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Beautiful London

When professors ask me if I’m excited to return home, I never really want to answer the question. In my last class today, one of them made us reflect on what we enjoyed about the class, and one thing we wished we could have done overall. It was like I had a mini flashback in my mind, as I tried to figure out something different from what the other girls were saying. The great thing was, I couldn’t think of just one thing. My mind jumped from thing to thing, and I still amassed a list of things I need to do in the future.

He also asked for something we thought was meh about the class. I also couldn’t think of one at the time. I really enjoyed exploring London, and I can’t believe how much I love it here. One month isn’t enough, but when would I ever get this chance again? It was all my classes, my classmates, my side trips, the good and bad experiences that made my trip what it was. I am desperately sad that I leave in the morning, but I am so grateful for everything that has happened. Studying abroad is an experience like no other, and I hope that people get to experience it and fall in love with a new country, much like I have. I was born and bred in NYC, but there’s room for two big cities in my heart.

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Returning to the USA

What to say about such an intense and positive experience….?!

After a month of near-constant activity, seeing so many things, museums, and meeting new people, it will be a change of pace in New Paltz, waiting for the semester to begin, casually catching up with friends and family. I am so glad I took this opportunity to study abroad. It helped me clarify my future goals and put things into perspective in unexpected ways. I now have a clearer picture of where I want to be in a year, my itch for travel having been temporarily scratched. Ready to relax and reflect. Two final papers on there way. On my way to NYC tomorrow. See you soon!

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Things to Know Before Traveling to Beijing

Not having to tip is very very nice

Thank you seems to be said less

Strangers stare at you

Strangers ask to take pictures of you (mostly at tourist attractions)

Traffic laws are pretty loosely followed

Bikers do whatever they want

Cashiers don’t like giving change, they will, but they might ask for change

Sometimes you have to pay for a plastic bag in grocery stores

Taxi drivers never speak english

Sometimes they test your water on subways to insure that is actually water

People will not give up seats on a subway even if they’re a healthy young adult and there is a pregnant person

People run for seats on the subway

The next train is just as crowded as the one that just passed

People will definitely push you to get on/off the subway

Passports are used for ID’s as a foreigner a lot

The worst crime seems to be pickpocketing (but I haven’t heard of any stories of this happening)

People will practically run after you to hand you a pamphlet

Google Maps give you the street signs in English, but the signs aren’t always this way (especially numbers, learn numbers)

Know the address of something near your apartment, in case your taxi driver doesn’t recognize the address of your apartment

Eating with chopsticks is so much more work

Bring toilet paper/napkins of some kind to public restrooms

A lot of people wear shirts with english words (these people don’t always know english)

Badly translated signs are great

The sushi from connivence stores is pretty good

Get some people to translate or you’re gonna have really limited food options

Taxi drivers will sometimes try to overcharge you before you get in, find another taxi

If taking this thing (when there is no other option), discuss the price before

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Uber is definitely a good idea, aside from them often calling and asking where you are in Chinese

Subway station exits make good meeting places

Life is hard without google maps to guide you

Things that you would see in the US are more expensive

Bless you isn’t said

WeChat is used for everything

Pringles barely have flavor

Beer costs less than water (sometimes)

Pork buns are really good and sold in connivence stores

Water is usually served warm in restaurants

Subways are very very crowded during rush hour

Baidu’s search engine kinda works, but not well (apparently it works better in Chinese)

People use their phones for everything

Everything is a lot cheaper

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Magical London

What I like about London is that there are always small gems to find. Through one of my classes, Exploring Cultural London, I was able to find many of these things thanks to my teacher. From the covered markets, to the expensive arcades in Piccadilly Circus, to rooftop bars and boat rides, London has it all.

In the “up and coming” area of Peckham, our teacher gave us an optional thing to visit after class. It turned out to be one of the interesting things I’ve found on this trip. The way up was inside the stairs of a car park, and it was painted bright bubblegum pink. It actually hurt the eyes to look at. At the top, it opened to a view of London with a rooftop bar and an extremely casual restaurant. It was a great end to a class day, just looking at the view and talking.

