a tale of one city

This Saturday, I did my final trip with ISH: a day trip to Bruges, Belgium.

We took the bus from London and drove to Dover, where we boarded a ferry to Calais, France, going across the English Channel. I stood outside on deck for most of the ride - and look what I got to see as we were leaving. The famous white cliffs!

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When we arrived we drove up through the countryside of France and into Belgium! Bruges was so fantastic. It was an expensive trip, but not nearly as expensive as it would’ve been had I tried to go myself, and I’m so glad I took this opportunity. I don’t know if I ever would’ve gone to Bruges otherwise. And it’s a beautiful place. Horse and buggies everywhere, a big ice skating rink, really, really impressive Christmas markets, and some of the best food money can buy. I had a real Belgian waffle, and Belgian chocolate, and Belgian frites (french fries - they actually originated in Belgium, not France!). Fantastic.

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We were in Bruges for four hours, and then we got back on the bus, back on the ferry, back on the other bus, and were in London by 11pm. I even made a friend talking to the guy sitting next to me on the way home. I’ve been to Belgium now! And it was great.

And the best thing ever happened on the way home- as I was walking through campus to my dorm, I found a twenty pound note that someone had accidentally dropped. 20 pounds. A perfect stroke of luck to end the day.

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On Friday, my last real day in London, I went to Harrod’s! The famous department store. It’s beautiful, all lit up and decked out for Christmas.

Funny story, I was looking at these really gorgeous ornaments because my mom wanted me to get one for her, and I accidentally dropped one worth 15 pounds. And it shattered. A woman told me to find someone in a red apron to help me with it, and I really did look around, a lot, but there was no one in the room, and when I went into the next room to look it occurred to me that I could just run away and no one would know. So I did. OOPS. 

Later that night I went out to Leicester Square to celebrate my friend Matt’s birthday! It was a really great way to spend my last night in London.

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On December 12th, I went with QMTV (the college TV station) to the premiere of The Hobbit in Leicester Square! Not to see it, of course, we didn’t have tickets or anything; we were filming outside, spotting celebrities, interviewing fans. I was fangirling the whole time. They were playing the soundtrack and interviewing the actors. It was amazing. I saw Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Peter Jackson. So incredible.

Andy Serkis bein real cute:

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December 11th - Abbey Road. It was a short trip but totally worth the tube money.

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On December 8th Emily and I went out to Winter Wonderland, a big Christmas festival in Hyde Park! It’s basically a huge German-style Christmas market plus rides, but it’s almost exactly like the Dutchess County Fair back home. Less sweaty fat people and lemonade, more Christmas. There were even some of the same rides.

Afterwards we went to a coffee shop Emily recommended and they had some of the most amazing hot chocolate I’ve ever had.

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On December 4th I did a day out. I woke up early and headed out to Regents Park, to climb Primrose Hill! The view from up there is so pretty, and you can see everything. Great panorama of London.

Then I walked to Covent Garden, which is all set up for Christmas!

And then I kept on walking, to see Temple (a little district-of-sorts with narrow streets and old buildings) and Somerset House, a historic house where there’s a big ice skating rink set up. I couldn’t afford to go ice skating but I want to at some point this winter!

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The next day, Sunday the 2nd, I went to a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s the feed-the-birds one, from Mary Poppins. Unbelievably beautiful inside. Unfortunately it was a bit dark (the sun sets at 4) and it was dim inside, so I didn’t get any good pictures. Here’s a picture from the internet:

And then when I came back, after I’d made myself dinner, I went over to the chapel (Emily lives in a flat above the chapel) and Emily, her flatmate Zhu, and I decorated the chapel Christmas tree!

Can’t wait for Christmas!

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On December 1st, Katrina and I went down the German-style Christmas markets on the south bank, behind the London Eye! They weren’t nearly as good as the actual German Christmas markets in Berlin, but it was still a good time. Ran into an old pal

And then we walked along the south bank all the way down to Borough Market, where there were a ton of free samples and I treated myself to some cheesecake. Definitely a good day.

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The following week was pretty uneventful: I was doing work for classes, including filming a project in the tube (we were in the tube for six hours, and eventually got yelled at for not having a permit and had to scram; fun, but exhausting). Went to knitting club, hung out with my lovely, lovely new friend Emily.

I spent Thanksgiving mostly skyping with my family and watching the Macy’s Day Parade livestream, and baking two pies, pumpkin and blueberry. Then for dinner I got some Nando’s chicken and instant mashed potatoes, and skyped with my friend Carley back at home, who was also alone for the holiday. Then Emily came over and we ate pie and watched Parks and Rec! It was actually a fantastic holiday, which is great. I had expected it to be depressing.

But then on November 24th, I took a day trip to Wales! Again with International Students House, again on my own. Still good fun!

Our first stop was Gloucester, still in England, where we walked around a bit. I went into the cathedral, which is where they filmed a lot of Hogwarts scenes. I was basically at Hogwarts.

the actual hallways and courtyard they used:

Still crying about it.

After Gloucester we made our first stop in Wales, at Tintern, to see the ruins of Tintern Abbey. Amazingly gorgeous.

It was pretty rainy, but still great. Wales is beautiful. I got to walk around Tintern for quite a while! Said hi to this guy:

And walked across the town bridge

And went into some neat craft shops and things. Ate my bagged lunch.

After Tintern we loaded back on the bus and headed to our last stop, Chepstow! Chepstow’s actually the town where JK Rowling went to school as a young girl, so it was a very Harry Potter day. It’s right on the border of England and Wales; I walked down to the bridge and stood at the halfway point between the countries, one foot in each. Chepstow is also home to the oldest stone castle in Britain!

So that was cool to see.

In Chepstow the weather got even worse, and as I was walking through town, soaked through and freezing cold, I could see into all the cozy restaurants and homes and it made me horribly homesick. 

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On Tuesday November 13th, Katrina and I went to the Oxford Street Lighting-of-the-Christmas-Lights ceremony! While we were there we went into a huge, amazing toy store and were running around like little kids getting excited about Christmas. It was really, really fun. And I got an eggnog latte from Starbucks, which was possibly the most delicious drink I’ve ever had.

Katrina has a deep conversation with a tiger puppet:

The Queen! Made of legos…?

The lights go on and the fireworks go off.

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