Saturday, February 24, 2018

My Brother's Trip to London | February 13th - 22nd

One of the many perks of studying abroad is that it gives your family an excuse to travel to visit you.  Which is exactly what my brother did.  He was here with me for a little longer than a week, and we did a lot of fun stuff.

Tuesday, February 13th:
I was in class when my brother arrived so I met up with him when I could.  He was staying in Camden, so we walked around that area.  We walked through the Camden Market, and then we ate lunch in a pub and then went to another pub...There isn't a whole lot else to do in Camden.  We came back towards my housing and got dinner at Pizza Express.

Wednesday, February 14th:
My Wednesday schedule is a little weird because I have two classes in the morning and then a night class.  So between those, we went to the British History Museum.  This museum is free and ginormous, so we spent a couple hours and still only saw a fraction of the building.  We got lunch at Pret (my favorite) and then went to my school so I could study for my test and my brother could do some work on his laptop.  For dinner, we went to an American diner and then sat at a pub near my housing for a while.

Thursday, February 15th:
I was supposed to have my internship today, but I moved my schedule around so that I would be able to hang out with my brother and we could travel more.  So today we went to The Tower of London for a couple hours.  It was my second time going, but it was fun to see the Crowned Jewels and the museums again.  I also saw some stuff I didn't see the first time.  My favorite thing about The Tower is the Beefeater tours.  Unfortunately, when we got there it was raining so the tour was shorter and inside the chapel, but by the time it was over the sun had come back out.  Once we were finished at The Tower we walked by the water down to Millennium Bridge, which I didn't know but is also across from St. Paul's Cathedral, so we got to see that too.

Friday, February 16th:
Friday started early, but it wasn't a real busy day.  We left for Brussels via the Eurostar in the morning, but once we got there, we hung out in our Airbnb so that my brother could work.  So I got to get some reading in which was really nice.  For dinner, we found a pizza place nearby and then we watched Finding Dory and a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother.

Saturday, February 17th:
We spent all of Saturday on a day trip to Ghent and Bruges, which we bought online.  These types of tours can be a little expensive, but I love them because you get to see a part of a country you may not have gotten to see otherwise and there's a tour guide to give you some history.  In these two places, there were mostly churches to see, but it was a fun day.

Sunday, February 18th:
We took our time getting up and out of our Airbnb Sunday morning.  But when we did leave we went and got Belgian Waffles (Because how could we not?) and some homemade Belgian Chocolate (Again, how could we not?).  Then we went to the Atomium which is a massive structure.  We thought about going inside it, but we weren't sure if our backpacks would fit in the lockers and we only had a limited time before having to go to the train station.  So we got to the station early, ate some cake and then made our way back to London.  We were both tired from traveling, so it was an early night.

Monday, February 19th:
Our morning consisted of screen time where I worked on my Blog, and my brother worked on a work project.  However, we did go to Sky Garden and hung out there for a while.  This was my second time at Sky Garden, and I think it's a great place to go with people because on a nice day you can see so much and it's free!  Who doesn't love that?  From there we went to Emirates Stadium to get a scarf for a friend back home.  It was a more chilled out day than the other's, but still fun.


Tuesday, February 20th:
From a low key day to a jam-packed one!  Today we went to Warner Brothers Studios and saw all things, Harry Potter.  It is such a cool place!  I know I talked about it in my 1 Month Update post, but I just can't get over how amazing it is!  When we got back, we walked around to see Buckingham Palace, Parliament, Big Ben (Kinda, it's currently covered in scaffolding), and Westminster Abbey.  We didn't really do anything at these sights, just looked and then kept walking, but I felt my brother couldn't come all the way to London and not see these things.


Wednesday, February 21st:
Back home I babysit for a family that lived in Scotland for eight years, and one of their friends lives outside of London, so he offered to show us around Beaconsfield and Oxford.  Along with the colleges in Oxford, we got to see Blenheim Palace and Cliveden House.  It was really nice to have someone to show us around an area we never would have gone to otherwise.  Kind of like the tour of Ghent and Bruges, but more personal since it was just us and someone who we could also talk about home with.  It was a long, fun day.

Thursday, February 22nd:
I actually had to go to my internship at 9:45am and my brother had to make his way to the airport so we only had time to get a quick breakfast at Costa before splitting up.  It was really nice to get to spend time with him and show him around where I've been for two months.


Monday, February 19, 2018

A Long Weekend in Berlin, Germany

If January moved at the pace of a sloth, then February is like a cheetah.  The month is almost over, and I haven't written anything because my schedule has been absolutely crazy.

The study abroad program I am studying through sent an email way back in November with a list of excursions that I could sign up for at an additional cost to my program.  This isn't uncommon for study abroad programs because it gives you the opportunity to explore new things without having to plan it out yourself.  One of those excursions was to spend a long weekend in Berlin, Germany and not only see the city but also learn more about World War II from Germany's point of view.

