Five Days in Frisco

Colin and I just got back from “frolicking in Frannie” – our trip to San Francisco!

We’ve been looking forward to SF for a while now. I bought Colin tickets to the SF production of Hamilton (our musical obsession) way back in December when they went on sale. I gave him the tickets for his birthday in March and we’ve been planning our trip ever since. Even though this was my third time to San Francisco, I discovered there was still so much to see and do. I love the city by the bay and if I had to move to an American city, it would probably be this one!

Here’s an overview of our five days full of Frisco!

Day 1:

We arrived on Friday after what felt like a full day of skytrains, getting through customs, flying and finally taking an Uber to our hotel. We don’t have Uber in Vancouver so we were psyched to use it in SF. Once we arrived at the Fisherman’s Wharf Marriott (we scored an awesome deal on Priceline), we headed right down to the wharf for a famous bread bowl of clam chowder. Colin LOVED the Boudin Bakery sourdough!

If you squint, you can see apx 6 sea lions behind us

After dinner, we walked over to Pier 39 to see the sea lions and the shops. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many sea lions in the summer. And then it was back to our hotel for a change of clothes – I still can’t believe how chilly it gets in SF! We were in California in July and I was freezing in long pants and a sweater. We put on our warmest and headed out for ice cream sundaes at Ghiradelli’s. We both forgot that we are pretty lactose intolerant so those sundaes didn’t sit too well.

Day 2:

Started our next day with brunch at a nearby diner. After that we headed to Pier 41 where the Alcatraz cruises depart. Unfortunately, we had not booked ahead and were informed that the next available tour wasn’t until August 20th (this was July 15). Whoops! So instead we headed for Coit Tower. Google Maps said it was a 12 minute walk. They neglected to mention that it was also 450 steps up to the base of the tower. My legs were DEAD! Luckily, to get up Coit Tower itself you take an elevator, so my legs got a break. The views were awesome! It’s a San Francisco landmark I’ve always known about but this was the first trip I actually went to visit it.

View from the top! With a foggy Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

Coit Tower!

After taking in the view we walked back down the hill and hung out in Washington Square admiring a beautiful church while we waited on a table at Tony’s. 30 minutes later we were enjoying a delicious wood-fire pizza and a giant meatball. YUM!

We didn’t go for a ride but we did pose next to a cable car – that counts, right?

From there we decided to walk through Chinatown to Union Square, taking in lots of SF sights. We took a break at the Starbucks in Macy’s after doing some window shopping. Next was an impromptu wardrobe change when we went to Target and bought new outfits. And then we took an Uber over to West Portal where my friend, Robert, is a chef at a little diner. We had a delicious dinner there and then visited crooked Lombard Street before getting back to our hotel. It was a busy day!

Hello, Lombard!

Day 3:

Day 3 was our Golden Gate day! We started our visit on Baker Beach with awesome views of the Golden Gate Bridge. I wish we had thought to bring a blanket and a picnic so we could have enjoyed it more. Then we moved on to Sutro Baths, another SF first for me. These are the ruins of old public baths that existed in SF before the 1906 earthquake. There were also awesome lookout points, caves and Seal Rock (with sadly, no seals).

From there we drove over to Golden Gate Park (which is actually nowhere close to the bridge). We walked around Stow Lake and saw waterfalls, gardens and the California Academy of Sciences. We had lunch in the park and then walked out on the other end into The Haight. I love this unique neighbourhood of San Francisco. Colin and I both admitted that it was probably a little too cool for us, but we appreciated walking through nonetheless.

Back at the hotel, we got changed and then went out for dinner. We headed to Surisan, a Korean fusion place by our hotel. And it was DELICIOUS! Probably the best meal we had all trip. The atmosphere and decor were really cool and all of the dishes were so tasty. With full bellies (and light wallets), we headed back to our room for the season premiere of Game of Thrones! Yes, the Marriott had HBO!

SO YUM!

Day 4:

Day 4 was my birthday! I turned the big 2-5! Unfortunately, it was also the day that I woke up with an awful head cold. I had a runny nose and watery eyes all day – it was the worst! But despite my gross-ness, we trekked out to enjoy the day. We started with breakfast at IHOP and then took the ferry across the bay to Sausalito.

Sausalito is a super cute little waterfront town with lots of great shops. I’m sure if I was feeling better I would’ve enjoyed it more. We shopped around a little and then went into a fancy restaurant for drinks and an appetizer. We took the ferry back, picked up a late lunch at the San Francisco Ferry Building (awesome food options!) and then returned to the hotel so I could have a Nyquil-induced nap.

Colin woke me around 6pm and we made our way to the Giants baseball game we had gotten tickets for. I’m not a huge baseball fan but it was the only day the Giants were playing while we were in town and live sports games are always a good time. It was a fun evening, even though I was still sniffly and the Giants lost. Back at the hotel, Colin held up a video of a candle behind a mini cheesecake for me to make a birthday wish before passing out.

