Monday, 30 April 2012

Goodbyes, Lots of Packing, and HELLO AMERICA!!

Day 38: Friday, April 20

Wow.  It’s here.  38 days ago, I would have sworn that today would not have arrived.  Ever.  The last day.  Tomorrow, I must become American again :)  Like I could have ever really fooled anyone.  I’m too bad at staying quiet long enough to keep up the “I’m a true Brit” charade!  Oh, the Southern accent.  Gets me every time.  I have found myself using (and without even trying) British words and slang.  It comes so natural now to count in pounds, even those ridiculous and slightly absurd 2 pence and 2 pound pieces.  Why would you ever need a 2 pence piece when there is such a thing as a 1 pence piece?  It’s practically the equivalent of having a 2 cent coin.  See? Ridiculous!  I use the word lift for elevator, queue for line, and I’m pretty sure phrases like “mind your step” have come out on occasion.  Wow, what a difference 6 weeks can make!  

The only thing on the agenda today was a meeting at the Lewisham PCT (Primary Care Trust) to meet with several of the pharmacists and learn more about the NHS (National Healthcare Service).  Carmen still was not feeling super, so Michael, Stephen, and I headed out without her.  We made pretty good time, considering we took a route we had never used before.  It was all very official when we arrived, having to sign in and get visitor clearance and all, but it is a government facility, so I guess it makes sense.  We met with a wonderful lady, Eileen, who is a pharmacist who works directly with the GPs (General Practitioners) to allocate the budget allotted to each area and GP office.  Each borough has their own PCT and has to use the budget wisely to make sure everyone gets adequate and enough accessible healthcare.  It’s all very complicated, so I won’t go that much into it, but we learned these pharmacists are very good at research, statistics, and working with the GPs.  With all the changes to the NHS that were just passed while we were actually in London, the PCTs will be dissolved by this time next year with the GPs becoming responsible for figuring out and maintaining their own budget, and from what we gathered, this could be an absolute and sure disaster, as they have not been trained to do this sort of work.  They are purely there to care for and provide care for patients.  It should be interesting to see it all play out, and I will make sure to keep up-to-date with the goings-on next year.

Oh, and I also have to say this was one of the most structured and useful meetings we have had this entire trip.  Such a shame it was on our last day.  It would have made everything make a lot more sense if we had done this our first week here!  But oh well.  There was a time schedule and agenda and everyone knew what they were supposed to do.  It was heaven for an organized person like myself.  As you have probably figured out, there was not a lot of structure and a whole lot of “figure it out if you can and hopefully someone will agree to meet with you” going on during our trip. 
Anyway, after our meeting, Michael headed back to the guesthouse to meet up with Tara, but Stephen and I were starving, so we tried to find a local pub…with little luck!  I think we ended up eating at some place called Jenny’s Restaurant, which was actually very good (despite its rather uncreative name!) and got jacket potatoes (aka loaded potatoes, but with whatever you want in them.  I had a plain one, but Stephen got curry chicken in his, and from what we gathered, tuna mayo is also a popular choice.  No thank you).  After a quick trip to Sainsbury’s to get a few last essentials we made it back right before a huge storm hit!
Around 4pm, the boys and Tara left for a weekend trip to Amsterdam, and we had to say our goodbyes.  I know I had never even met the boys before a few weeks ago, yet it was still really hard to say goodbye!  The four of us (our crew, as Carmen would say!) have spent so much time together, both for work and for fun just hanging out and have become really close.  Plus, I really hate goodbyes.  But I made them promise to bring their girlfriends for a trip down to Atlanta so we can all hang out again.  I know Bryce would get along with them really well too, so I think it’s a good plan all around.  Yes, agreed?  Good! 
Then the crazy packing started!  Let me tell you.  I had a lot of clothes.  All of them dirty, yet they still had to be folded (semi-neatly) to fit in the suitcase.  It really became a game of put everything in the suitcase, get on the (British) scale, convert kilograms to pounds, then try again! Ha ha.  This went on for forever!  Luckily, Peggy was taking us out to dinner so that was one less thing to worry about, and it gave us a chance to see her one more time and talk.  She’s taking us to the airport in the morning (at 6 am, no less, which shows what a truly lovely lady she is), so it’s not our final goodbye.  But still, it was a bit sad.  And the dinner was absolutely fabulous!  So here it is everyone.  The end of the journey.  Bittersweet indeed, but I cannot wait to see Bryce tomorrow!  Hopefully I can sleep tonight with all my excitement!! 

Day 39: Saturday, April 21

I’m home!  Is there anything else that really needs to be said?  I don’t think I have ever been as antsy as I was the past 12 hours just waiting, waiting, WAITING to get home.  Poor Carmen had to deal with my foot bopping, constant squeals of excitement, non-stop commentary about how we were almost there since we were seat buddies on the plane.  That ride up the escalator (you know, the really, really long one) to the baggage claim area at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (really, who invented such an incredibly long and ridiculous airport name?) took absolutely forever.  Luckily, Bryce is the tallest person I know and also the tallest person in the whole baggage claim area so I spotted him in about 1.2 seconds and made a running bee-line with my 20+ kilos (yeah, I use British measurements now! Ha ha) of luggage towards him!  It was a great moment of excitement.  I thought I was going to burst with happiness!!  Plus, my parents were there too, so that was kind of fantastic as well.  Ah, my whole life is now complete and back in order :)  I am a happy, happy girl writing this right now.

That being said, I wouldn’t have traded the entire trip for anything.  Going into it, I was a bit hesitant and definitely not looking forward to being gone for 6 weeks from everything.  And also, as much of a nuisance as it was trying to get it to work and all the complaining I did about it every night, I probably would not have survived this trip without Skype.  Bryce might not have either :)  It is possibly one of the world’s greatest inventions.  Also, Carmen and I would have grown really tired of each other if we were the only people that we knew and saw every day.  So, really, it all worked out quite well.  I loved this trip.  I fell in love with London, even with all the crazy amounts of people, pigeons, congestion, and absurd fashion choices (but really, that last one sort of made the trip that much more enjoyable!).  There is too much history and beautiful surroundings to not fall in love with it.  I know that as happy as I am to be lying on my own couch, sleeping in my own, wonderful, amazingly soft and comfortable bed, I am going to miss London.  I already do a little bit.  I got see and experience more than most people will ever get to since I lived there and became a Londoner for 6 weeks (well at least until I opened my mouth…my accent got a smile from just about every person every time and definitely gave me away every single time).  And for that I am so grateful that I signed up for this trip, was one of the few selected to go abroad, and that Bryce is not only always ok with, but is so encouraging for me to get out of my comfort zone and have these types of experiences (yeah, he’s definitely a keeper!).  So farewell for now London.  But something tells me that I won’t be able to stay away for too long now that I’ve seen it's magic :)

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Another Show, Some Fancy French Food, and the Start of the Countdown to HOME!

