St James Park + Fish & Chips Mate!

I’m coming up on my month in London. How crazy is that? How have I been here for nearly a month?

It really doesn’t feel like it but it is really has been a month. I’ve done so much and not enough (according to my personality type). A trip to Amsterdam, a short filmmaking course, weekend excursions and trips exploring the city – that just makes up a bit of what I’ve been doing.

Has all this activity caught up with me? Yes and no. The newness of everything has me pumped with a natural adrenaline that allows me to get a natural high, propelling me through every activity I’d normally be too tired for. There are moments when I just need to lay my head down and barricade myself from everyone and everything. Not because I’m antisocial, but me personally, I need a break to decompress. Gather my thoughts, you know!

Some activity I wanted to share with you includes my trip to the city yesterday. I was headed to a Meet Up that kind of fizzled (due to me not finding the group) so instead of wasting the day, I ran about the city. Hitting up the monuments I’m very familiar with but haven’t seen since nearly a month of being in the city.

Since I was already in St James Park I started there, taking photos of nature and the beauty within in the park. I tried to be artsy and capture some original shots as seen below.

As you can see from my superb skills, nature was out in full force. Loads of beautiful greens, manicured lawns, ornate flowers, etc. It really is a picturesque park good for any date or day to hang with friends, catch some rays and play some games.

Next I went to check out Buckingham Palace because, why not?

After running around the park and doing a bit of walking, I decided I needed to have my first classic British meal, Fish & Chips. I was scared to get something in the area I was because that location is notoriously touristy which means, dumb tourists will pay. I didn’t want subpar fish and chips or pay a million quid (I’m speaking the lingo not to be annoying but because it’s more beneficial) so I pulled out Google (that can be hit or miss itself).

Five minutes later, I found a spot that was noted as being 20 minutes away via walking. I figured, if I’m about to eat some battered fried fish and chips followed by dessert, I could walk for it. I set out for Golden Union. It wasn’t cheap (especially since they charge you a fee to sit down and eat but every place does that) but boy was it filling. The portions were huge! I know there are probably better spots that aren’t so pricey but I still recommend.

Barely having finished digesting my meal, I went to get some dessert in the form of gelato. On my way to find gelato though, I ran into Chipotle! I don’t know why but that made me so happy. A small taste of home. haha But yeah, I got my signature Stracciatella gelato cone. Yum at SnowFlake!

Last up on my todo list for the day, I wandered around near Oxford Circus and Trafalgar Square. There, I saw a floating Yoda and the outside of the National Portrait Gallery. I’ll go to the museum again at some point.

That’s what I was up to but stay tuned, I’ll tell you more about my life here and some fun upcoming trips.

Things so far in London

Disclaimer: I’m still a huge London stan right now. I really am loving my time here and enjoying myself. Do I miss my friends, my apartment/personal space, and general working knowledge of how NYC operates? Yeah sure. But I’m really liking the people I’ve met (interesting range of characters) as well as the city itself. However, I must give you my unbiased opinion of London so far.

Trains

This might be a long one because it encompasses price, etiquette and general poop.

They run when and where they want. One moment you’re waiting for a train scheduled to depart in 5 minutes, the next thing you know the schedule says its 10 minutes a way, followed by delayed, followed by cancelled.

I get really annoyed when this happens. Not only is my plan or schedule to get somewhere (or just home) on time thrown off, but I’m left struggling trying to piece together a new way home or wherever based on my limited (but slowly expanding knowledge of the city).

Another thing that grinds my gears, they are so expensive! You can buy a monthly pass but they are all priced depending on what zone you’re in. The city is separated by zones! Let’s just say a monthly from Zone 1 to Zone 6 (living out there) is upwards of $300 US dollars. And then, even when you think you’ve covered yourself, even if your train runs through a zone that you don’t even get off in, you still have to pay for it so watch out.

Last train gripe. Etiquette of the people on it is surprisingly terrible. People don’t say excuse me or tap you to move out of the way, they push pass you, swipe by you and even somewhat knock you over without as much as “I’m sorry.” I was really caught off guard by this because I expected a certain level of manners but I was mistaken. Shoveling myself into a rush our overground train, I soon learned. A man got so mad at me for trying to squeeze myself in. I apologized (unlike usual etiquette) and said I was trying to make it somewhere on time and he was sort of taken aback. Maybe it was my apology or my accent but I think he got it.

