Sunday, December 14, 2008

still alive!

HI!!!!! OK. I am a horrible individual for not posting in about three-ish weeks, but I've got a good excuse. See, I forgot that this thing called HOMEWORK exists. Somewhere between Vatican City and Mount Tibidabo, I realized that all this traveling disabled me from doing what I don't do best: HOMEWORK. Alas, I'm in the process of writing all the papers and taking all the online tests I didn't have time to do while I was climbing the Duomo in Florence, basking in the sun on the shores of Barceloneta Beach, and perusing the stalls of Germany's famed Christmas markets, with spiced gluhwein, of course. Once I convince my professor that London epitomizes evil (as expressed in four of Dickens's novels, obviously not in my mind!) and by the time I fully analyze the e-commerce operation of eBay, I promise that Italy, Barcelona, Brussels, and Germany blogs will follow. Get psyched and break out those reading glasses!

Also, I come home in four days, but who the heck is counting? I SURE AM!!!!!!!!!


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lines written a few miles between Scotland and England

Current status: trapped. I kid you not. Thank God the guide lent me his MacBook, or else I'd be freaking out here, somewhere on the border of Scotland and England. Despite the current transportation snafu (our train is broken and we've been stopped for two hours), my trip to Edinburgh was truly spectacular and the fact that I was given free internet usage for my train ride back was just the icing on the cake. After my 2:50 AM wake up (though I don't think I really slept), I lived in a sluberly blur all the way to Edinburgh, despire the chatty Cathys around me. After a guided bus tour (the guide wore a kilt and played the bagpipes when he wasn't lecturing us about Mary, Queen of Scots' beheading), I made friends with the one of the other solo travelers, Beth. We clicked very nicely, as we have a frightening amount of similarities, which made for a nice new friend in a nice new city. After a quick Thai lunch, Beth and I explored the Old and New towns of Edinburgh, and did some shopping along the way. I think I saw more kilts than jeans on the men! Edinburgh is a very historic city with adorable alleyways steeped in tales from years (and beheadings) past. Due to the previous night's sleep (or lack thereof!), we called it a day pretty early, and hit the sack around nine to prepare for the following day's excursion through the highlands.

Loch Ness and all the other lochs (a.k.a. lakes) were amazing. The snow on top of the mountains was totally breathtaking -- seeing the Scottish slopes got me very psyched for the skiing sheason ahead! The mix of lakes, greenery, and mountains made for an amazing countryside... even though I napped each time we entered the coach! Out guide, Fred, as a traditional Scottish man, wore a full kilt and spoke highly of Americans and lowly of the English. It was hysterical! On another note, this trip was filled with an extremely varried group of people "on holiday." My guest house room had two American girls, one Kiwi (a.k.a. a New Zealander), one Colombian, and one Spanish. The bus was filled with people from Azerbaijan, Italy, Georgia (the country, not the peachy state), China, Japan, India... you name it! It really gave meaning to the tour group name "International Friends!"

Currently, our train has not moved... Our delay is scheduled for 145 minutes... Time to cool down...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

i still got it

This week, I wrote a seven-page paper on acid rain's detrimental effects on Earth, an eight-page paper on Dickens' use of pathos and comedy in David Copperfield and Oliver Twist, and a six-page paper on my summer internship. After all of that, I applied for a Spring externship, tweaked my resume, and re-wrote my cover letter. The work never stopped! This blog is mainly for Dad, and to prove that I'm actually still a student. I kind of forgot in between getting murdered by a horse and kissing the Blarney Stone.

My time as a European traveler with no ties re-commences tomorrow at 3 AM as I board the shuttle to my Edinburgh-bound train! (Edin-burra, Edin-burra, Edin-burra! I keep reminding myself.) A Saturday spent exploring Loch Ness and the highlands is sandwiched between two afternoons in Edinburgh. I'm highly excited for all aspects of the trip, especially Rose Street!

So I recently realized that I have 12 days left in England. That is kind of nuts. Didn't I just fly into Heathrow and struggle with my two ruby red suitcases while fighting intense jet-lag? After a week in Italy and three days each in Scotland, Spain, and Brussels, my time on this fair isle is seriously limited. Yikes! However, the fact that lights will be strung and stockings hung upon my arrival makes me feel like my entire time home will feel like Christmas morning!

Now I just need to write three more papers in my remaining 12 days. I think I can handle it, but here's hoping! Cheers!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tres, tres chic!

Bon soir! (I think I spelled that right!) I am back from an absolutely amazing trip to Paris. It is truly is the most romantic place imaginable. I recommend all you lads out there to take your honeys for a weekend get-a-way. It’s a gorgeous city that should really be explored while holding someone’s hand. Regardless of oceanic distances, my trip to Paris was simply splendid. International Friends, the touring company which now knows me my name, as they should, since I keep them in business, took us straight from the port in Calais to the Eiffel Tower, where we snapped some quick shots before jumping on a boat and cruising the Seine River at sunset. We docked after an hour of sailing, just as the Tower began to sparkle, as it does every PM hour, on the hour. With limited time to climb, we treated our calves (but not our wallets) to an elevator ride to the top of the tower and got a really breathtaking view of the Paris skyline. We were able to see the Arc de Triumphe from one side, and Sacre Coeur on the other. After a quick ride back to our hotel, Kathleen and I met up with some other Kent friends for our first Parisian meal, and in true French fashion, I bravely ordered and subsequently scarfed es cargot. They were scrumptiously full of butter and garlic, with a clammy texture and calamari-ey bite. (I’m so cultured.) I’d totally get ‘em again!

After a breakfast of Nutella filled crepes (I was naturally in heaven), our guide led us to Sacre Coeur, a Parisian church, circa 1920. Since all of the churches I’ve seen so far come from a far earlier period of time, it was nice to explore a domed church with more modern architecture. Sacre Coeur sits upon a hill, so after climbing 120 steps, the view of Paris was grand! Behind Sacre Coeur is Monmartre, a small artist’s colony. Strolling in and out of the painters’ stations was an experience in itself. While the hand painted varieties were a bit pricey, tourist shops sold some replicas, so I bought some nice art prints, in addition to some vintage Moulin Rouge advertisements. (Moulin Rouge means “Red Windmill.” Who woulda thunk?) After Monmartre, we actually walked past the famous Red Windmill and took some CanCan shots. How cutsey!

Notre Dame was the nest stop. It looks exactly like Westminster Abbey, but unlike Chaucer’s thankful gravesite, allows photography and had a college choir rehearsing as tourists explored the chapels and spire. Notre Dame sits on the trendy Latin Quarter, where we lunched on some traditional French onion soup, beef bourgione, and chocolate mousse. White wine (obviously) made an appearance, as well, and served as the prefect treat to an afternoon of sightseeing and shopping. I could not stop buying postcards! All French moments look better in black and white, I’ve decided. I bought enough black and white postcards to send one to everyone I love. However, I’ve spent about 30 pounds on sending postcards already, so that might not happen!

From the Latin Quarter, we made way for Champes Elysses and strolled in and out of Chanel. It was fantastic. I found a bag that I really like. It’s only 1,100 Euros. Not bad, right!? LC has it. Now all I need is my own reality show to fund the purchase, which shouldn’t be too bad now that I have the gift of gab and all! =)

After all of these trips, I’ve realized how exhausting traveling is, so I’m not embarrassed to say that by 10 PM, Kathleen and I were completely conked out. After all, a morning in the Louvre awaited us. The Louve (which followed another breakfast of Nutella filled crepes, a.k.a. Heaven on Earth) is frighteningly big place. It must take months to explore. Since we only had 3 hours, we booked right to Mona. She is one tiny painting! Nonetheless, it was awesome to view, and I’m glad I got to take in her traveling eyes. We also got to see the Venue di Milo, the Code of Hammurabi, and Michaelangelo’s Dying Slave. I can’t say I’m an art connoisseur, but it was a morning full of – albeit rushed – culture.

It’s back to the daily grind now, though. I’m off to Scotland on Friday at 3 AM, and have 2 papers of write before then. If anyone wants to chat economic impacts of acid rain, let me know. Au revior! :-* (←That’s a kiss to stay in spirit with my weekend. Parisians love showing love in the most public of places. That is, when they take a break from smoking for five minutes!)

No, Nay, Never!

It’s hard to imagine that at this time just one week ago, I was hauling through the underground tubes of London, Stansted Airport bound, for my flight to Ireland. Ryan (as in air) got us to Cork safely and on time, and staying as true to my heritage as possible, I was in Cork a mere 15 minutes before settling into an Irish pub with a cider in hand. Kevin, a 30ish photographer of Irish scenery and landscapes (or so he said), took an early liking to this here Galway girl, so I just sat on my stool and listened as he recounted tales of his travels through the Emerald Isle. His slurred brogue was just the welcome I wanted. The pub night was brief, however, as an early morning was ahead! After running through the streets of Cork to find the 224 Blarney Bus, Kathleen and I made it to Blarney Castle and strolled the grounds of Rock Close before climbing the castle to the stone, which we subsequently kissed. Aren’t you all excited that I finally have the gift of gab, after all these years of silence? Now my blogs will my TWICE as long and I’ll be a REAL chatterbox. It’s okay, you can laugh. I am! For those of you who have never been to the castle but plan on visiting eventually, start working on your stair climbing now. The winding steps to the top of the castle are quite frightening and steep. I must admit that the little old lady behind me kept up just as well as the two twenty-somethings in front of her… and by two twenty-somethings, I mean a freaked out Kathleen and a giddy Kaitlyn.

