1. Visiting the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh2. Heading down to Florida3. Kayaking in gator infested water! Quite the thrilling experience 4. Post Kayaking Photo Love, Rachel
Just this morning I arrived back in London from an extended weekend trip to Scotland. I have an InterVarsity friend, Joe Adams, who is studying at the University of Edinburgh, so it was great to travel up there, catch up with him. I stayed with a friend of his, in a flat of five girls studying at the University of Edinburgh. I took the overnight bus from London on Thursday night, and arrived in Edinburgh around 8:00 a.m. the next morning.
Day 1: I grabbed a cup of coffee, and immediately began touring the Royal Mile. Edinburgh is a gorgeous city, with its old town almost completely composed of old stone buildings. Edinburgh was particularly cold that morning, and it began to snow, so I ducked into the National Scottish Museum and absorbed the Scottish history for a few hours before braving the cold again, and finishing up the rest of the Royal Mile. I also visited Edinburgh’s modern art galleries, but wasn’t too impressed. Living in London, with museums like the Tate Modern has definitely spoiled me.
Day 2: The next morning Joe, Johann (a friend of Joes), and I were up bright and early, heading to Ben Lomond, a 3,196 foot tall mountain near the bottom of the Scottish Highlands. The hike was 7 miles, and an absolutely gorgeous trek, the entire way up. Below is a picture of me at the top. Victorious! After our hike, I experienced true Scottish food: haggis, neeps, and tatties. The haggis wasn’t bad at all, but there were a few interesting crunches.
Day 3: Another early morning, but this time to catch a bus for a day tour up to Loch Ness. It was nice for my legs to have a rest after the big hike the day earlier. On our way up to Loch Ness, we stopped many times for the views, including the breathtaking view of Scotland’s greatest glen, Glen Coe. Scotland is a very orange country, and the leaves are still turning, so the ride was just incredible. I also visited Loch Ness, which I may or may not have wanted to see based solely on this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XCl3tPSgIA. The bus tour was filled with stories from our bus driver about Scotland’s history, and a lovely “bed time” story about the brutal battles between Highland clans.
Day 4: Monday morning got off to a nice slow start, and after breakfast and a cup of tea, I met up with an Australian fellow who had sat beside me on the bus the day before. He was also travelling through Edinburgh, and when I told him of my plans to hike Arthur’s Seat, in the center of Edinburgh, the next day, he decided to join. The hike up Arthur’s seat was only an hour round trip, but lent a wonderful view of Edinburgh. After the hike I settled into a cafe to get some homework done. I went back to the flat that I had been staying in for dinner, and enjoyed a chatty, laughter filled evening with the Scottish and Northern Irish girls living in the flat. Their hospitality was above and beyond, as they made sure my belly was always warm with tea, and my bed warm with a hot water bottle (my new favourite thing, by the way!) I feel very blessed to have spent a few days getting to know those girls.
Spent another rainy day in London. This time I indulged my girly side and went to the Victoria and Albert Museum and visited its jewelry and fashion exhibits. So fun! There was also a post WW1 furniture display, which is where the chairs are from. After visiting the V & A, I meandered through some of the ritzier shops in Chelsea and Kensington. Lots of unique home and furniture stores, which I just think are great! I then toured Britain’s Science Museum, got to see some displays on the development of health care and medicine throughout time.
Chairs for your viewing pleasure
British Quirk: The cheddar cheese here is white. whaaaat?
Having completed a few successful weekend trips around Europe, I am beginning to learn how to travel smarter (cheaper, carrying less, and more enjoyably). Over the course of my trip, I want to compile a list of travelling tips, mostly to help me remember how to travel well, but also to help out fellow travellers. So here are a few ideas that have helped out so far:
1. Pack your lunch! The ten-year-old in me, who always wanted to eat out during field trips really cringes at this one. But when the exchange rate in Europe is as miserable as it is, packing food saves almost half of the travelling cost! And i’m not kidding. A great alternative to packing lunch is finding the markets. Food in markets gives you a good taste of local food, but is typically much cheaper than eating at restaurants. I had some delicious Middle Eastern food in London’s Bricklane market last week. Lamb, feta, spinach…yummy.
