Sunday, June 15, 2014

Those Final Days

One of these days, I will blog more regularly...

With my exams finally over, during my last week or so in London I set out to do all of the typical tourist things I hadn't yet done, like the seeing the changing of the guard and visiting the Sherlock Holmes museum. I know it seems strange that it took almost all 5 months to do it despite me knowing before I even got to London that I wanted to do these things, but there is just so much to do in London that I somehow never got around to it! After the first few weeks, I felt so at home that I honestly forgot about doing much of the tourist things in favor of more day-to-day things that your typical tourist may not get to. And I'm sure there are still things I may not have done that I will need to do next time.

Fortunately, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. If you weren't able to make it to one of London's many parks, I feel for you. It seems as though everyone was out at Regents Park or my personal favorite, Hampstead Heath, or any park. It was so nice especially after long exams.

Funny enough, when I went to see the changing of the guard, I spotted a man in a Penn State hat. So of course, when I caught his eye, I gave him a good ole "We Are" and he responded with the "Penn State". Both of us, and his (presumably) family had big smiles after. Gotta love finding fellow Penn Staters across the pond!



A few days before we left, CIEE had a farewell tea for us at the posh Royal Gardens Hotel. Everyone got all dolled up for some lovely afternoon tea, finger foods, and champagne. Here it finally hit me that my five months were over even though it felt like I had just landed at Heathrow for the first time. It was hard not to let the overwhelming feeling of sadness creep up at times. Saying goodbye to all of the friends I'd made was so surreal. Some of my friends were staying a bit longer than me because their programs were not over just yet, and listening to them make plans was kinda sad to hear. Although some of those plans were for summer meet ups in the states, so that helped ease the pain of leaving. Or maybe it was the champagne. Either way this was truly the perfect way to end my term abroad.

As a final fun touristy a bunch of us went to Harrods after tea. It took ever little ounce of will power in my body not to go bananas in the makeup and fashion sections. Although seeing the price tags did help to control my shopaholic-ness... At one point, my friend Christina and I made our way to the *best* part of Harrods: THE DISNEY STORE! We may or may not have gone a little crazy... I regret nothing. Disney is the best and who wouldn't want to chill with huge figurines of Woody and Olaf and the rest of the Disney gang? Crazy people. That's who. But our little adventure did mean we lost the rest of our group but also got to have a blast being kids at heart we are and later have a refreshing heart-to-heart, in the middle of Harrods, because why not!

The night ended at Kings Cross. I don't have to tell you what picture we took there, do I? Unfortunately, the wall didn't budge. We must've been too late to catch the Hogwarts Express. Bummer.

I could go on and on and on about how incredibly grateful I am to have had the opportunity to live and study in a different country for 5 months but there truly are no words that would do it justice. I can only hope that I will be able to go back and study for my postgraduate degree or simply to visit as I fell completely in love with the city and do miss it terribly. My months in London were some of the best of my life and I will cherish them for as long as I live.

As a final note, if anyone ever has any questions about the study abroad process or anything remotely related to it, do give me a shout and I will gladly be of help in anyway that I can. :)

xx

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Winston Churchill and New Piercings


Now that I've been home for over a week and have conquered my jet lag, I think it's time to revisit some London adventures that haven't made an appearance on the blog yet!

The first weekend in May a bunch of us ladies from my program hopped on a bus and headed a bit north to Blenheim Palace, and then Oxford for a day trip.

I must say, I felt a bit bad for our male tour guide being stuck with all of us girls for an entire day, but he was friendly and didn't seemed to mind. I don't know how he didn't go bonkers! (I sure as hell would've)

For those who don't know, Blenheim Palace was built in the early 1700s and is best known for being the home of the Churchills for centuries, and most notably as the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

The actual self-guided tour inside of the palace was short, but it was the outdoors that took my breath away. The weather itself was gorgeous so a few friends and I spent most of the time touring the outdoors. I could have spent hours, days even, just touring the grounds. It was that mesmerizing. It was like stepping back in time into a Jane Austen novel.  I felt a bit like Elizabeth, but sans her Mr. Darcy (the latter being *such* a bummer, sigh).

Yes, I know her novels were written a century later, but just go with it! She is my favorite author ever, and Pride and Prejudice happens to be my favorite book of all time. So, y'all can deal.

