Posts Tagged With: London

Lonely London

I’ve recently had to redefine what it means to be on my own in this world, and in doing so decided to take the opportunity to redefine myself in the process. I thought to myself, if I was happy to travel around the world for two years on my own before, what’s to keep me from being happy living in and exploring London independently? I decided it was time to rediscover the true me who was happy to be anywhere in the world even if it was just me, myself, and I.  I realized that in order to be truly happy with myself, I needed to focus on things that were important to me and doing things that made me happy, even if it meant doing these things on my own. It is these reflections which led to my desire to rediscover London while rediscovering myself. 

So I did what I rarely ever do–I got lost in a book.

In a mad Amazon hunt to find the perfect book that would give me a stronger appreciation for the city I love most, I discovered “London’s Hidden Walks” by Stephen Millar. He now has three volumes and I decided go out of order and start with Volume 2 since reviews indicated that the 12 walks featured in this book were located in and around my London neighborhood, Clerkenwell.

I started out with walk #4: the Strand, Embankment and Fleet Street Walk. As this is a rather big time commitment, I decided to split the walks within this walk up and tackle one area at a time. I’ve just finished the walk from Fleet Street to St. Paul’s Cathedral and what most consider a bustling area for investment banking and law, I now appreciate as a history-heavy filled street which served as the hub for press and publishing in London from the 16th century.

I’m not going to take you through the whole walk, but here are some highlights:


Standing in the middle of Fleet Street with the Royal Courts of Justice seen as the pointy white building to the back right and the dragon statue in the center marking the original sight of Temple Bar (see below for photo and info on this gate’s history) and start of Fleet Street.

Royal Courts of Justice: The Gothic-styled court building was opened in the late 19th century by Queen Victoria and continues to operate today housing both the Court of Appeal and the High Court. The building is open to the public at certain hours to explore the courts and corridors as well as a hallway lined with displays featuring the history of court attire on the second floor of the Main Hall. If you’re lucky, you may just have the chance to sneak your head into a court in session and see the lawyers dressed in the traditional garbs still worn today.

Dragon Statue and Temple Bar: 

The dragon statue stands at the original site of Temple Bar which served as a gate into the City of London. The gate was originally wooden but was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 then rebuilt as a stone gate by Sir Christopher Wren. Due to traffic congestion Temple Bar was taken down in 1878 and relocated to a wealthy man’s estate in Hertfordshire, but due to vandalism was once again taken down. In 2004, 125 years later, the gate returned to London and can now be found next to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The dragon, which serves as the City of London’s Coat of Arms, marks the start of Fleet Street.

Gruesome Fact: The spikes atop of Temple Bar were originally used to to display the heads of executed prisoners. It was common for street vendors to sell viewing glasses for a penny to those who were looking from further away could get a better view.

Twinings Tea Shop: The first Twinings Tea Shop to open in 1706. The figures of Chinese tea merchants adorning the top of the tea shop are representative of China’s role as the main supplier of tea to England at that time.


St. Dunstan-in-the-West: This medeival church was saved from the Great Fire by the Dean and scholars of Westminster School using buckets of water. The church’s clock is the first to feature a minute-hand. The two figures above the clock, known as Gog and Magog, are traditionally known as the guardians of the city and would strike the bells every hour and quarter hour.


The Red-Brick Building: The only traditional publisher left on Fleet Street.

Dundee courier building, the former Sweeney Todd's shop on 186 Fleet Street, London (UK)

Hen and Chicken Court: The creepy and narrow alleyway leading to the fictitious location of the barber shop belonging to the character, Sweeney Todd.


Fleet River: Believe it or not, water used to flow through here. Imagine those two people who today cross the street having to cross over Fleet Bridge to reach the other side. What remains of Fleet River is now covered by New Bridge Street and Farringdon Street and the hidden river flows into the Thames just down the road below Blackfriars Bridge.


Ye Olde Chesire Cheese: One of the most famous taverns in London dating back to the 17th century. The tavern was frequented by Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and US president Theodore Roosevelt among other intellectuals and writers.



So there ya have it folks, my first of many lonely walks around London. This is not meant to be thought of as a depressing reality, but rather enlightening. I am OK with being alone. Because it is when I am alone that I get to feel a part of history that is so often left undiscovered. In that instance, I am surrounded by a reality unknown to others walking past me. And I am happy being with me in a world filled with endless possibilities. 


