Traveling Anywhere and Everywhere

So far I have been in England a month and have gone to many places. I have been into Central London 7 times seeing a bunch of different tourist destinations and museums. I have been to Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, the National Gallery, took a tour of Buckingham Palace and took a tour of the famous Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I have seen the London Eye, Big Ben/Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Leister Square, and explored the South side of the River Thames. I have taken every chance I have to go into Central London. Central London is like New York City, but it is also completely different. Everyone is a tourist there so you don’t feel weird or feel like you are bothering anyone by stopping to take pictures. Everyone is very nice as well! I have had to asked directions or questions to the police or workers of the tube. If you ask nicely they will be nice to you. Also, travel where you want to go! It’s okay to go see things by yourself. I have seen many things by myself because my friends aren’t interested in seeing it or our schedules clash.
I have also gotten to go out of the UK once. This past weekend I went with a tour group to Ireland. It was a lot of fun! If there are tour groups that your school supports then I would highly suggest that you go! I saw so much more than I would have on my own. I saw small things that most people just pass by. I wish the trip was a little longer, but there is only so much you can do while classes are in session. I highly recommend traveling as much as possible because it is very cheap once you are in Europe to get to a different country.

Euro-Trip

After exploring four different countries in just twelve days, I can say without a doubt that traveling around Europe is an incredible experience, but also an expensive one. It isn’t the flights or the hostels that run up the bill, but rather it is the day-to-day expenses of attempting to see as much as possible when being a tourist in some of the most amazing cities in the entire world. The four stops I made on this trip were London, Paris, Dublin, and Berlin, with the latter two cities not being overwhelmingly pricey, but the first two cities making NYC seem cheap. However, expenses aside, each city presented a much different culture, atmosphere, and experience that I won’t soon forget.

Dublin: My first stop had a little bit of a different feel from the other cities I visited, mainly because I stayed with a good friend of mine from UC3M at his parents house, rather than a youth hostel. Exploring a new city with someone born and raised in the area and who knows the culture well allowed me to see the city more from a resident’s point of view rather than a tourist’s, which I personally think is better. The Irish are warm, welcoming, and love to have a good time (the Guinness is amazing).

London: The second stop on my trip had a much more touristy vibe to it and it’s hard not to in a city as grand as this. Similarly to NYC, it is so big and there is so much to see, but at times it almost felt like everything was just one giant rip off. Dealing with the conversion rate of the pound while also dealing with inflated prices is definitely a hard thing for a college student on a budget to handle. Other than the damage done to my wallet, London was definitely a city that I enjoyed and that I plan on returning to (I also find the slang there to be quite comical).

Berlin: The third stop on my trip seemed like one very long and very dark history lesson. Man, does this city have a lot of baggage to it when it comes to the 20th century. From WWI/WWII to the Berlin Wall, it was quite interesting to see how all of these events were linked and how bad humanity can be in desperate times. In addition to the history, the nightlife in Berlin is also second to none, I’ve never seen people party quite like the Germans do (even though it was freezing).

Paris: Similarly to my stay in Dublin, the final stop on my trip I was with a good friend of mine from New Paltz and crashed at his apartment… and similarly to London, this city didn’t treat my wallet too nicely either. I’d have to say that Paris is the most beautiful city I have ever been to thus far in my life and it was the closest to Spain in that the majority of people didn’t speak English, whereas in the other cities I visited, everybody spoke it perfectly. Going to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre were unforgettable experiences and this is definitely a city that I would love to come back to in the not so distant future.

Now I am finally back home in Madrid, where I have a little over a week left to enjoy living in this amazing city before returning back to NYC!

Freedom

After 4 final exams in the span of 72 hours, I have finally completed my studies here at UC3M. It was an exhausting week that included a lot of studying and very little sleeping, but I have just recently recovered and am ready to reflect on my classes here.

Education in Europe is much different from the United States in my experience, not necessarily good or bad, but just a different approach with a different emphasis on certain things. For instance, every final that I took this past week accounted for 50-60% of my grade and I felt the increase in pressure while studying and taking the exam. It almost made me feel as if the work I had put in the entire semester boiled down to this 2 hour exam and in my personal opinion students should not be put in that position.

However, in other instances I thought that the professors here in Spain afforded us a lot more leeway than professors in the U.S. would have. I am talking in terms of assignments, deadlines, circumstances outside of the classroom, etc. Many would argue that this approach would allow students to slack off, but I felt that I took away as much knowledge in these courses as I would back in New Paltz and isn’t that the point?

