23. Only Human

We’re all only human.

We all have our own failings and short-sights and triumphs. We have our personal moments of greatness and of downfalls. There’s only so much each and everyone one of us can do within the limitations of time and space and possibilities. I’ve seen a few different people recently struggle with what to do with their lives given the parameters of their backgrounds, abilities, career goals, and passions, among other factors. I myself feel the different tugs and pulls of different fields and interests day from day.

So how do we do the most with our time and our energy? How do we manage to do as much as we can while staying sane?

I went to an interview for a legal internship for the Summer of 2018 this past week. It was an interview for what is essentially my dream job. I’m not going to say where it was, in case I don’t get it. Needless to say, I’ve been working towards this particular interview or something very similar to it for the past six years of my life. At the end of the interview when my interviewer was walking me out the door, I asked her if there were any classes I should be taking or anything I should be doing differently for this career path. She replied that I was actually doing everything exactly right and to stick with it.

I delegated my time in college very carefully for getting a bachelor degree in biology with a minor in economics. Apparently that worked. And now that I’m in law school, the classes I’m taking this semester all feed perfectly into doing ocean-related work: environmental, maritime, international law, and international trade law. These were the classes that I wanted to take more than any others and the ones I thought would do the most amount of good for trying to get where I want to go. And these were the same classes that really stuck out to those interviewing me and said I was the perfect candidate for their work because of these classes.

So on one hand, I think I’m doing a fairly decent job of striving towards my legal career goals of working on ocean-related issues. I only have so many law school classes and internships I can fit in.

On the other hand, I think the balance of ballet in my life is starting to figure itself out as well. This semester, I can only take ballet classes Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, because I’m either in law school classes, working at the EPA, or teaching at all other times during the week when ballet class is available. However, that still means I can fit in three ballet classes a week, which is what I was going last year. This year, I’m actually finding ways to rehearse and perform beyond just taking weekly ballet classes.

Firstly, I’m rehearsing for party parent for Adagio’s Nutcracker. Since they’re doing a restructuring of their Nutcracker this year, actual adults are coming in to play party parents. Ricardo was amazing enough to agree to do party parent with me, and it’s such a joy to get to dance next to him in rehearsals. All my students were darling and told me this week in class that he dances very well and he has a very nice face for being on stage. That just about made my heart burst.

Secondly, a few weeks back I saw that one of the dancers I’ve become friends with at Washington Ballet (she’s amazing and danced professionally for many years before graduating from Georgetown Law a few years back) was going to a small company audition. I asked her about it and if she thinks it would be something that I could do while in law school. She replied in the affirmative and so I went and auditioned for this group. This past week we had our first two rehearsals for their annual show they do in March. I came home from both rehearsals simply glowing with a new-found purpose that I haven’t felt since I was last dancing at BRT.

The group, called Classical Repertory Dance Ensemble, is a local group in DC comprised of all adults with over 20 years of ballet experience. (I think I might actually be the baby of the group since I just have 20 years, and most of them have between 20 and 30 years.) This is the first time since I was probably 12 or 13 that I have gotten the opportunity to dance in a group of all adults. It’s amazing. Both pieces we rehearsed for this week – one was Paquita (which I’ve never had the opportunity to do before) and the other a contemporary piece – were on pointe. It’s been so long since I’ve been in a room full of non-student dancers all on pointe and all working together towards a common choreographic goal. It’s amazing. I have seriously missed it so much. I am so grateful and happy to have found CRDE and I’m so excited to get to dance with them, hopefully for years to come.

I’m working within my limitations as best I can. I finally feel like I’m getting to a place where I am starting to balance everything together in such a way that I can actually pursue both my passions. It’s the first time I feel like I’ve actually been able to do so since I moved to DC. I feel complete in a way I haven’t since leaving Albuquerque behind. But in a way, I feel more complete now. I’m closer than ever to my long-term career goals. I feel like I’m so close to actually beginning to make a difference in the world.

This doesn’t mean I’m doing everything I want to be able to do. There are far too many limitations for that. If I could be doing everything I want to be doing, I would be getting scuba diving certified, I would be actively learning Spanish, and I would be writing, to name a few. But we’re all only human. So we’ve got to do what we can with the time we are given and hope that it all works out. We have to seize the opportunities we find and actively work towards our goals with the most information we can. We’ve got to keep in mind our goals that we actually want to meet and complete and keep sight of the path it takes to get there. We’ve got to follow that path, even if it means we zig and zag to eventually get to the signposts that tell us we’re doing right. And somehow we’ll make it, even if we’re only human.

 

22. Multiple Lives Syndrome

Do you ever feel like one life is too little to live? Do you ever have the desire to live a completely different life than the one you have? Or to live multiple lives all at one time, branching out in an infinity of possibilities towards all the outer reaches of the universe? I feel it all the time.

Most of the time, I’m pretty darn content to live this life I have. I have so much to live for and I love it all. Between teaching ballet, dancing, and performing on one hand and all my academic experiences leading into legal experiences all subsidized by anything to work on conservation, I do live a wide and varied life and am very grateful for that. But nonetheless, there are certain times like tonight when all I want to do is run away from everything (or almost everything), move somewhere completely different, and do something with my life so completely different than what I am doing now.

