It’s All Over

My last month in London was a blur. I traveled to Scotland and hiked a monroe (it’s a mountain), I saw the Queen’s favorite weekend home (Windsor Castle), viewed the Roman Baths, and marveled at how the stones in Stonehenge got there.  I also had to do all my lasts in London which was hard, but I just had to tell myself that I would be back.

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London changed me and it made me realize that we are pretty little in this world.  Being in London I fell in love with the hustle bustle and the crowded streets and the idea that turning down a new street meant going on a little adventure. I am going to miss the little things like that. Now when I walk down the street it is amazing if I see two other people, but that is what you get for living in a town where the population is about the same size as Primark on a busy Saturday afternoon (Primark is a huge clothing store that sells clothes for a not outrageous amount).

Studying abroad was an extraordinary experience and it is one I would not trade for the world. I visited 7 countries and countless cities throughout Europe and the UK.  I met amazing people and made friends that will last a lifetime. If I had it my way I would of never left, but with a dwindling bank account, a ticket with a return date, and parents that were in great anticipation for my arrival home I had to pack my bags. Saying goodbye was hard not only to my flatmates who have put up with me for 5 months, my friends in the flat below me, but also to the city.  I did not want to walk past Big Ben for the last time or run to Costa and get a tea for the last time but I had to.

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So on a rainy Saturday morning I carried my bags down 3 flights of stairs  and left 98 Great Russell Street and headed on the tube to Heathrow.  My flatmate Katie said London was crying because we were leaving. I liked that because I wanted that so much to be true.  When I got to the airport I was set to board a Lufthansa flight, but after talking to three different people I realized I was headed home on an United flight who would of thought they worked so closely together, not me. I did not have to fly alone when I realized I was flying United I was flying with my flatmate Amanda. It was nice to have someone. On the 9 hour plane ride to Chicago I spent 1 hour sleeping, 6 hours watching the movie Cars which I now have memorized, and 2 hours journaling.

I got off the plane and Amanda and I contemplated trying to find the next flight back to London, but we figured with eager dads waiting we should accept the Midwest once again.  After a 3 hour drive home and driving  on what felt like to be the wrong side of the road I was back in Altona. My little hometown.  There is a big world outside of Altona with many adventures waiting to be taken and sites to be seen, but for now I have to find my own little adventures and sites here in Illinois.

This will be my last blog post for awhile, but this will not definitely not be my last adventure.  So stay tuned who knows where I will be next time.

Okay so basically all of April I had no school.  Actually let me rephrase that.  All of April I had no school and while we are talking about it school is over!! So the obvious thing to do when one has no school and is in London is to travel.  I had been to Amsterdam and Barcelona already, but I was now getting ready to embark on next travel adventure to France! My week was split in France between 2 different cities and 3 different people.  I started off my journey in Paris with my friends Kaleo and Laurelle, and then I ended my journey about an hour and a half north of Paris in a very small town with my friend Pam.

On Monday Laurelle and I set off for Heathrow airport so we could catch our flight to Paris.  No struggles with security and we actually ended up having quite a lot of time to kill so we watched the planes depart. We boarded our plane and they told us the flight 40 minutes! 40 minutes!  I was thinking we are going to get up and then just go right back down.  Which is basically what we did.  When we got to the airport everything was closed because it was pretty much 11 by the time we got our bags and went through customs. We had heard the French people were rude, and we sure found that out very fast.  We were walking all over the airport trying to find a bus or train or subway and then we found an information desk and she was not having our questions so luckily we figured it out somehow.  An hour and a half later we ended up at the train station and found our hostel.  We decided to get up early to start the day, and because breakfast ended at 10.

Our breakfast was definitely not an English breakfast which was mighty unfortunate.  We were served a croissant and a cup of juice. I guess we at least got something.  Our hostel was a block away from the Sacre Couer so we decided to check that out before we had to go meet Kaleo at the train station.

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It was huge and the climb up the stairs was a little rough and brought back some bad memories of doing stairs in high school track.  It had a nice view of the city, but we couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower.  We stood up there for a little while. I was still in disbelief we were in Paris.  We knew we had to get a crepe so we found a little cafe and I got a caramel crepe. It was delicious! After our 2nd breakfast we decided to try to find Kaleo at the train station.  After 45 minutes of circling and scanning the whole place we found her.  Luckily our hostel was only a 10 minute walk from the train station.  After Kaleo got settled we headed for the Metro so we could go see the Arc de Triomphe.  We picked the right stop because we walked right into basically!

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It was huge! I never thought it was that large. It was weird seeing it in person because we have seen so many pictures of it and it has been in countless movies and there we were right in front of it.  Now we had to figure out how to get to it which turned out to be quite the effort.  If you did not know it is in the middle of a major highway so there is no crossing the street to go to the other side.  We seriously debated playing a real life game of Frogger, but luckily it did not come to that and we found the underground walkway.  When we got to the other side it sure did make the Marble Arch look like a toy.  We walked around and took in the immensity of the building and then we headed down the Champs Elysees. If any road can make you feel poor it would be this one.  We were walking by Dior, Chanel, and Prada all in one block.  Laurelle and I had never a macaroon before, and Kaleo made sure that did not last very much longer.   We found a little macaroon store and I got a lemon macaroon.  Anyone who is reading this that hasn’t had a macaroon stop reading and go get one. Now. Unfortunately for you I am sure it will probably be hard for you to get one, but they are delicious! I love them. They are now my favorite thing.  Next mission was to see the Eiffel Tower.  It was quite the walk, but it was a beautiful one. We walked along the river and the Eiffel Tower just kept popping up.  We finally got there and it did not seem real.  I thought that at any point someone was going to flick it and it would just fall over.  It was tall and magnificent.  We just laid in the lawn and looked at it for awhile.  It was really fun just to lay there and goof off.  053 046

We found dinner and then went back to the Eiffel despite the fact that we were all freezing, but we knew we had to see the Eiffel Tower at night and it was worth it. We got to see it sparkle which it does every hour!

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We took the Metro home and headed to bed because we knew we had a long day ahead of us.

The next day was full of sites! We mapped out our route for the day, but right off the bat we changed that.  Our first stop of the day was to go to the Louvre.  It was supposedly only a 30 minute walk away…an hour later we arrived. 100

I knew the museum was huge, but I never realized how huge. I am pretty sure you could fit 5 Altonas in there.  We were going to go in, but the line was also probably the length of Altona so we opted out.

