It only took me three months to actually SEE the baths in Bath!

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ASE Does Stratford-Upon-Avon

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Making the Most of My Last Few Weeks!

I come home in exactly TWO WEEKS from today! This time next week I will be hugging my mother at Dulles airport and I cannot wait.

However, I’m still making the most of my time here and enjoying some final sights in Bath. I’ve made a few trips to the Bath Christmas market to browse, do some holiday shopping, and get lots of hot cocoa with Bailey’s in it. Yummm. Plus warm sugar donuts with jelly filling. YUM! The lights are beautiful.

ASE, my abroad program, held their “Write Night” where students can perform poetry, skits, sing, etcetc to dazzle the rest of the program. The night started with a pub quiz that our table won, pretty much entirely to my friend Nora who is a trivia junkie. Then we had plenty of bar snacks. THEN it was time to perform. My best friend here, Laura, and I each performed a piece from the Vagina Monologues which was a hoot. There was a lovely duet of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” the program director read us a poem, my short fiction professor read us a story, and Nora recited Pi to the 200th digit, so it was certainly entertaining.

Today, a group of us has a nice Bath outing! We went to the caroling service at Bath Abbey which was lovely and then went and got a proper British tea. We tried the Jane Austen house first, then the Pump Room, before finally fighting for a table at Minerva Chocolate Cafe. Bath is a huge tourist city, but now that it’s holiday time? The crowds around the abbey are NUTS. It’s so hard to move! The tea was great (though I’m definitely still a coffee drinker). I got the classic “afternoon” tea which had little sandwiches and cake and strawberries – yum!

While we were out, my friend Laura went and got a tattoo. She got a phrase her parents tell her, “Be Good.” It was really sweet and the people were really nice. I ended up getting a piercing (sorry family!) because the prices were shockingly cheap and I wanted something to remember the semester by, though less permanent than a tattoo. I got a dermal piercing in my neck. The piercer was a pro and must have had ten piercings in his face alone. I’m really happy with it! 🙂

Before I head home I plan on visiting the Roman Baths (obviously), then the program is going to Stratford-upon-Avon Tuesday through Thursday to see some plays, then finals, then Lindsay is going to visit then I GO HOME! Time flies.

xx

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Copenhagen! (København)

I went with two of my friends in the program to Copenhagen for the weekend on Friday night and we flew back Sunday night.

Here’s what we did/where we went/scroll down for pics with captions (trying a new blogging set up…)

  • Tivoli Gardens is a really neat theme park… in the middle of the city! Literally right next to the town hall. It opened in 1843 and is famous for its lights — over 20,00o bulbs. It’s pretty expensive, (like everything else in Copenhagen) so we only did one ride ($12 bucks if you can believe it!) called the Star Flyer (Himmelskibet) but it was AWESOME! because I love theme parks. We had waffles and hotdogs and I had the Danish version of Sprite which was called Faxe Kondi.
  • Of course we went to the Little Mermaid statue, and it was busy and somewhat unremarkable… apparently it’s been beheaded by vandalism twice in the past few years. Eek!
  • We walked through Amalianborg Castle courtyard and luckily we arrive at 11:55am, just in time for the changing of the guard at noon! Pretty neat to watch, a little intimidating.
  • After a walking tour of the city, we decided to visit Christiania. On our walk there we visited Vor Frelsers Kirke which has a huge spiral spire that we climbed and got an awesome view of Copenhagen.
  • We then went to Freetown Christiania which was founded by squatters and is an autonomous neighborhood. They have three rules.
    1) Don’t run
    2) Don’t take pictures
    3) Have as much fun as you can!
    We got delicious hot coco there since it was freeezing, and chatted with a local who talked to us about Danish/Scandanavian politics which was really fascinating!
  • On Saturday, our last day, we made it to Rosenborg Castle where we saw the crown jewels and the beautifully ornate rooms of the castle. Nice to be inside since it was POURING rain all day!
  • Our last stop was the Carlsberg brewery. I tried Carlsberg and the Tuborg. Learned a lot about the history. Saw the world’s largest bottled collections! We also learned a lot about the history, including that before the 1940s their symbol used to be the swastika and it’s still on the building… kind of surprising until we got into the museum, haha. They also have a sculpture garden, randomly enough.

