4

Bonus: A week in Germany

After finishing my last blog post at about 3:30am and going to bed at around 4, I woke up at 5:30 so I could go say goodbye to Robbie who was leaving at 6:00. Then Megan and I finished packing and I dragged both of my 50-lb suitcases to the front door. Our minicab picked us up and took us to Heathrow. I didn’t cry as we left but I was pretty sad. It didn’t feel real that I was leaving.

There are advantages and disadvantages to taking a minicab vs. an actual licensed, metered cab. Minicabs are basically independent cab companies. As a general rule, metered cabs are better because they are just less sketchy and very regulated. Within London city limits, it’s definitely better to take a metered cab because you can get pretty much anywhere for pretty cheap anyway. However, a trip to Heathrow in a metered cab would cost about £80-£90. Megan did some investigating online, and the company we ended up using charged us a £30 flat rate and picked us up at the door. Splitting it made it really cheap, but it ended up costing me an extra £10 to be taken to Terminal 5 since it was the farthest one. Oh well.

I got dropped off at Terminal 5 around 7:45am.

Did I mention my flight was at 3:10pm??

The only reason I went to the airport that early was so I could split a cab. Since I was only going to Germany, my flight was a lot later in the afternoon than pretty much everyone else’s who were going all the way to America. So I was at the airport alone with 100lbs of luggage. I optimistically tried to drop off my bags at the baggage desk at 8. The woman told me I couldn’t drop them off until 3 hours before my flight. Sooo at 12:10pm. Sooo then I was stuck in the airport on less than 2 hours of sleep with 100lbs of bags with me. I had a coffee at a café and then took about 15 power naps that lasted between 2 and 10 minutes. I was suspicious of someone trying to steal my bags (ha. as if.)

Eventually, one of my friends from Regent’s, Emily, arrived in Terminal 5 and we hung out for about an hour or two (she was also disgustingly early for her flight). I finally dropped off my bags and went through security and later to my flight. I fell asleep almost immediately after boarding and we for some reason sat on the ground in the plane for about an hour before taking off, but we still arrived in Frankfurt early.

It didn’t take long for me to get through Passport Control (there weren’t many non-EU citizens on that flight) and get my bags. And then I made it to Moritz! ❤

Before going back to his apartment, we stopped at a restaurant in Heidelberg that we always go to to have schnitzel. Moritz said it was for my birthday dinner! It was pretty good. Then we went back to his apartment and he blindfolded me while he set up a “birthday surprise.” When he finally let me in the room, he had lit lots of candles and put hearts all over the room saying things that he loved about me. He also made a tiramisu cake like he did the very first time I came to Germany 🙂

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Only a little sample of what it looked like!

I unpacked a little and we ate some cake and watched the end of the Chiefs game against the Raiders (it had a much happier ending than the one today did). I think that was about it for Sunday.

Monday, Moritz had class in Heidelberg in the morning. He drew me a map so I could walk to the tram station which would take me to the city. I had a pretzel and a cappuccino at a bakery and then we met outside a Starbucks. We walked around and looked at the Christmas markets and we also shared a bratwurst. When we left, we went to the grocery store and picked up the ingredients to make some spätzle with some sauce, and some drinks. We used his spätzle shaker which worked a lot better than it did when I tried it at home last year. It was a pretty good meal. I think we watched Notting Hill that night, because I went to Notting Hill when I was in London.

Tuesday I woke up and I was sick. I had a cold and was coughing with a sore throat and runny/stuffy nose. Moritz decided to skip class that day and he made me some noodle soup which was really good 🙂 We watched some How I Met Your Mother and I took a nap in the afternoon. When I woke up, I took a shower and then we went to a place called Mandy’s which is a diner and we had the “Heidelburger” and also went to the store to get some more noodles for making soup.

Wednesday I felt a little better. Moritz had class in the afternoon and I went to Heidelberg and had a cheese pretzel which was really good. I walked around some more and we went back to the apartment and had soup for dinner and some snacks. Then we watched Pitch Perfect and then Moritz worked on his presentation for the next day and I fell asleep twice.

