Running around Italy!

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Back from a week of running around Italy and feeling like I better write about it quickly so I don’t forget any of the good stories! I’ve heard so much about Italy, especially Florence since Gonzaga has a program there in which many of my friends have participated. It’s really nice to see what life is like for them in Firenze and have a better understanding of a place that has impacted so many of my friends. However, I didn’t immediately fall in love with Italy. Some people seem to love everything about it: the language, the food (ok, I admit I LOVED the food!!), the Italian attitude, the crazy driving, etc. At first it took a little adjusting (for instance, why do the Italians always act like you’re annoying them? For some reason it’s a problem when you hand them a 10 Euro bill when something costs 5 Euros. They give you the disgusted look and saying something like “Don’t you have anything smaller? Coins?!” I’m not sure why that’s a problem). Anyway… but by the end of the week I had a good feel for it and really enjoyed my time there. Rick Steves was my best friend on the trip, I took him everywhere with me and sometimes referred to him on a first name basis. I usually said something like, “Oh that’s the main square in Siena. Yeah, Rick said that it’s the best square in all of Italy!” Thank you, Rick. Italy in a nutshell went something like this: I ate gelato everyday I was there, splurged on a couple of really good meals, saw a lot of churches and art, made it to a total of four different places, saw some GU friends and even managed to find the sun at the end of the week!

 

For a more detailed version keep reading! After a full day in Florence on Tuesday, Lucas and I took the train to Siena for the afternoon on Wednesday. Siena, along with Pisa, competed with Florence back in the day to be the best city. Florence won, so Siena is a lot smaller and more of a Tuscan town, than a larger Tuscan city like Florence. It’s built on a huge hill, with curvy little streets and no sidewalks and you just wander your way around to all the different shops. I went to the Duomo there, which, as Rick said, has a “busy interior.” It was pretty intense with art everywhere, frescoes on the walls and really intricate mosaic floors. But after my twentieth church visit in Italy (ok, maybe it was only my fifth church visit), I realized that when they were built it was just a big competition to see who could build the prettiest and biggest church. And now they serve as tourist attractions with annoying entrance fees and have very little community involvement or congregation. They seem to lack what makes up the church—PEOPLE! Kind of sad when you think about. I’m sure there are exceptions to this, but when contrasting those churches with the church plants and “mega” churches that are popping up all over the U.S. it’s just interesting to consider the change and differences in churches. Something to ponder…

 

Anyway, Siena was cute, but after wandering for a half day I had seen most of it. Oh,  I can’t forget that Siena is where St. Catherine is from, so one of the churches there has her shriveled up thumb in a glass case and her head on the altar of one of the side chapels… awkward and a little gross. Moving on . . . Thursday morning I got up and toured some places around Florence, the Pitti Palace and connecting Bobeli Gardens, the Baptistry outside the Duomo, Church of San Croche, wandered some of the street markets. Then once Lucas was done with class for the day, we hopped on the train and went to Cinque Terre, fives towns on the Northern coast. I had also heard a lot about it because Gonzaga takes students there on a weekend trip, and it did not disappoint!! In fact, I think Cinque Terre and Chamonix are in a tie for my two favorite places I’ve been so far. Makes sense, one is mountains, the other ocean and when growing up in Seattle how could I not be naturally attracted to those places?! There is a beautiful seven mile trail along the coast that connects all the towns. There are spectacular views and I experienced sunshine and warm weather!! I even wore a tank top simply because I could, and I hadn’t experienced such warm sun in probably six months. It was amazing!! There was a minor train issue on the way there with it stopping at a station about fifteen minutes away from our destination and shutting down. There was a significant amount of yelling in Italian before we had any idea what was going on, and since we were out of the main tourist zone there wasn’t any English, so we hopped off like everyone else and had to wait about an hour to catch the next one coming through in the same direction. Lucas laughed while I watched nervously. If there was yelling like that in the U.S. someone would have started to throw punches, but instead the Italians just wanted to yell, perhaps simply for the sake of yelling. It all worked out though, so Lucas and I got in on Thursday night to Monterosso, the northern-most town and went to a great seafood restaurant. It’s important to note that this is the region of Italy where pesto originates. So of course we had a HUGE plate of pesto pasta that was phenomenal (Dad, you would have been so proud!) and some local seafood. I’m hungry just thinking about it again.

