Our visit to Carlisle, at the western end of Hadrian's Wall. This is a photo of some of the carved walls of Carlisle Castle. They were made in the 1470s by soldiers during long hours of uneventful guard duty--carving out the family crests of various powerful lords of the Borders.
Today was BY FAR my favorite of the trip so far! Rob came and got us this morning to take us to visit Northumbria University, the local university, and their amazing design school. I knew I had a feeling I wanted to study abroad somewhere in this country, but the atmosphere at Northumbria is what has pushed me over the edge I think! At the school, three students presented us with their work from the past three years (they're graduating this year, from the three-year design program) so we could get a feel for the type of work. Their style of schooling is very different--as opposed to structured classes, they are briefed for projects and then left to themselves to determine when they will come in to use the design building as a studio and get their work done. So independent compared to our schooling in the US! Often, their projects are live projects in which a local company will give them the opportunity to design something for them, and a group of students will "win", and have their design used for the company! We sat in on a brief like this for the product Geo Bars, which are coming to the US soon. We then toured each floor and department of the building including 3D, fashion, graphic, and transportation design. We ate lunch in the cafeteria, but had to hurry back to catch our train to Durham! I'm not sure if it was the precedent that I knew that Harry Potter had been filmed in this cathedral, or that it was so quaint and fairytale, tucked into a hill overlooking the river, that attracted me so much to this town. Here is where Laura and I tossed a token into the river and made a wish, then continued to climb the narrow, shop-lined streets to the famous Durham Cathedral. I've seen a few cathedrals in my time, but this was undoubtedly the most massive and humbling one, sprawling out to include parts of Durham University and huge cloisters. We had a very eager tour guide showing us the intricate wood and stone work, the organ, the well-known Nine Altars, the tomb of St. Cuthbert, and the beautiful stained glass work. Pictures were not allowed inside but we caught a recording of the highlight of the entire trip: the children's choir practice and then the adult choir practice taking place throughout our tour. I had the hardest time paying attention to the tour guide's history, as their voices almost brought me to tears! When the evening service started, we visited the cloisters where many courtyard Hogwarts scenes from Harry Potter were filmed!! Back in Newcastle, dinner at the Slug and Lettuce was the perfect end to a perfect day! Fantastic food and drinks all around, led to meeting a few new friends back at the hotel, with whom we got caught up in games of Snooker (UK version of pool) and comparing UK and US boybands J Such a great night! Cheers!
Today's adventures took us to Carlisle, England by train! Said to be one of the most scenic train rides in the country--parts of the Harry Potter movies, the scenes where the train takes the kids to Hogwarts, were filmed along the same route we took today-- the 40 minute ride was stunning! Of course, we have our hills and valleys across the pond in the US, but we have nothing remotely close to the rolling green hills, dotted with sheep and little brick houses I only thought existed in storybooks. Carlisle is much like Newcastle and Tynemouth, combining ancient architecture with modern shops lifestyle. Back when the Romans and Brits inhabited the area, the castles were forts that protected the citizens, hence why they exist so close to the village, not off in the mountains like us tourists expected. Inside the castle we toured the entire thing, including the walls of ancient hieroglyphs where it is said that guards who were bored would etch things into the stone, and later, families who inhabited the castle would contribute. There was also a British military museum, which was absolutely fascinating, chronologically laying out artifacts from the British armies throughout each important World War and much much more! I have never seen more preserved and significant objects in such a small room...uniforms, weapons, gas masks, and even a Bible with a bullet still stuck in the middle from WWII were on display for our viewing. Following the museum and castle we visited the Red Cathedral (named for the red colored stone) in central Carlisle. We observed the uncovered painted panels on the walls and the magnificent stained glass and star-painted ceiling, as well as the pointed arches and intricate woodwork. I capped off the day with a little shopping, a BLT sandwich and Belgian chocolate pastry from Costa Coffee (UK version of Caribou), and a train ride back, followed by the movie Bridesmaids. Classic. See you tomorrow!
