Nights to Remeber

I officially moved into my term accommodation (housing) on September 15th, and every night since then has been filled with memories.

I have made new friends from all around the UK and some even around the world! Before Freshers and Induction Week started, a group of us from my hall decided to explore the Nottingham City Centre together. We had a blast hanging out and getting to know each other, even though we did get lost a few times because none of us are good with directions. After we explored the city centre, we noticed there was a mini golf course a tram stop right before ours. We decided to get off early and check it out. Turns out, we all suck at it but had fun doing it. Since then I have spent every night hanging out with people.

The Alchemist, a restaurant and cocktail bar. Gothic architecture with exposed brick.
The Alchemist, a restaurant and cocktail bar. The Alchemist brings the mythical and mysterious aspects of Nottingham to life through its creative cocktails and its darkly delicious dining.

These nights have been filled with exciting adventures exploring the city we are surrounded by. The first night of Freshers, they did a themed club night at Rock City, a popular club in the city centre. The theme that night was beach, and luckily as an Oregonian, I am always prepared for a beached themed event. I went with a couple of friends and we had a blast listening and dancing to music and just hanging out. 

After a fun time dancing, my friends and I caught a bus home. (Left to right: David, Jasmine, Tanner, Rory)
After a fun time dancing, my friends and I caught a bus home. (Left to right: David, Jasmine, Tanner, Rory)

Throughout that week there were various welcome fairs happening, and we went to each and every one of them. Following those fairs, there were events like movie nights and bingo hosted by the ResX team and the Student Union. These events lasted for two weeks, but the fun didn’t stop there.

Video of the Trent Building courtyard. The Trent Building is an academic building primarily used for the arts and social sciences.

Just last weekend a group of us who went mini golfing before and some other friends, went to an 18+ indoor mini golf course! We had a blast sipping on cocktails and beating each other on different holes. My personal favorite was the Mechanic themed hole where you had to get your golf ball through three consecutive loop-a-loops. By the end of the night, we were all laughing as we tried to fit all of us onto a throne made of golf clubs.

A night of mini golfing comes to end with 4 friends piling up on a golden throne made of golf clubs. (Left to right: Rory, Charlie, Tanner, Yoshi)

I can’t say I haven’t had a fun and exciting experience so far, and definitely can’t say it will stop. A couple of us are going to a drag show during reading week, a group of us are planning a road trip to Brighton, and finally we are planning on weekly movie nights watching classic titles (Like the Pitch Perfect trilogy). 

– Tanner Coulter

The Journey Begins

Hello! My name is Tanner and I just arrived at the University of Nottingham!

The journey here started a couple years ago when I decided to attend Linfield College for my higher education. Whilst applying, I learned about their study abroad programs and immediately knew I would study abroad. I eventually applied for the England program and was accepted!

After filling out paperwork and waiting for the day to come, on Wednesday September 1st I arrived at Portland International Airport (PDX) with my family and best friend. After saying goodbye and going through security, it hit me, I am going to England for 5 months! Fun fact, while waiting at my gate I met someone who knew a professor at Linfield!

Tanner Coulter sitting at PDX airport with the caption "Made it!!!"
A Snapchat of myself waiting at my gate waiting for my flight to board.

Eventually the time came to board the airplane. I got to my seat, excited as ever to fly. This was my first time flying alone and my second time flying internationally.

Over the course of approximately 3hrs, we went from PDX to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)! By the time we unloaded the plane, I had roughly a hour and a half to find my next gate, get food, and use the restroom. Luckily the person who sat next to me on the plane, helped me figure out the speed rail system to get to my next gate. Got everything done and I made it on time with 30 minutes to spare. When boarding this plane, I was still starstruck that I was going to be studying in England for this next term; I stayed that way till I landed at Heathrow Airport (LHR).

Landing at LHR gave me an adrenaline rush as I was excited to be in England! Going from the arrival gate to the arrival hall took sometime but was a smooth process. Afterwards, I got a iced cappuccino and waited for my taxi to arrive. Once arrived, we got my bags loaded and  were off to The University of Nottingham.

While writing this, I am currently wrapped up in my blanket eating breakfast in my temporary accommodations (housing)  at 6am. I am excited to say my few year journey to get here has ended and my 5 month journey of being here has started! I can’t wait to share everything I have done, learned, and experienced.