While my time at UC3M may be over, my time in this amazing city, country, and continent is far from over and now that I don’t have my classes to worry about, I am very excited for what comes next. I will be visiting a few other cities in Spain prior to the arrival of my family on Christmas and then in January I will begin my “Euro-Trip,” which includes stops in Dublin, London, Berlin, and Paris. This will all be uncharted territory for me that I have only been able to dream about and I am counting down the days!

 

First Stop: London

I can’t believe spring break is officially over! I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to visit five countries in the course of three weeks. I’m constantly looking at my photos and my notes to realize that it wasn’t a dream.

There are so many things to cover and tell you guys, so I’m making four posts of my travels 🙂

I started my travels in London, England! London is the closest area to travel to from Wales (only three hours by bus). When I stayed in London, I stood in an Air B&B.  For those who don’t know, an Air B&B is an alternative place to stay other than a hostel. You are able to find a room in an apartment or a house that can provide you with a variety of extra things to make your stay worthwhile such as free breakfast, kitchen access, your own bathroom, and more!

It was just three of us that had the room to ourselves with our own bathroom and breakfast every morning from the host. It was also a great location, only twenty minutes from all the main attractions.

The bus became our main transportation. It was a great way to travel and admire London from the top deck of the double decker.11082650_10205409531214393_3875162331161001711_n

Tip #1: The first thing to remember when you’re traveling through London is to buy an Oyster card. I learned that the harder way when I didn’t have one and it took us longer to get to our place than it should have.

Since our first day in London was spent getting there, we did everything the next day. On our second day in, we spent it doing all the ‘touristy’ things. That included Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge, St. Paul Cathedral, and King’s Cross. I still can’t believe we got all that done in one day and I think we only use transportation three times!

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Tip #2: It made be hard and overwhelming, but try to plan as much as you can. We tried to do that as much as we can because there’s so much of London, but so little time.

On our third day in London, we saw other parts of London such as Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Soho, Shoreditch, and Abbey Road. London really reminded me of New York City. Each area had a different presence, a different way of making me smile.

Two highlights of that day was finding a random picture of Bradley Cooper and getting to see the Cinderella exhibition…for free!

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Our final day in London was filled with saying goodbye to our Air B&B, checking out Hyde Park which featured Princess Diana’s Memorial Fountain and saying goodbye to London overall.

Tip #3: Always ALWAYS double check on plans. Communication is key! I was stuck with my luggage for about two hours because of miscommunication. So always communicate with the people you’re traveling with.

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Although the weather was never in our favor (maybe for a short while), it was still easy to travel in London. There wasn’t an area of London that we didn’t see, whether we were traveling by foot or not. I got so accustomed to traveling, I felt like I was a native in the city.

London was so fun and so rewarding with great friends. It was sad to leave London, but I was excited for the next journey. Hello Paris!

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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

Je Suis un Petit Update

A brief overview of my eight days traveling:

SUNDAY:

Lauren and I left Huddersfield at around 1 pm, took a taxi to the Huddersfield train station where we took the train to Leeds, waited for the shuttle outside of the Leeds train station to take us to the Leeds/Bradford Airport, arrived WAY too early–there was literally NO line to pick up our tickets or to go through security. We waited for a few hours to board the plane, which is never fun. Once we had taken off, though, we landed in what felt like, and more or less was, no time at all. The flight to Paris took about an hour! Lauren and I met Sarah, who had flown in from Scotland and arrived about five hours before we did, at the airport. At this point, it was about 8:00, and we had to make our way, using public transportation and French directions, to the 3 Ducks Hostel in the Eiffel Tower area of Paris. This was, in short, unsuccessful. We took the Metro a few stops to where we were supposed to catch our connecting train, which was not running due to the strikes. Finally, we caught a taxi outside the train station which took us to our hostel, and, thanks to our friendly driver, past the Eiffel Tower and Arch du Triumph. After checking in and putting our bags down in our tiny little 10-person room, inside of which all seven of our other roommates were already asleep, we searched the area for somewhere to eat. All we could find was a little cafe that was still serving the smaller food items on its menu. I was happy enough with this, but Sarah and Lauren, ever the picky eaters, watched me eat my baguette with chevre before we left to go to the 24-hour McDonalds. At least I’m able to say that my first meal in France was actually French!

