From London to Lisbon

It’s official, I’ve caught the travel bug again.  Good thing is that it’s basically become a plague and all of my friends are always 100% down to escape off to a random city for the weekend.

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this.

London Baby

Three weekends ago we took a girls trip to London.  Yes, I know I’ve already been there but you can never get enough of the amazing food, great night life, and ENGLISH.

London was amazing for three reason:

  1. Fun friends we met at our hostel
  2. All the asian food I was able to consume in such a short time
  3. Cereal Cafe

The beginning of our London trip was pretty devastating and hectic when Michelle and I FINALLY arrived at our hostel after about an hour of commuting from London Gatwick Airport to the King’s Cross Area.  Even though we booked our beds together we were split up in different rooms.  Michelle was stuck with a creepo in her room and I bunked with a very nice but loud Italian family.  This stuff happens, I mean we were in London!

Later Friday night, Michelle and I ventured down to the hostel bar in our basement and met some new friends!  It actually felt so nice to just sit down and relax after a very busy day of traveling.

Next morning, we woke up early, indulged in some “lovely” hostel breakfast (gross but free), and headed out into the city to meet our friends, Kiana and Kira, at the Buckingham Palace.  We had a date with the Queen.

After a few celeb sitings of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the London Bridge, us girls had to do some shopping!  We took the tube to Oxford Street and Soho.  This is not an exaggeration, we spent literally three hours in a Top Shop with fives floors.  We grabbed some incredible Indian food in Soho then basically ran over to London Bridge again to catch a Shakespeare play.

Shakespeare…? That sounds boring.  Omg except it really wasn’t.  This rendition of the Shakespeare play The Taming of the Shrew was performed in the traditional English but given a small modern twist.  For example the actors dressed fairly “old-fashioned” and traditional, but they performed modern songs to help move the play along and aid in the comedy.  I read this play back in high school and I kind of forgot how hilarious it is once performed on stage.  We stood for 90 minutes in an outside theater.  I was really cold and kind of raining, but I needed this little slice of culture.

Have you heard of these “new” things most people refer to as Bubble Waffles?  I know that’s not exactly what they are called but google tells me they’re Egg Waffles (google it).  Anyway, they are basically waffles with puffed out pockets of warm, airy, goodness.  Slap some Nutella and Sugar (or Salmon and Cream Cheese in my case) on there and you have some of the most peculiar but really tasty snacks in London.

Sunday was another great day to explore!  After some more hostel breakfast we met up at the National Gallery to gaze upon all the masterpieces; then off to do some more sight-seeing/shopping in Camden Town.  I am moving to Camden Town ASAP rocky simply because of how wild it is.  There is an ENTIRE SQUARE OF FOOD VENDORS.  I actually think it’s secretly the best place on earth.  Michelle and I spent a good hour just walking around all the food, taking in all the sights and smells, staring at Donut carts for way too long.  We also indulged in some bomb fish and chips from Hook in Camden (get the classic fish and chips!).

If you know anything about me, you know that I have a very large obsession with carbohydrates.  If it’s simple, I love it.  You name it, pasta, pizza, bread, donuts, chips, cereal, anything.  Carbs are definitely my favorite food group.  My favorite form of carbs, however, is any form of bagel.  My bagel of choice (for future reference) is an everything bagel, toasted, with light cream cheese ( I don’t know, maybe you’ll need a favor from me someday, this information is useful).  But in London, it’s rumored that they have Rainbow Bagels! I NEEDED one.  Michelle was a gem and walked through the rain with me from Camden town to the Brick Lane area.  This took around an hour to get from point A to point B but I just knew it would be worth it!  We found the place where I thought they’d serve rainbow bagels but I was unsuccessful.  However, favorite carb #2 was readily available at the Cereal Killer Cafe.  This place is a cereal lover’s dream.  If you click on the link you can catch a glimpse of the wonderland I walked into as I entered that cafe.  The walls were entirely lined with different brands of cereal.  They had around eleven different choices of milk (I took white chocolate milk and OMG), and even Poptart milkshakes.

This is one of the “Cereal Cocktails”.  Krave cereal with Nutella and yummy crunchy chocolate nibs, and White Chocolate milk.

So after that second-lunch we thought it was the perfect time to head back to our hostel for a power nap.  It was great because that night Michelle and I were given our own private room after the original mix up (props to Clink78 hostel).  We ran across the street for some amazing Thai food before we headed out to meet our friends.

Okay so here’s the thing, life over here in the EU is pretty crazy compared to my usual American lifestyles but I have never ever gone on a pub crawl on a Sunday night.  Until London.

