Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Travelling, travelling, travelling! All this Travelling! Yep, this time we were going to (you guessed it) Germany! We were flying on easyJet, the same airline we used to get to and from Italy. We were flying to Munich, but really we were staying at Passau, a small town that's about two hours away from Munich, and it wasn't as small as Hungerford, maybe three or four times bigger. The airport we were flying from was London Stanstead, another London airport. (In case you didn't know, London has 5 airports! London Heathrow, Gatwick, Statnstead, Luton and City airports. London Heathrow was the one that we came in from New York in, London Gatwick was the one we left and came from Italy at, and London Stanstead is the one we flew to and from Germany.) Since Stanstead was almost two hours away from Hungerford, and our flight was at 8:00, we had to wake up at almost 3:00 in the morning to get to Stanstead, go through check-in and security, and make it to our plane in time! So we got up at three, made last minute preperations and checks, loaded up the car and drove off to Stanstead. By the time we got there, it was past dawn. It was so cold, I could see my breath! We had to take a bus to get from the parking lot to the terminal building, so we did. Then when we went inside the terminal building we went to some monitors that showed us which check-in desk we had to go to so we could check in. Unfortunately it just wouldn't come, so we just went over to the Krispy Kreme doughnuts stand since we hadn't had breakfast(mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!) and then looked at the monitors again. The stubborn number wouldn't appear! We had one hour left and things were looking desperate when my dad looked around for the desk. He didn't find it, but he did find a desk that was for all easyJet flights. So we went to that and checked in, and then we sped through security, found our gate and boarded. After a small delay our plane pushed out, taxid to the runway and took off. About an hour and a half later we landed in Munich airport. I know I said we were staying in Passau, but Munich was the closest airport. And was still another two hour drive from munich to get to Passau. So my parents got in line for a rental car while Sophie, me, Cindy and Anthony waited. After a long time at the desk we went up with them. We all realized with shock that both of our parents' drivers licences had expired! But the ladies at the desk told us we could take a bus, a train, another bus and another train to get to Passau. So we did, and after we walked the long walk from the train station to our hotel, we got moved into the hotel and then Sophie, me, Cindy and Anthony watched German TV. We found Spongebob Squarepants on TV, and even in German it was still funny, so we watched it. Oh yeah, want to hear what they call it in Germany? Spongebob Schwamkopf! The Schwamkopf is pronounced shwom-kopf. Later we went out to eat at a nearby restaraunt with waiters that spoke English and acceppted US dollars! Too bad we didn't have any. Anyway, after we ate dinner we went back to the hotel and went to bed.
I guess I never told you that my dad wasn't coming to Germany for vacation (or as they say it in Britain, holiday), he was coming for a mini business trip. There was an HP office not far away from the hotel by taxi, so after breakfast at the hotel my dad took a cab to the office. Meanwhile me, my mom, Sophie, Cindy and Anthony all went up to our rooms and got ready for the day. Then we went to a big church called the Dom that had the biggest church organ in the world. We went to listen to the concert, but there were no seats available so we had to sit on the floor. Also I thought the concert was highly boring, so I didn't listen. After the concert we went to a shop called Bear's and Friends that had tons of gummi candies everywhere. We bought a few things and then walked into a restaraunt that looked like it only had candies and ice cream, but then we saw some "real food" and decided to eat lunch there. I ordered schnitzel, something like German pork chops that I had got the previous evening for dinner. I liked them so much I ordered them again today, only they were even better here, plus they came with a mountain of french fries! After lunch we went back to the hotel and had gummies for dessert. Then we watched TV until dad came back from work. We planned to take him to the same great place we had gone to for lunch, but it was closed! So we just walked around for a while until we found an Italian restaraunt and gave in. We got gelato after (yep, Italian ice cream in Germany) dinner and then we walked back to the hotel and went to bed.
The next day was Saturday, so my dad didn't have to go to work. We decided to go to the Passau castle. Well, my parents did anyway. We had already been to four castles on this entire Europe trip! I think anyone would want to stop there, but noooo, not my parents! (I think they're trying to make this trip as educational as possible) What made it worse was that we had to climb a TON of steps to get to the top. Even though I had already climbed over 300 steps in St. Peters in Rome and more than 700 in the Eiffel Tower, I was still wiped out when we finally got to the top. We didn't do much, so I won't describe it. (go to Sophie's blog for more) After we went down the horrendous staircase we ate lunch at the lunch place we had gone to yesterday that was (thankfully) open. We had to hurry though, because we were going to go, after lunch, on The Krystalchiff! Translated into English that means (duh) crystalship. We had to hurry because we thought we were going to miss it, and when we finally got to the correct wasn't even there yet! When it did come we got a window table, and I immediately started exploring the entire ship for the whole two hour trip. I never stayed in one place for long, it was so amazing! When we got back to Passau we had dessert at the lunch place and then went back to the hotel and watched TV some more. Later our mom and dad told us that we could either come with them for dinner, or stay at the hotel, watch TV while our mom and dad went out for dinner, and our mom and dad would bring back some leftovers. We chose number two, but Anthony wanted to go with mom and dad. (strange boy) So an hour later mom, dad and Anthony came back with some fish sticks and fries. We ate and then went to bed.
The next day was Sunday, so we had to go to church. We went to the Dom. Since it was in German, I didn't pay attention. After church we went back to the hotel and changed into regular day clothes. We were going to Austria that day, to a town called Salsburgh. If you know a lot about Motzart or the movie The Sound of Music, you'll know that Salsburgh was the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadaus Motzart, one of the world's most famous music composers, and the place where they filmed The Sound of Music. Anyway, we had to take two train rides to get to Salsburgh, each an hour long. When we did get there, we met a tour guide who spoke English and German. (in case you didn't know, German is the native language of Austrians) We were forced to take a one hour tour of Salsburgh with the tour guide in a mini-van by our mom and dad, but this tour was their idea anyway. I didn't pay any attention at at all. When it was done we looked inside a big cathedral (by popular request by my mom of course) and then, after passing by the statue of Motzart, walked through Christmas and Easter shops (in the middle of August? These Europeans are going nutso!) we ate a really early dinner (my mom's idea again) at a British, Italian and Indian restaraunt all rolled into one! Then we got ice cream at a cafe' that happened to be in the bottom floor of Motzart's house remodeled! Then we went to a park and played for a while before going to the train station and taking the two train rides back to Passau. By then it was late at night and we took a cab to our hotel. We went up to our rooms and went to bed.
The next day we had to leave. But first we had three hours to kill before we had to go to the train station and leave. While my dad went to work again, the rest of us went to Bear's and Friend's again and a bunch of other shops before meeting my dad at the train station. We took the train, bus, train and bus back to the Munich airport. Then, with our luck, we had to go through a really big check in and really big passport control line. Then our flight was delayed by like two hours and when we finally got to Stanstead we got the biggest shock of all. There was a HUGE, NIGHTMARISH, HIDEOUS, OUTSTANDINGLY LONG, UNBEARABLE and TERRIFYING SLUG-PACE passport control line. No, it was worse than that, readers. If you're from the U.S, here's what it was like: think Disneyland/Disneyworld; think Matterhorn bobsleds; think peak time, and multiply that by ten. That's how big it was. It probably took longer to get through the line than how long our plane was delayed by. But we miracuoulsly lived, and by the time we got out it was almost 2 in the morning. Then we took a bus to our parking lot, loaded up the car and drove home, and, not surprisingly, fell right asleep.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


