Coming Home.

Coming Home.

 

Finally, the journey is complete. It's been an amazing experience. I've grown in ways I never could expect and saw more of London and of the world than I ever could imagine.

This blog has also been an amazing experience in itself. I wrote at least one post with pictures every single day, sometimes more. I've edited over 900 pictures for this blog (and taken literally thousands more). This blog transformed from a mere record of my journey into something more; it's an artifact of my life in London and definitively one my proudest works to date.

With that, I want to thank some people. First, my parents and Grinnell College, for making all of this possible. Next, the rest of my amazing family for their love and support and constant praise. Next, Emily, for making the homesickness a little easier to bear and giving me so much to look forward to when I return home. I'd also like to thank all of my amazing friends on the program, back home in Grinnell, and fellow abroadlings for making this semester great and forming such incredible memories. A huge thank you goes out to Donna Vinter, Caroline Hart, and Professors Prevost, Nuttall, Guenther, Delminico, & Layton-Jones; you all helped make the program so incredibly enriching and life-changing with both your teaching and your conversations. I also owe a major thank you to the Grinnell AV Department in conjunction with the Off-Campus Study Office for providing me with an amazing DSLR camera to document the journey. Finally, my warmest thanks to all of you readers; I've had over 5000 page views from dozens of countries around the world and your comments and praise helped keep me motivated to keep writing and adventuring.

 

This may be the last Grinnell-In-London blog, but I hope to make sure that it isn't the last blog. Updates will be less frequent, but I plan on sharing bits from my life here. You'll see my photography, my art, my writing, food creations, etc. I hope you've enjoyed the London blog and will occasionally pop over to see what's new at The Life and Times of Eric Mistry. Thanks again for being amazing, dear readers.

With all of that out of the way, I just wanted to reflect on the journey, first with some statistics, then with some final musings.

The Numbers (And More Subjective Things…)

  • Plays: 17 Full Productions (Including 5 Shakespearean Plays)
  • Countries: 4 (UK, Belgium, Italy, Spain)
  • Cities: 15 (London, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Salisbury, Bruges, Brussels, Venice, Florence, Rome, Sorrento, Termini, Bari, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Edinburgh)
  • Blog Posts: 149
  • Reader Views Before This Post: 5128
  • Edited Pictures: 930 (Note: EDITED, I took thousands more.)
  • Favorite Pub: Exmouth Arms
  • Favorite Fish and Chips: Poppies
  • Favorite Local Brew: Camden Ink (Delicious stout with chocolate overtones.)
  • Favorite Purchase: Tied between my leather briefcase or vintage leather bomber jacket.
  • Favorite British Word: Cheers!
  • Favorite Memory: TOO MANY TO CHOOSE!!!

This has been the trip of a lifetime. I've seen an insane amount of sites and sights, walked miles and miles around Europe, and made some amazing friendships along the way. It wasn't always easy, but keeping a good attitude helped make everything easier. I've learned a lot about myself as a person, but also learned some important skills that I will definitely be using for the rest of my life, namely learning to cook for 4+ people and how to take good photographs.

I've made some small collages below that capture a few of my favorite snapshots from the trip.

So thank you for sticking with me, dear reader. It's been an amazing journey, and I was glad to bring you along.

Now, it's time to go home.

Much love,

Eric

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Adventures at Stonehenge!

Adventures at Stonehenge!

Today was a glorious celebration of 12/12/12. I visited Stonehenge (one of my life dreams), as well as the nearby town of Salisbury and the castle ruins at Old Sarum.

I began my day early this morning by catching a bus from Victoria Station in London. I enjoyed the nice, long bus ride to Salisbury by reading, working on a paper, and sketching in my notebook. Finally, I arrived in Salisbury and bought my combination ticket to Stonehenge, Old Sarum, and the tour bus. There was a bit of time to kill, so I meandered around the local Christmas market in the town square. I found a little present for one of my readers out there, so that was exciting as well!