Categories: All Blog Postings, Free Things to Do Abroad, London | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Regent Street Christmas

The Regent Street lighting on 16th November 2014 was quite a spectacular! With family friendly activities, live dance performances, and photo ops in the Night at the Museum inspired photo booth kicking off the event from noon, there was something fun for everyone.

Surprise guest stars included a performance from the cast of Jersey Boys, Jessie Ware, The Jack Pack (Britain’s Got Talent winners), and the British boy band, Union J. These celebrity guest stars entertained the crowd for hours and Union J joined Emma Bunton, formerly known as Baby Spice, and Heart Radio co-host Jamie Theakston on stage in the countdown to the turning on of the lights!

Not only did the lights brighten up the whole of Regent Street, but a special fireworks show illuminated the sky with radiant colors abound. Check out Regent Street’s lights by 6th January 2015…and while you are at it, check out the hanging arrangement of lights set-up along the whole of the ever so popular Oxford Street just around the corner!

Nearest Tube: Oxford Street

Price: FREE

Categories: All Blog Postings, Free Things to Do Abroad, International Christmas | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Real Life London

Hello long lost friends!

My it’s been awhile since my last post in JUNE! But post-Colombia, my summer faced a whirlwind of change. Between moving from Florida to NYC—switching from one job to the next in NYC—then deciding to attend grad school in London with just 3 weeks to get my visa and uproot my life all over again—and now full-force into my Master’s program for Speech and Language Therapy/Pathology—things have been busy to say the least.

But now here I am, 5 months into my 2.5 year program and new life in London. And on this cold and rainy winter day in London, I’ve decided to take a much needed brain break and revisit my abandoned baby with some new material. Despite my busy school and work schedule, I’ve continued to adhere to my mantra– ‘Maintain a balanced life’. After all, what would be the point of moving ALL the way to London and not even taking the time to enjoy it a bit?? So here today, I bring you my top experiences in London since arriving in September! The best part (as always)— IT’S ALL FREE (or affordable)!!!!

September: The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion

Named after the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park, the Serpentine Galleries feature contemporary art year-round. Since 2000, the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion has been designed as a temporary summer structure by renown architects worldwide.  2013’s pavilion was designed by Japanese architect, Sou Fujimoto. Fujimoto’s pavilion captivated tourists and locals alike as they explored this interactive 3D masterpiece. Make sure to visit London between June-October to experience this cultural phenomenon unique to London!

October: Sir John Soane

The Sir John Soane museum is undoubtedly one-of-a-kind. Though usually free and open to the public, the time to visit is on the first Tuesday evening of the month where a crowd of people will queue starting at 5:30pm hoping to be one of the 200 lucky people to explore the wondrous house by candlelight. Inside you will find treasures from Soane’s travels and his house transformed into a museum with relics, sculptures, and secret passageways leading to art from around the world. More of Soane’s architectural works can be found throughout London.

November: Abbey Road

Beatles fan or not, Abbey Road is an exciting find! Hidden at the ‘junction’ of Abbey Road and Grove End Road in NW London, it wasn’t hard to spot with visitors dodging cars to recreate the famous photo. Scared you may get hit or have your camera stolen by a stranger? Don’t be. If you have the same luck as we did, there will be a friendly man with dreadlocks sporting a reflective jacket personally labeled ‘Free Help’ to assist and direct you during your 10 second photo shoot. Your 10 seconds of fame doesn’t have to end there–add your photo to this Web site for the world to see!

December: Kensington Hotel High Tea

Every girl (and guy!) wants an excuse to get dressed-up! But on a student budget, fancy outings can often feel out of reach. But there is always a way! Afternoon tea became an English Tradition in the 19th century and has become a scrumptious identity of the the British culture. So I thought, what better way to ring in my 25th birthday than with a classy high tea in Kensington!  The best part, thanks to afternoontea, my friends and I were able to enjoy a tea with champagne for £18! For Kensington and afternoon tea, that’s a steal!

