Monday, August 29, 2011

View From My Window

This is the last time I’ll be gazing out of my Metrogate window. After traveling around the world this summer, seeing the most incredible sites--- I think this will always be my favorite view. I woke up to it for five straight weeks, the sun slowly creeping in and London’s cool air entering our little home. It’s been such a great experience being here and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Pictures don’t do it justice, so I encourage everyone to either travel or study abroad. It will truly change your outlook of life. Safe travels!

3-7 Queens Gate Terrace

Xo London

Friday, August 26, 2011

Money, Markets, and Men

London is an expensive city to visit. There is quite possibly no way around completely loosing your soul to its charm. Wither you fancy high-end designers, high street fashion, or the eclectic treasures of the markets, there is always something to be bought. I took a trend forecasting class as a part of my studies here. Our professor obviously encouraged us to explore all avenues of retail, which of course all D&M’s welcomed with open arms!

She introduced us to a couple of unique stores. Dover Street Market, frequented by London’s most chic and posh, was quite possibly my favorite. The store is run by Comme des Garcons designer Rei Kawakubo and her husband Adrian Joffe. The concept behind the store is not market inspired really at all. It is five floors of pure fashion bliss. The way in which the store is arranged pays each individual piece the proper recognition it deserves. This shop was part store, part art. The displays were quirky and totally intriguing. Featuring designers such as Givenchy and Galliano, this store is far from London’s well know high street fashion. In transit from floor to floor, shoppers are encouraged to use the staircase or ride the lift. Both are completely void of visual stimulation a complete contrast from the intense content. I really loved this idea of washing the customer clean as they climbed the basic staircase. Walking into each room was like waiting for Christmas morning. By the time I had reached the top floor I was so disappointed that there was no more to see. But my frustrations were met with a lazy café setting, encouraging me to buy a souvenir! The best part about this particular visit is that now when I come back to London, whenever that may be, I can stop by the store and see a totally different rendition.

We also visited SHOP, a store created by photographer Nick Knight. This store features props and artwork from various photo shoots, independent projects, and films. We were introduced to Knight’s brainchild by two of his employees. They described how SHOP was Knight’s dream ever since he started to create. It is an environment dedicated to creativity. Exclusive visitors and buyers can come explore and take a peek into some of the quirkiest artists’ collections and even have the chance to own a portion.

Mansion Martin Margiela was also on our list of retailers introduced to us by Basia--- her favorite designer. The fascination not only lies in his modern yet timeless designs, but in the mystery behind the designer. Margiela has never been photographed therefore has managed to remain faceless. This whole façade is his trademark for the brand. There is a loyalty from the fashion community to keep the mystique behind the man. The store is completely ahead of its time in all the right ways. There was a feel of mystery to each piece. It’s really interesting to know that his success has never been about self-promotion instead purely about his designs, his influence (which is huge), and his art. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

See you Later, London!

It's so sad, were finally leaving London and the time between London and home is getting closer.  I'm just thinking 'what do I still want to do!!'  I really wanted to go back to some of my favorite places.  Charity and vintage shops are so exhilarating to me.  I love shopping but even more, I love the hunt for that unique item (and being cheap also helps).  Oxfam has locations just about everywhere through London and they sell a mixture of second hand and vintage items.  The closest one is right around the block from our housing, so perfect!  You may not find a treasure every time but if you are determined, it's easy to stop by in passing.   Right across the street is another charity shop, Fara.  I've personally found my better items from here at great prices including brands such as Chloe, Dolce and Gabbana, and Prada.  Their men's selection is also quite decent.  The secret to these shops is to go to ones located in affluent areas such a Kensington and Chelsea because the people donating the clothing will most likely be more brand conscious keep things in better condition.

Being located so close to Hyde Park, it would be a waste to not enjoy it to the fullest!  We had already biked through the park a few times on the Barclays bikes available at kiosks throughout London so the paddle boats were next!  Four of us ventured off on a beautiful day.  I think it is better to have more than two people in the boat in case you get tired.  It was quite relaxing.

We also went to Borough Street Market during the week which has become one of my top ten places to go to in London!  I had almost wished I had gone earlier although I know that would mean I probably would have over eaten much more.  There was fresh produce, meats and cheeses, olive oil galore and tons pre-made goodies. 

