The Brits Don't Like the Microwave and Other Reflections on London... by Amanda Liew

So here I am, back in my room in the beautiful 65°F-weathered La Jolla (18.5°C for you Brits reading). I only arrived back from London two nights ago, yet it seems so incredibly far away and extremely surreal. As much as I love being home, seeing my friends, and getting to see the ocean every day, I feel like part of my heart is still in London. It’s so difficult to just walk away from something so amazing - London was starting to really feel like my home. When you’re traveling all around and dealing with the stress of language barriers or school work, you associate your accommodation more and more with a place of refuge. For me, Stamford Street Apartments was that exact thing. Being able to walk down my flat and knock on Beccy’s door and complain about something stupid was just what I needed. After I brought back my sample pack of chocolate from Brussels, nearly every day we’d sit in my room and carefully break two tiny chocolate squares, savor them as long as possible to de-stress, and talk about how xenophobia was different in the UK and US, friends who meant the world to us, awkward moments, celebrity hotness, and the use of microwaves and grills. Seriously. did you know the Brits rarely use the microwave?? Our water boiler (ahem, kettle) broke, and not one of my flatmates even considered microwaving water to make tea! 

But all in all, I made some amazing friends while I was abroad. I think this picture is one of my favorites of my entire semester because it captures my relationship with Max & Beccy so perfectly:

So here’s the list of things I’ve learned while abroad:

  • No matter where you are in the world, you can never stop being Greek:
  • Wearing a suit doesn’t mean that people will take you seriously:
  • Clubs are usually filled with super weird people. Super weird people who will scare Max while attempting to befriend Beccy. 
  • This is one of the best views you’ll ever find of London:
  • The Duchess of Cambridge is really creepy as a doll
  • Don’t put mirrors in elevators because it just reminds the people inside that the weather made them look weathered:
  • Jose doesn’t give a duck.
  • But really, why is everyone so obsessed with ducks?
  • Every market in England sells animal hats. Wolves, pigs, frogs, bears, pandas- every animal imaginable. Max also got nicknamed Ms. Piggy by our tour guide. 
  • Brits say funny things like “I trod in a puddle” and “I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even flexing, I was just scratching my arm…”:
  • Punting is really difficult. So volunteer someone else to do it while you take pretty pictures with great scenery in the background and admire the hot professional punters.
  • It’s possible to meet up with a cousin from Australia who you haven’t seen in 15 years!
  • Just because the club has a theme, it doesn’t mean everybody else will actually dress up. There’s an extremely high likelihood that your group will be the only group wearing costumes:
  • As much as I wish my school looked like this, it doesn’t:
  • You won’t find another girl in the world who loves Harry Potter and chocolate as much as Sarah does. You also won’t find any other person who is practically living the same life as me:
  • Max isn’t capable of taking a single picture without doing something weird with his hand. And it drives me insane.
  • This girl can speak perfect fluent Spanish:
  • God will always bring you people who will love and support you no matter where you are in the world:
  • Whoever said the Brits can’t cook was clearly an idiot and hadn’t met Stephen:
  • Sebastien got mauled by a fox:
  • It’s possible to run into friends while in the middle of London, Paris, Brussels, and Barcelona:

  • You’ll never laugh as hard as when these people are around you:
  • It’s possible to make a dirty joke about literally anything.
  • These two very strange girls will somehow become best friends:

To each and every one of you, thank you for making my abroad experience some of the most memorable months of my life. I’ll never forget you all. 


So I’ve been pretty horrible at updating my blog, but it’s all the fault of the 4 papers I had! “Finals week” was pretty horrendous - Matt and I stayed up until 6 am nearly every night (my brain works so much better after midnight!) and the last day we ran out of food and Matt resorted to eating butter sandwiches hahah. But finally, I’m free!! And now able to write my post on AMSTERDAM! Two weeks ago Maximus, Jake, Mich, Brandon, Sarah, and I went off on a weekend adventure as our last trip, and it was an absolute blast!! I think overall, Amsterdam was completely different than I expected. I thought it would be extremely seedy and dirty with high crime rates and where anything goes. It couldn’t have been more different! First off, Amsterdam is charming - an absolutely adorable Dutch town. There are a couple hundred small islands connected by over a thousand bridges, so everywhere you walk, you’re by a quaint little canal! 

