A Day in Paris

 It turned into a last minute decision to go to Paris for the day last Sunday. I debated back and forth for a while since I had already been to Paris and the train tickets were quite expensive. I knew I wanted to go back,since Paris to date is my favorite city in the world. I talked to Justin and we decided that since I wasn’t able to make the trip to Scotland I should just go to Paris.

There were three of us set to go bright and early on Sunday. Cassie, Alexis and I made it to St. Pancras station with enough time to grab breakfast. We tried to order celebratory mimosas, but we were told it was too early for alcohol. Huh?

The train ride was uneventful and once again I slept through most of it. I was able to wake up just as we went under the english channel though. I tried not to think about it, because the idea of being in a tunnel under water is kind of terrifying.

When we arrived to Paris we were greeted by men dressed in military uniforms equipped with large machine guns. Since it isn’t something we often see in America it made some of us a bit uneasy. After fiddling with the ticket machine for far too long we did end up seeking them out for guidance though. Luckily, one of them spoke fairly good english and we were finally able to get out of the station. We were down to about 5 hours to spend in the city and knew we had to get going. Prior to leaving we decided what we wanted to try to accomplish. We hoped we’d make it to the Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Sacre Coeur.

Our first order of business was to find the Eiffel Tower. Of course it isn’t that hard to find, but there are parts of the city where you can’t see it. Once it was located we stopped for some photos.

Paris, My Love

After the Eiffel Tower we headed towards the Arc De Triomphe so we could then head down the Champs-Elysees. Last time I was in Paris you could head to the center of the Arc without any trouble. Now a days you have to pay to do that. 
Cassie & I at the Arc De Triomphe

We strolled down the Champs-Elysees for a bit until we all decided we were very hungry. We stopped on the Champs for lunch and ended up having the worst service of our whole trip. Our waitress eventually just never came back and we actually had to seek multiple people out so the rest of our meal would come and we could then finally leave. We lost a significant amount of time. Luckily, the food was good. However, the service left a bad after taste especially since there is already a stereotype that the Parisians aren’t the friendliest people.

After lunch we booked it to a metro station (underground) so we could go to the Louvre. We didn’t go inside, we simply wanted to admire the architecture of the building- which is really remarkable. 
The Louvre

What Happens When it Starts to Pour and the Wind Picks Up

Trying to Enjoy All The Rain

The Fountain Outside the Louvre Circa 2012

Alex & I at The Same Fountain 2005
After the down pour we quickly realized we were severely lacking time to continue on to our sites. We decided we would attempt to see the Sacre Coeur and then head back towards the train station. The Sacre Coeur is my favorite spot in all of Paris. As we exited the metro stop, which believed to be the closest to the church, we were greeted by the sketchiest area ever! There were quite a few questionable groups of men who fancied Cassie so we decided to go up one more stop. Same thing happened, with just a little less creepiness, but not by much. I am pretty sure I was in that same area in 2005 and it was nothing like that at all. 
Sadly, we never made it because the hike was a bit far and we didn’t want to get stuck in Paris for the night. And we also didn’t want to get ourselves into any trouble with some creepers. We had a bit of trouble getting back into England too. Our customs official asked us quite a few questions and then reprimanded us for not having our study abroad papers with us. It made me wonder if it would have been ok if I would have just said that I was simply traveling. 
Although we didn’t get to see everything we wanted too I think we enjoyed our 6 hours in Paris.
Sorry you didn’t get the bid Paris, and I am also sorry that I am now in love with London as well. 

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My Cup of Tea

Today we participated in something most of us have been looking forward too for a long time-high tea! Although that is what we keep referring to it as, that isn’t exactly accurate as high tea is typically an early evening meal. Not an 11am one. Regardless, we had some yummy tea, served in tea pots with cups and saucers. We also enjoyed cupcakes, scones, apple tarts and other delectable goods.

