The End

9 months later, and I landed safe and sound in Nashville to a very excited, tearful family with a video recorder several hours later than expected.

On May 31, I woke up at 4:30am (10:30pm the night before in Nashville), finished packing, said goodbye to my lovely triangular room in Sciennes 30/2, and walked out the door with Andrea who came to see me off. We took a taxi to the bus station, said goodbye, and I, along with my 3 very large bags, carry on, and massive purse, hopped on the bus that took me to the airport. I signed in all right and took a nap on the way to Dublin. In Dublin, I went through US Customs and boarded my plane for Chicago. I watched Breaking Dawn: Part 2 (didn’t even know it was out until then), the new James Bond, and Life of Pi. I had an aisle seat, which was excellent, and they gave us lunch which felt fancy even though it really wasn’t.

In Chicago, things took a turn for the worse. My flight to Nashville was cancelled, so I waited in line over an hour to be told that I could take the last seat on a plane that night going to Nashville, 8 hours later. I said I’ll take it, and called mom to tell her the news, only to find out that she booked me on a plane leaving in TEN minutes! I started bawling and ran to the gate, but the plane had already left. So I started crying again and used another stranger’s phone to call mom, during which time the airline workers booked me on another flight a couple hours later. Once our flight was ready to leave and everyone was boarded, the captain announced that all planes were grounded because of a storm, and he didn’t know when we would be able to leave. We sat on the takeoff strip for two or three hours, and it was a horrible, tiny, claustrophobic plane, and I couldn’t stop crying. I was hungry, exhausted, and never before wanted to be in Nashville so badly. We finally took off, and an hour later landed in Nashville.

Of course we were in the farthest gate, so I trekked to the front and met my waiting family. Even though I made it home, my luggage didn’t share the same schedule. So we went out to a Mexican place for a late dinner (around 9pm), then went back to the airport to get my bags before the drive home. Once home, I got to open my birthday presents and give mom, dad, and Sterling their souvenirs from Scotland.

Being back in America is really weird. Its been a week now, and I don’t like it much. I’m still jet-lagged, so going to bed really early. I miss Scotland loads, but am so thankful for the time that I had there. I don’t doubt that I will be back one day (hopefully soon) to visit. It was an amazing year, one I will never ever forget. This will be my last post, so I want to thank all of those who read my blog whether faithfully or sporadically. I hope you enjoyed the read and the pictures! I’ll be starting a cooking blog pretty soon, so contact me if you’re interested in following that.

Hope everyone has a great summer. Cheers!

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May 21-30: The final countdown

May 21st was a Tuesday, and in the morning while Mike took his last exam, Andrea and I went to the Meadows to enjoy the sunshine and catch up. The trees are finally in bloom, the sun is out, and the Meadows is the place to be. Students, families, kids, and dogs cover the park with BBQs, sports games, playing fetch, and sun tanning. It’s so relaxing and beautiful. After spending time with Andrea, I went to Mike’s flat and it was officially summer for us both! We had lunch then decided to go outside and enjoy the warmth. We walked through the Meadows to downtown, went in some shops, and climbed Calton Hill for a glorious view of the city. We soaked up the sun a bit then descended the hill and walked along Rose Street, where we sat outside, got drinks, and listened to a nearby street musician. It was so relaxing and nice. We meandered home, cooked dinner, watched a show then went to Malone’s pub to see and say goodbye to a few of Mike’s friends.

Wednesday morning I woke up early and made cookies for Michael. It was his last day in Edinburgh before heading to Iceland on his way home to Canada. We spent the day together, packing, doing chores, saying goodbye to friends in coffee shops, and cooking the last of his food. I read Staurt McLean while Mike packed and watched the Hangover. Once he was all packed, we had tea with Joakim, Mike’s flatmate, and they said goodbye.

Mike left early Thursday morning and I saw him off in the taxi that bore him away. That was not a fun day.

On Friday, my flatmate and I decided it would be good to get out of the city for a while and spend a last day together, so we went to the Isle of Arran, which was a brilliant idea and we had a really nice time. We took a 2 hour train then a 1 hour ferry and were on the Isle! On the ferry, we met a nice old Scottish woman who showed us pictures of her daughters and told us all about her life. She was really sweet and loved her kids very much. Friday was a really sunny day, and I even got a little rosy on my cheeks. When we stepped off the ferry, we smelled chips and vinegar which made out tummies grumble, so we grabbed some chips and cheese and had a wee picnic with a stunning view of the water and the mountainside. We were only there for a few hours, so instead of rush to get things done, we just relaxed and went for a long walk along the beach. We met lots of adorable puppies, picked up seashells, and enjoyed the beautiful landscape. Late afternoon we made our way back on the ferry to the mainland then took the train back to Edinburgh. We arrived home around 8:30, dropped our stuff at our flat, then went to Teviot to share a drink with the guys. We had a nice time together, but then had to say bye to Ziwen and Ciaran who both went home on Saturday 😦