Us minus Jake who was taking the picture: 

We went on a massive free tour where we learned a lot about the history of Amsterdam. Long story short, after the Nazis occupied Amsterdam and the city witnessed a lot of its own people doing some pretty horrendous, Amsterdam promised itself that never again would they let discrimination or intolerance rule their city. Thus, the philosophy on tolerance was born. Here is a statute in honour of the sex workers in Amsterdam. As many of you probably know, prostitution is legalised in The Netherlands. What I didn’t know though, was how much respect they have for the sex workers and their choice.  It’s a really fascinating outlook - the Red Light District is extremely well policed to protect the women, and if you threaten or demean a sex worker, you’ll get kicked out immediately. Taking pictures is also strictly forbidden.
The next best thing about being in the Netherlands? Dutch clogs!!
The Royal Palace:
Festive christmas lights everywhere! It was so fun to wander aimlessly, go into touristy shops to get souvenirs, and just enjoy the atmosphere. We ran out of actual sightseeing to do pretty quickly, so we had a lot of time to just enjoy the city which was fine by me!
Fun fact about the buildings - a lot of them tilt left or right because the land beneath them is sinking! A lot of the buildings also lean forward, but that’s on purpose. If you look at the top of the far right building, there’s this little protruding white box with a hook and a window underneath it. Since Amsterdam floods so much, they keep their storage in their roofs rather than their basements. To bring things up, you hoist the items on a pulley all the way to the top and through the highest window! The buildings lean forward so that the objects won’t bang against the rest of the building and ruin it. Brilliant! After our tour guide told us this, I noticed the hooks everywhere - they still use this method now
We went on a morning canal cruise to see Amsterdam from the water :)
Thanks to the housing shortage in Amsterdam, a lot of families have decided to live in boat houses. We could see inside a couple of them, and they look like completely normal houses…aside from the fact that they are in the water. Some of them had gardens and this one had its own patio hahah
Later on in Sunday I found a great town about 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam called Zaans Schans. We didn’t know much about it except for the fact there were windmills, and we decided to go! It ended up being one of the best decisions of the trip. The town was a preserved quaint country town where the windmills are still in operation for different things. 
All the windmills behind me!
We also went to a cheese shop where there were a million samples. We stayed there forever just going back and forth between samples to the point where we all essentially had a full meal. It was so delicious, though, they had pesto cheese! Nom
Next up: a clog museum and store! There are different types of clogs for all types of occasions - wedding clogs, farming clogs, even ice skating clogs! I really wanted a pair, but I don’t know what I’d even do with them.
One of the most hilarious things about our trip to Zaans Schans was the chocolate smell. The minute we stepped off our train, we smelled chocolate. We instantly were thrilled, thinking there must be a chocolate shop somewhere! We followed our noses all throughout town, but sometimes the smell would go away, then come back even stronger. The whole three hours we were there, we could not find out where the chocolate smell was coming from. Finally, as we were walking back to our train, I saw this and screamed: IT SAYS COCOA. THERES A CHOCOLATE FACTORY!!! Yes, turns out, there was this giant chocolate factory SPEWING out chocolate fumes all across the town and down the river. Absolutely insane.
Unfortunately, at this point we had to say goodbye to Max and Jake since they were flying back Sunday night. But, the four of us still had a couple of things on our to do list. First off, I had to stick my Don Carlos Obedece sticker somewhere! Earlier, Ryan from the best taco shop in the world/La Jolla sent me three Don Carlos stickers to place around Europe. I put this one an awesome graffiti wall in the Red Light District!
We then found the I AMsterdam sign! 

Brandon climbed on top of the M hahahStruggles at fitting inside the A hahah
I’ll try to post a photo with all the letters spelled out since we took one of each. Until then, though, bye!

