Monday, November 26

Date night with the best !! #date #pottery #paint #friends

Sunday, November 25

To Be or Not To Be...

This past weekend my friend and I travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon to get in touch with our Shakespearian side of life! Stratford was an incredibly charming area with Tudor-style buildings and houses dotting the countryside and the village. Plus they had just turned on the Christmas lights the night before we arrived, so the entire town looked so cheerful with the Christmas spirit. They had lights strung everywhere, Christmas trees, Santa’s and all sorts of Christmas decorations hung. 
On Friday evening we knew everything would be closing soon after we arrived so we decided to get a nice dinner and go see a movie instead. We had an incredibly delicious steak dinner that evening with great drinks and appetizers. The restaurant was an old Tudor-building and we ate upstairs in the timbers by candlelight: talk about absolutely perfect! We sat there and talked for hours eating incredible food…oh and for dessert we split a lemon-raspbeery cheesecake and a pear-apple tart. After a great evening we walked to the Picturehouse (yes it’s not the movie theater, cinema, or theater…it was the picturehouse); which was a vintage-style movie theater with assigned seating, food and drinks bar and only three screens!! We saw James Bond: Skyfall (although I’d already seen it) and it was absolutely fantastic- loved it! That evening we returned to the inn we were staying in and got to watch, wait for it- TELEVISION! Yes. Never realized how long I hadn’t watched TV until I was actually watching “Ellen” and “FoodTV”; it was brilliant.
The next morning we started off right by having a full-English breakfast at our Inn. Straight after we headed into town to the Shakespeare Center and Birthplace where we got tickets to tour Shakespeare’s birthplace home. The home was actually extremely nice with adorable Tudor features and lots of room (for back then at least). It was cool seeing so many artifacts from William himself. 
Next we headed to the Nash House, which is the home in which William’s daughter Susannah and her husband Dr. Nash lived in. There was also a Christmas market going on that day and a small elementary school had come to serenade the crowd with Christmas carols: it was so precious! The house was decorated for Christmas, crackling fires in the hearth, and then the sweet angelic voice of children drifted through the house: adorable!
Our next stop was Holy Trinity Church which is where William Shakespeare’s is buried. The Church was gorgeous with beautiful stone work and carving work as usual. It had started to rain at this point and gave a somber mood to the Church; quite fitting actually. Oh, and one cool aspect is that they had a Tudor-dress up section inside of which, of course, we had to dress up! We then made our way down the long aisle towards the front of the Church where Shakespeare and his family is buried: his wife, daughter, and son-in-law all lay. It was surreal to think that one of the world’s greatest writers lay to rest right in front of my feet!!
Finally, we went to the house where William Shakespeare died, or what is left of it actually! It was actually demolished over a hundred years ago by a disgruntled and poor owner of the house, so they are still doing excavation of the area! Afterwards we bummed around town and did some shopping before having afternoon tea at a cozy and apparently, famous, tea room. Tea was quite yummy and definitely warmed us up a bit before we had to brave the rain again to catch a train back to Stoke! It was a great little trip :)  
Tea in Stratford #tea #teatime #stratford #england #travel #studyabroad

Saturday, November 24

Getting in touch with my Shakespearian side #stratford #shakespeare #travel #studyabroad #england @bellasumer

Friday, November 23

Dinner with Bella #bestfriend #dinner #delicious #england #travel @bellasumer

Thursday, November 22

Happy Thanksgiving from Across the Pond

Happy Thanksgiving everyone from across the pond! I’ve spent all day doing exactly what I love the most, being in the kitchen! Bella and I woke early and got ourselves to the market to pick up the things we needed to make a Thanksgiving meal for all of our friends in our flat. Did I mention that means we’re cooking for at least 18 people?! 
In case we didn’t already know, we are in England and they basically don’t have any of the same stuff as we do back in the States: pumpkin pie- yeah right; cranberry sauce- nope; French’s onions for green bean casserole- ha! However, I think it’s kind of fun not to have the same familiar stuff…that means we had to improvise! I thought it was quite ingenious of me to substitute French’s fried onions for bread crumbs if I do say so myself. No pumpkin pie here- we’re having apple carmel crumble, chocolate cake, and “fizzy” jello whatever that is :) 

I am thankful today for this incredible opportunity my family has given me to be studying abroad this semester. They’ve been an incredible support system to me at home and abroad, I couldn’t ask for a better family…not many people’s family would fly over to visit them while they’re abroad; and I was lucky enough to have my cousin and my mum come over! I’m also thankful for my great group of friends here in England who have become some of my closest friends in the world. They don’t care that I’m obsessed with British culture, am searching for Mr. Darcy and have an incredibly posh accent..they still love me the same. It has been one incredibly blessed year full of experiences I never would have thought I’d be able to have a year ago.
So here’s to a wonderful family, incredible friends, a blessed life, and lots of yummy food! 

