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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Loneliness of an Isolated Nut

Howdy, folks. I think an update is in order. It's been a while, and I have actually traveled a bit!

So in September (yes, September) my mom came out to visit for about a week. That means travel! We explored York, Manchester, and Liverpool. Liverpool, though, we've done before. So I'll just ignore Liverpool.

Now, York is amazing. Absolutely incredible. I highly recommend it as a place to visit if you're coming to the UK for a trip. Umm... trying to do this by memory is horrible. I also recommend not waiting 3 months before telling people about your trip.
Anyway, in York we visited a fair amount of places. There was York Dungeons (AWESOME), we did a ghost walk (tradition, y'all), walked the York city walls, walked The Shambles, saw random key buildings as you do (like York Minster), York's Chocolate Story (tradition again, y'all), Jorvik Viking Centre... and others. I know, so descriptive. My highlights? Definitely Jorvik Viking Centre, York Dungeons, and, actually, probably Clifford's Tower, of all things. To be honest, everything in York is well worth the time, money, etc. It's such a great city to explore! Absolutely gorgeous as well, and it fits for any traveler's desires. Shopping on The Shambles, walking along the city wall, history in the museums, and absolute fun in the dungeons. I can't recommend York highly enough!

Manchester... Manchester sucks. Sorry to anyone who lives there. The only reason my mom and I went to Manchester was to see... ready for this?...

Roger Waters!!!!!!

I know!!!! It was amazing!!!! The Beatles are my absolute favorite band, and Paul McCartney's concert would be top of my list, you'd think, but Roger Waters bumped him down to second. 

Sorry, Paul.

Y'all, he was incredible. He performed The Wall, and he did such an amazing job including the audience, being theatrical, singing spot on... ahhhh I'd see him again in a heartbeat. 

Yeah, I don't have much to say. Oh! I get to go home on Saturday! Flying out at 5.55am! I'm really excited, minus the whole airplane part... So. Many. Hours. Sat. Still. Anyway, it's been nearly a year since I was in the US. I don't mind so much, and I hardly ever get home sick, but my accent needs sorting out. At least once a week someone tells me my accent is messed up. Seriously, it's like... some funky hybrid. I've even upped my dosage of country music, and it's still gone horribly wrong! If you're reading this for tips on studying abroad, I assure you that will not happen within one year or one semester. You may pick up some slang, but your accent isn't going to change much. I've been out here about two and a half years and it's only just starting to really change. 

In other news, I've recently taken up the hobby of walking around Bangor after dark. To be fair, that's any time after 4pm. However, I usually go out after 6 at least. I just love it. I love walking around by myself in the dark. I know, Imma end up dead. Ha jokes. That's not happening in Bangor any time soon. I've never felt safer. Don't worry! I'm still on my guard 24/7. I think the best part of my walks is when I venture up to Roman Camp. Granted, the only scary part is know I lack coordination and grace. I haven't ended up on my butt yet, but I'm sure that's going to happen anytime now. If I could, though, I'd just ditch my entire life, go walking, and never stop. Just me and my iPod. I love it. It's the best way to explore places as well. I recommend venturing out and getting lost on a regular basis. Just don't get too lost... You know, I really love that I am directionally challenged.

Right-o. I think that's it for now. I honestly can't think of anything else to say! 

Nos da!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bustin' Shins

I actually don't have much to say! Just wanted to update on my experiences in the magical land of Cymru.

So a few weeks ago, on the 2nd of August I do believe, I went canyoning with some friends from my course. It was LEGIT. I don't have any pictures because, after the Christmas holidays of 2011, we all know that I cannot handle a camera (or a phone) near water. Here's a picture of what it looked like, though.


Now as I'm sure we all know, this isn't exactly how it looked. I was actually in a wetsuit and helmet. But there you have it.

