Friday, December 29, 2017

Travelling for the Holidays

So, this year my holidays are very different than usual. My exams for university are not until January, and we have a four-week winter break between classes and exams. My dad thought I should just come home, but I figured that I would never again have a month break in Europe and I should make the most of it!! So, I am draining my savings and doing a European holiday tour. I will try to stay updated on my blog and do maybe a week at a time, I’m not sure we’ll see!

This first post is my first ten days travelling. When we realized I would be on my own over here for Christmas, my parents decided to send Kylie over here for 10 days. It worked out perfectly, she flew in 2 days after my last class and we met in London!

My flatmates, Sarah and Kamara, and I all took the train to London on Saturday and had planned to explore London together as one last roomie adventure!! Kylie flew in Sunday morning and after I picked her up from the airport the 4 of us started our adventure. We spent 4 days in London, before Sarah went home, Kamara went on a European tour and Kylie and I moved on.

During our 4 day stint in London we saw what we could of this massive city and learned the ways of the tube (I’m convinced I saw just as much of the London underground that I saw of the city)! The tube/subway system is massive and very elaborate, also very packed on the weekend before Christmas. I have never been so close to that many people in my life!!

Kylie and I visited Windsor Castle, it is just on the edge of London and is the Queen’s favorite weekend retreat. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle today. Queen Elizabeth still likes to host events here and can usually be found at the castle during her free weekends! Unfortunately, the queen must have been busy this weekend because we never saw her.
Windsor Castle

Pictures just don't do it justice, notice Big Ben covered in scaffolding

We explored the city hitting all the hotspots like Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Big Ben (covered in scaffolding), and of course the London Eye. We planned to take a lap on the London Eye around sunset, which over here is about 3:30, hoping for a beautiful London sunset. We were not disappointed, the sky was painted vibrant orange and stretched across the London city scape with the Thames river running down in front. The sunset was an amazing and the view was only obstructed by the fact Big Ben was covered in scaffolding and unidentifiable. Big Ben, the famous clock tower, will be undergoing reconstruction for the next four years to repair the tower and the bell inside. Kylie was really disappointed, you would’ve thought she came all this way just to see Big Ben.

We also got to experience the magic of a London Christmas and spent way too much money at the Christmas Markets. London was decked to the nines in Christmas Lights, Christmas Trees and decorations adorning every street and every square. We spent an evening at London’s Winter Wonderland. Winter Wonderland took over Hyde Park and had more than I ever imagined. There were rides, everything from the carousel to death defying roller coasters. Kylie and I rode the carousel and called it good😊. There was also an outdoor ice rink, a concert hall set up, a hall for ice shows, restaurants and bars (including a carousel bar!!), an oktoberfest style beer tent with live music and about a hundred different little Christmas markets. Man, was Kylie hard to pull away from the markets, she was like a kid in a candy store and found something she wanted to buy at every place. I had to keep coming up with new reasons why we couldn’t buy something.

London was fun but obviously it is a big city with a ton of people. Kylie and I are more country girls and don’t thrive in the cities. We really loved our time, but we were ready to leave the crowds behind and head for the wilderness. We did just that as we headed to our next destination: Tromsø, Norway.

Tromsø is the north of the arctic circle (to put that into perspective, we are further north than the northern coast of Alaska) and is isolated in the very northern islands of Norway. We decided to come up here in hopes to catch a glimpse of the ever-elusive northern lights. While researching the northern lights, the city of Tromsø kept popping up as a good destination to see the lights. We got up at 4 am to fly out of London and we arrived in Tromsø, the afternoon of Thursday December 21st. We were scheduled to take the northern lights chasing expedition that evening. We layered up in our long johns and heavy winter coats. It wasn’t as cold as we thought it might be, it was probably around 20° F, but I hate the cold and I was freezing. We left our hostel around 7 pm that evening. It was blizzarding in Tromsø and there was no way we would see the sky from there, so we set out in the van searching for clear skies. We continuously got updates from our computer guy back at the hostel and we kept an eye on the skies ourselves. About 5 hours later we were at the border to Finland. After we drove through the mountains (in a blizzard!!! Kylie and I were afraid for our lives a time or two) we found clear skies in Finland. We set up camp and built a little fire. We roasted marshmallows and drank hot chocolate praying for the lights to make an appearance. After a little while we saw what appeared to be white wispy clouds in the sky, our guide, and his camera, informed us they were actually very faint aurora borealis. The camera can pick up the Aurora better than our eyes and to our eyes it was faint and white, but the camera showed the green beautiful lights in the sky. We waited for them to get stronger and they did get a bit stronger, just enough to see the green with our eyes. The weather had finally caught up to us and the clouds blocked our view. So while we did briefly see faint lights, it wasn’t enough to cross off our bucket list. We will try again one day. We piled back into the van for our trip back to the hostel. We got back to our hostel around 4 am in the morning- we had been up for 24 hrs. But no rest for the weary, we had to be up at 8 for our dog sledding adventure.