It was a decent walk from the West Hampstead underground station to the Bake-A-Boo Bakery. We were all pleasantly surprised when we made it though. The little cafe has more charm than any where else I  have been. It was an experience that I believe exceeded every one’s expectations.

Cassie & I 

Our Tea Room

Proper Decaf Tea

Ok.

Bake-a-Boo

After our late morning tea I headed towards Hampstead Heath to meet up with Mark & Georgia’s friends Max, Steph and their baby Lily. I have met Max and Steph a few times before, and they actually just returned back to London (they live here) after a vacation in the U.S. that concluded at Mark & Georgia’s in Stillwater, MN. It was really great to catch up with them, hear about their time in Stillwater, and of course to meet baby Lily who is 14 months old.

We grabbed lunch and headed into Hampstead Heath park where we would have a little picnic. This park is less manicured than Regent’s but is a lot more secluded. The trees are quite large and the park has a lot more hills. It was a nice workout especially to keep us warm as the weather grew grim. The park also provides a wonderful view of the city. I am not sure why I didn’t take a picture!  By the time we found a place to park it started to sprinkle a bit and the wind picked up. I suppose picnics are hard to plan in unpredictable weather. We enjoyed our lunch and headed towards a local pub to get out of the chilly air. 
We ended up in a very charming area of London which I believe was the Highgate Hill area. It isn’t touristy which was perfect. We found an old pub and Max ordered me up a proper British ale. It was served much warmer than I am used too, which I knew would be the case. It was a good beer; however, it isn’t the type of beer you might want to chase away a hot day. Maybe that is because hot days are far and few between in London. 
Half Pint Ale
The rest of this evening was spent blogging, video chatting with Justin, and getting a start on a paper due next week. I can’t believe we are almost done with the seminar! Tomorrow I am off to spend the day in Paris, tough life, so be on the look out for an amazing blog update after I return!

528 Stairs and a Panda Hat

Yesterday was a fantastic day! I was slow to wake as most of the group rushed to get out the door for the changing of the guards and a visit to Westminster Abbey. It was nice to not feel like I was rushing some where for once. Since I had already done those things I decided to take an afternoon tour of St Paul’s Cathedral solo.

Last time I was in London we walked past the church just after closing time. I never got to go in. However, I do believe we broke out into Build Me Up, Buttercup as we walked away. We may have been delirious from lack of sleep at that point. Since that is my best memory of the cathedral I decided to make some new ones by heading on inside. Admission into the church gives you access to go most places but without video and photography. Which is really too bad because the church is amazing!!! I started my self guided tour (audio was available, but I like to wander on my own) by lighting a candle. It cost 30 pence to do so, but I really enjoy doing this, even though I am not catholic.

Trying to Get Most of it in The Photo

My Candle is The Bottom Left One
The tour offered a trip to the very top of the dome, which unfortunately, is not featured in the picture above. It is 528 stairs up from the cathedral floor but broken up into three sections. The first was 257 stairs to the Whispering Gallery. This overlooked the sanctuary of the cathedral. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any pictures inside. The windy stairs up, and a trip down a very, very narrow concrete passage caused me to be quite dizzy as I entered the very high up gallery. I sat for a moment to compose myself and to decide if I wanted to brave the rest of the way up. I decided to go for it, despite my better judgement.
The next gallery was an additional 119 steps up. These stairs were even more narrow and windy. I immediately regretted my decision to continue on. However, it is a one way trip so you really can’t turn back which made me feel even more panicky. By the time I reached the Stone Gallery I felt at ease. The wind was cool and the view was awesome! 
Check Out Those Stairs

View of Millennium Bridge From Stone Gallery

Windy Self Portrait

And at this point I really had to make the decision of whether or not I was going to complete my mission and continue onward and upward! Of course I decided to push my comfort to the max and decided to move on. Again, after about 10 stairs I regretted my decision, especially knowing that I still had 142 stairs to go! I was definitely winded but it was honestly the spiral staircases that were making me feel like I was about to tip over or vomit. I was able to make it to the top and was so glad that I did! It was a breath taking journey and a breath taking view! There was a guy right at the top ready to take my photo. Due to the wind it turned out to be less than framable, but I will still share it with you.

