May 5, 2011

April 29th, 2011


I’ll keep my stories a little brief because a) you already know about the big event b) I have way more exciting pictures and videos to show you and c) I’m sure when I see you in person I will not stop talking about this…so I’m giving you a break now.

We heard on the news that people had been camping out for the Royal Wedding since Tuesday at lunchtime. We arrived back in London Thursday evening, checked into our hotel (only one block away from Madison House!) ate dinner and then went to see these ambitious campers. (Just a side note, it felt so good to come back to London! I will definitely miss it.) We walked through Trafalgar Square, decided that it was our place of choice for the big event, got our flags, walked up and down the Mall, saw the press set-ups, went to Westminster Abbey, got on the BBC and by the time we were walking home it was after midnight. We had to be up in 4 hours!!

Day of the wedding:

We woke up at 4:40am and were in Trafalgar Square by 5am. Picture of when we got there and when William & Kate were wed:

An absolutely incredible and fun day! I would’ve been so mad at myself for the rest of my life if we did not stay an extra week to stay for this. We watched as the Olympic countdown went from 488 days and over 14 hours to 488 days and under 6 hours. We watched as the Queen arrived at Westminster and the entire Trafalgar Square was singing God Save the Queen. We watched ourselves on the big screen. We watched news reporters everywhere interviewing as many people as they could. We watched the Royal Wedding on the big screen surrounded by thousands of people. It was fun 🙂

Videos and pictures:

After the wedding was over there were still thousands of people in the streets of London celebrating, and we made our way back to our hotel, grabbed lunch at Bill’s and crashed for the rest of the night. Saturday we had lunch at Borough Market (so. delicious.) and went to Regent’s Park to complete all 5 Royal Parks. Turns out Regent’s is my favorite. Saturday we completed the circle by going to The Perseverance for dinner. 500 points if you remember that that is the pub from the intern’s very first dinner out together. Sunday we were up at 5:30am and out on our way to Heathrow. We all landed back in the States safe and sound and our only obstacle now is getting over jetlag. It was such an incredible semester and I’ll look back on it forever. A very big thank you to my parents and family for making it happen 🙂

Cheers!

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May 5, 2011

Italia!


As we were zipping up our suitcases to store at the hotel for a few days, my zipper broke. Saturday morning included cleaning up the flat, saying goodbyes and racing to and from Russell Square tube station to purchase a 5 pound bag from the bag man. After I successfully transferred all my stuff from the broken bag into the new (enormous) one, we dropped our bags off at The Kingsley and caught our cab to Gatwick. We left plenty of time to be there early, which ended up being a great decision because we got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for a good portion of the journey. Talk about anxiety. We finally made it to the airport with a few minutes to spare, checked in, got through security and found our gate to take off to Italy. I was nervous boarding the plane because EasyJet and Ryanair don’t kid; one piece of luggage within their dimensions, that’s all. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that my new bag was larger than my torso. As predicted, the EasyJet lady asked if I could fit it in their dimension bin, and by some miracle (and a few minutes of trying) it did. Annalina and Erin had shocked faces when I met up with them finding seats with my bag on my side and not under the plane. An hour an a half nap later and we arrived in Milan. We grabbed a cab to our hostel, the Zebra hostel.

Step #1: The cab dropped us off on a back street, not in the center of the city. Step #2: We walked through an alley to get to the door, which you could buzz yourself into. Highly ineffective. Step #3: Walked into a lobby full of sketchy guys everywhere. “No, we’re Canadian. Yup. Studying abroad in France.” Step #4: Get our bed assignments. No doors, no locks, no lockers, no linens. Step #5: March out of Zebra hostel forever and figure out a solution outside.

Apparently Erin saw “Redrum” written across the bathroom mirror too, just to enhance our lovely experience at the Zebra hostel. We left the hostel and figured we would head towards the train station to see the train times going to Santa Margherita (where we were originally staying Sunday-Thursday) that night, and if there weren’t any we would at least find out what time they left on Sunday. We didn’t really have a definite plan, and were prepared to shell out a lotttt of euros for a hotel in Milan-when we booked the hostel, it was the only thing left in Milan available due to Easter weekend. We arrived at the train station at 5:45 and the final train was at 6, so Annalina made a call to Henry, her family friend who was already staying there, and we hopped on. The train ride was about 2 hours and 20 minutes, and as we got closer to Santa Margherita we were riding along the coast, so it was gorgeous. We got off in town, dropped off our bags, grabbed dinner close by and came back to crash.

