I'm Olivia. I'm a perpetually hungry redheaded girl from New York. I eat, sleep and breathe Korean pop music. I speak French and am studying Korean language and business in school. This fall, I'm setting forth on an exciting and terrifying (seriously I'm so nervous I might pee) solo journey across Europe. Hopefully this experience is full of bright, fun, and exciting as well as ridiculously stupid experiences that I can share with you!
This is so sad for me, maybe it's why I've been putting it off for a couple days. As all of you know my trip is over and I'm already home, but this is going to be my last post about it! This experience was life changing for me. I feel like a different person, even though I've pretty much returned to the same routine at home. On Sunday, I'll go back to my job and in January I'll start fresh at a new school where I can finally study Korean! My next big adventure will happen in 2015, when I study abroad in Seoul.
Traveling alone has made me learn so much about myself. I've experienced loneliness and difficulties as well as some of the happiest moments of my life. I've made friends that I want to make an effort to maintain lifelong relationships with, even if it takes years before we're reunited. I'm extremely proud of myself for having gone to 19 cities and 7 countries all before I turned 20. To some it might not be a huge accomplishment, but there were so many times where I had to figure out my own way, where I had to be brave and face the world alone. I do want to say, though, that the world as I've seen it so far, is extremely beautiful in so many different ways. Please, if you ever get the chance, pack up some stuff and leave home for awhile. Sure it's scary, being on your own, but you'll learn so much and see things you never dreamed you would.
I could go on and on about this, but let's get down to what I actually did in the last couple days of my trip.
I was actually fortunate to be able to go to Nottingham for 2 days and reunite with Yi-Han, me friend from Taiwan I made while I was in Scotland. Our time together was short, but I was so happy to be able to see her again. At first when I got off the train, I had no idea where to go and no way to contact Yi-Han. Luckily she found me pretty quickly and we walked together to my hostel. I got settled and put on some makeup and we went back out to the square where Nottingham had set up it's Christmas market. I really wish we had something like this in Saratoga. I went to the Victorian Streetwalk last night, which for some reason is always a disappointment to me. It's disorganized and I never know what people are waiting in line for.
Anyway, this was probably the most adorable market I'd ever seen. There were all these fake log cabins set up covered in lights and candy canes. There were carnaval games as well as a merry-go round and an ice skating rink. There was so much food…too much food. There were stalls selling roast pork, hot turkey sandwiches, steak and ale stew (I had that the next day :P) donuts, crêpes, you name it…there was even a churro stand. Yi-Han got a venison burger and I got a hot turkey sandwich. We walked around looking at everything while we ate. We also got cadbury hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream. I went back to the hostel at around 9, but Yi-Han invited me out the next night for her friend's birthday. I'll talk about that in a second. Yi-Han made this adorable collage from the market (these is her picture, hope she doesn't mind me borrowing it!)
These are mine.
The next day I finished up some Christmas shopping for my family and did a tour of these caves underneath Nottingham. They're manmade and not that interesting, but there is a medievel tannery down there that was pretty interesting. After that I went to Nottingham Castle and went in to look at the galleries. After that I went back to the Christmas market and ate some freshly made donuts and steak and ale stew wiTh duck fat potatoes. I was pretty much full for the rest of the day.
That night I took the bus to meet Yi-Han and we met her friends at a pizza place. We walked to her friend's flat for a house party and then went out to a club. I went out all night without losing anything! I was so proud. Yi-Han and I got separated that night though because she had to go back to her place and get her ID. I checked in with her later that night to make sure she was okay, and even though we didn't get to formally say goodbye, I was still so happy to see her! I can't wait to see you in Taipei, Yi-Han! I miss you already!
The next day I left Nottingham for London. I arrived at King's Cross and took the subway to Farringdon where Ji Won was waiting for me! I stayed in her dorm with her for two nights. The first night I went to a pizza party with her and some friends. Altogether, we at two large pizzas, one medium, jalapeno poppers, and cheese sticks. After that Ji Won and I watched Harry Potter together. The next day Ji Won had class so I was left to my own devices. I decided to walk to the Chinatown and eat lunch there. The London Chinatown is huge! It's also awesome, and there are tons of dim sum restaurants. I went into a bakery there and bought this cake !
