Category Archives: England Study Abroad

Worldly Wednesday: Madrid

This week’s Worldly Wednesday takes us to Madrid!  Madrid was one of my favorite cities that I visited and I had such a great time there with friends.  Continuing my trend of recapping the trip by photos…

Football: We decided last minute to attend an Atlético football match and had a fantastic time.  We had nosebleed seats but felt the energy of the game surrounded by many enthusiastic fans.  I also scored a children’s jersey on sale as a souvenir from the game.  It was a nice warm day as well so it was great being able to enjoy the sunshine and the game.

Retiro Park: I’m seen here attempting to row the boat on the pond at Retiro Park.  We only had about half an hour out on the pond as we had to switch AirBnBs and were short on time.  But, it was so relaxing and was something less touristy that made us feel immersed in daily Spanish life.  We had sangria and sandwiches before going out on the pond and again just enjoyed the beautiful weather.

Royal Palace/other touristy sites: We did not go into the Royal Palace but did take photos outside.  We also hit up the traditional touristy sites such as the Prado Museum and Plaza Mayor.

Madrid was our first trip away from England and so we weren’t sure what to expect but things went very smoothly and our adventures for the semester were off to a fantastic start.

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Worldly Wednesday: Amsterdam

An old posting series is returning!  Worldly Wednesday will highlight my travels while I was studying abroad last semester.  Our first destination is Amsterdam in the Netherlands.  Amsterdam was not on my list of places I had to visit but I am very glad my friend and I decided to go for a four day weekend there. In connection with my photos, here are my thoughts on the city…

The Brightly Colored Sandwich:  Yes, I could get a sandwich anywhere.  But, my friend found this wonderful breakfast restaurant in her guidebook called Omelegg.  I highly recommend eating at this quaint spot in the Red Light District but you will probably have to wait outside.  We also ate at a cafe called Blushing for two meals that had delicious sandwiches as well.  I did not know what type of food to expect but overall our meals in Amsterdam exceeded my expectations.

The Canals: Amsterdam is known for its canals and it was especially pretty when we visited in the fall with the foliage changing colors.  We took a canal cruise as well which I recommend as we were able to take a break from walking all day and hear about the history of the city with the audio guide. If you have a map, it is a very walkable city and we walked all around each day, sometimes from one end of the city to another.  We would count how many canals to cross to keep our sense of direction.

The Clogs: My friend ended up purchasing some clog slippers during the trip but I just enjoyed browsing at all of the different stores.  It was interesting to see the many clog variations and see how each retailer used the shoe.

The Museums: We visited the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and of course the Anne Frank Museum during our weekend.  The Rijksmuseum was neat and very large.  The famous I Amsterdam sign is in front of the museum.  The Van Gogh Museum is a must do but make sure to go before it gets too crowded and buy tickets ahead of time.  I couldn’t go to Amsterdam and not visit the Anne Frank Museum, especially since my friend and I had done a project on Anne Frank for our English class the semester before.  We were not able to get tickets in advance, but that morning at breakfast I checked online and a few slots opened up.  So, I used my international data and got us in.  It was such a moving experience to be able to see where Anne Frank hid and now I’m inspired to re-read her diary.

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Three More Museums and Bond

I am not in London anymore as I start classes tomorrow at University in Northern England.  But, I have a few more London posts to catch up on as my blogging as been a bit sparse the past month or so!  Sorry about that!

We visited the Imperial War Museum, which I actually really enjoyed.  The museum had extensive sections on both World Wars with many artifacts arranged in an easy to follow layout.  This was the first museum that our professor told us we could explore on our own and just leave when we were done as long as we spent a reasonable amount of time there.  I figured I would be done after an hour, but I ended up staying for about two and a half hours.  The Real to Reel exhibit was the highlight of the trip for me.  You had to pay an extra fee to get in, but we had some money to use as an educational fund so I was reimbursed for the exhibit.  I spent almost an hour just looking through the movie artifacts from Casablanca, Saving Private Ryan, and more.  Walking around felt like I was in the Great Movie Ride a little and they even juxtaposed scenes from the Normandy Beach landing on a television screen with the landing scenes in films.  The exhibit was also fairly empty, probably because you had to pay extra and it was a weekday.

img_1135The next museum was the Science Museum, which I actually had to do a presentation on after the field trip.  I visited this museum with my family last summer and this visit was unfortunately not as enjoyable as I had to rush through to see as many exhibits as possible to highlight in my presentation.  You could easily spend a couple of hours here though and the museum is very kid-friendly.

