The past few weeks have been surreal. As COVID-19 gradually worms its way into every aspect of our day-to-day activities from social gatherings to work environment to eventually our relationships with others, I am constantly reminded of how capricious life is. From January 5th to January 9th, I explored Northern Italy without a care in the world. I sauntered around the streets of Venice, humming theater tunes and swaying from the warmth of wine. In Milan, I leafed through racks of carefully curated fashion pieces and wiped my tears as I got one of the last tickets of the day to see the Last Supper in all of its glory. In less than a month from my departure, the two cities I fell in love with were suddenly thrown into dizzying circumstances that spiraled out of control until eventually the whole country was swept into a storm of uncertainty and fear.
Every day, the news details the worsening conditions in not just one but dozens of countries around the globe. It’s hard to stay positive and productive in these desperate times but I try as hard as I can because to be honest, I think I’d go insane otherwise. That’s why I’m writing this blog post over two months after my trip. I need a reminder that life is a rollercoaster and that you cannot have the highs without the lows.
Oh how I love you, Venice! Time genuinely slipped through my fingers. The streets were narrow and windy, leading me on unknown adventures. The water lapped against the stone, softly but steadily, as if reminding the tourists and locals alike that the ocean was always there to listen. The gondoliers crooned melancholy love songs as couples spilled their yearning for each other into the canals in excess. It was the most romantic city that I’d ever been too and it was only then that I truly started to feel the weight of loneliness warming me like a blanket at night. But with the weight of loneliness also came the liberating feeling that is only achievable through solo travel.
11:20 AM: Arrive in Venice
12:00 PM: Lunch at Da Michele Pizza e Ristò
2:00 PM: Check into Hostel
3:00 PM: Piazza San Marco
6:00 PM: Dinner
8:00 PM: Home
9:00 AM: Leave Hostel
10:00 AM: Rialto Bridge and Exploring
1:00 PM: Osteria Da Alberto
3:00 PM: Exploring/Shopping
6:00 PM: Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
7:00 PM: Gallerie dell’Accademia
This blog post is going to be a bit different than the other ones – a bit more like a photo diary than my usual organized long-read posts. Venice is one of those cities that you kind of just wander around. There were certain sites that I wanted to see like the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square but the rest of the time, you let your feet take the lead.
It might have been the season that I visited, but Venice was not as crowded as I thought it would be. The streets were comfortably busy in the mornings and turned eerily quiet as early as 6PM. I didn’t realize that there aren’t any cars allowed on the streets of Venice but that works in the favor of visitors because everything is super walkable!
One of my favorite meals in Venice was at Osteria Da Alberto. Entering the restaurant, I felt like I was enveloped into a big Italian hug. With my book in hand and a half liter of wine, I spent two hours just people watching and enjoying the best appetizer and main dish combination ever. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, I definitely recommend Folpetti Alla Veneta. The one reservation that I had with trying this dish was the fact that the octopus is purposely not cleaned, meaning they are simply cooked and cut the octopus accordingly then served in a citrus-type sauce. However, I can guarantee you that it is absolutely worth it!
Do you like shelves stuffed to the brim with books? Do you like friendly cats that let you pet them? Do you like jaw-dropping views? Of course you do! Well, Libreria Acqua Alta has not one, not two, but ALL THREE of those. From the outside, it looks like any other independent book store would but as soon as you enter, you can smell the pages right away. (those that still read actual print books know what I’m talking about) To the left, you see a repurposed canoe with shelves built into it and haphazardly placed fiction novels. To the right, you see a bathtub filled with different collection of children’s books – a confusing sight but somehow it works. Then, you see a random black cat jumping between the two! According to the sign posted on the outside of the shop, there are seven cats that have chosen Libreria Acqua Alta to be their home. I have only pet two.
Then, as you move further and further into the shop, carefully avoiding random stacks of books here and a pile of newspapers there, you see a staircase (surprise, surprise), also made out of books. I swallowed my fear and took careful steps up and up until…voilá. The pictures do this city no justice!
My only disappointment when I visited the book store was not with what I saw but with my incapability to understand the stories between the covers. Everything was in Italian (obviously), so I could only run my fingers along the spines and judge the book by the things I could see.
