I have had so much work lately, that I have basically lived in my room, or in the library, working away on my essays and lab reports. It's not so bad, because I get stuff done, but sometimes when it is so sunny outside, it's a bit saddening to be inside. Last week I decided I really wanted to get out and see some of London. In Japan, it is a big thing to go out and see all the autumn leaves. In London, not so much. But since it was already November, and I was worried about missing the leaves, I decided to get up really early one morning
and go to take some photographs. I had great plans to go to more than one park, and even go out to Richmond Park and see some deer. In terms of practicality, and time, that never was going to happen, so I decided to go to Hyde Park. I arrived right at the entrance, and it was full of parents taking thier kids to the Winter Wonderland, which is this big German Christmas market and ice rink which they hold there. I bypassed that, and made my way into the park a little farther so I could find some trees.
There were some nice tall ones right near the walkway, so I took lots of them - one was even a weeping willow and I got to go inside it. Once I got a bit farther, and around near where the Serpentine pond is, there were a lot more beautiful trees. Hyde Park is amazing because you are right in the middle of the city, but it certainly doesn't feel like it. There were a few walkers, and a lot of "urban skiiers" but it was so quiet and peaceful in the morning.
I dont even think anyone was on the water, no boats were out at all. Being out in Hyde Park, the light and blue sky was just so perfect for taking photos. And it reminded me a lot of what I like about photography - taking photos of sunlight and natural things - I'm pretty bad at taking photos of people or buildings - I so
much prefer to be outside and taking a photo of a tree. That said, I have a million and one photos of classical iron railings and lampposts. Before I left for Japan, and living in Bristol, I took photos like that all the time. It was the first time I've felt like pre-Japan-Taylor since I've come back, and it was
really nice to get into my photography again. I took photos all the time, as anyone who's ever seen my Facebook surely knows, but since coming back to London, I've barely taken any photos at all. Before, all I wanted was to visit London and take photos every day. I guess living here means it just feels a bit like a chore, rather than an advnture.
I was quite pleased with what I had taken, so I went to leave, but then realised I was smack dab in the middle of this huge park, and it was a long, long walk to the nearest tube stop. I decided to go the long way, which led me past this cool tree next to a classic London phone booth, and along a nice bridge overlooking the river. As I reached the exit, I realised where I was - across the street from the Royal Albert Hall is the Albert Monument - one of the most unique monuments in London, and there were these huuuuuuge trees lining the path. On my trip to buy my car,
we stopped there, way back in 2010 - it seems so long ago - but Hyde Park was just as beautiful as I remember! I'm so glad that I actually got out of the house and went on a mini-advnture - all alone, sometimes those are the best ones and the ones where you fall in love with London all over again.
One of the last stops we had on our trip to Paris was the great Laduree store on the Champs-Elysee street. I have been there before, and I was excited to show Josh it. He was able to pick up some presents for some teachers that helped him, and I bought a nice box of yummy macaroons for my classmates
back in London. For each other, we bought these giant macaroons - just like the normal ones, but even bigger. While they were almost five euros, they were perfectly sized, incredibly sweet and yummy! After, we headed back to our flat to get our bags and then Josh took me all the way to the Eurostar train station so I could get home...and he still managed to get home before me! It was such a wonderful, romantic weekend - something I think we both needed - no stress, and a wonderful time in the city of Love.
We had a really relaxing Sunday, we got up, hung around a little bit and then went to the market with Judy. After we set off from the market, we went over to the Champs-Elyse, and actually went into the middle of traffic so that we could get some photos. I took quite a few of Josh, trying to make sure that I didn't get any cars in the shot, but then some lovely American asked if she could take the photo of us together - which was just so great - because usually we don't get photos together when
we go away unless we are with other people. So we got one more for the photo albumn. In Japan, people offered all the time, and so I was happy to have someone offer while we were in Paris. We wandered down the street for a while, and went in a few shops (Sephora!) and grabbed a nice lunch too. We just were having a really lazy Sunday so we wandered where we felt like it. The Orangerie museum was very busy, and had a long line, so we decided to check out the Christmas market that they had near there. They even had my favourite - white chocolate covered grapes!
We did so much walking on that Saturday, it was crazy. But we hadn't been to the Eiffel tower, and I so desperately wanted to go. So, we decided to walk. Yes, you can see the Eiffel tower from the Louvre, but it isn't very close at all. Rally not very close! But we did walk the whole way there, across a nice, dark park And through a German Christmas Park, over several bridges and down some cute side streets before we even made it there. But we arrived about 5 minutes to the hour, and were able t get a yummy hot dog inside of a baguette. We sat under the Eiffel tower, and ate there. You can't sit UNi Tokyo tower, as that's where the visitor centre is, but it was so nice to just be there. On the hour, all the lights glitter and it's so beautiful!
in France, you aren't supposed to say you love or hate the big glass pyramid which serves as the entrance to the Louvre. You're not supposed to love it because it wasn't designed and build by a Frenchman, and you aren't supposed to hate it because it is an icon of France.