It wouldn't be a proper trip without some tea and each of us got our own little pot of something different. One of my friends decided to be daring and tried Lapsang souchong tea. It was tasty, but weird. A smoky, black tea that tasted like I was drinking smoked meat. Weird. I think I'll stick to my normal breakfast tea/ green teas.



Part II of our trip was a tour around the famous University of Oxford. If I learned anything about Oxford it was that I probably would've completely burned out before I left sixth form and reached uni level! Man, are they under some intense levels of stress. Although even if I could, I don't know if I could deal with the "academic dress" standards and looking put together all of the time. And by that, I mean even more so than I felt going to a uni in central London/ just off of Oxford Street. Because sometimes you just want to roll out of bed and go to class in sweats because you can and not give a damn.




Of course, the best part of seeing Oxford was seeing where they filmed some parts of Harry Potter over at Christ Church. Like the steps where Professor McGonagall told Harry and the rest of first-years about the sorting ceremony and then, of course, the Great Hall! I felt the strong urge to be a complete dork and rush home to watch the films over again... If only I was being sorted myself. (Then again, I already know I'm a Gryffindor)



Alas, that is not what I did when we arrived back in London as a few of us decided to head to a pub and hang out for the night. At some point, I'd mentioned wanting a new piercing and next thing I know, we were on the hunt for a place for us to get piercings. A nice memento for my semester abroad! I settled for a helix that's about in the middle of the ear, directly across from my tragus piercing. Of course, only 2 of the 3 of us got piercings that night... (Not that this last line is directed at anyone ;) ) Just a little nudging.



Until next time

xx

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Long Time No Chat

Hey all! Long time no chat!

Sorry for the lack of updates but since my last post I spent most of my time studying (and by studying I mean Netflix & cramming) for/ taking my final exams, and trying to enjoy my last few days in London since I leave this weekend. This has left little time to blog so I don't miss out on any last thing I want to do. This means being a super dorky tourist in a city I've called home and hope to call home again sometime in the future. But that's a ways off, for now.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Edgar Allan Poe and a Guinness

I'm generally a pretty independent person. Sure, I still rely on my parents quite a bit financially, but in many aspects of the term I have always been pretty independent and self-reliant.

Having said that, never had I considered traveling anywhere solo. I always assumed I would simply go with one or more friends. However, circumstances came up that changed my travel plans, a few times actually, which made it so that traveling solo was my only option in some cases. And after much debating I finally said "to hell with it" and booked myself a flight to Dublin.

Despite my anxiety, I packed up and headed off for a few days all by me lonesome.

And I loved it.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Moby Dick – easy Grandma!

Hey there!

So I was going through some of my journal entries and my pictures when I realized there were some experiences that I hadn't written about yet that I knew I had wanted to share so I figured, why not! Better late than never.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Passport to Paris


Bonjour everyone!

Now that classes are over, until exams in May of course, it is the perfect time for some traveling! This past weekend I took the opportunity to spend a few days with a friend in Paris. My aunt has told me many great things about the City of Lights and everything she said was true. Even though I speak no French since I took Spanish in high school, I still fond it very easy to maneuver with only English and a few French phrases.

The night we arrived at the hostel was more of a chill night than sightseeing, but was probably some of the most fun I've had in a while. Just sitting down in the hostel's common room, drinking, eating, chatting, just having a good time with my fellow travelers was an absolute blast. One of the best things about traveling is meeting people and swapping stories and adventures until late in the evening.



In order to not make this blogpost as long as my 3000-word history essay, I'll touch on some highlights from the places I visited:

Friday's itinerary included the:
Musée de l'Armée in Les Invalides - an Army museum that was more interesting than expected,
The Effiel Tower - as incredible as I'd imagined even though we didn't actually go up it due to the line/wait/desire to see as much of Paris as possible. It's stunning and a must see.
Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine - the museum of architecture right across front he Eiffel Tower. We didn't go inside because by that point I was getting hungry, not hungry, hangry. Funny enough, there was a protest going on outside of it that would have made entrance a little uncomfortable anyway. Wish I spoke French so I knew what they were protesting!
Arc de Triomphe - at the western end of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées was the Arc de Triomphe, another of Paris' most famous monuments. It was under construction but nonetheless gorgeous. I wanted to cross the road to get to the Arc up close, but I wasn't willing to play human frogger to get there. And to be honest, I was to hungry to think straight to find the safest way across.
Avenue des Champs-Élysées - a walk along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is an absolute must and I definitely think you should walk the entire thing. We stopped for food at a cafe and were seated at a window so it was the perfect place for people watching. I would have loved to have also shopped, and I couldn't help myself but do a little browsing in Zara, MAC, and Sephora, but I was actually good. For once...
Obelisk of Luxor - at the other end, the eastern end, of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and in the center of the Place de la Concorde lies this stunning Egyptian monument. Fun fact, before the obelisk was there, a guillotine stood in it's spot. Creepy.
Galeries Lafayette - Simply a massive high-end department store. We actually didn't have this on our mind to see but ended up passing it on our walk to see the opera. Probably the best for my bank account.
Paris Garnier - Our final destination, the national Opera house and one of the most famous in the world. It's best known for being the setting for the Phantom of the Opera, which also happens to be my favorite Broadway show. Now it is primarily used for the ballet. 


I woke up Saturday to an absolutely gorgeous sunny day for some adventures that included: 
Musée du Louvre - we headed straight for the Mona Lisa to make sure we saw it before touring the rest of the museum. I would suggest that to anyone else traveling and for my fellow study abroad students DON'T FORGET YOUR ID. And I don't mean your USA University ID; your study abroad uni ID. I forgot mine and they wouldn't accept my PSU ID + my student visitor visa for my free entrance and I had to pay. Lame.
I was actually more enthralled with the rest of the museum than the Mona Lisa, notably the ceilings and the Egyptian artwork. If I could have, I would have spent the whole day there. There is just so much to see.
Pont Neuf - translates as 'new bridge' but it is actually the oldest bridge in Paris.
Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris - 100% exceeded my expectations. Simply stunning. It did feel a bit weird taking pictures as people were inside praying so I tried to avoid getting people in the pictures out of respect. A couple actually got married there, or around there, the day we went as we saw a bride and groom as we left. Pretty neat to see.
Pantheon - A mausoleum for elite Frenchmen and women that was under construction when we went that houses Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I know most people find mausoleums freaky, but I've always found them pretty cool.
Jardin du Luxembourg - the second largest public park in Paris where Cosette and Marius meet in Les Miserables. The perfect place to kick back with a glass of wine and a book or a picnic with friends. And yes, I had the entire soundtrack of Les Mis going through my head.
Sacre Coeur - Our last stop as it was the closest to our hostel. Before we even entered, there was this street performer doing this balancing/dance act thing on a post with music and a soccer ball. Everyone outside had their eyes on this guy and for good reason, he was phenomenal to watch. Once again, it felt odd taking pictures in a place of worship as people prayed but it was stunning to see nonetheless.


My contribution to the hostel's chalkboard. 

Sunday morning was met with angst as I had to wakeup early to get to Orly airport to catch my flight but all was well once I got my macarons and eventually landed back at Heathrow. If you want to see a few more pictures you can check out my instagram on the left.

All in all it was a trip to remember and I cannot wait to go back an spend more time at my favorite spots. And I cannot wait until my next European adventure!

Until next time

Xx

Monday, March 24, 2014

I Think They Scored a Touchdown

Hey all! Time for another London update!



I'll start off with our trip to the London Eye. Despite being here for almost 3 months, I had yet to make the trek to the London Eye but it was every bit of as gorgeous as I had imagined. The whole experience only takes about 30 minute but that's all you need to really take in the beauty of the city. Since we went late in the day, it was really cool to watch the sunset from almost the dead top of the Eye.


Saturday we went out to Wembley to watch the first ever rugby match at Wembley featuring the Saracens v. Harlequins. Now, I may be a sports nut, but rugby is one of those sports that I am clueless about. After watching the match, I'm still a bit confused but I do understand it better. Even if I do keep using American sports terminology to understand it better. For example, I kept referring to the scrum as the rugby version of a jump ball in basketball.

I have to say from my game day observations, we Americans do team spirit way better than over here. I know that it was neither teams home stadium and it was rugby and not footy but dang, I feel like the Brits could learn a bit from us on supporting your team. I missed the crazy fun fan atmosphere of Beaver Stadium for Penn State football or M&T Bank Stadium for Ravens football. Or the feel you get from watching any of the March Madness games. Where people are clearly so invested in the game that the outcome can, and often does, affect their emotions and mood for the rest of the day.

