To start off this post I will give a quick rundown of the events of the last few weeks.

Picking up where I left off a few weeks back, I was lucky enough to compete in a golf tournament with the UCC team at St. Anne’s Golf Club in Dublin. It was a great week and my first real taste of Irish links golf. I’m not exactly sure how I was able to play, considering I was the only non-Irish kid in the field, but I’m sure glad they let it fly. I did not play extremely well, but I could not have cared less. It was an awesome opportunity to compete and represent the university and meet a few new friends along the way.

Following the golf tournament, we headed back to Cork for a full week of Jazz festival. For five days every year, at the end of October, artists come from far and wide to play live music all over the city. Almost all study abroad kids stay in town for the long weekend because it is a big deal. Each night we went out, we were able to sample music from some of the area’s finest musicians. Needless to say, it lived up to the hype.

Fast forward a couple days, and we were off to Edinburgh, Scotland. I was a bit bummed I had to sleep in the Dublin airport on Halloween, but it was well worth it to say the least. The first day a buddy and I made the journey up to St. Andrew’s Scotland where I was able to tour the most famous golf course on earth, The Old Course. We spent the day walking around, taking pictures, and admiring the history. I was like a kid in a candy shop. Shortly after we mosied back down to the city. Edinburgh quickly became one of my favorite places I have been so far. The city offers abundant history, incredible architecture, some great hiking, and unrivaled views of the North Sea. During the 3 days we spent in Scotland, we toured the city, ate local cuisine, took a trip to a beautiful national park, and had an overall great time.

This past weekend, along with a friend, I took a jaunt up to the northern part of Ireland for a golf trip. County Sligo did not disappoint. The course was right on the Atlantic and had a beautiful backdrop of mountains, rock outcroppings, and amazing plateaus. Aside from the golf, we were able to tour Sligo a little bit the night before. As far north as we were, the area was very rich with tradition. The pubs, people, and food were a fantastic example of true Irish culture. It was a quick trip up north and a lot of travel for two days, but I would recommend it to anyone who steps foot in Ireland.

Looking forward to the coming weeks, I am very excited for what lies ahead. This week, in fact, my family will be making the trip across the pond to visit for about 10 days, and I could not be more excited. This also coincides with thanksgiving and our last week of class, which seems crazy in itself. I remember thinking as I was leaving that it would be about 80 days until my family came over, which seemed like such a long time. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My time here has flown by, and it is crazy to think that after I get done traveling around with my family, there will be just a couple weeks of finals left and a plane ride home. As I have done over the entirety of my time here, I will try to make the most of it and really soak up the last few experiences.

That should be easy this week, as we plan to cover as much of this beautiful country as possible. After a few days in Cork, we will head west and shoot up north following the Wild Atlantic Way. I am so excited to not only show them a few of the places that makes Ireland so great, but also to see many of these places for the first time myself.

Since this week is the prelude to a very special holiday and time of year in general, I thought it necessary to mention a few things along those lines as well. It is pretty tough not to have many feelings of gratitude during an incredible experience such as this one. Not many people get the opportunity to go and do something like this, and I am extremely grateful to be able. Not only am I thankful for what this trip has brought, but the people and places that wait for me back at home. Sometimes when we are in the middle of those people or places, it is easy to gloss over how lucky we are to have them. It is kind of funny how magnified things like that become, and how special we realize they are when we are 4000 miles away. Obviously, I am enamored with what I have been able to experience over here, but because of those reasons I will be more than ready to head home in a few weeks. Along with a big smile I will bring those thoughts of appreciation back with me, or what most people would call… thanksgiving.

Matthew Twaddle is a sophomore at the University of Missouri- Kansas City majoring in civil engineering. He is attending the University College Cork in Ireland through the UMKC Direct Exchange Program during the fall semester. Matthew is from Maryville, MO and is excited to continue his education in Cork, Ireland where some of his family still resides.

Disclaimer:  Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space. The opinions or statements expressed herein should not be taken as a position or endorsement of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The Journey Back Home

My last few days in Korea were somber, I was still having a great time with my friends but we all knew that our time together was quickly coming to an end. I began to reflect on my time studying abroad and how much of an impact that it had on my life. I did and saw some amazing things and I got to experience an international university that was both challenging and rewarding.

My last few days, I did not try to do new things to squeeze in an experience that I had yet to have. There were many things that I did not get to do while I was there and that was okay. Instead, I focused on doing the things that I was greatly going to miss; I went to my favorite cafes, hung out with my friends in our favorite bars, and ate my favorite foods. The smallest things that I did while there were the things I knew I was going to miss the most, because they had become a routine. I wasn’t going to miss going to the palaces, they were a tourist trip and I didn’t visit them every day. Instead, I was going to miss seeing the mountains when I walked to class, visiting my favorite beer and chicken place with my classmates, and going to the convenience store where I bought my cheap ramen that I had come to adore.

The idea of returning home was not easy. As I made my way onto the flight to come home I was distressed at how much I had come to love Korea. It was more than just a study abroad trip at this point; I had created a life for myself there and it was sad to let that go. No one tells you before you leave that coming back is just as hard, adjusting to life back in America is almost a reverse culture shock in itself, but it’s all part of the process and you just have to keep pushing through.

Emily Noe is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying History. Emily is spending the semester abroad with Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea. Emily is working towards achieving her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in history.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.


It’s Christmas Time in the City

Ring-a-ling! That’s right, it’s that time of year again when the streets are a little busier, the atmosphere becomes a little more joyous (depending on who you ask), and on every street corner you hear…

It’s Christmas! And the Germans do not disappoint when it comes to this holiday.

