Tuesday, December 20, 2011

London, a final reflection

I'm back in America.

I was afraid that my life would now pale in comparison to the past few months, and I am slowly finding that to be true. But I've learned a lot over the course of the past semester, and would like to recall some of that here.

Firstly, traveling.

The world is crazy. awesome. huge. There are so many places to explore. Every city has something new to bring to the table, something new to discover. It is difficult for me to choose a "favorite" city I traveled to, but there are select things I will always remember about each place I traveled to.

Berlin - There is so much history and cool buildings around every corner. Also, they don't accept Deutsche Mark currency there even if the ATM mistakingly gives some to you. The Berlin Zoo also houses the scariest tiger I have ever seen. But Berlin was a welcome surprise, I went in not really knowing much about it, and left with a real appreciation for the city.

Oslo - Don't go camping with only tents and no sleeping bags/relevant gear and expect to sleep that night, however, Oslo was one of the most fun/craziest adventures of my life. Oslo is also the most expensive place I visited by far, no idea how people actually live there. The fresh air was definitely a welcome change and I would love to go back to Norway someday to hike among the giant fjords!

Rome - I loved Rome, and Italy in general. I definitely hope to return there to explore some of the smaller cities one day. Rome is big, rustic, raw. The amount of ruins and history in Rome is unreal. Our apartment in Rome was also super fun. I had gelato 5 times in 3 days and also learned that my body literally rejects absinthe. It is death.

Paris - This was the second time I went to Paris, and I loved it just as much. I love crepes and speaking French and the Eiffel Tower makes me go weak at the knees. Only in France can you buy 1 euro bottles of champagne and pop it while the Eiffel Tower is sparkling at night. Paris is also the first time I have stayed in a one star (yes - ONE star) hotel. Probably will try to avoid that experience next time...

Amsterdam - Amsterdam is a crazy place, certainly the most liberal, progressive place I visited. Although I'm not so fond of all the drug paraphernalia and the Red Light District, Amsterdam is actually really quite scenic. The water is extremely pretty, and fresh stroopwaffel is one of the greatest foods on the planet. The trolley system is also quite nice there.

Barcelona - Although the rainy weather dampened the overall weekend, literally and figuratively, I still loved Spain. Barcelona is a perfect mix of sand and city. We played in the ocean and went to some of the best bars/clubs out there. I now can tell the difference between good sangria and bad sangria. Our hostel in Barcelona was also top notch.

Prague - Prague is a most compact city, which makes it easy to walk around. The public transportation there is great, with both trolleys and an underground system. I stumbled upon some absolutely fabulous hot chocolate in Prague. It is also crazy cheap there, with a really fun night life. Also the only city where people can smoke indoors... crazy.

Edinburgh - Edinburgh was adorable. I don't know whether it was the Harry Potter atmosphere or because Zack and I splurged on a fairly classy weekend, but it was a great little city. Taking the train was fun and convenient, and Scottish people are very friendly.

General tidbits about Europe:
-Bathrooms are luxuries. Finding free bathrooms in Europe is extremely difficult and time consuming.
-Sparkling water is no good, and they love to give you sparkling water as opposed to regular water. In some places, water actually costs more than alcohol! (i.e.: 1 euro bottles of champagne in Paris)
-Most people throughout Europe were very welcoming and accepting of Americans. I didn't really ever sense any cultural discrimination.
-Public transportation is great in Europe.
-Some places are cheap and some are super expensive, it totally depends on the place.
-Markets are always fun no matter where you are.
-Any chance you get to walk up something and get a view of a city, do it.
-RyanAir and Easy Jet are a little ghetto, but definitely worth the cheap flights.
-Cabs are so great even though they cost more.
-Traveling in groups is fun, and it's nice to mix up the groups you're with. Sometimes it makes it a little trickier to travel when you're with a ton of people, too.

Even though I traveled all over, my favorite city is certainly (drum roll) ... London. London is my favorite city in the world. Yeah, it's expensive and busy and a little bit more rough around the edges, one could say. But London has so much to offer, to anyone. I can go a museum, see a play, hit a jazz bar and then go clubbing all in the same day. It is so bustling and multicultural and diverse and interesting. I loved being busy all the time in London because I feel like I really made the most of my study abroad experience. It is certainly difficult to do homework in London, which I figured out immediately. I will definitely have more motivation to go to the library once I am back in South Bend.

I love British accents, pub culture, the easy ability to travel, the tube, the mild weather, nutella, cafes, walking across the Thames and seeing a beautiful view everyday, the history, the markets, the pubs, the Notre Dame London Program, London theatre, English tea, London during Christmas time, cider (Strongbow and Bulmer's, I will miss you so much), English fashion, how cute the English one pound coin is, looking out my bedroom window and seeing the London Eye, the Globe theatre, The Mulberry Bush, Las Iguanas, Piccadilly Institute, O'Neill's, shopping at Topshop and Zara, fish and chips, the ability to walk anywhere at anytime, working at NBC, family dinners, and probably many other things about London that I am forgetting.

I am coming back from studying abroad with many things. I have a much better sense of direction and ability to navigate through cities. I'm better at asking for help. I somehow now magically have an interest in cooking, and I like almost every food I try, it's a miracle! Most of all, I am coming back with some of the best times with the best people. I went in with a lot of friends, but I also made so many new ones! London gave me a chance to break out of my usual friendship circles and meet people I never would have met otherwise. I miss it already, but I know I will be back someday, hopefully soon. I also can't wait to go back to Notre Dame's campus. I miss that a lot, too. As for now, I will continue to enjoy all things American.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Edinburgh and a thespian week in London

I can't believe the semester is almost over.

I'm a bit behind on blogging. Two weeks ago, I was still taking it pretty easy because of the casual seizure issue. I now feel completely fine but it took me a good week to feel better again. Therefore, I didn't go to work that week and did a lot of hanging around. I wrote a couple of papers and ran some errands as well. I also checked out The Lion in Winter, which was my final play for my theatre class, at the Royal Haymarket Theatre. It was fantastic: early England meets modern day suburbia. Thursday, we also hit up East London to check out some different bars that are less touristy and attract more Brits, including this one dance bar and a dubstep place called Plastic People. Even though we were proud of ourselves for branching out, the "hip" places to go to are actually a bit too cool, and borderline boring. Nevertheless, it was good to try something new.

