Category Archives: Travel

A Little Summary For My Own Amusement

It’s 12:30 at night, but I don’t feel like sleeping and I don’t have class until noon, so have a blog post.

It’s been a while… Almost a whole year, in fact. Will anyone even read this, who knows? This time last year I was a freshman settling into college dorm life. Now I’m sitting in my apartment with three other roommates, planning a pre-halloween brunch. Are we real adults yet?

Since the last post, oh gosh. What all has happened? Our horse, Doc, was sold to a wonderful young girl who will love him to death. I still miss him. The bearded lizard finally died after an impressively long time (RIP Jeriya). On a happier note, me and my mom got our first tattoos!

 

Mine

Mine

My mom's!

My mom’s!

We also got an exchange student from Korea!

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On the school end of things, I sort of switched my major after two weeks of classes. If anyone’s still reading this, then you probably know that, but I’m writing this for future me’s enjoyment, so hey. So long english major, hello film major. That part of my life has been awesome. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. I have awesome friends, classes that tell me to write an essay comparing Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Trek, and even cooler projects.

Filming our final last year - "After Life"

Filming our final last year – “After Life”

"After Life" again

“After Life” again

Our wonderful cast

Our wonderful cast

I officially stopped work on a book I’d been struggling with for four years, and after a short break started a new one, which inspired this fun mess.

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Then, in the blink of an eye, my first year of college was over. Summer didn’t go any slower. Three major things happened, each one pointing out that adulthood is more than just a threat. First, I got my first job. Second, I got my first car. Third, my cousin got married! Her wedding was gorgeous and I’m so happy for her! It was kinda weird that we were both nineteen on the big day, but nonetheless the entire experience was a wonderful, stressful experience. And then summer was over and college was back. I’ve already had so much fun living with Chloe, Emily, and Francesca and it’s only the beginning of the year! I’m taking a lot of film classes (scriptwriting, editing, camera and lighting, & history of us cinema), working, and making more new friends!

Hiking with high school friends over the summer

Hiking with high school friends over the summer

I named him Oliver :)

I named him Oliver 🙂

My fellow gorgeous bridesmaids and the even more gorgeous bride!

My fellow gorgeous bridesmaids and the even more gorgeous bride!

So concludes this public letter to my future self. It’s been a crazy year, and I hope this one is even crazier.

Last Days at Home

This is it. My last night at home, my last day before I move into the dorm. I know millions of people have done it before, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting or scary. Or surreal. I’ll admit, I’ve spent most of the day acting like I’m not going away tomorrow.

The last few days have been a lot of fun. On Sunday I got to see Guardians of the Galaxy with my family, and then on Monday I went up to a lake with my best friend and her family.

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It was so gorgeous up there. A perfect break from all the craziness of trying to get everything sorted out at home. Unfortunately, their boat had a leak so we couldn’t paddle around in the lake 🙁 But we got to talk for hours about all sorts of nerdy writer stuff, which was a lot more fun in my opinion.

Yesterday was a bit torturous with a dentist AND doctor’s appointment… But they’re both out of the way for a long time and dad took me out for dinner to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant.

And of course today was a bit frantic. One of my closest friends came over and helped me finish packing, which was a huge help. (Thank you! <3) The car is mostly loaded up and ready to go!

DSCN8901 The hardest part of today was going out to visit and ride our horse for probably the last time.

Avoiding looking at the camera as always.

Avoiding looking at the camera as always. 

He’s been such a blessing this last year and it’s going to be hard to see him go.

Tomorrow morning is the start of a new chapter of life; one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. The face of change is always a little scary. But at 6:30 am I’ll be on my way to college. Hooray!

Until next time!

I Lied About There Only Being One More Post

As the title says, I have something more to add before we head for home. We just got back from our final meal in Europe and the differences between our first meal and our last. We made an effort to eat traditionally in both cases.

Our first meal in Paris was exquisite. Traditional cafe on the sidewalk, fancy cooking, everyone making polite, quiet conversation while nibbling at oysters and sipping wine.