I’d like to the think the Germans go all out for Christmas because they haven’t had a holiday in a long time. (Think about it: Columbus didn’t discover Germany)

That means the Germans are waiting with bated breath to whip out the trees, the holly and, of course, the world-famous Christmas markets.

Let me tell you, I was getting a little tired of walking through town everyday in the grey and cold weather. But once I was exposed to the Leipzig Christmas market, it was as if someone handed me my missing pair of rose-colored glasses and slapped them on my face.

Most major cities in Germany have their own Christmas markets. Each market is relatively the same, with some minor attractions or booths that make each market individual.

Leipzig has a particularly large Christmas market, which makes the possibilities of food, Glühwein, and crafts nearly endless.

There are also many attractions for families and children, such as a giant ferris wheel and a Märchenland (lit. fairyland), which is an area that displays classic scenes from fairy tales.

These markets can become very crowded, but fortunately for you, the markets open in the afternoon and run through the evening.

So many smells, so many sights. A favorite food of mine that I always enjoyed at the market was this roll/bread-like-thing (great English) that was stuffed with cheese and bits of ham, garnisheed with a dollop of sour cream and diced yellow and red peppers.

^If anyone knows the actual name of this food, please shoot me a text (and help me find a better word for “bread-like-thing”)

Another favorite, and this goes without saying, were the waffles. I could eat waffles literally everyday, and the German waffles at the market certainly helped fulfill that need.

Waffle goodness

Each waffle is customizable, in that you can get it “stuffed’ with certain things. For example, I had my waffle filled with a type of cream, but you could also have it filled with Nutella, among other things.

If you ever do come to Germany during the holidays, I would suggest packing light; you’ll definitely want to fill that extra space with all the crafts, trinkets, and Glühwein mugs you bought!

Over the Christmas season, I had the chance to visit four different markets in four different cities. And I must say, each city was successfully able to bring out the Christmas spirit in me. Or…was it the Glühwein?

Check out these sights that I captured from Leipzig’s Christmas market!


For more on “Feuerzangenbowle,” copy + paste: (Hope you aren’t afraid of fire, or the credibility of Wikipedia)

Happiness comes from here
Entrance to Leipzig’s Christmas market

Vince Woods received his Bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance. He is currently a sophomore at UMKC, pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Education with the intention of teaching German. Vince is spending the semester abroad with the MAUI-Utrecht Exchange Program in Leipzig, Germany.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

A Little Update

Hi everyone,

I know I haven’t made a blog post in awhile. Life has been a little hectic here lately – I have been sick for the past week and my time in Buenos Aires is almost over, meaning that the workload has increased. On July 22 I will be leaving to Salta (province in the Northwest of the country) with the rest of the program. I only have around 6 more days here in Buenos Aires, so I hope to take advantage of the time (and hopefully this illness goes away).

Anyway, last weekend I took a 3 day trip to the Iguazú Falls, which (as every Argentine will not hesitate to tell you) are considered one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World”. These magnificent waterfalls are located on the border of the Argentine state Misiones and the Brazilian state Paraná. Misiones is located in the northeast corner of the country. The Iguazú Falls, or Cataratas del Iguazú in Spanish, make up the largest waterfall system in the world. Most of the river flows on the Brazilian side, but most of falls lie on the Argentine side. I had to take a miserable 18 hour bus ride to get to Puerto Iguazú, but it was definitely worth it. I truly believe that it was the most beautiful place I have ever been to. I took a lot of pictures, but they do not even come close to describing the breath-taking views. I’ll just recap some of the weekend.

Along with a group of 11 other students, we took an ómnibus from the Retiro station that left around 8:30 PM on IMG-20160711-WA0014Thursday night. I didn’t realize this earlier, but buses are great in Argentina. It is very common for people to travel to different cities on bus. The Retiro Bus terminal was absolutely packed and we saw hundreds of buses going to dozens of cities all over Argentina. Some brave folks were even taking 4-day journeys going all the way South. Due to the importance of this means of travel, buses are pretty comfortable. We took a semi-cama which had fairly large seats that recline and dinner provided, but another option is taking a cama which has even larger seats. I don’t sleep well on transportation, and I also had to read a 150-page Spanish book during the ride for one of my classes, so let’s just say I was sleep-deprived for most of the weekend. Yet, I was glad that I got all of the reading done on the bus ride there and back, so I did not have to worry about school while at Iguazú. We arrived in Puerto Iguazú at around 3 PM in the afternoon on Friday and got checked into our hostel. Thankfully the guys got our own room. Our group did not do much on Friday – we were all exhausted from our trip, so we only explored the town a little and then returned to our hostel for dinner. Our day was beginning bright and early at 7 AM the next day, so I went to sleep early.

On Saturday, the first day of visiting the Iguazú falls, we ventured to the Argentine side. Our bus left at around 7:40 AM and we arrived by 9. Contrary to what the forecast said, the first half of the day was fairly gloomy with some scattered rain as well. Luckily, the weather cleared up and the sun came out after mid-day. Upon getting to the Argentine side, we first took a small train up to the top of the largest waterfall, known as the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat). Around half of the volume of the river falls into this waterfall; it is truly massive. From our vantage point, we were able to see the sides of the Garganta del Diablo from the top. The next day we would be able to see the Garganta del Diablo head on from the bottom when at the Brazilian side. Anyway, after going to the Garganta del Diablo, we hiked our way through two circuits known as the Superior Circuit and Inferior Circuit. Both of these pathways had dozens of waterfalls, not as gigantic as the Devil’s Throat, but perhaps more picturesque. Luckily the weather was improving at this point as well, so it was nice and sunny.