On Friday morning we boarded a bus to take us out into the Norwegian wilderness to a dog sled facility. We all bundled up in snow suits and boots to head off into the wilderness. After maybe a 2-minute tutorial of hold on tight, don’t let go, and this is the brake, they stuck us on our own sled. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t that we would literally drive the sled our self and be in charge. I drove for the first hour and Kylie rode and then we switched for the second hour. Thankfully, it wasn’t complicated, and the dogs really knew what they were doing. The snow was so fresh, thick and fluffy that it was harder for the dogs, and they couldn’t go as fast. We had a dog team of 6 and were right behind the leader. I pretty much just had to stop the dogs, they did the rest on their own and followed the lead pack. We had to help them a little by pushing off and running and pushing up hills and pushing them through the deeper snow, so when driving it was a bit of a work out. These dogs love to run though, as soon as we would stop they would be barking and howling and trying to go. And they would get so excited when we let of the brake, these dogs are so active and high energy, they really are amazing dogs, they were extremely friendly too and played with us. It was really an amazing experience, we were in the middle of nowhere and all we could see was snow, trees, mountains and the other dog sleds, it was probably the highlight of my semester.

Tromsø is a little island in a fjord surrounded by mountains. We rode a cable car up to the summit of one of the mountains to get an incredible view of Norway. The mountains, snow and trees really made for a magical view. Since Tromsø is so far north, during the summer they experience the midnight sun, where it never gets dark, and in the winter, there is 24 hrs. of dark. When we first landed in Tromsø at 1 pm it was pitch dark outside just like the middle of the night. It kind of set us off kilter at first and was very different, I would have a hard time living here because I would never get motivation to get work done in the winter. We also landed in Tromsø on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, so the darkest it’s going to get and the furthest away from the sun we’ll ever be. For about an hour or maybe two it is almost like sunset, it is twilight and the horizon is painted orange, but the sun never rises. The last time the sun set was the middle of November, and it will not rise again until the end of January. Kind of crazy right?! On Saturday, we headed just a bit back down south to the capital city of Sweden, Stockholm.
Tromso is the city on the island behind us, this
is the lightest it ever got
The beautiful fjord around Tromso,
this was the sunrise and sunset at around 11 am

We are here in Stockholm for Christmas Eve, Christmas and the day after Christmas. We have had some trouble finding attractions that are open as well as restaurants that are open. But we have made the best of it and done everything we can. We visited a museum, took a city tour by boat and bus, and spent a day walking around the old town. We wandered upon the palace at just the right time, they were about to begin the changing of the guard ceremony. We missed this at Buckingham Palace in London and we were glad to see it in Stockholm.  We then went in the palace and got to explore it a bit.

Being in Europe over Christmas is a little weird, I don’t feel like I missed Christmas kinda because I don’t feel like Christmas happened, if you know what I mean. On Christmas day we did facetime home while they opened their presents, this year our family had very few presents to open we kind of all got one big thing. Kylie and I got this trip, Cole got a new computer. Mom was the only one to open a present and she got a Yeti Cooler and then my dad got the best Christmas present ever. I should background this a bit by saying that my dad had ponies growing up and has always talked about them a lot. For the past year or so he has been talking about wanting a pony for our front pasture, that he can pet and watch from his front porch chair. So, we decided that we were going to surprise my 63-year-old dad with a pony for Christmas. He had no idea that we had got him one, thanks to the amazing help of Adam Ulrich, and on Christmas morning he got his Pony! We were pretty excited.

So, after our Christmas adventure in Stockholm it was time for Kylie and I to head our separate ways. We went to the airport together and I got on an Airplane headed for Spain and Kylie headed home. It was nice to have a travel buddy and to see a familiar face again. I will be home in 21 days and will get to see everyone again!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The land of Pasta, Pizza, and Prosecco

This past weekend I made my way down to Venice, Italy. The inspiration for this weekend was to see Hadlee, who has spent the semester just outside of Venice.

I left Aber on the train at 12:30 Thursday afternoon. My flight was scheduled for 6:10 pm but was delayed due to technical difficulties, that’s the worst delay, I mean are they sure it’s fixed?  I had a connection in Frankfurt ,and in Birmingham they told me I would have plenty of time to make my connection. We got delayed on the tarmac and got an even later start, midflight they came over the intercom and told us that they had rescheduled flights for some passengers but the connection to Venice had a ‘good chance’ to make our flight! I had my doubts because by the time we landed my next flight was already boarding and I still had to wait in line to get off the plane and then we were shuffled onto a bus that took us to the terminal. There was a person waiting for us at the terminal with info about connections, she told me my second flight was delayed as well and I could make it if I hurried. I had to go through security again and go through customs and then a quick jog through the terminal I was the last one on the plane, phew I made it just in the nic of time.

Now I put on a brave face but, landing in Italy I was a little uneasy. After 2 delayed flight and a quick jaunt through one of the largest airports in Europe, I landed in a new place, where I didn’t speak the language, at midnight.  But new adventures and new places are what studying abroad is all about. If I never leave my comfort zone, I might as well have stayed in Indiana. You have to embrace the unknown and take life one step at a time!

