London Day 3

1. St. Paul’s Cathedral

We started off our third and last day of site seeing in London by going to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Inside was of course gorgeous but we wanted to walk up to the top of the dome. The dome was not open right away so we had to wait but it was well worth it for the view we got once we climbed a few hundred steps. The dome stands at about 365 feet above the solid ground (yikes) and though we were not at he very top we were still very high. The second picture shows me with the amazing view we had of London.

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St. Paul's Cathedral

2. Globe Theater

Next we got a tour of the Globe Theater and had a fantastic tour guide. The Globe Theater is not the original theater that was built in Shakespeare’s time but is a full size recreation of that theater using authentic materials such as the thatched roof. The pillars on the stage appear to be made of gold or marble but are each one is actually made from the entire trunk of an oak tree. We were able to stand in the pit next to the stage where the poor viewers would have watched the show. After than we sat in the seats that the Queen sits in when she come to see a show. Since it is an open air theater they only perform shows during the summer. They were currently practicing for The Merchant of Venice which they will perform for students in the London area.

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Globe Theater

3. HMS Belfast

Next we explored the nine decks of the HMS Belfast which was a British warship that saw action during WWII. The ship was used as part of the D-Day invasion. I have concluded I am too claustrophobic to ever have to live aboard the HMS Belfast. I was however very interesting to kitchen, hospital room, and where the soldiers would have slept. It was strange because many of the rooms still had a distinct smell even after all these years. Also I can only image how cold it would have been in the wind on one of the top decks during winter. I was chilly up there and it was a pretty nice day in London.

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4. London Bridge Experience

Finally we went through the London Bridge Experience which was very different from anything else we did during our travels. It was informative about the each of the bridges that were built over the Thames River and then fell down. However the story of the bridges was told by actors in a haunted house manner. The story emphasized the heads of traitors that were displayed on the London Bridge as a warning to other to be loyal to Britain. We were also told not to wander outside late at night because more victims of Jack the Ripper had been found. One thing I found the most interesting is that in the Tudor era the bridge had 200 buildings on it including shops and homes and was so crowded that it could take nearly an hour to cross it. The bridge also began to slow the flow of the Thames River which uncharacteristically froze.

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London Day 2

On our second day in London we again did not waste anytime making our way to more famous landmarks starting with Westminster Abbey.

1. Westminster Abbey

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside the abbey but below is a picture of the entrance and the stained glass windows surrounding the courtyard. Westminster Abbey has been the official coronation church for Britain since 1066 and is the resting place of seventeen monarchs. It is also the church where Will and Kate were married. The abbey contains tombs for Britain’s most famous authors, composers, priests, and soldiers. One of the graves that I found very interesting was the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior which is a memorial to all soldiers who died for Britain since WWI. It may seem odd to have really enjoyed touring a place with so many graves but the statues and artwork that accompanied the graves was absolutely beautiful. It’s also interesting to see the tomb stone of a poet whose works I had to read in high school English class.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

2. Buckingham Palace

Next we walked to Buckingham Palace. Sadly they were not doing the changing of the guard that day for some reason. A group of guards on horses did ride past though playing trumpets. Apparently there is a much larger group of them that rides through if the Queen is in the Palace. She was not in the Palace they day we were there which you can tell because her flag was not raised.

Buckingham Palace

3. National Gallery

It would have taken at least a week to thoroughly see the more than 2,300 amazing paintings in the National Gallery but sadly we only had a few hours. Some of the most famous artists whose paintings are displayed here include Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Michelangelo, Raphael, Van Eyck, and Bellini just to name a few. There were tons of paintings of religious scenes and it was very interesting to how the nativity or crucifixion was depicted throughout the different centuries. It was also amazing just how massive some of the paintings were; the people were larger than life. I absolutely love art so I would love to visit the National Gallery again when I have more time to just sit and enjoy the paintings.

National Gallery

4. Trafalgar Square

The National Gallery makes up one side of Trafalgar Square and four giant lions like the one below are in the middle. Before going into the gallery we ate a snack and climbed up to take pictures with the lions. There are also four beautiful water fountains around where the lion statues are places. It was a great place to rest our feet and do some people watching.