 

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An UnAmerican Thanksgiving!

So last week was Thanksgiving, my first without my family and my first not in America! It was strange to see all the facebook status of my peers talking about being home with their families for the holidays. Certainly only made me more homesick than I already am! ASE, my program, held a thanksgiving dinner prepared by the culinary students at Bath College. It wasn’t the best (not that ANYTHING could compare to my mother’s cooking anyway!), but it was as though it were a really delicious dining hall meal at school. It was nice to be surrounded by my program and my friends for this holiday. They’d even decorated! Although the banner said “HAPPY THNKSGIVING” and there was a Christmas tree…

And of course, a list of things I am thankful for, regardless of the time of the year:

  • My parents, for providing me with this wonderful opportunity to live and study and experience abroad! And of course not only their acceptance, but their support, of all my passions and eccentricities.
  • My mother, specifically, for encouraging me relentlessly to take the opportunity to study abroad, no matter how terrified I am. Also, my mother for showing me what it means to be strong, what it means to feel, and for being one of my best friends.
  • My father, for being my best friend, for teaching me to not be embarrassed (no matter where he does his Urkel impression), for always making me laugh, and for always listening (even if I’m melodramatic).
  • My brother, for always being willing to beat people up, even from hundreds of miles away, if they hurt his little sister! We don’t do the best job of keeping in touch, but I know how much we love each other. Can’t wait to see you for Christmas!
  • All the rest of my family — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — the works! My grandparents for always being there, especially you Grandma Jean for making the phenomenal effort to keep in touch from different coasts for every single year of my life. I can’t even express how grateful I am for the close relationship we have. To all my aunts and uncles for giving me great summer/spring breaks visiting, and never skipping a beat to make me feel like family, no matter how much time has passed since I’ve last visited. And my cousins! Never knew I liked kids until I met you little rascals — and I can’t wait to meet my latest cousin, baby Hunter.
  • My friends, who have made the effort to keep in touch (regardless of my terrible history of prompt responses — sorry LP and Jimi!) while I’m out of sight, but not out of mind! A special thanks to Joe who has been around this whole semester to help me work through the ups and downs of homesickness.
  • I’m incredibly thankful for the monetary privilege of my class that has allowed me to even be able to be abroad, to receive a higher education, and have limited debt.
  • I’m thankful for social justice activism and the way it has opened my eyes to the world I live in, and the world I want to shape as I live my life.
  • And I’m thankful for homes, and I can’t wait to come back to Virginia.
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Oxford Study Trip and Cardiff Bay

This weekend was wonderfully busy with two trips (Sunday being dedicated to writing a paper).

Friday: Children’s Literature Study Trip to Oxford

Our first stop in Oxford was Christ Church College which I had already toured during our program’s trip to Oxford so I wasn’t very interested by the sights. Still, Oxford is a lovely city and the architecture everywhere is astoundingly… Oxford. Our tour guide wasn’t the greatest and unfortunately he had quite the odor emanating from him and he was a close talker.

Then we went for a delicious lunch at The Eagle and the Child, the pub where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein would meet to discuss their writing. One of the doors was labelled Narnia! Great pub food and a nice sit down.

Our next stop was the Kilns, or CS Lewis’s home.

Here’s me in CS Lewis’s former living room!

I didn’t think I would enjoy the Kilns very much as I really did not enjoy the Narnia series at all due to its excessively proselytizing nature. However, I was really fascinated by our tour. Lewis’s house is under the care of an American society and is used to housed grad students studying Christianity who also give the tours. It was interesting to hear his journey into faith and how that related to his work and his relationship with Tolkein.

We followed our tour of the Kilns with a visit to CS Lewis’s grave in the yard of his church which featured a Narnia themed stained glass window. An enjoyable moment at his grave was when a fellow student exclaimed in surprise, “His name was Clive Staples?

