Friday, June 7, 2013


I can't even believe it. It isn't real. My emotions are all over the place. But no regrets about my last week. This has been such an amazing last week.

Monday: Kew Gardens
Wednesday: Thorpe Park (amusement park outside London)
Thursday: Changing of the guards, frolicking around Central London
Friday: London Eye, Thames boat cruise, last supper at a pub

Every single day was filled with amazing things. The Harry Potter studio tour was absolutely amazing. Literally any set or prop you could ever think of from the films was there. They filmed almost everything there, it was truly unbelievable. We spent the entire day there and I still feel like I could have stayed longer. Theres a whole new album on Facebook with all the pictures from it, YOU HAVE TO GO LOOK AT THEM. I was never much of a HP fan until I lived in London... its everywhere here. I can't wait to have an HP movie marathon when I get home and reread all the books.

Joanna, Sophie, and I were together like every day, all day. Going to miss them so much. I have met such amazing people this semester and this entire semester has surpassed all of my expectations. If you had told me even a year ago that I would live in London for half a year I would never have believed you. Study abroad really changes lives and these are by far some of the best memories of my entire life. I just have to tell myself its only goodbye for a little while. I'll be back London. You'll always hold a special place in my heart.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fun-filled days

From today, I only have 6 days left!! We are not wasting a single minute of our time left here. We got back from Ireland last Tuesday. Wednesday I went to the London zoo in Regent's Park. The park itself was really beautiful, with tons of flowers and fountains. It was somewhat rainy/cloudy that day, so the zoo wasn't as crowded. Not all of the animals were outside, but I still loved it! I absolutely love zoos, I'm not sure I could ever not like one. Inside the reptile house, a scene from the first Harry Potter movie was filmed there (the one where he talks to the snake and it escapes). So that was pretty cool to see! They had some different species of animals than the ones I'm used to seeing in zoos in America. I really enjoyed it!

The next day my group of friends (Sammy, Sophie, Laura, Joanna) went out to eat at Greedy Cow (our favorite delicious burger place here!) one last time before Sammy left the next day. Then we decided to go see Epic at the cinema. Epic was SO GOOD. My favorite movie I've seen in a long time. Everyone should drop what they're doing and go see it right this second. It was so cute and really funny. That night, we went to our usual pub, New Globe, one last time with Sammy. On Thursday nights, only Queen Mary students can get in, so its always really fun.

First thing Friday morning, we had to say bye to Sammy (really very sad but it still doesn't feel real). After she left, Joanna and I toured St. Paul's Cathedral and climbed the 528 steps to the very top of the dome. Theres an amazing view of London from up there. The cathedral is also so beautiful! Then we met everyone else at Borough Market (my favorite in London!) for lunch and walked the short walk to Shakespeare's Globe. We had groundling tickets to see A Midsummer Night's Dream. The show was at 2, exactly the same time they used to do shows back in Shakespeare's day! The show was really so well done, I loved it! It was hilarious and all the actors were so good! If you're coming to London, I would definitely recommend seeing a show there! The standing tickets were only 5 pounds!

Yesterday Joanna, Sophie, and I went to Brighton, on the coast in Southern England. Its famous for having one of the best boardwalks ever. The train from London to Brighton was only about an hour long! It was a beautiful sunny day. We walked along the beach (it was a little strange cause it was a rocky beach, no sand) and walked along all the shops. There was a beach volleyball court (I'm DYING to play) and tons of ice cream and fish and chips places. We walked along the boardwalk, which was super nice. I guess I haven't been on many boardwalks but this one was so cute, with lots of doughnuts/crepes places, an arcade, food, shops, and tons of rides. We went on two of the rides and they were SO much fun! We got some cheap dinner and slowly headed back towards the station (definitely got some ice cream on the way back). By the time we got back to London that night, it was almost 11:00! It was really quite a lovely day by the beach :-)