Tanner's family the night before his first flight
My family and I celebrating my last night in the United States. Not pictured is the cheesecake and Crumbl Cookies we had😁

Winter Break Part 2

For this part of my trip I bought a Eurail Global Pass, which allowed me to travel to the majority of the countries in Europe. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that a lot of train companies require you to also buy a reservation for a specific train, meaning that we had to plan a lot more than we’d originally expected.

After my mom left, my best friend Simone flew to London from Denver. We spent 2 days in London, and I saw all the major sites yet again. From the Christmas market by the London Eye to Tower Bridge and back to Buckingham Palace we saw it all.

The London Eye
The London Eye

After London, we flew to Lisbon, Portugal. We only had the afternoon in Portugal before taking a night train to Barcelona. To make the most of our time we did a city bus tour, taking in as much of the city as we could before it got dark. We got dinner and wandered the city before heading to the train station.

Lisbon Portugal
Lisbon, Portugal

The next 13 hours were spent on trains getting from Lisbon to Madrid and then Madrid to Barcelona. It was New Year’s Eve and once we got settled into our Airbnb we headed out to Park Güell, a park made by famous architect and artist Antoni Gaudí. This was the one thing I wanted to do in Barcelona and it was well worth the trip. We spent hours walking around the park. Unfortunately, the tickets to get on the terrace and see all of the tile work were sold out.

The entrance to Park Güell- Barcelona

Later that night we went to the “Magic Fountain” where the city had its big NYE festivities. The celebration was amazing from a local band to a water show and a massive finale with fireworks.

New Year's Eve at the Magic Fountain in Barcelona
New Year’s Eve at the Magic Fountain in Barcelona

The next morning we caught a train to Paris. The six hours on the train were nice after being out so late and then getting locked out of our Airbnb room. We got a hotel close to the Eiffel Tower and that first night took some time to catch up on sleep. We ordered pizza and prepared for our full day in Paris.

We got up early the next morning, making it to the Eiffel Tower by 8:30, an hour before it opened, so that we made sure we were close to the front of the line. Once we got up to the top we got Champagne and took in the views of the city. We got breakfast and wandered around all of the shops in the tower.

View of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower
View of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower

Our next stop was the Arc de Triomphe. We didn’t go up to the terrace, we just made a pit stop before heading to Louvre. The line to get in was crazy long and we opted to skip it and head to Notre Dame instead. The cathedral was impressive and walking along the Seine and was breathtaking. We stopped for lunch- French onion soup of course before finding a macaroon shop and heading back to the hotel for a nap.

The Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe
Notre Dame
Notre Dame

That night we headed back to the Eiffel Tower to see it all lite up and go to the Christmas market across the street. We had crepes for dinner and mulled wine for walking around the market.

The Eiffel Tower at night
The Eiffel Tower at night

The next day we headed to Brussels. One of our first stops was for Belgian waffles. We did some shopping and wandering around just taking in the architecture. We went to the Grand Place and saw the Manneken Pis statue that’s famous. We spent most of the day just wandering until our phones were gonna die and then headed back to the hostel to recharge before dinner. After a couple hours we headed back to the Grand Place for the light show and then ate at the Hard Rock.

Belgian Waffles from the Waffle Factory
Belgian Waffles from the Waffle Factory
Manneken Pis "The peeing boy" statue
Manneken Pis “The peeing boy” statue

The next morning we went to the Atomium. It was not at all what we were expecting. We thought it was just a cool sculpture but it is a building with rooms in each of the little bubbles. It was an interesting experience and a weird way to spend our last few hours in Brussels.

The Atomium
The Atomium

We headed to Amsterdam next. We spent the evening wandering around, going from canal to canal. We stopped in the Chinese district for dinner, and then headed back to our hostel.

The next morning we went on a canal tour of the city and then did some more wandering until our time slot at the Van Gogh Museum that afternoon.

The Dancing Houses in Amsterdam
The Dancing Houses in Amsterdam

The next morning I said goodbye to Simone and she headed back to the States while I caught a train to Basel, Switzerland. I spent the night there as a layover on my way to Venice. As I just had the afternoon and night in Basel I headed to the Kunstmuseum, an art museum . After walking around the museum for a few hours I decided to see more of the city and wandered for another hour before heading to my hostel to get some sleep.

