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 CafĂ©. 


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!