Hey everyone! I’m back with another monthly update of my Italy adventure and I have a lot to share! I was not able to send this post out at the end of December due to being on Christmas Break, but I am back at my college and can now take a moment to recap the last month. So let’s get started!
With December creeping over the horizon, the dread of finals came with it. The first 2 weeks of the month were a storm of stress, frustration, reviewing, tests, final quizzes, and essays. We had a test where we needed to speak in Italian, talk about ourselves, and answer any questions our teachers asked. It was sooooo nerve-wracking. I was shaking in my chair and sweating like a dog. But I think I did okay. I’m not fluent, but I can speak a bit, but I still have a hard time listening and translating everything in my head while someone is talking to me.
Once finals were over, the next few days involved a bit of tears as I said goodbye to friends who wouldn’t be coming back for next quarter and others who were heading home for Christmas. The campus got a little more lonelier and I was aching for the day I would leave.
For Christmas break, I wanted to go up north to the UK and tour England, Scotland, and Ireland. For a while, I had planned the trip alone, but after talking with my family, my dad wanted to come along too, which made me really happy. I didn’t want to travel for 20-ish days alone. Paris was great, but I missed people I knew. And I was really excited that he was coming. He helped planned the trip – though took over, which I was grateful for, because I learned that I don’t really like planning trips, and he does.
I left the school on the 17th for London and spent the evening at a hostel. The next day I met my dad at another hotel and we went out to Harrods. Really, that store needs to offer maps. There was so much to explore and I was so happy they had a book section (purchased 3).
After, we headed to Hyde Park for the Winter Wonderland Carnival. The evening was a bit wet so we didn’t go on any rides but we enjoyed walking around and seeing the attractions, food, and rides.
The next morning we headed off to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. It was so surreal being there and even the sun came out during the event.
We left London (don’t worry, we’ll be back) and took a train to Oxford. I fell so hard in love with this town. It’s old, it’s historical, it’s small, and just so beautiful. We went to Christ Church and saw the great hall they filmed part of Harry Potter in. The Christmas market was pretty and I went to another bookstore (got 5 more…). The next day I went out on my own and saw the Oxford Castle and then we went to the Eagle and the Child, the pub C.S. Lewis and Tolkien’s Inkling group met every Tuesday (or maybe it was Thursday). After, we took a bus to the Holy Trinity Church where Lewis and his brother Warren were buried. We had an unexpected tour guide, this adorable little fella named Alfie. He kind of sucked all of the emotion of being at my favorite author’s grave away, but it was okay because, well, he was adorable.
A short walk from the graveyard, we headed to the Kilns where Lewis and his brother used to live. Just being in his home was an un-explainable feeling, I have no way of describing it. I loved learning more about his life and being able to ask questions. If you ever find yourself in Oxford, it’s definitely worth the trip to check out.
That evening we went to a choir service in one of the old churches. Very beautiful.
The next day we took a train up to Sheffield and spent the last remaining hours of daylight at Chatsworth, at the house the 2005 Pride and Prejudice was filmed at. I admit, I thought this was also the same house from the 1995 mini series, but that is in another location and another good reason to come back. As for this house, you honestly need a full day to explore and most of that time will be used walking around the gardens and property. It is drop dead gorgeous and you could honestly get yourself lost. The paths seem like they go on forever with trees, creeks, hills, there’s even a hedge maze, and an animal area. You’ll never want to leave this place.
At the end of the day, we went to see a play, Peter Pan, but this version was a little different. I was expecting a generic play that followed the story, but what I got was a pantomime. If you are unfamiliar with this term, allow me to educate you. During the Christmas season in the UK, musical, comedic productions are put on of fairy tale stories for family entertainment. In short, they are parodies of the stories where middle-aged men dress up in outrageous costumes, the forth wall is often broken, the seats are filled mostly with kids, and pop songs are weaved into the story. Needless to say, it was very entertaining and hilarious. But once or twice is enough for me.
We left Sheffield the next day and went up to York, visiting Cliffords Tower, the cathedral, the Christmas market, touring the chocolate factory which was by far the best tour I have ever been on (and it wasn’t just because of the free chocolate), and at the end the day we went to another pantomime for Cinderella – wasn’t as good as the Peter Pan one.
Another train up north and we were in Scotland in Edinburgh. Our hotel had a perfect view of the Christmas markets, Ferris wheel, and Scott Monument. We spent the few hours of daylight over there. That evening we went to a service at St. Giles cathedral.
The next day we did laundry (finally) and went up to the Edinburgh Castle for the tour. Honestly, if you’re writing with a medieval styled era, this place is great for inspiration! At one o’clock they set off a canon for the sailors at the shipyard to reset their clocks. We rested the rest of the day, which was needed before we had to be up the next day to catch a bus to Glasgow.
Christmas Day Glasgow was free of people and nearly 90% of the shops were closed. My dad and I were lucky enough to find a Hard Rock Cafe that was open and had our Christmas dinner there, and then it was back to the hotel. We video chat our family back home and napped the rest of the day. The next day, we saw the cathedral and surrounding graveyard, and even had time to see Aquaman but the freakin’ commercials (and I don’t mean trailers) took half an hour when the movie was supposed to start at 12:30. But the movie was enjoyable, though not as good as Wonder Woman, but beautiful. It was then time to leave Scotland and take a ferry over to Belfast.
My dad and I didn’t spend a lot of time in Belfast. We visited the Titanic museum and then took a train down to Dublin. I wish we could’ve spent more time in Dublin and seen the surrounding area and go to the cliffs but we only had time for the main center and the Dublin castle.
Our next destination was Cardiff. We took a short flight to Wales and spent the day exploring the Cardiff Castle which I HIGHLY recommend seeing and getting the tour from. I really want to live there and I really liked Wales, though probably mostly because of the dragons. It was far too short of a visit but we needed to head east to Salisbury.
Salisbury is quite a lovely little town, but there was only one reason we were there for – the Stonehenge. It was honestly pretty cool to see. When we got back, we hopped onto a train and headed backed to London.
Dad and I tried to stuff as much of London as possible in the time he had left before his flight after the new year. We saw the Tower Bridge, the Crown Jewels, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Globe Theater, King’s Cross Station where the Harry Potter shop is with the cart stuck in the wall, and then on New Year’s Day we went up on the Eye of London, walked passed Big Ben which was sadly under construction (really disappointed), went in Westminster Abbey, stuck around for the New Year’s parade at Trafalgar Square, and ended that day with seeing Wicked, and honestly, how have I gone through life so far without having seen it? It was absolutely wonderful!
And then my dad left and I was left on my own for the next three days. I was sad and just hoping the next few days would pass by super quickly. The day my dad left, I left the hotel room and went to the British Museum, and then to 221B Baker street where they have a building set up for the Sherlock fans. I ended the day tracking down one of the TARDIS’s in the city and eating alone at an Italian-inspired restaurant.
The next day I stayed at the hotel all day and just had a me day, watching movies and the Big Bang Theory, napping, and eating junk food. It was honestly a nice day.
My last full day in London, I set off for Kensington Gardens and found the Peter Pan statue. The day was so beautiful, even the sun came out. Heading south-ish, I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of Natural History. Having crossed off all I wanted to do in London, I headed back to the hotel, and left the UK the next day.
I’m so happy to be back at school! I’ve reunited with nearly all my friends, but a couple are still away. I’m not exactly happy classes are starting tomorrow, but I’m happy to be taking more art classes.
And that was my December plus the first week of January! It was fun and tiring and I’ll always cherish the trip and the time with my dad. I hope you all had a good Christmas and happy New Year!