Saturday morning Connor and Fraser came over and we chatted a bit before Emma’s parents arrived with their dog, Sally. After a quick hello and petting of Sally, I had to dash off to the Meadows to meet my friend Bethany. It was another gorgeous day, so we enjoyed lounging in the sun and went for a walk around the Meadows. It was packed with people and the cherry blossoms were stunning. After a few hours I came home to say bye to Emma. We loaded her car, and said bye, and I was very sad to see her go. Emma was an amazing flatmate and is a great friend; I’m so lucky to have been in a flat with her. The guys came upstairs for a bit to keep my company, then they walked me to the Meadows to meet Andrea, who was coming on a photo-taking excursion with me. I realized that I didn’t have many pictures of Edinburgh, and as it was clear blue skies, I decided to go all over the city to capture its beauty. So the boys went home and Andrea and I went all over the city like the annoying tourists we are always annoyed with. Picture taking took 4 or 5 hours, and I got home around 9 just in time to get ready for a friend’s End of Term party. I took a quick time-out from the party to Skype Michael, who was enjoying his time in Iceland. Then I went back to the party for a bit, which was in my building so that’s always nice. Afterwards, Connor and Fraser came over and we watched Pitch Perfect. It was really late when the movie ended so the boys went home and I snuggled up in bed for the night.

Sunday morning I did a few chores then went to the train station to pick up my friend from high school, Hunter! Hunter has been to Edinburgh before so he wasn’t too picky about what to see so I took him on the scenic walk home where we quickly checked train tickets to St. Andrews where he set off to later that afternoon. Once the train was settled, we went to Golf Tavern for a round of drinks where we got to catch up. It was really nice to see someone from home and hear about what’s goin’ on in Tennessee. After drinks, we went to Connor and Fraser’s for a potluck meal with a bunch of stragglers still left here in Edinburgh. I love having friends from home meet friends from Scotland, so that was especially fun for me. After the meal, I walked Hunter back to the train station then did a few errands, came home and started packing. I went to the boys’ for dinner, then met up with Bethany before going to my friend Garret’s going away party. We had a really nice time, and Bethany and I were undefeated in beer pong, niceeee. After a few hours, we grew tired, and left the party to head to our homes and sleep.

On Monday, as with every other day this week, I woke to the sound of construction workers outside my window drilling concrete from 7:45am onwards. It’s unpleasant. So needless to say, I woke up early, got ready, then went to Garret’s to do laundry because it’s free in his building whereas mine you pay for. Then I went to the optometrist for an eye exam. My eyes have been bothering me lately, and exams are free in the UK, so I decided why not? Turns out I should have glasses for work on the computer and to see far away things. He gave me a prescription so I might have glasses the next time I see a lot of you! I did a few chores and shopping around the Royal Mile before coming home to keep packing. In the afternoon, I hung out with my friend Alex who I met the very first week here. Alex left the next day to hike the whole of Hadrian’s Wall, so we said yet another sad goodbye. After hanging out, I went to Connor and Fraser’s flat. They had 12 quid worth of coins so we went to Tesco and bought the whole sweets aisle then went to the theatre to watch the Great Gatsby. The theatre was awesome. Instead of little seats, we sat in leather couches, and were given Pringles and foot rests. It was so cozy. I enjoyed the movie because it was really pretty and I had very low expectations. I didn’t like the book, but found the movie easier to follow. After the movie, the boys walked me home and I quickly feel asleep.

Early Tuesday morning I picked up my laundry from Garret’s flat, then went to the guys’ for brunch. There was so much food. We watched a German film about a little boy who no one in the village likes because he is a troublemaker so they try to send him to America, but then he saves a man’s life during a snow storm and it ends all warm and fuzzy. After the movie, I went to the library to get my laptop looked at, because it is very slow and stupid. Turns out the only day the Laptop Clinic is closed is Tuesday’s, so that was a bummer! Instead, I used a library computer and did an online survey for my orientation leader position in the fall at Queen’s. Then I filled out a ton of paperwork for Transfer Credit which took a couple hours. I came home early evening and did a bit of packing then talked to mum on the phone. Connor called asking if I wanted to go to dinner with him, Fraser, and Connor’s parents, so I left home to meet them and we had a really nice evening. Connor’s parents were so sweet and fun and generous; they bought us dinner and drinks and it was such a treat! We participated in a pub quiz, which we definitely lost. It was a lot of fun though and we went to a pub afterwards then came home to watch some tv and go to bed!

