Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Portugal, where the weather is fabulous!

Friday morning the alarm awoke me at 6:30 in order to get to the airport for Lisbon. My roommate Kristen and I made our way to the tube and got to the airport in time to enjoy a bagel breakfast sandwich and then hopped on our flight. I am still obsessing over Harry Potter so it was a lovely opportunity to crank through the 5th book (200 more pages to go)! We finally made it to Lisbon and took the city bus to our hostel. This hostel was incredible... almost like walking into Ikea. Everything was so trendy. We went out for dinner at an authentic Portuguese restaurant where I experienced clams for the first time. Did you know they're slightly crunchy? Not really my thing. It came with fries which ended up being little squares of potatoes, but I suppose it was manageable. We signed up to go surfing the next morning so we hit the hay around 10:30 to get some energy for the big day.

We left for surfing in the cloudy morning, taking a train out to the beach. Little did we know that the clouds were going to dump buckets of rain on us. Only Kristen was smart enough to bring an umbrella. We made it, sopping wet, just as the rain cleared up and we got situated in our (not-so-flattering) wetsuits. I think mine was designed for a 13-year-old, but somehow I managed to squeeze into it. Not only was I excited to get out in the ocean, but I absolutely couldn't wait to learn how to surf from my two instructors, Pedro and Pedro. There were also two other instructors too, Pedro and Pedro. Original? I think not. Needless to say, they were amazing (to look at) and taught us everything we needed to know. Unfortunately I never completely got up. I was honestly about to just lie on this thing and tell y'all I did, but nope, I suppose I really didn't, but then again, I just kind of floated on the water for fun. After surfing we got some cheese pizza and relaxed near the beach for a while. We made our way back to the hostel and collapsed. Kristen and our other two roommates (and Grant!) went out for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. I believe I've eaten at this place almost everywhere I've traveled. It never gets old! I treated myself to a daiquiri and a lovely plate of mac and cheese.

Sunday morning, Easter, we decided to venture out to the castle. Little did we know that it would take us over an hour to actually get up the hill. The roads were narrow and so curvy that we had to stop at almost every corner to figure out where we were. Luckily the castle was on top of the hill so it was usually easy to spot. We saw the entire city from up there and enjoyed some ice cream, though it didn't last long. Cats and peacocks were randomly scattered throughout the premises. Interesting combination. I ended up getting more pictures of the animals than the castle.. oops! Afterwards we went on the double decker bus for a tour of the city. This tour took us to some historic landmarks and the sun was just loving me. It lasted almost two hours and we decided to do it again! That was basically what we ended up doing most of the day, but it was really a beautiful day out and being on that bus was quite exhilarating. We came back for some dinner on the square and I had an omelette with fries. I just found out eggs are high in cholesterol and they're basically what I eat every day. That habit has stopped. Oops! Kristen and I finished up the night with an oreo mcflurry from you guessed it, McDonalds! Yummm. Extra oreo of course. We came back and decided to pop in a movie, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Then, sunburnt Emily went to bed.

The last day we slept in a bit, packed, and I just went out to the river to enjoy the last bit of Portugal. The weather was terrific and I knew I was going to be missing it the second I got back to London. As I was sitting on the ledge, a man approached me offering weed. Don't worry though, I said no. I was not about to buy weed on the streets! Not that I would off the streets, but I mean, it was just so sketchy and uncomfortable. We made our way to the bus that took us to the airport and we made our flight about ten minutes before it took off. It's hard to rely on public transportation sometimes... Overall though, I would go back in a heartbeat, but maybe do a little more tanning and a little less burning.

For pictures press this link

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Belgian Waffles and Beer, oh the joy!

Last weekend I traveled to Belgium for a weekend. We had an early departure Thursday morning to make it on the train and made it there by mid-afternoon to enjoy the beautiful, sunny day. I was able to take off my coat, like most of you Iowans are doing these days, and catch some rays. The first day, we were in Brussels and ended up wandering most of the day. We made it to the Grand Place, the main beautiful area of Brussels that's really well known, and got a bite to eat at a sandwich bar. We made it to the cathedral and wandered over to a park. The day could not have been more perfect. After wandering around, we stopped for waffles. I could live in Brussels solely for these things. Top off a crisp waffle with ice cream and chocolate and you're good to go. All you need is a little exercise and life is grand. Anyways, it started to drizzle for some time, so we found a pub to experience some Belgian beer. I don't really appreciate beer, but I've always heard good things about Belgian beer, so I tried a cranberry flavored one. It was quite wonderful to be honest. The rain didn't really die down, so we went back to the hotel to chill out for a while then grabbed some Italian, my personal favorite.

