Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Southbank @ Night.

Southbank holds a very special place in my heart.

Not only did my dad and I spend some time here together, but I had one successful date (even if it was just for the night) and an even more successful lecture here.

There's something peaceful about the place. Whether you walk from Embankment across Waterloo Bridge to get there, or you simply walk down from Waterloo station, it's always so satisfying to arrive at the water's edge, looking out at Big Ben, Parliament, then the colorful eye in the distance.

It's especially delightful at night, even more so when there's a holiday fair going on!

You see this magical place in movies so much, the walkways along the Thames, so maybe my interpretation is that I'm starring in my very own film. The girl with stories at Southbank!

It's also home to the delicious hot chocolate place that was even approved by the esteemed Gordon Ramsey! You should also check out their espresso martinis though, definitely keepers.

Anyhow, I will miss you Southbank. You and all your memories and delicious treats and lovely sights.

Cheers to one last night at Southbank!

I couldn't resist this little poster as I treat to myself. Isn't it darling?

This here spot happens to be the on-site location for my date night kiss with said fellah...

So Siobhan and I puckered up xx

Monday, November 28, 2016

Winter Wonderland @ Hyde Park.

Before I knew it, the calendar had fast forwarded and my last week in London came and slapped me in the face.

Not quite so forcefully, but it definitely came out of nowhere.

Being in London for a semester has been the perfect amount of time to become accustomed to London life. Not too little, not too much. See, as much as I've adored my time here, the time has come where I'm finally ready to come on home.

Blame the gobs of holiday lights down Oxford Street or the complete checkout of my brain as far as school is concerned, but I'm just... ready, to go home.

That being said, I'm using this last week to go back and walk through all of my favorite spots, a few of which I've done already.

And surprisingly, some of these last walkthroughs have been some of my favorite experiences whilst being here. They've housed some truly memorable times and I know that my heart will always hold a soft spot for London and all of these little nooks that have welcomed and embraced me as a Londoner.

It truly was a once in a lifetime experience for me to come here and experience all that I had and I most definitely grew exponentially as an individual, learning a lot about myself, others, and living in a different part of the world.

I can't wait to return to the US, eyes newly widened by my time lived in London...

Winter Wonderland

Although this isn't a walkthrough of one of my favorite places, it is located in one of my favorite places and it's altogether a must if you're visiting London during the holidays. Located in Hyde Park (you can't miss it), Winter Wonderland is a holiday extravaganza (that's free) with rides, food, drinks, entertainment, and plenty of shopping.

I was originally meant to go on a date with a fella here, but was unfortunately stood up, so I went instead with Siobhan, which was 1000x better than I could've imagined...

Siobhan and I were most content with waltzing around, enjoying the sights, smells, and people watching, but were enticed by the swings up above. Contemplating on whether or not to go, Michael Buble's It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas suddenly came on and it was a sign. Tokens were purchased and we waited not ten seconds before we were seated next to each other, about to take off.

By far one of the most exhilarating and blissful experiences I've had thus far. There we were, flying over a beautifully lit Hyde Park, angled towards each other holding on to our hats, looking out at London before us, laughing and giggling as we swung over our city.

To warm up our chilly faces, we stopped at one of the many Cadbury huts and ordered ourselves Baileys hot chocolates. It was the perfect treat.

Cheers to Winter Wonderland!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

On Top, Never Stop.

It was an emotionally distressing and wild weekend, to say the least. Probably one of my most unexpected weekends.

It all began when I was stood up for a date at Winter Wonderland. Just another disappointing guy, which put me in a rather sour mood. Out came a hefty glass of wine and in the dark I sat, listening to G-Eazy on repeat.

Then reality kicked in, and I realized that this person was taking away my positive energy, that I was being tricked into feeling sorry for myself when in reality, it was he who really missed out. With the help of my friends (and a few lengthy pages in my journal), I put aside any and all thoughts of the situation and instead focused on learning a lesson and moving forward.

Somehow, through this, I was convinced to go out. I don't go out, ever, and so it was a rather stupendous occasion for me.

Well... we didn't get terribly far, because something rather unexpected happened on the bus. Not knowing the circumstances (except that most of the group were obnoxiously loud), one of the fellow bus passengers was walking out and on his way, clocked my roommate in the face, fist connecting hard with eye.

The one time I decide to go out!

Course, it was fine. I wouldn't have let my roommate go home alone and in all honesty, it started to rain and my leather jacket would've been ruined whilst waiting outside in line for a club that I probably would've wanted to ditch anyway.

That being said, there was a highlight of this weekend and it went along rather nicely with Elan's aesthetic and lifestyle: drinks at the top of the illustrious Duck & Waffle. Located at 110 Bishopsgate, it boasts being one of London's tallest buildings, with the dining experience located on the 40th floor.