We took yet another trip from Hungerford to a different part of Europe! Yes, we went to (guess what?) Paris! And, if you don’t know of a better way to get there than flying, then it might surprise you to know that we didn’t fly. Instead we took a train system there called the Chunnel. (That means channel tunnel. You’ll find out what the channel means later.) But first let me tell you how we got to the special Chunnel station in London. (Yes, there is a train station just for that purpose.)

We got up early in the morning and did some last-minute packing before loading all the baggage in the car and driving to the train station. There we caught the first London-bound train. When we got to Paddington (Yup, at Paddington once again!) we took the underground to Waterloo station (that’s what the Chunnel station was called.) It’s a very nice station, with a glass paned roof and bright blue metal finishes. We went through some security checks, like those at an airport, and then boarded our train. It was very nice--like being in an airplane. It took forever for the train to start moving, and even after we had waited 10 minutes there was an announcement that we were experiencing technical difficulties, and it would probably be another 15 minutes until we would really start moving. When we finally did start moving it took a while to get up to high speed. Then we went into the tunnel after about an hour and a half of moving.

The tunnel was huge—it took at least ten minutes to go through. When we got out on the other side of the tunnel we were in France, but not in Paris. We were in a city called Coquilles. It took another two and a half hours to get to Paris. When we got to Paris Gare du Nord station we got all our luggage and walked out of the station. We ate a late lunch at a nearby restaurant and got a cab to drive us to our apartment.

Our apartment was very close to the Pompidou, a big building that is actually the most visited center in Europe! What makes it so special is the fact that it is literally turned inside out. All the pipes, elevators, and everything else that would normally be inside the walls and ceiling were covering the outside! Sophie thought it was hideous, but I thought it was cool.

Anyway, we drove past the Pompidou and rounded the nearest corner to our apartment. There we found a guy who was probably the owner of the apartment building. He showed us around our apartment. The first thing that caught my eyes was a ladder.