Can You Spot The London Eye?

That Looks Better

Can You See Tower Bridge?

Thames From St Paul’s Dome

And as I started my descend I said a quick prayer of thanks thinking the worst was over. How wrong was I! If you think the spiral up is bad, just think actually having to look down at your feet so you don’t go tumbling to your death in one of the most beautiful cathedrals, all the way down 528 stairs!

Down we go

Spiral, And Then Another, And Another

My Keens Helped me Arrive Safely to Ground Level

You would think after that physical and emotional challenge I would be spent. Not in London though! You must keep going! Seven of us had tickets to Zoo Lates. It is an after hours London Zoo party for anyone 18+ (legal drinking age in the UK) and you are able to enjoy drinks, street food, animals, music and performances. It turned out to be a very, very fun night! We even got a neat animal hat to go along with our themed night. If you are curious, we did wear them the whole entire time we were at the zoo, for the whole entire long walk around the park home, and even after we entered the dorms. YOZO- You Only Zoo Once.

Panda, Penguin, Lady Lion, Moose, and Two Feathered Divas

Work it

Waiting to See The Penguin Show

Moose’n it up

We all seemed to be disappointed after the penguin show, but I was really anxious for the Twisted Cabaret in the Amphitheatre. After waiting too long, and discovering too late, it was a complete waste of time. Too bad, we could have been seeing more animals. We still made the most of it and ended up sitting on the ground for the rest of our time in the zoo enjoying some street food (too much of it), drinks (probably too much of those too), and having lots of laughs in our hats (never enough). 

Enjoying Ourselves
Waiting For The Bad Show

Alexis and I

Cassie and Alexis

Final Group Shot

On Our Long Walk Home

If you are thinking we looked like silly Americans all night, I can assure you there were people more properly dressed than us. Many came dressed head to toe in animal costumes! The Minnesota Zoo should really start doing this type of event!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Although it might be easily forgotten when you are spending time in London’s dreary weather, we just celebrated the summer solstice. Summer is officially here! As summer rolls in, most days in London are feeling like a dream. Am I really here experiencing all these amazing things? Most of the girls keep referring to, David After Dentist, and ask, “Is this real life?” We all find it hard to believe we are really here.

On the first day of summer we had class as usual. We had good discussions about public relations in other parts of the world and we had a follow up discussion from the U.S Embassy visit about public diplomacy. After class I knew I wanted to get some things done since we had our second paper due on Thursday. I ended up taking a run through Regent’s Park (I just love it in there), and fiddled around too long on my computer. The into was written, but then it was time for our evening event. We saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Regent’s Open Air Theatre.

Despite London’s unpredictable weather the evening of the play was absolutely gorgeous. No rain, a little bit of sunshine and it didn’t get chilly until the very end of the night. About six of us went and also met up with our professor and her husband.

I have seen the play before at the Guthrie in Minneapolis, but it has been awhile and I was a little confused. I followed along a little better the second time seeing it; however, I don’t remember the play being so erotic. It could be the interpretation, but there were times when we looked at each other and thought, “Umm…did that just happen?” There were also times we thought we’d never see such a thing in America unless it we were properly warned. The Brits aren’t prudes I guess. The play also took place in a trailer park which was an interesting take on the classic. Overall, the play turned out to be absolutely fantastic and the second half brought much laughter. It was brilliant.

Finding New Things in Regent’s Park

A Bottle of Wine Shared for the Show

Illegal Theatre Photo- A Midsummer Night’s Dream

After the show I just wanted to go to sleep, but a paper was waiting for me to write it. I am happy to report I was in bed long before some others though! I think it is sometimes easy to forget we are here for school and things get left for the last minute.

