You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go... - Dr. Seuss
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go... - Dr. Seuss
June 5th, 2014
I have posted photos and such from my last days in Southampton as well as my sightseeing from the last few weeks in London! I did like I did for the last post and write out the descriptions with them on the respective photos in the proper sections! Photos are posted in Southampton as well as London! I hope you enjoy because I know I sure did!
With my days coming to an end as an exchange student, here is how I will sum it up:
I still remember going for the interview and then waiting in anticipation for the response from the exchange office. I remember the one day doing our residence tours, as an RA last year, when I got that email. I think I almost died when I read it and found out that I would be in Southampton the following year. I was an exchange student. The process was tough and overwhelming at first but in the end it would prepare me for a dream to come true. I remember sitting through the orientations listening closely to every word Mike and Michelle were telling us and trying to write it all down in addition to what they prepared for us. As time ticked down, I was getting all the things I needed to do in preparation for leaving. One of the happiest days was when that VISA came in the mail - it was then 1000% happening and there was no turning back now. Sure enough September came and I boarded the plane. I can still remember being so excited, anxious and nervous. I was going to my dream country where I knew it would be even better than expected. My England moment came when I seen my Big Ben for the first time! It was then off to my home city of Southampton. Orientation at my new university would prepare me academically. I met remarkable people from all over the world and even my home country. They are what really made the exchange experience one to remember. No one understands your time abroad like those you spent it with or those who have done it themselves. They are life long friends no matter the distance. It also gives you another excuse to see more parts of the world. I never would have imagined I would have been to all the countries I did. In my time abroad I have seen: parts of England - London, Southampton, Winchester, and Isle of Wight - Edinburgh (Scotland), Paris (France), Barcelona (Spain), Dublin (Ireland), Rome, Pisa, Florence, Venice and Verona (Italy), Amsterdam (Netherlands), and Brussels (Belgium). I feel more than worldly and loved each city for different reasons. I couldn't pick a favourite. I even got my greatest souvenir - my England tattoo. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought this would be my life and now it is coming to an end. It still feels unreal to me. All the photos and memories will last forever. This has been the greatest experience of my life and only just the beginning for me. I got the travel bug! It is never goodbye but see you soon because I know these people I met on exchange will always be a part of my life. I cannot thank everyone enough who helped make it possible. It is so important to follow your dreams and reach for the stars because you never know what you will achieve. The sky is the limit and just enjoy the journey. Life is full of adventure. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. It will be one of the greatest things you have ever done. Soon enough I will be coming home but this experience will always live with me. Nothing means more than the lessons you learn on exchange. They challenge you in ways you never thought possible. As excited as I was to get to England I never thought it would feel so much like home to me as it does now. It is a piece of me now. It really is true … Exchange isn't a year in your life, it's a life in a year!
Peace. Love. England.
May 30th, 2014
Good day all!
Sorry for the delay in posting my blog from the past adventure to Amsterdam and Brussels! I have moved out from Southampton and been here in London since the 12th of May and things have been crazy! LOL. I have so much luggage and just keep accumulating more things! I just can't help it - I was born a shopper! LOL. Anyway, I did something a bit different this time and am letting majority of the pictures speak for themselves. I decided this time to write the blog along with the pictures and describe my days throughout the photos as if when I was actually there and doing it all! From May 14th-20th, I was off to Holland specifically Amsterdam! I was a bit more calm and cool going to the airport by myself after the excursion at Easter to Italy. It felt like second nature to me to just be casually visiting a new country. I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about Amsterdam but once I walked out of that train station, I knew it was going to be a good choice. My first day went smoothly and visiting the city was remarkable! My dreams came true of visiting the Keukenhof Gardens and Tulip fields the next day. What a beautiful country it was to have my favourite flowers. This day was by far the best of the trip and nothing can compare! For this, all the 500+ pictures I have from it speak for themselves. I only uploaded a few of the very best because I would be here for days and even months trying to upload them all! After my time in Amsterdam I was on my way to Brussels, Belgium, May 17-20th, - aka The Chocolate Lover's Dream! LOL. This city was bigger than I anticipated but small enough to enjoy it by walking around and learning about the culture. From waffles to chocolate to shopping to sightseeing, this did not disappoint! The whole trip was one that was unforgettable with too many photos to count and memories that will last forever and then some!
Since May 20th, I have been in London to enjoy the last sights and tourist attractions before the whole year comes to an end and I head back to the motherland the first week of June. I have sure been making the most of it and even got my final few souvenirs which included the most fabulous Harrods purse! Yes, you read that right - HARRODS! The biggest and most luxurious department store in all of London! This whole experience has been remarkable and I wouldn't change it for the world. I have seen the world with many countries completing a European bucket list! My love for adventure and embracing the journey has been sparked - I caught the travel bug! I have met the most amazing people who are always welcome in Canada to come visit and give me an excuse to come back to visit so many countries from all over the world! It isn't quite done yet, but even when it is, this year on exchange will always live with me in photos, memories, friendships, and most importantly - in my heart!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. As I said, I wrote more about what I did on this trip, a little differently this time, with the pictures as I did them over the days I was in each city. They are finally all posted in their respective pages of Amsterdam, Netherlands and Brussels, Belgium! Please do enjoy. No words could ever describe how amazing of a time I had or even how beautiful and remarkable the cities and places I visited in the cities were!
P.P.S. I will be uploading my pictures from the final few weeks in London within the next few days as I get a chance to put them on my laptop and sort through them! So expect at least one more post maybe more!
May 7th, 2014
It should always be see you later, as goodbye means forever. This week has been a different one to say the least. I have been packing up my room in Southampton and getting ready to leave for London and then a trip to Amsterdam and Brussels before spending my final few weeks in London. Tonight I had dinner with some lovely ladies I have gotten to know over my stay here in Southampton in the Criminology programme! They are so amazing and really the truest of friends. We got to know each other here and there and they have helped to make this year fantastic. It is always hard to leave friends behind but I know I will see them again one day, soon hopefully. The memories made here are life long. They are something no body can take away from you. I have more than enjoyed my time here and a few more see you laters are to come this week but I know I will stay in touch with my "England friends" because those friends made on exchange are the friendships that travel the distance.
Peace. Love. England.
May 5th, 2014
So this is just a quick blog update to let you know what has been happening around Southampton these days. I am officially done my third year of university as an exchange student. My final papers are submitted and the year for me, has come to an end academically. It is really hard to believe how fast time flies. I have started packing up my room in Southampton and been saying see you later to some friends around here (it is never goodbye)! As of Sunday I will be in London for a few weeks before coming home to Canada. The most exciting thing is that I still have another trip all planned, booked, and confirmed! I will be going to Amsterdam, Netherlands and Brussels, Belgium from the 14th to 20th of May! I am super excited! One thing for this trip is I planned out a few things to see in each place, booked my hostels and written down those directions, and figured out travel times and tickets, but otherwise I am going to be spontaneous. I am freeing myself from the overbearing travel planner and going to let this one go more with the flow! I know no matter what it will be beyond amazing and I just can't wait! I will do another update later next week or so!
Peace. Love. England.
April 27th, 2014
First off, sorry for such a delay in posting about Italy and my adventures over Easter break. Between not having internet or not having a strong connection and being under the weather the posts and photos have been delayed. I can assure you it was all worth the wait! SO let it all begin!
April 5&6th, 2014
My last seminar before easter break was finally finished, and with bags in tow, I made my way to the coach station. Luckily I packed light because I could sense Italian shopping was awaiting me! I grabbed Gregg's on my way and was at the coach station to await my departure to London where Danny would meet me at the coach station. I arrived just as planned and was in the beautiful city of London once again. It was a very relaxing weekend where I double and triple checked my stuff in preparation for my solo departure on Monday. Now, this trip was a big one - 12 days in Italy all alone until Venice/Verona. I knew I had it in me and was well beyond planned (ask anyone who has witnessed the near 10 pages double sided notes I had prepared)! My flights, hostels, and attractions tickets were bought, paid for and printed off. All that was standing in my way was time.
April 7th, 2014
The alarm clock rang and BOOM I was up ready and had my bags by the door in anticipation. Today was the day. I would be Italy bound. Now I cannot lie here but the nerves and excitement were all too much to handle! I was both anxious and scared but yet exhilarated and overjoyed that all this was really happening. I had been talking about a two week trip to Italy since just after I found out I was even going to be an exchange student and the moment was right before me. It was off to the Terravision Bus stop to catch my coach to Stanstead Airport where I would be 100% solo and off to the first destination - ROME! Well that went fairly smoothy - I went through security, grabbed a bottle of water and waited. And waited and waited. It was 2 minutes before my gate number was released when the display changed saying my flight was delayed by about 45 minutes. Okay Molly Relax is what I told myself. I didn't want the trip to start out delayed or anything to go wrong yet there it was - a delay. Thats okay, I figured I was getting it all out now. 45 minutes was still okay for me not to miss my coach on the other end in Rome from the airport to the city centre. Well a few short minutes they announced the gate number and I marched on down to it. It was quite a distance away so I made sure to double check because I wasn't taking all my stuff back to the lounge area! LOL. Sure enough there were me and other passengers awaiting to board our flight. There was one problem - outside the window where we were supposed to be 'boarding' there was no plane. So we got delayed even further. I checked my phone quick and luckily the coach I had pre booked at Rome Airport didn't charge you to miss your coach and you could take the next one for free - just in case at this point. Finally after that delay we boarded and were up soaring in the sky off to Roma (as the Italians would say - I practiced it in my head during the flight, my Italian accent that is despite not knowing a word)!
After what felt like the longest flight ever, because of my excitement, the wheels hit the tar mack and the plane landed - in one piece which was a bonus! I was in Rome. OMG was the first thought to myself - YOU ARE IN ROME MOLLY! I took a deep breath, got off the plane and made my way into the airport where the immigration officer happily stamped my passport (which I am getting quite a collection)! I found the bus stop and made the one I had booked just in the nick of time because it pulled up as I arrived! This was start I was anticipating - smooth and easy! Well as easy as it could get being in a foreign country, on your own and barely being able to communicate (it wasn't as bad as it sounds reading that sentence)! The coach was off to its stop of Termini Station (that is the central train station close to where my hostel was located because I preplanned to make it easier when I had to take a train to Pisa)!
After about 45 minutes I was outside Termini station nearly dumbfounded at the size and amount of people entering and exiting that station. Man oh man was it huge. I figured just to find my hostel would be enough of a shock and challenge let alone the train station (I saved that for a later date)! My hostel was, according to my detailed notes, just two street down from the station to turn right. Well I found the street okay but where on earth was the hostel. After walking up and down each side, twice, a very nice Italian army man (which were on nearly every street corner) asked me in a mumbled version of English and Italian mixed if I needed directions. I pointed to the address on my paper and he said 'that way'. So it turned out I passed the hostel 3 times and just didn't think to look at the little buzzers outside the door number which said the addressees and businesses in that particular building. Hey, cut me a break - I was nervous, overwhelmed and just excited to be in Italy. I buzzed in the hostel and checked in. One thing: after the first night, I would have to switch bedrooms for the last two nights. It wasn't a big deal because they had a luggage hold and such for my things (plus lockers in the rooms) so it wouldn't be an issue! I was just happy that I was checked in and able to relax. Well I locked up my stuff and relaxed long enough to let a couple people know I was safe and sound and going to explore! Rome was just outside my window and I couldn't wait to see the Trevi Fountain and eat one pizza, and maybe gelato! I know I had another 11 nights in Italy but some things are priority and just can't wait!
With my notes and the map the hostel reception staff gave me in hand, I was bound and determined to find and see the Trevi Fountain as my first sight of Rome! It was about a 20 minute walk and along the way was the most modern yet architecturally old buildings along each side of the street. Some you could tell were brand new while others have been quite dated. Most of the old ones had statues and carvings in them while the new ones boasted big windows and Italian flags! There was so much charm in such a big city for only being there maybe a couple hours.
After a brief walk I made my way to a piazza (which is a square in Italian). Here I caught a glimpse of the most beautiful sunset beginning in the distance. Nothing said welcome to Rome like that! I proceeded down the steps and quite steep hill to where I found the street I needed to turn down. Here you could just feel that you were almost there - at the Trevi. As you walked the number of inviting shops and cafes welcomed you, street artists selling their work doubled and just the noises began to become louder. All of a sudden it was like my surroundings were faded out and almost void. My eye lit up and my jaw dropped. There it was - the Trevi Fountain in all it's glory!
I was quite glad I came here for my first night because it wasn't so busy as I imagine it would be during peak afternoon tourist times. I pushed mew ay through the crowd and needed to have my moment - tossing not one, but three coins in the Trevi over my shoulder to ensure a trip back to Rome. That is how the legend goes anyway. I wouldn't complain if I found myself there again! I stared at it's beauty for a little bit until my stomach had enough and wanted Italian pizza! There was a little cafe just beside the Trevi that was calling my name. I walked in and just the smell made my stomach growl 50x harder. It needed pizza…NOW. I took a glimpse behind the counter, through the protective glass, and couldn't decide. The pizza's all look delicious. I must point out that the pizza in Rome has some very unusual toppings on some of them! Anyway, I stuck it safe for my first go at it and had Margherita. This is your basic mozzarella and tomato sauce. But I must admit not just any cheese pizza - it was handmade Italian style. Man, could you taste the difference. I sauce was perfection (not too much, not too little), the cheese was warm and gooey (melted in your mouth) and the crust was crispy, thin in the middle and full around the edges. Needless to say the Italians invented a slice of heaven. Pizza for me will never be the same as it was in Italy…ever. What made this pizza even better, not only that it was my first meal in Italy, but I ate it sitting on the edges of the Trevi. It didn't get much more perfect than that.
Well, maybe it did. Before I began the walk back to the hostel, my eye spotted gelato. It was a little gelato shop with a few flavours displayed in the windows. Coconut it was for my first go at it. Such a good decision. It was the perfect way to walk back (despite the steep hill and load of steps) and end the day. Rome welcomed me with open arms and a full stomach.
I made it safely back to the hostel while enjoying a glimpse of some of the lit up beauty of the streets on my way. I didn't want to get back too late - especially on my own in an unknown city, just arriving a couple hours prior. So I called it a night and headed back to the hostel. It is amazing the cool people you meet as you travel in hostels. I was fortunate enough to have some good dorm mates - there were two girls from China, a guy from Chile but studying in Barcelona (so jealous - I love Barcelona), and a guy from Ontario (outskirts of Toronto). It is kind of a small world when you think of it! We all chatted for a while and discussed each of our travels and plans, not just in Italy but where we have been, where we come from and where our next stop was!
Night one in Rome was going to be tough to be but little did I know at the time - each day topped the one before it. I was ready for day 2!
April 8th, 2014
Well, it was an early start for me because well, I am in Rome and just wanted to make the most hours of the day I could - there was lots to see and explore! I wasn't waiting. I got my breakfast from the complementary breakfast at the hotel and I was on the go! Luckily I was staying only a 5 minute walk from Termini station because that is where my Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus tour began and it was exceptionally convenient. Note: These trips have made me an exceptional planner I am telling you. LOL. Anyway, So I caught the first bus that was departing that day. It was a nice thing to do because, since I got the 48 hour pass, I was able to take the bus all over the city, stopping at the major tourist stops and surrounding areas, and could get off and on as many times as I wanted for two days that I would be in Rome. It was a pretty good deal! Anyway, I was on board the bus, headphones in (to hear the commentary in English) and waited on the top deck of the double decker, sunshine shining down and ready to become cultured in Rome!
The first stop for me on the agenda was the one and only Colosseum! This was one thing I was really looking forward to seeing because it was iconic Rome to me and I would be there, seeing it with my own two eyes! It was just an unreal thing to even imagine let alone be a reality in a few short minutes when I would be getting off the bus. As we were driving along, I was really glad I chose to do this as my transportation because you took various side streets to see old buildings and such that I probably wouldn't have seen otherwise. Also, the commentary let you learn a bit more about the eternal city! As I was caught up in the sights all around me I looked ahead and BAM - there it was in all its glory - the Colosseum! The bus took a tour all the way around it before we stopped. I couldn't get off the bus fast enough! I picked up my jaw off the floor and flew down the stairs and out the door! It was time to get in the line to go inside the Colosseum - this was happening!
I entered … walking on the ground that so many years ago ancient Romans walked on to enjoy the Colosseum in a much different way than I was going to. To think of the history surrounding me while I just waiting in the entrance for my ticket was unbelievable. I finally got my ticket after about 20 minutes in the line, which was much less than I was expecting, and climbed those old stairs to the second floor where my tour began. I say tour but I wasn't on a specific tour as I wanted to explore the great attraction at my own pace. First off, let me say I figured to spend an hour or so here but that turned into nearly 2.5 hours because I was fascinated and just absorbed so much culture and history. Anyway, I made it to the second floor and all I could do was feel my jaw drop and let out a 'WOW'! I was standing in one of the most historic buildings in the world and it was too beautiful to be true. You just picture gladiators and crowds of people in ancient attire. It felt like something like out of a movie. Its beauty was just beyond words. I toured around the top floor and seen some old statues and works of art, even a gift shop. But nothing compared to the views as you walked around the level to look down and see the old walls standing and the games grounds below. I took my time and just absorbed as much of it as I could. I then walked down to the first level and walked through the narrow hallways and passages just imagining who stood in those exact spots back in ancient times. It was just unthinkable.
After nearly two hours in there, I decided it was time to admire from a far again and make my way to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, which for my bonus was included in the ticket, even though I planned to go anyway! The walk up to the Roman Forum was gorgeous. There was stone pathways and statues leading up to the grandest ancient archway you have ever seen! From there, before I entered, I turned around and the view of the Colosseum was something like out of a picture or postcard. The sun was shining and reflecting behind the structure and just AMAZING! Anyway, I made my way into the Roman Forum and OMG. That was just as breathtaking as the Colosseum. There were ancient ruins, buildings, gardens, and pathways all around you and the architecture that was still in tact was unreal. Trust me on this one when I tell you that the pictures will speak for themselves. There really isn't any words I can use to describe how gorgeous and stunning it all was, especially under the Italian sunshine. And just to think and imagine the ancient Romans that used to live and work there back in the day was just something like no other experience. It just made me really feel a piece of Roman culture and history that makes up Italy really and just what life may have been like in the ancient times. I even walked up to Palatine Hill which gave the most incredible views of the entire city of Rome. Like just unimaginable really. My day in Rome was just beginning and I was already floored with amazement of the beautiful city.
The next stop for me was a quick one at Circo Massimo. This was a huge field like area that, in Julius Caesar's time held chariot races where stadium seats would be set up all along this field. The chariots would race up and down as a form of entertainment really, just as today we would imagine a sporting event. It was very beautiful to see the ruins and skyline surrounding such a space. And to look onto the field and to see the original chariot markings still there was a something extra special. You felt like part of the crowd back in the ancient times. To be honest, I stood there, which wasn't very busy, and closed my eyes for a moment (you do the same when you see the photos) and you can just picture Caesar in his throne on the sidelines with stands set up all around and horses with chariots just racing up and down. I can just see the clothing and the atmosphere back in the day. It is just really something unreal to picture and see when you are there. It is like a part of you is transported back to ancient Rome.
From here, I enjoyed the city views as I was on the bus for a bit before my next planned stop of the Trevi Fountain. I had seen it the night prior when it started to get dark and became lit up but it was worth seeing again…and again…and again really. I had my little walking map in hand, navigating the narrow streets of Rome being honked at by Vespa drivers, making my way to the Trevi yet again. Even for the second time it was breathtaking. It is just a really stunning monument and would never get old to see over and over again, trust me (I seen it a few times)! From here I absorbed the beauty once again and looked around the area. From here, as the map had shown, I could walk to the Spanish Steps (which yes, is exactly the ones from the Lizzie Macguire movie and I thought of that when I was there)! So I made my way to the Spanish Steps and again I was in shock. The beauty of them and the surrounding piazza was just incredible. It makes you think how one city could hold so much beauty! Also, the number of steps is misleading. Me being me, thought I need to climb the Spanish Steps - I am here and need to say I have done it. Yea, there is many more than you first realize! LOL.
From here I looked around the area which is one of the very high class shopping districts that have stores like Gucci, Dior, Chanel, and many other posh Italian brands. Needless to say I window shopped and dreamed that maybe one day when I am rich and famous, I will be shopping back in Rome on that very street. For now, I was just content with being in Italy (and by content I mean more excited than a kid at Christmas, Easter and every other holiday where kids gets presents)! After looking around for a bit it was time for lunch before even more sightseeing began. I found the cutest Italian cafe, with an outdoor patio where I have the most delightful homemade salami and mozzarella sandwich known to mankind. Honestly, there wasn't even a crumb left on that napkin. Trust me, food is one thing those Italians have down to the science and is merely beyond perfection! You will never go hungry in Italy, if anything you realize the capacity of your second stomach (that is the one for food and the other just for gelato)!
My next planned stopped was the Pantheon! After a little confusion of the directions, and a triple check of the map and asking a very nice Italian police officer who thankfully spoke English, I was on the right narrow street and made my way to the Pantheon. This is one of the oldest buildings in Rome and found right in behind some of the most modern parts of the city. That is one thing fascinating about Rome - there is so much history and culture at every turn, yet there are so many modern buildings and features of the city at the same time! It truly is a wonder of the world. Anyway, I entered the Pantheon and again was blown away at the interior. The outside it just looks like literally an old building but inside is like a new world. It is the most stunning place of worship with the most beautiful architecture, paintings, and ceiling you have ever seen! Honestly it is a hidden gem of the city and a must see (even if it is just a quick sneak peak)!
From the Pantheon I made my way back to the Trevi Fountain and did a bit of souvenir shopping because well, I was in Rome and needed to have something to have as a memento (along side the unforgettable memories and pictures of course)! I found myself a few wonderful things and among them were a tshirt and a mini-Vespa!
After I shopped a bit, I decided to catch the HOHO bus again and take it around full circle once more, since during the day I was on and off and missed some of the sights in-between stops and such. So I took the bus all the way around again beginning to end and caught some of the most beautiful sights ever all over again while seeing new ones. You could have taken that bus one hundred times over and still seen something new or just was in awe all over again seeing the same sights. No matter what sight it was, Rome left you feeling like you seen the most beautiful things in the world.
I got the bus back to the last stop, the beginning stop as well, at Via Marsala which is right down from Termini station and only steps from my hostel. Once again I had pizza for dinner from a cafe around the corner at the hostel, was back in my room to plan the next day on the map to make the most of the sights I anticipated to see the next day, showered and went to bed. That night, since the hostel was located near on of the main streets with restaurants all along the street, one restaurant must have had an accordion player playing outside on their patio because through the window you could hear the lovely sounds of the music and I must say for me that just was a cherry on top because I was not only reminded I was in Italy but really felt like I was experiencing their culture. It was a magical thing to fall asleep to and made me anticipate the rest of the sightseeing and trip even more!
April 9th, 2014
This morning was similar to the one prior! I had an early start and got breakfast then made my way to the HOHO bus stop to begin the day of sightseeing! I again got the first bus that ran that day and was prepare to tackle the crowd for the Pope's Speech in Vatican City! I figured I needed to at least catch a glimpse of the Pope at the Vatican because well I was in Rome and when in Rome, you know how the saying goes! After boarding the bus and plugging in my headphones for the English commentary, the bus was on its was making its stops toward where I wanted to be - Vatican City. With each stop, as we got closer the excitement inside me was building! How often can you say, "yeah, I am on my way to see the Pope"! Not many I can tell you that.
After a bit of traffic we finally made it to the stop for Vatican City! I jumped off the bus (not literally) and the view as I was approaching was like no other. Right through the street, beyond the crowds of people was the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. The view honestly was so beautiful it made your eyes water just a bit. I ended up fighting through the crowd and there he was - the most holy man on the earth - The Pope himself! Obviously I couldn't get within that close of a distance but nonetheless I seen the Pope and heard his speech that he was giving! It was in quite a few languages so parts didn't make sense to me (until it was English that is)! Nonetheless, it was a great thing to see and the beauty around the Vatican area was incredible.
After the couple hours I was there, I decided that I would walk to Piazza Navona which was a short distance away (and no stop on the HOHO tour was closer than where I was). This is one of the famous squares in Rome for art vendors, cute shops and of course, gelato bars! Along the way I seen some neat sculptures as well as the river that runs through the city! Even the little side streets I was walking up and down had cute little characteristics about them! I even seen several balconies that had clothes pinned across them that I could imagine had been placed there by cute old Italian women! Anyway, I finally found the piazza which was just as I had imagined it - filled with nearly a hundred art vendors where even some were working on their paintings, fountains at each end, huge architecturally stunning buildings all around, and little gelato bars and cafes at every turn. Another moment where it just felt like iconic Italy and so full of culture.
From here, I walked back to the HOHO bus stop near the Vatican to head to Via Del Corso, one of the main streets that was also one of the stops that could lead to the Trevi. Here I managed to find a pizzeria for lunch which of course I had - this one was a type of ham with mozzarella and tomato sauce. Again, to die for - you can never have enough pizza, especially the pizza that is truly Italian right in Italy! I did some more souvenir shopping in which I found myself the typical 'I <3 Roma' hoodie which I will proudly wear around home and tell anyone who asks how amazing the city really is! And after much looking around, I grabbed my last gelato of Rome (which was the best flavour I had on my whole trip which was pineapple) since in the morning I would be catching the train to Pisa! I caught the HOHO bus tour once more and did the full tour around, to see the sights once more before I would soon have to say bye to Rome. I got off at the usual stop, outside Termini station and did a bit of scouting in preparation for my first train in Italy that I would have to catch in the morning to Pisa!
I entered the train station and there was a sense of being very overwhelmed. I am so glad my first experience in that gigantic station was the night before my train because it gave me ease to figure things out ahead of time without being stunned and shocked in the morning. There were announcements playing in the language I didn't understand (you guessed it, Italian), message boards flashing and running through stops the trains had, and just people everywhere. After a few moments I took a deep breath, looked around and realized this wasn't as bad as I was thinking or making it out to be. The board of departures looked easy enough to tell which train would be mine in the morning and the chaos wasn't as bad when you just focused on what you needed to do. Anyway, I was a bit more confident for the morning and decided to walk back to the hostel.
On my way back to the hostel, I grabbed another slice of pizza (this was two types of cheese, chunks of tomato and basil - you cannot get enough of it I am telling you)! It was my last night in Rome and back at the hostel I scrolled through my photos of the lovely city. I was just still in shock at how I was really here and that a city should be so stunning. I double packed my bag for my check out and departure in the morning, looked over my plans for when I got to Pisa and was off to bed before saying Caio to Roma!
April 10th, 2014
Well this morning was another early day for me but trust me, so full of excitement and totally worth it! I got up, checked out, grabbed my breakfast and made my way to Termini Station! It was the day I was off to Pisa! I got to the train station and looked at the departures board. My train was displayed but the platform wasn't up yet. So I waited and waited…finally, platform 20! I quickly walked to the platform, dodging people at every step and made it to the train where I found my coach number then boarded and got to my seat. The wait to pull out of the station felt like hours but in reality it was probably like 15 minutes at most. I just wanted to be in Pisa already! I knew how amazing of a time I had sightseeing and exploring Rome and the anticipation for Pisa was just building even more and the train departed, made its stops at other small stations along the way, and finally arrived in Pisa!
When I arrived in Pisa it was slightly over whelming because this was a new city. I had all my directions pre-written down and knew where I would have to try and head to - my hostel on the main street of Corso Italia. I found my way out of the train station, which was actually a good challenge because it was a few up and down stairs that really didn't make sense but regardless, I found the exit and just started walking. Pisa is quite a small city so it couldn't be that hard to navigate it, could it? LOL.
I started walking, with directions in hand, and was surprised how easy it really was because the street right outside the train station, following it straight, led me right to Corso Italia where I found my hostel within minutes, buzzed in and made my way upstairs to check in. The hostel was very cute and cosy I must say. I checked in and locked my bag in my locker in the room. I was then off to explore right away and wasted no time! This was day one of my two days in Pisa and there were sights that needed to be seen! First on the list was the Leaning Tower of course! One nice thing was that everything in Pisa was very close together and super easy to find - there were signs literally everywhere! And I even thought to myself, if you get lost, you are lost in Pisa - that is a pretty sweet idea of being lost! LOL.
Anyway, I made my way down Corso Italia (which is the main shopping street in Pisa which I discovered after I booked my hostel and thoroughly enjoyed my second day in Pisa, just ask my credit card)! I walked and walked, seeing the old buildings, cute Italian cafes and boutiques, and street artists which led me to the River Arno where I crossed one of the bridges and continued walking. Just before I was about to check the map, at a further intersection, seeing which street I had to take, I turned my head to the right and in the distance I spotted it. I tilted my head slightly to the side and thought 'yup, thats the Leaning Tower and at this angle, it is straight"! LOL. I no longer needed the map and walked toward it, which if anyone saw me probably thought I was in a huge hurry to see such a tower. What can I say, I was excited! LOL.
After a bit of a walk, I made it to the Piazza! There was so much to look at all at once - the Duomo, Cathedral and the magnificent Leaning Tower of Pisa! Each building was beyond stunning and the grass was too green to be true, the sun was shining down with not a cloud in the sky! It was the perfect day for my first day in Pisa! Also, luckily I applied sunscreen prior to heading out since my first full day in Rome left me with a sunburn. Yes, it was that warm in Italy.
Anyway, I wasted no time to take as many photos of the Leaning Tower as possible! It was really gorgeous and hard to believe it actually is still standing because it is quite a lean it has I have to say! LOL. I snapped and snapped pictures but even those couldn't capture the amount of beauty it was full of! I then made my way to purchase my ticket to climb the Leaning Tower! I felt it was a must do in Pisa, like when else will you have the day to say "I climbed the Leaning Tower today"! I bought my tickets and then bought a bottle of water (which was actually the smartest decision I have ever made because I didn't know what I was going to be up against)! I waited in line and was finally let into the Leaning Tower! No words can describe how lovely it is to stand at bottom of the Leaning Tower, dead centre, and just look up. It really isn't straight by any sense of the imagination. What really left me in shock is when the lady working there said, in three languages, there was 250 steps all the way to the top of the Leaning Tower (with no lift). Well, good thing I got that bottle of water! It was the most painful, exhausting and worthwhile walk I have done. Besides feeling like I was going into cardiac arrest and just going to fall over and die, it was so worth it! Once you caught your breath to really appreciate the views you had from the top, it was all worthwhile! It was just stunning. There were views of the whole Piazza de Miracoli as well as almost the view of the entire city of Pisa! And I cannot forget the mountains in the distance. Breathtaking is the only way to describe to you what my eyes were seeing. It was beyond a dream.
After I really caught my breath and appreciated and absorbed all the views I could, it was the leaning stairway walk back down (seriously, the stairs are quite slanted making the walk even more difficult)! Once at the bottom, I used my entrance ticket to get into the other various museums around the Piazza before doing into the Duomo, Cathedral and Monumental Graveyard. The museums were quite nice and housed old artifacts, paintings, sculptures and such from the old days when the buildings were first built. It was quite enjoyable to see and look through. Also, if I am honest, it was a nice relaxing walk through the museums to recover from the Leaning Tower!
After the various museums I first went into the Baptistry which is the funny little domed building across from the Cathedral. It looks quite pretty from the outside and let me tell you, the inside is just as gorgeous! It is very peaceful and pretty! From there I went into the Cathedral which had the grandest entrance you could imagine! Gold ceiling tiles, paintings at every glance up and down, and the largest columns and archways to leave you in awe. It was stunning. I then went into the monumental graveyard which houses religious leaders and such from the old days in Pisa. The building was really stunning and very beautiful. I cannot put into words how these buildings were so beautifully created, designed and decorated so I will let the pictures speak for themselves but trust me, even those don't do it justice!
After the Piazza and another photo shoot of the Leaning Tower (where some really nice English couple took a picture of me doing the iconic "holding up the Leaning Tower" picture), I decided it was time to find my souvenir of the day - a miniature leaning tower of Pisa! On my way down the street, back to where I seen some cute tourist souvenir stores, I found a bakery with the best looking homemade cannolis in the window. Without thinking twice, and before I could even blink, I was in and out of that bakery with a cannoli in my hand. One word: HEAVEN! It was the best, freshest, and most delicious piece of baking I have ever had in my life. Unreal and so scrumptious! From there, I continued to walk in and out of souvenir stores trying to find the perfect miniature replica until BAM there is was, calling my name and the one I found was even made in Italy - BONUS! I mean, what is an Italian souvenir if it isn't made in the country right?
On my way back from my find of the day, I mean the mini Leaning Tower not the cannoli because that was long gone (LOL), I found a nice quite cafe on one of the streets off of Corso Italia where they had a pasta dish calling my name! I couldn't leave Italy without trying homemade pasta, could I? NO WAY! Even though I am not usually a big pasta eater or even a fan of the dish really, I loved ever mouthful! I loved loved loved it and would probably eat a dish of real Italian pasta as often as I could really! Yummy! I am telling you the best food in the world is in Italy! LOL. After I was done eating, just as I was finishing my coke, the chef came out and asked me how it was…in Italian and I kindly said I speak English to which he tried to talk to me in English and ask me where I was from, responding with something how his daughter visited Canada a couple years ago. It was quite a confusing conversation but nonetheless nice of him for making the effort in which he made a mean dish of Italian pasta so I didn't mind one bit!
After my late dinner, due to my day being dedicated to exploring, I had a bit of an early night back to the hostel where I anticipated the next day which I specifically set aside for a couple sights then the day would be mine to shop until I dropped! I planned out my plan of attack, relaxed for a little while and headed to bed.
April 11th, 2014
After a good sleep, it was an early morning start for me as lots was planned for my last day in Pisa before my train the next day to Florence! First on the agenda was Santa Maria Della Spina. This is a cute little church attach to one of the bridges along the River Arno. I had seen google pictures of it and just needed to see the little gem myself. I made my way down Corso Italia just until I got to the River Arno where, instead of crossing the bridge I took a left turn to walk along the river until I came to little master piece. Sure enough, it was even more beautiful than the pictures I had seen of it! It is literally a little church/chapel attached to the bridge in the middle of Pisa with nothing else overly significant around it. It was just adorable and the architecture on the building was so elegant and detailed. It was like a diamond in the rough and such a nice thing to see to start off my morning!
From here I walked back down the river, passing straight where I had came from in order to come across the Gardino Scotto. It is a park garden area with statues, old buildings, lovely flowers and trees inside it and just a place that felt like an escape from the city really. It was lovely to see and walk through. All I could think of was how lovely of a place it would be to just relax in and even do some homework. But wait, I was on holiday and there was no time for school work! LOL.
I found myself walking back down the river just in time to grab a bite to eat before doing my shopping! Of course for lunch was pizza! Today's selection was cheese and tomato sauce. Of course, it never disappointed and was incredibly yummy! As I was walking back from there, in which I was heading to Borgo Stretto (the Italian designer shopping street in Italy to do some window shopping before going to Corso Italia for the Italian boutiques that didn't break the bank as bad), there were little flower markets set up all along the bridges which were closed off just for this event! It was so cute. There were tonnes of cute old Italian couples buying fresh flowers I would imagine for their gardens and such. They even had cardboard flower stands set up where local artists could paint on the canvases. It was just a sight to see because it was like something totally special and extraordinary to me but probably an everyday, normal thing for these Italians! I felt like I was just becoming more and more cultured at the time passed by! I loved every second of it!
