Reasons to Love British Rain.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

This Sunday marks the first day of British Summer Time, we lost an hour of sleep and gained several mm of rain overnight. Now that we're in "summer mode", everyone has taken to their social medias to groan about the windy, wet weather, exasperated about how we never get sunshine - slight exaggeration, in my opinion. Although I love being out in the sun and am ready for picnic days as much as anyone, I try to find comfort in the grey skies and wet pavements. Here's a few reasons why rainy England 'aint so bad after all...

1. Drinking tea with the window open and reading a good book.
The promise of being curled up on my bed with a mug of tea, a fresh book waiting to be read, a gentle cool breeze coming in from the window with the sounds of rain + happy birds...what's not to like? With the addition of some fairy lights to my flat, it's the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday. And as far as some nasty wind goes, um - I lived in Lubbock, Texas for 5 years so English wind you cannot scare me. 

2. Not having to mess about your hair, because you're going to throw it up in a ponytail anyway.
Enough said. No blowdry no problem!

3. Chucking on the wellies and going for a squashy country walk. 
While sporting a pair of wellies in the city will raise a few eyebrows - I get comments from strangers practically every time I wear mine, out in the country it's practically a requirement! A colourful pair of wellies is enough to brighten anyone's day, and you have no excuse not to jump in puddles and get that strangely satisfying sensation from stepping in a squishy bit of mud. No tip-toeing required, charge right on through the fields.

4. Spending time in museums.
If the idea of being hoarded up in your own room all day would drive you insane, it's a great excuse to whip out the umbrella and trot down to a local museum. You can spend hours roaming around the M Shed or the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery for free or the ss Great Britain if you don't mind getting a bit wet on deck!

5. The smell outside when it's all settled.
You're not alone if you love the smell of rain, aka petrichor. Bristol may be a city but we're not shy of parks and greenery, I can seriously smell all the wet trees and soil from the courtyard outside my window right now.

6. Rolling fields of green and colourful gardens now have a shimmering layer of dew to them. 
While London shimmers in the sun, the nitty gritty of England really sparkles after a bit of rain. With a bit of West Country bias, I think there are few things more beautiful than the rolling hills and country gardens with a fresh layer of rain. Being from an area of the U.S. that has been in a drought for I don't even know how long where all of our plants turn dusty and die, believe me when I say that the rain may put a damper on your day, but it paves the way for some gorgeous scenery later on!

You can't get all of that ^ without some showers.

Are you a rain-lover or hater? What do you do during a rainy day?

Solar Eclipse, Blog Ruts & Pop Quizzes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

There was a visible solar eclipse in the UK this week! In typical British fashion, everyone moaned about the existence of clouds, but Bristol had a slightly better view than some other areas. It definitely looked different outside, like there was a filter on all the buildings and trees and a quick look at the sun itself looked...misshapen. I did my best with my iPhone, and strangely enough it showed up in the glare. 

I've been in a bit of a state of neglect with this blog lately - not really sure why other than I haven't really done anything "blog worthy". I'm not so sure snaps of me walking to class, awkwardly trying to find a spot in the gym, or strolling the aisles of Boots for hours on end would be that interesting to y'all. I used to do a series called Foreign Flubs when I first moved here, noting all the quirky differences and unexpected mishaps that come with being an expat. As months have gone on, these "odd" encounters have become my normal day-to-day life, I'm officially no longer taken aback by lingo or cars driving on the left. I DO have a very special visitor coming soon and we'll be taking jolly ol' England by storm, so I think there will be some fun posts on the horizon.

Luckily, I was tagged for a Liebster (or whatever you prefer to call it) again recently, this time by Caity, the Beatles-obsessed lady over at Where The Heart Is. I ran across her blog a few months ago and can't help but get excited when she makes a new post - being fellow American master's students in the UK kinda makes us kindred spirits. So thanks Caity for giving me a free excuse for a blog post! Here we go...
  1. What's a day in the life of you?
    Well In My Life (Ha! Please be proud of me Caity) I usually wake up and have breakfast (I can NOT skip breakfast, it blows my mind that some people do) and toodle around the internet while drinking my coffee to catch up on what happened across the pond whilst I was sleeping. If it's a class day then I'll go over my notes from readings to prepare for the seminar before heading off for that. If it's a productive off-day then I'll go to the gym, run errands, do more readings (if you're a grad student, you know the drill) catch up on emails, fill out my planner, maybe do some tidying because I'm a neat-nick, and try to Facetime with my family when they wake up. On non-productive days I like to go on walks around Bristol or squeeze in a day trip if I have enough time. At night I'll either hang out with friends at a local pub or sit in my onesie drinking tea and watching YouTube videos.
  2. What are you really really good at?
    Organisation and being creative? This sounds like a one-way street to being a cat lady.
  3. What meal could you eat for the rest of your life; food, drink, and dessert?
    Food: Tacos because I could switch up the fillings and include breakfast options..loophole ;) 
    Drink: that boring? I would say red wine but if we're talking the only option for the rest of my life I would be really drunk and dehydrated 24/7. 

