Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dalkeith at Last!!

We arrived, safe and sound, in Dalkeith a town 6 miles outside Edinburgh on Thursday. This is our new 'home away from home' as from here we only take day trips until our departure for home on July13. Dalkeith House is an imposing palace; it has a very important place in history as kings and rulers have been here often since the first dwelling here was noted by William the Conquerer back around 1069. It was thoroughly rebuilt (though on some of the same foundations) back in 1701. 

The accommodations are pretty amazing, even if we are packed 4 to a room! 
Friday we had a full day of class lectures (and here you thought it was all fun and games) but followed it up with a pizza party hosted by some local friends of Lee. They even created a quiz bowl game for knowledge of Scotland. I would like to point out that I won with 25 correct out of 30, but the winning prizes went to the best undergraduate team with 19. Lee's team also had a score of 19 (wink).
We have had a walking tour of Dalkeith and our first trip into Edinburgh. This weekend some of us went golfing, some went to Loch Ness, and most of us enjoyed finally being settled in one place. The coming week will bring many new sites to visit and classroom time; students have already been given assignments for both classes. There really is actual academic learning going on! I should know, as I will be grading soon enough (unhappy face)...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

York: Old, not New!

Arrived at York yesterday in time for a very informative walking tour.

We saw Roman ruins, the Shambles, bits of Royal history, and heard tales of life, death, and betrayal. 
We had time for a group shot in front of Clifford's Tower, the site of a horrific persecution of the Jews in 1190, leading to group suicide and 'walls that bleed' on the anniversary of the tragedy. 

We also saw the shortest street with the longest name in our stroll around the Shambles.

After a break for lunch, 

We met up again for a ghost walk with our guide Chris, a 'right' scary bloke. 

The evening ended in the Shambles...

This is a preserved medieval street, an incredible site as our evening came to a close. 

A Second Day in York

Our second, and last full day, in York began at the hostile with a crowded breakfast. Our group assembled and walked to the York Castle Museum for an interesting look at the history of York from the Victorian period onward. 

After the serious stuff, there were places to play...

After a short break we met at York Minster for a tour. 

Several of the students took the 275 step, 25" wide stairs to the top of the tower for the spectacular view. 
We met up again for a very scary trip through York Dungeon-the scariest part was that they depict actual events, such as the hanging of Dick Turpin, the Blood Eagle, Witch Burning, the Plague, etc in a very realistic manner. Ask Kristy, Leah, or Joe how it felt, as they were singled out by the actors to play parts in the grisly scenes-not to worry, as the place has a saying "fear is a funny thing"!
We went our separate ways for dinner, though some if us went to the Golden Fleece Pub, known as the most haunted pub in York. Notice our fellow pub patron 

Also, don't worry as it is quite alright to have supper in a pub without drinking beet or even being over 18. Below is a pic of my dinner- the local speciality- giant Yorkshire Pudding with roast beef and gravy. An awesome way to end our last night in York. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Things Got Interesting...

We had a water incident at the hotel this morning; a student managed to leave the faucet running when he got up to use the 'loo' at 3 am. Unfortunately, the drain got plugged and the sink overflowed, running into the neighboring room, down to the floor below and even the floor below that. The neighbor alerted management at 4am and at that point, the 'joy' began. By the next morning we had run up quite a bit of damage!

Even with the excitement, we got our hired coach at the appointed time. When arrived at our Cambridge hotel, the rooms were not ready. That was not unexpected as we arrived at 9:45am, however, we had booked a walking tour to pick us up at the hotel lobby to while away the time...but we found ourselves waiting, and waiting, and waiting. The tour guide finally arrived at 1pm! 

The walking tour was ok. Cambridge is a pretty incredible city, founded by some academics that left Oxford several hundred years ago. There are now 31 separate colleges, each with their own specialities and 'personalities'.  

King's College chapel was spectacular. 

From the chapel we want on a punting tour (that was also late, though only 15 minutes or so). 

From there, the rest if the day was free. 

As it is Sunday, the pubs are serving roast beef with Yorkshire pudding - a dinner fit for kings indeed!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday: Museum and Market

Saturday morning we popped down to the London Museum for a peek at the history of the place, which was a wonderful encapsulation of a lot of what econ 427 will be about (one of our classes, titled 'Economic and Social Development of Great Britain'). It is a great museum. 

