5 Things to Do in Camden

Camden Town

So you’ve found yourself in Camden eh? Now what…Well, I’m no Camden town connoisseur, but I do have a few recommedations for visiting this famous area in London. Camden is a quirky mix of public art on buildings, aromas of vendor food filling the streets and of course the locks. For all of you Seattlites reading this blog, it reminded me of Fremont, especially during the flea market on the weekends. Sure there are plenty of different markets you can frequent whist in the U.K. but a visit to London just wouldn’t be complete without seeing what all the fuss over Camden is about. It’s an easy ride on the tube or bus and you can honestly spend all day wandering around deciding what to eat and looking at the antique shops. Tube Stop: Camden Town on the Northern Line (TFL journey planner)

1. I think my number one piece of advice, at least the one I find important, is to visit on a sunny day if you can. It doesn’t get much better than getting to see the locks on a lovely afternoon. Of course if it’s the middle of autumn, the weather may be a bit fickle and in this case you can always seek warmth inside the covered part of the market, but make the most of the sunshine and take the tube or bus over to Camden!IMG_1573

2. Skip a formal meal in the city and grab lunch at the market! This is a great place to indulge in some good inexpensive food if you are on a budget like I was when I visited. There are lots of different options so if you are traveling in a group of people, everyone can pick and choose what they’re in the mood for. Be warned, if you’re as indecisive as I am you might be here for ages trying to settle on something though haha! A lot of people also like Poppies fish and chips if your craving some classic British food.

IMG_1558My travel buddy Emma on one of the many bike seats.

3. Take a ride on a motor bike! After grabbing some food, make your way over to the motorcycle seats to eat along the water. And while you’re enjoying your time on the bike feeling like a bad ass, maybe even turn on some Bound 2, you’ll feel like your right out of the music video.

4. Visit the antique shops. There are loads of neat little trinkets, clothes, old advert posters, and much more that are fun to look at. Plus, what better souvenir to bring back home with you than a unique vintage piece of London!

IMG_1543Emma by the vintage shops.IMG_1572

5. Visit the locks. Take a little stroll along the locks, especially on a sunny day. There are a few little cafes along the walkway and the walk is pretty peaceful to just enjoy the weather and have a nice chat with your friends. It also is nice after stuffing yourself full of the delicious food.

Well thats all for today everyone, but hope to see you back soon when I talk about my University experience! If you’ve visited the area before feel free to comment down below with your tips and advice.IMG_1567

Until next time,New blog signature 2

Advertisements

This is What Dreams are Made of

Rome HeaderThe Altare della Patria.

Well, we finally made it to our last destination on this trip, the lovely city of Rome! As I talked about before in my Florence post, I’ve dreamed about going to Italy for a while, and seeing The Lizzie McGuire movie when I was ten only made my urge to hop on a jet plane to Rome even more intense (as cheesy as that may sound). Continue reading

5 Things I Learned in Italy

Things I learned in ItalyPhoto of the ruins in Rome, Italy.

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you’ll know that I spent Spring holiday traveling around Europe with my best friend from back in the States. It was definitely a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity for the two of us, and we tried to make the most of it by visiting as many sights as possible as well as strolling around to see where the side roads would take us. Here are a few of the things that I took away from our adventures in Florence and Rome that I thought may be helpful to remember in the future!

1. Street Crossing-You know those little zebra crossings located in busy parts of the city? Become best friends with them! Unless you are super bold and are willing to risk your life crossing the street you might want to seek out a proper cross walk. Especially when trying to cross the road near a roundabout, and chances are you’ll encounter many of these. If you are feeling daring, you kind of just have to go for it and hope that the cars will stop, but please please be safe and just opt for the marked walkway.

2. Directions Please?-The cities we visited in Italy are not on a grid system like streets in the U.S. are, and often times the signs are tricky to find. For two girls who struggle with directions, you can only imagine all of the wandering around we did looking like complete idiots. If you have an idea where you are going beforehand this will save quite a bit of time, but just remember streets change into other streets and soon enough the city will have you walking in circles!

3. Food Glorious Food-Don’t be too quick to judge a place based on the prices, some of the best food we had was not the most expensive out there. Our Belgian friend we met in Prague advised us to find places far away from tourist attractions for the cheaper, most authentic options. As for the gelato, just because it looks beautiful doesn’t mean it’s the best. Try out a few places and see what you like! (But honestly, can you ever really go wrong with gelato?)

4.Tickets Anyone?-If you want to spend less time in line to see the sights of Italy, reserve tickets way in advance! We made the mistake of not doing this and I’ll just say that next time the minute I know about a trip I’ll be popping on my  computer ASAP.

5.Relax-Because there are so many tourists and people seem more relaxed, life moves a bit slower in Italy. Chill out and take a leisurely stroll to each venue. In the U.S and even in London, things seem more fast-paced, but sometimes it’s good to take some time to soak in all that a new city has to offer. When in Rome right?