I also took a trip to the Disney Store on Oxford Street this week because I stumbled upon it and had to go in of course.  I was looking for a London Tsum Tsum but unfortunately the cast member said that New York and Hawaii have them but not London yet.  I was very disappointed.  I still ending up buying a souvenir though and so did my two friends because you just can’t walk into a Disney Store and leave empty handed.  I found out that this is the largest store in Europe, but it is nowhere near as large as Times Square (but just as packed).

The other field trip of the week was to the Bond Vehicle Exhibit in Covent Garden.  I went here on a Saturday with a few friends and the exhibit made me really want to watch all of the Bond movies.  I will definitely have to start watching one a weekend of something!  We saw cars, motorcycles, and random memorabilia from the movies.  I saw Q’s ID from Skyfall which was neat but of course the cars were the best part.  And they had the movie scenes playing behind the cars, helping visitors to contextualize when the cars made an appearance.

I have one more week in London to recap and then I’ll almost be caught up to the present!  Plus hearing about a boring orientation week isn’t too interesting and classes start tomorrow so I have to draw out my exciting travel posts from London, Spain, and Germany!

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Greenwich, Gin, and Gulls

img_0949Well the title is an alliterative quick summary of the past week here.
Last Wednesday we went to Greenwich (not the preppy Connecticut town, but the one here in England) to the National Maritime Museum.  The museum had a variety of exhibits, but I enjoyed seeing Nelson’s coat from the Battle of Trafalgar
the most.  img_0945 It was the one he was wearing when he got hit, and then later died from the wound.  They also had his blood stained stockings.  It’s a bit crazy how blood stained stockings have been saved for more than two hundred years.    img_0975
On Thursday, we took a toimg_0978ur of the Beefeater Distillery Tour.  We definitely were able
to see more when we toured the apple cider mill in France and I believe we did as well at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.  We did see much on this tour other than the ingredients they use to make the gin.  They gave us a free gin and tonic but I was not a huge fan.

img_0983Sadly for Friday, I couldn’t come up with word beginning with “g” for our Sherlock Holmes walking tour.  We saw different sites all around the city and heard about how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published the short stories in the Strand magazine, which then made the magazine very popular.  One of my classmates mentioned “The Great Mouse Detective” on the tour and now I really want to watch the movie again!  The voice of Sherlock Holmes in the movie is actually voiced by an actor who went on to play Sherlock Holmes in many different mediums and his name is Basil Rathbone.  And we learned about the origins of Holmes’ hat and pipe.

Our second all day field trip was on Saturday and we took the train to Brighton where we saw sea gulls.  img_0993The day started out sunny and bright when we arrived at the beach town.  We had a few minutes to take photos of the beach before we started our sewer tour.  Yes, sewer tour.  Sewer tours are a thing and supposedly you have to book them way in advance because they are so popular.  I was shocked that vacationers actually did this.  Our professor had signed us up so we had no choice.  img_0996We wore hard hats and gloves (because there are rats in the sewers…yay).  First, the workers/tour guides gave us a quick introduction about the sewers and we saw a short film.  They gave us advice to take a deep sniff to numb our senses as we walked in but it did not really help.  We walked through different overflow areas (which had been hosed off before the tour but just use your imagination on how well that worked).  After an hour and a half, we were ready to head back into the sunshine so we climbed a staircase and we emerged from a manhole (like Amy Adams does in Disney’s Enchanted).  You should’ve seen people’s faces walking by as they asked what we were doing and we said “a sewer tour.”  After the tour, we had a pub lunch where I had a good pulled pork sandwich.  My friends and I then went shopping around town and stopped for ice cream, but unfortunately the weather had turned and it was now pouring.

