Wanderlust: Barcelona, Copenhagen, Cologne

So it’s been about 2 months since I have updated this, and I feel incredibly terrible because I promised myself I would update after every trip, but now I have 3 to catch up on.. If you don’t want to read all of this, just look at the pictures. They’ll do just about the same.

First thing’s first, I’m incredibly excited that I have just a week and a half of classes left, and then spring break! This term flew by so quickly, and my time here in London is slowly diminishing. Nevertheless, I have tried my absolute hardest to make the best of every moment I can. It’s a daunting task to even just see all of London in a year, let alone Europe.

But, my first trip of the spring term was Barcelona! Planning just about a week ahead of time, a friend and I were up before sunrise to catch an 8am flight on Friday morning for a jam packed weekend of walking and eating. And we did get a little beach time in, only to have a creepy guy try to sell us coconuts. However, it was so fun to just get out of London and go somewhere completely different and just walk around and immerse yourself in a culture so new and exciting. Barcelona was just an all around fun and colorful city with so many quirky aspects. Did you know, the famous cathedral, Sagrada Familia began construction in 1882, but isn’t expected to be complete until 2026? I think the Spaniards need to cut out their siestas and get this thing moving. But, it was still an incredible sight to see. Unfortunately we didn’t end up going inside because the line was wrapped around the block. I’m pretty sure the outside was more exciting though. We did get a chance to go to Park Guell though, which was another Gaudi creation. Even though we basically climbed to the top of Barcelona on foot, the park gave some incredible views. Anyone planning to go to Barcelona, I highly recommend going here.

Another quirky part of this city was the Latin quarter. Here we found tons of small winding roads full of shops and antiques and food. What could be better. If there was a store we wanted to go in but figured we could find it later, we didn’t. I’m almost positive we didn’t hit the same street twice. We even walked through a movie set in a back alleyway.

On Sunday, we met up with a fellow Lehigh friend who is conveniently studying in Barcelona. She showed us even more of the city and the harbor that we didn’t get a chance to see previously.

However, for being mid January, it was pretty damn warm. We didn’t even bring coats and we could lay on the beach. It was heaven. I’m secretly jealous of you Arielle for having a beach and sunshine!

My next stop just a few weekends ago was Copenhagen! This was an incredibly spur of the moment trip, because all I did was ask another Lehigh friend if he was going to be around that weekend, and when he said yes, I book my flights and didn’t look back. The flights were incredibly cheap. The city however, was not. Should have read the fine print on that one. Denmark still is not on the Euro, so I had to convert a third currency: the Danish kroner. Mind you, the kroner is the exact opposite of the pound. Where the pound is about $1.67 for every pound, the kroner is about $0.17 for each kroner. So, I got pretty good at dividing by 5 at the end of the trip. I was incredibly thankful however that my friend from Lehigh blocked out his weekend just to show me around the city, since I traveled by myself. Friday night I experienced a little bit of the Copenhagen night life, but not too much since traveling always wipes me out. Saturday morning I was up and ready to go at around 9:30am. When I walked outside, there wasn’t a soul to be found. I guess Danish people aren’t morning people. I struggled to find people until I hit the Strøget. I still am unsure how to pronounce these crazy letters, even after my friend taught me about 80 times. However, the Strøget is the longest pedestrian walkway in Europe! So that was pretty neat since most of my paths around the city required me to go through it. I did get a chance to try a Danish pastry, and it was worth every penny of the roughly $5 it cost.

I then joined up with the free walking tour of the city. To all my European traveling friends, please please please go on these free tours. Most major cities provide them, and you only give a small donation at the end, but they are the best tours I have ever been on. I am a junkie for history and free things, so I guess it worked out pretty well. On this tour, we were able to see the royal palaces where I may or may not have seen the Queen of Denmark drive up, so I’m just going to say that I did, Nyhavn (the main canal and incredibly colorful walkway), and places where Hans Christian Andersen lived. So much of my childhood is attributed to this man, and I had no idea until I came to Europe. Go figure. I had no idea that the Little Mermaid was written by him. I presumed it was just a Disney creation since it was such a recent film. After the tour, my friend and I ventured to the north of the city to see the Little Mermaid Statue in the sculpture garden, or Den lille havfrue. I have no idea how to pronounce that one. But it was a surprisingly popular attraction, so most of my pictures include a few strangers’ heads. That day also turned out to be incredibly foggy which made for some really eerie pictures. Oh, and I jumped on a trampoline inside the sidewalk. Not many cities can brag about that one.