Day 34: Monday, April 16

On Monday, Carmen and I did not have any official meetings set up, as we were not able to get in touch with any of the pharmacists.  We shadowed again with Clare, the former STEP pharmacist, on her normal ward.  We spent a good deal of the morning doing research on a patient with not only TB, but extremely drug resistant (XDR) TB.  We were able to brush up on our knowledge of TB treatment, which will come in very helpful for our boards!  And plus, we’re really hoping to be able to meet with the ID pharmacist now to see how they monitor and regulate antibiotic use at the hospital.  In the afternoon, Carmen and I were assigned to 3rd year pharmacy students to help precept them.  This was their first time at the hospital and actually their first pharmacy experience.  We helped them as they worked up patients, did pharmacy management plans (aka our SOAPe notes), and medication histories and discharge counseling.  It was neat to be on the other side of the “school” experience and get to help those who are in the same place we were just a few years ago!

Since it is the beginning of our last week, we had decided that we wanted to at least get one more show in since we were able to use the discount ticket booth and get such good deals!  We checked for Mamma Mia again, but the £35 seats were up on the balcony and partially blocked.  Not cool.  So we decided to see Rock of Ages instead.  We got 12th row seats for only £35.  Very exciting!  This musical is being made into a movie/musical in the States with Tom Cruise, so we were curious to see the stage performance before it hits theatres this summer!  It was really good, but we both decided that Jersey Boys is still phenomenally better!  And if we had been in the 10th row or closer, we would have been covered in glitter and streamers at the end of the show, as they shot it out into the crowd!  We were that close.  It was still really good, and we enjoyed it a lot!  A good start to our last week!

Day 35: Tuesday, April 17

On Tuesday, we checked in with Professor Cairns, and then headed back up to the wards to see how our 3rd year students were doing.  We worked with them during the morning on their patient management plans and answered any drug questions (and America questions!) they had along the way.  We had ordered a lot of pizza on Sunday night, so we had a pizza meal for the 3rd day in a row!  It saved us some money, so we can’t really complain.  Although I don’t think either one of us was particularly crushed that we finished off the pizza that day either, though :)  In the afternoon, we checked back with our students to help them pick appropriate patients to interview and get medication histories.  We also went over the basics that they need to be looking for in each patient when they read over a chart for recommendations to be making as the pharmacist.  And, as usual, we answered some more questions about America!   

Tonight was our farewell dinner with Professor Cairns and the boys at a French restaurant called Chez Bruce in a really neat part of town right outside central London.  We met him at a local pub beforehand, and then headed to dinner.  It was a really, really nice restaurant.  We had good wine, appetizers, entrée, and dessert!  Stephen and I both got the French version of the steak meal, and it was delicious!  And for dessert, I picked the crème brulee, which was absolutely phenomenal!  We all had a great time together and stayed out quite late!  As lovely as the dinner and company was, though, today was the first day that I’ve really been ready to go home.  I honestly haven’t been homesick this entire trip, which has really surprised me (not that I haven’t missed Bryce and my family; this trip has just been so amazing and jam-packed that I haven’t had time to sit around and miss not being with the familiar).  I think it’s the combination of knowing how close we are to heading home and the wet and cold that it just not right for mid April!  I’m ready for sunshine and shorts :)
Just realized I never showed any pictures of our street and "home" for 6 weeks.  This was just after a rain storm, so everything looked very pretty and calm.  And surprisingly spring-like with all the blooms for the cold temperatures!
Our house was the one in the middle.  Notice a non-Victorian house beside it on the left, which, if you remember from a previous post, means it is one of the houses that was bombed during WWII and re-built in the style of the 1940's, rather than the 1880's like the rest of the street.
Day 36: Wednesday, April 18

The original plan for Wednesday was to wake up extra early and head to the discount ticket booth in Leicester Square to see about getting the good £35 seats for Mamma Mia before going to the hospital.  But when we woke up and it was dark and pouring down rain, our plans changed!  A little extra sleep and no tickets, but we were dry and therefore, happy.  Ha ha.  We headed to the hospital for what we thought was our 11:30 meeting with the community services pharmacist, but learned it was later in the afternoon instead.  So up to the wards again to check on our students before they took their medication histories from the patients they selected yesterday.  Since it was really their first time talking to patients, we went over some pointers about communication skills before they went in with Professor Cairns. 

In the afternoon, we met with Finlay, the MI pharmacist.  In the UK, they do not use the term DI (drug information), but rather MI, for medicines information.  We also worked with the STEP (aka resident) and other MI pharmacist who were working on questions to see their reference options to compare with what the US has.  They use a lot of books, whereas we have many more computer resources.   Carmen and I decided that the US is a little bit further along in the area, mainly because we utilize the internet for the most current data.  After our meeting with Finlay, Carmen and I met with Michelle, the community services pharmacist.  This position is one that we do not have an equivalent to in the States.  She is not a community pharmacist, but rather, works with all the medicines involved with the hospital Trusts’ community services, which included newborn home care, home infusions, dental services, long-term care patients, and rehab, just to name a few.  She is always very busy, but her job always has something new and different going on, and we were quite intrigued by everything that she does!  

