Study Abroad in London

London calling (4)

When the Jet-Lag Hits & Reverse Culture Shock

Just over a week ago, I woke up for the last time in Kensington, London. It was the last time I woke up on my terrible bed with the springs sticking out of it. The last time I walked out the doors of Room E in Flat 17 of Manson Place.

I dragged my two 47 pound suitcases, my 26 pound backpack and my relatively light duffel bag down the six flights of stairs to the street. Then I was off to South Kensington station to take my last ride on the tube via the Piccadilly line to Heathrow Terminal 5 and board a flight to Chicago.

Most of the tube stations don’t have elevators and instead have stairs and escalators to get from the street level down to the trains. South Kensington Station is no different. I somehow managed to get both suitcases, my backpack and my duffel bag down the many stairs and onto the tube. I was on my way home!

I had an eight hour flight from London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare Airport and was stuck in the middle seat. The joys.


Fast forward 10 days and I am still struggling to readjust to life at home. I never imagined it would have been as difficult for me as it has been. Between my struggle to get back on U.S. time (I continue to wake up at 4 a.m. no matter how hard I try to stay asleep), the various visits to the chiropractor due to the effects left on my body because of my heavy suitcases (“every chiropractor’s worst nightmare” as I was told), the tube stairs and stress, and the mess that is my room after dropping four months of my life on its floor, adjusting back to life at home has not been easy.

Prior to leaving for London, I had read that both transitioning to a new place when studying abroad and then transitioning when coming home can be difficult. The transition for me from home to London was most definitely not easy. I missed my family, friends, familiar foods and stores, as well as the simple things in life such as my bed. For some reason, I believed that it would be a simple transition when coming home. Why I thought I wouldn’t be affected this time, I do not know.

Many call this transition home from being abroad for a while “reverse culture shock” and its something I really didn’t think I would experience. My home is my home, something I’ve known for 20 years. How could it ever be difficult to come back to something I know so well? But, the last four months I spent away from the places, people and culture I knew, and London slowly became a place I allowed myself to call home. I didn’t realize that doing so would make coming home so difficult.

Every day, I still wake up thinking I’ll walk outside, make the short stroll to South Ken Station, and catch the District Line to explore some new place in London. Instead, I’ve traded in my Oyster Card for a set of car keys, the six flights of stairs up to my flat for a treadmill work-out and my raincoat for — oh wait, no, I’ve still been putting my raincoat to good use with all the rainy weather Wisconsin has been having.

One of the biggest things that I have had to adjust to, is how much free time I now have. In London, it was rare that I would have an hour to myself to watch a show on Netflix, take a nap or message friends. Since being home, I suddenly have too much free time than I know what to do with. AKA, I’ve already caught up on this season’s new episodes of Scandal and BOY ARE THEY GOOD. What I haven’t done, is finish unpacking or putting away all of my things from the last four months. I’ll get to it eventually, I swear.

I know that eventually, things will get back to normal, its only a matter of time. It will be easier when the rest of my friends are home from college, I start my summer internship and job and am busy again. Until then, I’m off to finish Gilmore Girls and run some more miles on the treadmill!

Cheers London, and thank you for an amazing four months!

DSC_0828

London calling (3)

20 Hours Spent at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro

On Sunday, yes Easter Sunday, I spent 20 hours at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro, one of the major music venues. Why do you ask? Well, Ed Sheeran of course. Why else?

Let me rewind.

I took the train from London’s King Cross Station to Glasgow Queen Street Station on Saturday morning. There I met my friend Claire who was attending Ed’s concert with me (YES ON EASTER). We dropped our bags at the hotel and then went to the venue to scope it out for the next day. We found the main doors and then the doors inside that our tickets specifically told us we had to enter through.

We were set for the next day.

For the rest of the day, we walked around Glasgow. This didn’t take too long as I really didn’t feel like there was much to the city. It had a big shopping district which was pretty busy as it was a bank holiday. We also went to Glasgow Green, one of the larger parks in Glasgow. In the park, there was also a botanic garden so we spent some time there, then headed for dinner. After dinner it was early to bed for us as we had a VERY early wake-up call for the next morning.

Fast-forward seven hours. Our alarms went off at 5 a.m. It was time to get dressed and head out the door. The SSE Hydro was a fifteen minute walk from our hotel and we arrived at 5:50 a.m., dark and early! We were the first ones to the venue, but the next group of people showed up five minutes later.

IMG_1088

Queuing had begun!

People continued to show up, but the first larger wave of people came around 8:30 a.m. Then it was quite slow again until around noon. It rained all morning which was most likely why there was a much lower amount of fans queued up early on.

While in line all day, I made friends early on with a few other fans who were at the front of the line near me. One of them I had also seen at BBC Radio 1 when I met Ed and knew of because of Twitter. I also made friends with two girls who had traveled from Norway to see Ed in Glasgow because he didn’t have any tour dates there, one girl from Germany who was living and working in Glasgow, and a couple who went to uni in Dundee. Not only was it really cool to talk with so many people from all over the world, but it also meant you could get up and go to the bathroom without the fear of losing your spot in line. All good things.

Around 4 p.m., the lines finally started to really fill up. By then, the rain had ended so it made sense. An hour later, everyone was standing in line as there was only an hour left until the doors opened. The crowds were buzzing with excitement. And I was at the front. Amazing.

Five minutes to six, I could see the security guards and ticket takers meeting in the entry way, going over what a real ticket looked like compared to a fake as there have been many problems with this when it comes to Ed concerts in the past. They opened the doors one minute late and I was the first one through to have my ticket scanned and bag checked. Then the sprint was on. I ran to Door B, where I got my hand stamped for GA and was told to walk in the arena. Good thing I’m a trained speed walker. I made it to the barrier and had a spot dead center.

I was at the barrier. Dead center. For Ed.

IMG_0553

At the barrier with Claire, the students from Dundee, the girl from Germany, and the two girls whose names both start with M, from Norway. (Sorry I’m awful with names!!)

Ed had two openers, Ryan McMullan and then Anne Marie. Both were so different as Ryan was a singer-songwriter and Anne Marie was pop, but both put on an incredible set! They went on at 7 p.m. and Ed went on around 8:30.

The lights went down and when he came out, I could not believe how close he was. Despite the large venue, it was so easy to forget how big the crowd was and being so close reminded me of the first show I ever saw Ed at in 2012 in Milwaukee because he was literally feet away. The show was amazing, and really rivals my first show as being my favorite time seeing Ed. I swear that he looked at me during one of the verses of You Need Me I Don’t Need You (my FAVORITE song), which helps to make this concert rival my first Ed concert as my favorite.

After the concert finished, Claire and I went with two other fans to the back of the venue to wait for Ed at the stage door. Ed had been to the Hyrdo two years ago on Halloween, and they had both been there and waited for him after where they eventually met him. We were hoping that he would also come out tonight to meet fans as it was the first leg of the U.K. tour and he was playing a second show at the Hydro the next night so he had nowhere to rush off to.

At this point, it was about 10:30 p.m. and was about 38 degrees outside. Not great. There were people standing outside the gate already, so we joined them to make a crowd of about 23. As the night went on, people continued to leave either because it was so late, or cold or they gave up on thinking Ed would actually come out.

We had heard from security that the venue ultimately had to shut-down around 1 a.m. so that everyone working could go home, therefore meaning Ed would eventually have to leave.

By 1 a.m., there were only 13 of us left standing outside in the cold. A few minutes later, there was movement from the stage door and a couple walked out, came outside the security gate, looked at us and then started smoking a cigarette. We didn’t think much of this. A few more people came out of the door, two women and two guys and we didn’t think much of this either. We all started quietly talking again when suddenly a voice interrupted us.

“Hey guys.”

We all turned. We knew that voice.

“Want to take some photos and sign some things?”

It was Ed. Our waiting had pulled off.

He was dressed casually in a black Hoax hoodie with the hood up. It was so weird because we were oddly so relaxed and so was he. Well, besides his body guard Kev. Kev never seems relaxed though, so its fine.

Before we started taking photos though, Ed had more to say. He introduced us to the two women with him who turned out to be his “awesome cousins.” He informed us that they were supposed to have come to the show the next day, but decided to go today, so they just so happened to have two extra tickets that they wanted to give away to us. He asked if anyone was in town the next day and didn’t have tickets or had friends who wanted to go and didn’t have tickets. He then let his cousins pick someone to give the tickets to.

Next order of business was the chocolate bunny he held in his hands. He asked if anyone wanted it, as it was Easter after all, and ended up giving it to one of the girls I had spent the day in line with who also just so happened to have gotten his setlist that night as well. It was a pretty good night for her!

IMG_1037

Then Ed began taking photos and talking with us. I stood to the side with Claire, Kel and Rebecca (the two girls I had met in line). While standing there, Ed’s cousins started talking to me and quickly realized (thanks to my strong American accent so I’ve heard) that I was not from Scotland or the U.K. for that matter. They asked where I was from and I replied with “Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.” They were so amazed that they yelled over to Ed who was still taking photos and talking with other fans and said, “Ed, this girl came all the way from Wisconsin to see you!” He looked over, gave a head nod and smiled, then went back to what he was doing. I continued to chat with his cousins, and quickly informed them that while I was from Wisconsin, I was currently studying abroad in London. They were still confused as to why I was in Glasgow then. By this time, Ed had moved closer and he asked if I had just not gotten tickets to his London shows and I said I was leaving for home in a week and wouldn’t be here then. He nodded again, then continued talking and taking photos with other people.

I kept talking with his cousins, who kept saying how they always tell Ed how dedicated his fans are. I said I had seen him a few times before in the U.S., had met him at BBC Radio 1 a month ago, and had just been to his concert at Royal Albert Hall. They thought it was so cool.

Then it was finally time for Claire and I to take photos and talk with Ed. Somehow, I wasn’t freaking out on the outside (inside was a different story though). I was actually able to form complete sentences and carry on a conversation. I first told him that I was from Wisconsin and had seen him in 2011 when he first came there. He looked puzzled for a bit, then said “I don’t think I came to Wisconsin in 2011. You mean 2012?” Yes. 2012. I got corrected by Ed. Go me.

