Been There, Done That

london, Travel

Both of my parents had been to London before, so the simple entertainment of crossing off all the classic sites wasn’t available. We had plans to see a show or two, and obviously a graduation to attend, but there was still plenty of day light to fill. I had to think of little surprises to prove to them that I had in fact seen more of London in my year living there than the average tourist sees in a week-long trip. So here’s a few of the bits and bobs that entertained three folks who’d been there, done that:

Leave London

I know it’s an absolute shocker of an idea, but there’s more to the UK than London. Bonus points: the UK has a great train system that’ll get you to plenty of exciting sites in an hour or so for relatively cheap. We went to Salisbury and eventually Stonehenge via train, but other options include Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton, Birmingham, Windsor, 

and Bath. If you’ve been to London before, you should spend a day of your vacation outside the city.50970752_2298766570359956_570854711880581120_n

For the History Buffs

We tried to see one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral, but only got to view a replica because of bad timing. For my father, who carries around historical biographical tomes for light reading, we were gonna find some old dusty important stuff.

So we went underground: if you haven’t already visited them, the Churchill War Rooms are incredible. London was right in the middle of the action for World War II (which is a strange thought for Americans who visit a modern and constantly under construction city). The War Rooms take you back, fill a morning with history, and pop you out right next to the classic history of Parliament and Westminster. (Another historical spot worth visiting is St. Dunstan’s in the East, where the remains of a bombed out church have been turned into a community garden.)50985910_391025211632427_4581915461205098496_n

For the Artists

If you can’t find art in London, you’re not looking hard enough. A personal favorite gallery is the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House, but if you’re looking for something quick and cheap, you can pop in and out of the Queen’s House in Greenwich, the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, or the Tate museums.

It was on a trip to the Tate Modern, crossing the wibbly-wobbly bridge (properly known as the Millenium Bridge), that my mother stopped to look at the tiny designs drawn onto the gum dried between the ridges of the bridge. Fortunately, it’s a pedestrian bridge so no cars could take her out, but there was a whole new batch of mini art pieces created since our last visit in August. As we reached the end, we noticed a man laying on the ground with a tiny paint brush in hand. A fantastic conversation later, Ben Wilson, the Chewing Gum Man, may be my mother’s new favorite artist.51464800_341016886744046_5651513002541711360_n

View from the Top

When the view from the ground gets dull, go high. To beat the jet lag, I took my parents on a meandering walk to Primrose Hill, but the views from the Greenwich Observatory are pretty good too. If you’re looking for some history on your way up: St. Paul’s Cathedral (you’ll also get the added bonus of traumatizing your child while you’re at it, thanks mom and dad). We had nice views from the top of the Tate Modern, as well, to make up for the weird art inside.51176038_295319167723476_8234029172079460352_n

Eat

When in doubt, sit down and enjoy yourself with a nice pint and some chips. You’ve been here before, there’s no need to rush. Take the time to see the folks around you and chit chat. As much as I love a quick Pret for the road, you have time to eat a long meal, like my personal happy place Dishoom. (I mentioned some of my favorite places to eat around the world in a previous post here.) Other recommendations: Have a cup of tea at Fortnum and Mason. Eat like a local at Nando’s or Byron Burger. Grab a pint at Temple Brew House or Marquis Cornwallis or the Sugar Loaf. (Other mentions include the best pizza at Pizza Sophia, the post-show meal at Angus Steakhouse, and the off-the-main-road-surprise at Mike’s Cafe near the Portobello Road Market.) Does this make me a food blogger? Or am I just ready for lunch?

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Honey, I’m Coming Home!

london

In September, I packed my bags and locked the door on my time in London. I knew there was a chance I’d return as a tourist or for a job or even for a layover, but I thought it’d be a while before I returned.

A few months later, I’ve got my packing list ready. I’m heading back!

Though I submitted my dissertation in August and got my final result in November, my grad school graduation is in the middle of January (UK schools just keeping me confused). And because my (retired) parents are kindly encouraging the opportunity for a vacation, the three of us will hop a plane this week, escaping the cold and snow of Washington, DC for the (probably just as cold) lights of London.49948022_2057821814517992_3371426869252456448_n

From the second we booked our tickets, I started plotting. Both of my parents have been to London before so we could skip the boring (but required for first timers!) tourist spots and focus on the things we genuinely love. And being me, I’ve started a list:

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First up – DISHOOM! I’ve been dreaming about the egg naan rolls and endless cups of chai from Dishoom. I’ve discussed my love for their breakfast before. So we’ll definitely be making a stop (or three) at one of their restaurants.

