Oktoberfest: Don’t judge me for not showering all weekend.

October 19, 2012 by Jessica DaSilva

Oktoberfest was the first of two beer pilgrimages I planned to make this semester (the other is to Bruges, Belgium, this Sunday). This was my third international trip, so by this point, I felt like a pro. I woke up early, despite a lingering hangover, showered, packed, checked into my flight, and even left with a fully charged camera battery.

I got to Heathrow about an hour and a half early, ate some lunch, and made my way to the gate. I’m in a great mood after my first hassle-free airport experience. That is, until I hand my ticket to the Lufthansa attendant.

“Did you not realize you don’t have a seat listed on your ticket?” she asks me. Of course I noticed, but I figured it was some weird free-for-all seating process. Based on her question, I realize that’s not the case and decide to play the Ignorant American card.

“No!” I say, looking shocked and confused. “What does that mean?”

The attendant explains that Lufthansa overbooks all of their flights in hopes of profiting off of latecomers missing their planes. However, everyone showed up for this flight, so unless someone volunteered to stay behind and wait for the next flight—which was not for three hours—I was SOL. Mind you, I’m already leaving at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and returning at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. The idea of losing out on another three hours in Munich makes me panic.

I’m told to wait patiently and hope for the best, which is what I do. I try to read my book as a distraction, but I’m already throwing a pity party for myself about having to stay in an airport for an extra three hours when I could be drinking Paulaner out of a boot wearing a dirndl.

I just finished texting Ashley to tell her I might be late as I stare longingly at the last passenger boarding the plane when the attendant runs at me to tell me that an off-duty Lufthansa employee gave up his/her seat for me. I’m incredibly grateful, though I never met the gracious employee, but I sent my thanks out into the universe in hopes that he/she would get some good karma in return.

I’m sitting in the very back of the plane and once I’m seated, I realize I’m surrounded by American bros. For those of you not familiar with this description, let me share one of the top definitions from Urban Dictionary:

An alpha male idiot. This is the derogatory sense of the word (common usage in the western US): white, 16-25 years old, inarticulate, belligerent, talks about nothing but chicks and beer, drives a jacked up truck that’s plastered with stickers, has rich dad that owns a dealership or construction business and constantly tells this to chicks at parties, is into extreme sports that might be fun to do but are uncool to claim (wakeboarding, dirt biking, lacrosse), identifies excessively with brand names, spends a female amount of money on clothes and obsesses over his appearance to a degree that is not socially acceptable for a heterosexual male.

I think I know why Europeans hate Americans.

Despite my seating location, I make it to Munich, Germany, just fine. I start walking around the airport looking for an exit when I remember that I don’t speak or read German. I start following random people and eventually make my way to a street exit.

Considering that I’m alone, can’t even navigate the airport not knowing German, and want to catch up with Ashley (who has already been in Munich for about three hours) I decide to fork out the cash to take a cab to our hotel. Although it was €70, it was worth every penny for how fast my German cab driver was driving. That, and he said, “Gesundheit!” when I sneezed and I almost exploded with joy because it was so authentic.

The cab driver drops me off at the hotel and as I’m walking inside, two drunk Americans in lederhosen crammed into one of those little carts pulled by a guy on a bicycle start yelling out to me, asking me to ride with them and party. I laugh it off and head inside. I get the key to our room and head up in the elevator, making a mental list of things to do before heading to Oktoberfest—namely charging my phone and buying a dirndl.

My head is still itemizing when I walk into the room. I put my bag down, turn around to find the toilet, and freeze. The shower is exposed. By “exposed,” I mean it’s a glass box right next to the beds, facing the windows that look out onto the street.

This exposed shower thing is a major problem for me for obvious reasons, but also because it was almost one of my nightmares brought to life. Every few months, I have a recurring nightmare that I’m taking a shower when some curtains open and I realize I’m in a glass shower on display in a zoo. Sometimes I’m in a regular zoo, but sometimes I’m in a zoo for aliens, on display along with specimens from other planets a la “Slaughterhouse Five.” I try to cover myself and hide, but everywhere I turn there are people/aliens staring at me.

So there I am, staring at the glass box shower and I say aloud to myself, “F*** no.” I made a conscious decision not to take a shower all weekend. Don’t you dare judge me.

Once my phone is charged, I head out of the room in search of the perfect dirndl. Despite about 1,000 street vendors selling dirndls, I decide to pop into a place I passed in the cab on the corner of my street. I figured I would at least be able to try on my outfit before buying it.

I sheepishly poke around the store and pick up dirndls in random sizes, as I have no idea what size I am in Germany. I have about five dirndls in my arms when an old German woman in a dirndl walks up to me and starts talking in German. Clearly, I have no idea how to say I don’t understand, so I just say, “Um, English?”

“YOU TRY ON?” she yells at me in response, as if I were hard of hearing, rather than foreign.

I nod and she grabs the dresses from me, throwing them over one of her arms and using the other to take hold of me and shove me into a cubicle with a curtain in front of it. She unties the ribbons on the first dirndl and hands it to me. I undress and attempt to pull it on, but I know as soon as it’s over my head that it won’t zip past my breasts (busty girl problem).

“YOU LIKE?” the woman yells at me through the curtain.

“Oh, I think it’s a bit too small,” I answer back politely. The woman yanks back the curtain, looks at me, pulls me forward by the front of my dress, and tugs at the zipper in a futile attempt to cover my chest.

While she’s tugging, I gesture toward my breasts and say, “They won’t fit,” hoping she’ll step out of my personal space. No such luck. Instead, she steps back, taps my breasts with her hands, and laughs. Then she just grabs the bottom of my dress and starts pulling it over my head, leaving me exposed to the entire store of customers in my bra and thong underwear. I desperately try to close the curtain, but she won’t have it until the dress is off. So I let her take the dress and before closing the curtain and covering my burning face in abject humiliation.

I haven’t even had a full three minutes to process what just happened when the curtain swings back and I’m enveloped in the blackness of another dress being thrown over my head. I pull it down quickly to limit my exposure, and the old German woman pulls my arms through the sleeves as if I’m incapable of dressing myself. She pulls me forward again, zips up the front of my dirndl, and ties up the ribbon and matching apron. Then she pushes me out of the cubicle and in front of a thin mirror to inspect my appearance.

As soon as I see myself, I’m happy. I forget about my molestation in the dressing room and I’m ecstatic with the pink and black ensemble she chose for me. I coo at myself for a moment, and the woman agrees.