Since it has been rainy for days now, Carmen and I decided to just do dinner at the good ole Brockley Barge with the boys.  Afterwards, we just chilled and caught up on any remaining work.  I think we’re both slowly but surely tiring out since we can feel our trip coming to an end.  And if you read above at everything we’ve been up to, you can probably see why!  We’ve hit just about every tourist-y thing there is to do in London, plus some!  The countdown for home is now on!
These signs are all over the neighborhoods in London.  Carmen and I got a kick out of each and every one of them.  Meerkats make the best look-outs of all the animals, I suppose :)  I also thought Haley would greatly enjoy this picture!
Day 37: Thursday, April 19

Thursday started bright and early, as today was Michael and Stephen’s big presentation at the hospital!  We talked about pharmacy education at Mercer for ours, so they discussed pharmacy school at UT for theirs.  One thing I learned:  they do their course work in the first 2 ½ years, so their final year and a half are all clinical rotations.  I think Mercer could learn from them!  We’d have so many more experiences!  After their presentation, we didn’t have any meetings scheduled until the afternoon and Professor Cairns was not due to be at the hospital until then either, so we headed back to the house to work on our poster presentation for Mercer.  We stopped at a restaurant for a quick lunch before heading back to the hospital when Carmen started to feel really bad.  Poor thing.  So close to heading home, and she comes down with food poisoning/some sort of stomach bug.  Needless to say, we did not make it back to the hospital for our meeting (I couldn’t just leave her at the house as bad as she was feeling), but luckily, Professor Cairns was very understanding, as was the pharmacist we had a meeting with.  Michael and Stephen got lucky with our misfortune and got a meeting of their own in without even trying :)

Carmen slept for the rest of the day and night, but Michael’s girlfriend, Tara, arrived today in London.  So the four of us, (sans Carmen) went out to dinner at…you guessed it…The Slug and Lettuce.  We wanted Tara to experience what our past few weeks have been like!  We did pick a different location this time, right near London Bridge, so that after dinner, Michael could take her (just like we took him and Stephen on their first night) to see Big Ben, the London Eye, and Parliament all lit up at night!  Tara is such a sweet girl, and we all had a great time hanging out for what is probably one of the last times.  And I also ordered my favorite cider for possibly the very last time :(  But no worries, I made sure to order and enjoy 2 since it was such a monumental occasion!!

Where we'll be headed back to in a few days...good ole Mercer.  This street was on the way to one of our shows!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Some Southern food, and a Whole Lot of Harry Potter!!!!

Day 32: Saturday, April 14

It is crazy today to think that this is the beginning of my and Carmen’s last weekend in London.  We tried hard not to think of it like that, but instead, to make the most of out of it that we could!  Since our previous attempt at seeing the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace was an abysmal failure (see previous post and remember about the marathon event going on!), we decided to give it another go today!  We didn’t have a great view of the guards changing inside the gates, but we could definitely hear all of the music.  And it turns out we were in the perfect spot to see the horse parade pass by!  Literally within a few feet of us.  It was very cool!
The horse parade at the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
And ever since our beautiful Easter service experience at Westminster Abbey, we have been wanting to go back to take a tour, since that was obviously not allowed during church  :)  After enjoying another student discount (score!), we were off on our self-guided (but with free audio-guide) tour.  It was absolutely AMAZING.  I expected nothing less, but still.  It is so gorgeous on the inside.  And there are literally thousands of tombs, shrines, memorials, and statues of various people.  To name a few who are buried or have memorials: several royals before Windsor became a more popular place to be buried, including King Henry VI, King Henry VII, Queen Mary I, Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots; also Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Isaac Newton, Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters, Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Handel, Charles Darwin (oh, the irony!), Oliver Cromwell, and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The Abbey is over 1000 years old, and the detail and design of the architecture are breathtaking.  I feel like I’ve said it so many times, but the history here is incredible to try to take in.  I loved having the opportunity to visit here!
The front of Westminster Abbey
A view of the side
After a bit of a confusing journey and many bus/train connections, Carmen and I decided to give The Hard Rock Café another shot since it was a weird hour to be eating.  We arrived around 2:30, and there was still over an hour wait time.  But today, they found room for us at the counter area…in less than 3 minutes!  Perfect!  We both enjoyed some good ole’ Southern BBQ sandwiches, and it felt just like home.  I guess I’m missing my GA food more than I thought.  Though I do have to say that the food here is much, MUCH better than I expected, and I will miss many of the places that we have become our favorite “go-to’s.”  We were also able to go down in The Vault and see many priceless pieces of guitars and outfits of famous rockers and singers, including one of Madonna’s old credit cards.  How do they find these things?!

We had decided that we wanted to go see Mamma Mia tonight because there was an advert (aka ad or advertisement) that it was only £40, and the whole time we had been here it was around £70.  Plus we had heard that it was really good!  Well, we made it to the ticket booth, only to find out that the advert was wrong, and they tried to charge us almost £70…no way!  We’ll try again on Monday since it’s usually not a busy day for shows.  Carmen and I then contemplated going to a regular movie, but since we were in Leicester Square, the tickets were quite expensive and also at inconvenient times.  So it was off to our favorite go-to shop, Primark, for a little bit of retail therapy before heading home!  By the time we finally made it back home, we were so exhausted, and I may have taken a 3+hour naps (but I did feel so much better upon awakening, so I deem it completely worth it).  We finished our day by getting all the details and final logistics for our trip to the Harry Potter Studio tomorrow!  We can hardly wait!!

Day 33: Sunday, April 15

Today was quite the exciting day!  For those of you who don’t know, Carmen and I are huge, HUGE, HUGE Harry Potter fans.  Especially the books, but also the movies.  And today was our tour of the actual studio and sets, costumes, etc. from the movies.  Wow!  There really aren’t a lot of words that will explain how amazing and extraordinarily this was, so I’m just not even going to try.  So just enjoy a few of the (hundreds) of pictures that I took below!  I will say, though, that the second to last room they take you to is a model of the Hogwarts Castle and grounds.  And not just any model.  This is pretty much the ultimate as far as models go.  Several stories tall, with extreme detail down to every last hand-painted stone of the castle.  Carmen and I “won” the award for being the furthest travelers to the exhibit and also for being the only people who have been to both Harry Potter Land at Universal Studios in Orlando and the Studio Tours in London.  A proud moment for us both.  Also, most of the things in the movie that you think must be digitally added in really weren't.  The moving staircases, the Gringott's door, and the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets (just to name a few) are all real and working.  Carmen and I were shocked!!  The suggested time of the tour was about 3 hours, but we stayed until it was closing and were there for almost 4 hours!  It was phenomenal!  After the long trip back to our house, we ordered our usual weekly Pizza Hut, and as usual, it was awesome!  Now to get ready for our last week at the hospital!
In front of the official studio where the Harry Potter movies were filmed!!!
How it all began.  Harry Potter's official Hogwarts acceptance letter.
#4 Privet Drive.  Amazing.  The actual house they built for the movie!!!
Harry's bed in the boy's dormitory.  Interesting fact:  They never expected the books/movies to be as big a hit as they became, so they made the set to fit 11 year old boys.  Obviously, they were way off, but didn't have room to change the set, so the beds were ultra tiny to fit the boys when they were in their 20's!!
In the Great Hall (and with all the official costumes, of course).  And boy, does it live up to its name!!!  A picture really doesn't do it justice. 
Part of the Potions room.  With Snape's official costume.  Too bad Alan Rickman wasn't there also.  Interesting fact:  there are over 1,000 bottles, all with original handwritten labels of various real and made-up ingredients!