My Chip Though

So I prepped and got myself a travel credit card (great for avoiding those international fees) but for some reason, even though I have my chip in my card and everything, I am forced to feel like an outsider when making a purchase.

My card is accepted most places (Thank DA LORD) but I have to sign every receipt. Like every other EU person gets to tap and go or swipe and go but I get made to feel less than by signing a paper. Ok. Maybe I’m a drama queen but still. I feel awkward because no one ever has a pen behind the register and I have to dig around for one in my bag and stuff.

SUN, Where you Be?!!

I thought coming in summer would mean more exposure to sun in London. I mean, I know the city is prime for rain. I was expecting it and was fully prepared but man, I’ve been to London during the summer many of times and the weather I’m getting is meh.

Not awful but like I could use a day where the sun is out all day and we get close to 80 F (or 30 C for your brits). I want to wear my shorts and dresses! I’m still going to wear them though, I just need to be extra prepared.

So yeah, those are a few things about London so far. I still love you and the random things you throw at me but make those small tweaks and I’ll lust for you. jk

Adventure in Amsterdam: Only 1 Day?!

I’m planning to take quite a few European excursions while staying in the UK. The first excursion on that list was a trip to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam – home of the legal weed and endless canals!haha

Both statements are true. Canals are EVERYWHERE and so are Coffee Shops where you can purchase and smoke weed. I went inside one out of curiosity and let me just say, I’ve never seen so many flavors/knew there were so many flavors of weed. It reminded me of the back of a Jelly Belly box.

That wasn’t my first stop though. My first trip was to my hostel after a hellish flight just to get into the country (see previous blog). I was staying at the Generator – right behind Oosterpark.

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Classic closed eyes while smiling pic.

After a pleasant stroll through the park (there were ducks, little bridges, greenery, etc), I came upon my hostel building. It was large and the outside gave me the feel that it might have an old vibe to it.

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As I got closer however, I realized I was wrong. It was really modern on the inside. So modern, I couldn’t even figure out how to press the button for the elevator and instead walked the extra four flights to my room.

I originally wanted to cut down on my stay and get a bed in a shared room but due to the nature of my booking, went with what was free – a private twin room. It was great. My own space, my own bathroom, my own air! It was nice change of space after going from living on my own to staying with relatives while abroad (privacy is a beloved thing).

With literally one full day to tear through Amsterdam before my 7 AM flight, I started off by taking a two hour power nap in my room (partay animal). haha

10:30 AM – Get in my belly!

I’m starving. The last thing I ate was a bag of crisps and a bottle of fanta at around 1 AM during my awful airport experience. I needed a real meal. I pulled out my Google Maps (dude, I’d be LITERALLY lost without it) and looked for some places to sit and eat. I had croissant on the brain so was ideally looking for something in that alley but after a long and arduous eight minute search I said, forget this, let me just walk to the streets with all the shops and try my luck.

I wasn’t staying in city center, so I was clear of the tourist traps. I figured I could find something. I did, it was Maxwell Cafe.

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The space was beyond cute and they had a nice little selection on the menu at a reasonable price. The only draw back? The menu was completely in Dutch. However I did have enough brain power to figure out what some of the dishes were like Tosti’s (basically panini) or used Google to translate for me. In the end, I went with something I thought was traditional which was Garnalenkroketten – shrimp croquettes. The aioli drew me in but the whole dish was quite tasty!

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Highly recommend coming here if you’re near Oosterpark. The staff was very nice and the food was great. The only thing was after awhile, I wanted the check but it never came. I soon realized you had to go confront someone at the counter if you wanted to leave. Wish I had figured that out 15 minutes earlier.

