Posts Tagged ‘Adventures’

The Evolution of Leonore

22 May 2009

During my EAwH (England Adventure with Hannah), I returned to some places that have special significance: Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.

Windsor Castle is the very first place I went in England (that wasn’t on Campus) my 1st weekend in the UK.

Here is me, circa January 10, 2009

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and here is me on Monday this week.

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And Buckingham Palace is the very first place I went when RoHo took us into London my second weekend here.

This is me, January 17, 2009:

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and this is me from Tuesday:

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I can’t believe it’s been as long as it has. And it seems like no time at all.

The song that goes “Look how far we’ve come, my baby…” keeps playing in my head whenever I start to think about it.

In other news, I finished my exams!!!! All work is now done for RoHo and junior year!!

AND!

EUROPEAN ADVENTURE! PART 2 begins in like an hour!!!

May 22-24 Lyon, France
May 25-28 Paris
May 29-30, Sommentier + Other parts of Switzerland
May 31-June 3 Madrid + Segovia, Spain

And…June 3 back to London. 

And TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY, I will be flying back to the States.

Crazy.

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Choose your own Rome cliche!!

1 May 2009

It’s like Choose Your Own Adventure, but significantly less exciting.

This post needs a title. Do you choose:

a) All roads lead to Rome
b) When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
c) Rome wasn’t built in a day.

If you chose a), please start reading now. For b and c, keep scrolling.

All roads lead to Rome  

But that doesn’t mean you won’t face obstacles trying to get there. 

The scene: Milan, early morning. Sunny and warm (it’s ALWAYS the best weather on the day you have to leave).

The Team rises from their comfy faux-sleeping bags to shove all of their worldly belongings back into too small bags. Dressed in clothes long since sullied with the burden of travel, they depart their lodging and make their way to the tram to the metro to the 9:30 train to Rome. However, as The Team approaches the tram stop, there appears to be a mass migration of people walking down the sidewalk next to the tram tracks.  The Team waits a few moments, and then decides that they are either caught in the movie The Happening or the train is not running. They decide to walk to the metro, along with many other unhappy commuters. Approximately 7 trams pass going the other way during the 15 minute walk.

Alarm begins to grow in some members of The Team. 0900 comes and goes, and time ticks forward with an uncomfortable rapidness. On the metro, each stop seems a lingering frivolity, a cruel game intending to toil with emotions. The Team consults their watches and ponders their accuracy.

Finally, The Team arrives at Milano Centrale and begins the epic dash from subway to train tracks. Time, the coyest of temptresses, seems to slow. The Team is running through the magnificent neo-classical halls of the station. The hands of the giant station clock click to 9:30 as The Team passes under with barely enough time for a slow-mo turn around and a weirdly deep “NOOOOOOOOOO!” But then, the track comes in to view and, lo, miracle of miracles, the train IS STILL THERE. The Team refuses to be lulled into complacency, and finally skids to a stop in front of the first car, frantically pushing the “Door Open” button. “No,” they think, “No this isn’t happening! We made it! We’re touching the train! Let us in! LET US INNNN!!”

And then, tragedy strikes. Before their very eyes, the train pulls away, sending The Team to their knees, grasping at the air in anguish.

Fade to black.

End scene.

Ok, maybe it wasn’t quiet that dramatic, but I swear, at one point, I heard the music from the Qui-Gon/Darth Maul Star Wars EpI fight playing softly in the background. It was a little bit hard to make out though, over the pounding of our sneakers on the marble floor and the exaggerated heavy breathing noises that always accompany slow-motion running sequences.

After we stood on the platform in shock for a few minutes, we went to the ticket office and managed to change our reservations to the 10:30 train with no extra fee. But we seriously perplexed the ticket man in the process. I may write to the phrase book people and tell them the phrase “We missed our train” should be included in future additions.

And then we got on the 10:30 (Eurostar! posh) and passed through Genova and Firenze (I caught a glimpse of Brunelleschi’s dome on the Cathedral!) on the way to Rome. YAY.

