Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gaudi is a Friend of Mine

Hello all,

Wow, I can't believe how long it's been since I've done this!
I know I'm bad but in my defense I have been very busy with school and exploring the EU.
As some of you may know I was lucky enough to get a visit from my sister Patti and her friend Liza while I was at school. They gave me the chance to visit Barcelona and Paris on more than a student budget which was very nice lol. Didn't even have to starve myself! Haha j/k...kinda.
They showed up on my doorstep on October 11th and I walked them through Canterbury which let me tell you is a picturesque little English town. It also happened to be my roommates birthday so we ate at a restaurant in town called 'Little Italy' where I got gnocchi that was to die for. We tucked in early as we were expected at London Luton at 9am. London Luton by the way, is the most awful airport in the world. It is seriously so hard to get too and i'm sure only put there to deter people from traveling. Thankfully after 4 hours on 2 different buses (Our bus ride was longer then our flight!), a hellish security check line, and 5 minute marathon we arrived at our gate just in time for our flight to Barcelona. Once we arrived in the beautiful Spanish city, we immediately stripped down and stepped into some shorts (I hadn't seen my legs in months!). We settled into our very nice hotel and then headed out for some dinner by 'La Sagrada Familia'. For those of your who don't know what that is, it's one of Gaudi's projects and the last before his death. Unfortunately he was unable to finish it but they are continuing to build it with an expected finishing date of 2026! To the left is a picture of it in the daytime since I was closer then. After a dinner of sangria and paella we headed home to rest up for our BICYCLE WINE TOUR!
We started our wine tour in Villafranca where we met up with our tour guides and fellow American tourists. We biked to two different wineries where we enjoyed Cava's, Roses, etc. It also included an amazing lunch at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere where they served us the biggest dish of paella I have ever seen (look left). The next day we toured the rest of Barcelona with an emphasis on anything Gaudi inclusing the Sagrada Familia in the day, Park Guell (where we had more Sangria, and I got pooped on by a bird), and the Gaudi house. After some shopping we went home, got ready, and headed out to the party zone of Barcelona. Fortunately, some seedy looking guy got us in to 'Catwalk' for free and I took a picture on the runway.
As you can see i'm dressed quite well. The drinks were a bit on the expensive side but since Patti was buying we later had Doner Kebab and then got ready for PARIS!
I think I should end it now so I can start working on my homework. Boo homework, but at the end of the day I am at school =/.
I promise to post soon and inform everyone about the best city ever after London and LA, Paris!

Love from Canterbury,

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Happy Happy Birthday!

Hello All!
Or should i say cheers which here means: hello, goodbye, thank you, your welcome, yes, no, maybe, please, shit, red, tomato. Well not really all of that but honestly the British use cheers as a response to everything.

Me: Hello
Them: Cheers

Me: Thanks
Then: Cheers

Me: Let's Drink
Them: Cheers

Me: You're cool
Them: Cheers

Anyway I think you guys get the point lol. Furthermore as you know it was my birthday on the 29th of last month so I've been dying to tell everyone about it. However I'll start with some of the things that happened before the greatest day in American history. Firstly, the International Welcome Dinner which was put on by the school! I was so surprised by the sheer amount of activities that the schools put on for the students. Here i was thinking that this dinner would be lame but when we actually got there we were all impressed! There was wine on the table, candles, glass cups (very surprised about that), and a live magician going around to entertain us all. To the left is a picture of the table setting, btw it's a totally American phenomena to take pictures of your food. All the English/European people sitting around us thought it was very odd that we were taking pictures of our tomato and mozzarella salads lol. After our lovely dinner, we were escorted to a campus club called The Attic for the International night. Unfortunately the DJ was awful and actually did not know who Lil Wayne was but it was still fun to dance around to what the British call music. It was particularly amusing to comment on the total lack of dancing ability that the British exude. Seriously, I was an amazing dancer compared to everyone else, made me feel pretty good about my "getting low" abilities. On the way out of the club, fellow Californians and I stopped to take pictures with this crazy looking chihuahua! I thought you all would enjoy seeing a picture of it also.

