Thursday, December 20, 2012

London vs. Cali

Things I Will Miss in London
  • London
  • My friends
  • Tortilla/Vapianos/Bens Cookies
  • Oxford Street
  • Big Ben
  • Walking from the London Eye, to Big Ben, to Trafalgar Square, to Picadilly Circus, down Regent Street, down Oxford Street to Hyde Park
  • Hyde Park
  • British Accents
  • London
  • Borough Market
  • Portobello Market
  • London
  • The Shopping
  • Museums
  • Exhibitions
  • Events constantly going on
Things I WON'T Miss in London
  • The crowded tube
  • Too many people/being pushed and hit walking everywhere
  • The weather/cold
  • How expensive it all is
Things I Have Missed from Home
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Animals
  • Coho
  • Franciscos
  • Frozen Yogurt
  • Mexican Food
  • Cheaper life
  • Beach
  • Warm Weather
  • Biking
  • Gym
  • Trader Joes
  • California
A few things I have taken from this experience...

This is a HUGE, yet SMALL world

I am a freakin SLOW walker.
I enjoy strolling and taking my time, but when it comes time to walk fast and I think I am racing, I really am still walking SO FREAKING SLOW. I cannot keep up with anyone to save my life.

Europe doesn't care about public restrooms...

a big loving thanks to all those who kept up with my blog. I really had a lot more fun writing it than I thought I would. I hope you all enjoyed reading it!

And London, well, till next time...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Paris pt. 2

Saturday morning was a late start kind of morning. It was a bit of a day of struggle as well...all day.

We met another friend of Sienna's for brunch around 11am. It was so delicious. A bit pricey, but for one price, you got toast, croissants, eggs, yogurt, applesauce and a coffee or tea. Deeeeelicious and satisfying.

When breakfast was over, we were off to a surprise planned by Sienna - ICE SKATING! However, when we got to the rink, the wait for 90 min and none of us wanted to wait that long, so instead we wandered through some of the christmas markets along the Champs Elysées. We realized we were near a restaurant called Angelina and I knew I HAD to go there. Every friend from London that had made a trip to Paris had gone there and came back raving about the hot chocolate. There was a line out the door, so I knew it had to be good. Three of us each got an order of hot chocolate and we could NOT finish it. It was SO FREAKING GOOD and thick, but soooo rich. I just imagined they had a giant pot in the back and just continuously melted the best chocolate in the world and poured that into cups to serve, it was THAT good.

Unfortunate Event #2
We were rushing to catch a tube to head to our next destination. In London, the doors are open for a solid amount of time if there are lots of people and if the doors do happen to close on you, they will reopen quickly. Not. In. Paris.
We were trying to get on a cart and so many people were exiting. Sienna and her friend got on and I did not hear the beeping signaling the doors were about the close as I got on. All of a sudden, BOOM, two sets of doors (the doors to the tube and another wall of doors that prevent people from falling in the tracks) just slam close on me. I was hoping they'd pop back open, but no, they were on a mission to crush me. I am guessing this happens often, because two adorable french men immediately saved me by prying the doors off of me. The doors froze half open for a few seconds, during which I should have jumped on the cart, but instead I backed off, a bit shaken up, to which then Sienna realized she had to hop off with me as I had no idea where I was going. Boom. Doors slam on her and she had to be pried out. We finally both escaped the slamming doors, thanks to some French men. If you are reading this, look me up on Facebook ;)

After that sinfully good experience, we took the metro to an area known as Bercy Village, an adorable cobblestone street with shops and restaurants. The three of us met up with another friend, Remi, and went to go see The Hobbit. Now, I have only seen half of the first Lord of the Rings...and I fell asleep :/ oops. But knowing The Hobbit was coming out, I wanted to see that and then watch LOTR. I didn't realize The Hobbit was going to be THREE movies, but I really enjoyed it and look forward to watching all three LOTR.

When the movie was over, we went back to an apartment to cook up some dinner and then called it a night.

Unfortunate Event #3
We were rounding a corner to climb some stairs out of the Metro and I thought I heard someone fall. I quickly rushed around the corner, but it was merely the sound of a man readjusting all the luggage and bags he was carrying up the stairs. I was running up the stairs to keep up with Sienna when BOOM. Down I went. All Sienna was when she turned around was me flat on my face on the stairs.
Goodness I am soooo damn graceful.

