If you ever get a chance to be in London for Christmas, I highly recommend it! On Christmas day, everything is closed and the streets are empty, so we rented bikes and rode all over the city, down Oxford street, over London bridge, and over Tower bridge.
A few weeks ago we went on a trip to Amsterdam for 4 days. We stayed in a little beach town called Wijk aan Zee, which was absolutely adorable but way too far from the city. While we were there we went on a brunch boat cruise through the canals, the Heineken brewery tour, museums and a lot of shopping and walking around. The red light district was worth walking through, but it was kind of dirty and depressing. Weed is also legal there and the whole place smelled like it.
We also went to the Anne Frank house, which was very sad and really put a human perspective on what Jewish people went through during the Holocaust. Her actual diary is on display there, and her writing was very thoughtful and eloquent for someone so young.
My first trip out of the UK was a weekend in Paris. I went with my roommate Steph and my friend Kathy, and it was probably the most magical weekend I've had in Europe so far. We stayed in a tiny one-room Air Bnb with a cute little French landlord who didn't speak any English, and it turned out to perfect for the weekend.
We saw a lot of Paris by walking, starting with Arc de Triomphe, then the Eiffel Tower, where we ate crepes on a bridge above the river. We also saw the Notre Dame cathedral and listened to part of their Sunday mass.
We also went to the Louvre, where we saw the Mona Lisa and other works of art I'd never heard of. I've had a photo of the glass pyramids on my wall for the past two years, in both my California and London apartments, so seeing them in person was amazing because I never thought I'd get to go there.
That night, we met up with two friends who were visiting from Prague and watched the light show on the Eiffel Tower. We were sitting on a ledge and I saw a couple next to us so I offered to take their photo. I was taking a photo of them standing in front of the tower when the guy suddenly knelt down and proposed to his girlfriend! She said yes, and I took about 500 grainy nighttime engagement photos. It was probably one of my favorite moments because they were so cute and happy when they left. (The photo below happened when I lost my balance on the ledge)
On our last day, we took a train out to the Palace of Versailles. The inside was nice, but my favorite part was the garden. It was huge and had fountains with gold statues that played classical music. We got peach ice cream from a stand in the garden and played in autumn leaves for the first time.
Overall, Paris was my favorite part about being abroad so far, and I will definitely be back!
It's been a couple weeks since I moved into my flat in London. It's in Zone 1, which means it's in a very accessible area and I can easily walk or bus to places like Oxford Street for shopping, Big Ben and the River Thames, Chinatown, and lots of pubs and cafes.
The main cultural adjustment in the two weeks I've been here has actually been looking the right way before crossing the street, because I've had several near death experiences when I've looked to the left and stepped out onto the street and had a car zoom by from the right. But just last week I looked the right way by myself for the first time!
Coming from Hawaii the weather here has been a little bit of a struggle because its so cold and gloomy, and the other day when I woke up I was feeling so sad that I just sat by my window in the sun to try and get Vitamin D. Maybe I'll get seasonal affect disorder.
Business classes here are also very different from America. They teach the lessons very quickly and you're expected to study and learn it on your own outside of class, and then most of your grade is based on one final exam at the end. I can see why British people seem to think Americans are so stupid, because we have an alternate assessment tailored to exchange students.
Anyway so far London is great but I need to find a way to get some sun!
We took a red-eye from Hawaii to JFK in New York, and spent a day in Brooklyn and a day in Manhattan. I was super jet-lagged and was having caffeine withdrawals so 50% of the time I was grouchy and half unconscious.
We rented bikes from a sketchy bike shop on 58th street and rode around the ENTIRE park on accident, which was exhausting but we couldn't figure out how to get out of the park so we made the full loop. We also stopped at "The Mall," which is that famous Central Park photo.
We went up to the top floor at 10:45, which is the last elevator you can take. The tickets were kind of expensive but the view at the top is worth it- you can see all the city lights and the Empire State Building.
At midnight it was packed with people. In this photo you can spot a sickly looking Statue of Liberty on stilts.
We visited the neighborhood my dad grew up in (Flatbush) and ate breakfast at Uncle Marty, Aunty Liz, and Chloe's super artsy Brooklyn apartment. Prospect Park is also really nice and has a big fountain and a lot of joggers and moms with strollers.