London, Fall 2009
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AMSTERDAM

November 28-29

[more coming soon]

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I booked two more weekend trips the other night- I’m going to Amsterdam 28-29 of November and Ireland (Dublin & Galway) the first weekend in December. Cheese alert- after these trips I can officially say that I’ve been to all the countries of my ancestors.. Italy (2004), England, Ireland and The Netherlands.. I’m a genealogy nerd; this makes me happy. :)

I also have to hit up the Tate Modern, the Tate Britain, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral and a ton of other places in London. I’m hoping to go back to the Imperial War Museum when I get a chance, too.. I spent a few hours there last weekend but still didn’t see everything.

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12 November 2009 10:23 PM

It’s a rainy Thursday night (just like the rainy Tuesday and Wednesday nights before it.. I didn’t expect anything different from fall in London and I really don’t mind it at all) and I’ve decided to stay in and get all my school assignments in order and catch up on some blogging and reading.

As of today, I have one more month left in London. I’m flying back to New York on December 12 and spending a few weeks at home in Jersey before heading to Boston on January 12 for my last semester at BU. I can’t sugarcoat it, the idea of leaving the UK really, genuinely upsets me. There are so many things that I miss about Jersey, NYC and Boston, of course.. people, things, places, experiences. I’m looking forward to going home for the holidays and seeing everyone I love.. but something about being in London makes me so unconditionally happy. I think I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with leaving if I knew that I’d be back here at some point in the next few years- but I don’t.

Such is life, I guess.. but I’m going to put it out there right now- I would seriously consider living and working here at some point in the future. We’ll see what happens.

Being here has really put my life into perspective for me: I’m really fortunate. Fortunate, blessed, lucky, spoiled.. whatever you want to call it. I’ve always known it, to an extent, but being here has made it even more obvious to me. I’m not saying that I’m the wealthiest or the smartest or the prettiest, but I do alright. And beyond all that superficial crap, I also have great friends that I love and trust from several different periods in my life and a family that’s there for me as a constant support system (emotionally and financially). I’ve had the opportunity to go to some great schools, live in a nice home and travel to different countries. I was walking around St. James’s Park something like two weeks ago and had to call my mother out of the blue and thank her for the chance to be here.. I seriously feel know that I don’t deserve the opportunities that I get any more than any other person and I pretty much always question why I often seem to get what I want (when it comes to the big stuff, anyway).

I’ve done a lot of random volunteer work in my life and I’m big on charities and trying to stay aware of conflicts that affect people all over the world and what could be done to help, but I seriously hope that someday I can do something bigger and greater to help people and give back for all the awesome stuff I’ve been able to do.

I feel like everything I’ve just written sounds cheesy and there are tons of other people in my position who think this way (or at least I hope there are), but it’s genuinely what’s been on my mind recently and I needed to put it out there.

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Guy Fawkes Day Fireworks at Syon Park - 5 November 2009 :)

[ photos courtesy of Dmitriy Karfagenskiy ]

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Autumn in London

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GREECE

October 7-11

I’ve been really busy the past few weeks with my internship and whatnot and let myself get really behind with these blog updates.. I’m trying to catch up now whenever I have some free time. I filled in more info about Brighton, Brussels and Paris so far and we’ll see how far I can get with Greece and everything I’ve been up to since..

After writing two research papers, taking two exams and staying awake for more than 24 hours, I was pretty wiped out. This was the state I was in when we left for Gatwick airport at 3 AM to catch a 6:30 flight to Athens. I managed to sleep for most of the 2.5 hours on the plane and then my excitement kicked in and I felt pretty great. We made our way out of the airport and decided to chill out, explore a bit and eat before catching our ferry to Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades islands (we were originally planning to go to Santorini, but some of the group members decided that 5 hours on a ferry was easier to handle than 8 hours on a ferry and had found a great hotel in Naxos that was right on the beach- definitely a great decision). I had an amazing chicken gyro and some chocolate gelato.. definitely a great way to start the trip.

