that time i went cliff jumping and other stuff

Cheers from London!

I purchased my first Starbucks last week when I stopped there to read for a it!  I have never appreciated hot chocolate as much as I do here where it will actually warm up your body and spirit! It was the greatest treat after the water activities this weekend.

hot chocolate at my bus stop!

hot chocolate at my bus stop!

This was an adventure weekend which meant we were outside as much as possible & being adventurous. The first night after a long train rifde that even involved switching trains to reach our secluded destination followed by a bus ride to the cabin we enjoyed a delicious dinner. After which we decided to go exploring along the one road that was nearby. Our group joked that we were acting out the beginning of a horror film because we were in the middle of nowhere, there was no light out, we have no cell phone reception, no map and were walking in the woods. Luckily the only scary thing to happen was a car driving down the road and the realization that we were walking through cow poop. Our hope when we began the walk was to make it to the beach we could see from our lodge, but then never happened although we did see a lighthouse in the distance and some nice cows. After our hike we went back to the lodge and played card games for a while until bed. My first organized activity was sea kayaking in Fishguard Harbour. We dressed in many layer including a wetsuit, skirt to keep water out of the kayak, helmets, and a safety vest so I was plenty warm which was a delight considering I anticipated uncomfortable cold. We started on the beach where I am pictured then went out into the bay and explored a few caves. The water was not too rough so it was very relaxing especially since I did not capsize unlike other people in my group. We played some games with our kayaks (I was second in the race right behind our instructor who cheated) and learned the local history which included an attempted french invasion. While kayaking we were able to see a lighthouse and what remains of the old fort that stopped the french.

fishguard habour!!!

Fishguard habour!!!

Given the cold temperature they had us change into warm clothes before returning.

sea kayaking in mathry, pembrookshire, wales.

sea kayaking in mathry, Pembrookshire, wales.

Our lodge was literally in the middle of nowhere. It was a 30 minute drive to the nearest town and even the neighbors were about a mile away so we were really able to enjoy being isolated, the limited access to wifi also helped with that feeling. I never found out the name of the horse below, but he was the most social horse I have ever met. All I had to do was say Hi and he would run across his field to say hello.

The friendly horse at our lodge!

The friendly horse at our lodge!

After kayaking we went on a 7 mile hike through Mathry in Pembrookshire national park. They drove us 30 minutes, pulled to the side of the road and had us get out with only a map of the area and knowing when dinner was. From there we walked along the coast that was utterly stunning. It changed from high cliffs, to rocky beaches and back again. For the four hour hike there was a 360 degree view of the water, cliffs, and open fields either growing food or with grazing animals. photo 1

I love sheep, they remind me of Roxy.

I love sheep, they remind me of Roxy.

I really like all the sheep I have seen all over the UK and I realize that it was because it was they remind me of Roxy with their white fluff, fat stomachs, and funny way of running.

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In this picture you can see the cliffs from which coasteering occurred. You can see another group doing it while we walked by on our hike!

not my group, but this is coasteering!

not my group, but this is coasteering!

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our hike along the cliffs

our hike along the cliffs

Our hike took us along the coast for most of the time only to go through the woods at the end where we walked into a cow pasture and even found a hidden swing the trees. We had to climb up a very muddy hill that most people fell down on, not including me, to reach this swing consisting of a small log with rope tied around it. Once you got on the tree swing you immediately flew off the mountain  about 15 feet in the air! It was so much fun and added to the adventure of the hike and the weekend!

one of the most beautiful places in the world!

Wales; one of the most beautiful places in the world!

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On the last day my activity was the best, coasteering. We dressed from head to toe to in gear that would keep us warm and afloat. The day we went there was a storm so they took us to the blue lagoon where the waves wouldn’t hit us so much. We were very openly judged when we walked past a group of students studying the rocks because swimming in March may not be the most normal act when the water is 30 degrees, but at they provided us an audience as we jumped.

