Posts Tagged ‘History’

The Isle of Calypso

Looking through the 658 pictures that I’ve taken thus far, I realize I have to play a serious game of catch-up! I still have some fun pictures from Day 1 and 2 to upload, but I’m going to fast-forward to yesterday’s journey. We woke up to semi-warm Mediterranean sunshine and decided that it would be a good day to take a journey to the Maltese island of Gozo (Maltese: Għawdex, pronounced OW-desh). Gozo’s a quick 20-minute journey by ferry from the mainland and though it was windy, it was definitely a gorgeous view!

[The view of Mellieha on the way down to the ferry was pretty outstanding, too!]

We had a pretty great view of Gozo from the ferry. The island is so small that you can literally see the entire thing and capture it from a camera lens from a distance!

As you can tell, it was a pretty blustery day on the ferry but the views of Gozo were worth standing on the sun deck.

Gozo has been inhabited for around 5000 years and has a ridiculously long and amazing history, so our day was jam-packed. Lesson: If your journey is well-planned (and you’re with some Grade A tour guides who take care of you!), you can see all the major sites in a day. First stop on our agenda?

The Azure Window:

The natural arch is thought to have been created millions of years ago and is absolutely breath-taking! The water is insanely blue and the journey to see the arch close-up is a trek along fossilised rock. Probably one of the most beautiful things I have seen yet!

After our trip to the Window, we headed to the Citadella (didn’t really get any pics there) which is set on the hill of the capital city. It was built as a fortress of sorts to protect the island from attacks. We got to tour the inside and it was pretty awesome! After our mini tour (and a mini bout of rain), we headed to the Ggantija Temples which are a UNESCO Heritage site and date back to around 3500 BC.

By the end of the day, we were officially exhausted and napped on the ferry ride back home! Our tour guides had everything planned perfectly — we got sooo much in during a single day! Gozo’s definitely a nice trip for anyone visiting Malta. And the few Gozitans that populate the small island seemed friendly as well! Fun fact: Gozitans speak a slightly different version of Maltese… a little bit more Arabic-sounding. Just a fun fact to throw in your arsenal of goodies during Trivial Pursuit.

Love from Malta,

Wanna see all the pictures? Click here!


Weekend Wonders.

So, I must let off a tid bit of steam:

A group of friends decided to hit up Barcelona this weekend to enjoy the sunshine and Spanish love before the year started getting heavy with work. I, unfortunately, was operating under the impression that my second paper was due on Monday. I was not alone on this, mind you; there was a group of individuals operating under the same assumption. I discovered, however, that the paper that was ‘due on Monday’ is actually due on November 23rd! Waaaaaay off! Not that I’m not ecstatic that I don’t have to sit here today and work crazily on readings and formulating a cohesive and wondrous essay, but I also missed out on my opportunity to hit up Barcelona! Boooo.

Canterbury Cathedral

That being said, I felt as though staying in London would be a bit of a waste of the weekend. Not that London isn’t amazing, but I do get to live here, so I can see the sights any day of the week (Tate Modern, British Museum, Victoria & Albert, Westminster Abbey, etc., etc.) So, in lieu of hitting up the glorious land of Barcelona, I have decided to coordinate a fun-filled trip to Canterbury! Yes, it’s no 70 degree weather (it’s slated to be 53 and partly sunny), but the way-too-cute town (made famous by Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales… which I’m sure is compulsory for every HS student!) is hosting Kent’s International Arts festival starting on Saturday and there’s the Canterbury Cathedral, home of the 1170 murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket (the Cathedral’s history goes back to 597AD… no big deal)! There is also St. Augustine’s Abbey and St. Martin’s Church which help form the trio of World Heritage Sites. Plus, if that weren’t enough, there are two castles and six museums. So, needless to say, there will be plenty for us to do for a day trip. To top it off, we can get ‘fun fares’ through National Express for 15 pounds or less round trip! It’s about a two hour journey, but it’s above ground, so we’ll actually get to see a couple of hours of British countryside. Definitely excited to not be cooped up in my room writing papers. I’ve decided to make seeing other parts of the UK a priority on weekends like this. If I don’t have academic obligations, seeing Manchester, Newcastle, the Lake District, Brighton, etc. will definitely be on my calendar!

I’ll keep you posted on the amazingness that is Canterbury tomorrow!

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Viva Munchen! {Part II: Dachau}

So, you may recall a post from a few weeks back when I preemptively revealed that we were going to be partaking in Mike’s Bike Tour’s Neuschwanstein Castle tour. We were beyond excited to take a trip out of Central Munich into a remote area. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, a tour group of 34 kids decided they were going to do the tour on the same day, effectively occupying nearly all of the bus’ seats. The few seats that were left over were taken by people who had purchased their tickets the day before, so we were seriously out of luck. We decided, however, that we wanted to do something cultural; the beer tents were accessible, but we had already experienced that madness on Friday. Sarah proposed a visit to nearby Dachau, the site of the first concentration camp.