Thursday he had class pretty early so I slept and then went to Heidelberg and had another cheese pretzel. I walked around the Christmas markets and looked for candles for the Christmas pyramid I bought my mom in Berlin last year. Then I went to the river and took some pictures and then went to the Heidelberg University library while I waited for Moritz to be done with class. When he arrived, we walked all the way up to Heidelberg Castle like we always do. Then we left to go back to Tübingen for the weekend to see his family. Moritz and I played a game of Phase 10 Dice before bed (I won).

Friday morning we got up pretty early to go pick out a Christmas tree with Moritz’s sister, Klara. We went to Hornbach which is pretty much like the German version of Home Depot. It was a lot easier to pick one out there than it was to cut it down like we did last year 😉 When we got back, we decorated it. We ordered Kebab for lunch. Then Moritz and I took a nap before going to the Esslingen Christmas market with Moritz’s dad and girlfriend. It took about an hour to get there, but it was really cool because the Christmas market was medieval. It was like a mixture between a regular Christmas Market and the Renaissance Festival. I had a Nutella and banana crepe, some Käsespätzle, and some Kinderpunsch. Then we went to the games section. There was a “bow and arrow” game and I was pretty good at it. I hit 5/6 targets. Then there was a game where you throw axes into tree stumps. I got two to stick in, by the handles. Everyone was pretty impressed by that. That night we played International Café (I lost).

Yesterday, we went to Moritz’s grandma’s house. She is a really good cook and made lunch for us which was delicious (salad I like, meat, mashed potatoes, and spätzle). We also had dessert and Christmas cookies and then we went to a nearby church to look at a display of Nativity scenes. I think we spent about an hour there looking at them and there must have been about 50. We went back to her house and then Moritz and his grandma played a game, and then all three of us played a game. Around 9pm we went back to Tübingen, and got back at 10. Starting at 10:30, we played Phase 10 (the card version) with Klara, Klaus, and Birgit. There was a little drama and the game ended at about 12:45am with Klara announcing her surrender.

Today we woke up pretty late, showered, had lunch with Klaus and Klara, and then I packed and we headed back to Heidelberg since my flight is from Frankfurt tomorrow at 8:45am. We ordered Chinese food and watched the dismal Chiefs game, and now we are watching The Shining.

It’s weird to think this is my last post on this blog and my last night in Europe!

I’ve really enjoyed writing here for the past four months and thanks to everyone who has been reading! 🙂

cm2And Merry Christmas!

Cathy

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5

The Last Day

Today was my last day in London, and also my 21st birthday. Well, now it’s not here anymore but it is at home 😉

After our family dinner in the brasserie last night, some people said they needed to do some packing. I politely requested that we all get together at midnight. My friends thought it was because of my birthday, which it kind of was, but I also had ulterior motives. I could never say so on this blog, because some of my friends read it from time to time, but at the beginning of November, I spent a whole day making them cards to give them on our last days. The only opportunity I had to do it was when Hanna and Megan were in Paris and most of our friends were also traveling that weekend. I had to keep it on the down low and could only work on them a little bit at a time, but I finally finished writing a note to each person this week and I was soooo excited to give them to them. I wanted to give them out all together.

So we were all sitting in the boys’ room at midnight, and at midnight Alex shouted “Happy birthday Cathy!” and then the loudest “happy birthday” song of my life was sung to me. I felt so happy to be surrounded by all of them. Then Megan made a toast to our last day together (she got a reputation for good toasts at the beginning of the semester) which led to some tears. We sat around and talked and cried to some sad, nostalgic songs which were playing from someone’s laptop. Morgan gave us some bracelets that she pretended to have made (she actually bought them) but they were really cute and they’re the colors of the UK flag.