On Wednesday I did more intense packing in the morning. The boys came over at noon to say bye 😦 I will miss them a lot and it was so nice to spend a lot of time together before heading home. At 2, I went to the library to get my computer looked at and was there until 3:30 with the guy running tests and strange computer things that I don’t understand. It’s running a bit better though so that’s nice and he gave me stuff to clean the screen so it looks a lot more pretty, too. Went to a couple shops after the library, then came home to continue packing. Garret come over to say bye and so did Joakim. I don’t much like goodbyes. Garret walked me to the Meadows to meet Andrea who I brought a TON of stuff to since she will be here another year and can make use of all my extra food and school supplies and kitchenware, etc. Garret and I said bye, then Andrea and I carried the boxes to her flat then went out for Indian food. We went to this cute place on Nicholson that I’ve always been curious about, and it was really cute inside and had good food. After dinner, we had ice cream and walked around the Meadows and the city for a while before heading to our homes for the night. I did a bit more packing and watched some tv then bed.

Today is Thursday, and it’s my last day in Edinburgh. I’ve not done much this morning but write this blog. My agenda for the day is to finish packing (2 bags down, 1 to go), buy a last present for the fam, clean the flat, see Andrea, and Skype Emma. I need to get everything in order for tmrw and clean everything out of the flat. A taxi is coming at 5:30am tmrw to take me to the airport, so I’ll update you on everything once I’m home! I know this is a really long post, so thanks for reading, and if you wanna see the accompanying photos, please go to http://andheresmypictures.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/may-21-30/. Thanks!!

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May 3- May 20

Phew, it’s been a while! But exams are finally over, and I now have time to give a lil update on what’s been happening here on exchange in Edinburgh 🙂

A good deal of the past couple weeks was dedicated to studying, and paper writing. Thankfully, my exams were not too difficult, and I’m confident that I passed them, so I should get all my correct transfer credit. My last exam was the 17th, and I exited the exam hall to a horde of students throwing flour and eggs around; apparently, tradition here is that for someone’s very last exam in uni, you throw these ingredients at them. I had to dodge around targeted people to make it out un-dirtied!

Other than exams, time has been filled with end-of-the-year parties, goodbye parties, birthday parties, and lots of cooking with Michael. We have been watching the Hobbit, and it’s been so fun because I am re-reading The Lord of the Rings, so my mind is in Middle Earth a lot of the time. It was pretty sunny last week, and I enjoyed picnic lunches in the Meadows and breaks from revision with friends. Michael took me out to a very yummy Indian dinner and then we got ice cream and sat in the Meadows and met a very nice doggy.

One night a big group of friends went to a pub to support our friend Fraser who was playing music at the open mic night. It was super fun to hear him perform and to relax with friends instead of stressing about school work. We’ve had knitting night as usual, and my friend Connor’s friend, Lars, who lives in Germany surprised us all with a visit, and he just turned up out of the blur during knitting- it was super cool and fun. He visited earlier in the year, so it was nice to see him one more time.

On the 9th, Mike and I made French toast and bacon and it was just like Canada with our maple syrup. The tenth was my birthday and I had a really nice, relaxing day. My best girlfriends and I went to Portobello beach for the day and had a picnic lunch, walked along the water, went to an arcade, got ice cream cones, went into the little shops, went to a pub, and dancing to Taylor Swift’s song 22. In the evening, we had a potluck dinner with all my closest friends, and Mike and I watched part of the Hobbit. My awesome friends got me some great presents including a dress, a cupcake stand, and re-usable cupcake hugs. I call them hugs. I think the proper term is… cupcake moulds or something.

On the 11th, I did a bit of studying, and party hopped in the evening. Our friend Hanie had an end of the year party and then we went to Joel and Ziwen’s going away party. It was a really really fun night of dancing and seeing old and new friends. That day in America my friend Annie got married!! I was so sad to miss the wedding, but so happy for her and can’t wait to see her again and hear about it.

The twelfth was Mother’s Day, so I tried to Skype my family, but it didn’t work so great. The internet here is really sketchy, but I got to see the family for a little bit, and I’m wondering what all they have changed about the house that will be weird and new to me when I’m home in… T-11 days. I believe I studied most of that day, and the evening was a surprise birthday party for my flatmate Monika. Her birthday is in the summer, so we decided to celebrate her early 🙂 It was a lot of fun to have everyone over and continue the festivities of the weekend with another birthday.