While the ferry ride wasn’t exactly a wonderful experience (less than fantastic food and some close calls with seasickness toward the end of it), the views were amazing and I managed to sleep for a bit. We were picked up from the port by our adorable hotel owner, an older Greek man who spoke almost no english and we decided to refer to as “Grandpa” for the rest of the trip. We crammed the 8 of us into a van built for 5 and headed off. As soon as we dropped off our stuff in our rooms, we walked the 30 feet to the beach to chill out for a bit. The water was nice and warm and we found that our hotel was right next to a bar/cafe place that was right on the beach.. perfection.

We spent pretty much all of the next day drinking fruity cocktails on the beach, tanning and generally chilling out after finals.. exactly what we needed. We explored the town a bit as well and I ended buying a really cute sundress (that I obviously won’t be wearing again for the next 8 months, but whatever). We also saw a lot of ATV and scooter rental places around the town and decided that we’d look into renting some the next day.

That night we went to this nice restaurant for dinner called The Flamingo and ended up becoming BFF with the owner, Appy (totally spelling his name wrong). He gave us a round of free drinks and taught us a greek dance before we went to Escoba, this bar that he recommended to us. We did some drinking and dancing before passing out to rest up for our ATV adventures (the use of the word “adventure” here is legit, as you’ll soon find out).

The next morning we woke up, got breakfast on the beach again (coffee, fresh squeezed OJ, fruit, waffles and greek yogurt.. ahhhhmazing, I tell you) before going to rent our ATVs. The guy took our money, gave us a map of the island and some really brief instructions and we were off. We got some gas, left the town of Naxos and started riding all around the island.. on paved roads, dirt roads, up hills, near some cliffs.. it was pretty awesome. At one point we went off-road and down this embankment right near the edge of a cliff/ravine type situation before we realized that there was nowhere else to go- and some of us (not me, obviously, as I’m useless with heavy lifting) had to push two of the ATVs back up a ridiculously steep hill. I should mention that of the 4 ATVs, maybe two ran pretty well- one wouldn’t go over 11 MPH and another stalled every time we stopped.. but we Tim Gunned that shit and made it work.

We rode through these little towns deep in the hills (such a cool experience), checked out the remains of an ancient greek temple that was literally in the middle of nowhere (even cooler) and then went to this gorgeous remote beach on the other side of the island from where we started out. It was seriously amazing.. totally untouched and ridiculously beautiful.

We had two scary crash moments, but other than scratches, bruises and a broken camera (mine, as I was filming at the time of the crash.. hilarious video), we were all okay. We made it back to the rental shop just before 8, the time we needed to be back. After making our way back to the hotel we all promptly showered, went out for some food, chilled on the beach and passed out.

The next day there was more food/beach time/chilling out/exploring.. it was so nice being there in October when the weather is still perfect but there are a lot less tourists.

Later in the day, we headed up a small hill near the harbor to take some pictures of the Naxos Portara, which is this structure that dates to 522 B.C. and is all that remains from a temple built for Apollo. We watched one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen from up on the hill- such an amazing experience.

After that, we went back to the Flamingo to see Appy and get some more amazing greek food (greek salads [with the best feta cheese] and mousaka), did some pregaming with rum and ouzo (greek liquor that tastes like licorice.. kind of like sambuca) and went dancing at this club called Ocean. I got an amazing nutella/banana crepe at this stand that was open late after we left the club.. definitely worth mentioning.

Sunday morning we got up early, met the ferry at 9 AM and napped on the tables out on the deck for a few hours. We had some time to kill in Athens before our flight back, so we explored a bit.. to be honest with you, I wasn’t impressed. Naxos was so clean and beautiful, whereas Athens is crowded, hot and dirty. It felt like we were in the shady parts of the city, but we were right near the Acropolis- the most well known tourist attraction in Greece. We trekked halfway up the hill where the Parthenon is only to find out that it was closed (it was around 5 PM at this time, so maybe we should’ve known).. big fail. Oh well, I bought a postcard with the Parthenon on it and I was technically right there.. it counts.

We spent some time in the airport chilling before our flight back to London (I almost bought an issue of UK cosmo before the woman told me that it cost 16 euros.. yeah, SIXTEEN EUROS.. for a MAGAZINE. Airport price markups are insane). I slept a bit on the plane and we arrived back at Courtfield Gardens around two in the morning. I got a few hours of good sleep and headed to my 9 AM class.

