the city of alphabet soup

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Anyone who knows me was incredibly confused when I told them I was going to Amsterdam. I suppose it doesn’t exactly seem like “my scene”. Well, it wasn’t. I had visions of small blonde dutch children dancing around in clogs! I did not see one child the entire weekend. What I did see a lot of were bikes. When the people of Amsterdam get on their two wheeled contraptions, they become monsters. “If you hear a bell, run like hell” said our tour guide. By that rule, we were supposed to be running like hell the entire trip. Fearing for my life was only the start…
I’d like to attribute our HORRIFIC experience to our hostel. It was called The Bulldog. The people who worked there were about as friendly as bulldogs. Oh and it was located smack dab in the middle of the red light district. Oh and there was a “cafe” in the lobby. Poor Carley had a worse experience, as her bunk mate(s) were of a…diverse nature. I’m sure she will post a detailed account once she recoveres here.
Frighteningly uncomfortable hostels aside, Amsterdam is home to some incredible architecture, museums, and lots of tulips! We were able to visit the Rijksmuseum (home to the majority of Dutch art, including pieces by Rembrant and Vermeer), the Van Gough Museum (his paintings in chronological order), and the Anne Frank Huis. Another amazing part of Amsterdam was the diversity of food choices (you mean I don’t have to eat small slices of Iberian ham for breakfast lunch and dinner???!). We had tomato soup, cous cous, chinese and indonesian. Also, we found a spot. An adorable lunch/coffee shop that I would like to move into. We also managed to find some incredibly quaint clothing and home stores in the tiny canal streets. Shopping put us all in a much better mood, especially after attempting a walking tour in 20 degree weather. I was not a happy camper. Hopefully my pictures will shed a more positive light upon this small Dutch city.

our fabulously chic tomato soup spot

andy warhol's depiction of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands


I should elaborate on the Cous Cous Club – pictured above. We stumbled upon this restaurant on the outskirts of the city. As we walked in, the small space was packed, but the owner quickly came out and lead the five of us through the kitchen and into their second dining room, which he had opened just for us. The waiter proceeded to recite the three items on the menu: vegetable cous cous, vegetable cous cous with lamb sausage or vegetable cous cous with something I didn’t understand (I’m assuming it was meat). As we waited for our food, our new restauranteer friend sat with us and explained that he picks out the vegetables at the farmer’s market every morning himself. Everything is steamed, there is no grease allowed in the kitchen! The food was amazing. Finally, a real home cooked meal. Afterwards, he offered us seconds! It made going back to the bulldog a bit more bearable.

And now for the best part of Amsterdam: De Laaisie Kruimel
It had just opened three weeks ago and was already published in 5 articles. Owned by an adorable dutch couple who make everything by hand in that very building. We went there for an embarrassing number of meals and would spend hours at a time hiding from cold, scary amsterdam with their large brownies, delicious coffee and fantastic sandwich combos. The wife does all of the drawings on the menu, windows and labels herself, which made the place all the more special. We were all ready to trade in our lives as students of spanish and become their students of scone making after our 3 days there!

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la semana santa

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Happy Easter! As a kid (and I hate to admit that this chapter of my life is over) my easter mornings consisted of waking up to a beautifully assembled easter basket followed by me dominating whoever was participating in the easter egg hunt. One year, we got bathing suits in our easter baskets. Sixteen year old me immediately went to try it on. Unfortunately, my 11 year old sister took a head start (thanks for regulating mom and dad). Luckily I have no shame and jogged around my backyard in a two piece, still finishing victorious despite my delayed start.
Easter in Sevilla is done a bit differently. Spain as a country is incredibly conservative. The women still wear stockings (despite the 80 degree weather) and they dress their poor little boys in button downs, sweater vests and suit jackets. I thus figured it wise to not to run around in my bikini today, I had the feeling the easter bunny doesn’t cover territory this far out anyways…What Easter does provide in Sevilla is lots of cotton candy stands. Very odd. We arrived home from London to find all grocery stores closed (they have been all week), however there was an abundance of cotton candy and buñuelo (mini donut) stands. Good thing I hate both of those things. Wishing they had some of these…

It turns out that Sunday is the least important day of Holy Week in Spain. The days leading up to the resurrection take precedence. There are processions, each put on by una hermandad (brotherhood) from each church. These processions are comprised of Nazareños (people dressed like the Klu Klux Klan), floats (held up by 20 “costaleros” or hunched over men) and music. The streets are completely filled with people. A chair in a prime spot along Avenida de la Constitución will cost 200 euro for the week!

EAT.

