From Paris, Ashleigh and I caught a 7 hour train to Barcelona. We traveled through the south of France, seeing some of the most beautiful scenery we had seen yet. Catching the train at 715am, we were able to watch the sun rise (since that happens way late over here) along the rolling green hills with randomly placed villages and farm animals. We traveled right over a river for about 10 minutes that reflected the sun so brightly it was blinding. With both of us sitting there, listening to music, writing in our journals and napping occasionally, we were blown away by the natural beauty that you think only exists in movies. Unreal. I tried taking pictures but of course through a train window, the pictures are maybe half as beautiful as they should be.

We got to our Barcelona hostel with no problems, noting how easy it was AND celebrating the first time of our travel plans went as planned. Cheering outside the hostel door, the front desk receptionist opened the door for us, checked us in and carried my luggage up the stairs to our room for me, something I had not experienced since London. It warmed my heart and I knew we would like Barcelona already. Ash and I went out immediately, wandering aimlessly through narrow alleyways and beautifully architected neighborhoods. We ate a tapas style dinner, including sangria and then went back to the hostel to go back out with our new roommates, two guys from Turkey!! Our first day was a success and we quickly got over the fact that our 6 bed room was coed. It makes for a lot of fun :)

So over the next day we went to Casa Batlló, one of Gaudi's creations, and marveled at the uniqueness of the structure. It was incredible, with a breathtaking view on the rooftop. The casa was colorful and distracting, with everything in a circular shape or looking like an element of the sea. We then walked over to Sagrada Família, another Gaudí creation that's still under construction. We didn't go inside, since admission prices are 15-20€ each time, but we stood and drooled over the outer layer. So insanely different from anything I've seen before. Ashleigh and I then walked down to the beach (yes, cautious of pickpocketers) and devoured the best (and my first) paella!! We splurged on lobster paella because we felt we deserved it. Haha. Delicious!!!!! So warming and comforting. We headed back to the hostel only to discover there was more fun waiting for us.

Tincho. A hostel employee named Tincho (teen-cho, for some of you ;)). A 22 year old dreadlocked bartender here from Argentina, fully able and willing to show us around the hidden areas of Barcelona and open our minds to the beauty of life ( I wonder how many times I've said "beauty" or "beautiful" in this blog). Listening to his reggae, French, tribal and rock mix on his iPod, he made us the best mojitos and we discussed plans for the remaining days of our trip. He is incredible and reminds me a LOT of my friend Max back home: a true hippy with a beautiful soul, wanting to taste everything the world has to offer.

The next morning, Ashleigh forced me into going to yoga with her. After staying up late, I was dreading it but then I thought of ALL the times I made her eat more than she could or taste something she really didn't want to( even though she has loved everything I've made her try) and I knew yoga was the least I could do. We went to a little studio, located in what looked like an apartment building, and had an hour and a half awesome yoga session in Spanish. I barely understood what was going on as the instructor had to help me out a few times but I realized that things like yoga are a universal language. I relaxed and enjoyed watching and following everyone around me, probably looking like a damn fool, but stretching and finally relieving the pain in my back. Thanks ash for making me go!! So worth it

We came back to the hostel and met with Tincho where he then showed us hidden pathways and markets and then took us to the best lunch location: champangeria!!!! Wowwwwwww!!! We ate and drank delicious food for a great price. It was a little tiny shop, crowded and full of people, with a similar vibe of Philippes back in LA. Basically standing room only, we found a place by the wall and devoured a chorizo sandwich, two ham/tomato jam sandwiches, a cheese sandwich and two bottles of champagne, one Demi sec and the other rosé. Ahhhh, I loved that place!! The vibe, the food, the company...all unforgettable. Tincho is really incredible and such a beautiful person on the inside that it glistens all the way through to the outside. So open minded, free spirited, and laid back. He took us back to his apartment where we met his roommates and friends, sat on his 5th floor balcony drinking beer, watching the sunset, and exchanging Spanish and English words and jokes. One of my favorite moments of the entire trip was sitting there, on a balcony in Barcelona, in the company of good people, talking about anything. My liberated feeling that has been growing for a few weeks now was at an all time high.

Ashleigh and I went back to the hostel where we lounged around and watched a movie, falling asleep on the couch. We feel so at home here in Barcelona that all the touristy things seem secondary. We are enjoying all the things we stumble upon but aren't neccissarily going out of our way to find them. We slept in today and are now headed to the beach with Tincho; we are taking our time and feeling like locals! Yes!!!!

My favorite moments here and in all of Europe is during the most simple of times, usually involving me walking somewhere or standing and gazing at something mind blowing. The wind hits just right and I get this surge of energy that rushes through me. I feel liberated and humbled and I can't help but smile. Europe is changing me and the way I view life. So much so that I can feel my own difference inside. Coming here was the best decision I've made.


Eating through Paris

I've literally eaten my way through Paris. Of course, I have enjoyed seeing Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower twice, Sacre Coeur, Versailles, Moulin Rouge, Luvre, and other beautiful monumens but the most fun memories have been all the eating and drinking. The French know how to eat. They know good food. Real food. Real butter, real cheese, real bread, real coffee, etc etc etc. I could go on alllllll day about how great everything tastes but honestly, it's something you have to experience. None of my words or descriptions would do it justice. Strong vocabulary won't put the flakey, buttery, dissolving croissant taste in your mouth. Or the salty, creamy yet chewy hot soup l'oignon gratinee. Or even the crunch of the baguette that's still warm, covered in salty sweet goat cheese with fig jam on top. None of my words would work. And most definitely, none of my words would make you feel the feeling I get when sitting at a French cafe, sipping some variety of red wine, devouring a giant bowl of marinated mussels, and talking about life and future plans with Ashleigh as we enjoy the Parisian view. It simply can not be explained. I can't wait to upload all my photos to share so at least a visual would help. Because after 6 or so days, I've learned that Paris isn't a word or description. Or even an idea. Its a feeling. And it's a taste. A beautiful taste. So different and so real!!

