Okay, so, I've also been to West Malling in Kent, Hampton Court Palace, and Brighton.
West Malling: Caris and I went for a day to visit her stepfather's parents, Pam and Brian (her step-grandparents, I guess), in Kent. They are precious people, incredibly kind and generous, and possess so much wisdom. I loved them both. They drove us around the countryside, all the way to the amazing coast at Dungeness. We actually saw the ocean! It was wildly and ruggedly beautiful--the shore was made of rounded stones instead of sand, and the only people out on the beach were hardcore fisherman bundled up in coats and scarves. Oh my goodness, was it cold, but it was really the wind that made it bad. We stopped at a little place to get fish n' chips (which was excellent, the best I've had so far) and got back in the car to return home. At their little apartment, they served us really good tea (Brian can make a mean cup of tea) and little sandwiches before we drove over to see Pam's much younger sister and her husband. They were a lot of fun and asked Caris tons of questions about her--they're just getting to know her, really. It was wonderful that she was able to see them. They invited us back, and we plan to take them up on that.
Hampton Court: Amazing, as always. I've been before, but Caris hadn't. So, we went. It's about a 30 minute train ride from London, and the weather was soooooo gorgeous. We toured most of the rooms--some were blocked off for renovations for the celebration of Henry VIII's 500 year anniversary this year. Later in March, they'll put on jousting tournaments and big feasts for the celebration. The gardens were especially beautiful that day... look at my Facebook photos! We grabbed lunch at a crowded cafe that served incredible hot chocolate, and jumped on a train back to London. It was a relaxed but really fun day.
Brighton: Oh my goodness, what a fun weekend. We left on a Friday morning and arrived by bus around noon. We immediately bolted for the coast--so gorgeous! A long pier jutted out into the water and played host to a small amusement park, restaurants, and little cafes. We walked around for a long while, up and down the pier, up and down the coast, took tons of pictures, and found a restaurant for lunch. Afterwards, we headed for the Brighton Pavilion, a second Taj Mahal, to take a tour... but the cost was kind of ridiculous, so we opted to explore the outside instead. Wandering around, we found a free museum about Brighton's history, local artists, and world artists. We spent a lot of time there, playing with the interactive exhibits (just see my videos on Facebook), then we headed to the train station to meet Caris' friend Lissy, who we were staying with over the weekend. Her mom graciously made us dinner before we headed out with Lissy's youth group for a night of ice-skating. Being around 15-18-year-olds made me feel so incredibly old... but ice-skating was fun nonetheless. The next morning, we got up late and headed for "the Lanes," long, narrow streets of eclectic, one-of-a-kind shops. We bashed around there for a bit (but I didn't buy anything), and then turned back toward the coast to find Lissy's favorite ice-cream shop. We met her parents and their two little dogs there. That night, two of Lissy's/Caris' friends, Pete and Steve, came over for a fun night of games. We played Scattergories, Taboo, etc. and laughed our heads off. And Lissy, who is a hairdresser on the side of her singing career, cut both Caris' and my hair. Don't worry--it's not drastic. :) The next morning we went to Lissy's church, ate Sunday dinner with her family, Pete, and Lissy's other friend and singing partner Luke, and then caught a train home. Right before we left, Luke pulled out his acoustic guitar and sang for us... and it was amazing. Check him out on Facebook and MySpace: Luke Sital-Singh. Incredible. When we got back to London that night, we tuned in at 7 pm and heard him sing live on the radio.
I've done so many things, but I don't have any time to write about them. Sorry if these little blurbs are a bit below my usual excellent writing standard. I'm doing my best!
Look for updates about Scotland soon. Three words about that: Uh. Maze. Zing. I'll try to write about that before I leave for my spring break on Thursday to GREECE AND ITALY!!!!!!!!!!! AH! I can't wait! Pray for good weather!