Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Semester Abroad

Welcome back to #TrendingTopic! I have not posted since 2013, and after revisiting my blog recently, I realized how much I missed it. So, whether no one reads my posts or looks at my pictures, I am going to try to update it as often as I can, if only for my own personal benefit. However, a lot has happened in the past year, leaving me with plenty of material to keep you updated. One of the most significant experiences I have been privy to was the opportunity to study abroad, and I would love to share some of those stories.

I was based in London for my studies, but once you're in Europe it's pretty easy to get around everywhere, so I was thrilled to be able to travel to five other countries during my stay (from September-December 2013). However, I will include the photos from my other travels in another post.

Here are the highlights….


I chose to study in London because 1) there is no language barrier, 2) they have great style, and 3) those accents!!! During my time living there, I was able to absorb much of the culture and found it to be a beautiful place in which to explore and learn. 

The dress featured above is one of my favorites from a little boutique in CA and is paired with a blazer from Urban Outfitters.

One of my first experiences was a cruise on the Thames River with my fellow peers. This is where I met a group of girls that I really clicked with, and ended up befriending for the entire semester. 

While many people have the common misconception that the photo above is the London Bridge, it is really the Tower Bridge. The London Bridge is actually pretty unremarkable in terms of aesthetics. I took this opportunity to wear one of my dresses (which didn't happen often since London is so rainy and cold) and matched it with a cute blazer and some Sperry rain boots (not featured). 

It wouldn't be London without the cliché red phone booths. 

And yes, I acted like a shameless tourist. 
I couldn't resist posing in front of a phone booth with Big Ben featured in the background.
Though the day was a bit gloomy, I stayed cozy in my thick sweater from Urban Outfitters.

While I didn't actually get the chance to ride the London Eye, I got to admire it on one of my first gray days in London. I think it costs something like 20 pounds to ride, so it never became a high priority.  

However, seeing Buckingham Palace was. I stayed comfortable and trendy in my Brandy Melville "Flower Child" shirt and a light sweater. Layers are a must for an extended stay in London!

The Changing of the Guards at the Palace.

Westminster Abbey was a beautiful sight, just a hop and a skip away from Big Ben. I am more of a spiritual person than an overtly religious person, but this church was enough to take my breath away. 

Trafalgar square is adorned with many interesting statues, one of which being the big, blue rooster!

More famously, however, were the lion statues. It's harder than it looks to climb up there, but of course, I'd do anything for a photo op! 

I visited the square after the death of Nelson Mandela, and was touched by the outpouring of love for this man. The square was lined with photos, flowers and candles as a tribute. It was a remarkable thing to see, people coming together in the wake of such tragic news.

Of course, I look for art everywhere I go, and LOVED these phone booths. A simple message, but it had the power to brighten my day nonetheless. It is also perfect for this city, where the endless gloom of the clouds can become a bit overwhelming. 

Visiting Platform 9 3/4 was also a must, as an avid Harry Potter fan. This is located at King's Cross Station. 

And Speaking of Harry Potter…..

I had the opportunity to do the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour, which was a decent drive out of the city. Therefore, I purchased the package that included bus transportation from London. I happened to go on my birthday, so it was a nice present for myself, and I decided to splurge a little.

I tasted the world-famous Butterbeer, which can only be purchased in two places: on this tour, and in Harry Potter world at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. (To be honest, it just tasted like a version of cream soda)

This is the set of Diagon Alley featured in the movie, which is now a permanent installment. Above, I am wearing a sweater that I am in love with from Macy's (Polo brand). It's warm and cozy but also super cute. My necklace is from Urban Outfitters and is a great piece to add to a jewelry collection.

Here is the model of the castle, which (fun fact) they actually used to shoot aerial views in the movies. This was a great tour and got my birthday off to a truly magical start!

The birthday festivities continued later that night with a visit to the London Ice Hotel/ Ice Bar! Made entirely of ice, this was a really cool place (pun intended) to experience. You're allowed to make reservations in 45 minute increments and they adorn you with a cape and gloves to stay warm. You're also offered one free drink with your entry. 

And even the glasses are made of ice!

This was my 21st birthday, which is generally a big deal in American culture, but in London it is not, since everyone starts drinking when they're like, 12 (okay, maybe that's an exaggeration). So, I wanted to do something special, but didn't go too crazy. I was happy with my decision to check out this bar. BUT, since we were only there for 45 minutes, we also stopped by a club in Picadilly Square, called Picadilly Institute. It has several floors to explore and made for a fun night. They even let me in for free, since it was my birthday. (One thing I wasn't a fan of in London: cover charges EVERYWHERE!)

Another landmark that I was NOT going to leave London without seeing was Abbey Road, made famous by the Beatle's album by the same name. I stopped traffic in my H&M gold-buttoned skirt, Steve Madden combat boots, and a cape that I bought at a London street market for $10! (The market scene in London is ahh-mazingggg, and there are tons of them to explore-- I visited the Portobello Rd Market)

Another market is the Columbia Rd. Flower market, which is a beautiful place to peruse (and smell!)

It was filled with lots of local color….

 …And flavor!

As well as the opportunity to discover art, everywhere you went:

This is one of my favorite graffiti pictures from the whole trip, and I saw a LOT of graffiti.

Other sites that cannot be missed: 

The Tower of London

The Tate Modern Museum

This is a view from inside the museum of the foot bridge that crosses the Thames.

 Artwork from the likes of Picasso, and other great artists, is displayed here. You can really make a day of it. 

Shakespeare's Globe Theater



The entire outfit, excluding the boots, is from Forever 21! A friend who attended school at Northeastern University in Boston, MA used this photo for the fashion section of their newspaper. Who says you can't wear white after Labor Day?
Bath is famous for its Roman bathhouse, the site of the only natural hot spring in England. It is, therefore, filled with a lot of history and culture. 

This is the Circus in Bath, a semi-circle shaped row of apartments that are quite famous (and pricey!) Nicholas Cage had property here, but had to sell it when he went into debt.

All of the places that you would least expect to find beauty! Explore the streets, go down alleys (preferably in the daylight), and see what there is to discover. Sometimes the places that nobody knows about can turn into your favorite spots. You never know what could be hidden in the heart of a big city, so the best way to find out is to head out with no maps, little expectations, and an open-minded sense of adventure. 


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