As far as sightseeing goes, the Château Versailles was definitely something worth seeing. The amount of gold dripped on EVERYTHING makes you feel very luxurious( and also makes you realize how much of a douche Louis XIV was ;) ). I enjoyed walking through the palace and the gardens, even as it rained, but I especially enjoyed the baguette with framboise jam and cheese Ashleigh and I shared while waiting to get it. But then again, that's just me. The Eiffel Tower is breathtaking. It's a big monument that represents Paris; it is the iconic figure that everyone knows Paris for. It's a tourist trap and it's windy and cold at the top but being there and seeing it is a reality check: you are in PARIS!!! Ahhhh!!! But once again, of course, my favorite part of seeing the Eiffel Tower was sitting on the wall, across the street with a perfect view, eating popcorn with Ashleigh and having it blow away and spill in the wind just as the tower lit up. Perfect timing. Heh. And the St. Chappelle cathedral was gorgeous, definitely one of my favorites. The walls are covered in stained glass windows which gives the room a vibrant, colorful feel, even on our cloudy rainy day. Definitely a must see.

Ahhhh, Paris!! Too much for words. So beautiful and tasty!! Tonight, I hope to score a rotisserie chicken, some red wine and spend time with Ashleigh and our Australian friend, Hamish. Its our last night here and it will be enjoyed to the fullest, just like every other day :D


French food

Day 1:
1- crepe with butter, sugar and lemon
2- mulled wine
3- croissant au buerre, cafe, cheese plate with Camembert, Roquefort, comté
4- beef tartare (egg yolk, onions, capers, pickles), Bordeaux wine
5- 2.90€ bottle of wine

Day 2:
1- beignet aux pommes, cappuccino
2- ham, butter and cheese baguette
3- French onion soup, fries, souffle with creme anglaise, cote du Rhone wine
4- crepe with nutella and banana
5- champagne, prosciutto with olives and Swiss, potato fries/chips
6- the rest of the 2.90€ wine

Day 3:
1- cereal and tea
2- baguette, French taleggio cheese (name unknown), framboise jam
3- glass of rosé, shared bottle of pay d'or chardonnay, fries
4- Ashley Hinton pasta and wine
5- chocolate crepe, shared 1/2 bottle of Bordeaux wine
6- chocolate hazelnut bar

Day 4:
1- aveyronnaise salad with fattened duck, Roquefort,nuts and toasted bread, cappuccino
2- vanilla and pistachio macaroon
3- earl grey tea
4- 5.90€ red wine, fig goat cheese, croissant
5- escargot, foie gras green bean salad, shared bottle of Chardonnay, chocolate mousse

Day 5:
1- xxl croquet monsieur, fries, salad, cappuccino
2- marinated mussels with fries, shared bottle of beaujolais
3- nutella and almond crepe, shared bottle of Cabernet franc

Day 6:
1- chocolate and almond croissant, cappuccino
2- apple, baguette, chèvre rolled in golden raisin and currants, Camembert, peppercorn camembert
2- hopefully a rotisserie chicken!!!

1- 20 lbs fatter
2- tight jeans
3- happy traveler


Giant sun

I just had a break through moment. Everything hit me at once and I pulled out my journal and started writing. I wrote about 3 pages, literally dropped my journal and realized that the happiness I have inside is massive. I looked at ash and said "we are so happy right now. Unbelievably happy. And it shows. I am finally FINALLY completely wrapped in this journey. I am fully submerged in my travels and there is no part of me left untouched. I feel like I have a giant sun in the center of my chest and its beaming out of me". Maybe that sounds ridiculous or dramatic, but I don't care. The way in which this trip has made me feel is like nothing I have felt before. I feel so far away from my old life but still so in touch and in tune with what is important. I'm lost in the glory of being nomadic and on the move, and I'm enjoying every second of it. Through my smiles, tears, laughs, anger, confusion and tastes, I wouldn't take anything back. It all happened because it was suppose to.

Haha I apologize for the mushy feelings but it had to be said. And now is out there and I feel so alive! My next post will be back to my daily life, I promise ;)


Why not?

Alright alright, I know I should update what's going on but I am really tired. Today was one of my travel days (Dublin to Paris) and those take a lot out of me. Plus I'm running on about 2 hours of sleep. It's all worth it, trust me. Staying up late, waking up early and navigating my way through foreign countries is all worth it. Today was definitely definitely worth it. :)

I feel like I'm slowly but surely getting to a point where I am able to revel in the experience meaning I am enjoying myself more and also the entire process. Before, when I would get lost or something wouldn't go as planned, I would let it get to me or stay focused on what I should've done, etc. But I now feel that I am growing into the shoes of a true traveler. I soak up everything I do like a sponge and constantly find myself literally smiling at the situation; I still can't believe I am over here, living a dream. A dream that seemed so out of reach and yet here I am, just have finished a pound of beef tartare, croissant au buerre, cheeses and a fresh crepe all washed down with vin rouge while sitting in a Parisian cafe after seeing the Eiffel Tower. Yes, it's just day 1.

But let's recap, shall we?? Dublin Dublin Dublin! My gosh!!! What an experience. After arriving, I realized right away that there wasn't a whole lot to do there. Don't get me wrong, it has a lot to do if you live there, but as a sightseeing type of trip, I only had 3 priorities: Guinness brewery, Jameson distillery, pubs. My friend Vivien, who I haven't seen in about 8 years, told me her friend Jens (Yens for you very english speaking people) lived in Dublin and that I should contact him because he would be a great tour guide. So I figured, why not? Jens and I met for coffee and talked and then he proceeded to give me a detailed walking tour of all Dublin! He is awesome! He knew so much information on Dublin and he was down to do whatever I wanted and willing to show me around. We walked for a few hours and stumbled across this restaurant that was built inside an old church. Ok, for those who know me, about 2 years ago, I took a class in college where I was assigned to create and thoroughly develop my own restaurant concept and guess what I created??? A restaurant in an old gothic looking church!! So seeing this made my mind go crazy! It was my concept, here, in Dublin! We ate there and it was awesome and then he took me to a local pub to meet his friends. Ohhhh man!! These guys were great! True Irish guys, sitting around and drinking beer after beer after beer. They really do know how to drink a lot and I tried to keep up (why not?) but I hit a wall around my 7th pint. =P (yeah so what, don't judge. I was in Ireland.) The beer was great and the company was hilarious. Harry, a true Irish guy, told me the way in which he viewed the world: Irish start drinking at the age of birth, Paris wouldntt be worth it because Mona Lisa doesn't even smile, and if a city could be a hangover, Belfast would be it because you get sick just looking at it. Funny guy

