London Living's avatar

London Living

A little girl in a big city

Theme by Theme Static

A Week of Lasts

The time has finally come to wrap up my time in London. This week has been such an odd limbo state of doing things for the last time but also trying to pretend that it’s not the last time we’ll be doing things. I can’t believe that the semester is really over. The past five months have flown by and have been an absolute dream come true. So here’s to my last week in the best city on earth.

Monday:
On Monday I successfully completed my first British exam. It wasn’t too difficult and didn’t take long at all and was such a relief to have finished. Right after our exam Emilee and I met Lauren and Allie and we headed over to Abbey Road to cross off one last touristy attraction. Its really awkward posing for the photo in the middle of the road as cars wait for you to stop being an idiot but it was fun and definitely something that needed to be done before we left.
image

image

That night Emilee, Lauren, and I celebrated by getting two for one cocktails at the London Cocktail Club one last time. Lauren and I ordered the Porn Star Martini (basically just a passion fruit martini) and a really yummy daiquiri type drink. Emilee got a French Martini (I’m not sure whats in it but I stole a sip and it was good) and we spent the night drinking and chatting and all around avoiding the topic of leaving.
image

image

Tuesday:
Tuesday night may have been one of the hardest goodbyes I had to say in London. Lauren and I went to our favorite club, The Roxy, for the last time. We met up with one of our friends we met in Amsterdam and danced the night away drinking our last pitchers of Filthy Habit. I’m not sure how I’m going to cope when I get back to America and my favorite cheap club isn’t right around the corner from my house. Hopefully I can find a recipe for filthy habit somewhere to recreate the magic.

imageimage

Wednesday:
Lauren and I spent our day Wednesday wandering around central London doing all our souvenir shopping. We bought plenty of tacky items to remember London by and loved every second of it. While walking around the Goodge Street area Lauren and I accidentally wandered into a Transport for London advert being filmed. We stopped to watch for a second trying to figure out what was going on and apparently ended up right in the back of one of the shots. We signed release forms so they could use our faces and I guess we very well may be on British TV now. I don’t want to brag but I think I’m basically a celebrity over there now (this will be my second British TV appearance). For dinner Wednesday night Lauren and I finally went to Bubble Dogs which is a restaurant that serves champagne and hotdogs. I know how incredibly weird that sounds but it was delicious. It’s the one place we had scoped out before even getting to England and I can’t believe it took us until our last week to actually go there but I’m glad we didn’t miss it. The hotdogs have all sorts of crazy toppings. I got a caesar dog which had caesar dressing, lettuce, and crispy chicken skin on top. It was absolutely delicious and I got sweet potato fries as a side. Lauren got a hotdog with chive cream cheese, garlic, and onions on top and tater tots as a side. We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Thursday:
Thursday was entirely uneventful because I spent it studying for my last exam and pretty much didn’t leave my flat. We did have our API farewell dinner that night which was very bittersweet but a good time. The food was delicious. They took us back to the pub where we had our first lunch after landing in London. It was cool to see the trip come full circle. I ordered a chicken and leek pie with sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Both were amazing and I was so full after the meal. I had such a good time seeing everyone together one last time, even if it meant saying goodbye after the meal.

Friday:

Friday was definitely the hardest day this week because it started to truly set in that we were leaving. My apartment was almost completely packed up by Friday morning. I had to wake up and take my last final Friday morning which was a bummer but it went quickly and it felt great to be done after. That afternoon I finished up my packing and cleaning and wandered to Regent’s Park one last time with Emilee and Lauren. Regent’s was definitely my favorite park in London. Its huge and filled with so many little flower gardens and beautiful fields. Sadly the weather on Friday was less than ideal for park going so we didn’t last very long lounging in the grass. It was great to go one last time and see all the flowers in bloom.

Friday night for dinner Lauren and I went to a pizza restaurant called Homeslice with Tim and Chris for one final flat dinner. The pizzas at Homeslice are massive and amazing and because there were four of us we split two. If you’re ever in the Covent Garden of London and need somewhere to eat Homeslice should not be missed. It was great to sit with Tim and Chris and just relax and reflect on our past semester.

We finished off our final night in London at our favorite pub (Jack Horner’s). Lauren, Emilee, Allie, and I ended up playing a really intense game of heads up while we drank our last pints and we were both the most popular and the most hated people in the bar. Heads Up is a game that started on the Ellen show where one person holds a card up on their forehead and the other people have to give them clues as to what the word on the card is. You do as many as you can in the time given and it always ends up being hilarious. We played a version on the iPhone that films you acting out the words so you can save the hilariousness. Everyone in the bar was watching us play and laughing along with us and it was a really great way to end our semester.

