By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
Thirty hours doesn’t sound like that much, but it ended up being just enough.
Barcelona, two hours by plane from where I’m studying in London, is a gorgeous, dynamic city that I was lucky enough to see this weekend. While it was a short trip (we arrived at our hostel at 1:15 a.m. on Saturday and landed back in London at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning), we managed to squeeze an unbelievable amount of sightseeing and fun in.
After an extremely late dinner and drinks experience at a bar by our hostel, we went to bed in our 8-person room at 3:30 a.m. and woke up at 9 a.m. Not to be deterred by a lack of sleep, we got up and out quickly and went straight to Casa Batlló in the heart of Barcelona.
The museum, a previously built house resigned by architect Antoni Gaudí (who, as far as I could tell, is basically worshiped by Barcelona’s residents and historians) in 1904, was well worth the visit. While Gaudí’s work isn’t traditionally beautiful, it is certainly fascinating to look at and unlike anything I’ve seen in the U.S., or anywhere else in my travels.
Later on in the day, we saw Park Güell — which was free to enter after 6 p.m. — also designed by Gaudí and also very colorful and structurally interesting. There were tower-like mosaic structures, a mosaic dragon fountain and a huge mosaic lizard that has become a sort of symbol of the city.
No trip to Barcelona is complete without a trip to the famous La Sagrada Família, also designed by — you guessed it — Gaudí.
Still incomplete after more than 130 years, it is a Catholic church visible from miles away. While I personally think the church’s famous side (all four sides of the church are remarkably different and tell a different story) looks like a castle a child would make on the beach, it is extremely impressive in its scale and design. I could have looked at it for hours. We didn’t get to tour the inside, but it was hard to see and do everything we wanted in such a short time.
My favorite part of the day was going up to Tibidabo, a mountain overlooking Barcelona. We took the metro and then walked up a steep hill to catch the Tibidabo Furnicular up the side of the mountain to its summit. There was an amusement park and a massive, beautiful church and a restaurant up at the summit. We got to see the most stunning views of Barcelona, the beach and the surrounding water.
After all this and walking around the piers, the famous Las Ramblas and the city’s financial district, I researched paella restaurants and we ended up at Can Majo by the beach for dinner. We enjoyed raw oysters, white wine and paella “Can Majo” style that was, if you like seafood, life-changing. The seafood was extremely fresh and came to the table in an authentic paella pan.
After dinner, we met up with my friend from high school and her friends who we stayed with at our hostel at Chupitos bar. Hundreds of “chupitos” (which is literally translated to “shots”) were the only items on the menu.
From there we went down to Barcelona’s legendary clubs, which sit one by one right on the beach, before finally grabbing our bags and heading back to the airport. We hopped on the plane without going to bed and, upon our arrival back in London, had a full night’s worth of sleep.
While we rushed around all day in a manner no Spaniard would ever dream of, I greatly enjoyed my time in Barcelona. I would love to go back someday, maybe when La Sagrada Família is finally finished.
By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
After an absolutely amazing week of travel, I’m back home and safe in South Kensington. My friends and I took spring break to the next level by traveling from London to Budapest, Hungary and then making our way over to Lisbon, Portugal. From there, we jetted on home and back to reality.
Budapest, the capitol of Hungary and home to 2 million of the country’s 10 million total residents, is split in two by the Danube River. With “Buda” on one side and “Pest” on the other, it’s easy to see why people say the eastern European city has dual personalities: Buda is filled with beautiful old buildings like the Citadella and is comprised mostly of narrow, crooked streets while Pest is home to gorgeous, sweeping boulevards and boasts much of the city’s nightlife.
We climbed up to see the Citadella and trekked over to Parliament as well, a sprawling building topped with dark red domes. After a long day of sightseeing, we went to Trofea Grill. Thankfully, it was delicious and well worth the money because we took a wrong turn, arriving finally after trudging through the enormous city park and most of the rest of Pest.
The “ruin bars,” located in Pest not too far from the Danube, are amazing. Massive bars fill what used to be industrial space all along this district. The first ruin bar in Budapest was Szimpla Kert. With multiple floors with several rooms on each (including a wine bar, hookah lounge and dance floor), you could get lost inside forever, but you probably wouldn’t mind.
The following day, we spontaneously decided to treat ourselves to “fish pedicures,” which are extremely popular in Hungary. I’m not really sure how to describe this without it sounding disgusting, but essentially, little tiny fish eat the dead skin off your feet while you sit in a spa chair, soaking up to your knees. My friend CJ, who had never had a pedicure before, said it was the best 30 minutes of his life.
