Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Amsterdam Day 2/Night 3

Day 2 we decided to spend with our new friends that we had met from the night before. After breakfast, we all walked to the iamsterdam sign, which was about 5 minutes from our hostel. I was thinking I could go and get this amazing shot of the statue with no one in it. Wrong. That sign is so big it was hard to fit in a frame and there were people climbing allll over it, so I did my best.

After, we walked through the city and went on a tour of Anne Frank's house. Wow. I am an emotional person, I know this. I cry during movies, tv shows, songs, anything. So of course, walking through the house I was a bit of a mess. I did really enjoy the tour because I was never able to really picture what the secret annex looked like, and now I can say I walked through it. It was an emotional tour, but worth it.

Once we were done, we knew we need to lift our spirits and set off in search of a pancake house. No such luck. We ended up just eating at a small restaurant off some cobblestone street. I had a fully stuffed nose, so I cannot tell you if my lunch was good or not :/

When lunch ended, we said good bye to our new friends as they had to catch a train back to Belgium. We were a bit tired from the previous nights, so we went on a canal tour. That was enjoyable, but like I said, I was tired, so I miiiiggghhhttt have fallen asleep for a bit of it. I did learn that back in the day, when Amsterdam was thriving, people were all about showing off their wealth through their mansions. We floated by some old mansions and holy cow, just to think those were houses and what life must have been like back then was insane. Now the buildings are used as commercial spaces. We also learned that the people used to build their houses so the front facade would slant out, to give the illusion that their house was bigger than it really was.

When the canal tour was over, we headed back to the hostel to collect our bags. Saturday night the hostel was completely booked, so we ended up couch surfing to save money. At first I was a bit hesitant about it, but I have had friends that have done it and loved it, so I figured it was worth a shot. It took us a while to find the apartment where we were staying, but the trek over took us past a small red light district. Lovely.
After wandering around some dark streets, we finally found the apartment. (shout out to the dutch lady that actually spoke english and didnt run away when we approached her in a dark street and helped us find our way)

We stayed with a woman named Sapi who was 37 years old and had plenty of references on her couch surfing profile. We talked about a lot over Indonesian food - she can speak about 4 languages fluently and understands many more. She loves to couch surf herself and is a very free spirit.

We decided to go to bed slightly early Saturday night because we had to be up bright and early Sunday for a fun adventure!!

anne frank huis

Stay tuned for part 3

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Amsterdam Night 1/Day 1/Night 2

I know I have been away for awhile, but as most of you know, it is because I have spent the past four days in the amazing city of Amsterdam and I am going to recap it all for you.

So Thursday night, my friend Jacob and I headed out to Amsterdam. We were supposed to leave around 8pm, get there are 10pm (time change) and then just head straight to the hostel. Well, of course, our flight was delayed and we didn't end up leaving until 10:30pm London time, so we ended up not getting to the hostel till midnight. Nothing toooo bad.

We stayed at the Flying Pig Uptown Hostel and let me say, it set the bar high for hostels. It was my first hostel experience and I was not disappointed. We set our stuff on our beds in our 14 person room and went downstairs to the hostel bar and hung out till 3am before we decided to call it a night. After walking 4 floors up, we got the pleasant surprise of people sleeping in our beds....ummm okay. After discussing it with management  they quickly moved us to a different 6 person room, which was actually nicer. The beds were comfier than my bed in my flat in London so needless to say, I slept really well.


Breakfast is included in the hostel, so after we ate, we decided to walk into town. It was about a 30 minute walk to the center of Amsterdam, the train station, but the walk along the way was beautiful. We wandered in and out of shops admiring all the souvenirs and funky items for sale. We really just spent allll day walking and exploring Amsterdam. It is such a beautiful city and made me feel like I was back in Davis with the amount of bikes everywhere. The nice thing in Amsterdam is they have a special wide lane next to the road for bikes, because so many people bike. Every bike also has a bell and the locals love using their bells to alert people to get out of their way.

The Flying Pig is equipped with a kitchen full of utensils, you just supply the food. We bought some food at a market and had dinner in the hostel. We hung around in the bar area for a bit chatting with some people before we decided we should head into town. The second night we were switched rooms again and put back in a 14 person room, but this one had its own bathroom and shower. We walked in and found about 7 people our own age hanging out and talking. They were all studying abroad in Belgium and just in Amsterdam for vacation. They were from Canada, England and Ireland. We chatted with them and ended up going out to a popular square around midnight and just hung out talking and drinking till about 2am. Even at that time, Amsterdam was still alive and populated. I was exhausted from two late nights so I just passed out. Here are some pictures from our first day!

the harrods of amsterdam

a mall

grand central station terminal

Stay tuned for part 2

Saturday, October 20, 2012

High Tea 2.0 and Brighton

Friday I had the pleasure of enjoying my second high tea experience whilst in London for my fellow 805 friend Carrie-Rose's birthday. We went to Fortnum and Mason for High Tea and it was quite the experience.

