London Calling

This weekend I traveled to London to surprise my best friend for her birthday. I’ve been to London before, so this wasn’t my first rodeo. Regardless, I decided to make the most of it and do all the touristy things once more.

I toured the entire city by foot over the span of two days; visited the Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Albert Memorial, Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park, Harrod’s, Wellington Arch, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery,  Chinatown, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The London Eye, The Tower Bridge and The British Museum.

Phew, that was a mouthful.

The museums were absolutely amazing. I could spend forever and a day in the Victoria and Albert Museum, The British Museum and The National Gallery. The National Gallery has a wonderful collection and it’s surreal to stroll through, admiring the works of Van Gogh and Monet.

My favorite artist to see is, without a doubt, Rubens. I would love to go into a discussion of his painting techniques or whatever, but honestly I just like his art because he paints everyone fat, and that makes me smile.

Afternoon tea at Sketch was another highlight. You essentially pay a lot of money to drink fancy teas and eat buttery scones with jam. I happen to like anything that involves butter, so it was another win for me.

My favorite part of my time in London was watching Les Misérables performed live. This has been my dream for the past few years, so I bought myself a ticket for the best seat in the house. If you’re wondering if I went to the theater alone, yes. Yes, I absolutely did.

I have been thinking about how to write about my Les Mis experience, and I just can’t do it justice. The level of joy that I felt during those three hours is like the time I saw Beyoncé live, but imagine it’s Christmas and also your birthday, and you drive a ferrari, and you’re in love, and your best friend is Amy Poehler and you have a pet sloth.

Overall, I did enjoy my time in London, but I think one weekend was sufficient. Everyone abroad always say they loved every single city they visited in Europe. Those people are all dirty liars.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved certain aspects of my trip. I just don’t love the city itself, and can’t imagine having to staying longer than a few days. It’s cold, rainy and expensive. A dish here costs what I pay for an appetizer, two courses, a dessert and a drink in Barcelona. Moreover, the people aren’t particularly pleasant, nor are they particularly good looking.

To end on a brighter note, man buns are bountiful here and that’s where London scored back some points.

Nothing says, "I am having fun," like a jumping pic. Also, mom, I need new jeans.

Nothing says, “I am having fun,” like a jumping pic. Also, mom, I need new jeans.

Conversations with Strangers: Renean from South Africa

How we met: Long story short, I moved into my apartment a little early and my new room was occupied by a wonderful girl from The Netherlands who had her friend visiting. Basically, Renean and I got to be roommates for a whole three days.

About him: Renean is South African, but resides in The Netherlands. He speaks fluent English, Dutch and Afrikaans.  When we first met I was tempted to recreate the scene from Mean Girls where Karen asks Lindsey Lohan, “So if you’re from Africa, why are you white?” 

Coolest experience: Going 185 mph on his motorcycle in Germany on the Autobahn.

Life dream: Renean would like to become an entrepreneur and has a lot of ideas for businesses that don’t yet exist. He would also like to become a sommelier, which is basically someone who gets paid to drink wine. I fully support that.

My very first South African friend, I feel so global.

My very first South African friend, I feel so global.

That Time I Went to the Gym

My roommate Laura invited me to the gym, and naturally I felt inclined to go. As much as I am loving my carbolicious lifestyle, my booty is getting a little too big for it’s own good.

I expected the gym to be like any other: rather dark and unpleasant, with rubbery floors, an awful color scheme and grunting men galore. Instead, the floors were marble, the front desk workers all wore suits and ties and there were even multiple saunas, for days when you just can’t decided between a dry sauna and a wet sauna.

Laura and I decided to check out a BodyPump class, which is big thing here in Europe. In case you are unfamiliar with BodyPump, its a barbell weight lifting class coordinated to today’s hottest music. In other words, its like a Zumba class taught by a coked up Schwarzenegger.

The class was taught by José, a ripped Spaniard with a man bun and hipster glasses. Actually, I don’t know what his name was, but he definitely looked like he could be a José. For 45 minutes he yelled over pop hits like Iggy Azalea’s Fancy, while making awkward eye contact with me during squats. The class then culminated with an overly dramatic stretch session set to Sia’s Chandelier.

Against my will, Laura and I then migrated to a spin class. After 45 minutes of squats, lunges and dead-lifts, the last thing I wanted was for my stubby little legs to pedal a bike. Midway through the class, the instructor declared that we were climbing a mountain, which means you set your gears really high and trudge along as hard as you can. He proceeded to blast a techno remix of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song. He then turned off the main lights, and green strobe lights came on. 

It felt like one of those clubs you go to in Mexico when you’re 18 and are too wasted to notice that you’re having a bad time. I really did expect strippers to bust into the spin class at any moment with trays of tequila shots.

I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to move any of my limbs tomorrow, but I’m excited to keep going to the gym here. They’re really onto something with the whole, “Maybe if it feels more like a rave and less like exercise, people will enjoy it.”

Me doing BodyPump. Just kidding, my real photo would have involved a lots more sweat and panting.

Me doing BodyPump. Just kidding, my real photo would have involved a lot more sweat and panting.

Tripe, Bidets and Nutella

Today is the big move, and I am most definitely ready to be in my own apartment. Yes, I actually did find an apartment and will not be a homeless.

I’m very much so looking forward to living more comfortably, which means being able to identify my dinner, not shaving my legs in a sink and being able to freely eat drunk food.