Next up on the list – West End shows. DC has pretty good theatre (and the Kennedy Center recently hosted Hamilton, which we flipping loved), but it’s nowhere near as fantastic as London’s shows. I’ve been scouring TodayTix for shows. My family is pretty casual about our travels, preferring to make last minute decisions instead of pre-scheduling the entire trip, so I’m not too worried about pre-booking shows.

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No matter what show(s) we end up at, it’ll be sure to be entertaining.

It wouldn’t be a trip to London without stopping at a few museums. We’ll most likely end up taking my dad on a trip to my old digs, as he didn’t get to visit while I lived in London, so we might just have to stop by the British Museum. Of course, the Courtauld, my mother’s favorite, is right next to my university and worth the visit every time we go (even if I was incredibly hungover the last time I went :/).

We’ve also discussed venturing out of the city (gasp – a real game changer, I know!). I, personally, have a special place in my heart for Brighton. Requests have been received for a trip up to Stonehenge, which I visited last year around this time in the middle of a snowstorm. Heck, even a day trip up to Windsor or Cambridge would be nice.50192552_353470892171567_2823966689614364672_n.jpg

Of course, the whole trip is supposed to focus on the big day: graduation. I’ve already been in contact with some friends who I haven’t seen since August. It’ll be lovely to catch up, grab a pint, and reflect on the horrors of writing a dissertation in the middle of a heatwave. And of course, receiving a diploma wouldn’t be too horrible a way to spend a morning.

New Year, Injured Me

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Due to some technical difficulties, this blog post will be going up a week later than anticipated. Apologies for that.

2019 is already shaping up to be a bit rough. And no I’m not affected by the government furlough. I’m talking about my personal inability to demonstrate adult-like qualities.

Late last year I moved into an apartment (financially supported by my parents, thank you very much, as the result of the whole unpaid intern life) and was ready to be a proper adult. I was full on gonna spend 2019 adulting. And then my first day back to work after the holiday, I went grocery shopping after work, like an adult. I checked my mailbox, like an adult. And I made my way towards the four steps in the lobby to get to the elevator. Due to slippery tiles, slightly too long pants, hands full of grocery bags, and general inability to walk, I hit the ground. Hard.

Nothing broken in the grocery bags or my body, fortunately. After a moment on the ground of self-wallowing, I got up and brushed myself off. I had a joke or two ready to go in case someone nearby might have witnessed my flailing body hit the ground, but the only people around were hidden behind the mailboxes chit-chatting. (I’m sure the security guards had a laugh watching the security footage, but I have to bring joy into people’s lives somehow, right?)

I made it to my apartment, out of my work clothes, and onto the couch with no further incidents. By the next day, however, my knee had an extra bump, I’d scrapped up my knuckles, and somehow I’d managed to bruise my bum? Still not quite sure what was my downfall, but I figured I can make it through the year without wearing pants again, or grocery shopping again, or walking up stairs again, or checking my mail again. I’ve gotta avoid possible injury.

Everyone I told the story to was kind (and laughed at me behind my back instead of to my face) and told me “Hey! At least you got it out of the way! It’s all uphill from here, right?

Wrong.

Thanks to a new Costco membership shared by my new roommate, I somehow ended up with a toaster oven and 12 bagels. Because I cannot possibly eat 12 bagels before they go stale, I threw them in the freezer. I had the brilliant plan that I would pull one out and defrost it each night, giving myself a yummy and filling breakfast each morning. Genius, right?

Ha. Well, I decided I wanted to test the toaster oven out before my 7:30 a.m. breakfast. I pulled a bagel out and, while waiting patiently for the bagel to defrost, learned how to use my toaster oven. After what I assumed was an adequate amount of time, I grabbed a knife and started cutting.

To save you the gory details, I should have followed (received too late) advice that suggested I carve up my bagels before freezing them.

So, with my finger wrapped in gauze (no stitches!), my knee a beautiful shade of purple, and everyone in my office passing around the flu, I’ve started the year off grandly.

I don’t like year long resolutions, but I do like goal setting. Usually they’re either really lofty (love yourself) or really simple (eat a vegetable every day). This month, my resolution is relatively basic: don’t die.

Here’s to 2019. I’m glad I’m here. I’m glad you’re here.

