Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sister in Town

This week I had the pleasure of hosting my favorite sister while she was on her way to study in Moscow for the quarter, stopping in England for a few days.
This photo summarizes the beginning of her visit. I can sympathize though, as she had only a brief time after finishing her internship and then had to get ready for a semester in Russia and make an 8 hour time change. I actually got some useful reading done while she slept off the jet lag.
Soon though we were up and about and enjoyed the sights of Cambridge. Here we are on a punt. Alissa actually took over punting for a while and did a very admirable job. We did a tour of the main sights around town, like King's, Trinity, and St. John's, as well as the river and the parks.We also did some fun new things I hadn't done before. Here we are on top of the tower at Great St. Mary's Church, the highest point in town, where we had a view over the whole town. It was something like 20 or 30 flights on a tiny, narrow staircase, but it was worth it. We also visited two museums. The Whipple museum of the history of science, which has a neat collection of scientific instruments like telescopes and slide rules from hundreds of years ago, and the Museum of Zoology.
We also had some nice time just hanging out with some of my friends here, cooking dinners and such. I wanted to make sure Alissa got the full UK experience, so here we are watching a big soccer game at a pub. Finally we got to spend some time in London. I still have only spent a handful of days in London, so there was plenty to see. We went to the British Museum (here we are next to a famous dog statue), Buckingham Palace, Green Park, and Harrod's department store. Buckingham Palace is only open for tours for one month a year so we lucked out on the timing.
We lucked out on the timing in general as I got a chance to spend some time with Alissa, and she got a chance to see England and get some rest before her adventures in Russia. It was only a brief moment but it made a very nice end to the summer for me and reminded me what a neat place I get to live in.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My New Ride

Here's a look at my newest means of transportation. I had wanted a road bike for some time but it was hard to procure one in the UK which hasn't caught up on the craigslist concept quite yet. I ended up buying this lightly used Cannondale off of eBay UK, and the seller was kind enough to drive down and deliver it because his wife wanted to visit Cambridge anyways (it really is a nice downtown). It's my third road bike and it's beautiful, in shiny silver, and being a Cannondale it has "Made in USA" prominently, along with the stars and stripes. I'm tentatively going with the nickname "Silvia," the bike is pretty enough that it deserves a female name.

I think I got a good deal, although bikes have so many hidden costs associated with them it's not a cheap hobby. In particular I had to order pedals, shoes, a bag, a pump, and some other nonsense.
The first feeling of being on a well tuned-bike on the open road was worth it though. England is a fantastic place for a bike, mostly flat, with endless miles of winding country roads and many small towns to visit. Here I am on a nice bend by an old stone church. Except for the bugs and the weather this country is a biking paradise. I remember living in Seattle owning a bike made a huge difference in the amount of the surrounding area I saw. Hopefully I'll get to do a fair bit of biking here as well, because there's a huge amount of England outside of Cambridge that seems worth exploring

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Farewell to the MPhils

This time of the year in August, many of my friends from Churchill and the Gates Scholarship program who were studying for one-year MPhil degrees in Cambridge are heading back to the US and elsewhere, so it's been a long steady stream of goodbyes. Two good friends from Gates, Brian and Garth, left in the past two days.
To say goodbye to Garth we went out for full English breakfast (as opposed to the dreaded continental breakfast), which consists of a huge plate of eggs, toast, beans, and sausage.
We followed up with the less traditional game of tennis-golf. Less traditional as in, we just made it up in the last few weeks but it's already become a classic. Kind of like frisbee golf, you pick objects as the "hole" then have to hit them with your tennis ball in as few strokes as possible. There are a lot of places around Churchill to have interesting holes with bouncing the ball off of obstacles, the game is amazingly entertaining for how simple it is. That's the kind of innovation you get when Gates scholars from different fields mix.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Triathlon in Antwerp

Of course, I didn't complete the triathlon, but my friend Andrew (running above) did and I went along for the ride with a big group of friends. Andrew completed the Antwerp half-Ironman on Sunday, we watched the race and cheered, then spent Monday exploring Brussels. It was a very easy trip on the Eurostar and it was surprisingly fun to watch the triathlon. We spent some time at each of the "transition points" where the racers switch from swimming to biking, then biking to running, and were able to follow Andrew quite a bit.

The biggest challenge was probably getting Andrew's bike to Belgium and into the hostel we stayed at (here we are lugging it up the stairs). Towing the case around the cobbled streets of Antwerp was probably as tiring for me as the actual race was for Andrew.

Here Matt and Talia are eating a Belgian waffle in Brussels with a whole pile of toppings. When in Rome, I guess. Although these types of waffles with toppings on them seem to be set up for tourists.

Jess and I, being sophisticated world travelers, paid a visit to the European Parliament which is hosted in Brussels along with many other EU buildings. The building itself isn't too surprising but they gave a nice tour and I learned much more about how the EU functions. Plus, they had a ton of free EU promotional material, like posters and postcards, which we cleaned them out on.