Throwback Thursday: A Day In Oxford

It’s been almost two weeks since two of my fellow travelers and I hopped on a bus to Oxford for a quick day trip. Part of my delay in blogging about the adventure is due to the fact that I packed the wrong camera lens with me during my hectic attempt to stuff everything I needed for three months in Europe all into one bag way back in May. I have my little f/1.8 50mm lens which is what I use for food photography and is awesome… but not ideal for travel due to zero versatility as it’s a prime lens. Ok, enough techy camera details. Moral of the story is I was bouncing between my iPhone and camera, all while trying to not spill tea on myself or my various equipment (there were multiple close calls). But I’ve finally uploaded all the photos and sorted through everything. This is the result:

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We had an incredible trip despite multiple main attractions being closed and getting caught in a downpour. Oxford is a charming, tiny town with endless history, gorgeous architecture, and home to one of the most prestigious universities in the world. And there was a gluten free crepe cart! (Is it terrible that was just as memorable as the university tour?)

Some Oxford fun facts:
– Oxford University is the oldest university of the English speaking world
– The city is the birthplace of the Oxford English Dictionary and is where the recent debate to add “twerk” as an official word was located (unfortunately, it’s now a permanent part of the English language)
– The university was established by monks, for monks and subjects besides theology were introduced relatively recently
Oxford 5– From 1878 through the 1920’s women were allowed to study at Oxford, but they were only allowed to be part-time students which meant they didn’t take exams (awesome) but also never received a degree (not cool)
– The Oxford dining hall was the inspiration for Harry Potter
Blackwell is the largest book store in the UK and has over 5 miles worth of shelving and a basement that runs under multiple buildings in the city

If you find yourself in London for an extended period of time, be sure to schedule in a day trip to Oxford! But, an insider tip: book the Bodleian Library in advance – space is VERY limited and is almost impossible to score a spot same-day! We unfortunately missed it! Maybe I’ll go back one day…

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Mojito Master Class

It’s no secret that I’m a wine girl. But when I want to up the ante a bit, rum is my go-to liquor. So it makes sense that mojitos are one of my favorite beverages. I’ve had my fair share of these beauties over the years. When I studied abroad in Spain, I regularly ordered mojitos that were from a machine that emitted mojito mix, rum was poured in, and maybe a few mint leaves were thrown on top if the bar was feeling fancy that day. They were cheap, the size of small pitchers, and generous with the rum so that became my usual.

master barman 2But let’s be honest – that’s not a proper mojito. A proper mojito requires fresh lime and sometimes some muddling… what is that you ask? I didn’t know either. Until Sunday that is when I attended an Indytute Mojito Master Class by Ping Pong located at the incredible Battersea Power Station. My friend Laura and I arrived early and were served (yup, you guessed it) a mojito to keep us busy. Once our fellow cocktail classmates arrived, the madness began. Demonstrations were thorough, but once the competition started, limes, sugar, and rum were flying in every which direction as we attempted to make the best mojito in the shortest amount of time. As the recipes got more elaborate and the intoxication level rose, the master barman’s face after each taste got funnier and funnier. “Did you forget to add ________?” became a common question. In the end we let him make our drinks while we sat in the sun and enjoyed a lazy summer Sunday.

Now that I’m completely sober, let me enlighten you on how to make a proper mojito… I am now a master after all.

mojito 1Ingredients:
– 1 Tb. lime juice
– 1 Tb. simple syrup
– 10 fresh mint leaves
– a double shot of rum
– a dash of soda water
– 1 lime wedge
– crushed ice

Method: Add the lime juice, simple syrup, and mint leaves, to your glass. Add crushed ice so the glass is about 1/4 full. Using a bar spoon, mix the ingredients, pulling the mint leaves toward the top. Add the rum. Fill the glass completely with ice. Stir again. Top with a dash of soda water, a fresh lime wedge, and mint leaves for garnish.

Viola! A classic mojito made with fresh ingredients!

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ping pong sunday fun day

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Eating My Way Through London

Whoever said London has terrible food was going to the wrong places! This amazing city has everything from world-renowned cuisine served in breathtaking restaurants to hole-in-the-wall dives where you grab your delicious grub and run. Dishes from each and every country can be found dotted throughout the city – and you don’t necessarily have to leave central London to enjoy truly authentic and unique culinary experiences.

Greenwich Nutella Mini PancakesThis weekend I turned twenty-two and between all the sightseeing, I filled my time refueling with new and exciting food. Day one was spent exploring along the south bank and eating Brazilian food, then catching a boat down the river to Greenwich where I noshed on mini pancakes generously draped in nutella and strawberries, all before heading to the weirdest meal of my life.