Day 5:

Our last full day in San Francisco was the reason we had come in the first place: Hamilton! We started off our day by going for brunch at Mama’s in North Beach. Mama’s is a famous brunch place that, according to the lady in line in front of us, is always lined up no matter what time of day and is Michelin rated! We waited 90 mins from the time we got in line until the time food arrived on our table. Colin even went to get us pastries to tide us over while we stood in line. The food was great but, if I’m being honest, not worth the wait.

Worth the wait?

After Mama’s, we had to lie down in the park for a little while to aid in our digestion. Then it was off to walk through some neighbourhoods and explore some more. We started in the Castro where we got to see the home and camera shop of Harvey Milk. Then we walked through the Mission and Delores Park. And then we took an Uber to San Francisco City Hall – the most beautiful building! It was so gorgeous and we got to see a few couples taking their wedding photos there.

How gorgeous is this building? The inside is even prettier!

We grabbed a beer and then a quick bite before it was Hamilton time! Colin and I (and everyone else in the theatre) were so excited to be there. Even though our tickets were for the very back row, the show was amazing. Everyone was on the edge of their seats – the energy was so electric. It’s the kind of musical where you cheer, laugh, cry and dance in your seat the whole time. It was 100% the best part of our trip and I would give my right arm to go see Hamilton again.

HAMILTON!!!!!

Leaving Day:

On our last morning in SF, we thought it would save time to get room service breakfast delivered to our room. Sadly, we didn’t read the fine print about service charges and delivery charges and ended up paying $81 USD for breakfast! Not a great note for our last morning. We checked out and then headed down to Anchor Brewing Company where we had booked a brewery tour. It was fun to learn about America’s oldest craft brewery and see how they make their products. But I’m not a huge beer fan to begin with, so I think all of the free samples were probably wasted on me.

After the brewery tour and one too many sample beers, we went across the street for sushi lunch. And then it was time to Uber to the airport and head home! We got through security with little trouble and were back in Vancouver before 7:00pm. And by 9:00pm we were reunited with Ellie and at home on our couch watching Parks n’ Rec!


An awesome trip to San Francisco for sure! We had a great time and were so psyched to finally see Hamilton after singing along to the soundtrack for the last year and a bit. And we’ll be back in SF for a day in September with my mom when we visit Portland and Napa Valley! But I think that’s it for summer trips for us – save maybe a couple days in Kelowna when Colin’s sister in law has her baby.

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A little life update

I wanted to share a little life update and some upcoming plans (and, probably, posts) for the summer.

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So, first up, I have an update on the job front. I’ve been working at UBC in Admissions for the last 6-ish months.  However, it’s a contract position that ends in June so I was starting to look for something new. And, I’ve found it! As of May 30th, I will be the Student Services Program Assistant with UBC’s Allard School of Law. I’m excited that I found a position on campus and with more student interaction. It’s a brand new position, so I’m really looking forward to being able to add my input and see where things go.  As well, this job is just one building away from my current job, so I will still be able to stay in touch with old friends.

Yay for employment! This is a full-time on-going position so I don’t have to worry about a contract coming up.  Also, with an on-going position, I become eligible for tuition credits so I can take more of my counselling pre-reqs to one day apply for my Masters in Counselling (maybe? we’ll see!).

Besides a new gig, I’ve got lots of amazing plans upcoming for this summer. When I first came back to Vancouver, after spending the previous 1-2 years adventuring through Swaziland, Australia, Europe and Japan, I was a little disoriented. I was really excited to finish off my degree and begin a more settled life in Vancouver. But I was also itching to get back on a plane, pack a bag and take off somewhere new. I decided that I could still satisfy my travel bug by getting in some local travel.  And I’ve done that: with trips to Seattle, LA, San Francisco, etc. And I’ve got a bunch more planned for this summer!

May: So starting it off, Colin and I will be spending Victoria Day in Victoria!  I have been to Victoria a few times in the past but never overnight (except for work, which doesn’t count). And my favourite part is always the ferry ride there and back where I spend the whole time looking for sea creatures. So I’m excited to see what else Victoria has to offer.  And, outside of travel, Colin and I will also be attending a few concerts in May: Matt Corby and Macklemore!

June: And then in June, Colin and I are heading to Toronto to celebrate Kim and Joe’s wedding! Kimberley is the first of my friends to get married and the first time I’ve been a co-maid of honour so I’m all sorts of excited and nervous.  After the wedding, and a very quick visit in Toronto, we’re trying to plan a short few days in Montreal before coming home to Vancouver.  And we’re also seeing Billy Elliott in June, which I saw a long time ago in Toronto and loved.

July: As soon as we get back from Toronto/Montreal, we have 2 nights to rest and then we’re off to Pender Harbour.  Colin’s family has a place out there and every summer all the relatives come up with their trailers and tents for a little family vacation.  Last year, I got to spend a few days there when I got back from China and it was beautiful.  It was so nice to hang out by the water, sit around a fire and play lawn games.  I learned that I am horrible at horseshoes, terrified of kayaking and probably not ready for any deep sea fishing or paddle boarding.  But, I had an amazing time nonetheless and can’t wait to go up again this year.  And, in more theatre news, I’m seeing Newsies in July as it’s touring in Vancouver for 5 days.

