Tuesday, December 21, 2010


from Portugal: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=310897&id=725549275&l=859d31d844

and Holland: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=310900&id=725549275&l=0100008f0e


I'm pretty sure everyone reading this knows all about my crazy travel stuff, but I figure it will be good to write about it anyway.

I saw my cousin, which was lovely, and my aunt, and it was great to just spend some time with them, speaking Papiamentu and talking about Curacao.

Afterwards I hung out with Nat and we went to her friends' Christmas party, which was really fun. And then next day we woke up to A LOT OF SNOW. And long story short my flight that night was cancelled, with the next available one to rebook being Sunday night, two whole days later!!

I went and spent the night at Natalie's house in den Haag - she was leaving Saturday for Boston. I went to the airport with them to see if I could get aflight, but they were all booked or cancelled, and then to see if I could get a train, but they were full, and then I decided to take the ferry to the UK. I took a train to Hoek van Holland and then the ferry to Harwich and then there was snow in the UK so the trains weren't running perfectly, so I took a 3 hour bus to London. I never want to be crammed up with that many Dutch people for that long again!

Then I took the underground to our family friends' house, which is where I am now.

The first day we just hung out, and it was lovely to not do much. It was great to just catch up with Claire after years of not seeing each other!

The next day we went to Oxford, because I had to get the rest of my luggage from the Stanford House. We took the bus into town, went to the Eagle and Child (the pub where JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis hung out and talked about their books), and then we ate at this delicious bakery chain called Valerie, and then went and picked up my stuff. After we can back we just had dinner and hung out for a while.

Now for what is (hopefully) the end of the travel saga: my flight home was cancelled because Heathrow is still a mess. They don't own snowploughs(!!!!!) so though it stopped snowing 3 days ago, the airport is still not functioning well. So...I fly home Christmas Eve. Just in time, I guess. I get a few more days with Claire, but not as many with my family, especially my mom who is going to visit my grandparents...

Today Claire and I spent the day at the Victoria and Albert, which is a super cool museum. We spent so much time just wandering, it was lovely :)

Every night we sing Christmas carols around the piano, and it's so great :)

I'm just making the most of everything, and crossing fingers to be home for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I left Portugal yesterday for the Netherlands - because of the way flights worked, though, I had to fly back through London Gatwick, which was cheap enough with Easy Jet.

Everything went fine, I got to Gatwick and had a couple hours to kill. Then little things started going wrong. First, the shuttle between terminals was down, so they crammed people onto busses. Fine. The flight to Amsterdam was fine, but when it landed there was another plane still at our gate that had to be de-iced, so we sat for a while waiting for that. We finally got a new gate, and I got passed customs and immigration fine. Then the train to Utrecht was delayed 10 minutes, and I couldn't quite figure out what number I had to dial to call Natalie - my phone has a British SIM card but abroad it connects through whatever lines are there. Then apparently international rates ate up my credit, because suddenly I was down to like, 2 pounds of credit. I got on the train, and then when it got to Utrecht we ended up sitting outside the station for like 45 minutes because the tracks were broken or something ridiculous. Maybe they were frozen over? Then when I got inside the station it was crazy crowded and I STILL couldn't figure out my phone so this sweet security guard let me use his and I decided it was easier to just take a taxi to Natalie's rather than the bus and her having to come meet me, etc. So I grabbed a taxi, and we're driving fine, and THEN HE HIT ANOTHER CAR. So then I sat around waiting for them to exchange information and stuff. Luckily the taxi was on a distance meter and not time.

So then I get to Natalie's place but my phone is now dead, and apparently when roaming TalkMobile charges for incoming calls, too, so Nat couldn't even call me. Finally I just asked someone walking around if I could use his phone, and I found Natalie, and everything was good again. (Nat is a friend I made when I was living in Holland in 8th grade, and we've kept in touch) It was so great to catch up!