After our meal, we walked back to the hostel and crashed. Our room was insanely hot that night. It reminded me of New Paltz dorms in the summer, when I wake up several times during the night because I literally cannot breathe. That was great.

MONDAY:

Our first full day in Paris was a long one. We woke up at about 9 and left the hostel at 10. We got coffee at a brasserie just a block from our hostel and made our way over, by foot, to the Eiffel Tower. As I mentioned in my last entry (or maybe my two last entries), I went to Paris (and London) with my dad and stepmom when I was 11 and have already seen the Eiffel Tower–but I did NOT remember it being anywhere near as big as it is. Despite our being New Yorkers, the three of us were really in awe. After taking pictures of the Tower, pictures of each other with the Tower, and pictures of each other taking pictures of the Tower, we walked past the Ecole Militare, or Military School, which was, even to a staunch pacifist, incredible. We walked around the outside of the Hotel Invalides (I’m still not sure how that’s pronounced–we called it the “Invalid” in over-Americanized accents the entire time), which is a beautiful building with a huge gold dome that can be seen from quite far away, and is where Napolean’s tomb is located. We then sat down in the adjacent Jardin du Luxembourg, the most wonderful-smelling garden ever, probably. We got lunch at a lovely little restaurant called Au Chien Qui Fume, literally “To the Dog Who Smokes”. I translated the name of the restaurant myself, based on the Latin and Spanish I know, and when Lauren, who knows a bit of French, validated my translation, I exclaimed “I’M SO SMART!” in excitement. Sarah and I both ordered croques, which are big pieces of bread with melted gruyere cheese, spices, tomatoes (I think) and a sunny-side-up egg. This might have been the best meal I had in Paris. Sarah and I split a caraffe of white wine, and felt tres Parisienne. Au Chien Qui Fume even had a little corner with a counter guarding a wall of cigarettes, in true Amelie fashion. We then wandered our way over to and across the Seine and into Notre Dame. I remembered the cathedral surprisingly well, but was certainly more struck by its beauty this time. It’s amazing how a few years, well, nine, can allow you to take in an entire city as if you’ve never seen it before. I was hoping this would happen, and it really did.

Finally, after walking literally about 15 miles (thank you, Lauren’s pedometer), we found our way to the metro and back to the hostel for a well-earned nap. When we got up, we picked a restaurant to eat dinner that looked nice, but whose wait-staff was anything BUT nice. When we entered the restaurant, the only English-speaking waiter, a 30-year-old man who would be a great subject for the game “European or Gay?” enthusiastically showed us to our table and told us to let him know if we needed any help translating the items on the menu. When we were ready to order, the man looked a bit insulted that Lauren and Sarah both ordered the “American Burger”, and even more insulted when we told him we would have water from the tap, and no wine (because the cheapest wine was something like 14 Euros, or about $20, per glass!) He slammed the pitcher of water on our table without even looking at us, and said nothing when he brought the food to our table. We ate silently, save for a few jokes about Parisian waiters and the distinct possibility that we might not make it out of the restaurant alive. When we asked for a dessert menu and decided we’d rather get pastries at a patisserie than pay 10 Euro for a scoop of ice cream, our waiter snatched the menus out of our hands and walked away in a huff. It seemed pretty clear that either he was telling the other customers that there was a table of rude American girls that he couldn’t wait to get rid of, or that we were becoming increasingly paranoid. We waited for the bill for about 20 minutes, positive that the waiter was ignoring us except for a few dirty looks every now and then, until we realized that we needed to pay for our meal at the counter. We paid, mostly in change, and left the restaurant as quickly as possible.

We decided that that night was the night we were going to be true Paris tourists and go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We walked over, but when we got in line to buy tickets, we learned that the ride to the top of the Tower stop at 10:30, after which, we could only get to the second floor. It was 10:45. As the Brits say, we were “gutted”! After being harassed by all 500 of the men selling mini Eiffel Towers within a 100-foot radius, we made our way over to a cafe with a great view of the Tower for dessert and coffee. Of course, this didn’t go smoothly either. The outside of the cafe was lined with patrons sitting in chairs, as are most cafes and brasseries in Paris. We decided we wanted to sit inside. After we ordered our dessert–Lauren got chocolate mousse and Sarah and I got coffee and asked to split creme brulee, we noticed a stray cat come into the cafe. The cat was adorable and was clearly a regular at the cafe, so we watched it do what looked like a little dance, cheerfully. The cat stopped dancing, though, and started pooping. In the cafe. Right next to us. We didn’t know how to react except to burst into a fit of laughter, not only at the cat, but at the day as a whole. When we finally alerted our waiter about the cat poop in the otherwise clean establishment, he gave us a cold look and shouted something in French to a younger waiter, who begrudgingly walked toward us with a mop. We relocated to an outside seat, which for some reason upset our waiter. At least the creme brulee well made up for a day of rude French waiters.