Friday, Zack and I left for Edinburgh, Scotland. Even though we were only there for a little over 24 hours, it turned out to be one of my favorite excursions. We took the train, which made for a great view of the UK, and arrived in Edinburgh around 1:30pm. We checked into our (very classy) hotel and made our way towards the Edinburgh Castle before it got dark. We took a mini guided tour and hit up all of the different rooms inside the castle, which was pretty cool. The castle gives you a great view of the city and we stopped inside the cafe up there and drank some warm coffee while taking in the views. Once we left there, we walked through a bit of the downtown area, which had a really cool Christmas market going on, very similar to the one on South Bank here in London. Edinburgh is a quite compact city so it makes it easy to walk around everywhere.

Top of the Edinburgh Castle
It was pretty cold, so Zack and I went back to the hotel for a little while and hung out. We made a reservation at this really nice restaurant, The Ship on the Shore, for dinner. It had excellent reviews and was supposed to have excellent seafood. As it turns out, dinner was fantastic. We ordered a gratuitous seafood platter between the two of us which was absolutely enormous, but we ate all of it. (Anyone who truly knows me should not be surprised by this fact...) We also ordered some nice wine and it turned out to be a fabulous evening. We splurged a little, but we don't usually do that much splurging while traveling so we thought we deserved it.

The Ship on the Shore
After our meal, we took a cab back to the hotel and stayed in for the night. We ended up watching No Strings Attached which was actually really good. Our hotel room had a giant TV so that didn't hurt either. The next morning, we woke up, checked out, and walked along High Street where there are lots of cute shops and some government buildings. At the end of the street, we saw this giant cliff that leads to Arthur's Seat, the highest point in Edinburgh. We weren't actually planning on climbing it, seeing as I was in skinny jeans and leather boots, but we couldn't resist once we were there. It turned out to be totally worth it. The views were phenomenal and there was even a rainbow once we got to the top. It was also extremely windy at the top to the point where you could barely stand upright without getting blown over! Overall, definitely worth the hike.

Arthur's Seat
We climbed down and walked down another street to locate The Elephant House, which is the famous cafe where J.K. Rowling first wrote the Harry Potter books. I obviously had to go. The place was very popular and busy. We ordered some coffee and some desserts and sat by the window where J.K. apparently got the inspiration for Hogwarts and things like that - so cool! We left there and continued to walk around for a bit and grabbed some food from the markets before we caught the train again at 3:30pm. Overall, a very successful and fun trip and a great way to finish off my travels for the semester.

Sunday was more boring, I wrote papers the entire day...

Monday, I worked 9-5 and did a lot of verbates for NBC, including one that involved Hugh Grant and the phone hacking scandal. I also trained one of the news interns, very cool that I now know enough to be able to do that!

Tuesday, I went to classes, had a nice time just hanging out at a cafe for lunch, and had my final theatre class. London as Theatre Center - definitely one of the best classes the London Program offers. That night, Allie and I went to Phantom of the Opera! Ok, seriously best thing ever. So phenomenal. It changed my world. I've been singing the songs ever since in my head.

Wednesday was my last day at NBC! I did a bunch of errands, including tracking down a DVD at a store in London and making multiple trips to a cake shop in order to attain cupcakes and cakes and other baked goods. It was bittersweet leaving NBC. I'm glad to have finished a successful internship, but I got to do so many awesome things working there! Later, Zack and I ate some kebabs and then headed off to Les Mis! We stopped by a pub beforehand and then grabbed standby tickets (tickets they sell to students an hour before the show at a really cheap price). We got tickets in the center, sixth row, for 27 pounds each! Our seats were actually incredible. The show was so good! I didn't really know the story beforehand but I definitely need to download all the songs immediately. Also, every single word in the play was sung, which was very interesting.

Thursday was a crazy but awesome day! I had my final theology class (thank God - no pun intended), met with the internship coordinator regarding my internship, then rushed off to the Globe for rehearsal before our performance. The performance of Macbeth kicked off at 6pm and almost the entire London Program came to attend. It was honestly one of the coolest experiences I have ever had, and so much fun. The performance went off so successfully and everyone seemed to really like it. I never thought I would be able to say I performed scenes on Shakespeare's Globe! Ahhh, I seriously wish I could do that for the rest of my life! After the performance, the London Program rented out a pub for the night where to got some free food and bought some drinks to celebrate the end of the semester. It was a great time and the pub had a great atmosphere. We returned to Conway Hall to get ready to go out, and different rooms were having Christmas celebrations. We played some classic tunes and wore Santa hats and then went out for a final hoorah at O'Neills. It was a good time.

Friday, Zack and I went to have tea at an extremely classy establishment in the heart of downtown. It was on the fourth floor of this nice department store, and they had over 130 different kinds of tea and many delicious things to eat such as scones, little sandwiches, desserts, tarts, etc. We devoured all of it and were stuffed and each enjoyed a different tea. Mine was Russian and in this giant fancy teapot and was really good. Definitely a British experience to say the least, and something I could get used to if I make enough money in my future!

Some of the goodies during tea, we had already eaten half of them at this point...
That night, we stayed in and watched a movie. I was still recovering from my crazy week. Saturday, I got up and went shopping on Oxford Street for some Christmas presents. Oxford Street is so festive and crazy busy during the holidays! The roads were all closed and there were people everywhere. I had a very successful shopping trip and came home to get ready for drinks and dinner with Jon's uncle. We met up with Alan, as we called him, at a pub and shared some drinks before going to dinner with Jon, Zack, Collin, Allie, Allison, Katie and me. Very ideal group. We went to this place called Gaucho. Let's just say they took our coats when we came in, had flaming torches as lighting and had cow hide on the walls. Definition of classy. We enjoyed some delicious food. Probably the second best meal I've had in London, second to the first meal I had with Jon's uncle! We came home and Zack made some cherry jubilee (flames included) to finish off the night. This day almost happened to be the one year anniversary for Zack and me, so he surprised me with some goodies. Zack, when you control-f your name in my blog to find it, know that the goodies were much appreciated!

Today, Sunday, everyone is busy studying for finals. Everyone except me! I have one final, and am not too stressed out about it to be honest. It's in theology, which has never been my favorite, so there's only so much I can do to prepare for this one! I've been procrastinating studying by hitting up the South Bank Chocolate Festival, doing laundry, skyping, blogging right now... Anyway, we have a flat secret santa tonight which should be a good time.

And we leave on Thursday! WHAT?! What happened to this semester?! Where did it go?! I will most likely write one or two more blog posts to reflect on my entire experience once I get back in America, but all I know is that studying abroad in London was the best decision ever. I have never had this much fun or learned so much in my entire life. From the amazing classes I got to take, to crazy travel experiences, to working at NBC, to living on South Bank, to hitting up every market and festival in sight, to going to some of the greatest clubs in the world, I can now confidently say that London is my favorite city in the world. As much as I am excited to return to the land of the American dollar and Taco Bell, I will miss London so much. Anyone who is contemplating studying abroad should go for it, without a doubt. You won't regret it.