Borough Street Market

Borough Street Market
I got a really yummy quiche lorraine tart and acai smoothie, and cheesecake to bring home.  If you want a new place to do your grocery shopping you can definitely pick up a few meals here!

London has been the most amazing experience.  When I go through my pictures, I'm amazed off all I have done in ten weeks.  I have learned so much about other cultures which I feel has given me a greater global perspective and will only enhance my skills in whatever career I take on.  I'm really encouraged now to look beyond the New York area for jobs after graduation and give everywhere and everything  a chance.

Thank you London!
 xoxo  Emily!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


My stay here in London has been amazing thus far. Calling South Kensington home for this short while has made me feel a whirlwind of emotions. I have gone from feeling completely foreign in an area that I quite possibly may never have the chance to call home again, to feeling like I can conquer it all.

The shops that line the streets on the way to the Foundation House are decorated with some of London’s finest. They sit and drink their tea and coffee, with the newspaper spread in front of their faces. I like to imagine the lives they might lead. A woman’s lips painted red and shades big enough to consume her entire face--- Such an elegance that lines the neighborhood’s streets. The aroma of sweet pastries and pretty little balconies overseeing the people passing by. On the corner a delicious Italian restaurant stands, one that was fancied by the late Princess Diana herself. This area is incredibly vast in its offerings. We walk amongst the elites, at times without knowing. To have this experience is something I could have only dreamt of.

The people here are much different from those in Dublin, where I previously studied, a city that I was easily adapted into. They are much like the society that resides in New York City; South Kensington comparable to the Upper East Side, Oxford Street comparable to 7th Ave. Londoners, some goal oriented, walking with their blinders on, others innately cool. The London attitude, as Susan so brilliantly describes it, is witty. The ‘Brit Wit’ attitude translates from the way people walk, to the way they dress and communicate.  There is a distinctiveness that is undeniably British- similar to the New Yorker mentality. Although these similarities do exist, London is vastly different from the City. Londoners are ‘posh’- they are outgoing and fresh. As Susan said, they wear and do whatever it is they want. There is a certain coolness and courageousness in how it is executed. This translates over to not only the way people dress but into their business ventures as well.

The phenomenon of Primark is a wonderful starting point. In the states, fashion is not as prominent or seen as a necessity, as it is here. It is looked upon as excess, which makes complete sense in the grand scheme of life to the average American. Yet beauty has been idolized since the beginning of time. It is coded into our DNA by the mere fact that we all have eyes. To see is to understand, to appreciate, without a vision and understanding of the world we live in- there is little room to dream, to fantasize. Americans come across as lazy people, which more or less, is true. Like our clothing taste, we generally speaking, have a bland palette. A majority of people are satisfied with never leaving the country, never moving out of their own comfort zone, thus never truly seasoning themselves with what is needed to look beyond what is put in front of them. The fact that Primark is the lowest end of mass produced goods price point wise, gives the UK no reason to be poorly dressed. Primark caters to the needs of the general public, thus there is an obvious need to be on trend and look good. Without this want- there is no way that the store would be such a huge success.

From the outside looking in, it seems Londoners strive for more. They are more culturally diverse, not necessarily in ethnicity but in knowledge of a range of various cultures. For example, everyone I have met thus far has traveled outside of his or her home country. In the states if you were to compare the numbers, I have a feeling they would be vastly different. Our states are multicultural, yes, but by no means represent minute countries. As a population I would say we are much more introverted which is reflective in our news, our gossip columns, and even in our politics (to an extent).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Classes in London