Famous for serving the “most unusual food in London,” Archipelago didn’t disappoint. We were escorted to the dimly lit basement where we sat at a table that had a huge bouquet of peacock feathers – these were relocated in order to allow cross-table conversion which mostly consisted of commenting on the eclectic decor. Mini towels were placed in a bowl and then topped with hot water, which upon contact expanded into hand-towels. As we browsed the menu, I inquired about the lovebug salad – but once it was discovered that the “wildlife” served on top of the greens was a variety of insects, we decided to steer clear of that particular dish. Instead we opted to start with zebra, crocodile, and python. Surprisingly, the jerked zebra was the crowd favorite. The crocodile wrapped in vine leaves was nice, but didn’t really taste like anything unusual. And the python carpaccio was more salty than any of us preferred. For mains, we decided to go with more mainstream dishes – bison rump and duck confit. These were yummy – but the overall verdict is that you reserve a table at Archipelago for the experience and bragging rights more than the food quality.

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Day two was spent perusing the shops on Upper Street. I fell in love with the quirky independent stores which housed everything from clothing and stationary to odd cooking gadgets and funny gifts. All that window shopping of course called for brunch. We stopped into La Farola, an adorable Spanish restaurant which had a brunch menu consisting of just five options – but five delicious options! I chose a vegetable pisto topped with broiled mozzarella and two poach eggs, served with a side salad and spiced breakfast potatoes. Delicious!!! Fried eggs and chorizo, a cured ham, cheese, and fried egg toastie, tea, and coffee also made their way to our table. At just £6 a person, this is definitely a place to return to!

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La Farola 1 La Farola 3

Oh and we obviously had to stop into the gluten free bakery!!!

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The day continued with more shopping through Old Spitalfields Market and wandering through London, all of which had me starving by the time dinner came around. I met up with family friends who took me out for a birthday dinner at Balthazar. We had lovely dinner which kicked off with pommes frites instead of bread (my ultimate weakness), followed by an octopus, tomato, and basil salad speckled with olives and shallots, all tossed in a light lemon dressing. For my main dish, I selected sea bass “en papillotte” with Jerusalem artichoke, mussels, fennel, and tarragon. And anyone who knows me is well aware that you don’t have to twist my arm to order dessert. Out came a pavlova which was wrapped around vanilla bean ice cream and sat on top of fresh strawberry sauce – with a little happy birthday message written in chocolate. I blew out my birthday candle and called my birthday celebration to a close. Don’t tell, but I wished that I could eat like this every weekend!

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Back On The Road!

It has been a hectic semester packed with the hardest classes of my college career yet, an incredibly time-consuming internship, my part-time photography job, five on-campus organizations, traveling back and forth across the globe, and trying to find brief moments to enjoy the company of my friends and family. But I’m not complaining… these are very privileged problems to have. Too bad there was ZERO time for blogging!

Heathrow LayoverBut that is about to change! Tonight I catch a plane to begin my summer adventures. Up on the agenda: four weeks in Madrid, six weeks in London for an internship at a digital marketing agency, back to Madrid for a few days, and then three weeks vacationing in Portugal with my boyfriend. I am so excited to have some time to be completely selfish and take care of me! I am going to brush the dust off my travel camera, work out, try new recipes… and blog about all of it!

Like always, this blog will remain a random of collection of just about anything. It’s called Just Another Nobody Writing About Their Life for a reason! These posts reflect all the different parts of me and my life… And I am continuously amazed and grateful for those of you who take the time out of your amazing lives to read, like, and comment!

So get ready… the journey is about to begin!

El Parque Del Retiro

I just got home from spending my winter break in Madrid, Spain with my boyfriend. One of my favorite things to do was bundle up in a sweater, boots, a scarf, and my thickest coat and walk the one mile to my favorite bench next to the lake at el Parque del Retiro. Sometimes I would sit and journal. On a busy weekend afternoon I would people watch. And sometimes I would just slowly stroll around the park. On the weekdays, the park was vacant except for a few retired people and some young kids who were too young for school wandering through. On one particular weekday when gray clouds threatened a downpour at any moment, the park was close to empty. And out on the lake, there was a sole couple taking advantage of a break in the rain and testing their fate on one gloomy day.

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Amsterdam

The day has finally arrived. A trip that only took me 24 days to complete has taken me almost 9 months to blog. Better late than never they say…

Amsterdam-2288So Amsterdam. Our final stop. The city of the red light district and marijuana cafes is actually full of a lot more than sex and weed. We got to see Anne Frank’s annex which was roomier than I imagined, but still no where anyone should ever be confined to. We cruised down the river and admired the detailed architecture. We devoured the famous French fries drenched in aioli. And we may have also visited a sex shop, sex museum, and walked through the red light district.

The final, final field trip: Holland. Where as Amsterdam is bumbling with the hustle and bustle of city life, Holland has windmills and small, family-owned cheese and clog factories sprinkled throughout its plains. We has a 6th generation clog maker demonstrate the craft of clog making and a cheese master explain to us the intricate process of creating various fine cheeses.