It's well worth it. While the prices are a little steep (like the height of the building), it's mostly the ambiance and experience you're paying for, and the drinks are delicious as well. You get taken up on a glass elevator, where you slowly leave the streets of London and enter the sky.

It's truly spectacular and with the holidays in full swing, the cosy atmosphere is extra special.

See, you can always find something positive in things that may seem dim. Be patient, keep your thoughts going positive, and good things will come your way.

Just check out this panoramic view!

Thanks to Siobhan and Nick for the recommendation...

For me, a Pine Needle Lemonade.
-Hendrick's gin
- Preserved wild elderflower
-Lightly carbonated

It tasted like the holidays and reminded me of home!


Just check out this décor...

Surreal? I think yes.

Now if you take the #23 bus home from Liverpool Street Station, you get to experience one of the greatest tours through London, passing St. Paul's Cathedral, past Somerset House, and my favorite: through Oxford Street. Now at this time of year, Oxford Street is decked out in the finest glittery garland and lights, making it truly spectacular and festive. In other words, it's lit.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Middle of Nowhere Norway.

I couldn't have asked for a more opportune moment to leave.

After an unimaginably stressful week of being sick, skipped school, and this bloody election, the distant trip to Norway seemed so far away until wham it snuck up on me and I was able to get out of it all.

The prospect of spending my weekend in the mountains was so enticingly strong that I could not believe how ready I was to get out of my flat and out to a place so different and foreign from here.

My weekend was the perfect escape. Not only did the mountain air (and the gobs of honey lemon water) help my sickness, but the lifestyle was so vastly different from what I had been living, that I was so insanely reminiscent of home.

It was almost surreal how similar Vågå and my hometown were. Like, if I closed my eyes and pictured myself driving along the Arm from Anchorage to Girdwood, I could actually be there and not some six thousand miles away in Norway.

But I think that's what I loved about it so much, the similarities between the two vast countries. And instead of feeling nostalgic for home, I felt that it was the perfect teaser for when I actually arrive in Alaska a month from now.

Also of note is the value of disconnecting and unplugging. From.... recent events, I've found it to be incredibly distressing, negative, and bitter across a lot of social media channels, as well as other news sites. It's toxic and unhealthy to be constantly seeing such horrendous opinions and titles and I've spent far too many nights falling asleep to the dim light coming from my roommate's phone's screens.

Going out into the wilderness, even just for a little, sits you down and reminds you what life is really about. Simple living, the generosity of the earth, and isolation in nature has such calming effects. These Norwegian people managed to grow as beautiful individuals without all the toxicity of social media and various screens flashing at once.

Life was so simple back then. Granted, there was hard work involved and other threats (like predators eating your farm animals and chopping enough wood for the winter), but it was natural and it was there and not over some cyber screen.

I cannot tell you how refreshing it was to have this brief reprieve from the world and to get back to basics. I wish everyone had the opportunity to experience a break like this.

Who knew I would find such peace in the middle of nowhere Norway?

The first evening, we arrived in Oslo in complete fog and the sun was already setting. By the time we reached the quaint sheep farm on the top of a hill overlooking Vågå, it was dark. We managed to make ourselves right at home, however...

Caroline even put her Alaskan skills to work to start a fire...


And good morning...

Breakfast was served in the main house, a smorgasbord of various Norwegian treats, mostly cheese. Also included was homemade bread, apples from the tree outside (salvaged from the neighboring horses that thought to take a bite), homegrown carrots, goat cheese from the neighbor, and homegrown sheep sausage. Epic.

This was my favorite cheese, essentially caramelized residue in the cheese making process.

Daylight and we finally got a good look at our home for the next few days! Built in 1779, it's a house full of history, yet modernized with heated floors. A truly beautiful and original Norwegian home.

With clear skies ahead, Caroline and I spent the majority of our Saturday (and Friday and Sunday) driving around and exploring. Norway has some of the safest driving in the world, and I will wholeheartedly attest to that! It also has quite a few Volvos, Audis, and most importantly, Teslas.

Norway? Or Alaska?

Hyde and Luxe, quite excited for the road trip ahead...

Just like Alaska, change in weather was quick..

Posing in snow is snow laughing matter!

Alaskans take London. And Paris. And now Norway!

Dinner that evening was most unexpected. We made quite the friends with the old host couple and the husband came in and offered us some "small leftovers" of a traditional Norwegian meal, which was essentially potatoes, cabbage, and sheep's meat. A whole plateful later and we were gratefull for his generosity.

And just as quickly as we arrived, we were off again, waving goodbye to our temporary home away from home...

Ha en god dag!