“I LIKE,” she shouts and then offers to let me wear it out of the store. I pay and get a bag for the remainder of my clothing to take back to the hotel before heading to the festival.

Once I get to Oktoberfest, I walk around and take pictures, just soaking in the atmosphere of drunken euphoria. Women in dirndls and men in lederhosen peppered the fairgrounds. I inspected souvenirs, but purchased none, and was considering a bratwurst for dinner when a young, drunken German man walking by me yells “I LIKE YOUR GLASSES” about three inches from my face. I wish I could say this was a rare occurrence, but any time a random guy hits on me, it is ALWAYS a creepy compliment about my glasses. Apparently Europe offers no escape.

I have my bratwurst, wander around a little more, and when I’m unable to find Ashley and her new friends, I decide to head back to the hotel. It had been a long day, and I still had all of Saturday to partake in the festivities, so I saw no harm in calling it a night early.

I had been relaxing in bed for a while with the door flies open and Ashley, being carried by no less than three men, enters the room. One of them is her close friend from Houston and the others were various American friends and colleagues. She’s absolutely silly, but the men—who are also drunk and silly—dote on her for about 20 minutes, nursing her back to sobriety with glasses of water and aspirin. One tries making conversation with me by telling me I look cute in pajamas. I glare at him and respond with a deadpan “Thank you.” Another, realizing that I’m awake, apologizes and offers to leave “if we’re in the way.”

“Are you kidding?” I say. “So long as you’re here, that means I don’t have to get out of bed.”

Upon hearing my response, the last friend says to me, “Wow. You speak really good English. Where are you from?”

“Florida.”

Everyone laughs at him and leaves shortly thereafter. Ashley falls asleep as soon as her head hits the pillow and starts mumbling in her sleep, which sounded kind of devilish, but I managed to fall asleep anyway. We both wake up an hour later. I order more pillows, tell her about hilarious things she said and did, and we laugh for a while until we get more pillows and fall asleep.

We wake up the next day refreshed and ready to party in our dirndls. After quickly braiding our hair and brushing on some makeup, we leave the hotel. As soon as we step outside, a group of about five or six HUGE German men in lederhosen ask if they can take a picture with us. We gladly oblige and walk away feeling like celebrities.

Once we arrive at Oktoberfest, we get some sausage for lunch and eventually look for a short line to get into a biergarten. Eventually we find one and join the mass of people trying to get in. Although we weren’t waiting long, I started to get annoyed because a guy behind me was literally blowing cigarette smoke in my face, which I thought was rude. Up until Munich, I thought London had a lot of smokers, but I was mistaken. Later on in the day, I even got burned with a cigarette from a careless tall man who clearly never considered the possibility of scorching a short person in the tightly packed tent.

All in all, it took about 15 minutes for us to gain entry into the biergarten and probably another 10 to flag down a waitress to get our first beers. After that, we took a few pictures and went in search for seats or even just a bit of standing room with personal space.

On the way through the crowd during the search, an Italian man stopped me to say a few words in Italian. I had no idea what he was trying to communicate, but he was pointing a lot at my breasts, so not wanting to be impolite, I said “Thank you” and walked away. When we were in the clear, Ashley laughed and told me the man had been trying to offer me €4 to see my breasts. I was a bit insulted not only at the request in general but because I think my flashing someone is worth WAY more than just €4. “Well, now I feel weird for thanking him,” I said.

We hung out in the biergarten for a while and tried to make friends with a few different people, but to no avail. At one point, Ashley started talking to some Brits who were there for a stag do, but they turned out to be a bit rude and had no interest in talking to us—which I thought was strange, considering we were two attractive women and they were in the midst of a bachelor party. Oh well.

Eventually Ashley started chatting up a group of Americans standing near us. All of us instantly hit it off and we spent the next couple hours drinking together and sharing a table with a fun group of Germans. After a while, the group decided to leave and we unfortunately left Ashley behind due to mis-communication. For the remainder of the evening, I got to know one of the girls as we waited for the others to get their fill of carnival rides while we walked around and bought some souvenirs. If you’re interested, I got myself a tiny stein to put my jewelry in, as I have a terrible habit of leaving it by the sink.

Once 10:30 p.m. rolled around, I was exhausted and knew I needed to get some rest before attempting to wake up at 5 a.m. for our flight at 7:45. I headed back to the hotel alone, but it was only about three of four blocks away, so I was sure I would be fine. As I speed walked down a street, two teenage German boys came into view.

“VERE ARE YOU GOING?” one of them shouted at me.

“Back to my hotel,” I answered simply.

“BUT IT’S TOO EARLY,” yelled the other. “YOU MUST COME PAHTY VITH US.”

I laughed and told them I would party in my hotel.

“CAN VE PAHTY VITH YOU?”

This made me laugh even harder. In response, I touched them both lightly on the arms, smiled, and said, “Maybe next time.”

Out of all the weird, creepy men who had spent the day gawking at my chest, I found the two boys’ enthusiasm refreshing. Normally, guys don’t hit on me—a fact I lament with my best friend. I’m not looking to replace my boyfriend or anything, but it’s flattering to know a stranger found your looks compelling enough to strike up a conversation with you. It’s not that I wanted the type of attention I was getting from the Italian and his perverse brethren in the biergarten, but the two teens were so persistent in trying to get my attention, that I found it quite flattering indeed.

I made it home safely and Ashley arrived with one of the Germans from the table earlier. I knew she was a little out of sorts because she suddenly had a British accent. We tried to get as much shut-eye as we could, but felt awful and the exact opposite of refreshed when we woke up.

Thankfully we made it to the airport quite early and had sandwiches for breakfast. When we were sitting at a booth in the airport cafe, Ashley admitted she was still possibly drunk. I wasn’t, but I admit felt pretty sick. Our conditions were only made worse by the baby who cried/giggled/screamed for the entire hour or so back to London. However, we arrived so early that I had plenty of time to nurse myself back to full strength.

The first thing I did? Take a nice, long, hot, PRIVATE bath.

“Don’t Stop Me Now”

September 14, 2012 by Jessica DaSilva

Before I get started on this weekend, I want to make sure I sufficiently update through at least last weekend, as I have a lot of catching up to do! Even though I spent my last weekend in the city, I managed to pack a lot of entertainment and activities into two-and-a-half days.

