09 August 2010

Last F'real Europe Post!

That is quite possibly the most depressing blog post title I've ever penned - can't believe my summer in Europe has come to an end!  I had one of the best times of my life, I met such great people and seen such beautiful things and experienced such strange instances - I literally can't count how many times I just looked around me and was astounded at how lucky I was to be where I was at that moment in time.

I drank wine and watched the World Cup by the Eiffel Tower, saw a concert in Notre Dame, had a tour of Cezanne's workshop in Aix-en-Provence, swam in the Mediterranean, met people from Spain, Paris, Egypt, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico, Australia, Poland, and the list continues... went shopping at plenty of outdoor markets, bought bottles of wine for less than one Euro, walked to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, saw nearly all there is to see of the Scottish countryside, gained an appreciation for techno (who knew!), ate crepes, and more crepes, and more crepes... stood right in front of Buckingham Palace, had a picnic on the steps by Sacre Coeur, watched Paris light up at night from the top of Montmartre, consumed far too much Nutella than any human ever should... took pictures in front of Big Ben, drank wine at the foot of the Seine, read in the same bookstore that Allen Ginsberg once spent time writing in, watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle from literal feet away at midnight, drank champagne in Champagne, stood underneath the glass pyramids at the Louvre, danced in gay bars, danced in straight bars, danced in streets, rode an elevator up the Eiffel Tower and walked back down, spent the afternoon at the gardens and chateau of Versailles.

I could keep going but it might get redundant and a bit sentimental.  I really think this summer will stand as one of the best of my life, it happened at a perfect time - in my personal journey as well as holding congruent with my educational prospects and entire mindset in general.  I feel thoroughly blessed by the relationships that I've gained through this experience, as well as the continuation of growth in understanding, whether that be a different culture, language, outlook on life, you name it, I probably encountered it.  I think it's safe to assume that going back to "real life" is going to be pretty mind numbing - making sandwiches for the rest of the summer and then going to class in a new town by myself in September.  I really can't complain though, I had an absolutely wild summer and am coming home to friends and family that I value and cherish deeply, only to embark on another (albeit a very small) adventure to Corvallis for my last year of undergrad - which is a very exciting prospect!

Enough of that stuff though, I want to post some pictures of my last few days in the U.K.

So after a few days in Scotland I took a train to London to visit my friend Sam from back home.  Strange story, Sam & I really don't know each other all that well; we worked together at Volo a few summers back, and kind of kept in touch via facebook (ah the beauty of the internet, what would I do without you Al Gore?).  Anyway, she moved to London about 8 months ago, and I had been talking to her on facebook asking her about it when I was trying to decide on a destination for study abroad.  After I had chosen Paris and told her I would be studying there, we both thought it would be fun if we had the time/resources to if we could meet up while I was in Europe.  We finally decided on me coming to visit her in London (although it would've been equally fun for me to show her around Paris), mostly because she lives here and therefore made finding a place to stay too simple to pass up, and I wanted to see London of course!  So that's how that worked out!

Arrived in London at King's Cross train station around 6:00pm on Wednesday (August 4th) - Sam even came to pick me up from the train station!  I'm really thankful she did too, because I had no idea where her flat was and I had a lot of baggage with me.  Correction, I have a lot of baggage with me!  Anyway, walked back to her flat and chilled out for a few hours before taking one of those precious double-decker buses (still hard to imagine that those are normal transport around here, they seem like such a novelty!) to a part of the city near her flat called Angel for dinner.  Ended up getting Tex-Mex (embarrassingly enough, I've really missed cheapo-Americano food!) at this place called Chilango's, which is a lot like Chipotle in the states.

