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

Feeling Festive

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Christmas time is finally here and let me tell you, London takes the holidays very seriously. From the end of October on, it seems like there’s been a new Christmas decoration up on a corner or more lights hung from the streets. I’m so used to having the Christmas season just in December – so this extremely long festive time has been an absolute treat! I’m always the kid in the house that stresses the importance of having our lights up the day after Thanksgiving along with the stockings on the fireplace and giant nutcracker in the hallway. I feel like my senses have been overloaded with time I’ve had to see Christmassy sights and I’m honestly completely okay with that.

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Just a 15 minute walk from my flat is Trafalgar Square.  We ventured over the Hungerford Bridge the other night for the Oslo Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and were treated to a few carols and a speech by the mayor of Oslo. For the last 63 years, Norway has given a pine tree to England to thank them for the aid they received during the wartime.  We were frozen to the bone by the time we were back, but it was fantastic to see the lights be turned on and the carol singing helped with making everyone feel a little more festive.

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There’s so much to do in London on a regular day, so when it comes to the holidays – it’s kind of insane. Winter Wonderland is this amazing festival located in Hyde Park that is basically a German Christmas market transported to the middle of London. There’s rides of all kinds, booths filled to the top with gifts and too many pots of mulled wine to count. Izzy, Ashton, Rebecca & I found ourselves there on Tuesday night and ended up walking around the entire park before ending the night with some hot chocolate and plenty of souvenirs.

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Closer to my flat is the South Bank Christmas market that runs alongside the Thames and has close-up views of Parliament and the London Eye.  It’s so strange being able to walk home from campus and casually stop by the Christmas market for a few last minute presents. This particular market is a little bit smaller but still has the tons of booths with gingerbread, fudge, mulled cider and gifts. I am just a tiny bit in love with everything in my area – leaving in just a 5 days makes each walk back bittersweet. Bittersweet because I’m excited to get home and see my family and excited for the many trips (and hopefully a more permanent move) back to England, but the idea of not seeing the friends I’ve made here for at least the next 6 months is kind of hard to fathom.

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Anyways – back to Christmas markets and the holiday spirit! Really, there’s not much better than seeing the holiday cheer on people’s faces as you walk by… sure, that sounds extremely cheesy, but what can I say – this season is definitely my favorite. I can’t wait to be home and forcing the family to have all the decoration up within an hour of my being home (you better expect it, Mom & Dad) and the sheer thought of making dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies and haystacks makes me jump in my seat.  To be honest, I’m actually wrapped up in my duvet with the heating on because London has decided to freeze everything in its path.

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There’s several reasons why I love being a student at Kings College and currently, the ability to go ice skating at Somerset House during class breaks sits right on top. Like, how cool is that?! Ice skating at a famous London landmark, right along the Thames all within 30 steps of my campus. I was rather impressed with my ability to stay skating during our time on the rink. Other than the speed demon who completely ran right into me – I had no falls, woohoo! I definitely don’t go ice skating often, so this was certainly a treat.

3London has done its job and has made me feel comfortable with living 5000 miles away from family, but California is calling and in just 5 short days, I’ll be flying back. There will certainly be teary goodbyes and many days in the future of looking back at these amazing experiences I’ve had – but for the rest of my time here,  I’ll take advantage of this wonderful city and all it has to offer.  I certainly hope that one day, I’ll get to call London a part-time home, because this city has taken a part of my heart and I’m really excited for the adventures back!

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

 

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!

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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

 

Stormy Days + Marylebone

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I think autumn has come to stay in London. Each morning I wake up to cool winds and slight fog. Some people get depressed in this kind of weather – not me, this is my absolute heaven. I think I was made for days exactly like this.  There’s just something so wonderful about being bundled up while walking the streets, even if there’s a little rain mixed in, it’s not so bad if you get a hot cup of coffee at the end.  So when the forecast was 80% thunderstorms all day, I chucked on my heavy raincoat, loaded my pockets with tissues for my DayQuil resistant headcold and headed out for a new adventure in London.

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Of course, Michael Buble’s ‘A Foggy Day in London Town’ was playing in my earphones as I made my way to the tube station. My two ultimate favorites, cold weather & the crooning king, made for a good start to my (sickly) day. I was off to Marylebone to check out the High Street and find a little coffee shop to hole up in while I read my course book – see Dad, I am doing school work! So when the stop before Marylebone was Baker Street, I jumped off to see the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Do yourself a favor and go watch Sherlock if you haven’t already. It’s fantastic.

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The museum was fun, relatively cheap and included the set from the BBC series exactly as it seems on TV. I was just waiting for Sherlock to walk through with some solved crime spilling out of his mouth. From there, I headed further north and came across a little hidden gem. The Paddington Street Gardens were just a little gate on – you guessed it – Paddington Street, and it was a nice green space to take a break from all the large buildings in the area. The garden was created in the 18th century as extra burial space for the old St. Marylebone Parish, where over 80,000 graves were dug. It is still consecrated ground, although the tombstones have been moved with the exception of the mausoleum due to its tasteful design.

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As I turned on to Marylebone High Street, I ran right into Daunt Books – store I found on a list of 20 best bookshops in the world. Of course, I was going to spend a good chunk of time there. There’s something about bookstores… the time that you can lose just flipping through a good travel book or finding the perfect novel for a cozy evening of reading. The roof of this store was all glass, and I kid you not, the second I set foot in the store, the clouds began to release all their rain. It was magical. I sat there and listened to the rain with a big smile on my face because at that moment, life was pretty darn good.  

