Costa Rica (late, late, late post)

April 25, 2017

Wow it’s already April and I haven’t written a blog post since November. Which, I should have because I visited another country that month! This time I decided to dabble in Central America with my boyfriend. We flew into Liberia Airport in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica. After being re-inspired by reading my blog posts from my Europe travels, I decided again to tell you about my amazing trip to Latin America.

Thursday, Nov 3

Today would be a day of constant travel. Our first flight was to LAX, where we would catch another flight to Liberia. Nothing newsworthy went on during our flight other than EFF AIRPORT FOOD. I’m starting to learn how to travel smart and that means downloading movies to my iPad ahead of time, since Southwest doesn’t have any person TV’s we’re all used to in those luxury airlines. We arrived in Liberia around 9-10pm, they’re only an hour ahead. I arranged a taxi with my AirBnB host, which was nice actually since the hecklers outside of the airport were a bit intimidating and annoying, trying to probably scam us with a ride to our destination.

Our driver didn’t know much English, I tried to tell him “thank you for waiting” since our flight to Liberia was delayed a bit and we got there later than we’d hoped. All he could say in response to us was “pura vida”, that was the first time I would hear the Costa Rican infamous moto, but I was confused as to why he was saying it as a response. (Note: come to find out later, it can be used in response to things like “how are you” and is more of a term like “no problem” or “my pleasure”.) We were exhausted on our ride to our hotel but we couldn’t help but notice the Costa Rican driving: although it was dark, we saw that most of the main roads were only one way; if you were going slow you would be passed very quickly; Costa Rican drivers are really good at stopping on a dime and navigating their roads; the non-paved roads are very bumpy (since it’s the rainy season and littered with potholes); and these drivers are very confident even though it’s stormy as hell, hard to see, and rainy AF (that’s ‘as fuck’ if you’re an old fart reading this).

We finally got to the AirBnB (Hotel Mamiri) an hour later: the host was very gracious and stayed up even tho it was well passed 12am. Our BnB was nice with two stories and air conditioning. However, the boyfriend didn’t like it since the sheets were musty (a smell we could not escape since it seemed like they didn’t wash the sheets and since it’s always humid/damp in the tropics it probably wouldn’t be washed out) so we didn’t sleep in the sheets the whole time we stayed there–one, because it was hot, and two because the stench was really that bad.

Friday, Nov 4

We woke up super early today to meet our tour guide for our excursion. Randall from Shaman Tours greeted us bright and early at 6:30am (remind you, we probably went to bed at 1am) and informed us of the long trip to the Rincon de Vieja national park. This day was our activity day where we would be doing zip-lining, horseback riding, hot springs and innertubing down the river.

[Tip: We were recommended this tour company by a travel blog called MyTanFeet. If you ever go to Costa Rica, we definitely recommend checking out this blog & using this tour company. You can find reviews on Shaman here.]

First off, horseback riding. Luckily we just missed the rain, all that was left was a slight mist that eventually cleared up so we could see patches of sunlight! We had a relaxing horse ride in this national park that was absolutely beautiful. Everything is green and lush and just beautiful scenery. Our tour guide Randall was waiting for us at the end of our horseback ride to take us to our next activity which was INNER TUBING! This was quite awesome actually. We started off in this big group and were instructed to hold on and paddle when we get stuck–that was it in terms of instructions, the rest was up to the river to take us where we needed to go. It was probably the funnest activity, the rushing river took us on little rapids and waterfalls all while we looked up at the thick canopy of trees above us. When we got to the end, Randall yet again was waiting for us at the bottom and even helped carry my inner tube up the hill (A1 service if you ask me).

After our first two activities, it was lunch time. We were the first people to get to lunch and had a great table in the corner at the edge of the patio that overlooked their amazing property. We ate delicious “comida typica” or their traditional food of rice, beans, plantains and some sort of meat.

We then went zip lining through this lush, green forest and over ravines of water. It was such a cool experience. Randall also took us to a waterfall that was gushing with water (because it was the rainy season and had just rained). During the dry season, you can usually swim at the base, which we unfortunately couldn’t do.

Lastly, we finished our activity day at the hot springs. These natural hot springs are heated by the volcano and the pools are situated on the edge of a river. We took a mud bath that was heated by the volcano that was supposed to cleanse our skin. Overall it was very relaxing and extremely beautiful.

On our way home it was raining again. It took us over 2 hours to get back to Tamarindo and we were exhausted. Since it was raining and it gets darker earlier, we went to a delicious Mexican restaurant called Green Papaya, that had the most delicious enchiladas I ever had. We went back to our hotel and passed out.

Saturday, Nov 5

Today we slept in a little, woke up in time to have complimentary breakfast at our BnB. I had the breakfast tipica while JM had pancakes. We had to check out quite early but it was no problem since our other BnB has a flexible check-in time and was right around the corner. The Beach Bungalows was by far better than the first BnB, and it was so freaking adorable. We had our own bungalow (there were 5 all together on the property) with an open kitchen and pool in the middle.

Our host, Niko, was a Frenchman expat who decided to live in paradise with his wife and set up this beautiful bungalow BnB. Each bungalow had it’s own relaxation pad underneath the elevated living space, where you could sit on the lounge chair or hammock. He sat us down once we got there and gave us important information about Tamarindo, things we could do, places we could go and which restaurants were the best. It was superb hospitality right from the start.

After settling our luggage we grabbed some towels and headed to the infamous Tamarindo beach. The town we were staying at, Tamarindo, is famous for it’s beach. It’s good for surfing, swimming, relaxing…etc. There were a lot of restaurants that lined the beach–we ended up settling on one and relaxing on their beach chairs. Someone from inside gave us a menu and explained that all drinks were “buy one get one half off”, their “happy hour price” which is basically all day, every day. We hung out there for a little, played on the beach for a bit, then decided to check out the town, since we hadn’t really explore the place. Wanting a little snack, we settled on this cute plaza with cheap food & a pizzeria. Pizza sounded good (and we could split it), plus it was cheap.

After walking around for a bit, we just relaxed the rest of the day. We ate again at this restaurant called the Beach Shack or something like that, drank more and just absorbed the Tamarindo Town.

