Haworth and Yorkshire

This trip was awesome from start to finish, but it was a little different because I was flying solo! I attended a conference in Leeds, and J didn’t come. So I added a day to the trip and did some Bronte activities, and y’all, it was awesome. (Apologies: some photos are from my phone. Yikes).

I took the train to Keighley, which is a wonderful and scenic route through the Yorkshire Dales. For the last leg of the trip I had a wonderful group of older women sitting at my table. They were locals (and one’s name was Margaret!), so we had a grand ole time. Once in Keighley (side note: this is pronounced Keith-lee. I despise English), I had the choice between the train or bus to Haworth. I chose the bus, since the train schedule was scare, and because the next train wasn’t steam-powered! If it was, there was no way I could’ve passed that up. Anywho, the bus ended up being the best choice because the driver took me right to the Bronte Parsonage Museum (and even went a bit off-route to do so! Cheers, driver!). The locals on the bus were so gracious and all of them wanted to help me get to my final destination. (Side note again…I’m still wondering how it was so easy to peg me as a tourist. I only had a backpack, no luggage, and I kept my mouth shut until they approached me first!)

The Bronte Parsonage Museum was super easy to find. There’s signs everywhere in Haworth pointing you in the correct direction. It was also a really great experience! I lucked out with student pricing, but even without that perk, the tickets are valid for a year. There’s plaques in every room explaining what went on in that room, and there were costumes from the movie, To Walk Invisible, about the Bronte sisters. There were so many letters, manuscripts, and artifacts.

THE BEST PART THOUGH. I happened to go while they were running a bit of an event. An artist thought it would be really neat to recreate the writing Wuthering Heights in the room of its original creation. So, using a special pencil, I got to copy a line of the book into a manuscript, which will bound and exhibited next year! More about the project can be found here. It was a very surreal experience, and something I’m not likely to forget soon.

Another unforgettable experience came next-exploring the hills and finding Top Withins, the buildings that *might* have inspired WH. While that’s not proven, it was a gorgeous walk and I highly suggest it. It was easy to find, even starting from the door of the parsonage. After skirting a few fields and walking up a road, the path continues along some sheep fields until a stream appears. This is also the location of the “Bronte Bridge,” though the original was washed away and the current one is a replacement. After leaving the deep glen, it’s uphill A LOT until Top Withins. It’s a great place for a snack and some exploration off-trail, since it’s mostly cleared and there’s views for days! I decided to turn it into a loop and walk back a different way, where I was mostly alone with the wind and the heather, and it was just so RIGHT.

After my hike, I popped into the shop at the museum and bought some Bron-tea. So punny. And quite delicious! I also decided to explore Haworth before I had to head on to Leeds. I bought some rhubarb gin (and a delicious lunch!) at Haworth Steam Brewing. I can recommend their stout for sure as well. There’s all sorts of fun shops in town, and a visit to the church was in order as well. The gravesite of several Bronte family members is in one corner, marked by a plaque. I killed some time before my bus wandering through the park and watching a steam train come through the station.

I packed quite a day in! I’d blog about Leeds as well, but that might belong to another post. I spent most of my time in a seminar and a conference. Go baby academic me! Slowly but surely catching up on these backlogged posts. Will write another soon!

Until next time, may you live a life well loved!

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A Very Drizzly Northeast

Northeast of England, that is, with a few stops in Scotland as well. Y’all, we’ve gotten pretty used to the weather over here, but this weekend (combined with the one before) almost did us in. It was freezing and pouring all weekend! Hello, tactical trekking rain gear, wellies, and even gloves at one point!

It was still gorgeous though, and I’m super glad we didn’t let the weather deter us from having all the fun. First stop: Tantallon Castle, in North Berwick (still in Scotland). We drove out to see the castle ruins, hoping we could still see Bass Rock as well. And we did! It’s always got a cloud of birds flying around it, even in the driving rain and wind. (Fun fact: national geographic was on assignment at Bass Rock while we were looking at it!!) We had some great views from the top of the castle as well. A neat stop!

