Wednesday, October 24

Fairytales & Castles

It’s just been one of those weeks, where you need to embrace the fairytales of life and visit a bunch of castles!! On Monday I decided to go see Warwick Castle. I hoped on a train in the morning and took off to Warwick. It was, as usual, an adventure with the train system. I’m slowly getting better at the whole train stuff here. 
The castle itself is definitely a Disneyfied castle, very theatrical with swords, jousting, costumed actors, dueling and music pumping in all around. It was a gorgeous castle however, very typical movie castle :) I spent the better part of the morning and afternoon there, got lunch, and then headed back to Stoke! It was quite a pleasant afternoon.
The following day, Tuesday, Bella & I traveled to Nottingham to see Nottingham Castle. We had breakfast at our little cafe like normal, yum, got lattes and got on the train for another day adventure. Nottingham Castle wasn’t exactly what we expected, we were expecting more like historical rooms and displays along with lots of Robin Hood stuff! However, Nottingham Castle was more like an art museum with stuff from Ancient Greek times to more modern exhibits. Nevertheless, we still had a good morning walking around the grounds of Nottingham Castle
After the castle we still had tons of time so we bummed around town and found a super chic antique tea room cafe! The place was a vintage antique store but they had a small cafe inside where we stopped for pie and tea, quite yummy. Complete with mixed-matched teacups and everything!!

Monday, October 22

Lost in London

This past weekend I went to London for the first time with my friend Bella. We left early on Saturday morning and caught a train into London and spent the rest of the two days exploring and getting lost in London. After falling asleep on the train because both of us were completely sleep-deprived, we made it into London about an hour and 1/2 later and hit the pavement. We found the hostel we were staying in, checked-in and dropped off our luggage and then headed towards Camden Lock. It was only about a 15-20 minute walk to the Market and along the way there were some very interesting booths and stores. Camden is definitely an eclectic area; I’ve never seen so many body piercings, dyed hair and odd makeup choices in one confined area. 
The market was super cool however, there was everything from jewelry to clothing to food and everything in between. You could just go through all the small alley ways and get lost in all the booths for hours honestly. The open food market was on the ground floor and there were dozens of people shoving food in our faces telling us to try this and that. We found a doughnut stand with these huge homemade doughnuts that looked incredible! We ended up breaking down and buying them for lunch!! Ha. 
After leaving the market we headed towards the heart of London to see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Parliament, and the London Eye. We walked through this big lush park after getting off the Underground and then suddenly you’re in front of Buckingham Palace. It was surreal to be in the place where the Royal Wedding took place! We missed the changing of the guards but two guards stood guard in front. The Queen was even in residence that day, as the flag was flying! I loved it :) 

Next on our stop was to see Big Ben and Parliament, however we got lost trying to find it! Wouldn’t you know it though, we stumbled across Westminster Abbey instead!! I was shocked at how small it was, because it seems so much bigger in pictures and on television; to the point where I didn’t really believe Bella when she said it was Westminster! Ha. But sure enough, it was Westminster and we had just ran across it. Unfortunately the tours were done for the day but we got to admire it from the outside. Then right down the road from that was Big Ben and we could even see the London Eye. Somehow we don’t plan these things very well but just magically stumble across things, which, I believe, is part of the grand adventure of traveling abroad.

That evening we headed towards Trafalgar Square, Leiciester Square and Oxford Street for some retail therapy and a good dinner. If I was ever to move to London, this is definitely the area I’d live in; it was alive with incredible night life, great shopping, awesome restaurants and bars and the streets were jammed with people…sometimes I felt like I was back in Time Square! 
SUNDAY! Sunday morning we woke up early and had a full English breakfast at a little cafe by our hostel and decided our plans for the day. We decided to go see the Tower of London, get afternoon tea, and then head back to Stoke before nightfall. The Tower of London was much more than I ever imagined it to be; in my mind it was literally a tower full of the Crown Jewels but the place was huge- it was literally like a small village inside stoned walls. The immense history behind these walls and towers was unimaginable; like seeing where Queen Anne Boelyn was beheaded! Eerie. My favorite part of the entire afternoon there was by far seeing the Crown Jewels! They were absolutely mesmerizing and beautiful. I couldn’t imagine wearing a crown that was dripping in diamonds and jewels from hundreds of years ago! Eek. 
After a quick stop to look at the Bridge, we went to have tea at some place we had found online which ended up being another incredible lost adventure; turns out some streets in London have one name on the left hand side and it’s another street on the right hand side; who knew! After a quick tea because we were so exhausted, we retrieved our luggage from the hostel and caught the afternoon train back to Stoke! It definitely won’t be my last time in London as there’s so much I didn’t get to see or do :) In fact, I plan on going back in about 2 1/2 weeks!! Ha. 

