Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines...

Babe Ruth once said, "Paris ain't much of a town."

Well Babe, I'm not sure if you were being sarcastic but I certainly disagree. Paris stole my heart.

This past weekend I flew to the city of lights with three of my friends, Megan, Anna and Matt. We took off from Heathrow super early on Friday morning and got back late Monday night. We did a lot in those four days and I can't possibly sum it all up and describe how gorgeous the city is in one blog post. I suppose I'll break it down and write about the highlights of each day.

Friday, February 21

The Notre-Dame Cathedral was the first sight I saw in Paris!

4:45AM: Woke up (ouch).
6AM: Met the others at the Green Park tube station to head to Heathrow on the Piccadilly line.
8:20AM: Took off for Paris!
10:50AM: Landed safely after enjoying a smooth flight and some complimentary croissants.

I'm not really sure what time we left the airport or arrived at Notre-Dame, but we took a train right from the airport and I think it took around 45 minutes.

The lock bridge was really pretty!
As we exited the metro and ascended towards the exit, the light shone brightly in our eyes. I emerged into the plaza right in front of Notre-Dame, and what I saw in front of me was breathtaking. The cathedral was stunning and magnificent and when paired with the bright blue sky, warm sun and chirping birds it felt like something out of a storybook. We walked around the inside of the cathedral and it was just as beautiful on the inside as the outside. 

After we left Notre-Dame, we walked outside along the river and found a lock bridge. Lovers and friends place locks on the bridge and throw the keys into the river to symbolize their love and commitment. It was amazing to see all of the old and new locks. Some were colorful and shiny, while others were rusted and old. Some of them had messages on them and many had names and dates written in Sharpie across their surfaces.

We roamed the streets and peered into shop windows filled with cheese, bread, pastries and macaroons. We passed an accordion player and followed behind a couple holding hands as they strolled along the waterfront. Vespas and motorcycles lined the sidewalks and the smell of the fresh air mixed with baked goods.

The Shakespeare and Company book store was so cute!
Lunch was fantastic. I can't recall the name of the place we ate at but it was near Notre-Dame and I ordered chicken, salad, and potatoes with a rosé wine. I hadn't had such a good meal since arriving in Europe and it was the perfect little restaurant to relax in for an hour or so.

After lunch we stopped by the famous Shakespeare and Company book store. It was really quaint and charming. The shelves were piled with books and the rooms were really small and narrow. It was hard to navigate them with my huge backpack on. I didn't make it upstairs but Anna and Matt said that a cat was napping in an arm chair in one of the rooms. I was so tempted to buy the French version of The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) but alas I am a broke college student.

4:30/5PM: Checked in at Oops! Hostel.
First impression: Besides the hilarious name, it was in a great area for a hostel to be located in. It was surrounded by shops and very close to a few metro stations. The exterior and interior of the hostel were modern and clean. Our room had two bunk beds and a private bathroom. It was more like a hotel than a hostel, but our beds were not all that comfortable. That didn't matter too much at the end of each day. We were exhausted!

After a quick nap we headed out to see the Louvre Museum. When we arrived it was night time and the entire place was glowing. I couldn't believe how gorgeous it was from the outside. The fountains were going and the stars were out. On top of the beauty of the Louvre's structure itself, it houses the Mona Lisa and other great artwork. We got in line and entered really quickly. We got in for free since we're students and we headed straight for the Mona Lisa. Most people wait hours in line to see it and we breezed right through until we stumbled upon the famous painting. It's really small in person and it felt completely surreal to see it. There was a small crowd gathered in front of it.

Walking through the Louvre was the perfect way to spend our first night. The weather had been perfect and the sights we saw during the day invited us to fall deeply in love with France from the moment we stepped foot in that plaza near Notre-Dame.

Saturday, February 22

8:30AM: Woke up.
9:00AM: Complimentary breakfast at the hostel (baguettes, croissants, juice, cereal, coffee, etc.)
9:30AM: Back to the room to get ready for the day.
The Arc de Triomphe is right at the end of the Champs-Élysées.

Once we were all dressed and groomed we headed out to the Musée d'Orsay. The rainy weather didn't make me feel any less elated to be in Paris because it still looked beautiful through the clouds.

of the Musée d'Orsay: Seeing Monet and van Gogh's paintings in person, discovering my love for Édouard Manet's paintings, the huge clock in the cafe upstairs and getting in for free.

