In less than six hours, I will have my last final exam in London. A few short hours after that, I will be on a plane, and I honestly do not know if I'll ever spend this much time in Europe again. Consecutively, at least. It's been an amazing journey, and I hope this blog reflects some of that.

I suppose when I get back, I'll try to finish up some of those drafts about my astonishingly long spring break, as well as my return to Barcelona, so keep an eye out for that, I suppose. 

So this weekend I visited B in Norwich, where she's studying abroad! I really love her program--she lives in a dorm with tons of other British people, so I met several of them. I'm quite jealous, actually.

Since she hadn't been exploring Norwich much during this time, all the touristy things were as new to her as they were to me. So on Saturday, we set out to explore the town and we got off the double decker bus when we spotted a sign for the Cathedral, which turned out to be the Cathedral Church of St. John the Baptist (or the Roman Catholic one), not the Norwich Cathedral. It actually took us a few more hours to get to the latter, mostly because we somehow got distracted by the Chapelfield Shopping Centre (terrible, I know). I got a lovely new dress out of it though. Anyway, I loved the stained glass windows and the doors in the Roman Catholic Church. Here's a picture.

We also went to the Forum, which houses this amazing library--the Millennium Library. You also get a great view of...some cathedral (?) from the inside.

On our way to find the Norwich Cathedral, we passed by the Theatre Royal. Then when we reached our destination, we realized that we'd completely failed; we'd been following the signs for the Roman Catholic Cathedral, not realizing that it referred to the one that we'd already been to. On the bright side, while back tracking, we had the opportunity to go through this lovely park--Chapelfield Gardens. I tried to stealthily take a picture of random costumed teenagers, but it didn't come out very well.
I promise I wasn't hiding in a bush or anything.
On Sunday, we made our way to Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, which had awesome teapots. I actually think I want to collect crazy teapots now. Not normal ones though--just weird ones. Despite the fact that I don't actually use teapots (maybe I would if I had one?). Here's one of Humpty Dumpty. It's really cute.
Here's to catching up with B! Can't wait to see you this summer!

So since so many of my friends seem to want to visit Barcelona this semester, I figured I should should compile all my tips into a blog post. Partly to help them, but also partly so I don't forget my favorite parts.

First of all, and possibly one of the most important things I have to say is to watch out for pickpockets. They're basically everywhere. A little bit of paranoia is healthy. After all, someone did steal my watch two days before I departed the city (I don't know if I'll ever get over the fact that 1-I was so close to leaving without having been pickpocketed or 2-that I was actually wearing my watch when the theft occurred). So if people are crowding you on the metro, or anywhere for that matter, put your hand on  the zipper of your bag to make sure nobody can stealthily steal from you. And if you're male, I don't recommend that you keep your wallet in your back pocket. Never leave anything unattended.

The metro runs from 5 AM to midnight Sunday through Thursday. On Fridays, it's open until 2 AM and it does not close on Saturday night. You will probably end up using the metro quite often, so I would suggest buying a pass with 10 rides. It's much more cost effective.

I understand that when many people think of Spain, they think of paella and sangria. I feel that I should warn you that if you find sangria in a restaurant or a bar, chances are that they got the cheapest wine possible and mixed it with whatever juice and fruit they had on hand. Basically, unless you're invited to a Catalan gathering, you are falling into a tourist trap. However it probably wouldn't taste bad, so if you really enjoy sangria, then go ahead. I just don't recommend it. And in regards to paella, a good rule of thumb is that if there is a picture of the dish outside the restaurant, it is not going to taste good. There may be exceptions to this, but in general, it's a good guideline. Also, if the menu says that at least two people in your party need to order paella, then you'll know that it will definitely be freshly made. Some places simply make huge portions early in the day and heat it up for each customer.

Speaking of restaurants, unless you have already looked up reviews or received a recommendation from someone, try not to go to a place that's located right next to a tourist spot. If you wander along a side street, you might be able to find a better place. Look out for places with a menú del día. It's usually a pretty good deal; you can get a three course lunch for around 8-15 euros. Also, tipping is not necessary. It's not America; waiters/waitresses are not dependent on tips. If you're having a meal in a restaurant, you might want to round up to tip. The last thing I'm going to say about restaurants is that Spaniards eat lunch at 2 PM, and they tend to be long meals. They eat dinner at 9 PM, or sometimes even later. Let me know if you want more specific restaurant recommendations, and I might be able to point you in the right direction.

Some of my favorite dishes were tortilla de patata (Spanish omelette), pan con tomate (bread with tomato rubbed on it), and esqueixada (codfish salad). Of course, I made a point of satisfying my sweet tooth with crema catalana (basically crème brûlée), ice cream (Use the verb probar-to taste/try-to ask for samples of the ice cream before buying.), and ensaimadas (delicious coiled pastries that sometimes come with fillings. Like pumpkin, which is amazing.)

