Sunday, February 27, 2011

BED FORT: Brussels

Before I get into the details of telling you about my time in Brussels, there's another important issue I need to address. If you'll notice in the above picture, stick-figure me and my friend Emily (that's her strawberry hat on her head OBVIOUSLY) are in the awe-inspiring city of Brussels, but are left unimpressed by the history and the architecture. This is because our thought bubbles are completely dominated by our friend Greg. Yes, this is the same kid I've already written about before, but you have to understand, not seeing him for a week was torture. My whole life that week was that scene at the end of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, where Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson are super sad and "Big Yellow Taxi" is playing... dont pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about. He is just the light of hope I never knew was missing from my life before I came to London, and without him my world spiraled into a vortex of loss and entropy.

Or he gave me grief for not writing about him in my last post. Definitely one of the two.

(Ok so it just took me a really long time to find that song I referenced up there, so I'm posting it and go listen to it so my time was not a total waste. Oh wow, what is my life. )


The area of the city where we were staying was nice enough, minus our street which, seriously, was the red-light district. However, up until this day Brusssels had left me pretty unimpressed by its lack of oldness and Europe-y goodness. Apparently we just weren't looking in the right places. A short (-ish) walk in a new direction brought us to a beautiful square and I thought "THANK YOU this is what I want forever for the rest of my life. Get on this architecture, America. If there isn't a gilded statue of a horse on the top of your building, you're doing it wrong."

The next few hours were spent wandering through the side streets of this area, the highlights of which I will list here: -a chocolate elephant (that was like 6 feet tall) in front of a store called Chocopolis, which we went into and the kind Belgian woman behind the counter gave us all free chocolate samples -speaking of free samples, we went into another store that not only had a chocolate fountain, but had tons of free samples just lying around everywhere. That probably had quite a bit to do with my not buying anything there. If you're going to just give it to me, why would I buy it? I think that's actually how capitalism starts to die. -we found another Haagen Dazs and yeah, ok, I had another waffle. This one was white chocolate rasberry. no regrets. -we passed a gay bar called Homo Erectus that had a disco ball still spinning and a window with the evolution progression on it. My Anthropology-major friends had fun with that one.

Then it was time to meet up with the whole group again to head to the train station so we could take a train to another train station to catch a train. We had to wait a bit for our train at the second station, and guess what we found? Another Haagen Dazs. Don't worry though, this time I just stared at my friend as she ate one, but didn't get one myself. OH I guess Europe doesn't see Belgium and France as different countries needing border control, so we didn't have to go through customs before boarding the train, which made me do an internal happy-dance of neverending JOY. I hate customs. For some reason, even though I never have anything sketchy, I always feel like I'm going to be detained and imprisoned in a foreign jail, condemned to a life of selling cigarettes and sexual favors. WHOA did I go too far with that last one? Probably. Rescinded.

Because of how we ordered our tickets individually, my friends and I were all separated on the train to Paris, which if you know me at all, left me practically paralyzed with stress and anxiety. I think I hid it pretty well though. Champion. While people were still boarding though, a woman turned to me and in hindsight it was obvious she was just asking if a bag was mine (it wasn't), but she said it in French, and guys, it was like someone hit pause on my life. Yep, I froze right on up like I was an angel from Doctor Who and someone looked at me. Just sat there staring at her like an idiot. Awesome. I did unfreeze about thirty seconds later though, and gave a very delayed shake of my head to nothing, as she'd already walked away.

