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.

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.

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…

Conversations with Strangers: Chris from Brisbane

How we met: I really wish I could make up an exciting story (preferably involving a Vespa and a sunset), but I am a terrible liar and we met on Tinder. I refused to meet him at first because I am convinced that as wonderful and attractive Australians are, they are also heart-breakers and should be avoided at all costs. But, since he asked nicely  I agreed to show him around Barcelona after class. We wandered the city talking about how Poland was pretty much shit out of luck during the 20th century, aborigines are the Australian equivalent of Native Americans and how it took him only seven years to graduate a four year University.

About him: Chris is hanging out in Barcelona for a few days, as part of his three month world tour. He has traveled through the United States and Europe, all while carrying a jenga set, a porcelain doll and two steins in his suitcase. He is a former swimmer and rower, with great hair and a heavy Australian accent, which I found very comforting. I meant the accent, but I suppose great hair is also comforting. 

Coolest experience: “Every day is an adventure.” While this is a very valid statement, I think a man who has spent the last three months wandering the earth could have come up with something a little more profound.

Life dream: Chris aspires to have his own TV show back in Australia with his best friend. With his dynamic personality and good looks, I actually have no doubt that he will succeed. So one day, when Chris is a famous Australian TV personality and is invited to host Season 42 of Dancing with the Stars, you can say, “Hey, that’s the dude that Pauline met on Tinder that one time.”

I suppose he just wanted to touch himself in his selfie. I wanted to do the same.
I suppose he just wanted to touch himself in his selfie. Can’t say I blame him.

Conversations with Strangers: Roman from Kazakhstan

How we met: I was trudging through Brussels airport with two bags that collectively weighed more than me, so I flagged Roman down in his airport golf cart. He was hesitant to help at first, but when I spoke Russian to him he immediately drove me across the entire airport to my gate and even carried my bags. I got to see the secret corridors of the airport while uncomfortably listening to his very Putin-like political views. It was interesting to say the least.

About him: Roman is from Kazakhstan, but he likes living in Belgium and working at the airport. He plans on moving to Russia because he prefers being in a more conservative country, “where they don’t allow gay people.”

Coolest experience: Shooting weapons. He didn’t elaborate. I didn’t ask.

Life dream: Time travel to a roman orgy.

Roman took many selfies before finding the perfect Russian smolder

How I survived a total of 24 of travel (And unsolicited advice on how you can too)

Be polite to airline personnel.

At the airport, they are god. Do not underestimate them. Ask them how their day is, say please and thank you. I got a free upgrade to business class on my connecting flight, an extra bag checked for free, unlimited international phone calls and a ride across the expansive airport just because I was nice to everyone that I came across.

Smile often. At everyone. Always.

I got an extra Belgian waffle at the café I was eating at because the clerk liked my smile. Smiling is pretty much the secret weapon to getting whatever you want.

Refresh, I guarantee you smell.

Nothing feels better than freshening up after hours on a plane. Wash off your makeup and reapply it fresh, change your shirt and reapply deodorant. Also, change your underwear; it’s a total game changer.

It’s okay to cry.

If the world is falling apart around you and you are tired and you are hungry and you missed your connecting flight and you don’t know what you are doing or where you are going and no one is picking up the phone and you do not have Wi-Fi and all of your bags are too heavy and your arms hurt from carrying them and you are sweaty and gross and really need to take a shower and you have a wine stain on your shirt: CRY. Cry for a minute, then quit being a bitch and get your shit together.

Call mom.

Just do it. She’s probably worried about you and needs to know you haven’t been abducted. Also, she’ll talk you through your mini 18 hours of traveling break down.

Belgian waffles are clutch.
Belgian waffles are clutch.

“Be brave. Learn a lot. And know that God is always with you.”

I leave for Barcelona today.

Naturally I had about a million errands to run. I was nervous and stressed, and going 100 miles per hour. I had forgotten about the joy of my upcoming adventure and was letting my last few hours at home slip away.

Comfort came in the form of kind words from the most random of places, my dry cleaner.

My dry cleaner is one of the kindest and most hard working people I have met. He knew that I was going abroad and saw that I was stressed, so he told me about how he came to America in 1979 not knowing anyone or any English. Now, he has a thriving business, a daughter with a masters degree and a son in industrial engineering at Northwestern University.

Then he smiled at me and said, “Be brave. Learn a lot. And know that God is always with you.”

I think I’m ready now.