Archive | September, 2013

Confessions of a European Shopaholic: York Trip

23 Sep

On Saturday I headed to York about two hours north of Harlaxton.  I had heard good reviews of previous students that had gone on the trip and one characteristic of the place definitely stood out.  It has the best shopping.  And those people were right.  York is street after street of shops.

There are high end shops, antique shops, boutiques, and everything you could possibly imagine.  Kristina, Katie, and I just dove in right away weaving through  the streets and going into any store that looked promising.  I found the cutest art shop that sold prints of lots of different art works.  I bought a painting of London that had  the Eye, a double-Decker bus, the bridge, and many other things that I loved oh so much in London.  It looks exactly like the illustrations in a Madeline book which made it all the better.

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I also ended up buying clothes and jewelry from multiple places.  The fashion here is much more sophisticated and put together than in the States. I feel like it’s so much classier and attractive than the shopping at home and I feel like it fits me more than anything in America.  And I’m definitely showing my love for it by buying way too much…. Oh well, I’ll be very well dressed when I get home.

In a couple stores we ended up talking to sales associates who were beyond fascinated with our accents and wanted to talk to us about our language, culture, and other things.  I learned a lot of new things from these people about words used in British I had never heard before.  I learned more about how Americans are depicted as obnoxious and rude, thankfully she said we were the opposite of what she expected.  It is SOOO interesting talking to these people and learning about British culture in such a hands on way.  It’s also really fun to tell people about home and to show them that not all Americans are the same.

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For lunch we stopped by the Blue Fly where again we felt extremely awkward not knowing whether to sit down, how to order, or anything we were supposed to do.  But eventually we figured it out and my chicken and chipotle mayo pita was probably the most delicious thing I’ve had since I left the states.  It gave me just enough energy to keep moving throughout the city shopping and sightseeing.  York also had beautiful castles and cathedrals similar to the ones we had seen the day before.

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By 4:00 I was exhausted and broke so we headed back to the bus to go home…. it was actually the first day I referred to Harlaxton as home.  It was strange and a bit heartbreaking making me feel like a traitor.  But I guess this place really is my home.  My second home.

British Lesson for the Day: A ladybug is called a ladybird.  Isn’t that the cutest thing ever?!

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A Literal Walk Through History: Lincoln Field Trip

23 Sep

So last Friday everyone in Harlaxton was required to take a field trip to Lincoln.  We were told that Lincoln would bring to life many of the concepts we were learning about in our lectures.  And it’s crazy how accurate that is.

First arriving to Lincoln it was a quaint little town lined with shops, cafes, coffee shops, and souvenir stands.  I loved it already.  It had a peaceful, historical vibe that I have never felt in the states.  History was actually created here.  There were pubs in that town that were older than the country I was born in.  It is a surreal feeling being in places like that.  I will never forget it.

My first stop was Lincoln Castle.  Unfortunately most of the site was under construction but I got to see bits and pieces.  The castle itself is from the first century, built by the Romans when they took control of England.  It actually has a wall built around it for defensive purposes and a big grass area in the middle where there used to be a little Roman town where they could live and defend themselves.  I took a walk on the wall and could see basically the whole town from up there.  I tried to imagine what it must have felt like living here, trying to rule a city like this in the FIRST century.  I can’t even wrap my brain around that.SAM_0931

Our second tour was in the Lincoln Cathedral, built by the Normans when they invaded England and took control I think in about the 5th century…. My test isn’t until next week so give me a break.  This cathedral was actually the first Catholic church I have ever been in and it was an amazing experience.  When you step inside you immediately have a new feeling wash over you of serenity and peace and spirituality.  It was an intense visit.  The place is lit by intricate and vibrant stain glass windows. The worship area was huge and beautiful with carvings in the walls and gorgeous archways.

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We also saw in the cathedral multiple tombs of bishops, wives of the monarchs, saints, and many other influential figures.  It was eery in a way but the tombs were beautiful, like everything else.  I also walked around to see the chapter house where the heads of the church would meet and the place where the clergy would be seated during Mass.