We walked back to our hostel and sat outside in the courtyard with other guests from places including Germany, Argentina, Brazil, and Buffalo, and talked until 2 am, which was quite nice.

TUESDAY:

Today was the day we were going to see the Louvre! We took the metro and walked around the outside of the Museum, not caring about the rain, because the buildings were beautiful and we’d be dry soon enough… or so we thought, until we discovered that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. Great. So, we ventured forth and saw The Obelisque, some weird modern art, and a lot of fountains (can you tell I was thrilled to be walking in the rain on my poor, exhausted feet?) Once the rain had cleared up, we decided to walk along the Champs Elysees and to the Arch du Triumph, with some shopping on the way. This definitely made me feel better. We browsed in a few stores and got the chance to sit down, something we hadn’t had much of a chance to do the day before. We found ourselves in a store called Promod for an amazing two hours. It was well worth it though, as we were each quite pleased with our purchases. Of course, Sarah and I bought the same dress in different colors. Sarah and I are, most of the time, the same person. We walked the rest of the short distance to the Arch du Triumph and spent about 20 minutes looking at/in it.

Back to the hostel we went, and took another well-deserved nap. At this point, we noticed that three of the other girls in our room, who spoke a mystery language that sounded like a mix between Russian and French, had not left the room since we first got to Paris. Whenever we saw them, they were either sleeping or sitting in their beds, speaking their mystery language and eating baguettes. They also went to sleep for the night at about 9 every night.

After we got up, we had dinner, and walked, yet again, to the Eiffel Tower. On our way, we stopped to get crepes. We chatted with Harry the Crepe man for a good 15 minutes as he made our crepes–he was pretty hilarious and very Greek. I had a Nutella and banana crepe, which was WONDERFUL.

We bought our tickets and waited in line to go up to the top of the Tower. The elevator ride up was really cool, because you could see the metal pieces of the Tower and the lights around it. There were many levels of the Tower, and we looked around all but the very top one, mostly because Sarah was wearing a dress and the wind on the lower levels was not conducive to staying covered, so she would certainly not have had better luck on the top level. My favorite level was one that had the names of different cities encircling it, and each city was placed where the Tower faced it. It was so interesting! I really find geography fascinating, and being able to know that I was facing New York in one spot, and Sydney from just a few yards away, seemed to put a lot of things into perspective, somehow.

WEDNESDAY:

Today was the REAL day of the Louvre. To be up front, I’m not the hugest fan of art museums. I wish I were, but I never really was great at “understanding art”. I can only handle so much before I get bored. Luckily, since Sarah and I are the same person, she feels the same way. Sarah and I wandered around the museum at our own pace, looking at French, Spanish, British, Egyptian, Greek, and African art for about three hours. Some of it was quite interesting, but we did eventually decide that sitting down with coffee was more appealing than seeing the rest of the museum. Shortly after that, Lauren, who had sped through almost the entire museum, seeing everything she could manage, met up with us, and we headed back to the hostel. After what had become our gratuitous nap, we got dinner at Le Shanghai, because how could we not? That was an experience in itself, as the man behind the counter did not speak English. Another man who may or may not have worked there was able to loosely translate for us, and finally I was told what food was vegetarian. We ate inside the shabby little place, thankful that we weren’t being served by Parisians. On the way back to the hostel, we stopped at a patisserie for eclairs, which was a wonderful decision. Once we got back, we changed in silence and darkness out of respect for the three sleeping, mystery-language-speaking roommates, and got ready for a night out. We took the metro to the Bastille area, where we were told we’d find lots of bars and nightclubs. Unfortunately, since it was a Wednesday, the nightclubs weren’t very busy. We found ourselves in a little bar with a lot of young Parisians who were standing around chatting with each other. We were graciously accepted by all the drunk Europeans who found us exotic. This made for a pretty hilarious night. At one point, I had a conversation with a Romanian man in Spanish, for which I was perhaps a bit too proud. The night was a lot of fun, and a great way to end the Paris half of our trip.