The thirteenth was a lot of studying, and then I went to Mike’s flat for a going-away gathering for his flatmate, Alexander. We had a really nice time seeing all his friends and catching up with people. Mike and I went to Teviot, the student union (which is basically a building composed of bars), to watch the Leafs hockey game… They lost, so we don’t talk about it. Regardless of that, it was a very good night and sad to say goodbye to Alexander.

I was in panic mode the subsequent four days, in which I had 3 exams. I had absolutely no food so Mike was amazing and either cooked for or with me or got me food. One night I ordered takeout for the first time and had it delivered to my flat. I have never done that before, and it was the weirdest thing ever, but also kinda fun. I got Indian food from the place Mike and I ate at earlier in the week; it was too good to resist! After my first exam, Mike and I had dinner together and it was a very easy exam. That night, my buddies and I went to the Golf Tavern for a pub quiz, and we got second place, winning 20 quid worth of drinks, so the 10 of us each got a 2 pound pint, and it tasted even better because it was free.

Mike I went back to Golf Tavern the next day, because I had spotted a maple burger that sounded really good made with maple syrup and candied bacon and Canadian sounding things. We ran into the guys who were golfing, and had a good chat with them. Dinner was yummy, and then it was back to the books for my last exam on Friday the 17th on Indigenous African Religions of sub-Saharan Africa. I studied all day, took my exam, went to the grocery store, and baked a giant cookie which I decorated with fruit in the form of Norway’s flag. Random, right? Well…. actually, no. Because the 17th was Norway’s Constitution Day! Mike’s flatmate is Norwegian and he hosted a potluck dinner and party at their house to celebrate the special day. We had hot dogs and it kinda felt like July 4th. My dessert was a big hit though, so that was happy because I was really rushed making it.

On Saturday, Michael took me to North Berwick for a lovely day together. It was actually kinda a lot of unfortunate events that we just had to laugh at. We returned a lost cat to its house, which made us miss our train, so we had to wait for the next one, which was ok but just not the greatest start. Then it rained literally all day and the wind was intense. We went inside to a sea creature museum thing, and I was looking at a mug, which I accidentally broke, so that was a whopping 14 pounds of the 15 pounds I brought with me. It was pretty terrible, and the most expensive mug I have ever, or will ever, purchase. But we had a nice time despite these things, and what was important was to be together. We strolled through the town, entered some shops, went to the gardens and had lunch outside, and the best part was probably going to Tantallon Castle which was right on the coast and a pretty cool, old castle that we explored. The wind almost knocked us over a million times, but thankfully we survived! We missed our bus back into the city, so we had to take a taxi which kinda sucked, but whatever we were safe. Then we took the train home, walked along the Royal Mile looking at shops, then went home, and he made me a really yummy dinner and explored the world of YouTube. When I got home in the evening, Lotta, Emma, and the guys were all coming over to watch EuroVision, a singing competition between the European countries. It was super fun to watch together, and I made a big batch of no bake cookies for everyone.

Sunday was glorious because I slept in to the nice hour of 10, which I haven’t done in ages because of exams. Mike and I made a delicious orange chicken dish for supper and watched a couple episodes of Friends. The evening entertainment was another party, this time hosted by my flatmate, Monika. A bunch of friends came over and we just had some drinks and talked. I had to say a lot of goodbyes, which was no fun at all. It’s extremely surreal that the end is so near. People were over super late, and a couple guys even slept in the kitchen because they were too lazy to walk home, but I went to sleep early-ish so that I don’t mess up my nice sleeping schedule. Sunday was also a very big day for my friend John who graduated from Whitworth University. I’m so happy for him; congrats, John!

Today is Monday, and I’ve had a really good day overall, but also sad because I had to say more goodbyes. I slept in today after last night’s party, then went to Mike’s for my breakfast, his lunch. We cooked, ate, and finally finished the Hobbit. His last exam is tomorrow, so I walked him to the library to study, then went on my way to do chores. Sent off a few postcards from my last big trip, and started present shopping for my family. So you all better like what you get! I also got a massive crepe that I’ve been wanting all year, and finally decided to treat myself to it since I don’t have much more time to enjoy these little things. During the day, I quickly met up with Charlotta to say goodbye, or as I like to say, see you later. She flew back to Sweden today, and I will miss her very much. After chores, I came home and watched the new Game of Thrones. Then Emma, Monika, Gon and I made brownies with oreo and had a last quiet evening together. Mon and Gon go to Spain tomorrow, so we had to say another “see you later” which was really sad. I’ve loved living with Monika the past 9 months, and have been so blessed by her company.