Saturday

On Saturday a bunch of the girls that I’m friends with wanted to go to Cardiff. Luckily for me, they didn’t want to see any of the sights I saw. Instead they wanted to go to the bay, something Caitlin and I ran out of time to do. So that was our first stop!

First thing we saw was their visitor center… yeah. No joke. Also an opera house… but huge!

We then took a 20 minute boat tour of the bay on a cute little boat called the Daffodil! Nice way to see the sights and our captain explained a lot about the area and the sights.

Me and a few friends in front of the statue commemorating the explorer to went to the south pole… and froze to death on his way back. Here’s us being chilly!

When we left the bay we wandered around the Christmas market where I found the perfect study abroad souvenir! There was a great couple that carves coins from all around the world into pendants. I got a Welsh pound so it has the dragon. I love it!

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Things I Miss the Most About America

  1. Flavored coffee creamer
  2. The value of the dollar/actual dollar bills (not pound coins)
  3. Driving my little green manual Honda on the CORRECT side of the road
  4. Taco Bell
  5. Being in the same time zone as all my friends
  6. Feminists United on Campus UMW!
  7. Wawa
  8. Good service at restaurants
  9. Diet Dr. Pepper Cherry
  10. American accents
But it’s just hitting me that there’s only a month left. Less than! Eek! I have plenty to look forward to though. ASE is planning a Thanksgiving dinner, tomorrow I’m going back to Cardiff to check out the bay area, and then I booked a last minute trip to Copenhagen with some friends here!
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The Cotswolds and Cardiff

Friday: ASE Goes to the Cotswolds

Admittedly, not my favorite ASE trip. Though this might have been in part due to being slightly hung over and not being able to sleep very well, it almost felt as though we spent more time on the bus than at the places themselves.

  • Stop One: Broadway Tower
    Broadway Tower was a neat stop.

    The best part was the view at the top of the tower where we were able to look out onto four counties!

    My friend Eliza also saw her first real life deer. An exciting day for all.
    After the tower, we walked a muddy downhill mile (slippery, too, there were quite a few casualties covered in mud by the end) to Broadway Village. Very lovely little place!
  • Stop Two: Bourton on the Water
    Bourton was our next stop and our lunch stop and by one we were all ravenous. Unfortunately we only had 45 minutes for lunch so we didn’t get to walk around too much, but we did discover that the “river” on the main street had Bourton nicknamed the “Venice of Britain.” As for lunch, we opted for fish and chips and oh was it ever the best choice. Yummmm.
     
  • Stop Three: Chavenage House
    Chavenage House was our last stop in the Cotswolds. Chavenage is an Elizabethan era manor house made of Cotswold stone which has Cromwell’s room and has been used for lots of films and television programs.

    What was really neat about it was that the family who owned it still lives there and this kind old man of the family gave us a tour. A was a bit too exhausted by this point to enjoy the long tour, but he was very witty, kooky, told some suggestive stories, and used a pointer to tap everything he showed us. It was neat to this this ancient house still lived in, with pictures of his grandchildren and hundred year old portraits in the same room.

    Then… it was tea time! I, of course, got coffee. And there were scones and we sat by the fire and ahhh, that was a good way to end the day. Plus their pets had free run of the house so we got to pet some pretty (and smelly) puppies!

 

Saturday: Caitlin and I go to Cardiff

My  housemate, Caitlin, and I decided to take a little day trip to Cardiff. We only had a few hours there and I wish we’d been able to see more. Might have to make a second trip! Definitely was not a wasted day. Cardiff was beautiful, it was a lovely day, and we really enjoyed the sights we got to see.

Strange thing about Wales is that Welsh appears to the ignorant English speaker to be, as Caitlin put it, a made up language. The letters do not fit in a way that makes sense to my brain, and looking at the language is so perplexing. For example, the word for ashtray… pft, who needs vowels?

  • Cardiff Castle
    Our first stop the castle and it was beautiful. I’m pretty much just going to post pictures to show all the wonderful things we saw. Highlights: war time tunnels, STEEP STEPS, veterans memorial, living quarters.