I had to be at the train station by 6 the next morning to catch my train to Italy. Once in Venice I met up with Carmen, Rose, Sarah and Haylee. We made dinner and then went out for gelato. They showed me some of the sights they’d found in the last few days.

First gelato in Italy
First gelato in Italy
Venice
Venice, Italy

The next day we went to Florence. Florence was beautiful and we spent our first day figuring out what was around us, and walking the city.

The next day we went to the Dome and did some shopping. All exhausted from our weeks of traveling we spent our days in Florence relaxing and just taking in Italy.

Santa Maria del Fiore dome in Florence
Santa Maria del Fiore dome in Florence

Our next stop was Rome. Our first day in Rome we walked to the Coliseum. We explored around the area and found an old cathedral which was open to the public. We went in and admired the amazing art work and stained glass. On our way back to our hostel we found a cute little restaurant that had the best pasta I’ve ever had.

The Colosseum
The Colosseum

The next day we headed to Vatican City early so we could see the museum and Sistine Chapel (which happened to be closing early).

The Sistine Chapel from inside the Vatican museum
The Sistine Chapel from inside the Vatican museum

After making our way through both of these we went to St. Peter’s Basilica.

St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica

From Vatican City we made our way to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. Our last stop was the Pantheon before we got dinner and made our way back to the hostel.

The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain

Our last stop in Italy was Naples. The first afternoon in Naples we made our way to the water hoping for a good view of Mt Vesuvius. We wandered around and just took in the nice weather that we knew we wouldn’t see once we are back in England.

Mount Vesuvius from Naples
Mount Vesuvius from Naples

We spent the next day in Pompeii. We spent hours there and still missed so much. It was amazing to walk around and see the statues and ruins of houses and other buildings. We didn’t bring food with us, which was a big mistake so we had to leave for lunch after about only two hours.

Statue and field of marble at Pompeii
Statue and field of marble at Pompeii

We spent the next two days making our way back to Rome and from there back to Nottingham.

My biggest takeaways from these 2 weeks of traveling are to prepare and plan in advance. If there is something you really want to do or see then look for tickets online at least two weeks before you’ll be there. Most importantly, I think it is important to pick people that you will thrive with if you are going to be spending days on end with them. I was really happy that I got to travel with so many different people and got to have such diverse experiences with them.

Rilee

Winter Break Part 1

My mom flew out to England the day I had to move out of my dorm for winter break at the University. We spent our first night in Nottingham and I got to show her a little of the city I’ve been living in the past few months! We went into the city center for dinner, walked around the Christmas market, and then got mulled cider at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem.

The next day we headed to Edinburgh, Scotland. We spent 2 days here wandering around and taking in all the history of the city. Our only full day here we walked to the Castle, around Royal Mile and stopped to try (vegetarian) haggis.

The Parish Church of St Cuthbert with Edinburgh Castle in the background
The Parish Church of St Cuthbert with Edinburgh Castle in the background

Our last morning we found Victoria Street- the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley and we found a few other of J.K. Rowling’s inspirations around the city.

The coffee shop JK Rowling supposedly wrote a lot of the Harry Potter books in
The coffee shop JK Rowling supposedly wrote a lot of the Harry Potter books in
Victoria Street: JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley
Victoria Street: JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley

Later that day we moved on the Glasgow. Although there was a lot less to do here- we really just wanted to get a feel for the cities and see what they had to offer. Every blog that I had read when trying to decide between the two had said that they were both great- neither was a bad choice. Tired from our first few days of non stop traveling and wandering around, we went to the Christmas markets in Glasgow and then ordered pizza to eat in our room while watching Christmas movies!

The next afternoon we flew to Dublin. We spent just one night in Dublin, in a hotel on O’Connell street. We wandered around the busy street to find dinner and I showed my mom a little of what I had seen earlier in the month when I had been here with my friends.

The next morning we woke up early- 5:30- for a tour to the Cliff of Moher and Galway. Although everyone else on the tour was going back to Dublin later that night we had decided to spend a night in Galway per a family friend’s recommendation. The first stop on the tour was just a bathroom break but it was at Obama Plaza- somewhere in rural Ireland where Barack Obama’s ancestors are from apparently.

The second stop was the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs were beautiful, but the wind was so harsh it could knock you over if you weren’t careful and it was raining off and on while we were there. Still it was an amazing experience and I am so happy we got to go.