The next day, Thursday, we woke up relatively late which was really nice because I've been on such a strict wake-up schedule this summer (mostly thanks to Abby, my personal alarm clock for school). Left the flat a little after noon or so to spend the afternoon doing touristy things with Sam.  Took the tube to central London and was completely amazed by how clean it is!  The escalators are nice and new and there's no pee smell (or, better yet, no actual pee) anywhere down there, the tracks don't have rats running through them - it truly was a public transport sight to be seen after a month of the Metro.  Anyway, did a big walking tour of central London and hit all the big sights.  First walked by the National Gallery and hung out by the fountain for a bit, then on to Buckingham Palace which was beautiful!  There are a bunch of iron and gold gates surrounding the palace, and real British guards by the front doors - pretty cool.  From there we walked through this park, I think it was called St. James Park, with tons of low hanging trees - really picturesque.  Ended up by the place where you can take pictures with the guards and see the horse guards and stuff - really embarrassing I can't remember what it's called.  Obviously took the obligatory picture with a guard.  All I can say is what a terrible job, to have to stand there all day and have tourists take your picture and be annoying... poor guy.  Walked around Westminster Abbey which was GORGEOUS, saw Big Ben from a few different angles, walked along the Thames (is that right?) River past the London Eye, and eventually caught the tube back to Sam's flat.

Fountain in front of the National Gallery.

Buckingham Palace!

Sam & me & our best friend.

Westminster Abbey!

Big Ben!

The London Eye

After we got home from sightseeing and being super touristy, I got on facebook and had a message from my friend Sara (from the Paris program) telling me that she was still in London if I wanted to meet up!  So we made plans to meet the next morning/afternoon by her flat and get lunch and go to Camden Market.  So Friday morning I took the bus all by myself to Sara's flat, I'm amazed at how much easier the public transportation is to navigate here than in Paris, probably helps that everything is in English!  Met up with Sara and her friend Cory from home (which is Texas for her) and went to get lunch in this really cute garden that I can't remember the name of!  Walked from there to Camden High Street to check out the markets and just browse around.  Of course we found a crepe stand and shared a banana Nutelal crepe there, too :)  Parted ways with Sara and Cory at the underground which was sad, because there's a good chance I'll probably not see her for a long time slash ever... boo.  Took the tube back to Sam's to play with the puppies for a bit - she lived with her cousin when she first moved to London & they bought two King Charles dogs which are PRECIOUS, so they kind of share custody of them in a funny way and she was puppy-sitting that afternoon.

Pretty river by the park we had lunch at.

Me & Sara outside the crepe place that we found! Hallelujah!

The very clean London Underground.

Sam's preshhhh pups!

Hung out at Sam's for the better part of the evening, then got ready to go out with her and her flatmate Rita to this hipster bar called The Big Chill for their friend's birthday.  The place was really cool, super crowded, but a really fun atmosphere.  It was definitely a breath of fresh air to be able to go out and a) not have to drink really horrible beer and b) not be subjected to three hours of skull crushing techno mixes.  Big ups to London on those notes.

Inside - before it got crazy crowded

Me & Sam - too bad the quality is crap

Found some cool graffiti and tried taking pictures in front of it.. me & Sam's flatmate, Rita.

Saturday we slept in really late because we got home late from the night before.  Didn't do a whole lot, had lunch at Chilango's (Tex Mex take out place) again, bought tickets to see Inception that evening and then went back and bummed around the flat for a few hours.  Went back to Angel (the shopping center/district close to Sam's) to see Inception - loved it!

Today was a pretty relaxed day too.  Trying not to spend money on the account that I really have none left to spend.  London is an incredibly expensive town, and the Pound totally rapes you!  So Sam and I took the Underground to this cute area with an outdoor market, but unfortunately it was closed for the day because it's Sunday.  Regardless, we walked around and did some London sightseeing of cute little shops and streets.  She took me to the area where she used to work (basically where the family lives that she was a nanny for), and it was GORGEOUS.  I think it was called Marylebone or something like that?  Anyway, had lunch there and then came back to the flat.  Just got done eating Chinese take-out again (it's really good and cheap) and now it's definitely time for bed because I fly out at 10am tomorrow!  Wake up call at 5:30 to pack up, walk to the bus, take the bus to the Underground, take the Underground to Heathrow (which is about an hour ride, Sam said), check in for my flights and it's homeward bound for me!  GAH.  Can't believe it's over.  It's really been quite the summer.


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