Sunday a bunch of us gathered at Remi's apartment and just spent the morning into the early afternoon, schmoozing and dining on bread, crepes, savory french toast, cheese, jam, meat and fruit. It was so enjoyable and relaxing. Once we were all sufficiently full, Sienna, her friend Remi, and I headed to the Eiffel Tower. This trip was not touristy at ALL, which was nice, but I could not come to Paris without seeing the tower. Once touristy pictures were taken, Sienna took me to this expo filled with modern art displays, food and clothing pop up shops. Once that was done, we headed back to the Champs Elysées to Laduree, a delicious place known for their macaroons. There are a few stores in London (one of which I've been to in Harrods), but I enjoyed going to the original one in Paris.

We enjoyed dinner after and then headed back to the flat for an early night since Sienna had class early Monday morning. In the morning, we had brunch with Remi and then parted ways - Sienna to class and me with Remi. He was kind enough to take me on a little walking tour of Paris as he ran some errands, before dropping me off at the train station. Soon it was back to London!

Paris pt. 1

Thursday night I got into Paris around 8pm and was picked up by my friend Sienna to head back to her apartment.

Now, all week I have been completely out of it. My head and my body have not been one. I think it is due to the fact that it was my last week and I was trying to make sure everything got done. Well it was definitely the fastest week of my life and I just felt so weird all week. My feeling weird led to multiple klutzy moves in London and lets just say, they didn't stay in London.

Unfortunate Event #1
We were taking the metro from the train station to her apartment and it was getting off to a slowwwww start so I was not holding on to any pole. All of a sudden, the train just takes off and the next 5 seconds happened sooo fast yet were in total SLOW motion. I was taken by surprise and with the momentum of the train, I was falling back fast. I knew there was nothing to grab onto so I reached out to Sienna, hoping she would realize what was about to happen and would grab me and save me. No. Such. Luck. Thankfully, or unfortunately, there was a woman standing behind me for me to fall onto, otherwise I would have been down for the count. Embarrassing and hilarious at the same time.

We dropped off my luggage and then were quickly on our way to meet some of her friends here at a local pub called International...makes sense. It was a fun evening just getting to know everyone.

I am eternally grateful to Sienna for not only hosting me, but meticulously planning every moment of every day.

Friday morning we went to little pastry shop and split two pastries and sipped coffee while it started to rain outside. It would continue to rain on and off all day. That was no burden, because Sienna had planned a trip to Musee d'Orsay for us! I was so excited because this museum holds some of my favorite paintings. They also had a special exhibition on Fashion and Impressionism, two of my favorite things, so it was my lucky day.

After the museum we went to a small restaurant she had found online. It was cozy and had such character. There I found salads on the menu and, since I had not had a salad in about 3 months, I knew what I was getting. I proceeded to enjoy the most delicious meal of salad with fig, goat cheese and some mystery crepe type thing? I don't know, but I was extremely satisfied.
We walked around a bit more and enjoyed a stroll through a park before heading back to her apartment where I stayed to relax and finish some essays while Sienna went to work for two hours.

After work, we met up with her friends again to go out and party, Paris style....that is all.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Last. Week. Here.

Give me a second to compose myself and get situated. Partially because I am sad about this blog title, and partly because my room looks like a bomb went off. Messes give me anxiety and I'd like to see you try to pack 3.5 months of your life into two suitcases. Doable for most, but when a shopping addiction like mine, this just isn't going to happen.

Anyways, more exciting stuff.

This last week I am trying to cram as much in with my friends as I can. I don't leave London till the 19th, but I am in Paris from the 14th-17th and everyone leaves the 15th or 16th, so this is it. =(
Tuesday a few of us went and did some last minute shopping and that was followed by some last minute paper writing and some feeble attempts at packing. Around 4pm we headed off to get on a boat to take a river cruise down the Thames to Greenwich to enjoy a farewell dinner. It was enjoyable...and hard to comprehend that dinner was to signify the end of the hasn't hit me yet.