This is the picture of the lagoon and the ruins to the right are where we jumped from after we climbed up some rocks. I loved swimming in the water and would just hang out in it for fun, it wasn’t much work with the life vest on! This lagoon is actually green despite this misleading picture and the improper name, this comes from minerals found in the water. The area was actually an old quarry which is what the remains we jumped from came from then when the quarry was abandoned the sea rushed in creating a 25m deep pool. This is one of the locations where Red Bull has their diving competitions every year because the height of the ledges are olypmic diving board height and the scenery makes it a desired destination.

After the coasteering, and a very nice shower, we made our way back down to London via train where I finished the book I began last week!

Hello from the palace!

Buckingham palace

Buckingham palace, changing of the guards

Today I (finally) saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham palace and while it’s concerning that I waited three months to see this I did get to see the guards in their famous red coats as opposed to the gray ones they have been wearing for the winter. The area was packed full of tourists which made me think about what it would be like to come here as a tourist, since I have never considered myself one. I imagine it would be overwhelming and stressful trying to pack everything in, I know it was been those trying to fit everything in three months so I cannot imagine a few weeks. After I went to a local park in Westminster to eat my panini then to the overcrowded British library to work on an essay.

what better place to study

what better place to study?

panini in the park

xoxo Christine

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heaven on earth.

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I think I found heaven, well my heaven at least, and it is London. This past week has been a week of perfect days that i will treasure for many years to come. Not many of these days would be perceived to be all that exciting from an outsiders perspective, but to me were amazing. Most of these have consisted of visiting a  museum for a bit and reading in whatever historical place i can find (until it gets too cold and i have to relocate). These little trips to the library, bookstore, or market have been so fun and relaxing experiences.

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I visited the BBC, and I was more excited there than i think i have been at any tourist attraction. what can i say I really enjoy their reporting! My friend patty and I went to the world headquarters not far from us and saw THE news room where they report the news live from, complete research, and are connected to all the other BBC locations around the world. We even went into the studios where they have daily reports, the one show where I posed as a television show host. The BBC still has radio shows where actors act out scripts and make their one sound effects, and because I was one of the two Americans I was picked to play a role! it was really fun to act out the script into the microphone and make the sound effects and after they played it back for us! i felt very professional, i guess that one play i was in back in 5th grade really paid off!

I have attended my third and final play in London and it was by far the best! I was Shakespeare in Love at a theater that is 110 years old down in Leicester Square! the acting was phenomenal and really gave me a desire to read more shakespeare. I don’t know what it is about shakespeare, but it has become more understandable than it used to be. I am not sure if that’s because I have read many of his works  or if i can just pick up on the meanings now more easily. I also really enjoyed that in the play not only did they make many many references to romeo and Juliet, but also to Christopher Marlow and his works, you could say i was praising my british literature professor as they were making references to multiple stories that i know.

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I finally made it to one of the museums i still needed to see, the tate britain, which is different than the tate modern, very confusing i know.  this museum was a combination of paintings, sculpture, and pictures from the 1500s to the 2000s. Some f it i really enjoyed and understood what the artist was trying to convey others, not so much. I suppose i am just not cultured enough to understand why sculptures that look exactly like rocks are in a prestigious museum, but I’m glad now i know that should i ever see a rock without a home i know exactly to send it. other museums that i have visited have been repeats for me. I spontaneously went to the national gallery yesterday after being evacuated from trafalgar square and also to the british museum on my way home from class last week. In my attempt to not be bored in london i have been trying to find interesting places to read. one of my favorites has been the british museum! oddly enough its more quiet than the british library and has more seating so I have been adventuring down there to read a book. another favorite place of mine that i have been to many times especially in this past week is a waterstones bookstore with a view of trafalgar square. the view from its reading area probably could not be beat. not only is that place well located, but it is also well heated unlike one f my other spots; st. paul’s cathedral! its not quite warm enough to sit outside for long periods of time so i alternate between the gardens at the cathedral and the cafe under the 1,400 year old church.  it is very special to be able to enough a book in these wonderful places and I cherish them very much. I have been reading London based novels so you could imagine my excitement tonight, when i was reading at the british library after i finished an essay in the cafe there, when the protagonist mentioned getting off at MY tube stop and walking past the market i walk past to reach the grocery store!!!!!!!!!!!! i would have physically jumped up and down, but i was in public so i played it cool.