2. Load up your Ipod. Or Ipad, or Kindle. My travelling has included alot of inbetween time. 2 hour bus rides, 1 hour waiting for a plane, etc. I have found my ipod to be really handy, as it is chock full of games, music, podcasts, and my bible! When I spend the whole day carrying my belongings on my back, the last thing I want to carry is a heavy book, so an ipod is a great compromise.
3. Bring a waterbottle/mug. This is a big money sucker if you don’t. I make coffee in the morning before I go anywhere, saves about 3 pounds (5 dollars!) each time.
4. Pack clothes minimally. I am writing this specifically for my sister, Kate. Just kidding. But it’s amazing how little you really need. I pack leggings, rather than sweatpants to sleep in, which is a huge space saver. I travel with one pair of shoes, the ones I wear. In my backpack are necessary undergarments, long sleeve tees, one pair of jeans, and travel size hygiene supplies. My back really appreciates the minimalism.
5. Find out what you like, and do it. When you travel, find your niche. Whether it’s art museums, historic sites, the great outdoors, or restaurants. While I was in Ireland, I realized how much I really wanted to see more of Europe’s countryside, so i’m tailoring my future traveling to do so.
This past weekend, I spent Friday hiking the Cliffs of Dover with a new, good friend. Dover is on the Southeast edge of England, and you can actually see France from the cliffs, which is really cool. We were blessed with a gorgeous, sunny day, so we spent a good 4.5 hours walking along the top, and bottom of the cliff.
Also, just booked bus tickets to Edinburgh for the end of October!
So, i’ve send out a handful of letters since being here, and in my boredom this evening, I decided to spice up my envelopes a bit. I have gathered up freebie maps from Ireland and Rotterdam, so I just used real (boring) envelopes as a template for size, used a glue stick to seal them, and ta-da! Awesome envelopes.
The few blog posts that I’ve made since being here have been about my escapades outside of the U.K., so it’s about time that I give you a taste of what it’s like to live 30 minutes outside of London. First of all, I live in the county of Hertfordshire, which, for any literature geeks is where “Pride and Prejudice” is set, as well as “Bleak House” and “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Quite the place to live! The University of Hertfordshire is located in the town of Hatfield, which is a pretty small quaint town. Hatfield is full of walking paths, which make getting around pretty easy.
London is something else entirely. It’s a short train ride from Hatfield to London, so i’ve been three times thus far, and am going again this weekend. There’s a quote about London that says:
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”
It’s ridiculously true. It will take some time for me to lose my wonder of London, and it definitely won’t be while i’m here. London really just has unlimited places to go. And thankfully, most of their world famous museums are free! Just yesterday, I spent five hours in the Tate Modern Art Gallery, and still have a few more solid hours to go. Tate Modern has interactive art using hired actors, which was fascinating. I’ve also been to one wing of the National Portrait Gallery and one floor of the Tate Britain Gallery. There are mounds of more museums and galleries, that i’ll hopefully get to visit during my stay here.
And of course I’ve gotten most of the historic landmarks/tourist must sees out of the way. Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, House of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, the London Eye, etc.
This Sunday the game plan is to attend Hillsong London, then visit the London Sunday street markets, and maybe stroll through some of the parks. If the weather permits. But that’s a whole new blog post in itself :P.
Here are a few of the sights of London:
I’ve got my hot cup of tea, so I think i’m set to write for a little while :). This past week was freshmen orientation, which left us international students nothing to do. Except travel! Along with four other international students, I book a flight to Kerry, Ireland. We started out by travelling about four hours into the heart of Doolin, Ireland. Check it out on Google maps, it’s so small! It was four hours of long, narrow, winding roads. The countryside is absolutely beautiful. We ate in a locals pub that evening (Irish bacon and cabbage was my meal of choice), and then we stayed in a quaint, 300 year-old farmhouse hostel. In the morning we took a two hour hike to one of Ireland’s top sights: The Cliffs of Moher. We walked on a trail along Ireland’s coast. There were rams who joined us for part of the path, and at another time we had to walk through a cow pasture. There was literally no one around, just the cliffs to the right and the hills to the left. Definitely one of the best landscapes that i’ve ever seen. It was as Irish as it gets.