I then went on to ask him about something that happened at that first concert. A girl in the audience had made a goat noise and he had stopped playing to ask “Was that a goat?” And went on to tell us that he had been given a goat and had it somewhere in the world. I asked him if he still had the goat or knew where it was.

Again, he looked puzzled for a bit, then he got excited and said “Oh yes! The goat. I wasn’t actually given the goat, I adopted it. Its living somewhere in Peru now.”

So now I finally have an answer to the goat question that many from Wisconsin have been wondering about for five years.

Here’s a link to a video with the goat banter from that first Milwaukee concert in 2012.

After that, I took a couple of photos with him and then asked if he would sign my ticket, which he did (with my handy dandy Sharpie that I’ve kept in my purse for years just waiting for this moment, no joke).

I then took a photo for Claire, and Kev, Ed’s bodyguard, was really yelling at us to hurry up because they had to leave. Ed was relaxed and not rushed though. But Kev started to get on him too about leaving so he started heading to the car when I realized I hadn’t asked him for a hug. So I quickly did and he stopped to hug me before getting in the car.

Then he was off.

We all stood there for a second looking at each other like “did that really just happen?” The whole time, everyone was so relaxed and it seemed so normal. And I actually had a real conversation. And had my ticket signed. Got a few photos. And last but not least, a hug.

Well worth the three and a half hours we spend out in the cold after the show.

Apart from meeting Ed, the day itself was one of my favorites to date for a few other reasons. Despite waiting out in the cold for so long, both before and after the show, I was able to meet with and talk to so many people from all over the world. Its so incredible how music and people like Ed, can bring people together. I was so surprised by how kind everyone in line was, offering their blankets to others when they left for a bit, sharing food, or telling stories about how important music, specifically Ed, was to them. While some people may call us crazy for the time we spent there, (I call it dedicated), I personally enjoyed the long, cold day. I got to spend it with people I never would have met otherwise, sharing stories related to traveling, culture and of course, Ed. Its amazing what music can do to bring individuals of different backgrounds together.

Since I saw him in 2012 (yes 2012, not 2011, thanks for the correction Ed), I’ve always dreamed of meeting him. Really meeting him, not like I did at BBC, and this was exactly what I was waiting for. Since he has become so big, I never though something like this would ever happen again, but its nice to see that he still makes time for his fans.

“Still the same as a year ago, but more people hear me though,” holds true today.

Thank you Ed.

IMG_1036

 

London calling (2)

Playing Tour Guide, Stonehenge & Bath

Its been just over a week since I last wrote a blog post, but so much has happened in that span of time! With only eight full days left in London, everything seems to be going at lighting speed around here. Let me catch you up.

First off, my family came to visit last week! I picked them up from Heathrow on Friday morning and threw them right into the mix as we took the tube into the center of London. They brought four suitcases with them, but we were able to “easily” manage lugging them up the tube stairs! (Really, we did!)

DSC_0923

With them here, I was back in tour-guide mode. Soon after dropping their bags at the hotel, we headed outside (literally out the back door as the hotel was on the London Eye Pier) to the London Eye! Luckily, we had pre-booked tickets and the line was pretty short so we were on the Eye in no time!

While the London Eye is definitely a really cool experience to take advantage of while in London, I’ve learned its not the only place to get great views of the city. For much less, or for free, you can visit other locations in London to get a sky high view. Two of my favorite vantage points include the top floor of the Switch House at the Tate Modern and the Sky Garden. Both are free to the public and great alternatives to the London Eye. If you are interested in going to the Sky Garden though, be sure to keep checking their website up to two weeks in advance in order to reserve spots.

After the London Eye, we walked around the South Bank for a while and then made our way over to Covent Garden. There, we went to a Three Phone store to get SIM cards for my mom and brother. For only 20 pounds, they were able to get a SIM card with 12 gigabytes of data on it to use for their week here. Later in the week, my family was leaving to travel to Ireland where their phone would also be usable. If you are staying in London for longer than a week or will be traveling in surrounding cities, getting an international SIM card is a great option rather than paying the outrageous data packages offered in the states for international travel.

On Saturday, I took my family on one of my favorite walking trips to see my favorite part of London! We took the tube from Westminster to Ladbroke Grove in Notting Hill. We started at the end of Portobello Road Market (my absolute favorite market London has to offer), and made our way all the way down until we reached Notting Hill High Street. From there we walked to the north entrance to Holland Park, a new favorite park of mine. In Holland Park, you can find the Kyoto Gardens, a Japanese garden complete with koi fish and peacocks! What more could you ask for?

We then made a pit stop at the Design Museum on Kensington High Street. This is my favorite museum in all of London as it focuses on both old and modern design of all types including furniture, electronics and logos just to name a few topics. The stop at the Design Museum was also a good break from all the walking we had already done.

From there, we walked to Hyde Park and visited Kensington Palace and the Kensington Gardens which were in full bloom. Everyone was getting hungry, so we made our way to Nando’s in South Ken for lunch!

Post lunch, we made a stop at Harrod’s, the worlds largest and most expensive department store, for my dad. It was quite the interesting place, with a large food court (fancy!), and tons of boutique stores inside (fancy! think Dolce Gabbana and Versace). Quite the day.

On Sunday morning, we got up early to take a train from Waterloo Station to Windsor. We were visiting one of Her Majesty the Queen’s royal residence’s, Windsor Castle. We were able to get there right as they began letting people in and didn’t have to wait in line for long. We toured the grounds, which were beautiful, and then went inside the State Apartments. The coolest part about the visit was that the Queen was actually there at the same time as we were! She spends Easter at Windsor Castle every year, so it was really cool to see her “standard,” aka her flag, outside signaling she was there!

On Tuesday after class, I took my family to Victoria Train Station where they took the Gatwick Express to the airport. They were off for Ireland for the next few days! It was so great to finally see them after being apart for almost four months! Only a week till I see them again, this time at home!

Today (Friday), I took a day trip to both Stonehenge and Bath with two friends from the flat across from mine. Abby, Brooke and I enjoyed having a photo shoot in front of the infamous rocks. They were big. Apart from that, there wasn’t much to Stonehenge apart from the beautiful rolling green and yellow hills. SO PRETTY. The English countryside is stunning in the spring!

We then boarded our bus again and traveled to the Roman City of Bath. Because it was a Bank Holiday, Bath was incredibly crowded. We had about three and a half hours in the city, but an hour and a half was devoted to touring the ancient Roman Baths. The Baths were really cool, but also really gross. The water was a bright green color and you could see filth floating around in it. We were specifically told not to touch the water as you were highly likely to get sick if you did. It was amazing how many people you could see ignoring these simple instructions and touching the hot, germ-infested, bath water. Why people, why?

As I write this post, I’m currently waiting for my laundry to be done so I can pack for my final trip abroad. Tomorrow I leave bright and early for Glasgow, Scotland! I’m taking the train and can’t wait to see Scotland! Apart from that, I also can’t wait to see Ed (again)! Until then!

IMG_0131

Because I had to include this photo.

London calling (1)

Let’s go to the Beach, Beach

Last Saturday, all of the UW-Madison students went on a trip I had been looking forward to since the beginning of the semester: Brighton.

Brighton is directly south of London and is an English seaside resort town. It is also known for its nightlife, shopping and festivals. We took a coach bus from London to Brighton and got there in about an hour and fifteen minutes. The bus dropped us right in front of the PEBBLE beach and Brighton Pier. From there, our tour guide took us on an hour-long walking tour of Brighton.

DSC_0172

On the walking tour, we mainly walked through the shopping and restaurant district in the main part of downtown Brighton. There were tons of people out shopping as it was a Saturday morning. There were the classic chain stores like Gap and H&M, but the smaller, more local shops outnumbered these big box stores. Apart from these local stores, there are also many local restaurants in Brighton. Many of these restaurants happen to be vegan and vegetarian, not something that is quite as common in London.

After walking through the shopping district, we made a stop at the Royal Pavilion, also known as the Brighton Pavilion. It was built as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales, in 1811. This building looks as though it should be placed somewhere in India, rather than on the English seaside coast. I guess it just adds to the quirks of Brighton.

We were then free to explore on our own until we had to meet the bus to go back to London at 4 p.m. We had spent most of our time further inland where the shops were, and headed directly for the beach and water.

Normally, I am not a fan of resort towns and beaches. I hate beaches. Brighton is different though. It doesn’t have a normal beach, it has a pebble beach. Its fantastic.

DSC_0296

After lunch, I spent a lot of time on the beach taking photos with a few friends (probably the most time I have ever spent on a beach if I’m being honest). We had so much fun throwing pebbles around and a few people almost got caught by some of the waves coming in.

Post photo shoot, we headed up the stairs to walk along Brighton Pier. The pier is totally commercialized for tourists as it boasts stands selling 99 Flake ice cream cones (usually for 2.50 instead of 99 p…typical), carnival games and rides. The rides are at the end of the pier where there are typical rides similar to the Tilt-A-Whirl and Scrambler, but there are even two small-sized roller coasters. Its quite an interesting set-up.

We still had a few hours left and were yet to find the famous colorful beach huts of Brighton. From the pier, we weren’t able to see any sign of them, so we ended up asking a girl working one of the stands which direction we needed to walk in to find the beach huts. The beach huts are west of Brighton Pier, so we walked along the pavement near the beach. This path is lined with water-front restaurants, bars and shops. Being a Saturday, it was incredibly packed but began to thin out the further we got from Brighton Pier.

Eventually, after about a 25 minute walk from Brighton Pier, we spotted the beach huts. These beach huts are used by locals in the summer to keep food in, change clothes and just hang out in. They are pretty small but do the trick. It was a beautiful day out, and while still early spring, there were a few owners sitting inside reading a newspaper in their beach hut with the doors open. Quite cute.

The colorful beach huts again called for an impromptu photo shoot.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was then time to head back so we could catch the bus home. Along the way, we stopped to get a 99 Flake ice cream (for two pounds), and made it back with plenty of time to spare. If I had more time here in the UK, I would definitely make another trip down to Brighton to explore for a longer period of time. It is such a cool city and we barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer as we had a limited six hours there. Until next time!

