A different type of adventure!

I’m not sure if I’ve previously said this, but for most of the year I’m a full-time student. I’m currently in my second year studying Ancient History at the University of Birmingham. For those who aren’t certain what this means exactly, Ancient History looks at the Romans, the Ancient Greeks, the Ancient Egyptians and the civilisations of Western Asia – although this year I’m beginning to specialise more on the topic of the Romans.

Now on the one hand, I could simply limit my blogging to when I go abroad (in my case this would mean outside of the UK). However, I don’t want to do this. I personally believe that you can explore your own country just the same as you would a foreign one. Every single time I visit somewhere new in this amazing country, that is me exploring another small corner of the world. And besides, some people who read my blog don’t even live in England, so for them it truly is still ‘foreign’. On top of that, I don’t like the idea of going months on end without writing anything here – which sadly could potentially happen if I only wrote about my adventures outside of England (one of the disadvantages of being a poor student). So I hope you enjoy my writings about England. I’m sure there will be quite a few posts about Birmingham, but hopefully i’ll be able to do some travelling and see some other places as well!

“Travel. As much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can. Life’s not meant to be lived in one place.” – Unknown

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Home again

Well, this post officially marks the end of my American adventures of the summer 2015. As i’m writing this i’ve now been home for about a month, and I still can’t quite believe it’s been that long since I was on the other side Atlantic! My time spent in America was truly amazing. I won’t lie, I had some low times as well as the highs, both those memories mean just as much to me. There were times at Camp when I just wanted to quit and go home, and even times whilst travelling when part of me wished that I could just be curled up at home on the sofa watching tv with my family.

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But that’s one of the things that I love about travelling. It shows you what’s important, what you miss when you don’t have it. It shows you how incredible the world can be, and yet also points out the things that you love about home that maybe you never noticed before, or don’t appreciate enough. But perhaps most importantly, this summer opened up my eyes once again to how beautiful the world is. To how big and full of adventure it is, and it reminded me that there is a whole world just waiting to be explored.

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“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” Miriam Adeney

Key West – my last American adventure

Now that the trip was officially over, I still had one more full day in Miami. I decided to go on an adventure to Key West. Thankfully, it was easily organised through the hostel I was staying in. They had a big book full of companies organising days out at the front desk, and they simply phoned them and booked me a place on the trip!

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The day started at 7am since it was around a three hour drive down to Key West. The driver was lovely, welcoming all of us and giving us information over the loudspeaker about the area we were driving through. On the bus he told us about the different activities which were available once we arrived, and we were able to sign up to anything which took our fancy.

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I decided to go on a three hour snorkelling trip. The boat ride took about an hour as we heading out to a coral reef, which turned out to actually be the third largest in the world. I have to admit, I didn’t realise that America even had a coral reef! We then had about an hour during which we were able to swim around if we wanted to. Whilst waiting at the harbour I had bought a waterproof case for my iPhone to try and take some photos in case there were some really cool fish etc. Unfortunately, I had some difficultly with it – such as the phone not responding all the time to my touch, and the photos weren’t as good as I would have liked (although this is probably due to the fact that i’m a perfectionist) but it’s still a purchase I’m very happy I made.

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As we sailed to and roof the reef the views were absolutely breathtaking, and it was amazingly peaceful just floating about for an hour. I only snorkelled for about half the time available, although I found this plenty. The rest of the time I spent just looking out at the view of the ocean and the other boats which were nearby. This is definitely a trip I would recommend to others. The staff were incredibly friendly and answered all of our questions as best they could. There were drinks included in the price which was a big relief since it was so unbelievably hot! And of course I inevitably got chatting to some of the other people on the trip, which is always nice.

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Once back on shore I decided to walk down to Point 0. This is literally the southernmost point in the United States of America. There’s a concrete marker which was established in 1983 marking the spot, which in all honestly is the only thing that really marks the spot out. The views of the ocean were stunning though, and it’s something that I think is just a bit different to be able to say that you’ve done. Also, it’s now something else that I can tick off my wanderlust bucket list, which is always a plus for me! Unsurprisingly this is one of the most visited and photographed parts of Key West.

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Key West was truly gorgeous. Just walking down the street to Point 0 there were so many different things to look at. There were art displays, beautiful gnarly trees which looked like something an artist would dream up, random tricks with sea shells stuck all over it! In many ways it was exactly how I imagined an American sea-side town to be. The houses had the old fashioned, brightly coloured shutters, there were knackered looking trucks driving around everywhere and even chickens running wild across the streets!

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Key West was, in a word, incredible. It was perhaps one of my favourite days of the my entire time in America and is certainly one that I seem to talk about the most. I’m so happy that I decided to go on this day out instead of simply sitting on the Miami beaches (although, that would also have been a lovely way to spend the day). It was a fantastic way to spend my last day in America, and is something I would 100% recommend to anyone who asks me.

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We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls” – Anais Nin

Miami

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Our last stop on our tour was Miami. I spent the first day wandering down the beach and having exploring the local area. I made the decision not to sunbathe as it was simply so hot that I knew I would inevitably get sunburnt. And to be honest, the concept of traveling home whilst sunburnt was not particularly appealing!

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The beaches in Miami were absolutely gorgeous. So much so that I would absolutely rank them in the top three beaches I have ever been to in my life. There were numerous shops just a street away from the beach and so I was able to spend a few hours happily pottering around and seeing what they had to offer.

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Sadly it was our last evening together as a group. After traveling together for two weeks and spending almost all of our time together it was a strange thought that soon we would all be apart and spread all over the UK. It was an amazing trip and the people truly did make it the experience that it was. I count myself very lucky that I was able to be part of a group where everybody not only got on, but were friends and were able to have a great laugh together. It’s a company that I would look at again if I planned to re-visit the US. If you’re looking to explore America on your own, I would absolutely recommend this company. It made travelling on my own seem a far less daunting prospect and it was an amazing experience.