Saturday:

Saturday was officially move out day. We got kicked out of our flat at 10:00am on the dot and the morning was a frantic blur of cleaning, emptying trash cans, and lugging suitcases down the 75 stairs in my building. Lauren, Angelica, and I dropped off our suitcases at our reception building and met Emilee and spent the morning in a cafe killing time before our cab came to take us to the airport. It was so weird walking out of my flat for the last time knowing I’ll never be hiking up those stairs again. Although our flat was simple, it was home and I’m really going to miss it.

After we overstayed our welcome in the cafe we trekked over to Big Ben one last time to snap some photos and say our goodbyes. I never quite got over having Big Ben right around the corner from my house. It’s a view that’s always incredible and I can’t believe it won’t be so close anymore.

The first photo Lauren and I took in London way back when was a selfie with Big Ben. To truly finish off the trip we took one more (with slightly less excited faces this time)

The rest of Saturday was a blur of airport security and flight announcements. I had a surprise reunion with my best friend from Saint Mikes at the gate for my plane and I have never been so overwhelmed in my life. I saw her from a distance and did a double take before realizing that it was in fact her, screaming her name, and running over to her. We both burst into the tears we had been holding back all day and started laughing hysterically and hugging while making a huge scene at the gate. It was hilarious because throughout the 5 months that we were only one country away we never managed to see each other and there we were on the same flight back to America. My flight back home was long but uneventful and reuniting with my parents was exciting. Being home feels really strange and I’m having a pretty difficult time coping to be honest. London was the most incredible experience of my life and I truly can’t believe its over. Adjusting back to life in a small town is going to be really hard and I’m not looking forward to it. I will never forget all the experiences I had, the friends I made, or the magic of London from this past semester and I truly feel like the luckiest girl alive.

Praha

I’m extremely behind on my blogging (my deepest apologies, its been a little crazy around here with finals and my inevitable departure looming) so here’s a big long update on my most recent and final trip. Lauren and I planned a spontaneous to Prague for a few days since it was a place we were both dying to see and its incredibly cheap to go there. I didn’t know much about Prague as a city or the Czech Republic as a country but I had only heard good things about it from my friends who had visited. Prague turned out to be stunningly beautiful. It actually looks like a city out of a fairytale. It’s small, totally walkable, and full of really cool architecture. We got lucky and had really good weather up until our last day which meant it was easy to just wander around and take in the sites of the city.

Upon arrival Lauren and I made our way into the city center where our hostel was. Our Prague hostel was one of the nicest hostels we stayed in which was surprising since it was also the cheapest. After checking in Lauren and I went out just to wander around and figure out the area we were staying in. We were starving (as usual) and we found this really cool cafe in the back of a bookstore that served awesome American style brunch. After breakfast we walked along the river just taking everything in and ended up in this cute little island park. It was great to just take a leisurely walk and relax in a park and chat with Lauren about our time abroad and our many adventures. So many of our trips have felt so rushed and busy that it was nice to end with two relaxing and easygoing vacations.

Prague is great because its so easy to walk throughout the whole city. It is however, very easy to get lost in the twisty turny streets that don’t connect the way you think they should so thank god for google maps. Once again thanks to Google maps, Lauren and I found an awesome burger restaurant for dinner on our first night which we enjoyed before heading to bed nice and early to recover from our early flight.

Mosaic House, our hostel, offered a free walking tour every morning so we took advantage of that on our second day in Prague. They took us through all the parts of the old city to look at the major landmarks. It was hard to understand a lot of the history through the accents but it was fun just walking around and looking at everything. Prague is famous for its architecture and I loved getting to see all the cool buildings.

One thing I was really looking forward to seeing in Prague was the astronomical clock in the old town square. I had seen pictures of it several times when I was planning my Prague trip but the photos do not do it justice at all. The detail on the clock is incredible. There’s at least 4 different clock faces, all representing different things. One of the larger faces actually tells the time while three smaller ones represent the sun and moon cycles and the signs of the zodiac. Every hour when the clock chimes several of the little ornate figures that decorate the clock begin to move and doors open up to show all the different apostles peering out the windows. I didn’t expect to be so awed by the clock moving but the way it moves is seamless and the details are incredible. I’m glad our tour was timed around seeing the clock chime because I wouldn’t have thought to have stayed to see it otherwise.