After some browsing around and such, I found myself back on Corso Italia which, as mentioned, is the main shopping street in Italy and let me tell you - IT WAS FABULOUS! I spent hours, literally, walking in and out of shops trying things on and just looking around. I was in heaven and so many things I needed to have! I found a pair of leather boots (made in Italy), a scarf from Milan fashion week, and two super adorable shops from two little Italian boutiques. After doing this shopping I decided it was a break for gelato time! Sure enough I found a cute gelato bar where I tried strawberry gelato - so yummy but didn't compete with the pineapple from Rome! LOL. I know, it is a rough life.
After my day of shopping I found myself back in the hostel and putting my shopping away. I couldn't get this leather jacket out of my head that I had seen in one of the stores. I mean Italy is famous for leather and it was a rocking jacket. After a quick text to my mom, in which I knew what her response would be, I found myself back in this little store buying that leather jacket. Like my mom said, you know you want it. And let me tell you it will look real fine with that scarf and those boots I found. "Yea, this outfit is Italian, from Pisa to be exact, no big deal"!
After buying the jacket, I grabbed a sandwich on my way back to the hostel. I tried mortadella this time and actually enjoyed it. Thats the thing about Italian food. I was willing to try different toppings and such because well, it was homemade and hadn't disappointed so far! I was then back in the hostel, packing the insane amount of shopping I did into my little duffle bag (which still had a bit of space for the many things I knew I would buy in the next two cities). There are just some things you need to have and will find room for, even if it meant already nearly filling the suitcase less than halfway through your trip. I was willing to take on the stares from the airline staff at the end of the trip when I was wearing double the amount of clothes on that airplane back to England when the trip was done (but thankfully it didn't come to that)! Anyway, after a very beautiful and enjoyable stay in Pisa, I called it a night and was packed for the morning where I would be heading to Florence!
April 12th, 2014
This was another early morning as I double check my things, got ready and checked out of the hostel. I made the short walk to Pisa Central Station where I would be catching the train to Florence. I went a bit early because this was a regional train (unlike the other train tickets I booked) and needed to print and validate my ticket. Since I was unsure how to do this, I went early just to be safe! Thankfully it only took a few minutes. My train's platform, 1, was already up. So I grabbed a snack to munch while I sat and waited for the train. About 10 minutes before it was due to arrive an announcement came on which I didn't understand except for a few words and the display board said it was a 20 minute delay. That was okay I thought and just continued to wait. Then it was a further 10 minute delay and we switched platforms. This was turning into a small headache. I was on the new platform and there it was a further 15 minute delay. This was getting ridiculous. Finally the train came on another platform and everybody rushed to get on. About 45 minutes late I was on my way to Florence. But that was okay because I wasn't allowed to check into that hostel until 3pm anyway! So the train made it's journey and finally I arrive in Florence!
I walked out of the train station, carrying my little pocket map I bought on my way out and just stopped to absorb the beauty. The piazza where the train station was, was typical modern buildings surrounded by old statues and some trees with the sun just beaming down! I though to myself "yup the delay was worth it because nothing beats this beauty"!
I found the street I needed to take to lead to me to the hostel which was super easy to find thankfully. I made my way up and checked in. One problem: no lockers at this hostel. I was kind worried as to what I would do with my things but the reception staff said I could leave my things in the safe room so that is just what I did. I was quick then to take right back off because my day was at a bit of a delay already since the train was late. I took a glimpse of the map and was ready to explore!
The hostel location was impeccable as within two minutes of a walk I was at my first destination of the day - the mighty huge and mighty beautiful Cathedral and Bell Tower! In all the cathedrals I have seen in Europe this had to be the most stunning! The outside was flawless with paintings and beauty all around it and it stood quite grand in structure. I couldn't wait to get a glimpse inside! I waited in the longest line ever but as I waited I just marvelled in the beauty the outside was radiating off! Oh it was so pretty. Finally I was at the front of the line and let into the grand building. The inside did not disappoint. Oh my word. The floors and the columns, and the ceilings and the artwork. It was a masterpiece. One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen! I loved it so much!
After visiting here for a little while I figured I should explore what else the city had to offer before I was due to meet at my cooking class! I looked around the area as there were so many shops and guess what I found - A Lindt Store! I had so much fun picking out a few chocolates to buy because well, I didn't know what the Italian labels said and I figured I would just pick them out based on wrapper labels and hope for the best! LOL. I mean, why not right? I then found the best cafe ever and had such a yummy sandwich - salami and mozzarella of course! It was turning out to be a great start to my stay in Florence and couldn't wait to see what else this brilliant city had in store! It was already turning out to be love at first sight.
Based on my little map, all the main tourist attractions and such were very close together so I figured I could do a bit more sightseeing since I had a bit of time before my cooking class. I stumbled upon Ponte Vechhio. I say stumbled because at first when I was looking around the shops I didn't realize it was actually it! Ponte Vechhio is a famous bridge in Florence which has buildings, mainly jewellers, on each side of it where the buildings are actually hanging off. You would have no idea it was a bridge until you were walking over it and realized, through the gaps, there was water on each side of you! It was beautiful!
On my walk about up and down many very narrow, but ever so charming Italian streets, I came across a huge leather market! Florence is famous for their handmade Italian leather. I was looking about and I spotted it - the perfect, pink leather Italian made wallet. To top it all off a very nice old Italian man gave me a student discount and talked my ear off! He must have known I spoke English because he didn't even bother trying Italian first. LOL. He was telling me how all the vendors in this square needed a permit to ensure their products were certified and how they made some of the leather goods, etc. He was too cute and very interesting! In the end I thanked him and was the proud owner of the cutest pink leather wallet! Florence was treating me quite well and it had only been a few hours!
As I continued to walk around and see the sights, there was a roar in the street with horns and cheers and I thought OMG what on earth is happening! There was about 200 vespas grouped together driving down the streets with flags and horns just a honking! I thought I was going to be held captive. But it was just the Florence Vespa Club on a drive through the city! LOL. I was safe after all and got to see some really near old vespas and some quite modern ones as well! It was a very cool experience that just happened - no planning, just the right place at the right time! So full of pride and culture these Italians are!
After this lovely day already I figured I better head to where I needed to be, outside the Florence Town Office to meet for my cooking class. On the way I seen a spray paint artist doing some work which was just unreal to watch! He was super talented! Anyway, I made my way to meet for my cooking class and met our chef, Chef Andrea who would be taking us to the restaurant once everyone arrived. Our class would only have 12 people, rather than the usual 25 he said, would definitely made it more fun and close knit! After everyone arrived, in the nick of time, we walked to the restaurant where the flour was already measured and waiting for us to get our hands dirty in making our pizza dough! We all sat intently watching the Chef show us how he made the dough in which, after his was perfected it was our turn. Well, my first one didn't work about half way through but attempt #2 at a dough ball was a great success! As we covered the dough and let it rise, we started to prepare the gelato to let it mix in the machine! As it was mixing we rolled out our dough, all by hand, and were ready for the ingredients! I used salami (because true Italian pizzas don't use pepperoni), tomato sauce, and mozzarella! In just 6 minutes, as Chef Andrea said that is all it took to cook it in the extremely hot pizza oven, it was munch time! Let's just say I made a pretty mean pizza and was one of the best of the trip so far! After our pizzas were all gone, it was gelato time! Nothing beats homemade chocolate gelato - nothing! It was beyond perfection. YUM! After the greatest night in Italy yet, it was time to head back to the hostel. The restaurant was actually just around the corner from the hostel so it was a bonus!
I got back into the hostel, got my bag from the safe closet from the reception staff and slept away my first night in Florence!
April 13th, 2014
It was another early morning for me! I got up, ready and locked up my stuff with reception! The first thing on the agenda was to go see the statue of Machiavelli outside the Uffizi gallery in the courtyard! I felt I needed to see this as so many of my classes, even here in England, found some way to tie into Machiavelli's work. So I walked down the lovely Italian streets and found that statue! It was quite nice and really cool to see someone I have learned so much about! Absolutely amazing for sure!
From the Uffizi, which I didn't go in because my thing to see was outside of it anyway, I decided to head to Pitti Palace to see the Boboli Gardens. When I walked up to this buildings the outside was beyond huge. It was like OMG WHAT ON EARTH huge. It left me speechless that's for sure! Anyway, I lined up to get my tickets to some of the rooms inside the palace that were included with the entrance fee to the Boboli Gardens. Man, was it ever worth it! I fist seen the costume gallery with the amazing displays of artwork, dresses, and some super fun hats! It was a huge exhibit and even more grander as you walked throughout! The Palace itself was remarkable and it made you feel like royalty just stepping foot in any of the rooms! I found my way to the courtyard where I was blown away! Statues lined each side of the grandest fountain and column that was dead centre, which when you walked down, had steps and hedged pathways on each side. These gardens were incredible! I decided to start at the very top and to my surprise I was amazed. The sky line of the rolling hills of Tuscany and the city views of the city of Florence were breathtaking! The flowers and fountains at the top were like no other! It was just something too good to be true! I spent a couple hours just wandering and exploring all around the gardens and it was ever worth it! It was just too incredible.
After the Pitti Palace, I figured I should take a gelato break. I needed one. LOL. I walked back around the piazza where the Cathedral was to scope out some good looking gelato bars and sure enough I found one. This time I tried cheesecake gelato and man, oh man, it beat Ben and Jerry's flavours any day! SO GOOD! It was always so sad eating gelato when you got to the bottom of the cone because it was just too yummy! LOL.
After my gelatoI decided to go back to Ponte Vecchio and see what jewellery I could see since my mom and Ed said to use some of the Easter money on a lovely Italian masterpiece! Sure enough after a bit of looking and just staring at all the sparkly jewellery in the many shops, I found the one. I walked into this tiny Italian lady's shop and bought the perfect little silver diamond ring. It was just flawless and so stunning! It made my day even better!
After a bit more shopping and wandering around, I headed back to the hostel. To my displeasement the reception staff wasn't there for me to get my bag. I was kind of annoyed as there was no indication as to when they would be back. So I decided just to relax for a little bit. After nearly an hour of just relaxing still no one was there. I was annoyed. So, I went to one of the cafes down around the area for some dinner. Italian food is the cure to everything and is bound to make you happy! LOL. I had a yummy sandwich and headed back to the hostel as the rain decided to start. It was the only day I had rain my whole time in Italy. Luckily the day was nice and it decided to rain when I was back in the hostel anyway! LOL. Finally reception was there and I got my stuff. I relaxed and called it a night.
April 14th, 2014
I was up nice and early yet again as it was another great day planned! Since the mishap with not getting my stuff happened the other day, I decided to take it with me today since I was going on a wine tasting tour (by coach and could leave the bag on there) rather than risk not getting it later that night since I would be leaving in the morning to Venice! So I made my way out to have a nice breakfast before I would have to meet at the tour spot near the train station where the coach would be picking us up. I found the most adorable cafe and had a great breakfast - bacon, eggs, toast and orange juice! I met tow lovely couple, both from different parts of America, who were much older than me and were just so interested in my adventure so far and that how it was a small world that I was practically their neighbour! LOL. It was a good start to the day and after a bit of chatting, I headed to my tour stop.
A good group of people were there and ready to board the bus to the Chianti region where we would be taking a tour of old wine cellars in a medieval castle, see vineyards for miles, stand under that Tuscan sun, and sample oliver oil and wine that were made right at the winery. I must say, even though I don't drink wine (but did taste it and still am not a fan) it was a very enjoyable afternoon! The views and scenery did not disappoint! I couldn't snap the camera fast enough! I loved every second of it and just didn't want it to end really. This was one of those afternoon where the pictures just speak for themselves because it was a remarkable view and so enjoyable!
After the tour, we got back late into Florence where I just made my way back to the hostel. It was a great and busy day all afternoon/evening in the Tuscan countryside. I repacked my things and made sure I had everything for the morning. I would be meeting Danny at the train station in Venice where the next portion of the trip would begin!
April 15th, 2014
Today was a bit of a lie in until I had to get up and ready to head to the train station where I would be heading to Venice! I made sure I had all my things and headed off nice and early to make sure I was able to find the platform! After a bit of waiting I was given the platform number on the departures board and made my way to the train, boarded and found my seat! The next stop for me was Venice (and hopefully being able to find Danny)!
My train arrived and we found each other which was easy enough thankfully! I walked out of the train station and was just stunned. You walked out of the train station and all you could see was the sun reflecting off the water, the grand canal and the Venice charm that you only thought was real in the movies. It was stunning.
After I picked up my jaw from the stairs of the train station, we headed across bridges and canals and bridged and canals (fun fact: there are over 420 bridges in Venice)! The first stop of the day would be San Marco where the big cathedral is and this is the central piazza of the city of Venice! Another fun fact: there are, by law, no cars bikes or vespas allowed in Venice! Everything is done by boat (even the police)! On the way to San Marco I had to eat and of course, I found the best pizzeria in all of Venice I swear - mozzarella and tomato sauce pizza which was to die for! This was better than all the rest I had in Italy so far (and do you think I could find this cafe a second time, no way)! Heading to San Marco proved to be quite a challenge because Venice is literally just like the movies with side streets and bridges and hidden pathways, etc. Good thing we bought a map from the train station and there were plenty of signs around the city! On the way to San Marco we crossed Rialto Bridge which is very famous in Venice as one of the oldest bridges where merchants would have to cross to bring their goods in the old days to be traded as the original transport in Venice was gondolas and by foot! Rialto Bridge was stunning and very beautiful! It was full of life and shops! It also had the best views of the Grand Canal!
Venice is the city with the most charm, I am telling you! We eventually made it to San Marco and just WOW! I know I keep saying things were stunning but they just were! It was like someone put a postcard in real life in front of you! The piazza was just remarkable! There were os many shops, tourists, restaurants, bands, street vendors, gondolas parked by the water, etc. It was just a sight like no other!
This called for a gelato break! This time I tried lemon, triple berry and the very traditional flavour of stratachiella (which is like chocolate chip)! Man oh man, it was yummy!
After walking a round for a bit it was time to look all through the shops and find some souvenirs (even though my bag was already bursting at the seems)! One of the islands, Murano, off the coast of Venice is famous for glass making and there were so many shops (which you have to make sure have proper certification to prove it was made on Murano)! I found some very lovely souvenirs and just adored the area!
As the day went on we walked through the streets, seen the gorgeous sights at every turn and just shopped and explored! Just before dinner time we decided to head to the campsite we were staying at. Since Venice itself is an island, we had to take a direct water boat from the stop Zattere 20 minutes to the campsite on the mainland in a part called Fusina! It was actually quite nice to take the water boat back and forth each day because we got to spend the days on the actual island then the nights seeing the skylines of the island from a distance with the sunset! Venice was beyond my wildest dreams.
The water boat arrived at Fusina and we checked into the campsite (which isn't your typical campsite)! We got the keys and such to the mobile home (which was very enjoyable to stay in and totally fun)! After we put our things away it was time for dinner! There was no better place than the pizzeria at the campsite! They made the pizza and such right in front of you and man oh man was it yummy! I had ham and mozzarella on this one and tried to eat every last crumb. The food everywhere in Italy is just to die for. So unreal to think so many things are this good in Italy.
After walking down by the pier and exploring the campsite area, it was time for bed after a busy day of travelling and walking about. The next day would be sure to add more adventure!
April 16th, 2014
We were up nice and early to catch the water boat to Venice as the first thing on the agenda was the morning tour of the three Islands - Murano, Torcello, and Burano! After taking the water boat to the island, we made our way to where the ticket collection was and waited for the tour to begin! It was by boat to each of the islands. Each was famous for something. I must say just cruising along the water not only had the greatest views but really made you think how unreal it was to just casually be in Venice at that moment. Just like dreams coming true at every blink of the eye!
The first of the stops was the island of Murano which is famous for glass making right there in Italy. This island houses many family owned glass making businesses and factories and we were luck enough, as part of the tour to see a demonstration! I must say this would be quite a skill because man they make some beautiful glass work! I even found a necklace made out of the Murano glass. So pretty!
The second stop was Torcello which I must say wasn't as impressive as Murano but nonetheless still very pretty. This island was famous for it's old church. I enjoyed the gelato shop we found (this was cherry and a hazelnut flavour)! Everywhere I went I found good gelato, I mean it is Italy so I would in the right place! LOL.
The last stop of the island was Burano. This is famous for its signature lace pattern. What I enjoyed about the island, as you will see in the pictures, is that the houses are all a different, bright and vibrant colour! By law the habitants are not allowed to change the paint colour due to a famous artist designing them that way! It was a great sight to see and walking around the city was too fun!
After the tour was over we were returned to the main island of Venice. From here, we made our way through the maze of the streets to where we needed to meet for the walking tour of Venice and Gondola ride! We found the spot and were quite early so we just walked around, making sure not to get too far away because it was unlikely to find it again! LOL. The tour eventually began and we were taken all around a couple of the close by piazzas. It was nice to see some of the architecture, old canals, historic churches, and even an outside exposed marble staircase that would have otherwise been missed! I must say I really enjoyed the walking tour but what followed had me beyond excited! After the tour, we were taken to our gondola rides! Now, I was very excited but yet quite nervous I was going to end up in the canal waters! LOL. We boarded the gondola and began the lovely ride through the canals leading to the Grand Canal to have the most amazing views of Rialto Bridge and the other surrounding buildings! I was just excited to be on the gondola! It is a funny shape boat and purposely leans to the one side which added to my panic to think I would fall in but nonetheless it was the best part of the trip! Such a great experience and too fun!
After the gondola ride, it was time to find something to eat! We found a cute cafe that sold calzones! That hit the spot let me tell you and was the best I have ever had in all my years of eating them at restaurants back home. That is one thing about Italy that is a downfall, no food like I experienced there will ever be the same! LOL. Also, after we ate, before heading to Zattere to catch the water boat back to Fusina, I even found myself a hoodie like the Gondoliers wear! I truly fit in then! Oh it is too amazing!
We then made our way back to the water boat stop and took the journey back to the campsite on Fusina. It was time to call it a night as the next day was the day trip to one of the beautiful surrounding cities of Verona!
April 17th, 2014
The morning had up and it was up and ready to catch the water boat to Zattere stop. From here it was planned to head to the train station in preparation for the train to Verona for a little, few hour day trip! The train came and we were off!
When we arrived in Verona, according to my notes, we needed to take a bus to where we would have to get off and walk to Juliet's house. Well we found the bus but didn't know how to pay and the driver wasn't any help, so it was a free bus ride! LOL. Anyway, we got off where we needed to be and made our way to one of the most famous sights in Verona - Juliet's house! All I could think of was the movies Letter to Juliet that was filmed there and OMG, I was there too! LOL.
There it was, right in the middle of one of the main streets, through a little archway - Juliet's house, her statue, and that iconic balcony! It was too good to be true! The best part was going on a tour of her house where you could see the rooms. A part of it even had a station set up with computers and mailboxes to write to Juliet! It was just unreal and so amazing! The best part though, was to stand on that balcony and look over the courtyard! You almost wanted to shout lines from Shakespeare (I didn't but thats just how you felt in that moment)! It was too good for words!
After Juliet's house we made our way to find something to eat. Again it was a little cafe. I had a little dough shell thing stuffed with mozzarella and ham. It was quite good as the food failed to ever disappoint! From here it was off to explore the area and see the sights before we had to be back at the train station heading back to Venice! We found ourselves in Piazza Bra. This is one of the big and main squares in Verona. And my oh my, what a great day to be there! They had vendors, markets, food stands, etc. all set up along each side of the street - there had to be at least a hundred all around! There was everything from roasted nuts, to fruit, to chocolate, to soap, etc.! You name it, it was there and it was fresh and made in Italy! It added to the charm of the city and felt just so cultural to be there! I couldn't resist to get myself a couple of sticks of homemade dried meat. I mean it was right from Italy and I had to make Ed jealous somehow! LOL. (I later ate it back at the campsite and OMG it was so yummy and beat anything I have ever tasted before)! Danny and I also tried chocolate covered pineapples which were rather odd because they were real pineapples but coated in some type of jelly with the chocolate. They were okay, not good but not bad either. It was strange. LOL.
After spending a good deal of time exploring the markets and such, it was time for gelato. We each had the same - pineapple and biscotti (which were the two best flavours of the entire Italy trip)! From there we walked back to the train station and found ourselves back in Venice!
The day trip was beyond nice to spend time in Verona and see the sights there. But since we were back in Venice, after eating a huge lunch and all those snacks, the realization hit that the trip was coming to an end. Before catching the water boat back, it was one last huge cone of gelato for good times sake. Mine was M&M, coconut, and pineapple! I mean, the trip started out with me eating good food, I had to end it the same way right? LOL.
We caught the boat back to Fusina. On the way, the trip couldn't have ended better as the sun was setting and just provided the most beautiful view of the island. The trip both started and ended the same way - beautiful, full of culture and the feeling that I didn't want to leave.
Eventually we were back at the campsite and had to check out early (since the reception wasn't working when we needed to leave at 5:00am) but we still had our room and just had to return the keys to the guard when we left very early in the morning! We made sure everything was packed and ready for the morning. It was good night to Venice as the morning was going to come faster than anticipated.
April 18th, 2014
The alarm rang and by 5:00am we were at the guard's location to give back the keys in which he called us a taxi to take to Mestre station where we would be needing to catch the airport bus to Marco Polo airport. It was all a blur because I was so tired. I know we ended up getting all our stuff and were at Marco Polo airport in no time where the plane was there to take us to Hamburg for a two hour layover before returning to London. After a couple ups and downs (pun intended - because of the flight layover, get it? LOL!), it was back on England soil and the two week trip of a life time came to a close.
Nothing can or will compare to the memories I have from this trip. It was my first solo trip and I must say, I did a great job - I didn't even get lost once! It gave me much more independence and confidence. Better yet, it challenged me and made me a better traveller and more worldly person. The pictures from this trip can only sum up so much of what I seen and did. The real snapshots are the experiences I had, the memories in my mind and piece of my heart that remains in Italy. For now, Caio Italia.
Peace. Love. England…and Italia.
P.S. Also over the Easter break, while I was in London, we visited the Clink Prison which is the oldest in London and historically used to torture their inmates. It was definitely my cup of tea and a real sight to see! They even had models of the torture devices there to see! As you walked in you could feel the eery sense of gloom that once was kept there. Even still it feels like it remains there. The Clink is also said to be haunted by the many prisoners that once were kept there and died there at the hands of the torture they received. The pictures are posted in the London Section!
P.P.S. All the pictures from Italy are posted in their own pages - Rome, Pisa, Florence, Venice, and Verona! Again, sorry for the delay as when I got back from Easter I was very ill! But they are done and ready now. I hope you enjoy because I know I sure did!
P.P.P.S. I am pleased to inform you I have completed my third year of university as an exchange student! My final class was attended this past Tuesday and my last two papers are submitted. It has been one great year and full of unforgettable experiences. As well, I plan to spend the next week saying see you later to the lovely friends I have met while being here. It is never a goodbye because I know one day we will all see each other soon. For now, we will make most of my time left in England. Also, I must say these adventures are not over yet! I still have one trip planned before spending my final weeks in London before returning to Canada.
April 2nd, 2014
Well hello everyone! So this week I have had a presentation for my Alcohol Drugs and Crime class which went quite well actually! And then I have another presentation tomorrow for my Power Politics and Policy class! The semester is nearing an end - I will have my last lecture before Easter break this Friday! After that I only have one left for the Tuesday when I come back from Easter break. All my assessments are done - the last two are just awaiting submission on May 21st! I cannot believe the semester is coming to an end. It feels like just yesterday it all began!
This Friday I will be departing for London until Monday where I will head to Stanstead Airport to board a plane solo to Italy for two whole weeks! Who would have thought eh? I am really looking forward to this trip and am prepared to be amazed! I have literally done all my preparation and written everything out - directions, prices, times, etc.! No one could be more prepared…seriously! LOL.
Here is the things you can look forward to hearing about:
- Rome Hop on Hop off Bus tour to all the cities attractions
- Vatican City in Rome (maybe even see the Pope)
- Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Cooking Class in Florence
- Tuscan sunset and Wine Tasting in Tuscan Countryside
- Gondola ride in Venice
- Islands tour in Venice
- Juliet's House in Verona
- Tonnes of good food and shopping, of course!
AND SO MUCH MORE!!!!!!!
After the trip to Italy I will spend the remainder of Easter break in London before returning to Southampton! I will update you again then after my amazing adventure to the Italian cities! Don't panic if you haven't heard from me before then because I will more than likely still be alive! JUST KIDDING - DON'T WORRY MOM I WILL BE ALIVE! LOL.
For now, enjoy and be ready to be amazed for all the pictures I will take! I even have three extra sets of batteries!
Peace. Love. England.
March 26th, 2014 - AGAIN
I AM WRITING THIS TO YOU IN ALL CAPITALS BECAUSE WORDS CANNOT BEGIN TO EXPRESS THE EXCITEMENT I AM FEELING AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME! I AM 100% OFFICIALLY GOING TO SPEND APRIL 7-18TH (EASTER BREAK HERE) IN ITALY - ROME, PISA, FLORENCE, VENICE AND VERONA! IT IS GOING TO BE SO AMAZING AND I AM DYING OF EXCITEMENT INSIDE! The flights, hostels/hotels, and coach journeys to the airport from London to Rome is all booked - more to come this weekend with trains to each place as well as the fun touristy stuff I will be doing! Stay tuned!
Peace. Love. England.
March 26th, 2014
Good morning everyone!
First off let me tell you that this past weekend, a trip to Dublin, was absolutely incredible and I couldn't have asked for a better travel buddy and friend to share it with!
Now…the details of the adventure:
Saturday, March 22nd
This was quite the early morning, as Amanda stayed over, because we had to be up at 3:30am to get ready, quickly have breakfast and be out the door to catch the taxi to Southampton Airport by 4:15am since our flight left at 6:45am and we needed to check in and such. We were super excited so thankfully we didn't really feel the exhaustion until a lot later that night. LOL. So we got to the airport and made it through security and just waited for our plane to be ready. We grabbed a quick drink while we waited and finally it was boarding time. They took us on a short bus journey from our gate to the airplane, which I found rather strange since the plane was only a short walk away. But then again, a bus trip of 2 minutes was better than being run over by a Flybe plane. Anyway, we were off into the sky awaiting the landing in Dublin!
After only 1 hour and 10 minutes, we landed and proceeded to wait nearly 20 minutes at the immigration line but we got our stamp and the weekend was about to really take off! We bought our 10 euro return airport bus tickets, bus 747 (which is quite humorous if you were there to hear how the automated voice on the bus system said it) and within 20-30 minutes we were on the high street, O'Connell Street, in the middle of Dublin. At this point it was only 9:30am and we were not even tired despite having only 3 hours of sleep. We were in Dublin and just too excited! The first thing we did was spotted the biggest tourist shop on the street and were floored at all the stuff - we knew we were going to be back there Monday when we had arranged a shopping day before going back to the airport (since then we wouldn't have to carry all our shopping around for 3 days)! After we picked up our jaws off the floor from the sheer size of Carroll's Irish Gifts, we bough the 24 hour (bonus day) Hop on Hop Off Bus tour tickets for the weekend! We found stop number one where the bus departed from and enjoyed our first impressions of Dublin! I must say, as a side note here, the Hop on Hop Off Bus tour was definitely well worth it and so convenient - it takes you to the major tourist stops and attractions around Dublin, allowing you to get on and off as many times as you want with a free day of taking the bus (so a total of 48 hours) all without worrying about local transport! Such a great idea!
Our first stop of the day was supposed to be Tim Horton's as we had heard rumours of it's existence around Dublin but fell short on finding it. Despite a minor disappointment there, we had a great brunch at the cutest little cafe called The Loft Cafe (above a convenience store). We each had panini's and a funky type of hot chocolate with caramel and cream! Super yummy and the right was to start our day! After here we would be stopping at the National Gallery before getting back on the bus. It was unfortunate that a couple of the sections were closed off for refurbishments but nonetheless, still enjoyable for what we did see! It was even a bonus that they had a free coat/bag check service so while we toured around the Gallery we didn't need to lug our backpacks! Dublin does it right, seriously! Anyway, around the Gallery were sculptures and paintings which were very beautiful! I really enjoyed one in particular (picture posted in Dublin, Ireland) that was just so colourful! It made me realize my lack of artistic ability and just appreciate I am a criminology student because of it! LOL.
We collected our bags, boarded the Hop on Hop off Bus and made our way to Dublin Castle! It was a nice walk from the bus stop to the Castle entrance, down old cobble stone streets that once were flooded with horse and carriages back in the day! Dublin's buildings had so much character and charm. Literally flowing from one door modern and the other old and rustic. It was gorgeous to be in such a city! We found the entrance to the castle and all I can say is OMG … I want one! LOL. We got to go inside to view some of the rooms, that are still in partial use. The decor was stunning! It was amazing to think of how the castle was today and how many royal people stood in the various spots we were in while touring the castle! Words cannot express how much I loved it and just how great it was! We ended the tour in the courtyard, such a pretty garden, where we planned out our next destination!
We thought we would be daring and walk to the next stop, St. Patrick's Cathedral as the map showed it was quite close, and not worth the minor detour the bus would take us on. Well let's just say we took a wrong turn, and didn't quite know where to go. A very nice lady pointed us in the right direction and next thing you know, turned a corner and BAM there it was! We would have got there eventually, as you couldn't miss it! It was even grander than anything I have ever seen! It was huge and just so old that you had to love it! We took a tour inside and there was a choir practicing which gave it an even better feel and environment. The architecture and scenery inside was unreal and just amazing! It didn't even look like a Cathedral but a whole other castle!
After our trip there we then took the Hop on Hop off Bus to the Guinness Storehouse. It was going to be quite the experience for me as well, many of you know I don't drink. But it was Dublin and Guinness was literally everywhere, advertised in every window, and just a Dublin thing so there we were! We got our tickets and had a brief orientation. Fun fact for you: Arthur Guinness signed the lease for 9000 years - that is insane! LOL. Anyway, the tour began. The first floor took us through the ingredients that is found in a typical pint of the beer. Following that we were taken through the process of how it gets made and stored. Following was the life of Arthur and testimonies of Guinness lovers from around the world all on pictured televisions. We then went up a level to how you taste a Guinness pint, also there was Arthur's bar. Up from that was a walk through history of the first Guinness advertisement to the modern day! It was super neat to see all the icons and slogans that Guinness has used over the years, and them Irish even use to this day! Our last stop on the tour was the Gravity bar. This was at the top of the Guinness Storehouse and had the most amazing views of the city down below. It was actually breathtaking. After enjoying the scenery, we exchanged our tickets for a free pint of Guinness. Well, I held it, observed it, smelled, it and took two whole sips of it before I was scrunched in the face making weird 'ewww' noises. Let's just say I didn't like it and that it just wanted my taste! LOL.
By this time, nearly 5:00pm, in the day, Amanda and I were exhausted. It was time to go to check into the hostel where we had a private room, even with our own bathroom! We took the Hop on Hop off Bus, which we found stopped directly across the bridge from the hostel in front of the Four Courts building which is a huge courthouse in Dublin. We crossed the bridge, as the river goes directly through the city centre, and checked into the hostel. Where we were staying was super close to the main street, O'Connell Street and had many shops and restaurants nearby. We found our room and unpacked our backpacks. We absorbed in the anti-social state to use the wifi in the common area of the hostel to let family know we arrived safe and sound! After that, the main priority was food - we were starving! LOL.
We tried to go to the Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Ireland, which was right around the corner from the hostel, for dinner but Saturday night around 6:00pm - it was a little too busy and there weren't any tables so we went to a restaurant and pub called O'Sheas! The atmosphere was super cute, cozy and warm. We order up dinner - I had caesar salad, that came with chips (fries for you Canadians)! It was super yummy but I do think my eyes were bigger than my stomach on this one! We ate and were 110% satisfied. It was so good! Our first day in Dublin proved to be even more amazing than we had hoped!
We found our way back the hostel, showered, planned out tomorrow, and were out like lights by 8:30pm that night. It was an early morning but an even better day! We rested to be ready for what else Dublin had in store!
Sunday, March 23rd
The morning came, and we were well rested and eager to start day 2 in Dublin! We ate a small bit of breakfast, as the hostel had a complementary breakfast in the lobby, before we headed out! The first stop of the day was to visit Tim Horton's as we learned, from the nice man in the hostel, that it was located on one of the streets we passed several times on Saturday in a convenience store called SPAR. We walked down to the main part of the city, as it was a nice day out and things weren't opening until about noon anyway! We managed to get to around where he told us it should be and BOOM - out of the corner of our eye there it was. Angels were singing! We found Tim Hortons - who would have thought while in Dublin? We snapped pictures and just squeaked with excitement as the locals inside probably thought we were mentally unstable. A little slice of home in the heart of Dublin. The cappuccino was similar to that at home and the dough to the donuts was the same, but not the icing. Despite a limited selection it worked for us and we were over the moon with happiness and excitement!
From then we took the bus tour to Kilmainham Goal. On the way we got a bit distracted at one of the parks which has local artist's work on display so we got off a couple stops early to look around before making it there! It was amazing - the sun was shining, flowers blooming, art in the park and enjoying local culture in Dublin. Some of the artists, one hilarious man in particular, were chatting and just having a great time!
After our little stop here we were back on the bus tour and headed to the old jail (which is now a museum so unfortunately I didn't see any prisoners)! LOL. The jail was honestly one of my favourite parts! We got a tour and went through some of the 'famous' prisoners of the time it was open who were rebellion leaders trying to gain independence for Ireland. We also got to see where they were executed by firing squad in the courtyard. As well, we got to see the old side of the prison where overcrowding was a problem and the vast numbers that were held in such small cells. We got to stand in the waiting room where a person would be executed where there was a tiny hole on the door where the executioner would spy on the prisoners to get their height and weight in preparation for the handing. There was a tour of the 'newer' wing of the prison. It was super neat because this model uses the panopticon method where the guard can stand in the middle of the prison and see everything. Kilmainham was one of the first to use this model and it is still the main structure of jails today. It was super enjoyable to see. I must say though, as we toured through the jail, and because it was built so long ago, you could actually feel the cold and eery conditions the prisoners went through at the time. It was a very neat and unreal experience. I could honestly go on and on about this jail tour but I will end by saying see this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilmainham_Gaol and explore it more because it is so worth it!
Next stop on the list was the Museum of Modern Art which was just around the corner from the jail. I didn't take any pictures in here just because of the nature of the artwork which was rather neat and unusual in some cases. It was great to see. I must say the best artwork of all was walking up to the building which looked like it does in movies walking up to a huge mansion with the pure blue skies in between! Anyway, we had lunch here in the cafe downstairs - a lovely bagel sandwich which included a side salad and crisps (chips back home)! It was super yummy!
