15 8 / 2013

July 19, 2013: London Eye and Westminster Abbey

And so we’ve arrived at our last full day in Paradise. Our first stop was to the London Eye.  Unfortunately, I’m terrified of heights, so I was scared the entire time. You wouldn’t be able to tell that I was scared from the pictures because I’m pretty good at hiding it, but I was pretty freaked out.  The view was beautiful though.  From the top, you could see all of London and probably more.  I loved taking pictures of Big Ben and Parliament, because it’s such a unique building.  We have nothing like it in America, and it’s one of my favorite buildings in London.  But nothing compares to our last stop of the day: Westminster Abbey.  It’s definitely my favorite building in London, and if I was completely in love with the exterior of the building, nothing could’ve prepared me for the inside.  It was too gorgeous for words to express, and it was definitely worth saving for the last place to visit on our trip.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures inside, but as soon as we were able to again, I took more.  The last picture on this post was also the last picture I took in Europe.  I actually didn’t even notice the flag flying above Parliament when I was taking this, but it turned out to be perfect.  I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to my study abroad.

Thank you SO MUCH to our professors.  Y’all made the trip so amazing, and I’m really grateful for your help on the trip.  This has truly been the greatest experience of my life thus far, and I loved every second of it.  I already miss it here, but I have to say goodbye. So, until next time, Europe…


15 8 / 2013

July 17, 2013: STONEHENGE!! Oh, and Avebury and Lacock.

At this point, our trip is coming to an end at this point; only a few days left in Europe! It’s a little bittersweet.  I’m ready to go home, but I know I’ll miss Europe terribly. 

Our first stop of the day was Stonehenge, which I LOVED.  It’s one thing to see it as a kid, but another thing entirely to see it as an adult.  I’m so sad that I saw these things when I was too young to have the appreciation for them that I have now.  Although I am so grateful to have the opportunity to see this structure again more than 10 years later.  I really enjoyed hearing all of the different myths that surround this site.  The rocks themselves are completely amazing to look at.  It will never be known for sure how the rocks came to be placed there or what exactly they were used for, but they will always be a marvel to see. 

While people have some sort of an idea what Stonehenge could’ve been used for, Avebury (pictures 4 & 5) is a complete mystery.  Our group started calling it a track for sports, but that’s a completely random guess.  No one has any idea why the stones are there at all.  It was pretty cool to look at, but a lot of the stones have either been covered up by people or completely eroded away over time.  It was really bizarre to me that a place like this exists, and that people are completely clueless as to what it could be.  I guess it’s up for anyone’s interpretation.

Our last stop today was to Lacock.  I LOVED it, because part of the Lacock Abbey (sixth picture) was used as inspiration for Hogwarts in Harry Potter! And I’m a HUGE Harry Potter fan.  In fact, they also filmed Harry Potter’s parents’ house here (seventh picture)!!!! Everyone was pretty excited about that.  Everyone that loved Harry Potter, at least.  Near the Potter house, we came across this beautiful chapel (pictures 8 & 9) which we all sat down in for about 10 minutes because we were all pretty tired at this point.  Then it was off to the stocks, because why wouldn’t you want to take a picture inside all the stocks that you could find?  I think I have three pictures of myself locked inside stocks.  I guess I really like to look sad and imprisoned. 

The tour around the countryside ended, and so did our visit to Bath.  We left that afternoon and happily returned to our apartments in London.  We all enjoyed Bath though! It was definitely a nice break from everything.

14 8 / 2013

July 16, 2013: A walk in the Roman Baths

Today we went to Bath, England.  We did several things today, including William Herschel’s house (first picture), Jane Austen’s house (second picture), and the Roman Baths.  We wandered around for awhile trying to find Herschel’s house, but when we finally got to there, it was actually really cool!  It wasn’t a very popular place, but it was definitely worth seeing. 

A few of us went to Jane Austen’s house, and they had this really creepy figure of her standing in front of it.  So, of course, we all took pictures with her.  I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice, so I actually bought it while we were there.  I thought that was pretty cool, since an actual tour of her house was almost 20 pounds, and none of us wanted to spend that much money.  I recently started reading the book, and I’m really glad that I bought it. It’s a pretty enjoyable book to read, especially if you’re into romance novels.

My favorite part of the day was the Roman Baths.  It looked amazingly like it did when the Romans actually used the baths.  The renovations on it were incredible.  My favorite picture was the one looking up at the cathedral next to the baths from the lower story of the baths (second to last picture).  It was all so beautiful, and I really loved how the workers tried to make it look as though you were visiting the baths during Roman times.  It was a really incredible experience.  I went to the baths when I was 7 or 8, and comparing the pictures between now and then, the baths now look like they have really been improved (that, or the picture quality from when I was a kid just wasn’t that great).  The baths were a really awesome experience for me, because I know we went when I was younger, but I don’t remember it at all.  Now, I actually am able to remember the experience and not take it for granted.


14 8 / 2013

July 14, 2013: Guinness Factory!