After the walking tour was over Lauren and I embarked on a long trek up the biggest hill in the city to get to the palace. We stopped for a quick lunch along the way so we had enough energy to climb the insane amount of stairs that lead to the palace (we thought the stairs to our apartment were bad). We took a quick break for a photo halfway up the stairs but dont be fooled, it was really just an excuse to catch our breath.

The palace itself has lots of different buildings you can tour. Lauren and I got the most basic tour ticket which got us into the chapel and a few other buildings. the chapel was beautiful and the view of Prague from the castle was the most incredible part. It definitely made the hike to get there worth it.

My friend Ruhani went to Prague a few weeks ago and insisted that the one thing Lauren and I must do was try a chimney cake while we were there. Being the food lovers that we are we happily obliged and grabbed a freshly made one at the palace. They make it by wrapping dough around a rolling pin type thing and sticking it inside a fire so it gets nice and crispy on the outside but still doughy on the inside. Then its dipped into cinnamon sugar and walnuts to finish off the delicousness.

After we finished exploring the castle we decided to take the short walk over to the John Lennon Wall to check out the graffiti. Its covered in bright murals, Beatles quotes, and creative installations. I never did figure out why there’s a John Lennon wall in Prague of all cities but I’m glad I got the chance to see it.

After all the walking we packed in we decided to head back to the hostel to relax for a little before venturing back into the old square area for some dinner. Since this was our one full day in Prague I’m glad we filled it with all the things we wanted to see, even if it was exhausting. Although the trip was quick it was the perfect amount of time and a great way to get out of London one last time.

On our last day, Lauren and I were wandering around avoiding the rain and killing time before our flight when we came across a little hidden Tim Burton exhibit. They had a balloon outside the museum that tipped me off and I all but ran across the square the investigate. A few years ago Tim Burton had a huge show at the MoMa but I never made it there to see it. Who knew that several years down the line, in Prague of all cities, I would get to see most of the work that was in New York. It was the greatest little discovery ever and helped us kill plenty of time before our flight. I probably could have spent hours in there examining all the work but i restrained myself.

Prague was such an incredible city full of hidden surprises. I can see why so many people had recommended it to me and I’m so glad Lauren and I were able to squeeze it in before finals and everything really kicked in. Now I’m settled back in London for the homestretch which is terrifying. These past 5 months have flown by and I can’t believe its almost time to say goodbye. Before I know it I’ll be typing my farewell post and trying not to have a breakdown in the airport on the way home.

Said the Hatter with a sigh, “It’s always tea time.”

Time to cross another thing off my London Bucket List! Afternoon tea today was absolutely magical. Lauren, Whitney, Margaret, and I made a reservation at the SoHo Secret Tea Room and it was much more secretive than I expected. In fact it was almost impossible to find the actual tea room. I felt like I was entering some sort of 20’s speakeasy instead of a quaint tea room. The room was exactly what I always imagined a British tea room to be. It was quirky and adorable filled with fresh flowers in tea pots and miss matched tea sets.

Lauren and I splurged on the full afternoon tea which gave us so much food I didn’t even know what to do with it all. I got a pot of Earl Gray tea and a full spread of scones, sandwiches, and cakes and loved every minute of it.

The scones were, of course, complete with clotted cream and strawberry jam. I got the fruit scone which had several different types of dried fruit baked in and was really yummy.

We got a lovely assortment of finger sandwiches featuring egg and watercress, cucumber, and cream cheese and chive. I think the cream cheese one was my favorite (I’m a sucker for anything with cream cheese) but they were all delicious.

For my cake I chose a chocolate coconut piece. Lauren got vanilla sponge cake topped with lots of fresh fruit which I got to steal a bite of. Both were extremely awesome. Mine was rich and chocolately while Laurens was fresh and light.

As if that wasn’t enough already we also got to choose from several different “fairy cake” options. Essentially these are just smaller cake portions. I opted for a vanilla cupcake to get my chocolate and vanilla fix (and feed my cupcake obsession of course).

I’m still completely stuffed after eating all that this afternoon. It was the perfect balance of sweet and savory and felt absolutely British and perfect. It was so fun to just sit and relax eating yummy food and catching up with my friends. Its Margaret’s last few days in London (yikes!) so it was great to do something unique to London before we have to say goodbye. Afternoon tea is just one more thing to love about England!

