London, Day 1

"Mind the gap. But, don't mind the gap so much that you miss the train. #Truth" ~Alyssa's working title for this post. 

London is amazing! 

We arrived into Heathrow Airport at 8:10
Didn't make it to The London House Hotel until 11:45
The London House Hotel is one of the fanciest, yet at the same time the smallest hotel I have ever stayed in. 
Alyssa and I are exactly 4 feet away from each other and the amount of crap we both brought over has just covered every inch of the room that isn't our beds (jk, its all my crap) 
Our bathroom is as big as a closet with no ventilation, which is great on these 70 degree muggy days.. 
I did discover that we have heated floors though... which really helps..... 
Honestly that is the only complaint I have about London besides that the rate of exchange from dollars to pounds is utterly horrifying.. 

After one day we have mastered the ways of the Tube.
Eeeeven though Drew and I weren't exactly quick enough to catch one of the trains (hence the working title) but it turned into a little adventure of our own and we found the group eventually.

Actually, they passed the friendship test by getting off at the next stop and waiting for us. When we pulled up they all cheered and were freaking out-- and we come to learn that there was another train after theirs and we weren't on it and they were all confused on how Drew and I missed not one but two trains!

How you know when you are in London: 
Last night's cricket game is on the front page of the paper
It is raining.. then sunny.. then humid.. then raining.. then sunny.. then raining.. then freezing cold
Every single person is smoking
Men are dancing down the middle of the streets chanting their futbol team's fight song 

I witnessed a woman complete a crossword puzzle like it was her job on The Tube.. and a dog walking itself (like, picked up its own leash and walk down the street after its owner)

We decided to explore a little bit and went down to a market.
This market was literally a parking lot filled with tents of clothes that were the same thing over and over again with harry potter, London and Game of Thrones shirts. One said "Sorry Ladies, I'm in the Night's Watch" I wished I was a man for like half a second so that I would be able to wear that!

Mind you it is 5:30 when we finally found a place to eat [The Camden Eye] and I hadn't eaten since breakfast was served on the plane at 7:00am... Hanger is real my friends!
In London they don't believe in salt and their beer is nice a warm [gag]

Kallie is extremely afraid of birds. Pigeons to be more accurate.. and for some reason we decided to stand on the part of the street where there was food.. 
Pigeons are nasty.. we saw one that looked like a heroine addict.. they try to eat cigarette buds.. it was gross.. 
But it was fun to see Kallie scream whenever they flew over us.. 
Alright alright, I was screaming too..
I just didn't want to get crapped on my first day in a new country!

Our last stop was to a bar called The World's End... which was.. interesting to say the least.
All the bartenders were guys which giant pony tails.. just all around badasses that were skilled enough to put all the bartenders in Cleveland to shame. 

Everyone was out by 9:00
Woohoo party animals!

London, Day 2

Today was a bit chillier than yesterday.
No rain, but no sun either.
Alyssa and I moaned as the alarm clock went off-- apparently 12 hours is just not enough sleep.
I found out that the British don't use a fitted sheets on their beds-- and I sleep like I am trying to climb a mountain so I woke up sleeping on the mattress cover.. so sanitary! 

We had a lovely breakfast of an off brand Frosted Flakes, two pieces of toast, a chocolate muffin and some apple juice. 
After breakfast I cleaned up all my stuff that I had thrown around the room the day earlier and decided to unpack and put away my clothes since I would be living in this tiny box for the next week.

.... I don't know HOW she did it.....

My mother took her St. Clare directory 8x10 picture and stuffed it into my suitcase without me knowing!! 

I haven't laughed so hard in my entire life... I literally could not breathe! 
My mother is a total hoot (but don't let her know I think so).

Class for two hours a day is going to be the lowest part of each day, but I get that that's why we are here-- to learn to put our skills to good use-- and hopefully open up international business opportunities in the future... Oh man, if I could get paid for doing this.. life would be perfect!

