Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

The title of this blog is “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” (with a slight typo in the link, but I’m just not original, ok?).   My blog is technically named after a cover by Sara Bareilles, but ironically enough is originally by Elton John, who is from London.  (Funny coincidences people.)  Anyway, the song is essentially about changing one’s path, which is what was going on in my life when I started posting on here, so it works.

So first things first, I am going to dictate this in the narrative of “one of those girls who studies abroad.” There’s a reason why you become ‘one of those people who studies abroad’; we come home and it is extremely hard to adapt back into this culture.   We’ve just been out of the game for a while and we’ll get there, however, I do think it comes off to people that we have become a cult of semi-well traveled 20 year olds, who are well and #cultured.  We gravitate towards people who are going through what we’re going through. They call it Post-Abroad Depression because yes, it is a thing.

Let me explain the symptoms to you.  It’s simple really, there is one: a lack of inspiration/feeling inspired.  There’s a reason people who come home from living in another country for four months get so hype about it, you’re literally on a vacation for 4 months that is glorified by the term “Study Abroad.”

I was spending every weekend in another country.  I was seeing so many different things, hearing so many different languages, eating so much amazing food.  I was being exposed to so many beautiful cities and places that have so much more history than this country does itself.  It doesn’t make it any less wonderful in ‘the states,’ (well in a lot of ways it does, but that’s a story for a different day), but it’s just so different.

So quite literally my life went from 100-0, real quick.  I just didn’t have any responsibility in London, not even really to any other people. And my teachers at St. Mary’s were amazing and were so chill about the work and my traveling, so I really was SOL when it came time to being thrown right back into things academically and socially.

That’s not to say I’m not having so much fun being back at school.  I think I am finally feeling back in the swing of things in DC, which is probably why I’m finally posting now.

By the way, I told you that my wish on the Trevi Fountain came true when I got home safely.  I also mentioned in my last post that I made a second part of that wish as well, that I would get an internship…and I did for this semester and it’s amazing.  So Swag Swag, apparently it really is a magic fountain.  Next time my wish will be way more ambitious, let me tell ya.  Or perhaps it’s just fate… 😉

So now that I finally feel like I have a handle on my life, I am just looking for the next thing that is going to inspire me.   I don’t have to be flying through the Swiss Alps (but you know there’s nothing else I would rather be doing), I just want to be inspired by this wonderful world that we live in.  The thing that it’s taken me this long to figure out was, I had the time to be inspired last semester.  It’s not like that in real life because life simply gets in the way, and I’m not on vacation anymore.

A friend asked me the other day if I was done “blogging” since I was done traveling.  I said I didn’t wanna write just anything, there had to be something to write about or people wouldn’t read it.  I feel that I set a standard for myself, and I don’t want to post anything less than that standard.

I love to read and the reason I love to read is because I like to find inside of books beautiful strings of words.  What I mean by that is statements that truly convey certain feelings or moments in life that could not be explained more perfectly, they just make sense.  I think that when I was traveling, because I was doing and seeing such incredible things, it was instilling in me the ability to string together beautiful words in my posts.  I read for those beautiful strings, so when I write, I want people to receive them in my words.  Those will only come with inspiration.

So what next then, what does that mean for me, for this blog, what is the point of this post?  I think just to let anyone who reads this blog know, that my next adventure is the search for the next thing that is going to inspire me.  I am going to open my eyes a little wider, feel a little deeper, and dream a little bigger everyday, or at least I am going to try.

When I checked off every place on my European Bucket List, I realized the sky was the limit.  I just have to implement that into what I do day in and day out.  I think I already try to do so, but the stress of papers and tests and a job is a lot more stressful than planning your next weekend getaway and making it to your flight on time without forgetting your passport. So I’ll get there, I just ask that in the mean time you bear with me.

The skinny on my life in 100 words is that it is time for midterm’s and I have 4 tests and an interview standing in between me and spring break on Friday.  Then I will have a whole week at home with me doge 🙂 In which time my sole focus will be to finally finish my abroad video so for that I ask you stay tuned and for old times sake…Cheers

The 411 – Part 9: 4 Months Out

December 31, 2015

It was exactly four months ago today that I wrote my very first post for this blog, on my 20th birthday. I have now been home for about 11 days. I’m finally over the jet lag and it seems the only bit of British English I have added to my vocabulary is the way I pronounce my h’s. I am currently on a train en route to Philadelphia to ring in 2016 with my roommates who I have spent four long months without! The train’s final destination, coincidentally enough, is Washington D.C.

The weirdest thing about being home is how normal it feels, and how easy it was to slip right back into the swing of things. It’s like I didn’t even skip a beat. I’ve also found it very weird being face to face with the people who have spent time over the last four months reading this blog and finding interest in where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I had lost sight of how personal my posts are.

Since my trip abroad was a bit abrupt, I kind of had to spring my absence at school this semester at the very last second. One of my close friends said to me when I told him, “You’re gonna be one of those girls that ‘studies abroad’” and as much as I disagreed…he was right. Studying abroad changes your character in ways you would never have anticipated. It allows us to be exposed to things and forces us to be comfortable with them, in ways that you would not present itself in any other circumstance, forcing us to open our eyes a little wider, feel a little deeper, and dream a little bigger.

I would also like to say, after answering many times this last week which place was my favorite, that the city you actually do your ‘studying’ in, holds a different place in your heart than any other place you will ever visit. When people say they leave a piece of their heart in X, it’s true, the love you have for the city you studied abroad in isn’t a place that you can love like anywhere else. That city was your only concept of home in a sea of so many new, uncomfortable, and beautiful experiences. So thank you London for that.

I have to admit, as much as I miss London, I am not necessarily sad to be home. I was ready to come home (and my bank account wasn’t getting me anywhere else). I had gone to every place I had wanted to go, and seen just about everything I wanted to see. I missed my dog, my friends, complacency, American bacon, free public restrooms, and my queen sized bed…I had checked everything off my lists and felt I had gotten everything out of my semester that I needed too. And I think that’s the most important thing. I went after this experience because I was at a crossroads in my life, and needed some time to figure out which direction I needed to head. In a sense, I found myself, or at the very least the person I am meant to and want to be at this point in my life. I’m so grateful that I could leave happy and ready, still in love with that amazing city, but not mourning to return. Well, just yet anyway.

