The world is saved!

22 May

Warning: Heroes spoilers to follow.

Sylar is dead. Peter exploded. Nathan might be flying smitherines. Parkman is full of telekinetically-implanted bullets. Nikki beat the crap out of people. Claire jumped out of a window. And Hiro is in 17th century Japan — to name a few of the characters.

[/End spoilers]

My favourite new show of the year, Heroes, has concluded for the season. I can’t wait for next season, and I can only encourage anyone who likes superheroes or TV dramas to pick up the DVDs when they come out in August.

I have yet to watch the 24 finale, but I imagine that Jack will save the world, too. Let’s just hope there’s some crazy twist that sets the show up for season 7… they need to pull out all the stops to return the show to its former glory. Also, getting out of LA would be nice, but they’d have to find another location where seasons don’t exist…

I was waiting for something crazy to happen in the ER finale, but I had to wait until the last 30 seconds or so…honestly, what the heck? Terrorists? Maybe the producers of 24 and ER have created a crossover for next season in order to save their respective shows. Just watch – Neela will be wrongly accused of being a terrorist, Chloe will become a bitchy nurse, Pratt will become president, the ER will be infiltrated by Asian mercenaries working for Abby’s father, Jack will save Alex from a bomb at his boarding school and subsequently fall in love with Sam, and Luka will turn out to be the obligatory Eastern European terrorist. Also, one of the Morrises will have to die because you can’t have two guys with the same name. And Hope is probably a mole.

The Scrubs finale was a bit of a shocker, and not a pleasant one, either. While I love both J.D. and Elliot, it seems like they’re going to make the same kind of mistake they always do… hasn’t that plot line run out of steam by this point, anyway? Despite Kim’s crazy baby shenanigans, I quite like her, and was happy that she and J.D. became a couple again. She complements him much better than Elliot does.

Gawd, I almost sound like a girl talking about Grey’s Anatomy. *shudder*

I’m looking forward to the House finale as well, but it’ll be hard pressed to surpass last year’s. However, my most anticipated finale is undoubtedly Lost, which is supposed to drop a bombshell, answer a lot of questions and introduce a lot of new ones – as usual. Should be kickass, though. I just hope Charlie doesn’t die, and that Locke comes back to life somehow.

Since my last post, I’ve made a few more daytrips around the local area. The first was a trip to Canterbury and Leeds Castle in Kent, which was a very nice area. We began with the Canterbury Cathedral, which, although perhaps not as impressive as the French cathedrals I’ve been to, was nonetheless very large and beautiful. Certainly the best cathedral I’ve been to in Britain, and it actually has two of the most beautiful examples of stained glass I’ve ever seen. Here’s one:

After exploring the cathedral, I went into town on my own and just walked around. This is actually one of the best strategies for visiting a town, because you get a real feel for it and discover all kinds of hidden little places, which are often quite pretty or otherwise fascinating. While Canterbury is steeped in history and I could have spent time in a number of different museums, I wouldn’t have discovered the town itself. Besides, I didn’t want to pay for anything.

To see all of my photos from Canterbury, click here.

The next stop in Kent was Leeds Castle. The castle itself didn’t interest me that much — its appearance is largely Elizabethan, and I prefer Medieval-looking castles — but the location was very beautiful. Sparkling ponds, weeping willows, open green fields surrounded by forest, and lots and lots of birds. All kinds of interesting ducks, geese, swans, peacocks, and a whole bunch of exotic birds in the aviary. The whole place looked something like this:

The hedge maze and grotto were particularly fun. All in all, it was a lovely day in a beautiful section of English countryside.

To see all of my photos from Leeds Castle, click here.

My next trip was a self-organized, small group day trip to Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex. What was originally intended to be a trip to two different castles eventually became much shorter when I realised it was nearly impossible to have time for both with public transportation.

Part of the problem was that we got off to a late start (which was largely my fault). We missed the intended bus to Eastbourne, which put us back an hour, but it did allow us a little bit of time to see the town. Eastbourne seemed nice, but it was also kind of creepy — when we reached the pier and the seaside promenade, it looked like a complete Brighton clone. The fences and lamposts were almost identical, except blue instead of Brighton’s green – the pier even looked similar. I promptly dubbed it “Bizarro Brighton.”

After the bus ride to Herstmonceux village (bastardized, in typical English fashion, as “herstmunzoo”), I wasn’t exactly sure how to reach the castle. When we reached the road which I believed led to the castle, branching to the right off the main road, we saw a sign indicating that the castle was straight ahead. Not wanting to get lost, we just followed the sign.

Unfortunately, this led us on a decent walk which didn’t allow us much time to reach the castle before we’d have to go back to the village and catch the last bus. We tried to convince the woman at the ticket office to not charge us for such a short visit, but to no avail. At any rate, the castle itself was quite attractive, but I only wish that the weather had been better:

If you’re wondering about the Canadian flag, the castle is owned and used by Queen’s University in Ontario. Due to this fact, we weren’t able to see the interior — we wouldn’t have had time, anyway.