  • Our next stop was the National Cardiff museum, but we took our time finding it. We got lunch from a brat vendor but oh my goodness it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten! Mmm currywurst! Afterwards, we walked through some lovely parks.


    The museum was neat, although the Natural History Smithsonian would have put it to shame! Still, a fun browse to finish our afternoon.

    We were both exhausted from the afternoon and caught the next train to Bath. A great outing, and I’d quite like to go back and see Cardiff Bay and some of the other sights.
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Hodge Podge Update

Adjusting to life back in Bath after a week of travelling was strange to say the least. Bath was our home we were all looking forward to resting in, but I’m still awfully homesick for America — Virginia! I came back feeling exhausted but invigorated with a passion for travelling. But of course I had a week’s worth of work I had to do all in one go plus the second round of my internship application due so I was busybusybusy! By the time the weekend came around I was more than exhausted — I was burnt out. It was a rough weekend, feeling like my time here was done and I had no motivation to seek out other opportunities. This week has shaped up much better!

Monday was Guy Fawkes Day (remember remember the fifth of November) which I didn’t hear much about other than the BOOM! of fireworks. So we stood on the bridge down the street and watched the show. Like fourth of July… but freezing in November.

Monday, we went to a free B-side rugby match of Bath versus the Harlequins. Though it was freezing — you could see the breath like a cloud from the players. I pretended they were burly dragons. The game was a blast. Bath was down by about 15 at the half and it wasn’t looking up. But they came back in the last ten minutes to score two tries and they scored the last one in the final minute and oh my goodness gracious I miss playing SO much. I don’t miss the dynamic of the team at UMW and I don’t miss the constant worry about re-breaking my collarbone, but the sport itself? So intense, so dynamic, so great! Plus, it was a nice way to get out of the house, into the Bath community, and reconnect with some of my ASE peers. Note: don’t get the hot chocolate. It was watery milk with a hint of cocoa.

Today is the wee hours of Wednesday morning and the whole house has ELECTION FEVER. Right now I am STRESSED OUT — surprise I’m rooting for Obama. If Romney wins I will be wearing all black in mourning tomorrow. This all nighter is going to be rough, but it’s been nice house bonding. I got American colored drinks, we got McDonalds (now that’s American), and plenty of snacks and panic. Nice to live in an Obama-friendly house!

So, all in all, I’m excited to make the most of my last weeks abroad (crazy how fast it’s going!) and explore and experience while I can. This Friday ASE is taking us an a day trip to the Cotswalds so expect a post this weekend about that!

GOBAMA!

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Fall Break Pt 3 — Prague

Due to poor planning on our part and financial influence, Laura and I only had 24 hours in Prague but we made the most of it! Our train from Berlin to Prague (including drunk Germans at 7am for the five hour train ride) arrived around noon. After deciphering some terrible directions provided by the hostel, we began our first afternoon of sightseeing!

First things we noticed on our walk to the town square was all the BEAUTIFUL architecture. I had no idea Prague was so beautiful.

Our first landmark was the old town hall!

Coolest part — the astronomical clock on the building. HOW COOL?!

Next on our quest was the Staronova Old Synagogue. We figured it’d be a nice break from all the churches we’ve seen! No pictures allowed inside, but the history of the building was fascinating and the room was lovely!

On our search of things to see and do in Prague, Laura and I stumbled upon DOX, a contemporary art museum. Very strange, really hard to navigate, but we saw some beautiful exhibits nonetheless!

On top of the building! Very cool installation.

Laura and I lost steam pretty quickly, it being a long day after a week of travelling and decided to call it a night after a lovely dinner and a beer.

The next morning, our last day before we had to leave for the airport at noon, we got an early morning to see the palace and the castle in Prague! Unfortunately for poor tired us… it also started snowing in Prague… we were very unprepared!

First we walked across the Charles Bridge which was laden with statues across the whole of it.

Then… on to the palace! Though it was rainy and the gardens weren’t as lovely as in better weather, the building itself was so funky and beautiful!

Last stop on our Prague adventures was the GIANT castle. Fantastic views everywhere since it was up on a hill.

Soooo coooooooold.

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