January: Ceremony of the Keys

The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London has taken place every night for the past 700 years!…despite the rain or WWII! From 9:30-10:05pm, 40-50 guests have the privilege of watching this gate-closing ritual in which the guards, known as Beefeaters, escort the Chief Yeoman Warder with the keys during the ceremony. Admission is free, but sign-up months in advance or spots may be gone! (By post in London, my tickets arrived within a week. Give more time if posting from elsewhere and be sure to read the rules of submission online carefully or else you will be asked to post again….like I had to (oops)).

The Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

The Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

February: Chinese New Year, Frost Fair, and Poetry Slam

Wow so much has happened in February already!

Chinese New Year 2014, Year of the Horse
Known to be the largest CNY outside of Asia, London’s China Town extends into Trafalgar Square and other areas of Central London on the Sunday following CNY. Complete with a parade, traditional lion and dragon dances, and delicious eats, this event is also not one to be missed. Though a word of caution, hundreds and thousands of people attend the celebrations and human barricades are unavoidable…trust me. But I still think it is worth it!

Frost Fair
Forget hiding away by the fireplace on a frigid winter day, have a party! The first known Frost Fair took place in the early 17th century after the ‘Old Father Thames’ froze over. The frozen river was turned into a once and a lifetime event for some where Londoners partook in trade, enjoyed a carnival, market stalls, and bars for just a few days before the ice melted away. Due to climate changes, the last Frost Fair was held in 1814 where an elephant was seen trekking across the ice! This year, the very first Frost Fair in over 200 years took place in Shoreditch at Broadgate Ice Rink with live entertainment, life-sized board games, free ice-skating, and market stalls selling goods and delicious eats!

Poetry Slam
Looking to experience the artsy side of London? Check out poetry slam and spoken word events happening in London. My friend and I attended a poetry slam at Genesis Cinema, a free event that takes place every first Thursday of the month. We even got to be 1 of 5 sets of judges!…little did they know it was our first poetry slam and my first attempt to embrace my artsy side. We got the hang of it though (aka, stuck with a score range of 7-10).

Angel Comedy Club

Located around the corner from Angel station at the Camden Head is a free nightly comedy club featuring new and established comedians in London. And it is quite a good show for some free laughs! Just a heads up, no cameras or filming allowed…I learned the hard way!

Check out my Free London page and the Londonist for more free and cheap London! That’s where I find all my goodies : )

Categories: All Blog Postings, Free Things to Do Abroad, London | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Year Later

Today marks one year since I have lived in America, driven a car, and seen my closest friends and family. But in this one year, I’ve experienced more than most do in a lifetime. I’ve opened my eyes, my ears, and my heart to the world and the colorful cultures, individuals, and opportunities it has to offer. While most friends pursued jobs in the so called “real world” after graduation, I lived in it. For the past year, I have lived by this quote:  

“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.”

Prior to gallivanting half way across the world, friends and family alike predicted my year abroad would consist of a delicious diet, European love, and too many adventures to count. Spoiled with homemade Italian pasta dishes, twice daily gelato, and all the fresh baguettes and pastries I desire, my stomach has found itself quite satisfied. And yes, I’m in LOVE! And with the most passionate lover in the world–Europe. I’ve opened my heart to its splendorous countries and they’ve given me nothing but love and new experiences in return. Everyday good, bad, exciting, or boring presents a new challenge and adventure that continues to bulk up my travel novel past its binding.

Looking back I think to myself, “Who was that crazy girl with a one-way ticket to Europe and no plan? And how did she end up back in Paris?” If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this year abroad, it’s that you can’t plan out life. You have to let life happen and figure it out along the way.

The best part about my international endeavors stems from the uniqueness of each experience in multiple countries. Rather than comfortably settle into one location with one job, one group of friends, and one cultural experience, I ventured for the less comfortable and at times challenging option to live in 3 different countries each with their own language, culture, and customs. I worked 3 vastly different jobs and though I started out alone, I quickly made new friends from every inch of the world and never knew where I’d end up on any given day. This exciting yet challenging route allowed me to call three international destinations home and it opened the door to surprising, unexpected, and awe inspiring opportunities.

The Modern Day Italian Goddess

In Italy, I not only gained an excess amount of kilos from the twice daily pasta dishes and Nutella breakfast sandwiches, but also an appreciation for the Italian culture that most miss while gondola-ing through Venice or posing with gladiators at the Coliseum.