Next up: Alnwick Castle! This was probably my favorite bit of the trip for its recent history. The castle was featured in the early Harry Potter films (think flying lessons 😉 ) and as Brancaster Castle in the Christmas episode of a Downton Abbey season! While I was not allowed to take any photos inside, I know I can pull out my DA dvds to see the interiors again-they look just the same on film as in real life! The town is rather cute too, and I definitely suggest the walk through the cow fields behind the castle for the sweeping shot of the grounds (designed by Capability Brown, which is cool!). We showed up *just* in time for them to let us through the front gate. We were the last visitors allowed in that day!

We also visited The Holy Island, accessible solely by a causeway at low tide. I messed up the charts the first day, so we had to go on day 2. It’s super neat to cross the tidal road! While the castle was closed for restoration, we were able to visit the Priory and see a live archaeological dig (can you find the skeletons?). It’s the birthplace of the Lindisfarne Gospels and the priory has lots of artifacts and history about the monks who lived on the island.We also did a mead tasting (and promptly bought 2 different flavors) and walked around the tiny town, along with a TON of other tourists. Lots of coaches in the car park, but still an amazing stop for sure.

After evacuating The Holy Island ahead of the tide, we stopped at Bamburgh Castle. They were having a car show, which was fairly exciting. There was also an archaeological dig at the castle, but it was covered up as the rain had gotten too unmanageable. The fog also rolled in while we were inside the castle…notice the difference in the photos? The castle was full of lots of historical artifacts and neat rooms, but it lacked the overall grandeur of Alnwick (though they are completely different, so I should probably not even try to compare them). It had a really neat military history museum though!

Last stop: the Borders abbeys! Again, we ended up being short on time, so while we got to see the exterior of Melrose Abbey, we actually went into Jedburgh and Dryburgh Abbeys. We’re definitely getting the better end of the deal on these Historic Environment Scotland memberships! We saw Sir Walter Scott’s view in the borders, as well as his grave in Dryburgh Abbey.

We stayed in a lovely B&B for the one night we were away: 4t4 Bed and Breakfast in Alnwick. I booked through booking.com, but you can also book direct! The parking is along the street, but as it’s a self-contained neighborhood, it is perfectly safe. I’d stay there again, if we return! It was a nice walk into town, and besides, we’d like to see the Alnwick Gardens as well, since we didn’t have time.

Well, time to escape the rain and think about today again, which was a gorgeous, sunny one here in Edinburgh. I still have more backlogged posts, so I’ll get to them when I can.

Until next time, may you live a life well loved!

Linlithgow

I have been horribly lax about posting recently, but the good news is that now my dissertation is turned in. I can finish the posts I started over the summer in rapid succession and catch up! (Note: this may be wishful thinking.)

Anyhow. Here’s a tiny one to whet your collective appetite.

Earlier in the year, J and I decided to take a small day trip out to Linlithgow, since the weather was cooperating and we have Historic Environment Scotland memberships. It was fortuitous, because it happened to be gala day! There was a parade through town, which included lots of pipe bands, school children in both fancy and formal dress, important local people and a big ceremony at the end.

We visited Linlithgow Palace, making sure to climb Queen Margaret’s Bower (naturally). The view from the top is great, but as it’s Scotland, quite windy. The museum is definitely worth a visit too, with artifacts from the surrounding area. (We have since learned that during the summer, the school children volunteer as guides. I would definitely suggest getting the free guided tour and tipping these knowledgeable and adorable volunteers!).

After exploring the Palace for an unexpectedly long time, we peeped into St Michael’s church next door (it has the memorable silver sculpture on top that I always see from the train). The church volunteers were quite happy to tell us all about the place, from the knife marks and bullet holes courtesy of Cromwell’s soldiers to the amazing stained glass in the alter area. It was a great stop!

After a quick bite in town, we decided to take a walk around the loch. Even with the gala day, many people were in boats, fishing, and the trail itself was fun. We happened along a nice picture with thistle in front of the Palace, a rather Scottish shot on the whole. We also enjoyed the many swans and cygnets gracefully parading around the loch in search of food, and since everyone seemed to be out that day, food was plenty.