Finally, the tour bus departed and I enjoyed the ride to Stonehenge and all the interesting facts the tour told us along the way. Apparently, Salisbury was a major strategic location in World War I and II, serving as a mustering point and training ground for the Allied Forces before they shipped off to continental Europe. As Stonehenge approached, we learned a bit about its evolution and what little history we know. The technological achievement was amazing at the time, and even holds up today. (An attempt to move a similarly large stone in the early 2000s in a historical reenactment ended in total failure.)

At long last, we finally pulled up to Stonehenge. It was truly amazing. The massive rock pillars stand in a wide open field, dwarfing everything around them. Majestic, ancient, and imposing, they are like nothing I have ever seen. They seem almost out-of-this-world and as old as time itself. This feeling was augmented by the Wiccan/Pagan/Druid followers that turned out in a sizable number to celebrate the occurrence of 12:12 on 12/12/12. They brought incense and chiming bells, and also organized a rhythmic chant amongst themselves. As the minute drew close, everything but a low hum from the bells went silent. Then, as if on a cue, the sun burst from behind the clouds, illuminating everything. It was one of the most magical moments in my life.

Majestic Stonehenge

 

After that, I walked around the structures, taking tons of pictures and enjoying the moment. Stonehenge is incredible, and these pictures don't even begin to do it justice. The sense of something bigger than the individual is unavoidable as one gazes upon these ancient monuments lost in time.

Post-Stonehenge, I made my way back to the bus, which took me to Old Sarum, a massive hill complex that holds the ruins of a castle used by William the Conqueror in the 1080s. It was really beautiful and peaceful, and offered an excellent view of the surrounding countryside.

The last cool thing I had to see was the famous Salisbury Cathedral. It towers over the city and dwarfs everything in sight. It was absolutely gorgeous. After snapping a few pictures, I walked around the town, finally warming up with a little coffee at a cafe before heading to the bus.

All in all, a wonderful day. Only a few left. Pictures below!

 

 

 

 

The Countryside

 

Heading up to Old Sarum

 

Beautiful Light by Old Sarum

 

View of Salisbury from Old Sarum

 

Castle Ruins

 

Adventuring Amongst the Ruins

 

Salisbury Cathedral

View from the Front

 

Spectacular Scotland, Day 2

Spectacular Scotland, Day 2

It's been an amazing day full of adventure here in Edinburgh.

In short, I ate a full Scottish breakfast, toured the Bank of Scotland Museum, went on a whiskey distillery tour, visited St. Giles Cathedral, climbed the 250 meter mountain/hill Arthur's Seat, ate a delicious sandwich, and visited the “Birthplace of Harry Potter”, the cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter.

 

I began my day with a hearty breakfast cooked to order at my bed & breakfast. The full Scottish Breakfast included sausages, bacon, eggs, haggis, tomato, beans, toast, porridge, tea, orange juice, and apple juice. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have such a hearty breakfast to start off my day. I ate it all up, and headed down into town.

 

The Scottish Breakfast

 

After that filling breakfast, I rode the bus into town, and swung into the Bank of Scotland Museum. It was incredible, with an impressive display of artifacts, including a display of shiny copper banknote print blocks. I enjoyed browsing through the free-admission museum as my food digested. The staff were also very friendly and knowledgable!

 

 

Old Bank Keys

After the bank, I ventured up the hill to see another of Scotland's treasures, its whiskey. I had the whiskey tour highly recommended by many, so I paid my fee and ventured into the building to explore the world of whiskey. Luckily, my tour group was really small, (only an English couple and myself) so we got a great deal of attention and care from our guide. After a quick introduction to the process of actually making whiskey, we made our way to a tasting room, where she explained the four most important whiskey production regions in Scotland and the various influences geography have on the character of the whiskey. We then were able to try one type of whiskey from a region of our choice. As we enjoyed our selection, we moved into the room housing the extensive collection of whiskey bottles in the museum. It was an astonishing sight, with the beautifully lit shelves filling a massive room from the floor to ceiling with whiskey bottles. The museum bought the collection from a Brazilian whiskey enthusiast. The collection contains over 3384 bottles, of which none have been opened. After touring the collection room, we finished our tour in the tasting room, where we were each given a small portion of each of the four regions' whiskey to try, as well as some still Scottish Water to add to the whiskey to taste. It was an incredible experience.