If you chose b), please start reading now. For c, keep scrolling.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

It’s hard to evaluate the truth behind this cliche because I don’t even know if I saw any Romans while in Rome. I think the city is made entirely of tourists, only some have been altered to work in places in order to cater to their fellow tourists. This was good because everyone spoke English (huge sigh of relief on my part, since almost no one in Milan did), and maps were almost not needed because we could follow either signs or the tide of other tourists. This is bad because there were a lot of tourists, and tourists are annoying. Except for me. I am a good tourist.

There are SO MANY amazing things in Rome, and in 2 full days + 2 partial days, I think we made a good effort, but we still barely scratched the surface. 

To give you an idea of what we covered, here is my beloved trusty friend:

map

Pretty good right? And with the exception of the Metro to the Vatican (not back), that was all covered on foot.

Wait, I’ve just thought of something that the Romans and (smart) tourists do: Ignore the HORRIBLE street hustlers who try to sell you roses and tripods and noisemakers and light-up toys and ugly bean bag things and pictures in front of Trevi fountain.

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No thanks, dude. I’ll take my own.

Oh and Romans have their gas stations on the sidewalk.

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And they go to church. Though with something like 900 churches in the city, there’s really not enough space for everyone to worship. It’s a problem, and they should do something about it.

Seriously though. The Vatican. Blew. My. Mind. There are no words, so I will show you a video:

Taken inside St. Peter’s. And that doesn’t even account for the aneurysm of awesome I had in the museum. Guess what I did after shooting this video? That’s right. Climb up a death-defying 551 steps to the top of the basilica! And you have to go between the two layers of the dome and walk leaning sideways.

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Ta da! Rome.

Here’s more of what I’ll call “Essence of Rome”

If you chose c), please start reading now. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day

In fact, Rome was built over the course of many, many, many days. 2762 years worth of days, to be exact.

Yes. 2762 years. And I know that because it was ROME’S BIRTHDAY while we were there. And WHEN IN ROME for Rome’s birthday, EVERYTHING IS FREE. Ok, not everything, but all of the state museums, including all the ancient ruins and all that. Silly Rome! You’re supposed to GET presents on your birthday, not give them to others! That’s not to say I’m not incredibly greatful, because srsly, thanks.

So in honor of Rome’s bday, we stumbled upon (and by stumbled upon, I mean saw people lining a street, inquired via my Italian skillz, and waited for like an hour) a PARADE OF ANCIENT ROMAN SOLDIERS IN COSTUME.

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Except that the moment the parade finally started, it began to rain. Here’s a new cliche for you, Rome: When it rains, it POURS. It rained so hard. My shoes were wetter than marching band practice in a thunderstorm. We eventually had to take cover under the mighty edifice of the Colosseum, along with some of the paraders.

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Most of my time in Rome was spent being utterly perplexed by how OLD everything is. Like walking around in the Colosseum and the Forum and looking at ruins like this:

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and being like, “Oh, of COURSE there was a Temple here. And of COURSE Caesar and all those other famous ancient Romans hung out here thousands of years ok. Yes. That is totally reasonable and easy to imagine.”

FALSE.

It is impossible to fathom. My mindgrapes were thoroughly blown.

But it’s a great city, and I wish I could’ve spent more time there.

Photo roundup: I am not exaggerating when I say I took 700 photos of Rome. Seven. Hundred. So here are the best of the best, because the only person would ever want to see all of them is probably my mom.

Album 1: Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s

Album 2: The roof of St. Peter’s, Castel Sant’ Angelo, Piazza del Popolo, Trajan’s Column, VE II Monument, the parade, Ara Pacis, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon

Album 3: Chiesa del Gesu, Capitoline Museums, the Forums (foro, whatevs), the Colosseum, Palantine Hill, Circus Maximus, and the Bocca della Verita

In conclusion,

EPIC.

Aventures sur la Côte d’Azur

24 April 2009

Here begins a massive undertaking: trying to chronicle all that must be chronicled from EA!P1.

First up, La Côte d’Azur. Aka the French Riviera. Aka Nice and Monaco.