London calling

Finally, a tourist in London

Last Saturday morning, I went to Heathrow to pick up my boyfriend, Ethan, from the airport. I was incredibly excited to see him as it had been just over three months since I had last seen him, but I was also excited to show him the wonderful city I currently call home, London.

DSC_0929

Since arriving in London in January, I have primarily been living life in London as someone who both works and studies here. Personally, I have not felt like a tourist here, someone who is only here for a few days to a week, frantically trying to see all the main attractions and sights. Instead, I’ve found myself seeking out different boroughs in London to explore in order to get a full taste of the area, rather than specific attractions. Because of this, I was actually quite excited to “be a tourist for the week” as I haven’t visited many of the main sites London is famous for.

While Ethan was here, I attempted to balance showing him some of the unique, pretty and eclectic boroughs I have visited and enjoyed with the well-known sites of London such as Big Ben, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and so on.

The same day that he landed, I was able to combine these two ideas as we headed to Borough Market first thing. Borough Market is on the South Bank of the Thames River and is best known for its diverse food options ranging from fresh fruits and vegetables to delicious pastries and full cooked meals from different parts of the world. Being that it was a Saturday morning, it was quite busy, so I was throwing Ethan into the hustle and bustle of London as he had just gotten off an eight hour plane ride. After walking through Borough Market and sampling some delicious pastries, we headed across Tower Bridge and then past the Tower of London which was also really busy.

As if I hadn’t overwhelmed Ethan enough, I took him to a Fulham vs Wolverhampton football match in the afternoon. It was the first football (soccer) match I had been to while in London and the atmosphere was absolutely amazing. While we couldn’t understand any of the cheers, we shouted along anyways. Our seats were between the corner flag and the goal and only about six rows back, aka fantastic seats.

On Sunday, we took a train out to Cambridge for a day trip. While I had previously been to Oxford, I was more excited to go to Cambridge and just have a relaxing day walking around looking at the pretty old school buildings. We wandered through the main part of town and then went towards the river to watch the punters (the people on the gondola-esque boats with the long poles). We had brunch at a really  cute restaurant and then spent the rest of the day walking around.

 

Ethan’s birthday is in early April, and  as I will not be home for it, I decided to surprise him by getting tickets to a West End show while he was here. His favorite childhood Disney movie was Aladdin, and they just so happen to have Aladdin playing at the Prince Edward Theatre, so I bought tickets for us to go on Monday night. He absolutely loved the show and I was very happy with how surprised he was when we turned the corner and he saw the Aladdin sign over the theatre entrance!

On Tuesday, we took the classic tourist route. First, we stopped at Buckingham Palace, then walked through St. Jame’s Park and then walked through Westminster. In Westminster, we first stopped outside Westminster Abbey and then Westminster Palace to look at the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. We then made our way over Westminster Bridge to get a different view of Big Ben, then went back across to continue walking down Whitehall Street, stopping at 10 Downing Street where the Prime Minister lives, the Horse Guards Parade and finally, we ended at Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery overlooks Trafalgar Square, so we went inside and wandered around a bit before making the walk east to St. Paul’s Cathedral with our final destination being the Sky Garden.

The Sky Garden is one of the few skyscrapers in London and is uniquely shaped, some call it the walkie talkie. It is best known for its top-floor viewing deck and restaurant that boasts a large indoor green garden. It is quite difficult to get tickets to go up to the top, despite the tickets being free. They sell out weeks in advance. Luckily, I had been watching the website and was able to book two tickets for us at 4:45 p.m. so we were able to see all of London in both the daytime and as the sun was setting. If you ever come to London and are looking for a fantastic view of London and don’t want to spend money to go up in the London Eye, I highly suggest getting tickets to go up to the Sky Garden! (Its the cheaper and better version of its skyscraper neighbor the Shard.)

Throughout the rest of the week, I was able to take Ethan to see the area where I work, in the borough of Shoreditch. I work on Brick Lane, which is known for its Indian Food, the Spitalfields Market and street art. While I wasn’t able to show him around most of the day, we still managed to see the market and some street art. On Thursday after I got out of my internship, we took the tube to Camden town where we wandered through Camden Market. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of Camden, it is quite different from the rest of London. There is more of a hipster and goth influence and is usually quite busy. Ethan had similar feelings about the area, so we didn’t spend much time here and ended up walking to Regents Park and Primrose Hill where we were able to watch the sunset. Primrose Hill also has amazing views of the London skyline and is well worth the climb to the top of the hill.

Saturday morning, we got up bright and early to make it to Portobello Market in Notting Hill. Of all the markets in London that I have been to, Portobello Market tops my list and it ended up being one of Ethan’s favorite places in London as well. We slowly made our way through the crowds of people as we walked down the street. We stopped to get donuts from a street vendor, and they ended up being the best apple and jam (not jelly, that’s not a thing here!) filled donuts we had ever had. Highly suggest! When looking for nice and cheap souvenirs in London, I also suggest going to Portobello Street Market as they have many permanent shops that sell sweatshirts, mugs, t-shirts, etc. and for good prices! After Notting Hill, we made our way back to Westminster and across to the area by the London Eye. We were going to do the London Eye, but had not made reservations and sadly they had sold out for the day. Instead, we decided to do a boat tour of London that actually ended up being really pretty. It was also such a nice day out and I swear I got sunburned as we sat on the top deck of the boat!

The next morning, Sunday, Ethan and I took the tube back out to Heathrow where he was flying out of. We had such a full, fun week and I still cannot believe how much we were able to fit in, despite the fact that I was still in classes and an internship on the weekdays!

London calling

Seaside Towns and the Harry Potter Studio Tour

Do you ever have one of those day where you just have an urge to go out and explore someplace on your own? Yes? No? Well, last Saturday was one of those days for me.

Despite being back at the flat for less than a week after my long spring break, I already needed to get out of my flat, out of London, and spend some time on my own.

Earlier in the semester, the Imperial College Woman’s Football Team that I am on had tried to gather enough girls to take a trip to Bournemouth on the southwest coast of England to play a match. Sadly, that never happened as there weren’t enough girls able to go on the trip, but since then I was intrigued by Bournemouth and wanted to visit.

When looking up photos of Bournemouth online, it looked beautiful. The ocean and cliffs were stunning (some would add the beach into this category but as I’m not a fan of beaches I’ll skip over this part…) and it seemed like a good break from the rush of the city of London.

On Saturday morning, I took a bus from London Victoria Coach Station to Bournemouth Coach Station. It was about an hour and a half long ride and was quite pretty the closer we got to Bournemouth. When I arrived in Bournemouth though, I was met not with the views of the ocean from over the cliffs, but instead with a view of the incredibly thick fog. Standing on the sidewalk near the beach, I wasn’t even able to see the water. It was that thick.

IMG_8603

I decided to go explore the city center and quickly discovered that Bournemouth was in fact known as a resort town. How I missed that when researching the city before going is still unclear to me.

As I couldn’t see much and wanted to explore more, I  decided to rent a bicycle and bike down the coast toward Southbourne and Christchurch. As I biked along the coast, the fog slowly began to clear up and I was able to see more of the ocean and the cliffs. I ended up biking 10 miles to Christchurch and back to the main center of Bournemouth. While it was a leisurely bike ride, it was still a long distance and I was pretty tired after.

As I biked along the coast, I passed many of the little beach huts that lined the cliffs. Many of them were brightly colored and so cute! Most of them were closed, but a few of them were open and you could see their owners sitting inside drinking tea or coffee and reading the newspaper. They were so quaint. I wish I could take one of the little beach huts home with me!

IMG_8736

The next day was a day I had been looking forward to for most all of the semester. It was the day we traveled to Leavesden, home of the Warner Brothers Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.

We left on a coach bus from Kensington to the Harry Potter Studios at two in the afternoon and got to Leavesden around three. Then, it was time to enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. After watching a short film where Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint welcomed us to the studios, the doors to the Great Hall opened and suddenly we were transported to Hogwarts. Two long tables lined the walls and at the end of the hall stood mannequins of professors such as Dumbledore, Snape, Hagrid, McGonagall and more. The life-sized mannequins wore the actual costumes of the characters and it was incredible to see up close. Sadly, the ceiling to the Great Hall was non-existent and therefore there were no magically suspended candles in the air.

We then walked into a large room of the studio that housed many of the props, costumes, wigs and major sets from the movie series. Some of my favorite parts included the set for the potions classroom, Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room. It was so interesting to learn how long it took to perfect each set, costume or prop and how they were maintained for the duration of all of the films.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After this room of the studio, was turned a corner and were suddenly at Platform 9 3/4 and the Hogwarts express filled the length of the room. It was unreal. After taking the classic Platform 9 3/4 photo, I boarded the Hogwarts Express. Okay not really, but I did get to walk inside the train and down the hallway. Each compartment depicted an important scene found from each film that featured the train.

IMG_8964

We then came to the cafeteria where they served Butterbeer and Butterbeer ice cream. We decided to go outside to see a few more of the sets before sampling a Butterbeer treat. Outside, we saw the Knight Bus, 4 Privet Drive, the main bridge at Hogwarts, the flying car and Hagrid’s flying motor bike. WOW. So many cool, magical things in one space! After that, it was finally time to go inside and get a Butterbeer product. I opted for the ice cream as I’m not a soda person, and was pleasantly surprised by the butterscotch taste of the ice cream.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The next portion of the studios included a walk down Diagon Alley (pronounced diagonally by the Brits), introduction to some of the most important technical props like Dobby and Buckbeak (the Hippogriff), and then a large replica model of the entire Hogwarts Castle and surrounding campus. This was probably my favorite part of the entire tour as the Castle was so detailed and large. The model itself was created so that the directors could film the castle with a green screen in the background and it would look life sized in the films. Crazy what a camera and the perfect set can do!

The tour ended in the gift shop where I spent almost 45 minutes trying to find the perfect gifts and souvenirs. Apart from that, there was just so much to look at in the shop that it took me three times longer than it really should have.