One word to describe today: Sorry. Sorry because I don't have just one word to explain it! There's no way I could. I feel like such a cheeseball, but I'm really struggling to wrap my mind around being here. HERE. Somewhere in this country, the decision was made to colonize America. Famous figures like Queen Elizabeth, Princess Di, and of course the new Royal Family have probably stepped at at least one location that I have stepped in the past few days. I know for sure Henry XIII ordered the destruction of the Priory we visited today. But of course we couldn't leave the hotel without a traditional English breakfast first! Eggs over easy, friend tomatoes, and "back" bacon (back of the pig?). Definitely not the syrup drenched carbs I am used to at Centennial dining hall, but I'm not complaining! A metro ride brought us to the postcard town of Tynemouth on the coast of the North Sea where we visited the famous Priory--the ruins of the castle and cathedral of Friar Simon and a line of famous kings. Spectacular architecture with stunning durability. The detail of the stone was breathtaking! Yes yes yes I know my friends are excited about their cruises and trips to Mexico, but the ocean breeze (more like ocean turbo jet winds) cooling me off while eating fish and chips? Sounds like a prettttty good combo! A walk down the pier to the lighthouse, and a trip to a famers-like market to shop for vintage sweaters topped of the day! We took a double-decker bus back to the metro, where we met an insanely adorable newly-three year old boy, who couldn't resist from telling us the favorite toy he received on his special birthday and the plans his family had to go to the park. We also got a recording of him singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Bob The Builder for us in the most adorable British accent I have ever heard. I want a British child. Or maybe I can train my kids to speak in an accent? Is that a bad consideration? I'm not ruling it out completely... Finally, dinner at Unos Italian--tomato basil ravioli and profiteroles for dessert--back in Newcastle ended a refreshing and eye-opening first real day here in the UK! More tomorrow--xoxo
It's a new dawn, and a new day 6 hours later than at home! Not gonna lie... I was secretly hoping Kate Middleton would be aimlessly wandering the airport, possibly out of boredom since Prince William is away on duty, or Daniel Radcliffe would be our surprise bus driver. Sadly I was disappointed in the celebrity category, but the diversity and stark trendiness of the bit of London culture we did get a chance to see definitely made up for it! Everyone has an accent. Everyone is wearing amazing shoes, amazing scarves, have amazing buns in their hair. Let's be real, everyone is stunning. Men, women, children, redheads. Especially redheads. They just don't make people like this in America! After a few struggles to get our bags, make it through customs (Laura was trying to smuggle in drugs...I kept telling her she would have to do without cocaine for a week...), and locating our connecting flight, we had time to wander. Laura and I split off from the group for a bit to venture into the London Olympics Games 2012 merch store. Even though the games haven't begun, it really brought reality to our situation to see the new logos and the new lines of clothing...since we didn't really get to leave the airport and see the London we have only seen in movies, all of the huge names on display for retail--Herve Leger, Cavallari, etc.--truly represented the city as a center of design and fashion. And I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe I, a Midwest girl, was a part of all of this.
Getting ready to board our flight from London to Newcastle, we watched a tidbit of UK politics on the tele (I'm integrating slang I've learned every so often, just for your enjoyment)...things about Scotland wanting to separate from the UK and be its own country. Very interesting to see a union of countries dealing with separation problems, we don't have much of that in the US! I noticed that the airport at Heathrow is so much quieter than any I have ever been to in the States. Also, there's hardly any garbage cans and NO drinking fountains! Odd.. but off to Newcastle I go!
Upon arriving, we met Rob! Our guide from
Northumbria University! He gave us presents! Cellphones! I think my grandmother
would pick out a more complicated phone than this one... I'm actually surprised
it has a camera and even a selection of two games! We drove in vans, obviously
on the left side of the road, to the Premier Inn, our temporary home in
Newcastle. It's similar to a condensed version of Holiday Inn. Laura and I got
settled into room 561, noticing many groups of young men, probably in their
early twenties. Not sure why... football match? Here for the nightlife? Speaking
of nightlife, Club Liquid is right next door to our hotel... I can already tell
Newcastle will be an adventure! We got to walk through the main town to our
dinner at a pub called The Pitcher & The Piano. And I thought "Newcastle"
sounded ancient...boy was I wrong! I can already tell this is a hotspot for
people my age, possibly students at the nearby Northumbria, and beyond. The
streets are lined with shops, high-end and cheaper, and where shops cease,
pubs, restaurant, and clubs fill the spaces. All of the buildings have stunning
architecture and I love how contemporary, almost city-like life combines with a
historical design approach to create an energetic atmosphere and a picture
perfect strolling experience. Historical monuments next to an H&M. Chase
Dance club across from the river and the bridge on which the Sydney, Australia
bridge was based. Past and present unite! For dinner, I filled my tummy with
calamari, a chicken/tomato/avocado sandwich, and my first English beer! What a
night...I really need to learn how to dress so I can blend into this attractive
culture...do I hear shopping calling my name?