#000000 & #FFFFFF

I’ve seriously been slacking on my concert going since being in London and it’s quite disappointing. I was hoping to be able to see a ton of good stuff once I got here but everything I’ve looked at has been sold out or outrageously expensive. In hindsight I should have done a little more planning and booking before I even got to the UK but you live and you learn. One concert I did manage to plan proactively was The Neighbourhood, one of my favorite bands from California. My favorite radio station started playing them at the beginning of last summer and I was instantly hooked. I love their music because its a really unique sound and the lead singer has an amazing and sort of unconventional voice. Their songs are all extremely catchy and will probably get stuck in your head for days (you know you can’t stop singing Sweater Weather). It felt so good to hear some live music again and the Neighbourhood did not disappoint. The openers were really questionable but once the Nieghbourhood took the stage they gave a flawless performance and I could have stood there and listened for hours. The band is big on a “black and white” theme which was really cool because they only used white lighting (think lots of strobe lights). I put on my best black and white outfit and had an incredible time. If they’re ever in your area I highly recommend seeing the Neighbourhood. You won’t regret it!

Food Obsession: Greece Edition

Come on you all knew it was coming… I would never post about a trip without also posting about all the amazing food I ate while I was there!

Before going to Greece I think I could count the times I had eaten Greek food on one hand. I didn’t really know what to expect from it besides maybe Greek salads and lots of feta cheese. I really enjoyed exploring the different items on the menu and seeing how many times and in how many different ways I could eat feta in one day (the answer is a lot).

Lunch on my first full day was a chicken souvlaki pita from the grill on the beach of the hotel. Lauren recommended it and I was not disappointed. The pita bread was soft and amazing, the chicken was delicious, and to top it off there were even french fries shoved inside the pita. What more could you ask for?

At our group dinner the second night we went back to a restaurant Whitney had really liked one of the first nights they were there. I wasn’t really sure what to get so I opted for a salad that came topped with lots of feta cheese. Greek salads aren’t really my thing because I dont like olives so this was the perfect alternative. It was fresh, crunchy, and delicious.

We finished off our group meal with some amazing homemade gelato. I got one scoop of milk chocolate and one scoop of tiramisu and it was the perfect way to end the night. 

The next night Emilee and I decided to stay in Paradise Beach for dinner instead of going downtown. The restaurant at the beach offered chicken nuggets with pita and tzatziki sauce on the side. In my family I’m notorious for ordering chicken fingers no matter where we go. They’re like my ultimate comfort food. Tzatziki sauce is one of my favorite things as well but I don’t get to have it all that often so the combination of the two seemed absolutely perfect to me.

For our last meal in Greece Emilee and I took a personal challenge to see how much feta cheese we could squeeze into one meal. I love feta cheese no matter what but getting it fresh in Greece was even better. We managed to get quite a lot of it in one meal. We had both been wanting to try spinach pie after seeing it advertised at a lot of restaurants. We ordered that, a baked feta appetizer that came loaded with lots of peppers and other deliciousness, and a Greek salad topped with a huge slab of feta. I think we definitely filled our cheese quota for the trip and I’m already missing it now that I’m back in London.

I always need something sweet before I go to bed so I stopped in a little bakery and got a cute little tiramisu cup to bring back to the hotel with me. The way they made it was really cool because they layer it in the cup right in front of you. The bakery had so many little options that all looked incredible and I wish i could have tried them all!

Five Days in Paradise

Shortly after arriving in London I sat down with all my new friends and we started discussing places we had always wanted to visit and where we hoped to travel while we were abroad. I’ve wanted to go to Greece for as long as I can remember (reading The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in middle school probably sparked this idea. I mean who doesn’t want their own Kostas?) and during this conversation with my friends we realized we all shared the same dream. Quickly we put a plan in motion to make our dream a reality and a spring break trip to Mykonos was the result. It’s insane to me that something we planned so long ago has now come and gone but I’m so thankful I got to explore the island and cross yet another place off my travel bucket list.

We went to Mykonos in two waves. Lauren, Margaret, Whitney, and Allie left two days before Emilee and I. Emilee’s family was in London visiting her so she had to stick around to see them. It worked out fine though because we had a few days that overlapped so we all got to see each other and hang out on the beach. My first day in Mykonos was a little bit of a let down. Lauren and her crew got to walk off the plane into fabulous weather and immediately head to the beach. I walked off the plane into a giant thunderstorm complete with torrential downpours. It worked out ok though becuase I was exhuasted from traveling so we got to just sit and relax and get the lay of the land at first. The rain finally quit and Emilee and I went into Mykonos Town to explore for the first time. We stayed at a hotel in Paradise Beach which was absolutely beautiful. I loved getting to hang out on the beach all day and then explore the town at night. I have no idea how anyone finds their way around that town because its all windy streets that lead to nowhere and look exactly the same. Emilee and I were lucky enough to keep stumbling upon the same gelato stand and it quickly became our landmark for finding where we were (thanks gelato man, we owe you one). 

