Friday, August 16, 2013

School's out for Summer Days 7-10 in London

Day 7

On Friday, we flew from Barcelona back to England & took the train in to London. Some of our friends were in town before setting off on a tour, so we got to meet up with them and visit a little. After Jim introducing Hunter to some cask ales, we walked to Kensington Park so the kids could play at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground.

A little later we walked over to Hyde Park and saw the Princess Di Memorial Fountain, which is an odd somewhat circular shaped ditch but a lot of kids were having fun playing in it.
We finished our evening with the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London at 9:30 pm. Every night they lock the Tower up with guards in their bearskin hats as well as Yeoman Warders in a special ceremony.

Day 8

Because we got everyone to bed last night after 11:00, we got a late start by Pielow standards (almost 10:00).  We walked to the Tower of London to see the things that were locked up the previous evening with the Ceremony of the Keys.  

We headed straight for the Crown Jewels, temporarily bypassing the tour, since from previous experience we knew that the line would get extremely long later in the day.  We walked right up to the Crown Jewels with little to no delay. Cara was very knowledgeable about the different jewels on display and as we were walking about she was asking “where is the 2nd star of Africa ?”  Stacy and I were wondering where this  and other  information had come from and we were informed that it came from a book she and Carter had recently read called the Gansta Granny.  The book was given to Stacy by the librarian at Carter’s school where Stacy had been helping during the year. 

Next we took Yeoman Warder guided tour of the Tower Of London and heard all sorts of grisly tales about its history.  After a brief lunch break, we set off to explore the castle by ourselves.  Cara took Stacy and Carter on a children’s Treasure Trail through the Tower while I got to explore the military exhibits in the White Tower.  We all met up a little later and agreed that we had done the correct thing by seeing the Crown Jewels early since now the queue had to be at least an hour wait.

After a short rest at the hotel, we set off for Covent Garden to meet up one last time with Fellow Fulbrighters; Stephanie, Rebecca, and Christy.  We walked a little while and eventually made it to an Italian restaurant with outdoor seating so we could chat and eat.  It was a pleasant evening with great company and I hope we get the opportunity to see all of our Fulbright friends in the future.

Our final stop of the day was a huge 6 story sports store called Lillywhites.  One whole floor is completely dedicated to football (soccer) clothing.  I had a hard time deciding on what to get but I finally decided on a long-sleeved Scotland top even though it is way too hot to wear anytime soon.   The weather on this trip has been hot by Scottish standards (or “roasting” as my students would say) with temperatures in both Barcelona and London being right around 80 degrees.  We also have found the temperatures to be very warm and are anticipating a rather tough time coming back to North Carolina in a few weeks since that is typically the hottest time of the year with temperatures usually in the 90’s.

Day 9

Today we took the bus to Greenwich to see the Prime Meridian.   Carter was very excited about this since he thought he was going to stand in two different time zones, but he quickly understood that this was the place that helped standardize time instead.  The hike up to the observatory was steep and rather warm but we made it to the top to enjoy some good views and interesting museums.  

On our return to the village of Greenwich, we stopped in the market to see if there was anything good to eat.  We found all sorts of things: Carter – calzone, Cara – speck and fontina focaccia sandwich, Stacy – sushi, & Jim – arancini (fried riceball stuffed with ham and cheese).  All of them were quite tasty.  We also tried some much sought after churros at long last. We even picked up a couple of extra sandwiches to eat later for dinner.

Later in the day we headed back into London for a visit to Hamley’s.  Carter and I missed this earlier this year because we went to a football match instead but Carter was desperate to go this time.  Hamley’s is a 6 story toy store with loads and loads of toys and employees playing/displaying toys.  There are so many toys it is a bit overwhelming and I am sure a bit disappointing to find that we are not purchasing anything (although Cara did buy a few small Tatty Teddy things with her own money). 

After a stop at Waterstone’s bookstore to get off of our feet and into some AC, we went a park near our hotel for our dinner picnic.  Stacy, Cara, and I had sandwiches from Greenwich and Carter had chicken and chips.  We also found out that Andy Murray had won Wimbledon, becoming the 1st men’s British champion in 77 years.  What made it really exciting is that Murray is from Scotland!!!

Day 10

We rode the Tube to St Paul’s Cathedral and took another Rick Steve’s tour via the Ipod.  Stacy and I went to St Paul’s 4 years ago but could not go all the way to the top of the dome because it was closed.  This time all of us got to climb the 527+ steps to the top and back down again.  

