Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ciao Pisa!

Yesterday was my complete day in Pisa.  Italy is a beautiful country and I fell in love with it within the first hour of walking around!  I don't know if I'd ever go back to Pisa but it was definitely worth the stop.  Besides the tower and cathedral there wasn't much else to do.  I planned my own walking tour but I was at my half way point within an hour and half.  I would recommend Pisa for a layover or a day trip, but nothing more.

My trip to Pisa wasn't bad.  It only rained for an hour and half of my sightseeing which was when I toured inside the Cathedral, Catacombs, and Baptistery.  Each were AMAZING!! (and dry.)  My tours started when I decided I was going to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Yep, I did it.  It's a bit pricey but it was worth the view at the top!
The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Inside the tower
Yep, that's me with one of the bells at the top
Look at that view!
 The strangest thing about climbing up and down the tower was depending on where on the lean you were depended on the steepness of the climb/descend.  At one point when I was climbing down I felt as though I should sit because that is how far I was leaning back to keep my balance.

After climbing the tower, I checked out the Baptistery.  It was really simple inside but had elegant carvings and stained glass windows.  I also checked out the catacombs which were right next door.  What surprised me the most was that it is still used.  The most recent date of a tomb I found was 2009.  I didn't realize it was still in use.
The Baptistery 

One of the windows
The Baptismal Font
The Catacombs
Paintings like this lined the walls.
If you look in the bottom center you can spot St. Michael!
The most recent tomb

My final stop was the Cathedral.  After the Barcelona Cathedral, it was hard to impress me.  However, I loved the simplicity of the Cathedral.  There was still the elaborate paintings on the ceiling and beautiful statues but I liked the simplicity of the layout.
The Cathedral
Inside the Cathedral
Saint Ranieri

I have to say even though there wasn't a lot to do in Pisa I enjoyed my time.  It was a nice break from running around Barcelona and before my Rome trip.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Yesterday I did a stop of in none other than BARCELONA!  It was beautiful!!  Since I only had a day I tried to figure out what was the best way to see the most.  I decided on a hop-on/hop-off tour.  It was definitely worth my money.  I got to see almost everything yet didn't have the hassle of trying to figure out what bus/metro to take and then pay for each.  I also had only 3 agendas to hold:  (1) Barcelona Cathedral, (2) Arc de Triomphe, and (3) views.  I have to say I succeeded in accomplishing those 3 tasks.

The hop-on/hop-off tour took me around the entire city.  Three were 3 routes, two 2 hour routes, one 45 minute route.  Each explores a different part of the city.  I did all three.  What was really cool  was the fact everyone had their own headphones so you could listen to the tour in whatever language you wanted.  I, of course, choose English so I wouldn't miss a thing.  It was the most helpful in telling me what else was in the surrounding area so if I got off at a stop I knew what else I could do.  I didn't get off as much as I could have but I wasn't really interested in paying a fee to see inside a building.  I've done a lot that plus I was trying to save some money for one of my other trips.

This landmark was my central point since my hostel was only 2 blocks away.  Once I saw it I knew where to find where I was staying!

I did spend some money on a cable car ride to the top of Montjuic Park.  The audio tour told me there would be breath-taking sights if I did.  I decided to listen.   I did luck out though when I go solo cars where I didn't have to share with anyone!  I could move around to see my surroundings.
My audio guide did not steer me wrong!! It was AMAZING!!  Take a look:

Here is a picture of Palau Nacional which also sits on the hill.

I also got to see the Sacra Familia.  It stands out from the view a top the mountain.  I didn't even have to really look for it.  It kind of just stood there saying look at me.

Probably the most jaw dropping stop was the Cathedral.  I literally walked inside and stopped dead in my tracks.  It was so beautiful!!  I didn't know what to think either.  There were mini alters set up around the walls where people could go pray to a specific saint.

 I even found a statue of St. Michael!

One place I didn't get to see was the Arc de Triomf on my tour.  I was disappointed until I learned that the bus terminal I needed to get to the airport was located right next door!  I left earlier this morning then I needed too so I could stop and see it before catching my bus.  It was so pretty with the early morning sun rising behind it!

Probably my favorite part of Barcelona, well of anywhere, is the architecture of the buildings.  They are so alike yet so different.  Here are some pictures of Barcelona:

Now I'm in Pisa getting for my Pisa tour tomorrow!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Stonehenge and Bath

To start off my spring break I went with Arcadia University (my program) to visit Bath and Stonehenge.  The weather was freezing and windy but never the less I enjoyed my trip and the sights!!

When getting to Stonehenge we were given our our self guided tour.  For the first half of the tour I didn't realize you could put headphones in so my hands were just about frozen.  After I put my headphones in and my hands in my pockets, I began to enjoy the sight even more.  One thing that shocked me was the stones were smaller than I thought they would be.  Our trip guide even pointed this out on the bus.

After wandering around I stopped and got a hot chocolate before getting back on the bus because I was a bit cold.  Then we were off to Bath!  (If you want to learn more about living in Bath check out my friend's, Kate, blog!)