As you can maybe guess, the next 11 days are to be filled with goodbyes, packing, and lots of chores. I shall keep you posted as well as I can. You can view my pictures from the past couple of weeks at http://andheresmypictures.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/may-3-may-20-pictures/

Thanks so much for reading. We’re almost at the end of our journey together through this year abroad. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’ve decided to ignore that I am leaving soon so that I don’t get too emotional about leaving this city and all these people who I love.

Cheers!

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New Foods

For those of you who know me at all, you know I’m a pretty picky eater. So I’ve compiled a list of the foods that I’ve started eating since coming to Edinburgh. I’ve probably forgotten a few, but here goes:

lime
peppers, especially red
mushrooms
cucumber
zucchini
tomato, plum & cherry, not the big ones
sushi, vegetarian
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
toast with jam
fried rice
banana bread
raisins

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Revision Week

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s exam season here at the University of Edinburgh. I tried to ignore this as much as possible after getting home from Italy, and spent the next day going through pictures, catching up with flatmates, and blogging about my adventures. I also got to Skype my friend John to plan my trip out West to Seattle and Vancouver this summer, and I’m so VERY excited to visit both cities and see both old and new friends. Later that night I met up with a friend who had also just been in Italy to talk about our time there, and went to bed early as I was still sleepy from travelling.

The next day was Thursday and my revision began. First up is a 3,000 word paper on Postcolonial Poetry, a class I took last semester, forgot, and am now being tested on. It was rough going at first, but I’m almost done the paper now. Mike and I made a yummy dinner of chicken fingers, corn bread, and salad, and then I set off with the girls to knitting night, where we hung out and started watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but we all got really tired and went to bed early. Riveting, I know.

Friday was a pretty good day. Made some headway on my paper, and had a potluck dinner at the guy’s flat to belatedly celebrate Fraser’s birthday. There was tons of delicious food and good company. After, I went to Mike’s flat. His flatmate is a leader in the Politics society, and invited people from the society to come over for drinks. I met some cool people and had a nice time.

On Saturday morning I woke up feeling properly stressed about my paper, but I didn’t have a lot of time to work on it, because of social plans. My friend Jennie and her friend came into town so we went to Elephant House for lunch and randomly met some Canadian backpackers who we chatted with for a bit. Afterwards, Andrea and I met up and went to Fudge Kitchen on the Royal Mile. They had a deal to buy 3 get 1 free, so we bought ours together to get a free one! Then we found a hidden garden to snack in and catch up. It was so nice outside and I didn’t want to do school, but I dragged myself to the library and got some work done. After working, I went to Mike’s and brought him some fudge.

On Sunday, I got up early and went to the library. All day.

On Monday I also did lots of work, and saw Mike. I discovered a trampoline in his flat’s courtyard so I naturally had to bounce around for a bit. I also got on the tire swing, which was pretty cool. Sometimes, you just gotta forget exams and be a kid. I made a new recipe for dinner- honey garlic chicken with lime cilantro rice, and it was great. I’ll make it for you, parents, when I get home if you want.

Tuesday was filled with more essay writing. In the evening, I went out to dinner with a friend. We got noodles and ice cream. Afterwards, Monika and I went to the Beltane Fire Festival at Calton Hill, which was pretty cool I guess, but we are pretty short, and couldn’t see too much of the performance. The Beltane Fire Festival is inspired by the ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane which began on the evening before 1 May and marked the beginning of summer. It’s kind of just a weird pagan ritual thing turned public holiday with colourfully painted people dancing and holding torches and was actually kinda odd, but interesting.

On Wednesday I wrote the majority of my paper, and then met up with Mike to play soccer in the Meadows. It was sooooo nice to play soccer, and we had warm weather and it was really excellent. We had a really good time, and afterwards started watching the Hobbit and had a nice dinner. Then I went to Connor and Fraser’s to return the soccer ball, and ended up staying there a bit before coming home and finishing up my paper.

Today is Thursday, and I put my final touches on my paper and sent it off to mom for proof-reading. Made some pancakes with Canadian maple syrup, returned some library books, got groceries, sent off some postcards, and am taking the day to relax before starting my next essay tomorrow. I am currently re-reading The Lord of the Rings, and it’s soooo nice to be reading for fun again, instead of for school.