Ok, ok, I'm in an incredibly weird mood today. Here's what we actually probably looked like:


This actually is a picture from the river we were on. I have to admit, canyoning isn't nearly as extreme as I thought it would be, but it was awesome. I absolutely loved it. It's becoming increasingly popular all over the world, so take advantage of it! I highly recommend canyoning or gorge walking/scrambling. You basically suit up in a wetsuit, helmet, and life jacket type thing then walk down a river. There are times when you walk, times when you do a sort of doggy paddle, and times when you're sliding down a rapid on your butt. There was also a spot where we were hooked to a rope lowered down a waterfall. It was so cool. The water is absolutely freezing, but you're having too much fun to really notice. And the scenery? Gorgeous. At the end there was a cliff we jumped off of into a deep part of the river. Ha, it was a bit insane. As I was stood there to jump I thought, 'Why am I doing this?!' and then I did it again. I don't think it was as high as the bridge in Lehi, UT that I'd jumped into the Jordan River from with my brothers, but it was still high enough to make you hesitate for a moment. Y'all, seriously, go canyoning! If you're in North Wales, the company I went with is Snowdonia Adventure Activities, and they were great. They provide all the equipment as long as you inform them beforehand that you will need a wetsuit, etc. 

Ha, be careful in the river, though. I banged my knee really hard against a rock coming off a rapid. Later when I changed out of my wetsuit I noticed what looked like a cut on my shin. It wasn't really a cut, but this massive bruise. My shin was so tender for about 3 days. It was also pretty swollen... and I've never seen a swollen shin in my life. Oh! So fun fact, every time you hit your shin and it hardens/grows back you get these dents. I've got a massive ridge on my left shin now where I whacked it, but my scar's finally gone. It was quite nasty looking. 

Umm, yeah. In a couple of weeks my mom and Aunt Cherri are coming out to visit. We're gonna explore Manchester and York, so be ready for future updates in the land of England. Oh, and I just might possibly be seeing Roger Waters perform The Wall in Manchester with my mom... I lie, I am definitely seeing Roger Waters perform The Wall in Manchester with my mom. IT'S AWESOME.


Right-o, that's all for my life of British exploration at the moment. Adios muchachos!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Constipated Cow

Y'all, a miracle has occurred. I have tales (good 'uns) to tell. Well, good to me anyway. Happy days!

So sometime in June, I think it was, I climbed Snowdon for the first time. That's right, ladies and gents, I can officially claim to be a student of Bangor University! You're not a real student til you've climbed Snowdon. 

All students climb Snowdon, but only the best have an epic mountain pose.


Snowdon was so cool, y'all! I've not done a lot of mountain climbing/walking. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure Timpanogas near Lehi, UT is the extent of my mountain career (which is pretty cool; go to Timpanogas if you get the chance). Living in Texas, your mountain experience is pretty limited... although I've kind of always wanted to be one of those mountain dwellers.

This was me in my past life.


 I love nature. Right, enough of these boring Cook thoughts, time for more Snowdon words!


WELCOME TO HELL.
(Just kidding. IT'S AMAZING!)

We went up Miner's Path, as shown above, and then came back down via Llanberis path. Miner's is an intermediate path that starts relatively flat. It's the second half of the climb that gets pretty intense. It's absolutely gorgeous and worth every second of heart rate elevation! Sorry, I had to let my sport science poke out. I think it's about 3 miles long... Llanberis is a slight incline (errr... decline for us..) the whole way, but it's 6 miles long. It takes you right into Llanberis, which is a pretty awesome town in Wales. They've got loads of outdoor activities to do and tons of outdoor shops. I bought my first map!

You can call me Dora.

So the climb up Miner's was incredible. Plus we were lucky enough to have clear weather and plenty of shine! It didn't stop the top from being absolutely freezing though. Anyway, here are some shots on the way up.


Amy and I giving the thumbs up that, yes, there's still oxygen present.

LAKE!

This is the plaque for the ancient church pictured below. 

I should have scaled the walls.


Amy and Jamie lookin' fly.

Aaaand another view.

I'm just including this one because, despite my crappy abilities as a photographer, I think I did a pretty nice job with this one!

This post is up near the top. People wedge a penny in for good luck, I think? I did it just because I can. Awwww yeaaah!





Believe it or not, there is a way to cheat the mountain.
Take the train.

There's a dial at the very peak of Snowdon. It points to different places from that spot.

Another view from the top! The sun was trying to break through the clouds that had moved in.