We then spent two days in Dublin. We toured Trinity College, the Dublin Castle, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral (My favorite part of Dublin). Overall I wasn’t incredibly impressed with Dublin, mostly because it just seemed like another big city, and lacked much Irish charm. St. Patrick’s Cathedral was amazing though! It was built in 1192, so it is one of Dublin’s oldest buildings. The cathedral was really large, and filled with memorials to Irishmen who had made their mark in history. One of the epitaphs really stood out to me, as it read:
“He faithfully testified the Gospel of the Grace of God, teaching and preaching Jesus Christ. And he exhibited in a useful and devoted life, the practical influence of the truth that he preached. To his exertions the institutions of the Deanery for relief of the destitute and education of the young owe their origin and prosperity…His spirit rests with the Saviour he loved and glorified.”
I just love that living “radically” for Jesus isn’t anything new. That throughout history people have truly known and loved God, and changed the world through that relationship. St. Patrick is a prime example. I’m so fortunate to get to travel around and see places like the Cathedral, which has had such a monumental impact on the history of Christianity. Yep.
Overall, Ireland is absolutely a European must-see! I would go back to Doolin in a heartbeat, heck i’d probably move there in a heartbeat. The countryside and the friendly people are a combination that just can’t be topped.
School really will start soon. Promise.
So, I arrived in the U.K. this past Tuesday morning, and took off for Amsterdam Wednesday morning. Didn’t give myself a lot of time to catch up from jet lag, but I managed surprisingly well. Since i’m 1/2 Dutch, and only an hour’s plane ride away from the Netherlands, I decided I should go. I stayed in a hostel right in the center of Amsterdam, which was nicely located, but a bit grungy. Amsterdam most definitely has quaint and not-so-quaint areas, mostly due to weed and prostitution being legal. Even with the Red Light District, all of Amsterdam’s buildings and canals really are picture perfect.
So during my first full day in Amsterdam I got up early and beat the lines to the Anne Frank Huis, which she and her family hid in for two years during WW2. It was very cool to walk where she walked. I then went to a popular street market, the Albert Cuyp Market, and then the Jewish Historic Museum.
The next day I traveled west on the train to Haarlem, which is a completely adorable town. Haarlem was the home of Corrie Ten Boom, one of my personal heroes. Corrie was a Christian and during WW2 she and her family hid and helped transported between 600-700 Jews in and out of their home. The tour was led by an older woman who was full of stories about Corrie’s work and life. Definitely my favorite museum in the Netherlands, if not ever. It was just very personal, and still very focused and affirmative of Corrie’s faith. If you haven’t read about Corrie’s life, then I encourage you to read “The Hiding Place.” Or atleast watch the movie. It’s very inspiring. After that I spent the rest of the day touring Haarlem and eating and people watching in a cafe in the center of the town, Grote Markt.
My last day in the Netherlands I went southwest to Rotterdam. Rotterdam was pretty badly destroyed by bombings during WW2, so it lacks Amsterdam’s characteristic 1700’s look. Instead, Rotterdam is famous for its modern architecture, which sprung up in the mid-1900s after the bombings. So I went to the Netherlands Architecture Institute, the Sonneveld House (famous modern home of a dutch millionaire, filled with all kinds of modern luxuries including an intercom system, and a laundry chute), and the famous Cube Houses.
Well, I feel like this post was just a history lesson. Whoops. I also moved into my flat today, unpacked, and am starting to get a feel for the lay of the land :). I’m meeting lots of great international students as well. Grocery shopping, laundry, and orientation meetings tomorrow.
The two week count down starts today, and I’ve assembled a little list of things that i’d really appreciate if you prayed for me during my time abroad. It’ll be a big change, and i’d love to know that I am being covered in prayers.
- Safety. I’ll be doing alot of travelling by myself, both arriving to and around England. I’d really like to avoid any scary situations.
- New Relationships. I don’t know anyone in Hertfordshire, and i’ll be staying in an eight person flat. I’m really looking forward to building new relationships, and I ask that you would pray for boldness for me, as I begin new friendships. Pray that God puts people in my path both who I can bless, and who can bless me. I really want to be Jesus to those around me.
- Mental Sanity :). From what i’ve heard, being abroad can sometimes be emotionally trying, so while a little homesickness won’t kill me, I’d like keep my wits about me.
- Growth in Jesus. I really want this experience to deepen my knowledge and love for God and his people. It’ll be very different not being in a Christian community, but good to live among people who will likely be very different from me. I think this temporary displacement will serve me well.