Today she had an exam, and my cousin had other things to do so I went out into Utrecht for 2 and a half hours with Natalie's bike. I sat in a park (where a flock of ducks almost killed me), biked around, went to all my favorite stores (H&M, C&C, HEMA, Blokker, and, of course, the supermarket Albert Heijn.) I found a little cheese stand at a market and bought a hunk of gouda to take back to campus and a smaller, sundried tomato infused round of cheese for the friends I'll be staying with for a few days in London. And I bought my favorite ham and cheese croissants at the store, as well as stroopwafels and these delish cookies I forgot about that have a coffee flavored cripsy shell on the bottom. Yum.

Tomorrow I spend the day with my cousin and aunt - unless my cousin's baby decides to just pop out! And then in evening I'll come back to Natalie's - she and her friends are having an end of term Christmas party that she's invited me too, which I think will be really fun.

We'll see what I do Friday. My flight leaves from Schiphol at 9:30pm, which means I want to be there around 7:30, and I may stick around a while and then take the train to Amsterdam and walk around for a few hours before getting back on and ending my journey at the airport. And then I spend a few days in London with friends, and then I will finally be home after almost 3 full months of bopping around Europe and seeing 5 countries, if we count the Vatican.

What a life.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


As promised, a post about Lisbon so far.

So, I woke up late (aka when we were supposed to leave from a phone call from Ashley), and we rushed a lot, but we made it to the airport with time to spare, and we met another friend there who had spent the night in London.

We flew TAP, which is a Portuguese airline. We got to take 2 carry-on bags, and they served food! So amazing after Ryanair to Rome, which doesn't even have seatback pockets...

We checked into our hostel, which, by the way, is amazing. Ashley and I have a private room, so it's a litle more, but I think Jin Tik is paying about 15 Euro a night for a dorm-style room. Breakfast is included (cereal, bread, and fresh pancakes made all morning!), there's free wifi, it's clean and nice, there's a kitchen, and the door is staffed 24/7. The people also give great suggestions for things to see and food to eat. We're going to write them good recommendations on TripAdvisor and HostelWorld because we are very impressed.

We got a suggestion from the hostel for what to do with our half day. We grabbed some mediocre lunch and then headed to Belem, an old section of the city. Turns out we feel the same way about museums - we don't feel the need to pay much more than a few Euros to go into a place we're not going to spend that much time. We went into part of the old monastary, which was gorgeous, and climbed the Torre de Belem, where we could see over the city and out to the Atlantic (Lisbon is on a river that drains into the sea at the end of Portugal).

We also got some delicious pastries, called pasteis de nata. They are SO tasty. So, so tasty. I am eating so many.

We got an excellent recommendation for dinner, this tiny cafe that didn't look like much, but had AMAZING fish. And they served us balanced meals! I had a swordfish steak, potatoes, and broccoli. So yummy. We crashed pretty early cause none of us had slept much the night before.

The next morning we got up, had pancakes in the hostel (yum!) and then went, on another recommendation, to a flea market on the way to the castle. It seemed like a wash at first, as flea markets can be, but we found some cute stalls towards the middle. I bought most of the rest of my presents (WHY ARE BOYS SO HARD TO SHOP FOR?!) and then we went up to the castle.

First we stopped at this great terraced restaurant, the food wasn't amazing but the view was gorgeous. I had a baguette with chicken and mayo, but so many miles better than chicken mayo in oxford - the chicken had been marinated in ginger, and I had fresh mango juice! So good.

The castle was cool, ruined, of course, but a lot of great views and you could walk around on the walls. We took an old tram - very rickety! - up to another part of the city, where there was another church, as well as Parliament. We walked back to the hostel. After a quick break, we went out for dinner - paella! Not amazing, but it hit the spot :) Afterwards, we walked around a little, just checking out Lisbon.

Today was rainy and a little colder, so we weren't the most revved up. Museums were free, so we went to an art one, which was fine. And I saw the Lisbon mosque in the distance! Then we went to the modern part of town, which wasn't that exciting. Then we took a long break before heading out for wine tasting.

It took us forEVER to find the wine place, and then it turned out to be closed for a conference, so we wandered and found another place. I had a delish tuna steak with warm olive oil and garlic, potatoes, spinach...yum.

