Posts Tagged ‘Pictures’

California to London: My Personal Case Study

This could also be entitled, “Why moving away from my homeland has been the best decision of life and why all human beings should experience the same thing: a case study,” but I thought that would be entirely too long. Also, let me define: by case study, I mean my personal experience which, herein, will be used as a case study and the base for this discussion/monologue. I suppose it’s primarily intended for those who are looking to move away for graduate school, work or study abroad, but anyone with input, please comment away!

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I spoke with a friend of mine who, rather abruptly, gave up her life in Northern California to pursue a Marketing/PR internship opportunity that had arisen in LA. She had never lived away from her family and there was no pay attached to the internship period (although there were hopes of a future job opportunity), but working in public relations in the LA area had been her goal. About a month after her move (a couple of months before my move to London), I asked her about her feelings on moving away and starting an entirely new life. The verdict? Hard at first, but ultimately the most fulfilling adventure.

Now that I’ve been living in London for nearly four months, I would tend to agree with her perspective on the move. Although I miss my family, my friends and the relative normalcy (read: monotony) of life in Northern California, I can positively say that the path that I chose was undoubtedly the best personal decision of life, to date. The move has given me new perspective on relationships, on other cultures and on life.

Tiff & I <3.

Chris & I at The Lion King!

I have had the opportunity to look intently at my relationships and realize that the connections built in life don’t need to fade away just because the distance between two individuals grows; that physical proximity and emotional proximity are not linked, even in the slightest (although I’m sure the advent of social networking sites has helped make this much easier than it would have been 25 years ago)!

National Gallery

I have also been able to experience life in a foreign country and soak up all the nuances that come with it. Living life in a cosmopolitan city (London, Paris, New York, etc.) grants one the ability to marinate and grow in an undeniable melting pot. Daily, I find myself running into people from France, Germany, Belgium, Georgia, Canada, Nigeria, Ghana (and the list goes on and on). In one term of classes, my eyes have already been opened to the vast differences in culture and individual perspectives; issues that I had been dealing with at home seem ridiculous when compared to famine and $1.25 per day that my classmates are familiar with. Moreover, it’s not just reading about these far-off places (Malawi, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Uganda) and theorizing about how life is lived there; it’s a chance for me to talk with new friends about how their lives are and how their personal experiences have changed their personal paths.

Perhaps the best part about the move, though, is the fact that I now know that I am fully capable of being on my own in the world. Despite having lived away from my family for the past five years, I was close enough to know that I could call if ever there were an issue. Now, I am in a completely foreign country with an entirely new set of people surrounding me and amazing new experiences every day and I absolutely love every second of it. I know now that I am capable of keeping my options open after graduating, and living/working abroad without feeling detached. Instead of being scared of things, I feel as though now I have fully realized that every day brings something new: new people to meet, new things to learn, new mistakes to make and new ways to be a better, more fulfilled person.

So, for anyone wondering whether a move is a good decision: what is there to lose? Really? A small bit of income that can be regained? Leaving behind some friends that you can contact via Facebook and Skype? On the flip side, think of everything that you can gain from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. I think in this case the reward is definitely worth the risk.

Lots of love from London,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

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Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura & Peter Pan

According to the lady at the Camera Obscura centre, today is the shortest day of the year in good old Edinburgh. The sun starts setting around 230P or so and it’s dark by 4P. Despite that, I managed to sneak a lot of goodies into my relatively short day: a trip to Edinburgh Castle, a visit to Camera Obscura and I’m catching a play of Peter Pan tonight at 7P!

Despite scheduling my wake-up call for 830A, I was up and getting ready by 8A. I hit up the Castle first thing in the morning at 930A (when it opens) to beat the crowds. Unfortunately, Scotland is ridiculously cold at 930 in the morning… the sun doesn’t show it’s face until at least 1030A so I faced some serious snow. Although my ears were fighting frostbite, I got some of the prettiest pictures ever! Being that the Castle is quite the fortress on a hill top (an extinct volcano, actually), the views are absolutely breathtaking:


I didn’t spend that much time at the Castle because it was sooooo cold, but what I did see was amazing! I’m definitely planning on going back when my dad makes a trip over — this is something he would absolutely love!
(I miss you, dad!)

I was a bit upset that they didn’t offer student discounts, but the views from the top of the Castle definitely made the 11 pounds worth it!

I also stopped in this cool store right outside of the castle that’s separated into three sections: tour bookings, a cafe and a weaver that creates tartans, kilts, etc. There was also a section dedicated to this Diablo-looking gear:

There’s an actual blacksmith that makes these swords (he lives about 10 miles from the Castle)… there were loads of these bad boys, plus rapiers, chain mail (which is ridiculously heavy, by the way), maces and axes!

After hitting up the castle, I stopped at Camera Obscura, a place full of optical illusions and amazing panoramic views of Scotland! The 15 minute Camera Obscura business on the 5th floor made the 7 pound ticket worth every penny (pence?)– so cool seeing the whole of the city in a warm teensy tiny room! Check out some of these cool tidbits:

If I were tall and had crazy cankles.

The hot points on my body … interesting.

There were loads of cool optical illusions and holograms, too. Definitely a fun place to take kiddos!

After all that fun, I found a bunch of fun Scottish stores to hit up to grab a few goodies for my loves back in California! Now I’m sitting in a super warm pub down the way from my hotel that has offered me free Wi-fi and delicious pear-flavored Magner’s cider (one of my most favorites). I booked a tour of the Highlands/Loch Ness tomorrow with Timberbush tours and I’m so excited to see a different side of the country! Getting ready to head out and see a live version of Peter Pan at the theatre <3.

Hope everyone’s holiday is fannn-tastic,

Wanna see more amazingness? Check out my album!

Family Fun on the Island!

I have so much to catch up on, but I thought a post about the fun family gatherings we’ve experienced thus far would make for a good filler for family keeping up with my homeland hoorah! Too much family fun in four short days; the sadness about leaving tomorrow is hitting me… *tear*

Monday:

{Zija Cikka & I}

Our first family dinner was at Zija Cikka’s house in Qormi — Soppa Tal-Armla (Widow’s Soup), Gbejniet (Maltese cheese), & Gina’s super delish homemade chocolate cake! It was so fun finally catching up with my mom’s Maltese family!

Tuesday

Some good times in Gozo:

{Charlie & Paul at the Azure Window}

Paul & I at Ggantija Temple in Gozo!

Wednesday:

First stop — Ziju Zeppi’s farm!

{Paul, Zeppi & Maria Luisa}

{Paparazzi shot on the farm}

{View from the farm}

Dinner yesterday was at Joe & Sylvana’s house — delicious & entirely too much fun with two little monkeys running around:

Hosts <3.{Joe & Sylvana}

{Rosie & Joe}

{Princess Martina & I}

{Alex & Katrina}

[Falzon – Farrugia – Saliba Family]

I’ve had such an amazing trip thus far and am so incredibly sad to be leaving tomorrow…. I am in love with my family! I’m looking for a super cheap ticket to come back here for Christmas! Otherwise, I’ll be back in summer 2010 for Part II.

To see the whole Malta album, click here!

PS. PSS (you know who you are), I love you to the moon & am so thankful for the amazing trip you coordinated! You and your family are the most amazing people on the face of the planet!

The Isle of Calypso

Looking through the 658 pictures that I’ve taken thus far, I realize I have to play a serious game of catch-up! I still have some fun pictures from Day 1 and 2 to upload, but I’m going to fast-forward to yesterday’s journey. We woke up to semi-warm Mediterranean sunshine and decided that it would be a good day to take a journey to the Maltese island of Gozo (Maltese: Għawdex, pronounced OW-desh). Gozo’s a quick 20-minute journey by ferry from the mainland and though it was windy, it was definitely a gorgeous view!

[The view of Mellieha on the way down to the ferry was pretty outstanding, too!]

We had a pretty great view of Gozo from the ferry. The island is so small that you can literally see the entire thing and capture it from a camera lens from a distance!

As you can tell, it was a pretty blustery day on the ferry but the views of Gozo were worth standing on the sun deck.

Gozo has been inhabited for around 5000 years and has a ridiculously long and amazing history, so our day was jam-packed. Lesson: If your journey is well-planned (and you’re with some Grade A tour guides who take care of you!), you can see all the major sites in a day. First stop on our agenda?

The Azure Window:

The natural arch is thought to have been created millions of years ago and is absolutely breath-taking! The water is insanely blue and the journey to see the arch close-up is a trek along fossilised rock. Probably one of the most beautiful things I have seen yet!

After our trip to the Window, we headed to the Citadella (didn’t really get any pics there) which is set on the hill of the capital city. It was built as a fortress of sorts to protect the island from attacks. We got to tour the inside and it was pretty awesome! After our mini tour (and a mini bout of rain), we headed to the Ggantija Temples which are a UNESCO Heritage site and date back to around 3500 BC.

By the end of the day, we were officially exhausted and napped on the ferry ride back home! Our tour guides had everything planned perfectly — we got sooo much in during a single day! Gozo’s definitely a nice trip for anyone visiting Malta. And the few Gozitans that populate the small island seemed friendly as well! Fun fact: Gozitans speak a slightly different version of Maltese… a little bit more Arabic-sounding. Just a fun fact to throw in your arsenal of goodies during Trivial Pursuit.

Love from Malta,

Wanna see all the pictures? Click here!

Solo in Scotland

So, after much deliberation about Paris versus London for Christmas, I have decided (much to my surprise) to head up to Edinburgh, Scotland for my pre-Christmas solo adventure. I actually hadn’t given Edinburgh much consideration, but after looking at the costs of Paris from the 20th to the 23rd, I decided to explore other options. Had I booked Paris a few weeks back, I probably could have snatched a pretty decent bargain on the trip, but having had waited until just a few weeks before departure, the prices have gone up. Although it wasn’t exorbitant, it would have cost around £350 – £400 for the four-day jaunt. Edinburgh’s running me just under £210 including roundtrip flight (on British Airways) and three nights in a 3-star hotel within a half mile of all major sites [courtesy of Expedia]! I know that I’ll visit Paris at some point during the year, and due to the fact that it’s much pricier than Edinburgh, I’d rather split those costs with a traveling buddy and put my euros to better use elsewhere.

So, as of this morning, it’s all officially booked. My wallet is £210 lighter, but I think it’s a worthy investment. Edinburgh has some great Christmas markets during that period, so it’ll make for a nice setting for sightseeing and having some alone time. I’m super excited to be able to travel on my own for the first time. Being in a country that shares my native tongue and my primary currency is also a bonus. Plus, since I have four full days (getting in at 930A the morning of the 20th and leaving for London the evening of the 23rd) of exploring at my disposal, I’m planning on using one of those days to head up to the Highlands on a tour to do some extra sightseeing. From all of the literature that I’ve run across, Edinburgh is a pretty small/compact area that can be seen in a couple of days, so I’m going to do my best to make the most out of my Scottish soirée and see as much of the country as possible.

Looks like my room isn’t going to see much of me in the latter part of December: Malta from the 13th – 18th and Edinburgh from the 20th through 23rd. Gotta love Europe!

For anyone that’s been to Scotland –
Any must-sees to put on my list?

Your neighborhood traveler,

When in Rome… (Rome, Day II.)

After our fun-filled and relatively stress-free first day in Rome, we had a solid plan of attack for Day 2 of our Roman Holiday: a trip to Santa Maria Maggiore (which we could see from our room), a stop at the nearby (and famed) Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and a bit of shopping followed by an evening pub crawl at the foot of the Spanish Steps.

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore sat right down the street from our hotel. So close, in fact, that we overlooked in on day one. Although it’s clearly an amazing structure, we had no idea that it was such an old and holy site. The inside is said to date back to roughly the 400s and the Borghese tomb sits on the premises.


After our quick stop here, we started our journey to the Trevi Fountain, about 20 minutes walking from our hotel. Although I hadn’t really known what to anticipate, I have to say that the Trevi Fountain was one of my all-time favorite parts of the trip. The structure is absolutely breathtaking — pictures really can’t do it justice. It’s massive (85 feet high and 65 feet wide)!

It is said that if you toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain, your return to Rome will be a swift one:


There are loads of touristy stores around the fountain, so I was able to snag some super cool gifts for my family nearby [if you guys are reading this, expect some cool Roman gifts for the holidays!] After hitting up the Trevi, we headed north to the Spanish Steps. Although neither of us really knew what to expect from the famed steps, we discovered an interesting mix of art — not at all what I had expected!


Apparently they’re dubbed the Spanish Steps because they’re near the Spanish Embassy. All seems to make sense now! After, we enjoyed loads of delicious sangria and pizza and people-watched before heading home for a quick nap before our evening outing.

That evening (after a much-needed power nap), we jumped on the Metro to the Spanish Steps to meet up with a pub crawl group. Unfortunately, the pub crawl was 25 Euros (more than we really wanted to spend) and seemed to be plagued by legal-by-European-standards-18-year-olds from the US. In lieu, we cabbed it to nearby Campo di Fiore, a little piazza that houses a number of fun pubs and restaurants. We decided upon a placed called Magnolia and ended up spending hours there munching on bruschetta and focaccia and talking with a 91-year-old Roman that we referred to as nona (grandma). She had been living in the area for all of her 91 years and had been dining at Magnolia every day for lunch and dinner!

All in all, we had a fun-filled, relaxed day and saved our energy for our trip to Vatican city, Castel Sant’Angelo and the streets of Rome on Sunday. Stay tuned to see pictures of the Vatican and some of Michaelangelo’s amazingness!


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