files, I won't bother going through the hassle of posting the rest of the photos here, only to have them disappear. Instead, I'll simply point you in the direction of the apppropriate photobucket page, found here: http://s6.photobucket.com/albums/y220/Ca thartesAura/Dover/?albumview=grid
On Wednesday, I hopped on the train to Dover. Between the fog and travelling in depressions, there wasn't a whole heck of a lot to see during the trip. Fortunately, the town of Dover itself was reasonably visually rewarding, with building styles from a variety of eras. The avenues of the town were lively and colorful, though not overcrowded, and it was with eager eyes that I walked along.
As I had been a little too relaxed getting going that morning, I arrived in Dover with time to either tour Dover Castle, or to hike the cliffs, not both. To the disappointment of some, I imagine, I opted for the latter. Afterall, whilst I do enjoy architecture and history, I am, at heart, a child of the wild, and the hills beckoned to me.
The walk to the hiking trails carried along the beachside, again, delighting my vision. It was good to commune with Mother Ocean.
The hike itself was vigorous and carried through light bush and pastures. My eager camera sought many splendid vistas from the top and hillsides, as well as getting visually intimate with a number of odd rock formations and plant life. On a distant hill, through the haze of light fog, I could make out Dover Castle, spawling out like an iguana sunning itself on a rock.
On my return to town, I then walked out to the end of the Prince of Wales Pier, though, sadly the potentially stunning photos of the cliffs from a distance were thwarted by fog.
My meanderings carried me back into town, where, with just enough time left over before closing, I visited the Dover Museum. Of particular interest to me was the Bronze Age Boat exhibit, which featured the remains of possibly the oldest sea going vessel so far discovered. It was likely built over 3500 years ago and shows some particular ingenuity. I also learned some interesting stuff about how to smelt bronze using a fire pit furnace and bellows, how to cast bronze tools, and how to attach said tools to wooden handles. (Yes, this kind of knowledge is pretty much useless in the modern era, but, hey, along with my knowledge of pit firing ceramics and bits of survival trivia, it might come in handy in a post-apocalyptic world! ) I also learned about how there used to be five major ports that were of major strategic importance up until the fourteenth century when changes in the coast led to the complete silting up of all but Dover, which only remains a port due to extensive efforts to keep its harbors clear over the centuries. And, finally, I learned that local metal detector club has found some really neat crap over the years.
My little educational excursion over with, I bought some Subway (I was reserving finer dining for the day after) and headed to the bed and breakfast I had reserved a room at. The room itself was a little tatty at the edges, but it was warmly decorated, featured a double bed, and (JOY!) had its own toilet and shower, a somewhat infrequent occurence for such places.
I spent the remainder of the evening chuckling at Family Guy: Blue Harvest, on DVD. If you're a fan of either Family Guy or Star Wars, it's worth watching. Where else are you going to see Stewie as Darth Vader making comments such as "I sithed my pants"?
Afterwards, it was off to bed early to have a good start on the following day's adventures.
But that's not the real joy, no! Right now, I am enjoying an incredible American style milkshake blended from Ben and Jerry's Vanilla ice cream and *sigh* Irish cream. Bliss! Yes, Irish cream milkshake! You just can't get that in a restaurant (at least not in any I'VE been in).
I think I will sleep well tonight.
I also had a good run today, about five miles to and through some lovely woods on a hill near home. Got an excellent work out in! I still have to do more regular runs, though. 5 miles or not, once week just isn't enough cardio. I really need to get more yoga in, too. I actually found that it seemed to do well to tone my upper body; I'm getting definition in my upper arms (kewl!).
During the next three months, I HAVE to try and get in a trip to Europe, just to say that, in the damn near four months I've been in living in the UK, I at least made it to the continent ONCE. I've checked out some fairly cheap weekend getaways. I have to decide between Paris, Amsterdam, and various bits of Germany. Hmmm.... Sadly, I do not think I can really afford to do more than one. I'll still need cash for the move back to Canada and to do last bits of puttering around the UK (and maybe Ireland: gotta visit the motherland and all that).
In the next week or so, I'm thinking of checking out the Terracotta Soldiers exhibit at the British Museum. Anyone interested in joining me? I also have to do a photoshoot of famous London landmarks featuring this little guy (seen here in front of the Toronto City Hall):
Can you believe it? All the times I've been shooting in London and I haven't got any with Teddy in them! Must rectify that!
And there's friends I'm going to have to see before I go (saying 'goodbye' to them is going to be the hard part ).
Yeah, April is going to roll up pretty quick (at least I HOPE it rolls up quick!); there's a lot of things I have to get out of the way.
But chief is getting my feet on Europe! *chuckle*