With heavy wooden clogs, we dragged our feet to our hotel rooms one last time to pack our bags and say our final goodbyes. The tears flowed as we said goodbye to people we had only known for a matter of weeks, but people we now considered family. How could you not? 50 people crammed on a bus trekking from one corner of Europe to the other? Those memories would have meant nothing if it wasn’t for the people. Exhausted as we all were, no one wanted it to end. Saying goodbye to our fellow travelers meant saying goodbye to the adventure, life on the road, walking city tours by day and clubs by night, only to sleep on the bus and do it all over again the next day in a new city. But goodbyes were said. Tears were shed. And our temporary family parted ways, back to the opposite sides of the world we called home.

And so there it is. 1 month of traveling and 9 months of photo editing, writing, and blogging has finally come to a close. What an adventure. Am I exhausted just thinking how little sleep I got over the course of those 4 weeks? Yes. Would I do it all over again? Absolutely.

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Berlin

When you walk through the massive halls of the Louvre in Paris and admire the floor to ceiling paintings of kings that ruled centuries before us, it’s impressive but sometimes hard to believe that there used to be royal families that decided the world’s fate. When you visit the Colosseum in Rome, it’s difficult to imagine that thousands of people gathered to watch prisoners fight animals to the death for pure entertainment.

But when you go to Berlin and see Hitler’s previous headquarters, you realize that what we consider history – all those dates and numbers and facts everyone learned about in grade school – are actually quite recent. Unlike old cathedrals in Spain, prominent buildings during the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party are still in perfectly good shape because they were built during the time that many of our parents or grandparents were alive.

As a group, we quietly walked from one side of the wall to another, a luxury people from East and West Germany didn’t have only 50 years ago. Now the remnants of the wall are covered by colorful artwork – “freedom of expression covering a structure of repression” as our brilliant tour guide stated.

Berlin-4555While this town is tainted with Nazi history, I found the city to be incredible, the people kind and friendly, and the nightlife to be vibrant. Berlin has made a serious effort to be open about it’s history and educate residents and visitors through museums like The Topography of Terror, which depicts every gruesome detail of Hitler’s life and Nazi power. They not only have the city’s history on display, but they just as proudly say we are not those people today and we are proud to be from Berlin.

Berlin-4608One of the only things that has remained as a positive contribution from East Germany is their loveable ampleman. East Germany actually hired a traffic psychologist and developed the ampleman who would make pedestrians want to respect the signals to walk or wait. It worked, and this figure has become somewhat of Berlin’s mascot. You can find stores overflowing with ampleman shirts, bags, mugs, even gummy sweets. I guess out of everything bad, you can always find at least one good thing. In this case the bad was really bad and the good is a tiny man that flashes throughout Berlin, but it’s a silver lining all the same.

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Last Stop: Amsterdam

Dresden

Dresden-2230When you’re moving through Europe at the incredible rate we were, why not add one more city to you list? That’s exactly what we did when we decided to stop in Dresden for lunch. During World War II Dresden was affected by bombing which can be seen by it’s famous church that got only partially put back together. It was the perfect setting to cozy up in a restaurant and enjoy a hot meal while looking out onto the remnants of the city that have been pieced back together.

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Next Stop: Berlin

Prague

Prague-4468I don’t think I have ever been as cold as I was when we stepped off the bus and embarked on a walking tour of Prague. I was not dressed in nearly enough layers, but luckily the beauty of the city distracted me from my frozen feet, fingers, and other body parts that I could no longer feel. Like many of the other cities, we quickly got a too-quick overview of the sites before heading to the hotel to change, eat, and see the nightlife.

Well the nightlife was insane. Shots of absinth were poured endlessly leading to a night only a percentage of the group can remember.

Luckily we were on the later shift for the cruise tour. From the warmth and shelter of a boat, we were able to feed our hangovers at an open buffet of greasy food while a lady with a thick accent rattled off various facts about the beautiful city. One of the most memorable things was that on top of a building there are multiple gold balls which hold the architectural plans of the city in case anything was to ever Prague-4527happen. Other fun facts: Prague has it’s own mini Eiffel Tower like Paris and Water Ways like Venice where movies like the Italian Job are actually filmed since Venice is so expensive.

We battled the cold once again to walk over the Charles Bridge and rub a famous statue’s shoe for good luck before exploring the Thai district. An unusually large population of Thai people live in Prague. And with Thai people come Thai massages and Thai food – two things that I absolutely adore. And with the many hours spent on a bus, a deep massage and a hot & spicy meal were exactly what I needed to end our Prague adventure.

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Munich

Munich-2214After an emotionally exhausting stop at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp and a long bus ride into Munich, it was time for something a little more uplifting. And what’s more uplifting than one of the most famous beer halls in the world? Hofbräuhaus is a huge beer hall with rows upon rows of picnic-like tables pushed together so you have no choice but to make friends with the people chugging the over-sized stein next to you as a live band is loudly playing jolly German tunes. Oh and don’t forget about the pork knuckle and mashed potatoes you chow down on.

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Next Stop: Prague