Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sweden and Denmark

Hello All!

So, I knoooow this was a while ago, but alas, my first weekend trip out of the UK was to Sweden and Denmark!  At first, I was really nervous about getting to the airport and getting through security and customs alright, but all of our travels ended up going more smoothly than I could have hoped for.  We found cheap flights on Ryanair and since I knew I'll be doing a lot of continental travel during April, I wanted to go visit a country a bit more off the beaten path.  In the end, I was amazed by how cool Sweden is!  I didn't really have any expectations about Sweden other than the fact that it would be cold so I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to go there for a weekend.  Ethan and Kelsey, two of my friends from USC who are studying abroad here, agreed to come with me.  We found a decent three person private room in Malmo, in the south of Sweden, where our flights landed.

Boarding in London

Landing in Malmo

After arriving Friday afternoon, I got another stamp in my passport going through customs in Sweden.  Honestly though, they weren't near as strict as when you're traveling into America, but I guess it's understandable since we were traveling within the EU and the USA is pretty ridiculous when it comes to border control.

Anywho, our first day in Malmo we wondered around a bit, getting our bearings, checking out the sites, and admiring the architecture.  We saw some pretty cool buildings along the canal.

On the steps down to the canal, we ran into this little kitty.

And also this really cool fountain.  Yes, it is frozen, but if you got up close to it, there was still water running underneath the ice!  It was the craziest thing I've ever seen!

The ice was so thick I could stand on it!

We passed by this little creature but the description was in Swedish.  It was still interesting!

And another specimen of fine architecture.

This monument was in the central square...we just didn't know what it was for.

That night we found our way to a shopping mall that was advertised on one of the maps we picked up in the airport.  We picked up some ice cream and chocolate in the grocery store and decided to go bowling.  I hadn't been bowling in a while and it was really fun!  

I was really proud of us for navigating the city so well!  Admittedly, Malmo is a pretty small town and the streets are laid out on a fairly easy to navigate grid, but still, all the signs were in Swedish and we still managed!  We've often joked that coming to London has been a crash course in learning how to read maps, but honestly, it really has been!  I don't think I've ever used a street atlas before but ever since I came here I bought my London A-Z and there's been no turning back!  I never realized how useful it is to carry a map, probably because in America I've had an iPhone since before I could drive and a car with GPS so I never actually had to direct myself anywhere.  But, since I have a cheap UK phone without GPS capabilities, I've really taken to using a map.  The A-Z (A to Zed) is great because as long as you can find two street signs, you can look them up in the index then find yourself easily on the map.  Many a time I've set out looking for somewhere in London and had to check the A-Z along the way.  Anywho, the point is, armed with a map in Sweden, we were more than capable of finding our way around.

Our second day, we planned on heading to Copenhagen for a day-trip.  Sweden shocked us with how modern, sleek, and convenient their train system is!  Here's us at the train station.

And we're heading to Denmark!

We really wanted to get our passports stamped on the way into Denmark so we'd have proof that we'd been to more than one country, but even though we got off the train at the Copenhagen airport, we didn't have to go through customs.  Alas, no passport stamp.  I really only wanted it so I could show off all my stamps anyways (hehe).  

Once we got to Copenhagen, we found more frozen canals!  We climbed down to stand on one.  I set my camera on self-timer so we could get this photo.

Some more cool monuments...we didn't really know what anything was, but it was all cool!

This church was gorgeous!

Another cool church.

We found a castle in Denmark!

For some reason, there was a random patch of the moat that wasn't frozen, but the ducks were happy about it!

We stopped by a bakery to get Danishes!

They were so yummy!

Navigating Copenhagen turned out to be rather interesting.  A street sign...what is with all those consonants?

Side note: We figured out that "gaten" must have something to do with street because so many of the street names in Sweden ended in "gaten."  Generally though, with most Swedish words, just look at the first few letters for a Latin root, then ignore the random stream of constants to follow and you can almost understand everything!

On our last day, we decided to walk to the beach...and this is what we found!

Definitely not a California beach...

I wouldn't want to go swimming in this!

Leading to the beach there was a little frozen river, but we couldn't even tell it was a river until we moved the snow and saw the ice!

This building is called the "Turning Torso."  It's the only real sky-scrapper in Malmo.  In the morning when we got there, the fog was so thick we could barely see the building.

But, by later in the day it had cleared up a bit!

Around the building, there was this creepy eye thing.  No idea what it was there for, but sometimes it was really really creepy.