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Outside the cathedral we saw the engravings in the walls and the beautiful doorways and archways.  This was another extremely surreal moment when we were looking at these.  One thing that hit me was how much religion and spirituality played a role in these people’s lives.  There were little stories engraved above the doors of the good people being sent up to heaven, while the naked lustful sinners were being dragged down to the devil’s mouth.  It was really creepy and disturbing.  The second surreal moment came when I saw a saint statue on the side of the building beheaded.  This happened during the Reformation when Catholicism was taken out of the country and the church wanted to show their power over the Pope.  It was like history hit me like a ton of bricks.  I’ve been learning about these things my whole life but it didn’t feel real until that moment.  These things really happened.

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Next we went on a Roman walk through town where we saw various Roman remains throughout the city.  I saw a Roman underground well used for “running” water during the time.  I saw a Roman wall used to defend against foreign enemies that cars still drive under today.  I saw the layout of a Roman church that had been engraved into the ground.  And lastly I saw the ruins of a Roman defense building that let people in and out of the city.

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After a quick shopping stop at Primark…. I seriously have an addiction to this place… we hopped back on the bus to make the hour trek back to campus.  It was a tiring and extremely educational day that really made me look back on history with a whole new perspective.

British Lesson for the Day:  The English are much quieter in general than we are.  Our obnoxious laughing and our loud conversations really thrown some of them off. So watch your volume in public places!

I Need New Shoes. London Part Three.

9 Sep

On Sunday morning I will admit… It was hard getting out of bed. My feet hurt to stand on them, my back ached, and I was exhausted. But it was our final day in the city and I was determined not to miss a thing. At 9am we packed our stuff and headed back on the coach buses where we took the hour drive to Hampton Court Palace.

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This palace is where members of the royal family once stayed including King Henry, King William, Queen Mary, Queen Anne, and a whole lot of other people. The palace was also made in two parts. The first is a much older looking half, made in the baroque period. This is where we first walked in and saw different exhibits about King Henry’s life.

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In the second half, built during the Renaissance we saw more of the palace. Parts of it were not available because of a fire that ruined certain floors. The queen reopened certain floors in 1992 but certain parts are still under construction. Here we saw the King’s private apartments, dining rooms, the queen’s bedrooms, and an exhibit on the Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber.

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These rooms were beautiful with gold everywhere, red velvet, huge portraits, and intricate ceilings and walls. It hit me at times that I was literally standing where women in big poofy dresses walking under candlelight went to meet the king. I can’t really describe that feeling but it just isn’t something I’ve ever experienced in the states. I feel like I’m a part of real history here. I’m seeing everything I’ve heard about in history classes that always just sounded like a fairy tale.

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Outside we scoured the palace gardens. This was incredible with fountains, perfectly lined shrubs, and bright beautiful flowers. The sunshine outside made it the perfect morning. I could just imagine the king courting women out there with their parasols. It was pretty stinking cool.

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After the palace we headed across the street to a little town area with food and shops. We stopped at an Italian place with a cranky old very Italian woman that I could barely understand. I ordered a pasta I don’t even know how to pronounce and it was the BEST pasta I have ever experienced. I can’t even wait to see how it is in actual Italy. Before we had to go back to the buses Katie and I went antique shopping where I found really pretty jewelry that I bought to take home. It was a really fun afternoon.

We then took a half hour bus ride to Runny Mede, the location where the Magna Carta was signed. The memorial was very cool but I have to admit I was kinda too tired to really appreciate anything anymore. It was just time to take the three hour bus ride back to the manor. A really big wave of sadness hit me on the drive back leaving London. It was one of the best weekends of my life. I will remember it forever and I hope to be back again and again.

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British Lesson for the Day: In restaurants if you are ready to pay you have to ask sometimes. Otherwise they will leave you sitting there for days.

I’m Feeling Royal. London Part Two.

9 Sep

Early Saturday morning my feet were so sore I think I had least five blisters on each foot. But I was determined to take the city by storm for the second day. And this day was going to the best of days. We were headed to a part of the city shown in every movie and plastered all over every postcard. After breakfast we hit the tube and took a twenty minute ride to the platform labeled Westminster.