That’s Greece, pretty much.. an awesome paradise vacation that I’d do a million times over if I could.

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^ More favorites from Paris & Versailles.

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PARIS

September 24-27

Paris was definitely (and not surprisingly) at the top of my list of European cities to check out, so Stef and I decided to stop putting off our weekend travels and booked some Eurostar tickets and a hostel about a week before we actually left.

We left on a Thursday afternoon, right after class, and arrived in Paris around 7p. We headed right over to our hostel, which wasn’t the most glamourous place on the planet, but definitely a fun experience. We stayed at the 3 Ducks hostel, which is apparently pretty well-known among (cheap) European travelers. It’s in an awesome location- a cute street filled with cafés and shops, really close to a metro stop and less than a ten minute walk to the Eiffel Tower. It also has a pretty decent bar and a cool outdoor courtyard. Despite all this, we still saw a few less-than-stellar reviews online- mainly referring to lax security and somewhat gross conditions. We talked it over for 30 seconds before booking it and decided that the pros outweighed the cons- we weren’t bringing anything that valuable with us and figured we could rough it for a few days. In retrospect, a great decision for the experience.

We stayed in a room with six other people, but we had our own set of bunk beds that was somewhat separated from everyone else. Pretty much all of the other people who stayed in our room were really friendly and interesting- we met two girls from Northern England that we talked with for a few hours and a guy from the Czech Republic who gave us some recommendations of other European cities to check out. Maybe I’m somewhat naive, but I never felt unsafe. I still slept with my passport/phone/ipod/cash under my pillow, of course- I’m not THAT trusting. I brought my own sheets/pillowcase and flip flops for the shower, too, so the gross factor was kept to a minimum. The one thing that was pretty shady was the fact that there was no point in locking our door- the window that led out to the rest of the floor wouldn’t lock, so anyone could climb through it at anytime (including us at least once). Whatever.. we’re still alive, and like I said- it was all for the experience.

ANYWAY, let me get started on everything we saw/did in Paris.. trust me, it’s a lot- we crammed as much as possible into our 3 day weekend (and I’m SO glad we did).

As soon as we got to Paris Gare du Nord we got on the Metro and headed to the 3 Ducks to check in and drop off our stuff. About 10 minutes after that, we headed out in search of food and the Eiffel Tower (cheesey, yeah.. but come on, it was our first trip to Paris). We ended up getting some Thai food for dinner and exploring our neighborhood a bit before we found La Tour Eiffel- and it was gorgeous. :) See my video (complete with my ever-so-intelligent and profound commentary) to get a feel for what it looked like when we wandered over. We were pretty wiped out at this point, so after taking a few pictures we headed back to the hostel for some sleep.

We got up pretty early on Friday morning hoping to beat the crowds at the Louvre, which worked out pretty well. There were still a ton of people there at 9:30, but no wait to get in and it wasn’t as jam packed as it became later in the day. They say it would take about three months for someone to see every object at the Louvre (leaving only 4 seconds to look at each one, supposedly), so we definitely weren’t expecting to see a lot of it. We spent a little over two hours exploring several different exhibits, and it was awesome. I recognized a lot of the works and styles from my AP Art History class senior year and it was pretty cool to see them in person. The Mona Lisa is kind of overrated, IMO.. it’s not that big and you can’t get within 10 feet of it because of the massive crowds of people perpetually surrounding the space where it hangs. Still, it had to be seen. The Louvre building itself is also really gorgeous and impressive- it was a palace long before it was a museum. On a side note- Stef and I totally got a laugh out of THREE separate instances where random tourists (all european guys.. one around our age and two that were a bit older) took our pictures (it was either laugh or be creeped out.. and we opted to take it lightly. Hopefully our heads don’t end up photoshopped into porn on the internet or something). We weren’t even looking in at least two of the pictures.. they just kind of snapped them when we were walking around or checking out paintings and then smiled at us when we gave them WTF looks.. we didn’t get really serious creep vibes, but maybe that’s just me being naive again.