We started class a little early because (apparently) every trip our group has never ever been on time for the walking tours- not once.
We decided that we should probably break that tradition... so we left on time and everything was looking up... until we got on the wrong train and didn't realize it until we had already gone ten stops in the wrong direction..
So, the tradition of being late lives on!

Our walking tour turned out to be so much more interesting than I thought it would be! 
We got on a boat and saw this gorgeous bridge (That I thought was the London Bridge, but boy was I wrong-- good thing I didn't say anything)
The boat tour guide was one of the wittiest ones I've experience on a boat tour (you know, because I am so versed in boat tours)

We got to see the whole sky linen from the boat like the London Eye, The [actual] London Bridge,-- that was labeled because everyone expects it to be the fancy one but it's not, and Big Ben

We got off the boat at Westminster! 

Big Ben chimed at 4:00 for us-- which I learned was a recording because it is broadcasted around the globe. 

One year a maintenance man was working on the bell and was scared when it went off and dropped this tools.. let's just say he said some improper words and it was broadcasted all over the world. [Thanks, Steve! This is why we can't have nice things]

The only time the clock is live is at midnight-- the only time they know that no one can be working on it. 

Next, we went to Westminster Abbey and Cathedral. I wish we were able to go in and see its magnificence but there was a mass about to start when we got there-- a whole line of probably 300 people were waiting to get in. 

Oh an MP means Member of Parliament (Thank you Drew for asking, because I was confused, and I'm pretty sure everyone else was too)

We toured around back alleys and a lovely park! Ended up at the Queen's Palace-- she was unfortunately not there, but we sent our love.
The Palace is surrounded by gates that represent most countries-- you should see Canada's versus everyone else's.. it's about 100 times more elegant. [Get over yourself Canada]

Again-- and I can't stress this enough-- HANGER IS REAL!

Second day without eating Lunch is messing with me... but dinner has never tasted so good!


We went to some Italian place that had a GIANT picture of Marlon Brando-- which apparently makes them an authentic Italian restaurant. And I ordered a bacon cheese burger (sue me). IT. WAS. SO. GOOD!!!!!!! 

Our waiter was the most high-strung, pissed off, and impatient man I have ever come in contact with.
'No sir, I have not decided in the last 10 seconds what I want!'
Jk, I knew before we sat down. BRING THE BACON!

We have to write 20 journal entries to prove that we have had the full European experience! (But all related to Marketing)
One is to watch TV and compare the programs to American ones. 
Umm.. sooo... I turned on the TV and there was a show about porn stars-- how they live, what the work conditions are like and well it was disturbing... and looked like it was produced in the early 90s
Over here everything, even American products have a British announcer, which makes sense, but it was unexpected. 
They also have shorter commercials, that are more to the point and higher quality... also they have less breaks- but the breaks are longer.. They had a pretty cool documentary on the Yosemite National Parks but I truly didn't know when it was going to break for commercial.. and I needed to pee (so that was an issue, no OnDemand, no pause)  

It's 2:00am, and no one is home yet... and of course being over tired makes me think the thoughts and feel the feels. 

I have come to a few realizations:
- I almost hate that I have seen so many shows, movies, and pictures of Europe. It doesn't seem real. Like I am just watching on a bigger screen instead of being there, witnessing it in real life. 
- I feel like I am in a dream or worse, in just a different state instead of half way around the world.
- I have realized that I like seeing the magnificence, not so much being immersed in different cultures- here at least. 
- I would almost rather enjoy going to an under developed country and help-- get a better understanding of who I am, how lucky and fortunate I am, and hopefully help to improve the lives of the people there. 
- English people seem to be just like us-- maybe a little more anti-social-- 
- If only I wasn't afraid to be in danger, life live more on the risky side, and just that that was the path God wants me on. 

I'm hoping this is the first step.. the first taste of what it is to travel, to get out of my comfort zone, and be more inclined to see the world. 

