Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Britain Sampler

Get settled and grab a cup of tea because this is going to be a long one folks!

Three countries. Five hotels. Thirteen cities. Ten days.

That was my vacation. My first trip overseas. My grand European tour.

My family and I started in London and made our way North throughout England, up through Wales and Scotland, and then South back down to London, and we saw amazing things. Because it was my first time overseas and my parents' first time to the U.K. we decided to join a pre-determined tour. If you're interested in that here is the website: http://www.globusjourneys.com/tour/britain-sampler/ge/

Britain Sampler. That's truly what it was. Some of the places we went we spent mere hours in. If I were to go back I think I would attempt to go to a few fewer places and spend more time in each one.

We started off in London which was a beautiful city. The mix of new and old architecture and the expanse of parks made me so happy. We saw beautiful art at the Victoria and Albert Museum, had amazing fish and chips, saw the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, breathed the same air as the Queen at Windsor Castle, ate Spotted Dick for dessert, walked across the bridge Voldemort destroyed in the 6th Harry Potter, visited 221b Baker Street, and so much more in just two and a half days.

Our next stop was Stonehenge, despite it being rainy, windy, and freezing, and not feeling well, it was an unreal experience. Seeing something you've only seen in history books makes you feel really small.

After basking in the mysterious handiwork of the Druids we made our way to Bath, England. This city, built by the Romans, was one of my favorite places we visited. Each building is made from these amazing white stones and they look fantastic next to one another. We visited The Roman Baths, another place I'd simply read about. Walking through the entrance was like stepping into ancient Rome, I could almost feel Julius Caesar's presence.

We shopped around and I took 5,000 photos and then it was time for our next location: the Cotswolds. If anyone is a fan of the movie The Holiday, and you should because it's the greatest Christmas movie ever made, then you'll know that Iris lives in the Cotswolds. So going there had me hyped. We walked the narrow streets and I tried Lady Grey tea in a quaint cafe. The tea was gross but the views were stellar. Next time I'll stick with my usual Earl Grey.

After the Cotswolds, we made the pilgrimage to Stratford-upon-Avon to visit the birthplace of the bard himself, William Shakespeare. We got to see Anne Hathaway's Cottage, see the room where Will was born, and watch a group of actors perform in the garden outside.

That afternoon we crossed the border into Wales. I loved Wales. I am ready to move to Wales. Take me back to Llangollen and I will be content. The Dee River, the rolling hills, the abundance of sheep, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, it was by far my favorite place we visited. We took a canal cruise over the aqueduct and it was magical. I felt so at one with nature, I really did. It was a shame we had to leave after only half a day.

Next, we crossed back into England and spent some time in Chester. We saw the remains of a Roman amphitheater and some Tudor architecture. We carried on to Grasmere which was a fairyland. Flowers and trees everywhere. We tried Sarah Nelson's world famous Grasmere Gingerbread and took in the beauty of nature before heading over the Scottish border at Gretna Green.

For those of you who may have never heard of Gretna Green, it was a place where couples used to run away and elope. There was a blacksmith shop where they would be married and then they would flee into Scotland to avoid their parents from England. Pretty badass. Now there's a small museum and just a lot of shops for tourists.

That evening we made our way into Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh (pronounced more like Edinboro). This was another one of the places I truly fell in love with. The bagpipes wafting through the streets, Edinburgh Castle, the view from our tiny hotel. I loved it all. We toured Edinburgh Castle, shopped around the Royal Mile, and saw amazing art at Scotland's National Galleries. I could have stayed in this city forever.

Our next stop in Scotland was Abbotsford, the home of writer and poet Sir Walter Scott. I am not a fan of Sir Scott but his gardens were beautiful and he had a Turnbull crest on his wall. So that was cool.

Then it was back to England. York, England. As someone who is originally from New York, this was a cool stop. York is home to an area called "The Shambles" and it is like nothing you've ever seen. Narrow streets, buildings leaning forward, tiny shops, tea rooms. When you picture the word idyllic in our head, it's The Shambles you are thinking of.