La Garganta del Diablo
La Garganta del Diablo
Argentine side
Argentine side

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Our group on the boat tour
Our group on the boat tour
Jungle ride
Jungle ride

After we reached the midway point of the Inferior Circuit is when the fun began. In our itinerary was something called “Grand Adventure”, and we soon found out what exactly this entailed. The first part of the “Grand Adventure” was a speed boat ride on a lake and the Paraná River. I’m not really sure how to describe this in words. We got absolutely soaked. Imagine going on a 50 MPH boat underneath several waterfalls. It was pretty wild. They gave us waterproof bags to stow away our belongings, so most items were protected. I say most because I foolishly forgot to take off my travel neck wallet. While it is supposedly waterproof, it was no match for the strength of waterfalls. My passport and all of my money ended up getting wet. They dried fine, but my passport has adopted a strange conformation due to water damage. Oh well. Anyway, after the boat ride, we docked, dried off, and boarded an open-air truck for a ride through the jungle. On this ride, a guide explained all about the natural flora and fauna of the jungles of Iguazú. The jungle was very beautiful, but unfortunately we only saw a few animals, as most of them were napping at the time. I did get to see a toucan and some monkeys though. After the ride through the jungle, we ate lunch and then returned to our hostel. After resting, we ate dinner and then did some karaoke which is always fun.

Sunday was our last day in Iguazú, so we had to check out of the hostel in the morning. This time we went to the Brazilian side of the waterfalls, which had less to do (we covered everything in around 2 hours), but had jaw-dropping views. By the time we reached the Brazilian falls, it was already 10 AM due to delays at customs. We had until noon to trek through the paths and look at the falls. As I mentioned earlier, the Brazilian side has less falls, but it has a great frontal view of the Argentine falls, specifically La Garganta del Diablo. I did notice that this side definitely had a lot more tourists. I am not sure if it’s due to the smaller area (–> higher density of people?) or if there were just a lot more people. The tourists seemed mostly Brazilian, but of course there were Spanish-speakers from all over Latin America as well.

I was able to walk on a bridge that took me directly in front of the Garganta del Diablo. Mist was everywhere due to the high flow rate, but the nuisance was worth it. The views were absolutely stunning. After crossing the bridge, I visited the gift shop and then took an elevator up to the top where I was able to take nice panoramic shots.

Brazilian side
Brazilian side

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Panorama shot from the top
Panorama shot from the top

We were supposed to go eat at a nice restaurant on the Brazilian side, but due to some logistic errors, we were dropped off directly to the bus station in Iguazú at around 1:30 PM. We ate a nice lunch at a local restaurant and then boarded our return bus at 4 PM.

On the ride back, I felt really nauseous and even feverish at some points. I assumed it was motion sickness, but I am still sick 6 days later so it’s definitely an infection. Even with the illness, I was able to finish the rest of my book and also made friends with some local Argentines who sat behind me. We arrived back in Buenos Aires on Monday at noon.

The rest of the week was pretty eventful as well. I was ignoring the sickness and continuing to explore the city, going on tours of the City Center and the Recoleta cemetery. I learned a lot about the history of various neighborhoods which I did not know from before.

I’m finally taking medicine so hopefully this illness goes away soon! I will update you on future plans for my last week in Buenos Aires. Thanks for reading!

Imran Nizamuddin

Spring Break Diaries: Day 3, Wiltshire

A philosopher once asked, “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?” Pointless, really… “Do the stars gaze back?” Now *that’s* a question. – First lines from Stardust

Usually when I write my blogs I take readers through a timeline of my day. I give my schedule more depth with add ins of history, my thoughts, and interesting tidbits. This format is easy and keeps my thoughts organized and makes reading easy to follow, but this time around I have decided to try something new. I will work backwards and tell a story of the places I saw, but first some background to set the scene.IMG_8310

Today I left Bath and took a day tour with Mad Max Tours. They have nothing to do with the fabulously famous film franchise. The day tour leaves from the Abbey Hotel in Bath at 8:30am and returns at approximately 5:30pm. My tour was incredibly interesting and I highly recommend it, so thanks Kevin for being an awesome tour guide.

Stop #4: Castle Combe
Many, many years ago there was once a castle on top of a hill surrounded by a dense forest. As time passed the castle fell to ruin and disappeared. What stones were left of the old castle were given a new life as part of a stately manor nestled besides a peaceful and cozy village. The village came to be known as Castle Combe. A weary traveler taking their first steps on the streets of Castle Combe may think that they have been transported back hundreds of years. An imposing Saxon church, with a still working 15th century clock, stands proudly at the center of the village. The 14th century Market Cross fills the central square and faces the old court house. It is a village stuck in time.

In Castle Combe nothing has changed since the 17th century. It is a beautifully preserved English village, and is known for being the most beautiful village in England. This traditional Cotswolds village was once tied up in the woolen industry like the other villages and towns in the Cotswolds. And the village prospered. The soil was fertile, the river flowed, and the sheep (aka the Cotswold Lions) were abundant. Then one day the river dried. Economic disaster struck the village. With no river and quick transport the villagers shortly abandoned their homes, and the abandoned Castle Combe was left, preserved in its 17th century status.