The next day we ventured out to NATO, which was so neat. We took a cab who probably overcharged us, but nonetheless we made it! The security was super intense, no cell phones, ipods, or cameras. I expected it to be some really awesome building that was really technologically advanced, but it's super old and nothing special, at all. We had a lecture that lasted about two hours just learning the basics, which was quite interesting especially learning about the war we are in. We had lunch there and then made our way to the European Union. I cannot believe I stayed awake there... they put us in a conference room to learn about the EU, which is not interesting to me whatsoever. The poor speakers probably felt awful at the lack of interest we all showed. After that was over, I needed a nap. Well, I usually always feel like I need a nap but today was legit. We figured out the underground which is always complicated in another language, French in this case. I got some pretty good pizza for dinner on the busy shopping road and then we went ventured out for some waffles. I never eat healthy on weekend trips, but trust me, I do well during the week I promise! We had a visitor knock on our door at 5:00 in the morning which scared me. There wasn't even a peephole to look through the door! So of course I didn't answer. Then a phone call came, but it only ended up being one of the fellow (very drunk) students who randomly wanted an iPod charger.

Our last day we went on a train to Bruge, Belgium, also known as one of the most picturesque places to visit and I completely agree. It was like Pella, for those of you who have visited but even more precious and beautiful. Flowers were growing everywhere, there were little canals with bridges across a lot of them, there were horses with carriages, cute little coffee shops and a market. I mean this place had it all. It didn't seem like there was much to do for people who like to be adventurous and wild, but I loved the homeyness feel so much I decided I'm going to retire there. They speak Dutch in this part of Belgium so I feel like I could adjust... maybe? We never did anything too exciting, but I loved taking pictures and it was a sunny day out too. We went out for hot chocolate, which you can see from the pictures that they gave you this huge mug of hot milk, then a little cup (made out of chocolate) filled with chocolate chips to put in the milk and stir it. I'm telling you, this was amazing! We had to leave Bruge sadly and go back to London, but low and behold our train's power cab thingy broke down, so our train was delayed by almost an hour and a half! Luckily we had a very entertaining chaperone so time passed quickly. And then, we were back by 11:00 pm and I was out like a lamp.

For pictures press this link

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

You met WHO?!

This past week, we had the wonderful opportunity to go to a movie premier in Leicester Square. It was a Wednesday, meaning I'd have to skip my afternoon classes, but I wasn't about to regret it. The movie that was premiering was Remember Me, featuring Robert Pattinson and Emilie de Ravin. We arrived about five hours early and sat on the side of the road until the little gates were put up. The waiting seemed to fly by and when six o'clock hit, we were on our toes to meet Rob Patt. For those of you who don't know Robert Pattinson, he's essentially the main character in the Twilight books, aside from Bella. Anyways, he's dreamy in the books, and although he's not super handsome in real life, everyone associates him with his character, which for some reason, dudes just can't understand, ever. After our wait, numerous cars came up and after the fourth or fifth car, out came my future husband. I mean Rob. Girls were screaming, jumping, yelling, and doing everything possible to get him to come their way. He made his rounds and eventually got to us. I was nervous and I have no idea why! We asked for a picture and he said yes, but of course some girl cut us off. No fair! I touched his arm and that was about it. Overall, the experience was exhilarating and intense, but I'm glad I went. To meet a celebrity is quite rare when you happen to be from Iowa. Not even Iowa, but Pella, Iowa.