On our last day, we went to the market in Stamford and I finally got a good cup of tea and saw some amazing dogs. We then visited the University of Cambridge which is actually just a bunch of different colleges near each other. We saw students celebrating their graduation and learned that they are required to dress up for their exams. Can you imagine having to wear a suit or heels to take your finals?

That evening we returned to London. Full circle. We went to an Evensong service at Westminster Abbey and it was unreal. That choir is transportive. I felt like I was in a movie. We also watched the church install their first female Minor Canon (similar to a deacon), and she was a lesbian. My heart was filled with this beautiful display of acceptance in the church.

We got dinner at Pret A Manger or just Pret as the locals call it, and settled in before a day of travel.

This trip was the greatest experience. I am so grateful to my parents for giving me this opportunity and to Globus for allowing us to see so many places on a wonderful tour.

I'll be back.

View my photo album here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.434997370182797.1073741844.100010176125607&type=1&l=304fe50964

Love,
Beth

Things I will miss about the U.K.

In one of my recent posts, I talked about things I wasn't expecting when I visited the U.K., here are some of the things I will miss the most now that I'm home.

1. Ancient architecture and I mean ancient.

The United States has only been a country for about 240 years which really isn't that long when you consider that Great Britain has been around since the 10th century. As someone who loves history (y'all know how much I love George Washington) being in castles and towers that have been standing for centuries was otherworldly. If you ever make your way across the pond to London you must go to the Tower of London and Windsor Castle.

2. Three-course dinners, every night.

Every time we had a dinner at our hotel we had a starter, a main, and a dessert. Every time. Dinner would start at around seven in the evening with wine and continue through three courses followed by coffee and tea. We would be at the table for two hours or more. It was nice not to rush since I usually allow myself 20 minutes to eat, especially when I'm at school. Once dinner was over you were ready to relax for the evening, it was lovely. As Americans, we could learn from this idea of slowing it down.

3. Sticky toffee pudding.

Need I say more? Look it up, it will change you.

4. Farmlands and fields.

We have plenty of farms in our country, I see them every time I'm on the PA Turnpike, but the English and Scottish countrysides are insane. I have never seen so many sheep, cattle, pigs, and ponies in my life. Miles upon miles of just trees and mountains and fields of grazing livestock. It was perfect and peaceful.

I could easily make this list go on and on, but I won't. Just know that the U.K. has a lot to offer even if it just seems like a more polite version of America, it is worth visiting.

Love,
Beth

Minor misadventures

If you've ever seen the movie National Lampoon's European Vacation then you know that a lot can go wrong when a family goes on vacation.

And although we didn't get stuck in traffic near Big Ben for hours or drive directly into Stonehenge, we had a couple minor mishaps of our own. Who doesn't when you're traveling?

We began our journey to London with a delayed flight from Pittsburgh to Boston that would surely make us miss our connecting flight. In an attempt to remedy this we switched our first flight to Philadelphia. And got delayed. Again.

When we finally made it to the Philadelphia airport we had miles to walk to our gate and not much time to do it. Thankfully, a kind airport employee transported us via golf cart and we even had time to get bagels at Bruegger's. But guess what? Our flight to London was delayed too.

The seven and a half hour flight wasn't too bad. I had the window seat, they fed us, and there were places to charge phones and screens with movies to watch.

We arrived at Heathrow airport around eight in the morning London time, about three in the morning Pittsburgh time. Full of excitement we made it through border security only to find that American Airlines had lost my luggage and sent it to Italy. What are the odds my suitcase got to go to Italy before I did? With nothing but the clothes on my back, we checked into our hotel. I was distraught. I will never bring a carry on that is too small to fit an extra outfit ever again. My luggage arrived a day and a half later after I had gone shopping and bought clothes.

Traveling back to Pittsburgh from London was only slightly less chaotic. We got up at five in the morning London time and left for the airport at 6:30 a.m. for our 10:30 a.m. flight. We stopped for coffee (a chai latte for me) and read some British newspapers which I brought back with me to show all my journalist friends. We made our way through security and guess who's carry on had tot get the extra check? This girl! They leafed through all of my things and ended up having to scan my mascara and concealer under the machine again. I got held up because of mascara and concealer but they didn't even make me take off my shoes. Confusing.

