The Costwolds

THIS Saturday we went on a trip with our program to the Costwolds! The Cotswolds are, according to Wiki’s definition, “a range of hills in southwestern and west-central England, an area 25 miles (40 km) across and 90 miles (145 km) long. The area has been designated as the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

First we went to Broadway Tower, from which you could see 4 different counties. It was also the coldest I’ve ever been (I’m being dramatic but really, it was chilly).

broadway tower

broadway tower

The view!

The view!

Then we walked down to the village and saw some sheep on the way. We also walked through kissing gates, which we liked to lol about mostly just because of  the name. Only one person can go through at a time and then you kind of pass each other so the first people through kiss (or so I was told). Sadly, no one would kiss me.

baaa

baaa

Then we went to Bourton-on-the-Water to eat lunch.

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It was pretty, but also cold.

Then we went to the Painswick Gardens to see snowdrops.

snowdrops

snowdrops

then we went home.

 

Was this a really good blog post or what? I had fun I swear but the creative juices are just not flowing currently.

 

 

 

 

 

Cardiff Party!

This past Saturday we took the train to Cardiff, Wales. Wales is a different country than England but it is still in both the United Kingdom and Great Britain (only Northern Ireland is in the UK but not Great Britain. That is your geography lesson for the day).

We decided to go to Wales because, though we could be content spending every moment in Bath, that wasn’t exactly feasible. Cardiff is a great day trip and a good place to get our feet wet, literally, for traveling around Europe.

The day started off in quite an interesting way.  We had been warned not to travel to Cardiff when there was a game in Millenium stadium, home of the adored Welsh rugby team. We thought we were fine this Saturday because there was not one. We did not take into account, however, the fine game of football.  We arrived at the Bristol train station at around 8:50 AM. Emma was looking to one side, exclaiming about architecture. The rest of us were looking to the other, confused by the large mass of men who had cropped up.

hooligans!

hooligans!

“Emma, LOOK,” I said.

“This is a really cool building—“

“JUST FREAKIN’ LOOK OVER HERE!”

“Oh. So this is where all the men have been hiding.”

Yes, these were football fans from Bristol, and yes, they were wasted.  They stormed onto the train and all I could do was put aside Lord of the Rings and the Les Miserables soundtrack and stare. Some stood and some sat, but the train had become exponentially more rowdy. They drank their Thatcher’s Gold cider and sang, sometimes singing ABOUT Thatcher’s gold.  My favorite songs included lyrics like “always shit on the Welsh side of the bridge” (to the tune of a Monty Python song, I assume) and “10 sheep shaggers in a field.” I felt extremely uncomfortable, but also amused at the same time.  Luckily, there were cops in the car so I wasn’t afraid, but the football fans also did not really pay attention to the cops when they told them to shut up.

Then when we arrived in Cardiff we saw some guy who had been sitting right near us get arrested. Whee! No idea what he had done, probably talked back to a cop or something… awkward! Let’s move on. But that was my train ride. Yay cultural experiences!

After stopping so I could purchase and egg and bacon sandwich (yummy, but still not real bacon), we made our way to Cardiff Castle, which I would say is arguably the biggest tourist landmark in Cardiff. I think it might have been the first castle I’ve seen, and we had a nice time walking around the walls, the keep, and also the tunnels where they hid during wartime, though that part was kind of scary because they kept blasting odd music throughout said tunnels… We had audio guides and I really did learn some stuff about the construction of the castle but my retention skills are quite low at the moment, so all I can offer you are some pictures.

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me on top of the keep

me on top of the keep

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I also dropped my camera and it might be broken. Cardiff Castle 1, Taylor 0.

Next we were going to go to the bay but then I was forced to take a stroll through a park, where we totally smelled weed. Then we had lunch from a slightly sketchy cheap store on a corner, deciding that we would save our pounds for a nicer dinner (read: cider).

