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