Friday, June 28, 2013

"Out of the Frying Pan...

"... and into the fire." - The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Hey again! :) It's been a while since my last post - or has it? Eh, can't even remember, everything's been going so fast and furious in the coolest city on Earth, I feel like I've been here for months, when it's only been two and a half weeks! That's literally insane! I can't even imagine leaving at this point, this city is my second home, haha!

Fun fact about how I write my this blog - I literally open it up at random moment and jot things down, and then when the time comes to post, I just... try to compile it all together into something that's partially coherent. It's pretty much just a wild stream of consciousness. So, if you read the following post and are completely confounded, I apologise for my ramblings in advance. :)

BUT, before I word vomiting commences, my Spotify playlist, "London Calling, Summer 2013" is finally up! Check it out on Spotify (it's an easy way for me to just grab music from the internet without having to do some crazy stuff to get the music onto my iTunes - plus, this way I can share it with all of you!), or just listen to it below...

Again, the music might not necessarily be about London, per se, but there are going to be plenty of London-centric songs on there, and then some random (and seemingly irrelevant) songs that are probably going to remind me of this trip down the line. This is what I've got so far! Some of the songs that I have on the playlist aren't showing up, but that's because they're from my own iTunes library, and aren't actually on Spotify, but most are on there, if you're interested (and a music junkie, like myself).

Working in the United Kingdom

This is painted on a pub near where I work. What a good way to
greet an early morning at Irresistible!
Work is extremely fun (I work in the film industry, c'mon, how can it NOT be fun?!), but can sometimes be a bit boring... because I'm actually doing intern-like things in an office, rather than on a set (for now...), I just kind of sit and wait for someone to tell me what to do - whether it's call sheets, or locations, or directions. Of course, I ask around and see if anyone needs any help, but right now things are a bit crazy and the producers are in the middle of things that are strictly producer-related. So, lately, I've been making a lot of tea and a lot of coffee, which is a little tedious - but hopefully, enough I'll be able to get my hands dirty and get busy! At least I hope so. I'm evaluated every week, so soon I'll be able to adjust to the office environment soon enough and really learn how to function within the Irresistible dynamic.

The other day, however, Harry (the guy who interviewed and "hired" me as an intern here) brought me to the set for a "test shoot" of a Cadbury digital project (it's going to be on the internet, and it's gonna be awesome - also, their chocolate is delicious), and right when I came to the office the next day I had piles of things to do. So, really, it depends on the day when it comes down to how much I'm doing and how much free time I have to twiddle my thumbs and awkwardly ask, "Does anyone have anything that they need help with?"

But more importantly, I'm learning something...

...working in the U.K. is waaaaaaaay different than working in the United States.

Okay, so: on the set for Dear Eleanor back home, I would literally run from job to job, always trying to keep preoccupied. If I wasn't working my fingers to the bone, then it was presumed that I wasn't working at all, and no one would give me a second glance. That's the mentality in America - work, work, work - and it's a mentality that I grew steadily more comfortable with throughout the entire internship experience on set. And I loved every single second of it.

In the United Kingdom, however, everything is a bit... different.

The other day, us DreamCareers peeps went to a seminar with professionals in the working world. There were three - one was from the United Kingdom, one was raised in Canada and educated in the United States, and one was from Australia. There was a definite difference between their advice when it came to getting the most out of this London experience. While the American and Australian both said to focus completely on work and do nothing else (I was immediately kosher with this idea), the fellow from the United Kingdom made sure to say, "Work hard while you're there, but at the end of the day, get a pint, go out and have fun with your friends. Just come to work the next day and get it done, everyone really just wants to go home at the end of the day anyway." Likewise, in the office, my coworkers are more... relaxed than a United States production company would be.

For example... okay, it's my job as an intern to do the grunt work, right? Well, the other day, I was taking a quick lunch break and I saw one of my coworkers - Katy - breaking down a box for recycling, a job that should probably have been left to an intern - me. So, I immediately stopped eating lunch and told her, "I'm sorry, I'll get that for you." But she was adamant that I finish my lunch and take some time to relax from the working day - and it wasn't in a sarcastic, "You should have been doing this before" kind of way. She was generally concerned about me getting my free time. In tandem with this, a producer - Georgina - was making coffee and tea the other morning, a job that I immediately associate with "intern." But when I went down to try and take over, she immediately asked, "How much sugar do you take in your tea? I know you have a cup or two every morning." I was astounded.

Also, I recently asked if I could leave work early for a world premiere of a feature film that's happening in London while I'm here. And it was okay. They were okay with me leaving work early. Like... they actually encouraged it.

Plus, my boss said, "You know, when you're bored... there's this thing called Youtube. And Facebook. Ever heard of them?"

... I don't know what to do with myself.

I'm very American in my work mentality, and I'm still trying to fit what I'm doing here in London into this American working "box" that I've been born and raised into - but the United Kingdom work mentality is so far removed from what we consider "normal" in America that I'm actually struggling a little bit. I get way too antsy and feel like I'm doing a horrible job when, really, I don't think that they think that I am. :( It's all so confusing!

I just... don't know how I feel about this whole "relax while working" thing. Not while working, obviously, but... you know what I mean? It's weird. I'm too American for this.

But, I mean, they buy me alcohol. So, it's really not all that bad. :3

My First Evaluation and Some Soul-Searching

I casually take pictures of pubs so that I can check them out
later with my friends... yeah. I'm that girl.
Speaking of my bosses buying me booze (socially acceptable with Brits - loving these people more and more), after going on the Cadbury set the other day, I decided that I had to buy Harry a drink, seeing as he bought me a cider the other week. I have this "debt" complex, where I hate being indebted to people (so, shout out to the parents, you've got a butt load of Katie-guilt coming your way when I land back in Denver in August - it won't be pretty. Or maybe you'll enjoy it. Sadists...), so I thought that it was only fair and decent of me to buy him a beer, especially seeing as he hired me, and is one of the reasons that I'm here in London (I would have been asked to leave the program if I didn't get any internships). So, after we called a "wrap," I bought him a drink, and got myself a nice cider as well, and we sat down to talk about my evaluation, and how I'd been doing so far. To be completely honest... I was incredibly apprehensive to hear how I'd been doing, seeing as - again - there are some points at work where I'm literally sitting around and doing nothing for a good portion of nine hours, and I have an America complex that screws up my ability to relax and take a breath.

Well, seeing as he's British and I'm Irish, one pint turned into two, and then two turned into four... so, five pints later (all bought by Harry other than the first one - FREE ALCOHOL FTW), we haven't even talked about my evaluation, and I'm about to take a sixth one for the road, when I realise that I should probably go and have dinner with my DreamCareers friends, and that I'm getting drunk with my boss. It was probably the most hilarious thing that's ever happened to me.

But besides the obvious "what the hell" factor that was going on, I learned a lot talking to Harry - about film, about the business side of things (he's a producer - spreadsheets FTW), and about pursuing a career in the most competitive industry on the face of the planet. His stories were really inspiring, too - like how he hated L.A. when he originally went there, but grew to love it, and how he worked for an incredible film company there for a while and met some incredible actors and producers and directors and cinematographers. How, even with that experience under his belt, finding work was hell on earth. How his "useless" film degree wouldn't even get him a job at a supermarket.

Some of the best advice that he gave me, however, was on opportunity and life in general. "It's funny, but you're often greeted with more luck and opportunity when you leave your house," he joked. "Couch potatoes don't make the front pages or go to the Academy Awards."

I was terrified with what he was telling me, but I took the advice to heart and felt more determined and reassured that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. And I also began to formulate a sort of "game plan" for what to do later in life, to get to where I want to go. What was so strange, though, was that when I told him that the ultimate, unobtainable goal for myself was to become an actress, he kind of gave me this look and said, "...well, why aren't you doing it?"

"What?" I asked, tipsy and perplexed.

"To be an actress, you kind of have to act," he said in that quintessentially, almost-sarcastic British way that everyone here talks with. "And you're not exactly doing that."

So, that gave me some room for thought... really, there are two paths that I'm beginning to have to face, and it's a decision that I really don't want to have to make - to act, or to produce? And I guess I'm just going to have to make that decision one day - sooner than later, unfortunately.

Or maybe I'll just be Mark Gatiss. Yeah, I'll do that.

I feel like this trip is becoming more of a search for my own identity along with learning more about the film industry. More so than college, even, I'm figuring out who I am and what I want, and what I need to do to get it. I've never been so inspired and determined, and yet terrified - and, now, unsure - in my entire life. And I'm loving every minute of it.

... oh, yeah, the evaluation! Apparently, I'm doing very well. I've got "nothing to worry about, mate," and everyone thinks that I'm an incredibly hard worker. That's reassuring, and also motivating - I'm ready to keep working to improve myself and my knowledge and work experience in the London film industry. Harry may like L.A., but "The Big Smoke" is suiting me just fine, even with the boring days at this little wooden desk in Shoreditch. :)

At least I learned some valuable life skills (kind of, at least I hope I am) while trying to while away the time spent waiting for something to do (I'm finally busy again!). After watching Aunt Sylvia make so many cups of tea for me while I was in Northern Ireland, I thought that I'd be a pro when I came to England - after all, making good tea is a bonus for your employer, right? But thank God Stefan taught us all how to make a cup of tea before we went to our first day in the office, otherwise, I'd be completely lost. And after two weeks at Irresistible, I've got this tea-making thing down to a fine art. In case any of you were wondering how I make my ever-so-fabulous cup of tea every morning for myself and for my co-workers and employers...