After our morning in Blarney, which, by the way, was the only time on our trip that Mr. Sun showed us his stuff, we explored Cork and lunched with Kathleen’s Fairfield friend Greg. We then climbed Mount Everest -- a.k.a. the hill to our hostel -- to retrieve our luggage -- a.k.a. school-sized backpack filled with six days of clothing – and made way for BusErann. Five hours, five hundred sheep, five thousand drops of rain, and five minutes of a glorious bathroom break later, we stepped into the monsoon of Galway, Ireland. Hellooooooo heritage! A few wrong turns led us to a 45 minute wander around the city before finally landing in Ashley’s townhouse in Gort Na Coribe, the housing area for students at NUI Galway. Our first night in Galway was thankfully low key – we chowed down at a rodeo-themed restaurant (which is so fitting since she is my absolute fave of Bret Michaels’ groupies, shout-out to K. Rudy!) and then had some mixed berry Kopparbergs in the Quey’s Bar, which was once a church in a past life. All I wanted to do was listen to people talk! It was nice to be surrounded by a friendly culture once again. The English are pretty rude. Actually, very rude. Just my opinion…

We spent all of Friday on the Aran Islands. The cool thing to do there is rent bikes and explore Inishmor (that’s the name of the biggest of the three isles), but since the Aran rain was coming down in sheets, we hopped into a shuttle and had an Aran native show us the spots. You’ll be confused to know that on an island known for its knitwear, the Aran Islands have no sheep. Just beef cattle. As we drove through the windy roads to the most famous and popular restaurant on the isle, we made a few stops, and despite the rain, captured some awesome shots. After finally making it to the restaurant, we were charmed to find out they serve one type of soup. It was a delish and authentic veggie and potato broth! After eating, we walked in and out of some sweater shops, and out of no where, we ran into Courtney, our friend from Stonehill, who was also visiting the islands for the day as well. It was a great coincidence. She convinced us to climb to the fort at the top of the island, stressing that it’s an amazing view and worth the climb, despite the rain. Kathleen was not convinced, and opted to stay dry rather than climb to what I found was the most spectacular view I have ever encountered. It was a mile hike to the top, so I destroyed my Uggs. Fret not, though -- I have about six more pairs at home! (Thanks Santa!) Just check out these pictures! On non-windy days, walking to the edge and peaking over the cliff is the savvy thing to do, but since I could barely stand, I kept a safe distance and admired from afar before sprinting down the hill. In the fall and winter, there is only one ferry back to the mainland, and I did NOT plan on missing it!

We made it back to Galway in a timely fashion, and ate at The Skeff, an Irish pub popular among the students. My meal was divine and served as a nice precursor to the pub crawl that followed. Galway definitely knows its pubs! The evening was a blast, but unfortunately, theft touched us first hand. Kathleen’s camera was stolen, as was Allie’s cash and cards. The thief was kind enough to leave her wallet and ID, though. Worst of all, she had just made an appearance at the ATM before our crawl began. Kathleen and Allie both handled the theft much better than I would have!

The next morning, we beat the rain and made it to the Cliffs of Moher, among a few other
Irish landmarks. The Galway Tour Company is truly the best thing since sliced bread. Desmond, the 70-year-old tour guide, led us through the Irish country side, singing and dancing the whole way. (No Nay Never is my new favorite Irish anthem!) He was the CUTEST little old Irish man imaginable! Each time he spoke, he repeated his words, which only contributed to his charm. For example, “I live 10 minutes up the road. 10 minutes up the road is my house!” I would honestly move to Galway just to see Desmond on a daily basis. The Cliffs of Moher were absolutely spectacular. We even got to see a real rainbow arch its way over the cliff, post-monsoon. The stormy weather added to the beauty of the Cliffs; I stress you all go on holiday A.S.AP. and bathe in their beauty.

After the Cliffs, we hopped the last Dublin-bound train from Galway Station. After several days of travel, I am sorry to admit that the Four Courts Hostel bed trumped a Dublin pub. After all, I had already been to enough in Galway. I rested up for the day ahead, which began with a tour of the Guinness storehouse. I sipped my beer, but you know me. I don’t even mesh well with Bud Light! The tour was a lot of fun, regardless of my lacking affinity for lager (The wine in France, however… THAT is another story!). After Guinness, the skies opened again, but thankfully not before glimpsing Dublin from atop the factory in the Gravity bar. However, armed with my leopard umbrella, I sat atop the double-decker bus and rode through Dublin. Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the main shopping street whose name has escaped me were all awesome but quickly taken in sites, as before I knew it, I was tucked into another hostel bed on another island. I made my way back to London to stay with Allie and Ashley for a night. We island-swapped! I spend my Monday morning shopping in Covent Garden market before touring the Tower of London with the girls. The rain found us again, but it was still a great tour. I then showed them around Notting Hill (how Posh!) and took them to my favorite Thai pace on Queensway. Before jumping on the Tube to catch my coach back to Canterbury, I impulse bought some nifty Peter Pan booties. They’ll be featured in the next blog: Parisian Edition. They’re tres, tres chic, as the French would say. (I hope.)

Few comments before my Paris blog makes an appearance:
1. Paris is so romantic. I now get why the city is notorious for PDA.
2. I’m going to Scotland on Friday. I leave at 3 AM. To sleep or not to sleep?
3. Rose Street in Scotland has the highest concentration of pubs in all of the United Kingdom. ISN’T THAT AMAZING? ;-) I’ll let you know which one is best.

Cheers… or shall I say, “Au revoir!” (I was just in Paris for the weekend. I’m still thinking in a nasaly accent!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

London Weekend

Note: This blog is from LAST weekend. A lengthy Ireland blog will follow shortly! =)

As I’m sure all you girls remember, before her current stint as a lady lover, Lindsay Lohan had a career. That once-upon-a-time red-headed Long Island gal and I actually go way back (circa The Parent Trap), as one night at Adverntureland in Suffolk we went on a few rides together. No joke. Anyhow, that short-lived career of hers had its Glory Days during Mean Girls. In that classic movie, remember the Halloween party in which LL (a.k.a. Cady) dressed as a corpse bride while every other girl wore lingerie and animal ears and called it a costume? Well, Cady would have definitely fit in with the Brits this Halloween, as their “thing” is to dress as hideously as possible. Thankfully, my Halloween was spent with 300 other Americans upon a boat on the River Thames, so scary costumes were only clad on those who work for Butler, the study abroad program. Oran, the adorable Irish guy, was a dead-on Edward Scidssorhands, and was completely unrecognizable. I repeated last year’s costume and brought Orlando to London as Minnie Mouse. Like my sweet dance moves? The river cruise was amazing. Though it rained, we were thankfully covered and able to dance the night away to current American hits, and older varieties that feature the word “America,” or any of its forms. The night obviously ended with a circle of swaying to “American Pie,” which was a nice break from the serious grooving with which I involved myself for the evening!

The rest of the program-paid-for weekend in London consisted of more touristy activities. On Saturday morning, I awoke at 9 AM! A night of pubbing and clubbing did not stop me from making it to Buckingham Palace by 10:45 to see the Change of the Guard, which is rated one of England’s most awesome, yet overrated ceremonies. November 1st marks London’s formal recognition of winter, so the red coats and black furry caps were replaced with grey jackets. Oh well. There ceremony was still cool, and very royal. I also toured the Cabinet War Rooms of the Imperial War Museum. The latent history buff within me briefly came alive!

But enough about London -- I want to tell you about Ireland! Just wait a few… I have tons of laundry. Cheers!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Space Ships in Gatwick Airport

Aunt Mary, this extremely short post is JUST FOR YOU! I though I'd quickly show you all where I'll be sleeping the night before my SOLO flight to Rome, Italy! Since my flight is at 6:55 AM (ungodly hour, I know!), I will be slumbering my night away in the South Terminal of London's Gatwick Airport in one of the "pods," which are rented by the hours. I went wild and booked it for 10! It has a bed, TV, shower, and bathroom. What more could a girl ask for? Check it out!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And If I'm flying solo...

On my blog’s 18th post birthday, I thought a new layout would be nice. In the spirit of missing anything and everything about fall (by the way, heard you had snow in NY?! What’s up with that?), I had hoped to find some sort of foliage background. But alas, as is the norm with KR, the pink and green trumped. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!

Trips are continuing to shape up, which makes me a very happy camper. I have actually planned a SOLO trip to Italy for Thanksgiving. I will give thanks for the Coliseum, the Vatican, the Sistine Ceiling, the Statue of David (blushing and giggles!), the Ponte Vecchio, and the FOOD of course, as you all chow down on turkey, stuffing, turnip, mashed potatoes, cream boiled onions, string beans, pumpkin pie, apple pie… No complaints, though. I’ve heard the pasta in Italy is decent. HAHA!