The other day, I was telling my mom about my blog and about how disappointed I was that she wouldn’t be able to fully understand the things I write – not because she is unintelligent but simply because she’s not well-versed with the complex connotations of English phrases and terminology. Of course, it’s far-fetched to say that one should learn every single language in the world. But how amazing would it be to be able to speak and truly understand the ins and outs of a culture through their language?
Everything is so beautiful that it is hard to believe that people live here. I had to pinch myself several times because I thought I was in a dream. One of the first signs of residential life that I stumbled upon was a funeral. I saw people walk out of their front doors and then take no more than twenty steps to the church where their loved one was being honored. At any given moment in time, there are kids playing on jungle gyms, doctors seeing their patients, people falling in love – the list goes on and on. It feels as if the world pauses just because my responsibilities fade into the background for a short amount of time but the reminders that life is a continuum always helps me put my emotions into perspective.
I’ve learned that in most situations, offering to take someone else’s picture makes them more inclined to offer to take your picture but being rejected twice after kindly offering hurt my ego enough, so I settled for taking a selfie at the Rialto Bridge. Also, yes I am wearing three layers of clothing, a scarf, a beanie and gloves. It was bloody baltic, okay?
The next day, I found myself at the Rialto Bridge again and decided to try to take a better picture but a girl about my age offered to help me! What luck!
If you have time, I recommend making the trek over to Basilica Di Santa Maria Della Salute. It’s a bit far off from St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge but completely accessible if you are willing to put out the time! I ended up spending my afternoon at the nearby Gallerie dell’Accademia, a beautiful building that showcases Venetian artists like Titian and Canaletto! Because I’m a student, the ticket was only 2 Euros! A steal.
St. Mark’s Square is surrounded by jewelry shops, snooty art dealers and over-priced coffee and pastries (all of which are inaccessible to me until I get married…I’M KIDDING). However, the Basilica itself is a must-do. Like I previously mentioned, the crowds were surprisingly not overwhelming so I didn’t have to queue to enter! The benefits of traveling during off seasons are insane. The building is massive so I wasn’t able to take a good exterior shot, but look at this beautiful piece right before the entrance.
Speaking of St. Mark’s Square, the Grand Canal is right around the corner and let me tell you, both days that I was in Venice, I spent some time just sitting with my coffee and people watching here. I can’t imagine a place like this being a bus ride from where I live. I suppose that’s what tourists think when they visit Newport Beach or Disneyland but to me, this is so much better!
One of my dreams is to go to the Island of Murano and to purchase a glass vase. I know what you’re thinking, your dream is to travel all the way to a remote island near Venice to…buy a vase? The answer is yes! As I was strolling along, I stumbled upon a local glass jewelry shop. While I was having a debate with myself about whether I wanted the periwinkle blue or blush pink pair, the jeweler was telling me about the island and how the glass is beautiful beyond my imaginations. He spoke about the history of the Murano glass-blowing process with a tone of reverence that has stayed with me to this day. So I have to go back. There’s no doubt about it. It’s not a question of whether, it’s a when. I’m excited to see which things will change and which things will stay the same. Maybe I’ll be with different company. Maybe I’ll actually grow to hate glass but will end up going to Murano anyway because young me said that I wanted to. Who knows?
After living in Glasgow, Scotland for four months, the day that I had to pack my bags and move back to America joylessly came. Before leaving Europe, I decided to try to fit in a few trips. By a few, I mean four countries more in three weeks. There were a lot of moving parts, both physically and emotionally, involved in planning for a three week trip and moving all of my things from Glasgow back to California. I had two 23 kg suitcases, one 12kg suitcase, one 10 kg cardboard box, one full standard size backpack and one large tote bag. I had to coordinate transfers from hotels to hostels, back to hotels, with long distances in between. For reference, I am 5’0, 110 pounds soaking wet. I had just left the city and the people that have stolen my entire heart and soul to go back to a place where I feel little to no connection to. It was quite a lot to process and plan with little room for mistake.