And last but not least was my most recent trip this past weekend to Cologne, Germany with two friends from my program. Another last minute trip, but it turned out to be incredibly fun and full of surprises. We arrived Friday night and came out of the Hauptbahnhof station flabbergasted at the beauty of the Cologne Cathedral right in front of us. In the night it was beautiful, and we were so excited to see what it looked like in the daylight. Once we arrived at our hostel, we ventured out for some authentic German food. I did not realize until we arrived at a restaurant that since Cologne is a slightly smaller, less touristy city, the locals would be much less willing to speak English. This made things a little difficult, but we managed, indulging in our schnitzel and fries. We also tried Cologne brewed beer that apparently is only distributed in Cologne. The next day we spent walking around the city and exploring. We found out you can climb one of the towers in the cathedral, so that’s exactly what we did. A grueling 530 spiral stairs later, we made it to the top and got incredible views of the city. After slowly and dizzily making our way back down, we hit some sort of protest with tons of children that we still do not know what it was for. After taking pictures of some signs, the best translation we got was “thank you, midwife.” Not entirely sure what they were rallying for, but we just walked away. We then made our way through many squares and small neighborhoods and passed through a plethora of churches. In one area we saw this one peculiar sign that said “Einbahnstrasse.” We figured it was some attraction, so we followed the signs that lead us in a complete circle. Little did we know at the time that Einbahnstrasse actually means one way. oops. We then walked along the river come dinnertime to find the renowned lock bridge of Cologne. I had no idea more than just Paris started this tradition. Surprisingly, this lock bridge was even more colorful than that of Paris. After we walked across the Rhine river and the bridge, we escalated 30 floors into the Triangle, which gave us even more beautiful views of the city as the sun was setting. By this time we were starving, so we entered the first restaurant that caught our eye. Naturally, we picked the place where the waiter would be the entertainment of the night. Before we even walked in, he was thrilled we were going to come in, and he pinched my friends cheek. We told him we were American, so he got a huge kick out of that and he was messing with us the rest of the night. To our surprise, he knew a lot of American football teams though. The next day we ventured out along the river and went to the Schokoladen Museum, or Chocolate Museum! Definitely a good choice because they gave out free samples and wafers dipped in melted Lindt chocolate. We were in heaven. It was really neat to see the actual process of chocolate, all the way from the cacao tree to the wrapping and packaging stage. We also learned how the hollow chocolates are made, which is pretty neat! Then with a gorgeous day in our hands and a few hours until we had to leave, we decided to walk north and find the Botanical Gardens. Along the way, we found a quirky modern art scultpure garden. The Botanical Gardens were beautiful since everything was just starting to bloom. Unfortunately we only got to see about a third since we had to race back downtown to get our stuff to get to the airport. All in all, it was a beautiful weekend in a not-so-touristy city which was very ideal after all the hustle and bustle of London.

Next stop: spring break!

Euro Trip!

As I sit here procrastinating my work for this new term, I figured I’d make one gigantic update from this past month.

This one is a bit lengthy, but I promise it’s mostly pictures!

I cannot believe that I have been so fortunate to do everything I have done this past month. I never thought I’d be able to say I’ve visited 7 countries in just the short time I’ve been here, 3 of which were just this month!

I began my Christmas break with a short stop to Milan to visit a friend who was kind enough to show me around the city. I picked a pretty convenient weekend because as soon as I arrived, he brought me to a private fashion event where I was able to mingle with local Italians and have authentic Italian cuisine and wine. The next day my friend gave me an extensive tour of the city where I saw the magnificent Duomo, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, and the Last Supper painting! Unfortunately I was not allowed to take pictures of the painting, but I did manage to get a few other snapshots along the way.