Some other information I guess I should share (since I promised) was to tell you if and when the wish I made at the Trevi Fountain came true. Well it did. I just wished that I would return home safe, I thought if I wished something realistic that would most likely come true, the magic of it would be kept in tact. (I may have also added in there that if the wish granters were feeling generous they could hook me up with a internship but we’ll see what happens with that one…) At the time it wasn’t the most unrealistic thought that something tragic could have happened on my way back to America. When I visited Rome, it was less than three weeks after the attacks on Paris in November. It was also at this time, that I realized what the scariest thing about all of this is. We would walk past armed men on the street, and I mean like every major street in a major city, and not even give it a second thought. That lack of a second thought was the scariest part of all of this, but it is just the reality of the world we live in.

It’s hard to imagine that the next 8 months of my twentieth year could even compare with how influential the first 4 were. I do think, however, that the last 8 months of my 19th year were spent preparing me entirely for the adventure I just embarked on. So that just shows you how important some things can be, without you even realizing it. I have very little expectations for the rest of my twentieth year. I am impatiently waiting for the arrival of my 21st birthday, knowing that amazing things will happen along the way.

So on that note, I am ready for 2016. I am thankful for everything that 2015 was: for all of the people who made it so special, for all of the places that stole a place in my heart, for my closest friends and family for supporting me and loving me throughout, and for all the lessons I’ve learned. I look forward to 2016 with hope in what this world holds for us all and confident about all of the ways that the past year has influenced whom I will be next year. And this is by no means my farewell post; I have plans for 2016, so stay tuned. Cheers ☺

I took a step back…

I took a picture in front of a Red Telephone Booth.
I minded the gap.
I’ve had lots of fish and a lot of chips.
I took the Nimbus 3000 for a spin at The Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studios.
I saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
I watched street performers in Trafalgar Square.
I embraced the late summer sun walking across the Tower Bridge.
I saw the entire city from the London Monument.
I heard Big Ben signal half past the hour.
I popped my Cheeky Nando’s cherry.
I learned that rugby is far more interesting than football.
I found my dream house in Kensington.
I saw roses of every color in the Queen’s Garden in Regents Park.
I found the best vintage sweater on Brick Lane.
But I didn’t actually end up at Old Spitafield’s Market until my third attempt.
I admired St. Paul’s Cathedral, but only from the outside cuz £16 is far too much for entry.
I got in a fight with a Southern train worker…but only got ripped off once.
I drank Pimm’s on the beach in Brighton.
I had a champagne picnic in Hyde Park.
I discovered that Bleecker St. Burgers put Shake Shack to shame.
I fell in love with the pastel flats on Portobello Road.
I was overwhelmed by Camden Market.
I went back to the 90’s in the Cereal Killer Café.
I found out that I may Love Wednesday’s but not more than Thursday’s.
I saw my favorite play in the West End.
I stood at 0° Longitude, on the Prime Meridian.
I had a free lunch at Borough Market, by mooching samples.
I realized the London Bridge is the least relevant one on the Southbank of the Thames.
I made it across the wibbly wobbly (Millenium) Bridge on a very windy day.
I’ve now seen the city from the London Eye during the day and at night.
I watched fireworks on Bonfire Day.
I saw the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum.
But I missed the Magna Carta at the British Library.
I drank the water at the Roman baths in Bath.
I appreciated Andy Warhol at the Tate Modern.
But I appreciated everything at the Saatchi Gallery.
I got lost on all 7 floors at Harrod’s.
I was unimpressed with Stonehenge.
I discovered Cadbury is better than Hershey.
I finally looked right and then left when crossing the road, by instinct.
I managed to not get hit by a double decker bus but came too close too many times to count.
I had high tea in the afternoon.
I went ice-skating at Somerset House.
I Christmas shopped in Covent Garden.
I devoured pizza at Homeslice.
I saw art and culture at the Victoria and Albert.
I admit I found the Natural History Museum a snore.
I visited the home of England Rugby.
I craved oreos with peanut butter after visiting 23 Egerton Road.
I drank cider at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.
I went to the Christmas Party on Carnaby Street.
I spent a rainy Saturday at Broadway Market.

I kissed the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle.
I danced to Galway Girl at a pub in Galway.
I drank a Guinness at St. James Gate in Dublin.
I ate a foot long hot dog at Oktoberfest, but I don’t remember because I had one too many steins.
I climbed Arthur’s Gate in Edinburgh after enjoying a hot chocolate at The Elephant Cafe.
I searched for Nessie at Loch Ness.
I paraglided in Switzerland.
I am going back to sky dive.
I bathed at the thermal baths in Budapest.
I ate breakfast at a coffee shop outside of St. Stephen’s Church in Vienna.
I left my mark on the John Lennon Wall in Prague.
I walked along the East Side Gallery in the Birkenstocks I bought in Berlin.
I conquered rush hour in the bike lane in Amsterdam.
I ate waffles AND frites in Belgium.
I drank wine in the Chianti region of Tuscany.
I went on a gondola ride through the Venice canals.
I made a wish at the Trevi Fountain.
I’ll let you know if it comes true.
I watched the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo in Firenze.