Here's an ensaimada that K and I got for breakfast once. My fingers give an indication of its size. We only got the medium one, and somehow, she managed to convince me that we would have no difficulty polishing it off (honestly, I did not need too much convincing). Needless to say, we spent the rest of the day, carrying around half of a giant ensaimada. There's a lesson to be learned here, somewhere.
In case you didn't already know, Barcelona is in Catalunya, and is bilingual. In fact, some are actually more fluent in Catalan than in Spanish. Thus, almost every sign will be in Catalan, Spanish, and English. I don't know much Catalan aside from bon dia, bona tarda, bona nit, and No parlo el català (I don't speak Catalan). You should be able to get along fine for a weekend without speaking Catalan. And if you can read French, you might be able to read some Catalan.

As for tourist spots, some of my favorite places in Barcelona were Parc Guell and Parc de la Ciutadella. Parc de la Ciutadella has a gorgeous fountain, a pond, and a statue of a giant mammoth. Take a picture on or standing next to the mammoth. If you have time, hang around to watch other tourists' photo ops; watching someone struggle onto the mammoth's trunk can be quite amusing. The park is also walking distance from the beach, Arc de Triomf (which wasn't built to celebrate a victory or anything, by the way), the zoo (which I never actually saw), and the university that I attended while I lived in Barcelona. If you go to the beach, try not to let the massage-offering, beverage-selling people irritate you too much. Click here to read more about characters you might meet at the beach.

Aside from Parc Guell, Gaudí is also responsible for Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà (otherwise known as La Pedrera), and Casa Batlló. If you go to Sagrada Familia, I highly recommend that you go inside. Tip: the process may be significantly less time-consuming if you buy your tickets online beforehand. While you're nearby Sagrada Familia, I would recommend wandering through Hospital de Sant Pau. It's nearby and it definitely does not look like your typical hospital. Palau de la Música Catalana is also gorgeous, and is by the same architect that designed the hospital. In other words, they're some of the few famous works of architecture in Barcelona that Gaudí did not create.

Museu Picasso is also pretty amazing--I actually spent three hours there once. Sometimes they have free entry (you can look that up online), but if you're only in the city for a limited amount of time, it might not be worth it to stand in line for an hour, waiting to get inside. I really enjoyed exploring the neighborhood around the the museum, so you might want to do that as well.

Although flamenco isn't as huge in Barcelona as one might expect (it's bigger in Andalucía, but I once saw a show in Madrid), you can still find shows. If you want to see a show, I could give you the name of a place that one of my friends went to once. 

Finally, if you're going to be in Barcelona for a while, you might want to look into going on day trips, possibly to Sitges, known for its lovely beaches, or Figueras, home of the Dalí Museum. I briefly touched on my trip to Sitges in one of my past posts, but I want to note here that the beaches of Barcelona cannot compare to those of Sitges.

Writing this really made me miss Barcelona. Even more than I already did. But that's okay because I recently booked a flight back there, and as long as strikes don't screw it up, I'll be able to visit again before returning to the U.S.

Here's to Barcelona!

... I could find out countries in her."
-Shakepeare's The Comedy of Errors

I had a great time with K when she visited me this weekend! We made some really random discoveries, such as a certain fast food restaurant's new Chili Cheese Bites (apparently only available in the U.K.?), the existence of the word 'scrumpy', and a list of Shakespearean insults, among other things.

Of course, I brought her to the usual tourist spots that I'd been to before, such as the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Oxford Street, Chinatown, Trafalgar's Square, and 10 Downing Street, but I was happy to have the opportunity to explore new places (i.e. different markets and museums).

So we started off our adventures by taking a train over to Hampton Court, former home of the Tudors! I don't know if I would have known that it existed if she hadn't visited. Anyway, after hearing her talk about the merits of Showtime's interpretation, I really do feel inclined to watch that series. At the Tiltyard Cafe, we sampled rhubarb ice cream, which tasted oddly familiar, and K had her first taste of a scone with jam and clotted cream. Random: the Devonshire method of eating a scone says that one should spread clotted cream and then add a teaspoon of jam to the top, but at the time, I didn't realize that I wasn't meant to spread the jam, so it really just looked unappetizing. I think I would probably prefer the jam before the cream anyway, so it can be evenly distributed. Yes, I probably think about these things more often than I should.

"Imagine how much sex he must have had here!" -K
Also I really love how tall all the beds are.
When we returned from Hampton Court, we wandered around the South Bank area and stumbled upon a small carnival! Obviously, the next logical step was to get cotton candy. And then I think we contemplated opening our own cotton candy stand.

