A Weekend in Prague

With the exception of the disastrous Brexit vote, this summer has been a summer of celebration – Julia and I finally graduated from Warwick, and both of us will be moving to London next month to start our exciting but horrendously low-paying jobs. So, to make the most of our last summer of total freedom, we gathered the Warwick crew together for a long weekend in Prague.

The flight on Friday night gave us our first taste of what to expect when we arrived in the Czech Republic: stag dos. The plane was filled with rowdy guys wearing matching t-shirts and, though hilarious to watch, I don’t quite understand the purpose of a stag do (I mean, you proposed to the woman, it’s not as if she’s the one forcing you to give up your “freedom” and marry her). Anyway, several free gin-and-tonics later, we arrived in Prague, too late to do much other than grab dinner. As there were six of us, we stayed in an apartment block on Wenceslas Square called Picasso Apartments. I would always recommend this style of living if there are more than three or four of you, as you get so much more space than in a hotel room. Our apartment had two double bedrooms and two sofa beds, as well as a kitchen and living area, and it was much cheaper than a hotel room. Of course, it wasn’t overly luxurious, but as students we’re used to basic accommodation.

We woke up early on Saturday morning and joined a four-hour walking tour around the city, to see all the sights, including the astronomical clock, the Charles Bridge, and Prague Castle. The tourist attractions in Prague are all relatively close together. Nothing was more than a half-hour walk from our apartment, and it is the only city I have visited where I haven’t even considered using the public transport. Prague is unlike any other European city I’ve visited – it is immensely touristy, but still remains very cultural. Because the city centre is a UNESCO world heritage site, companies are unable to build skyscrapers and other eyesores, so the landscape is still remarkably rustic for such a popular tourist destination. It is also full of quirky bars, restaurants and cafés, if you dare to stray off the main drag. Julia had heard of a bar called Anonymous (after the hacker group), so on Saturday evening we went to check it out. I have never been to a stranger bar in my life – the staff wore Guy Fawkes masks, and all of the cocktails came with gifts such as postcards and photographs. I tried to be daring and order a secret cocktail, but the bartender bought me a pair of those kaleidoscope glasses that have pictures on the inside and I was too blind to read the secret menu (I’d forgotten my glasses) so had to order off the regular menu instead. Strange, I know.

On Sunday it rained all day, so we spent our time visiting some of Prague’s wackier museums. We started at the Sex Machines Museum, which had some historical examples of sex toys. As you can imagine, it wasn’t the most educational of museums, but possibly one of the most hilarious hours of my life. Next we tried the Ghost Museum, which was disappointing as it was pretty much just some skeletons with ghost stories written on the wall. And finally, we tackled something a little more intelligent and went to the Communist Museum. I hadn’t known much about the Communist rule in the Czech Republic, so it was very interesting to hear about, especially considering it is something so recent within Czech history. I find it so hard to imagine living through the regime, and my heart aches for those who did.

On Monday we had a few hours to kill before our flight. We started the day with the most insane breakfast I have ever eaten (called the “Big Breakfast” – a fry up, followed by a filled croissant, fruit salad, cake, coffee and orange juice for about £6.50), and then headed back to Prague Castle to see the bits we hadn’t seen on the walking tour. Despite being called a castle, Prague Castle is more like a palace and grounds (it is where the Czech President lives). We went into a few exhibitions on armour, into the prison, into the small apartment where Franz Kafka used to live, and inside the beautiful St Vitus Cathedral, before heading back to Wenceslas Square to catch our taxi to the airport. All in all, I think Prague is a beautiful city (if you can steer clear from all the stag dos!), and I would definitely recommend a visit. The two and a half days we had there was enough as there isn’t much else to do, so it is a perfect place for a weekend away with friends.

Anyway, that’s me done for the summer. I have no more plans until Julia and I move into our new house in three weeks time. I’ll try and update when I get there, but as for travel – I am a working woman now and so there will be nothing more until I go back to Connecticut in November to spend another Thanksgiving with Ricky and his family. Thanks for sticking with me this far!

Summer (part 1)

It has been just over a week now since Ricky left the UK, after spending five amazing weeks in Leamington with me. Saying goodbye this time was really hard – because I am starting work in September, and will no longer have months at a time free, we know that this year is going to be so much more difficult than the last. But, the good news is, once it’s over, it’s over for good. In May, Ricky will be graduating, I will have finished my placement at Transport for London, and we will both finally be able to start our life together. In America, in England, or somewhere else (a gap year in Australia seems to be on the cards!).

We haven’t had many days of it so far, but I do love an English summer, and Leamington is particularly beautiful in the sun. When we weren’t stuck inside binge watching Netflix (if you haven’t watched Sense8, or the new seasons of Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black, do!) we spent our days hiking, relaxing in the park, and visiting local landmarks. It’s weird how little time you spend exploring your local area. In my three years living in the West Midlands, I had never been to Coventry Cathedral, Kenilworth Castle, or the Cotswolds, so it was all pretty new to me too.