I climbed up to see what it was and found a loft with a small double bed, a fan, and a lamp! I knew this was where I was sleeping tonight. The guy showed us around the rest of the apartment. Well, everyone except me, who stayed admiring the loft. As soon as the guy left I announced that the boys (that means me and Anthony) got the loft. I expected Sophie to argue, but instead she just said there was another loft! I ran to the bedroom and saw another ladder that led up to another small double bed with another fan and lamp! And so, after getting moved in, the kids (that means me, Sophie, Cindy and Anthony) spent the rest of the afternoon going up and down the ladders, checking out the lofts over and over again. Until that is, we went to see the Pompidou.

We all got our shoes, socks and jackets on. Then we bounded out the apartment building. We walked down the street and rounded the corner. Then we walked down a long street until we were right in front of the Pompidou. We walked over to the side that had a huge escalator snaking up the side. Then we walked inside. The inside was huge. There were elevators on the other side of the room, a café to our right, and another floor below us. On this floor there was a very strange sight. There was a mountain of sandbags, and a rectangular break in the middle of them. In the break there was a single sandbag connected to a wire. Stuck on the sandbag was some humanoid marionette doll that looked like Pinocchio. The wire that was connected to the sandbag was connected to a larger wire that dragged the sandbag around the rectangular break path. The larger wire was being moved by a motorization device. We all took the elevator down for a closer look.

Then we visited the bookshop, which was pretty useless for me because all the books were in French and they were all about art. (In case you didn’t know, I. HATE. Art) Then we walked outside of the Pompidou. We were going to go on the giant escalator but it cost a lot of money, so we just walked to the River Seine. When we got there we walked along it for a while until we came across the Hotel de Ville. It looked like it should have been town hall, the outside was so fancy. I didn’t pay much attention to it, and we didn’t go inside, so I just watched the people playing volleyball outside, even though I’m not very big on volleyball. My parents looked at the hotel for a while, and then we walked to a pizzeria and had a lemon crêpe for dessert. Then we went back to the apartment and went to bed.

The next day we were going to go to the Eiffel Tower. But it was a rainy day, and while we were walking to the tower we altered plans and decided to go to the Louvre museum instead. We would go to the Eiffel tower the next day, since it was going to be sunny anyway. So we changed course and headed to the Louvre.

It was actually, as I later learned the biggest museum in the world of any subject. It was an art museum, and even though I hate art I was kind of anxious to go there because it had the genuine Mona Lisa picture there. I wanted to see it because 1) it was very famous, and, 2) It was painted by Leonardo da Vinci, one of my role models. But we didn’t see it for a while.

First we had to walk through a reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeely long room that had a bunch of regular paintings and naked statues, some of them decapitated. What really bothered me about these paintings, though, was that with the men, the you-know-what was always in plain sight, and that was really gross. Farther along there were these doorways that led into these side-rooms. One of them was really crowded, so I figured we should go in. we did, and discovered a huge mob crowded around one picture, which was (guess what) the Mona Lisa. Sophie and I squeezed our way through the mob and saw the small, rectangular painting behind glass. We looked at it for a little, then went back and found the rest of our family. We went back down the long room and then back. Then we looked at another section of the museum that was pretty boring, just a bunch of paintings.

Then we ate at one of the restaurants, and then we saw another section that was just another bunch of statues, (mostly naked) and left the museum. After the Louvre we walked back to our apartment.
Then we got ready for church and then walked to a huge cathedral called Notre Dame. It was so big on the inside that there were TV screens that showed you who was talking or singing, ect, ect. Since it was in French I didn’t pay much attention. After church we ate at a restaurant near the Pompidou with crêpes. We had Ice Cream for dessert. Then we went to our apartment and went to bed.

The next morning we walked to a pastry shop nearby and had pastries for breakfast. Then we took the metro to a stop near the Eiffel Tower. If you do not already know, we were going to the Eiffel Tower today, since it was very warm and sunny, not like the other days we had been in Paris. So it was the perfect day to go to the Eiffel Tower.

We took the metro to a stop close to the Eiffel Tower and then started walking towards it. We knew we were going in the right direction, even if we couldn’t see it. We rounded a corner and suddenly there it was, black, huge and awesome! Even from a distance it loomed in front of you like a giant steel behemoth. Of course, I didn’t think it was ugly, like so many people did shortly after it was built in the late 1800s. I thought it was cool, just like the Pompidou. But anyway, we walked down what was supposed to be the grand entrance. I had read that the Eiffel Tower was the tallest construction in the world until the Chrysler Building in NYC surpassed it, so since I never got to see the Chrysler building up close in NYC, as we got closer to the Eiffel Tower I started to get an idea of just how big the Chrysler Building really was.