Professor Dumbledore's office.  His telescope in the background in truly amazing.  It's shame they never zoomed in on it in the movies!
Various artifacts from the movies.  The Deluminator, Time-Turner, Philospher's Stone (remember, we're in the UK now!), the first snitch Harry every caught, just to name a few.

You know, just chilling and taking a ride on the Knight Bus :)

The giant model of Hogwarts used for all the far off and zoomed-in shots during the movie.  It literally takes your breath away.  This is just one of the many shots I took of it.  I won't bore you with them all, but feel free to ask if you want to see them :)
In front of the castle.  Sadness that it's blurry.
In front of the entrance to Hogwarts.  Truly outstanding. 

Monday, 23 April 2012

22 Shades of M&M's, Super Sketchy Souvenir Shops, and a Bit of Pharmacy Info Too!

Day 28: Tuesday, April 10

Tuesday morning started off both good and bad.  Good because we got to sleep in (again!) due an afternoon meeting with the pharmacists and bad because, once again, we woke up to yucky, yucky weather!  London had us fooled pretty good with the amazing weather my first two weeks here (after that unfortunate first couple of days).  Carmen and I recently read in the paper that it has been the 3rd warmest “spring” here since weather recording first started.  That’s a long time of reporting…and not a lot of warm weather!  The last time it was as warm as it was a few weeks ago (mid 60’s) in the springtime was in the early 1950’s!!  That’s just crazy!  So, we got spoiled with what we thought was the end of winter and beginning of spring.  But apparently it was just a teaser because now it is wet and cold.  Just like told me it would be, but I chose to live in happy ignorance and denial :)  Anyway, back to the point of this blog: our afternoon with the mental health pharmacist, Noreen (and her technician, Sandra).  The mental health department is actually its own hospital with its own trust that shares some of the space at the hospital and employees pharmacists at the hospital to provide the proper clinical services that are needed.  These include both in-patient and out-patient services.  Noreen deals a lot schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and clozapine.  With all the restrictions to its use and constant monitoring, she spends the majority of her day working with in-patient and out-patient clozapine monitoring.  She also explained the different types of wards for the patients depending on whether or not they are “jail” patients, meaning they were brought in due to a crime or for some other reason.  Eek!  I know we have the same thing in the States, but from what I’ve seen, there are not separate wards for these patients.

Since the weather today was, per the usual now, gross (it was phenomenal until the UT boys came and then a couple of days later turned to what I suppose is “real” London weather.  I’m still blaming it on them though), Carmen and I just came home and chilled.  I wasn’t feeling super great, either, so we just made an easy night of it and were, for one of the first times since we got here, completely unproductive in the way of getting cultured.  It happens.  Plus, there’s always tomorrow to make up for it!

Day 29: Wednesday, April 11

Wednesday morning started bright and early, as we had a meeting with the pediatrics pharmacist, Chew, at 8:30am.  Carmen and I were both looking forward to this, as pediatrics holds a special place in our hearts.  Plus, Chew was one of the few pharmacists who actually seemed excited to talk to us.  We figured that had to be a good start!  After discussing some of her job duties, we also learned that she is the maternity and women’s health pharmacist, but usually only has time to go on rounds with the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) team due to her busy schedule.  Since there were 2 of us with her this morning, we did our own rounds and shadowed her throughout the patients’ rooms.  We first went to the high dependency rooms, which hold premature babies who are, as you probably figured out, highly dependent on equipment and medications to survive.  Some of these babies were born weighing less than a kilogram and their weights are measured in grams.  To convert to the American system, the babies weighed around a pound.  They were so incredibly tiny.  It is just heartbreaking to see a 2 month old baby that has “grown a ton” and now weighs just over 2 pounds.  But it is also amazing to see how technology has helped to save these amazing, beautiful babies who would have never had a chance before medication and technology became so advanced.  Chew is responsible for checking and verifying appropriate medications, as well as checking weights to make sure the dosing is appropriate for the most recent weight, as all neonatal and pediatric medications are given by weight dosing.  For a baby gaining weight and fighting an infection, a little more medication could mean saving his or her little life!  We also visited the step down room, which is before the patient is ready for the regular neonatal nursery, but has been in the NICU or high dependency unit.  These babies looked huge compared to the tiny, tiny little babies in the other rooms, but some still only weight 4-5 pounds.      

Unfortunately, it was also very, very warm in the NICU area, and of course, I was dressed for the extraordinary cold outside, so I got very overheated.  I started feeling a bit faint and had one of those incredibly awkward moments where you break out in a sweat and feel really dizzy and almost pass out.  Which then causes everyone to rush around you, and all you want is to just feel better instantly but can’t because you really have no control over the situation.  At least I was with nurses, a pharmacist and an almost pharmacist (thank you Carmen!) who made me all better, got some sugar and water in me and propped me in front of an open window.  It was just so hot in that nursery and I think I got overwhelmed by all the poor babies, plus as you read from last night’s post, was not feeling super great then either.  I think it just all compounded there in that one moment.  It was most unfortunate, and I felt so bad for causing such a scene, but everyone was so nice, and as I said before, I guess it couldn’t have happened in a better place! Haha. 

After our time with Chew, we did not have any more meetings scheduled for the day.  So luckily I was able to go home and rest for a bit.  Which turned into a very lazy afternoon.  Sometimes I guess you just need one of those.  I was feeling completely better, though, thank goodness.  Carmen and I also used the afternoon to touch up our presentation for the hospital pharmacy staff, which is tomorrow!  For dinner, we went with the boys to Masala Zone, which is a local Indian restaurant that is very popular.  I have seen found out that I am not a big Indian food fan (I had never had it before, but you don’t learn unless you branch out a little bit), but from what I could tell from the Indian food lovers, the food was very good :) 

Day 30: Thursday, April 12

Today marked our big presentation to the hospital pharmacy staff!  Carmen and I were asked to give a presentation about pharmacy education at Mercer during the weekly clinical meeting.  Little did we know that we would be the actual, entire clinical meeting!!  We had been editing and updating and adding fun statistics and information to our presentation all week so that it would hopefully be enjoyable for the pharmacists.  We started with a slide about where exactly Atlanta is…we have found that just because we are a city that has also hosted the Olympics (they are in London this summer!), that does not mean that people know where we are!  And we informed them that they have our wonderful city to thank for the invention of Coca-Cola (and by a pharmacist, no less!).  Anyway, we explained how pharmacy education is different than in the UK, especially in that we get a doctorate degree at the end of it! Woo-hoo!  A good portion of our presentation was on Mercer’s curriculum and rotations, as well as the addition of the simulation lab this year.  We told them about licensing and the examination process (did you know they get part of their registration papers [aka tests] using open book???  I would think it quite shameful if any of them failed.  I would love an open book NAPLEX or MPJE!!!)

