Wrapping up

I love the UK, but sometimes ya girl just really needs some warm sunshine feelings. The perfect opportunity to get some UV rays came up during reading week at Uni. Final exams here at Aberystwyth extend over a month period, starting May 11th until the 31st. Lectures end with the end of April and so the first week of May before exams is dedicated to “reading” and revisions for the exams. It is basically dead week at Purdue minus all the classes. Like I have said, the UK does a lot of independent learning. While all my classmates were slaving away over their texts (probably not actually), my friends and I were off to Gibraltar, Spain, and Morocco! We left Aber on Wednesday night by train to get to the airport for our flight leaving early Thursday morning. I got to pull my second night ever sleeping in the airport and it was still as uncomfortable as the first time. Even though sleeping in the airport isn’t ideal, it certainly makes me feel like a true backpacker. Not to mention, I managed to pack for a whole week in only a backpack! The over packer in me was proud. Once we landed and we got through customs in Gibraltar, we had to find our hotel. The hotel we booked was actually across the boarder in La Linea, Spain. The boarder was rather lenient both ways with just a simple flash of the passport to cross. Once we got into our rooms and settled in, we headed out to explore Gibraltar. Gibraltar is known for their “Rock of Gibraltar.” This is what we spent most our day exploring. We rode a cable car up to the top and worked our way by foot back down into town. At the top of the rock, there are not only gorgeous views of the city and the sea, but there are also wild monkeys. I think I read that they are the only wild monkey population left in Europe…maybe. The monkeys are free to roam and interact with the guests as they please. It is clear to see that some want nothing to do with people and I even watched some give warning facial expressions to tourists (including myself). Other monkeys are happy to grab at you and even climb on your head. We got lucky and had one befriend us. He climbed up on my friend Perry’s back and was pulling his hair and being super adorable. Other than the monkeys, there is a castle that is less than impressive after all the other castles I have visited on my travels, St. Michael’s Caves, and some other small remnants from more historical times. By the time we got down the rock and into city center, all of our legs were trembling with exhaustion and so we rushed to find somewhere to sit and have dinner. The next morning, and the next 3 days, my legs were beyond sore. Gibraltar not only has the Rock, but there are gorgeous beaches around the small UK territory. Unfortunately we only had a day and half there before we were off for Morocco so we never got to lay out on the beaches there. We spent the rest of our second day in Gibraltar shopping and exploring city center, which was having a big concert during the day so it was filled with life and people. Then we were off to Morocco!! To get to Morocco was exhausting, but completely worth it. First we had to take our bus to the ferry port, then we took the ferry across the Straight of Gibraltar, had to drive to customs/boarder control, and finally all the way to our hotel in Tangier. By the time we got in, we dropped off our bags in our rooms and went straight to dinner then basically straight to bed. Then Saturday morning we began our African weekend! The cities we toured around were a bit of Tangier, Chefchaouen, and Tetouan. All of them were unique and gorgeous in their own ways, but there are still plenty of cities in Morocco I haven’t reached yet and so I already know I will be returning for more.

He peed on Perry.
He peed on Perry.
View from the top
View from the top

In Tangier we stopped at a lighthouse that marks the division between the Sea and the Ocean. While looking out at the water was lovely, the highlight of this stop was that I pet a fuzzy baby donkey! Next we walked down onto the beach and got to ride Camels down the beach. The camel ride was basically a hope on walk in a giant circle and come back sort of path, but it’s still cool to say I have ridden a camel on the beaches of Africa!

My little ass
My little ass
The light house
The light house
About to take my Camel ride
About to take my Camel ride

IMG_9692 IMG_9647Chefchaouen was my favorite of the cities we saw in Morocco. It is also commonly known by its nickname of “The Blue and White City.” The second you enter the city, it is clear to see where the nickname came from. Everything from the doors, building walls, and some street floors are painted in bright shades of blue. Between the bright blues everywhere and the incredible architecture, it almost felt like walking through a wonderland. The first thing we did here was have lunch. Lunch was served community style, and was traditional African food. For the main course, they set a huge bowl with sauce and bone-in chicken on our table and we all could help ourselves. Following lunch, we met up with our tour guide to show us around the streets. He was a little old man who claims to be the most popular man in Chefchaouen. He said has a show on Lonely Planet and that he is friends with Obama (aka he “liked” Obama’s facebook page). While he was not the best tour guide in the sense of learning the history of the city and moving at a decent pace, he was hilarious to spend some time wandering around with. To end the tour, he dropped us off in a shop where they hand weave scarves, blankets, and rugs using a loom. We got to watch the process some and they see samples of blankets and scarves with their intricate designs. The rugs and blankets were stunning, and if bag weight on the flights wasn’t a problem I am sure I would’ve come home with one. The rest of out time in Chefchaouen was spent exploring the medina and shopping. A lot of the shops seemed to carry pottery, which had been made in Morocco. The pottery was painted to perfection in bright colors and patterns, and again if weight wasn’t an issue I might have been tempted to come home with a complete china set. Maybe when I become a grown up and have use for that stuff more I will return for my pottery. Before we left the city, I was tricked into getting a henna tattoo. I was simply considering the idea of one and browsing the booklet of designs when a lady grabbed my friend and me and basically threw us into seats and started painting on us. At first I was unsure about getting henna, but once it was finished I was in love. It’s amazing how they can just free hand a beautiful design up someone’s arm. I’m not going to lie when I say it made me feel pretty cool to have. Following getting my henna tattoo, I noticed that men were behaving differently towards me and that I was getting a significant increase in attention. It started as guys just staring at me/my hand, then I would get comments such as “do you want a husband?” or “happy husband, happy marriage!” I was completely confused, but also amused (sorry I love attention). The only time it got creepy was when a man literally followed me between 3 shops and as he gave up the fight and walked away, he waved to me. No thanks!! It turns out that henna is used mainly for women who are getting married and so there is a good chance all the men who made comments were actually making fun of me as a tourist, but that’s ok! Other fun tourist comments we have received include “Hey Hannah Montana” and “Tom Brady.”