Of course one of those lives would be dancing in a professional company. If you know me at all, you know I would absolutely love the chance to do so. But that’s a different life that is still close enough to my own reality that it doesn’t have quite the same amount of wanderlust yearning that other lives do.

For example, I would absolutely love the chance to go travel and be a National Geographic photographer or reporter, especially if the work was on wildlife. I would adore being able to view these amazing creatures in their natural habitats up close. Then again, I know people who do so for their careers face every kind of hardship, from braving sub-zero temperatures at the polar regions to facing down deadly predators. Still, they get to see things that hardly anyone else on this planet gets to see.

I believe we each start off with unlimited potential. That’s not to say that everyone is born with the same privileges or internal or external factors. But I think the more you grow, the more you cultivate yourself in one direction. Those other branches of interest don’t get quite the same amount of nourishment as the ones you focus on. So over time, those branches don’t give you quite as many opportunities as they might have done previously had you taken the time to nurture those branches as well. However, the branches that you have cultivated and cared for over time continue to branch out in possibilities within that specific field or area of interest or passion.

Now I think the trick is finding out how to cultivate as many of these branches as possible by entwining them with your other branches of passions. If you can successfully do so, you will grow all the stronger for it. You will have more options within those passions than you did before.

But still, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have infinite possibilities at all times?

I suppose limitations are a large part of being human. If we didn’t have limitations and we could be infinite, what could we create and accomplish? What whole worlds would open up to us that we didn’t have access to before? I would love to explore some of those other worlds that currently are not being cultivated. I would love to live in some of those branches as well. I’ve never heard of a name for this, but I think it should be called Multiple Lives Syndrome.

The desire to live many lives is deep within us all, I think. All of us at one time or another feels trapped by the path we have laid out for ourselves. And that’s not to say that that path is insufficient or lacking in any way. No, hopefully that path is a wonderful path that you do really and truly care about following and going down. I feel that way about my own path. But still, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to live multiple lives at one time?

21. Updates on a New Academic Year

Law school classes, externships at the EPA, ballet classes, and teaching have all finally started up and I finally feel like the semester has officially started. So here’s an update on what this semester is looking like for me!

Law School
Today technically marks the end of the second week of law school classes for the semester, but since we didn’t have Monday classes for labor day, it doesn’t quite feel like two full weeks have passed. This semester, I only have classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. Most of my classes are late afternoon or evening classes and my earliest class starts at 11:10am.

I’m taking Environmental Law, Maritime Law, International Law, International Trade and Regulations, and an Externship Seminar. I really like all of my classes this semester because these are all subjects I am actually interested in and feel are very important for hopefully doing some kind of law relating to ocean conservation in the future. I think Environmental Law might be my favorite class, although to be honest it is hard to choose between my different classes.

On Mondays, I have Environmental Law in the morning and then a break from 12:30-3:30. Then, if I’m unlucky, I have three classes in a row from 3:30-9:55pm at night. If I’m lucky and don’t have my externship seminar (it’s only every other week), then I have class from 3:30-7:45. Those will be very nice Mondays. On Wednesdays, I just have Environmental Law in the mornings and then International Law from 5:45-8:45. Luckily I have lots of time to go home and eat and study between my classes in the afternoon.

Externship
So this semester I’m externing (it’s the exact same thing as interning, just during the semester) at the Environmental Protection Agency, more colloquially as the EPA. I have to work there 15 hours a week to get three credits for it and am working 9-5 there Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’ve only gone for two days so far, but the place is great. I’m nervous to work there just because I don’t really know what kinds of tasks or projects I’ll get assigned every day. But it will be a very good experience and I’m glad I get the opportunity to work there.

Bonus points: the main staircase at the EPA looks like something right out of the wizarding world. There’s even a time-turner-like chandelier hanging down in the middle of the staircase.

Teaching
Last night was my first night back teaching at Adagio Ballet and the first day of classes for the school year. I missed being there. It’s such a wonderful group of teachings and students. The girls are all so sweet and hard working. Last year I was only teaching two nights a week – Tuesdays and Thursdays – there, but this year I’m teaching those two nights at the same time and then also two additional classes Friday evenings. I feel like I really lucked out with finding an amazing place to teach and I really am thrilled to be back.

In past years, Adagio’s Nutcracker was essentially their winter recital for all the classes. So my class last year was Spanish, the class next door was Chinese, etc. This year, they completely redid the structure of it so everyone who wanted to dance in the Nutcracker had to audition back during the summer. They also needed some party parents from the faculty and interested adults, so Ricardo and I will both be party parents this year! I’m so excited. I’ve never gotten to dance on stage with my significant other before. He’s going to be just fantastic. I’ll also be rehearsing another role I’ll be performing for their Nutcracker. Hint: there will most likely be a tutu involved.