Thanks for the best semester ever, London. I've had the time of my life.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Taylor family comes to London

So I'm taking a break from this horrid theology paper and blogging instead.

Saturday: Ran outside for literally the third time since being abroad... I wish I ran more but there literally is just no time. Then Allie and I went on an excursion that night in an attempt to see Phantom of the Opera. Tickets were sold out, but we ended up making a trip to Ben's Cookies (famous cookie store in London with cookies that are to die for) and Las Iguanas. We ordered some fabulous drinks and had a chill night complete with Mexican food. We also stopped by the Christmas Market that is going on around South Bank which is really awesome. That night, I went out to Tiger Tiger with Tom and only Tom... haha. Our group kinda dwindled and after some drama regarding Tom's bleeding hand (we took care of it), we survived the night.

Sunday: My family got here! We walked all around London and spent some time chilling in their awesome apartment. We went to dinner at the Mulberry Bush and I immediately introduced my family to cider and they fell in love. The fish and chips were also excellent at the Bush. That night, we spent some time walking around Covent Garden which looks really pretty during Christmas time. Then we bought more Bulmer's and hung out in the apartment that night.

Monday: I got up at 5:30 a.m. (I still can't believe it) and took the car to NBC for a shoot that morning. We went to Kensington Palace, and after a large debacle with the cab driver getting lost, we made it. We interviewed some of the workers there since Kate and William plan to move into the palace in 2013. The palace is beautiful inside, and I got to hold the producer's camera screen for the camera man while he was doing all the shooting. Apparently the story was being used for the Saturday Today Show. After that, I headed over to Buckingham Palace for an apparent live shot stating that Kate is not yet officially pregnant... pathetic, I know. The live shot ended up being canceled because we didn't have clearance from the Palace, but that worked out to my advantage because I got to meet up with the fam! We got some lunch and coffee at a Cafe Nero and then took the tube to the British Museum. It is free to get into, and I still hadn't been there. We checked out the Rosetta Stone and some mummies and lots of other cool artifacts. That night, my dad and brother traveled to White Hart Lane Stadium to see Tottenham vs. Aston Villa (which apparently was awesome and I managed to get stellar seats somehow?) so I took my mom and aunt out. We went to Las Iguanas for some happy hour and Mexican food. Afterwards, we took the tube to Primark. We made some excellent and cheap purchases per usual.

Tuesday: Went to classes and then met up with the family for some lunch at a steakhouse near Trafalgar. We also stopped by Ben's Cookies because I am now addicted to them. In my next theatre class, a theatre financier came in and talked to us about what it takes to finance a theatre production, which was pretty interesting. I was still pretty tired from my busy day on Monday, though. Tuesday night, a bunch of my friends and I went over to the apartment for a delicious dinner. There was chicken, potatoes, salad, bread and cheese/meats, and many beverages flowing. The meal was delicious and we sat around chatting for a while. I ran off to my play, The Playboy of the Western World, right down the street while my friends stayed and hung out with my family. My aunt ended up cutting Zack's and Allison's hair and they apparently had a grand old time. My play was decent, very professionally done if anything.

Christmas tree in Covent Garden
Wednesday: We woke up and checked out the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. It's nothing too special to be honest, but it's another thing I can check off of my London bucket list! We then took the tube north to Hampstead Heath, which is a giant park. We walked upwards towards Parliament Hill where there is a giant view of the entire city. It was really neat. We then stopped by Camden since we had past it on the tube on our way there. The Camden Markets turned out to be really cool. They are a bit more modern and edgy than normal, with tattoo shops and such all around. We ate at a pub and bought a few trinkets at the markets. We had some down time during the afternoon and then met up again to see the Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. The show was fantastic, so lively and colorful and the music was obviously great.

Parliament Hill at Hampstead Heath
Thursday: Classes again, then went to a cute cafe with my family for lunch. Then, during practice at the Globe, we spent the first half of rehearsal in one of the regular rehearsal rooms, but then got to go onto the Globe stage for the second half. What was even better was I got to bring my family inside the Globe free of charge to see some of our scenes! It was a definite success. Thursday night was of course Thanksgiving! We picked up some champagne and returned for the flats for, what we hoped, Thanksgiving dinner. The London program gave us all of the ingredients for a proper Thanksgiving but we had to cook all of it by floor. It actually all turned out great! We college students managed to cook delicious giant turkeys. We also served up mashed potatoes, rolls, cranberries, stuffing, pumpkin pie, etc. We had some good bonding with people from the second floor and had a fantastic time. The London Program Director, Greg, was also eating on our floor and he was absolutely killing it!

Thanksgiving in London!
Friday: Friday morning, we woke up and headed to the London Eye. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I had been on the Eye before but I figure it's something I had to do while studying abroad. After riding the giant ferris wheel, the family and I went to the Borough Market to munch on some free samples.

London Eye
We found a nearby restaurant called The Slug and Lettuce to eat some grub and then decided to head to Westminster Abbey. Here is where the day goes downhill... About halfway through the audio tour of the church where Kate and William got married, I had a seizure. Second one of my life but first one in about a year and half. I regained consciousness inside the ambulance where some nice British paramedic told me I had seized. WHAT?! Apparently I blocked off the entrance to the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots and caused a huge scene in the church. I am just incredibly thankful that my family was with me, because they made it a lot easier. Allie and Zack also immediately flocked to the hospital to see me in my state of panic, for which I can't thank them enough. It is clear that my former diagnosis of a "one time seizure" was not correct, and hopefully I can figure some medical things out over winter break. The seizure put a bit of a damper on the trip, but my parents were still able to catch their flight the next day. On Saturday, I literally did not exit the apartment. All my friends basically came over and brought me desserts and we watched movies: the perfect post-seizure day. I really do have the best family and friends ever!

On Sunday, Zack and I mobilized to meet up with his friend from home near Hyde Park. We strolled through the Portabello Market, which is really awesome, and went to the Winter Wonderland which is in Hyde Park. We rode the Barclays bikes through the park for a bit and even saw some of Speaker's Corner. That is where people stand on little stools or platforms and rant about whatever they want for as long as they want to a group of strangers. It's funny that it is so organized, considering some of these people seemed kinda crazy!

Today, Monday, I took work off to let my body recover a little bit. I also still can't really eat anything, since my tongue took a beating during my seizure. One thing my seizure did remind me of (along with Thanksgiving...) is how blessed I am to have had this study abroad experience, to be in good health overall and to have the best friends and family in my life. Although this has dampened my spirits a bit, I am starting to reflect on the overall experience of studying in London with just over two weeks left. It has been absolutely phenomenal. Choosing to study abroad was one of the best decisions of my life. I have learned so much, grown up so much, and had more fun than I could ever imagine.

