Leaving London

I have never loved a place so completely as I have loved London. My home is my home and will always be the place that I return to, but London has something about it that Silver Spring and Athens just don’t.

There are obvious impassable differences between the three places where I spend the most time. Locations, culture, people, currency, feel. These are different everywhere. These differences in London are definitely part of why I love it. I love the speed of the city and the people and mood. I love the history and the juxtaposition of the old world versus the new one (I wish I could have been here to see the completion of the impending London skyline, which will only enhance this trait). I love that I know the city so well. I know how to get around, I know how the tube and the bus system works. I know how to walk from Baker Street to Oxford Circus to Covent Garden. That’s an awesome feeling. The confidence and independence of knowing where you are and what to do without worry. Being able to give directions is a big ego-booster as well.

These things are why I like London and also why I loved it. But there’s more to it. Moving here for the semester was not easy at first. I missed my home and my family and my friends and my school and my roommates and I was pretty much on my own. Which freaked me out because I’ve never really been on my own. I had to get myself out of bed and make dinner and find my way around and really take care of myself. And I had to figure out how to be okay on my own. And what could have been excruciating was made all the more better by being set against the backdrop of the best city, London.

I suppose figuring out how to be independent and how to be okay with growing up and taking care of yourself is something everyone eventually goes through. I was lucky enough to have the brilliant excuse of London to do so.

Cheers xx

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The Harry Potter Studio Tour

Today, I went to Leavesden Studios, where the Harry Potter films were made. It was basically awesome. I got to play quidditch, and drive Mr. Weasley’s Ford Anglia, and walk through the Great Hall, and sit in a Potions class, and visit Dumbledore’s office, and hang out in the Gryffindor Common room. I drank some butterbeer and saw the Weasley’s burrow. I paid a visit to Little Whinging and to the graveyard in GOF. I walked down Diagon Alley and around Hogwarts. I had a look around Ollivander’s and took a peak in the Ministry of Magic. 

It was extremely surreal and incredibly fun. I can’t really appropriately describe it, so here are some pictures. As a Harry Potter girl, this is almost as good as it gets and if you ever have the opportunity to go, you must go. Enjoy some snazzy magical still pictures.Image

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Spain

A couple weeks ago, I went to Spain for a few days. We started in Madrid and ended in Barcelona. So far, the time I spent in Spain has been my most backpacky stereotypical Euro-trip experience. I packed all my stuff up in a backpack (a tiny one, I might add) and stayed at hostels and met lots of other backpacking teenaged Americans and drank some mojitos and a bit of sangria and ate a lot. 

I have mixed feelings toward Spain. The first couple days I was like, Spain, good on you! You’re rocking my world! That was in Madrid, where the sun was out, I wore shorts and the food was perfect. We went on a free tour and saw the city, the places where Ernest Hemingway got drunk, and other less exciting historical junk. We also ate authentic tapas standing up. They came free with sangria, because back in the day, they made it a law that tapas must be served with all alcoholic drinks. Otherwise, people would spend all their money on drinks and then be unable to work. This isn’t (necessarily) the case now, but some places have kept up the tradition. We met some cool people in the hostel and had jamon imberico, which is apparently the thing to do. 

THEN, we were off to Barcelona, which is where the mixed feelings come in. I was pumped for Barcelona. Everyone says it’s the sunniest place in Spain! But for the two days that I was there, it poured. I mean, buckets of water. I was unprepared, let me tell you. And since Barcelona usually has beautiful weather, everything to do there is outside! We still saw everything we wanted to see (La Sagrada Familia, the Gothic district, Parc Guell, Cheetah Girls bench/view etc.), but the rain sure weakened my spirits. That being said, I definitely want to go back someday. What I saw of Barcelona I loved and only wished I could have seen it in the sun. Don’t fret, I got my Raven moment, it was just a bit more damp that she would have preferred.

On the plus side, Barcelona knows how to do food. Especially ensaimades. They are these delicious pastries that I cannot get enough of. I ate approximately 4,000. Another cool part of Barcelona was the hostel we stayed at. It had a very open environment, and we met a bunch of other backpacking college students while we were there, who we went out with and who really made the Barcelona experience a memorable one.

Overall, Spain is a beautiful place that I can’t wait to visit again sometime. Trying not to push my luck!

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Paris

The last couple of weeks have been a bit mad to be honest. The family came and we went to Edinburgh. Then, I went to Paris for a couple of days, then straight to Amsterdam. Back to London for a bit, then went to Spain for five days. Now, I’m back again and just trying to catch my breath, but I wanted to post something about a few of the places I went, starting with Paris.

