Weekend Trip: Eastbourne & Brighton

Coming to London, I was completely expecting living in weather very similar to Seattle. Rain everyday and always carrying a rain jacket with you.  So far we’ve had a few gray days, but for the most part, it’s been days with blue skies albeit the arctic wind gusts that chill you to the bone.  The cold weather brought autumn to London very quickly, around mid October, and now it’s nothing but winter. They days are only light for 8 hours and my daily walk across Waterloo bridge leaves me with teeth chattering in need of a hot drink. When the opportunity to get out of London for the weekend came in the form of my flatmate Jess, I was packed and ready to adventure to the seaside in five minutes flat. I’ve gotten so used to moving around every weekend, that God forbid I stay in one place for more than two weeks.

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On Saturday afternoon, I met Jess at Victoria train station where we caught a 3:45 train to Eastbourne, the town she’s from.  Once you’re out of the congested buildings of London, you get the most scenic views of the countryside (of course, I didn’t realize this until on our way back… thank you 4:30 pm sunsets). We were met at the train station an hour and a half later by her dad, and had a quick drive to her family home. It was the most amazing feeling to set foot inside a home again – to have the noise of family interacting and something cooking. I felt refreshed in the ten minutes I had been there. Jess took me on a night time drive past Beachy Head, through the South Downs, and back along the Eastbourne sea front.  Even though it was dark and hard to see, we parked the car and stood on top of the hill that had a beautiful view of the town lights – it was invigorating to feel the crazy wind almost blowing you off your feet and feel the salt water in the air. We had an incredible homemade risotto dinner and cups of tea before heading off to sleep.

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The next morning came with gray skies that showed promise of turning blue and pain au chocolat in the oven. The family crowded around the breakfast table as we planned our day trip to Brighton.  Around 10 AM, we drove off along the beginning of the Seven Sisters cliffs on our way to Brighton.  Jess, her sister and I ventured down the lanes until we bumped into Chockywockydoodah, a stunning and quirky chocolate shop that has a cafe upstairs. The decadence of the hot chocolate we had filled us up for another round of roaming the streets that led to the Brighton Pier.

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I know that I often write about how this experience wasn’t one I had high expectations for – I didn’t have expectations because I knew that as the four months dwindled down, I would find my own way and travel at my own pace. Little did I know that I would add people into my tiny family of friends, ones I hope to visit time and time again and keep for a lifetime. Jess and the other girls in my flat have made me feel a bit more at home, despite being thousands of miles away from the place I grew up.  I think the biggest thing I’ve come to realize regarding friends, is that each one made connects you to something you’ve experienced – and the girls in London will forever be a part of the time I explored the world for a few months.

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I’ve had Brighton on my bucket list for a while now, ever since finding out about the beautiful seaside town in a video a few years ago.  Coming up to the pier was breathtaking. This art installation was so stunning – it’s composed of holes in a large sheet of metal and what ever the background is you’re looking at makes the intended art work seen. Pretty cool, especially when later as we were watching the movie Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (trust me I was definitely giggling when they said the title to me too), we saw this piece as they walked along the pier.

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The pier extends out into the sea and has beautiful railings along the planked pathway.  The salt water regularly rusts the beautiful designs, but the maintenance crew does a good job of repainting over it all to make it look fresh and new. If you head inside of the building on the pier, you are immersed into a world of arcade games and a carnival atmosphere. We were on a hunt for the vintage-inspired stores in the North Laines so we opted to turn back after a short amount of time. I can imaging if you were traveling with young children, this would be the highlight of their trip.

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We left the pier and headed past the Brighton Royal Pavilion that was build by a young Prince Regent in 1787 as his seaside home. It was magnificent in design, and unfortunately my pictures of the palace didn’t turn out as I was oblivious to the smudge on my lens (cue mad blogger).  Anyways, the North Laines are winding pedestrian roads that have everything from leather goods shops to house goods to coffee shops and costume stores. An eclectic mix, I guess you could call it.  I was in love with every single store we walked into – but was constantly reminded of the already big challenge I have of packing up to head back to the states. I did buy a few postcards to add to my ever-growing collection of places I’ve visited in my lifetime, so at least those don’t weigh much!

