Back In New York

How was it over a month ago that I sat in my room writing my “prepping for London” blog post?  How has a month gone by and how have I found myself writing the  “coming down from the emotional high that was one of the best experiences of my life” blog post?

 

In all sincerity, I am very happy to be home; to see my family, my friends, and my bed (sleeping being the second thing I did, only after having pizza, of course!)  I have now been home for five days, the first four of which were pretty hard on my body.  Jet lag (especially after a 14-hour layover in Norway) hit me pretty hard and left me with a migraine and irregular sleep schedule that I am just now coming out of.    Now that I’m not waking up at 4:00 in the morning and have seen the majority of my family and friends, it almost feels as if no time has passed at all.  It was pretty comforting to come home and see that though life went on whilst I was gone for a month, everything stayed relatively the same.  I suppose I am ready to settle back into the life I had prior to leaving, one that consisted primarily of school work and my part-time job, but now I’m grateful to say my mind has beautiful places including Scotland, France, and England to wander to.

Layover in London

I arrived in London on the evening of June 17th. This having been my third time in flying into Heathrow International, the return was comfortingly familiar. I exhaled joy when I made it through the border and consciously strolled to the Underground, emphasis on strolled, because I was ready for the change of pace that Europe always offers. I got on the Piccadilly Line toward Borough, my final destination, and smiled when I heard the British operator announce, “This is the Piccadilly Line toward Cockfosters, please mind the gap.” The chuckle of a clear novice London traveler made me reflect back on my first time catching the Underground from the airport just 6 months earlier. “I remember when I had my first beer,” I smirked.

I arrived at Borough station and walked nostalgically toward Shrabani’s flat. Shrabani is my amazing friend who I would be spending the week with. I studied abroad with her in Cardiff, Wales just to be captivated by her kindness, generosity, work ethic, and her positive outlook on life. Cardiff was actually her second time studying abroad, so she helped me a lot in my transition being a pro traveler at the time.

Anyhow, I was scheduled to be spending this week before Prague with this phenomenal woman, and she was nothing short of a wonderful host and supporting friend: she cooked me amazing meals, showed me many tourist sights which I had not seen on prior visits to London, introduced me to her friends and favorite clubs, had heart to hearts with me and gave great advice, encouraged me to follow my dreams and gave me ideas aiding my future goals, while simultaneously working on her dissertation for her Master’s Degree at the London School of Economics and applying for jobs. If that doesn’t prove how exceptionally multifaceted she is, I will send you her resume (which I asked to read).

Aside from spending time with Bani, who was also a Peer Counselor for the Center for International Programs (CIP) and is featured on the CIP website, some of the highlights of my trip were the sights.

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First, was the Tower Bridge, which I had always called the London Bridge, but it turns out the London Bridge is just a plain Bridge right next to the infamous Tower Bridge and is really only good for giving a great view of the Tower Bridge, the real star. This was great information to learn since I had known it as the London Bridge all my life (as do most people). It was breath taking, really. The lights, the architecture, the history… it was magical. Bani and I arrived around sunset as well, thus adding to my enamor. We walked across, back, found a loo, then sat on lawn with a side view of the bridge and enjoyed some ciders and the view. We watched people pass and made up possible stories for who they were, where they were going. The London rain and chill was the only reason to ever leave.

Next, was a double whammy! The Leake Street Tunnel and the London Eye… like what!? Okay, so the Leake Street Tunnel  was something a New Paltz professor had mentioned at the Take Back the Night event on campus this past May. She had mentioned graffiti art and how feminist activists often tag there, but I was sold at graffiti art in a tunnel. I told Shrabani I wanted to go and she made it happen. It was so awesome! So diverse, creative, and raw were most of the works. And what was even cooler was that I saw three artists in progress. Next time I make a trip to London, I might tag something on the wall too, even if only a poem.

So after 30 minutes of walking through this tunnel and taking pictures, being inspired, we walked a bit, turned two corners and BAM: The London Freaking Eye! “Holy cow, OMG, WTF” and all the other cliché American phrases was all I thought as my chin dragged across the ground. I don’t know if it was the sudden, unexpectedness of it or its utter beauty, but I was floored. Wow! I had seen it when flying into London just like the Tower Bridge, but geez I didn’t think seeing it up close would be so profound.

