Snow Covered Sheep and Sally Lunn Buns

london, Travel, Uncategorized

We’ve got chilly, dreary weather and it has me reflecting on what might’ve been the coldest day of my life. In early March of 2018, I took part in a day trip through the International Student House in London. They organized the transportation and tickets for a visit to Stonehenge and Bath.

Getting up very very very early on a Sunday morning, we made the trek to ISH and hopped on a small charter bus. One of the toughest things about visiting Stonehenge is simply getting there, so shout out to pre-organized transportation. After a slightly frightening drive thanks to a winter storm hitting the UK, we made it to the stones. The trip was originally scheduled for January and ended up snowed out – the March date was also very close to being snowed out. As you can tell from my pictures, it was snowy all morning, making roads quite treacherous. Fortunately, despite the site closing due to weather, they let us in.

Our tour let us go right up into the inner circle of the stones and a very kind man explained the history of the area and the various theories behind the placement and transportation of the rocks. (My contribution to this part of the day was to regularly nod and say “aliens“.) Stonehenge is admittedly a little overrated and a long way from nothing, but getting to wander this close to the rocks surrounded by a fresh blanket of snow was an amazing experience. You could read where past generations had carved themselves into the stones and stand in awe at how the rocks could possibly be moved to this exact spot.

Once we were ushered away from the stones so they could close the site for the day, we hopped back on our bus. I tried to convince everyone to sneak one of the many snow-covered sheep back with us, but was turned down. It was still relatively early and still not particularly nice out, but we took mostly back roads towards Bath and made it with no accidents. (Our step count for the day was particularly high thanks to the shaking of the bus.)

Our scheduled activity in Bath was a tour of the Roman Baths. Despite it being freezing outside, it was quite steamy in the baths. The tour was interesting and the baths are in great condition despite their age.

After our tour, the plan was to spend the afternoon in Bath exploring. (We had to fight a girl who wasn’t properly dressed and wanted to go home, but we got our afternoon.) Bath is relatively small, and our first stop was lunch.

We wandered our way over to The Salamander, a cute and cozy pub off the main drag and had beer and burgers. Once we warmed up, we wrapped back up and continued our explorations. Bath has plenty of shops if you’re interested, but we found ourselves down by the river and crossed the Pulteney Bridge to the other side for an exploration.

On a warmer day, I’m sure the riverside is packed but we were not there on a warm day. With our time dwindling, we made our way back across the water and popped our heads in Bath Abbey.

Our last stop was possibly the most British thing we did all day (besides regularly commenting on the weather) – we stopped for tea. And not just at any old café, we stopped at Sally Lunn’s Eating House. Older than the United States, Sally Lunn’s tearoom is home to the famous Sally Lunn bun. We had ourselves some tea and some scones and a Sally Lunn bun.

Once we’d eaten our fill, we made our way back to the meeting place, did an accidental loop of the Baths in search of our bus, and headed toward London. And all before it got dark at 5:00 p.m.!

Christmas in London

london, Travel, Uncategorized

Most of my visits to London had been quick trips made in the summer or spring. It wasn’t until I moved there for grad school that I truly experienced their winter. And I learned very quickly that London loves Christmas. And they’re right to… There is something truly magical about London between the months of November and January. The city lights up in the most unexpected and lovely ways despite the dark and dreary weather. It gets cold, but not freezing most days. There’s occasionally snow but only enough for you to appreciate it before it’s gone.

What I love the most is the festive feelings everywhere.

A wander down Oxford Street and Regent Street will show you storefront after storefront with holiday-themed displays perfect for a bit of window shopping, with strings of lights reaching from building to building. Carnaby Street and Covent Garden also get all dressed up for the occasion with giant ornaments, lights, wreaths, and general festive cheer.

Trafalgar Square hosts a massive Christmas tree, while Somerset House and the Natural History Museum fill their courtyards to create skating rinks.