Worst part: Going through the quick security check entering the museum and having to take off my camera which was tangled up with my scarf. I pulled it off so hastily that it hit my forehead so hard. It's been four days and it's still really tender. Go me.

After the museum, we walked across another lock bridge where we saw medics taking a man with a bloody hand away. I wonder if he got his hand caught in a lock...

We wandered around and eventually stumbled on a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. We stopped for crepes right near a bridge overlooking the tower and I ordered a chocolate one. It was so yummy! The weather had improved a lot as well so it was a perfect little spot to stand and enjoy the views and the food.

We walked down the Champs-Élysées and saw so many interesting things! I noticed how elaborate the stores and hotels were, including Abercrombie and Fitch, which was guarded by two tall iron and gold fences and two very attractive models. We passed Tiffany's and many other high end stores like Dior. There were street performers dancing with kids and we stopped to watch them for a little while.

At the end of the Champs-Élysées sits the Arc de Triomphe. We took pictures and marveled at it's beauty and I couldn't help but wonder what it looked like once upon a time when there were little to no cars and less stores nearby. They were doing some work on the top of it so the scaffolding made it in to our photos. I didn't mind though. It was just really surreal to be there. 

The Crepe cart we went to had a great view.
We walked under the road through the underpass and emerged on the other side of the Arc. We saw a man and a group of his friends who were about to help him propose to someone, but after waiting around for about ten minutes we gave up and mentally wished him the best in his endeavor.

After that we walked. And walked. And walked.

We finally arrived at the Eiffel Tower and my feet felt a little like they were going to fall off.

Seeing one of the most famous structures in the entire world rejuvenated us a bit though and I will admit, it's worth all of the hype it gets. Did you know that it was built as the entrance to the World's Fair in 1889? It's the tallest structure in Paris and over 6.98 million people climbed to the top in 2011. That's a whole lot of people. Although I didn't climb to the top, I still felt amazed by the tower and all of the people who come to see it every day.

We took a ton of pictures and I got some French fries at a concession stand nearby. They were delicious and the perfect treat to have while in France! The whole area smelled like fair food and kids were walking around with pink cotton candy the size of my head. There were a ton of street vendors with big rings filled with mini Eiffel Towers. They jingle them in your face and there are so many of them all over. I couldn't help but wonder how much money they make and what kind of lives they live on that income. I don't know if I feel sorry for them or if I'm just amazed at their persistence and free-as-a-bird lifestyles.

5PM: Dinner at the hostel (pasta, bread, cheese, crackers, wine, grapes)

After dinner we went up to our room and played games. It was so much fun getting to know Anna, Megan and Matt better and we laughed so much that my head was pounding from the earlier blow to it from my camera.

Sunday, February 23

Montmartre was the best part of my weekend in Paris, without a doubt!

9:30AM: Woke up, got ready, ate breakfast (baguettes that were leftover from the complementary breakfast earlier that morning and apples we had purchased at the grocery store).

These little Disney-inspired drawings were all over.
We headed straight to Montmartre which is literally the most gorgeous place I have ever visited. I will admit, the stairs to the top were intimidating to me. I felt a little lightheaded and I was really sore from the days before so I had to take my time hiking up towards the top. When I reached it I grabbed a bottle of water and walked towards the view. It was so stunning to see all of Paris under such a blue sky. The breeze felt good and the sun provided a good, warm balance to the chill in the air. People were lounging on the stairs that led up to the Basilique du Sacré Cœur and many people were dressed in light jackets and sunglasses. This made me crave the spring more than ever!

We walked around inside of the
Basilique du Sacré Cœur and it was really nice to be able to light a candle in memory of people who I have lost. I thought of Grampy, Peggy, Uncle Michael, and Mrs. G especially and I wished they could have seen the beautiful places that I was seeing along with me.

When we left the church, we roamed around the winding, cobblestone roads through a small market area filled with tourists. We heard a great group of musicians and Megan stopped to play with some music boxes she found. When we left the area of shops, we kept walking down the cobblestone roads past random cafes and cute houses. The view was still amazing as we caught glimpses of it through the houses. There were less tourists on each street so it was a really peaceful, Sunday morning stroll. The air smelled like wood burning fires with hints of freshly baked bread. The birds were chirping and everything we saw had an element of beauty and age that I have never experienced before in my life. Being in Europe has given me the opportunity to see history in a way that I have never seen it before and France was definitely even more ancient and picturesque-feeling than London has been.