After that, we bathed in 100-degree water in Budapest’s most famous thermal baths, the gorgeous Szechenyi Baths, which was an excellent way to decompress before our four-hour flight to Portugal the next day at 5 a.m.
Lisbon, the capitol of Portugal, is stunning. I was shocked at how beautiful it was, nestled up against the Tagus River. Built up on seven hills, the houses and buildings (most topped with red roofs) seemed to be stacked up on top of each other, painted white, yellow or vibrant pinks and blues. All the streets and sidewalks were made of small square white stones and were so clean.
We enjoyed an extensive walking tour through our hostel, Home Hostel Lisbon (which I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Portugal), on the first day. The second day, we took a short train ride to Sintra, Portugal, and explored the town and one of its castles, Pena National Palace. The castle, a bit of a hike, was worth the day trip with its mix of architectural styles and its views of the surrounding woods and Lisbon.
After not particularly loving Budapest’s Hungarian cuisine, my friends and I were determined to have an authentic, delicious Portuguese dinner. We settled upon Taberna da Rua das Flores, a tiny restaurant with a 90-minute wait that was completely worth it. We ate the freshest seafood, the most delicious pork and the most decadent desserts (not to mention the homemade fresh fruit cocktails and the Portuguese wine). Some highlights included the steamed mussels, the salmon and scallop ceviche and the passionfruit cheesecake.
While I am very glad to be back in my flat in London (and to start my internship tomorrow), I already miss Budapest and Lisbon. They were two of the most exciting and gorgeous cities I’ve ever visited and I know someday that I’ll be back.
By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
Edinburgh, home to less than 500,000 people, is an absolutely amazing city that I was lucky enough to visit this weekend (and if I can feel that way about a place just after an eight-hour bus ride from hell, you know it’s true).
100 mile-per-hour crosswinds (at least, according to our bus driver) engulfed our bus all the way from London’s Victoria Coach Station to Edinburgh, making it a thoroughly terrifying ride. Someone on the bus actually blessed himself about 30 minutes in.
We finally arrived in the rain-soaked capital of Scotland at 6:20 a.m., wind-battered but not too worse for the wear.
After a short trek through the gorgeous and deserted streets, we slept off some of our nerves at our hostel (Budget Backpackers, a really cool and off-beat place with surprisingly comfortable beds) and then got right to sightseeing.
My roommate and I first wandered around Edinburgh Castle, an absolute must for any tourist in Scotland. The views from Castlehill and the summit of the castle were breathtaking and worth the price of admission on their own. We also got to see the historical dwellings of old Scottish royalty, the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots’ only son, James VI and an old jail that housed prisoners of war.
Next on the agenda, after a pint at Deacon Brodie’s tavern and a delicious dinner at a bistro called Maxie’s, was a City of the Dead ghost tour. On a complete whim, I decided we should check it out and booked us tickets for the 8:30 p.m. walking tour, which took place mostly in Greyfriars Kirkyard. According to our tour guide, Greyfriars (a huge cemetery in downtown Edinburgh) has the highest concentration of dead bodies anywhere in the entire world. Pretty disgusting stuff, if you ask me, but definitely good fodder for a creepy evening.
We got to walk in and around closed-off Greyfriars tombs and hear all about George Mackenzie, a ruthless man responsible for the violent deaths of thousands of Covenanters (members of the Scottish Presbyterian movement), whose spirit allegedly haunts Greyfriars and is responsible for seriously injuring nearly 400 of its visitors since Mackenzie’s tomb was disturbed by a homeless man in 1999. The existence of this “spirit” is highly debated; whether it is just a spooky legend, a series of coincidences or a real “poltergeist,” I guess we’ll never know.
After a fun night in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh (once famous for its public hangings, now known for its wide range of pubs, hostels and hotels), we woke up early to climb up to the highest point in Edinburgh, referred to as “Arthur’s Seat.” After an extremely muddy hike, we reached the summit and saw all of Edinburgh and its stunning scenery. I was so impressed by every landmark in the area — it seemed like every building we encountered was more beautiful than the last.
All in all, I had an amazing weekend in a gorgeous, historical city.
By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
If you know me at all, you know I am crazy about the Winter Olympics. From ski jumping to curling to skeleton, there isn’t one event I don’t enjoy watching.
