Author Archives: travelwithrhodie

Barcelona, Catalonia

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Allow me to exSPAIN where I went this weekend. Hola, personas del mundo. I make the best puns.

Myself, Jess, Ally, and Michaela booked a spontaneous trip to Barcelona early last week. We got a pretty good deal on Monarch Airline via the absolute worst website in existence: CheapoAir.com. Allow me to explain. It should have been expected that a website by such a name would be garbage. It was all of that and more. It took us at least 20 tries total to get this flight. Mine wouldn’t go through because it kept insisting that I put my birthday in wrong, when I clearly didn’t. Everyone else experienced other weird hold ups that nearly prevented us from going, but after lots of screaming and persistence, we booked.

We got a flight out of Gatwick for Friday morning at around 6 AM, which required us to be up and awake by 2:15 and out the door, ideally, by 2:30/2:45. This was terrible for obvious reasons. We all got about an hour and a half of sleep and then did the zombie walk with our bags from the dorm to a bus stop off of Baker Street. This bus took us to another sketchy bus stop somewhere on the other side of town where we got into a shuttle van with a bunch of other bleary-eyed people and we were at Gatwick an hour later. For you Boston people, you get that Logan is in the city. IN THE CITY, as in it takes no more than like 20 minutes to drive there from any given point in Boston. These London airports are really not in London. They’re quite a ways outside of London and require travelers to allot quite a bit of extra time to get there. Not a huge deal, but logistically annoying.

We got to our gate without any problems, got on our plane, and we were off! I got probably an hour of sleep. The plane ride was only an hour and 45 minutes. We landed safely and experienced the most laid back, callous border patrol in the entire world. They barely looked at our passport photos. We found a train into the city, then had to locate the Urgell metro station, which proved difficult. Two more hours and lots of confused map reading later, we got to our hostel. Tailor’s Hostel Barcelona, for the record, is one of the most spotless, friendly hostels in the world. We arrived before check in time, but they had a locked room where they said they would hold onto our bags. We collected the things we wanted to carry with us and headed towards the city center where the receptionist recommended a free, guided walking tour. We met at a pub and walked with a couple from Austria, a woman from Moldova, and another couple from England. Our tour guide spoke perfect English, and is – surprise, surprise – a UMass Boston Alumni. He seemed pretty excited that we were from New England. He was a history major and was clearly passionate about everything he was showing us. I was utterly exhausted, but I got some good pictures. At the end, we got back to the pub and got discounted sangrias, because I was already about to fall asleep on the cobblestone and alcohol was going to improve the situation.

We finished the tour and did the zombie walk back to the hostel where we made it just in time for check-in. We were in a room with six other people, three of whom were also studying abroad in London. The girl was from Storrs, CT, and the two guys were from Jersey. They were doing McDonalds for dinner. We picked up a few breakfast-y foods at a local grocery store and put them in a bin in the kitchen that we could label with our name. We opted to nap and then do a late dinner. We found a restaurant with a loft nearby. I got an avocado club sandwich. I don’t really remember it. I had never been more exhausted in my life. Ally, Jess and Michaela decided to go on the hostel’s bar crawl that night, but I opted out of it when I realized the room had started spinning and I was stone cold sober. I got back to the hostel, took a hot shower, and knocked out hard on my bottom bunk. I apparently slept-talk to Ally when they got back a little later that night and I have zero recollection of doing any such thing. One and a half hours of sleep is inadequate. Staying in was one of my better moves.

The next morning we ate breakfast and headed north to Parque Guell. It is one of the most popular attractions/parks in Barcelona, and for good reason. We got off our metro stop, waked a few blocks, and then took a left, like Google Maps instructed us to do. In front of us was a hill the size of Mount Wachusett. For spurts of the hill, there were escalators! On the street Two escalators in, we spotted a coffee shop. They had ICED COFFEE. This was big. We hadn’t found iced coffee anywhere else in Europe, so we jumped on this opportunity and it was phenomenal. We went up the rest of the escalators and stairs and hills and FINALLY got to the entrance of the park. The pictures show the views fairly well, but they don’t really do it justice. It was basically footpaths weaving through trees and cactuses and plateaus and overlooks and awesomeness. If you’re curious, here is the link because I can’t really explain it well. It’s just cool. http://www.parkguell.es/en/portada

From the park, we walked a BUNCH of blocks to La Sagrada Familia, but we stopped at a supermarket on the way there for apples. La Sagrada Familia is a MASSIVE Catholic Church with the most interesting architecture I’ve ever seen. Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi designed the Basilica in the early 1800’s, and it’s breathtaking. I’ve never seen a more beautiful building. Here is the website: http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/ I have pictures above too, but it’s hard to really grasp the vastness of the place unless you’ve seen it in person. It was worth the ten euros to tour it.