When we got underneath the tower we started deciding what to do. I really wanted to go to the top, but of course everyone else said no, and the top floor was temporarily closed anyway. So we just decided to take the stairs up to the first and second floors. We didn’t take the elevators because it cost extra. So we climbed and climbed a bunch of stairs to the first floor. Even this low down, it was still an awesome view. We walked around all four sides and then we went up some more to the second floor. This view was even better. And when you looked straight up, you could see the rest of the Eiffel Tower looming above you. After having another 360° view we ate at one of the two restaurants there and then I looked at an exhibit about the international space station, a huge space station being built by a bunch of different countries, including Americans and Russians. (Why they had this exhibit in the Eiffel Tower, I have no clue at all.) Then we all went down.

Cindy and Anthony went on a kiddie carousel nearby, and then, after much deciding, we all agreed to take the metro to a stop nearby a big natural park, but first go to a really good ice cream place. So we did, and then at the natural park we headed for a big playground that was packed with screaming running French kids, but we decided to go in anyway. But, when we reached the one and only entrance, we realized with shock that (brace yourself for 7 words that are seriously ridiculous when you put them together) you had to PAY to get in!! Sure enough, there was a booth and a sign that showed how much it cost for adults and for children to get in. We decided instead to go to the big fountain/man-made lake in the middle of the park (not the playground). There was a guy with a bunch of boats that you could rent for either 30 minutes or an hour, and then push around the lake with big sticks. It was a lot more fun than it sounds. So after pushing several boats around for half an hour, we took the metro to an apparently very famous street of which name I cannot remember.

Anyway, we walked down the really long street looking for a place to have dinner. We passed some stands along the street that we later found out were stands for the Tour de France, which we had just missed. We stopped by a chocolate store, and then eventually found a restaurant to eat at. Sophie and Cindy plucked up their courage and tried escargot, which, translated in English means (brace yourself again) snails! Yep, believe it or not, escargots are a favorite meal of the French. Of course, Anthony and I didn’t dare try the escargots. We shared a big slab of steak instead. After a delicious dessert of cream puffs in whipped cream and chocolate sauce, Sophie and my mom went to do a little shopping while me, my dad, Cindy and Anthony waited in a Disney Store a little ways away. A little shopping? Hah! At least half an hour later my mom appeared and told us that Sophie was waiting in a humongo line to buy her stuff. She told us that we wouldn’t have to wait much longer. Hah! again! It had to be at least another half hour before Sophie came out again! And then they forced us into another shop for at least ten minutes before we finally took the metro home, got to the apartment and went to bed.

The next day we had to leave France. After packing we went to the same Pastry shop we had gone to the previous day, then went to a big candy shop, and then took the metro to Gare du Nord station. We took the Chunnel back to waterloo and then took the underground to Paddington. Then we took a train to Newbury and waited for a train to Hungerford to come. Unfortunately the next train that stopped at Hungerford was delayed by at least 10 minutes and when we finally got to our Hungerford house and went to sleep, it was almost 10:00 P.M.

Getting to Rome

We went to Rome after Venice. We had to take a really long train ride to get there--almost 5 hours. But, near the end, bad luck came our way. We had an hour and a half left, and we were on another one of those really cool Eurostar trains--the kind that that are smooth, quiet, fast, and shoot through the tunnels at high speed. But then, right in the middle of the track, we stopped for a loooooooong time. The train driver made an announcement in Italian. My mom, who, as you already know, speaks Italian, told us what the driver said. All he had said was that the train was experiencing technical difficulties and that we would probably be back moving in a few minutes. Well, marooned on that one spot, those few minutes stretched into nearly 45 minutes. Finally when we started moving again, the train driver made another announcement, a lot longer than the first, and when he was done my mom told us what had happened. The driver had said that this train wasn’t going to make it to Rome, so at the next station we would have to get off this train with all our luggage and switch to a different train. Only one word describes that train most correctly: horrible. Absolutely horrible. It was stuffy, crowded, and when the train was in motion it made a lot of noise. One more thing. I like fast trains, the faster the better. This train was really fast and accelerated quickly too. That was fine with me except for one small detail. Whenever the train went through a tunnel at high speed (which, with our luck, happened very often on this trip) your ears would get really pressurized, without popping, so you had to pop them yourself, which happened to be a lot harder than it sounds. To do that, you had to try to yawn, which is also really hard. And after you yawned your ears would become really pressurized again, and yawning would take a while to do afterward.