Ballet Class
I haven’t been able to go take ballet class since I got back into town because my car decided to die on me two days after we got back. Thus, I haven’t had a way to actually drive to ballet class and it’s a bit too far away by public transportation or uber. My car finally got fixed two days ago, though, so this morning was my first morning back in ballet class. I actually get to take class every weekend now, as well as Fridays and possibly on Monday and Wednesday mornings before darting off to Environmental Law. Either way, it feels so great to be back. There are some things that I feel rusty with, but overall I’m amazed that I haven’t gotten too out of shape over the course of the summer. I feel good and motivated now and being back in the school context just helped me get back into ballet class mood as well.

Other
So I think those are my main responsibilities that occur every week! On top of that, all I have to worry about are job applications and interviews for a legal job next summer, possibly auditioning for and rehearsing for the upcoming Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society musical, and other items that may or may not pop up.

But every night I am lucky enough to get to go home to my amazing boyfriend and amazing little cloud being of a cat. My life would not be the same without them and I am so infinitely grateful for their places in my life. Neither Ricardo nor I would know what do without Rumple. He’s such a sweet, crazy little cat. He loves playing. He’s become so vocal that he will just meow and meowl at us for apparently no reason whatsoever sometimes. But we love him and I’m pretty darn sure he loves us back.

Now that things are settling down, I’m going to get back to regular blog writing. So thank you for reading!

20. The Need to Prove Yourself

When I went back to Albuquerque two weeks ago, I took class at my home studio of Ballet Repertory Theatre of New Mexico (BRT) every day that I could. It was automatically my priority. I felt so at home and so comfortable there even though it had been more than a month since I’d taken ballet class and was incredibly out of shape. Nonetheless, I went to ballet class every day and within three or four days felt back in shape (with the exception that I wasn’t turning as consistently or as much as I’m used to.)

I finally returned back home to D.C. last night and took class today at the Washington Ballet’s adult program, where I’ve been taking class for the past year since I moved to D.C. I didn’t feel the same kind of soul or fire or motivation to take class here as I did back in Albuquerque a mere week ago. And I think I figured out why.

Back in Albuquerque, at BRT, everyone knows me. I grew up there. I spent almost 20 years of my life there. When I moved to D.C., the only person who had been at BRT longer than me was the director herself. I haven’t felt like I’ve had to prove myself in years upon years at BRT. I’ve proved who I am as a dancer over and over again over the years and I don’t have a need to show that I’m better than anyone there. For me, dancing at BRT just allows me to truly dance and be free.

In D.C., no one knows me. I’m one of dozens, if not hundreds, of dancers who move to D.C. for school or work or some other reason and still take class to try to stay in shape and because we love it. The problem, I’ve realized, with my mentality here, is that I feel that I’m constantly trying to prove myself in every class. It’s rare for me to take a ballet class without me trying to prove my worth as a dancer to the teacher or to my fellow students or to myself. Here, it’s been very difficult to just let go and dance.

There are many incredible dancers that I am lucky enough to take class with. For instance, just today there was a girl I’ve only seen around once or twice before. She just moved here from Arizona. And she was absolutely lovely. It’s inspiring to be around so many amazing dancers every day, but it’s also difficult because I’m constantly comparing myself to them. It’s been almost ten years since I have systematically compared myself to other dancers; I’ve compared myself to myself since I was a young teenager. But now, I think it’s different for me because I do feel this pressure to show that I’m good enough to dance in a company. That I am good enough to dance at Washington Ballet if I got the chance and gave it such commitment.

The most difficult part is that I have chosen law school and a legal career instead of a career in ballet. So right now, all of my attempts to prove myself are my attempts to live out that “what if” I had really put my entire heart and soul into trying to dance in a full-time company. They are my attempts to prove to myself that I am as good as those around me and that the past many years of my life – the blood and sweat and tears – haven’t all been for naught.

It took me going back to Albuquerque and dancing at BRT every day for a week to realize what it is that I’m missing here in D.C. And what I’m missing is the absolute freedom and joy in just dancing for myself and myself alone. Of course I still love taking class while I’m here, but the past several months I’ve felt such trepidation at even just showing up at the studio to take class. Tonight I finally realized it’s because I’m growing anxious about having to prove myself day after day.

I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to be able to compare my own dancing with my own dancing and with no one else’s. That’s how you improve. That’s how you excel. That is the way to really, truly enjoy the work you put into something that you love. And that’s what I’m going to try to get back to from here on out.

19. The London Chronicles: Part VIII – Spain and Travels Home

I apologize for the delay in posting this final part! I wrote the last several blogs while in DC, but we’ve been visiting my family and friends in Albuquerque since last week and I really haven’t had a moment of downtime to write until now.

Wednesday, August 2nd
So we arrived in Madrid, Spain! Our plane landed around 11:00pm, so we couldn’t actually see much of the city except lights laid out below from the plane window. Our Uber driver was a Romanian who had initially come to Madrid for a girl and then never left. He gave us a drive-by tour of a lot of the big, important buildings we passed on the way to our Airbnb (with everything in Spanish, of course).

Our Airbnb was on the third floor of this apartment building that had the most southwestern wooden staircase that I have seen since I moved from the Southwest. The apartment itself was strangely reminiscent of our flat in London, with a red kitchen and everything. I suppose that’s part of the reason we chose it. But it was lovely. We were greeted by a cat looking at us from the apartment opposite us. The cat sat outside on the windowsill and just watched us as we got there. Ricardo and I talked well into the night and finally fell asleep around 3:00am or so.