That should set the mood nicely, if you want to just play it on loop.

I arose bright and early on the morning of April 11 to make the trek to Gatwick Airport for my flight to Nice. The rest of The Team (DM and JP) was in Barcelona, so I was on my own for this leg of the journey. I flew on EasyJet, which was not as traumatic as I was expecting it to be (thank goodness for online check-in though…the lines at the airport were a bit reminiscient of That Time That Shall Not Be Named). It’s like Southwest, so I had to fight for my seat, but after knocking out a lady and punching a dude in the face, I got an aisle seat in the exit row! V for Victory!!

Ok fine not really. I just rolled up and the flight attendent was like, “Exit row??” and I was all, “Don’t mind if I do.”

You know how when you land, they always get on the intercom and tell you not to get up until the captain turns off the fasten seatbelt sign, and be careful when opening the overhead compartments as items may have shifted during flight? Well, I usually hear that and think “Oh that’s so funny and cute how they always that.” AND THEN lo and behold, homie from across the aisle opens it up, and A BAG FALLS ON MY HEAD. I never thought that warning was REAL! It’s just a cute thing they have to say, like where the exits are.  W-t-heck??

I was mildly concussed, but I still managed to find the bus to the train station, from which I walked a few blocks to the hotel.

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Hahahhaahah I wish. No this is what it actually looked like:

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I explored a bit, checked out the beach, and eagerly awaited the arrival of the rest of The Team. They had train problems (and literally 12 hours of travel from Barcelona bless their lil hearts) and finally showed up a bit before 9pm.

Sunday was Easter, so I woke up, no joke, to choirs singing and organ playing from the cathedral next door.

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That was the view out our window.

We climbed the Colline de Chateau, which was this big hill with a waterfall on top, and fantastic panoramas of Nice, illustrated in this short film I shot up there:

And that’s not even the top. From the top, we spent an obscene amount of time watching a big ferry from Corsica come into port and, I’m not kidding, parallel park. Or parallel dock, since it was a boat. Other highlights of the day include, but are not limited to: collecting sea glass, getting chased by mean mean waves that drenched my poor 1 pair of shoes, and exploring the alley-like avenues of Vieux Nice.

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Monday was Monaco Day! We took a 40 minute bus ride along the coast, and arrived in that lovely playground of a Principality for the rich and famous. Did you know…

1. Monaco is only .76 square miles?
2. The average person can walk across Monaco in 56 minutes?
3. Monaco’s beloved Princess Grace is American actress Grace Kelly?

I didn’t. Also, the bus ride (round trip) was the same price as a can of coke. 2 euro. This seems strange to me.

Also, in Monaco, I learned that you have to weigh your own produce and get a price sticker BEFORE going to the cash register.

We got back to Nice around 4pm, and I decided to venture up to Cimiez and the Matisse Museum. The rest of The Team pooped out and took a nap at the hotel. LAME.

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Not only did I get to see a lot of Matisse (FOR FREE), I also saw an olive grove, some ruins, a monestary, lots of bocce balls, and bunches of people enjoying Easter Monday picnics.

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It was tres beautiful.

That night, I fulfilled a life-long dream: eat dinner in a plaza between a fountain and a church. Added bonus: crazy man who we nicknamed “The Troll.”

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Sorry it’s crooked. The Cathedrale Ste-Reparate was behind me.

In Nice, I ate a lot of bagettes and drank cafe au lait. Yum! Did I mention the crisis we witnessed TWICE during breakfasts? The cafe we were eating at RAN OUT OF BAGETTES! Gasp! On the 1st morning there, we saw our waiter run down the street looking quite distressed. We jokingly suggested that he was going for more bagettes, when LO AND BEHOLD, he comes back carrying an armful of bagettes. Crisis averted.

Also, I saw topless sunbathers and this:

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Go figure.

Check out the rest of the pics here. And there’s probably little things I forgot to mention in the captions.

I’ll be bahck

23 April 2009

Or, in the words of Michael Scott, “I ahm bahck!”