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I found my new place of residence last week, its called windsor castle. It;s quite humble really with only a few hundred rooms and a former moat, I am sure it will be quite cozy once i move in! haha well until that happens this is the residence of the queen for half the year not far from London. While the castle dominates the town, it is such a cute place. We did not have very much time to explore, but it had great shopping, a beautiful view of the thames, is the home of Eton, the prestigious college where most successful british men attended, including David Cameron, Prince Harry, Prince William, and Eddie Redmayne. After touring the rooms where some of the worlds most important leaders regularly visit we ate at the Duchess of Cambridge pub seeing as anything less would be unfitting for a day at the castle.

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Being in a major world center and the capital, London also is the location of the “the guardian” newspaper. today i met with the feature editor for the newspaper at their office near kings cross and they even gave me a free paper! There was no reason at all for me to go to this event with a handful of students from a class i am not enrolled in, but I saw a signup sheet and figured visiting another news source was something I can’t do at home.

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I trekked over to Portabello road market again and this time it was everything its cracked up to be and more! i took over an hour just to walk the length of the market with our even looking at anything and they truly had it all. from antiques to fresh food to art and used clothes from dodgy vendors. I have to say this surprisingly has become one of my new favorite places to visit! I had not seen the film “notting hill” before i came to London, but after visiting the market i watched the movie. It was only appropriate because i already had a picture outside the famous book store, only that is not what the bookstore looked like in the film in fact not even the right location so I’m not sure why i and 50 other tourists were taking pictures there. Also the movie was not that great so that makes the whole situation worse.

xoxo christine

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THAT TIME I SAW THE ROYAL FAMILY…..then went to scotland

SO i saw the royal family on march 13, 2015 at 10:55am outside St. Paul’s cathedral in central London. They were attending the commemoration ceremony of the UK pulling out of Afghanistan. I saw many notable MPs and the duke and duchess of cambridge, prince harry, prince Phillip, prince Charles, the duchess of cornwall, and the Queen. it was wonderful, thought i was going to pass out, but i did not thankfully. Basically this experience was too amazing to even talk about so i’ll get on with the rest of it.

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Hello from Scotland!

This past weekend i trekked up the island up to Edinburgh with many friends from my house! This was an exciting opportunity that I hadn’t margined before I came to London. We took a train up there which took about 4.5 hours. It was such a beautiful ride through the countryside and along the coast. Seeing the beach made me want to go swimming very much. The first night we went to a pub where I ate haggis! While I did not like it very much, i am very glad to have experienced it! The second day we took a tour of the city where we went to the hill where the national monument is located. This is the view from the hill, you can see most of the city and the river that leads to the ocean.

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As you can see from the pictures about Edinburgh is such a beautiful city in architecture and landscape. This is an example of how quaint each of the buildings throughout Edinburgh looked, like a real life story book city or a medieval city. Due to this characteristic Edinburgh had many things that were hidden. Including small and very narrow streets called closes  or in the case of the picture below a staircase that had over 100 steps, each step being made of a different stone from somewhere in Scotland.

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The tour ended at Edinburgh castle! Which was similar to the tower of London in my opinion but that may also have been because they are the home of the crown jewels… different crown jewels than the ones down in London which made it all very confusing. There was also the memorial for Scottishmen who died in WW1 in the former basilica. Other than that there was not much to the grounds to see or do other than enjoy the view, although they did set off the cannon at one point and a wedding was occurring. I wonder how much that would cost to be married in a castle. Later that night before our haunted Edinburgh tour we met this (very very drunk) old man who turned out to be the former head guard of Edinburgh castle for over 15 years. He even showed us a picture of him meeting the Queen and being given an award.

