Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010

A Year in Review…
2010 is coming to a close, and what a year it has been! I started the year off with an amazing trip to West Africa with group students from Randolph-Macon. Ghana was such an amazing place and I had the opportunity to hike to a 1000 foot waterfall, take a canopy walk through the African jungle, and teach 4th graders at an orphanage. It truly was the trip of a lifetime and I came back forever changed.

The year rolled on and this summer the travel bug hit me yet again. I travelled for 2 weeks to Greece with two friends. Greece was a place that I had always wanted to visit, and it truly lived up to its expectations! The islands were beautiful, and I loved catching rays of the beach, riding around Santorini on a vespa, and eating Greek food.  

My brother David graduated from College in May and I travelled up to Slippery Rock, PA to celebrate with him and his friends. He now lives and works in Baltimore and adopted a 5 year old English bulldog named Hurley.  My best friend of 21 years, Michelle, got married this summer. I was able to help throw her a bridal shower, bachelorette weekend at Ocean City, and was one of her bridesmaids in her wedding. The wedding was in Blacksburg so it was great to visit my alma mater one last time before moving across the world.

In July an opportunity came knocking on my door. After a 6 month job search I was offered a new position at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Within a month packed up my house, received a work visa, and moved across the pond to the UK.  I have never looked back, and have been enjoying being able to travel abroad. I have been living here for 4 months and have joined a travel volleyball team and visited Prague, Holland, London, and other parts of Scotland. My job is better than I ever could have imagined, and am looking forward to my upcoming birthday trip to Spain and Portugal this April when my mom comes for a visit!

2010 has been an adventure of a lifetime! I travelled to 6 countries, changed jobs, and started a new life in the UK. I wanted to take a few moments to thank all of you who supported and encouraged me this year to move abroad, especially my amazing parents! It has been one of the best decisions I have ever made and have grown professionally and personally. Looking back at 2010 I never thought I would have been where I am today, but thanks to all of your support I am living my dream of living abroad. Wishing you a Happy New Year from Scotland. ~Katie

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Christmas Holiday

Since the 17th of December I have been on the go. I first flew from Edinburgh to Amsterdam, and with all of the winter storms I keep saying it was a Christmas miracle I made it! I met up with my friend Meredith Loken and soon her mom, dad, and brother followed. I have known the Loken family for 15 years so I was really excited to be able to spend the holiday's with friends I consider as close as family. After spending  5 days traveling in Holland, and visiting The Heineken Factory, we ventured to London for Christmas. We rented a flat in London which is used as a cooking school. It was very neat to spend the holiday in such a cool house, and gave us time to relax after long days of sightseeing.  We spent a week visiting all of the famous sites and on Christmas Santa Came to London! When it was time to leave we took at train from London directly into Edinburgh.

I was so excited to host my first house guests and the Loken's and I have been checking out some great sites in Edinburgh I have been waiting to see with friends. Yesterday we strolled downtown through the park to Calton Hill. Since it was so damp, the fog kept rolling in and out of the city. It was kind of creepy but gave for interesting atmosphere. After Calton Hill we checked out the Edinburgh Museum. I didn't realize we have a lot of free museum's in the city- so friends if you come to visit there are a lot of options to do without spending a lot of money!

Then last night Meredith, Donna and I went to a musical at the Edinburgh Playhouse with my good friend Carla. We saw Hairspray and we all said it was the best musical play we had ever seen!  If you are thinking about going you must definitely take the opportunity to see it! The play was a highlight of our vacation thus far! So for the first time in over 10 days I have a free morning to start doing laundry and cleaning while the Loken's are on a day trip to The Highlands.  I must admit I am enjoying lounging in my pj's and taking some time to relax!

Tonight is the hogmanay torch light procession in downtown Edinburgh where over 20,000 people will be parading by torchlight up to Calton Hill to kick off the new years festivities. I am so excited to check it out! Until next time, I will see you on the internet.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Santa Came to London

Wishing all of my blog readers and your families a very Merry Christmas! This morning when I woke up in my flat in London there was a gift waiting for me from Santa. I must have been a really good girl this year for him to find me all the way in London!

Last night I went to Westminster Abbey for Christmas Eve service and carols. It was something I will never forget. The church was so beautiful and will be where the Royal Wedding will take place this April. London has been cold but we've been bundling up in order to see all of the popular sites. So far we walked to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Parliament, the London Eye, and Piccadilly Circus. It is just like I remembered from when I visited back in 2004. Today we are relaxing and enjoying our day by cooking a huge Christmas dinner in our gourmet kitchen. 

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and get to spend it with family and friends. I feel very lucky to have friends here from the US to celebrate the holiday with. Last night I was able to skype the entire family from the US. I love the power of technology!

Grandma, Mom, David, Otis, and Hurley 

Until next time I will see you on the internet. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Heineken Experience

For the past 6 days I have been enjoying Amsterdam in all of it's glory.  All I can say is what a long strange trip it's been. Getting here was an interesting story all together. My flight was the only flight that landed in the airport last Friday due to the snow storm. When I arrived at the train station at no trains were running. Luckily a train from Paris temporarily got stuck at the airport train station, so I just hopped on the train without a ticket and sat in first class to get myself to central station in downtown Amsterdam. It was chaotic and the city accumulated around 1 foot of snow. I did so many fun things throughout the week, including things I would never have thought about doing- like the ballet. I have never been to the ballet, but it was such a beautiful performance- Sleeping Beauty.  I definitely enjoyed myself throughout the week and was sad to leave today. Since yesterday was my last day in Amsterdam Meredith and I decided to visit one of the highlights of the city, the Heineken factory.  It was a blustery walk to the factory, but once we arrived I was ready to get my Heineken experience on!