I try as much as possible to ignore that this is my last month in Scotland. I really really can’t believe it, and I really really dislike thinking about it. I’m trying to memorize what everything looks like and be conscientious with my time, although it’s hard with exams to do everything that I want to do, because school is a major priority. I wish testing were over so I could just enjoy the last few weeks here. Maybe I will miss my plane and never go back. (Just kidding mum and dad). The next few weeks are very busy with exams, my birthday, friend’s birthdays, end of term parties, packing, and fitting everything into the rest of the time that I have. Here’s to 29 more days.

To see my pictures from this past week, please go to http://andheresmypictures.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/revision-week/

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Italy

Night One: Pisa
As with Croatia, we didn’t plan anything in Italy- hostels, cities, activities- we just showed up like proper backpackers and made our way as we saw fit, and it could not have worked out better. We had such a great time, and saw a lot of Italy. The first night, we flew into Pisa, casually found a nearby hostel, then set out for our first taste of Italian pizza, and boy it was fantastic! and cheap! Two things uni students love. After dinner, it was pretty late, so we went back to the hostel to sleep and tell our mommies and daddies that we were safe before a big first “real” day in Italy.

Day One: Pisa & Siena
Our first day in Italy was packed full of sight-seeing and yet it was all pretty relaxed and chill at the time even though we got so much accomplished. We began with breakfast from the supermarket, and then began meandering through Pisa. We saw Keith Haring’s famous mural, a little bitty tiny church called Chiesa di S. Maria della Spina that was the size of a living room yet with a super ornate exterior, went to a couple towers- Torre Lanfreducci and Torre Hotel Vittoria-, saw the Domus Galileana and, of course, the famous Leaning Tower with the duomo and cathedral nearby. It was surreal being back in Italy and having flashbacks to my time there in eighth grade. It was cool seeing these places again as an older person, but honestly some of the magic of it all was lost. Regardless, it was really beautiful and exciting to see my friend’s reactions to seeing Italy for the first time. We went into the Cathedral, and they are really strict about not having shoulders showing and legs have to be covered to the knee, which was a slight issue because it was 27 degrees Celsius and we were very hot after the coolness of Scotland! After seeing these main attractions, we walked back through Piazza dei Miracoli and saw Palazzo dei Cavalieri, then got some amazing gelato. That first bite was like nothing else. SO GOOD.

At this point it was mid-afternoon, maybe around 2, and we decided to catch a train to Siena for the remainder of the day. I remembered really loving Siena in grade eight, and the other girls had heard it was nice, too, so we decided to take a trip there, and had such a nice time! It was only about an hour away on the train, and we saw sooo much. It was nice to see more of the city than I had seen previously. We saw the Basilica de Francisco, sat in the main square, Il Campo, had pizza and gelato (of course!), saw the University and duomo, Basilica of Domenico, a huge football stadium, Piazza Della Liberta and Fortrezza Medicea which was a big fortress over a beautiful garden. Everything in Italy was so lush and green with flowers in bloom, and it felt like a proper springtime. The sun was shining so nice, and it was so peaceful and carefree to walk and travel through Italy. When the sun started to go down around 8, we took our cue to head back to our hostel in Pisa. We picked up some groceries on the way, and made a home cooked spaghetti, salad, and cheese bread meal for dinner. Overall, it was a really nice day, and I was very happy to have seen so much in one day.

Day Two: Florence
The next morning, we were off the Florence, which I was super excited about because it was my favorite spot last time I was in Italy and also because my friend from Nashville, Kelly, is studying in Florence so we planned to see each other while I was there! First things first though, we got to Florence and had to find a hostel before exploring. We found a nice place by the train station and were able to get a private room, which is always nice when travelling cuz you know your belongings are more safe. Our wanderings led us to Basilica di S. Maria Novella, Cappelle Medicee, Basilica di S. Lorenzo, through a huge market with lots of leather goods and print outs of David, to a gelato store, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiere, and the duomo. These areas were absolutely stunning, but flooded with tourists, so we were super vigilant with our bags. I again had the sense of surrealism about being back in Italy. The funny thing is, when I left Italy the first time, I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would be back. And I did go back! So I suppose it was nice to have that feeling confirmed. Later in the day, we walked by the super famous Galleria degli Uffizi which I remembered seeing before, and we walked along Ponte Vecchio, which is something I hadn’t done before and was really excited to do. We also saw the Basilica di Santa Croce, Palazzo Pitti, Giardino of roses, and went to a lookout on the other side of the river from which to get a great view of the city. The lookout spot is called Piazzale Michelangelo, and the view was stunning. We were up there at sunset, and the colors were just fantastic. The city looked so romantic and everything was right in the world. After disembarking from there, we walked back to the duomo to meet Kelly! It was so exciting to see her this side of the world and catch up. She took us to a really yummy pizza place and we ate outside on the steps of what I think was a church courtyard or something. Then we went to this great gelato place. Yes, I did only eat pizza and gelato on this trip, and yes, I have only been eating salad since getting home. It was totally worth it though. After dessert, we said goodbye to Kelly and went back to the hostel.