School is starting to catch up with me a little bit, so I should definitely accomplish some paper-writing in the next week or so. Zack and I are spending Friday night in Edinburgh, Scotland, and I have 16 more days to check everything off of my study abroad bucket list. Ready, set, go.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Are you going to the disco?"

I am getting so many new passport stamps.

Prague was a really neat city. Not only is everything super cheap (Minus the hotel, I spent less than $100 on stuff throughout the weekend) but it is very medieval with pretty sweet architecture. The night life is also pretty stellar.

We awoke early on Friday, per usual, and got into Prague around 11am. After a longer than usual line to get through immigration, we met up with Allison's friend Caitlin who is studying abroad in Prague, and she very nicely showed us exactly where to go and what transportation tickets to buy, ideal. We got into the city center and made our way to the hotel. Prague also has a very efficient public transportation system, with an underground train as well as an overground tram. We ended up taking the tram pretty much everywhere, and we just bought 24 hour passes so you don't have to swipe your ticket every time which was very convenient. Our hotel was quite nice and it was refreshing to stay somewhere that actually has towels and a TV for a change. It was also a hilarious third wheel room with Zack and I sharing a bed and Allie on a cot on the other side of the room, classic.

We met back up with Allison, Katie and Caitlin and walked around the city center, got some sausages and explored. Turns out the food in Prague is completely made up of fat and salt, awesome. We walked across the Charles Bridge which has beautiful views and a lot of street performers and art vendors on it. It turned out to be pretty cold in Prague (in the 30s and 40s) but it was sunny almost the entire weekend. We then crossed the bridge and found this precious area with all these locks where married couples "lock" in their love. We also checked out this giant graffiti wall that apparently used to be a John Lennon tribute. By this point, we were pretty sleepy so we went back to the hotel for a little siesta. Later on we all met back up at a pizza place that had delicious food and drank some Czech beer. We picked up some champagne at the grocery store and went to Caitlin's apartment to hang out before going out.

Charles Bridge
So many locks!
Around midnight, we headed to Lucerna which is a "80s and 90s theme video nightclub" - ideal to say the least. They basically played a bunch of Whitney and Backstreet Boys and other epic jams along with the music videos. Only downfall of the night is when Zack purchased absinthe shots and I contemplated death after taking one. I literally can no longer drink absinthe, my body rejects it! Something weird about the clubs in Prague is everyone smokes inside of them, same with all of the bars and pubs and everywhere. I had to do some serious laundry post-Prague to prevent smelling like a chimney.

Saturday morning, we woke up and ate some free hotel breakfast before doing some sight seeing. We went back to the main city center/clock tower to watch the hourly show that goes on atop the tower. Turns out the show consists of a few figurines poking their heads out the window and a bell ringing, quite anticlimactic. We found a glorious hot chocolate stand in the center which had some of the best hot chocolate I have ever had! We went back twice in one day and the lady working there recognized us and laughed. Zack, Allie and I started making our way towards the Prague Castle where we found a bunch of other ND kids. We hung out for a while and eventually ditched them (nicely) and the three of us checked out the castle. It was quite an uphill climb but we made it. The basilica of the castle was gorgeous, both inside and outside. We then kept walking towards this mini-Eiffel tower looking structure further up the hill. We walked through some picturesque leaves and trees and it reminded me of fall at ND! We paid a bit to climb to the top of this tower and took in a view of all of Prague, so cool.

The church at the Prague Castle
Panorama at the top of the tower
After walking about all day, it was time for another siesta. We napped and relaxed they got up and went back to the city center after getting lost for a solid 30 minutes. Then we proceeded to eat all of the food at the markets in the center (chicken kebabs and these interesting fries were the highlights) and get more hot chocolate. We found this one Czech pub that apparently Bill Clinton went to, so it's really famous, but it was clearly too popular and too packed to stay at. We found another pub that sold Czech Budweiser, which we tried, along with fried cheese, which we bought because it is a local thing. We stopped at one more bar and had a drink before Allie luckily managed to procure some discount tickets to the club (As in this random store owner looked at her and asked "Are you going to disco" to which she responded yes... clearly we look like party people). It was a 5 story club with different floors ranging from oldies to electronic to popular music. We waited in line with some British guys from Manchester who were really funny. Eventually we got inside, and it was a wild time even though there were only three of us that ended up going. Allie came away with a new French boyfriend (not really) and the electronic floor was bumping. We went home at 3 or 4am and all went to sleep immediately once we got back to the hotel.

Sunday morning, we checked out and picked up a few souvenirs before heading home a bit earlier in the day. I definitely enjoyed Prague. Everyone there speaks English, just like everywhere else in the world. It was also really fun to go out on the town both nights.

This week in London has also been ideal!

Monday, I went to this auction place called Christie's to interview some people for NBC. They were holding an auction and selling memorabilia from John Lennon and Paul McCartney among others. This letter from Paul was projected to sell for at least 10,000 pounds! The camera man shot a bunch of clips for the piece and we talked to the auction experts. A good day at work overall.

Tuesday, I saw Reasons To Be Pretty at the Almedia Theatre. To be honest, it was a dud. Not nearly as good as the last couple of plays I have seen. They can't all be winners!

Wednesday, I survived transcribing some interviews on Syria at NBC before getting ready for Skrillex at Fabric! Basically, there was this after party with Skrillex as DJ at Fabric, the current #1 club in the world. I find it funny that I went there on a Wednesday night. Anyways, it was crazy! It was probably the loudest place I have ever been in with lights and smoke everywhere. Also, when Skrillex proceeded to drop the bass, the crowd proceeded to mosh pit! I feared for my life a couple of times, but luckily a huge group of NDers were there so we had some protection. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and I'm glad I went. We got home a little after 3am and got a solid 5 hours of sleep in before class on Thursday morning, haha.

Skrillex at Fabric
Thursday, the Skrillex crew survived class and then I went on a couple of errands with Zack. We popped into Whole Foods and then found this cool market in Soho. We checked that out and then came across a Chipotle-esque burrito stand where I got a debilitating urge for a burrito, haha. We ate them in a nearby park and they were delicious. It was also a beautiful day in London, sunny and mid 50s which is ideal. Later on Thursday, I rehearsed more at the Globe, and things are really starting to come together. I have a bunch of lines to memorize for this week! I always have so much fun during that class it's just awesome. We also took a break during class to set up our schedule for next semester back at school, and I got most of the classes I wanted, with no classes on Friday once again, woohoo! Thursday night, Allie and I went to the midnight showing of Breaking Dawn. Yes, I am embarrassed but no, I did not hate it. Also London movie theaters are funny because you have assigned seats (which actually makes a lot of sense) and they show regular television commercials before the previews. It made for a good, chill night.