The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher
The wind at the cliff was so harsh you could see water being sprayed over the edge
The wind at the cliff was so harsh you could see water being sprayed over the edge
O’Brien’s Tower at the edge of the cliff
O’Brien’s Tower at the edge of the cliff

The third stop was at the Burren region or “rocky area” which is a large region of Ireland.

The burren region in Ireland
The burren region in Ireland

And then we were in Galway. We only spent the one night in Galway before heading back to Dublin. In Galway our hotel was in Eyre square right in front of the Christmas Market and we easily walked everywhere.

Galway’s Christmas Market
Galway’s Christmas Market

The next two nights we were in Dublin and this time around we actually got to explore the city beyond the one street. 

The Temple Bar in Dublin
The Temple Bar in Dublin
St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin
St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin

Our final stop was London for Christmas. We got there the night of the 23rd and got to explore a little of the city at night. On Christmas Eve we did some grocery shopping and then went to high tea near Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace.

High tea at the Park Room: finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and tea
High tea at the Park Room: finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and tea
Our cakes from high tea
Our cakes from high tea

Christmas Day we opted to stay in the apartment, watch crappy Christmas movies and cook. It was so nice to have a homemade meal after all these months of eating dorm food and eating out. It may not have been a very exciting Christmas Day but we were just lucky to have been able to spend the holiday together. The next day we explored Notting Hill’s Portobello Road. From there we walked through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace.

Queen Victoria statue in Kensington Gardens
Queen Victoria statue in Kensington Gardens
Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park
Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park

Our last day together we visited the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, Covent Gardens (for some souvenirs) and then the London Eye.

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

It was such an amazing experience to get to travel with my mom and I was so grateful to have had her with me for Christmas. For the second half of my break my best friend will be flying over and we will travel a bit of Europe before I head to Italy for my last week. More travels to come.

 

Cheers,

Rilee

Ireland and the beginning of winter break

We are officially done with classes and ready for winter break!

This last week was full of stress, I had to write a paper that is 100% of my grade and pack up my dorm room completely. But it was also full of excitement because for the next month I will be traveling Europe.

Saturday my mom will arrive in Nottingham and we will begin our holiday exploring the UK. Even though I spent the last few months here, there is still so much that I haven’t seen, and so much that I am excited to do with my mom. More on this to come later.

The weekend after Carmen and spent 40 hours to get to Loch Ness and back, our little group ventured to Ireland. We flew from East Midlands to Dublin early Thursday morning. When I say early I mean early, we caught a bus from campus to the airport at 4 am.

The flight was only 40 minutes, give or take, and so by 8 am we had landed and made it through customs with another stamp on our passports. We took the bus to our hostel where we left our bags so we could explore the city. Not knowing what we really wanted to do in Dublin, we wandered around. Our first mission was to find bagels, a staple we were all craving since the Starbucks on campus is seriously lacking in bagel options.

The Grand Canal in Dublin
The Grand Canal in Dublin

After that we made our way to Trinity College, as it was on the list of places that you should visit in Dublin. As we were wandering the campus, admiring the amazing detail in the buildings, we happened upon a graduation ceremony. As we were walking across a courtyard, people in caps and gowns poured out of the building opposite as us. Deciding that was a sign to leave, we headed in the direction of the Cathedral.

Trinity College
Trinity College

After visiting two churches and Dublin Castle we headed to the National Botanical Garden. With three greenhouses and plenty of picturesque gardens outside, we spent hours wandering the grounds. It was so beautiful and by far was one of my favorite spots in Dublin.

The grounds at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin
The grounds at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin
A cool looking tree at the botanical gardens
A cool looking tree at the botanical gardens

Later, after we had eaten and managed to find our way back to the hostel, Carmen and I decided that we should go to a bar and get a flight of beer, because if you don’t try beer in Dublin, where you really there? After going to three bars, we finally found one that offered a flight, instead of just pints. As neither of us have really had beer, it seemed like the best way to really try and see if we liked any beers, unfortunately, we don’t.

Friday morning we headed to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. Again, the first thing we did in was check into our hostel so we could drop our bags. We wandered around the city centre, managing to run into a Christmas market. We went to Victoria Shopping Centre to avoid the rain and to see the famous dome on top of the mall. We found a cute vegan restaurant for dinner and then headed back to our hostel, calling it a night early so we could wake up early Saturday morning.