The rest of the week consisted of me having some sort of virus or bug in my stomach, keeping me in bed for long periods of time. Our school group went to Stonehenge and Bath on March 20, a Saturday trip, and it was of course, rainy and cloudy and windy. I was still feeling very nauseous, but I made it through. Stonehenge was, well, stones and a lot grass around it. We could only see it from a distance because apparently people used to chip part of it off when they visited to be like "hey look I got a piece of Stonehenge"! It was definitely worth seeing because it's got such weird and different stories behind it. Like how on earth did these stones get here? No one really knows. I'll have to ask the big G in heaven someday. We went to the bath house in Bath afterwards and that was really neat. Again, England is filled with history, which absolutely fascinates me, I just wish I could retain it. My London History class should help me with that one!

On Sunday, I decided to venture out to Hillsong church, which I had been wanting to forever, but was too scared to go alone. Well, I did it, just like a big girl, and it was just fine. I met a girl, Tiffany, who invited me to a pub/lunch afterwards. I met this awesome guy Mark who was so friendly and made me feel so welcome with all of them. They told me they would get in touch Sunday to save me a seat, so who knows, maybe they really liked me? :)

This week has been pretty typical... grocery shopping, laundry, reading for classes, actually going to classes, and reading Harry Potter. I've just started the fifth book after Jackie and I ventured to Notting Hill's library, which was approximately the size of my dorm room. At least they had the book! My friend Leah invited me to go to Billy Elliot the musical, so we're going to show up and see if they have any cheap tickets left for the show tonight. I have spent a good portion of today packing for my trip tomorrow... Brussels! I am very excited to venture out to Belgium. They have lots of yummy food there I've heard, so I'm bringing my stretchy jeans.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Spring Break

As I finished my last midterm at 3:51 pm on Thursday afternoon, I cheerfully made my way back to the dorm to finalize Julie's plans for spring break. I couldn't have even imagined how quickly the week was going to go, but all in all we had a great time and saw some really great things!

To sum up the trip, my mom arrived on Friday morning around noon and I took her to see Kensington Gardens, and the basic area near my dorm. Unfortunately, Julie was very sleepy since the time difference is about six hours, so we came back for a nap, which I never, ever turn down. We went to Covent Gardens for a nice dinner at a cute Italian restaurant. Due to my mother's blind eyes, I had to read the menu to her. No worries though, I will be old someday too (Only kidding mother dear)!

The second morning we made our way out to Parliament to see the major "touristy" things, like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and the parks. We attempted to see the changing of the guards, but we either missed it (although the sign said 11:30 and indeed it was 11:30) or I didn't fully see the sign that could have said "not on Saturdays." Who knows? We hit the major shopping streets, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, Regent Street and made our way to Abercrombie and Fitch because I heard it was basically a castle inside. Well we could find it by the smell from probably 50 feet away. It really was amazing and some of the most beautiful people in London work there. I'll probably go back sometime just to look. That night we went to Les Miserables after having a great meal at the Rainforest Cafe, which was too dark for mom again. Darn cataract doesn't help either. Les Miserables was one of the most beautiful, well done musical I have ever seen, and the music was phenomenal. I would go back in a heartbeat.

Sunday was great, when we finally found where we were going. We went to the pier right off the Thames river and went on a Jazz Cruise Lunch. Live jazz music put us in a really peaceful mood and the views were spectacular. I tried salmon for the first time and enjoyed it and finished the cruise with a spot of tea, which I am finally beginning to like. For some reason, the cruise really made us sleepy so again, another nap was soon to come. We concluded the night with more Italian at Da Mario. For some reason, waiters tend to give us places that are really crammed or have gassy people close by. The dessert treated us quite nicely and then we rested up for Paris.

We left for Paris Monday morning and got there around noon. As we waited for a taxi, two taxi drivers got into a huge fight, and unfortunately I couldn't make out what they were saying, but it looked juicy. We got to our hotel and although it was advertised that it was "close to the major sites", they clearly lied. We were in a very sketchy area outside the city, but luckily were close to the underground. We made our way to the Eiffel Tower and mom had her first Parisian meal. We had a coke, medium size, that cost us each 8 euro. Which is basically a $13 coke. Yikes. I chose an omelette, which they served with fries, delicious! We ventured to the Notre Dame afterwards which halfway through, a service began. Interesting singing, along with incense filled the room. We walked right near the river when the sun was setting and did a little shopping on Rivoli Street, which ended our first night in Paris, of course not with a nutella crepe.