View of the London Eye from where Bani and I sat.

View of the London Eye from where Bani and I sat.

Bani and I set up shop in the Southbank Center right next to the Eye, which was also hosting a university graduation. She transcribed interviews while I read The Color Purple; it was perfect. We eventually took lunch outside where we found a bench with an epic view of the Eye, thus we continued our work outdoors.

Another highlight was all of the food experiences, whether prepared by Shrabani or at a restaurant. Also, this cool restaurant and nightclub Bar Salsa which offered both Bachata and Salsa lessons. Studying and reading was another highlight of the week. Bani is an exceptional study partner and motivator. Ugh, it was amazing; a great layover before my trip to Prague.

Ello from London!

Houses of Parliament

Houses of Parliament

London has always been at the top of my list of places to visit (as well as L’Italia). Before me and Joceline arrived at Limerick, we knew that one of the cities we had to visit was the iconic, London. London became the first city outside Limerick that we visited. Being that I am such a HUGE city girl, I absolutely loved it. I’m really glad we went to see

Big Ben 7

Big Ben, Houses of Parliament

London first because we were halfway through the semester, and it was just so refreshing to step foot in a city. I love Ireland, don’t get me wrong. But I was starting to get a little city sick, and this trip was definitely needed. We decided to take public transportation throughout the whole entire weekend, especially on the double decker buses. We were able to really see the city in all of its glory on the bus. Not to mention, we were really lucky because we got sit on the top floor, first row with the window view. We visited a lot of popular tourist destinations. We saw the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, day and night. Parliament at night is so gorgeous and the architecture is beautiful. We also climbed the Tower of London, and

Telephone Booth

Telephone Booth

climbed 311 steps of The Monument. We walked the London Bridge, and walked along River Thames. We saw Buckingham Palace, Webminster Cathedral, and Webminster Abbey. We visited Trafalgar Square (which is the center of London). We also made a pit stop at the Kings Cross Metro so that we can catch the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 3/4, and found the Harry Potter filming location of Diagon Alley and the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron. Joceline was also able to go on a bike tour around the city, (I didn’t go because…surprise! I can’t ride a bike) and I went on Europe’s largest Ferris

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

London Bridge

London Bridge

Red Double Decker Bus

Red Double Decker Bus

London Eye, River Thames

London Eye, River Thames

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wheel and saw the most beautiful view of the city. Although I was a little bit disappointed because I was hoping to bump into Adele (she’s my favorite artist and celebrity…and I am OBSESSED) but I didn’t. Which shouldn’t have been surprising because she’s incognito.

London Eye

London Eye

London Eye

London Eye

Inside the London Eye

Inside the London Eye

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tower of London

Tower of London

Tower of London

Tower of London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Monument

The Monument

On top of the Monument

On top of the Monument

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

 

Platform 9 3/4 was a huge disappointment. It was nothing like the movie (which I understand, movies are different adaptation to the books) but I pictured the platform to

Diagon Alley, Entrance to Leaky Cauldron

Diagon Alley, Entrance to Leaky Cauldron

Platform 9 3/4

Platform 9 3/4

literally be in between platforms 9 and 10. But instead, it was away from all of the railways and trains in that metro station. A really cheap trolley and cheap props were placed against a

random brick wall of the station, between platforms 9 and 10. But instead, it was away from all of the railways and trains in that metro station. A really cheap trolley and cheap props were placed against a random brick wall of the station, with a plastic “Platform 9 3/4” sign hanging over it. Nevertheless, I had to take a picture in front of it anyway (with a Hufflepuff colored scarf because I am a Hufflepuff) because it was one of those bucket list things.