1200 photos, a bajillion hours on trains, two countries, one principality, a sovreign city-state, and oodles of adventures later, I am, in fact, back.

Bye bye continent…

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Hello, England!

april-20-22-160More later.

Turn around bright eyes

18 March 2009

OK TEAM.

Get ready for a serious amount of awesome.

How to get this awesome:

Step 1: Watch this music video (the WHOLE thing) at least once (but preferably 2-5 times). Pay special attention to everyones’ eyes.

Step 2: Laugh and marvel at the straaaaaaaaaange yet incredible creation of Bonnie Tyler.

Step 3: Watch this cinematic homage, in which I guest star, that captures not only the essence of York/North England, but also its inherent gothic-ness and the eccentricity of the original video.

Step 4: Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

In Dublin’s Fair City…

14 March 2009

…where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone.

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And she is WELL endowed, if you know what I mean. 

This trip made me a little bit nervous because it was organized by us, required passports, involved airports and getting there on public transport under time constraints (ahemNORWAYahem) but everything worked out SPLENDIDLY. As the hostel chooser, I am quite proud to say that it was rather nice and PERFECTLY located on the River Liffey by O’Connell Bridge.

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This is a different bridge, but you get the idea.

Dublin is a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be. We managed to walk almost the whole time, with the exception of on the way back from the Gaol/Modern Art Museum when we realized the walking we had done in two sections before was daunting as a single journey. Then we took the bus and encountered a crazy old man who yelled all of the stops, a sad woman with the whooping cough and too many toothless children, and an adorable boy and his father:

SON: Hey Da, when we got on it was empty and now it’s full.
DAD: Yes, son. That’s the way of busses.

It sounded a lot better with an irish accent. Just trust me on this one.

We were walking around in Temple Bar our first night and heard some AMAZING irish music coming from upstairs…and stumbled in on this:

It was free! But after a few songs, we had to leave because we hadn’t bought drinks. Oh well.

In other news, I saw lots of beer, lots of churches, and practically the whole set of the brilliant movie Once.

Not to mention James Joyce, the Book of Kells, a giant Spire that is, in fact, smaller than the space needle, a leprechaun, four-leafed clover, and an unfortunate amount of sidewalk vomit. Sorry. That was probably TMI.

Sunday morning, we went about 30 minutes outside of the city to the charming seaside village of Howth. It was so windy. I felt like I was one of those weathermen who blows away on camera during a hurricane.

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Seriously. And I saw 2 sailboats capsize and everything. On an unrelated note, I also saw 2 seals.

It was SO PRETTY though. We found this magical cove with rocks and tidepools and caves and exploring ensued.

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Oh yeah. It was hardcore. Hardcore awesome.

The weather was crazy though. It went from sunny to cloudy to pouring and back again at least 82 times while we were there.

In conclusion, Dublin is a cool city, but I’d really love to go back to Ireland and see the countryside and some other town, rolling green hills, and castles (Dublin’s “castle” is a weird office park amalgamation of old buildings and junk from the 1970s that was utterly incomprehensible…).

More pictures: In Dublin’s Fair City and The Pipes, The Pipes Are Calling. Can you name those tunes?

Anddddddddd…

Coming soon, to a web browser near you:

Updates on Oxford, charming campus anecdotes, more Londoning, and my trip to York (which starts tomorrow, so I’m not yet behind on that).

XOXO,

Londongirl

AlternaNorway ’09

19 February 2009

Norway.

The land of vikings, trolls, big dreams, and broken hearts.

Here’s how it was supposed to go down:

  • Meet travel group on campus at 2:55am Sunday.
  • Get on minibus cab for 14 at 3:00am.
  • Arrive at Liverpool St. Station in London approx 3:50am.
  • Figure out where to get on Stansted Airport bus. Wait
  • Get on bus to airport @ 4:20.
  • 5:00/5:15: Arrive at Stansted. Check in.
  • 6:30 Flight departs for OSLO.

But no. It couldn’t be that easy!