Thursday, August 3rd
We were up at 11am in the sweltering heat. Man, Spain is hot. Spain is especially hot when it’s in the 90s and you’ve been in London where it’s been in the 60s and 70s for the past month. We didn’t know the area at all so we found breakfast at the second place we could, which was this Spanish diner run by Chinese people. I had a tortilla and toast. A tortilla in Spain is essentially an egg omelet filled with sliced potatoes. It was quite yummy.

Ricardo and I headed to Parque de El Retiro, which was probably around a mile away from where we were. On the way, we got sunscreen and slathered it on. I see now why everyone is so tan in Spain. The sun really is relentless. Once we got to the parque, Ricardo spent some time talking on the phone while I sketched a scene of the trees and grass. We then ventured further into the park and came across a magnificent and larger-than-life pond and fountain surrounded on two sides by little outdoor cafes and ice cream places. We got coke zeros and wandered towards the Palacio de Cristal and found the small modern art museum in the middle of the Parque.

The modern art museum looked like it used to be a station house or something of the sort. Inside, the building was just a series of enormous white spaces. There was one room with signs with different typefaces, and another with framed letters of the alphabet. Giant plush letters filled one part of the place while colorful fabrics and sticks made up some of the exhibits. Ricardo and I had a long discussion about modern art while we were there. Afterwards, we again entered the bloody hot sun and found the Palacio de Cristal (or Crystal Palace) right across the way. It was an absolutely beautiful building created completely out of steel framework and glass panels. You could see straight through the Palacio to the other side. The building – really, more a piece of art than anything – was surrounded by trees on all sides. A pond rippled in front and it was filled with turtles and giant carp fish and two black swans that glided around most majestically. Inside, the Palacio was even hotter than outside. Which makes sense. Essentially the Palacio was one giant greenhouse. Afterwards, we returned to the area in front of the giant fountain and got a luxurious, true Spanish lunch in one of the outdoor restaurants. We got “summer wine” (really delicious sangria), Russian salad, rice with spices and seafood, and olives. Everything was so savory and full of flavor. I was absolutely stuffed.

After lunch, Ricardo’s friend Gian Piero met us at the Parque. He’s one of Ricardo’s best friends and had just moved to Madrid a month or two before. He led us on a walking tour throughout many of central Madrid’s landmarks. We walked past the Museo de Prado, but didn’t go in because a) there was a super long line, and b) Ricardo and I were museumed out by that point. To be honest I still am museumed out. We saw Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor de Madrid, which were both enormous plazas with bricks underlying everything and a vicious sun beating down across all of it. Statues of famous generals and other such things stood proudly in the centers. We walked through large avenues and small side streets. We had to stop and get giant water bottles, one for each of us, at one point because it was just so hot that you have to drink a lot of water to even maintain a façade of health wellness.

We ended up seeing the remains of an old Islamic site, and we went inside the enormous, magnificent Catedral de al Almudena. The vaulted ceilings were painted in the most colorful, bold designs. My favorite part of the Catedral was the part of the ceiling right above the alter: vivid blues and whites and oranges made a sky filled with the sun and stars. The Catedral was lined with alcoves dedicated to different saints. Every saint statue or painting was created in a different artistic style. It was beautiful. And then we saw the Palacio Real, which is where the Spanish royalty used to live. We didn’t get a chance to go in because it was already closed. The Palacio was very reminiscent to me of Versailles, since it was lined with gold gilded gates. The main difference was that while Versailles was more white and orange on the outside, the Palacio was this beautiful pale blue color.

We did get a chance to walk through the Palacio gardens. In the gardens, a very strange little man walked up to us and asked if we spoke English (he was British), and since we did, he wanted to sing a song to us. We told him we didn’t have any money on us to give him (because we had never gotten euros), but he said he didn’t mind at all. He just wanted to sing to people. So he sang us this song for the longest 30 or 45 seconds of my life. None of the three of us knew where to look when he was singing. Finally, it ended and we thanked him and he thanked us for listening and then walked away to sing to someone else. It was very, very strange.

After the Palacio Real, Gian Piero, Ricardo, and I got churros con chocolate at the most famous churro place in Madrid which was called Chocolateria San Gines. So churros in Spain are very different from the cinnamon and sugar dusted churros we are used to in the States. In Spain, churros are just the fried pastries without any sugar or cinnamon and they are served three at a time with a melted cup of chocolate. The chocolate is not sweet, but it’s not bitter. It’s the perfect composition. So you dip your churro into the chocolate and eat it that way. It was very yummy, but I still think I’m partial to our cinnamon and sugar churros. After that, Gian Piero led the way across town again to this restaurant called Goiko Grill, where they had burgers and Venezuelan cuisine. Gian Piero’s girlfriend  Adrianamet us there as well and the four of us had the most delicious burgers. I was the only one of the four not from Venezuela, so I was the only one who didn’t know what food or appetizers where from Venezuela or not, but Ricardo was very excited about the food.

