Paris

Although the trade-off was missing the major celebrations for the Queen’s Jubilee earlier this week, I went on a trip to Paris. It was definitely worth it; Paris is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. Despite it’s enormous size, it is a very laid back city, and I was able to have a very relaxing and enjoyable few days.

 

The first day we started off at the Lourve, however the line was about a mile long so we decided we did not really need to see the Mona Lisa (none of us are particularly artsy people). So, from there we went to Notre Dame Cathedral. I found this even more impressive than in pictures. The Cathedral even had a little garden around the side and back of it. Inside, there was a mass going on, so that was nice to witness. After Notre Dame we walked over to the Luxembourg Gardens. All I could think was what a great place to go for a run. All the trees were so perfectly manicured and in the center was a fountain where kids were racing toy sailboats. It was a great area to sit and relax. From there, we went to the Eiffel Tower (and stopped on the way for crepes). We climbed the first two levels of the tower then took the elevator up all the way to the top. It was really obvious how huge the city of Paris is when looking from the top of the Eiffel Tower. After this we made our way back down to the second level and had a beer looking out over the city. Definitely one of the best views I’ve had in my life. From there, we went down to the park and had another beer while looking up at the tower. It amazes me how such an industrial looking structure stuck in the middle of a park and surrounded by completely different style architecture could be so beautiful. But it really was; I could have spent even longer than we did lounging by the tower. Finally though, we left and walked along the river before heading back to the hotel for the night.

 

The second day, we took the metro out to Versailles. The castle itself was closed, however we were able to go into the gardens. Again, all I could think was how much I’d like to go for a run here. There were three huge fountains, surrounded by more mazes of trees and bushes and lined with statues. The garden even had it’s own lake. It was so enormous people could rent golf carts in order to see the entire thing. We spent a long time exploring the gardens (and I got another crepe) before heading back into the city center. From here, we went to the Arc de Triomphe. It was much bigger than I expected, and encircled by a very busy round-about. We sat and watched the traffic for a while and I am honestly surprised I did not witness any car accidents. The Arc de Triomphe is at the edge of the Champs de Elysees, the major shopping street in Paris. We walked along this street for a while and were awed by the stores that could have been castles. The gates to Abercrombie and Fitch looked a lot like the gates to Buckingham Palace. After exploring this area for a while, we went back to the Eiffel Tower to watch the lights come on at night. Looking at the lit up tower against the dark sky was the perfect way to end the trip; I did not want to leave and go back to the hotel.

 

Finally, however, we left the tower and made our way back to our hotel. Paris is definitely a city I want to return to (maybe when I am not a college student on a budget). This trip was a major highlight of my time abroad which is too quickly coming to an end.

 

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The War of the Roses

Last weekend was the annual War of the Roses between Lancaster University and York University. Every year, the two Universities take turns hosting this traditional competition. During the War of the Roses, all the sports teams from the two schools compete against each other for points, and at the end of the weekend one University wins over all.

 

The football (soccer) team had three games across the weekend. There were two indoor matches on Saturday and an outdoor match on Sunday. Saturday morning we showed up for the indoor matches; all of us were very nervous as this was the biggest weekend of our season. We were very excited as many fans showed up to cheer us on, dressed in red for Lancaster and having rehearsed chants for us. The first team made our way upstairs to watch the seconds play and the game was underway. It was very intense, and both teams were putting everything they had into the match. Eventually though, Lancaster went up, and never looked back after our first goal. The second team demolished York 8-0; we were clearly the more talented team. Then it was the first’s turn to play. I had been told York would play physical, but I was surprised when one of their players full on tackled me, dropping me to the gym floor. That sent a spark off in me and the game suddenly became more intense. At half-time, we were only up 1-0. But, in the second half we began to pull away. This seemed to anger the York players and they started to play even dirtier. I felt as though I was playing ice hockey the way they tried to slam us into the walls; thankfully, the Lancaster team isn’t made of wimps and we fought right back. We won the game 6-0, and both teams had a great celebration afterwards.

 

The rest of the day was spent watching the rugby games. All three men’s rugby teams lost, but that did nothing to spoil the fun of the day. For one thing, the Lancaster rugby women won by a huge margin. Also, the weather was beautiful, and there were stands selling delicious burgers and ice cream, adding to the great party atmosphere. The men’s rugby alumni also returned for the event, and they proved to be an entertaining group. While York University’s alumni were all dressed smartly in suits, our alumni showed up dressed as women. As idiotic and embarrassing as they looked, a bunch of large British men running around in satin dresses was also very funny. By the time all the rugby games were over, we made our way back to our rooms to get some rest for our match the next day.