We finally reached the bottom of the hill after a nice walk and we headed away from Montmartre to find the Moulin Rouge. On our way we stopped in the
Cimetière de Montmartre and I wandered through ancient and more recent graves covered in mold and flowers. It was so interesting to photograph there and my video actually stopped recording at one point unexpectedly. I'm pretty skeptical but I didn't feel uncomfortable at all. It was a really nice day so it was almost strange to think there were real graves surrounding me.

We found the Moulin Rouge which had a large queue in front of it and we almost walked right by it. It's crammed between other theatres and really easy to miss if you're focused on where you're walking. I wasn't overly impressed by it since I haven't seen the movie, but Anna loves it and highly recommends it. I definitely need to watch it as soon as we get back from Ireland this weekend.

We stopped for lunch in a nice cafe and I ordered a hamburger and french fries. It came with a little salad and I also had a Coke. It was so good! Yeah, it wasn't really French or daring to order a hamburger, but it was honestly one of the best things I've tasted abroad. I also tried some of Anna's French Onion soup which was really good as well.

We stopped at Paul and bought some macaroons and it was my first time trying them. I got a caramel one and it was to die for. I can't believe I got to try my first one in Paris! I'm definitely a fan.

We decided it would be fun to see the Eiffel Tower at night so we went to a cafe nearby and ordered some hot drinks and waited until it got dark. My hot chocolate came with homemade chantilly (cream) and when I put it in it melted and my cup overflowed. I didn't even notice until Matt was filming it!

We arrived at the Eiffel Tower around 6:45PM and it was that wonderful time right after twilight when the sky isn't exactly black yet but not light either. The tower was lit up and glowed a warm, gold color. We laughed and took pictures and waited for 7PM to see if it would glitter like they said it's supposed to every hour for five or ten minutes. When it finally did I gasped because there is really no way to prepare yourself for how beautiful it is. I mean, it's really just a huge structure lighting up and it might not sound as amazing as I'm making it out to be, but let me tell you- it is. If I were to recommend seeing anything I've seen in my life to you all it would be Paris in general and the Eiffel Tower when it glitters on a clear, beautiful night. I felt so blessed to be able to see it again on such a perfect day and I will honestly never forget the feeling in my stomach the moment I saw the lights begin to sparkle.

8PM: Snacks and wine at the hostel and more getting to know each other.

We went to bed by 12:30AM/1AM.

^*This was my favorite day of the trip.

Monday, February 24

Shadows from left to right: Megan, me, Anna and Matt. This was right after we checked out of our hostel.

10AM: Woke up, showered, packed, checked out of hostel, ate baguettes and apples in the kitchen.
11:45/12AM: Took metro to an area near Bastille, walked around a bit, strolled along the waterfront and saw all of the houseboats.

We stopped at a pizza place for some wine and we sat outside because it was really nice out. We just needed to rest and set our bags down because we were all really sore and tired. We ordered various little appetizers and a small pizza and split the bill.

We walked from the pizza place to a Fruit Bar near the Bastille metro station. We ordered desserts and I got "Nougatella" which is an ice cream Sundae with Nutella and brownie chunks. It was divine. I was really impressed with all of the food we had while in Paris because it was relatively cheap and really delicious. Especially that sundae.

We said our goodbyes to Paris and descended into the tunnels of the metro. We got on a train to the airport, arrived around 5/6PM, went through security and sat in comfy leather chairs until our flight began to board at 7:55PM.

The flight between Paris and London is so short that by the time the plane fully ascends into the air we are hearing announcements from the pilot that we are beginning our descent. I really like flying. I never feel anxious despite my nervous personality. Anna on the other hand, is extremely nervous about flying. I sat next to her both ways and it was amazing to see her overcome her fear to fly to somewhere new and experience all that we did. She was really terrified but she didn't let it hold her back. I wish I could have helped her cope better but after reading some articles online about helping people with flight anxiety I could only really ramble on in attempts to distract her. The way there was super smooth but when we were going back to London we hit more turbulence and there was a man sitting in front of us with heart problems. He needed medical attention as soon as we landed and it was definitely raising Anna's anxiety as we approached London.