London, Day 3 (Lost in Harrods)

I have seen the Parent Trap at least 60 times in my short 21 year existence. 
You know the part where the mom says 
"Darling, come in. I just have to finish this sketch... and FedEx it off to Paris. And then, how about you and I go out to lunch... and spend the rest of the day getting lost in Harrods, huh?"
Well then she goes on to reveal that she is really Hallie-- blah blah blah
I never know what Harrods was or how you could possibly get lost.. or for that matter- who plans on getting lost? 

Well today, I finally figured it all out!

Harrods is a 7 floor, one block giant department store without a single hallway. 
Each room is a different designer. 
Each item costs more than a car. 
A 1.5 L bottle of water only cost 1.30 pounds [which is a steal!]

Katie, Kendra and I found some goodies to munch on for lunch ( I had sushi )
Harrods is too posh to offer you a place to actually eat your food-- so we had a picnic on the side of the road a block away, in the cutest residential neighborhood. 

We have been traveling on The Tube the last few days and it has been practically silent.. a nice change from the NYC subway system. 
Well we haven't been on during rush hour, and let me tell you-- it might be worse than NYC.. well much smellier if nothing else.

We traveled all the way to King Cross Station and waited in line for 40 minutes to get a picture with Harry Potter's cart disappearing into platform 9 3/4 (Which might have been the biggest thrill of my life!)

THEN We traveled another 25 minutes to go visit the famous Abbey Road crossing.. which was much busy than I had hoped. It was nice walking where such legends once walked. 

Fell asleep at 9:30pm. Overall, pretty good day!

London, Day 4

Windsor castle is much smaller than I imagined it.. I think Disney's Cinderella Castle gave me false expectations for the Castles of Europe!

We started the day off by getting picked up by this mega bus, you know the ones you took on your 7th grade trip to Chicago? Yeah, try getting that down a narrow London street... 
THEN trying BACKING UP down the same street!! Our driver had some serious skill.

I learned two major things in the time it took to back up that bus... 
1. That Londoners are just mad, they think they are right, and they will not wait.
2. KARMA IS A BITCH... this red double decker bus zig zags around us while the ass of the bus is trying to back up into the street to turn around, and SMASHES into this van that was on the other side... ITS CALLED WAITING 30 MORE SECONDS!

Then the bus driver had the audacity to start pointing at us as this mother is throwing a fit (a rightful fit) about how her kids were in the back seat. 

Anyways.. Windsor was a nice 45 minute ride.. that was a nice nap..

Of course The Queen was giving her speech to the nation.. and I'm over here like 'cool, madame, I thought we were having tea today'


The dollhouse is ridiculous! [We weren't allowed to take pictures] but I read that everything in the house, each prop and toy in every room [which was easily at least 30] was made of the actual material it would be in real life... it also had electricity and working plumbing! 

Walking through the grand ballrooms I had that overwhelming feeling again that I have been reincarnated, because it was like I belonged there.. I was born 100 years too late. 

We should bring back those ridiculous dresses that had hedges so you could actually walk through doorways.

I finally saw one of the Queen's Guards! He looked about 12.. 

The guards that have been depicted on tv, from what I remember, looked straight forward and not budge. 
THIS dude, made eye contacted with every single one of us. It actually gave me a chill, as he has dedication

St. George's Cathedral took my breathe away. It is eerie how you just felt the presence of God with every step you took.. 

London, Day 5

I don't know why but I have the need to sleep on this trip more than any other trip I have been on. 
I went to bed at midnight last night while everyone went out to the clubs.. slept till 9:30, grabbed a muffin and made my sandwich for lunch and went back to bed for two more hours! 

