Archive for the 'United Kingdom' Category

Grimsby and Hello Ireland!

May 13, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are having a nice weekend! Wednesday I finished work in Newcastle, and in the afternoon drove to the next location, Grimsby, UK. It’s approximately three hours’ drive from Newcastle with an extremely different vibe. Grimsby is a smaller town with many people working at the refineries and the windfarms nearby. There are a TON of windfarms in northern UK and Scotland. I walked around the first evening around 7pm.


Everything was closed and the few people walking around seemed very odd, unpredictable, pretty sickly. It was a little disconcerting. I visited a cocktail bar and was told not to take pictures of this ugly pace because it would break my camera! I ate dinner at an Indian restaurant, which was awesome, for the food and the cool employees. I ended up eating there the next two nights as well.


Everything is inexpensive in Gimsby. I pay more for my small apartment in Boston than it costs for any of the rental properties here, including even luxury detached houses. On Thursday and Friday I worked. On Thursday afternoon I visited Cleethorps, which is the next town over and has a bit more going on, and a beach, which was under construction (?). Other than that, not much to report. I started a new book about Philosophy, was really productive work-wise, and wrote some raps and poetry.


Also, it’s important to note that the people in Grimsby are really nice and welcoming, and the people observed on the first night weren’t a good representation. Now it’s Saturday and things have gotten way more exciting. I woke up at 4:15am, drove 1.5 hours to Leeds Bradford Airport for an 8:30am flight (in retrospect, booking the flight from Leeds was impractical and kind of silly… it looked closer to Grimsby on a map, even with driving directions, than it is in reality. Now I have the empirical evidence to really know that, so great… though… is it possible to really know anything? ugh, new philosophy book).

I said goodbye to the Ford Kuga, which I think got its flat tire back because the pressure alert came on again, and took a flight to Dublin. At Leeds airport someone pinned me as American and was like, “is it true, in America, they have burgers This Big??” with his hands like around an American football. So I said, “Bigger!” Ha.


In Dublin I picked up a new rental car, and they gave me a white hatchback-kind of suv BMW as my “compact car.” Awesome! I made it a point to be extra charming and hilarious at the rental car desk, and to put on some subtle lip color before. It makes a difference. In line I met some businessmen who were super psyched to be starting a two-week guys golf trip all over the Ireland coast. They gave me the idea to go to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher, which I’ll visit tomorrow.


I was thinking of going to Belfast for lunch and chill before heading to Sligo, but decided to drive straight across to Sligo instead. It was a really fun drive — the car is smooth and fast with a far superior sound system AND a built-in nav system, which is really easy to use.


The hotel in Sligo is great, and my room is huge! Larger than my apartment. At check-in, they let me know about an event tonight, stand-up comedian Tommy Tiernan! I had no idea who that was but love standup so got a ticket.


I got ready to go for a hike but then it started pouring so I drove to Rosses Point, and walked around in the rain. It was beautiful even in the rain, and then it got sunny! And then pouring again. So I had a coffee at a nearby hotel and walked around some more, then back to the hotel for cocktails and dinner and Tommy Tiernan, who, it turns out, is a pretty big deal, and hilarious, and a great performer.


There was no assigned seating and I had a seat in the fourth row centre so was able to really observe his motions and way of working the stage. I feel so lucky to have seen this show! What a lesson in Irish culture, and about the reputation of Sligo county!: I’m driving in a cool car, NOT a “sweet ride” because in Ireland if you say “ride,” that means sex. If someone offers you a ride, you can say “i’ll take a lift,” unless, of course, you want the ride. Also, if a man is erect, that’s called a “horn.” I was also surprised that religious reputations, catholic v. protestant, play a role in daily life and assumptions about people’s personalities.

Love, Annie



Northumbria and Scotland

May 10, 2017

Hi Family and Friends,

Monday and Tuesday were nice. Monday I started work early and had a meeting in the afternoon. Then I went for a drive to Alnwick castle, which is in some Harry Potter movies. I took the coastal road back, which was beautiful.


It’s one benefit to having a GPS, you can kind of “wander” and see where the road goes, yet it still calculates the route back. At one point I got out of the car to get fresh air and had a private beach! For dinner I ate at a restaurant specializing in muscles.


Today I took a day trip to Scotland. I woke up at 5:45 and was on the road by 6:30 because the first stop was the Auchentoshan distillery, which is just west of Glasgow. Even with the GPS I got lost so I couldn’t make the 10am tour. Fortunately there was another at 11.


I was in a tour with a family from France with an adult and his older parents. The parents didn’t speak English and kept speaking to me in French as if I understood. I had to keep telling her (unfortunately) I had no idea what she was saying, but i got the sentiments from body language. I told them aside from hello, goodbye, please, etc, I only know one word “travallier” which means “to work.” It’s kind of true and they thought that was moderately funny. The tire pressure gauge on my rental car was on, but I had decided to ignore it because it wasn’t “red” it was just “yellow.” But one of the staff members at Auchentoshan noticed I had a flat tire and they had a great tire pump that plugged into the 12 volt socket in the car so they helped me fix it. The staff there was so nice.



For lunch I visited the West End neighborhood of Glasgow to a restaurant that came recommended by the distillery guide. It was a special meats place so I had a hanger steak which isn’t something I would normally order but was very delicious and extra exciting because I had literally eaten just peanuts for breakfast.