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THE REAL FOOD COMPANY.
One think that London did for me was renew my love of good food. It comes as no surprise to anyone that knows me that I dislike the food in Spain. I wanted to showcase what became one of my favorite eateries during my time in the UK. Their packaging is phenomenal and their sparkling water is cheaper than still. Any place that values bubbles is bound to be fantastic. Carley and I also had the most amazing english breakfast tea on the face of the earth here. With cream and sugar, we felt quite British.

Our tour guide Victoria shared with us one quote that Queen Elizabeth spoke before battle – which may or may not have anything to do with food.
“I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too”

fish and chips

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changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace


Day Three
My crowd weaving skills (not rudeness, crowd weaving….) were put to the test upon our arrival at Buckingham palace on Saturday morning. Lot’s of people crowded around the fence to see, well, a lot of marching. The palace was amazing, however, the classic England overcast made standing outside in the cold quite unpleasant. We warmed up in an adorable tea house with some carrot cake and English breakfast. We made our way back to Parliament and had some classic fish and chips before taking our tour of British Parliament. Our guide Victoria was fabulous and had a walking stick that turned into a seat when she got tired. She was a magnificent storyteller. After learning about the House of Lords I was incredibly sad that I don’t know any Lords but have made it a personal goal to become one. Afterwards, Carely and I sprinted to the British Museum, determined to see the Rosetta Stone. We arrived 10 minutes before closing, found the stone, took a picture and then laughed at the determination we had to see this gigantic rock. We calmed down with a walk through Notting Hill and some delicious Indian Food.

For those of you who have not seen the film starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, I highly suggest you head to the nearest Blockbuster…oh wait…sorry, let me rephrase. I suggest you hack your friends Netflix account to rent it. It is the one in which Julia Roberts plays a movie star who says “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” Also, there is an appearance of a Frutarian in the film, which is hysterical.
Day Four
After a lovely run through Hyde park, we set off to the Tower of London. We forked over a ridiculous entrance fee in order to see the crown jewels. Worth it. Luckily, Carley the kleptomaniac didn’t take anything at this historical location. Afterwards, I had an amazing lunch at EAT. More about this fine establishment later. We then headed over to St. Paul’s cathedral, had some candied almonds on the street and saw millennium bridge, which allegedly some dementors had something to do with in Harry Potter.
What came next was perhaps my favorite part of London. The British Library.

the clocktower at the British library. please note we were there until closing.


It is home to some magnificent works. Namely, Jane Austen’s journal (she has fantastic penmanship, obviously), Jane Eyre in Charlotte Bronte’s handwriting, the lyrics written on napkins by the Beatles and drafts of music composed by Beethoven. There were also works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries and a whole room dedicated to the Magna Carta. The bookstore within the library was incredibly dangerous. I resisted buying my fourth copy of Pride and Prejudice and instead walked out with a fabulous Jane Austen postcard and a bumper sticker that I’ve vowed to keep forever.

illegal photo taken of jane eyre

illegal photo taken of jane austen's journal

i really do love mr. darcy


After my awe-inspiring nerd moment, we went back to the city center for a ride on the world’s largest ferris wheel: The London Eye. It just so happened that we arrived right around sunset….which was pretty much perfection.

Day Five
We were able to have more of a relaxing day on Monday. We all slept in and then meandered through the parks until we found ourselves back at Harrods. I had a chocolate hazelnut scone (they are indeed, better in England) and many more Ben’s cookies. After strolling through the streets of England we arrived back home and I was able to go on another run. This one may have been my favorite run of all time. I wish I would’ve brought my camera because Hyde Park around sunset is filled with runners and strollers and dog’s and swans, tiny dirt paths as well as large concrete ones. The flowers were all in bloom and arches covered in ivy were abundant. As I attempted to keep up with the multitude of people training for the London Marathon (which is coming up!), I realized how much I miss athletics and athletes and stores that sell athletic apparel. Getting funny looks for running in shorts gets old very quickly. However, were I to run in the 7 layers all the Spanish men seem to wear, I will probably die of heat stroke seeing as the average temperature here runs at about 75 degrees.

british fashionistas


During our stroll, we picked up some boutique chocolates and a pink bottle of champagne as a thank-you for Steph’s aunt. My mother has instilled in me a need to make all gifts aesthetically appealing – and I was pretty proud at how this one turned out!

quite right.