Sunday, Nov 6

Today we woke up, ate a great breakfast prepared by lovely Alice, one out of the two workers that worked at the BnB. She made us this delicious breakfast torta: egg on refried beans with salsa/tomato sauce over a fried tortilla. IT WAS AMAZING!! We had time to kill, so we went to the beach and wait for our sunset cruise, which would start at 1pm.

We met at the beach for our sunset cruise called Blue Dolphin Cruise. One couple that was staying at the same bungalows as us actually booked it for the same day & time as we did. They were a really sweet couple from the East Coast; the husband even offered us some coconut that he bought off a vendor on the beach. Once on the boat, we found out that one of the groups that took the same Rincon de Vieja adventure tour on the same day as us were also on the SAME sunset cruise. It was a great atmosphere. They played great music, had unlimited drinks (the dolphin especial was their house cocktail, I had about 6 of those) and brought us out to this amazing private cove. Once there, we could either take a kayak, stand up paddle board, or snorkel gear out to the “reef” area. I was a bit disappointed because it was pretty muggy out in the water and the guys were yelling at me to stay away from the rocks (the only area where there were actually fish). I had to assure them that I was a great swimmer and I could swim confidently. [Plus, I was in the don’t-give-an-eff mode since I was probably 4 cocktails in by this point].

After being docked for about an hour, we set back to Tamarindo. On our way back they had a buffet full of food where you could make tacos and nachos. I was so hungry too since I swam for a long ass time. I made friends with the group who also did the adventure tour the same day as us, and they were really nice people from Austin! As we were coming back, the Captain & crew started to salsa and play Latin music. Drunk me was having fun watching when the Captain grabbed me and started dancing with me. Drunk me didn’t know if I was in rhythm or really how to dance like that, but I obliged and tried to dance. The sun started to set and it was an amazing spectacle to see out on the water!

We said goodbye to our new friends, headed back to the BnB, took a nice warm shower and ate at our favorite place: the Green Papaya!

Monday, Nov 7

We booked a second day trip with the same tour company, Shaman Tours. Randall arrived at our bungalow bright and early (630am). Today we were doing the “Hanging Bridge Tour”, a hike/canopy tour of the amazing protected land of Tenorio national park. First off, we stopped at an amazing waterfall at Llanos de Cortes. We were the first people there (because it had to have been like 8am or so) and the only people there. The waterfall was gushing with rushing water because it was the rainy season. It was so perfect since it was quiet, pristine, and intimate!

We stayed for about an hour and were back on the road. It took us about another hour to reach the park. Randall was great, stopping at places to see if there were sloths/howler monkeys and grocery stores so we could get something to eat. Once we got to Tenorio Park itself, we realized it would be a relatively easy/short hike (which was so nice because at this point we were so tired from all our earlier activities). The park was beautiful & picturesque. What made it even more unique were these suspended hanging bridges, where we would be in the canopy, admiring the view. We didn’t see any animals unfortunately, but it was still so serene and beautiful.

Of course, my annoying-ass had to ask Randall if this was normal, not seeing any animals & all. So, he was determined to find me a sloth (or a monkey at least). On our way out of the park, Randall kept an eye out. He stopped at a tree on the side of the road where the slots normally “hang” out (hahah see what I did there). He took out his huge telescope and found us not only one, but two sloths on the tree!! I was so ecstatic to finally see a sloth, especially in the wild.

On our way back, we were given an option for lunch. It was either to go to a “Restaurante Tipico” where they serve authentic Costa Rican dishes OR to go to a Tilapia farm, catch our own fish, and have it fried fresh to eat. Our choice was obviously the tilapia farm (1, because we’re Filipino & can’t say no to fried fish and 2. who doesn’t wanna catch their own fish?!). Ok, so it wasn’t really that hard to catch a fish because you first would bait it in a small pool where they’re raised and then keep throwing in your line until you caught them. This particular fish farm was so adorable! It was family-owned with all generations in the house. We met a little boy named Ian, who was three years old. His mom was the cook and his older brothers were the waiters.

Randall accompanied us to lunch, he caught his own fish & everything. They asked us what kind of flavor I wanted for my smoothie (I got mango, obvi). The first course they brought out to us was this savory fried plantain cup filled with refried beans. IT WAS SO DELICIOUS! Then…our tilapia came out and HOLY EFF WAS IT AMAZING!! I wish I took a picture of it (I thought I did but I guess my camera wasn’t on all the way). I guess it’ll just stay ingrained in my memory forever.

Our bellies were full and we were headed back to Tamarindo. I was so freaking tired on the way home (plus a full-belly) that I kept falling asleep and snoring. JM had to bump me constantly bc my mouth was wide open & I looked like an obese, drunk man after a night at the bar. I’m not sure how we ended this night, but we probably drank again or just passed out really early because we were tired.

 

Tuesday, Nov 8

We woke up again for the delicious breakfast from Alice. The same couple that was on the sunset cruise with us were also eating breakfast. We chatted with them and they suggested we go to Playa Conchal (literally translates to Shell Beach). They said that the water over there was amazing, crystal blue like Hawaii, and they snorkeled and ate lobster prepared on the beach. It sounded great & our host, Niko, said that he could get us a cab there for cheap (which ended up not being as cheap…). We didn’t have anything planned that day so we decided to check it out.

We were dropped off on the beach and told the taxi driver to pick us up “a las cuatro”. We had the whole day to spend there, and it was so freaking beautiful. The water was turquoise blue and the beach was made out of millions of crushed shells (although later we come to find out that the WHOLE beach used to look like that but because of tourism & the gov’t deciding to use them for construction, only a tiny section of the beach is truly all made out of shells). The boyfriend & I set up camp under some trees for a free shady area–hecklers were asking if we wanted to rent chairs & umbrella for $20 the whole day, but we politely declined. The rest of the day we just hung out, went into the water, and literally soaked in the sun. We didn’t do much but we didn’t need to, we just relaxed and really absorbed the environment around us.

We started to get hungry and we were a little late asking the guy, who was going around to the different tourist on the beach, for some food. He told us he sold out of the lobster, but that he had freshly caught Red Snapper. This was the best choice for us anyways since neither of us like shellfish. We bought two cervesas (Imperial is the beer of Costa Rica) and the Red Snapper was delivered to us. LET ME TELL YOU, THAT WAS THE BEST-TASTING FISH I EVER HAD! (Freshly prepared fish, the fish the day before was fried not grilled, so there’s a difference…I think). So fresh, cooked so perfectly, and we ate it sitting on the beach with beer–it can’t get any better!