How can you resist this, seriously?
It was also really hard to choose a restaurant for dim sum, because there were so many! The one I was at definitely didn't disappoint. They give you a menu and a sheet with each item and you check off how much of each thing you want. They brought me the plates one by one, so I didn't take a photo of it all together. They do give you a whole pot of Chinese tea, too! I had prawn dumplings, fried seafood dumplings, and beef ones that slightly resembled meatballs. Each one was delicious, I really want to find a dim sum restaurant in Albany that I can go to.
After that I walked through Covent Garden which was nearby. They decorated it so well for Christmas! There were huge ornaments hanging from the ceiling and a big tree outside. There was even a topiary shaped like a reindeer.
I had a couple of hours to kill before I met Ji Won at Notting Hill Gate, so I decided to walk there. The walk was about 4 miles, and it took me through Hyde Park, which is a really, really big park…I think it might be two miles long itself. There was a huge Christmas market in the middle that I couldn't get good photos of.
I met Ji Won at a fish and chips restaurant. There was a huge group of people celebrating something, so they were all singing at the top of their lungs and shouting, so Ji Won and I got a little annoyed, but the fish and chips were really good! My phone had died at this point so I didn't take a picture. We went back to her flat and watched another Harry Potter movie.
The next morning I had to switch to new place that I was staying at for my last two days. As most of you know, I went to an Infinite concert on my last night in Europe, and the place I was staying was a lot closer to the venue. The venue was in Hammersmith, so I had to take the Hammersmith line to the end, which took abtou an hour. After that I had to walk almost a mile to the apartment where I was staying. On the way, the wheels on my suitcase broke, so I had to drag it on the sidewalk almost the whole way. The map I had was also wrong, so I went to the wrong apartment. Eventually I made it, changed clothes, and went back out to meet Ji Won at the National Gallery. Because the subway took so long and I had to change trains a couple times, I was late meeting her. I did find her eventually, and we spent about 2 and a half hours in the gallery. The gallery itself was free to go in, and they had a really amazing collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art, which is what I cared most about. After we hit the Byzantine artwork, we decided to leave. We did see Jan Van Eyck's famous Arnolfini painting, which I have always wanted to see.
After that we walked to Covent Garden and ate at a place called Shake Shack Burger. It was a little expensive but the burgers, fries, and milkshakes were so good! I got a burger with cheese, bacon, and red peppers, and a peanut butter milkshake. Ji Won got the same with a chocolate and vanilla shake, and we shared fries. The peanut butter shake was so delicious, and being in Europe for so long meant I hadn't had that much peanut butter. After that we went to a place called Ben's cookies and got some delicious cookies to take with us.
I didn't get a chance to really say goodbye to Ji Won because we were taking opposite subway trains on the same line that were both about to leave. We hugged each other tight but had to separate quickly. I was sad to not get a chance to tell her how much I'll miss her. I can't wait to see you in Korea!!!!
The next day was a pretty big day for me. It was my last full day in Europe and the day of the Infinite concert. I had to pick up my ticket at 4 pm for the box office, so I decided to take my time getting ready and walking to the venue. I got to Hammersmith station at around 1 in the afternoon. The venue was right outside the station, and even at 1 pm people were starting to queue in front of the venue. I ran to get some food and then got a place in line. Luckily, I met a really cool girl from South Korea who loved Infinite as much, if not more, as I did. We hit it off immediately, and I was so happy to have her company while waiting the 7 hours to get in. (Hi Mina!!) When I went to pick up my ticket, I met a couple other girls in the box office line who ended up waiting in line with us for the rest of the time. Unfortunately we all got separated when we got inside. I took some pictures while waiting outside. Fortunately it wasn't too cold or raining.
