Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

The Ninth Week (Edinburgh!)

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014


I’m so glad I’ve met such great people to be traveling with. We’re all easy going and willing to compromise so everyone is able to do/see what they want to. We are starting to plan our spring break trip in May (Greek beaches!)


Final exams and papers are starting to rear their heads…seems like I need to start preparing for the end of the semester. Thankfully I will be finished soon at least.

Exams are done very differently in Ireland, and because I am taking a combination of Irish classes and International classes I have it different than the Irish students do. For my international classes my end of term papers are due the last week of March, and 2 final exams also take place that week. For my Irish class my final assignments are due the end of March as well but I do not have my final exam until May.

The first three weeks of April is spring break and the last week of April is the reading week but you still have to attend classes (seeing as it is the last week of classes). My last exam is May 1st and then I’m done!


Last Wednesday I headed off to Scotland on my own (seeing as I didn’t have class the rest of the week anyway). I stayed in Edinburgh at a really fantastic hostel. It was all girls and fairly close to the city center. The woman who ran it wasn’t much older than me and had moved from Australia a few years ago. She baked bread for everyone for breakfast every morning which was delicious and the place had a very homey feel. I met a lot of great people there, mostly girls traveling by themselves on spring break or who were living in Edinburgh after finishing their master’s thesis.


This was one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited. It felt how I always imagined old Europe, with very classic old architecture and castles dotting the horizon. On Friday I did the Royal Mile, where most of the sites are clustered and saw Parliament and Hollyroad Castle (Where Queen Elizabeth II lives in the summer months). The castle was incredible; I saw the furniture and tapestries bought by Queen Victoria and the apartments of Mary Queen of Scots. I can’t even imagine having tourists pay to go through your house while you’re gone. But I guess I wouldn’t really be complaining if I was dividing my time between a few different castles every year. Honestly it seems to be a great place to live if the weather would make up its mind. Within a half hour period it rained, then was warm and sunny, then it hailed and snowed, and then it was sunny again. I don’t know how people get used to that.

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The Elephant House

This is the café JK Rowling began work on the very first Harry Potter book. And I ate lunch there, trying not to hyperventilate and giggle like a fangirl. But actually I had a great Panini and wrote postcards home and tried to act like it was no big deal I was there and didn’t spend a half hour tracking it down and passing a half dozen other restaurants that looked delicious.

elephant house


On Thursday I took a bus tour, which was the best money I spent the whole trip, to go through the highlands and Loch Ness and Glencoe. Scotland is small enough I was able to see quite a bit of it on the 12 hour drive (we made stops along the way to various sights).

I’m not a big lover of mountains, more of a beach person myself, but the Highlands were absolutely breathtaking.

Loch Ness was huge but the rain prevented me from seeing any sign of a monster unfortunately.

We had about an hour to explore Urquhart Castle, which is on the bank of Loch Ness, and was blown up so really visitors can wander around the shell that remains. The views from the castle was quite pretty, but shrouded in clouds.  (The weather during the rest of day was nice though!)

loch ness  urquhart castlelochness

Glasgow < Edinburgh

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Yesterday I went to Glasgow to get a feel for the city. (And my feeling is that it is not as awesome as Edinburgh, but still cool.)

I hung out with my friends Amara and Steffi all day, so of course we had a ton of fun. We were dropped off at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum first. (This was an ISC trip.) It was pretty cool. They had a weird foot exhibition which freaked me out because, ew, feet. But they also had medieval armor and a mummy and a dinosaur skeleton which were pretty awesome.

After our trip to the museum, we were dropped off at George Square, where we promptly looked for someplace to eat before we died of hunger. Not far from where dropped off was a restaurant called “Jamie’s Italian” which the three of us geeked out over because it’s Jamie Oliver’s restaurant and we love that guy. It wasn’t as pricey as we assumed it might be so we ate there and the food was splendiferous! (For the record, I had risotto with wild mushrooms and smoked mozzarella as well as a brownie topped with amaretto ice cream and caramel-amaretto popcorn.)

We didn’t have a ton of time after eating so we explored the various shops close by. The street reminded me a lot of Grafton Street in Dublin, Ireland. We did some touristy shopping for a bit. I bought myself a haggis because I couldn’t resist. Look how cute it is!!

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There was also a random TARDIS in the middle of the street. Steffi and I are big Doctor Who fans and of course flipped!