I still cannot believe that I was able to go to the Harry Potter Studios and see how the Wizarding World I grew up with was really brought to life. While this was so cool to see, it also made me a bit sad and nostalgic inside. Also, I’m currently feeling the urge to do a Harry Potter marathon of all the films. Where is ABC Family when you need them???

Design

Week-Long Whirlwind of Travel in Italy, Switzerland & Liechtenstein

On Saturday morning I arrived back in London after traveling for ten days in Italy, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. I have been in London for four days and I still feel exhausted from my travels.

I visited five major cities over break which include (in order): Rome, Italy, Florence, Italy, Pisa, Italy, Venice, Italy and Zurich, Switzerland. I traveled by plane, train, car and bus and needless to say, it was a whirlwind of a trip.

The trip itself had taken a few weeks to plan and I was constantly adding places to it. It wasn’t until I was actually in Rome and leaving for Florence that I decided to book a train to take a day trip to Pisa while staying in Florence. So some things I did were spontaneous and others were planned well in advance. One thing I learned through this trip, was how easy it really is to travel once you are on the mainland of Europe. My preferred means of travel is easily by train. Trains are usually really cheap and stations are easy to get through and are in basically any city you could ever want to go to.

My first destination was Rome. For this leg of my trip, I traveled with five girls and two guys from my flat. I stayed at an AirBNB with the five girls and it was really nice and big as well as in a good location in Rome. We arrived at about 2:30 a.m from the airport and our host, Luca, greeted us as soon as we got out of the taxi. He showed us up to the apartment and provided us with a map and suggestions about what we should see, do and eat while in Rome. This was my first time staying at an AirBNB and I was surprised at how easy it was.
On our first full day in Rome I set off with my friends Abby, Sophia and Kendall to do many of the touristy things of Rome. We went to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum (ruins), Palatine Hill, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. It was a full day of walking but I was incredibly happy with how much we had seen. I will add that we walked everythwere, which seems like a lot, but walking at least 8-13 miles in a day became a regular occurrence for me over the next nine days.

The next morning, Sophia, Abby and I got up and made the trek over to Vatican City. While the city is historic and grand, I was disappointed with it because as soon as we hit the main square outside of St. Peter’s Basilica, we were bombarded with panhandlers attempting to sell us selfie sticks and phone chargers. Not only that, but in both Rome and Vatican City, it is extremely difficult to know who to trust. Everyone acts as if they are an official guide with a discounted tour to sell you that has a fast pass to the front of the line. WARNING: THEY ARE ALL FAKE. Literally every person is just trying to rip you off and make money and sell tours that are about $10-20 over the actual price.
We were heading for the line for the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel and were accosted by numerous fake tour guides and panhandlers both on the way to the line and even while we were in line for an hour. They don’t give up and its quite obnoxious.

Finally, we made it into the Vatican Museum and made our way through the “museum” which was only a long hallway filled with old relics and no information that eventually led to the Sistine Chapel. There, the crowds of people were herded in and only allowed to stand in the middle to look at the beautiful ceiling. While the ceiling and Chapel itself was stunning and so intricate, it was difficult to concentrate on how pretty it was as the security was constantly yelling at people for “SILENCE” and “NO PHOTOS.”It really took away from the overall experience. While I am happy to say that I’ve been to Vatican City and seen the Sistine Chapel, it was not a great experience in my opinion.

On Sunday morning, I left for the net leg of my trip. I was off to Florence by train and was traveling on my own for the next two days. While for some this might be nerve-wracking, it was a part of the trip that I was most excited for. In London, I share a room with three girls and a flat with with 11 other people. It is incredibly difficult to get any alone time, so two days to myself was a very exciting idea to me.

On my first day in Florence, I was able to check into my hostel and then go out and explore for the afternoon and evening. I first went to get lunch at el Mercado Centrale, an indoor food market in Florence that is really more like a nice cafeteria with authentic Italian cuisine. I found a pasta place and asked for “spaghetti with marina sauce” and was quickly corrected by the man over the counter. He pointed across to the pizza stall and said “Pizza uses marinara sauce. Pasta? No marinara sauce. We use a rich tomato sauce with special herbs and spices from Tuscany. Got it?” Oh, yes. I got it. Mistake made, never calling red sauce for pasta “marinara sauce” when in Italy ever again.
After el Mercato Centrale, I walked to the Piazza del Duomo where I climbed Giotto’s Campanile, a free standing bell tower. To reach the top, one must climb 414 steps up an incredibly narrow spriraling cement staircase. That wasn’t great, but I made it to the top and the views of Florence were phenomenal. Definitely worth the climb. I also went into the Florence Cathedral that was right next to the bell tower.
I walked across the oldest bridge in Florence, Ponte Vecchio, that houses many shops. Sadly many of the shops were closed by the time I was crossing it, but there were still huge crowds of people crossing over the river via the bridge. It was getting close to sunset so I made my way to one of the highest places in Florence to watch the sunset. I walked up to Piazzale Michelangelo, where an outdoor replica of Michaelangelo’s David overlooks the city. The sunset and views of Florence were amazing from here. I sat on the crowded steps enjoying the sights and did some people watching.

A friend who had studied abroad in Florence last semester had suggested some of her favorite restaurants in Florence to me before I had left. I was off to Gusta Pizza after watching the sunset. Well-known and loved by locals and tourists alike, the pizza place did not open until 7 p.m. and there was a line outside with people waiting for the doors to open. I got a pizza from there that was AMAZING and made my way back to the hostel.

On my way back, I got a few texts from my mom, but didn’t respond right away as I was using my phone’s maps to get back. I then got a call from her. She simply said, “I’m not telling you why I’m calling, look at what I texted you,” then hung up on me. Okay? So I looked and OH MY GOODNESS. She had been going through the online version of People Magazine and came across a photo of ED SHEERAN AND I from the BBC Radio 1 studios from a few days before. Needless to say I freaked out then called her back and continued to freak out for the rest of the night. Still can’t believe that happened.

IMG_0131

Anyways, the next day, I woke up and took the train to Pisa. The main sights of Pisa, including the Leaning Tower, Pisa Baptistery, the Orto Botanco di Pisa and Pisa Cathedral are all located in the Piazza Demi Miracoli. I spent a couple of hours wandering around the square, taking photos for strangers and asking them to do the same for me until I got my perfect Leaning Tower shot. No shame. It started to rain right as I was leaving, perfect.
The next morning, I left early in the morning to take a train to Venice. There, I met up with my friend Allie who I did the rest of my traveling over break with. We spent the first couple hours carrying our luggage around the narrow streets and over the tiny bridges of Venice because our AirBNB lady wasn’t responding so we couldn’t check in yet. That was quite the experience… We were finally able to drop our stuff off later and did some shopping. We were searching for deals in the leather stores as both of us were looking to get an Italian leather purse. We were eventually able to decide on a purse and do some bartering to get the price down.
We met up with two other girls from our program to do one thing that Venice is most famous for, its gondola rides through the canals. Each gondola ride costs approximately 80 euros for “about” a thirty minute ride. TripAdvisor suggests doing the ride with a group to help cut down on the costs. Luckily we were able to meet up with the two other girls so it was only 20 euro a person because the gondolier conned us out of our time on the gondola and to me, was nowhere near worth the 80 euros we had to pay for it. Despite my arguing and displaying the stopwatch I had that showed how long we had been in the gondola, the gondolier ended the ride after about 20 minutes. We refused to get out of the boat and sat in it while it was docked for our final ten minutes. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy. The experience itself was cool, but not for the amount of time we were in the boat and the price we had to pay for it.

The next day, Wednesday, was a full travel day for Allie and I. We took a bus from Venice to Milan and then transferred to another bus that took us to our final destination of Zurich, Switzerland. While the bust took the whole day, I treated it as a tour of Italy and Switzerland as the views as we drove through the mountains were stunning. It was also a good rest day for us as we were about halfway through the trip and already exhausted from our traveling.

The next morning (Thursday), we met up with our friend Kendall again and did a free walking tour of Zurich. The guide was really informative and we saw a lot of Zurich during the trip. I was surprised at how clean and small Zurich is. It is known as one of the banking capitals of the world, so is very modern, but it’s Old Town is very rustic looking and is home to some great shopping. Kendall left later that afternoon to go back to Italy, but Allie and I were staying for another full day. We spend the rest of our afternoon hiking.

IMG_0129

I knew we were hiking, but at the time, I was not aware that we were hiking up the side of Uetliberg, Zurich’s local mountain at almost 900 meters high. We literally went from the city center of Zurich where our AirBNB was, to the top. We didn’t pass on anyone on the path we took, which was muddy and filled with sketchy stairs, and it wasn’t until we reached the top that we discovered that there was a paved path that went all the way up. Go us. The hike was worth it though and I felt fully deserving of the awesome view that rewarded us at the top. Needless to say, we didn’t walk back down and instead opted to take the train that goes up and down the mountain back to the city center.
The final full day of our trip was Friday, and Allie and I decided to take different day trips. She went to Jungfraujoch, one of the highest points in the Swiss Alps, and I decided to take the warmer route and travel to Raperswil, Switzerland, Vaduz, Liechtenstein and Heidiland. I really enjoyed my day trip and the cute little villages that we stopped at on our way to Liechtenstein, one of the smallest countries in the world. There wasn’t much to do in the capital city of Liechtenstein and much of it was under construction. I was able to see the castle where the Prince of Liechtenstein lives with his family, but sadly no flags were out so they weren’t in the country. After leaving Vaduz, we went to Heidiland where the book written about Heidi takes place. It was a quick stop, but we were able to get out and enjoy the mountain views for a bit.
The next morning, Allie and I flew out of Zurich and into London Luton Airport. It felt so good to be back in London. While traveling and seeing so much of Europe is incredibly fun, it is also extremely exhausting. But I’m not complaining! I’m just happy to be back in London, walking less and sleeping more!

london-calling-1

The Day I Met Ed Sheeran

23 February, 2017

Yes. I’m devoting an entire blog post to this day. Would you expect anything less from me?

On Tuesday, I did something I’ve been trying to do for over seven years: meet Ed Sheeran.

I woke up at 6 a.m. and was to the BBC Broadcasting House by 7:30 a.m. And NO MOM, I was not the first person there! I swear. I sat on the ground at the corner of the barrier that stood outside of the BBC Radio 1 studios.