This is the view as we descended down the Llanberis path.

THE LLANBERIS PATH!

I just loved the color of the buildings in Llanberis. It made me think of the beach homes in Galveston.

Right. Those are some pictures from Snowdon. Not gonna lie, I'm completely out of it today, so my ability to write this post is.... nonexistent.

So this summer I'm living with my friend, Kim, and her family in Star out on the island of Anglesey because my new home is unavailable to me until September. I'm also working a job I hate, but that's beside the point. I'm surviving. Right! So what does living on Anglesey mean? It means every night as I fall asleep, I hear 

This guy.

To be fair, I also hear a noise that I can only describe as a constipated cow. The thought also crossed my mind that it could be a cow who has just been slaughtered for my dinner.

I thought I would hate living on Anglesey to be perfectly honest. It's 5.5 miles outside of Bangor, not a big deal, but still... Star is the middle of nowhere. I grew up in Benbrook, TX, a suburb of Fort Worth. It was pretty small town, but I had a bit city within a few minutes drive. Star is smaller than Benbrook, and Bangor isn't exactly a massive city. I absolutely love living on Anglesey, though. My boss has lent me a bicycle so I don't die on my way to work in the morning (I refuse to take the bus when my legs work perfectly fine, but there's no sidewalk for part of the 3.5 mile journey). Oh snap! That reminds me of another story to tell! You're in for a treat. It's coming briefly.
Anyway, there's so much cycling to be done on Anglesey! I've not done a whole lot of exploring yet, but I've done enough to know I'm going to love my time on Anglesey. My ultimate goal is to cycle to Holyhead, about 21 miles. I know I can do it because I've cycled that distance before. I've just not been cycling in over a year, so I'm building the strength up first. Gonna be good, though! So far I've cycled around Llanddaniel and discovered Bryn Celli Ddu. 

A.K.A. BURIAL CHAMBER!

I was just cycling around, minding my own business, and I saw a sign that said 'Burial Chamber' and pointed down a pedestrian path. I broke the law, cycled down the pedestrian path, and found my way to...

A bridge...

And then sheep.

And more sheep.

But never fear, there was a burial chamber at the end of the path. A few bugs committed suicide on my face before arriving, but I got there.


Inside the chamber.

It was pretty cool. A nice find methinks. I did have the thought to camp out there, not gonna lie.

So that was that cycle fun. I also have another adventure of cycling to tell. This is the one I mentioned previously.
I'd bought this old bicycle off ebay thinking if I gave it enough love, attention, and frustration, I could get it good as new. 

GIVE ME YOUR LOVE.

This is Xavy, my crappy bicycle. I've actually saved that photo on my computer as 'crappy bicycle'. I fixed the tires, greased it up, did everything in my power to make it awesome. Two problems: 1) The bicycle seat has been tightened so tight I can neither tighten it nor loosen it yet it still slowly slides down; 2) This bicycle is from the 1980s and has downtube gear shifters. The seat problem was surmountable until I couldn't loosen the bolt... now it's kind of stuck. I've asked other people to give it a go as well, and they couldn't either. The gear problem? I felt like I was going to die. I do not have the balance for this.

So for the test run after fixing this bicycle (before I knew about the problems) I decided to ride to Beaumaris from Bangor. I kid you not, this was the scariest ride of my life. I've ridden my bicycle through the thickest of traffic in America, weaving in and out, around cars. I've cycled in the dead of night and the brightest of days. I've crashed my bike so many times I can't remember. There are two times I could have died (not even exaggerating). This, however, was the scariest ride of my life. In the UK the roads are incredibly narrow compared to the US, you ride on the left side of the road, I couldn't shift gears to adjust for hills, there were no sidewalks for most of the ride (so I couldn't even opt for that), the road was windy, and British drivers terrify me. I kid you not, the whole time I prayed, 'Please don't let me die, please don't let me die, please don't let me die...' while sloooooooowly sinking on my bicycle seat. My parents laughed cruelly when I told them of this part.

My mom laughs like this.
'YOUR SINKING MISERY!'

Right, so the ride was terrifying. Beaumaris was beautiful though! Hence the 'beau'?