Yesterday, Friday, I traveled a bit out of the way to pick up the keys for my family's apartment. That afternoon, Allie and I took the tube to this giant mall called Westfield. I went absolutely wild buying both things for myself and Christmas gifts, someone should have put me on a leash. I made purchases from Next, a beauty store, Zara, Topshop, River Island, the Nike store and H&M. It was so fun and I hadn't actually been shopping for a long time so I don't feel so bad. Plus I definitely need to come back with some stellar Christmas gifts from London! Allie and I were at the mall for about 5 hours (a gratuitous amount of time) and literally shopped until we dropped. I stayed in on Friday night which was a good decision.

Tonight, Allie and I are going to attempt to get some student standby tickets for Phantom of the Opera, so hopefully that works out. If not, it looks like my night may lead me to Tiger Tiger, which is a club we've never been to before. And the Taylor family arrives in London tomorrow! AHHH things are about to get crazy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Boy Scouts in Barcelona

I have fallen a bit behind on blogging so I have am going to briefly recap the last week and a half!

Monday: Worked and then met up with the quad at Las Iguanas for some food and drinks before Bridget's departure from London. They have a killer happy hour deal there. Then I rushed off to frisbee practice with Allie and Erinn which was once again, awesome! One of the girls from the team even asked me how long I was staying in London for (as though she were interested in me playing on the team!)

Tuesday: In my theatre class we heard from this fairly well-known British actress who spoke about her days as a drug dealer and cocaine addict, no joke. She was literally crazy but also wildly entertaining. Zack made some awesome homemade pizza that night and then I saw The Last of the Duchess at the Hampstead Theatre which had probably the best acting I have seen so far in it and a compelling story about journalism. I really liked it. Also, my friend Tom and I have made a pact to get ice cream at intermission for the rest of our theatre performances. It must be a British thing because every theatre sells ice cream here, it is great. I am also becoming more and more obsessed with my theatre teacher, Charles Duff, each and every day.

Wednesday: Crazy night! Finished up with work and then headed over to Covent Garden (which is awesome at night) with the usual possy and some of Jon's family. We were introduced to his "uncle" who we referred to as Chief by the end of the night. Let's just say he likes to have a good time. After buying gratuitous tequila shots for the entire group, we went to the OXO Restaurant on South Bank which is probably one of the nicest restaurants in London. My entree casually cost 30 pounds. The food was so good and there was lots of wine and champagne to go around. We also had an awesome view of the city right on the river. One of the best/funniest week nights I have had so far.

Thursday: Class at the Globe! SO FUN. Allie now understands why I take acting classes. You basically play games and do silly improv exercises the entire time. Our teacher is awesome, Trevor. He told us that we are doing a condensed version of Macbeth for our final performance and that we are all going to kind of share parts, so we will see how that works out. The class is awesome because everyone is really into the idea of acting and is enthusiastic to give it a shot. I forgot how tiring acting is, though. After three hours of games and lines and exercises I was worn out! This class is quickly becoming my favorite one, however.


Friday: Left early for Barcelona! After our group touched down, we met up with Bridget and Michelle at our hostel. Our hostel was super cool. It was right in the middle of the city centre and was very homey with a really nice staff. We hit up Sagrada Familia (this crazy old church that is still not complete after a million years) which literally looks like a giant sand castle. Then we made our way to Las Ramblas, this famous big street, and hit up an amazing market. We all got smoothies and basically wanted to eat everything we saw. It was so colorful! We also stopped at a restaurant where we had our first taste of paella and sangria!
Sagrada Familia
Best smoothies ever
That afternoon, we went back to the hostel for our siesta aka nap. We woke up feeling refreshed and got ready to go out. Turns out about 15 of us from ND were staying in the same hostel (typical) so we knew we were in for a really fun night. We broke off for dinner and found this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Carpe Diem near our hostel. There was literally no one there so we basically took over the restaurant and had a photo shoot. We had a bunch of tapas and other Spanish foods and many pitchers of sangria, of course. Zack even somehow managed to barter with the waiter for cheaper sangria. After eating, we went to this American-esque bar while we waited for the famous Chupitos to open up. We had a variety of drinks at the first bar (courtesy of Jon...) and met some Spanish people who were really excited to meet us and immediately facebook-friended some of us. Once Chupitos opened, we had a field day. Basically, it is a bar with hundreds of different shots with cool names and ingredients and they light a bunch of stuff on fire. I had a Teletubbie, a B52, a Boy Scout and some other weird ones. The Boy Scout entailed roasting a marshmallow over a line of fire, dipping it in the shot, eating the marshmallow and then taking the shot which tasted like candy and probably had very little alcohol in it. It was the most fun thing I have ever done. A lot of the shots had whip cream and other cool things in them as well. I need to go back someday so I can try the Harry Potter. Afterwards, most of us took a cab to the beach towards the clubs. All the big clubs are literally right on the shore which is so cool. I love the ocean! We struggled to get into a few places at first and stumbled upon Catwalk for free for a little bit. As it turns out, Spanish people start partying at 3am so at 1am, the club was completely empty. We left the empty club and wandered around for a bit...I stuck my feet in the ocean. Then I stumbled into Club Opium with Allie, Sean, Dan and Bridget where we had an awesome time. It was a huge dance club with these sequin dancers on the stage. Afterwards, we ran into the ocean, and some of us literally went completely under either on purpose or accidently (Dan...Bridget...). The Mediterranean is my friend. Soaking wet, we returned by cab to the hostel at about 4am.

Saturday: Barcelona is a really cool city. Unfortunately it rained most of the time we were there, but we still managed to have a great time. It is a good balance between city and beach. Saturday, we woke up and went to this giant park north of the city with everyone. You walk up a bunch of stairs (or in my case, Zack carried me on his back), and get to the top of the hill where you can see the entire city. There is also a bunch of stuff designed by Gaudi over there which has a very interesting design style. We sat on the "longest bench in the world" and then headed down back towards the city. We walked around, Allie and I downed a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream for lunch, and we found the coolest gummy shop in the world where I obviously bought gummies. We made our way back towards Las Ramblas where we bought some things from the markets and took more pictures. Then we went to the ocean...and in the ocean! Even though it was cold, we pretty much just went for it. The waves were actually really strong! We played around for a while until we could no longer feel our frigid bodies. Allison also took adorable pictures of us by the water. We took some pictures in front of the sunset and went back to the hostel to shower and get ready. We did so, and then took the metro to the Magic Fountain, which is this giant water fountain that lights up different colors and does a show to different types of music. It reminded me so much of Vegas and the Bellagio! We danced and drank sangria in front of the fountain. We then found a tapas place to eat nearby. I had an assortment of tapas and a seafood paella which would later come back to bite me (see my notes about Sunday...). We then got some gelato and went back to the hostel once more before going out. Turns out we were all so tired so it was difficult to mobilize. We still managed to make our way to the Dow Jones bar which is super cool because the drink menu "crashes" just as the stock market would certain times throughout the night and drinks get really cheap. We also met up with our Spanish friends we had met the night before. The night was a bit short-lived, though, because we were so tired.