THURSDAY:

Our last morning in Paris, we decided it would only be appropriate to have a little picnic by the Eiffel Tower before heading to London. We stopped at La Fromagerie, just a couple of blocks from our hostel, which we’d been planning on visiting. Sarah and I got a big piece of a semi-stinky, creamy cheese. We got a baguette and grapes, and were all set. Our picnic was just as French as it sounded, except for the other group of American girls having a picnic at the Eiffel Tower, who were rather overzealous with taking pictures with a bottle of champagne they bought from some man selling bottle of champagne to stupid Americans picnicing by the Eiffel Tower. In our wisdom, we did not partake. After our picnic, we went back to the hostel, got our bags, and headed to the airport.

Our flight took about five seconds, but by the time we FINALLY found our hostel, we were exhausted and starving and generally cranky. The hostel was situated in Zone 1 of London, which is the central part, in a Middle Eastern neighborhood. We searched for blocks for an inexpensive-yet-suitable-for-picky-eaters-and-vegetarians eatery of any kind. We found one, which was called Pizza and Chicken, and stuffed our faces with pizza and chicken, silent except when we said “No!” to a 12-year-old boy who offered to sell us pot. Welcome to London!
We walked back to the hostel and completely crashed.

FRIDAY:

On Friday, Sarah and I went to the Tower of London. Lauren didn’t join us because she went to London the week before with a friend who was visiting from home, and she’d already seen the Tower, and didn’t want to pay for it again. London Tower was great! We got a tour from a “Yeoman” who Sarah and I decided to name Yeoman Yellington. He gave us an in-depth and hilarious history of the Tower. I wish history were actually taught to be interesting in school, because it’s rare that I’ll be fascinated by a history class, even though I know it is inarguably important, and I do enjoy it when it’s not being taught to prepare me for a test. Sarah and I explored many of the buildings (and gift shops) and saw the Crown Jewels. After a few hours, we met up with Lauren. We walked along the Thames, past London Bridge, which was surprisingly disappointing, over the much more beautiful Southwark Bridge, into the part of Shakespeare’s Globe that was still open for the day, then back over the Millennium Bridge, which was just weird.

We took the Underground back to our hostel and got ready to go out to dinner with Kirstie, a friend Sarah worked with at camp (Sarah works at the sleepaway camp I was a camper at from ages 8-15, and a staff member at when I was 16–we met when we were 14). It was definitely nice to meet someone who was a native of the place we were visiting and was helpful in telling us what to do and where to go. It was also nice to talk about camp, even though I’d never met her. We ate at a place whose name, Pizza Express, was a bit misleading, because it was a sit-down restaurant with great brick oven pizza and wonderful pasta dishes.

After dinner, we parted ways with Kirstie and went back to the hostel for an early night.

SATURDAY:

On Saturday, Lauren went to the London Zoo while Sarah and I met up with another friend of hers from camp, Jean. Sarah, Jean and I went to the British Library, where we saw the Magna Carta, and then over to the Thames where we went on the London Eye. Despite the long queue (line) and high price, the London Eye was great–we got amazing views of all points in London, and since it took about half an hour to go all the way around, we were really able to absorb it (and take an obscene amount of photos).

When we got off the Eye, the three of us went to one of the cute restaurants along the Thames, Wagamama’s, which served all different types of Asian food. Let’s just say my Vermicelli was a lot better than what I had at Le Shanghai. After we ate, we went back to the hostel and met up with Lauren. All of us, including Jean, who shared (stole) Sarah’s bed, took naps before getting ready to eat dinner and go out for the night.

We headed over to Camden Tower, a long strip of bars, restaurants, and clubs. We didn’t get there until about 9:30, so most places weren’t serving food anymore. This is where America comes in handy–we managed to find The Diner, serving “authentic American food”, whatever that means. We got (veggie) burgers and a few drinks before going out to the Electric Ballroom. We danced there for probably four or five hours. They played the craziest array of music I could imagine, from hip hop to songs from the Grease soundtrack to Cotton Eyed Joe–which was great, because Sarah and I were teaching the dance to many a British onlooker–to the Macarena to real Latin music, which we started a conga line to. SO much fun! We left at about 3 and took a taxi back to the hostel, which we snuck Jean into for the night.

