This past weekend I spent freezing my butt off, riding the tube, and laughing a whole lot. It was a great weekend spent with my big. She showed me all around london from the christmas markets, food markets, big ben, the london eye, shopping, and pub crawls. Friday I arrived around 4 and she showed…
I miss all of you but I never want to leave this place. EVER. Reality has kicked in. I feel like this was all a dream. I have met the most interesting people here and done the weirdest things you can imagine. I will come back with so many stories and experiences, and some that you won’t understand because you weren’t here to experience them with me. But that’s okay, I will do my best to explain everything the best that I can. In reality, it is the people that you share these experiences with that will make the memories. If I were to come back here (which I will), it will be so weird to be here without the people from my program. Bleh time to enjoy my last real night.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”—Mark Twain
Little came to visit this past weekend! We did all of the touristy things, shopped in Oxford Circus, and went on a Pub Crawl. It was cool to show her around my neighborhood and tell her everything about London! We found a really cool building by the Eye that had bowling, a bar, an arcade, and a McDonald’s.
This is the only picture we have of both of us for some reason…
CAPA gave us free tickets to go see a pantomime, which is an interactive, funny play known to happen near the holidays. We saw Cinderella at Hackney Empire Theatre. It was pretty funny.
Last night, CAPA rented out the famous Three Kings Pub for our farewell dinner. It’s basically a sports bar. They gave us food in a buffet style, and if you were there it would have looked like we haven’t eaten in days. Every time they brought a tray out it was gone in .7 seconds, no lie. We had chicken fingers, nachos, jalapeno poppers, tandoori chicken skewers, hummus platters, and finger sandwiches. They also played a slideshow with all of our pictures that we sent in, and our program staff said a few words. It was kind of sad knowing I’m leaving so soon :(
I also won the CAPA Letter of Achievement, which is a letter of recommendation and a certificate that I can use for grad school. I was 1 of 7 out of 200 that got it and they announced my name last night!
Okay I’m waiting for Little to come now, updates later!
Okay so maybe Let Me Play isn’t that bad. I got into work today and was asked to meet a group of Australian kids at Stamford Bridge, which is Chelsea Football Club’s stadium. I went with them on a private tour! We saw the home and away locker rooms, ran through the tunnel that the teams use to enter the field, and saw the press room. The actual stadium was so cool, but so weird cause it was empty. We then got free entrance to the museum. It was cool to see the history of the team and stadium. This is one of the coolest things that I got to do in London, and totally unexpected!
My Dad came to visit me for 5 days! It was so fun! We saw basically all of the sights in London, plus more. I took him to the changing of the guards at Buckingham, rode the London Eye, went to the ice bar, went on a ghost bus tour, and saw the British Museum. We spent most nights at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, which is basically a huge Christmas Market and carnival in one. They have a craft area, a ton of food, a beer garden, a carousel bar, and a lot of different rides. We also went to a couple pubs, and of course drank cider!!
I also took him to Let Me Play so he could meet everyone there, and then showed him Westfield.
We also went on a cruise up the Thames to Greenwich to see the Prime Meridian!
So last weekend Austin came to visit! He flew into Luton and arrived at my door around 1am. We went straight to bed and then woke up early to explore the city. If I do say so myself, I am a pretty good tour guide. We saw Buckingham, Trafalgar Square, Harrod’s (The Christmas World is amazing there!), ate at Rainforest Cafe, saw Platform 9 and 3/4, and checked out Hyde Park.
So I’ve decided that one of the best things about London is that it’s acceptable to grab lunch and a pint at a pub before work. People here are very casual about drinking and eating. You will see businessmen in suits during lunch time at your local pub, and it’s not abnormal to grab a drink during your lunch hour. Today me and Sarah Ryan decided that after class we would go to a pub before work. I ordered my first jacket potato (which is basically like a baked potato with all different types of toppings, anything from beans to tuna), and a strongbow. I got the bean and cheese jacket potato. IT WAS DELICIOUS!
When I got to work there wasn’t anyone there except Ja’ Nae’ so we chatted about European basketball. I told her that I have realized a lot working with Let Me Play, the major thing being that basketball just isn’t a big sport here. I learned a lot about England Basketball, which is the head governing body, as well as about the facilities and chances of women’s basketball becoming a bigger area of interest here.
Austin is coming here tonight and I’M SO EXCITED! I hope he doesn’t get lost in London on his way here. My Dad is coming on Tuesday as well!!!! and Little is coming after that!!! YAY!!! I can’t wait to show everyone around and show them where I live! I’ve had a great time here so far and I love sharing it with people I care about!