The next day the sun came out in full force and I couldn’t wait to get on the beach. I spent the whole day laying in the sunshine, reading my book, and enjoying the sound of the waves. Unfortunately I did not think about the fact that I’ve been living in cloudy London for almost 6 months and my skin hasn’t seen the sun in quite a while. Despite lathering on the sunscreen I ended up pretty burnt and pretty miserable. I wasn’t going to let that stop me from having fun though. That night we all went in to town for one real meal together before half our crew headed back to London. It was fun exploring with Lauren because they had already been there for a few days and had a much better idea of where they were going than Emilee and I. The Little Venice area of Mykonos Town is definitely the best place to grab food. there are so many restaurants right along the water and you can sit and watch the sun set while you eat. Its absolutely beautiful and looks just like you would imagine a Greek island to look. With the sun shining it was even better.

The remainder of my time in Greece was spent sprawled out on a comfy chair on the beach (this time in the shade to protect my already fried skin). I finished four books in the five days I was there and it felt amazing to just sit in the sunlight and relax. Although these past five months have practically been one big vacation it was nice to have a real vacation with no agenda. My other travels have been so incredible but they’ve been absolutely jam packed with sight seeing and running around. Mykonos is a tiny little island which not much to see, besides the beach. I loved the chance to sit with absolutely nothing to do besides read, tan (or burn), and eat good food. One day I hope to go back to Greece to explore some of the other islands but for now I’m thrilled that I got to go somewhere I’ve dreamed about for so long.

Street Food on the Southbank

A few weeks ago the Southbank Centre in London hosted the World Street Food Festival. If you’ve been following my blog for even just a few posts I think it’s pretty apparent that anything involving the word “food” immediately grabs my attention. Street food was particularly enticing because I knew it would be fresh, unique, and well priced. The Southbank Centre is located right underneath the London Eye and its a really quick walk from my flat in central which meant that I was able to frequent this festival several times. The festival fell over Easter weekend from Friday to Monday and featured food from all around the world. I was so overwhelmed on my first trip. After passing the chaos of the London Eye line I was immediately assaulted by so many different smells, sounds, and sights. Everywhere you turned someone was carrying a different dish, each looking more delicious than the last. The smells of Indian, Mexican, and traditional British food flowed through the air and music and typical cooking and sizzling sounds came from each truck. I think street food is such a cool idea because each truck has a limited menu, but they’re really good at what they do. Usually the food is creative, fresh, and delicious. On our first trip, Lauren and I settled on getting Fish Dogs which is essentially fish and chips in a hot dog bun. Instead of putting the traditional smushy peas on the side this vendor had mashed them up and used them as a garnish inside the hot dog bun. Then the fried fish is put in there and loaded up with tarter sauce. The fries were on the side but they were coated in some sort of delicious garlic-y sauce that made the whole thing even better. Overall I was quite impressed and satisfied with my first meal.

Before we even left the festival on Friday, Lauren and I had made the decision to come back the next day. One of the first vendors we had passed on Friday was selling amazing looking sausages served on giant baguette rolls. All day Saturday all Lauren and I could talk about was how excited we were for sausages. Dinner time finally rolled around and we all but ran back to the Southbank, this time dragging Tim with us. We beelined right for the sausage truck (of course we remembered exactly where it was) and it was every bit as delicious as I expected. We convinced Tim to try a fishdog for his first experience and he was not disappointed either. One vendor was selling fresh made churros coated in sugar and served with chocolate dipping sauce. We missed out on them Friday night because we went to the festival too close to closing time but we learned our lesson for Saturday and snatched some up after devouring our sausages.

Sunday was Easter so instead of street fooding it up my friends and I cooked a really yummy meal to celebrate (see previous post). I thought Saturday would be my last experience at the festival but when Monday came along Emilee texted and asked if I wanted to venture over there for an early dinner with her. Of course I said yes and I went one last time and got what I might consider to be the best of the three meals I had there. We got these really yummy flat bread pizzas baked right in the side of an old truck (it was really cool to see how they converted the truck into an oven). The pizzas had beetroot cooked into the crust giving them an awesome purple color and they were topped with goat cheese, more beetroot, and watercress. It was a great combination of flavors between the sweet beetroot and the tangy goat cheese. People kept staring at us as we ate them because it definitely looks a little strange to be eating purple pizza but I barely noticed anything besides how delicious it was.

