Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 1 (Sat.-Mon.) May 17-19

Somehow or another I managed to be packed and ready to go in the middle of finishing school, starting a new job and graduating…don't ask me how, just know it was pretty exhausting! We drove up to the airport and our journey began. I was lucky enough to get to go with my mom, and I am so glad that she could join me!

Airports are always hectic, remembering to take off all jewelry and shoes, not forgetting to grab all of your belongings. I have done a fair amount international travel, so you would think the airport security would be second nature by now--it's not…As soon as I went through security, I hurried to grab all (or so I thought) of my stuff--as soon as I start putting on my shoe, I realized I am missing something crucial to international travel…that's right, my passport! I raced back to the counter, with one shoe half on, the other back with my mom, where I had put it down, and there it was, whew! Crisis averted. After that it was fairly smooth sailing, or flying should I say.


Now LAX airport is most definitely not the best airport ever, but that is a story for another post…While we were in the LAX airport, we met a girl named Sophie. She was a wonderful young lady, who was from Australia, she was studying in Pennsylvania and returning home after her semester had ended. She gave us a few good tips to go by while we were in Sydney, and the whole time we were chatting I was hoping to remember all of her pointers after an extremely long flight.

After what seemed like forever, we finally boarded the plan to Sydney.

(My ticket to an adventure of a lifetime)

Now the flight from LAX->SYD was a 15 hour flight, and we took off at almost 10:30 that night, this meant that a good portion of our trip would be spent asleep, right? Well if you have ever traveled on a plane and tried to sleep, you know that it's not the most comfortable of challenges. I must say however, I got a bit spoiled on the particular flight. I had the aisle seat on the right side of the plane, we were told 3 passengers did not show up for the flight (I couldn't imagine missing a flight to Sydney, Australia), after they made this announcement I looked to my side and there are two open seats--that's right, 2! The two missing passengers had booked the seats next to me…As soon as the doors closed and we took off, I made myself quite comfortable. I made a nice little bed that I could spread out in, once I ate dinner, I turned on a movie and fell asleep within 30 minutes. Five hours later, I woke up, looked at my watch, and could not believe I was actually able to sleep for 5 hours on an airplane straight through…after I had surprised myself with having slept that long, I fell back asleep for an additional 3 hours.

The rest of the flight went by so quickly, it helps when you can sleep for most of it, but as soon as we were flying over Sydney, my excitement was overwhelming!

(Tracking the flight can also helped to pass the time!)

We flew over Sydney right when the sun was coming up, so it was even more beautiful of a sight than I could have imagined. I was ready to start my journey down under!
(The view from my window as we began to land, sorry for the glare…)

More about the adventures to come, stay tuned!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Australia 2014

Here I go again, as I have said before traveling is an addiction--unfortunately it's an expensive one…Anyway, I had been wanting to travel to Australia for over a decade. In a way you could say that Australia is what first got me hooked on the love of traveling. To emphasize just how deep my fascination runs with this country, I named my dog (who is now 1.5 years old) Sydney.

(Sydney, Half Cocker Spaniel-Half Golden Retriever)

My phone screen background several months before booking my ticket was of the Sydney Opera House. And of course there is the obsession with that wonderful Aussie accent. Hugh Jackman being one of my favorite actors helps as well (if you haven't seen Rise of the Guardians yet, you should definitely check it out). It is great for kids and adults alike! Jackman also throws in as many Aussie terms as the script would allow.

Enough with trying to explain my fascination you probably get my point, back to the idea of travel. My first international trip was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school to Kenya, Africa. This was many years after I had started thinking of traveling (to Australia mostly). So I thought why not? Why not take a trip down under? This was not as easy of a decision as that however, but it was a decision that spurred from something as simple as a tweet. A few months back I tweeted, "I need to stop watching Australian shows…it makes me wanna hop on a plane to Sydney." Now this sparked some conversation both on the twitter sphere as well as in real life. At the time I wrote that, I was a few months from graduating from college. I had no plans and hadn't heard anything from my seemingly futile job search. To say the least I was drowning in this sea of doubt about life after the golden years of college. After I sent that one little tweet though, my dream of going to Sydney seemed to form itself. Now I had been saving up some during college, just in case I graduated and found myself unemployed for an extended period of time, but then I decided if there was a time to do something like travel half way around the world, now was it! So I bought 2 plane tickets to Sydney, Australia and started planning a trip of a lifetime. A few weeks later I received a job offer (one I gladly accepted) and a bit later I graduated from college. One week after graduation, I found myself on a plane, ready to see the country that had only ever made an appearance on my bucket list.