Finally, we were picked up and brought back to the hotel (it was $20 one way to the beach then $40 on the way back!!!! SUCH A RIP OFF!!). After another shower, we wanted to get happy hour drinks before our dinner reservation. Our host made reservations for us at Patagonia, this upscale Argentinian Steakhouse. Jon-Mykal and I split a plate because, we don’t eat a lot and we knew it was going to be expensive. After that we went back to the BnB and drank the night away.

Wednesday, Nov 9

Today, we woke up with the sad, sad reality that Donald Trump won the election back in the states. Glad to be in a different country when this news broke, we sorrowfully headed down to the kitchen for breakfast. Nothing like Alice’s delicious breakfast torta & international talk couldn’t fix (it didn’t actually fix it but it helped lessen the tremendous defeat we were feeling). We were checking out that day, so we hastily ate, packed, got ready. Our next host wouldn’t be picking us up until 1pm, but we had to check out by 11am.

With time to kill, we walked around Tamarindo looking for non-touristy pasalubongs (Tagalog for souvenirs). That proved difficult since Tamarindo is a very touristy town and we were touring in the off-season so no one wanted to give us discounts. On this ominous day, since finding out that Trump was the new leader of our country, there were actually optimistic locals who wanted to talk politics to us. This one lady manning a souvenir shop explained that both of the candidates were a bad choice. She was saying that this is a great opportunity for people to band together against the greater evil. It was a nice perspective to speak to intelligent locals who know their shit, don’t knock you for being American, and realize that there are solutions to problems.

We needed this healing, in a way. Talking it out with people from other walks of life and perspectives gives you a better understanding and acceptance of the situation. We, after all, can’t really do anything about the situation other than accept the circumstances and try everything in our power to resist.

Since it was lunch time, we wanted to get some food before going to our next hotel. We opted for the pizza place again since it was cheap and just enough food for the both of us. Headed back to the bungalows, we waited for our host to pick us up. Felipe showed up at our hotel in his white pickup truck. He had a cute little doggy in the back. We gave our hugs to Alice & Edwin (the other employee there) and even Pepito (the resident gato who was so friendly).

Me and JM squeezed into his small truck. Blancita (Blanca), his pup, was riding in the back when Felipe explained why he had his dog. She apparently is very attached to him and was able to escape her lead & fence at their home, he ties her in the yard on his way to pick us up. The next thing he knows she’s chasing him down the road and he had no choice but to pick her up and bring her along. She doesn’t even like being in the back of the truck, and Felipe was worried that she would jump out of the back into traffic. As most of you all know, I love dogs, so I said I didn’t mind if she sat in the front with us. So all of us–me, JM, Felipe, AND Blancita–are all squeezing into this very small pick up truck.

Felipe let us know that we were going to a very remote area of Playa Grande (which is a protected national park) and that there wouldn’t be food options near by. So we stopped at a supermarket while Felipe got gas to get our dinners for the night. We opted for sandwich making ingredients for our dinner/breakfast in the morning (we’re only staying one night). After what seemed like the longest, bumpiest road ever, we finally made it to the Pipe Hotel.

The Pipe Hotel is amazing! Felipe made the space all from scratch–he was an engineer from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, probably the most westernized city in CR. He didn’t like his life in the city so he moved to Playa Grande (which is just a 30 minute car ride from Tamarindo & a 5 minute boat ride), bought a plot of land, and created the Pipe Hotel. What’s unique about this hostel are the pipe beds. These huge industrial pipes were recycled and made into sleeping pods. Each pod can hold 1-2 people & there’s just a bed and a small rack inside. The Pipe Hotel has 6 Pipes but only one other person was staying there (it is the off season after all). His name was Grant, a young 18-year-old from Washington and a pro wake surfer. He was here to surf, since is a great surfing spot. Felipe is also a beach bum with a great community of friends who are also beach bums.

We had a lot of time to kill–we were away from the city and in a remote area. So the only thing to do now was to explore the beach, that was literally in our backyard. Playa Grande is a protected area and beach so it’s very quiet and remote. Turtles, like the  endangered large Leather Back Sea Turtle, lay eggs at this beach. Since they’re endangered the beach is off limits to big tourist companies/hotels. JM and I spent a lot of time at the beach, just taking in the incredible scenery. The amazing thing about traveling to CR during this time was it was the tail end of the rainy season, which means…everything is green!! We only caught rain once and that was the first/second day we were there. So fortunate to have missed the rain but get all the benefits of the after effects!

After watching the sunset with Felipe, Blancita & Taco (his other pup), JM and I went to make our sandwiches! Grant was hanging out in the common area so we had a conversation…all night. He shared his Cuba Libre’s (rum & coke in a can) with us and Felipe came to join us. We had a really good night just sitting around talking for hours on end. People here also don’t have any reason to stay up late. They wake up and go to sleep with the sun because most of their work is done when the sun is up. Unfortunately, we were only staying here one night, I wish we were staying here longer because it was one of the BEST NIGHTS WE HAD! Hostel-type accommodations are definitely more my pace, especially when we’re not traveling with a lot of people. You can meet some great people from all over in these types of hotels.

Anyways, we had to sleep early since our cab was going to pick us up early to go to the airport.

 

 

&&& Thursday we left. Nothing much notable there. So that was my trip. I loved Costa Rica, everything about it. Now I know why a lot of expat’s go there. If you ever go, I would recommend going to the Guanacaste Province in November or December. I went in Nov, and it happened to be great timing. There was some showers but not a lot, not too touristy, and very green & lush! I plan on going back one day and spending LOADS more time there. Anyways, pura vida!

Here are some pics of our adventure! The video that I made will be on the next post!

