World Trip: Oxford, England

After the quick forty-eight hours in Dublin, I had a rainy start to my flight back to England – walking through the cobble stone streets with my pack on my back and another strapped to the front, all the while trying to see through my rained on glasses. I must have looked like a very tired traveler, despite it only being the early days of my trip. Arriving back in London alone was very surreal. Walking through Heathrow and down to the tube without an ounce of fear for my back time in England was absolutely wonderful. It felt like coming home to the city I love – it reassured me that whilst I was away for nine months, part of my heart still remained in the crazy, busy city of London.

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I spent one night back on the South Bank – in a hotel this time, as I was sadly no longer a student of Kings College & living with my wonderful flat of ladies on Stamford Street. The countdown to the reunion with my British babes got closer to zero and my excitement was uncontrollable. With a stroke of luck, one of the ladies from the neighboring flat, Chloe, and I were able to catch a Sunday roast dinner before checking out some of our old stomping grounds once again. Living in London this past fall was one of the greatest and enlightening times I’ve had, but it’s incredibly strange when you have this group of friends that are so insanely kind and comforting, best friends you might say – but they live across an ocean. I was just having a talk about this with a few of these ladies the other day – how did we get so lucky to meet lifelong best friends in a brand new and exciting city?

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While I only had a quick night in London, the amount of homesickness for this city that I’ve had all year subsided with just a few hours of roaming around.  In the afternoon, I decided to catch a train out to the west to Oxford. One of the ladies from my flat, Lydia, grew up in Oxford and was at home for the summer – so instead of meeting up in Cornwall for our music festival (which I’ll most definitely write about later), we decided that I could come stay for a few days and see the outrageously classic town of Oxford.

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The taxi from the train station to Charles Street was quite short, only about ten minutes, until a grinning Lydia stood outside her adorable blue front door waving hello. After a few excited yelps and a big hug, I was meeting her wonderful family and setting my backpack down in my room for the next two days. That night we decided to stay in and Lydia’s mom cooked us a delicious meal of sautéed fish, buttered potatoes and a lovely strawberry pavlova for pudding later on.  Of course, the night would not have been complete without an everlasting game of Monopoly (which I won with some incredible stroke of luck, because in the history of my games of Monopoly, I’m quite sure I’ve never won). Finally my jet lag was subsiding and my bones were feeling tired enough to let me have a restful night of sleep in Oxford, thankfully.

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When the sun began shining through the window, I woke with a smile – waking up in a home rather than a hotel is relaxing.  Hearing the bustling of people downstairs rather than the stark silence that comes with a hotel morning made me feel, well, more at home. Lydia’s mom had a pot of tea waiting in their gorgeous naturally lit and modern kitchen along with fruit salad, toast and all the fixings. I’ve got to say, British families certainly know how to be hospitable – each and everyone of the families that I’ve had the pleasure to meet have been so welcoming.

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After a sleepy Lydia woke up, we were dropped off in town center to get some last minute supplies for our adventure to Boardmasters Music Festival the very next morning. Of course, I couldn’t visit Oxford without a few historic sites. We roamed around Christ Church campus of Oxford University to tour the grounds – walking past the a few of the original sites in the Harry Potter movies, my inner fangirl was most definitely doing cartwheels. With our provisions in hand, we ventured to the Covered Market to have lunch at Giorgina’s Cafe.  The brightly painted, poster covered cafe looked like a scene out of a early 90’s film – playing soft music, smelling of freshly baked goods & chatting people of all ages.  In lieu of a taxi, Lydia and I walked though winding streets back to her home, so we could spend the night rainproofing our bags and putting the finishing touches on all our camping gear for the next leg of our adventure.

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With one last look at the forecast for the next morning in Newquay, Cornwall, we knew setting up our tent in heavy rain and whipping winds would be tough. With multiple bin bags lining our packs and raincoats laid out to wear, we tried to catch a few hours of sleep before our early morning wake up call to the train station.  The next update will be all about the do’s and don’t’s of camping at a music festival and the reunion with some of my London ladies.

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World Trip: 24 Hours in Dublin, Ireland

At the start of this epic adventure, it had been nine months since the end of my study abroad in London – it’s safe to say that my time living across the pond seemed like a far off dream.  With my huge pack on my back and my carry-on strapped to my front, I hopped off the coach with my parents in tow in the center of Dublin, just outside Trinity College.  Being that we all had no cell service to look up maps to get us to our hotel, I navigated us to the riverfront and along to the Clarence Hotel. All three of us were a bit giddy, because Bono from U2 owns the hotel – something about being in a rockstar’s hotel felt so special for our first couple of nights into this trip.  After successfully leading us through the streets from memory, my time studying abroad began to feel more like reality.