We found this house frozen in one of the canals...pretty sure that's not supposed to happen.  I have no idea how it ended up in the canal in the first place.

There was also a castle in Malmo!  The castle is now a museum, and part of it is the natural history museum.  They had a giraffe in the front!  You could also walk around the castle part and learn about life in the castle in the middle ages.

Once it finally stopped snowing, there was a ton of snow on the ground!  Time for a snow ball fight!

So that's about it!  Sweden and Denmark were a ton of fun!  Someday, I'll have to go back to Sweden, but not during the winter!

Sorry for the delay!  More posts to come :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Off to Wales!

Hello Everyone!

I figured I'd go ahead and give you a heads up that I'm going to Wales this weekend!  It's another one of the USC trips so I don't have to pay!  Yah!  Anyway, I'm terribly sorry that I haven't gotten caught up on posting yet.  Posts always take me a long time, a majority of that time is invested in editing and uploading pictures.  Posts that are picture heavy (like Sweden and Morocco) are always time consuming.  In contrast, my Stratford-Upon-Avon post should be relatively short.  I've already written most of the Sweden post so I promise it won't be too long after I get back before I post it.

In other news, I had a lab report due today.  It was my first major assignment that I've had due this semester (I know I've already been here two months.  I think it's crazy too) and ended up taking considerably more time than I had expected.  So for a change I've actually been busy with course work.  I think it turned out quite well though and I'm rather proud of it.  I also have a paper due next week so there's still a lot to come for me!  Since the British system doesn't assign nearly as many assignments as the American system, it's quite easy to let all these assignments pile up.  So far I've been managing alright though.  Suffering through aerospace engineering at USC has certainly taught me a thing or two about buckling down and getting work done when I need to.  Study hard, play hard!

Anywho, more to come after the weekend.  So sorry for the lack of posting!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Kony 2012

Please take the time to watch this's a bit long, but very powerful.


Oxford Fun

Hello All!

So - first let me say, I'm back from Morocco!!  Morocco was SO amazing, wonderful, exciting, different, beautiful, exhilarating, relaxing, strange, and awesome and totally warrants a really long post detailing everything I did, saw, and experienced while there.  I intend to write this post soon!  But - first, let me catch up on some other posts I've been working on for a while but haven't finished.

A benefit of studying abroad through the USC study abroad office is that since we pay USC tuition which is substantially more expensive than Queen Mary tuition, USC uses all the extra money to organize trips and excursions for us!  The first one was supposed to be a trip to see The 39 Steps in the West End (the London Equivalent of Broadway) but the show ended up being cancelled due to a water main leak!  Thankfully, we were able to reschedule and see the show another time.  It ended up being quite funny and I was very impressed.

Additionally, the USC Alumni Association, London Chapter organized a pub night and invited all the students to join.  It turns out, the band is coming to London later this semester and they are organizing a pub crawl for us all!  That's definitely one of the best things about going to USC is being part of the Trojan Family, even when you're overseas!

Anywho, USC organized a day trip for us to go to Didcot and Oxford.  Didcot is the home of a very old train station and houses a fairly extensive train museum.  They have restored some of the world's oldest trains and have them on display.  We had a guided tour of the museum which turned out great because our guide was an elderly man who had spent most of his life driving trains and pulled out pictures of himself driving some of the trains that were on display.  As one of only three engineers in the group, I think I freaked out some of the humanities majors by geeking out hardcore as we were trekking through their machine shop.

After the train museum in Didcot, we continued our train journey to Oxford.  Oxford was very nice, but different from how I expected it to be.  I guess in my head I envisioned a cross between an ivy league school and Harry Potter, but honestly it was more like a regular small European town.  Certainly, many of the buildings were beautiful, but it wasn't on the scale that I would have expected.  We visited a church where they supposedly filmed some of the great hall scenes in Harry Potter, but it was much smaller than the film made it seem.

Here's some pictures:

I thought the architecture was pretty cool.

Just chillin' and feeling like I'm at Hogwarts.

The "great" hall.  Honestly, the philosophy library at USC is prettier.

We ended the night by going to see Spamalot!  It was a fun show and most definitely ripped off of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  In fact, it was almost exactly the same as the movie.  Unfortunately, our seats were pretty terrible, but that didn't stop us from still getting in a few good laughs.

Anywho, I know this happened ages ago, and I'm so sorry for being the world's worst blogger!  I'm trying to keep up!