The Manor at Castle Combe
Castle Combe Village

Interesting Facts to Know about Castle Combe:

  • War Horse spent 10 days of filming here for the village scenes.
  • The original Doolittle was all filmed here.
  • The village scenes from Stardust were filmed here (hence the Stardust quote).
  • So were other films, TV shows, and specials.
  • A home here costs around ½-3 million pounds.
  • Combe means narrow valley.

Stop #3: Lacock Village
Lacock was a small, overlooked town. Sleepy townspeople walked the streets and peaceful went about their mundane lives until a great Countess decided to intervene. In 1229 Ela, Countess Dowager of Salisbury, founded the Abbey standing proudly by the village. Ela was an extremely influential woman. She had inherited her title and lands upon the death of her father and she was married to William Longespee, the illegitimate son of Henry II. The Abbey was built upon the death of her husband, and William was the first to be buried in the Salisbury Cathedral.

Lacock was on the rise. Important people had taken interest in the town and traders would stop here when traveling between Bath and London. The King even had a hunting lodge there. But as has happened to many a noble family there were no male heirs left to inherit all the lands and holdings, so the Abbey reverted back to the kingdom. Years passed and Henry the VIII took the throne. He later passed the Acts of Supremacy and he was looking for ways to cement his power in England over the Pope. The monasteries in England were overtaken and dissolved, but the Abbey in the small village of Lacock was overlooked for its small significance. Henry sold the Abbey to Sir William Sharington with the stipulation that the chapel was to be destroyed. Sir William followed through with Henry’s order and in place of the chapel he built a brewery and turned the Abbey into his home. Lacock stayed a booming woolen village until the fall of the woolen industry. In a town with just 4 streets there were three poor houses, the largest housing 147 people.

Fun things to know about Lalock:

  • In the 1800s William Henry Fox Talbot became the owner of the abbey. He studied the arts and sciences, and in 1835 made the first known photographic negative using a camera; which was of the small central window on the exterior of the Abbey.
    The Abbey
  • The village and Abbey have been used for many film productions such as Moll Flanders and Emma.
  • One such production was BBC’s Pride and Prejudice. Filming was done outside the Red Lion Pub.
  • Many scenes from the Harry Potter films were also captured here.
    • The Abbey was used for Hogwarts’ classrooms, hallways, and the mirror scene in the first film.
    • The home of the Potters for the first film was filmed here.
    • In the Half-Blood Prince the scene where Dumbledore and Harry walk down a road side by side is in front of the local Sign of the Angel pub.
    • Professor Slughorn’s house is also located in the village.Other popular productions like.
  • Downton Abbey had filming done here and a few days ago a new period drama, Whit, about William Shakespeare was filming.
  • Lacock is popular for films requiring an authentic background; such productions include: The Cranford Chronicles, Larkrise to Candleford, and Lost in Austen.
  • The village church of St.Cyriack is featured in many.IMG_8343
  • One of the last Fords (a river crossing) in England is located in the village.
  • The stable called, Tithe Barn, was owned by the church and was used for collecting and storing taxes from the villagers.
  • Next to it is the village lock-up. It is a small, dank room with no windows and drunks were thrown in it (it also separated people in bar fights). Once the door was closed and locked there would be no light in the room. This is where the term ‘blind drunk’ (i.e. really drunk) originated.
  • There were taxes on how many windows a home had, so to pay less people would fill in and cover windows.
  • Today around 400 people live in the village.
  • In a nearby town between Castle Combe and Lalock is Tiddlywink. It consists of one street and 9 cottages.
  • The roads between towns were heavily forested and made a good place to hide for highway men. The most famous group of highwaymen in the area of Wiltshire was the Cherhill Gang. The Cherhill gang was famous because they held their victims at gun point completely naked (except for masks, boots, and a pistol). People speculate that they were successful because their nakedness shocked and frightened travelers. It is also thought that the reason that they were naked was because they were extremely poor and only owned one set of clothes, and if they were to wear this they would be easily recognized and captured.
    • You can see a painting of them at the Black Horse pub in the town of Calne.

Stop #2: Avebury
Thousands of years ago wanderers reached the shores and settled in Britain. Their beliefs and rituals are covered in mystery. For reasons unknown to man today these Prehistoric people created a 1 mile circumference of a hundred stones and a surrounding ditch and hill reaching 9 meters high. Avebury Henge and the stone circles were built and altered during the Neolithic period (2850 BC-2200 BC) making it into the largest stone circle in Britain.

No one can really say what these stones were used for. In excavations nothing was earthed up to give any understanding. What were found at the site were antlers and cow shoulder bones. Archeologists believe that these were used as tools to dig the deep ditch. The impression that this landscape leaves is that the circle was shaped for rituals. Some say that was a public ‘theater’ for rites and ceremonies, rituals for the people within their order and their relationships with each other and their gods (be it spiritual or political).

But what is known is that the purpose of these ‘rituals’ changed over time. The gap of time over which the Great Henge and the two avenues were built is large that it is believed that the community’s relationship with the environment gradually altered over time. These changing rituals led to new mysterious monuments and are the most likely reason for their abandonment of the henge around 1800 BC.

By the time the Middle Ages the reason and purpose for the Great Henge and like monuments had vanished into the mists of time. These sites were seen as places for pagan and devil worship, and the good Christians attempted to destroy the stones and like monuments at Avebury. Today the henge survives as huge circular bank and ditch, surrounding part of Avebury village with a number of original stones remaining.

