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!