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My next stop was good old New Jersey for a much needed break at home. I didn’t realize how much I missed home and the countryside until I actually arrived. It was a great feeling being able to drive my car again and not be stuck in city traffic. It was also great to see my family after 3 long months. Although short, I’m grateful I was able to come home to see everyone before I came back for another 6 long months.

On December 28th I made the 7 hour flight back to the UK, but this time with someone very special: Joe! I am so incredibly grateful that he could come back with me to spend the rest of my break with me and do some traveling! After 6 long months of planning and excitement it had finally arrived. Now on top of it being our first New Years physically together, who would have thought we would be spending it in London?? I sure didn’t. What a wonderful New Years it was (minus the 5 hours of standing outside by the river pitching our spot for the fireworks). I was so excited to show Joe around my new temporary home and bring him to some of my favorite spots, and even discover new spots of our own!

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Our next stop was Munich! I think Joe was most excited for this because we centered this trip around going to Munich to see the BMW Museum. But I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it as well. Although our first night we were slightly overwhelmed being a city where we didn’t speak a word of the language, it all worked out well because we managed to fit so much into 2 short days! Our first full day we spent just in the Olympic Park area. And to all those planning to go to Munich, I give you this advice: don’t pay for the tram. After 20 long minutes of trying to figure out which ticket to get we gave up and just hopped on, just like it seemed many of the locals did as well. We still aren’t entirely sure if they actually don’t pay or not, but I guess we had to save a few euros somehow. Once we arrived at Olympic Park, Joe was beaming with excitement as we got closer to the BMW complex. Once we arrived, I found myself getting almost as excited as he was (almost). I did enjoy sitting in cars that almost cost more than my education. BMW Welt was actually very impressive and interactive where we could sit in the cars and on the motorcycles without feeling obligated to buy anything. Next stop (where we spent a majority of our day) was the BMW Museum. I got a lot of my enjoyment out of watching Joe get so excited about the original cars and parts that were on display. I’m ashamed to say I actually knew what some of the stuff was also. I guess that’s what I get for dating a BMW enthusiast. He was able to tell me exactly what most of the exhibits were without reading a map or placard. Nonetheless, I did enjoy myself gazing at vehicles I probably will never be able to afford.

While we were in the Olympic Park area, we decided to tour the Olympic Stadium and Olympic Tower. I’m really glad we were able to squeeze these in because it taught us a little about the Olympic history of Munich, and I can now say I’ve been to an Olympic site. The Tower was absolutely breathtaking because we were able to get a panoramic view of the city, and even catch a glimpse of the Bavarian Alps at sunset!

Later that night we decided to participate in a “beer challenge” that our hostel told us about. This may have been Joe’s second favorite part of the whole trip because, well, beer. We went to some authentic biergarten places where Joe felt the need to order a whole liter of beer. I surprisingly also enjoyed myself because I found some beers where I didn’t cringe when they hit my tongue. I guess because I was actually tasting something that wasn’t Natty. However, all in all I did enjoy participating in this as it is the root of Munich’s culture, where the water is more expensive than the beer (and I’m not kidding).ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

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So I went a little overboard on the Munich pictures. However, if you are still reading, thank you because I promise I have more things other than BMW’s and beer!

The next city we chose to visit was the romantic city of Paris. Now, being students we of course were on a budget. At the time of booking it, we both thought it was a wonderful idea, but turned out to be a bit of a stressful idea. We chose to take an overnight bus from Munich to Paris. We were on a bus for 13 hours. 13 long grueling hours. But whatever you have to do to save money I guess. Nevertheless, we arrived and made it to our hostel. Looking back on it, I don’t think I would choose our Paris hostel again. Next time I definitely will put out the extra money to have nicer facilities and a better area. I will spare the details but I’ll just say it did not look like the pictures on their website.

