Barcelona, Spain: The Beginning of our Journey

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HOLA HERMANAS

I’m currently sitting in my surprisingly nice hostel in Barcelona, Spain! It’s our last day here in this beautiful city and it has been a fun and exhausting visit. We’re currently at the Black Swan Hostel which I highly recommend to anyone coming to visit. Even though we’re in a ten person, female dorm, the hostel has been a really good place to both rest and make inexpensive food. Not to mention they made us cheap homemade paella, so good, and have many activities which are free including walking tours and pub crawls.

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Speaking of Walking tours, today we went on one that showed us the three different Gaudi buildings throughout the city. Our guide was super knowledgeable about everything Gaudi and I now too, feel somewhat knowledgeable about the artist/architect. Fun fact, because the city declared his building more “works of arts” than actual buildings, he was able to bypass restrictions on elements like the height and volume of buildings and would boast about how he was so good the system just didn’t apply to him.

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While we’re on the topic of Gaudi, Molly and I also visited La Sagrada Familia which was wow. A must visit upon coming to Barcelona. We literally just walked around the inside for over an hour just amazed. The colors from the stain glass windows are incredible and the tall ceilings and columns and walls and everything. I never knew I could love architecture so much. It was something I’m so glad I saw.

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Last thing Gaudi related was the Park Guell. Although Molly and I didn’t actually pay to go inside, we did climb to the very top of the park which provided us with this fantastic view of the city. We also poked around the free areas soaking up all of the art we could while staring at the city laid out before us. An amazing city to be honest.

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We also did some non-Gaudi related things like taking a walking tour of the Gothic district. This part of town is full of history and amazing sights to behold. This is the main Cathedral, free to go inside and gawk at. Amazing. This part of town is also home to parts of the Roman wall which have still survived, the art school Picasso went to, a square dedicated to George Orwell, and many more significant things that occupied our time.

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And of course, you can’t come to Barcelona with out visiting the beach. What a better way to reboot than kicking it next to the Mediterranean Sea? Barcelona was everything I wanted and more. We had so much fun in this city and it’ll be kind of sad moving on to the next one tomorrow. But, I mean, the next one is Paris, so not too sad.

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York: Why you need to go

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Grandparents are the best. Although I’m missing my own grandparents and family, Molly’s family has been gracious, kind, and so unbelievable generous enough to allow me to be absorbed into their family whilst coming to visit Molly at school. This week, on Wednesday and Thursday (because who even goes to school anyways) Molly grandfather and grandmother took the two of us on a trip to York, also known as my new favorite place, or, my future home.

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York has a certain quality to it. It’s definitely a city where tourism is prominent, but it doesn’t feel like that’s what the city is all about. It has a feeling of being small and homey and a place that I would like to get to know while also having a lot to do. It’s funny, because I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. Every person who I told I was going to York simply said “oh York is lovely” and I couldn’t agree more. Lovely is the perfect word to describe York. Whether you’re walking up the Shambles, which is home to the most independent shops in the UK, walking through the minister which is huge, beautiful, and I could spend hours in, or walking around the town, there’s just a feeling of peacefulness. It’s like letting all of your stress out in a breath. York is calming, York is gorgeous, York is lovely.

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One of the best things about York is the minister. As you can see from the picture above, it is huge. The detail on the outside is impressive and is really only topped by the beauty of the inside. It even rivals West Minster, because although it doesn’t have the same history as West Minster, it has a slightly more welcoming feel. When we got inside the organ was playing and while looking around we were treated to beautiful music. We went down into the basement area to the sort of museum part of the building and when we came back up the organ had stopped, but the choir was performing instead. It was honestly kind of a spiritual experience. When walking around the minister and looking at the stained glass windows and the ceilings and listening to the choir, it’s hard not to believe there is something bigger than yourself. Like, I’m not religious, but I really want to go to a service in York Minister. Looking around there’s just a feeling of hope and optimism.

