Weekend Trip: Oktoberfest

Being in London for three months is already amazing enough because of the historic sights within the beautiful British city – but it’s amazing how far you can get with an afternoon flight out of Heathrow.  I took a weekend trip to Munich, Germany for the famous and traditional celebration of Oktoberfest. It’s crazy that in just two and a half hours of flying (with some horrible delays, but I’ll get to that later), I was in a completely different area of the world. After a rude awakening at 5 AM due to a fire alarm being set off in our dorm – I was up and trekking through the congested and crowded Waterloo station, on my way to Heathrow Airport. Despite the sardine-can-like tube I was on, the 5 Pound trip was much better than splurging on a taxi all the way there.

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We had a few delays out of London because of planes arriving late, but finally made it to Düsseldorf, Germany where I was to catch a connecting flight to Munich.  Of course, that couldn’t go off without a hitch, so we ended up on the runway for an hour, making us land way past our estimated arrival time.  This usually wouldn’t be an issue, but I was meeting my Seattle friend who was coming in from Amsterdam.  Let’s just say that after a few panicky conversations with the information desk, we finally found each other and we learned some international travel lessons. Whew! We made it and were so excited to see each other after a summer spent in different states and catch up on all the things that had happened.

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When we got to our apartment complex, we were greeted by our German roommates who we found on AirBNB.  Our room was exactly as it looked on the website and we had a nice little balcony off the kitchen.  The room was great and actually quite big, definitely a nice change from the small dorm room I’ve grown accustomed to in London. The best part about our new little room, was the proximity to the Oktoberfest grounds – only a short ten minute walk with a conveniently placed coffee and pastry shop on the way. If I thought that reading a few blog posts and travel tips about Oktoberfest gave me a good idea of what this weekend was to hold, then I was massively wrong.

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Oktoberfest is something completely different than anything I’ve ever experienced.  It’s a bit like a state fair on steroids. There were rides galore and souvenir booths with immensely cheesy beer related memorabilia.  Let’s get one thing out there though – who ever thought that serving massive steins of beer and then promoting roller coasters was a good idea? Just walking around the venue, you definitely saw your fair share of those who had been less than lucky with that combination.

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It’s incredible seeing how dedicated people are to get into their favorite beer tent. And by tent I mean an actual building, fully furnished with actual decorations.  People arrived at 7 AM to get a spot at their desired tent, and while we only arrived around 10 AM – we were just fine in getting our pick of the venues.  My friend and I visited the traditional Hofbräu tent where they had chandeliers made from hops and an incredible band playing dressed in lederhosen. The beer waitresses walked around holding up to twelve steins, impressing us all with their brute strength and concentration on not spilling.

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These rides were just a few of the more mild ones seen there. There was a large population of young families dressed in the traditional outfits, so these rides made sense for them since they obviously would not be taking their five year olds into the beer tents.  The atmosphere around Theresienwiese was celebratory and full of tens of different accents and languages around, listening and chanting along to the classic German songs.

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The last time I was in Munich was around 12 years ago, on my very first trip to Europe with my immediate family and grandparents. I wanted to find the Eden Hotel Wolff, where we stayed during our trip there all those years ago, and it just so happened to be right near one of the spots where we ended up for dinner. Memories came flooding back of being in the actual Hofbräuhaus in central Munich and being so overwhelmed at 8 years old, that we changed locations to the Hard Rock Cafe just across the street. It was extremely surreal reliving part of the trip that has fueled my insatiable thirst for travel. So, even though this hotel brought me back to a memory from 12 years ago, I just want to say a thank you to my grandparents who showed us the world at such a young age – it has made all the difference.

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We had a stein of beer, ate a bratwurst, bought corny and hilarious souvenirs and ultimately crossed one more thing off my very long bucket list. It was a quick 48 hours, but the experience was worth every ounce of stress from traveling internationally alone.  I may not get back to Oktoberfest any time soon, but hopefully there will be another time in my life where I’m able to come back and see this celebration once again.