Saturday, November 17

Keele Salsa Extravaganza

Last night was our Keele Salsa Extravaganza, where I did my first ever salsa performance with the girls. Eek! 

Friday, November 16

Tea at Chatsworth Estate #tea #teatime #england #travel #afternoon
Tea at Chatsworth Estate #tea #teatime #england #travel #afternoon

Mum's Visit: Chesterfield

Our last and final day together was spent in Chesterfield, going to see Chatsworth House which is also the house of Mr. Darcy’ (“Pemberly”) in the 2005 adaption of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. It was a bittersweet day, as mum and Kelly were leaving the following morning. However, we enjoyed our time at Pemberly. It was decorated for Christmas, or shall I say a pantomime Christmas. It was so odd, I had no idea what was going on at first- ha! Although the house was decorated, it was still cool to see it in such a festive season. There was also a Christmas Market going on outside in the garden areas which we had no idea was going on, so there were Christmas carols being played, lots of people bustling around, food and tons of gifts and shopping to be done. 
We toured the house first and then went to the stables where we had made reservations for afternoon tea in the Chatsworth Restaurant. Tea was good, the food tasted delicious, and it was nice to be able to sit and relax after days of running around. Afterwards, just in time to watch the sunset, we head out to the gardens and got to see the beautiful house glow in the warm setting sunlight. We walked around the gardens for a bit before it got pitch black and we had to manage our way back to the main house to catch a taxi to our hotel.
It was our last night together in England, which was sad, however I thoroughly enjoyed all our time together, and I feel so blessed and fortunate enough to have family who would stop their lives for a week and come and visit me :) I loved every moment and miss them terribly already! 

Wednesday, November 14

Mum's Visit: Bath

The next stop on our journey through England was Bath. I joked that we were just on a Jane Austen tour of England at this point, since she famously moved to England with her family a few years before her father passed away. First off, we stayed at the most beautiful Inn; the Kennard Inn which was literally just a three-minute walk to the center of town. It was a Regency-style Inn complete with chez lounges, gorgeous drapes, chandeliers, and a too-die-for dinning room where they served us a formal English breakfast with fine china, French press coffee, incredible tea and delicious home cooked food.
We only had one day in Bath before we had to head north to Chesterfield, so we tried to hit most of the highlights. First we went to Bath Abbey and did the tower tour, which took us to the very top of Bath Abbey and gave us a fantastic 360 view of Bath. Then we went and toured the Roman Baths which, talk about absolutely magnificent, are so incredibly old it’s hard to fathom. Plus the fact that the Roman Baths went undiscovered for so long is quite remarkable. The details that went into the baths is unbelievable, it’s hard to believe that these have existed for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Afterwards we hopped on a double-decker bus and did a hop-on-hop-off tour of the rest of Bath because I was bound and determined to ride a red double decker bus before I left England. Ha. Anyways, we got out and walked around The Circus, the Royal Crescent, we stopped at the Jane Austen Museum and the gift shop for a bit, and then literally just walked around, shopped and explored Bath. Bath had incredible shopping!! We absolutely enjoyed every single moment of our time there. That evening, after all the shopping was done and the tours were closed, we ate dinner at this extremely old pub where Charles Dickens actually stayed and ate when he was writing the Pickwick Papers! Talk about history. Oh, and for dessert we stopped at Sally Lunn’s, the oldest house in Bath, and got one of the famous Sally Lunn’s buns to go…which was quite yummy I might add. Bath was gorgeous beyond words, and let’s just say I will definitely be looking for a job in Bath after I graduate this spring!!

Tuesday, November 13

Mum's Visit: Jane Austen

For those of you who know me, you know how much my mum and I are absolutely obsessed with Jane Austen and all things Jane Austen. Ever since I was little, I have wanted to go to England and see where Jane Austen lived and wrote. Well, twenty-one years later I finally got to do just that! Mum booked us a Jane Austen tour :) The tour was based out of Basingstoke, which is kind of in between London and Bath. 
We went all over the countryside of Hampshire to explore the early years that shaped Jane Austen into the writer she became. We started off in Basingstoke and saw some of the estates and places Jane Austen went and danced, dined and explored when she lived there. The Manydown House of the Biggs and Big-Withers, Hackwood Park of the Boltons, Kempsholt Park, Oakley Hall of the Bramstons, and Ashe Park. We also got to see the church her father preached at, Steventon Rectory…and the big tree outside DOES exist! We also went to other churches in the area that held connections to the Austens such as Ashe Rectory and the place where her mother and sister were buried. We also saw the land that her father owned and where the house she was born in once stood, which has long been demolished. 
We ate lunch at a local pub that Phil brought us to, which was absolutely delicious and quaint. There was a fire going, which was lovely because it was incredibly cold outside that day! The food was fresh and locally grown, and all the people were so kind and warm. After lunch we headed just about 5 miles down the road to the Jane Austen House Museum. I’ve read so many books where they talk about this place, and to be there was so odd. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel real. Anyways, we explored the house and got to see some of the incredible artifacts that are still left from Jane Austen’s family! Her writing desk was the most incredible thing of all. The physical desk that she wrote so many of her famous novels was right there in the room. Surreal. 
The Jane Austen tour was probably one of my favorite days of our trip, just because I had been looking forward to this for so long; and I was so thankful that I got to experience it with my mum. We have been reading her books and watching the movies for so many years; sitting on the couch with candles and homemade carmel corn…and now we got to experience the actual places she lived, danced and loved in. It was an absolutely magical day. 