Katie's How-To Guide of Making a Good "Cuppa"

  1. Get the following ingredients and materials.
    1. A mug (or a glass - whatever you prefer).
    2. A bag of English Breakfast tea (Tetley or Twinnings = the best).
    3. Milk of your choice (I am partial to skim milk).
    4. Sugar of your choice (I prefer Sugar in the Raw) - can be cubed.
    5. A kettle (or other device).
    6. A stove (or other water heating device).
    7. A spoon.
  2. Put water into the kettle and set it on the stove to boil.
  3. While the water is boiling, put your teabag of English Breakfast tea into your mug, along with a spoonful / however many cubes of sugar that you want.
  4. Once the water is boiled, pour said hot water into the mug - over the sugar and the teabag.
  5. Stir the tea to allow the teabag to steep for a few moments.
  6. Pour your preferred amount of milk into the tea.
  7. Stir the tea to allow the milk to blend into the tea.
  8. After you allow the tea to steep for a few moments more, use your spoon to fish out the teabag, which you will then throw into the bin.
  9. Drink your tea, and enjoy it. You're in England, dammit.
SO, as you can see, making a good cuppa is a fine and delicate art.

...okay, not really, I'm pretty sure that no one really cares just as long as there's milk and sugar. But I'm sure becoming a pro at doing it! :D Not only that, but I think that I'm beginning to like tea more than coffee... that's right... Katie McManus likes tea more than she likes coffee. ALERT THE MEDIA. But seriously - if I drank this much coffee during the day, I'd probably be dead of a caffeine induced heart attack. I can down four cups of Twinnings before I head back to Islington and be just fine! No wonder these Brits drink so much of the stuff...

Ghost Bus Tour

Nicole, Julie Morgan and I headed to this club near Piccadilly Circus one night, which is kind of an unofficial landmark and tourist attraction in London - it's kind of like a mini, less angry and less crowded and pushy New York City Times Square. Along with the fact that there are no skyscrapers. But it's been a location in several of my favourite British TV shows and movies, so I obviously started to geek out a little bit! :) Even though the club was an... interesting experience, to say the least, I'm glad that I finally got to go and see Piccadilly Circus - it was simply incredible, I felt like I should have had a "Rhapsody in Blue" moment... only British.

So, after about two weeks of absolute madness - involving a lot of cider and beer - my friends and I finally decided that it was high time that we started doing some tourist-ey things here in London, especially after being given that incredibly long list of things to do from our bus tour guide. My good friend, Alison, and I are both very much theatre people, and we thought that it would be a great idea to go and check out the infamous Fleet Street, from Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece, Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. So, I got prepared to go and eat some meat pies (but really we went to the Sweeney Todd Restaurant and Pub, which was... horrible, unfortunately), maybe do some sight seeing...

Spooky sauce.
... and that idea was completely thrown out of the window when we decided to go on the London Ghost Bus Tour, which was probably the most hilarious thing that has literally ever happened to me in a foreign country. I thought, obviously, that it was going to be horrifying and scary and that I was going to leave the bus with jelly legs and have to sleep with the lights on for the next week. But, I don't think that I've ever laughed harder. It was probably the insane, infectious sense of British humour that these two actors had, or the fact that literally everything that this guy pointed out to us on the tour was not only disgusting and horrifying, but funny (I'll never forget Scratching Fanny of Cock Lane... yes, that is a thing. Go on, Google it - I dare you!). I was laughing so hard that I was crying. It was the best tour that I've ever been on, and even when all the sites that we went to were familiar (I'm getting to know this city pretty well - better, even, than Boulder, which is both awkward and awesome), I saw everything in a new light. We did pass Fleet Street, but only dropped by to wave a "hello" to the old, dilapidated building that he would have worked at (if he was real) before heading off onto another epic adventure, going past the Tower of London and stepping off the bus to find a spot where hundreds of women who had been shunned by society are buried.

Long story short... we saw a lot of dead people. Or at least where they died.

By far the creepiest part of the tour - and the most disturbing tidbit of information that I got - was about the Bubonic Plague - the Black Death. Pretty much, there is a part of the tube, at the Piccadilly Line... if you take the Tube from Knights Bridge to South Kensington on the Picadilly Line, the Tube randomly curves for no reason. Want to know why?

Bodies. Thousands... and thousands... of bodies... left there in a massive pit from the Bubonic Plague. So, next time you go to work on the Piccadilly Line... look out your window, and you are three feet away from plague bodies.

And I definitely took that route coming back from a work errand one day.

Yeah, welcome to London - by the way, the dead people next door say "hey."

I won't spoil the ending for you, though - it was definitely the scariest part! Needless to say, if you ever go to London, definitely check out the Ghost Bus Tours - it's probably the most fun that I've ever had being a tourist, and that's saying a lot, seeing as I've been a tourist many times before. Seriously. Check it out - great fun!

Check out the pictures from the Ghost Bus Tour, and then some other pictures from before and after, including the cool bridge that we found after the tour was over (and the horrible Sherlock Holmes Restaurant and Pub) - along with some pictures of Piccadilly Circus!

Stonehenge and Bath

Once again, DreamCareers continues to astound and awe and inspire with their epic, weekend adventures. This weekend, we "Dreamers" got to get on a bus at the crack of dawn and drive down to a pile of rocks in the middle of the English countryside before traveling for a bit longer and visiting a bunch of moldy old ruins from some old empire.

... just kidding. Kind of... okay, pretty much, that's what happened, but it was a lot more exciting.

Awesome sauce.
First off, we all woke up after a night of drinking and "happy days," met in the Nido lobby at 8:00am, and all got into these smelly buses to drive down to where Stonehenge is situated in the English countryside. It was a long drive, but very relaxing (I love driving or getting on trains - I could stare out of the window of any land vehicle literally all day long). While it was an extremely strange looking archaeological artefact - and a lot of my fellow Dreamers were unimpressed or bored - I literally couldn't get enough of the place. The fact that these "rocks" are here in the middle of nowhere absolutely blows my mind. There are a lot of strange rumours revolving around these mysterious stones... Archaeologists believe that Stonehenge was built anywhere from 3000 B.C. to 2000 B.C., which pretty much means that I was standing only a couple of yards away from stones that were erected before Jesus was born.

... I think it was aliens. Just saying.

You probably think I'm trying to be funny... but I'm not. I'm serious.

... I'm very... very serious...

ANYWAY, I got my ultimate dream fulfilled - to take a jumping photo in front of the famous Stonehenge (photos pending, but courtesy of Stefan de Rougemont), and also got to take a bunch of other crazy pictures with some friends. I would have stayed there literally all day taking pictures and staring at the stones and thinking about all of the history and mystery revolving around it, if not for the fact that everyone else was waiting for me in the bus, and they all wanted to go and see the "cool Roman baths" or something (whatever). So, unfortunately, I bid those big, awkward stones farewell and headed out with my fellow Dreamers to Bath.

Still, seeing Stonehenge was a simply astounding experience, and I would absolutely love to go back there again to take more photos and learn more!

Check out these photos from Stonehenge - so awesome, so old, so mysterious... More pictures are on their way, too, hopefully! :)

After that, we drove to Bath, England. To be completely and utterly honest, I wasn't expecting much (I just saw the ancient pile of rocks, and I was very much satisfied). But the second that Bath came into view, I happily ate my words.

One of our first views heading into Bath.
First off - heading into Bath, we passed this random castle that used to belong to Nicholas Cage - that's right, the Ghost Rider. It's not his anymore, but that's besides the point - it was a CASTLE, and it was right near Bath, which was an automatic signal for me to be prepared for epic. And thank goodness that I did brace myself for impact, because I saw Bath might just be one of the most beautiful places that I've ever seen! Seriously - absolutely breathtaking. The second that I caught my first glimpse of bath through the trees, I was utterly astounded. The architecture is incredibly Romanesque - rounded arches, old stone, built over rolling hills of green. It was literally like someone took Rome... made it fun-sized... and then put it smack dab in the middle of a beautiful, stormy English countryside - complete with horse drawn carriages, a beautiful river boat ride, people dressed up as Romans, narrow cobbled roads, incredible architecture, an abbey the size of St. Peter's (Vatican), Italian food and hot English Breakfast tea. Seriously. England + Rome = AWESOME.

I really shouldn't have been surprised, though, seeing as the Romans invaded England in the year 43 AD, under the direct rule of Emperor Claudius of the Roman Empire. But what I had seen of England up to that point - and what I had experienced of Great Britain in general over my last three trips here - could have never prepared me for this much raw history and culture slamming into my face. And this is an American talking - any building that is over 250 years old for me is ancient as hell, so staring at something that was erected thousands of years ago is enough to make my inner historian go absolutely ape shit.

I think he literally stayed like that for...
... six hours. Straight.
We were let off at the Bath Abbey, and Stefan pretty much told us that we had free reign to explore the city until around 4:30pm (16:30), at which time we had to be back at the ancient Roman Baths to take the tour with the rest of the Dreamers. My pals and I headed over to a little pub up the road to get ourselves some real nice pub food. Fish and chips was the dish of the day, along with two pints of some  nice, quintessentially British lager (I eat healthy during the week, but when in Rome... ahem, England...). Some of the other Dreamers that we were with were still finishing up their drinks, so my friends Simone and Stephanie decided to go an explore Bath on our own! We found at least four old churches - all of which we went inside of, and all of which I took the time to pray at - before heading down to the River Avon to look at the beautiful water and possibly look at taking one of the boat tours. Though we didn't actually get to test out our "river legs" (it was a bloody £30), we did get to walk along the river for a while and experience more of this pseudo Anglo-Roman architecture / food / culture mixture going on. We found a park, at which there was a live big band playing (They played "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Frankie Valli and then Disney show tunes. Someone pinch me), before heading up to the Royal Crescent, one of the greatest example of Gregorian architecture in the United Kingdom. As we walked along, we encountered dozens of people who were busking in the city - remember what busking is? Well, there was a woman who sang opera, and then this guy who played the ukelele and sounded like he should've been in The Kinks, along with a lot of other talented singers, performers and artists. It was all good fun!

