Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Over the past few weeks, the Israeli – Palestinian conflict has been intensifying.  Being in Europe and not having an ocean between my home and the stories I hear about in the news has made me become a lot more interested in what is going on in the world outside of the United States.  Every morning and afternoon when I get on the tube there are free newspapers offered, and it is becoming a habit of mine to pick one up.  Far too often, across the front page are headlines about the conflict and how it always seems to be taking a turn for the worse.

Every few days, I also walk past protests.  The first one I saw involved 15,000 people, who all walked from the Prime Minister’s house to the Israeli embassy and passed right in front of my flat.  I got to watch the entire protest go by from an overlooking window.  It was very unnerving to see so many people gathered together who were all angered by the issues.  With so many people, it seemed to me like anything could happen, even though the march’s purpose was to peacefully protest.  It did remain peaceful, and reminded me about how important it is that people have this right to gather peacefully and to speak against their government if they do not agree with its policies or actions.

What is a High Street?

The concept of “High Street” is something that has not come over the United States.  When I first arrived, I was pretty confused about what a high street was and what stores were on one.  My flat is right off of Kensington High Street, which is full of restaurants and a variety of fast fashion stores, like Top Shop and Zara.  Later, I visited Oxford Circus, which is the perfect example of everything a high street is.  When I first walked out of the tube and took a look around, the mobs of people and traffic reminded me of Times Square.  I looked up and down Oxford Street and there were stores as far as I could see.  Just off the main road, there are some higher end stores, restaurants, and a lot of cafes.  I found it all to be very overwhelming, but it gave me a good idea of what a high street is like.  In the simplest of terms, it’s a hub of stores and restaurants.  You can plan your day around your visit, pick and choose what stores to go into, stop at a cafe, and continue stopping later on.  To me, it seems like a large outdoor mall.

Street Style: London vs. Paris

Paris is supposed to be the center of fashion, but while I was there I did not see one outfit that stood out to me.  None were innovative or really blew me away.  During my short time in the city, I gathered that Parisians tend to aim for a more plain and classic style.  They wore clothing that was versatile and was what most stores would classify as “basics.”

London street style varies greatly.  You never know when you are going to see someone who is smartly dressed in a suit or an older woman with hot pink hair.  London style is all over the place, and during fashion week, is the city where trend spotters can recognize the next big trend before it goes global.  Not everything you see people wearing is going to become wildly popular.  Londoners where what they believe looks good, and for some it is rebellious, while for others it is just plain unusual.  One time I saw an older man wearing boxers, no shirt, socks with sandals, and a hat that said “swag” casually walking around in the financial district.  Street style here is unpredictable, exciting, and in my opinion, much better than in Paris. 

Getting Around in London

London is a very easy city to get around it.  Although it is vast, it is pretty simple to navigate once you get the hang of it.  There are a few ways you reach your destination, and walking will always be my favorite.  There is nothing like walking among Londoners and finding your way through the winding streets to really get to know both the layout of the city and the people around you.  I have noticed that when you are walking on a sidewalk, there is no designated side to walk on.  When I go somewhere by foot in Philadelphia, everyone tends to walk on the right side of the sidewalk, following the same pattern that cars do.  Here in London, that is not the case.  Everyone takes whichever path they please, and I have walked straight into other people as a result.  Another issue with travelling by foot in London is the amount of time it takes to get somewhere.  If I decide to walk to class one day, I have to leave an extra hour early to make sure I get there on time.

The most convenient options are the London Underground (the Tube) or the bus.  To access either one, you must purchase an oyster card, which allows you to pay to ride.  The Tube is easy to use and to navigate.  In my experience, it is usually more reliable than the buses and can be a lot faster.  Buses offer comfortable seats and a nice view.  They are also less expensive, but make more stops, which will slow the travel time down a lot.  It all depends on how far you are going, but no matter what, the taxis are outrageously expensive.   


 Before traveling to Paris for five days, I asked a few of my friends who had already visited the city what it was like.  I was surprised when I heard nothing but bad things and that it was a let down.  All the negative responses lowered my expectations tremendously, but when I got there, I was surprised by how beautiful it was.  Down the street from our hotel was a quintessential French bakery where locals went regularly to purchase baguettes and various pastries.  The buildings that lines the streets were exactly what I picture when I think of Paris: white buildings with ornate wrought iron railings.

From the moment we left the train we took underneath the English Channel to Paris, our schedule was packed with a mix of touristy and genuinely Parisian activities.  Over the course of the week we took a boat ride on the Seine River, saw the Eiffel Tower, saw the Dries Van Noten Exhibition, ate crêpes, and so much more!  We even got to sample a huge variety of French cheeses.  One day we walked by the Louvre, but didn’t have time to go in.  However, we got to see the original Chanel store and go inside.  My favorite destination during our stay was the Palace of Versailles.  It was incredible to see the ornately decorated rooms where Marie Antoinette lived.  I truly loved my experience in Paris and that I’ll be able to return someday soon!