Part of the great stone circle at Avebury

Interesting facts about Avebury and the surrounding area:

  • Avon comes from the Celtic word faon which means river, so the Avon River translates to River River.
  • En comes from enid which means duck and ford is a Saxon word for river crossing, so Enford means duck river crossing.
  • There are still homes with thatch roofs (owners are forced to have thatched roofs for historical preservation). These roofs last about 35 years.
    There is an owl placed as a marker on the roof
  • Roofers in villages used to work on a trust system. So if a customer wasn’t paying, a thatcher wouldn’t leave their mark and everyone in town would know that the family under the roof was not good for their word.
  • It takes 8-10 years of apprenticeship to become a master thatcher.
  • The oldest monument in Wiltshire from Prehistoric Britain is a burial chamber.
    • This housed the leaders of the time.
    • 47 people were found and dated to cover a 1000 year period.
    • Through DNA analysis and observation all the leaders were discovered to be from the same 6 families (It is pretty amazing to think that this small group ruled for over 1000 years).
  • Silbury Hill is the largest manmade Prehistoric object.
    • It covers 5 acres and is 135 meters tall.
      Silbury Hill
    • It is a 6 tiered pyramid made of white chalk using antlers and cow shoulders and once finished it was covered with earth.
    • No one knows what it was used for but it wasn’t for a burial site or for defense.
  • Phone boxes are losing their purposes with everyone today having a cell phone, but villages don’t want to get rid of them. So they have been converted. Some have been reinvented to be libraries and cash boxes.
  • Two famous stones at Avebury are Devil’s Chair and the Barber Surgeon Stone.
  • In Wiltshire there are 8 white horses carved into the hillside (there used to be 13). They were made between 1770 and 1805, but there is one that is over 3 ½ thousand years old.
  • The stones at Avebury Henge can move nonmagnetic copper wires. (I tried it and its true!)

Stop #1: Stonehenge
Six thousand years ago the first settlers of Southern Britain arrived to a wild land. Overtime these hunters and gathers evolved, keeping domestic animals and farming, changing the landscape around them. The dense forest began disappear and give way to tame rolling hills.

A thousand years passed and the beginnings of Stonehenge started to appear. The first stone structure, and second stage of building, was a circle of small blue stones. But the third stage, and most recognizable part of Stonehenge, didn’t come until more than a thousand years later. Huge stones weighing more than 60 tons and the tallest rising 6.7 meters (22 feet) above the surface were dragged by hand 30 kilometers from Wales to Wiltshire. The stones were beaten and shaped with stone hammers, and placed around the circle of blue stones.

Many myths surround Stonehenge, the most popular being that the Druids created it. The Druids in fact came long after the founders of Stonehenge were gone and all but forgotten. What is known is that Stonehenge has no practical purpose and cannot be used for defense. But the farmers who built it would have had significant fear of harsh and dark winters. Stonehenge is built and aligned carefully to mark the changing seasons and the sun’s journey through the sky. But Stonehenge was also a place of the burial for the dead. One theory is that the tall stones represent long dead ancestors. This also led to another myth about the Druids. There is one stone that lays flat on the ground and was given the name of the Sacrifice Stone because that is where archeologists thought Druids would make their pagan scarifies to the gods. The folk lore surrounding the blue stones in the center tells of their mystical healing powers, so these healing inner stones and cold outer stones might have played a significant role in the peoples’ understanding of life and the afterlife. Trying to understand Stonehenge is like trying to explain Christianity from the remains of a ruined cathedral. Too much is left unknown and too much is left up to speculation.

There is so much more to learn about Stonehenge and other historic sites like it, and if you are interested there are many great books and a plethora of information on the net (not all of it accurate of course) for you to look up.

The front of Stonehenge

More interesting facts I learned during Day 3 of Spring Break:

  • The waters in Bath are full of magnesium which is good for sore muscles (which I need now after all this walking).
  • Pulteney Street was a filming site for the movie Vanity Fair.
  • Horses would walked beside canals to pull barrages up rivers.
  • Counties used to be called shires (hence the name Wiltshire).
  • There is a place on the way to Wiltshire from Bath called Black Dog Hill. The story goes along these lines:

There once lived a maid who courted two gents,
but she told neither of the other.
Then one day they discovered her trick
and decided to duel each other.
They dueled at dawn,
and pistols were drawn,
One was shortly shot dead,
while the later lived on.
But he was shortly done in
by the black dog who saw him
as the vicious murderer of his owner.
Alas the story still doesn’t end
for the maid is still ignorant
to the tragic events of her lovers.
When she hears tell,
she will gasp and yell,
and then she will off herself in dolor.

-An original interpretation by me

  • This area is also the headquarters for the UFO society in the UK.
  • Longleat House belongs to Lord and Lady Bath and is an Elizabethan mansion with over 200 rooms.
    • The 6th Marquess traveled frequently to Africa and started the first safari park outside the actual safari.
    • The current Lord Bath (7th Marquess) is a colorful and flamboyant character. We were told that he looks like an aging wizard.
The back of Stonehenge

Helpful Hint: You can get in free to Stonehenge on the summer solstice, but there will be around 37,000 people there so don’t go then. Instead pay the fee and get in early so you can have an unobstructed view of the monument. Also make sure to have cash because in small villages many places will not have card machines.

Spring Break Diaries: Day 2 Bath

I began my second day with the free breakfast at that the youth hostel offers and over breakfast I had a nice conversation about a baby ape with an engineering professor from Chester; which goes to show that hostels are great places to meet and talk with fellow travelers.