The U.S. has still not adopted the Christmas market to nearly the extent Europe has, which is a bit of a disappointment in my opinion. Hyde Park turns into Winter Wonderland, filled with rides, hot cider and wine, food, games – and entrance to the experience is free. So you can wander the crowds and take in the sights and sounds on the cheap. Leicester Square also hosts a smaller Christmas market with little booths to shop at. It’s much easier to pop in and out of than the Hyde Park situation.

Though it gets dark early and the weather is not ideal, there’s nothing quite like wandering past a pub and seeing everyone wrapped up inside enjoying their evening, or passing by a window display of a man dressed as a tree or only in brussel sprouts, or seeing lights flicker on overhead as you drive by on your double-decker bus.

Winter is a magical time to be in London.

Not Quite Wanderlust

Travel, Uncategorized

I wouldn’t call it wanderlust – I think I just wanted to see how far I could get away before I had to bounce back. The first step had been the Midwest – would I come running back to the East Coast or would I want to go even further?

There’s a different mentality in the middle of the country. Folks from the Coasts would label it complacency or a lack of curiosity. The desire to explore far flung places wasn’t ingrained in every decision amongst the cornfields.

But I’d come this far. The next step should be easy. I’d done quick trips – vacations with supervision, first to France and Spain and second to Italy and Greece. Neither was particularly challenging – I knew that by the end of the two weeks I would be home; I knew that my lack of foreign language knowledge could be brushed away with a snarky comment about “American tourists”. It was all quite safe.

But then came the big leap. A twenty-something hour flight with layover that would take me from my East Coast home to the other side of the planet. The safety net had been pulled away, it was time to take a proper leap and not know when I was gonna hit the next ledge.

But I didn’t hit the bottom. Instead, I got my extrovert on (kinda) and met new people. I learned about a country so similar yet so different than mine. I saw fish swimming in a coral reef and stood in the middle of the desert staring in awe at the full Milky Way hanging above me in the sky. I shared my new life with my parents and explored two new countries with them while I was at – a “I must come back” trip to New Zealand and a “totally overwhelmed yet amazed” trip to Phuket in Thailand. As I boarded my plane away from Australia, I couldn’t help but think how quickly can I get back here?

The turn around was quick – a month or so to sit at home and realize I was ready to go far, far away yet again. This time the plane ride was much shorter, the stress was much less, but the destination would be much colder. It was a challenge – to fight against the seasonal depression of four hours of sunlight a day.

The cure was to move, jumping from plane to train to ferry over and over. Flights to France and Germany, Norway, the UK, and Denmark; trains and buses to Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic; the infamous booze cruises to Russia and Estonia, Finland and Latvia.

In the constant rush, I looked up and there was twenty-two hours of sunlight, not four. I had been everywhere except the “here” that I had traveled so far to see. I told myself I’ll be back, but it’ll never be the same. The people will have shifted, the places will have grown, and who will I be?

Once you’ve left a place, it’ll never be same.

So with a brief layover in Iceland, I returned home. My East Coast had shifted beneath my feet and the cornfields had grown while I was away.

People had drifted away and together. Buildings had been torn down and build.

So I kept going – forward momentum pushing me further and further. Until I paused. In my rush to get as far away as possible, I’d made a loop back to the start.

King’s Cross to Primrose Hill

london, Travel

In between pretending to write my dissertation and my last few work shifts, I’ve given myself the mission to actually cross all that stuff off my London to-do list. I recently wandered Regent’s Canal for the first time since moving here and realized just how much of this city I’ve been missing my last ten months.

It started off with a long breakfast at my favorite spot in London. If you haven’t been to Dishoom, specifically for breakfast, you are missing out. A couple of friends and I munched on some Naan Rolls and drank copious amounts of Chai at the Dishoom in Granary Square. It was nice enough, despite the current heatwave, to sit outside and get a nice breeze.