 

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On Friday morning we got up, packed up and started our hike through the other towns. The second town Vernazza was probably my favorite, but they are all perched on the steep hillsides and go right down into the beautiful blue/green water. While we sat in the sun eating a blood orange (very tasty and popular in Italy), we met a woman named Karen from Boston when she offered to take our picture. She was very friendly, and we sat and talked with her for a while and learned that she had moved to Italy to be a chef for a few months. Since we still had three other towns to get to, we said goodbye and kept hiking. So after some gelato (of course), a little nap in the sun and some more hiking we made it to the last town. As we walked through the tunnel leading us to the shops and restaurants, someone from behind yelled at us and came running up. It was Karen! Lucas and I were both incredibly confused why anyone in Cinque Terre would be trying to get our attention, but she had taken the train and made it to the last town in the same time that we had hiked the whole thing. She was obviously just really grateful to talk to some friendly Americans in English so we ended up going and having a couple glasses of wine with her at the end of the day. Pretty sure we learned her life story, laughed quite a lot actually, and enjoyed the sunset from the deck of the wine bar. Not bad at all… in fact, it was spectacular. The whole day of good weather, being on the coast, hiking, seeing cute towns, meeting random people and eating good food made it without a doubt one of my favorite days of traveling so far!!

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Unfortunately, we had planned to head back to Florence on Friday night and though Karen tried to talk us into staying another day and we probably could have found a place, we headed back to Florence that evening. On Saturday morning I went to the Uffizi and saw many of the must-see pieces of art in Florence. Then my friend Molly from GU, who has been studying in Munich all year, arrived in Florence to visit! I hadn’t seen her since last May and it was so great to hang out again!! We grabbed some lunch (my third time having gnocchi, so good!!) and then took advantage of the good weather by taking a bus out of the Florence city center, up to the overlooking hills and went for a little hike/wander. I can’t completely call it a hike because, though it was a hike for a while, we didn’t make it to the other town we were supposed to and ended up following the road back to where we started. But there were some really incredible views of postcard perfect Tuscany. As Lucas said, we were under the Tuscan sun, how cute 😛 At one point when we lost the trail (the guidebook was a little vague), we found what we thought was the continuation of it, so we headed down a pretty heavily wooded path for about a minute until three Italian police officers came walking up. The didn’t really speak English, but suggested through a few words and hand gestures that we not go that way. They didn’t seem overly concerned about it, but they said something that sounded like there was an “auto bomb” down the path, and since we really had no idea what they were talking about, we decided to turn around. Ha, it was actually really funny. We weren’t ever really in danger at all, but we just laughed at how absurd it sounded, and then guessed at what might actually be down the “auto bomb” path. Of course, we had another good dinner, saw a few more GU people in Florence, went to church at the Duomo Sunday morning and then had to get on the train to head back to Rome to catch my flight. This is when I experienced one of the craziest travel encounters I’ve had so far: I got on the train in Florence and was randomly assigned a seat. I ended up sitting next to a woman who lives near Mt. Vernon, WA. We talked the whole way to Rome (about an hour and a half, Annie- I’m telling you, you have to start talking to strangers, it’s so fun!!) and found out that she is the aunt of one of the girls I played soccer with on Queen Anne. When she said she had family that lived on Queen Anne I just knew there had to be some connection… and of course there was. I probably haven’t heard of that family in 10 years since they moved away, but I definitely remember them and it was highly entertaining to share stories. Another great random encounter, makes traveling so fun! Finally made it back to London after a two hour delay on my flight. I flew into the new Terminal 5 here at Heathrow, which is kind of a big deal since it just opened three days ago and had some serious baggage issues in the beginning. My host dad works for British Airways dealing with the ground crews, so he’s had quite a busy week. But I managed to get my bag without too much trouble and see some of the new terminal (not the same for some of my classmates who had canceled flights!). Hard to believe spring break has come and gone and now I’m onto the second half of the semester! I’m really glad to be back in London. I realized while I was away how much I do like it here. I don’t necessarily want to jump back into classes… but that’s another story 🙂 Paris this weekend with Devan, but after that I’ll be traveling mostly in the UK for the rest of my time abroad. More to come. Thanks for sharing in the adventures with me!! Better get some sleep now after all this running around, Much love!