Brown's Focus
So as a study abroad student, we do not just travel around, we still have to take classes as well!  We have a total for four courses, 2 for 5 weeks and 2 for the second 5 weeks which are both 8 hours a week.  Currently I'm in Professional Personal Selling class and Product Promotion and Trend Reporting.  Our Professional Personal Selling is a marketing course where we have learned a new perspective on some traditional marketing techniques as well an in-depth focus on presentation skills which I feel was very useful.  For Product Promotion and Trend Reporting, our professor took us on a retail tour of London, (which I wish we had sooner!)   The idea was not only to show us of all of the large and small shopping niches of London but look at the way products are sold in comparison at different levels and different genres of retailers.  We first went to Primark, basically for the budget- minded shopper, even lower than H&M or Forever 21.  However, the stores are so massive and crowded that you may never find what you wanted or even who you came with but that's the price that you have to pay for a cheap top.  Our goal there was to have an item in mind walking in the store such and find it in 10 minutes, no easy task.  Primark is located in a few locations but we were at the most busy, Oxford Street.  As I've mentioned before, Oxford Street is a big shopping area, where you can also find places like Selfridges.  Selfridges is a department store, first opened in 1858 and is still one of the major retails in London.  It was once just Selfridges and Liberty.  Selfridges showed examples of unconscious selling techniques such have a softer floor cushioning for certain designer's sections.  These retailers are easy to find out about, however, as a visitor.  The best part was going to the other areas of London that have less foot traffic but much more interest.  South Molton Street, off of Oxford and right next to Bond Street Station, seems like a quiet residential area but it actually has some fun shops tucked away.  This street is known for shoes and the Brown's stores.  Brown's Focus is a contemporary shop with brands such as Acne, Theory, and Pringle.  A lot of really fun and trendy pieces.

SHOP show stuidos
The next area we went to was New Bond Street, the true high end designers, which means fantastic store windows!  Right down a little street adjacent to the tiniest pub is SHOP studio.  This is by Nick Knight and showcases some of his work as a photographer a collection of pieces from fashion, pop culture, film and more.

Continuing back to Bruton Street is Maison Martin Margiela.  This is one of my professor's personal favorites and a tucked away secret to many.  Margiela has been faceless his entire career and no one has ever tried to reveal him.  You'll find a lot of unique items such as leather boots shaped like hooves.  He is known for his perfume that creates this transition of scent and becomes androgynous.  This is not necessarily where students would pick up a new outfit, (very high price tags), but an experience in itself.

One of my favorite places was Dover Street Market.  Don't be fooled, this isn't anything like Camden or Portobello Market.  Dover Street Market showcases contemporary designers between five floors.  Each floor isn't large like a department store would be, but creates various atmospheres.  They really choose some of the most unique designer pieces and showcase them all together in a cohesive display.  It is a little intimidating to touch a £4,000 dress but if you don't act like you deserve to be there, no one else will think so either!

I really enjoyed how our professors tried to incorporate trips outside of the classroom with our lessons.  They gave me some of the best learning experiences.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

London's Museums

My roommate and I decided to go to the Tate Modern Museum this past Monday. Tate Modern is a national gallery of international modern art here in London. Currently the museum houses a special exhibit featuring the work of surrealist painter, Miro. The museum is a great place to find the works Picasso, Pollock, and Dali. As a design and merchandising major, going to see the works of these great visionaries was most beneficial. I have only learned about maybe a quarter of these great artists, and to actually see their work in person was really amazing.

Visiting the Tate museums while in London is just something you must do. They offer such a wonderful variety of art and such incite into British culture as well as the evolution of art. The Victoria and Albert Museum is another of my favorites. This building is most impressive with a beautiful collection of various types of art from cultures throughout the world and time. This museum is sectioned into cultural areas. While walking around you are suddenly transported from a garden of roman sculpture to the delicate oriental decorations of the Chinese Empire. This museum also offers one of the best gift shops I have ever shopped in. featuring various collections relating to specific parts of the museum. These collections showcase artists of today as well as offering merchandise specifically based of off the treasures found throughout.

Victoria and Albert Museum- Garden of Statues 
Tommy Nutter
I also went to visit the Museum of Textile and Fashion. Although this museum is peculiarly small, it features just one designer---Tommy Nutter, the ‘Rebel on the Row’ and his collection of menswear designs. The exhibition explores Nutter’s style and showcases designs made for Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, Etlon John and even Twiggy. This bespoke designer is most interesting taking on intern John Galliano! It was fascinating to learn that this was the man to whom Galliano first had his intro to the industry. The gallery offered an exciting collection, but in all only featured two rooms. Unfortunately the limited selection was most disappointing.