After La Sagrada Familia, we got gelato and walked around some of the alleys with shops along the sides. We went into a bunch of cute stores and looked at pretty European clothing. We walked by a place that smelled like Heaven, and I was lured in. I spotted a woman putting out churros onto a hot dish. I ordered some in Spanish and she threw them into a bag and threw sugar on them with lightening speed. They were, in one word: luscious. I realize now that any of the garbage I had eaten in the past that has called itself a churro, is in fact, not a churro. I’ve been ruined.

That night we went to a bar crawl thing, starting at a small place called El Gato Negro, or, “The Black Cat”. It was recommended that we try the Harry Potter shot. The bartender poured some concoction into a shot glass, then placed orange slices and cinnamon sugar on top. THEN, he torched them. They went up in flames and the whole bar cheered. It was mesmerizing. We were instructed to bite the orange, take the shot, them suck on the remainder of the juice out of the orange. I don’t even know what it was, but it was delicious. I mean, as shots go. The next destination was a club called Shoko, then one called Opium. Both were right on the beach. Apparently Opium (the club, not the ancient Chinese drug) is a big deal here. I honestly cannot judge the quality of one nightclub from another. You get shoved around by drunk people as you dance/bob in a vaguely rhythmic manner in an awkward circle and you sweat profusely. The music is usually terrible pop remixes designed to be more upbeat for dancing, but pieced together sloppily into one long, bad song. You can’t talk to anyone because it’s too loud. Nightclubs honestly bore me, but it was nice to go out to the beach between clubs. People were selling beer and water bottles on the beach, which was weird, but they were sealed so I got a water. We didn’t get back until LAAATE that night and I could have fallen asleep on the sand. I wasn’t designed for Barcelona party life. I’m looking for good, live freak folk music, chicken Shwarma pitas, and mango lassis. I digress.

The next day, we sat out in the city center around a fountain and enjoyed the warm sun. We walked around even more, looking at all the shops we had missed. Our total walking miles for the trip was probably around fifteen because we were trying to save money and not take the metro. We got Maoz Falafel pockets which were AMAZING. Some of the best falafel I’ve ever had. We went into the Catedral de Barcelona, another church. Very different, architecturally, but still beautiful. The hostel owner brought her dog into work that day and we played with her. She was a sweetheart. She was adopted from Venice, and responded to Italian commands. We melted. The highlight of the trip (besides the dog)…was dinner that night. We went to a place called Rekon’s and got Empanadas and roasted vegetable salad. The meal ended with herbal tea. It was perfection. We drank some 2.50 red wine back at the hostel and played games with our roommates, and then turned in early. Our flight left at 10:30ish the next morning, so we had to be up by 6. Luckily, we found a shuttle called Aerobus that picked up fairly close to the hostel and brought us straight to the terminal. Twas an amazing weekend.

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Marylebone Farmer’s Market – Weekend of February 15th

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Hello Hello Hello

Lovely people, I do apologize for skimping on my weekly posts. I was swamped last week with papers and assignments I did not have any desire to complete. Now, back to the important stuff!

Last weekend, Tiffany and I went to the Marylebone Farmer’s Market. This lovely thing happens every Sunday from 10-2, and it’s perfect in every way. Here are some of the types of vendors that attend this culinary orchestra of gastronomic joy: Orchards selling local apples and pears, fish vendors, meat vendors, fruit and vegetable vendors, baked good vendors, meat pie vendors, a random venison vendor, a vendor selling a zillion different kinds of potatoes, a vendor doing a bunch of different roasted slabs of meat cooked with various ethnic seasonings and sauces, and a cheese vendor. If we were staying in a flat in Marylebone with a kitchen, we would have bought so much more. Sadly, we don’t have a fridge or a stove, so we had to buy little things. I got a bag of nine Conference Pears from a local lady for just £1.80. They were pretty delicious pears. I ate nine in under a week. I also got a piece of apple walnut cake that was pretty mind blowing. Tiffany’s carrot cake was even better. Best I’ve ever had. I quite like food.

ALSO, dogs. The place was filled with dogs. There was a majestic pug walking through the place that had so much sass, I can’t even tell you. It was an excellent experience.