I would assume that most of these vendors have trucks that travel around London on a regular basis but I have no idea how to find them again. If you’re ever in London in April and this festival is going on I highly recommend checking it out. You never know what surprising and delicious food you might find!

Easter in my Home Away From Home

One of the main reasons I was really set on studying abroad in the spring instead of the fall was so I wouldn’t miss any major holidays with my family. I’m very much a homebody and I love having Thanksgiving with my whole family and just being home around the holiday time. Even though I wouldn’t have missed Christmas in the Fall, I really enjoy having that entire month at home leading up to Christmas to decorate and be with my parents and sister. The one holiday I am missing in the spring is Easter. Easter has never been a huge deal in my family but we usually have a meal with everyone and sometimes we go out with some family friends. For me, holidays are just a time to be around the people I love so waking up on Easter in a different country instead of in my childhood bedroom was kind of strange. Lauren was kind of feeling the same way so to combat those feelings we organized a big Easter dinner with Margaret, Whitney, Chris, and Tim. Jack is in Paris with his family so he wasn’t able to attend (poor him). Each of us provided a different part of the meal. I made the main course, a chicken and broccoli casserole that my mom makes a lot, Margaret and Whitney brought guacamole for a starter and sweet potatoes for a side, Lauren made a salad and amazing salted caramel brownies, Tim provided a lovely cheese platter, and Chris brought a few bottles of wine for us all. We spent the afternoon cooking and hanging out and relaxing and it was really fun. Even though I couldn’t be with my real family it was nice getting to be with my study abroad family. I think I needed a nice meal with good friends as the stress of finals is starting to set in (gulp). For anyone studying abroad in the future who’s worried about missing holidays I would say the absolute best thing you can do is make your own holiday with your friends. This city truly has come to feel like my home and I’ve gotten so close with the people in my program that they almost do feel like a family and its just as fun to share a holiday with them as it is to be at home.

Food Obsession: Amsterdam and Copenhagen Edition

It wouldn’t be a vacation for me if I didn’t make sure to sample all the food a country has to offer. The Netherlands and Denmark certainly did not let me down. I’m trying to ignore the fact that in less than two weeks I need to be in a bathing suit on the beach in Greece because my food adventures this past week were less than healthy, but absolutely worth it.

The first thing we did when we arrived in Amsterdam was find Stroopwaffles. For those of you who haven’t been fortunate enough to try this amazing snack, a stroopwaffle is a really thin waffle with a toffee caramel filling. You can get them prepackaged all over Europe but we found a little stand near our hostel that made them fresh and in my opinion that is the best way to experience the goodness that is stroopwaffle. When they’re fresh the waffle is nice and warm and the filling gets really gooey and its pretty fantastic. The prepackaged ones are still pretty good though so if you ever come across them, buy them immediately.

I mentioned in my last post about my trip that we found really cheap pizza near the hostel our first night. Even though it was only 5 euro the pizza was amazing and of course I had to grab a Heineken to go with it (when in Amsterdam…).

Our breakfast on the second morning was the real game changer. We went to the Pancake Bakery to get our Dutch pancake fix. They were a little on the pricey side but honestly how can you miss out on a delicious pancake topped with ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream (remember what I said about being less than healthy)?

Amsterdam became one of my favorite places very quickly because they understand my love for french fries dipped in mayonnaise. In America most people look at me like I have three heads when I ask for a side of mayo at a restaurant or put some on my plate in the dining hall next to my french fries. The Netherlands however knows whats up because they automatically serve their fries smothered in mayo. I stopped to grab some for a quick afternoon snack with Lauren and it was delicious and perfect.

After landing in Copenhagen and reuniting with Bizzy we stopped at Cafe Paluden for some coffee to catch up and get out of the rain. Even though I just got your basic latte it was totally delicious and the atmosphere of the cafe is awesome. If you’re ever in Copenhagen check it out.

Before leaving for Copenhagen Lauren was quoted saying “well obviously I need to get a really good Danish pastry when we’re in Copenhagen….you know, like a danish!”. We didn’t get an actual danish in the city but we did get snegles, a Danish cinnamon bun. Apparently bakeries only make these particular pastries on Wednesdays and they sell them by the thousands. After eating one I totally understand why. They’re sticky and gooey and covered in sugary icing and I loved every second of it.

Our last day in Copenhagen consisted of a lot of walking. By lunchtime we had ended up kind of far from our hostel so we decided to stop for lunch in the area we were in. We ended up at a burger place that was really well priced an really yummy. You got to pick your burger, what type of fries you wanted, and what dipping sauce (more mayo for me yay!). They had lots of interesting and creative burgers on the menu (if you can read the Danish descriptions) but I opted for the more classic choice.