Tonight, we ate in a pub. Dark, crowded, noisy, exactly how you’d imagine it. We got fish and chips and bangers (sausage) and mash. Very stereotypically British. Everyone was drinking beer and laughing raucously, especially the 15-man, bar hopping bachelor party behind us. I even finally took advantage of being in a country where I’m old enough to drink and had a glass of hard cider.

It was just so different. There’s been some massive cultural changes over the last five weeks.

Last Day!

It’s hard to believe it’s all over. Nothing left to explore but the airport, no sights to see, museums to visit, no languages to cope with, no money to exchange and figure out the equivelent in dollars. I think we’ve all gotten use to constant change at this point. Going back to white-washed, American English life is going to be strange.

Our main goal today was the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. It’s a free, stunningly beautiful museum bursting at the seams with da Vinci, Monet, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Ruben, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Van Gogh. Of course, I’m a deranged child so this was my favorite painting (butt warning). Speaking of butts, if you’re ever in a museum wondering if the painting is Italian, there is a very simple way to tell. Is everyone completely nude and dramatically posing for some biblical scene? If so, you can be 120% sure it’s Italian.

But in all honesty, it was amazing to see all those works by famous artists, even some super famous paintings.

Van Gogh "Vase with Twelve Sunflowers"

Van Gogh “Vase with Twelve Sunflowers”

Monet "The Water-Lily Pond"

Monet “The Water-Lily Pond”

Van Dyck "Equestrian Portrait of Charles I" or as I like to call it "Derp Horse"

Van Dyck “Equestrian Portrait of Charles I” or as I like to call it “Derp Horse”

Once we were done in there, we walked around Trafalgar Square and then up to Leicester Square where Guardians of the Galaxy is premiering tonight. Like, world premiere. Walking around the camped out, dressed up people and watching them roll out the carpet was a shocking reminder that, “Oh yeah, we’re in a major world city”.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

Michael really wanted to go to Chinatown, so we found some lunch down there (yuuuuuuum), bought a beautiful pair of chopsticks, some bubble tea, and hit up the M&M store before heading back home to pack.

I’ve had an incredible time these last five weeks. It’s so hard to believe it’s ending, although you won’t hear me complaining too loudly. I’m ready for the comforts of home. (Also it’s less than a month till college starts ack)

See you all Stateside in a few days for one final post!

London – Day Something or Other

Hello and sorry. I know it’s been a long time, but we’ve had a very busy few days without break from the heat (inside and outside, ugh). There’s been a heat wave in every city except Amsterdam this entire trip, so if you’re not a fan of the heat, don’t come traveling with us, I guess.

The day after mom and I went to Buckingham, we took the day off (I slept until 2 pm, whoops) and hid from the hottest predicted day. The next day (Saturday) we decided it was high time we went to Harrods. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a single store the size of a city block and five stories high (plus a few basement levels). The outside is gorgeous, but my hands were full when we got around to the front of it, so here’s one from Google.
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There’s a full grocery store inside, and they used to have horse gear and puppies for sale. They also installed the first escalators in the world there. The inside is gorgeous as well, with painted ceilings in the food areas reflecting what’s sold there.

Mom and I… might have gone a little overboard. We reasoned that we’d been careful the rest of the trip, and ended up with a huge bag and several smaller bags to take home on the crowded and boiling Tube. It was so much fun. We stuck more to the souvenir side of the store, but we couldn’t resist looking at the luxury home sections. Some of the prices completely blew our minds. 589 pounds (over a 1000 dollars) for a bathroom soap dispenser?! Even if it was crystal… Imagine being able to afford something like that.

My absolute favorite part of the day was having actual afternoon tea in the middle of Harrods. I ordered an English rose tea and was stunned to see real roses in the teapot when I peeked inside. It was delicious.

The boys came back Saturday night. On Sunday, we did the first of two extremely long days. The British Museum.
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Remember when I mentioned that a lot of the other museums had replicas, the original of which were at the British Museum? Yep. It’s even bigger than Harrods.

It took us a good 10 minutes to sort out what all the museum had and where to go to see it.