But enough descriptions. When we got to the Rome train station we took a subway (yes, Rome has subways) to the station nearest to our apartment. Actually, it was kind of a long walk away, but when we got there our walk was awarded. There was an elegant lobby with our key ready and waiting for us. We took the elevator up to the fifth floor (which, by the way, was the highest floor) and went into our apartment, number A22. It was a lot better than the one in Venice. It had a nice hallway, with a bathroom immediately to your left and a kitchen/sitting room that was about five times bigger than the kitchen in Venice. It had three bedrooms. One had a small bed; one had two single beds that could be moved together to make a double; (by the way, that was the room I was sharing with Anthony) and a room with a king sized bed and a little couch-bed. We got settled in, and then we went out and found a place to eat. Then we came back and went to bed.

Monday, August 6, 2007


We went to Scotland for four days. We were going to meet my dad’s Aunt Ellen, and stay at her house with her husband, Uncle Geoffrey. We got to Scotland by taking three different train rides. The first one we took went from Hungerford to Reading. Then we took a half-hour train ride to Birmingham, and then an almost 5-hour ride to Edinburgh, which was the city that we were staying in. We took a short car ride to Aunt Ellen’s house, which was huge, like a maze. Then we found our rooms and got settled in. We played for a while (Aunt Ellen’s house has TONS of toys and games) and then had a nice big hearty dinner, a delicious dessert of brownies and ice cream, then went to bed.

The next day it took us a while to get out of the house. We were going to go to a café to eat lunch after we finally got out of the house (which was around noon) and then we were going to go to the famous Edinburgh castle. I guess I forgot to mention that Edinburgh happens to be where J.K. Rowling lives. So it may not surprise you quite as much for me to tell you that the café we went to was one of the ones that J. K. Rowling used to go to so she could write some Harry Potter rough drafts. I didn’t eat anything there, since there was nothing I liked.

After we ate we walked to Edinburgh castle, which I thought was pretty boring. We bought tickets and went inside. It was big, but there wasn’t much to look at. My mom and dad wanted to take a tour (but I didn’t) so we could all learn stuff. As if we didn’t know anything about castles at all! We had already been forced to go to Kenilworth castle and I had learned quite enough there, thank you very much. (My mom and dad are trying to make this SUMMER vacation as educational as possible.) Anyway, I didn’t pay much attention to the tour guide, so (luckily) it just came in as blah, blah, blah. I was glad when it ended. We then took a look at a bunch of really BOR-ING buildings and then saw the Scotland crown jewels. They were okay, but there were not as much as the England ones and not as good. Then we saw the great hall, which was definitely not as good as the Harry Potter one and even more definitely not as big. Then we left. We walked back to Aunt Ellen’s car, drove back to her house, had dinner and went to bed. (Yep, we were out THAT long)

The next day we went to Loch Leven, a lake that was close to Aunt Ellen’s house. Unfortunately, it was a freezing day and we were almost about to head home when my dad decided we should take a short walk along a pathway he spotted. We walked along the path reluctantly until an opening came and we saw the best park we had ever seen. It had tons of really fun play equipment that was really fun and that you would never find in the U.S. Unfortunately I cannot describe the play equipment, so I’ll just go straight to what happened next.

We played on the equipment and then our parents told us it was time to eat lunch. Aunt Ellen drove the car over to the road that was right next to the park and picnic tables. Then she brought over the bag of sandwiches, juices and crisps that she had (thankfully) packed, and we all ate happily. Then we started to drive back.

Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that we had to drive across the Forth Road Bridge to get to the loch. I guess I also forgot to tell you about the Forth Railway and Road bridges. There are these two major bodies of water in Scotland, called the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay. (don’t ask me what a firth is, I have no idea myself.) Somebody bridged the Firth of Tay with a single track railway bridge, but in a violent December storm the bridge collapsed while the evening mail train was going across. Then two different engineers built a much stronger railway bridge over the Firth of Forth, which was made entirely of steel. In fact, when it was built it was the first ever major structure ever built to be made entirely of steel. It can survive Scotland’s strongest winds, uses a new kind of bridge style and it has two railway tracks instead of one, which means that a train on one side of the bridge wouldn’t have to wait for a train already on the bridge to get off. Since that bridge has been built, another bridge has been built across the Firth of Forth. It is called the Forth Road Bridge, and it is the one we drove across on the way to the loch and back. Its design is a suspension bridge, and it is huge, even if it isn’t as big as the Golden Gate Bridge.