Tour guide
Tour guide
My henna
My henna

When we left Chefchaouen we took our bus to our final city, Tetouan. When we arrived it was close to 10pm and we were headed to dinner. It is completely normal for people in Morocco to have their meals this late at night, but my stomach was protesting it the entire time up until the meal. We ate in a type of Palace where we again we served a 5 course, community style meal of traditional African food. The palace’s inside was gorgeous and as we ate, dancers and musicians filled the place putting on a show for us. At the end of our meal, we were all able to get up and dance around with the performers! When we finished eating, we checked into our hotel rooms and were off to bed. My hotel room here had a huge balcony overlooking the sea, so I was lucky enough to see the sunrise when I woke up. After breakfast we were off on a walking tour of the city and to hit up the markets. While I never felt too completely unsafe while I was in Morocco, our tour was escorted by at least three “body guards” with walkie-talkies to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for. I really loved having them around because I felt like I could let my guard down some and enjoy the city a bit more. Tetouan had the same beautiful architecture as the other cities, but was painted in a lot of shades of purple and green. As we walked around we explored the shops where people were selling their home-farmed crops or baking breads. Leather is also a big product sold here, and there were plenty of purses and belts being throw in our face to haggle a price on. Everything excluding food in Morocco does not have a set price, so it was interesting trying to barter with the shop owners to get souvenirs for as cheap as possible.

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Sunrise on Balcony
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Palace Dinner

IMG_9896 IMG_9859 IMG_9849 IMG_9871 I wish I had the words to describe the architecture, culture, and people that I saw and experienced. Hopefully my blog gives some sort of insight to Morocco and my experiences in Africa. It’s so surreal to be able to say I am only 21 and have been to Africa! I only brushed the tip of the country, and I am hoping to make it back one day in the future to see even more including Marrakesh, Casablanca and more. Sevilla/Barcelona: When we got back into Spain from Morocco, we headed by bus off to Sevilla. We spent Sunday evening and all of Monday in the city, but I wish we could’ve had longer. Sevilla is in Southern Spain, and there is a common joke that the further South you go in Spain, the lazier the people get. It was pretty clear to see this as part of the culture immediately, even though we only had one full day there. Monday we woke up bright and early to get breakfast and to make the most of our day, but the streets were rather dead and quiet until almost noon when people seemed to finally be starting their days. Another thing that we got to experience was siesta. Shops and restaurants either closed or slowed business for a couple hours in the evening. We met up for tapas Monday night with one of Perry’s friends studying there, and she told us how her house dad would come home from work, take a nap, and then go back to work after siesta. It’s such an interesting concept, but I wouldn’t mind if the States ever adopted it. We also got a bit of rain showers on Monday afternoon/evening and a lot of stores and restaurants just closed for the remainder of the day due to rain, which Perry’s friend said was also very common.

Plaza de Espana
Plaza de Espana
Sevilla
Sevilla

Our Monday, besides meeting up for tapas, was spent exploring as much of the city as we could. First, like I mentioned, we stopped for breakfast at a small café before most of the city was even awake yet. Our waitress didn’t speak any English, and while a couple of us took Spanish in high school, we were all pretty rusty. I was somewhat embarrassed of myself because I barely have anything to show for years of Spanish and IB level exams. So, basically through incredibly rough communication with our waitress, we all ended up with coffee and cured ham on baguette sandwiches for breakfast. Not exactly what we had in mind for breakfast, so after we ate our unexpected meal, we headed to Dunkin Donuts for a more familiar vibe and to fulfill the rest of our hunger. After breakfast, we were off for our free walking tour of the city. Over our travels, we have come to love the free walking tours as a way to learn some history of the city as well as a sense of direction for when we are going around on our own. On the tour we walked through the Plaza of Espana, which was absolutely gorgeous and definitely the heart of the city. Following the tour we explored the Palace. Again, stunning and authentic Spanish architecture everywhere you turned. My favorite thing about the palace was that there were so many gardens to explore and walk through, complete with a peacock wandering around. Our day was pretty relaxing, but it was wonderful to spend some time in Sevilla. I think it would be a perfect city to study abroad in for learning the Spanish language better, which I clearly need. After realizing both how poorly my Spanish is and how much knowing the language could help me help more animals in the future, I am beginning to consider a maymester or summer term in Spain in the following year or so.

Row Boating
Row Boating
Park Guell
Park Guell
Arc
Arc

Tuesday morning we headed off to the airport and were on our way to Barcelona. Our hostel in Barcelona was awesome. It really focused on making the hostel feel like a community and getting everyone to know each other! Our first day there we set off to explore some of the parks in the area. We wandered Parc de Ciutadella, which seemed like it would be the perfect place to relax or have a picnic. We also rented a rowboat in the park while there. The second day I went to Park Guell to see all the mosaics. It was beautiful and also mind-blowing to wonder how long it was to make so much just in mosaics. Following the park, we went down to the beach to tan some. It felt so nice to lie in the warm sun. I also saw in the Mediterranean Sea, which was considerably warmer than the Irish Sea here in Wales. As I had said before, the hostel was big on having a community feel. The first night there we played drinking games in the lobby with free sangria. We got to know a lot of the people staying in and working at the hostel. Following the game, we went on a pub-crawl as a group. The coolest place we went was a shot bar. They had about 400 shot names written up on the wall and you just had to pick one and hope it tasted good. Some of them they lit on fire or would put into a syringe in your mouth. We took one as a group called the “Boy Scout” where they gave you a marshmallow on a stick and lit the bar on fire. You had to roast your marshmallow and then eat it and take your shot. The second night in the hostel we went out with all our fellow backpackers again. This time we went to a nightclub on the beach. It was hands down the coolest place I have ever been. It had an indoor part, a section that was inside, but with no roof, and then you could walk right outside and be on the beach. We danced the night away making all sorts of friends with both our hostel-mates and other people at the club. Whenever we got too hot, we just ran out to the Sea and played on the beach. I wish I could go to beach clubs all the time, but Barcelona will definitely be missed. Our week seemed to fly by and on Thursday morning we grabbed breakfast and were on our way to the airport and back to Wales. May Ball and Exams: The Friday night when we got back from our travels was May Ball on campus. This is basically the combination of prom or a sorority formal, with a casino, with a concert, with carnival rides. It was definitely talked up a lot, but I still had a good time going! We basically danced to the DJs the whole night, but I did manage to ride one of the carnival rides before I left! Exams started on Monday. I had one the 11th, the 21st and two more on the 26th and 28th of May. It’s hard to go from traveling and fun and games all semester (aside from a few papers) to studying for exams. When the professors said we should be revising and reading all semester, they weren’t kidding. Exams here are basically 2 hours long, you are given a list of 4 or 5 essay questions and you have to answer 2 of them. They also expect you to reference sources by author and date in your papers. By the end of my first one my hand was trembling with exhaustion. Memorizing sources is a new thing for me, but hopefully my exams are going well and I come out with high marks! 11201626_10206461378275595_5806324929429689916_n Bath and Stonehenge: Since I had about 10 days in between my first two exams, I was able to take a trip to Bath, England. My friend Becca’s aunt and grandma were visiting Bath and let us come to visit them. We were lucky enough to have them let us stay with them in their hotel. It was a quick two-day visit, but it was a lovely last trip before I return home. Seeing Stonehenge has been on my bucket list for forever. I know it sounds super lame to see a bunch of stacked rocks, but I find it completely fascinating to wonder how they heck they made it so many years ago. The first day there we took a bus tour where we went up to Stonehenge and my rock dreams came true! We also saw Avebury Circle, which I had never heard of before but was equally enthralling. These people dug a mile long trench and built a mound around it using their hands and bones!! Then they lined the inside with huge rocks and stones for some sort of ritual grounds. If this doesn’t blow your mind I don’t know what possibly could. It must be the coolest thing in the world to be an archeologist and find/study these ancient monuments. Imagine digging up a body from centuries ago along with his utensils and then trying to figure out his way of life!! SO COOL! If I didn’t want to be a vet, I would probably want to study archeology at some point in my life. After seeing the rocks, we went to a couple small villages around the area. Two of them were Lacock and Castle Combe. In Lacock, scenes from Harry Potter were filmed and Lilly Potter’s house in located here. In Castle Combe, while there aren’t any castles, there was a beautiful manor and War Horse was filmed here. If you haven’t seen War Horse, you definitely should ASAP!!! That night when we returned to Bath, we took a walking tour called Bizarre Bath. It is listed as something to not miss while in Bath. It is a comedy show and magic show combined as you casually stroll through the city. I laughed harder than I have in awhile and completely agree that it is a must see in the city!