After about three hours of exploration, we tore ourselves away from wandering through this incredible city to go and look at the famous Roman Baths of Bath (awkward naming, there, England). Again, as a self-proclaimed history nutter, I about lost my head a little bit walking into the Roman baths, which were right under the shadow of the incredible Bath Abbey. I seriously felt like I should be wearing robes and sandals or something - the second I walked through those doors, I was stepping back into the past. The water was green and murky, but thousands of years ago, Roman emperors, nobles, and common Roman citizens used to step into that very bath for recreation and healing. It was absolutely beautiful, I can't even describe it in words!

After going to Bath, we had a little bit longer to explore - so, I grabbed a bite to eat with Stephanie before heading over to Bath Abbey to pray really quickly, and I ran into Lizzie! We sat down and said a few quick prayers, before heading back to the bus for the long journey back to London. I pretty much passed out for most of the ride back, but it was still some good craic with my fellow Dreamers. :)

Check out these photos from Bath, and the Roman Baths - some photos are pending, as my phone died halfway through and I had to use Simone's camera (bless her), but they'll be up soon!

Westminster, Hogwarts, Churchill, Millenium and Randomness

The next day, we all woke up (exhausted), and decided to go to Westminster Abbey for church. Of course, it's Anglican and I'm Catholic, but when have I ever been that person who actually cared? Besides, going to church at Westminster is a lot cheaper than paying to get in an sight see. It's around £25! Rather go and worship and see everything for free than have to pay and deal with tourists (weird, now, I'm separating myself and tourists... is this a sign...?).

Benny. We're good friends.
Well, the second that we stepped out of Westminster Abbey, we got to see Big Ben all over again, which was a nice, pleasant surprise. Parliament was there to say "hello," again, too. And then we saw a floating man.

Yes, a floating man.

No, you heard me right. No, I'm not imagining things.

Wingardium Leviosa!
Okay, so, I don't know if people have heard about this stunt back in the States, but a magician recently performed an incredible, magical act by putting one hand on the side of a double decker bus and floating across the London Bridge in front of Big Ben and Parliament. And as we literally stepped off of the Westminster station line from the Underground, we look up... and see the world famous magician, Dynamo, floating off the side of this double decker bus. Yes, this actually happened. And I'm pretty sure that he's a wizard. I'm serious, Hogwarts is supposed to be only a five or six hour train ride away! Maybe J.K. Rowling knows something that we don't...

Watch this video, and pause at 1:30 - that girl? In the bright mint green rain jacket? Yeah, that's definitely me, with my friend Austin. That's right - I'm in a Pepsi ad.

So, that was pretty rad. Going to Mass (or... just church...?) at Westminster was pretty awesome too. That choir was so beautiful I actually teared up ("Miserere" was probably one of the most powerful things that I've ever heard sung or composed ever)! What was so interesting, though, was to finally go to a service at the Church of England. And, surprisingly? It's the Catholic Mass. It is the Catholic Mass to a tee - not even joking. Everything was just like what I've experienced my entire life as a semi-not really-practicing Catholic. They even said the Nicene Creed (with the whole "we believe in the Holy Catholic Church" deal) and sang in Latin. They sang in Latin! I thought that the Anglican service would be a least a little different from a Catholic Mass, but it wasn't... it was pretty much the same thing, and that's just weird for me.

What was even weirder, though, was the fact that we were in Westminster Abbey... standing on the bodies of famous people. We're literally singing in Latin and reading the Gospel and standing and kneeling and praying and watching these little boys get confirmed into the Church... while in a graveyard. And the fact that this door kept opening and shutting randomly behind me didn't help my nerves at all - especially since...

"No one's moving that door," I hissed.
"It's probably just the wind," Nicole replied in a whisper.
"... Nicole. We're in a Church full of dead people. We're standing on dead people."

So, that happened. Also, I ate Jesus while standing on top of Isaac Newton. I'd call that an epic win.

Check out these photos of Dynamo floating around and of Westminster Abbey - not pictures of the inside (that was the deal for getting to go inside for free), but take my word for it - it was beautiful!

Lizzie, Alison, Nicole and Morgan all wanted to go and shop at Liberty, but I decided that I'd rather much like walking around London some more. So, after we got some lunch at a pub nearby, I went on an epic adventure, and randomly ended up going to the Winston Churchill War Rooms. And, again... I'm a history freak... especially about WWII. Thank goodness Austin and Scott came with me and forced me to keep a mental check on my geek-meter, or I would have absolutely lost it. I got to go inside of the Winston Churchill War Rooms - where Winston Churchill ran the United Kingdom during WWII. I even saw where he slept, where he ate - where they would hide during the blitz, where they would make important calls to FDR and Harry Truman and even Stalin! Along the way, I learned a lot about Winston Churchill himself, too, and my respect for that man has only grown. Even though he was a grouchy, disrespectful and sometimes extreme bastard, he has my undying respect and gratitude for his fortitude and perseverance during the world's darkest hour. There's no doubt in my mind that if England had fallen to Nazi Germany, we would be living in a far different world, and the war would have been lost for the Allies - and there's also no doubt that Winston had something to do with that.

Check out these pictures from Churchill's War Rooms - seriously. I almost cried I was so excited. I'm that person.

So, Austin and I left the Churchill War Rooms... and Scott had vanished off the face of the planet, so we kind of just... wandered around for a little bit. And then we found West End Live, which was going on at Trafalgar Square! And we arrived at just the right time, too, because that's when Jersey Boys was performing! It was incredible, those guys are so obscenely talented that it hurts my soul a little bit - or a lot o' bit, but seriously - that was awesome. Everyone was just dancing and singing along, it was a great time, even if it only lasted for about ten or so minutes.

"Sherry! Sherry baby! Sherry! Sherry baby!"
After West End Live, Austin decided that he was going to go back to the Student Accommodations, so I decided that I was going to do some exploring of my own, even with my phone about to die (no worries - I can navigate my way around London without a phone now! :D). I wandered through Trafalgar Square for a while, before meandering over to Buckingham Palace (at which point my phone died - so, no pictures. Sad day). At that point of the day, I realized that I should probably go back to my flat to figure out where everyone else was, so I wandered over to the nearest Tube station, and found my way back to King's Cross. Back at Nido, I found Julie, my flatmate - and we both got super bored super fast, so we decided to go and find the Millennium Bridge!

It was good craic trying to find it without a phone or mp or anything (even though, my this point, my phone had been charged again). I was reminded about how directionally challenged I am without mountains (Colorado disillusions you to the real world), but we somehow found the bridge right when the sky decided to release all of its heavenly glory upon us in cold, windy rain. So, we saw the bridge - which really wasn't too exciting other than the fact that it was in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince), and then we actually randomly found the Globe Theater, too - they were performing Macbeth when we arrived, but it was still cool to randomly find the most famous theater in the history of... theater... That was pretty hilarious and random and epic. :)
Check out the pictures from Austin and I's random adventure to West End Live, my wanderings throughout London, Julie and I's random adventure over to St. Paul's, by which is the Millennium Bridge - and then our fantastically random find of the infamous Globe Theater!

At the end of this jam packed weekend, I was literally ready to crash - and that's exactly what I did, haha! I watched half of Hot Fuzz before passing out on top of my laptop at around... 9:30 at night. That's a record! To be honest, this week has been a lot of recovering from my insane weekend of adventuring and getting drunk with my boss (again - what the hell?! Is this normal?!), but also getting prepared for this upcoming weekend, when I finally get to be reunited with my lovely Kibbles and Bits (Saraaaaaaaaaah), and get to go on a day trip to Oxford and do other awesome things!

So, yeah... again, I should just blog more often, so that they don't end up this long and insane. Eh, that's boring anyway. :) But, really... I should. Sorry for the long post... What can I say - I'm a rambler!

Someone actually told me earlier today that they thought that it was weird that I was keeping a blog of everything that was going on in London. But you you know what? You know WHAT?!

Dr. John Watson has a blog.

Your argument is invalid, sir.

... I think I have a serious problem. I blame Sarah and Morgan. And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And Martin Freeman... damn you, Martin Freeman...

SO, until the next adventure ...!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Looking Through Big Smoke

Phew, well - once again, where to start?

This past week and a half has literally been an insane blur, adjusting to my work schedule as an intern, adjusting to London in general, adjusting to British culture and idiosyncrasies (and there are many) and adjusting to this crazy balance between work and "play." It almost feels as if I'm living in the real world - other than the fact that I'm not paying for bills and food is mostly accounted for. So... I guess, other than worrying about the normal people worries, I'm living the dream! I guess that this is a good segue into the real world, though. I get to get some real world experience on the production side of the film industry, get to experience what it's like to have a 9-to-5 (or, 9:30-6:00) job in a big city, get to really understand what it's like to be young and employed and out of school... and I don't really have to worry about bills (a ginormous shout out to my parents - you're the BEEEEEST! Seriously, you guys should be knighted <3 <3 <3). So, in a sense, I'm totally not "experiencing the real world," which is a little disconcerting, and almost makes me feel as if I'm half-assing everything that I do. But, to be frank, I think that if I was just... thrown into the real world right out of my second year of university, I'd probably be so overwhelmed that I'd curl up into a little ball and disappear. Just POOF! And I'd probably be totally okay with that, too. So, really, this entire internship process is a good way to start a film career, I think - or, more importantly, start life as a young adult.

Though, honestly, I didn't feel like one this past week. In fact, I was probably incredibly immature. I kind of went a little bit crazy... I didn't have work until Tuesday, and I arrived in London on Saturday... and... the drinking age is... 18... of course, I found all of the good deals and such (like this one bar down Euston Street has one night a week where the pints are only £1, and if you buy two bottles of wine at a certain liquor store, you get insane discounts - and if you can split it with a mate, that's even better) and to be completely frank, I exercised my right to drink here! BOO-YAH!

But, really... it got to the point where I was abusing it. So, for the next few weeks, I'm going to calm myself down and drink only at the end of the week, or on special circumstances (like a flatmate's birthday - shout out to my Bearded Lady, Julie!). It's more responsible to pace yourself, and it's definitely cheaper. It's just something that I'm learning, now that I'm legal to drink. Sure, you have the right, but is it responsible? Is it fiscally and economically wise? Sometimes, yeah. In my current financial predicament? Nah. Good thing I'm learning it now rather than later, right?

