crystal's capers

one girl's international adventures

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Right, I've been really negligent with the blogging lately, but I do have an excuse: my master's paper. And happily, it's finally finished. Well, barring lengthy re-do requirments from the two profs I've asked to give it a look-over before I submit it.

I've also been spending loads of extra time on the phone to my family. Rebecca and Mike's little gem, Kyra Marie, is keeping them both busy, and I love learning everything I can about the first weeks. Can't wait to meet her!

Work is going really well. I'm so happy that I'll be there next year, because I really love the kids and am slowly finding myself more ingrained with the staff. Also, it's been confirmed that I'll be paid over the summer, which was in question before. July will bring my 50% pay increase then, and I can't wait!

Riccardo and I were planning to do a roadtrip through Spain (and a little of France) over the summer, but his time off is limited, and once I'd costed it out, it proved to be very expensive. Over 600 GBP per person, if we camped the whole time - and that's not including the camping gear, food and entertainment! So, instead we are thinking of spending a week, or 10 days on one of the Greek islands. I'm looking into renting a self-catering holiday apartment. Always wanted to do that, and plus, it'll be much cheaper than our roadtrip option! So excited! Fingers crossed!

Riccardo has finished three of his four Japanese GCSE exams (this is the high-school equivalent) and we are all very confident that he has done extremely well. (By 'we all' I mean me, him and his Japanese tutor, Mitsue-san.) He's got his last test, the writing one, on Wednesday, and then he, too, has a huge burden off his shoulders. Though, I do hope he continues with his Japanese studies.

Can't believe Kimberly and Corey's wedding is in just over a week! What a busy time it's going to be! I'm sure everything will fall together and go super smoothly though. Speaking of weddings, all the best to Parker and Scott, who had to cancel their wedding in Mexico because of that crazy Swine Flu. I know it's a shitty situation, but I'm sure you'll both realise at some point that it was meant to be... we just don't know why yet.

Love and hugs, C


Monday, May 04, 2009


The UK doesn't celebrate many holidays; well, let's say, they don't grant many paid days off work for normal folk, apart from the standard 5 weeks a year. I guess it's a fair trade; however, I still find cause to complain that there is only one national holiday per year that doesn't fall within my pre-arranged 13 weeks of school holidays. Poor me. Anyhow, the first weekend in May holds title as this lonely holiday, and so we decided to make use!

Riccardo and I booked a room in a Bed & Breakfast and set off to visit York over the long weekend. In fact, we had a prior engagement to lunch with some friends on Sunday, so we left Friday after work and came back Saturday night, so it wasn't truly a whole weekend. I know you're thinking, 'well, they could do that any weekend!' and you are right, we could. We just find it easier to cope with a busy work week if we leave one day to sit at home, catch up on errands and housework and work-work, so that's why it was better to go off gallivanting over a long weekend.

Predictably, the motorways were a gongshow on Friday evening. What should have been 2.3 hours' drive was actually over 3.5. We managed to get to our B&B by about 7:40, where we promptly dumped off our stuff and then high-tailed it into the city centre to meet up with the Haunted City Walking Tour that began at 8:00.

The walking tour was fantastic. York is, apparently, the most haunted city in all of Britain, so there were plenty of sights to see. Our guide was quite the theatrical old fella: whenever he told a tale he always paused eerily between the words. in. his. last. sentences. Good fun.

We spotted a decent looking French restaurant during our walking tour and headed back afterward for some cuisine. It was amazing. I had crab cakes to start and a brie-stuffed chicken breast, wrapped in prosciutto and drizzled with smoked cheese sauce (served with roasted potatoes and green beans) as the main. OMG, so delicious! The staff was really nice there, too, which was a bit surprising, considering how annoyingly touristy York is.

Our B&B was also fab. Highly recommend it! Thought it wasn't really any more expensive than the many other B&B's in the area, it was 5* and worth every penny (which was about $150 CN, including breaky). The room was cute and clean, the owners so hospitable and the food was made-to-order and delicious. Even the muesli was homemade. I had fruit salad and a full English breakfast. Mmmm, mmm. The parking (for the whole day, Saturday) was also free.

Saturday we started out at the York Minster Cathedral. In fact, we ending up spending the greater part of our day there. Upon arrival we noted that there was a free tour of the place. The tour ended up being nearly 2 hours long! I'm sure the bloke who showed us around was there when the place was build (back in the 13th century) because he was ancient, but he certainly knew his stuff. This was the first church I've paid money to go into, but actually, with the walking tour included, it was worth it. We learned so much about the history of the church, it's architecture and especially, it's stained glass and carvings. We noticed little monkeys and bunnies in the glasswork that we would never otherwise have seen, and heard the suspected tales of how they ended up there. We were also made to notice some interesting tombs. One gentleman's plaque boasted his many traits; it said something like: 'John was wise, fair, kind, generous, thoughtful, loyal, brave, honourable, trustworthy... yet died.' Thanks, Tips. Another lady made it into the cathedral with her only achievement in life being that she died at 38, having given birth to 24 children. Poor, poor woman. I'd rather die, too.

After our walking tour we decided to climb the tower which offered a breathtaking view over the city. This was rather daunting, as the staircase is so narrow they only let people up in groups and you have half an hour to get up, see the sights and get down. On the way up, there's no time to rest, as you will hold up the rest of the queue and they will miss their limited minutes a-top. Um, yeah. Anyway, the 275 steps weren't actually that bad, though I was a little winded, as you can see in the photo. The view was great, and definitely worth it.

From the cathedral we walked along the city wall. York also boasts the only surviving complete city wall in Britain, and it offers a nice view of the city as well. Riccardo wanted to do the full 4-mile circuit, but after the hike to the tower I cajoled him down to just one section. Luckily, exactly where we happened to get off was where the Treasurer's House is. We had heard about this one during our walking tour the previous night; it is situated above an ancient Roman road, and is apparently haunted by the ghosts of said Romans, returning from battle. It was also interesting because it has been donated to the Trust fully furnished, so we enjoyed an audio tour explaining the priceless antiques and the old-fashioned goings-on within this lavish mansion.

After a final stroll through the city and some cappucinos, Riccardo and I decided to end our mini-break and make the long journey home. I thoroughly enjoyed our time in the lovely little city of York!


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