We began our journey to Versailles after a healthy McDonalds breakfast. My orange juice was warm, and I got pancakes, served with jam instead of syrup. Turns out, getting to Versailles was rather complicated. After two hours of waiting for trains, getting on wrong trains, and getting very frustrated, we gave up and went to the Louvre. This was easy to find, but unfortunately the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. Shoot. We made our way down the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe and decided to make our way to the top of it. 282 stairs later, we made it up to the top. The view was gorgeous and it was absolutely beautiful out. I think I got some form of suntan. We came back because Julie had a huge blister on her foot, and we napped it out for a bit before grabbing dinner close by. Although we were in a sketchy neighborhood, we risked our very lives and got pizza. We made it out alive without any English spoken the whole time, well except my mom and I's conversation.

Finally we were heading back to London and the taxi driver we had the hotel call for us was a very old Asian man who drove a black, huge van and had no meter. He was very creepy and charged us ten more euro than the last taxi driver, although his driving was much safer. Our train back to London stopped abruptly because the train apparently hit something. The driver never did tell us what it was, but we made it back 45 minutes later. We got a cheeseburger and a milkshake from Byron, a great restaurant close by, and did some shopping on High Street.

Cardiff, Wales was our next journey on Thursday, which we took a two hour train to. We decided right off the bat to walk to Cardiff Bay, which was my favorite place I've visited yet. There was a Pier House, an old Norwegian Church, a newer shopping area with lots of food selection, and the Assembly of Wales. We chose Italian again, which we ate a lot of non-Italian too, but these always stick out the most to me, because I just love pasta. We saw Cardiff Castle and the major shopping center afterwards and ended up in a bookstore to kill time before our train left for London.

The last day we slept in and went to the Old Dutch for pancakes and poffertjes. Let me tell you Pella people, this place does poffertjes the best. I hate to say that, but Tulip Time needs this place! We had pancakes that were probably 15-20 inches wide, but were super thin. Mine was topped with pears, powdered sugar and ice cream. My mom got ham, mushrooms, and scrambled eggs, the healthier choice. We went to Tower Hill which was humongous! There was so much history and the crown jewels were in a vaulted area. These jewels, cups, clothing, and other possessions kings and queens had were simply unbelievable. Quite unnecessary to spend all that money, but it was quite the site.

Finally, we were back and stayed in for a night to fully soak in the break. We ordered a rocky road sundae for room service, which was a great way to end a wonderful week with my mom!

For pictures press this link: pictures

Sunday, 21 February 2010

A Rainy Day...

Time in London... 9:45 am. About ready to venture out on my three mile run, when my running partner comes to knock on my door and tell me it's pouring. So I look at the forecast and it's supposed to rain for the next six days, with little to no sun. Welcome to my life.

Since being back from Paris, I have just been coasting. School has not been a priority, due to the fact that I only have to get a C in all of my classes to just get credit for them anyways. Projects are due, tests are beginning to come my way, and really, life should be a lot more stressful than it is. On a typical day, I usually find myself house hunting, job hunting, facebooking, learning more about twitter, running, and hanging out with my pals.

As summer is approaching I have come up with a list of things I want to do...
  • Live close to Drake and hang out with my Drake people I've missed so much
  • Hang out with Katy and watch Glee reruns and movies galore
  • Volunteering in the downtown area with homeless
  • Helping Joey out with IV worship team
  • Get a car that works
  • Visit Morgan and Jackie in MN
  • Run a half-marathon in MN
  • Visit Colorado and do some hiking and relaxing
  • A trip to Chicago, not during Taste of Chicago, most definitely
  • Making it back to Pella to see all my lovely friends that I don't see enough
As of now, I'm half-committed to nannying this summer as well as volunteering at Hoyt Sherman Place to get experience in Event Coordinating. I have a lot to look forward to and so much figuring out to do, but I'm faithful that everything will fall into place as it should.

The last couple weekends have consisted of... visiting Hard Rock Cafe (definitely always worth the wait for legit American food), planning my mom's visit, shopping visit to Anthropologie, eating out Mexican, watching This Is It, Victoria and Albert museum, projects galore, and seeing Valentine's Day.