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Caerdydd Cymru – Cardiff, Wales

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Wale hello there! Dw i heb dy weld ti ers talwn! (Long time no see!) I went to Wales this weekend, in case you hadn’t read the title of this post or just thought that the introduction of this post was the product of me banging my head against the keyboard of my laptop. Nope. That is actually what written Welsh looks like. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it.

We had a laid back Thursday night and woke up at the crack of depression and immorality (5:15) on Friday morning to meet up in the lobby of Herringham Hall at 6. The ten of us all walked towards Baker Street to catch a bus to Victoria station. Since it’s London, it was raining, and since I’m not a functional human being at that horrific hour, I forgot my umbrella – as did most of us. We were off to a terrific start. We got to Victoria station where I purchased a latte and a muffin to keep from passing out. Then the bus driver wouldn’t let us bring our coffees on the bus, and there was no “rubbish bin” in sight. The bus driver looked at me and Tiffany like we had just grown a few extra heads when we asked where a trash can was located. Rubbish bin, it is. Turns out, there was a trash bag on the bus but we had to dump the contents of our coffees out on the pavement outside the station. A cop looked at us and rolled his eyes. Tiffany and I could not get on that bus fast enough. We’re so good at traveling.

Luckily, the bus was empty enough where we could each have a window seat. The ride was about three and a half hours, and I slept for most of it with my headphones in my ears. We were dropped off at what basically looked like a park bench under a shelter, but we were surrounded by beautiful government buildings. Once we figured out how to get to the Cardiff city center, it wasn’t hard to find our hostel. The lobby/sitting area had a bar in back and it was beautiful. It was tastefully decorated and looked like it had been decked out in home decor from Anthropologie. Check in wouldn’t start for a couple hours, so they told us they’d keep an eye on our locked suitcases for us while we explored the city and killed time.

We were pretty starving, so we wandered around and discovered a restaurant/coffee shop called Torre. We all got different breakfast food. I got two eggs sunny side up with a spinach ricotta roll, roasted peppers, and micro greens. It was so incredibly perfect with a flat white. I felt like a new person, as did everyone else when we finished our food. We went across the street to Cardiff castle, which we could look at from a distance for free, but it would cost each of us £9.50 or $15.60 to tour it. We weren’t really into the sticker price, so we opted to look from afar and explore the gift shop. We went through the Cardiff museum too – which was free! The exhibits were really cool, too. I liked the giant whale hanging from the ceiling. Because when in Wales …Whales. We also popped into the Cardiff Market which is really cool with all different stalls where you can buy meat, fish, produce, baked goods, candy – everything. Jess and I got a huge box of delicious strawberries for £1! We ate them all the way back to the hostel – without washing them. Sorry, Mommy.

We got back to the hostel and checked ourselves in. Our room had 18 beds total, so 9 bunk beds. The bathroom had two showers and two toilet stalls. It was all very clean and we were pretty impressed. We learned quickly that there was a button on the showers that you had to press every five to seven seconds just to keep the water going. That was a pain, but at least they were hot. We also had to pay a pound to get a towel. They sure don’t make it easy to stay clean in Wales. The first night, our room had fifteen people, but it filled up to eighteen the second night. Everyone we stayed with seemed nice. Some didn’t really speak English. I think they were Portugese. They found my towel turban to be hilarious.

That night we got food at The Prince of Wales pub. Generally in the UK, you order your food at the bar, if the restaurant has a bar. The waiters and waitresses only bring the food to you, but they don’t actually take your order. I think they get paid better than server’s wage because they don’t rely on tips. Way to go, Britain. We didn’t really go out and get drinks after because we were all pretty exhausted. I went back early, showered, and went to sleep. Breakfast would end at 9 the next day, so sleeping in was not going to happen.

I slept like an angel, despite the noise coming from the nightclub next door and the pub across the street. The next day, on the recommendation of one of the girls who worked at our hostel, we ventured over to St. Fagan’s Open Air Museum after a light breakfast of off-brand rice krispies and delicious tea. It was a short, fifteen minute bus ride away. The bus driver had on an awesome radio station, and when “What is Love” by Haddaway came on, we all started singing it. He cranked the volume and danced in his seat. Welsh people are fantastic.