Easter at the Vatican

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There’s so much to tell from the last four days that I knew if I waited until I returned to London to write again I would forget some of the best stories! I arrived in Rome on Saturday and immediately started touring around after meeting up with Lucas and our friend, Emma. By the time I met up with them in Rome they had already seen the Pope twice and had been to Good Friday Mass. They also got all three of us tickets for Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday night and Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday morning. It was a weekend full of church with thousands of other people. I, of course, tried to see some of  the typical Rome sights as well, but as it seems with everywhere I’ve gone, we encountered some pretty horrible weather. It rained all Saturday (at least I got out of England where they got snow!!) but we managed to walk around and see the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Arch of Constantine, the first Jesuit church, and then finished at St. Peter’s Square where we got in line for mass three hours before it started. The time actually went by quickly. The rain held off for a little while, we called a couple friends from GU to brag, talked with the students from San Diego who were behind us and took about a million pictures of the Vatican. As Lucas explained, the Italians aren’t big on making and staying in normal lines, but we managed to get in without a problem and got decent seats with a good view of the seven-story altar. St. Peter’s is RIDICULOUS – the church of all churches. Very impressive. Right before mass began they turned off all the lights as the flame from the Easter candle was passed along to each of our individual candles and then, all of a sudden, these lights that reminded me of being in Safeco Field flashed on and lit up the whole church. Mass was a little over three hours long, with only one passage read in English. The program itself was about 85 pages long. I obviously didn’t follow all of it, but then I could just look around at the church when I couldn’t follow. After getting up at 5am to be at Heathrow for my flight, sitting there for three hours was a bit of a struggle. Luckily, I was in good company, because all three of us completely fell asleep as soon as Pope Benedict began his homily. I would feel bad, except that it was in Italian and I wouldn’t have understood it anyway. I’m hoping to look up the translation online eventually. It was a good little power nap actually that prepared me for the hour walk we had back to our hostel. Our hostel had a good general location near the train station, but we managed to be about as far away from the Vatican as possible. It was very fun though, coming out of the church a little after midnight with thousands of other people flowing into St. Peter’s Square and celebrating Easter!!

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So that was all just the day I got there, then we settled in for a short night’s sleep before getting up and going straight back to the Vatican for Easter morning Mass. We got there with everyone else and got pretty good seats.  The first hour we waited it was much better weather, really enjoyable and then . . . about an hour before Mass started, the most ridiculous gray clouds moved in and absoluetely POURED, I mean really really really POURED down rain on us. Not just rain either, lightning and thunder also. And just when we all thought it couldn’t rain any harder, it did. It was honestly the most ridiculous thing ever. Everyone’s umbrella was up, we could barely see anything even when standing and every once in a while one of us would stand on our chair and take the risk of being yelled at in Italian by the usher. About an hour after it started raining people started leaving, and some just start laughing, others just stuck it out (like us) just to say that we did it. We couldn’t decide if it was the most amazing experience ever or the most miserable. The lightning and thunder only got more intense as Mass went on and Pope Benedict completely skipped the homily because of the weather, ha! By the end we still managed to have smiles on our faces and trekked back to our hostel in our soaking wet clothes. By the time we emerged from the subway there were blue skies! Unbelievable!! We changed into dry clothes and decided we needed a little nap, so, of course, by the time we got up to go out again, it was raining. We had slept through the entire eye of the storm and ventured out just in time to get our dry clothes wet again. We found our way to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain before we really needed some good Italian food. We picked out a really cute place for dinner where we had our Easter meal. It was my first real Italian meal and it was amazing!! Gnocchi is a definite favorite! After dinner we cruised by the Spanish Steps and, of course, had to have some gelato (even though we already had tiramisu for dessert, but it was Easter!!) .

Finally, on Monday we got up in hopes that we could make it to the Vatican Museum, but it was Easter Monday and we knew some things would be closed, so unfortunately the museum was closed. So, I didn’t see the Sistine Chapel and some of the great art that’s in Rome, but fear not! I threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain which is supposed to guarantee me a return trip to Rome sometime. I know I didn’t see everything that a tourist should see in Rome, but I experienced a weekend there that was incredibly unique and I’ll make it back sometime to see the sights I missed.