Also, London is incredibly expensive (or "dear") - seriously, lunch at some places can cost upwards of £10 (that's $20, folks). Also, eating healthy and eating cheap are NOT synonymous, especially in the United Kingdom (why is it so hard to find green things here?! It's all bread and meat, have these people ever heard of asparagus?!). That would be my main concern if I ever ended up living here (which is a growing possibility, as I've noted before) - money. Seriously. Some places charge £500 a week for rent - and that's for a one bedroom flat with a teeny toilet in a decent part of town. It's like New York City, only not as extreme... but still just as terrifying to think about in regards to your bank account. So, really, I'm going to spare my bank account (and my parents' wallets - again, you guys are saints and I don't deserve you) and my liver and take a chill pill.

So, long story short...
  1. Katie is going to calm her tits and start spending responsibly.
  2. Also, alcohol is awesome - but only when you can appreciate and afford it.
  3. Also... I love you, London, but seriously. I'm not spending £10 for a salad when I can get £3 falafel from a vendor in Banglatown. You be trippin'.
But other than the above-stated random and rambling rant (per usual), the obvious fiscal woes (should have seen this coming), and the fact that I'm suddenly beginning to realize that I'm living in a foreign country (still hasn't hit me yet), I'm having the time of my life in this "London" place. Like I said before, in my first post... this has always been kind of a dream come true to live here, something that's always been in the back of my mind. London just feels... "right," for lack of a better word. It's absolutely beautiful, the history practically suffocates you everywhere that you go (and I'm totally okay not having air right now), the days are fast and furious, the nights are full of adventure, and the people are unique, polite and "quintessentially British."

So, to begin the actual blog post...

Straight off the bat, I met a ton of cool people. Lizzie was probably the first person that I met here that I really go to know well (you know how it goes - you meet people and then never see them again). She's a Business student from the University of North Carolina and she's just the cutest, most awesome, most feisty Kentuckian that I've ever met. Soon after, I met Julie, my roommate! She's a native of New Hampshire, but she goes to school in New Orleans, and she's in a band called The Fake Carls (check their stuff out, and download their first E.P. for FREE from their BandCamp, they're really good!). As soon as we all got settled, we decided to go out and meet other DreamCareers peoples! And, soon enough, we had a friend group forming and were already going on epic adventures! What awesome people!

Check out some photos below of Julie, Lizzie and I's random adventure to the Tower of London! We didn't actually go inside this time around, but that's soon to come!


How myself, Julie and Alison get to work everyday. I mean, we're
pretty much just magic. Photo courtesy of Lizzie Robinson.
DreamCareers has been doing a pretty kick ass job of helping us out - I mean, seriously. I'm living at this student accommodation place called Nido's, right near King's Cross Station - literally a two stop Tube ride away from the heart of the English capital. I go to King's Cross Station every day to go to work, and if I hit up the Central Line or jump on a No. 17 double-decker bus and head South for about 10 minutes, I'm right at St. Paul's Cathedral, and can step out from the depths of the London Underground to look up at Big Ben and Parliament. And Islington (the borough of London that I'm living in) is one of the most "posh" locations in all of London - rent here is a little bit obscene. But the fact that I can live here (even with the smelly, moldy bathroom pipes) with a kick ass roommate and a ton of awesome people who are doing the exact same thing as me - working, living and breathing the London experience - is... kind of incredible. Not only that, but they set me up with an Oyster Card with unlimited access throughout Zones 1 and 2 of London - that's not bad! I can go most anywhere in the Central London area without worrying about having to fill up my card or anything!

Some of the DreamCareers people grabbing dinner after our
 first day at work, interning all around the city!
Photo courtesy of Lizzie Robinson.

They're even helping us out a little bit with food. We get £250 (around $500) on our Student Living cards to spend at the Nido café, and then we get these free meal cards for this Bistro right across the street - two free meals a week at a really quality Italian-French place! We also have these Taste Cards that give us crazy awesome discounts at restaurants around London to check out. Definitely taking advantage of that if I can! However, thought that I would have breakfast and dinner completely covered by DreamCareers, to be honest... but this is as good as it's going to get, and it's much better than having to fend for myself.

The other day, DreamCareers set us up on this awesome bus tour of the city. I've been to London twice before (once in 2011 to meet Kibbles and Bits, and then again this past winter break [2012-2013] to drop by and say hello again before heading off to Warsaw), but seeing it from a tourist perspective was still exciting. Our tour guide was the - he told us all of these interesting facts about the city that I had never thought of before! It was incredible! Not only that, but as we drove by Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham, Fleet Street, the Russell Hotel, the British Museum, the British Library, etc... he was giving us all of these tips on things to see while in the city, too, but I'll go over that later, haha!

Check out all of these epic pictures from our epic bus tour of London from this past weekend, with the DreamCareers pals, and HFHS friends Jenny and Jordan!
Along with the bus tour, DreamCareers has set us up with a ton of incredible mini-adventures for our time here. For example, this weekend the DreamCareers peeps and us are going to go and see Stonehedge and then the city of Bath! In a few weekends, we're going to a weekend adventure in Paris, France, and then during our last few weeks here we're going to go on a beautiful wear-your-best boat cruise along the River Thames - complete with lobster dinner and Frank Sinatra! Seriously, this program is incredible, and there are so many opportunities to get involved and really experience this beautiful city and all that it has to offer!

As for the staff - they're just awesome. I can't thank Stefan enough for fixing us all up with such a great adventure, and also landing me this awesome internship. Nemo, Ryan and Cody are also extremely rad. Shout to you awesome peoples! And speaking of awesome folks...

The Peeps

Going to O'Neill's the first night in London with my
jet-lagged DreamCareers companions! :) Photo courtesy of
Scott Phelts.
As for the people that I'm meeting while on the program... to be honest, I was terrified coming here. I've always been extremely apprehensive and awkward when it comes to making friends, and I felt like a freshman in college again, trying to figure everything out. But after two days, I already have an incredible group of pals that I love hanging out with - Julie, Lizzie, Alison, Scott, Nicole, Morgan, love you guys! I've also met some other cool cats - Dan, Austin, Ira, Mitchell, Ben, Bobby, Robbie, Chelsea, Ashley, etc, who I want to spend some more time with down the road.

Having a nice pint of Guinness on my first
night in London! What fun!
Random reunion with some
Holy Family High School
alumni friends! Photo courtesy of Jenny
Even with my new found promise to not abuse my right to get hammered, I'm seriously glad that I hit O'Neill's my first night in London - I got to drink and have fun with a ton of other people who are in the same exact situation as me! It's especially interesting to get to know all of these different people because they're all from different parts of the country - San Francisco, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Michigan, Louisiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, etc... I'm the only cat from Colorado that I know of, so it's always funny to say, "I go to the University of Colorado at Boulder," and for people go give that knowing smirk and go, "Oh, yeah, I've heard of you guys" (There's a stigma attached. Truly. I had no idea). Everyone is super awesome and incredibly nice, and I'm seriously so lucky to already have met so many incredible people and made so many rad friends!

Random reunion in the Underground with Misha! What a surprise!
Photo courtesy of Misha Zimmerman.
It was also an awesome surprise to learn that I had four friends in London for a few days over this weekend! I met up with Jenny and Jordan (read their blog), who I went to high school with. I took them out for a pint, and then got them onto the bus tour, so that they could experience London with me!  It was a grand time! I also randomly met up with my friend from last year at CU-Boulder, Misha - and on the Underground, of all places. Caroline was also here, but I didn't get to see here. They're all going to have a fantastic time with their Semester at Sea, though, and it was awesome to share the city with them, even if only for a day or two!

Irresistibly Irresistible

Me on my first day of work, all ready to take on Irresistible Films!
Photo courtesy of Stefan de Rougemont.
You're all probably wondering how my internship is going as well, seeing as that's why I'm in London for two months in the first place. Well, it's awesome. It's just simply awesome... though, the first day at Irresistible Films was a bit slow, to be honest. I looked over the introduction letters ("Welcome, new intern!") and learned some of the ropes of the company. And then the second day rolled around and I didn't have anything to do... which was pretty disconcerting, as there are two other interns (both British) in the office who seemed to have more work, and I was worried that I had already done something wrong, or that I seemed incompetent on my first day (I was a bit slow - British film lingo is different than American film lingo). But then I realized that everyone was in the middle of projects / extremely stressed, and that putting an intern on the job with such high pressure filming deadlines might just make everything worse. So, I bided my time... did some social media work for the Irresistible Facebook page (Quotes of the Day)... made a lot of tea (I'm a master now) and "posh" coffee... did menial, random tasks... and then, suddenly -

Where I work! HUZZAH!
- le gasp! A producer needed me to fill out maps for a filming date! So, I did that. But, wait - le gasp again, I'm suddenly assisting in a casting call and finding locations and phoning Warner Bros. Studios about renting their space out and their ringback was the Harry Potter theme song and it was all incredible and insane - ! Literally, from practically nothing to suddenly making documents and helping with casting calls and doing location scouting. It was... insane, and a bit overwhelming, but hopefully, I'm holding up to the task and am helping out around the office as much as possible. Right now I'm doing location scouting and phoning for a Warburton's ad, which is extremely exciting, but also a bit stressful - there are thousands of £'s on the line, here! Along with doing these exciting things, though, come the typical internship tasks. Making everyone tea, grocery shopping for the office, making everyone tea, doing the dishes, making everyone tea, watering the plants, making everyone tea, running to get people lunch, making people tea... I also make everyone tea, in case I forgot to mention. But it's all good - I like the grunt work. Everyone starts somewhere, right?

My boss buys me alcohol sometimes.