So far I’ve lucked out with my food adventures on all of my trips. I don’t think I’ve had a bad meal since I’ve been traveling and that makes me all the more excited for the rest of my adventures!

A Weekend With the Dutch and the Danes

A little over a week ago now I embarked on my first big travel adventure with Lauren and our other friend from SMC, Freddy. The weekend started off in the magical city of Amsterdam. Before arriving in the Netherlands I will admit I didn’t know much about it or really what to expect but Amsterdam absolutely blew me away. From the moment we stepped off the bus (after the most confusing bus ride of my life because what even is the Dutch language?) I was in love. The city has an almost fairytale-esque feel to it with the flower lined canals, houseboats, and beautiful architecture. After my hostel experience in Dublin (you’ll remember from my previous post about Ireland that it was really not a pleasant experience) I was a little weary going into this trip. Thankfully, the magic of Amsterdam carried over into our hostel as well, in more ways than one. We stayed in the youth section of the Van Gogh Hotel which is right in the Museumplein area across from, you guessed it, the Van Gogh Museum. The area itself is  beautiful and much safer than other parts of central Amsterdam. The hostel room was basically a private hotel room with some bunk beds thrown in it which meant we had a really nice bathroom, several personal safes, and even a TV (not that we had any time to watch it). When Freddy, Lauren, and I arrived we dropped our bags and quickly began exploring. We really had no concept of where we were going but the sun was shining and we had an amazing afternoon exploring the canals near the hostel.

image

image

image

As dinner time grew nearer we headed back to the hostel to regroup and make a game plan for the rest of the night. The rest of our roommates had arrived at this point and that’s when the fun really began. The three of us bonded pretty much instantly with three of the other girls in our room. Ruhani is originally from India but is studying fashion in London right near me and Lauren. Olivia and Lara are both studying in Milan right now but Liv is from New Zealand and Lara is from Canada. Liv was sick with tonsillitis for the first night so she didn’t join us for dinner but Ruhani and Lara came with us for 5 euro pizza and drinks where we shared all our study abroad stories. I never imagined I could become such fast friends with a group of strangers but traveling will do that to you!

image

The next morning we woke up on the earlier side to head to the Anne Frank house. We had heard that the queues can get pretty long over there and those people certainly weren’t wrong. We waited for about an hour but lucky for us the weather was decent and there was a small shop selling hot chocolate right next to the line (a very smart business move if you ask me). After touring through the house I can say it is 100% worth the wait. It’s extremely eerie and haunting to see the small dark house where such a young girl and her family hid out for so long. It’s definitely an experience I won’t soon forget. If you’re ever in Amsterdam I highly recommend checking out the museum.

Lauren Freddy and I had all bought a 48 hour I Amsterdam card which gave us free access to a ton of museums and free transportation (definitely a perk). The card also included a free canal tour so after the Anne Frank house we headed to Centraal Station to hop on our boat. It was nice to sit and relax for a little bit while looking at the houses along the river and the houseboats. The canals were one of my favorite parts of the city and it was cool to see them from the actual water and learn some of the history.

image

image

Our canal tour finished in a different part of the city than where we were staying so we decided to hang around there and explore for a little bit. This exploring turned into a mission to find none other than the infamous Red Light District. I knew it was something I had to see while I was in the city but that still didnt prepare me for just how weird it would be to see in person. It amazed me how casual it was. You’re walking among all these families and restaurants and suddenly theres windows with red lights and scantily clad women. It made me sad to see just thinking about how most of those girls ended up in a place like that and it definitely wasnt somewhere I wanted to spend a lot of time. I didn’t snap any pictures in this area because I wasnt really trying to get beat up or have my camera taken so I guess its one thing I’ll have to keep in my memories and you’ll have to see for yourself.

Our next and final day in Amsterdam was just as jam packed as the previous. We started out the morning at the Pancake Bakery for some traditional Dutch pancakes (as always I’ll do another food obsession post after this). They were insanely delicious and my mouth is watering just thinking about them. After breakfast Freddy, Lo, Ruhani, and I wandered around some more and ended up going inside the Tulip Museum since it was free on our card. I never knew a single flower could have so much history but leave it to the Dutch to dedicate a whole museum to it.

image

image

We tried to go to the Houseboat Museum after (I’ve developed a real obsession with houseboats since this trip) but sadly discovered it was closed on Mondays. Instead we snapped a few more pictures of the canals and headed back to the Museumplein to go to the Van Gogh Museum.

image

The Van Gogh Museum may have been my favorite part of the entire trip. Van Gogh has been one of my favorite painters for as long as I can remember and seeing so much of his work in one place was amazing for me. I got to see a ton of my favorite paintings and exploring Van Gogh’s progression as an artist was so fascinating. It makes me so sad that he never got to see how popular his work became after his death but after reading even more about his life I think I appreciate his work even more now.

