Monday, August 3, 2015

A Nice Surprise

            After a stressful week of finishing papers and projects I was lucky to end the hectic week with a weekend visit by my boyfriend, James. This was a very last minute decision and he only booked his flight a week before he came. I was so excited to see him! I’ve missed him so much! James has never been to London before so I took him to the touristy places and around where I live in South Kensington. I took him to my favorite crepe place in South Kensington where we had delicious crepes. We then went to Big Ben and walked around the area and then to Buckingham Palace. James was very confused by the traffic and cautious about which direction to look when crossing the street.

That night we got dinner with one of James’s close friend’s and his girlfriend who happened to be in London at the same time. We had dinner at this restaurant that I’ve heard nothing but great reviews about called, Bumpkin. James told me he wanted traditional British food and this was the perfect place. It’s a British Brassier so it couldn’t get more British. James got the fish and chips and I got the duck. It was a delicious meal and I definitely want to go back for brunch before I leave London. That night we went to my favorite night club, Libertine, and danced the night away. They play such great music! James’s younger brother, Alex, previously studied abroad in London this past year and told James Libertine was the place to go. Luckily it lived up to the hype and James has a blast!
The following morning we had a lazy start and then I took James to a local Italian market/restaurant around the corner from my flat. All the food is imported from Italy and everyone who works there speaks Italian. The food is absolutely incredible! We were starving and everything looked so good that we had to try a little of everything. We got spaghetti carbonara, tomato, cucumber, feta salad, a tomato and mozzarella panini, and a meat and cheese board. Everything was amazing! James couldn’t stop raving about the food.

James left later that afternoon and headed back to New York City for work on Monday. It was such a quick trip but I’m so glad he came. Only 3 more weekends till he’s back and then we’re going to Mykonos with friends for a week. I can hardly wait!

The City That Stuns | Prague [5]

With my time in Prague coming to an end, I've been doing my best to explore every inch of this city. This past weekend I had the pleasure of going to a few great museums and seeing work by various Czech artists in one place. The museum pictured below was my favorite. There were five floors of art installations, from paintings to sculpture, to films. I spent a few hours wandering from floor to floor, looking at all the artwork in a very relaxed environment.

I saw so many different pieces, but my favorites are the artworks pictured below:

I also took another trip to the Prague Castle this past week. A few friends and I decided to take the hidden back road up to the palace complex. It is very scenic and cuts through woods and one huge tunnel. Taking this route instead of walking through hoards of tourists was more special. I have been to the castle numerous times since being in Prague, but this trip was definitely something different. The sky was so bright and the castle looked absolutely stunning with the backdrop. 

The number one highlight of my week was a trip to Cesky Krumlov. Cesky is a small city about three hours outside of Prague. This town is unlike any I have ever been to before. Quaint does not even begin to describe it. We stayed in a cozy cottage-like hostel. The ceilings hung low and the environment was so peaceful and whimsical. 

We spent the weekend wandering the tiny town, sitting by the river and eating vegetarian meals. If you felt you were lost, all you had to do was walk a little further to see something familiar. It was an incredible town and while I was only there for 24 hours, I will remember my time there with the utmost appreciation. Never before in my life have I felt so safe, calm, and at peace than I did in Cesky.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Living my Childhood Dream