Friday night was spent with my friends Dave and (Chris) Mandle and Dave’s brother, Steve–whom I guess I can call a friend now even though my Facebook friend request has been awaiting his approval for almost a week. Ahem. Anyway, I was really happy to see all of them as I hadn’t seen Dave or Mandle for a couple weeks and hadn’t met Steve at all yet. So after class I basically twiddled my thumbs until it was time for me to get ready and meet Dave at the Covent Garden Tube stop at 7:45.

So there I was, sitting in my flat in my underwear waiting until it was an acceptable time to get ready when I get a text from Dave letting me know he was at the Tube station and asking where I was. I look at the time and it’s only 6:45, so I consult my earlier texts in a panic and realize that I completely misread our plans and now I’m incredibly late and rude. I throw on some clothes and run out of the house and manage to make it to Covent Garden like 45 minutes behind schedule.

Because Dave is very gentlemanly–and because I have no sense of direction–I usually meet him at a Tube stop so it’s guaranteed I won’t get lost on my way to wherever we’re going. But this time, Dave and Mandle went to get dinner and I was on my own. No big deal, I can navigate my way to a location that’s not even half a mile from the Tube, right? Wrong. I followed the directions on my phone for about 15 minutes, walking in a giant circle before I realized I had the map settings on car directions instead of walking directions, which means that I was walking down one-way streets only. Fantastic.

Eventually I make it to The Top Secret Comedy Club, meet up with the guys, they buy us some wine, and we take some seats in the front row. The place is relatively small, so when I say front row, I mean we’re practically on the stage with the comedians. Now part of me is glad that I can see (short girl problem solved) but part of me is wary because I know what happens to people in the front row of a comedy club. Sure enough, I think each one of us got made fun of at least once. And once the emcee uncovered the fact that I was American, that was it. I don’t exactly remember what anyone said to me because my short term memory is crap, though I’m sure the wine didn’t help. All I know is that I laughed so hard, my entire face hurt.

As far as the comedians went, I think I liked some of the opening acts even more than the headliner, whose name I do not remember. Everyone was so funny and had such completely different styles, including one comedian who did part of his act ass naked. I kid you not. The next day, Dave told me he kept having horrific flashbacks to that moment, which just makes me laugh even now.

I wish I could elaborate on the rest of the evening, but my memory, er, got a bit fuzzy. We went to a bar in a hotel, where I got to know Steve better and bonded over being oldest siblings. I’m not sure how long we were there for, but afterward, we all went back to my flat where we finished some wine and ended up singing along with all of Dave’s favorite Disney songs. By the time everyone left, it was about 4 a.m., and I was exhausted.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling… let’s go with “under the weather.” So I’m feeling under the weather and Ashley asks if I’m interested in being touristy. Of course I am. She heads out to Borough (where I live) and it takes me almost 30 minutes to make my way down to our meeting place at Borough Market, which usually takes me less than 10 minutes.

I show up and Ashley is looking adorable as usual. I, on the other hand, am wearing giant sunglasses, yoga pants, and a Gators T-shirt through which my bra might or might not have been showing. I recently decided that looking cute did not necessarily equate to a good walking experience, so I’ve officially given up on wearing anything remotely acceptable when I know I’m going to do some walking. And thank goodness because that’s exactly what we did.

If I had to summarize it, I would say we mostly just walked around and bought souvenirs. Seriously. In our defense, we tried to go see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, but found out we were like four hours late. Then we tried to visit Westminster Abbey, but it was closed for a wedding. Fortunately, we arrived just in time to see the bride arrive at the church, so we took pictures of her like crazed paparazzi. Once we had our fill of stalker photos, we went to the Abbey gift shop… and bought more souvenirs.

After the trinket shopping spree, I left to take a shower so I wouldn’t offend my fellow University of Florida alumni at the Sports Bar & Grill (yes, that’s the full name) in Marylebone*, where the Gators were playing the Texas A & M Aggies–Ashley’s alma mater! I arrived just after kick-off and even though Ashley saved a seat for me at her Aggie table, I sat with my Gators and met a few interesting people. Unfortunately, all of them were just passing through London, but oh well.

Dave showed up at halftime to watch the game and all the American stereotypes who were watching alongside us. I have to admit, I felt really awesome because Dave didn’t know anything about American football, so I had the luxury of explaining the game. It’s not every day a girl gets to explain football to a guy! On a side note, I’m genuinely surprised at how much I know about Gator football. If only I could retain legal concepts that well…

Personally, I thought the Gators played like absolute shit and just eked out the win, but then again, Gator fans are never satisfied. I hope they made some adjustments for the Tennessee game, which I’ll be watching with the London Gators again from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday night. Damn you, evening games!

After the game, Dave and I tentatively agreed to lunch the next day, peaced out, and headed to our respective homes. I took a couple hours to catch up on Skype with my boyfriend, Nick, to talk about the game, among other things. It’s incredibly strange not to watch games together as we’re both die-hard Gators fans (thank goodness, as it would make football season unbearable otherwise). But at least I know enough to hold my own in a conversation.

Sunday morning, I wake up around 11 a.m. to a missed call and a text from Ashley. This confuses me, as we weren’t supposed to see each other until later that day. I read the text, which says:

I really hope you’re up and about ready, we have to be there 10 minutes before it starts.

This is when I realize that we scheduled a cooking class at Jamie Oliver’s Recipease in Notting Hill for noon. I leap out of bed, throw on a dress, run down the street to the Tube station, and catch a train. I have to transfer at the Bank station, which is the longest stretch between trains ever, so I run that whole length, too. Thankfully, I ascend from the Notting Hill Tube stop at 11:48, giving me enough time to cross the street, make my way up the stairs, and check in at 11:50. And now I will wait for your applause.

Thank you for that. So we signed up to make Thai green curry, which ended up being phenomenal. It was easy and fun to make and the chefs who taught us were really nice. Like I said in my last post, I’ve been seriously cooking for about three years, so I thought I knew what was up. To a certain extent, I had a bit of an edge, especially when it came to slicing and dicing vegetables (fun fact: I was vegan for almost a year once). However, I learned some seriously useful tricks! For example: It’s easier to peel ginger with a spoon. DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND? Try it if you don’t believe me! (I’m looking at you, Ileana). Also, what makes peppers spicy is the white membrane inside. So if you don’t like stuff that spicy, carve out the seed and white membrane with a spoon. Yes, it works for that, too!