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Day Two
I’m completing this in installments because my attention span is waning. On day two I discovered the electric tea kettle. Life. Changing. It heats water in like 20 seconds!!
What was almost as cool was Westminster Abbey, which we took a tour of in the morning. Located right next to Parliament, Big Ben, the Supreme Court and London eye, it is the historical heart of the city (not to mention the fact that it is surrounded by red telephone booths). The free audio tour was fascinating and the interior was breathtaking. Aside from tombs of almost every British monarch was Poet’s corner which held tributes to Jane Austen, the Bronte women and Shakespeare which was quite surreal.
After our cultural excursion, we spent a solid 90 minutes tracking down Chipotle. Worth it. The food so far had made the trip worth it. And then we found Ben’s Cookies. I kid you not I nearly cried. I will not confess the amount of money we spent over the next 5 days at this particular establishment. I will, however, confess that there was one in our Tube station, which we passed by at least twice a day. Throughout our trip, it was determined that the Oatmeal Raisin and Classic Milk Chocolate were the best of the bunch. Dark Chocolate, Fruit and Nut, Cranberry and White chocolate and Double Chocolate were all very good too. All written out, it is fairly embarrassing.
After my emotional encounter with my long lost friend the cookie, we headed to Camden Markets. Growing up in Northern California prepared me perfectly for this atmosphere, which I would describe as similar Height Street. The place was filled with dreadlocks, vintage shops and lots of ethnic food. I fought my desire to turn Punk Rock and get tons of piercings and instead used my high schools thrift-store shoppings skills to find Carley a fabulous vintage watch that looks just like her moms!

jolly good.

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First of all: I’m moving to London. It is the most amazing city I have ever been to. We were so incredibly busy and never stopped moving and I loved every second of it. My lovely friend Stephanie has an incredibly generous Aunt who lent us her 4 story british “cottage” for the weekend. There were phenomenal ivy covered brick buildings, fancy topiaries and pretty PT Cruisers everywhere.

Day One
We rolled out of bed to a kitchen full of cereal, fruit and eggs. I was in heaven. I didn’t have to write my name on all my food, nor did I have to wait for 11 girls to cook before I could. We strolled along the main road and 10 minutes later….my first palace sighting.

Kensington Palace, surrounded by the beautiful Kensington gardens, previous home of Queen Victoria and future home of William and Kate. The newly refurbished museum had opened just the day before. I’d say it was a little bit of magic that we came across it….
Carley and I toured all over, walking through Queen Victoria’s old living chambers, seeing her old belongings, all narrated by words from her own journal. Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“I was not at all nervous and had the satisfaction of hearing that people were stisfied with what I had done and how I had done it”
” I don’t dislike babies, though I think very young ones are rather disgusting”
After Albert’s death: “But how I, who leant on him for all and everything – without whom I did nothing, moved not a finger, arranged not a print or photograph, didn’t put on a gown or bonnet if he didn’t approve it shall be able to go on live, to live, to move.”

"they say no Sovereign was as loved than I am"

"At 6 dearest Albert came to me and stayed till a quarter to 7. We played duets on the piano together"


Her love for her husband Albert and their six children was incredibly present, perhaps even more than her leadership as a monarch. Her presence was incredibly powerful, and it seems as though Britain was ahead of the game on the whole female ruler thing. Kensington palace also contained some fantastic historical garb, and a whole exhibit on Diana’s dresses. Also I’d like to get me some of that Diana wallpaper.

one day.


We then wandered to Harrods! A british department store that is a mix of Henri Bendel and Huckleberry Cafe in Santa Monica. Two of my favorite places in the world. The food court was unreal. We took our petite salads in beautiful bags to Hyde Park where we ate in the sun on the grass surrounded by daises watching families paddleboat along the lake.

missing the five malone-wheatons!

my future home


For dinner, Steph’s aunt took us out for hamburgers! The incredibly swanky Byron Hamburgers had delicious french fries, oreo milkshakes and….portobello burgers. Needless to say, none of us spoke a word the entire meal.

london’s calling

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We’ve been planning our London/Amsterdam trip for quite some time now. So when they announced a national strike the day of our flight, I was a bit peeved. Luckily (I figured out yesterday) it’s free to switch your flight to the night before. So, I’m rebelliously skipping one of my classes today and jet-setting off to the land of tea and crumpets early. I will finally get to break out the plethora of button downs, cardigans and ballet flats that I have reserved exactly for this occasion. My GPS on Prince Harry has been turned on and my backpack has been prepared to steal the crown jewels. Some notes about my relationship with England up until this point. I’m a bit obsessed with princesses (I prefer fairy princesses, but really any type will do). It started at an early age, and really hasn’t subsided at all.

So, when an old British women told me I bear “a striking resemblance to Kate Middleton” I almost dropped dead on the spot. I also haven’t stopped talking about it since. Also, my favorite author of all time is Jane Austin. And if the whole Prince Harry thing doesn’t work out, Mr. Darcy will most definitely do.