On Saturday, I suppose the only touristy thing we did was the British Museum. I finally saw the Rosetta Stone and a ton of the exhibits on Ancient Greece. Reading the descriptions of the statues was both hilarious and somewhat puzzling. It seemed as if the vast majority of them said that while part of the statue is here, the head (or some other miscellaneous body part) is located in Athens. So K and I are looking forward to going to Athens and finding signs that tell us that the other half of the statue is actually in London. Even more so than we were before, that is.

Of course, I should also mention that we hit up Patisserie Valerie and Maison Bertaux, which was really adorable. Unfortunately, I must have neglected to take pictures for posterity. Clearly, I was overeager.

Sunday was super busy; in the morning, we met up with A to go to Spitalfield's market, where we randomly spoke to these British men about brownies and traveling, if I remember correctly. In all honesty, I was more focused on my half of the brownie than on the conversation. Are you starting to see a theme?

We eventually found our way to Brick Lane market, which was our actual destination. We had some delicious Indian food and K managed to restrain her impulses to buy gingerbread men earrings. I'm pretty sure that I'll return later to try one of those Indian restaurants for dinner, though at this point, I feel as if I say that about every place I go to. I promise this will definitely happen.

So on our way to Buckingham Palace and such, we managed to get sidetracked for the better part of three hours at the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery. For some reason, I think I was really shocked when I realized/remembered (?) that they're not the same museums. Anyway, I really did not expect to enjoy the National Portrait Gallery due to the fact that I don't generally enjoy that type of art. Furthermore, we didn't expect to spend so much time there. In fact, we probably only meant to look at about ten rooms or so (i.e. more Tudors, Brontë sisters, Jane Austen, and contemporary portraits), but we basically ended up wandering through the whole building. I was slightly disappointed that I didn't see J. K. Rowling's portrait, despite the fact that the map clearly said she was somewhere in rooms 35-41 (or something to that effect).
Conclusion? I need to return to seek out the J. K. Rowling portrait.

Also, I want to note that they really should do something about their computers. We spent a significant amount of time, surfing the database, trying to figure out how to locate the Brontë portrait, and it turns out that it can't be done. It would appear that you can only find out information about the subject and the artist, so they are essentially useless.
K and I pretty much agree that this portrait of Tennyson was probably the best part. Not to mention that it was right next to the one of the Brontë sisters. No, I did not mean for it to be so huge.
After watching K halfheartedly try to climb up to the lion statues in Trafalgar for a photo op, we decided to briefly pop into the National Gallery. Of course, we ended up staying until they were essentially kicking us out. Monet's Water Lilies are pretty amazing. All of them. If you're in London and you're a fan of impressionism, I highly recommend you stop by, if you haven't already. Below, you can see an image of a Van Gogh product in the gift shop.
This is one of the most idiotic products I have ever seen. When you open it, it's all blank, because of course, you're expected to paint it all yourself. I really cannot fathom what was going through the inventor's mind when he/she thought of this. Likely something along the lines of: "Oh, I'm sure there's some sucker out there that will buy a book of completely blank postcards!"
Here's to coming up with new inside jokes with an old friend!

So I really miss 24-hour places. London, as cosmopolitan as it may be, does not seem to have many things that stay open throughout the day. In fact, the only place I can really think of is the Tesco Metro across the street from the Russell Square station. The other night my roommate, J, was hungry but lacked snack food and since it was well past midnight, she wasn't able to find a place that was still open to deliver food to her. It was terribly tragic. A lot of my friends on this program tend to talk about this a lot--places in New York that are open all the time. However, I suppose I have this problem when I'm on campus as well. It was just never so...salient, in my opinion. I'm not quite sure why.

Another thing is that pubs have a tendency to close down at midnight or so. The bartenders will literally kick you out. Well, not literally. I have yet to see someone tossed out of a pub, like they are in movies and such. I just find this phenomenon really bizarre.

I hate that the tube closes at midnight. Although I know that I am centrally located, I find it quite constraining. Just because I don't necessarily need the tube doesn't mean I don't want the option, right? I realize that the Barcelona metro closed at midnight on most nights, but at least it stayed open until 2 AM on Fridays and all night on Saturdays. Yes, I miss Barcelona immensely.

I know this will make me sound like a nerd, but I seriously miss the library, especially during times like this, when I have tons of papers to write before a deadline that is rapidly approaching. I know, I really should get off my blog right now and continue writing/reading for my classes, but there's only so much research a girl can do before all the words start blurring together and losing all meaning. Like the word 'laborer.' I really feel like I've typed that so many times that it doesn't mean anything anymore. Of course that could also be due to the fact that it's currently...quite late. Or, you could look at it another way--I'm awake at an abnormally early time. It's almost miraculous that I'm still (for the most part) going strong. Clearly, my level of productivity peaked a few hours ago, but for the most part, I'm still typing coherent thoughts. My sentences might be a bit choppy but at the very least, everything is spelled correctly and is grammatically correct.