We landed safely, the man seemed to be doing okay, and we got through border control without a hitch. We boarded the tube and headed back to central London. I was so tired that it was hard not to laugh at the fact that the voice-over kept announcing that "this is an all stations train to cockfosters." I know, I'm twenty-one. I shouldn't laugh at that but hey, who needs maturity after 10PM on a Monday after a weekend in Paris?

It was comforting to sit on the Mike-and-Ike patterned, comfy cushions of the tube and listen to the voice-over telling us to "please mind the gap." I like the thought of returning to my own bed and my shower and all of my things on the sixteenth floor of Marylebone Hall. For once London didn't seem like my home away from home, it felt like my home.

I hope I didn't bore you all with my adventures in Paris because next week I'll be blogging about my trip to Ireland this weekend. It's supposed to rain but I'm really looking forward to seeing Dublin and Galway. What I'm not looking forward to is getting up at 3AM on Friday to make my flight out of Stanstead. Oh the sacrifices a girl will make to see the world...

Have a lovely weekend everyone! Until we meet again.
xx Sheila

(P.S: Listen to "Lay Me Down" (preferably acoustic on Youtube) by Sam Smith. I've been playing it on repeat all day. It's a lovely ballad that reminds me of an Adele tune. He's got a lot of soul. Let me know what you think!)

*The title of this blog post references the poem at the beginning of each episode of "Madeline" which was a childhood favorite of mine. I still have a music box that plays the theme song.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My red carpet adventure

I've been sitting here staring at the "write new post" button for a while now and let me tell you, it was tough to click it and start writing this. I'm exhausted. I am so tempted to take a nap until my creative writing class at 2pm, but I suppose it makes more sense to write now instead of late tonight.

The reason I am so tired is because I woke up at 4:15am yesterday morning to get to the O2 Arena in by 6am to meet Anna and Megan. We decided to try to get wristbands for the Brit Awards red carpet. Yes, I know, we sound crazy. We are crazy. But we planned ahead and packed the necessities so we would survive the day without freezing or starving to death. None of us had class to we thought, "why not?"

It was in the 40s when I left to go to the arena so I wore leggings, jeans, two pairs of socks, leg warmers, boots, a cami, a long-sleeved shirt, a huge sweater, my rain jacket, my peacoat, gloves, a hat, and my biggest, warmest scarf. I packed a sandwich, chips, water, ibuprofen, a blanket, playing cards, a notebook, a sharpie, a book, an umbrella, and a few other odds and ends. I was so prepared for the day and I think that's probably the only reason I survived it.

The Baker Street tube station was abandoned when I got there and it was so odd to have the place basically to myself. I'm used to commuters, tourists, students, families and teenagers clogging up the platforms and escalators. I went straight down to the jubilee line and got right on the train that was sitting at the platform. I sat down and relaxed, and the train left about two minutes later. It took about 20 minutes to get to North Greenwich and when I got off the train I saw Anna and Megan get out a few cars back. I yelled to them and we greeted each other and started to ascend the escalators to the exit. When we got outside, we were stopped by a few girls who asked us for our names and wrote numbers 176-178 on our hands. They brought us over to the rest of the people who were already there waiting and sat us down near a huge advertisement screen which was a part of a wall covered in blue, circular lights.

It was dark and cold, but not bitter. I felt pretty warm actually! We opened Megan's travel blanket and covered  ourselves with the blanket I brought. We only had to wait until 9am so we were feeling pretty good about everything.

Time was moving pretty slowly but I enjoyed having the chance to look around the O2's exterior and all of the shops and buildings that surround it. It's located on a peninsula and there are piers and a gondola over the Thames which I saw from afar. The whole place seems futuristic to me and it was really awesome to see it in person. There was also a Costa, Subway, and Tesco nearby so we used those places to get some food and stay warm for a little bit in shifts.

Around 7:30, Anna and I were in Tesco and I saw her answer her phone while she was standing in line to buy a croissant. Her mouth opened and she looked nervous and when she hung up she said that Megan said all of the girls around us started running towards the red carpet area all at once and she didn't know why. Anna threw her croissant back on the shelf and we ran to Megan as fast as we could. She was right, they had all piled up near the building and the red carpet and there were two O2 security guards with megaphones yelling at them to step back. We realized that whatever happened was definitely a false alarm and we decided to sit on the benches outside of Costa and get hot drinks since the makeshift line we had been in didn't really exist anymore.