Julie comes in 12 days, and my trip to Edinburgh, Scotland is in five days. I've essentially been threatened by my younger brother to get pictures of the first golf course although that doesn't sound extremely appealing to me. Anything for you little brother. I'm working on my collection of postcards to send, but surprisingly enough, London doesn't have that many spots to buy touristy things. As the weekend slips away, I am faced with the reality of school yet again.

I gave up complaining for Lent, so if there is any bit of complaining in here, I have failed.


Thursday, 11 February 2010

Bonjour Paris!

The morning before departure started off wonderfully. A run in Kensington Gardens, Naked Juice, and a scone prepared me for the weekend of a lifetime.

Around noon, we set off on our train ride to Paris. The relentless ear popping for the first half hour got pretty old, but I was out for the rest of it. Considering we all had to ride a coach everywhere we went, it took about 7-8 hours from the time of departure in Kensington to finally arrive in Paris. We had an hour to dump our stuff off, eat, and then we were off to see the beautiful city on a boat tour. As we got off the underground, we were only a block away from the magnificent Eiffel Tower. I could never have imagined the size of this, I was in awe. The city looked amazing on the boat, but unfortunately pictures weren't turning out well in the dark. The cold got to me a bit too.

Most people went out to explore afterwards, but I knew we were in for a huge day, so I got some good sleeps. Plus, our hotel was incredibly nice, I had to take advantage of the tres tres comfortable bed, which meant I didn't have springs digging into my back all night.

We started off the morning with a semi-pleasant continental breakfast and then we were off for a bus tour, that would lead us to the Eiffel Tower. Mid-way, the bus stopped at the Notre Dame. This church was incredible as anyone could imagine and we had plenty of time to snap pictures.

The history of France is so rich and there's so many stories behind the buildings and why they were built where they are and how they are. We finally got to the Eiffel Tower around noon, just when it started raining. We waited a good half hour to ride the elevator up. When we finally got up there, despite the fog, it was gorgeous. Paris goes on for miles and miles.

After that cold, rainy experience, we grabbed lunch at a nearby cafe. The language was more of a barrier than I thought. I guess two years in high school did not really do me any good. At least I could semi get by, usually just by smiling. We headed to Le Louvre next and I was so excited because from the boat tour, this place was beyond enormous. I captured so many great photos. Did you know you can take pictures of Mona Lisa WITH the flash? It seemed a little concerning to me. Our last section we visited was Napoleon III's apartments. I couldn't believe that Parisian's taxes went to this place. As incredible as it was, it was a little obnoxious. I got it on video, but it has decided to take hours to upload so check it out on Facebook for those who have it.

The Louvre was completely amazing and when Julie and I go, we are going to explore more. We hiked on over to the Arc de Triomphe, but of course not until we got our crepes. Crepes with nutella are probably one of the best inventions. I say that about a lot of food, but I'm serious. I wish I could send you all one.

Crepes put us all in really giggly moods!

Moving on, we finally made our 1 1/2 mile trek to the Arc and then we were off to the Latin area to get some dinner. People literally stood outside of their restaurants and pressured you to come into their restaurant, dramatically pointing out the menu and speaking english, since apparently we just scream AMERICAN to everyone. We finally picked one because it offered us a free cocktail. I'd never experienced one before so I figured, why not? Not that great, but let me tell you what was. My gnocchi. Okay people, if you haven't tried it, go for it! We Americans love pasta anyways, so I guarantee you will.

We adventured back after dinner and prepared for our next day at Sacre Coeur. Unfortunately it was our last day! There were still so many things I wanted to do, especially go to Versailles, but that can wait for Julie. We ventured out around 10 and made it to the church. Gypsy people were trying to put a bracelet on our wrists and quite honestly, it was really scary. Apparently if they get one on you, you can't get out and then you have to end up paying them. Bess snagged a picture of them and they were not happy. Also, might I mention that there were not only creepy gypsies, but fake statues, a random man that played a harp, an accordion player, and strange men that sold handbags. It's fine, I bought a crepe to relieve those strange feelings.

One of the fake statues. Weird!!!

Go Bulldogs!!