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5. Hyde Park

In the afternoon we decided to do something a bit relaxing and just took a stroll through Hyde Park. Some of the flowers were blooming as you can see in the picture but I am sure there will be a lot more flowers later in the Spring. Walking past the pond you can tell the birds and ducks are very use to people. I was about two inches away from one before he decided to take a couple steps away.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park

6. Kensington Palace and Garden

Hyde Park lead right into Kensington Gardens which had a bunch of pretty water fountains and benches to just relax. The gardens are right outside the main gate of Kensington Palace which is the next place we toured. In the palace were many everyday objects, clothes, and toys that would have been used by British royalty throughout the years. We were able to try on very well made replicas of dress coats that the men would have worn. Probably my favorite part of Kensington Palace was the fashion display which had dresses worn by Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, and Princess Diana. I would have liked to borrow almost all of the outfits!

Kensington Palace

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London Day 1

Over Spring Break I traveled first to London and then to Rome with two other students from the University of Nebraska in Kearney who are studying here at UCR, Thomas and Laurie. We took a bus overnight to get there which was quite the experience in itself. We had to stop and get off the bus to go through border security in both France and England but we did get a couple stamps in our passports! Our bus drove onto a train that drove underneath the English Channel which was a very strange experience. The bus just seemed to rock back and forth but not actually go forward. Once we arrived in London we found the apartment we were staying at so we could take a quick power nap. After about a 45 minute nap we got right to sight seeing.

1. London Eye

One of the first big tourist sites we saw in London was the London Eye. We did not go up in it which is okay with me because that would have really tested my fear of heights. We also walked across Millennium Bridge which is right by the London Eye.

London Eye

2. Big Ben

After crossing Millennium Bridge we were right by Big Ben. You can’t actually go inside Big Ben but I got some neat pictures of it. I was also nice to be outside seeing things because the weather was absolutely beautiful. The best weather in London so far this year we were told.

Big Ben

3. Tower Bridge

Next we made our way to Tower Bridge. A contest was held to determine the design for the bridge. In 1884 the unique draw bridge design of Horace Jones and John Wolfe Barry was chosen. Construction of the bridge began in 1886 and lasted until 1894. When the bridge was complete it was the only bridge to cross the Thames so it got a lot of use. Later it could not keep up with the expanding London and another bridge was built. When touring the bridge we also saw some of the other designs submitted which were very interesting. We were able to look out from the walkway that connects the two towers which gave a very neat view of the city. We were also able to go below and see the hydraulic engines used to raise the bridge.

Tower Bridge

4. Tower of London

Once we were done touring the bridge we walked across it to get to the Tower of London. Though there is not longer a moat at one time the entire Tower was surrounded by water. Inside the Tower of London we first visited an exhibit about the different types of currency throughout British history and how the coins were made. At one point the edges of silver coins were clipped by poor people who then sold the silver. Next we got to see the crown jewels which we sadly could not take any pictures. The crowns and swords and plates and spoons were all so coated in jewels it was hard to believe they could be real. One thing that really caught my attention was an elaborately decorated, two foot wide, solid gold punch bowl. I can only image how heavy it must be. After the crown jewels we went through an exhibit of different armor and weapons throughout history. I am not sure how knights even moved in that armor let alone fought. Throughout the Tower of London were wire animal sculpture like pictured below which I though were very neat. There were also lions and monkeys.

Tower of London

Wire Elephant

 

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Taste Testing

Yes another entire post about food! Over spring break I first traveled to London and then to Rome so it is safe to say I tried lots of delicious food and saw so many amazing sites. I traveled with two other students from the University of Nebraska in Kearney who are also studying abroad in the Netherlands, Thomas and Laurie.

1. The first night in London we ate dinner at a small, local Turkish restaurant a couple blocks away from where we were staying. It was clearly a family run business with the husband, wife, and daughter all working there. The top picture you can see each of our plates along with the salad in the middle and flat bread. The salad included cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, and a very tasty sauce that is hard to describe. Thomas had grilled chicken with rice and Laurie had a doner wrap. The second picture is a close up of my meal which was lamb doner with garlic sauce and rice. I was absolutely delicious. I also drank a Pepsi which tasted so good since I hadn’t drank pop in about two months.