Now if you know me, I like to fly by the seat of my pants and I hadn’t figured out how to get to my hostel. I was staying on the Island of Guidecca and the only way there was by ferry or water taxi, they said a water taxi would cost me about 100, so ferry it was. Since it was so late, there was no one around to help me figure out public transportation, using google maps I realized I needed to get a bus to the ferry terminal. I followed signs to the bus station and there was a bus sitting there and I figured that must be the one I want… luckily it was😊. It dropped me off at the ferry terminal and according to google maps, I was supposed to catch the night Ferry. There is literally only like 5 other people around and there all tourists as confused as me. I found a ticket machine and bought a 75-minute ticket. I went into the terminal to catch the ferry, after looking at the signs closer I realized I went on the wrong terminal and when I couldn’t find the way out, I climbed over the gate to get out. I finally got in the right terminal and on the ferry headed the right way. I had a 35-minute ride to my hostel and when I got there to check in it was about 1:45 am. They gave me a room and a bed and when I went up there, there was a girl in my bed, I went downstairs and got a new bed, there was someone in that bed, it was really late and I was exhausted and decided to just climb in an empty bed.

Standing in front of St. Mark's Basilica
On Friday I spent most of the day just wondering the alleys and bridges of Venice. I visited Piazza San Marco and Saint Mark’s Basilica. The basilica is a gorgeous church decorated on these beautiful, intricate mosaics that cover the dome ceilings, I couldn’t take pictures, nut I highly recommend that you google it! I wondered around and got lost and ate spaghetti for lunch. At around 6 pm I met Hadlee. She had an exam today and then came down to Venice, Hadlee is now finished with her program and flew home on Saturday. It is crazy to think that she is already home and I have 2 more months over here!! Don’t ask me how that worked out, because I couldn’t tell you. It was great to catch up with Hadlee and see a familiar face! We got dinner and gelato before she headed back to her hotel near the airport.

On Saturday, I visited the Islands of Murano, Burano and Torcelo. They are three islands just a 30-minute boat ride from Venice. Murano is famous for its glass, and we visited a glass master and he demonstrated glass blowing. I then headed over to Burano, famous for its lace making and colorful buildings. This is the most picturesque island with all the color and beautiful canals, I could have walked around here for hours. Lastly, I visited Torcelo, filled with history it is the first island settled by the Venetians and home to the oldest church in the area. After an afternoon island hopping I headed back to Piazza San Marco to go through Doge’s Palace. Fortunately, I got there just before last entry, unfortunately, I only had an hour to see it and was too late to get an audio guide. The museums and writing was all in Italian, so I wasn’t really sure what I was looking at most of the time and didn’t learn much about the place but it was still beautiful. I was exhausted after a long couple days and headed back to my hostel where I got dinner, and went to bed early.
Glass making

On Sunday, I took a day trip to Verona, the birthplace of Romeo and Juliet. Cole took a day trip here when he was in Venice and Hadlee highly recommended it. It was about an hour and half train ride from Venice to this romantic city. I explored a bit on foot and got some amazing pizza. Verona was crowded with tourists, they had a winter fair and a Christmas market happening, so the locals were out along with all the tourists. I took this cute little train around for a quick city tour to see as much as I could in the little time that I had. I then explored the main attractions further, including a castle, and Juliet’s balcony, before hopping back on the train to Venice. In Venice I took a leisurely ride on the back of the waterbus down the main canal stopping for some more Gelato (when in Italy, am I right?) and getting some amazing views of Venice at night. Venice is in the Prosecco region of Italy, they make the most amazing sparkling white wine. And while I’m usually not a wine fan, I had to indulge, and Italy may have turned me into a wine fan (Prosecco at least)!

On Monday it was time to go home, but I had time for one last walk through of Piazza San Marco and this time, I was there at high tide and the square was nearly completely flooded. Water flowed up through the drains and filled the main square. Now all the platforms in the square made sense, they made a walkway above the water, so people could still mill around without getting wet! I made my way back to the airport for a smooth journey home.

“Life is an adventure! Live it while you can. You can never have today again, tomorrow only comes once and yesterday is gone forever. Make your choice wisely, then live the adventure you create.”

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Obviously Thanksgiving isn't celebrated over here in the UK. So, today I am going about life as usual, going to my classes and working on my assignments. This evening they are having an American Thanksgiving meal for international students, so at least, I will get somewhat of a Thanksgiving meal.

I decided to celebrate thanksgiving by writing this special blog post. Mostly, I just had to write this for a job application and today just happened to be the perfect day to post it. So here you go:

10 things the Farmer's daughter is thankful for this year.