Monday morning Michelle and I had about five hours from the time we woke up to the time we had to be at the airport.  Priority one, Full English Breakfast.  Now being the veggie lover I am, I didn’t partake in this huge meal filled with baked beans and four types of different sausages, ham, or bacon.  But it looked really good and my Eggs Benny with salmon didn’t disappoint either.

By the time we were finished with lunch we had around three hours until we absolutely had to be at the airport, plenty of time, right?  WRONG!  No one is ever in a hurry in London.  Long story short, after a long line for the tube, an extremely delayed Gatwick Express, and probably the most INEFFICIENT security system on our planet, Michelle and I were literally sprinting through the London Gatwick airport in order to make it to our gate before it closed.  Good thing is there was crappy weather in Nantes so our plane was delayed an hour.  So much for all that unwanted cardio.

At the end of the day, I had an amazing time in London.  I’m so glad I was able to return to such an amazing city.  Even with the small road bumps we hate from time to time, it was such a great trip filled with friends, food, and British accents.  Absolutely nothing to complain about.

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And then there was Lisbon

I’ve never been to Portugal before and I honestly think I pick the absolute BEST city to start in.  Not only was Lisbon filled with amazing culture, graffiti, and food.  It had a great night life and international feel.

After we finally arrived in the city and checked into our hostel, we set out for our first meal in the city.  We found a huge market filled with probably twenty different vendors.  If you wanted typical Portuguese food I’m sure they had it.  But I wanted some sushi!  The best thing about this market place was all the different smells and overheard conversations.  We turned in a bit early because we were due for a walking tour of the city (if you’re ever in Lisbon or Madrid, check out the Wild Walkers walking tours).

I wish I would have worn my Fitbit for this walking tour because we definitely trekked around the entire city of Lisbon!  Picture walking uphill for three hours but with really beautiful scenery, that was out walking tour.  Our tour guide was extremely knowledgable of the city and its history.  He provided us with guidance against tourist traps (Hint: when in Lisbon, don’t waste your money on the huge elevator, there’s a secret passage way that can get you to the top for free!).  He told us to only go into the Mom and Pop joints for the best Portuguese food.  He even suggested the best place for the famous pastry of Lisbon, it’s actually in Belem about a fifteen minute train ride away.

After the walking toward we did some exploring of our own and found a place to sit down an relax for dinner.  Now, I’m not really a picky person when it comes to food.  I love to try anything and everything, even if it’s not super vegetarian.  But when an entire grilled fish is placed in front of me, I do get a bit squeamish.  I mean, I could still see its eyeball.  Nevertheless, she persisted.  I tried this new culinary concoction and was pleasantly surprised.  This dish was very salty and very bony, but still extremely fresh. Good thing we had order a pitcher of red sangria to wash everything down.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of walking around the city and taking plenty of pictures.  Michelle was a dear and made reservations for us at like six different tapas restaurants so we definitely knew what was in store for dinner.  However, the desk clerks at our hostel gave us another recommendation.   We ended up going to a tapas bar called Wine Not.  It was a very relaxed atmosphere with amazing tapas.  After dinner we walked around the city some more and then returned back to our hostel to meet some of our fellow travelers.  Second pub crawl of this semester occurred in Lisbon later that night.

Sunday was beach day!  We first took the train from Lisbon to Belem to check out those AMAZING PASTRIES and then another ride over to the small area of Carcavelos.  This city was right on the beach and everyone was outside running around or surfing.  Even though it was definitely to surfing weather, it seems as if everyone joined in.  My favorite part of this beachy area was the copious amounts of dogs.

After returning back to our hostel from the beach, we were all really worn out and sunburnt.  I think my nose is still a little red.  Good thing for us is that our Hostel hosts free sangria and “Mama’s Soup” nights on Sundays so we were definitely in for a treat.  The traditional Portuguese soup that was given to us was any vegetarian’s dream.  I believe it was cauliflower and potato based with loads of yummy veggies like Kale.  I was extremely happy because it really is hard to eat healthy while traveling.  We went to bed pretty early on Sunday night after an insane weekend.  We also had a 7 am flight the next morning.

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Both weekend excursions were so worth it for different ways.  I forgot how much I loved the hustle and bustle of London.  I thought I fell in love with French bread, then I tried the rolls from Portugal.  I love finding different hidden gems in international cities.

These past two weekends, however have been quite uneventful in terms of “crazy study-abroad stories”.  The girls and I will be embarking to Geneva, Switzerland next weekend, I think my Parisian bestie, Ana, is coming to visit me in Nantes, and then the weekend after that starts SPRING BREAK 2017!

Thanks for reading!

Gros Bisous,

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