More July: Not set in stone, but Colin and I are planning a roadtrip to Calgary for the Calgary Stampede.  I am super excited because I have never been to Calgary and haven’t done any roadtrips since I was a kid.  We have all of these wonderful places mapped out for our stops and have already begun work on our playlist and list of snacks to bring.  Plus, we’re planning this trip for my birthday weekend, which will be really special.  Hopefully we can get the time off work to make this one happen!

August: For the August long weekend, we’ve got another family trip in the works.  To celebrate Colin’s aunt’s birthday, we’re planning a few nights at a resort in Semiahmoo. I have never been or heard of this place but it sounds like fun and I’m excited for yet another local adventure.

More August: And, two nights after we get back from Semiahmoo, I’m off to Toronto again.  This time, for Andrea and Nader’s wedding.  I’m thrilled to be celebrating with them and to see my friends/family again. I haven’t been home for a while now – I was back in early December – so it’s nice to be going back twice this summer (despite what my wallet will argue).

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And I think that’s it! I am so excited for my new job and summer plans.  Knowing my life, there’s a good chance that some of this will change, things will be added, extended, etc. But that’s sorta the fun of it 🙂

That perfect weekend

This past weekend was…perfect!

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Nothing crazy happened. I didn’t win any contest or go on any big trip. But I did have a really wonderful weekend. I got to do a lot of things I love with a lot of people I love even more. Sometimes I forget how much awesome my life is comprised of (like in last week’s sad rant). But this weekend was a perfect reminder of just that.

Saturday morning started with a wonderful catch-up Skype date with my momma. It had been some time since we had talked and we both had lots of updates for each other. It was nice to have that time with her, even when we live 3 time zones away from one another.

After Skyping, I headed out into the cold, but beautifully sunny, day to meet my good friend Emilie so we could exercise our civic duty together. Even though I’ve been of age to vote for over 4 years, this was my first time voting. And it was so exciting! It took a little while to fill out the paper work, but it was well worth it. And rocking the “I voted” sticker all day was half the fun.

We voted!

We voted!

Next, Emilie and I hit up a toy store/craft studio where we sat down with a group of eight year olds to paint some pottery! We both went for large latte mugs and let out our inner artistes. I’ve done a few pottery paintings in my day and still find the rainy day childhood pastime to be really fun.  Unfortunately, my artistic ability does not reflect the number of hours I’ve spent at different art studios (and my parents have cabinets full of mugs/plates/figurines to prove it!).

Creative craftsmanship at its finest

Creative craftsmanship at its finest

From there we grabbed a quick (and yummy) bite before heading off to work.  Work was surprisingly relaxing. I got to work in the dining room with some lovely people and only had a few tables.  We all got out by 10:30 with relatively few broken glasses/messed up orders.

And to finish off the night: Emilie and I went for late night sushi! I love spontaneous outings like that. We were just sitting waiting for our buses when we decided sushi would be a great idea. And it was! I was grossly full, but it was well worth it.

YUM!

YUM!

On Sunday I woke up to another beautifully bright day.  Which was perfect for my friends Andrea and Zoe who were running a 10K and half marathon, respectively. I headed out to UBC and met up with some fellow UBC-ers to cheer them on and congratulate them at the finish line. It was awesome to see so many smiling faces crossing the finish line – almost awesome enough to make me want to run (almost).  To celebrate their athletic achievement, we went out for a post-run brunch of delicious eggs, hashbrowns and complimentary banana bread at Enigma.

Congrats ladies!

Congrats ladies!

From brunch, Andrea and I met up with our friend Malindi at Starbucks and then headed downtown.  Malindi and I had plans to see Urinetown (the musical, not the place, of course) with our other friends Ashleigh and Jenna.  Urinetown was the residence musical I had worked on in my first year advising (back in 2011) with Malindi, Ashleigh and Jenna. We decided catching the Firehall Art Centre’s version would be the perfect mini-musical reunion.  The show was really well done and a ton of fun (buy tickets!).  But even better was seeing old friends and catching up over coffees post-show 🙂

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Such a good show!

 

And then I got to have a chill Sunday night at home. It was nice to not be working and to have some time to recharge a bit before another crazy week of work, school and whatever else I have going on (grad photos, I think?). So while my weekend wasn’t terribly productive – I have no groceries, a carpet that could use a vacuum and many untouched schoolbooks – it was really nice to be able to spend time with some of my favourite people in Vancouver. These are the people who are going to make living here for the next two years (at least) so wonderful.  I’m looking forward to it!

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“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”

A big adventure starting and ending in one of my favourite cities in the world: London!

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Way back on May 14th I played my part as a plaintiff in mock court for my law class, downed a beer with some mock jury members and caught a 40min flight to good ol’ London, England. There I met my mom and we started our epic 28 day adventure through Europe (detailed blog posts to follow).

London was perfect for us: convenient for mom to fly into from Toronto, home to our cousin Rachel, and hosting the UK premiere of one of my favourite shows, In The Heights! We started off our three days in London by exploring the area around our hotel.  We walked through Kensington Gardens (where I excitedly pointed out where Will, Kate & baby George live) and shopped the streets of Notting Hill. It was nice to take things a little more leisurely than past trips, knowing I had ticked off most of the London tourist attractions long ago.

