Friday, March 27, 2015

My Days as a Tour Guide

This past week and a half has literally been mad.  I have been going from here to there to everywhere in London.  It’s crazy how much of London I actually haven’t seen yet, and I’ve already been here for about three months.  Ever since getting back from Madrid, I have been working on homework or hanging out with my many visitors!  My friend Kenzie came from her study abroad program in Scarborough as well as my friend Kayla from good ol Wisconsin.  Kenzie came on Thursday and Kayla arrived on Saturday, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t stopped since they arrived.  Even though I feel like I’m going crazy as the days go by, it’s SO nice having my best friends in London town with me.  Here is what I’ve been showing them, what I’ve been exploring for the first time, and some fun memories the past week has brought.
Before my friends came, I decided to do a little bit of exploring by myself.  A few of my friends from my program went out for sushi, and it was delicious!  I hadn’t had sushi since being home, so it was a great treat.  The first day Kenzie was in town, I unfortunately was studying and doing school work.  I went to my favorite local coffee shop and got caught up on some reading!  After, I happened to walk by the local Anthropologie.  Bad decision.  I ended up trying on dresses I didn’t need and thankfully walked out without breaking the bank.  The rest of the day Kenzie and I treated ourselves to macarons from a bakery nearby, and we celebrated National Macaron Day the right way.  Why it’s not a universal holiday is a mystery to me. 

            On Saturday, Kayla arrived!  I brought the girls to one of the most well known markets I had yet to go to:  Borough.  For the past month or so I kept on seeing these donuts from that market, and I finally had the chance to sink my teeth into that delicious item.  Thank you Bake Well.  Thank you.  In between Kayla geeking out over all of the sights in London, we walked around the market, bought German sausages, visited Covent Garden, and just had fun.  Having the chance to show my friends around my favorite city, which happens to be my home, was one of the best feelings in the world.  I love having favorite markets, favorite restaurants, and favorite spots.

              Sunday was such a fun day.  I visited not one, not two, but three markets I had never been to.  We headed off to Shoreditch, which is basically like the hipster central of London.  There is street art everywhere, smells of authentic and exotic food, and A LOT of people.  First we started off at Brick Lane Market where we walked around and finally caved and bought food.  I had freshly made falafel with a salad, and it was delicious.  The next market on the list was a local flower market.  It was insane.  There were men yelling, “two for a fiver,” and I could barely walk through the street.  I ended up buying the most beautiful yellow and pink tulips, and I may or may not have bought them to match my jacket of the day.  The rest of the day was spent walking aimlessly around Spittafields Market, but by that time we were all so tired.  We ended the night with a feast of cookies, brownies, donuts, ice cream, flap jacks, and the quality movie of Passport to Paris. 

            Just when I thought the days couldn’t get busier, Monday arrived.  We took the tube to Westminster, and the busy day began there.  Walking up from the tube station, Big Ben awaited us, and I still took a ton of pictures even though I’ve seen it plenty of times before.  I’m just trying to soak it all in before I have to go back home.  After that we walked along the Thames, passed the London Eye, and found ourselves in need of food.  I took Kayla and Kenzie to my favorite pizza place in the city, and it was devoured.  After lunch we walked around the National Gallery where I saw the origin of the flower crown movement and a painting of Kirk from Gilmore Girls.  The rest of the night consisted of attending a service at Westminster Abbey and finally going into the London Eye.  If you ever go to London, you have to go up in the London Eye.  It was well worth the wait and going up at night is so much better than during the day.  Even though my feet felt like they were going to fall off at the end of the day, it was worth it.  Also, day by day I’m pretty sure I’m finding my calling as a tour guide in London.

            Tuesday was spent in class and planning Paris.  The girls occupied themselves by going to the Victoria and Albert Museum, but thankfully I was able to meet them later on in the day.  The day ended by eating in Chinatown, and enjoying time with my friends. On Wednesday, the day began at Buckingham Palace.  I almost froze to death, but it’s all worth it to see a band play.  Right?  It was actually more fun watching the videos I took after, but that’s beside the point.  The real fun part about Wednesday was nonchalantly seeing the queen.  THAT’S RIGHT.  I SAW THE QUEEN.  She drove by in a carriage, and now my bucket list for London in complete.  After freaking out, I went to Harrods and found the best place on earth: shoe heaven.  Yes, that’s a thing.  Although it would be more of a heaven if it was a bunch of designer shoes that were free.  The rest of the day consisted of walking around Hyde Park, shopping in Soho, and packing for Paris!   