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After sitting in the courtyard for a while we plotted our next move.  After wandering the river and grabbing some lunch and weaving in and out of souvenir shops and little stands with pictures we managed to find Notre Dame.   Yet another building where I was taken back by its huge immensity.  Paris sure does know how to make large buildings.  When we were I did not notice an hunchbacks, but I did check just in case.

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Just a short walk from Notre Dame was the love lock bridge.  If you do not know the meaning behind the bridge here is a very short explanation.  You go to the bridge with someone you love, write your names on the lock, lock the lock on the bridge, and then throw the key in the river.  We just walked down it because we did not have any locks and I did not really want to commit to something like that.

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Then we made our to Laudree.  You remember how I told you that you should go get a macaroon if you haven’t had one. This is the place where you should get the macaroon.  You will pay a pretty penny well actually a reasonably priced penny, but it will be the best macaroon you have ever had.  If I remember correctly from what Kaleo was telling us it was the first place to make macaroons in history and they are known as the best macaroons in the world. I would believe the latter of the sentence that’s for sure.  They were delicious.  I got three different flavors: orange blossom, salted caramel, and Marie Antoinette.  They are all delicious.  Laurelle said pistachio is the best flavor I will take her word for it since it is a classic.

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After getting our macaroons we did the next most French touristy thing you could do which was to go buy baguettes, wine, and brie to eat under the Eiffel Tower.  It turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip.  It was just fun to sit and look up at the Eiffel Tower. I could have done it for hours.

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After sitting there staring at the Eiffel Tower once all the dumb tour buses left we decided we should probably go up it. We did the cheapest route which was to walk up the first two levels and then take the elevator the rest of the way up.  The stairs were not that bad and I do not like elevators so I was not going to complain about spending less time in the elevator.  We stopped on each level and admired the view and we were in the Tower when it sparkled which was very neat. When we got to the second floor we had to take the dreaded elevator ride.  It was packed and I could not move and I was not excited about it.  Finally we reached the top and go to see the whole city. Eiffel Tower  (100)          Eiffel Tower  (87)

 

Laurelle and Kaleo were not excited about the very top so we did not spend much time on the very top, but it was pretty to look and see all the lights.  We headed back down after a while and caught the Metro back to the hostel.

The next day started out pretty rough.  We woke up early and went to breakfast.  Laurelle and Kaleo were leaving to go to the Switzerland and I wasn’t catching a train til later.  I was sitting down in the common area when Laurelle told me Kaleo got her phone stolen.  None of knew what to do and the people at the front desk were not helping, but they had to leave to catch a train.  Unfortunately there was nothing any of us could do to get her phone back.  I headed to the Louvre because I wanted to go in and see it.  The line was wicked short so I got really lucky and got right in.  I beelined for the Mona Lisa and was very disappointed.  It’s really small and there is a huge crowd of people standing in front it. 265

Still don’t know what she is smiling about.  I walked around the museum for a while, but I was not terribly into a lot of the art because after a while it all starts to look the same.  I could appreciate it but I was ready to head to Pam’s.  I walked around the city all day and then I got my train to Pam’s.  I got to her place around 8.  Now for those of you who do not know who Pam is which I am sure is probably a majority I will inform you.  She studied at ROVA (yes without the W) when she was 16 when my mom was in high school for 6 months.  Then she came back to England and ever since has been traveling all over the world dancing and she now lives in a small town about an hour and a half outside of Paris where she owns a restaurant.  My mom had not seen her since high school, but I was not too worried about it. When I got there she greeted me the best way I could think to be greeted which is with a plate full of food.  We talked for a couple of hours and I tried to catch her up on everything that was going on back home.  I realized not much has changed in 40 years.  I was exhausted so we went to bed early because Pam had the whole day planned for tomorrow. 327        329

 

The next day we woke up early and headed to Reims to go to a champagne cave tour, but we made a few stops on the way.  We stopped at what used to be the most visited place in France even more visited than the Eiffel Tower that was until the Germans destroyed it. It was a chateau.

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Then we headed to a cathedral which was where all the kings of France were crowned. 343      347

 

Then we got the best pizza I have had in a long time and then headed to the champagne caves.  I do not know much about champagne, and I did not realize how complicated it was.  They told us the whole history and the process of how to make it.  The fact that stuck out to me the most was the idea that men have to turn 40,000 bottles of champagne every 2 days.  Now wouldn’t that be an interesting job.

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Pam is surrounded by loads of history. That is something I have realized while being here.  Everything has a story.  When we got back we just stayed in and talked and I went to bed early because I had to catch the train at 6am to head back to Paris so I could head back to London.

I said my byes to Pam.  It was great staying there and it was beautiful to see this part of France.  I was very grateful that she let me stay with her for a few days.  When I got back to Paris I had a few hours to kill before I got on my Megabus ride home.  I just walked around for a little bit and got a pastry and a croissant  of course.

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After I got my snack I headed to the Megabus lot and hopped on a bus for an 8 hour ride to London.  It was a long ride and for a few minutes I did not think I was going to make it past border control, but I finally made it back to London.  It was great being home.  Yes home because London is my home now.

There should be another post soon for my Ireland trip, but you guys probably should not hold your breath because I have a lot of plans this weekend and even when I have no plans I struggle getting my post done.  That is all for now though.

Hola Barcelona!

I have never done spring break before, so I figured might as well go big then.  My flatmates (Amanda, Julia and Katie plus our other friends Berto, Nikki, and Walter) and I hopped a plane to Barcelona for 4 days! When we boarded the plane I just curled up to the window and plugged my headphones in.  I did not sit by anyone I knew because we were all scattered across the plane.  When we landed when we had to wait in line for what seemed like hours to get our passports checked.  Then we had to figure out how to get to our apartment.  We ended up taking a bus and then a cab to the apartment.  When we walked into the flat we of course had to sort out the rooms, and I somehow got stuck with Amanda.  Our room was basically all bed, but we managed.  We all decided to go to the grocery store and grab some food because we were all starving.  Then we hit the beach! The water was pretty cold, but just having my feet in the sand was glorious.  We just all kind of goofed off and played around at the beach.  Katie and Berto decided to head back and make dinner, but Amanda, Nikki, and Walter and I decided to hang around the beach a little longer. We found a really cool jungle gym thing so of course we climbed to the top of that.  We went into a restaurant and got some sangria because what else do you drink on the beach in Barcelona.  We headed home and I just crashed because I was exhausted.

