Sunday, October 3, 2010

Back in LA

As I am no longer living in London and wasnt very good at keep this blog anyway this is probably going to the last post here. However, I am now keeping a London related blog, for the purposes of a writing course. And I actually think its rather great so go check it out!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Return to the Land of Kilts and Haggis

Surprise surprise to all of you who know me well that I would want to go back to Scotland just over a month after I went the first time. I had previously gone with USC up to the Highlands with a brief stop in Edinburgh so I felt a more substantial trip to the city was in order. So I grabbed two of my best guy friends, Riley and Eric, and Natalie, for a little girly influence, and headed on up. Natalie had already been to Edinburgh so she didnt join for all of our adventures. We missed her but it made our continual quoting of Lord of the Rings easier because Elvish is a second language to the three of us. This was especially the case when we climbed up Arthur's Seat, a mountain overlooking Edinburgh, as it resembled what we picture Middle Earth to look like. Edinburgh Castle was great fun too, especially when Riley and Eric locked me into a prison cell. Yes, the door actually locked! This trip was also particularly memorable because I tried haggis, black pudding and fried Mars bars for the first time. I tried Eric's haggis for dinner the first night and wasnt a fan, it was too peppery. But we all ordered Scottish breakfast the next morning from The Elephant House, where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter, and it was a bit different. So different in fact that I absolutely loved it and ate every last bit! And yes, I was just as surprised as you are. The black pudding (which is really just coagulated blood and some oats) didnt actually taste that bad, similar to a cinnamon carrot cake and just a bit denser in texture but I couldnt get over its ingredients. But I was super proud of myself for trying it, having always pushed it aside previously when ordering breakfast here. I also finally found a chippy that sold fried Mars bars and they sure lived up to their reputation. It was amazing, and I felt it clog my arteries moments after swallowing. The four of us shared the one because it was so rich. Enjoy the pictures of this weekend because I really enjoyed taking them!

Friday, May 14, 2010


I managed to take out my camera minus its battery when in Rome so unfortunately I will need to be stealing pictures from friends. But here is what I did take in Rome and Florence before heading off to Munich and Berlin!

Italy was incredible, I cant wait to go back. Im sad I didnt make it to Venice but Im hoping Ill go soon. We hadnt planned to go to Italy on this trip, instead having planned for May, but our only way out of Spain was by cruise to Rome. A cruise to Rome, terrible right? So we ate our way through Italy and were a good five pounds heavier before arriving in Germany.
I absolutely adore Munich. The food was delicious and the town was super easy to cover by foot. You could definitely tell you had left Bavaria by the time we reached Berlin, which is a fascinating blend of new exciting city and left over eastern block country.






More pictures!! It was cool to see Belfast prior to Dublin because Belfast is still part of the UK. It was also really different from Dublin, as you will probably note in the pictures. Dublin was awesome, very similar to London but with even crazier pubs and on the Euro.
Barcelona was really fun, even though we ended up staying there a week instead of under 5 days because of the volcano. It also allowed us to take lots of siestas and sleep til noon like the locals do.



Barcelona Part 1

Barcelona Part 2

Friday, May 7, 2010

An Epic Fail of a Blog

Greetings good people,

If there are any of you left actually checking this thing I want to apologize for leaving you hanging. I am afraid that keeping up with this completely got away from me and I would forget to update, and then remember but not have the time. But here is the proof that I am alive and doing well.

For the last month I would not have been able to update anyways though because I have been trekking across Europe, battling the ash clouds that have been roaming over the continent. It was all part of my Grand Tour that was expertly planned, only to have those plans destroyed in a puff on an island not so covered by ice.

In the next couple of days I will endeavor to put up my pictures from Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands along with some tidbits and facts about my journeys.

Im sorry it took so long to return here and show that I still exist. Cheers!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cambridge: Where the buildings are older than my country

So this past weekend one of my best mates here, Stephanie, and I went up to Cambridge to visit my friend who goes there, Rikesh. He and I met about 7 years ago when I went on the cruise to Alaska and have kept in touch ever since. We went for Saturday and Sunday but getting there, and the trip in general really, was quite an adventure. Note: This is written in both past and present tense. I am aware of that. And I really dont care. This is me procrastinating on homework.

First, we had tried to buy our coach tickets online but the site would not accept credit cards with non UK billing addresses. The site then said that we could purchase our tickets from the driver when boarding, but only if there were seats available. There was a bus leaving at 9:05 from the tube station just down the street, so we thought, "Perfect, how many people can be going to Cambridge at 9 in the morning on a Saturday?" A lot more than we thought, as it turns out. We got up nice and early to catch the bus only to be turned away. But no worries, there was going to be another bus coming at 10:05. Now having an hour to spare we went to grab coffee then went back to our rooms to find an alternate route in case this bus fell through. Of course, with our luck, the 10:05 was also full. This meant we needed to take a train (which we had previously avoided because they are more expensive) which would leave from another station. Normally we would get on the tube at the station we were already at, Mile End, but of course on this random weekend the station wouldnt open til 12:30. So we had to run to the next station, Stepney Green, to take a tube to Liverpool Train station. Got to the station, got tickets that were only 3 pounds more than the coach would have been and even had a few spare minutes to grab a pastie for lunch. (Btw, pasties=delicious. The British do have good taste in food occasionally!) Phew! All that work, just to get out of the city. By the time we got on the train we felt like we had had a full day.