A view of the ocean during the hike to Giant's Causeway
A view of the ocean during the hike to Giant’s Causeway

The only thing I really wanted to do on this trip was go to Giant’s Causeway, a formation of naturally hexagonal rocks, on the coast of a village called Bushmills. Luckily, it took no convincing to get my friend’s to agree. So Saturday we got up early, checked out of our hostel, and made our way to the bus/train station. The Causeway is a little more than an hour away from Belfast, and a train plus a bus ride away but it was totally worth it. We spent the majority of the day walking around, climbing the rocks and hiking the cliff next to the causeway.

A small formation of the rocks at Giant's Causeway
A small formation of the rocks at Giant’s Causeway

Although it seems like the only way to access the causeway is by paying £11 to get into the visitors center,  we did some research and learned that there are paths that lead to the causeway that don’t require you to pay. The only downside of not paying is that if you want souvenirs, you have to have a ticket. We got one and took turns going inside to look at the gift shop.

We made our way back to Belfast that afternoon/night and grabbed dinner at a knock-off Chipotle, yet another craving satiated. Then we opted to spend the night in the airport since our flight was early the next morning.

Sunday morning we caught our flight from Belfast to Manchester and then took a train back to Nottingham. As soon as I was back in my room I passed out, exhausted from the weekend’s adventures.

In the two weeks following the trip I worked on my essays and researched how to pack and looked at travel tips, preparing for my month long trip where I would be living out of a backpack. I packed my entire dorm room up, as we have to move out for winter break. Luckily, this wasn’t that difficult as I only brought one checked bag in the first place.

Now I am waiting for my mom to get here, so my break can really start.

Rilee

Thanksgiving blues

There are only four weeks left of classes before our month long winter break begins. This last month means essays and test prep and preparing to live out of a backpack for a month while I travel Europe. It also means that we are running out of time to explore the UK and after this weekend we have some big trips planned in order to take advantage of our last remaining weekends here.

While we haven’t traveled much the past few weeks because, well, we are still poor college students trying to save money for our month long adventure, we are still exploring new parts of Nottingham, and oh yes- studying too.

This week is also the beginning of Thanksgiving break back in the States. It is weird to be away from home and without the means of making any sort of thanksgiving meal in our dorms.

The best way to avoid thinking about homesickness is shopping. Friday, after tracking down a post office so I could send home some postcards, Carmen and I spent the afternoon wandering Old Market Square and the mall. And since there’s no Thanksgiving here, Christmas has already arrived everywhere. The town square, which normally has a fountain and some local vendors, is now an ice rick, an ice bar, vendors and amusement rides.

To get our minds off of the holiday we were about to miss we headed to Liverpool Saturday morning. Leaving Nottingham railway station at 7:45 in the morning meant being up by 6 am and leaving campus by 6:45. We knew we were in for a day of exhaustion and excitement.

Our first stop was The Museum of Liverpool. With three floors of exhibits about Liverpool and one dedicated to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the museum had a lot to offer. Although, by far our favorite was ‘Double Fantasy- John and Yoko’ which chronological broke down the two performers relationship and impact on the world.

The Museum of Liverpool
The Museum of Liverpool

"Peace is Power" from the John and Yoko exhibit at the Museum of Liverpool
“Peace is Power” from the John and Yoko exhibit at the Museum of Liverpool

Since most of the museums in Liverpool are free, we decided to take in as many as we could in one day. Our next stop was the Tate art museum.

The outside of the Tate Art Museum
The outside of the Tate Art Museum

Then we stop for lunch before heading to the Merseyside Maritime Museum. We only went to the International Slavery exhibit here before heading out to find the World Museum. 

An anchor and the entrance to the Merseyside Maritime Museum
An anchor and the entrance to the Merseyside Maritime Museum

We made a quick pit stop at the Beatles statue on our way to the World Museum.

The Beatles statue in Liverpool at the Pier
The Beatles statue in Liverpool at the pier

Finally, our last stop was the World Museum, with 5 floors and a planetarium, we were convinced that in our last 40 minutes we could make it to each exhibit. From a small aquarium, to a room full of real mummies, to a dinosaur exhibit and finally the space and time floor we saw something on every floor and even made it to the last (and free) planetarium showing.