From there we moved on to the Portobello Road Market-an open air market has been on that site nearly 1,000 years- a true example of the beginnings of markets and capitalism. 

This is the last full day in London as tomorrow we leave for Cambridge and must bid this incredible city goodbye. 

Bodies, Beheadings, and Bling

Geoff, our intrepid tour guide, met us this morning for a brief tour 'redux' that first took us to see the esteemed Jeremy Bentham- well his body anyway. One of the fathers of economics, a brilliant thinker even if he thought THIS was a good idea fir his body:
We then moved on to the changing of the royal horse guards, talk about 'bling' - these guys put Hollywood's costume designers to shame!

The guard change was rather stately ... 

Then we were off to see the changing of the house guards (bands, furry hats and all), couldn't see much as the crowds were huge. But, after a brief respite for lunch, we met up at the Tower of London. 
for a Beefeater tour. He told us of grisly Beheadings. Too gruesome to relate!

The afternoon was free and the living was easy in the land of heavenly chocolate. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

If it Thursday, it must be Stonehenge..

This is turning out to be a wonderful group; our first morning here and everyone was down to breakfast promptly at 7:30. Amazing, considering how sleepy a few of them looked! 

We were picked up by our hired 'coach' -aka bus - at the agreed upon time with a very amusing driver named Brandon. Even with traffic that about scares my socks off - heavy traffic, bicycles, motorcycles, pedestrians and morning rush - we got to Stonehenge in 2.5 hours, not bad from the east side of London. 
The magic of Stonehenge seems very real on the eve of the summer solstice. Our group seemed to appreciate the experience...

Even though some of us have to be silly- trying to squash the standing stones.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Walking in London

A beautiful first day, about 80 degrees partly sunny, light breeze. Even Londoners were out enjoying the day!
We met up with our guide, Geoff, and started the walk In pimlico, walked to the Thames

Saw st. James park, 

Strolled to Big Ben
and had a great time. 

Tomorrow is a trip to Stonehenge!

We Arrived!!!

After a relatively uneventful travel day, including a school bus to Chicago...
And then a plane ride, after a 3 hour (scheduled) wait at O'Hare 

And another 3 hour wait in Minneapolis, we made it to Heathrow Airport in London. all our luggage even arrived! So, it's onto the underground...

We managed to meet up with two of the students who took separate flights, and we are on to our first day. Even though it feels like 5 am, it is really 11 am, but so far excitement is keeping most of us awake. 

We have a walking tour scheduled after we check in at our hotel... 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Down to the Wire!

By now, you are probably thinking about packing and luggage limits. It is a very, very good idea to carefully review your actual needs versus your 'wants' versus your 'nice to haves.' I have found that if you start a few days ahead by putting everything you are considering taking in one huge pile (maybe in your open suitcase) you can then thin out the stack over the following days right up until its time to leave and you won't end up over packing quite so much. 
Start with 2 pairs of walking shoes, raincoat, and absolutely necessary toiletries (they have stores there, but products are different and OTC meds very different and pricey). Realize you are likely to buy souvenir t shirts (no one will know if you wear them, wash, THEN give as gifts). Laundry will be easy in the castle, but will take time away from fun before then, so take a week of undies and socks. It is OK to be seen wearing the same thing more than once. Try to do without electrical stuff like hair dryers, curling irons, etc. or post comments here and figure out sharing. They are heavy, need converters, and tend to die. Go with the 'natural look.' Just wait until you see me...(ugh!)
Put all prescription meds in original containers in your carry on. Also in your carry on put in a light change of clothes-unders, socks, maybe t shirt and your one pair of shorts for emergencies on the plane and the unlikely event they lose your luggage, I recommend ear plugs, maybe a sleep aid, and something to do (that doesn't have to connect to the Internet, it is pricey to have wifi on the plane). Maybe eye shades and pillow-you will feel better if u nap in the plane. Wear slip on shoes, no jewelry, nothing metal, maybe a money belt, on the plane. Stay organized with passport, id, pen, etc handy.
Weigh your bag - max is 50 pounds and overage is something like $75-$150 each way. One checked bag and one carry on is all that's free- you have been warned!
Leave room/weight to bring home treasures! Ask Lee about the tea sets he brought back!
Send or post questions if you have any and I will try to help!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Almost Time to Go!!!

