Monday, October 3, 2011

Way Too Long Since My Last Post.....

Over a month since my last post!  Way too long.  I'll try and catch up in bits and pieces.

I survived my Dream Ten Years in the Making Trip.  I spent a few hours on a bus getting to Tirgoviste and eventually found Vlad the Impaler's palace.  I walked all the way around the outside before I found the entrance, which was through a gap in a gate.  Much longer and I would've scaled the walls.  There was a photo tax and entrance fee, but you're free to walk around all of the ruins. 

Not everything is labeled, but there are some signs that tell you, in English and in Romanian, what was going on in certain sections of the palace and the time period.  I wandered around all of the grounds, saving Chindiei for last.  Chindiei was a watch tower that the Impaler commissioned.  You can go up inside.  The stairs are questionable right inside the door, and going down was even more fun.  From the top you can see the entire palace complex and get a great view of the city.  Watch your head if you're tall.  The door is shorter than I am, and I'm 5'3"!  Gorgeous place.  I'd live there if I could.

I spent two nights in Tirgoviste, and after spending most of the day in the palace complex, I returned to my hotel and prepared for my next adventure--Castle Dracula.  Yes, there is a real Castle Dracula.  It is NOT Castle Bran, near the small village called Bran.  That is the Hollywood Castle Dracula.  The real one is near the village of Arefu.  I spent most of the day travelling, but I met some great people. 

I hitchhiked for part of the way.  It is safe, but you've got to use common sense.  Bad things could happen to you.  I didn't have my knife with me, so I was extremely paranoid, but I had my keys with me.  They never left my hand.  I went to one of the four bus stations in Tirgoviste, trying to find a way to get to Curtea de Arges, which is where I would take a mini bus to Castle Dracula.  The only bus I found was leaving at 3 pm and going to Pitesti.  It was 9 am.  Ok no.  I went to the road that led out of town going in the direction of Campulung (on the way to Curtea de Arges), and a man walked up to me.  I don't speak Romanian, and he soon figured that out.  He spoke Spanish, and so do I.  How crazy is that?!  My Spidey-senses weren't tingling, so I pointed to Curtea de Arges on my list of locations.  He nodded, we agreed on a price (120 lei, approx. $40) and I got in his car.  We spoke in Spanish for about 2 hours. 

When we arrived in a small town, we picked up Vlad.  Yes, his name was Vlad.  He was about my age, early 20's, and he translated from Romanian to English for the remainder of the trip, about an hour or so.  Vlad and I parted with our driver in Campulung, and we walked across town to the next bus station, where we just made the next mini bus to the city of Pitesti.  Vlad said that Pitesti would have a mini bus that would get me to Castle Dracula.  At the bus station there, we tried to find the bus in question, but we were at the wrong one.  A man approached us and offered to take me wherever I needed to go.  Every nerve in my body screamed NO!  He was a creeper.  A sketchy, shifty creeper.  Vlad said something to him and pulled me away quickly.  Apparently, Vlad said, the man thought I was rich and manipulative.  Ok...?

Anyway...that's the teaser.  I'll update more later. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Word on Products

Being me, I'm not a fan of changing products I've grown accustomed to, so I was curious as to the kinds of products available in Europe.  It sounds ridiculous and may seem narrow minded, selfish, and generally foolish, but this was just one more thing on my mind while I was packing for travels not only to Harlaxton but also to Romania.  In my travels I've learned that products Americans love are basically worldwide, well, at least in the countries I visited, and there is no further need to worry.  Every country is obviously going to have its own types of products.

For example, Romania's soap/shampoo/conditioner is under the name Wash-N-Go, and it works.  In Romania, you can also get the Western brands like Pantene, Clean and Clear, and Dove in pharmacies (Farmacie), although they will be more expensive.  England has other Western brands that we all know and love (the above mentioned in addition to Degree, Fructis Garnier, Olay).  Ladies, Always, Kotex, and Tampax are available from England to Romania.  I checked.  And if you find the need for them, Durex condoms were available everywhere was well. 

In my travels, I have also discovered that food is essentially the same.  The chocolate in Romania is absolutely delicious.  Milka is, I think, the best.  I found Snickers, KitKats, and Skittles, Orbit gum, as well as Mt Dew, Coca Cola, Sprite, and Pepsi.  I even found Pringles and Nutella.  England and the Western countries are closer to the States.  Just the other night I found Hot Pockets in ASDA, and I was thrilled to pieces. 

For the most part, products from soap, shampoo, and food are available in the Western countries. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Dream Ten Years in the Making.......

I've been in Bucharest now for about 24 hours.  I don't see why it gets such a bad reputation.  I'm leaving in the morning, and I haven't had many problems.  As long as you stick to the streets (not alleys) and get in before dark unless you have at least one other person, I see no reason why it is a terrible place in the eyes of so many. 