It was a great day trip! We’ve since returned and enjoyed it just as much the second time. And now for shameless plug for the publisher I’m interning at: one of the best parts was bringing the book one of our authors, Alex Nye, has written. For My Sins is about Mary, Queen of Scots, and since Mary was born in Linlithgow, I thought it only proper to bring the book along!

Ok. That’s all for now, but I hope to post several times in the next few weeks. So until then, may you live a life well loved!

 

 

Italy

Here’s the second part of our Switzerland and Italy trip: Cinque Terre to Napoli!

Cinque Terre was simply stunning. I think it was my other favorite spot, and I had no idea how hard I’d fall for it! We took the train to Milan (from Lauterbrunnen…3 changes along the way) and picked up a rental car, then hightailed it to the coast! We learned very quickly that Italian drivers mean business and that tolls add up very quickly! (If/when we return, we probably won’t rent a car. My nerves might not stand a second go). But oh my gosh, our first views of the Mediterranean made it all worth it. We stayed at an amazing bed and breakfast, Il Parco, which has free parking…that’s key for this area! They’ve also got an amazing view and breakfast…more about that in a sec. After a pick-me-up Aperol Spritz, we hiked down the hill to the beach area. We wandered and took in the sights, and then we had a pasta dinner (including pesto, of course) and an affogato at Nuovo Eden on via Fegina. We then spontaneously decided to take the train over to Vernazza, as there was sadly not time to hike there before dark. The ride took 4 minutes, and we decided to catch the next train before they became less frequent. So we only had about 40 minutes to take it all in! We got a wonderful sunset that perfectly highlighted the colourful and salt- and weather-worn buildings. Then it was back to Il Parco and hiking up the hill to look out over the lights of Monterosso al Mare beneath us. After a restful nights’ sleep, we had some coffee on our patio before heading to the best surprise yet: breakfast! Italian breakfasts in general are not my favorite (too many sweet things), but Marta and the team really outdid themselves. You get a choice of drinks (mine included coffee and mimosas, because hey, vacation!) and the buffet was FULL of choices: meats, cheeses, fruits, caprese salad, pastries, sweets, toast, and eggs prepared however you’d like. For an early riser like me, who really loves breakfast, this was literally paradise. The view might have helped as well 🙂 We slowly and thoroughly enjoyed breakfast before heading back into town and putting our feet in the Mediterranean one last time. Then back to the car and off to Orvieto!

We dragged ourselves away from the coast and were rewarded with Tuscany, but Orvieto was the perfect day stop. It was neat to pass the hill towns and all the HUGE mountainside quarries that provide stone to the world. We took the funicular up to the town, and our first stop was a small cafe for focaccia and Orvieto classico wine. Delicious! Since we only had a few hours, we followed Rick Steves’ guided walk (loosely) and took a side road whenever we felt like it. We were rewarded with some really neat views when a local pointed us through an open apartment door to a sheltered alcove. Every step required another picture; it was as if we were walking through a painting. We did a bit of shopping-the area is known for its hand-painted pottery-and of course, we bought some of the classico wine. We hopped back in the car and headed to Tivoli, our resting place for the night. The closer we got, the scarier the roads became, especially when cyclists were added to the mix. However, we were treated to an awesome view of the waterfalls streaming out from under the town! I think we should have stayed outside Tivoli in a more rural area, because parking and driving in town was a nightmare. Apparently, if you’re not a resident of the street and you drive down it, you get REALLY dirty looks and potentially a ticket. However, our host was really kind and drove our car back around to a parking area. We walked through town as the sun set, watching the setting rays turn the white buildings pink and red and orange. We returned to our apartment, where we learned that the doorways are original to the building-hundreds of years old! It explained the lack of height, actually…sadly, none of us managed to remember to take a picture! We had a traditional sweet breakfast and espresso for breakfast before girding our loins for the drive out.