Our lovely/amazing apartment for a few days! Thank you!

The rest of the week was glorious, our first actual relaxing vacation of the semester. I know, I know, the entire semester has been a vacation, right? It was nice this week to just relax and not feel rushed to see everything the city/country has to offer. We hiked to the next town, Portofino, and grabbed lunch two days. Once we took the boat shuttle back to Santa Margherita. Easter dinner we went to Annalina’s mom’s favorite restaurant. They serve family style, so we got the pesto lasagna, the shrimp scampi and the grilled fish (freshly caught in Santa Margherita.) I’m not a huge fan of seafood, but I tried it and it was delicious. A big thank you to Annalina’s mom for that meal 🙂 One day we did a hike on the Cinque Terre, which was absolutely amazing. We took the train to the last of the five and made our way back from there. We stopped in each town and either ate, laid out or swam (or all three.) Pesto originated in the Cinque Terre so naturally, we ate a ton of it. The last leg of the trip was a 2 hour hike to Monterosso, and along the way we passed a guy in a lemonade hut! It was perfect timing, as we were dying of thirst. We watched him squeeze the lemon, it was so fresh and sooo delicious. We made the train back to Santa Margherita by about a minute. Our last day we laid out on a beach that we passed the first day on the way to Portofino and sat in the free section–everywhere else it cost 20 EURO per person?! Yowzas, After reading and relaxing all morning we grabbed a late lunch in Portofino and then hiked back. We made dinner three nights, ravioli, short pasta and gnocchi. Kelly and I were in charge of going in to get ingredients for salad. We came out triumphant until Annalina told us thatwe had in fact bought 2 heads of cabbage instead of 2 heads of lettuce. Uh oh. I couldn’t taste the difference once I dowsed it in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and Annalina made herself some hot salad, but Kelly and Erin couldn’t bear the taste. Sorry guys! The town was great; small but a lot going on. Forthe first two or three days they had market vendors set up everywhere right next to the beach which were fun to browse, and there was also an outdoor ice skating rink! By the last day it had melted and they were disassembling it, but it was fun to watch.

Overall, the week was fun, beautiful, relaxing and a great ending to our semester abroad in London!

Oh wait…the Royal Wedding.

April 22, 2011

Goodbye round deux


I hope that Italy has some Internet so I can spend part of my upcoming week updating about everything that has happened to me in the past 2 weeks!! PREVIEW: Today was spent riding bikes (CYCLE HIRE as they call it here) through the Royal Parks and on the streets of London (yes, now we can survive anything) and going out to dinner overlooking the Thames with Kelly’s family and our flat!! Up in the A.M to finish cleaning the flat and get our stuff out of here, wish us luck! There are some that will have to be dragged out of this house. Madhouse love 2011! ❤

April 22, 2011

So long, farewell…


So, here I am, the day before I get kicked out of Madison House. The level of emotions I’m feeling is absurd. I’m so stressed because despite sending two suitcases home with my parents, I STILL cannot seem to be able to pack up my room. I’m so excited to go back home, to see my friends & family and be in America. I’m so relieved that finals are done and over with, that the weight is lifted over our shoulders. I’m so in shock that it’s already summer, and that I’m now a senior in college. I start real life in one year. I’m so SAD to leave London and Europe. I just spent the past three and a half months living the life. Let’s face it. I’ve been looking forward to studying abroad since college tours in high school. And now it’s over. How did that happen? Bittersweet is the correct word, but there’s so much more to it. What will be the most weird will be next weekend when a few of us are back in London for the Royal wedding (yes :)) but will not be coming home to Madhouse. Or that half of our group, our family, will be home tomorrow. Yes, home in America, back in that time zone 5 hours behind us. We gave back our locks for our safes, our mobile phones and our FSU ID cards today. Things that were such a routine part of my day are now back in the office downstairs, waiting for the next group to waltz in. IT’S SO SAD!

Moving on.

Last night we had our final banquet/dinner. It was at a church over by St. Paul’s, in the crypt of the church. The dinner was amazing. I got a cheese/vegetable souffle for appetizer, chicken with mashed potatoes and greens for main course and chocolate cake and ginger ice cream for dessert. Add in wine and everyone from Madhouse and it was a great night. People gave toasts, we gave gifts to Joan & Charlotte, and took a ton of pictures. Afterwards we went (where else?) to O’Neills to say our farewell to what became our favorite go-to bar this semester.