Afterward, we enjoyed our food with a glass of wine and did a bit of shopping, as we are wont to do. I love cookbooks (and all books, really) and this place only sold rare and second-hand cookbooks that were no longer in print. So cool! I bought a Portuguese cookbook (Nana is going to be proud) and a cookbook called “Venus in the Kitchen.” It’s a book full of recipes using foods that are natural aphrodisiacs. I thought it sounded intriguing and would look great displayed in my kitchen back home. That’s a conversation starter if I’ve ever heard one.

When we finished up, we headed back to my place so I could wash up and make myself look civilized for “Spamalot,” which we were seeing with Dave later on. I figured because we were going to the theater, it was the perfect time to bust out my new nude Steve Maddens with sparkly gold stilettos. It was a good idea in the sense that I looked awesome and grew by about three inches, but then I had to walk around on uneven ground in stilettos.

The play was fantastic and because it was closing night, I felt like it was just a little special. Back in the day when I did musical theater, opening and closing nights were always the most fun. Opening night was always a hoot because it was a mess, but closing night was the most fun because everyone is so high off the mutual sense of accomplishment. After the play ended, the actors made a few speeches about the people they worked with and so on, so it was really nice to feel like a part of that–even if I felt so from the balcony.

It was such a great time, but this post wouldn’t be complete without some First-World complaints: (1) It was hot as balls in the theater and (2) the steps in the balcony were so steep that I became paranoid every time I went up or down in my heels that I was going to trip and die a most painful death. But I’ll leave it at that.

The play let out around 7ish, so we walked around in pursuit of food. Ashley remembered a nice, cheap French place in the basement of a building that turned out to be HUGE and really pretty, even though I told her it looked like The Cheesecake Factory to tease her. We drank some more wine and ate some delicious food and then headed out. The night was still young and Dave, who had been yapping about all of this important BBC work he had to do, decides we should go out instead. Praise Jesus! Because going out with Dave is so much fun. He’s taken me to some cool places and we always have a great time.

Sure enough, Dave takes us to a blues bar called Ain’t Nothin But where we see this really fantastic band. We keep drinking to the point where my feet no longer remember that I’ve stuffed them into high heels, and I think I can dance. Many times when I’ve been drinking, I hit a point where the beer actually improves my dancing, but this was not one of those times. I suddenly think that the few swing dance lessons I had in the sixth grade are finally going to come in handy, so Ashley and I get up and I “lead” her in a crowd of people, who I later heard from Dave were really unhappy about our turning their standing space into a dance floor. Of course by “lead” I mean I just randomly twirled her around with no concept of what I was really doing. Either way, we had a lot of fun.

When the band wrapped up their show, we headed out and somehow I made it home. I don’t remember much from that time frame, but Ashley got a few pictures to record the memories we’ll never have, which I suppose is just as good.

Apropos, I’ve had Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” stuck in my head. London really clicked for me this week. And I think I have a few friends to thank for it.

 

*Does anyone know how to pronounce “Marylebone”?

Jet-setting, Part 1

September 13, 2012 by Jessica DaSilva

I realize the name of my blog is “The Anglo-Files,” but this post is going to be about my first two international trips outside of London: Paris, France, and Dublin, Ireland. These were the first of a few trips I’ve planned outside the U.K. and they really set the bar quite high. Munich, Germany; Porto, Portugal; and Bruges, Belgium, really have a lot to live up to.

My friend Ashley was my traveling buddy for these trips. She’s in my study abroad program. We met over the summer via email and in person when we first arrived and just instantly clicked. It’s a good thing, too, because I don’t know a lick of French and Ashley can at least properly pronounce the few words and phrases she knows.

Our Paris travel story really begins with the poor decision to go out the night before our 6:40 a.m. flight. We went out for drinks with Ashley’s friend Piers and his work colleagues and even though I left early, we managed to not get to bed until around 2 a.m. We roll out of bed around 5, thinking we have plenty of time to get to the airport. We get outside with our bags and realize (1) the Tube is not open yet and (2) there are no taxis driving around.

Eventually we flag down a driver, but apparently he is the slowest cabbie in history because we get to Heathrow Airport at 6:05–five minutes past the latest check-in time. Thankfully we don’t have any baggage, so they let us through anyway. We run like the devil to security, get through the queue, and the run from security to our terminal, which just so happens to be the farthest terminal in the airport.

Now, Ashley is a runner, but I am not. Every few months I’ll get on these kicks where I decide I think it would be cool to be in a charity run or something, so I go out a few times over the course of a couple weeks until I remember that I’m slow and asthmatic. And that’s the end of that. So I’m running through the airport as fast as my stumpy, short-girl legs can carry me–which is probably on par with a tall person’s normal walking pace–and I arrive at the terminal drenched in sweat and panting like a basset hound on the Fourth of July.

Eventually I cool down, catch my breath, and take my seat. The plane ride is actually quite pleasant, despite the fact that Ashley isn’t sitting with me. But that’s OK because I start conversations with random people all the time. I hear the girl next to me speak to one of the attendants in French, so I ask her how to say a few phrases and some advice on where I should visit. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get her list because I have no ear for French, but I try not to be impolite and just nod, smile, and thank her. Then the girl next to her at the window joins in the conversation and tells me that she’s traveling to Paris alone for the weekend. Naturally, we trade phone numbers and I tell her to catch up with us for some sight seeing.

Meanwhile, in Ashley’s row… Ashley got a lucky seat in the emergency exit row, but when they brought the food through coach and tried to set up her tray, it caused an elbow-bumping incident that ended with hot coffee raining down all over her jeans. Ash had to change in the bathroom and got upgraded to first class, where there was less legroom than her emergency row. Also, they had already served food and drinks in first class, so she had to spend the last 20 minutes of our ride smelling like coffee and yet pining for it as well.

But even if our morning was shit, we more than made up for it the rest of the weekend. First, we were pleasantly surprised that our Best Western hotel was not some crappy Best Western hotel, but a really swanky Best Western hotel. I once stayed in a Best Western in Orlando and it was so ghetto, I’m surprised they didn’t leave crack pipes on the pillows in lieu of mints. Seriously, I don’t think I ever let my feet ever touch the floor. But THIS hotel was pretty nice.

