Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What a Journey So Far

Arrival to Europe

So I don't know what I expected with an itinerary of traveling to 4 European cities within four days, but I can assure you it is much more demanding than one would think. The beginning of this trip was not a leisurely one as I may have anticipated. Right from landing in Amsterdam, it has been all buses, trains, and subways with little stopping and much sight seeing. We did not even have time to get settled in our dorms-- we dumped our big luggage and we were sent to the shopping center in Maastricht to learn how to use the market. (Which by the way, is mostly in Dutch). After the dizzying, crowded trip to the shopping center (imagine shopping the saturday before chrsitmas) we had to travel by bus to the train station to get our Eurail passes activated. Maastricht was grey and cold all Saturday, rather dreary. Exhausted, we returned to the dorms, ate a bland cafeteria dinner, and set off to bed. I was asleep by 9 PM. We woke up the next day around 7:30, very refreshed.

Trip to London

All charged, we packed a light bag for our 4 day/3 night trip to London. The train ride was nice to Belgium, and continued to be pleasant onward to England. We arrived in London in the late afternoon. We were all pleased to see that everything was in English again and that we were staying in the friendly American chain, The Holiday Inn. This is the place where crackers and cookies are called "biscuits," gas is called "petrol," and garbage is called "rubbish". It is truly the charming stereotype that Americans think of it as. However, do not expect to only see caucasian, cheery British people. London is filled with all nationalities! I could hear 3 different languages on the subway going on.

The first night we ate dinner in Soho, a trendy area with tons of cute restaurants. Afterwards, we walked to the subway (the tube) and went to King's Cross Station. This name should ring a bell to you Harry Potter fans! It is infamous for the setting of where Harry and his friends journey to Hogwarts every year. We found platform 9 3/4 and took many pictures. When we got there, two asians were taking pictures before us, and a guy was waiting after us to get a picture of the magical landmark. I bet millions of people have stopped to see it! Later, we went back to the hotel and mostly our whole Baylor group went out to an Irish pub. We expected a quiet, quaint, place but were surprised to enter in to a four story, underground extravaganza with loud American music and lots of happy travelers. There were Irish, Australians, and other Americans that we talked and danced with. It was a great time. Oh, and the second song they played was Sweet Home Alabama- go figure!

Journey to Stonehenge and Bath

The next day, Tuesday, we took a bus to Stonehenge and then to a city called "Bath". Okay, I got the picture of Stonehenge, great. My opinion-- if you only have so little time in the London area, don't waste it by going to see a bunch of old rocks in the freezing cold of January. I know this sounds harsh, but really, it was kind of a let down, and it was a 3 hour bus ride from London.

Now, the city of Bath. It is infamous for its natural hot springs that the Romans once used as a formal meeting place for both business and leisure. It was quite the hot spot (pun intended) to see and be seen. After the Romans left, the great architecture they built was buried underground until the 1800s when someone found it and dug it out. Now this is really when it became popular-- all of the dukes and princesses and wealthy from around Europe came to visit the grand city of Bath, resurrected. They bathed in and drank the sulfurous water, believing it to have many healing qualities. It was a very refined place to visit and live in. Jane Austen even lived in Bath for a while! After the novelty wore off, poor and sick people swarmed the area and it kind of lost its glory. But later, more rich people filled in the city and today it is a very refined place to live in.

We took a 3 hour bus ride BACK to London and attended the magnificent play, "Les Miserables". I was very sad when we got to our seats-- the very top row, nose-bleed section. They were quite horrible seats. But the acting, music, and special effects were absolutely amazing. Four stars! It left me quite inspired. I thought it was wonderful that after the show, the actors came on stage and asked the audience if they could donate to Haiti. Last week, the theater raised 10,000 pounds for Haiti relief, which is close to 20,000 US dollars. Amazing what theater can do! :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Getting Ready For Europe

The coldest air I have felt was this past week- 17 degrees. I knew it would be this cold in Europe but it did not dawn on me until now how much clothing I will need to pack on! This will be my blog while I try and soak up as much history and experience from studying in Maastricht and traveling all over Europe. Departing January 22nd. CAN'T WAIT! :)