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2. While in Britain you have to eat fish and chips so here is picture of our fish and chips lunch that we got at a random bar in London. Thomas doesn’t like fish so he had another very English meal of meat pie with some absolutely delicious potatoes and gravy. I almost wish I had ordered something that came with gravy but my meal was also delicious. The fries where thick cute ones which are my favorite and they gave me plenty of tartar sauce to smother my fish in which was perfect.

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3. For dinner one night while in London we decided to just go to the grocery store and make our own meal in order to save some money but we still wanted to be a little bit British. We bought cheesy baps which are pictured below. Baps are basically just dinners roles with a funny name. We ate our baps with soup and then drank a lovely cup of English tea.

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4. When we first arrived in Rome we had about two and a half hours to kill before we could check in to the place we were staying. We made sure to find where we needed to check in first and then found another local Turkish restaurant close by to get some lunch and use some time. I think Turkish food is becoming a new favorite of mine. At this place we ordered calzones because we are in Italy after all. With more time to kill I bought a beer and we played the alphabet  game. The workers at the restaurant seemed very amused by us and gave us free falafel which I had never tried before, it was pretty tasty. Finally we left to go check in and our new Turkish friends were still laughing at us silly Americans.

5. While in Italy having pizza was of course a must. We stopped to get lunch at this pizza shop and they some of the typical kinds of pizza with pepperoni or cheese or vegetables. I of course decided to pick the pizza that had hot dogs and mushrooms on it. It seemed a bit strange but was actually extremely good. This is also where we got our first taste of real Italian gelato.

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6. The first kind of gelato I tried was tiramisu which was obviously a good choice. The next day we stopped at a gelato place and I could not decide what flavor I wanted. The worker gave us a free sample of  hazelnut flavored gelato and I then bought an entire cup of it. It was absolutely amazing. I also tried some dark chocolate gelato at one stand which was so rich you could only eat a small amount. The one kind of gelato I am not sure I ever want to try but at the same time I am very curious about is pictured below. Yes you read that right multiple places offered viagra flavored gelato (very weird).

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7. After a long day exploring the Vatican we stopped in a restaurant that had salad, bread, pasta, and a drink all for only 10 euros. The salad is the first picture below and not quite what I was expecting when it said salad. It was really just tomato with cheese, olive oil, and spices but it was very tasty. I also had a nice glass of white wine. The pasta on the left is the kind both Laurie and Thomas ate and I got the pasta with the tomato sauce on the right. We loaded our pasta with Parmesan cheese and it was delicious. Later that night I decided I needed to try Peroni beer (an Italian brand I had been seeing everywhere). It was really pretty cheap and tasted good but unfortunately I am not sure where they sell it in the Netherlands.

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8. To finish off our trip to Rome the right way we of course ate even more pizza. This little pizza place had so many interesting and unique pizzas i could barely choose which kin to get. I finally decided to get a slice with bacon and white sauce. The white sauce was almost tasted like ranch but not quite, it was very good though. While I was finishing that slice of pizza they brought out one with lettuce, shrimp, and the same white sauce. I could not resist it was just too interesting. I had never seen shrimp on pizza before. It was and interesting combination. I would not want and entire shrimp pizza but one slice was tasty.

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Almost Spring Break

The only things standing between me and exploring London and Rome are:

5 – days

4 – midterms to complete

3 – bus/train tickets to print

2 – bags to pack

1 – essay to write

I just have to kick some ass on midterms and then come 9 days of relaxation and travel! Once I return from Spring Break I am sure to have lots of amazing pictures and stories to spice up my blog. School is only so exciting to write about but traveling is always exciting. Just a preview of my life in one week.

London Rome

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I’m Still Alive

I haven’t posted in what seems like forever but life has been a whirlwind lately. This week I have three presentations and next week is midterms so I have four tests and a writing assignment due. Now you know why I have no had time to post anything. I just have a short story about my strange weekend and then I may not have a chance to post again until after Spring Break!!! I will be spending March 16-18 in London and then March 19-23 in Rome so I absolutely cannot wait.