As an avid skier and general athletic enthusiast, I grew up on snow (I was a competitive alpine ski racer for 13 years). My parents have always joked that I can ski better than I can walk, which, according to the many scars on my knees, might be true.
So, as you can imagine, realizing that I was going to be in a foreign country for the entirety of the 2014 Sochi Olympics sort of stressed me out. How was I going to be able to ensure I could watch Ted Ligety fight to win his second Olympic giant slalom gold medal?
It turned out to be easier than I had imagined.
Luckily, the British Broadcasting Corporation, also known as BBC, allows no advertisements and thus has no incentive to embargo events until prime time.
Unlike NBC back in the U.S., BBC is paid for directly by citizens of the countries in which it is broadcast. Everyone who buys a television in the U.K. has to pay a “license fee,” which funds BBC and its many channels. For a color television, this fee is £145.50 per year, according to BBC’s website, which is equivalent to approximately $238.60.
So, this morning, even before I got out of bed, I was able to live-stream the men’s downhill medal heat right to my phone via BBC. And I haven’t had to miss many events. I got to catch Hannah Kearney, my favorite Olympian – who, before her US Ski Team days, skied for the Waterville Valley BBTS just like I did – capture the bronze medal in women’s freestyle skiing as it happened.
My friends and I also got to see the opening ceremony in real-time, unlike all our friends back in Boston and all over the U.S. (it was also interesting to see Americans tweet about the show later on, and to see them react to what we had seen hours before).
BBC also does a good job broadcasting all performances for each event. So, regardless of how well the U.S. does, we over in the U.K. can watch our hometown heroes compete, which has made watching the Olympics a much more patriotic, social event for us expatriates. We’ve spent the last few afternoons and nights crowded around the basement television, dinner plates in our laps.
Speaking of which, I’ve got to run and catch the re-airing of the downhill competition. There’s no way I’m going to miss an opportunity to watch Bode Miller’s (kind of disappointing) run again. Go team USA!
By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
You could get almost anything you’ve ever wanted and more at Notting Hill’s Portobello Road Market.
Stretched out along a winding road in downtown London, the famous market takes on a life of its own each weekend. There are booths overflowing with all manner of things, including beautiful jewelry, vintage records, handmade leather journals, crappy used CD’s and real fur coats.
If that weren’t enough, there is food and drink from every corner of the globe available to anyone who wants it. Among other things, I saw Spanish paella, Italian bruschetta, Belgian waffles and an endless selection of French cheeses.
Musicians line the streets, serenading shoppers all day long. Stands open bright and early and some don’t close up shop until dinnertime. Locals and tourists alike can mill about all day long and never get bored. My friends and I killed several hours there, just taking in the sights. We browsed around a vintage rock t-shirt shop, ate delicious crepes and made friends with merchants.
The Portobello Road Market was a lot like street fairs at New York City, but had a completely different vibe. Everyone was friendly — with the exception of one guy at a vintage record booth who was a complete jerk to my friend for no good reason — and encouraged us to look through their goods and had no issues if we chose to not part from our money. I took pictures freely and was met with many friendly faces along our (long) walk up and down Portobello Road.
Notting Hill itself is beautiful, too. Many of the houses have colorful exteriors and the whole neighborhood had a cheery feel to it matched by no other place I’ve yet encountered in the city. There were cinemas and off-beat pubs and artist shops on every corner. It felt like SoHo in New York City, except less retail-oriented and much cozier.
Afterward, we hiked on over to Harrods, a department store famous for its luxury goods and its absolutely unrivaled food court (if you can even call it that). The store’s confectionery department alone is enough to put any foodie over the edge — truffles of all shapes and sizes filled glasses cases on every wall. There was also a fresh fish market, gourmet butcher shop and a raw oyster and champagne bar. Harrods also boasts an amazing beauty department and clothing section, as well as a transport system they called the “Egyptian escalators,” where shoppers zip up and down on escalators bedecked with gilded sphinxes. While riding up and down, we were also serenaded by an opera singer in a full ball gown.
My friends and I bought some chocolates that were expensive but worth every penny. Needless to say, I’ll be back if my wallet ever recovers.
Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
Between learning to pour the perfect pint of Guinness, embarking on a hilarious journey with new Irish friends and having a spiritual encounter with a particularly delicious burrito, I had a fantastic time exploring Dublin and Galway this week.