Today was a nice relaxing day at Brick Lane (for the last time!). We've gone to Brick Lane almost every Sunday this semester. They have amazing food and tons of shops along the street. It was another nice sunny day, so full with people and things to do. What an amazing day to spend a Sunday! I'm going to miss Brick Lane. Tonight the plan is to have a girls night and watch Titanic with Joanna and Sophie since we just visited the Titanic exhibition in Belfast, yay! (And drink my favorite Kopparberg strawberry & lime cider one more time!)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ireland ;-)

After me last exam last Friday, I began packing for my last trip.... IRELAND!! On Saturday, we flew to Dublin first and got in at about 7 pm. Our hostel was pretty easy to find. We stayed at Isaacs Hostel, which was pretty nice, but we were in a 16 bed female dorm! Lots of people in one room! That first night, we went on the Dublin Pub Crawl. At the first pub, we got a free pint of Guinness. I drank it... but did not enjoy it in the least bit. Not a fan. There was a huge football match on that night, so the pubs were full of men screaming and cheering. We went to 4 pubs and ended with a nightclub. There was live music at each of the pubs and I absolutely loved the atmosphere! Everyone was so friendly and everyone was dancing to the Irish music and singing. We definitely saw a guy dressed as a leprechaun walking along the street at one point too. One of the pubs we went to, called Whelans, was used to film a scene for PS I love you. Need to watch that movie now! On the dance floor, they had a big screen that was playing ET... a little strange and creepy but at the same time kind of cool. By the time we got to the club (called Dandelion) it was pretty late. We stayed for a little while, then left and got some chips (aka fries for the Americans) on the way back to our hostel.

The next morning, a free walking tour picked up from our hostel, so we decided to go on that. It was really good, we got to see all the major sites of Dublin: O'Connell Street (with the Spire), Dublin Castle, Temple Bar District, Dublin Wall of Fame, Trinity College. I learned that there is in fact, an Irish language. Irish Gaelic is the same as Irish. Theres also a Scottish form of Gaelic. He spoke a little to us, it was really interesting! All the signs in Dublin have both Irish and English. But everyone speaks English. They have to learn Irish in school, but everyone kind of grows up hating it (like how we all hate learning Spanish in school). Theres apparently a few parts of Ireland that regularly use it, but overall everyone speaks English. Later that afternoon we went back to Temple Bar to do some shopping and check out the pub. It was huge, with several rooms and live music pretty much round the clock. We walked from there to St. Stephen's Green, a huge park. It was such a sunny, perfect day we just laid in the grass next to a lake for hours. We may or may not have fallen asleep for a while.... woops :-) There were baby swans in the lake! It was a really relaxing, lovely day.

The next morning, we got on our train from Dublin to Belfast. The countryside was so beautiful from the train, everything was so green. Note: Dublin is part of the Republic of Ireland and Belfast is part of Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. They're two different countries. We got to Belfast around noon and walked to our hostel. The hostel was adorable, I think my favorite one all semester. It was like a cozy house with several hang out rooms. The staff were all so friendly and everyone in our 14 bed dorm was really nice. It just felt like a little community! They told us about a Mexican place that we went to for lunch, kind of like a Chipotle, but it was better and THEY HAD QUESO. First time I've had queso in months. Later at the hostel, one of the ladies that worked there asked me what queso was.... what a sad life. After eating, we went on a black taxi tour. Its actual taxi drivers that take you around Belfast in their cars. They were all taxi drivers during the conflicts only about 20-30 years ago. Our guy took us to the giant wall built to separate the Protestant and Catholic sides of Belfast. The Protestants are in favor of British rule, while the Catholic would rather be part of the Republic of Ireland. The tour was really interesting, I had no idea these things happened so recently! Our guide dropped us off at City Hall, where there was a big market set up for the bank holiday. Tons of food and shops! We wondered around there for a while and the nearby shopping centre. On our way back towards our hostel,  a bird somehow managed to poop on all 3 of us. It had kind of been raining on and off so I thought it was water, then I look down and I was like OH NOOOOOOO!! So we hurried around trying to find a bathroom until we found some guy who gave us some napkins. We went immediately back to the hostel and took showers. I guess its good luck right? We went to a nice, nearby pub for dinner. Back at the hostel for the night, we were hanging out, watching a movie, when the fire alarm started going off at about 10:30. We all huddled in the quietest room (there was actually no fire). It ended up taking like an hour to turn all of them off. It was actually kind of hilarious (once they turned off the alarm in the room we were in). It turned out there was some dust or something that had set them off and kept re-triggering them. We went to bed once they turned them off and got a wonderful nights sleep :-)