Photo shoot post-swimming in the sea
Sunday: So I woke up on Sunday and felt pretty sick but didn't think much of it. As we continued to walk around, the fact that I had food poisoning became more and more evident, bad times. Luckily Barcelona has a lot of trash cans everywhere and I found myself running to them throughout the day. We still managed to tour the Gothic area in the morning which was really pretty, but besides that, I basically felt terrible. Luckily I have the best friends ever and they took really good care of me.

Monday: Somehow recovered and went to the work! The Michael Jackson verdict came out and turns out Dr. Murray is guilty. It's always cool to be in the newsroom during big verdicts. Also, there is speculation that Kate Middleton is pregnant which I definitely hope happens while I'm in London because the media will be going crazy!

Tuesday: Toured the Victoria and Albert Museum during theatre class and then went to Jumpy at the Royal Court Theatre that night. Jumpy has been my favorite performance so far! It was about a 50-year-old mother and her teenage daughter and was super modern and borderline inappropriate. I was cracking up the entire time.

Wednesday: Actually did real school work! I got very behind on reading over the past few weeks since I have been crazy busy and it came back to bite me. I have been working on a paper nonstop for the past couple of days! What is real homework?!?!

Thursday: Globe action once again! So much fun. Also made a pretty legitimate dinner. Preparing for Prague as I type this!

London has gotten a bit chillier recently so I am literally just now starting to wear coats. The weather, overall, has been so great since I have gotten here. The past few weeks have been totally crazy with school and traveling! I'm definitely excited for Prague this weekend. Why are there only 5 weeks left?! :(

Monday, October 31, 2011

Booze Cruise 2011: Survival of the fittest

The past week has been awesome/insane.

Monday finished off with my first frisbee practice in the UK! Allie and I went to Battersea Park to play with the Iceni women's team - casually the premier club team in the UK and Europe. They hold open practices on Monday nights so we checked it out. It was so much fun! It was a skills session/scrimmage session so we spent the first half doing tactical drills and the second half scrimmaging. The girls on the actual team are so good at ultimate it is ridiculous. They were also super nice and there were a lot of girls there from a bunch of different teams. We are definitely going to attend again even though a single practice literally made me sore for 5 days. Perhaps I am a tad out of shape? Not worried.

Tuesday, this professional theatre critic came in to my theatre class to talk to us. As a writer myself, she was really inspiring to listen to and gave us a lot of insight regarding writing critical reviews about the theatre (which I do a lot of over here). I spoke with her one-on-one for a bit after and she told me to "just keep doing it" in regards to writing. I really enjoyed her talk.

We ventured to the Globe for class on Thursday for the first time! My initial reaction was that I still cannot believe I have an academic class on the stage of the Globe Theatre, so cool. Unfortunately, our new professor was sick so we got a tour of the Globe/Exhibition from this other really cool guy who works there. We toured the stage and backstage areas and learned more about the history. Shakespeare was killing it back in the day. We got out of class early and stopped by The Mulberry Bush for a pint with some people from class. This started off the night on a good note. That night, we hung out in the flats for a while and played some hot seat before venturing to a blues bar to hear some jams. Per usual, we finished the night at O'Neill's with literally 100 ND kids because all of the Dublin, Rome and Toledo study abroad kids came to London for the weekend. It was a good time.

Friday, I worked NBC 9-5 which was a questionable decision considering I was out until about 3am the night before. I struggled through work but luckily we have a weekly "Friday Feast" at NBC so I went out and bought/organized/ate a bunch of snacks all afternoon. I was dead tired upon return to the flats but mobilized enough to hang with Bridget (the 748 was together again!) and Tara and go out. We went to Piccadilly Institute, aka my second home. Something about the creepy eyes on the walls and naked mannequins on the ceiling really gets me. Best part of the night, besides the 50 plus ND kids there, was this little Indian man who felt the need to dance on the platform in the middle of our group. He was probably 40 or 50 years old and dancing alone to the beat. Funniest visual ever. Zack also managed to procure a nice floral hat at the Institute which was a memorable souvenir.

Saturday was the booze cruise! The booze cruise is an annual tradition for the people in the London program. We spent the day organizing life and preparing (some people were literally preparing for prom, it was crazy). Sarah, Tom and I indulged in some Grey's Anatomy then I met up with Tara and Allie at The Mulberry Bush for some pub food. I got fish and chips and a pint of Strongbow and it was delicious! Back at the flats, I decided to try my hand at bartending (that is kind of a joke but not really) and I somehow prepared some cocktails for myself and others that turned out really good.

Sidenote: I am really improving my skill set by living in London. For example, not only do I cook things now, I eat almost everything as well. I am now a huge fan of tomatoes, avocados, asparagus, onions, peppers, yogurt, nuts and many other foods I had never touched before. Bartending and DJing have also been recently added to this list.

Per usual, I served as DJ for my quad as we all got ready - it was a dresses and heels kind of night. Everyone looked so pretty and it was fun to get dressed up with everyone for once. We all gathered in various rooms and took some pictures and mobilized to the River Thames!

Quad 1
The booze cruise was awesome. The inside had a DJ and seating while the top level was open so you could sit outside and check out the scenery. The weather was also pretty ideal for late October. The entire night kind of blurred together but I have distinct memories of the following: Taking precious pictures with both quads, Collin's mohawk - epic, dancing to the song "Low" and getting low and being sore to this day, struggling up and down the stairs in my wedges, getting told I look like Mischa Barton for about the 20th time of my life, going under the London Bridge on the boat and realizing it was the first time I had seen that bridge since studying abroad this Fall, and raging post-cruise on the beach at some Halloween dubstep rave... good times.

Quad 2
Anyways, it was super fun and most everyone survived. Definitely one of the best nights in London yet. On Sunday, I spent most of the day skyping people and then got people together to go to Chipotle for dinner. There is one in London about 25 minutes from the flats and it was so totally worth it. I had never been so happy for a Chipotle burrito...even though it cost a ridiculous amount. Being in Chipotle made me feel like I was back in America.