My SOLO trip stems from the fact that Kathleen is lucky enough to have family visiting for the week. So, instead of crying alone in my room, I thought, “Why not go on a vacation?” I’m totally excited, and plan on making friends while I’m there. Everyone could use a new travel buddy! I’ll be staying in a friend-recommended hostel in Rome for one night and a dorm or hostel, depending on timing, in Florence for the rest of the time, as I know a few Stonehill-ers there. Venice will be a day trip. I absolutely can’t wait!

This weekend, IFSA-Butler is treating us to a weekend in London. We get to stay in the St. Giles Hotel, right on Oxford Street, so it will be the first time I’m staying right in the heart of Central London. They take us out for a Mexican dinner (I’m obviously already salivating) on Friday night, and on a Thames River cruise on Saturday night. Halloween costumes are required. I’ll be the one with super curly hair and Minnie Mouse ears!

What are you all being? Fill me in! Cheers!

PS, Enjoy some random pictures from 80s night and my trip to Dover, which, by the way, is a very cute city with fantastic white cliffs! The two Europeans in the 80s night picture are my housemates, Tristan of Southern England by way of South Africa, and Marie of Eastern France! You obviously already know the lady in white, and the FABULOUS gal in pink and black with teased hair!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Am. Ster. Dam.

Amsterdam is literally a city that words cannot describe. So, in an to attempt to paint the city, from its red lights to its clog makers, through my prose, I decided a little list might come in handy.

1. Traveling to Amsterdam by coach is quite a lengthy process. The process unfortunately began an hour later than necessary, since six people on the trip forgot their passports. Six! Now, you might say, “Who the heck forgets their passport when they know they’ll be leaving the country?” Well, blond girls who need to clarify if “five past nine” is the same as “nine oh five” do. This delay resulted in our coach missing the ferry, waiting two hours at the Dover port, and sitting in three hours of traffic upon our arrival into Calais that we would not have sat in had the dumb blonde and her cohorts not forgotten their passports. (Excuse my bitterness. I promise it just stems from the fact that our bathroomless coach bus caused me to walk dangerously close to intense embarrassment, if you catch my drift. I begged the drive to stop, as my bladder literally loathes me, and TWO HOURS later, he found a rest stop in the Netherlands. I bolted out of the bus, sprinted to the toilet, and sighed some serious relief. Blondie needed snacks at this stop, which also added some time to the trip.) To make up time, we stopped for a ten minute dinner break, ate our food on the bus, and finally made it to Amsterdam by 10 PM… five hours later than we should have. At least we made it!

2. After checking in to the hotel, which sits on the edge of the Red Light District, Kathleen and I made way for our seriously tripped out hotel room. The walls were neon blue, and the view from our window was a neon sign of a girl dancing around a pole. Below that, were windows incased in red lights… and you know what that means! Our view was everything Amsterdam’s Red Light District epitomizes.

3. Our walking tour of the Red Light District was led by our weekend tour guide Rob, the same Northern Englishman who guided us while in Hell… I mean the mountains of Wales. Rob does not understand the limits of personal space and was entirely too touchy throughout the whole walk. As a result, Brigette made an appearance, and he got the idea. Brigette, as you may know, is my sassy alter-ego, and she made it clear that she was NOT OKAY with Sketchy Rob’s constant shoulder squeezes and arm rubs. Honestly, he should have just knocked on one of the windows if he wanted affection. But that’s just the beginning. He spoke so highly of the prostitute profession as we walked through alleyway upon alleyway of twenty-year-old women selling themselves, and said that if I never publish a book or make it big as a businesswoman, I should look into it, as it is extremely lucrative. He also mentioned that I’d finally be able to have control over a man. I wish I could say he was joking, but he was far from it. Brigette’s even meaner twin busted loose after that, and Rob now knows that New York girls are not to be messed with – mentally and physically.

4. Red Light District = Disturbing. That’s sums it up completely. One night is enough.

5. Amsterdam is only one part of Holland, so I was thrilled to take a break from the cloud of marijuana smoke that surrounded me and spend the following afternoon in the Dutch countryside. We saw tons of windmills, which are staples of the Netherlands, and then saw how wooden clogs are made. It’s quite a process, and takes several months to complete a single shoe. After that, we visited a Dutch cheese shop and got to sample a few types. I only tasted the smoked goat’s cheese, though others loved the varieties so much, they took several trips down the sample line. I think this is why we Americans are quite larger than Europeans.

6. After a morning in the country, we made way back to Amsterdam. The Van Gogh museum was fantastic, but it was no where near as moving like the Anne Frank House. We walked through the bookcase, saw the pictures on her wall, and got to look at the famous diary she wrote while hiding in the secret annex. It was unbelievable, and made the trip 100% worth it.

7. By now it was about 10. Since I didn’t feel like watching hookers flash potential patrons, I hit the sack and bid farewell to a Netherlands night.

8. Some religious observations: There is a cathedral in the Red Light District, which rings every hour, on the hour. Amsterdam has one of the highest concentrations of Christian Youth Hostels. Funny, eh?

9. Dutch people are nicer than the English.

10. The Dutch language is funny to see written. Words are spelled like this: Regaslkhfjhsjgjukivick. I kid you not. That might mean street or something. I didn’t bother an attempt at pronunciation.

11. There was a Thai tranny on our trip. His/her name is Benjamin/Natasha, and he/she registered as a man, though dressed in full-on girly gear. This meant that he/she stayed in a room with three other guys, but evidentially had parts that proved otherwise. On our way home, Benjamin/Natasha became obsessed with yours truly (he must have sensed that I’ve seen Rent lucky number seven times), and wanted to talk about New York fashion from Amsterdam to Bruges, which, by the way, is a Belgian canal city three hours from Amsterdam where we took a long lunch break. He/she called me Princess as we discussed the fabulousness of Woodside, Queens, where he/she called home for five years. Benjamin/Natasha’s “deal” right now is finding a boyfriend in every city, which might be a little difficult, as he/she was not allowed entry back into the UK due to misinformation on his/her Thai passport. I’m sure that he/she is working hard on finding a honey in Calais, France…

In summary, Amsterdam was quite an adventure. I hope my words convey what pictures would, if taking them in the Red Light District were actually allowed! Visit if you dare… Cheers!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

HORSES are NOT a few of my favorite things...

Remember the last scene in “The Sound of Music?” You know, Georg, Maria, and the seven von Trapp children are climbing every mountain as the nuns sing about it? Well, extract that very mountain from the Swiss Alps, implant it in Wales, remove the climbing von Trapps, and replace them with me upon a horse, and you’ve got a pretty decent picture of where I horseback rode this weekend. But that’s nothing. Get ready for some (hopefully long-awaited!) tales from Wales!

Traveling the world has made me pretty fabulous at getting up at the crack of dawn. After a decent bus ride spent slumbering down the A-40 (that’s British for highway), I woke up in Wales. The Welsh are, by nature, friendlier than the English, which made for a nice change of pace. Our first stop was a village in South Wales that borders England. I took the most touristy picture ever and stood with one foot in each country. It was cute! The village is also home to an AWESOME castle, which Kathleen and I explored for an hour before leaving. We got some great pictures, and since it was such a beautiful day out, they look quite exceptional, I may add. The view of the Welsh countryside and rural neighborhoods was spectacular from the castle’s top tower, making this stop my definite favorite of the weekend. You’ll read why in a minute. My life was never in question while walking through the countryside.

Our next stop of the day was Tinturn, home to the famous Tinturn Abbey, which the poet William Wordsworth wrote some lines, which I painstakingly read last year in my Literature History class. He’s almost as dreadful as Chaucer. Almost. Unlike Westminster Abbey, Tinturn Abbey is completely run down and no longer in use, but its ancient, rustic charm remains, making it an interesting and authentic site indeed.

After Tinturn, we made way for our hostel. 16 girls. 8 bunk beds. Too much estrogen. Hostels are SOMETHING, and according to my bunkmates, this one was of the FANCY variety. I can’t complain, though. The beds were warm, the bathrooms were clean, and the Strongbow was a-flowing in the downstairs pub, where we dined with other people on the trip. They were all American, and either working, interning, or studying in London for an extended period. We all swapped travel stories, and I loved sharing with others my European experiences thus far. Their stories were great as well, but you know me… I prefer the talking aspect! =)

Dinner was decent, and served as a great preparation for the night that followed. Bachelor parties, or “Stag Parties” as the Brits say, were in full swing at the hostel, which, by the way, is actually a castle-esque building that also serves as a hotel (I think we were the lucky ones, staying in a room of 16… Just kidding!). The bachelors dressed in full “fancy dress,” which is Brit talk for costume. Before I knew it, I was standing in a life-size portrayal of the cover of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album. “Peace and Love, man,” said the pink-clad faux-Beatle every five minutes. What a night! But that’s just the beginning!