    Dessert: Milkshakes. Easiest answer ever.
  4. Favorite musical?
    Would it be really basic of me to say Wicked or Les Mis? I've pretty much loved every musical I've seen though!
  5. Life goal - what is it?
    o have a decent answer to this question. Nothing makes my mind go blank like these types of questions. The pressure!!
  6. Dogs or babies?
    Dogs 0:)
  7. You have to travel with only one person for the next 5 years. That means 24/7 baby. Who is it?
    Either Sara because we literally travel in sync with each other or one of my friends from my study abroad program because after traveling for weeks around Europe, we have all seen each other at our absolute worst and best.
  8. What is your current JAM?
    I usually opt for a nice strawberry or blackberry. Jokessss.... My jam switches about every week but as of late it's been Big Girls Cry by Sia.
  9. What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?
    Have a conversation with JK Rowling. I get really nervous and anxious so I'm pretty sure I would see her and instantly faint or throw up. Charming. 
My questions!
  1. Link a meme/gif/tumblr screenshot that makes you laugh without fail, every time. 
  2. Favourite social media site?
  3. Planes vs. trains
  4. Which actor/actress would play you in your biopic?
  5. What forgotten song from the 2000's do you think we need to bring back?
  6. Most embarrassing old username (AIM, Xanga, Myspace...)
  7. What television character do you most identify with?
  8. Define modern dating in one word.
  9. You get invited to a house party - what do you bring with you?
  10. What do you do when you hit a roadblock with blogging?
I tag...
Sara @ Of Golden Roses (because I don't mention her enough already), if you're reading this. 

I'm running low on ideas of who to tag because I feel like everyone I follow has already done this tag a million times over, so if you're reading this and have been there done that but feel like doing it again, or have never done one - go right ahead!

Even if you don't feel like doing the whole she-bang, I would like to know your answer to #10 down in the comments - what you do when you feel like you're in a blogging rut? 

PS - In other news, my laptop did the latest software update which was desperately needed, I thought it was on its last leg a few weeks ago which beyond stressed me out with second term essays and beginning my dissertation around the corner. However, it also changed all of my settings based on my location (bit big brother-ish) and I now get autocorrected to British English. Splendid. I can't stand red squiggles or misspelling things, so if I suddenly start throwing a U into words or replacing a Z with an S, I promise I'm not trying to say "Hey look at me, I've lived here for less than a year but I'm totally British."

TBTravel: King's Cross + The British Library

Friday, March 20, 2015

This week's throwback travel is for all the Harry Potter fanatics out there. It's no secret that a visit to King's Cross Station is a must for any devoted Potterhead, and I'm not alone when I say that this station represents where it all began. 

The station plays a central role throughout the books: being the home of Platform 9 & 3/4 - gateway from London to Hogwarts on September 1st every year at 11 o'clock sharp, the place where Harry first met the Weasleys, the kickstart to Harry's troubles in the Chamber of Secrets, and of course acting as Harry's setting in the Deathly Hallows while he's in limbo, a symbol of his entrance to the wizarding world. 

It plays an important part of the books in the muggle world as well: JK Rowling's parents met in this station before boarding a train to Scotland, and the infamous dream that she had which inspired the books occurred on a train from Manchester to London, although she doesn't specify which station.

King's Cross has undergone an intense series of renovations over the years and the Platform 9 & 3/4 sign itself has moved several times due to construction and overcrowding by fans. The first time I ever visited in the early 2000's, we were able to go right up to the actual platform column used in the films (there was no actual brick wall between platforms 9 & 10, Jo has stated she actually visualised it wrong and confused it with Euston Station) and there was a separate room off to the side with a Platform 9 & 3/4 sign along with the infamous trolley going halfway into the wall. Sometime between then and 2011, it was moved along with the construction and the actual platforms were kept from fans behind barriers. To the dismay of many, the station had to have a paper wall put up in lieu of the actual wall. 