My co-workers are awesome, too! The "Big Boss," Matt is simply fantastic, he's always cracking jokes, and I'm always going on "Beigal" (pronounced "bagel") runs for him. Harry is fantastic, and he's the one that interviewed me when I originally applied for the position. Luke is chill, so is David, and Georgia and Georgina and Paul and everyone down in the editing room are awesome, too. And then Katy is super sweet - she's the first one that I really got to know here at Irresistible, she does Marketing and PR and the like, and was the one who did my "intern orientation.". We always have fun conversations about films and how weird the weather is in Colorado (300 days of sunshine say wha?!) My fellow interns - Mikael and Kelvin - are also pretty awesome. It's funny being the only American here in the office, but I'm quickly catching onto the lingo here. And, surprisingly, we all do have conversations about sports, even though I like American football more, and they like their football. At least ice hockey is something that we can all talk about, haha! Who knew that it was such a growing sport here!

The office environment is incredible, as well. I was told beforehand by Stefan that the British are very 9-5, as in they won't work past the end of the day unless absolutely necessary, and while they joke around in the office and can be incredibly casual, hard work is of the necessity. And while the last two are true, I've found myself staying after hours quite a bit over the last week and a half - not too much, mind, but I don't want to be the last to leave, and these producers are some of the hardest working people that I've ever met in my entire life. They'll stay all night if they have to. I do not envy them...

Some epic street art near where I work in
London (near Banglatown). SO REBELLIOUS.
Okay, I do a little. Or a lot But, at any rate, the office is awesome... imagine a little old brick building from the Industrial Revolution, with creaky floors and epic brick walls and a high ceiling held up by wooden beams - but with Macbook Pros and epic editing software everywhere. And three different styles of Star Wars clone trooper helmets on the shelves. Oh, yes. I work in a place like that. Also, my work is situated in this awesome part of time near the Old Spitalfields Market and India. Think of it this way... you get out of the Underground at the Liverpool Station, and you walk up to a bustling, financial district with a ton of glass buildings and people in suits. Walk East towards Commercial Street, and you're going through narrow cobbled roads with little pubs here and there. And then you hit the area near Banglatown (the borough is either called White Chapel or Bethnal Green), where graffiti is art and there are vintage clothing stores and espresso cafés everywhere that you go. And then you get to my store, which is on the block right next to the beginning of Banglatown - which is kind of like Chinatown, only with a lot of Indian and Thai food and a lot of woman who wear a hijab (it's a very Islamic/Arabic neighborhood). Needless to say... it's probably one of the coolest parts of town.

Check out some photos of the two parts of town that I work and live - they're kind of rad, not going to lie. I live in Islington and work near Banglatown.

Also, they blare music a lot, which I really appreciate - from The Clash to Mumford & Sons to Queen to some hipster electronic stuff that I am not familiar with, my music collection is exploding just sitting there Shazam-ing everything. But the best bit is when they play loud soundtracks from films downstairs in the post-production suite. Recently, it's been Inception, but Avatar has been floating around a little bit, as well. But, the best bit was Star Trek: Into Darkness. When that soundtrack came on I about peed myself from excitement. And guess what one of the songs is called...?

London. Calling.

Also. Benedict Cumberbatch. British. Sherlock.

Irony? Yes. Destiny? I think so.

All of my coworkers are hardworking and incredibly talented - but what more, they're actually hilarious people. I seriously laugh every single day when they take the piss out of one another or start cursing up a storm (they give sailors a run for their money). Seriously. These people are my favorite. I couldn't have asked for a cooler job.

Harry (producer extraordinaire) mentioned something about one of the producers having me on set soon, which is extremely exciting. I loved being on set for Dear Eleanor and would love being on set for a commercial or a digital project here. My ultimate goal would be to find the set of Sherlock and somehow sneak onto that... but that's probably not going to happen. But a girl can dream, right?

At any rate, my job is awesome and I'm loving every second of it. I can't wait to get more involved and really get my hands dirty with the booming film industry here in London!

The Big Smoke

Two of my closest friends here, Lizzieand Julie (my roommate)!
Photo courtesy of Lizzie Robinson.
And now onto London - or "The Big Smoke" as they used to call it back in the day... what can I say? Every second that I get to spend here is complete and total blessing. I wake up every day to a hot cuppa tea and look down at the street, with the cars on the wrong (or right?) side of the road, and look up at the grey skies. I go outside and pull out my umbrella and go to work using the London Underground, I get to work at an incredible film company with some talented and fantastic people, and then get to take a double decker bus back to my flat... and then at the end of the week, I go to a pub and a discounted pint before going on yet another wild, random adventure with my mates through the Theater District, or Banglatown, or Islington or the City of London... and I can't be any luckier. Seriously. I could not be any more blessed than I am at this very moment to be here, doing something that I love in a city that is beginning to feel more and more like a part of myself.

Me in front of the Tower Bridge!
Photo courtesy of Lizzie Robinson.
My friends and I were talking the other day and we realized that every day we kept saying, "I mean, it can't get better than this... nothing can top today." But, day after day, we're surprised at how much more incredible this entire city - and this entire experience - is becoming. Yesterday is always "shown up" by today. And how glorious is that, right? There's no monotony, no plateau... every day is just another incredible adventure. Like that one time that I decided to go to Mass. As you all probably know, though I'm Roman Catholic, I'm probably the laziest, worst Roman Catholic ever. But, the idea of going to a service at St. Paul's Cathedral was just too tempting (even if it's the Church of England. Which was... kind of weird, because it was supposed to be Anglican-ish, but we said the Nicene Creed, which says "We believe in the holy Catholic Church..." I'm so confused about this whole Protestant-Catholic thing in the UK). And it was totally worth it, too! London just can't disappoint - at least so far.

Check out some photos from St. Paul's Cathedral in London! It was gorgeous - I plan on going to mass there and Westminster Abbey every Sunday from now on, if not just hear those angelic boys sing!
Remember that tour guide that I mentioned earlier? Well, he had a lot of cool advice for people who live in London - what to see, the absolute "necessities" of getting the "London experience" under our belts while we can. And, as he was talking, I kind of compiled a list:
  • British Museum (free).
  • British Library (free).
  • Charles Dickens Museum.
  • Russell Hotel (has a replica of the RMS Titanic's staircase inside).
  • The Ghandi Park.
  • High Commission of Australia, London (a.k.a. Gringotts Bank).
  • Windsor Castle (go to Room 10 and see a bullet in the wall where this important dude got killed).
  • Changing of Her Majesty's guard.
  • Hyde Park.
  • Regent Park.
  • Natural History Museum (free)!
  • London Zoo (also see the python from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets).
  • Camden Town Market.
  • James Bond 007 Tour of London / James Bond Museum.
  • Millenium Bridge (the bridge that got destroyed in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince).
  • Hampton Court Palace (Henry VIII from The Tudors).
  • Buckingham Palace (at the end of July, you can actually go inside and see the royal quarters!).
  • Florence Nightingale Museum.
  • New Scotland Yard (just because of Sherlock Holmes).
  • Westminster Cathedral and St. Paul's Cathedral - go to church!
    • Also, inside of Westminster Abbey and Cathedral, find the Grave of the Unknown Soldier, and also look around for graves of the famous people who are buried there, including Isaac Newton and other awesome peoples.
  • Olympic Village.
  • Something to do with Dr. Who... haven't quite figured this one out.
  • LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts) - take a tour!
  • King James Palace (where Harry [ginger] lives)!
  • Queen Gardens.
  • Fortune and Mason (near Oxford Circus).
  • The National Gallery (free and epic).
  • Trafalgar Square.
  • The real-life Sweeney Todd Pub, right near Temple 2 Station.
    • Also - find Fleet Street. Don't buy any meat pies.
  • Tower of London (crown jewels and stuff).
  • Hamsted Heath.
As you can probably see, I have a lot more adventures to go on before I have had the full "London experience" - as if being a resident and not a tourist isn't enough for the typical American. But, there seems to be something missing from that list... Something very important...

Check out these photos... and tell me that this is not the coolest thing that you've ever seen. Just try.
I did, in fact, find 221B Baker Street. Or, rather, it found myself, Julie and Lizzie once we stepped off of the Circle Line of the Underground at Baker Street. Immediately, right before me was a towering statue of the devil himself - Sherlock Holmes. It only took about two minutes to find the infamous flat that he and Dr. John Watson had shared in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's incredible stories - there were about forty people waiting to get in line for the museum at any rate. As Lizzie and Julie can attest, I spent a good... thirty minutes walking around the gift shop, gawking in awe at the pile of deerstalkers, grabbing the nearest pipe and magnifying glass, snatching up Sherlock's violin and trying to play a little tune, looking through Dr. John Watson's case notes from "The Hound of the Baskervilles," and "A Study in Scarlet,"... overall, just having a complete and total nerdgasm/fangasm. I did not, however, go inside of 221B Baker Street... I'll save that for another day. I feel like "finding 221B Baker Street" isn't complete until I've experienced London to the full. 

After all, something about this city drew in the imaginations of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and even J.K. Rowling, along with countless other adventurous souls. And, to quote the Londoner, Dr. Johnson: "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. For there is in London all that life can afford."

And right now, I'm anything but tired.

So... that was my first week or so in London for you! More tales to tell and photos to come when I head to Stonehedge and Bath this Saturday! Hope you guys are enjoying the blog. Again, sorry for the rambling. It's a character flaw, but an amusing (or annoying?) one at that.

So, until the next adventure...


Friday, June 14, 2013

Some Good Craic in Northern Ireland!

Hello everyone! Thanks for reading for my first blog post from the other day - it was incredibly encouraging to know that my ramblings actually have some followers, haha. Probably just my parents and a few good friends, but that's perfectly fine - I thank you all anyway for the 113 hits that I got with my first post! I have no idea if that's good or not, but I really don't care, just as long as you're all entertained by my insane adventures abroad, and as long as I'm getting them down for my memory's sake (and I have a pretty horrible memory).

So... Northern Ireland... where to begin?

