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This year, Thad and I received a wonderful present from his mom, Maxine, and David: a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean! It was a bit of a whirlwind at first, since we flew into the States on December 14th, drove to Charleston on the 15th, and the cruise left on the 16th! We had two full days at sea before we stopped at Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Key West. While at sea, we all had a great time enjoying the warm weather (particularly for Thad and I – it was a big change from winter in England)! Thad and I even took a couple’s massage class on the last day. I was a little worried about getting seasick, and though the last few days on the boat were a little rough, it turned out ok.

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The first stop was Grand Cayman, where we spent most of the day wandering around shops, swimming, and lounging on Seven Mile Beach.  The next day in Cozumel we drove dune buggies around most of the island, which was probably the highlight of the cruise for me.  We drove around for several hours, had lunch on an amazing beach, did a little shopping at the Pee Pee Station (a little souvenir shop we stopped at along the way), and went snorkeling.  It was a very eventful day, though our tour lasted a little longer than expected, so we didn’t have a whole lot of time to explore the port area on our own.

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After a week of having fun in the Caribbean, we arrived back in Charleston in time to get home for Christmas.  It was wonderful to see my family again, and to see how much the smallest family members have grown (Tyler is 9 months, and Sidda is now 13 monts!).  If you take a look at the photos, you’ll see they were the main source of entertainment for the whole family.

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(Thad playing with Tyler)

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(Mom and me, picking at the Turkey)

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After Christmas, in Richmond, Thad and I went on the Tacky Lights Tour, which was quite interesting.  After spending New Year’s together, Thad had to head back across the Atlantic.  I’m going to be in the States indefinitely, and am looking for jobs at the moment.  Cross your fingers that I find something soon!

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Trip Home

I arrived back in the UK early yesterday and was completely exhausted, but the trip home was worth it!  I had a great time, was able to relax a bit with friends and family, and also got a little bit of sun.  When I arrived, Sarah picked me up at the airport, and then we met up with some of my friends from Duke and APO and had a great night out.  From dinner at the Cosmic Cantina, to drinking beer in the Duke Gardens, to Sati’s and finally dancing at the Library, we had a great time!

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The next day Sarah and I drove from Chapel Hill to Wrightsville Beach to meet my family for their annual vacation.  Once we got there and I was able to say hello to everyone and unpack things, I was finally able to relax a little.  Just a little while later, Josh, Elizabeth, and Tyler arrived, and I got to meet my baby cousin for the first time!

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Tyler was a lot of fun to have at the beach and between him, Garrett, and Kaitlyn, the family was provided with endless entertainment.  Tyler proved to be a trooper when it came to being on the beach and getting wet in the ocean and pool.

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The rest of the week at the beach was fun, and for the most part we had great weather.  It was really nice to be somewhere where the temperature was genuinely hot all the time!  The week was also filled with lots of good food (both eating in and going out), and no family vacation would be complete without my grandma’s homemade iced tea and chocolate cake!  We were also able to see some really nice sunsets.  I already miss the NC beach and mountains – the UK is full of beautiful places and countryside, but I really miss the landscape from home.

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But of course, the thing I miss the most is my family.  The beach was a rare opportunity for everyone to be together, which doesn’t seem to happen much anymore with me being overseas, my mom and stepdad living in Virginia, and Curtis in his first year at university.

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At the end of the week I went back to Richmond with my mom and David, and got to finally see Scooter (our dog, for those who don’t know).  After eating out at a classic American hamburger joint and taking care of my broken glasses, I headed back to Raleigh the next day for some last-minute shopping and to catch my flight back to London.  I’m really glad I was able to go home for a little while, even though the trip seemed to fly by.  Now I’m trying to get as much done this week as possible before heading to Oxford to help Thad move and to meet Phoenix!

PS – go here to see many more photos from the trip!