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Immediately coming out of the underground I looked up and towering above me was probably the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Big Ben in all it’s glory. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. We quickly hurried around to the front to take pictures but nothing on my camera can really portray it correctly. Attached to Big Ben is the Westminster Parliament Building. This might be the second most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It is so intricately designed and detailed towering above you that it almost doesn’t seem real.

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Across the street is Westminster Abbey, the cathedral. And believe it or not…. Beautiful too. It has tall stained glass windows and amazing stone scenes engraved in the sides. This church is hauntingly amazing.

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Heading through St. James Park, flocked by pigeons, we headed towards Buckingham Palace. Because we were there in time for the changing of the guard, there were THOUSANDS of people there from all over the world. We were crammed into the area by the gate and saw royal guards lining up in front of the palace. Then from across the street a sort of royal guard marching band came in to the gates to stand in line too. They did a lot of marching and yelling and apparently something important. I couldn’t really see but it seemed like an intense process.

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We headed back through the park to the restaurant right in the middle of it for a traditional fish and chips lunch. It was absolutely delicious. My Victorian Lemonade which was a carbonated lemonade with ginger and some other stuff was really good too!!

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After lunch we headed for our school group tour of the Churchill War Rooms. Underneath the treasury building is a whole kind of underground community where Winston Churchill, his workers, his wife, and many others actually worked and lived everyday during World War II. This was when the bombings were intense and Churchill couldn’t safely live above ground. It was really interesting and really sort of eery. It brought the war back to life a little for me.

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It took about an hour for the war rooms and then we headed back to Buckingham for some pictures now that everyone wasn’t crowding the place as much as the morning. Next we walked a few blocks over to the River Thames where we bought our tickets for the London Eye. This a basically a HUGE Ferris wheel that has glass pods that hold about twenty people that goes to overlook the entire city. Being afraid of heights this activity was a struggle for me but I did it all the same. The city looked insanely beautiful from above and I’m glad I faced my fear.

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Heading back to the hotel for dinner we stopped in a telephone booth from some traditional London pictures. The booth smelled horribly like a porter potty but I had to do it. We had dinner at the hotel again and I tackled a roasted chicken, sweet corn, and red pepper pizza. It was different but absolutely delicious. After some Ben and Jerry’s from a vending machine (who knew?) I went straight to bed.

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British Lesson for the Day: You say “pardon” instead of “excuse me”. Don’t be rude!!

Is This Real Life? London Part One.

9 Sep

On Thursday night at 6:30 we all loaded the coach buses to made the two hour trek to the city of London. It wasn’t until we hit the city limits that I started to feel an excitement hit the air. I was excited beyond words but also a little intimidated by this huge city. I had no idea what to expect. Inside the hotel lobby there were so many people all speaking differs languages and I was immediately overwhelmed. My friend Katie and I immediately headed towards our room, a tiny little area with two twin beds and a television. Ready to explore for a little bit we headed with Megan down the street our hotel was on. It was filled with souvenir shops, pubs, cafes, hotels, grocery shops, and everything else imaginable. We checked out some of the souvenir places and then went to find food. Not knowing the area, and seeing as everything was closing, we weren’t sure what to do. In true American fashion we ended up at subway. Not exactly what I pictured my first London meal as, but the drinks had ice so I was content. Afterwards we headed straight for bed to get up early the next day.

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Early Friday morning, after a breakfast at the hotel, we were led by Dr. Kingsley to King’s Cross Station where we were instructed to get on the tube underground transport system. It is basically like the metro link at home but I was still overwhelmed by all the trains and routes and people. About fifteen minutes later we arrived at the Tower of London. It had started raining but in a way it was kind of perfect. I mean…. I was in London. Outside of the tower I realized that it wasn’t just a solitary talk building. It was actually like a village. Anxious to get inside we headed straight for the building that housed the Crown Jewels. Unfortunately we couldn’t take pictures inside but it was breathtaking. I saw royal crowns, dresses, spoons, clocks, swords, and so much more. Next we saw little museums of military weapons, suits of armor, and the burial site of royals such as Anne Boleyn. I even saw my first Royal Guard!! One of the most interesting buildings was the original tower where prisoners were kept. You could even read the messages in the walls they had engraved. It was the most interesting history lesson of my life.

