the end of an era.

So today was my last day here in London.. I'm depressed about it. But, I'm going to reminisce here in the form of bullet points. It has been an era, and it's really been one of the best times of my life. I've seen a lot, ate a lot.. did other things. You know. This post is pretty anticlimactic. Mostly because I'm bummed to leave, and thinking about everything I did makes me a little sad and I haven't even left yet.

Also, this list is not comprehensive.. if I listed everything you'd probably hate me, or quit reading after thi-

- Talked unintentionally in a British accent
- Ate new foods.. and liked it. (But don't tell; I can't lose my Picky Eater Status)
- Worked at NBC! 
- Stonehenge  ooooOOoooh eerie
- Became obsessed with the electric kettle
- Experienced a street gang firsthand
- Prime Meridian; completed the "two places at once" requirement, so I guess I'm not actually in A Walk To Remember.. crap.
- Drank the obligatory nectar de Strongbow
- Matilda the Musical (..which will be worldwide soon, I have no doubt. So amazing!)
- Turned 20!
- Discovered a love for rugby
- Picadilly Institute! Fabric! CLUBZ
- Felt like Harry Potter a little
- Had my lovely friends Maddie and Mary here for a WEEK.
- Traveled to..
  • Bath [Roman things!]
  • Brighton [The pier! The Royal Pavilion! Seagulls!]
  • Edinburgh [Arthur's Seat! Kilts! Castles!]
  • Paris [Eiffel Tower! Notre Dame! Crepes! Night-Louvre! Montmarte! Jim Morrison!]
  • Greece [Strikes! Cats! Ocean! Tzatziki sauce! AMAZING hostel! Peacocks at the monastery!]
  • Sicily [BEACH! Palm trees! Mummies! I got hives! I don't know! Palermo! Acqua senza gas!]
  • Amsterdam [Bikes! Anne Frank! Pannekoken! Space cakes! RLD! Cappucinos!]
  • Norway [Naked statues! Everywhere! Retardedly expensive!]
  • Venice [Hot gondolier! "Ven-ET-zia"! Glass blowing! Piazzas! Bellini!]
  • Spain [La Sagrada Familia! Park Guell! Caga Tio!]
- Rented my first ever apartment
- Went to a real English football game.. CAFC!
- Concerts, concerts.. saw Chromeo, Cage the Elephant, The Horrors, Skrillex, Scanners and Datarock
- Attended the afterparty with the band of one of those concerts.. >:)
- The Tube relationship.
- Saw Marriage of Figaro opera directed by Fiona Shaw
- Night busses.. and a man who ate my packet of ketchup on the night bus.
- Held a baby on top of the Eiffel Tower
- Experienced the amazingness of a Gordon Ramsay restaurant
- Octopus. I ate octopus. Not at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant..
- Tate Modern, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery
- Kensington Palace
- Bill! Claire! Sarah! Heather! Elsie!
- Had a power outage for a whole day.
- Thai Krai; the best Thai restaurant in West Ken fo sho
- Met the Queen~!    ..Okay no I didn't do that.

Read my last post about my essay, point #3. This will make sense.

I'm not going back to Minnesota immediately.. I'll be in NYC for four days and then I'll be heading home.

London, it's been a wonderful four months. I'll miss you.

my winning essay!

My college had an end of term competition for travel writing and... I won! :)

I would have shared it with you anyways, but now that it's been deemed awesome by the ICLC staff, I figured I'm more than obligated to share it with you all too. So.. here it is! There is no title, so make one up for yourself I guess.


            As I lounged leisurely on the white sand with a cocktail in hand, the rays of the sun warming each of my pores, I pondered the things I had learned since being in Europe, the relationships I’ve gained and the meaning of life.
            …Okay. That’s not exactly true, although at one point I was on a beach with white sand and a balmy sun, however the closest thing to a cocktail would have been the bucket of nuts that a man was trying to peddle to everyone and their mother, and the only thing I was pondering was why ladies slightly past their prime really feel it necessary to sunbathe without a top on. But in all seriousness, I have had some enlightening and wonderful experiences while traveling abroad, and me – being the kind and generous person that I am – will share a few of them with you.