I started in Cluj, where my flight left around 7 pm.  We landed in Bucharest around 8 and I found the express bus (783) to take me to the hostel.  I stayed for two nights at the Midland Youth Hostel on Strada Biserica Amzei.  It is directly off the bus stop Piata Romana.  It is a very laid back place, mostly young adults here, although there are some older folk.  Free internet, check out is at noon, and there are a number of small cafes nearby.  One of the managers was fantastic and very helpful, and I didn't have any problems, but one of the other managers turned his music on his computer to the complete max, and then turning the speakers up all the way (on a porn video, by the way).  I met some really awesome people from all over the world.  There is a Metro (Piata Romana) and there are bus stops on the main road where I got off the express bus from the airport. 

My plan for today was to see Snagov Monastery, where Vlad the Impaler was allegedly buried, Curtea Veche, the Old Court of Bucharest, and the Vlad the Impaler room at the National Museum of History.  I was successful in only one of those, unfortunately.  My first "stop" was Snagov.  That alone is a story.  Before I arrived in Romania, I looked online for the easiest and cheapest way to get to the Monastery, which is 30 kilometers north of Bucharest.  I found a review written by other travellers who listed a route, landmarks, prices, and everything.  They were as follows: get on the M2 Metro line and go to Aviarotilor; exit the station and head toward Piata Presei Libere (they recommended going through the park, which is about a 30 minute walk, and you'll see a small carnival and Hard Rock Cafe at the exit of the park).  At Piata Presei Libere, you should see some mini buses, and you should find the one marked 444, which will take you to Snagov.  The directions also stated to have the driver stop at the train tracks so you could get off and go left and follow the road to the lake to Complex Astoria and ask for a boat. 

Well, here is what I did.  I went to Aviarotilor, walked through the park, and found the Hard Rock Cafe and Piata Presei Libere.  I did not find the minibuses.  I went to a couple different taxi drivers before I finally found one who knew Snagov.  There were several questions, attempts at Romanian, and asking people on the street before we got to Snagov and found Strada Monasterea Vlad Tepes.  We went to the end of the road and the taxi driver asked for that fraction of the payment.  You should never do that, but he was there when I got back, but still...don't do it.  I walked across the bridge and got into the Monastery (15 lei, plus a 20 euro photo tax).  It's small, but it's gorgeous inside.  Murals cover the place.  There are tombs around the walls and some posters with pictures and information about Vlad and his connections with Snagov.  The priest gave a history of the Monastery in Romanian so I didn't know what he was saying, but I could pick out names so I knew what he was talking about. I paid the photo tax and took pictures, walked around the outside, and went back to the taxi.  I'm ashamed at this, but I paid about 140 lei, round trip, for the trip to Snagov.  Next time, I will try to find the minibuses and check with tourist agencies because that's sad.  Ugh.  Oh well.  Honestly, though, even though I paid that much, I think it was worth it.  I'm really glad I got to see Snagov, even if the other two were unsuccessful. 

I walked around trying to find Curtea Veche based on the directions I had, and obviously that was a failure.  I did find the museum, and I couldn't pass up relicas of Trajan's Column at my eye level.  Gigantic panels, exact replicas, explanations in English...I couldn't just leave it.  :D  I saw the National Treasure room, which has artifacts from the aristocracy and royalty of the people living in Romania from the Bronze Age to the present day.  The Vlad the Impaler room was closed, and will be closed for several months, so that was disappointing.  However, all of this means that I have to come back. 

Tomorrow morning I'll leave for Targoviste to see Vlad the Impaler's main palace.  I know that palace and museum will be open.  If it's not, I may just have to jump some fences. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Vlad the Impaler Research

On 19 July, my research trip will commence.  I have waited ten years to see some of the places I'm going to visit.  I'm actually leaving the excavation to do research for my senior thesis on Vlad the Impaler.

I'll take a bus, or hitch hike, from Zalau to Cluj, and from there fly to Bucharest.  I'll spend one day in Bucharest doing research in the Vlad the Impaler room at the National Museum of History, Snagov Monastery, and then Curtea Veche (the Old Court).  After that, I'll go to Targoviste, where I will see Vlad's palace, Curtea Domneasca and Turnul Chindiei (his tower), and then spend a day seeing his private fortress in the Transylvanian Alps before returning to Bucharest and then Cluj on 23 July. 

I am kind of excited. 

I've been to Sighisoara already, last weekend.  I had hoped that I would be able to spend some time looking at the palaces and finding the documents and other contacts for research and my own personal mission, so it is fantastic that I actually get to leave an excavation and go see all of it.  It hasn't sank in yet that I am actually going to see what I've waited to see for so long, but I am very excited to go. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


So it's been more than two weeks since my last post.  I've decided I should keep up to date on the happenings here in Romania.