We learned very quickly also that Paris is not a cheap city. Our first night we spend almost 40 euros for dinner on salads and soup. That was a big mistake, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re hungry in Paris. Again, our first night was a little overwhelming since again we did not speak the language at all. However, we did spend a wonderful (and free!) day at Versailles. Let me tell you, Joe and I both agreed that we could never be royalty. This place was huge. We felt lost even with our maps and signs. As beautiful as this place was, we actually couldn’t believe how much money was wasted into making something so extravagant. However, it was still quite a sight to see. (Note to all Paris travelers, the first Sunday of the winter months are free. Completely free. All of it. We saved probably 50 euros each.)

The next day we did all of the usual Paris tourist things: the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, cafes, etc. We also made it a point to go to the Love Lock Bridge and put a lock on it and toss the key into the river. We were amazed at how many locks were on this bridge, and how many locks were attached to other locks because they ran out of room. Thankfully, we found a little spot to attach ours to the actual bridge, threw the key over, and each kept a key for ourselves. We also got the chance to meander through the beautiful Notre Dame. The next day we went back just to walk up the 400+ stairs up to the top to get a view of Paris from the center of the city. We also toured the beautiful Sacre Coeur which was thankfully very close to our hostel.

After all these church visits, we decided to make our way to the Pantheon. Here, we saw the burial places of Rousseau, Voltaire, Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, and many other great French people. After this, we made our way over to see the spectacle of the Arc de Triomphe. However, Joe and I can both agree that the spectacle was not the arc itself, but the mass mayhem of traffic going around it. We concluded our day with a trip up to the middle of the Eiffel Tower at night because unfortunately the top was closed.

Now up to this point we had felt very fortunate that our whole trip had gone smoothly with no delays or mishaps. However, the very last few hours as we were waiting at a cafe across from Gare du Nord, we had the misfortune of getting robbed. Actually robbed. Our best guess is that when a younger French boy came up to us from one side and spoke to us in French, we believe he was posing as a distraction as one of his friends came up and snatched Joe’s whole backpack. We were very thankful that nothing of huge value was in there like our passports or money or credit cards. I felt so bad because there was absolutely nothing we could do about it since our train back to London was about to leave.

Word of caution to all traveling to Paris, or any large tourist city: please please please keep an eye on your stuff at all times. Something simple as this could happen to you. Our biggest surprise was the number of illegal street vendors and criminals merely trying to distract you to take your belongings and run. Do not do not purchase the cheap Eiffel Towers from the men near the big attractions. It is illegal. And the girls who come up to you and ask if you speak English? Walk away. Security guards told us it was a trap. They were planning to distract us and steal our stuff. If anyone at all approaches you, just walk away. I’m just very thankful that we knew most of this beforehand so we were not hurt or targeted like many other tourists were.

Other than this little mishap, we recovered and will eventually replace everything. We did have an absolutely wonderful time other than this. I’m so thankful I was able to spend this time traveling with someone that I know really appreciated it.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

(my inner math geek came out when I saw these names on the side of the Eiffel Tower)

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Can’t forget the French wine!

After our mini Euro Trip, we trekked back to London to get a few more touristy pictures, and catch a showing of Wicked!

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Joe’s first fish and chips!

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Traveling fiend

Who would have thought that I would be able to pack so much traveling in to such a short time? I don’t even know where to begin!

Well, last weekend was both the longest and shortest weekend that I can remember. After 11 grueling hours of traveling by bus, ferry, and then bus again, we were so happy to finally stretch our legs in the wondrous city of Amsterdam! We were given the chance to explore the city at night (since we finally had arrived at 7pm..) and we were able to see all the stereotypes Amsterdam is known for. What is a trip to Amsterdam without walking through the Red Light District? (Well, I actually could have done without, but I guess I can now say I’ve been there.) 

The next morning, we were taken to two beautiful and quaint cities just outside Amsterdam: Edam and Volendam. Here we were able to experience the real Dutch culture with many cheese and candy shops! I’m not sure how popular Edam cheese is in America, since I had only heard about it when I came here, but this is where Edam cheese comes from. Volendam was such a beautiful fishing city right on the water. We watched out tour guide eat raw Herring (which for the longest time we thought he was talking about a Heron..) which apparently tasted pretty decent. 

