Travel: Stonehenge, England

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Oh Stonehenge. I’m sure this is probably sacrilegious or something, but of all the places I’ve traveled to, Stonehenge is definitely the most overrated. You see, on the History Channel, they don’t tell you that you can’t walk up and touch the stones, and that you have to approach the stones through a visitor’s entrance/tunnel. They also don’t tell you about the people.

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The people taking pictures. The many people taking pictures.

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and the people taking selfies (oh hi Becca! This was too good not to post. xoxo).

Seriously though, I was unimpressed. And freezing by the time we got back to the bus. We were allotted an hour for the visit, but Michelle and I only looked at the stones for about a half an hour – there’s only so much you can do when you can’t touch them.

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So, we slipped into the nearby sheep pasture and observed things. Mostly people – not only had we come during the height of tourist season, but we’d also come just a few days before summer solstice. There were many trailers around, and some of the characters we saw were fantastic (like, you see them in news articles kind of fantastic). That was one of the highlights of the trip out there.

Then, we took our obligatory photos and high-tailed it to the warm bus.

So, while Stonehenge is really interesting, in terms of “must-see-sights”, it was very commercialized and crowded. If you want to see ancient stone circles, there are many others in the UK. I’d recommend finding one and hiking to it to get a truly fabulous stone-age experience.

(p.s. I’m pretty sure this is it for my England photos, but stay tuned!)

Travel: Bath, England

Believe it or not, I still have a few photo sets from England this past summer that I haven’t posted. Since I’m currently a bit homesick for Europe, tonight seemed like the perfect time to post my photos from Bath.
We arrived in Bath in the rain (predictable England for you). You can see the rain in photos from the Roman Baths, since the rain hitting the hot water created little puffs of steam. But by mid afternoon, the clouds had departed, and the sun shone ferociously (punctuated by ten-minute long downpours). Quite funny: as soon as it starts raining, the shop owners put up umbrella displays in order to attract the ill-prepared tourist or two.

The cathedral in Bath was probably one of my favorite cathedrals that I visited in England, (although the Santiago de Compostela cathedral is my all-time favorite. Because where else can you walk on the roof of a cathedral?). Anyways, back to Bath. The stained glass and roof architecture was absolutely amazing – I wish I’d been able to attend a service there, since I can only imagine how beautiful it might be.

After wandering around the cathedral, I walked back outside, towards the river, ducking in shops to avoid the rain. I found a beautiful (and almost deserted park) by the river. 80p for entry, but it offered some of the most beautiful views of the river. I love the empty places, the insignificant places, especially when visiting a tourist destination like Bath, where the main plaza in front of the church is filled with hundreds of people waiting in line for the baths, or wandering around the cathedral building.

I’ll take the empty, quiet places instead of the noisy ones. The noisy ones are overrated anyways.

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2013

Today, a guy asked me if I was ready for the new year. I said yes, and asked him the same — “oh yeah. but even if you ain’t, it’ll come anyways, so I figure you just gotta face it”.

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Some personal highlights from 2013:
– January: changing my major to English Writing –
– March: traveling to Spain for Spring Break –
– May/June: studying in Oxford –
– October: the Delight NC Retreat –
– November: the Alpha Holy Spirit Weekend {beautiful & powerful} –

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2013 was really an amazing year, personally. I feel like I’ve hit my stride with university, and found a good academic fit as an English major. I’ve loved all of my classes – even the few that I thought I wouldn’t like all turned out to be phenomenal. I’ve grown as a writer, and have had the chance to hone my skills. You’ll note my absence on the blog this year – mainly because of my schedule. I’m hopeful that next year will change that, {but more on that later}. I traveled. A lot. To Spain, to England – totaling about 7 weeks abroad this year. I’ve only spent about 8 weeks at home in Maryland this year, since I seem to be defining a personal home in DC, at school and in other places I’ve lived over the past 50 or so weeks.

But now it is December 31st, and I’m sitting on the edge of my bed with my sweet kitty curled up next to me. She’s sleeping, as I should be too, but why sleep when you could be writing? 2013 has been beautiful for other reasons as well. People, mainly. A few more friends have disappeared (it’s truly a phenomenon), but they’ve been replaced with friends (both old and new), coming alongside me as I navigate school and those fabulous trials that come from young adulthood. {I couldn’t have done this year without you {and our Skype sessions and our late night talks}. Thank you. Not to be mysterious, but you know who you are.}
So really, 2013. You’re going to be hard to beat, but I can’t say that I’m not ready to try.
Hello 2014. You look pretty exciting.

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Wales {+ reflections on travel}

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now, letting it sit in my drafts folder until I could blow the virtual dust off of it and unearth it from my mental archives. Wales. I remember the hills flecked with trees and sheep, and the huge sky so big that it swallowed the distant hilltops, veiling them in distant clouds.

Originally, I hadn’t planned on going to Wales, but Marymount’s Honors Director came to England during the last week of our stay and offered to take the group somewhere. We voted on Wales, and so off we went, piling into a van outside of the Oxford train station in the early morning, laughing about inside jokes and cows and really, anything at all. It was a good three hour drive or so from Oxford across the countryside until the signs began to read in both Welsh and English – then we knew that we were getting close.

To begin, we went to Caerphilly Castle – the second largest castle in Britain.

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We walked through the grounds, exploring the towers and rooms. Then we walked a short distance to the local Boots and bought sandwiches, which we ate picnic-style on the grounds across from the castle.

We then loaded into the van again for a short drive to a national park. In Wales, a park essentially means acres and acres of hills and forests with loads of sheep (and sometimes cows) wandering through them.

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So, we hiked through sheep pastures (if you’ll notice, this is a common theme in my UK posts). And then, we squeezed back into the van and traveled back home to Oxford. It’s so odd to think that I called Oxford home over the summer, but I did. The other night, I actually started to get homesick for the little cafe on the second floor of the bike shop and the desk that I lived at in the RadCam and the side streets and excursions to the riverside. I missed studying with the lovely Michelle and traipsing back at night with a bag of groceries to cook some concoction of pasta and vegetables (with cheese – always with cheese). I missed spending a full day pouring myself into a tutorial paper and forcing myself to excel because I was so nervous about my tutorial meetings (a few weeks ago I found out that I got an A- in the overall tutorial).

That night, I was homesick for a place that I’d only called home for six weeks, and I know that it will happen again. It’s happened a bit with Spain, but less of a homesickness and more of a vague curiosity about the rest of the Camino, and the towns along the way. I know, of course, that I have fernweh, but I also find myself yearning to return to places I’ve been so that I can live there a little longer, and create a new normal. I suppose this means that I sometimes just want to change up my normal routine so that I can explore new places and new ways to work in the morning and ways home from school in the evening. But in the back of my mind, there’s a nagging impulse that I can do that here – that I can deviate from my normal hectic class schedule and try something different every so often.

It’s just so much easier when there’s a plane involved. It feels like an adventure, and I want to live my life like it is one.