Tag Archives: london

The Great Trip Home

London pictures here.)

Okay, so it wasn’t really a great trip home, but as far as trips home go, it was pretty good.

I got home a week ago, but I’ve been pretty busy (read: procrastinating) on writing this blog entry until today.

I got to spend two days in London, or rather a few hours of one day, a full day, and a day in the airport. I took the train from Edinburgh-and the British trains are surprisingly not smooth and seem determined to throw everyone around the train cabins without actually managing to crash the train. It was an interesting ride, and after four hours of jostling I arrived at King’s Cross, where I spent half an hour waiting in line to get an Oyster Card while listening to some guy complain about his lost Oyster Card and a few other guys get really angry at him.

Anyway, the next day I spent wandering around two different types of shopping areas. This:

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And this:

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The first is Camden Market, which is an awesome place full of interesting items and clothes of various styles. Also fried oreos. That’s right. Fried foods that aren’t meant to be fried aren’t limited to the United States.

The second is Regent Street, which is full of Stores I Can’t Afford and several H&M’s. It’s a pretty street to walk down and window shop and stare at what might have been had you been born rich, or at least wealthier than you are now. It’s pretty much the opposite of Camden Market.

Now, I’ve already been to London twice, which is why this blog entry only includes something about a market and not any of the more iconic things one might do in London. One might say that I’d gotten lazy on this part of the trip–and that’s true. But I did spend a few days in London a few years ago, and a few weeks in London two years ago, so I covered a lot of ground. This visit I had less time, so I did less. And what I did was explore an awesome market that people should go to more often.

The next day I went to the airport nice and early (Heathrow, for the curious) where I wasn’t allowed to check in for three hours. I arrived six hours before my flight because my hotel check-out time was early, and my flight was relatively late. I ended up puttering around, buying a paperback version of JK Rowling’s secret book (the one she wrote under a pen name), and drinking coffee.

Heathrow Terminal 5 is a nice place to spend a few hours once you’re allowed to check in. There’s a TARDIS, several shops, a noodle restaurant, and a fair amount of free wifi, all of which I took advantage of. Never have I spent more time in an airport so willingly.

I had a flight on British Airways, which was really nice–good service, back of seat entertainment systems, and relatively good food. The flight went faster than I expected, probably because I watched Casino Royale and then spent the next three hours writing with Les Mis in the background. Not a bad way to spend a flight. I didn’t feel like dying once.

And when we got into JFK, we were treated with a lovely sunset as a backdrop to New York City.

NYC sunset from JFK airport.

NYC sunset from JFK airport.

It’s been surreal being home. I kept thinking, “Oh, yesterday I was in Europe.” And then, “Oh, this time last week I was in Europe.” I’d gotten tired of traveling but I miss it, too, which is always the problem of coming back from somewhere. Being left at home with nothing to do is quite a change from exploring new places, and I’ll probably go stir crazy in another week. I love traveling. I love planes, which sounds weird but probably isn’t. I love the feeling of being in a place with a lot more stuff going on than at home. And I love doing what I want.

But never fear! I’m accompanying my family on college tours for my sister in about a week in Boston, which is a really nice city that I haven’t been to enough. And after that, we’re going to Cape Cod for some relaxation and good ice cream and one really scary beach that constantly changes and is surrounded by sharks. It is the best beach, and it is in Chatham if you ever want to explore a creepy beach.

So, although I leave you with this last bit of the trip, travel isn’t over for the summer. Interesting things are still going on, and thankfully the rest of the summer won’t be me staring at the computer screen wishing I was elsewhere, as I often do.

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One Day More

I am in the (probably bad) habit of using Les Miserables songs to describe how I feel. But in this case, it’s justified. Tomorrow, I embark on my month-long trip to Europe, and this blog will be the medium (or one of them) with which I record my trip.

So here’s the deal: armed with some clothes, a camera, a passport, and a huge desire to not be in New York during the month of July, I’m headed to explore a few cities as a sort of post-graduation/college celebration. I might find myself. I might find that really good pear cider I’m looking for. And I’ll probably learn a lot of things.

The first ten days will be spent with my family on a cruise. We’ll visit Spain (Barcelona, Madrid) and various places in France (I should probably learn the names of the places besides the one I know-Cannes) and a day at sea, during which time I’ll try not to eat too much food. Cruise ships are full of food. And it’s a problem. During the cruise days you probably can’t expect much out of me, seeing as there’s no internet, but before and after that there should be plenty of internet to go around. Hopefully. (I live off internet. It’s my thing.)

l then go off to more parts of Europe. All you need to know is that it’s a really convoluted trip through Italian Switzerland (and Italy) to get to the Alps, and then to Berlin, and then to Dublin, and Edinburgh, and London. I’ll probably end up wandering around London and seeing a play (and it might be War Horse) and going to a market. As for the rest of the cities–who knows?