Once done with breakfast I set out. I set out before anything would be open (which wasn’t until 10), so with over an hour wait I decided to do my own self-guided walking tour of historical Bath. The walk, without stopping, takes about an hour. Of course I got off track and took longer.

The tour began with the Abbey Churchyard, located at the heart of historical Bath. This medieval Abbey, built by King Alfred and the Saxons, has been a place of worship for over a thousand years. And right next (or left next) to it is the world famous Roman Baths. Not much is left from the Roman times in Bath because when King Alfred and the Saxons took over they ended up building over the Roman foundations.

As a fun side note: many think that the Romans founded Bath, but there is an ancient British myth about King Bladud as the founder.

Bladud was the legendary founder of Bath and the sacred temple of Aqua Sullis. He is mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain and The Life of Merlin, written in the twelfth century. The source of the original legend is obscure.

Lud Hubibras (Bladud), was a British Prince in Celtic times. While at court the Prince contracted the dreaded Leprosy, and was banished and disowned by his father. Before he made his way out of the kingdom his mother took him aside and gave him a golden ring. This was to be the key to his return if he could ever cure himself of the disease.

Everywhere the Prince went he was shunned, he meeked a living as a swineherd until some of the herd also caught the disease. To hide this from his employer, he fled across the river Avon (at a place now called Swineford), and into the land where the city of Bath now stands.

He wandered the area until one day one of the pigs seemed to go crazy and rushed headlong into a black bog in the marshy ground. Bladud struggled to pull the pig from the bog and became covered in the foul smelling mud. When he had finally freed himself and the pig, he found that the pigs skin lesions had disappeared, and where the mud had touched his bare skin he was also cured. He immersed himself fully in the warm mud and became fully cured of the disease.

Finally Bladud returned to Court, where he was welcomed with open arms by his mother, who recognized the ring she had given him so many years before. Bladud ruled wisely as King for twenty years. He founded the city of Bath, and created the temple of Aqua Sullis dedicated to Minerva.

He was said to have been a man of great learning, he studied in Athens and brought much Greek wisdom into Britain. He was killed when a magical experiment went wrong; he built himself some wings, and was flying over New Troy when they gave way and he crashed to the ground.

This story was brought to readers like you by Mysterious Britain.

The next stop was only a few steps away at Bath Street, which put you in front of the Roman Baths and Pump Rooms, which was once the center of Bath society. Walking down Bath Street you reach the next stop, the Thermae Bath Spa and Cross Bath.  These were key venues for taking the waters in 18th century. Today there is a beautiful and new working bath house that visitors can enjoy. Behind the Cross Bath is St John Hospital which was the first building in Bath built by John Wood the Elder, who would be the main architect in building the Georgian city that we see today.

Turning left and moving up Saw Close and Barton Street you reach the fourth stop, Queen’s Square. Queen’s Spare is famous for its obelisk and was also built and planned by John Wood, and demonstrates the Palladian style architecture which Wood is known for.

And then the guided tour takes you to the most recognized Georgian area, King’s Circus and the Royal Crescent. These are two different stops on the tour but their designs work off one another. The Circus is made to represent the sun and the crescent the moon; they were also the homes of the wealthiest of Georgian Bath society and where they would gather to promenade.


The King’s Circus is made up of three buildings and if you stand in the center you almost get the feeling of being in a Roman Colosseum. On the other hand, the Royal Crescent overlooks the Royal Victoria Park and has a sprawling front lawn, which gives the idea of a green city.


Once I reached this point I ended up moseying on down to Royal Victoria Park to take a lovely walk among the flowers in the botanical gardens.IMG_7959

But all too quickly I moved onto Bennet Street and the Assembly Rooms, which brought to mind images of Pride and Prejudice. The Assembly rooms are now home to a fantastic fashion museum, but once they were one of the key venues for social entertainment for polite society in the 1800s, like the Pump Rooms.

The next stop on the tour was Paragon Row. Paragon Row is a line of 21 Georgian town houses, and the main entrance and exit for the London Road. In the past if you were incredibly wealthy you would send a servant to pay the Abbey to ring the bells as you made your grand entrance into the city. Next was Milsom Street, where you would do your shopping, and where General Tilney lived in Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.

One of the main architectural spots in Bath is Pulteney Bridge and Great Pulteney Street; which were designed by Robert Adam. The bridge was built for William Pulteney by Robert Adam, the bridge was an attempt to connect central Bath to the land on the other bank of the River Avon and make Pulteney’s fortune. Pulteney Bridge, together with the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, is thought of as one of the world’s most beautiful bridges. Like the Ponte Vecchio it is one of a handful of historic bridges in the world that has shops built into it. Pulteney Bridge and Great Pulteney Street show the rise of neoclassicism in Bath. At the end of Great Pulteney Street lies Sydney House which was famous for its pleasure gardens, promenading guests, and evening entertainments. After this I went off route and took steps down from Pulteney Bridge to the river walk. This gave great views of the bridge, River Avon, and Grand Parade Park. I also saw what I think is a duck egg.


The last stop on the self-guided walking tour, which can be found on the Bath visitor’s website along with audio guides and maps, was Grand Parade. There is also a tour for Jane Austen’s Bath. Most of the route is the same, but the information has a different focus and there are a few stops added in.

Once I was done with my tour it was well past 10am, and it was time to go back and do the museums.

