Sunday, July 27, 2008

Nordic Mess

My past few days have been filled, along with the rest of Decorah, with lots of Norwegians and craziness around town. Sarah came up for two days to watch Catherine dance and hang out. Along with her, lot of my friends from Luther and high school who I don't see very often were in town. It was good to see everybody and spend time together but it was hard at times to find time for everything along with work thrown into my days.

I was able to get out on the trails to mountain bike in the beautiful weather and watch my sister dance at night. She is a Nordic Dancer and this is her final year of being in the "younger" group of dancers. Watching the dances has become more enjoyable over the years and she does an awesome job.

Life has been pretty crazy since my arrival home. It is hard to imagine I will have been home two weeks on Tuesday. I had wrestling camp for 4 days which I always find enjoyable. The team I coached was from Big Lake, MN. My team exceeded their coaches expectations for the camp, most of which I credit to my coaching abilities. But seriously, it was fun to show kids new moves and to turn around and see them pin a kid with what I had just shown them in their next match. For the first time in my three years of being a counselor at camps the kids and coaches have already asked to have me as their counselor again next year. Looks like I must have been doing something right.

Now that the town is finally back to normal hopefully things will settle down this week. I plan on getting some reading done along with lots of mountain biking. Cubs have a big series with the Brewers I plan on watching as well. Hopefully they can keep things together the second half and make it to the post-season....but I've learned not to get my hopes up to high.

Go Cubs!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


After a long day of traveling yesterday, I have finally made it home safely. My flight left London at noon, which meant I had to leave Anne and Sandy's flat around nine. My Mom was wondering if I was sad to leave Anne, Sandy and London. After some thought, I don't think sad was an emotion I had during these moments. My outlook is more of a, "see-you-later" than the dreadful, "goodbye." All of the experiences, laughter and memories are something that will stick with me forever and help shape me into who I am, so the way I see it, there are no goodbye's. As much as I will miss spending time in London and Europe, the time spent bonding with Anne and Sandy will be more missed.

After making my way through security I had some time to do some airport shopping and grab a bit to eat. My flight seemed to go by as fast as a seven and a half hour flight can go. I avoided the airplane food and stuck to the unlimited free drinks to help pass time. The real experience of flying home was my connection to Minneapolis. My flight was behind schedule and I was off the plane around 3:15 in the flight to Minneapolis departed at 4:15. I had to make it through customs, pick up my bags, and back through security again before I could get to my gate. It was a rush and very stressful, but I made it.

After my two hour flight to Minneapolis, my Mom and Ally met me by the baggage claim. We stopped at REI and grabbed some things for home and then I drove back. Somehow, I was up until eleven o'clock central time. Change that over to the time difference in London, and I was up for 22 hours. My body has adjusted pretty easily to the difference thus far and I am hoping it stays that way. It feels good to be home and see my family and friends again.

Now, I have to let reality set back in and get back to work. Stay tuned for a list of some of the interesting things I learned while across the pond in my next post.


Monday, July 14, 2008


During the middle of last week Anne and I flew to Dublin for a short, two day trip. We found out that two days is about the maximum you should spend in Dublin. It has a fair amount of places to sightsee but otherwise, Anne recommends viewing Ireland by touring through by car and visiting the small town atmosphere. Regardless, I really enjoyed Dublin and what it had to offer. The people were very friendly and we had some interesting conversations with a few locals at dinner. Anne pointed out to me that although the Irish are very friendly, they may also just be noisy. They were all very interested in our political thoughts and who we were voting for. The elections play a very large part in how things work over here, more notably, the housing market.

Aside from mixing in with the locals at the pubs and restaurants, we did the tourist part as well. Naturally, we had tours of the Guinness Brewery and the Jameson Distillery. Both were very entertaining and educational for those wondering. We both learned a lot about the process for both liquids and why they are so great....and yes, the Guinness is much better in Dublin than elsewhere in the world.

When we weren't partying while sightseeing we were able to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College along with Kilmainham Goal (Jail) and Dublin Castle. For the abbreviated stories of these treasures: the Book of Kells (circa 800 AD) contains the Four Gospels of the New Testament inscribed into calf hide in very intricate detail. Very impressive to see. Kilmainham Goal was a prison built in the late 1700's which held many leaders of the Irish rebellion. The jail provided us with a lot of Irish history along with many stories of escape attempts. We were also lucky enough to view the beautiful St. Patricks cathedral, the largest church in Ireland.

Sorry the blog is a pretty quick run-down. It is around 12:30 am in London and I will be in the air in less than twelve hours....time for some sleep!

As always, never stop exploring.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Back from Dublin

Anne and I are back from our few day trip to Dublin, Ireland. We are still in the process of detoxing all of the Guinness and Jameson from our system.....updates coming up shortly.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Efficiency is intelligent laziness

A rainy day in London can provide you with the perfect opportunity to relax. Anne, Sandy and I woke up this morning with intentions of playing a round of golf which was only to be spoiled by a forecast of rain and wind. Although my opportunity to golf in England may have been spoiled, it saved me from lots of disappointment and faulty math and provided us with the opportunity to watch the greatest match ever at Wimbledon.