I'm working at a Roman military fort that was one of five major sites along the limes, the border.  Porolissum was officially established in 106 CE by the Roman emperor Trajan after his conquest of the Dacians.  It was abandoned around 270, when Emperor Aurelian decided to shrink the Empire as a defense.  We are excavating what we believe to be part of the forum, but we change our minds based on the evidence we excavate.  It has been so wonderful so far, and I will be sad to leave, but we've got quite a bit more digging to do and I am going to try to come back next summer and then again in the fall.

The field crew has uncovered quite a bit since we’ve been here.  We’ve now got 5 trenches open, and possibly a sixth is coming later, but since we’ve only got 2.5 weeks left, who knows.  So far in my two trenches, I’ve found bones (joints, long bones, ribs, jaws, large animals, small animals, teeth, and claws), pottery (plates, including one with a serpent design, and other vessels), some shells, glass fragments, and some iron.  It is possible that there was a hypocaust (heating) system where we are digging now, and we’ve uncovered several tiles that fit the description.  In addition to that, we’ve uncovered several stamped tiles that reveal the identity of the auxiliary cohors that were there, such as soldiers from Gaul, Spain, Thrace, and even one from Britannia.  Other impressions include dog prints, finger prints (some of which you can see the lines), and what we think might be a foot print.  It is so incredible to trace your fingers around an ancient Daco-Roman’s fingerprint, or place your hand where their dog stepped into the wet clay.  It is so cool.   

We have a pet sheep called Pepe who rides in a car with his owner, Giţa, and sometimes in the trunk. Giţa's dog, Puppy, runs alongside the car and eats leftovers and basically everything else. They live in the nearby town of Moigrad, which is the location of the local bar and on the way to the city of Zalau, where we all go when we need internet or food.  Romanian workers from the area help us with excavating, and they are mostly teenagers and they teach us words.  We’ve learned quite a bit, things like numbers, colors, and useful phrases, in addition to phrases that are not so useful but rather bad but entertaining nonetheless.  We work Monday through Friday from 8 to 5 with a one hour lunch break at noon.  A local woman cooks lunch and dinner for us and the food is delicious. Pork is usually on the menu, along with cabbage, rice, or potatoes.  After excavating, dinner isn’t until 7 or so, so we mostly just chill.  We don’t have much water because it has to be pumped in, and we only light our fire (our water heater) every  other day, so we shower on days that the fire is lit and chill on the others. There is drinking going on, of course, but I’m not much of a drinker, so I sit there and chat.

For the first few days, it was so cold, and so rainy, and we were miserable.  The weather in Romania is very much like the northern United States and Canada, so bring warm clothes if you visit.  Apart from rain and cold, it’s hot, but it’s not quite as humid as the Midwest in the States, at least where we are.  I visited Sighişoara this past weekend and it was fairly humid there.  On days where it is either too rainy or too hot, we wash artifacts (in the same buckets where we wash our clothes).  On a few occasions, our site director has given lectures on archaeological methods and such. 

It has been fantastic here so far.  There have been a few episodes involving the intoxication of some of our crew, but afterwards it makes for great laughs and gossip.  We’ve got 2.5 weeks left, and they will fly. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Newest Adventure....

The day after tomorrow I will begin my journey to Romania.  After a bus ride to Chicago, my flight lands in London on Tuesday morning.  I will be spending all of Tuesday day and night in Heathrow before boarding a flight for Cluj, Romania, at 6am Wednesday morning.  I will go from London to Vienna to Cluj, and be spending the night in none other than the Hotel Transilvania before meeting the rest of the excavation crew on Thursday, June 23 at another hotel, which is odd but oh well.  On the way back, it'll be a pit stop in Munich.  I'm hoping I get stamps from these places cool is that?

I'm not entirely sure how much internet access I will have after I leave, but I'll do my best to post fairly regularly.  It will be a fantastic adventure, and I'm just ready to get there.  I'm not so excited for the flights.  I don't mind flying, but the 8 hour + overnight flight to London just drags on.  Oh well.  I'm going.  It's not like I have a TARDIS or Vortex Manipulator. 

S'pose I should give a refresher on the excavation in Romania.  It is a Roman fort, and it was one of the last outposts of Romanized civilization before the "land of the barbarians."  It was about the size of Pompeii, around 20,000 people, including soldiers.  Wood has been preserved there, as well as clay tablets and other inscriptions.  There is an amphitheater.  It looks gorgeous from the pictures, and I cannot wait to get there and snoop. 