Thursday, October 18

Normalcy in England

Bonjour Everybody!!
There hasn’t been anything too exciting to blog about lately, just in the grind of school and life here in England. Lectures are in the fourth week, so things are finally starting to pick up. I had my first exam in French yesterday (Wednesday) which I believe. I absolutely love the French language, but it does not reciprocate my feelings sometimes; it’s much harder to become fluent than I thought it would be.
I’ve had all my other lectures and courses several times now and unfortunately I have to start writing essays, reading articles and actually doing work! You can tell I’m a senior as I have senioritis big time; it probably doesn’t help that I’m in a foreign country with such a severe case!! 
Tonight I’m going to Liverpool with a few girlfriends for dance which I’m stoked about! Then tomorrow I have salsa as usual, and it’s one of my flatmates 19th Birthday so we’re going out to celebrate!! Finally, Saturday morning Bella & I are headed off to London for the weekend, which I can’t wait to go to! London :) It’ll be a short weekend in London but it’s going to be a great little taste of London city life. 
It’s been absolutely lovely weather here as well lately. The leaves are changing colors and falling to the ground, the wind is turning brisk, and we’re finally emerging out of the rainy season. I love it!!

Friday, October 12

Gangsters & Flappers

Wednesday was commenced by a day of French, including an announcement that our first exam is on this upcoming Wednesday…fantastic. Let’s just say I barely know any French besides what little I retained from high school which was basically how to order/eat and spend money in French; so this should be quite an interesting exam. I need to actually study it sounds like, oh joy. I guess I’ll have to go buy the textbook and have a good ol’ fashion cram session over this weekend. 
Wednesday evening I went out for for my first official social with Dancesport and my first Fresher’ Student Union night, Fancy Dress night which was “Gangsters & Flappers” night. For those Americans out there, “Fancy Dress” basically means dress up in costumes…so instead of the Halloween Costume store, you’d go to the Fancy Dress Store. Thanks to my lovely friends, I got dolled up as a flapper and went and spent a very fun, yet interesting, night out :) 

Thursday, October 11

You Have Bewitched Me, Body & Soul & I Love Thee

One of the things I was looking forward to most while I was in England was exploring the areas that Jane Austen wrote so romantically about in all her novels. I am absolute hopeless romantic and I can’t believe I’m in the places she wrote about so many years ago. Bella, thank goodness, is just about as obsessed as I am so when the idea was brought up to visit “Pemberly” a.k.a Mr. Darcy’s House this past week, we both jumped on the idea. So on Thursday morning we woke up before the sunrise and caught a train to Chesterfield! It was another episode of Trains, Planes and Automobiles to actually arrive at Chatsworth House “Pemberly”, as online it made it sound so easy to navigate but in reality it was way out in the Peak District and it once we arrived at the train station we learned it was still like 15-20 miles away. However, once we got there it was absolutely breathtaking and totally worth the pain to get out there!
I can’t even explain how beautiful the house was; it was incredibly breathtaking and absolutely surreal that I was actually there. The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire have always, and currently do still reside at the Chatsworth House, so the house had been kept and restored to a historically accurate perception of the era. The carving work, the cathedral ceilings, the frescos and murals were beautiful. One of my favorite parts of the house was the grande dining room which was a deep burgundy color with fresh, crisp white accents and some of the most dazzling chandeliers I’ve ever seen.
Then we explored the gardens which went on for acres and acres. Statues and artwork dotted the landscape amongst the lakes and waterfalls along with quaint hide-away spots high up in the trees. Between the distant smell of burning wood, the vibrant colors of autumn leaves, and the brisk breeze- I truly felt like autumn had arrived; and there I was, smack dab in the middle of Pemberly to experience it :) 

Monday, October 8

Cheesy Chips & Cider!!!