Selfies at Kensington Garden! Kate, we love what you're doing with the place.

Selfies at Kensington Garden!                                                                  Kate, we love what you’re doing with the place.

A big highlight for me, and something I hadn’t done yet, was high tea! Mom, Rachel and I sat down for proper high tea at The Wolesley complete with scones and mini sandwiches! It was adorable and something I would definitely want to incorporate into my adult life. Is it appropriate to just serve every meal on one of those cute tiered platters?

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Tea time!

The other huge highlight was seeing In The Heights! ITH is a musical I was introduced to a few years back and I immediately fell in love with the soundtrack and story.  It’s based in the Washington Heights area of NYC and incorporates rap, salsa, hip hop, etc. while still coming off as a theatrical broadway show.  This UK version at the Southwark Playhouse was absolutely mind-blowing and surpassed all of my expectations. The choreography was incredible and the vocals were perfect. I was seriously debating missing our flight the next day to see the show again!

Such a good show!

Such a good show!

From London, mom and I flew back to my home in Amsterdam for the next leg in our journey.  More to come on that, but fast-forwarding to the end of our trip when we landed back in London on June 10….

With less than 24 hours in London together, mom and I just had time for a quick dinner with cousin Rachel and a peaceful night at the loveliest off-airport hotel.  We met Rachel at Shoryu, a delicious ramen restaurant in Soho, where we were introduced to the yummiest hirata buns and some very strong cocktails.

After messing up the directions and overshooting our tube stop the next morning, I hugged mom goodbye and sent her off to Heathrow with a suitcase stuffed with my junk, empty wallet, stomach full of seafood and pasta, uneven tan lines and, hopefully, lots of great laughs and memories. It’s not that often you get to spend a month adventuring around Europe with your mama!

Lucky for me, I got to tack on a few extra days to my adventure. An hour after waving goodbye to mom, I met up with two of my girlfriends from Amsterdam for their first trip to London! I was so excited to show off my city (yes, I’m claiming ownership) to London-newbies and was even more excited that their visit coincided with Trooping the Colour!

Our first day was dubbed the nerd day: we visited Abbey Road and did horrible impressions of the Beatles’ walk while trying to avoid getting hit by double-decker buses. We stopped by 21B Baker Street to solve some crimes with Dr Watson and Mr Holmes. And we got our photos taken, complete with house scarves and character wands, going through the wall at Platform 9 and 3/4! We ended our nerdy day with a little more cosmopolitan flair: shopping on Oxford Street and seeing Wicked, the musical! Despite having now seen the show four times, Wicked still remains my favourite 🙂

Gabby on Abbey (Road)

Gabby on Abbey (Road)

Dr Watson & Mr(s) Holmes!

Dr Watson & Mr(s) Holmes!

Off to Hogwarts!

Off to Hogwarts!

Our second day began with a tour around the Westminster area to take in Big Ben, houses of parliament and Westminster Abbey. For some reason I still feel the need to take pictures of these icons; they’re just that impressive! Then it was over to Borough Market for lunch before making our way to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.  At the Globe we sat down for a performance of Titus Andronicus, one of Shakespeare’s lesser known and significantly bloodier plays.  Spoiler alert: everyone dies.  Literally 3 characters make it out alive.  And the methods of death are nothing short of cruelly creative (two guys may or may not get baked into a pie their mother is then made to eat). Despite the gore, the play itself was very entertaining and almost enough to make us forget about the uncomfortable benches we were sitting on.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Borough Market

Borough Market

Titus making his entrance!

Titus making his entrance!

After the play we walked through Trafalgar Square and witnessed the celebrations for the start of the World Cup.  Brazil fans were out in full force! We kept walking through Leicester and thought Jamie Oliver’s Italian would be a good choice for dinner. But we wrong! The food was mediocre and the service was worse.  Luckily, we remedied our horrible meal with Shake Shack ice creams and the wonderful music stylings of a Covent Garden busker.

Man has us applauding, tearing up and emptying our wallets!

Man had us applauding, tearing up and emptying our wallets!

Friday started off with an impromptu picnic in Hyde Park where Gabby saw her first squirrel! Though even Stephanie and I, lifelong squirrel viewers, had to admit the London squirrels were much cuter and more spry than the North American ones. After the park we made our way to Soho Secret Tea Room (hint: the entrance is through a bar) for some traditional English tea and scones. We had time to hit up the giant bargain store Primark, where I managed to buy 4 articles of clothing, two pairs of socks and rings all for just 20 pounds, before catching a glimpse of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London right before they closed.

Gabby finally gets a proper pot of English Breakfast tea!

Gabby finally gets a proper pot of English Breakfast tea!

We ended our Friday night at the Dalston Yard Street Feast. Gabby managed to find this incredible hidden street food market where I was able to get another yummy taste of hirata buns. All of the food was amazing! We finished the night off with drinks back in the city before spending our last night in the hostel.

Steph enjoying her burger at the Street Feast

Steph enjoying her burger at the Street Feast

Such strange ice cream flavours!