Nom Nom Noms

Five Favorites, london

Food is something that brings people together, tests your comfort zone, and can instantly remind you of times when you were safe and happy and loved.

In honor of the copious amounts of food I’m sure all of my American friends are about to consume this Thursday, I thought I would reminisce on the foods that remind me of home. And when I say home, I mean Stockholm, Indianapolis, London, Sydney, and DC. (Yes, this accidentally turned into a five favorites list, as well as a “travel the world through my favorite meals” kinda post.)

Stockholm

When I studied abroad in Stockholm, I remember being so flipping nervous about having to eat herring or some strange Swedish food for my six months there. But fortunately, Swedish grocery stores provided all the foods I could dream of. It was actually the first place where I had to cook for myself (and yes, I did have to google some very basic skills.)

46492677_177417226545719_7472823128842829824_nMy list of Swedish foods is six-months-worth-of-freezing-cold-and-dark-weather long. To start, I could rave about fika, the Swedish tradition of a daily (or thrice daily) coffee and pastry break. Or alternatively, I could chat your ear off about their kanelbullar, the yummiest treats equivalent to a cinnamon roll. Or hell, IKEA meatballs.

But instead I’ll talk about what I genuinely miss on a weekly basis: Max. Max is a Swedish fast food burger chain, like McDonald’s, etc. but better (and it’s more popular in Sweden than McDonalds and Burger King). Their food is fresh, their restaurants are clean, their staff is efficient. I’ve considered making a trip to Sweden just for their burgers and constantly think back fondly on my visits to the Max off of Kungsträdgården.

Fun fact: the first food my parents ate in Sweden was Max, which I fed them in the Arlanda Airport arrivals area.

Indianapolis

No one has ever said that the Midwest has the most delectable diet, what with the corn and the casseroles. But Indianapolis has plenty of really good spots for food, many of which I made trips to over my three years in the city.

Breadsticks fans should head to Hotbox Pizza (yes, that’s really its name…) or to Kilroy’s for their stuffed breadsticks. They’re the best drunk food, tried and tested. Fans of mediterranean food should head to Canal Bistro in Broad Ripple, while fans of Mexican food should head to La Piedad or grab a marg at Luciana’s.

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One place has a special spot in my heart: Patachou. It’s a little bit of a hipster’s dream and it’s a huge brunch spot for Butler students, but it’s so dang good. I have many a fond memory of breakfasts are Patachou with friends after a late night out or as a reunion after a service trip. With fresh, local ingredients and a mission to give back to the Indy community, it’s worth a trip.

P.S. everyone hypes up their coffee, but I’d also recommend you get the hot chocolate.

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London

I think I tried every (cheap) place on the must eat London list. I scarfed down waffles on the 40th floor of a skyscraper at Duck and Waffle. I pretended I was posh before splashing berry syrup all over myself, at Balthazar. I devoured a Crosstown Donut in Camden Markets. I explored a chain I saw all over London at Bill’s. I discovered disco fries at the Breakfast Club.

And a lot of it is delicious, but nothing gets close to my one true love: Dishoom. It’s Indian food with a twist. The bottomless chai helped me survive a dissertation and the naan rolls are making my mouth water at the thought. The restaurants have the best vibe and are filled with tiny touches that make it a memorable experience. It’s a really nice environment for working meals or catching up with friends.46508793_312174566047896_6370496265968418816_n

Pro tip: go for breakfast. It’s much cheaper and much less crowded than the lunch rush (plus, I’ve heard it’s much yummier).

Sydney

I’ll admit I didn’t go out to eat much in Sydney. My dorm had catering and when we did go out to eat, it was usually McDonald’s or Domino’s. The one food that still holds a special spot in my memory were the milkshakes.

Around the time I went to Sydney, decadent milkshakes were on the rise. One of my first Instagrams from my time abroad in Australia was of one of these sugar overloads at the Vogue Cafe. The Vogue Cafe and its counterpart, the Missing Piece, were both located in a shopping mall just next door to Macquarie University and my residence hall. So while I pushed past my introvert ways to befriend new people, we were able to bond over the sugar highs.

Later, we ended up making a pilgrimage to Erskineville for TellaBall Shakes at Foodcraft. We learned quickly that there is no clean way to drink a milkshake and then eat a Nutella donut.

The extravagant milkshake phase seems to have moved on, but those milkshakes left an impact.