Next day we set out for Titanic Belfast! The new museum, the largest Titanic museum in the world, opened only a year ago on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic. The Titanic was built in Belfast and then shipped to England to sale from there. The Irish always say: "An Irishman built the Titanic, an Englishman sunk it."The building itself was really cool, it looked like an iceberg. It was the best exhibition/museum thing I've ever done. There was a ride that took you through a shipbuilding yard and showed you how they built it. There was a CGI tour through the Titanic that surrounded you on 3 sides (so cool!). There were full size replicas of first class, second class, and third class cabins. There were only 2 bathrooms for all of the third class passengers... and there were hundreds of them! They had original documents and records of the passengers. It was crazy how much the actors in the Titanic look exactly like the people in real life. It got really sad when we got to the part about the sinking. On display were all the messages sent to and from the Titanic asking for help. At the same time, there were voices playing over the speakers describing the sinking by actual survivors. There were 713 survivors out of 2,999 total people on board. Most of the fatalities were third class people, but their stores go untold. There was a life size lifeboat there, which had the capacity to hold 65 people. Most of the ships were not filled. The first lifeboat only had 29 people in it! They talked briefly about the movies made about the Titanic (theres actually a ton of them!). James Cameron came up with the character of Jack Dawson from his imagination, but later discovered there was an actual J Dawson on board. He was a third class man who drowned in the sinking... The last bit of the museum had actual footage of the wreckage of the Titanic and they had an interactive exhibit where you could explore the debris field around the sunken ship. Overall, the experience was absolutely unbelievable!!! Afterwards we walked back and ate at the Mexican place again :-) We ventured to the Botanic Gardens nearby and walked through the greenhouse, rose gardens, tropical house, and fields of flowers. We found a nice patch of grass to lay in and I fell asleep again for a bit... That night we headed to the airport and flew back to London (for the last time!).
I absolutely loved Ireland, it was so beautiful and everyone was so friendly! People are friendly in London too, but typically are more reserved and don't openly talk to strangers. They don't make eye contact or talk to strangers at all actually. When I first got here, I was so used to smiling at strangers that walked by and they thought I was a total creep. Ireland was much more open with strangers and especially in Dublin, there was such a lively atmosphere. I can't believe that was my last trip of the semester! I have 9 more days here in London until I head back home...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tick tock tick tock.....