Okay, well, I was the only one in our group who actually likes Guinness, so I think I was the most excited one for today.  The factory tour was pretty cheap, and I got a free pint of Guinness at the end of the tour, so that was pretty awesome (last picture).  It was a self-guided tour, but it was really easy to find our way around the place.  It was actually really interesting to see the work that has been put into the production of Guinness since its creation.  The neatest part of the tour was going up to the Gravity Bar, where you could see all of Dublin and then some.  We also had a choice between a free pint of Guinness or a free soft drink.  Needless to say, I was the only one who got a Guinness.

The tour was pretty awesome, but it was really the only thing we did today.  Other than that, we just walked around and toured the city.  We leave really early in the morning tomorrow, so there won’t really be anything to blog about.

Until next time,


13 8 / 2013

July 13, 2013

Today we went on a bus tour of the Irish countryside (the first picture was taken from the bus).  My favorite place of the day was Glendalough (pictures 2-7).  It was a long abandoned Monastic City and they recently built a hotel nearby.  The area was so beautiful.  We all just wanted to stand there as long as possible to look at the beauty of everything around us.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  It was just so gorgeous, pictures can’t do it any justice. 

Our second stop was to Kilkenny.  We were all so excited to see Kilkenny Castle, because we all thought it would still look the way it did in medieval times.  We arrive only to find out that the castle has been renovated about 5 times since the 1200s, which made all of us pretty upset.  The castle was almost completely rebuilt by nobles between the 1700s and 1800s, and now looks nothing like we were hoping it to look.  It was still really interesting, but it wasn’t what we were expecting.  Plus, the castle is in the middle of a fairly large city, so there were people everywhere.  I was hoping it would be somewhere in the countryside with a beautiful view similar to Glendalough, but it wasn’t anywhere close to that.

We then made our way to a chapel that was on a hill not far from the castle (last picture) it was really nice, but nowhere near as beautiful as some of the places we saw in England, such as the chapel in Oxford.

We got back to Dublin around 6:30 in the afternoon and almost immediately went to bed.  It was a really long day and we were all pretty exhausted from the trip.

13 8 / 2013

July 12, 2013: Free tour around Dublin!

Today we got to go on a free tour around Dublin! Our tour guide was pretty attractive, so all the girls were talking about it through the entire three hour tour (you can see him in the second to last picture. He’s the one with the red lanyard around his neck).  Our first stop on the tour was to the Dublin Castle.  You had to pay to go on a tour of the actual castle, so we just walked around the outside and our guide explained its historical significance.  According to the guide, the castle used to be a prison and only one person has ever been recorded to escape and survive. 

The blue castle in the second picture is actually part of the Parliament building, and our guide was telling us that President Obama had actually visited about a month before we got there and lived in that building during his stay.  The shirt that says craic (pronounced “crack”) dealer was probably one of the funniest things we saw all day.  Craic in Gaelic actually means “fun,” so everyone in the group thought it was hilarious. 

Around the middle of the tour, we stopped in the Temple Bar area (fourth picture) for a break to get water and a snack.  Toward the end of the tour, we saw the thinnest building in Dublin (second to last picture).  It’s the skinny, grey building smashed in-between the two orange-ish buildings.  One of the last things on our tour was to make fun of the Spire (last picture).  When the Irish government had a lot of money to spend for absolutely no reason, they had an art competition to decide what would be placed in that area where the Spire now stands.  Somehow, this piece of art won the competition and the government paid about 4 million euros to have this thing created.  Everyone in Dublin hates it.  They think it is the dumbest monument ever created because it has no purpose whatsoever. You can’t go in it, it’s not in memory of anyone, it’s just for aesthetic purposes.  Unfortunately, it isn’t very aesthetically pleasing, so the town has come up with some great names to describe this piece of art work.  The less vulgar ones include: The Needle, The Spike, The Stiletto in the Ghetto, and The Nail in the Pale.  My personal favorites were: The Erection at the Intersection, The Stiffy on the Liffey (since the Spire sits off the River Liffey), and the Floozie in the Jacuzzi.

In other words, nobody in Dublin likes the Spire.  NOBODY.  It’s actually really hilarious how embarrassed they are of it.  The tour was awesome though; we all really enjoyed it.  It was a really great way of learning our way around Dublin, which turned out to not be a big city at all.  It wasn’t as nice as London, but it was still a pretty interesting city!

12 8 / 2013

July 11, 2013: Our little trip to Ireland

And so began our trek to Dublin, Ireland!  We boarded the train and headed to Holyhead, Wales for the first leg of the journey.  On the way there, we passed by this beautiful beach (picture 1) and an amazing castle (picture 2).  I desperately wanted to go to a castle just like this one, because it’s everything I pictured a medieval castle to look like. When we got to Holyhead, we boarded our ferry which would take us directly to Dublin.  The ferry was incredibly nice, which we weren’t expecting at all.  The ferry ride took about 3 hours, but it was definitely worth it.  It was a really nice experience and gave us time to nap before we got to Ireland, and naps are always welcomed.  