When I went again in 2012, the new permanent location was set along with a new shop. The only difference between these photos and the current setup is that props are now included; you get to pick a house scarf to wear and the employee pulls a string to make it look like you are whooshing through the platform and takes a photo. It's a bit more organised that in year's past - last time I went it was just a disorderly group of excited fans jumping in when there was a chance, but everyone was always respectful of some type of queue order. Don't worry about it being shuffled around over and over again like the past few years, they've insisted that this is its permanent resting place.  

Platform 9 & 3/4 is easy to find, located in the main departures concourse. You don't need a train ticket or to go through any barriers to reach it! Alternatively, follow the groups of people running through the station squealing with excitement.

The shop nearby may be commercialism at it's best, but I think it's certainly worth a visit. Books, sweets, merchandise, wands - what else could you want? Perfect for those who can't make the trip out to Leavesden.

On your way out, be sure to marvel at the gothic architecture of its neighbour, St. Pancras station. Not only is stunning, but it was also featured in the films, specifically while Harry and Ron were making their escape to Hogwarts on the Flying Ford Anglia.

Minutes down the road from these two stations sits The British Library. A great stop for any book lover or history buff, this library regularly houses two Gutenberg Bibles, original printed plays by Shakespeare, the Magna Carta, and drawings by Leonardo da Vinci.

While I was studying abroad in 2012 it hosted an exhibition called "Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderland", which showcased some of the best literature that has emerged from the British Isles. Nestled among over 150 different pieces including John Lennon's handwritten manuscript for "In My Life", Tolkein's original artwork for The Hobbit, and Charlotte Bronte's manuscript for Jane Eyre, laid the holy grail. In my opinion, anyway.

JK Rowling's original manuscript for Chapter 6 of Philosopher's Stone, "The Journey from Platform 9 & 3/4" - could they have picked a more fitting chapter to display a stone's throw from King's Cross Station?! Although photos were not allowed inside the exhibition, I refused to leave without sneaking a snap of this. Displaying an embarrassing amount of excitement is nothing new when I visit a Harry Potter related spot, but this was on a whole new level. My friend and I scurried around the exhibition in a silent frenzy, looking through each pane of glass trying to find it. I practically felt my heart burst when I saw the book sitting there innocently, hands shaking and at a loss for words as I looked over Jo's actual handwriting of the actual manuscript that went into the actual book.

Although the exhibition isn't running any more and I feel like a bit of a tease for telling y'all about something no longer available, I couldn't mention a trip to King's Cross without day dreaming about what is arguably of my favourite Harry Potter moments to date.

TBTravel: Lucerne.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A few years ago when I was studying abroad, we were making our way from Paris to Venice via bus and trains, which landed us a less than 48 hour pit stop in the beautiful Lucerne. Practically smack dab in the middle of Switzerland, Lucerne is the German-speaking portion of the country and is surrounded by postcard-worthy mountains, lakes, and architecture.

I guess I haven't really mentioned it much on here, so just to fill you in, I did a multi-country European art history and architecture program. As a group of 50 students, 1 professor, and 1 manager (bless them), we stayed in 7 different cities while traveling through 6 different countries. Being a bunch of rowdy college kids, we pumped the brakes a bit when we arrived in Switzerland. Mostly because it is expensive. So don't be fooled if you look at the exchange rate for the Swiss franc and see that it's nearly on par with the US dollar. These are NYC/London prices and then some! To make up for our shallow pockets, we spent our day moseying around the quaint alleys, exploring tiny shops with wooden clocks, and hiking up the waterside towers. 

Mark Twain called this "the most beautiful and moving piece of stone in the world" - a monument to commemorate the Swiss troops who were massacred during the French Revolution. The engraving reads "To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss."

Jesuit Church, the first baroque church built north of the Alps.

It was pretty grey and drizzly during our visit, but it was still incredibly gorgeous so I can only imagine Switzerland when bathed by sunshine!

I had a few travel fails from my visit to Lucerne, #1 of which being I did not take near enough photos. I think I was simply distracted and not feeling my best - unfortunately on my last day in Paris I woke up with a horrendous case of pink eye along with a subconjunctival hemorrhage, neither of which I had before so it really freaked me out. If you don't know what that long medical-sounding thing is I wouldn't recommend looking it up, just know that it looked like my eyeball was...bleeding.

