Europe: Expectations vs. Reality

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Expectations
Sitting in a cafe for hours on end, drinking coffee, talking philosophy, watching bike riders pass by with flowers in their basket, happy people with free health care strolling down sunny cobble stone streets, staring wistfully out of train windows while fitting emotional music plays in the background.

Reality
Running late for the bus, sweaty, running late for the train, sweaty, climbing four flights of stairs to my apartment, sweaty, lugging backpacks full of groceries on my bike in the snow, cold and sweaty, emptying the food leftovers from the sink to the waste bin because there’s no garbage disposal, sorting my trash into six specific bins, everyone dressed in black from head to to because we haven’t seen the sun in five months.

Funny how life has a way of surprising us, isn’t it? I am somehow who sets her expectations very high (curse you, American idealism!!), and constantly has to check them and reassess.

I complain sometimes, especially in winter, but still have a huge soft spot in my heart for you, Europe. Thanks for being a continent.

iPhone Photos from Life Lately

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I spent five days in London over fall break, visiting a dear friend from college who is killing it in her masters program at University College London. I spent one month in London after my freshman year of college, so I had already done most of the typical “touristy” things. This trip was all about immersing myself in life as a local. I tried to envision what my daily routine might look like if I lived there. It wasn’t hard to picture- I’ve always been drawn to the city and could easily imagine moving there one day. Who knows?! That seems to be a big theme in my life these days: who knows? 

It was so wonderful to have deep, meaningful conversations with an old friend. I miss close friendships with peers. I know it takes time to develop these in a new place, and I just have to be patient, but it’s hard to wait. I want to have best friends here right now…and yet, I’m okay. Day by day, moment by moment. Trips like this sustain me until those new relationships take root and begin to grow. Can you relate?

Below are a few photos from my iPhone because I was too lazy to lug my nice camera around in the rain on that trip. There are also a few other photos from the past few days. Enjoy!fullsizeoutput_4e1dLook at this smart lady! She could defend me and my human rights anywhere, anytime.IMG_5345Sometimes you just have to geek out and play tourist.Processed with VSCO with b1 presetIf I look cold, it’s because I was.IMG_5383The Wheel of Fortune, otherwise known as the London Eye.Processed with VSCO with m5 presetIMG_5401IMG_5409IMG_5423Knotting Hill!fullsizeoutput_4e1eIMG_5447Dr. Who fans, where you at? This is the location of the original Tartus in the show.IMG_5452My new university ID. Never mind that I look like a Chinese boy…

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My new friend Ian, with whom I take classes at Uni. We are always struggling with Wifi connections but it makes for a funny time.IMG_5557My colleagues and I at a dinner during our trip to Flossenbürg, the concentration camp in Bavaria where Dietrich Bonhoeffer was killed.IMG_5558Famous Nurnberger sausagesIMG_5568Processed with VSCO with c1 presetIMG_5588I’m always on some train or other. This one was bound for Frankfurt, where I went out with a few friends for Halloween.IMG_5590Processed with VSCO with x1 presetIMG_5595This photo pretty much sums up how Halloween ended…yes, I do know this person. It was fun 🙂

Have a good week, friends!

10 England Highlights

A few of the highlights from my trip!

  1. Highclere Castle- Otherwise known as Downton Abbey to fans of the show, this was one of my favorite day trips. It was an hour train ride through scenic countryside to the little town of Newburry, where we caught a taxi to the 5,000 acre estate of Earl and Lady Carvarvon. Read more about it here!
  2. Shows- I saw ‘War Horse,’ ‘Once,’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ in the West End. There are a million discount ticket booths, and you can also go to the theater window an hour before the show starts to buy cheap tickets.
  3. Bath- Such an interesting town! It is in the more mountainous region of south England. The Romans were crazy good at innovation and architecture. I was so impressed by the ancient roman baths, I just wish I could have taken a soak in the natural hot springs. I would recommend the three hour bus ride, it was definitely worth it! Read more here.
  4. National Gallery- Degas, Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Michael Angelo, you name it, they’re at the National Gallery! This museum is an art lovers paradise- and free admission! What could be better?
  5. High Tea- I have been having tea withdrawals since I returned home. I need a tea IV hooked up to my arm. The tea there is wonderful, and it is usually served with scones, clotted cream, and jam. Yum!
  6. Camden Market- Crazy, overwhelming, and exciting! There were so many food booths I wanted to try, and innumerable stalls to explore. Definitely a fun day outing!
  7. Hyde Park- The house I stayed in was right next to Hyde Park, London’s ‘Central Park.’ It is an extensive network of gardens, fields, paths, and lakes. I rode bikes around it one Sunday afternoon and stopped to watch speaker’s corner for a bit. I would recommend spending some time in the park, and be sure to walk around Kensington Gardens and palace, a subsection of Hyde Park. Pictures here!
  8. Punting- punting in Cambridge is…an experience. It was hard to do by yourself if you’re a weak girl like me, so I would recommend getting a guide. But it is the thing to do in Cambridge!
  9. Pubs- I don’t generally drink or spend much time in bars, but I genuinely enjoyed kicking back in a pub for a few hours with friends. The atmosphere is relaxed and light. I loved sipping cider and talking about the days events with a close girlfriend.
  10. London Eye- A bit pricey (they don’t call it the wheel of fortune for nothing) but totally worth it. The views are stunning and it is an easy way to see all the big monuments. See pictures here. 

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Goodbye London

IMG_8008IMG_7989IMG_7953IMG_7960MeIMG_7974IMG_7952 The day has come to say goodbye to this great city! Last night my group took a ride on the London Eye (AKA The Wheel of Fortune) to see panoramic views of the city. Then we ate at an amazing Mexican restaurant near Leicester Square. I am sad to leave but also ready to be home. I feel contented and at peace because I know I will be back one day. London is not the kind of city you can only visit once, it demands a repeat! Who knows where God will lead me these next few years, but I sure wouldn’t complain if he led me here! Thanks for reading along friends, I’ve had so much fun documenting my experience. The next three weeks on the blog will be a bit quieter because I will be at school for RA training, but I’ll be fired up and rearing to go come September 3rd when I depart for Heidelberg!

The Cambridge Chronicles

IMG_7837IMG_7848Punting boats along the river. Punting is an old tradition in Cambridge, so I had to try it! Unfortunately I didn’t get many good pictures of myself punting because I was focused on not falling into the river 🙂IMG_7868When the sun is out, everyone is out!IMG_7880Good thing I’ve walked everywhere this trip! ^^IMG_7885The Round Church is the second oldest building in Cambridge, built in 1130 AD.
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A cute little shop I peaked in ^^

Hello friends! My group has moved to Cambridge, a town about an hour and a half away from Oxford. Although they are both college towns, they have their own distinct atmospheres. Cambridge is much more rural, with more parks, rivers, and fields. There are also more tourists, street performers, and open air markets. The other day, for instance, I heard some noise outside my window and looked out to find a Shakespeare play being performed on a little stage in the park! There is a liveliness and optimism about this town that I love, and will miss when we leave on Thursday. I know this months prompt for Travel Tuesdays (a weekly blogosphere event I participate in) is Travel Bucket list, but I just couldn’t bring myself to write about another place when I’m presently enjoying this place so much! So if Cambridge is on your travel bucket list, I hope you find this post enjoyable 🙂