Edinburgh

Unsurprisingly, between my week days cramped with classes and my weekends consumed with travel, I have fallen quite far behind in my blog. In celebration of my wonderful mother’s birthday today, I thought I would take a few moments to share some more of my traveling experiences with her at home. 

My first trip outside of the country of England was to Edinburgh, Scotland. Confusingly enough, the city is pronounced “Edinborough” by visitors, and even more confusingly “Edinburah” by the locals. After a couple of months of living in the UK, I’ve gained a better grasp on the pronunciation, but you try to keep track of where people are visiting when there are three different names for one city! I have a new found appreciation for visitors of Louisville.. I’ll try to keep Edinburgh in mind when I call out people who insist on saying “Looeyville” or even worse, “Lewisville,” once I return to the bluegrass in May!

Fortunately, Edinburgh is relatively close compared to many of the places I have traveled this semester. It only took a four hour train ride! This being our first independent trip of the semester, it did come with it’s fair share of trails and tribulations though. We began our trip with a stop at the great KFC, which is extremely popular here in the UK, for a nostalgic dinner from home before we set off. From this stop, the two male travel companions of the group were determined they knew a short cut to the train station… I hope you see where this story is leading us. Shocker! Our group of six quickly got lost in Grantham city, finding ourselves in a small subdivision where we came across one of our professors who gave us a heartbreaking reply that the train station was still far off. With a point in the right direction, the quickest speed walking we’ve ever done, and all the girls in the group biting their tongues, we reached the train station with only a minute to spare. To all my male readers, please learn to ask for directions!

Our late night arrival at the hostel was exciting, as this was our first true experience in the grimy and too public hostels we had heard so much about! Our hostel room of 10 beds was named “The Solar System Room,” with each bed having a planet name. Disappointingly enough, I was given the Moon, the only non-planet bed in the room! Despite that minor set back, and our Chinese roommates who seemed to only need two hour increments of sleep, waking us up with every entrance and exit, I loved our hostel! It was a great introduction to the hostel life I’ve been living on my travels ever since. 

Much of our day in Edinburgh was rainy and cold, but we still managed to see much of the beautiful Old City side of this Scottish capital. We began the day hiking Arthur’s Seat, a group of volcanic crags, at 6:00 AM to watch the sun rise over the city. Hiking up muddy hills in the dark was no easy task, but the view at the top was well worth it. 

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View from the top of Arthur’s Seat before sunrise

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After the sun rose on Edinburgh City

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After cleaning ourselves up, we attempted to visit the Edinburgh Castle, but the unending rain and steep entry charge kept us from entering. The rest of our day consisted of finding neat places to escape the weather, including the Elephant House, a cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter novel. We stopped into the Central Library of Edinburgh for an exhibit on the Scot’s contributions to the World from A-Z. Random fact: The Scots invented Marmalade! Another place that caught our attention and kept us dry was the Writer’s Museum, which primarily focused on the lives of Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, and Rabbie Burns. This weekend to Scotland was superbly timed actually, unbeknownst to us, as it fell on the day the Scottish celebrate Robert (Rabbie) Burns, the national poet of Scotland. The day before our trip, we celebrated our own Harlaxton Burn’s Night with traditional Haggis, Scotch Whiskey, and performances of Rabbie’s poems and songs (ex. Auld Lang Syne). Being able to continue our celebration with the Scots that weekend was a pleasant surprise of our visit. Our last stops of the day were to the National Museum of Scotland, possibly the most massive museum I’ve ever visited, ending with a typical college drink in the Library Bar of the University of Edinburgh. 

Although it was a quick and wet visit, our trip to Scotland was nearly perfect! Our train ride home was even serenaded by old Scottish men drunkenly singing in the early AM, in between jabs at each other’s wives of course, all while I gazed upon the beautiful Scottish countryside. I would say we achieved a fairly authentic experience of our first country outside of England! Look below for some more pictures of my favorite sites we saw along the way. I’ll try to be more timely with my posts, so keep a look out!

Cheers,

Grace

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Edinburgh Castle

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University of Edinburgh (est. 1583) Library Bar

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The Elephant House (birthplace of Harry Potter)

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Lunch at The Elephant House, just like J.K. Rowling!

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Allie and I in the National Museum of Scotland, dressed as Vikings of course!

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Scott Monument, dedicated to Sir Walter Scott

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Bank of Scotland, easily my favorite building in Scotland!

 

 

 

 

London

There is no way to fully describe the magical weekend I had in London. I’ve never seen a place with such beautifully massive buildings, crowds of rushing people of all different cultures, and still room for breathtaking parks and monuments. Each turn has something new to witness, both historic and modern. This city seems to have it all. We arrived on Thursday night, and true to British weather, in the pouring rain. Allie and I walked around for a few hours to get accustomed with the city, but the only benefit of this rainy outing, was a stop at a local drugstore to pick up some candy. I was joyfully reacquainted with my favorite candy from my trip to Ireland nearly 5 years ago! I thought I would never have another Crunchie bar, especially as I haven’t come across a chocolate covered honeycomb candy in the States. 