Wednesday I got up early to do some things on my Last Week in London list. I went to Fortnum and Mason to buy some amazing tea, and then I went to Whittards and got Banofee Hot Chocolate. Oh my their hot chocolates are amazing. They had White HC, Cherry HC, Creme Brulee HC, Caramel HC, White Choc Strawberry HC, Mint HC, Rocky Road HC...the list goes on.

After doing some more London browsing, I met up with my friends at our favorite place, Vapianos. Such a treat to spend quality time with these girls at amazing eats. Soon we will all be departing. It is crazy to think about that.

After lunch, Liz, Chelsea and I went to walk around Covent Garden for a bit before we went our separate ways and I went back to my flat to rest up and pack some more....oy...packing.

Thursday morning I woke up and could not believe it was Thursday already!!!!!

Chelsea, Liz and I went to Harrods to eat breakfast and do some browsing. I also went because Harrods had AMAZING Disney Princess window displays. GORGEOUS! We were there for a few hours before I had to depart to take two of the heaviest suitcases up to North London to leave at my friends house. Then I headed right back into the city to get my luggage to head to Kings Cross to catch the Eurostar to Paris to visit my high school friend, Sienna.

I cannot believe this week is over. Last weekend in Europe, lets go.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Milan pt. 2

Saturday we took it easy getting up. Nicki made me an 'American' breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast. Yum :) We then headed into the lower city of Bergamo and wandered the shops and Christmas markets there before having some sushi for lunch. We then took a cable car to the upper part of the city. It is the beautiful Italian village up on a hill filled with gorgeous apartments that have an amazing view of the city. It reminded me of typical Italian cities with yellowish buildings that look so rustic. All the streets are cobblestone and if you don't live there, you cannot drive there - so most people walk up or take the cable car. It was beautiful and there was an amazing view from the top.
There was a church in the town that Nicki asked if I wanted to see. I was hesitant because I have seen so many churches and just didn't feel like going in. Well, I am glad she made me, because it was easily one of the most ornate and gorgeous churches I have ever seen. The detail was INSANE and it was totally amazed.
We then picked up Nicki's boyfriend and headed to her moms house for dinner with the same friends from last night. While the Italians schmoozed I watched Chelsea beat Sunderland, and Rome beat Florence. Lots of football. Dinner was delicious of course and this time the conversation was about 85% Italian and 15% English, so a bit better for me ;)

Sunday was an easy but COLD day. We went into Milan again and saw some of the fancy shopping streets before having lunch at a place called California Bakery. A little piece of home in Milan. Not too much happened before we were off to the airport :/

Now for a rant on easyJet. I have flown with them three times and I hope to never again. The flights were fine, but their policies aren't consistent. Flying from Amsterdam to London I brought on a carry on and purse and was fine. Flying London to Milan I got to the gate before they told me I could only bring one thing to carry on so I checked my suitcase. On the way from Milan to London I figured I would check my suitcase again...well I did. But it was 30 euro!! Where did that hidden charge come from? Ugh

Also, sneaky Jess. I bought a train ticket from Gatwick airport to Victoria station, but because the flight was late taking off, I missed the train. Now the next one was coming in only 10 minutes, but one to London bridge had just arrived. On the train ride to the airport they didn't check tickets, so I hoped on. Just my luck, a guy came by checking tickets he hadn't checked yet. I was ready to say oops and ask if I could buy a ticket on board, hoping they wouldn't kick me off. There was an awkward pause when he came to me and then I just looked out the window, pretending he had already checked mine and off he went. Phew! Rebel. I know.

Now I have sadly realized I only have about 5 days left in my beloved London. Cue the waterworks :(

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Milan pt. 1

On a side note, before I begin my recap, I have realized, while being abroad, I am completely terrible at making reservations/plans with European time. It confuses the HELL out of me. If you tell me, you have class at 16:00, I can be there, with no problem, at 4pm. But when it comes to booking planes and trains, I get so flustered and confused! This explains why I booked a train from the airport into London at 3:15pm...and my flight gets in at 5:30pm....oops.