Quick Tip: If you want to enjoy Dishoom without waiting in line, visit them for breakfast on a weekday. Especially at the Granary Square location, it’s no problem to get a seat for breakfast before 11 on any given Tuesday. Weekends are another deal and lunch or dinner is a whole new ball game. (Breakfast is best, and cheaper, anyways!).37807650_10214756228113186_3594843788020809728_n

Once hyped up on chai, we wandered through Granary Square, down the stairs to the canal. Our first stop was the precious Word on the Water. A floating bookshop on the canal, Word on the Water has a decent sized collection, though its ceilings are low and may not be suitable for tall folks or weak knees.

After a wander through the stacks, we avoided the swans and started down the canal. As we walked the canal, avoiding tourists and bikers, we keep catching quick breezes and little patches of shade, a nice refreshment in the middle of an endless heatwave. A nice spot for a walk, not so nice on a bike. The architecture from the canal is also worth a look as you wander, getting a different perspective than one might from the road.

37779873_10214756229593223_5733534005878325248_nThe canal path led us straight to Camden Markets, stopping first at KERB, as well as the old Stables Market and the food stalls. I grabbed a donut from Crosstown Donuts, which was yummy, but nothing too exciting. We also had some fish and chips (aka my friend ate the fish and I stole his chips) while we walked the stalls.

Once we’d grabbed some lemonade and orange juice, we made our way away from the canals, which are currently under construction, and up the hill towards Primrose Hill. We lingered for a bit on the top of the hill, soaking up some sun and enjoying the perfect view of London.37803602_10214756230473245_9193812607339855872_n

With plans for the evening, we made our way slowly down the hill, passing all the pups enjoying the park, and down to Regent’s Park. To get back home, we made the walk through Regent’s Park, which is always a lovely end to the day.

Study Spots


Like most, my summer will be filled with adventures and sunshine and friends, but there will also be dissertation writing. One perk of choosing to do my Masters in the U.K. is that it only lasts a year, but while many students get to spend their summer away from the library, that’s where I’ll be finding myself each week. Though I’m done with exams and classes, I have 15,000 words due at the end of August.

So naturally, I’ve been procrastinating. I keep telling myself I just need to find the right spot to study, somewhere not too loud and not too quiet. It can’t be my room because despite having a perfectly good desk to use, my (semi-)comfortable bed is just so close. I can’t work in my kitchen because the table is too wobbly and there’s too many people walking through. I don’t really drink coffee, so coffee shops are sort of out of the question, especially when I start to feel bad for hogging a table for multiple hours at a time.35922705_10214503902725209_6669531920843407360_n


The last few months, I’ve been studying in my university’s library. The Maughan Library is one of those beautiful monuments of academia and was perfect for long days reading through endless journal articles. But after a while, the walk there and the uncomfortable chairs just aren’t as appealing. (It’s pronounced Mawn like Lawn, apparently. Have I used the difficult pronunciation as an excuse to not study there? Maybe…)

As it’s now summer and my motivation is fried, I’ve come up with a new trick to get me writing. I’ve searched out some more Instagram-worthy spots. I figure if it’s pretty, maybe I’ll be more motivated to actually get out of bed and get some work done.35733525_10214503894365000_508092002596814848_n

Thanks to the interwebs, I’ve begun complying a list of adequate places, starting with the British Library. I stopped by for four hours on a random Tuesday and while it was busy, it was calm enough that once I plugged in my headphones I had no problem getting to work. (Though I did have a few quick study breaks to watch random tourists wander through and take pictures.)

In two months, you may be hearing from me again, complaining about how I ended up back in the same spot in my university library all summer, but for now I’m adding a little bit of adventure to my academia.

Wish me luck (and send me recommendations, please)!



Sometimes I plan and I plan and sometimes I am spontaneous. Recently, after discovering that a friend and I were both free on a random Thursday, we spent a day playing tourist in London. And let me tell you — it was fantastic.34814421_10214424243293773_1887582261952380928_n

Our day started with breakfast at Duck and Waffle. I’d read somewhere online that Duck and Waffle offered pretty good views of the city. Being a restaurant on the 40th floor of a building in a city that doesn’t frequently build that high, we got some views.

