Le Avventure Di Sophia Graf

My thrilling adventures in Europe!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


On Sunday we went to Bath. It is a city called Bath because it has working Roman baths. There is also a Roman temple there dedicated to Sulis (a local goddess) Minerva (a Roman goddess, the same as Athena from Greek mythology). There were audio tours just like at Stonehenge, even though it was not an English Heritage site like Stonehenge. To do an audio tour you get a little handset. There are numbers spread out throughout the site. Each number turned on a different recording about what you were standing in front of, so when I pushed the number next to the temple ruins it talked about the architecture and the symbolism of the engraving. They also had children’s audio tours, and Cindy was really cute, listening to each number and rattling facts off to Anthony. She even got him to listen to a few on her handset.

The baths themselves were kind of interesting. There were a lot of rooms and artifacts, since both the baths and the temple had been here originally. The reason that there was a temple was because the bath water came from a natural spring and the Anglo-Saxons or maybe the Romans thought that water coming out of the earth must come from the gods and was therefore sacred. The cool thing was that the original Roman drainage system was still in use. At the end of the tour we got to taste the spring water for free with our ticket. It was warm (the brochure said the water was 115 degrees F) and tasted like egg yolk, which is not surprising since the brochure says that sulfate is one of the main dissolved ions (which I think means there’s a lot of sulfur in it?).

Before we went to see the baths though, the boys (my dad, Thomas, and Anthony) went to Bristol to get my dad’s jacket which he had left on a train. While they were there, the girls (my mom, Cindy, and I) had high tea in the Pump Room, the room where they pump the water from the spring and sell it, which has been converted into a restaurant. It was a fancy tea. We ordered a traditional tea for one and got three finger sandwiches, two miniature quiche thingies, a big, rich scone with clotted cream (kind of like butter) and jam, and three desserts: an éclair, a fruit tart, and a banana chocolate layered mousse with banana gel at the bottom. We also got a pot of tea and a refill of hot water. The whole tea was really good, but I was full from lunch and by the time I got to the desserts I could hardly eat.


New House!

Our house:

  • It’s part of a complex

  • There are three floors

  • There are four houses in the building

  • We have building 3 (but for some odd reason they are numbered from right to left, so we are in the second building from the left)

  • Our backyard is about half or maybe even 1/3 the size of the one in San Diego

  • I got the master bedroom, the only bedroom on the third floor!

  • I also got my own bathroom!


  • Anthony’s birthday on Friday is the third celebration we’ve had in Hungerford (first my dad’s birthday and then father’s day)

  • Almost all of the entertainment (movies, music, etc.) are half American and half British (I really didn’t realize how much is British. Harry Potter and James Bond are obvious ones, but there are many others)

  • I’ve suddenly become addicted to Trident Splash Vanilla Mint Gum (sorry, that really was random)

  • Even though we’ve been in our house for three days already, we’ve managed to end up at our hotel each of those days

  • It’s officially summertime, but my mom is making me write paragraphs on the blog, stubbornly disregarding the fact that Lulay’s class did the most writing out of all the seventh grade English classes.

  • My mom doesn’t want to buy trash cans or laundry baskets (even one!) for our new house

  • I missed exactly four weeks of school. I also ate in restaurants every night for exactly four weeks and stayed in hotels every night for exactly four weeks.

  • I’ve started two embroidery projects but have finished neither.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I've finally learned to do Pics!

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Friday, June 15, 2007


Things we did in London:
We saw:

  • Hyde Park- London's Central Park
  • The Tower of London- we didn't get to go in, but will come back to London to do that
  • Tower Bridge- "London Bridge" from the song
  • Houses of Parliament- big, "mock gothic" buildings
  • Big Ben- a big clock =)
  • The London Eye- thomas wanted to go on it but we didn't, so it ruined his trip
  • The Old(e) Globe- we saw both the original site and a reconstructed version built exactly how the original was (no nails, thatch roof, etc.)
  • King's Cross station & Platform 9 3/4- they have a sign that says platform 9 3/4 and half a trolley stuck to the wall
  • Buckingham Palace- its not that beautiful,the gates are more beautiful than the actual palace
  • Paddington Station- Cindy and Anthony took a picture with a statue of Paddington Bear
  • The Changing of the Guard- kind of, we only saw the veeeeeeeery end
  • The Ritz Hotel- $$$$$$$$$$$$
  • Rainforest Cafe, London- we had lunch there, the thunderstorms scared Anthony and Thomas, but not me or Cindy
  • The Drowsy Chaperone on West End (like London's Broadway)- the author was playing the leading role and had apparently been nominated for a lot of Oscars for his Broadway performances
  • I counted 360 taxis in one day while walking around London. I saw 100 of them outside Buckingham Palace

Our Hotels:
The Good One:

  • The first hotel we went to was called Quality Crown and was part of the Quality chain
  • It was rated four star and was really nice
  • It was like an american hotel
    the staff was a little bit stuffy

The Bad One:

  • We had to stay in London for two more nights after our reservation at the Quality Crown
    the Abbeycourt Hotel was next door to the Quality Crown and had a really nice lobby, so we chose that one
  • The room was horrible
  • The carpet felt like classroom carpet
  • There were no fans or tv remote controls
  • For breakfast there was:
  • a big bowl of Corn Flakes
  • bologna
  • cheese
  • about half a loaf of white bread toast per table, regardless of the size of your party (My dad went down for breakfast by himself and got the same amount of toast as the other five of us did)
  • orange juice
  • apple juice
  • passion fruit juice
  • coffee
  • tea
  • hot chocolate
  • milk

Notice there were more drink choices than food choices, so it was a big letdown, especially since it had a fabulous lobby


Stonehenge and Kenilworth Castle

Thoughts about Stonehenge: (Friday, June 1)

  • It's smaller than it looks.
  • There's an audio tour that takes like a half hour, so you don't just look at it and go.
  • They had cross-stitch at the gift shop!
  • It was 4 pounds ($8) for a keychain, so I didn't get it.
  • We went for my dad's 40th birthday so that he could say, "Look at me, I'm not old!" compared to Stonehenge.