I also tried mulled wine the other night at the North Star. It’s basically warm wine with spices, and reminds me of the Christmas season :)
Dublin was absolutely amazing! We did so much too! We stayed with Lauren’s friend Will, and his 3 roommates (who were all pretty cool). We did the Jameson and Guinness factories, a horse and buggy ride, a ghost bus tour, saw Trinity College, and went to Temple Bar at night. The factories were pretty cool, but I like the Guinness factory better because it was much more interactive, and had a great view from the Gravity Bar. Each of the bars gave you a free drink at the end. A cool thing about the Jameson factory is that they had a whiskey taste testing session at the end. The ghost bus tour was very creepy. Of course it was at night, and took you to a cemetery and church. They told us to take pictures to see if we could catch any orbs. I got a few!
The first night we ate at the oldest pub in the city: the Brazen Head. I got bangers and mash and a Guinness of course!
We also checked out the wax museum which was cool but kind of creepy at the same time.
Temple bar was such a cool area. We spent both nights at the actual Temple Bar because I was obsessed with it. They had a live band who was amazing! I sat there for about 5 hours each night listening to them. They took requests, and did the popular songs like Sweet Home Alabama.
We didn’t have enough time to go to the bar that was featured in the movie P.S. I Love You. I really wish we had time for it because it is one of my favorite movies ever! But anyways listen to the song Galway Girl from the soundtrack and you’ll feel like your in Dublin. This is also the song that was played about 600 times at Temple Bar by the live band.
I am obsessed with the Irish accent and will go back to Dublin any chance I get. It was a great last trip!
So last week I helped Let Me Play out with the Glee performance that they were putting on. Basically a bunch of kids (around 100) got together and put on a performance just like the show. It was unbelievable. I ended up working around 45 hours that week, but it’s okay because I wont have to work when my Dad comes to visit in a week! I ironed for 4 hours and helped set up the event during the week. My Saturday started at 8:30am (actually 6am so I could catch the train to get to King’s Cross by 8am). I was assigned a group of girls from LSU. I worked with Shelley to chaperone them throughout the day. It was so funny to see them with their curlers, hair straighteners, and make up. They were between the ages of 11 and 13, and some of them were very talented. One girl from another group did a solo Adele performance, it was so good! My group did Baby by Justin Bieber and The Climb by Miley Cyrus. Some of the other songs that were performed were Raise a Glass, Bills Bills Bills, and Irreplaceable.
I even let the girls do my hair and make up for the night! After the show, around 11pm, there were three bottles of wine and a bucket of corona waiting for us in the hotel lobby. We then went out to a bar called The Loop. We were on the VIP list which was cool. The bosses bought everyone beer and wine and even jagar bomb shots! They paid for everything! We did some dancing on the next floor down, and even grooved to some 80s beats in the basement. It was Shelley’s last day which was sad, she’s definitely going to do great back in Australia!
The last leg of our journey was a couple days in Barcelona. I was so happy to see my Little! and she did a good job being our tour guide :). I loved this city. It was a mixture between a beach and city. The street that we stayed on was Las Ramblas. This area of the city reminds me of Times Square. They had cute area with vendors (where I bought a cactus), and a market with the best fruit juices you will ever had. The strawberry coconut one was delicious. Of course we checked out the main attractions in the city, like Sagrada Familia.
We also checked out Park Guell which was deisgned by Antonio Gaudi. The buildings and lanscape were absolutley breathtaking.
(More pictures of the park will be posted in another post). We also went to the aquarium which was pretty cool. They had a lot of different types of sea life that I had never seen before.
We also saw a fountain light show in front of the palace. There were a ton of people there, and we grabbed a spot on the grass with our boxes of 55 cent wine. Yes I said 55 cent wine.
The night life was also really fun. We went to Chupitos (it means shots in Spanish). They are famous for all of their unique types of shots. For instance we had a pop rocks shot, which was a blue fruity shot that you chase with pop rocks. We also tred their most popular shot, which was the Harry Potter shot. They lite the vodka on fire and added something to make it look like there were sparks coming out of it.
We also got a Pringles shot and gummy shot, as well as a fish bowl shot. They were all so different!
We also signed up for a tapas and flamenco tour through our hostel. We went to a restaurant where they gave us about 5 different tapas to try, and of course a glass of sangria (this city is obsessed with sangria). After we ate, we went to a flamenco show which was very cool to see.
Although it was rainy a lot, we did manage to get down to the beach for a bit. We also ate at a cool Moroccan restaurant. It was very expensive and had an in house magician and massage therapists!
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect from Portugal, but it happened to be AWESOME. When we arrived at the airport we took the aerobus to our hostel. Once at the hostel, the woman at the front desk showed us around (they had a really cool lounge). They had really comfy chairs in the lounge and everything was black, white, and teal.