I discreetly left the room and mumbled something about wanting my water bottle and went upstairs to get the cards that were hiding on my top shelf behind some scarves. I came back downstairs and distributed the cards and it was one of my favorite moments of the semester. Everyone was so surprised that I had done that and then everyone hugged me after they read what I wrote to them. Some of them cried then, which made me cry a little too. And Hanna hugged me and said “How am I supposed to be away from you for five whole weeks?” which made everyone laugh because everyone who doesn’t go to Drury will be away from each other for much, much longer than that. A couple of people decided they weren’t going to open their cards until they get on the plane, so I’m glad there’s still a little surprise waiting for them 🙂

Eventually, as the night went on, people generally got in a better mood and things felt normal, not like people were leaving in a matter of hours. We went upstairs to pack around 3:00am I think, and I fell asleep and Hanna stayed up all night packing since she was leaving this morning. Everyone got up at 7:30 to say goodbye to Hanna, Carson, Madi, and Morgan who were the only four out of our group to leave today. I walked in my pajamas, robe, and flip flops out to their taxi to help them with their luggage. That’s what you can do when it’s 52 degrees in London right now.

Even though I will see Hanna, Carson, and Madi again in five weeks, I felt really sad to see them go. When I came back upstairs and saw Hanna’s empty bed and closet I felt even more sad. I just don’t like change, is what I’ve realized. I like things to stay the same and what’s been comfortable is that I live in this room with Hanna and Megan. Only now Hanna isn’t here, and it was so hard to believe that soon she would be back on the other side of the world.

I went back to sleep at 8:30 and woke up after 11. The other Hannah who is still here messaged me and asked if I wanted to hang out with some of them, but they were about to leave so I decided I would just do my own thing because it’s my birthday and I wanted to do some reflecting. I got ready, ate, and then left to go to the tube station to go to Waterloo. I got out my camera and took pictures of everything I knew I wouldn’t see again—the little bridge in Regent’s Park, the lake, stuff like that.

The problem was that when I got to Baker Street I just started crying. Baker Street. So ordinary, I walk there every day. That made it worse though, to know it was the last time. I cried all the way to the tube station and on the Jubilee line to Waterloo. At Waterloo I walked to Waterloo Bridge but luckily it wasn’t as emotional as the day before, I think because it wasn’t dark so all the lights didn’t have the impact they had before. Then I walked up Victoria Embankment to Big Ben, of course.

I took a couple of pictures and then sat on a wall at Parliament Square for over an hour and just looked at Big Ben. I thought a lot about my experience here and all the different times I’ve been to Big Ben and how significant it is to me. I watched many, many people come and go and some protesters and I watched the sky gradually turn darker and Big Ben gradually light up. And I just thought about how lucky I was to be sitting in front of Big Ben without a care in the world on my 21st birthday. It’s not the traditional 21st birthday, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I was happy. (Incidentally, I’ve had a whole semester of party nights.) However, I think I cried more on this birthday than I have on any other birthday other than the day I was born, I’m guessing.

I walked to Trafalgar Square and then took the tube back to Baker Street. I bought a luggage tag for my new suitcase and met my remaining friends—Megan, Alex, Robbie, Hannah, Brianna, Austin, and Austin—back at school so we could go out for dinner at an Italian restaurant called Prezzo. Considering there were eight of us, we didn’t have to wait very long for a table and our food was really good. I had a pizza. While we waited for the check, I went to the bathroom because I knew we were planning to walk for the rest of the night. When I came back, I was surprised the check wasn’t there yet and even more surprised when, a few minutes later, all the servers came over to our table with a slice of delicious chocolate cake and ice cream with a candle and everyone sang happy birthday again. I was so happy to be with my friends. They really did make my day special.

After that, we went out to Trafalgar Square to take the tube and then I saw Big Ben for the last time (for now). It was exactly where I saw Big Ben for the first time, which I thought was perfect. Next we went to Hyde Park to see Winter Wonderland, because Alex wanted to see it before she left. It started to rain and then we walked back towards school from there. We were meeting some people at the Met for one last time, since that’s our favorite bar. Megan bought me a drink for my birthday, even though I was really full from pizza and cake, I still managed to have my favorite drink which is very English – Strawberry Pimms! It was funny because I probably couldn’t even count how many Strawberry Pimms I’ve had at the Met this semester but tonight was different because I was 21. It was my first drink I’ve ever had that would have been legal in the States.