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Jess’s family headed back around midday and left us to continue wandering through the city.  A few hours later, when the hot chocolate calories were being burned off, we were feeling hungry and settled for a ginormous spread of salads, olives, dolmas, and three kinds of dips. Scrumptious! I’ll definitely be experimenting with making different kinds of dips when I’m back to having all of my own kitchen supplies, because the beet and mint puree was pure ecstasy. We sat there until it was sunset and then made our way to the main street where we caught the Brighton & Hove bus back to Eastbourne – only about an hour ride through the most scenic views of the sea.

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When we got home, we watched Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging – which as I mentioned earlier, featured a lot of Eastbourne and Brighton in between the adorable preteen plot to learn to kiss. By 7 PM, the family was downstairs with the addition of Jess’s Nana for a traditional Sunday roast dinner. It felt like a miniature Thanksgiving meal.  Roast pork, cabbage, green beans, potatoes, gravy.. basically everything you could ask for. Even better was the flapjack dessert that reminded me of my Mom’s famous oatmeal and raisin cookies that can put a smile on the saddest of faces. I didn’t realize how much I missed being in a home-like atmosphere until I had taste of it in Jess’s home. I’m extremely excited for the remaining five weeks of my time in London, but pulling into Gold River once again will be a welcome sight. The next morning we took an early train back into the hustle and bustle of London – feeling refreshed from the weekend away, the buildings made me excited to be back in one of my favorite places.

IMG_2888Being so far away from home forces me to get out and explore this beautiful country I get for a short time. I’m encouraged by the people I’ve come to be friends with and am so excited to start planning future adventures (hint, hint – planning a little trip for next summer)! What gives you the motivation to explore the world, or even your own town? I’ll end this post with a little quote that used to seem cliché to me but now makes a lot more sense after some very unexpected and joyful trips.

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware” – Martin Buber

Lots of love,

Laura Reed

Western Ireland + Cliffs of Moher

I’m not so sure I agree with the list of the seven wonders of the world. Sure, the places listed are incredible and I truly hope to visit each and every one of them one day – but what defines wonder? The dictionary says “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unfamiliar, unexpected or inexplicable”.  If wonder is taken as in this definition, then finding a place that elicits these emotions must be pretty personal.  I’d say that there are a lot of places in my life that have caused me to feel full of admiration for nature.  At age 20, my list of wonder-full adventures is already lengthy, and this most recent trip to western Ireland certainly earned a spot on the growing archive.

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It astounds me how rural parts of Ireland are. The drive to the other side of the country took us a mere three hours – you can’t even get across California in that amount of time.  Throughout the rainy drive, there were pastures of cows and sheep, small cottages and very little traffic on the roads; then again it was around 8 AM on Tuesday morning. Our first stop was to Kinvara, a small fishing town in Galway Bay.  This pit stop was only about 10 minutes long, because the town consisted of a few ships in the water, some closed shops and a little spread of houses in the surrounding fields. Regardless of the small amount of time we spent there, the views of the Atlantic Ocean were really beautiful. Clumps of seaweed floated along the coastline and a couple ships were sailing out to the ocean – this quiet, little town was full of wonder to me.

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About twenty minutes further down the Atlantic Way are the ruins of Corcomroe Abbey.  When I think of ruins, I typically picture of old churches that are full of really old graves. This abbey was certainly old but some of the graves there were not from too long ago.  The collapsed ceiling and the aged stone was shining brightly from the cloud covered sun.  While walking around the abbey ruins, I found several little doors and windows that were so tiny and being ever-curious, I took it upon myself to climb through each and every one.

