I see London Pants

11 07 2012

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10 juillet 2012

London, England is a wonderful city filled with so much history. To me London fits right in the middle of being America and European. Many things are the same, which makes traveling there easier, but everything is opposite which can be confusing. I love the fact they have kept to their traditions and customs with the Royal family.

Currently I am sitting on my flight back to the United States. (Although my friends and I did try to “accidentally” get on a flight to Rome.) I have a mixed feeling of emotions, just as I came to Europe with. I’m sad to be leaving and wish I had the time and money to stay longer. I’m excited to get home to see my family. I’m grateful for having such an amazing experience, but I am also very anxious for what my future entails.

Studying abroad is an experience I knew I wanted to have since I was in high school. One of my very good friends was an exchange student from Finland and she inspired me to travel the world. Many Europeans are introduced a huge world filled with cultural diversity. For me, growing up in the same city my entire life, I felt I never had that experience. Today I can say I am more culturally diverse. I say only more, because I feel there is always room to learn more about the diversity and cultures of the world.

Through my eyes, my European adventure was extremely successful. I have learned everything from the European Union, French and European culture, French cuisine and wine, and the Paris metro system. I went to Europe for a study abroad experienced, but I left with a life experience.

It is hard to explain what studying abroad can do for you, because everyone’s experience is different. I can say it is an experience you should never pass up if you have the opportunity. Study abroad has opened my future up to endless possibilities and I’m excited for the next chapter of my life adventures.

Thank you all so much for following me the last few weeks. I am sorry I wasn’t able to consistently keep you updated towards the end.

Sincerely,
Kyle Ashley

P.S. Check out my London Pants I will be wearing during the Olympics!

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Phantoms

11 07 2012

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9 juillet 2012

If you have been keeping up with my blog you would have read about my friend being pick-pocketed when we arrived in London. Out of everything stolen, her passport was the hardest to take care of. Four days after the incident she was able to make an appointment with the US Embassy in London (only one not on US territory if you didn’t know).

I went along as a witness, her piggy bank, and her moral support. The entire process took about three hours. It consisted of waiting in line, waiting in waiting rooms, and more waiting. It really wasn’t too terrible, I just tried to keep my friend distracted from thinking she would never get home. Without her having another form of identification it seemed to take longer then necessary, but eventually they issued her a temporary passport! Note: Whenever you travel have multiple colored copies of your passport, in separate areas.

Tonight was the last night with my four travel companions. It was a night of celebrating our friends 21st birthday, saying goodbye to our new friend (Caroline from Illinois), and reminisce about our many adventures studying abroad. Over a delicious dinner, we shared many funny stories from the last five and a half weeks. As I sat around the table with my friends, I couldn’t help but feel a little down thinking about saying goodbye and heading back home. I can’t imagine traveling with anyone else, and I couldn’t have imagined I would become such good friends along our amazing journey.

After dinner we walked across the street to “Her Majesty’s Theater” for the “Phantom of the Opera”. The theater isn’t very big, but very quaint and beautiful. From the very beginning of the play I was blown away by the talent of the main characters in the cast. Wow, the main character, Cathrine, had a voice with some pipes! Everything about the play was outstanding from the cast, props, set, and theater. Even though I was sitting in the “nose bleeds” I felt I had the best seat in the house.

Once we were all back to our hostel, packed up for our next adventures we headed for bed. It was difficult for us all to fall asleep, so we all stayed up sharing the funniest moments of the trip and inside jokes we have. It was the perfect sleeping aid to fall asleep.

Cheers,
Kyle Ashley

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Her Majesty the Queen

9 07 2012

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8 juillet 2012

Today was a laid back day. My friends and I were able to cross everything off our London Bucket list so quickly with our bus tour, that today we decided to just walk around exploring the city.

When I am able to take the time to step off the main roads in tourist cities, I am able to see the city in a totally different light. There aren’t as many tourist, and life is much simpler. Many people off to work doing their daily chores. I was surprised at how quiet all the neighborhoods were, but I was pretty far off the beaten path.

In the afternoon I had a reservation to meet Her Majesty the Queen for tea at Buckingham Palace! Okay I wish, but my friends and I did get the last tickets to visit the state rooms in the Palace until the end of July. When the Queen is home she doesn’t care for people wondering around it, I don’t blame her!