Saint Fagan’s was in one word, gorgeous. We walked through different foot paths that took us into castles, fishing houses, weaving houses, over bridges, through gardens, and into a little town center where I had a scone hot out of a wood burning oven that changed my world for the better. We walked through a little general store where Jess bought a cute dish cloth and Michaela bought some Welsh beer. The pictures don’t really do the place justice, but they’re above. After Saint Fagans, we headed back to the city center and took a nap in the Hostel. We struggled to find a place for dinner that would accommodate the ten of us, but we found a tavern and make the hike through the Cardiff University campus to get there. I had passionfruit cider. It was the girliest drink I’ve ever had, and that includes a cosmo with an orange twist.

The next day, we went to the Pettigrew Tea Rooms and had a tea party. It was amazing. There really aren’t words. Unfortunately, on the walk there, we experienced a downpour with hurricane-style winds. A car flew by us on the sidewalk. The timing was perfect. The tire went through a lake puddle and SOAKED Kelsey, Jess, and I from our jackets to our toes. Do you know what’s worse than wet jeans? Besides, like, terminal illnesses, poverty, and terrorism? Pretty much nothing. Walking the rest of the way towards the tea room, I felt pins and needles all over my legs and my feet squished water in my sneakers and socks. Luckily, we were headed for HOT TEA, which was going to be perfect given the circumstances.

First, we all got our own tea pots filled with hot, hot water and tea leaves of our choosing. I chose “Angel Peach” which was described as, “A delicate blend of Sencha green tea & sunflower blossoms with a deliciously fragrant peach taste.” With one lump of brown sugar, it is the stuff dreams are made of. Then came the itty bitty finger sandwiches and scones with jam that came on a three tiered plate rack. There were cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon and cream cheese, ham and cheese with mustard, roast beef, brie and chutney, hard boiled egg, and tomato with cheddar. All of the above were fantastic. Last course was a slice of cake for each of us. Me and Tiffany split a coffee pecan cake and Welsh cakes. That place was a dream.

We putzed around shops for the remainder of the day. Checkout was at 10:00, so we left our locked suitcases at the hostel and looked at all the stores with stuff we couldn’t afford. My pants and coat were pretty much dry at that point, which made me incredibly happy. We hopped on the bus at 6:20 and headed home. An awesome weekend, indeed.

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Stonehenge and City of Bath

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Sunday was a really miserable wake-up call. I don’t know exactly what prompted me to wake up at 5:45, but I had to be awake at 6 anyway to get ready for our 7:30 bus departure to Stonehenge and the city of Bath.  Two coach buses packed with Regent’s students and two tour guides made our way west of London on the two hour journey to Stonehenge at 7:45, and our tour guide, Jo, would not shut up for an hour and a half. We were all totally exhausted and wanted nothing more than to sleep as much as possible, but this woman was relentless. She talked about the history of Stonehenge which would have been mildly interesting if it weren’t 7:45 AM, but when she got to the topic of human sacrifices, I drifted off to sleep.

“Okay, my lovelies!” said our overly chipper tour guide. “Wakey wakey! Give your sleeping neighbors a gentle jab on the ribs if they are still asleep!”

NO ONE IS SLEEPING ANYMORE BECAUSE YOUR VOICE IS DEAFENING. The kid across from me on the other side of the bus was the exception. He didn’t stir at all. He was passed out with his head on a scarf, mouth hanging half open. Either he is the heaviest sleeper known to man, or just realllllly good at faking it.

We drove past Stonehenge, which out the window on my side of the bus, and our tour guide blabbed on about the scenery and the rocks until we got to the visitors center. From there, we were shuttled over in smaller groups on smaller buses. It was freezing, and I regretted not bringing my big camera or a hat. There was a path that circled around the whole monument and we walked it, taking goofy pictures along the way. We stayed at the monument for about 20 minutes before we were shuttled back to the visitors center where we looked at overpriced gifts and bought small breakfast foods because we were all famished from not having eaten before getting on the bus.

Finally, we got back on our respective coach buses and made the hour journey to Bath. The drive was pretty unbelievable. I stayed awake the entire time. The roads we went on were very narrow and we got shockingly close to some cottages and villages. People walking on the street didn’t seem to think it was weird that a tour bus was going through their quaint neighborhood. We passed many adorable bed and breakfasts and farmhouses, and there were SO MANY SHEEP. I’ve never seen so many sheep in the span of an hour. As we were getting closer to Bath, the houses started looking a little newer and the rolling hills were like something out of a movie. Our tour guide blabbed on about how the scenery inspired the Lord of the Rings movies. We got to Bath and the bus took us around a circle of the city. It was adorable and beautiful beyond words, and we were all dying to get out and find food, but we had to go to the museum first.