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Washington, D.C.

Last, but not least, we’re heading home to DC.

If I was a good daughter, I’d say my favorite food in DC was my mother’s cooking. Nothing against her cooking, but I think it’d be rude of me to applaud her ability to perfectly cook Bagel Bites, keeping me from publicly praising her culinary skills.

The DC area has plenty of restaurants. In Old Town, there’s the classic chili of Hard Times Cafe, where my parents have been visiting for 20 something years, or for the hockey fans, there’s the Chicago-style pizza of Bugsy’s. If you’re in Woodley Park, you can hit up my Wisconsin Avenue high school haunts of 2Amys for pizza or Cactus Cantina for Mexican.

If you’re feeling fancy, you can stop by the White House on your way to Old Ebbitt Grill. For those pretending to adult, they can head to Ted’s Bulletin for homemade PopTarts. You can join the fight between Baked & Wired and Georgetown Cupcake (although everyone in DC knows that Baked & Wired wins every time.) I’m currently working near Dupont Circle, where I’m munching on Happy Hours at Front Page, and enjoying lunches at Zorba’s Cafe, and experiencing all that is the Big Hunt.

If we’re honest, I don’t know if I have a favorite in DC. Maybe, I’ll just have to continue my searchAll recommendations are much appreciated. Though they are subject to ignorance in favor of Chipotle or Moby Dick’s.

Application Season

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So unfortunately, it is time for me to begin the process I have been dreading since Senior year: applying for a proper adult job.

See, I got out of adulting by going to grad school. I lived in student housing, had a part-time job and kept telling myself that I’d worry about getting a job once I had another degree. And who knew? maybe I’d end up with another degree or in law school…

Then when the end was near and I couldn’t hide behind the safety net that academia had provided me for the past five years, I panicked. I was running out of time to write a dissertation, apply for jobs, see London, say goodbye to friends. Adulthood was only a few weeks away and it felt like it had crept up on me when I was looking the other direction.

So I began a frantic wave of applications, sending out as many as I felt qualified to handle. Cover letters added stress to the final edits of my dissertation and moving out. I sent out application after application for internships and fellowships and jobs, rarely receiving a response back whether positive or negative.

Finally as I was beginning to panic, I got an internship. It was unpaid, but it was an internship. And it was somewhere exciting and new and relevant to the paths I was considering pursuing. It seemed like the perfect way to push-off adulthood for another semester.

But that semester is coming to an end. I am almost out of the appropriate timeframe for thinking about life in terms of semesters. And I have no idea what’s coming next.

This is my procrastination. I should be bragging about how clever and interesting I am in twenty cover letters or rewording a description about working with three-year olds for four summers to better apply my resume to a position in foreign affairs, but it’s just so difficult.

Times running out and the idea of leaving this internship with no future prospects is terrifying, but adulting is hard.

Maybe I’ll take Hemingway’s advice and write drunk before editing sober (but then I’d be hungover for work the next day). Or maybe I’ll just wait for my mom to take pity on me and help me write these daunting documents that could decide whether or not I end up with a job in the next few months.

Or maybe I’ll just put off adulting for one more year and apply to another Master’s…

Five Favorite Things: Best (Free) Things About DC

Five Favorites, Hometown, Travel

There’s about a thousand and one things you could do in Washington, D.C. on any given day. So I’m picking my five seven favorite things (okay, I’m cheating a bit at this… can you blame me?!) to do in the nation’s capital.

First stop, the zoo. The Smithsonian National Zoo is located in Woodley Park, accessible by Metro, but a bit out of the tourist zone that is D.C. in the summer. The zoo is incredible, emphasizing research and the welfare and survival of the animals in its care. The work done by the national zoo is saving species from extinction with the largest group of conservation biologists in the world. And they let you visit, for free! You can wander by and see the pandas (D.C. is a bit obsessed with the pandas and each birth is a huge celebration for the survival of the species — plus they’re cute) or the elephants or just about any animal that your heart desires. Locals stop by the zoo during their lunch breaks or jog past the animals for their afternoon run.

If you’re in the area, Rock Creek Park is a cool stop. (My favorite part about Rock Creek Park is the parkway which switches to one direction at rush hour and let’s me pretend I’m British, but that’s just me.) We won’t count this as one of my official five, but if you’re sick of the city, you can almost escape into the 1,754 acre park in the middle of it all. There’s paths for hiking, walking, wandering, or horseback riding, plus events year round.

