Posted in Travel

Getting a taste of home

I can’t believe that as I write this, I’m already one week through my Easter Holiday. Currently, I’m back in Lancaster, taking a short break (less than 24 hours) before I head back into travel mode. So, I guess that now is as good of time as any to recap the past whirlwind of a week.

Last Sunday, I left for London and spent the afternoon and all day in Monday in the city. This was my first solo trip. It was a bit intimidating at first, but it ended up giving me a lot of confidence as well. It was also fun to be able to be solely dependent on how I wanted to spend my time and where I wanted to go.

After I arrived on Sunday, I spent some time figuring out the Underground and made my way to the pier just before sunset and managed to get some shots of the London Eye and Houses of Parliament.

On Monday, I got up early and walked to King’s Cross Station, which happened to be really close to the Hostel I stayed in. I got my classic Harry Potter photo at Platform 9 3/4 & then took the Underground to Hyde Park. I walked through this area and then through Green Park on my way to catch a free walking tour.

I really enjoyed the walking tour, as I got a lot of interesting facts about Big Ben (The Elizabeth Tower), Houses of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace. I really am a History Buff at heart, so I had a really good time hearing more about British History. To continue my learning, I visited The National Gallery, which is basically a huge museum with portraits of the British Royals over the years.  To round off my afternoon, I took a leisurely stroll along the River Thames before going back to my hostel.

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On Tuesday morning, I got up early to meet my mom, aunt, and cousin at the airport and we all then traveled to Paris together.

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While we still had full energy, we decided to walk to the Eiffel Tower on this first day in Paris. It was just as breathtaking as I had imagined and it was so cool, seeing such an iconic site.

One of my favorite parts about our stay in Paris was that we stayed in an Air bnb in a very residential area, so it truly felt like we were getting a local’s experience of the city. On our second day, we visited the Sainte Chaipelle Cathedral, The Louvre,  a chocolate museum, and ended our day with a river cruise on The Seine. This time around, we got to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, which was also really cool to see. It was lit up black, yellow, and red to pay respects to those who died and were injured in the Belgium attacks.

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Of course, we ended our day with some fantastic Parisian food. We had some wonderful fondue-all though, I think we ordered too much!

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By day 3 in Paris, we were pretty tuckered out, but we managed to see the Notre Dame Cathedral towers (we were third in the que in the morning), go on a wine tour, and go up to the Arc de Triomph.

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On Friday, we changed locations and travelled to London in the morning. We had a beautiful afternoon when we landed, as it was nice and sunny. Once we got settled in at our hotel, we went to visit the Tower of London and see Tower Bridge.

For Saturday morning, we had booked a tour of Stonehenge and Bath, so we got up early again to go visit these sites. We first stopped at Stonehenge. It was really awesome to see this site, as it is listed as one of the Wonders of the World. It was really cold and rainy, but the site itself was worth the bad England weather. To complete our day trip, we went to Bath to see the Roman Baths and get some Cream Tea.

On Sunday, I took momma and my aunt and cousin on the same free walking tour, but we had a different guide, so it was completely different information, so I still really enjoyed it. I got one of the classic phone booth pictures in our tour guide’s proclaimed “best photo op in London”

 

After our walking tour, we got an Afternoon Tea at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel and then went to see Kensington Palace.

We ended our Easter Holiday by going to Easter Services in Westminster Abbey.

Overall,  this was such a great week, and the best part being I got to spend it with my mom!

 

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Posted in Travel

Pre-SpringBreak

As of now, I’m officially on Easter Holiday. I finished up my last week of term this week, with lots of papers and presentations due. I put in a lot of work in the beginning of the week, though and then treated myself to some pre-spring break fun with some spontaneous day trips.

On Wednesday afternoon, Victoria & I took the bus to Heysham, because she had been telling me for awhile that it was her favorite place on earth. Obviously, this claim had me intrigued and I had to see it for myself. It definitely lived up to expectations.

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Fun Fact: The black stuff on the rocks is a bunch of squishy, dead seaweed. It feels so weird when you step on it!

This little town is only about an hour bus ride away from Lancaster, but it felt like we were in a completely different country! It was such a sunny and warm day, too, which just added to the glory of it all. And, one of the best parts is that it is just so quiet. We only ran into a handful of people on the beaches.

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When we first got to Heysham, we walked to this little old church. It is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been. It is surrounded by old tombstones and beautiful flowers and they still hold services in the tiny building. It’s so different than all of the big, ornate cathedrals that are scattered around most of the cities here.

After that, we hiked up a hill where St. Patrick’s Chapel ruins are. They apparently date back to the 8th or 9th century!!

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And, of course, we needed to take some cliche jumping pictures…

After that, we hiked down along the beach shore. The rocks were actually really hard to walk on, because they were covered in slippery, dead seaweed. And my boots got REALLY muddy, but it was so worth it!

And then, we found this cool little rock cliff that was just screaming, “Climb Me!”

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Friendship & Sunshine made for a wonderful reward for finishing my deadlines.

And then on Thursday, Ellie and I decided to go to Manchester, last minute. We had been wanting to get here for awhile, and it finally worked out. If I’m being honest, 90% of the reason I wanted to go was just to go to this Alice in Wonderland Tea Room. It was so adorable.

After tea, we meandered through Manchester’s Northern Quarter and ran across some amazing street art.

Before heading home, we went to Chetham’s Library, which is the oldest library in the English speaking library. You could tell. I’ve never seen books that old!