The trip is almost upon us! This is both the most exciting and, potentially, the scariest time time of the whole trip. For those of us who have not traveled much or maybe not at all, the unknown can be worrisome.
I will do my best to make the trip as easy as possible for you all. Please follow my directions for things like getting through customs and immigration and when and where to meet for each of our daily excursions, I will be providing maps of each of our locations and giving out 'emergency cards' that will have information like the addresses and telephone numbers of each of our hotels - so that, in a pinch, you can just show the card to a taxi driver and get 'home' from anywhere. Unlike here at home, you will be able to get cabs quite easily (OK, not so many cabs in Dalkieth, but everything is within walking distance and showing the card to anyone who lives in the area will quickly produce directions to the castle). SO, don't be too worried about travel or getting lost.

We will be meeting at the bus pick up area Tuesday morning - please see the trip web page through the OIE for details (oh yes, you can leave a car the entire duration of the trip but if you don't have a current UWO parking sticker you need to see the wonderful folks at Parking Services for a temporary sticker). Lee and I will be there by about 9:45. The bus should show up around 10 to 10:15 and we will be leaving for the airport about 15 minutes after the bus arrives. Lee and I will be checking everyone to be sure you have your passport and your UWO student id card. Recall that your luggage cannot be over 50 pounds and you are only allowed one suitcase and one carry on without paying extra (and the overweight charges are pretty extreme) and, of course, the trip does NOT cover baggage overage fees. Please also realize you may be bringing back souvenirs - and leave some room in your baggage for them for the return trip.

Please refer to the 'hints and tips' that I sent you some time ago for things you will want/need to bring. I cannot emphasize enough bringing comfortable walking shoes and a rain jacket. Also, bringing a good tour book so you can do a little sightseeing on your own will be very valuable to you (you have free afternoons in London, Cambridge and York and quite a bit of free time in Edinburgh). Don't over pack (though I tend to do so myself). You will be buying souvenir t shirts in all likelihood so don't bring a lot of clothing. You might want to think about dressing in layers - it can be quite cool (some trips I was not comfortable in short sleeves for more than a few daytime hours even inside the castle) and rainy all the way up to 80 degrees or more and very humid.
Bringing power converters (other than just converter PLUGS) is also something to think about. You can purchase these most anywhere, even at your local Walmart. You will at least need a plug for the UK - the plugs in the castle have three very weird looking prongs on the plug, though other places in the UK where we stay may be using the two round prongs. Make sure the plugs you buy include both (read the back of the package). Unless you are bringing a laptop and everything else you have charges with a USB port, you will need a CONVERTER not just PLUGS. You will fry your camera (or other device) charger unless it clearly says it will handle from 110 to 240 volts (UK is 220 volts). You have been warned (again).

Bringing money - there are ATM's everywhere and are far and away the easiest and usually the cheapest way to get money. HOWEVER, you must notify your bank and any credit cards when you will be in the UK (call the customer service number on the back of each card). If you don't they will likely cut off your card and you will be stuck. Also, ask about fees they charge for international transactions. Many places will charge up to 3% or even more PER TRANSACTION. Also, recall that the exchange rate is about $1.60 or so per British pound. When you take "100" out of your account, you will be debited at least the $160 and also fees. Budget your money. You have been warned (again).

Gosh, I don't intend for this entry to sound scary or frightening or mean, but I am very serious about these basics: pay attention to directions from me and Lee, bring good shoes and a raincoat, think about converting electricity, and your personal finances. With those things taken care of, you will have a GREAT trip!
I encourage those of you who are going on the trip to comment on this blog with the thing (or things) you are most looking forward to and the thing (or things) you are most worried about. Also, while we are away I will be assigning blog posts so that you can potentially use this blog to keep in touch with people in the states that want to keep track of you!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Avoiding Jet Lag....

One of the more annoying aspects of traveling is the dreaded "jet lag" experience

The change in 'clock time' versus your inner body time can leave the first few days of a trip fuzzy and seriously dull the excitement of all the new and wonderful things you may never be able to see again (and, of course, NEVER see again for the first time!). For short trips, jet lag can even mess up the entire trip. Our trip will be nearly a month, so I fully expect that all of us will.eventually manage to adjust our internal clock to UK time (which is 6 hours ahead of our time here in the midwest, meaning that our 6 am is their noon). I will note however, that 3 trips ago there was one student who never did manage to adjust and would fall asleep in class every day. We even asked him to stand during class at one point and he fell asleep on his feet! He would roam the castle until at least 4 am (which was 10 pm on his internal clock) before he could fall asleep, so that 9 am class felt to him like the middle of the night.  