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I would say the true heroes of the trip were Molly’s grandparents. They are so sweet and generous and instantly made me feel like part of the family. We stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast (if you’re looking for a place to stay, 23 St. Mary’s place is highly recommended by me) and they treated us to so many things. If you ever get the chance to go to York, go to Betty’s tea room. We went for lunch and not only was the tea and meal delicious, it just felt like an experience that you need to have if you go to England. Although I didn’t know what was in York, I can confidently say it’s one of my new favorite places. I’m determined to go back and get to know the city even better. Alright, that’s all for now. I’m in Scotland this coming weekend and won’t leave til Monday (so very excited) so unless I get my act together and put a post together before then, I’m probably going to be a bit late with it. See you later sisters!

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Monsal Dale

DSC_0442Before I went on this ramble, I had no idea what a dale was. Apparently, it’s a valley. Where a stream used to be. Or something. As you can see, I’m still not sure, but it was beautiful. We walked through three dales yesterday ending with the Monsal Dale. It’s named “monsal” because it is where monks used to walk with coffins, slightly eerie, very muddy, but very worth seeing. That dale actually ended at the church that the monks were walking from, which added to the effect.

DSC_0462 “Rambling” in England is much different than hiking in the United States. When hiking, there is always a goal in mind. There are specified paths and a trail that needs to be completed. You go straight up the mountain and then straight back down. Rambling is a different story. You just keep walking. There isn’t an actual trail, you need a map and a compass. That’s what makes the Rambling society so amazing. They map out the routes, they tell you the difficulty and even include which route is the most scenic. I went on the level 2 walk which meant a 7 mile walk through all the different dales and the one that Ramsoc recommended for the true Monsal Dale experience. Another great thing about Ramsoc is their ability to have an entire coach waiting for the students. So we get dropped off at where the leaders have decided it will begin and we always finish our walk at a local pub, a very convenient method of travel I would say.

DSC_0548So in the end, it was another good day with good people. I will say, if you’re not looking for something strenuous, look into rambling around the dales. We climbed like two hills the entire time. Also, do not go if it’s raining. We got very fortunate to be blessed with another sunny day, but the mud was still intense. I was just wearing trainers so my feet were not happy by the end of the walk. I did slip and fall on wet leaves and fell into the mud. That fall put another significant crack/dent on the rim around my camera as well as made myself bleed. My group leader got pumped though while handing me a plaster (band-aid) and anti-septic wipe and saying “This is the first time I’ve ever had to use my first-aid kit! So exciting!” Yeah, I’m that girl. The random American who can’t handle walking in a bit of mud. Either way, I really love the Peak District and am really happy I’m currently going to a university that offers so many opportunities like this for its students. So until next time, have a few more pictures of the beautiful place that I went to this weekend. I plan to post about castles and Shakespeare next week so stay tuned sisters.DSC_0418DSC_0482

London: My Heart Explodes from Happiness

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Let me start by saying, I never thought I would be able to go to London. In the sixth grade we all had to do a report on one country, an extensive report which we presented at the end of the year. I immediately knew I wanted to do the United Kingdom. I don’t know why I’ve always been drawn to England. I don’t know why I’ve always wanted to go so badly and even when people were asking me before I left, I didn’t really know what I was most excited for. But I’m here. I’m here with friends and making new friends and living in my dream every day and will continue to do so for three more months, that being said, on to London.

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When we got to London by train Saturday morning, we immediately went to our hostel and deposited our bags. We then took the tube (I love kind of sort of knowing how the tube works) to Westminster. Immediately when we walked up the stairs from the tube we were faced with Big Ben. Looking to the left there was the London Eye. Looking to the right was Westminster Abbey. We all just about lost it. I never thought I would actually get to go to London. I never even fathomed that it could be a possibility for me and I feel so overwhelmingly privileged to have experienced all I did this weekend. I don’t want to list it all out here, because that would be long and honestly not that fun to read. But I will add some pictures and let you know I nearly started crying while standing in qeue (so British) to get into Westminster. I was overwhelmed by all of it. By my good fortune and my luck and the history that I was about to be faced with. In fact, in Westminster, although I was presented with so many notable people’s tombs and remembrances and the ceiling is so beautiful I just wanted to lay down in look at it, I was especially struck by a random floor tile that was faded but clearly said 1729 on it. I was stepping on it. So many people had stepped on it before, I can’t even fathom that now.