Nonetheless, I tried to remain positive and proactive while traveling because I know that it might be a while until I’m back in Europe. First stop: London! My opinion of the city is limited to the stories that I hear from my friends. “Such a big city!” “Oh the Indian food? Dishoom? Spectacular.” “Harrods, oh you’re going to love it.” I’d always considered it a city that I have to go to. It’s London! Everyone has to go there at least once. Harry Potter! Royals! London Eye! What I forgot to take into account was how tired I would be. I’d been gone from home for four months. I just had to pack up my entire life into suitcases that may or may not be stolen or lost. I’d been traveling on and off for the entire duration of my study abroad. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, retrospectively looking back, London was the worst place I could have been at that point in time. The rushed tourists, spread out city and unfamiliarity of London was such a striking contrast to the steady pace of life that I’ve grown to love and miss in Glasgow. Because of this, this trip was much different than I imagined it would be. My first time in London was supposed to be with different people, doing different things, under different circumstances, but hey, that’s life! It’s not always what you plan for it to be but it’s what you make of it, right?
11:00 AM – Arrive in London
2:30 PM – Fame! the Musical
6:00 PM – Thai Food for Dinner
12:00 PM – Kensington Gardens
3:00 PM – Westminster
4:00 PM – Covent Garden
6:30 PM – Zonzo Italian
10:00 AM – Brunch
12:00 PM – Chelsea/Kings Road
2:00 PM – Harrod’s
5:00 PM – Oxford Street
12:00 PM – Comptoir Libanais
1:30 PM – Buckingham Palace
3:00 PM – National Gallery
5:30 PM – Santa Nata
6:00 PM – Cote Brasserie
7:30 PM – Waitress the Musical
10:30 – Biju Boba and Soho
12:00 PM – Dishoom
2:00 PM – Marylebone
5:00 PM – Camden Market
7:30 PM – Nandos
5:00 AM – Duck and Waffle
8:00 AM – Walk around South Thames
10:00 AM – Tower of London
1:00 PM – Padella/Borough Market
3:00 PM – Oddino’s Gelato
4:00 PM – Victoria & Albert
First things first, the stuff. How did you travel with all that stuff, you might ask. Well. Thankfully, the special generosity that I’ve reserved for only Scottish people extends to other British people as well. On the 4.5 hour train from Glasgow to London, I started to become anxious, thinking about how we were going to navigate the crowds at London Euston. We would be arriving at around 11:00 AM on Christmas Eve. With so much stuff with us, I was a wee bit worried to say the least.
As soon as the train stopped in London, we went straight into focus mode. We knew we needed two coins to grab two trolleys to stack a total of 6 suitcases and two backpacks on. First priority, watch all the suitcases. Second priority, transfer the suitcases. Third priority, get to the taxi station so that we can load all the suitcases on and head to King’s Cross where we were staying. Sounds easy enough, but like I said. I’m 5’0, 110 pounds soaking wet. The cumulative weight of just my things is more than double my body weight. However, we caught a stroke of luck. I was unable to see this interaction in person because I was rushing my ass over to the trolley station in an attempt to grab two and navigate them back to the platform, but Becs was able to give me the full rundown.
While I was gone, Becs was attempting to move the suitcases off of the train and onto the platform. Then, a man on a handicap cart pulled up next to the suitcases and gestured to them. “Are you doing alright?” Her initially impression was that he needed her to move the suitcases away from the platform but he was actually extending his help! Two men that worked at the station then started to load our 8 bags onto the cart and meanwhile, I’m still trying to grab the trolleys and already sweating profusely. As I’m wheeling the carts back, I see this scene where Becs is adamantly thanking these men while our suitcases are already locked and loaded and he’s gesturing for us to sit in the backseat. Despite that, we had to have another separate trolley for our three other suitcases because they didn’t all fit on the cart. I reiterate, it was a lot of stuff.
Fast forward, we’re sitting on the back of this cart, with one of the workers pushing the extra trolley, confused as to how we were able to catch this stroke of luck. They were even nice enough to help us to the handicap taxi station where an XL taxi was already waiting for us. The level of care that we received from these amazing workers really helped us remain positive. Leaving Glasgow was one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever had, so it helped to see some semblance of Scottish hospitality in the city that I’m going to be spending the next five days in.