 The school also organized a trip for us internationals to Leeds castle, they even paid for our transportation and tickets! I could never see UCSB doing that but then again we probably have like 10x the amount of International students. Anyway, it was my first castle and it was very cool. It was exactly what you would imagine it to be, with ducks and swans and peacocks and a moat! It had a moat! We were able to explore inside the castle and after countless photos we ate lunch outside on the lawns looking towards the "Fortress". I included the panoramic shot my roommate Josephine took. After lunch, we braved the maze located near the castle's aviary and after a few dead-ends we made it to the center of the maze. From there you could basically yell directions to whoever you wanted, not sure if everyone was telling them the right things poor people. Then to exit we walked into an underground grotto which they made very disneyland-isque and included creepy British voice overs about mermaids and ghosts. All in all it was a great day. Not quite as great as last Thursday, my Birthday!
I'm lucky enough to have great roommates and friends abroad (in case anyone is worried) and I was called down, mid-getting ready for the birthday club, so that my neighbors and roommates could sing me happy birthday and present to me flowers, a cake, cupcakes, a banner, balloons and a hello kitty birthday badge! To the left is a picture of some of the things I mentioned and my roommate Joren (he's Belgian) screaming at my birthday cakes. Then my fellow Californians and I went to Picturehouse, a restaurant in Canterbury, where we had a very nice Canadian waiter and ate semi-American food. Following our dinner and adventure to find Chemistry Club, the club i chose to celebrate at, we met up with the roomies and neighbs for some dancing and drinking. To the left is a picture of me drinking a "Snakebite" which is cider, beer, ribena (black current syrup), and something else. As you can see my face has been painted, which they like to do here and i'm sporting headband breads which i did with my own hair! (I was very proud that i could get it to wrap around so far). Eventually, we headed home in a cab. Luckily, i was pre-warned by Matt and Laura that the cabbies could be mean and take you a long way to make you pay more, so i decided i would be nice so that he would also be nice! And he was! When we finally got home he took 2 pounds off our bill since it was my birthday =]. Definitely one of the best days I've had in England thus far, Yay for Birthdays! Once we were all safely home, we had birthday bedtime tea and then it was off to bed. So sad it's not my birthday anymore =[ but i hope everyone is looking forward to a Vegas trip when I get back! =]

Love from Canterbury,

People from left to right:
Top row: Random guy that's always at our neighbors, Toni (my Barcelona roommate!), Rosa (Californian), Jenny (roommate from China, she lives in a province known for Pandas!), Jennifer (best friend and Belgian of Joren), Joren (roommate from Belgium).
Bottom row: Most beautiful girl in the world, Josephine (Roommate from California, we're the same person!), Cathy (Californian), and Aurora (Californian).

Monday, September 26, 2011

School Functions!

Hello all,

     I'm on day like 25 in England and I'm happy to say that I finally made it to my school the University of Kent! After 2 packed days of orientation, and 1 day which not only included a museum tour but a walking and river tour as well, i'm in my single room writing this blog. Today was actually the 1st day of classes here at my new "Uni" as they call it. So i dragged myself out of bed at 9am, which i did not want to do, got lost for a good 10 minutes and then walked into class thoroughly but fashionably late. It hasn't been the most exciting day and I'd much rather talk about the last couple of weeks so i'll keep it brief. Class at 9am, meeting with my adviser (a strange french man), home, class again (but no one was there, very strange), home, attempt to pay my accommodation but got yelled out and an obviously sad about her life cashier, then home again. I managed to survive it though! Yay for me.
     As for the last two weeks, which I neglected to inform you guys about as it has been seriously chaotic, they were great! From the 12th to the 15th I lived out my days in Chelsea with Laura and Matt and of course Jumbles my first English friend. On one of those days I was lucky enough to attend the Thames Festival in London which was a lot of fun! To the left you can see what I had for dinner, a big ol' plate of Ethiopian food. It was to die for, the chicken was great but the veggie stuff was amazing. All in all a great meal. Halfway through it started to rain and everyone went in doors to hide which reminded me a lot of Jane Austen novel, they always seemed to be slipping in somewhere to avoid the rain. I should have read that as a sign. After my great meal and some shopping at booths (their craft work isn't as good as the states i must say) I took the tube for the very first time! It was surprisingly easy as they have signs telling you everywhere you're supposed to go. The following day I headed out to Piccadilly once again and ended up in Selfridges, a very good department store here in England. They were hosting the "Museum of Everything" so i took a tour of their gallery which consisted of contemporary paintings some of which were done by blind people. All of it was very interesting and also, i must say, a bit hard for me to understand lol. The particularly liked the one to the left. It was actually about 20 different pound pills that were drawn on and turned into art. I later saw a sign that pictures were illegal so thank god i didn't get caught! Then Laura and I had some great Moroccan food which was served to us by a very over-enthusiastic waiter (I felt like I was in the States again!) and were later joined by Matt. Then after some very yummy Watermelon Martini's which were successful in hiding all taste of alcohol we headed home.
     Then on the 15th, I headed off to Orientation in central London! Thankfully I was able to shove an entire duvet and sheet set, loaned to me by Laura and Matt Inc., into my suitcase so unlike the other unprepared tourist (SUCKAS) I had nice comfy sheets. While on orientation I did some very boring stuff (i.e. seminars, ice-breakers, money and school issues) and some very fun stuff (river tour, museum tours, theater). To the left is me grabbing a London Eye booth right out of the sky! This was during our river tour of Thames in which a very funny tour guide explained most of the famous London monuments right down to the stairs in which prisoners were walked down to be drowned. Also on the same day we toured the Tate Modern and saw some genuine Picasso's. Then later after an HOUR LONG walking tour (everyone was pissed) and a gross dinner at Waga Mama (avoid that place) we saw "The 39 Steps" a very British show in the west end! Then we headed home by subway, and the next 13 out of 20 of us were off to the University of Kent.
     Welcome Week in Britain is very different thing then the lame ones we're used to back home. There were a number of events for the "freshers" as they called them (not freshman as we were corrected multiple times) and all of them included drinking! My first night in Kent we headed out to a pub crawl, the second night we hung out with our new neighbors, and then 2 nights in a row we headed out to the on campus clubs. It's very odd for school functions to also have alcohol.
I think i'll continue this blog tomorrow =] but look forward to hearing about my:
Brand-Spanking new foreign roommates
The International Welcome Dinner
Trip to Leed's Castle (A REAL CASTLE)
Love from London or should I say Kent,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Portebello isn't just a Mushroom