DachauDachauConcentration CampAlthough visiting a concentration camp wasn’t quite as happy as the castle tour, it was definitely an incredible experience. Consider that we can likely see loads of castles within the UK alone, the fact that we were able to see a Munich-based concentration camp was intense. I had no idea when I arrived, but Dachau was built in the early 1930s and actually served as a model for future camps. The camp and the museum were definitely eye-opening and heart-breaking, but it is something that I truly think would be a benefit to all people to see first hand.

After experiencing Dachau, we explored Olympia Park (the site of the 1972 Summer Olympics) and did a little souvenir shopping. After nabbing a Oktoberfest-inspired eco-tote and das boot (in miniature) I was set for our last night at The Tent. We kept our last night relatively low key, eating in and calming our souls before leaving Sunday morning. We managed to make it back to London in one(ish) piece and found our way around Munich using solely public transportation; definitely a bit of a feat for the neophytic travelers that we are. Note to anyone hitting up M-town: we nabbed a 3 day group pass (good for up to 5 people) for 21 euros, and it covered all of our travel within Munich via tram; such a steal. My overall feel for Munich? Despite the amazing history and some pretty amazing architecture, it’s not a city I would visit again. I think there are some places that are a ‘one time’s enough’ kind of deal and for me, this was one such place. Oktoberfest was amazing and the experience is something that should be had by all, but unless you’re hitting up O-fest, I think there are a number of other cities to better spend some time.

Next stop on the map? Scotland.

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Festivals Galore — Mark Your Calendars!

love parade

In line with my anal preparation tactics, I decided to check out what festivals take place throughout the United Kingdom and other neighboring European countries. I definitely think that planning a trip when a festival is taking place is probably the coolest way to get a glimpse into another culture and meet loads of people (locals and tourists, alike!) So, here’s the rundown of some super cool (and some not so much…) festivals I ran across {in order, based on an academic calendar}; mark your calendars:



12 – 13 // The Thames Festival, free admission {art, music, eats & drinks} // London
12 – 27 // Rye Arts Festival, free admission {art} // Rye, England
17 – 29 // Riverfront Jazz Festival, free admission {music} // Greenwich, England


1-4 // Norwich Food Festival, £30 {food} // East Anglia
9 – 18 // Bewdley Festival, admission fee {drama, music & comedy} // Bewdley, England
9 – 18 // Cheltenham Literature Festival, £20  {literature} // Cheltenham, England
17 – 31 // Canterbury Festival, £20 {theatre, dance, film, talks} // Canterbury


13 – 15 // Good Food Show, £18.50 {food} // London
26 – 31 // Bath Christmas Market, free {arts & crafts} // Bath, Englannd
26 – 29 // St. Nicholas Fayre, free admission {gifts, crafts & produce} // York


1 – 24 // Christkindlesmarktfree admission {market, foods} // Nuremburg, Germany 
4 – 9 // Clothes Show Live, £25 {fashion} // Birmingham
5 – 6 // St. Nicholas’ Day, free admission {holiday, food} // Prague, Czech Rep.
29 – 1 Jan // Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, £ per event, {music, dance, celebration} // Edinburgh


1 // New Year’s Day Parade,  free // London


1 – 8 // Sami Winter Fair, free admission {market, reindeer races} // Jokkmokk, Sweden
15 – 20 // Jorvik Viking Festival, £ varies {historical} // Yorkshire
6 – 16 // Venice Carnival, free admission {masks, parades} // Venice, Italy 
11 – 21 // Berlin Int’l Film Festival, £ per event {film} // Berlin, Germany


12 – 17 // St. Patrick’s Day£ per event {drinks & fireworks} // Dublin
19 // Up Helly Aa, free admission {bonfire, historical} // Brae, Scotland


3 // Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race, free admission {sport} // London
28 – 31 // Faire of Seville, free admission {dance, music} // Seville, Spain


1 – 10 // Dorchester Festival {art, music} // Oxfordshire
8 – 17 // Dulwich Festival, some free events {art, dance} // Greater London 
8 – 22 // Newbury Spring Festival, £ per event {music} // Newbury
8 – 24 // Bury St. Edmunds Festival, £4- 50 per show {arts, theatre} // Suffolk
9 – 15 // Loch Shiel Spring Festival, free admission {chamber music} // Scotland
12 – 23 // Cannes Film Festival, free evening screenings {film} // Cannes
12 – 30 // Prague Spring Music Festival, 20% off for students {music} // Prague, Czech Rep.
23 – 25 // Festa Della Sensa, free admission // Venezia, Italy
21 – 24 // Wave Gothic Meeting, £ TBD {markets, gothic bands} // Leipzig, Germany
21 – 29 // Dumfries & Galloway£ per event {arts, theatre} // Scotland


11 – 26 // Grassington Festival, £5 student standby! {film & art} // Skipton
23 – 27 // Glastonbury Festival, £175 for weekend {music & performing arts} // Glastonbury
22 – 15 Jul // Warwick Int’l Festival, £ per show {performing arts} // Warwickshire
26 – 11 Jul // Hebden Bridge Arts, £ per show {music & arts} //Hebden Bridge