Once we settled in, we consulted my list of previously researched restaurants and headed out for Le Coule de Poulle, a recommendation from an article in The New York Times called “Frugal Pleasures of Paris in Summer.” The article was a life-saver. A friend of mine told me about her fruitless attempts to find good restaurants in Paris. In the end, the best meal she said she had was at McDonald’s. Anyone who knows even the littlest bit about me knows that I’m obsessed with food–cooking it, eating it, rolling around in it (just kidding, but I wish). So the idea of a bad meal in Paris was enough motivation to trigger some obsessive list-making.

Lunch at Le Coule was fantastic: white wine, shrimp tartare, chicken pasta salad, chocolate cake. I’ve really only been cooking for about three years, but I’ve been baking since about 12 years old. That being said, let me rave about this chocolate cake: Its texture was between the fluffiness of cake and the density of a brownie; it was sweet without being overpowering; the mango sauce that accompanied it was an utterly phenomenal complement. There was no icing, but a cake this scrumptious didn’t need it. So awesome.

After a nice, long lunch, we walked all around the city and saw the Moulin Rouge, Arc de Triomphe, lots of sex shops, and did a bit of shopping on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées (not in sex shops). I bought a navy blazer (which I’ve needed for a while), a leopard print coat (which I didn’t really need at all), and two packs of socks (because when you live in Florida, you don’t really wear socks).

Then we started on a long trek through a beautiful park and then some backstreets until we arrived at Bistrot Victoires, another NY Times recommendation. I didn’t think it could get better than Le Coule, but I enjoyed this meal even more. Probably something to do with the 10 miles of walking.

I had beef tartare–not the cracker-spread kind, but the seared-minced-meat-patty kind–and actual French fries, which were probably the best I’ve had since… ever. I also ate about 1.5 servings of crème brûlée because Ashley wussed out and only took two bites. I actually wouldn’t advise anyone to eat that much crème brûlée, but I’ve never been one to let food go to waste, so what can you do?

We cabbed it back to the hotel where Ash passed out while clicking through pictures on her computer (hilarious) and I was forced to take a bath in the hotel tub because my feet were so swollen from all the walking. I know, I know. It’s a hotel bathtub, but if you had SEEN the size of my feet, I think you would have understood.

Unfortunately, the bath only did so much because my hair was a WRECK the next day. Thankfully, I bought a purple beret the day before and just resorted to wearing that to cover up my weird hair. The only downside was that everywhere we went, people tried to speak French to me and, knowing none, I ended up just staring at them like a feral child. I was always so nervous and taken aback that I couldn’t even muster up hand gestures that could indicate… oh, I don’t know, anything? Talk about being an ignorant American! But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

So day 2 we wake up slowly. Eat free croissant for breakfast down at the breakfast bar. Plan out some sight seeing. Roll out of the hotel around 1 p.m. Get lunch at a less-than-stellar touristy spot because we couldn’t find another one of the NY Times’ recommendations nearby. Finally, we meet up with my friend from the plane named Kemi and hit up the Louvre, Notre Dame, and take a ferry to the Eiffel Tower.

Honestly, I’m not sure words can describe how beautiful these places were. Paris in itself is a city where everything was built with beauty in mind. You can see it in the architecture of even the dumpiest of buildings. So to assist in your visualization, I offer you the link to my Paris photo album.

Anyway, Kemi went on to her hotel, but Ashley and I stayed, spending four hours in line to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I really have to hand it to Ashley because she knew going to the top of the Eiffel Tower was the one thing I really wanted to do in Paris and she stuck it out. Mind you, we started this at about 8 p.m., so once we got to the top of the Tower, it was blustery and absolutely FREEZING. Then it took half the time to get back down again.

Once we finished, everything was closed and we were starving. We tried telling our Asian driver to take us to a McDonald’s, but he didn’t really understand. Thankfully, there was a grocery store next to our hotel. Ashley had been wanting to have a wine-and-cheese picnic outdoors, but we ran out of time in addition to it being cold, so when we walked in and had no idea what to eat at 11 p.m., I recommended: wine and cheese.

We grabbed the first bottle and cheese container we saw, headed next door and upstairs where we watched the French National Ballet Company perform “Swan Lake” on TV (because “C.S.I.” was in French and also called “Le Experts,” which did not seem like a good translation to me) and ate cheese straight out of the container and washed it down with red wine.

Once again, I was forced to take another bath because I couldn’t stand on my feet long enough to shower. It wouldn’t have been so bad if Paris hadn’t been so windy all day. Everywhere we went, the wind would sweep up all the dirt and dust from the street and the park and swirl it all around our clothing in little mini dust storms. I wore a heather gray top and dark-wash jeans and by the time I got home, I was several shades lighter. I’m pretty sure I looked like Pig Pen from “Peanuts.”

Considering that I had already wrapped my head around taking a bath in a hotel room once before, I didn’t really hesitate this time. I soaked in the hot water like a dirty skillet and watched the sediment from my body tint the water and form a thin film along the top. I was perfectly happy until I started choking and sputtering, which is when I realized that I fell asleep in the tub with my mouth open and more than likely swallowed some of my filthy bathwater! I took that as a sign from God that it was time to sleep, got out of the tub, went to bed, and apparently sent my boyfriend an email in my sleep that read:

“Really, really miss you tonight. Too rely to right more coherent dentddcdd.

Sent from my iPhone.”

Seriously, what’s wrong with me? I need to stop bringing my phone to bed. But moving on…

The next morning we almost missed our shuttle to the airport (but didn’t) and made it back to the U.K. in one piece, despite Ashley getting the third degree from the U.K. Border Agency. As if she looks so suspicious, right?

This brings me to Dublin.

Thankfully for you–considering how long this post is already–there isn’t much to tell. We planned a day trip, which required us waking up at 4 a.m. and getting back to my flat at midnight. The reason we decided to go is because Ashley’s friend, plus her husband and his family, had two extra tickets to the Navy-Notre Dame football game and were kind enough to invite us, feed us, and water us with Guinness.

We arrived in Dublin, ate breakfast at an airport restaurant, and met up with the group at a bar to tailgate for the game, which started at 2 p.m. Then we walked (ran for me, considering how tall everyone in the group was) to Aviva Stadium, which I must say is just such a beautiful venue. Once we were there, I felt so grateful to have been invited. Even though I was across the ocean in another country, it felt a little like home–what with all the drunken cheering and whatnot. I mean, it’s no where near as awesome as being in the Swamp back in Gainesville, but it was up there as one of my favorite sporting events.