Shoreditch & Spitalfields

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So far, I’m two weeks into my time in London and I’m making a promise to myself now – I will explore a different area of London each week on my day off from university.  And by putting this promise out there, I’m hoping you readers hold me accountable to that, since I don’t want to come home regretting not exploring my area enough. This week, my University of Washington adventure buddy, Westley, and I decided to catch the tube to Shoreditch in East London for an afternoon of walking around and hopefully not spending too much – I guess my wallet is just on a diet? Losing a few pounds every day… (that was horrendous, so sorry)!

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We ended up in the Indian and Pakistani neighborhood of London and regardless of the directions I had, we weren’t stumbling across the promised vintage shops.  After a few misguided turns, we found the entrance to Old Spitalfields Market – an open square with vendors selling cheap goods and vintage designs. It was as if we stepped into a heaven of fun and interesting shops beckoning us with their window displays. We decided to try out the Wagamamas (Asian-fusion deliciousness) on the balcony of the market which gave us an ariel view of all the shops and let us plan our afternoon shopping.

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Back in the States, there’s a store called All Saints that sells the absolute best leather jackets along with so many other chic items – and the only issue being that they are ridiculously expensive.  In short, I’m obsessed with this brand.  When we came across the All Saints in Spitalfields, we learned that it was the flagship store and that the lead designer was just downstairs working on a few products. I was stunned and eventually depressed when the trying on all the amazing clothing and realizing I just don’t have the funds for these additions to my wardrobe.  One day, one day, All Saints I will own your merchandise.

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I’m constantly impressed with the historic buildings at each corner around London and then all of a sudden, the modern buildings are placed right next to them.  It’s really beautiful to see two different architectures up against each other, somehow educating you of the past and present simultaneously. Shoreditch is full of intersections like this, there are so many beautiful shops and old landmarks and randomly you’ll see a modern building from the next neighborhood at the end of a street. photo 5

There’s no doubt that the United Kingdom is well known for their tea – and I love having a good cup before bed…but I miss coffee. It’s so expensive here and rare to find actual ground coffee in a grocery store so you can make it yourself! Enough with the rant – in Shoreditch there was this amazingly modern cafe called Brooklyn Coffee that reminded me of (and made me tremendously miss) my New Yorker sister and the fun times I’ve had traveling there as well. And it was a welcome site to have a latte in hand as I roamed the streets of East London.

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If you’re into a younger feeling in a neighborhood, Shoreditch has that along with artistic graffiti on the streets near the tube stop, Spitalfields Market for the cheap and funky goods, the vintage market open Thursday through Sunday for all the your retro desires. There are loads of book stores, record shops and quirky house stores along the streets – so basically a trap for anyone with a few pounds in their wallet, since it’s impossible to leave without having done some shopping. Even though we were only 8 stops away from Central London and our campus, the differences in the neighborhoods are fantastic to see and explore.

Any suggestions or recommendations for which neighborhood of London I should explore next?