We didn’t get home until quite late but it was completely worth it. The area of town we were in was still bustling with people at 1:30 in the morning and apparently it is very normal for people to be up very late at night. I loved that part.

Friday, August 4th
Friday started with breakfast with Ricardo’s cousin who lives in Spain. The summer is the off season in Madrid, since everyone who lives in Madrid travels to the coasts and the beaches to escape from the heat. So there was hardly anything open, even though it was already past 9:00am. We passed by this really incredible building built in the early 1900s that was just covered with organic natural shapes like leaves and vines and flowers all sculpted right into the very walls. We eventually found a Parisian bakery place. It was charming. There were French hot air balloons hanging from the ceiling and there were pastries galore. We had the best breakfast of quiche and eggs and crepes there. His cousin has been living in Madrid for around a year and is an entrepreneur there. He gave us a lot of really insightful information into the lifestyle in Spain and the people and what sorts of things set Spain apart from other places. For instance, Spain is very laid back. Suddenly it made perfect sense to me why New Mexico is also laid back; many of the people who “founded” the culture in New Mexico came from Spain.

We spent some time back in our apartment in Madrid lounging around and taking naps. It was very reminiscent of a scene in For Whom the Bell Tolls (which I still haven’t finished reading; I really need to) that one of the women describes from her time vacationing in Madrid.

We then took the Metro out to the edge of Madrid where Gian Piero lives. As soon as we walked out of the metro station I was completely taken aback. It looked exactly like Albuquerque. The landscape was dry and barren with little shrubs and grasses in places, but not much more. The photo I took of the landscape looking at the highway looked exactly like I’d taken it in Albuquerque. It was the most surreal feeling I think I’ve ever experienced in my life. I was back in Albuquerque and yet I was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in a completely different country.

We hung out at Gian Piero’s apartment for some time. Ricardo and him played Super Smash Bros together while I read, and they taught me how to play after a little bit as well. (I was reading Love in the Time of Cholera while I was there, if you’re curious. It didn’t feel right to read a book about London while in Spain, but it felt very right to read a book in a Spanish place by a Spanish author while in Madrid. I loved the book. It was amazing. It weirdly felt like a kindred read to Lolita, which I’d read earlier during our travels. Both were very strange love stories, the likes of which I’d never read before.) After that, we went swimming in the pool. And then headed out to meet Adri at a fancy tapas bar in central Madrid. The tapas bar was three or four stories tall. The bottom level was more a restaurant where you ordered, but where we were on the second level you got your drinks (summer wine) from a waitress and then went around to all the tapas counters and got whatever you wanted from there. We got fish-topped crackers and Spanish tortillas and delicious food. The place had a giant stage where there was a DJ playing music, but apparently performers such as aerial silk artists sometimes perform there. It was a really lovely evening.

Saturday, August 5th
I woke up Saturday morning feeling very sick. Part of it was dehydration, part of it was my immune system had relaxed for the first time in months, and part of it was the dread of traveling for 36 hours that we were getting ready to face.

Firstly, Ricardo and I had to check out of our Airbnb, so we packed up all of our luggage and went to Adriana’s house to drop off our luggage there for a few hours. We went to a store around the corner to get me a gatorade or powerade for the electrolytes and I chugged it. Apparently when I had gotten to her house I was pale pale, and I began getting color back in my face after that powerade.

After that, Adri, Ricardo, and I headed over to this place that served Venezuelan arepas, where we met up with Gian Piero. I’ve only had arepas one other time at Raquel’s (Ricardo’s sister’s) house in New York. They’re essentially these really thick corn flour tortillas or pancakes in a way. You cut them open through the middle and then stuff them with anything from eggs to beef or chicken or anything in between. At the arepa place I got a tuna salad arepa and it was delicious. After arepas (where we watched this one little finch go around hopelessly pursuing a girl finch that kept rejecting him), we went to a frozen yogurt place down the road. It was delicious. Honestly, we had so much delicious food in Spain (qué sabroso!) that I was constantly full. I would get un-full enough to have another delicious meal and then was full again. Perpetual fullness everywhere.

After that, we went back to Adri’s, picked up our bags, and said goodbye before taking an Uber back to the airport. And thus started out day and a half travels back to D.C.

Saturday, August 5th/Sunday, August 6th: Perpetual Traveling
So we got to the airport in Madrid, got through security, and looked out at a landscape that looked like it could have been New Mexico. Our plane back to London was uneventful. We arrived at the London Gatwick airport to the south of London and got through customs. We then took the tube back to the Blackfriar station and got out to find somewhere to eat. We’d arrived in London around 8:00pm and since our plane the next morning left from London Heathrow at 5:30am, we decided to not get an Airbnb for the night and just camp out out the airport. So since we had plenty of time to get to the airport, we walked from Blackfriar’s towards Temple station until we found a lovely Italian restaurant where we decided to eat.

The meal was lovely. It was my first attempt in a month at eating healthy again. (I was doing a really good job of eating vegan since last January for environmental reasons, but it was impossible to do in London. Why deprive yourself of all the delicious meat pies and pub food while you’re in London?) The bathroom played classical music and it was a perfect, lovely meal to end our travels in Europe with.