We made reservations, dressed up a little, and enjoyed a lovely breakfast. It’s pretty difficult to get reservations for lunch or dinner, but we’re students with next to no responsibilities, so middle of the week schmancy breakfasts were no problem. The food is surprisingly reasonably priced and quite tasty. (I can recommend the caramelized banana-nutella-peanut waffles with ice cream and the hot chocolate, for sure.)34909235_10214424243133769_1501864280029396992_n.jpg34985046_10214424243653782_3389102227338559488_n

Not wanting the party to stop, we hopped on the tube towards The London Eye and avoided all the tourists by visiting the aquarium. Sea Life London is a pretty sizable aquarium right in the center of London. The tickets weren’t horribly expensive and there was no line to get in. We wandered for two hours, watching the sharks and jellyfish and penguins and lobsters.

Although we were swarmed by a school group every once in a while, I found watching the fish to be so peaceful, (despite my leftover sugar rush from breakfast).

To round out our day, we grabbed an Uber to Covent Garden to eat at Flat Iron. They don’t take reservations, so it was a bit of a gamble, but we only had to wait fifteen minutes for a table (in Covent Garden, at lunch time). We grabbed drinks at the bar (because we’re students with next to no responsibilities) and I have to say their Strawberry Basil cocktail was so refreshing.34901665_10214424245893838_1910508690004246528_n.jpg

We had a couple of flat-iron steaks, which were delicious, and had a good laugh at the tourists around us, Instagramming each bite of their meals. (I will admit to taking a photo, but when you’re eating something other than cereal, you gotta share it with the world.) The best part of the meal was definitely the complimentary caramel ice cream for the road.


To work off the calories we inhaled throughout the day, we walked home through Covent Garden, doing some quick window shopping. One of the many perks of living in central London was the ability to walk home passed the British Museum and plenty of green parks filled with people.

Each step of the day wasn’t planned further than a few hours in advance and it was absolutely lovely. (The nap when I got home was also superb, in case you were wondering.)

A Day in Brighton


Every year, my family gathers around the television and we sit down to watch “The Snowman“. It’s a wordless animated film about a little boy who builds a snowman on Christmas Eve. The snowman comes to life and flies with the little boy over the English countryside (and the Brighton pier) to visit Santa Claus. It’s an adorable film with a song that breaks my heart every time I hear it.

So I am bringing up a Christmas tradition in June for a reason: I finally went to Brighton.

Thanks to Pinterest and the interwebs, I preplanned my day. Going alone, I was a bit worried that I would get bored or “waste my day”. I was also worried about weather: British clouds have been keeping me from soaking up the sun.

I got so lucky.

The weather was gorgeous, there was no line at the Royal Pavilion when I arrived in the morning, and by the time I was growing tired people were out and about to entertain me for hours.34398677_10214383142146270_427980601849544704_n

I had pre-bought tickets to the Royal Pavilion, which was a worthwhile two-hour wander while I waited for the sun to come out. I only got overrun by a school trip of middle schoolers twice. (I’d recommend either getting the audio tour or listening to music as the sound of everyone else’s audio guide is annoying.) You can’t take pictures inside, but good golly I wanted to. The wallpapers, the ridiculous chandeliers, and the tiny details!

I ate a nice slice of chocolate cake and had a soda in their café, before making my way down to the waterfront.34259059_10214383142386276_4044758762081222656_n

Brighton is known for its beachfront: a pebble beach, lined with cafés and shops and bars and a nice paved path. I ended up walking the beach twice, sitting down on the beach or on a bench for a while and soaking up the sun. The beach filled throughout the day, but as it’s still early in the season, it wasn’t too horrible. Plus, everyone brought out their pups!

After getting pooped on by a seagull, I stopped at the Bandstand Cafe for lunch. A nice burger and a beer filled me while I watched folks wander by and listened to the sound of the ocean. (Later as I walked by, someone got married on the bandstand, so that’s exciting!)