Thursday of this week took a similar direction. We had lecture the first half of class about public relations in the Middle East. Given the United States’ history, and our current status with the Middle East I found it fascinating, especially as we talked about potential controversial campaigns that PR practitioners could be involved in. We talked about what we would do if we had to work for an account we didn’t morally agree with. And although that may never happen in my career, and it will be different for everyone given their personal values and morals, it is interesting to think about.
Some of the girls left for Milan this weekend, but most of us were going to be living the London life. Some of the group went to the Harry Potter Studio Tours, but me and two others headed towards Kensington Palace. As we walked through the different parts of the palace that is open to the public, I immediately wished I knew more about the kings and queens who lived there. 
Kensington Palace Gate

Grand Stair Case

Kensington Palace

While touring one of the rooms in the king’s apartment we were asked to join in on a card game called, Commerce.  Apparently it was one of the king’s favorite games. (Maybe King William? Bad listener I guess.) The goal is to get the best three card combination. It is similar to poker but easier. I ended up winning with three queens.

Commerce Card Game

Winning Hand

Still Rocking Self Portraits- the King’s Apartments

Princess Diana also lived at Kensington Palace. She lived there during her marriage to Prince Charles and after their divorce as well. Kensington Palace has a couple of her dresses on display including the white one in the picture below.

Princess Diana

My favorite part of the palace tour was reading through the different quotes from Queen Victoria’s journals. She was married to Prince Albert, who was actually her cousin, and they seemed so in love. It made me miss my prince an awful lot too.

“This day is one of the greatest and most glorious days of our lives, with which, to my pride and joy the name of my dearly beloved Albert is forever associated!” 
– Queen Victoria regarding her marriage to Albert.

Winning a Gold

Everyone by now should know that the summer Olympics will be held in London this year. Luckily,  I will be getting out of the country just shy of three weeks before the opening ceremony. Hopefully we can make it out before prices sky rocket and can you imagine traveling via public transport with about 4 million extra people in this city?

We were not able to get too close to the site since most of it is off limits, but we were able to get closer than someone the first week of July will be able to do. The lady leading the tour was able to give us a lot of insight and a more behind the scenes look at the preparation that is going into the Olympics. The site is in the East Side of London which needs significant rehabilitation. The hope is that the money generated from the Olympics will help fund that area. Also, a lot of the Olympic sites will be turned into low income housing (see pic of Olympic Village), to rebuild the burrows that surround the Olympic park. I hope that is really what happens. 
There is a fatwalk that we walked along through the park leading up to the Olympic stadiums. They refer to this sidewalk as a fatwalk because a mayor, not sure if it is the current one, decided the people of London should be fit- not fat. Makes sense I suppose. Along the fatwalk is a statue of two arms grasping each other. This is in remembrance of a group of men who all died trying to help one another. One man fell into a polluted sewer, the fumes and toxins knocked him out instantly. Another man went to help and the same thing happened. You get the idea, and sadly, all men perished trying to help each other. 
Start of the Tour- Silver Haired British Lady in Charge

Statue Along the Polluted Water Way

Olympic Stadium (Aquatic Center) & The Orbit

Olympic Village

Our walking tour concluded at the biggest mall in Europe. Not such a bad way to end the tour. There is a store, John Lewis, that has an amazing view of the stadiums and they sell a bunch of Olympic memorabilia. I spent way too many pounds, with equals even more dollars, but there will be some happy gift receivers when I get home…hopefully. At the mall we all needed a snack since we missed lunch. Most of us opted for some amazing looking cupcakes.

View From John Lewis

Pretty Girls With Pretty Cupcakes

Hello, Cupcake!