We watched the girls freaking out and screaming and running back and forth every time they thought there was a new line being formed for wristbands. It was a mixture of sad, amusing, and terrifying to be honest. Most of the girls were between the ages of 12 and 15 and they were mostly there for One Direction. Now, I love them (which I'm sure you all know), but some of the hysterical behavior of those young girls was disturbing to say the least. I wondered where all of their parents were and why they weren't in school on a Wednesday.

Around 8:30am they actually did send those of us waiting for wristbands to an area where they wanted us to form a single file line. After being caught up in a stampede and shoved into bicycle racks, we got in line and we weren't too far back. We could see the front of the line easily but we couldn't see the back at all. It wrapped around the corner and went far back.

Eventually, the security guard called groups of 50 over and moved them to another area to get wristbands. She called numbers 1-50, 50-100, and 100-150. We were dying because we were really close to being called and then some time passed and the security guard returned. She said that they were done calling numbers and that now they'd just go by the order of the line we formed. I was so annoyed! We would have been next and some of the people in line had just gotten there. They let us in and we ended up sitting in the second row of people. We were so nervous because it was only 9:15 and we knew it would be hours until anything happened on the red carpet. We figured by 4pm there would be more excitement but that was still almost 7 hours away. There was a lot of space in the area we were in but there were high fences behind us about twenty or thirty feet. We found out that we could leave and come back as much as we wanted but when the area started to fill up they would close it off and we wouldn't be allowed back in. We took shifts and got food, used the bathroom, and warmed up a little. When we were in the red carpet area I had to keep standing up because the hard pavement was too uncomfortable to sit on for hours at a time.

I tried to read a little but I was too uncomfortable and distracted to get too far in my book. Anna, Megan, and I played some games and we even played a few rounds of MASH using my notebook. That was a real throwback and it was funny trying to remember all of the categories we used to have.

Around 2:30/3pm there were camera guys and a few reporters from CNN walking down our section of the carpet, right after the crew took the plastic off of it. At that point everyone stood up and we never sat down again after that.

I saw a bunch of crew members in blue jumpsuits up on the roof of the O2 at various times and I wondered what they were doing. I watched the red carpet come together and all of the last minute adjustments being made. Men and women in suits and business attire strolled past in large flocks and security guards patrolled the area with their ear buds and long, black coats.

Around 4:15pm, paparazzi and press had arrived. They were in their own little section within our sight, but far from our little red carpet area. There was a circular area for cars which was between us and the press and the main red carpet was just past that. We were near the red carpet for boat arrivals and people who aren't famous.

Don't worry though, this story doesn't end in disappointment.

Shortly after everyone was in place on the carpet, the first famous person arrived. I had no idea who he was, which ended up being a pattern because I know far less British music than I thought. His name was Rizzle Kicks and apparently he's a rapper. He was really nice and came all the way over to our red carpet to sign autographs and take photos with people.

After that, many cars started to arrive and more people I didn't know got out and entered the red carpet for their photo-ops. About an hour or so into it, Ellie Goulding arrived and she looked gorgeous! She turned and waved to us and blew us a kiss. She seemed so sweet. Unfortunately, she didn't come over to us, but it was still so exciting to see her outfit and to watch her pose on the red carpet. That was a pattern with the rest of the big stars we saw, like Bastille, Tinie Tempah, Lily Allen, Alex Turner, Jessie J, Rita Ora and Nick Grimshaw.

We didn't see Katy Perry, Beyonce or Lorde at all, so I'm assuming they went through the back. They didn't make red carpet appearances outside.

Daft Punk walked right by us, or at least I think it was them. It totally could have been two random guys in suits with robot helmets but they did pose for the press and Daft Punk won an award so it was most likely really them.

By 7pm we were getting really tired. I was so sore and I couldn't feel my feet. The girls around us were being really rude and some of the American girls who go to our Uni were arguing with a British girl when she asked them to please move back a little to give her more room. I was sick of hearing their rude comments and I was so close to saying something to them but I held back. They were saying how they should have just watched from home and that they couldn't see a thing. One of them said that she gets impatient at concerts and so one time she spit in some girl's hair. I was disgusted but all of her friends laughed and told her how "bad" she was. They kept complaining about the smell, and they're right- it did smell bad occasionally. It was definitely a sewer or low tide but they kept making dumb fart jokes and I wanted to smack them. My impatience, exhaustion and frustration was growing and cars basically stopped coming around 7pm. We were all getting so mad and every time a van pulled up the girls would scream their heads of thinking it was One Direction. Only publicists and unknown people would get out.