Our next stops were Ercolano and Vico Equense: history and beauty all in one. The drive through Napoli to Ercolano took us down a market street-the vendors’ goods strayed past the road lines, children were biking in the road, and drivers were apparently honking at us since we weren’t running them over…We made it to Ercolano in one piece, and accordingly went down into the ruins as it began to rain. Pro tip: if you’re in need of pizza, head to La Terra d’Ercole, near the parking deck! The pizza was made right in front of us, and we ate in the garden across the street. It was so delectable. We couldn’t enjoy for too long, though, because we had to head to the next stop: Vico Equense! We only had an hour or two here, but it was definitely worth a walk around. My sis stayed at the Hotel Aequa, which I can only vouch for from the lobby and outdoor/pool area: it was super nice! Everything was so modern but perfectly matched to the area. My favorite part was venturing down to the harbor area. We were able to put our feet in again and generally soak in the sunshine and warmth one last time 🙂 It was quite the hike down the cliffside road and back up though–and still worth it! While we left M in Vico Equense, we headed back to the Rome area. We stayed with the most wonderful family outside the city near the Ciampino airport. We had no language in common with our hosts, so we used Google translate! We headed to the Castel Gandolfo area for dinner, which was super romantic. Even though it was too late (and therefore too dark) to see the lake, we ate outside in a delightfully-lit pedestrian area. All the shops and restaurants put a lot of effort into their shopfronts and outdoor seating, so it was especially picturesque. My phone photos didn’t do it justice, so I won’t add them here. The best part of staying at “Profumo di nonna” was the grape vines next door. Apparently they belong to the host’s family, and she gave us some of the homemade wine from the vines! (We traded them some of our Orvieto clasico 😉 ). So our last night in Italy was us sitting on a porch outside Rome at 10:00 at night, taking in the warm evening, and drinking wine from less than 10 feet away. WHOSE LIFE DID WE STEAL? I can’t even believe that trip actually happened, still!

So there’s that. There’s been a few trips since, but my dissertation beckons. See y’all on the other side, and until then, may you live a life well loved!

Switzerland

To save y’all from the wordiest post yet, I’ve split Switzerland and Italy into two posts.  It’s one of the longest trips we’ve taken while we’ve been abroad, so it’ll definitely deserve the word count. And the photos! This one has a special guest appearance: my sister!

Luzern: While we landed in Zurich, we immediately (well, after an hour or so) took a train to Luzern, where we stayed in Luzern Youth Hostel. It was uphill through residential districts and a fairly long walk from town, but you get free bus travel in the zone simply for staying there! After lugging our stuff up the hill, we went back into town, stopping at the lakeside for some lunch at a small cafe. The sandwiches were delicious, and the setting was definitely a bonus! We walked the old city walls and (in my opinion) bravely climbed the towers with iffy stairs. We also got to see the workings of the clock, which was super neat. We also saw the wall of chocolate in Chocolate World and spent a few minutes reflecting at the Lion Monument. As we headed to the river area to cross the famous Chapel Bridge, a storm blew in, so we took refuge in the bridge! While probably not the safest spot during the storm, it was amazing to watch the city quiet down as the rain fell. We got plenty of time to take in the artwork on the bridge as well! We ate a buffet dinner at the top of one of the department stores, similar to a Marks & Spencer’s. Sadly, since it was still storming, we didn’t get to eat on the rooftop balcony, but the views across the rainy city and lake and across to the Alps were still pretty impressive 🙂 We were tuckered out, so we returned to the hostel in the rain for some rest-or so we thought. Apparently an entire tournament’s worth of grade-school football players were staying in the dorms. They quieted down after a while, and the beds were surprisingly comfy, so we had great sleep! We did have to elbow our way between the kids at breakfast though (which was really good! Great coffee-and lots of options!), or we’d have missed our train…