 

The Tour Whiskeys

 

One Portion of the Collection

 

 

Nice “Books”

 

Expensive Bottle Decorated With Real Silver

 

Each Chess Piece Contains Whiskey… Checkmate?

 

 

My Tasting Set

Next, I walked down the Royal Mile to St. Giles Cathedral. It was a glorious Gothic-style building with amazing stained glass and interiors. Absolutely stunning, inside and out!

St. Giles

Interior of St. Giles

 

Impressive Organ

 

Exquisite Celtic Cross

 

Next, I made my way down to the corner of the town and began my ascent of Arthur's Seat, a massive hill/tiny mountain that towers over the city. I took a semi-unconventional route up, which was quicker, had fewer people, but was more vertical (read difficult) and unpaved for most of it. It was awesome, and I enjoyed taking pictures along the way. The view when I finally clambered up over the last few rocks to make it to the peak (at 250 meters above sea level) was absolutely breathtaking! I took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed soaking in the amazing view. The day was amazingly clear and I could see for miles, making the climb all the more worth it.

 

Early Shot, the High Point is Arthur's Seat

 

Not Sure If I'll Make It

 

Ice on the Path Looked Like a River Stopped in Time

 

Nearly Halfway

 

View From the Seat

Another View

 

Success

 

See For Miles

 

Edinburgh Far Below

 

 

After all of that climbing, I needed some refreshment. Luckily, a sandwich store on my way into town vanquished my hunger, with an amazing Cajun Chicken Panini, tomato basil soup, and crisps. Now that my stomach stopped its whining, I could move onto finding the “Birthplace of Harry Potter”, the Elephant House. JK Rowling wrote much of the first book here, where she famously could barely afford one cup of coffee. (She doesn't have that problem anymore.) It was wonderful, and while the place didn't play up its famous importance besides a few articles and postcards, the bathrooms were a shrine to Rowling. Graffiti from fans covered the walls. Some were funny, some were strange, but some were deeply moving. It's amazing how that one series has connected a generation worldwide. It was so great to see where it all started. Finally, I went home to my B&B, exhausted but happy with an amazing day.

 

 

Sandwich

The

The Elephant House

 

Magically Delicious Cocoa

 

The Deathly Hallows

 

Touching Quote.

 

Spectacular Scotland, Day 1

Spectacular Scotland, Day 1

After a nice, long bus journey from London (nine hours!), I arrived in Edinburgh! I had a few hours to kill before I could check into my hotel, so I began wandering around the city as the sun began rising. Edinburgh is absolutely picturesque and very walkable. So began my day's adventures!

 

I started by making my way down the main road towards the castle on a craggy patch of rock that dominates the city. As I climbed the hill, I began to realize just how excellently strategically placed the castle was. In other words, it was a steep, arduous climb, especially with a backpack and duffel bag on my back.

Eventually, I made it to the top and was greeted by a spectacular view. The castle was simply magnificent. I made my way into the castle, paid for a ticket and audio guide, and explored every nook and cranny in the castle. I saw the views from the various embankments, the old cannons, the famous one o'clock gun, the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, old prison keeps, a war museum, a small chapel, and tons (quite literally, I suppose…) of incredible stone architecture. I also learned a great deal of Scottish history from the audio guide, including the stories of the Scottish/English wars and truces, and the castle's varioussieges and rebuildings. It was fascinating, and the history major in me was in pure heaven. The photographer in me was also thrilled, as the high vantage point gave me a ton of great shooting opportunities.

After the castle, I made my way down to a Christmas festival and enjoyed a brunch of a burger and a small piece of dark chocolate covered marzipan for dessert. There were a bunch of fun stands, and it was great to browse and see the attractions set up for the festival, including a Ferris wheel!

Eventually, I made my way to my lodgings, a little bed and breakfast (NB's Bed & Breakfast) twenty-five minutes by walking from the city center. I made it there, and was greeted by the incredibly friendly and helpful staff. They made sure that I was settled nicely into the room and then helped advise me on a bunch of various things to do. (The staff and this B&B are phenomenal. If you are ever in Edinburgh, I highly recommend it. They even upgraded my room for free! Also, funnily enough, another one of the Eric Mistry's of the world has stayed here before. I guess it's just where Eric Mistry's like to stay when they come to Scotland.)