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On Saturday we all slept in because I think we were all tired from yesterday.  We did a lot of walking.  Both we left we tried to map a route that we were going to take so we at least had a general idea of what we were going to do.  We started off our walking tour to La Sagrada Familia. It was magnificent even though it was under a little repair.  It was huge, and definitely a work of art.

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It amazes me how they built buildings like that.  After we admired La Sagrada Familia we started walking again and we saw a large crowd beginning to form in this crowd, and being the nosy Americans we are we decided to go check it out and we saw the strangest thing.  People started climbing on top of each other.  I guess it is a common tradition to make a human tower in Spain.  They did it in a way of a flash mob.  It was very interesting and I would have been terrified if I would have had to be on the top of the tower, but those little girls handled it well.

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We walked the streets making our way to one of the most famous streets in Barcelona La Rambla.  Walking through the streets was so nice because I had on a tank top and capris and I was hot which was fantastic.  I was ready for the sun.  We finally got to La Rambla and it was beautiful and busy which is what I expected.  La Rambla is known for pickpocketing so we all kept our belongings especially our phones very close to us. Luckily no one got anything stolen the whole trip which is a huge success in Barcelona! There were plenty of stands and stores lining the street and then ducked into a market that was buzzing with people.  We did not stay long there because it was so crowded and we were all starting to get hungry.  Amanda, Nikki, Walter, and I found a little Turkish restaurant where we all got something to eat.  I had a doner kebab.  Which is pita bread with kebab chicken, cabbage, and a garlic mayo sauce.  It was delicious, but I figured I should probably be eating some Spanish food eventually.  After we ate lunch we walked back to the apartment and we got to walk along the beach the whole time which was beautiful and very relaxing. Barcelona 061

The Spanish still take part in the tradition of the siesta which trust me I was not complaining about that, so we all decided we better do as the Spanish do.  By the time we woke up it was way past dinner time, so I just made a pizza really quick.  We all hung out in our flat and then Zack got us all on the guest list at a huge club right on the beach in Barcelona called Opium.  We all got ready and walked to club.  When we were going through the line the bouncers pulled out Walter and took him to the side.  We were all pushed forward into the club without Walter.  We waited downstairs for him for about 20 minutes and then came to the conclusion that he probably was not getting let in.  Katie, Berto, Julia, Zack, and I decided to leave and make sure Walter made it back, and because it was 3 in the morning and I was tired.  See I am now used to the British way of going out which ends around midnight, but in Spain you don’t even think about going out til 1am.   We got back and we had a note from Walter saying he got denied because of his shoes. Note to self don’t wear Toms to a club even though I think they are acceptable shoes, but what do I know if I had any say I would wear jeans, my Vans, and tee-shirt to everything.

On Sunday we all woke up late again because we had been out so late.  We figured it was a perfect day to go to the beach.  Amanda, Nikki, Walter, and I decided to head towards the beach, but we decided to grab lunch first.  We stopped at this little restaurant on the way to the beach and got paella.  It was delicious! I had seafood of course and it had prawns, calamari, calms, and mussels in it. It was delicious. I ate the whole thing and I have zero shame in admitting that.

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After our lunch we hit the beach.  It felt so great to just lay on the beach and listen to everyone chatting and just relaxing.  I ended up falling asleep on the beach and when I woke up I was feeling a little red.  When we walked back to the apartment after being on the beach for 3 hours I looked in the mirror and I slightly resembled a tomato, but don’t worry everyone it will be a tan.  We just hung out because we were still tired.  Being in the sun always wears me out.  Since it was Sunday we just stayed in and decided we were going to wake up early and get a good start to the day on Monday.

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On Monday, I woke up before everyone and decided to walk to a little park by our apartment.  It was nice to just spend a little time by myself and walk around in the morning before everyone is up and moving.  The park was beautiful and had a lot of really cool building. The one pictured below was my favorite.

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When I got back to the flat we all decided to go to the famous Guell Park.  It was quite a long walk up there and it was uphill, but it was a beautiful day so it was nice to walk there.  When we got to the park we realized we had to pay to see the Gaudi exhibit and it was also a really long line so we decided to just skip that.  But we still walked all through the park.  On the sidewalks throughout the park there are little vendors that are selling little trinkets like bracelets and necklaces and little statues.  We were pretty tired and hot because it was quite the trek through the park, but the view was glorious.

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We left the park and Katie, Berto, and I decided we were going to do the cable car over the city so we hopped on the Metro and headed that way.  We stopped and got lunch first.  I got paella again and it was once again delicious.  But we realized how tricky the Spanish were.  The server said the paella was a minimum 2 people for 11.90 Euros which I thought was a still steal, but when the bill came it was 23.00 Euros so I was very confused.  I guess what they meant was each person paid 11.90 and since there was not another person I paid for two people.  I was pretty annoyed about it but there was nothing I could do.  We started walking towards the cable car thing and then we realized that was not actually where you pick up the cable car and it was going to cost even more money, so I decided not to go and I just walked back to the flat by myself.  When I was walking home I stumbled across Amanda, Nikki, and Walter eating so I just sat and talked to them and then we walked back.  We all hung out in the flat because we were exhausted from walking all day.

On the last day in Barcelona we woke up and cleaned the apartment and then got packed.  Amanda and Nikki left before anyone was even up because they had an early flight.  Katie, Julia, Berto, and I walked back to La Sagrada Familia and got some postcards.  Then I finally got some churros because I was a little worried that I was not going to get any before I left.

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Then we made our way to the airport.  Walter had a really late flight so he just hung around the city and the beach for the day.  We took a cab to the airport which was nice and quick.  Our flight left on time and once again we all sat in different areas except everyone besides me was in the back of the plane.  When we landed I took a different bus back from the airport than everyone else.

As soon as I got home I booked a trip to Ireland in the next couple weeks, so get back from one trip just to plan another.  The struggles of studying abroad in Europe.  I am jetting off to Paris tomorrow with Laurelle and then we are meeting Kaleo so look for that post in a week or so.

Au revoir!!

Weekend Getaways

Sorry about the incredibly delayed response! I have been busy and well quite honestly a little lazy when it came to the blog.  I have been doing a lot though which seems like a great reason for why the blog is so late.