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After a quick freshen up (because two flights and little sleep tends to make you feel a bit rough), we ventured out on the town.  Our first stop was to the Dublin Castle, not much of a fairytale castle, but certainly stunning in its own way.  The gardens directly behind the public entrance make for a nice place to gather your plans for the day while still being immersed in the city. Being Californians, we all had our flip-flops on, because after all it still was the middle of summer – of course, the weather made us look out of place.  The rain that started to come down sent us looking for a nook to hide out in and grab some grub.

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We found ourselves back in one of my favorite restaurants from my visit there last fall, Porterhouse Pub, to have a late meal and watch the sky blaze bright pink with the sunset. With the advice from our friends back in California, we came across the Brazen Head – Dublin’s oldest pub – for a a delightful end to our first day in Ireland. Soon after, we made our way back alongside the riverfront to the hotel and crashed after a day of travel and touring.  The town was alive, since it was a Friday night, but we could barely keep our eyes open any longer when the clock hit midnight.

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With the rays of sunshine coming in through our window, we woke up with a cup of coffee on our minds. Thanks to room service, we finally felt awake enough to get moving on our one day of touring around Dublin.  Breakfast was found in an alleyway of Temple Bar, Queen of Tarts, a cute little bakery recommended to us by my mom’s all-knowing Rick Steve’s travel book. The day took us to the parks and places I had visited with my friends last fall, although this time around there was sunshine and a bit of heat, instead of the autumn cool winds. The last stop took us to Iveagh Gardens, a beautiful park that appears from the a side street. Last year when I came to this park, we were all tired and exhausted from a day of walking around, and this time was no different.  We sat on the benches and relaxed while the locals played fetch with their dogs and enjoyed the crazy sunny day.

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While my parents and I came to Ireland together, they were continuing on from Dublin on the last train of the evening to Cork, where they would begin their bike riding tour of southwestern Ireland.  However, with three hours until they had to leave for the station, we decided to get on a DART train to Howth, a small peninsula on the northern point of Dublin Bay.  Because we just barely missed the train to Howth, we ended up only having about forty minutes to spend in this beautiful seaside town that looks very similar to the Marina district of San Francisco.

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From other travel blogs, I’ve heard of the views from the top of Howth, however we just didn’t have an extra hour to walk up the twisty and turny road – so we flagged down a taxi to do the work for us. An older gentleman named Louis was our driver, who was absolutely delighted to take us on a quick tour of Howth, pointing out all the nice homes and views.  He parked up on top and told us to hike down the path a bit for the best views of the lighthouse, and of course, he was right.  The lighthouse sat delicately on the end of the peninsula, while the ocean winds blew around us.  Our journey soon came to an end and we rejoined Louis back at the cab before heading back to the station. It was incredibly special to show my parents around the places that I had traveled on my time abroad, but so amazing to experience something new while back in Dublin.

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Just an hour later, my parents were off in a cab to the Heuston train station and I was on my own for the night in Dublin. I had a delicious meal in Bono’s restaurant, Cleaver, before indulging in the most refreshing early night, since I was off to London the very next morning. While I repacked my backpack (because a tidy backpack is much easier to sift through), I felt a bit of beginning of the trip jitters.  Maybe it was the jetlag kicking in, or the fact that I was on my own for the first time in a while, but I knew that with the upcoming trip, my confidence for traveling would soon be coming back.  The most cathartic way for me to deal with anxiety has always been through writing, because it’s almost like you’re expelling the weird feelings into the journal, to be left there and not bother you anymore.

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Whatever the anxiety stemmed from, I was soon exhausted and ready for a restful night before continuing on to London to be reunited with the all the wonderful people I met while studying at Kings College.  Looking back five weeks later, I know that anxiety can be healthy at certain points, because without it, I wouldn’t feel the need to challenge myself on adventures like this – to prove that the world, while intimidating at times, is still quite incredible. I know that with each new experience comes times of discomfort, but the days still move on and so did this adventure around the world.

Around the World in 37 Days

Okay, I know I’ve been absolutely terrible at this ‘blogger’ thing, especially since it’s been five months since my last post.  So with the acceptance that I’ve kind of dropped off the edge of the world and been absent from writing these little updates on my life, here I am with a new set of posts that I’ll hopefully be able to successfully finish writing. Some of you who aren’t the kind family and friends that read these posts may not know what I have been up to in the past five months, so here goes.