Finally, a security guard near us told some girls that they'd stop arriving at 7:30. It was 7:20ish and One Direction still hadn't arrived. We were so upset and about to give up when a van pulled in. It didn't park where the main red carpet area was. It stopped right in front of us. 

My heart stopped.

Paul Higgins, One Direction's manager, and some of their other well-known crew members exited the van. The screaming began.

Another van pulled up and replaced the van before it.

The doors opened, and the first one out was Harry Styles.

Up to that point I was judging those little preteens so hard because of their crazy behavior and hysterical screaming for no reason, but when I saw them all get out of that van, look right at us and wave, I lost it.

I was so excited and they ran straight towards us. They were let into our area and they started down at one end. I was near the middle so I waited and stood on my tip toes to see who was approaching. Harry walked by us pretty quickly but I got to see him and he was so beautiful and nice to everyone. He stuck his tongue out at us and smiled a lot too, haha! Zayn was sweet as well and took a lot of selfies with the girls right in front of me. Liam did the same thing and I was trying to get my paper and Anna's pen to him but when he turned to take the selfie with that girl I accidentally stabbed him in the head with the pen. I don't think he felt it because it wasn't super hard, but I definitely could have written on his scalp since the pen was open. Anna and I were laughing about that the whole way home. Niall was on crutches because he just had knee surgery, but he was really outgoing and friendly. They all tried to sign as many autographs and take as many pictures as they could, but management was pulling them away pretty quickly. Louis walked right by me and I honestly didn't even realize that it was him because of his hair.

I couldn't believe that they were all right there in front of me. I was less than two feet from them all and even though I don't have any of their autographs and all I have is some blurry pictures of them, it was so amazing to be that close.
Harry Styles was so nice and obviously handsome! :)

It's so weird to see celebrities on the internet, in magazines, on television and in movies for years and years and then finally see them in person. They were all so small and slender. They're really good looking and you could definitely tell that they were happy to be there and see us all.

When they left we all were told that it was over and that it was time to leave so we grabbed our stuff and made our way out through the crowd of crying girls. I'm not even joking, some of them were sobbing.

We checked out the inside of the O2 for a few minutes and then got on the tube. My body felt so strange because I was sore but basically numb from standing out in the cold all day. I feel quite odd today as well. I'm not necessarily sick, but I definitely feel like I could get a bad cold after that. I still feel very disoriented.

I don't think I would ever suggest that to anyone else and I definitely wouldn't have made it without the things I wore and brought, but it was an experience I'll never forget. Now I can say that I've been to a red carpet event and I met some of my favorite people in the world!

I'm going to Paris, France tomorrow morning until late Monday night, so hopefully I can rest up and be 100% ready tomorrow when I have to wake up super early again. If you need to contact me while I'm gone just iMessage me, Facebook message me, use Viber, or email me. I will not have wi-fi the whole time but hopefully I'll be able to keep my phone charged and post when I can.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone, and thanks for reading!

xx Sheila

(P.S: I went to Camden Town and Little Venice recently and I loved both! Definitely great places to visit for a nice stroll and some shopping. Get a crepe at Camden Market! I had Nutella and banana.)

Little Venice

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Harry Potter shenanigans and the late, great Shirley Temple

Me and Rupert!
I can't think of what could be better than sitting in my cozy room on this rainy afternoon in London, drinking some tea, listening to Shirley Temple songs, and writing about what I've been up to lately.

To be honest, I can't even begin to think of what I have been doing in the past week or two. Time is flying by so quickly that everything seems to mush together and it all becomes a big blur. People often ask me how my weekend was and I struggle to remember how I spent it. That leads to a lot of awkward encounters with people who assume I can't remember because I drank too much, hah!

Let's go back to two Saturdays ago.

I had been spending a lot of time in my room and I was itching to get out and do something, so I decided I'd meet up with Anna after she saw MOJO that night. We had talked about it briefly the day before but when I tried to reach her to confirm that day, she wasn't responding. It got pretty late and I figured she might have left her phone in her room, so I decided to go and see if I could find her. Thankfully, I got there right as the play was letting out and I found Anna standing right out front, near the corner. She was really happy to see me and told me that her phone had died earlier in the day. We talked for a bit while the crowd dissipated, and then we heard a few screams near the stage door.