Less than 3 weeks left here! Hard to believe! I still have one more exam this Friday, but I have been trying to do one thing on my London list every day. Last week, I was able to go to Wimbledon and went on a tour of the grounds. So unbelievably cool! I love watching the Championships and walking into Centre Court was stunning. We got to see areas closed off during the championships like the main interview room, the members club area, and where the players would spend time. The museum was pretty awesome too, they had autographed outfits from several champions... Navratilova, Sampras, Serena Williams, Nadal, Federer, Murray (from the Olympics), Djokovic... And a ton of other really cool stuff! And of course the championship trophies (so beautiful!)! The neighborhood around Wimbledon Tennis (and Golf) club was so fancy. The houses were adorable with all kinds of flowers and vines. They had a small cabin feel, but they were actually huge mansions! Super fancy area of London...
The next day, Joanna and I walked to Victoria Park, only about a 15 minute walk from campus. Its such a cute little park in the East End. Two days ago, Sammy and I went to see Marble Arch and explored the area around it. Its such an amazing area (we may or may not have gone shopping on Oxford Street...). Its right next to Hyde Park and we got some Chipotle for dinner! Last night, Joanna and I went to Her Majesty's Theatre in Piccadilly Circus to see Phantom one last time! Of course, it was AMAZING. And walking out into Piccadilly Circus at night afterwards made me so sad to be leaving London soon! That area really comes alive at night and it is such a fun place to be.
Today, a group of us went to Kensington and Hyde Park (the fancy West London areas). I got to see the place where my cousin/best friend Kaitlyn will be living this fall! Its in a super fancy area with lots of food, grocery stores, banks, and a tube station like a 2 minute walk around the corner (Gloucester Road on the district line)! Hyde Park (the biggest/nicest park in London) is only about a 5 minute walk away. We walked to Hyde Park (on the way being stunned by how rich/fancy west London is). We saw the Prince Albert Memorial (a really beautiful gothic memorial) and the Royal Albert Hall right across the street (where they had Phantom's 25th anniversary performance for 3 nights). Hyde Park is GIGANTIC, but we managed to find the Princess Diana memorial fountain, the Peter Pan statue, and the Italian gardens. Hyde Park is so beautiful and all the flowers are so pretty right now!
I have exactly 16 days and 6 hours bitter sweet. I have been on such an emotional roller coaster about it. One minute I'm excited to be home and the next I'm completely in a panic that I have so little time left! These last few weeks are going to be jam packed with fun-filled days, so I'll be going out with a bang :-) Leaving for Ireland (Dublin and Belfast) this Saturday for a few days! And by then my last exam will be over with.. but for now, back to revising!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


It felt like I had stepped out of my life and into some fairy tale movie.... I have never been any place like it. Harrods is the largest department store in Europe. But its not just any department store, its an upmarket department store. Which means I cannot afford a single thing in it. Every single item was in display cases and nothing had price tags. Each room had its own title and label above the entrance. "Luxury items 1" or "International Designers 4." It had 5 stories of anything you could possibly dream of. Pet spa, sporting equipment, Disney store, children's designer clothing, international designers clothing, make-up, gourmet groceries, perfume, technology, designer purses, furniture, bedding, luggage, candy, toys, tourist shop, ANYTHING. The swimsuit room was "by appointment only." We walked right in and back out. Each room had its own scent and music to give its own atmosphere. When you walk into the swimsuit room, it smells like vanilla and sunscreen, its crazy! My favorite room was the evening dress room. I can't even describe it. Looking back at the pictures, I don't know how I ever left. It was one after another beautiful evening gowns... straight off the red carpet. There were several just in display cases. Most of them didn't have price tags, but one did and it was 10,000 pounds!!!!!! Several of them were 100% silk and so soft. They had stunning fur coats that were the softest thing I'd ever felt. There was a princess dress I fell in love with. I think I was just so in shock I didn't know how to react. Otherwise, I never could have left. Throughout the entire place, it just felt like I couldn't even walk on the carpet. In case you were looking for diamond covered iPad/iPhone cases, those were available in the technology section. I can't even imagine going shopping on a regular basis in a place like that. New life plan: camp outside Harrods until I meet the man of my dreams and then I take him inside to buy me that princess dress. ;-)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