But anyway, we went back to Aunt Ellen’s house and Sophie and I played Monopoly. Aunt Ellen had three different editions of Monopoly: Edinburgh edition, American edition (which, by the way, is the original game) and England Edition. We had started playing the Edinburgh edition that morning, before we went to Loch Leven, and when we got back we finished the game. I lost. We somehow managed to cram the English and American versions in before dinner. Unbelievably I lost both of those too! The last edition we played was the English edition, and just as I lost Aunt Ellen’s daughter, Emily, came home. She was older than Sophie and me, and she had a job, having graduated from college. After we all met her we had a good dinner of tacos, which I looooooooove. Then we had a luscious dessert consisting of brownies and ice cream. Then, when Cindy and Anthony were put to bed, we waited for the time to come.

“What time?” I hear you say. Well, I never mentioned this certain time before, because it was going to be a surprise. Well, here it is. Tonight was the night that the seventh Harry Potter book came out at midnight. And me, my dad, Sophie, Aunt Ellen, and Emily were all going to the nearest bookshop to get a first edition Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book! We were going to get two books: one for Sophie and me, and one for Emily. Unfortunately for me Sophie got first dibs on the book, but Emily, being so kind, let me read as much of her book as I could before we had to leave. But I must describe what it was like to wait two hours in the freezing cold waiting for the release of the final book of what is probably one of the world's most famous book series, if not the most famous.

We drove a little ways to the nearest bookshop to get the book. Oh, by the way, a little bit before we had gone to Scotland, I had begun to read the sixth book, just so that I would be completely caught up with the series. Not that I hadn’t read the sixth book yet; (I had already read the book at least twice) it’s just that I had forgotten most of the details since I had last read it. But anyway, when we got to the bookshop I still hadn’t finished it, so I brought it in the line with me to read. Since it was the American version, some people who happened to see me reading it thought I was reading the seventh book while standing in line! I didn’t know this at first, but then Sophie told me, and I started reading while facing the wall. But one more person saw me. It was a teenage girl a little down the line. She was shocked as she asked me how I got it. I told her that this was the sixth book. She asked if it was the American version and I said yes, and then nobody else asked me how I got the “seventh book.”

When the line finally started to move it was actually starting then stopping then starting and so on. When we finally got inside the shop, though, there was a line snaking through the bookshop too! Also when you got a little ways inside there was a table with a mountain of British kids’ and adults’ versions of the seventh book, though of course there were no American versions. We grabbed two kids’ versions and waited for the line to move us to the cashier desk. We bought the books and went out of the shop. In all, we had waited two hours in the line to get the two copies of the book! Oh yes, and I finished book six just in time. Sophie was already starting the seventh book on the drive home, and when we got to Aunt Ellen’s house I promised myself that as soon as I woke up from a good sleep I would start Emily’s version of the book.

The next day (or maybe that morning, since it was about two a.m. when we got the books) I started reading the book. That day was the day before we were going to leave Scotland and go back to Hungerford. I came down reading the book and headed straight to the play room where I sat down and began reading for real. When I was called in the kitchen I ate as fast as possible and then kept reading. Sophie came in later, reading our edition. The only time we stopped was when my dad came in and told me that we were going to this awesome airplane museum that had a real Concorde that you could go inside! Now, being me, who loves finding out about airplanes, I jumped up and got ready as quickly as I could. Then Sophie and I brought the books in the car and we drove off. Actually we were splitting cars. Sophie, Aunt Ellen and Emily were all going in Emily’s car, while me, my mom, dad, Cindy, Anthony and Uncle Geoffrey were going in the bigger car.

When we got to the museum we discovered that the museum was actually four giant hangars with real planes inside them. Also there was a small ticket buying place/gift shop that we went to first before driving to hangar one. It had a bunch of old fashioned aviation planes. Too bad they didn’t have the Douglas dc-3. That was a good American old fashioned one. Next we went to hangar 3. This had a bunch of warplanes, old fashioned and new. Some of them had stairs that led right up to the cockpit window, allowing you to see just how complicated the controls were. We skipped hangar 2 because that was just maintenance and a bunch of other boring stuff. So, after hanger three, we went to hangar four, which had (guess what?) the Concorde! We entered it through the gift shop building and for the first time ever in my life I got to see I life-size, real life Concorde.

The plane was nothing I could ever describe completely perfectly, but I’ll try my best. It was sleek and streamlined, with its elegant delta shaped wings and its four giant Roll’s-Royce SNECMA engines. Its length took up the whole hangar, and everything else about the outside was beyond any description I could think up in a million years. This hangar was like no other. On one side there was a section that had a bunch of different boards put up that described stuff like how they made it, and the July 2000 disaster, and how the Concorde went into retirement and stuff like that. On the other side there was a kiddie play area.