The Roman Baths are “the only hot springs in the UK.” I wish I paid a little more attention to the details, but I was starving and deprived of caffeine. We were all a little on edge during that tour. The idea was, when the Romans came and settled in England, they built these gorgeous, massive baths with columns and different rooms, each with a different purpose. It was supposed to make them feel more at home. Today, they have been preserved pretty well but the water is a little green and contaminated with something. We were told not to swim in it, or drink it. I don’t know why they would have to tell people that. You couldn’t pay me enough to do either.

Finally, we exited through the gift shop and made our way into town to find coffee and food. We found a really cute patisserie where I got a latte that absolutely trumped the mediocre coffee that Regent’s refectory has to offer. A few of the people I was with also got cannolis, but I needed real food, and stat. Jess found a beautiful little coffee shop cafe and we split a massive italian panini with roasted peppers, pork, micro greens, and italian cured meats. It was amazing beyond words. We destroyed that thing and headed to the Jane Eyre museum. Sadly, we didn’t have time to go through the whole thing, but the gift shop was just as fun. We want to go back eventually because admission is only six pounds for students. The buildings in Bath are unreal. I can only imagine what real estate prices look like.

Then…cookies. Not biscuits, cookies. Ben’s cookies, to be precise. This tiny little cookie shop in an alley in Bath completely changed my life and my perspective on everything that is good and perfect in the world. I got a “Milk Chocolate Chunk” cookies, but the chunks of milk chocolate are more like discs of deliciousness that are spread throughout the giant cookie. Mine was warm when I got it and it melted in my mouth. Buttery, oozy, flawlessness. I’m drooling over my laptop right now. Best cookie I have ever had, hands down. Educate yourself: http://www.benscookies.com/

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Pub Quiz, Kensington, Camden Head, and Indian Food

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This week of classes is probably the last easy, skate-by type of week and starting tomorrow, we are going to have to start hunkering down and penning due dates into our planners. Ouch. It’s hard to focus here when I know I could walk ten minutes down the street and get a Belgian waffle covered in melty Nutella. I haven’t done that yet because if I get one, I’ll never stop. I had salad for dinner tonight, so it hasn’t been all bad.

Last week, all the UNH-ers were required to attend one “meeting” with our on-campus advisor, Judy. The meetings were mostly so she could get to know us, so they were in cool locations. I opted to go to the Pub Quiz option at a pub down the street from school. Some other options were lunch at a garden cafe, or a field trip to some insect museum. I’m pretty good at trivia, so me and two friends as well as about seven other people from UNH went to the pub and attempted to beat locals at very British questions. There were references to some English sitcoms and actors and stuff that we knew nothing about, but we got some of it. It was pretty clear that we were strange foreigners. It didn’t help that I used the word, “cents” when ordering a cider at the bar. Also, a little qualm I have about pub chips…they never have enough salt on them. I don’t understand why the Brits make you salt your own fries. It’s blasphemy. Moving on.

Friday during the day, we looked around for places to get Michaela and Tiffany’s eyebrows threaded. We went into one beautiful Marylebone salon that said it would be 36 pounds! Thats almost sixty dollars, so that was not going to happen. We found a place called “Pharmacie” that was actually a pharmacy on the first floor, then in the basement there was a threading station and nail salon. Any sane person would find that sketchy and strange, but we went for it. I waited on the couch outside the room and watched exotic fish chase each other around a giant tank. I narrated their innermost thoughts for Tiffany and Emily. I’m making friends and they don’t think I’m strange at all.

Their eyebrows came out great, and it was only ten pounds each. Myself and two girls with bright red foreheads walked around Marylebone and poked around the boutiques that we aren’t worthy of setting foot in. There is a shop that I am completely and utterly obsessed with beyond words called Cath Kidston. It looks like Zooey Deschanel’s closet. Just do yourself a favor, and spend a few hours drooling over this website: http://www.cathkidston.com/

We also went into La Fromagerie which is a stunningly gorgeous Italian Market/cheese shop. They have a room called the cheese room where the air is filtered differently and it’s colder, but all the cheese is laid out in this beauteous display and you can walk in and just gape at it like the tourist that you are. The guy running it asked one of the girls we were with what her favorite cheese was, to which she replied, “Gouda.” He reached down onto a lower shelf, grabbed a block of something, meticulously cut us pieces of the velvety perfection, and gave it to us to sample. So now all gouda is ruined for me. It was luxurious, creamy, earthy joy. I can’t even describe it with language. I’ve been spoiled rotten. Here’s the link for this mecca of marvelousness: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/