Pre-game entertainment was nothing like I'd ever seen for a sporting event. Music was first provided by Elvis, Whitney Houston, and Elton John impersonators; they were actually pretty damn good singers even if the song choices were unexpected. Then it was a choir, which was also good but, they also sang slow songs like True Colors by Cyndi Lauper, not what you expect as 'pump up' pre-game music. I'm used to songs like Thunderstruck by AC/DC and songs of that nature. But to each his own I guess. At least it was good music, just unexpected.

The game itself was pretty fun to watch. A good portion of it seemed like I was watching American football, and even some of the scoring was similar. Which is probably why I kept referring to a 'try's a touchdown and a goal kick as a field goal. That actually really helped me to understand the game better. It wasn't as action packed as American football, but still a lot of fun to watch. I'd heard how brutal it could be and boy is is a brutal game. It also made me really excited for autumn and PSU and Ravens football. (Yes, I realize how far away that is... but I miss football...)



Other than finally watching some live sports, I was most excited about going to Wembley for the first time. It truly is as stunning as it looks from the pictures; my pictures don't do it nearly the justice it deserves. I will say, I was surprised to know that it only seats 90,000 as it looks like more. Compare this to Beaver Stadium, which holds over 107,000. From a first glance, I thought Wembley would hold more.

All in all, it was a fun weekend enjoying friends and sport. Hard to not have fun when you also a have a drunk birthday party behind you and a group of men clearly out on a stag party a few rows back dressed as surgeons. Hopefully I make it out to a footy match before I leave London!

That's all for now!

Xx

Monday, March 17, 2014

Meaningful Music Monday #5

Happy Monday!

I went on a bit of a music downloading binge recently so I thought it was perfect timing for another music Monday! If you have any song suggestions, don't be afraid to let me know!

'Take Control' - Kodaline
'Take control of who you are stay the same don't let them change you. 
Take control who you cause ain't nobody going to save you. 
Take control of who you are when the world is getting stranger. 
Take control of who you are stay the same don't let them change you.' 



'Invisible' - Hunter Hayes
'Trust the one who's been where you are 
Wishing all it was was sticks and stones
Those words cut deep but they don't mean you're all alone
And you're not invisible
Hear me out,
There's so much more to life than what you're feeling now
Someday you'll look back on all these days
And all this pain is gonna be invisible'



'Believer' - American Authors
'I feel my demons
Misleadin’ me
I’m just a believer
That things will get better
Some can take it or leave it 
But I don’t wanna let it go'
Have a great week all!

Xx

Monday, March 10, 2014

Halfway Point

Hey all!

It took everything in me to not be super nerdy and name this post 'Halfway There' in a slight reference to Livin' On a Prayer' by Bon Jovi and put the lyrics here. But then I'd have the song stuck in my head forever. As a do now... hopefully you do to. Anyway, back on topic and onto the post.

 

It's hard to believe that I've already been here in London for over two months! It really still feels like yesterday that I landed in Heathrow to begin my journey. At the same time, I feel like I've been here long enough that I'm a true Londoner, even if it has only been a few months.

I've been ill this past week so I've stayed in to do some work and try to get better. At the same time, it has also given me a lot of time to reflect on my time here.

Before coming, London was all I could talk about. Even before I was officially accepted, I was constantly talking about it to the point I probably annoyed those around me. But all of my excitement seemed to mask my nerves. The day before I left I confessed to my sister that I was secretly terrified that my semester abroad wouldn't live up to my expectations. That I'd built up this fantasy in my head that the real thing could never possibly live up to. She helped to reassure me that it was just nerves and that I would have the time of my life. As much as I hate to admit, she was 100% right.

A big part of my nerves came from my history with depression and anxiety, particularly my social anxiety. I have never been good at making friends and still struggle with it to this day. And going to a country where I knew no one was absolutely terrifying. I was worried I wouldn't get on with the people in my program, my flat mates, my classes, you get the point. So there was a part of me that worried that I would become I complete hermit, like I used to be. I would do no exploring and simply go to my classes, get food, and hang out in my room. This was the exact opposite of what I wanted. Hello, I'm on a completely different continent, let alone country!

