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White Cliffs and Dark Brews

5 Dec

Hello everybody!

So I finally found some time to put my pictures up from Dover and tell you all a little bit about my trip (even though it was almost two or three weeks ago that I went! Yikes!) If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you know how crazy things have been! It’s a mad rush between getting work done and doing all of the things that I wanted to do before I head home!

The papers are never ending and it looks like I will probably have to bring some of them home with me. Although I am still hoping for the best and trying to knock out as many as possible before I head home on the 17th.

But back to Dover…

IFSA-Butler put together a great little day trip for the students to visit Dover Castle on the coast and the Shepherd Neame brewery in Faversham. At Dover, we got some free time to explore the complex which is made up of the castle, an old lighthouse from the Roman era, a Saxon church, St. Mary in Castro and a small war museum. This site has significant historical importance and there is evidence to suggest it was fortified during the Iron Age, even before the Roman’s arrival in the 1rst century. On the march to his Westminster Abbey coronation in 1066, William the Conqueror had the castle rebuilt and it has been militarily occupied ever since.  It’s proximity to France (it is only a few miles across the channel to Calais) made it especially valuable to the English. And in World War II, following the Battle of Dunkirk, it became the frontline against Nazi invasion.

In this picture, you can see how close Dover (A) is to the French coast. Faversham (B) is in Kent, about a half hour closer to London (in the top left corner).

 While there, we got to tour the ‘Secret Wartime Tunnels’ which were actually  built right into the soft limestone during the Napoleonic Age.  Located right on the coast and extending for miles back into the cliff, these tunnels were a primary operating center for communication during World War II due to their security, privacy and anti-air raid benefits (Though they had been updated a bit since Napoleon’s age!). It was really amazing to walk around deep inside them imagining how tense and anxious it would have been for everyone living there. The tour itself was really well done – I would highly recommend it if you ever make your way out to Dover. Probably the most amazing part to me was the stories of merchants and other private citizens who took their fishing boats and lifeboats out across the coast, into  a war zone, to help evacuate Allied soldiers from the coast of Dunkirk. These “little ships of Dunkirk” were just helping in any way they could and they ended up rescuing a significant number of these starving, wounded and terrified young men that otherwise probably would have never survived. All in all, a total of about 340,000 Allied troops were evacuated in just over a week. Pretty amazing stuff.

From there, we headed to Shepherd Neame Brewery in Faversham, Kent. This is Britain’s oldest brewery, established in 1698. (Though they have found evidence that Kentish brewers were operating there several hundreds of years before, even). We got to go inside the actual brewery where they explained the entire process of cultivating the malts, adding the hops and then the yeast. We got to sample different stages of malts and even tried hops. At the end, they served us samples and taught us how to ‘evaluate’ ales and lagers (there’s a difference?!) based on clarity, smell, et cetera. Some of their more famous brews are the Spitfire (after the WWII plane, in commemoration of the Battle of Britain) and Bishop’s Finger, both of which I’ve seen in a few of the pubs in London.

It was a wonderful trip and very informative. I had a great time with my friends, as usual, and was so glad that I went.

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I finished another paper at the end of last week and am breaking ground on my next one. Tomorrow evening I am attending a holiday tea that IFSA-Butler is putting on which should be a lot of fun! It will be nice to get into the holiday spirit!  I’ve also just purchased a ticket to Oxford next week and will spend a day there – I am very much looking forward to it!

Wish me luck in finishing the rest of these papers!



Photo Contest + Vote

16 Nov


IFSA-Butler is holding a photo contest for the London students and I was hoping you guys would help me choose which ones I should send in!

I have narrowed it down to a few of my personal favorites, so please take a look and vote for your favorite three! I’d also really like to know what you guys think about my pictures in general, so leave a comment telling me why you voted for the ones you did! Thanks so much for helping me out!

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I have been really busy with schoolwork lately, as the deadlines for my papers are fast approaching! Hopefully, I will finish another one before the weekend. On Saturday, I am going to Dover for the day to see the castle and tour a popular brewery there in town, so I should have some photos up on Sunday!



4 Nov


Last Saturday I went on an Adventure Day Trip with IFSA-Butler to Bath with a bunch of other IFSA students from different schools. I was re-united with some of my favorites, and we spent the whole day exploring the Roman Baths and the town.

Our first stop was the Baths and we got to take a tour of the Roman ruins. It was very interesting and so complex – really incredible to think about how advanced they were. The audio guide pointed out that the Roman settlers in Bath were desperate to make this new place as much like home as possible, hence the construction of the baths and temple.

Bath Abbey is a gothic style church most recently restored in the 1880’s. It stands directly behind the where the baths are now, and has really beautiful architecture and stained glass windows. We made a small donation and walked around inside for a bit – it’s a huge church!

The rest of the day we just spent wandering the streets of the town. We stopped by the Jane Austen Institute out of pure curiosity, but it was a £6 entry fee so we decided to skip it. I didn’t like Pride and Prejudice that much anyway! We had lunch at a sausage stand and also stopped into ‘Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe’ and I bought some champagne truffles that were so good.  The cashier also gave me a long geography lesson about the latitudes of Boston, London, New York and Madrid and asked me if Dallas was a desert.

No! For the last time, Dallas is NOT a desert.
You’re thinking of Lubbock.

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Happy Guy Fawkes Day!


Lake District Adventure Weekend

18 Oct

Good morning!