Then I drove to Edinburgh, which is about an hour away. By the time I got there it was almost just after 3 pm. I put an hour and a half on the parking meter and started wandering. It was a lucky day and lucky parking space. I had no idea Edinburgh was so cool. Everyone was outside hanging out in the sun below the great buildings. I could appreciate the beauty of the situation but to be honest I felt terribly lonely and sad walking around there. It was an instance I would have liked to share.


Then I started the drive back. There was some traffic getting out of Edinburgh but not terrible. I started to feel better when the roads became empty, and winding up and down the hills. With the kind of tight turns that are very thrilling and you want to take fast. And “blind summits” of hills that if you take fast, it’s super thrilling because you’re not sure what’s past it, maybe the car will fly away. I’ve felt this skiing. The bulk of the drive on the first leg was major highway but the drive back was all windy roads. The border of Scotland and England was especially cool. Driving today was a big loop. Total distance was just over 350 miles or 560 km. That was pretty aggressive — not as much as the 500 mi (800 km) trip between Klaipeda/Riga/Kaunas last may,  but up there.

For dinner I ate at a different Indian restaurant from the one on Sunday. Now, back to work.

Love, Annie

Hello UK

May 7, 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Hello again. It’s the first day of a two week survey in the UK and Ireland. I don’t survey very often anymore so this is an exciting opportunity to discover new places and also to take a break from the normal routine. After a difficult and busy past three weeks I am exhausted in every way so this will be short.


The flights on Saturday were uneventful but felt long, I spilled a lot of sparkling water on myself and then there was a three hour layover in Dublin. On the first flight I saw Allied, which was great because movies about wartime are my favorite, especially WWII, and this one has Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard.  Then watched La La Land and cried pretty much the entire time. I’ll blame that on the difference in air pressure in flight…


There was a three hour layover in Dublin during which I found a space to lie down for a little at the airport, in a circular nook carved into the wall with padding on it. When I got to Newcastle I moved very slowly and methodically. I picked up a rental car which has the steering wheel on the right side for lefthand driving. The hardest part is parking or turning left when there’s not much space because it’s difficult to tell how far the car goes out to the left and I don’t want to make scratches.


I have a good hotel room and there was an upgrade. I arrived at around 14:30, unpacked, and walked around first down the river then up to some of the churches. I observed some spaces that had a very European feel with grand buildings, some places that were “normal” and dirty, some places with ruins and overgrown grass that looked like what you might see after things start growing back in a nuclear wasteland, and some with a lot of little packets for drugs, which I recognize from my time in Hartford.


I walked into a bar to have a small beer, and ended up meeting two guys around my age who became new friends. They had really thick “Geordie” accents (Geordie is the name for people from around Tyneside — which means from around here here). At first it was hard to understand what was being said and after that it was interesting to discover cultural differences despite the same language. Still plenty of laughing. So that turned into a few half pints and a “pickleback” which is a shot of bourbon chased with a shot of pickle juice. It’s not a joke. It’s also not terrible.

Then I went out for Indian food. now I’d like to sleep 🙂

Hope you have a great week.

Love, Annie

London and Hello to Port Louis!

January 24, 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

It doesn’t feel like January here! After two days of travelling, I’m finally settled in Port Louis, Mauritius. The hotel is on the waterfront and has some great restaurants.

This is view from the Hotel. The room is also nice. I’m writing this blog post while sitting outside, looking out at the harbor, drinking some wine and eating banana chips. It’s warm, there’s a breeze, and the heat is not oppressive. Could be worse.  🙂 Also, the bartender said he likes my typing skills. Yeah!

Two days ago, I flew to London where I had a twelve hour layover. I arrived in the morning and after screwing around the city for a while (this was a little uncomfortable as I did not pack a jacket) I met up with my friend Scott, who is studying there at London School of Economics and (lucky for me) only had class in the morning.  He brought me a sweater to wear for the day and as soon as I put it on my day got 1,500 times better. 

We first went to eat lunch at a Korean food café and shared kimchee, spicy bimimbap, and a beef thing. It was absolutely delicious and nice and spicy and there were great sauces involved.  After that, we went to the British Museum and checked out the Rosetta stone and other cool things in the museum. I saw a lot of things I had studied in Art History class in college! and the museum is pretty beautiful. Then Scott showed me the LSE campus and his programs special room in which a lot of people study. It was very awesome. Here’s a picture of Scott (with my backpack… thanks for holding it) and part of the LSE campus.

We said goodbye and I took the express train to Gatwick airport. I found Gatwick to be extremely pleasant. The bathrooms were nice and it wasn’t crowded. Surprisingly, the almost twelve hour flight to Mauritius wasn’t bad at all… I got an entire row to myself because the flight was so “quiet”, and slept most of the way. I definitely needed it. After settling in to the Hotel, I went to explore Port Louis.

The way to get to the city centre from the hotel is by Water Taxi! I walked around and encountered this market that had AWESOME smelling spices in it. I found some food in another section of hte market that I could eat while walking… Roti, which is a kind of flat bread, with a spicy mixture inside (I just asked the guy selling it for whatever was the best). I dropped some on my shoe and it got into my toes but that was the worst thing that happened today so I can’t complain!

Hope you are well!