Posted by: Audrey Thorstad | February 25, 2011

The Thorstads storm Europe

I know it has been some time since I have updated and I apologize immensely for that, I haven’t really had time to just sit down and write. I will be doing the last few months in parts so as not to update with a ridiculously long blog post. The first part is from Christmas break and the trip with my amazing family…

To say that I was busy before Christmas was a complete joke to the amount of studying and writing I did after Christmas. There is no such thing as a break, I had a 3,000 word essay due on January 10th which I had not started until I was done travelling with my parents. Then on January 19th, I took my pass/fail Latin exam, so absolutely no pressure. Needless to say, my days were filled with copious amounts of tea and diet coke while slaving away in the Le Patourel Room (the postgraduate study room on the Medieval Studies Floor). Not that my nights were any different. But my 10 hours of studying a day has paid off, I did much better on my second paper and my Latin exam went smoothly. I looked at the questions and it was like a light popped on in my mind and everything beautifully fell into place. It might have been the endless hours of memorizing vocabulary or the insistent writing out of declension/conjugations, but I am attributing it to a combination of studying and pure magic.

Term number two has begun with Palaeography, the Age of Arthur and two Latin classes while working at the Leeds City museum every Wednesday and mentoring an undergraduate whenever he needs me. So, busy is simply an understatement, but I honestly wouldn’t want to be doing anything else right now. I am also working on my PhD thesis with a possible supervisor at Leeds right now, I am slowly gathering information and primary sources to prove there is enough information available for me to write on my idea.

This Christmas brought the best gift that I have ever received; my beautiful family came over to Europe to see me! Taking the train up to Edinburgh, Scotland to meet them seemed like it creped by, not to mention their flight was delayed so I had to wait even longer in the airport. But as soon as they come around the corner it was just like the movies, I started crying and wouldn’t stop hugging everyone for a good ten minutes. Skyping with them is amazing, but actually seeing all of them in person and being able to hug them is simply indescribable. Our time together went by so quickly, we saw a lot, ate a lot, drink loads of tea and rode on a lot of trains. It was literally the Thorstads taking Europe by storm, and boy did we leave a mark. It was nice to be able to show everyone around England, but Paris was a new adventure for all of us. Peter and I put our high school French language knowledge together to help navigate us around.

Scotland and northern England were of course very cold, but there was relatively little snow. I wish we could have stayed a few more days in Scotland (as, I know, my dad would have), but since the trains do not run on Christmas or the day after Christmas (very inconvenient) we had to leave Edinburgh a day early. But I guess that just gives my dad a reason to come back over here! Everyone was very jet-lagged, but they wanted to cram in as much sightseeing as possible since we were only there for a day. I brought them to the castle and then we walked around the streets of Edinburgh enjoying the beautiful buildings and monuments scattered around the city.

View of Edinburgh from the castle

The next stop on our journey was the small town of York. York is a northern England town, very medieval, with an extraordinary minster (or minister as my mom calls it) and a very quiet feel. The hotel we stayed at was right next to the medieval wall which surrounds part of the town. We spent Christmas in York which was beautiful although nothing was open (or had a table available) to eat besides a small curry place down the street from our hotel. Definitely not what we were expecting for Christmas dinner but it was fun nevertheless. Everyone also experienced a pub on a football match night which consists of not being able to find a seat and being surrounded by either really angry or really happy Englishmen (depending on how their team is doing).

View while climbing the Bell Tower

Inside York Minster

Walking along the medieval walls

London was the complete opposite of York, ridiculously busy with people literally everywhere you looked. We went to all the big tourist places in London and as usual everyone was in awe of Big Ben.  By the end of the several days in London everyone had the underground system figured out and they could easily maneuver their way around. We went to another castle, the Tower of London where we saw King Edward I who fed my mother a spiced cake and showed us (more or less) how kings would live while in the castle. We also saw another minster, Westminster Abbey, which is gorgeous and is where the Royal Wedding will be taking place this year on April 29th. The British Museum was epic (as it always is) and contains many splendors of the world, including The Rossetta Stone and many artifacts from Egypt, Rome, Asia and medieval finds from all over the United Kingdom. London is absolutely beautiful, but very busy all the time.

Westminster Abbey

In front of Buckingham Palace (waiting for the changing of the guards)

Trafalgar Square

My lovely parents in The Sherlock Holmes Pub

Tower Bridge (my mother's favorite place)

 Taking the Chunnel under the English Channel was really cool, but bizarre if you actually thought about what you were doing. When we got to Paris it was a whole new world, seeing as none of us spoke the language very well and none of us had been there before, but we managed to find our way to the hotel which had a beautiful sight of the Eiffel Tower. Sadly, the first few days in Paris were quite foggy so the top of the Eiffel Tower could not be seen until you actually went up close to it. And the size of the Tower cannot be truly be understood until you are standing next to the structure. We spent New Years’ Eve in Paris which was quite, we had an amazing dinner (and several drinks to celebrate) then went outside our hotel to watch the Eiffel Tower light up with flashing lights so it looked like it was sparkling. It was a quite New Years, but I spent it with the people who mean the most to me which was absolutely wonderful! We again walked around Paris and saw all the tourist sights; Eiffel Tower, L’arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Champs Elysees etc…

Eiffel Tower

L'arc de Triomphe (biggest roundabout ever)

Notre Dame

 The Lourve was probably my favorite place in France seeing as they have so much beautiful art, not to much the building it is in was an old palace. We saw several Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Rapheal (the big Renaissance names) Here are a few of my favorites pictures:

Winged Victory

Hallway full of paintings and people

The Mona Lisa (of course)

Venus de Milo


Charlemagne's sword

Sitting in front of the famous pyramid

Heading to the airport was a difficult journey for me. I knew I would have to wait for my plane alone for several hours and I wasn’t ready to leave my parents quite yet. But a tearful good-bye in the Charles de Gaulle airport concluded our family vacation. I headed back to Manchester then hopped the train to Leeds where I was finally home. I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas (except for a longer time with my family)! I hope they are able to come over again soon, I miss everyone so much and think about Duluth almost every day. I hope all is well back home and I hope the weather starts shaping into spring soon!  

Cheers, Audrey


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