When my professor canceled my Thursday class, my roommate and I decided to change our Dublin flights to arrange for a Wednesday night arrival. We took the tube to Heathrow for a quick flight over to Ireland’s capital.
The first night, we explored the Temple Bar area of Dublin — a slice of the city known for its nightlife — that sits just south of the River Liffey. That part of town is comprised of narrow, cobble-stoned streets in their original medieval layout. My roommate and I had a late start and ended up splitting our time between two pubs near each other, one of which had live authentic Irish music.
The third night we were there, we met up with more friends from the BU London program who also decided to visit Ireland this week. We went to one of the same pubs from the night before and then made our way over to one of Dublin’s most popular clubs, which was a blast. We ran into more American friends, coincidentally, and also met some locals in the “queue” to get inside and once we were in.
Much later that night, as we were leaving, we met up with a friend at a nearby late-night Mexican restaurant and had what we described as a “life-changing burrito.” It gave some of our friends the strength to return home to their hostel — they had boldly chosen to bunk in a 16-bed mixed dormitory just north of the river. (We were lucky enough to be able to stay at my roommate’s cousin’s house after just one night in a private hostel room.)
We met new people every night we were out, in places ranging from hole-in-the-wall pubs to the busiest clubs on the street, which was awesome. My new Irish friends, who had known each other forever, took my roommate and I to their favorite spots around town on Saturday night. Against the Grain— a “gastropub” that is known for its varied selection of craft beers — was really fun and was absolutely packed with locals enjoying pints and each other’s company. The Garage Bar, a club in Temple Bar and our next stop after Against the Grain, had a floor covered in sawdust, played mostly punk music and drew a totally different crowd but was just as fun.
Galway, a relatively short bus ride away, was a fun day trip as well, even though it poured rain the entire day. We had the opportunity to see Ireland’s gorgeous countryside as well which was nice in comparison to the urban landscape of Dublin.
The last touristy thing we did was tour the Guinness factory, a must for any American in Dublin. We are now certified Guinness pourers and as such retain the right to judge any bartender who doesn’t follow Guinness’ recommended instructions.
All in all, it was an amazing four days and I would highly recommend both Dublin and Galway to anyone visiting Ireland. You’ll never run out of things to do or people to meet.
Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
A week into my semester abroad, I still feel like it’s not really real yet.
I’ve been to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Big Ben, Parliament, pubs (so many pubs) and clubs. I took a boat cruise down the Thames and even visited “Platform Nine and ¾.” Everything is gorgeous and so old and historical. It has been so fun sightseeing; we’re off to the Tower of London today. Still, though, it feels like I’m on vacation with a bunch of friends — except, on a budget.
One of the hardest things to adjust to — besides learning to look the “wrong” way when crossing the street — has been living completely on my own. Last semester, I had an apartment, but I was always at The Daily Free Press or my restaurant job and rarely had time to cook real meals for myself. Here, though, it’s been all home-cooked, all the time. We really can’t afford anything else with the exchange rate (which sits at almost two dollars for every one pound) and with our estimated travel budget. So, it’s been chicken and veggies pretty much every night for dinner.
My roommate and I have pooled our spending and split everything from trips to the grocery store, to cooking and dishes. It’s been a great system but definitely has been a big adjustment, along with sharing a kitchen with 14 other girls, all of whom live in my flat.
Before I got here, I decided one of my main goals would be to travel. I’ve been looking forward to seeing all parts of Europe since I can remember and realize this is the perfect opportunity. We’re going to Dublin next weekend, where luckily enough I have a friend there we can stay with for free. We’ve got a bunch more trips planned, too — all around the U.K., Ireland and the Netherlands, for now, with our bigger trips still up in the air.
I think what has struck me most about London is how massive and how international it is as a city. Every place we’ve been, we’ve met people from all over the globe. Other Americans, a ton of French people, Lithuanians and — my personal favorite — two businessmen from Copenhagen we met on a pub-crawl. It’s been much harder to meet Brits than I figured it would be, but I think that’s because of the neighborhood we live in (South Kensington). It’s very expensive and not home to too many locals. I’ve set another goal for myself this week to meet more people from in and around London. There are a bunch of local universities around that we might go check out.
All and all, it’s been an amazing first week and I couldn’t be happier with my choice to study abroad in London. As far as classes go, I’m taking a British media and culture class and a class focused on foreign corresponding. I can’t wait for those to begin next week!
and Samantha Wong, Blog Editor @samzwong
Most awkward/embarrassing story: Yesterday an English professor asked me what I remembered from reading “Gawain and the Green Knight” in an earlier class. Trying (poorly) to describe the Green Chapel deep in the woods, I said “something involving green.” Now I’m viewed as the dumbest kid in class.