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So after that, we came back and all pretty much split up to do our packing we need to do. Robbie leaves first tomorrow, at 6am. I’m getting up at 5:30 (it’s 3:03 right now as I’m writing). Megan and I are leaving at 7am. My flight isn’t until 3:00pm, which sucks because I’m going to be at the airport for SEVEN HOURS BY MYSELF but it was the cheapest thing to do, to split a car there. Everyone else’s flights are earlier than mine because they are going all the way to America and I am only going two hours away to Germany. Luckily though, I’m going to try to meet up with my friend Saara who lives in Finland who will be connecting at Heathrow tomorrow in the morning!

So that was my last day here.

I know I’ve written thousands of words on this blog over the past four months, but none of them could adequately describe how incredible this whole experience has been. This has been the best semester I ever could have imagined –life is both simple and exotic here. I’ve tested my independence and I’ve made some really, really good friends that I hope I will keep for a long time. And I’ve laughed really, really hard. Often. It still feels surreal that I’m packing up to leave the place I’ve been calling home since August, but it also feels surreal that I’m even here in the first place. What is my life? I’m crazy blessed. I will always love London. It’s my second home. I’d never been here before and I was all alone but I thrived here and now I am having such a hard time leaving the city and the people I’ve met.

When you study abroad, you arrive with nothing and you leave with everything.

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Cathy

P.S. This might not be the end. I might write about Germany too 🙂

0

The Waterloo Bridge Experience

Today was a lot of my friends’ last day in London.

I can’t believe this is it. Can’t believe it. Everything that has been my life for the past four months is over.

So, with it being everyone’s last night all together, things got pretty crazy last night. However, we had a reservation for British High Tea at the Savoy Hotel at 1:30pm, and it was really really hard to get everyone out of bed for that, including myself. The nine of us girls made it there on time and the hotel was beautiful inside. We felt really awkward because of how hungover we were, but we managed to pull ourselves together long enough to sit through tea like sophisticated ladies (LOL). The finger sandwiches were adequately dainty and the desserts were very delicious. I even drank tea!

tophotelsoflondon.com

tophotelsoflondon.com

I had so much fun with my friends there, even though it wasn’t all of our friends. We played a game where we went around the circle and predicted what the person to our left’s life would be like in five years, and then we also talked about our favorite memories, both classy and non-classy.

After tea, even though we were really tired, really full, and really broke (tea is EXPENSIVE), we decided to walk around the big sights for some people’s last time. We were near Charing Cross and walked across Waterloo Bridge to the South Bank.

A lot of things happened on Waterloo Bridge. First of all, the view was amazing. On one side, majestic Big Ben and Houses of Parliament dominated our view. It was about 30 minutes after sunset and the sky was a misty purple-blue color, and Big Ben looked beautiful all lit up. On the other side, the modern London skyline, including The Gherkin and St. Paul’s Cathedral, stood tall. Both sides were completely breathtaking.

The nine of us just stood on the bridge in awe of our city and thought about how blessed we are to have had this experience that many people never get the chance to dream of and about our first time walking across that bridge and wondering what the next four months would hold for us and how now we can’t believe it’s over. I thought about how on any normal day I would take the tube wherever I needed to go and the possibilities were endless and about how much independence I have here in this huge city where you can be anonymous but still feel like you’re part of something important and you love every minute of it. I was very overwhelmed on that bridge, and it might have had a little to do with the hangover but mostly it didn’t. And some of my friends started to cry. And so did I.

When we were done hugging each other and taking pictures of our city, we continued our walk to the other side of the bridge. I was bawling and tears were streaming out of my eyes in the wind and I just felt so sad that this is coming to an end. Four months here was nowhere near long enough. For four months I’ve been in a country I’d never visited before and somehow survived on a mere 50lbs of stuff from home and love from friends that I’d never met/barely knew before arriving here. It’s so significant and I can’t express all the things I’m feeling which might be apparent from my numerous run-on sentences but I can’t help it.

I’ll try again tomorrow.

Cathy

friends

4

No packing, no studying

Wednesday. After midnight as I begin to write this.