After the visits here we stopped at the National Museum of Ireland - Design and Decorative Arts! It was huge and quite interesting. It went through the various types of clothing, decode and various elements of early Irish life really. The visit here was a bit shorter as it was nearing time for things to begin closing down since it was Sunday after all.
We then walked down and around Dame Street which lead to a huge shopping centre (which we spotted from the previous day but tour) that looked so extravagant it could have been a concert hall from the outside! It was called Stephen's Green shopping centre! Funny enough it looked like the jail…coincidence, I think not! LOL. Sadly everything was closing from the time that it was and we just decided to head back to the hostel and return in the morning as we did dedicate Monday to souvenir shopping and just shopping general! LOL.
On the way back to the hostel we spotted a gelato store and knew we had to stop, that was a temptation that was irresistible! LOL. I ended up having one scoop of Ferraro Rocher gelato and another of Mars! TO DIE FOR! Honestly - so yummy!
After that, it was back for the night to the hostel, planned out the next day for shopping, showered and headed to bed!
Monday, March 24th
Well it was our last morning in Dublin and we were ready to tackle the streets and malls to shop until we dropped, well until our airport bus anyway! LOL!
Before this we walked around the corner from the hostel and anticipated having breakfast as the Brazen Head since we didn't eat there on Saturday! It didn't open until 10:30am so we walked around the area and seen more of the cute cobble stone streets. Just when it opened we headed back, were the only ones eating in the pub, and had a traditional Irish breakfast! It was super yummy - bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns and black pudding (which was the only undesirable part of the meal and I wouldn't really recommend to anyone…)! LOL.
After that we ended up going to three great shopping centres: Stephen's Green, Jervis, and Ilac shopping centres! Honestly there were so many stores and it was so much fun just shopping around Dublin and experiencing the fun! It took up majority of the day and we then bought our souvenirs (I obviously got way too much stuff - for me: two t-shirts, a charm for my bracelet and a key chain!) and we got back on the airport bus 747. It was the end of the weekend and we were back in Dublin airport to have something to eat, check in, and be on our way home to Southampton.
Again, as I have said for all my other trips - if you can, GO! Dublin will not disappoint and you will be amazed! It is delightful to travel around and see everything and super easy to navigate! It was a great weekend and Amanda and I had too much fun!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. Pictures are posted for the fun filled, Irish weekend in Dublin, Ireland section! Enjoy!
March 21st, 2014
I know I have not posted for a little while but it has been super busy for me these days!
First off, I have finished my assignments and papers I have been working on (literally even the two due at the end of May)! Also, I have been working with my groups for two presentations on April 1st and 3rd. As well in the mix planning my 12 day trip Italy for the Easter break! So yes, it is crazy here!
Highlight of yesterday: I got a package from my Canadian friend Cameron and it really made my day! Feeling so much love from all across the oceans so much these days!
Today, I went to ice cream with a couple girls from my program which was fun! I am really enjoying things here in England and will miss the many friends I am making - just gives me reason to venture back one day!
Tomorrow, my other Canadian friend here on exchange, Amanda, and I will be embarking on a weekend trip to Dublin, Ireland! I am super excited and cannot wait! We depart at 4:00am tomorrow to the airport here in Southampton and Dublin until Monday! I can promise you can update next week as well as loads of pictures (I have 2 sets of extra batteries so you know you can expect lots)!
Have a good weekend, I sure will!
Peace. Love. England.
March 9th, 2014
Thursday, March 6th
First off, I started the day by having class in the morning! After my class was complete and I came home quick, I met Danny since he was coming for a visit here to Southampton! From there we looked around the high street, I bought hair dye (to add a little spice of colour since I was getting bored of my hair…LOL), and he took me to Nando's for dinner! It has honestly become my favourite place to eat! I even upgraded on the spice space to medium chicken instead of lemon and herb! Little victories! After all that we got some snacks from ASDA and came home to dye my hair. It turned out pretty epic!
Friday, March 7th
Today Danny and I were supposed to go to the Isle of Wight but the night before when we were looking into things to do, we seen the Castle was only open on the weekends. So we booked our trip today - and went on Saturday for the day! You have to get there by ferry so Danny booked our tickets for the ferry from Southampton to East Cowes, Isle of Wight and attraction tickets for the Owl & Monkey Haven and the Carisbrooke Castle. We even took a walk to scope out where the ferry dock was in Southampton! LOL. I couldn't wait to go! The rest of the day turned into a work day for me with my essay for Alcohol, Drugs and Crime! I even submitted my first paper of the semester for my Crime and Media Culture class!
March 4th here is Pancake Day, which back home we call Shrove Tuesday. It is a huge thing here - like I mean everyone talks about it. Well, Danny and I decided to celebrate tonight! I must say the years of me being little and helping my Gramps payed off because I made some good pancakes! LOL. They were even topped with Nutella and strawberries!
It was then an early night as the ferry left at 9am the next morning!
Saturday, March 8th
7:30am wake up came pretty quick and it was the start of a day trip to the Isle of Wight. Planning it out, the Isle of Wight is much bigger than anticipated but nevertheless it would be a fun day…hopefully not getting lost. So we made our way to the Red Funnel Ferry Dock here in Southampton where we would bored the 9:00am ferry to East Cowes which is a little village on the island. It was an hour long ride as we took the bigger ferry which also allowed cars and passengers on it. It was so neat as I have never been on something like this before! The trip went by quick seeing all the sights on each side of the water. We made our way successfully and caught the bus to the main town of Newport where we would find the bus station that connected us to all the bus services across the Island as it would have taken quite a long time to walk to everywhere we wanted to go. The first stop was bus #9 to the Owl and Monkey Haven. Yes, literally a place with all owls and monkeys. At first it was strange because it is literally in the middle of no where but once we got there it was amazing! We even got to hear the first talk of the day with one of the owls. They are actually so cute…and soft because the lady let us pet the Owl! How cool is that? I pet an owl! We walked and looked around and seen so many cute monkeys too! They were too cute. There was a pair of these small brown monkeys, unsure of the name, who kept making the funniest noises you could hear all over the haven. It was a great start to the day!
We then took the bus back to Newport and decided to look around before making our way to the Castle. The little town was super cute with shops, cafes, and just friendly people everywhere! We found a little diamond in the rough cafe, called The Blue Door (which literally had a blue door in case you are wondering), for lunch! Well, it was so yummy! I had a traditional English breakfast in a sandwich - egg, tomato, bacon and sausage all between two slices of bread. TO DIE FOR! It was huge and I ate majority of it because it was so delicious! Yay for trying new things. The place was even cute as can be with a little sitting area and art work all over the walls! I loved it!
From there it was time to head to Carisbrooke Castle! A real castle, that I later learnt while there, held King Charles prisoner back in the day! That is just a piece of history for you! LOL. Well the bus dropped us off at the bottom of this forest type hill area. So the thought was then…"how do we get up there". So we climbed this hill, which was quite muddy I must say. We could see the castle walls but still didn't know how to get up there. We ended up walking all the way around the walls to find out the entrance was just the opposite way from where we started. But at least I got to see the entire outside, right? LOL. So we entered and it was just iconic England for me. The walls, the rooms, the displays, and just everything felt so old and historic. The castle was stunning! They even had a donkey that turned the wheel just like back in the day! Inside, we walked the walls and could see such beautiful landscapes in the distance! It was stunning!
After here we took a walk back to the area of Newport and decided to visit one last stop before catching the ferry back home to Southampton. We took bus #2 to a little village called Godshill. Here they had a chocolate cafe called Chocolate Island Cafe. Yes, literally a cafe where you could order basically anything you wanted but made with chocolate! In my opinion they should have just called it HEAVEN!!!!! LOL. I had chocolate fondue with fruit and marshmallows! The lady asked, when I ordered, "do you want milk, white or dark chocolate". Naturally I didn't want to pick so I said surprise me and she ended up giving me smaller dishes with all three types! BONUS! Words cannot describe to you the delight when it was served to me. It was like a dream come true! YUMMY!
After this we basically headed back to Newport to catch the bus back to East Cowes where the ferry would take us back to the port in Southampton. It was the perfect time to leave because not only does everything shut by 5:00pm on the island, but the sunset on the ferry ride home! It was a perfect ending to the perfect day adventure!
That was my weekend for you all and this week I will just be preparing presentations and papers! I hope you enjoy and I will keep you updated as much as possible! Next stop for me will be Dublin, Ireland the 22-24 of this month! Stay tuned!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. - Pictures are posted in the "Isle of Wight" section!
March 3rd, 2014
Top 'O The Mornin' To Ya!
I know it may not be the morning at the present at the moment but I felt it was necessary as I AM GOING TO IRELAND! My friend Amanda and I (she is another Canadian from UWindsor) booked our trip together today! From March 22-24th, we will be in Dublin Ireland experiencing all the Irish have to offer - including old pubs, museums, castles, and so much more! I am super excited for this jam packed three day girls weekend to Ireland. Sorry to all of those who are back at the University of Windsor studying for exams which are just around the corner! LOL.
I will definitely keep you updated with my many adventures as this coming weekend I will be taking a trip with Danny to the Isle of Wight. This is a cute little island just off the coast of Southampton which you need a ferry to get to! That will be happening when he visits later this week!
For now, I have been busy preparing for a debate, researching for an essay, and working on two presentations. I am trying to get as much done as I can now so that way I am stress free for Dublin! It is still not sunk in as reality still seems surreal being here and actually going to be travelling to these places!
It is a rough life being an exchange student sometimes! LOL.
That is all for now, and keep checking back for more adventures and pictures!
Peace. Love. England.
February 26th, 2014
First off let me just say this one thing – it was BARCELONA and if you can, GO GO GO! This was probably the best trip I have ever taken! Not a cloud was in the sky all weekend on the trip and it was just beautiful – weather, culture, architecture, people, and just everything!
Friday, February 21st
I had previously packed the night before so that was a bonus as in the morning I basically double checked everything, grabbed my bag and was off to class. Honestly, class always seems so long when you are anticipating leaving on a coach to London shortly after the class is over. Nevertheless, it was interesting and finally over! I grabbed some lunch and made my way to the coach station. I was a tad bit early but that is okay – better than late! LOL. Time passed and finally my coach arrived to board and depart for London Victoria Coach Station! I slept, making the time pass quicker, and there I was. Step one toward Barcelona was complete. That night Danny and I made tacos for dinner, as his mum liked them last time I made them at their house, and they turned out really good! That night we just relaxed and double and triple checked everything for the trip in the morning! Soon enough, it was an early bed in preparation for Spain!
Saturday, February 22nd
The day started off bright and early as Danny and I made our way to Victoria Coach Station about 4am to have enough time to get the coach to Gatwick Airport and do the whole check in process to get through security and such. We got to the coach station okay and were on our way. For some reason, this hasn’t happened since being here, I got travel sick and just was thankful the coach had a toilet. It wasn’t pleasant but that wasn’t ruining my trip. After arriving at the airport and checking in, I was starting to feel better and was just keeping my fingers crossed I was okay on the plane. We made our way to the gate and all was well. The plane was a smooth ride and just about two hours. I slept the whole time and wasn’t sick – BONUS! Also on the way there, out the window, as we approached Barcelona, you could see the beaches and all the sail boats out on the water as the sun was shining away! It was too beautiful and from that moment, I knew travelling to Barcelona was a great decision.
After arriving at the airport it was time to make our way to the city center. Luckily the airport was easy to navigate and very accommodating to tourists. The bus we needed to take was easy to find, and thankfully with my prior research, we got our metro/bus (T10 cards) and would be set for the weekend! Even the bus journey into the city was beautiful! It was filled with palm trees and stunning, sunshine views! It was breathtaking and that was just on the highway! LOL.
We arrived at Placa Espanya and got the metro to the port area where we would try to find the aquarium! Thankfully, unlike in Paris, the metro was super straightforward and easy to get everywhere! It was the stop and coming above ground, you were blinded my sunshine and once you could actually see there it was – the port of Barcelona with the sea, ships, and sunshine! It was stunning. I was actually speechless and just couldn’t get the camera out fast enough to try to capture it all! We also seen the Columbus Monument and crossed over the really neat bridge toward where the aquarium was. It was super pretty and I was just trying to take everything in! I was in Barcelona for maybe 10 minutes and I already fell in love with it. There were so many shops and restaurants and just people everywhere. The whole atmosphere was just so relaxed and laid back. You couldn’t be stressed or anything because things just felt like perfection. It really was a slice of heaven.
One funny thing – all weekend I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt/light sweater while all the Spanish people were wearing big winter coats, mittens, scarfs and hats! It was hilarious to see because let me tell you, it was perfectly warm and just right!
We found the aquarium and got our tickets. Entering was like a new world. It was massive and this was only the entrance! LOL. We started walking and seen a few little tanks with some really fun tropical fish and seahorses. We turned the corner and BAM…the 30 foot tunnel! It was literally wall to wall fish, sharks, and stingrays! You hopped on the conveyor that moved nice and slow to be able to see everything while you were under the creatures! Sharks were swimming above my head and it was super fun! It was better then I had envisioned and hoped for! You felt like a part of their world and underwater as they swam about! After the tunnel was sadly over, we explored the rest of the aquarium and it turned out there was penguins! One word for you – adorable! They were quite the little characters diving and jumping about. I didn’t realize they had penguins so that was a nice added bonus! Barcelona was already turning out to be a good choice!
From there, we looked in the shops in Port Vell area (just outside the aquarium). There were so many shops – some of which I recognized either from England or from Canada, which was a nice added bonus! I was just super excited! We grabbed a bite to eat from a cute little Spanish café called Pans & Company. One nice thing was that they had a print out of their menu in all different languages, English being one of them! Not only was I able to try Spanish style food but I knew what exactly I was eating! It really is the little victories sometimes! I had a chicken sandwich type thing which was super tasty! Then after I ate it, my mouth was on fire! LOL. Nevertheless it was good. Spain was getting better by the second. After lunch, I eyed up a Ben & Jerry’s shop and of course had to get Chunky Monkey. They don’t have it in England so I can say that it has taken me until Spain to have my favourite ice cream. The trip just knocked it out of the park with that one! LOL.
After we were done looking around there, and my camera was finally away (for a few minutes at least), it was time to head to find the hotel. One downfall of traveling is that my phone plan is UK based so it costs to roam when in other countries and my phone doesn’t work. Thank goodness for Google maps before leaving and the lovely guy from the hotel for directions! I must say, we did get a little bit lost but it didn’t even matter to me because, well, I was in Barcelona with the sun shining and the palm trees all around. It was like “no worries”! We ended up going a couple streets ahead of where we should it all worked out because we got to see more of the city! We even seen the Picasso Statue on the main street. I got a picture just for you Mimsey! LOL. The hotel was found and let me just say, it was super cute and exactly how I pictured a Spanish hotel. It has the tiled patterned floor, the funky artwork and even a little balcony that when you were on it and looked to the right you could see the water peeking through. It was perfect! What made it even better was the hotel owner who had a map for us and planned out how to get to everywhere we wanted to go. I must say that the level of English, virtually everywhere while in Barcelona, was pretty good! I couldn’t complain at all! Anyway, we got settled into the room and got our game plan for that evening. A few minutes later we were off again – I was in Spain and wasn’t waiting around – I had things to see! LOL.
We made our way back to Placa Espanya and walked down toward the Magic Fountain. That is one nice thing in Barcelona is that everything is either on one main metro or bus line or it is a short walk away! I personally enjoyed walking all around because you got to see more and things that you wouldn’t see if you just took the metro! Anyway, we made our way to the Magic Fountain just before sunset. I wanted to get there early to get a good spot for the show. This was one of the highlights for me of the trip and was really looking forward to seeing the show! It was just gorgeous to see the huge building, with lovely architecture in behind the fountain! About half an hour after we got a super amazing spot – the show was underway! I think my jaw was on the floor the WHOLE TIME! Words cannot express to you how amazing, beautiful, gorgeous, stunning, incredible, and whatever other fantastic words there are, the show was! The water soared into the sky as music (mostly strange Spanish music) played and the lights flashed! It was even better then I had pictured in my head. I didn’t really know what to except but nothing compares to the show that night. It lasted for about half an hour and was just amazing. One of the highlights of the trip for sure! I just kept clicking the button on the camera to take pictures in hopes I was in focus because I couldn’t take my eyes off the fountain! It was that amazing! The pictures don’t even do it justice!
After the show was over, it was getting late but we made it back to the Port area, just 15 minutes walk to the hotel, where there were shops set up. It was exactly how I imagined Spain. Little Spanish shops, outdoors restaurants, music playing and just people everywhere! It is always amazing to see real cultures on trips like this and that is what Las Ramblas was full of! Danny even bought me a little lucky Spanish turtle bobble head. It’s too cute!
After that, spending nearly an hour walking up and down, we grabbed a few Spanish style snacks and made it back to the hotel. Honestly, I don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow – it was an early day with the travelling and then all the excitement once we arrived that I was out like a light.
Sunday, February 23rd
Day 2 in Barcelona began nice and early, waking up to the gorgeous sunshine! It was even warmer then the day before! It was just stunning. The day started by walking to the Chocolate Museum! I know what you’re thinking – really?! And yes, really! It is a museum where they make their own chocolate and products, have demonstrations, and tons of handmade sculptures – all out of chocolate! It did not disappoint! Thankfully it was easy enough to find and the tour began! One cute thing was that the tickets to enter the museum were little chocolate bars. It was priceless! As soon as you walked in you were greeted with the smell of chocolate, just pure goodness! It was already a good day! Walking through the museum, there was so much to see! They had so many sculptures – the UP house, a komodo dragon, Bambi, elephants, gorillas, Chicken Little, and so much more! The details on them were impeccable! It was honestly so hard to believe some of them were chocolate! I had a blast looking through here! It was such a unique museum and too fun! At the end of the tour it was inevitable to be face to face with a display of products, all made in store, and I bought the best souvenir of the trip – chocolate of course!
From there, we decided to walk around to where our bus stop was that we would need to catch to Park Guell. On the way, it was a bonus, because not only were we walking through the streets of Barcelona in gorgeous sunshine among the palm trees but we got to see the Arch. It was huge and super pretty! What made it even better was the gorgeous trees surrounding it! The walk continued and we seen great architecture, monuments, and orange trees! Yes, you read that correctly. Right smack dab in the middle of the city there were orange trees! I was fascinated to say the least!
We made it to the bus stop and were off to Park Guell! This park is where there is the artwork of Gaudi. It is unique buildings and sculptures that are rare to Barcelona and Spain. I was super excited! I didn’t realize how big the actual park was. We walked around a little bit seeing lots of trees and hearing some really strange birds that I have never heard before. They were hiding though and I didn’t get a glimpse of them! Anyway, we finally found the entrance and were in the park. Stunning – that is the main word that comes to mind. The colours and shapes were just fantastic to see. What made it better was the views of the city lines and sunshine! I was honestly in awe the whole time and couldn’t snap my camera fast enough! We walked around and seen the sights and it was just too amazing for words – as most of the things in the trip!
After here, we walked back down to the city center to catch the metro to get to the beach. On the way it was so lovely as there were loads of shops and people and just so much culture at every turn! I was just enjoying being in the sunshine and realizing that I was really in Barcelona!
We made it back to the city center and just around the corner from Port Vell to walk to Little Barcelona where the beach is. On the way there were streets performers, ice cream trucks, and even more palm trees! It was so beautiful. I cannot stress how gorgeous the city was! On the way, we decided to stop and try some ice cream in these funny looking cones. You know me, I could never pass up ice cream! I had the strawberry one and let me tell you – that’s how you do ice cream! I just couldn’t believe it – ice cream in February and not even being cold while eating it! That is the life, let me tell you! LOL. Anyway, the walk continued and we seen more palm trees, sail boats, and finally water! There it was…breathtaking views and sand. It was like a post card, really though. Just like something you see on those travel commercials but better and in real life! LOL. There were tons of sailboats in the distance and people alone the beach. A few people were even swimming! Honestly, it was like those TV shows that show Miami with the beach and water on one side, a little path in the middle and tikki huts, volleyball or tennis courts, and rollerblading on the other side. It was perfection. I desperately wanted to touch the water and almost got soaked while doing it! The waves were suddenly so much bigger when I got close to the water. But, in the end, I can say I have touched the water on the Barcelona beach! That is not something you do every day! LOL. I even collected a few rocks and shell type things as souvenirs! Just walking up and down the beach was spectacular. I couldn’t believe how much I loved it! And to think trip was very spontaneous! LOL.
After we were done at the beach, we went to this cute restaurant called Fresc Co. It was a buffet style place that had some yummy Spanish food. There was a huge salad and veggie bar when you first entered. They also had a hot food bar where you could have pasta, pizza, or even pick our your own steak! And of course, to finish there was a little dessert bar with fruit and ice cream! It was super yummy!
As the day went on, there was one last stop on the agenda. We took the metro to Sagrada Familia which is the huge cathedral. I say huge and even that is an understatement. It was partially under construction but in no way did that hinder its unique beauty! It was enormous and stunning to say the least! It is always amazing to see these landmarks and to think it is in real life and not just a picture! The architecture of the building was so detailed and just flawless. I really enjoyed seeing it!
Once thing I also really enjoyed, was across the street from it where there was a little café truck type thing. I FINALLY HAD CHURROS – they are like a bit heavier of a donut. They were warm and sprinkled with sugar and drizzled in chocolate. Nothing I ever eat will compare to how good those were. OMG – let me tell you! Spain has got it right that is for sure! Super yummy indeed!
After that, we made it back to the hotel and it was time to call it a night.
Monday, February 24th
Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to Barcelona and head back to London where I would then get the coach back to Southampton. I must also say, even the airport in Barcelona was pretty! LOL.
Barcelona was the most amazing trip yet. I really learnt that being spontaneous every now and then can turn out to be the best decision you have ever made. I must say Spain really impressed and has set the bar quite high for the rest of the trips I have planned. I really enjoyed the trip and have come to realize the warm sunshine isn’t so bad after all! Barcelona will be one of those places I would definitely return to and spend the weekend on the beach! LOL.
If you ever have the chance, GO! Barcelona is so worth it. I can assure you it will not disappoint. If anything, it will be even more then you imagined! I know these memories will last forever. I will always look back at the pictures and be able to relive the emotion, feelings, and thoughts I had in the moments. The pictures are just part of the memories I can share – the real thing will always be with me!
So, here is to taking spontaneous trips and being a little impulsive!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. Pictures all are posted in the “Barcelona Spain” section! Keep watching for updates on my next trip and whatever else I get up too!
February 18th, 2014
Here is what has been happening this past weekend!
Friday, February 14th
Danny came to visit for the weekend and since Friday was Valentine's Day, after my class, I met him and took him to ice cream at Sprinkles Gelato. It is seriously the best place ever and I honestly only ever order one thing - one scoop white ferraro rocher and one scoop regular ferraro rocher in a waffle cone! It is basically perfection! Then, we had said we weren't really going to do anything because of the trip to Barcelona next weekend, but Danny surprised me with movie tickets he had got a couple days before coming to Southampton for the movie Endless Love! IT WAS SO SO SO SO SO GOOD! I honestly loved it! Still cannot get used to not having proper butter popcorn at a movie but salted was okay! LOL. I know, such a first world problem. LOL. After that he took me to get dinner and naturally I picked fish and chips! I need to get it all in before I go back home you know! LOL.
Saturday & Sunday, February 15th & 16th
These were just two lazy days! Honestly. I did a bunch of school work which was good because I am quite ahead of the game. That is never a bad thing because it means more travel time! LOL. Being an exchange student is such a rough life … LOL! Also, it was fun because we got to watch some of the Olympics - Jamaican Bobsled team didn't win, but good for them for even being there! I am honestly telling you though, until you are in a different country, especially during the Olympics (the ones your country dominates anyway), you do not realize how proud of a Canadian you are. Seriously! LOL.
Also, I planned out everything for Barcelona. I mean everything…right down to the little details of the directions because…let's face it…I don't know a word of Spanish! LOL.
Monday, February 17th
Well, the weekend came to an end. I had so much running around to do! It all was completed I must say. Also, I finished all my parts of both my presentations…now to wait for my groups to do theirs. LOL, I am such an overachiever! Anyway, I even got Euros for the trip this weekend! It is so hard to believe that it is almost Barcelona trip time already. It seems like time is just flying by! Pun intended. But seriously, it is hard to believe I have been here for almost 7 months and only have a little over 3 months left. I just adore it and am fitting in as much as possible! I love travelling and know it won't be the end!
Well, it was pouring rain this morning after I left for class. Of course…I am really trying to embrace British weather but it is becoming an impossible task. I know back at home it is crazy snowing but seriously, rain EVERY DAY is getting old. Anyway, I got to class and of course class was cancelled. I mean, I was tripping wet and nice and early so why would we have class? That is the second week in a row but at least last time I got an email so I didn't get there to face disappointment. So, since I am basically done all my school work (Except one paper due May 21st), I am going to take the day to maybe watch some of the Olympics and catch up on some TV shows.
Well, that is all for today! Nothing too exciting is happening this week! Until Friday that is. That is when I embark to London and the trip to Barcelona begins bright and early on Saturday morning, 4 am! LOL. I CANNOT WAIT.
Your next update will be when I return from Barcelona on Monday!
Peace. Love. England.
February 11th, 2014
Well, let me begin where my adventure began!
Friday, February 7th
I had class during the day and finished early which was a bonus because I had a coach to catch at 2:30pm and class should have ended at 2:00pm. Since it finished early it gave me plenty of time to get there and not be so rushed. I was definitely looking forward to starting my weekend in London and being in my favourite city ever! I boarded the coach and made my way to London Victoria Coach Station. Once I finally arrived, Danny was there to meet me and it was on the underground back to his house. I must say I am getting much more comfortable using the underground and knowing where I am going, always a bonus, compared to when I first arrived. I was like a deer in the headlights at first but now, I feel like a local (well…almost)! When we got back to his house we just relaxed and I unpacked my things. Danny and I made tacos for dinner which was too fun and tasty since I hadn't had them in a while! We then just relaxed before heading to bed after a long day of class and travelling!
Saturday, February 8th
Danny and I were up bright and early as we had planned to take a walk down by Brentford Locks (just a short walk from where Danny lives). Luckily, the rain stayed away for the most part - which is something rare! We got to the locks and it was so pretty. To think that right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city and motorway above, there was such a quiet and peaceful area. It was so pretty! I was fascinated by the house boats that people had set up along the river! I had never seen one in real life before and just cannot imagine why anyone would want to live in a boat. But, hey, it comes down to preference I guess. We seen a cute little waterfall and the actual locks themselves. I must say there are very different birds around here in England and they never fail to amaze me! We even seen a swan! They are quite big birds I must say! The swan even came right up close to us, swimming across the river, but sadly we didn't have food for it. Maybe next time! LOL. We looked in a couple shops and such before heading back home. We even seen a great dane, and I pet it! OMG they are the most amazing dogs and, ugh, it is just too amazing to me! LOL. The dog was huge and only two years old. I cannot wait to have one - such an English dog to boot! From there we grabbed lunch on the way home and Danny got ready for work. While he was at work, his mum and I baked sugar cookies! It was a fun afternoon and the cookies came out good too! That night, when Danny got in from work, we went and bought a few snacks for the next day when we would be going to the zoo! We packed those up and just relaxed, anticipating the next day!
Sunday, February 9th
The day started bright and early when we woke up and got ready to go to the zoo! We anticipated getting there for about 10:00am when the zoo opened so we would have all day there to make sure we seen everything and that is just what we did! The underground trip was sort of long but we made it there where we had to walk about 20 minutes through Regent's Park to get to the zoo itself. The park was quite nice despite it being the winter season - it had fountains and flowers and such. The park was filled with dogs playing and kids playing football. It was a nice walk and again, the rain was holding out - bonus! We finally got to the zoo and it was nice because there was barely any people there. That meant it was not so crowded and we didn't have to fight to see the animals! Anyway, so we entered and got our tickets. They gave us a map and let me tell you - it was just so huge! The day was going to be filled with seeing everything so we got started right away! Honestly, the animals were amazing! It was the biggest zoo I have ever been to and it did not disappoint. I loved every second of it! I took over 300 pictures and posted the best on here. One of the first highlights for me was the area of the zoo you walk through and the monkeys are free to walk and climb around you. It was quite chilly and we only seen a couple monkeys while walking through this part, but it was amazing! The little monkeys were priceless! So cute and very tiny! We also got to see a show with the penguins where they told us about the different types of penguins! Since it wasn't very much a show, we decided not to go to any other ones and just see for ourselves. The penguins were just adorable though! This meant that we were at the zoo from 10:00am, breaking once for the penguins and eating while we walked, finishing at about 3:00pm to head on home! That just is a small indicator of how much there is actually to see! Anyway, back to the animals. Despite my wishes, we went into the bug house and I just flew past those gross eight legged bugs but at least I can say we went to see everything! They have a part of the zoo dedicated to farm animals and well...My favourite animals were obviously the spotted pigs. THEY WERE JUST TOO CUTE! There was one that was sleeping and kept oinking in its sleep! Priceless! I couldn't get enough of the pigs, we even had to see them about three more times! We continued the journey and seen many more of the animals. They have an area for the giraffes that you can get really close to them on a bridge, but due to the colder weather they were inside. I must say though, you can get really close to many of the animals at this zoo. Not much is between you and them, with little glass like most zoos! Bonus for me - I liked getting super close to them to see and take pictures! Anyway, I bonded with a zebra! We were the only ones inside the area to see the zebras and there was one just eating behind the fence. A second zebra entered and came right up to me. It was the cutest thing! I took a few pictures and was talking to it! I know I sound crazy but he was just too adorable! He was moving his head and following me! It was just a great moment! We continued the day and seen the rest of the animals! I couldn't have asked for a better day! I even got a couple cute souvenirs! Danny bought me a little plush piggy key chain - adorable! And I got myself the cutest plush lion holding a British flag heart that says London Zoo! It was such an amazing day! We then took the journey back home and spent the day relaxing and going through the many, many pictures taken! Danny even booked the hotel for Barcelona! I cannot believe it is almost time for another trip! Life is too good on exchange!
Monday, February 10th
After packing my things before bed the night before, Danny and I headed out a bit earlier to get to the coach station because on the way I wanted to stop at one of the souvenir shops nearby to get myself a miniature Big Ben! I had seen them when I first arrived and don't know why I didn't get it. But I really wanted one and figured I might as well now! So needless to say - I FINALLY GOT MY MINI BIG BEN! It is even a real clock that tics! I love it and is probably my favourite souvenir so far of the trip! From there we made it to the coach station and I headed back to Southampton.
This week will just be preparing for two group presentations and doing some editing! Danny is going to come for the weekend and then we can finalize our trip for the following weekend to Spain! It is a rough life being on exchange! LOL.
That is all for now. Pictures are posted in the London England section (both Brentford Locks and London Zoo)! Enjoy!
Peace. Love. England.
February 6th, 2014
Just wanted to give you a quick update! So this week has been surrounded by school and such. Today, with a friend, I went to Magistrate's Court to observe some cases. It is so interesting and even tense at times! So cool! Also, this weekend, after class tomorrow, I will be heading to London for the weekend - just because I can! LOL. Sunday Danny and I are planning on going to London Zoo which I am really looking forward to! I promise loads of pictures. I will update you again at some point next week!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. Planning is going well for Barcelona! I cannot wait to take a trip there! So amazing to even think about!
February 1st, 2014 - Living the dream
Well, it is so hard to believe that it is February already! It seems like just yesterday I was packing things up to come to England and now I have been here for just between 5-6 months now. That means my trip is already half over. I still feel like it is all just a dream and at one point I will *pinch* wake up! It is hard to believe this is reality but let me tell you, I am learning every second of it. Since being here I have already learned so much and have done so many things. First off I have been to London (which is now my favourite city in the world), Scotland, France, and soon to be Spain! This is all just the start of something much bigger with many more trips planned! I have even thought of trips to do in a couple months, a couple years, etc. It is just all amazing. I have grown so much as a person since being here. I have somewhat a better sense of direction, I am able to be really adaptable to my surroundings and go with the flow if it doesn't go exactly to plan, and I have even become more spontaneous. For those of you who really know me, that is something unlike me! I have been able to teach myself to embrace the moments and opportunities that come my way. I have learned to try new things, especially when it comes to the grocery store and not having the same brands as at home! I have realized that no matter how many pictures you take, and trust me I have taken lots trying to capture every second of every minute, sometimes the pictures aren't even able to capture how great the trip or sight was. You can look back at those pictures and remember the memories, your thoughts, your feelings, and just how great it was. Adventure is out there, you just need to find it or create it. Every moment is something special and can change your life. One major thing I have learned here is that grades aren't everything. Obviously they are important but there is so much more out there then spending your time stressing over getting an A. This is something that really seemed unheard of to me since I always spend hours and hours studying, thinking grades mean everything. They don't. What matters is the experience in the real world you have, the culture you obtain, and the way you push yourself out of your comfort zone. It can be the most thrilling thing in the world to do something just on a whim or to go to a country where you don't even know how to say hello in their language! The world is a huge place and mistakes happen, so just learn from them. I have learnt that true friendships travel the distance with you. Despite being an ocean away my amazing friends at home have kept in touch, and I am so grateful for that because they mean the world to me. They even send me mail and make me feel all the more loved. I have also learned to embrace new friendships. Being able to put yourself out there may be just the push you need to create fantastic new friends. And then again, that also gives you a reason to have to come back to England to visit or even other parts of the world just to see them. I have learnt that relationships can be tested and be made even stronger. My boyfriend and I have had some crazy adventures, even getting lost on the way. But the point is we never gave up but pushed on. We have made so many memories here and it is only just the beginning. Most importantly, I have learned that you can make a home just about anywhere in the world no matter how strange or foreign the location is but, your heart is always with your family and that is truly home. Along the way, no matter how amazing the experiences you have, you cannot forget where you came from and the people that have made you the person you are. I couldn't have even came on this journey without my parents. Now, the size of the care package doesn't matter or if it includes dill pickle chips or not, those are just all bonuses that come along the way. What matters is that support you no matter what, no matter how hard it is for them to let you go. They have been the best throughout the whole way. I must say that the distance really makes you see how much you appreciate them and tests how much you miss them. Thank goodness for technology though - especially when you spend hours on FaceTime not realizing the time zone difference. Even if it is just a quick text saying hey, you know they love you and are thinking of you. Most importantly though, they know you love them too and miss them more then words can say. They say home is where the heart is and I must tell you, I may always have most of my heart in Sault Ste. Marie with my family, but pieces of my heart are scattered all over this world now and I know those pieces will just continue to spread because I caught the travel bug. A piece of me is shaped my the memories and experiences I have been having here on exchange and I cannot even let anything ruin those. The one piece of advice I have, to sum up everything, is just to GO and take the opportunity or the adventure. It doesn't matter what people think, what people say, or whatever. Dreams come true - you just need to make them happen. So for now, live in the moment, remember the past, and anticipate the future. Here is to the rest of my time on exchange.
Peace. Love. England.