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The boat ride on the Thames was actually another optional thing at the end of our class. We finished off in Greenwich and the Prime Meridian, then he gave us the option to go back by boat. All of us ended up saying yes, and it was one of the highlights of my trip. Being able to go back to Waterloo Station on the Thames was amazing. I saw so many things I wanted to see, and we passed under the Tower Bridge. It was great to see what we had been talking about in class and being able to identify large buildings in the financial districts made me happy.

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One thing I found with this class is that somehow we were always able to orient ourselves as to where we were because of the first day. The first day we went up on the Shard, the tallest view in London. Seeing the buildings from high up made it easy to spot certain distinctive landmarks from so many areas in London. Even from the plane back coming back from Ireland I could still see them.

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We travelled to Leavesden for my second class yesterday to take in the Warner Bros. Studio Tour for the Making of Harry Potter. Now if you’re a huge Harry Potter fan, this is absolutely a must to see. All the sets, all the props, all the costumes were the originals used in the film at some point in time. It’s really a surreal feeling to walk into the Great Hall and see how the set is and to see how it made all of us feel.

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Some Cool (and Some Slightly Less Cool) Places

This is somewhat in order of the places I recommend the most to least

The Great Wall: I feel like you already know enough about this one. I only managed to get to the tourist part, which I regret a little, but it was still great. It was very crowded. While at the top of this part, I could see other much emptier areas. If you can find a way to get to safely get to an emptier section, definitely do this. Also, probably don’t go on weekends. I took a cable car both ways, but it would’ve been nice to just do this one way. However, even with the cable car, it still seems to be a lot of walking.

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Temple of Heaven: I went here later in the day, which probably improved the experience a lot. There weren’t many crowds. The Temple of Heaven looks pretty similar to a UFO and I think the blue colors are great. The park is really large and easy to get lost in, but you probably won’t get lost forever because there are maps. There is a lot of really green grass and other things like a rose and flower garden.

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798 Art District: I think this is a place where New Paltz students belong. It’s super artsy and there is a lot of cool graffiti. The outside area is filled with old factory buildings that are no longer in use. Inside of this, there are a bunch of art museums. I wish I spent more time there because there is a lot to do, but I got there pretty late in the day.

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Panjiayuan Market: This place was only a subway stop away from me or a 20 minute walk. This is a great place for buying souvenirs. It’s a very large market area. Some of it is indoors, but most of it is under a very large tent. You have to haggle a lot, but it’s not too difficult. You can often go for about half of what they say the price is, and usually end up somewhere in the middle. Don’t be afraid to just say no. They might even call you back and agree to your price. Other places nearby are probably selling the same thing. If it costs more there, you can easily go back. It’s pretty cool when you realize that you just spent way less than what they were asking for. A calculator is passed back and forth to argue prices. Some guides tell you to go super early for the best deals. I don’t think this is necessary, but it might depend on what you’re looking for.

Lama Temple: This place wasn’t too crowded. There are some huge Buddha statues, including one that is four stories high (photos of this are not allowed, but many people seem to take them). It’s an actual place of worship and many people burn incense. In general, the architecture is really pretty. The architecture is similar to most of the temples in China, but I think it’s slightly more interesting.

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Jingshan Park: Great views of Beijing, especially the Forbidden City. This probably won’t be a fun trip if the sky isn’t clear. It can be a lot of walking to the top, but if you manage to find the shortcut, it’ll be a better experience.

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Beihai Park: I went here while it was raining and after most of the attractions closed, but it was still pretty cool. Since I went at this time with this weather, it was pretty empty, which improves the experience a lot. I’m not sure if it’s surrounded by water or if the water is surrounded by the land, but you can take many boat rides across this water. It’s definitely easy to get lost. I took the subway there and a taxi home because I couldn’t figure out which exit was closest to the subway and when I asked for directions to the subway, I was just told that it was very far. (Taxi’s here are much cheaper than taxis in NY. I spent ¥40 for a 40 minute trip, which is about $6, that’s less than an express bus.)