Tomorrow, I leave for London to begin my spring break travels! I have four weeks off before summer term starts. So, I’ll be saying goodbye to the UK for a little while!

Posted in Travel

Falling in Love

I found out a few weeks ago that my last exam for the term is June 6, and I originally had a flight scheduled back on June 27th. This means I can come home early. As I said, I found this out a couple of weeks ago. Yet, I haven’t changed my flight yet. I think this is because maybe, just maybe, I’m falling in love with little Lancaster. I can’t bring myself to think about leaving. Of course, I will be so excited to see people back home, but I’ve also met some awesome people here that I will be really sad to leave!

Never fear. I will return to the land of Indiana/Illinois eventually. But a lot of adventures lie between now and then, so I will keep on making memories (and going broke) until then.

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The View from Housesteads Roman Fort

This past weekend, I got to make another one of those memories by visiting Hadrian’s Wall. This wall was built by the Scots around 128 AD to send a message to the Roman Empire that they didn’t want to be messed with! It was really surreal getting to see such old ruins that are still in tact today.

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I went on another coach trip that was put on by the University, so we had a few scheduled stops. I spent the day with my pal, Victoria. First off, we visited the Housesteads Roman Fort. This contained the ruins from an old Roman Fort that was built around the same time. I had this surreal moment when we were walking along the wall and realized that these ruins were built just a couple of hundred years after Jesus was on Earth. Like, they are closer to His time period than mine! Crazy old. But, this was a really cool spot. And I was amazed that we were still able to walk all over the old ruins. Here’s a couple of my favorite shots!

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After getting our Roman fill, we hopped on the bus for a short while and then parked to take a stroll. We were aiming to walk along the wall to Sycamore Gap. This is a glorified tree. It happens to be where they filmed Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, for any of you who have seen that film. I haven’t. So, it was merely a tree to me. But, the hike there was AMAZING.

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It was definitely a hike to get to the tree, but it was perfect weather out and it felt so good to be out in nature and not just be touring another city. And, of course, we paused along the journey for photo-ops (AKA: breath-catching)

It took us about an hour to walk to the gap, and then finally we arrived. There it is, in all it’s glory & splendor. Ladies & Gents, I present to you, Sycamore Gap.

So, the tour guides lied. We actually hiked PAST Sycamore Gap. But, it was SO worth it.

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Nope. Not Me. Victoria.

After Hadrian’s Wall, we went to Carlisle for a few hours. Victoria and I were so satisfyingly tired, we ended up sitting at a cafe for over an hour, but we also managed to sneak in a bit of time to take a peak at the Carlisle Cathedral.

 

Well, until next time, I’ll just be writing essays & doing group presentations. Term ends in four days! (Not that I’m counting down till break or anything…)

Posted in Travel

Some things never change, and well…

I’m convinced that some things will never change, like my love for coffee and dark chocolate. My strange obsession with apples. And the crazy awesome fact that Jesus and His love follow us no matter where we’re at in the world.

Some things do change, though.

I’ve been encouraged by several people to write more on my blog about the everyday. The feelings, the realizations, and the learning experiences. Yes, I’ll still share a lot of travel pictures, but I think it is important to note that the travel over here is really the smallest part of my adventure abroad.

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Williamson Park, Lancaster

I share travel pictures and stories on social media because it’s easy. I can hide behind a smile and a cool background and people can just assume that I’m having the time of my life. To be honest, I really am having an awesome time, but the personal journey that I am experiencing over here is the biggest reason I came and is the most life changing part of being gone from family, friends, and familiarity. So, I guess that is reason to go on about some of the things I’ve been learning.

Over the course of the last month, I’ve realized how amazingly thankful I am that I decided to study abroad for an entire semester. 

Before leaving, I had doubts about whether I should leave for such a long period of time, because I was afraid of missing out on things back home or that people would forget about me. This hasn’t been farther from the truth. While I’ve been over here, I’ve felt the love of friends and family more than ever before and I have realized how much people love me. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me that they’re praying for me or they ask how I’m doing or they just text me about their days. I have felt so loved by people back home, and that part has been amazing.

This has been a great time to really search out for myself who I am. I’m able to ponder why I actually believe what I believe, when it’s not easy and when everyone around me doesn’t make the same decisions that I do. Most of my life, I’ve been surrounded by people who have relatively similar viewpoints as me and it’s always been easy for me to do the things I do.  That’s definitely not the case here, but I think this has really solidified the things that are important in life to me while also bringing a sense of greater understanding and appreciation for people from different backgrounds than me.

While I mentioned that cultural differences can be challenging, I should also mention a thought that I had the other day. As I was getting ready for the day, the thought crossed my mind,There has not been one day here that I’ve woken up and dreaded the day.” Each day here is different and my plans often fall out the window once the day gets going, but I think that’s the beauty of it all. I’ve always been such a rigid planner and letting that go  (a little bit-don’t expect a life transformation here, people) has been really freeing and enjoyable.

I guess the last thing I’ll mention is how happy I am here and how safe I feel. I now feel 100% confident that I choose the right place and the right university. Lancaster is the perfect mix of small town, university-geared, while also having plenty to do.

 

So, because I just love this town, I thought you should see a picture of it. On Sunday, after church, I hiked up to Ashton Memorial in town with my friends Michelle & Victoria. It was actually sunny and warm, so the view was crystal clear and amazing to see!

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Looking out at the city