The area had been occupied by the Dacians and Celts prior to the Romans, but the fort was not built on a previous settlement.  The site flourished during the Roman period, kinda fell a little bit after the Romans left, but a Roman lifestyle prevailed after the fall of the Empire.  There were some problems in the early medieval period, and then the site was gradually abandoned after the 7th century CE, as the village beneath the fort grew.  This village exists today and the villages often help with the excavations.  We're about 10 miles or so from the nearest city, so we aren't too far in the boondocks but just far enough. 

I cannot wait.  I have a trowel, and there is a hole in the backyard to prove it.  I cannot wait to play in the dirt, in the sun, with the bugs, the heat, native food, culture, langauge, and even ancient culture.  I get to participate in Roman Days, a festival celebrating the Roman occupation.  I just cannot wait to see Romania. 

(I can't resist this....)  Allons-y!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


York:  York was awesome.  We had to see the Jorvik Viking Center, where I also found Scratch-n-Sniff postcards that I proudly shipped to my family.  I couldn't resist.  The reconstruction was smelled, um, interesting.  We also found the Roman baths that were there and tried on Roman armor.  That was exciting.  I also found a police box money bank, and I couldn't leave it there.  We visited Clifford's Tower, which is on top of a big hill in the middle of the city.  You can't miss it.  In the 12th century, Jews and nobles were trapped inside as the townspeople rebelled.  They set the Tower on fire rather than face the mob.  There are stains on the wall where people were burned.  And we would not have been allowed back on the coach if we did not see York Minster--a gorgeous cathedral.  Five Sister’s Window is there, and it is the largest piece of stained glass in the world.  There was a statue of Emperor Constantine next to York Minster, and some lunatics climbed up and sat on it.  Ugh.  Oh, if you go to York, you must go to Little Betty’s Tea shop.  Best tea in England, expensive, but absolutely delicious.  It’s right next to the House of the Trembling Madness Café. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Internships and Field Work

I've had three internships in my undergraduate career so far, 4 if you want to get technical but that was just listed as an internships so I could get credit for it.  In addition, I've worked at one field school and I'm leaving for another in two weeks exactly.  In other words, I've got quite a bit of work experience under my belt. 

My first internship came from an arts and sciences museum in my hometown between my freshman and sophomore year of University.  I did 150 hours for 3 credit hours (while jostling two classes!), but I ended with 254 because I was co-directing the first ever Harry Potter Planetarium Show.  I played Tonks, and it was quite a lot of fun.  I interned with the Education Department, so I was exposed to virtually every aspect of the museum.  I watched the exhibits and helped people there, I played with children in the children's discovery center, where they learned about gravity, air pressure, and things like that through playing.  I designed my own summer camp activity that was incorporated into their summer camp.  Since I'm an archaeology major, I did something related:  I had the participants decorate clay pots, break them, and put them back together.  They loved it!  They said it was a challenge, but it was very fun nonetheless.  I was also able to dissect sheep brains for the public in association with one of our exhibits at the time.  I was a little happier than usual after the demonstrations (ahem...formaldehyde).  Overall it was a great experience.  I learned new skills in dealing with the public, other museums, handling many large projects at once, and I really enjoyed it. 

My second internship was with a Cultural Resource Management firm.  CRM deals with the identification of sites in areas that are about to be developed.  Coal mine companies, construction companies, and the Department of Transportation call CRM firms to investigate areas that they are going to be working on to see if there is a valuable archaeological site within the construction zone.  CRM archaeologists also do some rescue archaeology.  For example, I helped with the removal of a 19th century cemetery from a logging area.  Mostly, however, it is surveying and reports.  Rarely does a CRM firm actually go to a full-scale excavation.  I helped survey on a couple of projects, but I mostly cleaned the artifacts that were found.  Toward the end of my internship I learned cataloging and inking, as well as getting them ready for a museum.  I also helped write the reports on the sites.  My main project, however, was putting together a spreadsheet of historic maps of all of the counties in the state.  That took most of the semester, but I did start on another project, which entailed looking for chert in the tri-state region.  I did not get credit for this internship, but it was paid.  I learned the workings of CRM, seeing the artifacts from excavation to museum, and what goes into surveying and reports.  I really enjoyed this internship as well. 

My third and current internship is at a children's museum 40 minutes away from my house.  This one is entirely volunteer, no pay, no credit.  I love it.  I am technically an intern with the Education department.  I was signed on to help, and actually design, one of the main parts of the summer camp.  It is archaeology related so of course I am right at home.  It is a week-long camp for ages 7-12 and I'm planning one of their rotations.  Unfortunately I won't help with the camp itself.  I will be in Romania, but it has been very fun planning it.  I'm also helping with a daily science lab for the museum visitors.  Each month is a new theme, and each week is a new activity.  The monthly themes are done in the afternoon, while the weekly themes are in the morning.  Each session is an hour, but if we're bored or busy we stay open.  The kids and the staff like it when we stay open.  More play time!  Apart from that I help out on the floor or wherever.  Hopefully I will be back next summer, because this is a very fun place to work! 