Until next time,

Laura Reed

Market Heaven

I am the kind of grocery shopper who could spend an hour roaming the aisles of Whole Foods, reading ingredients and looking at all the different choices. My roommates back in Seattle often have to look through the store to find and remind me that I’m just there to pick up a few essentials, not the entire organic supply of ingredients. Weird? Maybe, but I guess that’s just the culinary-obsessed chef side of me. IMG_8599Now, I really dislike the word ‘foodie’ – it seems like over the past five years, this word has become hip and trendy.  People use it to sound like they know all the ins and outs of the food world.  It’s become so mainstream of a word that it makes the concept of markets overproduced. So excuse me when I say, I visited absolute foodie heaven the other day. Two words – Borough Market.  IMG_8593Only a twenty minute walk east of my new flat in southeast London, this massive market that spans across a few blocks is every food-lover’s dream. I thought I’d seen it all – after living in Seattle (home of Pike Place), visiting Chelsea Market and Union Square Market in New York, and countless others – but no, this by far tops the list. Fresh vegetables from nearby markets, loads of cheese and charcuterie shops, and gourmet prepared food carts with delicious smells emanating from them.  Apart from the wonderful smells and sights inside the market, the walk there wasn’t too shabby either. Passing the Shard and walking through Southwark is a fun and easy walk to do on a Saturday afternoon. IMG_8584As we walked around, I heard the trains rumbling above the marketplace and it jostled me from my mindset of amazement. It seems like the last week has been a serious vacation.. walking around to a new neighborhood of London each day, exploring and meeting the people around my complex. I feel like I’ve been floating around all week, not really grasping on to the fact that I actually will be living here for the next fifteen weeks. The only thing I know for sure, I’ll be coming back to Borough Market to pick up my produce each week and maybe a fun artisan bread or cheese.IMG_8605I’ve never been introduced to the delicious summery drink of Pimm’s – being that I’m not legal in the states just yet.  It’s so delightful and light and was the perfect accompaniment to the group of American students meandering through the crowded market. It seemed like every person in the bustling center had a cup with them, so why not join in on the fun?!IMG_8662On Sunday morning, I found myself awake early and needing to do something.  My morning run started off easy, thanks to a sore ankle, but became fantastic with the breathtaking sights I ended up at.  I had a basic route of heading east in my mind and seeing how far I could get and after a wrong turn, I looked up and saw the beautiful Southwark Cathedral.  The church bells went off at that moment and the magical feeling of being in such a historic setting was almost too much for me to handle. IMG_8645Only another ten minute run past the church, I wound up at Tower Bridge and the Sunday morning walkers were out and about.  I had to pinch myself because being able to randomly end up there was definitely overwhelming. I took a mid-run break there to take in the post-card worthy site before I began the run back to the flat. So, week one has come to a close, but I’ve got so many more to look forward to in London and adventures waiting to be planned.

If you’re an avid food lover, you should book the ticket now to visit Borough Market, it’s well worth it.  What’s your favorite culinary city? Tell me in the comments below!

London Beginnings

London. The journey I’ve been waiting for all summer long has finally started.  In the four days that I’ve been here, I’ve come to the conclusion that there will be a day when I move here (sorry Mom & Dad, guess you’ll have to settle for an annual trip to England)!! Landing in Heathrow, I was tired from the baby who thought sleep meant crying and nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get my Student Visa as easily as I thought. Of course, there were no issues at customs and my tiredness soon was cured with the excitement of driving (frighteningly) through the city on the opposite side of the road. King’s College met me with a sign at the airport exit, ready to help with getting a cab to take me through the Fashion Week traffic into central London. IMG_8475It was supposed to be a forty minute commute to my new home, and with the added traffic on a strangely busy Sunday afternoon, we made it there in two hours. Talk about exhaustion. Finally I made it to the doors of Stamford Street Apartments to meet my new flat mates.  There’s Cory from Boston (Yay! Americans!), Jess from Eastbourne, Maddie from Cheshire, Lydia from Oxford & Cecilia from Madrid.   Other than my compatriot from Boston, the others are Freshmen, or freshers as they call it, and are experiencing their first time away from home. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetPinch me, is this real life? I live a twenty minute walk from the Queen. I never thought I would be able to say that. What a life.IMG_8433It’s been interesting being here a week before the actual term begins, as there are a bunch of freshmen orientation events to attend. I’ve been able to do the classic tourist things, like walking from our flat in South Bank to Trafalgar Square through St. James Park and finishing up at Buckingham Palace. Just writing that makes me shiver.. I can’t believe I’m living here and being able to do these things on the daily basis. It’s been a dream for the last week and I am so excited to continue exploring.IMG_8376It doesn’t get much better than a school right on the banks of the River Thames, right? My daily commute to my “modules” takes me across the Waterloo Bridge, and the view is stunning. Big Ben, Parliament and the London Eye on one side and the Shard on the other. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThanks to these clever street signs, I haven’t yet been run over by the cars and double decker buses (see mom? I’m already beating your prediction)!  It’s definitely confusing with the opposite side driving, especially with the multiple one lane streets and roundabouts that seem to change each time you walk that route.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIMG_8504Being right next to Big Ben & Waterloo station, there is so much traffic – both commuter and tourist. It’s been amusing hearing the accents, languages and seeing the expressions people have from the sights. So far I’ve been living the adventure I’ve always dreamed of.  I’m so excited to continue meeting people around King’s College and through my future adventures. Next week I’ll begin taking my courses & soon be on my way to Munich for the infamous Oktoberfest!