When we finally got to go on board I bounded up the stairs with excitement. The inside of the Concorde was very small. My dad told me later that some people nicknamed the Concorde “the toothpick”. I could see why. There was a tiny isle and two seats on each side of the plane. I momentarily felt bad for anyone with claustrophobia who had to fly inside this tiny plane. I was disappointed, though, at the fact that the seats were blocked off so that you couldn’t try them out, and that you could only walk through a certain part of the plane. The parts that were blocked off were at least blocked off with plastic sheets so you could see through. Those parts were: the second half of the plane, the bathrooms, and the cockpit. The bathroom doors had been replaced with the plastic sheets so you could see inside. I took a look at the cockpit. It was even more complicated than the warplanes! There were dials, levers and buttons covering the ceiling, dashboard and walls! I walked away, trying to guess how many years of studying you would have to go through to become a pilot. One other weird thing about the Concorde that I discovered was the miniscule windows. I put my hand to one of them, and discovering that each window was no bigger than my hand! For once I was glad that I didn’t have to ride in one of these, since I would have a hard time looking out the window. After getting off, we saw a movie in one of those small mini-theaters about how they managed to get the real Concorde in the museum hangar, and about the story of the Concorde, and a bunch of other stuff. Then we left the hangar and I bought a Concorde model at the gift shop. Then we ate lunch in the car while driving back, and I read a little more Harry Potter, and then at Aunt Ellen’s house we played a while, had dinner and went to bed.

The next day we had to leave. After packing up and getting ready, Aunt Ellen drove us to the train station. Unfortunately for us we had no reserved seats on this train and so we had to grab any seat available. This train was going to take us to King’s Cross station in London. Then we took the underground to Paddington, and took a train from Paddington to Hungerford. By then it was late night, and we went to bed, exhausted.

Monday, July 9, 2007


We went to Italy for eight days. My mom had gone there for a year in college, and it was her dream to go back again. She still remembers Italian quite well, after 20 years. When we meet someone and ask them a question, my mom always asks and she usually strikes up a conversation. But anyway, we left on a Tuesday afternoon. We went to an airport called Gatwick. That wasn’t the same as the one we came to England in. That one is called Heathrow. Anyway, our airline was Easyjet, and they seemed to be really proud of having their own airline. Everything was orange and white, the airline’s colors. The plane flight was pretty short, only about an hour and 20 minutes.

When we got all our luggage we had to take a half-hour train ride on a train called the Malpensa Express. Oh yeah, the airport we were at was called Milan-Malpensa, and Milan was the city in Italy we were going to first. The train was double decker, and we sat on the second floor. The train ride actually felt pretty short, like the plane ride. After the train ride we went on an Italian subway. They called it the metroline. We took it to the nearest station to our hotel. The hotel was pretty nice. It had high ceilings and comfy beds.

The next morning we went out for a walk. There were motorcycles everywhere. Also there were streetcars, and Anthony simply had to go on one. The first thing we did, however, was go visit the college my mom went to when she was in Italy 20 years ago. We didn’t get to see any of the inside, so it was pretty boring. I can’t really explain the outside either.

After the college we went to my mom’s favorite pizzeria for lunch. We couldn’t believe that it was still running after 20 years. It was pretty easy to believe, however, that it was her favorite. The pizza was like no other I’ve ever tasted. It was better than Pat and Oscar’s, my used-to-be favorite pizza place. After pizza we went to a dessert place that had some really good candy. Then we went to see a castle, but we didn’t get past the first room. It was really boring.

After the castle we took a walk to a streetcar station (Anthony’s dream come true!) and took it to a huge church called the Duomo. We got to go inside, and it was huge. It was the third largest church in Italy, and no wonder. The ceiling was probably 70 feet high, and the length was about 150 feet. I still thought it was pretty boring though.

When we got out we got some gelato (Italian ice cream) and then walked to an Italian dinner restaurant. It was even better than my mom’s favorite pizzeria. When we were done we took another streetcar to a metro station and took the metroline to our hotel. Then we went to sleep.

The next day we went to the Leonardo da Vinci science museum. It had a bunch of old ideas from the past, like waterwheels and seacruiser motors and dams. Also there was a railway transport building, a water transport building, and a building with a bunch of models of Leonardo da Vinci’s invention ideas. I thought it was really interesting.

Then we took the metroline to a train station to Venice. It was a two hour train ride, but I didn’t get tired of it. When we got out of the train station we had to take a water taxi (a boat, of course) to the water taxi station nearest to our apartment, which was pretty far. An Italian woman walked us there, and I didn’t like it that much. It was drafty, dark, and creepy. The kitchen was tiny, and none of the appliances worked except the faucet. As soon as we got settled in we looked for a place to eat. We found a pizzeria and ate there, then went back to our apartment and went to bed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Finally: The London Eye

We went to London again on a Saturday. We took a train to Paddington again. When we got there we had lunch, then took an underground train (you remember what the underground is, right? Right. Good.) to the tower of London again. Luckily, we arrived at a much closer station than before, so it was actually in sight when you got out. It was very rainy that day, we almost considered not going. This time we really were going to go into it, and we were surprised by how much was outdoors. The first thing we did was go into the white tower, which was the center tower that had the four onion shaped things on the top.