Up Next on BEDFORT: France- the awesome country of sucky people

(ok not really but sort of)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

BED FORT: Bruges

I have a lot to say. The past week was just freaking filled with stuff, I have to do a blog post every day this week to get it all down. Hence: BED FORT-> Blog Every Day FOR Thepurposeofchoroniclingspringbreakandeverythingthathappenedonthecontinent.
That acronym totally works.
We left London last Friday through St. Pancras station, and when we went through customs, our passports got stamped with a little train symbol that's pretty adorable. Taking the Eurostar under the Channel was just like going through a really long tunnel... shocking, considering it's just a really long tunnel. Also, where everyone else brought these huge suitcases for break, I decided on just bringing a backpack, (which had repurcussions but I'll get to that later) so now I can say I backpacked through Europe. I'm excited about this. I'm just becoming a more and more interesting person by the day.
We arrived in Brussels and so began the week of English being a secondary language surrounding me, which was weird and I didn't like because I'm completely self-involved. Our hotel was all right, despite having to pass creepy men to get there and a balcony door that was only kept closed by a strategically-placed chair. It might not have been the nicest place to stay (our sink kept making noises without cause), but I thought it was all right- we now have fun memories and staying in slightly sketchy hotels is something I've had plenty of experience with. For dinner, we went to a local place, and apparently Brussels is known for their mussels (RHYME YAY) so I had pasta with mushrooms and mussels. This was a big step for me, because for years I've held my ground against the sick shell creatures. But apparently "It's Belgium, what the hell" is the only coercion I needed. And what do you know, it was completely delicious. Look how much I'm learning on this trip you guys.
The next day, we climbed onto another train and headed to Bruges. Now, I didn't know anything about this city before the trip (and still only know a smidgeon. That's right, SMIDGEON. I like words.) When we arrived in the main square after walking though the old buildings and houses and canals, we had about fifteen minutes to grab lunch before meeting up again. So of course me and some friends hit up a nearby Haagen Dazs shop for waffles. I mean, it's Belgium. I personally got a waffle with some kind of chocolate-caramel-vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce, and... there are no words. My incapability to adequately describe the greatness that is this waffle is genuinely infuriating.

We then met up in smaller groups to tour certain attractions: some people went to a brewery, others climbed a tower in the square. I was in a group that actually went to a few shops and a tea room with the head of our program, and we each got a waffle with her because she's the best person of all people. If you're keeping track, that's two waffles for me in under 60 minutes. Impressive. My second one had strawberries on it though, so in my mind it's completely justified. Do not question this illusion.

The rest of the day consisted of a walking tour around the city and also shopping around with my friend. Where I got some lace (apparently Bruges is known for that, a fact I was unaware of) and an ornament- touristy stuff- my friend bought a version of Looking for Alaska, one of both of our favorite books, in Dutch. And while she doesn't read Dutch (and honestly, who does?), it was ten Euro and books are awesome.

Also, around town there were quite a few chocolate shops, and one we went into had chocolate molded into VERY inappropriate shapes. Oh, Europe.

When we got back to Brussels, we looked around for a local place to have dinner, then quickly gave up and went to Pizza Hut DON'T JUDGE ME.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

nothing happened this week let's write about it

I don't really have any new exploits to share here, but it's 1:30am the morning before I leave for Spring Break, and I'm in this weird happy-mood where I JUST WANT TO WRITE, OK?
Following my last post about my friends, I heard absolutely nothing from them, so can only logically assume they took offense to me lying about them and hate me forever. I feel like that's a logical conclusion. Dang.
I took a black cab for the first time tonight. Now, I was told this is a universal trait in cab drivers all over the world but OMG TERRIFYING. They go super fast and straight up don't give a shit about anyone walking or in another car. At one point, we literally drove over a curb to get around another car that wouldn't move. Ok, not gonna lie, that was pretty awesome. And it was pretty nice to just be in a car again, you know? Suburban girl through and through. TEAM AUTOMOBILE.
We also went to the Olympic site yesterday, which was pretty disappointing, really. I know they still have a year to make it awesome, but right now it's just not. Plus, whoever designed the logo for the games really dropped the ball. (That last sentence is really inappropriately funny if you know what I'm referring to. Which I've found a surprising number of people don't, so whatever.)
We had a second-annual Skins watching party tonight. Man, do those fictional kids have some problems. But honestly, I've never been so attracted to a trouble-maker with a unibrow. Point: Skins.
So this next week for me includes the weekend in Brussels, a few days in Paris then ending the week in Normandy. I don't speak any French at all, so hopefully that won't be too big an issue with the people of France, whom I'm sure are completely lovely. I'm probably looking forward to Normandy the most, is that weird to say? Even though my closest relative actually involved in the invasion was my great-uncle (who I think I missed out on meeting by about forty years, but I may be wrong about that), both my grandfathers did serve in the war, and it's a time of history I've always found fascinating. Also, while I am the first person to critique America and bring its faults to light, I also love where I come from and going to this place where so many sacrificed everything so I can have opportunities like studying in this city... it's just something I have to do.
ok that's enough SUPER SERIOUS times.
I'll try to do interesting things so I can come back with good stories about French exploits. And croissants. And berets. And mustaches. #stereotypes crap... this isn't Twitter.