     I know I said I was going to keep writing about Italy since I plan on laying low for the rest of the summer, but Maryland is low-key pretty cool, so I thought I'd dedicate one post to my home state. This week has been extremely relaxing for me, since I have been spending time at our vacation home in Ocean City, Maryland. The fact that I can get away with being outside and on the water without talking to anybody for a whole day is a nice break from the real world. Maryland is one of those states that everyone's heard of but no one pays attention to, and that's okay with me because it's a nice place to fall back on every time I get tired of the city.
     Even though our house is in Ocean City, my favorite place to visit while I'm here has always been Asateague Island. Compared to Ocean City, Asateague is a relatively quiet beach that people don't usually frequent. The sand feels more natural because it hasn't been pumped, the sand dunes aren't filled with litter and, most importantly, the wildlife is all over (and, no, wildlife doesn't mean the eclectic individuals you can find on the Ocean City Boardwalk).
     Asateague is known for their beautiful population of 150 wild horses that surround the beaches and marshlands of the island. Since Asateague is only allowed to have a population of 150 horses at a time, a pony swim is held once a year to move the extra ponies from the Virginia side of Asateague to the nearby island, Chincoteague Island. This beautiful tradition is one thing that Virginia is known for, and it has even caught the eye of authors and movie producers. If you're interested, you should check out the film Misty of Chincoteague (based on the book), a childhood favorite of mine that captures the tradition of the pony swim.
     On Asateague Island, the horses are rounded up by the Saltwater Cowboys, who are in charge of rounding up the horses and taking them across the Asateague Channel by horseback. The Saltwater Cowboys are usually local firemen that have been part of the tradition most of their lives. The swim lasts about three minutes, and it happens during a "slack calm" in the tide so that the young ones are safe to swim. Hundreds of horses make the swim each year, and once they arrive to Chincoteague, they are herded into a massive pen, checked out by vets, fed and kept until the next morning, where the foals and yearlings will be auctioned off to new homes. The rest of the ponies are hearded back across the water the next day after the auction. This tradition has been happening each year since 1925, so the swim is rich in culture and deeply loved by the residents of Chincoteague Island.
     Since crowds wait for hours to watch the mere three minute pony swim, my parents decided to wait until my sister and I were older to finally take us. My sister couldn't make it to the beach this year because of her summer internship, so we all decided to wait until next year to wake up at 4 am to catch the swim. We did, however, go to the Annual Fireman's Carnival that happens the night of the pony swim. My dad used to go every year when he was younger, so he was very excited to take my mom and me. The carnival was straight from the 1950s. To put things in perspective, there was a massive bingo tent where bingo was still played on individual wooden blocks. This added to the charm of the small carnival and made playing the old fashioned games even more fun. The ring toss, for example, was a bunch of glass bottles lined up in a large tent, and you were given a large bucket of rings to throw. Around 15 people were playing at once, and the guys running the game had to walk through the space with giant brooms to sweep the rings off the floor and back into the buckets. Rings were flying everywhere, and I may or may not have hit one of the workers in the face a few times.
     While we had a great time playing the games and getting to know the locals (I swear we were the only people there from out of town), the best part of the carnival was the homemade food. As you may know, Maryland is most famous for our seafood, especially for our Maryland blue crab and Old Bay crab spice. Needless to say, the crab cakes were incredible, and super fresh. My dad's favorite is the Chincoteague Oyster Fritter Sandwich, which the island has been making ever since he can remember. The sandwich is made by taking a handful of Chincoteague oysters, pouring fritter batter over them and sicking the massive fritter in the fryer. They come out extremely hot and gooey. My dad was happy to say it was the same exact sandwich he used to enjoy as a kid 40 years ago. Another fun food we tried were the Pony Fries, another staple at the carnival. We found out about these from a mother telling us her son was back there cutting the potatoes for the delicious fries. Every food item at the carnival was homemade, including the caramel corn where you could watch them pour the hot caramel over the popcorn.
     My favorite part of the whole experience, though, was going to watch the horses in their pen nearby the carnival. Seeing the herds of horses was beautiful. I was especially impressed with all of the foals that made the swim over. There was rumored to be a newborn born the day before the swim that made it across with is mother.
     Overall, we had an amazing time at the carnival, and we plan on doing the whole day next year, including the swim. I told my parents they can''t take me to the auction, though, because I'll leave with a foal. I'm glad I finally got a chance to go to the carnival after 21 years of waiting. I hope I get to go for many more years after this! Now I'm off to go eat some more crabs :)

Making friends with a wild pony on Asateague Island the day before the swim. 