And now we're back in the hostel. I'll probably head to bed soon, because I'm exhausted - think I'm getting sick. Tomorrow, our last day here, we head to Sintra, a town about 45 minutes away on a cliff over the ocean. I'm excited! And then Tuesday I head to Utrecht to see Natalie and my cousin Melinche, aunt Meme, and perhaps my cousin's new baby!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rome :)

I know that I have slacked a lot and not posted about my wonderful days in Rome. Oops. But I'm catching up now, and then tomorrow will be a Portugal update.

So. ROME. As mentioned, our flight got cancelled, but we flew out early Friday morning, after spending a few hours in the airport since I made us leave really early in case snow was an issue with traffic and stuff. I'm the mommy of the group and everyone knows it...they even call me mommy. Oops...

When we got to Rome, we made our way to our apartment, checked in, and then went out to grab food. A lot of Italian restaurants close in the later afternoon, so we just grabbed pasta from a place nearby that was closing and headed back to the apartment. Everyone was exhausted cause our bus to the airport had left at 1 am, so there were naps taken by some, and Alex and I worked on planning the trip. Everyone had basically agreed on what we wanted to do, so we tried to figure out what made the most sense to do when.

After everyone woke up less tired and less hungry, we headed out into Rome. First stop, Trevi fountain. It is BEAUTIFUL. We spent a bit of time around there, taking pictures and throwing two coins in the fountain - the first guarantees our return to Rome, and the second was for a wish. We then went to a gelato place touted as the best gelato in Rome (and therefore possibly the world)....and they're not kidding. We may or may not have gone 4 times in the three days we spent in Rome. Yummm.

After that we walked over to the Spanish Steps, which are ALSO gorgeous. The boys decided to race up the stairs, and Alex and I mooned over St. Peter's which we could see in the far off distance. We found a cheapish place for dinner for our first real Italian meal, and Alex got the best gnocchi I have EVER tasted. It was exquisite, melt in your mouth. If I was Andrea, I could tell you what I ordered, but I'm not, which is too bad. But I'm sure it was very tasty :)

The next day I woke up and headed to the Rome mosque, the largest in Europe. It was deserted, since they don't want tourists milling around during worship, but it was gorgeous and I got some good pictures. On the way back, I got on some auxiliary line of the subway and couldn't find a ticket machine, but I figured I could get away with it since they rarely check. WRONG. They were stopping everyone when we got off in the city to switch to the regular Metro, and I was fined 50 Euro. OUCH.

I met up with everyone else outside the Colosseum, and we went around there. We had a brief rainspell, but it was cool to walk around the Colosseum. After that we did the Palantine Hill and the Roman Forum - both very cool.

For lunch we went around Trevi again, since prices seemed within our range there. Andrew, Andrea, and I ordered the tourist menu: a starter (which was a bowl of pasta), a second dish (MEAT!), dessert (fruit or cheese), bread, and table wine, for 18 Euro! It was tasty.

Later we walked around and went to the Pantheon, had very rich hot chocolate at Taza d'Oro, and had what must have been another delicious meal.

Sunday turned into a bit of a wash - we wanted to walk around the boho neighborhood of Trastevere and go to what was supposed to be great brunch and an awesome flea market, but we managed to find neither. And the Tiber River is VERY disappointing. We did go to a cool church, though, and I had the best eggplant parm I had EVER had.

After that we went out to the old Appian Way, walked along that, and checked out some catacombs. There wasn't all that much to see and our guide was...interesting, but I'm glad I got to do it.

We had eaten weird all day, and by dinner time my blood sugar had dropped low. This happens every once in a while if I don't eat enough, and I didn't recognize it at first, but after a while of being cranky and emotional and hungry and then feeling sick, we stopped for a snack and then some dinner, and I had very tasty risotto. AFterwards we just headed back to the apartment because....