On Friday, Allie and I took a walking tour from Russell Square to essentially all of London (at least that’s what my feet were telling me). At the beginning of our tour, Allie had some difficulties with her contacts, which led to our biggest tourist blunder in London. In summation, Allie accidentally bought hard contact cleaner, instead of soft contact solution, resulting in some serious eye pain for Allie. After we realized the mistake, we made a detour back to the hotel to retrieve Allie’s glasses, and retrospectively, the memory of us trying to relieve Allie’s burning eye in the corner of a British convenient store will remain our most hilarious excursion while in London.

We ventured to many of the more popular sites in London, including Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Calvary Museum, Oxford Street, National Gallery, and more. One of my favorite experiences of the day was stumbling upon the opportunity to receive Holy Communion in Westminster Abbey. We were able to enter the Church without paying for admission, but more importantly experienced a profoundly meaningful religious moment in one of the most famous churches in the world. The following picture is the portion of the Church we were able to receive communion in.

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Afterwards, Allie and I found the half price ticket booth for musicals showing in London. I was able to find a super cheap ticket for Wicked showing later that night. My very first time taking the London tube (underground subway) was alone on my way to see the show. I’ve never been more nervous in my life, as I had to learn how to use the tube, navigate my route, find the theatre, and return back to the hotel at 11 PM all on my own. It was a rewarding experience, and seeing Wicked in one of London’s massive theaters was well worth the stress.

Saturday morning I joined many of my classmates for a tour of Sigmund Freud’s home in London, now a museum dedicated to him and his daughter’s work. As the ‘Father of Psychoanalysis’ I was excited to learn more about the man with so many interesting and bizarre theories, who I’ve learned about in my Psychology classes. Allie and I then made our trip to what was our most exciting discovery in London: the Borough Market. This food market had endless booths of food, drinks, and sweets from nearly every culture and country. After buying Pad Thai and Turkish Delight, Allie and I joined many of the market’s customers eating in the courtyard of the Southwark Cathedral next door. Now my favorite spot so far on my European excursion, the Borough Market included the diversity, rushed crowds, historic buildings, and endless amounts of food that characterized much of London. 

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by Buckingham Palace, which has the most beautiful golden gates! It was a great place for photos, so I will let the following pictures speak for themselves.

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Our last excursion for the night was a trip down Bond Street at twilight. Allie and I gawked at the beautiful jewelry, clothing, and accessories as we passed Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Harry Winston, Tiffany & Co, etc. All the most expensive designers were lined up for blocks, with each store guarded by burly security men (who all seemed to get a laugh out of Allie and I’s awestricken faces). We didn’t dare enter any of the stores, as any item in them cost more than our tuitions no doubt, but it was still a perfect ending to our weekend in London. 

On our way back to Grantham the next morning, the Harlaxton Coach made a stop at Hampton Court, the home of King Henry VIII and other English royalty. The castle is massive, and incredibly interesting. The courtyard was extensive, including a maze, the longest grape vine currently living, and acres of greenery. Allie and I grabbed a very British lunch of fish and chips before heading back onto the couch, and back to our home in Harlaxton Manor. 

The pictures we took seem to outnumber the stars, but I’ve included my favorites from the weekend below. Classes this week are dismal in comparison to this past weekend, but their end will be welcomed by our short weekend trip to Edinburgh, Scotland on Friday. 

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Cheers,

Grace

First Day of Class

Monday, January 13, began my first day of classes at Harlaxton. Although my classes won’t be taking place in Bowling Green, KY this semester, I can still manage to show my WKU pride. I wonder all the places my WKU red towel will see throughout the term. Keep in touch to find out!

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The most difficult things to assimilate to in the UK have been time and currency. You should see me try to pay for anything with change! I’m surprised I haven’t been ripped off by employees, as I’ve been shoving my hand full of change at them in hopes they can help me sort through the pence and pounds. I’m hoping to fully immerse myself in the culture, which unfortunately means military time. Between converting PM times to my 12 hour clock mind, and subtracting 5 hours for my friends and family at home, I managed to call my parents at 7:30 AM, oops! 

My trip into Grantham, the town 10 minutes outside Harlaxton, was the epitome of a stupid tourist moment. My friend, Erica, and I’s mission was to buy a railcard. The process of finding the train station, achieving the railcard, and returning to the bus station was nearly impossible, but incredibly exciting. The difficulties we had in Grantham, a small English-speaking town, makes me nervous for the big cities with foreign languages I am soon to visit! One such touristy blunder I experienced that afternoon trip was ordering a cup of coffee at the local shop, and receiving this mini excuse for a cup instead. Image

One aspect of the UK that has not been hard to adjust to has been being legal to drink. Skipping the three months I have to wait until my 21st birthday was a pleasant plus of studying abroad in Europe. The picture below is a photo of my first legal drink in the UK! 

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I leave for London in just a few hours, and can’t wait to share the adventure of my first big British city with you all! For now here is my favorite photo to date of the beautiful Harlaxton Castle.

Cheers!

Grace

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Harlaxton Manor

Harlaxton Manor

 

It’s hard to believe this beautiful English Manor will be my home for the next four months. It seems I will need every minute of my time here though if I hope to master the unlimited hallways, ballrooms, and winding staircases. Each doorway seems to introduce a new story of the extensive history of the castle, built in 1837. Wish me luck as I wonderfully get lost on my daily walks throughout the Harlaxton Estate.

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