Another spot worth visiting is hidden behind the White House. The Renwick Gallery became Insta-famous a few years ago and is one of my favorite smaller museums in the city. It’s part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which means there is no fee to enter, but unlike some of the bigger Smithsonian art museums, it showcases a small, rotating collection of art pieces that are larger than life. Literally. Most of the art on display fills a room. So each time you pass through a doorway, you walk into a totally different, immersive experience. Stop by on a weekday or during non-tourist season and you’ll have rooms to yourself.

If you’re looking for some politics in the political capital of the United States, I will give in and add one spot to the list for you: The United States Capitol. (Please note that it is spelled with an o.) The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center provides tours of the legislative building with some history and some fun facts mixed in. The tours are free, but you’ll want to book a spot in advance if you’re visiting during tourist season.

Since you’re on the Mall, you’re probably thinking I’ll just go wander around and see all the monuments. And then you’ll start walking and you’ll be sweating and tired within minutes, surrounded by tour groups. To avoid this, follow my handy-dandy tip: visit at night. Though there will still be folks out and about at night, the National Mall clears out quite a bit when the sun goes down. You’ll be cooler (not that humidity will go down at all — sorry, it’s a swamp!) and you can take your time before you turn into a lobster. The monuments are all lit up at night from the World War II memorial to the Lincoln Memorial and down to the Tidal Basin to visit the Jefferson and the new(ish) Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.

Now my last few (counting them as one!) suggestions aren’t really in the city, but they’re close enough! Hop on across the river to stop number one: Teddy Roosevelt Island. Another place good for a wander. Take a path through the “natural forest”, pop your head through the trees to spot Georgetown’s Waterfront, and pretend you’re far from a major city until you hear an airplane up above.

Which brings us to our next stop: Gravelly Point. A park located just next to National Airport where you can bring a picnic and hang out while airports land over your head. It’s part of the GW Parkway, which may be my favorite place to drive in the metropolitan area, which you can follow along to down to Mount Vernon. It’s the best during fall when all the leaves have changed.

So, that’s my top five (ish) things to do in DC. All can be accomplished in a day, if you’re speedy. I’m sure now that I’m home I’ll have a hundred more recommendations and lists popping up, but these are my quick recommendations.

What’s your favorite (free) place to visit in the DC area?

Binging/Bingeing

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I binge. I watch hours of the same television show multiple days in a row, and then I forget about it for months. I read the same book from start to finish, and then I go weeks without even reading a magazine article. I devour YouTube videos locked away in my room, and then I completely move on.

It’s not that I lose interest or something else comes along, but my brain prefers to scoop up all the information or entertainment that it can before shifting focus.

It’s the same with writing.

When I first started a blog, I thought I would write weekly. I needed to get all my feelings about traveling out to the masses at weekly intervals so that they would be both satisfied and not overwhelmed. But then I myself became overwhelmed.

I moved home. I got an internship, working 9 to 5 everyday and commuting 2 hours everyday. I didn’t have time to come home and reminisce on the travels I was fortune enough to experience years ago. My focus was on staying calm as I dealt with regular social interaction on a daily basis, while also taking on the stress of what I’ll be doing after the New Year (I’m an introvert, through and through. I recharge by being alone, which is something of a challenge when working in a social office and then living with your parents.).

All this stress and cover letter writing, and the month of September flew by, and here comes November. Last year, I completed National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Over the month of November 2017, I wrote 50,000 words of a “novel”. It was a rough, rough draft, much of it simply the result of brain dumps that vaguely related to a topic. I haven’t looked at it since, but I enjoyed the sensation of finally giving in to what I had been thinking about writing for years. It was on paper (well, on a word document, but same thing) and not written on scraps of paper (well, iPhone notes, but same thing) fluttering about.

It was probably not my best idea, as I was also in the middle of a Master’s and was stressed enough without an additional burden. But that was always my excuse. NaNoWriMo is every year, every November. There would always be something to keep me from writing.

So as I sit here on my semi-abandoned blog debating whether I will be too stressed/busy/overwhelmed/social to write 50,000 words of a “novel” this year, I can’t help but think this would be a good binge. Write 50,000 words in a month and then take a few months off. But at least I’ll’ve caught that focus before my attention went elsewhere.

P.S. Is it binging or bingeing? I can’t decide since neither looks quite right. If you have any input on this debate, I’d appreciate it. ktnks.