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Goodbye World

July 25, 2011

Da 3 Girlz’ European adventures are coming to an end.  Today is my last day in Gibraltar. I’m leaving this beautiful country and all of my new friends right as I started to settle down.

For the past week, everyday Alfred and I would eat a delicious lunch of either homemade Momma Morro food or some local take-away, then walk to the beach, stopping by a convenience store on the way to buy some drinks and snacks, then lay out until the sun went down behind the Rock. After the beach, we would come home for dinner and either a) go to da club, Savannah, with his friends or b) go to the Spanish Fair for churros and fair games or c) have dinner in Spain with his parents or d) go out for dinner and drinks with his friends or e) a combination of the other four. Life’s been perfect here.

I’m going to miss this continent. This trip definitely solidifed my future plans of living in Europe. The people, the culture, the adventures. And my dear Alfredito who’s like a perverse big brother. I’ll even miss his obnoxious faces, burps, farts, laughs, and inappropriate language. Hopefully I’ll be back next year doing my internship in Gibraltar!! But for now, it’s goodbye Europe and hello Kansas.

Ape-ing Around

July 19, 2011

My brother from another mother. ❤

My first day in Gibraltar was exactly how I’d imagined it. After sleeping in late and eating a delicious meal of homemade food, Alfred and I set out for The Rock (no, not Alcatraz). The Rock of Gibraltar is an imposing, impressive cliff set right in the center of Gibraltar. Sitting at the peak, I take in the view. A few miles across the sea from the Rock and within sight, is Morocco. A few miles to the left is Spain. Straight down is the sea. And on my lap is a Barbary Ape.  It was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had the opportunity of having.

My new child and Layla's new sister....or brother?

After the apes, we explored through St. Michael’s Cave. St. Michael’s Cave is a series of tunnels made up of beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. An ampitheatre has even been carved through the natural cavern. It was so cold in the cave, we could see our breath–a significant difference from the humid, 80+ degree weather. Finally, we hike down the mountain, exploring different paths and ruins along the way.

Cave of wonders!

My legs and butt are still sore from this two days later.

That night, I met some of Alfred’s childhood friends, Steven S (who looks JUST like Daniel Radcliffe), Steven’s girlfriend of 7 years(!!), Kathy M, and their other friends Gian and Sharan. We went out to a casino by the bay, had some drinks with the gorgeous setting sun by the sea, and then walked around the port, looking at the massive yachts, and dreaming of owning our own one day.

People watching on the beach

The next day, Alfred and I explored the main street for a while, trying to find my dad a souvenir, but failed in our attempts. So instead, we went out for Indian take-out. I got a vegetable curry, samosa, and naan for only 5 pounds! I’m in love with this place. Then we met up with his friends from the night before, plus Steven’s brother, David, and another friend, Nicky. We spent the entire day laying out in the sun, playing in the waves, and laughing the night away. We had pizza on the beach and watched the sun set behind the Rock.

By the time we got home, I had sand EVERYWHERE. No thanks to Alfred, who when we were playing soccer…er, I mean, “football”… accidentally missed the ball and kicked sand in my face instead. Thank you, Alfred. At home, I also finally met Alfred’s dad, who had just come home after coaching a rowing competition in Nottingham. The Morro’s are the cutest family ever. I feel like their adopted daughter. It’s a wonderful life. ❤

“Bye, Bye, Bye”

July 17, 2011

Friday was our last day in London. Now, the 3 Girlz are apart, two of them (Claire and Em) touring around Europe and one of them (ME!) in GIBRALTAR!

We started out our last day finally visiting Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey: Best known as the venue for the Royal Wedding...

Then it was off to see Harry Potter…or so we thought. For some reason, the whole Harry Potter Tickets in a London Cinema thing just doesn’t work out for me. First, I booked the tickets (9 in total- a big investment for Claire who paid it all on her card) for the wrong time. We got noon (12:30) instead of midnight (0:00). Disappointed, but finally resigned to the noon showing, we made it all the way to the cinema only to realize that I had booked the tickets for Leicester City, a town outside of London, not Leicester Square, the area inside of London. Needless to say, I was stressed out beyond reason, and on edge from the frustration. But finally, we found a cinema that wasn’t too expensive and booked our tickets and reserved our seats for the second midnight showing. To kill the time, we went to Hyde Park and then set about packing up all our things. 😦

Harry vs Voldemort, Joycey vs Claire-demort

The movie was well worth the wait. I continuously cried throughout the entire thing, from sobbing to bawling to weeping and everything in between. At one point, I was shaking so badly, I asked Emily to hold my hand. I wasn’t only crying for Harry and Hermione and Ron and Fred and Lupin and Tonks, I was crying for the end of an era; the end of my childhood.