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Later in the day we were able to go back to Amsterdam and do our normal touristy things. We had decided to dedicate the rest of our day to two main things: the Anne Frank House and the Heineken Experience. Now, unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures in the Anne Frank House, but if anyone is ever nearby, I highly recommend braving the cold while you wait in line. It is really a very moving experience being able to walk where the Frank family hid, and see the original diary. We then trekked across the city to the Heineken Experience. This was actually a very fun exhibit as it was the original brewery for the infamous beer, where it later moved to further outside the city. So this brewery was transformed into an interactive exhibition to learn about the history of the family and the beer, and to learn about the process it goes through from the beginning to the end result. They even gave out many free samples, as none of us really complained about that.. I even got a chance to pour my own beer and become a “certified pourer”! Then we were lucky to catch the last boat ride down the canal to their other merchandise store, where they had us play a trivia game, where the other half of my group ended up winning.. But it definitely was a great time, and a stark contrast to the previous exhibition. 

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Sunday, our final mission was Brugges, Belgium. Although we only had about 3 hours in the city, we tried to make the most of it by trying to pack everything in. We tried our best while we were in search of Belgian beer, chocolate, and fries. And we were quite successful! The fries and mayonnaise were to die for. I had never thought such a combination would actually be so good! Brugges was a beautiful city, full of life and surprises. I do hope that I can someday visit again because 3 hours was not nearly enough time!

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This past weekend I got to take a day trip to Canterbury and Dover Castle! What sights you can see if you just venture out of London a mere hour or two! Canterbury was such a cute town that I definitely want to visit again. The Cathedral was unlike anything I have ever seen. My pictures don’t do it enough justice. It was phenomenal. I couldn’t even imagine what it is like for mass there. Unfortunately we only had a few short hours until we made our way to Dover where we were set free in the castle that overlooked the English Channel. This castle was the main military base for many wars, as Dover is the closest city to France. Adventuring through the main tower was interesting since all the stairways turned into forks and we never knew which way to go! We then were guided to the underground military tunnels where we got a tour of these tunnels that were built into the beautiful white cliffs. These tunnels were a key component to WWII, and it was so fascinating how much they made an impact on the British military strategies.

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And we met this little fellow. 

 

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What a week!

Amidst the whirlwind of classes and assignments, I have thankfully been able to continue sightseeing and traveling! And what a week it has been. 

First and foremost, shoutout to my friend Ryan who told me about Rupert Grint (aka Ronald Weasley) doing a play nearby. If not for him, I would have not gotten this picture. 

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Okay, so you can’t really see me in this one, but I’m the one in the middle. Here’s a better one:

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This past week, the ATP Men’s tennis had their final tournament of the season. Lucky for me it was right here in London! The purpose of this tournament was to take the top 8 doubles teams and top 8 singles players and play to determine the final winner for the 2013 season. Now, I actually did not know this tournament was as big as it was, as I just thought it was a regular little traveling tournament. I was way wrong. When the tickets first came out, there was no knowing of who would be playing that particular day, do I had at first decided it wouldn’t be worth paying if I didn’t know who was playing. Just last week however, they had released the schedule of the players. When I found out the Bryan Brothers, and Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic would be playing in the same session, I almost fell out of my chair. Now, by this point, tickets were a pretty penny because how often can you see something like this. Thank you daddy for making it my Christmas gift! I had the time of my life. I didn’t even care that I went by myself because the match had me on the edge of my seat all night. Never did I think in my life I would have the chance to see my favorite player of all time, Roger Federer, playing live just a few hundred feet away from me. 

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Unfortunately, Fed lost, but it was such an exciting match. So happy I had the chance to see two of the greatest players in the world. 

 

I also was grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to another country for the first time since I have been here! Scotland was so beautiful, and never did I think I would have as much fun as I did. I went on the trip through Arcadia, and also on this trip was many students all around London who were also studying abroad, but unfortunately I didn’t know a single one! I was able to tag along with some girls I met thankfully, which made the trip so much better! Who knew Edinburgh had so much influence on Harry Potter too! Our tour guide brought us all around Edinburgh showing us the building where J. K. Rowling wrote the 7th book, the cafe where she wrote the 1st book, and the graveyard which inspired characters like Tom Riddle and Professor McGonagall! That night I did some shopping, and I caved, purchasing a really warm tartan scarf, as you can see in the picture below. 

