You Have Stolen My Heart

As I stood by myself on Oxford Street the other day, christmas decorations twinkling above me, tourists and Londoners rushing in and out of shops, the snow softly falling around me, I almost started to tear up a little at the sudden approaching reality of leaving. It’s not that I’m not excited to go home…I’m so excited to be with my family again, it’s just so hard to leave a place that’s been your home for the past 3 months and not know when you’ll see it again. Part of the reason I feel like London is my home is because it is the home that I picked for myself, not one my parents picked. I realized that I am literally “in love” with London. I started to laugh when I realized how my love for London actually parallels a relationship. Let me explain the similarities.

When you meet someone new for the first time, it’s exciting. There’s so much you don’t know about them, so many things you haven’t done, and you can’t wait to see what they offer. This is how I felt about London upon arrival. Things are a bit awkward at first. You haven’t quite figured out all you need to know about them but you slowly ease into things as you get to know them better.

Then you hit the honeymoon phase. You’re having so much fun together. You don’t see any flaws because everything is perfect. After a few weeks though, this begins to fade. You start to see the other one’s quirks (the hell the Tubes are at rush hour, the slow walking obnoxious tourists, the bad British plumbing) but you accept them because you love them too much to let something little like that matter.

As time goes on, your relationship becomes stronger. You grow more and more attached as you get to know the other on a deeper level (the non touristy parts, the small side streets, the fastest way to get from point A to point B, the little known art galleries, the markets). When you go away for a week or a weekend you miss them and think about them the whole time, even when you’re in a place as awesome as Italy. You can’t wait to get back to see them and can’t help but smile every time you hear the words “Welcome Home” as the plane touches down in Heathrow/Stansted/Gatwick. You realize you are totally and utterly in love and don’t ever want to be apart. Your life just doesn’t seem right without them.

Just like in any relationship, you have a song that reminds you of them and makes your heart smile every time you hear it. For me, this song is “Firework” by Katy Perry (I know, cliche – not my normal type of music). But it is the song that was playing on my iPod when I got my first view of London from the plane. If you know the song, it has violins building up to the chorus which comes in quite strongly. While we were beginning our descent, the song was building up and as soon we burst through the clouds the song hit the chorus and I looked down to see all of London, the sun rising over the Thames, Big Ben and the London Eye. It was very climactic. So now every time I hear that song, I will always think of London and will never forget that first view. It sounds sappy but if you’ve ever had feelings for anyone, I know you know exactly how I feel.

The whole time you’ve been together, you’ve been dreading the inevitable end. You try not to think about it for the three months you have together, but it’s always in the back of your mind. Your stomach starts to knot when you think about it, and your heart hurts. How do you just leave someone you’ve been so happy with for the past 3 months? It just doesn’t seem right. You know that what you move on to next will never be good enough. You’ll try to replace London by going to lots of other cities but you know they’ll just remind you of it and make you even more sad. You know you won’t be totally satisfied until your together again.

Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to go home. I’ve missed my family so much and can’t wait to spend a wonderful Christmas together. Home isn’t bad, it’s just not London. It’s hard to go from having the world at your fingertips to a small town in NC. I wish I could live in London WITH my family. Then my life would be complete. And just perfect.

“By seeing London I have seen as much of life as the world can show.” – Samuel Johnson


Ireland, Winter Wonderland, Thanksgiving, and Spain

So normally I would blog about these things separately but I’m really behind and running out of time so I’m combining them into one post. I’m just giving you brief overviews and shortened versions because I will be home in 5 days (not looking forward to leaving) and you can just ask me about them in person at that point.

The second weekend in November I went to Ireland with Clinton since he had relatives in Dublin that allowed us to stay with them. The first night we got in we were greeted with the most delicious traditional Irish meal: corned beef, cabbage, soda bread and potatoes, of course. Saturday morning we were greeted with a huge traditional Irish breakfast, including pancakes, sausage, ham, eggs and Black Pudding (which I discovered the last day was pig’s blood….). That day  we explored Dublin. We saw Trinity College, the old post office, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral and just walked around the city. That evening we toured Guinness Brewery, which was really interesting. We got free pints of Guinness on the tour, however stout grosses me out so I passed mine off to Clinton. That night Clinton’s relatives made us Irish Stew (beef, carrots, celery and potatoes) with bread and even more potatoes on the side. People aren’t kidding when they say the Irish love their potatoes.

Dublin Castle

Personally I wasn’t a fan of Dublin as a city. I can’t explain what, but it was just lacking something (I’m not the first of my friends to say this). It just didn’t have the buzz and good vibe of a fun city like London or New York so the next day I wanted to get out of Dublin and see some Irish countryside. We found out about a town a little ways outside of Dublin called Howth, which is a seaside fishing village. We had a beautiful sunny day (although it was like 20 degrees outside) and the town was gorgeous. We walked around the harbor, saw seals, walked out to the lighthouses and down on the rocks to the sea. After warming up in a coffee shop we decided to do part of the cliff walk before we ran out of daylight. The views from the tops of the cliffs were absolutely stunning. It felt more like what I was expecting from Ireland, with the grassy hills and the ocean views for miles, redeeming Ireland from the disappointment of Dublin. That night we went out to a pub with some friends and then left to go back to London the next day.