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About two hours later we left the tower, took a quick picture by the London Bridge directly outside, and headed for the tube again. This time we headed straight for Picadilly Circus. I had no real expectations for this Times Square look alike, but it was by far one of the coolest things ever. There were insanely tall buildings with the big scrolling advertisements, a huge Ripley Believe it or Not Museum, tons of shopping and restaurants, and best of all M&M World.

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It sounds silly but M&M Word was one of the coolest things all weekend. It was four floors of M&M souvenirs and products, huge tubes of the candy to fill your own bags, and really cool life size figurines that I took tons of pictures by. After the intense smell of the chocolate we were starving and had lunch at Garfunkel’s.

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Next we decided to tackle Oxford Street, known for being shopping heaven. There were lines and lines of high end shopping stores, none of which I could even afford to step into. But further down we saw H&M’s literally four stories tall. Seeing a Primark a block long and four stories tall, I couldn’t help myself. This place is very very similar to Forever 21 and I picked up a few things for myself.

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With our extremely sore feet we scuffled to the British Museum which is too gorgeous to be just a museum. The place has to be at least a city block long and contains history from Western Europe, Greece, Egypt, North America, and so many more places. I got to see Egyptian mummies, roman ruins, Celtic remains, and tons of places I have been learning about for years. It was amazing to see it all in person.

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At about 7:00 we headed back to the hotel restaurant, scarfed down panini’s and coca cola from glass bottles and hit the bed.

British Lesson for the Day: The roads are tiny. The cars are fast. Walk quickly or you will get run over. Oh and make sure you’re looking the right way before you cross the street.

I have to go to school? Wait, what?

3 Sep

I can’t believe I’ve only been at Harlaxton six days. I feel like I have been here much much longer. I am already becoming accustomed to some sort of routine here and it’s actually starting to feel normal.

I’ve had two days of classes so far and I have to say I am a little intimidated by them. The work seems to be really tough with a lot of papers, presentations, and exams. If I thought I was going to take it easy this semester I was clearly mistaken. My schedule is pretty light comparatively to a semester at Eastern with a British Studies Lecture, British Studies Seminar, The Holocaust Revisited, and A Closer Look at World War One. My lecture class includes the entire school in a huge dining room that has been converted into a very very long classroom. The professors move very quickly and cover a lot of material in a short time. They expect a lot of us here as students. My other classes are all very small with only 10-15 people all in small rooms that have been loosely made into classrooms. It feels strange having class in these beautifully detailed, extravagant rooms.

*One of My Classrooms*
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Otherwise I have just been spending time outside on the lawns enjoying the sunny 70 degree weather, doing homework, and adjusting to meal times. The food here is fine and all, but its definitely an adjustment from the states. Portions are much smaller and the food is not as doctored with seasonings and such. Everything is much more natural and bland. Which I think will be a good adjustment for me as far as my physical health. I have also had to give up soda as they don’t have any in the refectory, restricting me to water, coffee, tea, or orange juice. I have started missing some of my favorite foods at home but this is definitely kick starting a healthier lifestyle for me that I can hopefully take home with me in December.

I have also been adjusting to living in dorms again. I have a really great roommate from Indiana that is kind of shy like me but very easy to get along with. That was such a relief. The dorms here are very clean with new looking furniture, being much nicer than any dorm I had at home. They don’t have air conditioning here, making it a bit hot at times but its not too bad. Overall I enjoy my living space and am learning t appreciate having a place to relax and think on my own.

*My Dorm Room*
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I have been travel planning like crazy, looking forward to trips to Italy and Spain. The staff here is really helpful in planning independent travel and have a lot of great travel books. It can be a tad frustrating planning when you don’t speak that country’s language and have never been there but we are slowly figuring it out. Right now I’m mainly focused on my trip to London this weekend. Ahhhhh!!!! I can’t believe I will actually be in London. I can’t wait to fill you all in on the adventures I have there.

British Lesson of the Day: To “take a shiftie” means to take a quick look at something.

Cheers!