I went over my data every single month.
But I accessed geotags in every city. ^
I am disgusted by my reliance on wifi.
I finished 10 books.
I forgot how much I love to read for fun.
I made new friends from Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Australia, Germany, and of course England.
I referred to professors by their first names.
I felt so awkward every time I did it.
I cried about being homesick more than I expected too.
I changed so much, but nothing at Catholic did.
I encountered very few churches more beautiful than the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
I cried about the exchange rate more than I needed too.
I am pretty broke.
I ate crappy cafeteria food far too often.
I only gave into my Chipotle cravings twice.
I drank my body weight in cappuccinos this semester.
I really miss my Keurig.
I spent far too much time looking for normal pretzels in grocery stores.
I discovered that Waitrose always has them, 3 months too late.
I haven’t had Jif peanut butter in 4 months.
I am really going to miss Desperado’s.
I learned that the ones who post the most Instagram’s are having the best times.
I learned how to sleep on just about any train, bus, or plane.
I now go by military time.
I am happy to say that British people are the friendliest ones that I encountered.
I could live here one day in a heart beat.
I didn’t send nearly as many postcards as I thought I would.
I think I did an okay job staying in touch with my friends at home.
I miss them a lot.
I always chose to eat my calories rather than drink them.
I regret nothing.
I have just scratched the surface of all the places I want to travel to.
I wish I could say it’s possible to see everything you want too, but there’s never enough time.
I never chose sleep over experience.
I do think it’s worth it to try to see as much as possible in a short period of time. The only time I would say quantity over quality.
I am always surprised by just how small this world is.
I truly believe I accomplished more because I always had a list.
I think the only thing I didn’t check off my list was to fall in love with a British boy.
I was too busy falling in love with myself, instead.
I needed this experience more than I could have ever imagined.
I will be back some day.
I hope that day is sooner than I think.
I am sad that my adventure is over, for now.
I think I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to come home.

I will see you soon, America.

The 411 -Part 8

The 411 -Part 8

Well I have officially entered the final 36 hours of my study abroad semester.  I have to admit, I’m a little confused as to where exactly the last four months went because I feel like I just got here like last week and now its time to leave.  I’ve been trying to make the most of my final days, balancing spending time in the city and finishing up my papers and projects.  At my school they don’t actually have finals until January, so half of my final assignments aren’t due until next year.  I have been trying to be really realistic about the situation, and let’s face it, as soon as I get home there’s a very slim chance I am going to get around to doing this once I get home.  So I actually got the majority of all of my papers done! Between spending time in the library writing those I have checked quite a few things off my London Bucket List so let me just fill you in…

The majority of last week was focused on school work, but that was only so I could have a stress free weekend! So Friday night I headed to Hyde Park to experience Winter Wonderland.  Now I know I mentioned in my last post that London does Christmas, but everyday I am amazed at how much dedication they put into this holiday.  Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is definitely the peak of it all, however.  For those of you who have visited Hyde Park, you know its quite large.  Well imagine at least half of the park just covered with rides, vendors selling gifts, stalls celling mulled cider and beer, and every kind of sweet imaginable.  It’s incredible.  I went with a lot of the other study abroad kids, and it was nice to experience it with them.  My favorite part was the Bavarian Village. It was like a mini Oktoberfest and on a Friday night it was #lit.  The music was amazing and everyone was singing and dancing and it was just like, “WHY do I have to leave this place in a week.” I enjoyed my night drinking cider and singing Christmas Carols scattered with some Grease classics and Bob Marley before returning to Twickenham late Friday night.

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Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland

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Bavarian Village

Saturday was a pretty eventful day.  I started my day in Hackney, checking off the last market that was on my list.  When I was in Berlin, one of the girls staying in my hostel told me that her favorite market in London was Broadway Market.  It’s only a Saturday Market so I’ve had a hard time finding the right time to make it there, but as it was my last Saturday I made a point to get there and meet up with my friend Becca.  I can see why it was her favorite Market.  It was probably the least overwhelming market I’ve been to thus far, and I mean that in the best way.  I was able to walk around several times, and decide what I actually wanted, without being overwhelmed and making an impulse decision.  We enjoyed some bomb vegetarian Indian and browsed all the stalls before parting ways.  But as fate would have it, we are both on the same flight back to Boston on Saturday morning.  It’s so funny how stuff like that happens, huh?

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Broadway Market

I made my way back to Twickenham on Saturday afternoon, as I had the final study abroad dinner on Saturday night.  All of the study abroad ambassadors and coordinators, set up a dinner for anyone around and willing in order to have one last hoorah all together.  It was nice to spend time with people I have become so fond of over the last four months.  And obviously we went to the pub for a few drinks after dinner.  It was a wonderful way to spend my last Saturday night, with the people I spent my very first nights at St. Mary’s with.  They are the people who have made this experience everything that it was.  I’m so lucky to have met such awesome people during my time here.

Sunday I had a lazy day.  I’m not only trying to balance embracing London and finish mms school work, but trying to cherish as much alone time as I can before I return home.  Don’t get me wrong I am SO excited to go home and see my friends, but one of the best things about this semester is that I’ve been able to spend so much uninterrupted time with myself.  I’ve watched so many movies on Netflix, a lot of them being classics I should not have waited til the age of 20 to see.  I forgot how much I enjoyed having time to myself.  I can’t wait to live in a house with 7 other girls that I love dearly, but alone time just isn’t a thing in that type of environment and I’m trying to cherish these moments while I can.

I spent Monday in the library finish a paper that took far longer than it should have.

Tuesday I checked quite a few things off my list, but not everything.  There was this one crepe place I had really wanted to try, but it was a hike and a half from Twickenham.  It happened to be relatively close to Camden Market, so I figured I would go back to Camden and stop by the crepe place on the way.  Well they just so happened to be closed on Tuesday.  So one thing I just won’t get to do, I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

Alls well that ends well I suppose, as Camden has endless amounts of yummy food.  So I had a delicious lunch AND found the last christmas present I needed to get.  So I would say I was extremely successful.

After Camden I had a few things I wanted to see.  The first was in Kensington, in an area I have walked by quite a few times but missed nonetheless.  You know “The Parent Trap”? Well if you don’t you need to pull yourself out from that rock you’ve been hiding under and watch it immediately.  Well Annie is from London, so OBVIOUSLY, I had to go see the house where the movie is filmed.  My childhood self who thought Lindsay Lohan actually had a twin until I was about 10 would be so proud.