Other fun museums are scattered throughout the city, others I visited included the Natural History Museum where visitors get a hands on look into some of the earth’s greatest gifts, the Science Museum, and the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising. All are worth exploring!! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Paris, the other city of Love

Finally I made it to the magnificent Paris!  Yes, after having a Paris themed bedroom growing up this has been a dream of mine.  Every time someone I know goes there, I always get a little gift but finally I got a taste of my own!  Four of us from Drexel went for the weekend with a student tours program which included a cheap bundled package of hotel, transportation and tour guide.  Since, our trip was by a bus, (yes we went over the water in a bus that was inside of a train!), we had an overnight ride arriving at the Arc de Triomphe for sunrise!  Surprisingly, I was somewhat alert, maybe more or less just excited to get off the bus and be in Paris.  No other time would we be able to take such great pictures and without all of the crowds.  Our tour continued on the coach around famous streets such as Champs Elysees where you will find all the major retailers and designers.  We made a stop outside of Musee de l'Armee with an opportunity to just take in the morning air.  We began to see the Eiffel Tower and everyone rose out of their seats.
Arc de Triomphe
Musee de l'Armee garden

After our overview of the area, we were able to split off and go to the places we were most interested in visiting.  We stopped just along the river Seine in front the Eiffel Tower.  After gazing in amusement at Eiffel Tower we had some authentic French treats for breakfast and headed off.  First to Musee du Lourve where the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting, the Mona Lisa,  is located.  The museum holds a lot of Renaissance art including huge collection of religious paintings.  Unlike other museums, the Lourve was quite full of other tourists so you cannot look at art with the ease one my typically have.  The Mona Lisa hung on a wall alone with crows of people, we patiently just waited till we made it to the front.  Even from there we were several yards apart.  Many of the paintings were recognizable from previous art history classes which made it very exciting to see them in such proximity.  After we were off to the Notre Dame Cathedral.  This is another huge tourist attraction for the beautiful architecture and exquisite stained class windows.  One of my favorite parts of the day was the love lock bridge because it's not as well known.  There are many different bridges across the Seine, each unique in their own way but this one was just a plain fenced rail. Lovers in Paris have given the bridge new meaning by securing their locks of love all along the fence, some written on with marker, others engraved, each its own.  I must say, I'm a sucker for love.
Eiffel Tower at night
Our day ended with a tour along the river Seine where we were able to see all of the beauty Paris is known for from a better perspective.  However, after returning to our hotel we said we have to go back and see the tower at night!  If you were curious why people fall in love, see the Eiffel Tower at night.  It is lit up until about 12:30 pm and something you must see for yourself! Amazing experience and I really cannot wait to go back soon!

Friday, August 12, 2011

All good things must come to a close

Bonjour!  As I sit in the airport in Paris, I am reflecting on my past week that I spent doing some additional traveling after studying in Italy.  Very last minute, my wonderful mother decided that she wanted to fly out and join me on my travels!  After I packed up all my things from my apartment and said goodbye to Torino, I took a four and a half hour train to Zurich, Switzerland.  Switzerland is a country I have always wanted to travel to and I was not disappointed.  Everything I ever pictured, lush green hills, small dark wooden houses, beautiful small bodies of water, it was all true.  Even the train ride was beautiful.  I passed small waterfalls and babbling brooks, it was almost unreal.  Upon meeting my mother the two of us had a hotel for two nights right across from the station in Zurich, and we ventured out to do some exploring.
A rainbow from the train!
          A mere 45 minute train ride away is the Swiss city, Lucerne.  My mom and I took a day trip to Lucerne and saw some sites as well as took a mini trolley tour.  As Swiss chocolate is world famous, we of course had to try some, and were not disappointed.  We also walked along an original castle wall to three castle towers, all built in the 1300's.  Our day was leisurely, yet filled with new things to see.  Of course having the Swiss Alps as our backdrop was nothing short of exciting.

Selection of Swiss Chocolates

          After Switzerland, my mother and I took another train to Paris, France which is the last stop of my European adventures.  For the last three days, my mom and I have seen the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumphe, The Louvre, and everything in between! (Or so it may have seemed)  The Eiffel Tower is magnificent.  It is one of those iconic buildings that no matter how many times you see, or how many different distances or angles you see it from, it never ceases to amaze.  And as for the Louvre, well you could spend days in there, but the museum is fantastic, and filled with so many beautiful works of art.  Other highlights include a dinner and show at the world famous Moulin Rouge!!  That was an extra special treat.  The costumes alone were worth going for, in addition to the amazing production and delicious food and champagne served.
          And now my trip has come to a close.  I am sitting at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, reflecting on my previous week of traveling after over a month already in Europe, and I can't help but to think that there was no better way to spend my summer.  I learned, discovered, and witnessed so much history and culture.  I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity, and it is one I will never forget.  But now that I am given the chance to return to Philadelphia, back to my family and friends, there is one thing I must admit: there's no place like home.