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

IMG_0980 The second day in Bath, we toured the Roman Baths! We were given audio guides and spent at least two hours listening to explanations and history lessons about the Baths and what has been discovered there. At the end of the self-tour, we popped up in the Pump Room. There, you can drink a glass of the water from the baths. I was hesitant at first, but did it anyway. It was warm water that smelled kind of funny and tasted heavily of minerals. Apparently it has healing qualities and is good for your bones and skin though so it must be safe. We finished our day in Bath by having high tea in the Pump Room. We each had our own pot of tea and got a three-tiered tray filled with finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries. I felt very classy and sophisticated the entire time, and am not well practiced for meeting a prince of the Queen. Tea was all fun and dandy until 7 cups of tea (2 pots) later when I had to pee every 15 minutes. Not the recommended way to prepare for a 5 hour train ride, but I survived. We got back to Wales that night and it was back to preparing for exams!

Roman Baths
Roman Baths
High Tea
High Tea

I officially have 2 more exams until I am finished with my semester abroad and my junior year. I don’t know how time can escape so quickly, but it has been an amazing journey and I wouldn’t change a thing. Thanks for following my adventures!

Animals around the world

As most of you might know based on my Facebook pictures and excessive instragramming, I spent the past week traveling around Spain and Morocco. Before I write a blog post telling you all about the cool things I saw and experienced, I feel strongly that it is important to address some of the animal welfare issues I witnessed. It would be unfair to merge the blogs and it would be unfair to not address it at all.

I have seen a lot of small things that strike my nerves simply in Wales alone, and I saw even more as I did my Easter break Europe trip. Before I go into Africa and Spain I’ll just touch on the earlier travels. I have seen an alarming amount of intact male dogs and females who have clearly had multiple litters in every country I have been in from Wales to Italy. A large number of dogs are let out off leash, so I would imagine there is a lot of unwanted breeding going on. I am also currently in an animal breeding class and my professor talks as though everyone who owns a dog is breeding their dogs. I am honestly not sure if having an intact dog is just the culture here, but I am sure that a lack of education plays a huge role in the fact.

I do not want to make it sound like the United States is perfect and Europe/UK/ ect. have all the issues. There is a ton of work that our own country must do before we can even start helping other countries who have it even worse in some cases. I just want to raise some awareness to anyone reading.

Here are some fun facts: In the Unites States ALONE, 6-8 million animals enter shelters each year and approximately 3-4 million of them are euthanized each year due to over crowding/population. The best way to deal with the population issues is spaying and neutering your pets. Neutered males live approximately 18% longer than intact males and females live approximately 23% longer! WOW imagine more time with your pet because you were a responsible owner!! This is mainly due to the fact that your pet is no longer at risk for a large variety of reproductive cancers and uterine infections. Another reason people don’t neuter their males is because they think it is taking away the dogs “man-hood” and he won’t be as tough. In reality, your dog is still going to have the same personality traits either way, and obedience/loyalty ect. won’t be affected. What will change is that your dog will do a lot less territorial marking and will be generally less aggressive which should be looked at as a good thing. Lastly, people keep their pets intact to breed them for an extra buck. First of all, there are much better ways to make money. Second of all, even if you think you’re being a responsible breeder, there is a good chance the people you adopt out to will fix their pets and be responsible owners as well. Unless you are an accredited pure bred breeder, stop the back yard breeding. In the States we are lucky enough to have access to facilities to fix our pets. There are even community clinics in our country so that people with financial issues can still take care of their pets properly. The biggest key in our country is a culture shift and education. It is so important to help get animals off the streets and control the over-population. So many millions of animals shouldn’t have to suffer homelessness and being put down every year just because people aren’t doing their part as owners.

Here is a chart to show how fast animals reproduce and why overpopulation escalates:

From the Humane Society Page
From the Humane Society Page

The second thing besides intact pets that I have seen in Europe and the UK that annoys me even more is mild animal abuse. The first time I saw someone hit their dog was in Belgium and I literally stopped and stared at them. The other times, I have been in Wales. Cute, happy, quaint little Wales and yet people are smacking their dogs. If you ever would consider hitting or physically harming your dog or cat, DO NOT buy one. It’s so simple. Animal abuse should never be tolerated, especially in public at cafes or on the beach! I hope to God this isn’t a cultural thing, but I can’t be sure. Again, the US is not exempt from this, there is plenty of animal abuse around our country as well and while some legislation is helping, it needs to get under control and should never be tolerated.

Now moving on to Morocco…

First I just want to be clear that I do understand not only are the cultures from the United States to Europe to Africa all immensely different, but the levels of education on certain subjects as well as the economy and resources provided to take care of animals vary greatly as well. I also believe that it is hard to criticize another country when we haven’t even fixed a lot of these issues for ourselves at home. And again, I am simply trying to raise awareness as well as reflect on what I have witnessed during my travels.