After returning to campus for dinner we decided a night in sounded better than a night out…much cheaper too. A couple of us decided to walk to the mini grocery store and bought some wine and drinks to enjoy in the comfort of my dorm room. There turned out to be about seven girls in my room, but we all had a good time chatting and doing things traditional college students do. Dorm life was something I missed out on since I have always been a non-traditional student. I am happy to be experiencing it here with such a lovely group of people. 

Silly Americans Buying Cider and Doritos

Mojito in a Can. Best. Thing. Ever.

You May Say I’m A Dreamer

Sunday rounded off my weekend quite brilliantly. After most of the class left Thursday afternoon I really didn’t know what the weekend would hold for me. Turns out it was absolutely wonderful. Sunday morning I was slow to rise which was perfectly fine. I enjoyed a breakfast that included a new guilty pleasure, Nutella on toast. I then decided my morning would be best spent shopping.

I spoke with Jenny in the morning and she and Patrick were heading towards the Tate Modern, which is on my list of things to do. My shopping trip was cut short and I went to meet them shortly after 12:15 p.m. We were all pretty indecisive when it came to lunch options, but I knew I wanted to have some authentic fish n’ chips. We ended up enjoying a lunch at a Thames, river front Pub just outside of Tate Modern. Founders Arms has a lovely patio and since the London weather was cooperating we decided to enjoy our lunch outdoors.

View From Patio

Fish n’ Chips With a Side of Mushy Peas

After lunch we didn’t have time to visit the Tate because I needed to head back to the college to have my second Facetime date with Justin. The night before we had also video chatted after Sweeney Todd. I was really tired and cried quite a few times so we thought we’d try again the next day. Sunday turned out to be much better and it was so good to see him and Selby.

Facetime Screen Shot- Selby Pay Attention!

The rest of the day was spent blogging, cleaning up my room, and doing laundry. I was also patiently waiting for the students to get back from Ireland and they sure had an adventure which resulted from missing their ferry home. They all made it back in shifts, safe and sound. 

Today we were back in the classroom. Well, sort of. We had another site visit and today we went to the U.S. Embassy. It was really great to hear from a young woman diplomat and how she has progressed in her career. I was one of the many who really didn’t understand what went on in an embassy, why they are important, and what they do for the United States. This woman in particular works in public affairs, which is the government sector of public relations. A lot of the young students on my trip were very inspired, and I think most left wanting to be her. Most students explained that if they wanted to start a career abroad now was the time since they weren’t married, didn’t have a house, children etc. Clearly, I missed that window of opportunity by taking my sweet old time getting my bachelor’s degree. To be honest though, it is no longer something I desire like I did when I was 19 or 20 years old. I am happy to be married, with a strong home base, and hopefully I can find a happy medium between an adventurous and esteemed career. 
Shortly after lunch some of us got back together to continue on our sight seeing missions. Today we decided we wanted to visit Abbey Road. I saw Abbey Road when I was here in 2005 and there has been some changes to the area.

Graffitied Abbey Road Sign- Circa 2005

Abbey Road Studios- Circa 2005
First to Sign Brand New Abbey Road Sign- Circa 2005 
And today there is no Abbey Road sign beyond what is on a building. Fans seem to graffiti the front of the studio instead. 
Abbey Road Studios- 2012 (Rach, was that you?)

Me and Talar @ Abbey Road- 2012

After our visit to Abbey Road it was my turn to attempt shopping on Oxford Street again. I ended up in one shop, Dorothy Perkins, and was quite successful and purchased two really cute dresses! I can’t wait to wear them when Justin takes me out on a welcome home date. (hint, hint) You can see my first dress here and my second dress here. So cute, right?

The rest of the evening was filled with dinner, ticket purchasing, and being tired and lazy! Tomorrow we have another site visit for class and we are hoping to tour the Olympic grounds. We will see how close we can actually get though.