On March 8th API took us to Cambridge.  We all gathered on the bus and began on our way.  We were going to see the town, but most people know Cambridge because of the prestigious university that lies there. When we got to Cambridge I was expecting just one school which in my mind is quite normal.  Little did I know that Cambridge University was actually 31 colleges all under the university.  I felt smarter just being there.

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The town was beautiful and you would tell there was so much history there.  The university is over 805 years old! Makes the States look like a little baby.  We got a tour of the inside of the chapel which had the most intricate stained glass windows and an incredibly detailed ceiling.  I just kept thinking how someone had to take a tiny little hammer or whatever tools they use to carve things by hand. It must of taken hours upon hours.  They had a lot more patience than I ever would.

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After our tour of the town and the university we got another tour, but this one was a little different.  We went punting.  Not to be confused with kicking a football down a field.  Punting is where you sit on a gondola style boat and someone or yourself stands on the back and rows you down the river.  It was very peaceful and beautiful to see the city from the water.  I was very concerned for our punters head because some of the bridges were a little low and I did not want him to hit his head.  It was comical to watch the people who did not know how to punt attempt to punt down the river.  They hung around the edge a lot and occasionally we had a collision.

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After punting we were starving so we found the nearest pub and had iconic pub food.  I had bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes).  Then we just walked around the city.  There was a market and Kaleo, Mary, and I got Cambridge sweatshirts.  It is the most comfortable sweatshirt I have ever worn. It was a very good investment. We got back got from Cambridge and I was too tired to do anything so we just relaxed the rest of the night.

The next day we went to high tea at Fortnum & Mason.  If anyone knows me I am not one to willing wear a dress and I usually try to get it off as soon as possible.  Unfortunately when one goes to high tea you must dress up.  Now being from a small town I obviously have never been to high tea, so I knew this was going to be a learning experience.  It is very fancy in there and I felt a little out of place, but none the less Kaleo, Kelle, Mary, and I were directed to our table.  The table was perfectly set and the waiter even shook the napkin and placed it on our laps.  We all got our tea and then our little tier of goodness.

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I got Wedding Breakfast Tea which was specially made for Will and Kate.  It seemed very royal.  It was very fun to just sit and talk to everyone while getting as much tea as we could like and endless supplies of scones and clotted cream.  After our tea we walked back and since it was such a beautiful day Kaleo and I went on a walk to Regent Park.  It is a gorgeous park and it was so fun to just walk around and not have to worry about anything.

Nothing too astounding happened this month.  I had a lot of work and a lot of school.  Since the semester is ending there are a lot of papers that are popping up, so I have been busy doing those.  I have been trying to go on nightly runs, but those don’t happen all the time either. I love running at night here because the city is so pretty at night. Unfortunately every time Kaleo and I go a run it seems we end up by Big Ben.  I think we have a gravitational pull towards him.  Don’t worry I never run alone at night so no one worry.  On my run the other day when we were running and thought we might get a chance to see Emma Watson, but no such luck.

Now most girls dream of being a princess and living in a castle.  That was never one of my dreams, but that does not mean it is not fun to go visit a castle.  Kaleo, Alanna, and I went to Warwick Castle on a random Tuesday when we did not have class.  I might of actually had class, but that is not important.  We took a train to Warwick and found the castle.  It was made into an attraction of sorts.  We got to into the castle and got to see all the rooms.  It would be crazy to live in a place like that, but some one did until 1978.  It was owned of the Earls of Warwick. We walked along the land surrounding the castle and then went into the city to get lunch.  We headed back to the castle and decided to climb up the towers.  Maybe not our best decision, but we did it anyway.  It was a small, dark, spiral staircase. I was not a fan of the arrangement and what seemed like a million stairs later we made it.

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At 7am on Saturday Kaleo, Mary, and I were on the tube headed to the coach station.  We were going to Dover to see the White Cliffs.  When we got to the town we were not sure exactly how to get to the cliffs, but we figured it could not be that hard.  We asked for some directions, and we did not follow them very well or they were bad directions. I am going with the latter.  We ended up walking along a highway for about a mile, but don’t worry we found the cliffs! We walked along the cliffs for about an hour and then came to the lighthouse.  We stopped and ate our lunches that we had packed previously.  The cliffs were great and I loved get out in the fresh air.

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Sorry again for the delayed response, but as you can see I have been spending my time traveling all over England.  Tomorrow I am heading out to Barcelona with my flatmates! I can not wait to just sit on the beach and relax.

 

 

You Mean To Tell Me That We Have Been Here For Two Months

I told you guys I was going to struggle to keep this blog going consecutively. I know it has been awhile since I last posted, but really I have just been working and going to school it’s not that exciting. Actually wait that’s not true because I am in London! On the real though I have just been walking around seeing the city and making sure I soak up as much as I can for the short time I am here.  I am quickly starting to realize how fast my time here is going, and I am not a fan.  I am sure not even ready to think to about leaving this magical city.  It would be quite easy if you could just see and hear everything I was doing it would sure save me a lot of explaining, but you probably do not want to be inside my head. It’s kind of confusing up there.

 Anyway getting back on track to my life in London I have been taking an Art and Society class whilst I am here. Two weeks ago (it really has been a long time since I posted a blog) we went to the Royal Academy of Arts.  They were showing a special exhibition called Sensing Spaces.  It was about architecture and how it is still a part of art.  It consisted of 6 rooms that were each designed by a different architect. It was a very interactive exhibition.  You were able to climb up a modern day tree house, or run through a maze, and you were even were allowed to make one piece of architecture your own by adding to it.  Intrigued?  All of the different rooms gave you a different feeling. Some made you feel like a little kid, some made you feel cold while others left you with a calm sensation.

