Tag Archives: Glasgow

St. Andrews

Yesterday, Ariel and I went up to St. Andrews for the day. It is probably the most beautiful town I’ve ever seen. Here are a few of the many photos I took:

I’m going to dinner tonight with my flatmates, and then I’ve got to come back and cram for my cinema final tomorrow. I still haven’t really realized that my exam is tomorrow. With all of the traveling and things I’ve been doing over the past two weeks, I kind of got into vacation mode. I’ve been so focused on trying to do everything I didn’t get done earlier in the semester that I haven’t done too much studying. At the same time that I am thankful that my exam was scheduled on the last day (because it opened up time for me to travel), it’s also kind of annoying. It will be nice to get it over with tomorrow and not have to worry about it anymore. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a lot of studying done tonight! Wish me luck! Until next time…

Megan

Advertisements

“There’s a bird in Anth’s bed.”

I don’t have very much time to write this post about my trip to Barcelona, because I’ve got about a million things to do this week plus an exam on Friday. Instead of writing the usual recount of my travels, I’ll leave you with this short story.

Ariel and I arrived in Barcelona late Friday night. We checked into our hostel without a hitch and went up to our rooms to drop our bags and make our beds. I should mention here that I opted to book a coed, eight-person room while Ariel chose to live in luxury in an all-female, six-bed room. When I got up to my room and found my assigned bed, I saw that there were sheets on it. I wasn’t sure if someone was sleeping there or if they’d checked out and forgotten to remove their sheets. Not wanting to take someone else’s bed, I stripped the sheets from the bed I was assigned and put my sheets on it. I put my stuff in my locker and went to meet Ariel so we could get a late dinner of falafels. After dinner, exhausted, I climbed into bed and fell asleep. One would think the story would end there, but no. This is where it goes terribly, terribly wrong.

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I woke up to the dulcet tones of three inebriated Englishmen.

“There’s someone in my bed! There’s someone in my bed! Oi! You! Sleepyhead!”

“It’s a bird, I came in and she was sleeping there.”

“There’s a bird in my bed? There’s someone in my bed!”

Sleepy, disoriented, and unsure if they were talking about me or not, I tried to ignore them, but it didn’t work.

“Hey you, sleepyhead!” the voice says.

“Me?” I said, rolling over.

“Why are you in my bed?”

“This is the bed that was assigned to me,” I said.

“You thought you would just take the sheets off this bed and get in, when there is an empty bed over there?”

“This is the bed that was assigned to me,” I repeated. “I don’t know how I was supposed to know it was your bed. I didn’t take that one because I didn’t want to take someone else’s bed.”

“Anth, shut up,” said another voice. “Whose sheets are on this bed?” said the second voice, referring to my bed.

“Mine,” I said.

“What did you do with the sheets that were on it?” the second voice asked.

“I put them there,” I said, pointing to the ball of sheets I put on the floor near my bed.

“Anth, there they are. Just take your sheets and make that bed and go to bed,” said the second voice.

“I have to make my bed twice in one day? Twice in one day! I tell you, I was really looking forward to getting into bed. And I come back, and there’s someone in my bed!”

“Anth, shut up,” said a third voice. “Sorry lass. What’s your name?”

“Megan,” I said.

“Sorry Megan, he’s harmless. No need to be scared. He’s just drunk,” said the third voice who happened to be in the bunk above mine. “To tell you the truth, if I were you, I’d be a bit mad. I can’t believe they put a bird in the same room with all of us. One lass and seven lads!”

Eventually, Anth settled down and got into bed, but not before drunkenly removing two of his friends’ mattresses and putting them in the middle of the room and gifting me with a meercat keychain to keep me company. As if that weren’t enough, he then put on his iPod which I could hear all the way across the room, despite the fact that he had headphones on. The other four guys came in sometime later and made a bit of noise trying to figure out what the deal was with their beds. After what felt like a couple of hours of them loudly discussing their night and laughing at the fact that I stole Anth’s bed, I checked my phone and it was 5:10 am. I fell asleep soon after that, but needless to say it was an interesting night.

At no point during that night was I actually worried for my safety. They really did seem like harmless guys, and a couple of them apologized to me more than once. And honestly, it was pretty funny. But still, I would have liked to have slept a little more. The next two nights, they were much quieter. I did wake up when they came in, but only for a few moments before drifting back to sleep.