I showered, got cleaned up, and headed (on the staff's advice) to the local coffee shop, Piece Box, for coffee and a supper. It was a phenomenally cute, really friendly place with great staff, excellent coffee, and delicious food! I got myself a mocha and the goat cheese and chorizo sandwich with red pepper relish on wheat bread, served with potato salad. It was a great way to cap off my day! I then retired to my room, relaxed and planned out my day for tomorrow! Stay tuned! All in all, a good day. Pictures galore below.

 

The Castle on the hill.

 

Up at the Top

 

Self-Portrait

 

King and Guardian

 

 

The Famed Edinburgh “One O'Clock Gun”

A gun has been fired from the northern ramparts at 1 PM every day except for Sundays and Christmas since the mid 1800's to provide an audio signal of the time to the ships in the harbor. Why one o'clock and not noon? According to the audio guide, “The Scots, being frugal, decided that one shot per day was cheaper than twelve.”

The Northern View

 

 

Pistols and Surgical Tools inside the War Museum

 

Display of Prosthetics Through the Years at the War Museum

 

The Southern View

 

Box Made By French Prisoner of War.

Prisoners of war contained in the castle could make various items from the meager everyday items in their cells to sell to townspeople every week in exchange for food, tobacco, and stationary to write home on. This particular example is made out of STRAW!

 

Incredible Stained Glass in the Chapel

 

View From the Top of the Castle

 

Christmas Market

 

Ferris Wheel and Scott Monument

 

My Cozy Room

 

My Supper!

 

Terrific Tuesday: London Style

Terrific Tuesday: London Style

Today was an action-packed day! To show Georgia and Natisha the full London experience, we went to the London Eye, looked at Westminster and Westminster Abbey from the outside, took pictures at a classic phone booth, and even ate some awesome fish and chips!

 

We began the morning with a tube ride to Westminster. I chose our exit from the station carefully, so we would emerge directly below Big Ben, an awe-inspiring sight especially after emerging from the Underground. We then made our way over to the London Eye, bought tickets, and headed on up to our car in the massive Ferris wheel. It was amazing to see London stretched out below us for as far as the eye could see. The city looked absolutely beautiful in the morning light. Though it was a bit pricy, the Eye was absolutely worth it!

Next, we walked over to around Westminster and Westminster Abbey to see the exteriors. Both were beautiful as usual, but Westminster Abbey was also surrounded by rows of crosses and paper poppies to commemorate the veteran's sacrifices. It was moving to see the thousands upon thousands of miniature memorials.

On a lighter note, we then swung into a phone booth near the tube station to take another quintessential London tourist photo. After all of our Westminster adventuring, we were extra-hungry, so we ventured to The Golden Hind (currently holding the crown for best fish and chips in London in my book) for lunch of fish and chips with mushy peas, tartar sauce, and vinegar. It was as good as ever, and the massive portions of white, flaky fish and perfectly made sides reminded me why this was a great place for fish and chips.

Finally, I headed to class and the gym, per usual. I then made Mac and cheese for dinner, which we all enjoyed as usual. It was so fun to have an extra-packed house!

 

All in all, another great London day! Pictures below!

 

Walking to the Eye

 

In the Eye

 

Westminster from the Eye

 

Pods over London

On Top of the City

 

Hanging Out above the City

 

Another View of Westminster

 

Westminster, Again…

Hello Ben!

 

Westminster Abbey

 

Remembrance

 

The Classic London Shot

 

Calling Everyone

 

Fish and Chips

 

 

Fish and Chips : detail

 

The Travel Day!

The Travel Day!

Today was a day of planes, trains, and automobiles! (Ironically, in reverse order. Also, with some buses for added flavor!)

Our morning began at 6:45, when we left Gocce Di Capri in a van driven by our host, Marco. A short time later, we were departing the Sorrento train station for Naples. From Naples we caught another train to Casserta, where we had a quick coffee and sandwich break at the railway cafe. Then, another train took us to Bari.