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As the spring hit Seattle, I was eager to finish up my third year at University of Washington, because summer meant more adventures – and this being my last true summer ‘vacation’ meant that I was absolutely set on making this one for the books. However, my home away from home, a little apartment that I shared with my two best friends, would not be there when I returned. With Emily graduating and leaving us for the beautiful San Diego, Julia and I both found new and exciting places to live for our last year as college students – a bit sad to close the book on our little home, but we absolutely couldn’t send Emily off without a proper celebration. A girls day spent getting mani pedi’s was such a treat and then we surprised her with a gathering of our best friends, because you can’t leave college without a graduation party!  Our night ended with a late night run to Dick’s Burgers (an absolute Seattle must-do), so you know that the night was a success.

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Just a day later, my mom was arriving from Sacramento to help me pack up my little Subaru to get back to California for the summer. The start of my summer was definitely just as crazy as the rest of my summer – my mom and I powered our way down I-5 & 13 hours later we pulled into the driveway to be greeted by my dad and of course, two very happy puppies. Less than a day later, I was on a 5 AM flight to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to partake in the festivities of my cousin Peter’s wedding to the absolutely wonderful Caroline. With the beautiful backdrop of the Museum of Natural History, we toasted to the happy couple whilst adorable photos of the two went up on the screen. My cousins and I sang, danced and celebrated the night away – one of the best little reunions we’ve had this far! With all of us getting older, and me being the one of the youngest, we’ve got a lot more weddings coming up soon, so more reunions to come! We’re a crazy family, but there’s no doubt that I love them.

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Soon after my arrival back to the West Coast, I was driving off to my first day of a summer internship with Food Literacy Center, a non-profit that aims at making food education a norm for children. I’ve always had an interest in the culinary world, hence my internship with this organization, but I never knew how much food education could change someone’s life. By the end of my short six week internship, I was choked up to see the light on a child’s face when they could identify the parts of a plant and hum in delight when they got to make guacamole or a sunflower butter sandwich. Of course there are numerous stories about my time with Food Literacy Center, but being that I’ve been terrible blogger for the past five months, I’ll start my posts with something that happened a bit more recently.

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Five weeks ago, I embarked on an adventure of a lifetime. Thirty-seven days that would take me from the San Francisco International Airport across the world – experiencing five different countries, five different currencies & meeting up with my friends that are dotted all over the world. So, this is where I’ll begin, where the stories and travel notes from my adventures will make there way onto this blog. It’s been less than three days since I actually touched back down onto American soil, and I’m excited more than ever to go back through my notes from these travels.  Here’s to a new and fresh start with this blog and hopefully some good tips for anyone looking for how to do a solo trip around the world or simply some adventures to embark on.

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Thank you all who take the time to read & I sure hope you enjoy the posts to come about these worldly adventures!

Snapshots: April

Another month has come and gone & I’m still at my computer studying (and heavily procrastinating) for all the exams and papers that this non-study-abroad life brings me. I have gotten away for a few fun adventures so far this quarter: a quick trip to Coeur D’Alene with some cousins, a concert on Capitol Hill and most Saturdays spent down at the University of Washington Farm, where I’m interning at this term. Even though this is short and sweet, here are some snapshots of spring quarter in the Pacific Northwest.

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Another beautiful shot of my incredible campus – because are there ever too many?

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Saturday morning at the UW Farm, planting some baby salad greens.

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Seattle spring time – so indecisive about which season it is.

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I did say there wasn’t a limit to pictures of my campus, right?

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Homemade gnocchi with burrata and fresh chives.

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A night out on Capitol Hill.

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Beautiful peonies to bring a bit of spring to my room.

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Woopsies, campus shot #3.

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Beautiful weather & wonderful times with cousins (and adorable labradoodles)!

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Lake Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

Just a small insight into what I’ve gotten up to this month. Instead of promising that I’ll be updating soon, I’ll just say ’til next time!

Love,

Laura Reed

A New Start

Oops, I did it again. I’ve been having a hard time coming up with valuable content to post on this blog – because I’m almost certain that you don’t want to read ramblings about registration for classes or looking for new apartments. So, allow me to start again and hopefully have a better track record for keeping up with this lovely blog site once again.

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After a round of finals that left me absolutely exhausted, I left the clouds to go back to sunny Sacramento for a week and a half of pure relaxation (aka spring break). What a difference 800 miles makes – I boarded that plane with a heavy coat on and walked off almost combusting from the 75-degree weather at 9 o’clock at night. Nonetheless, my California skin was itching to get back in the sunshine and regain some of the tan that I always lose during the school year in Seattle.