That night, we split into two groups. Myself and three other girls ended up at the Camden Head pub and we met a bunch of locals, which was cool. They all seemed curious what we had done so far, and each one I talked to pretty much said the same thing: “You haven’t seen anything yet. If you liked “THIS,” by all means, go “HERE.” We got a bunch of suggestions of places to go, and places not to go. We were told that the cocktails in Paris are way more expensive than we would ever expect. That was disheartening, but we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it. On a better note, the music at that pub was outstanding. Such classics as, “Born in the USA,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “RESPECT,” and per my request, “Come on Eileen,” completely brought the house down. That was phenomenal.

The Next Saturday, we went to Kensington Palace, where the Prince and Dutchess Kate Middleton apparently lived for a while. It’s right on the edge of Hyde Park, which is absolutely massive. Some other houses on the edge of Hyde Park had guards with guns. I’m kinda dying to know who lives there. One had an Israeli flag on the outside, and there were signs everywhere prohibiting photography. They had guns, so we kept our phones in the depths of our bags to avoid getting shot at. That would be a real downer. The Kensington Palace gift shop was huge and had amazing, albeit, overpriced gifts. I want to go back, but I’ve been incredibly frugal lately about that stuff. We also went to TK Maxx, which is the British TJ Maxx and explored. It was AMAZING in there. So many cute things, so much better than american TJ Maxx. I didn’t buy anything, but I was eyeing a leather jacket for 99 pounds. The selection is pretty incredible. I want to go back at some point when I can mentally block out the realities of the horrific exchange rate for a few hours. I did get a cardigan at American Apparel, but it was only 17 pounds because it was 70 percent off. Yay, frugality.

That night we got Indian food at a place called Chutney’s in Euston Square. It was reaaaallly good, but it was all vegetarian. Next time, we want to do Indian food at a place where I can get Butter Chicken or Chicken Tikka Masala. I got a curry dish that was amazing over coconut rice and we got homemade Naan to lap up all the extra curry sauce. It got me thinking…if Bolton were to get an Indian restaurant, I bet people would move out of town for the following reasons: 1. Culture. HOW DARE THERE BE POPPY SEEDS IN THIS SPOTLESS, WONDER BREAD TOWN. 2. Variety. WHAT IS WRONG WITH BOLTON HOUSE OF PIZZA? IS THAT NOT ITALIAN? SEE! WE DEVIATE FROM AMERICAN CUISINE …WHEN APPROPRIATE! And God forbid we have to cut down a tree to make room for it. There would be riots, I tell you. Riots filled with moms dressed in Chico’s and waving around tupperware containers.

But, in all seriousness…one of my requirements for a place to live post graduation is that it be within walking distance of a bomb Indian restaurant because Indian food is my JAM. My next post will be about Stonehenge and Bath. Just you wait a hot second.

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Karaoke, Pub Crawl, La Porchetta Pollo Bar, and Burgers

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The weekend extends from Thursday night to Sunday in which time we have tried to harness as much fun and food as we can before classes start again. Finding motivation to do schoolwork has been hard, since a whole world of excitement is literally right out the front door, but I’m getting into the swing of things. Slowly.

Thursday night, we went back to the Walkabout for karaoke, which happens every Thursday night. I got a half yard of Woo Woo and watched a very enthusiastic Asian man belt Katy Perry as if his life depended on it. A bunch of Regent’s people did karaoke as well. I opted not to. I get wifi at the Walkabout, and I felt my phone buzz during one of the songs. A friend from UNH texted me saying she loved my article on Thought Catalog! I didn’t even know they accepted my submission! I submitted an article to them about three weeks ago, and an editor emailed me saying it was one of the funniest articles he had read in a while. Made my night.