JUST LONDON THINGS:
One of my biggest worries about London was the Underground. In California, I’ve never ridden on the bus and the only time I’d taken the train was for a field trip in second grade that I barely remember. Getting around Glasgow’s subway system took me two weeks to get used to. If I had trouble with Glasgow’s subway system, how in the world was I going to be able to familiarize myself with London’s Underground in just three days? Please see below for a brief comparison of the two.
Surprisingly, I got it rather quickly…and I even started to really enjoy taking the tube. I know that I just complained about how London was too fast-paced for me, but the Tube was the one instance where it was almost enjoyable. It was exciting seeing people from so many different walks of life coming on and off at each stop. Some were wearing suits, others were wearing their trackies. Some were busy typing away on their phones while others munched on an apple while reading a book. Some were smiling to themselves, while others had worry wrinkles between their eyebrows as they stared off into space. I wondered where all of these people were going, what they had to think about, who they loved. So many interesting stories that I would have loved to hear, had they been willing to share it. It’s a bit strange to simply tap on someone’s shoulder and ask them to tell you their story though, no? At least, that’s what I’ve been taught.
One skill that I will never be able to understand though, is how people sleep on the tube. What if you miss your stop? What if you start to snore? What if someone takes a sharpie and draws an ugly goatee on you? I’ve always wanted to try to hold one of those signs that say “Wake me up at Charing Cross Station” though. I wonder if those signs actually work…
At this point, you (the reader) are probably getting so sick of me comparing places to Scotland, but I can’t help it! One of the most noticeable differences between England and Scotland are the accents. I’ve always thought the english accent was so soothing but after hearing the Glaswegian accent for so long, I think the english accent sounds way too exaggerated and posh. (Please don’t take offense to this, english readers! It’s just a personal preference). The Glaswegian accent just has something to it that makes me instantly smile. It’s strange though because throughout the UK, I’ve heard more foreign accents and languages than I have British. One of my proudest moments was when I was able to guess my professor’s country of birth due to his accent (he was German!). There’s a certain pride that comes with being able to distinguish between cultures because of your experiences with those people instead of just because you learned about them in a classroom. See below for my favorite videos in the entire world that just so happens to feature people with very…very…VERY…Scottish (Glaswegian) accents. Enjoy!
London is one of the leading tourist destinations in the world, with nearly 21 million tourists filtering in and out a year. I don’t know why I was surprised to find that every inch of the city was crawling with people at any given time of the day. Perhaps I was extra sensitive because of how I was feeling about leaving Glasgow. Perhaps being alone was actually affecting me more than I thought it was. No matter the reason – London was too much for me. You know those videos of the Japanese subway where people are literally being shoved onto the subway and the door is barely able to close because people are about to burst out of the car? I did not expect to witness this in person in London. The most amazing part about all of this was that people were still indifferent to their surroundings! As if this happened everyday (which it probably does).
Camden Market, a highly recommended attraction by all of my friends, turned out to be my worst nightmare. To me, it was just Hollywood boulevard but under one roof. I’m usually a sucker for handmade jewelry, especially of the dainty sort. I passed every single jewelry booth in the market because each one was so saturated with customers that I felt claustrophobic just looking into the booth. I genuinely think that under different circumstances, I may have enjoyed walking around but I was just not feeling the market at all. I found a bar near the back of the market that was slightly less crowded, so I ordered a mulled wine and sat to listen to the live music. However, I didn’t realize it was right next to a club-like venue where obscenely drunk people then filtered out and decided that they needed to have conversations at an insane decibel-level. My recommendation with Camden market is to come with lots of energy and know what to expect! It’s crowded and noisy and quite overwhelming with all the food and shopping options, so just keep that in mind.
Harrods gave me a similar claustrophobic feeling. I was being pressed forwards, backwards and to the sides constantly. I moved with the crowd with seemingly no control over where I was going. One minute I was staring at Fendi bags, and another minute I smelt cheese and was looking at a salami slicing machine but wait- there’s more! I found myself suddenly surrounded by clothes everywhere and then toys upon toys upon toys and then why there’s an ear piercing shop next to the restaurant – wait there’s a restaurant here? Nope. Not just a restaurant. MANY restaurants. But ooh, there’s chocolate and cookies and coffee and jam and SHOOOEEES! Let’s just say that Harrods was a blur but I managed to snap some pictures of the very attractive looking desserts. There were chocolates. In little gift wrapped boxes. So that you could actually give a “wee gift” to someone. I’m all for it but at the same time…a tad bit…excessive, no?