I really enjoyed the 360 views of London.  We picked out all of the major landmarks –Tower Bridge, Whitehall, Shard, Gherkin, and the London Eye – and we were even able to find the Olympic Stadium as well as Wembly Stadium. 

Leaving St Paul’s, we quickly headed over to the Horse Guards Grounds to watch their version of the changing of the guards.  Maybe Stacy and I remembered it differently from our previous trip but it was not very exciting for large portions, but we did get a few good pictures.  Our lunch today was at the Sherlock Holmes pub with some outstanding bangers and mash as well as the fish and chips (I also enjoyed my cask ale). We took a quick detour to the National Portrait Gallery and saw a small collection of some of the most famous artists such as Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, etc.

Throwing a penny in the fountain in Trafalgar

We stopped at M & M World for an AC break and snack and then hoofed it over to the British Museum.  Cara did a kids treasure trail in the Egyptian section. 
Easter Island statue in the British Museum

By then our feet were all extremely sore and tired so we rode the tube to Westminster Abbey and we sat down for about an hour in the shade before entering the church for an Evensong service.  

Evensong is a daily prayer service but most of it is done musically.  The pipe organ was played during the service and the Abbey Boy’s choir provided the song.  It was a most wonderful experience hearing the music in a majestic church that is over 1,000 years old. 


By then, the kids had recovered some of their energy so we walked across the Thames River to get an up close view of the London Eye.  While we were there, we had a quick dinner and the kids played on a playground.  Carter voted it his favorite this year.  Basically it was a bunch of timbers anchored together at all sorts of angles and both kids had fun climbing all over them.  I must admit it looked pretty cool to climb on and I will also say that you won’t see one like it in the States for liability reasons.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cara's top 10 year in review

CARA’S THINGS TO DO IN EUROPE (this was my list of top 10 things I wanted to do & what I saw)

1. Ride a gondola in Venice
I got to do this on my birthday. It was fun but also hot and short.

2. See Stonehenge
I thought it was interesting, but short and mom and dad were moving too fast for me to listen to my audio guide.

3. See the Eiffel Tower
I liked the Eiffel tower a lot and saw cool things from the top.

4. See the Arc De Triomphe
I went to the top by walking up a lot of stairs. From the top I looked over the sides at the roads.

5. See the Roman Coliseum
They used to have fights with animals there.

6. Go to the big toy store in London (and get something)
Hamley’s was REALLY big.  I got a build-a-bear bunny, a tatty teddy watch and a tatty teddy character

7. See the Northern Lights
We didn’t see this.

8. Go to the Louvre
This was an art museum. I saw the Mona Lisa, other paintings, and statues.

9.  Go to the Edinburgh zoo
My favorite things were the pandas and penguins.

10. Go to Deep Sea World

We saw the sharks and seals getting fed

Jim's End of the Year

As this year abroad comes to a close, I feel like I ought to have experienced this magical “Ah-ha” moment where I completely understand the whole exchange teacher process and have this brilliant plan or idea to take back to my school in North Carolina.  However I don’t feel like I have had that one moment and I have come to realize that this year living in Scotland, traveling with my family, and teaching in a completely different school setting has been my moment.

Teaching at Kirkcaldy High School has been challenging but a great experience.  While kids are kids everywhere, many KHS kids have a home background that does not truly support education and that has been a challenge.  Throw in other facts such as students cannot fail, teaching both middle and high school age students, and an education system that is almost completely foreign to me, it is a wonder I survived.  I had terrific support from all of the maths teachers, especially Department Chair, Sharon Hamilton. I feel quite confident I was asking daily questions all year long and I am sure she thought I was a pest or at least not worth the hassle.  Thank you Sharon!!!  As to what I will take back to my school, I honestly do not know until the situation appears where I can utilize my newfound knowledge and experiences and meld them into something that will work at home.  I can say that I have learned to do much more lesson preparation using the computer, data projector, and even a smart board.  Imagine that from the guy using the overhead projector during the 2011-12 school year.

Carter and Cara have been able to go places and see things that most Americans will never ever see and I hope they remember the great times we spent together.   Stacy has been able to have a year’s sabbatical from school and instead be a stay at home mom and full time travel agent.  She has done an outstanding job of planning our trips and keeping the family strong and there is no one else that I would have wanted to share this year with than her.