I really like it, as it really is iconic, and I've come to appreciate that. At night, they light it up all beautifully, and from the inside it's great, so as we were leaving we had a lady snap a lovely picture of us and the fire extinguisher. Outside, I set my camera on a bench on the
far corner so no one would knick it, and then took some photos of Josh and I. Apart from one or two at Sacre Cour, over the whole weekend, these were the only photos I have of us from all of the places we visited on Saturday. We went to so many places, and has such a nice time that it was good to get a nice iconic photo for our holiday albumn.
Josh in general doesn't like modern art museums, but I was excited for him to see the Louvre, because it is full of amazing classical paintings. To be honest, you could be there for months and not see everything. It took us a long time to walk over from Notre Dam to the museum, but eventually we made it. Somehow, we got to a road which I remembered from a child. There are pet shops full of puppies, little garden centres, and crepe shops. I remember running down that street all the time with Shelby as a kid and it was amazing how
much I remembered from Paris, even though I had only ever been there as a teenager. I never wandered around, and I'm terrible at directions, but if I've been somewhere, I just remember it. Hopefully one day that weird skill will come in handy! I got into the Louvre for free again ( loving being under 25) and then we wanted around with. O particular plan, just aiming to see the major works. I took Josh to see the Venu de Milo, which has moved rooms slightly since I was last there, and to see the Mona Lisa. I feel bad, but everyone goes and sees it, and you
can't get close to it or spend a lot of time staring at it, and there are some other beautiful paintings in the room which are completely overlooked. And it's behind glass, so you can't even see the brush strokes or anything! It is a shame that people have become so obsessed that they can't even display it safely. We went and saw some of my favourite stuff in the museum, and saw the great Egyption section and all the wonderful marbles statues from Itay which I love. Be of my favourite new discoveries was this Olympus room which has
this amazing amazing ceiling which is pained in gold and with beautiful angels. We stayed right until it closed, and it was dark outside. We had such a great time!
one can't rally visit Paris without visiting Notre Dam. It is probably the second most visited place in the whole city. In my entire life, I never remember going inside, though I am sure, over all the many times I was in Paris as a child that we must have gone inside at least once.
We went up to the front and there was a large, stadium style seating in front of it. We weren't quite sure what it was for, but in front of these stadium style seating, we're hundreds and hundreds of people, changing and singing and standing right in front of the doors to the church. I was really worried that me might have accidentally turned up to one of France's famous protests, and coincidentally, not be able to go inside. We found out not too long after, that this huge mass of people was being allowed into the church, through a huge door that they opened for them. Turns out,
they were pilgrims. I'm not sure why, and I'm not sure why they had signs and staffs with shells on them, and huge loudspeakers. They all had matching shirts too, so they must have come as an entire group. We were still able t get in via the main door, so I was pretty happy regardless.
Inside, the church is incredibly huge. It wasn't as ornate as I had expected, but it was nice and warm, and welcoming. And full of people. There were so many people there you could barely move. There was a service going on with the cardinal visiting, and everyone was singing and it was lovely. Unlike Saint Chapelle, there were only a few little stained glass windows. Towards the Back f the church there were a lot more windows, and a lot less people! There were private areas for praying and a bit more history about the church
We walked around the church, and considered going up to the bell tower, but there was a ally big queue, so instead we decided to wander over to the Louvre. We didn't get very far before I wanted to stop and get a yummy Nutella crepe. It was amazing, and perfect for an after lunch snack!
Right near the Metro, we found a nice little restaurant to have lunch in. I'm always a little wary of choosing restaurants that are too touristy, but this one was just right - and we had a croque madame and the most amazing French onion soup (which has now become one of my favourites!)
After our super delicious lunch, we wandered around some more until we came to the Palace of Justice. Inside of the Palace is Saint Cheppele, this lovely lovely church which was by far the most beautiful thing we went and saw on our trip to Paris. I got in for free, because I was under 25 and also an EU citizen. Paris has an awesome policy like that meaning a lot of young people now have access to great cultural sights. When you go in the main level, it doesn't seem like anything special - actually a little bit like a crypt with a few statues. Thankfully, we went up
a set of stairs which was such a good plan, as the whole church was up there! It was so incredibly beautiful and full of amazing stained glass windows, on every single surface. They were full of pinks and oranges and yellows, alongside these geat stone statues and candelabras hanging from the ceiling. It was so amazing!
After visiting the Sacre Cour, and heading down all the many, many steps, Josh's aunt left to go run some errands. We hadn't expected to be left alone, and were quite unsure where to go, or what to see, but armed with a little tiny metro map, we set off. I was quite grateful to be pointed in the right direction, because once we got off of the Metro, I knew kind of where I was, or at least recognised that we needed to wander along the river. We had a great time wandering around the town, and learning how to orientate ourselves.