The next morning, my new friend Viki and I decided to wake up at 6:30 am and tackle Edinburgh’s highest point: Arthur’s Seat. Now, Arthur’s Seat is a whopping 822ft high. From our hostel, it was a good 2 miles to get to the top. Now, I made it about 750ft and had almost decided to quit because it was so treacherous and high up. Thankfully for Viki, I did it after much perseverance and frozen fingers. If not for her being more adventurous than me, I would not have been able to see these beautiful and astounding views.

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Never did I think I would ever be that adventurous, but it was so worth it! 

Next adventure was Edinburgh Castle. 

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Pretty cool that I can say I’ve been to a castle now. There was so much history engulfed into one place. It was absolutely incredible. The exhibits were really well laid out and I learned a lot about the Scottish monarchy before it merged with the English. (Even though the English crown jewels are much better.) 

Edinburgh is such a quirky city with so much history and life. I highly recommend spending at least three days there because I don’t even think I scratched the surface of what there is to do! 

Next stop this weekend? Amsterdam! 

Birthday weekend

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Well I definitely had an exciting few days to say the least! (And it’s not even my birthday yet!) These past few days have been jam packed with so much going on, I can hardly keep up!

This past Tuesday night, I was so thrilled to see my first live musical in London: Phantom of the Opera. It was definitely a great choice to begin with. The sets and music was phenomenal. Even the special effects for a play blew my mind. It was a beautiful story with even more beautiful music that I still have on repeat when I do my homework.

Thursday night I was fortunate enough to see the one and only Dan Radcliffe! (Yes, that’s Harry Potter.) I found out about one of his movies premiering just a ten minute walk away. How could I not go? Me and two friends decided to meander over to the area to see if we could get a glimpse of the action. Fortunately, we were just a few rows away from the red carpet! So, naturally as Daniel Radcliffe stepped out, people from all sides mobbed all around us. But I managed to get a few pictures and catch a glimpse! First celebrity sighting was a success!

Friday night a few friends and I decided to venture to a club called Propaganda. I have decided that London clubs (from what I’ve been to) are far better than any frat party you could ever go to. The music is better (and sometimes even American!) and (most) people are there just looking to have fun. And when they bring out songs like Stacy’s Mom and Sugar We’re Going Down, you know it’s going to be a good time. Little did I know I would be there until 2am to then beg taxi drivers to bring us back home, to then get a whopping 3 hours of sleep. But it was definitely worth it.

So having to be up at 6am after being out all night was not so ideal, but going to Stonehenge and Bath made up for it quite fast! Now, I have mixed feelings about Stonehenge. Everyone makes it out to be this big great attraction. Don’t get me wrong, it really is a wonder to see. But like all of the pamphlets said, how did it get there? What is the significance of it? Who knows. Being in the middle of nowhere, it’s something quite interesting. Just these large rocks piled on top of each other from over 4000 years ago. Supposedly it’s supposed to measure where the sun is in different months. However, it really is perturbing to know that historians and scientists still can’t figure out its true meaning.

After Stonehenge, we trekked our way to Bath. Now, I had never heard of Bath until I started my study abroad process. I doubt many of my readers will know what Bath is either. It truly is a beautiful place though. It is such a quaint town with so much history ranging from the Romans all the way to the 19th century. The Roman Bath houses were actually incredibly fascinating with all the architecture and engineering that went into the design. The mineral water, which was the basis of why they built these bath houses, however was not so delicious, as we were allowed to drink it. Nevertheless, being able to spend just a few hours in this historic town made me want to do so much more traveling. There is so much of the UK and Europe to see, that one in their lifetime cannot possibly see it all.