My first excavation was last summer in Kampsville, Illinois.  I received credit for it, and it was amazing to work here.  I worked at a very small excavation site near the Illinois River, and also at the base of a limestone cliff, which is great for preservation!  We found whole shells, fragile bones, even  jaw from a gar.  The pottery was better at the base of the cliff rather than the rest of the site.  The Middle Woodlanders who lived here chose to put their midden pit at the base of the cliff.  Whoo hoo!!!  On the very last day, I found a sherd concentration (rim sherds, shoulder sherds, body sherds, you name it).  There were seven that I could see, and there were more, plus a bone, underneath.  Of course, it was the last day, and unfortunately I couldn't stay.  We learned proper excavation techniques and field journals and such, in addition to cleaning and tabulating artifacts.  We also learned to make Cherokee-style baskets and how to flint knap.  My flint knapping skills are not great, but I got a pretty good cutting utensil!  I miss my field crew, but I'm looking forward to this summer! 

This summer, and I'm leaving in exactly two weeks, I will be traveling to Romania to work at a Roman fort.  I am so excited to work here I can't even describe it to you.  I will say that when I received my acceptance email from the director I just about jumped through the ceiling. 


Monday, May 30, 2011

Academic Experiences

So, I'm a geek.  I'll admit it.  I love Roman and medieval history and archaeology and I want to go into the archaeology of Eastern Europe, focusing on the medieval period.  I'll be a senior in the fall and I'm not planning on graduate school for about a year after that.  I want to work in the field and some museums. 

So far, I've been to two conferences and a third is planned for next winter.  I observed an academic conference my freshman year and then presented my sophomore year at the Regional Phi Alpha Theta conferences.  My junior year I couldn't present at Regionals because I was in England, but I did go to Pennsylvania to present at a conference there.  This year I'm hoping to present at least twice, once at the National Phi Alpha Theta conference and again at our Regionals.  If I get to present in Pennsylvania again I would jump at the chance.  I love presenting my work and getting feedback on it. 

My work is on Vlad the Impaler, and I've done numerous papers on him.  My strongest topic so far has been presented.  I'm working on it for my senior thesis at University and it will be the basis of my career.  I have many ideas and not enough time!  I already have the book planned, and my advisor for my senior thesis told me to keep it under 100 pages.  That's great, at least I know that I'll have no trouble for my Master's.  I think that my thesis will be on the upper end of the page limits (30-50 pages).  I'm looking forward to writing it.  I'm planning on a clean start, not using one of my other papers as a basis, which is what I normally do.  New paper, new research, new everything.  I have more documents and books than I probably should, but I like researching the Impaler.  I'm not goth, I'm not emo, or anything.  I'm fairly normal as far as geeks go.  Well, if geeks can be normal.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Venice/Florence/Rome:  Ten days in Italy at the end of the year, after school ended.  Wonderful trip.  I cannot wait to go back to Italy, especially Rome.  We saw the Rialto Markets in Venice, and walked all over the place.  I geeked out again because an episode of Doctor Who took place in Venice, so I checked out the water.  I saw what seemed like thousands of Venetian masks, all of which were gorgeous, and if I had money, I would’ve brought more back.  We did some more walking around in Florence.  We did see Pisa, and the archaeology museum in Florence, as well as the Duomo.  We were in Florence during Easter so we watched the Eastern celebrations.  That was incredible.  Some of the participants were dressed in full armor and full costume.  They have a burning cart, which is loaded with fireworks and they set it off.  When we were in Rome, we did what most tourists do when in Rome...Coliseum, Forum, Trajan's Column and Markets, Palatine Museum, Capitoline Museum, Pantheon, the Circus Maximus, and I managed to get to Pompeii and Ostia.  By the way, if you want your picture taken with a re-enactor, be ready for fork out 5 Euros.  There was no way I was doing that when I could take their picture from a distance, so I got out of that one.  We didn't see the Ara Pacis, Hadrian's Villa, the Baths of Diocletion, the Baths of Caracalla, the Catacombs, and a few other things, but it was still awesome.  I can assure you that I am going back. 


