I would like to believe that I am finally figuring out how to conquer airports. I am deathly afraid of taxi scams now thanks to watching dozens of Youtube videos related to the tragedy in various airports. But when I arrived in Amsterdam and met up with my dad, we took a bus, a subway, and a tram all to get to our hotel. It makes me feel savvy. First thing you notice about Amsterdam is all the bicycles and their never-ending bell-ringing at you to move out of their way. It is a bit of culture shock to see that bicyclists have greater rights than both pedestrians and motorists. Amsterdam is incredibly accommodating to cyclists as the city has a million different bike paths.
The second thing that I noticed from Amsterdam(which really should have been the first but it was not as loud and obnoxious as people on bikes) was the amazing canals all throughout the city. I suppose this is why they call it the Venice of the north, because it really is a floating city—with all the same sinking risks of Venice too! But the city views were everything I wanted from the city because every angle looking down the canal with the building wrapping around it looked like a work of art. I could very easily imagine Vermeer or Rembrandt getting so much inspiration from the city.
My family and I ended up stopping at a few different grocery/market type places in deep search of food as always. We went to this little one called Hema, the one that was the most our style was Albert Heijn, and then this one, Marqt, the fanciest and most aesthetic of the three. I just had to take a pic with that sign, it was calling my name.
This windmill was just a little one in the city, we went to more and bigger windmills. But still, it is just something you have to do as a tourist in Amsterdam is pose with all of the windmills
From my first time in Scotland back in 2015 to now being here, apparently I never knew that the best spot to take photos was literally right on top of Waverly Station…aka the station I have now been going in and out of at least 10 times. I suppose i cannot be too hard on myself the first time I was there. The train station was the very first and very last place we went. However, we did spend a decent amount of time shopping around in the Princes Street Mall.
But of course the one time I go to Edinburgh with my friend who lives there, the first place she takes me because of my giant camera was like the best, simplest vista point. She just took me right up on top of the station. And even though there were nice little benches set up for people who want to overlook the city…no one was there. You literally could not ask for a better place to take photos; I was so in awe! Always travel with a local if you want the best shots!
I crossed one major to do in Scotland off my list and that was getting a chance to tour the highlands. We started our trip visiting Doune Castle which apparently is one of the only untouched castles left in Scotland with the others lying in ruin due to the British. Then we pressed on into the thick of the highlands. Completely not what I expected at all. My only impression of the highlands was one of rolling hills probably in a similar vein to the Great Plains in the midwest with a bit of a rougher feel perhaps, maybe a colder wind. And there was a good amount of that (mainly dotted with giant, fluffy, Scottish sheep) but the highlands that I saw was something far more cinematic and epic. I saw massive, snow-topped mountains. These mountains were even more bizarre to me as they gradually faded from opaque white snow on the top to lush grasslands as their base. It felt like you could be driving though the tundra at some points and just change back to mild hilltop in an instant. We stayed overnight at Fort Augustus as the mouth of Loch Ness, basically at the most famous view. Then we drove through Inverness which was quite a strange place to me too as it was a fully developed, cosmopolitain city just randomly set up in the midst of these harsh mountains and northern highlands. I got to see Culloden battlefield which vaguely reminded me of home in Virginia with all the Civil War battlefields. Then we finished our journey at the Hermitage. It was an amazing trip given how much I saw that I probably would not get to experience on my own.
So this time, for this post, I wanted to experiment with a different format for my photos. Some will be the same that they have always been, but others are formatted slightly differently.
I have been thrifting a great deal while I have been here. Some may say that I have a problem when I say this, but it makes me feel more comfortable and more myself to be able to hunt and shop for things. Not only, can I use these things to supplement my currently tiny wardrobe, but I can also take home these souvenirs that are more special to me than some Scotland sweater at a cheap tourist gift store. I will be taking home brands that are unique to the UK like New Look, Primark, River Island, Next, and Topshop(even though Nordstrom has a tiny section of Topshop). The brands that I just listed are all fast fashion brands and although I have been inside all of these stores to check them out I have not purchased from these brands because I do not support fast fashion(directly), and also, it is just too expensive for me. I would run my poor parents dry of their money if I bought directly from these stores. But I see no problem going to a charity shop to buy these brands that are not seen in the US. I will be doing a collective thrift haul at the end of my semester abroad comprised of everything that I bought while here. But I need to be able to get everything back home first which will actually kill me.