It’s hard to not love Paris. As soon as you step outside, it more than lives up to your expectations. It really is that old and that beautiful and that romantic. It really does get bathed in a pinkish light every evening. The river is turquoise-y blue and the trees that line it are covered in bright green leaves. I mean, there really are people in striped shirts carrying baguettes. They’re around every corner. Part of me wishes I was kidding. I’m not.

We saw everything people see when they go to Paris: the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, the Lourve, the Sacre Coeur, etc. But my favorite part was, quite shockingly, a bookshop that the girls I was traveling with looked up. It was a Shakespeare bookstore that looked to be a hundred years old. It had windy curving steps and high, slouching bookshelves filled with new and old books from every genre. The upstairs had special rooms for reading and a little nook where people left notes to Shakespeare or to the bookshop or to Paris. It was totally right up my alley. I could have stayed in there for hours.

The other part of the trip that really stood out for me was when we found the Sacre Coeur. I’m going to be honest, I am completely church-ed out. I don’t care how beautiful or old or famous they are, I think I’ve seen enough of them for a while. Europe does not mess around when it comes to churches. That being said, the outside of the Sacre Coeur was quite extravagant, but I liked the view from the steps in front of it best. I could see almost the entire city, and we made it up there just as the pink light was setting in. It was really freaking cool. Pictures shall be inserted.

Overall, am I in love with Paris?  I very much loved it, but personally, no place I’ve been so far can hold a candle to London. Which I am really okay with.

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London so far…

The other day I was thinking about my experience here up to this point. I have basically no complaints.

In the three months I’ve been here, I’ve learned so much. I learned how to pay for the tube, that ‘chuffed’ means you’re happy and not to answer “You alright?” with “Yeah, I’m fine,”. All good and important, but there are other, more lasting things that I’ve also learned. Like how to make spaghetti in the microwave.

AND how to live alone. How to travel alone. How to take care of myself and how to be a grown-up (though I’ve never heard an actual grown-up call themselves that).

Being in London has been about more than traveling. It’s been about learning about the world and myself.

But traveling is a HUGE PART of it. I’ve caught the bug, I swear. I want to go everywhere now. Thailand, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Mexico. It’s in me. And I’m more than okay with that.

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Metaphors for Beyonce

In class today, we had to think of metaphors for a celebrity. Obviously, the only good choice was Beyonce.

SHE IS…

Shiny red pumpsurl

A martini with two olives

A skyscraper

A badass cheetah

Midnight, when the party gets real

A Baked Alaska, just as it gets lit on fire

A shiny electric guitar

In a word, fierce

A sparkly sequined mini dress

The color red

Smoke after a battle

A husky show dog, glam but dangerous

A red rose with thorns

Midtown Manhattan in the middle of the day

A permanent marker, strong and lasting

An action movie

Red hot sauce

An exclamation point

A lightning storm

A red Lamborghini

Walking in the English Rain

Tonight, I was sitting in my room, after having eaten a particularly delicious homemade stir-fry thing, and I was like, it is 8 o’clock on a Friday night and you just had dinner for one in your 7-by-10 closet of a dorm room. You gotta go out. Which worked because I really wanted gelato anyways, and there’s this gelato in Covent Garden that makes me want to give up the whole ‘find a man and settle down’ thing in favor of a life filled with gallons and gallons of milk chocolate gelato. So I put on my snazzy Primark trench coat, wrapped my black, London-approved scarf around my neck and set out on the great gelato adventure of 2013. Unfortunately, as soon as I stepped out of my building, I was filled with dread because the air was thick with English rain. You know, the kind that doesn’t exactly fall and isn’t exactly mist, but you end up getting soaked anyways. And I had forgotten my umbrella. But this journey was bigger than petty rain. I was not going to be able to just forget about my gelato boyfriend. So I hopped on the tube and 25 minutes later, I was a happy girl.

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Afterwards, I didn’t feel like trekking back yet. I decided to go for a ride on the bus, as they aren’t very busy around 9 o’clock and it was a guarantee that I could sit in the front row on the top deck, which is as close to quidditch as a muggle can get. I rode on the bus for a bit, crossed over the Thames, then hopped off. I wanted to walk across the river. I wanted to see where I would end up. Meanwhile, it was still English raining, and I was still utterly umbrella-less. I found myself walking next to Big Ben. It is impossible not to fall in love with this classic structure. I don’t know what it is about it, but everyone who sees it falls in love. It’s proven (by me). I wandered past Parliament and Westminster Abbey, which were lit up golden in the wet air. When I stopped walking, I had no idea where I was. I looked around me and I could see the London Eye, shining with blue light, and the Shard, but both were across the river and quite a distance away. It was 10:30 and dark and rainy, and I was totally lost, but I wasn’t scared. I don’t think I can be scared in London. No matter where I am, I know there is always a way back to where I need to be. London gives me that, everyday, and it is pretty freaking awesome.