Why Hello Non-Londonites,

I'm giving you breaks in between blogs cause I figured you wouldn't want to hear my day to day activities especially since some of them are pretty boring. The last couple of days accumulated make the perfect amount of information for you all =]. I want to however, start with a little story that took place in Matt and Laura's kitchen after Matt had cooked us an amazing Pasta dinner and we were eating Tiramisu that was to die for. Legitimately the best I've had and that's coming from someone who detests mocha flavored desserts (minus coffee ice cream). So i'll give you some background, my benefactors were writing down words and places for me to pronounce in "American" and one of those was "Grosvenor" (I'll send you a postcard if you correctly guess how to say that!). Grosvenor is the street name where the American Embassy is located here in London and Matt was giving me some information.

"If any of your stuff gets stolen then you go to the embassy on Grosvenor street in a taxi and they'll reverse the charges and help you"
"They'll reverse the charges!?"
"You could be chased by people or running away from the cops and they would help you"
"You just flash your passport and a soldier with a gun would stop them. The cops could argue but all they'll say is 'Sorry this is American property and you'll need to step back' and the cops can't do anything"
"You just show them your passport?"
"Yes just show them your passport and they'll say "Welcome Home" and let you in".

It was all a lot more touching when Matt was saying it but it really made you feel good to be an American. We really take care of our own and even when you're in a whole different country it's nice to know that you always have that safety net. I even passed the embassy on my way to Hyde Park today and sure enough there were our soldiers with their giant guns (meanwhile British police can't even carry one so whenever there's a crisis at least 12 of them show up). Not that I'm a gun supporter or anything lol. Which brings me to the events of this week.
Friday was especially brag worthy as I was taken to Harvey Nichols, a giant and very cool department store, for their Fall Fashion show! We were treated to some tasty models as well as Canapé and Champagne (I know I'm so sophisticated using french words). To the left is a picture of Laura and I standing by the runway with our drinks =]. At the end they gave us goodie bags or as her friend Lheana (not sure how she spells it lol) called it "swag bags". We then headed to a nice hotel bar for some drinks and finally 'Gaucho' and Argentinian restaurant which was really good!

The following day I attempted to wake up early in order to head out to Notting Hill for an outdoor market they have on Saturdays. I didn't end up leaving till about 1pm but it was still very happening by the time i got to "Portebello Road". The market was a mixture of food, art, antiques, and clothing and it was huge! It took me at least 2 hours to get to the end of it. After some exploring i ventured into Mcdonalds for the first time since setting foot in the UK. I was surprised to find that each table was decorated with a vase and a cheerful yellow flower. Then Laura and I watched "Jane Eyre" at the theater (or cinema as they say it) that is literally down the street from where they live. It was a very British evening as you can tell especially after our nighttime cuppa (that's British for tea). I should probably mention that Matt was off being very cool and sailing in a tournament! Yes people, he is a British sailor!

Anyway seeing as how this is getting a bit long I think I'll end it here and leave you guys wanting more hehe. Hope all is good in the states and rest assured that little Sammy is having a good ol' time in London.