The Eiffel Tower
The Palace of Versailles 
The Louvre

London hits Reality

Map of Riots in the U.K. courtesy of google maps
Being in London, I can not ignore what has gone on the past week.  London has been experiencing growing amount of riots throughout the city and surrounding areas.  It all began Saturday, with the death of  man, said to have been shot by the police. Tottenham is where things began, about a half an hour from Kensington where we are located.  A lot of the rioting was by young people  including 10-14 years olds.  This included breaking into businesses and looting them and several major crimes of arson.  The riots soon began to be targeting small businesses and the more well off.  While many of believed this to be a one time thing, night after night things progressed and we were even advised to not go out with possible vandalism occurring in Chelsea and closer neighborhoods and uncertainty of what would happen next.  According the BBC news 1,103 people have been arrested from the riots with about half being charged.  Things have calmed down since then but people have become more alert and aware of the surroundings.  These areas are not all notoriously violent but these kind of things can happen anywhere.  Just one person needs to get upset to cause a scene.  Throughout the coverage of the riots, I heard many reasons why these people were fighting and one man even suggested acts of racism caused the spark.  Small businesses learned to board up their windows during the week and everything closed up quite quickly and early.  In the most recent days, things have calmed and we have had not heard of any further disturbances.

Traveling abroad, things like these incidents may cross peoples' minds.  The 'what if'.  Unfortunately we cannot predict when or where things could happen.  London is considered a safe area but I know that it is still always important to keep your eye out and to not be naive.  It is essential before going abroad to just be aware of how to contact the police if necessary and to keep up to date on current events throughout the stay.  During the riots, my group gathered and watched BBC live news cast and while we didn't know what may happen next, we were well informed of what was occurring.  All of my group remained safe throughout the riots and we were glad to know people at home were thinking of us.    

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Arrivederci Italia

          Unfortunately, my time in Italy has come to a close.  Looking back, my study abroad program seems both long and short at the same time.  Long in that I've been away from the United States for over a month, but short in that in the spectrum of my whole life, I only spent one full month living in Italy.  The experience was unpredictable and unlike any I've ever had.  I wasn't a tourist, I was in the process of becoming a local.  I was in a foreign country, at first surrounded by strangers and completely unfamiliar with the language.  Upon leaving, I can honestly say I made many friends and am conversational in Italian.
          Something that I will always take with me from my trip was a quote that someone told to my roommate in Torino.  Her aunt that said, "life doesn't stop happening."  When you're traveling for five weeks, it's easy to kick back and think of it as an extended vacation.  Of course we got to travel on weekends and see magnificent things almost every day, but life really didn't stop happening.  I have friends who lost their wallets, got jewelry stolen off of their bodies, and got punched out for a bag of leftover pasta.   Every experience is a learning experience, and no matter where you go, life really doesn't stop happening.
          As for my classes, well just like at Drexel, a lot of information is packed into a short period of time, and you have to do your best to keep up with the pace.  I learned about the history of several centuries' worth of interior design in just five weeks, but the material was fascinating.  We got to take field trips usually at least once a week, and see first hand the types of design we were studying in the classroom.  And in my Italian class, I learned more Italian that I imagined I could fit inside my head in just five weeks.  Granted, having the whole country of Italy at my disposal to practice day in and day out doesn't hurt to reinforce what you're learning, but still.  But my learning didn't stop in the classroom.  I became extremely independent.  I learned how to navigate my way through Torino, through Italy, and now throughout Europe.  I feel more accomplished than I could have possibly imagined.  I booked all my own travel accommodations and have taken more trains than I can count, but I did it all myself, mostly.
          Studying abroad is an experience that everyone should have the chance to go through.  I have learned an immeasurable amount about culture, about people, about traveling, and about myself.  This has been a remarkable opportunity and one that I will never forget.  

Here I am on the first day of classes outside the school we studied at.