Entrance to the carnival. "In Memory of Surfer Dude" refers to the stallion that passed away this year. The town is currently in a state of mourning because this is the last year you can purchase one of Surfer Dude's foals. RIP Surfer Dude. 

Cowboy boots on sale at the carnival's riding store. This made me wish I still had my horse!!

The infamous oyster fritter sandwich. Crazy good. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Art Scene: London

Week one in London has been greater than I ever expected. Coming from Dublin, London is a complete change of pace that is definitely more my speed. My mission upon coming here was to visit museums, find the best shops, and of course be a complete tourist. For this week I must talk about the amazing art that I have found this far.

One | V&A Museum
The Victoria & Albert Museum was of course on my list of to-do's. While the whole museum was great, and I already have plans to go back, there was an open exhibit called What is Luxury? that I found amazing. It brings up a cool point that luxury is different for every person. While for me its handbags and shoes, for some its a well crafted piece of furniture, which will bring me to my next favorite exhibit.

Two | Alexander McQueen Exhibit
Amongst most fashionistas, this exhibit was probably my favorite. I won't go into details on my love for McQueen and how I think he is, or unfortunately was, one of the world's most talented and creative designers, I'll just talk about how well designed this exhibit was. At first, it was as ordinary as other fashion exhibits I have seen, but as I moved through the different galleries I was actually speechless in viewing some of his pieces. If it wasn't for the crazy crowd of tourists inside, I would have probably stayed for hours. Also, I got yelled at for taking photos, so the photo below is literally the most boring part of the gallery, so the rest will be up to your imaginations.

Three | Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel
The most amazing street art. Literally, crazy. This underground tunnel is a designated and encouraged spot for street artists to use as a canvas, which we were told is a common thing in certain areas of the city. My new goal is to find more places like this, and to venture away from the museums with crazy tourists (like myself). Definitely a must see for anyone who travels to London!

The art scene here is like no other and I might have to designate another blog post to talk about it so stay tuned!!

My Date With Kait

This is Kaitlyn Smith. She is my designated Thursday travel buddy since we both do not have Thursday classes. Today, we decided to stay local and go on a little adventure in London. Our plan was to wander around a few major neighborhoods and get a little lost. 

First stop: Muriel's Kitchen 

Muriel's Kitchen is this cute little cafe in South Kensington. Here, I had a traditional English breakfast and she had the blueberry pancakes. Both dishes were pretty amazing. Muriel's has a pretty good mix of cute and hardy. It kind of reminds me of a restaurant I would go to back home in the South.

Second Stop: The V&A Museum

Our original plan was to go the Alexander McQueen Savage Exhibition.  Unfortunately, all of the tickets were sold out. Since that was a bust, we decided to move on to our next destination. 

Third Stop: Camden Town

In Camden, Kaitlyn and I stumbled across this huge flee market. It was like a maze of tacky clothing, souvenir shops, and street food. It was awesome. We did say in the beginning that we wanted to get a little lost. Well, in this market, we got very lost. It took us about two hours to make it through the entire thing. 

Fourth Stop: Leicester 

Originally, Kaitlyn and I were going to go to Piccadilly, but then I saw a sign in the subway that said London Film Museum. I had to go see that. We ended up taking the Leicester stop and wondered around the square. Out of all the places we visited, this was my favorite. We got to see Chinatown, Covent Garden Market, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. Everything was so beautiful. We got so distracted that I totally forgot about the London Film Museum. 

Fifth Stop: Home 

I feel like I just walked back to The States. My feet are killing me. But, to say the least, today was an amazing day. I cannot wait to go on more Thursday adventures. Next time, it will be out of London. 

From the East to the West

Today was the most eventful day I've had in London yet. It felt like one of those jam-packed days I had in Paris! My roommate Arin was in London for the weekend, so we met up and spent the entire day out. We explored West, Central and East London all in one day.