Beaumaris coast!

Coastal path

I just love this photo... even though it's lopsided...

I've only just realized that I only took pictures of the water/beach rather than the town... ha. Y'all should know by now that I am not a good picture taker. I'm so bad I can't even substitute 'picture taker' for the more appropriate term 'photographer'. BAM!

Beaumaris was cool. I survived the roundtrip, had a sore butt thanks to that 1980s seat, and enjoyed wandering around Beaumaris. There's a castle there as well, but I didn't have money on me (I'm not the wisest when I go places... a story on that for you momentarily) so I couldn't go in. It's only a fiver to get in, I think, so it'd be worth it.

Anyway, oh, yeah, I actually crashed my bicycle on the way back from Beaumaris. I was cycling along a road that had a sidewalk... and I decided to try to hop up onto the sidewalk because the curb was practically a driveway... but it wasn't. Wiped out *on the sidewalk*. I was in a pretty foul mood with this stupid bicycle at this point (the seat was all the way down and being stuck on one gear was not fun), so I just walked the last mile, silently cursing Xavy all the way. Luckily no road rash for me this time!

Right, that's my cycling so far. Ok, ready for a funny non-Wales related story? You know how I don't take things with me when I go places? Well, I never usually take my phone with me to the gym. One day, a couple of weeks ago before I moved out of my house in Bangor, I'd gone to the gym. I consciously left my phone at home. At this point I was the only one living in the house. With no more threats to the sanctity of my bedroom from Jess (we prank each other), I leave everything unlocked and open in the house. Because of this I didn't grab my keys to lock my door, so I didn't have my keys when I left the house. I got to the gym in a state of sweet bliss. It was once I was leaving that I realized 'crap, I don't have my keys'.

He's not the idiot abroad.
I am.


I can pick locks and have successfully done our front door a few times. Unfortunately for me, I don't usually carry my lock picking set with me (I do now). I went to Morrisons to buy some paper clips to make a makeshift tension wrench and pick for the front door. The paper clip was too weak to act as a tension wrench, though, and I didn't have anything else that could substitute for it, so I was out of luck. The only person I could contact was my previous housemate, Carla, to ask her to let me in since she still had her key. I didn't know if she was home so I went to the library and logged onto Facebook to message her. She never responded so I messaged Jess to ask her to call Carla. Carla didn't answer her phone. Jess didn't have her husband's number, so I messaged my friend, Jade. Jade didn't have it either. So I messaged a guy in our church congregation and he gave me the number. I gave the number to Jade, Jade called Matthew, Matthew gave the phone to Carla. Carla got onto Facebook and saw the message. Got into the house about an hour later.
Such fun!

Oh, and just a fun fact for y'all! I live 1.5 miles outside of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

Yes, this is a real place. No, I can't say the name. I can't even spell it... I had to copy and paste that sucker...

Say it. I dare you.

I know, this isn't the normal tourist picture people take. I just saw it and thought, 'Hey! The name!' 
Anyway, I just call it LLanfair PG because I'm American. A lot of people call it that, actually. Welsh and English alike. This village is pretty quaint. I love it.

That, my friends, is the extent of my adventures in Wales thus far. I realized while walking back from Bangor today that I had quite a bit to say, so I thought I'd share with the world. Stay tuned. I'm going gorge walking next week. Heck yes!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Heya folks!

Right, so, not gonna lie, my life's been pretty dull travel-wise. I've been doing research in my spare time, so haven't had the time to do a whole lot of outside travel. Bangor is as rainy and chilly as ever. Ha, it even rained me out as I flew home for the Christmas holidays.

So, I've been thinking long and hard, and I think it's time to retire this blog. I'm still going to do trips (Edinburgh next month!), but my time studying abroad has, in a way, ended since I'm permanently a student at Bangor University. I'll update if I do any traveling and have tips, but other than that this blog's going to be chilling on the down low.

Thanks for reading, y'all! I hope this blog has been somewhat helpful for those of you going to study abroad. If anyone has questions, just shoot me an email and I'm more than happy to help out.

Happy New Year and Merry Christmas!