After all…that’s what British people eat right?!
Today was another great adventure of Bella & Katlin getting lost in England! I’ve figured out the best way to find where you’re going is to get lost; you meet the most fascinating people and see some of the places you’d never imagine you’d see! Our original destination point was the Wedgewood Museum somewhere around here in town but that was an epic fail and some how we ended up in Hanley. We gave up on the Wedgewood idea and just settled for some pottery museum that someone on the street pointed out. Ha!
When we got to the Pottery Museum we were so confused, thinking it was a museum about pottery- no. It was a history museum to the area called “the potteries” which included a taxidermy exhibit, a WWI/WWII exhibit, Titanic exhibit and a bunch of random other stuff. Honestly, we had a good time just goofing off inside because it was so quiet. It had some of the weirdest stuff inside! We did end up seeing a few pieces of Wedgewood however, so the day wasn’t a total bust.
Afterwards we went back to Newcastle to find a pharmacy because Bella has been sick for two weeks nearly, and the nurse/doctor she saw just told her to suck on some hard candy and drink lots of tea (only in England right?) so she was determined to find something for her cold. We found “Boots” which is kind of like a CVS I suppose, except all the consultants wore these funny tunic things that looked like something from “Back to the Future” in their interpretation of 2012. 
At this point it was almost 6:00 and neither of us had eaten much for the day so we set off to find dinner. Ended up at a pub with a oh-so-nutricious-meal of Cheesy Chips & Cider! However, I feel much warmer now :) 

Sunday, October 7

Trip to York

After the horrific and yet hilarious 4-hour bus ride to York, Bella and I finally made it! We literally hit the pavement running as we only had four or five short hours in York at this point, as we had already decided to catch a train back to Stoke because we couldn’t take another 4-hour bus ride with the crazy girl and the multitudes of Asians who didn’t speak English. We literally laughed for 10-minutes straight about the entire situation.
York was beautiful, picturesque, and just how I imagined it. The city walls wrapped around the historic center and once you walk through the small cobble archways it’s like you’re immediately transported back in time. The streets had cobblestone roads, buildings with exposed timbers and thatched roofs, old street lights that at one time gave an eerie glow to the town, and old mercury-glass windows. It was unbelievable. The buildings were so close and literally felt like they were closing in around you. 
After walking around the streets of historic York, we made our way to York Minister. Wow. It’s my first cathedral I’ve ever been to, so I can check that off my bucket list! It was magnificent; the Gothic architecture, the steeple, the immense carving work was just incredible to see and experience. We bought our tickets and toured the main floors of the Minister, including some of the graves which were eerie and romantic at the same time. We also bought a ticket to tour the tower, which honestly we had no idea what that was at the time! We had almost 2-hours before the tour started so we left the Minister and decided to go explore York some more.
The streets were bustling with people, violinists, a cover band of Mumford & Sons, and random street singers. There were people everywhere and there was the coolest juxtaposition between modernity and historic charm. We walked in so many shops and stores that were just way too cute. We wandered into this gorgeous park where it was complete with English roses and pigeons everywhere and old ruins from something way back when. We almost got attacked my pigeons flying because they fly so low!
While we were in the park we even saw a wedding party, the groom and groomsmen had  coattails and were chauffeured by a 1920’s cream car that was too adorable. The bride and bridal party’s carriage was a vintage red double-decker bus decorated in white flowers. It was an absolutely perfect day for a wedding, with beautiful weather and a beautiful backdrop.
We left the park to head back to York Minister for our tour and on the way we stopped at a carvery for a proper carved sandwich lunch! I honestly don’t even know what it was I ate but it was somewhat decent; the fact that I didn’t really know what it was kind of makes me queasy but I’m still alive so that’s fine!
The tour to the tower was incredible!! We really had no idea what the tower tour was, but it turned out to be that you climb to the very tipy-top of the cathedral. It was hundreds and hundreds of tiny narrow steps but it was worth every moment because the view from the top was absolutely incredible. I can’t even explain the feeling of standing on top of a historic and beautiful structure that is so steeped in stories, both religious and non-religious…it’s a very calming and serene experience; I literally felt like I was standing on top of the world. After spending time at the top, we had to return to earth and started descending the steep staircase. As Bella and I were walking down the steps, the most beautiful music started filling up the small space. It danced and swirled around us, the angelic voices of a choir and the booming and stately sounds of an organ. It was absolutely magical and some surreal. We sat down in the pews of York Minister and listened to the choir for about 30 minutes before we forced ourselves to leave and head for afternoon tea at Betty’s famous tea room.
Betty’s team room had a line out the door all day, so we figured it would be a good place to have tea. We didn’t have to wait too terribly long before we got a table, but we were so nackered (tired in British, ha) that we just wanted to sleep. Tea was fine, except for the fact that I accidentally sent the container of sugar cubes clattering to the grown which turned the entire tea room silent for a moment! The woman next to us rolled her eyes and said “Americans” under her breath!! If I wasn’t soo tired I probably would have death-glared her! Our tea was yummy, and with that we ended our day in York and caught a train back to Stoke-on-Trent!
It was an absolutely beautiful day.