Interlaken: We stopped here for the day in between staying in Luzern and Lauterbrunnen. We left our luggage in a locker (only 9CHF for all of us!) and took a bus to the St. Beatus caves. (Locally, they’re known as Beatusholen). The bus was outrageously 21CHF for a 4 mile ride. While we did not go into the caves, the surrounds are gorgeous, and we got to see the living site and grave of St. Beatus. We decided to walk back to town, since the bus was so expensive. The trail through the trees and along the lake was so picturesque, even though we had to make up our route after we encountered a closed section with some construction. That was actually fortuitous, since we got to walk along the lake and found a park where we could put our feet in! It was cool and refreshing, just what we needed after our long, hot walk. We made it back to town, past some picture perfect farmhouses, to eat a grocery store lunch (delicious strawberries, sandwiches, and juice) next to the river. We only had a few more minutes to walk through town before catching the train to our next stop! The trains through the Alps were super impressive-for someone who’s used to trains only handling flatter grades, the mountain trains blew my mind. They went straight up the Alpine hills!

Lauterbrunnen: While we’d have preferred Zermatt, we decided Lauterbrunnen was a good compromise. It ended up being one of our favorite spots! Our hostel, Valley Hostel, was lovely, even more so when M opened her window and realized she had an awesome view of the famous waterfall! Quite casually awesome. After a short rest, we headed off towards said waterfall, Staubach Wasserfall. While the best view of the falls itself is from the ground, the steep, short trail up under the falls is good too. It’s a little wet and slick, but there is a great view across the valley and to the Alps beyond! We kept walking away from town to see some friendly baby cows and a few more waterfalls/try to process that we were walking among the alps. We got the binoculars out to look at the thick glacial ice shelves on top of the peaks, which was super impressive. We even stopped in a small park for a nap: the city provided a wood-fired grill for anyone to use! We begrudgingly headed back towards town, but we had no idea what a surprise awaited us. We’d booked into Hotel Oberland for a fondue dinner. Since it was nice, we ate on the porch, and on the side porch they were having a traditional singing performance, complete with yodeling! I couldn’t believe it. All that was missing was an alpine horn. Besides the cheese fondue with white wine and the smooth chocolate fondue, we also had Rösti, a traditional potato fritter with toppings. It was so divine! Definitely worth the splurge, especially with the entertainment. We planned on finishing the night with some local wine in the hostel garden, but it rained-so we moved the party inside. The next morning, we woke up to a cloudy, foggy valley-a perfect goodbye to Switzerland, as we headed on a hectic train ride down to Milan!

That’s all for now…look for the next installment soon 🙂 Until then, may you live a life well loved!

 

A Jaunt to Wales

Abbeys, castles, and a TARDIS, oh my. I wish it was possible to sight see an entire country in four days, because Wales certainly packs a punch! We loved our (long) weekend trip, but unfortunately, many people leave it off their UK/Ireland itineraries. WELL they missed out-but you won’t, right?! I’ll try to convince you.

For lit nerds like me: you could pretend you’re Wordsworth, composing “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” by actually visiting said Abbey. Poetry optional. Views exceptional.

Continuing the nerd line, you can continue down to Cardiff to enjoy the Doctor Who Experience, right on the bay! This one is time sensitive, though–they’re set to close the Experience sometime this summer. Here’s a few photos to whet your appetite, all the same. And I’ve even tried to avoid spoilers, sweeties! 😉 The Experience itself is much smaller than the Harry Potter one, to compare. It’s mostly costumes, but I definitely recommend paying extra to go on the real Tardis set! Apparently you can even meet some famous people during production times…we had no such luck.

Whovians can also visit the nearby Dryffyn Gardens, where (part of one of my favorite episodes) The Girl in the Fireplace was filmed. The exterior and gardens stood in for Versailles! It’s currently undergoing restoration, so some rooms were completely torn up. But it was a nice break and a fun place to wander in, especially the gardens. We also had GORGEOUS weather, which definitely helped our opinion.

If you’re tired of the city, why not drive along the coast? There’s sights like Tenby and Pembrokeshire to help you take a breather. Beware tiny roads, surprise bike races, and the occasional tractor.