 

Finally, the big day had arrived. We were confident we could beat York after our success the previous day, but we also knew they would come out even harder today. Again, we had a large number of fans cheering us on from the sidelines. Claire scored the first goal for Lancaster; beating the keeper and sliding it perfectly into the net. We went wild! The game continued to be very close, although Lancaster definitely had the better play (we really did even though I am biased). The second goal didn’t come until the second half when I chipped the keeper on a breakaway. Our amazing defenders were able to hold York off, and the game ended 2-0. The celebration was quite the event. Our fans ran onto the field spraying beer all over us and huddled us into a circle chanting La-la-la-Lancaster! Definitely not the type of celebrations we have in America. In the end, Lancaster won the War of the Roses overall, making the rose red for 2012. The women’s football team received a special award for winning all three games and not allowing a single goal against. It was without a doubt one of the best weekends here!

 

Cheers.

 

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Easter Holiday

I have just returned to Lancaster after two and a half weeks of living out of an oversized backpack and traveling around Europe. I went with five other friends, and we visited Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Venice, Florence, Pisa, and Rome. There were far too many amazing experiences and things to see for me to write it all in this post, so I will just pick my favorite city and talk about it. The problem is, I am really struggling to determine which city was my favorite.

 

Salzburg is most certainly a contender for the best city. The city was small, and therefore could be easily managed on foot, but also very clean and beautiful. The Alps surrounding the city gave a gorgeous backdrop, as well as provided for some fun hiking for us. One day, we hiked an alp with an old monastery in its foothills. We explored the monastery and found it sponsored a brewery as well. Naturally, we visited the Augustinerbrau brewery for some beers. The place was crawling with senior citizens, but the beer and brats were delicious and the weather was nice so we had a great time out on the patio. The remainder of our time in Salzburg was dedicated to The Sound of Music. We went to the Nonnberg Convent (Maria’s Convent), The Mirabell Gardens (where Maria and the children play), and the cemetery that inspired the escape scene. We also sat by the river where the children and Maria run, and sang Edelweiss while surrounded by the small white flowers. Later that night, the lobby in our hostel played the movie, which made the entire experience even sweeter. I was very sad to leave Salzburg.

 

The other major contender for my favorite city is Rome (although it is totally different than Salzburg). Although it was a big city, filled with tourists, there is so much to do and see in Rome that it is easy to understand why so many people visit. We also had great weather which made it even better. We visited the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon. The Colosseum was very cool, but also very surreal when we though about what the massive structure was actually used for. The Trevi Fountain was also great (partly because the best gelato place was located in its plaza). The other day in Rome was dedicated to Vatican City. After ignoring all the annoying people on the street who told us we should pay 35 euros to go on their tour and skip the lines because it was a three hour wait to get into the Vatican, we paid 8 euros to get inside and did not wait in any lines. The museum was amazing and I had forgotten how breathtaking the Sistine Chapel was. Part of me wished my mom was there with me, so she could tell me what the Latin inscriptions meant, however I think I did a pretty good job at figuring it out on my own based on the depictions. We then went to St. Peter’s square and inside the Basilica. It was definitely the most enormous church I have ever been in. And don’t forget seeing the Swiss Guards in their fantastic outfits. The entire day was great.

 

But now, my holiday is over and school is about to start up again in Lancaster. Although I wish I could be on vacation forever, it is good to be back in England and get back into a routine. And of course, War of the Roses is coming up soon, so look forward to it!

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Portugal with Mom and Dad

The first weekend of Easter holiday brought me to Porto, Portugal to visit my parents, where they had been the previous week for a conference. After walking through passport control and customs without anyone so much as asking to see my passport, I was reunited with my parents. It was so great to see them after three months of communicating via skype. We went back to the hotel and set out to explore the city and find some dinner. The hotel had given us some recommendations for dinner, however my dad found a place with a big screen television showing an English Premier League game and a huge crowd of people. So we went inside and found the place was famous for their francesinha ( a sandwich originally from Porto). Since it was the traditional dish, we all ordered one. This sandwich was a heart attack on a plate for sure. It was two slices of thick bread with ham, sausage, and beef inside. Then, the outside of the sandwich is covered in slices of cheese and it is cooked like a grilled cheese sandwich. It is then served in a sauce made from tomato soup and beer, and surrounded by french fries. It was delicious. However, I decided it was in the best interest of my health to stick to just one for the weekend.

 

The trip wasn’t just great because I got to see my parents; I learned some interesting things too. For example, I learned that wearing tights under shorts is not just a fashion of the UK, but of all Europe. Porto is famous for Port wine, so naturally we went for a wine tour at Croft winery where I learned a lot about the process of making wine. (I think my mom and I were the only ones listening on the tour as we were the only two who could answer the questions afterwards). It must be the Doverspike in us. We also went to an old Franciscan Church, where I learned a lot about the history of the area. My favorite part of the trip though was going to the beach. It was a blessing to have such amazing weather after being in “sunny England” for so long, and we took a tram ride to the coast. The water was a bit cold, but the boardwalk was beautiful and I could have climbed around on the ocean rocks all day. It was sad to say goodbye to my parents, but I will be seeing them again in two months when my time here eventually comes to an end.