The first one I went in was the Roman Bath House. The Roman Baths were an incredibly important prat of Roman society. Houses were taxed according to the size of pipes that provided water supply, so for personal hygiene people went to the local bath houses. However, the bathing complex was more than a place to clean yourself; it was a place to gather, meet others out in society, and hear the latest news. There were also multiple baths. A visitor could use a cold bath (frigidarium), a warm bath (tepidarium), and a hot bath (caldarium). People would go to all three before leaving making it a luxurious experience for guests and a trying one for the slaves. There was also an exercise area (palaestra), swimming pool, gymnasium, sauna, scared pool, rooms with heated floors and massages.  IMG_8044

The Romans viewed these baths as sacred and would throw in valuable items to please the gods and send “prayers” (curses) to catch thieves. An alter was also built so that priests could sacrifice animals to the gods. Because the waters in Bath were considered sacred and healing many pilgrims throughout the Roman Empire would travel to the city to take the healing waters and give their respects to Minerva, the goddess of Bath (aka Athena to the Ancient Greeks).

At the Baths I also was given the opportunity to drink some of the scared water. It was the most disgusting water I have ever drunk. It tasted like I was swallowing hot pennies. It was comparable to the time I drank fruit punch Gatorade that was left in the car for hours on black leather seats when it was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

Next up was the Jane Austen Center. I am a huge Austen fan, I read my first Austen book in sixth grade and I have been in love with her work ever since. At the Center you get to learn a bit about Jane’s life, her family, and how Bath influenced her novels such as Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. The tour was enjoyable; I had a nice chat with the tour guide about the books and I got free biscuits.

I then went to No. 1 Royal Crescent, one of if not only places you can see what a real IMG_7943Georgian townhome looked like. The inside was just as grand as the outside and I learned some interesting and some slightly disturbing facts that make me very glad to live in the 21st century.

The Things I learned:

  • Dinner began at four so that that the kitchen had enough daylight to prepare and serve the meal. Fashionably late was not expectable for dinner.
  • When dessert came out it was usually dark so the desserts were made to look beautiful by candlelight.
  • When it became dark the table cloths would be taken away and mirrors would be put down in order to reflect the candlelight.
  • Women did not drink wine unless a guest offers it to them, which the woman would then be extremely grateful and savor their one glass of wine
  • Men drank as much as they wanted. It was okay to drink throughout the day, at dinner it was okay to have a couple pints, and once the women withdrew the men would pull out the fine liquor and drink some more. There was a good reason why the dining rooms had no carpets.
  • The most important lady would enter first on the arm of the host.
  • The most important gentleman would sit to the left of the head of the table and there was a pineapple in front of him.
  • Pineapples were expensive, so many would rent them from a grocer for the night.
  • Pineapples are a sign of welcome.
  • Sugar was incredibly expensive, so it was the main ingredient in all the desserts of the wealthy.
  • Rotten teeth became fashionable because the wealthy had rotten teeth from eating too many overly sugary sweets.
  • The poor would blacken their teeth with black led paint (a poison) to make themselves look fashionable.
  • After a while people found the fad of rotten teeth silly and dentistry became a practice. And the only solution for rotten teeth was pulling them out or getting a new pair. New teeth (ranked from cheapest to most expensive) were made out of wood, ivory, or taken from hung criminals and dead soldiers (because they were not wealthy enough to buy sugar and have rotten teeth).
  • The most ornate room in the house was the withdrawing room where the ladies would gather after dinner.

I have seen castles, palaces, manors, mansions, and grand plantations but this was different because it was so dedicated to this one time period, and only this period, I felt like I got a true view of what life in a well-off home would have been like in the Georgian era.

The last museum I went to was the Fashion Museum at the Assembly Rooms. This offered IMG_8104a look at men and women’s fashion in Britain from the late 1700s to the present, and I even got to try on some gowns, bonnets, and fake wigs.

My day was filled to the brim and I finished all before 5 o’clock in the afternoon; which allowed me time to look in shops (one of the main reasons people come to Bath). The weather during my stay was beautiful, and I have no complaints on my time here because it was simply a wonderful second day of spring break.

Helpful hint: You can see the main points in Bath with just a full day, so if you have extra time in the area I recommend going to Bristol or Stonehenge which are close by.

The Holiday Season is now Upon Us

A Thanksgiving treat


I have always celebrated Thanksgiving and it was very strange living in a place where is doesn’t even exist. After Halloween ends the next big holiday is Christmas, and there feels like something is missing when November rolls around. Because I have never been away from home on Thanksgiving I feel like I might have taken it for granted in the past. The semester is almost to a close and longing for home begins to set in. You miss your family and the regularities of home. Not being with your loved ones on Thanksgiving really set this in. Being in a foreign country gives you an entirely new perspective and appreciation for this holiday and makes me even more thankful for my family and home.

Fortunately for me, because I am part of the IFSA-Scotland program they set up a special Thanksgiving dinner for their students. They have a nice meal that gives everything you would normally see on a Thanksgiving table, but add a bit of a Scottish twist. For one they served haggis balls and after dinner we ended the night with a ceilidh. I have been to a ceilidh workshop but an actual dance before, and it was a lot of fun and a great work out. Everyone dressed up and all of us were unsure what to do when the dance began. It started off a bit like those awkward middle school dances we all remember. But once the band began and started to give us instructions on what to do and where to go we lost all reserves and danced the night away.

(If you have never seen a ceilidh I would recommend looking up a video or if possible attending one.)