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Spring break was full of celebration. You see, two of my good friends and I all celebrate our birthdays within 3 days of each other. And this year being the big 2-1 meant that our days would certainly not go unnoticed. I started my golden year (21 on the 21st!) with a lovely and leisurely day in the Napa Valley with my buddies Catherine and Jocelyn, along with all of our parents. We popped a bottle of champagne for mimosas and then snacked on a delicious brunch spread of bagels and lox, salads, dips and so much more.

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My father decided that we had to proclaim that we were all recent 21 year olds, hence the bright pink sashes that were rhinestone filled and conveniently lost in the back of the car on the way to the first wine tasting. Thanks dad, you sure do know how to make us feel like proper 21 ladies. The first stop was Frank Family Vineyards, where we weren’t even ID-checked (but that probably has to do with us celebrating with our parents in tow!)! After joking about all the subtle overtones we did definitively not taste, we took some group pictures and went a little further down Silverado Trail to Rombauer Vineyards.

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The day was shaping out to be so beautiful, and when we pulled up the road to Rombauer, the views were stunning as well. Right on top of a hill overlooking their vineyards, their tasting room is seriously picturesque. A few cabernets later and we headed home with a convenient pit stop at Taylor’s Refresher, on the sideof Highway 29 (recently renamed as Gott’s Roadside – but I’ll forever call it Taylor’s)! Stuffed with burgers and sweet potato fries galore, we said goodbye to our little gaggle of friends and drove in to another California sunset on the way back to Sacramento.

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What a wonderful 21st birthday it was, and I couldn’t have asked for better people to celebrate it with. Hopefully, this quarter of school won’t leave me bombarded with schoolwork until the very last day so that I can keep posting little tidbits about my days spent up north. Happy Spring! Now go enjoy the outdoors!!

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Weekend Trip: Napa Valley and Marin, California

When it comes to weekends, I’m either stressed to the max with papers or exams that are coming up. Those days are usually spent half procrastinating (because what kind of college student would I be if I didn’t procrastinate) and half actually getting my work done. Man alive, I was pumped when a long weekend came up at the end of midterms that let me get on a plane headed to California without a stitch of schoolwork in my bag. Sunshine was the only thing on my mind – well that and the fact that I’d probably return to Seattle with a bit of a sunburn. I landed after an hour delay on the runway and was welcomed by huge smiles on the faces of my mom and grandparents as they sneakily surprised me!

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A traffic-filled drive back through downtown Sacramento was accompanied by a phone interview for one of the summer internships I’ve applied for – crossing my fingers that summer plans will be full of excitement and adventure, because I’m too addicted to travel after my time in London. Finally home, the squealing duo of Ella and Lady (my two pups) attacked me and got me in the right mood for a fun weekend home. After an obligatory Mexican food dinner, I ran off for a fun evening of shenanigans with my Sacramento girls (Joce, Courtney and Cat) – nights with those girls end up in stitches of laughter and too many smiles that your cheeks hurt the next day.

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Valentine’s morning woke me up with some dogs barking, so I was off to go on a walk with my mom before we headed out for a Napa weekend. I don’t think there is anything better than a weekend spent in the place that brings you the most joy – Napa is just that for me. I’ve basically been raised up there … riding the ATV’s through the meadows and jumping on the trampoline until the sun goes down. Now that I’m a bit older, getting a few days up there a year is the best form of relaxation (and soon I’ll be able to enjoy Napa’s wine reputation – yay birthdays!)! The night couldn’t have worked out better… we headed down to Main Street to see if there was any wait at our favorite restaurant, Cook, and were delightfully surprised that they could fit us in for a quick dinner despite having a full night of reservations! Yippee!! That creamy parmesan polenta and brown butter brussel sprouts are perhaps some of the best bites I’ve had.

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I’ve got to say – waking up to a breathtaking view of Napa Valley and the sunshine already warming up your skin might just be the best way to start a day. The sunburn I was anticipating was already starting to form (thank you Seattle clouds). We grabbed a tasty veggie bagel at Model Bakery before we ventured into my mom’s hometown of Novato. The best pit stop was at the Marin French Cheese Company – brie and sweet pepper jam tasters paired with sunshine and the dogs being able to get out for a little walk. Is there anything better?