But I did want to show off this New Look tee shirt that I came across. The message is basically how I feel during every art school critique or even just when talking to any other human being. I will forever have a love of sassy message tees—if its done well and not offensively(I am looking at you Forever 21)!
My work is just starting to pick up, but before it did, I managed to get away for the weekend to London. First of all, I think next time I go, after having gone twice now by train, I will be flying. No longer will I take this five hour train ride! The plane rides are so cheap and would literally take thirty minutes. it is just not worth it to wait this long anymore. The one advantage was getting to see all the beautiful British cites and the coast in passing. I think I would like to go Newcastle. But I have bigger fish to fry in England(get it, fish and chips)! I need to go to Brighton first.
When we pulled in finally, it was about 3:30. So my friends and I decided to go to the hostel and set our things down in our room. Our hostel was located in Borough which ended up being an interesting little corner in London that I never experienced last time I was there. By the time we got settled there, we were starving from the train since we decided to not eat lunch at the little cafe they had on board. We went to Piccadilly Circus for dinner, which was coincidental since last time I was here, that was the first place my family and I went after getting off the train. This time it was different however as there was not a Taylor Swift concert that had just ended in Hyde Park which was an absolute disaster last time. Just floods of people in the tube and no clear way to compose ourselves in a new city. This time we could take it slow and just explore more. We really wanted Chinese so Chinatown was the obvious place to go. I do not think I mentioned this since last time but I am trying to go pescaterian and that was such a success on this trip. I had the mixed seafood noodles from the Chinese restaurant we went to and it was excellent. After that we explored Soho and got desert at a little Korean ice cream cafe where I got a green tea ice cream with all sorts of sweet fixin’s.
The next day was the touristy day. We caught a walking tour group through Westminster. That was a nice deja-vu for me since we went to Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey(although not inside), Buckingham Palace(the queen just never wants to be there when I come by), and a boat ride down the Thames as well as a tour of the Tower of London. But I decided to cut out of the tour during the boat ride and the tower as i had already done that and I decided that I wanted to see something else. I went to the National Gallery instead which was something I never saw last time. I was so happy I went because they had an excellent amount of pieces of art by some of my favorites. They had Caravaggio, Da Vinci(it is crazy how we only have one in the whole of the western hemisphere but Europe literally has hundreds), Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne, and Rubens. That night we went to Camden and got Italian for dinner. I got a margarita pizza which was delicious.
The next morning, on Sunday, my friends and I went to the Breakfast Club for breakfast which was fairly close to where we were staying. It, of course, had an eighties theme but it was not obnoxiously loud which made it so enjoyable. I got the most perfect chocolate banana pancakes that hit the spot and satiated my sugar tooth. From there, we made the trek to Greenwich to go to the Royal observatory with the Prime Meridian line where the coordinates are exactly (0°, 0′,0”). There was the most amazing park and vista of the whole city. I did not get to go to Greenwich last time and I discovered that it was my favorite area in London. We went to little shops in the town and that was a blast because they were the kind of grungy but charming little shops where everything is used and vintage and you just have to buy yourself a unique keepsake. We went to this used bookstore where everything was a pound and I got four pounds worth of books. Then we went to this outdoor market where I bought a dark, denim mini skirt. The man who sold it to me was the most interesting character. He was dressed like he steeped out of 60s London which made sense since he was selling some unique vintage pieces. He wore a head to toe colored corduroy bell bottom suit and he had a shaggy bowl cut—needless to say, it was perfect.
After that we had to get back to Kings Cross station to catch our train and make the long voyage back to Edinburgh. That trip was longer for me as i also had to take an hour long train ride back to Galashiels. The good thing about that train was that I did not purchase tickets before getting on the train because I was going to buy them from the ticket collector. But he never came around so I got a free ride back, making everything feel better.
I arrived in Scotland only two days ago, and already, I am thrown straight into school. I was supposed to arrive in Edinburgh on Saturday, but the lovely Baltimore airport canceled my flight. So instead of flying to New York and then getting on a direct flight, I instead had to go to Frankfurt, Germany first and then fly to Scotland. It was fun, in a way, to fly on a German flight where the pilot and flight attendants all spoke German. It was also entertaining to try to pick the passengers that I believed could be German and who was visiting or passing through. But overall, it was annoying to go to an airport that I had not planned for, where everything is in German for the most part and try to find my gate throughout their maze of an airport despite my drained jet lagged mind and body. It was even more annoying to arrive in Edinburgh late as there was a woman waiting for me to take me to the town where I needed to be for classes. She had to come all the way from Dublin twice as there were other girls in my program who managed to make it to Edinburgh on time. The whole thing was just a hassle. I suppose I am being overdramatic because I had never experienced such annoying flight delays and cancellations before. The most seasoned of travelers would probably think I am whining.