The center room of the museum.

The center room of the museum.

A tourist standing nearby told his friends that “this makes the Smithsonian look weak”. I’ve never seen the Smithsonian, but I’m inclined to believe him. I mean, at the entrance to all the exhibits is The Rosetta Stone.
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It’s more like the Rosetta boulder, but absolutely surreal to see. Of course, this was the opening piece for the Egyptian exhibit. I would have screamed if they’re weren’t 3000 other people in that room (how I wish I was exaggerating the number of people). It was unreal to see real Egyptian stuff that they dragged up from Egypt. And most of it dated back 1000 years before the Vikings!
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There was also a section on Assyrian temples.

Temple wall

Temple wall

And this crazy set of Middle Eastern doors.

Made from cedar and bronze from somewhere in the Middle East (didn't recognize the location)

Made from cedar and bronze from somewhere in the Middle East (didn’t recognize the location)

Oh yeah, and stuff from the Parthenon.
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And mummies. Lots of mummies.
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Child's sarcophagus

Child’s sarcophagus

Mummified baboon

Mummified baboon

Not to mention the huge collection of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Celtic, Viking, and Medieval artifacts that I forgot to take pictures of. It was spectacular.

Unfortunately, (and surprisingly, considering the stuff they have there) the British Museum wasn’t air conditioned (save the Korean and Japanese exhibits). The heat coupled with the sheer masses of people wore us out far quicker than I would have liked. We ended up seeing almost everything, but the last hour is a bit of a haze. Dad and I were using each other as backrests on a bench when I realized that the massive painting I’d been staring blankly at for the last few minutes was an original Rembrandt. Surreal.

But that was nothing compared to Monday. We were out of the apartment by 7:20 to catch a bus on the other side of town. The tour bus was… incredible. The bus tour took us to Windsor Castle first.
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Top of the list for favorite castles. And here I must correct myself. Here, I say that the Queen was in while we were at Buckingham. That’s wrong. They fly the Union Jack when the Queen is out. They fly this flag when the Queen is in (The royal standard). So we still did get to be in the vicinity of the Queen, after all.
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After a tour of the State Apartments (no pictures allowed), we caught the changing of the guard, which was cool but surprisingly frustrating. It took them a good fifteen minutes of marching back and forth and occasionally shouting and marching in formation for a bit to replace a single guard. Is that my Americanism coming through?
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Our next stop on the tour was Stonehenge. Stonehenge. Imagine I’m screaming again. I took over a hundred pictures, but I’ll spare you.
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It was actually pretty rushed. By the time we walked around the whole thing, we had only 10 minutes to rush back to the bus. It may have been partially my fault… Stopping to take pictures every ten feet… Yeah…

But our last stop was Oxford. It’s truly a gorgeous city. The Paris of England. I was too busy staring and thinking (see below) but luckily mom took a few pictures.
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Tolkien studied there, and parts of the first few Harry Potter movie were shot there. Unfortunately, the hall they used for the Great Hall collapsed a few days ago during all the thunder and lightning, so we couldn’t see it.

Something that the tour guide said really struck me. Hitler considered Oxford such a beautiful city that he wouldn’t bomb it. Instead, he promised to make it his capitol when he conquered England and bombed Cambridge instead. Says something for the city.

Now about the thinking. I don’t know how many of you are aware of this, but my college offers the ability to study at Oxford for six months as an international student. And while I’ve been planning to do it… I don’t know. It didn’t feel like someplace I could be comfortable in. It may be the heat, or the exhaustion, or my never-ending headache (Yes, I’m drinking lots of water, it just sucks to be allergic to Advil), but the prospect of studying there just didn’t… Oh, you guys don’t really care about this and that decision is two years away.

Oxford was our last stop, so we headed back for London. It was my first time doing an all-day bus tour, and it was a lot of fun! I wouldn’t want to do it for any longer than a few days, but it was a great way to see England. Besides, the tour guide was super helpful from getting on, to seeing the sights, to where we should get off to get home easiest and where to get the best Indian food (yum, by the way).