Love from London,

Laura Reed

LA + Last Days of Summer

So, I might just be a bit crazy.  I’ve only just got off a plane and a quick girls’ trip to LA for the necessary boy band concert and in only 24 hours I’ll be beginning the grand adventure to London for my study abroad.  Keeping busy, I guess you could call it? Among these nerves, last minute packing, and loads of excitement I’m trying to fit in a blog post just so I’m not a complete blog absentee.  Everytime I glance at the clock, I’m reminded that tomorrow brings a whole new level of adventure – alone and traveling to London without knowing a single soul. I’m excited – no, scratch that – I’m ecstatic for all that’s around the corner. With my summer ending and school calling via London, here’s how I decided to spend the last bits of leisure and summer wonders.10592835_10152317695443456_6063358313131462962_nThe view from our hotel room, both enchanting with the mountains and seriously urban with the typical Los Angeles developments. Wonderful to wake up to and even more wonderful to go to bed to.  My Seattle sister and world explorer of a friend, Julia, and I took a quick (but massively successful) trip to LA to celebrate the end of summer, her getting back from Paris and me leaving for London.  What a trip it was.10635860_10152315765158456_47861038932317387_nWe went to The Grove’s twin Americana in Glendale for a evening of window shopping (no income + leaving for London = attempting to save money) and hopeful celebrity spotting. Perhaps the most wonderful Anthropologie led us to giving the typical blog photo shoot a try.  All smiles and anxiety thinking about adventures ahead! 10603726_10152315764818456_5528120911777862353_nThe original Crispy Rice with spicy tuna at Katsuya. It really doesn’t get much better – as we sat there, the heat died down and the fountains began their show while the sun set. Absolute perfection!10687113_10152315765083456_2741880861031305103_nThe inevitable stop at Sprinkles Cupcakes for the heaven made Nutella cupcake was worth all the hype.  From the bite I had, it was something that makes me reconsider not enjoying cake. Mmm mmm mmm delicious!1501602_10203645377828347_8121612076528397579_oNow on to the main event of our trip – seeing the British boy band, One Direction, in all their glory at night one of their Rose Bowl stop.  Being born in the 90’s, I totally was a fan of N*SYNC but was always too young to go and see them when they came around to Northern California. So some fifteen years later and a boy band that isn’t too young to make us stand out as old geezers, this opportunity had to be taken.10660150_10152317695148456_399209362353320506_nIt was definitely one for the books.  There were fireworks, confetti and definitely one too many screaming, crying girls (I was not one of them, thank you very much).  With some strings pulled, we ended up with incredible seats, just four rows from stage and VIP passes to let us into a special pre-concert party.  Just being in the Rose Bowl was a success and top that off with five British boys and some pop songs, it was a wonderful night.

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Goodbye summer, goodbye California sunshine… I’m ready for some sweater wearing and tea drinking.  My bags are packed and the passport is stored in my purse. I am incredibly excited for all that is to come and I know that this is only the beginning of a life full of wanderlust and adventure.

What are you looking forward to this fall?  How do you celebrate the end of summer? Keep up to date with all my adventures and more by subscribing for email updates!