I'm so glad I got in line when I did, because I ended up really close to the stage. At the beginning there was a huge screen playing all of their music videos and a couple of other Woolim artists'. Here's a couple if you're curious about Infinite..
My two favorite members are the two guys in the last video…but I'll stop bombarding you with videos. My only complaint about the arrangement of the venue was that the stage was pretty much level with the crowd, and it would have been a lot easier to see if they had been raised up slightly. Anyway, I was so close to them that I could see the sweat dripping off their bodies, and their English was absolutely adorable. They sang a total of 3 hours, and at the end we sang happy birthday to Dongwoo. The members of the group actually got really emotional at the end, and I'm pretty sure they and most of the crowd were crying. Even if you don't like K pop, there's no denying that they put their heart and souls into everything they do, and that they really appreciate the love they get from their fans. One thing that was also not so cool was that as soon as Infinite came onstage, people were pushing each other. It wasn't even a mass push to the front. I was getting pushed sideways, backwards, all over the place. People were fainting from the pressure of being squished by other people. Infinite actually had to ask us to calm down after only two songs. I think they felt bad for people getting hurt. A girl right next to me collapsed. People were being lifted out of the audience in tears. Fangirls are intense. I also almost wrestled a girl for a towel one of the members threw into the audience…I never said I wasn't a crazed fangirl.
The only picture of Myungsoo I got was blurry…
They were all so cute, I couldn't handle it at all. Seeing them in real life was so surreal for me. Seeing K pop groups unless you're in Korea seems like such an unattainable goal to me because they almost never tour in America. More groups are starting to come. Infinite actually did do a concert in New York City, but I was on my trip during it. It's really funny to me that I had to go to Europe to be able to see K pop. I wanted to upload some videos too but they wouldn't work on here. :( Oh well, I'm sure everyone has seen them on my facebook already anyway, so it's no big deal.
They didn't have any merchandise for sale at the actual concert, but there were people outside selling lanyards and tee shirts. I bought two of each, one for my sister and one for me. I didn't sleep that night because I had to be up for a cab at 5 am. I carried my suitcase down the stairs at about 4:45 and was waiting outside for the taxi. A guy drove up in his van and asked me if I needed a ride. Nope, creepy van guy, no I did not. The taxi picked me up, and I got to the airport about a half hour later. I had my boarding pass, baggage checked, and had gone through security all before 7:30. I was pretty hungry, so I ate an english breakfast and then took a nap before I got on my plane. My flight home was 6 hours and 50 minutes, and I slept for maybe 2 hours of it. Getting through immigration and customs was easy, and I started to get really anxious to see my mom and dad. When I came through to the arrivals hall, I saw my mom and burst into tears. My dad had gone to park the car and when I saw him at the other end of the hall, I ran to him and cried a lot.
This whole trip has been such an amazing experience to me. I've been home almost two weeks now, and looking back on it, I can't believe I did this. My life may have calmed down a lot, but I was really ready to come home. Now, I'll go back to school and work hard to save up money. In 2015, I will study abroad in Korea. This is just the beginning for me. I have a lot of adventures ahead to share with you!
Okay, so this is a little silly because I'm home and I still have blogging to do, but a lot of really exciting things happened in my last couple days! I've got one more entry after this one, and then I'm debating whether or not I should stop blogging until Korea (about a year from now) or blog every once in awhile about my life here in America. It would probably be less frequent, but I do do some interesting things from time to time :P. Anyway, let me know what you think about it!
So, let's talk about Liverpool~
The hostel I stayed in was really comfortable and clean, but when I checked in the guy gave me a pair of earplugs. I really wish I hadn't scoffed and said, "I don't want these!" and threw them away in my room, because the hostel itself was right above a very loud club. It was really only bumpin' on the weekend though, so it wasn't too much of a big deal. That morning though, there must have been a tour group leaving early because there was a sort of mass exodus from my room at 5 am. I thought something was going on because everyone was packing and leaving. Needless to say, I didn't sleep so well that night.