After lunch we made our way to the visitor center, where we got directions to the bay—half an hour away. Still worth it, because, like the nerd I am, I needed to see where Torchwood was filmed.

torchwood building hell yah

torchwood building hell yah

see, its really easy to see everything

see, its really easy to see everything

Sadly, extreme fogged marred our visit, but it was still worth the walk. Though I do wish I could see more than like 5 feet out into the bay.  We walked to the Dr. Who experience which I realllllly wanted to go to, but, as the only fan, I sadly had to pass.

Our last stop was the FREE MUSEUM! Put the word free in front of everything and I will go. It actually turned about to be pretty cool, because there was a history of Wales section, a Natural History section, AND an art section with some pretty Monet. Plus benches so Ruth and I could rest—the amount of walking we did was NOT IT. I might need to invest in a scooter.

some Monet

some Monet

Post free museum, we walked around, Emma got tea and a muffin, we continued to walk around, then looked for a place for dinner. We ended up at the Owyn Glyndwyr, a pub named for a famous dead Welshman who was apparently the last Prince of Wales.

After dinner, about 10 Welshman appeared at our table. You’d think that would be it but then there MORE kept coming and it was INSANE. I wouldn’t call them country folk but they weren’t the most educated of men either…  However, they were pretty polite, which was good because being one of four girls surrounded by that many guys could get real awkward realllll fast. They were probably around our age, maybe a bit older, and were eager to discuss American customs and also teach us Welsh Words. One man even had a dollar in his pocket! They were also very eager to visit Disneyland. Somehow I ended up sitting near the grenades of the group (as the Situation would say), a really fat man and a scarier one with tattoos named Mikey, but he bought me a drink so I’m not complaining. Moral of the story: grenades are perfectly nice.

basically how we felt

basically how we felt

A choice quote from one of the men: “What are the odds that FOUR AMERICAN WOMEN would show up in OUR BAR?”

Culture

I’m not just sitting around reading novels. I’m experiencing culture! Obviously they speak the same language but there is of course some slang, customary differences, and the like which I am finding interesting and figured I might as well record. 

1. Toilets: We have one with a pull chain which is quite interesting, and also they are very deep– like the toilet bowl itself is quite vast. It is not like this in America. Mock me if you will, but I know I am right.

2. Sinks: At first I didn’t notice but there are like two faucets, and depending if you want hot or cold it will come out a different faucet. Weird.

3. Arugula is called rocket here. We were getting bagels and Fin asked for hers without rocket because she didn’t know what it was. Luckily, I asked for her, and we then realized it was arugula and delicious on a sandwich. 

4. The word posh is used quite often. Usually it is referring to wealth, status, accents, etc. Sometimes when I go out in heels I will say I look posh. I usually don’t.

5. Chav = actually an acronym for council house (kind of like the projects) and violent. British version of white trash. Not sure if appropriate to use often. 

6. REFRIGERATION: Brits apparently not a fan of refrigerating things. Not sure why. Grocery stores freak me out with the eggs just chillin on a shelf. 

7. Geordie Shore is the British version of the Jersey Shore and is also produced by MTV. It is also 10x better and trashier. A woman exposes her chest within ten seconds of the first episode. Solid gold. Sometimes I have no idea what they’re saying but it’s great anyway. 

8. Made In Chelsea: The British version of The Hills except 10x more posh. At first I thought it was boring as hell but now I’m addicted and cannot stop watching.  I just want to wander around Belgravia in my fur coat and rainbow manicure like Caggie. 

9. Not to sound completely dumb but I am still consistently surprised by the cars driving on the wrong side of the road. It seems like such a small thing but it’s quite disorienting. Plus the roads are reallllly skinny.

10. Speaking of skinny, EVERYTHING HERE IS SMALLER. Stairs, streets, portion sizes, apartments, kitchens, people, etc. Do not understand. Supersize me, America!

11. Not used to having change be valuable. Keep dropping it on accident. Still getting 50 pence and 2 pounds confused because they are both sort of larger. Cashiers do not have much patience for my confusion with currency. Wish I had a coin purse but I have so many at home that I failed to tote along I would feel silly purchasing a new one. 