While in Morocco, we drove through a lot of farm land and cities in poverty on our way to the bigger “touristy” places. Our guide told us that the people of these areas make all their profits off of farming. As we drove through it was easy to see fields upon fields with the farmer out hard at work in the sun, but farming doesn’t limit itself to crops. We passed countless herds of cattle and sheep, and while it was clear to see that they were skinnier than our cattle at home, it’s hard to pass judgement. These farmers make their living off their cows and so it can be assumed that they do all they can with the nutritional education and resources available to them. Two other “farm” animal welfare things that I observed while in Morocco involved sheep and chickens. First, we stopped at a gas station on our way through the mountains, and while there, a big van pulled in. Strapped to the top of the van were two sheep. I assumed at first that they were already dead, but upon further investigation, I noticed that they were fully tied down, with only slight ability to move their heads, and they were alive! Practically baking to death in the 90 degree weather…talk about fresh dinner. Definitely part of the culture for them I’m sure, but it was a shocking sight. Lastly, while wandering through a market street in Tetuan, we came across a hole in the wall shop filled with chickens just running lose. Customers literally just walk up, point to a chicken, and it is butchered right there for you. Again, not something you see in Carmel, Indiana, but definitely cultural and a bit of a shock although I know it’s similar to areas in the States.

Now back to my FAVE subject…overpopulation!

In every city I visited in Morocco, I don’t think it was possible to walk more than 10 feet without seeing at least one cat or more. I’ve never had such conflicting emotions of both being in awe of the beauty of a place and yet still horrified at the sight of all these cats. I am roughly estimating, but I would say 1 in every 6 cats looked mildly healthy or well fed. Most of the cats looked underfed which broke my heart. A large handful of them had swollen paws and cuts/scars. Most of the time you would encounter these cats trying to sneak a bite to eat by market stores or laying like trash along the streets. To top it all off, a scary amount of these cats had kittens with them. Even worse, sometimes I saw kittens on their own with no mother in sight.

Not everyone ignores these cats though, thank God. I witnessed a few people toss scraps out to cats to eat or set out cups of water. I also noticed that a lot of cats, especially ones with litters, had been given cardboard boxes to take shelter in. I even met my soulmate, a man who took a cat (he named her Ginger!) and her kittens off the street. He told me he took them to the vet and was going to keep them. I wish their were more people like him out there!! While taking cats off the street or providing them with shelters and food is a nice gesture, it won’t stop the over population issues.

I know part of is it under education about the issue and how to deal with it, and the rest is probably lack of resources and facilities. Not only is education about over population important, but it is important to understand cats health and diseases as well which are issues world wide. For example, as I watched a woman sweep/beat kittens that were maybe only a couple months old or less off her porch, I heard an American girl tell me something along the lines of “you don’t understand, they probably have rabies.” The only thing I didn’t understand in that moment was how people could look at a kitten and be so cruel. Education on zoonotic diseases definitely needs raised because, I’m no expert, but I am 95% sure those kittens didn’t have rabies.

As far as facilities, I used to work at a spay/neuter clinic. I know that it take maybe 15 minutes to spay a cat and even less to neuter a male. If funds were put into trips going around catching, fixing, and releasing cats, that would already help half the battle. Programs like this are currently operating in the States, even if we do still have large overpopulation numbers. I truly believe that with education and effort/passion put behind resources, animal welfare can go up so much and overpopulation can be decreased each year.

My dreams are to come back one day once I am actually certified to and hopefully make a difference for these babies. I hope that I somewhat inspired you all as well to want to raise awareness, donate to animals in need, or at the very least neuter/spay your pets (or adopt)!

Apologies for my somewhat of a “rant” and always for my poor writing skills.

Below are photos of some of the sweetheart cats I saw during my travels.

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You can somewhat see how her kittens have swollen eyes and are clearly sick babies 😦

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“Not responding is a response – we are equally responsible for what we don’t do.” — Jonathan Safran

“He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” — Immanual Kant

“If everyone took personal responsibility for their animals, we wouldn’t have a lot of the animal problems that we do. I’m a big spay-and-neuter supporter. Don’t have babies if you’re not going to take care of those babies. We don’t need more. We just need to take care of the ones we have. Take responsibility and breathe kindness.” — Betty White

Paris

2 weeks late, but I am finally wrapping up blogs on my Easter Holiday travels by writing about my final city stop in Paris before heading back to uni!

I had always been told that the French can be somewhat standoffish towards tourists, especially Americans. I realized when arriving that they aren’t being rude as much as they are being proud. A friend here from Uni told me “the French have pride like lions,” and boy is that true! Even if a local from France speaks and understands English, if you go in arrogantly speaking English and not respecting their language and culture, there is a 99% chance they won’t respect you back. At fist this was frustrating, but reflecting on it, I have known multiple Americans who have said things similar to “everyone in the States should know and speak English.” So really, it isn’t much different. The first time we encountered the pride of the French language was when we stopped in a small French town called Burgundy for a lunch break on the way to Paris. We said “Bonjour!” when we entered and then proceeded to order everything in English. The woman behind the counter clearly understood every word we were saying to her, but she insisted on responding to us only in French, including asking if we wanted our sandwiches heated up and telling us how much we owed. Following this event, we decided it would be very useful to study some French phrases on the rest of the bus trip to Paris. I learned how to say the obvious, “hello,” and “goodbye,” as well as phrases like “do you speak english?” or “I don’t speak French” and “I would like…” “please and thank you.” It was fun to learn some of a new language, even if I butchered most of what I said. French is such a pretty sounding language and maybe one day I will actually invest in learning it more! I truly do miss greeting people with a happy “bonjour!” instead of a basic “hey.”

So, once we actually arrived in Paris and checked into our hostel, we had 2 days to explore the city. I got to see a lot in 2 days however I definitely would’ve loved having much more time there. Good news? There’s a vet school somewhere in France as well 😉

The first day, I went to explore the Palace of Versailles first thing in the morning. It’s a good thing I got there early because by the time I was entering the gates, the line was probably a couple hundred people long. While it’s definitely worth reading about sometime, I will spare everyone from a history lesson via my blog. If you haven’t even seen pictures of the palace, it is HUGE and gorgeous. Every single building is decked out in paintings and gold and mirrors and the outside is lined with large gardens and fountains. I can’t imagine someone actually living there, although I am sure it would be a great time.

Standing in front of the Palace
Standing in front of the Palace

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The rest of the time in Paris was spent exploring the actual city. I found out, much to my delight, that Paris runs on a system super similar to the Tube in London called the Metro. It was just as fun and easy to ride around the city as the tube was and I loved every time I got to take it to a new destination. I hope everyone else who visits London and Paris appreciate this convenient public transportation as much as I did. As I jetted around the Metro system, some of the cool tourist things I saw included the Eiffle Tower, seeing the Lourve, Art Bridge, Notre Dame and Arc de Triomphe. Oh, and of course, losing my macaroon virginity to Laduree Paris (I hope Blair Waldorf would be proud)!

Macaroons!!
Macaroons!!