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Christmas Market Extravaganza  

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Being able to see the Christmas Markets is one of the reasons I choose to study abroad during the fall semester, and they did not disappoint. Christmas markets across Europe begin to open their stalls once November arrives. There are all types of markets: some just for food, some for crafts, medieval, children oriented, decorations… the list goes on. The Christmas market in Edinburgh opened November 20 and runs to the beginning of January. The Edinburgh Christmas market is a mix of everything. It has food and treats, crafts, winter products, rides, gifts, decorations for the holidays, cultural items, rides (they have reindeer land and a Santa’s village for kids), and a Christmas tree lot. The market is outside and it has stalls that line up and down the street. The one in Edinburgh is located on Princes Street (the main shopping street). There are three tiers as the street overlooks Princes Street Gardens. You start at the top and whine your way around to descend into the gardens to reach the other booths. The Christmas markets are a lot of fun and it is tempting to go crazy buying gifts so be careful and I would recommend only bringing cash that you are willing to spend and leaving everything else at your home/apartment/hotel.

I love the Edinburgh Christmas market but it is fun being able to see others. I was able to see the Paris Christmas market being set up, and I saw a small one in Amsterdam, and this weekend I will be able to see the main one in Rome, but if you really want to see a traditional one go to Germany where they started. Each Christmas market is unique and diverse; the goods they sell vary on the country’s culture and heritage, so I am grateful to be lucky enough to see multiple Christmas Markets.

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Helpful Hint: When you go to a Christmas market walk through it first before purchasing anything. Many stalls sell similar items and prices and quality may vary so hunt out what you really want and what has the best deals before spending your money. Also remember the Pound and Euro are doing better than the dollar so watch your spending!

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Spain

At the start of last week, I had zero expectations about celebrating Thanksgiving in Spain. During my time here, I’ve celebrated some Spanish holidays, so, except for missing family a little extra, missing out on a holiday from the United States didn’t seem like a big deal (also that I missed having Thanksgiving break from classes). This being said, several events occurred and it turned out to be a really fun and special Thanksgiving week, and I’m so grateful for the wonderful people who made that happen.

Our ISA directors planned a special volunteer week last week in the spirit of Thanksgiving. Some of the optional volunteering activities were bringing food to a shelter and spending time at a retirement home. Due to my class schedule, I was only able to volunteer one of the days, where we went to the Ronald McDonald House in Valencia. If you aren’t familiar with Ronald McDonald Houses (and many people in Spain have never head of the foundation), they provide housing for families whose children are receiving long-term hospital treatment.  We went to hang out with kids, talk about what we do to celebrate Thanksgiving, and help decorate the house for Christmas. It was a really fun afternoon. I also thought it was interesting to tour the house, which is situated next to the newest hospital in Valencia. All of the volunteers we met were exceptionally kind. Overall, it was a really great experience, and I’m so glad our study abroad program planned it! I didn’t take many pictures except some of the decorations we made.


Another thing the program planned for all of the exchange students in our program was a fancy Thanksgiving dinner. I was told it would be “traditional Thanksgiving food,” and to my surprise it really was! Turkey, salad, cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie, the whole deal. It was also fun to get dressed up and spend a night having fun and eating way too much.


The night also served as a form of goodbye. As our program is wrapping up in the next few weeks (now mine is ending in nine days!), it was a perfect opportunity to look back on all the trips and adventures from the last few months. They also gave out personality awards, which was very entertaining. I received “El más entusiasta” (the most enthusiastic). Here’s a photo of me with my three wonderful program directors in Valencia.


As if I didn’t already feel lucky enough, my host family also planned a Thanksgiving meal for me and my roommate. We did this the weekend after Thanksgiving. It was such a nice idea. The food was so delicious that we forgot to stop and take a photo of it before it was completely gone (obviously my host mom is an excellent chef). This meal was really fun, because it was all traditional dishes with a little bit of a twist. All in all, Thanksgiving week in Spain was absolute success.

Just another Manic Workday

Lately everyday has been a bit more stressful and hectic. I have not really left my room since it seems like Halloween, and I feel like all I do is live in a box and stare at a computer screen… But that is now all at an end! Here there are IMG_3479only two grades for each class, and I have just finished all of the three papers for them. All that is left is finals, but for now I can relax and enjoy myself.

While I was writing my papers I would need to take breaks, but I couldn’t go too far or I knew that I would just put off work to have fun. This led to a lot of baking. The item of the week was lemon crumble cookies. Baking is a great stress reliever, and I get something very tasty at the end. Thank you Pinterest, for helping me to survive midterms with my mind still intact and able to function.



Now to catch up on everything that I haven’t had the time to write about.



I love holidays, and it was a lot of fun being able to experience a holiday in a new place where things are done a little differently. Halloween here is more focused on the scary aspect. My friends and I were origionally going to be dressed as holidays, I was Easter, but that plan fell through. It turned out as the skeletons and ghouls and one living girl that is stuck with them (me). My friends did a really good job on their makeup. They even freaked me out a little.

After getting ready we headed down to Grassmarket to watch the Fire Festival. It is a bunch of volunteers who dress up to celebrate the pagan rituals held on Samhain. It is hard to describe how they acted because it is something that you would only really read about in a fantasy book or see in a movie. Some danced and played like children in the street with no care to personal space. Others walked in a stately manor looking above all the rest, and then there was an army like atmosphere as they came down the street banging on drums with stoic faces. There was fire, dancing, and some acted out battle. It was really interesting to watch, but like I said it is hard to describe (probably because it was hard to understand exactly what I was seeing).

IMG_3512Sorry this is a short one, but this weekend I am heading off to Paris and it is time for me to leave!


Helpful Hint: When celebrating a holiday somewhere new, do research on their customs, you do not want to offend anyone.