My walk along the water tended to stop once I had hit the Hove beach huts, a series of little colorful sheds all lined up in a row facing the water. The bright colors brought out the sun and some colorful characters.34398065_10214383142706284_3154201193085927424_n

From the huts to the Brighton Pier was about a 45-minute meander along the boardwalk. You can walk on the Pier without paying and wander through the attractions and stalls. Families were out in masses with sticky children and drunk adults. I am fairly certain that every hen party in the U.K. was in Brighton this weekend (same as when every hen party in Scotland was in Edinburgh when I visited two years ago).

I also took a wander through the shops to find ChoccyWoccyDooDah, the most absurd chocolate shop on the planet. After grabbing a chocolate milkshake and a water, I wandered the boardwalk from Pier to huts once more, settling in for a bit, here and there, to burn in the sun.

34393596_10214383142866288_6724776100896964608_nMy initial plan was to stay until sunset, but my exhaustion kept me from sticking it out. (The sun doesn’t set until 9 p.m. now; it’s officially summer!) I made my way back up the hill to the train station and set off for London, only snoozing on the train once on my two-ish hour journey!

Happy Encounters


I told my mom that my next blog post would be about how I pack for trips with only my backpack, and I promise I have a draft post being worked on, but I had a happy encounter today that I wanted to share.

While living here in London, I decided to get a part time job. In part to fill my hours with something other than Netflix and in part to afford my travels and Diet Coke addiction, I have been working in retail. It’s introduced me to some wonderful characters: my coworkers are lovely and we regularly chat about cultural differences and what it’s like to live in a city like London and what funny customers wandered into our shop on any given day. Most days, in fact, I genuinely feel happy being busy at work, tidying and organizing (and occasionally dancing/singing along to mediocre music).

As most people who work in retail can tell you, you’ll meet some pretty unpleasant people. Folks who are frustrated, angry, impatient, generally unpleasant. These people come into the store just about everyday and you do your best to help them out. Sometimes they leave happy and sometimes you’re left feeling a bit down or useless.

But then there’s real gems. Like the girl who came up to the till and asked how my shift was going (and then remembered me the next week when she came in again). Or the girl on a mission trip who informed me that God had sent her to the second floor of our shop to offer aid and prayers to whoever was working there. Or the babies that come in and smile.

Because of the location of my particular shop, we get a lot of tourists, oftentimes popping in to buy shoes to replace their broken ones or to grab an umbrella for a rainy day. Sometimes, they are just killing time while they wait for their train. French, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, all spoken in one place. As I struggle to translate my question of “would you like to purchase a bag for 5 pence?”, we use smiles and hand motions to communicate.

Every once in a while, I hear it though: the American accent. I don’t know if folks aren’t expecting it or if I’ve been in the U.K. long enough that my y’alls aren’t as strong, but most Americans don’t seem to notice that I’m not British.

But then there’s those happy encounters, like the one I had today, where an American (usually a mother, bless them) will stop and do a double take, asking me where I’m from or what I’m doing here.

Today, I had a customer leave the fitting room and then come back to chat with me. When I mentioned that I was getting my Master’s here, her face lit up. She was visiting her daughter who was studying abroad in London. She asked about my travels and how I was finding it with such enthusiasm and joy that our small conversation washed away any frustrations about my shift or any anxiety about my upcoming exam.

We exchanged a high five, or two, and she said “if I knew you better, I’d give you a hug!“. We’ll probably never cross paths again, but my day was made by this simple happy encounter of an enthusiastic, interested American mother who I just so happened to run into.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m happy to have three days off from work in a row, but it was a nice reminder of why I stay in my part time retail job: the people.


Wisteria Hysteria

london, Travel

London has been kind enough to give us some decently pleasant weather. The rain has stopped for now, the temperature is not too miserable yet, the sun has been shining brightly for the last few days, and the flowers are in bloom.

Because I am a master procrastinator, instead of studying for an exam, I decided to follow some blogs’ advice and take a wander to find the stunning Wisteria that has flooded my Instagram feed for the past few weeks.