I spent Sunday meeting up with family friends and going on a tour around London led by a family friend/connection and that was really fun.  I walked 11.68 miles on Sunday!    Monday, we went to the Alexander Fleming Museum at St. Mary’s Hospital (where many members of the royal family have been born).  This hospital looked very old and different from the hospitals I’ve seen back home.  We couldn’t believe that royals had been born here.  The museum was up a few flights of windy stairs and not air conditioned.  The last week or so has been brutal without air conditioning, especially when you are listening to a tour guide or packed in with lots of Londoners on the tube.

Yesterday, we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is my favorite museum in London but unfortunately our tour guide got the time mixed up so we started the tour late and were all hot and exhausted.  I am hoping to head back to the museum if I have time this weekend, since I was not able to see much.  I met up with two friends from high school who are also studying abroad in London for dinner and we got a great deal at an Italian restaurant with 10 pounds for two courses and wine!

Hope everyone’s week went well!

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Bank of England and A Visit to the Countryside

Thanks everyone for reading about all of my museum visits and following along during my time in London. Enjoy the exciting posts now because once I get to the university in October, I do not think my daily life will be as thrilling!

On Monday we had an afternoon free, as yesterday was an all day field trip and our professor offered to give us some time off before the busy day.  So Monday afternoon, I went to the Bank of England to exchange some old notes.  I also went to the Bank of England Museum.  This Museum was very well done.  I read through (almost) everything in 45 minutes but it was very interactive and made the financial system easy to understand.

I was able to touch a gold bar as well which was neat and they had how much it was currently worth in pounds right above the gold.  I touched gold worth 350,000 GBP!  The museum is free, easy to get to, and was not crowded.  I would definitely recommend visiting this museum.

Yesterday we had our all day visit to Faversham in Kent.  We took an early train out of London Victoria and headed into the countryside.  I slept (as I always do in any sort of vehicle) but kept an alarm because unlike my summer trains into the city and back, I was not getting off at the last stop.  We started off the day a little tired and wondering how this all day trip was going to be.  Surprisingly, I did not look up anything about where we were going ahead of time.

When we arrived in Faversham, we walked to the Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre.

This centre exceeded my expectations.  I thought it would be a small exhibit that we would spend at most an hour at before going to lunch.  However, the Centre took up three older houses and we split into a few groups so that tour guides could lead us through the exhibits.  The centre is very hands on with a record player we could adjust, rotary telephones to call each other on, and air raid helmets we were able to try on.  The items here go back to the spearheads of the ancient times all the way to the World Wars.  The tour guide even sounded an air raid siren for us.  We heard a variety of stories from a woman who murdered her husband on the 7th attempt and dragged him through the snow and was immediately discovered as her footsteps gave her away, to a story on a real life pirate.  Our tour guide was fantastic, as were the rest of the guides for the day. We stayed at the volunteer run museum for two hours before having a lunch break.

I went with a few friends to the Vault, a small pub in Faversham.  I had Shepherd’s Pie as well as some chips.  I had just enough time to run to the second hand bookstore in town before we had to meet back up as a class.  I HAD to purchase the Winnie the Pooh stories in the photo below.  Plus the book was only a pound.  The bookshop was run by volunteers as well and the elderly lady ringing up the book said to me “Oh you’ve found one!” very excitedly and then asked which one and all.  While Amazon is convenient, I really enjoy small bookstores. img_0937   Since our class is focused on chemistry and the relationship of this science with the public, we headed to the Chart Gunpowder Mills next.  The walk there was over the river and through the woods.  Okay, not quite, but it was through a few neighborhoods and then by a river which bugs just loved.  I had to put on my sweater in the heat in order to avoid blowing up with mosquito bites.  I was expecting something different, as the Mills were tucked away and it was only one small building.  The guides, similar to the one at the Heritage Centre, knew a LOT about the mills and were very passionate volunteers which was great.  I was in the group that went on a forty five minute walking tour first (so glad I wore my sneakers this day).  We learned more about Faversham and saw old sites from the time of the Gunpowder Mills.  Our professor almost got attacked by a duck when we stopped near a pond as the ducks came up to us easily hoping for food and then flew over us to others who had brought bread.  Along the tour, residents we passed all said “Hiya” or “Cheers” to us so I felt like we were very welcomed even though we took up half of the narrow road at times.

