Friday, August 11, 2017

Visiting Belgium

For Sites and Sights, a history course I took at CCCU, I was able to take a class trip to Bruge, Belgium. As this was meant only to be a day trip, the students were able to make the choice to either return to Canterbury on the bus or to continue traveling in Europe for the weekend or longer.

Streets of Bruge
We left Canterbury at five in the morning on Friday and arrived in Bruge in the early afternoon. We walked around the city for a short time and then took a boat tour with a local who spoke a number of languages, conducting the tour using at least three (English of course being one). As he talked about the history of Bruge, he was able to add a lot of his own memories and family history to it. It gave the history a lot of meaning to hear about how the greater history of the city related to him in such a personal context.

Following the brief boat tour, the students were released to travel or return to Canterbury. I stayed for one night in Bruge with some classmates and then took a short trip to Antwerp, where one of my best friends, Dominic, and her family live.

I was very lucky to be able to visit a close friend in the city because it has an extremely rich history and it helps a lot to be with a local. As her parents both work as architects in the city, they were really connected to the art scene. They took me along with them to see art shows of many of their friends. It was amazing to see Matteo Pugliese's work.

Matteo Pugliese

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Daytrip to the Coast

Taking short trips from Canterbury after class or on the weekends is very feasible. Buses are frequent and the bus station is just across from Canterbury's Christ Church's library. I enjoyed visiting coastal towns. My day trip to Whitstable was a nice introduction to the coast. I went with a friend from Canterbury, and we walked the coast, tried seafood, and explored the city.

Charming Whitstable

I don't think I had tried even half of this before

Trying the different types of oysters

Salsa Dancing at Kent University

About as much as I love cycling, I love Latin dancing. Upon arrival in Canterbury, I tried to meet other people who love to dance as well. Within the first week, I was able to network enough to meet a dance teacher at Kent University, named Benny Ogidan, who manages the Kent Salsa Society along with other dance teachers. He invited me to a dance night at the University, and I had so much fun that I continued to dance with and take private lessons with members of this society. I learned so many new steps and styles of dancing, and I was even able to bring friends along with me who were new learners as well because the society splits levels of learners into different groups in a space reserved for this purpose on designated evenings.

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The Salsa Dancing space at Kent University

Through this new network, I was able to get news on all of the popular Latin dancing nights in the city center. I also got a lot of advice on where to Latin dance in London and took a few trips there to dance with dancers from all over the world to the music of some of the most amazing live bands I have ever heard. Finally, from Benny I learned of famous Latin dancing festivals and congresses all over Europe, which I am very excited to attend someday soon. At these global festivals and congresses, you can learn styles of dance and steps popular in many different cultures, and you can practice with very experienced dancers. Dancing with people so skilled and passionate is demanding and can push a dancer to improve in a single weekend as much as they could in months.
This is a very particular niche. That I was able to network so much in the dancing world from within Canterbury shows just how eclectic of a place it really is, especially if you actively network.

Just in case you are interested in Salsa Dancing, here is a link you might find interesting (though it says 2012 in the URL, it is actually for 2017):

The Blean

Many things brought me to the well-preserved and protected ancient woodland the Blean that is located near Canterbury by way of a trail through Kent University's campus It is about a twenty to thirty minute cycling trip from the center of Canterbury to the Blean, and the scenery on the way there can provide a nice break from the busy city center of Canterbury. 

Amanita muscaria, 
one of four most prevalent fungi species of The Blean
I went in my free time to cycle the 120-mile trail system. Some of the trails are easy to ride and some are rocky, muddy, and really rough to cycle on. I really like that because it's a fun challenge. Luckily, my bike tires were well suited to that type of trail. I locked my bike up to walk smaller trails as well. On these walks, I was able to see many species of plants and insects I had never seen before. The Blean's rich habitats allow for the survival of species such as the Nightingale and the Heath Fritillary butterfily. The woodland is surprisingly easy to learn about as the area has been well-documented and actively managed for nearly 800 years. 