Arrival to Northern Ireland

My flight to London, England was pretty uneventful - I watched Warm Bodies, finally, and it was adorable and awkward and hilarious, and I was halfway through Life of Pi when I totally passed out and spent the remainder of the flight hunched over, snoring and drooling like the complete and total fool that I am. I met a few cool people on the flight, though - I was sitting right next to this family from Denver. The parents are originally from India, so every summer the family goes together to a southern province of India to visit friends and family. I think that's awesome! I have a few Indian friends back home, and I think it's awesome how close ties are back to their "homeland" (shout out to Karishma and Anil, if you guys ever somehow find this!). Anyway, I landed in Heathrow on Monday (GMT) and sat around in Terminal 1 for about five hours trying to steal WiFi from people, but I mostly just ended up eating disappointing airport food and tried to write short story (which ended up being a fail). I got onto the flight from Heathrow to Belfast City Airport and sat next to a couple from Northern Ireland (they live about two miles away from the Giant's Causeway, which I got to see two years ago) who were actually returning from a two-week-long trip across the American Midwest - and they had started their journey in Denver, Colorado! What a coincidence!

So, after about... fifteen hours of travel, I landed at Belfast City Airport and got picked up by my cousin  Scott Mitchell (who's actually kind of my third cousin). :) He's absolutely lovely, and he was the first relative from Northern Ireland that I ever really got into contact with! We went to a Chippy (which is a fast food kind of place - remember that "chips" in the UK are actually the American "french fries"), before we drove over to my Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Harry's (who are really my Great Aunt and Uncle) and hung out for a while with them and my Uncle Lee (who's actually sort of my second cousin). After that, we headed over to my Uncle Gary's (who's actually kind of my second cousin as well) and got to say hello to my cousins Aaron and Jaime (who are technically kind of my third cousins). They're all extremely lovely and Irish-sounding - but in the Northern Ireland kind of way, not like the South (with the stereotypical Irish accents... these accents that I've become familiar with over the last week or so are sort of a mix between the South and Scotland), and I think I got spoon fed about five cups of tea before I was finally allowed to go to bed after all of that nonstop travel. Needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled to be able to come back to Northern Ireland to see my family again - I haven't seen them since about two years ago, which was the first time that I actually got to meet them in person. And, although I was apprehensive and a little bit awkward at first, I'm glad to say that I feel totally at home here - the Mitchell "clan" is practically direct family, the way that they treat me! Aunt Sylvia and Aunt Mandy (who's actually sort of my second cousin, too) make me breakfast every morning (delicious), sort of like they're my mothers across the Atlantic, and I'm involved in all of the family / town gossip. And the best part is... that most of the time, I actually understand everything that they're saying. Maybe it's because I've been exposed to it before, but I'm not so freaked out about those thick accents anymore - I'm absolutely in tune with what's going on - most of the time, that is. I can't speak for when I've had a few to drink, but that's an entirely different adventure - and a "grand" one at that. :)

This is the street that Aunt Mandy, Aunt Sylvia, Uncle Harry and
Uncle Lee live - also, Scott and Curtis! What a lovely day, too,
and it was SO HOT (24°C)!
The first night that was I was in Northern Ireland was comprised mostly of just meeting up with Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Harry and then watching some TV with them, Scott and Lee before finally calling it quits and hitting the hay. It was weird, but I definitely woke up already used to the timezone difference... I think that it was because I stayed awake for so long and forced myself to get up the next morning to take a shower (in ice cold water - which was my fault, I didn't know how to work the weird UK showers and thought that the water was off so I ended up pouring buckets of freezing water over myself thinking that the hot water just wasn't working). Whatever it was, it was good and it worked, in a sense - I cleansed myself of that five hour layover in Heathrow Airport, that's for sure!

Castle Adventures!

The next day, I woke up at a strangely reasonable hour, and got to go to Antrim Castle. Fun fact about Northern Ireland - the country of Antrim, N.I., is where select scenes of HBO's Game of Thrones is filmed (kind of an awesome show, and if you know me, you know that I'm kind of obsessed), and Uncle Harry and Aunt Sylvia wanted to show me the place from the "bridge scene with the wee fightin' men" - i.e., the set of the scene from the episode where Jaime Lannister and Lady Brienne battle epically on the bridge in Season Three ("Dark Wings, Dark Words"). Naturally, I got excited (which is a casual way of saying that I totally threw a cow... which is a casual way of saying that I freaked out), and we drove to the castle and I got my picture on this really cool looking bridge...

... after Uncle Harry figured out the iPhone 4.

Check out the slideshow below of Antrim Castle - I've got a ton of awesome pictures of the castle there, ranging from the actual ruins to Aunt Sylvia trumping off after Uncle Harry on his epic quest to find the Antrim Castle graveyard.

Later, however, we realized that the bridge that we thought was the bridge from Game of Thrones was not at Antrim Castle, but at Shane Castle - the castle that was right next door. And when we go there, some scary security men were guarding our way, so we couldn't go in and actually explore. But that was okay... I caught a glimpse of the film set, and the fact that I was less than one hundred yards away from Time Warner Cable was good enough for me! Besides, Antrim Castle was beautiful anyway - we definitely don't have castles in America. Shame.

Shit is about to get real at Planet Bingo.
That night I went to bingo with my Aunt Sylvia, which sounds lame, I know... but I learned how to play bingo, at least! Practice for the real world / future when I become... old... Scary thought... wow, I don't wanna to thinkaboutitANYWAY. Bingo is actually intense. Like... seriously intense. These old people take this shit seriously, and no one screws with Aunt Sylvia when she's on a roll with bingo. She's a tornado. Aunt Mandy came along later and helped me keep up with the numbers (hearing someone from Northern Ireland say "eight" is like you're listening to a completely different language - i.e. when someone says "eighty eight" it sounds like they're calling you an "idiot" - which makes sense, because I totally felt like one). So, competitive Katie got WAY too invested in bingo, and almost threw a hissy fit after a particular round in which she was one square away from winning £1,000 (which would have solved all of my financial woes - London is incredibly "dear"). I won £25, at least, that was a pleasant surprise!

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Crazy train from Dublin, Republic of Ireland - there's Gaelic
written on the side, as well! HOW AWESOME!

Wednesday rolled around and I decided to hitch a train down to Belfast to visit my cousin Karly, who had "tech" that morning (which is sort of like school, but for what we Americans would call a trade profession. Karly is training to be a hairdresser, and she's almost done with tech and out working in the real world!). A cool train was in the station from Dublin, which was a nice little throwback to summer of 2011, when my family and I went to Dublin for about two days and saw all of the incredible sights that the Republic of Ireland's capital city had to offer. It was apparently a novelty for the Antrim train station, as well - how many trains from "the South" come this little town, anyway? People were taking pictures and trying to read the Gaelic written on the side, which was kind of fun to watch. At any rate - I GOT TO RIDE A TRAIN TO BELFAST, and it was awesome! I seriously love train rides, I'd do it all of the time if we actually had them back home! <3

Not only did I finally get to hang out with Karly before I left (I almost thought that I wasn't going to be able to see her - sad day), but I got to visit Belfast for the first time! It's a pretty cool city, with a lot going on. Of course, this could just be the suburb girl in me being incredibly excited about going to see a new, exciting and bustling place, or it could also be the fact that Belfast is where the RMS Titanic was built and where it took off for it's maiden (and last) voyage - and this is back when it was still called Queenstown. Or it could be all of the history behind the city, history that has been expounded upon in my brain after taking "Revolution and Nationalism in Modern Day Ireland" last semester for my upper-division history requirement... but seriously, Belfast is pretty cool. :)

The only regret that I have from my visit to Belfast was that I didn't get to see the RMS Titanic memorial / museum / dock stuff. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm kind of addicted with history to the extreme, and the RMS Titanic is definitely an obsession of mine - ah, well, more motivation to come back again (not that I need anymore, with such awesome family there!).
Check out the slideshow below of Belfast, Northern Ireland. It's mostly candid shots of the city itself (at least the portion that I go to see), which is pretty nice! Very cool, very European, very old city with a very long, beautiful and sometimes deadly history.

The Mitchell Clan

I should probably talk a little bit about these cousins that I'm sure I've all talked about so much to all of you guys reading. Long story short, they're awesome. Every time that I've come here, I've stayed with Aunt Mandy (Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Harry's daughter) and her two sons, my cousins Scott and Curtis. They're just awesome in general. Aunt Mandy is simply lovely, and we laugh and have good times together - and I actually understand her the most out of everyone, I think! She also makes incredible breakfasts, and is one of the nicest - but toughest - people that I've ever met. Absolutely lovely. <3 Her boyfriend, Geoff, is also awesome - what a gentleman! I never really get to see Curtis, but I actually got to go and get drinks with him and everyone else this time around, which was awesome! Didn't get to say goodbye though ("Goodbye, Curtis!" There, done). Scott picked me up from the airport and dropped me back off again, and he's the one that I mostly talk to over Facebook with, which is awesome, seeing as he was kind of the first Mitchell that I ever really got in contact with. Also, he's an awesome person. Seriously. Just... awesome. Loved talking with him, whenever he wasn't being a badass at work and such. And his girlfriend, Kristine, was awesome, too!

Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Harry are just adorable together. They're the cutest old couple that I've ever met. Uncle Harry has tattoos on his arm (one of of the Union Jack... figure out what side he's on, haha!), and I think that's pretty badass for an old guy! He's always laughing and smiling and winking at me when he makes little fun quips at Aunt Sylvia, who is a lovely old woman who takes care of me like I'm her own child, always making sure that I'm taken care of and such. The way that they interact is just adorable, too! <3 Aunt Sylvia always goes, "Oh, shut up, Harry," but in a joking, loving kind of way, and he just smiles, laughs, and then gives me a little wink. :) Their son, my Uncle Lee, still hangs around their house quite often, so I see him all of the time - he's a good craic, haha! I had a lot of fun talking with him, and also dancing to "Thrift Shop" with him at the pub. Good times, haha!