1.     RyanAir: A Blessing and A Curse.
The prices of the flights are heavenly; when I saw that I could get a plane to Italy for a mere $24, I practically choked on my own spit. But, what ensues afterwards is like a cruel sitcom. You’re guaranteed to have to travel to one of the obscure London airports (my favorite is Luton… mismatched warehouses in the middle of nowhere? Perfect!) You can be sure that you’ll have to travel at the wee hours of the night when the tube is closed. After navigating the night busses and taking some sort of coach or train, you’ve arrived! False. Now try and make your way to the ticket counter, where you will need to wait with your already printed boarding pass to get a stamp on it and have your passport checked the first of three times, just to be sure. After edging your way through the security line (and being behind incompetent Sally who leaves her belt and five necklaces on going through the scanner) you arrive at the gate! This would be joyous, except for the fact that now everyone will passively aggressively try and inch their way to the front of the gate, in hopes that they will snag that illustrious perfect seat. Even after being on the flight, you’re bombarded with buy this, buy that, get a lotto ticket, pay for the loo, et cetera. But hey, it gets you there and back. And it was $24.

2.     When In Doubt, Gesture It Out.
There were two things I was always guaranteed of when traveling: one, that the country I’m going to will have their own language and two, I wouldn’t be able to speak it. Sadly, I don’t know a lick of any other language besides English… and American English, at that. Usually I can get some sort of a gist of what words are referring to or communicate by pointing and nodding, but when it came to ordering food, well… That’s when things get a bit iffy. For instance, in Spain I asked the waitress for “tap water.” She looked at me as if I had a big, oozing sore festering in the middle of my face. “I do not understand,” she says. I replied, “Water from the faucet? The sink?” I then proceeded to mime turning on a sink. My sore must have been pulsating, because I got more horrified looks of disgust and confusion. Then she made a gagging noise and gaped at me some more. I gave up with my tap water endeavor after this and said “bottle” and made some bottle motions. She looked skeptically at me and walked away. (I did receive a bottle of water, thankfully.)

3.     Just Go With It…
Things don’t always go as planned. Actually, most of the time they don’t go as planned. The only real option is to simply roll with the punches and the quirks of traveling. If someone asks you to hold their baby while they take a picture on top of the Eiffel Tower, just go with it. Hold that baby, and try not to be too sad when they ask for it back. If you’re sitting at a table and two guys who speak little to no English approach you and want to buy you roses, just go with it. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you’re acting so uncomfortable it prompts one of the men who can hardly speak English to ask, “Why can’t you just be normal?” Or when you order something called ‘mixed fish’ on a menu and receive a plate full of octopus tentacles with the suckers still on, just go with it. Pretend like it’s the best octopus tentacles you’ve eaten since last week, and secretly pawn them off on the people who are eating at the table with you because well, let’s face it, octopus tentacles are disgusting.

Sadly – or awesomely! – all of these experiences are my own and completely true. Although I’m not sitting at a beach with a cocktail in my hand and the sun beating down on me, I can’t help but to reflect on how amazing my experiences have been and how truly awkward I have acted in every single one of them. But each place I’ve traveled to and each culture I’ve been exposed to has helped me to grow more as a person and enabled me to gain an understanding of other cultures that I wouldn’t have been able to learn had I not been put in some of the situations that I have been in. It’s been a crazy, wonderful four months in Europe that I’ll never forget. I will also never forget that I’ve eaten an octopus. Ew.


The title of this blog post should be read in the tune of 'My Sharona' except replacing that whole bit with 'Barcelona,' broken up as in 'Bar Celona.' ...I thought it was clever.

So anyways, last weekend was my last weekend in Europe - which is completely depressing, by the way - and I decided to spend it not in London, but in Spain! I decided to go on a whim and knew absolutely nothing about the city... I wasn't even aware that it was coastal, sadly enough. (I'm sure all my past geography teachers would be disappointed in me. But they don't read my blog.)

But, even though I knew hardly anything about it when I got there, I fell in love with the city. It's absolutely gorgeous, the people are so friendly (with a few exceptions.. which I'll get to later) and each neighborhood is unique and beautiful in it's own right. With the hills on one horizon and the sea on the other, it's completely picturesque and plus, they have TAPAS.

The food wasn't completely what I expected (who knew that burritos were just a Mexican thing.. oops..) but everything I had (other than these bits of chicken which were served to me chopped up and fried with the spinal cords still attached.. yum?) was delicious and wonderful nonetheless.