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“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton

Universal Studios Part 4 (A.K.A. Men In Black, Simpsons, ET and the Minions)

With only a few hours left until we were due to be picked up, we had to quickly try and fit in everything else we wanted to do! After agreeing which rides we wanted to give priority to the group made our way to the Men In Black ride (which, would you guess, is another favourite of mine!) This was a fantastic ride and actually a little bit different to others in the park. The story line is that you are a trainee agent attempting to become a Man In Black. The ride goes in groups of four and each individual has a laser gun. As the ride progresses you have to try and shoot as many aliens as you can. It was fantastic fun even for us adults -and I must admit we did get quite competitive. It was also nice to have a ride where you’re actually doing something yourself. I would definitely recommend making this ride a priority.

IMG_6578We then walked through the Simpson area of the park. I have to admit I don’t really watch the Simpsons that much, but it was still pretty cool to see all of the characters and the buildings from the show. Since we didn’t have much time left we made the decision not to go on the ride in this area, although it did look very good fun.

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Instead, we made our way to the E.T. ride which, up to this point, we had believed was out of order. Now I have to admit I’m also not a massive fan of E.T. I watched it when I was quite young and I didn’t really like it, although that may be more due to the fact that I was too young to appreciate it. Perhaps it had something to do with my lack of enthusiasm for the movie but I wasn’t particularly impressed by this ride. But who knows, maybe a massive fan of the film would tell me that I’m totally wrong and that it’s the best ride at the park! I suppose it’s all a matter of personal preferences.

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Our last ride was the Minions! This was possibly one of my favourite parts of the entire park. Yes, I do happen to love the Minions – what’s not to love about them! But the animation on this ride was truly incredible. The storyline was very entertaining and you genuinely couldn’t help but loose yourself in the moment. This is something I would recommend to anyone, no matter what their age!

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Sadly we never had the chance to go on the parks largest roller coaster. It had been raining on and off throughout the day and thus the ride had been closed for most of our time there. About an hour before we were due to leave we saw that the ride was finally working again and made our way over. After waiting in line for almost an hour (the longest we had had to wait for the entire day) we were due to be the next ones on the ride. Tragically however, this is when it started to absolutely bucket it down and the ride was forced to stop once again. In any other situation I would have stubbornly stood there until they told us that the ride was 100% not going to re-open. Sadly we weren’t able to wait around as we were due to be picked up. It was really annoying, but at least this means I have another thing to look forward to when I go back to Universal!

So what on earth can I say to sum up this day? Incredible, amazing, hilarious, fantastic, dream come true. Nothing seems to quite capture the experience. Corny, but true. The day was amazing fun and I think especially so for me because I am such a film enthusiast. This is honestly somewhere that everyone can find something that they like, no matter what their age or preferences. It’s somewhere I believe everyone should go if they had the chance and I will continue raving about it to anyone who will listen to me!

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” Dalai Lama

Universal Studios – Part 3 (A.K.A. Suss Landing, Atlantis, Shrek, Transformers and The Mummy)

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As we walked around the park we next came to the Dr Seuss area. I really enjoyed the Dr Seuss books growing up, and I still love some of his work even today. Looking around I couldn’t quite comprehend that everything was truly real. It genuinely all looks as though it has suddenly sprung out from the book, and in many ways it looks as though a cartoon has genuinely come to life. In two words – very impressive. I would absolutely recommend this as a place to go if you have children – especially because the rides in this part of the theme park were aimed for the slightly younger ages. Despite this, it was still amazing to go there simply to have a look around.

IMG_6508_2IMG_6509_2From there we travelled on to a strange looking part of the park that in all honesty, I didn’t really understand. I think it was meant to be a sort of Atlantis, mystical styled world. It did look really cool though I have to admit – I couldn’t believe how large some of the decorative structures were! On the map it said that there was a ride or show called ‘Poseidon’s Fury.’ I don’t really know what this is as the group decided that they weren’t particularly bothered about this part of the park so we didn’t explore it. Plus, we were all beginning to get really hungry so we decided to go get some lunch! If I get the chance to go back to the park I would like to have another opportunity to explore this area properly and to finally find out what Poseidon’s Fury is!

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For lunch we went to a really nice Mexican restaurant. Sadly I can’t remember the name, but it was pretty distinctive due to the fact that the exterior of the building was literally multi-coloured. The food there was incredible and the waiter was so lovely that I had absolutely no problem tipping him extra. Also, to my surprise it wasn’t too expensive, so this is definitely somewhere I would recommend eating!

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After lunch we decided to go and see a couple of the 4D shows to allow our bodies some time to digest the absurd amount of food that we had all just consumed! First we went to go see the Shrek show which was absolutely INCREDIBLE. I was a little worried that this may be really childish but honestly I thought it was hilarious and I am so pleased that I went to go see it. (And this definitely has nothing to do with the fact that Shrek is one of my favourite films)

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Next up was the transformers ride which was also brilliant fun. Again, nothing to do with the fact that it’s also one of my top favourite movies!

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IMG_6566Then it was the turn of the Mummy! Ok so there definitely seems to be a trend here of me admitting that these films are all my favourite. But seriously, I never realised how many of my favourite films were actually made by Universal. The Mummy truly does have a special place in my heart though. Watching it as a child was the first time I had ever really seen anything about Ancient Egypt and it’s what first made me interested in it. Now at the age of 20 i’m at University studying Ancient History and today had a lecture about inscriptions found in Ancient Egypt – guess it really did have an impact on me!