From there we headed back to the train station, grabbed a quick dinner and got on the next train headed to Nottingham. We didn’t make it back to campus until 9:30 pm but, the sleep deprivation was worth it.

To curb our appetite for better food, we went to the Nottingham vegan market Sunday. From cosmetics to doughnuts to ‘chicken’ and ‘hot dogs’, Carmen, Haylee, and I spent the morning indulging in good food and looking at booths for local vegan stores.

My avocado doughnut from the vegan market
My avocado doughnut from the vegan market

Later that day we headed to Mansfield for their tree lighting ceremony. Although it was a significant journey there (we didn’t know that there was a train from Nottingham to Mansfield) we made it just in time for the stage show to wind down, a Christmas music laser show to begin and Santa to be ushered on stage. As soon as it was dark enough the countdown began, and the tree in the city centre and all the lights that lined the streets turned on. This was followed by fireworks and even more Christmas music.

The Christmas tree and fireworks from the Big Switch On in Mansfield
The Christmas tree and fireworks from the Big Switch On in Mansfield

Before break I have two essays due. While one of these is only 25% of my grade (the other 75% is the multiple choice test in January) the other is 100% of my grade. It is intimidating and nerve wracking to have my entire grade decided by one essay. We were warned at orientation back in March that our grades would be solely based on one final exam or essay, but now that I am here and nearing finals I’m realizing just how much pressure that is. With both deadlines approaching and trips to Scotland and Ireland coming up, it’s definite that this last month will be chocked full of stress and excitement. 

Cheers,

Rilee

Loch Ness

Thanksgiving has come and gone and the lingering homesickness and realization that we still have a while before seeing our families caused Carmen and I to seek an adventure to Scotland for the weekend.

A 15 hour journey, 3 trains and a bus later we arrived Saturday afternoon in Inverness, Scotland. The Scottish Highlands are quite the trek from the English Midlands, so why did we feel the need to go that far north when Glasgow and Edinburgh are much closer? There’s only one word to best describe our thought process: Nessie. That’s right we did all of this to spend a few hours at Loch Ness.

Carmen and I at Loch Ness
Carmen and I at Loch Ness

Unfortunately, as it is nowhere near peak tourist season there was only one cruise on the Loch that bused us from the city center to the docks. Luckily, with our handy Britrail passes meant that we weren’t paying for trains, and taking night trains meant we weren’t paying for lodging so we splurged for a tour that includes a ferry ride on the loch and a tour of Urquhart Castle.

When we arrived around one in the afternoon Saturday we headed straight for the bus station, ensuring that we knew where we had to be an hour later. For that hour in between being dropped off and the beginning of the Jacobite tour we wandered around the city centre and found lunch.

Finally, it was time for the tour. Like I said, it’s not tourist season, and we weren’t expecting our tour to be packed, but surprisingly the only other person on the tour with us was an exchange student from Germany who was studying in Scotland for the term and also decided to spend the weekend in Inverness.

We headed out on our 30 minute bus towards Loch Ness. The tour included a “guided bus tour” where the driver pointed out buildings and other landmarks as we drove by them.

This was followed by a 30 minute cruise on the Loch. On the boat, another tour guide told us the history of the Loch as we sailed toward Urquhart Castle.

View of Urquhart Castle from our tour boat
View of Urquhart Castle from our tour boat

The last part of the tour was an hour to wander the ruins of Urquhart Castle. Once a castle to many great Scottish families, the castle was blown up in 1692 after having been under attack repeatedly. Now all that remains are the ruins of the castle.

What is left of Urquhart Castle
The ruins of Urquhart Castle

Once we were back in Inverness City Centre we grabbed dinner, and then went to the train station to wait for our bus to Glasgow.

From Glasgow, we were planning on catching a morning train that would get us back to Nottingham. Like we had Friday night, we planned to spend the night in the waiting rooms at the train station, likely another 6 hour stay.

Little did we know, that some train stations close overnight, and on Sundays they don’t open until 6 am.

After catching a bus from Glasgow to Edinburgh (which took an hour) and finding our way to that train station, we ultimately ended up going to the airport. Piece of advice, instead of deciding to spend hours waiting around in train stations from midnight to 7am just pay for a hostel.

We finally made it back to campus, about 40 hours after we had left Friday night, exhausted and hungry, but with another place crossed off our bucket list.