West Shore, Best Shore

I never had perfect attendance in school, simply because I missed two days every year for our annual family reunion in Lake Tahoe over Labor Day. For 40 years, the same cabin has been rented by a group of crazy, puzzle-doing, waffle-making, always loud goofballs.  That merry little crowd would be my family.  It’s hard to explain the magical feeling that comes from boating into the sunset, so instead here are just a few snapshots from this years trip.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetLittle miss Ladybug actively leading the troops on a wonderful trek through the Rubicon Trail and the Olympic Range. IMG_7542 A sunset round of appetizers shared at West Shore Cafe.  This view continued to brighten and become more surreal each minute.IMG_7529Oysters on the half shell with pickled peach & tempura asparagus and squash blossoms filled with mint and ricotta.  Amazing! IMG_7532These might be the best oysters I’ve ever had.  A return visit is definitely in order! So simple yet so delicious!   IMG_7318Lady and Ella waiting not so patiently for their ball to be thrown. They just haven’t gotten the “bring the ball back” part down yet. IMG_7349(Above) The rocky shore around Bliss State Park.  (Below) Pop after finishing his 1000 piece puzzle – hardwork pays off! IMG_7513  Just 61 years ago, a young teacher to be and her high school basketball star sweetheart were married in the small town of York, Nebraska.  These two lovebirds are my grandparents, whom I look up to for advice in every part of life. I’m so grateful to have grown up around the truest example of love and adoration.  61 years later and they’re still lost in love!  Happy Anniversary Gram & Pop! IMG_9835Pictured on their wedding day in 1953. IMG_761961 years later at Ehrman Mansion on Lake Tahoe. IMG_7416As the sun set on yet another Labor Day weekend, I said goodbye to Unit #3 at Waters Edge and another summer. In the next week my life will be at full speed ahead – the journey to London for a four month study abroad begins and I couldn’t be more excited for all the exploring that comes with it.  Thanks Tahoe for a wonderful send off to summer.  Out and off to another grand adventure!

What do you hope to accomplish this fall? What inspires you to continue adventuring? Comment below!!

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

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As the second heat wave hits Sacramento and valley towns alike, I’ve been searching for something to cool off with.  Instead of another iced recipe, I ventured to the Bay Area hoping for a foggy and cool day.  I know it may seem strange to want cooler weather when summer is full of time outdoors, swimsuits, and sunshine, but the crisp air that I love is one of the reasons why Seattle became my home and why I’ve always loved San Francisco.  I mean, what is there not to like about Northern California’s go-to city?  Fresh produce & fish, acclaimed restaurants, stunning views AND my new personal hotel. Maybe more along the lines of a sleeping bag on the floor of my brother’s studio, but hey a girl can dream! 

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Especially with the best friend in the passenger seat and Giants tickets bought, the night away from the dry heat was welcomed with open arms.  After a typical Whole Foods panic attack (it’s just not possible to walk in and out in five minutes), breaks almost giving out on a city hill and an older angry pedestrian, we finally made it to Nob Hill and ate our over priced lunches atop a beautiful rooftop.  I didn’t even mind that my soup was horribly watered down, because this view just took the prize.  Although the fog burned off quickly, the cool weather stayed, making me one happy girl.

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We took a walk around the neighborhood, leading us into the renowned Chinatown, where there is ample amounts of dried fish. cheap vendors and an entire micro-culture.  Most importantly, my brother stumbled upon the delicious sixty cent pork bun.  Come on, sixty cents for a soft white bread bun with slow cooked pork inside?! That’s definitely a perk of living in walking distance. Living only two hours away from the city for most of my life, I’ve visited a fair amount.  An absolute favorite if you’re in the Union Square area is Kuleto’s for a classy and traditional Italian dinner, or their more casual counterpart Bar Norcini for a delicious cafe latte and margarita pizza (above).  When in doubt, ROAM Artisan Burgers fills the tank with self-created American food and hand crafted sodas and fries. Of course there are hundreds of other amazing food stops in the wonderful bay city, so these are just a few of my staples. 

IMG_7256  There’s endless amounts of things to do and see when in the gorgeous Bay Area.  I can never cross back over the Bay Bridge during Giants season without a ticket stub in my back pocket. We bought a couple of $15 bleacher seats on left field and brought the mitts in case a ball made it to home run zone. Cheering loud and sharing the delectable (and sinful) fudgey Ghirardelli sundae between the four of us made for a fantastic Monday night.  A quick stop at Uncle Vito’s pizza for a late night dinner ended a long day on a delicious note.  Even if cable car dings woke us up early in the morning, San Francisco still remains one of the best cities to visit for the day or more.

Where do you love to drive for a quick getaway?  Leave a comment and some tips!