Sunday, May 5, 2013

10 Things

So today is my last day in Glasgow. It is a very bittersweet moment. I miss my family and being home desperately but I also don't want to leave all the experiences I've had over the past four months behind. Because my time abroad is coming to an end this will probably be my last blog post about it. I have done some things since coming back from spring break, like visiting former Au Pairs in Germany, participating in a Glasgow scavenger hunt, and going on one last walk of the West End. Glasgow has been my home for the last four months. And there is a lot I'm going to miss about it, so I decided to make a list of the 10 things I'm going to miss the most about living abroad. Here it goes:

10. Glasgow Uni's Library. It's absolutely massive, like 12 stories massive. And I can rent pretty much any book I would want from there. CNU's library really only has reference and academic works, which aren't a whole lot of fun to read in your spare time.

9. The weather. I know it kind of sucks because it rains a lot and is pretty cold, but if not for that Scotland wouldn't be nearly as beautiful as it is. Plus there are some absolutely gorgeous days and it makes everything look 10x greener.

8. The subway. Its a circle and there are two lines, one goes clockwise and the other counter-clockwise. And its a set rate no matter how far you go so its way lees confusing. So basically its virtually impossible to get lost on it.

7.The architecture. Glasgow is littered with a bunch of old buildings that are just fascinating to look at. I mean the University itself is absolutely gorgeous. I spent several hours just sitting in one of the quads today thinking about my time here.

6. Being able to walk everywhere. Like its actually safe for me to walk into city center. I really enjoy walking places because that's when you really get to see the city. At home I can't really walk too far before I hit a major road that doesn't have sidewalks, and that's a little upsetting.

5. The accent. Just admit it, you think accents are cool. And they are. Plus the lingo over here gets pretty funny sometimes and it has amused me. But don't think I've had it all easy because English is the main language, on several occasions I had absolutely no idea what a person was saying to me. It was quite embarrassing. .

4. My photography class. It has been amazing having the chance to learn about the darkroom and all the techniques photographers use to get the perfect shot. Plus it was a great way to destress and see the city all at the same time. I'm really looking forward to continuing it as a hobby when I get back, too.

3. Cheap Travel. Ryanair and EasyJet are gifts from heaven. I'm serious. They may be strict on baggage and whatnot but I think it all works out when you can book a round-trip ticket to Germany for 20 quid.

2. Meeting people. I have met a bunch of people from all over the world while being abroad. It's just so interesting to learn about other cultures and how they view the world. That probably has something to do with my love of Anthropology and Sociology.....

1. Gary and Student Tours Scotland. I have absolutely no idea what I would have done without him. My experiences abroad would not have been nearly the same if not for all of his hard work and dedication to the students living in Glasgow. He does so much for us while keeping it all at an extremely affordable rate. I would not have been able to see nearly as many places around Scotland and I wouldn't have learned all that I have about Glasgow if it weren't for him. Plus he's pretty hilarious.

There you have it. The top 10 things I'm going to miss about Glasgow and being abroad in general. I am coming back to the UK this summer to study at Oxford for 2 weeks so my blog might have some updates about that, but if not I guess this is goodbye. Thank you so much for caring about what I'm doing here and actually taking the time to read what I've been writing. It means a lot to me.

Monday, April 29, 2013

SPRING BREAK! Part 2(c): Cardiff

The final leg of Becca and my Spring Break adventure included a stop in Cardiff, Wales. I have just always thought Wales was interesting, so I wanted to see what it was all about, and since Cardiff is the capital it seemed like a good city to start. Plus we found out that Cardiff is home to the Doctor Who Experience so that just made it all better. 

Pretty cool hostel
We started off our first day by checking out of our London hotel and catching our bus to Cardiff. We got to Cardiff about 1pm and then attempted to find our hostel. I had written out directions on my phone, but we couldn't really find any street signs. We decided to stop by somewhere that had wifi and used Google Maps. We eventually made our way there, checked in, and got settled. The hostel was super cool. It had a little bar area that had some day beds and couches to relax on, as well as a movie theater in the basement. We hung out here for a while attempting to figure out what to do. Eventually we decided to just explore. We found our way to the Cardiff Castle, but since it was going to close in a half an hour didn't pay to go around it. We also went into a couple of really interesting shops that we passed on our way to the City Hall and a natural history museum. We found the museum and went in, but unfortunately, ten minutes after we got there they started to close so we had to leave. It was already 5 by this point so we decided to meander a bit around the city center and went into the mall to get some food. Becca and I were a bit apathetic at this point because the weather was not the best and we had had such an amazing time in London. We also were really missing home and were really not feeling like doing much. We decided to head back to the hostel and just hang out a bit. We went into the common area and decided to watch some Doctor Who before going to the experience the next day. It was a great decision, and helped our mood quite a bit. Then we headed off to bed. 