Despite that rocky first night, the rest of the trip was a lot of fun. I’m so glad I got to go! Highlights included:

  • the Sagrada Familia: far and away the coolest church, nay the coolest building I have ever seen
  • Park Güell: the park with the wavy ceramic tiled benches
  • the Picasso Museum
  • the Joan Miro Museum
  • Montjuïc and the gorgeous park near the Miro Museum
  • the Mediterranean!
  • Las Ramblas: a big street with living statues, restaurants, and stalls selling everything from baby ducks to flowers to souvenirs
  • the flamenco performance
  • churros, tapas, paella, gelato
  • the gorgeous weather: it stayed around 60 F the entire time

Perhaps if I have time later this week, I can write a more detailed post about Barcelona, but I’m not promising anything. Overall, it was a great trip. Barcelona is a beautiful city, I would love to live there for a year or two. Erin, if you’re reading this, I’m jealous you get to spend all of next semester in Spain. If Madrid is anything like Barcelona, you are going to love it. Really. Anyway, that’s all for now. I’ve got to go study for my exam. I won’t have that much time tomorrow, because I am going to St. Andrews! Check out some of the photographs from my trip below. Until next time…

Window Seat

[Hint: See the little button that says 360 in the lower right-hand corner? Click it and then choose 720 to watch the clip in HD. Trust me, it’s better.]

The Amsterdam Post

As you may or may not know, I just got back to Glasgow from a short trip to Amsterdam. I went with four other girls who are studying abroad at Glasgow (three Americans, one Canadian). We left Sunday and got back Wednesday. Taking into account travel time, we had two half days and two full days in Amsterdam. Initially, I wasn’t going to go to Amsterdam at all, but I changed my mind at the last minute and bought a ticket. It was kind of a rash (and expensive) decision on my part, but it turned out well. I’m glad I went, for a variety of reasons which I will hopefully touch on throughout this post.

I’ll start from the beginning. We left Sunday morning around 10:00 to get to the airport for our 12:45 flight. Europe, in particular Scotland, has been experiencing some crazy winter weather lately, so we left praying that our flight would not be delayed as many other flights have been. Luckily, we got to the airport with plenty of time to spare and our flight left right on time. It was a pleasant flight made pleasanter due to the fact that we flew with KLM, not RyanAir.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know that I’ve flown with RyanAir on all of my trips this semester. I appreciate RyanAir very much and would recommend it to anyone who wishes to explore Europe on a budget. It flies to places I want to go, it’s relatively dependable, and most importantly its fares are dirt cheap. But there are some annoying elements to flying with RyanAir, such as the baggage restrictions and the fact that they try to sell you everything under the sun during the flight (lottery tickets, cigarettes, etc.). So you can see why I enjoyed flying with a ‘real’ airline to Amsterdam. They even gave us sandwiches, delicious!

Anyway, the flight was a nice way to start out the trip. We made it to Amsterdam and grabbed a taxi to the hostel. Our hostel was in a great location, close to the museums and not too far from city center. We checked in and after dropping off our bags in our room, we set off to explore and find some dinner. (Sidenote: I wish I had taken a picture of the hostel, because it was pretty cool. Our room was located on the top floor of the hostel. To get to it, we had to walk up four very narrow and steep staircases. Also, our room had slanted ceilings with wooden beams which for some reason reminded me of my first bedroom/closet at home. I really enjoyed staying there.)

Anyway, one of the first things we saw when we went out to wander was a Winter Wonderland. Though we didn’t know it at the time, there were several Winter Wonderlands set up in squares across the city. They usually had an ice skating rink, several pastry and food vendors, and Christmas decorations. I read somewhere that the Dutch exchange gifts on St. Nicholas Day (which was Sunday, the day we flew in), so maybe that explains all the Winter Wonderlands. Anyway, we found some relatively cheap dinner, wandered around some more, and called it a night.

The next day, we woke up early and headed over to the Van Gogh Museum. Wow. I never realized just how cool Van Gogh’s work is. I knew about Sunflowers and The Starry Night and the whole ear fiasco, but I’d never given his work much thought. One of the most interesting things I learned at the Van Gogh Museum was that Van Gogh just up and decided to be an artist. He decided that was what he wanted to do, and without knowing if he would be any good at it, he dedicated himself to his art. Overall, the museum was very interesting and well-organized. It was just the right size, too. I felt like I was able to see all of the paintings, read most of the descriptions, and leave without feeling like I was going to fall over (as is often the case with larger museums).

The Van Gogh Museum made me realize that one of my favorite parts of this whole study abroad experience has been the opportunity to visit art museums. I’m really grateful to have been able to see so many interesting pieces of art this semester. With every museum I visit, I find myself wanting more and more to create things: writing, drawing, film, etc. Simply put, it’s refreshing and inspiring to be able to see such magnificent art. It makes me want to be a smarter, better, more dedicated artist myself.