Saying bye to Mariah 😦 our house dog!!

 Before watching the photo slideshow Paul made for the group

 So London. ^^ Sarah, the spice girl.

Group taking over the street, walking to Holborn

Church we ate in…St. Mary’s

Table arrangements 🙂

Name tag and chocolate! Happy early Easter!

Scan & the Union flag napkins

First toast of the evening…Annalina

My chicken!! yummm

Joan & Charlotte opening gifts

Flat D roommates with Charlotte, our house mom 🙂

Hugs all around

Band at O’Neills

I’ll go ahead and update stuff from these past weeks in a different post so I get to break it all up 🙂

Cheers!!

April 17, 2011

Finals Preview


Here’s why I won’t be blogging until mid/end week:

Monday morning: Politics presentation, politics final

Monday afternoon: Theatre final

Tuesday morning: Media & Society presentation, paper due

Thursday afternoon: Pop Culture presentation, paper due

CHEERS

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April 17, 2011

London Marathon!


Today, the world’s largest fundraising event is happening in London: THE LONDON MARATHON! I’m about to go volunteer for Scan’s internship, Kids. It’s as close as I’ll ever get to a marathon…don’t think I could last 26.2 miles but will gladly cheer for those that can =)

April 16, 2011

Random update


For some reason pictures weren’t taking 4 hours to upload last week so I started to update some of the pictures section! Will update tonight or tomorrow about this past week; just a preview, we went to the musical Priscilla, I finished up my last week at my internship and classes, went to mass at Westminster Abbey, had a picnic in the park, browsed around Brick Lane, we did a tour of the National Theatre, Fashion & Textile Museum, Pimms at Borough Market and prepared for finals week! Off to Wimbledon for a tour today—this is our last weekend in Madison House! 😦

Cheers!

April 10, 2011

A Weekend with Mom & Dad (IN THE UK!)


It was so great to see my parents this weekend! Thursday evening I was on my way home from class and I turn the corner to my street and who do I see strolling down past my house? You can probably guess. We said our hellos and I asked them to come up to see my flat and their response (this actually shouldn’t have surprised me) was, “Oh, well, we’ve already been up!” Naturally. They came up anyways, saw my room (again) and I changed quickly before heading with them to their hotel. They stayed right around the corner at Hotel Russell, which was so convenient and nice! After seeing their room we bought them tube tickets and went over near Neal’s Yard for dinner. We went to Cafe Mode and got pizzas and pesto bread to share, and after dinner they were pooped from not sleeping the night before, so they went back to their hotel. Thursday night a bunch of girls went to The Roadhouse in Covent Garden, and it was really fun; they had a live band. As soon as the band finished, our entire flat went home…we were pooped. Friday morning I woke up and met my parents in the lobby of their hotel and we went to Paddington station to catch a train to Windsor Castle. The weather this weekend was absolutely amazing! Bright, sunny, warm, and happy. We had to switch trains at Plough, but the total travel time was not very long. As soon as we got to Windsor we hopped on the double decker sightseeing bus and it took us all around. The ride was about 45 minutes and it was so beautiful! The tour had 11 stops:

1. Castle Hill – Outside Windsor Castle
2. High Street – Parish Church
3. Sheet Street – Victoria Barracks
4. Kings Road – Frogmore Mausoleum
5. Datchet Green – Village & Railway Station
6. Slough Road – Outside Eton College
7. The Brocas – Eton Court
8. Eton High Street
9. Slough Road – Eton College
10. Datchet Road – Riverside Station
11. Thames Street – French Brothers River Cruises