So Lucas and I said goodbye to Emma and went to the train station to go to Florence. We had planned to leave a little later in the afternoon, so we weren’t sure of the train schedule, but the fast train left in about four minutes, so we quickly bought tickets and then ran down the platform to make the train. Ha, I hadn’t run to catch a train yet in Europe and it seems essential to the European travel experience, so I was glad to check that off my list. Hopefully won’t have to do it again, especially with my thirty pound pack on! So we left sunny Rome and traveled to Florence where it was gray and then it snowed!! Ok, it lasted about ten minutes, but Lucas and I could honestly not believe the weather. As we stood there in Lucas’s room planning where to go first in Florence, a huge streak of lightning flashed across the sky and brought on the snow/hail.

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Fortunately, today was beautiful here in Florence, amazing spring sunshine! I had a great day seeing some friends from GU, saw the David at the Academia, walked along the river to the Piazza Michelangelo and had a picnic lunch with Lucas overlooking the city, toured the Duomo with a GU student who volunteers there, climbed to the top of the Duomo for some incredible late afternoon views and get to spend some more time with friends tonight. I’m enjoying seeing Italy and the places I’ve heard so much about. There are so many tourists out everywhere that it provoked an interesting discussion between me and Lucas regarding tourism vs. travel. I’m seeing a lot of incredible things, but it’s not a very unique trip, tons of other people are doing the same thing (but for good reason, there is some amazing stuff here). Anyway, tomorrow we’re headed to Siena for a little afternoon trip, then Cinque Terre on the coast on Thursday (hopefully some decent weather there) and more time around in Florence in between it all! Better run along, but just had to update on the recent adventures! More to come, love to all!

Rome quotes:

me: “What’s that building?”

Lucas: “I don’t know, but I feel like it’s a big deal.”

me: “Everything here is a big deal.”
Emma: “You just walk around and see like 50 big deals!”

me: “When in Rome… OH, my gosh! We’re actually in Rome!!”

St. Patrick’s in Dublin

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Well, I finished my midterms yesterday, which must mean that already my semester abroad is half over. So hard to believe!! I could probably leave now and still have enough stories to tell for years, but I’m excited for the adventures the second half holds and maybe even some warmer spring weather, if I’m lucky!

As I suspected it would, Ireland captured my heart last weekend and is already on my list of places to go back to. Though it absolutely POURED rain all day on Saturday (just imagine the gloomiest Seattle day), we wandered around with the other thousands of tourists who were there for St. Patrick’s Day and saw a lot of the city. I’d love to see some of the country and coast next time, perhaps while listening to some Irish music 🙂

We arrived early on Friday morning and started off our first travel day with a little nap to get some energy. I love naps at home anyway, but the value of naps when traveling cannot be overestimated! Feeling refreshed we headed out to our first stop, which we spotted on the bus ride into town: the Guinness Factory. Ha, I can’t say I drink much Guinness, but it seemed wrong not to go there as a college student on St. Patrick’s weekend, and we weren’t the only ones who thought that either! In the factory you work your way up to the top floor, learning all about the two hundred year history of the greatest beer in the world. At the top you enter the Gravity Bar, where you enjoy your complimentary Guinness and look out over the city. Great view, great beer, great people… what could be better?

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The rest of the weekend we wandered to some of Dublin’s highlight places with the mass of other tourists (my favorites were the ones who shamelessly wore their huge green hats around the city). As instructed by my mother, I saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College which was actually very cool. Learning the history and seeing the book were excellent, but actually I really loved walking through the Long Room of the college library with the high dark wood ceiling, all the old books, and the busts of people who have essentially created the academic world as it is today. There were no tables anymore, but I thought that maybe if I could just study in there for an hour or so I’d have some sort of profound enlightenment, surrounded by all that knowledge! I also wandered to Christ Church Cathedral and got there a little before Evensong, so I decided to seek refuge from the rain there for a little while and sat in my soaking wet clothes listening to the choir. It was really peaceful, as long as I didn’t move too much so that I could feel my damp clothes clinging to my body 🙂 On Sunday morning we also headed to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and toured around inside. Churches and museums are never lacking here!! One of my favorite places was the Temple Bar area, the old part of town along the river, very cute and funky.