Fortunately, that hasn't been the case. I've done some exploring and done a little bit of traveling, more of that will hopefully come during spring break when I have the whole month of April off. I am a little wary about traveling to countries where I don't know any of the language, but oh well. Part of my wishes I could forget about the school part of study abroad and just travel and explore. Learning and exploring new things could easily fill up my time. I'm one of those people that is just fascinated by things unknown to me.

Probably one of the biggest things that has happened in my time here is that I have learned a tremendous amount about myself. In just a few short months I have learned more about myself than I have in years. I was worried about my depression rearing it's ugly head again in horrible ways. Going back to that time period is something I never want to do as falling back into that deep hole is a scary enough thought. It's truly thrilling to me that it hasn't. And my anxiety hasn't caused me too much trouble. I still have to deal with my social anxiety and the fact that I am horrible at making friends, but that is something that I can deal with, with relative ease. As in, it doesn't make me upset, anymore that is. Then there is the fact that my family is thousands of miles away and although I miss them dearly, it's a great feeling knowing I can manage on my own in a foreign city. Leaving home for Penn State was one thing, I'm only a few hours drive away, London is a totally different story. Even though I still rely on my parents for a few things, it's a step in the right direction. I'm a big girl now! (Jokes, I like jokes).

Because Harry Potter is life and deserves to be on my blog because, Harry Potter.

That's all for now! If there is anything I haven't talked about involving London, etc. that you are interested in, let me know!

Until next time my friends.

Xx

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Puppies, Birthdays, and Going Brunette

Hey all!

First I feel the need to mention how much I love seeing dogs on the tube. The other day. a man apologized for his beautiful chocolate labradoodle spending almost the whole journey sniffing me. I would have been more offended if the puppy DIDN'T come over to me so needless to say, I was not offended in the slightest. It takes everything in me not to steal every single one of these doggies and it has only made me miss my dogs more, especially my Molly girl.

13 years old and going strong <3

Growing up, I resisted getting color put in my hair at all costs. I was naturally blonde and proud of it. Then when I was 14, this Redken promotion happened where you got free highlights with a purchase of the blonde specific shampoo and conditioner and Misty, who has done my hair all of my life, said she thought it'd look good. And I trust her, so I bit and let her do it. And then  I was hooked on getting color.

Flash forward a few years and it had been over two months since my last hair appointment, my ends needed to be trimmed and my roots were showing. I hate it when my roots show; I despise it. I just don't like the look and often think it looks worse than it actually does. But I was stuck in a dilemma as, with the exception of one time because Misty was on maternity leave and even then it was another stylist who I know and trust, only one person has ever touched my hair. I knew I needed to get my hair done but had no idea where to turn. Fortunately, London is filled with great stylists so it was only a matter of choosing and I ended up at a place called ESHK near my flat.

(Picture courtesy of ESHK-hair.com)

The salon itself was swanky and modern, which is what I expected for a salon in the Shoreditch area. They make you feel right at home by taking your coat and offering you a drink before sitting you down to wait for your stylist. My stylist was the lovely Marta and I could not recommend her more. She was very easy to talk to and was overall just very helpful in figuring out what we were going to do. ESHK is a Wella salon so they had the big swatch book that made it easy to see what the colors would look like as finished products.

I initially went in thinking I wanted to just go a dark blonde color but Marta convinced me that going darker would look good with my complexion, and I'm so glad I trusted her. Never in a million years would I have imagined my hair being this dark, but I absolutely love it. And as someone who is also trying to grow her hair out, it was nice knowing that the dead ends were the only part of my hair she cut as I was actually the most anxious about that part since I have heard horror stories about stylists taking off too much.



Then it was my flatmate, Christelle's, birthday on Thursday so we went out and celebrated with some drinks at a local bar. Even though it was my first time there, B@1 quickly became a favorite. It's hard to beat 2 for 1 cocktails, especially when they're really good and they are made for you by flirty, attractive bartenders ;). The atmosphere was just fun and perfect for a birthday. The night ended with a trip to Brick Lane for some bagels, and by bagels I mean REAL bagels. When it comes to bagels, I am your stereotypical Jew in that I am very picky in what constitutes a good bagel. So it was a nice change of pace to have a damn good bagel with lox and the best part: it was only £1.60!




That's all for now! If you have anything you want me to write about let me know, I'm always up for some ideas!

Xx



Monday, February 24, 2014

The Weekend That Was: Parliament and THON

Hey all!