However, despite all my trials, I made it to Scotland and I am currently trying to get adjusted as best as I can.
The time differences, while inconvenient for communicating with loved ones, makes posting so much easier. I can go through my whole day and not think about it until the night because it is still only late afternoon at home. I have not made an opinion of the people in Scotland yet because I have barely made friends. And making friends is hard here considering I only have two days of class a week. I just barely meet some girls and suddenly class is over and it’s just, “well see you guys next week!”. The class scheduling is perhaps the biggest change for me. I am not used to such little class time. I do not know what to do with myself with so few classes. And they say it covers the same amount of credits as five classes in the U.S. And that is just unnatural.
I need more time here before I can give a true assessment. Everyone expects me to be oozing excitement and be bursting with happiness. It is not that I am unhappy or unexcited. I am still just so out of it. I am learning everything and taking it all in. I am not wearing a huge smile on my face all the time because I am still processing everything. Also I do still miss home. I miss my family and my friends so much and it is only the third night, yet is is hard for me to understand that I will be staying here for the next five months. I am a whole ocean away…
But then again, everyone says that I will absolutely love it here and never want to leave. I think that will be true. I will hopefully come back fully adjusted like Scotland is my second home.
I do not know if I can say that 2017 was the worst year ever. Politically, it probably hit an all-time low but considering that we could be in the midst of war by now, I would say there are some silver linings. 2017 was also not the best for my social life and confidence in my work. I was not the hardest worker when it came to sewing and while it is not my strength and probably never will be when compared to my illustration, I should have worked harder than I did. I made some actual enemies this year(which I did not know was possible in college because I thought we had all grown up passed high school, but I guess some never do). It was not because I was mean or gave anyone any reason to hate me, it was simply just me being me and the jealousy that resulted in that. It is hard for me to understand how everyone else can give up a friend so easily when it takes so much for me to hate a person. I did lose some friendships and not because I was the one to walk away. But not only did I just lose a friend, I gained a person wishing ill-will over me and sending hatred my way. I cried a fair amount this year, partially due to the friends I lost, but also due to stress. Stress was tough on me this year, especially as I was headed into the winter. I pulled one all-nighter this year and it was especially painful as it was the last day of school in December. I worried about my brother getting into college and completing his boy scout project to become an eagle scout. I worried about my parents sticking to their diet and committing to exercise. I worried especially about my dad and how he would deal with keeping the house in order. I worried most this year about my mom and my best friend after they lost their fathers. Those moments were perhaps some of the lowest points of the year. This year was painful and brutal. And it seemed to drag on for forever.
The year had a few shining moments though. I received a great deal of respect in my major by the means of winning a scholarship, being recognized as the outstanding fashion design sophomore, and having my talents showcased on a mural in a prominent location in Richmond. I was selected by my department to represent VCU in a scholarship for the CFDA(which I will be completing in 2018). My parents did start a new diet and my father kept up with his walking. My brother completed his college applications and got accepted into a great school as of right now(we are still waiting to hear back). And 2017 more than anything else showed me who my real friends are. Although I lost some people I though cared about me, their loss only made the friends I had shine brighter to me. I know who I will be friends with until the day that I die. And realizing these friendships has made me incredibly grateful and blessed. I am so lucky to have the people I have in my life that support me and love me as much as I love and support them.
My only hope is the next year will be better. I am headed to Scotland in four days and I am still having a hard time believing it. I hope to make new friends, but if not, I know who I can call back home. But I am extremely excited to share my adventures in Scotland and hopefully be more proactive with this blog in the new year.
Please enjoy my New Years Eve look from yesterday. I just thrifted that top but it is from Urban Outfitters. The turquoise color is the absolute perfect color of velour for me and I loved mixing the fancier vibe of the crop top with my casual high-waisted jeans.
Happy New Years everyone, let’s make 2018 amazing!!!