After the bus ride we went inside the castle, but we didn’t get to see the State Apartments because the Queen was there (YES!) running an awards/honors ceremony. We got to see the people leaving from the ceremony though, and they were all dressed up in their dresses and wild hats. After exploring the castle and the chapel we got lunch at a pub right across the street. We took the train back to Paddington and then found Little Venice. Who knew that existed in London? It’s such a quiet, pretty, quaint little area of the canal, and we took a canal cruise from Little Venice to Camden Lock. I think my parents might’ve started cringing as soon as they saw the masses of teenagers outside the bars and shops everywhere, and needless to say we didn’t stay very long. Mom loves the buses in London and hates the tube. So, we rode the bus as often as we could. I’m not going to complain because I FINALLY got to learn and understand how the confusing bus system works (and it’s actually not confusing, at all) and it’s nice to see the city as you’re traveling through it! I went home, showered and changed and then went up to their room to relax a little before we went out for dinner. Mom got a bottle of wine, some croissants, grapes and cheese so we just hung out in their room for a little bit watching London’s version of America’s Funniest Home Videos before heading out. We took the bus over to Waterloo, and then walked back towards the direction of Russell Square to find a restaurant. We ate at an Italian restaurant right in between Embankment and Charing Cross. After dinner we caught another bus home and went to bed. Saturday morning I met them in their lobby at 8 and our adventure was to Dover. We went to Victoria station, caught the 8:52 to Dover, which was close to a 2 hour ride. When we got there we got breakfast at a diner-type restaurant before starting our day. I got an ice cream cone even though it was a tad bit chilly outside. 🙂 We went into the Dover Museum, and saw the history of the town as well as the oldest boat in the world, the bronze age boat! We saw a film on how it was found and restored and saw the actual boat and the reconstruction and then left the museum. I had to buy a pair of leggings from one of the market stands because it was NOT as warm as the day before. Then we headed off to the castle. We browsed around and saw the castle before our tour of the underground hospital. The tour was really quick but really cool and we got to experience what it would’ve been like to be in the hospital during an attack. There was also a little tram that rode around the castle you could hop on and off after your feet got tired. The castle was huge but so pretty and had great views of The White Cliffs and Shakespeare’s cliff. On a clear day, you can see France from the castle, but we could only barely make it out. After spending the day in the castle we went back to town and grabbed some sandwiches and snacks for the train home. We thought we almost left Mom in Dover (because the train left 10 minutes early!) but luckily she was in the bathroom and not outside the train. When we got back to London, I came back to my flat, showered & changed, and then we went to dinner at a restaurant named Bill’s. Bill’s was a restaurant that you could simultaneously grocery shop at by checking (or, “ticking” as they called it) items off a list and handing it to your waitress. It was definitely a different atmosphere. The food was delicious, and afterwards we went back to Russell Square for the night. Today we woke up and went to Greenwich! We went around the Old Royal Navy College, showed them the Painted Hall & the Chapel, we went into the Maritime Museum for a little bit and then went up to the prime meridian. I realized today why JMU has us go to Greenwich so early in the semester, because it costs 10 pounds to go to it after March 1! We found a fence that had the line continuing on the wall so we snuck a picture and then headed into town. We browsed the Greenwich Markets for approximately one minute before making it out through the crowd and onto the bus. We got off the bus at Tower Bridge, ate Sunday roast at a pub right on the street, and then went in the Tower Bridge exhibition. Dad & I accidentally ate some free food that we didn’t order but got placed on our table (whoops). We saw the engine rooms for how they used to light the bridge, got to go up the towers and walk across the top walkway, and then came back down the other tower. We took a very complicated tube ride home (this was one of my first weekends in London since January! Who knew there were so many tube line and station closings?) and then it was time to split ways. Dad lounged/napped in the lobby while Mom came back to my flat with me, I changed and then we walked back to Russell Square tube station and said goodbye. As I write this, they are just taking off (unless they’re delayed again, knock on wood!!) It was such a fun, busy, beautiful weekend and I’m so happy that it’s only three weeks until I see them again!! Last full week of classes and internship this week, where did the time go?

Cheers!

April 10, 2011

Imperial War Museum, War Horse, Notting Hill, Olympics


Sunday night we got home from Paris and there was a giant puddle on our kitchen floor. We thought someone left the door open the whole weekend. Turns out, our fridge was broken. Our temporary mini fridge didn’t arrive until Wednesday so we ate out a lot until then. Monday for politics we discussed media & war during class, and then had an outing to the Imperial War Museum. It was a really cool museum with a TON going on. If you’re into war, history and have a few hours to kill in London, this would be my suggestion. Monday night for theatre we saw our last show :(, Warhorse. It’s based off a children’s book and the mechanisms used to display the horses are incredible. Sheila warned us to bring our tissue boxes…I wouldn’t say I needed a box, but I definitely teared up. Tuesday morning for Media & Society we talked some more about film and then we went to Notting Hill! We had a guided tour, and saw Portobello Market, where parts of the movie were filmed, and a bunchh of other spots in the area. The interns had to leave a little early to get back to the city in time, and then Tuesday afternoon just worked as usual. Wednesday I was at Wriglesworth all day and then we had our last intern meeting with Charlotte after our weekly group meeting. We answered questionnaires all about London to see how much we learned (a LOT!) about the city, and then we came back to Madhouse to celebrate Kaitlyn’s birthday. Thursday morning I woke up to get MOM & DAD from the airport, but luckily I checked my email before I left and it turned out their flight had been delayed FOUR hours. 😦 I was already awake, so I worked on my papers for finals week, went to the Y and then came back and got ready for class. Right before class I had my time slot to register for classes next fall (senior year, yikes!!) and when I got to class we were watching a movie about the Olympics. Our outing was to the Olympic sites out by Stratford tube stop, and then we had to take the DLR one stop to see the actual sites. Most of it was under construction…actually, almost all of it was under construction, but it was really cool to see the models and the plans for next summer. The area is going to be insanely nice after all of this work is done. After class I raced home because Mom & Dad had arrived in the UK!