This past week has been half term or what it's known as at my uni, 'guided independent study week'; so I only had one module all week plus a 7 page paper due. It was nice to be able to take a break, recharge, and do all of the things I didn't have time for like a full out room clean and a massive load of laundry. I probably could have done something more exciting but I still enjoyed it nonetheless.



On Saturday, a large group of us went to tour the Houses of Parliament. It was a rare gorgeous day out with only a few clouds in the sky. Unfortunately, you cannot take pictures inside, which is a shame because it is so beautiful. The architecture is simply stunning and the detailing is so ornate, I could have spent days just admiring it all.

Our tour guide was this elderly gentleman who kept making jokes about the states. Before we even began he asked if we were all from 'the colonies'. It was interesting learning how different their government is set up but also learning about some of the similarities that I didn't necessarily expect as I am admittedly not all that familiar with the British government.



But the real highlight of the weekend came on Sunday around 9pm local time and 4pm back on the East Coast. You see, this past weekend was the most important weekend of the year: THON weekend. I, of course, spent the majority of the weekend glued to my computer screen watching the live webcast from THON wishing I was there in the stands dancing with 15,000 of my closest friends. After having been at THON last year for all but about 6 of the 46 hours (not counting the 9 waiting in line beforehand), it felt so strange to not be in the BJC with my FOTO family and instead watching from a computer in my flat.

However, not being there didn't stop the overwhelming feeling of pride and excitement watching the stream as the hours ticked down and it got closer to the reveal. And the butterflies in my stomach and tears of absolute joy still came as the final total was revealed. There truly is no event like THON and I am honored to be apart of it. Just knowing that I had a part in helping to make a difference in the lives of others is truly a wonderful feeling. I already cannot wait until THON 2015!

(Picture courtesy of Onward State)


Me (and FOTO Bear) at THON 2013 - Inspire Tomorrow's Miracles



Until next time,
Xx

Monday, February 17, 2014

Meaningful Music Monday #4 - THON Edition ❖

❖ THON IS THIS WEEKEND!!❖

If there is one thing that makes me sad about being in London, it is missing THON 2014. But nonetheless, I am still super excited and will be watching all weekend from the live stream!

For those who don't know, THON is a year-long fundraising effort at Penn State that cumulates in a 46-hour no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon benefitting the Four Diamonds Fund in the fight against pediatric cancer. It is also the largest student-run philanthropy in the world and last year we raised over $12.3 million dollars, 96% of which goes straight to the Four Diamonds Fund. More information can be found here: thon.org

THON weekend is truly the most incredible experience and being involved has changed my life for the better. Special shout out to my FOTO family for being the best org ever.

In honor of the best weekend of the year, I am leaving you with a few songs that are always heard THON weekend and will forever be linked with THON in my mind.

 'Angels Among Us' - Alabama
"They wear so many faces, show up in the strangest places
To grace us with their mercy, in our time of need."

'My Love Is Your Love' - Whitney Houston
"Cause your love is my love
And my love is your love
It would take an eternity to break us
And the chains of Amistad couldn't hold us."


'Diamonds In The Air' Brittany Hicks & Chris Carmody
This is an original song for THON written by Brittany and Chris. It's available on iTunes and all proceeds benefit THON!



Xx

❖ For the Kids. For the Cure ❖

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A New Most Magical Place on Earth

All of my life, I have been told that Disney is the most magical place on Earth. Now, I love Disney, but there is a new most magical place on Earth: Leavesden Studios.

For those of you muggles who are unaware, Leavesden Studios is where the Harry Potter films were made and now houses the Harry Potter Studio Tour with a good majority of sets and props in tact.



This was, without question, the best thing I have experienced since arriving in London; it truly was incredible. I was in such awe of the entire experience that I felt like a little kid again experiencing Harry Potter for the first time. For 5 pounds you could get a narrated walking tour which may sound like a little steep, but it was narrated by Tom Felton AND had some cool videos to go along with it, well worth spending the fiver. 

I cannot say enough how incredible the whole experience was. I gained a much stronger appreciation for the films after my tour, and I didn't even know that was possible. Seeing all of the detail put into even the smallest of things was a big eye-opener. The crew actually consulted an expert on feathers (seriously) for how to lay the feathers on Buckbeak so they could make as realistic of a hippogriff as possible. And boy, did it look real. I could ramble on and on about these things but it just wouldn't do them justice.