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Daunt Books has several locations throughout London, but I think this is by far the most beautiful of the settings. Marylebone has so many different shops up and down the little streets, ranging from high fashion to small and independent. The walk around the area is a great place to get lost for the day, if you must.

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By the early afternoon, my throat was sore and I was in need of a serious pick me up. I had heard of this cool coffee shop, Kaffeine, in a YouTube video by one of the many London vloggers I watch. Only a quick 15-minute walk from the Marylebone High Street, Kaffeine was bustling with a young crowd of baristas and businessmen coming for a mid-afternoon coffee. I sat down with a decadent chocolate brownie and a flat white for a much needed body recharge.  A quick break turned into an hour due to the novel I was reading for my Berlin studies class – Alone in Berlin is a tragic and captivating story of Nazi Germany.

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As their sign says, the coffee made me strong enough to get through the 15-minute walk to Oxford Circus, where I caught the tube back to Stamford Street and a little nap. Days like these are so perfect and fun. Adventuring is my kind of sightseeing – just choosing a point on the map and then figuring out the smaller details as the day goes on.

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In the last four weeks, I’ve found my niche within the city and I’m growing incredibly fond of it. While it’s impossible to not think of the countdown to my flight back to the States, there’s no time for crying, because I’ll just have to figure out a plan to move back here eventually. I’m currently on my way to Edinburgh for a quick weekend trip and exploring with some friends, so keep your eyes peeled for a Scotland post sometime early next week!

Day Trip: Windsor, Bath & Stonehenge

I’m not usually one to take the tours that make you stand out as the ultimate tourist, because half the fun of traveling is to fit into the local lifestyle, right?  This weekend, I gave into the tourist desires and took off on a day trip to Windsor Castle, the city of Bath and Stonehenge.  At 7:30 AM, I met up with four other study abroad students from the US and we started our walk over to Charing Cross where we would catch the tour.  After some troubles with getting our ticket, we were scurrying across the Hungerford Bridge and praying we would be able to snag a coffee somewhere along the line, because it was just too dang early for the speed we were going.

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With a hot coffee in hand, our tour started towards Windsor Castle and the famous private school, Eton.  It was a thirty minute ride and our overwhelmingly enthusiastic tour guide, Graham, filled the time with fun facts about the area.  Did you know that 93% of the current Parliament attended Eton? And the reason the Union Jack flies at all times on the castles is due to the day Princess Diana died?  It used to be that the royal flag was only flown when the Queen was in residence, so there was no flag to fly at half mast when the public heard the news. Now the Union Jack flies constantly, in case there is ever another tragedy.

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We didn’t buy admission to the actual castle, so Hannah, Rebecca, Elena, Westley & I found ourselves in a pub at 11 AM with mimosas as the rain came down.  Around noon, we had to make our way back to the bus through the torrential downpour for the next leg of the tour.  Due to the storm, Graham decided to change our route so that we would see Stonehenge with clear skies – off to the city of Bath we went! It was a two hour journey west and the most beautiful scenery of the English countryside passed by.  As we came into the Cotswolds region, I was astounded by the views – I don’t think it gets much better than the countryside. I can imagine moving to this area with a small house outside of the city and a running a little bakery in the town – whoops, sorry for the daydream.

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In Bath, we first went to the Roman Baths which were built upon a old hot spring that had healing qualities (it cured an Irish prince of leprosy but I was trying to avoid thinking about that… because EW).  The main pool was green from the minerals, but it was so interesting seeing the steam rolling along the top.  A quick walk through was enough for us, so we went exploring into the city streets.  Bath is a very small town, but it has a great combination of modern stores and the quaint countryside shops you would expect.  The Bath Abbey was hauntingly beautiful. The moment I walked in, I was awestruck by the vaulted ceiling with a canopy design.  Churches hold so much history – there were headstones along the walls that told of the many people buried around the Abbey dating all the way back to the 1600s.

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As we approached the Salisbury Plain, we saw the Westbury White Horse – during the Dark Ages, ancient people dug into the soil to create a picture of a horse and due to the chalky ground, it is visible from miles away (google it and you’ll be amazed).  It is now maintained by the English Heritage Council. Finally, we made it to the Stonehenge visitors center, where we boarded another bus that would take us up the actual historical landmark.

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Walking up to 5000 years of history is not something I do on the daily basis, obviously, so as we approached Stonehenge I tried to think of all the things these rocks had seen. It is not exactly clear why the actual Stonehenge was built, however with the new technology they have found that the rocks came from up to 130 miles away around 4000 years ago.  The Roman philosopher Tacitus was the first to document this strange landmark as a temple to the sun.  Modern historians now believe it was constructed as a temple to the moon during the time when the United Kingdom was connected to Scandinavia by glaciers.

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After an 11 hour day, I was back in my tiny dorm exhausted from a day of traveling and was beginning to feel the cold that I’ve been sleeping off this week.  This day trip was so worth the embarrassment of being a true tourist because of how much we accomplished in the short time we were out.  In the words of our tour guide, it was a “lovely jubbly diddly die tip top pop” day!

Shoreditch & Spitalfields

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Laura Reed

Market Heaven

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

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

London Beginnings

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

Love from London,

Laura Reed