Rilee

Life in Nottingham

A little over a month into our time here, and it feels like the semester is flying by. With so much that I want to see and so many places to go, we are trying to make the most of our time by exploring whenever possible.

Although classes are well underway, I only have one class each day allowing me plenty of time to go into town and find a new café, wander around the city, or go to a restaurant for some food that’s better than what the dining hall serves.

Old Market Square, Nottingham City Centre
Old Market Square, Nottingham City Centre

Unlike at Dillin Hall, we have only one option every night: you either eat the vegetarian entrée or the one with meat. Unfortunately, as a vegetarian, this leaves me with one choice every night. Although the quality of food is comparable to Dillin, the lack of options makes me less than enthusiastic. Like Linfield we have meal card money, aka “daily bites”, that allows us to buy food from the coffee shops, restaurants and bars on campus. This is a life saver when dinner just doesn’t sound that good, but I don’t want to leave campus or spend real money.

Last weekend we “played tourist” in Nottingham. We went to Nottingham Castle, found the Robin Hood statue and visited the oldest inn in England- Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem.

Carmen, Sarah and I at the Robin Hood Statue in Nottingham
Carmen, Sarah and I at the Robin Hood Statue in Nottingham

If you don’t know, the legend of Robin Hood takes place in Nottingham and the Sherwood Forest. When I was still in the States and I told people that I would be in Nottingham they always mentioned Robin Hood, so I decided I had to find the statue as photographic proof that I was living where he once did. The statue is right outside the castle, which, unfortunately, is under construction until 2020.

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is the oldest bar in England, established 1189 AD. It is built into the side of a cliff next to the castle and is said to be where King Richard the Lionheart and his men gathered before heading to Jerusalem. The bar has its history splattered on the walls, from swords to paintings.

The oldest bar in England- Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
The oldest bar in England- Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem

During the week we also visited the Wollaton Deer Park, which is right across the street from campus. The park is amazing, with expansive grounds, a pond and a private golf course. Wollaton Hall, better known as Wayne Manor to anyone who has seen The Dark Knight Rises, houses a natural history museum. While walking the grounds, you can see herds of deer, you can sit by the pond, or if you were there when we were, you could see animatronic dinosaurs set up around the park as part of an exhibit about the Jurassic Kingdom (see picture). Needless to say, it was an amazing way to spend an afternoon and learn about the city we’re living in!

Wollaton Hall in the Wollaton Deer Park
Wollaton Hall in the Wollaton Deer Park

A view of the deer park from in front of Wollaton Hall
A view of the deer park from in front of Wollaton Hall

This weekend we ventured to Wales. We booked an Airbnb in a quaint town, Penperlleni, an hour bus ride from Cardiff. We had a little cottage all to ourselves, and luckily it had heat. So far on this trip, I have never been as cold as I was in Wales. Bone chilling wind and just plain cold weather kept us bundled up the whole weekend.

Friday, we made our way to Wales from Nottingham, arriving at our Airbnb eight hours after our train departed from Nottingham Station. From a three-hour train ride, missing our next train and waiting an hour and a half for the bus that would take us to Penperlleni, we were frozen and ready for a night soaking in the warmth of the cottage.  A whole day of traveling in the brutal cold called for board games and fuzzy socks Friday night, so we would be ready for a day of walking around Cardiff.

Saturday we made it to Cardiff after a much shorter wait for the bus, and a better understanding of the bus system in Wales. We found cute vintage stores and used bookstores at Castle Arcade. Here I found a copy of Moby Dick and a book of poems by the Brontë sister, both of which were printed in the early 1900s.

The tower at the corner of the stone wall that surrounds the castle grounds
The tower at the corner of the stone wall that surrounds the castle grounds

The view of the castle from the gate
The view of the castle from the gate

We also went to Cardiff Castle. Located in the middle of the city, the castle has massive stone walls stretching around a large courtyard. The actual castle sits on a small hill in the center of the courtyard. You can pay to walk through the castle and around the courtyard, but we chose to just walk in as far as they let you without a ticket and then wandered around the gift shop. All weekend we marveled at the signs in Welsh trying to understand the language, but never actually figuring it out.  Luckily the signs are also in English.

For now, it’s back to the books for me. Fortunately, I don’t really have homework – just reading for classes- which means more time planning my next trip.