We then made our way to Heathrow airport and got there around maybe 11:00pm. We camped out on a row of chairs by the entrance and took turns taking naps, charging phones, and reading books. Finally, around 3:00pm we checked in our luggage and got through security. Our first plane flew from London to Chicago. Even though we flew for around 8 hours, we were flying back in time so we got to the Chicago airport around 7:30am. I probably slept maybe an hour or two on that plane, which totaled to maybe three hours of sleep total in two days? We had to go through customs and security again in Chicago (and Ricardo had to throw away the sunscreen in his carry-on, which had already made it through security in Madrid AND in London). Our flight to DC was thankfully short and we made it back home by about 4:00pm.

Thus ended our travels in Europe.

Afterward
I’m still in disbelief that I got to visit three different countries (England, France, and Spain) and five different cities (London, Oxford, Paris, Dover, and Madrid) this summer. I had no idea I would get to travel so much. The most expensive part was that plane flight across the Atlantic. After you’re there, it’s so much cheaper to travel between countries. I have loved every moment of it and would move to Europe in a heartbeat if it was easy enough to do so. Ricardo has been the best travel companion one could ask for and I’m so lucky to have gotten to experience it all with him.

London is still my favorite city of all time. Paris came in second. Madrid came in third. I think DC is probably somewhere on the same level as Paris or Madrid. I have so many photos that I may or may not ever publish them all somewhere. But regardless, it was an amazing trip.

If you’ve been reading all these travel blogs (which I know from talking to some of you that you are), I’m really glad you have. You’re the best. Thanks for sticking through this trip with me!

18. The London Chronicles: Part VII

Sunday, July 30th
After we arrived back in London from Dover, it was only noon. We went to the King’s College library straightaway so Ricardo could borrow a computer. After that, we studied at The Press, which was the really hipster-y coffee shop I fell in love with the week before. Ricardo went back to the library to continue studying; I joined him a few hours later after the coffee shop closed. We both continued studying and writing at the library until late, since our Human Rights & Human Trafficking final was the next morning. We had a nice dinner at The George and went home for more studying.

Monday, July 31st
We were up early and had a good breakfast before heading to Swan House. Since there were more people in our HR & HT class than there were tables, everyone voted Ricardo and I to sit at the same table for the exam. Oh my goodness, that exam was two hours long and handwritten. Thus far, my shortest law school exam has been around 4 hours long and all of them have been typed. To say that two hours for this handwritten test was too short a time is a gross understatement. My hand was cramping so badly by trying to fit so much information in such a short period of time that there were times I literally could not feel my hand or my wrist. But overall I think the exam went well!

After the exam, four of us girls went to go get lunch at Eats while Ricardo went to return the laptop at the library. He joined us for lunch a little later. After lunch, Ricardo and I crossed the river towards the colorful pier we had visited before. We went back to Foyles bookstore so I could go buy the remaining three books in this series that I had been reading called the Onyx Court. I had simply devoured the first book. It was the perfect series to read while in London because it was about the historical court (at least in the first book) of Elizabeth I, while at the same time the intrigues of the faerie court that lay beneath the surface of London.

We walked to the Tate and studied for a time with tea and scones in their tearoom that overlooks the Thames. What a wonderful place to study. The view – six stories up – is simply breathtaking. We also finally did the research to determine exactly which bridge in London was the bridge that death eaters blew up in Pt. 1 of the Deathly Hallows. It was, in fact, the bridge laid out right below us. Watching that scene with Saint Paul’s Cathedral in the back and then looking out across the actual scene in front of us was so incredibly awesome.

I returned to The Press for studying (since I work best at coffee shops with ambient noise), while Ricardo returned to the library (since he studies best at the library). We studied for several more hours in town before returning back home for further studying.

Tuesday, August 1st
Early Tuesday morning, Ricardo left for the library since his paper was due that evening. I studied at home for a while for our Corporations final that afternoon and then eventually left for Café Nero, my typical haunt.

After our Corporations final (multiple choice and so much harder because of it), I walked to the National Gallery in Tralfagar Square since I’d never been. Ricardo had to work on his paper for the rest of the evening so I had the day to wander around. In Tralfagar Square, before I entered the museum, there was a classical guitarist playing music. He was incredible. His name was Tom Ward and he really knew what he was doing. He introduced every song he played with some classical music history. The street artists in London are truly amazing. They are all trained musicians and you know they know what they’re doing. Oh, he was wonderful. It took me a good ten minutes to even leave the crowd listening to him and get to the museum. The National Gallery was incredible, but to be terribly honest, I’d seen so many art museums and museums in general over the past month that I more or less walked through a lot of it without spending too much time in any particular gallery. I did get a lovely snack in the café and got a bit of time to catch up on correspondence with some of my dear friends that I haven’t had a chance to talk to all month.