Speaking of America, after over two months living in Europe, I have realized there are a select few things I miss about the United States. They are as follows:

The U.S. dollar, Irish football season, tailgating, the grotto at ND, my family, my puppies, Taco Bell, the rest of Club 26, ND frisbee and House Ponader, Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks (they are non-existent here), having constant Internet on my iPhone (helpless, I know), working out regularly, my personal hair straightener, and a few other things I am surely forgetting.

This week will be full of more NBC, frisbee, theatre and Globe followed by the weekend in Barcelona with a ton of people! Adios!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gelato, crepes and stroopwafel

Fall break has come and gone. I would consider it a mediocre fall break... just kidding. It was awesome! So much fun with some of the best people I know.

Fall break started off with a few nights in London to kick off our "vacation." I realize this entire semester is a vacation but whatever. Thursday night, we participated in a Will Ferrell power hour and headed to this ritzy jazz club. It was very classy with extremely expensive drinks, dim lighting and live jazz music. We spent our life savings on drinks to fit in with the crowd and spent the night hanging out there. It was a good mix up from our usual destination of O'Neill's on Thursdays.

Will arrived on Friday and we took him around London! We walked around some of the general sights and enjoyed the gorgeous weather. London has been having seriously awesome weather lately it is great. After checking out the South Bank, Big Ben, Parliament, etc. we eventually landed upon Harrod's, the largest department store in London. It has tons of floors and sells everything from cheese and sushi to wedding dresses and Christmas trees. We explored around there and Jon ripped his pants while attempting to slide down the railing of the stairs. Fail. Harrod's also looks awesome from the outside at night when they light up the entire building. Afterwards, Collin, Allie and I swung by Primark again (our favorite cheap store) for some last minute goodies before fall break. Allie and I shopped separately and somehow managed to purchase the exact same gold shirt... not real life. Collin also bought four pairs of underwear for all the boys that have the British flag on the back of them. Classic.

Friday night, we had a Mexican fiesta dinner complete with fajitas, chips and guac and a singular giant margarita that we made in the giant martini glass. It was delicious. We then headed downtown and got roped into this club called Rumba by some promoter. It was a little sketchy but we definitely managed to have a good time. We also decided to indulge in shots of absinthe this night. Apparently absinthe is illegal in the U.S. so naturally it is the cool thing to do in Europe. It tastes like a mixture of black liquorice and gasoline. Nearly unbearable to drink. I think my throat was burning for ten minutes.

Giant marg!
Saturday morning, I got up fairly early to meet up with Crystal at Victoria Station since she was in London for the weekend. We walked around in the sunny weather, got some lunch and hit up Hyde Park, perfect relaxed morning. Crystal then came back to my flat and watched me frantically pack for my trip. Never again will I save my packing until one hour before departure. Love you Crys!

Saturday night, we flew to Rome! We got in around dinner time, took a bus to the city center, and found Tara in the main station there. Tara was a perfect tour guide and led us immediately to our apartment. The apartment was such a good call. It had three rooms, a loft, a bathroom and a kitchen. It was also a pretty good deal compared to a hostel or hotel. We paid the man who rented it out to us and immediately decided to do the unthinkable: more absinthe. After two shots I was struggling. However, we mobilized and headed into the city with Tara for a night on the town. It was really late so we ate some slices of pizza from a little food place that was open. We then went to this plaza with a ton of cool bars, entering none other than an establishment called "Classy in the front, Sloppy in the back." It was just that. We made out way to the back to find all of Notre Dame: London kids, Rome kids, you name it. There were about 30 of us in this bar. We all managed to get roses (I still don't know how) and had a lot of fun fooling around with those. Unfortunately, because of the riots in Rome they had to shut down the bar early. Lame. We eventually made our way back to the apartment and Allie and I engaged in some general debauchery while the boys went on an unsuccessful venture around the city for food until 5am.

So many roses
Rome was wonderful. The weather was beautiful everyday and there are historic buildings/ruins around every corner. On day one, Zack, Allie and I toured the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. This was after we ate gelato for breakfast. I got gelato five times in Rome. There is a gelato place on every corner, it is hard to resist. In Rome, you pay tour guides a little extra and they give you a tour and let you skip the entire line, good deal, so we took advantage of that while at the Colosseum. The Colosseum is way more massive than I expected and I learned a lot about its history during the tour. The Romans pretty much hung out there all day, ate free food, drank free wine and watched gladiators and other cool stuff while the slaves did everything for them. The ruins of Palatine Hill, which was a former Roman palace, still had some of the original marble used in the palace and at the top there was a beautiful view overlooking the city.

Not a bad view
We eventually met up with the rest of our group plus Tara and walked around the city with a jug of wine in tow. We took pretty pictures in front of the sunset and eventually found our way to both the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. We made wishes in front of the Trevi and threw coins in the water. This night, we also had the best pizza EVER. Tara led us to what is known as the "best pizza place in Rome" and it was. We indulged in pizza and wine and went to an Irish pub called Scholars with some other ND kids that night. Scholars appears to be the O'Neill's of Rome. It was karaoke night so naturally there was some singing. We then went back to the bar from the night before and made friends with the bartender Lucas. We convinced him to give us 5 shots for 10 euro, so prime. The night ended with gelato and more roses courtesy of Jon.

On Monday, Zack, Allie and I ventured to a grocery store to bring food back to the apartment. We bought some eggs, cereal, bread, meat and cheese along with a gratuitous amount of wine. They sell bottles of wine in Rome for one euro, what else are you going to do? They also sell wine in giant 5-liter jugs. We bought one jug for 8 euros and named him Lazio. I carried Lazio all the way back to the apartment and let me say it was a struggle. We also bought some Lemincello (lemon-flavored alcohol) which Roman people are clearly obsessed with because it is everywhere. After rounding up the troops, Zack, Allie, Will, Collin and I found the Spanish Steps. We chilled there for a while because it was a really pretty day. We made our way to check out the inside of the Pantheon and picked up some gelato. I got a strawberry/lemon combination that was my favorite of the entire trip. The whole group met up once again and we found an island along the river where we stuffed trinkets into a wine bottle and let is float down the river. So profound. Before this, we also stumbled upon some ruins that were overrun with cats! It was so weird. Rome has a weird cat fetish.

We found this nice restaurant on the other side of the river that had a good deal on food with a bunch of courses. I had some bruschetta, salmon ravioli and wine which was all very good. Our dinner took about 2 hours because the Italians actually enjoy their meals unlike Americans, but we definitely were not used to the extended amount of meal time. We headed back to the apartment late that night and drank Lazio along with many other things... let's just say it was a good night.