So if you're wondering why I've been blogging more often in the past week than I did in the whole month of January, you have your answer. I'm procrastinating. Which shouldn't be a surprise to most people who know me.

Here's to libraries that are open 24 hours a day! London really should get on that. The Senate House Library isn't even open on Sundays. I find that absolutely mind-boggling. Maybe it's just me, but I tend to spend my Sundays either sleeping or doing homework for Monday (considering I have seven hours of class on Mondays, it's necessary). So where do British college students study on Sundays?!

Last weekend, I went on a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath. Stonehenge was a bit underwhelming (honestly, I probably would have enjoyed it more had it been sunny when I'd gone) but I absolutely loved Bath. By the time we arrived in our second destination, it was lovely and sunny, allowing us to fully enjoy the beauty and architecture of the small town.

We started off with a walking tour through the area, in which the tour guide pointed out several notable sights, including the Royal Crescent, the Bath Abbey, and the Pulteney Bridge, which is one of the world's most beautiful bridges, as well as one of the few bridges with shops built into it. The guide actually mentioned another bridge that fits this criteria--the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, which makes me all the more excited to see it during spring break with K!

Outside the Bath Abbey, there's two statues and apparently one of them lost their heads a while back. Note the space between the head and bit. Anyway, they sculpted a new face out of the beard.
After the tour, we had lunch at Sally Lunn's, which is located in the oldest house in Bath. Incidentally, it sells buns, and I can't recommend it enough! I finally had scones with jam and clotted cream. I know I've had that before, but this time, it was in the U.K. Therefore, it's completely different, I promise. Also, apparently Charles Dickens was a fan of Sally Lunn's buns as well. 
Here's a picture of half of a Sally Lunn bun (I actually really love saying that, in case you didn't realize). It was delicious.
Here's an image of the Roman Baths.
Although I did not manage to get inside the Jane Austen Centre (our time was limited), I did manage a picture with the mannequin outside. I also read reviews saying that the museum is a bit of a tourist trap, which I can believe, especially given the fact that the aforementioned mannequin exists. So I suppose I didn't miss much.

Here's to sunshine! Now that I'm living in London, I get abnormally excited when I see a glimpse of sun. And I tend to keep track of how many times I see sunshine in a week.

So I was recently inspired by M, who has blogged twelve times since the start of the semester, to try to get back on track with this blog. I've done a lot of exploring since I last updated. For one thing, the program put us all on a bus and gave us a three hour tour around London, which was a good way for us to get our bearings. The tour guide informed us that we basically live within walking distance of all the places that we passed by on the tour, including tourist attractions such as the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, and the Houses of Parliament.
They also showed us Australia House, which was apparently where they filmed the Gringotts scenes of the Harry Potter movies. However, I still have not been to Platform 9 3/4.
Although we were not on one of those red double deckers, I did seize the chance to ride one of those when F and I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was great to see her, especially considering that we hadn't seen each other since high school (!). Although we didn't get to all the exhibits, I felt quite fatigued by the end of the adventure. If you go, I recommend that you check out the Glass and Greek sculpture exhibits; they were my favorites. Also, I enjoy that basically all the main museums in London are free, including the Natural History Museum and the British Museum. Quite recently, J and I went to the British Museum because she needed to see a specific exhibit for one of her classes. To be honest, we only saw about four rooms out of...dozens, reasoning that we'll have plenty of time to return. I definitely need to return at least one more time to see the Rosetta Stone and more Greek exhibits! K, you in?

Some of you from last semester may remember my love of markets. Given that London has tons of them, I've made a point of seeing them. A few days after a walking tour of Camden, a group of us returned to explore Camden Market, which is one of the largest markets I've ever seen, full alternative fashion and antiques, along with the usual--clothing and food. There were so many different branches and it seemed to stretch on forever. I'm sure we didn't get to all of it, despite having spent about three (!!) hours there. However I'm sure I'll return before I depart, especially since I did not see the London Zoo or visit Primrose Hill, both of which are nearby. I'll probably actually end up doing both of those things next weekend.

Some of the flatmates and I also went to the Portobello Road market, which is apparently the world's largest antiques market, in addition to selling produce and secondhand clothes.
I saw this sign on the side of the market and thought it was very cute. I think Barcelona prepared me for pickpockets though.
G and J had the misfortune of getting seafood paella from this particular stall. It was disgusting. I can't really fault them on their presentation though.
Here's one of the performers at the Covent Garden market. He was hilarious! Also, apparently the word 'busking' means street performance. You learn something new every day.
Aside from markets in London, I also managed to visit one in Greenwich on a day trip. Standing at the Prime Meridian was slightly anticlimactic, but nevertheless worth the trek to the Royal Observatory.

Here's to lovely markets! I have plans to see Borough market and Brick Lane market this weekend, and I have high expectations.

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