London :: Cheerio Again, Poppet

March of last year when I last left England after ten weeks of studying at Oxford, I got all misty-eyed thinking that I likely wouldn't be seeing the rolling pastures of grazing sheep and the bustling Underground and hearing "cheers, mate" for a good, long while. Five years, maybe. Three, if I'm really lucky.

Joke's on me. Just one year later, my roommate and I were hurriedly booking flights to London and then back from Athens for the summer, willing Kayak to load a little faster because dammit we were late for Mexican night at dinner. (We'll come to semi-regret this rushed decision later, stay tuned for Greece.)

And then, we waited. On June 13th, we packed up our entire room and shoved all of it into the Mustang. On June 14th, we graduated college. On June 15th, we drove all the way from Stanford down to Orange County and unloaded only our Europe carry-ons. On June 16th, bright and early, we arrived at LAX, had a brief connection in Canada, and then on June 17th around noon, I spied Big Ben and the River Thames from the plane window and got all sorts of jittery.

Oh, except one tiny little problem:
A few weeks before graduation, Cassandra got a cold. A "cold." Long story short, it got so bad that on graduation day, she went to three different doctors. Two hours before our drive down south (which she had to drive the entire way, hacking away one organ at a time, because I'm #incompetent), a doctor handed her a bottle of antibiotics, an inhaler with 200 puffs, a diagnosis of possible pneumonia and possible bronchitis, and a "good luck, sista!"  

You should ask her if she enjoyed London.

She can tell you all about the hotel room.
With Cassandra out for the count, her mom (who joined us for the first half of our trip) and I really bonded. After a customs line forty minutes too long, an Uber fiasco where we and the driver were walking in circles around the terminal trying to find each other, our hotel room not being ready for like two hours, it was mid-afternoon by the time we were ready to head out.

"Let's go to Kensington Palace, it's right down the road. Three minutes," I promised Kelly, eager to visit my good friend Kate Middleton. I took this route (on a bus) fairly frequently in the past. Key words: on a friggin' bus.

At every intersection, I'd mutter, okay it's definitely the next one. I'm positive.  

Forty (!) five (!) minutes later, we reached the back entrance. Kelly and I, surprisingly not even a wee bit jet-lagged, wandered around the grounds, oohing and ahhing over the pond and the fountains and that strange thing called SUNSHINE IN THE UK. A lovely afternoon, topped by another very long trek back to the hotel because we are strong independent women who don't need no taxi.
Cassandra managed to brave it for her and Kelly's sunset champagne tasting reservation aboard The London Eye, but because I had done the whole shebang merely months earlier, I instead sat along the Thames on a bench, really really still, as I soaked it all in. The changing color of the sky, magnificent Ben in front of me, the scent of McDonald's fries wafting over from its excellent location around the corner. I had this feeling, right then right there, that this moment marked the beginning of what would be an unforgettable summer.

//end cheesefest.
and then we had to walk to the Underground, which we couldn't find for thirty minutes, and a sick and sad Cassandra (who had to sit down every three minutes of walking or so for an inhaler puff / to cough out her lungs) got really frustrated.

and then it seemed like every restaurant was closed back in our 'hood. Finally, we came upon one that although it clearly said that it was closing, had a staff nice enough to stay open for us – amazing Italian food in Holland Park, I'll give the name when I remember!

and then for the next post I swear I'll be more concise. Pinkies.

Where I've Been, Where I'm Now, and What's Ahead

Caroline, you had ONE job. ONE. Document Europe. You spectacular failure. Good going, loser. However, if there ever was a time to completely drop off the face of the Internet planet, I'm glad it was during the summer, more commonly known to bloggers as "hiatus-bernation" season when we all abandon our posts in front of the bright glare of the computer screen in favor of pools and boats and BBQs and in my case, about seven countries in Europe.

I have a heck of a lot of stories to share with you. So many misadventures, beautiful moments, tough lessons learned, and funny anecdotes that I want written down for posterity's sake, as well. And I can't wait to get started.

But, briefly:

Where I've Been:

+ London (plus a short visit to my old stomping grounds, Oxford), Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Capri, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Greece, and quite the number of airports, and bus and train stations in between. Wow. Written out, it seems a bit much and the task of recapping it all appears to be quite daunting. Never fear, I say. I... won't, you reply.

+ Being completely in denial about, and therefore kicking and screaming my way through, college graduation.