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On Sunday night before heading back to the train back to school we decided to go back to Westminster one last time to see everything at night. It was there that I believe I had what could be called a perfect moment. We were walking on a bridge across from Big Ben, with the London Eye shining blue on the water and we walked past a teenage boy playing “Hallelujah” on his guitar and singing. It was in that moment that a rush of emotions went through me and I contemplated just how happy I was. This was the place I’ve always wanted to go and it wasn’t a disappointment. Although London may be one of the biggest cities for tourism in the world, there’s a reason this is the case. London is what I always imagined it would be and I’m so happy I was able to experience it.

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Also, a shout-out to the people I went with who made it even more enjoyable. This picture accurately describes the people in it.DSC_0081

Castleton, Wollaton Hall, and Why I’m Never Coming Back

DSC_0453The British country side is the stuff dreams are made of. It is gorgeous. It is cute. It is everything you could have and I did hope it would be and then some. Hiking here, in England, has been a dream of mine for awhile and it did not disappoint. So here is a suggestion, If you’re looking for a hike somewhere in the Peak District of England, may I suggest Castleton. The town alone will melt your heart.

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You’ll start your journey walking through the town, past pubs and fish and chips places. You’ll want to stop and get ice cream at that cute little bakery just down the way, but continue on. The footpath will lead you through people’s pastures, past their sheep and their stone walls and little stone farms. You’ll walk past hundreds of sheep just making your way to the hill you will actually be climbing. Mind you, I did the easy hike, so there may be even more sights and heart-wrenching beauties to behold elsewhere within the town, but I’ll have to settle right now for my own. After the sheep and pastures we climbed up our first hill and stopped at the top for lunch, because who wouldn’t want to look at this for hours?

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I’m lucky the University of Nottingham has a hill-walking and rambling club, because that’s where I belong. The group itself is full of really genuine, happy people who just want to see and spend time in nature. Along with my friend Molly there was also a lot of other international students. One from France, one from Germany, many from Asia, and the amazing thing is, they were all incredibly friendly. Go on hikes with people, because so far I’ve learned that people who want to go on hikes are good people to be around. Plus you get to see incredible things. This hike was fantastic and I highly recommend Castleton for anyone looking to be in the English countryside and never want to leave.

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Now, on to Wollaton Hall.

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Wollaton Hall and Deer Park are literally across the street from my University. I can go on runs here. I can go on picnics here. It’s probably closer for me to pack up my things and study here than it would be for me to go to the library. Wollaton, as you may have guessed or already knew, is where Wayne Manor is in the Batman films, so that in itself makes it worth the trip. The inside of the building is also interesting. It’s like a living history museum… with animals and stuff. It’s strange, but worth the trip inside, I mean, it’s free so… why not?

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The grounds are also beautiful. Let’s just say I’ll be spending a lot of time here. And yes, they do acknowledge the relation to Batman, with weird cardboard cut-outs placed among Victorian things

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Okay, sorry this post is long and rambly and has maybe too many pictures. I just don’t know how to write about how much my heart has been amazed by everything I’ve seen. I know if I were to spend forever here I probably wouldn’t be this motivated to see all I can. I know I would end up getting used to the buildings and the green of the countryside. I know I would start to hate the weather. But right now I want to stay. Right now I feel like I don’t have enough time here, that it’s all going to pass by too quickly. So I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing. Making the most of the opportunities I have and trying to make some new friends along the way.

P.S. Freshers week is crazy. Freshers flu is real. 18 year olds are fun, but exhausting.