Our meeting point was at Core Collective, which is a workout studio in South Kensington. There, I ordered a really healthy smoothie and then we headed to the bus stop where I coincidentally ran into one of my sorority sisters and a girl that used to be in my dance class. Our bus then took us to the Victoria & Albert Museum where we happened to run into another group of Drexel students. Several of them were also Design & Merchandising majors and one of them was actually my group partner for one of my classes back at home. At the museum we visited the Shoes, Pleasure and Pain exhibition, which showcased an evolution of women's shoes throughout history. There, I got to see one of my favorite shoes of all time, which were a pair of black 3D printed wedges. The wedges had an intricate geometric frame and inside the frame laid a pair of nude heels. 

Shoreditch was where we decided to have brunch and there we had Peruvian tapas at a restaurant called Andina. The interior design was really artsy and the food was absolutely delicious. I ordered two heirloom tomato salads, one with passion fruit mash and another with sweet peas, apple crisps and sweet mashed potatoes. After that we walked through Block Park, which was a street filled with unique pop up shops and pop up restaurants. We then took the tube to Ball Park, where we went shopping at the humongous Westfield Mall. There I got to shop at Pull & Bear and Fatface for the very first time. These were two very cool stores with rustic interior designs. I actually ended up buying a crop top from Pull & Bear for only $10. We completely forgot that London stores closed earlier than American ones, so we got kicked out of the mall at 6pm, since it was a Sunday.

From there we went to one of Arin's friend's flat in Stratford, which was in a beautiful building with colorful tiles on the outside. The inside came completely furnished and it was new and modern. They even had a balcony overlooking the river. Her friend is actually Australian, so we ended up meeting a group of her fellow Australian roommates and friends. They were so nice and made us a home-cooked meal of arugula salad with grilled chicken. After dinner they took us up to the twelfth floor rooftop where we saw a gorgeous night view of the city lights and skyline. From there we were even able to see the Olympic Park.

This morning I left the house at 10:30am and I didn't end up getting home until 10:30pm. I did so much walking, but it was so worth it. Oh, and did I forget to mention that it was also a rainy day? We definitely made the most out of this dreary day!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Au revoir Paris, Hello London

After a quick 4 weeks it finally came time to pack up all of our stuff and head to London! Although it was so sad to leave Paris, I was so excited to get to London.  However, it felt like we would never make it there since we came about 6 minutes away from missing our train.  Leaving Paris not knowing when the next time ill see it again made me very sad.  My 4 weeks there went by so fast,  I couldn't believe that leaving Paris meant that we were halfway done our time here in Europe.  However, I tried not to get emotional and look at the positive side.  Knowing I have a whole new country ahead of me got me super excited.

As we got to London, I immediately fell in love.  That fact that everyone spoke English was amazing for me since I had such a hard time communicating with people while in Paris.  The neighborhood we live in was like a dream, truly a once in a life time experience to be living in South Kensington. Although when we arrived it was rainy and cold, I still was overjoyed to be in London.  The next few days were pretty cold.  Definitely not what I was expecting and neither what I was prepared for.  We were told that the day we arrived was the first rain shower London had seen in about a month.  However, that did not stop us. On the first day we had a bus tour around London and tickets for the Parliament.  

That night we explored Piccadilly, it reminded me of a tiny Times Square.  The area was so fun and hip.  A few days later we had returned to Piccadilly to see a show, 39 Steps.  I can already tell I'm definitely going to be spending a lot of time there.  

Sunday happened to be another rainy day so it was hard to explore the city.  Instead we spent some time in Harrods and ended at The Tea Room.  Definitely a very nice experience! There were so many flavors to chose from, after a couple of minutes going back and forth I finally chose the English Rose. I sure made the right choice.  When I opened the lid to my teapot I found little roses floating around. Although i'm not a huge fan of tea, my taste was completely changed.  I would love to try as many tea rooms as I can while in London. 

Our first week here is almost coming to an end and I can't believe how fast it has gone by!  This weekend I will be going to Dublin.  I am so excited to see a new country, new cultures and add new experiences to my travels!