Today, we walked through Notting Hill to the Museum of Brands Packaging and Advertising. 
It was a winding museum of every product starting in the 1840s of brands and advertising. 
Today, the messages are more psychological and hidden to the point where you don't even know you feel a certain way.. we are so bombarded with advertisements that they have to be that way to be able to stand out from the other thousand we see that day. 
But around the first World War the ads were very call to action.. they shamed the men that hadn't join, praised the men that had and empowered the women to do their part. It was nice to see the differences from the British side compared to American.. I would post picture but we weren't allowed to take any..
Shitlers Toilet Paper might be the funniest one I saw. 
All the Princess Diana memorabilia from her wedding and her death was extremely cool to see. Also, the Beatles and crazy products associated with them, super cool! 
Most of the products I had very heard of, but it was interesting to see how they had changed over the years.
The cutest part was every decade or so in the exhibit they showed examples of Valentine's Day cards.. They started all sweet and completely innocent in the 20s  to just down right naughty by the 90s. 

After the museum we decided to go get work done in the giant park about a mile away from our hotel... 
Yeah, Megan and I laid in the grass and just soaked in the rays (half slept) while Kallie was studious and wrote her journals.
This weather has been absolutely perfect, which isn't giving us the authentic London experience, but I'm truly not complaining! 

THEN... it was time for dinner.... 
We left at 6:00... walked the wrong way for 25 minutes, got on the wrong tube and walked around in circles at our stop.. we asked 4.. FOUR different people where this restaurant was located and got FOUR different answers... I can't stress how dangerous hanger is! 

FINALLY found it... the BEST Fish and Chips in this whole country.. Trust me, I'm an expert! 

So, everyone has gone out and drank the past four nights.. so I needed to experience a pub for myself (but I'm a half beer queer) which NO ONE BELIEVED! And they were all proven wrong! I drank that thing like it was juice it was sooooo good! ... and of course it's probably not available in the states.  

London, Day 6

We all got all dressed up today, went on our first train ride in England and went to a meeting with Swagelok (Thank you Drew's father for hooking us up!)

Honestly, I thought it was going to be mind-numbingly boring but it developed into the most interesting information, insightful conversations, and eye-opening realizations. 

Realizations about the fact that life is hard.... you have to work from the bottom to get anywhere.. That's where everyone starts and that is how it is meant to be! 

A bachelors degree is practically at the level of a high school diploma when it comes to what is expected on a resume.. In about 5 years it will be necessary for all entry level positions to have a masters in something.. Thank the good Lord I am above that curl because I am completely over going to school-- been their my entire life, it's time for something new!
In England  (well at least Swagelok does) they will interview anyone that shows any type of skill or promise to judge their character, not JUST what's written on a piece of paper.. and they said some of their highest ranking members were the ones that dropped out of high school at 16.. Taking a chance on people that have a good work ethic and a drive to prove themselves has been beneficial to this company and I bet that would happen in most others! It's so hard with the job market being so flooded to be that willy-nilly when combing through candidates. 
We also talked about how the minimum wage needs to go up.. which I'm not gonna get into but it was a really tangent during our conversation... 

ALSO the idea of apprenticeships and how they teach a trade to someone who cannot pay for a higher educations, in my opinion is brilliant.It's awful that they are looked down upon because they didn't have the means to spend at least $20,000 a year on bullshit core classes that no one ever needs and having horrible teachers and curved grades and unneeded stress... They have learned a trade! They are masters of something and they got paid to become that! College graduates can't say that! Most of them skipped most of their classes and cheated on their tests and papers to "succeed" 

Main Take Away: Over here, they WORK to LIVE... in America, we LIVE to Work
"See the world as it is, not as you want it to be"

As you can see below I am VERY excited about my chocolate gelato.. If I could bathe in that, I would. 

Then came The Ripper Tour!!! 
Honestly, I thought it was just another one of those crazy dude who went around killing people (prostitutes) 
I had no idea how MESSED UP this whole situation was!! 
It was eerie and nasty and fascinating all at the same time that we were standing where each of the five murders took place! 
Our tour guide (Mick) was AMAZING! A million times better than the other tours we passed along the way.. Super into it. He has even written a book about Jack the Ripper. 