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Old Summer Palace: I think this just ends up being a lot of walking, even if you do take a boat ride. Most of it is burned down because of some wars that happened. There is a pretty cool maze area that you should definitely check out.

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Forbidden City & Taimenian Square: Okay so maybe it was really early, really hot and I didn’t wake up early enough to eat breakfast, but this wasn’t really that exciting. It is very crowded, especially earlier in the morning. There isn’t really much to it. The architecture is nice, but not very different from other places including the Temple of Heaven, Beihai Park, Jingshan Park, and Lama Temple.

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Ming Tomb: This probably isn’t a place I would go to on my own, but it was part of my Great Wall tour. This is where emperors are buried. I actually don’t know much about it. It would probably be higher on this list if I knew more.

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Jade Factories: This definitely isn’t a place I’d go to on my own, but it was part of my Great Wall tour. It might be cool if you have a lot of money or are into jade, but neither of these relate to me. Their goal is to sell you some stuff (don’t do it.)

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Kingston is my classroom!

When I thought about studying abroad, I thought about the world being my classroom and that is exactly what I am experiencing here in Jamaica. One of the coolest parts of this trip is that Professor Brown is also here to guide us and teach us things along the way. As Dr. Brown would say “Its all about navigating the space and bringing it to the contemporary.” Even while we driving from destination to destination there are always questions and discussions along the way. I appreciate all the conversations we have because we are not looking at examples from a textbook… we are looking at everything with our own eyes.

New Paltz classes vs. Jamaica Study abroad learning? Like I said completely different because what you are learning is right beside you or not to far away. Being in Jamaica with the group and the professor is so great because we learn from each other and from Dr.Brown. There is so much about Jamaica that one begins to understand when they see it with there own eyes. Jamaican history runs deep from the indigenous Taino’s, colonialism, slavery, emancipation, to independence and present day.

COOL FACT: Taino’s named for “Jamaica” was “Xaymaca.”

We also have three books we are reading in Jamaica which help us further understand the culture. The first book is In Focus Jamaica by Peter Mason,  Rastafari by Barry Chevannes, Britain’s Black Debt by Sir Hilary McD. Beckles.

JSLP 2016 had the privilege of meeting Sir Hilary Beckles- Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies at the UWI Mona, where we discussed Britain’s black debt and reparations for the Caribbean slavery and native genocide. Sir Beckles was so intelligent about the subject, It was so amazing to be having a discussion with such a smart man who has made an impact throughout the Caribbean and continues to make a difference. I encourage anyone who is reading my blog to look up Sir Beckles and reparations for the Caribbean. By the way this was one of the most amazing parts of the trips for me! Who gets to sit with the author of many books/ Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies everyday? I will never forget that day.

Volunteering at the Kingston YMCA is also an amazing part of learning about the Jamaican culture. Being counselors to the children and working with the other Jamaican counselors is a great way to see what it is like to live in Jamaica with the different conversations with the children and adults. Just by talking to the counselors, I have learned so much about Jamaican that tourist going to resorts would learn.

Before the trip, I was warned about the danger in Jamaica but throughout the time Ive been here I have learned that people here are amazing, joyful, smart and much more but the under development of the country is what keeps the people from progressing hence why reparations from Britain is important. Jamaica and its culture has influenced many others in many ways through music, food and much more. Jamaica deserves respect for what is has been through and how the people continue to strive everyday. I am tremendously happy I made the decision to study abroad in Jamaica.

I cant leave this post without thanking Professor Brown for coordinating all these great and educational outings for us. Also thanks for teaching me “how to navigate the space,” where ever I am! 🙂

JAMAICA HAS SHOWN ME …

Beauty, love, kindness and much more!

ONE LOVE!

Here is the song by Chronixx called Smile Jamaica! This song is so touching and shows exactly how beautiful the people and the culture is!