Anyway, after the Louvre we decided to walk along the banks of the Seine to the Île de la Cité, where Notre Dame Cathedral is. We stopped at these stands that line the Seine and I bought some postcards and a book that I found on Robert Doisneau, one of my favorite 20th Century photographers (he’s famous for his depictions of Parisian street life, including the famous Le Baiser de l’Hotel de Ville, which is adorable- despite being staged, apparently). We made it to Notre Dame, which was beautiful inside and out. It was around lunchtime at this point, so we stopped at an outdoor café that was run by the most adorable and bubbly old Italian man. I had some great pasta, red wine and chocolate mousse before we wandered off in search of the Tuileries Gardens and the Champs-Élysées.

The Tuileries were beautiful, especially because it was a gorgeous day without a cloud in the sky. We stopped and chilled on the grass for a bit and then sat by one of the fountains and did some people watching for a few minutes. We wandered up the Champs-Élysées for awhile and spent some time under the Arc de Triomphe before getting on the metro and heading back to the Eiffel Tower stop where we bought tickets for a night cruise on the Seine. We had a few hours to kill before it was dark enough for the night cruise, so we went to a café and had goat cheese and baguettes for dinner (and a cappuccino with chocolate for dessert) while writing out a few postcards- it was the classic Parisian afternoon that I had pictured in my mind haha :)

Our cruise on the Seine was really peaceful and informative.. we saw the Île Saint-Louis and the Alexander III bridge, among other things. I definitely recommend a night cruise on the Seine for anyone traveling to Paris- the views are gorgeous and you really do learn a lot about the city. By the time the cruise was over it was kind of late, so we headed back to the 3 Ducks and had a few drinks at the bar and used the computers there before going to bed.

We got up pretty early again on Sunday morning to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The line was about 30 minutes long, but we were seriously entertained by these little French kids in line ahead of us who were there with their parents- there were 5 or 6 of them, all about 3-5 years old and they were some of the CUTEST children I’ve ever seen in my life. We were trying really hard not to watch the kids and have the parents think we were total creepers, but they were seriously HILARIOUS with the way they were playing and talking to each other. I can’t really describe it, but just know they were really adorable.

When we finally made it up the Eiffel Tower, the views were amazing. It was kind of hazy that morning, but we still saw a lot of the city and it was really cool. Definitely check out the pictures that I took. After we got back down on the ground, we got back on the metro and switched to the regional line to check out Versailles, which is about 30 minutes outside of Paris. As soon as we got there, the first thing we saw was a tex-mex restaurant. Yeah, seriously.. so random. We were starving and amused, so we decided to give them a shot. I had a chicken quesadilla and Stef tried an enchilada.. we decided that while the food definitely wasn’t real tex-mex, it was pretty good and definitely worth trying.

We walked around the corner and immediately saw what we came to check out- the Palace of Versailles. It’s amazing, seriously. You can look at pictures and see it in the Marie Antoinette film from a few years ago, but they don’t do it justice. We walked through most of it and were totally blown away. The Hall of Mirrors is breathtakingly beautiful and I couldn’t stop thinking about how the Treaty of Versailles was signed there in 1919 (there I go with the geeking out again haha) and of all the French royalty that have lived there throughout the centuries. The gardens are even more incredible, if that’s possible.. there are lemon trees, fountains, incredible landscaping and they just seem to stretch on forever. Once again, check out my pictures to see what I mean.

After chilling in the gardens for awhile and getting some dinner near the train station, we headed back to Paris. As soon as we got there we decided to go on an adventure to the red light district to see the Moulin Rouge and explore the area. We couldn’t resist checking out the Musée de l’érotisme (museum of eroticism) de Paris, which was ridiculously entertaining. Some of the stuff in there was really funny and other stuff was really interesting and informative.. I’d recommend it, if you think you can handle that sort of thing haha.

We went back to the 3 Ducks and talked to some other travelers at the bar for awhile, including this guy from upstate New York who was studying at Oxford and was traveling around Europe on weekends as well. We exchanged some stories and ended up getting to bed pretty late.. which was fine since we had already decided that Sunday would be a lazy morning.

We got up around 10:30 on Sunday, packed up our stuff and wandered around looking for breakfast, stamps and a mailbox so we could send out our postcards. It took the rest of the morning, but we were totally successful. I had some delicious croque-madame and a great cup of coffee (mmm I miss Parisian food haha), mailed out our stuff and headed back to Gare du Nord to catch our train back to London.