Living with Italians from south, north, and central Italy, I experienced the passion and pride Italians possess for their culture. Standing at their doors with open arms and European kisses, I was welcomed into the family and treated as one of their own without hesitation. These families showed me the beauty of their country from their own eyes, and it was hard not to feel like an Italian goddess when walking down any street surrounded by ancient ruins and history.

Finally, though not much can be said for productivity in Italy, I benefited from the lack there of by slowing down my American busy body self to take a moment to stop and drink some wine and eat some cheese.

Love my incredible Italian host family, the Scarpellinis’.

The beginning of amazing memories– Florence, Italy

Single Girl in the City: London Town

After becoming incredibly too comfortable with the lax Italian lifestyle, I had to kick it u a notch to keep up with the busy city life of London. However,  I quickly came to realize that London was my happy medium. With a NYCesque nonstop atmosphere of activity mixed in with the EuroChill attitude, London became the city of my dreams. Spending my days in chic cafes or eclectic pubs with the girls, we enjoyed the unique English culture complimented by an international flare.

The diversity of London goes beyond its international inhabitants. Just 10 minutes walking distance to the next, each borough possesses its own culture, style, and attitude. From the posh areas of Hampstead to the eccentric and edgy Camden Town, or corporate Liverpool St. leading to the artsy confines of Spittalfields, the unique boroughs created a walkable time warp into different decades and atmospheres throughout the city.

Paris, London, and the World captured through my eyes


Kristin, Kristine, Christian, Chantal- Unidentified Parisian Life

To my American friends, I’m Kristin. To my French family and friends, I’m Kristine and apparently Christian when they try to Americanize their accent. So many a time I just go with my high school French class name and new alter ego, Chantal. Just like the name situation, Paris has proven to be a very ‘all over the place’ kind of experience that often results in confusion. This is primarily a result of the double life I lead– 23-year-old Kristin versus Au Pair Kristine.

The Au Pair life in the suburbs of Paris is a rather quiet one–when I’m not with the kiddies that is. Surrounded by French, French, and more French, I am fully immersed in the culture and language 24/7. This has definitely allowed me to understand the particular ways of the French and develop my language skills. That being said, I do know how to say more than ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Merci’ nowadays, but language barriers still present humorous scenarios at times.

Taking care of 2 (sometimes 3) kids under the age of 6 in the suburbs definitely creates a need for social interaction with people my age and a change of scenary. Every chance I get to escape into Paris makes me appreciate the city that much more despite its little quirks.

Most of my days spent in the city include wandering down unfamiliar and diagonal streets that almost always turn me in the opposite direction of my destination. Along the way, I always tend to find lovers and their baby in the making, meet an interesting crowd of Parisian dwellers eager to share their ‘talents’, ‘words of wisdom’, or ‘appreciation for my legs’, and creepers who so kindly invite me to ‘take a coffee with them’.  After giving them the Parisian ‘get away’ eyebrow lift, I mosey my way through the alleys leading to an array of interesting happenings such as Antiquites Brocantes (antique garage sales), bread festivals, wine tastings, and endless cultural events thorough out the city of lights. Paris is full of hidden treasures, and I made it my mission to discover every single one.

The travels aren’t over yet

With 24 days remaining in my Parisian experience, I’m enjoying the mystery and wonder of the lavish city while preparing for the next big thing. So what’s next?! One year ago, as I was hopping on the plane to fly to Europe, never did I think I’d be going to ASIA! But life is leading me to Taiwan and the Southeast for the culture shock of a lifetime. Asian food, a new culture and its customs to integrate into, constant confusion when trying to read anything– o it’s gonna be great! After Asia, it’s back to Italy for another go with ACLE followed by some travel through the European east side (can’t wait to feel rich in Europe!) and finally home sweet home…at least that’s the ‘idea’ for now 🙂

I could go on and on about the magnificent journey I’ve been on for the past year, but in the end it will forever be one that is indescribable. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the experiences I’ve had and to those that have been a part of them. All I got to say is it’s been a heck of a ride!

So bottoms up, cin cin, cheers, santé, and hō ta lah to an  indescribable year of a lifetime and the continued good life ahead!

Categories: All Blog Postings, Travel Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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