I also went many times for my Biogeography and Landscape Ecology class. We took one class trip with the two professors to learn about how the woodland has been maintained throughout its long history. I later met my group there for our class project to assess a small plot of land. Assessing this small plot of land taught me about the particular effects of management techniques such coppicing. This was an extremely demanding project, but it was one the most rewarding, and I really enjoyed writing the final paper. 

The Blean is an excellent place to visit in Canterbury, especially for those interested in wildlife. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cycling in and around Canterbury

I love to cycle. Before I arrive in a new country, I almost always find a way to buy or rent a bicycle there. With a bicycle, I find that it is easy to access nature even if it miles away, to feel fit, healthy, and positive, to travel without the delays and inconveniences of public transport, to save hundreds of dollars on transportation (the price of a month-long bus pass is more than I paid for a bike I used for almost four months), and finally to experience areas of any given country that many travelers might not have access to by bus, foot, or train. On a bus, you may take the same route hundreds of other people do every day. On a bike, you can take any turn you might like and find your way back quickly if you get lost. This means that you can really personalize your experience of any given place without experiencing inconveniences that getting lost on foot might cause.

Riding a trail near Kent University
My plan in Canterbury long before I arrived was to find a hybrid bike suitable for trail-riding and for the city. I began asking around about a place or website I could look to find a reasonably priced bike, and the on my first day in Canterbury a very helpful employee at the library cafe recommended Gumtree, a website that is popular all over the U.K. and is similar to Craigslist. I took a bus to a town near the coast to meet with someone selling a Carrera in brand new condition. Once I decided to buy the bike (which cost under $100 - much less expensive than the same bike would have been at a shop or online), I asked about trails nearby and cycled about 7 miles back to Canterbury on a trail called the Crab and Winkle Way. This was the end of what seemed to be a very productive second day in Canterbury.

River front trail from downtown to Parham Road
From the second day on, I rode this bike everywhere in town (to campus, downtown, and to friends’ houses) and to a few places out of town (woodlands such as Blean Woods, the coast, and other small cities that surround Canterbury).

The river front trail near the city center
The bicycle was a big part of my time in Canterbury, and I couldn’t be happier that I used it as my main means of transportation. When I left Canterbury, I left the bicycle with a friend I had made in town. He rides the bike now as much I did while I was there.

You can always find your way back using the Canterbury Cathedral as a point of reference

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Canterbury Christ Church - the campus

Canterbury Christ Church University is distributed throughout the quaint, historical city of Canterbury. It is an easy and very lovely walk through the town and a swift bike ride down some really amazing streets and pathways.

The library
The library is near the center of town and close to Canterbury Cathedral. It is very modern and a great place to have lunch, do homework, and meet up with people because of its location. Orientation and Fresher’s week (the welcoming week for new students) are held at the library, so it was the first place I became familiar with.

The main campus

The main campus where classes are held (and wonderful tea stands that sell tea before and after classes and during breaks) is a ten minute walk away, and student housing is all the way from right next to the library to a twenty-minute walk away.

The trail along the canal
There are street markets in the center of town, tiny local shops, and a canal along the way to the furthest buildings for student housing (on Parham Road). Part of my stay was on Parham Road, and I enjoyed that area the most because the location was so spacious and relaxed. Also, the best walking and cycling trails lead directly to Parham Road, so it a great location to cycle to and from. I find Canterbury to be a lovely city and the campus to be just as beautiful.

Arriving in London for a semester in Canterbury

Arriving in London was a great way to start my semester-long program in Canterbury out. I was able to spend a few days in the city with a friend of mine from Scotland, and it gave me a great introduction to England. I was able to see musicians perform at Piccadilly Circus, have my first real English Breakfast (and try Marmite, a sauce that is apparently either very liked or hated. I don't think I ever really acquired the taste), sight-see, hang out with some locals in different parts of the city, and prepare myself for the semester in Canterbury.


One of London's many famous shopping streets

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