As I have mentioned before, clubbing is all the rage on this fair isle. Next to the ho[s]tel was a nightclub, which our tour guide recommend we definitely check out, as the people watching was supposed to be insane. With no proper dressier clothing to change into, I trekked in my Ralph Lauren oxford shirt, J. Crew blazer, jeans, and Ugg boots to the club, and what a site it was! It was for “clubbers in training,” meaning it was filled with tons of 18-year-old boys fist pumping their nights away. I pretended to know the moves to “Thriller.” It was great. People almost followed my crazy moves. Gotta love those 80s! I lasted about an hour dancing like a machine before taking a well needed shower and hitting the top bunk for some sleep before what turned out to be a fateful day of horseback riding. All of this was done in pitch black, by the way. The other 14 residents were sleepy, I guess. Too bad for them. They could have busted moves to Billie Jean with me! (MJ was in full swing that night!)

After a slack of sleep (the other girls also decided that waking up two hours earlier than necessary was also a good idea), the fateful day arrived. I ate my “last” meal and made way for the stables. Riding helmets are not very becoming, but I fastened that strap right up and listened intently as the instructor taught us the ways of tacking up a horse, or whatever it’s called. I was assigned to Paddy, a beautiful brown horse, and I thought we made a nice match, as we’re both Irish. However, I couldn’t mount him. It’s a shame my attempts aren’t on YouTube, or America’s Funniest Home Videos, rather. The mounting block came in handy, and before I knew it, I was trotting away to the mountain of doom. Holding onto the reigns for dear life, we walked through some flat paths, and though my tush was in agony, the scenery of sheep, cows, hills, and trees made up for the pain… but only for about fifteen minutes.

The “good part” starts here. Brace yourselves.

One thing we learned was to not let the horses eat. Horses love to break from the Indian-style line and graze on leaves and grass, but as their rider and boss, our job is to yank those reigns, kick their torsos with our legs, and pull them away from the green goodness and direct them back to the path. Paddy, or Devil as I like to call him, was NOT cooperative. Every ten seconds, he would wander off the side of the path to munch, munch, munch. You obviously know I’m not a physically strong girl, so no matter how hard I pulled, kicked, and yelled at him (being an older sister gave me good practice for that third one!), the stubborn Devil would not comply. This caused me to fall far back in line, which resulted in Paddy cantering to catch up with the rest of the line. As an untrained rider, I had no clue how to move properly. I think you’re supposed to stand up and down in the stirrups or something. I held onto the saddle for dear life and said Hail Marys as my heartbeat approached attack levels. By now, I was literally crying. My too-big helmet kept covering my eyes, and I literally felt like I’d never be able to ride the New York subway again. (Oh the horror!) THEN, Devil started grazing right next to a tree branch. I had no time to lean forward, as instructed, so to avoid getting clotheslined and falling off, I laid down in the saddle so my helmet was uncomfortably close to Devil’s tail -- and you know what else it right near the tail! It’s unspeakable. I watched my life flash before my eyes and silently thanked Dad for making me go to church every Sunday when I realized I neither fell on my head nor got trampled by the line of horses behind me. Despite that, I still felt like death, and wanted nothing more than to run back to the stables, find a river, get to the Atlantic, and breast stroke my way back to NYC. No such luck. The trail guide tied Devil to her horse and we made way onto our next trail, which was the aforementioned Sound of Music-esque mountain. I’d much rather climb every mountain by foot. Apparently, the mountain was freezing, but I was too hyped to realize. I just planted my shaking hands on the saddle and tried to enjoy the scenery, which, I must say was spectacular.

After our time on the mountain, we took a quick break to let the horses eat. They decided it was a good idea to switch me from Paddy to Warrior. They said Paddy really should have been given to an experienced rider, since he’s the oldest in the barn, and knows every trick in the book. “Well, THANKS for that,” was all I could think as I miraculously mounted Warrior, who proved to me much less devilish than Paddy.

I could not have been happier when we reached the stables after three whole hours of sitting on horseback. It’s Tuesday now, and I am still in agony from bending back in a way humans are not supposed to. Oh well. Wasn’t that a great story?! Mad props if you made it this far.

This week was certainly one of daring experiences. I forgot to mention that on the Friday before heading to Wales, I day tripped into London to check out the Burberry outlet. I did not know that the neighborhood, Hackney, is known as the roughest part of London. I’ve never clenched my purse tighter in my life. You should have seen my face when the cab driver said that Hackney is “Packed to the brim with crack and guns when it gets dark out.” And after all of that, I made no purchases. Paying in pounds was a bit too rich for my blood, though the jackets, raincoats, and umbrellas certainly were nice.

Friday morning marks the beginning of my first trip into continental Europe. I never thought The Netherlands would be my first stop, but since it’s Kathleen’s 21st birthday, we decided a crazy city such as Amsterdam would be “the” place to celebrate her American legality. After riding Paddy the Devil, I’m sure I can take on the Red Light district… just not from behind a window, obviously!

I send a special thanks to Mom and Aunt Kathy for the 57 “Where are you?” instant messages I came home to Sunday night. I told you I would be okay! =) Love and cheers to all. Also, I send a special shout-out to Stonehill! Miss you all! <3

(PS, Please excuse the photos of me with Devil and Warrior. I had on about 15 layers, and the camera already adds 15 pounds!)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

It had to happen eventually

I regret to inform you all that I’ve had my first experience with theft while abroad. I’ve been warned that the Brits do not want to hurt you; they just want your possessions. Apparently, the dreaded thief was in desperate need of my generic brand cranberry juice and semi-splurge bottle of sauvignon blanc. (S)he also made it out of Ellenden #10’s kitchen with a half-full (See, I’m still keeping it positive, just like Elle Woods!) bottle of Tabasco sauce, three onions, 10 tomatoes, and loads of cheddar cheese, among other things. The residents of our fair house believe a careless resident forgot to lock the door, which then allowed the soulless and uninvited visitor to raid our kitchen while we were upstairs asleep or counting sheep. Apparently, I was one of the lucky ones, as the only things I had in the fridge at the time were some peppers, kale (It was cheaper that lettuce.), carrots, and yogurt. The criminal must not have a mom who is into balanced meals. It’s a good thing (s)he didn’t take my Nutella. If so, there would be serious hell to pay. I now store my groceries in my room for safe keeping.

Granted, it could have been worse. My passport, wallet, computer, and most importantly, my Burberry jacket, are all safe and sound, as they are locked in my room at all times, but the principle of the whole debacle seriously irks me. Get your own groceries!

Thank-you for allowing me to vent.

In true Kaitlyn Rose fashion, I didn’t let the thievery ruin my day. We all went out that night to blow off some steam on the dance floor at “The Works,” the nightclub in town. We busted out our best moves, of course, and made it a late night. While on the bathroom line, a sauced blonde Brit asked where my accent was from, to which I replied “New York!’ Her first question: “Have you seen LEGALLY BLONDE on Broadway?!” Need I say more?

After last night, we’re keeping it low key in Canterbury tonight and treating ourselves to a Tex-Mex dinner at Origins, a cheap yet delish restaurant on campus. Tomorrow night is 80s night at “The Venue.” Get ready for some outrageous pictures… Cheers!

Monday, October 6, 2008

My first trip! =)

Hi everyone! Long time no blog! I just got back from an absolutely incredible weekend tour of Oxford, the Cotswolds, Bath, and Stonehenge. It began at 4 AM on Saturday morning. I’ve never seen that hour before; the darkness is comparable to 11 PM and the coldness absolutely unspeakable, but that did not stop us from making it to our bus into London on time. After arriving in London, we hopped on our “International Friends” mini bus of 16. 5 American students, 5 Canadians, 2 Aussies, and 4 Singaporians made up the company. The bus chatter made me feel like I was back in my days as an intern at Fusia Communications, if you catch my drift.... After some light dozing on the mini bus, which, by the way, was driven by an adorable English man named David who we were undoubtedly obsessed with, we made it to our first destination: Oxford! Debbie of Oxford Tours led us around the city, pointing out where people from her nieces to J.R.R Tolkein studied. She was the most enthusiastic woman I’ve ever met. After the tour, which brought us around museums, libraries, various colleges, and famous buildings which have been in movies that feature famous Brits from James Bond to Harry Potter, we had some free time to explore the shops in the city. Jenna, Kathleen and I all bought matching “Oxford Blue” rugby shirts, our only souvenirs of the weekend.

After our Oxford departure, we made way for the Cotswolds, a collection of adorable English villages that are pretty much untouched by anything modern, except for the cars, which now line the streets and driveways. Burton and Stoe-on-the-Wold are two similar towns filled with shops and pubs, including the oldest in all of England! It was unfortunately closed, so we popped into the tea shop next door for some jacket potatoes, a dish that is equally huge and delicious on this side of the pond. We kept saying our moms would have loved these villages! We then moved onto the residential neighborhoods of the Cotswolds. Their beauty cannot be conveyed in words, so you must all promise to tour them at some point. You can thank me later. Upper and Lower Slaughter and Bibury were utterly picturesque. Each house was cuter than the next, making the Cotswolds a spot I’d love to visit again in my later years.

After a very full day, we made it to the hotel and essentially collapsed on our beds after enjoying the best meal we’ve had since our arrival. I took Oxford Debbie’s suggestion and bravely ordered a meat pie. My life changed and I no longer think the English food is gross. This pub alone was worth the trip into the countryside!