Let me know what you’ve learned from your travels in the comments and any tips you have!

Until next time,New blog signature 2

One Ticket to Florence Please!

Florence header 1Why hello there everyone, or should I say ciao! As a girl with a craving for adventure and travel, Italy has been on the top of my list of places to visit for quite a while, so I was so excited to finally have the opportunity to make it to Florence in Tuscany. I think it’s safe to say that by now, Emma and I were craving some warmer weather coming from some areas that were still in the transition between seasons. Continue reading

Waffles, Chocolate, and Our Encounter with the Manneken Pis . . .

Brussels Blog Post HeaderThe Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium on the first evening of our stay. The lights just add a lovely magical charm don’t you think?

This past month I had a holiday break from University in between Spring and Summer terms, so my best friend from back home Emma (Hello if you are reading this Ems!) and I decided to take a little backpacking trip around Europe. Cliche, I know but hey I figured since I’m so close to many different countries, I might as well take the opportunity to explore other cities out there because who knows when the next time I’ll be able to do that is. . . Before Emma ventured across the pond to come visit me, we had been planning out where we wanted to go that would be realistic to travel to in the three weeks that we’d be away for. Considering our wanderlust, deciding where to go was actually more complicated than we had thought! We decided to get a Eurail pass to save some money on train tickets, which was also a great decision to help us narrow down our options for where we could travel. Although we had originally planned to fly from London to Rome and then make our way back towards the U.K. through other countries our plans were changed when we discovered there was an airline strike occurring on the day we were meant to be traveling. That day seemed like everything that could’ve gone wrong did, but sometimes things just don’t work out exactly as you’ve imagined and you just have to roll with the punches. After all people didn’t come up with the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” for no reason! I think that part of the adventure of traveling is facing any glitches in the road while remaining positive because at the end of the day, it’s usually a small issue and ultimately makes for a good story! Since we weren’t able to fly out of London that day without paying for another expensive flight, we decided to take the train to mainland Europe and do our trip backwards. Our first stop was Brussels, Belgium! We only had two nights in Brussels and we definitely wanted to make the most out of the limited amount of time we had to soak in the city sights. I will admit, we had a bit of difficulty figuring out the transportation system to get us from the train station in Brussels to our hostel in the city centre but we managed to just observe other people and work out how to pay the tram fare. Our hostel was only about a two minute walk to the main square in Brussels pictured above, which was perfect since it made getting to the main parts of the city really easy. IMG_0935The exterior of the  Hostel Grand Place.IMG_0986The seating area at the hostel entrance. (The evergreens on the curtains in the background were a nice reminder of home back in the States)IMG_0987The opposite wall of the seating area.

We stayed in an eight bed room in this hostel and got to meet a fellow traveler from the U.S. who was really nice! Since we arrived in Brussels in the evening we decided to take a walk around the city centre and go out for dinner and drinks with the girl we met. Emma and I always love meeting new people and I think one of the amazing things about staying in hostels (in addition to the fact that they are usually a lot less expensive than a hotel room) is getting to swap stories with people from different parts of the world! Of course on our little walk that evening we just randomly ran in to the infamous statue of a little boy peeing in to a fountain, the Manneken Pis! IMG_0933We had heard that it was small, but we didn’t know that it was going to be that small! I think that’s what made this tourist attraction particularly funny because it isn’t very epic, yet it attracts so many people photographing and giggling at the uneventful sight. The next day we took a trip to the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, which is a must when you visit a place famous for making the delicious sweets! Although it was a smaller museum, it provided a lot of insight about the trade and history of cocoa as well as how chocolates are made. The end of our visit to the museum even concluded with a demonstration of how different types of fine chocolates are formed today and we even received a complementary piece to eat!IMG_0966The entrance to the Museum.IMG_0956Fashions constructed using chocolate!IMG_0965The chocolatier giving us a demonstration of chocolate making.

It was incredible to see how many chocolate shops there were around the city. Perhaps this is because we were staying in a fairly touristy area, but still you didn’t have to look far to find a sweet treat to eat! Brussels definitely knows how to attract fellow people like me who have a sweet tooth. Following our trip to the Museum of Chocolate we stopped by the Maison du Roi or The King’s House to have a look around the museum which just so happened to be free on the day we were visiting! IMG_0968Stained glass windows by the staircase to the top floor of the museum.IMG_0972A view from the top floor.

 Although we didn’t have the ideal weather during our brief stay in Brussels (We like to joke that the rain just followed us wherever we went on our trip) this didn’t stop the city from really coming alive at night. If the main square didn’t seem buzzing with tourists before, we really got a sense of community during the evenings when people would just find a place in the city centre to sit in a circle with their friends and party it up! I really enjoyed our time in Brussels, but I will have to say it wasn’t the cleanest city we traveled to, even our Belgian friends that we met at a hostel in Prague filled us in on their opinion of that. Next stop on our journey was Berlin, a vibrant city with an enormous amount of history . . .