All the different rooms in the Royal Academy of Arts

All the different rooms in the Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Last week was GIS week which stands for something independent study I am drawing a blank on what the G stands for at the point.  So basically this week was a reading week and if you are not college or have never heard of a reading week or GIS week it means they cancel most classes.  Most student’s dream. All of my classes were cancelled, but I still had to go to my internship. Lucky enough for me I was able to switch my days around a little and worked Monday and Tuesday so I got a five day weekend!  Wednesday I decided to wake up early and by early I mean 10am, and go for a run.  I had wanted to go to back to Hyde Park, so I started off on my journey only just because I like to be difficult I did not run to Hyde Park by the only route I knew I how to get there.  Instead I took a different way just sort of ran through the streets in the general direction of the park.  I got there without any hiccups except for when I ended up by very ritzy stores (Prada, Gucci, and Michael Kors) because they did not seem very pleased with my choice of attire so I hustled my way through that area.  Once I got to Hyde Park I began to just walk around and look for a little café to grab a bite to eat. In a city so big I never would think I would run into someone I knew when low and behold I literally ran into Morgan.  We decided we were both hungry and found this little café to grab a delicious tomato, basil, and mozzarella sandwich.  When we were getting our food some man came up to me thinking I was his daughter or looked like his daughter which I assured him that was not the case. Then he told me I must be Hungarian and I had to assure yet again I was not.  Then he told me I must be Sagittarius for I seemed so tough (I am not tough) and I had to disappoint and tell him I was not.  Then he was certain I did not eat because I was so little and for the final time I assured him I do eat and I was about to prove it right then and there by buying a sandwich and pastry.  Poor guy I was just a whole lot of disappoint.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park

 

 

Hyde Park

Hyde Park

Nothing terribly exciting happened the rest of week I just roamed the city and wrote a paper because I am in school so doing homework is necessary. Now if anyone knows me at all they know I have minor obsession with Harry Potter, okay maybe minor is not the right word.  I have been entranced by the books ever since my mom picked one up and started reading them to me.  Poor lady had to explain to me words like Hogwarts and muggle before she even knew what they meant. I am glad she stuck with it though because this is where my love for reading grew.  Now you might be wondering why I am going off a slight tangent about Harry Potter, but it is no tangent for on Saturday API took us to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I am sure now you can imagine my excitement. It was like waking up on Christmas morning. I was probably giddier at 8am than I ever have been my entire life.  We had an hour long bus ride and with tea as my trusty sidekick we got through it just fine.  The whole bus ride I just kept visually the movies, the characters, and the words on the page.  Then when we got there we were greeted by the giant chess pieces.  I knew this was going to be a good day.  Kaleo was very reluctant to go in to the tour for she did not want to ruin the movie for herself which I completely understood especially after going through the tour.  It is nice to believe it is all real it is as if you are able to be a little kid forever. With a lot of persuading and the notion that if you went in you got butterbeer Kaleo decided to go through, but on one condition. She was going to keep her head down and someone was going to have to guide her through. I volunteered…as tribute. Sorry I had to stick that in there.  I cannot really explain what I saw because it was so overwhelming and there was so much.  I got to walk through the Great Hall, peak my head in the boy’s dormitory, glance into the Burrow kitchen, sit in Hagrid’s motorcycle, and walk through the lovely street of Diagon Alley. I sampled some butterbeer and I do not believe I would be able to have more than one it is incredibly sweet!  I can say this the pictures do not do it justice. It is one of those experiences you just cannot describe. 

Hagrid's Hut

Hagrid’s Hut

Dumbledore's Office

Dumbledore’s Office

Platform 9 3/4 Ticket

Platform 9 3/4 Ticket

Mr. Weasley's Flying Car

Mr. Weasley’s Flying Car

Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley

Hogwarts Castle

Hogwarts Castle

Wands

Wands

That about concludes this post. I will try better next time to keep up with it! I am not making any promises though.

 

A Whirlwind of a Weekend

So I figured I would just skip talking about my week, because it was the same as last week.  Classes are classes and internship is internship. Besides I did much more interesting things this weekend. I ventured out of the UK and ended up in Holland.  Friday morning I woke up and realized that I had not done anything to prepare to for my trip, but I have always been a last minute packer.  I mean I did wait until two days before I left for here to pack.  As the day progressed I got more and more excited for the trip.  I kept forgetting that I was going to be on a coach(bus) all night, and I was just hoping I could sleep.  Mary, Morgan, Kelle, Kaleo, and I started on our journey to Amsterdam.  When we got on the coach I quickly realized that I probably was not going to spend much time sleeping.  We got to the Eurotunnel, but since I do not do well in situations where I am supposed to go underground in a closed tube I was a little scared.  We made it through no problems.

We arrived in Amsterdam around 9:30am. It was rainy when I woke up and then I heard the tour guide say they could not find place we were planning on going to for breakfast.  With that we just decided to wander in a little cafe called the Pasta Bar, and I did not have pasta for breakfast.  Instead I had the healthy option of apple pie and tea. 006

We then made our way to the Anne Frank House, but we made a little detour to this little cheese shop that provided free samples, and sure was not complaining.  It had finally stopped raining and it was just cloudy which I am getting quite accustomed to because that’s how it always is here.  After we waited in line for what seemed like hours we got to the front.  We were not allowed to take pictures which was slightly unfortunate.  They had pictures and quotes all over the walls, and they had videos playing that told stories of what they lived through.  We got see to how they lived and I just kept thinking how they could possible of been able to go through that.  In one of the last rooms they had Anne Frank’s diary and it was amazing. Her handwriting was superb much better than mine.

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After the Anne Frank House hunger had started to set in with the group, so we began navigating our way through the canals trying to find a cafe.

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We ended up a little cafe where I just had a turkey club sandwich, but I was so hungry that it did not matter.  After I finished the sandwich I realized I could of easily had another one.  Their portions are definitely smaller over here I guess I need to start adjusting to that. After lunch we walked around and ended up in the flower market which of course had lots of flowers more bulbs and seeds, but my favorite part was the 4 or 5 cheese shops they had.  In every shop we walked into they provided us with samples of many different kinds of cheese.  My favorite was pesto which looked a little odd given the fact that it was green, but it was delicious! I wanted to eat the whole plate at every shop, but I resisted since I figured that probably would not be acceptable.

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We started making our way to the train station, so we could head to our 4-star hotel (not mad about that). We were very confused on how to get on the tram, so we asked the man at the information desk who seemed to be very annoyed that I was even asking him a question. People over here are very rude. The tram ride was kind of nice because we got to sit and enjoy look at the city.

We were so tired that we decided to just stay in and order room service and call it a night. The alarm came way too early Sunday morning. We went to a clog and cheese farm and learned how both were made.  The cheese farm made gouda that could be kept for ten years if you did not cut open the wax seal.  They were little wheels of cheese that of course I had to get one because well I have really always wanted a wheel cheese.  The clogs were all painted differently and they all meant or represented different things. We got back on the coach and took a 3 hour bus ride to Bruges, Belgium.