Dancing the Weekend Away

It’s been a dancing-kind of weekend, which is how I’d love to spend every single weekend if I could. On Thursday I went with my three new salsa-family friends to Liverpool to this cool salsa club-bar and danced the night away in a very Havana-Cuban-like style club; I loved it. Liverpool is about an hour away, so we got back to town around three in the morning, and I had to be up for a lecture on Friday morning. I knew I’d be sore and tired, but it was absolutely worth it.
Friday! Officially the weekend. I had my history seminar and although we even got done early, I swear it was the longest 45-minutes of my life; I didn’t think he’d ever stop talking. However, the professor is absolutely precious!! He is so British, I can’t even stand it. He is a short, white, balding man with an adorable British accent and wears circular-spectacles that have a slight tint of yellow. The class is Anglo-Saxon England History which, hopefully, will be interesting because he is obviously very passionate about the subject! However, the seminar was enough to send me off into dreamland. Friday afternoon was spent working on much neglected reading until I had to go to salsa lessons that evening. Can I just say, that I really do love the salsa family- they’ve all been so kind and welcoming and are absolutely CRAZY but it makes everything just that much better. In salsa the instructor taught the basic steps and we attempted a rueda dance which, how do I explain it, kind of like circular salsa dancing with other couples. My beautiful friends, Jaz and Yas taught the classes and I think they did beautifully!
Then at the last minute I decided to go with some of the gang to a salsa club that evening in Manchester, as this particular club only hosts something like three times a year. We ran out of salsa lessons, hopped in the cars, and off we went. I really think half of the fun with the salsa gang is the drives there-and-back, because they have some of the funniest stories to tell; plus they try to help me speak “English”. It was another great night of salsa and another late night (or early morning, depending on how you put it) at 4 a.m.
Saturday morning was epically rough, as I had a bus ticket leaving at 8 a.m. for York! Ugh, after 3 hours of sleep I groggily got up at 7 and somehow managed to look presentable, walk to campus, and catch the bus with my friend Bella for a day in York. HOWEVER, what they neglected to tell us was that although York is roughly about a 2-hour drive, it would take the bus 4 hours to get there because they stop half-way through for a 45-minute break at some random rest area. Bella and I couldn’t believe that we were sitting in a random rest area in the middle of England when we were supposed to be in York! Luckily we both partially slept on the bus, no thanks to the obnoxious girl three rows up who kept saying “Give me any word, and I can make it dirty in a different language”; after four hours I think both of us were ready to get off that bus!

Friday, October 5

Salsa Weekend

Good morning everyone!! It was an absolutely beautiful morning walk to the gym this morning at half past seven; the sun was just starting to take away the dew on the ground, I swear every bird in the countryside was singing, and there wasn’t a soul in sight. It was definitely a brisk morning walk to the gym, but it felt refreshingly good. The dew was still saturating the ground, and nature was just stirring, even the cows in the pasture were moving slowly this morning. If I could have picked a song to play at that particular moment it would have been the composition “Dawn” from the 2005 adaption of Pride & Prejudice. It was perfectly tranquil and still.
This afternoon I had a lecture, UN Politics, and now I’m waiting for the seminar to begin. Needless to say, I am one of the only Americans in the course and it is quite funny to hear their interpretation of the United State’s role in the UN, government, and just ‘Americans’ in general…I think I’ll keep my lips sealed :) 
Oh, yesterday I spent the afternoon in Hanley and Newcastle with Bella, and we had a delightful late-lunch at some cute cafe in Newcastle. Then we went to PRIMARK, which is kind of like an H&M clothing store and to Wilkinsons, a Target-type store. I finally bought a lamp for my bedroom and a few things to make it more cozy, quite exciting!
This afternoon I plan on heading into Newcastle to buy some essential items such as a “Keep Calm and Eat a Cupcake” poster and a local cell phone so I can actually get in contact with other British students! Afterwards I’m planning on cooking one of my first meals since I’ve arrived in England- grilled salmon on a bed of arugula with a balsamic dressing. I’ve discovered that I can not solely exist on pita, peanut butter, and apples so at my parents insisting I forget about how ridiculously expensive it is to eat here and buy real food. Everyone in my block cooks all the time though- even the boys, and like it’s GOOD food. Spaghetti bolognese, beef-and-broccoli stir fry, homemade pies, fajitas, stew and soups…like these boys really know how to cook, it’s quite fascinating. We end up spending most of our time in the kitchen, just hanging out anyways, so it works out nicely. I tried my first Banoffee Pie yesterday courtesy of Liam and it was absolutely delicious. Banoffee is kind of a combination a banana cream pie and banana fosters; quite delicious. 
Tonight kicks off my salsa dancing weekend and I’m already stoked! I’m going to be dancing the weekend away by kicking off my time in Liverpool. I’ll be staying close to university tomorrow night, heading to Birmingham on Saturday, and then to Stoke on Sunday. Can’t wait to get my dancing shoes on :)