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23 Egerton Road!!!!

After seeing the house, and feeling extremely creepy for taking an excessive amount of pictures of someones actual home, I went to the last museum that was on my list.  Well it’s not really a museum, but rather a gallery.  Now I have been to a lot of museums in the last four months and I have to tell ya I am down right over them.  I am REALLY glad that I made it to the Saatchi Gallery, however, as it was probably my favorite one I’ve been too.

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Saatchi Gallery
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Those are flowers. Yeah.

The problem with all these museums is that they are jack full of all this old boring art that I simply don’t appreciate.  The Saatchi Gallery only had 15 rooms, all with only a few pieces of art and very centralized on one thing.  It was art that I appreciated and didn’t just browse.  I DEFINITELY recommend the Saatchi Gallery to anyone who finds themselves in London and is looking for something cool and alternative to do.  And it’s free!

Today I went out to lunch at a yummy burger place and packed.  Everything fit so there’s that, but that’s about as happy as I’m gonna be when it comes to that process.

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Dirty Burger = Perfect Hangover Food

It’s so weird that tomorrow is my last night here.  No other way to describe it.  My plan is to spend tomorrow just taking in the city, wandering around, appreciating all that this wonderful place is.  My adventure may be near its end but that doesn’t mean my posts will stop so stay tuned.  Cheers 🙂

*just British things* – Afternoon Tea and Christmas Time

Another week gone by far too fast.  I checked quite a few things off my London Bucket list last week so I thought I would fill you all in…

The first thing I checked off my Bucket List last weekend was to go see the Rugby Stadium.  As I know I have mentioned before, the Rugby World Cup took place this past fall right down the road from my school.  Well, I never made it to a rugby game and therefore, I never made it down to the stadium.  Well Tuesday afternoon last week I finally made it to the stadium.  I didn’t actually get to see the inside, I didn’t know how to go about doing that and figured hopping a fence wouldn’t do anything but get me into trouble.  But I know a lot of famous, influential, and very drunk people have been in and out of that stadium in the last few months so it was still cool to walk a mile down the road and be able to see where it all took place.

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Afternoon Tea

It’s no secret that Afternoon Tea is a very traditional thing to do in England.  Break up your day with a nice cuppa and some finger-food smack dab in the middle.  Well it is a tradition I haven’t really taken part in since I’ve been over here, as my caffeine addiction can only be satisfied by 2-3 cups of coffee a day, but nonetheless it was one thing I simply had to do because…#JustBritishThings.

So Wednesday afternoon my friends and I headed to the Sanderson Hotel for Afternoon Tea. We chose to have tea at the Sanderson Hotel, because they offer a special twist to this tradition: The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  Everything is Alice in Wonderland themed.  There are 5 different kinds of tea to choose from, all of them are different characters in the story.  The teapots where crowns and all of the treats are critters or characters.

First you are served your tea, obviously.  Then comes the first round of treats.  Little finger sandwiches of different assortments.  One of them was a cucumber sandwich on some kind of green bread, so that was interesting.

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S’Cute

Next comes the sweets, and there were lots of them.  Biscuits, cookies, macaroons.  You name it, it was there.  I had a headache from the sugar overload.  But they were all delicious, and I wasn’t expecting anything less because Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel comes to about 50 pounds a person.  For those of you who aren’t up to date with your USD to GBP conversion rates, that’s one expensive cup of tea.  But it’s all about the experience, and Afternoon Tea has now been checked off the list with #NoRagrets.

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The caterpillar was bangin’

*Just Christmas Things*

Someone asked me the other day if they do Christmas over here.  The way Britain does Christmas is the way I wish everyone did Christmas.  Since they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving on this side of the Pond, as soon as Halloween is over the Christmas Season begins.

Cue, lights on every street, trees in every square, Christmas markets everywhere, and yes ice skating rinks all throughout the city.  So yes, London does Christmas.  It has really helped in getting me in the holiday spirit, and so Caroline and I decided to spend our day ice skating and Christmas shopping on Friday.

An Oxford Street Christmas
An Oxford Street Christmas

Our first stop was the Somerset House.  They have a rink, that over looks a giant tree and have Christmas Markets to browse through when your done.  It’s the whole 9 yards.  Well we both managed to skate for an entire hour without falling, even though I came close about every three minutes. It was just nice to be around so many people who were not only struggling as much as I was, but also embracing the season and the beautiful sunny day.  I also watched Love Actually on Saturday night and they flashed the Somerset House skating rink in the movie, so like now I can say I’ve done that as well.

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I almost ate it when this was being taken
Somerset House, 12/6/15
Somerset House, 12/6/15

After we left the rink, we browsed the Christmas shops at Somerset House and then made our way to Covent Garden.  Covent Garden was full of holiday shoppers looking for gifts, street performers entertaining the lively crowds, and Christmas decorations adorning every shop and stall.  I am definitely feeling the holiday spirit, which is a very nice change of pace as normally at this time of year I am stuck in the library studying for finals and I feel as if the Christmas season comes and goes without me ever really having time to appreciate it.  Just another wonderful thing about studying abroad!

Much Ornaments, Very Festive, So Christmas
Much Ornaments, Very Festive, So Christmas

Well after finding some gifts we headed to South Kensington for our next stop on our list.  We managed to hit both the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert museum on Friday afternoon.  Given, we probably should’ve dedicated a lot more time to each and definitely didn’t appreciate all that these two very famous museums have to offer but we saw and became more ~cultured~ and besides, I’ve been to so many damn museums lately everything is beginning to look the same.  But I can now check them off my list!

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Natural History Museum, December 2015

I had a very uneventful weekend.  Saturday I did homework and watched Christmas movies, and yesterday I got up early and spent the day on Brick Lane, endlessly searching for some good vintage finds to bring home with me but turning up unsuccessful.  I did manage to get a famous Brick Lane Bagel, and found a few more Christmas Presents, so I wasn’t all that unsuccessful after all I suppose.  I will truly miss being able to wake up on  a weekend morning and have any number of markets at my disposal to waste my day at.