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Workplace Differences

The main difference between working here and working in the US is the language. It’s definitely interesting to experience someone commenting on your work in a language that you do not understand. Comments would be made, and someone else translates them. This system seems to work, but I’m probably missing out on a few comments. Once, they were rearranging the office and I wanted to help out as much as possible, but I didn’t really know what was going on.

Using WeChat to contact everyone isn’t a huge difference, but it’s definitely different. Occasionally, I’ll get an email, but I don’t think anyone here has my phone number. Files are sent through WeChat. WeChat can translate messages, which is useful. (WeChat is basically WhatsApp, but you can do a little more with it.)

The company seems more laid back than most of the companies I’ve worked for in the past, but I think this is just a difference in the kind of company. I think that design companies are usually like this. The attire is pretty casual, which I enjoy a lot, especially in the hot weather. (It’s not jeans and t-shirts, but it’s also not constant business suits, it’s a good middle ground.) Everything happens a bit later than it is scheduled to. I feel comfortable with talking to most of the people in higher positions, I even work in the same room as a lot of these people. There aren’t cubicles and group work is promoted. The office is filled with a few little animals, some fish and a lot of plants. This isn’t too far from my ideal working situation.

My advisor brought me along to another company that we were trying to work with, which was a great experience. We went to the building of what is probably the most well known TV station in Beijing. They building was pretty cool. We drank tea in a lobby are that explained the history of the company while we waited for the meeting to start. The meeting was my perfect amount of casual. We sat in what seemed like their usual working area and traded business cards. Then, my advisor showed videos to the small group of people. It wasn’t a scary presentation to a really large judgmental group. The group liked what she was showing and seemed excited to work with the company. It’s possible that I completely misread the situation since 99% was not English, but this is how it appeared.

Academic Adjustment

Before beginning my courses here in Oviedo, I had no idea what to expect. I wondered if the classes and the style of teaching would be similar to what I experienced in the US at SUNY New Paltz. The courses that I am taking in Spain are Advanced Spanish and a literature/art history module. We begin class at 9:30 am and work until 11:30 am. During this time we work on perfecting our grammar by doing excerieces out loud from packets. Although grammar in Spanish can throw some curve balls (don’t even get me started on the subjunctive tense!), speaking and reading out loud in class is such great practice for perfecting Spanish grammar and speaking skills. There are about twenty other students in the class, mostly from the US like myself. At 11:30 classes pause for a half hour snack break where students arrange afternoon plans over a café con leche and a bocadillo. At 12 classes resume and we continue working on grammar. At 1 pm we switch over to another classroom for the module course, which we had the option of choosing. I decided to take the literature and art history module since there is so much fascinating history and culture of Spain to be learned through the art and literature. During this class we observe, read and discuss various paintings and poems that pertain to whichever author or artist we are studying. Most days we are not assigned homework beyond a small writing assignment and review of class notes from that day. The professors want us to work hard in the classroom but also encourage us to take advantage of time outside of class by exploring and being present within our time here in Spain. Overall, I really enjoy these classes. From my experience the professors are very kind and informative and are very accommodating to international students. I really appreciate how they bring cultural references and vocabulary into the classroom, like incorporating traditional Asturian recipes and festivals into our lessons. I had a lot of apprehension before beginning classes abroad (who doesn’t?), however here is my one piece of advice to anyone considering studying internationally: your professors abroad want to see you grow and succeed. Whether that growth may be in terms of language skills, knowledge, or world experience, your professors abroad want to see you grow from this experience because they know you can. Learning a language by immersion is such a natural way of language acquisition that you’re barely even aware that it’s happening! To think that I struggled my first few days here while simply ordering a coke to being able to hold long conversations with native speakers is truly amazing. In conclusion, I am very grateful to be learning as much as I am both in and out of the classroom. IMG_1113 (1)IMG_1112