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Our tour group was fairly small, just around 20 of us exploring around the ruins. There were pastures just outside the gate of the abbey, filled with rolling green fields and not much else. Again, these vistas were making me realize just how rural western Ireland truly is. After living in the bustling London city center for a month and a half, these rural towns were so refreshing to be in.  Getting away from the concrete jungle and finding a little bit of space in these towns.  Especially in the grey weather, the vibrant green of the hills was illuminated even brighter – Ireland kind of reminds me of Washington in a way.  It looks so beautiful in the dull weather that can sometimes drown a city.

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We went driving down the Atlantic Way a bit further through the colorful Burren landscape. It’s known to be full of smaller versions of the ultimate destination, the Cliffs of Moher. Sure enough on our stop off in this area, I walked right out to the cliffs and sat down to witness the depth of the sheer cliffs. One of my favorite views was the waves continually crashing over the rocks sitting out of the water.  Salt water filled air is among one of the most refreshing feelings.  The mist that was being sprayed up along the cliffs made the cool wind more brisk, so the fifteen minutes spent outside of the bus was just enough.

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The wind was whipping along the coast line when we arrived.  There were hills rising next to the ocean that were void of trees and littered with large boulders. In fact, Burren (or Boireann in Irish) means ‘great rock’ and this massive landscape spans 250 kilometers across Ireland. The glaciers that once dominated the landscape, around 10,000 years ago, are responsible for the rocky grounds and the large boulders the area is named after. It’s well known for having colorful flora and fauna – hues of red, green, yellow and blue sprinkled along the vast views.

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After a lunch in the small town of Doolin, we made our way to the pinnacle of the day… the Cliffs of Moher! On my growing list of wonders, the impressive 700 foot cliffs along the Atlantic coastline certainly earned their spot.  The pictures don’t do nearly enough justice of this incredible view.  In a moment of true jaw-dropping astonishment, I hardly could speak. I’m even having trouble writing about this moment now, lost trying to find the right words so I can convey the sense of beauty I found in this place.  Alongside the fenced pathway sat a pasture of Irish cows; they really do live in a small slice of heaven.

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What would a day on top of Ireland’s famous cliffs be without playing a joke or two? After climbing over the gate that conveniently had a plaque memorializing the people who have died over the side of the cliffs, we dangled our feet over the edge and I fell a little bit more in love with the enchanting area. No need for the heart attack, there was at least three feet of ledge underneath me before the 700 foot fall. Despite the gut-dropping feeling when you’re looking at some pretty sharp rocks that far below you, the view was absolutely incredible.

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What places give you a feeling of incredible wonder?  Let me know in the comments below!

Lots of love,

Laura Reed

 

 

Weekend Trip: Dublin

It’s so strange having a fall break this early on in the semester. Of course, I’m used to the first break of the year including a big roast turkey and pumpkin pie.  With it being just the end of October, I guess a trip to Ireland will have to do.

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Ireland has been on the top of my travel list for a very long time. I’ve always wanted to visit the land of four leaf clovers and green as far as the eye can see. Despite the stereotypical idea I had in my head of Ireland, the time I’ve spent here has lived up to every expectation I had regarding this trip.  Saturday morning had Hannah, Rebecca and I leaving Stamford Street for Heathrow Airport (at an ungodly hour for them, but just the morning for me).  The tube was empty and we actually got seats for the hour ride to Heathrow Airport. A quick breakfast at the cafe and then on to the airplane, jetting towards yet another adventure.

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When we landed, we were so giddy with excitement and the customs officers were laughing at us as we cheered when another stamp marked our passports. We took the AirCoach bus to the city center of Dublin, for only 12 euro round trip – it was definitely easier on our wallets than the emergency taxi we took on our delayed Scotland flight. Hannah went running down the road when she spotted her friend and their reunion was so priceless…made for a movie, even. We had a great hot lunch at KC Peaches, across the road from Trinity College, before making our way to the area of Rathmines, where we were staying in a Travelodge hotel just across the road from Molly (Hannah’s friend from the states).