The Script - No Sound Without Silence Tour

The Script – No Sound Without Silence Tour

Speaking of bucket list, I also broke my concert virginity in London. I am proud to say that the very first concert I ever attended was, The Script during their No Sound Without Silence tour. I really wanted to see them in Dublin because they’re an Irish band, but I would have been home during the date they were playing in Dublin. I was worried that we got nosebleed seats but it turned out that we were really close to the stage! The band played a lot of songs from their new album, and a few old hits. The concert was a huge thrill, and the venue (O2 Arena) was huge! There were about 16,000 people there!  The concert ended with “Hall of Fame” from their #3 album, with confetti cannons going off. It was a beautiful sight to see. I left the concert in tears.

The Script - No Sound Without Silence Tour

The Script – No Sound Without Silence Tour

London was amazing and I loved every aspect of it. It’s definitely one of my favorite cities I visited during my time here abroad. Once a city girl, always a city girl.

Spring Break VS. Spring Vacation

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SPRING BREAK BABY!  As I write this post my spring break unfortunately comes to an end.  No, I am not bummed to be back in Milan.  However, who would say no to more time off?

Ano Poli, Thessaloniki with Dyeemah

Ano Poli, Thessaloniki with Dyeemah

I had probably the greatest spring break of my life.  My spring break started in Thessaloniki, Greece.  Now I know what you’re thinking, why Thessaloniki?  Lucky for me I have always wanted to go to Greece, and I have a friend from high school, Dyeemah, living there for the year!  It was pretty much fate that our spring breaks collided and I could visit her and truly see her world.  Greece to say the least is truly breathtaking.  I love Milan, but it is a city through & through.  To be able to spend my time along the Mediterranean, gazing upon the gorgeous skyline was something I made sure not to take for granted.

Dyeemah and I infront of the White Tower in Thessaloniki

Dyeemah and I in front of the White Tower in Thessaloniki

The food in Greece was SO good!  The best meal I had was my first night in Greece, where I tagged along to a dinner with Dyeemah, her students, and her colleagues.  We all ordered multiple dishes, and just kind of split everything.  Everything was so delicious, and authentic I can’t really pick a favorite!  That meal really was unfair because of how high it set the bar so early on in my trip.  But I did eat many, many yummy things while there, including a pork hero.  Street food in Europe is one of my favorite things ever, we need more in the US.  Street food is cheap, yummy, and a total comfort.

Pork Hero = yum yum

Pork Hero = Yum Yum

Greece was very relaxing, and serene.  It was nice for once to go on a trip and not have to plan anything.  I was just able to go with the flow.  Plus I got to use Dyeemah’s dryer for my clothes, so that pretty much made the trip worth it just on that note alone.  I was in Thessaloniki for 6 days before heading off to London.  While I have already been to London before, I needed to go back.  I truly mean need, this was far beyond my wants.  Having not been overwhelmed with excitement from my prior visit to London, I was determined to return in order to visit the Harry Potter studio tour.  During my study abroad adventures I really am trying not to double dip on past trips, London so far being my only exception.  My camp friend, Nina, is spending her semester studying in Copenhagen.  Nina and I are huge HP fans, having once even been to the Quidditch world cup in NYC.  Once we both decided on Europe for our Spring 2015 study abroad destinations, we knew it was fate.  We booked our tickets for the attraction months in advanced because it is popular beyond belief, selling out constantly.

Butterbeer with Nina!

Butterbeer with Nina!

The Harry Potter studio tour was beyond what I could have ever imagined.  However, I must say just in general, London really was the real MVP of spring break.  While our stay in London was brief, it was jam packed.  We did a free walking tour, caught up with another camp friend over dinner, spent the day in Camden (which was perfection), and lastly but most essentially left the muggle world behind for bigger and better things.

Nina & I with our camp friend Nicole

Nina & I with our camp friend Nicole =)

IMG_2604If you have the chance to visit the Harry Potter studio tour in London I really do recommend it.  Being a die hard fan of the books, films, and everything in between, this experience really did provide us with an insight into the intricate details of this world we have learned to love with all of our hearts.  Harry Potter is universal, teaching messages including love, determination, friendship, imagination, and so much more.  Harry Potter was such a big part of my childhood, it had become a ritual for my mother to read the books to me at night.  Seeing the world come to life in front of my own eyes was the cherry on top of my London sundae (or the Cadbury egg McFlurry I had while in London).

Hogwarts!

Hogwarts!