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When one goes to Belgium a couple things come to mind. 1. Waffles 2. Chocolate. Trust me we covered both of those bases.  First we stopped and got a lunch of sorts it was very small. Then we were on a journey to find what cafe had the best waffle. When we found one there were many different toppings you could put on them, but I already knew what I wanted. I got strawberries, butterscotch (closest thing to caramel), and whipped cream. It was great and also something I could of had another of. We then walked into multiple different chocolate shops.  Kelsey don’t worry I got you some chocolate. We then made our way back to the bus for an on and off again ride of 8 more hours.

Amsterdam was fun, but if I could never be on a bus for longer than 2 hours I would be a happy person.

 

The Good Weather Never Lasts Long Here Comes the Rain

I had to go to my internship at 7:30 instead of 9 which was literally horrible and I did not realize how much I enjoyed that an hour and a half extra I got on Monday mornings.  I had to work in the restaurant and the bar.  I quickly realized that working in a restaurant is  not my forte.  I would fail at the restaurant well actually waitressing industry. I could maybe do the bar industry because I realized I can fold napkins like a straight up boss. I also further established my theory that I dislike people because they are rude.  This girl looked at my name badge and asked me in the most condescending way if my name was actually Jordan, like it was the dumbest thing she had ever heard. How could someone possibly name their child Jordan? I just said yes my name is actually Jordan and turned around walked away.  Please don’t insult my name ever again ma’am.  But the rest of the working day was pretty uneventful, but I got my comedy fix in later that night. For API we went the King Gong Comedy Show. Basically people go up and have to sell themselves to the judges automatically or else they will get gonged off. There was the good, the bad, and the downright distasteful. Which is pretty much comedy in a nutshell. It was definitely an interesting experience.

It’s 5 am and I am up. That is a horrible sentence if I have ever read one.  Kelle, Mary, and I waited outside the theater to get front row tickets to the play Mojo for only 10 pounds! The idea sure sounded a lot better when I was in my nice warm bed, and not on a cold marble step in the dark.  We managed to make it through with a couple of tea runs and a few blueberry muffins. We had our 6 tickets to the play, so now we just had to make through the rest of the day. I had to go to class and then literally run home to try to make it back in time so I could meet everyone for dinner. We needed up going to Bryon. I had one of the best cheeseburgers I had ever had I was incredibly pleased and I was also incredibly hungry. We got to the play and took our front row center seats. The play was very good and not at all what I was expecting. Rupert Grint is one of the six actors that makes up the cast. If you want to know what the play is about I think Google would probably be your best bet to actually get a good summary, and that way I am not liable for spoiling it for anyone it’s all on you.  It had not rained all day, but of course it decided to rain the whole way home so my canvas shoes became nice pools for my feet to sit in.

Our Art & Society went to the National Gallery on Wednesday, and of course it was raining the whole time but the tube is nice dry so transport was not horrible.  We did not see very many pictures, but instead focused on a few and really looked at them in a way I had never really analyzed a picture before. I am glad I am starting to pick up on artist views even if it just a little bit. I did not do much the rest of the day because I was still exhausted from the day before.  But I did book a trip to Amsterdam with Mary, Morgan, Kelle, and Kaleo! I am so excited and it is so quick like next weekend quick. I hope this counts as my crazy spontaneous thing all my friends from back home wanted me to do.

Thursday was just like any other Thursday at work except this time I got to enter +700 names and dates into excel. All the cells were starting to blend after a while. Luckily I got out of there and my eyes finally were seeing cell outlines.  We went for one of our notorious night walks through the streets of London.  We always manage to see something new which I guess is not hard when you are surrounded by such a huge and fantastic city.

Class on Friday started to make realize that I actually need to get my act together on my coursework or else it is going to sneak up on me and we all know I do not need that sort of stress in my life.  The girls from Flat 20 and I decided to go to a pub that night, but we did not stay terribly long just long enough for Mary and I to get a drink, have some British man tell us he is great with directions, and decide we wanted to leave. We ended up just coming home and watching a movie. I like movie nights so I sure was not complaining.

The next morning we went the Chiselhurst caves, but lucky for me our meeting location was the Bagel Factory and I had not gotten my bagel fix yet. It’s hard to go from having at least one bagel a week to not having any in over a month. The caves were dark. Complete darkness is actually the correct term. These caves are completely man-made so they have little pathways all over. I clung onto Mary because it is a very common fact that I do not do well in scary or dark places. Some pretty cool things have happened here. Famous musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones have performed on this stage.

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The whole time we were in there I was expecting Harry Potter to walk around the corner with a lantern and guide us towards the exit, but of course it was just the tour guide who emerged from the corner.  Later that night we all decided to go out again. We started our nights journey at TGIF which might seem very American and yes it is, but there drinks are very good and if you ask me that is pretty much all that matters. I got the summer peach and it was one of the best drinks I had ever had.  You can not go wrong with peach schnapps, orange sherbet, orange juice, and rum. We then went to a pub and just causally drank outside with Rupert Grint a mere 15 feet from us, but since we are not annoying teenage girls we just gave him his space and do not bombard him with pictures.

Happy New Year! You might be thinking I am a little late, but not in China I am right on time for the year of the horse. Morgan and I went to the parade which was not as extraordinary as I would have hoped, but it was still interesting. 030 (2)

After we just weaseled our way through the crowds and headed home.  Like every other Sunday I pretty much just hung out, but this time I was at least productive because I did my homework. Morgan and I ended up going back to Chinatown and getting some treats. I got a BBQ pulled pork bun which was as delicious as it sounds. I am going to try to stay up for the Super Bowl tonight, but it is going to be difficult since it does not start here until 11:30.

This whole blog is not turning out to be as difficult as I thought it would be.

 

No Sickness Will Hold Me Back

I felt it coming on Saturday.  I knew it was imminent on Sunday.  Monday it hit me like a truck. What am I referring to you might be asking? Well this my friends was the week I had to deal with the flu or some sort of horrible illness that came over me.  I had to work all day Monday, and was not feeling it at all. I really just wanted to go to bed and never leave, but I had to put my big girl pants on and suck it up. When I got back from work my flatmates and I decided to use our well earned gift card to Nandos and get some dinner.  It was delicious as per usual.  Can’t really go wrong with chicken coated in mango lime sauce.  I thought getting some fresh air might help the sickness, but then I could also be incredibly dumb and have no idea how to take care of myself without my mommy.