So my weekend. It was Saturday so logically I was sleeping. I woke up around 9 and checked my phone but I didn’t have any messages or snap chats which seemed a bit odd but I didn’t think much of it. I had woke up a few times throughout the night because I was cold but just rolled over and went back to sleep. Finally around 10 my grumbling stomach convinced me to get out of bed. I walked out of room into the hallway which was pitch black. Normally the light in the hall is always on so you can get to the bathroom in the middle of the night etc. So I used the flashlight on my phone to navigate downstairs. When I get downstairs I realize the power is out to the microwave and toaster but the refrigerator and stove seem to be working just fine. Very weird. Not having any idea who I am suppose to notify I make breakfast and begin to think through what I should do. I quickly realize that with the power out I cannot connect to the internet which means I can’t message anyone because I don’t have a Dutch cell phone number. I decide to walk to school hoping one of the buildings will be open on a Saturday. That way I can let someone know the power is out and work on my homework. Get to school and all the buildings are locked so I sat outside in the cold on my phone messaging anyone I could think of who might know what to do. People aren’t responding or don’t know how to help so I give up for the moment and walk to the library to get warm and do some homework. Once my computer dies I leave the library and walk back home hoping one of my housemates who is actually here for the weekend has fixed the problem. Unfortunately no one has fixed the electricity but I ran into one of my housemates luckily because not even realizing that the fobs to get into my house run on electricity I would have been locked out. My housemate asked around to see if any of out neighbors knew anything about electricity and finally one someone came and flipped something in the switchbox and we had power again (thank goodness). It took awhile for the house to heat back up but it wasn’t a very cold day luckily. So there is the story of my strange Saturday!

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One Month

As of February 18th I have been in Middelburg for one whole month. February 18th was also special because it’s my half birthday which means I am six months away from being 21. This week has been crazy busy but I have still made time to go fr a few walks around town and do some yoga. I don’t have much time to write today so I am just going to post some pictures I took while exploring around town.

1. This is the view from my bedroom window. These are all student houses and look almost exactly like my house. I still find it strange sometimes that I can look directly into other people’s rooms and see them studying or watching TV. I definitely have to be careful to always clothes my blinds when I am changing or something. I like being on the top floor though because I can open my window during the day and get a nice breeze through my room.

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2. There are two different canals that encircle Middelburg and this is the outside of the two. You can see very cute little house boats lining the side of the canal.

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3. This picture is of the part of the Abbey. When we walked through here on our first day in Middelburg we couldn’t help but be reminded of Hogwarts.

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4. Here is another picture of Lange Jan that I took from the ground. You can tell from the sky that it was a beautiful rain free day in Middelburg which does not happen very often so I definitely took advantage of it and went for a walk.

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5. And here is the car that I want to steal! It is just so cute and I love the color but I am not sure how to get it back to the United States.

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School – because I am “studying” abroad after all.

I suppose I should mention a thing or two about the courses I am taking here at the University College Roosevelt because even though I wish I was just on a vacation there is homework to be done (homework which I am definitely procrastinating completing by writing this post instead).

Classes here are set up a bit different from at UNK. I am taking four different courses which I have in two hour blocks twice a week. This means I only have class four days a week and Wednesdays I have free to catch up on homework or more often just catch up on sleep.

1. Functional Anatomy

Pretty self explanatory it is about basic human anatomy. For each of our homework assignments there is a drawing part such as drawing the vertebral column or flood flow through the heart. My practice has been limited to doodling in the margins of my notes for the last few years so some of my diagrams for class are less than impressive. They are getting better each week though so by the end of the semester they could be true works of art (maybe). Later in the semester we will be able to see cadavers and though it may sound creepy I am really excited!

2. Mechanisms of Disease

Basically we are just discussing a wide range of prevalent diseases and what causes them as well as treatment options. It is an incredibly interesting class but sometimes all the medical talk is a little over my head. The textbook is also pretty intimidating weighing in at about 5 pounds (even though it’s paperback). I have my first test at UCR in Mechanisms of Disease on Monday so hopefully that goes well. The kid who sits next to me said the professors test aren’t usually that hard but he is nerd (in the best way) so I am not sure whether to believe him or not.