Her palace is absolutely breath taking. There is so much fine history in every room with many portraits of the royal family dating back centuries ago. As you walk through the different state rooms (rooms the public is allowed to see) you can tell which royal reign designed it. I learned so much about the royal family history and about Queen Elizabeth II. I was pleased to hear how involved and detail oriented she is when it comes to entertaining her guests. For example, every dinner party she has, she makes sure the table is set just right, the menu is perfectly written (in French), and that it meets every guests food allergies. I sure wish I could dine with the Queen.

This year was the mark of the Queen’s Royal Jubilee. This Royal event marks her 60 year reign as Queen. She is the second queen to receive this, after her mother Queen Victoria who reigned for 63 years. This was a special time to visit her palace because they have displayed the royal jewels she wore during her Jubilee Celebration for the public to see.

The jewels were beyond sparkly. There were many jewelry pieces that dated back to the 1700s that the Queen still wears for royal ceremonies. I am so happy I was lucky enough to come when the Palace was open and her Jewels on display (Unfortunately no photos are allowed to be take in the Palace).

M&M World! I didn’t really plan on visiting this four story building filled with M&M’s, but I’m glad I found it! There were so many different colors, and many different types of merchandise. I just stuck to the delicious chocolate. They had four M&M’S walking in a line like the Beatles did on Abbey Road, where I was yesterday! (photo below).

Nighty nighty,
Kyle Ashley

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Ice Ice Baby

9 07 2012

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7 juillet 2012

Bright and early I woke up so I could get a good spot for the changing of the guards! I arrived at Buckingham Palace where Her Majesty the Queen lives! It is a massive palace with beautiful gates surrounding it. This would also be where the guards with fuzzy tall black hats stand. I was hoping I would get to make funny face or tell jokes to make them laugh, but I wasn’t able to get that close. I did however, have a prime spot along the gate to watch as they did the Changing of the Guards. I really didn’t know what to expect of the process, but it takes awhile with so many different things going on.

There were guards who played instruments, and knights who road in on horses. Every guard was in perfect form and sharp with their motions. I think it would be a difficult job, just because you have to stand still and in line with so many other guards!

Coming to London there was only one street road I knew I wanted to go to. This road would be Abbey Road, where The Beatles had one of their album cover photos taken! After walking a long way from Buckingham Palace my friend and I made it! It really isn’t as spectacular as I anticipated it being. There is Abbey Studio and along the wall people sign their name. I thought it would at least have something in honor of the band that made the road famous, but it didn’t. I did get a good picture crossing the road like The Beatles, after many tries and dodging many cars (they have to hate traveling this road).

In the evening it was time to celebrate my best friends 21st birthday! Turing 21 isn’t as exciting for Europeans as it is for Americans, but I wanted her to have an amazing 21st birthday while we were here! The plan was to go to the original Hard Rock Café, but when we got there it was a three hour wait :(. We still ended up having a delicious dinner down the street, but the real excitement was still to come!

Friends of mine who have previously studied abroad told me about the ICEBAR LONDON. What better occasion to go for then a 21st birthday! This bar is made out of pure ice from Scotland, then shipped to different locations to make bars and hotels. Yes you can sleep in pure ice for the night in -5 degree temperatures.
It was a frigid experience that only lasted about 25 minutes, worth trying at least once in your life.

I’m missing speaking French, slipped up a few times with saying merci, so tonight.
Bonne Nuit,
Kyle Ashley

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The Original Tour

9 07 2012

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6 juillet 2012

Today went ten times better than yesterday! I am now starting to really enjoy my time in London and the city itself. Yesterday I had very mixed feelings, just because of my friend being pickpocketed right when we arrived.

My friends heard the best way to see all of the famous monuments was through The Original Bus Tour. It is a quick hop-on hop-off pass that allows us to see the monuments and learn a bit about the city along the way. There were so many places we saw throughout the day including: Big Ben Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Shakespeare’s Globe, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Marble Arch, and Harrods. (photos below).

Taking the red double-decker bus was the perfect way to get the best view of the buildings. There was also a tour guide that told us interesting facts. A few them that stuck in my mind had to do with the Marble Arch Square. Where this monument is, is where they used to execute people! It was a huge town event with lots of drinking involved. At one time they were able to hang 21 people! There are two phrases you many recognize that came from this: “Take one for the road” and “hangover.” “Take one for the road,” is what they would say when someone had their last drink before they were executed. The term “hangover” was created, because after someone was hung there would be parties where people would drink all night, and of course the next morning not feel too well. Then, creating the term “hangover.”