Such strange ice cream flavours!

On our last day WE SAW THE QUEEN! AND KATE! AND WILL! AND HARRY!

We planned our trip so we could catch Trooping the Colour, London’s annual celebration of the Queen’s birthday, just a few hours before our flight. We joined the masses down by Buckingham Palace (via hoisting ourselves and all our bags over a railing) to await the Queen’s arrival. I had been to Trooping before, back in 2012, but just in time to see the royal family waving from the balcony.  This time we caught the whole show: marching bands, horses, guards, 41-gun salute, air force fly-over, royal family members driving by in carriages and, the highlight, the whole family on the balcony.  Despite the crowds, rain and humidity, it was so cool!

Fancy fly over

Fancy fly over

HI QUEEN!

HI QUEEN!

And with that lovely royal send-off, we headed to the airport and back to Amsterdam.  It’s crazy to think that that was my 5th visit to London. And every time I visit I fall more in love with the city and find myself fantasizing more and more about living there. I told Steph and Gabby that by 25 years old (a scarily short 3 years away), I would be back in London on a more permanent basis.  Gabby and I have even decided to flat together 😉 Till then, London!

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Up next: filling in the rest of the trip starting with me playing tour guide in Amsterdam!

 

Live. Love. London.

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to return to one of my favourite cities: London, England! As soon as the plane (which was only in the air for 40 mins!) touched down, I got a crazy sense of coming home. I’ve often said that London is a city I could live in, and this trip only made me want to move there that much sooner!

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My original purpose in planning this UK trip was to volunteer at Free The Children’s first We Day outside of North America. This would complete my We Day hat trick: attended the first ever We Day in Toronto (2007), worked at the first We Day in the States (2013) and volunteered at the first We Day UK (2014).

The show was amazing! I volunteered as a Crowd Pumper, so I basically got to cheer and dance while having a great view of the stage.  I was most excited to see HRH Prince Harry (!!!) speaking, but was more blown away by the inspirational and well-spoken Malala Yousafzai (who didn’t even use her teleprompter), parolympian Martine Wright (who competed in London 2 years after losing her legs) and the always-impressive Spencer West. Of course, dancing with new friends to Ellie Goulding wasn’t too bad either 🙂

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My future husband – aka HRH Prince Harry!

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Malala Yousafzai – pure inspiration!

After We Day wrapped up, I met up with my good friend Andrea, who is currently on exchange in Sweden. We set out for the exhilarating, yet continually disappointing, Book of Mormon lottery – you put your name in a giant spinning drum and 2 hours before showtime, they give out 21 front row seats for only 20 pounds! It’s exciting, standing in the crowd and clapping for the lucky few who hear their names called. But it’s also pretty disappointing to walk away empty handed.

Fingers crossed! Waiting (and losing) at the BOM lottery

Fingers crossed! Waiting (and losing) at the BOM lottery

After losing the lottery, we tried at a few discount theatre ticket shops but decided on a cheap dinner and early night.  Unfortunately, our cheap dinner didn’t turn out too good (I paid 8 pounds for 2 chicken wings and a waffle) and neither did our early night. At the last moment we decided to buy tickets to Once, which were upgraded when we got to the theatre!

Trying to look happy about our mediocre dinner

Trying to look happy about our mediocre dinner

The next morning, still on a theatre-rush, Andrea and I headed to the Wicked box office for student tickets to that night’s performance. Tickets in hand, we walked over a few blocks to Buckingham Palace’s famed Changing of the Guard…

…which was an overrated let down! I have never seen more tourists crammed into an area for, what boiled down to, a few marching bands. Regardless of where you stood, you could only have visibility for a portion of the ceremony. The best part was the bad-ass cop on horseback who had crowd control down to an art form.  I can’t believe that gong show goes on every other day (every day in the summer)!

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The real star of the Changing of the Guard

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Tourists suck

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Yup, we were there!

Next we followed in the tourist tracks and joined a free walking tour. It was a beautiful day for it – but our attention span wasn’t quite there. We tuned out most of the stories and ended up ditching our group for birds in the park about halfway through the tour.

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The guards at St. James Palace come right up to you on their march!

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The guy next to us was throwing his bread in the air where the birds would fly, hover & catch it mid-air!

We continued on our own “walking tour” heading up to parliament, Big Ben & Westminster Abbey before dragging our sore feet through some stores on the way to dinner.  After enjoying some Wok to Walk, we jumped on the tube and got in line at the Apollo Vic Theatre to see WICKED!

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Pretty sure I take this exact same photo every time I come to London

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Andrea enjoying the legendary Wok to Walk

This was my 3rd time seeing Wicked (2nd time in London – rough life, I know), but it still gives me chills every time. I notice new details and have to restrain myself from joining in on the songs. Our Elphaba was phenomenal and in addition to her incredible voice, had plans to run a marathon in April! To be that talented!

Best show ever!

Best show ever!

Our final day in London started off with delicious brunch with a familiar face: my (second? removed? who knows?) cousin Rachel! Rachel, her husband and her adorable dog just moved back to London after spending a few years in Brazil. It was nice to see some family and really nice to enjoy yummy brunch out in the sun.