And So the Ring Nears Completion

IMG_1962IMG_1973IMG_1983IMG_1999IMG_2004It seems like a lifetime since I was in America, so much has happened. I still remember the faces of my loved ones, the layout of my house, the area where I live, almost like a dream, I remember all of these details, yet I feel like its a dream. Okay, maybe I am getting a bit too sentimental and what not, but when your life dream of living in a nation with such an astonishing culture, history and society as Japan, where arcades are filled with all sorts of fascinating machines and historic sites centuries older than my country, it is pretty bittersweet to be leaving. Still, I made so many incredible memories and friends. I also invited a lot of these Japanese friends to visit me in New York as many are coming to America to study abroad and glamorize NYC as this amazing metropolis. Honestly, I am happy to be going home soon as while I loved, really loved the country, living here, the standards of Japanese society are a bit rough, nothing too major, just that my bed was a little small, I am 5`11, which is above average, still I slept well and the other major topic being that while Japanese and Chinese food are great, I really want some pizza and tacos! Also, I miss my car, the trains are really easy to navigate and use, but I like being able to go wherever I want, whenever I want. I mean I could adapt to living without these things, probably could make my own pizza and tacos, but America is my homeland and that is the culture that I am used to. I am positive that others, who study abroad feel the same. What really brings me back to America is my friends and family, I love them and if they lived here, then I would have no major reason to not consider living in Japan. I definitely will return, probably for the Olympics in 2020, but hopefully sooner, I really like the arcades here, I know that sounds petty, but they are so much fun, also there are a lot of places that I want to visit when I return that I did not have the chance to, did a ton of traveling, but it is impossible to see all of a nation as rich as Japan.

I know that I am suppose to focus on the point of my leaving Japan and my emotions, but really I knew that it was always the last part of my trip and I have been preparing to leave before I even got here. Not that I felt that I would not like Japan, but because I am a very pragmatic person, something that I definitely advise anyone studying abroad to be. I bought a ridiculous amount of stuff, which I have described in detail in previous posts. I have had to buy a second suitcase and fill my duffel bag to get everything home, fortunately my airline, ANA (All Nippon Airways) allows a second suitcase and a large carry-on for no addition charge, if you`re coming to Japan, ANA is your best opinion. Not that the other airlines do not have these accommodations, but the flight on a Japanese airline, definitely helps hype you up for Japan and the service is great!

I feel that it is important to be able to give some useful advise to those considering doing it. First of all, it is kind of intimidating to decide whether or not to leave everything and everyone, you have ever known and live in a foreign country. But, it really is a great opportunity that you may never have again and you can not let your fear hold you back. I was pretty intimidated by it at first, but my parents supported me and told me that I have nothing to hold me down like a family or job; and that I have to take this opportunity to grow as a person. The best way to think of it is just like living in a college dorm in a different part of the country, same amount of personal space and amenities, just as long, and you know that you are far from home, but with modern technology like Skype, you can feel like you are there. My cousins who have graduated from college have told me that their only regret was not leaving their comfort zone and studying abroad, something that they give me credit for. If you are a very pragmatic person, than what I would suggest is try a short 2-week or so Summer study abroad program and see if you like it, that`s what I did and it definitely helped incline me to go for the whole semester.

I definitely feel that thanks to studying abroad, that I am more confident in myself and that when I am given an opportunity, I will go for it with no fear. I went on a lot trips, both alone and with others, from mountain climbing to festivals, I seized every day to its fullest and felt that no day was wasted. It was exhausting beyond belief, I know that sounds rough, but honestly you have to make the most of an experience that you will never have again. A lot of people give me a huge amount of credit for being so brave and adventurous, that praise definitely gave strength to keep going even, when I missed home. Whenever I encounter an issue or something intimidating in my life, I just think to myself that I went to a foreign country and prospered, there is nothing that I can not do and I know that I can adapt to any situation.