Uncle Gary is Aunt Mandy's brother, and he's totally cool. :) He's always making jokes at us, and making good burgers and such - and what a hard working lad, working two jobs on top of raising three kids! He does the whole Uncle Harry thing where he smiles and winks at me, too - what a goof! His girlfriend Elaine is also incredibly kind and lovely, and they're quite lovely together, as well. Aaron, Gary's son, is one of my other cousins, as well - he's kind of the bomb. He has an INCREDIBLE voice, and is learning how to play the guitar right now, so he's going to breaking some hearts soon enough, haha! Last time 'round I didn't hang out much with him, but this time I actually got to spend some quality time with him on the last evening in Ireland, and he's just fantastic! I'd totally hang out with this dude even if he wasn't my cousin - which might actually happen, seeing as he might come to America! Karly, Aaron's sister, is lovely to hang out with, as well - I didn't get to spend much time with her, but she's a right blast, I loved window shopping in Belfast with her and getting to drive around listening to loud music - and the pub was incredible, too! :) What a riot! Jaime is their younger brother, and he's quite the character! I didn't get to see much of him because he was at school / playing video games, but he seems like a pretty rad little guy! :) Growing up super fast!

In short - everyone's freakin' AWESOME! :D

It was all fine and dandy, and was a very lovely, wonderful trip with a lot of relaxation and spending time with the lovely Mitchell family - relatives that I wish I lived closer to. Again, last time around I hardly got to spend time with them, and when I did I was always a little awkward / nervous / uncomfortable, having been a pudgy high schooler with little self esteem. But, now, I feel totally at home with the Mitchells. They are my family, despite the fact that this was only the second time that I was able to see any of them in person (most communication thus far had been via Facebook). Much like they made my feel comfortable in their lovely, little British homes, I will always have an open bed and warm breakfast for any Mitchell clan family member who may wander back to America one day (if I actually end up living in the states - the UK look ever more promising). But, along with visiting my living relatives, I came back to Northern Ireland to visit a relative that I was never given the opportunity to visit in real life... my grandmother, Charlotte Ester McManus - formerly Charlotte Ester Wilson.

Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Uncle Harry, Aunt Sylvia and I's trip over to Londonderry (County Derry), Northern Ireland was long enough to give me some time enough to reflect on all that I had seen so far and all that I had learned this past semester in my history class - and it was probably the perfect precursor to one of the most powerful overarching themes that I encountered in Northern Ireland - and that is of it's very violent, sad and often destructive past. For anyone who doesn't know about "The Troubles," have fun trying to research it all in one sitting (Wikipedia won't be enough to cover this conflict, my friend - not really, not in depth) because it is one of the most defining factors in my family's history - and the history of Northern Ireland (and the Isle of Ireland) - as a whole. But, to be incredible, painstakingly brief... here are a few bullet points that you need to review:
  • For hundreds of years, a Protestant/Anglican-dominated England ruled over the predominantly Catholic isle of Ireland. England (the then most powerful empire on the face of the planet) was industrial, economically successful and educated, while Ireland was poor, illiterate, and generally "barbaric" in cultural and religious practices.
    • And what happens when one "race" believes that they are superior to another...?
  • The northern part of Ireland (Ulster) becomes progressively more Protestant and unionist (pro-England) while the south remains dominantly Catholic and republican (pro-Irish Free State). They don't like each other very much. Que agrarian violence, bitterness, hatred and the beginnings of Irish terrorism. Make this last for a few hundred years or so. Anger build ups...
  • ... until Ireland gains independence from England in 1920... but Ulster (except for Donegal) remains a part of the United Kingdom. The newly formed Irish Republic is not happy about it.
  • The I.R.A. (formerly the Irish Volunteers) get mad about the whole situation - so they kill British soldiers, and when that doesn't work they start bombing cities and cars - including London, England, ironically enough. Protestants, unionist terrorist organizations also form.
    • 3,500 people die over several decades of intense violence, mostly situated around Londonderry - or, as southerners call it, Derry (they don't like the "London" part).
  • Finally... 1998, The Good Friday Agreement - peace is called between the north and south.
    • ...but that doesn't mean that people are content and happy about it.
Northern Ireland, the road to Londonderry - June, 2013.
That is fresh paint.
The road to Londonderry was already a little strange for me - I felt like I was kind of stepping into the past - and not only from my trip to the grave two years ago, but to my grandmother's past, and the past of my family. I thought about my heritage a lot this past semester. I also thought a lot about my grandmother and how I never got to meet her in person but how influential she's been in my life, in a really weird kind of way. The fact that someone spray painted over the "London" on the way there was just enough to set me on edge and make me quiet for most of the ride up there, much to the confusion of my Aunt Sylvia (Grandma Edie's sister) and Uncle Harry. The fact that, only 10 minutes later we encountered another "Londonderry" sign with the "derry" spray painted off didn't help much, either.

And the fact that I was raised as a Roman Catholic would never do me any favors.

In the middle is my Great Uncle Tommy,
who died of multiple sclerosis when he was in
his early 30's.
Londonderry itself was a beautiful city. I never got to experience it before. In 2011, we just went to the grave before heading off to the Giant's Causeway, so it was nice to be able to walk around the city for a while and experience it. Like most other European cities, the buildings are old and jumbled together with narrow, cobbled roads and teeny bridges. We walked the entirety of the "Derry Walls," which are old medieval structures that used to keep out crazy invaders back in medieval times (i.e. Vikings). We got to go and see the Peace Bridge, along with several other places - such as the church where Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Harry were married. First, we went to "Free Derry," which was formerly known as the Bogside. It's a part of Londonderry that's predominantly Catholic and nationalist - if the tricolors everywhere wasn't indication enough of that. It was strange, though. I was so excited about the entire experience, that I wanted to leap out of the car and run around for a good hour, finding murals and totally nerding out - but Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Harry were obviously uncomfortable being there, and didn't stop the car for anyone or anything. So, we saw the "Free Derry" sign, and then (quickly) drove away. I was surprised that they even took me there, they obviously weren't too keen on it in the first place. Just goes to show... some things never change.

My Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Harry, back in the day.
We also went inside of a large, beautiful Church right near the wall, which actually had a few awesome WWII relics - flags from Allied forces that were left behind as gifts to the Church for housing them during the training that had been done in the city (there was an American flag hanging there to - props!). There, we listened to some beautiful organ music, and I got to see some beautiful architecture. Old, European churches are always the best, in my opinion. Then, we went to a learning center for young children and actually got free cups of tea (English Breakfast, if you're wondering. That shit's delicious, I think I'm addicted). As we walked around Londonderry, we met a ton of cool people with a ton of different Irish accents (accents vary by region here, much like America but on a much smaller scale). I loved talking to Uncle Harry and Aunt Sylvia about their time spent here in Londonderry - from their first date, to the dancing hall that they used to go to on dates, to the time that they went to the cinema and saw Elvis Presley, to the time that they got lost one night in the city and decided to get married. <3 It was simply beautiful to just... step back in time for a minute, overlook all of the modern cars and buses and look past the McDonald's that was on the corner and... imagine what Londonderry must have looked like back in the day, when everything was new and fresh and exciting, and technology wasn't bogging anyone down. Back when love and life seemed so much simpler. My breath was simply taken away by the sheer... simplicity and antique-ness of their stories, and of the Londonderry of the 1950s that I could only ever imagine.
Check out these pictures of Londonderry - so much history and epicness, what an interesting city, steeped in so much history it's hard to even take it all in!
I could almost imagine my Grandma Edie living here, all of those years ago, but it's still kind of weird thought to think about, considering that I never met my grandmother. She died when my Dad was in his early 20s, from some kind of throat cancer. But, even though I never met her, I feel like she's still a part of me, in a way. <3

My grandma Edie - Charlotte Ester
McManus (maiden name: Wilson).
Here's the thing about my grandmother. She was raised as a Protestant - her entire family was Protestant, and remain so to this day (the Mitchells that I stayed with in Northern Ireland are the family of my grandmother's sister, Sylvia). She worked in a factory for a long time, and never received a high school diploma, living in Londonderry, Northern Ireland - the hotbed for Catholic-Protestant violence. She witnessed terrorism first hand in the streets of Northern Ireland, saw probably two or three "Blood Sundays," and lived right near the Bogside (or the Catholic part of town, now referred to as "Free Derry"), as a Protestant. I can only imagine the kind of feelings that she must have felt - fear for her life, for the lives of her family, for the lives of her friends... Maybe anger, maybe sadness. Maybe she just lived day to day, trying to get by. Maybe the violence didn't control her life completely - or maybe it did.

But the fact remains, also, that one day she randomly met this American Navy guy - some Irish Catholic named James Patrick McManus. My grandfather. And she fell in love with him. And they wanted to get married. But that wasn't okay in Northern Ireland, or any part of Ireland, for that matter. If they got married there, they'd be killed, no questions asked. So...

My Pop Pop, James Patrick McManus, and my Grandma
Edie in their car. Location unknown (predicted to be
somewhere around New York).
... she left Londonderry, moved to New York City, and married him.

Anger and bitterness and sadness still remains an integral part of much of Northern Ireland - from its history to the present day, where many people who live in Northern Ireland are beginning to find trouble identifying themselves as either "British" or "Irish." Even though the younger generations - my generation, for example - don't seem to care as much and seem to be generally less volatile and don't mind being identified as "Irish," the fact remains that the "Real I.R.A." still remains. The fact remains that two British soldiers were shot dead two years ago in front of Antrim castle, by Catholic republicans. The fact remains that a woman with pro-unionist ties set off a small explosive while I was in Northern Ireland in protest of Sinn Fein. The fact remains that while I was there, I saw countless graffiti messages splattered across the walls defaming both Catholic and Protestant political figures, and no one seemed too keen on taking them down. The fact remains that my Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Harry were physically uncomfortable driving through "Free Derry" to show me the murals. The fact remains that I still felt uncomfortable every time "Stormont Tonight" came on the tele to update us on the newest unrest in this small country of only 1.3 million people.