1 PM – Weed Muffin Anyone?

Ran out to explore the neighborhood and look for a coffee shop that sold weed in edible form. Was curious on the offering as well as price. I also stopped in this cute chocolate shop called Van Veleze and got two chocolate lollipops. Tasty! Again, the staff was really nice and they had a slew of other desserts I wish my stomach could have handled. haha

3 PM- Time to get into city center and ride a bike!

It’s clear upon arrival into the city that biking is key. It’s no joke. There are actual biking paths just for bikes and tiny slivers of sidewalk for people. Biking is key and pedestrians must jump out of the way for them. With that in mind, I too had to explore Amsterdam by bike and ring my bells to make tourist hearts quiver with fear.

I rented a bike from this guy who told me that they take non EU visitor’s passports as collateral just because we look like easy targets for bike thieves. He also said we tend to get in more accidents. Nice boost in confidence guy. Any way, he shows me how to use the bike and I set off to check out the city.

During this ride I encounter the Heineken Factory, Endless Canals, A Mock Fifth Avenue, and more!

Later, I continue to stroll and find the Banksy exhibition, Ruk Museum, Van Gough Museum, etc. Everything was so perfectly manicured and maintained – the picture of perfection.

Eventually I ended my day with the items that were on my mind at the top of it – croissants – and chilled out at the hostel to check out some of the late night events happening there.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip filled with unexpected adventures and people watching. I definitely recommend you visit Amsterdam!

Flight From Hell with Vueling

*This is a piece that originally went up on Huffington Post. I’m posting here in case you missed it!*

Any one who knows me knows that I’m a very patient person. It takes a lot to get to me but like everyone, I’m human. Things get to me. Tonight that thing was a flight to Amsterdam via Vueling from Luton Airport.

I’m currently living in Europe (London specifically) and with that comes the ability to travel to places near and far to fill up my passport with stamps from new places and to experience different culture and people. The first of my trips for the summer was a weekend getaway to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is known for many things but I was most excited to see the canals, beautiful buildings and flowers. Packing only the weekend essentials in my Kate Spade Weekender, I left my film program and made my way to Luton Airport. Since I had never been to the airport before, I wanted to give myself enough time to prepared to be lost and also to get through a potentially rough check in.

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Funnily enough, the travel to the airport went as smooth as could be. The only major hiccup was the fact that I had to pay an extra $15 pounds just to get through the tube even though I already purchased a monthly Oyster card (and that thing is like $300 for Zones 1 – 6). Don’t get me wrong, I still love London but boy is the underground overlord shady in finding ways to sneak in added charges to your daily travel. What was causing the actual hiccup was Luton Airport itself, or more specifically, Vueling.

My flight was expected to take off at around 8:40 PM landing in Amsterdam at approximately 11 PM. This was not bad. I could have a nice little weekend away and get back to London on Sunday in order to prep for class the next day, or so I thought.

When I get pass TSA, the hoards of people waiting for their flight are quite alarming. There’s literally no place to kick up against a wall because everyone is covering a spot waiting for their delayed or cancelled flight (not a good sign). I keep spirits high however and assume that maybe there is bad weather wherever these people are going and that I won’t suffer their fate.

2 hours later.

My gate number still hasn’t been listed and my flight should have already boarded. The staff at Luton appear to be clueless and tell me to wait for the board to share some info. I do. Eventually, it flashes and tells me that my flight is pushed back by 2 hours (10:40 PM). Not ideal but I can handle.

8 minutes later.

Suddenly, I overhear a group of Americans say their flight was pushed back again. I have a sinking feeling they are on my flight and quickly get up to check the board. Estimated Flight Departure – 2:15 AM.

You’ve got to be kidding me. I hastily grab my items and try to find the nearest airport staff. They keep redirecting me and telling me that because they work with a separate airline, they don’t have answers. CLASSIC.

After running through the airport clueless and running into one of my favorite YouTube couples, Jamie and Nikki, I finally find a Vueling rep. She is inundated with angry passengers from my flight and other cancelled flights associated with EasyJet. She is the only person serving multiple flights full of angry passengers and I feel for her but I want answers. All she can do is offer us a voucher for get this, $6 pounds for our troubles. Lame. You’re delaying my flight by six plus hours and giving me a voucher to buy at most, a small dissatisfying sandwich?

