Operation Spring Break: the Lake District, Edinburgh, & Liverpool
Hello there loyal blog followers, and welcome to the start of my 3 week spring break! Yes, you read correctly: 3 weeks! Yes, I know spring break started March 30, but seriously, for the past 6 weeks, my life has been crazy. Here’s what I’ve been up to: March 30-April 23 = spring break, April 21-May 2 = my dad came up and visited me in Cardiff, so I was traveling between London and Cardiff for that time. After my dad left, I had to focus on final exams and essays. So, as you can see, I was very, very busy.
Anyway, let’s talk about my first week of spring break! That’s an amazing amount of time considering I am used to one week of spring break in the States. While the regular full time students revise and study for final exams, us study abroad students travel all across Europe. We aren’t necessarily irresponsible students, but this is our biggest opportunity to travel with this much time off. The biggest challenge for me was figuring out where I’m going to go and who I’m going with. My flatmate Sarah offered me to stay at her house for a few days, and I gladly accepted that opportunity. Sarah lives in the village of Hawkshead, a small village with a population of 300 that sits right in the middle of the Lake District in northwest England. The Lake District is like no other place in England: it’s full of mountains and meres, tarns, waters, waites (like a mini lake, but not deep enough to be classified as a lake, and these 4 classifications have slight differences to them), and it has its own rich Cumbrian culture. This place is definitely no London, and for all those who say they’ve been to England because they’ve been to London, they have not truly experienced England.
Friday March 30 – This was the last Friday of classes before break began. Since I have no Friday classes, I was able to enjoy my Friday without any interruptions of class. The Taf, Cardiff Uni’s student union pub, organized a special event this Friday: VIP Breakfast Club and Drink the Bar Dry (D.T.B.D.). What does that mean? It means you pay £8 to get a D.T.B.D. T-shirt, breakfast, and entry into The Taf for reduced priced drinks. All the students were leaving for break, and The Taf needed to get rid of its alcohol. It’s a great concept, and the students were eager to help The Taf. The theme of the event was the American West. Here’s the UK’s interpretation of the American West: baked beans at breakfast (though I later found out beans are a part of a “Full English” breakfast), pictures of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood as cowboys, random Indians everywhere, country music, and lots and lots of Confederate flags, with a few American flags thrown in. It was quite a spectacle, and I absolutely loved it, even if they mixed the West and the South up a bit. After breakfast and mimosas, we went straight to The Taf. I won’t go into too much detail here, but I spent the entire afternoon at The Taf and had a great time with friends and new acquaintances. It was a fun way to start off break, and I will never have that experience again. No American university will agree to such an event, and that’s why I love Cardiff so much.
Monday April 2 – Traveling. Traveling, traveling, and more traveling. I swear that’s all I did on this day, oh!, but I did go on a pub crawl, but I’ll get into that later. This is the day we (Sarah & I) traveled from Cardiff to Hawkshead for 6 hours. It included an hour layover in Manchester, 2 train connections, a walk down to Sarah’s mom’s workplace in Windermere, and finally a 20-minute drive to Hawkshead. Thank god I bought some Welsh cakes at the Cardiff Market before we embarked on our journey. Despite the longevity of our trip, it was pleasant viewing the Welsh and English countryside. It’s quite beautiful and green, and nothing like the boring Midwest countryside of endless brown farms.
After we settled in a bit, Sarah’s two high school friends joined us for the infamous Hawkshead pub-crawl. We started at one end of town and crawled our way back to the center of the village, stopping at 6 pubs along the way. The only rule: local ales only. It was a great time, and I got to hear the local Cumbrian accent as well as walk along a ton of sheep. We retired back at Sarah’s for an epic night of Cardiff Monopoly until 2 am. It was definitely a long and busy day.
Like my view?
This was my first time over a style. They keep the sheep from escaping while people use the public footpaths.