All-in-all, it was the perfect introduction to Paris and I’ll definitely go back the first chance I get. :)

More pictures of Paris & Versailles are here:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2031115&id=1330800210

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September 23, 2009 9:30p
I managed to score a last minute ticket from the BU Social Programme to a talk with Clive Owen on October 22 as part of the London Film Festival.. he’s one of my favorite actors so I’m totally psyched about this.
PS. Paris tomorrow!! :D

September 23, 2009 9:30p

I managed to score a last minute ticket from the BU Social Programme to a talk with Clive Owen on October 22 as part of the London Film Festival.. he’s one of my favorite actors so I’m totally psyched about this.

PS. Paris tomorrow!! :D

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BRUSSELS

September 20-22

I went to Brussels for a class trip with my IR class, “Britain and Europe- A New Beginning”. We took the Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Brussels Midi on a Sunday afternoon and got there around 8p Brussels time (one hour ahead of London). The trip went smoothly.. a little over 2 hours through Northern France and into Belgium. After checking in at our hostel (not the greatest place I’ve ever stayed, but I wasn’t expecting much), a group of us headed out in search of food. A lot of places were closed in the area we were staying (I guess since it was past dinner hour on a Sunday and we were kind of in a business district), but we eventually found a pretty decent African/European fusion type place and I had some delicious Poulet Yassa (a Senegalese chicken dish).

The next morning we got to check out NATO headquarters, which was pretty cool. We sat through a few presentations that ranged from semi-interesting to actually educational. I definitely knew more about NATO’s function and past operations after walking out of there and I guess it’s pretty sweet to know that I learned that information while actually being there.

After NATO we went to the European Parliament building, one of the two places where the EU Parliament meets (the other is in Strasbourg, France, if you care to know). We sat in on a lecture and got to take a brief tour around the place before going to the BU Brussels center (which I didn’t even know existed.. BU is everywhere, apparently) for another presentation and some dinner.

We had some time to explore Brussels after that, so we headed to the Grand Place (pronounced GRAHN PLAHS, if we’re going to be technical), which is absolutely gorgeous.. see my pictures. We walked around a bit and checked out a few bars in the area. The next morning we went to a presentation at London’s European Office, where they lobby for funding and support within the EU bureaucracy for the city of London and its interests. We had the entire afternoon free to sight-see afterwards, so we checked out the Royal Palace of Brussels and all the shops/food near the Grand Place. Obviously I sampled Belgian chocolate/fries/waffles and beer as well.. it was basically a ‘get fat in the name of culture’ few days.. no complaints from me. ;)

The rest of my Brussels pictures are here:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2031111&id=1330800210&l=0b75a4f3a2

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I almost forgot to mention that my roommate Stef and I booked tickets to head to Paris next weekend.. I’m excited beyond belief. :D
This means I’ll be in Brussels tomorrow afternoon until Tuesday night, back in London on Wednesday and in Paris Thursday-Sunday. I’ll be sure to post a long blog entry recapping the week when I can.

I almost forgot to mention that my roommate Stef and I booked tickets to head to Paris next weekend.. I’m excited beyond belief. :D

This means I’ll be in Brussels tomorrow afternoon until Tuesday night, back in London on Wednesday and in Paris Thursday-Sunday. I’ll be sure to post a long blog entry recapping the week when I can.

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Fabric was awesome. So was staying out until 6 AM to catch the first circle line train home (and taking the most satisfying nap of my life later in the day).

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September 19, 2009 11:32 PM
I got tickets for two screenings at the London Film Festival next month- one for Bright Star, about the life and love of John Keats, and another for Das weiße Band/The White Ribbon, about people living in a German village in the year leading up to World War I. They’re both totally different films that are supposed to be amazing- I’m psyched.

September 19, 2009 11:32 PM

I got tickets for two screenings at the London Film Festival next month- one for Bright Star, about the life and love of John Keats, and another for Das weiße Band/The White Ribbon, about people living in a German village in the year leading up to World War I. They’re both totally different films that are supposed to be amazing- I’m psyched.