Everyone seemed very interested, and we got some great feedback from all of the pharmacists and pre-reg pharmacists who were there.  Some said it was the best presentation on pharmacy education in the States that they had heard (possibly because of my and Carmen’s love of interesting facts that we kept throwing in about Atlanta and pharmacy)!  It’s always nice to get good feedback about presentations :)

After our presentation, we had a shadowing day set up with Clare, one of the post-STEP (aka residency but for 3 years) pharmacists.  And can I say that she is phenomenal!!  The kind of pharmacist that I think everyone should aspire to be.  We had an interesting day on the wards, to say the least.  I met the most adorable old lady (with slight dementia, which always makes things a bit more interesting) who told me all about her fiancé who died in the war (I’m going to guess WWII) because she saw my ring.  It just broke my heart because she never got married to anyone else after that!  And then we had a TB patient who was supposed to go home that day who was found in the bathroom cutting his wrists!  Oh my heavens!  Security, doctors, and nurses galore were running about the hall!  We certainly got a show that day.  But we also had a chance to work up some patients and get a little bit of pharmacy practice in too.  
The cupid statue at the center of Piccadilly Circus.
Once we left the hospital, Carmen and I played major tourists with our shopping, hitting just about every tacky little souvenir store in Piccadilly Circus since we hadn’t really done that yet!  Wow, some of the things they have for sale are just absurd!  And yet, people were still buying them.  Carmen had decided she wanted a London sweatshirt (not the “I heart London” sweatshirt, though, mind you, so it was completely acceptable).  There was a really pretty one in a dark charcoal with purple writing, and of course, the one that was sold out in every store…hence the going to every souvenir shop. Ha ha.  We finally found it at this sketchy, sketchy store where we weren’t sure the employees were going to let us out, but obviously, we made it since I’m here writing this blog :)  And I finally found a London Christmas ornament that has actual London scenes on it, not just a Santa Claus with England written on it.  We both had successful shopping trips!

Since we were close to Trafalgar Square, and what could possibly be the world’s largest M&M store, of course we had to visit!  Wow!  Four stories of M&M madness.  Anything you wanted, you could get it with an M&M logo on it!!  Stephen had been majorly craving something, anything peanut butter (the UK has plenty of Cadbury, but zero Reese’s to be found), so when Carmen and I happened upon the entire wall of every single color M&M known to mankind, we decided a bag of peanut M&M’s was in store for Stephen that evening.  We had the hardest time picking a color, so we finally decided on the 22 color mixed bag.  We were way too excited about that store :)

It was like being in ROY-G-BIV paradise :)
We then met the boys for Chinese at Won Kei at the suggestion of Professor Cairns.  It was very good, and we all got the same thing (sweet and sour chicken), except Michael, who had to be different and order something else :)  We had plans to go out that night to some of the pubs, so it was agreed by all that we were so tired, we’d be much happier just going back to the house and resting.  Which I suppose means that we have turned into old people.  Oh well, there’s always tomorrow! (I feel like I justify a lot of our decisions with that statement!! Ha ha). 
A little bit of "science" for everyone :)

Day 31: Friday, April 13

Our plans for Friday at the hospital were to shadow the dispensary (aka staff) pharmacist, Richard.  After spending some time with him, we moved to each person in the pharmacy to see how their job duties differed from the person with the same title in the US.  I think the biggest difference (which I touched on in a previous post about our aseptics experience) is that techs have a lot more responsibility.  But, they also have a lot, and I mean A LOT more training.  At least 2 years of schooling, and for those who want greater responsibility, such as the ability to do the final check on a prescription, several more years of schooling and documented hands-on experience is required as well.  It was such a hard concept for Carmen and me to grasp that a pharmacist might not see the final product before it headed up to the wards for the patients, but after seeing and hearing about all of their training, it was a little easier to understand.  I think we are both a little hesitant about it still though. 

After spending the day in the dispensary, Carmen and I headed to the Camden Lock Markets (and the absolute craziness that goes along with them!).  There was such really, really fantastic people watching, as well as interesting shops and items for sale too!  We both bought some really pretty earrings, and Carmen bought several different scarves.  I bought a replacement souvenir for mom since I accidentally decided I loved the first one too much to give it to her :)  But no worries, Mom, Carmen has made me promise I won’t keep this one too! Lol.    

One thing that Carmen had been wanting to do is to visit the Hard Rock Café in central London, as it was the first one built.  We knew it was a Friday evening, but seeing as how we got there right around 5pm, we figured it wouldn’t be a problem.  Wrong!  There was over a two hour wait!  We exchanged one look (the kind that says, “NO WAY!”) and then headed back to old faithful, The Slug and Lettuce, for dinner instead.  We’ll have to try back at a non-popular eating time this weekend!  After admiring Carmen’s sweatshirt (you remember, the one from the really sketchy store?!), I had decided that I must have one myself, so back to the semi-creepy souvenir store we went on our way home.  I had seen a beautiful teal London sweatshirt, but couldn’t find my size anywhere.  I finally found a medium instead, and when I tried it on, I couldn’t even fit it over my head!  Every single size was different.  So luckily, there were plenty of larges (I don’t think I’ve ever had to purchase a large to be able to fit into something before) that were super comfortable and my head fit in them :)  And they were on sale.  Double score!  And an exciting weekend to look forward to as well!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Baths, Stones, and Easter at the Abbey! (Days 25-27)

Day 25: Saturday, April 7

Saturday started very, very….very early!  And for a good reason too!  We had a day trip planned to visit Bath, Stonehenge, and Salisbury!  Lucky for me, Carmen (along with our every handy Rick Steves) found a tour company that takes you to all three places, and tickets to each place are included in the price.  It came to about equal or even a little less than what a train, taxi, and tickets to all these places would be…plus none of the hassle of transport and long lines!  Score for us! (Thanks Carmen!).  The tour left at 8:45am from Victoria Coach Station…which is nowhere near where we live!  So, we left the house a little after 7am, which gave us enough time to handle any delays on the tube and get breakfast too. 
Some of the gardens in the city of Bath.  Very beautiful!