Emotionally drained and dreading the hectic travel schedule I would encounter the next day, we walked back to Lambeth at 3 in the morning, drenched from the (probably acid) rain and exhausted from our long day. On the way home, we said goodbye to all our London favorites and landmarks.

Goodbye to Oxford street which I had to push and maneuver my way around the mass transit of people everyday to and from school. Goodbye dirty, wet, vomit-y sidewalks that made my feet black and crusty. Goodbye big red busses that I’m pretty sure sped up to try to hit me as I ran across the road. Goodbye curls in my hair that stayed for about five seconds before the drab London rain straightened it again. Goodbye Trafalagar Square which I spent hours on my feet at waiting for first, the Harry Potter wristbands, and then the actual premiere. Goodbye Citadines Hotel which provided our accommodations for our very first night in this beautiful city and then subsequently provided a meeting place for us to meet our Study Abroad advisors. Goodbye Thames River and your wonderful boat cruises and gorgeous view of the city. Goodbye Golden Jubilee bridge that looks like sailboats that we walked across to get home with your weird homeless people. Goodbye view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament that made us really feel like we were in London. Goodbye South Bank and your crappy, creepy street performers. Goodbye London Eye, our very first tourist activity and landmark. Goodbye the Horse pub where we had our first round of drinks with our new London friends. Goodbye Bailey A, Lauren S, Lauren Z, and Emily J. Goodbye big church thing by the Lambeth North underground station that showed us that we were almost home. Goodbye “open late” with no given closing time food and wine place that provided alcoholic drinks, medicine, and snacks. Goodbye International House and my wonderful room and kitchen. Goodbye London. We love you. We miss you. We’ll be back soon! Cheers!

And now I say hello to Gibraltar and a Mr. Alfred Morro! 

SPAIN!

On Saturday, I drag myself out of bed and start to get ready to leave London.My bags are packed, final goodbyes are said, and I take one last moment to say farewell to London. With a slight drizzle coming down outside, I gather up all my arm muscles and make the half mile walk to the bus stop, the ride to Victoria station, the journey to Gatwick Airport via the Gatwick Express train, through the airport, and finally, onto the plane. I had a slight misunderstanding with the British time system AGAIN, accidentally thinking that my plane was delayed an hour and fifteen minutes, and then realizing it was only fifteen minutes late. After a hectic attempt to message my parents, sister, and Alfred, which turned out to be a fiasco in itself, I make it on board and to Gibraltar.

I’m On A Boat

July 14, 2011

I’ve walked an ungodly amount of miles in London. Never have I had so many constant aches and sores in my feet. Blister upon blister keep forming, but somehow I just keep on walkin’. Maybe it’s because I know I’m in London and love my journey to and from school. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m super stingy and don’t want to pay for the Tube. Maybe it’s a combination of both. Either way, I’ve put in more mileage on my legs in the past two days than I usually do in a week at home.

But first of all, here is my Almost-Taken story: I had walked to class on Wednesday morning since it’s only 2.5 miles away and I didn’t want to take the Tube. On my way there, I saw an adorable dress for ONLY FIVE POUNDS!!! hanging on a rack outside. I decided to try it on. I looked around and couldn’t find the story this rack of clothes belonged to, but then noticed a sign on a inconspicuous white door saying “Please knock loudly to look at more clothes as the doorbell is out of order”. So, I, being a dumbass, knock loudly on the door. An old Indian man opens the door and I ask if I can try on the dress. I walk in the “store”, which seems to be more like an illegal immigrant sweatshop, and notice two other Indian men and a woman with a bunch of fabric and sewing machines. He leads me to the back break room which is also the “dressing room”. I try on my clothes, terrified the whole time that there was a secret camera hidden somewhere, decide to buy the dress and come out. I hand him a ten and since he didn’t have change, he found another Indian man in a little office room who pulls out a HUGE roll of bills and hands him a crisp five. Needless to say, I grab the five and RUN out of there. Moral of the story. I am an idiot. But I’m an idiot with a cute dress.John, Paul, George, and the 3 Girlz

After I forced myself to finish my final paper for class (I still can’t believe my study part of study abroad is over!!!), I met up with Claire and Emily at Abbey Road. To see us making this historic walk, go to Abbey Road Studios, then “archives”, and click on the 6-7 PM time slot. We walk across at approximately 6:01!! I’m in a coral dress. You can’t miss me.