When the National Gallery closed, I walked down towards Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, got a sandwich at one of the local coffee chains, and spent some time just watching the Thames and taking artsy pictures of the London Eye. I took a photo for some tourists and they all thought I was a London native, which was pretty cool. On the way towards the library, I stopped for a bit in a park and ended up talking to this 17-year-old girl who was going through some issues. I think she honestly just wanted to talk to someone. So we talked for a good 20 or 30 minutes before I headed out again. I talked to Ricardo for a bit at the library and then headed on home to read books.

Wednesday, August 2nd
We got up fairly early and spent a majority of the morning packing. It’s amazing how much you can take over a flat by living there for a month. The thing that was hardest to pack was honestly all the books. I probably had bought at least 10 books myself over the course of the month. Regardless, I’m so glad we spent the time packing then.

As it was our last afternoon in London, we set out for Greenwich and took a tube into a part of the city we had never visited before. It’s a pity we waited so long to venture that direction, because it was really a lovely part of the city. Once we disembarked at the Greenwich station, we found our way to the Greenwich pier, were there was a magnificent ship on land and next to it stood a sweet carousel. The pier itself had flower beds everywhere, including flower beds of mountain flowers from Skyrim. Or at least flowers that looked remarkably like mountain flowers in Skyrim. There was a pub there called the Gipsy Moth, and while we loved the name, they served mainly burgers and it didn’t feel right to eat burgers the last day in London. We headed towards the Greenwich park and found a place called the Spanish Galleon; this was ironic because the Spanish Galleon was apparently the oldest English brewery in the area. We had lovely chicken and leek pies there and it was the best last day feast.

By then it had started to rain. We hurried towards Greenwich park and saw the little church where Henry VIII had been baptized. By the time we got to the park it was pouring rain, so we made our way to the National Maritime Museum on the north end of the park. A giant ship in a bottle stood at the entrance. Inside the museum there were actual figureheads that had really seen history, stories of people sailing to the poles of the earth, and replicas of the White Cliffs of Dover. The gift shop’s selection of books covered so many subjects that I’m fascinated by that I could have easily bought half the books there. But being as we were already out of room for any more books, I had to resist.

We left the National Maritime Museum, picked up our luggage at our flat, and said goodbye to our flat in Whitechapel forever. I am relieved to never have to go back to that particular area of London. I love London and it is my favorite city in the world, but Whitechapel is far from my favorite neighborhood. After leaving Whitechapel, Ricardo and I took a train down south to the Gatwick airport and made our way to Spain!

 

 

17. The London Chronicles: Part VI – Dover

Alright. So here’s the special edition on Dover.

Background on Dover. Ricardo and I had already planned to go to Paris. That was the only trip outside of London that we had planned for when we initially got to London. At some point along the way we decided to go to Dover and booked train tickets and a little bed and breakfast place. So the last weekend before exams found us in Dover. I will definitely admit that it was very nice to stay in some small town in the English countryside at least once during our trip.

Friday, July 28th
I left off the last blog post at King’s Cross and getting on the train to Dover. The train ride to Dover was very nice and not too long. It took us maybe an hour and a half to get there? As soon as we exited the train at the station, the cool sea breeze and the low-lying fog on all sides hit us and it was magical. I love the ocean, and I could sense the ocean was near.

We started walking towards the bed and breakfast place we’d booked at and on the way hardly nothing was open for food. We passed one open gas station and one pub that had stopped serving food an hour or two before. And mind you, it was only 8:00pm there. When we were getting close to our destination, we finally found this Italian restaurant that was warming and welcoming. We got red wine and spaghetti with shellfish and it was one of the best meals I have had in a very long time. Admittedly, we did smell of garlic for a day afterwards. But hey, at least we were protected from vampires!

We finally got to our b&b right before the check-in time ended. It was a lovely house two houses down from a local tattoo parlour that was also in a lovely house. The hostess was this very sweet older woman who had just finished getting a teaching degree and had been running this whole b&b business for some time. We had the garden room, which was this cozy sweet room that overlooked the beautiful garden in the backyard and had a whole dining table and chairs and baskets for tea and coffee tucked away in the corner. I slept so well that night.

Saturday, July 29th
Saturday began bright and not-too-early with delicious English breakfasts brought straight to our room. Warm toast with butter and jam and eggs and beans and tomatoes and mushrooms and ham and so much goodness all contained so well. We were told that it was supposed to start raining around 2pm, so we decided to try to walk to the top of the White Cliffs of Dover first and then head to the castle. Well we started walking and on the map it showed that we were over 3 miles away. People kept telling us we could walk but the road we were supposed to take had no sidewalk. People in front of us kept walking and people behind us passed us but there really just didn’t seem to be a good way to get up there. We did follow a path and ended up at a “cliff edge” that was hidden by a great deal of foliage. So while we didn’t get to see the actual cliffs, we did get to find a hidden faerie glade in the middle of the woods outside of Dover.

On the way up to the “cliffs”, we passed the Dover Castle and a whole bunch of sheep that were grazing! They were so funny. I’ve never seen so many sheep up close like that before. Of course I would get to see sheep in the English countryside. After we get back from our mini hiking trek, we headed straight down the road to the castle. There were more sheep on the way there, but for the most part they’d disappeared from the main road where we had first seen them.