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Hmm… things have been busy and I have other things I want to post about (like the weather here FINALLY getting warm!) But, I feel like I need to finish the Paris posts first, so here goes:

On the third day we woke up a bit later than we had wanted, so after rushing to get ready we headed out to grab some breakfast and hit the museums. On the way Thad wanted to stop at a kitchen store we'd passed by previously, and in our search to find it we got a bit disoriented! But, we ended up walking in a really quaint area, filled with patisseries, boulangeries, fromageries, and fruit/veg stands. We found a really nice place to get pastries for breakfast and continued on our way, eventually finding the kitchen store (but it was closed!) C'est la vie – we'll just have to see it next time!

We then walked over to the Cluny museum, which displayed lots of medieval art and artefacts. I think my favorite were the tapestries, particularly the ones with the woman and the unicorn (there's an entire room dedicated to just this one set of tapestries). Afterwards we decided to save a bit of money, enjoy being outside, and have a picnic instead of getting lunch in a cafe. So we grabbed some very, very good cheese and a baguette on the Isle de Saint Louis and walked to the Place des Vosages, a particular square I really wanted to see (near the Hotel de Ville). We had a really nice lunch, enjoyed people-watching, and got to listen to a string quartet playing nearby as we ate:

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That afternoon the lines to get into Saint Chapelle and climb to the top of Notre Dame were too long, so we hopped onto the Batobus, had a quick stop at the Jardin Des Plantes, and then visited the Louvre again. This time it was much more crowded, so we were glad we had already seen the pieces that most tourists go to see! We walked around and looked at some sculpture, and visited Napoleon's apartments, which were super-extravagant:

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After leaving the Louvre we had another picnic near the Champs Elysees and headed to the Arc De Triumph. We arrived when it was still daylight and managed to get some daytime shots before the sun went down and we were able to see the city lit up at night. The Arc de Triumph is a great place to view the Eiffel Tower at night!

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That night we splurged and took the metro back to the hotel (which gave me a whole new appreciation for the London underground!).

The next morning we checked out of the hotel and headed straight for Montmarte.  I highly recommend spending at least a day wandering around Montmarte if you're in Paris – I really enjoyed it, and it's such a wonderful, quaint area.  We started by exploring Sacre Coeur, which I also enjoyed.  I think that I've seen so much gothic architecture that seeing someting completely different was a bit refreshing, and I was really impressed with the large domes.

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Next we wandered around, but I was in search of a couple of landmarks:

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If you've seen the movie Amelie, that market should look really familiar!  We also visited and had coffee and tea in the Two Windmills, where Amelie works in the movie.  Before that, however, we decided to find the Moulin Rouge (and were quite entertained by the price list!)  and had a nice lunch in the Montmarte Cemetary (we weren't the only ones having lunch there), followed by a pastry that rivals any I've ever had before.   Then we made our way to Gare du Nord and headed back to London, and afterwards Oxford.

Like I said, it was a whirlwind of a trip and not nearly enough time to see and do everything that is in Paris, but it was a nice taste that has left me wanting more! 

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Paris, continued

Since we only had four days to explore Paris and wanted to see as much as possible, Thad and I both bought two day museum and monuments passes for 30 euro. Basically, if you're planning on going to 3-4 museums per day, you definitely get your money's worth. We also bought two day passes for the Batobus, a boat that goes up and down the Seine, stopping at various places, that acts as a bus that you can hop on and off. This was a great way to get around (and cut down on the walking slightly), and much more fun than the metro or a normal bus. If you look at my photos, there are several of us taken from the back of the bus!

The second day started with a visit to the Eiffel Tower. Very touristy, I know, but at least we didn't pay 8 euro or so just to get to the top. I admit I was really excited about seeing it in person, as evidenced by the million or so photos I took of it! After seeing the tower from many different angles, we walked to the Musee de l'Armee, which Thad was very excited about seeing. There were definitely some interesting weapons and armor, but I think Thad ejoyed a bit more than I did 🙂 Then we visited Napoleon's Tomb. I think the most interesting thing were his coat and hat on display. I knew he was a short man, but I didn't think he was THAT short! Afterwards we grabbed a couple of croque monsieurs, found a nice bench in the gardens outside the Musee de l'Armee, and had a nice little lunch:

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Then we walked to the Musee de Rodin, which was probably my favorite museum in Paris. The sculptures were amazing, and we had a really good time wandering around the gardens and house looking at various sculptures. The thing about Rodin is that the same sculptures keep turning up in various forms, which was interesting. We spent a decent amount of time there, and one of the highlights was seeing The Thinker:

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After leaving the Rodin museum we walked to the Musee d'Orsay and looked at some photography exibitions and the impressionist paintings, which I loved. We then caught the Batobus to see about climbing to the top of Notre Dame (the museums pass gets you up for free), but it was too late and the last group had already gone up. So, we caught the boat bus again and headed to the Louvre, since it's open late on Wednesday nights. One the way we got sugar crepes for a snack, and though I enjoyed mine immensely, I don't think I enjoyed it as much as this little guy enjoyed his:

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He doesn't look very happy in the photo, but he was a very happy little kid and attracted a LOT of attention on the boat with his messy crepe! His parents were very nice, were very happy with me taking a photo of him (I made sure I asked first), and even showed Thad and I some photos they had taken of their kids earlier!

Next was the Louvre, and all that I can say is that it's completely overwhelming. I don't think you could see everything in it if you spend a lifetime there! It was surprisingly empty, and it was very easy for us to see the big pieces that everyone goes to see: the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. The Mona Lisa was anticlimactic, but I was expecting it to be, but I enjoyed the Venus de Milo. They had moved her, and Thad and I were lucky to stumble upon her by accident:

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After leaving the Louvre, we went out for our one really nice, semi-pricey dinner in Paris at the Fernette du Sud Ouest. I highly recommend this place! The fixed price menu was gorgeous and the gateau chocolat was out of this world! That was pretty much the end of that day – early to bed and somewhat early to rise was the protocol while Thad and I were in Paris.

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First Day in Paris

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The problem with trying to keep a blog is that when there's loads of things you want to post about, you're too busy doing the things to write about them. Then when you finally do get a chance, it's just not as good as it would have been, had you written about it earlier when everything was fresh in your mind. Oh well…..

I absolutely loved Paris. Everyone I've spoken with about Paris loves it. And four days was not early enough time to explore it – in fact being able to only scratch the surface makes me want to go back even more (with hopefully better French language skills under my belt!). The trip started off in London – because our train left from Waterloo at 6:30am on the 23rd, Thad and I knew it would be best if we could at least get to sleep until 4:30 or so, so we booked a teeny tiny room at a hostel. We met up in London the afternoon before leaving (I got there a little before him, so spent a little time exploring the Imperial War Museum) and went to the British museum and Harrods before having dinner in Chinatown and turning in early.

And just a few hours later we were off! If you ever travel on Eurostar, don't expect it to be super-nice, just slightly wider and faster than a normal train. I was hoping there would at least be a cool dining car with tables, but alas, just a counter to buy snacks and a few stools. Also, the French countryside looks exactly like the English countryside just after you cross the English Channel, which I wasn't really expecting! We arrived at our hotel, checked in, and then went straight off to do as much exploring as we could on the first day.

The first day was a lot of walking and wandering around, getting our bearings and deciding what we wanted to see and do. We went to the Louvre to start off with (didn't go in this time, just took photos outside):

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And then we walked through the Jardin des Tulieries, (here's Thad enjoying a bit of a sit-down after walking through the gardens):

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Afterwards we wandered along the Seine until we came to the Isle de la Cite, stopping on the way for a yummy lunch of crepes.  We visited Notre Dame, which was amazing, and the flying buttresses were everything I thought they would be! 

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Then we meandered down to the Isle de St. Louis, ducking into some interesting shops on the way, before making our way back to the hotel for dinner at a classic french brasserie.  By the time we made it back to the hotel we were ready to collapse and it wasn't even dark yet (sunset was around 9:30 or so)!  We called it an early night, considering we were exhausted from being awake since 4am and traveling, and wanted to get up early to see and do as much as possible!

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Back from Paris!