Both nights there we found some great Irish pubs, some with locals, some with all tourists, some with Irish music, some with American cover bands. Ha, overall it was just fun to be out with everyone who was enjoying a good weekend. We ran into three other Gonzaga students while we were there, two studying in Paris, one studying in Florence. None of us really knew them, but we all recognized each other, so, of course, we had to say hello! Also, while I was seeing the Book of Kells, a huge group came through and I glanced over to see one of the guys wearing a ‘Shorecrest’ sweatshirt. I figured there was no way it could be Shorecrest High School in Shoreline so I ignored it. But then another guy walked by and on his backpack I saw a tag that said Seattle. So, of course, I had to ask, and sure enough, the entire band from Shorecrest High School was in Dublin that weekend to play in the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Monday. Random!! Randomly meeting people is probably one of the greatest things about traveling so far, whether you talk with people for thirty seconds or go to dinner with them, like I did with the Australians in Chamonix, it’s just fun to share your experiences and laugh together.

Overall, Dublin was a cool place and I could have probably been content just sitting listening to the Irish accents all weekend, but I saw some great things as well! Life in London is still eventful as always. Went to Dickens’s house with my English class and to a lecture by an author we’re reading later in the semester (Hanif Kureishi, who wrote “The Buddha of Suburbia”). Managed to score another free ticket to the play “Days of Significance”, which which puts my show count to about 8 or 9 (I’m starting to lose track). The play was supposed to be a modern version of “Much Ado About Nothing”… it was… interesting, vulgar, but worthwhile, I suppose. When is free theater not worthwhile? I’m taking the day off before I head to Rome tomorrow. I already got a call from Lucas, and our friend Emma from GU, who is studying in Spain and spending Easter with us, saying they made it to Rome today. The hostel is great, the city is alive, and they’re looking forward to meeting me tomorrow!! Can’t wait!!

Don’t worry  – I got chocolate in Dublin! Organic white chocolate with raspberries . . . mmm – and I’ll see what I can find in Italy, although the gelato may take over for the chocolate – we’ll see! More adventures to come, much love to all and Happy Easter!

River Reflections

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Just a little update to tell of recent London life. Haven’t been out of the city since Prague, but Dublin is on for this weekend, so that promises to send me home with plenty of stories. Mom has already done her ‘mom duty,’ warned me that St. Patrick’s Day will be celebrated in full force on Saturday the 15th because the church doesn’t want it celebrated on Monday the 17th as usual because it’s during Holy Week. So, just in case I don’t have enough stories to tell when I’m back from Dublin, I head to Rome for Easter next weekend. And may I just mention that these weekends are during my midterms (I should be writing a history paper right now, but would so much rather do this!). Not a great academic choice, but I’m only studying abroad once, so I’ll just have to fit it all in somehow!

Last weekend my good friend Lucas came to visit me here in London. It was his first time here so we walked ALL over this city and saw a ton in just 2 1/2 days. I fancy myself quite an exceptional tour guide when I’m in Seattle, but my skills were put to the test here in a new place. When I told my host family all the places we had gone, they said, ‘You saw more of London today than we’ve seen in 50 years!’ So I felt rather accomplished and called it a good day!

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For anyone familiar with London you may be able to recognize how far it was we walked but we started at Victoria getting tickets for “Wicked,” saw Buckingham Palace, through St. James’s Park, caught part of the changing of the guard, to Trafalgar Square, a little time in the National Gallery, grabbed a sandwhich and enjoyed the spring time sun in Trafalgar Square, down to Parliament, across the Westminster Bridge, passed the London Eye, along the Southbank, popped in a couple small galleries (my favorite with coast and country pictures of Britian), saw the Globe, avoided the Tate Modern (Lucas isn’t a big fan of modern art, ha), across the Millenium Bridge, to St. Paul’s, Starbucks, of course, (I have to admit my Starbucks trips have increased with his visit!), walked past my school, to the British Museum, down Oxford Street (shopping!), strolled through Piccadilly Circus at night to see the Times Square of London, back to Victoria to see “Wicked” that evening. Whoo!! Big day! It was great, we were tired and feeling pretty satisfied. “Wicked” was excellent! I had heard tons about it and to be honest wasn’t all that interested in a story from the Wizard of Oz, but we sat front row and it was fantastic. Though the show was amazing, one of my favorite parts was when the male love interest came swooping out on stage hanging from a rope to break up the argument between the two witches and he almost fell off and looked completely ridiculous. We were all sitting in the front row and cracked up laughing, which he heard and then he cracked up laughing (I think he knew how absurd he looked). It was supposed to be an intense, serious scene and he could just NOT hold it together! One of the only times I’ve seen an actor break on stage and it was hilarious!