"Life is like a camera, focus on what's important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don't work out, take another shot"
January 30th, 2014
So I hope you enjoyed the update from Paris! I still cannot get over how amazing of a trip it was. I must say though now I have to get my head in gear and get some of these essays done. This month is dedicated to school and getting ahead of the game. Also, I have to start planning for my next trip…because well I have some big news…FLIGHTS ARE BOOKED TO BARCELONA, SPAIN! I know it is unreal right? Like really…I cannot believe it at all! I cannot wait and am just too excited. I will be busy this week with school and planning things out so expect an update in about a week or so, unless any other major thing happens!
Peace. Love. England.
January 29th, 2014
So, first off - I need to tell you that this past weekend was one of the most amazing ones I have ever had! I will start at the beginning and go from there!
Friday, January 24th
I had class in the morning and double checked my packing from the night before, as right after my class I would board the coach from Southampton to London. I thought I had everything I need, nothing was forgotten and I headed off to class. To be honest, as much as I enjoyed the class and as interesting as crime and the media is, I just wanted it to end. My birthday celebrations with Danny and his mum in London were waiting and then that meant that the next morning it was time for Paris! After the class was over, I grabbed Greggs (so British, and so amazingly good) and headed to the coach station to wait for 3:30pm when I could FINALLY board! Time passed and I was ready - my coach was here and I was off! I arrived at Victoria coach station and was ready for birthday party two to begin! Danny had met me at the coach station and headed back to his house. When we got there, I was very pleasantly surprised as him and his mum had decorated the house with balloons, pink of course, and streamers that had "Happy 21st Birthday" on them! I couldn't even express my happiness. I love my birthday and this was an added bonus! From there, I was able to open my presents! I am so spoiled. First off, Danny got me a little figure bear that was holding a 21! It was too cute. He also got me Beats Solo - Pink headphones! To be honest, I WAS SUPER SURPRISED! I absolutely loved them and couldn't believe he really got them for me! Also, he got me two little pig charms for my bracelet! Adorable! Danny's mum got me my Redkin shampoo and conditioner! I loved it! And I needed some, so it was a bonus! Redkin here is like extremely hard to find - she must have hunted high and low! LOL. From there we went out to dinner at a place called the Harvester. Danny was taking us out for my birthday! I had never been to this place before but apparently it was a classic British menu so I was excited to try! It was an amazing birthday dinner - Danny, his mum, and me all went and it was so yummy! I had steak and potatoes. And…well, everything in Britain, gets served with peas! They even had an unlimited salad bar - bonus! I didn't recognize any of the dressings, since they are so much different then the ones we have at home but the one I had was good none the less! The meal was honestly so so so good! I even had BBQ sauce for my steak - a Canadian meat eaters dream. LOL. I also had dessert - which I shouldn't have because I was unaware of the surprise when we got back! I had a cookie dough chocolate brownie - HEAVEN, that is all. It was super yummy! After the restaurant we headed back to Danny's and his mum surprised me with a birthday cake! I got sung happy birthday and ate more cake! All was well with the world. It was such a great second birthday celebration and I was spoiled, yet again. LOL. I had to try out the headphones now as I had been waiting all night to do so - beauty! They are the best things that have ever existed! LOL. Too perfect! From there, Danny and I packed and repacked for the morning to ensure we had everything for Pairs. It was hard to believe that in a few short hours we would be on our way to spend the weekend in Paris, France. No big deal or anything! An exchange students dream! Who else can say when they turned 21 they had two birthday parties and a weekend in Paris!?! This birthday was a hard one to top - 21 was brought in better then I could have imagined!
Saturday, January 25th
Finally, it was the morning. We were up and out the down, on the underground and at Heathrow Airport Terminal 4 before the clock struck 9:30am! The weekend was just beginning! We made it through security, got to the gate and waited. The waited seemed like forever since we were both way too excited to actually be going to Paris! Finally we boarded the plane and we were in the air! Air France honestly was such a good airline - so much room on the airplane and even had the cutest little cans of things to drink! I slept most of the way - even though the flight was just about an hour. LOL. I woke up and BAM - we were in Paris, France! We made it off the plane and took a couple breathers. It was real. Reality started to sink it, but didn't quite get there. From that moment, confusion and lack of communication was just about to begin. All the signs were in French and so was all the words being spoke around us. That was an adventure in itself. Luckily I know some French from school and some people along the way spoke English. First thing was first, we bought out tickets to get to the heart of Paris from the airport as well as the tickets for the weekend while around and about in Paris. We boarded the RER, similar to the metro - just a special, faster line to the airports, and we were off! I must admit the part from Charles de Gaulle airport to just before our destination was a bit sketchy. The areas, even the stations were full of graffiti. But, that was fine. We managed to get to the station called St. Michel - Notre Dame where we needed to transfer to Champ de Mars - Tour d'Eiffel. Well that is when the real fun began. We were lost in that station for about 2 whole hours. I was getting super frustrated because I just wanted to get to the Eiffel Tour! Like really, it didn't look that hard to navigate the metro online! LOL. The metro/RER was much more difficult to navigate then the London Underground, and that is not just because it is in French. I found there was lack of organization and direction with the Paris system and just didn't really make it easy. Anyway, after walking around and up and down and left and right inside this station, we seen two train drivers. They knew we were lost and luckily spoke minor English. They guided us to where we needed to be and FINALLY we were on route to the Eiffel Tour! One really cool thing was the double decker trains on some of the metro lines! That was super neat and of course, I had to experience the top decker! Crazy amazing! You don't find those trains in London! LOL. But anyway...We got off at the stop we needed to and BAM, up the stairs from being underground - there it was! I turned my head and was face to face with the Eiffel Tour!
It was one of those moments when all my dreams and big wishes flooded into my brain! This was something you see in pictures and on movies. It was reality for me and I couldn't believe it was actually happening! I was seeing the Eiffel Tour in real life, my own two eyes! Danny and I walked around and admired its beauty! I took loads and loads of pictures - trust me! LOL. It was incredible seeing it. We planned on going right to the top but because of the winter season and high fog, the top level was closed. We still were able to go up to the second level though. That was enough I must admit. It was so scary - so high up! LOL. We took the lift up and the stairs down. Getting there in the lift was fine - but once we walked off and approached the ledge, OMG - I was in Paris, on the Eiffel Tower - things couldn't get better. The sights were incredible and you could literally see for miles around the city of Paris! It was beautiful! They even had shops and restaurants all around the top of the Tower. It was crazy spectacular! The pictures speak for themselves but honestly, they don't do it justice! We ended up taking the stairs down and it was so cool to see the city as we walked down each set of stairs. You could see through the parts of the tower out to the city - as you walked down it was like a different view every time! I loved it! So many stairs though, good thing we got the lift up! LOL.
After the Eiffel Tower we walked around the area again and just admired the beauty of the Tower. This was iconic Paris. Living the dream is such an understatement. This is my life and I just adore it! We looked in and out of different shops before heading to find where we needed to be to take our Seine River Cruise! We found the port for the boat and waited to board. I was excited because we would be able to see everything along the river, including the Eiffel Tower, all lit up! We boarded the cruise and as we were waiting, the Eiffel Tower lit up and sparkled! This happens every hour, we realized! LOL. It was gorgeous! Better then you can see in pictures and movies that is for sure! The boat then took off and we seen so many things along the Seine. There was a monumental bridge, an old train station now converted to the modern art museum, the Louvre, the replica of the Statue of Liberty, and so much more! It was phenomenal! The lights and such were better then I expected. We even, because of the option for the cruise we picked, got to have French crepes on board the boat! True French crepes, with sugar inside, were the greatest things ever! They were warm and sugary and sweet! It was lovely! Honestly, one of the best things I have eaten! Super yummy! The boat circled back to the port and I just kept snapping the camera! LOL. Paris was already more then I imagined!
After the cruise ended, we decided to get to the hotel before it got too late as we needed to check in. Plus, after the experience with the metro earlier, we didn't know how long it would take us to get there! LOL. So, we got on the metro and actually made it. It was super easy to navigate and get to from there as it was only one transfer, at a much smaller and more basic station! The area was quite nice that the hotel was in and on a super quiet street! We checked in, which was pretty easy as the man spoke English decently! We went up to our room, 504. I opened the door and well…it was literally a room. There was a bed in the middle of the room, a small desk, and a small wardrobe for our things. It obviously wasn't the style of hotel we have back home. Despite being small, it was nice and good enough for the weekend - it was just a place to sleep anyway! Luckily we had our own bathroom, rather then sharing with the whole floor of the hotel! The bathroom was fine, a decent size. But, one thing that threw me off was the shower. It was literally a corner of the bathroom, not closed off or anything. The shower head was attached to the wall and there was a drain hole on the floor to catch the water. Yup, we were in Paris. LOL. After we got settled in and such we decided to try and get some food before it got too late. It was already passed 9pm (Paris is one hour ahead of England, meaning 6 hours ahead of Canada) and lots of places were closing. First we found a grocery store and decided to get some snacks. That was fun and quite an adventure. I ended up getting some crisps - they had Lays brand but really odd flavours. I had "fromage" which were just cheese but, when I tried them the next night, they were so amazing and better then any cheese chips I have ever had! I got bacon flavoured Bugels … not a good choice! LOL. They were not very good, but at least I tried right!? LOL. Also, I got a dark chocolate, I think hazelnut, bar! I didn't try it until last night (when I was back in Southampton) and OMG it was amazing! European chocolate is a hidden gem! LOL. Anyway, after the grocery store we tried to find somewhere to have a dinner type meal. Since most places were closed we had Dominos pizza - French style. Well, the guy spoke a tiny amount of English but thanks to the French I know, I was able to work out the menu. Danny got Hawaiian and I got four cheese. We also got cheese bread. The cheese bread was really good! When I got to my pizza, I didn't realize that the cheese was so different from a normal "four cheese" pizza. I didn't know what the two types of chunky cheese were but they weren't too nice - so I picked that off, but otherwise it was alright! LOL.
After we ate, I tried the Internet because I wanted to let my mom and Ed know we arrived and were safe and sound. Well, the hotel didn't have internet included but I ended up getting an hour use. That was just enough to send a message back home and ensure that all was well. I wouldn't be in contact again until Monday when we were back in England and my phone actually had a signal! LOL. One thing…no English television. LOL. That was quite the adventure to work out what we were actually watching and didn't understand a thing that was happening in the shows! At least we tried right? That was okay though. After that, I decided to try out the shower and well, I much prefer a normal enclosed shower - not a corner of the bathroom. LOL.
That was it for the adventure that day, but Sunday brought even more amazing experiences and memories that I will never forget!
Sunday, January 26th
This day began quite early as I was unsure how long it would take us to get to the Louvre because of the mishap on the way to the Eiffel Tower but sure enough we arrived in decent time and didn't get lost! LOL. So, we got off the metro and found the Louvre with no trouble at all. Before entering there we went to a few of the souvenir shops around there and of course, I found a few goodies! I even bought a buret - so French! LOL. From there we walked through the courtyard of the Louvre and that is when we seen how bit it actually was. The building itself was beyond massive and words or pictures cannot describe its size. We made it to near the entrance and there it was - the glass pyramid, iconic symbol of the Louvre! I still couldn't believe the trip was actually real and that things were all coming together. Paris was already more then I could have hoped for and it was just getting better. Before going into the museum we decided to see the Arch de Triumph. It was just across the way and, wow, it was beautiful! The Arch is very iconic and found on many postcards! It was beautiful and yet again, right before my very eyes! One annoying thing was the men around the landmark trying to sell rings of replicas of the Eiffel Tour - these are not legal and they hang around, until they see police. They try and sell them to you and it is really annoying. There was one guy trying to sell them to us and finally I just yelled "I SAID NO"! LOL. Needless to say, he left us alone. After we seen the Arch we seen the queue was getting bigger to enter the Louvre so we made our way there. It took no time at all and we were down inside - right underneath the glass pyramid. One word - huge! It was honestly massive and much bigger inside then I was expecting, even after seeing the gigantic exterior! LOL. We got our tickets and made our way inside one of the exhibits. We got a map, in English thank goodness and decided to start with the main thing - the Mona Lisa. The hunt was on to find this painting and let me tell you, it wasn't easy! Up and down stair and around corners! It was so far from the entrance but we seen lots of other art along the way. Finally we seen the massive crowd and knew we reached it. We pushed our way to the front and there it was - The Mona Lisa! It was unreal. I couldn't believe I was actually seeing the world's most famous piece of art. Like wow! It was quite nice as well, smaller then I was anticipating. I got some great photos and really enjoyed admiring actually seeing it! From there we just walked around from exhibit to exhibit seeing some of the most famous art in the world. Paintings both big and small! Even the building itself had paintings on the walls and ceilings! There was always something to look at and it was fascinating! I couldn't believe it! I was inside the Louvre! After looking around and whatnot we decided to find the second big thing I wanted to see - the Venus de Milo. That was one hard statue to find and we even got lost a couple times. Eventually we made our way there seeing loads of other sculptures and statues on the way! Again, we seen the crowd and knew we had made it there! It was beautiful and again, I couldn't believe I was really seeing it! Something so famous, and thought of as something you see in pictures or hear about, was right in front of me! Amazing! We looked around and found a few other things to see from there! We spent nearly 3-4 hours in the Louvre and still didn't see half of it. It was huge! I was really happy though to see what we did see, especially the Mona Lisa!
After the Louvre, we were quite hungry and after seeing several cafes in the area, it was time to try a famous French baguette! When we went to the little cafe and looking at the selection, I just looked for key words and went from there. I had "poulet" which I knew was chicken and completely enjoyed the sandwich! It easily was one of the best I have ever had! I felt too French. Sitting outside, across from the Louvre, eating a baguette! It doesn't get better then that! Even the Eiffel Tower poked through the tress in the distance. Life was just perfect. We then went into a few more tourist shops and stalls and found a couple more things to have as memories of the Paris trip! LOL.
It was then time to head to the Ponts de Arts bridge. This is an iconic location known as the love locks bridge were people write their names on locks and attach it to the bridge. The custom is that once the lock is locked, it is there forever and you throw the key into the Seine River. We managed to find it okay and seen the thousands of locks already attached. It was honestly so beautiful. Just the sights and sounds, of the music being played by a man on the accordion on the bridge, was iconic Paris to me. While on the bridge you could see French flags and all the famous landmarks - just in that location. It was amazing and so incredible. Danny and I attached the lock we had got to put on there and threw away the key! It was too fun! It was such a great moment. I also wanted to surprise my parents and attached a lock for them as well on the bridge! The key was thrown and that was that! The bridge was one of my favourite places in Paris - along with everything else because it was all too amazing to pick one favourite moment! I just loved it!
We decided to walk up and down the area in and out of shops, buying more souvenirs and gifts! I found so many nice things - a hoodie, a buret, a t-shirt, a necklace, a mug, etc. I loved them all but nothing will compare to the memories, experiences, and photos I have from this trip! We then decided it was time to go to Notre Dame Cathedral! I really wanted to see it because of the movie the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Unfortunately on the way it started to really rain. That wasn't going to stop me though! I had my heart set on seeing it! LOL. On the way to the cathedral though, we had seen a couple pet stores and of course I had to look. It was the strangest thing though - they sold live animals right inside like cats, dogs, rats, mice, birds, snakes, fish, chickens, and even pigeons! It was so strange for me because we don't have anything like that at home! I enjoyed seeing the puppies and kittens though! They were just too cute! People were just picking which one they wanted and took it home from there - strange. LOL. We ended up then back on track to get to Notre Dame and after a few twists and turns there it was! I kept an eye out for Quasimodo but no luck! LOL. There was service on Sunday and we didn't actually go in but just seeing it was incredible! As we stood to take a few pictures the bells even rang! It was so amazing and just made me think of watching the movie when I was little. I loved it!
After this, it was getting later in the day and starting to really rain, and since we were right outside a major metro stop, we decided to head back to the hotel! We found our way back with no trouble at all and went up out of the rain. After unloading all the souvenirs we bought, we thought it was time to try a French pastry! The night before we had seen the bakery, which was closed by the time we were out, and knew it would be the one to try! So we went there and OMG the choices - it was a tough decision but I ended up getting a tarte de laframboise! It is a fancy French word for a raspberry tart! Let me tell you, it was delicious! Like I honestly cannot even express my love for this pastry! It was so light and flaky and just too tasty! If I could, I would have taken a box back home! LOL. We even bought a couple croissants - it wouldn't be a proper trip to Paris without trying at least one right? Well, no croissant I have ever had will compare to this one! It was amazing and just like a little taste of heaven! One word - LOVE! Definitely one of the positives of France - the pastries! Yummy!
After that we went back to the hotel and decided to start organizing and packing everything. Good thing Danny had extra room in his bag because everything didn't fit in mine - but every souvenir was worth it! After about an hour or so of organizing everything we got it all to fit and just relaxed for a little bit - trying a couple snacks we got the night before. That is when the hunger struck for something more - a real meal. Well, Danny had heard the French McDonalds is quite different that that of the "normal" ones. We had seen one just down from the hotel and of course we had to try. Well, the menu was something else! It was really strange and there were many unfamiliar things. One weird thing was that not everything came in a meal and you had to order it piece by piece. Also, the poor girl at the counter barely spoke English so after a bit of pointing and minor French words, we got our dinner. It was an experience! LOL.
That was it for Sunday as we just relaxed back at the hotel and got a good nights sleep before embarking on the journey back to Charles de Gaulle airport in the morning! I even got a Paris stamp in my passport! That is going to be one of many when I am done! LOL.
Monday, January 27th
It was an early morning start as we left quite early in case we got lost along the way, but it was actually very straightforward! We made our way to the airport and checked in, went through security and found our gate. The airport was quite large and we looked around a few of the shops, finding a light lunch before the flight. It was finally time to board and we were on our way back to London. Upon arrival I had to go through immigration. Me being me, had all my documents ready and prepared and the officer didn't even ask to see them. He did. however, spend nearly 10 minutes talking to me about my "Inked in England" tattoo which he thought was quite a great souvenir! At least it is a conversation starter and he let me back into the country! LOL! We got back to Danny's house and I had just enough time to pack up my birthday things and my souvenirs from Paris before heading to Victoria coach station to embark on my way back to Southampton!
I boarded the coach, put on my Beats headphones and the next thing I knew I woke up in Southampton! I grabbed dinner on the way - fish and chips of course - and was back at home. I unpacked from the best weekend ever and just re-looked over the photos I had taken. I just know that those are only pieces of the memories I made and the experience I had. The trip will forever live with me in my memory and in my heart. A piece of me is always in Paris and hopefully I will be back one day.
This weekend was one of the best! Being an exchange student is really opening my eyes to the world and realizing there is so much more out there. Good grades are important, but they are not the end all, be all. Life is an adventure. Enjoy the journey and embrace every second of it. I only turn 21 once and this was by far the best way to celebrate!
Now time to start planning the next trip…the world is at my fingertips!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. Pictures are posted in 1/ London, England from my second birthday in London and 2/ in Paris, France! There are lots of photos to look at so enjoy! I know I did! That is only a slice of how amazing it was to see everything!
January 23rd, 2014
Good Day Everyone!
Well, I am officially 21 and loving it already. I had the most amazing day yesterday celebrating here in Southampton, England. First off, I had to wake up really early for my 9am class and had a present on our kitchen table. Thanks to my German roommate, I have a cute book that tells me "How to Be British"! I loved it! Some of the things inside it are so hilarious because I have witnessed it happening here! So fun. After that I had my class and student mentoring and then my seminar (switched from Thursday just for this week)! Anyway, my friend Mark gave me a 10 pound (I don't have the symbol on my keyboard) voucher for Sprinkles Gelato. So of course, we had to go! I had the biggest cone you could ever imagine - Ferraro Rocher and White Ferraro Rocher gelato. TOO YUMMY!! And of course, I ate every bite! It was love. LOL. I also had a strawberry shake but couldn't finish it! LOL. I bought a cupcake to have that night as well - cute sparkly green icing with a butterfly. I needed a cute little cake…little did I know what was coming later on that night though.
After that, it was back to my house to relax for a bit. My friend Mark also got me more presents, which I was not expecting at all - too kind of him! I got two amazing t-shirts (one One Direction and the other the Union Jack flag) as well as a British pillow with a Double Decker Bus on it! I couldn't have been happier! I loved it! A few friends then came over and I got a few birthday cards which I loved! Going to keep all these memories forever! We went and had a birthday dinner - Ted's Fish and Chips (my pick)! I loved it and definitely celebrated British style. Then we were all sitting in my living room and Mark said I wasn't allowed to turn around…ummm why? Well, suddenly everyone was singing me happy birthday and I had the biggest cupcake birthday cake I have ever seen! It meant so much to me because I honestly wasn't expecting to hear that wonderful song today! LOL. It was too amazing and I couldn't have thanked all my friends enough for all they did to make my birthday special! It was definitely a way to bring in 21 in ways I will not ever forget! :)
After all the wonderful guests left, I was able to FaceTime my mom and open the presents her and Ed had mailed me. Well, let me tell you - I am so spoiled and I just adore everything they sent me! It was so amazing to get the wonderful gifts! In all reality though, I was so happy to get to see my Mimsey on my birthday! She really lucked out having me 21 years ago! LOL. Seriously though, she did. But in reality I know I was the one who was extremely lucky!! I know it was just a short call, but I enjoyed it. The wonderful gifts I got were too amazing for words - and everything fit great! I have so many clothes now then when I arrived…no, I am not sure how I am getting it all back to Canada. LOL.
Now, I am spending today packing and putting things away because tomorrow is my other birthday party in London with Danny and his mum. I am really looking forward to it! I just love my birthday and being 21 is huge - so celebrating it in style. Saturday to Monday I will be in Paris, France - and I AM TOO EXCITED! It is something you only dream of and I am living it. What a way to celebrate 21, eh?
So, I have posted a few birthday pictures in the Southampton section at the bottom and can promise even more pictures from this weekend! I couldn't be happier with how my day went yesterday and looking forward to an amazing weekend as well!
Peace. Love. England.
January 20th, 2014
Well let me first say that this has been such a fun past weekend that I cannot even begin to describe it. The fun really started on Saturday when I went to my friend Mark's house with one of my roommates where he would make dinner (which was spectacular by the way) and play Wii with the rest of his roommates. Well, indeed it was too fun and full of laughs. It is really nice to have "normal" nights once in a while even though I love travelling and doing the tourist things, it is good to stop and breathe and just have a normal night in…despite me and my friends being anything but normal. LOL. I must say that I was pretty good at the newest Just Dance game despite loosing quite a few times to Mario Kart. LOL. All in all it was good fun!
Sunday Danny came to visit and that was good as always. We were able to go out and do some looking around! He even bought me a cute new pink phone case! Anyway, we grabbed lunch from Greggs - I cannot get enough of that place, let me tell you. If someone decided to open one up back home, they would be a saint. LOL. From there we came back home and I booked my coach ticket to London for Friday and returning Monday. Also, we booked our Seine River Cruises in Paris, France because IT IS THIS WEEKEND! LIKE LITERALLY FOUR DAYS AWAY AND I AM WAY TOO EXCITED. I cannot believe that this is all happening! It is going to be the perfect way to celebrate my birthday (which is only two days away in case you lost count) - welcome 21! One problem is, I don't know how any other birthday will top this one…
This week is going to be pretty busy and fun and exciting all at the same time. First off, the new second semester starts tomorrow which I am looking forward to because it is new classes and a new chance to show them how smart us Canadians really are! Then, on Wednesday, for my birthday, I have gifts from my parents to open which will obviously be super amazing! Then a couple friends and I are going to have dinner - because lets face it, I am not cooking on my birthday! LOL. Then Thursday I will be packing and getting ready for Friday since I have my coach booked right after my class to leave for London. Friday, Danny and his mum and I are going out for dinner and celebrating my birthday…this will literally be a week long birthday for me! And I love it. Then Saturday to Monday we are in Paris, France! Ugh, I cannot express how much I am looking forward to this!
So the next post won't be for a while, unless I do one after my birthday but if not, PROMISE that I will post after this weekend and promise to have tonnes of pictures for you!
For now, that is all and there are a few pictures in the Southampton section at the bottom!
Peace. Love. England.
January 17th, 2014
Well…Let me start with the beginning of the week. Monday I had my in-class critique which I prepared so much for! I honestly think that went really well and my fingers remain crossed. That officially marked the end of second semester for me - woo hoo! It is rather bitter sweet because well I am ready for new classes and changes but at the same time, time is going extremely fast.
Next semester begins on the 20th and I have three amazing classes: Power Politics and Policy, Alcohol Drugs and Crime, and Crime and Media Culture. I am really looking forward to it. The bonus is that I have Mondays off and finish Fridays at two. Hello long weekends for travelling. Speaking of which my birthday is only a short few days away and that means my trip to Paris, France is only one week away today! Can you believe it? I know, I can't either. The end of the semester marked my having my week free so I made the most of it. After my class assessment, I met one of my friends and did a little bit of shopping, had some fish and chips (which is my favourite British thing…besides Big Ben…believe it or not) and then got gelato at this place called Sprinkles. Let me tell you - you have not lived until you ate Ferraro Rocher gelato in a waffle cone. It was heaven.
Anyway, after my fun day out I was back home and started organizing and planning Paris since the major things like flight and accommodation were already booked. I feel like a champion already for figuring out the Paris Metro…let's just hope that it goes just as good when I am actually there. There is so much to do in Paris and I cannot wait! AHH THE EXCITEMENT! This birthday will be one to remember for sure!
That has taken up most of my week along with house hunting for next year when I get back to Windsor for school. That has been an adventure and super difficult since I am not physically there. Lucky enough I will have the most amazing roommate who is doing a great job calling and getting things sorted! That is one hard thing with exchange is you get caught up in the lifestyle here that you have to sometimes rethink and adjust to how you tackle things back at home. Anyway, I have also been looking into Masters Programmes this week so that is somewhat sorted when I get back so I can just do more research rather then just beginning. It has been a busy week! Wednesday I had student mentoring which was good as always! I really enjoy it even though sometimes we don't get too many questions - it is nice to just be there. I made poutine for dinner that night - bringing some Canadian to the motherland. LOL! Also, I got a nice letter and christmas card/photo from one of my bestest friends back at home and it really made my day! It is so nice hearing from my friends and family because they are missed. No matter the distance - I know I can count on those closest to me. I have some of the best friends in the world to send me letters all the way to England.
Yesterday was really nice because I got to meet the other exchange student here for second semester who is from my home university in Windsor. It was nice to hear a Canadian accent and catch up on things from back in Canada. She was super nice and it went well!
Today…I was extremely lucky because I got a package from home. My parents are the best in the world - let me tell you. I feel so lucky and blessed to have them in my life. Seriously though, that care package was more then words can say! I cannot wait to enjoy snacks from home and open my birthday presents (on Wednesday…the wait will be hard but I know it will be worth it)!
Anyway, that is it for now! I have a few things planned for the weekend which will be super exciting then get back ready to start classes on Tuesday since I have Monday's off! Beauty isn't it?! The life of a student…better yet…an exchange student. Things are going amazing and I am just counting down the days until I am 21 then go on to celebrate in Paris!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. There are a couple pictures for you at the bottom of the Southampton section. :)
January 11th, 2014
I must say this is just a quick update as I have been busy in the last few days working on my assessment (in class critique) for Monday. That will mark the end of my first semester in England. I cannot believe it is already half way done. Where does the time go?
One of my good friends that I met here on exchange left back for Canada (since he was also Canadian) and I must say it will be strange without him here. However, he is fortunate enough to have Tim Hortons…LOL. Anyway, that made me think how lucky I am to be here for a bit longer and to experience even more things in the UK and Europe.
This trip has definitely made me catch the travel bug! Travelling feels like an essential now where you do things around the trips you have planned. It couldn't be a better lifestyle to have though. One thing I am excited for is celebrating my 21st birthday in Paris, France. Yes you read that right. This will be the birthday of a lifetime. Literally only 14 more days to go and I will be in the amazing city! One problem…what birthday will ever top this one? LOL. Dreams are constantly coming true and I cannot wait to see what else this adventure brings!
I am glad that tonight I got to talk with my mom, and briefly Ed, because I must admit being away makes me miss them more and more everyday! I couldn't do all this without their love and support. It also is super comforting talking with them about everyday things and the plans that I have. My poor mom even listens to me talk about my assignments! I know I am one lucky girl!
I must say that even now things are still feeling so unreal and I wake up everyday and still cannot believe this is my life. I have learned so many things - the most important being to find the adventure that is out there. It seemed like so long ago I was planning my trip to the UK and then Paris and soon it will be Rome. The world is full of opportunities, journeys, and cultures - it is important to not let anything hold you back. I know the memories I make on this adventure will be with me forever. And this trip, my year abroad, is only the start of the rest of my adventure in life as who knows where else I will visit and what else I will experience.
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. I will give you a further update within the week to prepare you for the excitement of Paris! For now, back to my assignment I will go...
January 5th, 2014
First off, I want to say thank you to everyone back home for the love and support throughout this incredible journey I am on. I was delighted to get a text from my mom today informing me of this: http://www.sootoday.com/content/news/details.asp?c=66492
I could not believe it and it was so exciting! I cannot thank you enough for the support from all those back home in Canada! I promise to keep you updated on my latest adventures!
For now, I am glad to say I am back in Southampton safe and sound - even though with the weather I thought it was going to be a struggle. As the coach drove out of London, I was getting worried as the storms kept coming and the rain poured down. Luckily, I made it back the house only a bit damp! LOL.
Also, it was super amazing to chat with my mom tonight about everything that has been going on. I sure do miss her lots! It is so strange how you think "oh no, I will be okay until I get home" but in all reality you miss you parents more then they will ever know. They really mean the world to me and this experience has made that even truer.
My adventures in London over Christmas and New Years were more than I could have asked for. I cannot put it into words to tell you how amazing it has been to spend the holidays abroad - even though I obviously miss home! It is hard to believe I have already been here 5 months and the trip is half over as I return mid June back to Canada. Time sure does fly when you are having fun!
This week is just going to be focused on getting back into the swing of things, especially with school. The semesters are so strange here than they are back home - the next two weeks will wrap up first semester then the week of the 19th, semester two will begin. Luckily I only have a couple classes this week and then my final in class assessment on the 13th for my Dangerous Offenders class as all my other stuff is submitted! YAY!
Tomorrow is grocery shopping day which is always an adventure as practically nothing in the grocery store is the same and it always ends up taking me hours to shop! But this time I made a list and have specific things to look for - two trips worth since I know I cannot carry it in one load! LOL. Man, the muscles I will have after this year…
The other thing on the agenda this week will be to plan my birthday trip to Paris, France! How cool is that eh? Just going to spend the week causally in France. Oh I cannot wait!
That is all for now, and I promise to keep you posted with everything and update pictures as they come!
Peace. Love. England.
January 1st, 2014
Happy New Year!
I must say that I was fortunate enough to welcome 2014 in with a huge welcome. I was lucky enough to be able to head down to Central London and experience New Years in the capital city. It was funny because I can recall watching on the television in years past, while waiting for the ball drop in New York, where they play previous celebrations in other countries because of the time zone difference. I can recall seeing the years past and seeing how amazing London, England was. And now this year, there I was – in the middle of the chaos staring at Big Ben and the London Eye all lit up – waiting for midnight to be here!
I must say it was unbelievably cold, the rain held out just until after midnight, and the crowds were mad. By mad I mean insane and just so many people! It was estimated that there was about 250,000 to 300,000 there to watch the fireworks. You could see news helicopters in the sky trying to get the scope of the crowd and how massive it was.
Finally…20 minutes to go…10 minutes to go…5 minutes to go…the crowd went silent and then all of a sudden…5, 4, 3, 2, 1…Big Ben chimed and the Eye did it’s thing. The fireworks were breathtaking and I couldn’t believe how unreal it was! The skies must have lit up for miles as the fireworks really banged in the New Year. Words cannot express the emotions you feel in that moment and how truly amazing it is. They lasted for almost 20 minutes and it was the best New Year’s I have had to date. What a way to bring in 2014! I know that there will be so many more memories to be made this year. I just can’t wait. I am so luck!
After the fireworks it took nearly two hours to get home because of the mass amount of people. One nice thing was that the underground was free so it was supposed to be easier to get home – once you actually got on a train. LOL. Overall though, I cannot believe how amazing it was. And we made it home safe and sound…only a couple bruises. LOL.
Like I said, words cannot describe how amazing the experience was to be there in the big city with thousands and thousands of people watching the show of a life time. I tried to capture the spirit in a few videos and some pictures. They are in the “New Years – London, England” section!
Happy New Year!
Peace. Love. England.
December 30th, 2013
This weekend has been pretty amazing. I did some sightseeing to Tower Bridge and then some normal things but UK style such as bowling, dinner and cinema! It is so funny how at the beginning of the trip it felt impossible to get used to the fact that I was in England and how different it is from what I am used to. Don’t get me wrong it still is like a dream but everyday it is becoming more and more normal. I now understand what my exchange coordinator, Michelle, was saying at orientation before we all departed, that coming back to Canada will be the real adjustment. I cant imagine what it will be like when I go back home. Anyway, that was just a funny thought. Things in England have become second nature to me and I am getting more and more familiar with everything. I still get all excited and crazy touristy when I see something I always have admired in pictures! LOL. London is honestly so big and there is so much to do – it is never boring!
Saturday, December 28th
Danny and I went to do some sightseeing. First on the agenda was to Shakespeare Globe Theatre. This type of thing isn’t really my personal interest but I know one lovely woman would appreciate pictures of it – those are for you Mimsey. I must say that the streets we walked down to find the place were too quiet and quite dark and foggy…just like in an old time London movie, horror story type deal. LOL. It wasn’t quite as bad as that but it was still too quiet for comfort. The main thing is though that we found the Globe Theatre. I must admit it was pretty amazing to see! The building itself was so pretty and really amazing. It was one of those moments when it was like – OMG this is real because I know I have only seen it on TV or in pictures!
From there you could see London Bridge. Most people, even myself got confused. London Bridge is different from Tower Bridge. London Bridge is a smaller bridge right by the Globe Theatre that lights up. Tower Bridge is the big one that is absolutely gorgeous as an icon of London. Anyway, London Bridge was nice nonetheless. I also got to walk across Mellenium Bridge which apparently, before they structured it properly, it swayed when you walked across it. Thankfully that didn’t happen when I went on it due to the support built on the side of it. I would have died. LOL. It was so pretty to see the views of London from the Bridge – so many lights, sounds, and such. It will never get old. We could see St. Paul’s Cathedral from here. What a beautiful building. And to think of all the royalty, famous leaders, etc. that have been married, buried, and just entered that building was overwhelming. It was where the baby Prince George was baptized which was pretty neat as I had read about it online. To actually see the building was amazing.
From there we went to Tower Bridge. I could see it from a distance and couldn’t wait to be up close and personal. We walked along the Queen’s Walk toward the Bridge along the Thames river. We seen the biggest ship ever – called the HMS Belfast – it was beyond huge. Anyway, the main focus for me was Tower Bridge. There it was before my eyes – the most beautiful sight in the world – all lit up. I cant even describe the feeling you get when you see the sights in the country you have always wanted to visit. It is both overwhelming and the best moment of your life. I have had so many of those this year already. I know that those same feelings, those that cannot be described in words, will all come back to me when I see the pictures or think of the experiences I have had while I am here. On the walk to Tower Bridge, you could see the Tower of London which is where all the crown jewels are kept. It looks like a big tower with a castle surrounding it – right in the middle of the city. That pretty much is London though isn’t it? LOL. To top it all off, when we got to the Bridge, you could walk across it! I thought it was only for cars but oh, I was wrong. So we took a casual stroll across Tower Bridge. Typical Saturday isn’t it? LOL. Like that is so amazing. To think these things are all happening is beyond incredible. I was so excited and loved every second of it! London never fails to amaze me.