After sitting on the cold, hard ground for just over two hours, it was time to stand up. Ed’s manager Stuart Camp, his guitar technician Trevor Dawkins, and the rest of his small team had arrived. Ed was not far behind.

stuart-and-mark

The forever sassy Stuart Camp and Mark

At 9:52, a van pulled up and he got out. At first I was unsure if he would even stop to say hi to all the fans as the radio show he was going to be on started at 10 a.m., but in true Ed fashion, he did. Not only did he stop to say hello to us, but he literally stopped to take a photo with every single fan along the barrier.

I stood in the corner (the best spot), as I was able to take photos on my camera as he approached, and then, once he was in the corner, he spent the most time there as there were more fans in the area.

As Ed came closer, I noticed something very odd. When Ed got to an area of fans, everyone went silent and instead only stuck there phones out in his face. Barely anyone actually said hello or talked with him. It was weird.

Once Ed was in the corner, I worked up the courage to say hello. While it wasn’t the longest of conversations or filled with the most content, it is one that I will never forget. It went a little something like this:

Me: “Hi Ed!”

(Ed turns and looks at me, I freeze inside, what the heck did I just do???)

Me: “Happy belated birthday!”

Ed: (A small smile spreading on his face) “Aw, thank you!”

(Ed continues to smile, then turns back to take photos. I die inside.)

Then he approached and I handed him my phone to take a photo. It was amazing.

ed-and-i

Ed then went inside and was interviewed then performed five songs in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge.

I waited outside with a few friends in the off chance that he came back outside to say hello again after. Good thing I did because the BBC Radio 1 doors are a hot-spot for celebrities I guess.

I ended up talking to Jedward, twin brothers from Dublin that are pop-singers (Ed is also obsessed with them). And then Nick Grimshaw, the host of the Radio 1 Breakfast Show, and then Katy Perry also spontaneously came out and talked to the crowd. You could say it was a casual morning. I now know where I will be hanging out on days when I don’t have class…

I still can’t believe this happened and it is most definitely a day I will never forget. 7 years in the making.

P.S.

I will be traveling on spring break for the next week and a half and will not have my laptop so this will be my last update for a while. You can expect a long blog post about my travels in Europe when I get back!

paris-on-a-budget

Paris on a Budget:

17 February, 2017

So last Thursday was one of the longest days of my life.

After class, I went to Victoria Station and boarded an overnight bus to Paris, France. Why an overnight bus you ask? Well, they are extremely cheap. Not only do they provide transportation, but they also alleviate the need to book a hostel. Normally for a weekend trip, I would fly out Thursday night, have to pay for a hostel Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, and then fly back to London on Sunday morning.

So, we decided to try something different this time. It worked out well as Paris is not only close, but the buses are so much cheaper than taking the Chunnel or flying. When using the bus, you also don’t have to pay for the extra expense of getting to and from the airport which also GREAT.

So anyways, enough about expenses. We left Victoria Station in London at 10:20 p.m. and headed off on our overnight journey. We took the ferry across the Strait of Dover, so that was pretty cool. What wasn’t cool was arriving in Paris at 6:30 in the morning. Yep. 6:30 a.m. It was still dark out and we were extremely tired, as you can imagine, its slightly difficult to get good night’s sleep on a bus. But we powered through-the motto of the day.

After getting off the bus, we walked to the closest Metro station and made our best purchase of the weekend: a two-day pass for unlimited Metro rides in zones one and two. If you ever go to Paris, I highly suggest investing in a Metro pass like this as it allows you to get to all the monuments and touristy places quickly when you only have a few short days to see everything you want to. It was only about 16 Euro, and we definitely used more trips with it than 16 Euro  would have paid for within the first four hours of being in Paris so…yeah. Buy the Metro pass and save yourself the time and money it takes to get around via walking or taking taxis.

One of our first destinations was the Eiffel Tower. Despite it being a relatively overcast day, we had to go to the Eiffel Tower. When in Paris, right?

I definitely suggest going to the Eiffel right after it opens at either 9 or 10 a.m., that way you can avoid the two hour long lines that TripAdvisor says you can usually expect. TripAdvisor also suggests buying your tickets in advance so you can skip the lines, but luckily we were able to walk right up and buy our tickets with our student discounts (YAY) and then we headed right up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. If you’re going to the Eiffel Tower, buy the ticket to go all the way to the top floor. Its worth it. The views were incredible despite the slight fog.

After the Eiffel Tower, we used our wonderful Metro passes to visit a bunch of the other famous (and free) monuments of Paris. These included the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur (AMAZING VIEWS, but go early before all the panhandlers come out), Notre-Dame Cathedral, and of course, the Lourve Museum.

At the Notre-Dame Cathedral, they offer admission inside the Cathedral for free as well as free tours on certain days at certain times. If you’re interested in a tour, be sure to look that up ahead of time. We didn’t do a tour, and instead decided to walk through the Cathedral on our own. There were still many signs to read that talked about the history of the Cathedral and its architecture and we also got to spend as much time as we liked admiring how pretty it was inside.

We waited until later at night to go to the Lourve. After 6 o’clock to be precise. Every Friday after 6 p.m., admission to the museum is free for anyone under the age of 26 who can present a valid ID. We are currently under 26 and of course had our IDs so hellooooo free trip to the Lourve. While I’m not really one for museums, I was able to see the Mona Lisa (its pretty small tbh, but ts the Mona Lisa so).

On our second day in Paris, we planned to take the train out to Versailles. We thought it would be easy to get there, being that we had our Metro passes and only would have to pay a whopping seven Euros for a round-trip ticket. But, we ended up taking the right train, only going to the wrong end place. Needless to say, we ended up switching back and forth trying to get to the correct train station for almost four hours. Not great. But we eventually made it to Versailles.

In Versailles, we walked to the Palace of Versailles. The line to go into the Palace was extremely long, like two hours long, and we didn’t have that much time to spend there so we decided to simply walk the grounds. We braved the cold and explored the grounds for about an hour and a half and then took the train back to Paris.

Night bus round two happened Saturday night. I turned 20 on the bus ride back to London and celebrated with M&Ms and opening a few letters from home. It was a long but good  (and inexpensive) weekend, and ending with my birthday was the ‘icing on the cake!’

barcelona

Fui a Barcelona!

7 January 2017

Over the past weekend I went to Barcelona, Spain, and it was absolutely beautiful!

In high school, I took a semester long course on Spain, the culture, geography, food and history, and since then it had always been a dream of mine to go see and experience the unique country.

Our flight got in very late on Thursday night, and we took a taxi to our hostel. When I say very late, I mean that we got to the hostel by two in the morning. But it didn’t feel like it was that late at the hostel. Literally everyone was awake and the hostel was incredibly busy with people in the lobby, bar and lounge area.

When we got to our room, we were surprised to see a couple from Mexico also just getting to the room and unpacking. There was one girl asleep in a bunk bed and then two empty beds. We went to sleep rather quickly, only to be woken up at five in the morning to two Italian guys coming back rather loudly after having been out all night.

Bienvenido a España!

We were up and out the door by 8:30 a.m. the next morning and it was like a ghost town. In high school, I learned how unique the daily schedule was in Spain (waking up late, lunch at two, siesta around four, dinner at nine, sleep by two a.m.), but being in a big city like Barcelona, I thought things would be somewhat regular. They weren’t.

As we made our way to La Boqueria Mercat, one of Barcelona’s largest markets, barely any of the coffee shops or stores were open. Once we arrived at the market (a good hour and a half after it had already opened) almost half the shops were still closed. Spain takes their sleep and later schedule very seriously-clearly.

La Boqueria was (for the most part) very colorful and pretty. There were stalls everywhere filled with the most colorful fruit and juices I had ever seen. Many of the juice colors looked like they had to be artificial, but I highly doubt that they were. There were also shops selling baked goods, traditional Spanish croquetas and empanadas, and finally the ever disgusting meat stalls. The meat stalls showcased animal legs with the hooves still on as well as chickens with their heads or feathers still in tact. It was not very pleasant to look at, so we would quickly move away from those stalls and on to the prettier, more colorful fruit stalls.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After La Boqueria, we made our way onto one of Barcelona’s most famous streets, Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is a street in the heart of Barcelona that is quite busy each days as it fills with both tourists and locals. It has many little shops on it that feature tourist gifts as well as gelato and other food. It connects Plaça de Catalunya in the center with the Christopher Columbus Monument all the way near the water at Port Vell.

We walked along Las Ramblas until we reached the Christopher Columbus Monument and then we began to walk through the bay area. While doing so, we looked up and saw a sky gondola that stretched from the water near us, up into a small mountain in the distance. After looking up the sky gondola, we decided to do it.

The Teleferico del Puerto Cable Car offered amazing views of the city of Barcelona. We could see all the way up into the mountains and across the city to La Sagrada Familia Cathedral. There were also great views of the ocean! I am so happy that we did because the view of the city was stunning. The ride is only seven minutes long from the port to Miramar which sits on Montjuic Mountain, but is well worth it for the view and price.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We walked around on Montjuic Mountain for a while and talked with two locals. It was so interesting to hear about how badly Catalan wants its independence from Spain and how long they have been fighting for it. I began speaking Spanish with them, only for the woman to correct me and say “We speak Catalan here, not Spanish.” She continued on to tell us how Catalan is the first language they learn, then Spanish. She also told us that she then learned English and then French and Italian. Incredible. The woman was an older woman who had retired from her job as a teacher and has now published one book and is about to publish another. Both were very pleasant and offered us ideas on what else we should see while in Barcelona.

After talking with the locals, we took the cable car back to the port and then walked around the beach for a while (yes, I know, I can’t believe it either. I went on a beach and touched sand. It was awful.) And then we found lunch. After lunch we made our way back into town and explored the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.

The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is known for it architecture, narrow winding alleyways and numerous little shops. We walked through the area for a while and stopped in a few shops. We then headed out of the area and toward the Arc de Triomf. Along the way, I made a pit-stop at the famous El Corte Ingles. In my Spanish class in high school, my teacher raved about El Corte Ingles, the largest department/supermarket chain of stores in Spain. She wasn’t wrong in doing so. The store was monstrous, super busy and had basically everything. It was crazy.