Love from London,

Thursday, September 8, 2011

From Foam to Finish

Hello Blokes and Ladies (Not sure what they call women here, maybe lasses?)

Thought I'd give you a few words/phrases I've learned so far in the Land of Aristocrats:
  • Tactical Puke - Same concept as the American "Puke and Rally" it basically means you drink a ton and throw up so that you can continue to drink more.
  • Tube - subway (kinda knew that one)
  • Pulled - as in "pulled a girl" meaning to pick someone up
  • Uni - University (interesting to note is that a school that's called a College is usually more prestigious then the University)
  • Public School and Private School - actually mean the opposite which according to Matt has to do with the fact that kids were forced to attend their local school but people with money could send their children to other outside school making them open to the public and thus making them "public school".
  • Chips - fries
  • Crisps - chips
  • Geordie Shore - Jersey Shore for the Brits but not as good and with alot more nakedness
That's all i can think of at the moment but I'm learning something new everyday! In fact today I learned the thrilling secrets of 7 princesses who at one time lived in the Kensington Palace (which is where Princess Diana famously spent her days). Since the Palace is being redone, they've opened a kind of Disneyland haunted Mansion-ey filled light exhibition where you have to interact and you find out clues about past princesses lives. It was quite cool and pretty interesting. A bit of a kid's thing at the moment but since I'm kinda a sucker for things like that, I enjoyed it. It was interesting to know about the "sorted affairs" of the Royals and sad to realize that a lot of them were forced into marriages or kept prisoners in their own houses/lives. After our sad/creepy adventure into the Palace we stopped for afternoon tea at the Palace's Orangery which according to Wikipedia is a common facet of many estates (click link if you're curious). After an amazing scone in which Laura and I slathered on clotted cream and jam, like 4 finger sandwiches, and a pot of tea each, we forced ourselves to walk to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in hopes of working some of it off. That river looking thing is the fountain, it's supposed to be soft and fluid and made of the best stuff just like our favorite Princess. Once done admiring the memorial and walking back through Hyde Park, Laura and I got on a bus and headed home for some dinner. All in all a great day!

Speaking of great days I forgot about the other adventures I had out here! I think a quick recap is in order =]. In the last blog I think I mentioned that I explored the V&A Museum (isn't it pretty!) which is located very near Matt and Laura's flat. The museum was really good! It was fun, informative, interactive, and just really well done. There was a ton of cool exhibits but i chose the British one since I'm in the UK. It covered mostly the lives of Royals and highly influential people of London. My favorite things were the models of 1500 through 1700 dress. As you can see by the picture on the left these people were made for birthing...hehe. I included like the only picture of myself which was taken in the reflection of an antique Rococo Mirror.

Yesterday, I headed out to Camden which is said to be the late Amy Winehouse's town. According to the local Brit Matt, she would "get trashed in a pub there and just put on a concert for the people there". I adopted the "when in Rome" saying and went into a pub around 5 for lunch. I ordered the Indian food special which came with its own drink. Not really knowing which to choose i ordered a Guinness which was one of the worst mistakes of my life. From foam to finish, Guinness is strong and intense and halfway through I was already light-headed, thank god for Naan! After lunch i continued to tour Camden High Street which is a very cool, vintagey, street market kinda place. Finally I headed to King's Cross station, after an obviously well excercised salesman informed me it was about a 10 minutes walk away. 30 minutes later, I find a map indicating it's maybe 10 minutes away! Being a strong-willed person, i tough it out and finally make it to the station where unfortunately for me I was unable to get to Platform 9 (in order to see Platform 9 3/4) without a ticket. So i head home with Laura and have delicious pasta meal made by my Landlord Matt. Below (sorry that its all weirdly placed the damn pictures wont listen to me) is some street art I found in Camden. These two are found on the back of food stalls. This was honestly the first piece of street art I've seen since being here. Though Britain has a great history and buildings are beautiful, historical value laws (not sure if thats what they call it cause Laura's asleep) make it hard to install new pieces of history like buildings and I'm sure Art. Glad to see that doesn't stop everyone! Well that's all for today, talk to you all soon =].

Love from London,

Monday, September 5, 2011

From Saatchi to Sloane Square

Cheerio Lads!