The train ride was pleasant enough, just over an hour long and through countryside. We both fell asleep a couple of times but when awake I loved watching the green pastures and cows and streams going by. It was finally what I have longed to see. England. As much as I adore London, which is massive loads, it is still a city like any other. This was England. The green England that I have imagined since childhood. The weather of course was changing every few minutes as we put miles behind us. We saw snow, and rain, and wind, and clear skies. And Cambridge really isnt that far! We arrive around noon and as we pull up we see dilapidated crumbly buildings. This is not what we expected of this famous town but we figure this must just be the outskirts so we leave the train hoping to find better. Oh and of course, as we exit the station cue the rain!

Cambridge, being the internationally renowned university that it is, has class on Saturday (OMG right?!) so Rikesh was not going to be able to join us for another hour or two so we made our way into what we assumed was the center of town. And dont forget that its raining, not hard but still raining. And that my hair had looked so lovely and straight because I got up early in the morning to make it look that way. We walk and walk and start passing pubs and restaurants and businesses but it takes a bit to see anything that looks like the university. Now cue the snow. Yes, snow. Normally I prefer the snow because it doesnt seem to get you as wet as rain, but coming after previous drizzle - and soon to be followed by legit rain- it wasnt so fun. The overnight case I was pulling along didnt help either. We finally realize that we should duck into a restaurant so when a maitre de from an Italian restaurant beckoned we happily ran inside. This is when we notice that we appear to have just stepped out of the shower. Dripping hair and soaking coats and all we had lunch, after the hot chocolate the waiter brought out almost without even asking. As we sit in the restaurant discussing our bad luck we notice the weather outside changing once again. Wait, where are those clouds going? Hold on, is that sky bright blue? Whoa, look, those people now entering the restaurant look perfectly dry! Yes, the weather completely cleared up as we ate lunch. It was still bloody cold out but dry when we left. Too bad we now had the fabulous Jew hair we had desperately tried to tame.
We continued our walk through town and saw lots of buildings that belong to the university. Some fascinating facts about Cambridge and Cambridge University
  • You can pretty much see the entire town in an hour or two
  • The university is actually made up of 31 colleges- this here is St. Johns- its gorgeous
  • Kings College is considered the most left wing and hippie like which explains why they are broke (thats where Rikesh is), St. John's is where all the posh kids go (Their May Ball is considered one of the best parties in the world according to Time Mag) and Trinity is overflowing with money (I heard something about how Trinity could give 5 pounds to every person in the country and still have more money than the Queen, well maybe not the Queen, but something like that) (This is St. John's chapel. Probably my favorite from the outside, we werent allowed in)
  • Cambridge Kings College and Eton (the boys prep school) have almost identical crests because Henry VI founded them and the university used to be just for Eton guys.
  • You get your bachelors degree in three years like at any other UK uni. But how do you get your Masters? You wait three years and then pay a small fee to get a new diploma because in the past three years your education has "matured". Is that insane or what?!
  • And what does the MA get you? 6 free meals at the university per year and permission to walk on the grass.
  • Oh yes, you cant walk on the grass until you have your masters. If you try, you might be shot. (Well they dont actually shoot you, but those guards would still be displeased) Note the sign in the picture below- but also see the Bridge of Sighs in the center because its pretty)
  • Every college has its own pub. And dining hall. Which, in the case of Kings at least, looks straight out of Harry Potter with long wooden tables, candlelight and stained glass windows. The fellows can also choose to have a multi-course dinner with waiters if they would like. They even wear their robes! I saw them!
So Rikesh finally got out of class and it was excellent timing because we just happened to be in front of his college at the time. We then dropped our stuff off at his flat and then got the grand tour of town and the other schools. Most of it we had already seen as we had explored earlier but being very knowledgeable about the area Rikesh made a much better tour guide. It was also awesome to have a student taking us around because it gave us access to restricted areas and we didnt have to pay entry fees. Being a Saturday there wasnt too much to do, so like the good Brits we are we went for a pint. We went to the Eagle, a famous pub in the area because thats where Watson and Crick went right after making their DNA discovery down the road (we saw that building too!). Next we went to a cocktail bar which in Cambridge might have been pricey, but compared to London, dang it was cheap. Rikesh had recoiled at the 2 pound price tag on the beer at the Eagle but Steph and I were mighty pleased. Thinking that we should probably eat after the drinks, and not having anything better to do, we went to dinner at the dining hall in Kings College. I had jumbalaya which was actually quite good (I was shocked). The best part though was the incredible setting in which we ate - see above for details and below for picture- and the fellows in their robes coming in to eat at a long table around 7:30. Straight out of a movie, it was totally unreal.After dinner we went to the pub in the school and had a pint while Rikesh's friends came in to join us. Most of them had been asleep or hung over all day because the previous night there had been a ball. Yes, a ball, like in Cinderella or something. The way I have heard it described the students pay 75 pounds, dress up and party with free food and drink until the wee hours of the morning (wee hours of the morning being 5 or 6 am). We hung out there for a bit and it turned out there was to be a stand up comedy show at 9. Feeling nostalgic for Second Nature (our improv team at USC) I couldnt wait, and the Brits were curious to see whether Steph and I would even get the jokes. I am very proud to say that I understood almost everything, even a sketch song about the current political drama! And there were a couple of American exchange students who performed that were quite funny. And a guy with a very lovely Irish accent that talked about Legos and Duplos and crap, it was super entertaining.