I bolted straight up from my bed my heart pounding and my lungs heaving after a few seconds of suffocating torture I coughed up my lungs for about 5 minutes and then headed to bed. (Not as exciting as you thought it was going to be..my bad) If that gives you any inclination on how my day was going to go you are thinking along the right track.  I walked to Boots (UK version of CVS) like a zombie and found the first box that said flu and cold and it had all my symptoms so I of course assumed it to be perfect. Marlena made pancakes and it was great! I think it made me feel better at least for the time being. I really wanted to skip class, but I had a presentation to give and I probably should not be skipping classes the second week in.  I gave the presentation and I did not suck! My voice did not even crack once. And I am sure to everyone’s disbelief my lecturer and another person commented  that I was very funny and relaxed. So I am funny thank you very much. 

I did not wake up in the middle of night, so I figured woohoo improvement! Our Art and Society class went to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  I rode the tube for the first time today.  It was not as intimidating as I thought it was going to be.  When we got to St. Paul’s Cathedral I was perplexed by how enormous it was.  We walked into a breathtaking view that unfortunately we were not able to take pictures of.  The detail in the art work was exquisite.  I wish I could describe the ceiling and dome better, but it really is something you just have to see with your own eyes.  Now you are able to climb to the view top of this daunting building, but you better be prepared for a hike. We climbed 257 steps up to the Whispering Gallery where you have a much better view of the dome art work.  If you lean your head back you are able to whisper along the wall and someone on the other end can hear.  Yes Kelle, Morgan, and I tried it. Yes it worked.  To climb to the very top you have to climb 528 steps.  It is a lot, but the view is so worth the steps.  It did not even matter the effort it took to get up there because the second I walked outside and looked around I was in pure amazement.  London is beautiful. 032

Pictures cannot even come close to doing this view justice.  I knew I really liked London, but atop St. Paul’s Cathedral I fell in love with the city.  When we got back I got to rest my lungs for about two hours and then we were off to more walking.  We had an alternative walking tour planned that was incredible.  It was in East London.  Our tour started on Bricklane and just continued throughout the area.  It was very interesting that the place we started our tour was the third poorest borough in all of the UK, but just one block away was the richest financial building in all of the UK. It is crazy how in one block so much can change. The street art is phenomenal and a lot of the interesting pieces are very hard to spot like this one that is located on the very bottom of a wall.

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Just wake up and you feel fine. You can do it.  Just get out of bed, wash your face, brush your teeth, and the sickness won’t be there. Wrong. I got to work and then just could not do it.  I had to leave early because of how I was feeling.  So naturally I went home and slept forever. One thing about taking 3 to 4 hour naps during the day it makes it incredibly hard to fall asleep at night.

Friday I endured my six hours of class and am finally starting to feel better.  Now a normal person would rest, but nope once I start to feel an ounce better I am back out there exploring the city.  A group of us went to Whole Foods.  Boy I sure felt like small town Midwest girl there.  There were all these healthy foods I had never heard of.  I thought eating healthy was grabbing an apple instead of a Snickers. I would be wrong.  Later that night Kelle, Mary, Morgan, and I went to O’Neil’s.  It’s an Irish pub with 3 levels consisting of live music and dancing.  We all had a really good time.

Destination: Tower Bridge.  On Saturday Kelle, Kaleo, Morgan, and I set off to go see Tower Bridge.  Here is the deal.  Kaleo and Morgan basically run everywhere where as Kelle and I like to leisure walk, so Kelle and I spent most of the walk trying to keep our eye on them and not get lost.  Side note Kelle and I rarely have any idea where we are actually going we just follow so you can see the struggle when the people you are following are 50 yards in front of you. We met up with them at Millennium Bridge.  For all the uneducated this bridge was in the sixth Harry Potter book and was destroyed by Death Eaters.  I was geeking out a little bit.

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The Tower Bridge was in view from here. We started walking towards it again instantly losing Morgan and Kaleo.  Kelle and I decided maybe it was just best to skip the bridge and head back as the clouds were looking pretty ominous.  We were right. We got about 15 minutes from home and it started pouring.  We sought shelter in a door way and waited the storm out.  We decided to head back to O’Neils again this time with Kaleo and quickly realized it was a poor choice.  We did not stay long and just headed home.

I actually did things this Sunday! It was not a completely lazy day. Everyone should be proud because I sure was. Okay I did not do a lot, but I did conquer Primark ( huge clothing store that has an excessive amount of clothes).  Morgan, Kaleo, Kaleo’s friend, Kelle, and I decided to venture out of Zone 1 and go to a little pub that was playing live acoustic music.  It was great.  The 3 sets were superb.

Sorry it’s day late.  You can blame the sickness.

Wait you mean I can’t just Wander Through London, I Actually Have to Take Classes

This was the first week of classes and my internship, and I was so scared! I could not even sleep Sunday night because I was so nervous about my internship, but you can read all about that in my internship category because I figured those out.  After working 9-5:30 I sure was tired..and I got drenched walking home because dummy over here walked somewhere without an umbrella or a raincoat, and I am pretty sure that is a cardinal sin. I have been more cautious since then.

On Tuesday I had my second day at my internship, but only for a few hours.  Then I went and talked to my advisor about trying to get out of this horrible class that was pretty much setting me up to fail. Who’s idea was it to have me take a class I have not even taken the prerequisite for?! I will tell you something it was not mine, so I was going to figure out every way possible to get out of it, but it did not happen that visit… I decided to just head off towards my first class in the UK! I got to Marylebone Campus an hour and a half before my class. Now some of you might be thinking that was little excessive, but if you saw this building and how it was laid out you would have done the same thing! I swear business people design these buildings themselves and make them ridiculously confusing! My class was on the sixth floor and when I got in the elevator I realized it only went to the fifth floor. So I just took the elevator up to the fifth floor and took the stairs up one more flight. I have enough stairs to walk up at home I don’t need more in school! My first class went well. I think I am going to learn a lot myself in this class oops I mean module (that’s what they call them).  Oh I guess I could have told you what class I was taking it is a professional development class that is tied along with my internship. After my module Kelle and I went on a long walk to go find some food, and ended up at a Chinese buffet that was disgusting.  First bad food I have had here. Next time, Kelle and I decided we are just going to go to Chinatown.