1 – 31 // Grec,  £ varies {music, dance, theatre} // Barcelona, Spain
1 – 31 // Epidaurus Festival, €10 – 15 for student {theatre} // Athens, Greece
4 – 31 // Festival of 2 Towns, most events free {music, arts, dance} // South of France
6 – 11 // Llangollen Int’l Music,  £ based on seating {music} // Wales
7 – 29 // Festival d’ Avignon, € varies per show {art} // Avignon, France
15 – 18 // British Open {sport} // St. Andrews, Scotland
18 – 26 // Whitstable Oyster Festival {food} // Canterbury


1 – 8 // Billingham Int’l Folklore Festival, £ per show {dance & music} // NE England
1 – 9 // Interceltic Festival of Lorient, student discounts {cultural} // Lorient, France 
1 – 15 // Lake District Summer Music, £ per event {music} // Lake District
1 – 31 // Love Parade {culture, art, music} // Duisburg, Germany
4 – 8 // Great British Beer Festival, £6 {eats & drinks} // London
6 – 9 // International Balloon Fiesta, £7 // Bristol
28 – 31 // Edinburgh Int’l Festival, £ per event {arts} // Scotland

There are loads more that could theoretically be included, but many didn’t seem fitting for the demographic that’s likely reading this post (college-aged, 20s to 30s). If you’re interested in a book talk or a seniors literature fair, I’m sure you can google it, but I thought it’d be wise to breeze over it.

Anyone know of any other festivals worth mentioning?

Lots of love,
Signature Stamp - Shannon

The Good, the Bad & the Bleh of Manchester.

Since I gave London it’s proper hype (which it undoubtedly deserved — it’s amazing!) I thought I’d give Manchester it’s props, too! We spent three out seven days in Manchester, so we definitely got a good feel for our little home away from home. Now, let me preface this with the fact that I was leaning towards the University of Manchester as my home for next year primarily because Chris (my boyfriend) is a massive Manchester United fan and the “northern charm” that I’ve heard about incessantly seemed to make it a nice fit.

Our visit was charming enough, but the city didn’t seem to grab me in the same way that Bristol did.
Now, our hotel, The Thistle, was very cute. Definitely a great value for your money on the whole although the internet charges (£5 per hour?!) bummed me out a little; not being able to keep up with the world for three days was more than a little annoying. {Note: this wasn’t only at this hotel — internet doesn’t seem to be a standard hotel amenity in England which is a little saddening… hopefully they’ll catch up soon!} The restaurant that’s a part of the hotel is also not worth the money. We didn’t eat there, mind you, but as a tourist it was on the pricier  side and lacked the real British experience that we were looking for; it’s like eating at the grill inside a Best Western.

We did, however find an eatery that we lovedBella Italia on Piccadilly. The service was FANTASTIC (our waitress was the cutest!), the place was reasonably priced (£25 for both of us including dessert & a drink) and the food was delish! The vegetarian risotto is top-notch and the tiramisu/mascarpone/berry-laden dessert was beyond amazing. The only downside for us was that it was Italian (we didn’t think it was very British of us to be at an Italian restaurant) and that it was romantic. The romantic part could work to your advantage if that’s what you’re looking for — it’s darling — but it was a tad weird for a dad/daughter dinner. We put the candle on another table and all was cured.

An eatery/pub that we didn’t love so much? The Old Monkey. It wasn’t awful, but after finding out that they didn’t have what I wanted (on their already limited list of pub grub) the food that I did get was mediocre (as was my dad’s). The Cider was good, but I’m sure you could get that anywhere. Skip it. Not worth the little money that it cost.


Now, as for sights, on behalf of my father I have to give the Manchester Museum it’s proper due. We loved it for a few reasons.

  1. It’s free! Who doesn’t love free? It’s part of the university so it cost us £0 to meander through there!
  2. The exhibits were amazing. They have new exhibits all the time, but their Egyptian, Mediterranean and Prehistoric sections were awe-inspiring. They had genuine mummies and told the stories of these people that lived thousands of years ago and they had a full T-Rex skeleton on display.
  3. It’s part of the University. This was kind of cool because a) it made the museum free for visitors, and b) donations go to help strengthen the university’s exhibit.

    The Manchester Cathedral also has to get it’s fair notice. This was the first cathedral that my dad and I got to see so we were just amazed at the architecture, the stained glass, the history (built in 1421!) and the story-telling staff. Our friend, Joyce, who we met at the Cathedral told us stories about how it came to be and all of the amazing things that had happened there. Definitely worth a visit. Again, this place is free and it’s walking distance from Piccadilly Station!


    ** Also, just as a side note, if you have time to kill in Manchester, take the train over to the city of Chester. My dad and I spent a day there and it’s the cutest thing ever. It’s a medieval town with buildings (built in the 1100s and 1200s) that have been converted to modern-day shops. Definitely worth seeing!

For anyone that’s been to Manchester– are there any other places that are worth seeing? Any restaurants worth a visit? Spread the word <3.

Manchester University

Manchester University