Thoughts about Kenilworth Castle: (Sunday, June 3)

  • We went on the last day that they had a "living villiage," which means all the villiagers talk about what they do for work.
  • There were also some plays and a skittles (bowling) tournament.
  • Each villager had many samples of his or her work.
  • We got ice cream!
  • It looked like there were a lot of families being Medieval people together since we kept seeing little girls running around.


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Bellman's Day

Today is Bellman's Day in Hungerford. A bellman is a person who spreads town news. They go to a corner, ring a bell, and yell the news. Then they move on to the next corner. One of Hungerford's bellmans has been doing it for 50 years and that's some kind of record (I heard that it was the all-time English record, but how true does that sound?). Anyways there's a big fair and its all celebrating him. In 15 min there's going to be a competition between them to see who's the best. There's also a calliope* that has been playing all day and is really getting on my nerves, especially since it's right across the street from the hotel. I see a bellman going out with his bell, let me listen for a second. They have these really fancy odd-looking uniforms. The Hungerford website (http://www.hungerford.uk.net/index.php) has some pictures of the bellman. I wonder if they'll let the celebrated bellman win or if another one will.

*A calliope is an organ like at a travelling circus. I think they used to be in wagons, but ours is in what looks like a Coke truck without the logo. Also, all the songs its playing are American (including Stars and Stripes Forever).



We arrived at the London Heathrow airport after a red-eye flight that I didn't get any sleep on to pouring rain. We stood in the rain trying to find two taxis that took credit card because we hardly had any British money. We finally found one and luckily had enough cash to go in a cash taxi. My Mom, Thomas, Cindy and Anthony went in the credit card taxi and my Dad and I went in the cash taxi. It was an hour long ride to Hungerford, but it ended up more like an hour and a half because the taxi driver had never heard of Hungerford. We came to the hotel to find that it was more like a house and nothing like the fabulous Embassy Suites that we had come from in New Jersey. It was kind of disappointing. We slept for most of that day. Hungerford is basically one street. It's a long street, but most of the shops are on that street. There is one grocery store, but its about 2/3 of the size of Vons. There is also a butcher, bakery, fruit and vegtable store, and a milk truck that comes to deliver milk every day. Theoretically you could live without the supermarket, but you wouldn't get any cheese or yougurt. There are quite a few resturaunts, but all of them close for lunch at 2.30. Dinner closing times vary, but the shops are all closed by 5.00. We have found a house, but can't move in until the 11. I get the master suite on the third floor (that's the only thing on the third floor) so that my parents can be near Cindy and Anthony at night. Our living room is smaller than my parents bathroom in San Diego and one of the bedrooms is smaller than that. Stuff is really expensive here. It seems really cheap, because it takes two dollars to make a pound, but it isn't. For example, cookies at the bakery are about 80 pence (like cents), which sounds great, but really that's $1.60 per cookie. Dinners are the worst. I saw lobster for about 12 pounds and I thought, "Yes! I can finally get cheap lobster!" but really thats about $24. Maybe when we figure out how to do pictures I can put some up of the town.

The Transatlantic Flight

British Planes are far better than American ones. We flew on Virgin Atlantic, on a Boeing 747. The seats were a lot bigger than American ones. There was a lot of food, and we got three choices for an entree. We also each got a key lime pie. The best part was that each person got an entertainment system. It had about 50 movies, 20 TV shows, 20 games, tons of music, and the ability to text other passengers. I watched Dreamgirls, then tried to sleep. I couldn't sleep, so instead I played games until the flight was over. It was overall a better flight than most American flights.


New York and New Jersey

On Tuesday, May 22 through Sunday, May 27, we were in New Jersey. We visited our cousins, who live in Mountain Lakes, NJ. We also took two day trips to New York. Both days we bought half price tickets to Broadway shows. On Thursday we saw Beauty and the Beast, and on Friday we saw Curtains. Curtains is a murder mystery musical about several murders that happen on the set of a failing show. Besides seeing the shows, we also went to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. We even went on the ferris wheel inside Toys 'r Us on Times Square, the largest toy store in at least the US, if not the whole world.
Some of my thoughts about that week:

  • Times Square has so many ads that you can't see the buildings
  • I didn't go to the top of the Empire State Bulding because I'm afraid of heights, but then I realized that all the other buildings are so tall that it wouldn't seem as tall as it really is. (I still didn't go)
  • I bought a container of mints that said I Love NY. The I love NY was a sticker.
  • We went down a hotel elevator from the 45 floor to the first without stopping. It took about one minute.
  • We pushed two smartcarts and each carried one or two bags in order to carry all 18 of our bags.
  • Lip gloss is considered a liquid in airport security, so I had to put it in a bag.
  • There were birds in our hotel lobby, as well as two or three fountains and about a hundred plants.
  • Never go on a bus tour of NY. They're expensive and not that great.
  • Doing homework is hard without a textbook or a lesson.
  • There's a police officer on just about every street corner in NY.
  • We saw the Naked Cowboy in Times Square. He plays a guitar and sings on a street in his underwear. (He's also in some kind of Ripley's book, according to Thomas.)

That's all folks!


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