Side note; don't ask for tap water there, because the waitress will just gape skeptically at you as if you had a festering pus sack on your forehead. It's really great. Side note to mean waitress who also doesn't read my blog; Just because you don't drink out of your faucet doesn't mean that I don't want to drink out of your faucet.

There's so so so many great things about Barcelona, it would be really dull for you to simply read my words about them. It's definitely a city that I will be going back to at some point in my life, hopefully sooner than later.

Take a look at the photos, you'll understand. :)

***WARNING: this is kind of a XXL post. You've now been warned. ***

In Barceloneta ("Little Barcelona") by the port.

Fun fact: All of these palm trees were imported when Barcelona was preparing for the 1992 Olympics.

So sunny and warm :)
Boats floating. As they tend to do, a majority of the time.

Look at this neat sculpture.

Barcelona street. :) Part of Park Guell is wayyy up at the top.

A naked, life-sized black Barbie (Nicki Minaj???) was on hand to greet us.

Riding up the street escalator towards Park Guell.

The highest point in Park Guell, with wonderful views of the city.

Barcelona! :)

B-Town v2, but a million times better than B-Town v1.

View of La Sagrada Familia.. yes. It is large. Good observation.

This guy was awesome, although a bit creepy. He stopped to blow a kiss at me and made a very loud
"MWWWAH" as he did it. The tunes he played were a nice accompaniment to the view, though.
Longest bench.. IN THE WORLD.

The bench is made up of a mosiac of broken plates and ceramics.
:) :) :)
Also, Parc Güell was built by Gaudi as a housing development for the wealthy elite of Barcelona.

More bench and horizon.

If you're a fan of ANTM, the season 7 finale runway show was held here. (The season with Caridee)

Underneath where the bench bit is.

The "Gingerbread House" as we dubbed it.
Oranges :)

A street (which was basically the size of an alley) in the Gothic district.

Church in Cataluna Square. During the Spanish Civil War, a bomb exploded here, killing 30+ children at a
school in the square. Towards the end of the Civil War people were also taken against this wall and executed.
You can still see the marks from the bullets in the wall.

On a weirder note, this chap here is called Caga Tio (translated to "Uncle Shit.") Caga Tio is a log with legs, a face
and a blanket. Instead of Santa, children bring Caga Tio bits of food each day before Christmas and each day
Caga Tio grows a little bit more. Then, on Christmas Day, the children beat Caga Tio with a stick chanting a song
that goes as follows (translated)...
"Shit log, shit turron, hazelnuts and cottage cheese, if you don't shit well, I'll hit you with a stick. Shit log!"

Then the parents take Caga Tio's blanket off, and Caga Tio gives the kids their well
deserved presents.

I am not making this up.

One of three Gothic cathedrals in the city.

Artsy fartsy.
Another Gaudi designed building.
Casa Batlló by Gaudi

Detail of the facade.

Metro station in the morning on a Sunday.. completely dead.
La Sagrada Familia!
Close up of some of the exterior. It's completely excessive and elaborate and I love it.
Stained glass window.. I'm a little obsessed and took a ton of pictures of the windows.
This is a picture of the ceiling. It is from Wikipedia. All of my pictures of the actual architecture didn't really express how
amazing this structure is inside.

No editing at all. The colors were so vibrant and gorgeous.. I literally sat in here for an hour admiring everything.

The organ, reflecting the light from the windows.

Close up of the glass.
Took an elevator up to the top of one of the spires!

It was a little scary :(

Looking down from the inside. You could take the steps down to the bottom. I declined.
How Gaudi designed the church; Nature influenced his designs completely, and he wanted to do things organically.
He hung weights and then took the mirror image of this and that's how the cathedral got it's shape.
La Sagrada Familia by night.
Cathedral del Mar, another one of the Gothic cathedrals

Picasso inspired?

Barcelona street.

Entrance to Parc de La Ciutadella.

This area was used in 1888 for a national exhibition.
La Rambla at night! :)
Arc de Triomf

Wish I could go back.. there's still so much I wasn't able to see and do!
I also took a massive quantity of photos here, check Facebook for the album if you wish to see MOAR.

On another note, today I had a Steak & Ale Pie, which may or may not have had a chunk of liver in it. It could have also been a misshapen mushroom. But I did not eat it, just to be safe.

Stay tuned for my *FINAL POSTS* while being abroad. Because after Saturday, I will no longer be able to hold my title of "A Girl.. Abroad."