The plane ride to Raleigh-Durham airport was great, except for the man next to me who kept dropping his used tissues onto my lap. They fed us four times during the flight and I watched Jackie and The Girl On The Train, both of which were excellent.

We arrived back on U.S. soil around noon and successfully made it through customs security. And my suitcase even arrived with us! With plenty of time before our flight to Pittsburgh, we meandered through the airport stopping for snacks and checking out one of the airport's many bookstores.

The plane to Pittsburgh was small. One seat, an aisle, and then two seats. Nothing like the monstrosity we had flown overseas in. We boarded on time thinking "maybe this flight won't be delayed." Guess what? It was delayed. Three of the seats on the plane were broken and we had to deplane and wait for maintenance to fix them. By the time we got back to Pittsburgh we had been traveling for 20 hours. I had never known true exhaustion until that moment, between the jet lag and the aching in my legs from sitting so long, I truly felt like a weary traveler.

This is not meant to be a laundry list of complaints, I had an amazing time on vacation, but it is an accurate picture of my travel experience. What travel misadventures have you had? I'd love to know.


Love,
Beth



Monday, May 22, 2017

Things I didn't expect in the U.K.

I just got back from a whirlwind 10 day trip throughout England, Wales, and Scotland. It was phenomenal. Before departing I knew there would be some cultural differences between the U.S. and the U.K., but there were a few things I didn't account for.

Here are my top four:

1. Public restrooms, or "toilets," are not free.

This was shocking to me, each town we visited had a public toilet with a coin-operated entry. There was even an employee at the door to give change if you didn't have the right coins. Using the restroom costs 20 pence, which is about 26 cents in American currency. The U.K. is willing to employ someone to give people change at a restroom. Let that sink in.

2. Hotel beds only have one sheet.

Those of you who know me well know that I love Hampton Inns. I can't explain it, I just do. So when I first arrived at the Hilton London Metropole I figured I knew what I was getting into. However, I soon discovered that no matter what city I was in, one thing was the same. The bed only had one sheet--the comforter. No top sheet, no light blanket, just the thick, heavy comforter. I about died from heat stroke my first night.

3. Turning on the lights is a multi-step process.

You walk into your hotel room to turn on the lights, you press the switch (yes press not flip), and nothing happens. You notice then that next to the light switch is a place to insert your hotel room key. You insert the key and the lights come on. You think you're in the clear and remove the key, a few seconds later the room is pitch dark. You realize then that you must leave your key in the slot the entire time you want the lights on. Why is this necessary?

4. Breakfast is an event.

I'd heard of the famous "Full English Breakfast" before, I am a Gordon Ramsay fan after all, but I didn't think that it was an everyday thing. Each hotel had a buffet of eggs, bacon, toast, pastries, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, fruit, yogurt, juices, coffee, teas, oatmeal, etc. As someone who has a hard time eating much before noon, eating such a heavy meal each morning was something I was definitely not accustomed to.

I had my moments of culture shock but it was easy to adjust after a couple days. This is a great place for anyone who wants to go overseas for the first time. Stay tuned for a more lengthy post about all the places I went and for photos.

Love,
Beth








Monday, March 27, 2017

ennui poem

Why is it always the moment, as I close my eyes, that my mind opens?

In the early hours of morning, or the lateness of the previous night.

I must write.

My soul is sad. I must write.

There are so many things I have yet to say, or do, or even realize. I must write.

I am anxious. I must write.

For when pen comes to paper or fingers to keys, it is out.

Whatever it may be, out.

So why is it always the moment, as I close my eyes, that my mind opens?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Feminist Notebook

In honor of International Women’s Day 2017 I thought I would compile a list of causes, books, and online resources that seek to promote equality and educate the population. Feel free to check out any or all of my notes below.

Definition of feminism: the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes

Background:

History of International Women’s Day: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/About

Information about the Women’s March and the Day Without A Woman Strike: https://www.womensmarch.com/

Worthy Causes:

Planned Parenthood: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/
Take action against legislators who wish to defund.