Many of the other monuments were exciting to finally see. The Tower Bridge especially, because currently it has the Olympic Rings on it in preparation for the Olympic games at the end of the month! (photo below from cruise).

Harrods was the last destination which is the most elaborate department store I have ever been to! One of my professors from my study abroad program said I must visit it while I am in London, even if I don’t plan on buying anything. Even if I wanted to, there is no way I could afford anything in the building! It is filled with the top designers of the world. They have everything from fashion, home furniture, electronics, and food. Walking through was like walking through the Palace of Versailles. I was in shocked and amazement walking through every area. It was a shopping experience I never could have imagined. If you ever are London this is the only shopping place you need to go to!
Lots of photos of the monuments I visited below! (photo with the Harrods Bear below).

As the British say…
Cheers,
Kyle Ashley

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Princess Diana

9 07 2012

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5 juillet 2012 – Afternoon

The clouds passed over and the sun slowly came out. My nightmare of a morning turned into a beautiful afternoon spent in the parks. Hyde Park and Kensington Park are huge areas of land filled with many outdoor activities. I sat with my friends by the pond, watching row boats paddle by and children feeding the swans.

Kensington Park was a short journey to the other side of the pond where we went to Princess Diana’s Fountain. It isn’t and ordinary fountain you would suspect, but it is more like a wadding stream. It is intended to relax and put your feet in. My feet felt ten million times better after sitting there for awhile. (picture standing in the fountain).

We decided we needed to do something fun after such a stressful morning. So we headed over to the London Eye. This massive ferris wheel is the best way to see all of London. I was able to look out in all directions to see the best view of all the buildings and monuments. I must say it was a little terrifying looking over the Thames River below! (photo of the London Eye below).

Now back to my crowded eight room hostel to call it an early night. Today was by far the most exhausting day.

Goodnight,
Kyle Ashley

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Nightmare

9 07 2012

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5 juillet 2012

I woke up bright and early at 4:45 this morning and caught the underground train to London, England. It was a quick ride under the ocean with my ears popping along the way. When I stepped out the train doors I was welcomed by the Olympic rings! (photo of Olympic Rings below). I thought how exciting is it that I am in London, England!! I have the next five days packed with things to do and places to see. This excitement turned into a nightmare for my friends and I…

First problem, none of my credit cards would work. Not knowing exactly why, or having a phone readily available frightened me. My friends reassured me everything would be okay and they would lend me money. So off we go to take the Underground.

Stairs, stairs, and more stairs and adding to that was my 50 pound plus bag and carry on. Not ideal for the London train station. So off my friends and I go onto the metro, should be easy being we mastered Paris, and in a few stops we will be at our hostel!

When we were getting onto one of the metro carts there were so many nice gentleman who would quickly help us get our bags on before the doors closed. Whew, so I though. We get off the metro and we look down and my friend notices she was pick-pocketed! We have all been so careful everywhere we have come that how could something like this happen?! Especially to her, because she is the mother duckling of us all.

First I was in shock, this didn’t just happen. Her passport, camera, credit cards, and £200, around $350, just like that, gone! Where do we even begin to make everything better? After everything has gone so well the last month it must have been too good to be true.

We called her mom, dad, credit card companies, the US Embassy, then arrived at our hostel to figure out our game plan. The game plan failed miserable and we were sent on a wild goose chase around London. My body hates me, especially my feet! It was a long three hours of accomplishing nothing. Our hope was quickly disintegrating. We weren’t able to print a colored passport, can’t get into the embassy until Monday morning (we leave Tuesday), and everyone sent us in the wrong direction. Then slowly everything came together. The the security guards at the embassy were so helpful, kind and even a bit funny, even if they did have numerous guns on them.

In the end we just have to remember the five of us are in it together. We watch each others back and do everything we can, but unfortunately thieves are out there dressed in disguise.

I’m am so thankful I am traveling with such great friends. None of us were backing down until everything was solved no matter how long or hard it was.

Let’s pray that was rock bottom and there is nowhere to go but up,
Kyle Ashley

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