The festivites started on Sunday, where the McFeeter's (my host family) and the five of us Americans in their family, all had a Thanksgiving meal. It was delicious. Katie, Alison and I actually spent the night at their house the night before to cook/prepare the food. It was fun to cook with Mrs. McFeeters in our pj's and just hang out with the fam.
I'm going to miss them when I leave in 9 days. Ireland would not have been the same with out being welcomed into the McFeeter family for the 3 months I have been here. It has been the best part about the whole trip! I'll save you from the mushy gushy-ness, that will be for another post (oh, just get ready).
Green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey, sweet potatoe casserole (i made those!), carrotts, cranberrie sauce, pumkin pie and apple pie...It was GRAND! Thanks to Alison's mom who sent over a few ingrediants that we needed in order to ensure the American traditions wer intact.
We finished up our week on Tuesday as me and 9 other girls left that night for London. We arrived around 10pm, bought a 7 day unlimited oyster card (a pass to ride the tube-London's equivalent to the subway) and hopped on the district line to the West Kensington stop. We found our "hotel" (it was basically a really nice hostel) in a neighborhood a couple of blocks away from the tube. The hotel was a victorian style townhouse, sandwiched between several other townhouses. It was a cute neighborhood to call 'home' for a few days.
Wednesday morning we were out in the city by 10AM, wandering around with map in hand we found outselves at my future home...ahem I mean Buckingham Palace, where we took lots of photos (of course).
We saw some type of ceremony at Buckingham Palace...horses, hats and a trumpet horn. Not sure what all that was about, but it was interesting to watch.
We then walked through St. James park where we people watched, enjoyed the swans and laughed to keep ourselves warm.
We ended up at Trafalgar's Square where we walked around in the National Gallery admiring Monet, Van Gogh and my personal favorite, Leonardo da Vinci. I'm not an art connoisseur in any measure, but I fell in love with da Vinci's paintings. The "Virgin of the Rocks" was breath taking. I love how he paints her looking like a porcelain doll, it's captivating.
After the Museum I met up with my Aunt Susan who lives in London and she showed me around Covent Gardens, which has little shops and some market type booths. She showed me some nooks and corners of London streets. We visited a coffee shop, sipped on lattes, walked around until we ended up in China town. (oh yes. China town!) Where we ate some dim sum (Chinese pot stickers type of food)
After China town and dim sum, Aunt Susan took me to see her gorgeous house! After 3 months of not seeing relatives, it was great to meet up with her in London.
On Thursday (Thanksgiving day) I met up with my friend, Johanna who is studying in Oxford this semester. She took the Oxford tube(charter bus) to London and we spent the first 4 hours of mid-morning sitting in a small coffee and muffin cafe. It was great to process our semester together, discovering along the way just how much growth has taken place in both of our lives. We had honest conversations about where we have been this semester, struggles we face, hopes we have for next semester along with a few fears. There is no doubt in my mind that our time together this Thanksgiving was orchestrated by God. We met each other on a level of understanding that allowed the both of us to be vulnerable, honest and loving with one another.
The rest of the day was spent shopping! Johanna had to get a dress for a wedding over winter break and I would never miss out on a shopping excursion. It was fun to link arms and talk our way through the bustling streets. We took the afternoon slow, soaked in our surroundings and just enjoyed the fact that we were together in London! We met a professional photographer while walking around, he overheard me say to Johanna "dang, that's a nice lens"...It was a surprisingly great diversion from our shopping afternoon, as he and I bantered back and forth about photography. Who knows maybe someday he'll be a contact for me, I've learned that it's all about networking. Anyway he was great, hilarious and helpful.
The next day Johanna and I caught the Oxford tube and we spent the day on her end of the world. It was great to see Oxford and have Johanna show me what has been her home for 3 months now. She introduced me to her house mates and friends, they were all so sweet! We sipped on some traditional English tea and cream (cup of tea, 2 scones, cream cheese and jam) with her good friend Karis and Malcolm. Oh those Oxford kids...I'm sure you can just imagine the level of intellect our conversations held. haha it was fun! After a few hours of stimulating conversation, we all walked to where Oxford was having a "light up the town" ceremony. The streets were full of people, vendors, a few rides, live entertainment and a parade.
After being in the cold for a while, Johanna and I got some hot food at the Eagle and Child. If you're not familiar with this pub, its famous for being the hangout place for the Inklings, a writers' group which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. In case you are still at a loss, they wrote Chronicle's of Narnia and Lord of the Rings. It was really fun to eat in the same place that these genius writers ate, wrote, drank and discussed.
I'm so glad I took a day trip to Oxford. It's a city full of rich history, and walking down the cobble street roads surrounded by huge, stone, cathedral buildings, you can't escape the richness. I also saw the church that they filmed several Hogwarts scenes in for the Harry Potter movies. If you've seen the movies and remember Hogwarts, that's basically what all the buildings in Oxford resemble. It was a great day in Oxford! I caught a late train and made it back into London to my hostel by midnight. Traveling alone, at night, in a strange city probably isn't the smartest idea, but is it bad to admit that I enjoyed the adventure?
Saturday we packed up, checked out and headed into the city to kill time before our evening flight back to Belfast. Kate and I stopped in at Cafe Nero and then made our way to the British Library where we met up with the rest of the group. Overall, Thanksgiving break was relaxing, enriching and encouraging. I didn't do much sight seeing that the typical tourist comes to London for, so I left a lot undone for my next visit! Here's a picture of Kate and I being goofy in the British Library.
9 days left and several papers, tests and a presentation to do. Pray for strength, but mostly motivation....There's snow on the ground, and that's always a recipe for day dreaming and distractions! It's business time-I gotta get this done so I can go home!