What the farmer’s daughter is thankful for this Thanksgiving:
  1. Her Dad: For showing her to love what you do and do what you love.
He was milking before I ever woke up and was milking when I went to bed. Farming is a way of life and you must love it to work hard 365 days a year.  Thank you dad, for showing me that in your words, “When the goin’ gets tough, the tough get goin’!”
  1. Her Mom: For showing her balance between work and life.
She would be feeding calves in the morning, delivering dad lunch at noon, and would be there to lead the after school 4-H meeting. She balanced farming, work, extracurriculars and family like a pro. Thank you mom, for always chauffeuring me to all my activities and making sure I got the chance to try everything, even if it meant you had to be the coach or start a 4-H club.
  1. The Early Mornings and Late Nights: For developing her work ethic.
Farming isn’t easy, and it the work is never done. Working alongside my dad every day, baling hay with the guys, spreading fresh straw in the barns, and feeding calves every day created a work ethic that will be valuable no matter where I end up in life. If I can do this, I can do anything. Thank you hard work, for never letting me quit.
  1. The Farm Dog: For never leaving her side and being her best friend growing up.
Doing chores for hours every day is always better with a sidekick, and my trusty farm dog, a collie named Lassie, never let me down. From lapping up the spilt milk in the barn to chasing me around on the 4-wheeler, I could always count on Lassie to keep me company. Thank you Lassie, for making sure I always had a friend.
  1. Saturday Night Milkings: For the quality family time.
While other kids my age were having sleepovers or going out on Saturday night, I spent every Saturday night milking the cows with my family. At the time, I complained, but now I know how valuable that time was. Thank you late night milkings, for showing me that my dad cannot dance.
  1. The Cows: For producing the milk.
Our family made our living off what these amazing animals produced. Not to mention it’s a tasty healthy product too!! There’s something special about spending an hour in the barn with your favorite show cow that puts a smile on your face. Thank you cows, for listening to me singing at the top of my lungs in the barn.
  1. The Indiana Sunset: for always reminding her to see the beauty in everyday things.
A beautiful Indiana sunset over the farm is something that takes your breath away. At the end of a long hard day, taking a minute to look at the sky painted pink and orange reminds you to see the beauty in every day and to ‘stop and smell the roses’. Thank you sunset, for a beautiful end to every summer day.
  1. The 4-H Fair: For friends that will last a lifetime, and the best week of the year.
There is nothing more fun than spending a week in the barn with your best friends. My best friends are the ones I met through 4-H, and I know that years from now, when it's our own kids that are showing animals at the county fair, I will always be able to count on them. The fair was my favorite week of the year, after all the dozens of hours of work I put into getting my projects ready, coming home with the purple banner made it all worth it. Thank you 4-H, for teaching me to win and lose graciously, and that while the banners fade, the friends and memories last forever.
  1. FFA: For developing her skills in leadership and communication
Joining FFA as a shy freshman and building my way up to chapter vice president broke me out of my shell. I know that I owe a lot of my success to the organization that gave me an identity and a vision for my future, and built my confidence to achieve that vision. Thank you FFA, for building my confidence in myself.
  1. The Dirty Boots: For the miles and the memories.
My dirty boots sit on the shelf falling apart at the soles, but they were there for every memory. When my 2000-pound cow Missy stepped on my foot and wouldn’t move, to the next year when Missy won Grand Champion and then years later when Missy took her last breaths. Thank you boots, for keeping my feet dry and keeping me sturdy through every chore, and every challenge, as well as through the tears, both joyful and sorrowful.
As Thanksgiving is upon us, what are you thankful for? I am forever grateful for the fact that I was raised on a dairy farm in southern Indiana. Thankful that I learned the most valuable life lessons and learned the way of life through the eyes of a farmer. I’m thankful that farming gave me a passion for agriculture and a career path, and wherever my life may lead, I am thankful that I always have a place back on the farm.

Monday, November 20, 2017


So I got back from Bath late on Monday night, Wednesday I was looking at my schedule for the rest of my 2 months (!!!) over here. I realized my time is flying and I am running out of weekends for my adventures. I knew I still really wanted to go to Scotland, and this weekend was my best shot. I tossed it around in my head, I have 2 papers due soon, I had just gotten back from Bath, and no one would be able to go with me. At about 8 pm Wednesday I decided to go for it (I mean when else am I going to be able to go to Scotland for a weekend) I booked a hostel and found a train ride that would work, I left Thursday at 3:00 pm.

The train journey was 7 hours long, and it was mostly in the dark. I tried to get some work done on the train, and actually managed to start an essay!! I arrived at Edinburgh Waverly train station at 10:30 Thursday night and walked the 15 minutes to my hostel (the hardest part is trying to orient yourself in the train station and go out the right exit, thankfully there are nice policemen to help!).

On Friday morning I ate breakfast at a cute little café and had the thickest piece of French toast I’ve ever seen, I’m serious it was like 2 inches thick. I then booked a city tour to see what the town had to offer. Edinburgh is unlike any other city I’ve visited, it is very mid-evil feeling, and has a clear divide through the center of town, with Old town being at the top of the hill, and new town at the bottom (mind you it’s called new town, but it was built in the 1700s). At the very top of the hill in the middle of town was the Edinburgh castle, the castle is probably not what you’re thinking. It’s a newer castle (in terms of castles) and is built more like its own village other than one large ominous structure. A lot of the buildings have been turned into museums for the tourists. I got to see the Crown Jewels of Scotland, which was really cool, even though they’re not needed anymore and haven’t been used since Queen Mary II was crowned in 1692. Since Scotland is a part of the UK it no longer has its own royalty. The castle is so huge I spent most of my afternoon here.
The castle sits on the top of this large rock hill

I’m not really sure how I found out about it or why I didn’t do more research, but I bought a ticket to La Clique Noël, it was a show being put on by Edinburgh Christmas market, so I was expecting a Christmas musical or something along those lines. Well, that is not what I got. It ended up being some sort of variety show, it started off with singing and dancing, but then it got a little weird. A self-proclaimed gay man came out in a blue skintight bunny suit, not really sure what the act was but it was amusing. The rest of the show included a sword swallower/fire breather, a hula-hoop man, and acrobats. I wasn’t quite sure whether to be entertained or confused most of the time, but it was quite the experience, at least the band was really good.