We then continued on to the Arc de Triomf, took some photos and explored the square area. Then FINALLY we started the walk back to the hostel. By the time we got there, I checked my Fitbit and we had walked just over 13 miles. CRAZY. But well worth it as we had seen a ton in only one day!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On our second day in Barcelona (Saturday), we once again woke up “early” in local time and left the hostel by 8:3o a.m. to start our walk up to Park Guell. It was a primarily uphill walk to Park Guell, but luckily when it began to get incredibly steep, something amazing happened. We spotted OUTDOOR ESCALATORS ahead of us. And not just one, not two, but three escalators that took us up even higher. It was insane but really, thank goodness!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the top of the third escalator we turned around to look at the view and it was beautiful! Only thing was, we still had some climbing up to do still to get to the Park. We entered the park and wandered around a bit before going to the ticketed area.

For 7€ you can buy a ticket to enter the Monumental Zone of Park Guell that has the great views of Barcelona, the tiled mosaic seating area, the Casa Del Guarda, the gift shop and restaurant. The park was designed by Gaudí  between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. It was packed when we were there with countless tourists looking to see the park and the views of Barcelona.

We then left the park and made our way back down towards the heart of Barcelona to another Gaudí piece, La  Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. The basilica has been under construction since 1882, which sounds crazy but makes perfect sense once you actually see the basilica. One side is the original part while the rest of the basilica looks as though it was all made out of different stone colors, different designs, color schemes and pieces of history. Personally, I didn’t like how it looked (not the most visually appealing as it doesn’t match), but it is one of the most well-known tourists spots in Spain and the Spaniards are quite proud of it. I guess you can make your own opinions about it, but it was still cool to see and look at!

We walked to the beach again after and just sat around watching the waves crash for a while as it was a beautiful day in the mid 60’s. After a couple hours, we headed back to the hostel and I was able to watch the FC Barcelona game in the bar which was cool!

I had to pack as we had to be out the door to the airport by four in the morning the next day, so I headed back up to my room. The two Italian guys were also in the room packing. I didn’t say anything to them at first, but then I noticed while they were talking that they were speaking Spanish so I decided to attempt to speak to them in Spanish. They looked really surprised when I asked them a question, but understood me and responded. I understood them to and so we talked for a while. It was so cool to actually be able to carry on a conversation with people from a different country (Italy) in a different language (Spanish) and understand the other people and be understood as well. Thankful for all the Spanish classes I’ve had up until this point!

Overall, Barcelona was amazing and everything I had hoped it would be! Being immersed in the daily culture, seeing the sights and learning more about the history was amazing! My only regret is that I didn’t buy some of the delicious looking strawberries while at La Boqueria. Next time!

london-calling

A Stroll through Notting Hill & Camden

30 January 2017

Day 24 in London

As we had to stay in London this weekend for our day trip to Oxford on Saturday, I had my Friday off and decided to do some more exploring in London. The next borough to explore was Notting Hill and I went with a bunch of girls from my flat.

We took the tube to Notting Hill and decided to walk to Portobello Road which also just so happens to be where the Portobello Market is. I’m not usually one for markets as they tend to be way too crowded, but Portobello Market was quite cute and not too busy!

We came from Notting Hill Gate tube station, so we worked our way north up Portobello Road. There were both little permanent shops on the street with tables set up in front of them, as well as pop-up carts set up on the streets. There were little shops with books, jewelry, antiques, fruit, crepes, basically anything you could want.

We stopped in a little bakery where everything smelled amazing and then continued on our walk. It was so cool to stop and look at everything.

dsc_0618

I was so surprised at how bright and colorful Notting Hill was. Very different from the pristine white buildings I’m used to in Kensington.

We walked up almost the entire street and then decided to go back to the tube station and make our way to Camden for the last few hours of daylight we had.

Camden was…very very different and not quite what I had expected it to be. It was mainly full of young people with tattoos, piercings and individuals who looked pretty goth. There were open shops lining the main street, and once we crossed over a bridge, we entered a covered market area.

The one thing we had planned on doing in Camden was going to Chin Chin Lab. Prior to coming to London, someone had posted in our UW Facebook group page about Chin Chin Lab. They are known for their hot chocolate that has marshmallow fluff on the top.

The shop was packed, but we waited in line and made our way to the front. I’m not the biggest fan of marshmallow as it tends to give me sugar headaches, so I decided to go with their warm brownie-cookie with ice cream on it. It was amazing.

After Chin Chin Lab, we continued to walk through the covered market and wandered through different shops. I had read about the Cereal Killer Cafe online, and we stopped in just to take a couple cool pics of the cereal box lined walls. Its about 2.75 for one small bowl of cereal, so we weren’t interested in buying a bowl as you could get almost a whole box for the same amount.

We were exhausted at this point as it had been a long day of walking and exploring so we decided to head home. We didn’t spend much time in Camden, so I will definitely have to go back in the future and explore some more!

football

Harry Potter & Football

27 January 2017

Day 18 in London

The next day I woke up and went for a run in Hyde Park and then came back to pay for and join the Women’s Football Club at Imperial College! The organization through which my program is organized by, FIE (Foundation for International Education), has an affiliation with Imperial College. Because of this, we are able to join any clubs or organizations at Imperial. I joined the football club team not only to play some “footy” but also to get out of my American bubble and meet some students that are actually from the UK.

I then took the tube to Soho to meet Sophia at the House of Minalima. The House of Minalima is a pop-up Harry Potter shop featuring graphic art from the Harry Potter films and other works by Minalima. Minalima is an artist duo of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima. There were four floors, some featuring works from Harry Potter and other floors featured work from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The store is only open until mid February so we knew it was a place we had to check out before it was gone!

The ground floor was the dedicated gift shop containing prints, books, postcards and posters all things Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts. The first floor then contained the graphic art from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Sadly, I hadn’t seen that movie yet, so the floor didn’t mean as much to me as the Harry Potter floors did (don’t worry though, we went back and watched Fantastic Beasts with the flat later that night). Floors two and three were my favorite floors as they held all the graphic art from Harry Potter. From prints of the Daily Prophet newspaper to wanted posters of Bellatrix Lestrange to Sirius Black, I was in Harry Potter heaven!

The house even had some props from the actually Harry Potter movies on loan from the Warner Brothers Studios. Some of these props included original spell books used in the films.

On one floor, there was a fireplace that replicated the scene where Harry receives his acceptance letters form Hogwarts. The fireplace was filled with letters addressed to “Harry Potter 4 Privet Drive Little Whinging, Surrey” on them. AMAZING.

Before we left, I ended up buying a “Harry Potter, Undesirable No. 1” poster. I cannot wait to hang it up once I go home. I was between that or a Sirius Black poster, but I think I’d prefer to wake up everyday and see Harry’s face rather than the photo they chose of Sirius…

Day 19 in London

On Sunday morning, I woke up and walked to Beit Quad at Imperial College to meet the Women’s Football Club. Today was the first day of games that I could make and I was also very excited to meet some non-Americans!

While I hadn’t brought any of my soccer stuff with me, one girl who couldn’t play loaned me her cleats and I was able to borrow shin guards.

We drove in a van to the game which was a 35 minute drive away to north-east London. Not only was it interesting to finally see London from above ground and maneuver in the traffic, but it was also really fun to talk with the girls. They were all very talkative and welcoming.

We only had eight girls from Imperial to play in the 11v11 sided game…Luckily, they don’t have a regular goalkeeper so they were extremely happy when I told them that was my normal position. It was so cool to be playing on a pitch in England (despite it being on turf that ripped up my legs). Because the game was still in the city, the complex we were at had lots of little fields in what they called “cages,” and then also two larger fields with a bit more space around them. It was a very different setting than what I was used to but still a really cool place for some “football.”

We ended up losing the game, but for only having eight players, I think we did pretty well and it just felt so good to be out playing again!

Other Updates!

  1. I finally received my placement for my internship for later this semester! I will be working at a music magazine in Brixton called “Songlines.” The music they cover there is less well-known, but it looks like a quality magazine and is also connected to the music world in London so I am very very VERY excited about this placement! I have a confirmation interview with Songlines in mid-February and hopefully I will learn more about what my day-to-day tasks will be then. In the email I received, it mentioned maintaining their online presence (yay for social media), music research, editing and possibly writing articles, as well as other day-to-day tasks. I’m so excited to start the internship now! It should be a very unique experience and I cannot wait to dive deeper into the music world of London!
  2. My parents sent me a package a while ago and I have anxiously been awaiting its arrival until yesterday! It actually made it to the UK a few days ago, but they hold all packages at customs until the recipient pays a tax on it (price is dependent upon the worth of the contents ugh) and then they release it and ship it to you. The box was basically a Marry Poppins bag as I still have no idea how my mom fit everything that she did into it. She shipped my soccer gear (cleats, shin guards, socks, keeper gloves), a warmer jacket (I’ve been freezing over here in London in just my rain jacket), my beloved Skippy Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, ranch dressing (so I can finally make some spinach salads here), Dove Chocolate (FAV), and of course, I’ve been missing out on my Baked Cheetos and Quakes, which were also somehow squeezed into the box. It was amazing and the greatest early birthday present. Thanks mom and dad!!!

winter-lights

Winter Lights & Lord Henry Dashwood

22 January, 2016

Day 16 in London

After class on Thursday, I went with five other UW students from my flat to Canary Wharf where the Winter Lights Festival was being held. Some of our friends had gone to the festival the night before and the photos from it looked amazing so of course we had to go check it out ourselves.

When we walked out of the tube station, we immediately looked around for the lights and didn’t see anything so we turned left and walked until we saw the cutest ice skating rink, filled with lights and blasting pop music. There, we also found a man who was handing out a map for where all of the light exhibits were located.

canary-wharf-map

There were a few light exhibits that we knew we wanted to see because our friends had seen them the night before, the only problem was that we didn’t know what they were called. So we were off to walk and wander aimlessly until we found them all.

There ended up being lights everywhere, both inside and outside and we took so many photos. It was fantastic.