Afterward, I detached from the group because I wanted to stop by an independent book shop/restaurant I read about and also because I couldn’t handle any more walk-running. The book shop called The Winding Stair is one of the oldest surviving independent bookstores in Dublin. Clearly I had to go and buy two books and a reusable shopping bag. The book I bought myself was about Irish folklore, but the other is a present, so I can’t tell you what it is, lest the gift recipient is one of my 39 consistent readers.

Once I made my purchase, I met up with Ashley back at the bus stop we started at in the morning and headed back to the airport. By this point, my feet had taken enough torture and I had to shuffle the length of the airport to get to the terminal and then the length of Stansted airport back in London to get to our cab driver (a hired one this time–no more slow-pokes).

We got back to my flat where Ashley passed out immediately and I soaked in the bath, staying awake long enough to fall asleep in my bed like a normal person. And I’m happy to say that I stayed in bed to rest my world-weary feet all day. A good end to two good travel weekends.

First-World Problems: Adjusting to life without a car

August 17, 2012 by Jessica DaSilva

Those of you who know me surely know by now how much I love to complain. I know I shouldn’t do it as much as I do and I am definitely thankful and blessed for the life that I have, but I just can’t help it. I love to complain about issues that are not even remotely problems. They’re First-World Problems.

Let me explain just in case this is a new term for you. A First-World Problem is a problem that is not a problem at all. It’s barely even an inconvenience. And it’s never something anyone would complain about outside a first-world country.

For example, my boyfriend and I threw a Fourth of July party and were under the impression that about 30 people were planning to attend. Under this assumption, we bought enough food for 30 people. Instead, only about 12 showed up and of course no one took leftovers home. I was talking to a friend a few days after this (and by talking, I mean complaining) and I said, “It’s just so annoying. Now I have SO MUCH FOOD leftover. We’ll be eating hamburgers for weeks!”

“I’m so lucky in life that I have too much food” is a quintessential First-World Problem. You will never hear anyone say that outside of the first-world. And yet, I said it and I will continue to complain about my non-problems to anyone within earshot. Hence, I have created a new category of my travel blog to include the First-World Problems I want to share with you, dear readers.

The first major First-World Problem I would like to discuss with you today is my (very) slow adjustment to life without a car. Back across the pond, you can’t get anywhere without a car (with the exception of NYC and DC). In my experience in Florida, there is virtually no public transportation, so you really just can’t get by without one. And having a set of wheels is a big deal–everyone gets all excited to turn 16 and get their drivers’ licenses so they can take their parents’ minivans to the mall on Saturday evenings to loiter. It’s not just a ritual; it’s a rite of passage!

Here, the main modes of transportation are walking and the Tube. While these both prove to be convenient and just generally easier to handle, they pose a whole new set of challenges to which I am unaccustomed. I’ll start with walking.

Now, I will probably love walking by the end of the semester, but as it stands now, it’s not my favorite thing to do. First of all, my ankles and feet seem to be protesting as they have yet to slim down past the size of an orange. In fact, the top of my left foot is so swollen, I can actually feel it jiggle independently of the rest of my foot as I walk. Imagine having a packet of Jello stuck to the top of your foot. Now you feel my pain.

Beyond my feet, walking is also cramping my style (ba-dum-psss). I usually spend a solid 30-45 minutes getting ready in the morning from the moment I open my eyes to the moment I lock the door behind me. I spend this time straightening my hair, putting on makeup, picking a cute outfit, spritzing myself with delicious scents, etc. But walking ruins all of this.

Today I chose to wear a black-and-white skirt with two decorative fake pockets on the front, a hot pink T-shirt, and some black flats. It sounded good in theory. I had worn the outfit a few times in Florida and never had a problem, despite the shirt being made of a borderline sweater material. I picked this outfit knowing it was going to warm up today, but it presented new issues for me.

I love skirts, but a skirt is not the bottom you want to wear when (1) it’s a size too big, (2) your thighs rub together, or (3) you’re overheated. These three things can make wearing a skirt pretty uncomfortable, but they are so much worse when simultaneously occurring with walking. Unfortunately, I only discovered these issues after it was too late.

Truth be told, I expected London to be cold. This is true at night and in the morning, but that’s been it so far. Don’t get me wrong, it’s at the perfect temperature of upper 70s F (about 21-26 C), but it’s the walking combined with the skirt that makes it bad. As I walked anywhere, my one-size-too-big skirt would slowly but surely move around my entire body so that the faux front pockets would eventually wind up on my ass. Yes, my skirt turned 180 degrees on my body. To prevent this, I eventually had to hold it into place my sticking an index finger in each fake pocket. So now, the pockets that were never intended to open, have small index-finger-sized holes in them. Fantastic.

This doesn’t even include the thigh rubbing. Despite living in Florida, I generally don’t have much of a problem in this department because everywhere you walk and drive is air conditioned–your house, your car, your destination, your car again, your home again–they all have vents blowing gloriously cool air that not only makes Florida a habitable state, but keeps your makeup and hair looking in tip-top shape.

Air conditioning is not a thing in London. It’s so NOT a thing, that office spaces that are up for rent/sale advertise it like it’s a special commodity. In Florida, it goes without saying that your residence or office space better have air conditioning. But not in London. It seems that living in an air conditioned building in London is equally probable as stumbling upon a unicorn in Hyde Park or finding the pathway to Narnia. But I digress.

Anyway — it’s beautiful outside, but when you combine walking in the sun with a shoulder bag with laptop, a cross-body purse, and shoes lined with what I can only assume is something like fleece, you naturally start to sweat your balls off. Not only does this ruin my hair and makeup, but it creates quite a problem for my thighs, which are causing so much friction, I swear I could start a campfire.

So now you understand my issues with walking: Improper clothing not suited for walking in this nice weather and general physical incapability.

“But can’t you just take the Tube everywhere?” you ask. Well, kind of. But the Tube is a demon of its own kind. I mean, initially you have to walk to the Tube, then the stations–oh, the stations!–involve more walking and stair climbing and multiple levels of platforms, and did I mention that there is no air conditioning here either?

No air conditioning is bearable when the Tube is relatively free. You know, like when I’m being a tourist and sightseeing in the middle of the day. But now I’m in classes and I have to leave in the morning and come back in the evening like every other business person and student in the city, which means that we’re packed into these trains like canned Vienna sausages.