We spent some time in Bari walking around, looking at the sea, and enjoying our final bites of Italian pizza and gelato. I also met an Italian pug. (Pugs always have great names, and this one, Carolina, was no exception.)

We finally boarded the shuttle to the Bari airport and made it with plenty of time to spare. We chatted with some of the flight attendants as we were being seated, and got moved to extremely spacious exit row seats! (A little extra politeness and smiles always pay off somehow!)

Finally, a few buses later brought us home to our flat.

We did it! Italy accomplished!

 

Also, Happy birthday, Mom! You are the best!

Bari Boats

 

 

The Last Gelato

20121104-024721.jpg

Carolina the Pug

 

20121104-024733.jpg

Comfy in my exit row!!!

 

Sorrento Explorations: Day 2

Sorrento Explorations: Day 2

We woke up to another sunny day, complete with a gorgeous view of Capri.

 

After admiring the view over a breakfast of eggs and croissants on our deck again, we decided to go exploring to try and find a beach. Our host, Marco, gave us some instructions, but we ended up following a different path that led to the beautiful Punta Della Companella, a cliffside lighthouse and abandoned military lookout post. The path was amazingly picturesque, with the waves crashing into the cliffs far below us, and the lush flora changing from olive trees and bamboo to cacti as we got closer to the sea. The view when we finally made it to the Punta Della Campanella was absolutely breathtaking.

 

The wind was rushing around us, the waves were crashing down below, and the abandoned, but preserved, lookout was stuck in time. Beautiful can only begin to describe it. Even the pictures (worth a thousand words…?) can only capture so much. It was truly amazing.

 

We finally made it back home after a long walk back up the cliffs. I made us a dinner of pasta and bread, and we enjoyed another sunset. All in all, another good day. Pictures below, per usual.

Good Morning, Sorrento!

 

Enjoying the morning air

Building in Town

 

Olive

Along our Hike

Enjoying the hike

Cliffside Groves

 

Our Path

Cliff Drainspout

 

Old Cliff Building

 

Capri and The Sea

 

Punta Della Companella

 

At the Base of Punta Della Companella

 

Looking out from Punta Della Companella

 

Inside the Companella

 

The Seaward View

 

The Eric in the Window

 

Looking up the Cliffs

 

Another View of Punta Della Companella

 

Capri and More Sea

 

Up the Stairs

 

Our Hike, Mapped Out!

 

Sorrento Explorations: Day 1

Sorrento Explorations: Day 1

Our adventure into our Sorrento Hotel last night was a bit… crazy.

After a long train ride from Naples to Sorrento, we had to make it from the Sorrento train station up to our hotel. Unfortunately for us, the bus was not running after 6 PM. And it was POURING. Fortunately though, a can driver took us up and even gave us a bit of a discount off of the labeled fare because we were students and he understood “what a student budget is like!” We were then met by our amazing host, Marco, who explained the area and even directed us to the only open local grocery and restaurant.

We made it into our apartment, set our stuff down, and walked ten minutes on a pitch black road to the small town of Termini. We picked up a few essentials from the small grocer and made our way to the restaurant.

 

The restaurant was a small, family-run place. How small? They didn't have a menu. Instead, the owner came to our table, gave us a basket of bread, and asked us a few questions about what we felt like eating and how much we felt like spending. (In, of course, a mixture of Italian and English, with a small touch of pantomiming involved.) We ended up getting some amazing spaghetti with a simple tomato sauce. It was incredible. The pasta was so fresh and perfectly al dente. The sauce was simple, but immeasurably perfect. It was homemade Italian food, and definitely one of our best meals here. The restaurant was a local hangout, with some regulars sharing drinks on the patio and some young men in the back room watching a soccer football match.

 

After our meal, we trudged home in the pouring rain and fell asleep after some chatting.

 

We woke up this morning to an amazing view.

The island off in the distance is Capri. We are literally on the top of a cliff, overlooking the coast. It's beautiful.