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Don’t worry these are not gang signs they are our sorority signs. Coley & I were showing our alpha gam pride and Sarah was being a theta in the middle. photo 2

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The view from the castle, like so many other views in the city, was amazing. A notable part of our weekend was the song “I’m gonna be (500 miles)” by a Scottish band maned the proclaimers because they are Scottish and we were in Scotland. One of my friends heard this song in her British music class and introduced the rest of us to it, its really fun and the singers have a fairly thick accent that is entertaining to imitate. Even though the song isn;t very recent its still popular enough there that we heard it outside a pub one night and were so excited we had to run to catch up to our tour group.

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Given this city is where J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series there was plenty of places to visit that inspired Rowling in her writings. The harry potter tour became our second tour of the day. Our tour guide (pictured above) was clearly in character and a complete harry potter nerd himself. We was well informed on all the sites we visited, debunking some false tales and even reading us a bit of harry potter along the way. We were each given a wand for the tour which we used to change the lights from red to green (casual) and to just mess around. As a proud slithering, I obtained a green wand and my friends and i actually were the four houses! it was practically magic or something? I did volunteer to wear the sorting hat that our tour guide provided and regretfully learned that according to it I am actually a raven claw? lies i say, lies.

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Here I used my magical powers to draw the sign of the deathly hallows near the grave of Thomas Riddell, the inspiration for Tom Riddle in the series.

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This is the cafe where Rowling wrote part of the second, third and fourth books. My friends and I even ate breakfast there on our last day in town. Most of the cafe is normal with no Potter paraphernalia, but when you enter the bathroom there are harry potter quotes written everywhere along with note to Rowling and signs of the Deathly Halllows in case Rowling ever returns to the cafe and uses the restroom. Personally my favorite was the sign over the toilet that said “this way to the ministry” o there may or may not be a picture of me stepping into the toilet to go off to the ministry.

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We visited this street many times throughout the weekend. This is Victoria Street, the street that inspired Diagon Alley and its diagonal characteristic! On the tour we learned many interesting things that connect Edinburgh and the Potter series. These include the man who died and according to urban myth his stake (he burned to death at the stake) turned into a snake, this man also lived in Riddle close. There is a street near the University that Rowling attended that was named Potter, although there are claims that this had nothing to do with the name of the main character.

Our last day in Edinburgh we went to breakfast at the elephant cafe i told you about and then we went on a hike up Arthur’s seat! it is the hill in the area created by a volcano that is the reason behind all of Edinburgh’s hilly streets. The hike was fairly difficult but the view from the top was more than worth it. Unfortunately my computer isn’t allowing me to upload those pictures so if anyone ever wants to see those they’ll have to wait until they see me! We departed Edinburgh for home again which of course is one of my favorite experiences.

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and not that it matters to anyone except me, but i ate some really good grapes that I was able to buy at a local market were very delicious!

xoxo Christine

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My wink comes from Ireland

Another week is gone and I have seen another country! That’s not something I could usually say, but its just another perk of living in London! SO I have finally seen Ireland. Not that this was ever a country I explicitly desired to see mostly because I never thought I would have the chance so why bother hoping? But I guess unrealized dreams come true.

Let me just talk about the transportation we used on this trip. Well after waking up at 3am we took a bus to the train station, a train to the airport then a bus from the airport, and similar on the way back. The train and bus systems were incredible give or take a curb or two that the bus driver in dublin may have hit, ryan air however was the real winner here in unbelievable transportation. Not only does this company have some absurd policies to begin with but my personal favorite is the terrible piloting. We never hit turbulence in our hour flight but the plane did shake quote often. It was on the landing I was saying my padre nuestros as we came in really fast and hit the strip a little hard, it was our mistake thinking this was an accident. After it happened on the way back a frequent traveler informed us that the airline didn’t want to pay for the other landing strip so they use the ones where they come in really hard and brake for their lives (and ours).

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We did however get to board the plane like this so I felt very important.

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This is the Dublin Spire, a pole they ordered to celebrate the great wealth Ireland was experiencing in the 1990’s that was supposed to be there for the year of 2000. Unfortunately the 4.5 million euro pole did not arrive until 2001 so they decided to keep it there. Honestly it wasn’t very pretty, interesting, or necessary but it was near our hostel so it was a good landmark.   On the first day we explored Dublin on our own seeing Temple Bar, the Liffy, O’Connell street, christchurch cathedral, st. patrick’s cathedral, and Dame street.