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On our way back home, we took the back roads through Lucas Valley and were absolutely stunned by the amount of twists and turns the road had. The two lane highway made it all worth it when we came across a random redwood forest that spanned the length of the road until we got onto 101. If there’s any reason to live on the West Coast, you’ve got to visit the Bay Area during those ‘winter’ months. Highs of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and endless sunshine – what is winter again? The 18 years I lived in California growing up has clearly affected me more than I thought – true winters will probably be the end of me if I ever end up on the East Coast.

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Being back in Sacramento for a short while before I boarded my plane back to my home away from home in Seattle lifted my spirits enough to get me through the next few weeks of research papers and finals. Only one month until birthday celebrations (yay, finally 21!) and spring break! I had a hard goodbye to my little valley town with the sun glowing a bright pink and orange on our way to the airport, but the amazing welcome back party that picked me up at the airport was enough to bring a smile back to my face. Thanks for the spirit lifting Tay, Julia and Emily – couldn’t be happier to have you as a part of my college family.

IMG_5914What spring adventures are you hoping for? How are you surviving your winter? Get talking in the comments below!

Until next time, catch me on instagram.

Reflecting on London

You know you’ve gained something from an experience when it’s almost unbearable to see it end.  Living in London was very surreal – I’d visited England for the first time in 2007 and knew that one day I wanted to come back and live more permanently. Even after living there for 3 months,  I have still have the desire to move back on a more permanent basis. London is part of the greatest adventure of my life so far, but the wonderful people I met while there really made this experience one I’ll never forget.  I can’t thank the girls of Flat 23 & 24 enough for all the hospitality and making London a second home for me.  Nikita, Izzy, Chloe, Rebecca, Hannah, Maddie, Lydia, Cory, Cecilia & Jess – you’ll always be a part of my little London family and hopefully we will make many more memories in the future together!

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When I first found out I was accepted to King’s College London, I was so incredibly excited that my dream of living in London was coming true. During my orientation at University of Washington, there was one thing that really intrigued me.  The counselors reminded us that moving 5000 miles away from home doesn’t come easy – that there will be a period of uncomfort with the new culture, potential homesickness, finding stability in your new city, and uncomfort for the first few days back in the states. Personally, I only felt a little homesick around the fifth week, when I was sick with a nasty head cold (earned from endless weekends of travel), but I credit the girls of my flat for truly making London a second home for me.

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I think that’s why a week after coming back to California, I’m still longing for the small rooms and loud neighbors – because those girls are a part of something that’s over for now.  With my bags on the curb of Stamford Street and my flatmates waiting with me (even though it was 8 AM), I tried with everything in me to not cry as I hugged them one last time, because I knew that once the tears started, they wouldn’t dry for a while. As soon as the car door shut, the driver turned around to me and said “no tears yet?” and then the dams broke. Happy tears that London had been everything I’d ever wanted from studying abroad – I think that the pain I felt when leaving, only meant that the adventure I’ve had was truly one for the books.

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With each adventure, you learn something. Over the past 3 months I’ve learned tremendous amounts about myself. I’ve understood that family is with you no matter how far you venture. I’ve learned that I am independent and enjoy adventures with no set plan – just a place in mind and a map in your back pocket (especially with no cell phone data when out of London!)!  I’ve learned that trying to cross things off your bucket list only leads to adding more. I’ve learned that different perspectives in teaching (whether that be nationality or where it’s taught) can expand your mind in ways you didn’t know was possible. This list goes on and on, because honestly, London taught me more than any other experience I’ve had so far. For anyone considering venturing abroad for a semester, I highly recommend it. For anyone else, I suggest stepping outside your comfort zone and experiencing life while you’re vulnerable to new experiences – there really isn’t anything that beats it.

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11 ½ hours flying, 3 hours driving and I’m back in my home surrounded my pets galore. When I stepped off the plane and eventually got through customs, my Mom and Dad were waiting outside arrivals with a big welcome home sign and cheers that made my smile impossibly big. What a weird feeling it is to be back in California and have the holidays so close to being celebrated. The morning after I flew in, I woke up wondering if I’d ever even left – but the scattered clothing, bags of souvenirs and the fact that it was 2 AM (thank you, jet lag) reminded me of all the great adventures that I’d had. It’s hard to have it over, but exciting to see new opportunities to explore come together for the future!

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I promise there will be no more emotional London posts, because I know it can get a little boring for readers – but this has been on my mind this week and I thought writing it out would do me some good. I’m going to take a break from blogging for a few weeks, so I can enjoy the holidays and get everything organized for my trek back to Seattle and UW in early January. Until then, catch me here on instagram. I can assure you that I’ll be back with new recipes, adventures and stories very soon! I’ll end with a quote that aptly describes how my mind has been working the past few days – thank you for bearing with me through the my adventure blogs!