National Portrait Gallery

Today I went off on my own to the National Portrait Gallery. Its connected to the National Gallery, so I went by Trafalgar Square on my way. There was some cool basketball event going in the square! When you first come into the National Portrait Gallery, you have to go through the bookstore first. I finally got myself a Henry VIII mug. It listed all his wives and everything he did and then says "became so fat he had to be winched into bed." Hahahaha it was too good. I continued on into the gallery and headed straight for Kate Middleton's first official portrait on the ground floor. It was STUNNING. She looks so unbelievably beautiful in it. Its cool that I even got to see it since its only on display there for a few months! Next, I headed upstairs to the Tudor area. Now I really started freaking out a little bit. I got to see all these portraits I have been seeing for years in pictures. It was so amazing to be seeing the real thing. I got to see portraits of Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon, THE Anne Boleyn portrait, Katherine Parr, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I, Sir Robert Dudley, Mary Queen of Scots... it took a lot of self control. We weren't technically allowed to take pictures but...... I may or may not have snuck like 20. After the Tudors, I got to see Shakespeare, William Pitt, Jane Austen, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Charles Darwin, Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, pretty much any king or queen or anyone of any importance to Britain had a portrait there. SO COOL.

After I left the gallery, I walked to Leicester Square around the corner and found a Chipotle! Very successful day :-) I fly back home exactly 4 weeks from today... bittersweet :/

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


No, I was not mistaken as an Italian pop star (Lizzie McGuire movie). A bit of a disappointment. BUT Rome was still pretty awesome. The first night we arrived, we figured out the Roman metro system and found our hostel pretty easily. To put it nicely... this one was not quite up to the same standards as our past hostels... Only one bathroom, not very clean, semi-broken shower, creaky bed, no clean towels half the time, no breakfast (even though it promised breakfast online). Anyway, after checking in, we set out to find some dinner. And after roaming (hah!) around for some time, we stumbled upon a cute little Italian restaurant down one of the streets. They gave us free bread and an appetizer (first time I've gotten free food pretty much all semester! Usually they charge you for bread and even water). I had some spaghetti al ragu (spaghetti with meat sauce). I think it was the best meal I'd had so far! So delicious! It was a really nice dinner, the three of us got into a laughing fit at some Spongebob quotes... haha don't ask.

The next morning, we headed straight for the Colosseum. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a rainy day (again! Isn't Italy supposed to be sunny?!). We had to wait in line for a bit, but when you first walk into the Colosseum it is truly stunning. I have never seen anything like it. Even through the rain and umbrellas blocking our view, it was so cool!! The centre area was not covered with a stage (as it would have been back in the day), so you could see everything that would have been underneath it, where they kept the animals and where the mechanics of the stage worked. Its crazy they had this fantastic architecture and mechanics so many years ago! We spent a good 2 hours wondering around the Colosseum, going to the top level too. Theres an exhibition on the top level with all kinds of information about the Romans and emperors at the time of the Colosseum. We took A TON of pictures.  And the entire time we were singing This is What Dreams Are Made Of (Lizzie McGuire movie again)! Eventually, we left to go find some lunch. We found a cheap place close by and I had some spaghetti with egg, cheese, and bacon (it was bit weird). Then, we walked to the nearby Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. They're basically just a giant collection of Roman ruins. It was so unbelievably cool to be walking around in ancient palaces, gardens, and cities. We walked through streets, houses, shops that stood 2,000 years ago. Unbelievable experience. After about 4 hours, we left to go find the famous Trevi fountain (I think most girls my age know this fountain from the Lizzie McGuire movie... its where she throws in the coin, makes a wish, and turns around to find Paolo!). It was quite an adventure finding the fountain, but we got there eventually. It was STUNNING. A hugeeeeee beautiful fountain that took 30 years to build. It was magical. We took lots of pictures there (and yes, made some wishes and threw in coins). There were tons of restaurants around, so we had dinner close by (4 cheese pizza!).