We even managed to sneak in a trip to Berlin. Because I never got a chance to give Ricky anything for his 21st birthday, I decided to surprise him with a holiday instead. The first thing we realised: Berlin is weird. No one accepts card, free tap water is not a thing, free use of public toilets doesn’t exist. And the weirdest thing? Couples don’t share a double bed. When we arrived at our hotel, we found two single beds pushed together, with two single duvets on the top. We asked for a double duvet, but apparently these don’t exist in Germany, which gave us a very strange impression about German people’s love lives!

Despite its odd customs, Berlin is a beautiful city. It’s modern and interesting, but many tourists don’t seem to have discovered it yet, as we were able to roam freely around the sights without being crowded. Unfortunately, much of the Brandenburg Gate was blocked off due to a festival for the Euros, but we saw everything else. It has definitely become one of my favourite cities in Europe.

That’s all from me for now. Stay tuned for Summer part 2, in which I will be graduating, travelling to Prague, and moving to London.

 

 

It’s been a long time, WordPress

It feels weird, writing in this blog again. It gives me a strange nostalgia, knowing that this year I’ve spent most of my time writing essays and watching bad TV whereas last year I had all sorts of exciting stories to tell. Christmas came and went, Ricky came and went, and here I am, about to start my final term of my final year at Warwick. But I thought I’d post an update, since I finally have a lot of things to say.

I had a wonderful December/January with Ricky. Because it was his first trip to England we tried to do as much as possible, visiting London, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham, and even sneaking in a quick trip to Dublin (I love you Ryanair). Ricky also got to finally meet my family (and they loved him, thank God). Since it was so long ago I won’t try to recall the details, but here are a few of my favourite pictures:

 

The reason I am posting today is also to tell you my exciting news… I got a job, working in the Press Office for Transport for London! I’ll be moving there in September, but until then I’ve got a lot to look forward to. Ricky is coming to visit again after I finish my exams in May (and there could be a trip to Berlin on the horizon). After he leaves I’ll be home in Peterborough for a month, jetting of to Prague for a weekend away with my girlies, and then moving to London. Watch this space – some exciting times are just on the horizon 🙂

 

America, take two

After almost four months being away from America, I was missing it immensely. It had become my home away from home, as much as I loved to complain about it when I was there. I don’t like delving too much into my personal life, but I guess it’s very relevant to this blog… long distance relationships suck. I miss Ricky every day, and though ultimately I know it will be worth it, sometimes things get very hard. So mostly, the trip back to Connecticut was to see him, and to spend some time together before we both get very busy at uni. Knowing I had such a short time in the States this time made me appreciate it more, and leaving was just as hard as it was the first time, but it made me remember why I’m doing this, and what I stand to gain.

I admit, most of our time was spent watching movies, and going out to eat a variety of unhealthy foods (my stomach still hasn’t recovered), but I also got to do a little more travelling and to see my other friends again. During the first week in Westbrook we explored the local area in the good weather, spending some time at Hammonasset Beach, Gillette’s Castle, and nearby hiking trails. I visited New York City for the fourth time, and Ricky and I spent a lovely summer’s day chilling in Central Park and wandering through antique book shops (I found a vintage copy of Jane Eyre for $9!). We also spent a day on Ricky’s dad’s boat. Since I come from a city in England, boating is not a common pastime for me, and so flying down the beautiful Connecticut River was something I’d never imagined I’d be doing. I even got to ride the jetski, which was immensely fun, and something to cross off my bucket list for sure!

We spent the second week at UConn, since the semester started on August 31st. Being back there was strange, especially since I was no longer a student, and was unable to swipe my card to get into the dining hall, enter buildings alone, or attend classes. I did have to have the awkward conversation with a couple of acquaintances from last year: “Hey, I thought you were only here for one year.” “I’m just visiting.” “Why so soon?” But it was really good to see Jack, Ben, Chris and Lindsey again, and to pretend that I was still an American College student one last time before I return to English uni life.

On Labor Day weekend (exactly one year since we went to Montreal – the feels!) we headed back to Westbrook for some more disgustingly delicious food and a little alone time before I was due to return. In the hurry to catch my train/flight I didn’t cry this time (I forgot how much I hate New York traffic and JFK security checks took hours), but a few days on I’m a little sad. It was such a short time, but I’m so glad I went, and now the next thing to look forward to is Ricky coming to England at Christmastime (yay!). Until then, from this weekend I’ll be back in good ol’ Leamington Spa, living it up Midlands style. Bye for now!

One Year Later

I’m not usually one for sentimental posts, but exactly one year ago today I was sitting at Heathrow Terminal 5, terrified about beginning my year abroad. It doesn’t seem like a whole year has passed since I left for UConn, but at the same time I feel like a completely different person. When I think now about what I want to do in the next 10 years, I have very different ideas than I did 12 months ago, and that’s all thanks to America.