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We started off the trip by having breakfast at a pub where I experienced a traditional Irish breakfast. surprise! it was the same exact thing as an english breakfast. The only new experience was that people at the pub were drinking alcohol at 9am in the morning.

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That night for dinner we went to our friend Brittany’s apartment where they served us homemade irish food. All I have to say is that those college students knew how to cook and I will forever be in awe of their potato making abilities.

Day 2: Rural Ireland

We drove through the most beautiful landscape, passing old houses and crumbling buildings from another time. We stopped at this abbey that has not been used for hundred years but was still gorgeous. The buildings were great but they were easily beat in beauty by the rolling hills and animals in the area.

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these beautiful cliffs are the cliffs of Moher on the west side of the Republic of Ireland. photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 photo 1

The group picture above has a bit of a story behind it! The other students in the shot with Coley and I are friends of ours in London that we ran into at the Cliffs! What a small Ireland!

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This was as close to the edge as I would get because it was an extremely windy day and I had times holding my group standing at some points so I was not going to chance the 800 foot drop for a photo.

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On the tour one of our other stops was at a castle where they had this traditional Irish telephone booth, look similar to anywhere else???

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In traditional Irish spirit we made friends with random people throughout the day. photo 3

Here I was picking a fight with someone on the street, so much for peace studies…

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My favorite night in Ireland we went to a local pub with my Big, Brittany! They had traditional Irish music being played by a band and we mingled with locals! They were really nice, telling us about the music, talking about the golf on tv, and overall giving us a very positive impression of the Irish! This is where I was told some surprisingly nice things, one was that my wink is from Ireland from a 70 year old man that had a really interesting past, including working in Hollywood for some time. The other was from a different individual so made a comment as we watched golf live from South Africa that, “The world isn’t equal, you need to change that”. This was surprisingly deep considering he was well on his way to being drunk, but telling people i’m a poli sci major usually elicits some unusual response.

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This road was laid down in the 15th century.     photo 1

The Liffy.

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Christchurch Cathedral. This cathedral has quite the history, from being catholic to owned by the Church of England, to being abandoned but the church and being made into a business that included a pub then back into a catholic church it really has been there for it all.

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I also visited trinity college in Dublin. This school was really gorgeous, and possessed a great deal of history, both of the campus itself and the books it had in its library were of great value. Most notably the Book of Kells, a bible being created by Scottish individuals, that was taken to Ireland during a war for safety.

Dublin has this great fundraiser going on right now which has caused them to have decorated pigs throughout the city. This one, at Trinity College, was one of my favorites but the pigs were all impressive with great variety.
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We spent much of the weekend just hanging out with Brittany and i was perfect. Whether we were at a burrito place with heavenly burritos or hanging out at her trendy tea restaurant it was fun to just see a friend from home!photo 1 HOME SWEET HOME

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SO just when i though Ireland was amazing and I wanted to live there I came back to a London even more beautiful than I remembered. I adventured around St. James’s park and was disturbed by the amount of tourists that are now everywhere in the city. There were hundred s of people outside Buckingham Palace and sitting in the park enjoying the spring weather. photo 4 photo 5

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Marchin On in London (get it? because it’s March)

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Time seems to be flying by at this point with half m time abroad vein over and only a few weeks left in school here and yet it still feels like i just got here. Many exciting things continue to happen on a nearly daily basis, I saw that excuse i have been locked away for the past few days either in my room or the British Library writing a paper on why states seek containment of forced migrants or other displaced people. I’m sure you can imagine how cherry of a topic that is. But I am getting ahead of myself, that’s not all I have been up to lately. It has been a beautiful few weeks so the opportunities to see London at its best have been superb! Since there is no one perfect place to start I will start with church. As you may know Lent is upon us, I kicked it off at the Westminsiter Cathedral (no not Westminister Abbey, you’ve never heard of this one because its the catholic church here) for Ash Wednesday. It was really amazing to see hundreds of people gathered together on their wednesday evening in a church that is hundreds of years old.