The ride home back to London was even more of a surprise. Now, I knew the UK had a lot of sheep, but boy did I see a lot of sheep. The landscape was absolutely incredible however. The rolling hills in the sunset actually looked like a scene from a dream. Never did I think such beauty could be held in some place so simple and unknown. The pictures just didn’t do it justice.

As I sit here reminiscing on just a simple day trip within the UK, I’m becoming increasingly more anxious and excited for my upcoming trips to Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Oxford, Canterbury, Munich, Paris, and now in the process of planning Milan! Never did I think such a wonderful opportunity would arise in my lifetime.

Lackadaisical London Life

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Now, many of you may think that London is full of the hustle and bustle of city life. And don’t get me wrong, it definitely is. However, there are many things that set apart my home university, nestled on the side of a mountain in good old Bethlehem, from the LSE. There are really some truly brilliant minds here at the LSE, and sometimes it’s definitely overwhelming. However, it does not seem like anyone in this town has a sense of urgency, and it has really been a challenge for me to adjust to this lifestyle. I’m one to always have a plan and schedule, and I hate when I feel like I’m going to be late. Here however, many of my fellow classmates tend to stroll into lectures 30 minutes late. Now, in the states, this rarely happens, and when it does, you get the whole class staring at you. Here? It seems to be the social norm to always be late. 

Another astounding difference from any institution in the states versus here is that no one here expects to be spoon fed. To all my college friends back home, listen up! That’s right! There’s no one holding our hand telling us what exactly is going to be on the exam or what pages we have to read. Here everyone knows they just have to know everything and they accept it. There is not a huge stream of emails coming in every day making sure your classes are correct at the beginning of the semester, and advisors are not breathing down your neck to make sure you graduate on time. Everyone here is expected to fend for themselves and seek help when they need it, as opposed to being constantly asked if you do need help. 

Another huge adjustment I’ve had to make is not knowing my actual class schedule. As opposed to knowing your exact schedule, professors, and classrooms a whopping 3 months before classes actually start, my “timetable” as they call it, is still not completely done. I’m heading into my second week here at the LSE and I only have 2 courses shown on my schedule, waiting for my other 2 which are pending to be approved. But here, students don’t find this as stressful as us American folk who are used to knowing these things well in advanced. People here just go with the flow, and still manage to get everything done. 

This lifestyle is definitely something I am slowly adjusting to, and believe it or not, there is quite a bit of culture shock just coming to England. As I walk the streets to and from class, or when I’m running errands, every coffee shop, bar, and pub is filled with people at all hours of the day. And boy do people here love their alcohol. No matter what day of the week, there are floods of people in and around bars and pubs making the most of their happy hour (or happy evening I should say). But here, alcohol isn’t seen as it is here. Anywhere I go, even a museum cafe, they sell some sort of beer or cider. Here, people seem to be more responsible and don’t see it as a taboo lifestyle. It really is incredible that a school so prestigious as the LSE has approved the existence of “Wine Appreciation Society” (which I have decided to join!) and is run by the Student Union. In America, that is definitely unheard of. 

All of these subtle differences have combined into what is turning into a very worthwhile experience as I continue my studies, make new friends from around the world, and adapt to a surprisingly foreign country. 

What a weekend!

What a whirlwind of a weekend! I don’t even know where to begin!

Thursday night I decided to do an LSE trip to the London eye and do a bankside tour. What a great decision. We rode the eye during sunset, and it was beautiful. We were able to get great views in the light and dark. After that, we were given a tour walking down the river, learning about all the major buildings and pubs. (Can’t forget the pubs!)

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Saturday was a jam packed day thanks to another tour from LSE! We were able to go on a tour of Westminster Abbey! It was absolutely beautiful. I was privileged to see the coronation chair, as well as the graves of many past Kings and Queens, Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, and George Fredric Handel! I even walked under the archway Kate Middleton did when she walked to the altar to marry Prince William! Then we hiked over to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. It was packed with people! After battling the massive crowds, we took a boat ride down the Thames to the Tower of London. Fortunately we got lucky and were able to see Tower Bridge open for a boat that was coming through! What a sight! The Tower of London was also incredibly fascinating, as I got to see the Crown Jewels! Hundreds of years of kings and queens crowns are stored and guarded within the Tower of London and I’m so happy I can say I’ve finally see them. The Tower of London was full of stories and little exhibits that told the story of almost 1000 years of English history. It was so fascinating, I made a second trip back on Sunday to see it! I think all in all I also walked a total of at least 9 or 10 miles just Saturday and Sunday. Definitely don’t have to worry about gaining weight here!