My next few posts will be about my travels in Sydney during May 17-27, this trip is now over (I am back in the U.S.) but will be reliving some of the experiences as I share them with all of you. Even though it's after the fact, I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Edinburgh, Scotland

This weekend our entire group traveled to London for a couple of meetings for class and afterward my roommate and I headed out for Scotland. 

I had never truly been interested in visiting Scotland but I am SO glad I had the opportunity. From the get go I loved everything about it. We arrived to the train station around 11:30 Thursday night, now normally this would be an extremely sketchy time as it would be super dark but the sun had just set around 11...after about half an hour of trying to figure out how to get to our hotel, we finally found the right bus. 

On the bus there was this nice man with a dog who was trying to help us out and tell us which stop to get off at, I had been warned however by my big brother that dusk to dawn the drunks come out, I could definitely smell alcohol on his breath and he was slurring his words together so I limited the information I gave him. The point to this story is that even the crazy drunks are really helpful. He genuinely wanted to help-I feel a bit bad that I was a wee bit short with him but I didn't want to be stupid and tell him where we were staying. 

Everyone was so friendly there. Our hotel staff was fabulous! They were so helpful in finding the right buses and making sure we found our way back to the hotel. 

The first full day we were in Edinburgh we wanted to get an early start to have as much time as possible-we planned to be out of the hotel on the bus by 8:30, sadly I woke up and checked my phone which told me it was 8:50-oops! Normally this wouldn't pose too much of a problem but my roommate has a family friend in Edinburgh who is a tour guide at the Edinburgh Castle, he got us free tickets to the castle and was going to let us tag along on his tour. Sadly we missed the tour but with a bit of craziness and running up and down edinburgh we made it in time to get our tickets and explore the castle on our own. Davie, the family friend, was amazing. He wanted to buy us lunch after he picked up his grandkids from school (they are 6 and 8), he said he would be at a certain restaurant at 12:30. We made sure not to be late this time...and after another bit of running around the city and stopping in for directions here and there we found it! 

We ate fish and chips at Davie's recommendation, and it was so good! And he paid for it, it was fun to be with him, as he knew everyone and was a regular at this restaurant. After we ate we stopped to get the grandkids ice cream and in turn he got us some as well. The restaurant staff gave him 5 ice-creams for free, one for each of us. Luckily they had lemon ice cream which is dairy free! :)

After we ate he took us on a mini walking tour of the royal mile and that area, he knew everyone on the streets and in the shops. I felt so cool hanging out with him and his grandkids. When we passed the Queens palace, they were preparing for the Queens annual visit (tomorrow), so we saw the rehearsal of what will actually happen. Another plus of hanging out with Davie-he was wearing his kilt. After we parted ways, the grandkids were eager to start their summer holiday, we stopped into a few stores, mostly bookstores, here and there and explored Old Town, which was too pricy for me. We also went into The Elephant House, which is know for being the "birthplace of Harry Potter." I can definitely see where J.K. Rowling got some of her inspiration. Sitting in the coffee shop sipping my coffee and looking out the window that overlooked the Edinburgh Castle I felt like I was in one of the books/movies. 

After all of this we were exhausted, and all of the shops and such close around 6:30, so we made our way back to the hotel and were able to relax for a while. It was such a great day and we had time that evening to unwind which has not been a common theme here on this study abroad trip. 

The next morning we got a bit of a later start, as we were still exhausted from the previous day. We headed out for the National Musuem of Scotland (it's free), and explored that for about an hour and a half. There was this one staff member that seemed to be everywhere we were. We would leave from upstairs to go to the ground level and then there he was. Maybe we just look like art thieves, who knows... Afterward we went out into the garden area and sat for a while. It was so fun to see the families in the park, it was so peaceful and fun-quite relaxing! Then it was time for the farmers market, we didn't spend too much time here as we were wanting to spend as little money as possible but it was really cool, I wasn't to keen on seeing the entire pig being chopped up and served-including the head. 