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Selfie on top
Selfie on top

Going to the top of the Eiffle Tower was a really cool way to experience both the tower and see the city. I forget the exact details, but I am pretty sure a tour guide at one point told us the tower wasn’t supposed to be up and operating as long as it has been, which made the rickety lift ride to the top somewhat terrifying. Once arriving to the top, you should technically be able to see Paris for miles. Unfortunately, Paris has a pretty tragic relationship with air pollution. There is a constant haze covering the city skyline due to all the car and air pollution which makes it hard to see too far from the top of the tower. Still, it was possible to get a decent view of the city surrounding the tower and it’s exciting to say I’ve been to the top.

Art Bridge
Art Bridge

Seeing the Art Bridge was a dream come true. Most of you probably know it as the “love lock bridge,” which is what I originally was calling it as well. While trying to locate the bridge, I asked a nice looking cop for directions and before I was given directions I was scolded and told the true name is the Art Bridge. Cool. Either way, seeing this bridge has been on my bucket list ever since I can remember. I think it is so inspiring to see how many couples or friends have come to place a lock on the bridge representing an eternal love. I can’t even imagine how strong these peoples’ relationships were or how in love they are, but it must be amazing. I hope one day I have a love that strong that we could lock it in eternity, besides my dogs of course. As we approached the bridge I was literally skipping with joy and anticipation to see all the locks and feel the overwhelming love radiating off it. Sadly, the bridge has been covered in a lot of spaces with boards because the weight of all the locks was collapsing the bridge. The sides of the bridge were still visible and over flowing with locks however so I can’t say I was disappointed. I know they call Paris “The City of Lights,” but some have adapted to calling it the “city of love,” which makes way more sense because feeling the romance of Paris is truly inevitable.

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Paris was amazing, as were the rest of the cities I saw over break, but after what seemed like a super short 3 weeks, it was time to return to Wales.

Reality slapped me in the face hard the first couple days back to lectures. While the majority of my fellow students spent their holiday breaks home working on assignments, I was out playing. This left me coming back to a group presentation and a short research essay due the first week back, and two 2500 word statistical analysis/research papers due the second week back. FUN STUFF!! While knocking out the first week’s assignments was rather painless, the two long research papers were rough. I meant to take care of them the weekend in between, but the sunshine came out to play. I accidentally spent a good two or three days lounging on the beach instead of the library. My procrastination started to wear off on the Tuesday before they were due and so I began to actually cram and work. With the occasional beach bonfire or netflix episode for breaks, I managed to complete both my essays in time!

This is now the final week of lectures before finals will start. Finals here fun for a month instead of a week like they do at home. This is a good thing because my exams here will be much harder than most I have taken at Purdue. Hopefully the beach isn’t too distracting! It’s also officially on the countdown of only a month until I am home! It’s mind-blowing how quickly time escapes us and I often find myself wishing it would slow down, but I do have to say I can’t wait to hug my pups and parents again.

Thanks for reading!

Au Revoir!

Austria, Italy, Switzerland

The second half of my Europe travels consisted of Italy, Switzerland and France. I liked Paris so much that it is getting its own blog post though.

The title says Austria, which technically I went to, but it’s hard to count. We stopped in Salzburg, Austria on our way down to Italy from Germany. It was a short stop to visit the city and unfortunately was raining. It was easy to tell that on a sunny day, the city would have been filled with life and beauty. It was situated on a gorgeous river running right along side the Alps. Since it is the home town of Mozart, there were also a lot of statues and fancy looking fountains, buildings, and museums. I got to see a lot of nice buildings, but hate to say most of my time was spent in a cafe away from the rainfall. I think I will definitely need to return to Austria again one day to see Salzburg in the sunshine as well as all the other beautiful cities Austria has to offer.

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Salzburg

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In Italy we visited Venice and Verona. I spent a couple days in Venice 2 years ago when my parents blessed us with a family vacation touring the homeland. Yes, I know I am not 100% Italian and I was not born in Italy, but I can associate it as my homeland if I want (Sorry dad’s side of the fam). I’m not sure if it’s because I love my Italian heritage or if it’s just the country itself, but there is truly something magical about Italy. I have seen a handful of cities in Italy and every single one left me in awe. Even going back to Venice after only 2 years, the novelty of it all was just as strong and the city was just as captivating to me. The city actually floats. Mind blowing I know. Every street is a canal and they are all connected by cute little bridges. 400 bridges approximately. I would actually like to challenge someone to find a canal in Venice that isn’t gorgeous, because I think it is highly unlikely. Basically I spent my time enjoying the warm sunshine, riding a romantic gondola ride with my America travel buddies, and eating gelato every time we passed a stand. One of my favorite little memories I took away from Venice was playing football (soccer, and no it’s not futbol unless you’re speaking spanish) with little kids in a plaza. There were some school kids probably about 10 years old kicking a ball around and it bounced toward me so I just joined in. They were locals, but I think they loved it as much as I did. Venice is a huge tourist city (more tourists than locals on the daily) but it is a definite must see place and I am sure I will return again, and again and again. Verona was a city in Italy that I hand’t been to before. It’s the city where Juliet’s balcony and Romeo’s house are located. While fictional characters, people come from all over the world to see where they “lived” and where Shakespeare set his love story. I have to say the balcony was rather unimpressive and not as romantic as movies make it out to be. Which is weird, I know, because movies are always accurate. Especially the love stories. In Verona there is a mini colosseum and a lot of shopping. We wandered the shopping alleys and eventually came across more Nutella crepes which was my highlight of the city. Yet again though, I can say I have seen another city in Italy that was as beautiful as all the rest.

Venice
Venice
Venice
Venice
Venice
Venice
Verona Crepes!!
Verona Crepes!!
Verona
Verona

After Verona, we set out for Interlaken, Switzerland. When I visited Italy with my family, we took a day trip up into Zurich, Switzerland to see the Matterhorn. Being in the Swiss Alps and among the unique country buildings they have is truly beautiful, but Zurich compared to Interlaken were still very different experiences. Im Zurich we were up in the mountains, but in Interlaken we were more in a valley on the lake. Interlaken may be one of the most beautiful scenic places I have seen. Being from the flat lands of Indiana, I have come to really appreciate any type of hill or mountain, so sitting on a lake at the base of the Alps themselves was breathtaking. The water in the lakes has a unique teal/blue shade due to the glaciers underneath rubbing together, and in contrast with the snowy peaked mountains, it is quite the sight to behold. I can only imagine God finishing those off and thinking something like “Damn, I’m good.” The coolest thing I did while I was there was go paragliding. I am one of those people who is afraid of heights so while signing up I was like “OH YEAH PARAGLIDING!!” but then when I reached the top of the mountains and was hooked up to the parachute I was about to pee my pants in fear. David, my pilot, told me that all we had to do was start running…off the side of the mountain and “hopefully we would take flight.” “HOPEFULLY?!?!?” Not exactly a word someone afraid of heights and about to run off the side of the Alps wants to hear. Either way we started running and all of a sudden we were flying!!! It was the coolest experience ever, I felt like a bird and I felt so free. We soared about the pine trees covering the mountains and made our way down over the lakes and the town. As we were nearing the bottom half David asked me a very random question, or so I thought, it was “Do you like roller coasters?” Of course I said yes, and all of a sudden we were doing parachute tricks in the air! We were spinning in circles and loops which was amazing. There were definitely points where I thought I was going to fall right out of my harness, but it was an incredible time. Landing was definitely the easiest part and I found myself sad that it had ended. I hope to find myself paragliding again, maybe even skydiving, in the near future.