This is just a quick drive-by posting for now, since there's lots to do to prepare for my meeting with my supervisor this week.  Thad and I are back from Paris and we had a wonderful time!

There are tons of photos up online for now (I mean it when I say tons!), and I will do a proper post sometime soon.

Au revoir! 

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It’s been a while!

It's been a while since I've felt this purly physically tired, or since I've had a bruise on my body that felt like it was slowly swelling to the size of a small country.  This morning was worth it though – it was my first time playing touch rugby.  Margaret used to play in Ireland, and finally found a group of people who play every weekend in Preston Park.  At first I was a bit intimidated since there was only one other girl (besides me, Margaret, and Kat), but they were all really nice, patiently explained the rules, and didn't mind passing a lot to try to get some of us newer players into the game.  It was a GREAT workout, and the only real hazard was the wet grass and trying not to fall while running (for those of us who didn't have cleets).  It was really fun though, and I may try to make it a regular habit of going.

So, I haven't posted anything in quite a while, but things have been fairly busy lately.  I'm trying to really start working hard on my dissertation, but that has been quite a challenge on the days when we've had exceptional weather in Brighton.  Just a few days ago it got up to 23 degrees (over 70 in Farenheit!) and campus was completely transformed.  Everyone was outside on the grass talking, eating, reading, or drinking.  I hadn't seen campus like that before, and I felt justified in taking the afternoon off, talking to some of the girls in my program, and enjoying the sunshine.  

Also, I failed to document a major milestone on this blog – my 25th birthday!  Because I knew I would be in Oxford on my actual birthday, I had a group of people over to my flat last Wednesday to celebrate.  I made apple crumble (which was really yummy, especially with vanilla ice cream!) and it was a lovely evening.  Afterwards, Sam, Margaret, Kat, and I went to Casablanca's, but I had to make a relatively early night of it because I had a bit too much wine!  And, that night convinced me even more that Kat is an absolute angel, and the best kind of friend anyone could hope to have 🙂

The next day I headed to Oxford for a long weekend, getting there earlier than usual in the week so that I could go to the Greek Easter Feast.  It was a definite treat and a huge meal!  Thad had various things he had to do over the weekend, but that meant that I got to mingle with St. Cross people at jazz night while he was behind the bar, and spectate at his baseball practice (at the St. Edwards school, where he's helping to coach a team). 

For the most part the weather was great, until we woke up early on May morning (my birthday!) to attend the various festivities in Oxford.  We heard the Magdalen boys' choir sing, and then spent about an hour watching Morris dancers around town.  I still don't quite understand Morris dancing, but it's a lot of fun to watch!  After a lovely, greasy breakfast at the St. Giles Cafe we went back to sleep for a couple of hours.  Originally we had planned to go punting, but the weather just wasn't quite warm enough, though it did clear up later in the day.

The rest of my birthday was spent eating, mostly!  We went to lunch at Thad's college, and then I opened my cards and presents before Thad and I went on a short bike ride around Jericho.  I got to try out the bike he fixed up for me for my birthday present, and I really like it (though it took some getting used to at first, since I'm more used to mountain bikes than road bikes).  Afterwards we spent some time walking around town, making a stop by Krispy Kreme so that I could get a birthday doughnut!  After meeting several of the archaeology people who had just finished with their exams at a nearby pub, Thad and I went to Bistro Je t'aime for a wonderful dinner.  I really enjoyed the food there, especially the duck and the scalloped potatoes – yum!  Then we went to a movie, and had a pretty quiet evening in.  It was a great birthday, and I spent most of the day trying not to think about the fact that I'm a quarter of a century old.  At least people seem to still think I look much younger than I am!

Thad wrote an entry about May Day on his blog that you can take a look at, along with photos, and I posted some photos of my own here

It feels a little strange to be in school but not have classes.  I guess the next four months of working on my dissertation will be pretty telling – how much self-discipline do I really have, and do I have what it takes to get a PhD at some point?  Because I need to find funding, it will probably be a while before I get a doctoral degree, but I am looking forward to working or volunteering somewhere next year.  Anyway, back to being productive for a bit!

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