Did I mention all that was just the first day? Well, things slowed down for Saturday and Sunday, but Lucas got a full tour and decided officially that he wanted to be British, ha! When he told my host dad, Ken, that, Ken said, ‘Oh no… you don’t want that!’

So, the weekend was busy, and after Harrods visit #2, I’m not sure I can go back a third time. It’s just an intense place and after a couple days of running all over London, I needed to put on the ipod and zone out for a while on the tube ride home. Just yesterday as I was headed to see ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at the National Theater (which was fantastic, by the way!) I was beginning to think that London was wearing on me, with all the tube rides everyday, busyness all the time, people constantly everywhere. But I trucked along, got off the tube and headed toward the theather. I crossed the Thames right at sunset as the day’s storm was breaking and the buildings reflected the fire of the setting sun. Suddenly my love for London was renewed!! I told my friend when I met her at the theater how I thought London was wearing on me, to which she responded, ‘Yeah, and then you walked across the river at sunset, huh?’ Ha, she felt the exact same way. All to say that life is very busy here and things can get tiring (what parts of life don’t sometimes?), but overall still having a pretty incredible study abroad experience. Very excited for the upcoming travels, but I better get a little bit of school work done now!

However, I must update that I lured Lucas into joining me in my love of chocolate. My new favorite here in London is the chocolate crisps that are shaped like Pringle chips but they’re crunchy chocolate! Probably the greatest thing ever! When we got home the first night and I handed him another ‘chocolate crisp’ Lucas said, ‘You know what this makes me excited for? The opportunity to buy more tomorrow. Actually. . . I don’t know if it’s an opportunity so much as it is an obligation.’ Ha, exactly! So I’ve been obligated to continue eating my chocolate, and so far it’s going well. Off to be academic!

Why I Love London and Forty Fast Hours in Prague

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I’ve officially been in London a month (with a couple weekend trips) and have to say my affections for the city are only growing. It occurred to me that London is not a “vacation city.” What I mean is, London cannot be understood by simply spending a week touring around and seeing the “sites.” I suppose that could be said of any big city, but after a month I am beginning to comprehend a fraction of how incredible a place London really is, and why some people spend their life fascinated by it (*cough* MOM *cough*). But I love London in a different way than I love Seattle. I love Seattle because on a sunny day the mountains, water, and city are unbelievably beautiful. And because everyone walks around in fleece and North Face Jackets! I don’t love London for the noisy streets, or the dirty river, (as my English professor said today, “London is ugly but fascinating!”) or the hour-long tube ride that makes me late for class when there are delays. But I love it because when I arrived early to meet Claire Marshall (another Banchory friend!) at Trafalgar Square I just walked into the National Gallery… for free… and wandered around looking at amazing, famous paintings for an hour. I love London because I was then approached by a Spanish art student in the gallery and talked about some paintings with him. I love London because when walking into the tube station with my classmates a man on the street stopped us and asked if we were American and then said “Oh, I LOVE Americans, I’m so glad you still come to our country, GOD BLESS you guys!” (Just for the record he was very normal looking, business suit and all). And I love London because I can sit in a coffee shop feeling at home with my book or I can walk out of an unfamiliar tube stop feeling completely lost and overwhelmed by the millions of crooked streets branching off from the station. What I’m getting at is the incredible diversity in people and activities, the history that is EVERYWHERE, the entertainment . . . and so the list could continue. It’s impressive, and I think you can only fully appreciate it if you spend some time actually living in it. Some people might think I’m just awed by the “big city life,” but there’s more to it than that, because to simply call London a “big city” would be a horrible injustice.