They also had an in house chef who served dinner for 9 euros. We decided that this was a good deal and ate there the second night. They served us watercress soup, a salad with strawberries and homemade dressing, Portuguese fried chicken, chips, and potatoes. They also made a birthday cake for one of the staff members. The best part was the bottomless local wine though!
We also went on a hop-on hop-off bus tour that took us all around Lisbon. It also included a trolley ride through Old Town. They provided headphones too!
We went on a bar crawl one night and met some really cool people. I met a couple girls who had just graduated from college and were coaching lacrosse in London. How sick of a job is that?! They all played in college, and most of their schools played Umass.
The cool thing about Lisbon was that most of the houses were made out of different patterned tiles, and all of them were different.
So the next day we woke up and decided to check out Parque Warner. It’s basically like a smaller Universal Studios. It is split into different areas, like superheros and cartoon ville. They had some pretty cool roller coasters. Dad you would have loved the log flume there, I will explain it when we skype :).
The park itself was far from the city, and it look like we were going through the desert to get there. It was pretty cheap to get into, and well worth it. The lines for each ride were so much shorter than in the US as well.
I forgot to mention in the first post that we went to the Museo del Jamon (museum of ham). You walk into the building and there is ham everywhere (it’s the main meat of choice in Spain). We order cured ham and cheese which came with bread. I was a little hesitant on eating ham that wasn’t cooked, but it was delicious.
The next day we checked out a cool market called El Rastro Market. The market itself was huge and full of different vendors. We bought some scarfs and these cool sunglasses
We also checked out the botanical gardens near the Prado museum. The gardens were cool except everything was pretty much dead except for a few flowers haha. We went into the Prado museum as well because it was free entry from 5-8pm on Sunday.
That night we ended up doing a pub crawl that took us to a couple different bars and a club called Joy. The people that headed the tour were pretty cool, and they actually knew a lot of people from Umass. One was from Brooklyn and the other from Alaska. Overall, I loved Madrid, and it was great to learn about all of the history and culture there.
So we arrived at our hostel in Madrid around 2am so we decided to get some rest and then meet up with Austin the next day. Our hostel was pretty cool, complete with wifi and lockers, as well as a beer vending machine (each beer was one euro). We were exploring the city in the morning and found a Dunkin’! This was so exciting because I was telling Courtney the first thing I want when I get back is an iced coffee and everything bagel with cream cheese. Funny thing is that there were two types of breakfast sandwiches and they were both premade. Also, the coffee is basically espresso and flavoring (but still good).
We met Austin in the center of the city (El Sol), which was only about ten minutes from our hostel. He took us to Parque del Retiro. They had boats that you could rent, as well as numerous bike and running paths. We went to the Crystal Palace there, but couldn’t go in because they were doing construction.
We also went to the palace and a cool market (Mercado de San Miguel) that had a bunch of different vendors with tapas. I tried croquettas, potatoes bravos, and a couple other tapas. I also got a really good apricot chocolate mousse cake. We took our afternoon siestas, and then got ready for the night. The nightlife in Madrid is absolutely amazing. We met up with Austin and his friend and they showed us around the different bars and clubs. The coolest place that we went was El Tigre. We ordered a mojito, sangria (which Madrid is famous for), and a couple beers. With every drink they had you a free plate full of different types of tapas. The drinks there were the biggest I have ever seen!
We then went to an Irish pub called Dubliner’s. Taylor happened to be in Madrid the same time I was, and we met up for a few minutes. By 6am it was time for bed. The two things I learned the first day in Madrid were that it really is the city that doesn’t sleep and all people do all day is eat tapas.
I honestly don’t even know where to begin with this trip. It was one of the best weeks that I have had in my life. I am so happy that Austin and my Little decided to come abroad at the same time! It was great to see familiar faces, as well as having someone to show you the cool spots of the city :)
So my schedule was Madrid —> Lisbon —> Barcelona. There’s a lot to cover, so bear with me.
First off HAPPY HALLOWEEN! (This was taken at Parque Warner in Madrid)
This is the craziest place I have ever been. Awesome time here! Can’t wait to tell very one stories. We’re at dunks now and our flight leaves at 5 for Lisbon. We may go check out the bull fight museum. We were one week late for the bill fighting season, but that’s okay, it would have been very gory anyways.
Madrid is one of the most culturally different places I have ever been. I love it here, an am using my conversational Spanish from Hopkins pretty well. I am so fortunate to have Austin and my little studying in Spain an was so excited to see them both last night! So the first night we got here, we ended up passing out pretty early. We got up and met Austin the next day so he could show us around the city. I will include details when I get back. The tapas, sangria and nightlife here are amazing. I will upload pics of food and such and then give a full blog post of everything I did when I get home. Austin comes back tomorrow might do I’m sure there will be even more stories