Roommate Bios

Just for some added fun, I’ll give a short personality rundown of the people I’m spending the most time with.

Emma, my roommate: Very short and bouncy with dark curly hair, reminds me of a cute elf. Seems innocent but has some funnnn stories. Loves pizza hut, Jesse McCartney and The Bachelor–ashamed of none of it. Shit you might hear Emma say: “If you insult Taylor Swift I will kill you,” “I’m really f@#&*! good at scrabble and I will beat you.”

Mimi (Mimz) : We all thought she might have been a foreign person before we met her because her full name is very ethnic but she isn’t, though she does have an EU citizenship which is sick. Also has dark curly hair. Mimi has lots of STRANGE stories which are great to listen to. She also loves rappers. Shit you might hear Mimi say: “I got a staph infection in Ghana,” “When my room was set on fire…”

Fin: (Aka Sarah, Findawg, Finnegan) Quiet when you first meet her, you soon realize she is crazy. Fin also has great stuff to tell and enjoys narrating what she is currently doing by turning it into song. Loves sheep and Kate Middleton. Eats almost as much pizza as I do. Shit you might hear Fin say: “I was a three time gold medalist in the national latin scholar competition,” “I wish I lived in the Cold War era.”

Wait, I actually have to do work?

Here’s a little update on the “real” reason I’m here: classes! This was what I mainly did this week, as well as catch up on TV, exploring, and shooting the breeze with the roomz. I think our professors are actually called tutors but I’m just calling them professors, sue me.

Mythologizing Shakespeare: The best anecdote for this class I think involves my conversation with Lucy, our head academic lady (descriptive, I know, but I have no official titles in front of me).

Lucy: So, how have your classes been this week?
Me: Oh good, just some professors are a bit more formal and different than I’ve encountered in America.
Lucy: Oh so you’ve met Brian then?

what have i done???

what have i done???

YES YOU READ MY MIND LUCY! Brian, my prof for this class, is pretty much a Shakespeare genius but this guy is HARSH. Even in America when you don’t get the professors who are nice to you when you get a wrong answer, they still don’t make you feel like a complete idiot. He does. He does not take kindly to getting things wrong either, so I think I may just forgo a good participation grade in this class . . . he also seemed slightly offended when I yawned in class. Dude, I wasn’t out partying I’m just tired! What do you want me to do, leave the room? Le sigh.  I’ll figure it out I’m sure it’s just weird being introduced to a new teaching and learning style.

I’ll end this section with a choice quote from Brian:

“One time in a final essay a student complained that though this class was titled Mythologizing Shakespeare, there were no Greek myths in it.  That was possible on of the most fatuous comments I have ever heard.” (Like okay yes, clearly this class has nothing to do with greek myths, but you have to have heard comments more silly than that and also, who says fatuous in everyday speech.)

picard facepalming

picard facepalming

British Detective Fiction:

Our professor seems quite nice but also had had several teeth removed before our first class so it was difficult to hear her . . . There will be a lot of reading (womp womp) but its easier stuff so I am excited. My class is full of nerds who love BBC and Miss Marple and shit. My parents would feel right at home. Now I just have to get through The Moonstone…

World’s Beyond Oxford:

Our professor is adorable and a Kiwi (not the fruit, she’s from NZ). We spent a lot of time talking about children’s literature which was slightly confusing because we’re reading LOTR. IMHO, LOTR is not children’s literature. So maybe that will have to be clarified.  We’re reading Narnia for next class which I’m excited for mostly because Narnia was so overshadowed for me by HP and LOTR that I never really cared what happened in it; we’ll see if it still sucks or if it has hidden value!

im actually excited doe

im actually excited doe

Writing from the Self:

This is not a creative nonfiction class, contrary to my belief– according to my space cadet professor, you kind of “write whatever the eff you want.” Ummmm ok Rob, as long as there are workshops I don’t really care. He’s a dual citizen of the US and UK but has an American accent so I feel gypped, but he also liked my diagnostic paper so there’s that. I have to a give a presentation on Stephen King next class sooooooo we’ll see how that goes.  Maybe I’ll just talk about his friendship with Aunt Diane.