For real mountain goats, you obviously can’t forget SNOWDONIA. It’s full of awesome slate mines, abandoned buildings, a few castles/ruins, and tons of awesome hiking, of course. We didn’t make it up Mount Snowdon (though we managed, while semi-lost, to find the trailhead!) but it would be a definite goal should we return. We also managed to accidentally join the running section of a triathlon. Oops?

If you’re exhausted from hiking, why not chill in Conwy? There’s a sweet castle (and a suspension bridge!), medieval walls that you can walk at any time of day, a welcoming harbour, and several cozy pubs. It’s even home to the smallest house in Britain. We can also vouch for the super friendly lady who runs the quayside ice cream stand.

Lastly, DO NOT FORGET to visit Penrhyn Castle. I mean, I saw it on Pinterest and thought we’d give it a shot, but I was completely not ready for the stunningly opulent interiors and intricate stonework everywhere. Here’s just a few, since we literally had to *sprint* around.

I mean, I think I sound pretty convincing. But it’s up to you. Wales is definitely a great bet, especially if you’d like to 1. add another country to your repertoire, and 2. escape the hordes of tourists cramming into other UK cities. We even ran into people who thought our accent was cool, which is super rare…thanks Wales!

Until next time, may you live a life well loved!

 

A Postgrad Degree in the UK

A TON of people, both stateside and throughout the UK (and even our destinations elsewhere in Europe!) have asked, “Why Edinburgh?”

If we’re in town, I usually just beckon to something gorgeous and old and say…do you have that (wherever you’re from)?

However, all flippant answers aside, there’s several reasons this has been the best path I could’ve taken for my Msc in Comparative Lit. Here’s why:

  1. I got to choose a top school that might not have accepted me had it been stateside, and the quality is unparalleled. We get personal tutors and supervisors who regularly meet with us, and there’s only 22 students in my program, representing 12 different countries!! How cool is that, y’all? All the different perspectives are super useful in my program, which basically combines world lit, translation studies, and cultural studies.
  2. From a financial standpoint, my choice was a definite #win (see, I’m cool and hip…). I managed to avoid student loan debt the first time around (thanks Mom and Dad and Clemson U for a scholarship), but the schools I was looking at in the states were easily to the tune of $30,000+ PER YEAR, due to the program I chose. Bummer. But only doing one year, instead of two, made the cost much easier…and I didn’t pay nearly that number above!
  3. The grading system actually means something. Since anything above a 50 is a pass, you actually get a feel for the quality of your work, and no one feels entitled to an A just because they put in a lot of effort. I won’t rant about this one, but once I knew what the numbers stood for, I really appreciated the grading system here!
  4. Travel opportunities. This one speaks for itself, if you’ve seen any other posts. We’ve added SO MANY cool cities and countries to our travel diary, and all without the cost of crossing the Atlantic each time! The hardest part is remembering that I actually do have to study and I can’t just make planning trips and jetsetting a daily thing. Sigh.
  5. Personal enrichment. I’ve tried things in Edinburgh that I wouldn’t have been able to at home-like Irish dance class! It’s rare to find one for adults at home (unless you already have some skills). J and I have also learned new things about each other and have had to adjust to new appliances, tax systems, and such, meaning we had to help encourage each other A TON. You can’t get complacent when you’re on a constant learning curve!

It hasn’t been completely rosy gold all the time. Some people won’t understand why you feel the need to go so far to learn so much. You miss your family. (YOU MISS CHICKFILA AND CHEERWINE AND PIMIENTO CHEESE). You miss your dog. I’ve even missed dumb things like my couch or Hobby Lobby. But, in the end, some goals are worth a few growing pains. And it sounds super cliche, but it’s true: it’s all about the journey, because in education (and life), there’s never an end destination. We’ve said many things about this year, especially things we don’t want to stop doing, especially 1. walking everywhere and 2. learning and growing.

I’m not the first to choose the UK for a master’s after completing an undergrad in the States. If you’re reading this, and curious to know more, feel free to drop me a comment!

Until next time, may you live a life well loved!