We found a random Dalek!

Cardiff Castle

Day two started off with a pretty bad shower but turned out to be an awesome day. We asked for directions to Cardiff Bay, got a map, then started to walk to the Doctor Who Experience. Once we got to Cardiff Bay we discovered that it was the location of a rift in time and space which was pretty important in Doctor Who. Becca and I were pretty excited and fangirled a bit before continuing our walk. We made it to The Doctor Who experience and were a little disappointed to find out they were out of the package ticket and that they don't do student discounts during the holidays so we could have bought the special deal online in advance, oh well. We started off the tour with a really exciting little bit where you help the Doctor get the TARDIS back (by flying it!!!) and are attacked by Daleks, only to be then rescued by the Doctor. Then you enter into an area filled with props, sets, and costumes that have been used on the show for the past 50 years. All of the regenerations of the Doctor's costumes are lined up, which was pretty neat. They also have the full TARDIS control room used by Nine and Ten with a loop of Ten's regeneration, which was heartbreaking and a little mean. We then ventured upstairs to see more costumes and information about a lot of the villains that are seen on the show. This is where we got to see our favorite companion's famous outfits. We spent quite a bit of time int he experience, then decided it was time to continue exploring the Bay area. We got our souvenirs and left. We were hungry by this point and stopped by a really cool place located on a ship. It was a pretty good lunch, and we overheard some people talking about what else there was to do in the area. We heard them say something about Techniquest being somewhere they could take someone so we decided to check it out. We meandered our way there, stopping to get ice cream on the way. We made it to this Techniquest and the price was only 4 pounds so we decided it sounded like fun. It turns out its meant for mostly school aged children and the guys we overheard were probably teachers. There were quite a few school groups there but that didn't stop us from displaying our inner child and having a blast with all of the hands on things. It was actually a lot of fun and totally worth the money we spent. We were absolutely fascinated by all of the stuff in there, which is saying something. After we were done there we slowly made our way back to our hostel to pick up our bags and catch our really long bus back to Glasgow. We got back kinda early, so we hung out in the bar area and got some snacks for the road before leaving. 

My favorite companion!

Where we ate lunch


Hipster ice cream shot

Even though it was a pretty miserable bus ride (3 hours to London, then 9 hours over night to Glasgow) the rest of the trip really made it worth it. I had an amazing time getting to travel around for spring break and i got to see so many things. However, I only had a day back in Glasgow before I left again, this time on my own. And it was far from relaxing, but I'll talk more about that in my next post. 

SPRING BREAK! Part 2(b): London, cont.

Since Becca and I just did so much in London I broke it into two posts to make it easier to read. And here is the second one!!

On Day 4 of our London adventure was pretty laid back. We didn't have any predetermined plans for the day so we just decided what to do the night before. We woke up kind of late, which was nice, and decided to start our day by going to Crystal Palace to see some sculptures of Dinos (this was mostly for me....)We attempted for about an hour to find a way to get to Crystal Palace, since only one line goes there and its on a split off route. After trying for a very long time we decided to give up and go on to our next destination. Now that I think about it, it was probably difficult to get there because it was a Sunday and public transport doesn't run as regularly so....Anyway, the next stop on our list was Earl's Court. This was a pretty important stop because there is a legitimate Police Box there (right outside the subway stop for any fellow Whovians ever in the area). It had actually been in use and looked just like the TARDIS. Becca and I had found four around Glasgow but they were not nearly as pretty as this one and none of them looked quite right. A really nice lady passing by offered to take our picture without us asking and said she lives in the area and always sees a bunch of Whovians geeking out so she has to help the fandom out. After that we headed to Hyde Park to walk around, especially since it was a beautiful day. After walking around a lot of the park, we got some ice cream and enjoyed sitting by the lake. Our next stop was Buckingham Palace. We took a bunch of pictures and played spot the American to find someone to take one of the two of us. There were also some wedding pictures being taken, which thoroughly entertained us. Then we were off again to Parliament Square to take more pictures of Big Ben and the London Eye, especially since the last time we were there it was starting to get dark. We walked along the Thames for quite a while before deciding to get some dinner at a place called the Giraffe. We got some delicious burgers and smoothies to rest up before making the journey back to our hotel. Once we got back we attempted to work on the papers we had due a couple days after we got back, without much success, then headed to bed to prepare for a very long and exciting day.....