 

After spending some time admiring the extraordinary view from our balcony, we made a light breakfast of eggs and croissants. We needed to get some groceries and hit an ATM, so Marco directed us to the nearest town with an ATM… five kilometers away. Also, there were no buses, as it was All Saints Day. Luckily, it was a beautiful day, so we began hiking down the trail.

 

It was amazing to see the cliffs and all of the extraordinary views. Olive trees lined the road and we could see the waves crashing down on the shore. It was an amazing way to spend the day, and we loved the Italian air and sea.

 

After our long walk, we enjoyed watching the sunset and the coast of Capri light up.

 

For dinner, we returned to the same small Italian restaurant. I had ravioli, homemade and delicious!

 

Pictures below!

 

The View

 

Cliffside Explorations

 

Beautiful Rural Church

 

Another Amazing View

 

Along the Road

Looking Down

Coffee & Pastry (Sfogliatella) Break

 

Balcony View

 

As the Sun Set

 

Sunset over Capri

 

Capri Coast at Night

 

Viewing the Vatican and the Train to Naples

Viewing the Vatican and the Train to Naples

As I write this post, I am sitting in an Italian train carriage. The countryside is whipping by outside as the train speeds along towards Naples. I can see the endless vineyards, dotted with little villas, a splash of golden orange against the greens and grays. We are en route to our final city of the voyage, Sorrento, just south of Naples. It promises to be quite fun, especially if the weather cooperates. We have a four person apartment with a terrace overlooking the sea.

 

This morning, we awoke, got ready, ate the hotel breakfast of coffee and pastries, and headed for the train station. We then deposited our bags in a holding area, caught a subway train to near Vatican City, and walked to St. Peter's Square. We had expected to not encounter much of a wait, (this being a Wednesday morning in late October…) but there was a pretty long line to get in. We waited to enter the square and upon our entry, we immediately realized why the crowd was so massive today; the Pope was giving a speech!

 

We explored the square, took some photos, and marveled at the massive crowds and immense structures. Though we only had a short time, it was well worth seeing and we were pleasantly surprised to get to see the Pope speak. (This did, however, mean that the Basilica was closed to us, but that just means I will have to visit again someday soon.)

 

Rome wasn't built in a day, nor can it be seen in just two, but we really enjoyed seeing the parts we did. We saw the Coliseum, we saw the Pope, and we managed to see countless other ancient buildings. All in all, a pretty amazing city. Onwards to relaxation! Pictures below, per usual.

 

St. Peter's Square

 

Pope on the big screen

 

A Mass for the masses.

Cropped and zoomed from above photo.

 

Amid the sea of umbrellas

Bernini's Fountain

 

The Maderno Obelisk

 

“Rome-ing” Around Rome

“Rome-ing” Around Rome

Today was an sightseeing-packed day!

After a small breakfast at the hotel, we ventured into central Rome. Our first visit was the Severan Complex of Roman ruins. (These are a massive complex of ruins, gardens, paths, and more.) After a few hours of hiking around, taking pictures of the various ruins and the nearby Coliseum, and listening in on tours, we were pretty famished.

 

We had a nice, relaxed dinner at a small restaurant a few blocks away from the ruins. After the ravioli-recharge, I felt great and ready to see some more of Rome. We continued our adventure around the city. We saw tons of amazing sites, from the Pantheon, to the Piazza Navona, to the Piazza del Popolo.

 

Finally exhausted, we returned home to rest and rise again tomorrow. We plan to see the Vatican and then venture onward to our final city of the trip, Sorrento.

 

Stay tuned, and enjoy the pictures!

 

Waiting in line, ready to go.

 

The Coliseum

Ruined Roman Arch

Part of the Severan Complex

Caitlin and I enjoying the Severan Complex

Totally Obeying the Rules

View From the Severan Complex

Ruins

Column I

Column II

Coliseum

View within the Ruins

 

Climbing the Coliseum

 

Group Shot!

Church Bells!

Ruins

Statue

Piazza di San Marcello

Monumento a Vittorio Emmanuel II

Pantheon

 

Oculus Within Pantheon

 

Pantheon Interior

 

Gelato Break! (Mango, Dark Chocolate, & Strawberry)

 

Fountain from Piazza Navona

 

Statue from Piazza del Popolo