Day Three: Florence to Rome
We woke up, packed, and went to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see the David statue; however, the line was massive and if we waited and paid, by the time we got in we would have about five minutes in the museum, so after waiting for a bit we abandoned ship to go find a building with a green roof that we saw from the Piazzale Michelangelo and wanted to see up close. Turns out, it was a gorgeous Synagogue. We weren’t able to go inside because we would have missed our train, so we viewed it from the outside, and went to the station to make our way to Rome! I was really looking forward to going to Rome, because my cousin Giles and his friend Cam, who had just visited me in Edinburgh, were in Rome at the same time and we planned to meet up. The guys met us at the train station, and it was such a relief to connect with them in such a big city. It was really nice to have guys with us in Rome because it can be kinda sketchy there. Also, they had been there already for a day and learned their way around, so they acted as our tour guides, which was great. They began by saying they were gonna take us to Tourist Destination 1. They didn’t know what it was, but on all the maps, this spot was marked as #1. So we went there and it was very beautiful. I told Giles what we were hoping to see, and he told us what they had already seen, and he mentioned that they kept looking and searching for the Spanish Steps but were unable to find them. So as we leave Tourist Destination 1, we go down these stairs, and suddenly I’m like… wait… So I turn around, look at the stairs, and recognize them as the Spanish Steps. I yelled up to the group to tell them, and it was very funny, because apparently the boys had gone up and down those stairs many times, not realizing that they were what they had been searching for! So we checked that off the list! Us girls were really hungry, so our next stop was… you guessed it! Gelato and pizza. In that order. After dinner, there was a free walking tour of the city that we joined. It started at the Spanish Steps and took us to the column of Immaculate Conception, the Keats Shelley Museum, the oldest coffee shop in Rome, the house of Bernini and the church at which his Angels stand called S. Andrea della Fratte, I learned that all 1,500 churches in Rome point to the Vatican, we saw the Buffalo Fountain, Silvestro Square with one of the oldest clocktowers, also the sight of John the Baptist’s head, the Galleria Alberto Sordi, Piazza Colonna, Marcus Aerulis column, the Pantheon- first dome ever built in Italy, St. Ignatius Church, and the tour ended at the Trevi Fountain. Everything was just so beautiful and it was fun to be led everywhere by a local instead of sorting out a map. After the tour, it was getting pretty late, so we set off for the Hilton Garden Inn where the five of us were staying together. It was so so so so nice to stay in a proper hotel with towels and hot water and fluffy pillows instead of grungy hostels with shared bathrooms. I slept like a baby.

Day Four: Rome
We slept in Saturday, then made our way to the city centre just in time for some lunch. Then we ventured to St. Peter’s Basilica, where we climbed a huge, claustrophobic tunnel of stairs to the tippy top of the church for a magnificent view of the city. It was stunning, and worth the climb, but I felt really woozy in the tight corridors, so don’t go there if you’re claustrophobic. We looked all around in the church and saw some choir boys and funnily clad Vatican guards. Our next stop was the Colosseum, which closed at 7:30 but final entry was at 6:30, and us not knowing this, showed up at 6:40 and couldn’t get in. That was a bummer for the others and I felt bad for them, but I remember being pretty underwhelmed by the Colosseum the first time, so I viewed it as saving 12 euros. Instead of going inside there, we walked along the outside and then went to a wine ship, bought a couple bottles, and popped ’em open at the Trevi Fountain. This was probably my favorite part of Rome: Italian wine, great company, as the sun went down at the Trevi Fountain in Italy. It was like out of a book or a movie. On the way back to the hotel though, some random guy tried to pick-pocket me, and luckily Cam saw him and shooed him away, for which I was very grateful. It was pretty weird thinking that someone would want to steal from me, but he was reaching in my “this can be stolen bag” instead of my “this can’t be stolen bag” so it would have been ok. But still, not ideal. Anyways, it all worked out, we bought some candy, and went back to the hotel. We watched a bit of When in Rome, fittingly, but I fell asleep near the beginning, and that is that.