The castle itself was amazing. We’d already seen the Tower of London in London, but the Tower is a fortress, not a true castle. This was a true castle. (I’ve seen one other true castle in Edinburgh over two years ago.) We arrived at the castle just after they had opened so there weren’t many people yet. The day we were there happened to be a “Peasant Life” day or somewhat of the sort, so there were people dressed up in middle ages garb going about their respective jobs in the castle. We talked to the executioner right towards the entrance of the castle who laughed that the place we came from didn’t exist yet. He wasn’t wrong.

The first thing we did in the castle was go on a tour of the hospital tunnels. So something I didn’t know about the Dover Castle is it was also an important base during WWI. The movie Dunkirk (which recently came out and which I have not seen yet) was around the area. So within the walls and caverns around the castle they had built bunkers for the soldiers and an underground military hospital. There were two tours possible: a tour of the underground bunkers and a tour of the military hospital. The tour for the bunkers took twice as long as the tour for the hospital and had a much longer line. It was already 11:00am and at noon there was going to be a presentation by the same executioner we had run into that Ricardo wanted to go to, so we did the hospital tour. It was intriguing. The thought of people living down there in the dark with spotty electricity (due to the ongoing air raids) was powerful. It really did take you back to the time of WWI and at least get a slight bit of an idea of what life was like back then. After we finished that tour we found the military outpost where the military kept a lookout for foreign ships on the horizon.

At noon, we went to the executioner’s show. After that, we explored the central castle, complete with room replicas everywhere. The kitchens looked almost exactly like something you would find in Skyrim. There was a cauldron set up over a fire, baskets of fruits and vegetables, and barrels of food. Ricardo and I sat in the throne room upon the thrones set up there and gazed out above the land and sea from windows high up in the castle. After we explored the medieval castle, we went to the restaurant within the castle grounds that contained a giant cannon. We had delicious chicken and leek pies with potatoes and beans. English food really is amazing.

By the time we had finished eating, it had begun to pour down rain outside. It was almost 2:00pm on the dot, so the weather predictions in Dover really are excellent. By that time, we’d seen everything in the castle that we were interested in (aka we saw all the medieval castle stuff and had seen all either of us cared to see of WWI relics). So Ricardo and I headed home in the beautiful British rain. We passed spiderwebs in blankets of ivy along stone walls and outposts of the castle that looked almost as wonderfully magical and medieval as the castle itself had. Luckily our b&b was almost a straight shot down the road so we didn’t get lost on the way down. We were very drenched when we finally got back to our room though so we curled up in lots of layers of warm clothes and took a nice long nap.

We spent the rest of the afternoon studying. The landlady had recommended the pub across the street to us as the oldest pub in Dover and said it was really worth going to. So come evening, we headed over to the White Horse and discovered that this pub was actually the famous pub of the Channel Swimmers. All the walls and ceiling of the place were covered in markered-in names of swimmers who had swum across the English Channel. Most of the signatures included details, such as time of the swim, what date the swim had taken place on, the location of the swimmer, and other such quirks. It was really something to see. Almost as soon as we sat down at a little table in the corner I spotted a channel swimmer signature from a swimmer from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I swear, New Mexico really does follow you around.

For all of the White Horse’s charms, it didn’t have any food, so Ricardo and I set out in the direction of the Burger King that was supposedly open. It was dark outside and we got to see the White Cliffs of Dover – at least the ones that look across the town – from below. The stars were beautiful. And suddenly I heard the sound of waves crashing upon the beach. There, to our right, was the beach we had looked upon by day from the seat of the Dover Castle. Me being me, of course I had to get closer to the ocean. There was a flight of concrete stairs leading down to the beach, so I started to walk down them. About four stairs down suddenly the steps became unbearably slippery with seaweed underfoot. The moment I realized this was the moment I first stepped on a slippery step and my foot went flying out from underneath me. I fell down that step on my butt and continued thumping down a good half dozen steps before I could finally stop myself. Ricardo, who was a step behind me, called out to me to be careful the moment I slipped and within another moment was thumping down beside me. Luckily neither of us was hurt (R.I.P. technology). We spent some time out on the rocky beach staring out at the beautiful ocean. It was so beautiful. There’s something so peaceful and strong and absolutely transfixing to me about the crashing of waves onto the shore. Afterwards, I still had to walk back up the stairs barefoot because it was too slippery to traverse in shoes. I learned my lesson that night. Don’t go running down to the ocean on stairs in the middle of the night if you don’t know whether or not there’s seaweed there. Or at least don’t do so if you care about not falling.

And when we got home we discovered the seats of our pants were completely green with seaweed and moss.

Sunday, July 30th
Our breakfast started at a somewhat bright but definitely early 7:30 in the form of the same delicious breakfast as the day before. We packed up and checked out and walked right back to the ocean that had so taunted us the night before. The shore by day in Dover is at least as beautiful as the shore by night. Oh, I could watch that beautiful, sparkling ocean forever, if given the choice.

We walked back to Dover Priory (the train station) and from there took a train back to the Blackfrier Station in London.  Thus ends Dover. It was lovely.