That’s that! I have 3 books and a play to read so I’m screwed but hey, I can do it. When in Rome.

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Stonehenge (Yah I did) Salisbury (not steaks) and Lacock! (no laughing)

Disclaimer: I hate it when people who have been to Stonehenge say it isn’t impressive. Sure its not like looming over you but CAVE PEOPLE dragged these BLUE ROCKS over from SOUTH WALES and BUILT SOME COOL SHIT LIKE A TEMPLE OR WHATEVER and it’s still here. ROCK ON, STONEHENGE CREATORS! SHOUTOUT!

Ummm yeah. There were also some swiss people buried there and I guess they visited Stonehenge to get healed because one had bone density problems and the other one was his son or relative and also had similar problems. Snaps for radiocarbon dating! It was really freaking cold at Stonehenge and there were also a ton of Asian tourists (freakin’ duh they’re everywhere.)

Stonehenge, it happened

Stonehenge, it happened

frannz and I at the henge

frannz and I at the henge

 

After that we also went to the town of Salisbury, where Salisbury Cathedral is.  Very pretty and also holds one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta. As Ryan Lochte would say, Jeah! We toured the Cathedral with Angela, who was like kinda quiet and also had a flat nose, but it was fun. It was hard for my brain to process a lot bc I was cold but William Golding hung out there a lot and Thomas Hardy based his town of Melchester of of Salisbury. We encountered some small British boys who said “are you Americans” and I said “umm yeah” and they said something indecipherable, but which my roommate Emma assures me was “muggles.” Well then.

El Catedral

El Catedral

closer up

closer up

Cloisters!

Cloisters!

 

Last stop on our day trip was the HISTORIC village of Lacock. Seriously, don’t laugh, because I did and felt bad. It’s pronounced lay-cock which sounds a bit better (maybe?). This is where many period pieces are filmed because you can’t see any telephone wires. (Eg. Cranford, Wolfman, Pride and Prejudice, etc.)

Also: HARRY FREAKING POTTER!!! There’s an abbey which was NOT OPEN during this period but where the Hogwart’s courtyard was filmed for movies 1 and 4 (I thought they were saying 1 in 4 and was confused why we were talking about the rate of rape on college campuses, but realized it was and, not in. My b.) There is also a house used as Godric’s Hollow. HOW. COOL. I wasn’t there but the owner came home a few minutes later and was like mad people were taking pictures of her house. Well maybe you shouldnt’ve let them put it in a movie then.

Lacock Abbey

Lacock Abbey

Godric's Hollow!!

Godric’s Hollow!!

Lastly, we had a traditional “English Roast” dinner, which culminated in a TRIVIA NIGHT! If you know me, you know I love trivia. My team (my flatmates and I, obvi) actually won (which isn’t a shock, but still nice).  There was a tie breaker because we didn’t listen to Fin on question (the Red Lion is the most common name for a pub in England I guess) but we got it right so we won some CHOCOLATE and of course the hate of all our other program mates for being so smart (JK JK to any ASE ppl reading this). On the bus ride back we played the game where you put a celeb on your forehead and then guess. I was George the 6th, Mimi was Pitbull, Fin was scary spice, and Emma was Tom Daley. Pretty well rounded.

This is where we nommed

This is where we nommed

 

 

Pictures of (Lily) BATH! (get The Who reference?)

FEAST YOUR EYES UPON MY PHOTOGRAPHIC PROWESS.

This is what I see every day when walking home from Nelson House where I have class!

This is what I see every day when walking home from Nelson House where I have class!

This is where I have class, study, hang out, whatevah.

This is where I have class, study, hang out, whatevah.

This is parade park, which is right across the street from me!