After the Van Gogh Museum, we wandered our way down to city center. I must say, Amsterdam is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. It’s a beautiful city filled with canals, houses crammed in rows, brick streets, and millions of bicycles. Walking around is a little scary because things aren’t marked very clearly. You’re never sure if you are walking in a street or a bike lane or on the sidewalk, so you’ve got to keep a sharp eye out or you’ll get hit. And you’ve got to watch out for the trams, too.

Anyway, after browsing several souvenir shops, wandering around an outdoor plant market, and generally soaking up the Amsterdam ambiance, we were pretty hungry. So we found a little restaurant and ordered a very Dutch lunch: pancakes! Pancakes and waffles are everywhere. I had an apple pancake, which was delicious but so big I couldn’t finish it. The other options for pancakes included banana, pineapple, chocolate, ham and cheese, rum, and more.

After lunch, we found our way to the Anne Frank House. Though I’ve never actually read her diary, I know the general story. It was a pretty powerful experience to see the actual rooms where she hid from the Nazis, especially knowing how things ended for her. Throughout the house (which is also a museum), there are displays about Anne and her family. Reading some of the excerpts from her diary and seeing some actual pages from rewrites she did really made me want to read her diary. I resisted buying a copy in the giftshop, since I’m pretty sure we’ve got a copy at home (if not two or three, knowing the Carroll library).

One of the things that stuck with me about my visit to the Anne Frank House was Otto Frank’s (her father) desire to make the house not only a monument to remember the horror of the Holocaust but also a reminder that the fight against racism and prejudice is not finished. It is still something we must fight against. One point that came up in my discussion with my friends after leaving the house was the unbelievable fact that the Holocaust even happened. How could the rest of the world let such a terrible thing go on for so long, we wondered. That, in turn, made me think about modern atrocities we so often turn a blind eye to: the war in the Congo, child soldiers in Burma, the invisible children of Uganda, etc. How many Anne Franks live in the world today? What will be the Anne Frank House of the future? Maybe it’s a depressing thought, but it makes Otto Frank’s vision all the more relevant.

Moving on from that heavy subject… After the Anne Frank House, we found a grocery store and bought some supplies for dinner. We went back to the hostel, where we used the incredibly-slow-heating hot plate to make a delicious meal of spaghetti. Pasta: the food of the poor traveler. We spent most of the rest of the night hanging out in the hostel, playing cards and watching bad American television. We did pop over to the Winter Wonderland to pick up some Dutch donuts (exactly like beignets) for dessert. Delicious!

On Tuesday, we got up, had breakfast, and headed over to the Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum is a large museum dedicated to Dutch art. It’s housed in a pretty impressive building, but unfortunately most of it is currently under construction. There was still a lot to see, however, so we spent a couple of hours wandering through the rooms soaking up the art. Lots of Rembrandt, a few Vermeers, things of that nature. The level of detail in some of the still lifes was astonishing, and it was neat to see Rembrandt and Vermeer’s techniques with light up close.

After the Rijksmuseum, we headed back to the hostel for a spaghetti lunch and then went to a flea market. It was nice to see more of Amsterdam, but the flea market wasn’t really anything special. Just the usual mix of knick knacks and knockoffs. Plus, it was freezing. We wandered around a bit and then ducked into a coffeeshop to warm up. We ordered hot chocolate, which came as a mug of hot milk with a side of chocolate chips to mix in. It was delicious.

We spent the rest of our trip just sort of wandering around Amsterdam, taking in the sights. Even though it was cold, and I sometimes couldn’t feel my toes, I really enjoyed the trip. It was great to experience a city so different from the American and British cities I know so well. It was also great to travel with my new friends Jess, Maija, Ellie, and Silvana. I enjoyed the laid back nature of the trip, but I was also happy that we got to do as much as we did in the little time we had in Amsterdam. All in all, it was a great experience. I can’t wait to go back sometime when it’s warmer!

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you right now. Tomorrow afternoon I leave for Barcelona. Hopefully, I’ll be able to write a post about that trip sometime next week in between all my studying and last-minute exploring. Thanks for reading! Until next time…

Megan

P.S.- Random sidenote: we spent quite a bit of time in the hostel common room (hanging out, eating meals, etc.) and every time we were there, there was this one group of guys glued to their computers. Seriously, they did not move for the three and a half days we were there. Why would you go to a foreign country just to sit on your computer and play World of Warcraft? Why? People like that make me lose faith in the human race.