Most 'experts' agree that moving from west to east (the direction we are going) is worse than going the reverse (when we return). I have not found that to be true, as when I travel I am usually so excited to arrive that I manage to have less jet lag than when I return home. Though, in students' favor, the age group between 15-30 are supposed to have the least trouble with jet lag of any age group. The young (before 6 or so) and the old (ahem, I will NOT define old, given my current age and the fact that I still like to think of myself as reasonably 'young' - at least young compared to what I plan on being) have worse trouble with this adjustment of internal clocks. 
So, what to do to avoid this experience? Well, thoughts on the subject differ and what works for some folks might not work for everyone... so, now that I have covered the disclaimer, here are a few ideas....

1. The biggest aid to moving your internal clock right away is to stay awake the entire first day we arrive - NO NAPS - then go to bed at a 'reasonable' hour (that you would normally retire, according to the clock, at home). This is usually easier if you get some sleep on the plane (earplugs and eyeshades and a neck pillow are very helpful for this, as well as for keeping annoying seat mates from talking to you incessantly). So, if you usually go to sleep at 10 pm, go to bed on the first night at 10 pm, even if you don't feel sleepy. Most folks will feel really draggy the first day and want to nap all day, but then get a burst of energy in the early evening and want to go out and celebrate the beginning of the trip. Both of those are a bad idea. If you are seriously not sleepy at 10 pm local time, take a light sleeping pill (if you know of one that works for you and you can tolerate -I'm just sayin' here - don't put any drugs into your body on just my say so - ask your doc - I will likely take a Benedryl which is enough to know me out). The next day, I will expect the group to meet for breakfast at 8, and we will be out and about by 9 and I will try to keep you walking and awake if I can that second day as well. If you don't nap the second day and go to bed at a reasonable hour the second night, you will be over jet lag by the third day, in all likelihood. 

2. If you don't want to miss even a day of the excitement in London (our first stop) you can always just move  the jet lag to before you leave. Move your getting up time by 1 hour each day (and your bed time up by one hour each day to match) for 6 days - or make it one hour every other day for 12 days. That way, you will already be adjusted by the time you arrive. I don't usually have the discipline to do this, as I am too busy with friends and family before I leave and going to bed by 4 pm in the afternoon can seriously cut into this!

3. Another thing to do that has been suggested by several scientific studies is to take low doses of melatonin (available without a prescription and I am NOT telling you to take drugs without advice of your personal physician, just reporting what some medical studies suggest). Anyway, what folks say is to take melatonin in the late afternoon on a staggered schedule starting about 4 days before you leave on the trip - this means around 6 pm 4 days before, then 5 pm  on the 3rd day before the trip, then 4 pm the 2nd day, then 3 pm the day before and 2 pm on the day of travel... and then at 'bedtime' for the first few days of the trip. It is supposed to act as a relaxant (not habit forming and not really a sleeping pill). I'm just sayin' here - again, don't put any drugs into your body on just my say so - ask your doc. 

4. There is also supposed to be something about exposing yourself to bright light - morning light for the direction we are going. I am actually sort of chuckling here as finding bright light in the morning in London is generally not possible! However, I have designed the trip so that we will be out walking in the morning each day we are there - so we will be exposed to light if there is any! Another reminder here - if you read my 'hints and tips' about the trip (posted elsewhere) - be prepared for rain. A rain jacket with a hood is usually the way to go - umbrellas will just poke other folks in the eye and get annoying while walking in a group. And, those pretend raincoats that are more like plastic bags (and some are even clear as well as being just incredibly light weight filmy plastic things that fit in a baggie) don't hold up. The UK is just too often rainy to get one of these to last the whole trip!

OK, so now you have the best tips I can offer to avoid jet lag. Be aware that I will be pounding on your door if you are not up when you are supposed to be, and missing events is not tolerated, so best to get that jet lag out of the way. Seeing me cross at you every morning is really not a fun way to start a day!

Good luck!