Now it was time to be adventurous. Don't worry I didn't go skydiving or bungee jumping-I told my parents I wouldn't, we hiked up to Arthur's Seat. It was a crazy long hike and quite steep but well worth it. After that we are exhausted but we still had one more mission- souvenir shopping, we were pressed for time and so we had to hunt. We found some and decided to call it a night. 

I will post pictures of the different things I talked about as soon as I can, all of my pictures are on my phone and I am currently on a train...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Peaceful Day in the Park

It has been crazy here the past couple of weeks/days, I have so much to write and tell y'all but this will have to hold you over for now, I'm on a train into London currently for my International Business course and then Im off to Scotland. I leave this upcoming Thursday for home-where did the time go?

There has only been one day so far that has consisted of pure peace and leisure for me. After class on Monday I went to the park and sat and read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis after a while my roommate and I went to get some food from this little truck stand: Ali's, we took out food back to the house and watched Dead Poet Society. It was an extremely relaxing day, and as one of my professors said we were doing all the appropriate things to do in Oxford for the day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"But when I get to Paris"

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Phantom of the Opera

Yesterday a group of 12 girls decided to have a girls night and go to the Theatre in London. We went to see Phantom of the Opera, and it was unbelievable!! Now I am cheap, so I bought cheap seats, but even though I could hardly see stage left at times, the play was spectacular. Now I have always loved going to musicals growing up, and with two brothers that becomes hard to do, but I am so glad that I have a mom who loves musicals and plays just as much as I do. I mention this because when I was at this theatre I felt like a little kid again. My expressions were definitely little kid worthy, I was in such awe by everything. Even though I knew what would happen, considering I've seen the movie, I was on the edge of my seat. This was partially due to the fact that I was straining to see what was happening down on the stage below me but  I think even if I had the most fantastic (most expensive) seats ever I would still be at the edge of the seat. It was beautifully done, and I felt that I enjoyed the on stage version exponentially more than the movie. It was incredible, I'm still in awe.

Now I mentioned that we went as a group of 12 girls, it was a great deal of fun but let's just say getting to the theatre from Oxford and back was a bit more challenging than I was anticipating, haha.

Tomorrow our entire group is headed to Brussels and Paris, I will make sure to remember what all happens the next four days as best I can for you guys!

"Woke up in London Yesterday"

Well a lot has happened in the past week or so, I have been to London twice, listened to a number of intriguing interviews discussing the social impact of this past London 2012 Olympic Games, saw Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre, and so much more.

I will start with this past weekend trip to London. A small group of students has been researching the positive social, pro-poor impacts of this past Olympic Games. We met with several prominent players of the London Olympics and even with an anti-olympic game enthusiast. The meetings were extremely interesting and filled with a million pieces of data. We were busy with meetings from early Friday morning (left the house at 7:20) all the way until late Saturday afternoon. However while we were in London we were ale to explore the massive city, and go sight-seeing. After my very first traditional meal of fish and chips, of course! 

After this our adventure began! Evan, Cassie and I set out to use the Underground and attempt to see as many sights as we could in one night. We were successful, I thought! We went on a number of subways, or tubes as they are called here, and saw Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Princess Diana's Walk, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, and Westminster Abbey. This all happened in about 4 hours, crazy! We were running around like crazy and stopping for the occasional and traditional picture!


I am still amazed that we saw so much in such a short amount of time. And no worries y'all I was not the one leading the way for directions…

If you don't know me that well, let's just say I am a bit directionally challenged.

More to come on the rest of my adventures that I mentioned earlier in my next posts!

And P.S. this song came on when I was doing research earlier today and just thought it fit so well:

"Woke up in London yesterday
Found myself in the city near Piccadilly 
Don't really know how I got here
I got some pictures on my phone

Oh this has gotta be the good life
This has gotta be the good life
This could really be a good, good life"
-One Republic, Good Life