SUNDAY:

In the morning, we said goodbye to Jean and took the Underground to Buckinham Palace for the Changing of the Guards. Frankly, I remembered it being more exciting. We left the Palace at about 12:30 and went to a pub for lunch. The rest of the day was mostly spent getting souvenirs and shopping in Camden Tower, which, during the day, is Camden Market, a cross between a huge flea market and St. Marks Place in Manhattan. After a few hours of shopping, the week caught up with us and we decided to make our last night a lazy, cozy one back in the hostel.

When we got back, we changed into pajamas, went downstairs into the bar/lounge area, drank tea, watched TV, and ordered Indian food. Honestly, it felt totally perfect. We went to bed at around 10 and actually got a real night’s sleep.

MONDAY:

On Monday morning, we packed up our stuff, left the hostel at about 10, got breakfast at Starbucks, and went to the Underground, where Lauren and I parted ways with Sarah, who had to catch a 12-hour bus back to Dundee from Victoria Station at noon.

Lauren and I got our train from the London Euston train station to Manchester, then the train from Manchester to Huddersfield. We walked into town where we caught the shuttle back to Storthes Hall, and FINALLY, we were home.

It’s funny, I’ve only been in Huddersfield for about a month and a half, but after a week of traveling, being back here feels so much like being back home. Maybe it’s because I actually have privacy and space and my own things here. I wonder what it’ll be like when it’s time to leave this home and go back to my Brooklyn home. I won’t even be in Brooklyn too long before it’s time to go back to my New Paltz home. What a strange, exciting age to be. I’m so glad I decided to study abroad, it’s already given me a greater appreciation for being away from home, and for what “home” really is.

Next stop, Scotland for Sarah’s birthday during the weekend of November 19th, then after that, Amsterdam from November 25-28th!

Pictures of this trip will follow shortly!

Westminster Abbey

1/6/10

It is an overwhelming feeling, being inside Westminster Abbey. Passing the tomb of Elizabeth I, my breath was taken away. This woman is the reason I am able to do what I do today. Her advancement of English theatre is what shaped the art form into what it is in the 21st century. We as performers, designers, technicians, and theatre lovers owe her everything. I felt strength and warmth, and a final affirmation that THIS, theatre, is how I want to live the rest of my life. I just experienced a rare epiphanous moment in my life. All that was before Poet’s Corner. I’ve seen photographs, but experiencing the permeable energy of the area overwhelmed me. Even though Shakespeare is not buried here, the ghosts and spirits of such visionaries as Laurence Olivier, David Garrick, Lewis Carrol, Alfred Tennyson, and Oscar Wilde among many, many others are something I will never forget. I have been changed today.

Day One

1/5/10

What a long, exhausting day. We arrived at Heathrow airport at around 10:00 a.m., GMT. After a brief tour of London by bus, with our really rough-and-tumble bus driver, Owen, we arrived at Baker’s Row, our lovely London flat. After unpacking, we went for a jaunty walk to exchange currencies and see the town. London is beautiful in every sense of the word; its old-world feel, winding roads, and extremely courteous citizens enamor me already. We walked over to the British Museum to check out our “classroom” building, and had dinner at the Museum Tavern. Andrea has appointed me “student leader” for day one; meaning that I have the honor of rousing the troops and making sure we all arrive at the classroom early. I’m a little nervous, because I know some fellow students will be late risers. Still, I will uphold my duty to the best of my ability. Well, it’s 1:15 and we have to be up and out by 8:30. Goodnight, London.

Packing

Let us begin the beguine! As with all beginnings, introductions are in order. My name is Patrick Kiernan, and I am a theatre arts major at SUNY New Paltz. As such, I love theatre and performance in every form that it could possibly come in. I am a sophomore, member of the New Paltz Players, Paper Rain Laboratory Theatre, and most recently Alphi Psi Omega, the national theatre honor society. That seems to be quite enough introductions, so now to the marvelous and fantastic trip to London, which I am eagerly awaiting. As of now my suitcase stands half-opened in my room, things tossed semi-carelessly inside. Even as I write this, I am dreading zero hour: “Packing Time”. It is probably the lazy person in me speaking, but I’m confident I’ll drag myself into getting it done. Speaking of dragging myself to getting it done, I should probably do that now. Til next time. Here goes nothing!