Brunching with Rachel & Lorenzo!

Brunching with Rachel & Lorenzo!

After food, we headed to the train station. On the way we walked past St. Mary’s Hospital (where Prince George was born!) and a market on houseboats (which seems like something Amsterdam should be doing!).

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The Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital where Prince George was born!

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Checking out the used books on the house boat book store

We took the train to Windsor Castle and spent a good part of the day exploring the grounds, checking out the state rooms and trying to guess where the Queen might be.

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Heading into Windsor Castle

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This flag means the Queen is home!

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Family crests of British soldiers

The castle was pretty spectacular, and the whole town was really cute. There were lots of little shops including a discount bookstore and some overrated award-winning ice cream.  By late afternoon, we were ready to head back to London.

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Before we realized what a let down the ice cream would be!

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Windsor’s gardens

Though we didn’t actually reach London for a few hours thanks to lots of train delays.  Luckily, we didn’t have anywhere we needed to be. We stumbled across an Indian buffet (spicy, yet delicious), purchased some postcards and headed back to our hostel.

Our few days in London flew by pretty fast: Andrea was off Sunday night and I took a bus to the airport Monday morning.  We saw a lot, but there is so much of London and the UK left to discover. I found myself constantly saying how I would see that thing and go to that place when I (eventually) live in London. I will definitely be returning to London – in fact, as soon as I got home I emailed my mom with plans to start our trip there in May. So I might get a few more lovely London days in May and hopefully some lovely London months in the not-so-distant future!

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And tomorrow morning – off to Budapest, Hungary!

Last few London days

I can’t believe my 5 days in London are almost up and I’ll be boarding a 12 hour flight to Jo’burg tomorrow night! 

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Sunday:

On Sunday I went to church service at Westminster Abbey! It was just as grand and beautiful as last time.  The church service was fairly traditional with a lot of standing and prayer reciting.  But it was also really nice 🙂

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Westminster Abbey!

After that I walked along the Thames past the parliament buildings, Big Ben, the London Eye, etc. I was headed to the Lyceum Theatre to see the Lion King and as is habit now, got spectacularly lost. I finally found it and bought the last single seat they had. It was a little more than I was hoping to spend but I was in the front row! So close I could see beads of sweat and could’ve (but didn’t!) touch the actors as they went through the aisles.  I’ve seen The Lion King in Toronto a couple of times when I was much younger but it was really nice to be able to experience it again. I could really appreciate how breathtaking the costumes and set are. 

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So close I could have leant over and poked the dude playing drums!

Monday:

Monday was absolutely beautiful here in London! I got a bit of a late start to my day and headed out to Kensington Palace around 12. Kensington Palace is the rumoured location for Will and Kate once the baby arrives and renovations are complete. I felt it was my duty to scope out their new digs. The Palace is beautiful, as expected, and home to some gorgeous gardens/fountains.  It’s also surrounded by Kensington Park which I got to spend the afternoon walking around. 

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Kensington Palace = breathtaking!

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They had Will & Kate pillows along a bench inside Kensington Palace!

In the evening I headed to the National Portrait Gallery. I wanted to see if Kate’s portrait was as disappointing in person. She definitely still looks aged, but I could at least appreciate the beauty of the painting, despite it adding 10 years to poor Kate. I was impressed that the Gallery also had portraits of modern famous Brits like Ed Sheeran, Amy Winehouse, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith! 

I headed back to the Prince of Wales Theatre for the 5:00pm lottery for The Book of Mormon.  Everyone gets to put their name in and at 5:30 they do a lottery for 21 tickets, great seats, for only 20 pounds each! I was expecting maybe 50 or so people but by the time 5:30 rolled around the streets were packed! There was easily 150-200 people there.  Sadly, the odds were not in my favour and I didn’t win the lottery.  It was still pretty fun taking part in it though and I was second in line for return tickets! 

I met some cool people waiting for returns. A girl from Toronto who is now working in Edinburgh and 2 guys who were major Broadway groupies. They were talking about people in the cast like they were all friends and had both seen the show at least once before. The return line moved very slowly and by 7:15 (15 mins to show time), it wasn’t looking very good. Finally, at 7:25pm, a man came out and said he had a single return ticket! I teared up a little and followed him inside, waved good luck to my friends in line and rushed to my seat.

HOLY CRAP THE BOOK OF MORMON IS SO AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

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The BOM stage before an usher yelled at me to put my camera away!

It was absolutely incredible! I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for a few months but the live performance blew me away. It was way racier than I thought, way funnier and way more impressive! I couldn’t believe how fast it went by. I’m seriously debating trying to see the matinee tomorrow before my flight…

Tuesday:

Today London decided to revert to its dreary rainy weather.  Unfortunately, I decided to head out sans umbrella and in fuzzy Toms. The worst feeling in the world is having to put on cold, wet, fuzzy Toms. 

I planned to watch the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace this morning (me and every other tourist in London), but when I got there I read a sign saying the ceremony had been cancelled.  Next, I tubed over to St. Paul’s to check out the famous Cathedral. It was way bigger than I expected, so worth the viewing.