If you were unable to watch Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal's match today, find some time and watch it somewhere. Their five sets, which we watched every minute of, offered an exhilarating performance of power, grit and perseverance. The weather here changes so quickly, which caused two rain delays during their play. At times it looked like a normal summer day and then almost instantly the skies would turn gray again and rain would appear. If I were back in Iowa, the weather would almost certainly mean a tornado watch would be in place.

After the match ended, Anne and I decided to try and recreate the infamous Happy Joe's taco pizza. Nothing tops Happy Joe's for Anne, so we figured if we got anywhere close it would be a success. The pizza wasn't nearly anything like the original taco pizza, but it was more than enough to satisfy.

On Tuesday, Anne and I take off for Dublin, Ireland. I am very excited to see the shades of green and get my hands on a real Guinness.

The Tourists Have Arrived!

July and August is peak season for tourists in Europe and it was easy to tell a difference on the first day of July. In July, the weather is supposed to be better and the days are longer, along with the queues. A piece of advice for if you visit Europe, there are better deals, less lines and less crowds if you travel opposite of these two months. On the other side you may be forfeiting some great weather. Either way in London, you still need to be prepared for the weather because it can change instantly. To the right is a great view of Big Ben, the Eye and part of Parliament along with a mass of tourists.

With the tourists arriving, they are also helping me feel more like a local. I have figured out London pretty quickly (with a lot of help from Anne), and I have had several people ask where something is or a certain street and I am able to explain where it is. A simple feeling that makes me feel more like a "temporary local." Below is a picture of "Buck House" or Buckingham Palace that I took while walking back to Anne's.

On Friday, Anne and I headed to the south bank to visit Shakespeare's Globe and the Borough Market. This replica of the original Globe Theater is built as it was in Shakespeare's time. It serves both as a museum and a working theater featuring many authentic Shakespeare plays and modern plays. During our tour, a play was in rehersal which allowed us to watch their practice.

After our tour we walked to London's oldest food market, Borough market. This place has it all from flowers to organic fruits and vegetables to some mouthwatering fudge. It has hundreds of stands featuring their freshest goods to sell that took a lot of will power to turn down. I ended up getting some excellent seafood paella before we walked back to Anne and Sandy's.

On Saturday, I went to Westminster Abbey to view the greatest church in the English-speaking world. This is the place where all England's kings and queens have been crowned and buried. It seemed very much like an indoor cemetery with over 3,000 tombs, but its architecture was beautiful. I wish I were able to take pictures, but you are not permitted to inside. Inside the cathedral also sits the Coronation Chair. The gold-painted wooden chair has been carved with some graffiti, but its significance is unprecedented. It has been in use since the early 1100's.

By the time my tour ended, I was lucky enough to grab a seat and hear the evensong performed by the Westminster boys choir. Hearing this musical meditation is one of the most pleasant ways to view the church in the way it was intended to serve.

Until next time, cheers and God save the Queen!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hastings to Rye

Anne and I "conquered" a beautiful hike yesterday with her hiking group from the AWC. We took the train from London to Hastings where our hike began. There was a lot of low cloud, rain and mist for portions of the trip but that did not detour us from having a great hike and marveling at the wonderful scenery.

There were seven women and me so I figured I was in trouble. I always knew the experience of having two sisters would pay off somehow. But seriously, I had a great time. Everybody on the hike was very welcoming and lots of fun. It was my first actual group hike and is something I would like to do more of when back home.

Our hike took us out through the town of Hastings (below) between some vegetated bluffs along the southern coastline. Once we were through many of the up and down climbs we had a pretty flat hike through some quaint retirement villages on the coast. We hiked through many pastures filled with sheep and cows, along with their droppings, which we tried to avoid like land mines.

Our ending point was the town of Rye where we caught a train back to London. In all, our hike was around 20 km or approximately 12 miles.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Feeling Cultured

Last night Anne took me to experience my first musical, Les Miserable. Memories of listening to the musical cassette came flashing back and it was nice to be able to understand what was actually going on. The play was very well done and was more enjoyable than I imagined. I will definitely try to get to more plays when I have the opportunity.

Today, Anne and I went down to Canary Wharf to visit the Docklands. We went to the Docklands Museum and went through their Jack The Ripper tour that was very interesting. It took us more than an hour to go through some of the stories, police reports, pictures and evidence that had been retrieved from his victims. I learned that "Jack" is to this day still an unidentified cereal killer. He targeted the "unfortunate," otherwise known as prostitutes in the Whitechapel area. Because his identity has never been confirmed, there are many myths surrounding the murders which we had to sort through. I have came to the conclusion that there was more than one killer, but who really knows?

Afterwards, we walked across Tower Bridge, which is often mistaken for London Bridge. From there we took a city boat to Westminster and walked back to the flat, about 3.5 miles. It was a beautiful day and was the hottest of the year, a scorching 82 degrees with no humidity. The weather here is perfectly suitable for my taste and I will have a tough time adjusting to the hotter, more humid temperatures in Decorah.

Tomorrow Anne and I are heading to the southern part of England for a hike with her hiking group. The hike will total 12 miles and should be lots of fun. Our train leaves around 9:30 and we wont arrive home until later in the evening. It will be nice to get out of the city and enjoy some beautiful England countryside.

As always, take care.

Cheers, bye!