Sunday brought some rain and another full day of touring. We visited Bath and saw the Roman Baths, which are much cooler in person than in pictures. Thought it rained during our trip, the baths are under awnings. We then strolled around the city for a few hours, noticing that it is the most Italian of any English city. No surprise there, as Bath is know as a “Roman City.” From Bath, we moved on to Castle Combe, which was my favorite stop of the entire weekend. Castle Combe is another picturesque English village, similar to the Cotswolds, but 10 times better. It’s known as the prettiest English town, and with good reason. Little streams with little ducks made this city girl want to move into one of the little houses in little old Castle Combe… for retirement, of course! After Castle Combe, we visited Lacock, a medieval town which pops up all over every Harry Potter movie. I felt famous to walk on Daniel Radcliffe’s coveted ground. We visited a Scottish Wollen Shop, and chatted it up with a little old man, who was the best thing about Lacock!

Our final stop of the weekend was Stonehenge. Though it’s essentially a huge clump of rocks, it is awesome in its own right. We got some good pictures there and then snoozed our whole way back to Canterbury… after a three hour wait for a bus home in London, of course! No complaints, though. It was a great weekend, and I recommend the touring company “International Friends” to anyone and everyone looking for a fun weekend get-a-way.

Next weekend will be spent in London, followed by the ever-talked-about trip to Wales! Can you believe how close it is?! Cheers!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Little boxes on the hillside...

Nothing makes me happier than bright colors.. I’ve realized that I can still bust out my brights while in England. I walk, talk, act, and eat like an American. I can’t hide that, even while wearing black tights and grey dresses. (To be honest, I find the European double-utensil eating style kind of gross and bad mannered. Just my opinion…)

Yikes. Moving on… Today was a great one in Kent, England. The weather was definitely crisp, but the sky was blue and the grass was dry. Apparently, Canterbury is in a little weather bubble due to its placement near the surf, so it misses out on the London fog, rain, and dreariness. It is simply wonderful, and made today’s excursion into Whitstable, an adorable and COLORFUL seaside fishing village, perfectly picturesque. Kathleen, Jenna, and I strolled along the surf, proving that you certainly can visit the beach during fall in England. It was nice to smell low tide again while watching the waves crash on the rocks. We passed fishing boats unloading their catches for the afternoon and wished we could pocket some to take back and cook ourselves. (You’d think fish would be cheaper here, island and all. Not so much.) We then made our way to a waterfront, hilly area, filled to the brim with tiny cottages in a rainbow of shades, and seriously went to town with our cameras. Kathleen and I attempted to make an “SC” for Stonehill College on the porch of the vacant purple cottage with our bodies. Then we fell. Good times and go Skyhawks! It was a truly adorable little place to spend the afternoon. The people were the friendliest English folk we’ve met thus far, which helped make some delicious icing on an already rich cake.

Tomorrow will consist of preparations for my first legitimate excursion! I am so excited, but must apologize that the next blog will have to grace this page next week, when I can blabber on about the happenings in Oxford, Bath, Stonehenge, and wherever else I wander! Keep on keeping it real in the States. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Turning a Big Fat No to a YES!

Kaitlyn Elizabeth Rose just does not accept NO for an answer. Here’s some background: Each class at Kent meets twice a week, once in a giant lecture hall, and once in a smaller seminar group room. Each module (That’s Kent-speak for class) has about four different groups that meet at different times during the week. One ANNOYING seminar on my timetable (again, Kent-speak for schedule) was listed for Thursday night, while all my other commitments fit comfortably into Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday slots. The ladies in the land of schedule changing wanted nothing to do with my American self. (Their loss.) They said absolutely nothing could be done, and that I’d have to deal with the Thursday time, as other students with more legitimate conflicts have priority. (Psshh, traveling is a priority of mine. It’s a totally legitimate conflict. To be fair and honest, though, I played the vague card and said I had “Other Commitments.”) Too bad those ladies don’t know me. Professors don’t scare me, even if they do have pompous British accents and shelf after shelf of books they wrote, edited, and forced students to purchase. I went straight to Professor A.V. Chadwick of the Physics department and switched that “timetable” right up. My four-day weekend is now official.

Now for the good part of the story! After hearing about my fabulous schedule, Kathleen and I decided to go on a celebratory bar crawl in Canterbury, organized for new students by old students. We did not realize one crucial factor, however. When we popped into the initial bar, the crowd was a little… off. All the girls were decked in black corsets, and the guys in very ripped jeans. Hair colors were neon, and combed into mohawks or greased into dreadlocks. We figured, hey, it’s just England. Oh how wrong we were! After a while, Kathleen and I were the only “normal” ones in the bar. People were talking about past acid trips as if they were as commonplace as afternoon pints. (It’s insane. In England, a Carlsberg lager is a totally acceptable lunch. I like my pints of Strongbow, of course, but I still crave some legitimate afternoon sustenance.) We found out we were on the Metal Rock Society’s bar crawl. Kathleen, my Burberry jacket (which, for the first time, looked out of style, and a coat this beautiful does not deserve that!) and I booked it out of there as fast as we could, laughing the whole walk back to Ellenden Court, where we then charmed our three American friends with our tale as they enjoyed their stirfry dinner. It was an unusual way to celebrate, but it did the trick.

On another note, our Ireland trip is planned, now that my schedule is known. It took until October, but all went according to plan. I think that deserves a big CHEERS!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hanging silverware and reflective castles

Some of you may have met Brigette, my extra large sunglass-wearing alter-ego who came about during my senior year of high school, though she now limits her appearances to late weekend nights when party guests start to move on with their evenings. Well, recently I met a real-life Brigette, who is mother to Marie, the new roommate to 10 Ellenden court. In other words, the honeymoon is over. Kathleen and I are no longer the only Queens of the Castle and the only residents of the second floor in this humble abode. Oh well. It will be nice to live with Marie’s French accent.

Last Wednesday, I attended the societies fair and got a taste of the types of clubs available at the University of Kent. It’s definitely a creative bunch of organizations, and it took a while to find the “normal” ones. I took pamphlets for the American Club (ha!), the Creative Writing Society, and RAG, which is the service organization on campus, so I’m sure joining them will help me start to make some friends, which has not come easy, as Ellenden Court is a bit secluded from the main part of campus. On our trip to the gorgeous Leeds Castle yesterday, however, we hung out with a nice group of Americans who are also visiting for the semester, making for a really enjoyable day. Leeds castle is absolutely spectacular looking, as you can see from the photo. It was a sunny day, so we strolled the castle grounds and abused our digicams before wandering through passageways to where Henry VIII had secret rendezvous’ with Anne Boelyn and Catherine of Aragon. Crazy stuff! We were then able to lounge on the grass overlooking an English golf course, wander (successfully!) through a maze, and brave the castle grotto. It was a great excursion for the day.

Prior to my Sunday spent at Leeds Castle, I trekked into London for Saturday afternoon. The two-hour bus ride compensated for some lost sleep, and revved us for our first Saturday in London. Needless to say, my hand was covering my purse every second as we attempted to shop on Oxford street. Verdict: too crowed. We met up with Kathleen’s friend from high school instead for a pint at the pub. I am a huge fan of the cider here. American needs to adopt the drink. After our afternoon happy hour, we Tubed to the Tate Modern, a very contemporary art museum filled with a variety of paintings and other forms. My favorites were the Picassos and the Jackson Pollacks. I can’t say I have the most learned eye when it comes to art, but I still felt very cultured as I attempted to find meaning in the paintings. The coolest thing we saw was a room filled with hanging metal objects. It’s hard to describe, so just visit me and you can see for yourself. It’s a free museum, too, so I must tell the truth and say that fact was probably the best part of my day.

Next weekend, I’m off to Oxford, Bath, Lacock, Stonehenge, Bibury, and the Cotswolds. Pictures and blogs to follow, of course. This week, something called school starts… What’s that about?!


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I hope my eggs didn't break...

Americans will never be as attractive as Europeans. Simple as that. Last night was the international students dinner and Kent did it up nice for the several thousand students who hail from lands beyond England, Scotland, and Wales. (I wonder how those horses are holding up…) Our table consisted of four Americans, four Germans, and one Dutch. Everyone got along nicely and talked about their respective cultures, expressions, foods, and what not, making it for a very enjoyable dining experience. Everyone was instructed to wear their “National Dress.” I took that to mean some of my best and brightly colored Polo Ralph Lauren. Others busted out berets, full-on Indian garb, caftans, ponchos, etc. etc. This event was the first time we had free wine provided, making it the first night that I returned to my room feeling not broke, which is a feeling I have not had in a while. (And that is not to say I am blowing all my money on my first bits of legal booze. I promise.)

Moving on.

Today we took a guided tour of the Canterbury Cathedral, which is a truly magnificent church. A little old Englishman was our guide, and therefore the best part of the tour. After that, we bought out Tesco, Canterbury’s discount supermarket. Take the word discount lightly, however… I busted out the bargain hunter within and found some items that would be considered cheap even in America… but only a few. Taking all of our grocery bags back on a double-decker bus was probably the most eventful part of the day. I allow you all to laugh as you imagine this.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Horse + Wales + Me = ????