I didn't want to miss out on anything (#YOLO) so I loaded up on the hand sanitiser and sported sunglasses for the day. The first chunk of my day in Switzerland was spent at the pharmacy, as it had already closed the night we arrived. I walked up to the kind-face lady behind the counter who didn't speak English and me no German, so we spent the next few minutes communicating with hand waving and me pointing to my eye, and I was off with some eyedrops....with the German instructions. 

But my major travel fail/regret is not making the trek up Mount Pilatus. We had gone on a walking tour of the city to kick off our day, and our guide was pretty uncertain if we would be able to see anything from the top with all the fog and rain. Not wanting to waste our time and money, we skipped it. Another group within our program did end up making the trip, and they said it was wonderful. *Bangs head on table*

The riverside/lakeside towers certainly made up for it though.

In America, land of the lawsuits, this probably would have had a thick fence or window shielding you from plunging hundreds of feet down in case you wobbled. On the other side of the pond, you are expected to use common sense and take responsibility for your own stupidity. My friend was less than confident about my balancing capabilities, I think.


We didn't really go to restaurants while in Lucerne, because money. We opted for market food, grab-and-go type of meals. 

Our program gave us breakfast every morning that was traditional of the country we were in at the moment. I remember having a hearty spread of meats, cheeses, eggs, fruit, and bread which was a welcomed departure from Paris. I just can't eat a hard boiled egg or a croissant and be full, thank goodness I live in England - home of the artery-crushing breakfasts.

Most importantly, when in Switzerland eat CHOCOLATE + CHEESE and you will be sorted. I've had my fair share of chocolate in my life and I can vouch that a simple bar from a side alley shop was the best chocolate I've ever had. Upon my first bite I realised it is what chocolate is meant to taste like. 

GETTING AROUNDLucerne has trains, buses, and boats. I'm afraid I'm no help for manoeuvring these, because we actually walked everywhere! Being such a short visit, I know we didn't see everything, but our feet took us plenty of places in this quaint city.


Go up Mount Pilatus, for me please.

Visit the Lion of Lucerne

Eat chocolate and cheese, you're in the holy land!

Wander around the town and pop into the quaint shops. You'll find wooden clocks, Christmas stores (because why not), and Swatch shops galore. 

Walk along the river and lake, go up the towers that are dotted along them. They're free and give you an incredible view. You'll even feel less guilty about all that chocolate and cheese.

Marvel at the baroque architecture, it really is dreamy.


London in the Sun.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I'm a firm believer that there is nowhere better to enjoy sunshine and warm (ish) weather than in England. In the city, everyone instantly goes from hustle bustle mode to smiling and cheery. The buildings are brighter, the streets more lively. In the countryside, the picnic baskets are whipped out, eager dogs frolic through the fields, and the green rolling hills appear greener.

Recently we were gifted with a weekend of sunshine with temperatures finally scraping past the 16°C/60°F mark - otherwise known as time to whip out the bikini in the UK. I was in London for the weekend while my cousin was visiting for less than 48 hours and asked me to show her the town since she had never been.

Which she may regret now. I take after my dad when it comes to travel, hit the ground running in the morning and don't stop until my blisters have blisters. "You want to see London? I will SHOW you London."

Although I've lived here for 7 months now (how did that happen?!) and I'd like to think I'm a certified Brit, I do get a kick out of playing tourist here and there. I still get butterflies when I see Big Ben, yes I know the part we see is actually called Elizabeth Tower - let me live. Posts about London are easy, because the pictures usually speak for themselves, so without further ado, here are the highlights from what we coined "Elle's Fast and Furious Instagram Tour of London."

I got really excited when I realised this photo shows Westminster Abbey, Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), the Eye, AND the tippy top of the Shard. Jackpot.

The phone box behind this one is a little bit better because you don't get the lamppost in front of the tower - but this one rarely has a line of tourists waiting to hop in. Win some, lose some.

Tom's Kitchen in Chelsea, the perfect spot to fuel your day with a hearty full English. All the carbs and protein, please and thank you.

Abbey Road on Instagram.

Abbey Road in reality.

Are you a go-go-go traveler like me or do you like to take your time?

I'm trying to be a good social blogger lady and do these link ups but bear with me because I have zero clue what I'm doing. I'm fluent in HTML and CSS but apparently blog linking make me hit a roadblock, so I'll send y'all right back to Bonnie Rose's post about the Columbia Flower Market - a London activity I have yet to conquer!

(PS - If you are a pro blogger reading this and chuckling at my feeble attempts at this link up, help a sista out! do I add the links and buttons that always go below this bit would be a start.)

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