This is parade park, which is right across the street from me!

This is the River Avon

This is the River Avon

Bath Abbey!

Bath Abbey!

Inside Bath Abbey

Inside Bath Abbey

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annnd me obama and prince harry

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orientation and First Week Recap (rockin!)

It might be easier to just get the words out of the way first and then make a separate post with pictures. I’m just trying to get it all done now that our wifi is finally functioning!! I’ve found that living in an apartment building with 4 flats of about 4 people each, everyone on the internet at the same time = internet that seems almost like dial up (okay, that was an exaggeration, but still. I like my internet.)

The beginning of last week mostly consisted of the program directors talking at us about expectations of academics, activities we should do, how to assimilate ourselves into british society (jk, how to make friends), etc. There’s no way around stuff like this so it was expected, but still, we mostly wanted to get out and around Bath. That did happen, and we learned where to do our grocery shopping, food being very high on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In case you ever come to Bath, Sainsbury’s is the most similar to what we have back in the states, and they have ORANGE BAGS which I think is super cool. Iceland is where you go for cheap frozen food (good for our french fry habit) and also cheap toilet paper, soda, beer, etc. Things you have to think about.

Probably the MOST FUN PART of this week was taking our diagnostic exams! What happens is each professor gives a prompt for their class so you have to write an 800 word essay responding to this prompt. While jet lagged and tired. Sounds great, right? It was. All mine weren’t disturbingly difficult so I was fine but I couldn’t imagine having taken a class where I didn’t know the subject matter, and then taking one of these exams.  We took two on Wednesday and two on Thursday and somehow survived. Free time was spent getting to know the quirks of my roommates and also exploring Bath a little bit more.  We also toured Bath Abbey, which has some nice stained glass, ceilings, etc.

On Friday we took the bus up to Bath University (or BU) to check out the campus, gym, student commons, etc. Definitely very 70’s and concrete campus. A lot of people who go there study “sport” I guess and all sorts of sports management stuff.  There’s another popular major but I forget… anyway, it’s different than Bath Spa which is further out of town in a different direction where the focus is on nerdy, literary stuff. The gym was naiiiiiice but I was not about to spend £100 + on facilities which I had to take a BUS to get to. I’ll attempt to jog, thanks.  So far that hasn’t happened (hello, busy and having a great time) but I’m sure it will.

Saturday we toured some markets! I love markets! The first one, Guildhall, is open all the time and has a used book section (where I bought some cheaper LOTR books for my class that I hadn’t gotten yet), some noms, wool, costumes, tiaras, the like.  The next one was by the big Sainsbury’s and had lots of food so we picked up some vegetables, bread, and brie (which I may have eaten all of… oops). After that my flatmates and I got more groceries, went home, and promptly collapsed for the whole day, taking a break to eat french fries.

 

Bath itself:

This place is gorgeous.  I profess to love places like Boston but really, I’m a Brunswick, Maine, girl at heart. This city, however, is amazingly sized, amazingly cute, and also I haven’t encountered a sketchy area! I hear it is very safe and it really seems like it (don’t worry Mom, I’m being careful!). The weather is obviously rainy (THIS IS ENGLAND) but like… It’s fine. I prefer it because when it’s sunny it’s colder (boo). Might need to by a liner for my Barbour.

The staff at ASE are so nice and friendly, and also BRITISH which would make anybody, even Nicholas Cage, sound cool, but I think these people would also be cool if they were, dare I say it, American. It’s hard to get used to a whole new way of doing things after finally acclimating to W&L but change keeps me young.

Nightlife: I won’t get into the gory details because this is a family blog, but I’ll just say it, I’m enjoying being of age here. Not in a crazy way but it’s nice to be able to get into a club or just get some wine to have with your dinner. The bars and clubs I’ve been to are great so it’s fun to experience what I guess is just a difference between small town frat parties and what people do in cities for fun haha.

Pictures to come ASAP, now that the wifi is finally workingggggg.