First, the driver was about 10 minutes late picking us up. Then, he drove aimlessly around the East End of London, supposedly due to “construction” and “traffic diversions.” We drove down the same streets as the Jack the Ripper walking tour. At one point we were like “Oh look! There’s that church that the prostitutes used to circle all night long because they could only get arrested if they weren’t moving!”

A few moments later: “And there it is again.”

And then: “And…again.”

And then: “FOR THE LOVE OF PETE!  Is this church pulling us into its orbit like a bunch of whores??”

When we finally found the station (only after asking random 4am London streetwalkers), we had thoroughly missed the bus to the airport. HOPE WAS NOT YET LOST! There was another bust at 4:40 am, which, naturally, left late.

We got to the airport around 5:45. We ran into the terminal with the belief that we could still pull it off.

And then.

crowds 

A jillion people and their moms were in line at the RyanAir counter. The check in machines weren’t working, and we couldn’t do online check in because none of us have EU passports. A few intrepid leaders of the group managed to squeeze in sideways to the counter, and in the face of supreme incompetence, managed to secure roughly 3/4 of the boarding passes.

I was in the 1/4 left behind, but we sent the others to RUN FOR THEIR LIVES through security while we retreated to yet another line to see what could be done about rebooking for a later flight.

The boarding passers arrived just in time to see the plane pull away from the yet and dejectedly rejoined us in the other line. After much waiting, witnessing of Crazys Shout at the Poor Staff People, we finally managed to find someone to ask about our chances for getting on another flight (though at that point, there was still much line left to be waited in). He said the cheapest same day we could get would be £245, at which point we abandoned ship and retired to wallow in the food court.

It was at that point that I reached approximately 24 hours of wakefulness (because Saturday I got up at 7am to go to Canterbury and Leeds on a romantic Valentine’s date with the English countryside). The good news is that we’re going to hopefully get a partial refund of our tickets, and we want to MAJORLY complain to the stupid taxi company for a full refund.

We caught the bus back to London, and the group disbanded. Some went straight back to Egham, some (like me) stayed for the day and then went home, and the rest stayed the night in London.

Sorrows were drowned in milkshakes and the cuddling of oversized stuffed animals in the London equivalent of FAO Schwartz.

I came back to Egham that night with the intentions of sleeping and maybe trying to meet up with Team London for some kind of day trip. Had a nice 12 hour nap, woke up, heard the plan to spend the day in Brighton, in the south on the Channel. I was about to just give up and spend the day moping and being emo, but I got in touch with another girl who came back to RoHo with me, and we decided we might as well go for it.

BEST DECISION EVER!

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The sun and the waves and the smell and the sound of seagulls…it was LOVE at first site.

Now I understand why people in Victorian novels are always going to the seaside to Recover and Improve their Fragile Conditions. It has magical healing powers of awesome.

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Except it was only after I got there that I was informed of the plan to spend the night there in a hostel and continue exploring the coast on Tuesday. Throwing caution to the wind, we agreed. Everyone else still had their luggage from You Know Where, so between everyone, we managed to round up enough to get through the night. The hostel was super cheap, and they only had 4 blankets and no sheets for the 7 of us. I slept in my clothes with my jacket as a pillow. ADVENTURE!

Our hostel was also a bar, so we met an interesting group of English people that bought us lots of drinks, and a rousing good time was had by all.

The next morning, we continued onward down the coast to Portsmouth, where we spontaneously decided to catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight. It was about 10 times bigger than any of us were expecting, so we definitely did not have enough time to fully explore.

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So from the wreckage of the Trip That Shall Not Be Named, we managed to salvage an enjoyable mini-vacay on the seaside. 

The rest of the pictures are here.

We all decided that it was a learning curve kind of trip. We know now what we did wrong and how it will be better the next time. And by next time, I mean tomorrow when some of the same group are going to Bruges and Amsterdam. The good news is that we’re on a (mostly) guided tour, and we have already detailed (to the minute with A LOT of extra time to spare) how we’re going to meet the guide at 7am at Waterloo station.

Fingers crossed…