Pompeii and Ostia:  I loved Pompeii and Ostia.  We took a 2-3 hour train ride from Rome to Naples, and then a mini-train, called Circumvesuviana, to Pompeii.  Circumvesuviana would also have taken us to Boscoreale, an ancient Roman villa.  My original plan for Pompeii was to visit Aemilius Celer’s house, as we learned about him in one of my first classes at University.  I had a map, I was ready, we got there, and the street was blocked off.  We couldn’t get to it.  My professor thought that that was the area that had seen many collapsed walls and such, and a tour guide said that there were “better things to see,” which is true but I wanted to see that house!  Oh well.  We got to see the House of the Faun, the Villa of the Mysteries, the Amphitheater, granaries, and just being in Pompeii was a complete blast (no pun intended, ahem, Vesuvius ;}).  The preservation in Pompeii is fantastic, unlike Ostia.   Ostia, the ancient port of Rome, is about 20 miles from the city on the Metro.  It has its own Metro stop, and the ancient site is about a block from the station.  The preservation at Ostia was not good.  Walls were still there, but they were crumbling.  It was sad to see.  I, being an archaeologist, investigated everything, including areas that were probably off limits.  I charged through weeds and tall grass and didn’t get attacked by insects or people.  The mosaics were gorgeous, and we saw the Basilica of Maxentius.    

Oxford, Bath, Salisbury, Stonehenge

Oxford/Bath/Salisbury/Stonehenge:  We got pretty close to Stonehenge, closer than I thought we could get from all the pictures I've seen.  It was very cool.  I stole the 11th Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver from someone (Doctor Who thing) and took it to Stonehenge and got pictures.  He sent me the song "Stonehenge" by Spinal Tap and told me to play it at the site.  I didn't because I couldn't get my iPod to work.  We didn’t have much time at Stonehenge, but being an archaeology major and studying Stonehenge in class on multiple occasions, it was incredible to see.  I did a nerd dance on the earthworks around the stones.  We walked around Oxford and saw the University's bookstore, which is where most of our school books come from.  The Roman baths in Bath were great, but I'd like to go back and go through the museum again and spend more time there.  Salisbury occupied our afternoon, along with hail and a horrendous downpour.  We got there in time to see Salisbury Cathedral, with a 465’ spire, the tallest one in the world.  We also ate Burger King for lunch in Salisbury and waited out the rain, so it was a pretty fun trip. 


Cambridge:  Before we arrived in Cambridge, we stopped at the American WWI and WWII cemetery outside the city. We saw King's College and King's College Chapel, and a Round Church, one of very few left in the world.  Over 30 colleges make up Cambridge University.  It was a cold and rainy day but I enjoyed the trip. 

Cadbury and Birmingham

Cadbury and Birmingham:  You may or may not know, Cadbury chocolate is located at Cadbury World near Birmingham.  We went there.  Oh my goodness.  It was DELICIOUS!!!  We ate chocolate straight from the vat, wrote our names in chocolate, ate free chocolate, bought some more.  Yum.  In Birmingham we saw the Bull Ring...the largest mall I have ever visited and possibly the craziest I ever will visit.  Avoid the place at Christmas, or you may never be seen again!


Lincoln: Lincoln was so cold, and rainy, but it was good.  The Steep Hill...whoa.  I hope you're in shape if you attempt that one with a backpack.  There is a great view of the town at the bottom of the hill, but the Castle, Cathedral, and Roman ruins are at the top.  Anyway, of course we saw Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle.  We saw a Norman pillar in Lincoln Cathedral, as well as a Roman mosaic, and the cathedral itself is wonderful to look at.  If you go, you must find the Imp.  Lincoln Castle is a motte-and-bailey castle (a castle built on a hill) and was used continuously from the 11th century to today.  It was built in the 1080’s.  The courthouse is there.  In the 12th century, Stephen (a contender for the throne) and Matilda (another contender) fought at Lincoln.  One was at the Castle, the other was at the Cathedral, and they fired arrows at each other.  Must’ve been a fun time.  The drawbridge is in the original place, and the walls are about 10-20 feet lower than they were 1,000 years ago.  Also, one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta is at Lincoln Castle.  I saw it.  I geeked out.  Lincoln Castle also has the only remaining Victorian pulpit in the world.  Lucy Tower, in the Castle, was formerly the gallows, and the last people to be hanged were executed there in the mid-1800’s and buried in the tower. Cobb Tower, across the bailey from Lucy Tower, was Norman, and has a great view of the Cathedral, as well as graffiti carved by Teutonic knights when they were imprisoned there.  In addition to those two, we went on a Roman tour of Lincoln, formerly Lindum Colonia.  The Roman arch is still there, the one that the Ninth Legion marched under on their way to quell Boudicca's rebellion.  Overall, Lincoln was a great place to see. 