+ Holing up in Southern California for a week with my (former) roommate's fam.

+ Couchsurfing and having the BEST peek of post-grad life back on campus (seems rather contradictory, but I shall explain) and in San Francisco as I hunted for a not-so-temporary place to live. THE BEST PEEK. 

Where I'm Now:

+ Home in Houston, and you can see the sweat puddles as evidence, if you really really want.

+ Desperately binge-watching the entirety of Parenthood. 

+ Whittling my Bloglovin' feed down from 800+ unread posts to a grand number of zero. (Check, as of last night. I really need to get a life.)

What's Ahead:

+ Bridal showers and bridesmaid dress finalizing and minion-to-the-bride-ing and eventually watching my sister get hitched in October!

+ A big girl job and a big girl apartment in San Francisco, and all of the trials and errors that come as a package deal.

+ Giving in to all the blogtalk that urges "finding a niche" etcetera etcetera despite the fact that the little voice in my head keeps on whispering, this is gonna be a lot of work. What's going to be your speciality anyway? Brunch? EVERYONE SPECIALIZES IN BRUNCH. I'll slowly but surely tweak this space into one for the "new girl in the real world," just. you. wait. 

+ In the meantime, brace yourselves for the post-tornado coming up as I switch between Europe, graduation, apartment-hunting, San Francisco, scary thoughts, funny thoughts, and um, whatever the heck this thing called adulting could be.

I'm so happy to be back. I've missed you all like I currently miss those Italian carbs.
What've you been up to? Do tell.

5 Takeaways From Europe (So Far)

K man, so I lied apparently. We're not back to regularly scheduled programming, likely because every time I have a free second to settle down with my computer, the bright glare of it lulls me into deep sleep. Every. Time. Summer woes, eh?

Instead, I thought I'd try my hand at semi-regularly scheduled programming and go with the flow for the next couple of months. To start things slow, I thought I'd share some of the things I'm learning / remembering / noting about Europe travels.

Calories actually don't count. And in particular, Coca Cola is every American's best friend in the summer. You're on your feet all day walking, exploring, and generally not being on your hiney attached to the computer like you'd usually be doing at home. That's my justification for every glorious cheese-oozing, oil-drenched meal. And for the Coca Cola I crave and indulge in four times a day. There's simply nothing more refreshing. I overhear American accents all day long: "I need a (Diet) (Lemon) (Cherry) (Poison of Choice) Coke, and stat."

The summer daylight is beyond amazing. In London, the sun was up and shining until just about 11pm. In Paris? After 9pm, every 15 minutes you could hear us exclaiming in disbelief: can you believe it's 9:15 right now? 9:30? 9:45? Can you believe this is what 11pm looks like? It was so wonderful, having dinner in the dusk, but also messes with your brain a bit. You think you have a good, like, eight hours to derp around before bedtime but no sirreeeee. You don't.
The things you didn't plan for always turn out to be the best stories. That is not to say that they are funny or entertaining at the time. They more or less actually seemed to be like the end of the world, not trying to be dramatic or anything. But looking back, the moments that make me laugh the most or the ones I'm sure to remember for decades are the ones like when I locked us into our AirBnB for the entire morning, when we brought one bag too many to our flight and spent thirty minutes in a flurry trying to make it all work. When we were caught in a rainstorm in Venice and powered through a walking tour in dorky yellow ponchos. None of this was planned, but they will be remembered.
I can pack light, and I can hardly even believe it. A month and a half abroad, with all my stuff in a tiny little carry-on suitcase and a Longchamp purse. I reserve the right to brag, which I am doing right now. The End. (Please send help in the form of an international care package in about... eight days.)
For every Pinterest / Instagram worthy moment, there will be five not-so-great experiences as well. I follow quite a number of travel accounts on both social media channels, and they never fail to have me all wistful and wanting to me on the other side of the world. Floppy hats against the Mediterranean, tapas in Spain, cool huts in Thailand. I'm doing the same, sharing my favorite highlights from my adventures. And that's when I realized that those snapshots are the 1%. The 99% = my roommate falling ill with bronchitis and seeing only the hotel room while we were in London. Mean bus drivers, getting tricked out of 5 euros by a "nice man who was going to show us where our train seats were," ALL THE TIMES WE WERE HANGRY, getting snappish, frustrated, or exhausted. It's all a part of the same game.

Off to eat more pizza! How's your summer goin'? Any traveling for you?

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