The next day, Jens and I started the day with our Jameson distillery tour. I volunteered myself for a whiskey tasting, comparing whiskey to bourbon and scotch (Irish whiskey won) and then we walked through a few cathedrals. Haha. I then ventured off by myself to see the Dublin castle (awesome) and met up later on with my two Irish friends, Mia and Róisín, that i roomed with in my london hostel (Jens joined us too). We went to the Trinity College pub where I was introduced to Devils Bit and black currant, a cider beer mixed with a black currant syrup. I'm not a fan of sweet drinks but this was SO delicious!! I met with Mia and Róisín's friends and a bunch of people they didn't even know. After 3 cider drinks and a few jaager bombs, we dropped by a few other pubs and ended our night drinking Kopparburg cider (best cider in the universe!), listening to live music, and singing in unison at the top of our lungs. C'mon, I'm in ireland!! And it was a surreal experience, to be surrounded by two girls I essentially just met and a bunch of people I don't know and still feel like I'm loved and appreciated. If there is one thing I take away from Dublin, it's that everyone is family. It doesn't matter who you know here. If you drink, talk, and are willing to have fun, then you're family.

Róisín and I met the next day to tour the Guinness brewery (and drink a free pint on the 7th floor bar overlooking all of Dublin) and then to her house. She offered me her house to stay in on my last night, as I previously wrote about, and how could I say no?!? She was so gracious for taking me in, feeding me, letting me crash in a bed and fixing me up with a taxi the next day to the airport. Honestly, I wish everyone was like people like Jens and Róisín. They didnt HAVE to do any of what they did. But they took me under their Irish wing and guaranteed an amazing experience. They understand the world of travel and what it's like to know no one and to live in a community house out of a suitcase. They get it. And for their generosity, I am forever grateful for I would not have had th same Dublin experience if it wasn't for them.

This morning, I caught a 630am flight ( ridiculous, right?) to Paris where I then caught a bus to central city and then a metro to the hostel. I had some troubles and had to ask locals for directions which they responded to my lack of French with their broken English. Quite honestly, it was fun. I was nervous I would get lost or that I would take far too long but in the midst of my worries, I threw up my hands and said "forget it". Why not? Why not forget being worried over situations that are bound to happen? Why not forget things that are out of my control? I knew with absolute certainty that finding my way wouldn't be the easiest, so I accepted it. And I let myself feel every emotion as I navigated and wandered. I took it all in as interpreted signs as best i could and took the subway in the wrong direction. :)It was an adventure. And it was fun. I finally got to the hostel after what seemed like forever and saw Ashleigh for the first time in almost 2 weeks and cried as I hugged her! We had both been through a lot over the last few weeks and I knew through a hug, I didn't have to say a word. She understood and I was overwhelmed. It was so good to see her

We roamed around Paris today with our new Australian friend Hamish and ate and ate and ate and ate. My god. Sitting underneath the Eiffel Tower, as it lit up, we spilt our popcorn everywhere and laughed ourselves sick. It's so good to be back with the girl I started this journey with. Thinking of where we started back in LA to now really just blows my mind. We were crazy to create this whole adventure and more crazy to go through with this whole adventure. But why not?

Ashleigh just read me a quote today: "Life is an adventure. It's not the destination we reach that's most rewarding. It's the journey along the way. So write it down and treasure the memory forever". There ya go :)


Dublin home!

I want to update so bad but I am in the midst of relaxing!!! Róisín, my Irish friend I met at the London hostel, offered her home to me for my last night in Dublin and I totally took advantage. A home, with a bed, a normal shower, food, tv, and tea?!? How could I pass that up??? So I'm currently on her couch, watching tv, with a full stomach and happy as a clam! My god!! Not only was she great at showing me the Dublin pubs, but she offered the one thing that I miss the most: a home!!! I'm in complete bliss right now and therefore not going to bother to update about my Dublin experience. Its just going to have to wait because THIS is the ultimate Dublin experience.

<333333 thank you Róisín and family!!!


Bad news, Ireland

The news report I just saw on tv:

The news reporters were discussing the reputation of Ireland. That everyone who comes here revolves Ireland around drinking and beer. They want to raise the drinking age and they wish that people didn't see Ireland as a "pint"....

Hellooo!! One of the reseasons I am here is for the guinness brewery! Bad news, Ireland. You will always be knows for beer, drinking, and the pint. That will never change. Ever. I'm sorry.


Hidden places

Picture this. Im walking down the streets of Dublin at night. Not sure of what I want to do first. Kind of hungry. Kind of thirsty. Just wondering. Walking down the street and it starts to look dull, but then there is an alley. From the alley, I see lights and a faint sound of a crowd of people. Deciding to check it out, I turn down the alley and slowly walk towards the sound. The sound grows louder and it's accompanied by loud music. Live music. As I continue walking down, I arrive at a corner bar, where the sound is bursting out of the wooden doors. So I HAVE to walk in... tons of people and very live Irish music. I walk in to what feels like a movie. Literally.

You know that scene in Titanic where Jack takes Rose downstairs to his 'real' party? I'm not kidding you, it was JUST like that. Very crowded, drinks everywhere, people dancing the same way, people clapping the same way, cheering the same way and then a two or three man band that was playing the exact same song from that scene. NO JOKE! I had to laugh! It was fantastic. My first night in Dublin I felt was pretty authentic. So I sat down, had some Irish stew, a Guinness and watched the crazy drunk Irish people dance, hoot, and holler! What a welcoming!