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A much needed pick-me-up coffee was at TwoFiftySquare, a cute little cafe around the corner from our hotel in Rathmines. Although the flight to Dublin was only 50 minutes, any day of travel makes me more tired than usual, and we had a night at the pubs ahead of us.  Caffeine was an absolute must.  I was prepared for a bustling nightlife that resembled London – but Dublin has a much more relaxed pub life.  Sure there was the loud music, mingling groups and many “sláinte”s to drinks around the room, but it seemed more intimate and you were certainly able to simply talk with your friends if that was what you desired. On top of it all, the Irish guys were actual gentlemen – they were there to socialize and share a drink with their buddies (although that accent didn’t hurt much).  Fast forward to 1 AM, when Dublin had daylight savings and I became confused when I left to go back to the hotel at 1:40 but got back at 1:10 – definitely took a while to notice.

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Come morning, I left the sleepy heads to their morning slumber and ventured for a walk into city center. I passed along St. Stpehen’s Green and Merrion Square as the parks were being unlocked and the city was waking up on the chilly Sunday morning.  There’s something so refreshing about walking around when nothing is quite open yet.  Seeing an area wake up teaches you a lot about the way it works – whether its busy or sleepy, young or family oriented. Dublin is so much smaller than London, in the height of the buildings, the amount of time it takes you to walk from one side to the other and the number of people living in it.

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My friends joined up with me at Trinity College, after I had done some souvenir shopping up and down Grafton street.  We took a short walk to the Temple Bar area, which is a young and vibrant slice of Dublin, and crossed the Ha’Penny Bridge, that separates the north side of Dublin from the south. Much like everything in London, everything in Dublin is very old and has seen so much history pass by.  It’s still such a new concept for me to grasp – these bridges existed before the states had even declared independence… how strange.

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We took a bus over to the Guinness Factory at St. James’ Gate. Founded in 1759, Arthur Guinness had such a large vision for his brewery that he signed a 9000 year lease for the land.  It was definitely worth the 14 euros to take a tour through the brewing process – the hops, barley, water and yeast that are used in crafting the perfect pint.  Speaking of crafting a pint, we went up the fourth floor after learning how to properly taste the qualities of Guinness to take a stab at pouring a pint at the Guinness Academy.  All three of us came out with a certificate…kind of reminds me of those participation trophies they hand out in recreation soccer; but no matter, because we did it!

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The day ended with a dinner at Portside Pub in the temple bar area for a traditional Irish lamb stew in front of live music being played by what can only be described as a rock flutist. Like no kidding, live flute and rock music combined. I had no idea that genre of music even existed. For day one of our reading week trip, it was pretty darn good.

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Little to our knowledge, we picked Ireland’s Bank Holiday weekend to come visit. Apparently the population of Dublin doubles during this weekend, as the marathon runs through city center and most of the smaller towns shut down for the day.  I spent a few hours in the morning catching up on some journaling in the cafe down the road and by the time I was caffeined up, the sleep head brigade was waking up and ready to go explore. We made our way back to Grafton street in search of Claddagh rings – traditionally worn as wedding bands symbolizing love, friendship and honor, and now more commonly worn.  It’s been an item on my list for a while; to purchase a Claddagh in Dublin – really can’t get more Irish than that.

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With hot chocolates in hand, because dang Dublin is cold, we made our way through the Iveagh Gardens.   It was the perfect spot to spend some time outside when most of the shops were closed. There were a few statues throughout the park and locals were walking through with their dogs and enjoying the bank holiday outside.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetFor the first two days of our trip to Dublin, I would vote it as pretty successful. Dublin is an enchanting city – small yet busy.  Our trip continues with a day trip to Western Ireland, so keep an eye out for the update this weekend! Each trip I take makes me fall a little bit more in love with living abroad.  I’ve learned so much about what I want out of adventure from these 6 short weeks – hopefully it won’t be too long until I’m moving back a little more permanently.