In there we saw a whole bunch of rooms, which included the armoury room, which had TONS of rifles stored inside. Actually, this room was the small armoury room, so, since the larger one was gone, I was glad that it was, because that would probably have had WAY more rifles. Other rooms included the chapel, the Spanish armoury room, and a room with 36 barrels of gunpowder and a bunch of medieval pistols and swords and different kinds of armor. After that we left and went to the crown jewels building. I was amazed at where people could find all the diamonds and jewels and rubies that were stuck on the crowns. Then we went to the gift shop. We bought a few things and then left the tower. Then we went back to the underground and took it to Westminster. As you probably remember, this is where Big Ben and the London Eye are. I was very excited. I haven’t mentioned this yet, so I will now. Today, finally, for the first time ever I was going to go on the London Eye. It was a really long wait, but I think it was worth it.

You could see for miles and miles. I could even see, quite clearly in the distance, a huge object shaped just like the Eiffel Tower on the Horizon. But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the Eiffel Tower. Paris was too far away. In fact, I could just barely see another one even farther away. When we came down and got off my dad’s cousin, Chris, was waiting for us. Oh, I forgot, my dad and Cindy were going on the London Eye with me. Anthony kept changing his mind about whether or not he wanted to go on the London Eye, but when he saw it up close he quickly told us he would not be going.

Anyway, after meeting Chris we walked back to the Westminster station and got back on the underground to Paddington. Then we walked to a steakhouse restaurant to eat, and the food was really good. After that we walked back to Paddington, and, while we waited to get on our train we went to a bar and got some hot chocolate there. Then we got on our train. When we finally got to Reading (our train had stopped at like a million stations that we never stopped at before) we realized we had made a huge mistake. We had taken a train that was slow to get to Reading, because of stopping at so many stations. Because of that we had missed the last train to Hungerford. We could have taken a faster train that didn’t stop at all those stations, but we took the slow train instead. Because of the flop, we had to take a taxi all the way back to our house, but I was so tired I fell asleep and the ride felt like five minutes. Thankfully the taxi stopped right outside our house, so I didn’t have to walk far. I fell asleep as soon as I got into bed.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


We went to Bath one day. It was okay but kind of boring at the end.

It was a long drive, about an hour and a half long. When we got there, my dad, Anthony and I were going to catch a train to a place called Bristol to get Dad’s jacket that he had left there. My dad parked right outside the train station and we went inside. It was pretty small-at least the inside was. The inside part was where you get tickets and check the train schedules. Then you went up the stairs to this outside train station where you waited. Anyway, our whole family went up to one platform (after buying tickets) to eat lunch. Then the girls went to go to this tearoom place called the Pump Room where we would meet them when we got back.

Meanwhile, when our train came, we got a big surprise. The train that we were taking was one of the sleek fast trains that I guess I haven’t mentioned before. Anthony and I had always seen them speeding past the Hungerford train station at top speed (which is like 100 mph) and have always dreamed of going on one. Anthony calls them “purple trains” because, well, that’s their color! (Pretty obvious, isn’t it?) The inside was awesome. They had luxurious seats that were adjustable (I think) and big tables perfect for playing a game on. It was also really quiet. You couldn’t hear outside the train at all unless the window was open.

The station in Bristol was like the one in London, only smaller. We managed to find dad’s jacket and then we went back to our platform to wait for our train. Unfortunately we weren’t there when it came and so when we got on there were no seats available. Also the train was much worse than the one we took over. It was a two car diesel, that was noisy, overcrowded and we couldn’t find a place to sit so we ended up sitting on the luggage racks.

When we got back to Bath we met the girls at that Pump Room place I was talking about. When we got there, though, it was nothing like a room. Well, it was a room but it was huge. It had an orchestra and a ceiling that was like 40 feet high and had balconies all around the second story perimeter. There was no barrier between the first and second stories so you could see the balconies.

When we left the Pump Room we went to the Roman Baths. These were a bunch of pools of mineral water that in ancient times when England was part of Italy the Romans would strip down and jump into the baths nude and swim around with all their friends and people they hardly knew. They did this JUST FOR SOCIALIZING!!! Well, okay they also did it for relaxing, washing, and because they thought the natural mineral waters would cure many afflictions. The baths were okay at first but got reeeeeeeeeally boring and I was glad when we got to go home.