Over all, Glasgow is a nice city. It definitely has some great shopping that I would go back for. (Especially since it’s so close. It only took an hour to get there by bus and I’m sure by train it’s even faster.) Edinburgh is definitely prettier though. Less industrial. It has more character. But that’s just my personal opinion.

Let’s go to the beach!

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Today we woke up to just beautiful weather. We decided that this is the perfect day for the beach. After slowly waking up and waiting for the bus, we headed for the beaches in Nice in the afternoon. When we go there, we realized that this beach is different from most of the other beaches we have seen because there is no sand just small, smooth rocks and pebbles. It was nice that we did not end up leaving with sandy feet and clothes. When we got there, unfortunately the clouds were rolling in at that time, but it was nice to relax and read by the Mediterranean. My sister and I put our feet in when we first got there, but we decided not to go swimming because the waves were too big for us. As I was looking out onto the water, I kept seeing these small white birds skiming the water and then diving straight in! They were trying to catch fish and we actually saw one catch a fish. It was funny watching them because they would first fly higher and nose dive right into the water. I have never seen a bird do that. We all of the sudden heard some fighter planes shoot out from the airport and display a short show for everyone on the beach. Then the colors red, white, and blue shot out from the tailpipes of the planes. They were celebrating the 150th birthday of Nice becoming part of France.

Around 5:30 we decided to head to the old town of Nice and look for a restaurant for dinner since we did not have lunch. This part of Nice was beautiful. There were narrow alleyways with high buildings connected by lines of laundry hanging out the windows. The green shutters against the yellow walls just made the area look so wonderful. A lot of the architecture we have seen reminds us more of Italy. We recently found out that Nice used to be a part of Italy until the 1800s when it became a part of France. After enjoying a nice dinner in the heart of the old town, we decided to walk around and explore. We saw some touristy shops that we loved looking around. Do you know how they have all different souveniers with peoples names? Well, my mom and I always look for my name, Justine, and never find it. We found it two times back in the United States and had to buy those two things. This time I looked, like I always do, and I found my name!! I found my name on a ruler and then on a pen, and then on a coin purse…it was everywhere! We asked the person who worked there if “Justine” was a common name in France. He said yes it is very common because it is a French name. I found a necklace with my name on it and I had to buy it. I was meant to come to France!

I wish we had more time to just wander and get lost in Nice, but we had to get back to the bus station to go back to Vence. Unfortunately we missed the bus and had to take a taxi back. I am planning to go back to Nice some other time this week and explore the old town and other districts.

My Life in France

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Before I went to France I wanted a good book I could read on the beach. Since I loved the movie Julie and Julia so much, I wanted to get the book that the movie was based on. While I was in the bookstore in Edinburgh, I saw a book titled “My Life in France” by Julia Child. I asked the people who worked there if this is what the movie is based off of. They said yes. So I bought the book, but then I realized that it was actually a biography about Julia Child and her time living in France. It was not about Julie Powell at all. I considered returning it, but after reading some good reviews online I decided to keep it. I think it would be good to read since I am here in France. I am so glad I accidentally stumbled upon this book because it is turning out to be so interesting. Today I was reading about her trip to Monaco in 1950 where she stayed at the Hotel de Paris! I cannot believe that I was in that exact hotel yesterday. All of the people, food, and culture that she references to is so relevant to my vacation I am just loving every page of this book.


Monday, June 14th, 2010

I am in France! This is my first time out of the UK since January. I flew from Newcastle and met my family in Nice. We are renting a house in Vence which is a small town about 15 miles outside of Nice. The house we are staying in was built in the 1200s and even better than what I expected. Since this is a small town, not everyone speaks English, so we manage by looking up words in the phrase book, speaking broken French my dad learned in High School, and by using a lot of hand gestures. Everyone is very nice and some people try to speak English to us even if they know just a few words.