 

An entire entry will be dedicated to them 🙂 Coming up!

 

Cheers 🙂

April 10, 2011

PARIS!


Paris weekend was awesome. It was my third trip to the city and it was just as fabulous as the first two. We took the chunnel Friday morning from St. Pancras, checked into our hostel (St. Christopher’s), and then met back up with the group at the Musee D’Orsay. Rachel and Jay, JMU’s art history and culture by design professors, came on the trip with us to take us through museums and other Paris sights. After the D’Orsay they walked us over to the Louvre, where we ended up waiting outside for at least 30 minutes waiting for them to get tickets. We actually had no idea they were even getting tickets, but it’s what we assumed. By the time they came out to collect us we only had time for about 30 minutes with them guiding us, and the people not in art history (that would be me) got to go along with Jay. We saw the goddess Nike, the Mona Lisa and the Coronation of Napoleon (ginormous) with him and then had time to explore however long we wanted on our own.

We went to Napoleon’s apartments (extravagant) and then walked by the water over to the Eiffel Tower. I met up with Heather, fellow lifeguard at Roton Point, who lived in Nice last semester and is now in Paris until end of May! She took us to a place called Monoprix to pick up baguettes, cheese and wine, and Sarah, Kristine, Erin, Kelly, Heather & I spent the night below the Eiffel Tower sparkling all night until midnight.

Saturday we woke up and met Jay & Rachel at the Notre Dame for our day 2 of excursions. They took us inside but I missed most of it due to a minor freak-out (of forgetting I handed off my camera before going into a cafe to use the bathroom) and by the time I got everything under control it was time to head over to the Eiffel Tower for a quick briefing and then Musee Branly, our final stop with Rachel and Jay. After the museum we went back to the Eiffel Tower, grabbed some delicious soft-serve ice cream then lunch, and then spent a good portion of our day climbing the tower. We met up with Sarah and then went over to the copycat model of Lady Liberty…the Statue of Liberty. We took our time walking along the water, and then eventually went back to the Eiffel area, grabbed McDonalds (We had to. Passport to Paris?) and then went back to our hostel. I’ve got to say, I was a little disappointed in St. Christopher’s in Paris…they usually are known for having such awesome locations. A ride on the metro took close to an hour to get to the Eiffel Tower area. At least we got to know the city! Saturday night we spent the night under the Eiffel Tower again, this time with most of our JMU group. Sarah, Laura & I saw the finale of the Eiffel Tower…in case you were wondering, it stops sparkling and stops lighting up at 1am. We caught the metro back to St. Christopher’s and went to sleep.

Sunday Sarah, Laura & I adventured in the city while most of our group went to Versailles. I went to Versailles with People to People in high school and it was gorgeous, but I didn’t feel the need to go again this year, especially because it was a rainy day on top of everything. We met Heather for breakfast at a place called Breakfast in America and had the most delicious blueberry pancakes and side of homefries I’ve had since actually being in America. Well, it was actually the only time I’ve ordered blueberry pancakes and a side of homefries since being the states, but regardless, they were so good. After breakfast/lunch we said bye to Heather, went to visit Molly (a girl from our group who did not have a healthy weekend in Paris 😦 ), went to the Arc de Triomphe, walked down Champs-Élysées went to see the Moulin Rouge. After we snapped some pictures we got our much needed crepe and went to the Sacre Coeur on the Montemarte, and then it was time to meet everyone at the train station. We grabbed our bags from the hostel and before we knew it we were on the chunnel back to London. Overall, a great weekend, and on Monday I was still saying “Merci!”

Cheers!!