Well I’m a country girl at heart and can only spend so much time in the city, so, I booked a day tour to see the Scottish Highlands. I had to get up at 7 am to walk to the meeting point, and our bus left promptly at 8. We drove about 1.5 hours through the lowlands/farming country to a small town on the edge of the highlands where we got breakfast. Afterward we drove over a fault line to a new tectonic plate and entered the highlands, it is amazing how quickly the scenery and roads changed. We drove about another 1.5 hours with many pictures stops along the way to the valley of Glencoe (Glen means narrow valley in Gaelic). Glencoe is considered one of the most picturesque valleys in all of Scotland, and Scotland was just recently voted the most beautiful place in the world, so that’s saying something. It was a gorgeous view, with snowcapped mountains on either side. It is late fall, so only the tallest mountains have a layer of snow. We stopped at Glencoe visitor site before travelling about another 1.5 hours (with picture stops) to Fort Augustus. We had 1.5 hrs. here and I opted to go on the Loch Ness boat tour, a simple boat ride just a way around the Loch Ness (Loch=Lake in Gaelic. There are 39,000 Lochs in Scotland) Loch Ness is the largest Loch in Scotland and of course famous for the tales of its monster. Unfortunately, the scariest thing we saw was a wild goat. We then got back on the bus to head back toward Edinburgh. We had 2 quick stops along the way home, but it was dark now so it was a quick trip back to Edinburgh, and by quick I mean like 4 hours. The day was a lot of car time, but I’ve learned that’s the best way to see a lot. I wasn’t so bad our guide, Nick, was a great story teller and kept us entertained. We heard stories about the history of Scotland and important battles and Kings. We heard a lot about the highland Clans of Scotland as well.

The Perfect Mountain                                                     Searching for Nessie
 When I got back to Edinburgh, the Christmas market was open, I just did a quick walk through and decided I would go back tomorrow when it was less crowded. In Edinburgh today, there was a Scotland vs New Zealand Rugby match. I hear it was a really exciting game and the closest Scotland has ever come to beating New Zealand (for us Americans that don’t follow rugby, New Zealand is the best rugby team in the world). Every time we stopped on the way home our driver would turn on the game on the radio to get updates.
These 2 little boys were the most popular musicians of the day

I spent most of Sunday wandering around the cobbled streets of old town and just taking it all in, stopping occasionally to hear street musicians play the bagpipes. I walked around the Christmas market. This market is huge, it is known as one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, and most major European cities have Christmas markets. This weekend was opening weekend and they go for 7 weeks, I came the right time. They have the main market on Princes street in front of the castle, here they have all the shops, food stands, rides, and Santa Land for the kids with a Christmas tree maze. On George street, a couple streets over, they have an ice skating circle, a bunch of stages set up for shows, and Ice Land (not sure what this was) and some more shops. I walked around for a while taking it all in, getting a French lunch of potatoes and smoked sausage. I caught the 3 pm train back toward Wales.

“Better to see something once, than to hear about it a thousand times”

The Beautiful Bath and Stonehenge

It’s been a couple weeks.

I know I haven’t blogged in a while, I have been living a pretty boring life, trying to get ahead on classwork and trying to figure out what I am going to do with my life when I get home.

Last week I decided that it was time for an adventure and planned for a weekend trip to Bath in southern England, with an afternoon trip to Stonehenge. Since it was pretty last minute, no one could come with me, but I didn’t let that hold me back! It is nice to travel alone, you get to do what you want and don’t have to listen to anyone else. It also gets you out of your box and you meet new people.

So, prepare yourself, this one is a long one. I know I say this everytime, but this has seriously been my favorite weekend and it deserves a long blog, just so I can tell you about every perfect thing!! 😊

Saturday morning, I headed off on my journey, after hours of internet searching, I found a cheap way to get there. I took the Mega Bus to Cardiff, the capital of Wales, and from there, Bath was only an hour by train. When I arrived in Cardiff, the city was buzzing, and people were everywhere, I discovered that there was a national rugby game between Wales and Australia in Cardiff that day. It was five hours before kick-off and the streets were hopping, the pubs were already full, and vendors were selling all the necessities for a National Rugby game. It was tempting to stay in Cardiff for the day to take in the festivities. But I am glad I stuck with my original plan and got more time in Bath.