IMG_0999

Until next time,New blog signature 2

Greetings from Bath!

Bath Header 2As you probably already know if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, for reading week this term, my Dad and Brother came to visit me and while they were over in the U.K. we took a side trip to Bath. Bath is only about an hour and a half away from London by train and it truly is a lovely ride! Once we arrived in Bath, it was only a short walk from the train station to the bed and breakfast we stayed in, so we checked in, dropped our belongings off and set out to explore the historic city. One thing I loved about Bath was how charming and walkable it was, and we definitely lucked out on the gorgeous weather while we were briefly visiting, which probably enhanced our experience even more! Our first stop was to the city centre to pay the  Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths  a visit.IMG_0836Here is the front side where you enter. When we went on the free walking tour of the city, the guide told us about parts of the architecture that revealed bits of Bath’s history, which was quite interesting.IMG_0814IMG_0815IMG_0816IMG_0822The interior of Bath Abbey was so intricate and beautiful!

Our next stop was the Roman Baths . . .IMG_0838Don’t mind the very  attractive scaffolding, repairs have to be done sometime or another to keep everything in tip top shape!IMG_0845View from the top balcony overlooking the main bath. IMG_0843Another balcony view overlooking the main bath.IMG_0857You can even see the steam rising! The tour guide at the baths said that the water was just about body temperature or a bit warmer. IMG_0866Off to the East baths we go . . .IMG_0868Although we were given hand-held audio guides during our visit, we stumbled upon a tour guide leading visitors around the baths which was a much more interactive and interesting way to learn about the history of the remains.IMG_0873I thought it was neat that there were torches lit to create a more authentic atmosphere.IMG_0877Such a beautiful reflection that the time of day allowed. IMG_0880Here is where you could toss a coin into the pool and hope that it was denser than the water because if it sank, your wish supposedly was meant to come true. However, if your coin floated, you would be cursed according to Roman beliefs. Luckily my coin was on my side with this one . . .IMG_0882Classic touristy sibling picture! I felt so short next to my Brother ha ha. 

On day two, a.k.a. our final day to explore this wonderful city, we had a lovely breakfast at our hotel and made our way back to the city centre where we attended a free walking tour of Bath led by local volunteers who were incredibly knowledgeable about the history and knew interesting facts about the area. Although it was a pretty lengthy tour, it was such a beautiful day that I hardly noticed, and it was definitely worth learning about the city through the perspective of a resident. This isn’t to say that it was a waste to explore the area on our own, but I think it is quite nice to gain some depth by listening to someone who is excited, passionate, and proud to speak about the place in which they live because it makes learning about a new place much more engaging! I learned quite a bit about Georgian architecture including the rule of three and the strive for symmetry and balance, at least when you look at the front side of the buildings that is. . . You see that was the irony of it all as our tour guide explained, because during this era, the buildings were often composed of eight or more residences and for each home, a separate architect was hired. This meant that although the building face had to be cohesive with the other places of residence, the architects had full reign over what the interior and back sides could look like, and therefore, when you look at the back sides of the buildings they look like a hot mess of random designs. I think it adds character to the homes and it certainly makes a more interesting story, don’t you think? I wish I had a picture to show you, but I guess you’ll just have to pay the city a little visit yourself sometime! During our tour, we were also able to look at some of the ornate rooms in the building where the Fashion Museum was located.IMG_0902Here is everyone in my walking tour group trying to snap quick photos of the beautiful room.IMG_0896Here is another grand room where you are greeted by the balcony that Keira Knightley made a speech on top of during the film The Duchess.

After finishing the walking tour of the city, we visited the Fashion Museum which primarily focused on the historical dress of the Georgian period and included modern-day fashions and how trends have evolved over time. As someone who enjoys seeing what people wore during different eras, I found this museum really informative and visually interesting! Although I love looking at fashion designs, I think that this museum is definitely a must see for everyone because it is nicely put together and even my Brother and Dad liked it! (and let’s be honest they’re not the most concerned with keeping up with the latest fashion trends). By the end of the day we were all pretty exhausted so we went back to the lovely Kennard to gather our belongings and board the train back to London. I was sad to leave “the red room” that  I stayed in and travel back to reality, but the trip had to come to an end at some point. . .IMG_0887My Brother reading his Game of Thrones book in the red room at The Kennard Hotel.

Family is so important to me and since I hadn’t seen my family in person since I left home back in September, it was so nice to see some familiar faces and spend a week showing them around my new home in London! It was especially nice to get to have some sibling bonding time with my younger Brother and learn more about how things are back home. He probably would never admit it, as I suspect he really enjoys being an only child back home, but I think he secretly appreciated my company on the trip as well. Hopefully I will make my way back to Bath sometime in the future as it is such a calm and friendly city to explore! But . . .