I’ve started to feel very nostalgic.  I woke up around 9:30 on Saturday morning and realized that two weeks from that very moment I would be boarding my plane to go home.  For the first time I thought to myself that I really don’t want to go home.  I obviously am almost ready, I really miss my friends and my roommates and my bed and my dog, but I’m very reluctant to give up this life filled with adventure and new experiences.  But part of this experience is that it has to end eventually.  Time is just moving a little too quickly for my liking.

Speaking of time, I will be spending the majority of this week in the library, trying to finish up every paper and presentation I have so I can do nothing but appreciate this wonderful city on my last week here.  So I probably won’t be doing anything too interesting this week, but hey you never know so stay tuned. Cheers 🙂

Euroadventures Part 5? – An Italian Thanksgiving

Euroadventures Part 5? – An Italian Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend! Thanksgiving is in fact just an American holiday, so it wasn’t necessarily a holiday weekend over here. Well I promised I’d try to get this post out while it was still fresh in my mind, so what a coincidence that my plane got delayed an hour  on the Tarmac and I had plenty of time to jot some things down.

Some of you may remember that my best friend Alaina is studying in Florence this semester, we met up at Oktoberfest in September but haven’t been able to coincide any trips since.  I figured there was no better way to spend my Thanksgiving than in Italy, at least I would still satisfy the over eating that comes with the holiday. Her family and our best friend Jenni flew in from MA for the week, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to spend time with my favorite people. And Thanksgiving is meant to be spent with people your thankful for 😌

So I arrived in Italy early Tuesday afternoon, and despite coming far too close to missing my train from Bologna, I got to Florence by about 2. Our afternoon was not spent in Florence, but instead touring wineries in the Chianti region of Tuscany. We visited two different wineries where we sampled cheese, salami, breads with truffle oil and aged balsamic paired with different red wines.  Funny enough, I have suddenly acquired a taste for red wine, but maybe that was just because Italy. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I enjoyed more, the wine or the company.

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Got to see a sunset on our first night together, how fitting!
On Wednesday we slept in and spent the afternoon exploring Florence. Alaina had class in the evening so Jenni and I took that time to have our first gelato experience, so that was exceptional in itself. After class, Jenni and I met Alaina at a bistro near her apartment for appertivo. Appertivo is what I would equate to Spanish tapas, I guess. It’s a buffet of small plates that you help yourself too. Like happy hour. Happy hour involves drinks, and in Italy they drink spritz. Still not exactly sure what’s in a spritz but I had one every day I was there, so I would say they get my stamp of approval.

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il Duomo, Firenze
My friend Sam is also studying in Florence.  I was lucky enough to cross paths with him in Amsterdam, but I got to see him again in his city.  His apartment literally looks out at the Duomo, a church in the heart of Firenze, so we met up with him on Wednesday night and drank some wine.  Good times with old friends in a beautiful new city.  What a life.

Thursday

Turkey Day, sans Turkey…We woke up early Thursday morning, almost missed our train but still managed to get to Venice by 11 AM.  Venice is literally a city plopped in the middle of the Mediterranean, it’s all these old Italian buildings and squares separated by canals that all dump out into the sea. There aren’t really streets in Venice, there are canals and alleys.

As soon as we got off the train at St. Lucia, we got on a water taxi to head to the island of Murano.  Murano is famous for its glass blowing.  We watched this man turn a burning blob into a beautifully intricate vase, of fierce oranges that would become blue by the time they cooled.  It was the coolest thing to watch, and crazy how simple they make it seem when it clearly is an art that needs to be mastered.  After watching a demonstration we got to walk through a gallery of chandeliers, china, statues, jewelry made of Murano glass.  It was only a matter of 5 minutes before we all got anxious that we were going to break something and have to foot the very high bill.  Think Chandeliers at like 18,000 euro.  Also no pics were allowed.

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Venetian Island of Murano 
After leaving the glass blowing factory, we found a little restaurant to get a Thanksgiving day lunch.  We figured it was good, cuz it had 4 stars on Trip Advisor.  If there is one thing I have taken away from my travels, it is that Trip Advisor is everything to small businesses in the EU.  We enjoyed yummy salads and pizza and soups with mimosas made with fresh squeezed OJ.   It may not have been turkey and mashed potatoes but cha girl is not complaining.

After lunch we headed back to the center of Venice, to Piazza San Marco (or Saint Mark’s Square).  We spent the afternoon shopping around the little shops. I spent a lot of time desperately searching for a specific style  bracelet made of Murano glass that I wanted.  I had received it as a gift about three years ago, and I wore it everyday until it broke this past summer.  Unfortunately they don’t seem to exist anymore.  I looked literally all afternoon and was SOL.  Instead I found some earrings, and I like them just as well 🙂

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St. Mark’s Square, Venice

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Bridge of Sighs
Venice is a beautiful city, a lot of the streets look so similar that it is extremely easy to get lost in.  Which is exactly what happened to us as we tried to make our way from Piazza San Marco back towards St. Lucia train station.  We spent an hour getting lost in alley ways, but the best way to see a city is on foot and I do feel as if I did a good amount of exploring in Venice.  I’ve told myself a lot throughout the last three months that it’s all about the experience, but its more than that, its about what you make of the experience.  You’ve got to just be positive and it will be positive.  Like making a wrong turn, ending up in a market, and stopping for some mulled wine, made getting lost a positive experience 🙂

We found a restaurant to get some drinks and apps to pick at before heading back to Firenze.  Thanksgiving came and went so quickly that it didn’t really even feel like it ever happened.  But it did, and I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving I took a Gondola ride through Venice with my best friends while we sang “That’s Amore.”

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Girlies!
Friday

Roma.  Florence, Venice, and Rome were the three cities I had wanted to see while in Italy.  I thought about going to Rome on the front end of my trip, but in light of everything that’s been going on recently and all of the solo traveling I have been doing  I decided it was best to just spend my time with my friends while I could.  I’m young, I can go back to Italy.  We decided on Thursday, however, that Friday would be the perfect day to visit Rome.  We would leave early in the morning, hit a few major stops, and get back to Florence by evening.  I was so happy I was checking the last place off my list.