By Margaret Waterman, Associate Campus Editor
Vindicating dog-lovers and cat-haters all over the world, the BBC World Service dropped this bombshell Tuesday Jan. 29:
Cats are responsible for between 1.4 and 3.7 billion bird and between 6.9 and 20.7 billion mammal deaths annually.
The BBC article went on to claim that our furry feline friends are not only vicious killers, but cumulatively are responsible for more animal deaths than road related accidents, animals’ collisions with buildings or animal poisonings.
Don’t worry, though–the article, while harshly critical of kitties, offered deeply insightful solutions to this furry flurry. An expert from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute suggested keeping domesticated cats indoors as opposed to letting them roam free out in the wild. A spokeswoman from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said putting a bell on your cat’s collar would decrease its chance of success while hunting by at least 33%.
However, the article also said feral and stray cats were by far the leading cause of mammal and bird deaths. The American Robin, in particular, is most at risk of all birds, while mice, shrews, voles, rabbits and squirrels were most likely to be kitty-killed.
After some (probably too much) thought, I suddenly had an epiphany and, amazingly, the answer to the problem.
Which leads me to believe there is only one solution, and it does not involve the disownment of your little Garfield, Crookshanks or Sylvester: instead of giving up our pets, we must get MORE cats.
It only makes sense that, if feral or stray cats are the leading perpetrator in bird and small mammal murders nationwide, that we domesticate them all and stick bells on their collars.
This solution, while stunningly brilliant, only caused me to demand answers to other questions. Why a study about the negative impacts of cats? More specifically and more importantly, what’s so wrong with your cat protecting you from rodents?
Either way, we should all take a minute to reflect upon the needless, tragic deaths of billions and billions of bird and small mammal deaths across the country by bowing our heads in a moment of silence.
By Margaret Waterman, Associate Campus Editor
If there’s any song from 2012 that’s going to keep getting stuck in your head all throughout 2013, it’s Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” from his debut album, “The Heist.”
I was first introduced to this song when my friend sent me a Facebook message with the link to its video, which follows Macklemore as he runs around a dingy thrift shop with his friends, rocking hand-me-down fur coats, reindeer sweaters and onesies.
Macklemore, or Ben Haggerty, just recently joined one of the music industry’s most exclusive clubs–Thrift Shop has officially hit #1 on the iTunes Top Singles list. Haggerty, who hails from Seattle, is the second independent artist ever to top the Billboard Hot 100.
Perhaps what is most remarkable about Macklemore’s hit is not just its popularity, but its message. While the song follows a traditional hip-hop/R&B format, it does not have a traditional hip-hop/R&B message.
Throughout the song, Macklemore consistently rejects materialism, rapping about how he would much rather buy something unique for 99 cents from a thrift shop than pay extra for a designer limited edition piece of clothing.
Fifty dollars for a t-shirt, that’s just some ignorant b–tch sh–t,
I call that getting swindled and pimped
I call that getting tricked by a business
That shirt’s hella dope
And having the same one as six other people in this club is a hella don’t
Peep game, come take a look through my telescope
Trying to get girls from a brand, then you hella won’t”
Macklemore has consistently resisted conformity, constantly coming up with new ways to break the mold in the hip-hop industry. His music video for another hit song, “Same Love,” features footage from 1960s civil rights protests and follows a gay couple throughout their relationship. His song “Jimmy Iovine,” not-so-lovingly named after the producer credited with helping Eminem reach stardom, takes a stab at the music industry today, using breaking into Iovine’s office as a metaphor for how artists today don’t necessarily work for their success.
If I get past security, the secretary, the cubicles
But it’s weird, it’s like this room I’ve walked into is unusual
Thought it would be shiny and beautiful
Thought it would be alive and like musical
But if feels like someone died, it’s got the vibe of a funeral”
The theme laid out in “Jimmy Iovine” seems to be Macklemore’s motto. Unsigned, he has defied expectations and kept his success all his own all the while. His debut album, ‘The Heist”, follows its title to the letter–he and Ryan Lewis have stolen the music industry and made it their own. I’m excited to see what Macklemore has waiting for us up his sleeve.
In the meantime… Let’s go thrift shopping.