Because London is such a tourist haven, I feel like the city has tried extra hard to become as photogenic as possible. No wonder there are so many influencers coming out of London. I found myself stopping ever five minutes to take a picture. Everything is just so darn cute. I never thought that I would take a picture in front of a pink wall that matched my pink turtleneck but life gives you exactly what you need – even when you don’t even know you need it. I also found a pink car not far off from the pink wall!
A DINING GUIDE:
This trip was the first time I’d been left in an unfamiliar city alone for more than a day at a time. Before coming to Europe, I contemplating going on trips with only me, myself and I but decided against it because of several factors. One, it was my very first time in Europe so I didn’t want to expose myself unnecessarily. My mom is already a worry wart so her only daughter being alone 5,000+ miles away was her worst nightmare. Unfortunately for her, I have quite the rebellious streak so I did exactly what she told me I could not do. Two, I didn’t think that I could do it. I wasn’t confident enough to be able to navigate, plan and spend time with just myself but interestingly enough, I had the most fun in Europe when I was alone. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I love eating out and trying new things so here is my dining guide. Disclaimer: London is a HUGE city. I barely even chipped the iceberg of the dining options that it has to offer, but I loved the options that I decided to go with!
After my friends left, I was looking for a quick lunch place in Kensington. That’s when I happened to stumble upon Comptoir Libanais. If you read one of my previous posts about Scotland, you would know that I am obsessed with Spanish style tiles. I love the color, the intricacy, the extravagance – everything about it! This was one of the many Lebanese restaurants that I passed previously and when I walked inside, my jaw dropped a wee bit. The walls, the floors and the tables were all covered in beautifully colored tiles, similar to one of my favorite restaurants in Scotland, Cafe Andaluz. On the walls, there were tightly woven baskets for sale and absolutely stunning plates of Lebanese origin. The ambiance of the space added to the meal just as much as the flavors of the dishes did. Though the inside was stunning, I opted to sit outside, where there was a small patio so I could people watch.
I ended up ordering baba ganoush, a Chicken Taouk wrap, and a rose & mint tea that I drank up quicker than you could say rose & mint tea. I find that I’m always doing so many things at once that it was just nice to sit and eat. For example, I’m currently drinking a water bottle, writing this blog post, listening to Lewis Capaldi, and flying on an airplane to Warsaw, Poland. It’s hard to be on all the time, so this was a good reminder that I can be just as happy just listening to the city and enjoying my lunch.
Before my 7:30PM showing of Waitress, I initially wanted to get Dishoom for dinner. However, after being told that a seat for 1 would be a 2 hour wait, I wandered around until I stumbled upon Cote Brasserie, which had a two-course meal option for 17 pounds! What a steal. Starting with a large glass of Pinot Grigio (mandatory) and some perfectly crispy calamari, I was already getting a bit full before the entrée to be quite frank. However, the beautiful combination of grilled chicken breast, a mushroom marsala sauce and perfectly toasted on the outside but creamy on the inside potatoes was unreal. I came into Waitress with a bloated stomach and slightly sleepy from the meal but it was so worth it.
I stumbled upon this tiny Portuguese bakery while I was trying to find dinner. Honestly, I’m not usually a dessert person. Usually, I take one bite and then I’m all sugared out for a week. However, the floor to ceiling marble, view of the baker making the treat fresh, and coffee and pastry deal was too good to pass up. It tasted like crème brulee, which I normally shy away from but with the espresso, I quite enjoyed the creamy sweetness and then the subtle crunch of the crust.
I’m sick and tired of trying to find good boba in Europe. In California and especially in Orange County, I am spoiled with options. Sweeter milk drinks, fresher fruit drinks, chewier boba, smaller boba, whatever you are craving, there is a place for you. However, despite extensive research into the best boba in London, Biju Boba was so utterly disappointing. 1,000 (MAYBE) reviews and 4.3 stars! I thought I had narrowed down my options to the right one but it just was not the same as OC boba. The tea was lackluster, the boba was way too sweet and the cafe itself was not inviting at all.