After Van Gogh we headed back to the hostel to reunite with the other girls and figure out what to do for the rest of the afternoon. We were at a little bit of a loss for what to do next until we saw that the zoo was free on our Amsterdam card. We sat in the sunshine on the hill behind our hostel for a little while and then traipsed over to the zoo to see some animals. I have a strange love for zoos so I had a great time with Lauren and Freddy bonding and looking at monkeys and wallabies. image

Our final night in Amsterdam brought the trip full circle when we went back to the same five euro pizza place we ate at the first night. I opted for the five euro pasta this time and we all said our goodbyes and promised to stay in touch throughout the rest of our travels. The next morning Lauren Freddy and I woke up early and headed onward to…

Copenhagen

The main draw of going to Copenhagen was that several of our other SMC friends are also studying abroad there. My psych major partner in crime Bizzy is there and I couldnt wait to see her. Two other girls that I didn’t know very well, but Lauren is friends with, are also there and we got to see them too. I loved getting to chat with them and feeling like we got a little bit closer by the end of our two days there. My first impression of Denmark was not a great one. I was tired and hungry after our flight and instantly felt overwhelmed by the strange language and the even stranger currency. The fact that I paid 77 kroner for something but that meant it was only $15 was really messing with my head. After getting some food in me and navigating the metro to our hostel (which was easy given they only have 2 lines which seems like a total joke coming from London) I was feeling much better about going out and adventuring. We met up with Bizzy in one of Copenhagen’s main squares (please note that I will not refer to anything I did by its proper name because i cannot spell/pronounce/remember the names). From there we went to one of Bizzy’s favorite cafes’s thats also a little bookshop and got some delicious coffee. It was great to just sit and catch up for a little bit and relax after our flight. After warming up with our coffee we went out to brave the wind and the rain to do some sightseeing. Copenhagen is a small enough city that its entirely possible to walk the whole thing in a day, and thats just about what we did! We walked through several of the parks in the city, saw the Little Mermaid Statue, and walked through another small park that used to be a military fort and even saw a nice big windmill. After our park adventures we went over to Nyhavn which is the street with all the colorful houses lining the canal that you see in all the typical Copenhagen photos. Bizzy treated us to a homemade dinner of Danish meatballs (again dont ask me what the proper name for this is) and we sat around eating, drinking wine, and catching up.

image

image

image

image

Our first night in Copenhagen ended at the most stereotypical American type bar you could imagine. Kulørbar has a deal on Tuesdays where you pay about $12 and get unlimited beer until 1am. I don’t even like beer but you can bet I’m going to drink my $12 worth of it (and then some). The night was really fun and it was great to get to go out with some of my SMC crew again.

image

Our next morning started with more traditional Danish food. This time it was Snegles which are a Danish cinnamon bun covered in lots of gooey icing and apparently you can only get them on Wednesdays. Not a bad hangover cure if you ask me. image

The rest of our day was spent wandering around the parts of Copenhagen we hadnt seen the day before. We climbed the roundtower and got a really cool view of the entire city. It was fun being able to point at things and know we had been there earlier in the trip and it reminded me of being on top of St Pauls in London!
image

For dinner that night we made mini pizzas at Bizzy’s and then headed to a really cool cocktail bar called the Francis Pony. They have two for one drinks on Wednesday nights so we were all able to try a bunch of things by swapping our drinks around. I got a really yummy raspberry one and traded it for another one of Lauren’s whiskey and lemonade drinks. Our hostelmates Edwin and Lorraine met us at Francis Pony and it was fun drinking and chatting with them. We stayed out way too late given that Lauren and I had to leave our hostel at 4 in the morning to catch our flight. I’ve never been happier to crawl into my bed in London than I was that afternoon. The five days we spent traveling were so much fun and I had so many experiences I’ll never forget, but I’m really looking forward to having some time to just relax in London now. Its getting to be crunch time with exams creeping up on me and my next trip to Greece is just around the corner! I refuse to admit that it’s almost time for me to think about going home. For now I’m ready to pack these next few weeks with as many awesome experiences as I possibly can!