Monday, February 14, 2011

british boys are better than you

So I think I've mentioned a few times that here in London I have a few local friends (SUCK IT, JEALOUS AMERICANS). And now I've discovered they kind of might actually read this, so of course that means I have to dedicate a post to telling you about them. I'm just an amazing friend, right?
Greg- now usually I don't really like trumpet players (WHAT I was in band for ten years, of course I have prejudices), but for Greg I make an exception. He's actually a big deal in the underground London jazz community, which exists and everything. Even though honestly it is a tad annoying when he carries that freaking trumpet everywhere we go and even occassionally takes it out in tube stations and tries playing for money, when he knows street performers make me uncomfortable. If you're curious, this is him. SO GOOD I know.

my shirt is on backwards. I just noticed that.

Ben- now what's really interesting about him is he's actually trying to go for the world record in the vintage video game Space Invaders. He's still pretty mediocre to be honest, but dangit he's passionate about this game. Every time we hang out with the guys, we have to find an arcade (which is pretty difficult considering, you know, London) and just let him practice for a bit. We don't mind, it's a good opportunity to get a corndog. If you've ever read or seen Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, you'll know there is a character in it who is all into the game Dragon Slayer, and this was actually Ben's inspiration for his own "quest" (HA). And I know you jerks are all thinking "Oooh so prissy he likes Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," but if you'll recall, in the sequel, that guy gets with Tibby and is completely hot. So cool down your judgy minds.
I just realized the title of that book has a different meaning here in Britain. ick.

Josh- his claim to fame is actually through Twitter. Josh runs a fake Lord Voldemort account (I like how I said "fake" like there could be a real one...) and it's kind of a big deal. He's tweeted as Lord_Voldemort7 over 2,000 times and has about 670,000 followers. I was actually following him before I ever came to London and met Josh through a different circumstance, so when I found out he ran that Twitter, I might have fangirled a little. Besides winning at social networking, Josh also has memorized every line of every single Christian Bale movie ever, excluding "Newsies" which happens to be one of my favorite films of all time, but that's ok, not offended at all.

Ok, so if the Greg link wasn't a dead giveaway, I'm totally kidding. Yep, full of lies.
But they do exist, and to prove it, here's some true information (not a lot of it, because they're real people with real privacy rights).
Greg- he actually goes to university in/near/somewhere in the vicinity of Greenwich maybe? His major (or the British term that's equivalent) is Broadcasting Sound Design (or something) which is apparently a real thing that people do. He also has great hair that's way better than mine (really) and owns approximately two sweatshirts he just switches from day to day. Also, he has a youtube account that's funny and not updated enough because of university and being busy and whatever. *read as: EXCUSES* I'm going to post it here but if he wants me to take it down GREG JUST TELL ME.
Ben- this kid is trying to start up his own website (I'm pretty sure) to help people with resumes, and is constantly tweeting about smart stuff I don't understand. He also doesn't really sleep enough and is a complete pansy about the cold. His accent is also pretty thick, and whenever he says "things" it comes out "fings". He's an Apple fanboy, as so many are, and once when I said I thought Apple is over-rated, he said we couldn't be friends. So there's that.
Josh- he just finished up a super fancy technology (I say that because I don't know what was actually involved and don't want to insult him by getting it wrong) apprenticeship where he had to wear a suit every day. His last name is pretty amazing, and I'm bummed I can't share it with you (because I don't really want you creepers creeping). Also, I'm beating Josh. You don't need to know what I'm beating him at, just know it's 3-2 and I'm winning.
Now I know some of my friends reading this are thinking "Ooooh girl which one you hittin'?!?" (ok, my friends don't talk like that. I'm pretty sure no one talks like that.) And I know that because I'm posting this on Valentine's Day, that might be what people are thinking. Or if they weren't, well, now they are. But still that answer is: None. It's called friendship and it's lovely.
In all honesty, these guys are great and are a major part of why I really don't want to leave London. I mean, the other bigger chunk is probably egg and tomato sandwiches from EAT, but still, that's hard for anything to beat. (HA "egg", "beat". WHY AM I SO FUNNY.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vegetarian haggis? Is that even possible?