The other night, dinner was a combination of chickpeas and mystery meat. It looked like a plate of gravy with some rice on the side, and since I’m not a very picky eater, I decided to go for it. The texture was that of poorly cooked lobster, so I decided to pretend it was, in fact, lobster and managed a few more bites. I finally asked Hans what it was, and immediately knew mistakes were made. He explained it was cow stomach; I had unknowingly eaten tripe.

Bathroom comfort is another thing I am excited for. The only time that it’s acceptable to shave your legs in the sink is when it’s winter and you’ve been lounging around all week in yoga pants, but suddenly bae texts you and says he’ll be over in ten minutes.

Also, almost every bathroom here is equipped with a bidet and I’m not sure how to feel about it. I just don’t understand how you would want to share one with other people, but I suppose it’s no different than sharing a toilet. The other day, I dropped my shampoo bottle into my host family’s bidet and promptly decided that I would just never wash my hair again.

Lastly, I think it will be nice to not have to be a house guest anymore. Last night, Kelly and I stumbled home around 5 in the morning and decided it was a great idea to break into the kitchen. By “break in”, I really mean we just walked in, but we’re not allowed in there so it was all very exciting. We hit the jackpot, and found a jar of Nutella.

I think it’s best we leave before they open that jar to find half of it gouged out.

Tequila, Jäger and Sambuca shots, tequila sunrises, sangrias and a two pint  class of vodka redbull. Cause of the nutella incident.

Tequila, Jäger and Sambuca shots, tequila sunrises, sangrias and a two pint glass of vodka Redbull. Cause of the Nutella incident.

Conversations with Strangers: Kyle from Boston

How we met: I met Kyle and his buddies, Alex and Ned, while waiting for the metro. They were speaking English, and being an English speaker myself, I decided we had enough in common to become friends. We spent the rest of the night bar hopping and I am most definitely still feeling the remnants of last night as I write this.

About him: Kyle is also studying abroad in Barcelona and has agreed to be my Spanish gay best friend. He had his Jack Spade messenger bag stolen the other day, which made us both very sad. Also, he has a very soft face.

Coolest experience: Jonah Hill was filming at a library at Kyle’s school, so Kyle snuck in and ambushed the Superbad actor outside the bathroom. Jonah put his arm around Kyle for a photo and Kyle said, “”Whoa, whoa, whoa. We’re moving too fast.” He then offered to smoke Jonah up, but unfortunately he had a flight to catch. Later Kyle was featured on the Wendy Williams show to talk about his celebrity encounter.

Life dream: Kyle aspires to touch Anderson Cooper one day. He also dreams of being able to lean into the wind like Michael Jackson in the Smooth Criminal video.

Sober or nah?

Sober or nah?

Eat The Damn Bread

I think I have eaten more carbs in these past two weeks than I have in the past year.

And I am happier than I have ever been.

Breakfast is always cereal with either toast, croissants or muffins. Lunch is a foot-long baguette. And not the Subway five dollar foot-longs that are actually like 11 inches. We’re talking the whole damn foot here. It usually contains about three thin slices of salami or ham….which is practically the same as eating just bread for lunch. Dinner is usually pasta, rice or potatoes.

Oh, and can’t forget about my daily 5 p.m. pastry, because what kind of monster would have just a coffee.

I walk pretty much everywhere in the city, which I think gives me this kind of food freedom. I have been eating like this all week and my pants still fit just fine. Granted, they’re actually just leggings with pockets that look like pants. But hey, they still fit.

I want to return to the States as the savior of all woman who are afraid of carbs. I’ll be the Oprah of bread, throwing baguettes and pastries left and right, yelling, “You get a baguette, and you get a baguette!

I think what I’m trying to say is that bread makes people happy, and I think the world needs more happy people.

Yes, I'm holding bread. Yes, I am that happy.

Yes, I’m holding bread. Yes, I am that happy.

Update 1/23/14 11:18pm: Mama Kulka called and said I should probably stop eating bread…

The Spanish Host Family Experience

For the first two weeks of my study abroad program, everyone was placed with a host family. I live with a rather nice Spanish family in a small apartment in the northern part of the city. I share a room with another girl in my program, Kelly.

My host mother is Montserrat, a sweet woman in her fifties who wears a different pair of pajama pants every day of the week. She’s convinced that I am Jewish and insists that all Polish people are. I tried to explain that 90% of Polish people are Roman Catholics. She then asked if I was sure that I wasn’t Jewish.

Montserrat’s son, Hans, eats dinner with Kelly and I every night so that we can practice our Spanish. Hans may be the only 15 year old boy who has ever disliked me. I think it’s because I always ask him if he can take us to the skate park with him to hang with the cool kids. But, I think I’m slowly growing on him.

Living here is very humbling. The water in the bathrooms is always cold, Kelly and I share a room the size of a broom closet and dinner is essentially peasant food: pasta or potatoes. I like to think of it as Sparta, but without a half naked Gerard Butler.

I think what bothers me the most is that I was expecting to be part of a family. However, Montserrat always has students in and out of the apartment as a form of income. Kelly and I are treated a bit like hostel guests: we have to buy our own water and we can’t shower for more than ten minutes. That basically means that I have to choose between washing my hair or shaving my legs and the struggle is very real.

My host family experience isn’t very glamorous and it’s not necessarily what I expected, but overall I can’ t complain. They are good people and I’ll kind of miss them.
Hans was nice enough to let us take a picture with him.

Hans was nice enough to let us take a picture with him.