He for She: http://www.heforshe.org/en
Watch Emma Watson’s United Nations Speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-iFl4qhBsE

American Civil Liberties Union: https://www.aclu.org/

Speak out against inequality:

Find your PA Legislators: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/

Find your House Rep: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Senator Phone List: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

Feminist Reads:

We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Or you can watch her speech of the same name here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg3umXU_qWc

A Little F'd Up: Why Feminism Is Not a Dirty Word by Julie Zeilinger

Feminists Online:

Feministing: http://feministing.com/

Feminist Frequency: https://feministfrequency.com/
Everyday Feminism: http://everydayfeminism.com/

Reductress (satire): http://reductress.com/

The Everyday Sexism Project: https://everydaysexism.com/

Highlighted Historical Feminist:

Margaret Sanger

“Margaret Higgins Sanger (born Margaret Louise Higgins, September 14, 1879 – September 6, 1966, also known as Margaret Sanger Slee) was an American birth control activist, sex educator, writer, and nurse. Sanger popularized the term "birth control", opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, and established organizations that evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Sanger

Feminist Quote of the Day:

“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” -Rebecca West


Fight the good fight,

Beth

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 Highlights

I had a really great year. Aside from all the tragic celebrity deaths and the tragic election, 2016 was definitely one for the books.

I want to remember all the great times I had this year, all the wonderful days with friends and family, and all the amazing new things I saw and experienced. So, I'm writing it all down (typing it up) and sharing it with you. Not to make anyone jealous, but so I can look back on this year and smile.

January

Became a copy editor for The Globe and loved every minute.
Saw great art at The Mattress Factory and Randyland with Vince and Taylor.
Started writing for The Odyssey.

February

Fell down in the street while walking to the symphony with Andrew, Carrie, and Alex but still had a great time.
Enjoyed working in the Honors Office with Victoria, Laura, and Katie.
Hiked 9 miles in Schenley Park on a warm day.

March

Went to New York City with Kris, Lindsey, Vince, and Taylor. Saw Something Rotten! and Phantom of the Opera.
Celebrated Andrew and I's anniversary over a tasty pie.
Struggled through my visual communication class.
Took Taylor home with me for Easter.

April

Shook Bernie Sanders' hand. Heard Hillary Clinton speak.
Helped Taylor's mom and cousin surprise her for her birthday.
Met Ben and Jerry.
Quit The Odyssey.
Said goodbye to Carrie and the rest of the 4th floor.

May

Hiked 6 miles to the Ohiopyle Overlook-one of my favorite spots.
Experienced Presque Isle beach for the first time. Built a sandcastle with Andrew and a random child.
Reunited with high school friends.

June

Bought a watermelon tube for pool lounging. A worthy investment.
Learned how to paddleboard at Lake Stonycreek.
Got my driver's license. Didn't get to use it much.
Enjoyed the majesty of Cooperstown, NY and Lake Otsego.

July

Saw Billy Joel in concert. Legendary.
Visited UVA, Monticello, and Montpelier. Felt colonial as frick.
Walked on the beach at Chincoteague. Bought a classic dad style baseball hat.

August

Enjoyed quality hammock time with Andrew.
Spent a wild and fun day at the zoo with my best friends from home.
Saw Halsey and Oh Wonder at Stage AE.
Moved back to college early to mentor freshmen.

September

Experienced the glory of The Milkshake Factory for the first time.
Started geocaching with Andrew.
Turned 19. Celebrated with fancy rolled ice cream.
Started my first internship with Active Cities.

October

Cast my absentee ballot for my first presidential election.
Started to figure out how radio works while hosting Vibes with Taylor.
Celebrated Halloween at The Mattress Factory while dressed like a 12-year old Girl Scout.

November

Started working on my first long-form piece for my reporting class. Learned more about Pittsburgh's parks than I ever thought I would.
Snuck into an event where Bryan Cranston was speaking.
Said goodbye to my Grandmother's house in New York.

December

Danced the night away at Victoria and Shawn's wedding.
Cherished my last semester as a copy editor for The Globe.
Took an end of the semester trip to Pamela's with the best college friends I could have ever hoped for.
Had a quiet Christmas with my parents and sister.
Enjoyed having time to read books again.

So there's the highlights. 2016 was a great year and I hope 2017 is just as good to me.

Love,
Beth