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Mud baths on our adventure tour!
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The waterfall was gushing so we couldn’t swim.
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Riding horsies apart of our adventure tour!
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The natural hot springs were right next to a rushing river.
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Tamarindo beach
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On the Dolphin Sunset Cruise with my Dolphin Especial! I would later lose an earring that day because it fell off in the water *cue Kim Kardashian’s iconic I lost my diamond earring in the ocean scene*
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We were the first and only people here! The water fall was also gushing, but the water was SOO COLDDDD.
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Hanging Bridges tour with our tour guide Randal!
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RANDAL FOUND US A SLOTH! This is a picture taken on the inside of a telescope! It’s arms are in it’s head.
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I “caught” a tilapia from the fish farm, then had it fried!!
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Playa Grande– see how no one is on the beach, yeah we saw maybe 5 people during the 3 hrs we were out there.
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The Playa Grande sunset & last night of our trip. IT. WAS. AMAZING!!

Amazing Amsterdam

Wednesday, August 19

I successfully navigated myself back to the airport and got on the flight (very late) to Amsterdam. I also successfully got myself from the airport, on a train and walked to my hostel. My hostel in Amsterdam is called The Bulldog, but as I was walking I saw….3 Bulldog facilities. The first one was the Bulldog Coffee Shop, which notoriously is the first coffee shop in Amsterdam, which you can smoke in. Second one was a cafe that serves food, where you can also smoke in. The last one was my hostel, and a bar on the bottom, which you can drink and smoke in.

When I got into my room I met some cool Brit girls who were super enthusiastic to be there. I ended up going to the coffeeshop down the street to you know, have some coffee and stuff and then walked around. I was wondering WHY THERE WAS SO MANY PEOPLE WALKING THE STREETS. It felt like Disneyland, where you couldn’t walk anywhere without being in a hoard of people. I found out that it was SAIL and Canal Festival. I guess Sail happens once every 5 years and is the biggest Maritime Festival in the world. Old sail boats from all over the world come to Amsterdam to show off their antique-style ships, fleet boats (with sailors), and other ships come into port where the sailors off-boat for a few days in Amsterdam, no wonder it’s crazy as hell. I ended up getting some Dutch fries and sat on the pier just watching all of these massive ships go by. The Dutch also seem like a huge boating community, because so many families were out on the water, eating, drinking, and just having a good time.

After a little me-time, I went back to the hostel where I met more girls. One girl, Elle, is from England and she was solo traveling for the first time. I could tell she was a bit nervous to be by herself but she was very sweet and polite. Two other girls from America (New York) were also in the hostel, and they invited us to explore with them. So we got a few drinks and other smokable stuff and just explored the town. I forgot to mention that our hostel is right in the middle of the Red Light District, which is amazing. We walked around this area amazed at the prostitutes. Amsterdam must be the Mecca, Holy Land, for the prostitutes. They have no shame because they worked hard (with all of their plastic surgery and all) to get a coveted spot in the Red Light District. I mean no shame, there’s just families with kids and old people walking around and they’re standing their banging on windows and looking…slutty. After that I went to bed.

Thursday, August 20

I woke up early today because I had booked a 10am canal tour. I got some free breakfast downstairs before heading out. I found this boat tour on TripAdvisor, it was rated #1. However, the tickets were twice as expensive because of the Sail event going on. I booked it because, hey, when am I going to be in Amsterdam next? There was an older couple and two guys from Montreal on the boat (and the tour guide). We went through the Canals and we asked him a lot of questions since he is Dutch and our tour guide. The main part of the tour was going through the Sail festival and seeing all of the big cool boats. it was like a big party on the water. We also saw that they were having a Canal Festival with floating stages and seating areas. It was pretty cool. The only thing that the tour lacked was a tour guide that actually wanted to tell us interesting stuff, not just answer our questions. He sometimes would not even answer my questions…and I’m a very curious person. But it was very relaxing and pretty nonetheless.

For lunch I ate this delicious sandwich from this cute cafe. I went back to my hostel to chill and then my godsister/cousin, Rachel hit me up because she lives in Amsterdam and was back in town! She met up with me at my hostel and we got some coffee and sat by the canal and just talked. That was the first time we’ve really seen each other in about 5 years. And, now that we’re older we can talk and relate at a different level. It was really good seeing her and catching up and just talking to someone so close. It was so easy and fluid, I just love those type of days and conversations. We ended up talking for about 4 hours haha. I went back to my hostel and me and Elle decided to go out. We got some coffee, walked around, ate some fries, looked at prostitutes, and got more coffee.

Amsterdam is absolutely beautiful and has been by far my favorite place. It’s truly unique and unlike any other place in the world. It has a unique character to it that is genuine and historical. I can see why so many foreign people want to move there, it is a GREAT place that I hope to visit sometime soon.

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Bangin Berlin

Tuesday, August 18

After an interesting night in a 10-bed mixed dorm, I woke up pretty early to get my day started. I wanted to take a free tour called the “Alternative London” tour. They advertise it for free because they know a lot of backpackers are on limited budgets and the tour guide only gets paid what we give him in tips.

With that said, I believe free tours are THE BEST! This means that the tour guide is driven to give a tour based off of his passion for the city and what he wants people to know, not off the conventional informational tour, where the tour guide recites a script of very mainstream sights. This tour was definitely different and so amazing. The tour guide was awesome and started explaining the street art of Berlin. There are TONS of street art here, mostly because it was a way to rebel against the government and unite in a way that explained their political views and backgrounds. I can completely understand why this place is so important in European history, and why the people here are amazing. Our tour guide brought us to strange areas that you wouldn’t think had a lot of history (mainly because Berlin is a pretty poor city and their buildings and areas aren’t always nice), but ended up having some crazy back story that always had a main theme. The point was that the people of Berlin are a very political, left-winged, creative, and boisterous community of people who found their voice through art and music. We ended up at this Jamaican bar, since he said it was his favorite place ever. I just admired his passion and the knowledge he had of Berlin. I ended up giving him a 20euro tip, because that’s how much I thought it was worth and he deserved it!

At this Jamaican bar or YAAM (Young African Art Market), is a beach bar on the river bank of the Spree. They’ve imported sand to have a nice beach bar with basketball, table tennis, football, dancing, art, concerts (Ty Dolla $ was going to perform there this weekend), and food! I decided to stick around for a while and had a drink and decided to get some jerk chicken–my favorite. As I went to sit down, a young African man who is one of the many Africans that hang out there decided to eat next to me. He was very nice and we started to have a great conversation. His name was Omar he’s from Gambia and he came to Berlin to have a better life. He said that he loves it here and that it’s where all of his dreams come true. He was very friendly and I can see why the tour guide loves this place: the people are so friendly, it has a great vibe, and you can just sit there for hours and not realize that you’re spending time there.

