Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Wednesday May 30, 2012 – Going Home

            On May 9th Mike and I went to the Edinburgh Zoo and climbed Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.  I was very excited since the zoo had Giant Pandas (we were lucky enough to see one of them awake and walking around!), koalas, pygmy hippos, penguins, and LOTS of monkeys!  Afterwards, we headed back to the city centre of Edinburgh, walked along the Royal Mile, and then trekked all the way up the mountain called Arthur’s Seat.  It surprisingly only took us about 45 minutes to climb.  The views were spectacular.
            On May 17th I had my last exam.  After I was done it was such a huge relief since I’m fully done 3rd year at university now!  Mike and I spent the next couple days around Glasgow shopping and sightseeing.  We explored more of the West End one day and saw the Armadillo building, the Glasgow Science Centre, the Riverside Museum, and the Clyde Arc bridge.  We also went out for dinner at my favourite burger place called Ketchup.  Mike ended up getting the Colossal burger and finished it all!  We then got the largest sundae I’ve ever seen in my life.  Right when it came I couldn’t believe that they made sundaes that big.  That dinner was definitely extremely filling but REALLy good!  Mike and I also explored Pollok Park one day.  It is a park south of Glasgow where there are 100 Highland cattle and some Clydesdale Horses.  Walking around the park was very beautiful since lots of flowers and trees were in bloom and it was a warm day.  Parts of the park reminded me of Highland Creek.  Mike and I also went to North Queensferry one day to the Deep Sea World.  We saw the Forth Bridge there, which is famous in Scotland, and then we explored the tiny little town – there was hardly anything there.  We then decided to go to the Deep Sea World.  We saw many fish, frogs, an alligator snapping turtle, which has the strongest recorded bite on the planet, eels, piranhas, and crabs.  We then went in the longest underwater tunnel in Europe where there were sharks and other sea creatures!  I loved the giant aquarium because many of the creatures were very interesting.  Afterwards we saw a seal perform a show and saw a Bearded Dragon get fed.  We then went back to Edinburgh and explored the Royal Mile one final time before going back to Glasgow.
            On a gorgeous day last week we went to Loch Lomond for the day.  Loch Lomond is a national park that is known for being very beautiful and a great hiking destination.  Mike and I hiked around the various trails throughout the woods and by the water.  We also people watched a lot and relaxed in the shade on top of a hill overlooking the loch by a castle there.
            Over these past few weeks being done school Mike and I have done a lot of day trips, but we’ve also relaxed around Glasgow and hung out with various friends here one last time.  Now I’m sitting in the Glasgow airport waiting for my flight to Heathrow.  From Heathrow I’ll head back to Toronto.  I’m so excited to go home after these past 5 months since I miss everyone and everything about home so much, but I will definitely miss Glasgow.  I’m so thankful to have had this opportunity that not many people get to experience.  I feel like I’ve learned a lot more than a normal term in school at McMaster, just by travelling and living abroad.  Although the schooling wasn’t as busy and hard as McMaster, it has still been very beneficial to my education and myself as a person.  This will probably be the longest day, but in about 12 hours I’ll be home!  Fingers crossed that there won’t be any delays!  Canada here I come! <3

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Thursday May 10th, 2012 – The Past Few Weeks

            These past few weeks I’ve been very busy finishing final essays and studying for exams.  In fact, today I just submitted my last essay which was 3000 words and worth 70% of my final mark.  Last Thursday I had my first exam and it was definitely an experience.  I arrived there half an hour early and nobody was there.  10 minutes before the exam was supposed to start there was still NOBODY else there.  When the invigilators opened the doors I was the only one there.  They were very surprised, and the reason why was because there was a separate door that everybody else was waiting at – it was very odd.  The exams here do differ from McMaster’s exams quite a bit.  They seem to all be essay style here, whereas at McMaster they’re multiple choice, true/false, or short answer for me usually.  Now I just have one more exam in a week.  Even though I’ve had work to do, that hasn’t stopped me from shopping and travelling.  I’ve gone shopping a lot in Glasgow getting some new clothes, and souvenirs for myself and people back home.  Yesterday, Mike and I went to Edinburgh one last time to go to the zoo and climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat (hill overlooking Edinburgh).  At the zoo we saw the Giant Pandas, koalas, pygmy hippos, penguins, and MANY kinds of monkeys.  It was definitely not as good as the Toronto Zoo which is a lot bigger, but was still fun.  We then went to the city centre and walked up and down the Royal Mile and then climbed to the top of Arthur’s Seat which took us about 45 minutes to do.  We then sat at the top for a while admiring the view, and then started the descent down.  After shopping a little more we then took the bus back to Glasgow.
            I’m going home in 3 weeks minus a day now and I have mixed feelings about it.  Of course I’m super excited to go home because I miss everyone there like crazy, but I’ll be very sad when I leave Glasgow.  It has been my home for the past 5 months, and I’ve met so many amazing people and had so many amazing experiences that I’ll remember forever.  I wish I had more time here so that I could travel to more places because travelling in Europe is so cheap with easyjet and ryanair and all the buses here.  Next week after my last exam Mike and I are planning on travelling through England and Wales more to see more of the UK.  I figure I better see more of it since I’ve only been to London, Bristol, Bath, and Windsor in England, and nowhere in Wales.  There’s still so much to see!