Duck and Waffle:
Because I’m crazy, I woke up at 4 AM my last day in London to catch the sunrise at Duck and Waffle. I checked out of my hostel at 5 AM, traveled 45 minutes on the tube, and walked ten minutes all after my meltdown at Camden Market the day before. I’m quite proud of myself for still sticking to the initial itinerary. With my book in hand and dark circles prominent, I shakily walked into the glass elevator and watched as the surrounding buildings grew smaller and smaller beneath me. All I could think about as I soared to the 40th floor of the building was that this breakfast and view better be worth potential death. I arrived at 6:00 AM and was lucky enough to grab the last table by the windows.
It was quite early in the morning. I had a tad of anxiety sitting right next to the window to separated me, forty floors of offices and flat pavement. The Duck Eggs Benedict that I ordered disappeared into my stomach way too quickly. So many things to complain about but I found myself also finding so many things to be thankful for. I’m a college student from Suburban Southern California in London on holiday watching the sun rise over the pages of The Salt Path by Raynor Winn at one of the highest rated restaurants in the city. Once again, I was struck with how blessed I am. It doesn’t matter that the London fog made it impossible to see the sun. Instead, my sunrise was the slow change of steel grey clouds to clouds that looked like fire spreading across the sky. Hues of red, orange, and yellow painted the sky for a brief amount of time before the familiar London fog and grey-blue sky came around again. Beautiful.
After a bit of a panic attack at Camden Market, I was not excited to go to another market, but fresh pasta at a great price sounded like a great idea, so Borough Market it was. Thankfully, a good night’s rest and my amazing morning at Duck and Waffle made the crowds a bit more easy to handle. It was nice to wander and see locals out and about for lunch. Padella is near the market, but not directly in it so it was much easier to manage. While I was walking around the Thames, I figured that I should see if there was an online waitlist and thankfully I did because once I arrived at the restaurant, they had stopped taking people in from even the online waitlist.
Padella is a simple bistro with simple decorations and a simple menu and I’m not really a simple person. I’m the type of person that likes every vegetable possible on their pizza and likes pasta with a ton of toppings but I decided to give the place a try after the high recommendation from an old friend. (Hello old friend that is reading this right now). Per the recommendation of the waiter, I ordered the Cacio e Pepe. Highly recommend! I didn’t think that it would be possible to enjoy just spaghetti, cheese and black pepper but my eyes rolled into the back of my head at the first bite. I could taste the freshness of the ingredients and I could actually taste each of the three ingredients.
Since moving to Europe, I’ve grown to crave Indian food at least once a week. My go-to in Glasgow was Mother India (a MUST-TRY) but I’ve heard rave reviews about Dishoom so of course I had to try it. First, I just want to talk about the house chai. I cannot explain to you just how much I love their house chai. The best part? Free. Refills. MY GOD. It is obscene how good it is. This is coming from a person that used to detest chai. The US has some things to learn because their chai is absolutely trash but Dishoom? They know how to make chai. I’m salivating just thinking about it.
I ordered the Pau Bhaji, which is a dip made of mashed veggies that you eat with these hot buttered buns that were also obscene. (There’s no other word to describe how good it was, so be prepared to hear it at least two more times in this review) Then I also ordered the Chicken Berry Britannia Biryani. It was my first time having Biryani and again…OBSCENE. Usually, the rice that I eat is only cooked in water and then steamed so there’s not much flavor to it but I was surprised with how flavorful the rice was. At first, I was skeptical with the cranberries being thrown in with the chicken and coriander because I usually do not like mixing sweet and savory while cooking but…(you guessed it.) OBSCENE! I highly recommend the appetizer and main dish that I ordered but I’ve heard so many great things about the whole menu so I’m sure that anything you order will be great.
One of my biggest problems with traveling alone is that there’s no one to share the dishes that I order with. I think that I can eat more than I actually can so I end up ordering way too much. This becomes a problem when I travel because leftovers are usually left uneaten and I end up wasting so much food. Currently accepting applications for travel partners that eat a lot and are down for intellectually stimulating conversation!
