Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What's Sleep?

This past week was alright.  Just kidding!  It was wonderful!  I visited my friend, Mollie, in Sheffield as well as my other friend, Kenzie, in Scarborough.  I felt like I lived on buses and trains, but it was well worth it.  I got to travel to places I didn't think I would want to go to, I got to breathe the fresh and crisp air in the Peak District, and I got to climb very steep hills in Scarborough.  That being said, I'm VERY happy I am back "home" to my lumpy, not so comfortable, but oh so comfortable bed in London.  Anyone who really knows me knows that I can't take naps.  I know it's crazy because I'm a college student, and isn't that what college kids do?  Ya, I missed that memo.  This week though I'm pretty sure I napped on every bus and train ride!  I'm still in shock.  Here is a glimpse of what I did this past week!

On Tuesday I woke up early and caught a train to Sheffield to visit my friend Mollie!  I met Mollie when she was actually studying abroad in Wisconsin last year.  My friend Britni (who I went to highschool with) actually introduced us, and the rest is history!  I've been in communication with Mollie the past couple of months planning a trip to Sheffield, and it finally happened.

I was picked up at the train station in the morning, and Mollie took me right to the Peak District.  Beautiful just beautiful.  I was in awe as we were driving through it.  We climbed a big rock, but it was like a really really big rock.  More like a bunch of big rocks all together, and I got to see an incredible view.  After that, Mollie took me to little villages within the Peak District.  As we were waiting for our food at a little restaurant in a village, this old man came up to the window we were sitting by.  He tapped on the window and held up a live squirrel.  Weirdest thing I have ever seen.  I just felt so awkward, but it was hilarious.  Mollie also took me to the Chatsworth house that's in Pride and Prejudice!  It was okay I guess.  (That was for you Mollie.  Ha!)  Honestly, the house was gorgeous and even the stables were beautiful.  Since I happened to visit on Pancake day, Mollie insisted on going out for pancakes.  Pancake day is a national holiday in the UK where you get to enjoy pancakes literally wherever you go.  I went out with Mollie and some of her friends for pancakes that night, and I was not disappointed.  I ordered the red velvet pancakes with berries, and they were delicious!  All in all, Tuesday was a fantastic day.

On Wednesday, I headed to Manchester!  I was all over the place this past week.  We had an early morning with a fire alarm going off in Mollie's flat, but then I proceeded to sleep for another two hours after it.  When we got to Manchester, I met more of Mollie's friends at a restaurant!  I had breakfast for lunch, but it was so so good.  Eggs benedict anyone?  The rest of the day was spent walking around the city and getting a tour from Mollie.  Manchester was a lot different than I imagined, but it was really cool.  The city is a mix of old and new architecture, which gives it a cool vibe.  I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Manchester.

On Thursday, I unfortunately had to say goodbye to Mollie!  I'm so thankful for her hospitality and for showing me hot cross buns, smarties, and British Kit Kats (Yes, they are better than American Kit Kats).  Our farewell breakfast included fruit, coffee, and of course pancakes!  We ate breakfast two-thirds of the time I was there.  Next stop:  Scarborough.  I arrived, and Kenzie showed me around her quaint little town.  It is the stereotypical seaside city complete with fishermen in their yellow coats and take-away fish and chips on every corner.  It was fantastic, and I loved every second of it.

Friday was quite the interesting day.  I've been sick this whole past week, but somehow Kenzie managed to get me up, got me to walk a mile and half to the train station, and get on a bus and train to Leeds.  We spent part of the day in Leeds, but we weren't really finding what we were looking for.  It's known for shopping, but I just wasn't finding anything!  Since we weren't quite satisfied, we decided to take a train to York!  We had to stop there anyways, and we both enjoyed it a lot more.  I got to do more shopping (more like window shopping), and I went to Betty's tea room.  Even though our plans didn't go as we thought, it ended up being quite the lovely day!

Saturday was one of my favorite days of this past week.  Kenzie and I took a spontaneous trip to Whitby and had so much fun!  When we got off the bus, I noticed the whole town smelt like donuts.  It was magical.  After smelling the donuts for a couple of minutes, I needed to find them.  I needed to.    I even went inside the visitor center to ask... Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds.  After going in a couple of stores, we finally found the donuts!  They were made fresh when we ordered them, and just had to be photographed.  As I was taking a picture of Kenzie with the donut, a seagull almost landed on her head.  It proceeded to chase us until Kenzie finally threw it to the birds.  I'm scarred for life.  Take note:  do not eat donuts by seagulls.  The rest of the day was spent exploring the town, and was spent far far away from any seagull sightings.