My last week is nearly halfway over. Three classes complete, one left –International Relations, of course, my most difficult and boring class all semester. A test. Of course. On Thursday. Feeling pretty confident about two A’s and probably an A- or B+ on my other classes… depending on this final, I can guess my last grade but I don’t know yet.

I really need to study for this final but somehow I can never motivate myself to do it. Any time spent inside during daylight feels like wasted hours of time that are slowly ticking past. I’ve been here for a whole 105 days and I only have 4 left. Every minute counts. Today I went to Big Ben just to walk around for an hour before it got dark. I will always love Big Ben. I am overwhelmed and in awe every time I look at that marvelous structure. The significance of where I am always hits me the hardest there. I wish I could see Big Ben every single day of my life.

Still haven’t packed. Still haven’t studied. I have been taking short (30 minute-ish) naps each day though. Not really sure what’s planned for tomorrow, but I think it’s my last day where I really have no plans. Thursday, I am going to go to Big Ben with Hanna and take some pictures (maybe for the last time 😦 ) and then take my bloody IR final at 2. Thursday night we are going to Koko again, which is where we went on Saturday night and it was so much fun! Google Image that place. It was crazy. I’m already really excited for that because it’s going to be our real last chance to all go out again and party in London. Friday is all of our last day together. Some of us girls are going to High Tea at the Savoy hotel (really fancy) on Friday afternoon- kind of expensive but it will be fun. We might go to a bar Friday night, but in reality I think that’s when everyone’s packing will happen. We have a plan to go get bagels on Friday night/Saturday morning at like 2am because we found this 24-hour bagel place in Shoreditch which we think would be fun to do because some people have to take taxis to the airport early on Saturday.

I hope I get all my crying out of my system on Friday night because my 21st birthday is on Saturday and I don’t want to be sad! But I will be.

Cathy

1

Last Week Blues

It’s my last week in London and I certainly have the blues about it.

This week is going to be a big balancing act, I already know that. Packing, studying for finals, showing up to class to take the finals, doing the last few things I wanted to do, trying to hang out with friends while they pull all-nighters writing multiple essays with thousands of words, and of course, partying. (Standard.)

Last night it kind of hit me. This is it, it’s almost over and I can never ever have this experience back. I know I will be back in London eventually. I don’t think I will ever be a “tourist” here but it won’t be the same. That being said, I will always consider London a home. I live(d) here and did mundane things such as actual homework and buying socks but I also did extraordinary things and loved people here, and together those things make up a home to me.

Of course I will be happy to see my family and friends when I get home to Missouri, but never in the past four months have I tried to push time along to go faster. I never once said “I can’t wait to go home,” because to me that means dismissing where you are at that very moment. That’s a waste. My family and friends will be there when I get back, whether I’m in London for one month or one year. Four months is a very short amount of time; why would anyone want to wish it away? Not everyone gets this opportunity and I feel so fortunate to have had it.

My mom doesn’t sympathize with me but it makes me so, so sad to think about leaving on Sunday. I will be going to Germany to see Moritz for a week which I am really excited about, and then back to America from there. If this whole study abroad thing could last another month or two, that would probably be perfect. Then maybe I would be ready to go home in the end. But, maybe not.

For the past three and a half years, my heart has been half in America and half in Germany… part is going to be in London now too.

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Cathy

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Particularly Memorable Moments

Things that make the best stories

  • Paying £150 for a taxi to Stansted Airport at 6am and almost missing our first flight of fall break to Dublin
  • Getting kinda drunk with George my professor
  • Two random guys in suits who stayed the night in our room during the second week of school aka Danny and Lloyd
  • Seeing the Queen even though we had to stand outside in the freezing cold for hours
  • Madi’s birthday dinner
  • Amsterdam
  • A 45-minute journey to see a play with Hanna that we were too late for
  • The night involving a beer bottle and a dead mouse (unrelated incidents)
  • Swedish meatballs
  • The time I slept on Carson’s floor
  • A really, really bad hangover
  • Walking three miles in the pouring rain in Stockholm to the “beach” (that didn’t exist)… and three miles back
  • When Hanna and Megan got in a fight at the Underworld (hahahaha)

Not always the most ideal situations, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Probably a lot of posts coming this week.

Cathy