Cheers,
Rilee

The beginning of a great British adventure

We have been in England for three weeks, and it is just starting to hit me that I will be spending the next four months here – The University of Nottingham.

A lot can happen in three weeks when you’re acclimating to a new country and way of life so here are some highlights.

The first few days on campus were exclusively international students, which allowed me to meet others who were facing the hardships of not only starting classes but being significantly farther from home than usual. It was really great to meet people from around the world, although most of them were just beginning university not studying abroad. Friday included a pub crawl for international students at any of the universities here in Nottingham.

The next day was ‘fresher’s’ or freshmen move in day and the beginning of ‘fresher’s week’.  Unfortunately, I got sick right before I left home and although I had hoped to shake my cold by the time people showed up, I had not. This meant that I was not in a partying mood and instead of easily befriending those in my hall by going to all the club nights, I hid away in my room downing hot tea and watching Netflix.  

Luckily, I had a few Linfield students to hang out with during that week. We explored Nottingham City Centre and our new campus. Shopping and eating in cute cafés became the norm of our week. We even found a little garden on campus. Its quaint charm mesmerized us instantly and we spent hours lying in the grass and soaking up the sun, knowing full well that it could be one of the last nice days we’d see for a while.  

Covered bench in the Nottingham garden.

The campus garden is overflowing with beauty
The campus garden is overflowing with beauty

Even though I have been getting to know other students, ironically the people I am closest to are a few people from Linfield. Maybe it is because we were mostly all placed in the same hall or just that we understand each other’s struggles better than most, but four of us have created an easy friendship.

I’ve also met some other exchange students who introduced me to people that they had met, namely an Australian girl named Nalini. Now there is a group of exchange students that sit together at meals and go on random adventures. One of these adventures took place our second Saturday in Nottingham.

Our outing was to the Attenborough Nature Reserve, a beautiful lake surrounded by greenery, and only a short £1 bus ride away from campus. The reserve is everything that I would have expected from a lake in the English countryside. I’m not sure how many of us went, nearly 30 I’d guess. It has been nice getting to meet exchange students because they are in the same situation that I am, and are more mature than the 18-year olds just moving to uni (university) for the first time. It is also crazy that we, students from all over the world have been introduced at a University in Nottingham, England, and even though we aren’t studying the same things or from the same countries we are able to understand each other because we are all in the same boat, missing home but in awe of the opportunities that we have here.

The river at the Attenborough Nature Reserve
The river at the Attenborough Nature Reserve

Some of the exchange students that went to the nature reserve
Some of the exchange students that went to the nature reserve

This past weekend we took the train to London to explore.

Four of us Linfield kids headed to London after we finished classes on Friday afternoon for a weekend getaway. We booked the cheapest Airbnb we could find near London and let me tell ya, ‘you get what you pay for’ should’ve been our mantra for the weekend. The apartment was cramped and not very clean but at least we weren’t spending that much time hanging out in there. This and the £1 umbrellas we got from Poundland, England’s version of the dollar store, proved that sometimes it’s worth the splurge.

Our first day in London we went to see the sites: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and The Tower of London/Tower Bridge. Halfway through the day it began raining and so we spent a good amount of time hiding out in a café instead of seeking out other tourist attractions like Big Ben and the London Eye. Even so, we made the best of the situation and even ended the night by finding a cool restaurant near our Airbnb. Here we got wood-fired pizzas and pints of mojitos, a good end to a long day.

Linfield students Sarah Reiner, Rilee Macaluso (me), Haylee Harris and Carmen Chasse at Buckingham Palace
Linfield students Sarah Reiner, Rilee Macaluso (me), Haylee Harris and Carmen Chasse at Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey

On Sunday we headed to the London Natural History Museum, because, hey, it’s free and we are pinching pennies anywhere we can. Let me just start by saying that the museum is amazing! It’s huge- you could spend days in there and probably still miss parts of it. There are so many exhibits going on and so much to learn and see. So, we checked our luggage at the cloakroom and headed for the closest exhibit. From ancient birds, to Charles Darwin, to volcanoes and royal gems, this was by far my favorite place we visited all weekend.

The London Natural History Museum
The London Natural History Museum

Sadly, the weekend had to end and we headed back to Nottingham as late as rationally possible, soaking up as much of London as we could- don’t worry we’ll be back.

More adventures to come!

Cheers,
Rilee