Thursday, February 8th:
I worked a half day before taking the tube to Heathrow Airport.  We didn't get to our hostel until about 9:00pm, so we were free to just do our own thing.  My roommate came with me and then we met some other girls in our program who don't live in the same building as we do.  Situations like these are funny because you get close to people really fast and just stick with them for the weekend.  It's like freshman orientation.  That night we stayed in the Hostel bar and ate and got to know each other.

Friday, February 9th:
We spent the entire morning doing a walking tour of Berlin.  We walked to the museums and looked at their architecture, saw memorials for the people affected and killed during the Holocaust, the Berlin Wall, and bullet marks that are still in the buildings.  Berlin (and Germany) is such an interesting place because they've entirely owned up to their atrocious acts and they want people to learn from their mistakes.  Anything that is related to that part of their history is free so that people can educate themselves on it.  But anything that is related to Hitler himself has pretty much been destroyed so that no one can make a shrine to him.
After our tour, we had free time, so my friends and I went to a chocolate shop that had chocolate sculptures of different monuments in Berlin and things like an airplane and the Titanic and a chocolate volcano.  We also walked through the Topography of Terror which was a museum about the  Nazi's and SS Officers.
That night we had a meet & mingle event in the hostel bar to get to know some of the kids on the trip with us, but everyone had kind of done that the night before.  It was still fun though to all sit together.  We thought about going out that night, but the hostel was cheap and didn't involve going out in the cold, so we ended up staying there.

Saturday, February 10th:
For most of the day, we went to Sachsenhausen which was an internment camp for prisoners during the Holocaust.  This camp's largest population was the gypsie people, but there was still Jewish prisoners as well.  This camp was also right next to the headquarters for the supervisor of all of the camps throughout Europe, so it was where they did a lot of testing different ways to efficiently kill people.
We then went to the East Side gallery, which is the longest intact piece of the Berlin Wall.  It's covered in artwork from artists all over the world.  Afterwards, we ate authentic German food for dinner at a really lively restaurant.  I ordered meatballs, but they were closer to two hamburger patties.  Experiencing the culture through its food was nice.
That night we agreed to try and find a club, but we never did.  We ended up walking around Berlin until about 2 in the morning in the freezing cold.  Needless to say, no one was pretty happy towards the end.  We did meet some really kind kids our age from Germany and ended up walking around with them and just talking about the differences between Germany and America.

Sunday, February 11th:  
Before we left for the airport, we were given a couple of hours to explore the Mauerpark Market.  It was a typical market with people trying to sell handmade things, but there was also food and a whole section that was just people trying to have a yard sale.  I bought some postcards that I'm going to frame when I get home in April.

I have always found the Holocaust such a fascinating topic.  The how and the why of it could happen in the modern era.  The Nazi's were smart; they understood psychological effects killing people could have, they were working to be the most efficient as they could be, and they were interested in trying new medical experiments.  However, the way they went about it was absolutely horrendous and if they had only focused all that effort on something else Germany would have such a different history.  It was a little hard to be in the city because it's one thing to learn all these things in a classroom somewhere, but to be in the actual place and to walk around and see memorial after memorial for all that the city has done wrong is a weird, emotional experience.  But I am glad I went on this trip because I don't think you can ever learn too much about a topic and like I said learning about it in the actual place it entirely different.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr | Book Review

Reading Group: Middle School+

Synopses: Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend's boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora's fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So, when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world—in Svalbard, Norway—Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.
But will following Drake be the key to unlocking Flora’s memory? Or will the journey reveal that nothing is quite as it seems?
Already a bestselling debut in the UK, this unforgettable novel is Memento meets We Were Liars and will have you racing through the pages to unravel the truth.

Cover: This book has a basic cover.  It's white with blue words and what looks like glitter or something over it.  The glitter may represent the snow that Flora sees on her adventure to Svalbard, or it may represent her memory in some way.

My Review: To be completely honest with you guys, this book didn't really do it for me.  I found it really frustrating that every three paragraphs repeated what just happened because it made me feel like I was reading about a ten-year-old and not a seventeen-year-old.  And I fully understand that this is how Flora's life and memory works, but it was boring to read.  The story is also really slow.  She's home alone for a while before she decides to go to Svalbard and then it's so long before she finds Drake.  But the last paragraph has an engrossing plot twist, and the idea of Flora getting part of her memory back comes up, but the book just ends.  I wish it spent less time with her and Drake and the second half focused on the twist and her standing up to how her parents have been treating her illness.  That would have been very interesting because Flora may have finally been able to become a seventeen-year-old.  So this book wasn't for me, but was it for you?  Maybe if I were younger, I would have enjoyed it more.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Sunday Lunch Club by Juliet Ashton | Book Review