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Bikes and Smart People

This past Sunday, I traveled to Cambridge for a day trip with my study abroad tour group. I really had no idea what to expect. In America, when people talk about the great English academic institutions, they mostly talk about Oxford (sorry Cambridge). So basically, I was clueless.

On the ride over, our video game-playing, red hat-wearing feminist of a tour guide tried to give us the scoop, but if I’m going to be honest, I slept through her entire spiel.cambridge

Pulling into town, the first thing I noticed was the insane amoun tof bikes. Pink bikes, blue bikes, rusty bikes, basket bikes, tandem bikes. It was like the place where bikes come to die. Then I noticed the river. Who knew there was a river running through all of Cambridge? Probably most people. I, however, did not. And apparently, the big thing to do when visiting Cambridge is to go for a punt (as in boat ride). Which we did, and which I thoroughly enjoyed.

But most of all, when I was in Cambridge, I was overwhelmed with wanting these things that I never knew existed. Walking among the cobble stone roads, weaving in and out of the oncoming bike parade, I was overcome with this desore for another life. For a life where I grew up in the English countryside and worked hard to go to Cambridge. A life where I graduated from one fo the world’s most impressive schools, got a job in London and settled down into a flat in Notting Hill.

I’ve always had the same goals, the same wants. And I know I’ll meet them, if I work hard and dedicate myself. There is nothing new or spontaneous about my life plans, which is just the way I like them.

So that’s why it was so weird to be suddenly overwhelmed with this violent wish for a completely different life. In Cambridge, I could see it all happening, and I wanted it so badly. I wanted those cobble stone streets and the old, beautiful buildings and the memories that I would make.

Now, back in London, I don’t wish for those things. I’m happy with where I am in life and with what I want from it. But for that one day, I wanted something different for myself. And I guess it opened my eyes to other dreams that I might have, and that’s good,  I think.

Falling Asleep in the Wrong Places

Last night, I went to a show called “Feast” at the Young Vic theatre on the Cut. It was a really cool place; it had that authentic London beat thing going for it. The venue was full of cool people and the air buzzed with voices and music. As soon as I walked in, I knew it was going to be a good night.

Photo cc: Feast Production Photos at the Young Vic Theatre

Photo cc: Feast Production Photos at the Young Vic Theatre

The show was described as epic and magnificent and it promised lots of complex choreography and tribal music, so I was pumped to see it. It ended up being a musical play about the plight of Africans being taken from their homes and forced into the slave trade. It then followed the lives of a group of people through different times and places. So, it showed them as their lives as slaves began, then it went to the presence of slavery in Cuba. After that, it demonstrated the Civil Rights movement in America in the 60s, then followed the story to modern day London and to the different, but present struggles of the black community.

The whole storyline was totally not what I expected. I was pretty into it. Then, I fell asleep.

It is never not rude to fall asleep during a play. It was especially rude to fall asleep during a play that is about such rich and important social wrongs that have been unjustly plaguing a certain group of people throughout history.

When I finally woke up towards the middle of the play, it was evident that people noticed. What can I say? It was a long day. It had nothing to do with the play, quite honestly, I was just pretty exhausted. The next time I go to a politically important event, I’ll be sure to drink a cup of coffee beforehand.

Eating in London

I have to say, eating is probably the most looked-forward-to part of my day, which I am both ashamed and proud to admit. It’s just that London has every kind of food imaginable, and it has the best of it. I fully expect to be obese by the time I leave here, which is delightful since it will be summer and I will be forced to wear a swim suit (enter anxiety).

But, can you blame me? Every street has a bakery and there’s a Nando’s on every block and I just can’t resist! Nando’s is seriously awesome, if you haven’t had it yet, get on that.

A lot of people have stronger wills than I, or save their money for other things. I just can’t do it, people, I just can’t. Eating out is an event for me, even if it occurs multiple times a week (I don’t have a dining hall, okay).

This, however, is not good! I mean it’s good as in it’s a delicious way to live, but it’s bad because I am spending all my money. With all the options I have, it’s hard to not spend it. Grocery stores are such a bore also, I really couldn’t be bothered.

For me, I think I need to keep the London food. I guess I could rely on grocery stores, but I don’t see that happening.

It’s only one semester, right?

DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN???????

DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN???????