Monday April 23rd, 2012 – Isle of Skye Trip

            On Friday April 20th Mike and I went on the Isle of Skye trip with the international society at my university.  The Isle of Skye is a large island in the west of Scotland and is known to have the most beautiful landscapes out of Scotland.  On the first day we stopped in Glencoe (again) and saw the famous 3 Sisters Mountains.  We then saw the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is famous for being in the Harry Potter movies where the train to Hogwarts goes along.  Afterwards we went to Eilean Donan Castle and saw beautiful views of the castle and the loch.  We then checked into our hostel in Portree on the Isle of Skye and had some free time that evening.
            The next day we went to the Sliagachan bridge which is famous for a myth.  The myth is that if you dunk your head in the water there for 7 seconds, you’ll have eternal beauty.  Mike ended up dunking his head in the water, but most of us didn’t.  We then spent 3 hours climbing the Old Man of Storr, which is a mountain.  It was definitely a good work out and was amazing eating lunch at the top above the clouds.  We were also able to go very close to sheep, which was very exciting.  Near the end of our lunch we saw some rain clouds moving in so we started to make our descent down.  We then went to Lealt Falls where we saw even more sheep, and then went to Kilt rock.  That rock was basically a cliff with formations on it that look like pleats in a tartan kilt.  We then stopped at random castle ruins, and saw many baby sheep that I was a couple meters away from.  We then drove through the town of Uig and went back to Portree where we had dinner beside the harbour.
            The next day we made our way to Inverness where we walked around and had lunch.  We had already been there back in February so we didn’t walk around too much.  We then went to Loch Ness where we went on a cruise past Urquhart Castle.  Next, we went to Cairngorm ski hill where we saw amazing views of the highlands.  There were actually people skiing there and I wish we could have too. L  Afterwards we stopped in the town called Pitlochry for dinner, and then continued home to Glasgow.  Was definitely an amazing trip with lots of friends, and a great way to end Spring Break.

Wednesday April 18th, 2012 – Nice and back to Paris to go home

            In the morning of April 18th we walked through the old town and the market of Nice.  We then took an elevator to the top of the hill in Nice where there’s a park.  We saw amazing views of Nice again and saw a waterfall.  We then walked around, had a picnic lunch on the Promenade and walked around the New Town’s shops.  We then got our last ice cream of the trip at a place with over 40 flavours including green olive, tomato and basil, and cactus flavours.  They had some really weird flavours!  I got stracciatella and amarena ice cream, and Mike got Ferrero Rocher.  After picking up our luggage from our hostel we then caught our train back to Paris since we were flying out of Paris to go back to Glasgow the day after.  On the train back to Paris I reflected back on the whole trip since it was basically over.  It was definitely one of my favourite trips I’ve ever been on BUT it has made me realize that there’s nothing like home.  I miss Canada and all my friends and family there so much.  Despite how much I love travelling and want to continue travelling, I can only take so much.

Tuesday April 17th, 2012 – St. Paul de Vence, Nice and Villafrance Sur Mer

            Today we went to St. Paul de Vence.  I wanted to go back since I loved it when I went there back in January.  We went in many artist’s shops and saw beautiful sculptures and paintings.  I wish I could buy all the paintings I loved there but if I did, I’d have no room for them.  They were all SPECTACULAR.  For lunch, we had ham and cheese crepes and we saw amazing views.  We then decided to go to Villefranche Sur Mer, which is a small town east of Nice.  We checked out the old town there and some touristy shops.  We also went to the citadel there but there was basically nothing and no one there, which was odd.  Afterwards, we sat on a beach for a while and skipped rocks into the Mediterranean Sea.  We then went back to Nice and made dinner at our hostel, and then went out to enjoy the city at night.  We walked around the old town, the promenade, and the new town where we sat down and got our last crepes in France.