Until next time,New blog signature 2

afterlight-1

Farewell Amsterdam!

IMG_0439Central Station at night! This was the main hub where we could catch a bus or tram back to our hostel.

Well, our trip had to come to a bittersweet end at some point, but we definitely made the most of our fourth and final day in Amsterdam. After eating a hearty breakfast at the hostel, Emily, Alex and I decided to head out to explore a different part of the city, visit the Begijnhof gardens, and eventually meet up with Christian and Katelyn later. Since we had all accomplished the touristy things on our list that we had wanted to do while visiting the city, we didn’t feel pressure to get to any sites in particular. On the way to the gardens we encountered this guy blowing bubbles in this square near a major shopping district.IMG_0408IMG_0414 IMG_0413

I always love to see what street performers and artists are doing in different cities! Of course some are more entertaining than others, but they always seem to make city life more interesting. The garden took a little while for us to find because it was situated in a residential courtyard located behind a large door in the square. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any photos in the garden, but it was neat to get to walk around such a peaceful area hidden from the main drag of shops. Next, we stopped in a small free museum exhibit at the Amsterdam Museum, which was about five minutes away from the secret garden. One of the art pieces was a carpet composed of several carpet squares corresponding to different countries around the world.

IMG_0419 IMG_0421 IMG_0417 IMG_0422

After our brief museum visit, we headed over to Coffee Company, a local cafe chain in Amsterdam, to meet up with Christian and Katelyn and grab a cup of joe to warm up. We passed another massive square along the way that seemed to attract quite a few tourists.IMG_0427IMG_0433IMG_0432IMG_0293Of course this blog post wouldn’t be complete without a coffee picture! I sprinkled some chocolate on top of my cappuccino and it just happened to form a subtle heart shape.

Once we had all re-fueled and gotten our caffeine boost of the day, we took a tram over to another market along the canal. It was later in the afternoon, so this market wasn’t as busy as the first one we had attended, but it was nice to take a slow walk through the neighborhood. As usual, we ended up at another food place. When we saw the food truck selling frites, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try the chips in Amsterdam.IMG_0435I guess you could say we liked them ha ha. The cone of frites even came with miniature forks to eat them with!IMG_0437They were nice and crispy and weren’t overly salted.

We made it back to Central Station and stopped at a crepe restaurant for dinner. Although I was tempted to order a savory crepe, I just couldn’t resist the enticing combo of nutella, strawberries, and banana.IMG_0444A picture of Alex’s crepe. My camera died before I could snap a picture of mine.

Following dinner, we decided it would be a smart idea to pick up a few snacks for the long bus ride ahead of us back to London the next morning, so we found the nearest supermarket and made a quick pit stop before heading to the hostel. You would expect it to be just your average mundane trip to the grocery store, but oh no, no, no it definitely was much more than that! After grabbing some crisps, Alex and I went over to pick up some apple sauce near the produce and meat section. That’s when the evening got interesting . . . All of the sudden, I heard the sound of water running in the background so, being the curious person that I am, turned around only to find a middle-aged man peeing in the middle of the aisles in the supermarket!!! Alex’s and my reaction was to get the heck out of that area as soon as possible, I mean we didn’t need the yellow river making its way downstream to where we were standing. Dude, I get that you probably were drunk or on something and needed to go to the loo, but seriously you couldn’t have located the nearest restroom or at least gone out in an alley way? Come on!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVrJ8DxECbg (skip to 1:36 to see what my reaction was like) After Alex and I had evacuated the area to go check out, the guy started following us and saying something in Dutch, but we just avoided him and made our way to find the rest of our group. When one of the supermarket employees had seen the aftermath of the unfortunate event that had gone down, she asked if we could point out the guy. Luckily, Christian was able to track him down and he was taken into custody. Those poor, poor employees that had to clean up the mess though . . . All I can say is that if Cher could really “Turn  Back Time” I wish she could help erase the sight of the man urinating from my mind, which has now unfortunately been singed into my memory. It certainly makes for a crazy story to tell though, it’s not everyday that you are privy to golden showers in a supermarket. By the time all of us were done checking out as quickly as possible, we were definitely ready to go home, take a nice long shower, and relax. It was early to bed for all of us that evening because we had to be up and out of the hostel by 6:30 the next morning to catch our bus.

This time, making it to the bus was hassle-free and we made it back to the parking lot with ample time to spare. Instead of driving onto a ferry to make it over the Channel, we took a train. Here are some photos I took of that experience.IMG_0450IMG_0452IMG_0454

Well that concludes our final day in Amsterdam! I had a fabulous time visiting a new city and I look forward to someday getting to explore the Netherlands during the spring time!

Until next time,New blog signature 2