I told Anna to go see if Rupert Grint had come out and I stayed and watched the front door for her. She went over and waved to me to join her. Rupert and Colin Morgan (BBC's Merlin) were signing autographs and Anna was trying to get up to them. I decided to wait back at the front of the theatre because I had already met Rupert and I don't really care for big crowds. Anna walked back over to me and said she had gotten really close but they went back inside. I suggested that we grab drinks at the pub and I could tell she was still anxious to see if Rupert would come back out. We stood in front of the pub for a few minutes while she looked around and a guy in a suit asked, "Who are you waiting for?" I said, "Well, we were kind of waiting to see if Rupert Grint would come out but it's no big deal." He said "I think he's coming in tonight." So Anna and I looked at each other and she asked him who he was. "I'm the manager of this place," he said. We were so surprised because he was so young and antsy. He told us that he had spoken to Rupert's driver and that he was coming into the pub soon.

I decided to grab us drinks so we went inside and I ordered a cider and a red wine for Anna. When I got back over to her she pulled me towards the side door and said that Rupert was outside. The manager came in and saw us and said "He's outside if you want to go say hello."

We walked out and Anna went up to him. I honestly couldn't tell you the whole conversation because it's been two weeks now and I really should have blogged about it sooner so I wouldn't forget.

I'm pretty sure Anna told him that she had been sitting in the way back for the performance but she enjoyed it and he laughed and thanked her. She also asked him what he was up to after the show closed (Feb. 8th) and he said he was taking a break and then filming something. He said that he really loved being in MOJO and that it was a great experience.

I awkwardly said, "It must be a lot after so many performances. You look so tired all of the time... I mean, you must be tired." (Or something like that).
Butterbeer is too good!

He laughed and said that he was pretty exhausted and that he was losing his voice. I noticed that the first time he spoke that night and I was thinking how strange it was that he was basically chain smoking outside of the pub in 45 degree weather after two performances.

Regardless of those bad decisions on his part, he was still adorable and very sweet to us. We both got pictures and I told him that I really hope his voice gets better soon. He thanked me and said, "See you soon!"

I wish!

That was one of the more exciting things that happened since I last blogged. I can't believe that I met him twice. I mean, once is pretty unbelievable but twice just killed me. I feel so lucky! Especially because I met him in a relaxed environment both times. I didn't have to fight a crowd or just snap a quick selfie. I got to talk to him and take my time. It was such a laid-back meeting that I nearly forgot how famous he is. Of course that all set in when I was getting on the tube to come home. I clutched my phone for dear life so that I would safely get it back to my room to post the pictures.

The model of Hogwarts was much bigger than I thought! 

Anyway, I'm sorry for all of the Rupert stories. I'm sure that'll be it for me. The show is over so unless I randomly see him on the streets, I doubt we'll ever cross paths again.

But in other Harry Potter-related news, I went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour with Liz and her friend from Oxford, Ashely this past weekend. It was such a great place and I was in heaven the whole time we were there. It was so hard not to buy everything in the gift store!

My favorite parts were the exterior set pieces (the Knight Bus, Privet Drive, the chess pieces, etc.), trying butterbeer (which was absolutely delicious), the huge model of Hogwarts, and Diagon Alley.

I posted so many photos on Facebook in my "Slug Club" album so be sure to check them out if we're friends. I'll include a few of my favorites on here as well.

I would definitely recommend the tour to anyone who has the chance to go. It was so worth the money. It took about 3 hours, give or take, for us to walk through the whole place and every time I thought that it was coming to an end, there was more to see! It begins with a short movie introduction from Daniel, Rupert, and Emma and then the screen raises and the doors to the Great Hall are behind it. You enter into the Great Hall and then from there it's rooms filled with props, costumes, set pieces, short films to watch, and basically anything else you could think of. They had everything from the Sorcerer's Stone to the Daily Prophet and it was amazing to see the amount of hard work and exquisite detail that went into the making of each film.

The tour ends in the wand room, which is basically a dark room with walls covered in wand boxes to make you feel as if you're in Olivanders. Each box has the name of a cast or crew member and there are thousands of them. It was really incredible to see how many people worked on bringing the books to life and like Emma Watson says in the intro film, "they're the real wizards" behind Harry Potter.

If there's anything you'd like to hear more about regarding the Harry Potter Studio tour, please let me know. I'd be happy to answer any questions. I could go on about it all day.