We meet up with our Study Abroad advisors and the rest of the group to go on a little canal boating trip through an area of London known as “Little Venice”. There was a buffet provided on board consisting of pizza, egg rolls, chicken fingers, potato wedges, bruschetta, sausages, and a cash bar.

Little Venice

This was our first booze cruise. Our second was on an enormous yacht-like party boat on the Thames today. There were three levels and even a dance floor! We partied hard for four hours. Although it felt like high school homecoming, it was actually the University of Westminster’s farewell party for us. 😦 When we are finally forced off the boat, Claire, Em and I slowly walk back home to Lambeth. We tried to enjoy the gorgeous London night as best as we could in spite of our bleeding, blistering feet. On the way we played on a street piano, parkour-ed on lamposts and benches, and took in all the beautiful London lights. I don’t want to leave!!!!! D:   Trip down the Thames

Stopping to Smell the Roses

July 10, 2011

We stopped and smelled the roses today, both figuratively and literally. We realized that exactly one week from today, we would no longer be together in London. With this realization, we decided to make the most of these last few days. Therefore, we reunited with Lauren S, Emily J, and Bailey A, and accepted the role of tourist and took a ridiculous amount of pictures at and visited Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery (where I fell in love with a Monet painting appropriately named Water Lillies, Setting Sun), and Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Jamie’s Italian

On the Lions in Trafalgar Square

When we got back home (yes, we refer to our dorm as home now!), while the other three stayed in to work on their essays, Claire, Em, and I explored a new area of Lambeth. Our adventure began by going to the Imperial War Museum, which, even though is literally across the street from our dorms, we hadn’t been to yet. The gardens surrounding the museum were GORGEOUS and filled with so many flowers! So, we stopped and smelled the beautiful roses, lilacs, and lillies.

Smelling whatever flower this is...

Then we found this adorable park that we deemed fit for a wedding. Naturally, we decided to stage a wedding with Emily (the groom) and Claire (the bride). I acted as minister and performed the ceremony reminscent of the Princess Bride wedding. Though I think we could have stayed there all night, a playground across the park caught Claire’s eye. Having an unnatural obsesssion with swings, she bolted towards the swing set, with Emily and I struggling to keep up. Although we look like adults on the outside, we have the souls of five year olds. Swinging and climbing and seesawing may have been some of the most fun we’ve had the whole time we’ve been here. When our energy finally ran out, we kept walking which led to us getting lost.

Children

Somehow, we ended back by the river, after passing a row of gay bars, and had to follow a crazy, drunk man who kept breaking out in song and dance back home.

Lassies Meet World

July 10, 2011

The Best Hostel in Edinburgh!

This weekend, Claire, Em, and I went on a trip to SCOTLAND, home of kilts, bagpipes, and Gerard Butler. We stayed at our very first hostel, High Street Hostel, and found it not at all to be like the movie. The staff was super friendly– they gave us loads of advice on where to go eat, shop, and drink– and the facilities were pretty clean and void of sketchy men trying to kidnap girls. Our room was adorable; it was furnished with about 9 bunk beds and had the cutest, most kindergarten looking decorations ever. I slept in a bed named “Ob” while Claire slept in “Nonnie” and Emily (or Cindy as the person at the front desk named her) slept in “Pitt”.

Edinburgh Castle is an amazing, stone palace atop a steep, rocky hill. The mood was set when the storm clouds rolled in and it started to downpour and even hail. The thunder shook the whole town, but we deemed the weather perfect for exploring an ancient castle. The gloom and darkness added to the eerieness and violent history of this royal Scottish stronghold. We darted in and out of dungeons, throne rooms, and chambers, alternating between feeling cold and wet and warm and dry.