Paris:  Honestly, Paris wasn't as awesome as I thought it would be.  It is a wonderful city...if you have money to shop, which we didn’t.  College students with money?  I think not.  We did find an H&M.  I really like that place.  It’s best described as the American Old Navy, only nicer.  We did see the Eiffel Tower (and we did go up), and the National Assembly, the Catacombs (go, it is an absolute must-see).  We didn't get to the Sewers because we couldn't find them.  We couldn't find the Bastille either, but we saw the square, and people were protesting something so we saw the police in riot gear.  Always a good time when that happens.  We saw France's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier/Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Palace of Versailles.  The Louvre is a day in itself, but we only spent a few hours there.  We were accosted by people asking for money for the “deaf, blind, and dumb,” but they understood every word we said despite them apparently being deaf.  The Palace was a day trip in itself.  We walked all through the Palace and down the Grand Canal, and then to Marie Antoinette’s hamlet.  We came back to see the Eiffel Tower light up at night.   Right across the street from the Eiffel Tower (across from the Northern pillar of it), there is a nice little stand that sells delicious crepes.  You pay 3 Euros for it but it hits the spot when you have the munchies.  I also saw a Corvette in Paris...never thought I would see a Corvette in Europe, but I did.  Our hotel also had toilet paper that had an expiration date printed on the roll.  It had expired a few weeks prior to our arrival. 


York:  York was awesome.  We had to see the Jorvik Viking Center, where I also found Scratch-n-Sniff postcards that I proudly shipped to my family.  I couldn't resist.  The reconstruction was smelled, um, interesting.  We also found the Roman baths that were there and tried on Roman armor.  That was exciting.  I also found a police box money bank, and I couldn't leave it there.  We visited Chester's Tower, which is on top of a big hill in the middle of the city.  You can't miss it.  In the 12th century, Jews and nobles were trapped inside as the townspeople rebelled.  They set the Tower on fire rather than face the mob.  There are stains on the wall where people were burned.  And we would not have been allowed back on the coach if we did not see York Minster--a gorgeous cathedral.  Five Sister’s Window is there, and it is the largest piece of stained glass in the world.  There was a statue of Emperor Constantine next to York Minster, and some lunatics climbed up and sat on it.  Ugh.  Oh, if you go to York, you must go to Little Betty’s Tea shop.  Best tea in England, expensive, but absolutely delicious.  It’s right next to the House of the Trembling Madness Café. 


Chester, Llanberis, and Llandudno:  Chester had a Roman amphitheater, Roman/medieval walls, and was just a fun little town.  We drove through Llanberis before we arrived at Llandudno.  We stayed in Llandudno, in a beach-front hotel, for a few days.  It was freezing, but it was alright.  We walked along the beach, and around town.  I got my first pair of boots there as well.  Tip: don't wear Converse on the beach in Wales, especially when you have a crack in the bottom of both.  Bad things will happen to you (..luckily, I packed extra socks!).  We also saw Caernofon Castle, where the Princes of Wales are crowned and often lived.  Prince Charles was crowned there.  In Llanberis, we saw Doldabarn Castle, which is in complete ruins.  All that is left is the keep and a few of the foundation stones from the rest of it, but we did go inside the keep.  Doldabarn is right next to a little town with the best food in England, apparently, and they had a Nando’s (convenient story, in American terms).  Nando’s sells “American style Coca Cola,” which, does NOT taste like American Coke.  It’s close but not quite.  On the way back we stopped at Snowdonia and visited a waterfall. 

Ireland and Scotland

Dublin and Galway:  We drove from our school to Holyhead in Wales, where we boarded an Irish Ferry at 2 in the morning for a 3-hour trip across the Irish Sea to Dublin.  We had breakfast in a hotel (that we would return to in a few days) and then drove across the country on our way to Galway, where we would spend two days.  We visited a 6th century monastery, Clonmacnoise, on the way to Galway.  Clonmacnoise was founded by Saint Ciaran in the 540’s, and he is buried there.  There were so many gravestones, and many of them were his contemporaries, and some were as recent as the early 1800’s.  We also saw the Cliffs of Moher and a little teeny tiny town called Doolin, which has more street signs at the end of the main road than in my entire town back in the States.  We saw the Spanish steps and had Jalepenos in Galway.  In Dublin I got to see the Four Courts, Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral, Stephen's Green, Trinity College, and the statue of Daniel O'Connell.  We took the overnight Irish Ferry to get to Ireland, and then came back the same way.  We drove back through Northern Wales and stopped at Llanfair PG (it has one of the longest names in the world).

Edinburgh and Hadrian's Wall:  After a six-hour drive, we arrived in Edinburgh.  The Royal Mile was fantastic.  I found a gorgeous dress that I am bent on returning to find.  We saw the Palace of Holyrood and Edinburgh Castle, where we also met Braveheart.  I found a police box that was very similar to the TARDIS from Doctor Who.  We climbed what we thought was Arthur’s Seat, which is a gigantic hill.  When we reached the summit we discovered that what we climbed was in fact not Arthur’s Seat, so we renamed it Arthur’s Footstool.  The real mountain was behind the one we climbed.  On the way back to school, we stopped at Housesteads Fort on Hadrian's Wall.  Sadly we only had 45 minutes there, but it was still cool.  I stood on a 2,000 year old wall and climbed in a 2,000 year old drain.  We also made a pit stop at the border between England and Scotland, where we took pictures on both sides of the rock that has “Scotland” on one side and “England” on the other.