“The voyage never ends…the mind can never break off from the journey” – Pat Conroy

Love,

Laura Reed

Thanksgiving: London Edition

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Thanksgiving. That day where there’s the smell of a turkey roasting and family gathers from near and far, might just be my favorite. There’s something about the festive beginning to the holiday season…maybe it’s all the delicious food around, but I like to think that it’s the knowledge that you get to see your family every few weeks in the upcoming months. This year, I’m not surrounded by my incredible family members in the gorgeous Napa Valley – because I’m away in London on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. While I’m not there to tell my family what I am thankful for this year, I thought I’d put it in writing.

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Every Thanksgiving I can remember starts with my dad and I up early and preparing the turkey to be put in the roaster while sipping on hot coffee or some tea. We usually spend a few nights up in St. Helena at our family home and have the chatter of family life going on all around us as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade blasts from the main room.  Sure I’m feeling a little homesick today, especially because I don’t get to be involved in the hub-bub of thanksgiving day, but this adventure I’ve been on for the last few months has been one I wouldn’t trade in for the world. Thanksgiving is all about recognizing what you’re thankful in life, because most of us don’t realize how good we have it until we’re forced to really think it through.

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While I’m not with my amazing siblings this year, I’m extremely thankful for the relationship that we have and knowing that we’ll be together in just two short weeks. Nothing compares to the love of family. And specifically with siblings, there’s no one else I’d rather bicker with and then later make up with a hug and an ATV ride through the vineyard. It’s pretty silly to be sitting here in the library with a grin as wide as the ocean thinking about my family, but what can I say – I love them pretty dang much.

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Not many people get the opportunity to move 5000 miles away to a new city in a new country and have the time of their lives. This adventure is everything and more I could have asked for. I’ve made friends I know will last a lifetime, memories that will never fade, and traveled to places I’ve only ever dreamed of. This may all sound cliché and cheesy, but I don’t know when else I can get away with putting my thankfulness in writing.  This little London family I’ve come to know will make it impossibly hard to leave my study abroad home, but I’m fortunate enough to know that I’ll be back to explore soon enough.

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Speaking of adventure, I’m so amazed by the places the last three months have taken me. I could not have made it to the other side of the world to continue adventuring without the help of the other study abroad friends I’ve made here. This experience has gotten me out of my shell and made me realize that the great big world really isn’t all that big and hard to get to. The knowledge that the globe is filled with incredible places waiting to be experienced is one of the most major things I’ve taken out of this time. So thank you to the girls and guys that I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and travel with – you’ve really made me feel a little bit more at home in great big London and I hope we travel to see each other when we’re back home in the states as well.

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I came here completely alone, not knowing a single soul. It’s pretty amazing that I’ve had little to no homesickness and even crazier to think that in two short weeks, I’ll be reunited with my family. I know I talk about how much this adventure has truly meant to me a little too much, but I simply can’t recommend a study abroad experience enough. It’s changed the way that I view the world and view myself – knowing that I have what it takes to pack up and go exploring is some of the most liberating knowledge I gained from this. So, thank you Mom and Dad for giving me the experience of a lifetime – I’ll be forever grateful.

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Knowing that I return home to the states in a few weeks makes me realize how amazing California is. I’m so thankful for the friends that have stuck with me through my crazy years and for the home I’ve made in Seattle.  To my Sacramento friends, I can’t wait to see you shortly and thank you for always being there to cheer me up.  To my Seattle friends, I can’t help but quiver in excitement for the reunion that comes so soon! That city on the Sound is near and dear to my heart, and I really can’t wait to be back in January.

IMG_3433The sun is setting soon on this study abroad experience, but as you can see I’ve had the time of my life. I’m sad to think that I have to leave this incredible city – it’s comforting to know that when I come back, I’ll have a little group of friends to visit and make some new memories with. Happy Thanksgiving to you where ever you are in this crazy world – have a double serving of pumpkin pie for me!

What are you thankful for this year?

Love,

Laura Reed

 

Camden & Primrose Hill

My obsession with finding bookshops has gone out of control.   I find myself planning day trips or even weekend trips just to go cross off another of the book shops listed on the 20 best in the world, because they’re all around London.  I woke up early on Sunday morning and felt the need to buy yet another book that would add to the already overweight suitcase I’m planning on taking back to the states (note to parents: please bring extra bags). Word on the Water is a floating bookshop, an actual book barge. When their twitter notified me that they would be near King’s Cross, I woke up Hannah with just a few messages detailing our plan for the gorgeous Sunday it was looking to be.  I’m hoping one day, my early morning habits will rub off on my neighbors so that we’re up at sunrise already exploring.