So we got to Rome around 10 AM on Friday morning and headed right to our first stop, the Colosseum.  Then we headed back in the direction we came, to find an Internet Cafe to print our tickets cuz an email just wasn’t enough.  Always read the fine print my friends!

Minor delays are no biggie, and we entered the Colosseum soon enough.  I was singing “This is What Dreams are Made Of” in my head the entire time.  If you go to the Colosseum and don’t think about The Lizzie McGuire   Movie…well then you probably weren’t born in the 90’s! (In the light of writing this I decided I really want to watch that movie now…so I just added that to my list on Netflix…and now you know what I’ll be doing tonight.)

 

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On the outside looking in…
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Anyway, the Colosseum was very large and, in my opinion, very beautiful.  The coolest thing I found about Rome, was that there are all these ancient structures plopped down right in the middle of a modern and lively city.  People visit Rome to experience its very famous history, that’s what I liked about it.  It is currently influential because of what occurred there thousands of years ago…#swag. And speaking of thousands of years ago, after leaving the Colosseum we went to the Roman Forum.  Same spiel as previously stated: old but cool.

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Our last destination in Rome was the Trevi Fountain.  Many of you may not know this, but the Trevi Fountain was under construction this fall.  I was really sad when I thought I wasn’t going to get to see it in all its glory, but it reopened last month, so yay! We got to go and we all made a wish, because WHEN IN ROME.  I’m not going to tell you what my wish was, otherwise it won’t come true, but I promise I’ll let you know if it does.

 

 

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After leaving the Trevi Fountain we headed back to the train station to go back to Firenze.  Our trip to Rome was short and simple, but we got in and saw almost everything we wanted too, and got out without getting pick pocketed.  I have been hearing a lot of mixed things (a lot of them more negative than positive) about Rome recently, but I was pleasantly surprised with it.  I thought the city was beautiful, there is so much held within it.  I’m so happy I got the chance to visit such a famous city.  The only thing I didn’t get to do was go to the Vatican, which I really would have loved.  I missed Papa Francesco in my city and then didn’t get the chance to see him in his.  I’ll be back to the Vatican some day.  Seeing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is something that needs to be checked off my bucket list.  I love checking things off lists.

Well we had some shopping to do when we got back to Firenze and it had totally slipped our mind that it was Black Friday.  Thanksgiving may not be a thing outside of the US but due to consumerism, Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) are pretty universal concepts. Jenni had to come home with Italy with some Christmas presents for herself and I was more than happy to tag along for the experience.  Black Friday in Florence. Something to say you’ve done, right?

After some pretty successful purchases we headed to what I was most excited for in Florence: Gusto Pizza.  They’ve been on @foodintheair, so you know it’s real.  They make their pizza’s shaped like hearts, and they’re BOMB.  On our way to Gusto, we had to cross the river and in the process I encountered the Ponte Vecchio for the first time.  I had seen pictures of this bridge, on like Google Images and Dell Desktop Backgrounds, but was totally taken a back to look to my left and see it in real life.  It is so nonchalant to travel throughout Europe, sometimes you don’t realize how cool it is to be where you are.  I had one of those moments when I saw the Ponte Vecchio, I was like wow I’m actually in Italy right now.

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Ponte Vecchio 

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Gusto Pizza, Florence
 

After Gusto Pizza, (which I hearted, get it?) we decided it was time for some gelato.  Wow I would be fat if I lived in Italy, the gelato was just so damn good and I never felt guilty about it.

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Caffe and Cheesecake. NOM
We just chilled Friday night, there was packing to do.  I was just happy to have girl time, that’s one of the things I’ve missed most since being abroad.  I have such amazing friends that I left behind for the last four months, and I have been aware of how much I missed them, but not of what I was missing.  I literally talked so much this weekend, cuz I just forgot what it was like to have someone there all the time to talk to if you want too.  Thanks Jen for just letting me talk and getting that I needed to :’) Glad we had to share a twin bed on your last night in Italy.

Saturday
The first thing I did on Saturday was burn my hand really bad on coffee.  I’m sitting here typing this and it looks like I have a some sort of rash/infection on my right hand.  The burn came with the sad realization that I may know how to do a lot of things in a kitchen, but I have no idea how to work a coffee pot. #KeurigGeneration

After my incident, Laine, Jenni ,and I headed to Mama’s Bakery for famous bagels and American coffee. #Blessed. Then it was time to say bye to the O’Malleys and Jenni before they headed to the airport. The week FLEW by, and I was only there for half the time they were.  It was v sad to say bye to them, but crazy to think we’ll be home in just a few short weeks anyway. Thanks Paul and Kelly for taking me in as your fourth daughter this weekend 🙂

After we sent them off, Alaina and I figured we might as well check the Duomo off our list of things to do. If your my friend on snapchat you know that I climbed  A LOT of stairs in Florence, but I think the Duomo takes the cake. So many stairs and they were so steep. Well, at least I started my day with a workout, and the view was great.  I guess I can’t really complain…and it allowed me to justify my calorie intake.

 

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The dome of the Duomo

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Florence is a climb, but the view is great
After leaving the Duomo and getting ready for the day, we headed out for the main event of the day: shopping. Surprising enough, in all my travels shopping is one thing I really have not done at all. But if you’re gonna find the time to shop, it should be in Italy.  After a lot of searching, I found a few perfect Christmas presents and a new purse that was exactly what I had been looking for.  I also came back to London with a list of all the things I decided I need to buy here before coming home. And on that note…if anyone is looking to employ someone for the holidays, I’m your girl.

After we spent our day shopping, we went up to the Piazzale Michaelangelo to watch the sunset. This area of Florence is always busy with people because of the beautiful views of the city that it offers. I watched the sunset in over Firezne with my best friend while we shared a bottle of red and a famous Pino’s panini, it was an ideal afternoon to say the least.