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Soaring above the alps
Soaring above the alps
David and I prior to take off
David and I prior to take off

After Switzerland we headed to our final stop before returning to the UK…PARIS!!!!

Belgium, Netherlands, Germany

Blog continuation of Scotland and London….

After week 1 of “spring break” I hopped a ferry over to Europe for the next 2 weeks of break. Our little tour around Europe started in Belgium and ended in France. Here are some high lights from my travels:

We stopped in a city called Ghent in Belgium. It is one of those cities you find on buzz feed articles of “cities you need to visit that you have never heard of before.”  Unfortunately while we were there it was pretty gloomy and rainy, but you can’t really let rain get you too down when you’re in a different country for the first time! Belgium was weird because barely any places opened until almost 10am, including cafes and coffee places, which was tragic. While there we took a nice little boat cruise tour to look at some of the interesting architecture. While a sunny day would’ve made it much more enjoyable, it was still a cute little town and it is easy to see why people would enjoy visiting. The main highlight of the city was that I finally got to try an authentic Belgian waffle! It lived up to every expectation of deliciousness. I had mine covered in chocolate sauce and whipped cream and my mouth died of happiness.

the waffles!
the waffles!
Belgium
Belgium

The next city I visited was Amsterdam. I have to say I am still confused on wether to say Netherlands or Holland but either way it was awesome. It might be expected that you are about to read a bunch of “The Fault in Stars” fan girl references. Jokes on you because I am one of the only girls in the world who was unimpressed by both the book and movie. Nevertheless, I loved Amsterdam. Pictures of the canals could never do them justice, it is really a city you have to experience and see to believe. Amsterdam culture is unlike any other culture I have ever experienced so I was in awe most of the time. It is a city where you are always worried about getting run over by bikes, people are free as the birds, and Nutella crepes are abundant (and delicious). The biggest advice I have about people going to Amsterdam is to know the difference between a “Coffee Shop” and a “Cafe,” but I’m sure you’ll enjoy both of them either way. I was told once, “What happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam,” so I’ll leave it at that!

Canals
Canals
Classic bike and canal picture of the gorgeous city
Classic bike and canal picture of the gorgeous city
YAA CREPES!!
YAA CREPES!!

For Germany we stopped in a few cities. My top two were Heidelberg and Munich. Heidelberg is supposedly an old college town and is also situated in the Rhine Valley. I spent most of the day we were there exploring the castle. The castle was situated at the top of a hill so it overlooked the whole city and the river, which was a beautiful sight. From there I travelled into Munich. Honestly, I did not have high expectations of Germany for when I was visiting. I guess all my history classes over the years ruined it for me. While Munich did have some beautiful buildings and clock towers in the central city area, it was not one of my favorite cities I have been. Maybe if it hadn’t snowed while we were there and maybe if I liked beer I would have left liking it a bit more. In Munich we spent time exploring the cities and checking out various beer halls. The beer halls were super lively and definitely felt like an authentic German experience. I think I ate more bratwurst in Germany than I have in my whole life. One thing I really enjoyed about Germany was the language. Every city we visited we learned some basic phrases of the area so we could seem less like arrogant American tourists. While we really only learned “Hello” which was “Hallo” (EASY) and phrases like excuse me and do you speak english (I definitely can’t spell those) it was still cool to feel like and pretend that you sort of belonged there.

from the castle window
from the castle window
glockenspiel?
glockenspiel?
BIER
BIER
Munich
Munich

On a heavier note, while in Germany I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp. I thought I understood what happened during the holocaust over in Germany from my IB history classes, but there is no way to fully comprehend it until you are walking through it, and even then it’s hard to wrap your mind around. Dachau was the first concentration camp opened in Germany and was meant to hold political prisoners. We had a tour guide who took us through the museum which was once where they had “check-ins” and we went through the bunkers and buildings the prisoners were kept in. One of the main things that really stuck with me was when our tour guide spoke of the propaganda used on Germany and other countries. We saw posters and news articles that made it seem like the camp was this lovely place for prisoners to reform, but in reality was hell on Earth. I find it amazing and terrifying how a government can keep something that huge hidden from the public so much so that while thousands are dying and starving, the public might not even be aware. We walked through where the people used to have to sleep, sometimes up to 5 people in a twin sized bed each, we heard how they did roll every day and had to stand perfectly still for hours even in freezing cold weather, and we learned and saw so much more I can’t even begin to describe or do it justice. At one point in the museum part, we watched a brief video of the liberation when the American army arrived. There were images of piles and train carts full of dead frozen bodies. They were so starved that they barely looked as though they were people any more and it was almost too hard to watch at points. One other main thing we saw in the museum was a map of Europe with all the camps marked on it. I had no idea there were so many and so many different types. Without giving a history lesson, I just want to make clear that while thousands and thousands died at the camp I was at, it wasn’t even close to one of the worst ones. There used to be camps that lied to families of the disabled that their loved ones were going to a new therapy place for help and the family member with the disability would be taken away and killed. The family would find out later that their loved one died of health complications during treatment. Like WHAT is wrong with the world? The end of the tour was the absolute worst part of it all. We walked over to the crematorium area. There were two crematoriums that we were able to walk in and see the ovens where thousands of bodies were rid of. Dachau also has a gas chamber, which while there is no proof that it was used, still stands for the mass murders that took place there over the years. As we walked through the chambers and the crematorium, we learned that the ashes of the people were simply scattered around the camp and that we were walking on them currently. As if our hearts weren’t heavy enough, it literally felt as if the lives of all these people were resting heavily on your shoulders. Such an eerie and eye opening day of my life. If you ever get the chance to tour a camp, take it. I think it is so important to truly see what happened and get a better understand of those terrible times that people went through. I wish my words could do the experience justice, but I can’t even come close to explaining it or what the prisoners went through all that time.

