Scottish Socks & Dutch Canals

It’s coming up on seven months since I landed in London, and I honestly can’t figure out where the time has gone.  Looking at the calendar and seeing the word “April” is more terrifying to me than any blockbuster horror film.  This isn’t due to a phobia of the fourth month, but instead because I now have less than seven weeks until I leave the United Kingdom.  Recently time has seemed to work even harder than usual against me.  The past 10 days of my life have flown by quicker than any others I can remember.  It literally seems like just yesterday that I was sitting in Kensington Gardens and getting ready for the next big adventure.  Now I’m sitting in my flat with a camera full of pictures and a mind full of memories that I definitely won’t soon forget.

Centre Court at Wimbledon

I think I mentioned earlier that my friend was coming to visit London for the weekend before we took off for the rest of the trip.  I’m actually starting to get used to playing the role of tour guide with the amount of visitors that I’ve had.  It’s pretty cool to show my family and friends the city that I love and see more of it again for myself at the same time.  Luckily the weather was on our side and it was gorgeous most of the weekend too.  We made sure to put all the usual stops like Big Ben, Tower Bridge, and Hyde Park in the itinerary.  I also got to experience some new sites throughout the weekend that made it even better.  While I’m not exactly great at it, playing tennis is one of my favorite things to do in the summer.  So naturally I was pretty excited when we headed out to south London to visit the famous grounds of Wimbledon.  The grass courts looked nice enough to eat off of yet alone get to play a match on.  This awesome security guard actually told us how to get to the overlook deck of Centre Court without having to pay for the tour.  Getting to see Centre Court at Wimbledon is something I’ll never forget and hopefully some of its magic will rub off on my game this summer.  Later that night I finally went on the London Eye with a huge group of people from another UW program in London.  I’m not quite sure why I put it off for so long, but going at dusk that day was the perfect time to go.  Anytime I get to see the city from above is amazing and being on the Eye is definitely something worth checking out if you’re able to do it.  The rest of the weekend consisted of more English traditions like Saturday football and afternoon cups of tea.  However, in the blink of an eye it was already Monday morning and it was time to head to King’s Cross to catch our train to Scotland.

My home away from home

After traveling to Edinburgh in January I knew that I had to come back to visit sometime in my life.  I just didn’t know that it would only take three months until I got to see the beautiful Scottish capital again.  The train ride from London was relaxing as always with the English countryside flying past in the distance.  I was a little disappointed to see the temperature hadn’t changed much in Edinburgh since my visit earlier in the year.  I have to give it up to the street performers though we still wear their kilts while playing the bagpipes.  Later we met up with the four girls from my friend’s program in Sevilla who were making the last legs of the trip with us.  Seeing as the first two days in Scotland weren’t too nice outside, we tried to do as much as we could inside.  This meant that we got to visit a couple of really interesting places like the National Museum and the Surgeon’s Museum.  On the last day in Edinburgh my friend and I decided to make the hike up Arthur’s Seat, which is one of my favorite places in the world.  Just before we started the hike the heavens opened up and a mini-blizzard started falling on us.  As we were climbing up we literally couldn’t see anything from the ground.  Naturally, our Bear Grylls skills kicked in and we ascended the hill with little difficulty…along with the two grandmas right behind us.  One thing amazing about the UK is how fast the weather can change.  When we reached the peak of Arthur’s Seat everything was covered white from the snowstorm on the way up.  Then within 30 minutes it had all melted away and the sun was fighting its way through the clouds.  After enjoying the amazing view for a bit longer we finally headed back to head towards the airport.  Before leaving for good I had to make a final pit stop because of my soaking socks from the hike.  Thus, I made one of my greatest decisions ever and bought three pairs of Scottish wool socks.  These socks are literally like a winter coat on my feet, and they will easily be put to good use back in Madison.  So with one last reminder of Scotland warming me up it was off to the Netherlands.

Edinburgh Castle while the sun peaked out

Upon our arrival in Amsterdam it wasn’t hard to tell that it was a city that was tremendously unique.  It’s easily one of the most liberal and free cities I’ve ever been to, with some of its most famous features right out in the open.  On our second day there we all headed over to the Anne Frank House for the tour.  It was another really interesting experience seeing as I remembered reading her diary all the way back in elementary school.  Even though it’s a terribly tragic event, it’s important to remember that there are millions of other heartbreaking stories from Jewish families during that period.  I think the experience of visiting a concentration camp in Germany has continued to give me great perspective on the topic and countless other aspects of life.  We ended the afternoon on a much lighter note and made our way to the Heineken brewery.  The tour was actually really informative and it was amazing to see how one man’s idea turned into one of the most recognized beers in the world.  As part of the tour we were able to take a canal cruise at the end on the Heineken boat.  Cruising down the canals is definitely one of the best ways to experience Amsterdam.  Our last day in Holland was pretty laidback and mostly consisted of walking around and seeing a few more sights.  Unfortunately the queue at the Van Gogh Museum was a bit too long and we were unable to make it inside.  Luckily for us the museum was right next to the iconic “I Amsterdam” sign.  At times it really is more of a jungle gym than a piece of art with adults and kids alike climbing all over it.  After more walking around the city it was finally time to say our goodbyes to Amsterdam and to each other.  My friends headed off to catch their flight to Spain while I headed to my coach for the long ride back to London.  It was a pretty usual and terrible ride home.  Since it was an overnight coach, this meant that I had to wake up at 2 a.m. to get off the bus and go through UK border control before entering the Chunnel.  We pulled into Victoria Station just before 5 a.m., and after waiting an hour for the first tube I was finally back at my flat.

The iconic sign of Amsterdam

The rest of the weekend basically consisted of me trying to get my body back on schedule with normal society.  Sunday did bring some excitement though with it being my first Easter Sunday outside the U.S.  A handful of friends and I decided to celebrate it in style and attended morning mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral.  It’s one of the biggest churches in the world, and it was almost intimidating having all those patrons and dignitaries of the dioceses in attendance.  It turned out to be an incredible experience and I’m glad I got to celebrate Easter in such a historic setting.  So now that another trip around Europe is in the books it would seem like it’s time for a nice rest.  However there is no rest for the weary while studying abroad, for another trip lies just on the horizon.  In a mere 48 hours from now I’ll be on a flight to see my friends in Sevilla and hopefully soak up some Spanish sunshine.  However, before I head south I have an appetizing appointment with an essay to take care of first.  Therefore I must bid adieu on that note and make the trek to the library.  Until next time…



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