Month: February 2014

The Obsession with British Music

When we get tired of reading subtitles while watching Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps or confused trying to figure out what’s happening on Hollyoaks, we watch music videos on 4 Music. That channel combined with watching The Grammys, The Brits and living in Camden have all contributed to a new love of British music and a playlist on my iPhone.

Afterglow by Wilkinson. It’s just so catchy and fun that my flatmates and I find ourselves singing and humming it all the time.

Look Right Through by Storm Queen. None of us understand why Chester Cheetah is in a music video wearing an eye patch, but we’re hooked.

Money On My Mind by Sam Smith. I think this is one of those songs you love, hate or can’t decide if you love or hate. The only part of the song I ever remember is the falsetto “money on my mind,” but that was enough for it to stick.

Feelin’ Myself (feat. Miley Cyrus, French Montana, Wiz Khalifa & DJ Mustard) by Who knew was popular enough in Britain to be a judge on their version of The Voice? I’m not sure why this isn’t popular in the States yet, but we’re obsessed.

Waiting All Night (feat. Ella Eyre) by Rudimental. After seeing ads for their album in tube stations for weeks, watching Rudimental perform at The Brits finally peaked my interest.

Ready For Your Love (feat. MNEK) by Gorgon City. I always picture a fast-paced movie scene when I hear this song. Like a cool spy running after someone through crowded city streets…or maybe that’s just what I imagine on the tube in the morning while I’m listening to it on my way to work. Whatever, it’s catchy and will pump you up for the rest of your day.

Rather Be (feat. Jess Glynne) by Clean Bandit. This song is everywhere in London, and I’ve adopted it as the unofficial anthem for study abroad. Anytime something fantastic happens, we end up singing the chorus to each other and dancing along.

Uncruel by House of Lions . I’m getting to this one before Channel 4, but that’s because I was lucky enough to meet these insanely talented and nice people in my own neighborhood. If you can ever get that guitar (be de de de deeee de de de de) out of your head, you’re a a stronger person than I am. But I’m not sure why you’d want to. I’ve already pre-ordered the single on iTunes, so I’ll be singing along to this one for the foreseeable future. Things could be much, much worse.


A quick trip through the Chunnel, and I was set for my first weekend in Paris. We successfully avoided our first set of gypsies with clipboards in the train station, and then hopped on a coach for a panoramic tour of the city.

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

Venus di Milo

Venus di Milo

We finished the bus tour, checked into our hotel and headed to the Louvre. After successfully avoiding all of the men selling “5 for 1” mini Eiffel Towers and an extensive photo shoot, we actually went inside the museum to take advantage of its free entry for EU students. I brought my Louisiana drivers’ license, Mizzou ID, international student ID and my CAPA student card, but nothing could have prepared me to deal with the woman checking our identification. All five of the other girls went through a different lane without any problems and got to watch this insanity unfold. The worker said none of my four forms of identification proved I lived or worked in the UK, and no amount of explanation would convince her. She stood up out of her chair, began shouting about needing my passport or visa (which I had taken out of my purse so it didn’t get pickpocketed) and finished by yelling in my face that she wasn’t American. After exhausting her stint as the heroine of EU students, she saw me desperately looking at the other girls and let me through in a huff. I proceeded to walk through the museum completely rattled and shut down, but the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo were exciting to see.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

The evening completely turned around after we left the museum. We decided to head toward the Eiffel Tower and find dinner somewhere along the way. It’s totally different from London where there are skyscrapers and modern buildings mixed in with its old history. Since Paris wasn’t bombed during the war, the whole city still has an old, magical feel, and it was actually plausible to follow the top of the tower until we ran into it. Just as we were crossing the river, the Eiffel Tower started glittering. Magic. We finally found a brasserie that looked reasonably priced, and had an absolutely fabulous meal. And it was happy hour. We walked around the block and practically ran into the Eiffel Tower. It was just so much bigger than I ever imagined and so wonderful all lit up. The crazy Louvre lady’s atrocity was eventually overruled by three really nice gentlemen that helped us understand how to get home on the metro. One at a crepe stand that told us where the closest stations was, one worker at the metro station that mapped out, circled and wrote the number of each train we needed to take on a metro map and one older gentleman who nearly hopped off of his train to point us in the direction of our line when we got turned around switching trains. When we finally got on the right one, we were treated to two guys playing guitar and singing as we rode home.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Locking my Mizzou Alpha Chi lock on the love lock bridge.

Locking my Mizzou Alpha Chi lock on the love lock bridge.