Aaaaand we're off to lands unknown! Laura and I have been counting down for exactly 152 days, keeping track of our departure date on our dorm white board, which now reads "BRB! Gone to Scotland!" So much in my life has changed over the course of the months leading up to this trip, but this has definitely been a rock--a milestone, more like--which I have been anticipating and preparing for (shopping....)! After annoying the heck out of our neighbors in Frontier...yeah, sorry boys, we couldn't keep our excitement down... we were off to the airport and on flight Delta flight 40 before we knew it! In the middle seat 38D, I caught up in my journal, watched My Week With Marilyn, and uncomfortably invaded Laura's tray table for an attempted nap for 7 and a half loooong hours until reaching the London Airport at Heathrow in midmorning!
We got to our room at the Premier Inn, which is right in the center of town within walking distance to practically everything. Got unpacked, and had about an hour to relax a little bit before heading off to our welcoming dinner at The Pitcher and Piano Pub down on the river. The walk to the pub was BEAUTIFUL. The town on a Saturday night is so lively! The energy of the people was amazing. With pubs almost every other store front, I wouldn't expect anything short of amazing here. We passed by many hip, trendy restaurants, I was amazed at the vibrant feel of the streets! The buildings and streets are gorgeous in their architecture and design. All the streets cross and intersect at odd angles, so much different that the block system we have back home. It was so unique and unlike anything I have ever seen! For some reason I was expecting something completely different. We got down to the river and it was absolutely breathtaking! I for sure looked like the classic tourist as I stared up at the buildings with my mouth wide-open snapping photo after photo with my giant touristy camera around my neck.
Dinner at the pub was really good. Blasting remixes of Adele. Cool lighting. Spectacular view of the river. Great food. I would write more but I need to sleep! More details in the next post!
For me, the trip began months ago when I started only buying things with the UK in mind and could only dream about what Europe would be like. So when Friday March 9th came and the countdown on my dorm door finally said "0", I could hardly believe that soon I would be thousands of miles away having the time of my life. Meeting up with the group, checking in, getting through security, and getting to gate 4A went smoothly. I got my caramel cooler and People magazine and settled in at the gate with all others heading to Heathrow International Airport in London, England!
Flying internationally is like nothing I have ever experienced. The uncomfortably factor of those seats is unbelievably high when you have less than two inches on either of side of you, are sitting at about an 85 degree angle, and repeatedly get your knee hit by the flight attendants breezing by with their massive carts. The most comfortable position I found was when I laid face down on the tray in front of me, this however led to some neck and back issues. Laying on Elizabeth's shoulder was a close second. We had a nice hot pasta dinner complete with a ciabatta roll, side salad, cheese, crackers, and questionable cookie/brownie dessert. I was actually surprised at how good it was. Hours went by, and soon enough breakfast was served! A sketchy egg, ham, and cheese English muffin sandwich, a banana, and OJ. Regardless of the lengthy, uncomfortable flight, when I heard the pilot announce we were soon landing in London I got incredibly excited again! Got off the plane, smelled some British air (heavenly, btw) and searched for our connecting flight.
After some struggles finding our way through customs, having to catch a train to RE-ENTER the airport (yes, re-enter... we had some trouble reading a few signs...), checking bags, and getting a few pat downs London style in security (ask Elizabeth about the bombs that were supposedly hidden in her scarf...) we finally go inside the Heathrow Airport! I soon discovered that it is actually more of a giant shopping mall full of amazing looking and sounding people. I was in heaven listening to all of the conversations around me! Simply the way that everyone said "Thank you" made me smile from ear to ear and quietly repeat the way they said it over and over again. So the people. The way they talked, the way they dressed, the way they stood, the way they walked, the way they did their hair, their shoes... everything was amazing to me! They are all so trendy and just plain cool looking. Even the children and old people! Leashing children is a VERY common thing here. But at least they are leashing adorable and stylish children, right?!
The rest of my layover in London consisted of people watching and resting. We got to our gate for our connecting flight to Newcastle. A few of us went on a search for a drinking fountain and a trash can... and neither were anywhere to be found! We also noticed how interesting and different all of the signage is here... for example, the woman's bathroom girl is wearing a poodle skirt! We boarded the flight and an hour and fifteen minutes later we were at our final destination: Newcastle, England! A very smooth arrival, got our bags right away. We met our host and were whisked away to Premier Inn, our home for the next four days.
We arrived in Newcastle, met by Rob Carthy of Northumbria University, dinner at the Piano and Pitcher overlooking the Millennium Bridge which unites Newcastle and Gateshead. Saturday night is party night in Newcastle. As we left the Piano and Pitcher we saw signs all around that it was getting into motion. Grey's Monument, skateboarders, partiers... "If fries are called chips, what are chips called?" Early night; all tired out.