Bath is a small city in southern England built originally by the romans in the first century AD, and today the entire city is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. That means, according to Wikipedia: “having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties. The sites are judged important to the collective interests of humanity. To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be an already classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, or mountain). It may signify a remarkable, accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet.” So basically, it is a really cool place. The moment I stepped out of the train station I could see the allure of the city. The entire city is built in the same honey-colored limestone blocks and gives the city a magical feel. It. Was. Gorgeous. Why is it called Bath, you say? The town has natural hot springs which the Romans found and made baths, a place of socializing and cleansing in the town square. The entire town flourished and developed around these baths. Bath became a popular place to be and people came from far away to visit the aptly named, Bath.

The first night I was there (Saturday) I got a bus tour around the city, I like to get a tour first thing to learn general facts and get a lay of the land. By the time the tour was finished it was getting late, so I stopped in the pub below my hostel for dinner. They were broadcasting the Wales Rugby game I was talking about and there were a ton of people there to watch. I stuck around to watch the end of an exciting game, and no matter how hard I tried I could not figure out the rules, and was very confused, but that didn’t stop me from cheering on Wales along with the locals. Unfortunately, Wales lost to Australia, despite their last- minute score (touchdown??:/). I then went up to my room for bed, I am sharing a room with girls from China, Italy, and Scotland (one reason hostels are great).

Bath Abbey
Sunday morning, I got up with every intention to head straight to the Roman Baths so I could beat the crowds. Along the way, I passed the Abbey and I heard music, so as I was walking by I was doing a little peeking through the door. A man then opened the door and asked if I was there for morning service, and I figured yeah that would be nice. So, I slipped in the back and got to go to church in a 500-year-old, breathtakingly beautiful Abbey. The service was a very nice Christian service, we sang hymns, listened to the sermon, and had communion. The service was about waiting, it ended up being just what I needed to hear as I am waiting to hear back from employers and waiting to see what the rest of my life holds. It’s a funny thing how God always leads you to where you should be.

After church, I went to the Roman Baths, still early enough to beat the crowds. The baths are no longer used, and the water is not filtered to today’s standards, so no one is allowed in the water (although there is a spa intown that uses the natural hot water and does traditional treatments!). Today the Baths are simply a museum and exhibition about the life of the Romans. It was neat to hear about the Romans and to walk in their footsteps. The Bath Structure itself built by the romans and maintained over the years, was beautiful, with the limestone and statues surrounding the baths.
The Baths with the Abbey in the Background                                                                 Sally Lunn's

After visiting the baths, I ate lunch at the oldest house in Bath, Sally Lunn’s Bun House. The restaurant has been there since 1680, that was before the United States was even a country, the house was built in 1480!!! Columbus hadn’t sailed the ocean blue yet and America hadn’t even been discovered!!! The restaurant is famous for Sally Lunn’s buns. They are huge and delicious. After lunch I got on a purple bus that took me to another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stonehenge.

We drove through some pretty countryside, past a lot of fields, all while our guide pointed out and told us interesting facts. We arrived at Stonehenge about an hour later and had 2 hours to walk around the site and soak in as much as we could. WE got a little telephone looking thing, and every time we pressed a number we got more information about Stonehenge. I knew Stonehenge was old, but man is that place OLD!! It is over 5000 years old, before the pyramids and long before the Romans. It is one of the first human structures in this world. They hauled 60-ton stones for miles and miles before the invention of the wheel, I’m amazed. Then they carved the stones and hauled them up on their ends. No one knows for sure what the structure was built for, but the popular theories are a temple or a burial site.
                                                                        I know what you're thinking, and no I did not get this picture off the internet.
                                                                                I took it myself

Upon returning to Bath, it was already dark and time for dinner, I got dinner at a Caribbean restaurant, it was tropically refreshing after the bone-chilling winds at Stonehenge. It was Sunday, so a lot of shops and everything had already shut down, so I went back to my hostel. Tonight, a Polish girl joined us in our room.

Monday was my last day in Bath. I went and walked around their Central Market. There has been a market in this building for 700 Years!!! The history in this place just blows my mind! I then went to the Royal Crescent. It is a crescent of houses built in the late 18th century, the first resident moved in in 1776, the same year the declaration of independence was signed. They have refurbished House #1 to the state it was in in 1776 for the first tenant, and have decorated it in the same way. It was a real look into how the wealthy lived in England in the 1700’s. Fun Fact: Their makeup was made with lead and many women died young from lead poisoning.

After the museum I walked around the shopping district, the only thing I bought was a Jane Austen book. Jane Austen lived in Bath for a while with her family and every one pf her books references Bath in one way or another, but 2 of her books are set completely in Bath. I sat a listened to a street artist in front of the Abbey and the Baths, quite an interesting mix of cultures.

I caught the train back to Cardiff where I would catch my bus back to Aber. The Christmas market is in full swing in Cardiff, I had a couple minutes to get some real Spanish churros and walk around under the Christmas lights. England is trying real hard to get me to forget Thanksgiving.

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
Gustave Flaubert

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Experiencing a European ‘football’ game, and more…

European ‘football’ teams are known to have some of the most loyal and rowdy fans in all of sports. I thought it would be amazing to experience this first hand, and was on my bucket list when I left home.  This weekend we decided to cross it off.