Tuesday, we were very cultured with our trip to the Vatican. We paid for a tour once again and got to see the Vatican museum, the gardens, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. Until my trip to Italy I thought the Sistine Chapel was actually the Sixteenth Chapel so everyone made fun of me about that for the entire trip. The museum was full of endless sculptures and all the ceilings were unbelievable. The Sistine Chapel has all the epic paintings by Michelangelo in it and it is the personal chapel to the pope, no big deal. It is kinda like the Mona Lisa, Stonehenge, etc. in that it is nearly underwhelming when you see it but it's something you just have to see. The basilica, on the other hand, was absolutely gorgeous and is the most grandiose church I have ever seen. After our time at the Vatican, most of us walked around for a bit and found some markets where we bought bracelets and gummies. We ate dinner near the Pantheon and made it back to our apartment for our early flight to Paris. We searched far and wide for some champagne to finish off our time in Rome, which we eventually found, and prepared for Paris.

St. Peter's Basilica
We took a cab to the airport in the morning that turned out to be the fastest cab ride in history. This dude was going over 100mph, talk about efficient. We flew into Paris Beuvais which is basically rural France, haha. It was this tiny airport in the middle of nowhere so we took a fairly long bus ride into the heart of Paris. The flight was 15 euros though, so I can't complain. We checked into the Hotel des Olympidades, which is perhaps the sketchiest hotel I have ever experienced, and hit the town. We picked up baguettes, cheese, meat and wine immediately headed to Sacre Couer because our hotel was in the Montmartre area and we were only about 20 minutes from the church itself. We feasted on the steps of Sacre Couer looking out onto the entire city which was one of my favorite parts of the trip. There was an old man playing violin next to us which set the mood even further. We also checked out the inside of the church since it was free (I forgot how pretty it is from when I checked it out last time I went to Paris).

We took a long walk into the heart of the city and hit the main tourist areas, including Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. We picked up more baguettes/cheese/meat (story of our lives) as well as champagne to pop in front of the Eiffel Tower that night. We waited until the tower sparkled and then drank some champagne out in front. We then got some crepes, mine was nutella and strawberry and was absolutely phenomenal. Paris was much colder than expected so we headed back to the hotel since we were so cold. Collin, Allie and I fell asleep for a bit while the others headed to Clin's Bar right across the street. To our surprise, when we went to join them, we found ourselves locked inside the hotel room. That's right, INSIDE. Apparently when you take the key and lock the outside there is no way to exit the room. This is how sketchy this place was. Collin waved miscellaneous items out the window in hopes and gaining their attention and we had a good laugh about the whole situation. After an hour or two, we caught the group's attention and escaped from Hotel des Olympidades to join the group at Clin's Bar. Once there, we had a few drinks and closed the bar...not surprised. The boys were messing with some Italian dude and were speaking a mixture of English, Spanish, Italian and French the entire night. We left and bought some items at a convenience store near the hotel (things are open very late in Paris, unlike Rome), Collin got iced (per usual) and we had a mini hotel party.

On our second day in Paris, we took the metro to the Champs-Elysees and walked around the Arc de Triomphe. We took some scenic pictures and eventually made our way to the Eiffel Tower to go to the top. Beforehand, we picked up more crepes, this time mine was ham and cheese with fries in the middle, and it was the most delicious and filling dinner ever. Climbing the Eiffel is officially my favorite thing ever in Paris. We went up just as it was getting dark and took the lifts all the way to the top. The view at night is spectacular. We took a lot of pictures and I made my way to the Champagne Bar, obviously. Ten euros per glass never tasted so good. Five orders of champagne equated to fifty euros, which we later equated to fifty bottles of champagne since you can find it in Paris for one euro a bottle.... Crazy stuff! The tower sparkled as we were sipping our champagne which was perfect timing, and it also sparkled as we walked down the metal leg of the tower. The Eiffel Tower never gets old. That night, we found Jon and Caroline at a Mexican restaurant called Fajitas, shared some excellent nachos and ate another crepe (standard) before going back to the hotel. We formed a line of 7 walking through the streets of Paris and refused to unlock arms which proved to be very fun.

Champagne atop the Eiffel Tower
The next morning, we woke up very early for our train to Amsterdam. We made mimosas for the train and watched the sunrise. We arrived in Amsterdam around 11am and navigated towards our hostel. We took the tram all the way there but then realized we could not check in until 2pm, buzz kill. So we lugged around our bags and drank some champagne in one of the parks. The parks there were very pretty and full of dogs, my kind of place. Amsterdam itself is also quite scenic. There are a series of canals around the city, lots of great food vendors and bikers everywhere. I have never seen so many people ride bikes... the bikes paths were nearly as wide as the road.

We eventually checked into our hostel turned hotel (there were not enough spots in the hostel so they just put us in the hotel, win!) and walked around the city. We checked out the "I Amsterdam" sign which is a tourist must-do and ate some food. Then Allie and I went off on our own to find my roommate Abbie. We somehow located her downtown and went to a pub with her and bunch of other ND kids. Allie and I were getting pretty tired so we ordered caffeine instead of alcohol, ideal. We eventually met back up with the boys and made our way to the Red Light District... talk about weird. So weird. Prostitutes just chilling in the windows left and right with tourists everywhere snapping pictures. It is so totally opposite from America it is ridiculous. The night, we went to a cafe/bar and chilled to some good music and games of pool. We stayed out late enough to catch the last tram at 12:40 back to the hotel.

For our final day of fall break, we checked out and ventured to the Heineken brewery for a tour. It was pretty cool and now I know exactly how beer is made. We went to the tour around noon without eating, so the only issue was the large amount of beer we were forced to consume for breakfast. We (meaning the girls) struggled through our half-pints and eventually walked to an outdoor market filled with food, clothing and other miscellaneous items. We bought freshly-made stroopwafels, these thin waffles filled with caramel that are to die for and sampled some other free food. Our final day in Amsterdam was gorgeous with completely blue skies, we really lucked out on the weather. We bought some kebabs in the city, which were also delicious, before taking the tram towards the airport. We eventually made it back to London late Saturday night and were very glad to be back. I was beginning to miss some of the luxuries we have here in London plus the idea of my own bed was starting to become very appealing.

Heineken tour
The trip was quite a success. I very much loved all three cities and they all had something different to offer. We took literally all forms of transportation possible over the past 8 days. I am looking forward to a more relaxed academic week, plus Allie and I are going to go to the UK women's ultimate practice tonight which should be awesome! It's good to be back home in London.