         Luckily for me, I still get to travel for a bit and unwind after what I can't believe already came and went.  Italy was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me, and I truly can't believe it's over.  But now it is on to the next thing, for life never stops happening.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Milan and Florence

            Over the weekend I went to two of Italy’s most famous cities, Milan and Florence.  Friday I took a day trip to Milan just with my roommate.  As a fashion major, I have always wanted to travel to Milan, and it was no disappointment.  Designer stores line the streets for miles.  Italian designers especially like Ferragamo, Dolce and Gabbana, and Alberta Makali proudly showcase the best of their new lines.  It’s clear that Milan is a Mecca for high-end fashion. 
            In the midst of the stores and the shops, almost out of nowhere, Milan’s beautiful and gothic Duomo appears almost out of nowhere.  The massive building was breathtaking, and one of my favorite sites.  Situated in a piazza, the Duomo reminds you of the rich history of Milan. 

The Duomo

            For the first time, I saw the beautiful handcrafted leather goods I had always heard about.  There are leather markets as well as regular shops that pop up more than Starbucks in the US.  Each store has similar prices and items, all though each shop owner makes the goods by hand.  The smell of leather authenticates the beautiful handcrafted work.  
            After a long day of walking and shopping, it was time to return to the train station and catch a train to Florence.  I arrived in my hotel room with my roommate, Ashlie.  Distracted by our entirely pink room (including two pink sequined throw pillows,) we almost didn’t realize how beautiful the view from our window was.  Our hotel was located at the bottom corner of a piazza.  We overlooked the tops of trees, and a beautiful section of Florence, or Firenze as they call it in Italy.  We could even see the top of the Duomo.

A dark and semi blurry view from my hotel at night

            When the sun rose, Ashlie and I got up bright and early to fit in maximum exploration.  Out with only a map and a small amount of Italian vocabulary, the two of us were determined to find the Duomo, the piazza containing the replica of the statue of David, Ponte Vecchio the famous bridge, and the Ufizi Museum.  Luckily, we managed to find everything!  The Duomo was only about a ten minute walk from our little pink hotel, and everything else seemed rather close as well.  The streets of Florence are exactly as I pictured them to be.  More family owned leather shops and hand crafted jewelry stores lined our walkways.  The architecture transforms you to another century.  Florence was one of my favorite places in Italy.  As my roommate and I were exploring, we discovered a looong line of people.  With English commonly spoken due to the large amount of tourists it didn’t take us long to find out that the original statue of David was only meters away from us, and these people were waiting in line to go and view it.  Spending most of our money on getting to Florence, my roommate and I opted to see the free replica in a nearby piazza.  It was just as beautiful!  We also managed to find the Ponte Vecchio.  The streets on either side of the bridge are lined with gold and silver shops each claiming to have the best prices and most unique jewelry.  The view from the bridge was well worth seeing.

The Duomo in Florence

Ponte Vecchio
The view from Ponte Vecchio
Statue of David replica
           The sites of Florence were absolutely beautiful, but after being somewhere filled with tourists it was really nice to return to quiet Torino.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


After my trip in Crete, we had a quick week of only two days of class.  We started our second session for classes with two new courses, a marketing course and a trend-reporting course.  The Dublin-London group finally united with us, which means we’ve been here for five weeks already!  Time seriously flies.  So with no assignments for the weekend, the girls of my group headed off to Barcelona, Spain!  I liked the idea of going to Spain before coming here but someone else in my group suggested Barcelona as a fun place with a lot of destinations to see as well.  Since there were six of us and we were there for about 5 days, we decided to get an apartment rather than a pricy hotel or a hostel.  The apartment worked out well because we got three rooms rather than a crowed hostel with strangers as well as a stocked kitchen  and a spacious deck J.  The deck really allowed to communicate with locals and ask them about the best places to go and another other questions about the area.   Thankfully, a few of the girls were a little more fluent in Spanish than the rest of us.  I could pick up a few key words from my language course in middle school (too long ago) but I would have been great to know more.  However, I definitely started to pick up on some phrases and words because it’s a lot easier to learn a language when you have no other option!
Sagrada Familia
The next morning we stopped for crepes, which were offered in both sweet and savory options.  Sunday is a day when a lot of things are closed completely besides tourist locations and some eateries at certain times.  But it wouldn’t be a surprise to have the grocery store closed as well as most retailers for the entire day.  Many restaurants actually are only open for certain meal times.  In general for any day of the week, a restaurant may close from 4-8 then open again for dinner.  After our meal we headed off to the most well know church of Barcelona.  The famous artist, Gaudi, designed the church, Sagrada Familia.  The church, planned in 1882, is still under construction to this day and visible across the skyline.  We just spent time outside of the church because it is a highly crowed tourist destination and not actually used as a church.  
The next stop was Park Guell.  This was a quite a hike as well.  The park is also themed Gaudi with his design work featured throughout.  The park is a beautiful destination to see the whole city of Barcelona from above but getting to these heights was no simple task.  The journey began up steep streets, which actually had a few escalators and staircases for about a half-mile.  Then we reached the first stopping point where you can begin to see all the beautiful architecture and natural scenery Barcelona has to offer.  The dirt path then winds up and up until the very top where there is a cross monument placed with spiral staircases up the sides.  The view from up there is nothing but breath taking. 