Monday April 16th, 2012 – Nice, Cannes and Monte Carlo

            On Sunday April 15th Mike and I went on a 10 hour journey to get to Nice from Paris.  We had to get up at 5am to catch the first metro at 5:40am and go to the airport.  We then caught a TGV train to Lyon, transferred and then got on another TGV train to Marseilles.  We then transferred to a regional train, which brought us to Nice in the mid afternoon.  When we got there we walked around the old town and the promenade beside the Mediterranean Sea.  I think I’ve fallen in love with the Mediterranean.  I just love how there are palm trees there beside the sea, with the French culture.  That evening we walked up a hill to a park and took lots of pictures of the views.  We then went to a pub and got nachos and drinks.  We then made dinner at our hostel to save money.
            The next day we went to Cannes and saw the Film Festival Palace.  We then walked around the streets and shops and then caught a train to Monte Carlo.  I absolutely loved Monte Carlo, even though it was the 2nd time I had been there.  We first saw the Monte Carlo Casino and then I showed Mike the super pricey mall with the shoes that were 2500 euros.  There were beautiful Murano glass sculptures in a store in the mall worth 80,000 euros – wow!  We then walked along the track where the Monaco Grand Prix will be later in May.  Next, we walked beside the marina and then up to the Palace and the cute little streets around there.  There were many cute cafes and touristy shops in that area, and it was nice to see since I hadn’t gone to that part of Monaco in January when I was there.  We then sat down and decided to stop and admire the view for a while.  It was absolutely gorgeous with extremely blue water, palm trees, and warm air.  Was definitely very relaxing after having 2.5 weeks of hectic sightseeing.  Unfortunately, it was then time to head back to Nice.  We walked around the city more when we got back, watched a spray paint artist, and walked along the promenade.  After sitting and staring out at the dark Mediterranean Sea to the sound of crashing waves for awhile, we then checked out some touristy shops and then went back to the hostel.

Saturday April 14th, 2012 – Paris and Versailles

            On April 12th we took the train from Bruges to Lille, and then from Lille to Paris.  We decided to do that instead of changing trains in Brussels because the reservation from Lille to Paris was 3 euros, whereas from Brussels to Paris it was 30 euros!  When we got to Paris and checked into our hostel in the Latin Quarter we went to Notre Dame Cathedral and saw the inside.  We then went to the Champs Elysee and saw the Arc de Triumph.  After walked down the Champs Elysee and getting a baguette we saw the Grand and Petit Palace.  We then walked along the Pont Alexandre III Bridge to the Place des Invalides.  Afterwards we walked back to the bridge and watched the beautiful sunset.  Afterwards we walked all the way to the Eiffel tower and saw it twinkle.  After walking around all afternoon and evening, I determined that Paris is a lot nicer in the springtime than in the winter when it’s super cold!
            The next day we got up super early to get in line for the Eiffel tower.  We went to the 2nd level of it where I had gone before, but this time it was a lot warmer and less windy.  We got our 2 day museum pass and walked up about 300 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe.  Next, we went to the Louvre for a couple hours.  It was amazing bypassing all the lineups with our museum pass – if anybody goes to Paris and wants to see the attractions you should definitely get it!  Afterwards, we saw the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, walked along the gardens and saw baby sucks swimming in a pond.  We walked all the way to the Luxor Obelisk and then went to the Rodin Museum where there are beautiful gardens and artwork throughout them.  One famous statue we saw was “The Thinker”.  Next, we went to Napoleon’s Tomb and then got crepes for dinner.  That evening we went on a Bateaux Parisiens boat cruise up the Seine River since we got 50% off of the admission price with our Eurail passes.  It was an hour long and we went all the way past Notre Dame and then back up the river past the Eiffel Tower.
            The next day we went to the Palace of Versailles.  We toured the Royal Apartments and then went to the Gardens to see the musical fountain show.  The fountains started and sprayed the water to the music.  We walked around the gardens for an hour and didn’t even get to see them all they were so big.  In the middle of the gardens there was a hidden restaurant in one area, and another snack bar in another area.  I got ice cream, and Mike got a chocolate crepe.  Afterwards, we went back to Paris to spend the afternoon there.  First we went to the Notre Dame Crypt when we got back to Paris, which was very interesting.  We then went up the Notre Dame Towers, which was one of my favourite attractions we did in Paris.  We had to walk up 400 steps to the top of it but the views were spectacular.  You could see the fine detail of the cathedral on the sides as well.  We were right beside gargoyles and got to see the Big Bell of Notre Dame, which weighs 170 tonnes.  Afterwards we walked around the Latin Quarter.  I showed Mike the Great Canadian Pub but we unfortunately didn’t get anything there since it was very pricey.  After going into many souvenir shops and vendors beside the Seine River, we got dinner at a restaurant in the Latin Quarter and had chocolate crepes for dessert.  The next day we were leaving for Nice and the French Riviera.