Entrance to the Roman Baths with Bath Abbey in the background.  I am so sad we didn't have time to tour the was amazingly gorgeous on the outside!
It was about a 2+hour drive to our first stop, the town of Bath, home of the famous Roman Baths, which date back thousands of years.  The city itself is also very quaint and beautiful.  A little history behind Bath.  It was not always quite so famous, and in the late 1700’s, city workers were in the process of digging to build a new hotel to stimulate interest in the area, and they discovered the ancient Roman Baths.  Mission Accomplished :)  Automatic tourism for years to come!  They were very neat to hear about and see…the waters flow the same paths they did thousands of years ago (I believe some have been dated to the early 100’s AD) and the water is still very hot!  Our only regret is that we did not have more time in the city, as our tour was on a tight schedule!
First sight of the Roman Baths.

The Baths are several levels below the street, so even from the top where I took this picture, we still weren't at street level with the people on the other side of the wall!

One of the original drainage systems from the early 100's AD.  The Romans are quite good with their aqueduct system.
At the Baths!  Unfortunately, you can't touch because the water hasn't been properly treated.
One of the pathways where the water flows from underground up to the Baths.  It was steaming as we walked over it!
Next, on the Stonehenge, which probably needs very little introduction from me.  No one really knows why, how, or who put the stones there and how they have managed to stay there for all these thousands of years.  Yet they have, and so thousands upon thousands of tourists flock there yearly!  It was very neat to see and try to figure out how in the world the rocks were transported and lifted before the invention of the wheel!  And just the mystery of the area made it a very neat place to visit!
So big...and so old!!
Interestingly, Stonehenge is literally in the middle of farm land.  Hence the multitudes of sheep wandering about.
It fits right in my hand :)
One of the best pictures I got!
A view of Stonehenge with some of the other stones around the area in the picture.
After Stonehenge, we embarked on the last leg of the trip, and that was a visit to the Salisbury Cathedral, which dates back to the year 1220 and has had very few additions since its completion in the year 1258!!  A notable addition is the church spire from 1320, which is the tallest in all of the UK still to this day!  Salisbury Cathedral is absolutely gorgeous and was amazing to walk through (unfortunately, no pictures from the inside though since it was Easter weekend and services were ongoing) and see all the different tombs, statues, and memorials. 

Breath-taking first view of the Cathedral (even with all the repair work being done on the front)!
The cathedral also has the world’s oldest working clock, which dates back to 1386.  Interestingly, the clock has no face, but the gears still move and chime on the hour.  Very cool!  And Carmen and I are now quite proud to say that we have seen 3 copies of the Magna Carta (one of the original copies from the British Library, along with the revised version from 1225 there as well) because Salisbury Cathedral is home to another copy of the original Magna Carta!!  Wow, that is almost too much history to take in!  VERY interesting side story:  Did you know that during World War II, all four copies of the original Magna Carta, along with many other important British documents, were moved to Fort Knox in the US for safekeeping?  And the US wouldn’t give them back for awhile until they were absolutely sure no more bombings would take place!  I had no idea, but found that information was very cool! 

I'm still amazed when I try to contemplate how people in the 1200's were able to create such an amazing masterpiece, and in just 38 years at that!  I feel like this sort of design isn't even possible with today's technology!
UK's tallest have to look straight up to see it!
After visiting Salisbury Cathedral, we had a long bus ride ahead of us…about 3 hours, but luckily were able to sleep for most of it.  A very fun family was surrounding us on the bus, and it almost felt like home because there was a mother who kept trying to feed her teenage sons every 15 minutes or so (I have no idea where all the food kept coming from!) and they would just groan then take it about 5 minutes later!  We also shared a laugh with them when a very confused different family tried to board our bus and take their seats, insisting they were on our tour and someone just planted the different jackets on their seats for some reason or another!  Those poor, poor people.  Who knows if they ever made it back to their bus or are still wandering around Bath today?! :)  Upon arriving back in London, Carmen and I met up again with Jill and Aimee for dinner at our favorite…the Slug and Lettuce!  And we also made plans to meet up for Easter morning services at Westminster Abbey!!  I can’t wait!

Day 26: Sunday, April 8

This Easter Sunday was a very eventful one!  I think in all of my 23 years, it is the first time that I have been away from home on Easter, which was a sad revelation.  Carmen and I were supposed to meet Jill and Aimee at the Canada Water tube station at 8:45 in order to get seats at the 10:30 service.  Unfortunately, Carmen and I were running very late.  I’m almost embarrassed to say why, but since I’m blogging of my daily activities, I suppose I must.  We had finally found tickets to the Harry Potter Studio Tour….yes, you’re reading that right as your jaw drops down in astonishment.  The very same one that has been sold out since tickets went on sale months ago after the opening day was announced!!  We had been checking the schedule daily, but tickets were only available for one person or at a time when there was no way we could leave rotation.  Well, today, two ticket slots opened up for next Sunday afternoon!  We couldn’t pass it up…and so we were running behind.  I feel like you’re probably judging Carmen and me, but I can guarantee you won’t be after you see our pictures next week :)

Ok, back to the important stuff here…Easter Sunday at Westminster Abbey.  Wow, there are really no words to describe how amazing it was!  Easter in and of itself is such an amazing celebration Jesus conquering death and providing salvation.  But to celebrate the service in a church that is over 1000 years old was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  It was almost so hard to stay focused, though, because of the beauty of the surroundings and the stained glass windows and all of the tombs and memorials and statues lining the walls.  We decided a tour of the Abbey was definitely in order on another day.  Oh, and of course there’s always that tourist in the group.  You know, the one who takes pictures of Westminster during church.  Yeah, he got called out and chastised.  But quite frankly, he deserved it!

