Spilling The Tea: My Family Trip to London

Hi everyone! In March, my family and I took a mini vacation to London, England for a few days. My younger sister is currently studying abroad in Florence, Italy (lucky girl!), and we set off to visit her in Europe during her spring break. After having caught the traveler’s bug following my own semester spent studying in Florence, I was pumped to go back to Europe for a few days, get my mind off of work and just soak it all in. I had visited London before and LOVED everything about it–the history, the architecture, the music…

Because we only had about three days to see London in its entirety between having to leave for flights, our trip was jam packed. With this being said, there were some parts of the trip that weren’t captured, because some of the sights, like the Crown Jewels, didn’t allow photography, and because I wanted to live in the moment and get away from my damn phone/camera.

We stayed at the Beaumont Hotel in Mayfair, London, which is an upscale area known for its beautiful homes and shopping. We ate breakfast there every morning and thoroughly enjoyed the food and stay as a whole.

One of the first stops in our Tour de London was Buckingham Palace. Convenently located nearby our hotel, Buckingham Palace is a spot you simply cannot miss while visting London.

I had the chance to watch the Changing of the Guards while in London both times and looking back, I’m not sure if I had to see it at all. It is difficult to find a good spot to watch the actual ceremony because it gets so crowded and also only occurs on certain days of the week. Definitely research which days the ceremoy is occuring beforehand so you can show up early!

The next stop was the Tower of London. It was built in the 11th century by William the Conquerer and is known for housing and torturing famous and infamous prisoners during the 16th and 17th centuries, mainly royalty. It also houses the precious Crown Jewels, which is a collection of beautiful crowns and outfits worn by past royals.

Before we headed off to tea, we walked out of the Tower of London to get a view of Tower Bridge, which is hands down one of the most iconic landmarks in London. It runs across the River Thames, which we took a boat cruise on later in the trip to see London from a different perspective.

What’s a trip to London without attending high-tea? Not a very fun trip to London, I’ve gotta say. We attended tea at The Savoy Hotel, and were given three courses, along with our choice of tea. I picked the Vanilla Black tea and it was delicious! We were also offered a wide array of finger sandwiches as a first course, salmon as a main course, and scones with clotted cream and jam for dessert.

Attending afternoon tea was one of my favorite things that we did in London. It was what 5 year old birthday party dreams were made of! Except this time, I could drink champagne 😉

Here is one big thing to know about the British: they love a nice, cold pint. As per our concierge’s suggestion, we checked out the Grazing Goat, a gastropub, for a pint and a piping hot plate of fish & chips. Delicious! We also checked out a few other pubs while there, to really live like the Brits do.

One of my favorite pubs that we visited was called The World’s End. It is located in Camdem Town, which is where the rock music scene in London is. Amy Winehouse, David Bowie, Queen, The Sex Pistols and The Rolling Stones all came from Camden — just to name a few. We were surrounded with people who had mohawks and piercings — very cool and reminded me almost of Brooklyn. **Insert playing of “London Calling” by The Clash here**

Upon visiting Westminster Abbey, a church where a large number of past kings and queens have been buried, we crossed paths with the global student Climate Strike happening at that time. British students marched up the street and up towards Parliament, completely blocking traffic. It was pretty cool to see, knowing it was making headlines on Twitter.

Once we finally got past the crowd of students, we passed a nearly unrecognizable Big Ben. Big Ben is currently being renovated and at the moment is completely covered by scaffolding. Set to be up and running again in 2021, Snapchat created a Geofilter for the time being so onlookers could see what Big Ben would look like once complete.

One of my favorite places we visited in London was St. James’ Park. It was like walking in a dream — I loved how green the grass was, thanks to all the rain in London, along with all the freshly planted flowers. It was refreshing to see some greenery in March, as everything at home in New Jersey was brown.

On our last day, we visited Notting Hill, which is a gorgeous neighborhood in London made famous for its brightly colored Victorian style houses, and of course, the Hugh Grant film under the same name.

On Saturdays, you can visit Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill, which is a one of the world’s largest antique markets. Vendors set up tables for blocks and blocks and sell anything and everything from records to jewelry to cutlery.

No visit to Notting Hill is complete without taking a tourist-y photo in front of the famous “blue door” from the classic 90s film Notting Hill, which is where Hugh Grant’s character lived. It was a shame to see that the door had been graffiti’d on — my sister and I expertly covered it with our stance. Someone’s not a big Hugh Grant fan, I’m assuming?

Now please enjoy some random photos I snapped —

I bought my sick white platform sneakers in London from a UK retailer called Russell & Bromley and have been living in them because they’re SO comfy! Sadly, they’re out of stock right now 😦 They are definitely a dupe for this pair of Alexander McQueen sneakers that are way too expensive but check out this pair of Adidas I found online if you want a similar more affordable option 🙂

And that’s it! My time spent in London was like dream — one, because it was amazing, and two, because it was too short. Here’s to hoping I can go back to England again some other places I didn’t get to see, like Stonehenge.