Day Five: Rome to Pisa
The boys woke up super early to make a flight to Germany, so we said a sad goodbye to them at 4:45am, then went back to sleep till 9. We packed up, checked out, got breakfast, then went to the train station to drop Bethany off as she wanted to go to Naples and Pompeii. Jennie and I spent the afternoon in Rome; we went to the Novana Piazza, famous because of its three wells, back to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican, then sprinted with our huge backpacks about 20 or 25 minutes to the train station and barely made it on before it left for Pisa. We smelled really badly. Four hours later we were exhausted, and in Pisa. Had some pizza and gelato- what else?- showered, and hit the sack.

Day Six: Cinque-Terre
In our last full day in Italy, Jennie and I went to Cinque-Terre which is a series of five coastal cities that are truly darling and iconic. We went to three of the five: Riomaggiore, Monterosso al Mare, and Vernazza. It was very relaxing, we walked along the beach, had gelato, met some gorgeous doggies, and just enjoyed our last day by the sea. Things got stressful when I realized I couldn’t pay for train tickets with my card because they didn’t have a machine for that. I went to the ATM, and neither of my cards worked, which is just ridiculous as I’ve had so many issues with my banks since getting here, and it was really terrible timing for them to be fussy with me for travelling. Jennie and I had to sneak on a couple trains sans paying until we, or rather she, could buy two tickets back to Pisa. Since we had no money and were leaving the next day, all we ate all day was a baguette, a jar of jam, and an apple. It wasn’t very fun, but there are worse things so we just laughed at it. We made it back to Pisa and went to the airport where we planned to sleep, but we were kicked out at midnight and told to come back when it reopened at 4am. That made us fussy, but what can ya do? We walked back to the city and crossed paths with Bethany who was on her way to the airport, so reunited, we found a new hostel to stay in for the night. It was kinda sketchy but everything turned out alright and that’s what matters.

Day Seven: Pisa to Edinburgh
We did nothing exciting, but wake up, go to the airport, and fly home. It was good to be home safe. I came home, unpacked, showered, and went to Mike’s for dinner and to share stories from the trip. It was such a great two weeks of travelling through Croatia, Liverpool, and Italy, and I’m really thankful that I had that opportunity. It was so relaxing which is just what I needed after school ended and before exams. Speaking of which, I should get off here, and back to studying.

To see my photos from my time in Italy, check out my new blog http://andheresmypictures.wordpress.com/. Ciao!

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A Day in Liverpool, England

On the morning of the 15th of April, we woke up early, said goodbye to Caroline who wasn’t joining us for the rest of the journey, then got on a plane for Liverpool. Our first stop was to find a hostel, then we went exploring! We saw the Kings Dock, Albert Dock, Ferris wheel, went into the Tate Museum which had some crazy modern art, went to, but not inside, the Beatles Story Museum, the Pier Head, Underwater Street, Sailors Cathedral, St. George’s Hall, Museum of Liverpool, Princes Docks, Derby Square, Town Hall, down Bold Street which is the shopping centre, where I purchased a t-shirt because it was too sunny out for my warm clothing, China Town with the biggest arch outside China, and saw the Liverpool Cathedral. In the midst of that, Bethany, Jennie, and I bought a 60p chocolate cake from Tesco, and ate it with our hands since we didn’t have cutlery. A lot of people laughed at us. I’m sure we were a funny sight to see! The evening was really special because my flatmate Emma came into Liverpool from the Wirrel (a 15 minute train outside of Liverpool) to join us for dinner at this very yummy Brazilian restaurant in Liverpool One. It was so nice to see her and catch up as it had been a couple weeks since we had seen each other. After dinner, we said goodbye to Emma and went to McDonald’s to steal wifi to plan Italy, and then went to the hostel to sleep.

The next day was very peaceful and just a really nice day. We woke up, packed our bags, and went back to the Liverpool Cathedral to see the inside. It was massive and gorgeous. Then we saw the Metropolitan Cathedral which was very ugly and weird. We walked through Liverpool University and pretended like we were students there and not tourists. Then Jennie and I took a train to the Wirrel to spend the day in the country with Emma, while Bethany stayed in town working on a paper due during our trip. Emma picked us up from the train station, and took us to meet her pretty horses, then to her house to make lunch. Her house and town were perfectly English quaint settings with lots of green grass and cute houses. We walked through the town which took no time at all, and it was so so fun to see where she grew up and lives. We had such a nice time together, and then had to head back to Liverpool to catch a plane to Pisa!

Unfortunately, I have used up all my picture space on my blog, and can no longer publish photos here, but I started a new blog just for pictures, so you can see my photos from my time in Liverpool here: http://andheresmypictures.wordpress.com/. Enjoy!

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