Thursday, December 11, 2014

Last night in Swansea

Well, I've come so far, and now it's time to go home. It's a bittersweet goodbye, I'm excited to go home and be home (there's no place like home) but I met so many people here and made so many great memories that I don't want to leave. I went to Scotland last weekend with my housemates, and it was a good last weekend together, but it's still hard to leave. 

It seems like yesterday I was watching Lord of the Rings and getting ready to leave home and the country for the first time, and here I am a few months later and I've visited so many places and I've grown so much.

If you get the chance to study abroad, do it, not just for the travelling, the memories, and the truly wonderful people you meet, but for yourself. I've really grown into myself here, I've become a much more confident person and I've learned my limits and what I can do. 
I'm going back home not a different person, but a better one, and I will never forget, my experiences here or the people I have grown to love. There is something special about the people you meet in an experience like this, especially the people who are studying abroad too. For me, they were the first people I met and they become your family when you have no one, and they understand what you're going through because they are going through the same thing. They made my experience here what it was, and I can't thank them enough for that.

I'm off to London tomorrow for one last day, and then I fly home Saturday. Home to see my family and my pets, and American food, and I can relax. But tonight is my last night in Swansea, a place that has become a second home, and a place I will never forget.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Paris, France

I don't know what to say about Paris except that what we see in movies and on TV does not capture the beauty and magnificence of the city. 

I'm on the bus back to Swansea from Paris now, and I'm still in France now.

It's weird because you can't believe that you're in a place until you see the iconic scenery of that place. That's what is was like to see the Eiffel Tower, until I saw that, it didn't feel like I was in Paris. But seeing it up close and going on it and touching it is something I will never forget. It is more beautiful in person than any person can capture.

And I felt the same way about the Louvre, except more so, I think, because the Louvre has so much more history in France and it was something that I never thought I'd see. Seeing the pyramids was unbelievable and seeing the Mona Lisa was indescribable. The painting itself is interesting, yet small, but I was more excited that I was in the same room with a piece of Da Vinci's work. Plus, it wasn't only the art that was beautiful, but the architecture and the building itself was as well. I still can't believe that I was there.

Finally, we went to the Notre Dame, and got to climb to the top and see the view of Paris from there, which was amazing, of course. Lots of stairs though, but no hunchbacks or gargoyles coming alive. We then went inside and it was breathtaking, we could see the evolution of the building and the beauty of the building itself. Of course, little did we know that a service was starting while we were in there. Apparently the keep the place open during services, but we could listen to the organ music and the singing and it really made the visit and experience. 

Finally, visiting Paris around Christmas was great because they have an amazing  Christmas Market and it was a lot of fun to walk around there. 

Paris was cool because we got to talk to some locals and listen to their stories. We also got to try French wine and cheese, and crepes of course, and it was nice to be able to immerse ourselves in the culture. We could get around, however, without knowing French because many people there can speak English, but we did learn a little while we were there.

The only thing I wish I had was more time in these places to see other things, and not just the city. In Paris for example, I would have loved to have made a trip to Normany to see the beaches, I would have loved to see Versailles, and I would have absolutely loved and wish I could have seen Alexandre Dumas' house. But I suppose those are now a reason to go back, and I am perfectly happy with what I did see.

Dublin, Ireland

If I had to live outside of the US, I would live in Ireland.

What can I say? I loved it, the people were incredibly nice, they have a rich history, and a beautiful country. Also, potatoes, because those are important in life. 

While I was there, I went to Kilmainham Gaol, which is an old jail, and it has such a rich history of people going in there on purpose during the famine so that they could eat, and rebels being put in there before their execution after the Easter Rising. The history is so dark, but interesting, and encompasses what made Ireland what it is today.

I also went to Dublin Castle which was a beautiful mansion that still has some of its original Medieval foundations. It was really great to see the architecture from different centuries in one place. The history there was very rich as well. I found that the Irish are great storytellers and are interested in their own history, especially because their independence and the rebellions are relatively recent. They are very proud of their heritage and their history.