The Harbor at Howth

If you haven’t figured it out by my status updates and pictures and what not, London is obsessed with Christmas. They lit the decorations the first week of November. And to add to their Christmas obsession, they have a giant festival/market called “Winter Wonderland” in Hyde Park. I went to this with some of my friends and I have never been in a happier place. Everything is CHRISTMAS! Christmas themed rides, Christmas food, Christmas activities (decorate your own Gingerbread), Christmas souvenirs, etc. We first got food (hog roast sandwich for me with apple sauce and stuffing= delicious!) and then walked around the market. We rode the Christmas roller coaster and then headed over for our ICE SKATING session!! Winter Wonderland has the largest outdoor ice skating rink in London. Ice skating is one of my favorite activities and it was so much fun to do it in the middle of London, my favorite place in the world. We all had a blast skating around, holding hands, avoiding running into the stragglers and posing for pictures. And I didn’t fall once! Then we got hot drinks (I had mulled wine, so good) and got in line to see Father Christmas! After telling Santa what we wanted for Christmas we got crepes (Jacquie and I split an After Eight mint one) and headed home.


For Thanksgiving, I was a bit bummed about not having a homemade meal but then a couple weeks ago I got the most amazing news that one of my good friends Carlos (aka Michael Gaytan) was coming to London to be with his family (who lives here) for Thanksgiving and I was welcome to join them! Wednesday night we had our group Thanksgiving where our faculty advisor made the turkey and each flat made a few dishes. Then Thursday after class I hoped on a train to Carlos’s town. His house was gorgeous and his family was so welcoming. We were able to watch American football (something I haven’t seen in a while) and had a delicious, traditional, homemade Thanksgiving. I ate way too much! It was so much fun to see Carlos because I’d missed him terribly!

Carlos and I at Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving night I did not sleep since I had to catch a flight to Barcelona at 7am on Friday. After some difficulties getting to the airport, Sarah and I finally made it safely, ate a large breakfast at 5am consisting of porridge and croissants (I don’t know why we did this) and literally passed out on the airplane (I don’t even remember taking off). We landed in Barcelona around 10am and took a bus to our hostel. We had the most fun hostel, with the nicest employees (all young people) and we met some really awesome people who were staying there. We had heard that Park Guell was a must see so we decided to go to that for our first Barcelona adventure. On the way we saw some amazing buildings that Gaudi designed. The park was the coolest park I’d ever seen. There were so many different trails with awesome city views and you could see Gaudi’s influence all throughout the park. He designed two houses at the entrance to the park that look like gingerbread houses and there was beautiful tiling all throughout. After the park we decided we needed some food and a siesta. We had seafood paella and then took a nice nap before going to a club on the beach for the night with some guys from the hostel.

Gingerbread houses at Park Guell

Saturday we decided to explore the huge Park Montjuic. We saw the Olympic stadium and walked through some beautiful botanical gardens on our way to the castle. However, our map failed to inform us that the castle was basically on top of a mountain and we had to hike up to it. After a loooooong, exhausting walk we finally reached the castle and could see over Barcelona on one side and the ocean on the other side. After the park we headed back to the center of the city and walked down La Rambla, the main street in Barcelona with all the crazy street performers. We also walked through the huge market and got fresh fruit juice. Then we found a restaurant that had a “tapas tour” which consisted of 20 different types of tapas. We had to put on our eating game faces for that one. That night we went to a bar that had drinks where you would roast a marshmallow on a fire lit on the bar and then dip it in your drink to extinguish the fire. We then went to a club that was fair themed, with fun mirrors, a circus tent and carnival decorations. I was taught to Salsa dance by a random Spanish man. Typical.

Candy at the market

Sunday we headed to the beach! Unfortunately, Barcelona was having unusually cold weather so we could not go in the water but I did go ankle deep, causing my feet to go numb. The waves were huge and there were so many surfers. We beach combed for a while, walked around the wharf and ate lunch before heading to the Sagrada Familia. The Sagrada Familia is a church designed by Gaudi that has been in the building process for over 100 years. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. The architecture was stunning. The details on the front of the church were so intricate, the architectural design on the inside was amazing, and the stained glass was the most beautiful, colorful glass I’d ever seen. Of all the cathedrals I’ve seen this trip, it was definitely my favorite. That night we had Mexican food (we were kind of over Spanish food…it wasn’t our favorite thing ever) and then went to a karaoke pub with people from our hostel. It was hilarious to hear Spanish people do karaoke of American songs. Also on another note, people in Barcelona don’t speak Spanish. They speak Catalan, which was a disappointment because we wanted to be able to practice our Spanish. After the pub, we went to a Brazilian club. Barcelona people are crazy. They really like to party all night. I couldn’t keep up and ended up going home at 4am most nights, whereas most people stay out until 6. I now know why the siesta is important to the Spanish. Monday we went to the chocolate museum, went into a few souvenir shops and then headed to the airport for our flight back to London.

Inside the Sagrada Familia...showing some of the stained glass

London updates: I am now finished with class! Exams were easy of course…just like my whole semester has been. Now I have 4 days of freedom and will be on a flight back to America Monday morning 😦

Oh and it’s been snowing here for the past 2 days! Yay!

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