I need to stop saying “Thank-you.” England is all about the “Cheers!” Hello one and all from Canterbury! It’s nice to know that I’ve finally reached my official destination for the duration of my time as a UK resident. I’ve been at the University of Kent for about three days, after the London extravaganza, which was as exhilarating as it was exhausting. I need a vacation for my vacation!

Call me crazy, but I actually enjoyed the orientation program. The meetings were pretty amusing, as it was fun to listen to British accents for several hours straight, and Kathleen and I clicked with two new friends who will hopefully become travel mates of ours for the duration of our time abroad. We were viewed as the London “experts,” so after our program dinner, we had a flock of jetlagged lads and lassies follow us into Central London for an evening out on the town. Needless to say, we were pretty exhausted all weekend, but that did not stop us from venturing into Picadilly Circus the next night for a play and pub crawl. We befriended a troup of travelers from Down Under and beyond; they all met in different countries over the course of the year and met in London for the weekend, reunion-style. I am definitely a fan of the kinds of friendships you make while traveling, and I hope that as I continue my travels here, I’ll accumulate as many as I can.

After some goodbyes and a two hour bus ride through the English countryside, I arrived in Canterbury and began to unpack. The Brits treat “Welcome Week” (a.k.a. “Freshers’ Week”) much differently than they do in America. Instead of organizing name games and hand-holding, they throw you into the culture instantly. Before I knew it, I was on a bar crawl that culminated in a night of dancing at “The Venue,” the University’s on campus dance club, which is rated the best university club in all of the UK. Since I was well rested, among other things, it was a very fun night. Brits dance completely differently than Americans. Boys will dance together in groups, and are often more “into it” than the girls, which completely fascinates me. While waiting online to enter the club, I befriended people from all over, literally. Greece, Austria, the Caribbean, Germany, Brussels, and beyond. Kent’s not kidding when they say it’s the most diverse Uni in the UK. I loved hearing them try to imitate American accents, which they’re all obsessed with. How flattering.

The next few days were (and are, for that matter!) full of meetings and a few receptions and wine socials for international students, making it a mix of fun and borrrrr---inggggg. Classes start a week from yesterday, which is hard to take in. Starting class in October is something I’ve never done, and to be honest, I’m pretty antsy to get going with everything. The rainy season has also started, but I am equipped with pink rain shoes and a matching coat, so all is well and fashionable, as it should be.

Now, for some exciting news, listen up! Call me insane, crazy, out of my mind, since I probably am, but here is a flexible itinerary of my weekend plans for the next three months:

October 4-5 --- Oxford, Cotswolds, Bath, Lacock, and Stonehenge
October 9-12 --- Heather visits London
October 18-19 --- Horseback riding in Wild Wales
October 24-26 --- Amsterdam and Bruges
October 31-2 --- London IFSA Program Weekend
November 7-9 --- Edinburgh
November 14-16 --- Paris
November 21-23 --- Ireland*
November 28-30 --- Thanksgiving in Canterbury
December 5-7 --- Barcelona with Justine*
December 12-14 --- Brussels and Aachen Christmas Markets
December 19 --- NEW YORK, NEW YORK

*We need to plan on our own. The others are organized by our program.

Lot going on, eh? Kathleen and I had a minor freak attack when we realized getting to the airport is a four hour bus ride, making traveling quite a pain. However, we then realized that IFSA has a partnership with “International Friends,” a tour group that gives discounted rates to IFSA students. Best of all, the tours leave from Canterbury. We celebrated with cider and planned the next three months seamlessly. I don’t know which trip I am most excited for... As of now, our trip to Oxford, Bath, Stonehenge, and the Cotswolds is all set, and as of recent, our Wales Horseback riding extravaganza is also booked. Can you imagine me on a horse in the mountains of Wales? Start picturing it. I hope the horsey will like me! Giddy up!

I got so caught up with blabbering about my travel plans that I failed to mention my first trip into Canterbury, which I highly recommend you all check out. It is the most adorable city with a loveable Medieval charm. Kathleen and I took the UniBus into town for the day and explored the shops and streets, which are all closed off for pedestrians, thus upping the Medieval feel. We also took a row boat down the river that strolls through the city, allowing us to take some pictures that, as Allison puts it, look fake. That’s how magnificent the town is. Tomorrow, the Uni is taking us on a guided tour of the Cathedral. The campus overlooks the Cathedral, so I’m very psyched to see what it looks like from the inside.

That’s all for now. Cheers!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

London meets KR

Hello mates! I send a bright and cheery hello from LONDON, a city which I already adore despite extreme culture shock and overall amazement with every sight, sound, and smell. As I write this, I imagine I’m writing in a lovable British accent – a high-pitch chat of which I believe I’ve already perfected a dead-on impression. I’ve been from London to Surrey to Guildford and back to London in less than two days, and as is appropriate, I’ve got some great stories to tell. Here goes…

Before I go any further, it must be put into print that MaryAnne Rose is BY FAR the most fabulous relative who bears our very floral last name, which says a lot considering the heaps of competition she’s got. By providing my travelmate, Kathleen, and I the ultimate hook-up prior to our flight across the pond on Virgin Atlantic, MaryAnne made my very first international flight completely amazing. With a special VIP ticket to the “Virgin Clubhouse,” I was able to hobnob with some Brits who have some serious quid to spare on Upper Class Tickets. Perks of the Virgin Clubhouse includ free drinks, food, showers, reading material, and beyond. Best of all, the lovely little lady flight attendant whom the Roses of GC befriended invited the parents in to enjoy some Johnny Walker and Grey Goose along with their daughters, making it a fabulous way to start the trip off. And ok, Mom and Dad can also fall into the “best” category, as well, since they’re the ones who got me here! =)

The special treatment doesn’t stop there.

After a few seconds on the runway, prior to take-off, the supervisor of the Upper Class cabin made an announcement for Kaitlyn Rose and Kathleen Atkins to identify themselves, making the entire economy cabin curse in British slang as we were handed champagne to enjoy during take-off. It was nothing short of a fabulous time and a flight that, despite turbulence that had me Hail Mary-ing for a good hour, was comfortable, on time, and hassle free.

Our first London cab ride broke the bank a bit, but got us safely to the Kensington Hilton in one piece. We got settled, made some sense of our luggage, and before we had a second to breathe, we were on a train to a fantastic tudor mansion in Surrey, a house at which Kathleen has some family friends from her days as a resident of Japan. Their son took us out to a club in Guildford. Not going to lie, the culture shock absolutely terrified me, as it was a lot to be thrown into after not sleeping for a day, but it was interesting to experience a time like I’ve never had before. (After all, the farthest I’ve been from home is Arizona, and how can you not enjoy that?!) While clubs definitely aren’t my “thing” (I much prefer a relaxed pub, as you will see below), it’s all the rage in England, so I hope it will grow on me, which I’m sure it will after another day of de-jetlagging.

Despite our fabulous hotel in Kensington, which we’ve decided is a neighborhood similar to Beacon Hill or Greenwich Village, we ended up sleeping in Surrey for our first official night, but that didn’t stop us from hightailing back to London for a day of TRAVEL… after getting cell… I mean, mobile phones in Surrey, of course! We started or trip with a one day travelcard purchase, which gave us the option of traveling anywhere in London for one inclusive price, which we completely abused by taking the “Tube” about 10 times. No joke! Abbey Road was our first stop, so we went Beatles crazy, taking our own photographic version of the famous album cover. To be honest, it looks like any old “Zebra” crosswalk; the best part was watching tourists, like ourselves, walk over the crosswalk 37 times, hoping that each shot will look as perfect as John, Paul, Ringo, and George did during the Summer of Love. It was fabulous and got us very pumped for our next destination: Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

Big Ben is far more breathtaking in person than is expressed in pictures. The detailing on the clock was awesome, making it my favorite stop of the day. We took some (and by some I mean about 50) toursity pictures, grabbed some paninis for lunch, and continued our visit in the area, which we plan on visiting again tomorrow when we take a double decker bus tour around London’s hotspots.

Buckingham Palace did not have any guards on duty that we saw, but it was definitely awesome looking. It’s located in a very cute area, which we enjoyed exploring for a few minutes.

(Note that the rest was written on the following day.)

After that, we Tubed to the Tower Bridge and walked over it and along the River Thames. Foot exhaustion set in BIG TIME at this point, so we rested a little and people watched, giving us the perfect opportunity to take in London’s population and the respective quirks. Some notable ones: Men wear very nice shoes. Women wear black tights with everything. Their teeth really aren’t that bad. Boots are in. Smiling is not.

We then continued on to Picadilly Circus, which is London’s equivalent of Times Square and the Theatre District. While it has its own charm, it was so similar to New York, making it a pleasantly nostalgic walk through lights and tourists. We checked out London’s Chinatown before having a traditional London pub supper of fish and chips. Our Spanish server took an extreme liking to the only two American girls in the pub – a.k.a. us – which translated from flattery to excellent service. He definitely made us want to trek to Barcelona, as he mentioned it’s “Just like London but BETTER.” Hopefuly Ryan, as in air, can hook us up.