3. Medical and Health Psychology

This is definitely going to be an interesting class discussing all kinds of factors that can promote of harm health. We have to write a fairly thorough literature review about specific topics. Luckily I chose a pretty interesting topic (at least I think it’s interesting) about stress reduction therapy for patients with irritable bowel syndrome. This is probably intriguing for me since I have already tried a variety of methods to control my own IBS.

4. Modern History

In this class we will be discussing from 1815 up until the present. It has been very interesting already getting a very European view of history compared to the U.S. perspective I am use to. I am realizing that I remember very little of European history unless the United States was somehow involved but don’t judge me too much because I have always been terrible at remembering names and dates (the main things you need to know for History). I  will also get the pleasure of writing and paper and presenting to the class about the differences between the Great Depression and the current economic crisis.

Overall I have been enjoying all my classes so far. Maybe not how much reading I have to do because I am such a slow reader. I am actually learning something this semester not just having a good time!!

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10 ways to TRAVEL CHEAP

I will tell you right now, I am no expert traveler. But after my husband got a job at the airline, we didn’t waste much time. In two years we have been able to travel to Thailand, New York, California, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica and Canada, and both of us have, well, not so awesomely lucrative jobs. So here are some rules we stick to make it all possible!

1. Avoid Weekend Travel

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, because they are the slowest travel days of the week, will be your best bet for cheap flights. Avoid the weekend rush and book mid-week flights.

2. Pack Light

So many airlines these days are charging $15 dollars or MORE for checked bags. Avoid these extra fees by packing light, is possible, don’t check a bag at all. I have become a believer of the carry on. Skip the checked back line…

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Food Firsts

Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love to eat therefore I was so excited to be able to try new foods while here in the Netherlands. I am already falling in love with some Dutch foods and discovering new ones I still need to try. 

1. Stroopwafel 

I know I have already mentioned these in an earlier post but they are definitely worth a second post. I am addicted to these. I will definitely be cramming a couple packages into my suitcase when I come home but seeing as that will probably only last me about a week I need to find somewhere in the U.S. that sells them. Here you can buy them at the Albert Heijn or in the Market Square they sell fresh ones on Thursdays!! 

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2. Vla

Vla is a custard sort of like pudding but not quite as thick. I first had caramel vla because one of the people I traveled here with had heard of it and said it was a must try. I have since had chocolate vla for dessert with my housemates. There are a few other flavors like vanilla and fruit flavors so will definitely have to try them all!

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3. Toasties

So this isn’t technically a food I had never tried before but I loved the name toastie so much I just had to include it. Basically what Americans would call grilled cheese here they call them toasties!! They don’t just have to be cheese and bread of course you can pretty much put whatever meat and vegetables you want on them also. These are quickly becoming my go to for lunch or dinner. I made one with red bell peppers, lettuce, cheese, and ham today.  I added a link with some delicious looking recipes below. 

http://www.foodnetwork.co.uk/article/creative-toastie-recipes.html 

4. Pancakes

I have eaten pancakes before but never experienced Dutch pancakes until now. First off in the U.S. pancakes are usually considered a breakfast food but in the Netherlands pancakes are dinner! They are very large and pretty thin (almost like a crepe). During introduction week we had plain, bacon, raisin, and cheese pancakes but you can put a variety of ingredients in them such as cheese, bacon, ham, paprika, mushroom, apple, pineapple, banana, brie, cherries, onion, or tomato. They are eaten with a syrup called stroop which is also found on the inside of stroopwafels. It is not as sweet as maple syrup but even stickier I think. 

5. Hagelslag

I haven’t try this yet because I am a little skeptical but I will give it a try pretty soon. Hagelslag is basically large sprinkles that are eaten on toast. It’s usually eaten with either butter or peanut butter. As the picture below shows there are chocolate, vanilla, and fruit flavored ones. I have also been told they make pink and blue one’s for baby showers! Now you are probably wondering why a sweets lover like myself is not jumping on the opportunity to eat this and call it breakfast. I have never really liked sprinkles but I will try hagelslag and report back!

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