The day after we arrived in France, we started our morning with a Cafe Au Lait which is a very small, but strong cup of coffee (we all needed it). There are so many cafes with outdoor seating which is wonderful to just sit and absorb in the surroundings. Sometimes just sipping on a cup of coffee and people watching is the best part of traveling. Since it might rain later in the week, we decided to go to Monaco on the first day instead of on Tuesday. My dad and sister wanted to take a relaxing day to orient themselves to Vence, so my mom and I were the ones who went and took a bus and train to the second smallest country of Monaco. I have dreamed about going to Monaco ever since watching a Samantha Brown travel show on the Travel Channel. I just imagined everyone who lived there would be rich and own yachts. And I did see a lot of yachts! My mom and I first went to a cafe in Monte Carlo right next to the famous casino. While we were there, we were keeping an eye out for famous people and also the rich residents of Monaco. There was an old woman, probably in her 80s, sitting at a small table by herself and she had a huge purple hat on her head. She was wearing fancy clothes and a lot of make-up and just watching the people walk by. My mom kept saying that she thinks that she was probably a famous person when she was younger and looked like a very mysterious and interesting character. Have you ever seen the movie Sunset Boulevard? She reminded her of the main character in that movie. After that, we went into the casino to gamble! It was my first time gambling. We walked into the building and were taken back by how gorgeous it was. I wish we could have explored the rest of the building, but we just went into the foyer and one other room. We decided to only bet 5 euros and we ended up leaving with more money than we came in with! (Well, we won 1 euro, but it was still so much fun because we did not loose any money!). I can’t wait to try gambling again. Next to the casino was the Hotel de Paris which was designed by the same architect as the casino. We walked through the revolving doors into a grand foyer with marble floors and huge columns with a detailed ceiling. I would have loved to stay in that hotel! We saw a menu for the restaurant in the Hotel, and there was caviar for 550 euros! I do not think I have seen anything that expensive on the menu. After we went to the hotel, we walked around the port and saw beautiful views of the water and the old town from the hill across from us. By the time we walked to the old town, we relized that we have been walking almost all day. We decided to go back to Vence at that time since our feet were pretty tired of walking. For dinner, we went to a cute restaurant in the heart of Vence and I enjoyed the best muscles I have ever tasted.

Ayr and Newcastle

Monday, June 14th, 2010

This week I visited two of my flatmates in Ayr, Scotland and Newcastle, England. I had a great time!! Here are some photos…


Burns' Cottage where Robert Burns was born


Culzean Castle


Josie and I at the top of the art gallery. It had a wonderful view of Newcastle, but that day it was so rainy!

The Millenium Bridge in Newcastle tilted for the boat to go underneath! It only happens about once a day!


Hadrian's Wall

Alnwick Castle: Some scenes from the first two Harry Potter movies were filmed here such as the first flying lesson.

My last post from Edinburgh

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

I am writing my last post from Edinburgh because I am leaving tomorrow morning. This does not mean that it is my last post ever, because I will be traveling for a few weeks and I will still keep you updated. Over the last week, all 11 of my flatmates have been going home and now I am the last one here. Early this morning 3 of my flatmates went home and one of my flatmates just left a few minutes ago. I don’t think it has really hit me that I am actually leaving. Yesterday, I was talking to my friend Carolyn who is from New York and also studying abroad in Edinburgh for the semester. She has a very different living situation because she only has 2 other flatmates! Yesterday the last one left and a her very good friend from the United States left to go back home. That is when it really hit her that she is leaving.

Before everyone left to study abroad, all of the UMW students who were going abroad went to a meeting held by the study abroad office. They talked about the “M” curve. What happens is that before you go, you are so excited and you cannot wait to go abroad. They call this the “honeymoon phase” where nothing is bad and nothing can go wrong. This may last a few months before you go and the first few months abroad. Then the curve goes down when you start missing home and missing your friends. This is the low point of the curve. Then it begins to rise when you are planning to go home and excited to go home. After a few days or weeks, the curve might go down again when you start to miss the country where you studied abroad.

I think that this curve definitely happens to everone who studies abroad. My “honeymoon phase” lasted a long time compared to others. I just fit in perfectly in Edinburgh. I am sad to leave, however I am also excited to travel and go back home. I have been here for five months and I think that is a good time period to be abroad. If I studied abroad in the fall semester, I would have only been abroad for four months. That would have been way too short and I would have been much sadder to leave if my time here was cut short. Since I have France and Italy to look forward to, I am not totally sad to leave. I am sure once I get back home I will miss Edinburgh a lot.

So my next stop is Ayr, Scotland. I will be visiting Sarah, one of my flatmates, in Ayr which is on the west coast of Scotland. Then I am going to Newcastle, England to visit my other flatmate, Josie. Then off to France and Italy. I will keep you updated on my travels.

Counting down my last days in Edinburgh

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

I am officially leaving Edinburgh in one week. I feel like I just arrived! I know a few people who are already back in the US from their semester abroad. Two of my flatmates moved out already and some are leaving this weekend and the beginning of next week. I am staying until the last possible day along with 4 or 5 of my flatmates. I am glad that there will be people here until the end. After that, I am visiting my flatmate, Sarah, in Ayr for 4 days. Ayr is on the west coast of Scotland. Then I am visiting my other flatmate, Josie, in Newcastle, England for another 4 days. Newcastle is in northern England. Then I am flying from Newcastle to Nice where I meet my family. We will be there for 1 week and then we are traveling to Northern Italy for another week.