Bedtime approached soon after that, but not for long. We were up early to catch our double-decker tour bus excursion. The full-day of hop on hop off tours took us to a lot of the same places as the day before, with an added commentary from animated British men… and one apathetic British woman. We learned some fun English trivia and passed some spots such as Elton John’s apartment and the garden in which Mary Poppins sang about flying kites, among the traditional tourist spots, such as Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Westminster Abby, where we also took a guided tour. I especially liked standing on top of Geoffrey Chaucer’s tomb. I like knowing he can’t write any more Canterbury tales to torture me with. =)

As nighttime approached, Kathleen and I separated for our first time since arriving, making us feel extremely big shot and fabulous. While she went to celebrate a family-friend’s birthday, I added another notch to my Les Miserables tally. (Number 3.) It was phenomenal yet different from the New York production, making it totally worth the splurge. Since Europe is much more risqué than our sheltered state, the costumes and blocking were much more revealing and vulgar. The violence was also upped considerably, making my tears for little Gavroche’s death more like wails of horror. Gotta love those TKTS booths, though in London, the discount barely registers, which brings me to my next discussion… MOOLAH.

London, as I learned on the tour today, is the world’s most expensive city. One ride on the Underground is 4 Pounds, which translates to 8 American dollars. A tiny little lunch sandwich costs 3 pounds, and an extra dollar if you want a place to sit. I can’t even tell you how much I’ve spent on just tours, transportation, and food. God help me tomorrow when Oxford Street meets KR. It’s the shopping capital of London. My plan is to put my pounds and cards in a block of ice.

We leave tomorrow for the Berjaya Hotel to officially begin our time with the Institure for Study Abroad. We spend a few days in Notting Hill before coaches shuttle us to Canterbury on Saturday morning. I’ll update again soon!

With love and a big ol’ cheers,


Friday, September 5, 2008

it's London. i NEEDED one.

Well, it was a lovely day in Roosevelt Field today. Escaping the Indian summer to the central air was well worth the infinite amount of credit card swipes that abounded in a mere two-hour span. First off: boots. The only boots that have touched my feet in the past year are Uggs and the skiing variety. From Chestnut to Cranberry, Uggs are my winter staple, but not in England. It was time for something new, so, breaking out of the box, I splurged on some black leather ladies. They’re quite fabulous and almost edgy. Yiiikes! No worries. I’ll never become a biker chick.

Moving on.

Next up: tote. Vineyard Vines and Vera Bradley just won’t cut it in England, but I think my new graphite Longchamp will. While staying in tune with my style, the bag is a color will help transition me from here to there while working with an array of colors in my new Euro fab wardrobe that’s heavy on the neutrals and light on the pinks. It’s all about the neutrals when you can only take two suitcases for 3 months.


Number three: make-up. Mom was kind enough to provide me with some Sephora cards, making my Clinique collection grow considerably. Some new bronzer, blush, and shadow will enhance my make-up bag, and (hopefully) me! =)


Alright. I swear it was on sale. We’re talking major splurge here. Totally worth it. Been eyeing it forever. It was time. I, Kaitlyn E. Rose, am now the proud and privileged owner of a Burberry quilted jacket. It’s black and fabulous and heaven and makes me happier than any other garment I own. I figured after working the entire summer, I deserved it. And hey, it didn’t even cost an entire paycheck.

Needless to say, I am feeling fabulous. Maybe I should try packing all of this now…?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Premature Excitment Takes Its Toll

Premature excitement. Avoid at all costs. After cartwheeling for joy upon learning of my approaching four-day European weekends, I stumbled out of the dreaded white boundary. (Can you tell I’ve got some serious Olympic fever? It’s quite the metaphor.) This week’s travesty, which I’ll learn to deal with, put a bit of a damper on a week that should have been associated with nothing but excitement. My amazing Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday series of days off is no more. I now have Mondays off, but class on both Thursday and Friday. Well, Friday is a possibility, depending on which seminar I’m placed in. OK. Why am I getting ahead of myself so much? Kent lists in bold print that nothing is set in stone. Let’s just bank on the original plan. Okay. Rant: done. Positivity: continuing.

Today is my last day of work. Bells are ringing! Don’t get me wrong, it was an awesome internship at which I learned a ton, but it’s definitely time for my three-week summer. It’s crazy to think that I’ve got only one more weekend at home before I jet to Heathrow and freak out that my luggage will become someone’s new loot. Two consecutive weekends of fabulous trips to New England are in my stars. However, I’m ready to drop the “New.” It’s time for the old and classically actual England.

Keep your fingers and toes crossed about my schedule. PLEASE.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kaitlyn's List of Things to be Excited About

1. It’s the last week of my internship. I am five days and a few PowerPoints away from sleeping in, obtaining a skin color that’s more Jasmine than Snow White (via daily beach trips, of course), and lazing my afternoons away with new chick lit in hand.

2. I finally bought luggage. It’s a bold yet muted red, which might cause some issues, considering my obsession with all things bubblegum pink. However, it will be easy to spot in Heathrow when I’m freaking out that my luggage – and therefore, my life – and been pilfered mere minutes after landing in London.

3. has ridiculously cheap tickets for my trip home. Flying from London to New York just days before Christmas for under $500 bucks is unheard of, but definitely not where this bargain-hunter is concerned, thankyouverymuch.

4. I am collecting a great bunch of English slang via “Operation English Immersion,” a plan of mine which entails the following:

a. Read only books by British authors. Book One: Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. Book Two: Shopaholic Takes Manhattan. (No one said they had to be intelligent books! I’ll be reading seven Dickens novels over the next three months. I’m entitled to as much trashy chick lit as I want for the next four weeks.)

b. Read only English editions of my favorite magazines. British Vogue. British Glamour. British Cosmo. (Thanks for warning me about that one, by the way. Apparently, there are no rules -- and therefore no censors -- in British girly mags...)

c. Listen to only European music. (I extended this from “English” to “Euro,” as I need to start practicing my dance moves for the discotecas in Sevilla, Florence, etc.) Favorites include Kate Nash and Lily Allen, the potty-mouthed lassies who sing with amazing cockney accents and Alphabeat, the Danish group that sings such upbeat tempos it’s impossible not to sing and dance along. It’s also impossible not to laugh. English is their second language, and it definitely shows. (“Love like an elevator.” That makes sense? Nah, but it sounds great!)

5. And the most important item on this list… If you just skimmed to this, you’re in the clear, as nothing matters as much as the lovely number five on Kaitlyn’s List of Things to be Excited About. I ONLY HAVE CLASSES ON MONDAY, TUESDAY, and WEDNESDAY. This means that from Wednesday night to Monday morning, I can be in Brussels, but back on Monday night for class after having a ridiculous weekend in a city beyond Canterbury. This. Is. Fabulous.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Three crucial developments that have helped to enhance the fabulousness that will be traveling abroad

Well, it’s been a while… though I’m not sure if anyone really reads this yet. =) I promise, theses tales of pre-travel preparations will not bare in comparison to my times that will start as soon as Virgin Atlantic Flight V-Something takes off at 9:30 PM on September 14th. Well, maybe a few hours after, since, if all goes according to plan, I’ll sleep my way across the Atlantic and force myself smack into the land of London time! With the time difference added to the flight time, my first hour as an official England resident will commence at 9:30 on September 15th. (That’s 9:30 AM to you Americans. 9:30 PM is actually 21:30 in European time, which I’m starting to adopt. Just kidding.) The early arrival gives Kathleen and me three days to explore all that London has to offer before our program officially kicks off with a London orientation on September 18th. An itinerary will have to be made soon!

As my internship winds down, my time abroad is zooming (pun intended) closer by the second. Fabulous occurrences in the past couple of days include the solidification of the fabulous Heather’s trip to London from Sevilla in the south of Spain, the semi-solidification of my own travel plans for my time abroad, and – probably most importantly – the announcement of my English residence! First and foremost, I’ll still be celebrating Columbus Day, even though it won’t even spark the English’s radar. That wonderful weekend will be Heather’s ho-down in the land of tea and crumpets. We plan to spend some time in London, and then see some other sites in another English city, such as Oxford! I’m sure it will be one of my favorite weekends of studying abroad!

Moving on: As for my own travels, I have a “mandatory” list of cities to hit. Galway and Cork are a must, for the heritage, of course. I’d love to visit the Aran Islands, as well. You should all beware of the day I kiss the Blarney Stone. I’m a little scared, too. Sevilla is a must as well. By visiting in late November, I’ll hit the city as the temperature just dips below the 70s, which will be a very welcome change from the cloudy Canterburian skies. (I’m not sure if that’s a word, but as far as I’m concerned, it works well and will be henceforth utilized.) I’ll also be a criminal to culture if I study in England without ever hopping across the Channel to Paris. Last by not least, Italy is a big “must see.” I hope to spend a loooong time there and see at least Rome, Florence, and Venice. My stomach is already churning!

Other places I’d loooove to see include Brussels (it’s just a hop, skip, and a Chunnel ride away) and Switzerland, but we shall see if time and money allow those trips to occur. Every college student adds Amsterdam to their list, though I can’t say it’s a top priority of mine… for this trip at least. Maybe if my new plan of backpacking through Europe post-Graduation pulls through!

