Posts tagged ‘study abroad’

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!

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

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

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 5, 2011

Old Bailey, Ecstasy, Kidulthood & Taylor Swift


The week after traveling the countryside of England flew by. As is the entire semester, I guess. For politics on Monday we talked about the court systems and then, vualah, we went to the Old Bailey and watched a trial for robbery. I felt like we were intruding because we were the only ones in the audience upstairs besides the family. A little uncomfortable. After we watched a good portion of the questioning we headed out. Monday night for theatre we went to see Ecstasy at the Hampstead Theatre, the same theatre we saw Penelope in. Ecstasy is about alcoholism, loneliness, and regret. It sounds really depressing, as it was intended to be, but it was so good. Tuesday for Media & Society we had a discussion on the Saatchi Gallery, led into our film discussion, and then watched a crazy British movie called Kidulthood. Here’s a trailer..

 

Really crazy and violent, I know.

Tuesday afternoon I went to Wriglesworth as per usual, and we spent the day preparing for the next, for the Aviva roundtable debate. Tuesday night for dinner Kelly, Laura, Sarah & I went to Lupita, one of our favorite Mexican restaurants by Embankment. Wednesday I worked at Wriglesworth-worked the roundtable during the morning and the office for the rest of the week. Wednesday night was the Taylor Swift concert!! I’m going to be honest, I liked Taylor Swift before her concert. I loved her after the concert, it was amazing. The concert was in the O2 arena and it was packed with mostly teenage girls…we felt a little old. Regardless, she sounded incredible and we all had so much fun. The end.

Thursday for Pop Culture we didn’t end up going to the Olympic sites for our outing because we had to make up for the class we missed due to the Bath/Stonehenge/Stratford weekend. Instead we talked about Orientalism, watched an insane martial arts movie called Azumi, and went to the British Museum to sketch artifacts that we’ve recognized in movies. A lot of eye opening to crazy, non-American movies this week.

Thursday night we had a pizza party for Madhouse and just relaxed and packed for Paris! Updates on the weekend coming up.

March 27, 2011

The week Danielle & Jess visited London


Monday morning for politics we went to the Science Museum. We went to the World Wide Web exhibit, and we watched this big make-up of small screens that stream live feed from public chat rooms. It changed information like usernames, conversations and key words and we were just watching a constant streaming of people’s conversations. It was a little creepy; the Internet in general is creepy. Monday night for theatre we didn’t see a show for class, because we had King Lear planned for Thursday night in Stratford. Instead, we had a group outing to the Royal Opera House to see Swan Lake. The ballet was so fun. Granted, we missed a lot of the story line because we were so high up (For example, we thought the main characters lived, because we never saw them jump off a ledge on the left of the stage to commit suicide). Regardless, it was amazing just watching how talented all of the ballerinas are. They literally spend the entire time on the very point of their toes. Everyone was extremely talented and it was a little excruciating to watch. Tuesday for Media & Society we went to the Saatchi Gallery, and we had a quick tour by an American intern from Wisconsin. The gallery is a collection of art that Saatchi owns, and honestly, it’s all a little weird. But it was interesting seeing the different styles and interests people have in all kinds of artwork.

Tuesday was a special day, because my best friend Danielle Fraser and her roommate from URI, Jess, arrived in London! I work Tuesday afternoons, so I met up with them in Covent Garden when I got out, and then showed them around that area, Trafalgar Square, and the area over by Embankment. We ended up having dinner on one of those restaurant-boats and it was lovely. The two of them brought gorgeous weather to London all week. After dinner we went back to my flat and then went out to Cornwallis with a group of Madhouse people. We stayed there until it closed and then headed over to the Rocket, which wasn’t open much later. Since the tube was still open, Danielle & Jess just took that back to their hostel, and prepared for their very busy next day. I work my long days on Wednesdays, and they spent their day doing the NewEurope free tour, rode the London Eye, did a Grim Reaper tour, and then met me at Holborn Wednesday night. In terms of my day, the annual budget announcement was on Wedneday, and I was a little surprised to see that it is treated with importance equivalent to our State of the Union. During our lunch hour the TV was turned on, and everyone had earphones plugged in watching live streaming. I’m not exaggerating when I say this week was the best weather we have seen in London so far, so I walked home from work to soak in as much sun as possible. We had our weekly meeting, got our calendars and itineraries for the weekend, and then I had time to organize myself and relax before meeting up with Danielle and Jess. Will wanted to go to a bar called Moonlighting for his birthday, but through a series of unfortunate events Danielle, Jess and I had bad luck getting into bars this particular night. We ended up at O’Neils, which is perfectly fine by me because they got to see our favorite bar! We were the last people to leave O’Neils, and since the tube had closed I was determined to send them home on a bus because they had an oyster card, which buses accept. Unfortunately, I’ve been living here for 2 months and have no idea how the buses work or which ones go to the area their hostel was in. After failing to figure it out, we all just grabbed cabs and headed home. Thursday morning was quite an adventure, as I woke up and went to their hostel to meet Danielle & Jess, but they were at King’s Cross station. Then we had to go back to West Brompton tube stop, but they missed their Easybus to Gatwick, so we headed to Victoria so they could catch the Gatwick Express to the airport. If it sounds confusing & chaotic, that’s because it was. It was actually really funny though and everything worked out in the end. It was so nice having visitors and I’m glad they had such a lovely time in London. J I headed home, showered, ate & packed for the upcoming weekend to Stratford upon Avon, Oxford, Bath, Salisbury and Stonehenge.