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The church was pretty casual for catholic cathedral standards and I really appreciated it because it didn’t draw the attention that most churches do. Speaking of other churches I have also gone to service at Westminister Abbey. Yes, I walked down the aisle that the Duchess of Cambridge did to her married, it was a proud moment in my life. The inside of Westminister is really beautiful, and very dark which puts it in contrast with St. Paul’s Cathedral which I have also experience service in. St. Paul’s was by far my favourite. This is partly because its within walking distance from my house and I went on a sunny day which lit up the inside and also because the choir of 12 year olds was phenomenal and the pipe organ reminded me of that scene from Gatsby. Then on top of that the homily was about our duty to vote and to also fight ISIS, I was really impressed because it was very bold of the priest.

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I have adventured out of London again to visit the mysterious pile of rocks that are Stonehenge. They were interesting… well at least as interesting as a thousand year pile of rocks can be. What i found to be most interesting was that in World War one British troops trained at this site. Regardless the area was beautiful with green rolling hills in every direction and sheep just hanging out! I wanted a picture with a British sheep but I  had a feeling they frown upon that here and by frown upon I mean i probably would have been arrested or something. Maybe next time? I also have visited Bath, the city so creatively named after a roman bath. I saw this famous Bath and was most impressed by the temperature of the naturally heated water given the outside temperature of rain that consistently would contaminate the warm water with cool rain water. The site was very beautiful and reminded me of the very similar bath’s in Xi’an, China at the Huanyuan Gardens (the exact site where the Xi’an incident took place) which had a similar feeling only the water there supposedly had magical properties. photo 5 photo 4

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In addition to seeing the bath and the Abbey behind it (which one was from the roman period so had that architectural influence and the other is medieval so the contrast in design is beautiful) I also saw the whole city! There was a river going through, and rugby game being played, but my favorite was finding the places called the circus and the crescent. They may sound interesting to you as they did to us, but they were actually just houses in a circle or a crescent. Fortunately i knew this as we looked for them, but my friend who thought there was an actually circus in the American understanding was really upset to discover the truth. Back in London I visited the Victoria Albert museum and learned about British fashion throughout history and checked off one of my last tourist spots. Last week after I had a presentation on transnational social movements i celebrated by starting a new book! It was about WW2 and it was incredible and erie to be reading about the events of that time in a city that they occurred in. I sat along the Themes to read because it was a really nice day and at another point read in the Tate modern. They were such special places to be able to read, although the beach back at home can definitely compete and probably beat a cold bench. In case you need to be convinced here is the view that Grace Shu and i usually have while reading, I’m very spoiled.

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On a really fun day of exploration last week some friends and I went to the bar on the 32rd floor of the Shard. The view up there was stunning and it was really fun to try to act wealthy enough to  purchase something up there. (if you ever want to spend $1,152 on a bottle of wine I would suggest this place). Below is apparently is what we think rich people look like because this is how we posed… it could use a little work haha

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We talked around the city along the Themes enjoying the clear and warm day to the Tower Bridge which never fails to make me smile.

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We walked all the way to the Gherkin, you know that building named after a pickle? Well look what we found! We found a mini Gherkin made our of legos at the actual Gherkin. It was really exciting and I now have a standard for all building to have lego edition sized ones right next to it just for the photo opp. This day might sound tiring to you and it was for us too, so we took the opportunity at a random park across from the tower of London to play on the swings! I didn’t appreciate going to the park enough as a child because its one of the most fun activities I know.

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I love the movie Invictus, its about Nelson Mandela and South African Rugby following the conclusion of apartheid (just go watch it) so that’s where I got all my information about the game of rugby. Knowing that Matt Damon had a bad South African accent didn’t help much when I went to a rugby match this past weekend but It was still a really fun experience!

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Remember that paper i mentioned a little while back? Well I’m going to go finish that 🙂

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