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entry gate into the camp
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crematorium and gas chambers
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view down the bunkers outside
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one of the many memorials around the camp

From there we went off to Italy which will be in another blog, thanks for reading!

York and London

York:

Cathedral in York
Cathedral in York

 

We planned on staying in York for two days to break up the city life of Edinburgh and London, but due to our Scotland mishap, we got cut down to one. I never had originally planned on visiting York, but my mom (world traveler) said how much she loved it and so I decided it was a must see place.

When we got there, we grabbed a taxi to our hostel. Our taxi driver was born and bred in York and had previously done bus tours around the area, so he took the opportunity to give us a brief history/tour on our ride. The town of York is enclosed by old roman walls and is absolutely gorgeous. It also has a lot of shops, a huge cathedral, and parks to hang out at. We spent most of the day on a walking tour of the town, but unfortunately cut that short due to rain. We decided to eat lunch inside and then went to the “York Chocolate Story” tour. This is a chocolate shop/museum where they basically claim chocolate was discovered. While I don’t quite believe that chocolate is all credited to York, it was a cute tour and we got a lot of free samples. That night in York, we took a ghost tour. Since it is such an old and historic town, they claim to have a lot of ghosts in the area. Our tour guide walked around ringing a bell and wore an all black cape. He was an older man and was absolutely hilarious. While it was titled ghost tour, it was much more funny than it was creepy and I loved every second of it.

While we only got one day in York, I did love the quaint feel and the beauty of the city. I would definitely not mind returning in the future because there is still so much to see and do! On Wednesday morning we caught our train to London!!

London:

London Eye
London Eye

When we arrived off our train at London Kings Cross, we were kind of at a stand still. We actually didn’t remember the name of out hostel besides that it was by Hyde Park because our other friend we were meeting had booked the room for us. We walked to a starbucks right next to the train station and used wifi really quick to look up the location. Moments like this make me so excited to be back in the states and have data again. We then decided to take the underground aka the Tube to Hyde Park because our hostel had Hyde Park in its name. Turns out, Hyde Park is HUGE!!! We ended up dragging our suitcases for at least 30 minutes through the park to our hostel door. Please do remember, I am traveling with a 50 pound suitcase and a stuffed backpack because I am a genius. So once we finally make it to the hostel and check in, they tell us that our room is up a few sets of stairs. I’m like “ok no big deal.” Actually HUGE deal. We were again, on the top floor which meant I was lucky enough to drag my suitcase up at least 6 flights of stairs. Let’s just say I am going to have great upper body strength by the end of this semester. By the time we had all settled in, we were exhausted and it was late in the afternoon so we went out to grab dinner and came back to crash.

This hostel in London was similar to the one in Edinburgh as far as the people I met go. The London hostel’s staff consisted of about 15ish people from all over the world just traveling or stopping through. It was such a fun environment and you could tell how close all of them had become as friends through the job. I talked to 2 boys from New Zealand who finished their degrees back home and then came over to travel and find work. I also talked to a girl from South Africa and a girl from Spain both looking for jobs as well as trying to see the world. They all had different stories and I was intrigued by their lives. Most people from the States have such a structured plan of going straight to college then straight to a job. Gap years and traveling are way more common over in the UK and Europe and I am trying to learn as much as I can from people who get to experience that way of life while I am here. I am sure I sounded like I was interviewing them at some points during conversation, but I can’t help how much it truly does fascinate me. I actually sent my dad a text that night saying if vet school didn’t work out I was coming to Europe to work in a hostel and travel.

Thursday and Friday in London were both spent exploring the city. I hate to say it, but we mainly did the top tourist attractions. If I had more time I would’ve love to experience more, but days go so quickly when you’re traveling. We saw the parliament buildings, Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guards, London Eye, Tower of London, Tower Bridge and more. On Thursday night I also ate a delicious dinner with two of my good friends from Indiana who have been living in London this semester!

The city uses a form of public transportation called the underground or the tube, which is similar to New York’s subways. I was intimidated by it the first time I rode on it to the hostel, but afterwards, I was obsessed with it. The tube is by far the easiest way to get around and is so quick and simple to learn and understand your way around a big city. The buildings in London are all gorgeous architecture and never gets old to look at, but if you do find yourself bored of the big city buildings, there are plenty of parks everywhere to get a nature fix. As I strolled through Hyde Park, it was easy to picture myself laying out reading or having a picnic, or playing with my dogs or biking and jogging. Even though Carmel raised me to love and appreciate the suburban and sometimes “country” lifestyle, visiting places like London or Paris (blog coming) make me feel like I could love the big city life as well. I have no doubt in my mind that I will be returning to London many times in the future throughout my life.

Friday night, we met up to head out to our ferry ride from the UK to mainland Europe. With that, my first full week of break had ended and I was ready for the next 2 weeks of adventures to come in Europe.

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Group on Tower Bridge
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Being Touristy

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Scotland

Friday March 20th started my 3 week long Easter Holiday from uni! While all my professors seemed to think this 3 week break was supposed to be for doing extensive scientific research for my papers due right after break, I actually used it all for adventuring.

Soooo, I left all my school notes behind and hopped a train at 4am on Friday to Scotland! The train ride was long and exhausting, but we arrived around 3pm in the city of Edinburgh! We got a taxi to our hostel and checked in before we began exploring.

Before I write about the city, I’ll just cover the living situation really quick. When I was first coming over to study abroad, the idea of hostels terrified me. I was nervous to sleep in some dirty bunk beds or cots on the ground surrounded by strangers who would steal my stuff. Turns out I’m an idiot because hostels are awesome. This particular hostel had a restaurant and bar on the first floor and was in walking distance of the city center. The room we booked at our hostel was a 8 bed female only dorm. The only down side of the hostel was that our room was on the top floor and there wasn’t a lift. For normal backpackers this is probably no big deal, however I am apparently what some may call “high maintenance.” I packed the smallest suitcase I brought, which probably weighed around 50 pounds or more, plus my backpack. Stairs were my enemy for the trip, but I survived!

The other girls in my room consisted of 2 girls who didn’t say a word, 2 rowdy girls from Ireland who came to watch the Six Nations Rugby championship match, and 1 backpacker from California. Although I only had a brief conversation with the Cali girl, I think she quickly became one of my biggest role models. Basically, she had a really great job working in finance banking stuff and then lost her job about 10 months ago. When she lost her job she packed up a backpack of her stuff and flew over to Europe. She has spent the past 10 months backpacking, couch surfing, and working in exchange for housing or cash just going with the flow. She has to return home in June because her best friend is getting married, otherwise she said she would stay because she isn’t ready yet. She also talked about how she doesn’t think she can go back to a boring finance job at a desk when her life has been so different and better than that for so long. I just find it so inspiring and amazing that someone can live like that for so long. It seems like it would be so liberating and freeing. I met other people much like her in London that I will talk about later on!