Dear Scotland

Dear Scotland,

How can I put this delicately? I know that over the past weekend you received record snowfall and endured record low temperatures, but you need to pull yourself together. Three inches of snow does not exactly justify shutting down the campus cafes four hours earlier than usual. Negative 4 degrees Celsius (approx 24 degrees Fahrenheit) is really not that cold.

Let me make a recommendation. There’s this wonderful thing called a snow shovel. You use it to scrape the snow off the sidewalks before it melts and refreezes into one massive ice skating rink. After you shovel, you toss a layer of salt on the sidewalks. This makes it much easier to walk without slipping and falling on your butt. Sure, it may take a little effort, but it makes getting around a lot easier and safer for everyone.

I forgive you this time around, Scotland. I know this is new to you. But the next time it snows this much, I’d rather be able to walk on the sidewalk without wishing I had a pair of ice skates. Invest in some snow shovels and some salt. It’s for your own good.

Much love,

Megan

Jail Pictures

Sorry! It takes me so long to write the posts that sometimes I forget which pictures I mentioned and then I forget to post them. Anyway, here are the pictures from Kilmainham Jail.

Spelunking, Trespassing, and Jail: The Dublin Post

This weekend, I went to Dublin, Ireland. My journey began at 3:00 am on Thursday morning, when I had to get up so that I could catch a taxi to the bus station where I caught a bus to the Prestwick airport where I caught a plane to Dublin. After a minor hiccup involving RyanAir’s strict baggage policy and my friends’ (very) slightly oversized luggage, we arrived in Dublin’s city center around 10 am, checked into our hostel, and set off to explore the city.

First, we went to check out Trinity College, which happened to be very close to our hostel. It is a pretty neat campus. It is also home to the Book of Kells, which I learned about in my Typography class last spring. Unfortunately, it cost 9 Euro to get into the exhibition and, being the budget-conscious students we are, we decided to pass.

Next, we wandered around the Temple Bar district which is basically a huge version of Omaha’s Old Market or Glasgow’s Ashton Lane. It’s a really pleasant area to walk around–full of quaint shops and pubs. We found our way to a converted church/tourist office/gift shop where I found a rack of family crest postcards. Sadly, they were out of the Carrolls. I was really disappointed because I wanted something with the Carroll name on it, and I just redesigned the Carroll crest last spring in an effort to bolster my graphic design portfolio. I asked at the desk, but alas they were out. I didn’t really want a keychain or a pin, so I was out of luck. I guess I’ll just have to settle for this picture.

Yes, that’s right, there was a chain of souvenir shops called “Carroll’s.” They were everywhere! In fact, it was one of the first things I saw when I got off the bus from the airport. It looked like they had pretty much any Irish souvenir you could possibly want. I meant to go in and look around, but I never got around to it. Oh well, the picture will do.

Anyway, after wandering around Temple Bar, we went to check out St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was beautiful… from the outside. We didn’t go in because it cost something like 4 Euro. Who charges admission to a church? Isn’t that sacrilegious? I’m not particularly religious, but I seem to remember a little story about Jesus and some money-lenders in the Temple…

After wandering around a bit more, checking out a couple other churches, we stopped for lunch at a little cafe on the River Liffey. Then we headed back across the river to Dublin Castle. It was definitely different from the castles I’ve seen in Scotland, as you can see from the pictures. It was a very strange amalgamation of architectural styles and colors. We didn’t go into the castle, partly because we couldn’t find the entrance and partly because (again) we didn’t feel like paying to get in. We found a free little museum right next to the castle. Oddly enough, it was a museum dedicated taxes. Yes, you read that right. They even had an interactive computer game where you had to find all the hidden contraband items before the time ran out.

Next, we went to the Chester Beatty Library where we explored an exhibition about the Shahnameh, an epic Persian poem from 1000 AD. The illustrations were incredible and the story seemed really interesting. I don’t know if there is an English translation, but think I might try to find one when I get back to the States.

After the library, exhausted, we headed back to the hostel and took a three-hour nap. The rest of the night was pretty low-key. We got dinner (pizza) and ended up back at the hostel, watching a football game between England and France. Funnily enough, there was a man named Peter Carroll on the English team. I wasn’t really sure who to root for: I love France but my pretend-long-lost cousin was playing for England. We went to bed before the game ended, but I’m pretty sure France won.

On Friday, we got up and moved to our next hostel where we stayed for the remaining two nights. Then, we went to the Guinness Storehouse. It was a little pricey (11 Euro), but definitely worth it, even though I’m not a big drinker. The storehouse way bigger and more interesting than I expected. Seven floors of displays about Guinness: the brewing process, the history of the company, advertising through the years, and, at bar at the top, the obligatory pint. Some of the highlights: watching the video about how they used to make the keg barrels, tasting barley, seeing the Carroll name on the registry of Guinness workers, the view from the bar at the top, and sampling Guinness (which I actually kind of like).

