Good morning! I was able to get my photos from this weekend uploaded rather quickly today, so I thought I would go ahead and post them! I struggle with really capturing landscapes — I personally think they are very hard to photograph. Maybe because I don’t have an eye for it, or maybe because I feel my pictures never really do the scenery justice. We had beautiful weather the entire time, but that means in most of these photos the sun was shining directly into my shot, so please ignore all the light spots!
I caught a train out of Euston Station on Friday, which ended up being quite a stressful experience. Maybe I was spoiled by the ease of my Eurostar trip to Paris, but attempting to leave the city center on a Friday night, during rush hour was quite a different animal. I was lucky enough to finally find an empty seat in a four-person seating area, and so I sat with a father and his two young daughters who were also headed to the Lake District. We played card games to pass the time and the girls were both very funny – they reminded me of my two nieces. And I have to say that when they got off at the stop before mine, I was sad to see them go!
My train was a bit late, and by the time I (and about 8 other IFSA students) arrived in Penrith there was a van waiting to take us from the town to our accommodations. When I got to my hostel, I found out they had made a goof and moved a girl into my spot (without giving her a key) but when I checked in my name had not been crossed off and they gave me a key! It wasn’t until I got up to my room that I realized we were one bed short, and by then the front desk had closed for the night. So, the first night I slept on the floor, which didn’t feel so bad when I fell asleep, but was very bad by the time I woke up. The hostel fixed it the next day! We stayed at Borrowdale, which is part of the YHA group. It was nice, and had clean rooms and bathrooms, as well as a self-catering kitchen that was orderly and sanitary looking (although we had our meals prepared for us!).
So far, I’m 2 for 2 on staying at good European hostels! (Not counting the occasional mishap i.e. male roommates in Paris, and then sleeping on the floor Friday night!) But considering all the horror stories I’ve heard, I think I’ve done pretty well for myself!
Saturday morning, we were up early for breakfast and then we were driven down the road to Glaramara (one of two other hostels that IFSA students were staying at) to meet up with the rest of the group. There were tons of activities to choose from — canoeing, rock climbing, mine tours, archery, via ferrata (climbing across a mountain face using iron rods hammered into the the rock, hooked in by a cable on your back — no thanks), and gorge scrambling which is exactly what it sounds like — crawling through tunnels, over small waterfalls and down drops in the rivers. I chose the sightseeing tour as my first choice because most of the other activities I have either done before or had no interest in doing (anything with “scrambling” in the name is not really my style). Most required multiple changes of athletic wear, and my Nike shorts or leggings just weren’t going to cut it that far north, especially not with freezing cold water involved! And, since I had never been to the Lake District before, I wanted to see as much of it as I could.
So from Glaramara, we boarded a small bus for our sightseeing tour. It was a total of about nine people and our very nice driver/tour guide, a smaller group than I had thought would’ve signed up. I thought that I might would regret not doing one of the other activities but it ended up being wonderful! We were driving around and getting on and off the bus from about 9AM until 5PM – it was a long and bumpy day! We saw several of the lakes, took a short hike up to a waterfall, went up into a couple of small villages like Martindale and Watendlath (“village” meaning about four or five farms) and we stopped in to the town of Grasmere – well-known for its gingerbread and home of Wadsworth’s Dove Cottage (hence the term, Lake Poets). I was surprised by how many people there were in the towns and at a lot of our stopping points – I imagined it much smaller! But it was bustling and our driver told me they don’t really have an off-season, though in the summer months, the population will nearly triple. There are visitors almost year-round, except for the very dead of winter. We drove past a Saturday market in the main square of town and there was a giant crowd of people perusing the local fruit and veg, crafts and other produce.
There were small streams and brooks everywhere, and miles upon miles of hand-laid “dry stone” walls — walls hundreds of years old that have no mortar or glue but are made by interlocking rocks on top of one another. They were incredible and much more beautiful than the usual chicken wire or metal railings you see on farms today! It was amazing to look up into the hills and see them stretched up and down the sides of these mountains. I can’t imagine the time it took to build them all!
There were so many walls because there were so many SHEEP!!!! (Hereafter, may be referred to as sheepies!) I have never seen so many sheep in my life. And these were proper sheep, too – with big wooly coats – who really said, “Baaaaa”!! There were so many different kinds, including a native Cumbrian breed called Herdwick sheep, which are born all black as lambies and then turn a light brown/gray color. We saw black sheep, white sheep, white sheep with black faces, black sheep with white faces. SO MANY SHEEPIES! I was in farm heaven. They were all so adorable! I squealed every time I saw one. Now I can add sheep to my list of animals that I must own.
List of Animals I Want (This is the unfinished list, if you were curious):
– A mini pig
– Three sheepies
– A goose
– Two cows
– An octopus
And now you know why I have to get a good job when I grow up! Land and animal food are expensive!
On Sunday, we packed up our stuff and loaded up the buses, which took us into the nearest town – Keswick (pronounced like Kizik) and we got to spend about two hours walking around and seeing the shops – although we did skip the pencil museum. We stopped in for lunch at a local tea room, where I opted for a hot chocolate. When we finished, we all jumped back on the bus for the long trip home!
It was such a wonderful trip and I am so glad that I was able to go! Right now, I’ve finished my morning lecture and am killing some time at a cafe, cradling a latte outside, until my afternoon lecture. Then I’m afraid it’s off to the library for me! I’ve got to catch up on some reading from this weekend!