On Wednesday I had my Art and Society module with Kelle, Morgan, and Marlena. We were in a huge lecture hall that was jammed full of students. Did I mention we had to walk up five flights of stairs because they moved our class last minute. I HATE STAIRS! For this module we have an hour lecture and then we go on a visit to a museum or gallery. We ended up going to the British Museum which is basically my neighbor, so we all knew exactly where we were going. We were split into groups of 15 and assigned an instructor. Our instructor liked to talk…a lot. We did not really get the chance to walk around and see the pieces, but I can easily go back I mean I do live less than five minutes away. After I had to go to my internship again.  After work I went and got groceries and stuff to make homemade mac n cheese! Which Julia (my roommate) and I made and it was delicious! I was very proud of us! IMG_0209

Then after eating a filling and delicious meal Kelle, Morgan, Kaleo,  Amanda, and Walter went and tried to go meet Rupert Grint. If you are unaware of who that is he is Ron Wesley from Harry Potter, and if you do not know who that is I am not sure if we can be friends. Unfortunately we did not get to meet him, but it was fun just hanging out with everyone.

It’s farmer’s market day! We went there really early, right when it opened and quickly realized that is was a bad idea to do that because most of the stands were not ready yet. I skipped my module because I figured out that I would be able to switch out of my class that I was not able to take and get into a different one, so I did not find it necessary to go to a class I knew I was dropping. Instead I went and got coffee with Kelle and Kaleo, and then got my class switched and my schedule was great! Well maybe not great I have six hours of class on Friday. You win some you lose some. Kelle and I went make to the farmer’s market where we met Morgan and Kaleo. I had a delicious brat there. I was very pleased with my decision. Katie, Julia, Kelle, Mary and I went to an API hosted British Pub Quiz Night. It was very fun, but the questions were pretty tricky and we ended up getting third, but we won for best name, “Dog’s Bollocks.” We went back to try to see Rupert and the journey just started off bad. It started sprinkling, and then raining, and then it was really raining. We were all soaked because we forgot umbrellas, but I had a hood so I figured I was set. I was wrong. Of course we did not see him again. It was just a rough time. I came home and for the second time this week changed out of my drenched clothing. When will I ever learn?

And here comes the day that I had been dreading since I got my new schedule. Six hours of class without any breaks. The classes were not that bad. They are split up into a seminar and then a lecture. With the lecture being huge, and the seminar being only about twenty students and it’s more of a discussion. I had London Economy and the Role of the Manager. My lecturers told me that are grades are determined by two assessments. Great. That is not intimidating at all. I am used to some cushion, but they just throw all the cushioning out the window. After all my classes were over I felt very accomplished, and I realized that I had already learned a lot during my first week here. When I got back I was starving and basically ate myself out of house and home. That’s what I get for only having an apple and banana for lunch. We all went and tried to see Rupert again and it was not in the cards. So instead Kelle, Kaleo, Mary, and I went to a 24 hour diner that is very close to our flat and just talked. It was nice getting to know them all a little better. So far everyone in my flat and the flat below me is pretty cool. I am content here.

I did my laundry on Saturday. Now laundry is already a horrible task, but when you have to carry your clothes outside to get to the machines and walk up and down flights of stairs it makes it a hundred times worse. Luckily I got it all done and now I have fresh and clean clothes. Kelle, Kaleo, and I decided to go see Les Mis! It was fantastic! IMG_0216We had standing seats in the very back, but did not even matter. I was little skeptical because my last encounter with Les Mis was not enjoyable, but it was great! I told them that today was going to be a good day, and so far I was right and the day was about to get a lot better. We tried for the fourth time to go see Rupert, and guess what?! We did! Kaleo, Kelle, and Mary even got pictures with him! It was great! Now I can I have seen two celebrities. Jude Law is next!                                                                                                                                 IMG_0221 

Sunday was the pure definition once again of a lazy day. I am seeing this becoming a tread, and I am all for it. The one exciting thing that happened was I made myself dinner, and it was actually good and required some skill! I made chicken fried rice with bell peppers, onion, and an egg! Yummy! I am getting okay at this cooking thing.  We started planning some trips today. There are so many options and opportunities of places to go and we are trying to take it all in! So far we are pretty much for sure going to Stonehenge and Paris, then Prague, Greece, and Amsterdam are maybes! We will see where we end up.

That’s it for this week.

First Week at a new Job

I was selected to complete an internship while I am abroad which meant that along with taking 16 hours worth of classes I will be working an extra 15 hours. What do I always get myself into? I was completely terrified to walk into this huge hotel and find my new place under their roof.

060                                                                                               Now tell me this would not intimidate you.  I didn’t think you would be able to. I was just a kid from a small rural town, and they expect me to work here in a huge city. Here we go.

I actually ended up in the basement of this glorious hotel, but it is a lot less intimidating down there and I do not have to deal with patrons staying at the hotel.

When I got there Monday I was issued a gold blouse and a black and gold scarf. I pretty much look like the girls on Pitch Perfect, but hey I think I can rock the look.  They also showed me my desk which was completely bare except the dreaded stack of papers that every new employee is expected to read.  I spent the first 2 hours of my internship reviewing company policy. Then I got my first task…filing! Now filing is something I am very familiar with, and it is definitely not out of my comfort zone or at least I thought it wasn’t. I would have been wrong about that because their filing system is a little different from what I am used. They file according to departments so my desk was covered in different piles of paper according to department. After filing I got lunch and guess what?! It was free and it was delicious! I think the deliciousness helped because I knew it was free. One of the perks to working in a hotel I guess. I just made some spreadsheets the rest of the day.  I had to work 9 to 5:30, and I sure was tired when I got back.

I also worked Tuesday and Wednesday for about three to four hours each, but luckily due to a schedule change I can work all day Monday and Thursday and not have to work two hours in day just to my fifteen hours of work in each week.

On Tuesday since the computers were not really working I got to talk to my supervisor Sylvie.  It is very interesting talking to her and explaining some of the things we do differently in the states. I have to remember that for them college=high school and university=college. I made adjustments to a Powerpoint and made some official letters. Not too much going on really since I did not really have enough time to start larger tasks.

On Wednesday Sylvie was not there so it was just me and Marie Ange who is Sylvie’s supervisor.  Marie Ange is very cool also. I did not really do much because I was there for such a short time, but I made some more letters and updated their calendar for them.

The first week is out of the way and now I have a set schedule, so I am looking forward to starting this new adventure with them.