I had never heard of Fortnum and Mason but it was quite an extraordinary store. It was like a mini version of Harrods. It had 5 floors which contained so many goods like teas, coffees, chocolates, home goods, perfume, hats, purses and more.

Tea was delightful. You could choose what tea you wanted with your food and I chose a Black Tea with Vanilla and it was divine.

After tea we wandered the store for a bit. I found a few things I loved. There were some ornate tea pots that I really wanted...300 pounds. Then I found an umbrella I loved....130 pounds. I quickly realized this was not a store I was going to do some casual shopping in.
Quite the hat

Once we were done at Fortnum and Mason, we walked the beautiful streets of London and wandered back in the Carnaby Street area. This is a small area of cobblestone streets and restaurants and shops near Regent Street. It was really beautiful all lit up at night.

Saturday, my tour group went to Brighton for the day!
It was a quick trip - we arrived at noon and left at 4:45pm, but it was still enjoyable to go to the beach. We first toured the Royal Pavilion there and it was so beautiful. Such a heavy oriental influence and there was a chandelier in the great room that was the most beautiful I have ever seen. We couldn't take photos, so here are some from the internet.

After the pavilion we went to the pier and had some AMAZING fish and chips. We also walked around town in an area called The Lanes - just some cute little shops along cobblestone streets, aka my favorite.
As we were leaving, we got caught in a Zombie walk. Apparently, every year Brighton has a Zombie Walk and it is officially the largest gathering of zombies in the world. Over 4,000 people participated last year. It was hilarious!
Saturday was a quiet night in because Sunday I needed to be super productive. I am going to Amsterdam in less than a week and have a lot of school work to do!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Potato Soup

Don't ask me why I am calling the title of this post Potato soup. Perhaps its because that is what I ate for dinner and am too lazy to think of a better title.
I find it quite catchy...

Since we last spoke I've just been doing some exploring around this amazing city and trying new things.

Monday I was sitting in class, obviously paying attention while checking my email on my phone, when I received an email from my study abroad group saying they had 5 free tickets to the Graham Norton Show. In case you are unaware, he is the equivalent to Jay Leno in Britain. Guests were going to be Arnold Schwarzenegger, two British comedians and Usher. There was no one I was like 'OMG I HAVE TO SEE THIS PERSON!' but I thought it would be a really fun experience. So since the internet was not super strong in my class, I 'left for the bathroom', found a computer lab and emailed back to my person. I quickly got an email back saying I got the last ticket!

The rest of the day was a whirlwind till we got to the show. We got to have some amazingly close seats and half my face got on camera! I will try to find the show online and take a screen shot for ya! Tickets to this show are like Ellen, free if you just email in, so I am going to try every week to get tickets because it was hilarious!
Where Usher performed

Wednesday after class I had to return some clothes I had bought, and I was going to just get back on the tube to come back to my dorm, when I realized I had gotten into a small pattern of continuously going to the same places and not really exploring. I decided to change that and just walk and see where my feet would take me. Last time, it was sketchy, this time, it was awesome! I found a place that served AMAZING gelato and got myself a small Café gelato to eat as I browsed the streets. I wanted to get lost and I sort of did. I would not call it lost, but I really had no idea where I was. I stumbled upon some small streets with a ton of shops and fell in love. I thought I knew where I was, but when I came out of those tiny shops, I realized I had walked right into Covent Garden. It was just so nice to really just go exploring with no agenda.

Right now I just want to get this blog post up and not talk much more, so here are some more pics for your enjoyment.

Individually wrapped sushi?

<3 Love

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Penguins, Monet and Rock n' Roll

Just another week in London town. This week marks the one month anniversary of my arrival. Crazy how time flies. Just two more months till its back to America!
Mondays and Tuesdays are usually pretty low key, consisting of me going to class and running errands and just exploring this great city.

On Wednesday, my Art and Society class went to the National Gallery museum where we saw paintings by Van Gogh and Monet, just to name a few. It was such a giant gallery, we probably only saw 1/8 of it, so I definitely have to make time to go back.

After class, my friend Stephanie and I headed to the London Aquarium. It just seemed strange to me to have a giant aquarium in the middle of a metropolitan city. It was relaxing and really entertaining. There were penguins, sharks and turtles! I also went into a hurricane simulator where wind was blown at me at 80mph. Enjoy this lovely treat.

I quickly realized I was wearing the wrong shirt to be caught in a hurricane in. How silly of me.

This guy was such a little ham

Some street performers outside the Aquarium

That night my study abroad group went to see the musical Rock of Ages. I didn't really know what to expect, but I really like it! It was a bit raunchy, but the actors were all so talented and I loved the music. I hope to see a few more shows while I am here.
the london cast. SO amazing!

Friday I went to the London Dungeon. This is not a historical place. This is a haunted house/maze with rides and more. Not super scary, but an entertaining afternoon. Afterwards I headed north to have dinner with Aubrey and Flickie, some family friends. It was super relaxing and really great to have a free, home-cooked meal and the company was delightful as always.