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Living the high life

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What an incredible night! It’s a wonder how much LSE spends on general course orientation alone. After our welcome meeting we all got free sweatshirts (all 300+ of us). We then made our way down to the Tower station to walk down to the river to get on a boat! Yes, a boat. Last night I partied on a boat and I don’t think I will ever be able to say that again. LSE hired a boat to carry all 300 of us down the River Thames for nearly 3 hours, with free drinks and food! I met some awesome people from all over the country.

Pictured above is the beautiful Tower Bridge. What a sight it was at night especially from the river! Around 9 we noticed a green beam shooting across the sky. After asking LSE staff on board, we found out this beam was representing the Prime Meridian!

What a great experience that was to live the life of London’s finest (at least for one night!).

From country bumpkin to city girl

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I can’t even begin to describe how difficult yet exhilarating this transition to city life has been. I have never been one to live in the city, so I have amazed myself this far at my abilities to handle one of the biggest cities in the world. Acclimating to such a populous city (8 million to be exact) is definitely tough coming from little old Vineland in South Jersey. Since I also chose to go to “uni” where there was an actual campus, I have never had to find my way around with just a map, maneuvering through thousands of people from every country and culture imaginable. Boy did I have to learn quickly though! Even trying to shop for essentials such as bed sheets was a nightmare. Think Black Friday shopping, but literally every single day. The hustle and bustle of the London life is quite overwhelming at first, but at the end of the day I feel accomplished because that’s one day more I survived on my own in a foreign country!

Now that I’m finally moved into my room and settled down (not living out of bags anymore!) I’m beginning to get excited to finally start class, because I keep forgetting I’m here to actually do something and not just bum around London like a tourist.

But since I’ve moved in, I also realized how wonderful Lehigh housing is compared to city dorm life. Anyone who is from Lehigh reading this right now, COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS. As glamorous as city life is, my bathroom is as big as an airplane bathroom. No lie. It is actually 3 feet by 3 feet. But I guess there are worse things to complain about. Like the fact that I still have to go grocery shopping. And that my feet might actually fall off from my 2 mile journey to Primark today. But on the plus side, there’s a pub right across the street from my dorm called The Sherlock Holmes so I know where I’ll be spending my weekends now.

But I’m finally moved in and unpacked, and my roommate is great! It’ll be so fun to get to know her and her culture. Here’s to the start of a great year. Cheers!

 

Day of firsts!

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Well what a great day off from orientation! I was able to meet up with fellow Lehigh students today of whom lived on my floor freshman year! One is also studying in London and one came down for the weekend from Edinburgh! It was nice to meet up with familiar faces while we meandered through the British Museum. To our surprise we saw the Rosetta Stone in the first room we entered, which was really fascinating. We also saw a lot of mummies and different ways they were preserved, as well as various artifacts from different cultures all over the world!

We then ventured over to Hyde Park which I had never been to, and my friend had a wonderful idea to rent bikes (here they’re called cycles!) and ride them around the park. It was fun just getting out of the city scene for a bit and getting some fresh air riding through the trees and scenery.

I then realized I had to find my way back to the hotel, by myself! So I became a super tourist and whipped out my map and phone (yes, I used a paper map!) to find which way I had to go, where the nearest tube station was, and which line I had to go on. I am actually very proud of myself for successfully battling rush hour London tube traffic by myself on a Saturday.

Another first today, fish and chips! ie cod and French fries. But I was happy to finally say I have had the iconic London fish and chips. Now all I have left is have afternoon tea and I’ll have checked off all my British tourist food bucket list items (since there aren’t many to begin with!).

Tomorrow is move in day, so I get to meet my roommate and finally stop living out of bags! Hooray!