Inevitably, there is always one smelly person. They’re not like overpowering, but when they turn a certain way, you get a whiff of OMG-QUICK-HOLD-YOUR-BREATH. Sometimes this person winds up standing in front of you on an escalator and the breeze from the above-ground world blows all of his glorious stench in your face and you wish you weren’t carrying what feels like 12 bags so you could walk up the escalator instead.

Today was one of those days for me. I need to learn to leave my personal space at the ticket-takers of the Tube station so I won’t be so uncomfortable, but it’s difficult. Not only are these people crammed together, but they’re all sweating, too. My worst London nightmare–other than getting lost in a bad neighborhood and subsequently stabbed, of course–is bumping into someone as sweaty as me on the Tube. When that happens, I think I’ll just turn around and go home. If that’s not a sign that you shouldn’t have left the house, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, by the end of today, I was so sweaty, chaffed, and disgusting, that I just went home and immediately stripped down to take a shower, which of course is when I realized that I had forgotten to apply deodorant this morning. This led me to realize that the sweaty person I had been smelling on the Tube was actually myself.

Is there any mortification greater than knowing you were the token smelly person on public transportation? All I can say is TGIF, and I can’t wait to start driving again.

One week in

August 13, 2012 by Jessica DaSilva

Well, it’s been a whirlwind of fun the past week, hence the lack of blogging. But luckily for you, I’m nursing the remainders of a monumental hangover and can finally catch you up on my adventures in the longest blog post of life.

Wednesday, August 8 – The bookshop hunt

After I finished updating my blog, I decided to pick up my ticket to the Women’s Soccer/Football Gold Medal Match from the headquarters for my program (Stetson University’s Autumn in London), which I do successfully, and walk around central London for a bit.

I had heard a while ago that Charing Cross Road has loads of bookstores, including a lot of second-hand bookshops. I particularly wanted to visit because once upon a time, I was writing a book about a girl who traveled to London and lived in a flat above a nondescript bookshop on that road, so I wanted to finally check it out in person and get a feel for the area.*

So I bypass Foyles, which is the first ever giant bookstore chain (but remember I’m going for a certain experience here) and I walk into the first bookshop I see. There is a lot of hot pink everywhere and big, elegant books full of enlarged photographs and discussions about fashion and Paris and Coco Chanel. The woman behind the counter is in her 50s, I’d say, and wearing kind of a punk dress/overalls/either-way-she’s-too-old-to-be-wearing-that outfit. She has hair dyed platinum blond with some pink in it. I’m intrigued by this place until I notice a sign that states “Licensed Sex Shop” with an arrow pointing downstairs to the basement.

Oh God. Now, I’m not exactly prudish, but this is a pretty open bookstore. It’s basically all windows and doors and barely any walls around it. And I’m just standing there holding some coffee table book about fashion in Paris that I know I am not going to buy–because I like to feature books like “I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar” on my coffee table–and I’m just gawking at this sign, which is surrounded by skimpy yet frilly lingerie. And people are walking by and I’m standing there, exposing to the world that I’m basically a strumpet in a bookshop of ill repute.

Trying to act as naturally as possible without exposing my inner turmoil, I place down the book and wrinkle my nose as if to say, “Hm, no, I really wanted a coffee table book that’s really more about Milan fashion” and dart down the street.

The next store I go into is very artsy looking and I quickly realize why. Every single book fits into three categories: photography, philosophy, or film critique. Now, I consider myself an intellectual, but this is too much. I don’t even pretend to not be interested; I just leave.

Bookshop three is a little better. I bought Charlotte Brontë’s “Shirley” because “Jane Eyre” is probably my favorite book ever. Yet I was really hoping to find a sufficiently tattered copy of an Anthony Trollope book after a professor recommended him to me based off my love of “Jane Eyre.” For those of you who don’t know, Trollope is a well known classic British author who wrote in, more or less, the same era as the Brontës, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, etc.

So I ask the owner of the store if he has any Trollope. First he says, “Who?” I assume he can’t hear me and I say louder, “Anthony Trollope.” He has his clerk do a quick search of the fiction section and when Trollope still cannot be found, he apologizes to me, saying, “I’m sorry, but we don’t always have contemporary authors.” What?!? Had I not bought “Shirley” already, I would have left. I don’t mean to be a snob, but you can’t be a bookshop owner in Britain and not at least have some recognition of who your classical authors. No excuses in my book. Ba-dum-psss.

This is the last straw. Now I pop into Blackwell’s to grab a book that looks entertaining (after reading covers and being indecisive for about 30-45 minutes).

Once I get home, I talk to my dad who immediately asks where the tickets are for the football game. It’s not until then that I realize I never looked at them before. I just assumed that because we were an American university buying group tickets, that they would be nosebleed seats. I pull out my ticket and skim the stub. My eyes widen. “It says Row 1, but I’m sure it’s in a high section or something,” I tell Dad. Now I’m anxious. I jump onto the Wembley Stadium site and pull up a seating map only to realize I’ll be sitting in the actual first row. As in behind a goal. As in behind Hope Solo. As in so close that someone with a better arm than mine could throw something and hit a player on the field. Sheer excitement does not even begin to explain it.

Thursday, August 9 – The Olympics

I met up with a fellow student from the program to head toward the Wembley Stadium about two hours early for the women’s football match. Now, the Olympic committee provided certain documents to the ticket holders to instruct them on how to prepare for security and the match. This included seriously worded pamphlets discouraging anyone from bringing a purse, a flag, or a camera. Of course, I realize I was stupid to take these instructions seriously as everyone in the stadium seems to have all three. And did I mention that my iPhone only has about 61% battery to last me for the next five to six hours? Ugh.

Because we’re so early, my friend Steve and I decide to get some drinks beforehand. Yet when I try to bring some beer down to the seats, we’re stopped. Believe it or not, but they do not allow beer inside the stadium. I honestly have no idea why this rule exists. This just means that everyone will have to get twice as drunk at the stadium bars and get even more belligerent in the stadium upon arrival. Common sense, people.

The game is nothing short of magical. I never realized how impressive football is until I saw it live. And from where I was sitting, I could see the technique up close and personal. It is nothing like watching it on television. Truly amazing. The USA’s win only improved the experience that much more. Let me say, seeing my favorite–Abby Wambach–that close was pretty cool. Not to mention, I ended up getting some awesome pictures despite not having a camera and using my dying iPhone instead.

Of course, the downside to Olympic events is that they end at 9 p.m. and yet I didn’t arrive back at my flat until well after midnight. True story: My ankles were the size of grapefruits by the time I got home.