I need to ice my feet though, dang that was a lot of walking! 

London, Day 7

You can accomplish anything as long as you aren't afraid of failing many many many times before you succeed! 

Megan and I eventually succeeded today..
Victoria didn't sell the tickets we wanted
Euston didn't either, but a man was able to point us in the right direction
After an HOUR of sitting on THREE different tube lines some of which we had to double back on, we made it to the train!

I gave my seat to a very elderly woman today on the Tube after waiting a few minutes to see if they many people directly around her would offer.. after making eye contact and gesturing for her to take my seat, with the most gratitude I have ever seen in someone's eyes she whispered "Your need is as great as mine, but your character is greater than most others"

(plus they can make your day with their responses)

A mother on the tube (shown below) was reading a story to her sons. I love that she didn't just had them gameboys (or whatever the youngins entertain themselves with today) to have some peace for herself.. 
They loved every second of it! This is something that they will have in their hearts forever.. That their mom transported them to different worlds with her voice as they traveled across the city on an overly-crowded Tube. 

The view from the train was spectacular and we are going slow enough to enjoy it.. even though being on those jet speed trains would have been fun and saved us 4 hours today!

It appears that many of the towns by the tracks are more run down, but they are modern enough that it kind of reminds me of home.

There was a little boy behind us, just a little over a year old who I played peak-a-boo between the seats with for a solid 10 minutes... those belly laughs are the sweetest sounds in the world! 

Got off the train and had to pay 20 pence to use the bathroom-- that was lovely.. 

As soon as you walk out of the station you can see the English Channel about a mile away. 

The city of Brighton has streets like San Francisco; hills on all sides, filled with the happiest people and the cutest shops, restaurants and pubs

I didn't think my short hair could get that tangled-- but that wind coming off the Channel was something fierce! 
The beach was just rocks, no sand.. Small, smooth, clean, beautiful rocks... 
I challenge anyone that says it is easy to walk on sand, to walk on this beach.. SUPER LEG WORK OUT!!  

We waled along the pier and decided that we would ride the rides and then eat both a doughnut and an ice cream cone because no one was there to judge us for doing so.   

We decided to go on their version of The Scrambler.. 

We get in, Megan on the outside, Lord only knows why she insisted on that! 
And as soon as the ride started going My Humps came on and I literally hollered with joy! 

Let me just say that American rides look like sissy rides compared to how fast and violent this one was!! 
We couldn't stop laughing and screaming the entire time! 

After getting off we both agreed that we didn't know how much we needed that... So I have it written down that when I feel like the world is starting to close in,  when I feel like too much of an adult.. I need to find the nearest scrambler! 

We grabbed a drink after the ride-- they mix a lot of wild berry type flavor into their ciders here, and again, I'm going to be overly bummed if they don't sell them in the states. 

We were about to get doughnuts when something better caught my eye.. WAFFLES... ON A STICK... DRIZZLED IN CHOCOLATE!!! 
It tasted like a waffle and brownie mix had a baby!! 

We decided to look for a place to eat dinner in town instead of on the beach because honestly we would have just kept eating the waffles until we passed out. 

We found a little Italian restaurant and got Pizza Botto which has cheese, tomatoes, baked ham and mushrooms on top.. 
Second time this trip that I have eaten an entire pizza by myself, and I have yet to regret either of them! 

I saw two foxes! Fox? Foxen?... [Googled it, its foxes.. we're good.]
They were playing with each other on the side of the tracks, super cute! I've never seen a fox before!

And, I swear there are only 3 types of handwriting in graffiti no matter what country you are in.. The bubbles, the crazy angled ones, and the super light (wannabe) scribbles on the wall.. and it's like there is a rule that you aren't allowed to spell anything correctly or legibly for anyone to understand...