The locals in the castle tea shop advised us of a quicker way to return to the main road, which we promptly followed. When we arrived at the main road, I realised that the intersection looked familiar — we had just walked down the road which I had originally thought to be the way to the castle.

Apparently the road signs are intended to direct motorists to the castle entrance, i.e. the ticket office. However, if we had walked along the shorter route, we would have had more time at the castle and actually bypassed the ticket office altogether — of course, that would’ve been unethical.

To see all of my photos from Eastbourne and Herstmonceux, click here.

The following day, the International / Study Abroad Office sponsored a trip to Battle and Hastings in East Sussex — on the bus ride, we actually drove through Herstmonceux village. It was interesting to see how far we actually walked.

Battle, the village near which the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066 (they weren’t very creative in naming the village, I guess) was an interesting little place; well, specifically the haunted Battle Abbey, which is where we spent the majority of our time. My favourite part of the visit was seeing the battlefield itself, which today looks quite peaceful and beautiful:

We then traveled to Hastings itself, which seems to be a fairly lively place, although perhaps not in the same way as Brighton. The Old Town has a feeling of being past its prime, especially with all the fishing boats beached on the shore. We got some good views of the town by taking the funicular railway up the West Cliffs, before returning to the beach. The view:

To see all of my pictures from Hastings, click here.

The view across the Channel was particularly nice, and reminded me of that invisible place beyond the horizon that I am about to go to – yes, France.

In fact, I’m leaving tonight. The ferry doesn’t leave Newhaven Harbour until 1:30am, so I have quite a time to wait. It’ll be an interesting trip for sure. The ferry arrives at Dieppe at 6:30am local time (4 hour voyage). Will I sleep? I have no idea. This whole trip feels poorly conceived and poorly timed, but unfortunately I have no other time to do it. I then have to catch a train for Paris and change for the TGV to Rennes, in Brittany. My itinerary for the next few days looks something like this:

Wednesday: arrive in Rennes, then go to Dinan, and my hostel on the outskirts of the town

Thursday: visit Le Mont St-Michel, provided the weather is good

Friday: see the old castle towns of Vitré and Fougères before traveling to my hostel in Saint-Malo

Saturday: see Saint-Malo before returning to Rennes for the TGV to Paris; overnight in a budget hotel there

Sunday: get up early for the train to Dieppe, then across the Channel to Newhaven, arriving at 4:30pm

Ok, so it’s not entirely poorly conceived, but it is poorly timed. Firstly, I’ve had very little time to prepare for it (which I’ll be doing as soon as I finish writing this :)), and it’s in the middle of exam period.

I feel very, very guilty about spending money on traveling, especially when my grades are (presumably) pathetically poor. This whole semester has just spiralled downward academically, and I want to forget it as soon as possible. I just hope that it doesn’t haunt me for the rest of my life. It certainly will if I don’t do better when I return to USC — but I know I will, given that 1) my parents’ money is riding on it, 2) grad school and job opportunities depend on it, 3) I find the American university system more conducive to good study habits, and 4) I won’t be distracted by the desire to travel around Europe.

Everybody makes mistakes. It’s hard for me to accept that truth for myself sometimes.

Anyway, while I continue to berate my own character, pose important spiritual and philosophical questions, and attempt to reform myself, the worst torment will soon be over, and I’ll have almost another month of free time in Europe before my flight home. Is this a good thing? Possibly not, particularly if it prevents me from finding a decent job when I get home, but on the other hand, it does give me the opportunity to further fulfill some of my dreams. It sucks when some dreams conflict with others, though.

Anyone have a pill that induces increased focus, determination, and will? Fine, I’ll make it myself.

Music, although in part one of life’s big distractions, also helps me remain optimistic. Especially addictively cheerful songs like this one from Canada. I can’t stop singing it.

At any rate, after school is over, my second big round of traveling will look like this:

June 5-6: Windermere & area, English Lake District

June 7-8: Keswick & area, Lake District

June 9: Edinburgh, Scotland

June 10: Aviemore & area (Cairngorms)

June 11: Inverness, Loch Ness, Great Glen, to Fort William

June 12-13: Isle of Skye and surrounding areas

June 14: To Glasgow for an overnight bus to London

June 15: Brighton

June 16: To Lyon and Avignon with Megan

June 17: Avignon, Pont du Gard, Aix-en-Provence (and hopefully some lavender fields)

June 18: Aix-en-Provence to Nice & area

June 19: Nice to Marseille, stopping in Cassis

June 20: Flying from Marseille to London

June 21-22: Brighton

June 23: Flight home

This will certainly be a semester that I’ll never forget. Some of the reasons why I’ll always remember it might not be good, but most of the reasons are amazing.

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