One of our 6 pubs
Tuesday April 3 – Forget it being “spring,” on Tuesday, I got to enjoy a nice surprise: a blizzard! Sarah and I were running errands around Ambleside and Hawkshead most of the day, and it was frigid. The week before had 60 degree weather (15°C), so the snow was not a welcome change. I felt bad for Sarah because she was only wearing a sweatshirt, but at least we stopped for some hot chocolate at a local café. We had planned to go see The Hunger Games in the late afternoon, but unfortunately everyone in the L.D. had that same idea, and it was sold out right as we got to the theater (or cinema as the Brits say). We ended up going at the evening show, but driving back home through the blizzard at night was a headache. Props to Sarah for being the expert driver and not crashing us
Where I stayed. The pharmacy is on the ground floor.
Stopping for some mint hot chocolate!
Wednesday April 4 – Edinburgh. This was my one opportunity to travel to Scotland, and Sarah and I decided to make a day trip out of it. We took the train from Oxenholme to Edinburgh Waverly. Of course, starting out on our adventure didn’t go exactly as planned. Firstly, Sarah and opted to have her train tickets delivered to her home, but they never arrived. She needed to buy new tickets at the station. Secondly, we needed to pay £8 for our parking spot at the station. The dumb machine doesn’t take bills, so we had to compile all our change, which only came out to be £7.40. So I stayed out in the freezing cold to guard the car and look for lost change in the parking lot (Brit word= car park). Thirdly, our train was delayed by around 40 minutes. Lastly, I slept for most of the train ride there. I usually don’t oppose to sleeping, but the ride into Scotland has fantastic views through the mountains. These mountains had new snow on them from the day before. Oh well, c’est la vie.
Edinburgh is quite a unique and beautifully old city. It has its own atmosphere that is clearly “Scottish” and not necessarily “British.” We walked around a lot and were the ultimate tourists. We got hop on/hop off tour bus tickets that took us through much of the city while we listened to the Haunted Histories stories of Edinburgh. It was a cold day on the upper deck of the bus, but it was all worth it. The sights were beautiful and historic. We stopped at Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish National Museum. Regrettably, the museum was closing in 5 minutes when we got there, so we ran around the place and saw as much as we could within that 5-minute timeframe.
View of Edinburgh
At Edinburgh Castle
Thursday April 5 – After the past few cold days, the weather finally warmed up a bit, and Sarah and I went on a lovely hike up large hills (possibly mountains) to check out the nice views of the L.D. The Lake District is a huge tourist destination because it has one of the most beautiful vistas in the country. At our highest peak, we had a picnic in a tree and ending up hiking throughout forests for the rest of the day. We walked by a ton of sheep too! Sarah definitely took the city girl out into the country, and it was a wonderful change of scenery. This was probably my favorite day in the L.D. It’s rare I get in touch with nature, and I wish I was able to do it more often.
One of the route signs we passed along the way
At the top. Like the view?
Through the woods
More beautiful sights along the way
Friday April 6 – This was just a lazy, relaxing day. We were recovering from yesterday’s long hike day (or at least I was).
Saturday April 7 – I was traveling back to Cardiff this day, but I decided to make a stop on the way back: Liverpool. I spent about 7 hours in Liverpool sightseeing and going on a Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. On the tour, we went to the childhood homes of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, Strawberry Field, Penny Lane, Brian Epstein’s house, and the Cavern Club. I was definitely the youngest person on the tour, with the average age being 55. The tour guide was hilarious, and he had a thick Liverpudlian accent (I couldn’t understand a word he was saying at times). After the tour, I walked around the docks a bit and headed towards the main shopping district. Liverpool was hosting Manchester United that day for a huge football match, so the city was crazier than normal. All in all, it was a great time, and I’m glad I made my Beatles pilgrimage out there.
My awesome tour bus. I was actually on the Magical Mystery Tour!
“And nothing to get hung about…strawberry fields forever”
Where the Bealtes played over 250 times
My first week of break was definitely exciting, and it was one of the highlights of my study abroad experience. I loved the atmosphere of the Lake District with nature surrounding me, and there was a calming effect waking up to a view of mountains out the window. Whenever I come back to the UK, the Lake District is definitely one of those places I will visit again.