It is safe to assume that after my spring break I will be leaving Italy, in search for my new study abroad destination aka Hogwarts.

Thanks for reading, until next time keep practicing your spells!

This proud Slytherin is off to her next adventure

This proud Slytherin is off to her next adventure

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

There is so much to see in London that I don’t think it can be done in 2 weeks. The city is alive with color and lights, the quiet bustling of thousands of occupations. It’s tall and wide and mixed with a diversity of buildings that are older than our country is.

I remember starting to sob when I saw the Globe Theatre for the first time in my life. I just felt overwhelmed and overjoyed, like it couldn’t be real. It was there and standing tall and beautiful. Even though I knew it was a replication theatre, it was just amazing to me.

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On top of all that, I saw 9 incredible new and amazing pieces of theatre for the same price as one broadway ticket (crazy, right?!)

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The biggest “tourist attraction” for me(besides the globe, that was just a life altering experience) was definitely the Tower of London. So much rich (get it? Crown Jewels?) history in every stone of tit’s foundation. It was absolutely incredible.

I remember walking through London on my own and realizing how beautiful it is. How old the city is and how it touched my very core. Everything gave me the chills, had me bouncing in excitement, or crying from sheer excitement. And now I am home, looking back on this brief moment of time where I lived in the most amazing city in the world… and know that I have to live there someday. So good bye for now, London. I’ll be back.

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Back in the USA

The departure was quite sad, but I was ready to head back home. Packed up my mini London life, stuffed it in a suitcase, and finished off my trip with a delicious croissant sandwich. The flight back seemed much longer than the flight there, probably because I stayed awake most of the time. I watched 3 movies, ate a lot of food, and suffered through the turbulance, but overall it was a good flight. Going through customs was fine, but I don’t think I will ever get tired of the feeling I experience when I realize that I am home (by home- I mean America). I always feel this sense of relief and comfort when I get back to the U.S.

It’s been a little over a week since I have been back in New York. I have to say that transitioning from living in London and returning to school 2 days later was a bit tough. No time to relax, and not enough time to prepare, but school started anyway. The cold, ice, and the snow is a bit rude too. Don’t get me wrong, I love snow, but it was so much warmer in London where everything wasn’t covered in a sheet of ice. Today and tomorrow…. more is coming.

So I believe that this concludes it. London has come and gone, and now a new chapter begins. Second semester of grad school here I come!

Saatchi Gallery of Art

One of the assignments of our trip  was to explore a modern art museum in London called the Saatchi. There was all sorts of very strange and very exhibits, from an exhibit of the world’s flags made out of human hair to a group of animatronic people praying.

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But one exhibit that really caught my interest and had me start thinking was this:

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Two skeletons in a sexual position. It was the combination of the sculpture and the shadows that really captivated me. It was like two shapes that fit into one piece. Sex is always seen as something complicated or something that one shouldn’t do until this and that have been fulfilled. But by bringing it into something as simple and everyday as our bones.

Here’s another interesting piece I saw in the gallery:

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It was interesting to me for a few reasons. First, most of the piece seemed to be hidden by a cold metal wall, like it was keeping you out from what was behind. Second, a traditionally religious thing (stained glass) portrays very scientific images: a molecule, a heart monitor, the human brain, etc. It gives me the feeling that it’s almost a futuristic piece. Maybe saying something about scientology?

Last London Night

Today is our last day here. I’m all packed up and ready to go. It is the end of a great journey.

In the course of 2 weeks I have learned so much about the art scene and life in London. It has been an absolutely unforgettable experience and I am so happy to have had the opportunity to do it. I will miss the friends I made, the delicious food I ate, and the adventures I had. I am so grateful for every minute I spent in this gorgeous city.

However, I feel that it is time to go home. School starts in 4 days and reality must go on. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity again to return to London, but if I did I would in a heartbeat. The 2 weeks went by so fast and I have accumulated an incountable number of incredible moments.