We kicked off our 12 hour Saturday with a tour of Notre Dame and a walk through the Latin Quarter. The church was absolutely beautiful, and I was glad we had a guide to explain the details of the detailed façade. The Latin Quarter is definitely the younger area of the city and was filled with restaurants. We then headed to the Seine for our boat tour of the city. The day was gray, damp and windy, which made being on water particularly chilly. It was cool to see the city from such a different perspective even if we were taking pictures in between shivers. Frozen and hungry, we walked back to the Latin Quarter for lunch, and after warming up, headed for the lock bridge. We spent some time wandering up and down the bridge reading locks and people watching, and finally bought our own locks to put on the bridge. We wrote on the locks, threw the keys in the river and set out to spend the afternoon shopping. We started out around the Louvre and eventually took the metro to make our way to the Champs- Elysees. We took a break from our exhaustive shopping to get macarons from Laduree. My life is so hard. It was both a store and a restaurant, and all of the pastries were so intricate they looked fake.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

We took our six macarons and headed up the street to take pictures of the Arc de Triomphe all lit up. After braving both the other tourists and French drivers to take a couple of pictures in the middle of the street, we were ready for dinner. A couple of the girls we were with had seen a set menu at a restaurant in the Latin Quarter that had three courses for 10 euros. We found the restaurant actually pretty easily, and ate probably the best meal I’ve had abroad so far. I started with onion soup, had beef bourguignon for an entrée and finished with chocolate mousse. The small restaurant had another group of six waiting, so we were politely ushered out after finishing out meal and paying. We made it back to the hotel at about 10:30 pm and collapsed onto our beds to relax. Three of us ended up hanging out, talking and laughing in our room until almost 1 before I finally got into the shower and went to bed.

Sacre Couer

Sacre Couer

Sunday we braved the crowds at the Eiffel Tower and made it all the way to the third and top floor. Only one of the four legs had working elevators because the others were under construction. We briefly contemplated walking up to the second floor and catching the elevator to the top from there, but that seemed too daunting for us. The views were absolutely worth the long wait. We walked down the stairs, grabbed a quick sandwich and met our guides for a walking tour of Montemarte that ended at the Sacre Coeur. This was my favorite part of the trip because I think it’s what I imagined Paris would look like. Shops, cafes, restaurants and houses dotted the road as we climbed the hill to the artists’ square and the church. It was crowded and had tourist shops, but still seemed almost like it wasn’t real. An espresso macchiato, a crepe and a millions pictures later, we went back to pick up our bags from the hotel and catch the Eurostar. While it was less eventful than our Amsterdam experience, UK Border Agency took their sweet time checking our passports, and Ciera and I ended up almost running down the platform to get on our train in time. I think we had about 10 minutes to spare after we were finally settled into our seats.

Amsterdam and Bruges

I really should try to write these weekly…



Two weeks ago we took our first trip out of the country to Amsterdam, Edam, Volendam and Bruges. Friday, we took a ferry from Dover and then a coach through France, Belgium and into The Netherlands. It was a long, but scenic drive. Our hotel was on the outskirts of the actual city, but practically next door to the metro and tram station. Our guides met us downstairs in the lobby about an hour after we got settled in to take us on a tour of the red light district and give us a limited understanding of the city (as much as they could in the dark with a group of probably 70 people). They dropped us off at the main square, Dam Square, and we set off on own from there. It was fun exploring the city and its nightlife, especially in our group of Mizzou girls. We stopped for dessert before power walking back to the metro station to catch the last train. I can only imagine what seven American girls looked like frantically weaving through the streets with waffles and croissants. After a moment of sheer panic when my metro card wouldn’t let me through the gates at the station, we were all finally at the platform waiting for our train. The stops were all in Dutch and trains aren’t listed by direction. Since we knew which train number we needed to take, we pushed the information tower button to be sure the right train was actually on its way. After being asked we spoke Dutch and French, an incredibly nice English speaking man told us our train would arrive in just a couple of minutes. 



We hopped back on the bus Saturday morning to visit small Dutch towns of Edam and Volendam. We were only in each for about an hour, but that was plenty of time to drink Dutch coffee and sample some cheese. They’re both what I picture when I think of Holland. Small bakeries, shops and restaurants dotted along a central canal. Neither wassuper lively, but I’m glad I got to experience something outside of Amsterdam. And there’s no way I would’ve gone to either if we planned the trip ourselves.


We stopped for coffee in one of Volendam’s famous hotels before heading back to Amsterdam and going to the Anne Frank house. The museum was completely enthralling and emotional. The family’s living space was actually larger than I imagined while reading the book, but it’s still hard to believe so many people lived in such a small space. The last section of the museum is Otto Frank’s experience coming back to the house after surviving the concentration camps, and that’s when we all lost it. We spent the rest of the tour wiping tears and raving about the experience. We got ham and cheese toasties and a Duvel for lunch followed by our first order of chips and mayo. Bless Chipsy King and his delicious creation. I think I’ve decidedall fat fries should be eaten that way. We went back to the hotel to relax before heading back out for the evening. Even though most people can speak English, I noticed they usually speak Dutch to each other. There’s definitely something a little unsettling when you don’t fully understand what’s going on. We eventually gave up on looking for a restaurant and headed back to Dam Square for Belgian waffles…and our second order of chips. 