Carmen and I parted with Jill and Aimee, as Peggy had invited us to her house for Easter dinner so we wouldn’t have to be alone.  She is such a lovely, lovely person.  On our way back to the house, though, we witnessed a most horrifying escalator accident!  We were going down one of the very long escalators at the Westminster station, and there was an older gentleman and older lady going up.  This was one of those escalators that moves very fast (fact: there are slow, normal, and speedy Gonzales escalators.  This one was the latter).  Carmen and I (going down) and the older gentleman (going up) were at the halfway point, and the older lady (going up) was about ¼ of the way up.  Somehow, she tripped or stumbled and fell down (not down the stairs, but fell down onto her stair).  We are not sure if the old man was going to help, or was startled, or just turned too quickly, but he fell straight backwards on his head down the escalator, tumbling into the older lady who had just gotten back up!  It was absolutely horrifying!!  I just gasped with my hands over my mouth, and Carmen quickly looked for the emergency stop button, but there was not one to be found.  Luckily, a young guy at the bottom hit the button (side note: when this happens, ALL the escalators come to a screeching halt, almost throwing us forward down the escalator!).  Several people were already running up the stairs to check on the man, and when they sat him up, all Carmen and I could see was blood pouring out of the back of his head!  It was so terrible.  At multiple points at every station, there is an emergency call button.  We decided this was one of the instances where its use was absolutely appropriate!  After hitting the button, a random person talks back to you asking for more information, and in my American accent and talking very quickly, he had no idea what I was saying!  So I repeated and much more succinctly: “There’s a man who fell down the escalator, busted open his head, and all the escalators are stopped now!”  To which he replied, “I’m sending the paramedics right away!”  It was very neat to see how everyone teamed up and helped the man, some by holding him up, some by bringing towels to bandage his head, and us by calling the emergency people.  I’m sure he had to be taken to the emergency room (or A&E as they call it here, for accidents and emergencies), but I’m very much hoping he will be totally fine!

Already such an adrenaline rush for the day, and it was barely even 1:00!  We arrived at Peggy’s around 2:30 and enjoyed, as always, the multitude of appetizers she had for us.  They are just so delicious!  She also had a third year pharmacy student joining us.  She has sort of taken him in and mothered him, as he doesn’t have much family.  After talking with him for awhile, we learned he was from Canada, specifically Toronto.  He mentioned he had a friend who had gone to pharmacy school, and knowing it was a crazy long shot, we asked if her name was Ruth.  Would you believe his friend is our same dear friend Ruth who is in our pharmacy class with us right now?!?  Small, small world!!  And we discovered all of this in another country! Ha ha.  Dinner was delicious, as was the company, and Carmen and I are looking forward to another day off tomorrow as well! 

Day 27: Monday, April 9

Monday was a cold and rainy day, but we got to truly sleep in for the first time in weeks.  And it was marvelous.  Carmen and I had been going and going for so many days that we were in desperate need of some sleep (not that we would trade our traveling for a second! But the sleep was helpful).  We decided to just make a movie day out of it, as a nice theatre was just a few tube stops away, and we each had a movie we wanted to see.  We met up with Aimee and Jill and then separated and Carmen and Jill went to watch The Hunger Games, and Aimee and I went to see Mirror, Mirror.  I enjoyed the movie a lot…the costumes were such fun and there was a lot of unexpected dry humor.  I’d recommend it :)  There was also a big shopping centre nearby, so we were able to stock up on some groceries for the week while we were out.  We parted ways with Jill and Aimee, as they were headed back to Manchester that afternoon.  For dinner, we made it a Pizza Hut night with the boys.  Even better, the delivery over here is free with no tipping required (we checked with the guesthouse owner to make sure!) so we didn’t even have to venture back out into the rain!  A nice end to a very long holiday weekend!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Bars of Ice, Palaces of Dragons, and a Trip to the Beach! (Days 23-24)

Day 23: Thursday, April 5

Thursday started our first of many meetings with various people in different areas of the pharmacy department.  Carmen and I met Lynn at 9 am to get ready for a morning full of learning about aseptics and the differences between how the US and UK prepare aseptics preparations.  The boys did not have a meeting set up, so they decided to join in on ours :)  Of course, we didn’t mind, but there was only room for 2 people at a time, so we went in groups.  After Lynn gets us to gown up in proper attire (booties, hair net, gown, gloves, mask, etc), we head into the clean rooms.  We learned that at least at this hospital, all IV bags are bought pre-made, so the only aseptics they work on are chemotherapy and TPN (total parenteral nutrition) for patients who are unable to eat adequately (seen often in premature babies, as well as very ill adults).  In the States, almost every sterile IV bag is made on-site at the hospital (and most hospitals go through hundreds daily, so you can imagine how busy the techs stay), so Carmen and I were both surprised at the amount of space given to the aseptics room for what we considered to be a very small work load.  Also very interesting was that it was about halfway through our discussion with Lynn before I realized that she was not a pharmacist, but a technician.  She seemed more educated and knowledgeable about aseptics and preparation and procedures that most people I have met, both pharmacists and technicians.  It was then that we learned that technicians are required to do a lot more training in the UK than they are in the States (considering there is really no required training other than hands-on in the US).  At least two years of school plus more if the technician is interested in specializing or receiving the certification to do the final check on a prescription.  This would never be allowed in the States!  But Lynn was extremely knowledgeable and was able to help us out a lot in learning about aseptics.  An interesting story while we were in the clean room: apparently today was a big delivery day in that the clean rooms were receiving new refrigerators.  The delivery men proceeded to just march on in until Lynn stopped them immediately, as they were about to contaminate the whole space!  The men laughed at first, then realized they were actually going to have to dress up in the gowns to come in the room to install the refrigerator.  Said frig also wouldn’t fit through the door due a shelving unit in the way, so the delivery men just tried to push the shelving unit from the outside into the clean room, causing even more chastising by Lynn for trying to destroy her clean space! Ha ha.  Carmen and I got a big kick out of it, and may have laughed a bit as we handed over our clean room gowns to the delivery men.

After spending the day learning about aseptics, we were excited because it meant the start of our 4 day weekend!  Woo-hoo!  The boys had plans to go to Paris for the weekend, so we decided to all go out on Thursday night to celebrate another week being over!  Another side note, this one kind of sad:  Carmen and I originally had plans to go to Paris as well and even had our hotel booked with the 2 Mercer pharmacy students in Manchester, England (Aimee and Jill), but had not yet made either plane or Eurostar reservations.  We started looking about 1.5-2 weeks ahead of time, and the prices were through the roof since it was Easter weekend!  Major sadness, but it was not worth £600 just to get there and back not even counting room and food.  But no worries, Carmen and I have big plans in London and the surrounding area for the weekend!
Yes, that is all made of ICE!  At least 3 layers thick, from what we gathered, as it is all completely smooth to the touch!