When we found the lights upstairs in one of the buildings, we also found a tropical garden area. It was such a random find but also really pretty with all the lights.

Day 17 in London

I don’t have class on Fridays, and as I stayed in London this weekend, a few girls from my flat and I decided to go out and explore London. We took the tube to Tower Bridge and then walked across the bridge. I had been there once before during the night and it was a completely different experience during the day. It also had quite the view from the viewing platform in the middle of the bridge. You could see down the Thames on both sides.

We then exited the bridge and took the stairs down to the walking path. We first passed the Tower of London which was filled with people walking around inside the grounds.

We continued on along the river until we came to the Southward Bridge. The Globe Theatre was across the river, so we crossed back over on the bridge. When we reached the Globe Theatre, we waled around it for a bit and then went inside to look through the gift shop. I of course ended up getting a little notebook with a quote from Hamlet on it.

After the Globe Theatre, we walked across the bridge that I was most excited for, Millennium Bridge.

One of my all time favorite movies is What a Girl Wants starring Amanda Bynes. In the movie, she comes to London and walks across the Millennium Bridge in one scene. St. Paul’s Cathedral is in the back and it just looks amazing. Since then, (aka since 2003 when the movie came out), I’ve always wanted to walk where Daphne Reynolds had walked. Specifically across Millennium Bridge. And so we did.

Don’t worry, it lived up to all my hopes and dreams. Now I’m just waiting to run into Lord Henry Dashwood on the streets of London…

Until that happens, you can find me roaming the streets of London for the next four months!

bbc-blog-graphic

Live from the BBC

20 January, 2016

Day 14 in London

So, if you know anything about Britain, you know that there’s this woman who rules the country called the Queen of England and then this organization that does a thing where it covers the news called the British Broadcasting Corporation.

If you know anything, you should know those two things. And if you didn’t already, well, now you do.

My only class on Tuesdays is Media in Britain, and luckily, I don’t have it until six o’clock each day. But this Tuesday was particularly special because our teacher was taking us to the BBC studios for a short tour and then to see one of their shows produced live.

The BBC Broadcasting House serves as the worldwide headquarters for the BBC and is located in the heart of London just a couple minutes walk from the Oxford Circus tube stop.

Our class met in the coffee shop inside the BBC center and then made our way to the main building and through the doors under the large, lit up letters that spelled out B B C.

Once inside the building, we went through airport-esque security and then collected our visitors badges and wristbands for the live taping of the BBC One Show. After going through security, there was another coffee bar and gift shop. I bought a BBC Radio 1 mug (I love Radio 1, its great) to add to my collection of mugs for coffee that I do not drink…hah

In the coffee bar area, there is a counter that has windows overlooking the large, fantastic, amazing newsroom of the BBC. Our guide told us that the BBC prides themselves in having the largest newsroom in the world (besides China, but that is only because they won’t share information about how large their newsrooms are, so we will let the BBC call themselves the largest newsroom in the world).

p03mrwdc

Before going to the studio where the BBC One Show is filmed, we were taken down the twisting stairs to the main floor of the newsroom. The 6 p.m. news was currently broadcasting live, and while we snaked through the newsroom, those watching the news were probably able to see us in the background!

We were then taken downstairs to see where the producers directed and produced the shows. That was really cool to see as well.

file_004-1

Next, we went back upstairs and then outside into the main courtyard area. There was a gated area surrounding the entrance to the One Show and we put our bags in a locked locker outside then were ushered into the studio. It was a really small studio and we had to stand for the entire thirty minute show. The time flew by though because the BBC is a public broadcasting service and therefore does not have commercials. A big difference between the U.K.’s media system and that of the U.S.’s.

p04ptvzc

The show was an interesting mix of entertainment and some soft news. The guest on the show was Sanjeev Bhaskar, a British comedian, actor and broadcaster. He was pretty funny and got along well the hosts  Matt Baker and Michelle Ackerley. It was really interesting to see how they interacted between the pre-recorded clips that played during the show.

img_2391

When the show was over, we took a photo with both of the hosts and then picked up our things out of the locker outside. Overall, it was a really amazing experience. My favorite part though would have to be when we walked through the newsroom. It was gigantic and the atmosphere was so cool just because people were working everywhere plus you could see the live broadcast of the news going on and wow just wow. Such an amazing experience!

dublin

The Craic Was 90 in Ireland

16 January, 2016

Day 9 in London/Dublin, Ireland

My last class of the day ended at 5 p.m. and as soon as it was over, I ran to the tube with my packed backpack, ready to start my journey to Dublin, Ireland.

I took the tube to Victoria Station and from there sped walked my way to where the trains to the airports and surrounding cities left from. I boarded the Gatwick Express at 5:30 p.m. bound for the Gatwick Airport. On the way I was stressing out about making my flight, it was scheduled to depart at 7 p.m. and the gates were supposed to close at 6:30. I would have to sprint through the unfamiliar airport in order to make my flight in time.

The Gatwick Express pulled into the airport at 6:05 and from there, I was off. I first had to get my boarding pass stamped and my visa checked at the baggage drop off, then I flew through security. Almost every other person around me got stopped.

I made it to my gate by 6:25 p.m. I still have no idea how I managed that.

Then, I sat. And sat.

7 p.m. came and went. Then 7:30 p.m. Finally, an announcement was made that due to the snow, (yes, it was snowing in London, very lightly, but there was snow), the plane we were scheduled to leave on still had not landed. Once it did finally land at 8 p.m., we were allowed to board but were told that the plane needed to be de-iced so we wouldn’t be leaving for another 20-25 minutes. Great.

Well, 25 minutes later, we were still sitting in the plane  and no one had come to de-ice yet. At 9 p.m., still no one was there to de-ice. The pilot came on to tell us they would be there soon. Soon did not come soon enough. We sat on the plane until 10:30 and then finally took off for Dublin.

I landed in Dublin, Ireland just before midnight. From there, I made my way to the taxi stand and soon was on my way to the hostel.

My taxi driver was a nice middle-aged Irish man and we had a great conversation about politics both in Ireland and the United States. He told me about his concerns over the state of the U.S., especially his fears of what is to come when Trump becomes president. Friends and family of his had immigrated to the U.S. a few years earlier and he, as well as other Irish citizens, are worried for those in the U.S.

The taxi driver also went on to tell me about the presidents from the U.S. that the Irish people really appreciated. He mentioned John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and President Obama as three presidents that the people of Ireland truly appreciated. He said despite the “poor choices” Bill Clinton made concerning Monica Lewinsky, he made a lasting impact with the people of Ireland in 1995. He helped to bring peace and stop the fighting between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

I really enjoyed talking with him on the way from the airport to the Generator Hostel. I’ve been abroad for just over a week, but in that time I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a couple of individuals from both England and Ireland and see what an outsiders perspective of the state of the United States is.

In under 30 minutes, we made it to the hostel and I checked in, met Annie and Allie, (two girls from my flat that I would be traveling with), found our room and promptly went to bed.

Day 10 in Dublin

Woke up bright and early (not so bright but very early) at 5:45 a.m. We left but 6:20 to walk a mile to where we were getting picked up for our bus tour! We had a day trip planned to travel across the country to Galway, Ireland and then make our way through the countryside of Ireland to our final destination of the Cliffs of Moher.

file_000-2

We were riding in a nice coach bus and made a pit-stop in Galway, which was about a two hour drive from Dublin, before heading through the narrow country roads through the hills to the Cliffs of Moher. Our tour guide Aman talked almost the entire time. He told us about the places we were passing, some of the history of Ireland and many old Irish stories. Many of these stories involved the Irish belief of fairies and magic.

He pointed out circles of trees that we passed called fairy Hawthorn trees that are illegal to dig up, move or build buildings or roads through in Ireland. They believe that anyone who chooses to disrupt the trees will have bad luck and so the circles of fairy Hawthorn trees, as well as any single fairy Hawthorn trees are protected in Ireland. It was so interesting to learn about these beliefs and how seriously the people of Ireland take these beliefs to this day.

The night before, it had both snowed and rained in Dublin, so every time we made a stop to get out, take photos and explore, Aman warned us to be careful and watch our step so we didn’t twist an ankle before making it to the cliffs.

Along the way to the cliffs, we stopped at a castle and were able to get out and walk around it to take photos. We also stopped at a small graveyard that had a really old church in it. It was cool to explore the old building associated with Ireland’s history.

We stopped in the small city of Doolin for lunch. There, we went to a small pub where the members of our tour bus greatly outnumbered the locals. It was evident that the locals were always at the pub though, as the two women working the bar area and taking orders served the locals first and called them by name.

After lunch, it was back to the bus and then we were headed for our final stop, the Cliffs of Moher!

As we were pulling in to the parking lot of the Cliffs of Moher, it was raining, but luckily it stopped just as we were getting off the bus. As we made our way up the path to the cliffs, it consistently got windier and windier. It was really a struggle to walk up the steep incline against the wind, but eventually we made it to the top. And it was absolutely beautiful.

If you ever happen to find yourself in Ireland, it is completely worth it to make the three hour drive from Dublin to the Cliffs. You will not regret it.

As soon as we left the cliffs, it started raining. What are the odds. The luck of the Irish was really with us that day.

It was another three hour drive back, and we took a different road back that allowed us drive along the coast. It was so cool to see the cows grazing in the fields right next to the ocean. We were even able to get out at one point and walk right to the edge of the cliffs and look down at the ocean. It was kinda freaky but amazing at the same time.

Then we began the drive back and luckily I was able to sleep most of the way back. We were getting up early again the next day to go explore downtown Dublin.

dsc_0781

Day 11 in Dublin

We left the hostel by 9 a.m., went across the street to a small cafe for breakfast, and then made our way across the river to Dublin’s City Hall. We were meeting in a square near the hall for a free walking tour of Dublin provided by Sandemans. For a free tour, the tour guides were so enthusiastic and provided really good information.

Sadly, it was freezing outside during our tour and our guide, while very nice, liked to talk A LOT and not move much. So after an hour and a half of being on the tour, we hadn’t move very far from City Hall and Dublin Castle so we decided to leave the tour and walked through the Temple Bar area by ourselves.