After an hour or two, I finally left to see a part of Berlin wall still up. The tour guide had explained a lot about the divide the wall had on the city, and I wanted to see it for myself. This part of the wall had of course graffiti all over it. It was a very bland wall (other than the beautiful art spray painted on to it). After checking that out, I hung out, walked to the Holocaust Memorial, and went to bed early. In the morning I had to get onto a flight going to Amsterdam!

"Little Lucy" is this character modeled after a communist era cartoon character, who didn't do anything exciting but walked around with her pal cat. There are dozens of Little Lucy's all over the city where she's doing something evil to her poor cat.
“Little Lucy” is this character modeled after a communist era cartoon character, who didn’t do anything exciting but walked around with her pal cat. There are dozens of Little Lucy’s all over the city where she’s doing something evil to her poor cat.

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"Nothing Lasts Forever", this area is known for one of the biggest underground punk venues. Gentrification is now threatening this area's culture.
“Nothing Lasts Forever”, this area is known for one of the biggest underground punk venues. Gentrification is now threatening this area’s culture.

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The Bethanien was built in the 17th century as a children's hospital. They were going to destroy it but artists decided to move it and made it a free gallery for artists.
The Bethanien was built in the 17th century as a children’s hospital. They were going to destroy it but artists decided to move it and made it a free gallery for artists.
This Tree House was built by a Turkish man who, during the communist era, lived in a plot that was neither communist nor capitalist. People saw this abandoned area and dumped a ton of trash. This Turkish man cleaned up this area, created a garden, and used all of the trash to build himself a tree house. Government offered him over a million euro for his plot of land, he said no. This tree house stands for standing up to the government and not giving into money. Btw, we saw him, he's 90 yrs old and sits in front of it every day.
This Tree House was built by a Turkish man who, during the communist era, lived in a plot that was neither communist nor capitalist. People saw this abandoned area and dumped a ton of trash. This Turkish man cleaned up this area, created a garden, and used all of the trash to build himself a tree house. Government offered him over a million euro for his plot of land, he said no. This tree house stands for standing up to the government and not giving into money. Btw, we saw him, he’s 90 yrs old and sits in front of it every day.
Where the Berlin Wall once stood.
Where the Berlin Wall once stood.
"Fuck off Media Spree", the area to the left of this building is considered the Media Spree because when the city started to become economically lucrative, big companies such as Sony, Mercedes, and other big businesses bought up land by the Spree (the river) and started to put up their fancy buildings and ugly corporations. This pays homage to the fuckery that is corporations, and basically the attitude of all of Berlin.
“Fuck off Media Spree”, the area to the left of this building is considered the Media Spree because when the city started to become economically lucrative, big companies such as Sony, Mercedes, and other big businesses bought up land by the Spree (the river) and started to put up their fancy buildings and ugly corporations. This pays homage to the fuckery that is corporations, and basically the attitude of all of Berlin.
Entrance to the YAAM
Entrance to the YAAM
My AMAZING jerk chicken omg
My AMAZING jerk chicken omg
East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall
East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall
Holocaust Memorial
Holocaust Memorial

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Paris and Berlin

These past couple of days I have been solo traveling around Europe. Since it’s my first time in Europe, I have to see the most popular destinations. I want to get out of my comfort zone and do things that are memorable and expose myself to different cultures and ways of life.

Sunday, August 16

Today was my first full day in Paris. Despite my awful AirBnb, which I’m requesting a refund because that place was a piece of shit, I got up pretty early to explore this infamous city. My first stop was the catacombs, something I really wanted to see. But, when I got there I noticed that the line was a tad long, and when I say a tad, I mean wrapped around the whole block and back up. Because only had a day here. I decided it wasn’t worth it, since the line was going to take a good few hours. I headed to the Notre Dame, another place on my itinerary. I looked at the building, it was so cool and reminded me of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Gargoyles, you know classic cartoon/movies I used to watch as a child, naturally. After spending sometime in that area, going on Love Lock Bridge and seeing the book sellers by the canal, I decided to take a Big Bus tour, since Paris is really only good for sightseeing and museum hopping.

The Big Bus tour was ok. I mean they drive you around to all the important places in Paris, which is better than walking on foot to all of those places. Nothing was really interesting other than learning about the history of the buildings and of France. After spending two hours on the bus I finally got off at the Louvre. It was crowded (like every place in Paris that day). I wanted to see the Mona Lisa, she was cool. The building itself had some great architecture and design inside. I found Napoleon’s Apartment to be quite interesting, but for some reason I was not feeling Paris. The people are unfriendly, there’s nothing quite interesting other than the art, and it’s incredibly crowded.

After the Louvre I went to this plaza where a cluster of violinists were playing some great music of popular classics. I decided to eat at a café overlooking this plaza, which was quite relaxing and nice. After that I walked along the Tuileries Garden before I finally decided to go in (which was only about 7-8pm). I guess I’d had enough of the overrated city.

Monday, August 17

My flight to Berlin was at 1pm, so I left the awful apartment quite early. It is very true what people say about the French, to put it in light terms, there assholes LOL. I knocked out on the plane because I guess that’s a normal thing for me now. When I got to Berlin I of course had to buy a Bratwurst first thing out of the airport. I then took a train to Alexanderplatz, a central station in Berlin. I met a really nice guy from Saudi Arabia p, studying chemistry in Germany. He could speak 4 languages (Arabic, German, English, and Spanish), which definitely put me to shame. I only know one language, which is also the problem I’m America, so embarrassing. Most of the people I meet can speak like 3-4 languages. Anyways I finally made it to my hostel, which by the way has a bar in its reception area and a pretty big one at that.

I had a tour at the Riechstag building at 745, their most famous building. Here I toured the dome, a really big glass dome that sits on the very top of the building and overlooks most of Berlin. There was an audio guide that narrated the political history of this building and the surrounding areas. After this short tour I took a walk around and saw Bradenburg Gate. By this time I was exhausted and went back to the hostel to get an actual decent night of sleep.

I’m going to stop right here, since this is probably a really boring post to write and since I don’t have any pictures to illustrate it’s probably an even more boring post to read, sorry yall I’ll add what I did today (Tuesday) on another post, since this was actually a really great day in an awesome city.