And when I say all day, we left at 7:20 and didn’t get back until 9:25, when we passed out.

Which brings us all, at last, to today. Dad left very early this morning to visit a friend in Ireland, and Michael was tired, so mom and I headed out on our own again. Our first stop was Westminster Abbey, where all of the coronations are hold, as well as the most recent royal wedding. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures. It was beautiful, and most of it was used as crypts for various kings, queens, lords, dukes, knights, children, and poets. There was also a shrine to Shakespeare and Charles Dickens’ grave. Very cool.
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We then trekked over to a botanical garden. And I’m very serious about trek. We rode the Tube for a bit, then walked and walked and walked and walked some more before finding a map that said the garden was only five minutes away, at which point we walked in the wrong direction. But we did get there eventually. After an expensive, but delicious lunch, we explored the small garden before giving up and getting a taxi back home.

Tomorrow we need a day off to recover from the last few days and attempt to fit all our souvenirs into our bags. Wow that was a long post. Only two days before we fly home!

London – Day 4

Oh man. You guys must have sent your heatwave over here because wow is it hot. Mom and I are on our own now, but the heat is absolutely exhausting, so we didn’t get around to much. Our first stop was the Royal Mews, where they keep the Queen’s horses, carriages, and cars. It was so cool to see all of the super ceremonial harnesses up close!

Beautiful carriage made for the diamond jubilee

Beautiful carriage made for the diamond jubilee

Different angle

Different angle

We even got a glimpse of a few of the actual horses they use to pull the carriages. Apparently the Queen personally names all of them.

Right next to the Mews was the Queen’s Gallery inside Buckingham Palace. So cool! It was full of extraordinary art, furniture, decorations, and solid gold tea services on public display. The small part of the building we were in was beautiful as well, and not super crowded with tourists.

After lunch, we decided to walk over to Buckingham Palace and then to Westminster Abbey. It was so surreal to stand at the gates and look at the Palace!
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The Queen was there while we were!

The Queen was there while we were!

The Mall!

The Mall!

We wandered through St. James Park and stopped for a break in the shade.
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All the trees were giant

All the trees were giant

View from where we sat

View from where we sat

While we were resting, we looked at our guidebook and realized that the latest time they would let people into Westminster Abbey was in five minutes! So we rested some more before taking the long Tube ride back.

Red telephone box outside Westminster Underground station!

Red telephone box outside Westminster Underground station!

Tomorrow we’re going to take the day off to give our bodies a break and avoid being out in the predicted 86 and thunderstorms. Hopefully the boys will get up to something exciting in Venice!

London!

Yeah, english again. Although I still don’t understand everything said to me and crossing the road is kind of like crossing in Amsterdam. Look both ways constantly. At least bicycles hear don’t seem to think running over pedestrians is a great sport. Wayne and Maggie are going to design t-shirts for amsterdam with bike tread running across them with the tread spelling out Amsterdam! Million dollar idea!!!

I find I’ve stopped listening to voices around me just assuming that I won’t understand what’s being said anyway. Our London flat bedroom is right on a busy street and only on the first floor (2nd floor in the U.S.) so we hear lots of conversations, traffic and sirens. I still don’t understand much even when I try. I do try to pick out passing motorcycles by exhaust sound though!

I’m just going to tack on a few pictures I took from the bus our first couple days.

Some kind of naval office? The tour commentary didn't say what the building housed. But it was on a government street.

Some kind of naval office? The tour commentary didn’t say what the building housed. But it was on a government street.

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Good example of London's eclectic mix of old and new architecture. Mostly thanks to WWII.

Good example of London’s eclectic mix of old and new architecture. Mostly thanks to WWII.

Whoo Hoo!  can cross the London Eye off my to do list.

Whoo Hoo! can cross the London Eye off my to do list.

Final Sweden thoughts

I know we’ve been in London a few days now but takes my some time to process everything we’ve seen and experienced.