Nottingham and Sheffield

Nottingham and Sheffield:  These two were not in the same trip, but in Sheffield I visited the University of Sheffield, School of Archaeology (a possible choice of grad schools).  A former colleague of mine went to Sheffield and she was visiting England and some friends in Sheffield so I spent the afternoon there with them.  Lovely city. 

I went to Nottingham twice.  I saw one of the oldest pubs in England (Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, established in 1189) and this pub is built into the foundation rocks of Nottingham Castle.  I also ate at said pub.  ‘Twas delicious.  We went to another pub called the Pit and the Pendulum.  Think Dungeons and Dragons.  That was a great little place too.  Of course, being geeks, we visited Forbidden Planet, which has Doctor Who stuff.  The guy I was with had bought me a Dalek keychain a couple weeks prior, and then he added a TARDIS keychain to my collection.  I liked Nottingham, and I would like to revisit it.

London and the Doctor Who Experience

London:  London was the first school trip, the second weekend we were there.  They took 150 students to London and essentially turned us loose.  We had the misfortune of visiting London in January, so whatever snow was there at one point was now slush and disgusting.  It rained, and it was cold, but that’s England so it was fantastic.  Despite the weather, we saw the Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, the British Library, the London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court Palace, the Cenotaph, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, Boudicca's statue that is right next to Parliament, Millennium Bridge, a statue of Trajan, a pirate ship, Shakespeare's Globe, Tower Bridge, the famous red double decker buses, and I went to the Doctor Who Experience later in the trip.  We couldn’t pass up Harrod’s.  I bought a bag there, and the original price was over 60 GBP.  By a stroke of luck, I only paid 13 for it.  London was my favorite place.   Rome came in a very close second, but London was my favorite city. 

The Doctor Who Experience:  Whoo hoo!! It was an awesome day!  We took a 6am train to London and got to the exhibition hall and wandered around for a bit.  The walk-through was fantastic, I actually got to fly the TARDIS (a replica, of course, but it doesn’t matter).  We had a great time.  We met Steven Moffat, the writer of the new series.  I got to play with a life-size Dalek, and I actually elbowed children out of the way to do it.  I love the Daleks.  Honestly, I work quite well with children.  We got our pictures taken with the Daleks, the Cybermen, and we took pictures of everything.  It was absolutely marvelous, and I’m hoping we get to go back in August. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


So, I lived in England for four months, the best four months of my life so far.  I studied abroad through my University and joined 177 other students on the trip of a lifetime.  I left January 6 and came back on April 30.  I visited London, Stonehenge, Oxford, Cambridge, York, Edinburgh, Paris, Bath, Salisbury, Lincoln, Florence, Venice, Rome, Nottingham, Dublin, Galway, Llanberis, Llandudno, Chester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Cadbury, Hadrian's Wall, Pompeii, Ostia, and Llanfair PG.  We stayed in a small town and lived in a 19th century Manor, or Carriage House in some cases.  Gorgeous place.  When the sun hit it just right, the stones turned gold.  I was one of the students who lived in the Carriage House, but everyone had classes in the Manor.  The estate itself is mentioned in the Domesday Book (written in ca. 1070, you know, right after the Norman Conquest in 1066).  The town associated with the Manor has a post office that is also the convenient store.  Next time, I will spend more time exploring this small village.  The chimney pots look like chess pieces.  Many of the towns in England (York, Chester, and Cambridge) had chess piece chimney pots.  According to a cab driver, they were like guards.  The town most of us went to for supplies (food, the pub, clothes, etc.) was 3 miles away.  We frequented a place called ASDA.  Americans call it Wal-Mart.  Saturdays in the town are a wild place.  I saw two guys dressed up Aladdin-style (with cardboard magic carpets, too) walking around.  Honestly, I cannot wait to return to England in August. 

The Costume Ball:  We had a costume ball at the end of the semester.  I bought the dress I wore the same day, in Nottingham.  I took my boyfriend, who is British and lives locally.  He went as the Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who, and I wore a late Victorian-style dress, with black velvet corset top and a maroon pearl skirt.  He wanted to see the Manor, so we spent most of our time walking around the Manor so he could check it out.  We did dance for a little bit at the end of the night, though.  It was a wonderful weekend. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Introductory Post!

Hello!  My name is Rachel, and I am an archaeology and history double major.  I'm going into my senior year in the fall, and I have done a great many things over the past few years.  It wasn't enough to fly a plane at age 11 or drive Corvettes at the age of 18.  In the last three years I've been on excavations, worked in museums, dissected brains, presented groundbreaking research, and lived in England for four months.  And I am not done yet.  These are my Adventures Abroad....and then some!  Allons-y!