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Me and St. Paul’s in the rain

Then I walked along the longest, windiest, coldest bridge over the Thames to reach Tate Modern. This modern art museum is famous for its collection but most importantly to me it was indoors and free! I attempted to spend most of the afternoon at Tate Modern but unfortunately I don’t get most modern art.  One piece was literally a mirror.  I think the artist went to Ikea, bought a $12 mirror and sold it to the Gallery for a few thousand.  I did get to see Monet’s Water Lilies which was impressive.

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Monet

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Wood, brown tape and styrofoam heads…somehow equals art?

Weather still miserable, I walked and then took transit to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Unfortunately, every other water-logged tourist had the same idea! When I arrived the wait was 3 hours long! I shook my head and jumped back on the tube.

I walked around trying to think of another less-crowded place to go but I was getting more soaked and more unhappy.  Eventually, I found myself outside a theatre and decided The Hangover III would buy me a couple rainless hours. It was enjoyable but not a must-see.

Finally, it was time for my musical of the day! I had gotten a ticket to Once from a discount retailer: centre floor seat for only 25 pounds (regular 65)! Once won all of the Tonys this year so I had to see what all the fuss was about. 

And I’d say it’s worth the fuss! It has a community-theatre feel to it.  The stage actually has an operational bar and before the show/during intermission you can go up on stage and enjoy a drink! About 15 mins before the show started, the cast came out and started playing some songs. Everyone in the cast plays an instrument so there’s not an accompanying band for the show; some serious talent!  The music was beautiful and the story was very romantic but I think I felt a little let down.  It’s just a bit slower paced than most musicals so I probably would’ve liked it better had I seen it before Book of Mormon.

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The audience getting their drink on while the cast serenades them pre-show

And then tomorrow I leave! I can’t believe I’m going to Africa tomorrow! Based on my explosion of a suitcase here in my London room, it doesn’t feel real yet. 

Landed in London!

I made it! After 9 hours on a plane, 2 in Customs and 2 on transit I FINALLY made it to my place in London! 

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The journey wasn’t pretty. The plane was okay but getting through Customs took forever and taking a 50-lb suitcase and super heavy backpack on the tube was no fun. I’m seriously debating taking a cab to the airport on the way back. I can’t imagine doing that again! 

And of course I got lost on my way to the BnB where I am staying. I pulled my heavy suitcase through a number of London streets trying to get directions but in the end, had to call my contact.  Turns out I had just exited the station on the wrong side. 

But I did run into a lovely man once I was on the proper side of the station. He pointed me in the right direction and we chatted a bit about Canada (he has a cousin in Montreal). It was like something out of a movie: this lovely English gentleman, who also had to stop and say hi to everyone he knew on the street, helping the poor Canadian girl find her way.

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My room for the next 4 days!

So after leaving my apartment in Vancouver at 6:00pm on Friday, I finally made it to my new room by 5:00pm on Saturday (granted, there’s a time difference). With barely a wink of sleep, no shower and a few missed meals, I headed back out into central London.

I was hoping to see a musical. When I was in London last year, I was fortunate enough to see quite a few plays & musicals (1 per day actually…) at the student rush ticket rate (never more than 25 pounds).  Unfortunately, my musical choice for today didn’t work out as well. I went over to the Prince of Wales Theatre to try and score a ticket to the extremely popular Book of Mormon (i.e. sold out)! 

I ended up queuing for over an hour in the return ticket line. As people returned or cancelled tickets, a little lady would come out of the theatre and take someone from our line in to purchase the tickets. It didn’t look too good at the start but then the line started moving pretty quick. We cheered when the people ahead of us got in and craned our necks eagerly to see if the lady was coming. Just as I got to the front of the line, the lady came out…..to announce that the show had started and it was too late to try and get a ticket! She gave me some advice for the lottery process, so maybe I’ll try my luck another day. But it wasn’t a complete waste because….

I SAW HELENA BONHAM-CARTER (and possibly) TIM BURTON!!!!!!
I’m not 100% sure it was Tim Burton, because his image never sticks in my mind but it was definitely Helena. And I think it`s fair to assume that if a guy who might look like Tim Burton is with Helena BC, he probably is Tim Burton. 

They were headed in to watch The Book of Mormon and were literally a few feet in front of me. I only saw them for a couple of seconds before they went inside but it was still so cool! It would have been cooler to say I saw The Book of Mormon with them but I’ll settle for seeing them at The Book of Mormon!

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Apparently there was some kind of sporting event today 🙂

I drowned my musical-less sorrows in Ben & Jerry’s and went to watch the new Star Trek movie. It was no Mormon melody but it was pretty good. I’m sure I’ll fit in at least 1 musical in my next few days here. For now, I’m just concerned with getting some sleep!  

“Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living!”

*Cue Dolly Parton and the soundtrack to this year’s musical!

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As well as being the residence musical this year, 9 to 5 has also become my daily life! Except it’s actually 8:30 – 5 and with transit time it’s closer to 7:30 – 6….so 9 to 5 ish.