The lady on the left is my Great-Great Aunt Francis. The lady
on the right is my Grandma Edie. The little girl is my Aunt Mo
(Maureen McManus) and the little boy is my Dad, James T.
But... the fact also remains that at the church where Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Harry were married was rebuilt recently, and their opening ceremonies had three Catholic priests straight from the Vatican singing hymns for a predominantly Protestant congregation, right in the middle of Londonderry. The fact remains that my Uncle Darren is married to a Catholic woman, despite the fact that he's Protestant. The fact remains that my Aunt Mandy is currently dating a Catholic guy named Geoff, and they're absolutely lovely together. The fact remains The fact remains that my grandmother married some Catholic guy from New York City, and they said "screw you" to everyone who told them not to do it, and did it anyway, because they wanted to... and religion and politics are superficial, anyway. The fact remains that, by the end of the trip, I could actually laugh when Aunt Sylvia started singing a Protestant song and not feel awkward about it - that I could watch "Stormont Tonight" with Uncle Harry and have a intelligent conversation about it. The fact remains that I'm a Roman Catholic, and my family in Northern Ireland are all Protestant, and we love each other anyway, because we're family and that's all that really matters. We love one another because we're family, and religion doesn't - or shouldn't - matter anymore, because love and understanding are more powerful than even the most vicious stigma, the most brutal history.

The fact remains that... well, history in Northern Ireland is important, but it's not as important as the present or the future.
Check out the graveyard pictures of the Londonderry cemetery. Not very many, but, then again, taking photographs at graveyards is incredibly awkward, anyway. 
When I finally got to visit my Grandma Edie's grave again, it was a far different portrait than the first time. When we first saw Grandma Edie's grave two years ago, it was only for about five minutes. I remember that, beforehand, my Dad said that the only time that we would ever see him cry was when he was going to see his mother's grave... but he didn't. I don't really know why, but he didn't, and that seemed to make the whole experience a lot less sad and a little more... intriguing. Curious. And, to be frank, it was raining so hard that we didn't really want to stick around for long, anyway. :) But this time around, it was just myself, my Aunt Sylvia and my Uncle Harry. We drove past the rows of marble graves, the white poles from where the I.R.A. members are buried, and finally found my grandmother's grave, right next to the line that divided the Protestants and the Catholics to their own, "appropriate" sides of the cemetery. It was hot - abnormally hot for Northern Ireland - and the sun was shining. Aunt Sylvia wanted to take some awkward pictures of myself standing and smiling next to the grave and, if anyone knows me, I'm extremely strange with death and found the entire experience a little uncomfortable. But she insisted, and I don't argue with an insistent Aunt Sylvia (I learned my lesson watching Uncle Harry trying to get his way). I kissed her name goodbye, too, because that somehow seemed appropriate. Aunt Sylvia sang "Danny Boy," seeing as that one of Grandma Edie's favorite songs. The I.R.A. flagpoles were bare, but I know that on certain days, the tricolored flag of the Irish Republic flies in their honor. Her grave overlooks this incredible scene - of the green, luscious landscape of Ireland, the river, the Bogside and of the center of Londonderry. I can even see the factory where she worked, and Aunt Sylvia points out where their house used to be.

And, somehow, all of this - mixed with all that I had learned this past year and all that I now realized that I have been given from the grandmother that I never met - made me cry. Because even though I never met my grandmother, I love her. I really do. And she'll always be there for me, even when I feel conflicted between who I am and who I want to be - or be with. She's still my Grandma Edie, and she always will be.

Uncle Harry caught this moment in time on my iPhone.
I don't know what I was doing, probably just looking at the view,
 but... I don't know. It was unexpected, but beautiful. <3
Even with all of the violence in the world, it's the Romeo and Juliet stories like this that keep us going, that give us hope that one day, political, social, religious and emotional barriers can be crossed and we can look at each other and go, "We're all just human, in the end."

Last Day in Northern Ireland

*NOTE: I'll get the videos of Uncle Harry and Aaron singing up as soon as possible, Blogger was being a prat and not processing them properly!

That night, I probably had one of the most fun nights I've ever had drinking. Okay, let's be honest here, it's Northern Ireland, I'm 20 years old, and the drinking age if 18... I'm going to go out and get drunk with my Irish/British relatives. But first, we - myself, Scott (and Kristine), Curtis (and his girlfriend, Becca) and Aaron - went back down to Belfast for some good old bowling and pool. It was so much fun! I probably say that because I won at bowling (narrowly - Becca almost came from behind for an upset), and had a really good pool partner (I suck, but Aaron rocks). After a bit, we decided to head back to Antrim to hit up a nice pub. Not a lot of people were there, but it was right fun! I turn into an extremely happy, social person when I drunk, and I was in such a good mood running around and meeting people. Some people realized that I was American (not really hard to do), and they bought me shots! It was awesome! Apparently, shots aren't a thing in Europe - at least in the United Kingdom (in Poland, they are... I've been there... dear God...), so when I asked for a shot I got a very strange look. Long story short, I drank a lot of cider and Guinness, which is totally fine by me. :) Of course, Uncle Lee and I totally dropped some sick moves during "Thrift Shop" and I got to gossip with Karly and her friend when they came along later on, but what I really enjoyed the most was the nature of a pub. You literally just get a drink, sit down and then talk and hang out with people. What else could you possibly ask for, with only one real night left to hang out with your awesome Irish relatives? Nothing, really. :) It was a great night, and I was extremely "merry" for most of it, which made the entire experience just that much better. :) I hope to go back and do it again before I leave, it was a great time! <3

The next day was my last day in Northern Ireland, which was... an extremely somber experience. It was a great way to end an incredible week in Northern Ireland, though, a week that I didn't want to end in the first place. <3 In the morning, I want to Ballymena (hey) with my Aunt Mandy, and I ended up busking with a random guy next to the train station! It was awesome - Aunt Mandy even caught it on video, haha! We sang "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz, and then "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day - an oddly appropriate song for the occasion. What was so crazy was that I learned that his name is Lee and that he actually lives in Manchester. Hopefully, I'll be able to meet up with him while I'm in London sometime so that we can jam again! He was a really cool guy, and also an incredibly talented singer! :)

Check out the photographs below of my last night in Northern Ireland, along with some fun portraits of Northern Ireland itself - absolutely gorgeous, by the way, pictures can never do this country any real justice!
After that, Uncle Gary picked me up with Jaime and we went back to his house so that I could spend some quality time with Aaron (sometime during the drunken night before we agreed that it was absolutely necessary that we could jam before I left). Aaron, Darren (his friend) and I went to the supermarket for a few hours to get some beers and barbecue stuff. It was great fun hanging out with them and causing a little bit of mayhem on the drive back (Darren opened up his door and yelled gibberish at a girl while she was walking back from school, and she jumped five feet in the air, she was so surprised - good thing Aaron hit the gas, otherwise we probably would have gotten books thrown at us or something, haha!). Not only that, but Darren gave me my first ever guitar lesson! I could play a few chords pretty well by the end of the day, and I really want to continue learning. I got to jam with them for most of the evening, which was awesome. Aunt Mandy and Geoff came later on to hang out with everyone, and so did Uncle Gary's girlfriend, Elaine - and her daughters and dog! Karly dropped in to say goodbye, before leaving to go back to her home. And then when Uncle Harry and Aunt Sylvia showed up? It was a real "going away" barbecue, haha!

We played guitar, talked, sang, ate and drank the night away! Darren and I got to do an awesome cover of "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons, while Aaron did a wonderful rendition of "Little Talks" by Of Monsters and Men (with little harmonies here and there by yours truly). But the real craziness began when Uncle Harry grabbed a guitar and starting singing away - he had no idea what the chords were, but he knew how to play and sing like a total pro! Who knew!?

Needless to say, it was the best possible way to end an incredible week with the relatives. I didn't really need to do anything that crazy to have a great time in Northern Ireland, anyway - I just wanted to hang out with my family, and, really, it was the times that I spent with them that were best. I'll definitely be back for more "happy days." The goodbyes I had to say at the end of my incredible journey were... hard, but not as hard as I thought, because I have total and complete conviction now that I will be seeing the lovely Mitchell clan again soon. If not when Aaron comes to America, when I find a way to get back there. If you're reading this - I love you guys! <3

And Now to London, England...

The view from my plane heading back to Heathrow, gazing
down on the Strangford Lough. Beautiful!
It was some craic up here in the North. I got to visit my grandmother's grave, got drunk, got to do a lot of thinking about myself and my family heritage... but, most importantly, I got to see my relatives again. :) I hope to come back at least once during a long weekend before I head back to the ol' U.S.-of-A... perhaps a long weekend off of work? Sorry for this long ass post, but I tried to cram my entire week in Northern Ireland into one ginormous post... it kind of worked? But it's also an incredibly overwhelming process with an incredibly overwhelming result, so I've learned my lesson. From now on, I'm going to be blogging more often, if I can - if not, then I'll just make shorter blogs. This was more for myself getting all of the emotions that I felt in Northern Ireland out, to be completely frank. And this blog is more for myself anyway, so... don't like it, don't read it, haha! :) If you did read it, though, I hope you enjoyed it. At least a little. :)

I'm also working on a sort of playlist of the songs that I've listened to during this trip. I'm incredibly inspired by music, and there have been so many awesome songs that I've listened to here that are totally going to remind me of this trip - the songs on the playlist may not be "relevant," per se, but they are going to remind me of this trip. And maybe, if you guys want to listen, you can get a feel for the "little British world" that I'm living in at the moment, too! :)

I'll talk about my first week in London as soon as possible, I promise! Until then, keep safe you crazy Coloradans (don't all catch fire while I'm done, especially you Colorado Springs peeps), and keep it real! So, until the next adventure...