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Piazzale Michelangelo 
We made reservations at ZaZa Trattoria on Saturday evening, as it had been highly recommended to Alaina by a lot of people. Little did we know that we would be in for one of the best culinary experience of our lives. We showed up a half hour late for our 7 PM reservation and they still managed to have a table for us, so I guess that was a good omen. We drank spritz and went halfsies on the truffle oil raviolis and gnocchi in tomato sauce with basil.  It was literally unreal, definitely my best meal all week and I kid you not probably the best Italian food I’ve ever had. Well I was in Italy so that makes sense I guess lol.  I am happy to say that I didn’t have one bad meal all week #NoRagrets

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Truffle Oil Raviolis (aka Ravioli’s in Crack Sauce)
I still needed something sweet on my last night, even though I was so full from dinner. We tried and failed to find some good cannoli’s, so instead we went to Venchi and splurged on chocolate crepes. I’m not sure if I was still on a high from how good my dinner was, but I followed one of the best meals of my life with one of the best crepes of my life. And I’ve had a lot of crepes since arriving on this side of the pond. I’ll probably spend years to come thinking about this meal.

Exhausted from a busy week, Alaina and I went home in the state of a food coma on Saturday night, and both ended up falling asleep without setting alarms resulting in me missing my train to the airport Sunday morning. I guess I was bound to miss at least one train last week. Luckily they run every 15 minutes on Sundays.

It all worked out fine, I made it back to the UK in pants that are far tighter than they were 5 days ago with the bittersweet feeling of realizing that the next time I’m on a plane, it will be Boston bound. I also got back to my dorm last night and did what I’ve been waiting six months to do.  Every place on my European Bucket list has been checked off. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Thanks to my best friend for a great week, even if you wanted to kill me at least once a day. Firenze did make my top three, but I think that was all thanks to you! I feel like I ate, drank, shopped, and saw everything the right way, I think you’re officially a local Laine. Can’t wait to cuddle w you in Cmass soon :’)

It’s weird to think that this past week was Thanksgiving.  It didn’t feel like Thanksgiving in a lot of ways, but in others it did.  I came back to school feeling like I over ate all week, it was just gelato instead of pumpkin pie and truffle oil instead of gravy.  No leftovers survived though 😦 I also came back to school with the same feeling I do every year, with the reality that Christmas is in a month and yet another semester is almost over.  The weirdest thing about this time is, that when I go home for Christmas I won’t be coming back to London.

I was grateful for all of the train rides this weekend.  It’s been about a month since I’ve done some traveling and I realized that I’ve done some of my best thinking when I’m in transit from one place to another.  No data or wifi, just music and my mind to keep me occupied and reflect on where I’ve been and what it meant to me. I even brain stormed some future posts for ya 😉

So all of that being said I have 20 days to check quite a few things off my list. I will do my best to post as much as possible in that time frame so bear with me. Regardless there’s still lots more to come, it’s crunch time. My adventure is not over yet so stay tuned. Cheers 🙂

The 411 – Part 7

I know I’ve been slacking a bit on my posts.  I had such an itch for writing when I got back from Fall Break and ever since I stopped traveling I’ve gotten lazy keeping all my fellow readers up to date.  My apologies!  Let me try to catch you up on what I’ve been up too…

So since my parents visit, I’ve had two full weeks in London.  No travel, no visitors, just simply embracing the city I’m lucky enough to live in at the moment. The city I’m lucky enough to study in as well…so a lot of my time has been spent doing just that.  I’ve had some paper or project or presentation every week since fall break and since I have forgotten how to be productive, it’s been quite the struggle to get all of that done. But done it is, and I feel rather good about all the work I’ve had to turn in recently, so there’s that.  But when I haven’t been in the library procrastinating  I’ve been trying to check as many things as possible off of my London Bucket List.

Now a lot of these places on my list involve food…but do you expect anything less? Last week I finally went to two restaurants that I had been wanting to try for a while. The things you accomplish when your not in a different country every weekend!

The first restaurant I went to, isn’t a restaurant really, it’s a stall. I don’t eat red meat often, but when I do it’s going to be a big ol’ bacon cheeseburger.  After stalking lots of London food Instagram’s I had come across Bleecker St. Burger’s quite a few times.  The pictures literally made my mouth water.  Every. Damn. Time.  So I knew I had to try it. Last Thursday night Carly and I headed to Old Spitafield’s Market to find the famous burger.

I ordered a bacon cheese burger, mixed fry (yes sweet potato and regular – literally the best of both worlds) and a coffee shake, because if you’re going to do it, you gotta do it right.  Well this burger put Shake Shack to shame.  So did the fries and the shake for that matter.  It made traveling an hour into the city at rush hour and getting lost for 20 minutes walking in circles in the cold TOTALLY worth it.  Seriously anyone in London who loves a good burger should try this place. BC hangover food.

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Carly is enjoying her fries too :’)

The second place I had been dying to try was Foxcroft and Ginger.  I have this app, 3 Kinds of Ice, that explores cool places like restaurants and exhibits in London and posts their recommendations with pictures and videos.  Foxcroft and Ginger got two different recommendations, so I figured it was worth the trip and last Sunday I headed to Soho and met my friend Becca there for brunch!

The first reason I wanted to try Foxcroft and Ginger was for their cruffin.  What is a cruffin, you ask?  It is a hybrid between a muffin and a croissant and it is just as good as it sounds.  Becca and I split a chocolate cruffin.  Well we think it was a chocolate cruffin…the service was a bit iffy due to what I think was a language barrier.

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Every Sunday should start with a large cappuccino and a cruffin! 

Foxcroft and Ginger’s second claim to fame is that they have perfected the poached egg.  So after indulging in the cruffin, I decided on poached eggs on avocado toast for brunch.  It was definitely the most satisfying start to my day I’ve had in a while.  I’m so over cafeteria food.