With my ice glass, at the ice counter, by the ice walls!
 Anyway, back to the original story of our big night out!  Per the recommendation of Dr. Klein, we found out about a really neat bar in London….made completely of ICE!  After further research, we all decided we must check this place out!  We booked an early time slot to avoid more expensive admission and headed into central London around 4:00.  The price was only £12, which included admission into the ICEBAR as well as a drink…in an ice glass!  We were way too excited about it (or at least, Carmen and I were.  The boys hid their excitement a little bit better, but we know they were looking forward to it as well! Ha ha).  The time slots were for 45 minute increments because they keep the temperature at -5°C.  Brr!  Before you go in, they tell you to put on any extra warm weather gear you have (and lucky me, I was already wearing the usual tights under my pants and 2 coats over my shirt plus scarf and gloves!) and then they give you these giant wool/fur-lined capes (supposedly one-size fits all, might I add, though I believe looking at Carmen and Michael, who are 5’2” and 6’5”, respectively, I would have to say that all agreed this was not true!!  Poor Michael was only covered to the tops of his knees, and Carmen’s cape almost touched the ground! :)   

There's clearly a height difference going on here :)
There are hardly words to describe how cool the ICEBAR is!  Once a year, they melt down the entire place and completely redesign the sculptures and signs in between the ice.  The walls, glasses, tables, counter, chairs, everything, was made of ice! 
Ice walls with face holes to take pictures in!
Ice glasses on the ice counters (but you have to be careful setting them down, or they will go sliding!!)
Just chilling on our ice seats at our ice table!!
So amazing!  But after 45 minutes, I do believe we were all ready for a little bit of heat.  My poor Raynaud’s (see here) had set in about 25 minutes earlier, so it took me a good 20 minutes to thaw, even with all my extra layers!

Oh, and did I mention the walls changed colors? 
Yes, color changing walls.  Even more amazing.
I loved this quote, and it was all embedded and chiseled into the ice, as it was totally smooth to the touch.
Yup, changed colors again!

After the ICEBAR, we headed to our trusty restaurant, The Slug and Lettuce, where we enjoyed a nice, warm dinner with lots of cider and fun times were had by all!  It was a really fantastic night and a truly magical (in an icy, sparkly sort of way) experience!  

Day 24: Friday, April 6

Friday was the real start to a busy, busy couple of days!  On the schedule for today was a day trip to Brighton on the coast of England.  We purchased train tickets and set out decently early (by our standards!) for the ride to the coast!  Like seemingly all of train trips, it lasted about an hour, during which we got in a brief nap.  On the list of places to tour in Brighton were the famous Brighton Pier, as well as another palace (surprise, surprise!), the Royal Pavilion.  We arrived at the Brighton stop and after a quick look at the map, we headed through town towards the Royal Pavilion and Guest Info Center.  On our way, we ran into streets and streets of people and tents full of delicious-smelling food.  It appears we arrived in Brighton on their bi-annual local food festival!  Woo-hoo!  There were goodies and cupcakes and all sorts of meals being cooked and sold everywhere we turned!  Deciding we would definitely be returning to the streets for lunch, we made our way to the Guest Info Center to make sure we weren’t missing out on any other big attractions for the day.  After planning out our afternoon, we headed back to the food festival, where Carmen got some yummy-smelling paella, and I bought a hamburger.  Not any ordinary hamburger, though.  In the UK in general, they do not add spices or anything to their beef, so I’ve been avoiding red meat completely.  Well, this beef was from cows raised all sorts of healthy types of food and was being cooked in some of the most delicious-smelling spices.  I couldn’t resist, especially since red meat is normally incorporated into my meals at least 2-3 times per week.  Even Carmen, who doesn’t particularly care for red meat, said it smelled amazing.  And I do have to say that it rivaled any burger my dad (the steakhouse owner for 30 years) has ever cooked.  Sorry, dad, it was that good!  We ate in the park outside of the palace, and then headed inside.

The Royal Pavilion was the pride and joy of King George IV in the early 1800’s.  From the outside, it is a most peculiar, yet beautiful building.  It almost looks like a mini Taj Mahal plopped right down on the British coast!  The design is extraordinary, and even more so when you enter the palace.  Ever excited about getting a student discount (which Carmen and I realized we can only really do for about another month and a half!) and free audio guide, we made our way through the Pavilion.   
The Royal Pavilion.  Not what you were imagining as the home of a British monarch, I bet!
The interior of the Pavilion is completely in Chinese and some Indian design, which looks so bizarre for a British monarch!  There were dragons and lotus flowers and bamboo everywhere!  And every bit of it was beautiful!  Unfortunately, per usual, no pictures were allowed, but I’m sure you can (and certainly should!) find some online.  After Queen Victoria took the throne, she did not care much for the Royal Pavilion, as it was much too small for her family, so it fell out of use as a royal residence.  Interestingly though, during the First World War, the Pavilion was used as a hospital for Indian soldiers fighting for the British, and there is even a museum inside dedicated to preserving the history of the Pavilion as a hospital.  Also, a new exhibit about Princess Charlotte recently opened.  She was the only child of King George IV, but unfortunately died at age 21 during childbirth, leaving him no heir to the throne.  Princess Charlotte’s uncle’s daughter, Victoria, would eventually take the throne.  It was also quite a neat exhibit.

So bizarre looking, especially on the coast, but so beautiful as well!
After touring the Royal Pavilion, Carmen and I headed down The Lanes (some of the oldest streets in Brighton and home to shop after shop of wonderfully sparkly jewelry!) towards the coast.  We were interested to see the UK’s version of a beach, as it was quite a chilly and windy day.  Upon arrival at the coast, the first thing we noticed was that the “sand” was actually very large pebbles (which would prevent the ever present problem of sand being absolutely everywhere on beach trips!).  Though chilly, we headed down to the water and enjoyed sitting on the pebbled beach and getting in some good people-watching!

In front of the Atlantic Ocean...brrr!!
White sand beach...oh wait...dirty colored pebble beach.  Still pretty comfy to sit on, though!
As close as I was willing to get by the water (notice all my layers!)
Then we headed to the Brighton Pier, completed in its final stage in 1897, with only minor repair work since.  It was every neat, though slightly reminiscent of a county fair…just over the water!  Still, very fun to see, since it is a very famous pier!  

Welcome to the Brighton Pier!!
View of the shore from the Pier!
View of the Pier from the shore :)

The famous West Pier at Brighton, which has burned down, but as a historical class 1 graded pier, it cannot be torn down and is left in its current state with plans to build a large viewing tower around it in the years to come.
We headed back to London after staying in Brighton for about 7 hours or so.  Jill and Aimee had come to London for the long weekend, so we met up with them at All Bar One and had a fun time catching up and comparing stories of London versus Manchester…and the UK versus the States!  We then made plans to eat dinner with them the following night after another fun day trip!