Moving on, again: For the duration of my time abroad, I’ll be a resident of the Parkwood Houses on the University of Kent campus. 10/F Ellenden Court, Parkwood, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7SH is my new home… whatever all those letters mean! I’ll post some before and after pictures to show the Americanization of that lovely little room!

Until next time… I still need luggage, a credit card, a winning lottery ticket... =P

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"They got a divorce, it's a matter of course..."

I’m going to see Billy Joel in 3 hours and these final 9 minutes at Zoom are the only things stopping me from running up Madison Ave. singing about Brenda and Eddie’s friendly divorce. (You will probably hear me in Calfornia during that tune tonight.) It will be a fabulous time, of course, and will certainly fulfill my concert dream. Piano man, here I come!

On a more travel travel-related note – because, isn’t the whole point of this blog to be a travel collection, though it’s been much more heavy on the rambling as of late – my ticket to England is officially booked! Kathleen and I land in Heathrow on the morning of September 15th and plan to have three days of London tourism before our program starts, a slight but welcome change from our original plan. I’ve started buying black garments to minimize my Americanness, though my hot pink luggage will probably prevent that.

Who cares, though. I’m going to see Billy Joel.

KR out.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Kaitlyn's No-Fail Guide to Sushi Fabulousness

In my times, trials, and tribulations on the mean streets of Manhattan -- and even trickier times on the tree-lined blocks of the GC -- I have come to consider myself quite the sushi extraordinaire. Maybe it all started while interning at Fusia Communications last summer… After all, from accent to action, I seriously embraced the Pacific gal within me. So, let me take you from NY to the GC on a three-stop, rock-and-roll tour of my favorite sushi spots. Get out your chopsticks, prepare for a few sake bombs, and enjoy this Japanese delicacy, which has become my absolute favorite treat!

If you're in the mood for a TRENDY scene, HIP servers, PEOPLE-WATCHING (!), and the great OUTDOORS, step right into SushiSamba 7, located at 87 7th Avenue between Barrow and Grove Street in the West Village. Remember that time when Samantha doused the cheating Richard with her cocktail? Well, look a little closer next time after you chow down at the ultra-colorful SushiSamba. Congratulations, you've officially dined on the set of "Sex and the City," and perhaps enjoyed a cocktail or three on the very stool where Richard was royally and rightfully served. Colorful is no lie when describing SushiSamba. From the rainbow of tropical shades that deck the interior décor to the dynamic hoards of passers-by that you'll certainly spy while sitting at one of the coveted street-side tables, the variety at this place is unparalled -- and it doesn't stop there! With a Mexican twist on traditional sushi dishes, you are sure to experience an explosion of flavor in both your mouth and, unfortunately, your wallet. To avoid what could potentially be a pretty money-draining dinner, visit the hotspot mid-day. Their $20.07 (and, oh, what a crucial extra $0.07 it is!) price fixe menu runs until 4 PM, so embrace your inner Grandma and enjoy an early bird special if a lunchtime chow-down isn't in the stars. I've dined at SushiSamba many a time, often times while flying solo. Pop a squat on one of the outdoor tables (assuming New York quits this hair-shattering humidity we've been having), or keep it cool in the central air while tucked into one of the colorful and cozy booths. The rooftop deck for a cool cocktail after work also serves as a champion way to bring the happy into everyone’s favorite hour. Sip, sip. I’m sure I’ll see you there!

On another note, make sure to use the facilities at this amazing place, even if nature fails to call. Freshen up, send a text, whatever-- just go! This basement bathroom is more of a romantic walk through a jungle than a dirty NYC spot to break the seal.

If you’re in the mood for a POWER-LUNCH, CREATIVE rolls, DIM LIGHTING, and a BAR-LIKE atmosphere, spend your next New York minute in Chef 28, located quite purposefully on 28th Street between Madison and Park Avenue. I was turned onto this miniature Midtown East location in early May, and have religiously returned each subsequent week. With an undeniably fantastic lunch menu that boasts a full selection of Chinese cuisine in addition to some seriously eclectic maki (the peanut avocado is just to die for!), Chef 28 is the perfect place to run in and out of on your lunch hour. Two rolls, a salad or soup, and a crunchy noodle appetizer for under 7 bucks? It’s no wonder this place is a hit for dine-in and take-out. Though I’ve never been there at dinnertime, Chef 28 has a killer selection of special maki, with names ranging from “the Princess” to “the Fantasy.” Head on over. Fulfill your fantasy. Chef 28 is the perfect place.

If you’re in the mood for a CLASSY atmosphere , FRIENDLY staff, LONG ISLAND locale, and REASONABLE prices, join me in the GC at Sushiya, my all-time favorite Long Island restaurant and place to chow down on delectably raw fish. I have two words for you: SPIDER ROLL. This champion of champions makes me get up in the morning. I wish I were kidding. It’s just really nice to know that a quick shot-gun ride away is such an incredible explosion of flavor, texture, and overall amazingness. Just go. Just order a Spider Roll. Just make sure you ask. For some inane reason, thr Sushi Ya owners booted this little piece of heaven from the menu. Have no worries; regulars like me know it’s the hidden stuff that tastes the best.

Runners up:

1. Miso, Main Street, DUMBO Brooklyn. Great for a quick lunch. Take it out to Brooklyn Bridge Park down the road and enjoy your spicy crunchy salmon maki (my favorite Miso specialty) with some breathtaking views of the bridges, South St. Seaport, and downtown Manhattan.

2. Kodama Sushi, 8th Avenue, Midtown Manhattan. When in need of a super-quick pre-theatre meal, look no further than this hole in the wall. Fast service, dirt cheap prices, and proximity to every Times Square nook and cranny, Kodama mixes charm with fabulous food.

Bon apetit!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

the "Tales" begin

My European wardrobe may have to adopt some colors other than my typical pink and green, but my blog sure won’t!

Hello, hello to my family, friends, and any and all clickers-by. I also extend a special greeting to the agent who is lucky enough to stumble upon this blog. Ideally, after reading it, you’ll take me on as a client and help fulfill my life-long goal of publishing the greatest American novel imaginable. Let’s make it happen! Anyhow, welcome to “Tales from Canterbury,” my obvious English-major take on my three-month trip to Canterbury, England. As I’m sure many of you know, I’ll be spending the Fall semester of my Junior year as a Stonehill Skyhawk at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England -- mascot unknown at press-time. Map-wise, Canterbury a small city set in the English countryside with fabulous proximity to London, Paris, and Brussels. The city is supposed to be utterly quaint, and has a lot more charm than is conveyed in Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales,” which I was totally blessed to have read last Fall. Please note that I say that with writhing sarcasm. The Kent campus overlooks the city, and by city I mean the CASTLES OF CANTERBURY. Hey Dad, now I really am a princess! I’ll know more when I get there, and it will all be recorded right here. The fabulous thing about blogs (which, for those of you aren’t as tech-savvy, is the shortened form of “Web Log”) is that they don’t take up room in your suitcase, and, unless the computers of the world crash, leaving us all dazed and confused without e-mail, can’t get lost. A blog seems like the perfect match for a girl like me who 1. will by no means stay within the suitcase weight limit (I blame my shoe collection) and 2. loses things as often as she opens her mouth. You all know me well. You all know that’s a whole lot!

I decided to start this blog today, a few minutes ago, basically out of sheer boredom. But more importantly, I want to take you all with me on my trip. I want you to help me hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, I want you to sit with me at pubs (!) in Ireland, and I want you to be there when I make my cross-country flight. Unfortunately, all those hearty Christmas dinners have caught up with us, and my bright red luggage (I know, it totally going to clash with my pink motif) just won’t be able to fit you all. So, instead, I opted to print a few photos (so you'll all be with me in essence) and write this blog to keep you all in the know of my European travels, and, oh yeah, studies, too. (Just kidding. I really am exceptionally psyched about one class in particular, which takes its students on tours of the places Charles Dickens wrote about back in the 1800s! He is one of my favorite authors, so I am naturally thrilled about this opportunity in particular. But I'll have more to say about that once classes start. The English nerd within me will really blossom. I mean, come on, I worked at a library for almost 6 years. Books make me tick!)

While it’s just July, and my flight a few months away, I figured, why not start blogging now? I’ll need some place to vent out my frustrations about Europeans not wearing prints, plaid, argyle, and bright colors (oh, the tears) or the fact that it’s a social sin to smile at a stranger while across the pond. Yeah, I might not follow that rule. I’ve been educated otherwise.

I’ll probably blog again ASAP. I am really liking this. I hope you’ll all comment, enjoy, and hey, totally share this with your friends who may want to travel back to their days as a carefree college student. Or maybe they know a book agent who will make me the newest, youngest gal to top the Times' book review... =) Ulterior motives aside, I really hope you'll all read and enjoy. I'll be thinking of you all with each cobblestone street step I make.

Have a fabulous 4th of July Weekend. Perhaps I'll see some of you soon!

Cheers to Independence and XOXO,

Kaitlyn, your Canterbury Tale-Teller