The following Friday, we slept WAY in. That night we went on the Camden pub crawl. Tickets were not too expensive, and each bar offered us a free shot, as well as discounted drinks. The shots were pretty awful. It was usually a choice of tequila or Sambuca (black licorice flavored liquor), and they didn’t give us limes for the tequila. Some places gave us lemon slices, but it didn’t really help. Tequila tastes like gasoline. I’m pretty sure you can take nail polish off with that nonsense. The pub crawl ended at the last pub we went to, which looked like a converted barn. One of the girls had a shoe crisis, and her feet felt like “hell.” I carried her on my back to the Tube, and we never got to Coco – the final destination (nightclub). I honestly wasn’t that upset about it. Coco wasn’t offering us any free drinks, anyway, and I had peanut butter and bananas waiting for me in my room back home. We got back and discovered that a bunch of people had taken either taxis or buses to get home, so we were last. We got into pj’s, ate organic peanut butter, and played Sporcle. It was a better way to end the night, anyway.

The next day was Saturday. We went on a long walk around the park and watched some rugby and football games happening and stalked some puppies. It was incredibly windy and my ear started popping. We walked through a rose garden, which was really cool and we saw a couple taking WEDDING PICTURES. It was so cute, I almost threw up. I’ll probably get married in Regent’s Park, just a heads up.

The Refectory is closed on Saturday nights, so we have to get food elsewhere. I found a four-and-a-half star Italian place called La Porchetta Pollo Bar on Yelp with one pound sign (£) and we took a bus there. It was all the way in Leicester Square, so about a ten minute bus ride. WORTH IT. Some of the best Italian food I have ever had, and pretty much every entree is under £7.50. I got an amazing, mind blowing gnocchi dish, and Jess got a broccoli and sausage pizza. We split both, and literally scraped our plates clean. We all sampled eachothers’ food. I had a glass of the house white wine for £2.40. Worth every penny. We vowed to make it our go-to Saturday spot. We made a reservation for ten, and they set us up a table downstairs. Thank God we did, because by 7:45, it was totally packed. London has good food, if you can believe it.

That night we stayed in and watched a chick flick. The following Sunday, we ended up at Tommi’s Burger Joint in Marylebone. I don’t even know how that happened, but I need to eat salad for the rest of the week. Amaaaaazing burgers at reasonable prices. It’s deadly, and it’s within easy walking distance of campus. Pray for me.

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The 21 Facebook Friends On Every College Student’s Newsfeed

A wonderful start to a wonderful weekend.

Thought Catalog

Disclaimer: This is not intended to offend anyone at all. I have been guilty of falling under several of these categories at one time or another. It’s good to laugh at ourselves once and a while.

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1. The Girl Who Has a New Boyfriend Every Two Weeks

This girl is “so done” with guys for each 24-hour break between relationships. She picks up a new boyfriend remarkably soon after being through with her previous two-week relationship. It takes about three days after updating her new relationship status, to say “I love you, babe.” to her new significant other. The L Word gets tossed around casually and frequently.

2. The Person who is Constantly Traveling, Particularly in Europe

This person has several albums of photos mainly of scenery, landscapes, and architecture. Often, the person is in the photos wearing an infinity scarf or beret, posing with other trendy-looking friends in front…

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The Unfortunate Part (Classes) and International Kindness

The pub and dumpling life had to take a break this week because classes started. Oh, right. The reason I told the lady at customs I was bringing my Yankee stank into her beautiful country: Learning.

If I could sum up what I’ve learned from my classes thusfar, it would go something like this: I have been very sheltered. Part of this is not even at the fault of my lovely parents. Nothing was ever stopping me from picking up a book and discovering that Bahrain is a country that exists in the Middle East, but I never really cared to look. Now, I share a classroom with four students from Bahrain, who ALL knew what America was when I introduced myself. They were all carrying designer bags and had flawless skin and makeup. If they can manage to look nice like that on a daily basis despite hailing from a war-torn, turmoil-filled region of the world, then I guess I can put on pants.

Aside from Bahrain, my other classmates came to London from a host of even more countries that I know nothing about. Cameroon, Nigeria, Morocco, Libya, and Turkmenistan are a few. I have a set of Mexican twin boys in one of my classes, a few girls from Germany, a bunch of people from China, and one from the Congo. I’m like, hey, I’m from a GIANT APPLE ORCHARD and my skin is whiter than your notebook paper. I miss Dunkin Donuts. How are you?

And WHY DO THEY ALL DRESS SO WELL? The guy from the CONGO looks and dresses like a J. Crew model. They all speak flawless English, too! And I haven’t met a single foreigner that was unpleasant in any way. Politeness everywhere. If I were to take any one of them in my car on Route 128 back home and go under eighty miles per hour in the fast lane, they would be utterly horrified by the way Americans treat each other (Except, I guess the people from the middle east). Obscene hand gestures and cursing as far as the eye can see. Welcome to Massachusetts. Here in London, we have been taught to apologize for things OTHER people did wrong. If someone brushes your shoulder with their handbag, you’d better apologize for putting your shoulder in their handbag’s way. The foreign students here would probably offer to buy them a new bag. I’m constantly flabbergasted by the KINDNESS.