Thank you all for making this such an amazing experience and thank you London for all of the memories I will cherish always. Back to my beloved America I go. 10425009_10153475010337802_8024920468057002152_n 10933761_10153475010982802_2087857057904726325_n 10917044_10153477493182802_8127223332437772946_n 10915336_10153477493507802_9070526085371064552_n 10544399_10153477494587802_5781726223575167404_n 10923623_10153477494087802_7691943771579445288_n 10906288_10153477494287802_7935221573154347088_n 10923575_10153477495962802_5015724360804444854_n 10432941_10153477495467802_6205557804718236773_n

Exploring!

London is so big and so very difficult to navigate. It’s completely unlike New York City, where everything is a grid and everything is numbered. No, here there are loops and turns, side streets and alleys, all the streets are named the same thing (or similar), and without a good night’s sleep, there is absolutely no way to navigate this wonder of a city.

But oh, the beautiful things you can find when you’re lost. You turn a corner, and there’s an interesting street performer who wants you to stand on top of him while he lies on a bed of nails. Or you accidentally find Buckingham Palace while wandering through a beautiful park. A single trip up a curb has you accidentally lying on the stoop of the cutest tea room you’ve ever been in.

This city is so polite and calm in all it’s dealings, I constantly feel like I am safe and welcome here. I yearn for a day where I can call one of these flats my own or where I can stroll into work in the Globe. It’s just so beautiful here and I feel so welcome. What other treasures can I find? What other mysteries are waiting for me in this beautiful, old city?

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I was walking to my next meeting place and accidentally found a house the Benjamin Franklin used to live in! Apparently, the only Franklin house still in existence. Who knew? What I find fascinating is the plaques on buildings and houses that tell us who used to live there. I found Thomas Wyatt, Dickens, some architects and artists. It’s really cool to just pass a house and be like, oh cool okay John Lennon lived here.

There is so much history here. All the way back to the Anglo-Saxons, which is just incredible. Everywhere I turn, I feel like I find something new. A new theatre, a new person, a new fact, a new curiosity. How to focus on just one thing and keep myself grounded in every new moment?

The Adventure Continues

It’s hard to believe we are so far into our trip already. The days are flying by, jam packed with things to see and do. It’s rare you find the time to just sit, think, soak it in, and relax. Since I last wrote we have gone to Westminster Abbey which is an incredibly ornate and impressive cathedral in which I stumbled upon the burial site of Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary. Next was the Saatchi Gallery, which was so exciting!!! After each corner you turn, there is another famous artwork just waiting to be discovered. To me some of the most exciting moments are when you just happen to find one of the most controversial art pieces of all time and you’re inches away, or you literally just learned about an artwork a few weeks ago and there it is waiting for you.

As I believe I mentioned before the food is amazing. From pub/tavern food to Indian food to street food… so delicious.

We took a gorgeous walk through Kensington Gardens to 2 galleries- Serpentine Sackler Gallery and the Serpentine Gallery. We also had time to stop at the Princess Diana memorial, which was this circular stone river with gushing water and twisting turns.

We also made a trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and what an incredible and very LARGE museum. The collections were stunning, and differed greatly from one to another. The building itself is a work of art. I could spend days in there getting lost in the galleries.

Burrough Market —- FANTASTIC and everyone needs to go. We had amazing cheese sandwiches and and if you like free samples this is the place for you.

Yesterday we visited some artist studios… and I have to say it was my least favorite part of the trip. I could not stay awake. I actually don’t think I’ve ever fallen asleep so much in one day. It was so long and uneventful, needless to say I found it boring. I feel that’s so terrible to say, but 2 artist visits would have been fine… not 4…. it was gruelling. (not sure if I spelled gruelling right, hmm…)

And today, which is not over yet, STONEHENGE!!!!!!!!!!!! So awesome!!!! I wanted to go so bad, and we did! What an amazing site. It was a long bus ride, but so worth it. It’s incredible. 10931072_10153462850847802_5618915132258970756_n10917045_10153462850912802_7598820528584693193_n10915264_10153462851632802_2493201168232151640_n10917109_10153460074897802_5441588976387966918_n10896991_10153462851772802_5589709739295938596_n10245353_10153464305727802_5810252103802957639_n10401363_10153460076097802_8406422940443301559_n1013613_10153469321737802_779451250327887462_n