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Now, I’m here. Still sitting in Luton, hopeful my flight to Amsterdam actually takes off and that my hotel still keeps my reservation (since I’m not able to check in).

Amsterdam, you better be beautiful but word to the wise, think twice about flying Vueling out of Luton. Your pockets will thank you for it.

Traveling To London Part 2

Somehow I always find myself on an overnight international flight. I doubt it’s a coincidence.

I think the answer is the cheap flights with no layovers are always at night. I’m not sure if people despise overnight international fights and that’s why they are cheaper but I personally love them. I can literally sleep the whole flight if I so choose and by the time I wake up, it’s morning. The day has already begun in the place I’ve made my way to and there’s tons for me to do, keeping my little adrenaline soaked heart elated. I can go to a restaurant or a landmark as opposed to be resigned to staying in and trying to find something still open for me to visit.

But back to the plane, where I previously left off.  I just boarded and made my way to my aisle seat but I encountered a bit of a problem. The temperature!

Unbeknownst to me, airplanes are really really cold. Like arctic level cold. You’d think that after all my travels I’d retain that information but sadly, it did not stick. Instead I was greeted to what felt like negative temperatures and no little airplane welcome pack (a package of free items consisting of earbuds, a blanket and an eye mask). If you wanted a blanket, you had to bring it yourself or prepare to purchase one from the flight attendant. Me, I wasn’t buying a blanket. No way would they crank the air on me in order to scam me out of my dollars. Instead, I made a makeshift cover using two Zara jackets I happened to bring on the plane (no more space in my luggage meant drape the jackets over your arm and just walk on to save your bag from any extra weight).

The jackets really saved my life. One was draped across my legs and the other draped across my face. Yes, that’s right. I felt some air hitting me right on the baby’s soft spot of the head and could not take it for a minute longer. I spread the other jacket backwards across my torso and put the hood over my face. That relief from the air was amazing! Not only that, I was able to sleep and drool to my hearts content since people couldn’t see my face. The best drool catcher if there ever was such an invention.

A few hours, a cranky flight attendant and a rough landing later, I was finally in London. Touchdown.

Now it’s time to meet unique people, get myself tangled in fun adventures and maybe even spot a few of my favorite British Youtubers.

Stay tuned for more!

ABOUT ME

mi

Twenty something, liberal arts educated girl trying to figure out my way and passion within the world.

I was raised in the Bronx and after getting my BA at an institution in Massachusetts for my studies in English & French, I headed back to NYC to start my career in communications. I’ve worked at a variety of PR firms gaining an expertise in strategy, writing and storytelling but along the way, have been able to nurse my love of travel and film.

It’s my personal goal to get everywhere in the world and explore my own country as well. I’ve been to London, Paris, Greece, Sweden, Brussels, Ireland, Spain, etc and I don’t see myself slowing down anytime soon.

Studying and making films is a big passion of mine (as well as watching) so I hope to share some fun clips of some my work in the future.

Find me on Twitter if you want to contact me.

 

I’m starting a blog! Let’s hope it sticks

It’s 1 AM and I just finished watching the finale of “The Walking Dead.” Aside from screaming at my computer screen, I figured I should end my night on a positive note (that finale just left a sour taste in my mouth) and create a blog.

This isn’t a whim mind you. This has been quite thought out. I’ve been thinking about doing this for quite a few months. There are many changes on the horizon for 2016 and I figure, what better place to document said changes than with an online source to write and share every random and possibly shade filled thought?

Now what will I write about? That’s to be answered in a future blog post. Just know that I have some BIG plans that fall into the lifestyle and travel realm. It’ll be good stuff (I hope) and maybe I can provide a bit of entertainment for anyone so inclined to pop by my site.

Posting schedule? TBD. Like I said, I wanted to end my night on a positive note and may have gotten too ahead of myself by creating this blog now as opposed to waiting a few months for the NEWS to land. Oh well. I didn’t really reveal anything did I? Just the fact that there is something coming but until then, you can guess at what that news will be.

Last tidbit, I also am a Huffington Post Travel contributor so check out my posts and helpful tips there as well (you see, I’m already blogger official).

Get excited!