Publication Date: April 19, 2018

Reading Group: Definitely tailored for ages 30+, but I still enjoyed it

Synopses: The first rule of Sunday Lunch Club is … don't make any afternoon plans.
Every few Sundays, Anna and her extended family and friends get together for lunch. They talk, they laugh, they bicker, they eat too much. Sometimes the important stuff is left unsaid, other times it's said in the wrong way. 
Sitting between her ex-husband and her new lover, Anna is coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy at the age of forty. Also at the table are her ageing grandmother, her promiscuous sister, her flamboyantly gay brother and a memory too terrible to contemplate.
Until, that is, a letter arrives from the person Anna scarred all those years ago. Can Anna reconcile her painful past with her uncertain future?
Juliet Ashton weaves a story of love, friendship and community that will move you to laughter and to tears. Think Cold Feet meets David Nicholls, with a dash of the joy of Jill Mansell added for good measure.

Cover: I find this cover to be classy and simple.  It's exactly what you think a Sunday Lunch table should look like and yet we all know that lunches with the family are more chaos than flowers.  It's what we want not what we get.

My Review: This book is aimed at a little higher of an age group than my 21-year-old self, but I really enjoyed it.  It's all about a family dynamic that will make you say, 'Oh that is so my sister and me!' and also, 'Thank God my family doesn't have all these issues!'.  Your family is supposed to be there for you no matter what, but when 'no matter what' includes an unexpected pregnancy, an unconnected father, a messy love life, a questioning identity, and some family secrets coming to light, it will certainly cause patience and loyalty to be tested.  I enjoyed reading this book because it didn't feel like I was reading about people in their forties, but people in their twenties.  This book reiterates that there is no time limit on family drama and I don't know if it's a good or bad thing, but it was a great story.  It a tale of about as 'modern' as a family you could get, but there are members of the family who don't completely understand what it all means, proving that families constantly need to learn about and from one another.  This book will hit shelves this spring so make sure to keep your eye out for it! Or, if you're already interested, make sure to pre-order from your favorite bookselling site! 

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Friday, February 2, 2018

Studying Abroad: 1 Month Update

Hello everybody!

I cannot believe I left for London a month ago from today.  It feels like I have been here forever and for half a minute at the same time.  This month I have packed in more things than I have ever done before.  

You guys may have read my post about my orientation week, but after that, I started taking classes and partaking in an internship.  My classes are really interesting; I'm taking two English courses and a psychology class.  And my internship is at a publishing company, and I really enjoy it.  I don't do a whole lot more than mailing out press releases, but the people are really nice, and I think as the next couple weeks go on I'll be given more responsibilities. 


I've also been doing a lot of fun activities in and around London.  Since orientation, I spent Sunday, January 7th exploring Greenwich for a day.  My program gave us the experience of taking a boat down the Thames River, but then it was all on us to explore the area. 

Saturday, January 13th I spent the morning at Borough Market where I ate a delicious pork sandwich and came home with some great homemade fudge.   

I also went to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour on Sunday the 14th which was incredible to see all of the behind the scenes of how Harry Potter came to be the masterpiece that it is.  It's easy to watch a movie and comment on the costumes and the sets, but there is so much more that goes into it and seeing every prop and wig and set designs made out of basically cardboard and popsicle sticks was absolutely mindblowing.    


On Wednesday the 17th my class took a Charles Dickens walking tour around London because we read A Tale of Two Cities (one of my absolute favorite books!)  It was really cool to see all of the places that the book references.

I got to spend the weekend of January 19th traveling to Edinburgh, which you may have read about or seen the video I made. Apart from giving myself a black eye, it was a fantastic trip.  (But let's be serious, giving myself a black eye was ridiculous and probably the main part of the trip I'll remember in the years to come) 


The day we got back from Edinburgh we also attended Lumiere, which is this cool light and art show type thing that only happens every four years.

Last Saturday (January 17th) I went with my program to the Tower of London.  After going along with an entertaining Beefeater tour guide my friends and I walked around for a while, seeing the crowned jewels and going in and out of the different museums that are inside the tower.  It was a very cool experience and definitely something I would recommend to anyone planning a visit. 


And afterward, I went to afternoon tea!  I don't like tea but the food was good, and it was a fun thing to do with friends.

Sunday was a relaxing day.  I spent it mostly doing homework and reading for my internship.  Then my roommate and I watched the Lifetime movie 'Will & Kate' to keep the London theme strong on our day inside. 


Finally, my roommate and I both end our days of classes at 12:30 on Tuesdays, so we have decided to spend those days as Tuesday Adventures and we go out to lunch and/or dessert.  We've been to some really cool places and eaten delicious food.

January felt very long to me, but I did so many amazing things!  I have so much planned for February so keep your eyes out for some update posts and everything else!

© Juliann Guerra
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