I left around 8 because one of my roommates, Anna, invited me to go with her and her friend to watch the Barcelona vs. Madrid futbol game. She is from Catalonia which is Barcelona. Anna, and her friend Pol (Paul), took me up the street to Murray's Pub and upon walking in, I thought it was an ok place. Lots of older people, kind of quiet, doesn't look like a bar to watch a game at, but I knew we would have fun. Then Anna went around the side, through an unsuspecting back door, up the stairs and voila! A huge room with multiple tv screens and packed full of people of all ages and ethnicities wearing their favorite teams colors. Everyone was chanting, cheering, banging on the walls and hugging each other as Barcelona won the game. I have never watched a futbol game before like that and it was definitely worth the experience.

I didn't know what could compare to London once I left. But Dublin is doing a pretty good job. There is definitely more to see in London but Dublin has a different vibe. Relaxed, laid back, let's just all have fun vibe. No one tries too hard to impress. Everyone seems very real. I'm meeting up with my friend Vivien's friend today. I've never met him but I've been promised I wll have fun. Haha, I can't wait!



Here I am, in my bed at the London hostel, about 830am. The room is still somewhat dark because the sun is covered by clouds and the air is crisp. I can hear the morning start, birds chirping, busses passing and people in the hostel getting up to shower. But here I am, just laying here, not wanting to move. I have a flight today at 130 to Dublin and although I am completely excited to see the other "motherland", I don't want to leave here. Flight at 130 means be at the airport by 1130, which means leaving he hostel at 10 or 1030 to allow plenty of time (I calculate getting lost or screwing something up into my plans now). I still have to shower, eat breakfast, repack and configure my luggage, and take it downstairs (yes, in a 4 story hostel, who do you think got assigned to the 4th floor?). This basically means I should get up now.... But I don't want tooooooooo! I fell in love with London and its people, way of life, and culture.

My last few days here had its ups and downs. I lost my train pass, still battling a cold that I'm worried about, and there is a nerve in my back that is killing me. But with all that aside, I still managed to enjoy London.

While walking down the street, thinking about my backpain actually, I looked across the street and TA-DA! A chinese massage and accuuncture shop! It was meant to be. I went in, consulted with the "doctor" on staff who needed a translator, and agreed that an hour deep tissue massage followed with 30 minutes acupuncture would help with my pain. I had never done acupuncture before but I really liked it! While listening to soothing chinese music, the massage was just what i needed and I practically drooled everywhere. The accupuncture was very relaxing too and I felt like a new woman afterwards! The pain is still somewhat there, but it does feel a lot better.

Yesterday morning, I put on my black boots that I brought with me (not my hunter rain boots) and realized the heel was worn so thin, you could almost see my sock. So I asked a guy that works here where I could get cheap boots and he said " our lost and found box upstairs. If you find anything, take it!" So I looked and found a pair of brown boots that are really cute and fit me almost perfectly! They are a little big but perfect with 2 socks, which this weather calls for anyways. Woohoo!! Free boots!

I finished my trip with some more sightseeing (Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, Soho) and I also saw Phantom of the Opera. Amazing! I made friends with Jeremie, a French worker here, and we talked about French food and wine while eating French cheese and drinking Sauternes, my favorite dessert wine. He showed me how to eat cheese like the French do: stuff a large amount in your mouth all at once. I don't know if that's really how they do it or just his way, but it was fun regardless. And I went to O'Neil's one last time in hopes to see Terry, but he wasn't there. So I sat down with my Guinness and wrote instead. And this is what I wrote:

"After everything I've done and seen in London, making friends, going out, eating and sightseeing, I still come back to the same conclusion: its just me. What I mean by that is at the end of the day, you only have yourself. Yourself to count on to make you smile, to take care of you, to make decisions for you. I don't mean this to sound depressing at all. That is not my intention. It's just that your own plans or concepts don't matter to anyone else more than it does to yourself. Your family loves you and cares and Most of your friends care too. But YOU are the only one that you always count on. When something goes right, you are there to pat yourself on the back. When things go wrong, you are there to reassure yourself that tomorrow will be better. I don't know what I would do or who I would be without my friends or family because they all mean a lot to me... But who would I be without me?

Traveling without family has taught me a lot: mom and dad won't be there to plan things for you, you are responsible for everything that happens, and you support everything you do. But traveling completely alone has taught me more: you are the ONLY one that controls what you do, where you go and what you see. If something goes wrong, it's up to you to fix it or make it better. When you get lost, it's up to you to find your way. If someone disappoints you, are you still able to make the most of it? I've always considered myself pretty independent, but now it has a new meaning. After these 6 days, I have learned that I can navigate on my own, figure out public transportation on my own ( a fear of mine), eat alone, see shows alone, sightsee alone and still have fun but most importantly, still be COMFORTABLE. Independence is not quite independence until you're comfortable.

 I think in the past 6 days I've become so much more comfortable in my own skin.  Ive finally learned to enjoy me because of who I am. Because when your all alone, little insecurities don't matter. What matters is being able to survive on your own, where you will sleep, where you will eat, how you will get there, how will you pay, will you be safe.  Living, essentially... And thats it. Just living. Then you move past that and get to  REALLY living and seeing and doing and FEELING. Oh, the feelings! When you move past the scared and the doubtful and just feel the moment, there are no words to describe it.

This trip is full of ups and downs but when I look back at it, they are all ups. Because not one thing happened that I didn't learn something from. And I live to learn,  by the way. I love learning new things. But I've discovered learning to live. A whole new world.

Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" just came on. ITS A SIGN!!! And you all know I believe in fate. And you all know I love this song. :) and then I looked at my camera and saw a picture of an engraving I saw at Westminster Abbey. It says "the wind goeth towards the south and turneth about unto the north. It whirleth about continually and the wind returneth again according to his circuits"."

I'm doing something right.



I've lost my eurorail pass. And I'm freaking out. I've spent all morning crying and retracing my steps and going to places I may have left it and nothing. I emptied my suitcase and re folded everything about 3 times. I've ripped my bed apart looking in all the cracks and spaces. It's gone. I can't find it. And it makes me sick. I had 10 uses on it and I've used 2. And it was more than $500. I don't know what to do, keep looking and freaking out/crying or just move on. Both seem impossible. I need a hug so bad. And the comfort of home. It's something like this that makes me want to be home with what I know. Kamil spent time with me, gave me a hug and helped me look, which was very nice. But I'm still so upset. I had plans to venture out today and I've done nothing. And on top of it all, I've been fighting a cold that just seems to be getting worse. I bought, once again, more cold medicine hoping it will get better. Ahhhhhh!!!!!