And then I come back home because family obligations are a thing that don’t stop even when it’s summer and you would much rather be sipping wine on the Seine. (Not that I’m going to Paris. But it’s the idea that counts.)

If you’re curious about my previous travels, you can check out my previous (and not nearly as good) blog. The archives from June, July, and August chronicle my last European adventure. The link here is for the one entry in August.

So, I’m really excited. I literally cannot wait. I’ve been waiting for this trip since before I even knew it was a trip. I love Europe. I want to live over there some day (preferably in London) so any trip over there is The Best Thing Ever. I don’t know how I’ll handle myself until tomorrow’s late flight. I can only check my packing so many times, and then I start to get paranoid.

If you want a quick link to all my travels (though this blog will be pretty much exclusively travel for July), then go to the category “Traveling Shakespeare” on the sidebar.

See you on the other side of the Atlantic!

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Blogkeeping and Exciting News

Hey all! This post is primarily to do a little bit of housekeeping around the blog, pretty much to set up for this summer. Why? Because this summer is going to be much more exciting than last summer. I’m going on a month-long trip to Europe!

But first a bit of exciting news: I’m now a contributing writer at The Artifice, an online magazine about entertainment. It’s not paid, but it does get my writing out there and it’s something to do while I look for a paying job. I’ve only written two articles so far (on Shakespeare and Hannibal), but I’ve got more planned. My articles are here: http://the-artifice.com/author/cristinabarletta/

Second, at some point in the near future this is going to become a travel blog. Posts will be categorized under “Traveling Shakespeare.” (You’ll notice I redid the categories so different types of posts are easier to find.) I’m leaving July 4th, but there might be some prep posts before then, and hopefully I’ll be able to cross-post photographs to my photography blog from the trip. I got a new camera which is better than my point-and-shoot from years past but not as heavy or expensive as my DSLR, which is too bulky to drag along, much as I want to.

I’m also excited about the trip because it’s pretty much a return to the origins of this blog. The blog was originally on blogspot (for some reason) and chronicled my study abroad in London two years ago, studying Shakespeare. Hence, timetravelingshakespeare. You can read the posts about my time abroad here: http://timetravelingshakespeare.blogspot.com/2011_06_01_archive.html and here: http://timetravelingshakespeare.blogspot.com/2011_07_01_archive.html

But now I’m setting off on my own, free from college and, at least for part of the trip, from family. I’ll start off with my family in Spain, but then I’ll go off on my own to a few choice places: Switzerland, Berlin, Dublin, Edinburgh, and London. And then it’s back to New York to finish out the summer doing I-don’t-know-what.

So, there are travel posts coming. I hope you enjoy them as much as I (hope to) enjoy the trip! I’m very, very excited.

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What Happens Abroad

Traveling to another country–indeed, studying in one–is like a really long vacation where marvelous things happen. It’s weird to think that people actually live there, going through ordinary lives in a place that we’ve been so touched by. It’s the same as if someone came to Chapel Hill, NC to study abroad and found themselves, so to speak, in the United States, while I, who have lived in this country my whole life and seen plenty of the wonders it has to offer, have only come out the other end more confused.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t places within your home country that can give you the same feeling of freedom, life-changing perspective, and escape. There are plenty within the U.S. that I feel produce a similar effect.

But what does travel offer us? How does it change us? And more importantly, why?

One of the draws of study abroad, and what the Study Abroad Office (at UNC) likes to advertise, is that living in another country will change your life, and you will come back a different person. I tend to disagree on a very fine point; living in another country will change your life, and you will come back a different person, but the change isn’t permanent unless you stay in that place. When you come back, you come back to everything  you wanted to escape in the first place.

Or maybe that’s just me. This is, after all, a personal account. My family loves to travel; we value a good trip over all other luxuries; when we save money, we save for that fantastic trip that’s going to put us in awe. I’d gotten a taste of feeling inspired by being abroad way before I lived in another country. I skied down a mountain in Canada, watched glaciers calving in Alaska, and wandered the canals of Venice, and on each trip I felt the desire to escape. This was not my life, and I wanted it to be my life more than anything.

London came at an interesting time in my life. I was unsettled, and for the first time, being in another country couldn’t fix whatever was wrong. But it helped, I think, to have everything be so new. I walked six miles across London because I could, because I was curious, and because I needed some distraction. I walked around Edinburgh. I saw the Swiss Alps. And I was relieved to have escaped, and I wanted to stay.

I was still the same person when I came back as when I left, albeit more willing travel alone. London had shaped me, made me confident that I didn’t need other people to share my travels with me. I felt good, exploring in my own time. That isn’t to say that I didn’t like the presence of other people-I did-but peace of mind required me to be alone, on that trip.

I’m still the same person I was. People change me more than places do. But I am different in one way-I have a constant tug, a desire to go back, to go where no one knows me and where I can find something unfamiliar every day. It’s a great feeling, the best feeling in the world. It doesn’t change anything, but it makes me feel better for the time period that I’m there.

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Airports

(Day (insert number here)-Favorite Airport.)

I love traveling, and I love flying. Flying is my favorite form of travel. Say what you will about long lines at security and delays, flying is really really cool and awesome. And I’ve often found that most airports reflect the places you’re going to. So I’m going to list a few of my favorites, and a few of my least favorites.

Favorites

Vancouver International: Vancouver is a beautiful city, and the airport is beautiful to go along with it. Full of natural colors, like turquoise and browns, and lots of glass, and a good amount of awesome shops, and a waterfall near immigration, the airport is really great to look at. Also, there’s a really good hotel in the airport that has fantastic views of the planes taking off that I may or may not have stayed in. And it’s right in the airport, not right outside. Literally, an airport hotel. Also, conveniently, certain airlines will have you go through immigration before boarding, which saves you the hassle of going through immigration after your flight (which is nice, especially if said flight is six hours).

Amsterdam Schiphol International: Amsterdam’s airport is full of happiness and modernness and has an indoor mall BEFORE security. Everyone is really helpful. I would like to point out that I got free ice cream that the airport staff was giving out when we were leaving. Also, for some reason, there is a plane on the roof of one of the buildings. A big double-decker plane. It’s a cool airport. Just take my word for it.

Heathrow International Airport (London): This airport has gone under some major renovations in the past few years. It’s modern, has lots of stores, and for some reason, books in a vending machine in at least one of the terminals. Books. In a vending machine. Yes, this airport suffers from delays and long lines as huge airports tend to, but I haven’t yet had a bad experience here. Immigration is pretty fast. You can easily get from Heathrow to London for less than £10 via the subway, which will take you into the heart of London if you so choose. And it’s London. Come on.

Kona International Airport (Hawaii): Located on the Big Island, this airport is, to put it simply, really awesome. Why? Because it’s all outdoors. The ‘buildings’ are huts with thatched roofs. The runway lies amidst a blackened field of dried lava, right next to the beautiful blue ocean. It’s a novelty among airports. Amazing.

Zurich International Airport: There’s some good and bad here. The good: you can buy anything you want. Especially chocolate. Lots of chocolate. I got some chocolate truffles in the airport. There are places to eat. This is fact. The airport, to put it mildly, is swanky. The bad stuff: so much security. Literally, you get checked on one thing or another about four times. It’s annoying. And they won’t let you check in for your flight until about three hours beforehand. So if you arrive before that, like we did, you kind of have to wait around for awhile. But the airport boasts its own train station from which you can pretty much get anywhere in Switzerland, and plenty of places outside Switzerland. And I always appreciate convenience.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport: I have a soft spot for the airport which I so frequently use to go home and get back to college during the holidays. The good things: it never takes more than 10 minutes to check in (if you must), it never takes more than 15 minutes to get past security, the new terminal is very new and very pretty with LOTS of places to eat, the new terminal also has a Borders, all the gates are really easy to find, and even if you’re stuck in the sucky old terminal because you decided to take Southwest Airlines there’s a Cinnabon so everything is okay. The bad stuff: Raleigh-Durham isn’t the most interesting place in the world, so if you’re arriving at the airport, well, chances are you aren’t about to embark on a mind-blowingly fantastic vacation. Chances are you’re here for business, or college.

Least Favorites

John F Kennedy International Airport (NYC): Let’s start with my home state. And they try, they really do. Kennedy is a city of its own, with its own highway, a network full of runways, and 8 terminals ready to take you anywhere. I personally feel excited whenever I’m here; it’s an international airport. I’m going places. And the terminals, for the most part (Sorry, Delta) are really nice. But that doesn’t excuse the near-hour it takes to get through security and the endless flight delays of about an hour or more before you board, and about an hour waiting on the runway. Also, it is really a pain to get from JFK to NYC. There is no direct way. There’s a somewhat direct way. You’re better off having a car. And let’s not start with the people who yell at the cars trying to pick people up at Arrivals. Welcome to New York, indeed.

LaGuardia Airport (NYC): Yeah, so NYC really messed up with its airports. LaGuardia, for those who don’t know, is the smaller, closer to Manhattan cousin of JFK, and only serves national destinations. That said, the airport is old, constantly under construction, and surprisingly you can get lost trying to find one of its three terminals. Check-in and security lines are long. Delays, as with JFK, are rampant. And for an airport so close to Manhattan there is literally no direct way to get there. You’d think they’d have built a subway line from LaGuardia to Grand Central but no, the closest subway station is a fifteen-minute bus ride away in the opposite direction.

Charleston International Airport (Charleston, SC): If Boring was an airport, this would be it. This is the only airport that does not reflect upon its city, because Charleston is beautiful and old-timey and awesome. Charleston’s Airport shares space with a military base, and the airport is all brown. Literally, small and brown, with no flair what-so-ever, and nothing to do.

Panama City International Airport (Panama): Yes, the actual country of Panama. The airport lacks any sort of aesthetic pleasure. The bathrooms are…don’t go in them. (And bathrooms are surprisingly important.) And there is nothing to do while you wait for your flight. And it’s dismal.

There are plenty more airports I could talk about, but these are the most exceptional, for better or for worse. Airports are a huge part of traveling, so it’s inevitable that if one is really good or really bad, you’ll remember it.

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Escape

(Day (insert number here)-What did you learn from traveling abroad?)

I learned that I like escape.

This isn’t a huge life lesson, or anything that will probably make me a better person. Yes, I learned other things, about other cultures, about history, about different economies and polities. But I also learned about escape.

European cities are walking cities, and exploring cities. Europe is an Explorer’s playground. You can take trains, planes, buses, anywhere and everywhere is relatively close (as opposed to the hugeness of the United States).

When I was in Europe I wanted to explore everything. When I first visited Europe in high school, I found out that Venice is the best city to get lost in, and I didn’t want to go back. Last summer, I walked six miles across London just because I could, all on one road, seeing how that road changed from one end of the city to the other. I was separate from reality, from obligations, from the people I knew, and it felt good.

In Switzerland when I saw the beautiful landscape and stood on top of a 12,000 feet tall mountain I wasn’t thinking about anything else. In Edinburgh I walked the whole city in one day and wanted to keep going. Europe makes me like that–I want to go and never stop, see everything, and enjoy it, and never go back home.

Even in other places of startling beauty-Alaska (which is not technically abroad, but is still gorgeous), on top of the Whistler-Blackcomb mountains nearly alone, there has been that feeling of freedom and detachment and pure joy.

Escape, in places of great beauty, is the most wonderful feeling in the world. And I’m glad I’ve been able to travel and learn of it.

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The First Times

(Day (insert number here)-Did you have any milestones or firsts while living abroad?)

When I spent the summer in London and Oxford, I had a lot of firsts. They probably made me grow as a person,  maybe. They are:

-First time being stranded in a city. When I arrived in London, we couldn’t check in to our apartment until 2pm. I arrived at 8am. As  you can tell, this presented some sort of logistical  problem. I had a suitcase, a backpack, and it was raining. In the end I decided to walk around the area, which included the British Museum, and when I got tired of that, I set off in search of a cell-phone store (didn’t find one), and when I got tired of that, I sat in a park and wondered why no one had told me I couldn’t check in until later. And then I found some liege waffles, and all was right with the world.

-First time meeting a favorite actor and seeing a favorite play. Opportunities like that are rare. We spent six week watching tons of plays, mostly Shakespeare, and after one such production (Much Ado About Nothing) I got to meet David Tennant, who played the Doctor in Doctor Who. It was an awesome moment for me, because he’s one of my favorite actors. A few days later I saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, my favorite play, which was ten times more hilarious on stage, and met the brilliant actors responsible for the hilarity, Samuel Barnett (Rosencrantz) and Jamie Parker (Guildenstern).

-First time walking around in an abandoned city. Literally, after 10pm London is dead. I had to walk about half an hour to my flat after a play, my first night in London, by myself. It was dark, damp (as always), and quiet. Nobody around. It was a bit unnerving, and my flat wasn’t exactly in the most comforting of areas. But I made it back, and nothing happened. I ended up doing the same thing in Edinburgh as well. Bad habit, I suppose.

-First time being unable to find parmesan cheese. Very strange.

-First time taking an overnight bus ride. Also very strange, but very cheap.

-First time eating a fried Mars Bar. And they are GOOD.

-First time being above 10,000 feet. I went to Jungfraujoch in Switzerland, which is about 12,000 feet high, a mountain pass in the middle of the Swiss Alps. There was tons of snow in August, and it was beautiful. I also figured out that high altitude does affect me; it makes me light-headed and giddy.

-First time missing waiters being able to create separate checks. Because they don’t do that in Europe, and it sucks for college students.

-First time missing Mexican food. And hamburgers. Those things aren’t in Europe, and if they are, they aren’t particularly good. Never thought I would miss them.

Hopefully I get to travel more, and get many more firsts. Good firsts, at least.

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