Sunday I had to say goodbye to my week of vacation and head back to London.  Bummer right?  Honestly though, it was so nice to spend some time with old and new friends, travel across the country, and just breathe.  I got one nice long walk on Scarborough's shores just before I left, and it was incredible.  The rest of the day was spent traveling back to London and unpacking!  I think I fell asleep around nine that night.  Here's to loads of homework I didn't do and exploring more of London for awhile!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Discovering Dublin

There is one word that can describe me after this past week.  Exhausted.  After bus rides, planes, and a lot of walking, I think I outdid myself.  I had the opportunity to visit Dublin this past weekend, and it sure was an experience.  I didn't get to see the green countryside, but I got to do a lot of exploring within the city itself.  Honestly, a lot of it reminded me of London!  The cobblestoned streets, the pubs on every corner, and the foggy air just looked like London, but on a smaller scale.  It was really nice to explore a new city though!  From visiting the Dublin Castle to walking around Trinity College, Dublin was a city I will remember.     

On Wednesday night, I got to go to the largest IMAX in Europe!  I haven't been to an IMAX in such a long time, so it was a lot of fun.  I got popcorn to eat during the movie, and fun fact, the British don't put butter on their popcorn.  I did miss that aspect of the traditional American movie experience, but nevertheless, I ate my butterless popcorn and enjoyed the movie.  On Thursday night, I got to see the Lion King musical!  The costumes were amazing.  Seriously, I would watch it again purely to see the costumes one more time.  The show ended around 9:30pm, but I got back to my flat around 11pm.  Just in time to finish getting ready to leave for my flight for Dublin at 3am!  See, I told you it was a long week.

I got about two hours of sleep, and got up to get ready for Dublin!  When I say "get ready," it's more like making sure I have my passport and have clothes on.  That early in the morning, I am no where near functioning.  I got to the bus stop with my friends, and the bus arrived just on time!  Security was pretty easy to get through, but I was so surprised with how many people travel that early in the morning.  The place was a zoo.  As we were walking toward our gate, we heard the announcement that our plane was boarding.  Ahhh!  So now we are running through the terminal to get to our gate, but thankfully we made it.

My first official day in Dublin was really wet, but really fun!  Of course I forgot my umbrella, so I had to buy a new one.  It wasn't just lightly raining either, it was full on pouring.  Throughout the day I had my first official Irish breakfast (which included black pudding), visited Trinity College, toured the Dublin Castle, saw St. Patrick's Cathedral, and ate a delicious berry scone.  All in all, it was a fantastic day!  

On Saturday, I got to visit the city of Howth!  Howth is actually pronounced "Hoeth," and is just a little bus ride away from Dublin.  It's situated right on the shore, and reminded me of home a little bit.    I know Lake Michigan isn't an ocean or anything, but sometimes it feels like one!  Walking along the water, enjoying the fresh air, and eating delicious fish and chips was just what I needed.  The view was incredible too!  When I got back to the city after visiting Howth, I visited a cafe I had looked up. I heard the white hot chocolate was the best in Ireland, so I gave it a try.  OH MY GOODNESS.  It was so so so good!  It had ground up almonds and hazelnut in it and was by far the best hot chocolate I had ever had!

 Sunday was my last day in Dublin, and I feel like it mainly consisted of sitting in the airport.  In the morning, my friends and I took a tour of the Guinness Storehouse.  I got to learn how beer is made, what ingredients are in the beer, and even how to drink it!  The only problem being... I don't even drink.  While everyone was reading the signs about the Guinness, I just wanted to get to the top to see the view.  I heard it was amazing, and it definitely was.  I even got a few cokes out of the tour, so I'm not complaining.  I'm pretty sure I'm the first person over the age of eighteen in that room who had never sipped alcohol.  But you know what?  I wouldn't change it for the world.  I took some pictures holding the pint my friend got, but my face is more like, "Oh!  Look at the beer that I didn't drink!"  I was a lot happier when they said we could order soft drinks instead.

As I said before, this past week was crazy.  I took too many buses, wandered around too many streets I didn't know the names of, and ate food I wouldn't usually think of eating.  It was an experience though.  A crazy, fun, scary, and memorable trip!  The thing that I love most about traveling so far is discovering who I have always been.  I know it's cliche to say, but it's true.  I've been tested so many times on what I believe in, what I think is right, and on my character in general.  It's comforting to know that I've gotten to the point where I don't change based on who I'm with and I don't change based on where I am.  I'm simply me.