I have lived my dream of living in a country that embraces football, seeing several Premier League games, and listening to TV and radio shows that talk about it all of the time.  I think fish & chips, bangers & mash, and even haggis, neeps , tatties are great meals, especially with a pint or two of cask ales.  I was extremely proud when Andy Murray won Wimbledon, because he is a Scot.  It may seem a bit strange, but I really see myself as part Scottish and I will truly miss the identity of being Scottish, even though I am an American and have this really cool accent (at least many of the students said that).   When we arrived back in Scotland from our trips to other countries, it truly felt as if I was coming home and I will miss that.  How will I adjust to being back in North Carolina, I cannot say for sure.  All I can honestly say is that I will do it the same way that I did in Scotland, which was take it one day at time (and look forward to holidays and football matches).

Carter's Favorite things about this year

Now that I've been back home for a while, I have looked back at my top 10 favorites of the whole trip.

1. Barcelona: This was really cool, partly because I could hear/see Spanish and see it, partly because it had a similar climate to the USA.

2. Walking to school: I always loved walking to school, especially with my friends in the snow. (Barefoot, uphill both ways)

3. The climate: I especially liked the climate (not the weather, but the temperature) because it was cool, though not cold.

4. London: London is awesome. It is almost like a small New York City, and London has almost any shop that you can think of!

5. Being able to walk everywhere: Being 15 minutes walk to the town center was very convenient. That meant that if you needed to pick up something quick from the grocery store, you only had to walk 20 minutes round trip.

6. Having friends just around the block: I had a tight group of friends that I walked with to school every day and they lived on the street just above me.

7. Soccer games: you could kind of say the UK is kinda soccer crazy (no offense). We had a decent team 10 minutes walk down the road that dad and I used to go see play. They recently got demoted to a lower league, but "Come on ye Pars!"

8. Edinburgh: Edinburgh is a nice little city, and though I think it has too much historical stuff there, it also has some neat surprises that might just be around the corner like Oink restaurant, where they roast a whole pig each day!

9. Aberdour: Aberdour is a small seaside town on the coast of the Firth of Forth. It has a nice little beach and an awesome playground!

10. Fish & Chips: I personally think that fish and chips (fries) is the best British meal. My favorite is Alari's fish and chip shop, which is in Dunfermline! 

Stacy's End of the Year

Things I will miss:
Views from and of Dunfermline

Walking in to town (and to school, the store, etc)

Different flowers blooming almost all the time

Rock Walls

Bathroom stalls that offer full coverage
  (sorry, no pics:-)


Funny signs

Guys in kilts



Having time to bake or cook new things

Afternoon Tea

Things I’m looking forward to coming home:
Food – I have a restaurant and food list a mile long of things we miss

New clothes (old things that I totally forgot I had in my closet)
Wearing sandals & flip flops
Re-connecting with family and friends

Carrying on the tradition of visiting some place new (at least once a month).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

School's out for Summer - Days 14 & 15

Day 14

Today we drove to Beaming Living History Museum which is near Newcastle. This is mostly outdoors, with relocated old buildings and well as some newer re-creations of what life was like long ago in the area. They had a variety of areas such as farm & farmhouse, village, town, train station, etc.
in the classroom - Uh Oh!
You could walk into most buildings as see it furnished with some areas having re-enactors. 
Cara's luggage valet at the train station
We spent a nice leisurely day walking and exploring and even riding trams to the different areas, as it was spread out in a big loop. Carter even ran in to a high school friend from Dunfermline!
trying to figure out this school yard game
Day 15

On our last day of vacation, we drove north to our last stop, Alnwick (pron Annick) Castle. We were very impressed with what great condition everything was in and the re-enactors here were really good at giving information and getting the kids involved. The castle was part of the filming set for the first two Harry Potter movies, and we took a short tour of these locations. But the best part was starting the day with broomstick flying lessons. 

We were taken into the area where they filmed HP having his first broomstick lesson. Our two teachers were quite amusing and had us in giggles the whole time. As you can see, they were successful in teaching most of us to fly :-D

Having a go at flying!
There was also a kids courtyard area with a ton of fun activities, called the Knight’s Quest. We got to dress up in costumes,

fight with swords, Cara even tried her had at making an illuminated manuscript illustration!

After  our visit to Alnwick, we hit the road back to Dunfermline with a last stop at the Scotland border. It was a good ending to a wonderful summer holiday trip.