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Frolicking with the Sheep

Cheers!

So, last week we ventured out for a walk through the sheep pastures. The path divided the fields for some time, but then mysteriously ended but the sign for the footpath pointed directly into the field. So, we decided to go for it and found ourselves in the pasture watching our feet to make sure we weren’t stepping in sheep poop. It is spring time, so there were lots of little lambs running around; they were very cute. I learned some things about sheep though.

First, they aren’t that nice. As we eventually found the continuation of the footpath on the other side of the pasture, the sheep blocked our way to it and simply glared at us. Secondly, the baa-ing noise we typically associate with sheep is not really how they sound. There is not “b” sound when they speak, and it is much higher-pitched than most people think. Finally, I get the sense they aren’t the smartest creatures. My dog, Dearg, only poops in one section of the yard in order to keep his home clean and tidy. Sheep on the other hand, just go everywhere. Despite this however, I really enjoyed running through the sheep fields and sincerely appreciate these animals.

Cheers!

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LUWFC- Lancaster University Women’s Football Club

Cheers.

So, as you may know, I am playing for the Lancaster University Women’s Football Team here, and we had an exciting game in Chester yesterday. It was an away game, so on the trip down we were looking at Chester’s record and thinking about what formation to play. Something interesting about soccer in England is the disparity between home squads and travel squads. Games are always on Wednesday at 2pm, so it is always easier for people to make the home games. Away games sometimes conflict with lectures and other things. So, a school can lose to another terribly on the road, but then beat them at home. We were missing a few key players for this away game, but we were confident we could beat Chester on the road.

In the first half, we went up 1 to 0 when Claire had a breakaway and chipped the ball over the goalkeeper’s head. in the second half, they tied us with a shot to the far post. There was a period of about 15 minutes when the game was really intense, both teams hitting the crossbars and defenders and goalies making key saves. Finally, after too many attempts, I scored from outside they box. That gave us a bit of breathing room and in a few minutes I scored again. We won 3 to 1; it was very exciting because it was our first away win and it put us into 2nd place in the league! Now, we just have to beat Liverpool on Wednesday!

Cheers.

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Amsterdam!

I won’t start off with cheers, because they don’t say that in Amsterdam…

I spent this past weekend in Amsterdam, which was a great experience. Of course Amsterdam is famous for the Red Light District, the Heineken Factory, as well as the entire city smelling like a certain plant. All of these aspects of the city were very interesting and worth experiencing, however the city offers much more too!

First of all, if you are ever in Amsterdam, you need to eat some cheese. On Sunday morning we found a farmers market and bought a big block of gouda cheese and ate it while we went on a canal tour. The canal tour is also something great to do. We sat in the back part where the boat was open because it was a beautiful day. The tour was a great way to see and learn about the entire city. While on the canal tour, I experienced a HUGE coincidence. I met a man who had attended the College of Wooster and was a graduate of the class of 1969. You don’t find many people in the United States who have heard of Wooster, yet I managed to meet a graduate in the Netherlands.

Some other interesting places to go in Amsterdam are Anne Frank’s house, the tulip gardens, and the Van Gogh Museum. Of these places, I think the tulip garden was my favorite. Tents filled with tulips (real, plastic, and wooden) lined the street, with cute cafe’s on the other side. In the tulip shops you could also buy wooden clogs, grow-your-own tulip kits, and many other souvenirs. Amsterdam was certainly a lot different from England, but I really enjoyed it.

P.S. On the way home, we stopped at a chocolate factory in Belgium which may have been the highlight of the trip for me.

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Keele University

So, this past Wednesday was the Lancaster Women’s Football team’s first home game of the season against Keele University (I have never heard of Keele but apparently it is in the midlands). Keele is ranked number one in the league, and Lancaster is number four so it was definitely a tough match. The other girls told us Keele would play very rough, so be prepared to go in strong for tackles. We were also informed that the last time the two teams played Keele won by double digits. This made me nervous.

Within the first few minutes of the game, I noticed the Keele girls were much more aggressive and physical than I was expecting; however, Lancaster held with them for some time. But towards the end of the first half, we let in two cheap goals and went into halftime down 2-0. After talking with the rest of the team, we knew we had the ability to beat Keele. We came out strong in the second half and scored two goals to tie the game. The first goal was from a ball that had been bouncing around in the box and Charlotte found the net. I scored the next one off a cross from Becky. The game was intense for the remainder of the second half, however within the last five minutes, we let in two more goals and lost the game 4-2. It was one of those games we know we could have won but just didn’t go our way that day. But, I am looking forward to playing Manchester University with the Lancaster girls this Wednesday and getting a win!