There were a lot of people and they would not move

Day 5 was probably the most exhausting and emotionally draining day we had while in London. This is because we were off to The Harry Potter Studio Tour. Our excitement levels were off the charts. Our entry time was a bright and early 10:30 to give us plenty of time to explore the self led tour. The website says it should only take you 1.5-3 hours but Becca and I blew that out of the water by spending a whopping 6.5 hours in the tour. I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous, but not all of that was actual touring of the attraction, which I will get to in a second. The tour starts off with a really cute intro and then you are led into The Great Hall. Here is located a bunch of costumes and props that are used in the big scenes in the Great Hall. Unfortunately you don't have a whole bunch of time in there at once because the next group comes in but you can go back in once the next group has their grand entrance. You then move into a huge sound stage that houses a lot of the sets and props that are used in the movies. This area takes the most amount of time just because of the sheer amount of stuff packed in there. Becca and I also splurged for the special package deal that gave us an audio tour narrated by Tom Felton, which also included a lot of interviews and other behind the scenes information. This took us a lot of time to get through. I took so many pictures in this one area it was ridiculous. They also have places set up where you can ride in the car being chased by the Hogwarts Express, Fly on a broom, and practice your dueling. Even for a Monday there were quite a number of people there so it was difficult to move around at times. We then headed outside where we got some butterbeer and explores some of the larger/external sets like the Knight Bus, 4 Privet Drive, and the Hogwarts Bridge. It was really cool to be able to get so close to these props/and sets and we took a bunch of fun pictures. It was pretty cold out there so we got through our pictures and headed back inside to finish the tour. The next area had a lot about design in it. It included the make-up an animatronics/monter making department, as well as how they came up with the ideas for the sets. We also got to walk up Diagon Alley and saw the cherry on top of the whole experience, the model Hogwarts made for the sweeping external shots of the school. This thing is huge, and absolutely breathtaking in the amount of detail. As we entered this part a school group came in too, and my camera battery was dying. Because of this I went through the first room really quickly, then went back to read everything. Unfortunately, Becca did not see me behind her and went ahead. She then though that I was ahead of her and went even faster, while I thought she was possibly behind me, so I took my time. Becca then, for some unforsaken reason, decided that I would leave the tour without her, so she went into the gift shop, and therefore couldn't really come back in. I got to the Hogwarts model and thought that she could not have left the area without taking pictures of each other in front of it, or of us together. So I sat, and waited for a good hour. I tried calling and texting her, but she hadn't brought her UK phone and I didn't have wifi to message her iPod. Eventually, after going back and forth through the entire second building twice, a man working there stopped me and asked if I was looking for someone, I said I was and he called someone, and Becca was brought back in. We took some pictures then left together. We spent quite a bit of time in the gift shop, limiting what we could buy, got some food, then headed back to our hotel after a very draining day.

Day 6 was another long day. We got up pretty early again to head to Victoria Station to get on a bus for a tour of Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath. I knew that I wanted to go to Stonehenge and since its not that far from London, I figured there were some bus tours that would be going there. Turns out there are quite a bit. I then found this awesome one that included 3 great places all in one day and lunch. We boarded the bus and started our tour off with Windsor Castle, the largest continuously inhabited medieval-style castle. We were some of the first people there, which was really nice because there weren't any crowds. The weather kind of sucked but there is a lot of inside the castle you can explore which kept us dry and warm. Unfortunately, you can't take any pictures of the inside of the castle, but there sure is a lot to see. There is a huge dollhouse with miniature everything, including full plumbing and electricity, there was also a room dedicated to pictures of the Queen throughout her life, you can also walk through the estate rooms and see the several collections of china. The rooms were absolutely gorgeous and so impressive. There was so much to see, but unfortunately  Becca and I were running out of time before we had to meet our tour for lunch and we had to rush through he last part and the chapel on the property. We did catch the last of the changing of the guards before heading to the restaurant. We ate, then got back on the bus for the next stop, Stonehenge. I was pretty excited to see this important landmark, and it did not disappoint. The stones are absolutely gigantic. I was a little sad that we couldn't go closer, but I understand that they are trying to protect the landmark. By the time we made it around the henge, we were so cold and could barely feel our fingers. So back on the bus we went for our final stop, Bath. Bath is a gorgeous city where every building is made out of the same stone and is famous for its cathedral, history with the Romans, and supposed healing powers. We stopped in the Cathedral, which was absolutely gorgeous, then took a tour of the Roman Baths. It was really interesting to see how the Romans lived in the area during their occupation. It was also really cool to see the famous baths and taste the water, which was not the most pleasant. After exploring this, we were back on the bus to head back into London. It was a really nice day in that we got to see a bunch of cool stuff, but it sucked that we didn't have more time in each place. Becca and I headed back to our hotel to get some much needed rest, because we were off to Cardiff the next day.