Sunday, December 29th
Today there was lots planned as Danny and I were going to part of London called Kingston where there was a placed called the Rotunda which had bowling, restaurants, and a cinema. That was the plan in that order right after shopping and looking around since there was both a mall and several streets of shops. The bus journey was a bit long but nothing that wasn’t exciting because I got to sit up top a double decker bus and take in the sights and sounds of a part of London I hadn’t seen yet. The streets were super busy and the stores were chaos so I didn’t do any shopping and little looking around. We did see a display of telephone boxes that where tipping over. It was so amazing – I loved it!
From there we went bowling and played three games. It was so nice to be in a place that I spent so much of my life – a bowling alley. One weird thing – we got a lane where we could bowl with our own shoes on. Weird isn’t it? It was like I hadn’t stopped bowling as I remembered everything. I was a bit rusty and only shot a 107, 112 and 127 but it was about having fun! I had a blast and it was too amazing! Who knew I would go bowling in London, England? Pretty amazing isn’t it? My life is just spectacular and I couldn’t be happier.
For dinner, Danny took me to a place called Frankie and Benny’s which was a old style classic diner with an amazing menu! I had a chicken club house and I must admit that it was one of the best I have ever had – even beats the Husky from back at home. Now, that is saying something. I enjoyed it lots and was stuffed. But, there is always room for dessert. We had caramel pecan cheesecake and let me tell you, it was so good I didn’t even get a picture of it. LOL. It was amazing and not even a crumb was left on the plate! I really enjoyed dinner and then it was off to the movies.
I was so excited to experience the movies UK style. One thing that I did miss lots was butter popcorn as here, even in cinemas, the choice is salty or sweet. I chose salted and I did enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the same. We went to see Anchorman 2. It was so funny and they even had a seen mocking Canadians. It was priceless and a great laugh! The cinema was so nice and the chairs were super comfy. Even in the theatre, you could choose between regular seats or premium seats. Isn’t that crazy…for a movie? LOL. Regardless, I really enjoyed it. It was like a normal night out regardless of the country I was in – even though we got back on a double decker bus home and you think, yup it’s still England! LOL.
That is all the updates on the most amazing weekend in London. Next big thing – tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and that means central London where the Eye and Big Ben will bring in the New Year. I cannot wait and am super excited to go there despite the mass amounts of people. I have taken Ed’s advice on board, from before I left, and will be smart and try not to stand out too much! LOL. I promise boatloads of pictures and even a couple videos hopefully!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. Pictures are posted in the bottom of the London, England section!
December 27th, 2013
I still cannot believe Christmas has come and gone for 2013. I never imagined I would be in a new country, experiencing Christmas in England. It was super strange not being home for Christmas because you get so used to the traditions you have with your family at home. This year was so different but I really did enjoy it. Christmas eve I spent the day helping Danny’s mum, Emma, to tidy the house a little bit and to do the last minute wrapping. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and getting in the Christmas spirit. The Grinch was on TV and I could not resist watching it because that is the classic movie that is a must watch every year. We ended up ordering in pizza that night and just watching Christmas movies like – A Christmas Story and Home Alone. It was a great Christmas Eve and just before bed, it was time to put out the presents in anticipation for the morning!
That night for Christmas Eve, it was so hard to get to sleep because I am a huge kid at heart. I just wanted it to be the morning and to open the presents that were waiting downstairs. Eventually I got to sleep and soon enough it was the morning. Up bright and early at 11:00am, LOL, it was time to go downstairs in our reindeer jumpers and open Christmas presents. I got some lovely gifts from both Danny and Emma. I loved everything but my favourite thing of all was the bouquet of Ferraro Rocher chocolates from Danny! Yes, it is literally a huge bouquet! We had so much fun opening gifts and throwing around the Christmas paper. Luckily, Danny and his mum loved the stuff I got them as well so it was a success. The last gift for me was from home – from my parents. It had come in the mail about November and had been killing me to keep it wrapped until Christmas but I succeeded. It was much worth the wait. I got some amazing presents from them and couldn’t be happier. I finally seen brand names I recognized – LOL. I must say though, as much as I loved the gifts and such, this year I realized it isn’t as much about the presents as it is about the company you spend it with. Even though I was all the way in England with Danny and his mum, who I am so grateful for taking me in during the holidays, I know a part of me was at home and missing the family I was spend the holidays with.
After the gifts were open and the paper was cleaned up, it was time to help prepare the Christmas dinner like peeling vegetables and such. We ended up bringing the kitchen table in the living room to have a bit more space and Danny’s mum made it all festive and set. It was great during the day because we played games, watched Christmas shows on TV and could smell the dinner cooking. I even got to watch the Queen’s speech which is a big thing on TV on Christmas Day when the Queen addresses her people. Even though I had no clue what she was talking about, it was nice to experience a British tradition.
No sooner was that all done, it was time – the time when your stomach was in for a shock with how much turkey you were going to eat, when the potatoes were perfectly roasted and you couldn’t get enough…it was Christmas Dinner. I must say that it was exceptional. I loved it even though I ate way too much and felt stuffed like the turkey. I even tried brussles spouts and didn’t mind them! I was kind of shocked that I actually liked them! But hey, it is about trying new things and experiencing traditional British Christmas things! After the dinner we cleaned up and relaxed for a little bit and then it was time for dessert. We had chocolate cake and nibbled at the baking Emma and I had done over the past week in preparation for Christmas.
Shortly after that it was time to call home. I called my mom on FaceTime where she was at my grandparents house with my cousin Whisper. I couldn’t wait to see them because obviously I was missing them since it was Christmas but also because I have been keeping one of the Christmas presents my mom bought me (and my cousin Whisper) a secret. She was about to find out what one of her gifts were through a video I made for my mom. My mom and Ed bought her and I One Direction concert tickets for Toronto in August! I am so excited and just cannot wait! In all seriousness it was super nice to see everyone, especially my mom! I cannot imagine how hard this Christmas was for her but I know Ed has done all he can to make it special for her since I am not there. Luckily she has little Cooper (my furry replacement…LOL). Just kidding Mimsey! I promise I will come home eventually…haha!
After that, back downstairs at the Page house, we watched Home Alone 2 and began eating the chocolates we got for gifts. Let me tell you, I was beyond stuffed but there is always room for one or two or ten Christmas chocolates. That is what the day is all about isn’t it? LOL.
Boxing day, Danny’s aunt and uncle came for a visit. They bought me a cute little blingged out pink piggy bank and some fuzzy socks! It was too cute and so nice of them. It was nice seeing them and chatting about home and how school was going. Boxing day was a nice relaxing day.
I just still cannot believe Christmas has already come and gone. These memories are ones I will cherish forever and cannot be happier that I have this opportunity. It has been a struggle at times getting used to new cultures and customs, not being able to see my family and friends except for technology, finding new snacks and foods and other things but it has been so rewarding. I am seeing the country I have always dreamed of seeing and just cannot wait for New Years Eve now. Danny and I, along with a couple friends are going to Central London where the London Eye will shoot fireworks while Big Ben chimes 12 o’clock. It seems like such a dream but I just cannot wait.
Things in England are going great and I promise more updates and pictures as the experiences come my way. Pictures of Christmas here in England are posted at the bottom of the London, England page!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. Danny and I have some big plans for this weekend and sightseeing so expect a couple updates before New Years which I promise to take tonnes of pictures!
December 21st, 2013
This week has been Brilliant (oh such a British thing to say)! This past week Danny's mum and I have been baking our little hearts out in preparation for Christmas. So far we have made: peanut butter squares, sugar cookies, cookies and cream bars, chocolates covered chips, rice krispie squares, and peanut butter cookies! Tomorrow we are making cake - red velvet with vanilla icing to try! Everything has come out perfectly and I am pleased to say my peanut butter cookies were just nearly as good as my Mimseys! I love baking and it helps to make it feel even more like Christmas around here in England. The lack of snow is also pretty awesome as I have always wanted to experience a white christmas - even though the snow has been embedded into my memory as part of the Christmas tradition. But hey, there is still time. I am not too hopeful since the abundance of rain is rather annoying and ongoing. LOL. Anyway, that is England for you.
Also this week Danny and I have been busy shopping, wrapping presents and adding the last minute touches to the Christmas tree - basically candy canes! LOL. We went earlier in the week and bought ugly christmas sweaters. Which turned out to be rather cute but only for the holiday season. We are matching reindeer! I promise to post pictures of this because let me tell you, it is a sight to see! HAHA. Too fun! Also we went shopping yesterday and I found myself two pairs of jeans (super cute and so much cheaper here), along with a London Top (and it even had a telephone booth), and a cute pair of earrings. BONUS! I am getting used to this! LOL.
On the 19th, Danny and I had tickets to see the Lion King. YES THE LION KING! I was so super excited and couldn't believe that this was actually real! Danny worked that day until 5pm so I met him at Acton Town (stop on the underground where both our trains stopped. I safely made my way from his house, topped up my Oyster Card (used for London Transport), got to Northfields Underground Station and took the tube to Acton Town stop all by my self. You may laugh but this is a huge step because London is so busy and chaotic and I navigated all by my self! LOL. Ed's greatness has rubbed off! LOL. Anyway, so next stop was Covent Garden station on the Underground where we would then go to the Lyceum Theatre where our show was playing. We arrived as Covent Garden and decided to take the stairs. Bad mistake. The reason the lifts were so busy was because the station has 193…yes ONE HUNDRED AND NINTY THREE STAIRS leading to above ground. I thought my death was near. But after complaining and moaning we made it to the top with jelly legs and a nearly pounding pulse. LOL. We then exited the station to what is called "West End London" which is famous for its Opera Houses, Theatres, Shows and more! It was easy enough to find the Lyceum Theatre and collect our tickets. Now, when we booked them we found a deal online for the Royal Circle (section of seating) which includes box seats. Little did I realize that we had our own private box for the performance! Yes, it was spectacular! So first we looked at the souvenir shop and I bought myself a key chain - the one of baby Simba that has become relatively iconic! I love it and will always have it to remember the show. From there we found our own private box over looking the stage and the rest of the people sitting to watch the show. It was like royalty. And honestly the old theatre with the architecture and box seats was exactly like in a movie. To be honest I felt like one high class, royal citizen as people kept looking up at the box seats and taking pictures. LOL. I took plenty of pictures of the stage and such before the show began. We were not allowed to take pictures during the performance but I can assure you it is a must see! It was phenomenal!!!!! So we are sitting in our seats and waiting for the show to start when this man comes in the door to our box and says that at the beginning of the show a performer is going to enter the box to sing a part of the song. How cool is that I thought? Talk about up close and personal! So the lights dimmed, the announcement came on and BAM it was show time! One of the actors, dressed as an Ox type animal, came in our box and was like inches away to sing part of the "Circle of Life". SO COOL! After he left we resumed our place to see the stage opening with actors dressed as the characters dancing around. Elephants and zebras and rhinos made their ways down the aisles to the stage! It was so incredible. Words cannot even physically describe to you how amazing it really was. Obviously my favourite character was Pumba which was played beautifully with the whole entire costume as a giant warthog! LOVED IT! The show itself was three hours and I didn't want it to end. It was the best thing I have ever seen! From there we made our way home on the underground. As we were travelling home Danny showed me breaking news on his phone about the roof of a theatre collapsing in London's West End. That is exactly the area we were in. The Apollo Theatre playing a different show had parts of its ceiling collapse. Luckily we were not involved as we were at the Lyceum Theatre. Overall however, the Lion King is a must see performance and I can assure you I will be seeing another performance before I leave back to Canada.
Last night, some Canada was brought to England when I made Danny and his mum poutine for dinner. So good and even though it was not entirely the same as what we normally would have at home, it was to die for! LOL.
For this coming week, since Christmas is on Wednesday, I am going to relax this weekend and finish up the baking. Also, I am going to help Danny's mum with Christmas wrapping and doing the last minute bits before the holiday approaches. It is still so strange not being home for Christmas but I know we still will have FaceTime to chat.
I am getting super excited for the New Year as I will be at Big Ben when the clock strikes midnight to bring in 2014. How cool is that eh? Who would have ever thought this would be happening. I am so lucky!
That is all for now, I promise to keep you updated with more posts as things happen. You will probably be updated after Christmas - so later this week. Pictures are posted in the London England section!
Peace. Love. England.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
December 16th-17th, 2013
Yesterday was the super fun time going with Danny to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park! It is basically a theme park/attraction/shops, etc. all dedicated to Christmas! There were literally so many shops and stalls with treats, souvenirs, and much more - I literally mean hundreds! Also there were rides and amusements with themes of Christmas. It was rather overwhelming because of how busy it was - even with the rain! I really did enjoy it though because it made me anticipate Christmas even more. Danny even convinced me to go on a ride (similar to the Madder Horn like at our fairs) which spun around, blasted music and such! I couldn't stop laughing on it even though I was rather scared. We got some treats from one of the sweet stalls and it was so nice! I even found a donut stall that sold fresh hot sprinkle donuts. No lie, it was the size of my head. And I proudly ate every bite of it! SO YUMMY! But, if you are ever in England at Christmas time make sure you visit Hyde Park Winter Wonderland! It was such a great experience and words can't describe it until you see it. I can literally say I have walked in a Winter Wonderland! I cannot believe how lucky I am to be here and experience Christmas in a new country.
Today Danny's mum and I did some baking - sugar cookies and peanut butter rice krispie balls which ended up being more square. LOL. That is okay! It was too fun. It is starting to feel even more like Christmas here and I love it! More baking will come this week.
This week will be a fun one as well - tomorrow is focus on my school stuff for my in class assessment on January 13th, shopping tomorrow night with Danny to get some last minute things, Thursday is more baking and the Lion King at night, Friday is Christmas dinner grocery shopping with Danny and his Mum and the weekend is to be determined! I am so looking forward to all of this! Such a good start to my holiday and not letting anything stand in the way of me having a great holiday!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. Pictures are posted at the bottom of the London, England section!
December 13th-15th, 2013
Friday, December 13th
It was finally the day when I would embark on the trip to London…only one thing stood in my way…my Landmark Cases in Criminal seminar. I double checked my packing twice, I made myself some lunch, I said goodbye to my roommates (since I was the first one leaving), and made my way to class luggage in hand so I could go right to the coach station. My seminar went well except I was, yet again, the over achiever as none of the British students had the preparation work done. That is okay thought - have to show the world how smart us Canadians are. LOL. I must say the class went by super slow and felt like it would never end. But eventually the clock stuck four and it meant…next stop the National Express Coach Station. My coach was supposed to leave at 5:15pm but surprise surprise it was late and I didn't leave until 6:00pm. I slept for majority of the trip, after eating my All Dressed chips my parents sent me in my previous care package. Traffic was absolutely insane on the motorway and I didn't get into London until after 8:30pm. Craziness. Regardless, I was in London and that is all that mattered. I made it safely to Danny's house and the relaxing began.
Saturday, December 14th
This was a more relaxing day. When Danny was at work I unpacked my things and made myself more at home. This will be my home for the next three weeks over Christmas and New Years! Anyway, I then decorated the house and tree with Danny's mum. I must say the tree looks incredible and we did an amazing job! It is starting to feel like Christmas more and more. For dinner we had my absolute favourite - a roast dinner. It was super good and honestly the best food in the entire world. Especially those Yorkshire puddings. YUM! Later that night…*drum roll*…Danny and I booked our tickets to see the LION KING! Yes, that is right…I am going to see the theatre performance in London this Thursday! I know, I am bursting with excitement. We even have boxed seats for the show!
Sunday, December 15th
Today was a very busy indeed. It started out quite early in the morning when Danny and I went to get some groceries for his mum that she needed. I seen more parts of London-Ealing that I hadn't been before. Then it was time to go to the shop called Tesco where we would get our baking supplies for the things I plan to bake over the holiday period. We even sat at the top of the Double Decker bus trip - gosh, I love England. I had a list and was worried the stores here wouldn't have the things I need. I was most nervous for finding vanilla extract. Surprisingly, even though the baking section was super small, I managed to find the whole list and I will be able to make the entire list I planned! I was super thrilled about that and excited to bake this week to help make it feel even more like Christmas time!
After that shopping trip it was time to head out to Hamleys. This is the biggest toy store in the world. Literally - the entire world! It is seven floors of pure childhood toys and games! It was like a little slice of heaven and thank goodness I was not ten years younger because I would have left with the entire store. LOL! Anyway, we arrived at Oxford Circus (underground station) and made our way to Regent Street where Hamleys is located. The streets were super busy and all you could see for the entire way was a swarm of people. But, thanks to my previous experiences with crowds since being here in London, it was nothing! LOL. Finally we found Hamleys and entered the doors being greeted by elves and the Christmas Spirit. The store was even decorated for the season. Starting on the first floor and looking around was the best idea. It was even here I found him…the cutest little big in the entire world. He became my newest souvenir purchase and I will even call him "Pig-adilly"…get it? It is Pig-adilly instead of Piccadilly. I thought it was cleaver. LOL. We spent nearly two hours in this store looking at all the fun things they had from sweets to puzzles to stuffed animals to legos to airplanes to crafts and literally so much more! It was unreal.
After this, we wanted to make our way to Trafalgar Square. Originally we were going to take the tube/underground but it was only a 15 minute walk. So that was best because then we could see more things. I am so glad we did because we seen so many things on the way!
First, it was Leicester Square where all the movie premiers take place. It was like royalty. This is the place where (I am pretty sure) the One Direction movie premiered! So fun! Anyway, they had it all decorated for Christmas with lights, singing lamp posts and such! It was beautiful and just made me smile so much! Every little piece of London we see that is new to me is just breathtaking and super overwhelming. I love it! The buildings around were so pretty with their old architecture and strutters!
The next spontaneous stop was M&M world London! Yes, you read that right…M&M WORLD! Once I seen the sign and realized what it was, yes we had to go in! Right when you walk into the door all you smell is chocolate! The store was massive. It was literally four floors of M&M's and chocolate. There was so much to look at all extremely colourful with M&M's bright shell colours! I couldn't believe it. Right when you entered there was an old double decker bus saying welcome to M&M World and it just got better from there. On the first floor there was literally a wall of M&M colours and flavours in every colour you could imagine. We bought some M&M's and my choice was obviously pink! LOL. It was incredible. They even had the M&M characters throughout the store dressed up in classic London scenes! The store was so much fun and too incredible!
Next stop on the list was Trafalgar Square. On the way leading to it we seen the Canadian Embassy and seeing all the Maple Leafs around it made me feel right at home! LOL. Also, now I know where to go if I need to or have any troubles! That is always a plus. In Trafalgar Square it was just amazing! It was too incredible. It felt like traditional London! First we seen the blue rooster. Yes it is a giant blue rooster on a pedestal. LOL. Then we seen the monument called Nelson's Column surrounded by four lions. Then was the National Gallery building which was all lit up and super incredible! We seen the two fountains in the centre of the square which were all lit up and super pretty. And then there it was…the 20 foot christmas tree that gets imported every year! I have never seen a Christmas tree that big and it made me feel like Cindy Loo Who from the Grinch looking up at the big tree in the movie! They even had carollers around the tree. It was such a beautiful moment! And the Christmas spirit is here! I couldn't be happier!
That is all I have for now and I am hoping the rain decides to let up because I have so much planned and don't want to be rained out. LOL. Every time I come to London it rains…LOL. That will not stop me though - so much to do and see!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. Pictures are posted in the London, England Section!
December 12th, 2013
I am pleased to say that things have been getting better and better everyday here in England and I couldn't be happier!
Yesterday my lovely friend Mark took me to Magistrate's Court here in Southampton to view some cases. I am so happy that I got to see the British Legal System in action and I really enjoyed it! Some of the cases were really interesting. I know this is just a small court but I loved it! I can't wait to go to Crown court possibly after Christmas!
Last night, a few friends were over to have a little get together before leaving for Christmas. We ordered pizza which was super good - my first British Pizza experience was a success! Also, we had Ben & Jerry's ice cream - can't go wrong with that! LOL. It was a nice evening and the company was even better. I am so grateful for the wonderful friends I am making here in England! I will literally have friends all over the world.
Today and tonight I am now just going to be packing and getting ready for tomorrow. In case you don't know what tomorrow is - I AM LEAVING FOR LONDON FOR 3 WEEKS FOR CHRISTMAS BREAK! I am a tad bit excited in case you haven't been able to tell. LOL.
This was just a small post for you and I hope you enjoy it! I promise to keep you updated on my adventures over Christmas. I know it will be amazing!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. There are a couple pictures in the "Southampton" section!
December 8th, 2013
Hello Lovely People!
So this week hasn't been too eventful. I had my group presentation for my Crime Risk and Community Safety course the Thursday before I went to Scotland. A couple days ago I got the mark back for this and we did phenomenal! Honestly, it was fantastic and my fingers are crossed that the rest of my grades stay like that or even closer! LOL. I have really been missing Scotland as it was honestly such a great trip. I am, though, looking extremely forward to my three weeks in London which begin on Friday the 13th until the first week of January. I booked my ticket a couple days ago. Danny and I have so much planned and will make the most of it. I know that I am going to miss home and spending time with loved ones, but hey, I will make the most of it! I love England and if I can't be home, I would much rather be here! Don't worry mom, you will have me home next year. Anyway, majority of the week was spent working on my research for my in-class assessment on January 13th for my Dangerous Offenders Class. We were given an article (yes, I said given) one week ago that we will be critiquing in class. I have been starting to get my other sources in order so that I can plan out my arguments and quotations/references ahead of time. I am getting as much done as I can now so I don't have too much work during Christmas! Moving on, yesterday, I decided to go shopping! I am finally getting used to the stores here and absolutely adore the store called Primark! I spoiled myself a little bit by getting a couple shirts, a new hat, the cutest underwear (they say I <3 LONDON), and a London bracelet. Obviously I got my Christmas shopping done too! After I put the shopping away, I figured I would start to prepare my stuff for Christmas because I didn't want to have to scramble later this week. My parents sent me my Christmas gift all cute and wrapped when they mailed my care package. I know I am super lucky. I figured this, along with my gifts and clothes for the break would all fit in my duffle bag. Well…the gift from home fit…nothing else. So, I had to dig out the big suitcase! LOL. If I can stuff it with just a bit of clothes and such for 3 weeks…going home in June is going to be a huge challenge! Needless to say though,majority of the things I need are packed and just will do the last minute stuff on Thursday night. I am super excited!
Today, I had to run to the mall to sort things out with my phone (just minor) and thankfully it worked out. One word of advice: make sure you are aware of what numbers are 'premium numbers'. Yes, the Brits are a bit strange sometimes. LOL. All that matters is it a solved and I did it myself without getting frustrated. I also had to return my library book. I met my friend, who is also a mentor and from the UK, and we went to Greggs for lunch. Oh I love the place and will definitely miss it when I am back on Canadian soil. Maybe they will start expanding their customer base…Canadians would love it, I swear! LOL.
Also today I got to Skype with my Mom! It is always nice to see her lovely face as it is so strange to not see her for so long. At least in Windsor, we can call and see each other more frequently. Makes me appreciate her ever more as she really is the greatest Mimsey ever.
Now, tonight it is time to see the semi-finals for the XFactor. That is one UK show that has pulled me right in. LOL. Rough Copy all the way - fingers crossed!
Anyway...I promise to keep you updated with everything when I am in London as I have lots planned. I will obviously have my camera and laptop so you can look forward to some exciting things to come!
This week isn't too eventful. Tomorrow I have class and then will be working on preparing for my Dangerous Offenders Assessment. Wednesday my friend/fellow mentor is taking me to court. I mean that in a sense to observe the British Court and not that I am being tried. LOL. Also that night I am going out with a couple friends for dinner and gelato to celebrate the season and a final celebration before Christmas. Then, Thursday is about making sure things are clean and tidy, and I am packed for London. I want to make sure that is all done so Friday isn't so stressful. LOL. Then that means Friday - last class before Christmas break followed by a coach trip to London! WOOHOOO!!!!
That is all for now folks.
Peace. Love. England.
Below: My Lovely Shopping - I am so looking and feeling British!
December 1st, 2013
Good Evening from Southampton!
Earlier this week (Tuesday to be exact) I was feeling extremely loved when I got tonnes of mail for me! My grandparents and my favourite cousin Whisper sent me cards in the mail for Christmas. It is always nice getting something from home and remembering where you come from. It is hard to get lost in the hustle and bustle of things especially as an exchange student but for me, I have been staying true to myself and embracing being the "Canadian with an accent". LOL. Also, that same day my package finally came. I say finally because trust me, it felt like eternity since my mom said it was sent. All that matters was the Christmas presents were still wrapped, my mom sent me loads of "regular" candy and popcorn, and the dill pickle chips weren't squished (even if they were I would have still wolfed them down)! LOL. But in all honesty, it is moments like this that make you appreciate Mimsey even more than you already do. She sends the best packages and knows how to make you smile. But hey, with me all it takes is some Laura Secord chocolates. LOL. Love the family so much and miss them all terribly, especially the best parents ever!
Well let me tell you, this has been a super busy week for me and this weekend was better than ever hope - but I will get to that shortly! For majority of the beginning of the past week it was meeting with my group and getting ready for our presentation we had on Thursday (the 28th). Wednesday we sat and met for nearly five hours in the library until it was finalized and let me tell you hard work pays off. On Thursday when we presented, it couldn't have went better. Honestly, we didn't stumble, loose focus, or anything - it was perfection. Even the lecturer and tutor didn't have anything negative to say. Put it this way, the three exchange students in the class showed the Brits how it is done! LOL. Our presentation was on physical security (theories, national policy in the UK, local policy in the UK, connections made, and assessment of effectiveness). We nailed it. That was spectacular and felt so amazing as back in Windsor I haven't done a proper presentation. LOL. Go big or go home right? Also, I have submitted by second assignment which was my Landmark Cases in Criminal Justice Portfolio so fingers crossed that also went really well! :)
Thursday night, after class, I had to pack. That Friday (after my seminar ended) I was heading right to the coach station and bring all my things. There wasn't enough time to run back home, well there was but things would have been too rushed. So I packed a few clothes, the documents I needed, etc. and I did this for at least 4-5 more times. Not only was I worried I would forget something important, but I was too excited and just wanted time to fly! LOL. I would pack and look things up in Scotland, and repeat. This happened all night.
It was finally Friday morning and I got out of bed with a literal leap and made breakfast, packed my school stuff, etc. and waited…and waited…and waited. Finally it was time to leave for my Landmark cases seminar. I got there and, well the class was interesting, but all I could think about was Scotland. In all seriousness though, for the seminar throughout the week we had questions and research to do on the Salem Witch Trials. Now, I have heard of them but had to really look into and read about them to be able to contribute whereas the other British students had apparently talked briefly about it in another class. There are sometimes this happens but that is all part of being an exchange student - you adjust, work hard and learn to go with the flow. Things, even the smallest of them, are always an adventure. So it was four o'clock and I could finally head to the coach station. It is only a 10 minute walk away from the conference centre where my class was so that meant waiting again until it was time for my coach. I waited and waited and ate some really delicious white chocolate chip cookies. Finally it was time to board but there was one problem…there was no coach. It was stuck on the motorway and would be delayed. Well that delay took an hour until finally a substitute coach was used. Who knows how long it could have been. That is the thing…when you are so excited time seems to go by even slower and something is bound to happen but that wasn't getting me down. I was en route to London then Scotland. Life couldn't have been better.
I finally made it to London where Danny was waiting for me. We headed back to his house and had something to eat. We just relaxed and double checked things were in order so we weren't scrambling super early before leaving to the airport. We had maybe three hours of sleep and it was 2:00am, time to get up and ready. I am using this in my time here in England so to do the adjustments - I am five hours AHEAD of you reading this. Anyway, since the London Transport system is super advanced, there was night buses running (in place of the tube and regular bus services because of the early hour). From Danny's house, leaving at 2:30am, we walked about 15 minutes to the stop which is super close and didn't see anyone creepy, that was a plus. Then the N11 bus came which took us to Victoria Coach Station where we then found the stop we needed to be at to get a coach to Stansted Airport. Little did I know when initially booking that Stansted was an hour and a half away from the centre of London. But hey, the transport is advanced enough to make that okay. Also, the flights were cheaper with extra travel by lots then flying out of Southampton. Moving on, we got the coach at 4:20am and shortly after we arrived at Stansted Airport. Things were a little bit chaotic because the queues (that is what the Brits call lines) were just people in clusters. Common sense isn't so common as people didn't know to move down where there was empty space. But that is okay, we made it through security and relaxed in the lounge to find out our gate number. After passing time and looking in shops, it was finally 8:15am and we could make our way to board Easy Jet flight to Edinburgh Airport. AHH the excitement was killing me, even with such a lack of sleep. I was going to be in Scotland in a matter of less than two hours. I did sleep on the flight but that tiredness was essentially non-existent when the flight attended said "Welcome on behalf of the captain and crew to Edinburgh Airport". I was here!
We got off the plane and made our way out of the airport. Challenge one was finding the right bus and right stop to take us toward the city centre/Scottish Parliament. We found a bus and got to see bits of the gorgeous and breathtaking city while finding where we needed to be. I honestly cannot describe to you the breathtaking buildings, all old and historic, the cobble stone streets, the little alleyways leading to different things, and the million kilt shops. It was all just like a dream and I hadn't woke up. I was head over heels in love with Scotland. Eventually we found Scottish Parliament where we had a tour booked. Being a political science as a double major, I was looking forward to this. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures but I can assure you it was awesome! This was because it is an active Parliament. Anyway...First thing was to go through security and then head to the toilet (the people here don't say bathroom or restroom, it is just "the toilet") after a much needed visit since 2:00am. LOL. We met our tour guide and tour group and began the hour tour. We got to see the official photograph of the Queen granting parliament to Scotland, the model design of the building, the elements of the Scottish cross embedded in the design features, the gardens around the property, the debating chambers, the meeting rooms, etc. It was super awesome. We also got to hear a little bit about how the laws are made and how the history was played out to get to the point where Parliament in Scotland was today. I loved it!
From there, we headed to find the castle. This is Edinburgh Castle and the most gorgeous sight to see in the distance with the clouds above, lights glowing…it was like a postcard. On the trip to the castle we looked in shops, seen the sights, smelled the smells, seen more kilt shops, and even some bag pipers on the roads. I normally don't like the sound of bag pipes but it was beautiful hearing them and knowing I was in Scotland. The men we seen playing them were in full attire and it was awesome. Being in Scotland was so historical and cultural. We found this hill…more like cliff (with how steep it was) we had to climb up to get to the castle and let me tell you…it was no easy task. It was well worth it when we approached the castle and could see it. It was there before my eyes. So much bigger and prettier than I expected (even after seeing it on the internet). To think this was once used as a real castle and still so amazing was phenomenal. Also, upon entry, we were told the castle was free (expecting to pay, I was a little confused). This weekend (well tomorrow - Monday) is St. Andrew's Day in Scotland (national holiday) and they were celebrating for the weekend. Bonus.
In the castle we seen many different areas. Nothing beat the view of the city though. It was breathtaking (even more than the hill we had to climb to get there)! LOL. We seen the canons, the gun area, the shops, etc. In one of the shops we bought some Scottish Butter Tablet. This is apparently really sweet, almost like fudge! Might as well try it while I can right? But...One of the best parts for me was the old prison that was inside the castle. There were 6-8 steep steps leading down under the castle to the dark area where the prison was. We got to see the tiny cells that they would hold prisoners in (probably more than one that is for sure). Also there was a pit like where they would throw the "dangerous" or "dead" criminals. There were even original wooden doors from back in the day that were encases in glass. You got to see the carvings the prisoners would make in them and everything! There was even the smell that something was just not right with that area of the castle. The beds and hammocks were all set up just as they would be when the castle head would hold more people than could fit into the prisons. We even could see the old cook oven that was there. I loved that and it was so filled with history. To think in that very spot, someone either very powerful or very powerless, in the case of the prisoner, stood. Remarkable.
In another area of the castle, the Crown Jewels are kept. We were not allowed to take pictures in this area but we did get to wait in the extremely long queue and see them. They were definitely fit for royalty! So sparkly and filled with glitz and glamour. This was one part of the castle I loved because to think that the Queen or King (at one point) was there and so on is just something so hard to fathom. We continued to explore the castle and look out at the sights of the city. Incredible. Scotland is a gorgeous place to be, honestly.
After leaving the castle, we looked in a few more shops and I even bought myself a souvenir. No, not a kilt or a tartan hat or scarf. I got a "Edinburgh Scotland" shirt to mark that I have been there and to remember the many memories and sights of the city along with the near 100+ pictures I took. LOL. I couldn't snap them fast enough. Continuing through shops and seeing street performers, bag pipers, etc. there was never a dull moment. Danny and I were starving by this point and it was time for dinner. I wanted to try something like a Scottish cafe or whatever, to not have the "normal" British fast food like Greggs, McDonalds, etc. We found a shop (which we seen on the initial bus from the airport to the city centre) called "The Piemaker". Now, this is not like pie we think of in North America. This is like Scottish pie, meat pie, pasty, etc. After looking through the menu I got a "Sausage Roll" and not only was it huge, but it was super good! Like mouthwatering, "how could I only be discovering this now" kind of good. Incredible. For me, a big part of this trip is trying foods from different places and being in tune with the local culture or customs. I can have certain things anytime at home so I might as well dare out now (except there are some things like Dill Pickle chips I cannot live without because sometimes you just get those cravings for snacks that you are so used to)!
After that it was time to go check into the Hostel. Now, neither of us have stayed in a proper hostel and I was hoping for the best. Before coming to Scotland, I had thoroughly looked online reading ratings and reviews and the one with the best review, nearest the city centre and Christmas markets (also we found out nearest to the night bus we needed to catch this morning, as in Sunday morning back to the airport) was called the "Princes Street Backpackers East Hostel". Yes, it is a mouthful. Well once we finally found it, I thought to myself oh no…I thought this because the sign was graffited and so were the walls leading up the reception and room areas. I thought, well the reviews didn't mention vandalism everywhere. Rest assured, it was supposed to be this was as the modern and youthful and playful design of the hostel. That was a relief. LOL. Also, did I mention that there were 77 stairs leading up to the hostel, no lift (elevator to use North American folk). This did say so on the reviews but it was a minor detail I thought they were joking about. The 77 stairs were not as bad as expected (that hill was a starting point for me…lol)! The lady at the reception was awesome and had no problem with us having to check out at 2:00am Sunday. We were in room G with 6 beds (bunk beds, 2 beds per bunk). The rooms were super clean and tidy, lockers were there for our stuff, and the beds were actually comfy. I would totally stay there again too! Also, we lucked out because in the room there were 3 other girls, and one guy - but they were the nicest people. Usually hostels are loud and sometimes people are inconsiderate but they were all great. Danny and I were back at the hostel around 9pm to get a few hours sleep before the 2:00am wake up call, and the room was empty as the others had gone out. But when they returned we didn't even hear them and they were super quiet. That may also be because of exhaustion…LOL. Seriously, it was a great first Hostel experience and gives me hope for the other trips in the future!