I'm just really mad right now. At myself. How could I lose something so important and expensive. If I was typing to a random audience, there would be a slew of curse words right about now. But I know you guys and don't want to offend you. =P use your imagination.

Send good vibes that it will turn up. Somehow.

London Calling

Ahhhh London London London. Where do I even begin?? This city is amazing. This is the first place I've been where I feel like I could actually move here and enjoy it. It's incredible! It's beautiful, of course, but the people are fantastic! No matter where I go or dumb questions I ask, I encounter the most amazing people. I just woke up on my fourth day here and there is still so much I want to see and do. I actually have a really bad cold that seems to be getting worse so I am taking it easy today. I have been non stop since I got here so maybe I'll just check out the British museum since its right across the street from my hostel. But to explain to you properly about my London experience would take foreverrrr. I will try to do my best.

The day I arrived, while leaving the airport, I was clearly lost trying to look for the train station. This old British man, with long hairs growing out of his nose, started laughing and asked if I needed help. I said yes and that I was trying to get to London, bus or train ( I had landed in Gatwick, outside of London). He motioned for me to follow him and he rode the elevator with me, got out and directed me exactly where to go. This wasn't necessary for him to do but I did appreciate it very much. And I thought that if everyone in London was as nice as him, I'd be set. I also talked with an airport employee who was very friendly and recommended that if I'm in London, I should see Phantom of the Opera, which I have been dying to see back at home anyways. I also remember my grandmother telling me that if I decide to see a show, I have to look for the discount stores that sell theater tickets for half price. So guess who scouted out the store and has a half price ticket for Phantom tomorrow night? That's right, this girl right here! London, we were off to a great start.

The night that I arrived, I walked aimlessly, as I tend to do now, from Holborn to Piccadilly Circus just to check things out. It was so crowded but so awesome! I was looking at all the restaurant menus as I went to find the best deal on fish n chips. I came across O'Neils, an Irish pub, that also had Guinness. I was sold. I went in, ordered my meal and found a table in the corner. It was a great atmosphere, people young and old, great music, and rugby playing on the big screen. The bartender came over to my table and started talking to me about where I was from, what I was doing, etc. We talked for quite awhile and he encouraged me that I was doing something great with my life. Terry, my buddy at Oneil's, hasn't traveled much and has never been to America. I told him my travel experience so far and he made me feel at home, thousands of miles away. After the best fish n chips of my life (Guinness battered) and two Guinness, Terry told me to come back before I leave so he could hear about my London experience. I got back to the hostel where I met my two fabulous Irish roommates, Mia and Róisín (pronounced row-sheen)! They were great from the start and we made plans to meet up this upcoming week while I am in Dublin. They want to give me the proper Irish tour. I can't wait!

The next day, I took the underground, a geniously made subway station that takes you anywhere and the locals call it the "tube", to see the Bank of England, Royal Trade, St. Paul's Cathedral (I haven't seen the inside yet so I'm going back), the Museum of London, London Bridge (not to be confused with the Tower Bridge!), many other cathedrals (like Southwark, the first gothic cathedral and one where Shakespeare spent a lot of time), the Monument (311 stair monument constructed after the Great Fire of London. Yeah, I went to the top), and then the highlight of my day: the Borough Market!!! Wow!! I stumbled upon this by mistake as it was closing up and I was still blown away! An outdoor market with fresh meats, cheeses, baked goods, olive oils, juices, produce, olives GALORE! I didn't know where to start so I got a mug of muddled wine (red wine, orange juice and spices served hot. Tastes like warm sangria) and an arugula salad with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, melon and olive oil. My camera also died and I decided I would HAVE to go back the next day. Everything I saw that day was breathtaking, rich and unbelievable. I couldn't wait to rest up and go out again the next day... But I didn't rest up.

I got back to the hostel and the staff was holding a party in the basement kitchen and then a pub crawl. It was there that I met my two Canadian friends, Josh and Mitch, and my now boyfriend for the week, Kamil (pronounced Camille). Haha, yeah you read that right and he is adorable. He is from Poland and he likes to talk to me in Dutch. Crazy. We all went out, my Irish roommates too, to a local club and had a blast. I got about 5 hours of sleep before I got up to wander around again.

I went straight back to the Borough Market first thing. It was even better this time since they had just opened and were cooking the food in massive iron kettles/woks. The atmosphere was amazing and the energy of the people was exciting. People there love food as much as I do! I couldn't believe I almost missed this; I only found it after I convinced myself walking across the London bridge was going to be worth it even though I was exhausted. I almost didn't. Thank God I did. Then, at the market, I met Liam. Liam is from Liverpool but has lived in London for 25 years. Right off the bat, he looked at me and told me I was bundled up all wrong and that my scarf had to go under my jacket to keep me insolated. And then I had to button every button. He wanted to know where my gloves and hat were and laughed when I told him I forgot them back at the hostel. He wanted to know all about me, since my American accent gave me away. I explained my story and how I really had a passion for food. Liam told me to never stop dreaming. And to never be afraid to dream big, that the most unreal of dreams come true. I told him I was living my dream right now and he smiled. The way he looked at me felt as if someone I knew from home was talking to me. His eyes were so familiar and his language told me it wasn't a random Londoner, but a friend from home. He made me pull out my map and told me to walk along the River Thomas between the London Bridge and Waterloo Bridge because it was a beautiful walk. He then wished me luck and I was venturing off.

I actually went straight to the Tower of London (unreal and historical, but definitely a tourist trap), and then to the Tower Bridge. Around sunset, although exhausted and getting sicker by the minute (damn cold), I decided to treat myself: I took Thames walkway and walked along the River Thomas. I watched the sun go down as I crossed the Millennium Bridge and enjoyed the smell of freshly toffeed peanuts and the sound of street guitarists. I then went to the top of Tate Museum to see the spectacular view Liam told me about, and I made my way back down and continued walking just to see Big Ben from a distance. UNBELIEVABLE. The beauty through the eyes of a local. I decided I needed a big meal, so I went to go see Terry!