After returning from our walk, we switched with the other group and went inside the Mill.  I know Britain does not get that hot all that often, but I would’ve really appreciated some air conditioning (or a huge ice cream cone) at that point.  It’s been in the 70’s and 80’s here!  We heard more about the actual gunpowder making process with the tools right there in front of us.  Our guide also told us about his recent travels and quizzed us on British currency. img_0925  Overall the day was one of my favorites so far as Faversham is the cutest town and I highly recommend it as a day trip out of London!  We were all exhausted at the end of the day and barely scraped together a cooked dinner, but the trip was definitely worth it.

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7 Days Done, 7 Lessons Learned

  1. Bring your own bags when you go grocery shopping.  It is 5 pence for each bag you use.  So unless you are buying meat or something that really needs a plastic bag, bring your own reusable bag.
  2. They do not seem to have applesauce in the grocery stores, which is devastating.
  3. Items expire sooner.  Nothing we buy lasts for more than five days, other than Oreo cookies 🙂  Okay, maybe a few other items but it seems food is bought more often here.
  4. When crossing the street, the loud beeping means you can cross now.  Definitely startling the first time you hear it.
  5. The regular M and M’s are made using a different kind of chocolate or are just different over here, but still very good.
  6. The tube is not air conditioned.  So this summer in NYC, I was sweating standing on the platform but then cooled off once in the car.  Here, I am fine on the platform but sweating once I enter the car as it has been in the 70’s here most days and has barely rained.
  7. Most of the grocery stores only have one cashier and then 20 self service check out machines.  I love self checkout so this is lovely.  And if you don’t want to spend time sorting coins, you can just put them in the machine to pay and it tells you how much you still need.  If you put in a Euro by accident, it will spit it back out.  IMG_0838.jpg(Photo is from King’s Cross station)

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Week one is already done?!

The first week went by quickly.  We walked between 2.5 miles and 6 miles every single day.  I also managed to run twice and still have not been able to figure out the correct pace (in km) for when I am running.  The fitness center is always empty even though our student residence is huge.

Since I last posted, we visited the Faraday Museum at the Royal Institution.  I found my dream library here.

A few friends and I also became masters at playing an element game where you had to hit the elements on the periodic table when they were mentioned in the song.  We felt very accomplished after getting a perfect score on all three levels (don’t ask how long it took).

IMG_7166Saturday, IMG_0836my roommate and I decided it would be best to sleep in.  The construction workers and their machinery outside our window had a different plan and we woke up early in the morning but took our time to get up.   We took a train from St. Pancras to St.
Alban’s, which is a little town 20 minutes away.  It was really fun walking around the outdoor market, even though it started to drizzle a little.  We FINALLY found a bookstore, thank goodness.  I am surprised I lasted a week without buying a book here.  We went to the Cathedral in town, had lunch at a cute place, and I just needed an apple strudel from a stand.  After that countryside excursion, we came back into the city and visited Platform 9 and 3/4.  IMG_7217The line was around 30 minutes and we were jam packed into the line by security who did not want any space wasted.  The photos cost money so make sure you have a friend stand next to the photographer and take photos so you can have them for free.

We took the tube to Tower Bridge to take photos, but once we got there it was pouring so we turned around and got back on the tube and headed to Chinatown.  We ate at Orient London, which I highly recommend.  My family dined at the restaurant last summer and it is a favorite of my dad’s.  IMG_0851We had duck for an appetizer and thoroughly enjoyed it and then had sweet and sour chicken as well.  Enough food for leftovers today for lunch thankfully!

Today was another sleep in day as our weekdays are packed with class and field trips around the city.  I did laundry in the morning and ate my Frosties before we left.  We went to the lovely Spitalfields Market (where I purchased a few souvenirs).  Then we went over to TK Maxx for an extra suitcase and a return and went grocery shopping (and stuffed everything in my new luggage so we did not have to pay five cents for a bag).  Finally, we took the tube to Tower Bridge to take some photos and stumbled upon a bookstore where we bought one pound Dickens stories.  And now I am organizing my room since it is a bit of a mess!  All that’s left to do is some paper research and then the week is over! IMG_0878.JPG

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