Paris

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A really cute farmers market that was right outside my apartment.

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Berlin

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Reichstag Building

Goodbye, London

Well, yesterday (Saturday, August 15) was moving day…such a bittersweet moment. So many memories made, skills learned, and life lessons developed. These past 2 months have gone by extremely fast, and while I was very much aiching for it to end, I know I’m going to miss the shit outta London.
This week was spent doing a lot of last minute things. Monday, I had work, and that felt like my last day of normal routine. Tuesday I went to work again, but at night I went with Pally and Paige to a tiki club called Mahiki. We got in for free and was supposed to get free dinner. The promoter that Palky contacted sat us in an individual table for free (which apparently is different than the other times Pally has gone since she had to sit at communal tables). We got free champagne and were waiting for the food to come to us. As food is passed out to the other tables, we are noticing that the waiters aren’t looking at us and ignoring us. After waitresses are picking up the empty plates, we finally ask the promoter where our food was. He said that he would check on it and that we were supposed to get it. He comes back and tells us that the kitchen is closed and that the cooks left, but that we would get more alcohol for the mistake. We were pretty pissed and felt as tho they didn’t give it to us because our table wasn’t as white as the others (I’m Asian, Pally’s Indian and Paige is white). So we ended up leaving right after to actually get food.

Wednesday I had work off, so that was my day to pack and clean. I realized I needed another bag since I had bought a lot of stuff in London (lol sorry Mom) and mom had taken one of my suitcases home with her when she visited. So I went to Oxford Street for the first time to check out the bags. My first stop was getting lunch at this Japanese place me and mom went to when she came here, and then I got boba at my favorite boba spot. I wanted to go to these places one last time before I left. I then checked out the huge Topshop on Oxford. That bitch is 3 floors with everything from a cupcake stand to getting extensions, nails done, coffee, a restaurant, SOS (store-within-store), vintage, independent brands, literally EVERYTHING was compact into this Topshop. I didn’t find a bag there and finally opted for a River Island men’s bag ahah. I wanted to find something small but big, so I can fit it on the plane with me, and something I’d use again. Then I went home to meet up with my roommates for our last dinner. We picked this place called Opium (haha coincidence? Prolly not since I picked it), a cool bar in Chinatown. It had some yummy dim sum and delish cocktails. I got some red bean soup for dessert at another place.

Thursday was interesting. For work I had to drop off some garments at a customer’s house, who happened to live in Hamstead Heath, and discovered a beautiful urban jungle. I didn’t realize green spaces existed in London, but this place was beautiful and the breath of fresh air I needed. It was peaceful and tranquil, I could have stayed there all day if I could (but good thing I didn’t because right when I got on the bus it starred to pour). After work my supervisor, Kristina, brought me to a place called Shake Shack, where they apparently have good shakes, burgers, and fries. I have never heard of it before but I guess it’s American. We met up with our other coworker Charlotte, as part of a goodbye dinner for me. After that I had to go home and pack more.

Friday was my last day of work. I am so grateful to work with such a company (while I was there they just made clothes for their 3rd TV show, Scandal). I learned from an inspiring and powerful woman designer/boss/CEO. We exchanged gifts, they gave me a lovely notebook set from Liberty. After that I went home to packed and cleaned like a maniac. Realizing that I was the only one deeply cleaning, I finally understood why my dad drilled those cleaning skills into my head. People aren’t going to clean and if you want shit done, you just gotta fucking clean it and when you clean you gotta clean that shit good (that’s the lessons I learned from him). Me and Carly tried to go to a Cat Cafe but it was closed for a private event (booooo).

Saturday we had to be out by 10am. I was woken up by someone outside blasting the fuck outta their music at 730am. The morning was chaotic, everyone was last minute cleaning and packing. Our other brilliant roommate had the fucking brilliant idea to cook 30 minutes before we had to be out. Me, Laila, Drea, and Carly were all sad to leave each other. We helped everyone take out the trash, clean the fridge out, and bring their bags downstairs (amazing us 4 out of 5 got along so well!) We gave each other a group hug in the kitchen (mostly bc Carly doesn’t like human touching). Finally, when my Uber pulled up, I gave everyone a huge hug and headed to the Cavenish. Since me and mom stayed here about a month ago, we thought it would be smart if I asked them if they could store my luggage for me while I travel during this week—I will be staying there for a night next week anyways.

After arriving there, I had about 2 hours to kill, so I went to Green Park to bask in the sun and eat my crossiant, and people watch, that’s the best thing. There were a lot of people out, some sitting on the grass like me, some doing boot camp or crossfit or whatever in the shade, and a shit ton of people walking to Buckingham Palace, but hey it’s a Saturday during one of the busiest weeks of tourism. Oh yeah did I mention I was sitting right next to a Bachelorette, or should I say Hen Party, what they call it here. Apparently it’s a super big deal here. They were just having a cute picnic in the park with bubbly (Champange). BY THE WAY, they were all brilliantly dressed as Disney Princesses!!!! It was fantastic. They went all out. The bride-to-be was Elsa, her mom in law or mom (some older matronly figure) was the Fairy Godmother, her maid-of-honor was Maleficient, and there was every Disney princess in attendance with SPOT ON costumes (I’ll upload a picture once I get back to my hotel so check back in on Saturday). They had Anna from Frozen, Belle, Cinderella, Aurora, Snow White, Ariel, Pocahontas, Tinker Bell, Mulan, Merida from Brave, Rapunzel from Tangled, Jasmine, Esmerelda from Hunchback, Megara from Hercules, and I think that’s it. It was quite entertaining.

After I had enough of that, I walked to Buckingham Palace to walk around the pond again, however, this time I saw a bunch of people standing around the entrance as if they were waiting or looking at something. So I waited around, just to see what the commotion was about. Well at about 12-1215, the police yelled at us to get on the sidewalk. Little did I know that the QUEEN OF ENGLAND was making her way to Buckingham Palace. I SAW THE QUEEN OF FUCKING ENGLAND IN HER CAR!!!!! Like my time in London was sealed as complete after that. Later I found out that it was VJ Day, 70 year celebration of when Japan surrendered in WWII. The news said that the Queen rarely comes down from her summer home in (some place in Britain idk) unless it was for a good reason.

