Tuesday, 29 November 2011

St. Andrew's Day, 30th November

In Scotland St. Andrew's Day is celebrated on the 30th of November. Around the 10th Century St. Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland and the Scottish flag bears the cross of St. Andrew.

On the 30th November many Scottish people tend to celebrate Scotland as a nation and everything which is traditional to our small country. People will often eat haggis for dinner (if you haven't tried haggis then it's a must try! Just don't ask what is it first!) and there are often ceilidhs which feature traditional Scottish music and dancing. As an ex-Highland dancer I love any excuse to get some Scottish dance moves on the go!

This leads me on to what some of my lovely twitter followers might have heard about- Scotland hour. (#Scotlandhour on twitter.) Scotland hour is an hour on twitter where everyone shares stories, tips and experiences in Scotland in order to try and promote tourism in our fabulous country. 

For more information on Scotland hour and to see some gorgeous pictures from around Scotland click here.  

Hope to see some Scottish enthusiasts tweeting during Scotland hour!

Glasgow University Bell Tower


Loch Lomond


View from the Isle of Cumbrae

Glasgow University

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Glasgow University and the West End

As a fourth year student at Glasgow University I felt somewhat guilty that I had never been to properly explore my university and the culture and history which surrounds it. Glasgow University is the fourth oldest university in the English speaking world and was first established in 1451.

West Quadrangle of Glasgow University

The University's initial accommodation was in the centre of the city but due to numerous expansions as it became more and more established and esteemed it moved to its current position in the West End of Glasgow in 1870. The campus was designed in Gothic revival style and after the Palace of Westminister it remains the second largest example of the Gothic revival style in the United Kingdom.

The tower

The Cloisters of Glasgow University connect the East and West quadrangles and lead into inside of the building to the famous Bute Hall and The Hunterian Museum. Glasgow University's Cloisters are very famous and much photographed (look on google for some photos that are better than mine taken below on a dull November day!!).

The Cloisters

Inside Glasgow University is The Hunterian- Scotland's oldest public museum. Dr. William Hunter (1718-1783) played a major role in Britains 18th Century scientific, cultural and social scenes and it is after him that the museum is named. The Hunterian museum contains displays about Dr. William Hunter, dinosaurs, fossils, world culture, medicine and Lord Kelvin. Admission is free and it can be found by entering the door (shown in the picture above) in the cloisters and following the stairs which lead to the entrance.

Image copyright 2011 Photographic Unit, University of Glasgow

Across the road from the main building of Glasgow University is the Hunterian Art Gallery and The Mackintosh House. Entry to the Art Gallery is free and Mackintosh House is just £5. The Art Gallery contains work by Rembrandt and Chardin as well as art by the Scottish Colourists. Mackintosh house features the reassembled interiors of the home of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Ashton Lane

Ashton Lane is a pretty little cobbled lane just off Byres road. It contains many cafes, restaurants and cool bars. The atmosphere here is great for a night out and fairy lights serve as a canopy lighting up the lane all year round. One of my favourite places for lunch on Ashton Lane is Ketchup, a great place which serves every type of burger imaginable- from buffalo to salmon!

Ketchup milkshakes

Cresswell Lane

The next lane along from Ashtone Lane is Cresswell Lane, another pretty little cobbled street. Cresswell Lane contains a few quirky shops as well as yet more cafes and restaurants. My favourite on this lane is Cafe Andaluz which serves amazing Spanish tapas dishes in an atmospheric and inviting Spanish style restaurant. 

Sunday, 13 November 2011

My Favourite Photos

I just wanted to share with everyone a few of my favourite photos that I've taken on my travels within the past few years. Photos are one of my favourite ways to remember trips and always bring back some great memories.

Villefranche sur Mer
Lisbon, Portugal
The Church of the Spilled Blood
St. Petersburg, Russia

Santa Maria Cathedral
Murcia, Spain

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Living like a local in Murcia

I travelled to the city of Murcia in the south east of Spain for a week to visit one of my best friends who is there for a year studying at the Universidad de Murcia.

After arriving into Alicante airport we travelled (buses run straight to Murcia bus station for around 5euros) to the Silken Siete Coronas hotel in the centre of the city of Murcia. It is situated on the edge of the river which is just a few minutes walk from the Plaza de Toros and my friend's flat. The hotel was very clean, tidy and well furnished. It was also quiet at night and offered free wifi which is a must for many travellers I know!

The first thing we did after arriving was, of course, head out for tapas! There are so many amazing and highly inexpensive tapas restaurants in the city of Murcia and a visit would not be complete without sampling some of the best local tapas dishes. One of my favourite dishes was Zarangollo, a traditional Murcian dish of eggs, zucchini and onions and garlic and I would highly recommend everyone to try it. Some of the restaurants we enjoyed were; La Tapa Murciana and La Sidrería Escondida.

The prices of meals in Murcia are so cheap because it is not a typical tourist area and they also do not expect tips which I found very strange. A typical tapas meal in a local restaurant including drinks (Tinto de Verano being a particular favourite of mine!) will normally be around 10 euros per person!

On our first night in Murcia we went to a restaurant called La Sidrería Escondida which serves Asturian cider from the north of Spain in strange contraptions as seen below! Definitely an experience!

One of the must see places in Murcia is the Santa Maria Cathedral, an imposing, Baroque style building which was completed in 1751. It features many Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque elements although the interior is mainly Gothic.

Santa Maria Cathdral

Santa Maria Cathedral Belltower

Another nice place we visited was the Palacio Episcopal, an 18th Century building with a beautiful inner courtyard which is on the same square as the main entrance to the Cathedral.

Murcia is also within a good distance of the beaches of the Costa Calida and the Mar Menor, or the small sea. Buses run from the main bus station and take about 50 minutes.

The Nueva Condomina (a large shopping centre and the location of the new Real Murcia football stadium) is easily reached by tram from the centre of the city. The tram system is very clean, efficient and reasonably priced and is a great way to explore outside of the city. If you are looking for somewhere to have lunch whilst at the Nueva Condomina I highly recommend Cerveceria 100 Montaditos which can be found inside the shopping centre itself. Montaditos are literally small sandwhiches and the sheer range of choices here makes it an experience in itself.

Murcia is a great city to visit if you want to be immersed in the Spanish language and improve your skills. Very few people speak English and if they do it is usually only a few words so you are forced to attempt to speak Spanish.

I highly recommend this region of Spain, it is purported to be one of the sunniest areas in the country which is never a bad thing and there are so many great places that can be reached within a relatively short distance.