Being in Barcelona, we could not help but take advantage of the beaches.  We made three visits to the beach during our trip knowing that London did not offer the same weather and scenery as Barcelona.  Barceloneta was the closet beach to us, just about 15 minutes away from our apartment with scenery such as the well-known W hotel.  We were even able to enjoy breakfast at a café on the beach.  While Barceloneta was a beautiful beach, some days were very tourist heavy so we headed off to a further beach, San Pol on another day that also had a small town right along side.  There was just a small amount of people, all locals, which was refreshing and relaxing. 
Barcelona was nothing but beautiful in so many ways.  During the day was great architecture and ocean scenery but at night the lights created their own magic.  We even went to a light and water show, the Magic Fountain of Montjuic.  It was the perfect way to bring our trip to an end.  

London Bound!

Onto the second leg of my journey abroad--- London! With my Dublin days in the past, I am currently located in South Kensington (possibly the most expensive area in Europe), FIE has placed us in Metro Gate. With only five weeks ahead of me there are so many things that I immediately put on my calendar. A trip to Bath and Stonehenge, at the top of my list.

I booked a day trip with a friend to tour the Roman Baths, Stonehenge and to visit the Salisbury Cathedral. With just two hours explore the Baths; I was transported back to the age of the Roman’s. The baths transformed into a luxurious spa retreat where religion and relaxation were held above all else. It was a place to worship the goddess Sulis Minerva, to whom the Baths were dedicated. The head of the goddess is on display there today. Discovered in 1727, the gilt bronze sculpture provided much incite to the beliefs of the spring’s natural healing powers. The head is believed to be from a cult statue, which would have stood gazing out across the temple courtyard besides the sacred spring. This fascinating site is a must see, an ancient version of a modern day spa.

Roman Baths

Stonehenge was our next destination. The incredible layout and sheer awe make visiting Stonehenge well worth it. The self-guided audio tour offers explanations for the origins of the rocks and provided plausible reasons for the structure. One theory is that the stones stand to represent mathematical and astronomical observation. With the sun setting and rising in specific places specific times throughout the year giving the notion that time was of the essence. Another theory is that the grand stature of the site was meant to intimidate and impress traders. The sheer fascination of the structure lies in its construction. The circle is comprised of Bluestones and Sarsen stones. These stones weigh astronomical weights and would have taken over thirty million hours of labor to construct.  It is believed that dirt mounds were build to transport the top stone to lie across its two supports.

Salisbury Cathedral Courtyard
Lastly was Salisbury. This enchanting area was gorgeous. We walked around admiring the architecture of some of the oldest Tudors built. The cathedral itself, although under construction, was impressive. Over 750 years old, the cathedral has had tons of visitors to worship and seek inspiration. The original Manga Carta is also located inside the structure boasting, Britain’s tallest spire.  The day featured three very unique historical sites, all beautiful in their own way. 

Inside the Cathedral

Cibo (food!)