Then I was headed to Heathrow, where I got a beer and nachos to wait for my flight to Paris! Once in Pairs i navigated the metro like a pro, finally found my airbnb and visited the Champs Élysées and the Arc de Tríomphe where I got a nice hot baguette to snack on.

I will be adding more pics when I get back to my computer on Saturday so be sure to check back in!!! It’ll better illustrate my posts (:

Just princesses in Green Park, no big deal
Just princesses in Green Park, no big deal
They're having an adult tea party, with Prosecco
They’re having an adult tea party, with Prosecco
THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND YALL!
THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND YALL!
She's in there if you zoom in really closely.
She’s in there if you zoom in really closely.
And the amazing Guards
And the amazing Guards
Cute shindigs in the park
Cute shindigs in the park
I guess VJ celebration was today, 70th anniversary of the surrender of Japan in WWII
I guess VJ celebration was today, 70th anniversary of the surrender of Japan in WWII
I spontaneously came during the best day ever
I spontaneously came during the best day ever

British Slang (Vocabulary, Jargon, Lingo, etc.)

  
Since I’ve spent a little over a month here in England, I have been paying close attention to the English vernacular. While London isn’t totally English (I mean it is and it isn’t, it’s a more global city than anything), they do have a lot of interesting vocabulary or sland that took me a little while to understand. And, while America is from British settlement, there are a lot of words that are a bit different from American slang.

Terms-

Toilet/Loo – Bathroom/Restroom; In America, we think the term toliet is a little derogatory or gross to describe a bathroom and that it only describes the literal toliet that you use in the bathroom, but here in London they call it the toliet which also includes the sink and washroom so I don’t quite understand it. “I need to use the toliet”

Cheers – Thank you/Your welcome/See you soon; This term almost always is said at the end of the sentence at a parting of ways between people. It’s almost like a fond farewell, good tidings, blessings type response. “Thank you for my coffee, cheers!”

That’s alright/okay – No worries/no problem; This term is used when someone doesn’t want you to feel bad for asking for help or said immediately after you say thank you. So for example if someone says, “thank you so much for your help” their response would be “Ah, that’s alright”

You alright? – How are you? Are you doing okay?; I’m usually asked this while getting serviced somewhere. At first I thought they were asking me because I looked as though I was unwell or lost or obviously American. But, alast, if I’m waiting to get served at a coffee bar or pub, to get my attention they will say “You alright?”

Cheeky – smart-ass/cunningly rude; This word is used to describe someone who is sarcastically rude or cunningly insults you. This term was said to me when I accidentally told the coffee barista to “put her stamps onto my card” when he was stamping her card (I meant the other way around, to put my stamps onto her card) and he responded “well that’s quite cheeky”.

Dodgy – sketchy; A verb used to describe a not so good situation, place, person usually unsafe or bad conditions. “Melissa, becareful when you go to _____ it’s a really dodgy area.”

Bloody – hella (in Bay Area Terms)/extremely/horribly; An adverb used infront of a noun, verb, adjective used to intensify how bad/good/extreme a situation is. Can use it infront of the terms “bloody hell” (most often) “bloody awful” “bloody marvellous” or “not bloody likely”, basically to over empahsize something like we do in the Bay Area with the use of “hella”. “Melissa, that use of your business ideas were bloody genius.”

Blooming – same use as bloody in that they use it before another word to exaggerate or intensify it “I need that bloomin’ dress”

Dim/Daft – stupid; just another slang term to call people stupid

Fancy – want/desire; If you fancy something that means that you want something. It usually is followed by “a” since they use “a” before a lot of verbs. “Fancy a walk, fancy a look, fancy a chat”

Piss off/Fuck off – Fuck you; Piss off is a more PG term but it basically means fuck you or get the fuck outta here. I’ve heard it once said by a drunk man when I said something shocking he replied “fuck off” like “Really?!” but in a drunken ramble. Another time someone said piss off was when someone was getting angry that we weren’t sure which way to go, he told us to piss off but I also think he was quite crazy. In other terms, it’s not usually a nice phrase and you say it when you’re mad or insulting someone.

Posh – high-mainteanance/upper-class/high-society; Now I understand why Posh Spice was callled Posh Spice. It’s a term used to describe rich people, high-class, and high-mainteanance. In America we call them “yuppies” but here they use the term “All of the posh people live in that nice area.”

Rubbish – trash; Rubbish is the stuff you put in the trash can/waste basket/litter etc. Sometimes when people describe something that is horrible or disgusting they sometimes will use the word “Well that’s quite rubbish“.

Films – movies; “Do you want to watch a film tonight?”

Cinemas – the movie theater; the place where you go to watch films “I went to the Cinemas yesterday and the tickets cost me 15£”

Queue – line/to stand in line/to wait usually in a line or pecking order; This term can be used as a noun (“You need to stand in the queue to go into the store”) or as a verb to say you’re waiting in a particular order (“Did you have to queue for that restaurant?”  or “I didn’t want to wait because people have been queuing for 3 hours”)

Quid – pound/bucks; It is a slang term for pounds like how in America we say “Aw man I lost 5 bucks to the lottery” they say “Man I paid 5 quid for nothing”

Lift – elevator; “Take the lift up to the 5th floor”

Plaster – band-aid/bandage; This one was very confusing for me, since it came up when me and my coworker were talking about how flats really hurt the back of our foot (where girls usually put band-aids to stop the rubbing). She had said “Sometimes I think plasters don’t really work for me, I still end up getting blisters”.

CLOTHES
Jumper – sweater/sweatshirt

Trousers – Pants

Trainers – sneakers/athletic sneakers

Pants – briefs/underwear

Knickers – panties/girl undies

FOOD

Porridge – oatmeal

Chips – fries

Crisps – chips

Biscuits – cookies   

Harry Freaking Potter (Last official weekend)

Welp, alas, my last weekend (officially in London). As bittersweet as it is, I’m definitely going to miss this unique place. There is no better way than to end my London weekend with a trip to the Harry Potter Studio! Hayley, a girl in my program, organized a group of us to go on Saturday at 9:30! But I guess I’ll start with what happened on Friday first.