 

Cheers!

March 27, 2011

Berlin!


The one thing we constantly thought when in Berlin was, “Well, this is different than spring break last year.” This time one year ago we were the typical college students off in Panama City Beach, Florida, and this year we are sophisticated college students (hah) traveling Europe, learning history and not caring so much about our tan. It’s hard to describe our trip to Berlin in a short statement. I can’t come out and say, “Yes, Berlin was amazing and so much fun,” because we were doing things like standing on Hitler’s bunker and touring a concentration camp. However, I did love Berlin and think it was one of the most important trips we took this semester. I left Berlin having learned SO much information. I can tell you all about the Berlin history, thanks to Barnaby, our fantastic tour guide. For anyone that’s studied abroad, chances are you’ve done a Sandeman’s tour. They do free tours (NewEurope) in a lot of major cities and then have a bunch of other ones that hit all the things to do in the city.  We usually do these tours, but we did ours through Insider Tours in Berlin. We didn’t get to Berlin until late Sunday night/early Monday morning, so we checked into our hostel, grabbed some quick food (which was an adventure in itself because everything was closed) and then headed to bed. We woke up and went on a tour with Barnaby. We saw everything; starting with Museum Island, the center square where the famous book burning happened (plaque on the ground says, “Those who burn books will burn people” way before the Holocaust.)

We saw Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall, Hitler’s bunker, the Jewish Memorial, Reichstag and ended with the Bradenburg gate. Checkpoint Charlie was nicknamed
“Disneyworld” by Barnaby because it is just actors dressed up to show the fake representation of Checkpoint Charlie.
picture Barnaby showed us of the actual Checkpoint Charlie:

We went into Fassbender & Rausch, chocolatiers who used to be the royal chocolatiers. The store was amazing. Needless to say we walked away with some sweets. They also had models of the Titanic and Reichstag.

We also learned a funny fact about Berlin; they have a lot of the same tree, and they are all numbers. Around 1, 280 trees I think. “A very German thing to do,” Barnaby told us.

After the tour we grabbed lunch and I had my second favorite meal of Berlin (first was my veggie enchilada from a restaurant named Que Pasa). It was a potato au gratin casserole with veggies and some pita bread for dipping. I just remember being amazed how delicious it was for a few hours after actually eating it. Same goes with my veggie enchilada, except for days. I still think about it. J We went into the Radisson to see the biggest fish tank in the world, and we rode the elevators illegally (needed a room key to swipe and ride up) instead of paying 17 euros to ride up the elevator through the fish tank. That night we got drinks for happy hour in our hostel lobby, then got dinner at Que Pasa. You already know how I feel about that meal. Del-i-cious.

Tuesday we went on a full day (6 hours) tour of Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp just about a hour outside of Berlin. What an eerie day. There was one bunker that was still standing and is now partially a museum. The rest of the camp’s bunkers were destroyed by the Germans before the camp was shut down, but there are memorials to represent where they would have been. The camp was ginormous, and we learned a lot of history/heard a lot of stories. We went through the same tour company as the day before, and our tour guide was Pen, short for Penelope. Also a 5 star guide. She was awesome.

When we got back to Berlin we grabbed a mid-afternoon snack at a really good restaurant near Hackescher Markt, then took off to see the East Side Gallery, a huge section of the Berlin Wall still standing that is entirely decorated with local artwork. Unfortunately, I lost my little camera in Prague just a few days later so I don’t have any of those pictures, but I personally think it was a really cool and neat thing to do. The artists were mostly local citizens, people that actually lived through when the Berlin wall was actually standing and dividing their city. Tuesday night we just grabbed dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant and relaxed before going back to the hostel.

We stayed at a hostel called CityStay and I would highly recommend it to anyone that is visiting Berlin. The hallways are brightly painted, there’s free wifi, the rooms & bathrooms were clean, the lobby has a bar with cheap happy hour drinks, and the staff was friendly and helpful. Not to mention our awesome location which was right next to Hackescher Markt.

Next stop, Prague!