Thursday, October 4

Lunch at a cafè in historic Newcastle #england #studyabroad #lunch #cafe #lunch #newcastle

Tuesday, October 2

Cup of tea, Florence & the Machine, reading textbooks!  (Taken with Instagram)
Cupper, Florence & The Machine and reading textbooks #keele #tea #england

Professors & a Pot of Tea

Classes have begun at Keele and it’s time to, unfortunately, get back into school-mode. The class structure here is really different than back in the States. Typically I’d have the same classes on Monday-Wednesday-Friday at the same time every day, for 50 minutes and then the same classes on Tuesday-Thursday. Here at Keele I only meet in my class once a week for an hour or two depending on the course. Also they’re called “lectures” and not “classes” like in the States; and then a few of my classes have seminars/tutorials later in the week which just sound like small-intimate classes with a ‘tutor’. Honestly, although we all speak English there aren’t many words that are the same between English and American-English :) I’m always looking for a translation from someone, but I absolutely love it! I hope to return to the States with a quite posh British accent. 
My professors are absolutely adorable as well. They’ve all worn button-up shirts and jackets and the British accent just makes them sound that more intelligent. Sometimes though, I completely zone out, I’m literally lulled by the sound of male British voices so I need to concentrate on focusing in class :) However, all my classes seem to be going well thus far, I already have lots of reading to do for my lectures so I need to get on top of that here soon. I’m sitting in “La Cafe” which is the coffee shop in one of my buildings because I have a 2-hour break in between my Tuesday classes, so I’m going to get a cupper and force myself to start reading my oh-so-interesting International Relations textbook (boo). 

Monday, October 1

Happy October!

It’s the first day of October; time for jeans, sweatshirts, falling leaves, hot cider, smores and bonfires! Time to bring on the flavors of fall! 
This past weekend has been a whirl-wind of stuff and I’m so exhausted this morning I could barely keep my eyes open in my lecture. Yesterday I went to a fencing taster session or “sample class” to see if I’d be interested in it. It was definitely a really cool and unique thing to do while I’m in England. We learned the three different types of weapons, the basic steps and stance and then suited up in the ‘kit’ complete with a mask and practiced some basic fencing moves. I’m going to be honest, the outfit smelled disgusting and I could almost feel my skin trying to crawl off my body! It was definitely a fun way to start Sunday morning… but I would have enjoyed it more if I would’ve gotten more than 4 hours of sleep the previous night, woo. The rest of my Sunday was spent vegging at L-block editing pictures, blogging, skyping friends back in the States and hanging out with everyone in the kitchen. 
Yesterday evening a few people form L-block wanted to go to Sneyd Arm’s pub in town, which quickly turned into a 14 person party. We all couldn’t fit in Sneyd Arm’s so someone made the executive decision to go to a pub in Newcastle. Once we waited on the ridiculously slow running buses and got to Newcastle, no one could decide where to go so we ended up walking around Newcastle for 40-minutes in the rain, ha. Finally we ended up in some pub just out of pure hunger. Can I just say, I love my block-mates? We are like one big dysfunctional family that somehow works together. It’s amazing all of us get along! I went to bed way too late and had to get up way too early this morning, and that was plum painful.
Today is the first day of classes for me, but it is also the LAST first day of my undergraduate degree. I can’t believe I’m going on my 4th year of college already, it doesn’t even seem real. I had one lecture at 9 a.m. and I have a second one at 11 a.m. and then I’m done for the day, totally different than the States, eh? Classes seem pretty straightforward right now, so here’s hoping the rest of them go well!