On January 2nd I started a co-op position with Free The Children at their Western Canada office as one of three Youth Programming Interns. I work with the Washington team and our main job is to get schools signed up for Seattle We Day on March 27! If you don’t know what We Day is, check out this awesome video.  Seriously, every time I re-watch that video I start off beaming like crazy and always end in tears.  It’s incredible how a 4 minute video has the power to remind me that my 6:30am wake ups and 40+ calls per day (most of which end in voice mails) are so worth it.

Besides being my employer, FTC is also responsible for a lot of my accessories! Thanks to the Mamas in Kenya I now own a ring I bought for myself at the Me to We store in Toronto, a blue Water Rafiki that I bought to support the Clean Water Initiative, a white Rafiki I got from a FTC/Telus event and a limited edition Rafiki for FTC staff!

Besides being my employer, FTC is also responsible for a lot of my accessories! Thanks to the Mamas in Kenya I now own a ring I bought for myself at the Me to We store in Toronto, a blue Water Rafiki that I bought to support the Clean Water Initiative, a white Rafiki I got from a FTC/Telus event and a limited edition Rafiki for FTC staff!

 

One of our first tasks on the job: put together your own Ikea chair! Not as easy as it looks people....

One of our first tasks on the job: put together your own Ikea chair! Not as easy as it looks people….

Besides getting to work for an organization I so strongly support, I also get to work with the most amazing people.  All of the staff at FTC are inspired, supportive and hilarious. They create such a welcoming environment and I can’t wait to rejoin them after I graduate as a more permanent staff member.  From taking the interns to Costco for lunch to late night emails, playing Hot Seat during staff meetings and shouting out co-workers who are kicking butt, I can’t imagine a better group to represent FTC.

After work I trek back to UBC to continue my work as a Residence Advisor. I still have all my meetings and other commitments, which is a bit hard when I’m off campus for almost 11 hours a day, but I’m managing. Musical is also picking up this term and it’s getting exciting. The cast is looking great – literally – my team is in charge of Costumes/Aesthetics so the cast will look phenomenal by March 7!

Outside of my jobs I’m taking one class online: Global Citizenship (SOCI430B). So far it has been pretty laid back and obviously tied into the theme of my job at FTC which is a nice overlap. I’m also doing pre-departure sessions for my International Service Learning trip to Swaziland this summer. The sessions started slow last Friday but hopefully they pick up and become more interesting/relevant. I’m excited to be going to Swaziland with the ISL program but I feel like there is a lot of stuff still up in the air.  Like how much funding I will receive and where the heck I’m going to live in May!

My plan for the rest of my UBC years has changed…again! Currently (and hopefully permanently) the plan is to finish this term with co-op, RA and my one course.  Then I will find a place to live in Vancouver for the month of May before taking off to Africa for 3 months.  I’ll come back to Vancouver in September to do some re-entry tasks and presentations from my trip.  The last presentation is in October, and during this time I will be living in Vancouver and taking UBC courses online. Once I’m done with my ISL commitments I will be flying home to Toronto for a few days and then on my free flight to Sydney! (Did I mention I won a free round-trip flight to Sydney, Aust from Air Canada? Well, that happened.) I’ll return to Toronto in early December to write my final exams for my online courses, spend Christmas with the fam and (fingers crossed) get my G! In 2014 I will be back on the other side of the world on exchange in Europe. I’m almost certain my top 3 choices for exchange are going to be London, Edinburgh and Amsterdam….so somewhere on that continent for sure! I’ll study and travel in Europe until May-ish and then return to Canadaland! After that I will have one semester of courses left to take and optional co-op terms to complete.  Ideally, I’d work as an RC for a year so I could get my co-op designation, take my final courses, make a little money and be able to spend my last UBC year in the RezLife family once again. If not – I’m sure I will figure out something else! So after all that, the plan is to graduate near/around April 2015!

So that’s where my life is sitting at the moment. My days are super packed with work #1, work #2, class, ISL, social life and attempting to keep my room liveable and my sleep pattern sane (failing miserably as denoted by my complete lack of clean dishes and pile of washed clothing that has yet to be put away). As busy as I am, I’m also loving all of the things I’m involved with and the exciting adventures coming up. I want to make sure when I graduate from UBC I can look back at all the amazing opportunities I took advantage of, even if it means a few early mornings and unwashed dishes!

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PS: Resolutions Update! In case you’re curious how I’m doing with my 8 resolutions….the answer is not well! 1) I started brainstorming novel ideas in a book but nothing more fruitful than that. 2) I’ve made one cup of tea so far.  A slow start you might say.  3) I bought brown bread and made a few sandwiches. 4) I jumped back on the flossing train, thanks to daily texts from Simon (I assume the stretching will follow). 5) I started carrying a folder of unanswered letters with me to and from work but I’m not finding the time to respond to them.  My only free time seems to be on the bus, not terribly conducive to writing. 6) I’m thinking starting with a February budget sounds like a better plan! January budgets are just too predictable. 7) The bible has been moved off my shelf and closer to my bed for the daily before-sleep readings that haven’t actually started. 8) I have managed to wear an accessory everyday, so the easiest resolution was kept!