Anyway, after checking in and seeing the room, we made our way to the new town area. We were in the old town area before that had the castle, parliament, etc. New town was were the modern shopping shops were set up along with the Christmas Market. First we scouted the bus stop we would need for 2:00am so we didn't look like tourists so early as you never know who is out…because the Scottish people do like their drink. LOL. From that we looked in the shops and seen some of the stores. Then…it was time…time for the Christmas Market! It was similar to the one in Southampton but this one in Edinburgh was bigger. There was a skating rink, a ferris type wheel set up (almost like the Eye), many booths with trinkets and such. There were so many food stands which all smelled so amazingly good. I had to try a crepe though. The smell, look and whole thing just captured my attention. I ordered a Nutella and Nut Crepe. It was HUGE. Honestly had to be like triple the size of my head, stuffed with so much filling and all folded up like a nice sweet present. LOL. It was delicious for what I could eat of it that was. LOL. I did make a good dint into it. After that and seeing the rest, it was about 9:00pm and my feet were done. My body needed to sleep, even just for a couple hours. We got to see all I wanted to see and snap all the pictures I wanted. We made it back to the hostel and from there all I remember is my head and that pillow.
Let me tell you, 2:00am comes pretty fast, especially when you are scared you're going to miss the alarm. LOL. But it was good to sleep a little bit. We checked out and managed to return the courtesy to the fellow roommates of not waking them up by being loud at such an early hour…LOL. Check out took less than 5 minutes and it was to the bus stop. I kind of over estimated how long the journey on the N22 Night Bus to Edinburgh airport would take because it was 2:45am when we got to the airport and we didn't board until 6:15am. Oops. Oh well, we eventually made it to security and looked around. The airports here (at least in Stansted and Edinburgh) have some cool stuff in them. By 4:00am I was starving so we went to Boots (it is a pharmacy but they have like sandwiches and a food section). Plus, it was one of the few things open as most places were not opening until just before we boarded. LOL. I had the greatest sandwich ever. Honestly, I don't even know what it was but it was so good (had like chicken, bacon, ranch, tomato, cucumber and cheese). Way better than the UK Subway, that is for sure! Anyway, from there it was time to await the Easy Jet flight back to Standsted. From Stansted it would be a coach trip back into central London.
When we finally got to central London, it was only 10:30am and my coach back to Southampton was at 12:30pm (I did this on purpose in case any delays with airports and such). We had time to kill. So, just around the corner is Buckingham Palace so we decided to go look around there. In St. James's Park there is a gated off area that have "wildlife" for people to observe. It was mostly birds but I was super excited to see a swan. It was like a real swan. I was fascinated to say the least. LOL. Also, Danny mentioned to be that near that park there was St. James's Palace which is one of the only remaining spots with a guard at it. That is one of those spots people take pictures with them! Yes, I needed to go! But sadly, since they are slowing getting rid of them thanks to the public making a mockery out of them, the guard wasn't there. But I will try again and again, as many times as it takes, to get a picture with one before I go home in June! LOL.
It was then back to the coach station to board my coach. I honestly don't even remember the trip as I woke up to "Southampton Station" being yelled out by the coach driver. And it was also a bonus that no one sat next to me so I stretched out and was real comfy. It was a much needed rest that is for sure.
It is so funny to say "I was in Scotland this weekend" as if it is a casual, normal thing. This is just something unthinkable to me anyway. LOL. I am not complaining don't get me wrong. Just the one of many trips to take this year. I love it and travelling is becoming more and more of an urge to me and I don't want it to stop!
All in all, I can say that today (Sunday) I have been in Scotland, London, and Southampton all within 24 hours. LOL. That is something pretty awesome and one of the perks of being an exchange student who is travelling to her hearts content. To be honest, I would have been happy staying in Scotland because I loved it. But I know I had to come back to Southampton. Scotland will always be a memorable trip and also the marker of the first trip outside England, one of many to come this year.
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. Pictures are posted in the "Edinburgh" section!
What's Up Next?
This week, I have classes on Monday and Friday (Tuesday for next two weeks are cancelled, Wednesday is normal day off, and my Thursday class is done with lectures). I will just be working on my editing my final assessment for Crime Risk and Community Safety that is due the 9th. Also, I have some Christmas shopping to do. Then I must start packing for Christmas Break which I will be spending in London at Danny's house. Even though he is working, I can still explore, bake, etc. I mean, c'mon, it's Christmas and New Years in the city I have always admired - how can I complain?! LOL. Christmas break for me starts on December 13 and we go until January 6th. I know, I am pretty lucky. That is the perks of studying on exchange in the UK!
November 22nd-24th, 2013
Well I know it has been a few days since I posted to you, but I have been busy with school and preparing for this past weekend's trip to London … my favourite place in the entire world. I say that now until I take trips to other great cities like Edinburgh next weekend! Anyway, here are the details of my fabulous trip to London with my fellow Canadian friend from Albert who is also on exchange (until January)!
So on Friday after class, I rushed home to grab my things and whatnot before meeting Cameron at the coach station where we had coach tickets booked for 17:15 (I am learning 24h time as that is what is used here)! Little did I know the rushing was unnecessary as when we met at the station, we were informed shortly after that our coach was going to be delayed almost 45 minutes to an hour because there had been an accident on the motorway. The coach wasn't involved but it was stuck behind the accident. Sure enough, about 45 minutes later it arrived and we boarded. We were officially off to London. It was his first time going so that was exciting, but even though I have been there several times now, it never gets old. Like honestly, never. Each time there are new things to do and see, but even the classic things like my personal favourite BIG BEN, is always exciting. Anyway, it was a late night getting in so we just got the underground and called it a night. I must say I am getting used to the hustle and bustle of the underground, even though sometimes it is confusing! LOL.
On Saturday, we had a jam packed day of adventure and exploring! I loved it. An early start just meant we would see more. First thing on the agenda was Harrods. Now, I am not sure many of you know this store, but it is iconic of London. It holds famous designers fashion, house ware, and so much more! It was like a little world. Honestly…5 floors of amazingness. I cannot put it into words how much I loved this store despite the pricey price tags of EVERYTHING in it! I fell in love with some furniture items from a Paris designer. I found this chair (which I took a picture of for you) and despite the nearly 3000 pound price tag (thats just under $6000) I wanted it…but left it there. LOL. This store was amazing. I cannot emphasize this enough to you! It is a must go to if you are in London. After this was the museums and such. We started at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Personally, it was nice and all but it wasn't my favourite. I like history and stuff but it wasn't my thing. Nevertheless, I got some great pictures! Next was the museum of Natural History. This was my personal favourite museum of the day because 1/ it had nearly the same layout as the museum in the film Night at the Museum and had great detail and 2/ it was filled with animals! LOL. It was just really interesting to see and be there. From then we moved onto the Science Museum. This one, after getting slightly lost, was alright. It was a bit rushed as we wanted to get to central London. They were all free museums so we can always go back another time! Also, it was hard to estimate how much time for each one as they were huge! We also spent nearly two hours in Harrods so that put us slightly behind schedule. Anyway, as I am learning, it is all about the adventure.
From here, we were off to my favourite part of London - Central London (Westminster)! Here is where Big Ben was and the London Eye. I had been in love since I first seen it so many years ago in pictures. When I start with it in front of my very eyes it gets really overwhelming and hard to believe that this is my life! Anyway, looking around the shops and such was nice as they were just starting their Christmas market! I even was able to find a "guard" impersonator. He was too funny and more than happy to take some pictures. This will have to do until I can hopefully find a real one! LOL. It was hilarious though! Good memories are always being made here on exchange! Finally, since the sun has been setting so early, there it was … Big Ben all lit up for nighttime! It was love. Snap snap snap went the camera as my draw stayed dropped. Life in that moment is perfect. I have loved travelling all around London and Southampton but it is the moment walking around Big Ben that has been the best "London Moment" for me. That is when it feels like dreams are coming true and life couldn't be better. We then headed to see 10 Downing Street which Prime Minister David Cameron lives. It is such an iconic spot. I knew we wouldn't be able to knock at his door, but the whole street was blocked and gated off by police members. Rude. I wanted a picture. LOL. Oh well, it is good to still have seen where it was! After that eventful day, it ended with some souvenir shopping and transfers on the Tube. "Mind the gap between the train and the platform" will always ring in my head. LOL!
Today, Sunday, we went to Buckingham Palace. Even though I had already been, Cameron hadn't and it is always nice to see! There was the changing of the guards today. We got to see bits and pieces even though the crowd was way too big for anyone to handle. Seriously, police escorts and horse were even not enough. So many people trying to push around for best view. It was crazy. Still, it was amazing. It's Buckingham Palace…how could a person not love it! From there it was off to find some more souvenirs and then walk to Victoria Coach Station (which was surprisingly closer than expected)! It was time to say goodbye to London…but just for a short while as I will be back on Friday to prepare for the early Saturday morning and the plane to Scotland! So for now, this trip was amazing and until next time, thanks London! :)
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. I am catching a cold so this week, which is already busy enough, will be getting better so I am not all rotten for Scotland. That just wouldn't be nice. Anyway, I will be posting pictures for you tomorrow night and the next night as well, as I have over 170 of them. LOL! So hopefully that is all well. After that I will post again Sunday (but I will probably be exhausted after the 2am start Saturday and 4am start Sunday), so probably Monday next week!
---- PHOTOS ARE POSTED IN THE LONDON SECTION!
November 17th, 2013
Hello Lovely People!
This has been a busy week and will continue to be right up until the end of the month now. So I am sorry for making you wait so long for a post. But here are some of the amazing things I have been up too!
Wednesday November 13th,
Well, this day was dedicated to meeting with my group members for my Crime Risk and Community Safety classmates. They are two exchange students as well so I am glad we are all in a group together as we know that we need to be down to business. Anyway, we met up at 9am. Yes people, Molly was up and out the door before noon! Miracles happen…LOL! Anyway, We met in one of the library study rooms students can book out. I mention this because there is nothing like this in Windsor. I thought it was brilliant that they had something like this. I just said brilliant…I am becoming so British. Wow. Anyway, we got lots done which was impressive. They two girls in my group are great to work with! We will be meeting again soon to get everything finalized then again to practice as we present on the 28th of this month. Time sure is flying. After my group meeting and such, I met Danny at the coach station as he came to visit for a couple days.
Thursday November 14th,
I had mentoring earlier that morning then had two classes. We had a guest speaker in the lecture which was interesting. I find the classes here have many guest speakers. That in one luxury of only having papers or presentations, you have guest speakers to introduce other outside material rather than the professor trying to cram as much as they can into the class that you know will be on the exam. This is another plus for England. Sorry Windsor, but England is really taking a lead over you. Don't get me wrong, I still love my university in Canada…I am just saying. There are so many differences big and small. After the guest lecturer, I had my seminar for that class where the tutor had us watch the most boring movie in the entire world. Even the accents in it didn't help. LOL. It was about the housing agency in the UK and how that contributes to crime. It would have been interesting if he hadn't showed a nearly similar movie the week before. LOL. Oh well, still living the amazing British life! Later that night, after I got home from class, Danny and I went to the shopping centre, WestQuay and to the high street to see the opening of the Christmas festival here. I was honestly not sure what to expect. All I knew was a band was playing and there would be lights. Little did I know, I would be pleasantly surprised. Anyway, so we looked around the mall until the festivities started. I ended up getting a hot beverage…I TRIED TEA. It was English Breakfast Tea as I wanted to be traditional. Go big or go home right? LOL. I really enjoyed it - it was rather nice. I was surprised as I didn't think I would. After that we went down to where the band would be playing. They had a band called Concept. One of the members is Harry Styles (from One Direction) cousin. I figured I needed to snap a few pictures for my cousin who is a bit more than obsessed with 1D! HAHA. They weren't too bad. I mean, they only sang cover songs to some unusual songs but it wasn't bad. The mall was also all lit up with christmas lights and snowflakes and it was amazing to see! I thought, well that was not as much as I was expecting but still nice. We exited the mall and went onto the high street and BAM…CHRISTMAS happened. There were lights, bells, singing, market stalls, and the classic British charity Bear called Pudsey. It was breath taking. It was exactly what I was expecting. After taking that all in, I called in a night. It was honestly one of the best things I had ever seen. It makes me anticipate Scotland and London even more!
One random fact: the slang for a British Pound is called a Quid…not sure why.
Friday November 15th,
After my class that day, I came home in anticipating meeting my Cameron (the other Canadian) to book our trip to London which is happening the 22-24 of this month. We got together, after him being slightly lost, and booked the coach tickets and started to think about where exactly we wanted to go. Museums and Central London are the top priority! Souvenir shopping will be a must and seeing Big Ben in all its glory lit up! I am just too excited! We are going to have so much fun!! Two Canadians in London - you can just imagine how awesome that is going to be! HAHA.
Saturday November 16th,
Well this was another day dedicated to shopping and looking around the christmas market. Spending lots of time with the friends I have been meeting is always the best at this time of year. It helps because I know it will be strange not being home this christmas. Anyway, another look around the Christmas market was in order. It is too fun taking it all in as each time gets better and better! After that, I had to get groceries before heading home. This task is getting easier and easier as I am learning to be even more creative and adventurous! This trip's finds include: stir fry ingredients, microwaveable popcorn, and tea (fruity flavour). Those were my adventurous moments for that trip! HAHA. It is hard to adjust to new foods especially when you could honestly kill for chips and dip, a timmies donut, or some poutine from NY Fries. Just saying. But, some things just can't be mailed. LOL. Also, that night, XFactor was on. I am seriously becoming so addicted and not looking forward to it ending before Christmas. LOL. Rough Copy all the way - yup, even that crazy Canadian fan trying to be British yelling at the screen! HAHA.
Sunday November 17th,
Well today was a rather quieter day, I went over to my Belgium friend's house for some cake. It was red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting…which I have never had before. But hey, it's cake! AND IT WAS SO GOOD!!!!!! Honestly, to die for. It was even better by the company and chatting the day away. Time really does pass when you're having fun as we ate cake and chatted for nearly three hours. I enjoy every second of it! I then came home to make some stir fry and lived. Yes, I made something new, which was rather risky, and lived to tell the tale!
In other events, I have had so many people messaging me on Facebook about what it is like to be an exchange and asking for more information. It is actually rather enjoyable because I remember this time last year when I was getting information about Solent University, after I applied, and anticipating the response from the exchange office about when my interview was and if I was selected to go on exchange. I am more than happy to help anyone wanting to know what it is like, how to do it, VISA information, etc. Just send me a message. Exchange is proving to be the best year of my life. I have so many memories and stories already and it has just been over two months. It is hard to believe how fast time flies. Next weekend is London and the weekend after is Scotland. I would have never imagined how amazing it actually would turn out to be like. You can only anticipate so much but then you're here and it is a whole new world. Literally…LOL. But seriously, being busy with school, travelling, meeting friends and hanging out with people from all over the world, and so much more is beyond rewarding. I love it so much!
I have posted pictures in the Southampton section at the bottom. I will post again to you sometime this week - if I can because it will be rather busy as I have lots to do before I head to London on Friday. I have to edit papers, finalize presentations, mentor, etc. So if you don't hear from me before the weekend, I promise to post on Sunday night with all the pictures from the weekend! You can count on loads of them!
And now, I am off to shower, watch a movie, and head to bed. I have class tomorrow and need to do some school work afterwards. I know I have already wrote all my essays, but they need to be edited for the final time and then submitted online. The presentation is on the 18th of this month. The PAPERS! One due the 2nd, 9th of December and then again the 13th of January. My final in class written assignment is on the 13th of January. It is hard to believe that school is almost done here. Like in less than a month, I will be on Christmas break in London. Crazy. Anyway, now that is really all! Goodnight :)!
Peace. Love. England.
November 10th, 2013
So this past week has been pretty amazing! Here are some of the things that have happened:
This week I have been working super hard on my Landmark Cases in Criminal Justice final essay assignment. It is due January 13th but the sooner it is done, the more travelling little old me can do! LOL. I have absolutely loved writing this paper because it is about the fascination of serial killers and I got to include Jeffrey Dahmer and Dexter all while incorporating things I have learned about British society and media. It is just too amazing to even describe to you! Classes here are just too amazing! One thing, the British education system is a bit better in some ways than ours at home. At home it is, in my opinion, all about mass education and money. The universities are a money trap. Here it is more about quality and depth. Class sizes are maxed at 35 people. Seriously they aren't allowed to have larger class sizes. So that smaller environment makes it easier to learn and ask questions. You aren't a number here. In my case you are "The Canadian" LOL! However, my lecturers know my name so that is a plus. At home it is rare. You can have a teacher for three years in a row and be lucky if they even know you exist. Also, they care more here about ensuring you are doing well and understand things from the lectures. But that is just my opinion.
Also on Thursday I booked tickets to Scotland!! Danny and I will be heading there on November 30-December 1st. I am way too pumped! I already have it all planned! This weekend is too perfect as it is the first weekend when the Christmas markets start in Scotland! Travelling is just so amazing over here as it is easy and cheap. I am definitely making the most of it when I am here!!!
Saturday I went out shopping in the afternoon. Now, this was a task to find me some things to make me look more British. I see people wearing the skinny jeans, scarfs and beanie hats. I needed one for myself. LOL. So I embarked on this task and found some super cute clothes! I got a pair of jeans (FOR SEVEN POUNDS…I nearly died). One weird thing here is sizing of jeans because at home you just know your size. Here each pair I tried on was a different size that I found I needed. But, hey, I actually went in stores and tried clothes on instead of looking around in horror that nothing is the same from home! LOL. That my friends is step one of fitting in. LOL. I also found a cute London shirt, a scarf and a hat. Also stopped at ASDA on my way home to grab a few snacks. I FOUND PICKLES. That was way to exciting because I actually adore pickles. But here, no matter the flavour, they are all called gerkins. But hey, they are too good!
Also, on Saturday morning I got a card in the mail from my parents. It is the little things that make my day! It was too funny and made me almost pee! I have added it to the table of love where I have all my cards and things from home!
Today, Sunday, I had lunch with a British family (and two exchange students from the other university in Southampton). It was through Friends International at the university. I was a bit nervous because it was my first time taking the bus in Southampton but I found it. The bus stop was right around the corner from their house so it made things easier. I was also nervous because I had no idea what to expect. I was hoping for an older couple (because I love old people) and the wish came true. It was a retired couple, of which the husband was a retired lawyer. It was a match made in heaven. So I went it as the first to arrive and we chatted about where I am from and travelling. They gave me some good feedback on travelling to Scotland and also places I should try and go around the UK. They even brought out a map so I could point out Canada for them and where I lived. They were too cute and so sweet. Their home was beautiful and it was so cozy. They made me feel like I was part of the family as like an exchange grandchild that came to visit. It was wonderful. Don't even get me started on the food because it was to die for. They called it an "early Christmas dinner" as we had roasted chicken, vegetables (potatoes YUM), stuffing, etc. It was so good. And the lovely lady made home made apple crumble for dessert. I swear it was like they knew me! HAHA. It was honestly a great afternoon and I found my way home on the bus safe and sound. That is always a plus!
So for this week my class is cancelled on Monday and I will use that time to work on my essay for Landmark cases as well as prepare for my presentation as I meet with my group on Wednesday morning…I literally mean at 9am so that should be fun. LOL.
Tattoo Update: It is just about healed…one little scab part left on the top of the airplane but all is well. Every time I see it I get filled with memories of my trip already and know that in 50 years, I will get those same feelings. It is the best thing ever.
Some things I am learning:
Being spontaneous and adventurous is the greatest thing in the entire world. This is about letting myself go and seeing the world when I have the chance. I absolutely love every minute of it. This is the best opportunity in the entire world. I love it. I am young so I might as well enjoy it!
You are going to miss home lots but by keeping busy and anticipating your next great adventure (like to Scotland) keeps you motivated. Also, it is nice chatting with friends and family every day. England is starting to feel more and more like home everyday as I fit in more and get used to the culture. I still can't do the whole "cheers" thing. It makes me laugh.
Well that is all folks. Pictures are posted on the Southampton section at the bottom! Enjoy!
Peace. Love. England.
November 4th, 2013
Well it is so hard to believe but in 6 days - I will have been in the UK for exactly 2 months. Isn't that crazy? It is hard to believe it has been already that long as it just feels like yesterday I landed and was overwhelmed by the London Underground. Crazy. Anyway, some fun stuff has been happening in the life of me! Here are some neat things:
Saturday I decided to go for a walk to find a bus stop I need for next Sunday. I was invited (after signing up with Friends International through the University) to have lunch at a families house. Other exchange students will be attending as well, about three or four total. It is a meal in a local families home where you share cultures and experiences. I needed to find the bus stop as the family gave me some directions in their email. Also, I have their phone number in case I get lost next weekend! HAHA. Anyway, I was going to go for a walk and suddenly it started pouring rain literally when I just stepped out the door. SO, I turned around and about half hour later it was gorgeous. It was like someone flicked a switch. That is how all this months weather has been so far. And I am told that is how fall is here. It is nuts. But, I adventured out for the second time that day and went for a nice walk to a part of Southampton I hadn't been before (just past the other side of my house as everything I need is toward and around the university)! It was stunning and I found the bus stop with no problem so I am all set for next weekend! One awkward challenge: going to have to stick out my arm to call the bus to stop…that is so strange you know. It is what they do here though so who am I to judge? LOL. That is another thing…I am so learning culture more and more everyday and it never gets old. I still can't bring myself to say "cheers" but I am trying more and more.
Also, November 5th (tomorrow) is apparently Guy Fawkes night in the UK. I had learnt about him when I went to London Dungeons! He stopped British Parliament from being blown up many years ago. So, in celebration there have been fireworks happening all weekend and tomorrow should be even more! I have some pictures from my window of the neighbours down the way setting some off (as I didn't know what was happening)! HAHA.
Another fun fact: Halloween is huge here. Like a BIG DEAL. Everyone celebrates and decorates. Too bad I hate this holiday…which isn't even a holiday! Even all the store workers would say "Happy Halloween" or something to that effect. It is strange. Anyway…
Language that is different that I have encountered in the past few days: Fizzy Drinks = Soda or Pop, Harvey's = furniture store, QTips = cotton buds. These are a few things good to know as when you say where is the pop…they don't know what you mean or stare at you funny and correct you to 'fizzy drinks'. Just saying.
I was also so lucky this passed weekend to Skype with my cousin Whisper, my mom and the new addition Cooper (who in too cute for words and super super tiny), and my greatest friend ever Crystal! It was so great to see all these people and tell them what has been happening in England. It is also nice to hear accents I know and what is happening at home! HAHA. Speaking of the same accent, yesterday I went to Starbucks with Cameron (other Canadian exchange student from Alberta)! It was super fun and had some great chats about difference and travel. We are even going to London on the 23rd - yay travel buddies!! :)
Travelling has become such a huge deal to me. It is hard to grasp I am here until June though I plan so many things in my head and just have to do them but know that I am here until June and need to spread them all out. Once the weather gets nicer and I have a bit more time next semester, watch out! HAHA. Molly will be all over the place! This month I am still planning Scotland and hope to book tickets at the end of this week for the following weekend. Then London the following weekend after Scotland! YAY! I definitely caught the travel bug…and I don't want a cure! HAHA.
Pictures are posted in the Southampton section at the bottom for you all of the past few days! I will post another blog this weekend! Tattoo Update: scabbing is almost gone - just need to get some Aloe next time I am at ASDA (probably Wednesday)! It is the best tattoo in the world! LOVE IT! Also, I submitted my first essay today online at Solent. School only does online submissions for almost all the classes and I did my Dangerous Offenders submission today! Fingers crossed it goes well (and I only submitted one week early - over achiever I know)! Also, one final piece of good news: today was finally nice enough, but still cold, that I could wear my UGGS! MY BRITISH UGGS (even though they are Australian brand)! And they are so cozy and warm - the price tag was well worth it! SO HA MIMSEY! LOL.
Anyway, that is all for now!
Peace. Love. England.
October 30th, 2013
Nothing too big has happened this week. I have been spending the week editing essays I have already written to make sure they are in tip top shape. Also, I have had mentoring this week before classes (every week Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). It is definitely something I have really enjoyed and look forward to! After being an RA, I love the idea of helping out and making students aware people are there for them. Tomorrow after mentoring, I have to meet with my group for my Crime Risk and Community Safety presentation. Classes tomorrow are cancelled as the lecturers are on strike for more money. In that case - my class and seminar are cancelled tomorrow! I have to make up the seminar on Friday but the regular seminar I would have had on Friday for a different class is cancelled. So it has been a week of juggling! LOL. Also, today I went out shopping and found myself a cute coat! It will work as a winter and fall type coat as the weather is starting to get a bit cooler and windier here. I don't want to freeze so I got the cute coat at a store called Primark! It was insanely busy though! I think everyone had the same idea I did because it was a battle through people to shop!
That is one thing I am learning about British culture - they don't mess around when they walk! LOL. In Canada when you walk and accidentally elbow someone, you apologize of at least acknowledge the wrong you have done. Not in England - if someone elbows you while walking on the street - they give you the dirty look. And, here it isn't like you walk on one side and people of the opposite direction walk the other way … oh no, it is more like let's all walk in a herd and not move for anyone coming toward us. Just a little rant but it has made me realize Canadians are nicer than majority of people! This doesn't go for all English people as there are some that are nice - I am just saying this as a general note.
Also this week I have been planning my trip to Scotland. I don't know my exact date as it is depending on when my group and I are meeting and when our presentation date actually is. We should be finding that out next week or so. But, it looks like such a beautiful place and I am so excited. I have decided on Edinburg (however you say it)! There are castles and shopping and so much to see! I cannot wait! It is going to be my first major trip (besides all the way here to the UK and my weekend adventures to London)! LOL.
Even though the food here is so much different than what I am used to at home, I have been adjusting okay. I am learning to expand on my picky palate and branch out. I try to buy at least one "unusual item" when I go out grocery shopping. Culture shock hasn't really hit me - until I try and find things to eat like comfort foods like chips and dip, canned chicken (for pasta salad), sour keys, or "crisp" flavours like home. Overall though, it hasn't been so bad. I have found several snacks I love so if I have to live off those, so be it! LOL. But seriously, it is about being adventurous this year! That is what I intend to do!
I have been meeting so many people! It was really nice to get to know some of the other mentors this week as last week I was on my own mentoring. They are such cool people and I look forward to meeting more! Also, by just being a mentor you meet some cool people! Also, the people in my classes have finally been starting to talk to me and think of me as "less strange" for being foreign. LOL. They are coming around to the idea and actually talking to me without giving me the awkward glare because I talk funny. All is well!
Tattoo Update: I am finally no longer required to wear around my cling wrap. The three day period has ended! Now I just am putting up with the itchy scabbing I have going on! LOL.
It has nearly been two months since I came to the UK and I don't know where time has gone. I must admit this is one of the happiest times of my life. I have been loving every second of it. It is the simple things like waking up, looking outside your window and seeing rain, knowing that you really are in England. It is growing on me to go into a shop and here that wonderful accent of a British person. It is learning more and more about culture every day and embracing it. It is about telling people you are Canadian and being proud of that. You become so patriotic while you're here! It is unbelievable. This is true happiness though. I have wanted this adventure for so long - since I could talk and now I am finally here. It is feeling more and more like home each and every day!
Note: I have posted a few pictures under the Southampton section at the bottom (sorry you have to scroll through them all to get to the most recent - I wasn't thinking but now it would take me even longer to fix it - so sorry! Just think, when you scroll, you are reliving the experiences with me! :)
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. I will post again to you this weekend/beginning of the week!
October 26th, 2013
What a great weekend this has been! First thing is first:
Friday October 25th, 2013
What a day it was indeed. First I had my seminar for my Landmark Cases in Criminal Justice class. And that was pretty good as always. The lecturer had asked our class of 10, yes there is only 10 people, if anyone had begun the seminars. I, not wanting to be the only person who finished or even started for that matter, didn't say a word. I did not want to make the British students look bad or think that I am too eager of a beaver. LOL. None of them have even started and there I am, done 3 major essays for the entire semester. All I have left is a presentation (working on that with my group this week), an in class assignment and an essay due in January. I like to say I am vastly on top of things! LOL.
I had decided that I need a new pair of Uggs because everyone here appears to wear them and I left mine at home due to not wanting them to be ruined because of the weather here. However, I was informed that the winter isn't all that bad and just to avoid the rainy days. SO...I bit the bullet and bought a pair here. Yes, I just did it and justified it as okay because I got a student discount. That means I am the proud owner of a new pair of Uggs and not going to let the price tag linger in my head. It is done and I fell in love with them. Sorry Mimsey. LOL. That was basically all that happened for my day! LOL.
Saturday October 26th, 2013
I GOT INKED! That was honestly the highlight of my day and I spend the day aimlessly waiting for the clock to strike 4:00pm so I could go get my ink done! I honestly was way too excited and just adore the final product. I would recommend Tattoo Sanctuary in the Marlands Shopping Centre, in Southampton, to anyone! My artist, Diyan was too amazing! He did up the artwork himself and did one fantastic job. I was honestly almost in tears when I seen the design the other day. And, tonight after my ink was done, I just wanted to give him a big hug (but I didn't because that would be weird)! It is more than I could ever have imagined. It is the best souvenir of the trip and I love it too much! I have pictures posted (in Southampton section). It is too amazing for words!!!!!!
It was also super great to see my amazing parents tonight on Facetime as well! It is always good to see loved ones from home as you miss them lots while you're away! Glad we could chat and that I could show you my tattoo!
Well, that is all for now.
Peace. Love. England.
October 24th, 2013
I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this!
Well, yesterday was my day off from classes and I took it upon myself to do some exploring. I thought I would take a little walk around and take some photos. That small walk of mine turned into nearly three hours! The city is so gorgeous and the weather is even better! I know I keep saying it but, I LOVE IT HERE! LOL. Just in case you haven't guessed. I stumbled upon some pretty neat things around town including the memorial for those lost at sea, the walls of Southampton, the ruins of an old castle here, the marina and even the football (soccer) stadium of Southampton FC (football club). I even met a cute little duck/goose type bird. There are pictures because I don't know what animal it was. I was also pretty excited when it came to me! LOL. This adventure has been teaching me to step outside the comfort zone and to really be more daring. I have learned to enjoy exploring and seeing new things.
Today, I had mentoring to do! I was so excited because I really enjoy it! It really makes you feel good knowing that you are there for someone who may not know they need it, who gets comfort of knowing they have somewhere to go if they need it, or to just be an ear. Today I didn't have many students come to me but I was only there an hour before class. Also I spoke with the coordinator who was asking me ideas on how the program could be improved. I mentioned a few things like branding, flyers to show the students what we do and the times available (also available for meeting by private email arrangement), and some other ideas as it was done for the program I was a part of at UWindsor called Connecting4Success. It is all in hopes of getting more students to be aware of what services are there and that someone is always there to lend an ear.
Also, I got BBM's new app for the iPhone to be able to talk with people from back home (if you don't have an iPhone)! SO, if you have a pin please use the "Contact Me" on this page and I can add you as a contact. If you aren't using BBM, I am always available on Facebook.
Today, for the most part was super busy! I had running around to do all day and mentoring. I then had class and a seminar, met with my tattoo artist to finalize the design (WHO ALMOST MADE ME CRY WITH HOW AMAZING THE DESIGN IS AND I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL SATURDAY), I helped my roommate with his application to make sure the English was okay (who knew I would be helping with English), I made dinner and ran to the shop to get a couple snacks and some bread to go with my dinner, and here I am. Now after I update to all you lovely people I get to read an article. I love my life. Honestly, when you think about it, no matter how bad or busy the day is, I am in England so that instantly makes everything so amazing. LOL. It is so true.
I don't know what I will be up to tomorrow before or after my class - maybe go shopping or look around the mall to get a pair of UGGs (since everyone wears them here and I left my precious babies at home)! Anyway, I am just eagerly anticipating Saturday because I just can't wait to get inked! Especially after seeing the design that turned out 100 million times better than I could have ever imagined. Honestly! I have 100% confidence in my artist for making it even more amazing on my arm! LOL.
Well, that is all for tonight so I hope you enjoy this post and all the pictures I have posted!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. NEXT TIME I POST TO YOU (ON SATURDAY) I WILL BE INKED AND YOU WILL FINALLY GET TO SEE IT (AS I KNOW YOU'RE ALL DYING TO KNOW WHAT I AM GETTING)!
P.P.S The pictures are in the Southampton section! :)
October 22nd, 2013
So there is endless rain and it is supposed to continue for the entire week. I know this is better than snow but it gets old really quick. I am so thankful my landlords have umbrellas for us by the front door! I honestly could not ask for better landlords and it is a huge plus that they live next door! Today, the key to the front door decided it wanted to stop working and wouldn't unlock the door. Thank goodness my landlord was home and came to fix the lock right away.
Today hasn't been much of an exciting day. Danny want home this morning and I had mentoring to do! So I thought, it turns out the tables were booked out for another group and the coordinator was off sick today so I didn't mentor. But that is okay as I will continue on Thursday and for the entire year here! I am so glad I found something else to keep me busy!
After class today, I went to the mall and didn't appear to find much. I did find one sweater that I really liked but didn't like the way it fit and the sleeves were a bit short - they didn't have the right size so I had to leave it on the shelf. Also, I am pleased to inform you I found Yum Yum donuts at Asda (British Walmart) and had to get them! They are honestly so good! They are like the Sugar Twist donuts at Country Style but toffee instead of sugar. I hope that makes sense!
Tomorrow is looking pretty raining so I am not sure what is on the agenda. I do have to return some library books. I swear, the library is becoming my best friend. I can't believe how easy it is to get around, thankfully, as I have never really used a library before. most of the sources at home are all online. Here, there are some online but for research it is best and easier to use the library. You really don't notice these things until you think "well that isn't like how it is back at home". Each and everyday there are more and more subtle differences. The cars on the wrong side of the road still get me every now and then...so hard to get used to!
Anyway, that is all for tonight and I hope everyone has a good night. Also, fellow Canadians, I heard you woke up to snow this morning...lucky...LOL! That is one thing I definitely am not missing!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. THERE IS ONLY 4 DAYS UNTIL I GET INKED AND I COULD NOT BE MORE EXCITED!
October 20th, 2013
Hello To All Reading!
I want to say that I hope the wait was not too long for a post from me! I have been keeping very busy these days with school, touring, and just enjoying all my adventure has to offer! This was a pretty fun and busy weekend and even Danny came to visit! SO here it is…the update!