I told Terry all of what I saw and I ate, again, a big plate of fish n chips and drank another 20oz glass of Guinness. Ahhhh, so good. I told Terry I would be back again for my last Guinness at O'Neils. Went back to the hostel, saw my Polish boyfriend and called it a night. :) and now here I am. Sick. And annoyed that I won't get better. It's hard to travel and drain yourself everyday while being sick. :/ I want to go out and see everything but I know I shouldn't exhaust myself. London is more than words and I still have 3 more days. I don't want to leave.

The thing that I'm learning most about Europe is that the history is so rich and old! There are things here that date back to Roman times (London wall, Tower of London)! That stuff doesn't exist in America. It's crazy and for the 3758291 time, BEAUTIFUL! Its blowing my mind. My mind is blown. I'm very fortunate to be able to see it first hand and experience the world because it's so much bigger than America, the only country I know. I'm dreaming big and living the dream at the same time.


Home away from home

I just experienced love at first sight... And it's with a city. His name is London and he is so so so gorgeous!!! Oh, and friendly! And comfortable to be around. I feel like a piece of me is now complete.

But in all honesty, I am in love. And I just got here. This is what I needed so bad, I'm almost in tears right now. This is it. EVERYTHING. I've waited so long for this and it's now. And it's mine. I'm alone for this leg of my journey. Flying solo. I thought I would be more nervous or scared but being in Berlin and Amsterdam first with ash prepared me. I am, however, overwhelmed. I'm staring at a bright red double decker bus. Are you kidding me!? I'm here. And I'm far enough away from what I know, but I still feel so close to home. England is part of my heritage. Maybe that is why I feel so comfortable.

Off to walk the streets. Wish me luck :)


Photos on Facebook!

Really quick, I found a way to upload my photos easy but I don't have time to do them all now. They will all be on my Facebook page and so far I only have some Amsterdam photos up. If we are not fb friends, add me!


Alright, time to blog! I have been MIA for a few days, trying to lug all my stuff around. Which brings me to my first point: my luggage! That's the most important thing on my mind right now. Everyone told me to pack light and I understood why and I honestly thought I did! But clearly it was not light enough. It's also hard to pack "light" when preparing for winter/snowy/rainy weather. Layers upon layers are necessary so I guess I know why people back pack through Europe in the summer... And I guess Europeans don't believe in elevators. Anywhere. And that's fine, I can do some stairs carrying a 40lb bag, my 12lb carry on, and my own weight wearing rain boots and a down jacket. Fine, I can handle some stairs. But in all the places I've slept so far, why oh why do they put me on the TOP floor!?! Theeee top floor. Like floor 3 or 4. Every time I hear the receptionist tell me I have to go to the top to lay down after arriving, I literally want to slam my head down against the counter. Haha I'm sure it's funny to imagine or think about, but in the moment, after I've flown or trained or bussed my way there and have been walking, the last thing I want to do is lug 95737191040592 pounds up the stairs. I have come up with a routine of carrying one bag up at a time. But next time, I think I'm going to gladiator all of it, throw it over my head, and pound my way up the stairs. I'll let you know how it goes. Or, mom, you might be receiving a box in the mail soon with half my belongings.

Anyway, the camera! My camera!! What happened?! I realized that I didn't want this guy paying for any of my camera. I would meet him and thank him for his kindness but that I couldn't let him pay. It was an accident, and I didnt want him feeling afraid to ever take a picture of someone again. So I went to the meeting place, Saturn electronic store, before opening. To my first relief, they showed up. They were actually there. I went over and explained how I felt and both the old man and his daughter said no way, that they were buying the whole thing. I didn't know what to say so I changed the subject and we talked about the world and traveling while waiting for Saturn to open. They were from Brazil, but the daughter lived in London. She had a sister who lived in Ohio who just had a baby. The look of joy on this old mans face when he said he had "an American grandchild" was priceless. It warmed my heart. We were outside the store talking before it opened and it felt so comfortable. When the store opened, I picked out a camera equivalent to my old one within 7 minutes and I tried again to pay. They didn't let me. They wished me the best and I gave them both hugs before I left and went on my way.

They really touched me. And it's not even about the camera. Forget the camera. I met some of the most generous and kind people while across the world. We happen to be in the same place at the same time and fate dropped my camera. I was meant to meet them. I was meant to restore my faith in human nature and believe that people really do mean well and they care. After everything I've been through, or that anyone has been through, it is people like them that give me faith and make me want to be kinder. Because across the world, I met people that STICK to their WORD. I can barely find that at home, but I found it in a foreign country. And I wish nothing but the best for the Camera Family.

Ashleigh and I finished our last day in Berlin by eating one more time at Chan's restaurant. I know it is Germany and I should be eating German food, but schnitzel is just "ok" and Chan is irresistible. We told him all we did and thanked him for all the help. He was so excited to see us and hoped we would come back soon. I hope so too. :)

We then had a 7am flight to Amsterdam which meant getting to the airport at 5 which meant waking up around 3 to catch the train, etc. We arrived in Amsterdam, no problem and we look around and realize we are in toon town. Are you kidding me? I'm not joking when I say Amsterdam looks like Disneyland met San Francisco and did a bunch of drugs. It's insane! And quirky. And absolutely fabulous! I would never live here... But I would definitely come here to get away. It is it's own little village full of crazy. We had lunch (sanwiches and beer), went to the Heineken brewery and drank 3 free beers, saw Anne Franks's old house, and then went out to dinner (soup and fish and chips) where I dank my beer and Ashleigh's. And then found our way back to the hostel. It was great! It's a very relaxing town to walk around. Every other shop is a "coffee shop", so the scent of green fills the air. Everyone is friendly, easy going and willing to help. I went to sleep last night very comfortable.

Today, Ashleigh's friend, Maurice, has agreed to be our tour guide since he lives here. We are meeting him in a few hours, after she finishes her dance class. Today should be a fun day. Just like all the others, in their own way.