I know people love the quote “don’t run from your problems,” but it seems to work out pretty well sometimes. This girl leaving California after losing her job and of course, Simba leaving when his dad died are two classic examples of times it worked out perfectly! As for me, I feel like I am becoming so much happier with my life and my relationships as well as more independent while I am away. So really, run from your problems because I bet it will turn out way better than it’d be if you sat around dwelling on it.

Anyways, SCOTLAND:

After settling into the hostel, we were starving and set off to find somewhere to grab a dinner. We found a Scottish pub close to the hostel and went for that. I ordered salmon, but the two other girls I were with got Haggis. Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish that is basically the lungs and heart and whatever else is leftover from a sheep, all blended up and put inside an intestine lining. YUM! I tried a small bite and can say I will never be eating it again, but everyone should give it a try at least once if you’re in the country! After dinner we walked around the main shopping street of the city and looked in souvenir shops and other mainstream mall shops for awhile then headed off to the hostel for bed because the traveling all day was exhausting.

On Saturday we woke up bright and early at 7am to get ready for our bus trip up through the highlands to Loch Ness. On the way there, we stopped at a whiskey distillery and took a tour on how Whiskey is made in Scotland as well as got to try samples. I couldn’t even finish the samples because it burned my mouth so badly and I found out that I am definitely not a whiskey girl unfortunately. Driving through the highlands was cool because it’s a lot of mountains and lakes and overall gorgeous scenery. On the drive our tour guide shared stories of all the clans and wars that happened in the area throughout history. When we got to the loch, we grabbed lunch and then took a boat tour through Loch Ness in search of Nessie. While I didn’t see any sea monsters, the lake was beautiful and we had a perfect sunny day to enjoy the boat ride.

On Sunday we were back in Edinburgh and we took a walking tour of the city to get a better sense of where everything is located as well as to learn some of the history of the city! Our tour guide wore a kilt and made the tour super interactive and hilarious the whole time. After the tour we went to the Edinburgh castle and explored it with our same tour guide because we liked him so much. The castle is nothing like the ones I have seen in Wales. It was huge and the inside was practically its own village. There was a chapel, prison, restaurants, museum, chambers and crowned jewels in different rooms, and so much more. The castle is also an active military base for Scotland so there are army living quarters currently being used inside the castle, but you have to be in the military, or “going home” with someone in the military to see the insides. It was definitely my favorite castle I have been to so far. I am in awe that castles like this exist outside of fairytales, because it definitely felt like a dream to be inside of it. Saturday evening we explored the Royal Mile and went in shops and also grabbed dinner.

Monday, we were scheduled to leave Edinburgh and head to York, England for a couple days. We had a 6am train and so we were up and at the train station around 5am. About 20 minutes before our train left, one of the girls I was traveling with went to use the ATM and the machine ate her card. None of us knew at the time that once a machine eats your card it is gone for good. So as panic ensued, we were trying pay phones and station workers to get someone to fix the machine or get the card out of it. With all this happening, we missed our train to York and found ourselves stranded in the train station in Scotland. The next train tickets for the day were upwards of 60 pounds per ticket so we were like “no thanks” and opted to get the 20 pound tickets for Tuesday morning instead. We then called our hostel in York to let them know, but they told us we would still be charged for the night either way. We started then to joke about messaging our tour guide from the day before about staying at his place, but then jokes became reality.  Next thing I knew, I was on Facebook asking a stranger to let my friends and I sleep on his couch. Lucky for us he agreed and so we set off to meet him to drop our stuff off! He is a law student at Edinburgh and lives close to campus. We met up with him, dropped our stuff in his living room and he told us we could come back around 7ish after he was done with class. We were so lucky that he was kind enough to let us stay and the whole time we were there he was offering us coffee or anything and showed us a tour as well. Way beyond what is necessary for strangers in your home so it was amazing. We spent the day exploring the city and its parks and stores more and then met back up at night at tour guide’s place. That night we went to a pub and played a board game with him and his roomies then they helped us set up bed on the couches and we said our goodbyes. It was honestly probably one of the most fun and unpredictable events of my life, but I am so happy it worked out how it did and I will always cherish this memory and that night!

Tuesday morning we finally caught our train to York and I said “see you later” to Edinburgh.

When I was first heading to Scotland, I thought it would be a lot like any other city I had seen in the UK or Ireland so far and that it would be pretty rural and I would see a lot of sheep. Basically I wasn’t expecting to be too impressed or blown away. One thing that started to change my mind before I got there was my parents. Before I was born and basically most of my life, my parents did a ton of traveling either for vacation with each other or for work. Every single time I was left behind because seriously, who wants to drag a child around the UK/Europe? I never knew what I was missing out on though because I always got a cute stuffed animal upon their returns so I thought I was winning. Anyway, because of my parents extensive travels, everywhere I go they tell me what they loved about the city. Both my parents raved about Scotland the whole time up to me leaving. They told me it was “magical.” I wasn’t sure what to make of that until I saw for myself. Magical is actually the perfect word for Edinburgh. There is so much history there and you can see it on every building and monument and cemetery. There isn’t a single ugly building in the city and the architecture is beyond gorgeous. Words could never explain it, so I highly recommend everyone experience it one day for themselves!! The people of Scotland are all so genuinely nice, much like Ireland, except the Scottish have better accents! Another thing I loved about the city was that even though it has a city feel, it is so easy to figure out and get around. I used a map for Friday and Saturday, but by Sunday and Monday I felt totally at home and could get around no problem.

If you had asked me where I saw myself in 5 or 10 years before I came to Wales I knew exactly what I would say. I figured I would graduate school, go to vet school, and find my way back to Carmel, Indiana (I truly love Carmel). I knew what job I would be doing and what types of dogs I would have and where I would live. I figured I knew who I would be with and everything seemed so put together and planned. Thinking about that now I must have been insane. Besides the dogs part, I have no idea what I want in my life anymore or where I will end up. That is the best part about being here so far, and why I loved that California girl so much. Traveling is opening my mind and heart to so many people, experiences, and places. I can’t wait to see where I end up but I know it’ll be great. The cherry on top of it all is that Edinburgh has a vet school and I wouldn’t mind coming back for 4 years, or maybe even forever.

All my pictures are up on Facebook! The rest of my Easter Holiday travel blogs coming soon!! 🙂

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castle
castle