Thursday, October 17th
Today was my first day as being a Student Mentor for Student’s Union at the university. This is a volunteering opportunity for fellow students to apply and become mentors to help other students. It is about students being there to provide support, guidance, and an ear to anyone who needs it! I honestly am so glad I am part of this program as not only will I be able to grow and learn, but also I will be able to meet people and help others in a different country. It is when I am in my element and feel right at home. I spent from 11am-1:30pm promoting the program in the reception area on campus. I was even asked a few questions and directed students to the right places. It feels so good helping others. I am also extremely glad me being an exchange student isn’t a huge hinder. I know most of the areas on campus and will grow over time to feel more comfortable with this. The training provided also helped too! I even got a super cool sweater and t-shirt to have to promote/make people aware I am a mentor and can ask me for help or what not. After my shift there, I had class and even knew what we were talking about! Most of the stuff was about theories regarding crime and community safety. It was something we did at home in my criminology class last year and was good to be able to contribute my perspective to the questions in the seminar. Also, I once again had fish and chips! I swear, it is an addiction. Before I tried it this year, I did not think I would like it or that it would end up being one of my favorite foods!
Friday, October 18th
Friday was a bit of a quiet day. I had class and then we just went shopping. It was in preparation for the trip Saturday morning to Winchester, which I was greatly anticipating.
Saturday, October 19th
Today was the day I was super excited for! Up and ready for 9:00am, we embarked on the walk to the coach station where we would catch our coach to downtown Winchester. It is a small town about 20 minutes from Southampton. Arriving at the city center at 10:00am, the first stop was the cathedral. I wanted to beat the noon hour rush so it was top priority. The building itself on the outside was breathtaking and I could not believe my eyes. The inside was even more stunning. It was too gorgeous for words, so I will leave you to see the pictures for yourself. Here, we went on a guided tour telling of the building history and the history of the cathedral itself. Little were we aware, that it was the place where the famous Jane Austen is buried. After the cathedral, we went to Gregg’s for lunch. It is a famous bakery in England and let me tell you…it was too good for words. The bread was unbelievable! They, sadly, did not have any donuts that I fancied. However, from there we went to The Westgate Prison. Now, anyone who knows me, knows that this is what I was looking forward to the most; however, it was just a room basically filled with pictures so it was a sort of a let down. I did get over it and did not let that ruin my day! LOL. We also seen the round table at the Great Hall and toured some military museums. The town was ever so precious built around a high street with modern day shops and cafes. We even had British Starbucks and a couple chocolates from Thornton’s! I swear, everywhere I go I just find food or snacks! LOL. You only live once! Right in the middle of the town, that made me have another “British Moment” was the cutest river. It was like out of a movie. I have several pictures of this posted! The little river running through the town, birds flying, and overcast weather. It was a moment where I stopped and literally said “I am in England”. It was one of those moments no words or pictures could explain. We continued exploring the town finding strange shops and cute museums to look in. I really enjoyed the day trip and it is well worth a visit! We even got to hear the Evening Song in the cathedral and it was beautiful. We only stayed for part of it because we had a coach to catch back home to Southampton!
Sunday, October 20th
Today, despite the very nasty weather and strong winds with heavy rain, we went to the Southampton Titanic museum. This is the city where Titanic sailed from. It was rather interesting to see the museum and the interactive things they have in there. I really enjoyed it and couldn’t believe the impact of that event on this town. So many people who died were from right here in the new place I am calling home. Also, today we went to Gregg’s again for lunch and I tried a donut called a yum yum. I know exactly why it is called that…the name is a dead give away because it was definitely “yum yum”! LOL. After doing some minor grocery shopping we went to meet my friends from Belgium for some gelato! Ferraro Rocher gelato is to die for. I honestly thought I was in heaven. LOL. I absolutely adored it. Adored is an understatement by the way. Also, I made taco salad for dinner (the kind you scoop up with tortilla chips expect they don’t have those here so I had to use Doritos which was still good)! I even tried new cheese! They don’t have anything that exists called marble cheese. I know, my jaw dropped too when I found out it wasn’t a thing here! My cooking skills are slowly starting to improve so I am pleased to say I think I will survive. LOL. I am trying to try new things (at least a couple unfamiliar items) each time I either eat out or head to the supermarket.
I must say, it is finally feeling more and more like home here. I do miss my family and friends back home but part of this adventure is new experiences and this has definitely been an impacting one in only just a month. Each day is a learning curve and sometimes a bit of a struggle as you never know what the day will hold. I have an amazing boyfriend, fun roommates, and great friends here to make it all worth while and still know my mom is just a text away if I ever need anything! I cannot put this experience into words even though I try. As much as I enjoy exploring the sights and touristy things, no pictures or words can explain to you how this adventure is. I seen a picture the other day that said “Exchange is not a year in your life, but a life in your year”! I finally know what that means. I am so grateful and privileged to have this opportunity and this is the year in my life that will always mean the most to me. I have honestly never been happier than I have been here in the country I have always dreamed of being. I will honestly never forget anything from this year and know the memories will last forever. I love England. Life is just starting.
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. AT THIS TIME NEXT WEEK I WILL HAVE BEEN TATTOOED FOR OVER 24 HOURS. You can just imagine how excited I am and cannot wait to get inked!
October 15th, 2013
SO, nothing too much has been happening here lately. I am pleased to inform you two of my papers are now complete as I just finished my Landmark Cases in Criminal Justice Portfolio. I am super excited and pleased with it! It was easier than I originally anticipated it to be. Today in class, the lecturer handout out the readings photocopied because students in the class apparently were complained the books were in the library and they did not like that. In Canada, that would have lead the professor to anger and basically saying too bad! Since the class is only 10 people, the lecturer made handouts for us of the readings but fortunately, I already used the books from the library and am done the assignment! LOL. Talk about and eager beaver and over achiever? LOL. Also, I have been reading for my Crime, Risk and Community Safety class. I am pleased to say, as boring as the article was, I understood it! LOL.
I have also decided to take the rest of the week off from writing papers and will start my next one sometime next week. I feel I deserve that break and will enjoy my weekend with Danny and my trip to Winchester! I am really looking forward to it!
I also had British Maynard's wine gum today and let me tell you, they were better than the Canadian ones! I will be sure to bring some home so that those of you who want can try them! THEY ARE SO GOOD! LOL. I am slowly finding more snacks I like but not as many meal foods...the search continues.
This Thursday, I think, my mentoring program starts and I am really looking forward to that! I am excited to meet more people and to really be involved in my year here at Solent!
Also, since the UK does not celebrate Thanksgiving, I did it my own way this year. Represent here in England! LOL. Sunday night I made chicken, broccoli and carrots and Monday, in the spirit of turkey, I had a turkey sub from Subway and rather than pumpkin pie (which I could not find anywhere) I had M&M cookies from Subway as well! It was a good Thanksgiving all in all.
Anyway, that is all for now. I promise to post to you all again in the next few days about what is happening here in Southampton regarding my adventures! I will definitely post on Sunday about my trip to Winchester with lots of pictures, I can assure you that!
Check out the Southampton picture section for a few photos from this week!
Peace. Love. England.
October 12th, 2013
I am sorry for not posting in the last few days. I have been busy writing my Dangerous Offenders paper which I am pleased to say is done! And now starting my Landmark Cases portfolio which is 3/6 questions we need to answer. The biggest challenge with these thus far has been trying to keep within the world limit. For anyone who really knows me, that has always been a problem as when I am passionate about the topic, especially crime and serial killers, I tend to not know when to stop LOL! I really am enjoying my classes here and just really immerse myself into my papers and such. I also find the classes are very interesting and am the only one sometimes scribbling down notes as all the British students stare aimlessly at the lecturer or seminar leader. I am an over achiever and proud! LOL! I must also say that I am becoming a champion of finding books and call numbers in the library here. I have never really used the library at UWindsor, besides studying purposes, as we have to buy textbooks. Here there are just sources online from the lecturers and then you just research for your papers. I am honestly a champion as now I can go into the library and find the books within minutes. They are even so high tech that you can return and check out books on a computer! I know, technology these days! It amazes me. Anyway, the last few days have been pretty busy!
I am proud to say I have signed up as a student mentor here at the university! No, me being foreign will not hinder the role! LOL. I double checked. It is like a position where you are an ear to students on campus to just chat, offer advice, share experiences, and so on! I am super excited and this program will hopefully start this coming week! Yea, I know, pretty amazing! I get to help people and meet people! CHECK!
I have also been meeting some really amazing people and getting to know my roommates more! I even cut my German roommates hair. Yes, he trusted me that much and I did a super good job! And he even brought me ice cream afterwards. This friendship is going to last! LOL! I also have gotten to know two girls, from my Crime Risk and Community Safety class from Denmark. We are in a group together for our presentation. They are super awesome! I also had coffee today, at British Starbucks (which was even more amazing then at home) with an exchange student from Alberta Canada! It was nice to have a fellow Canadian as company! It was good to have someone to share the pain of no Thanksgiving with as they do not celebrate it in England. Yes, that means no pumpkin pie. ANYWAY... He is totally awesome and we managed to spend a record, nearly 5 hours, chatting away in Starbucks! It was too fun! One sad thing is that lots of the people I am meeting, aside from my roommates, are only here for one semester. They are still going to be friends for life though! :)
I am pleased to say my cooking abilities are slowly improving but that is better than getting worse and burning down the house! LOL. I have been making some good meals and finding more things I like in the grocery store. You really don't realize what Canadian food is until you look for something in the supermarket and it is no where to be found. When I get home I am feasting on dill pickles, chips and dip, poutine, and so many other things! LOL. There are so many common things at home that just don't exist in this part of the world. Thankfully, I am adjusting, well trying to anyway! It really is a change to the lifestyle back at home.
I am pleased to say that next weekend Danny is coming to visit and we are going to Winchester on Saturday! I am totally looking forward to it as I heard it is such a beautiful place to be! I cannot wait. I am also getting inked in two weeks from today! AHHHH! The excitement is eating away at me as that is going to be the greatest souvenir anyone could want from this trip - anyone as in me! LOL.
Anyway, it is just past midnight here as I write this and I am going to head to bed. I hope you all have a wonderful night and Happy Canadian Thanksgiving weekend! As my mom suggested, Monday I may have to have a turkey sub (as my cooking skills are not yet there to cook a full turkey)!
Peace. Love. England.
October 7th, 2013
Today was rather busy with classes and stuff so I apologize nothing much has happened. I posted all the pictures for you on the London page! I hope you enjoy them! I had an amazing time this weekend! I love London. Anyway, this week is focusing on reading and starting my Dangerous Offenders paper! Have a good week everyone and I will post to you again in the next few days!
Peace. Love. England.
October 6th, 2013
Hello (*read with accent*)!
So it all began on Friday October 4th, when I woke up and finished packing a few last minute things before I had to head to the library and class. I wanted to have my packing all done and sorted because after my seminar I needed to rush home, grab my stuff and immediately head to the coach station to be there for 5:15pm when my bus left. Anyway, so I got up excited to find out I do not need to purchase text books as majority of the readings are linked online or can be rented from the library. That saves money which means more trips. Plus, the readings are just supplementary material for us to use and better understand topics. It really provides a basis to help us with our research. All of my courses this semester only have papers or presentations. No exams this term - just next. So I had a bite to eat and when to the library. Only to find that the book I needed had to be returned the next day and that would not be possible as I was in London so I left that one and got two others I needed. I will get the one I missed Monday or Tuesday! I then was excited to go to my seminar because I knew where I was going...so I thought. I do not have a timetable yet online as it is being sorted out and should be available Monday. So I was going off classroom list I had from online. Sure enough, I got to the room to see on the timetable outside the door it was not posted. After a moment of panic, I went to see the angel - Chris at the exchange office and we sorted it out. Thank goodness because I was so annoyed. LOL. Right after class I rushed home to grab my stuff and made my way to the coach station. It was running a few minutes late so I waited and finally boarded the coach as I was off to London! Yes, London ENGLAND. It still seems so unreal to me. I absolutely adore going there to visit and just love being able to see the many sights of the city. Once I arrived, I was headed to Danny's house and then unpacking my stuff. That night, despite the late arrival, we went to Nando's again for dinner! I was honestly so hungry. I had only eaten at 11am when I woke up and had been running around all day. Once I got to Nando's and smelled the food, that was it. I was done - I needed to eat! I absolutely love the restaurant but was disappointed as there was no sign of 1Direction. Sorry Whip, I will hopefully spot them one of these days! But, honestly, if you have a chance to go to Nando's - GO!!!! LOL. They have the world's best garlic bread. Seriously. And the rest is just as good! After that it was back for a rest before being up early the next day! Saturday was a day on the town in Central London!
First, up and awake at 8:00am, began the adventure to Madam Tussaud's! We got there just after they opened and spent 2.5 hours in line. Yes, you read that correctly - TWO AND A HALF HOURS IN LINE! It was worth it though, trust me! It was a good thing we got there when we did because after, once we came out the line was around the block and around the corner. Being a Saturday at one of the most popular attractions, 2.5 hours was nothing. Finally, after going around and around and up stairs and around and around, we were getting tickets and entering the attraction! It was beyond words. We started off seeing some amazing actors like Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, etc. I have tonnes of pictures I will be adding so you can see them too! The figures were really well done as majority of them you would not know that they were wax figures. Some were down right creepy! LOL! I MET THE ROYAL FAMILY! We made our way through the exhibitions and seen star after star! It was amazing. But…there they were before my eyes…it was like a dream – there was One Direction! Sorry Whisper but it was amazing! LOL. I was super excited. And I even met Shrek! The funny thing is the stars and figures in Tussaud’s are made to scale and you would be surprised how tall and short some stars are! It was really amazing though! Also, inside you are led to the SCREAM exhibit which is super creepy and scary. People jump out at you like in the movie Scream and there is darkness, yelling, flashing lights, floors shaking, and just terror! It was really good though and made me scream a few times! Then you are led to a little tour via Taxi Cabs that run on a track through a tour of Britain’s history. There are sights and sounds of the old days in England with all the figures made from wax. It was super fun and really neat to see! After this, it was to the featured exhibit. They currently have Marvel Super Heroes so I met the Hulk and Captain America! They even take you into a 4D movie. You literally have the sights, sounds, feel and movement that is happening in the movie. It is in 3D and effects are happening to you as the movie happens. For example, the Hulk sneezed and you felt it. LOL. I am being serious! It was super fun and words cannot capture it. I will be uploading pictures within the next few days as there are over 200 pictures I have to try and sort through. LOL. I also need to get started on a paper for class so the pictures will be available as soon as I can! It is hard to remember I am here for school sometimes! LOL.
After the visit to Madam Tussaud’s it was lunch time and I even was able to try British McDonald’s! LOL. Anyway, after that I went to WestFields Shopping Center! Let me tell you, it was huge. Huge is not event the right word. After being here, it made the Mall of America look like the tiny mall we have in little old Sault Ste. Marie! That is no joke people! It was unreal! It took 3 hours just to walk around two of the floors to see all of the stores. That is not even going in all of them! They had so many places and most stores were two levels on their own! We seen stores like Gucci, Chanel, Tiffany, Dior, etc. It was amazing. I ended up finding myself a Bench tshirt! I absolutely love it! It is still hard getting used to British fashion but with that mall, there is literally a store for everyone…even you Ed. I took some pictures of some of the stores and part of the outside. No words can actually describe to you the size that the mall is. I was honestly walking around with my jaw on the floor the whole time!!! It was overwhelming! I really enjoyed it!
After seeing all the stores there, it was back home to a roast dinner that Danny’s mum had made. I am telling you, there aren’t many British food things that I have tried and actually liked but let me tell you – there is no dinner like a British roast dinner with Yorkshire puddings. They are to die for! LOL. But seriously. It was amazing! Following that we watched XFACTOR UK. Obviously the British one, duh Molly. I am too addicted. I am glad to have found a show I like watching and enjoy! There are not too many American shows like I watched at home so it is good to have something!
Today, I tried crumpets! I felt so English. Guess what – I EVEN LIKED THEM! Miracles happen as there are slowly more and more foods I like! They were so good and I was so happy to try a classic English food! I then had to pack up my stuff and leave London. I made my way to London Victoria coach station, said goodbye to the city I adore and was homeward bound. I arrived back in Southampton to reality of school readings and papers to be started this week. I was able to catch XFACTOR tonight and am now here writing this to you. I promise you to have the pictures up in the next few days. I have lots to do and things are getting busier. I really had a great weekend and cannot wait to be back in London! In a couple weekends, I will be Winchester bound to see the old city then get inked at the end of the month! I adore being here and think I am fitting in quite nicely.
Peace. Love. England.
October 3rd, 2013
Today was again a pretty good day! Like I said before, I am in England so life cannot be that bad! LOL! I really love it here and cannot emphasize that enough!
I have one class today and the class' seminar right after! I got put into a group for the presentation with two exchange students from Denmark! I am super excited as we seem to already have some good ideas! I cannot believe how much I love all my courses! It is really amazing!
I also had a chance to Skype with some amazing people from back at home today! I definitely miss my family and friends back home but I am enjoying making new friends here. My roommates are also pretty awesome! I had a pretty fun conversation with my roommate from Latvia about serial killers today! It was pretty awesome to have someone living with me that shares that strange love! LOL. Also, I had a really good discussion with my roommate from Germany. He did not believe me how big Canada was and that it takes as long as it does from coast to coast!
Tomorrow after my seminar I will be heading to London! I will post again to you all when I get back on Sunday night and as well I will share the photos I have taken with you then! I am absolutely excited as it should be a fun weekend! I really love London and all it has to offer so I am super excited for that! Adventure awaits!
Peace. Love. England.
October 2nd, 2013
Today was a pretty good day! I didn't have any classes so it was quite quiet. First, I had to get my new learning agreement signed as I had to switch my class from the other day. Also, funny thing, classes here do not seem to have text books! I have yet to have a lecturer tell me I needed to buy a textbook. Apparently we just can get things from the library or even just use internet for our research for our assessments. We shall see, but fingers crossed! I hate buying textbooks. Anyway, after that was done, I took a little stroll through the park on my way home. It is too gorgeous not too! Honestly! I love it here and grow to adore it more and more each day!
Tonight I had to see the doctor and that went well. I did not get lost so that was a plus! I even picked up some garlic bread on my way home! Look at me eh? Cooking in England. Who would have thought? LOL!
I made a very very very very good dinner tonight and was super proud of myself! It even tasted so good!!! Step one closer to becoming a chef. Okay, it wasn't that good but let me tell you I impressed myself! LOL.
Now I have to get this updated and relax a bit more before I have class tomorrow at the early hour of noon. Oh the life of me! I also get to pack tomorrow because after my seminars on Friday - I AM GOING TO LONDON! I am just a tiny bit excited! LOL. That is such an understatement!
Anyway, I will post again to you all tomorrow! I added a few pictures from today!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. I was also featured on the SCSS (Sociology and Criminology Student Society at the University of Windsor) in their Student Spotlight. I am so honoured and am super grateful for all the experiences I have had. I am truly honoured and very proud of my accomplishments!
October 1st, 2013
Today was obviously another amazing day...well...I am in England so how can it not be amazing?! LOL. True story. Anyway, I had one class today. I absolutely adore it. It is Landmark Cases in Criminal Justice. Not only do we talk about UK serial killers and crime history but also ones in the USA. I was super pumped when I recognized some of the names we are studying! Bundy and Manson are two of them! It looks incredible and the lecturer (they do not call them professors or doctors here - use first names which is rather strange to me and hard to get used to) is super interesting to listen to! He does ramble a bit but I am hooked on every word talking about the big name serial killers! The classes here, at least my two so far, are super incredible! The content is much more in depth than theories and whatnot that I have been studying in Windsor. I have enjoyed those, it is just this is so different and new to me! Also, the class sizes here are incredibly small! My class yesterday had maybe 25 people and today was about 15. It was very tiny compared to the 200+ students in any given Intro class at home! I cannot complain though as it makes it more comfortable. Also, it gives a chance to know the professor. I introduced myself today after class and my lecturer was so excited! He said "I am so glad you are here! I have been dying to have world and outside perspectives on these things!" He asked what I was interested in in regards to crime and cases. First thing that just stuttered out "Jeffrey Dahmer!" I was too excited when he knew the case and we spent about 15 minutes talking on that! LOL.
Also, today I booked my ticket to London for the weekend! I am super excited to visit the sights and be back in the best place in the entire world! I absolutely loved being in London and touring around! I promise to take lots and lots of pictures and post them throughout the weekend. If not, 100% Monday night!
Also, I even tried something new for dinner...steak pie. I had to run over to the little shop called Sainsbury's to get some cereal and milk as I ran out (yes, since being here I actually am up before my alarms around 10AM and eat breakfast). Yes, miracles happen. Anyway, and I seen this pastry type thing. I looked and was like "I will try something new tonight!" AMEN it was super good and I loved it!! I included pictures on the picture section for you all!
That is all for tonight! Next up...doctor's registration tomorrow as I have an appointment!
Peace. Love. England.
September 30th, 2013
LOL. I thought I would give it a whirl! It will take some getting used to eh? LOL. Anyway, on with today's blog adventure:
First, it was the first day of classes! It was a little bit stressful because my timetable still is not posted as there are a few changes needed to be made today. And also, because I am exchange the faculty is taking its time sorting out my learning agreement. I had found out on the weekend, when the page finally loaded to show what is running this semester, that my courses all have seminars. My coordinator failed to tell me that - problem one. Problem two was found when I realized I was unable to take a course I wanted because the seminar was mandatory for the class. I panicked but, as I have learned, when in doubt - see Chris. And, thank you to the lovely angel that Chris is, he helped me switch my class and I was able to sort that all out. I now do not have to miss a seminar for my Dangerous Offenders class and no longer need to worry about a conflict. With this, my new course schedule is: Dangerous Offenders (lecture Monday, seminar right after), Landmark Cases in Criminal Justice (lecture Tuesday, Seminar Friday), and Crime Risk and Community Safety (lecture Thursday, seminar Friday). As you can see I go from 6 hours of class to 12 hours as each class is 2 hours + 2 hours each for seminars. I do have Wednesday's off! That is a bit closer to the university life, wouldn't you say? And, I do not have a class before 11am. My life is sweet. The one downside is that there is less time for travelling. I figure though, I can still go to London this weekend (YAY) and then do smaller weekend trips. I still have Friday (after 4) to Sunday night! Plenty of travel can be done! Plus during Christmas break and Easter break. Also, there may be more opportunity to travel during next period/semester.
Funny story! I did have to attend the lecture for Policing Politics and Social Control today before I went to see Chris because of the mandatory attendance and to inquire about seminars being mandatory. With this, the crazy Irish professor, he noticed the Canada pin on my bag. He asked, "did you visit Canada over the summer?" And I said, "nope, I am from Canada!" He then laughed and proceeded to pick on me the whole class. It was all in good fun though!
Also, I swear I have a face that people can ask/tell anything too. After my classes were done today, I had to go see Chris and sort out my timetable problem. On the way, a British student (obviously a lost first year) asked me for directions to a building on campus. I actually knew where it was. I told her I am not 100% sure but can walk you there to find it. Hello, RA skills! LOL. Always looking to problem solve and help first years. Anyway, she asked about my accent and said "are you a transfer student?" I explained I was an exchange student and just here for the year. She apologized and said she didn't realize. She laughed and said maybe she asked the wrong person. But, I actually knew where to go so it was all good! Thank you for your applause at me blending in, looking like a normal British student...until I talk then it is one million questions right after the other with no time to respond! LOL.
Second piece of good news today, I paid the deposit for my tattoo so it is 100% confirmed - October 26th, I am getting inked! AHHHH I am too excited. Best souvenir of the trip? Oh yeah it is!
Anyway, that is about all for today/tonight folks! I am off to hangout with my roommates and watch some crazy British television. Seriously, crazy is an understatement.
Peace. Love. England.
September 29th, 2013
Well today was pretty fun and exciting! I went to lunch with friend I met from Belgium! We went to a cute little cafe called Holiday Tearoom. It is just down the street from me. We met there and spent nearly two hours chatting and comparing countries! In some ways, we are surprisingly similar! I really enjoyed it!
When I got back home, I spent my afternoon getting ready for my classes tomorrow! Before I went to lunch, I actually went to the building my classes are going to be in and found the rooms I will need to be at tomorrow for my first two classes as Solent University! I cannot wait for this all to start. I have to remember the main reason I am here is for school! It is honestly hard to remember that sometimes because you get so caught up in the fact - HOLY COW I AM IN ENGLAND! LOL. I will be sure to let you know how that goes tomorrow evening!
Tonight was also really nice as all my roommates and I watched XFACTOR UK. It is so addicting. I cannot believe how into the show I am! Unreal people, unreal. It just makes you want to keep watching but then again maybe it is the accents...who knows! LOL. I must say I am glad to have found a show I can look forward to watching. We don't really get the classic shows I am used to watching at home. Also, as my mom mentioned, now that I have internet I can watch that online. I have to give that a go! I am too busy loving life here though! LOL. It is a dream!
That is all for tonight everyone, I will keep you posted how tomorrow goes!
Peace. Love. England
September 27th, 2013 - Wise Words from Me!
To those of you wanting to be an exchange student…Here is what my first few weeks taught me. Do not be afraid to take the opportunity that you are given.
I must say however, that at first, when you land off that plane, you look around and think…what on earth did I get myself into. You are excited and terrified. You go through immigration and sigh a sigh of relief when they let you in the country. You then make your way out of the airport and onto the streets of a foreign country. It is the land you always dreamed of visiting. You head to wherever you are staying, unpack your things and feel more excited than anything that this is actually happening. You feel comfortable because even though your family is at home, you have your boyfriend there by your side to show you around. You do some sight seeing and buy some souvenirs. It is then time to make your way to your house and meet your landlords. You unpack your things into their place for the next ten months. You say goodbye to your boyfriend and are all on your own. You know it is just temporary, as you will see each other again soon. It is your only piece of comfort until you get used to your surroundings, a new town, and meet new friends. You lay in bed that night and miss your parents, your family, your security blanket of being at home – a place you always know. A couple days go by and you have orientation at the new place your going to be studying at. You flashback to your first day at university back at home and feel the same emotions – scared, but more excitement. You meet people from literally all over the world and easily make friends. You let your personality show and shine. You don’t let anything stand in your way, even if it means you do it all on your own. With each day that passes you feel more and more comfortable in this place and can actually go to the mall yourself without getting lost. You feel more daring and more adventurous. You finally have reality sinking in that it is no longer a dream or a possibility – it is reality. You are in England. You are an exchange student. You are making dreams become reality. You are living the life you always wanted to. You miss home and your mom more than you care to admit, but that is okay. No matter what happens, it is just a text away to let home know what is happening with you and how things are going. You cannot find the words to say to describe how amazing everything is here in your new country. You just want school and classes to begin because that means then you can plan your travels around your schedule and assignment due dates. You again let reality hit you that you are an exchange student and yes, this is not a dream. All is falling into place. You signed up with a doctor, you have an appointment to make a bank account, you completed majority of orientation, you finish enrolling on Wednesday, and you wait for classes to begin. You can feel anticipation and excitement each waking moment. Even the simplest things make you smile like buying crisps in a new grocery store, or hearing everyone around you talk differently to you, or seeing British flags waving proudly on top of buildings or cars driving on the opposite side of the street. Those little things that may seems normal to an English person, those things they may not even notice, make your day because it is all adding up to the big picture that this is your life for the next ten months. This is what is captured in photos and stored in your memory. This makes the stories you are going to tell for years to come. This is what it is all about. Life could not be better. Just breathe, and let adventure come your way. Embrace every second of this opportunity. Do not let anything stand in your way. The next months to come are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making dreams come true. Adventure is out there and it waits for you. Find it, love it, and enjoy it. Enjoy the journey.
September 27th, 2013
September 21st/22nd, 2013
I started out my day by heading to my IT orientation in the morning and learned how to use the online system at Solent University. It was really helpful as literally everything you need is online – grades, library bookings, referencing, card balances, courses, email, etc. You name it, they have it on their student portal! Anyway, after that was done, I made my way down the high street to look at the shops and browse around. It was really fun getting to see the city I am living in. Also, there was some sort of event happening as all through the middle of the high street (which we call downtown), there were food trucks, vendors, etc. lining the streets! It was too fun. I pictured coming to England and seeing exactly this. It is just unbelievable to see so many cultures and getting to really feel British. I also decided to be adventurous and head out on a limb and try Fish and Chips. It is apparently a classic British fast food thing to do! I was apprehensive at first because I am often not too fond of fish and chips but took a deep breath and dove in head first! I really enjoyed it and can promise you that I would eat it again! Maybe I am meant to be British. Who knows! LOL. And, the best part is that I was able to give the man the right change. You see, the coins here are really strange to someone who is used to the cents in Canada. Here there is a pound (like a loonie), a two pound (like a toonie) and then 1p (p meaning pents or pennies/cents as you may know them as), 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, and 50p. Slowly I am starting to get the hang of it. The people at the cash just look at you funny when you inspect every single coin you take out of your change purse. Oh well, just little old me trying not to stand out too much as a foreigner! LOL. I must say, not trying to toot my own horn, but I am blending in quite nicely. Well, into seeming somewhat “normal” in a foreign country – I will never blend in entirely! LOL. That just isn’t me! ANYWAY … One thing that still throws me off when looking in the mall and stores is the fashion. There are baggy clothes to crop tops, floral print pants to mini skirts. The fashion just is not my style and feels like a flash back to the 80s. I say that in the nicest way possible. Also, I know I have experimented a lot with my hair in styles and colour but that does not compare to some of the styles you find here. It actually blows my mind. I will definitely stick to straightening my hair, pinning it up with a flower or headband and be good to go. I am actually nervous to eventually visit and find a hair dresser/stylist. I will have to feel overly adventurous that day. All in all though, it is always fun to head out and not know what I will see that day! I am finally getting used to looking the “right” way when crossing the road here. Believe me, it takes a bit of getting used too and almost getting run over to really be fully aware! Also, the cars here are so tiny and compact. Everyone drives a Mini Cooper! LOL. Also, Danny came to visit which is always nice. The train and the coach station have really great deals from Southampton to London and the trip is only a couple hours! You cannot go wrong! We went to a place called Nandos today. It is a chicken restaurant that One Direction visits (I only know that thanks to my cousin Whisper)! I was super excited to try it and let me tell you – it is fabulous! I had chicken (plain as I was too scared to try anything too exotic my first visit), with a side of garlic bread and chips (that means French fries)! I was so impressed at how good it was! I cannot wait to go back there and try something else. At first though it was a little strange because you get seated, then you go to the front and order then a waitress/waiter brings out your food. It was just not a typical “sit down” place. I loved it though! Also, the mall here is killing me. Killing me in a good way though because we visited a shop called Hotel Chocolate! Yes, you read that correct. A whole store that sells chocolate. You cannot go wrong in there. And, when we walked in the lady gave free samples. Another store, made just for me. A mall that sells homemade donuts and has a store just for chocolate. Mom, I am sorry but you may have to drag me home kicking and screaming LOL. Anyway, Danny said “we are not leaving this store until you pick something and I will get it for you”. That was music to my ears. There is a photo of the chocolates. All I can say is heaven. After relaxing at home for a bit after the adventure we had, it was time for me to explore the little park that I walk through each day to head to University. I had seen a cute little pathway yesterday walking home but I didn’t have time to check it out and I didn’t have the camera. Danny and I walked through it tonight and the flowers and scenery was gorgeous. It is so nice that in the middle of the city there is somewhere calm and peaceful. Also, as my landlords were telling me when I first moved in, there is a little thing happening for the month of September where around town there are painted rhinos that lead you all over the city. We had seen some in the park and downtown and they are too cool! It is apparently a photo competition for the newspaper. On the way home, you may recall me mentioning in another post about the man from an ice cream shop giving free samples, well we decided we needed ice cream…actually it is a gelato bar. So, we entered the little place called Tooti’s Gelato Bar. To describe how good mine was, let me just say…heaven in a waffle cone. I had strawberry cheesecake. I am telling you, these places are just too fabulous! Each day I feel more and more excited to try and experience new things. Now, school can start anytime now (after Wednesday when I have my first meeting with my coordinator and enroll)! Things just keep falling into place and I love it!
September 23rd – 24th, 2013
Well today was productive as I got my banking sorted out. I opened a UK bank account. It was a bit of a hassle because they do not have the same branches. But, with some help from my mom back at home, I was able to sort it all out! Things here are coming together. I also made an appointment with a doctor and registered thanks to the university who set it all up during induction. Now, I just need to be able to find the place I will be going for my appointment next Wednesday! Southampton has been really good and easy to get around, as everything is close. Things are only about 10-15 minutes, walking, away from either the university or my house. I love seeing the city and getting to know England more and more. As I mentioned before, I am getting eager to start classes and begin travelling. I have my appointment tomorrow to pick classes and enroll them. I am just spending the rest of the night getting my documents together and relaxing! I cannot believe I have been here already for two weeks! Two weeks in the country I have always dreamed of visiting! This really is the time of my life and I look forward seeing what else unfolds.
I must say though, my RA senses still kick in every now and then because all my flat mates have never lived away from home for University or anything. I find myself in the position to make sure they are cleaning up, following rules landlords have given us, make sure they know when meetings are, etc. I know it isn’t my job and I need to worry about myself. I will always be half hour early, organized and they way I am! LOL. Nothing can change that. I am only 20 and already set in my ways. Also, I must say it is one challenge living with people from around the world because of the language barrier. I find it hard because I tend to talk fast and they don’t understand me. Then, they do not know the words in English and I have a hard time understanding them. I find it a bit hard as well because they tend to finding people form their own country and speaking their own language. I just feel as though they should be trying to improve and learn more in English. That is one of the reasons they are here. Oh well, it won’t get in the way of me making my trip of a lifetime all I dreamed of!
I am also thinking that I will plan and go on my first trip mid-October. That way, I will have settled into classes and life here at university. I have bonded a bit with my roommates (even though they have no intention of travelling). I know the city enough to get around and be comfortable to explore other places. I am thinking somewhere in Scotland or Italy. Then make another trip in November to the opposite I choose in October. I have it all planned and nothing can stop me! I will see the world!
September 25th, 2013
Well today was definitely an adventure itself. I had to be up early to go and meet with my course coordinator at the university. Thank goodness, I pre-found the room we needed to go to because if not, I would have never found it. Anyway, I met with my coordinator and it went really well! I was able to pick out some pretty amazing courses. Only two on the list I pre-selected were unavailable but thanks to my coordinator, we found two alternatives that are even more amazing. This period (semester as we call it in Canada) I have Dangerous Offenders (the one I am most looking forward too), Policing Security and the State, and Landmark Cases in Criminal Justice. These three modules/units (courses as referred to in Canada) are the same equivalent to the 5 I would take in one semester back at the University of Windsor. It is because the way the credits work out. Second period (or semester) I have more amazing courses – Crime and Media Culture, Youth Crime and Youth Justice, and Alcohol, Drugs and Crime. The criminology program here is a little more in depth and concentrated than it is back at home. The modules/units offered seem interesting and I am definitely looking forward to classes beginning on Monday. The pure beauty of it all though, I have classes Monday and Tuesday – that leaves Wednesday to Sunday to travel and explore England, Europe, and wherever else I choose while I am here! Then, after this appointment I was supposed to go to my faculty and enroll. However, when I arrived there they told me I was at the wrong faculty. So, off I went to see Chris (exchange coordinator here in England). The problem was criminology was moving faculties and the departments had not sorted it out properly. So, later in the afternoon he emailed me and back I went to the university to enroll. I also got my Campus Card. I am super excited – despite the picture not being the best! Things are literally all in place and I cannot wait for classes to start on Monday! As soon as we get Internet on Friday, I will be able to find out if I need any books, materials, etc.