One area that is absolutely vital to mention is interactions and relations with others. When I first go here, me and all of the other new residents were always hanging out, going on adventures and I believed that we would spend a lot time over the coming semester together. But, as school started and people committed to their studies and made new friends at school, we all went our separate ways. Of course this happens in college in America too, but as it seemed like everyone lost interest in exploring Japan within a few weeks, while I still had my enthusiasm, this kind of bummed me out, but I preserved and continued to go everywhere I could. While going by oneself may seem kind of lonely, I definitely encourage you to go everywhere you want to because not going due to being by yourself is wasting a great opportunity. I did make friends that went on adventures with me, but I always acknowledged that not everyone would be interested in going everywhere I wanted to and I should not let that hold me back.

Like I have done since the start of my time in Japan, its time for stories of my adventures and all of the amazing things to see and do in Japan! After passing it twice on my other Bullet train trips, I went to the central Japanese city of Nagoya for a day trip. Its a smaller city than Tokyo and has a lot less history than Kyoto, but still it did have some pretty cool places. The first place that I went to was called Atsuta Shrine, which according to Japanese mythology a legendary sword is believed to be there enshrined behind closed doors where not even the Priests are allowed to see it. The sword is properly called Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi and according to myth, it was acquired by the God of Sea and Storms, Susanoo, in the belly of a legendary eight headed dragon that he had defeated. With a story like that, I had to go to the shrine and while Kusanagi is not on display, they do have other swords including one that was easily 9 feet long, but photography was prohibited. It was a really amazing shrine that had a very spiritual feel to it as the area around it has remained untouched for nearly two thousand years, yeah Shintoism has a long history.

After that, I went to Nagoya Castle, which belonged to the legendary, yeah there`s a lot of legendary Daimyos, Oda Nobunaga. Unfortunately, the original castle was destroyed during the war, so it is a reconstruction, but that actually makes it easier to explore as it is built for tourists and you do not take off your shoes, something that is required at real castles. It was a pretty cool place with lots of artifacts and a really good view of the city from the top. Overall it was a fun day trip and certainly worth taking!

Then last Sunday, my friends, who are part of a dance troupe, invited me to see them at a dance festival competition. The type of dancing they perform is called Yosakoi, which is free-style traditional Japanese group dancing, that permits the groups to choose their moves, music and costumes allowing for every group to develop their own distinct style that stands out. There were over 80 groups made up of everyone from small children to the elderly with group sizes varying from 20 members to some that easily had over 50, it was incredible to see so many people taking part in the competition and their beautiful costumes. My friends` group did really well and placed in 4th, which they were very happy about, they gave a great performance and I am glad that they were praised for it.

So this is my final post in Japan and I am both happy and a bit sad. I will return to America, see my friends and family, sleep in my bed again, get prepared for graduating, getting an internship and just getting used to America again. These are things that I very much am looking forward to. At the same time, I will miss the bright neon streets of Tokyo, the arcades with their amazing games, the different festivals and of course, the awesome friends that I made here. I always obviously knew that I would only get to know these people for a few months and they knew it too, but I believe that we will meet again when one of us goes to visit the others country, probably when they come to New York, so that is something to look forward to! Still social media makes it pretty easy to stay in touch with others, so the gap, won`t feel that big. Really, that is all that I am feeling, obviously everyone has their own way that they will react to leaving, its really tough, but change is part of growing up and the earlier you adapt to it, the better. I still have finals to take care of, so I have to dedicate to studying, but after that, I will enjoy my last days here by just relaxing, going to the arcade and fireworks, I have done plenty of huge adventures, so I think relaxing and preparing to go home will be best. Talk to you again, once I return!   

  

 

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Travel

In just three weeks, I have seen so much of London. I know how to get around on the Underground (the “Tube”) and the South West Trains. The highlight of my trips to the many museums has been the works of art, which until now, I’ve only seen in textbooks. There is nothing like seeing a beautiful painting in person. The Turner Collection, in Tate Britain, alone, is worth the trip here. Nearly every weekday, we travel into central London. During the walks that result from these excursions, I’ve seen many of the notable London landmarks: the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Borough Market, and the many bridges crossing the Thames. I even got to see the last remaining coaching tavern, The George Inn. Fun all around.  The photo above is a shot of the Underground.