 

Hampstead Heath

There’s something to be said about walking around, mindlessly wandering without a plan.  You might get off the path for a while, but the best things are unexpected.  I really do enjoy time to myself (maybe I’m a friendly introvert?) just walking and taking in the atmosphere. With no class yesterday, I took the tube to Hampstead and lost myself in the changing colors and breathtaking sights of the heath.  The green space in London removes you from the busy, crowded life and leads you to open spaces that give great sights for a clearing of mind. Here are some snapshots of my day spent walking around in autumn wonderland – enjoy and happy fall, wherever you are in the world!

IMG_0910 IMG_0874 IMG_0903 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset IMG_0883 IMG_1005  IMG_0916 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetWhat is your favorite autumn memory?  Any good music recommendations for this gloomy London weather?

 

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

 

Notting Hill & Kensington

This week, my body has finally decided to give into the three weeks of travel and exploration with a nice cold. I’ve been walking to new neighborhoods each day and planning future weekend trips with such excitement, I kind of forgot that bodies need sleep and relaxation every once in a while. Waking up on a Sunday morning with a nasty head cold calls for only one thing – lots and lots of tea. Anyway, enough with the sick talk – on to my wonderful day spent walking around Notting Hill and Kensington.

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Luckily for me, just as the homesickness/what-am-I-doing-in-this-far-from-home-for-three-months freak out happened, I was seeing someone from my home town the very next morning.  Sharing a nice farm-to-fork breakfast and not having to explain where I’m from made me feel rejuvenated and excited to continue exploring.  Daylesford farm shop is a wonderful Slow Food Movement approved spot with the freshest of juices and menu items.  I went for a chia bircher (my new found breakfast item love) and a B-Vibrant juice of carrot, ginger, celery and orange. Tasty stuff, I’m telling you.

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My hometown friend left for work at Whole Foods – the world’s largest and amazing location – and I continued to explore the lovely Notting Hill.  Portobello Road is an amazing antique store filled spot and among the tourist souvenirs are the greatest finds.  I found the Portobello Print & Map Shop that had extremely rare maps from all over the world.  I was so tempted to buy one of the United Kingdom to frame for my apartment back home, but couldn’t find the perfect one to spend one hundred pounds on.  The quaint restaurants and cafes that fill this area are enchanting and exactly the image I had of Notting Hill, thanks to the movies I’ve seen.

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If I hadn’t already had a killer cup of juice at Daylesford, this little stand on Portobello Road would have stolen my heart and tastebuds with fresh juice squeezed right in front of you.  Among little booths like this was the coolest pub on the corner (pictured above). For a few minutes I was trying to figure out if it was an art installation or something, with it’s plant covered walls – nope, just a wonderful little pub! Definitely putting that on my list for future explorations!

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Notting Hill and Kensington are full of the most wonderful rows of homes. If I post enough pictures of this area, will I get to live here some day? Maybe just a little bit of wishful thinking? London and the UK in general have already stolen my heart. I’m planning for the day when I get to move back here and open a nice little bakery…what a life that would be.

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Just a two minute walk from the Whole Foods on Kensington High Street is the breathtaking home of the royals – Kensington Palace.  It’s beautifully landscaped (duh) and on the sunny afternoon, the grounds were filled with locals and tourists sitting down for picnics.  I took the liberty of exploring the grounds for an hour or two and purchased a little souvenir tin of the “palace approved” tea.

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I don’t think I’ll ever get over how many neat things there are just a twenty minute walk from my temporary home.  It’s really intriguing to hear the locals take on a Royal Family – there are definitely those who enjoy the tradition of it, and some who really dislike their position in society completely decided on their bloodline.  Most of all, the tourists are far more interested in their palaces and royal lifestyle than the locals – but you can’t blame us, we don’t see this everyday!

IMG_9281Three weeks in and with a cold brewing, tea is all I can hope for.  The fall weather is here and my sweaters are being pulled out of the closet – so time to hunker down for the ‘study’ part of studying abroad.  I had a wonderful time exploring this new area, and there are definitely trips planned for the weekends ahead, but the top of my list includes a nice little nap and some Netflix to get me back to a healthy state!

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