And it is official – all four of my flat mates/roommates are moved in! They are all really nice. It is good to see different cultures and get to know people from around the world. It is honestly going to take some getting used to with the different habits, foods, smells, etc. But this is all about adventure and keeping an open mind! I love every minute of this journey so far and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I absolutely adore my house, enjoy the city, and am beyond happy with my experience thus far!
September 26th, 2013
Today was a pretty relaxed day. I yet again, embarked on the adventure of going to the mall. I made it there and home safely without getting lost. I am getting so good at this whole navigating thing! Ed would be so proud as I didn’t even have to use my compass app yet! Anyway, at the mall I even found a t-shirt I liked. It is my first piece of British clothing (besides my tourist London England hoodie that I adore)! It has taken some time to get used to the fashion here and actually going into shops and picking things out I actually would wear. It is overwhelming coming to another country and not seeing any stores, brands, or items you recognize. But, today I kept and open mind and tried things on! I was pretty proud of myself as when it comes to clothes, I can be pretty picky! But I found a super cute shirt in a store called Bank. They have some pretty fun clothes! It is really strange though as here, when you walk into a store, no one greets you or even acknowledges you. At home, you do not shop in a store unless you are greeted. It was actually funny today, because I have been getting used to not being greeted in stores and shops, but I went into a store called Fat Face (it’s a clothing store, not my taste but I looked). The lady said “Hi, how are you?” When I responded, startled that I was greeted, she looked at me funny and said “where are you from?” I have been trying to get used to being the one with the accent. It is still so strange for me as I am fascinated when anyone talks here with their British accents! It is the life, let me tell you!
Also, I am pleased to inform you that I am actually starting to enjoy British television. Also, I have been learning that they think they are funny, no offence to anyone British, but really are not. Some of the shows here are totally weird. But I have been enjoying things like X Factor, Come Dine with Me, Storage Hunters (British Version), and a couple others. I was glad the other day to find a channel that plays re-runs of the Big Bang Theory. One of our neighbors was over, he is from Finland, and that show was on TV and he said to me “listen, they are your people!” It was pretty funny.
One thing I must admit I am not enjoying is cooking. I am a champion of making rice though. Unlike my mom, I haven’t burnt the water. I don’t want to burn the house down, because lets face it, I want my landlords to continue to like me. I must say each day I am trying to make new things. Tonight, I fried some sausages and had rice. I keep mentioning rice because I am still getting used to the different foods here. There are many things but my first trip I got “safe foods” that 1/ I know I will be able to make, and 2/ Things I know I will actually like. I must say, I have been good to try new things and have found many snacks I like. I do miss microwaveable popcorn though, oh, and dill pickle chips! Anyway, slowly I am opening up to different foods and trying to make a bit more complex things. I haven’t died yet, so I am doing good I would say! LOL.
Well, tomorrow is the day we finally get Internet and I couldn’t be happier! I cannot wait to be able to post on my blog, Skype with family and friends, and be connected to the world! I must say though, this experience is so amazing that I haven’t relied that much on social media. I have been so absorbed into exploring London and Southampton, meeting people at my induction/orientation, and finding my way around that I have barely looked at social media. I don’t know if this will change as the first thing, after updating my blog, I plan on looking at is travel sites and planning my October trip to Italy!
September 27th, 2013
Well today was the day I have been waiting for - I GOT INTERNET! Our whole house has all been sitting in the living room and just enjoying being connected to the world again! You can honestly hear a pin drop with everyone just staring at their laptop screens! LOL. That is definitely an exchange student problem - no internet to check in with the world. All is fine, we have it now!
So today, has been a quiet day with just sorting out the internet and things. Also, a bit of big news for the day - MOLLY IS GETTING INKED! October 26th is the big day. I found a cute little shop and met with them today. What I am getting will remain a mystery until I update you with a picture when it happens. It was super exciting though because after having all my tattoos done at Anipeg back at home, I was hesitant on seeing another artist. The guy I met with today was awesome and knew exactly what I was talking about I wanted. So, it is planned and decided!
Also, travel arrangements are being finalized as we speak. London this coming weekend for some amazing adventures there! I am excited as it is one of my favourite places to be! Also, a trip is planned to Winchester which is just 40 minutes from Southampton. It looks to be a nice, small, historic town with some cools castles. This is all about adventure. Bigger plans are in the process for November so be ready! Trips around the world! I am too excited for all of this! It is amazing.
Anyway, this is about it for tonight. I just plan to upload my pictures and share those with you. They are from the 16th to now. All capturing moments of my life here in England (mostly Southampton in this set) as an exchange student!
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. Yes, the British really do say "Cheers" more times than necessary. And no, it will never get old.
September 20th, 2013
Sorry for not posting recently. The house in Southampton did not have Internet and my flat mates (fancy British term for roommates) and I needed to sort it all out. Anyway, here is what you have missed.
September 16th, 2013
I packed up my things and made sure all was in order for the trip from London Victoria National Rail Station to Southampton Central. This is where my chapter here as an exchange student would begin. We boarded the train, after taking the underground to the station. Upon arrival, we collected out tickets and checked the massive overhead board to see what platform we would have. I had never been on a train before but that is okay, this is all about new experiences. So we found platform 12 and settled in. The 3-hour train journey would begin. It was only that long because we stopped at several small stations along the way. Sure enough, we arrived in Southampton and tried to find my house. After being slightly turned around, thanks to the Maps App on my phone, we were on the right street and able to meet my landlords. They were so welcoming and sweet. They showed me to my room, around the house and I met my first flat mate from Spain. She is so nice!
After that, I unpacked my bags, made myself at home and needed to go shopping and explore my new city! Off we were down my street to find the nearest mall, or as they say here “shopping center”. I just wanted to get a few things I needed and then let the main grocery trip be the next day. So, we found the British version of Wal-Mart, called Asda, and began.
We had spotted IKEA, yes IKEA, which is right downtown from my house and I needed to go in. I have never been into an IKEA before but heard great things. I wanted to look for my own duvet set as then my room would be a bit more personalized. Despite spending about 15 minutes looking for the entrance, I did not see anything inside. They had some cool stuff don’t get me wrong, but nothing I needed. It was a great store though…and literally almost in my backyard.
Overall, I got some stuff I needed and then the real challenge began, getting back home.
Back at home, I was able to sit and chat more with my flat mate from Spain and get to know here. I must say, I feel very lucky to be from an English speaking country as I am able to understand things here a bit easier. It is still a challenge at times though. That is what an adventure is all about though, right?
September 17th, 2013
Today was day number two in my house in Southampton and let me tell you, I had a day of exploring planned. I first went and found the university, Southampton Solent, which is only about 10 minutes away from me. First, it was a long route that we took but later on during the day, we were able to find a shorter, 10 minute one. Anyway, so we found my university and I went upstairs to meet Chris, my exchange coordinator here in Southampton. Upon walking into the main entrance at the university, it was nothing like I was used to back at home in Windsor. Don’t get me wrong I love Windsor, but Southampton Solent had such character and charm to it that made it feel like I had been here forever. Mind you, it will feel even better once I have a timetable and know where classes actually are. So, back to what I was saying. I went upstairs to meet Chris and he was ever so welcoming. He told me about induction and orientation programs that I would need to attend. Also, he had told me he would arrange everything to work out courses/units with my academic advisor here in Southampton. I was ever so pleased and was able to feel comfort after being so worried about where to go and what I needed to do.
After that, it was time to get groceries. We made our way to Asda, yet again, to find the last bits I needed to eventually cook for myself here at my house. That is one scary thought. As long as the house stays standing, it will be okay. Touring around the shop, I was able to find many new things to try and some comforts of home that I know I will like just in case the new things don’t suit my palate. I am so glad the shop isn’t too far away from home though because those groceries get heavier every step of the way. But, on the way home, a gelato shop was giving out free samples. I thought to myself, there is a god watching over me right now. It was the ice cream god because just when I was ready to leave the bags on the side of the road, there is was – ice cream. I tried a mini strawberry cheesecake sample, and let me tell you, it was better than Ben and Jerry’s any day! Thank goodness the shop is only 5 minutes or so away.
Then, after unloading those at home, it was to the mall to explore the three levels of food and shopping they have. Yes, you read that right – 3 levels! It is paradise. Most of the stores I am not familiar with but I will be soon, don’t worry, and so will my credit card! LOL. The first trip around I did not see much as I was more focused on getting what I needed before getting the things I wanted. I did however; spot a delicious bakery in the center of the mall that had homemade sprinkle donuts. That I needed to try. Best donut I have ever had, hands down. This place and I are going to get along just fine.
Then, thanks to my grandparents, I was able to get my duvet cover set. Even though the house is fully furnished, I wanted something to make my room more personal and “pink”. Sure enough, as I seen online when I was still in Canada, Argos store had the one I wanted. It is black and pink and too perfect! I absolutely love it. I also printed off some pictures of family and friends but those would not be ready until the 24th. That is okay as I can easily pick them up and put them in my room! The space feels more and more like home everyday.
Later that night, I was able to find the university and take some pictures. I am so glad we found a route only 10 minutes away and that is easy to get too – straight, turn left. LOL. It is nice and easy for a new student in a new country. Orientation begins on Thursday the 19th and I am so excited to meet new people, see the university, and sort out all my timetable. Also, I really want to find out more information about opening a bank account here and setting things up with a doctor. That should all be clarified tomorrow at orientation/induction.
September 18th, 2013
Well, today was a lazy type day. I brought Danny to the train station to say goodbye, as he needed to get back home. It is official – I am on my own in Southampton. I have been getting to know my flat mates, organizing paperwork and stuff for orientation/induction tomorrow, and just relaxing. I also met our neighbors from two houses down who are from Sweden, Finland and Germany, which was good. Each day I get to meet more and more people!
September 19th, 2013
Today was orientation/induction day. I embarked on the short walk to Southampton Solent University where I met some other exchange students and found the room I was supposed to be in. It started off with a bit of student life introducing us to around campus, clubs and societies, night life, safety tips, etc. Also, we talked about opening a UK bank account which seems very complicated but I will tackle that burden on Monday when I can go to the bank and make an appointment. We then were introduced to the many services around campus that are there for students. It really is amazing at how much Solent wants to be a part of student life and you really can see how much they care about their international students. It was very welcoming and made you feel comfortable. One thing that was a little intimidating was that each lecture, class, or tutorial you have, you need to swipe in with your student card as they monitor attendance. Each time you miss it counts against you, possibly forcing you to lose marks, and with more than a couple you meet with the faculty to figure out the problem of you not being in class. With more than a certain number of absents, you can be removed from the university. This will not be a problem for me so I am not worried. It was just rather unusual as at Windsor, you decide if you want to be there or not. After that, we had a brief break before the official welcome/exchange induction with Chris. As I was patiently waiting outside the room, I began chatting with some students from Vietnam and Finland. They were pretty awesome and we clicked. I made two new friends today! Yay! That is what this is all about – meeting people and having friends all over the world. We then headed into our orientation together and got things sorted out. Wednesday I finally get to officially enroll my courses here at Solent. I am just waiting to have Chris let me know when I can meet with my advisor. After that, with time to kill before the International/Exchange Welcome Buffet, me and my new friends took a tour of campus. The girl that gave us the tour was pretty awesome. She is originally from Southampton and we had a great chat about the school and city. We ended up walking through the park together after the buffet and had a good chat about life here in England. Anyway, the campus seems less intimidating than it is. When I first looked at a map it was very confusing and nothing made sense. After the tour, I am definitely more comfortable with the buildings. My tune may change when I actually have to find my classrooms. LOL! We then ended the tour exactly where we needed to be for the Buffet. There we were able to try foods from all over the world. Sadly, they forgot poutine. It is rather funny because one of the girls I met was asking what Canadian food is and could not believe we actually ate what we call “poutiine”! It was too funny. Anyway, we then again met up with the girl who gave us the tour of the campus and some other exchange students. I met two more girls from France, a guy from Canada (Alberta), and a guy and girl from Belgium! It is so interesting to here others talk about their home towns and where they come from. Things are so different in other parts of the world. I am so anxious to travel and see other parts of Europe. I know I have only been here in England for little over a week but it feels like forever. I am now getting anxious for classes to begin, to have breaks for travelling and to getting used to life as a British student would.
September 20th, 2013
Well today, I am using the Internet at the university to post on my break from orientations before grabbing lunch! Today I was able to register with a doctor and get an appointment set up for my bank account! All is going well! I do not know what exactly I am up too tonight but we will figure that out a bit later. This is just a brief post for now as I do not have much more to update you on. I am continuing to meet people from all over the world and it is super amazing! I cannot even describe to you how amazing this opportunity is! Also, I cannot wait to meet with my course coordinator and enroll on Wednesday. Things are coming together and it is so amazing!
That is all for now, sorry there has been a delay in my postings! I will try to update you again as soon as we have internet at the house!
Peace. Love. England.
September 15th, 2013
So...today was a bit of a quiet day. I basically spent the day getting ready for Southampton and making sure all was together. I also tried making a list of stuff I was going to need to buy when I got there. That went fine, however, I will know more once I actually move in and get myself settled. Also, when I move in, we are working on getting Internet so I may not be able to post to you right away. I will keep you as posted as I can on this.
I could not be more excited to go to the new university, meet my roommates, and study here in England. Dreams really come true. I have been googling about the area and searching the stores in the mall. As funny as it sounds, I am really looking forward to going into a grocery store and trying to pick things out. It really is the little things right? LOL.
Well, that is all for today. I will be up bright and early to embark on my adventure to Southampton. I have never been on a train before so it should be interesting. And (I know you're thinking it), Yes I got my landlords phone number incase I get lost along the way.
One more thing...tonight, Danny's mum made a traditional Sunday dinner. The picture is posted in the "photos". Let me tell you, it is more than amazing. I cannot believe how good it actually was. My personal favourite though was the home-made Yorkshire Puddings. I really could live off them for the year.
I am so happy I am here and having these experiences. Tomorrow I will officially be "home" and embarking on my life as a bi-laterial exchange student at Southampton Solent University. I could not be more excited!
Thanks for following my blog and I will post to you all as soon as I can!
Peace. Love. England.
September 14th, 2013
Hey All Reading This:
So today was pretty fun! I took the train to Oxford Circus. This is one of the biggest streets of shopping in England. I was ready for the hustle and bustle...so I thought. We got off the train and came up the stairs to chaos. There were literally people everywhere. Left, right, up, down there were people. Now, before I came to England I was told several times to blend in and not look like a tourist. After seeing some of the people on Oxford Street today, I think I caught on a lot quicker than they did. Despite taking a few pictures, I fell into the crowd and followed the crowd. I did not stop mid walk and text, take pictures, look up in a daze, or what not. I went in and out of stores like a local would. My cover of blending in was only blown when I said something. LOL.
Anyway, it was really great to see one of the famous streets and to look at British fashion. I did go with the intent of shopping, shopping, shopping but little did I know there would be brands and stores that carried very obscure trends that were rather unusual. I would never wear most of the things we seen literally if you paid me. Getting used to British fashion may take a while to get used to. Thank god my wardrobe fit in my suitcases. I saw some stores I recognized from the many shopping trips my mom and I have taken into the states. We seen places like H&M, Forever 21, Gap, etc. The crowds in the stores were honestly unbelievable. For example, we went into the British store called Primark. Sure they had really nice clothes, acceptable prices but there were legitimately more people inside than out. It was a fight to even glance at clothing. And goodness me, good thing I did not want to try anything on because the line would take over an hour to get through just for a fitting room. Can you imagine this place at Christmas? No thank you.
I really enjoyed today as well, it was another day in England. I am noticing small differences more and more every day. I feel like I am even picking up on things. I know to always stand on the right on the lifts and stairs. One thing though, as previously mentioned in my other posts, I still chuckle when everyone around me chats in their accents. It will never get old.
On Monday, I am heading to Southampton. That will be another adventure for me as I have to try and make my way from the train station to the house I will be living in. Good thing my landlords gave me their number in case I get lost. Also, I get to meet one of my roommates who is already moved in. She had emailed me about Internet in the house (which we are getting soon). We started chatting and she seems so nice. I hope the other three are too. They move in a couple days after me.
Since being here, I have only watched a bit of British television, and let me tell you - you are not missing much. I know I need to give it a chance and I will. Half of my battle is understanding the accents they use. Each part of England has their own accent and on television it is hard because once you get used to one, another host or set of actors has a different one. That is okay though, I guess I am just biased. Also, the commercials are quite the commercials. None of them make sense but that is what makes them funny. The commercials are not as frequent either. I love that! It is good fun though! It will all take some getting used to. Truth is, I love everything about England and it is better than imagined.
Well, I am off to try some British Sweet Popcorn. The options are sweet and salty. I am not exactly used to all the food here but it is all about trying new things this year and pushing the comfort zone. I must give a shout out to the Just British store back at home because I like going in a shop and actually recognizing some things! LOL.
That is all for tonight. Tomorrow is all about getting ready for Southampton so I will update you a small bit tomorrow night before bed. Stay tuned for more!
Peace. Love. England.
September 13th, 2013
Today was another fun day in London, England. Each morning waking up is like a reality check because it is hard to believe this is real. I feel so lucky to have this opportunity and am trying to make the most of every second. It has been very overwhelming trying to adjust to the fast paced, busy and crowded lifestyle but I get more and more used to it every day. Today was another day in paradise for me.
It was off to Buckingham Palace for the day and to tour around there. With the intention of seeing the changing of the guards, there was slight disappointment as the show was cancelled today. However, it was still amazing to see that part of England where the Queen and the Royal Family live. We did get to see two other guards come out and check on the two guarding the castle. It was so big and could not compare to any photo. Seeing all these sights in real life is more amazing than anything in this world. It captivates you and you just want to take a million pictures so that when it is all said and done, you can relive every single second. It is amazing.
After seeing Buckingham Palace, the rain started to come down. Then again, I should not be surprised as it is London, England right? Prepared with an umbrella it was time to toughen up and let my hair and clothes get a little wet. England is worth it. For me to get my hair and clothes wet, you know it is important. Touring around and seeing many different shops was too fun. London, England is exactly how I imagined it and so much more. It is a dream coming true every day.
Also, a bit of good news is I got my phone up and running with a UK number. Even my phone is British. LOL. If anyone needs the number just Facebook message me for it. I cannot text – just iMessage from iPhone to iPhone. If you need to reach me otherwise just use Facebook or get my address in Southampton from my mom.
Overall, today was another amazing day in London, England. Molly’s observation for the day, as earlier discussed with Danny, is that everyone is not only a crazy driver on very narrow streets, but there are tiny cars everywhere! I have never seen so many Mini Coopers in my life. They are cute though and truly make England what it is. Anyway, I am so happy and thankful for this opportunity. Sending all my love and photo memories back home. I love and miss you all.
Peace. Love. England,
P.S. I don't know if I will ever understand British television! LOL.
September 12th, 2013
Today was day two in the great city of London, England. I visited Central London today. I am slowly learning customs and terms used here. I am learning to walk to the right when standing on lifts in the underground, to recognize the coins used (especially the actual "pound"), to call trash rubbish, to check left first while crossing (even though the actual road says "look left" and "look right" when needed), and so much more! Everyone having British accents is totally exciting though. I have never had the experience of being the one with the accent before and it actually has been quite fun! Just yesterday when we were carrying the suitcases up the stairs from the underground, a man asked me if I needed help and I replied "no, thank you though" and got the strangest look. It was too fun! Anyway, back to the day's adventures...
Upon waking up today, finally adjusting to the time zone change (5 hours ahead of Canada), we headed off to Central London on the underground. It is super fun to take! And, I am actually starting to learn where I am going. I got a mini-map and everything! So, the plan was to see Big Ben, visit London Dungeons, and see the city on the London Eye.
First when we got off the underground, we were a bit lost. Now, people say not to talk to strangers and to be aware of the surroundings. A cute older couple asked if we needed directions, as we looked at a map display on the sidewalk. Apprehensive at first, we double checked the map and asked where the London Eye was. They offered to walk us in the right direction. Thankfully, they showed us where to go and told us to have fun! They were so cute and nice. Apparently that is an odd account in London, so I was lucky.
So off it was, and right there before my eyes was the gigantic London Eye. It was huge. Standing under it and looking up was very overwhelming and I though to myself, what did I get myself into. We decided to wait and collect the tickets to do London Dungeons first. You were not allowed to take photos inside so sorry about that. It was first very scary as you enter this very dark, dim location to be guided by a really creepy man (obviously dressed for the job). We would be learning about the past of London, what the streets were like in the 1800s, and (my favourite part) Jack the Ripper. I was quite scared, honestly, because it was creepier than expected. Overall, besides the water they sprayed on us, it was really good! I loved it! The effects and putting us in that time was most memorable and unforgettable. From there we walked across the small bridge toward Big Ben/Houses of Parliament.
There it was...before my eyes...the thing you admire in photos...Big Ben. That whole moment it all came to me - I am in London, England. It is a dream come true and an unforgettable moment. I knew it was real because I gave myself a small pinch. We walked around and seen the Houses of Parliament. We could not go in as it was blocked by police guards. It was gorgeous. From there, across the street were telephone booths. Of course, I had to check them out. It was breathtaking, opening that door and seeing inside. A real telephone booth in London, England.
The hustle and bustle of everything was hard to take during rush hour but it all was fine in the end. You get used to it. There is just so many people everywhere. I have really learned to stop and embrace the moments I have. This is a great opportunity and I don't want to miss or rush anything. It's hard to come to realization I am here for ten months. Also, I bought a can of coke today. I am telling you this because this was the first time I got to use a coin. I had no clue what the coins were but there I was using a pound coin. So fun! It is quite an experience being the "foreigner".
From there, it was time to get in the queue (that is a line for all us Canadians) for the London Eye. Standing under it, like I said, it was huge! We got on as it stills moves, very scary, and slowly made our way to the top. There it was - the beautiful city of London! Snap, snap, snap - I was taking pictures like they were going out of style. Big Ben became my best friend and favourite London feature.
Looking in and around the shops, I found a couple cute souvenirs. I found the cutest London, England hoodie that I will probably wear everyday (especially when I am back on Canadian soil) and a London keychain sporting Big Ben, a double decker bus, and a telephone booth. I can use it for my keys when I get them on Monday for my house in Southampton!
Now, folks, I am here writing this for you and about to upload my pictures for today! I hope you enjoy them and I apologize for the many there is of Big Ben. I was beyond fascinated!
Today, also, I registered online for Southampton Solent University. I am officially registered as a student there (just to pick courses and sign a couple papers at orientation now)!
That is all for tonight and get ready for day 3 tomorrow! Buckingham Palace in on the list for tomorrow! YAY!
Peace. Love. England.
September 11th, 2013
The day has come. I was supposed to leave on the 10th, but at 4:20am I checked Air Canada's App and the flight was cancelled. After a brief moment of panic, I picked up the phone and called Air Canada to find out my boyfriend and I were on the next available flight. Of course, Sault Ste. Marie would have a huge storm before I was supposed to leave the country. So back to bed it was and the flight was rescheduled to 1:55pm. Back up we got and were ready to go. My parents gathered us in the car with all my stuff and we were off to the airport. As excited as I was, I knew it was going to be harder than I imagined.
There I was at the airport getting my boarding pass and thrilled the luggage was automatically being sent through to Heathrow Airport. One stress taken care of. Now it was the wait. The family and I chatted awkwardly knowing that goodbye was soon. None of us wanted to go through with it. The announcement came on and it was time to go through security. I hugged my grandparents, step-dad, and most importantly my mom. We had our moment and I had to go off of the new adventure I was getting the opportunity to take part in.
We were boarded and off to Toronto. The flight went by pretty quickly. It was a rougher landing than I had wanted and was pretty sure I was going to be sick. Luckily, it passed and it was time to find our next gate. Inside Heathrow there I was trying to find gate E73. Hallway after hallway, finally we came to it. There it was. There was only one problem though - we didn't have a seat number. So anxiously awaiting the attendant, I grabbed some food and waited. Sure enough the seats were sorted and it was time to board the 6 hour and 55 minute flight to London, England. It was tough to sleep and the man on the right of me snored louder than loud. After awkwardly sleeping and trying to stomach the worst airplane food imaginable, the flight attendant's handed foreign passengers their landing cards. I filled mine out prouder than proud and we de-boarded the plane.
Once inside, it was time to make my way through immigration. There I found the line for students and waited my turn. Finally it was me - documents ready. The man asked some strange questions like "why England out of all the places in the world" and "oh you want to be a lawyer, what are they called in Canada", I was let through. I did have to fill out a health form but that was easy. The man told me "you don't look like you have tuberculosis" and said have a good day. I thought, well that was awkward. During the process I was rather worried as I was the only one out of the whole line who took so long. But I was let in the country! YAY! Now to find baggage. It was there - not lost - safe and sound.
Next challenge - the London Underground. It was a fun trip and I had to "mind the gap". The automated message said that about 50 times so it is necessary to inform you. After a brief walk we made it to Danny's house. I finally met his wonderful mother and the three cats! From that point on it was time to unpack a few things and get ready to explore!
After unpacking, it was Ealing bound where I got some items I needed and looked for a phone plan. That part is still in progress but hopefully, I will have it worked out soon. The mall was so cool - half inside and half outside. From there we walked around, took TWO double decker buses (yes, it is not ever going to get old)! I rode a double decker bus. It was in front of my very eyes and not on the television or a movie. We explored the town and now I am here writing to you. I will be uploading my pictures in the picture section that I took today with more to follow from my next journeys. I promise.
Jet lag is finally sinking in after barely any sleep today on the flights. I really miss my family and home but that is expected. Love you mom and miss you!
I am getting used to being the one with the accent but still get all excited when I hear an accent of the British nature! This is actually my life right now and I couldn't be happier! Also, I registered with the Canadian Embassy (in case something bad were to happen - I could get back to Canada)! The train to Southampton is booked for Monday, September 16th where I will move into my house and meet the landlords. I cannot believe this is my life. Reality is getting there as often I look around and think - this is a dream!
That is all for now, please check out the photos from today and expect more to come!
Peace. Love. England.
September 9th, 2013
Today is my last day in Canada. The pounds are packed, my life is in a suitcase (and a couple carry-ons), and passport is in hand. It is bitter sweet for me because I am going to miss my home, friends, and family. I know however, this is a journey I have always wanted to take. It is hard to believe it is actually happening. The journey is going to be fun, memory-filled, exciting, nerve racking, and so much more. I can't believe in less than 24 hours I will be on that plane anticipating the arrival to Heathrow Airport. England - bring it on. I have learnt from the best over the years (my parents). I know to try to not make myself look like a tourist, to watch my surroundings, to make sure I eat and drink water, etc. LOL. Remember dreams always come true when you work for them. Make your dreams reality. & Now...Let the journey begin.
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. I will post to you more regularly when I am there and have settled in.
P.P.S. If you want/need my address you will have to contact my mom as she has that information.
September 7th, 2013
Thanks to everyone who was able to make it to my going away party. It really means the world to me as I will miss each and everyone of you. Thanks especially to my parents for making it all happening and telling me to always follow my dreams. Going to England is a dream come true and I can't wait to make it all happen. I love my family so much. As hard as it will be to say goodbye, I know that I will see them soon.
Peace. Love. England.
September 6th, 2013
So day by day reality is sinking it and I know that in 4 days I will be leaving everything I have ever known and be off for the biggest adventure of my life. I couldn't be more excited and am ready for this part of my life! Thanks for the love and support to everyone!
Peace. Love. England.
September 3rd, 2013
Well it is officially one week until I embark on my journey of a lifetime. At this time next week I will be in London, England enjoying the sights and sounds it has to offer. I will be trying to recover from a 10+ hour plane trip trying to contain the excitement that over comes me. I have been dreaming of that moment for years now and it is finally going to happen. Today, I went and exchanged money into British Pounds. That was quite the adventure let me tell you. After 3 trips to the bank, 1 trip to another bank, 1 trip to the tourist place, and tonnes of phone calls later - I got what I needed. It was a little frustrating but it came together in the end. I am so excited to finally begin this chapter of my life. A new year, new memories, new experiences, new house, and a new chapter of my life. This is going to be the trip of a lifetime and nothing can ruin it for me.
I know this is going to be hard for my family - especially my mom. She has been there for me my whole life. We are closer than close and it is going to be hard. I know she knows this means the world to me and even though I know she is happy for me, it is going to be hard. Thank goodness for technology these days. Sorry mom, but this is an experience I cannot pass up. I wouldn't be where I am today with her. I know and can count on the millions of text and Facebook likes on my posts and pictures.
Also, I couldn't do this without Michelle from the exchange office at University of Windsor and Chris from the exchange/international student office at Southampton Solent University. I know they will continue to support and guide me through this year no matter near or far. I cannot thank either of them enough.
The journey I will embark on begins on Tuesday September 10th at 6:00am when that plane departs to my connecting flight at Toronto Pearson Airport. From that moment on, I will leave everything I know - family, food, friends, culture, customs, dollars, etc. and begin a new journey. It may seem scary to some but I know I am ready. Nerves and excitement are kicking in more and more each day. I know reality will sink it when I look out that little window on the airplane at Big Ben and the London Eye lit up. That is where I will be for 10 months. My life in England as an exchange student is beginning.
Peace. Love. England.
P.S. I promise to keep things updated and post pictures more regularly when I am actually in England.
August 26th, 2013
Just wanted to say there is only 15 more days until my adventure begins! Thats two weeks plus a day ... it is coming so fast! I can't wait. I have even started packing!
Peace. Love. England.
August 19th, 2013
So the reality is sinking in more and more each day that I am going to England! There is so much adventure out there and mine begins in 22 days!
Peace. Love. England.
August 8th, 2013
I am letting reality sink in that I will finally achieve my dream of being in England. September 10th cannot come fast enough. Tuition to UWindsor has been paid and another thing checked off the list! Wow - this is happening.
Peace. Love. England.
July 31st, 2013
My VISA is officially in my hands and all my preparation has paid off. I also have BOOKED A ONE WAY FLIGHT TO LONDON, ENGLAND! I will be officially embarking on my journey September 10th, 2013 to spend a week with my boyfriend, Danny, and his mum before moving to Southampton in my house to begin studies as a foreign exchange student. I cannot wait for the many opportunities I will be able to have and experiences/memories I will make. It is going to be tough at first, and I am aware of that, but I know England will be better than expected. This has been a dream of mine since I could talk and knew what England was. It started at that accent that I always wished I had and has grown into the place where I want to visit. It is now going to be my second home as well as my boyfriend's home. Life has a funny way of working out and this is just another one of those moments when I reflect on how lucky I am. I could not be where I am today without the love, support, and continuous encouragement from my mom and step dad, Ed. Good things are yet to come as my journey continues. Life is what you make it, and let me tell you, I am not going to settle for less than I deserve. I will let my Canada pride shine as represent the University of Windsor at Southampton Solent University beginning September 19th, 2013. Now...onto trying to fit my clothes in the allotted luggage weight...challenge accepted.
Peace. Love. England.
July 25TH, 2013
I got the email and my VISA was APPROVED!!!!! OMG OMG OMG IT IS OFFICIAL and my VISA is on its way to me! I am so excited and reality is finally sinking it. Hard work pays off and with tonnes of preparation, I will be 100% on my way to England come September. I am beyond happy and just cannot wait! Thanks for the love and support!
Peace. Love. England.
July 17th, 2013
Well, Monday I went to Toronto to WorldBridge International to get my biometrics done for my VISA application as well as submit my application and supporting documents. Yesterday I got an email saying they have been received and a decision is waiting to be made. I am so nervous. What if I don't get it? Dreams will be crushed. Oh well, it is out of my hands I guess. **Fingers Crossed**! I will let you all know the outcome as soon as I know - either 10 days, 20 days, 50 days ... oh goodness I am not patient.
Peace. Love. England.
July 8th, 2013
Well the day came and I applied for my VISA! It was easier than expected. I am one of the first from UWindsor to apply as it seems not many have even got their acceptance yet. I could not imagine waiting this long for an acceptance!!! Thankfully my contact from Southampton Solent is super amazing! I head to Toronto on Monday the 15th to get my biometric information (eye scan, fingerprints, etc.) done. I am so excited things are all coming together! Only a couple more weeks and Danny will be here in Sault Ste. Marie and it will be my mom's wedding...then OFF TO ENGLAND!!!!!
Peace. Love. England.
June 13th, 2013
Well, I received my CAS from my contact at Solent. That means as of the 19th of this month, I can apply for my VISA! I will have to take a trip to Toronto for my eye scan and fingerprints but that is fine. I am so excited this is all coming together. I also went to the doctor to the other day to get my booster shots but luckily for me, they were all already up to date! YAY! Soon enough it will be time to board that plane and be off for the biggest adventure of my life! It will be the start of a new experience and new memories!
Peace. Love. England
June 5th, 2013
It is 100% confirmed! I got my acceptance letter yesterday and signed the tenant agreement for my house! Thing could honestly not be better. I am too excited for everything for September. Now it is time to apply for the VISA and pack my bags. Wow ... I am so excited!!!!! Don't worry, I promise to keep you updated! <3 :)
I just feel like I am the luckiest person in the world. In less than 2 months my boyfriend (Danny) will be on Canadian soil again, I will be celebrating my mom's special wedding day, writing my summer class exam and booking tickets and packing bags for England. Then Danny and I will be heading back to England.
Peace. Love. England.
May 27th, 2013
Thanks to my contact at Solent University, I was able to email a very nice lady about accommodations and am pleased to say I HAVE A HOUSE!! I am so excited to be living with four other girls from around the world. This is going to be an experience of a lifetime. I am still in the process of finalizing details and whatnot with her but I can still be excited! Slowly things are coming together. I am so happy and cannot wait for my adventure!
Peace. Love. England.
May 22nd, 2013
Well...The progress is slow but slow is better than nothing. I have finally got my Hostel Card in the mail and I am so excited! Looking on the website it is amazing to see all the great deals on places to stay when I embark on the trip...or should I say trips...of a lifetime. It will be strange not being "home" but they say home is where the heart is. My family is in my heart so I know they will be with me during the entire journey.
The next steps are to wait for my acceptance letter, which hopefully comes soon! Then to plan living arrangements and then to get that VISA. I can then book the flight and count down the days, minutes, and seconds until I land...land in beautiful England.
Peace. Love. England.
May 20th, 2013
Welcome and thanks for checking out my new blog!
This is going to be a website where I keep you up to date on my life as an exchange student. I will post pictures, videos, etc. about my travels, school, culture, and so much more! I will be attending Southampton Solent University in Southampton, England this fall. I will be spending the full academic year there. I cannot wait! It has always been a dream of mine to go to England and to finally have this come true is amazing. I cannot wait for the new friends, new adventures, and new culture. Words cannot describe how thankful I am to have this opportunity. Thanks for everyone for supporting me. I promise to post as often as possible!
Peace. Love. England.