Off we went to the Arc de Triomphe because we needed some good daylight pictures. The highlights from this adventure were...
  • the many, many, many Asians who did the peace sign, no smile thing
  • Jackie getting dodged by a pigeon
  • the Monks who wanted pictures with us
  • being literally in the middle of the city
  • seeing the biggest shopping road and not buying a single thing :)

the monk who LOVED us Americans
this is Jackie after getting hit, pigeon in the back

We ended the day by revisiting the Eiffel Tower in the daylight. We also went to this place with peace written in all different languages and it was really neat. This weekend was about the most adventurous, fun, tiring, silly trip I've ever been on, for FREE! Well I suppose tuition payed for it... but I can't wait to go back! Au revoir!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Who is that?

Welcome to Liverpool was the sign I woke up to just as we pulled into the snowy city after a 5 1/2 hour bus ride. I could not believe it was snowing, I only wore tights and boots with a short sleeve dress-thing and of course, my coat. I knew I was in serious trouble. I got confident about conquering the snow and then moved on to my obsessing that if I didn't get off of that bus in the next twenty minutes, I would throw up everywhere, seeing I was right next to the bathroom... I wish I would've taken a picture of the man who walked back there six times (and that is only counting the times I was awake to see him!). I myself used a coach bathroom for the first time... be proud mom, I made it out alive.

When we arrived at the coach station, I knew it was fate that a pink taxi would pick us up to bring us to Hatters Hostel. Our room was designed for six people so we knew that we could potentially have a couple others in our room. Come to find out, there was another lady (so it appeared) living in the hostel. I know I'm making assumptions, but there was a cross necklace in her armoire so I just left my backpack in there trusting that when I came home later that night, everything would still be there.

We then went on a Magical Mystery Tour of the Beatles. What an incredible experience! I honestly don't know anything about the Beatles, which leads me to address the question in blog title. Bess, my beautiful roommate, loves the Beatles, in fact she may be a little obsessed. So when she stopped abruptly to take a picture by John Lennon, she was shocked when I nonchalantly asked, "who is that"? No big deal, we have a no judging rule, which mainly applies to me. Only kidding.

This is where they used to play, a pub in the basement!
Paul McCartney's last house

Right before the bus tour!

The tour was great and afterwards we went to some family restaurant and had some wonderful food. It was only 8:00 but we decided to head back to the hostel because we had an early morning bus ride to Manchester. Me being my normal self, was in bed by 9:00, and I have no shame. Gracie, our roommate from Portugal, joined us later and was completely astounded that we were in bed. She had never met such quiet ladies.

The half hour bus ride to Manchester made me so sleepy, but a little Caffe Nero would do the trick. Caffe Nero is such a popular place here, and it's got the best hot chocolate in the world.

mmmm :)

In Manchester we conquered shopping on the square, riding a ferris wheel, touring an art museum, and eating at Hard Rock Cafe (thank the good Lord for American food baby!). While shopping, we found a store called Primark and it's like Forever21, but better. Everything was dirt cheap. We went to the art museum to kill time and explore, and it ended up being a really great experience. There was a section where anyone could write their thoughts on the war, or a place where you could put where you would be if you could be anywhere in the world. I, of course, wrote with Edward Cullen, charging through the forest on his lovely vampire back. Anyways... the ferris wheel was great, and there was a heater inside, which actually ended up being the best part. I don't think I really looked outside now that I think about it. I suppose I can do that on the London Eye, whoops! I ended up carrying my backpack the whole day and of course, I overpacked so I'm really feeling some knots in my back these days.

strappin on the backpack... stylish I know
the ferris wheel! weeeeee
chillin at the museum
the awesome "where would you be" collection from lots of visitors

So, that's where I would like to end my blog, telling you that the ride home on the coach was wonderful, quiet, smooth, etc. I can only tell you that I have officially met the loudest people that exist in today's world. The drinking only made things ten times worse. Having a good laugh at a joke is one thing but this, this was torture to the poor souls on the bus. I tried rocking out to my Glee soundtracks but the loudness of everything gave me a throbbing headache. Well, I'll spare you the details, but needless to say, I won't be going on a coach bus again anytime soon. All in all though, planning a trip was super fun and it ended up being fairly cheap. Since the trip, I've done way too much homework, finished Glee, ate a great Ben and Jerry's, started the Happiness Project, and began planning for my mom's visit. I'm so excited!! Countdown to Paris: 2 days.