Travelling around the US gave me a new desire to see the world and everything in it. When I start looking for jobs, I am no longer going to search for London only, and am considering applying in New York, in Toronto, in Sydney… anywhere really. The only thing I know for sure is that I don’t want to start doing the same thing I’m gonna be doing for 50 years as soon as I graduate. It sounds cliché, but I want to experience life before settling in a specific place.

The friends I made also changed me for the better. I met some really genuine people at UConn, and they made me realise what kind of people I want in my life, and what kind I don’t have time for. I’m happy to say that I’m still in touch with them all regularly, and am so excited to return to the US in 11 days time for my last taste of freedom before I have to start buckling down for my final year at Warwick – America, you just can’t keep me away!

Okay, okay

I know I promised updates, and I know that there have been none since I got back from America. I am incredibly lazy, and I apologise for that. So now I’m going to span the last two months in a few hundred words – don’t worry, there isn’t that much to cover (my life hasn’t been anywhere near as exciting since finishing my year abroad).

First, let’s go right back to the beginning of June, when Julia and I finally accepted the fact that next year is going to happen regardless of how little we want it to, and went to Italy to meet our new flatmates Nick and Dan. (To add some context to why we decided to live with strangers, a few months ago we decided that we would rather live in a bin in Leamington than move back into campus accommodation, and after a series of failed potential house Facebook groups, we posted a very lame message on a Warwick accommodation forum, and next thing we knew we had reserved a flat with two random guys.) Good news: they weren’t total psychos, we had a great time in Genoa and Turin, and I am looking forward to living with them next year – especially since there already seems to be a Mean Girls themed house party on the horizon. Since it was too long ago for me to remember exactly what we did on our trip, I’ll summarise it with a few snaps:

Oh, we also saw Steven Spielberg’s $250million yacht, which was the highlight of the trip by far (soz Nick and Dan).

Next up: Edinburgh. My lovely family booked an apartment in Edinburgh so we could go away to celebrate my sister finishing her A-Levels and me coming back home. Luck must have been on our side, because despite the forecast predicting rain all week, we only got caught in one little shower. There’s not much to say except it was a very chilled week and we spent most of our time seeing the sights and gossiping about the things that have happened to our family this past year.

Now for the recent stuff, work. For the past four weeks I have been working in London as an Activity Leader for UIC Study Programmes, who host summer schools for international students to improve their English. They come from all over the world and my job is basically to take care of them when they’re not in lessons, showing them around London and organising activities on the campus. I’m staying in Greenwich, which is a really beautiful place, and most of the time the job is really rewarding, though the hours are crazily long. My contract terminates on Wednesday, so from then until I leave to visit America again (August 24th – a month from today) I’ll be back on my sofa, watching Netflix and eating my mum’s cooking. Goodbye for now, to end here are some pics from my friends’ graduation ball, which Julia and I gatecrashed.

Missing the American mentality

I’ve been home for nearly a month now, and it’s strange but being in America for so long has made me notice things about England (more specifically, English people) that I had never noticed before. It’s hard to explain, but in a nutshell, I basically have a lot less tolerance for what I’m going to call the English mentality. English people, for the most part, are generally very pessimistic and easily annoyed, with a passionate love of complaining. Before I left for America, I would have included myself in this stereotype (who doesn’t love a good bitch and moan?!). However, during these last few weeks I have found myself becoming increasingly irritated with this mindset.

It all started when I walked off the plane at Heathrow Terminal 5, when I accidentally bumped into somebody’s foot with the wheel of my suitcase. The woman in question immediately turned at me, scowled, and walked away muttering under her breath. Despite this being a completely expected occurrence, I was shocked and a little offended. Why? Because in America, the reaction I would receive after bumping into someone is much more likely to be “oh, no don’t worry at all, have a nice day”. Even in New York, known for being less friendly than the rest of the US, I have experienced similar encounters. One that sticks out for me is when I was travelling alone from La Guardia airport to Manhattan on the bus, and realised I’d missed the stop I was supposed to get off at. Panicked, I asked the person standing next to me, and within five minutes I was surrounded by half the bus, all advising me of the best ways to get into the city. It is this unabashed friendliness, this desire to help people, that makes me love Americans.

I skyped Emma today, and found that she felt the exact same way. After spending so long in a country where cynicism isn’t so widely acceptable, we are both finding it difficult to go back to our old cynical ways, and are struggling to deal with people having an attitude we once shared. I want to clarify: I am in no way blaming English people for this mentality. And furthermore, I am not saying that all Americans act this way. To me, the difference in attitudes is merely a cultural difference – many Brits find American overfriendly and annoying, and many Americans find Brits snobbish. What I’m saying is that, however cliché it may seem, America has changed me. After spending a year there, I find myself identifying more with the American mentality than the English. I wonder if that will change with time.