          This post is dedicated to one of the most cultural and important aspects of Italy: food!  While I’ve been in Italy, I decided to take an Italian cuisine class to get even closer to the food of the region. 
          Culturally, there are many differences between Italian cuisine, and the American perception of Italian.  First and foremost, bread is never served with olive oil here!  Bread is placed on the table, and then eaten with antipasti or appetizers.  If your meal is a pasta dish, then customarily bread is not served, (all though if you’re American, and you ask for bread, or a plate for olive oil you can still get it.)  Also, the Italian meal is four courses.  When at a restaurant, you order a primo and secondo dish, the first being a pasta dish usually, and the second a meat.  Wine is almost always served with the meal.  White wine can be served with the primo, but always red for the secondo, and for pizzas.  Pizza really is as popular over here as I expected it to be.  And luckily for me, the tomato sauce is just that – only tomatoes!  I happen to have an allergy to onions, and back in the United States, pizza sauce is made with onion, but not in Italy.  The sauce is purely tomato, and then it is up to customer to choose the topping.  Most of the time, pizza here is ordered and then you receive a personal sized one (about the size of an extra large dinner plate.)  Then, it is eaten with a fork and knife, not like back home where we use our hands.  However, I have seen a few Italians eat it with their hands, and cutting an entire personal pizza can be rather difficult depending on the knife you’re using, so I’ve used my hands once or twice.

One of the best pizzas I've had here.  Those are clams on top!

          In my Italian cuisine class, I have been fortunate enough to learn how to make several amazing dishes.  One of my favorite things I learned how to make was gnocchi.  Gnocchi is a dense pasta dough made from potatoes, and shaped like a tiny pillow.  To accompany the gnocchi, my class made a series of three different sauces: a tomato sauce, a cheese sauce, and a pesto sauce.  I was never the biggest fan of pesto at home, to me it always tasted a bit salty, and to be honest I never really even knew the ingredients, but from scratch, crushed basil, olive oil, and pine nuts are the basis of the whole sauce, and it’s delicious!!  The other two sauces were definitely overshadowed.  Also, pesto is typical of the Italian Riveria, a place I got to travel to first hand!  
          Being in Italy for over a month, it is impossible to eat out for all of my meals.  Luckily I live close by to two different grocery stores.  One is called Pam and the other is called Eataly.  I cook for my roommate and myself on most weeknights.

Here's a meal I made using fresh ravioli, tomato, and olive oil
This was my first ever homemade tomato sauce!
          The ingredients are all so fresh that even the most basic food is so unbelievably flavorful, that it's impossible to get sick of.  Almost five weeks later, I'm still eating all the same foods I was when I first arrived.

My first meal from Eataly!

          The grocery store Eataly is most closely compared to something like a whole foods.  However, the interior is divided by categories.  For example, the above picture is from the carne, or meat section.  There are also sections for fish, bread, cheese and salami, pasta, pizza, and an entire floor dedicated to wine.  In each section you can sit down and order food for a meal.  Everything is freshly prepared and delicious!
          The seafood here in Italy is also fantastic.  With all the bodies of water like lake Maggiore and Como, the Po River (that runs through Torino, where I’m staying,) and the Mediterranean Sea, the seafood couldn’t be fresher.  
My favorite seafood dish, from the Riviera.

          Of course, no meal is complete without dessert.  Gelato is the famous Italian ice cream, all though it is a little different.  It isn't as hard, so it isn't served in scoops.  Instead they place it on your cone, and while it maintains its form, the consistency is different than ice cream.  It's hard to explain, so you must try it for yourself!  Also, Italian gelato is different than gelato you can get back in the US.  The milk they use here is pasteurized differently, so unfortunately, when I return home, my almost daily gelato routine will be broken.  Yes, I eat gelato almost every day!  

One of my favorite flavors, only offered at one place called Silvano's: crema di riso (like a rice pudding)

A selection of gelato flavors. 

          Lastly, I have just one more edible item to talk about, and that is a drink native to Torino called Bicerin.  If you read any information about traveling in Torino, you will come across this famous drink.  It is a hot beverage, served in layers.  The bottom layer is a thick chocolate, above the chocolate is a layer of coffee, and then a homemade whipped cream sits on the top.  Traditionally, you are told to drink everything without mixing because the density of the chocolate makes its way into your mouth past the coffee and whipped cream allowing you to get all three amazing flavors at once.  You are also told that if you don't have a white foamy mustache while drinking your Bicerin, that you're doing it wrong!

Delicious Bicerin!

          The food here in Italy has been wonderful.  I eat the freshest, most delicious food available and it's very inspiring to cook with.  I can't wait to bring some of my new techniques back with me to the US!