Breaking all assumptions in Barcelona by Amanda Liew

Two weekends ago, Sarah, Lauren, and I headed out for a 3-day trip to Barcelona, Spain. I was especially excited for this because I had always dreamed about going to Spain and it was at the top of my places-to-go list. I can say truthfully that it did not disappoint. I think it might actually have been my favorite place out of my entire time studying abroad. The reason? The art. Barcelona is essentially the playground of Gaudí. He’s built famous and absolutely amazing buildings all across the city, adding so much culture to the already lively city. It was phenomenal!

We hit up a couple of great spots on our way to the hostel. This is in the Miró park: 

One of the best things about Barcelona? Even though it was the middle of November, it was a beautiful 65 degrees with sunshine…and palm trees. Oh palm trees, how I’ve missed you so!
The main street, La Rambla, is dotted with a million shops, crafts tents, ice cream shops, and more. We went back about three or four times during our weekend just because it was so much fun to shop here!
On La Rambla, there’s this giant marketplace called La Boqueria. Lauren who is Peruvian/Chinese/Japanese and myself were totally used to seeing fish and what not out in the open (Fun Fact: she can speak fluent Spanish. She told me before the trip she could speak Spanish and I thought, “Oh yeah..she must have taken Spanish in high school or something..” Nope. Spanish was her first language. Imagine my utter shock when she opened her mouth to talk with the lady at the ticket counter). Sarah on the other hand, pretty much freaked out. Lauren and I had a good time pointing out particularly gross things while she kept saying “I think I’m going to throw up” hahah
Next, we of course had to get tapas. They were absolutely delicious just as I imagined them to be
Heading straight down to La Rambla, we found The Christopher Columbus Monument!
Then we saw this. Water!!! Beautiful beautiful palm trees and the beautiful beautiful ocean! Oh it was wonderful!!

One of the awesome things about Barcelona is the pace. The Spaniards stroll, they don’t walk. I’ve been so used to weaving through traffic in NYC and London, that I’ve kind of forgotten how to just walk to enjoy the surroundings. We decided that we had plenty of time to see everything we wanted to see, and therefore took our sweet time to enjoy the sun and the scenery.
As the sun started setting, we (okay, I) decided we were in desperate need of some Spanish style hot chocolate. Since I’ve come to Europe, I’ve been trying to find Naked Chocolate’s European styled hot chocolate, and I finally found it in Spain! I was starting to think that Naked Chocolate had just made it up and slapped “European” on the title to make it sound fancy. We had the hot chocolate with churros and they were absolutely delicious!

Filled up on hot chocolate, we went on a hunt to find Cathedral of Santa Eulalia and stumbled across a CHRISTMAS MARKET in front of it! Unfortunately most of the Cathedral pictures didn’t turn out well, but I got a snap shot of these crazy logs with faces - they were everywhere! Does anybody know what they are?

To end off the night, we decided to go to a bar Lauren had heard about where there are over a thousand different surprise shots. You look at the board, pick one, and they don’t tell you the details.
Sarah and Lauren got the Harry Potter shot and it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. The bartender poured the shots, put an orange slice with sugar on top, doused the whole thing in more alcohol, lit it on fire, then sprinkled cinammon or some spice on to it to make sparks that were Harry-Potter-esque. Sarah is one of the biggest Harry Potter fan (understatement) that I have ever met and pretty much almost died out of sheer happiness. There was also another shot where you lit a marshmallow on fire, then dunked it into the shot and drank/ate the whole thing.
Sunday morning we followed our little organized itinerary to find Casa Batló and La Sagrada Familia, but we stumbled across something first: La Pedera. We were impressed enough by the outside that we decided to step in the gift shop.
When I started looking at the posters they were selling, I knew I had to go in. Even though Sarah and Lauren opted out, I knew that this was my once-in-a-lifetime chance to see something I reallywanted to see and that I would regret it if I kept going. So the girls graciously waited for me as I went in by myself and this is what I found:
My breath was taken away. These massive massive sculptures are hidden on the roof of this building, completely invisible to people on the street. What’s even more amazing is that Gaudí made each sculpture have a purpose whether it was a chimney or an elevator. I literally couldn’t believe my eyes that someone could make this. I spent about an hour walking around the roof, creeping on other tourists to ask them to take photos for me, and going through the rest of the apartment residence (yes, people were meant to live here!). I think it was the best spontaneous decision I made and I am so happy that I went!