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Poached to perfection

After brunch we headed towards Chinatown, which is a part of the city I had yet to explore.  It’s such a small part of the city, and if you weren’t looking you would totally miss it.  Much unlike Chinatown in DC, which is in the very heart of the city.  Also unlike Chinatown in DC, this part of the city is strictly Asian.  Food, language, goods, etc. are all exactly what you would think when you think of Chinatown.  Unfortunately I was too full from brunch to eat anything in Chinatown, so I may just have to make a trip back there before I leave.

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I wasn’t too full, however, for Yolkin.  This was another place I had found during my extensive research on London’s best food through Instagram.  Yolkin is a pop-up shop in Soho on the weekends, serving ice cream sandwich macaron’s.  I love ice cream.  I love macarons.  And yes I loved them put together.  I guess I was having a treat yo’self Sunday.  That’s starting to be a trend with me…

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😛

Before parting ways Becca and I ended up in Covenant Garden.  It is Christmas Time in London town.  Covent Garden already has their massive tree up and the West End was busy with people looking for gifts at the crowded markets.  It made me officially stressed out about all the presents I still have to get for people.

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I was lucky I had such a an eventful day last Sunday, because I had to spend the majority of this week writing a paper for one of my classes.  It was due Thursday at noon.  I, however, had big plans for Wednesday night so I made sure to submit that by Wednesday evening so I could go and see Mockingjay Part 2 and give my entire focus to the final installment of the Hunger Games.  It was interesting to attend a premier of a major blockbuster in another country…and I give the film an 8.5/10.

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Thursday was a struggle of going to both my classes and fighting the exhaustion as a result of Wednesday night.  But I’m all about those midnight premiers, so it was so worth it.  I went to bed early and rested up in order to take advantage of a full weekend in London without any papers or projects getting in the way.

This past Friday I went to 3 museums, 2 markets, and a cathedral.  Caroline and I started our day at the Welcome Collection in Euston.  They currently have an exhibit called yellowpinkblue, which consists of a mist filled room of different colors that prevent you from seeing two feet in front of you. It’s about embracing the consciousness aspect of it. Well, I only spent about ten minutes in there and in that time I walked into two walls and spent the majority of the time finding and losing Caroline in the colored mist.  It was a cool exhibit and luckily we got there early enough that we didn’t have to queue.  I know people that have waited up to two hours to go into this exhibit, so go us for getting up early and getting after it lol.

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Now you see me, now you don’t 

After leaving the Welcome Collection, we walked down the road to the British Library.  This year marks the 150 year anniversary of the story, Alice and Wonderland.  The British Library has an exhibit on the story in honor of the anniversary, that opened on Friday.  It was really interesting, to see the way this story has been so influential and has been interpreted in so many different ways since it was originally written by Lewis Carroll a century and a half ago.

 

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We headed to the British Museum after leaving the British Library, because why not squeeze as much as physically possible into one morning!  Caroline and I had both been there before, but neither of us realized it until we got there lol.  I can’t say we were the most receptive visitors, as we had started to get restless from all the museums we had visited already and were particularly starving at this point in the day, but the museum still has a lot of cool exhibits, and is home to the Rosetta Stone, so we spent about an hour there before heading to our next stop of the day.

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In some dire need of food after a morning of taking in quite a lot of art, we headed to Borough Market in Southwark.  Borough Market is one of London’s most well known markets and sells only one thing – food.  It not only has a lot of food stalls, but sells a lot of local goods like fresh bread, fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, and of course sweets.  Before we could become overwhelmed by all of our lunch options, we stopped at Bread Ahead Bakery stall for some of their famous donuts to nibble on while we browsed.  I didn’t realize until I was writing this post that I didn’t take any pictures of the donuts…there was a small 2 minute window in between when I paid for it and the entire thing was in my stomach and apparently there just wasn’t any time for pictures in between…oops! We decided on some chicken pad thai for lunch (almost, but not as good, as Yama’s) which was satisfying and restored all of the energy I had lost browsing museums on Friday morning.  I also didn’t make it out with any pictures of the pad thai either…a girl’s gotta eat.  We decided we were definitely going to have to make it back to Borough Market, since we didn’t even scratch the surface.

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After leaving Borough Market, we made the short walk to the South Bank and despite the 20 MPH winds made it across the Millennium Bridge (also known as the wibbly wobbly bridge, so that was low key scary with those large gusts of wind) to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  It cost 17 pounds to get into St. Pauls, even as a student, so we just enjoyed the beautiful building from the outside before heading to our last stop of the day.

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St. Paul’s Selfie (barely captured St. Paul’s)

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We left St. Paul’s, went two stops eastbound on the Central Line to Liverpool Street and headed to Old Spitafield’s Market.  I had tried to go their with my parents a few weeks ago, and ended up there when I got burgers the week before, but had yet to see the market in full swing.  Caroline and I ventured there in an attempt to buy gifts for people, and both ended up just doing damage to our wallets on goodies for ourselves.  I also didn’t manage to get any pictures of Old Spitafield’s Market, I think at that point I was so exhausted and had done so much I forgot I even had my GoPro on me and should be documenting everything I do in this wonderful city.  I have my memories, and the scarf that I bought, so that’s enough I suppose.

I spent the rest of this weekend spending time with my friends, catching up on sleep and Netflix, and having a few pints at the pub on Saturday night.  So that concludes everything that I’ve been up too for the last two weeks!  The wonderful thing about this city is that there is always always always something to do.  A park to visit, a market to shop in, a food stall to eat at: the possibilities are endless!  Crazy to think that in less than a month this well no longer be my reality 😦

Time has really gotten by me.  Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday and they don’t celebrate it here, it really of snuck up on me.  I’m off to Florence, Italy tomorrow to spend my holiday with my best friends, because even if I’m in another country I’m still celebrating this holiday that is meant to be spent with family.  We may be substituting turkey for pasta and pumpkin pie for gelato but that is quite alright with me! I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, look out for my post on my holiday in Italia next week.  Cheers!