Becca and I are buried right next to each other!!

I absolutely loved my time in London, and I cannot wait to go back this summer during my next study abroad adventure. I got to see so much and I am so lucky to have had Becca to explore with. The final portion of our spring break adventures will be detailed in my next post, which will be all about Cardiff!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

SPRING BREAK! Part 2(a): London

Becca and I woke up bright and early to make our way to Buchanan Bus Station to catch a 9 hour long bus ride. But we didn't really mind much since we were on our way to LONDON!!!! This was a trip both of us were greatly looking forward to. There is just so much to do in the beautiful city and because my dad is awesome we had a very nice hotel to stay in for the 6 nights we would be in the city. We arrived around 5pm on the 4th and proceeded to find our way to said hotel. It was located in one of the Burroughs towards the outer part of the city so we were going to be taking a lot of public transportation to get into the city, but the cost of the transportation pretty much balanced to what we would have paid if we'd stayed in a hostel. We found our way to the train station and bought ourselves Oyster Cards. These are a top-up sort of card where the prices are reduced on public transport as an incentive to reduce the amount of paper tickets that people use. Plus they're a lot easier than having to buy a ticket anytime you want to use the underground, overground, tram, or rail system. After a little bit of confusion we made it to our hotel, checked-in, and got all settled. We then went in search of food but it was already kind of late so most stuff was closed. We found a burger shop and the guy working there even gave us a bunch of extra chips since we were the last people before he closed up. It was awesome. We ate back in our hotel room while watching British reality TV. We finally went to sleep to prepare for our big day out the next day.

Our first real day in London consisted of going to the British Museum. I absolutely love museums and this one is world renowned. I had heard a lot about it from my parents and in my archaeology class this semester. The main reasons I wanted to go were for the Rosetta Stone and the Friezes from the Parthenon. I mean seriously, how much cooler can you get? Becca and I spent a good 3 or 4 hours wandering the museum looking at the loads of artefacts it contains and we didn't even make a dent. I could easily have spent several days looking at all of the exhibits they have on display. After all this we were starving. We had devised a plan where we eat the amazing breakfast at the hotel then take a box of cereal and an apple for a lunch-time snack then eat an early dinner so we only had to pay for one meal a day. Genius idea if I do say so myself. We stopped by a Starbucks to refuel because we wanted to go to another museum we had seen. Unfortunately the toy museum we had wanted to go to had already closed, which was saddening. Instead, Becca and I decided we would just wander around the city. This turned out to be an awesome idea because we found our way to Parliament Square, St. James' Park, and the Royal Guard. We also meandered into the giant Hamley's, a toy store with literally anything you could ever want. We found our way to the Build-a-Bear station and discovered they had special I heart Great Britain bears. Needless to say we decided to make them, a first time experience for Becca. Their names are Sherlock and Watson and we love them dearly. They came around London with us for the rest of the day and got to see a lot of the city. After all this wandering we headed back to our hotel to rest up for another big day.