On our flight here Jen, Alexis and I all agreed we would go to a soccer game in Europe before we left. This weekend we went to Swansea, a city in the South of Wales, to accomplish just that. Their brother actually did a semester abroad in Swansea, 8ish(?) years ago and gave us all the hot tips to a weekend in Swansea. While he was here, Swansea was the best team in their league and had some great games. Now Swansea stands near the bottom of the standings, so we weren’t sure how the game would go, but thought it was a great excuse to go explore another city for a weekend.

On Saturday we took the Mega Bus to Swansea, the drive was 2.5 hrs. along the coast then through the mountains. Riding at the top of a double decker bus over and around mountains and valleys with a very jerky European driver, is a unique experience, but hey at least we got some good views! We finally made it to Swansea and the weather was nasty, cold and windy with the hardest rain we’ve had. We all had our rain jackets and were determined to not let it dampen our mood!
Most Seats had cover but there was no roof over the field, 
we were close enough to the field that we got wet

When we were buying our tickets we had a little bit of trouble, so Alexis was sitting by herself and Jen and I were sitting next to each other in the section just next to her, so we weren’t far from each other. We ended up getting really good seats, in the 4th row in line with the goalie box! The stadium was buzzing and we were ready for the game to start. It was cold and windy in the stadium and since were so close to the field we got rained on as well, good thing I bought a Swansea sweatshirt for the extra layer of protection. But would we have gotten the authentic European soccer experience without a little weather. The home crowd wasn’t quite as rowdy as we had expected, but the visiting crowd sang and chanted the whole game. That didn’t stop us from getting into the game and rooting for the home team. While the fan experience didn’t quite live up to our expectations we still had a great time and loved every minute. The next step in my European soccer experience is to watch a Real Madrid game in Spain!!

Saturday night we went to the White Rose pub at the recommendation of the Scheidt’s brother, and we loved the little pub. After dinner, a round of drinks and a game of pool we retired to our hotel. My advice to you is to find hotels on the edge of town, you get a lot more bang for your buck. For £25 a piece we got a 2 bedroom apt, I got a king bed and bathroom to myself, definitely the most comfortable bed I’ve slept in since I left home. (Now would be a good time to mention that I can feel every spring in my bed at Aber)

Sunday, we had no real plans, just to explore the town. We ended up having a pleasingly chill day. After a delicious breakfast of pancakes and bacon at the quaintest little café on the water we walked along the water towards the pier. We walked past the pier and went down into this little rocky bay area that is full during high tide. I was actually a really cool little beach and I’m glad we went out and found this area. Sometimes the best places are ones that you just stumble upon. There were tide pools everywhere with snails, crabs and we even saw a starfish!! Then we walked back and went to the castle, unfortunately it was closed for winter but it was a pretty little castle built in 1140.

Saturday at the pub, a local lady said we needed to go to Castle bay because it was so beautiful. So, after the castle we tried to find this bay, but we couldn’t find any mention of Castle bay anywhere and thought well maybe she was just talking about the castle. When we were googling for other things to do we stumbled upon a mention of Caswell Bay and realized that in her British accent, this is what she was talking about. We got a bus to take us there and it ended up being an amazing beach. It could possibly be the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been to, the tide was out so the beach was so long and magnificent. People were riding ponies, playing with their dogs, surfing and going for a hike on the hills and cliffs above. This beach had one of the coolest atmospheres I have ever seen at a beach and had the prettiest views. Both sides of the beach were surrounded by mountainous cliffs, I found a house on the top of one of the cliffs that whenever I win the lottery I'm going to buy and get a couple ponies to ride on the beach. I’ve never been to Australia but I feel like this beach belonged there. Afterward we went back to Swansea and got dinner before catching the Mega Bus back to Aber.

I knew Aber had a storm while I was gone but I didn’t think it was worse than storm Ophelia, so I was in for a Surprise when I got home. When I turned on my street in Aber, I couldn’t believe the amount of rock and sand covering my street. There was a spot of the Promenade that had been washed out and there was sand 5 inches deep on the street in front of my house. They have since used an excavator and backhoe to work on clearing the sand off the street.
This is supposed to be a street, instead it's part of the beach

➹“Oh the things you can find if you don't stay behind.” – Dr. Suess➷

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I got to go to a cow show!!

Big news everyone, I went to a cow show!! You didn't expect me to stay away from cows for too long did you?

I had the opportunity this past weekend to attend the All Breeds All Britain Calf Show near Worcester, England.

The first week I was here I went to a talk on campus about the Holstein UK Young Breeders program. I talked to them about staying involved in the dairy industry while I was here, they had me sign up to be a member and said they would put me in contact with my area club's leader.

Honestly, I hadn't thought much about it since. While I was in Germany I got an email from the girl in charge of South Wales Holstein Young Breeders(HYB) asking me if I would like to tag along with them to the All Breeds All Britain Calf Show. When I returned on Tuesday, I emailed her back and said "of course, I would love to go, when is it?" She replied and said well it was that coming weekend and that I would leave early Friday morning.