Three Girls, One Umbrella

Luckily, we had our matching trench coats and umbrellas to protect us from the elements, but our sandal clad feet were drenched, so we thought it best to get out of the rain and find some dinner. We decided to finally try British Indian food which we kept hearing has the best curry. We wolfed down our dinner, though we were never quite sure what exactly we had ordered. The waiter’s thick Indian accent on top of a slight British dialect made it absolutely impossible to understand so we just nodded and smiled and ate whatever was brought to us.

Claire and Emily had reserved a “Hidden and Haunted” tour around Edinburgh to visit the sites that their beloved Ghost Adventures team had gone on. I put my foot down on this one and absolutely refused to have any part of walking around in the dark in a strange, old European town listening to ghost stories and visitng violent historic sites. So, I stayed behind in my safe bed at the hostel while crazy Claire and “Cindy” nervously went on their tour. When they returned and I had made sure they weren’t being followed by any ghosts or were possessed by demons and they had settled their heart rates and reassured themselves, we stopped by a local pub, The Mitre, for some drinks to warm up our insides and help us fall asleep.

Harry Potter Fans are the Craziest..I am a Harry Potter Fan...I am Crazy

The next morning, we set out on an exploration of Edinburgh. First, since it was on my high priority list, we stopped by the The Elephant House best known as the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books. There was even a “Harry Potter Toilet” where the toilet and walls of a stall were COVERED in Harry Potter pictures and quotes. I offered a small addition to the decor in this bathroom in the form of a “M6<3 HP” marking.

The Royal Mile is Edinburgh’s most touristy shopping area. Since we were tourists, we thought it appropriate for us to go on a little shopping trip down this “mile”. Emily loaded up on her “Henderson” clan memorabilia while Claire and I messed around with the weird Scottish tourist souvenirs including the  “Edinburgh Castle Rock” candy. This sweet treat is reminiscent of Sweethearts in flavor, but the texture was softer. Made purely of sugar and corn syrup, the warning on the back advised parents to be wary of giving this candy to children since it would affect their attention span.

We finally went on an open double decker tour bus ride courtesy of the lovely and gracious Emily “Cindy” Henderson. All I can say is that Edinburgh is breathtaking. More full of historic buildings and ancient architecture than London, it is surrounded by rolling, grassy hills and beyond that, the glistening, grey sea. The layering of slightly dark, gothic stone buildings with the lush, natural green and the wild, vast ocean is simply unbelievable.

High Rollers...Get it? Cuz we're on a double decker bus?

Our last meal in Edinburgh took place at the Royal Mile Tavern and Restaurant. I tried the veggie haggis which was surprisingly nothing akin to its original counterpart of intestines and blood. It was actually sort of a tomato base-less chilli, full of lentils, oats, and grains. Claire had a MASSIVE baked potato and soup and Emmy had a chicken sandwich. Finally satisfied, warm, and full, we took the 4.5 hour train ride back home, enjoying the beautiful Scottish/English countryside dotted with fluffy white sheep and fluffy white clouds.

Screw Studying, I’m Here for Harry Potter

July 7, 2011

It was all worth it!

Hello World. I know it’s been a while, but yes, we’re all still very much alive. We’ve spent the past few days going on Harry Potter adventures. On Monday, Emmy and I went to King’s Cross Station’s Platform 9 3/4. On Tuesday, Claire and I found the REAL Diagon Alley. On Wednesday, I ran to Trafalgar Square and waited in line for five hours for an official Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 wristband required for entrance to the world premiere. Today, I spent over 7 hours on my feet absolutely squished in with over 8,000 people in a tiny square in order to see the HP stars. But it was all worth it. Not only was I able to take some amazing pictures of Rupert Grint, James and Oliver Phelps (The Weasley Twins), the guy who plays Professor Remus Lupin, Emma Watson, and SO MANY OTHERS (!!!!), I even got autographs!  There are too many pictures to put up here and I’m assuming everyone who’s reading this is also my fb friend, so I’m just going to let you guys go look at the pictures there. Mom and Dad- Janie will show you. I’m too lazy and tired and every one of my muscles are numb or shaking because I’ve been standing for the ENTIRE day. Love you all!