I planned out a route and decided I would take off on my adventure on Friday. The first stop was Abingdon Road, then down to Kynance Mews, then down to Elm Place, back up to Sumner Place. The map was designed to give me a loop, starting at one tube stop and ending at another, making it convenient for me to get there and back to work if need be. (Some of the later stops were left off for another day’s adventure. One of the perks of living in London, rather than just visiting.)

Thanks to procrastination and a work schedule designed for sleeping in, I pushed it off a day. So, on Saturday I woke up early (ish), went to a theatre on the most beautiful spring day to watch Avengers: Infinity War (I have so many feelings, let’s chat…), and then hopped on the tube at Tottenham Court Road to begin my walk through Kensington.

It started with a walk through Holland Park, which was packed with folks enjoying the nice weather. There were little baby moorhen chicks floating around in a pond that definitely entertained me for a good fifteen minutes. They were so fluffy. I had hoped to see some bluebells, but in avoiding the crowds, I missed the flowers. Oh well…


I made it out of the park and grabbed a bite to eat at Waitrose, cooling down a bit and plotting out my wanders.

Wisteria was all over the place, more spectacular in some areas than others. The sun would hit a bunch and you could understand why people loved the vibrant purple colors. Drapped over a house or a fence, it seems to pop in London’s otherwise drab color scheme. Some of it was tucked down streets I would have otherwise overlooked and I definitely ran into a couple of folks with the same idea as me. The locals would give me a strange glance as I wandered down a dead end street or through an alleyway while staring at Google Maps, but at some point you know they’d all pulled out their phones to capture the same flowers as I was attempting to photograph.

I originally planned to tack on an adventure through Notting Hill on the end of my walk, but due to the pollen and general exhaustion and laziness, I made my way home, with plans to wander Notting Hill on another day.


The V&A

london, Travel

D.C. and London have quite a few things in common: large metropolitan areas, with history, culture, and politics constantly overlapping. One of the things I take for granted when in other cities is one of those commonalities: free museums. Both D.C. and London have some of the best museums in the world, and a good number in both cities are free.

My attention span is short enough as it is, so though the Louvre has thousands upon thousands of pieces of art, I can only focus long enough for a room or two. When you’re paying for the museum, that’s not quite justifiable. (Shout out to that broke student life.) When the museum is free, however, you can pop in and out, based on your schedule, rather than your wallet.

I’ve seen a good number of London’s museums over the years and have popped into the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Natural History Museum in past months. The British Museum is literal blocks from my current housing and the Portrait Gallery is blocks from my job, so those were easy to pop in and out of. Though the Natural History Museum is a bit out of the way, I had gone with friends and spent an afternoon looking at rocks and animals. Because they are free, I feel no need to rush to see everything. I can always return.

The other day, I had a rainy afternoon free and decided to spend it somewhere other than my bed. So I hopped on the tube and went back towards the Natural History Museum with a new destination in mind. The V&A.31945634_10214184006888013_125461024122863616_n

The Victoria and Albert Museum is a curious place. With a Chihuly hanging in their lobby, there is a little of something for everyone. You can marvel over fabrics or sculptures or jewels or wrought iron or paintings. I watched a class of retirees practice sketching sculptures and I watched a school group wander through the Buddhism collection. I followed a family of tourists through a collection of some of the most stunning jewels I have ever seen.

31947285_10214184007808036_1847038835830030336_nI find the most entertaining parts of museums to be the people. The ways that families and tourists and locals and art connoisseurs intermix and flow through the space, leaving careful room around a sculpture or a painting. The V&A offers quite a few balconies that allow you to look down at larger exhibits and watch the people as they wander.

31914135_10214184007528029_5663347570177474560_nSo I spent an hour or so people-watching before I took a chance on the break in the rain to make a run for the tube. There was no regret in leaving, no worries that I must have missed something.

31944370_10214184008808061_6955756873685401600_nI guess that’s one of the perks of living in London. I’m free to make my way back to my favorite spots and blend in with the crowds, #stillatourist.