Lasting impressions of Sweden-

Total shock on cashiers faces when I didn’t speak Swedish. Lots and lots of clusters of red houses, barns and sheds, lakes, rivers, fascinating fences and for my junior high friends lots of signs announcing farts 🙂

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Rock mystery to ad to our sheds on stilts mysteries of central Sweden.

Rock mystery to ad to our sheds on stilts mysteries of central Sweden.

oh, and the mystery of the hobbit holes. We're guessing a root cellar. These were all over in the mountain area.

oh, and the mystery of the hobbit holes. We’re guessing a root cellar. These were all over in the mountain area.

Several churches had hedge rows in the cemetry.

Several churches had hedge rows in the cemetry.

Picnic lunch on our way to the airport. If it didn't get eaten it was getting tossed. Not taking food to London with us!

Picnic lunch on our way to the airport. If it didn’t get eaten it was getting tossed. Not taking food to London with us!

Quaint and sturdy fencing. Mostly found in historic areas of rural Sweden.

Quaint and sturdy fencing. Mostly found in historic areas of rural Sweden.

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Just pretty :-)

Just pretty 🙂

ski jumping anyone? Looks insane to me.

Special pictures for my friend who spends his days with Junior high kids :-)

Special pictures for my friend who spends his days with Junior high kids 🙂

We missed one by a school that said "kinderfart" ;-)

We missed one by a school that said “kinderfart” 😉

London – Day 3

The joy of everyone speaking English still hasn’t worn off. This morning (well, “morning” being noon – we slept in!) when we went into the Museum of London, a cheery man greeted us in English. Stunned me a little, actually. Apparently there are over 300 languages spoken in London, so public transport is 50% or less English.
But the museum. It covered the history of London from the people who lived there over 2000 years ago to the modern times. It was an impressive collection, but a lot of the things had small print: “Replica – original at British Museum”
No pictures from the Museum of London, but we did wander over to St. Paul’s cathedral. In terms of of favorite buildings, it’s a close second to the Notre Dame.

The small side entrance

The small side entrance

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Massive front door with dad for scale. Princess Diana walked through there for her wedding!

Massive front door with dad for scale. Princess Diana walked through there for her wedding!

Unfortunately, like Highclere Castle, you can’t take pictures inside and it cost a lot to get in. We poked our heads inside the door and gazed around for a few minutes. Everything is carved of marble so it’s a lot brighter than the Notre Dame.

Tomorrow morning the boys are off the Venice for a few days, leaving us girls to do girly things like explore the Parliament buildngs.

London – Day 2

Today was another day full of history and exploring. We hit the Tower of London fairly early and got in before a lot of crowd. The Tower is actually the collective name for a big medieval fortress.
This is the actual Tower. It is the oldest structure in the fortress and was completed in 1078 – 11 years after William the Conquer invaded to provide him a safe refuge in his newly conquered land.
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Within the fortress-
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that used to have a moat and everything. It was really cool to walk around a fortress built in 1200 (even if most of it was reconstructed).

From the wall of the Tower of London!

From the wall of the Tower of London!

Of course, we had to go see the Crown Jewels. Pictures weren’t allowed, but I can tell you that those are quite the sparkly collection of massive jewels. Tour group after tour group kept coming through by the time we got to the jewels themselves (the building they’re in is set up to shuffle thousands of people past in a day and has quite the winding lead-up) so we got pushed through some of the collections of oversized gold plates and ceremonial pieces.

The rest of the Tower was a lot of walking around looking at old buildings, weapons, and armor. The Tower itself is actually the longest running visitor attraction in the world!
My favorite part was the dragon.
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After snapping a picture of a the iconic guard (who was about my age), we hopped on the bus one last time and rode around the city again. We blasted past Piccadilly on our way around too.
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imageBut once again didn’t make it to Buckingham Palace.

By that point we were wiped out so we struggled through rush hour on the Tube and headed for home.

Sidenote: Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) isn’t going to work out. The whole day would cost upwards of 200 pounds, you’re not allowed to take pictures, and it isn’t open on Fridays and Saturdays. So Mom and I toured via the website gallery. It’s pretty.