Finally back on track with our plans, we saw Casa Batló which is also made by Gaudí. I learned that Gaudí was incredibly inspired by natural objects such as gourds, pumpkins, tree branches, and honeycombs. That’s why in a lot of his architecture you see undulating waves, contained windows, and sprawling masses. Absolutely phenomenal.
Finally we headed over to La Sagrada Familia. Madeline had warned me before that it was the most amazing cathedral she had ever seen in her life and that wasn’t an exaggeration.
Even after what Madeline told me, I almost didn’t want to pay to go inside since I had paid for La Pedera earlier. I was impressed by the exterior, but thought the inside would just look the same with gray stones and maybe some cool sculptures. Wow, was I wrong: 

Can you believe the colors? Different shades of white, beige, rose, and more. It was unlike any other Cathedral I had seen. Different sections of the church had different feelings. Light was pouring through the stained glass at one end adding all this warmth into one section:

While on the other side of the cathedral, light was flooding in from above and illuminating a fantastic white ceiling:
The crazy thing about La Sagrada familia is that it’s only partially completed. There are four giant towers right now and there are supposed to be twelve total (with the others even higher than the current ones!). We decided that we must come back in about 30 years when the entire Cathedral is finished to witness the transformation for ourselves.

Our last and final destination was Park Guell. We had all just assumed it was going to be a nice big park - green with some pretty sculptures. Once again, our assumptions were shattered. The first hint that this park was going to be a little different was when we had to walk up an insanely steep hill (I think it might have actually be a mountain). The hill was so steep that they had outdoor escalators in the middle of the road to help people: 

When we finally reached the top (although we did stop for nachos first), we had the most amazing view of the entire city:
The park itself was a giant sprawling area with different sections and none of it involved lawn. It was actually much more similar to Balboa Park in San Diego - there were buildings and enormous towers you could climb. Each area was unique and surrounded by nature. 
And so, our adventure in Barcelona ended beautifully! Next post on Amsterdam!

If the Colonists were Brits, why don't you guys celebrate Thanksgiving? by Amanda Liew

It was a Thanksgiving miracle, really. Up until Monday of this week, I was convinced that Thanksgiving was going to be a huge bust. It was impossible to organize anybody in time to make reservations for an American pub dinner, and I had absolutely no idea how to cook an entire meal myself. Panic set in as I started realizing that this might be the first time in twenty years that I would miss Thanksgiving. But finally, Lauren gave me a great little pep talk and we decided WE WERE GOING TO DO THANKSGIVING RIGHT. Luckily, our Thanksgiving miracle came in the form of Stephen - ironically, he’s British. But he’s a good cook! And he was even more determined than we were to do Thanksgiving all the way. This is Stephen:

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I eagerly made an event and invited as many people as possible. Within a few days we had 20 people RSVPd to attend! Stephen and Judith went to get loads of groceries early Wednesday morning to prepare:

See that on the left? That’s a twenty-pound turkey.
My contribution was a green bean casserole! Normally, I’m a lazy American and I use 3 types of cans: Cream of Mushroom Can, Green Bean Can, French’s Fried Onions!

BUT since we’re in the UK and all, you can’t find this anywhere. So Thursday night Sarah and I cut up a bunch of onions, battered them, and then fried them ourselves! The completed masterpiece ended up looking and tasting great if I do say so myself:

Aside from Sebastien’s Paula-Deen-style mac and cheese (“more cheese y’all!”) and some other side dishes, Flat 20 pretty much handled the rest. I can’t believe the turkey actually cooked!


The whole feast. We had the turkey, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, green bean casserole, baked sweet potato, gravy, mulled wine, cider, cranberry sauce, smoked vegetables, and stuffing. Before:


As you can see, we pretty much demolished the meal. I think about 25 people showed up! It was so crowded that we had to set up chairs in the hallway since the kitchen is so tiny.

And don’t forget the dessert! Pumpkin pie, apple pie, chocolate pecan pie!
Oh, and we had pilgrim and native american hats - how awesome is that?

Overall, everything was a grand success! It still blows my mind that we were all able to pull this off in a couple of days. Not to mention, I was essentially eating with the true colonists, the Brits :)