I have had many moments where I'm in the middle of doing something and then take a second to sit back, and realize where I am and what I'm doing. Its mind blowing. This morning at breakfast, I was sipping mint green tea, listening to some random tribal hippie music and looking out at eclectic Amsterdam houses through huge glass windows. It was a good feeling. I'm taking it all in. Everyday, it's something new and something I get to learn. And I feel so comfortable, like I'm doing exactly what I should be doing.



Berlin is beautiful. Its eclectic, it's rich with history, it's big and it's breathtaking! I don't think I have walked so much in my life, except for maybe when I did the LA marathon. The beautiful architecture and synagogues and cathedrals kept going, one after the other! As soon as we finished with one, we rounded the corner and there were at least 3 more! You can also feel the history oozing out of everything and all of the surroundings. We walked up our street, saw that bus M85 was the closest bus, and decided to get lost from there; no matter where we went, if we hopped on M85, we would get back ok. And so we decided to wonder and that was our best decision of the day.

We saw Brandenburger Tor, Berliner Dom (and went to the top), Holocaust Memorial (and the museum underneath it), Topography of Terror and the last remaining remenants of the Berlin Wall, Hitler's Bunker, Humbolt University, walked through a street market, and sooooooo much more! The last remaining meters of the Berlin Wall was definitely one of my favorites. Seeing the size of the wall with all the graffiti, feeling the energy it gave off and trying to place myself in that time was unreal. It's big, falling apart and beautiful because it represents the separation and then the revolt of separation. But honestly, I can't pick a favorite from today. Berlin is like walking in to a history book and it's truly fascinating. Don't worry, I took tons of pictures I will share later. Which brings me to my last point...

Standing on a bridge outside the Berliner Dom, I asked a really nice looking older man who didn't speak English, if he could take a picture of Ashleigh and I. Smiling, he nodded that he would, so Ash and I went over and posed. He took a picture, gave us a signal that he was taking one more and then BAM! He dropped my camera. I wasn't worried at first since I've done it plenty of times before. But I guess this time was it for my poor canon. I went over to him and the entire lens was cracked and jammed so that it wouldn't turn on or retract itself back into the camera. His family rushed over, daughter and wife, and they noticed the damage. I was in shock and was speechless thinking, " you're kidding, right? Me? Now!?" . The old man looked mortified. I didnt know what to say becasue I knew it was an accident. He was wearing gloves and didnt mean to drop it. The look on his face said it all and he was even grabbing his head in disbelief. He spoke just enough english to tell me he had to fix it because he felt guilty. Thankfully his daughter spoke English and she wrote down all the information she had: phone number, hotel and hotel room, and a meeting place for tomorrow at 10am. They want to buy me a new camera.

Ahhh! After such a great day, this really put a damper on things because I am in a place where my camera is VITAL!! I need a camera. With that said, I also don't feel right about this sweet old man buying me a new one because it was an honest mistake. An accident that could've happened at anytime and he happened to be the trigger. I will go and meet with him tomorrow (if this is legit and he really shows up), but I can't live with myself if he pays more than half. I don't know... I'm just bummed. I really liked the camera I had and now I have to try to find a replacement that's just as good in a foreign country with or without this man's money. It sucks, either way. :/

But I wont let anythng get me down. Im allowing myself some time to be upset and then I'm cutting it off because no matter what, things will turn around. As long as I acknowledge how I feel and allow it to sink in, I can move on faster. So I've been bummed for awhile tonight and now I'm cutting it off and going to sleep. It's been a long and eventful day and tomorrow is another surprise, I'm sure.


Accidental miracles

I am in Berlin!! Wow!! I can't decide whether time is going by fast or slow. It feels like I have been in Europe longer than 3 days but then again, I still feel somewhat jet lagged. After 2 days in Kiel, we made our way to Berlin and so far so good. We arrived a few hours ago and are staying at Youth Hostel International in Berlin. I have never stayed at a hostel before but I didn't expect anything more than a dormitory, which I am pretty familiar with. We have 2 female roommates from Moscow named Natalia and Anne. They have wi-fi, the bathrooms are clean and there is a bar downstairs which we will probably take advantage of soon. :) It's a cool place to be and its cheap so I have no complaints.

Ashleigh and I have been through some great experiences in the past few days. Most important, we have navigated our way around the trains and busses which is pretty big for me since I have this fear of public transportation. It's weird, I know, but I just feel like I am bound to get lost when on a bus or train. And so far we have become a little lost but it turns out to not be a big deal. We take a few moments to panic, pull ourselves together and fix the problem. Done. Except for today... we panicked and ran for our lives. We forgot to pull it together. Haha! I'll explain.

We were told Berlin was about a 4 hour journey from Kiel, so we ventured out of Kiel on a bus with all our luggage that took us to the Kiel Hauptbahnhof (train station). It took us awhile to figure out how to activate our Eurorail passes since no one there seemed like they cared to help. But we figured it out and got on the train headed for Hamburg. After an hour and a half, we arrived in Hamburg and then found our connecting train towards Berlin, noting that we had to get off at the second stop. About an hour into the train ride, we looked at the map and agreed we still had a ways to go. We were so relieved to be on the right train without any problems that we both had our iPods on, journals out, maps out and we were totally relaxing, completely forgetting that we were on the express train. So the train stops and we look out the window... Look at each other...look out the window again and both gasp. It's our stop. Doors open, people leaving and we still have all our shit sprawled across the table. In seconds, we were up scrambling to get everything together: coats, maps, iPods, books, pens, train passes and huge rolly bags of luggage. Running towards the door, Ashleigh's earphones get caught on the chair, my luggage is completely backwards and unrollable so I have to basically kick it as I go. I'm saying " go go go go go!!" to ash and she replies " I am! I am!". She gets out and my luggage is so in the way that I literally throw it out the door and tumble after it. Sitting on the train platform in Berlin , shaking, with our luggage a mess, we both start dying of laughter. This whole time we have been afraid of missing our train or bus when after all, we should be scared of being stuck on the train!! Gahhh!! It was great.