Oh, and it was also pretty cool to learn about some of the secrets of the films. The books on the shelves of Dumbledore's office? Actually phone books that are just decorated and covered in leather.




Without question, the best part of the whole tour was seeing the full Hogwarts model. I could have spent over an hour looking at that alone. It was used for exterior shots in the first 6 movies, exterior shots that always looked so real. Obviously they couldn't use it for the last one since Hogwarts is all but destroyed in that one. The detail in the model is phenomenal. There really are no words strong enough to portray the beauty of the model. It's a 1:24 scale and truly magnificent. It's the school I always wished I could attend, and still kind of do wish I could go there.


The only downside to the whole trip was leaving; I wish we could have had more time. The guide at the beginning mentioned that the longest tour ever took 12 hours, I think I could challenge that if given the opportunity. I would say a negative was the over-priced gift shop, but I kind of expected it. It's not like it stopped me from at least buying something. When my dad comes in April, I think we may have to make another trip to Leavesden though. It's one of those magical experiences I could do over and over again without ever getting sick of it.

Until next time.
Xx

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Edinburrrrrr-gh

Yea yea yea, cheesy pun, I know. But fun puns make the world go round.


I spent this past weekend up in Edinburgh with people from my study abroad program. The train ride was only 4 hours but when you wake up early on a Friday morning to make the trek, it seemed a bit longer. Arriving at around 2 we dropped our bags at our hostel and immediately went in search of some food. A few of us ended up at a Thai restaurant before heading back to the hostel to figure out plans for the rest of the night.

One of my favorite, unexpected finds from the trip came that night and it was a second hand book store. We spotted it on a walk back to the hostel from a Sainsbury's and it was like walking to heaven on earth. The smell of old books stacked from the floor to the ceilings and a selection containing so many great writers nearly made me giddy. I could have spent hours in there if I had the time. I did find a book containing all 56 of the Sherlock Holmes short stories with their original illustrations. And with my student discount all it cost me was a fiver! Definitely the best £5 I've spent since arriving in the UK.


That night some of us decided to hit a local club and after a bit of a wait ended up in a place with plastic American flags everywhere. It was a bit weird, but nonetheless the night was a blast after everyone got there as the music was, for the most part, pretty on point. And of course, we couldn't not have a little Scotch in Scotland.

On Saturday one of my best friends, who is doing a semester at St. Andrews, made the short trip to Edinburgh to hang out with me, which was really exciting! First thing a bunch of us decided to do was to make the hike up to Arthur's Seat and boy was it a hike. But the view from the top was absolutely worth it.  For those who don't know, Arthur's Seat is an extinct volcano from the top of which you can see basically all of the Edinburgh skyline. The climb to the top was a bit of a mess as it was muddy, slippery, cold, and extremely windy, but the view from the top was breathtaking. Pictures truly don't do it justice. The hike back down was much easier aside from the fact that it started to snow. That part was a bit odd.


With a view like that I couldn't help but throw up my diamond at Arthur's Seat. FTK.

After the hike we made our way to a local Mexican restaurant before we headed over to Edinburgh Castle. We didn't have as much time as we'd have necessarily liked because the castle closes at 5, but nonetheless we made the most of it. The castle as a whole was absolutely beautiful despite being so old. The part that most interested me was the prisons. On one of the preserved doors on display you could see where an American prisoner actually carved an early version of the US flag. It was actually really cool to see when you consider it was done during the Revolutionary War, or as it was called here: the War of American Independence. 



One of the things about the prison that struck me was the showers: they reminded me of the showers in East halls, but better. Seriously. Part of it could've been how they were remodeled but they still looked better. And the sleeping quarters for the prisoners were barely bigger than the East dorms.

By this time the castle was about to close so we headed back to our hostel, which was fortunately only a short walk, to relax a bit. A few of us met up with some others from our group and headed out to the Fiddler's Arms pub for a bit to eat. It wouldn't be right to head to Scotland and not get some fish and chips and a pint. As you can see below, mine was massive.



Unfortunately we left early the next day to head back to London. I wish we'd have had more time to explore but despite being short, my trip to Edinburgh was a lot of fun and hopefully I'll go back. Just with some more cold weather gear. This weekend it's off to tour Leavesden Studios, better known as the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I'm already kind of geeking out about that one!

Talk to y'all soon!

Xx