On an academic note, the classes seem pretty good so far. One of my classes, “Reporting for Broadcast”, is not at all what I thought it would be. It’s a three hour class, once a week, and we’re basically filming mini-documentaries in little five person crews all semester. I’m actually so excited. I’m geeking out just thinking about it.

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Bus Tour and Just Falafel

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We got up pretty late this morning and decided to go on the bus tour that our overseas advisor set up for us, for free. We were supposed to pick up the bus at a stop on Baker Street, but it came while half of our group was in a McDonalds bathroom. Good planning on our part. Another bus would come again in half an hour, so we decided to get something to eat. There was a falafel place across the street called “Just Falafel,” so we went in and got some wraps to kill time. Mine came with roasted courgettes (zucchini) and red peppers. It wasn’t as good as Pauly’s but I can’t complain.

We got the next bus, which was all open on the top level. We walked up the stairs and were jolted into some seats. We all whipped out our cameras and began taking pictures for the next few hours. It was FREEEEEZING. I thought my hands were going to fall off, but we saw Big Ben again, as well as the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and Trafalgar Square. It was gradually getting darker as the tour went on, so it was tough to get good pictures, but I did my best. I picked the best ones for you lovely readers.

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Camden, Brewmasters, and Late Night Chinese

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Two nights ago, I went to a sports bar just off campus for girly drinks. I got a cosmopolitan, Tiffany got a pina colada, and Emily got a woo woo. It was small and cute, and they didn’t even ask for I.D.! What is that? I come all the way here, psyched that I can drink and then they don’t even want proof! Rude.

The next day, we got up pretty late and eight or so of us ventured over to Camden. It’s about a twenty minute walk through the park and over a river. It was beautiful and we didn’t get rained on! Camden was pretty interesting. There were lots of booths with vendors selling clothes, already at really cheap prices, but they would offer to sell it cheaper if you said you didn’t have enough money on you. Camden is one of those places where you feel good about having a cross-body bag with a zipper, but once you get over some of the initial sketchiness, it’s tons of fun, and probably the best place to get good shopping deals in London. I bought a blue and white dress for ten pounds and Jess bought a green one for the same price.

After Camden, we went to a place in Marylebone called Nando’s. It’s a Portugese chicken place that serves butterfly chicken with a bunch of different sauces, spicy rice, minted peas, mashed potatoes, and just all kinds of good food in general. It was the most I had eaten in one sitting since I arrived in London.

Then we decided to go pubbing. Three different groups of people from Regent’s all ended up combining and we took the Tube to Picadilly to a place called O’Neill’s. Our Hall Director recommended we go to a place in Camden if we wanted to drink cheaply, because he said O’Neill’s would almost certainly have a cover charge just to get in – and he was absolutely right. So, the group split, and I went with six other people, four of whom I didn’t know, to a smaller pub down the street  at Leicester square called Brewmaster’s, with no cover charge. I got a pint of Aspall Cyder from the draft and it was delicious. We drank them outside on a table in a cute little alley, then decided to go to Chinatown for food.

On the way to Chinatown, the boy we were with discovered a gay bar with live music. Four of us, including myself, broke off and went into a little Chinese joint a few doors down for late night food. The rest followed him into the gay bar, where we were later informed that the (male) bartenders were all shirtless. Oh, London.

We got a bunch of amazing dumplings and egg fried rice and chowed down for a little while, then paid a ridiculously cheap tab. We met the rest of our group outside the gay bar shortly after and were dismayed to learn that the pubs stop serving drinks at 12 for the most part. After midnight, people generally go to nightclubs. We couldn’t find a nightclub that we really wanted to go to, so we wandered around Leicester square in search of transportation home. We ended up on the appropriate bus, but we missed our stop and had to go through the park for about a mile until we found Regent’s. I was the nerd with the map who got us safely home. All in all, a fantastic night. I met a bunch of SUNY kids, and we exchanged numbers. We all plan to hang out again another time, hopefully in Camden. That place was my favorite.

Below, I put the link to a song that was stuck in my head the entire time we were in Leicester Square. It mentions Leicester Square in one of the lyrics, so it’s fitting enough for this post.

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