Thursday night I flew into Milan and for a girl who is not a huge fan of flying, I have now taken 4 too many flights this trip ;) I was picked up by Nicki and her boyfriend and whisked off to a delicious pizza dinner. (FYI - Nicki was an exchange student we had about 16 years ago and have kept in touch with every since. Love her!) 
While eating dinner, I realized one of the best things you get out of studying abroad and traveling and that is learning about another country's culture and their way of life. Yeah, pretty profound thoughts over a pizza dinner. But in Italy, most dinners aren't started with bread and butter. No. They are started with many types of prosciutto. Yes there is bread on the table, but don't even think to ask for butter. Not necessary. So we started with a plate of prosciutto and the best Parmesan cheese EVER. Then it was time for pizza...and French fries. The Italians, like most Europeans, love their French fries...with mayo. I looked at the table next to us and they also had prosciutto and fries as a starter.
The pizza was delicious and I left a satisfied customer. We headed to Nicki's apartment in Bergamo and I passed out immediately.
Fun fact: you have to cross a bridge to get to Nicki's town and that bridge spans the valley that serves as the backdrop for the Mona Lisa!
Friday morning it was off to Milan for the day. But first we had to stop to have a traditional Italian breakfast - cappuccino and croissant. Fresh squeezed orange juice was also consumed and it was delicious.  It was then a short drive/subway ride into town. We started off by walking around some Christmas-type markets near Sforzesco castle and then wandered around the courtyard. After some more browsing, we headed to the il Duomo, which was sooo magnificent. It made me stop in my tracks and gawk. Tourist alert!!
One of my favorite things about art history is learning about a painting/sculpture/building and then getting to see it in person. It is soo satisfying and I have been extremely lucky because it seems like I make a trip to Europe every summer after I take an art history class.
Anyways, tourist pictures were taken, pigeons attacked and we left to go shopping in some stores nearby.
For lunch, I had my first ever kabab. (Lan, aren't you proud?!). It was good going in, but my stomach didn't quite agree with it later, which led to one of the most horrifying experiences involving a subway bathroom that was more like a hell hole, but don't worry my lovely readers, I shall spare you any more details.
After that, we browsed the city a bit more and then headed back to the apartment to rest up before dinner. While shopping it started to snow!!! It was probably the third time in my life I have actually seen it snow. It did not stop until around 8pm and there was a beautiful white blanket over Italy.
Dinner was had with Nicki, her mom and two of their friends. The conversation was 99% Italian, 1% English....but I still highly enjoyed myself. Of course dinner was started with prosciutto, then came pasta and then lemon sorbetto. Lets just say I did not go hungry this trip.
Dinner was had with Nicki, her mom and two of their friends. The conversation was 99% Italian, 1% English....but I still highly enjoyed myself. Of course dinner was started with prosciutto, then came pasta and then lemon sorbetto. Lets just say I did not go hungry this trip.

Stay tuned for part 2 ;)

Monday, December 3, 2012


Friday morning the alarm want off at 4:40am and I was out the door at 5:05 so Chelsea, Liz, Sarah and I could catch a bus to get to our pick up station before 6:05am. Once picked up we were off to Dover. We got to see the sunrise and that is always a beautiful thing. Once in Dover, we collected the rest of our tour group an our tour guide. Then our bus boarded the ferry and we got the chance to walk around as we sailed from Dover to Calais in France. We just had some breakfast and chatted away. 

Once in Calais it was back to the bus and we drove about 2.5 hours to Brussels. When we arrived it was super foggy so any picture opportunities were a little dismal. We checked into our hotel and we lee given some time to freshen up. The hotel was very European and swanky ;) Sarah and I shared a room and typical European style, the room has two twin beds, but they were pressed together, so it looked like one biiiig bed. 
We then met back up with our tour group and our guide took us on a small walking your of Brussels. We saw the Grand Palace, a gorgeous plaza with some intricate buildings. We saw a statue known to be one of the luckiest statues in the world. So of course, I made a wish regarding my impending post grad life, rubbed the knee and hoped for the best. We then were taken to the statue called Mannequin Piss, probably the most famous statue in Belgium. It is a statue of a little boy peeing....but the story is this boy peed on a cannon that put it out and protected Belgium from being bombed...