Sunday, November 11

Mum's Visit: London

Friday morning we had to rise before the sun to get ourselves up, out and ready to catch a train to London first thing. The wife at the bed & breakfast was absolutely precious and prepared us a delicious breakfast which we had to scarf down to catch a taxi to the train station. We had four days in London and we wanted to get as much done as possible!
Day 1: Our train rolled into Euston station and we took the underground to Camden Lock area which is where we were staying. Dropping our luggage, we hit the pavement to start off our whirlwind time in London- straight to the Tower of London. We did a Yeoman tour which was hilarious and yet very informative, our guide was quite cheeky! We even got to go into the chapel where Queen Anne Boleyn was buried, which I didn’t get a chance to do last time I was there. We saw inside White Tower, the Bloody Tower, and of course, the Crown Jewels which were stunningly spectacular. The sun was setting as we left the Tower of London and headed to take pictures of the Tower Bridge which was illuminated blue. Grabbing our first Starbucks of the trip, we just sat and reflected on the day, chit-chatted, and tried to figure out what to do that evening. We finally decided on going to the London Eye. The Eye was a great experience, you could see for miles around London and it really showed you how large the city was. Not sure what was going on, but fireworks popped up in the sky all around us which was fun. After that, we wanted to cross over the river and see Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster by night. While we were over there, we stopped in at this beautiful looking pub that was right across from Parliament. The food was delicious, and they had my brand of favorite apple ‘cider’, so we were all quite happy and full by the end of the night. 
Day 2: We started off our day with a trip to Notting Hill to visit the Portobello Market. The Market was fantastic, which antique dealers, food shops, jewelry stores, typical “London” stores, and so forth. There were street performers and singers on the street that added to the atmosphere. We ended buying several treasures and bumming around most of the morning. We stopped off in Notting Hill town center for a Starbucks, yum, and then stopped in a couple of adorable stores on the way. We were so close to Kensington Palace, we decided that we’d walk to Hyde Park and then go tour the Palace. Kensington was beautiful, and the fact that Queen Victoria grew up there, Princess Diana lived there, and now William & Kate are going to be residing there…well it was surreal to visit. After closing Kensington down, we took the underground to the fabulous Harrod’s to go to the Laudree for tea. Harrod’s was absolutely stunning and extravagant; I’ve never seen so many designer names under one roof. Laudree was such an experience, and we all got to share some delicious sweets. We dotted around town for a bit, seeing all the Christmas lights of Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, and Oxford Circus before heading back towards Camden Lock for dinner. We went to this chic Italian restaurant which had incredible authentic Italian food. Yum!
Day 3: Sunday was our day for a small outing from London city: Windsor Castle. Windsor was one of my favorite parts of our London trip. It was absolutely grand and stately, definitely worthy of royalty. The interior was stunning, beautiful furnishings, lush fabric panels, grand fireplaces, breath-taking chandeliers…it was definitely worth the trip out to Windsor! I found it incredible that the Queen still resides at Windsor and parties and holidays are still thrown in those very rooms. It was quite cold that day, probably one of the coldest days there; so after spending several hours walking through Windsor we wanted a warm lunch or tea. We ended up at the Drury House, which was established in 1645. There was a blazing fire in the fireplace and the interior was old and charming. We got to have a traditional Sunday Carvery and tea, which was lovely :) Afterwards we bummed around town which had tons of shops and places to see before heading back into London for the night.
Day 4: Our final day in London was literally a jam-packed day, where we had to finish everything we hadn’t seen yet. First things first, we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral and got to experience the opulence of St. Paul’s. The Cathedral was stunning, there aren’t many other ways to explain it other than that. After St. Paul’s we went to Westminster Abbey. If any of you know me, you know how much I love William & Kate…so the fact that I was walking down the same aisle she walked down to become Princess Catherine…eek! I loved every moment of it. Talk about a surreal experience. Next we went down to Green Park and walked through the park to Buckingham Palace and got to experience that. Then finally, to end our time in London we had high tea at Kensington Palace in the Oragnery. It was a peaceful and relaxing way to end our pavement-pounding weekend in London.