Archive for September, 2009

Viva Munchen! {Part II: Dachau}

So, you may recall a post from a few weeks back when I preemptively revealed that we were going to be partaking in Mike’s Bike Tour’s Neuschwanstein Castle tour. We were beyond excited to take a trip out of Central Munich into a remote area. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, a tour group of 34 kids decided they were going to do the tour on the same day, effectively occupying nearly all of the bus’ seats. The few seats that were left over were taken by people who had purchased their tickets the day before, so we were seriously out of luck. We decided, however, that we wanted to do something cultural; the beer tents were accessible, but we had already experienced that madness on Friday. Sarah proposed a visit to nearby Dachau, the site of the first concentration camp.

DachauDachauConcentration CampAlthough visiting a concentration camp wasn’t quite as happy as the castle tour, it was definitely an incredible experience. Consider that we can likely see loads of castles within the UK alone, the fact that we were able to see a Munich-based concentration camp was intense. I had no idea when I arrived, but Dachau was built in the early 1930s and actually served as a model for future camps. The camp and the museum were definitely eye-opening and heart-breaking, but it is something that I truly think would be a benefit to all people to see first hand.

After experiencing Dachau, we explored Olympia Park (the site of the 1972 Summer Olympics) and did a little souvenir shopping. After nabbing a Oktoberfest-inspired eco-tote and das boot (in miniature) I was set for our last night at The Tent. We kept our last night relatively low key, eating in and calming our souls before leaving Sunday morning. We managed to make it back to London in one(ish) piece and found our way around Munich using solely public transportation; definitely a bit of a feat for the neophytic travelers that we are. Note to anyone hitting up M-town: we nabbed a 3 day group pass (good for up to 5 people) for 21 euros, and it covered all of our travel within Munich via tram; such a steal. My overall feel for Munich? Despite the amazing history and some pretty amazing architecture, it’s not a city I would visit again. I think there are some places that are a ‘one time’s enough’ kind of deal and for me, this was one such place. Oktoberfest was amazing and the experience is something that should be had by all, but unless you’re hitting up O-fest, I think there are a number of other cities to better spend some time.

Next stop on the map? Scotland.

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

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Viva Munchen! {Part I: Oktoberfest}

Ahhh… back in London after nearly four days of German madness. Due to the fact that we had three(ish) days in Munich, we decided to spend one day at the beer tents, soaking in the debauchery that is Oktoberfest. Let me say this as a preface: even as a non-beer drinker, Oktoberfest is something all people should experience once in their life. We stayed at a place aptly dubbed “The Tent;”  inside of a massive tent (surprise) filled with glorious orange bunk beds. Some people opted for the cheaper alternative: bringing their own tent and sleeping outside.

The TentThe TentAlthough Germany gets a bit cold at night (even with three blankets and insane layers), The Tent was definitely a good choice; I paid a grand total 57 euros for three nights in Munich. I took 200 euros out at the airport, hoping that it would be enough for the four days, and actually left the country yesterday with nearly fifty euros in my wallet!

When we landed in Munich on Thursday night, Sarah & Lois (our Nova Scotian partners in crime/tour guides) led us down to the beer tents to expose us to the madness that would ensue on Friday. By 830P, of course, the scene was a bit calmer — many people had already gone home to pass out (or just walked into the street to pass out) so we managed a pretty good sneak-peek at the tents.

HippodromThe Hippodrom (complete with champagne bar) had been our dream tent. We managed to get inside and see the masses of drunkards enjoying themselves, but ended up hitting up two different tents on Friday due to the crazy line that formed Friday afternoon. I don’t know what my vision of the tents was exactly, but I was beyond amazed at the set up — it was like the biggest, greatest, brightest fair ever! The area was covered in beer tents, food stalls (pretzels, sausage, currywurst, nuts, etc.), and rides!

We spent Friday morning exploring the city centre and checking out some of Munich’s sights and architecture before hitting up the actual tents. We discovered that Munich has an obsession with H&M; we (seriously) saw seven within a quarter of a mile! Bargain shopper heaven, I tell you.

Munich CenterTown Hall{Their town hall was seriously amazing.}

After exploring, we finally felt ready to hit up the tents around 230P. We joined up with our two new Aussie friends that we had met at our hostel and hit up the Spatenbrau tent for some massively huge steins.

With Francesco from Napoli
We ended up finding a table surrounded by some seriously drunken/creepy Italianos and a few sweaty Danes; it was glorious, to say the least. Although getting hit on/harassed by drunkards is foreseeable, there is definitely a line between drunken banter and grossness. Unfortunately, Francesco from Napoli (pictured above) ended up being a super d-bag and developed a minor obsession with Alex’s shoulder/purse/general being. I’m not 100% sure what happened next, but some intense dialogue between said Italianos & our Aussie friends ensued and a mini fight broke out. Fighting is, of course, not desirable at tents of happiness, so we were evicted. The tent cops escorted all of us out of the tents. Francesco decided to make a break for it when we’d barely made it out of the tent; fortunately, one of our Aussie buds happened to be a cop and took him down so quickly it was amazing. It made for some amazing pictures and a truly impressive scene; you can try to piece this madness together:

Crazy Italian ManMark's Amazing Take Down!

Aftermath.Needless to say, we had to leave the area after some questioning.

We ended up hitting up another tent down the way where we witnessed at least three more fights (none nearly as amazing as Mark & Francesco’s). We ended up sharing a table with a group of seventeen year old Germans who proved to be hugely educational. First, they taught us how to toast properly:

To the titties, {raise stein to chest}
to the sack, {lower stein to nether regions}
tac-tac! {cheers!}

Sweet tee & cookie necklace.

Secondly, they taught us not to accept gifts from strangers. Earlier in the night we had been given heart-shaped cookie necklaces (see sweetness above) with German phrases written on them. The lady who gifted them to us prefaced the gifting with the following question: “Do you speak German?” After responding that we did not, in fact, speak German, she gave us said necklaces to adorn ourselves with. One of the kiddos at our table informed us that these cookies could be translated as such:

After sex, we do it again.

Needless to say, we had an all around amazing day at Oktoberfest. It was incredibly eventful from start to finish and we met some of the coolest people ever.

Stay tuned for Part II of our trip — an incredible trip to Dachau & our attempt to hit up the Erotic Messe.

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Off to Munich!

Oktoberfest

I have just finished packing 4 days of necessities into a 21″ carry-on. I’m really crossing my fingers that my luggage fits into EasyJet’s 50cm x 40 cm x 20 cm restriction… After being here for about a week, I’ve deciding that I suck at converting metrics. (Side note: When the man at the gym was asking my height and weight, he looked at me quizzically when I gave him my response in inches and pounds versus centimeters and “stones”… I was going to do him the favor of converting it, but I don’t even know what a ‘stone’ is. Probably something I should learn at some point.) In any case, I have managed to pack four tops, two extra pairs of pants, a pair of heels, a jacket, pajamas, an umbrella, toiletries, a couple of books and all of my necessary electronics (camera, phone, etc.) and paperwork (passport, bus information, etc.) into this bad boy.

I’m relying on the fact that a Deutsche Bank exists inside of the Munich airport, otherwise I will be Euroless until further notice. Additionally, the transportation from the airport to the actual hostel is another feat we can deal with upon arrival. I feel as though the lack of planning (read: spontaneity) adds to the adventure. If I find that the so-called “spontaneity” is actually a shitfest, I will do better to plan such mundane logistics beforehand.

That being said, I’m off to Oktoberfest tomorrow! I am incredibly excited and will undoubtedly be returning with a load of incredible pictures. I will also not have access to internet/phone service/general technology, so updating my blog and Skyping with the fam is a no-go for nearly four whole days!

I’ll see you guys back here on Sunday!

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Marks & Spencer > Sainsbury’s, and Other Observations.

Before I get into the amazingness that is Marks & Spencer, I should probably start by re-capping last night’s events. On Sunday evening, whilst fighting off some jet lag and caffeine withdrawals, going out and socializing wasn’t number one on my list. Thusly, Alex and I discussed organizing a little get together to take place last night, wherein we could actually meet all of our facebook friends. As one H. Joe Puentes put it, “What good are facebook friends if you never get to actually meet them?” I think in this case, that point was supremely valid. Our ‘little get-together’ of six or seven people ended up being a good 20+ LSEers who ended up joining the party. We ended up hitting up The Prince of Wales pub on Drury once more and enjoyed every second of it! Meeting everyone that we had been talking with for months was super fun, and the mix of personalities ended up making for an eventful (and hilarious) night. After seeing the close of the Prince of Wales for the evening, we headed across the street to finish up our night.

Prince of Wales PubMia, Alex & I at the Prince of Wales pub!

O'Neills, Drury Lane

Now, if I would have thought things through more clearly, I would have determined that hanging out until 130A and drinking on an empty stomach would not be conducive to waking up at 630A to head to the Sports Centre for an induction. As fate would have it, my alarm didn’t go off at 630A and instead I slept until 845A. Oops. Luckily, they were able to get me in at 1130A and I got a good solid mid-day workout in before heading out for the day.

I topped up my Oyster card (which I’m borderline obsessed with) and hit the tube station to take a ride down to Oxford Street. A friend from my complex and I hit up O2, Primark (to get some basic necessities at a ridiculously amazing price), H&M, Selfridges and Marks & Spencer. First let me say, if you’re ever in the area, Selfridges & Co. is the most amazing, brilliant place ever. If there were a heaven for shoppers, this would be it. It smells like amazing shopping when you walk in — the floors are white marble and the building screams ‘handbags here cost more than your education.’ Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s worth checking out.

Selfridge & Co.{This picture doesn’t do Selfridges justice!}

The Marks & Spencer hub is on Oxford Street as well and it has helped my official transformation to London life. I thought I was going to have to live on pre-packaged Sainsbury’s/mediocre 3 bean salad for life. Instead, we found the most amazing grocery shopping at Marks & Spencer and realized that we could actually stock a kitchen and cook! I’m planning on making another trip down there for some basics later in the week. Fortunately, M&S has a branch in Covent Garden, about five minutes from my place.

Lessons from the last 24 hours:

1. Marks & Spencer is 23498294 times better than Sainsbury’s
2. Multiple pints of apple cider + jet lag + lack of food & caffeine = a bad combination
3. Hanging out with people definitely moves the acclimation process along a thousand times faster than normal
4. Dressing in layers is key. The tube is about a million degrees when everyone and their mom is riding it during rush hour. Uncomfortably hot.
5. Sitting at Hyde Park with a pre-packaged M&S lunch and intelligent conversation is actually an enjoyable way to pass time.

6. Pret a Manger (a cafe-ish joint in London) is not pronounced ‘Prett a Man-jer.’ It’s pronounced ‘Pret a Man-zsay’ (with a French accent.) Pret a Manger is French for “ready to eat” … who knew?

I definitely need to pack for Germany tomorrow — I’ll be leaving for Oktoberfest Thursday afternoon! Craziness!

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Scoping It Out: LSE, The British Museum & Russell Square

I started the day off incredibly well. I took a jaunt down to the LSE campus without getting lost once! I got a bit disoriented on the way back (and ended up taking a bit of a detour), but I finally felt that I knew my way around, to a certain degree. Exciting! I met up with Alex, Sarah & Lisa for a quick (self-guided) tour of LSE! Although we couldn’t get an inside look since the campus is closed on Sunday, we did manage to check out the building and get a feel for the location.

Houghton Street, WC1Houghton Street — the main entrance to LSE.

LSE EntranceEntryway to LSE on Houghton Street — the buildings were so awesome!

LSESarah, Alex, Lisa & I checking out the campus!

After our LSE excursion, we headed to Starbucks to grab some coffee and chat about our impending adventures in Munich! Sarah & her traveling buddy are heading to Munich tomorrow and Alex, Lisa and I will be meeting them there on Thursday! After our much-needed and extremely over-priced caffeine run (2GBP for a grande coffee?!), Lisa and I headed back to my area to check out the British MuseumRussell Square and run a few errands.

Russell Square was so darling! It’s a fairly small green, but it was gorgeous today with the sun shining. There were loads of people in the park, enjoying the infrequent rays and having lunch. Note to self: pack a fun lunch, grab some drinks and head to Russell Square with some friends — such a cool little place!

Russell Square Sign

Russell Square

After discovering that Russell Square sits about 8 minutes from my flat, we headed towards the British Museum (which sits at the corner of Museum Street & Great Russell) to pop in for a minute. Luckily, all national museums in the UK are free so we didn’t feel bad leaving after a few short minutes — I’ll have to head back on a weekday when everyone and their mom isn’t hanging out there! Bonus: I found out that the museum is down the street from my flat — 5 minutes walking down Museum Street!

British Museum

We ended with a late lunch (jacket potato for me, fish & chips for her) at a nearby pub (the Prince of Wales on Drury Lane), and met a darling bartender who sat down to explain to use how the phone systems work! And now? Now I’m sitting in my bed, drinking pretty disgusting instant coffee & loving every second. Tomorrow’s agenda? Hit up HSBC in the AM  to get my account taken care of, followed by a trip to Oasis Sports Centre next door to join the gym! Afterwards, I may take a jaunt to the Whole Foods Market in Soho to gather some groceries for the week.

Three more days in London, then heading to Germany on Thursday!

Signature Stamp - Shannon

To check out more pictures from London, click here!

Exploring the City!

It has been such a jam-packed day! I have had an amazingly productive day and have been on the go for a good 9 hours! I met up with Alex this morning in Trafalgar Square so we could explore the city together. Although I got a bit lost and ended up taking the long way to Trafalgar, it was definitely a sight worth seeing! The square houses Nelson’s Column and faces the National Gallery, which is a gorgeous sight unto itself! Amazingly, all of the national museums in Britain have free entry — perfect student outing!

National Gallery, LondonTrafalgar SquareNelson's Column, London

In honor of the London Design Festival, the square also hosted a giant chess set game with 32 unique ceramic pieces inspired by English culture, monarchy and the city of London.

Chess Table

After linking up, we headed south past the Thames to catch some awesome views of the London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament — the day was absolutely beautiful (70 degrees and mostly sunny!) so the view was perfect!

London EyeBig BenBig Ben & Houses of Parliament

Post-Big Ben, we hit up Covent Garden for a bit of sightseeing and lunching! Although it was crazy packed, it’s such a great area — aside from loads of awesome shoppes (think L’Occitane & Lush!), there was an indoor market of sorts where people can purchase fresh fruits & veggies.

Covent Garden

Aside from the sight seeing, I also managed to get a lot done! We hit up H&M where I purchased a few Euro pieces (leggings & a couple of sweaters), plus I purchased a blowdryer, got a SIM card for my cell phone & purchased an Oyster card to use at the Tube stations! Although I’m pretty exhausted (and it’s only 745P), it was a super fun day and definitely made me more optimistic about living in London!

Tomorrow is a morning meet up with a couple of girlfriends plus a jaunt to LSE & maybe a visit to the British museum!

Lots of love,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

To check out more pictures of London, click here.