Friday, August 7

So, I had work today. I didn’t do anything productive at all, in fact, all I did was run around London going to different manufacturers and crap. So lets not talk about it. My roommates had planned to go out somewhere that night so we were getting ready. I pregammed and stuff, waiting for my roommates to get ready. Lalia’s friend didn’t end up coming until like 11pm, way past the time that we were going to go out. I didn’t want to go out because I had to wake up at 7am the next day. So, Carly, Drea and I decided that we should instead stay home and watch the Spice World movie! Since I was basically already drunk, we also decided to have a drinking game accompany the movie. Well, I guess I was the only one drinking because Drea is on antibiotics and can’t drink while Carly was drinking Cider but was bloated. So I was the only one getting completely hammered off of Buzzfeed’s Spice World Drinking Game . It was basically a shit show because I was Sporty Spice (as usual) and had to drink when she was wearing a track suit, rolled her eyes, exercises, or talks about sports. We also decided that out of all of our roommates, I of course am Sporty Spice, Drea is Scary Spice, Carly is Ginger Spice, Laila is Baby Space, and Madina is Posh Spice.

Ha nothing interesting happened, well I guess other than me who was ridiculously waisted cos I basically drank a half bottle of Vodka to myself. Spice World is too amazing not to get utterly hammered to, I mean come on, “I’m giving you everything, all the joy can bring, this I swear!” Then after the movie, I somehow took a shower, and I somehow washed the dishes, and made it in to bed at 2am in the morning LOL.

Saturday, August 8

So I had to wake up at 7 to be downstairs at 715, which I was still late to. I met all the girls downstairs and we took the tube to the train station. The train was only for about 20-30 minutes and once we got there, Harry Potter had a bus designated for people just going to the tour; the outside decorated with Harry Potter decal surrounding the bus.

When we got there, the anticipation was growing! “Harry Potter” was on the entrance of the building, and people were waiting for the doors to open. We got some coffee since we had some time before the tour started. We got in line once our time came, they even had “Harry under the cupboard” set as we waited in line. Our group was then led into a room where digital movie posters hung. Here they describe how the Harry Potter series was first discovered by producers and how it became to be such a huge phenomenon. Then we went into another cinema-like room, where Daniel Raddcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint explained the building that we were in and the significance of all the people involved in the making of this film. It gave us a little insight as to what we were going to see and that the movies wouldn’t be what they were today if it wasn’t for the amazing team that worked to make the movies successful.

Once the movie was over, the screen rolled up to the “Entrance of Hogwarts” and the door led to the Grand Hall where all the eating and hat sorting took place. After that everyone pretty much took the tour at their own pace. There was so much to look at and watch and read about. It was really interesting learning all of the details and discrepancies that went into creating the film. They went through each main set and explained what the set builders, artists, costume designers, prop buyers had to go through when conceptualizing the set. The job seemed so fun especially for a world like Harry Potter/ I got butterbeer, sat on a simulated train like I was going to Hogwarts, and even saw a mini version of Hogwarts itself. IT WAS JUST SO AMAZING I CAN’T DESCRIBE EVERY LITTLE DETAIL TO YOU OR I’LL BE HERE ALL NIGHT. Just know that it took 3 hours to complete.

After that I went home, me and my flat mates decided to check out Borough Market. They sell a shit ton of bread and cheese there. So I got the best of both worlds and got a grilled cheese sammie. We then decided to check out a number of names pop-up shop, mostly known for selling the brand BBC–or Billionaire Boys Club. I got some clothing there and then we walked around Brick Lane, went to some vintage shops, got some street food, went to Box Park for some boba, and headed home.

Laila wanted me and Carly to come out with her and her cousins. So when I got home I took a nice hour nap. I then got some pho. Ate and got ready. Then went out. We went to her cousin’s apartment which took a long time, and if you didn’t know I was so fucking tired. We ended up going to some bar in Shoreditch. They had a dance floor and a ping pong table, but me and Carly were tired so we left early (she had to be up at 7am). Then I went to sleep

STUDIO TOUR HERE WE COME AT 830 IN THE MORNING
STUDIO TOUR HERE WE COME AT 830 IN THE MORNING
"The Cupboard Under the Stairs" is their smallest set
“The Cupboard Under the Stairs” is their smallest set

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Entrance into Hogwarts!
Entrance into Hogwarts!
Grand Hall
Grand Hall

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Yule Ball costumes, my favorite part of the 4th movie (even though I think the 4th movie was my favorite movie)
Yule Ball costumes, my favorite part of the 4th movie (even though I think the 4th movie was my favorite movie)
YAY I'm here!
YAY I’m here!
The boys dormitory
The boys dormitory
Prof Snape's Office
Prof Snape’s Office
Creepy part in the last movie
Creepy part in the last movie
Ministry of Magic fire stalls
Ministry of Magic fire stalls
Umbridge's office...so pink...soo many kitties
Umbridge’s office…so pink…soo many kitties
I'm on my way to Hogwart's yall!
I’m on my way to Hogwart’s yall!
Where it all started, Privet Drive
Where it all started, Privet Drive
Butterbeer!
Butterbeer!
Diagon Alley!
Diagon Alley!
Mini (but quiet big) model of Hogwarts
Mini (but quiet big) model of Hogwarts

The rest of the day

Me n my grilled CHEEESE
Me n my grilled CHEEESE
a number of names* pop-up shop
a number of names* pop-up shop
All the Bape was sold out tho
All the Bape was sold out tho

Sunday, August 9

HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY PATRICK!!! (My baby brother if anyone didn’t know). The first thing I did this morning when I woke up (naturally at 1130am because why not) I FaceTimed him and my mom who is visiting him for his birthday. After that I got ready, went to Brick Lane again to try to go to the pop up shop again, but it was so freaking crowded today compared to yesterday ( like 5x more crowded) and there was a line out the door. So I said fuck that and went to a vintage shop and found a cute skirt and pants for cheaper than I would buy at that popup lol. Sorry this is a bit rushed but I’m hecka tired and its already 130 here. Anyways, it was so fucking hot today I almost passed out on the Central Line (tube) going from Brick Lane to Nottinghill. They don’t have AC in the tubes which can be quite bad since the tubes can be really crowded at times.

I ended up going to Portabello Road to check it out but there was nothing to really do, plus I was hot and tired so I went home and now I’m here trying to write this rushed blog. Ok goodnight.