The Temple Bar area of Dublin has a pub every 50 ft. and is a great place to find shops for touristy gifts. We spent a while just walking through the streets and then we stopped into some stores to do some shopping. I ended up buying a Dublin sweatshirt mainly because I was freezing in my thin rain jacket and needed another layer. I put the sweatshirt on right away! I also ended up getting a cute purple scarf made of aran wool. I also put that on right away and started to warm up right away.

We wandered back across the river and found a cute little baking supply shop. It literally had every color fondant you could ever wanted and every baking supply ever created. Needless to say, it was heaven to me.

After lunch in a cute little restaurant, we walked through Trinity College. I used to think that UW-Madison had old buildings on its campus until I walked through Trinity. Each building looked so old yet beautiful. The grass of each quad was so perfectly green even though it was the middle of winter. It was such a cool campus.

We then walked through the streets of Dublin to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. By this time, it was dark out and the gates of the cathedral were locked. We were still able to see it though and it looked very pretty at night.

On our way back to the hostel, we stopped at a little shop for ice cream. The owners were very nice and their shop was the cutest!

In order to catch our flight the next morning, we needed to get to sleep early so we headed back to the hostel and had a quick dinner then went to sleep in order to be out the door by 5 a.m. the next morning.

The next morning, we made it out of bed, out the door and made it to the airport by 6 a.m. Our flight was on time so we left by 7:35 am and made it back to our flat in London by about 11 a.m. It was a great trip, but also incredibly exhausting. To say I slept well on Sunday night was an understatement!

While my two days in Ireland were great and I saw so much, there was so much more I could have seen and would love to go back some day in the future.

london-callingOh hey, there’s school too?

10 January 2016

Day 5 in London

This was a sad, sad day.

I was uploading photos from my camera to my computer and bumped my camera off the couch. It fell. The lens bent. There were tears.

Luckily, as my mom says, “all things are replaceable.” And so I ordered a new lens. A new expensive lens. Yay for being a klutz.

To clear my head, I went for a run through Hyde Park. I guess I didn’t realize how big the park was before because as much as I tried not to get lost, I did.

I found myself running through zig-zagging paths, never really sure which side of the path I should be running on. I’m still confused about which side of the sidewalk to walk on here. People walk on both the left and right and there seems to be no correct direction. What a confusing place to be.

Anyways, I eventually found myself at a river that goes through the park. While it was kind of a dreary day, it was still very pretty. Birds were swimming in it and people were still out and about everywhere. I attempted to make my way back out of the park and passed a memorial to Princess Diana on the way out. There is always something more to discover in Hyde Park!

I quickly showered at the flat and then put on the nicest dress I brought with me then made my way back up to High Street and to the Royal Garden Hotel which is neighbors with, you guessed it, Prince William and Duchess Kate who tend to reside at Kensington Palace.

While I am not a tea drinker, the experience was still pretty cool. It was quite posh and all of us felt pretty out of place at the super fancy hotel. They served cute finger sandwiches that I heard were good, some little cakes, macaroons, tarts and such for dessert and lots of tea. I had apple juice. It was great!

During our time at tea, we also had to sign up for excursions offered through FIE at subsidized prices. The site crashed due to so much traffic to it, but luckily I am happy to say that I will be going to see The Lion King, Wicked and wait for it…HARRY POTTER WORLD! I cannot wait!

Day 6 in London

The first day of classes. Oh joy.

Really though, I’m one of those weird people that actually enjoys school and having class meant more structure to my days so I was actually pretty excited for school to begin!

I went in early to Foundation House to see about switching my Media in Britain class from one time to another. I currently have that class on a Friday, (there are only TWO classes offered on Fridays and I somehow was lucky enough to get it). No one else in my flat had a Friday class and therefore everyone was able to start booking weekend trips to other countries and I could not. So I would not be able to travel. More on that story to come.

My first class of the day was Infiltrating the Art World. Local artist Faisal Abdu’Allah came in to talk to us about his art. Abdu’Allah has also taught classes at UW-Madison and has had his artwork featured in the Chazen Museum. You can check out his work here. Abdu’Allah then took us on a field trip to the London Print Studio.

There, we met an artist who works there named John Phillips. He told us a lot about the history of art in London and the impact that the London Print Studio has had within the city and especially within its surrounding neighborhoods.

While the field trip was cool, what wasn’t cool was almost being late to my second class of the day. There was a tube strike on this day, so the tube wasn’t running and we had to take one of the double-decker city busses to get there. It was about a 30 minute drive plus there was traffic and a 15 minute walk back to Foundation House after we got off the bus. Not ideal. Luckily, I made it back with five minutes to spare. Thank goodness I’ve basically become an Olympic speed walker from my short time here in London.

My next class was British Life and Cultures and my professor was a cute old British man. He had a very sarcastic sense of humor and liked to joke with all of us, mainly at our own expenses. The class seems like it is going to be really interesting though and we are going to go on many field trips in the class as well.

So far, classes were good. On to the next day…

Day 7 in London

So. I woke up early this morning to go into Foundation House AGAIN to talk to the woman in charge of scheduling to change my classes. Granted, I had already emailed her once about it, to which she didn’t respond, and had gone in the day before as well to see her.

I walked upstairs to see her, and just my luck, she was not going to be in today because she was sick.

Great.

The other woman in the office took down my information and my schedule change requests and said she would email Zehra about it.

So I went home.

Once back at the flat, I decided I was going to start booking flights and trains and hostels for the weekend in Dublin, Ireland despite not being able to change my schedule yet. The night before, everyone had booked their trips for the upcoming weekend and I decided I was going to as well.

She will get my email and she will change my schedule is what I kept telling myself. I will go to Dublin and all will be fine.

I ended up emailing Zehra again myself as she didn’t seem to get the other woman’s email and contact me after two hours. So I emailed her myself.

Another hour later, still no response. The class I was trying to switch was in less than two hours.

So I ended up calling the FIE office. They said they would attempt to contact her.

More time went by so I called again. I needed a response and it was becoming ridiculous. I was told that she would not be coming in, but would be working from home and responding to emails. Not mine I guess.

I left for class early and stopped in the front office, the receptionist finally got her on the phone. I think I had finally gotten across to her how badly I needed my classes changed so she put me in the classes I needed.

THANK GOODNESS.

So I went home again, this time to change my outgoing flight on Thursday, as I was now in the Media in Britain class I needed that goes until 5 p.m. on Thursdays. Luckily, I was able to change the flight for a small fee, but now everything is straightened out and I couldn’t be happier! My stress levels have definitely dropped.

At 6 p.m., I headed back to the Foundation House for my Media in Britain class. The professor is from Australia and she seems quite quirky but passionate about all things media in Britain. We learned a lot about the British Broadcasting Corporation today. The media system in the U.K. is nothing like that of the system in the U.S. so it makes it really interesting to learn about.

After class, I went with my friend Sophia to London Bridge. It was about 9:30 p.m. so the whole river was lit up and very pretty. I love taking night trips to the heart of the city and I don’t think I will ever get tired of it!

Another day of classes tomorrow and I believe I am going to explore more of Hyde Park before class at two. Until then!

london-calling

Exploring (Part) of Hyde Park and a Bus Tour of London

8 January 2017

Day 3 in London

We had orientation part two at Imperial College at 10 a.m. on Saturday. They told us more about our classes and internships that we would be taking part in during our time studying abroad in London.

The academic expectations were primarily the same as they are back home which will hopefully make for an easy transition studying abroad. Meanwhile, our classes are each three hours long which will be quite different from home. Luckily, they told us that instructors will use London as a classroom and there will be many in-class field trips where we will go out in London for half of our class instead of being stuck in a room for three hours.

We can expect to be notified about our internship placement anytime from now until about February 18th which is quite a long time. Then, there are two days set aside in February as our mandatory internship interview days that we are not allowed to make any travel plans for.

After the orientation, I walked to Hyde Park with my new friends Annie and Allie to explore. Hyde Park is about a 15 minute walk from where I’m living in Manson place, and is a huge, beautiful space to go to to escape the city. There are so many pathways, dogs are allowed off leash and run freely and there are birds everywhere near the water. The birds aren’t afraid of humans, and I’m not fond of them, so I won’t be going near the ponds again anytime soon…

We mainly stayed to the southwest side of Hyde Park and made our way over to Kensington Palace where Prince William and Duchess Kate live. It is absolutely beautiful. They have a very pretty walkway on the side of the palace facing Hyde Park and inside is a gift shop, cafe and an area where they regularly give tours of the palace. We walked through the gift shop and cafe which were both very busy.

We continued walking through Hyde Park for a bit, then headed out towards High Street to walk through some shops and then took the tube back home.

Later that evening, we had the FIE welcome dinner at 6 p.m. at Imperial College. They served food and drinks and had a couple (like four) tables set up for clubs and activities to join and do while studying here. They didn’t have anything too exciting though which was a bit disappointing.

After making a quick stop at home, Allie and I left to go on a quick little adventure. Most of our flat was either going out to the pubs and clubs later that night or staying in and we didn’t want to either, so we took the tube from Gloucester Station to Westminister. After walking out of the station, we were immediately greeted by a huge, glowing Big-Ben. It looked incredible lit up at night. We walked on and found ourselves on a bridge over the River Thames. Looking across, we were able to see the London Eye brightly lit up as well as the County Hotel. It was really pretty. It had begun to rain so we made our way back to the tube and back home. It was a fun spontaneous adventure to end our day!

Day 4 in London

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, everyone in our flat got up to take a coach bus tour of London. It was really cool to finally see more of London above ground and have a tour guide telling us more about the history of everything we saw as we drove by buildings and monuments.

Our first actual stop on the bus was at Buckingham Palace. The driver gave us a little bit of time to get out and walk to the front gates. We saw some of the guards and the giant ornate doors at the front of the palace. We didn’t have much time so we snapped a few photos then headed back to the bus.

The next stop was made at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It. Was. Huge. There is a shopping mall across from the cathedral and our driver told us to go to the top floor via the lift in the shopping center for a great view. We did and we were not disappointed. The roof of the building gave a spectacular vie