Now, on most Fridays I don't have class and it wouldn't be a problem, but 4 times this semester I will have a Friday workshop from 4-6pm. It just so happens that this Friday was the first workshop, so I wasn't sure how I was going to manage this. When I left home, one of my major goals was to get involved in the UK dairy industry and attend a European cow show. I decided that going to a cow show in England is more important to me than going to class. (I can’t count how many times I have missed class at home to be with cows, so I figured why be any different here?) So, I emailed my professor and told him that I really wanted to go to this dairy ‘conference’ and that I would miss the workshop.

Now that I had decided I was going, I had to figure out how I was going to get there! I have no car, I can’t rent a car in Aber, and there is no easy train route to get there. I talked to Jess from the South Wales club and told her I wanted to come but didn’t know how I would get there, and she helped me get a plan together. I was going to take a bus south to Carmarthen early Friday morning and someone was going to pick me up there and take me the rest of the way.

When Friday morning rolled around I got up early to get on a bus at 7:40 to head to Carmarthen. Mind you when I got on this bus I knew barely anything about how this weekend would go, just that I knew I would get to see cows. I didn’t know who was picking me up in Carmarthen, where I would be sleeping, how I would get back to Aber or when I would be able to get home. But sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and trust that it will all work out. My flat mates told me that my plan sounded a little sketchy, but I was determined to go to this cow show! (Embrace the uncertainty, go with the flow.)

I text Jess and told her I would arrive in Carmarthen around 10 am, she sent me someone’s number and said that he would be passing by Carmarthen about that time. When I got to Carmarthen I text him and he picked me up and we were on our way, his name was Ifan and he was about my age and was very nice. We drove about 2.5 more hours before we reached the fairgrounds. When we got there, I helped them get the stalls ready, then unload, wash and feed the heifers.

The truck/trailer the calves were hauled on
South Wales Holstein string

Northern Ireland's Stalls

This show is a little different than most, there are 20 clubs of HYB including clubs from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. For the Holstein show each club qualifies 1 heifer per class plus colored breed heifers that qualify. South Wales brought a total of 16 heifers. The club then travels together and stalls as a group instead of by farms. So, club members take care of the calves together and pretty much come and go when they can and they know others will take care of their animals. For me this was really weird, we took care of people’s calves all weekend for them to show up Sunday to walk her in the ring. But it was also nice because I got to help out a lot and work with the heifers.

Ignore my shadow, but 5 of us slept in this tiny camper

On Friday night, it was getting late and I was tired but I still wasn’t sure where I was supposed to sleep. I finally figured out there was a spot for me in the caravan (small camper) but I still had no idea where the caravan was parked. Finally, one of the guys showed me where to go and there were 5 of us that stayed in this tiny camper.

My favorite thing is the hats they wear with their numbers
Saturday was showmanship classes. Each club qualified 1 person in each class, ages 12-26. They take showmanship a lot more seriously here than we do at home and their showmanship is perfect, they pretty much look for the same things we do. All day I helped watch the calves and get them ready. I also got to watch a lot of the show. Saturday night I was told there would be an exhibitor’s party, but I didn’t really know what to expect.

One thing Dairy farmers all over the world agree on is, it’s not a proper show without copious amounts of alcohol involved. I was surprised by the choice of beer though, I thought it would be some European beer, but no, they like American Budweiser. Saturday night they brought in a DJ and a booze truck (yes, a booze truck) in the last aisle of the barn and had a proper party. It was funny though because there were people aged 12-60 out on the dance floor.

Sunday was the actual show, at this show there are only heifers and they have them split into 6 classes, age breaks are way different than they are at home, and there were 20 heifers per class. The Holstein judge was from Switzerland and the Swiss judge was actually Ifan’s (the guy that gave me a ride) dad. All day I went back and forth from watching the show to helping get the calves ready in the barn. In the barn they had a whole aisle with lights and chutes that everyone used to fit the calves. Around 3:30 they picked all the breed champions, but they didn’t pick a supreme champion. We got all the cows back on the trailer and were ready to head out.

Ifan gave me a ride back to Carmarthen, luckily, we were early enough that I was able to catch the last bus back to Aber. I had to wait in Carmarthen for about 30 minutes before getting on the double decker megabus to arrive in Aber at about 9:30. It was a really great weekend and I am so glad that I took the chance and went on the adventure.

Side note: Over here 1st place gets a red ribbon and 2nd gets a blue ribbon. I know, weird right?

Hurricane Ophelia

On Monday, Wales got the hit by the outer edges of hurricane Ophelia. Ophelia hit Ireland, and Northern Ireland hard before going just North of us and hitting Scotland. We got some high winds and rough waters. We had wind gusts around 50 mph Monday afternoon, the university cancelled all Monday afternoon classes and activities. We also had some really huge waves. I live right on the coast so I was able to watch all the action from my kitchen. Sarah, Kamara and I probably sat on our kitchen table for 3 hrs. watching the waves and all the stupid people that got too close. Waves were crashing over the promenade wall and bringing sand, rocks and seaweed up on the sidewalk and street. We went downstairs and there was literally seaweed on our front steps. The coastguard finally came out and tried to get all the people off the street. As far as I know no one was really injured and everything is fine! Look at the video I shared on facebook to get a glimpse of what was happening!!

➹“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” – Margaret Shepard➷