Sunday was the longest day of traveling I’ve ever had, but stopping in Bruges was worth it.  We got lunch, a waffle and the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. We wandered around the small town of a couple of hours before heading back to London We spent about 15 hours trying to actually get back to city after all of our mishaps. Apparently UK border control has had problems with students saying they attend fake universities, so the entire second half our 100+ person tour had to go through individual interviews. We missed our scheduled ferry because that took so long, and the next scheduled boat was delayed because of bad weather. We finally got on the ferry after waiting about two hours at the docks. The boat was so rocky because of the bad weather, we tried to distract ourselves by constantly talking about random things. Valirie went through each member of One Direction’s life stories for us, which was thoroughly entertaining and took up quite a bit of time. We finally got to solid ground and then drove the two hours back into the city. Totally exhausting, but worth the fun weekend. 

Two Weeks as a Tourist

The last two weeks have been packed with trips and sightseeing.


We took a group trip to Stonehenge and Bath that felt more like a trip into a tropical storm.  From the minute we drove into the Stonehenge visitor parking lot, the sky looked like it would burst open. We got into the tram that would take us to the stones, and the rain just started pouring.  I zipped up my coat, tightened my hood and stepped out of the tram clutching my umbrella for dear life. The wind was driving the rain sideways as we walked up the small hill towards the stones, so I tried to use my umbrella as more of shield. It really didn’t help. After laughing our way to the top through the wind and the cold, we stayed long enough to snap a couple pictures before rushing back down the hill to catch the tram back to the visitor’s center.  Bath was, thankfully, drier and most of the Roman baths were inside.



We’ve been trying to take advantage of Tuesday and Thursday mornings to explore London. We went to a photography exhibit of BAFTA nominated actors and actresses at Somerset House, and I met my friend Anna for a ride on the London eye.She’s studying abroad in Manchester and was in town for about five days. It’s so hilarious that we’re going to school closer now than we do at home. The eye was great and not very crowded because we went right as it opened. 

IMG_0578It felt like we were just having a chat in a coffee shop with way better scenery. I also didn’t realize we were moving most of the time unless I looked outside of our pod and had a new view. I didn’t have time to go to the Churchill bunker with them before class, so I hopped on the tube to borough market for lunch.  I never been on a weekday or gone alone, but it ended up being a great experience. I got a delicious Italian sandwich and the best café au lait I’ve ever had. It was fun to see the market less crowded and watch “the regulars” chat with stand owners while they ate.  There was a street brass band playing in odd costumes, and it was just too New Orleans to not stop and listen.  Later that afternoon, we explored Greenwich and finished off with a ferry ride back to Waterloo station.


Friday, Ciera and I saw Once in the front row for only 25 pounds each.  We were looking up how to get the best deal all week when Ciera found a website detailing the information on day seat tickets for different shows. She went to the box office about an hour before it opened, and was able to get us the fabulous, cheap seats. It was an absolutely magical performance, and it was really fun to go with someone who had never seen it before.  They have waiters that take drink orders from your seat, and they sell ice cream at intermission. Completely different setting than a Broadway theatre, but the performance was just as wonderful.

We got 10 pound round trip train tickets to Windsor on Saturday, and we spent the day touring the castle and exploring the town. I think I like that atmosphere a little better than straight up museums. St. George’s Chapel was absolutely beautiful, and it’s just insane to me that so much history can be in one place.  Windsor was a cute town and had great shopping.

IMG_0660Ciera and I celebrated Chinese New Year with practically everyone else in the city on Sunday. We were packed into huge crowds and had the hardest time finding an entrance into the main streets. We finally found a gate, but police officers were keeping everyone outside. Apparently they thought it was too crowded, but opened the floodgates just a few minutes later. I can’t believe it wouldn’t be easier if they just let the crowds flow naturally in and out of the main festival center. I think they’d benefit from a Mardi Gras training course from NOPD. I digress. The food was absolutely delicious and pretty cheap for large portions. We came home and got ready to watch the Super Bowl. We went to the Oxford Arms pub around the corner from our flat, and actually stayed for the whole game. It was really fun meeting and seeing so many English and European people watching and trying to understand the game together. Plus, when am I ever going to voluntarily watch a football game in the middle of the night ever again?

All of the tourist activity was followed the most London experience I’ve had so far: the tube strike. I had to take the bus to work, and, of course, got on the one going the wrong direction. I, thankfully, realized this before I’d gone very far, but it still took me 50 minutes to get to work instead of my usual 15. Just learning to live like a local!