I was able to get my photos from this weekend uploaded rather quickly today, so I thought I would go ahead and post them! I struggle with really capturing landscapes — I personally think they are very hard to photograph. Maybe because I don’t have an eye for it, or maybe because I feel my pictures never really do the scenery justice. We had beautiful weather the entire time, but that means in most of these photos the sun was shining directly into my shot, so please ignore all the light spots!

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I caught a train out of Euston Station  on Friday, which ended up being quite a stressful experience. Maybe I was spoiled by the ease of my Eurostar trip to Paris, but attempting to leave the city center  on a Friday night, during rush hour was quite a different animal. I was lucky enough to finally find an empty seat in a four-person seating area, and so I sat with a father and his two young daughters who were also headed to the Lake District. We played card games to pass the time and the girls were both very funny – they reminded me of my two nieces. And I have to say that when they got off at the stop before me, I was sad to see them go!

My train was a bit late and by the time I (and about 8 other IFSA students)  arrived in Penrith there was a van waiting to take us from the town to our accommodations. When I got to my hostel, I found out they had made a goof and moved a girl into my spot (without giving her a key) but when I checked in my name had not been crossed off and they gave me a key! It wasn’t until  I got up to my room that I realized we were one bed short and by then, the front desk had closed for the night. So, the first night I slept on the floor (wasn’t didn’t feel so bad when I fell asleep, but was very bad by the time I woke up) and the hostel fixed it the next day! We stayed at Borrowdale which is part of the YHA group. It was nice, and had clean rooms and bathrooms, as well as a self-catering kitchen that was orderly and sanitary looking (although we had our meals prepared for us!).

So far, I’m 2 for 2 on staying at good European hostels! (Not counting the occasional mishap i.e. male roommates in Paris, and then sleeping on the floor Friday night!) But considering all the horror stories I’ve heard, I think I’ve done pretty well for myself!

Saturday morning, we were up early for breakfast and then we were driven down the road to Glaramara (one of two other hostels that IFSA students were staying at) to meet up with the rest of the group. There were tons of activities to choose from — canoeing, rock climbing, mine tours, archery, via ferrata (climbing across a mountain face using iron rods hammered into the the rock, hooked in by a cable on your back — no thanks), and gorge scrambling which is exactly what it sounds like — crawling through tunnels, over small waterfalls and down drops in the rivers.  I chose the sightseeing tour as my first choice because most of the other activities I have either done before or had no interest in doing (anything with ‘scrambling’ in the name is not really my style..). Most required multiple changes of athletic wear, and my Nike shorts or leggings just weren’t going to cut it that far north, especially not with freezing cold water involved! And, since I had never been to the Lake District before, I wanted to see as much of it as I could.

So from Glaramara, we boarded a small bus for our sightseeing tour. It was a total of about nine people and our very nice driver/tour guide, a smaller group than I had thought would’ve signed up. I thought that I might would regret not doing one of the other activities but it ended up being wonderful! We were driving around and getting on and off the bus from about 9AM until 5PM – it was a long and bumpy day! We saw several of the lakes, took a short hike up to a waterfall, went up into a couple of small villages like Martindale and Watendlath (‘village’ meaning about four or five farms) and we stopped in to the town of Grasmere – well-known for their gingerbread and home of Wadsworth’s Dove Cottage (hence the term, Lake Poets). I was surprised by how many people there were in the towns and at a lot of our stopping points – I imagined it much smaller! But it was bustling and our driver told me they don’t really have an off-season, though in the summer months, the population will nearly triple. There are visitors almost year-round, except for the very dead of winter. We drove past a Saturday market in the main square of town and there was a giant crowd of people perusing the local fruit and veg, crafts and other produce.

There were small streams and brooks everywhere, and miles upon miles of hand-laid ‘dry stone’ walls — walls hundreds of years old that have no mortar or glue but are made by interlocking rocks on top of one another. They were incredible and much more beautiful than the usual chicken wire or metal railings you see on farms today! It was amazing to look up into the hills and see them stretched up and down the sides of these mountains. I can’t imagine the time it took to build them all!

There were so many walls because there were so many SHEEP!!!! (Hereafter, may be referred to as sheepies!) I have never seen so many sheep in my life. And these were proper sheep, too – with big wooly coats – who really said ‘Baaaaa’!! There were so many different kinds, including a native Cumbrian breed called Herdwick sheep – which are born all black as lambies and then turn a light brown/gray color. We saw black sheep, white sheep, white sheep with black faces, black sheep with white faces.. SO MANY SHEEPIES! I was in farm heaven. They were all so adorable! I squealed every time I saw one. Now I can add sheep to my list of animals that I must own.

List of Animals I Want (This is the unfinished list, if you were curious):
– Dogs
– A mini pig
– Three sheepies
– A goose
– Two cows
– An octopus

And now you know why I have to get a good job when I grow up! Land and animal food is expensive!

On Sunday, we packed up our stuff and loaded up the buses which took us into the nearest town – Keswick (pronounced like ‘Kizik’) and we got to spend about two hours walking around and seeing the shops – although we did skip the pencil museum. We stopped in for lunch at a local tea room, where I opted for a hot chocolate.  When we finished, we all jumped back on the bus for the long trip home!

It was such a wonderful trip and I am so glad that I was able to go! Right now, I’ve finished my morning lecture and am killing some time at a cafe, cradling a latte outside, until my afternoon lecture. Then, I’m afraid it’s off to the library for me! I’ve got to catch up on some reading from this weekend!