MONDAY IS VATICAN DAY! Alex and I were beside ourselves. We walked past the Castel San'Angelo (the one that has a secret tunnel to the Vatican) and then walked up the street towards St. Peter's, which is amazing. Completely amazing. We had to wait in line for a while, but when we got in, we decided to go to the crypts first. For someone who doesn't consider herself very religious, and certainly not Catholic, John Paul II's grave from 5 years ago really touched me. Unlike older ones, it's just a slab of engraved marble rather than a marble sarcophagus, and it's very un-elaborate and staid. There were nuns and others who were obviously very religious and were praying in front of it, but I had a lump in my throat looking at it and thinking of that great man.

Afterwards we headed up into the basilica itself. Mass had just started, and I ran over to it. It was in Italian, of course, but I can now say that I have attended mass and taken communion in St. Peter's Basilica...again, something that just seemed important to me. And St. Peter's is gorgeous. I loved just looking around and taking everything in, including the marble slab engraved with the names of every Pope, starting with St. Peter, all 265 of them. It was great.

After a break for lunch, we did the Vatican museums...amazing Rafaels and other things, but the beauty of the Sistine Chapel is, again, breathtaking.

After a failed detour to find gelato mentioned in Lonely Planet, we headed home for a bit of a rest before dinner. I got to pick dinner because it was my birthday dinner, but the place I picked was closed (a common theme for us all week). Instead, we found a random quaint restaurant, and the waiter was wonderful and italian. I had delicious roast lamb, and spinach for like the 4th time. England is sorely lacking in delicious nutritious veggies.

And at 12:30, like the good Stanford students that they are, my lovely Oxford family threw me in the shower, which is a time-honored Stanford tradition. It made it special :)

The next morning Alex, Andrew and I went to the Villa Borghese, apparently THE art gallery in Rome to see if you only see one. IT was nice. Then we headed to the airport and flew back to dreary cold England :P Oh, did I mention that it was 60 and sunny in Rome?

So, that was Rome. I loved it. I want to go back. I'm so glad we went, and I went with some amazing people who I love dearly :)

Rome pictures: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=306295&id=725549275&l=69e685af46

Not much happened back in Oxford, we were winding down and packing. We said a not-too-sad goodbye, since we'll be seeing each other again in 3 weeks, and then early early Friday morning I headed to Portugal! More on that tomorrow, it's time to head to bed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Not all that much to update in the last couple days...Naomi and I had a blast in London. We saw Chicago, which was great, much better than the movie in my opinion.

I've wrapped up with classes, I was officially done on Tuesday at 3:30. I've been puttering around, mostly, but now...


We were actually supposed to leave yesterday, but there has been crazy snowfall throughout the UK (though not here, luckily, just some pretty flurries), but the result was that Gatwick has been closed for days and our flight got cancelled! After being really upset about it for a few hours, we got our act together and called RyanAir, which promptly booked us on a new flight out of Stansted airport, instead, to avoid the Gatwick madness. So now our flight leaves at 8:45 and we'll be in Rome by noon! Since we weren't going to get in until late last night, we're really only losing about half a day, so it's not that big a deal at all. We might just end up skipping a trip elsewhere, like Pompeii or Florence.

I promise I'll post about Rome when I return (on my birthday!) and I'll have a ton of pictures :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

my sister :)

Again, it's been several regular days, so I haven't felt a need to post that much.

I saw the Harry Potter movie and was disappointed...though my friends and I did go in costume.

The most exciting thing is that my sister is here to visit!!!! She arrived Wednesday afternoon. We've spent most of our time just walking around Oxford, exploring.

Alex's parents and brother are here visiting as well, and they rented an apartment. They were sweet enough to have us all over for Thanksgiving dinner. We baked some pies and headed over for mashed potatoes, chicken, green beans, gravy, rolls, and stuffing that Alex's mom had made, sacrificing clothes to make room in her suitcase for the ingredients...it was delicious. We had a lot of fun :)

Today Naomi and I mostly just walked around. There was a Christmas market that we went to, it was cute and we enjoyed it :)

Tomorrow, we head to London for a day before she leaves on Sunday. It was short, but really fun :)

Next week I have two concerts, I turn in my last paper, and on Thursday we go to ROME!