After the storehouse, we headed over to Kilmainham Gaol–the jail where the leaders of the Easter Rising were executed. It was a really fascinating place. They had a museum with displays about the fight for independence and the restoration process of the jail (which had fallen into disrepair before it was turned into a museum and historical landmark). I didn’t know anything about Irish history before I went to the jail, but the museum and the hour-long tour were very informative. I got chills when we visited the place where the leaders were executed. The Easter Rising seems like a really interesting piece of history, I’d love to read more about it. The jail was oddly aesthetically pleasing, as you can see from the pictures. Apparently, it’s been used in several movies (including The Italian Job) and U2 music videos. Overall, the jail was a great place to visit. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Dublin.

After the jail, we walked back to our hostel in the pouring rain. Made some spaghetti in the hostel kitchen for dinner. Met some other Glasgow students at a pub for chips and some live Irish music. Watched Mean Girls in the hostel common room and called it a night.

On Saturday we woke up and walked over to Merrion Park in search of the Oscar Wilde statue. After walking across the whole park, we finally located the statue only to discover that he was covered by a giant blue tarp. My friend Jess, who really wanted to see the statue, decided to pull the tarp off so she could get a picture with Oscar. She managed to get the tarp off and we saw why he was covered in the first place–poor Oscar was missing a hand. Anyway, we snapped the picture, I helped Jess replace the tarp as best we could, and we left before anyone could yell at us.

Next, we hopped on the train up to the little coast village of Howth. It was pretty cold and windy when we got there, but we walked along the harbor anyway. We got to see several sea lions lounging in the water right next to the walkway. After stopping at a little cafe for lunch (and some delicious cheesecake), we walked along the sea wall to the lighthouse. Even though it was windy and cloudy, the scenery was still gorgeous.

Jess wanted to walk down to the beach so we hopped over the wall and climbed down some rough boulders to the shore. We searched for sea glass and collected pretty rocks. The diversity of colors and shapes of the rocks was incredible, and the sound of the waves washing over the rocks was unlike anything I’d ever heard. Feeling adventurous, we decided to hike along the shore to a set of concrete stairs we saw in the distance. Climbing over boulders along the cliff-line and hopping over the numerous tide pools, we made our way to the stairs. We found a few caves in the cliffs and participated in some impromptu spelunking. We also found a small waterfall hidden behind a curve in the cliffs. The hike was sublime. I felt like I could hike along the shore forever and never get bored.

Finally, we got to the stairs and climbed up–only to discover a concrete-block wall with the words “No Exit, Beware of Dog” spray painted on it. Crap. We couldn’t exactly go back the way we had come since the tide was coming in. But we couldn’t go forward. We were about to turn back when I decided to see if there was a way around the wall. I found a little hole in the bush behind the wall. We climbed through, getting very muddy in the process, and found ourselves in someone’s backyard. We were nervous about the possibility of meeting a ferocious guard dog, but we couldn’t exactly turn back. We crept up the sidewalk to the gate (which was thankfully unlocked) and hopped over another concrete wall onto the road. We had made it out alive! The hike was a true adventure and is now one of my favorite memories of Ireland.

At that point we were pretty muddy and tired, so we hopped back on the train to Dublin. We had some leftover spaghetti for dinner and hung out in the hostel common room, watching the Ireland vs. New Zealand All Blacks rugby game. Wow, does Rugby make American football look sissy. Seriously, it’s intense. Unfortunately, Ireland lost but it was fun to watch anyway. We passed the rest of the night in the common room, hanging out with some other Glasgow students, an Irishman, and an Australian girl. The Australian was waiting until 9:30 when she could go back to the Abbey Theater where she’d seen the play John Gabriel Borkman. Alan Rickman (Professor Snape) and Fiona Shaw (Aunt Petunia) were starring in the play, and she desperately wanted to meet Alan. At 9:30 she headed out with a horde of other gawkers to go stalk Snape. Unfortunately, I never heard if they got to meet him, but I found the situation entertaining nonetheless.

The next morning, Sunday, we caught our early flight back to Glasgow and arrived back at our flats before 11 am. Overall, it was a great trip. I’m really grateful to Jess and Lauren for inviting me. If they hadn’t, I’m not sure I would have seen Ireland, and that would have been a shame. It’s a great country and I can’t wait to go back someday. Until next time…

Megan