After the studio tour, Liz, Ashley, and I went to a pub near the train station and I got fish and chips. It was delicious! We took the train back and Liz stayed with me until Sunday afternoon. It was so nice having her in London for the weekend and I already miss her!

On Sunday morning, right before she left, we went to the Breakfast Club in Soho and waited in line for about an hour. It was so worth the wait because the food was excellent! I got the All American which I felt awkward about ordering, but it was pancakes, sausage,bacon, eggs, and home style potatoes. I also ordered a smoothie which was made of strawberries, banana, honey, youghurt, milk, and oats. They drizzled a little heart on top of it which was really cute! The environment of the place was really welcoming and trendy. They decorated the walls with polaroids and postcards and random other objects and lights. The waiters all dress pretty casually and the music they play is mostly American but Liz and I were dancing around in our seats the whole time. They played songs like "Beautiful Girls" by Sean Kingston and "California" by Phantom Planet.

Just a few days ago I purchased my train tickets to go visit my host family in April. I'm so excited! They seem really nice and our e-mail exchanges have been lovely. I think that will be a really great experience for me because I'll get to see what it's like in a real English home, I'll meet great people, and I'll get outside of my London bubble for a while.

Yesterday, my first assignment was due. I had to write a statistical analysis for my American History class. It was quite boring so I won't go into too much detail but I'm really glad that I got that done. It wasn't very difficult but I was so unmotivated after not having much due for months.

I'm going to Paris in less than two weeks and then Ireland the weekend after. I'm looking forward to traveling but to be honest, it seems quite daunting right now. I have to figure out what I want to bring, make sure all of my paperwork is in order, get to the airports in time and plan out last minute details. I hope that it all goes smoothly because I want to remember these trips fondly when I look back at my time abroad. If you have been to Paris, Ireland, Scotland, or the South of France, let me know if you have any good suggestions of where to go. I could use some help planning!

As far as my state-of-mind goes, I've been doing well. I think that I'm getting over the loneliness and settling into my weekly routine. I worry that I'm getting lazy because I just go to and from class and do my chores and errands without branching out too much. Of course I have trips planned and I still hang out with friends and occasionally do fun things in London, but I'm definitely getting too used to being here. My creative writing lecturer told us not to get too numb to being here because the best part of going to a new place is that buzz you feel and how alive you are to everything around you. I need to remember that when I'm walking home from class and when I'm tempted to hop on the tube instead of the bus. If you let yourself get into a routine, you start to feel as if it's groundhog day and every day becomes a repeat of the last.

I miss home and all of my family and friends but I've been oddly okay with being away. I get little pangs of homesickness where I wish that I could hug my dad, get food from my favorite Chinese place, pet my cat, and even go to class at St. Mike's. That's all normal though and I'm really proud of how well I adjusted to life in a new country.

Yesterday morning, I was checking my phone and I read that Shirley Temple passed away at the age of 85. I know that she was old and it wasn't a sudden, tragic death like we've seen a lot lately in Hollywood, but it still hit home. I grew up watching her movies, like many others, but she always had a really special place in my heart. I sang and danced along with her and mimicked her facial expressions as a kid. I ordered Shirley Temples every time I went out to eat (and I still do) and I had a picture of her hanging on the wall of my room last semester. In ninth grade, I did a research report on her and learned about her fight with breast cancer, her two marriages, and her work for the U.S government. The little, curly haired cherub that I had always admired was so much more than a child star. She blossomed into a beautiful and inspirational woman. I hope that everyone takes some time to read about her life and achievements after her acting career because she was truly a gem worth getting to know more about. I think that the news of her passing made me homesick more than anything else since being here. It seems like just yesterday I was a curly haired little bugger watching her movies in my living room without a care in the world and it's hard not to get nostalgic for those times. But just like Shirley did, I have to grow up and make new memories that I'll be able to look back on one day with pride. I can only hope that one day my children will be able to watch her movies and feel the same way I did as a child.

Write soon
xx Sheila
Check out Shirley Temple's SAG Lifetime Achievement Award tribute from 2006.

I keep seeing rainbows outside of my window and I'm definitely not complaining!
The Mirror of Erised
There were so many things to see at the HP Studio tour. They even had the "moving" portraits and information on how they worked.
It was surreal to walk through Diagon Alley. I saw Olivanders, the Daily Prophet, and Flourish and Blotts to name a few!

Recognize this?
Of course I had to take photos of the Daily Prophets! :)