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We hopped on the tube heading to King’s Cross and were excited when we realized that Harry Potter ran through the wall at Platform 9 ¾ and the tourist spot was there.  This was the one line I wasn’t too bothered to stand in – I mean, we were going to Hogwarts! We did the tourist picture, running at the wall with the wind blowing our scarves back (the trusty helpers holding them out of frame). It was a childhood dream come true – we used to dress up and attend the movie premiers at our local theater and we may have made a few homemade movies years ago.  Now I know that visiting the Warner Brother studios is a must in my time left in London.

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The book barge was only a five-minute walk from King’s Cross and the atmosphere when we walked up was amazing.  Two jazz musicians were atop the barge playing some classic tunes while families gathered on the steps next to the canal listening and socializing. As you walk on to the boat, you descend a few steps under a sign that says “Please Your Mind – Mind Your Head”.  Clever, right? The collection of books was everything from Grace Kelly biographies to London tour books to children’s tales. I went with a fictional tale of London’s petty theft ring and – of course – another copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  You simply can never have enough copies of your favorite series, and I was definitely still excited off the high of being near the infamous platform.

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It was now nearing 3 pm, so we walked off to the west and came across Camden Town.  A pitcher of Pimms and a burger at their local Weatherspoons was a great midday break and lunch.  Hannah and I ambled through the many different booths that Camden had to offer – everything from a jerk chicken stand to crepe booths and octopus cafes.  It’s a diverse collection of stand up booths that are alive with the energy of tourists and locals.  The canal was dotted with people sat on the side eating take away boxes and listening to the street musicians.

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We grabbed a crepe to satisfy the sweet tooth craving and walked off in search of Primrose Hill and Regent Park on the glorious sunny Sunday evening. I’ve been checking the weather religiously, waiting for the day when the weather forecast was completely devoid of chance of rain so that I could catch one of the the rare and fantastic London sunsets. It was nearing the early winter sunset time and we found ourselves walking through the cute and residential area of Primrose Hill. The little elementary school and law offices reminded me of scenes out of a film.

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We came across the London Zoo, but with the 20 pound entrance fee and setting sun, we decided to continue along the road to the bottom of Regents Park. Autumn colors were everywhere. The trees were still holding on to some of the beautiful summer green and the yellows and oranges were glowing with the evening light.  Dogs were running after tennis balls, kids were laughing and barrel rolling down the hill and couples were sitting on blankets drinking bottles of wine.

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The sky had a few big fluffy white clouds which caught the wonderful yellow light as we made our way to the top of the hill.  I’m absolutely in awe of moments like this…when you feel like everything is going right in your winding path and life just feels so good. I knew it would be a challenge coming to London without knowing a single soul, but meeting friends like Hannah, makes the nerves seem long ago – we will always remember the times that we traveled the world with best friends made after only a month of knowing each other.

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I’m off on yet another adventure come this weekend – this time to explore Ireland for four nights. It seems impossible that all of these day and weekend trips are so close to my temporary home. Six weeks in and I’m still constantly in awe of the opportunities presented by this adventure. It’s impossible to ever have an empty bucket list; mine has only grown in the time I’ve been here.  More adventures to come in this crazy journey of life.

Lots of love,

Laura Reed

 

Weekend Trip: Edinburgh

I know that it’s been 10 days since my last update, but the autumn weather that has landed in London has called for copious amounts of tea, working on essays and a new binge-watching marathon on Netflix. I’ve been snuggling in my blanket, constantly putting more water on to boil, researching memorials in Berlin and attempting several times to write this entry on my trip to Edinburgh.  So I’ll apologize for this being nearly a week late, but the break from the internet has felt absolutely lovely.  I know that there will be a time in my life when I look back at the journaling I did during my time abroad and be grateful, but this little break has been exactly what I needed to get my head straight with the adventurous times I’m having.

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Train to shuttle to plane to taxi, we finally arrived at 48 London Street (a bit ironic, right?) in New Town Edinburgh for a weekends worth of exploring and touring.   We were welcomed by our landlord with a great tour of our little flat that was in walking distance to all the places on our to do list for the weekend. Edinburgh is a beautiful mix of historical and modern. It’s definitely a quaint little town that attracts a lot of tourists. I woke up in my lovely bedroom complete with a floor-to-ceiling window and fireplace and padded into the kitchen to turn on the kettle for a wake-me-up cup of tea. It was an enchanting feeling to have space to actually walk around while not leaving the tiny dorm room I’ve been living in.  I had a few too many cups of tea and when 9:30 rolled around, I woke up the sleepy travelers in the only way I know – I guess being the youngest child just teaches you the most effective way to say good morning.