Friday, August 10 – Meeting new and old friends

So Friday I met up with a girl in my program with whom I had been exchanging emails all summer. She originally emailed me to see if I was willing to sell my Olympic ticket, but because I wouldn’t have parted with it for anything, we ended up being summer pen pals. We met at Borough Market–which is this lovely outdoor market in my neighborhood that sells produce, cheese, bread, baked goods, meats, fish, and hot foods for lunch. We step up to a stand and order two sandwiches that are probably the length of our forearms and spend some time walking around, into, and out of shops. When the sandwiches are gone, we get some gelato and spend the rest of the afternoon strolling along the Thames River.

Eventually, we parted ways because I had plans to meet up with a longtime Internet friend/contact from my journalism days. Back in the day when I was a young journalism student interning for The Tampa Tribune (July 2008), I wrote an incendiary blog post that garnered a lot of attention from the media. By that I mean I got about 10,000 hits in a day and 200 angry comments on an optimistic post I had written following a round of massive layoffs at the Trib.

I suppose Dave was studying journalism then, too, and had his own blog. So I guess he got wind of what happened on my side of the pond and came up with some idea for a blogging ring, though I’m not sure if it ever took off. Either way, I knew Dave by name and then we were Twitter followers and Facebook friends. Now that’s all ancient history and he’s a big-time reporter for the BBC and I went to law school. When I decided to study abroad, I sent him a message (read: many messages) looking for advice and whatnot on working and living in London.

So I vaguely knew Dave for four years and finally met him on Friday. He invited me out with a few of his friends and we had a great time eating Honest Burger(s), drinking beer, and having some really funny conversation. I can successfully say that I understand British people much better than I did before. Oh, and we also saw a tranny. It was an eventful night.

Saturday, August 11 – Harry Potter

This could be it’s own separate entry, so I’ll try to keep it brief (lest I start looking like the crazed fan I am). I had been looking at the Harry Potter Studios Tour for a while, but it seemed to be booked up through mid-September, by which time I would be in class and have commitments and stuff. Saturday is creeping by quite slowly, so I check the website on a whim and realize that two last-minute time slots opened up. Naturally, I buy one immediately and make the long journey to the Harry Potter Studios.

Now, one thing I must explain. I get very emotional very easily. To quote Kristen Bell, “If I’m not between a three and a seven on the emotional scale, I’m crying.” So I’m there. I’m at the Harry Potter Studios. I’m in line. I’m waiting. I’m slowly being overcome by emotion and as soon as they let my group in to see the little movie about how Harry Potter became a global phenomenon, I start crying. Thankfully I compose myself before we get into the Great Hall (because, seriously, I really would have lost it in there if I hadn’t).

The Great Hall really looks like the Great Hall (minus a ceiling). It’s fantastic. I’m walking around snapping photos like a lunatic and generally shaking with excitement. After a few minutes a tour guide tries to pump up our group by asking if there are fans of the respective houses. Now some time ago, I got sorted into Hufflepuff on Pottermore, which is pretty much the definitive quiz because it was created by the author, J.K. Rowling, herself (and for the record, you can’t rig it to get the house you want). After a few days of self-reflection, I come around and decided that Hufflepuff is really sold quite short in the books and movies and it’s a bad-ass house and I’m kind of a shining example of a Hufflepuff, what with the qualities I value (hard work, tenacity, justice, loyalty, kindness, friendship, mercy, etc.).

So the tour guide is going through the houses prompting fans to cheer in response. She first asks, “Do we have any Ravenclaw fans in here?!” and a pretty big group yells out and waves their arms. Then she asks, “What about Hufflepuff?! Any Hufflepuff fans out there?!” And I give the loudest “WHOOOO!” you can imagine, which would have been awesome except that I was the only person who responded. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she follows up with, “All right! ONE Hufflepuff!” Of course, the entire crowd turns around to stare at me–me, the 25-year-old Harry Potter fan BY MYSELF at these studios. I felt like the weird guy at the park with no kid. I’m so embarrassing. I really, really am.

I know don’t need to gush about how amazing the tour was. As you can imagine, it was done with an incredible amount of detail and precision, as this franchise always does. I was there for about five hours and it still wasn’t enough time to see everything. I can’t wait until I get some out-of-town visitors so I’ll have an excuse to go back.

And in case you’re wondering whether I got overpriced souvenirs, you can bet your owl I did. I picked up a beer mug with a Hogwarts crest and finally got a Hogwarts v-neck sweater, decorated in Hufflepuff colors (naturally).

Sunday, August 12 – Spontaneous pub crawl

Generally, I try to make a habit of making it to church on Sunday morning, so once I’m done, I come home and realize I have nothing to do. The closing ceremony for the Olympics isn’t for hours and even so, my TV isn’t currently working. I haven’t eaten, so I decide to take some advice from a friend back home and get Sunday Roast (basically a big plate of home-cooked food).

I head around the corner and across the street with a book because I’m alone and step into a pub called the Royal Oak. I sit at a table for about 10 minutes sweating and feeling self-conscious and awkward before I realize I have to order at the bar. So I order a lager and some food and get back to my table, where I enjoy it shortly after. When I’m done, I return to my book while I slowly nurse my beer until about four men ask if they can share my table so they can eat, too. Of course, I agree. We all spend a good deal of time talking and laughing and they start telling me about all the great pubs and historic sites in the area. When they’re done, they order another round of drinks and invite me to join them on an afternoon pub crawl that’s slated to go until the closing ceremony, at which point they plan to pop into a pub and watch it.

I have nothing to do and everyone seems friendly enough, so I go along with it. They took me all around Southwark, explaining the history behind certain buildings and taking me through the George Inn, which is a pub that Shakespeare and Dickens both frequented, and the Southwark Cathedral. All the while, we’re drinking beer and they’re telling me all about the history of the area–which areas were bombed in WWII and when things were rebuilt and where everything is in relation to my flat. At the end of the evening, we settle into Tower Bridge House to watch the closing ceremony, which I loved in case you were wondering.

When the ceremony is over, we exchange numbers and they send me home in a cab that they paid for. It was really such a wonderful experience and I am so happy and reassured to know that it has been easy to make friends here in London. It makes all the difference in the world when you move to a new place. I’m already growing to love this city and finding myself excited to see what each day will bring me.

Cheers.

 

*For those who care to know, the project is on a temporary hiatus until I return from my travels.