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS:
The first day that Becs and I arrived in London, we went to see Fame for only 12 pounds a ticket! If you are looking for ways to spend your time in the city without shopping and avoiding the tourist traps, I definitely recommend browsing TodayTix to see if there are any deals. We watched Fame at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, which was nice because we were able to take some cute pictures at BoxPark Wembley, which was a food hall nearby. Unfortunately, because it was Christmas Eve, most of the restaurants were closed so we ended up picking a thai place near out hotel for dinner. Fame itself was quite enjoyable and for 12 pounds, it was such a steal. The musical is about a group of high school students in different departments of the Performing Arts that go through life together. The musical itself is definitely PG-13+ but it addressed some very real issues like homosexuality, suicide, illiteracy, and racism. A lot of the humor was a bit hard to get into but the actor and actresses were all wonderful.
On my first night in London alone, I knew that I needed to keep busy because it would be the first time that I was truly by myself in four months. Hence, I bought tickets to Waitress! Becs loved Waitress and saw it in London a few months prior so I wanted to see if the musical was worth the hype. It absolutely was. Between the two that I saw, Waitress was definitely more my sense of humor and music type. Because I was alone, I was able to snag a last minute ticket for merely 25 pounds! I was only six rows from the stage and smack dab in the middle. I was worried that seat may be too close and that I would have to look up at the actors but it was just far enough away that I saw everything but close enough that I didn’t have to squint to see all the little details. Lucie Jones who played Jenna Hunterson has got to be one of my favorite actresses. Her voice absolutely blew me away and I found myself tearing up more than I thought I would during her songs. If you have the chance, Waitress is a must-see!
My favorite moments in London were the times that I found neighborhoods where I could wander in and out of shops, pop into cafes for some espresso and just get lost. I’ve wanted to go to Daunt Books for while but didn’t realize that the street it was located on was so cute. There were so many boutiques that I ended up staying in for a wee bit longer because I was wrapped up in conversation with the owners. Daunt Books itself was interesting because the books are organized by the country of origin. The comparison between the books that the store decided to display for each region was very interesting. For example, the Scandinavian shelves were filled with books about “The Importance of Breathing” or “Happiness through Smiles” or “A Guide on Walking More”. In contrast, the French and Italian shelves were filled with books like “The French Coast in Three Days” or “Why Florence is a Better Destination than Rome” or “Learning Italian in 100 days”. Food for thought, I guess…
After my sunrise breakfast at Duck and Waffle, I walked South down the Thames River and across the Millennium Bridge, which may look familiar to Harry Potter fans! (Half-Blood Prince!) and then North, where I was able to then see the Tower Bridge up close, walk by Southwark Cathedral and the Globe Theater. It was so nice and peaceful on a Sunday morning with only me and a few joggers out and about.
While I was walking across the Millenium Bridge, three men, who remind me of the Three Stooges, stopped when they noticed that I was taking pictures of the scenery. One of them asked, in a very British accent, if I would like them to take a picture of me. Excited that for the first time, someone offered, I gratefully handed over my phone. They then proceeded to argue with each other because Mark, one of the three men, was standing in the way of the photo and no matter how he moved, his head was still in the frame. Finally, James, one of the other three men, pulled Mark aside so that the picture could be taken by unnamed Man #3. This is one of those situations where it’s funnier in the moment and it was so funny that I could not stop laughing and they were able to catch this gem of me. It’s not the perfect photo and I could critique my expression and stature in a million different ways but I can’t help but remember how much these men brightened up my day even if our interaction was only a minute or two. Thanks Mark!
As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite perks about living in Europe is how alive history is. The Tower of London, which I highly recommend going to, is one of the coolest buildings that one can visit in London. Some may say it’s too tourist-y, that the line to see the crown jewels is not worth it, that the price to get in is too high – but I loved it and think that it’s absolutely worth it! The Tower is located on the Northern bank of the Thames river where you have a clear and beautiful view of the nearby bridge, conveniently named Tower Bridge.
I guess no London post would be complete without talk of the royals. Yes, I visited Buckingham Palace. Yes, I saw the guards with the funny hats. No, I did not see the queen! No, not Kate Middleton or Prince William either. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go into Westminster Abbey but I was able to walk outside of it and am putting it on the to-do list for my next London trip to see if the interior is as magnificent as the exterior! Buckingham Palace was beautiful though and the parks surrounding the area were quite nice to explore.