I'm on Day 6 over here and while it is only 4:45 in America, it's about 12:45 am in London. It seems I'm finally over my jetlag and on to my normal pattern of going to bed around 4am (oh Summer, I'll miss you). After talking on the phone to all my internationals, or domestics I guess since I'm the international to you guys, I've settled in to watch my new favorite British show Hotel Babylon. Unfortunately my American shows are a bit delayed here so I'm missing out on Jersey Shore in Rome much to my dismay (is the Sitch alive!? Don't tell me.)! The last two days I was on my own in this here fair city, so I took some time to be a bit touristy and went into to some museums. So far the ones in Chelsea (where I'm staying) are mostly free, which is nice since I love shopping at gift shops hehe! First however, I attempted to find 165 Eaton Place. A house from one of my favorite old British shows Upstairs, Downstairs, a period piece from the 70s about the servants in a Aristocratic English home (while watching i was very into cleaning, which i assumed my roommates liked). Much to my dismay 165 does not exist only 65 Eaton place does and they painted on the 1 for the show. I managed to carry on with my day though. To the left is a picture of my view from the double-Decker Omnibus, I sat at the top to see better but it was raining.

My first tour was at the Saatchi Gallery which I happened to pass on my way back from Sloane Square, where I had ventured into Peter Jones, a department store which had exclusive rights to the 2012 Olympic merchandise! The Gallery was mainly modern art from around the world and very interesting. I paid a pound for an exhibition guide which thankfully told me all about the peices since Modern Art, though I love it, leaves me stumped. I was glad to find many pieces dealing with religion and most of them were intriguing and pretty at the same time. My favorite was of a God-like figure that seemed to be transforming. The picture doesn't really do it justice but it was seriously cool. After walking through all the exhibits I headed home for some R&R and then had dinner at a sushi place nearby. Unbeknowest to me it was quite expensive but since i realized half-way through i decided to say "eff it" and ordered some dessert lol. The waiter was a nice Australian who had been here for 7 months and was apparently "Eating his way through Europe". He recommended a Brazilian nut macaroon dessert with Marscapone and lemon die for.
Unfortunately I haven't loaded the pictures from my trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum so maybe I'll save that for another day =]. Unfortunately for you alls I was kicked out of the British Gallery right before I could try on the Rococo style hoop skirt! I'll try and go back if i have the time hehe. Till then I will leave you with a picture of the Queen.
Love from London,

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Love from London

Hello all,

So I seem to have succumbed to intense Jet lag on the 4th day of me being here. This may be due to the fact that the 1st day Matt and Laura (my grateful hosts, courtesy of Elizabeth Guillen) took me around to 4 different pubs/bars. According to Matt I was a fairly decent drinker for an American and a woman, but i think he was just being nice considering I was in bed the entire next day due to a hangover.

This was the last bar. As you can see, I ended strong. All in all it was a very fulfilling day and though you may think I'm trying to justify my drinking in actuality Britain has a massive drinking culture. To drink is to be British! Pubs are filled to the brim with people when work is done and dinner time rolls around. Interestingly people are allowed to drink on the streets so as you walk by people will be leaning against walls talking while cradling a large beer! It's crazy, those poor Brits must be shocked when they come to the states and they can't even have a beer on their front porch. The 2nd picture to the left is what Matt informed me "you guys getting a bit LA". I obviously do not recall why i thought throwing gang signs was a good idea but it happened. Not my proudest moment.

Following this very exciting venture into the "pub-scene" well the day after since as I mentioned above I was down and out the whole next day Laura and I toured a bit of main London. The shopping is ridiculous and just so you guys know London is not hurting right now. It was the middle of the afternoon and there were just massive amounts of people shopping. It was however a light day according to Laura. We continued to walk places such as Piccadilly Circus, Carnaby Street, Oxford Street, and Soho. I was majorly overwhelmed and only bought one shirt! I know, I even surprised myself. The Fashion here is very adult, very Fall (dark colors) and veryyyyyyy expensive. But also Amazing! I did my best to stick to budget and then we met up with Matt for Dinner at Jaime Oliver's which is supposed to incite jealousy in all of you (I didn't know who he was, which seemed to shock Laura but maybe you guys do?). Through the taxi cab window on our way home I saw Buckingham Palace and all the places we find on postcards back home. Then we had tea and chocolate and attempted to sleep.

I however could not until about 4am, which made it hard to get out of bed today but just seeing all the pretty things outside our doorstep made it much easier. The picture to the right is my favorite house on the way up Kings Road, which is right around the corner from where I'm staying =]. Everything is very quaint, and made of brick and they all have flower beds or Gardens. Everything looks nice and old because they don't tear down here! They just refurbish I guess lol. So you'll see old looking houses with shop fronts, and basements formerly used for the "staff" (i.e. maids and butlers) are converted into apartments. It's all very cool and whimsical and i wish I could share it with everyone.

I think that's all because I'm starting to fall asleep and get hungry.

Love from London,