The next day was our day for the Vatican. We got there a little before 11 and noticed the line wrapping around the Vatican walls. Once again it was raining and we were hoping the line wasn't too long. After waiting in line along 3 different walls, Kelsey finally went to see how long the line is. We still had 2 long walls to go. So 2 of us went to get some lunch and we ate while standing in line (thankfully there was a brief break in rain at that point). Finally a little after 1:30, we got through the Vatican walls (THAT WAIT WAS MISERABLE). We went through metal detectors and bought our tickets (which were pretty cheap since we got the student discount!) and explored a gallery with some works of Leonardo da Vinci. Then, we went towards the Sistine Chapel. Of course they know everyone goes there just to see the Sistine Chapel, so they led us through what felt like hundreds of other museums and rooms before we finally got there. They were all beautiful, but it was so packed full of rude people that we were just ready to see it. We finally got to the Sistine Chapel and it did not let down, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was so beautiful and enrapturing. I just stood there and stared for several minutes (I also snuck a picture or two or the famous Michelangelo ceiling). But because there were hundreds of people inside the chapel, we didn't stay too long. We got a quick snack and exited the Vatican Museum. We got some more gelato and then headed for Saint Peter's Square. The square was pretty cool. I had seen it in so many movies, so it was cool to finally see it in person. We went through a second set of metal detectors to get inside the Basilica of Saint Peter. The church was probably the most beautiful I've ever seen. There were all kinds of beautiful colors and high, vaulted ceilings. It seemed so gigantic, with all kinds of tombs for different popes. It was such a different style than the English churches I'm used to, like Westminster Abbey. Mass was going on while we were there, so there was a choir singing in the background. Really an amazing experience. When we left, there were guards in crazy looking outfits and we got there just in time for the changing of the guard (EXTREMELY lame changing of the guard compared to Buckingham Palace of course). We left the square and took the metro back to the area around the Colosseum because there were a ton of good, cheap restaurants around there! We found a place that had spaghetti and meatballs. It was definitely the picture perfect Italian meal any tourist dreams of: spaghetti and meatballs with a glass of (nasty) wine all in view of the Colosseum. Perfect last supper for our last night in Italy! On our way back to our hostel, we stopped in at the gelateria by our hostel for the third night in a row.... :-)

On our final morning in Italy (sad!), we went to Piazza Navona. Since there was some weird stall in the Rome metro system (their transportation system is really bad... we had several problems with it) we had to get off a stop early. But this actually turned out fine because we stumbled upon seeing the Capitol building and the Pantheon on the way to the square. Both super cool! It took us a while to find Piazza Navona, there are a million squares. You turn the corner and think it might be it and then you're like oh wait... this is just another square (Joanna actually had a nightmare of never-ending squares haha!). But we DID find it. The movie Angels and Demons (with Tom Hanks) has a part filmed in the square, so that was cool to see. There are 3 beautiful fountains along the square and a basilica in the middle. We found a cheap place for lunch a little away from the square and my last Italian meal was delicious (4 cheese gnocchi). We walked back towards the metro and on the way, walked by the Spanish steps (also in the Lizzie McGuire movie, where she does the cartwheel!). Back at our hostel, we picked up our luggage and then made our way to the airport. It was a long day of traveling after that... we finally got back to Queen Mary campus a little after 11 pm. Every time I come back to London I get so excited, I really love it here! It is such a special city and I am so blessed to be able to live here for half a year!

Italy is definitely my favorite trip so far... really a dream come true! Amazing food and places to see! We had some weird recurring themes of the trip... Lizzie McGuire and Spongebob. Lizzie McGuire came from the Lizzie McGuire movie being in Rome (such a good movie!), but I'm not quite sure where Spongebob came from... At night when we were exhausted and lazy, we watched episodes of Lizzie and Spongebob and they were, of course, quite entertaining :-) My favorite city out of the 3 we went to (Venice, Florence, Rome) was Venice. It was such a peaceful, beautiful city. I really liked Florence, I wish we could have had some more time there. Rome had some awesome things to see in it, but it was also a crowded city full of rude/smelly people. The people we met there were not very nice... Surprisingly, the Vatican was the worst. The other people visiting were rude and the people who worked there were even ruder... But it was all worth it. Couldn't be happier to have gone! I think I had enough gelato to last me a life time :-) (or maybe just a couple of days..........)