I have been spending my last few weeks here just hanging out with my flatmates and other friends. Last weekend the weather was gorgeous! It was in the 70s and I even got sunburn! (I didn’t know that was possible in Scotland). We were in the Meadows a lot that weekend. The Meadows is the park behind the University. We had a BBQ on the Meadows for our flat dinner (all 12 of us!). It was so much fun. I played my first game of touch Rugby. We ended up staying there until around 9:30 pm because it was still light outside! I wish that weather would come back to Scotland. The past few days have been ok, but definitely not warm enough to have a BBQ.

Flat 9 BBQ in the Meadows

My first rugby game

On Tuesday, I went to the Safari Park with Sarah, Steph, Josie, Molly, Luke, and Liz. This is different than a zoo because people can drive through it. I did not know that these existed…I have just seen them on TV and movies. Have you ever seen Jumanji? They drive through a Safari Park in that movie. This park was right outside of Stirling, so we had to take two buses there. It was a great day! We saw lions, rhinos, elephants, mercats, and lemurs! We also went on a boat ride to see the island where the monkeys live and we went paddle boating.

I am finished with my Junior year! (does that really mean I am a Senior?)

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Yesterday I took my last final exam. It has been six weeks since the end of classes and I was just waiting to take my exams. I was ready to take them the week after classes ended. So since there was such a long wait I had to study more because I forgot some of the information I learned in class. I think the final exam process is more stressful here compared to Mary Washington because all of the exams are cumulative (tested on the material for the whole semester) and most exams are usually 50% or more of the final grade. My flatmate, Sarah, has two exams both worth 100% of the grade!! But for 1st and 2nd years, the grade does not count and everyone just has to pass the class. For me, I just have to pass the classes too since I am studying abroad.

 The exams are taken in huge rooms and we have to place our bags and backpacks at one end of the room and only bring a pencil and student card to the desk. (This gives me flashbacks of AP testing in High School.)For my exams I had two hours to complete them. My Archaeology exam was difficult because we have a choice of 6 essays and we have to do only two essays. That was worth 60 percent of the grade. I thought that my Celtic Civilization exam was going to be difficult because there is so much information (and I didn’t really like the class), so I studied extra for this exam. Luckily, it was not too difficult. The amazing thing is where I took this exam. It is called McEwan hall and it was built in 1874…it was so beautiful that I didn’t want to take the test, I just wanted to look around.

My last exam was my Architectural History exam. I was excited to take this because I loved the class. One of the essay questions was the exact same question I had on my Art History exam at Mary Washington! Compare and contrast the Guaranty building and the Seagram building. I was soooo happy when that question showed up on the exam. Another question on the exam was about Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan and I had to discuss why and how they wanted to create a uniquely American style. Since my art classes in Elementary School people have been talking so much about Frank Lloyd Wright (a little too much.) So I was glad to have that quesiton on the exam too.

Now I am done and have three weeks until I move out. Before my exams, I had a lot of free time, but I felt guilty when I was not studying. Now it is officially summer and it feels great! I have a few ideas of what to do the next three weeks. We are going to have a flat dinner (with 12 people) to celebrate the end of the semester. So we will make a big dinner in the flat when everyone is here. They had a big Christmas dinner in the flat before I came here.I am also definitely going to read a lot. I just started “Eat, Pray, Love” and it is really good so far. In June I am going to the south of France and northern Italy for two weeks with my family, so I will be planning things to do on those trips.

Gym in Edinburgh

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Today was the first time I went to the gym here! I used my flatmate’s (Josie’s) gym card to get in. Otherwise it would cost 3 pounds each day or 60 pounds per semester. I decided not to get a pass for the semester in the beginning of the year because I will be walking around the city a lot. I have been walking around a lot, but I just wanted to go to the gym and use the weights too. At Mary Washington, the gym is free and all the exercise classes are free. I think it costs money here because the tuition is way cheaper. People who live in Scotland do not have to pay for tuition for colleges in Scotland.

The gym was really new and really nice. I would say that it is nicer than the gym at Mary Washington. I wish I could take exercise classes, but I would have to pay for them and I would have had to start in the beginning of the semester. I will definitely go back to this gym.