I would have to say though that our favorite part of the evening came in the pub after the show. Rikesh had run to loo and Stephanie and I were chilling by ourselves against the bar. This guy comes up and asks if he can join us. We look at each other, fully aware that we both look like absolute shite, but say sure why not- because this guy is hot. Like really hot, maybe the hottest we have seen, especially met, since we have been in this country. And he asks if we go to Kings because he is in another college in Cambridge but was here with friends and for the show. We replied no that we were actually American and he all but jumped in the air. He thought it was the greatest thing ever, especially once we told him that we were from LA. It was hilarious. We talked for ages, he couldnt get enough of us and our tales of life in Los Angeles. He wanted to know about Compton and could barely accept that we went to school nearby. "I cant believe that. And you could totally be lying to me because Im this stupid Brit. Compton is really like that?!" And we have been to Hollywood. "Whoa, you guys are like movie stars to me! You hang out there? Omg" He wanted to know if the American Pie movies are true to reality and was ecstatic to hear that fraternities and sororities actually exist. Then he asked if we had seen Love Actually and if girls in America really like British accents. "So like a guy could actually get girls with the accent, like the guy in the movie? Youre serious..? Youre not joking? The accent really does it? So are you guys like shaking as Im talking?" -Yes, we absolutely were. The whole time we couldnt believe our luck, this guy was super hot and we looked super terrible and yet he thought we were amazing. And he kept getting phone calls and felt terrible taking them, and would then apologize profusely when he returned. He almost felt bad for monopolizing our time "Wait, sorry Ive just one more question" "And now tell me..." We even discussed the traffic in LA vs the the tube, which being a London boy he hates. Unfortunately his friends finally found him and all but had to drag him away. And the worst part? We know his name was Rory. And that he went to Kings College London but was doing a year at Cambridge. And Rikesh doesnt know him. Well shit. Why didnt we swap info? I dont know. We kicked ourselves and each other after he left. But we were just so surprised? And not feeling the confidence knowing that our hair was straight out of an 80s music video and our makeup went with the rain. Needless to say, we were on the lookout for him the following day and have an excellent reason to return to Cambridge.

The night dragged on after that, though there was another very pretty boy but we didnt get a chance to talk to him. Despite the early hour (midnight-1am) we were pretty tired so we went back to Rikesh's flat and fell right to sleep. Got up the next morning and wanted to do a little shopping for souvenirs (fudge and a jumper). We also had not been allowed into the Kings College Chapel the previous day, and being the most famous (for its choir and its architecture) and rumored to be the most beautiful we had to go in there. Yay for being with a Kings student and not needing to pay tourist fees! And Rikesh hadnt been boasting, that chapel really was amazing. The pictures really dont do it justice. It even has a Rubens painting in there worth over 70 million pounds. There is also a lot of Tudor symbolism as it was built by Henrys VII and VIII so I really liked it. The outside of the chapel is also the imagery that is most associated with the University of Cambridge, with its green grass and river outside. And the weather was gorgeous. It was nice that we got to see the area in the sunlight, we just wished the days had been reversed. For breakfast we went to Kings again because both Stephanie and I thought English breakfast would be nice. I got the full English breakfast but for some reason the lady serving me didnt hear me say hash browns
and eggs and so gave me a plate full of hash browns and then asked if I wanted any eggs with that and then covered it all with eggs. It was delicious though. I love beans and toast. And we got to eat in the amazing room again, and because it daytime it was easier to see the room because of the light streaming through the stained glass windows. And I was able to sneak some pictures! I had felt too silly to do so the previous night with the professors in there.That was pretty much the trip. Rikesh walked with us back through the town to the train station and we got our tickets back to London. All in all it was a good time, and definitely gave us some good stories. I am hoping to go back in May or June to go punting (like rowing) down the river as that requires better weather and is the quintessential Cambridge experience or so I am told. Stephanie and I cant wait for the boat races in April when Cambridge and Oxford crew teams come to London to compete. Just maybe we will run into the boy. Or find some new ones! And now that I have spent a good hour avoiding an essay due tomorrow I will sign off here. I hope you have enjoyed this tale. Cheers!
This is what Rikesh referred to as the "postcard picture" Cambridge spot. And funny, that green area at the bottom left? Used to have cows roaming, so that when the professors looked out from the windows it would look like a Dutch landscape!

More pictures coming soon to my album site thingy