The Ultimate Study Abroad Packing List for a Semester in Florence, Italy

As David Mitchell once said, “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.”  

I can firmly state that the making the decision to study abroad in Florence, Italy of spring 2017 was one of the best things I did during my time as a college student. I was able to make amazing new friends that I would not have otherwise made, experience a new culture’s fashion, food and language first-hand, visit many European cities I had never seen before and gained an entirely new sense of independence.

With that being said, here is your go-to guide for packing for your semester abroad. 

Travel documents: 

  • Passport and/or visa 
  • Driver’s license 
  • Plane tickets
  • Proof of medical insurance 
  • Copies of passport, driver’s license and proof of medical insurance 
  • Local currency
  • Credit/debit card 

Toiletries: 

It is smart to bring travel-sized products for the first few days abroad and then stock up once you move in, especially because I struggled to find travel-size products in Europe. The small bottles are great to have on hand for weekend trips and are easy to refill. 

Also, leave hairdryers/straighteners/curling irons because they are likely to fry in converters. Instead, pick up whatever you need after you arrive in your host country. 

  • Travel size shampoo and conditioner bottles 
  • Toothbrush 
  • Travel size toothpaste 
  • Glasses and contacts for length of semester 
  • Travel size bottle of contact solution 
  • Deodorant 
  • Hair brush 
  • Makeup/hair products 
  • Medications for entire length of stay 
  • Emergency stock of ibuprofen, bandaids, and antibiotic ointment 
  • Razors
  • Feminine products 
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers 
  • Sunscreen 

Clothing:

Definitely research the climate of your country before leaving, as this will heavily impact what you need. Italy does not get as cold as Ireland does, for example. 

Also bring clothes that can be layered easily. 

  • Rain coat
  • Gym clothes 
  • Bathing suit 
  • Winter jacket (If needed. I only wore mine a handful of times during the semester!) 
  • Underwear, bras and socks (2 weeks’ worth!)
  • Sweaters/sweatshirts
  • 1-2 nicer outfits 
  • 3-5 long sleeve shirts 
  • 5-7 short sleeve shorts 
  • Shorts
  • Skirt
  • Shower shoes/rubber flip-flops —Good for warm weather trips and for showering in hostels/Airbnbs
  • Walking shoes – your go-to sneaker for long days of walking/traveling. Expect to toss these out by the end of the semester. I wore my Adidas Superstars as a stylish option and other people wore actual running sneakers. This is purely personal preference. 
  • Nicer pair of shoes — flats, booties or boots, etc. 
  • Leggings
  • A few pairs of jeans 

Accessories:

  • Beanie 
  • Blanket scarf — Use as a way to elevate your outfit and as a blanket on airplanes  
  • Gloves
  • Watch 
  • Sunglasses 

Technology: 

  • Headphones
  • Laptop
  • Smartphone  
  • Camera and extra memory card
  • Any corresponding chargers, chords or batteries. These can be difficult to find abroad.  
  • Outlet converters/adaptors — this is something I definitely forgot and would struggle to find on trips 

Extras: 

  • Overnight bag for weekend trips (duffel or carry on suitcase)
  • Backpack — great for weekend trips.
  • Purse that zips —  I brought my Longchamp bag and a crossbody purse to have options. 
  • Notebook and pen to write about your travels 
  • Waterbottle 
  • Umbrella 
  • Portable charger — handy on weekend trips so you never have a dead phone 
  • Travel pillow 

 

 

15 Reasons to Study Abroad in College

College is a time to learn about yourself and gain independence. While being on your home campus is all fine and dandy, it is important for college students everywhere to gain new experiences. Here are 15 reasons why college students should study abroad.

  1. Being on your own means that you will grow up.
  2. You will make lifelong friends.
  3. Studying abroad will give you the chance to practice another language.
  4. Your Facebook and Instagram posts will leave your friends and family feeling envious.
  5. You will most likely end up losing weight because of the large amount of miles you walk each day.
  6. You will be able to find your way around a brand new city.
  7. Who doesn’t love to travel?
  8. It will force you to keep a budget because trips and food get expensive quickly.
  9. While studying abroad, you will be given the chance to take classes that may not be offered at your home university.
  10. You will be forced out of your comfort zone.
  11. It will help you to better understand other cultures as well as your own.
  12. You can try a new activity that you would not be able to at home. Skiing the Swiss Alps? What about riding a camel in Morocco?
  13. Living in another country will give you international experience that you can to add to any resume or cover letter.
  14. You will gain a new sense of independence.
  15. Living somewhere else will allow you to realize all of the little things you miss about home.