In the morning I ate breakfast in the hostel and walked about 15 minutes to Albert Dock. Albert Dock is right on the Mersey river and has a bunch of restaurants and museums. The dock itself is a historical site. I'm not sure how many of you know this, but Liverpool is the birthplace of the Beatles, so of course it's a Beatles Party everywhere and everyday in Liverpool. At the dock, they had a yellow submarine houseboat that you can rent. They also had a small Titanic (which is a little morbid if you ask me but) I would have liked to see inside them!
I went on a Beatles location tour called (can you guess?) Magical Mystery Tours. The guide and driver had such good senses of humor (maybe it's a Liverpudlian thing) We went to George, John, and Paul's childhood homes. We didn't go inside them, I took a tour of John and Paul's later in the trip. We went to Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, and the tour ended at the Cavern Club.
This is Paul's house.
For those of you who don't know, Strawberry Fields isn't a literal field of berries. It's a Salvation Army children's home. John used to climb a tree over the fence in his backyard and play on the hospital's property. He was always chased away by the guards and he would reply with "You can't hang us for it!" Does that sound familiar to anybody?
It was so interesting driving up Penny Lane. Paul wrote the song about the bus ride he took everyday to school in the center of the city. The barber shop, the bank, all the locations and people he sings about were real.
The tour ended at the Cavern Club, which as most people know, is not the original club. It was demolished to build some sort of…other...structure…on top, but it ended up just being a car park. So they rebuilt the club, and there's a constant debate on whether or not it's in the exact same location. The tour people say it is, but that the front door isn't in the same place. Personally, I don't have time to worry about stupid things like that, but they had done a really good job making the inside look like it originally had. The ticket for the tour allowed me to come back into the club free for the rest of the day, so I did, but I'll write about that in a second.
My mom told me about a Korean/Chinese restaurant she found online, and since I love Korean food and want to eat it when any opportunity comes along, I went there for a late lunch/early dinner. The restaurant was called Seoul Love, which made me laugh a little bit. I walked to Bold Street which is right in the heart of the Chinatown, and was a little worried at first because I couldn't find the restaurant where my map said it would be. I did find it, don't worry. Since it was a weird time of the day, I was the only person in the restaurant, but I ordered a Kimchi pancake and ddeokbokki as well as some Korean green tea. It was so yummy and I decided that ddeokbokki is one of my favorite Korean foods. It's made from soft rice cakes, fish cakes, and vegetables and red chilli sauce. Yum!
That night I went back to the Cavern Club to hear Beatles tribute groups. I enjoyed it a lot, and it was really funny to see 40+ men and women jamming like crazy to the music they grew up with. Hey, it's never too late to rock out to your favorite tunes. You should see me in the car…
The Anglican cathedral in Liverpool is one of the largest in Europe. I decided to walk to it the next day and maybe go up inside the tower. I walked to it and around inside, but decided against going up the tower because I didn't want to pay 5 pounds. This church is so unecessarily enormous..but there was a cemetery at the bottom that was actually quite beautiful. My shoes got really muddy, though.
I saw snow for the first time since Switzerland!
After that I wanted to explore the Chinatown more. The Chinatown in Liverpool is one of, if not, the oldest in Europe and also has the biggest archway.
There were so many restaurants on this street it was hard to choose where to go. I settled on a bubble tea café called Café de Pearl. They also had a huge food menu and were really reasonably priced. I had a coconut bubble tea and an enormous bowl of ramen with meat and seafood, and it was all less than 10 GBP.
You better believe I ate everything in that bowl.
I walked around a little bit more after that and saw a cool bookstore. I only took a picture of the front but didn't go inside.
I don't think I did too much that night because I don't really remember anything important to talk about. The next day I bought a new purse because my backpack's straps broke. One thing I'm really going to miss from the UK is Primark. It's such a great store but they don't have an online store that ships to America. Sigh…I also got this sweet pair of shoes that I totally didn't need. I got my sister a Christmas gift but I can't talk about that on here. :x
I ate lunch in the hostel and went back out to the International Museum of Slavery on Albert Dock. It was free admission, and small enough where I wasn't extremely overwhelmed by what was inside. They talked a lot about Liverpool's own part in the slave trade and had a lot of personal accounts from slaves. They also had an exhibit on inspirational black people from around the world and throughout history, as well as a temporary exhibit on African Dance.