But we made it to Berlin. After the train, we took another bus to the hostel and walked the streets before dark ( since that happens at like 4pm here). I was so hungry, I broke the language wall I've had a problem with since we got here, and talked with my hands only to get the best thing I've eaten here so far!! I don't even know was it was called but it was some sort of gyros and I have pictures of it. Delicious! Ash wanted something vegan so we went to a Vietnamese place across the street where I had another meal ( sounds like something I would do) and we met the owner who sat down at our table with us to help us map out our adventures for tomorrow. He was adorable with his German/English/Vietnamese accent! And oh so helpful with tons of information. He was patient, expressive and totally willing to help. And the food was great. Before we left, I asked for his name and he said "Chan! Like Jackie Chan!! Except no Kung-fu". Love it!

So I'm here, in the hostel, taking it all in. We have had many accidental miracles that have turned this trip into a priceless adventure. My buddy Chan and the train scramble will be moments that I remember forever. I'm writing everything down and letting it sink in, the good and the crazy.

Now I have to sleep to prepare for the "Chan-Berlin Tour" tomorrow.


Comfort in the Unknown

Ahhhhh!!! I am here! Finally! After months of waiting and planning, I am finally here! And it is incredible! The plane ride was cramped and long but Ashleigh and I made the best of it with movies, red wine, a few naps, talks and tons of laughter!

Upon arriving in Hamburg, Germany we realized that it was still pitch black at 7:30 AM! Crazy! We were hoping for some sunlight so that our initial navigation would go smoother. But that didn't matter anyway as it took us an hour and a half to leave the airport and by that time, the sun was up. Yes..an hour and a half. We leisurely took our time getting our bags, making sure we enjoyed everything there was to see even in an airport. We were dumbfounded by the train ticket kiosk, even in the English setting and we had to lug all our belongings back upstairs to the airport concierge. After shuffling all our stuff around, asking for help and making multiple restroom stops, we found ourselves finally on a bus to Kiel, Germany where we would meet Ashleigh's brother.

The bus dumped us out at a bus station and we then had to find a taxi to take us to the Opera House, where Nik (Ash's brother) dances/works, and then to his apartment in Kiel. We then unloaded and walked around the streets. We quickly realized that little to no one spoke any english and that things would be little harder than we thought. We knew it would be difficult but when yore in the situation, it just feels different. I did manage to eat some schnitzel though!! woohoo!! We later hung out with Nik, had a nice dinner, and spent too much time inflating an air matress. haha, all in all it was a good day.

I am realizing that I am completely submerged in this journey, out of my comfort zone and a little scared. I knew this would all happen but to actually feel it is different. There were already some moments of panic, frustration and fear but I talked myself out of it and kept going. PLUS, I have had some AMAZING messages from my loving friends back home!! You guys make me feel so strong and so supported that it brings me back to reality; this scared feeling is only temporary and you guys remind me of that. My friend Micaela wrote me:

"But the beautiful part about travel is when the scared, homesick feelings fade away, you are able to revel in your own independence. If you stay open, assertive, and sharp, you will meet people from alll over the world, and you will transcend your own identity as an American girl from Pasadena California, and you will connect to others as a citizen of the world. You will see that the world is big and beautiful and sometimes unstable, but that strangers can be kind and witty and just like you."

This is stuck in my mind forever now. I love it! All my concerns melted away when I heard this. That and skyping my parents :)

I tried to upload photos from my ipad and it wont work so I am not sure how often I will be able to do that... I'll have to figure it out. In the meantime, I am on Nik's laptop so I can share a few here. Enjoy, and leave me some love!!


My last supper(s)

I'm sitting here, 8 hours before my flight, completely packed and extremely antsy to get going. I'm very excited but I have also had a nervous stomach all day; something about the unknown gives me an overwhelmed feeling. I have also had moments off and on all day where reality sinks in a bit and the feeling I get in my chest takes me breath away. This mixture of eagerness, excitement and anxiety is making me crazy and I'm sure all my emotional meltdowns are proof. Haha, thank god my mom has the patience to deal with me because I have been driving myself nuts. Everything I have worked for in the past 2 months has come down to now and all my preparations will be put to the test. No pressure or anything...;)

But what stands out most in my mind over the last few days are the moments I had with friends and family. Whether it was hanging out or saying goodbye, I saw a lot of true color and character come out of people. And in all these moments, food was the common denominator! I have eaten so much in the last week (and gained a few pounds), but I also had a lot of quality time with the people that I love.

I dined at Pizzeria Mozza with my mom and dad for lunch on the 29th and then Osteria Mozza for dinner on the 30th. The Mozza family took care of us and between the abundance of food, wine and hospitality, my family was able to relax and enjoy the each others company. I had so much pride in showing my parents where I had worked for the past year and a half and how much of a support team they were and still are.

I also got together at a local Mexican restaurant with some of my oldest friends and fellow girl scouts(yes, I was a girl scout). Over our fruity margaritas and crispy flautas, we caught up, reminisced about the old days and created dreams and future plans for each other. Katrina, do not abandon our bachelorette party plans for you. And Micaela, I will be front row at your first show in Seattle. :)

For New Years, dressed in our sequin dresses, my best friend from high school April and I hit the streets on Santa Monica. We had a great dinner at Sushi Roku, where the black truffle sushi roll was the hit, and then we had drinks at one the bars we used to frequent some time ago. Spending time with her was cherished as always since she lives in D.C. now, but what sticks out most in my mind from that night was sitting on a bench at midnight on Venice Beach, sipping champagne out of the bottle and eating tacos. From the food, to the company, to getting caught by the police, that is definitely a story/moment to add to our collection.

And then there was tonight. My last night with the family. I HAD to get In N Out! Of course! And as we all sat around our living room inhaling our burgers, we talked, laughed, cried and took in the moment. The food was great of course, but it was the comfort in the situation that made it complete.

I guess my point is that food is what brings people together. It's comforting, it's fun, and it's inspiring. And over the table, it doesnt matter what you talk about if you even talk at all. What matters is being together and embracing the moment. I don't know how many times I joked around and said "oh, it's like my last supper here!!"... A lot. And it wasn't ever true because I'll be back. But after all the meals I had and all the moments I shared with people, food was the glue to the situation. And I'm excited to adventure out and have new moments with new people over new food. It will still be as comforting to me as it is here.


T-minus 7 hours!!