Cheers!

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Edinburgh!

Cheers!

Hi everyone, sorry for the delay on the posts, but I have something great to write about today! Yesterday I spend the day in Edinburgh, Scotland, and had the most amazing time! It was by far the coolest city I have seen so far! The city is separated by a small bridge into the newer section with shopping, restaurants, and nightlife, and the historic section with Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, and much older architecture.

We started off the day going over to the historic section. While crossing over there was a Scottish rock band playing a mixture of the drums and bigpipes and wearing kilts. The music was really entertaining so we watched and danced for a little before moving on. After walking the steps up to the historic section we climbed the hill and found ourselves right on Royal Mile about 100 yards from the Edinburgh Castle. The castle is built on top of a cliff, so the views of the city from up there were amazing. We spent a long time just admiring it (and how huge it was).

Afterwards we walked the opposite direction down Royal Mile towards Holyrood House, which is the Queen’s residence when she visits Edinburgh. All along Royal Mile there were shops selling kilts, sheep wool, and whiskey. The roads were all cobblestone and the architecture of the buildings made it obvious we were in the historic part of town. We eventually made it to the end of Royal Mile to the Queen’s House and the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Parliament was not at all what we were expecting; It was a very modern building made of concrete with a lot of glass windows. It also had some weird thatched roof look going on. It definitely did not blend into the city. Hoyrood House however was very beautiful with a huge courtyard and fountain in the front driveway and security guards in kilts on duty. Maybe she was there.

After seeing enough pictures of Will and Kate in the Holyrood House gift shop, we headed back again to find The Elephant House. This is the cafe where J.K. Rowling had her inspiration for Harry Potter and wrote the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Unfortunately, we received some misguided directions and found ourselves on the outskirts of town at a cafe called Elephants and Bagels. On the up side, on the way there we did pass the auditions for Britain’s Got Talent which was pretty cool. So, after about a three mile detour we eventually found The Elephant House and it was the highlight of my day. It was a cozy little cafe with elephant pictures and statues all over the place on the inside. In the front window, there was a sign that read “The Birthplace of Harry Potter,” but other than that, the cafe was the same as it had been for years before the Harry Potter series. However, in the bathrooms people wrote saying from the books and thank you notes to J.K. Rowling. I wrote “Happy Christmas Harry; Love, Erin.” Also, from the inside there was a gorgeous view of the Edinburgh Castle. I am convinced this is what gave the inspiration for the Hogwarts Castle. I was very sad to leave this place.

Finally, we spent the end of the day exploring the newer section of town. Princes Street is the famous street with all the shopping and great places to eat and drink. I bought a banana and nutella crepe, but that was all, before heading back to Lancaster. I hope I can go back to that city some day.

Cheers.

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Liverpool

Cheers.

So this past Saturday was a day trip to Liverpool, about an hour from Lancaster. We arrived early in the morning so the first thing to do was eat some breakfast. After eating, we walked to the shore. The wind coming off the water was very strong and very cold, I actually thought I was in danger of being blown over the railing into the estuary. Despite this, we took some much needed titanic inspired pictures by the water. Also close to the shore was a giant ferris wheel which we nicknamed “the Liverpool Eye.” We took a ride on it; the views from the top were amzing. We could see the entire city, the huge cathedral, and a great view of the water. It was a bit scary though at some points as we felt the heavy winds shaking our little cubicle while we were so high up.

After the ride, we set off to find the old cathedral. We took and enormously circuitous route in which we found Chinatown (something I was not expecting to find in Liverpool), but eventually made it to St. James Cathedral. Before going inside, we followed the signs to the St. James Gardens. The gradens ended up being a graveyard behind the cathedral, but it was still pretty interesting to see. In the gardens is the only working natural spring in the city of Liverpool. After circling around the outside, we went inside the cathedral. It had a beautiful interior with huge stained glass windows. We stayed inside and admired the cathedral for a long time before leaving to find lunch.

Lunch was mostly uneventful, except we learned the English think a pickle is some sort of sauce that looks like a chutney, rather than a pickled cucumber. After lunch we walked to the City Centre and the Cavern Quarter. The City Centre is where all the good shopping is (I bought myself a shirt and earrings for my birthday) and the Cavern Quarter commemorates the Beatles. We went to the Cavern Club, and underground pub where the Beatles used to play often. The club has a lot of decorations for the Beatles and other famous musicians. They had a band dressed like the Beatles and playing all Beatles songs on stage. The place was packed and it was only 4pm. The Cavern Club was definitely the coolest place in we saw in Liverpool in my opinion. After spending a while listening to music and enjoying the atmosphere, we left the Cavern Quarter and returned to the docks to catch the bus ride home. Liverpool was definitely a lot of fun and a much bigger city than I had been expecting. We all agreed we want to go back sometime.

Cheers

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