Near the Palace are the War Rooms that Winston Churchill used during World War II. The line would have taken ages for me to go through so I wasn’t able to enter but my friend told me that exploring that museum was one of her favorites in London so I’ve added that to the to-do list for my next visit as well.
A Collection of Blurbs
I mentioned earlier in the post about how I had an overwhelming amount of things with me. One of my biggest mistakes in coming to Europe was overpacking. It ended up costing me approximately 180 USD to make sure that all of my things came back home safe and sound. I had to pay for 2 overweight bags on my flight home, even though I had sent already shipped a 10kg box back home. It was a headache that I could have easily avoided if I wasn’t so attached to my things. Now that I’m back home, I think about it a lot – why I couldn’t just let go of some of my things. I had already left so many items behind in Glasgow but I still has so. much. left. Walking back into my room, I was overwhelmed by how much I had. My closet was still filled to the brim with clothes. Stacks of books upon books lay all over my shelves and desks, with stiff spines and collecting dust. When did I begin to accept that drowning in things would be okay?
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I really need and what I just want. I’m not going to jump right into minimalism because it’s not sustainable or even feasible because at this point in my life – it would just mean getting rid of too much. But I want to be more conscious of what I’m consuming. Do I really need it? I’ve beeAn asking myself that question constantly over the past month.
One of my favorite past times with my mom was shopping but now, whenever I go out, I feel so overwhelmed with how I justify the craziest things like buying a floral dress that I already have three different variations of or another mustard sweater with the exact same neckline and the exact same material but one has pockets and the other one doesn’t. I don’t need all these things and traveling and moving around Europe, I started to realize that the sweater might just be $12 but it ended up costing me so much more than that.
One of our biggest struggles in planning out the first three days in London was the fact that it was the holidays. Christmas is probably the worst time that you can travel because almost everything is closed. Museums, malls, stores, restaurants – they all have limited hours or they aren’t even open. We knew that this was going to be true but did not realize the extent that it would affect our travels. Many of our plans were cut short because things were closed or the things that were open were too crowded. It was disappointing at first because we exhausted all of our options on things to do and then eventually just settled on staying at the hotel but it worked out in the end.
One last thing that I want to talk about involves my night out in Soho. I had just finished watching Waitress and was exploring the city with my boba in hand, minding my own business. Despite that, men felt the need to voice their opinion about my body, what I was wearing, and how I “shouldn’t be out alone looking pretty like that”. No one has the right to call me honey if they don’t even know my name. No one should be able to make unsolicited, violating comments about anyone’s body. It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling alone, wearing pretty clothes, or “just asking for someone to make those comments”.
In my mind, me ignoring it and not giving them a reaction is taking the power away from the comment. They want me to bite back, they want a reason to continue the comments, they want entertainment. So I don’t fight back – I don’t really react at all. But then, when will it stop? Who will stop them? What will stop them? When will it be safe, physically and emotionally, for a woman to travel alone in a city without having someone comment on her x,y and z? It really bothered me that these men were making comments to any female who looked like they were vulnerable. No, it’s not a compliment to be called pretty – at least not in the way that they are saying it. No, we’re not asking for it either by being a female out in town alone at night. It should be safe no matter the gender, but unfortunately, it’s not and that’s not okay.
Because of these interactions, I decided against going to bars by myself in the next few weeks that I would be traveling. I didn’t want to put myself at unnecessary risk. It’s quite disappointing because I’d heard so many good things about bars like The Alchemist or Cahoots but I was scared of possibly having an unnecessary confrontation with someone. Oddly enough, I’d never been confronted with this problem in Glasgow before, even when I was dressed to impress at the club. Maybe I’m blowing things out of proportion, but I’m sure that I’m, unfortunately, not alone in what I’m feeling.
I hate to end this blog post on a bad note, so here are some UBER cute pictures!
This is my longest post to date (nearly 6,000 words) and if you’ve read this far…wow, thank you for the support and I hope that you’ve found some entertainment with my rambling! The next phase of this three-week trip is Barcelona, which will hopefully be up sometime next week!