Anyways, we were also shown some Christmas markets and then left to explore for the night. After wandering a bit we settled on a restaurant that seemed cheap. Belgium is famous for its beers and I am not a huge beer drinker, but I wanted to experiment. The cool thing in Belgium is every beer has a specific glass. One beer, Kwak, has a cup with a rounded bottom, so you can never set the cup down. I did enjoy my beer because it had a smooth aftertaste. After dinner we just walked back to the hotel to pass out because we were exhausted from the long day. 
Grand Palace
Saturday we had breakfast at the hotel. I mention this because this hotel had the best breakfast I've had a hotel. Eggs, pastries, beans, mushrooms, the freshest fruit, potatoes, smoothies, cereal, yogurt. Now I didn't have all that, but it was a treat. We then boarded the bus and headed to Aachen in Germany. We drove there via the Netherlands, so in two days, I was in 5 countries ;) 
We were given 4 hours in Aachen to explore the Christmas markets there. The smells and sights were beautiful. Aachen also has the oldest church in Europe. The booths were adorable and the area smelled like Christmas =) There were so many stands selling gingerbread and it was delicious! Aachen was gorgeous, but also cold. At 4 we headed back to Brussels and were back around 6:15. We chose to go a steakhouse right next to the hotel because it was cold and we didn't feel like wandering too far. Dinner was nice and relaxing. 

Sunday morning we woke up and it was snowing!!! Such a beautiful treat! We enjoyed another delicious breakfast and then loaded out bags in the bus but by then the snow had stopped and the sky was clearing :/ we were given until 2pm to explore Brussels. We decided to check out all the Christmas markets an do some gift buying. We also saw the Grand Palace in the day time and it was just as beautiful. We finally went and got what we were most excited for - Belgian waffles!! My friends got chocolate and fruit but I got speculoos and banana. Speculoos is basically cookie butter from trader joes. Omg. It was heaven. Even the waffle by itself was incredible. After sitting, letting out waffles settle and taking advantage of the free wifi, we headed back and boarded the bus for home. On the way back to Calais we stopped at a chocolate factory! We ha all held off buying chocolate in Brussels because we were told we would be going to this factory. However, I'm bummed we did. The chocolate shops in brussels were beautiful and this factory had chocolates that just looked like they had been sitting on the shells for tooo long. It was a bit disappointing, but nothing too tragic. Back to Calais, back on the ferry to Dover, back to beautiful perfect London. 


We got in a bit after 10 which was waaaay later than we were expecting and I still had some work to finish for class on Monday, but all is good. When you come home to London, you can't complain 

This is my last week of class for 2 classes and the rest are done next week. 
Sad. Facts. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hectic Week

This week I felt had a lot crammed into it.
Well lets not think about Tuesday. That day can be forgotten. I have class in the morning most days except Tuesday, I have it at 4pm. So if I don't have anything to get me up and going...I won't. Lets just say Tuesday I needed sleep and laid around all day like a slug working on my last paper.

Wednesday I went to the first part of my lecture, then spent the rest of the morning in a café attempting to finish this last.damn.paper.

At 2:30 I met with ISA to go tour the Harry Potter Studios!!!!
I was stoked to say the least.
This place was INSANE and SO magical. We toured so many sets and got to see so many props. The work that went into these movies...I get exhausted at just the thought. The hours and hours upon work they did was unreal. There were so many hand painted props and all the sketches for the scenes were so intricate. They would sketch sets, then paint them, then create them digitally etc. Too much for me. Remember the wand shop? Over 17,000 wands, all in hand decorated boxes. UNREAL! I don't think I can use that word enough. The sets and props were beautiful! The only regret I will ever have in life is not being able to be apart of those movies - it was something truly magical. And again, I cannot stress enough how much work must have gone into making these films. The characters they had to create and how many prototypes they created and the machinery to make them come to life.
Oy I cannot even try to talk about it all. Here are some pictures to entertain you.

For being such a big Harry Potter fan, this was truly one of the best experiences of this trip.

Thursday was a normal day, until nighttime. A bunch of us went ice skating in Hyde Park. In the winter they have a Winter Wonderland festival, with ice skating, rides and a Christmas Market.
It was so beautiful! I love cities during the Holiday season!

However, now its bed time because I have a 445am wake up call to go to Brussels!!