So I've been neglectful of this, I know. I didn't have a lot of time, ok? But it's fine because now I do and your burning curiosity about my life is about to be assuaged. Calm down.
So I went to Scotland this weekend. I don't know how this ended up being my life, I'm not accustomed to so much awesome. And now you're going to hear about it.
I'm feeling another post of lists. I don't think you'll be too devastated.
-just five minutes of being in Scotland in the airport, I'd already seen two guys in kilts, just walking around like it's no big deal. Which I guess it isn't. But still.
-our hostel was next door neighbor to a castle. like we would leave in the morning and oh, there's a castle. sweet.
-i bought a Scotland rugby shirt for fifteen pounds. i don't regret this purchase at all.
-we had breakfast every morning there at the Elephant House cafe, where JK Rowling (and it's "rowling" like "bowling" fyi) wrote bits of the early Harry Potter books. Needless to say, it is possibly the best, reasonably priced, subtly nerdy places I have ever frequented.
-at said Elephant House, I tried peppermint tea for the first time, and being someone who does not especially like most hot drinks, i didn't expect to like it. MISTAKEN. It is heaven in a cup.
-speaking of the tea, it was adorable. When you order tea you get a whole fricken cute teapot and strainer and cup and it's fantastic and super legit.
-touring the castle itself was really great as well. OH THE WEDDING. I have to tell you about the wedding- so when we were at the castle, this couple was there getting married and taking pictures and i'm going to do a list-in-a-list to explain why this wedding was beautiful and amazing.
-it happened in a CASTLE. duh.
-the chapel they have in the castle is pretty tiny, so they saved money on guests (I'm assuming)
-it was chilly so the bride had to kind of cling to first her dad then the groom when taking pictures and come on, that's adorable.
-the groom was in the military so it was just a really appropriate place for them to be married.
-i'm guessing because it's a pretty public place, the ceremony had to be short (we heard it was 15 minutes) which I am a fan of.
overall, JEALOUS.
ok anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
-the pub(?) where we had dinner the first night was a total hipster paradise. Chandaliers, victorian fabric, painted boomboxes on the walls, funky tiger planters. Fantastic.
-I was called "love" by at least one Scottish store owner. *melts*
-Apparently, the closer you get to Ireland, the better the Guiness is. I had a pint, expecting the olive-tasting grossness I tried in the states, but instead found greatness.
I mean, I don't drink, I'm not 21 yet. Plus, drinking is stupid. It affects your decision-making abilities and makes you do dumb things like eat an entire bag of haggis-flavored chips.
-I ate an entire bag of haggis-flavored chips.
-Like in London, a bunch of museums are free and we took advantage of that. Seriously, Europe knows WHAT'S UP.
-we went to this pub where a youtuber I subscribe to works, and we actually saw him. It was pretty fricken exciting for me. This is who I'm talking about, jsyk:
he looks like David Tennant.
-after that pub (where it was loud and uncomfortable), we went to an Irish pub down the street, where this band of middle-aged men played some live music and we saw this guy who was completely the numa-numa kid IRL (but not really) dance, and I will never stop smiling when I think about it.
-our flight back to London was delayed an hour, so that wasn't as fun. But we still managed to catch our bus back because we were SUPER SMART and booked one like an hour and a half after our plane was supposed tp land. Scheduling win.
So in summation: Scotland is awesome. You should go.