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So life here is always interesting, and, if I wanted, I could probably experience something new every moment. But I’ve decided to branch out into other parts of Europe as well, and last weekend I traveled to Prague. It was a short trip, but we packed it in and saw as much as we could. I went with three other girls from my program, one of whom, Rachel, has a friend studying in Prague. So Rachel’s friend, Pat, was our tour guide for the whole weekend. It was great! He met us at our hostel on Friday night and saw us off on Sunday morning! Of course he didn’t know all the history of all the places we went, but he got us around so we didn’t have to struggle with a map (which I especially appreciated since I have been named the “map master,” or “mapquest,” of our group here in London and when we’re visiting other cities). We first walked around the city at night which was beautiful! Every turn we made there were more beautifully lit buildings from centuries long ago! Of course, I had to have the Bohemian experience and we all tried Gulash, Hot Wine (Prague’s drink, tasted like cider at Christmas with a little more kick) and Pilsner (Czech beer). Since we had the advantage of paying with a currency that is actually weaker than the U.S. dollar we treated ourselves to a nice dinner out since we never do that in London! (It was a little annoying when Pat’s friends told us how expensive things were when they had to use the Euro! After being in London a month the Euro sounds great to all of us!) On Saturday we tried to see everything we could, Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, top of the Clock Tower, watched the old Apostle Clock, Prague Castle, a Saturday market and, of course, can’t forget the five story club (each floor with different music) which they advertised as Central Europe’s largest club. Ha! Prague was pretty, and I’m glad to have seen it, but I don’t think I could stay there a whole semester. And after meeting up with Pat and another GU friend, who came to spend the weekend with us from Barcelona, I appreciate my study abroad program a lot. We all shared our different experiences with housing, transportation, classes and, of course, there are pros and cons to the different set up programs have, but overall I’m really happy with mine. Sitting in Prague talking about London with others who are also abroad made London feel like home and made me appreciate how my time here is going so far. We made if back to London on Sky Europe, which I don’t recommend. After take off everyone looked sick and some people went running to the bathroom to be sick. Not pleasant . . . but we finally landed and overall it was successful trip!

When I returned home I discovered that I have unintentionally bought chocolate every place I’ve been. In Switzerland I got dark chocolate flavored with lemon and pepper (I know it sounds gross, but trust me, it was so good!), fudge in Edinburgh (that was Stephen’s idea!), my host dad Ken brought me home chocolates that British Airways gives to their first class customers, and while in Prague I couldn’t resist the “Latte Macchiato” chocolate I saw. So far the lemon/pepper and latte macchiato are the best. But now that I’ve started it, I might as well continue and find some chocolate every place I go! Perhaps I should admit I’m a chocoholic now and then just do research as to where the best chocolate is, no? I’ll update everyone as to my findings.

Back in school this week I experienced what I called “An English Major’s Dream.” We’re reading “Great Expectations” in my British Novel class, so we walked around and saw all the places Pip goes when he comes to London. It was great!! Read the book and then actually see all the settings, so cool! We saw most of the legal parts of London since of course Pip’s guardian is a lawyer, and though I was paying attention to the relationship to “G.E.”, I also noted that this is totally the area where Mr. Darcy works in Bridget Jones!! (Sorry for the continual Colin Firth references, but I really can’t help it!) I half expected Colin to walk out of one of the courtyards in his long black coat looking very lawyerish… but he wasn’t there. Only real British lawyers walking around, darn. Anyway, I absolutely love my Novel professor; she’s so cool, and basically I just want to be friends with her. She lives down in Brighton and has invited us all out to her house to spend a day there in May when the arts festival starts there! She is also buying me a pint when we all go to the pub as a class because I guessed closest to the correct average age of a Londoner during the time of G.E. (I guessed 26, by the way). Who doesn’t love a professor that will buy you a pint and invite you to her house? Unbelievable! She also has some great one liners… like today when she gave us her hotmail email address but told us to put our name in the subject line because otherwise she might think it was, “another offer to extend my penis,” which she said “would be getting quite long by now if I took all the offers I was emailed!” Maybe it was just the way she said it, but it was too funny in class!

So, tonight I’m off to my sixth show since being in London (not bad for it being the fifth week here!). I’m going to see Gilbert and Sulivan’s “The Mikado” again. A different production than the first one I saw. Everyone in the program is going, so it should be entertaining! On Thursday Lucas, my very good from friend GU who is studying in Florence this year, is headed to London. I can’t wait to see him and show him all around, it should be a fun weekend of running all over London!
Apparently word has gotten around about my blog (I think I have mostly my parents to blame for that :-). Now I feel as though I have a readership that I must write for. It’s quite fun actually, so thanks to all who have expressed their enjoyment of it! My favorite story about someone reading it is that Liz Brown’s mom (Hi, Laura!) wasn’t sure whether Liz had made it into London yet, but checked my blog and read that we had dinner together, so she knew Liz was safely touring around London. Ha! Gotta love the ways of communication these days! I think that covers it for now!! I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but I’ll throw it in later! Also, more pictures up on flickr. Much love to all!!