Everything in Ireland is beautiful, I wish I got the chance to see the countryside, but based in the city, I know that it is breathtaking. 

They're still in touch with their Celtic past as well, which is nice because that culture was a beautiful one filled with symbolism and magic and beauty, and it was cool to see that up close.

Finally, I went to see St. Patrick's Cathedral and it was magnificent. Once again, it is an incredibly old building with new portions, so there are pieces in there that contain history dating back centuries, and there are other pieces that memorialize WWI and the Easter Rising. In there you can see the history that brings Ireland from the medieval times to today, and it was beautiful and interesting.

If you couldn't tell, I loved Ireland, and I would go back in a heartbeat just to be able to explore the history, the culture, and the scenery more. It was my favorite place.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bristol and Cardiff

Number one piece of advice: if you study abroad or live in another country for an extended period of time, take the time to explore where you are!!

I know a few people who came to Wales putely to use it as a doorway to other places. Wales has a lot to offer, it has so much history and beautiful scenery, and I only wish I was able to explore more of it!!

Bristol is not in Wales, it's in England, but it's only two hours away. It was absolutely beautiful; it's not an absolute vacation spot, but it's nice to see the smaller areas. It had beautiful museums and cathedrals and parks that we were able to see, despite the rain.

Cardiff, was amazing, I absolutely loved it. We got to go to the museum and Cardiff Castle. Both were beautiful and I wish I could explore that area a little bit more. I am however going to get to see Cardiff Bay this weekend as I go to the Doctor Who Experience (which is on the bucket list!!) and I am very excited. I know Cardiff Bay is beautiful and I can see the Millenium Centre and other great areas as well while I'm there.

Also, if you ever go to Wales, don't let the rain stip you! It rained all weekend, and it rai s almost everyday; I don't remember the last time I saw the sun for an extended period of time, but a little rain never hurt anybody. Learn to love it, or learn to enjoy yourself despite it, otherwise you'll never get anything done.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Going to Amsterdam was an experience, to say the least. It was in Amsterdam that I felt like a real traveler. Our hostel that we were supposed to stay at screwed up, so our beds were not booked, so we spent a good amount of time trying to find somewhere to sleep. This is where I learned the main things to do in this situation: you have to be patient, pray you're not in a big group (as I was), and don't panic. What a couple of us ended up doing was getting a hotel room for one night and staying in the airport the second night since our flight left the next morning. We did not get a whole lot of sleep that weekend, but it was an amazing weekend, nonetheless.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city. The canals, houseboats, and the amazing amount of bike traffic are things I do not think I will see again. It was different than any other city I have ever been to because it does not have main tourist attractions like monuments and parks. Amsterdam has a lot of museums, and they have a lot of museums about a lot of seemingly random things, like bags and purses, and cats. So the few popular museums, such as Van Gogh and Anne Frank, have very long lines. Sadly, we did not get into Anne Frank because the line was about 2 hours long, but I did go into the Van Gogh museum. I was the only one interested in it, so I went in alone, but I completely recommend it. I am not the greatest art fan, as most of it flies over my head, but the Van Gogh museum was amazing. The museum brought you into his world, and into his way of thinking, and went through his life so that I could try to understand who he was. His work is beautiful, and he finds beauty in the smallest things and that is what I love about him and about the museum. So, I do recommend a stop there in a trip to Amsterdam.

However, I would also recommend buying tickets online, early, because otherwise you wait a long time in lines, as I did.

We walked around a lot, which was really cool because we were able to really see the city, we saw some street art, and normal life in Amsterdam. We also took a boat tour at night so that we could see the city lights at night, and it was beautiful. Amsterdam is so different from any place that I had ever seen before, so I just took it all in.

One final thing, if you do go to Amsterdam, a must try a dutch pancake, because they are amazing, as well as a waffle, because they are also amazing.

That's all for now!!!