We wandered around, and had a really lovely lunch, and dessert too, and discovered this cute little side street which had this building covered in ivy - it was so pretty, and so traditional and French. The ivy was growing out of this great tree that snaked right up the side of it. It was a little cold, but we were having a lot of fun taking it at a more relaxed pace. For once we had no destination and could just wander and soak it all up.
On Friday night, I took the Eurostar to Paris - while Josh tooka plane from Germany. It was so nice to be with him again - and this time in the city of Love! We stayed with his great aunt, and then in the morning she took us to the Sacre Cour, which is this big church on top of this hill all the way in the north of Paris,
and from it you can see all over Paris. It was incredibly cloudy on Saturday morning, which didn't make for great pictures, but it was still nice to walk around the area surrounding the church, which is full of art galleries and little artists painting people on the street. It was really quaint. One time, we will have to go back so that we can see the whole view of Paris!
Another thing I ended up going to, which was quite out of character for me, was an NFL game. I had seen a bunch of people in Steelers jerseys a couple weeks before but hadn't really thought about it. It turns out that there was another game happening, and so me and my classmates ended up buying tickets and going along.
It was a Jacksonville Jaguars and San Fransisco 49ers game. Probably not a very difficult game for them, but either way, the game is always a big deal because we just dont have an NFL team here - so when they visit London - people come and watch it - both expats and locals alike so that they can watch an American football
team - regardless of what team they usually support. We had such fun, and the highlight for me was watching the American Anthem being sung at an arena, a HUUUUGE arena, in my second home. It was really special for me. The game was a bit lopsided, and of course, the Jacksonville Jaguars lost, but because they were the
home team, they had given each and every person a cool flag to wave around! I loved it - and I even tried really hard to learn some of the rules and follow the game! We left a little early, so thankfully we had no wait at the tube stop, and got home not super late!
Sadly, Josh's week of holiday came to an end, and I was hysterical, but he had to go back to teaching in Germany. I know he loves his job, but I had gotten really used to him being around so much, especially when I came home after school each day. I kind of threw myself into my school stuff with my university friends. When we had first arrived at Uni, my friends Cara and Emma had signed up to do this Glow Run with me. It was only 3Km, and was to benefit the Royal National Institute for the Blind. It came
up on us much faster than we had intended - I hadnt even been to the gym since about April! But we went anyway, all the way out to Mile End Stadium where it was set up. They turn the lights off, and put up black lights in certain places around the stadium, and then in two places, they spray you with this incredibly cold UV paint. It was so sticky, and felt yucky - especially afterwards, we felt quite gross - but it was so much fun and we looked pretty cool doing it!
Now that Madam Tussauds has a waxwork museum in several countries, maybe its not quite as special - but I love the one in London because of the sheer range of people that they have in them. I remember seeing Oprah in America - which was cool, but in England recently they added a whole section of the
British Olympians from the 2012 Olympics, and of course - we have the Royal family - complete with Kate, who was added since last time! Josh and I lined up and got the lady that works the photography section to take our photo- so of course it turned out great!
Josh was only here for about a week, during his half term holiday, but during that time, we ate out a lot, and most of time at Asian restaurants. I guess it's partially that I dont know where else to eat in London, for example, where a good Indian restaurant, or
even a good English restaurant is! Instead, I tend to gravitate to what I know best - Japanese food! We ate a lot of Katsu Curry and Gyudon, and even one night Josh convinced me to try an all you can eat Chinese Buffet. For some reason, we had trouble finding one (now I know there are tons and tons all around Chinatown - we just weren't looking in the right places!) and finally, we found one which looked good on Gerrard Street - also the "main" street
of Chinatown. We didnt have to wait long, and the food was pretty yummy too! I think I stuffed myself with all the food that was avaliable! Afterwards, I made Josh pose in front of the great big arches. While they aren't as ornate as the ones I became accustomed to in the Chinatowns in Yokohama, Kobe or Nagasaki, they are still really cool, and look best at nighttime, when they are all lit up and you can see the lanterns glowing. I love the hustle and bustle of Chinatown - it can sometimes feel really touristy - more so at night probably - but often times it just reminds me of being in Asia and how much I miss that!
When I was a little kid, there was a great little 50's diner down in the West End, near to where Mama Mia played on the stage (not that I have any clue what plays at that theatre now). It serves classic Americana food, burgers and fries, and has great milkshakes and malts. Since then, I havent really been back to eat, just to
get milkshakes from time to time. Nowadays, there are a few Ed's chains all over town - they still are very 50's themed, just a little bigger nowadays. There is one right off the corner of Leicester Square, down near Picadilly Circus, so one evening, Josh and I went down there, after our dinner to get a nice after dinner Milkshake. The milkshakes there are really good - I am really fond of the peanut butter ones they had! We hung out there, talking with the owner, who was also from Florida for a while. My favourite part of the visit
was playing all the great 50s songs on the jukebox. I love jukeboxes - and for only 10 or 20 pence, you can have your favourite retro song piped throughout the restaurant! It was another nice childhood memory that I got to share with Josh while he was visiting me.