Here's Liverpool at night~
I ate in the hostel to save money again, and probably spent that night doing something unimportant like sitting on Tumblr.
The next day I took a tour inside of John and Paul's homes. In John's house, they had a lot of the original doors, bookshelves, and fireplaces as well as tons of personal photographs. They also had the all of the pages of his passport on display. The apple tree in the backyard is the same one from when John lived there, so the guide had taken an apple and cut up pieces to share with us. That was pretty adorable. You couldn't take photos inside, so I took one on the outside and of the whole house.
This plaque was in a really awkward spot and was thus difficut to take a photo of.
Paul's house was about 5 minutes away by bus, and was the last house he lived in in Liverpool. Because the McCartney's were more working class, they had taken the ends of carpet rolls at the store and sewn them together in order to make a floor rug. There was a piano in the room that the whole family would crowd around and sing. Paul's brother's photographs were framed all over the house, and there was a famous picture of Paul and John writing Love Me Do. Tons of famous songs were written in this house, including When I'm Sixty Four, which Paul had written for his dad. Paul's mother died of cancer a couple months after they had moved in, which is one of the reasons why Paul hasn't been inside the house since he lived there.
This tour was really amazing, I'm so glad I had he chance to take it. Even though it was kind of expensive, it was almost a once in a lifetime opportunity because chances are I probably won't come to Liverpool again. After that I was craving some fish and chips and walked to this pub called the Monro. They had a two course deal for 12 pounds (which was a really good deal!) I had smoked salmon on toast and fish and chips. Their wifi didn't work so I was awkwardly sitting there the whole time, but it was really cold outside so she put me at a table right near the fireplace, which was nice.
The area I was walking around in had some interesting graffiti and artistic…installations…
Am I in War of the Worlds???
That night I was craving sweet foods like nobody's business, so I walked back to Bold Street and went to a teahouse and had some chocolate cake. I also went to a Chinese bakery and bought a slice of cake to take back to the hostel. I also stopped again at Café de Pearl for a strawberry bubble tea. It probably wasn't a good idea to drink cold bubble tea because my hands were already frozen, but I have no regrets.
This had me laughing so hard.
The cake I got at the bakery was smushed by the time I got back so I didn't take a picture of it. On my last day in Liverpool I went to the Beatles Story museum. I was walking up to the entrance, and a guy with a huge news camera asked me if I wanted to be on television. I shrugged and asked what I needed to do. He told me I had to walk down the stairs to the entrante, turn around, walk up the stairs, and walk away. Why not? So I did it, but I think it's really obvious I'm trying to not look at the camera…anyway, I wonder if anyone saw me on TV! The museum itself had a lot of interesting information about the Beatles, and it was also a realy fun and interactive exhibit. They had a giant yellow submarine you could walk inside, as well as a replica of the Cavern Club and Brian Epstein's record store. They also had the original drumset from the Quarrymen and a couple of the Beatles' suits. They had tons of interesting memorabilia, including a pair of Beatles stockings. I also met a really nice woman from Boston who was living in Manchester. She gave me her card and told me if I was ever back in the UK I could stay with her. What a nice person!
After that I walked more on the docks.
For dinner I went back to the Chinatown again…okay I know I am obsessed with Asian food but the restaurants were all so reasonably priced. I went to a noodle shop and had spicy Korean pork…but I don't know what was so Korean about it? It looked more like typical Chinese food to me, but it was still delicious.
On the main shopping street there was a sort of Christmas market and there was a candy shop, so I bought a bunch of candy.
That night I met a really awesome woman from Scotland and we stayed up talking for a really long time. I'm sad I met her at the very end of my trip because I had to say goodbye to her the next day. If I ever get back to Scotland I really hope to see her again! I walked to Lime Street station the next morning and got on the train to Nottingham.