 I was so excited to start the tour! I had been looking forward to seeing this factory for weeks.

Meredith and I at the start of the tour
 Yea- we are cheesy!
 I really loved all of the Heineken paraphernalia including this original glass Heineken Button 
 This room showed the fermenting process- water, barley, hops, and yeast
 This was the original boiling room

 The factory was beautiful! Check out these stained glass windows
I felt we kept getting free pints of beer every 10 minutes during the tour. It was great. At the half way mark we really enjoyed ourselves.
 The bottling room- you can make your own bottle with your name on it!

 Apparently Heineken sponsors a lot of the 007 movies. They had an entire room dedicated to James Bond throughout the years

 The tour had some really neat activities and was very interactive. We were able to send a video message home to our friends at home and as you can see in the picture below I didn't mind making a fool of myself.
 Bottles, and Kegs, and cans oh my!
 This room was so cool. These pod chairs showed all of the Heineken commercials since the 50's. It was as if we were in a space ship.

Worlds longest foosball table
 Another bar
 Meredith and I enjoying more free Heineken
 The tour was only 15 Euro- and the cost of admission included 3 beers. If you visit Amsterdam this is a must see but plan on spending a minimum of 2 hours at the factory. The tour itself takes around 2 hours and the gift shop is really good. You can even get your name engraved on Heineken pint glass. I got my brother and his dog matching monogramed pint glasses! Bye Bye Amsterdam- I'll be back in January.   Until next time, I will see you on the internet. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Throwback Thursday: Vivia Las Amsterdam

I am very excited because tomorrow will be my last day of work in 2010! I have been living abroad now for over 4 months, and time is flying by. I am getting ready to head out on another trip and will be travelling for around 2 weeks. Fingers crossed the snow holds off so I make my flight. My first stop is Amsterdam, and then shortly to follow will be London. I first visited Amsterdam back in the summer of 2006 when I was travelling abroad as a graduate student. I thought it would be a great Throwback Thursday blog post, so here goes....

I was backpacking my way through Italy when I met a Brazilian guy at my hostel in Rome. Enter Luis. Luis lived in Paris and the two of us hit it off right away, and after a fun filled weekend in Italy he invited me to travel to Amsterdam with two of his friend the following weekend.  So, I boarded a 14 hour night train and made my way to the Netherlands.

The city has something for everyone, and I have to say I really enjoyed myself that weekend. Remembering back to that trip, we had beautiful weather and the city was booming with tourism. I was very nervous staying at the hostel in Amsterdam, which was called the Flying Pig, and the room I was in had 8 bunk beds- all boys and me. Once I arrived and checked in I knew it was going to be a fun weekend the fear at staying at the flying pig flew right out the window! This is by far the one of the best hostel's I have stayed at in my travels!

Amsterdam was a lot cleaner than I envisioned it to be, and I really loved all of the canals that ran throughout the city.  Locals ride bikes or use public transport, so if you visit you have to keep a look out for bikes flying at you from all directions.

While in Amsterdam I visited the Anne Frank house. I remember reading her book in the 8th grade, and actually getting to see where she was hiding for all of those years was a very humbling experience. I also went to the Van Gogh museum which I would recommend to any art lovers. I don't really know too much about art, but I like to try and be somewhat cultural on my travels. This was an art museum worth the cost of admission.

In my opinion, Amsterdam is like the Las Vegas of Europe. It is a circus, and as mentioned before has something for everyone. Here are just a few shots from the street my hostel was on.

Coffee Shops and Red Lights

window shopping in the red light....

I also made it a priority to see a windmill while in Holland. I actually had to take a tram outside of the city to get to this one. I would like to revisit the country during the tulip festival and try to find more windmills. 

Overall the weekend was one of the best I had while backpacking that summer. I am really looking forward to my trip tomorrow and plan on visiting the Heineken factory and enjoy time relaxing. Until next time, I will see you on the internet. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Great Scottish Santa Run

It takes a lot for me to give up sleeping in on a Sunday, but when I heard about the Great Scottish Santa Run taking place in downtown Edinburgh, I couldn't think of a better reason to get out of bed and enjoy the Christmas season. I geared up and headed downtown to Princes Street Gardens with three of my friends.  The registration fees for the race provided each participant with Santa outfits to wear during the run. We were really blessed with beautiful weather, and luckily a lot of the snow we had received a few weeks before had melted away.  The race was to support the wish upon a star foundation and in total there were around 500 participants. 

The outfits were one size fits all- so we had a tough time keeping our trousers up!
Before the race started we all lined up and were entertained by singers, dancers, and bagpipers.

Kristin and I waiting for the race to start

Mel and Shona- friends of mine who live in the city and work at the Uni.

 In the sea of santa's waiting for the race to start

 Never though I would be sporting a beard!
 We even ran into the real santa
 The race was more of a fun jog/walk since there were so many people packed into the gardens. 

 There weren't just santa's at the race. There were elves.......
and reindeer....
 even dogs came out to support the cause!

 People were very spirited and I especially liked these two bouncing their way through the race.

All of the participants who finished the race received a medal, and I of course was super excited!
 Team Vixen post race

After the race we decided to head over to the German Markets and rides to enjoy the great winter day. As always the food was delish- I enjoyed  bratwurst and apple strudel.

There is something about being on the swings that makes you feel like a kid again!

Overall, such a great day! It was really nice to get out with friends to support a good cause and enjoy the great weather. I can't wait until next year's run- I hope to make this a yearly tradition while living here in Edinburgh. Until next time, I'll see you on the internet.