Piccadilly Circus
Found a little bit of home
Day 3 was a rather long day. We started off by heading to Baker Street to see 221B and going to the Sherlock Holmes museum. The house is set up just like it would have been in the Victorian Times when John and Sherlock would have lived there. It was really cool to see all the things that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about. They also had some wax figures that depicted scenes in some of the books, we were not huge fans of those. In the shop there were these really cool shirts that Becca and I wanted, unfortunately they were only in XL and XXL. We settled for another one that was still pretty nice, but still a little too big. Its really soft though so I can manage. After this we headed over to St. Bartholemew's Hospital. This is a famous spot for any BBC Sherlockian as it was the location of Sherlock's famous jump. Next to the hospital there is a telephone booth where people have left notes in support of Sherlock. Becca and I wrote our own and left them in the booth. We stood there for a good half an hour reading all the notes. After this emotional stop we decided to walk to King's Cross and St. Pancras stations. This turned out to be a much longer walk than we had anticipated. A little over 3 miles actually. We finally made it and found Platform 9 3/4. They even have this really cute set up with a trolley half way into the wall and they take your picture with your house scarf on. Of course we waited in line with the other children, got our scarves, and took some of the best jumping pictures because we are pros. We wandered into the Platform 9 3/4 shop but refrained from buying anything since in a couple of days we were going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Being exhausted from our walk, we caught a train back to our hotel and got some dinner from a Mexican place we had seen the first day. It was like heaven. I had missed Mexican so much. We also finally got to watch Doctor Who for the first time on an actual TV. It was awesome.
He was so tall.....
Sherlock's phone booth
my note!

Since this post would be super long if I did all of London in it that's it for this one. Our adventures will continue on the next post.

Monday, April 22, 2013

SPRING BREAK! Part 1(c): Liverpool, England

Ok sorry again for the long delay...I was out of the country visiting some family friends (which I will talk about in a later post). But I'm back and don't have a lot to do in the next couple of days so I will be updating everything.

Anyway, this post is about the last segment of our first part of break: Liverpool, England. I had been dying to go to Liverpool and it was a must see stop for me while I was over here. This is mainly because I have an amazing taste in music (if I do say so myself) and am in love with The Beatles. As most of you are probably aware, Liverpool is where The Beatles got their start, being the city where George, John, and Paul grew up and met each other. So obviously there are a lot of Beatles related landmarks to see whilst visiting the city. Unfortunately Becca and I did not have a whole lot of time in the city to see everything I wanted but that just means I'll have to go back one day.

We arrived in Liverpool at 9 in the morning. We were going to be taking a bus out of Liverpool back to Glasgow that afternoon so we managed to find a bus that took us close to the bus station we needed. Once at the bus station we asked where we could store our luggage so we wouldn't have to lug it around all day, the closest one was at the train station around the corner so we made our way over there and put our luggage away. Then we attempted to find a map of the city that was at all helpful, and were not very successful. I had written down the addresses for the main places I wanted to see, Mendips, Paul's house, George's house, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, The Cavern Club, and Casbah Coffee House. Unfortunately we were on the opposite side of the city than a lot of these places and did not have a whole lot of time to try to find a good map and find them. We decided to walk towards the dock because I had discovered that there was a museum there dedicated to The Beatles and the lives of their members. We were not entirely sure if it would actually be open since it was Easter Sunday but we thought that they might have information about some other stuff to see that related to the band.

The airport is named after John, I mean how cool is that?
You can rent these boats and stay in them!!!!
We managed to find our way to Albert Dock where The Beatles Story is located. The museum ended up being open and the price was very reasonable and since we were very unsure about what our success would be at finding the other locations we decided to go in. This was a great idea. They had so much information about the beginnings of the band as well as each of the members (including the 2 that started off with the band but left before the big time). There were also a lot of cool set ups, like the inside of the clubs in Hamburg, The Cavern Club, and a yellow submarine. Becca and I spent a good amount of time reading everything and looking at all the artifacts that related to the men I admire so much. We grabbed some food from the Starbucks in the museum and then ended up in the shop where I had to really control myself from excessive spending. There was just so much that I wanted. I managed to keep it reasonable and then we headed over to the building where The Beatles Story has their special exhibits. In this case it was one relating The Beatles to Elvis and another of never before seen pictures of the boys.

It really was...
My favorite George's first guitar
Cavern Club set up
the steps have the names of their songs
We spent another good amount of time wandering through these exclaiming how adorable they all were. After this it was already about time for us to head back for the bus station since our bus left at 3 from Liverpool. Even though I didn't have a whole lot of time in Liverpool to see all the things I wanted too it was still a really great day. The Beatles Story was well worth it and Liverpool was just a really amazing city, partly because the weather was beautiful and the complete opposite of what we had had in Ireland. Now I'll just have to go back with my family, all fellow Beatles enthusiasts, and spend more time wandering around the city that my favorite men called home.