We finally arrived in Dublin around 5:30 in the afternoon, and the city was really nice.  The area we stayed in was slightly sketchy, but it wasn’t bad.  The last three pictures are of the River Liffey.  The second to last one is the “Skyscraper of Ireland”.  Apparently, it is against the law to build a building taller than 14 stories in Ireland, and this “skyscraper” is the tallest building in the country, standing at exactly 14 stories high.  The last picture is of the Custom House.  It was probably the nicest building we saw all day.  Our first day in Ireland wasn’t very exciting, but at least we all got there in one piece!

12 8 / 2013

July 9, 2013

We did so much on the 9th, it was going to make one really long blog post if I did it all together.  So in an attempt to keep my sanity and yours, I’m splitting it into two different posts.  Throughout the day we visited three colleges and two museums, but this is the museum post. We also visited The Eagle, which is a pub in Cambridge where Watson and Crick announced their discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.  The pub had a beer on tap called Eagle DNA, which was created to commemorate the discovery.  We didn’t try the beer, but we did eat a dessert platter which was comprised of four Belgian waffles, four pear slices, two large scoops of ice cream, a brownie, and chocolate and caramel dipping sauce.  It was delicious to say the least. 

We then made our way to the museums.  The Whipple was first on our list, since it was only open for two hours (which was the strangest thing to us) for the entire day.  They had a variety of telescopes and other scientific devices, including Charles Darwin’s microscope (fourth picture)! They had a really interesting computer program set up that showed you all of the different artifacts in the museum, when they were used, and what they were used for.  My favorite thing about the museum was learning about all the different medical tools and how people thought they could cure others by using the most bizarre methods, such as bleeding. 

The next museum we saw was the Fitzwilliam Museum (pictures 5-7), where I got lost.  I spent too long looking at a picture, and found myself separated from the group.  It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I got to look at everything without feeling rushed, which was nice.  The best part about this museum was the medieval section which was filled with suits of armor and knights riding fake horses.  That period of history fascinates me (which is probably why I’m obsessed with the show Game of Thrones), and I loved that the museum had an entire room dedicated to it.

After this, we ended our day.  It was definitely one of the longest days I’ve had so far because we did so much walking and saw so many different things.  It was also one of the most interesting days of the trip, and I really enjoyed it.  We left early the next morning, because we were all completely exhausted and were ready to head back to London.  Cambridge was fun, but we really wanted to get back home and just rest.

12 8 / 2013

July 8-July 10, 2013

Wearrived in Cambridge on the afternoon of the 8th, so we didn’t have much time to explore.  We ate dinner at the closest pub to Churchill College (where we stayed for three days), and then played cards and watched movies until we were too tired to do anything else.  The view from my dorm window was really nice to see every morning (first picture), but the lack of air conditioning wasn’t too exciting.  It reminded me of how miserable dorm life at MSU was at the beginning of fall semester. Blek.

On the 9th, we did a little more exploring.  We went to three different colleges (Trinity College, Queen’s College, and King’s College) and two different museums (the Whipple Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum).  Our first stop was to Trinity College (second picture), which was absolutely beautiful.  We were all talking about how much we loved the grounds and how we wished we had something similar at MSU.  The only place we were allowed to go was the large courtyard right after you enter the college, but it was still really cool to see how it looked. 

Queen’s College was not far from Trinity, so we went there next (pictures 3-5).  The bridge in picture 3 was called the Mathematical Bridge, and it was probably the weirdest, yet most unique bridge I’ve ever seen.  Below the bridge, you can see people punting.  We didn’t have the chance to go, but everyone who went said it was really fun.  Of course, we had to take a really awkward picture while we were there, because, well, why not?  I think we have at least one picture like this from every place we went, because it was entertaining for us and everyone else around us.  Queen’s was the only college where we could actually go into the different buildings.  The library was under construction, so we weren’t able to go inside, but the courtyards were beautiful (fifth picture).

Our last college of the day was King’s College (pictures 6 & 7), which was my personal favorite.  The chapel when we first walked in was so beautiful, I’ve never seen anything like it.  Unfortunately, the choir wasn’t singing while we were there, but it was still magnificent.  The stained glass windows and organ were so amazing, I could’ve looked at them all day.  I wish so badly that we had places like this in the US.  So many people in America have never seen things like this, and I’m so fortunate that I have been able to see the things I’ve seen.  Not surprisingly, the courtyard at King’s College was beautiful.  The grass was perfectly groomed and the plants were so vibrant and amazing to look at. These colleges were incredible, and a part of me wishes that MSU had a few places on campus that looked just as elegant and beautiful.

12 8 / 2013

I got to sleep in today!!!! It wasn’t the highlight of my day, but it was close.  We didn’t do very much, but we went to Buckingham Palace, the Horse Guard, and Camden Market.  Buckingham Palace was beautiful, but I was kinda sad that the guards were so far away from the palace.  The last time I went, I remember the guards being outside the gates of the palace, but that was a fairly long time ago.  The Horse Guard was really cool because we got to stand next to the guards and have our picture taken. I’m also obsessed with horses, so this was amazing for me!  We went to Camden Market in the late afternoon and walked around for awhile.  It was a really neat place. I was actually able to talk down the price for a scarf that I bought there, which made me feel so empowered.  Today was a really nice, relaxed day of just walking and enjoying London.  We leave for Cambridge in the morning, so that should be exciting!  (: