Category Archives: travel

A Roman-Spanish Affair

The wanderlust in my soul has been aching for adventures abroad because it’s been a while since I left the United States. Sure, I’ve had crazy fantasies about jumping on the next plane to any destination outside of the States, but that’s not an option at this point. Instead of moping about, I decided to write about the places that have forever etched themselves onto my soul. I’ve been thinking a lot about Rome lately, but more distinctly, the Spanish Steps. Five years ago, I stumbled upon this epic Roman monument wandering the streets in search for the placard to John Keats (By the way, he died in Rome on February 23, 1821 from tuberculosis). Dorky, I know. My parents wanted to plan a family trip before I went to university and we stayed in Italy for a month. For some reason the Spanish Steps have always fascinated me and drew me in like 18th century drug that no history nut could resist.

The Spanish steps were first constructed in 1717 by Francesco de Sanctis. The purpose of the steps was to link the Bourbon Spanish Embassy (at that time) to the Holy See. It is composed of 138 stairs and is one of the largest staircases ever constructed in Europe.

The day I visited, I stayed all day basking in the warm Italian sunlight. I pretended to read a novel, but what I really did was people watch and spy on attractive Italian men. Perhaps, at that time, it was juvenile, but I shall never forget that perfect day. The Spanish Steps have more of a sentimental value, not only because of that day, but because it was made famous by “Roman Holiday” where Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn descend down the stairs while passing the time adventuring through the brilliant city.

If I ever do get married, it will be on the Spanish Steps. Where are some of your favorite places in the world? What makes those sights so special to you?


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London’s Markets: my picks

One of my favorite things to do on weekends while living in London was to visit one of the many amazing markets. I would get up early and have a great coffee and pastry while looking at interesting clothes and accesories at Broadway Market, have a falafel and a freshley squezed juice at Bourough Market, or search for a unique gift for a friend at Greenwich Market. Here is a guide to some of my favorite markets in London.

Broadway Market:

Broadway Market has a little bit of everything. Delicious food, such as Violet’s Cupcakes pictured above, as well as vintage clothes, handmade jewelry and crafts, cards, and books. In my time living in London, I’ve spent several Saturday mornings here, and always left happy and pleasantly full. I bought my passport holder here, and I’ve received compliments on it from friends and border agents at airports alike 🙂

Official Site:

Open on Saturdays: 10 minute walk from Bethnal Green Underground Station, or London Fields Rail.  The market is a “no-plastic bag zone” so bring your own tote if you plan on doing heavy shopping!

Greenwich Market

Image from Time Out London.  Greenwich itself is worth a visit for many reasons: the observatory, the National Maritime Museum, the architecture, the views of the river and the Docklands, but the market is one of my favorite things about the bourough. Leaving Zone One is completely worth it! The market has both a great food court on the weekends, and a cool array of arts and crafts. I bought handmade chocolates for a friend and a headband for myself made out of lace from a Victorian petticoat. Go to the market, and have lunch in a nearby cafe, and browse the stalls and the shops.

Open: Wednesday-Sunday, more is available on the weekends. Site:

Directions: You can get there by train, boat, or tube. DLR: Cutty Sark Train: Greenwich Station from Charing Cross, London Bridge, or Cannon Street
Spitalfields Marke


Spitalfields is a great place to see new fashions and get a gift for a friend. My friend Katie got Banksy-printed blocks for her boyfriend here, and I bought a dress. It’s an indoor market, and can get very crowded, but it’s worth take a look around. The restaurants and shops around the covered market are very nice as well. It feels more like an outside department store than anything. The market had a recent revamping, but there has been a market in this area in 1682, which as a history buff find so cool. You can buy wares from vendors like others have been doing for more than 300 years.

Open: All shops and stalls open Sundays (Not on Saturday!), Thursday:: Antiques & vintage Friday: Fashion & art

Directions: Tube to Liverpool Street

Borough Market:

Borough Market is a food lover’s heaven. The market only sells food, it’s like a farmer’s market on steroids. You can get anything from a kangaroo burger to an exquisite french pastry here. It gets really busy on Saturdays, so I would advise going in the morning or on Thursday for lunch. I try and get something new everytime I’ve come here. Be on the lookout for famous chefs and foodies, Jamie Oliver has been spotted here.

Open: Thursday-Saturday.

Directions: Tube to London Bridge.

Brick Lane Market

You can get anything and everything at Brick Lane, from a curry to a pair of fake Ray-Bans to a handmade designer dress. It’s bric-a-brac at its best, chaotic and exciting. I like the upmarket fashion area of Brick Lane and the outdoor makeshift stalls.

Open: Sundays

Directions: Tube to Aldgate East

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Highgate Cemetery

I read Audrey Niffinger’s book “Her Fearful Symmetry” which was set mainly in  and around Highgate Cemetery, a working Victorian high Anglican cemetery. It took a bit of a while to get there–I live in west London and the cemetery is far North–and to actually find the cemetery I had to walk out of the tube, up two streets, left, another left, and down Swains Lane (which is not easy to find). It was completely worth the visit however. I took a guided tour of the west cemetery, and saw some beautiful statues and mausoleums and learned a lot about Victorian life by observing how they remembered their dead. It was painfully obvious who was wealthy or who wasn’t in death, some of the graves said where the people lived as evidence of how rich they were. Some also built giant mausoleums to house their families, but those who were poor just had small grave markers.

Here are some of the pictures I took there:

A Sleeping Angel over a grave.

They built some graves in the shape of pyramids because they believed it made it harder for the devil to lie on top of the graves.

Alexander Litvinenko, the poisoned ex-KGB agent is buried here. It’s still a working cemetery.

So tragic, this grave is of a 19 year old burned to death, and it took her ten days to die. At the bottom, it says, In the bloom of youth, I prayed amid agonies for death.

A catacomb of a well-to-do-man.

I highly recommend visiting Highgate if you have a chance! The village Highgate is also quite beautiful, and has a wonderful quiet charm. It’s high up on a hill, and it has some gorgeous views of London if you look from the right spots.



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Stonehenge and Bath

Today, I went on a coach (bus) to visit Stonehenge and the town of Bath. It was such a dreary day weather wise-cold rain and overcast-so not the best day for sightseeing but I still had a really nice time.

Me at Stonehenge. It was smaller than I expected, and visitors aren’t allowed to go up close to the actual stones which was a bit disappointing. Stonehenge is a bit out in the middle of nowhere, the closest occupants to the mysterious landmark are sheep.

There’s def. a lot more to see in Bath! It’s a beautiful city that has so much history. The first king of England was crowned here, and the city has ruins and buildings that date back to norman and saxon conquest. The city got its namesake from the hot springs that the Romans bathed in, and this is what they look like:

Check out the steam!

The buildings in downtown Bath are very pretty. My favorites were the Georgian-style ones, like this:

My tour guide told me that one of these apartments sell for 5 million pounds. Anyone want to buy a girl a flat?

And here is an uneven street with a phone booth and an old limestone wall. I quite like this photo:

Besides the weather, I had an exciting day of visiting new places. Tomorrow, I am going to go see Tony Head’s new play at the Old Vic called ‘Six Degrees of Separation’, and I’ll write about that.



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Just Touched Down in London Town

I’m spending the semester abroad in London, in the Earl’s Court neighborhood of the Royal Borough of Kensingston and Chelsea. I’m doing an internship at the European Bureau of a news outlet and taking classes about international journalism and British Life and Culture. I arrived this Wednesday–an atypical snowy day in London.The cab driver was chatty, but I’ve noticed that most Londoners I’ve seen so far do not engage in small talk like Midwestern Americans do. It’s not a good or a bad thing, just different. People keep to themselves and avoid eye contact on the tube or buses.

Here are a few photos and more observations from my time here so far.

Remnants of Old Posters at the Notting Hill Gate Tube Stop.

Easter Egg pastely houses in Notting Hill.

Typical Gray Day outside Buckingham.

There is a TARDIS outside the Earl’s Court Tube Stop–the one closest to me. No David Tennant though. Or Matt Smith, the new Doctor. I’m pretty sure it’s the same size on the inside too.

So far, so good! London is gorgeous. It’s exciting and multicultural and while people do like to complain about the weather–it’s been a lot warmer than my native Chicago. I’m in a nice Victorian flat with a modern kitchen. I’m sharing a room with two other girls, and space is tight, but I’ll be able to manage. I don’t think I have enough room for all my clothes, though 🙂 Speaking of clothes, I’m really close to High Street Kensington, which has some really nice shops. It also has a Whole Foods, which I hope will inspire me to eat healthily and not just indulge in pastries from some of the amazing cafes nearby! One of my favorite foods is chocolate croissants, and there are some great French cafes in South Kensington where my classes are.

I start work tomorrow, I’m going to Bath and Stonehenge Friday, and will post any good pictures I get there!


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