Touring around Bath was beautiful!  I loved all the architecture and the colors of the buildings.  I got to see the where the new baths were, the circus, and the crescent   When we were given free time I decided to visit the Bath Abbey which was beautiful!!

The Crescent

The Circus
 While there I talked to one of the priests and he brought me over to the American memorial for William Bingham which was really nice of him!

William Bingham Memorial
The Angels
James Montagu
After the Abbey I went to the Old Roman Baths.  I didn't have a lot of time here but looking around and seeing the ruins was neat.  A lot of it was outside but because of the heat from the water I didn't feel too cold.  At the end of the tour you could taste the water and I braved it and did so!  It was disgusting!  I recommend trying it but I warn you it's bitter.
The Old Baths
Head of Minerva
The Old Bath Water - really bitter

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Birthday Fun!!

This week marked a major milestone in my life:  My 21st Birthday!  Turning 21 abroad isn't as big deal as it is the states.  However, my British flatmates gave me a fantastic birthday!!

I didn't have any specific plans for my birthday but I knew I just wanted a relaxing day filled with laughs.  I also didn't want to do anything outrageous because I'm saving my money for my 3 week tour which started today!

Around lunch on my birthday I skyped my mom so I could open my gifts.  She sent me a package (which arrived 2 weeks before my birthday) with small gifts all wrapped!!  I wasn't allowed to touch them until my birthday.  It was a very tempting wait.  After skyping my mom I had my one lecture of the day which wasn't bad.  When I got home from my lecture and my flatmates surprised me with a Happy Birthday and presents!!  I felt ever so spoiled!!
My wonderful presents!
After dinner we were going to go down to the beach to look at the stars but it was down pouring so we stayed in and watched Rock of Ages.  It was a great movie and we all loved it!!

I have say my birthday celebrations didn't end that day because the next day I had a field trip to Clwyd Theatr Cymru to see the Pitmen Painters.

It was a great play and it taught me a bit about the history of the miners in Britian during the 1940s.  It is based off a true story about a group of miners who find a love a painting and realize they could make a name for themselves.  The actors were amazing and the paintings they used were spectacular!  I had never heard about these painters and it was so cool to see their work!

Still my partying isn't ending because I'm just embarking on my Spring Break so that means travel time!  I'll try to be as updated as I can about where I am and what I'm doing but I know there will be tons of pictures to come in the near future!

p.s. Internet is very spotty so pics and updates hopefully when I get to Barcelona!!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Caernarfon Castel

or in Welsh:  Castell Caernarfon

Today I had another one of my adventures in Wales.  I figured out the bus system!  And that wasn't all, I also spent a good part of the afternoon exploring Caernarfon Castle!  The bus wasn't too bad.  I just paid attention to my surroundings and figured out when I was supposed to get off.  It was a success since I made it all the way to Caernarfon and back in one piece.

Caernarfon Castle was amazing!  In my Welsh history course I'm learning all about the various rulers of Wales which is given me a basic crash course in Welsh history.  It has been really interesting and completely different from American history.  One topic my lecturer keeps asking is if people have visited specific historical sights in the area.  Until today I knew I wouldn't be able to raise my hand.  I still won't until we get to Edward I.

Caernarfon Castle was one of the castles built by Edward I to protect his land around the Snowdonia Mountains.  It was built slightly different from the rest and if I recall correctly it was the largest.  The castle itself seemed to have been built as a palace.  I don't think I would ever want to live there but I have to say it was amazing to explore.  There are so many different passageways and I didn't know where I was half the time!  Every so often I would climb up a tower or find my way onto a balcony to see where I was.  

a view from the castle square
Inside the castle
the passageways
Up in one of the towers
The highest tower and yes I climbed it!
A view from up high!
You can see the Snowdonia Mountains in the distance
The other neat thing was the town was also encompassed by castle walls which still stand today.  It was weird walking around town and all of a sudden finding a wall along the sidewalk.
One of the outer walls with the tallest towers in the background
I have to say I kind of mad at myself for putting it off this long to go explore a castle but I'm glad I didn't wait another day!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Bumble

What's a Bumble you may ask?  A bumble is a walk/hike/wandering all combined into one.  My advisor at Bangor used it to describe our trek yesterday and I feel it fit nicely.

To end my busy week of work, my advisor, Maggie, invited everyone in my program over for some food and a bumble around her house.  She lives about 10-15 minutes outside of Bangor in this cute town called Tregarth.  She lives in a flat that was built inside an old renovated chapel.  It was so cute.  The area surrounding her house is mostly fields and hills.  Even though it was raining it was still spectacular.  Maggie even brought us up a hill near her house where you can see all the way to the ocean.  I thought you could see pretty far but if was clearer you could see much farther.  I had an excellent time and definitely loved our little adventure right near home!

On a bumble through the fields
Hopped a fence and no I didn't get hurt
Part of my program with Maggie
I love these fields!
Maggie's House
A Kissing Gate
One person can pass through at a time and the first person is
supposed to hold the gate shut until the person behind gives
them a kiss