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After leisurely getting ready, we walked out our flat to the Bake Shop, a quaint shop that served us the much needed lattes, bowls of porridge and pain au chocolat.  We continued on our way through blue-skied Edinburgh past the Balmoral Hotel, Scott Monument, through the Princes Street Gardens and finally ending up at the Edinburgh Castle.  Apparently, it’s completely normal to have a 12th century castle towering above the city that is both small and widespread.  We made our way to the top viewing point of the castle grounds and were astonished with the ariel views of the little town on the bay.  About 10 years ago, my best friend visited Edinburgh and brought back a package of Castle Rock, a sweet chalky candy, as a souvenir – I obviously bought another pack to bring back those memories.

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After the amazing views at the castle, we were a bit cold from the chilly autumn wind making it’s way in from the water. We walked along the Royal Mile that was full of cashmere shops, whiskey tasting rooms and beautiful churches like St. Giles Church.  I knew that bag pipes were Scottish, but was not prepared for the people playing on each corner in traditional kilts. I’m constantly in awe of the amount of history that the little British towns have – and I know it’s because I’m not used to walking past 15th century buildings that house the new cafes on each corner, but I thought after five weeks of living abroad, I’d be getting acclimated to all that the UK has to offer.  Definitely still amazed each day with what there is to explore.  As we continued walking, the wind finally reached our bones and led us back to our flat where we had a wee bit more of tea while watching the last night’s episode of X Factor.

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A much needed break was in order after a day of touring and the day before filled with traveling. So post-nap, we got ourselves presentable enough to go up Broughton Street and find a small place for dinner. Perhaps our best decision of the night was crossing the street to Smoke Stack, a small pub-like atmosphere, that served me one of the top five dinners I have had in my entire life.  We laughed over a glass of wine, talking about the month of adventures we’d already had – yes mom, I’m legal here! – and when our steak and ale pies came out, I forgot how to talk while I had the first few bites.  It was heavenly. If you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh any time soon, you must pencil in Smoke Stack as a dinner spot, because it was such a wonderful dinner and the ambiance inside was incredible.

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The next morning, my cold decided to turn up the dial a bit, so I slept in until 8:30 – whhhhaaattt?!?! I slept in! It’s a miracle! Instead of wasting the precious hours of daylight we had left, we opted for another morning at the Bake Shop for porridge. Before I head back to the states, I’ll be figuring out how they make porridge so velvety and delicious. Definitely a new favorite.  We walked over to the Royal Mile once again to pass towards Greyfriars where the famous Elephant House cafe is.  J.K. Rowling was living out of her car and visited this little cafe each day where she eventually conceived the idea for her multi-million dollar series Harry Potter.  The graveyard next to the cafe was closed, but apparently there is an actual tombstone there for Tom Riddle, where she got the inspiration for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself.

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The day was coming to an end and our hours in Scotland were ticking down, so we decided to walk back to New Town and climb up to Calton Hill. Although it’s not the tallest of the seven hills in Edinburgh, you get a spectacular view over the city and of the tallest hill, Arthur’s Seat.  The monuments on top of the hill are so interesting – we climbed atop the acropolis looking towers to get the highest view of the town we could. I will definitely be visiting this town again, because there is loads more to explore and see.

IMG_0374With our bags packed once again, we waited for our taxi to take us back to the airport.  Once we got through security, we had the greatest surprise – a delayed flight until 1 in the morning!  Four hours later, we were finally leaving out of Edinburgh and craving the tiny single beds back in our dorms. If you’ve ever been curious, Gatwick airport is really empty at 3 in the morning. Luckily, we had it on our minds to book a taxi to be waiting when we landed and what a welcome sight it was to have “Laura Heck” written on a name board as we groggily walked into arrivals.  Another hour later, I was quietly unlocking my door and falling asleep almost instantaneously after the long, long night of delays. IMG_0205I’m having my first weekend actually in London this time round and I’m so excited to have a proper morning of sleeping in (well as late as my biological clock actually will let me sleep in).  In just a week, I’ll be heading to Dublin for a few nights of exploring and crossing off another bucket list item, so if you have any tips – leave them in the comments below! For now, I’ll go back to dreaming of the morning light coming through my beautiful Edinburgh window with a cup of tea in hand as I plan my next trip.

Lots of love,

Laura Reed