Royal Sightings

Yesterday turned out to be an extra awesome Saturday. Jenny and I planned to meet by 9:15 a.m. to get theatre tickets to see the musical Sweeney Todd. The plan was to meet at a “gothic spire/tower” outside of Charing Cross station. No problem. I pulled myself out of bed nice and early in order to get breakfast and a shower in and left in a rush to meet Jen. I didn’t double check to see where we were meeting, but I knew I had to get to Charing Cross. Upon exiting one of the 4-5 exits of the station I emerged to Trafalgar Square. There are a million or so statues in the square and I quickly forgot everything about where I was supposed to meet Jen.

I hadn’t visited Trafalgar Square yet, and I had a feeling Jenny would have mentioned that is where we were meeting if we were supposed to meet there. I looked around for a bit, circling as many statues as possible and finally gave up after about 30 minutes. I went to the closet coffee shop I could find to hook up to their wifi. I was then able to contact Jenny and have her come to me, instead of me walking around aimlessly trying to find her.

Trafalgar Square

After connecting with Jen we then made our way to The Mall to await Trooping the Colour Parade which also celebrates the Queen’s official (not actual) birthday. When the parade began we couldn’t see very much. We had awesome spots originally until a police officer told us the Queen would not be coming up as far as they thought since the royal family had already turned off of the mall. We hustled down to see what we could.

People Standing on Posts Just to Get a Glimpse of The Queen’s Carriage

What I Could Get From Holding My Camera Over My Head

Troj Didn’t Want to Miss Out Either so She Got on a Post

Best Pic of All Time Captured by Troj- Look at That Wave

We weren’t satisfied with what we saw and the crowd we were standing behind. So, in honor of the Queen’s official, but actually unofficial birthday, we decided to hang tight and get better spots. She did have to return to Buckingham Palace after all.

We waited for another hour or so hoping the parade would be back on its way shortly. We passed the time by talking about home, poking fun at the guards pruning each other, and googling things about the royal family we didn’t know. I am pretty sure a local police officer could hear most of our conversation because he kept looking at us and smiling. Silly American girls.
Guard Speaking Guard to Guard
Stoic Police Man

And after what felt like forever we finally could hear that the parade was coming back our way! We weren’t exactly sure if standing there for so long was super silly or super smart. We were about to find out!

TaDah- The Leader

Video of a lot of horses pulling loud things.

Kate, Harry and Camilla- Say What?!!!

Video of Kate, Harry, & Camilla in their carriage. Please note Prince Harry waves directly at me. NBD. The next carriage has Princess Beatrice (Elizabeth Mary) and Princess Eugenie- Prince Andrew’s daughters.

Below is the video of the Queen strolling by in her carriage. 

The Queen

Bye, Bye Queen

Jenny and I did this all before 1:00 p.m. We still had a whole day ahead of us! If you stop reading my blog after this I totally understand. What is left? Prince William I suppose!
We headed out to lunch after the parade and met Patrick, Jenny’s fiance, at the Natural History Museum. We saw the exhibit, Animal Inside Out. It is just like Body Worlds, just with animals and not humans. 
Natural History Museum

Inside the Museum

They Filmed Night at the Museum Here
After the exhibit we all headed to our respective homes to freshen up and rest before going to the theatre. The Sweeney Todd Musical is at The Adelphi Theatre. The venue was pretty plain and our seats were high, but you could still see the stage really well especially with my new theatre glasses. Sweeney Todd is a very dark story and was definitely the darkest musical I have ever been too. It was still enjoyable though. Mrs Lovett is currently played by Imelda Staunton who is better known by Harry Potter fans as, Dolores Umbridge.  It was very neat to see her preform live.
Jenny and I Outside of Adelphi After The Show

I Think my Eyes Are Closed- Sandahl Trait

And now I know you are slightly exhausted but exhilarated after reading all that we did yesterday! I think we both had a ton of fun, even Patrick when he joined us during our day, and I could leave London tomorrow as a satisfied traveler! However, I have two weeks left before Justin gets here so there is a lot more land to cover!