            This past week has been insane, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.  It has been so much fun showing my friends around the city and having an excuse to visit all of my favorite spots over again.  I love having people around who understand my sarcasm, and respond with even more sarcastic comments.  Sharing my twin bed, living in cramped quarters, and dealing with a mess of a room has created some of the best memories, and I can’t imagine having a more wonderful time.  This weekend I’m heading to Paris, and I seriously can’t wait!  After visiting this past summer, it will be so much fun to spend more time and enjoy the city of lights even more.  My next post will be filled with pictures of croissants, macarons, escargot, and sights of Paris so stay tuned!  Au revoir! 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Let's Just Walk.

I feel like my feet are literally going to fall off.  I remember first getting to London and walking everywhere just because I could.  I still walk everywhere, but once I hit the main tourist spots in the beginning, I never really went back.  However, this week my friend Hannah was in London.  She had a free day so I took her everywhere!  In total we walked over ten miles... Crazy right?!  I also happened to visit Madrid this weekend!  I walked over twenty-two miles and didn't take one form of public transit (aside from getting to and from the airport).  Needless to say I am exhausted, and I'm pretty sure I lost like ten pounds.

The first night I saw Hannah I took her to Nandos!  Nandos is a Portuguese chicken restaurant that is delicious.  It's a chain across the UK, but it is also expanding it's horizons in Chicago this Summer!  I WILL be visiting.  The next day, I took Hannah and my new friend Nora everywhere I could think of in London.  Buckingham Palace, Camden Market, Notting Hill, Primrose Hill, Harrods, Soho, and the Shard are just a few places we visited on that busy Tuesday!  I got to pretend to be a tour guide and show them my favorite spots.  It was a lot of fun to say, "Oh, and this place has the best view compared to there," and what not.  I have favorite spots.  Sorry, I'm just freaking out a little.

This past Thursday I took off for Madrid, Spain!  I'm still not over the fact that I've been traveling to different countries just for weekend trips.  I absolutely love the location of London!  I left around 2:30pm and arrived around 7pm.  If you can't tell from the pictures, I'm a little obsessed with Kate Spade.  I went with a few of my friends and thankfully one of them knew Spanish!  The first night was spent getting lost trying to find our airbnb, eating tapas, and relaxing.  All in all, it was a great first day in Madrid!

The second day in Madrid is where all of the walking comes into play.  The day began with a nice stroll through Retiro Park.  I got to admire the beautiful buildings, take a deep breath of fresh air, and enjoy the sun.  There is a building called the Crystal Palace in the park that I just had to go to!  The whole place is made of glass, and it was just so gorgeous!  I also got to eat churros con chocolate and paella today!  Both were so so good.  The chocolate came in this huge cup, and the churros just melted in my mouth.  As for the paella...  It was devoured.  My friends and I waited an hour and a half just to eat the paella at this restaurant called Alhombre.  It was well worth the wait, and I'm pretty sure our waitress gave us a whole baguette while we were waiting!  In between the eating, we saw pretty much every famous landmark, explored little alleys, and of course took a siesta.  We couldn't miss an opportunity to partake in a cultural activity.

Saturday I walked more than Friday; I think in total it was about 10.7 miles.  All of the walking was so worth it though because I not only got a good workout, but I also got to see the city too!  On Saturday my friends and I decided to go look at more big monuments in Madrid, then we decided to go to the zoo.  We got calamari sandwiches (which were quite interesting), enjoyed walking around a market, saw famous landmarks, and then started walking in a really really big park.  After walking almost seven miles, we looked up how close the zoo was.  Only about an hour walk or so... AN HOUR.  That being said, we pulled out plan B.  We ended up renting a little boat in Retiro Park and rowed it for awhile.  It was so much fun, and that was probably the most fun I had all weekend!  Saturday was a busy one, but it exceeded expectations and made one tired Janae.

I loved this past week.  Whether I was exploring London a little more with a good friend or walking through unknown streets in Madrid, it was a week I will remember for years to come.  I love getting to travel and see the world, but it really just makes me grateful for what I have in America.  I'm so thankful for my family, my friends back home, and simply the life I live in Wisconsin.  Every comment, letter, message, and call I receive just makes my day, and truly makes me wish everyone could have this experience.  So thank you all so much for all of the love because I wouldn't be here without your support.  These next couple weeks start one crazy month, but I've been trying to finish up all of my school work before I start seeing people from home.  Yes.  I am in school still.  I'm so excited to share more stories and adventures that will be coming shortly, so stay tuned!